The place: Colby, Ohio, and its environs
The time: shortly before midnight on a Saturday night in late February.
Ben, who was working at his computer, jumped when Toby began to massage his shoulders.
"Hi, babe. I didn't hear you. . . . Mmm. That's nice. Don't stop!"
"You like that, huh?"
"Yeah, I guess I've been hunched over this keyboard for too long."
"Well, it is almost midnight. You've been at it since we cleaned up the kitchen after supper. It's a good thing we didn't have any plans for this evening."
Ben swiveled around and pulled Toby down onto his lap.
"What a rotten thing to do to you on a Saturday night!" he said into his lover's ear.
"I know when your muse gooses you in the ass, you have to do something about it."
Ben was running his hand over Toby's back. Then he began to scratch between the shoulder blades.
"Uh huh. I got an idea, and I had to get it written out before I lost it."
"Ahhh," Toby practically purred, obviously enjoying his lover's touch. "Is this for your current romance?"
"No, it's for the real novel."
"Oh. You don't have a title for that one yet?"
Toby ran his fingers through Ben's hair. "Have you ever thought of writing a gay romance?"
"Yeah, I've played with an idea or two, but those things are hard to get published."
"You could just write one and post it online."
"Why should I do something for free when I can get paid for it?"
"Well, there is that."
"Besides, those het things I publish aren't porn."
"No comment." Toby let his right hand slide down the side of Ben's head, over his ear, along his neck, over his chest. It stopped at Ben's nipple. As he tweaked it, he rubbed his nose against Ben's. "But I'll bet you could write great sex scenes."
"Wanna go try out a scenario or two?"
Toby chuckled. "I've never been propositioned in those terms before. So, yeah, let's do it! You can call it research."
Grinning, Ben stood up, almost dumping his lover on the floor.
"I'll research your ass, Taba!"
He leaned over and shut down his PC. Then they adjourned to the bedroom, where they ran through several scenarios before calling it a night.
* * *
Donna Kasmaryk reached back to unfasten her bra.
"You didn't enjoy the play, did you, sweetie?"
Her husband pushed her hands away and unhooked the fasteners. She shrugged, allowing the bra to fall, and turned to him.
"I still wish we'd gone to Detroit to hear the Symphony tonight, but I understand," he said.
"I'm sorry, dear. A couple of our majors were in the cast, as you know, and I had to show the flag."
He pulled her to him and kissed her forehead.
"I wish you weren't the chair."
"I often do, too. I envied one of our younger professors the other day. She was so excited over something she'd discovered about Keats. It would be nice if all I had to worry about were my research and teaching. And you, too, of course."
"It's not as if we needed the money."
She picked up a brush and began to run it through her hair.
"Do you have to do that now?" he asked, a plaintive note in his voice.
"No, I don't. I'm sorry. Let me get my nightie on."
He stroked a breast. "You could just leave it off."
"What did you have in mind?" She smiled at him.
"Why don't you come to bed and see?"
She did, and all thoughts of work were postponed.
* * *
The two stood in the empty restaurant. Adrian put his hands behind the head of Albert and pulled him closer, so their foreheads were touching.
"Another evening when all the patrons left happy, thanks to you, maitre."
"You are too kind, cher ami. The kitchen staff you have given me are superb, and you have trained the wait staff very well. It is not me, seulement."
"All the others are simply support. You are the genius. You are the reason Adrian's is so successful."
"Encore, you are generous with your praise. But you may embarrass me."
Adrian dropped his hands and stepped back.
"Albert, what would you think of taking over Fusion? You'd be the person in charge of the whole operation."
The chef put a hand to his chest. "You would do that for me?"
"Absolutely! That would make you a partner in the business. You've earned it!"
Tears in his eyes, Albert said, "I am overwhelmed, Adrian. Vraiment!"
"So you'll do it?"
The chef paused for a long moment.
"With great thanks, no. I do not wish to move to Detroit. More important, I am happy here. I am a chef, not a restaurateur. And you give me free rein in the cuisine. I desire no more."
"As you wish." Adrian paused. "Your decision wouldn't have anything to do with your young lodger, would it?"
"Casey? Mais non! He is a lovely young man, but we are not lovers. Moreover, he speaks of moving out. He says that he feels guilty that I have no privacy." He shook his head. "I have little need for privacy, helas! I suspect that he is the one who wishes for privacy."
Adrian shook his head. "Someone is missing out. If I didn't find myself so besotted with Tom, I'd make a play for you myself. But if you want to stay here, you'll just have to settle for a twenty percent raise in your salary."
"Twenty percent? That's . . ." He paused, obviously doing the math. "That's too generous. I've told you that I am happy with my situation here."
Adrian smiled. "Well, perhaps twenty percent will make you a little happier. Now, Tommy's waiting. Just know that I love and appreciate you."
"And I you, Adrian." After a pause, he added, "Tom has changed you, tu sais? You seem more . . . " He searched for a word. "More mellow, I think."
Adrian considered that for a moment. "Yes, I suppose he has. I'm happier now. Not so . . . restless. And I sleep better."
* * *
Joe Hill and Micah Sutton were side by side on the sofa. Joe had the TV remote in his right hand. His left was on Micah's thigh. As the Saturday Night Boxing went off, he raised the remote to shut down the television.
"Why don't we check the Weather Channel first?"
"We don't have to be at church until 11:00. Think we're gonna have a blizzard?"
"No, babe. I guess I'm just a farmer at heart."
They waited for "Local Weather on the 8's," which told them it would be mostly cloudy with a chance of flurries on Sunday.
"That boxing was pretty boring," Joe said.
They had watched two fights. The "main event of the evening" was a heavyweight match between two out-of-shape men who'd spent most of twelve rounds leaning on each other.
"Yeah. The smaller guys are more fun to watch."
Joe's hand found its way to Micah's cock and began to stroke it. "I like smaller guys, one in particular. Wanna make out here?"
"Nope. Bed. Tonight I wanna fuck Superman."
"Is that so?" Joe picked his partner up and carried him to the bedroom, where he dumped him on the bed.
Micah chuckled and then batted his eyelashes. "My hero!"
"Call me Lois again and you'll be Super Eunuch, big boy!"
* * *
"Where'd you say Digby was this evening?" Grant asked.
"He had a gig in Detroit."
"I wonder if he saw the play. I'd be interested in his take on it."
"He was supposed to have seen it last night, but I haven't talked with him today."
The two had stopped at Nellie's after the campus production of Othello. The place had been crowded. They'd chatted with some friends but hadn't shared reactions to the performance yet.
They took off their overcoats, put them in the front hall closet, and then went to the bedroom, where they hung up their sport coats and used the bathroom.
Back in the living room, they sat, shoeless, side by side on the sofa.
"So, you didn't like the Othello?" Grant asked.
"Well, I have to admit he looked great. But as an actor he was just acceptable."
"Actually, I kind of felt sorry for him. The kid who did Iago was so good, it would have taken another really good actor to match him."
"Well, the play is rather skewed toward Iago, isn't it?" Jake suggested.
"Yeah. I suppose it is." He stretched and yawned. "Anyway, I'm looking forward to the upcoming production of Tosca."
"I wonder who'll sing Scarpia . Too bad Marcus Londeree isn't around. He'd have been perfect."
"Actually, Marcus is a basso. I think Scarpia's usually sung by a baritone."
"It's hell living with a musicologist!" Jake said.
Grant grabbed his lover's balls. "I'll give you musicology."
"That's better," Grant said, smiling. Obviously deciding a change in subject would be advisable, he continued, "I noticed that Justin and Bailey were there tonight. That rather surprised me."
"Justin and Bailey?"
"Yeah, the kids who did our lawn all last summer."
"Oh, them! Sure. They're cute. But I didn't notice them at the play."
"Speaking of the play . . . ."
"Would you like to go make 'the beast with two backs'?"
Jake lowered his eyelids. "Indeed I would! You know how to bring out the beast in me!"
* * *
Dave and Brody were watching the Pistons/Lakers game on ESPN, which was being played in California, when Brody stretched and yawned.
Putting his hand on the back of his lover's head, Dave said, "I hope it's not the company."
Brody reached behind his neck, grabbed Dave's hand, pulled it up and over, and then kissed it. "You know it's not. I guess I'm just a little bored with basketball. Never was my sport."
"You wanna go to bed?" Dave asked.
"I want milk and cookies."
"Geez, Brody, I don't know how you can eat as much as you do and not get fat. You don't even have love handles."
"I guess it's partly thanks to my parents. And you know I spend more time at the gym than you do."
"Well, some of us have a business to run. We can't all be college students."
Brody grinned. "Careful! I'll put a hurt on you."
Returning the grin, Dave said, "Like you could."
"Don't test me, old man," Brody said, standing up. "Do you want anything from the kitchen?"
"Well, I can't have you eating alone, can I?"
They went to the kitchen together, opened the cookie tin, got the milk jug from the fridge, and sat at the table.
Dave took a napkin from the holder and handed it to Brody. Then he took one for himself.
Brody broke the big toll house cookie in two and dunked one of the halves in his milk.
"You're so cute. Just like a big kid."
"Thanks. I think."
They munched in silence for a few minutes.
"You're not going to your brother's for dinner tomorrow, are you?"
"Nope. That's next weekend."
"Joe and Micah will be coming to church. Why don't you come along, and then we can all go to Applebee's?"
"Ummm, no thanks, babe. If you don't want to have dinner here, I could meet you at Applebee's.
Dave put down the cookie he was eating, wiped his fingers on his napkin, and took a sip of milk. "We've never really talk about this because I haven't wanted to push. But I'd like to know. What is it about you and the church thing? Was it Iraq?"
Brody nodded but didn't say anything.
"Look, I don't see how two people could be any closer than we are. And I'd like to understand. But I'll back off if you want me to."
"No, it's okay."
"Well, you've heard the expression, 'There are no atheists on the battlefield.'"
"Yeah." Brody crushed his napkin in his fist. "But that's bullshit!"
"It's just . . . . I don't . . . . I don't understand how there could be a god that's both all powerful and benign who'd let that kind of thing happen, that's all. And I'd be a hypocrite if I went to church and got down on my knees and confessed my sins to a god like that."
"Okay. I thought it might be something of the sort."
Dave stood, put their plates and glasses in the dishwasher, threw away both napkins, and turned to Brody, holding out his hand.
"Thanks for explaining. I won't push any more."
"You've never pushed, man." He grinned. "Well, not about religion, anyway." He took the offered hand.
"Ready to go to bed?"
"Uh huh. Let's do that."
* * *
"Yeah, that's it! Right there!"
"You say you like that?"
"Tell me you like it."
"Bastard! I love it. But I'm ready for something bigger than your finger."
"I need you in me. Please fuck me."
Just then the phone rang.
"Shit! Ignore it."
"It could be important. I'll check the caller ID." Pause. "It's Brian."
A sigh. "Don't answer it. I'll call him tomorrow. He forgets about the three-hour time difference."
"Okay. Now, where were we?"
"You brat! You know very well where we were."
"Oh, yeah. I was gonna make love to you, wasn't I, baby?"
"Yes, please. You haven't lost your hard have you?"
* * *
Kate and Nigel Brewster had been watching the BBC World News on PBS.
Nigel said, "I'm off to bed, love. You coming?"
"We can't go to bed. Robbie's not home yet."
"It isn't quite midnight. He should be here any minute."
"I don't know how you can go to bed until you know he's home safe."
"Rob's a good lad, Kate. I trust him. Even if he's a few minutes late, what's the harm?"
"But kids these days . . . . I mean, what if something happens to him?"
"An asteroid could fall on our house, too, but I'm not going to lie awake worrying about it." He paused. "He does have his cell phone, you know, so he would call us if there were a problem."
She shook her head. "You go on up, then. But I'm waiting for Robbie."
"Had it occurred to you that he'll be resentful if he comes in and finds you waiting? We've had that scene before."
"I wouldn't be able to sleep. I'm going to wait here for him."
Nigel took a deep breath and expelled it. "Okay. But don't make a scene if he's a little late."
"Oh, I wouldn't want to disturb your rest. It's not as if we'll be making love or anything."
Nigel didn't respond, except to stand and walk toward the stairway.
* * *
After the play Justin and Bailey stopped by Gridley's, where they shared a pizza with some friends and talked about the things undergraduates talk about.
Later, as they took off their coats inside the entrance to their condo, Justin said, "I still think I like Iago better than Othello."
"I'm sure you're gonna tell me why," Bailey said with a grin.
"Let's get a beer first."
"Aren't you full of Coke? And pizza?"
"I'm a growing boy," Justin said, grinning. "So shoot me."
They took their beer to the living room where they sat side by side on the sofa. They kicked off their shoes and put their feet on the coffee table.
Bailey, bottle in his left hand, rested his right hand on Justin's thigh. "Iago's pure evil! How can you like him? You don't have an issue about Othello being black, do you?"
"Bite your tongue! 'Course not!" Justin took a swig of the beer he was too young to drink legally. "But the big O is just stupid. He doesn't see what's going on, doesn't understand that Iago's playin' him. Doesn't trust Desdemona, even though she's unbelievably good. I just want to whack him upside the head and tell him to get with the program or somethin'."
Bailey chuckled. "Yeah, I know what you mean. And, granted, Iago is clever. Shakespeare was obviously influenced by Machiavelli. But then he practically lived in the court of Elizabeth the First, who was something of a female Machiavel, according to my history prof. But I don't think Shakespeare intended us to like him. Iago, that is."
"I remember something from Intro to Lit class last year. Does it really matter what the author intended? Aren't we supposed to just deal with what winds up on paper? Or, I suppose, on stage?"
Bailey slid his hand from Justin's thigh to his bulge. "Who'd have ever thought you were paying attention in lit class?"
"You know what else I was paying attention to?"
"That kid who played Othello had a huge bulge in his tights. And a hot ass, too."
"Yeah. I did notice that."
"You know, I don't think I want the rest of my beer."
Bailey raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"Yeah, I just thought of something else to do with my mouth."
* * *
Detective Sergeant Ray Stonesifer was depressed and not a little frustrated. Oh, he'd shot his wad half an hour ago, but it had been, as usual, less than satisfying.
It was the same old story.
He and his boss, Lt. Martin Havers, had made the arrests the day before in a case involving goods missing from the warehouse of a local shipping company. Captain Marlowe had been pleased with their work and had told them as much. As a result, however, Ray had had to go into work to clean up the paperwork. And having to do that on a Saturday sucked.
Once it was done, he'd come home from the station to change into faded, comfortable jeans, a sweat top, and sneakers before nuking a Stouffer's. He'd told his mother not to try to keep supper warm for him, so his parents had gone to a movie.
After flumping into his recliner and flipping channels for a while, he'd settled in to watch old (or in some cases very old) Brit-coms on PBS. He did enjoy "As Time Goes By," however, mostly because he really loved Judi Dench.
When that show was over at 9:30, he decided to go to Nellie's and see if anyone he knew was there. Nellie's had been a forbidden pleasure until fairly recently. The former Chief of Police and some of his top officers had been closet homophobes. They paid lip service to the County's policy of openness to LGBT folk, but there was no secret around the Department about how they really felt. Things had changed, thanks mostly to Ray's former boss, Jim Grant. Now he felt he could allow himself to be seen in Nellie's at least.
That night, he'd actually met someone interesting, a new guy in town who was a little rough around the edges, but really sexy in a big, bearish way. They hadn't become instant soul mates, but they'd found enough to talk about. Before too long, they were discussing where they could go for more privacy. For a lot more privacy. It turned out that the guy was new in Colby, staying with relatives until he could find a place of his own. One of his friends at work had borrowed Ray's SUV for the weekend, so Ray had driven to Colby in his mother's fuel-efficient but tiny Focus. The two men wound up trading blowjobs in the front seat of the guy's old truck - which unfortunately had a manual transmission with the gear shift on the floor.
It was too cramped and awkward to allow them anything more than much-needed release. Disappointed with their session in the truck, they didn't even say anything about getting together again.
I've got to get out of here and find myself a place of my own! Ray thought. Geez, I'm not so far from the big three-oh, and I'm still living with my folks. How pathetic is that!