This is the sixty-fourth chapter of an ongoing series. I have appreciated all the comments, questions and encouragement I've received from readers and hope to continue hearing from you. I try to answer all messages promptly. If I'm slow at times it is only because of the pressures of work.The glow of millions of lights created a great pale dome in the western sky as Hank and I drove back into LA that evening. I'd not been in California long enough to be used to the vastness of the city, and, approaching it from the east, it really did look like some immense wonderland.
Andrew continues to give much needed proofing and editorial help, for which I am sincerely grateful. I could not post chapters as quickly as I've been doing without his invaluable assistance.
This work is copyrighted © by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
All the stories I've posted on NIFTY can be found by looking under my name in the NIFTY Prolific Authors lists. If you'd like to receive e-mail notification of subsequent postings, please let me know by sending your request to the e-mail address below.
My ass burned a little and itched a lot and as we drove along and I couldn't help wiggling in the front passenger seat of Hank's van. Wiggling didn't really help the burning or the itch. It only made me horny.
We stopped in Monrovia to find a diner Hank remembered and gorged ourselves on huge burgers and fries, not my usual diet, but okay once in a while.
By the time we got to Alvarado Court it was after nine o'clock, and I didn't suggest that Hank should come in. I knew if he did, or if I'd alluded to my sensitive ass and the effect it was having on my cock, he would have insisted on staying and getting me off.
As it was, I didn't get to bed all that early anyway.
When I got up to my apartment the message light on my telephone answering machine was blinking and the indicator said I had six messages.
The first message, left at eight fifteen that morning, was from Billy, saying he'd hoped he'd find me in, wondering where I was, and saying he'd be watching for me at the gym on Tuesday afternoon. While he didn't say it, I could tell from the tone of his voice that he'd expected me to call him and I felt a little guilty that I hadn't. I knew he'd be at his evening class by then so I gave up on the idea of calling him until Tuesday. Maybe, I told myself, it would be better to just ignore his call and talk with him face to face at ABS on Tuesday afternoon.
The second message was from Nita, saying she was sorry she'd missed my call on Sunday but was sure she'd be seeing me soon. Unlike Billy, there was no suggestion of any deeper hidden meaning in her voice, for which I was thankful. I had the feeling that so far as Nita was concerned, I was one of several toys and if I wasn't around, she had other guys to play with.
The third message was from the travel office at the NSB Studios. I didn't even know they had a travel office. A woman's voice, identifying herself as Miss Garcia, said they had my new passport and that she'd been told by Peg Solanski to contact me about arrangements for my London trip. It was really going to happen, I told myself. I guess up to that point I'd not fully believed it.
Number four was Billy again. He'd called a second time at two o'clock to see if I'd come in and if there was any chance of us getting together. "Maybe dinner?" he asked. "Or maybe I could come by your place after my class tonight."
What have I done? I asked myself.
The fifth call was from the car agency saying that my new black Firebird had arrived and would be prepped and ready for pick-up on Wednesday. I was to call to let them know when I could come in. They reminded me politely that now that my own car was ready for delivery, they really needed the yellow loaner back.
The sixth and last call was from Rick. He didn't say much, other than to ask me to call as soon as possible. It was clear from his voice that he was excited. I looked at my watch and figured it was almost midnight in Memphis. Should I call then and chance waking them, or wait until morning and try to get them before Rick left for work?
I decided to chance the call and hope they were still up.
Rick picked up on the second ring and as soon as he heard my voice, he blurted out, "Oh man, Rob, we're going to be a dad!"
Calling that late wasn't a problem as all. Deb wasn't sleeping well because of morning sickness which seemed to bother her twenty-four hours a day. Rick was up dispensing sympathy and soda crackers.
"Oh, man" he gleefully said again, "I can't believe it, Rob. Can you believe it?" He went on and on, hardly giving me a chance to say a word.
Finally he settled down a little and I was able to say how happy I was for them.
"For you, too, Rob," he said, and then before darting off to see to Deb again, he added, "I love you, man."
"I love you, too," I managed to say before he hung up.
I again debated making a call to the central time zone and again decided to risk it and dialed Roger. The phone rang seven times and I almost hung up, but then he answered, sounding a little sleepy and a little miffed.
"No, it's okay, Rob," he insisted when he heard my voice. "I was going to call you tomorrow."
I heard another voice in the background and then Roger's voice, softer as if he'd turned away from the phone, saying, "no, it's okay. I'll just be a minute."
"Oh, shit, Roger," I said. "You're not alone!"
"It's okay, Rob, really, we'd just dozed off."
"You're saying if I'd called a little earlier, I'd have interrupted something."
He chuckled and sort of whispered, "well, yeah."
"I'm really sorry," I said again. "I just got in and found a message saying my passport had arrived."
"Yeah," he said, his voice still low, "Peg called me this afternoon. They want us in London by next Monday. Do you think you can be ready quickly enough for us to fly out on Friday and have the weekend there?"
"Sure," I said.
"Good boy," he chucked. I was glad he wasn't mad. "Call the travel office first thing in the morning. They were trying to get you on a flight from LAX to Kennedy on Friday morning. We'll connect in New York and take an evening TWA flight. I think it puts into Heathrow at about eight o'clock London time on Saturday morning." He paused and then asked, "How well do you handle jet lag?"
"I don't know," I said. "I've never been on that long a flight before."
When I got off the phone I stripped and stood under the hot shower, soaping my rear and rinsing it two or three times. At one point I dropped the soap and when I bent over to pick it up, I let out a long, rumbling fart. I was glad I was alone, but knew such things happen after you get your ass pounded.
Once out of the shower, I rubbed lotion into my crack and worked a little into my ass.
I'd been through this before and knew by morning my rear would feel fine. I also knew that the next time Hank or Roger wanted my ass, I'd have my heels in the air and be going through this aftermath again. Such was the price of the good life!
Eventually I made it to bed, stretched out naked between the cool, clean sheets and tried to get to sleep. After nearly an hour of tossing, I rolled over on my side, turned on the bedside reading light, and reached for my well worn copy of Call the Dark Water.
An hour later I still felt wide awake, but decided to turn off the light and try again to get to sleep.
My head was spinning with thoughts of the London trip and of Rick and Deb and their baby. Despite what Rick had said about us being a dad, I refused to allow myself to think of the child as having anything to do with me. It was their baby and I knew I'd love it as their baby. But it would be completely wrong to think of it as mine in any way. Somehow I had to find a way of explaining that to Rick.
As I finally dozed off my thoughts turned to Billy. I knew I had to be very careful with him, careful not to hurt him and careful not to let our relationship go beyond the bounds of friendship.
Even asleep it wasn't a peaceful night. In dreams Billy was gazing at me with soulful eyes as I explained that I really couldn't ask him home for Christmas. "But I've never been to Mississippi, Rob." he kept saying. It was certainly odd because we'd never even discussed my home and family and I hadn't even thought ahead as far as the holidays. I had no idea at that point if I'd try to go home or not.
But soon the dream shifted and got stranger by the minute. In the way things frequently happen in our nocturnal world, Billy had become Rick. He was holding a baby, saying how happy he was, how glad he was that we'd had the baby together. Then as he thrust the infant into my arms, I found it was Rick himself that I was holding. I looked down and saw that the baby in my arms was a miniature but fully mature Rick, complete with pubic hair and a fully erect penis.
Don't even ask me what all that could have meant. I don't even think Freud could have figured it out.
I was woken by the clock radio at seven o'clock feeling guilty and ashamed. I decided with dreams like those I must be one really screwed up guy, but what could I do about it?
The radio was tuned to National Public Radio and I was barraged by news of the upcoming elections. Nixon was ahead in the opinion polls and McGovern seemed to be lagging more and more behind each week. There was another brief story about the break-in at the Watergate but nobody seemed to think it was all that important.
The big news continued to be Viet Nam and the peace talks in Paris.
I rolled out of bed and found that despite the weird dreams, I felt rested and my posterior felt fine.
By the end of that day I'd accomplished a lot.
When I got to the studio I first went to the carpool to look for Billy. He was out on a run but I left him a short note saying I was sorry not to have returned his messages but had gotten in too late the night before to call. I said I'd look for him at ABS that afternoon but my schedule was going to be very tight for the next few days, right up until I left for London. He knew the trip was coming up so he shouldn't be too surprised or too hurt by my neglect.
From the carpool I went on the travel office, which turned out to be in the same building were Nita worked. She was also away from her desk but the receptionist let me use her phone to leave Nita a quick voice mail message saying I was leaving for London at the end of the week but would try to get back by to see her before I left.
In the travel office I learned that my tickets had been confirmed. I'd fly out on Friday morning as planned, arrive at JFK in New York at three in the afternoon, where I'd meet Roger. He was flying in from Memphis and due there just about the same time I was. We were booked on TWA for a eight o'clock flight which would arrive at Heathrow at eight o'clock, London time the next morning. I was surprised and very pleased to learn that we'd be flying business class.
Miss Garcia explained that as a consultant to Mr. Cohen, Roger had what she called Class B Status, so far as NSB travel policies were concerned. That meant he rated business class travel and since I was accompanying him, I got the benefits as well. She did point out that as a Nathan Fellow, I'd have been in tourist if I'd been traveling on my own.
"Who are the Class A?" I asked.
"Leading actors and actresses and top company executives," she said. "They always travel first class."
"Sounds like a caste system to me," I grinned.
"How do you spell that?" she smiled. I guess given the fact that we were in the movie business, she had a point.
As she finished up she opened my new passport and smiled. "My, Mr. Ballinger, you certainly are photogenic, that's one of the best passport photos I've seen." She handed me the open booklet and I looked at the stark black and white image of myself. I'd worn a suit and tie and it made me look older and much more worldly than I felt.
From the travel office I went to the commissary for a quick lunch and then on to Basingstoke's staff meeting where I got a lot of instructions on what Roger and I needed to accomplish in London.
"Don't think this is just a pleasure junket, kiddo," Peg smiled. "If I know Roger Bardwell, which I do, he'll keep you hopping and I don't just mean on the dance floor."
Everyone chuckled and I guess I blushed. If there was any hidden meaning in her quip, it wasn't obvious but I got the feeling that even if any of them did suspect anything about my sexuality it would have made no difference at all.
I left the meeting with a good feeling. It was so comfortable to be in an environment where everyone was open minded and acceptance was based on personal merit and performance, not on characteristics beyond my control.
When I left the studio, I went by the car agency and had a look at my new Firebird. The car was everything I'd hoped for, sleek, powerful and sexy!
They agreed to let me keep the loaner until Thursday afternoon and also agreed to let me leave my own car at the agency, where it would be garaged, until I came back from London. I was expecting to ask Billy to use one of the studio vans to pick me up on Friday morning for the trip to LAX and I'd also ask if he could pick me up in his jeep after work on Thursday at the car agency and take me home.
From there I went on to ABS to meet Billy.
I'd laundered the shorts he'd left at my place and had them in my gym bag to return to him. When I arrived at the health club it was a real relief to find it uncrowded and relatively quiet.
After the weekend madhouse, weekday afternoons, especially if you got there early enough to avoid the after work crowd, were a real luxury. Both Billy and I were lucky to be able to get in at that hour, he because he went to work early and finished well before the nine to five folks, me because I was still on such a light schedule at NSB.
Soon after I returned from the London trip, I realized, that was all going to change. I would be going in to USC to work out my fall class schedule and then a couple of weeks later, actual classes would begin. From then on, I'd be working a great deal harder with graduate classes and continued responsibilities at the NSB studios.
But for the time being I was a man of relative leisure.
Billy came into the locker room as I was changing and I was able to give him the clean khakis I was returning so he could slip them into his own locker. In exchange he gave me the shorts he'd borrowed to go home in on Sunday evening.
"Are you ready to hit the weights," he asked when we went out into the workout area.
"Yeah, I'm ready, but I want to change tactics today."
"What do you have in mind?" he said.
"I need to do a little honing."
"Lower the weight, increase the reps?"
"Yeah, you got it."
We worked for a solid hour, not talking much, but exercising every major muscle group, and by the time we were finished I was bushed. The reps can take it out of you just as much as doing a few power presses with higher weight. When we headed for the sauna my arms and legs were tingling.
I guess Billy was tired, too. We stripped and walked naked into the hot, dry air of the sauna and were very glad to have our choice of the lower benches. Over the next fifteen or twenty minutes we gradually worked our way higher until we were both lying on the top benches on opposite sides of the space. We poured no water on the hot stones which topped the stove, so the air remained relatively dry.
After five minutes stretched out on the top level, I felt like an over cooked carcass and when I moved, Billy moved too. I guess he'd been waiting to follow my lead.
"Ready for the showers?" he said.
"Yeah, and about a gallon of water."
We paraded our bare butts past a few more guys who'd begun to fill the locker room, and into the empty shower stall. Without any comment we took up our old positions at the two back shower heads, standing across from one another as we lathered and rinsed our sweaty bodies.
A few other guys came and left, but despite the relative privacy, we said very little. I knew Billy wanted to talk but he'd hardly spoken during all the time we'd been together and I was just leaving it to him to choose the moment. I knew he and I had to talk, to come to terms with the nature of our friendship.
I had to admit, at least to myself, that he had become very attractive. In a way it would be easy to just let things take their natural course, and if I allowed it, I was sure we'd quickly become sexually involved. All the signals suggested that Billy wanted that. It would have been the easy way but I knew in my heart that it would be wrong. Billy needed a constant, faithful partner, not a fuck buddy. I knew I could never be his partner, in any real sense of the word, and I also knew I didn't want to hurt him. I just hoped that somehow the whole issue could be put off until after I returned from London. Then, with more time, perhaps I could really help the guy.
As we were drying off Billy said, "I left my lotion in my locker."
"Do you want me to put it on your back again?" I asked.
"Yeah, do you mind?"
"No, glad to," I said as I finished drying myself off. "Let's just do it at the lockers, no sense going for it now."
"The showers may be more private."
"I think the crowd has come and gone and headed for the weight room," I said. "I doubt if there's anyone left in the locker room, and anyway, what difference does it make if there are a few other guys around?"
"Well . . . " he started, then stopped. "I guess I can keep myself under control."
"I'll make it as clinical as possible, Mr. Bowen, don't worry about getting all excited in public."
We both laughed rather uncomfortably and traipsed off to the lockers.
I did make the application of the lotion to Billy's shoulders and back so clinical that even I found it in no way erotic. When we'd dressed and were ready to go he asked if we could get something to eat together.
I turned him down, claiming too much to do, but I did ask if he'd pick me up at the auto dealership on Thursday after work and schedule a studio van to take me to LAX on Friday morning. He agreed immediately and said he understood how busy I must be. I felt from the longing in is eyes that he didn't really understand at all, that he was hurt and felt as if I was abandoning him.
For a few seconds I almost gave in and invited him back to Alvarado Court, but, realizing it would only make the inevitable harder, stood by my original decision and went home alone.
To be continued