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: I've tried to provide a more helpful introduction to this chapter here. As always, comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. Have fun reading and feel free to let me know what you think by leaving a comment over at my blog or contacting me at

THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 36, Andy and the boys start their tour of D.C. at the U.S. Capitol. Teddy jokes about the dome looking like an aroused tit and that cracks everyone up. Then they tour some of Washington's other monuments starting with the Jefferson Memorial. Teddy compares the Washington Monument to Sean's penis while Andy offers up an editorial comment as they drive past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The four of them tour the Lincoln Memorial, but Tommy seems more interested in a lighted building on a hill across the Potomac River. That turns out to be the home of Robert E. Lee, now part of Arlington National Cemetery. At Tommy's urging, Andy shares what he knows about both the house and the cemetery. That gives Sean and Teddy enough time to make their way back to the car where they proceed to have sex in the back seat. After finishing the tour and discovering what's happened, Andy drives Sean back to the place where he's staying in Dupont Circle. Later, he drops Teddy off at the Palermo and goes inside the building where Tommy lives. Because Tommy cannot bring Andy up to Ray's place, they sit on a couch on the second floor overlooking the building's lobby. Tommy tries to shock Andy by telling him he's a male prostitute. Andy insists he wants to be friends with Tommy nonetheless. He invites Tommy back to his apartment in Maryland that evening and Tommy accepts.


Part IV - Virtues and Vices, Public and Private

Chapter 37

Tommy posed the question as soon as the door to my apartment closed behind us.

“Nice place,” he said, looking around quickly, without really paying very much attention to it at all. “Do you want to smoke some weed? Ray doesn’t let me smoke weed at his place, but I’m really in the mood to smoke some right now.”

Oh, Jesus, I remember thinking. That’s exactly the last thing you need tonight, Andy. You know what weed does to you.

I remember desperately trying to find a way out.

“Aren’t you tired at all?” I asked. “I sure am. Maybe we should just go to bed and think about smoking weed tomorrow.”

“Yeah, but I’m in the mood to get high right now,” Tommy replied.

He just stood there grinning at me, knowing how it was going to end.

Resistance was futile. I knew it. Worse still, he knew that I knew it.

This will be a mistake, Andy, a big one. Don’t do it.

It wasn’t that I was against smoking marijuana, but it tended to take me to a place I wanted to avoid that evening and to behave in ways I knew that I shouldn’t, not with someone like Tommy.

And yet I also knew it would help me relax and make it easier to accept what I was about to let Tommy do to me, the thing he wanted to do, the only reason why he had agreed to come back to my place and, if I was being totally honest with myself, the reason why I had invited him back to my place; though not the only reason and not even the primary one. What I wanted more than anything else was to be hugged; if he hugged me, I could accept the other thing, the reason why he had come back to my place.

So it was his call, not mine. Both of us knew that. I had promised he would have a really good time after all and now I had to begin delivering on what I had promised.

“Sure, we can do that if that’s what you want to do,” I responded. “Do you want me to turn down the lights and put on some music?”

“You take care of the lights,” he said. “I’ll take care of the music.”

My music collection was kind of eclectic and included a lot of really old groups. I liked all kinds of music, including the old music. Maybe it was all those old protest songs that Vietnam had generated, all that talk about the times they are a-changin’ or whatever; or maybe it was just some of the innocence and sweetness of the old music.

Whatever it was, I was kind of surprised when the playlist he programmed led with a song from Bread. I never would have figured him for something like that in a million years. But it was a good choice. He knew the mood he wanted to set. He knew the mood that would make it easier for me to do what he wanted me to do.

When he had finished the programming, he sat down on the floor, motioned for me to join him, and opened the little tin box I hadn’t notice before because it was hidden away in one of his pockets. He pulled out one of the joints, closed the box and placed it in the middle of the space separating the two of us. Then he lit up the joint, took a deep breath and held it within his lungs for as long as he could before passing it over to me and letting me do the same thing.

He seemed to like the silence so the two of us just sat there and shared it together. It didn’t take very long for me to get high; and once I was high, all of the thinking, all of the questioning, all of the doubts disappeared and soon enough I found myself alone in my own private place, somewhere far away, somewhere eight miles high; but not for long.

I guess it was the song that did it for me because the next thing I knew Jesse was sitting there across from me. We just sat there smiling at one another and it made me feel good, just like I had that very first night with Jesse.

Why Jesse, I remember asking him? Why did you do it? Why didn’t you call me Jesse?

But Jesse never said anything that evening. He never said anything when he visited me like that. He just sat there smiling at me for what seemed like the longest time.

I wanted to be mad at him. I wanted to shake him and tell him he shouldn’t have left me alone like that. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t be mad. He had such a beautiful smile and now he was smiling at me and then I reached out to touch him and he was gone.

The next thing I recall Tommy had taken my hand and was leading me into the bedroom. He turned around and just stood there staring at me for a couple of moments, then reached over and started tugging at my t-shirt. I lifted my arms and let him pull it off.

I don’t recall exactly how he got the rest of the clothes off of me, but he did. My briefs were the very last thing he took off and I remember him smiling while he did that. I had worn colored briefs that evening. I don’t know why. I guess they made me feel sexy and I wanted to believe I could be sexy.

“Oh my, these are kind of, umm, colorful, don’t you think,” he said, dangling them in front of my eyes. “And pretty, too. My ex-girlfriend, Meghan, she used to love this color. A lot of her panties were the same color as these.”

I remember blushing when he said it, but that just made him laugh.

Then he placed his hands on my shoulders, made me sit down on the side of the bed facing him, and started pulling his own t-shirt off as well. As he had done with me, his briefs were the very last thing Tommy took off and his cock snapped to attention the moment he did.

I was sitting there in my own private place, just staring straight ahead at his stomach, his waist and his groin. His stomach was hard, his groin was alive, and his waist was thin and small. It accented his shoulders perfectly. Truth be told, I had never seen a waist as thin as his up close like that; and it wasn’t as if I was fat or soft either. My waist was pretty thin too, but nowhere near as thin as his. I remember thinking I would have killed for a waist like that and then for some reason I just blurted it out.

“You have a terrific body,” I said, softly, “and a really incredible waist.”

I shouldn’t have said it. I knew it. It was against the code to tell another guy something like that the first time you went to bed with him. I was only digging a deeper hole for myself.

He didn’t say anything, just placed his hand under his cock and lifted it a little to give me a better view. He was cut, of course, mostly everyone was cut, and a little pre-cum was already visible, making the tip glisten. He knew I was looking at it, knew how desperately I wanted it, so he stepped forward and pressed it against my lips. He didn’t have to say anything more after that. Weed always made me hungry and my mouth quickly devoured it, swallowing it as fast as I could, as deep as I could, until it was lost all the way inside me.

I wasn’t even thinking about what I was doing. My mouth and tongue were just doing things they had learned a long time ago from someone who knew how to do things like that really well, who had done it to me just like I was doing it to Tommy now.

I was still in my private place, still far away, when I heard him whisper it.

“Yes,” was all that he said.

At that very moment there was a powerful explosion in my mouth. I remember almost gagging from just how powerful it was, but I was able to suppress the reflex. I just sat there letting the warmth spread throughout my mouth, comforting me, giving me what he knew I wanted so badly.

When he was finally done, he rolled me over on to the bed, then climbed on to it himself and rolled over next to me. The two of us just lay there staring into each other’s eyes. He smiled at me.

“You really do have a magical tongue,” he said, softly. “It’s really something special, Andy.”

I didn’t respond, just continued laying there, smiling at him, basking in the compliment he had freely given to me.

I remember wondering if it could get better than this. I was just so content to be staring at him right at that moment. I could have stared at his smile all night and never been happier.

He reached over, took my hand into his, and placed it down on his groin. He was already hard again.

He pulled me into his arms, gave me a hug, and started kissing me. It was a passionate kiss. He wasn’t trying to hide the passion from me. I could taste it and responded with a passion just as powerful.

I had learned a lot about his body the previous Monday, not everything, of course, but a lot. I knew some of the things that turned him on and some that did nothing for him at all. I knew a lot about the different parts of his body, what each of them liked and how much and in what order and sequence. But there was more I wanted to learn.

I decided to begin with his upper body because I knew that the best. Leaning over, I began nibbling on his neck. Tommy just laid back and let me do it to him. It didn’t take very long before he began moaning ever so softly, began thrashing around as I revisited all of the places he wanted me to visit, his neck, his pits, his nipples and the rest.

Later, after I had reached his hips, he began preparing himself for my final assault, but I decided to go down to the very bottom and work my way up from there.

His body shuddered when I started gently massaging his foot with my hands, shuddered even more when I wrapped my lips around his big toe and started sucking on it gently. But he really only got into it fully when I used my tongue and my fingers to carve trails between his toes. He started thrashing around in the bed uncontrollably, moaning more loudly, and he was begging me not to stop so I didn’t. Eventually, when both of his feet were satiated and I knew I had exhausted the possibilities, I let my tongue begin creeping up toward the loadstar that I knew would be waiting for it eagerly when I finally arrived.

Tommy had sensitive thighs and allowed my tongue to play with them for what seemed like forever. He especially liked it whenever I forced my tongue and my face deep into the crack between his thigh and his groin and licked away the sweat that had gathered there. When I was done doing that, I moved on to the source of the fountain, both of them hard as rocks now, both of them working frantically to produce the reward they knew I was seeking.

I was just about to begin the final assault on the peak when Tommy seemed to lose it completely.

“Oh, Jesus, lick it, Andy,” he moaned. “Lick it, then suck it. Oh, God, do it, please do it hard!”

He wasn’t faking it. It was real and he was pleading with me now. He was there, the place he wanted to be, and it made me feel good knowing I had helped him get to that place.

I was only too happy to do what he wanted and he began thrashing around on the bed, moaning, pleading, encouraging. He was into it now and my mind started to drift again, satisfied that my body knew what to do without needing its constant attention.

And then, suddenly, before I even realized it was happening, he rolled me over on to my back, scrambled on top of me, and pushed the source of his pleasure roughly against my lips. He had taken control now. He was in charge and he knew what he wanted to do.

Sometime before the words came tumbling out he began pressing his cock into my mouth slowly, then slowly pulling it out as he searched for the precise rhythm he wanted. And once he had found it he was no longer interested in letting me do the work. He wanted to do it himself.

And then the words came tumbling out of his mouth in a frenzy.

“You like it, don’t you, Andy?” he whispered. “You want me to do it to you, don’t you?”

“Tell me you like being face-fucked, Andy,” he pleaded.

I remember wincing when he said it. The word he had chosen was both descriptive and accurate, but also harsh and humiliating; and yet it didn’t seem like he intended for it to be that way. The whole thing was strange. He was already doing it to me, but the questions were genuine. He was into it now, but he was seeking my blessing for what he was doing.

It surprised me. I was surprised I was laying there letting him do it to me, surprised I was enjoying it as much as he was. I couldn’t have answered him with words if I wanted to, but he already knew the answer. Truth be told, I had been helping him do it without even being aware of it. At some point I had placed my hands on his hips and let them get in tune with his rhythm. As they pressed forward, I held them firmly on target. As they pulled back, I helped guide them to the point from which he would resume his assault.

At one point he slipped out.

“Do it, Tommy,” I managed to gasp before he pushed it back in and resumed pumping it back and forth.

But that was all he needed to hear because once I had uttered those words he responded in kind and started raining down words in buckets on me.

I guess it didn’t surprise me that Tommy liked to talk dirty. I could see how much it was turning him on. It was turning me on as well. By then the sounds were emerging from some hidden place buried deep within me, strange sounds, the kind of sounds I associated with an animal in heat. He must have been able to sense how much I was enjoying the whole thing because he rewarded me with still more words and with thrusts that were coming more rapidly now, harder, deeper, and more and more frenzied.

There were moments when I could feel myself blushing now that both of us were totally into it. Yet, although some of the words were having that effect, I didn’t think he was trying to taunt or humiliate me. Somewhere along the way Tommy had learned the most important lesson of all, that sex wasn’t just a physical experience, that it was a visual and verbal experience and more; and that it was the combination of all of those things that could make the experience so powerful and intense.

So it didn’t surprise me when Tommy’s second ejaculation that evening was even more powerful than the first.

He pushed in as far as he could and sent the first burst straight down my throat, then pulled backed and allowed the rest to continue flooding into my mouth.

I tried to hold on to as much as I could because I suspected what was coming next.

When Tommy was finally done, when he had drained everything his body had produced into my mouth, he collapsed next to me, then pulled me over roughly, forced his tongue into my mouth and began kissing me passionately again.

“That was way hot,” he whispered when he finally came up for a breath.

“Just totally awesome.”

I was glad to see how happy he was and wrapped my arms around him real tight.

We lay there together like that for a while and then Tommy reached over, ran a finger along my cheek, and rested it on my lips. I swallowed it, not really sure what he was doing. He let me suck on it for a while until it was totally soaked, then pulled it out, slipped it into the crevice and began searching for the tiny round spot both of us knew he was planning to visit at some point that evening. When he found what he was looking for, he just rested the finger there, occasionally stroking it gently but making no effort to press it in deeper.

It seemed to me he was waiting for some kind of signal and I remember lifting my leg just a little to make it easier for him.

He knew I wanted it now and pressed forward gently. The ring tightened for just a moment, then seemed to relax. He pushed it inside me slowly. By now my cock was throbbing and I tried spreading my legs even further apart and then I could hear myself groaning but not because it hurt. He was pressing it in too gently for it to hurt and I knew I was groaning because it felt so good and I couldn’t hide that from him if my life depended on it.

Hearing me groan, Tommy grabbed my right hand with his left, then pressed both of them into my groin. It was too much; and when I finally figured out what he wanted and wrapped my hand around my cock and began stroking it, Tommy let go and started kissing me again. He let his finger begin exploring my ass again, but this time was different. Now his finger was much cooler and my body shuddered when he began gently massaging the opening with the liquid gel that had appeared out of nowhere, then began pushing it deeper inside me.

It slid in easier now and it only took a couple of moments before I could feel his hand come to a rest against my butt. I knew his finger was all the way in and I was moaning louder now, begging him to fuck me with it. It was what he wanted to hear and he was only too happy to grant my wish.

At some point Tommy pulled his mouth away from mine and let the finger slide out.

“You’re tight back here, Andy, really tight. Have you, umm, well, you know, have you ever been fucked before?”

“A few times,” I replied. “A couple of years ago by this one guy I liked a lot.”

“Did you like it?” he asked.

“Yeah, I did,” I responded. I remember averting my eyes, ashamed and embarrassed I had admitted that so easily to him.

He waited for me to finally look back up into his eyes again before he said it.

“You’re a really good looking guy, Andy,” he whispered softly, then started kissing me again with passion, forcing his tongue into my mouth again. “Really good looking.”

It took me a moment to realize what he was doing. He was trying to help get me off. It kind of surprised me.

“Oh, Jesus,” I moaned, gasping. “Harder. Kiss me harder, Tommy.”

Tommy pushed his tongue deeper and harder into my mouth. His hand began gently stroking my thigh, slowly working its way up toward my butt. When it got there, he slipped his finger inside me and started exploring again, pushing it gently in, deeper and deeper, then sliding it back and forth.

The whole thing was intense, much too intense.

“Oh, Jesus,” I moaned, my legs thrashing uncontrollably, as a second finger struggled to join the first inside me.

“This is so hot,” Tommy whispered, softly, “so fucking hot. Go ahead, Andy, do it,” he urged, rotating his fingers and pumping them firmly back and forth inside me.

“Go ahead and cum for me now, babe.”

That was all the encouragement I needed. I exploded on to my stomach, my chest and my face while Tommy just stared down at me, smiling. He leaned over and pressed against my chest and the two of us just laid there together for a long time. Eventually Tommy pulled away and used my briefs to dry both of us off as best he could. Then, after a final shared kiss, he rolled over on to his side and I could tell he wanted to go to sleep.

I was surprised by that. I had practically begged him to come home with me that evening by promising to show him a really good time. I had assumed he would fuck me at some point. Fucking was how the guy being pursued asserted control over his pursuer after all. I knew that, just like he knew it; and I also knew I would let Tommy do it to me that evening. Truth is, I wanted him to fuck me.

But totally exhausted and spent, he wanted to go to sleep by then so I scooted up behind him and wrapped my arms around his thin waist. I settled for being glad when he didn’t push me away.

Between the weed and the sex, it wasn’t very long before both of us fell asleep.

When I finally woke up the next morning, Tommy was already awake. He was leaning against the headboard, arms stretched behind his head, just staring at me.

“Good morning, sleepy head,” he said, smiling, when he saw my eyes finally open. “Did you sleep good last night?”

“I slept really good,” I replied. “Like a baby. How about you? Did you sleep okay? I know it’s hard sometimes in a strange bed.”

“I slept fine,” Tommy said. “I’m use to strange beds.”

“You know, I’ve been looking at your body this morning, Andy,” he continued, “waiting for you to wake up. Did anyone ever tell you that you have a really nice body? I mean, on Monday and then again last night, for whatever reason, I dunno. I just didn’t notice how nice it really was. But this morning I noticed it immediately. You’re really in terrific shape, a lot better than most guys I know; muscular, but not too much like some of the dudes who hang out at Outlaws. Nice shoulders. Nice chest. Small waist. And a really small butt too. And smooth, really smooth all over, just like me. Not much body hair at all. I like that.”

“Can I ask a question?” he added.

“Sure,” I replied. “Anything. And thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it. But your body is a lot nicer than mine.”

“Do you really think so?” Tommy asked. “I mean, I don’ work out with weights or nothing like some of those dudes at Outlaws.”

It seemed to surprise him I had said something like that although I didn’t know why. To me he had the perfect body.

“Yeah, I do,” I replied. “You”re really good looking, Tommy, but your body turns me on at least as much as your face.”

I was staring at his body as I said it and suddenly I felt myself go totally hard. I remember blushing, then Tommy laughing when he saw me turning red.

“Sorry,” I apologized, trying to conceal my face from him. “What did you want to ask me?”

“I was going to ask why you shave your underarms,” Tommy said. “Last night, when we were fooling around, exploring each other’s body, I thought something was different when I touched them. Then I noticed they were shaved when I was looking at your body this morning. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with it. I know it’s something girls do. But I thought it was just a feminine thing. I’ve never seen a guy do that before.”

“I don’t know why,” I replied, lying. “Why I do it exactly, that is.”

I was feeling a little embarrassed. Jesse had asked me to do it and I didn’t mind. Even after Jesse was gone I had kept them shaved.

“I mean, well, there was this guy and, the thing is, I remember licking his underarms the first night we met. He was the first guy I ever had real sex with. He really liked it a lot. It kind of drove him bananas, but he was young and didn’t even have any hair there yet, kind of like you that way. Later on he did the same thing to me and it had the exact same effect on me as it did for him. It was really, really, intense and just drove me wild. But I had underarm hair and he didn’t like licking that. He asked me to shave them so I did and it’s just something I’ve done ever since. But I can let the hair grow back if it bothers you.”

“No,” Tommy said. “It’s kind of cool, actually, and, well, different. Do you think I should do the same thing? Because I really like it when you lick me there. I like it a lot.”

“You don’t have very hairy arm pits yet, Tommy,” I said. “It hasn’t been a problem when I’ve done them. But, yeah, it sure seems to turn you on. I don’t know whether it does that for most guys.”

“I didn’t even know they were one of my zones before last Monday night,” Tommy replied, “but they are. And my ears are too, of course, and my nipples. I mean, I’ve known about those for a long time. I didn’t know about my pits and my toes though. You learn something new every day, I guess.”

“The thing is, you were right,” he added.

“I was right about what?” I asked.

“Right about me having a really good time if I came back here with you,” Tommy replied, grinning. “This morning I was thinking, you know, that was just about the best sex I’ve had with anyone in a long time, even my ex-girlfriend. And I liked having sex with her a lot, at least at first.”

“I did too,” I said, blushing again. “Have a good time that is.”

“I’ve never had sex with your ex-girlfriend,” I added, grinning. “I didn’t even know you had one.”

That caused him to laugh and his laugh caused me to blush again.

“That is so cool,” Tommy said. “I love it when you smile and start blushing. It’s really just very cute. It’s like you’re trying to be totally wicked and nasty, but you can’t pull it off and end up like some little kid who’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.”

Later, after we had finished showering and dressing, I took Tommy to the local IHOP. He was famished. Not only did he wolf down his pile of pancakes, he finished most of mine as well.

I suggested heading back to my place for more fun, but Tommy just said he had something to do so I ended up driving him back into town. I was disappointed because I wanted to spend more time together with him.

“Can I ask you something?” I said, as we began to approach the Palermo.

“Sure,” he responded. “Anything you want.”

“Umm, well, I suppose this is going to sound pathetic to someone like you, a top, I mean, but I was kind of wondering why you didn’t fuck me last night? Did I do something wrong?”

“You didn’t do anything wrong,” he replied. “Why would you think that?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly,” I responded. “I just wondered why you didn’t. I mean, I like you and wanted everything to be perfect for you last night and then when you didn’t do it I began thinking I did something wrong. And it bothered me because I want us to be friends.”

Tommy looked over and just stared at me silently for a couple of moments.

“Jeez, for such a smart, good looking guy, you sure don’t have very much confidence in yourself, do you?” he finally said.

“I mean, first off, you realize we didn’t go to sleep until 4:30 a.m. last night, don’t you? Even I get a little tired at 4:30 a.m. in the morning,” he added, grinning.

“And then, well, I had already gotten off twice by that time, babe. But, like I mentioned last night, the main thing is you were pretty tight back there, really tight. And that’s with being relaxed from the marijuana. If you’re that tight when you’re high, I can’t even begin to imagine how tight you must be right now. So that’s why I didn’t do it, babe, not because you did something wrong. I didn’t want to take a chance I might end up hurting you.”

By that time I had pulled into the service road that led to the back of Ray’s building.

“And as for the rest of it, sure, we can be friends,” Tommy continued. “With a mouth like yours, I hope we’ll be really good friends,” he added, grinning at me.

“Just as long as you don’t fall in love with me, Andy,” he continued.

“Because, you know, I’m not as clueless as I seem sometimes. I know why guys like you are attracted to me. But I’m not the sweet, innocent, little boy you want me to be, Andy. In fact, I’m definitely a very bad boy,” he added, grinning at me, “and I’m not going to change what I am for anyone. Understood?”

“Sure,” I responded.

But something inside told me I was lying, that there was more to it than just liking him, that what I was feeling was something I had felt with someone else once before, and that scared me a little just thinking about it because Tommy was just so different.

“I’ll be at the Palermo tonight, Andy,” he said. “Come by early, around 9 p.m. You can tell me all about yourself then. I want to know everything there is to know about you.”

Somewhere inside an alarm bell went off and I remember feeling uncomfortable. Like everyone else I knew who was gay, I had made it a practice to stay away from the place. Everyone knew its reputation. I had never actually been there, of course, but something inside was warning me I shouldn’t start now. It was one thing to run into someone from the Hill at the Hide & Seek. If someone saw me going into the Café Palermo, it would raise a lot more red flags for sure.

“I have a lot of work to do today, Tommy,” I lied. “I may not be able to make it tonight.”

Tommy looked over at me and didn’t say anything at first.

“Are you ashamed of where I work, Andy?” he finally replied, looking directly into my eyes. “Or what I do for a living? Not really sure you want to hang around some place nasty like the Palermo after all? Is that it?”

He knew exactly what I was thinking.

“No, of course not,” I replied, lying again. “Like I said, I’m just really busy at work.”

Then I looked away from those green eyes of his, unable to hold his gaze.

I shouldn’t have done that. I knew it. Now he would know for sure I was lying and I wondered just how pissed off he would be. I felt ashamed of myself and wouldn’t have blamed him for being angry with me.

“Well, okay, I can understand that,” he responded, calmly. “Sometimes things get real busy for me too. Who knows? Tonight might even be like that for me.”

“But it would really be nice to see you tonight,” Tommy added. “And that’s just not me speaking either. My toes, my pits, and my nipples would like to see you as well,” he added, grinning at me.

“I’ll try to squeeze you in somehow if you decide to come back here tonight, Andy. Because you said you wanted to be my friend and you can’t be my friend unless you’re willing to spend time with my friends, all of my friends. The more time all of us spend together, the better friends all of us can become. Don’t you think?”

Tommy was giving me another chance and I wasn’t sure what I should say. Before I could answer, he jumped out of the car, closed the door, and gave me one final smile. Then he just turned and walked away toward the building.

As I turned the ignition and drove off toward the Hill, I remember wondering whether I would ever see him again.

Why? I recall thinking. Why does everything have to be so fucking complicated? Why can't anything ever be easy?

And then I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.