Warning: The following story may contain graphic descriptions of sex between consenting males. If you are underage or do not wish to read such material, or if reading this sort of material is illegal in your jurisdiction, then read no further. This multipart story is primarily about romance and relationships between men. Any reference to actual persons, living or dead, is only to enhance the fictional nature of the story and does not suggest a particular sexual orientation.
Special acknowledgements to David from the Lakeview area of Chicago and Brad from Denver for providing diligent proofing and editing of the story.
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Part 17, PILGRIMS AND ELVES
All the staff called me Mike. It was November and I was now civilian Mike Cole, manager-in-training at the 'Blue Dolphin', a Connor Group seafood restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter. Tom Connor worked down the block as GM of their steakhouse concept, 'Prime'.
Dave had successfully started as a freshman at UCSD in September. I knew that he was bright but what astounded me was the dedication and concentration with which he approached studying and learning. The first of October, with the Navy behind me, I left for a two-week leave to visit the family in Chicago, before starting my new job. Dave had 'aced' all of his first exams and we celebrated the night before my flight in a very randy, un-academic fashion.
October in Chicago was always an exciting time of the year. The crispness in the evening air, the colors of the trees slowly embracing autumnal maturity and the general vibrancy of a city alive with energy were intoxicating.
I moved into brother Rick's old bedroom, officially called it 'home' for ten days and rented a car that gave me the mobility I needed. Mom and I developed a open, relaxed relationship and even went out together to dance at a few of the Boystown bars; her older gay companions happily looked on and cut in occasionally. In typical maternal fashion, she supervised a big dinner on the Sunday after I arrived. Sis and fiancÚ Phil, Rick and partner Bob, and I enjoyed a relaxed adult family outing with the matriarch of the Cole clan. Separately, my siblings and I found quality time together in the city during the visit.
Since Bob Cooke was sometimes on emergency reporter assignment in the evening for NBC5, Rick and I got together for a couple of extra outings. We officially became friends, as well as closer brothers, and vowed to never let anything come in the way of our brotherly love. Bob had no problem getting approval for vacation time around the Christmas holidays. This was due to his high "Q" ratings - the official term for how audience responds to on-camera talent - and star status at the station as the popular male anchor for the highly rated early news. Management wanted to keep him happy.
Rick and Bob accepted Dave's and my invitation to visit San Diego for part of the holidays. This worked well for their actual Christmas plans with Bob's parents in Phoenix, commencing Christmas Eve. The guys would be back in Chicago for New Year's Eve with Mom. I returned to California, well rested, with a sense of accomplishment in strengthening family bonds.
It was a fairly quiet Thursday evening in the Gaslamp district and at the restaurant. We had closed and I was checking out the servers' deposits and reports. The final phase of closing was to audit the bartender after he balanced his 'drawer'. Because his funds were used to pay out the servers' tips, balancing was always the important last step. The closing manager was somewhere in the back and I was a little startled to hear another voice coming up behind me.
"Hi, Mike, how's the training going?" I turned to see the smiling face of Tom Connor. I stood and shook his hand.
"Closing down for the night. You know the drill," I answered with a smile. Neither of us was too excited about closing the restaurant in the late hours of the evening. However, it was a necessary evil to get all the paperwork straightened out for the morning office manager. "It was kinda slow, tonight."
"Yeah, tell me about it. I just closed my place. This happens around Thanksgiving, everywhere. Speaking of which, what are you and your partner doing for 'bird day' next week?" Tom knew about my committed relationship but we had never discussed who my partner was. While we were in the Navy, I just skirted the topic.
"Actually, not much. He's been busy at school and I've been trying to keep my head above water learning all the operational details to be a successful Connor Group restaurant manager. We had planned on having a couple of friends from L.A. down for Thanksgiving, but one of the guys had too much to do with his studies at UCLA." I didn't add that my friend's new co-starring film role was eating into school life.
"From what I hear, you're doing just fine. Dad is going to sit down with you soon to go over the timeline of opening the new restaurant in the park. Don't worry, Mike, you'll be a superstar for the company," Tom said, gripping my shoulder for emphasis.
"That's really encouraging. Thanks."
"Since both our restaurants are closed for Thanksgiving, I was wondering if you and your friend wanted to join Susan and me for dinner? Mom and Dad traditionally go around to the restaurants that are open and give the managers a little moral support."
"Tom, that would be great. I'll make sure that there's no problem, schedule-wise. Um, I need to mention something. Can you stay for a few minutes? All I need to do is count the bartender's bank."
"Listen, why don't you finish here and meet me at 'The Bitter End'? That way, Gus can get out of here," Tom replied with a raised eyebrow, almost acknowledging that he read between the lines the need to have more than just a casual talk. Gus was the closing manager.
"You got it. I'll see you there in about 20 minutes."
"I'll be in the VIP lounge," Tom replied as he left.
Actually, Gus and I were out of the restaurant in 15 minutes. The bartender's bank balanced, we went through the final lockdown procedures, set the security alarm and left through the side door. 'Bitter End' was just north on Fifth Avenue a couple of blocks. I made my way through the bar to the VIP lounge and found Tom. After being introduced to the GM by Tom, I sat down and accepted a comp beer from the server.
"You get to know all the managers in the Gaslamp. It's a 'you scratch my back, etcetera' thing. We take care of each other and it becomes an unofficial fringe benefit," Tom explained as he brought up his beer bottle. I clinked my bottle on his and took a swig.
"I guess I'd better pass around some of my business cards, then," I replied with a smile.
"And let them know you'll be opening and permanently managing 'El Padre' this coming spring. You, my man, are going to be the GM of San Diego's hottest restaurant." Tom winked and took another swig. "Okay, now, what's on your mind?"
"I guess we never talked about my 'other-half' and who he is."
"Just that he's in school at UCSD."
"Tom," I said, almost holding my breath, "you know him."
"Really?" Tom noticed that I was tense. He smiled and continued, "I haven't seen him on the posters in the post office, have I?" he said with a sly smile.
"Naw, he and I were in the Navy together. Remember the enlisted guy who opened the pool last spring?"
"Dave, um, Swenson?" he replied, looking into my eyes with impish amazement. "Why, you dawg. That's the guy you worked with in Memphis, right?" Tom turned on a full grin.
"Guilty as charged. We've officially been a couple for over two years."
"From what I remember, you've got quite a guy. In addition to being a goodlooking dude, Dave's as bright as they come. How is he doing in school?" If Tom was purposely defusing the information and relaxing me, he was successful.
"Straight A's. Dave's in pre-law."
"He's more than welcome in our home, buddy. I hope the answer to our invitation is yes."
I didn't hear Mike come in. I was getting used to waking up in the middle of the night to find him spooning against me, his chest to my back. The warmth and closeness was a comfort as I drifted back to sleep. Ah, the life of a restaurant manager's widow.
"Morning, lover," Mike said. I slowly stirred and looked at the digital clock with one eye partially open. 'Oh, fuck,' I thought, '7:30 a.m. and I gotta get ready for my class at nine.' Except for Wednesday and Friday I registered so that my class schedule was primarily in the afternoon. I had discovered morning loving...just not this morning.
"Hey." I rolled over and kissed his forehead. "I'm going to get up, pee and make some coffee. You wanna join me?"
"How about you starting the coffee and then come back for a fast shower...with me," Mike replied with a suggestive leer.
"You just want to have my body, don't ya?" I slowly got out of bed, scratched my balls under a very alert 'Davey' and winked with a smile. This was about two young, virile guys getting off.
"Sumpin like that. You do the coffee and I'll get the shower ready." He sat up in bed and watched me disappear into the bathroom. I still closed the bathroom door when I had to use the toilet. Old habits die slowly. After the morning whiz and penis deflation, I washed my hands, gargled and splashed some water on my face.
"You're next," I said as I walked out of the bedroom, buck naked, to go downstairs and start some coffee. Mike was a believer that grinding beans every morning produced a better-brewed coffee. None of this 'pre-portioned coffee in the filter overnight' business. "Back in a sec."
After grinding the appropriate amount of Arabica dark-roasted beans, I filled the ground coffee maker filter cone, poured the measured water into the back tank and hit the "brew" switch. Returning to the second floor, I heard the inviting sound of the pulsating shower water.
"Okay, Mr. Cole, you ready for a little suds 'n' fun?" I asked, returning to the bathroom. My man was inside the shower, standing under the head, slowly massaging his beautiful dick.
"Throw in a shampoo and ya gotta deal, kid."
"Fuck you, Cole," I replied with a laugh. I stepped into the shower and met my lover under the water.
"Naw, I think just a blow job this morning, Swenson." He pulled me into his body and we kissed with renewed passion. We both kept our eyes closed because of the shower water cascading down our faces. Slowly, Mike released my lips and lowered himself to my crotch. His tongue started playing with an aroused 'Davey'.
"Man, you do know how to take care of a student's body," I murmured as he took me completely. I angled the showerhead away from our bodies as Mike started some serious sucking. While he used his tongue on the cockhead, I started counter-motions with my torso. He let me take over the lead as my hands held his head firmly. I felt his fingers probe my asshole and enter very carefully to find my nut. "Oh, shit, Mike...I'm loving it...Christ...ahhh," was all I could utter as his practiced mouth and nimble digits pushed the right buttons.
"Hmmm," he hummed, was the third factor to this delightful 'quickie'.
"Uhhh...fuck...yeah...I'm gonna...cummm," I yelled. I gushed into Mike's mouth and he took it all, like a champ. After I finished my quaking, Mike stood up and kissed me again.
"Love ya, babe," Mike said with an eager smile plastered on his face.
Needless to say, I returned the favor before we actually showered for the day.
I was in the kitchen in a loose shirt and jeans, pouring coffee for both of us. Mike put on gym shorts and a tee and joined me for our impromptu breakfast. This was a raisin bran and banana morning. "So I guess the Connors are pleased with your training?"
"That's what Tom told me," Mike replied with a warm beam. "Have you got a few minutes to discuss something?" I looked over at the microwave and saw that it was little after eight.
"I've got about 15 minutes before I need to leave. Whazzup?"
"Dave, I kinda obligated us for Thanksgiving last night. I shoulda discussed it with you. It just happened," he said wistfully.
"Well, we didn't have any plans. I guess we do now?" I looked at him with curiosity and took a bite of cereal.
"Tom asked if you...as my partner...and I would join Susan and him for dinner. I gave him the details about you and our relationship," Mike said with a tentative look. "He was a little surprised but thought you and I made a good couple. He'd love to see you again." He studied my eyes as he sipped the coffee.
"Hey, we're not in the Navy and I think it'll be a fun day. Just do me a favor and discuss things like this in the future. Okay, buddy?" I winked and considered the moment over.
"Thanks. I'm sorry. I'll think first before I open my big mouth."
"Big, beautiful mouth," I replied with a wink. We both started eating the cereal more seriously.
"This year is going fast. I can't believe the holidays are almost here."
"Brent and Doug are definitely coming down here for a few days around Christmas?" I asked.
"Yep. It's confirmed. Brent's film shuts down around December 20th until after the first of the year and Doug said they'll have the final cut of their film done next week."
"That film, 'American X', will be released in December? Doug must be relieved?"
"Very relieved and happy with the results," Mike answered. "The plan is for them to come down here on the 21st and return Christmas Eve day. I guess the Di Marco's have a big annual family thing, starting with the church's midnight Christmas Eve services. Then Mrs. Di Marco will be cooking up a storm the next day."
"Then, we'll have a full house. Your brother and Bob Cooke get in the 22nd and fly over to Phoenix on the 24th. Why don't we plan some things around your schedule? Since I'm out of school, I can be a tour guide when you're working. We'll have a lot of fun"
"Sounds like a plan. Have I told you that I love you?" Mike asked.
"Yeah, I think you mentioned something about that when you were cumming in the shower." We both howled with laughter.
It took moments - nano-seconds, really - for Tom Connor and me to forget our former relationship in the Navy when we arrived for Thanksgiving. It was Tom and Dave. His wife, Susan, was in law school at the University of San Diego and promised to be a mentor as I followed the same educational path. With our ages still grouped in the 20s, Tom being the oldest at 29, we started a friendship of two couples that I was sure would stand the test of time.
"So we met in Memphis and kinda lived under the radar for the last couple of years," I said as the four of us relaxed with a glass of wine before attacking the dressed and trussed bird.
"I see you two have something going that's permanent, Dave," Susan said. "We all will have to do some social things together as two 'married' couples when the restaurant guys can get away, although it'll probably be during the week. I've given up trying to plan on anything weekends. That's the only regret. Tom and I can't get out to the various charity events."
"Well, if Tom doesn't mind, I'll offer my services to you and be your 'date' if there is a party you want to go to. I understand that my Saturdays are going to be free, and there is only so much studying I can do," I offered.
"Dave, you are a problem solver," Tom replied with a smile. "There are several things coming up after the first of the year. The second half of the San Diego social season runs from late January to May."
"I love it. You are going to be kept very busy, Mr. Swenson," Susan said with a laugh.
"And if I'm going to be kept busy funding new cocktail dresses, I'll have to hit up Dad for a raise." We all laughed at Tom's joke.
We finished the chardonnay and moved over to the dining area for a complete turkey dinner. I found out later that the food had been prepared and delivered by Connor Catering Services. Managers were permitted to utilize this service at a 50% discount. Mike and I decided we would make use of this fringe benefit over the holidays. Mike was getting off December 22nd and 23rd to be free for our pre-Christmas visitors.
Mike and I left the Connor home feeling very relaxed. Susan was planning on following in her Dad's footsteps and practicing law. He was a senior partner of a Beverly Hills firm. However, she was very emphatic about seeking a position in a San Diego law firm without any help from her father. If Tom and Susan would have children, that decision would be made when Susan approached the watershed year of 30...six years from now.
She and I made a date for a long lunch on the UCSD campus the following week. While I had achieved a good academic start, Susan thought that she could give me a good rundown of some of the professors and their peculiarities at UCSD and the University of San Diego Law School. I asked if she minded if a good friend, Tom Feldman, could join us? Susan had no objection. In fact, she felt a little networking would be valuable for all.
Tom was now a junior in pre-law. However, because his partner Mark Connelly needed to re-enter school with more humble academic requirements such as Miramar College, Tom decided to go for a MBA at UCSD so that he could stay in San Diego and be with Mark. Therefore, law school at USC would be deferred two years until Mark and Tom could move to L.A. together. 'The two degrees would give Tom an impressive resume,' I thought, 'especially for entertainment law.'
"I'm barely holding my head above water at school because the movie demands a lot of evening and weekend shooting," Brent said while we were having morning coffee. He had started a new feature film in October.
Dave was cracking eggs and frying bacon, I was helping Dave, and Doug was coming down the stairs. It was just 9:00 a.m. Doug and Brent had driven down last night from L.A. and we had all stayed up for a general bull session when I returned from work.
"What Brent means is, he's only maintaining a 'B' average," Doug said as he walked into the kitchen. "Morning, guys." He went over and kissed Dave on the cheek before giving me a big bear hug.
"Harrumph," I groaned at Doug's physical greeting. "Brent, does that brute handle you like that?"
"Yeah, ain't it grand," Brent said with a chuckle. "And he's on the bottom." We all joined the laugh.
"Ewww, TMI," Dave replied. "Everybody okay with scrambled eggs and bacon?"
The guys enthusiastically replied, "Yes." Dave, looking cute in gym shorts and a wife beater, started the final preparations for the eggs. I placed the bacon on paper towels to drain the excess grease and put the pitcher of O.J. on the table.
Doug took a sip of coffee and asked, "Now what's the game plan today? I know you're picking your brother and his friend up at the airport around noon?"
"Yep, 11:30 a.m. Rick and Bob Cooke won't have eaten anything on the flight from Chicago. So I thought we'd come back here for a sandwich, allow them to unpack and then play tourist for the afternoon."
"That sounds fun. Where do you want to go?" Brent asked.
"I thought we'd head up the freeway to Del Mar and then drive back on the old highway down through La Jolla. It'd be kinda fun to walk around downtown La Jolla and check out some of the shops," Mike concluded.
"I can get into that. How about you, Doug?" Brent asked his lover.
"Absolutely. Just bumming around sounds fun. And it'll be great getting to know your brother. You said his partner is a newscaster in Chicago?" Doug asked, looking at me.
"Bob is a lead anchor on NBC5. I know he'll fit in well with our little group. Speaking of which, Tom Feldman and Mark Connelly will join us for dinner tonight. I'm having our company's catering operation handle dinner for us. We need to be back by 5:00 p.m. to receive the food. Cocktails are called for half past six," I concluded.
"So, the 'sexy six' will now become the..." Brent started to say.
"The 'ego-driven eight'. Between you and Rick's newscaster partner, we'll have ego in spades," I replied with a laugh. Brent smiled and gave me the finger.
"Hey, sex and ego are great. Don't knock it," Doug said with a lascivious grin.
"Brent, could I borrow your Explorer to pick up the guys? I asked. "I don't know how much luggage they're bringing."
"No problem. Let's exchange wheels. Doug and I want to run over to Fashion Valley and do a little shopping. If we leave after breakfast we can get back here at noon, as you return from the airport."
"Sounds like a plan," I replied. We finished breakfast, and after the guys departed for the mall Dave and I straightened up and made some sandwiches for later.
"I gotta tell you, Mike, I'm envious about this weather. It was 18 degrees when we left O'Hare this morning," Rick said as we crossed the pedestrian lane, walking from the terminal to short-term parking. Bob and he were both carrying heavy coats with their luggage.
"And our weather guy is going to announce where I am and what the temperature is at my location every evening. Kind of a cheap version of 'Where's Matt Lauer?'" Bob said with a snicker. "It's really good to see you guys again."
"Same here. Dave and I have got most of your visit planned. But if there is anything you want to check out, let us know." We arrived at the Explorer and stowed the luggage in the rear.
"Nice set of wheels, bro. When did you get this?" Rick asked.
"This is Brent's. I thought it would be better to pick up you two. Doug and Brent got in last night." Everyone was situated in the SUV and I got in the driver's seat.
"Give me a rundown, again," Bob said. "It's Doug and Brent?"
"Yes. Doug Di Marco and Brent Williams. Doug's starting out in the movie business as an assistant director and Brent is a student at UCLA. He does some acting in film and TV," I answered vaguely.
"We were all in the Navy together in Memphis," Dave added. "They're our closest friends."
"Tonight we're having a small dinner party. It'll be the six of us plus two other friends. I think everyone's going to have a good time," I added as we drove out of the airport parking lot. The traffic was fairly light.
Traffic was light, so we made good time on the freeway. At the Washington Street exit, Rick asked me a favor.
"Whatever you want, bro," I said.
"Well, we met a really nice kid on the plane. He's in a private school in Minnesota. He told us that his grandmother here is his guardian. Apparently, Justin's mom died when he was two and his dad passed away two years ago. The grandmother is the only living relative that would have anything to do with him," Rick outlined.
"Is the private school Shattuck-St. Mary's?" Dave asked.
"Bingo. Oh, yeah, I forgot that you're originally from Minnesota. Justin grew up in Duluth. "
"Good school. He must have some money?" Dave asked.
"His dad set up some sort of educational fund for him as part of the insurance settlement. The problem is that Justin - Justin Palmer - is concerned about his future," Bob added. "The guy just turned 15 and is pretty certain that he's gay," Rick replied with a shrug.
"I can relate to that." Dave squeezed Mike's arm. "I think we all can."
"Exactly. And he's worried about his future if grandma's health starts failing. Not to mention that Justin's bummed out about not knowing anyone in San Diego. All of his friends are from school in Minnesota," Bob added.
"How in the hell did you ascertain all this on a three-hour flight?" I asked.
"The plane was full. Justin was in the 'A' seat and Bob and I were in 'B' and 'C'. I think he overheard some parts of our conversation that were kinda personal. At some point, over Nebraska, he just asked if we were a couple. I figured that, at 30,000 feet, we had nothing to lose. He then came out to us."
"Justin said that he hasn't had a whole lot of experience. He's got a crush on some classmate but keeps it quiet," Bob added, as we turned into the driveway.
"What we'd like to do is invite Justin and his grandma for a Christmas Eve breakfast somewhere before we have to go on to Phoenix," Rick volunteered. "I'd really like you guys to join us. I figure being with some good role models can't hurt."
"That's doable. I know Brent and Doug are planning on returning to L.A. later in the morning. Maybe we can give the guy a little Christmas cheer before everyone leaves?" We got out of the SUV and retrieved the luggage. I looked up and saw Doug and Brent come out to the driveway from the back patio.
"Hey, guys, come over and meet my brother and his friend, Bob," I said. Rick and Bob turned to say hello. Their smiles rapidly changed to shocked expressions akin to having just seen an apparition. Doug and Brent, walking toward the new arrivals, were wearing only gym shorts and flip-flops. Toned torsos glistened with mid-day sweat, and it was obvious that they were both 'free-balling'.
"Is your name Brent or Brad?" Bob asked tentatively.
"Welcome to Southern California, guys," Dave said, with a shit-eating grin.
TO BE CONTINUED