SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a longer synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

WARNING: Sex is not the primary focus of this story. If you're looking for erotic content, you'll do much better with other stories on Nifty. While sexual content is secondary and incidental, the story does include some scenes that depict sex and violence, sometimes graphically depending upon the characters and circumstances involved. For that reason, the story is intended for mature audiences only. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.

AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week, usually on Thursdays. The latest chapter will always be posted on my blog before being published here. You may want to bookmark the location of my blog in the event you cannot find the story here at some point in the future and you wish to continue reading it: As always, comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at Thanks for reading the story. I hope you enjoy it.

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 44 Andy finds himself both frustrated and worried. Tommy has moved back into Ray's place after Teddy recovers and is well enough to leave. The Democratic leadership has decided to postpone a vote on the McPherson amendment until after the Labor Day recess. And someone from the DNC has revealed just how much the White House knows about his relationship with Tommy. Andy encourages Tommy to skip town to avoid getting caught up in the scandal, but Tommy decides not to. Later, hoping he can persuade Tommy to move in with him, Andy buys a condo near the White House in Washington. Then he invites Tommy down to the Delaware shore for the weekend and the two of them spend their first night there partying at a bar that caters to gays. Back at the hotel they are staying at, Tommy asks Andy a question about what he is looking for from life. That sets off a long exchange in the early morning hours that leaves the two of them emotionally exhausted and clinging to one another in a very small bed. Later, while Andy is falling asleep, Jesse pays a visit, but Andy decides to let go and he and Jesse share a final good-bye. Andy kisses Tommy good night and falls asleep in his arms.


Part IV - Virtues and Vices, Public and Private

Chapter 45

I remember feeling relieved when I woke up the following morning. I had finally dealt with one of the issues that had been haunting me for so long. There was another, of course, an even more difficult one, but I didn’t want to think about that at the moment.

Just from looking out the window, you could tell it was going to be one of those perfect days to spend at the beach. Tommy was still asleep in bed clinging to me, but woke up soon enough. The two of us showered quickly and headed off to have a leisurely breakfast in town at one of the local pancake shops.

Neither of us pursued our conversation from the previous evening and Tommy never said much at all. I wondered whether he was having second thoughts about opening up to me and finally asked whether he was feeling okay.

“Just a little tired,” he responded. “I woke up in the middle of the night for some reason and had trouble getting back to sleep. That hardly ever happens to me. Usually I sleep like a log. You sure seemed to be.”

“Those beds are pretty small,” I said. “I should have let you go back to yours last night. Sorry.”

“No, that wasn’t it,” he replied. “I was just thinking about everything we talked about.”

I wondered whether I should pursue that, but decided not to for the moment.

“We can go back to the hotel and take a nap if you want,” I said.

“No, I’m fine,” he replied. “What do you have planned for today, Andy?”

“It’s up to you,” I said. “Do you want to go to the swimming or do something else?”

“I guess we’ll have to do something else,” he replied. “I mean, swimming sounds good, but I don’t have a swimsuit.”

“That’s not a problem,” I responded. “It’s the end of the season down here and everything’s on sale. We can pick one up for you real cheap.”

“Umm, well, I didn’t really bring any money with me either,” Tommy added. “Like you said, there isn’t a lot of money to be made in D.C. these days and things have been tight lately.”

“I’ll buy you a swimsuit and you can pay me back later some time,” I responded. “I think both of us could use some time in the sun. It’ll be good practice if you ever decide to go to California.”

After we had finished eating, I took him over to one of the many stores that lined the main drag to let him pick up a swimsuit. While I was looking around the place to see whether there was anything I wanted to buy, Tommy picked out a couple and scurried into the fitting room.

The first one he modeled for me was one of those baggy types. I pretended to gag and turned a thumbs down on that. The second wasn’t much better and I rejected that one as well.

I remember being totally stunned when he finally emerged wearing the third, one of those tight fitting Speedo briefs. It was incredibly colorful, a combination of reds, oranges, and blacks, but it wasn’t the colors that had attracted my attention or taken my breath away. It was Tommy.

I just stood there looking at him overwhelmed by what I was seeing. Not only did the suit accentuate his thin waist and broaden his shoulders, it showed off the rest of his body to best effect. My eyes drifted down to his package and I could feel myself going hard instantaneously.

He looked incredible in that suit and I suppose he knew right away that was the one I wanted to buy him the moment he took one look at my face. I was practically hyperventilating just from staring at him.

He decided to wear it rather than his shorts on the walk back to the hotel. I changed into my swimsuit quickly and stripped off my shirt. Tommy took the hint and stripped off his as well. Then the two of us walked over to the boardwalk and began exploring some of the many shops that bordered it.

Eventually we ended up at Funland and it was like Tommy was a little kid again. He wanted to ride the bumper cars and insisted I do so as well. It was a mistake. Tommy was a demon behind the wheels and kept smashing his car into mine. Both of were laughing like crazy as I tried my best to escape, but it was hopeless. I finally gave up and just sat there taking my punishment from him.

After that the two of us played a ton of those arcade games they have at the place. Tommy was good at them and I was glad to see him having so much fun. He said he had never won anything in his life so I gave him the tickets I had won.

Combining them with his much larger pile made him eligible for one of the larger prizes. I remember being surprised when he redeemed them for a teddy bear, but he just said he had a friend once who had a teddy bear and having one would remind him of his friend.

Later we slipped away and headed south toward the area where Poodle Beach was located. I’m not sure whether he was aware of it, but I could see more and more eyes staring at Tommy the closer we got to the place. He was showing a lot of skin in that Speedo and some of the eyes registered disapproval because of its skimpiness and the direction in which we were headed. But a lot more seemed to like the view and smiled as the two of us passed.

As we got closer, I remember seeing a young teenage boy who seemed to be lingering some distance away from Poodle Beach. He couldn’t have been more than thirteen or fourteen and he was cute. Just from looking, you knew he was going to be hot in a couple of years when his body was fully developed; and being transparent and totally without guile, I could tell immediately he had a crush on Tommy from the look on his face. I wondered whether Tommy was aware of it.

There was a part of me that wanted to invite the kid to join us, but I knew he was just beginning to sort everything out. He wasn’t ready for something like that so we passed by in silence. He followed us for a short distance, then hesitated, turned and walked back in the direction from which he had come. I recall thinking how difficult it had been for me at that age and I was sorry to see him disappear in the distance.

I remember hoping he would be as lucky as me some day and find the person he was looking for.

We finally got to the beach and scouted out a good location. As the two of us bent down to place our towels on the sand, someone behind us whistled and another dude just started applauding. I remember being embarrassed even though I knew the attention wasn't being directed at me.

Tommy just turned around, placed a hand on his hip, stared at the dudes for a moment or two, and smiled. Then, turning around again, he gave his ass a little waggle in their direction. The dudes started laughing and one even shouted his thanks. Tommy had handled the whole thing perfectly and it put everyone around us at ease.

The two of us had a terrific time together that day at the beach enjoying our time in the sun. The sand was clean and inviting, the ocean an alluring mix of blues and greens. But neither the sea nor the shore was the attraction at Poodle Beach. The attraction was watching and being watched by men who knew exactly why they were there.

It was mostly an older crowd at first. A lot of the local boys shied away because being spotted there would raise questions they didn’t want to deal with. Still others were already back at school or resting after a hard night of partying.

As the day progressed, more and more eye candy began wandering through stirring interest and an occasional catcall. But Tommy was definitely in a class by himself that day. Everyone was staring at him in that swimsuit, even the lifeguards; and most of them claimed to be straight!

He was aware of it and loved being the center of attention. By then I knew Tommy was an exhibitionist and I never held that against him; to me, if you got it, flaunt it. Even the blue suit I was wearing was pretty skimpy and it was at moments like that all of the workouts seemed worth it. I liked how I looked in that suit and Tommy did too. I even got my fair share of stares whenever we took a dip in the water.

The two of us were approached numerous times that day. Usually guys would strike up a casual conversation with me, a sure sign their real interest was Tommy. Both of us knew that, just as both of us knew Tommy was free to drift off with them if he wanted. I wouldn’t have blamed him for that because most of the guys doing the cruising were hot.

But he stayed by my side on the beach for the rest of the day, playing in the water occasionally but mostly just talking about the beach and the boys and how relaxing the whole thing was and what a good time he was having.

At some point I recognized I had forgotten the sunscreen. I could see both of us beginning to turn red so I rented an umbrella and a couple of beach chairs. That allowed us to prolong our stay and I was glad about that because Tommy was clearly having a good time. I remember wondering whether he had ever been to the beach before. From everything I could tell, I doubted it.

By the end of the day the two of us had been invited to four different parties that evening. The sunburn was beginning to kick in and eventually we headed back to the hotel. When we finally got to the boardwalk, it was less crowded.

Walking north, I spotted the boy we had run into earlier standing there alone by himself. He was leaning against the railing staring out toward the ocean and to me he looked lonely and sad.

“Hey,” Tommy shouted.

Surprised, the kid turned around and looked in our direction.

“Here you go,” Tommy added, tossing his teddy bear toward the boy.

The kid was surprised but caught it, then looked furtively in both directions to see whether anyone was watching. Satisfied no one was, he looked back at Tommy.

“Thanks,” he said, a bashful smile spreading across his face.

As the two of us walked by Tommy turned momentarily and blew him a kiss.

The kid started to blush and the two of us let out a laugh. He hesitated for a moment, then grinned and returned the favor by blowing a kiss back to Tommy.

“That was sweet of you to give that boy your teddy bear,” I remarked as the two of us continued on toward the hotel.

“He needs it more than I do,” Tommy replied. “I already have someone to hug,” he added, looking over at me and grinning.

“We should take a nap before having dinner and heading out for the evening,” I said when we finally got back to the hotel. “And you need to decide which of those parties we should go to and in what order.”

While I pulled down the shades, Tommy collapsed into bed. I thought about joining him briefly, but knew the sunburn was tiring us out and finally decided I could use some rest myself. I had just climbed into my bed when Tommy broke the silence.

“Come over here, Andy,” he whispered. “I could use some company right about now.”

I pulled off the sheet and joined him. As soon as I climbed in, Tommy reached over and embraced me. His body was warmer than usual from the burn, but responsive to my touch nonetheless. We began kissing passionately, our legs and arms entwined, our bodies rocking back and forth gently. Eventually I succeeded in stripping his swimsuit off, then pulling off mine as well. The fresh sheets seemed cool to my body and provided a soothing touch.

Maneuvering him on to his back, I could see Tommy was already hard so I slid my mouth down to his groin and began pleasuring him immediately. I did that for a couple of minutes; then, having given him a taste of what was to come, I moved up and started licking his nipples and armpits.

When I sensed he was fully relaxed, I rolled him on to his side and began kissing him as passionately as I could once again. His eyes were closed and he let me explore his mouth with my tongue. I rested my hand on his hip gently.

I’m not really sure why I did it. Maybe it was just some instinct buried deep within. Whatever the reason, I began exploring Tommy’s ass with my hand. Then, abandoning all caution, I began probing between his cheeks with my fingers. I pushed one of them deeper until it found what it was searching for.

I let it linger there, wondering whether Tommy would object. When he didn’t, I pushed in just a little. I waited a minute or two, then pressed forward deeper and deeper. I was surprised I was doing it, even more surprised Tommy wasn’t resisting at all. By then several minutes had passed and I was becoming more and more aroused and excited.

“Is that what you want to do, Andy?” he asked. “Do you want to fuck me?”

I remember laying there in silence, wondering what I should say.

“You can if you want,” he added, but the words somehow seemed forced.

His voice was telling me one thing, but his body had gone tense and was telling me something entirely different. Not sure what to do, I ended up doing nothing.

“You know, when I told everyone you had invited me down to the beach, most of them told me to watch out,” Tommy said; “that you were probably going to try fucking me. Pretty much all of them said that except Sean. Even Miss Teddy thought that was what you had planned for the weekend, but I think she was only saying that because she wants you so bad herself,” he added, grinning.

“What did Sean think?” I asked, curious.

“He just thinks you’re sweet on me, Andy, and will do whatever I want you to do,” he responded. “He thinks you’re a really nice guy and the two of us would make a great couple.”

“And what do you think?” I asked.

“I think I’m not as smart as guys like you and Sean,” he responded, grinning at me. “I try not to guess what other guys want from me. I have enough trouble figuring out what I want for myself so I usually just ask them directly. So is that why you invited me down here, Andy? Do you want to fuck me?”

“No. That isn’t the reason at all,” I protested. “I invited you down here because I like you and thought you would have a good time. I mean, yeah, sure, I was hoping we would mess around some while we were down here. I’m not a saint. You know that, Tommy. I like having sex with you; I like it a lot. But I’ve never really thought about fucking you, at least not since that night you told me you’re a top.”

“So why were you fingering me then?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I mean, I’m always trying to find new ways to make you feel good and I was curious whether you would like it.”

“I did,” Tommy responded. “It was cool. But I was surprised when you didn’t try to take it further when I didn’t object. You seemed kind of hesitant.”

“Well, like I told you,” I replied, “that just isn’t something I would ever do.”

“Why not?” he asked. “Is it because I don’t turn you on?”

“No, of course not,” I replied. “You turn me on, Tommy. Totally! You know that.”

“I turn you on but you don’t want to fuck me? Is that what you’re telling me, Andy? What kind of red blooded dude are you?” he added, grinning at me.

He was toying with me now, trying to fluster me, and he was doing a good job of it too.

“Stop,” I replied. “You’re getting me all confused. I told you what I wanted last night. I want you to be my boyfriend and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, Tommy.”

“Whatever it takes?” he responded. “That covers a lot of territory, babe. Are you sure about that?”

Whatever it takes,” I repeated, trying to emphasize the words as strongly as I could.

“Do you remember asking me what I was looking for last night, Andy?” Tommy said, suddenly changing directions. “And how I told you I was just looking to survive when I first came to Washington.”

“I remember,” I said.

“Well, the thing is, lately some of my friends have been telling me I’m getting too old for the streets and need to find myself a daddy; that all of the boys my age find themselves daddies because they’re no longer jailbait and there are lots more daddies to choose from. Do you know what a sugar daddy is, Andy?”

“Yeah,” I replied, nervously. “I do.”

I could feel my body suddenly tensing up.

Oh, Jesus, here it comes,” I said to myself. “What are you going to say when he asks you to be his sugar daddy, Andy?

“Do you think my friends are right about that?” he continued.

“I don’t know,” I replied, trying to parry his question. “I mean, well, what I think isn’t important, is it? The only thing that counts is what you think. What do you think about it, Tommy?”

“When I first came to Washington, it was something Danny suggested. He explained the whole thing and I decided it wasn’t for me. But then Sean mentioned it to me a couple of months ago. And I started to think to myself, yeah, maybe that’s what I need, a real daddy of my very own.”

“I mean, the thing is, I guess I’m no different than anyone else. I have a sweet tooth. I like candy as much as anyone; finding someone to take care of me, buy me nice clothes, treat me like I was someone special, that part of it sounds really good. And the truth is I’ve met a lot of guys over the years who’ve told me they’re willing to be my daddy, Andy; tons of them in fact.”

“But the more I thought about it, the more I began to have some of the same old doubts. I looked at guys my age or older, like Danny, who had daddies already. And the thing is, sugar daddies own their boys, Andy. They really do. They buy them; and once they’ve done that, they totally own them.”

“I mean, yeah, sure, a lot of them indulge their boys, give them whatever they ask for; and the boys? Sure, everything is taken care of for them, no doubt about it. But they have to give up pretty much everything and spend all their time trying to please their daddy. The thing is, I’ve just never wanted to be owned by someone like that. Never have, never will, I guess. So I decided, no, having a sugar daddy might be right for someone else, but not for me.”

I remember exhaling when I heard him say that, but not because I would have turned him down if he asked. I’m pretty sure I would have said yes. I loved Tommy that much. But I was glad he didn’t want to be owned, that he wanted to be something more than just an appendage to somebody else.

“Of course, it doesn’t solve my dilemma, does it?” Tommy continued; “about what I’m looking for beyond just surviving.”

“You’re twenty years old, Tommy,” I responded. “If you had all the answers at twenty or even at thirty for that matter, life would get boring real fast. And since we’re not going to answer that question today I’m thinking maybe you should settle for something less, maybe someone willing to take care of that little problem you seem to be having right now,” I added, grinning, then placing my hand on his groin.

It was hard as a rock.

“Did you just call me little?” Tommy said, smiling at me. “You’re going to be sorry you ever said that, Andy. I’m definitely going to punish you severely for that.”

And with that he rolled over on top of me and started kissing me hard.

By then everything between us was almost instinctive. I knew exactly what he liked, the order in which he liked them, and exactly how long I should spend on each of his pleasure points. I loved making him feel good and I knew I could do it. I slid out from beneath him, positioned myself over his back and between his legs, and then began licking his neck and shoulders.

Slowly I worked my way down his back, detouring occasionally to lick his pits. And then, when it was obvious he was totally aroused and barely able to contain his anticipation because he knew what was about to happen, I did what he wanted me to do. He rewarded me by moaning loudly and thrashing around involuntarily.

“Oh, fuck, do it, babe,” he pleaded. “Deeper.”

I remember laughing just thinking about it. Tommy was wrong. I was the one punishing him by then, but punishing him in a way both of us enjoyed. He was totally out of control by then, frenzied, thrashing around on the bed, pleading with me; he could no longer control the sounds coming from within. He had surrendered control because he trusted me and knew how good I could make him feel.

Eventually, when he was sated, he rolled on to his back and positioned himself against the head board.

“Now do this side of me, babe,” he said, grinning. “Please. You see what a terrific influence you’re having on me, Andy. I even said please; pretty please with a cherry on top. How can you resist my cherry?”

“Oh brother,” I remember saying. “You wouldn’t know what a cherry looks like anymore if it was staring you in the face.”

He just started laughing and I began kissing him passionately, trying to swallow his laugh. He was happy to give it to me. Soon enough I was licking his neck and his shoulders, then turning my attention to his ears. He was moaning again now and I remember being aroused just from seeing how aroused he was.

I began nibbling his nipples and shoulders, then moved back to his pits once again. Eventually I moved lower and lower until my mouth approached its destination. By now I was kneeling directly over him and Tommy was watching me intently, his head propped up by the pillow, his hands folded casually behind his head.

For some reason what I was staring at reminded me of the leaning tower of Pisa, solid, majestic and somehow standing totally erect even as the 45 degree angle it maintained threatened to poke out my eye. I found myself giggling just looking at it.

It was like I was a little kid again and someone had given me an all-day sucker to play with. I was working it frantically now and could tell I was having the effect I wanted. Glancing up momentarily, I could see he was smiling at me even as his eyes were beginning to glaze over as he soaked in the pleasure.

Abandoning my labor of love, I moved forward slightly and then leaned down and began pressing my lips against Tommy’s. I remember being incredibly happy at that moment.

Maybe it was just the position we were in or maybe I just wanted it to happen so much, but I reached back, took hold of his cock, and placed it firmly between my cheeks. Then I quickly pressed down and tried to back on to it.

“Oh, Jesus,” he moaned, pushing up momentarily to greet me.

The two of us were moments away from locking together when he hesitated and pulled back. Desperately wanting him inside me more than anything else at that moment, I tried to encourage him on.

“Oh, God, do it, Tommy,” I pleaded. “Mount me. I’ve been waiting for this forever from you.”

“Is that so?” he replied, seemingly amused by my passionate confession. By then the grin on his face was even larger than usual.

“Did you happen to bring some lube and a condom with you? I sure didn’t.”

I hadn’t brought them either, but I could have cared less at that moment.

“No, but it doesn’t matter,” I said. “We can do it without them this one time. I’m sure of it. Just go ahead and do it to me, Tommy. Please. I want this so bad.”

He looked at me strangely for a moment and then shook his head.

“Are you nuts, Andy?” he asked and by now his voice had taken on a more serious tone. “No way, no how, forget about it. Jeez, sometimes I worry about you, Andy.”

“I mean, yeah, sure, I love small pussies and tight holes as much as the next guy, no doubt about it; and you've got both of those, girl. But I can’t believe a smart dude like you could think I would ever do something like that to you. You know how I make a living, Andy. No way would I ever put you at risk like that, let alone myself. I like you too much.”

It was frustrating as hell. I knew he was right, but I was too aroused by then and needed some immediate relief. I started working my cock back and forth rapidly with my hand. He knew what I was about to do and responded quickly enough by starting to do the same thing behind me, occasionally thrusting forward involuntarily but not making any effort to push inside me.

It was a turn on just thinking about what was happening. Not surprisingly, it only took a couple of moments before I was all the way there.

“Oh, Jesus, I’m going to cum,” I said.

Before he had time to respond, I ejaculated on to his chest and his stomach. It was powerful and it was intense and then, before I could even begin moaning, Tommy exploded all over my cheeks and my back and I collapsed on to him.

“Jesus, that was incredible,” he finally said, “just totally awesome.”

By then both of us were a mess, but we just laid there together staring into each other’s eyes.

“Remind me to pick up some condoms later,” I finally said; “and lube too.”

“You’re worse than me, Andy,” he replied. “You make fun of me all the time for being so horny, but you put me to shame most of the time. You’re the one who’s insatiable and I don’t even know what that word really means.”

Eventually I got up, grabbed a towel and did my best to dry the two of us off. I even told him what the word meant. But by that time he was sated and just reached down to the floor. Retrieving his jeans, he pulled out the tin in which he carried his joints. Quickly he lit one up and handed it over to me.

“You need this as much as I do, probably more if I’m going to get any rest on this trip,” he said, grinning at me.

I sucked in the smoke, inhaled as deeply as I could, and then allowed my mind to drift off. When the two of us had finished the joint, we just laid there together, my head nuzzled beneath his chin. Tommy was gently stroking my hair, my neck and my shoulders. There was a tenderness to it I liked and the whole thing was just so relaxing. Eventually we fell asleep like that, side by side, facing each other.

When I finally woke up hours later, it was late.

“We need to get up, Tommy,” I said, shaking him gently.

The two of us took a quick shower to clean up and walked into town. We had dinner at the Purple Parrot and then headed off to the parties we had been invited to. I think both of us had a good time that evening, at least until we got to the very last party. I was even having a good time at that one until I noticed Tommy heading up the stairs with some older dude.

I looked at him in disbelief. He stared back at me with a tight smile I had never seen before. If he was trying to reassure me, it didn’t work. It just made me wonder whether anything had really changed. I remember being annoyed, pissed off actually, but the whole thing was over quickly enough.

The next thing I saw was Tommy coming down the stairs by himself. He walked over to me and said he was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel.

I had always tried hard to avoid being jealous or mad when it came to Tommy. He had never made any promises to me after all, but it bothered me just the same thinking about it. I wanted to say something to let him know I wasn’t happy about what he had done, but struggled to find the right words.

“Did you have a good time tonight?” I finally blurted out, trying to conceal just how annoyed I was at the very last moment.

“Mostly,” Tommy replied. “I like this town. We should come back here some time together.”

I tried to let it go, but couldn’t.

“I didn’t mean whether you had a good time at the parties, Tommy,” I replied, oblivious to what he had just said. “I meant whether you had a good time upstairs at that last party we were at?”

There. Everything was out in the open. Now he would know I didn’t approve of what he had done and suddenly I wondered if he would be angry with me. He looked over and I could see the beginnings of a smirk beginning to form on his face.

“Do I detect a hint of jealousy, babe?” he asked.

I didn’t say anything in response because I didn’t know what to say. He was right. I was jealous, but I was also the offended party. I hadn’t done anything wrong.

“It’s funny actually,” he continued; “the fact you’re jealous, I mean. If it was anyone else it would annoy me, but coming from you I like it for some reason. I guess it shows you really do care. But, just so you know, there’s no reason why you should be jealous, Andy. Nothing happened upstairs except for me telling that dude the truth.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, confused.

“You know, all of the boys at the Palermo are liars, Andy,” he replied. “We know what the johns want to hear. They may be paying for sex, but what they really want to hear is how much we like sucking them off or whatever. They don’t want to hear the truth so we don’t tell them the truth. We tell them how good looking they are, how butch they are, how much we like doing whatever it is we’re doing to them. That’s what they pay for as much as anything else.”

“The thing is, that dude was bothering me from the moment we got to that party tonight. At first I thought he was just flirting with me, but then he started getting on my case. He said one of his friends from Washington knew all about the Café Palermo and had recommended me to him. Then he started bugging me about whether I wanted to be his friend that evening.”

“I tried brushing him off politely, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He was standing there in front of his buddies and then he reached over and patted my butt and asked whether I would be his friend for a hundred bucks.”

“I walked away and tried to ignore him, but he and his friends kept following me around the place. He was asking whether I would be his friend for $150, then $200, and finally whether I would be his friend for $250. It was embarrassing because everyone around us was looking; and they were all smiling like they knew everything about me except how much it would cost to get into my ass.”

“Finally I told him to show me the money. He pulled out his wallet and handed me five fifties. They were crisp and brand new like he had just stopped at the ATM on the way home to get them.”

“I pointed to the stairs and he followed me up to one of the bedrooms and then closed the door. He started undressing. He wasn’t even pretending to be nice or talk to me. It was just a business transaction to him.”

“I mean, yeah, sure, I knew it was just a business transaction and what he wanted me to say. But it made wonder if it was only the johns we lie to or whether we lie to ourselves just as much; because no matter how much we make fun of the johns, I think every boy at the Palermo wants to believe deep down inside that the john picked him because he was special somehow.”

“I guess I never understood the lying goes both ways.”

“I waited until the dude was totally naked; and then, once he was, I told him the truth. I told him he was a fat son of a bitch and I didn’t know anyone who would ever like being fucked by someone as grotesquely ugly as he was.”

“I told him some kid might let him do it if he desperately needed the money, but the kid would hate letting a nasty old troll like he was do something like that to him. I told him he thought his money could buy anything, but it couldn’t buy him a heart or a conscience.”

“And then I told him I had come upstairs because I wanted him to know all of that; that I could have said all of that in front of his friends downstairs but I would never embarrass anyone the way he had just embarrassed me. Then I tossed the fifties he had handed me on to the floor and walked away.”

You could have heard a pin drop by the time Tommy finished. He was angry and I wanted to say something, but I wasn’t sure what.

“I don’t know what to say, Tommy,” I responded. “I can’t believe anyone would be that cruel. I’m so sorry for ever asking you to come down here with me; and I’m sorry for what I said before and not trusting you. I apologize. It was wrong.”

“You don’t have to apologize to me, Andy,” he replied, and by then the anger was beginning to drain from his voice. “What were you suppose to think? You joked the other night about being a slut, but both of us know there’s only one slut in this car.”

“You know, today when we were out on that boardwalk, I just kept wanting to tell that kid he was making a mistake; that you were the one he should like, not me. I mean, the only thing you’ve ever done is try to love me and I appreciate that. I really do. I wish I knew how to love someone. If I could, you’d be the one I wanted to love.”

Stop! I screamed to myself. I don’t want to hear this again. Would you please stop beating yourself up like this, Tommy.

“Stop,” I said calmly, trying to gather my thoughts.

“Look, first of all I don’t think Teddy, Sean or you ever decided to take up hustling because that was something you wanted to do. You did it to survive; and while I’m sorry you had to go through all of that, I’m glad you survived, Tommy, really glad. It’s given me the chance to meet you and meeting you has been the best thing that ever happened to me. And that’s the truth, Tommy, not some lie.”

“I don’t know what happened to you exactly, but somewhere along the line you convinced yourself no one could ever love you because you’re unlovable, that there’s something wrong with you. And instead of recognizing the truth, you’ve made up this excuse that you can’t love anyone. For some reason it makes it easier if you’re the one doing the rejecting, not the one being rejected. You can tell yourself no one else is to blame; that you are. And that just reinforces the already negative view you have of yourself.”

“But it’s all a lie, Tommy. It’s not your fault. It’s theirs. I don’t know who hurt you, who rejected you, or why they did that to you, but you were lovable all along, Tommy. They were incapable of loving anyone, let alone you.”

“You can put yourself down as much as you want, but nothing you say is ever going to change how I feel about you. The point is, that was then. This is now. And like I’ve told you before, I love you; and now you have a choice, three actually.”

“You can keep living that lie and doing something that makes you unhappy until you decide your life is totally hopeless and kill yourself like Jesse did; and I’ll be really pissed off if you do because I still get angry with Jesse for putting me through that. He didn’t mean to; I know that. But he did and it hurts. It hurts a lot.”

“You could also go to California like we talked about last night and try to start over again by yourself if you want. I won’t like that either, but at least I’ll understand why. Or you can decide you’re not too proud to accept a little help from a friend who loves you, someone who has his own demons and could use some help himself.”

“You keep saying you can’t love anyone, Tommy, but you’re wrong. That boy we met today liked you for a reason and you could have taken advantage of him if you wanted because he desperately wants to be loved and would have gone back to the hotel with you just for a smile.”

“But instead of taking advantage of him you showed him a glimpse of what love is about by giving him that teddy bear of yours. Love is about giving, Tommy, not taking. You can love someone. You proved it today. It’s just that it scares you because you're still afraid of being rejected.”

“And, no, I’m not going to lie. It does mean putting yourself at risk. You could get hurt like Jesse hurt me. But take a good look in the mirror, Tommy. You’re already hurting. What do you have to lose by taking a chance?”

“Okay, that’s it; end of lecture. I love you, but you’re the only one who can decide what to do.”

Neither of us said anything more on the drive back to the hotel that evening; and once we got back the only thing the two of us did was cling to one another in a bed that was much too small but that both of us wanted to share.