A Life Discovered

Chapter 7

By Bensiamin


The first dashboard presentations went like Bailey expected. It was much like agreeing on his senior year project in college. He’d mocked up four different approaches. About half the info displayed on each one was the same, and as they identified the best parts of each and eliminated some of the other data, he felt like he was able to narrow down the core data Everett really wanted to see in real time. He also got a good sense of the kind of look and feel Everett would prefer and how the data layout would look best. He left that meeting thrilled. It was a good start.

Everett hadn’t been happy to learn that the final monthly report only came together with some manual spreadsheet manipulation. He’d assumed it all came from the business system and that the major limitation was pushing that data forward into a dashboard display. He asked Bailey what he thought would be required to address that manual intervention.

“From what I’ve read I think we need to plan on creating an application interface that pulls the required data from the business system and then formats it the way you want it in the dashboard, and that is provided to a web interface for display.”

“Do we have the IT expertise to do that?”

“That’s my mission for this week.”

“Good decision! Be careful, though. We’ve got good IT people, and you don’t want to spook them by letting them know we’re working on something they may not have the capability to accomplish.”

“Good point,” Bailey said. “Once we’re clearer on the dashboard data and layout, I’ll have a casual conversation with the head of IT and let him know that we’re trying to implement something new that bridges the business system, and we need him to assess his resources or bring in a consultant to do the development.”

They agreed on that approach, and Bailey went back to work on the project. That evening he and Eric texted for a while, and when Bailey got in bed he found himself thinking about the conversation, and that led to thinking about Friday night, and soon he was hard and pleasuring himself. He felt happy and relaxed as he went to sleep.

He lost both Wednesday and Thursday morning completely because both days they had visitors. The first was a large distributor from Germany. The second was a large hospital system customer from the west coast. In both cases Everett was only in the meetings for an hour, but he wanted Bailey to be present for all of it and take notes and keep him appraised. By the end of day on Wednesday he’d met with a few people in IT and felt like he had a good enough understanding of the systems and personnel skill set to meet with the IT Director.

He was able to see him before the end of day Thursday. Bailey wasn’t naïve enough to think the new concept would be embraced with no resistance but was pleasantly surprised when he was told that the Director had been expecting something like this. “He’s our new CEO. He came from a division with a different business system and different reporting formats. He’ll want something that works for him. That’s usual.” He looked at Bailey. “So, here’s the deal. I’m on the team. I’m not the opposition. Everett’s tasked you with the project, and I’ll work with you to make it happen. We don’t have the web development assets on staff, but we can hire them. Just keep me in the loop so I know what the requirements and the deliverables are, and we’ll get this done.”

Bailey left that meeting happy, and it made working up the next set of mockups much easier. When he told Eric about it that night on the phone, Eric asked a simple question. “Who needs to be the hero here?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that you’re the CEO’s assistant and he gave you the project, so no one’s going to say no. If it gets done and he’s happy then you’ve done what he asked, and you get a good performance review. I mean in terms of the whole organization, who needs to be the hero?”

“I’m still not following.”

“Okay,” Eric said, “This is from the guy you’re dating who also works for a corporation, even if it is a lot smaller. There are tons of organizational politics. This guy is Director of IT, and he’s a lot older than you, right? Do you think he’s gonna be happy or look good if some new hire at his first job pulls off this new reporting dashboard and he just appears to be some IT flunky?”

“Well, no. But that wasn’t the plan.”

“Of course, it’s not the plan. You wouldn’t plan to make someone look bad. That’s just not you. But it’s a question of appearances. If it looks like the new whiz kid pulls this off, then it just looks bad for the Director of IT. You need to figure out a way to make him look like the hero, even if you and Everett know that’s not the case. That’s called organizational politics.”

“Good points, Eric. Are you sure you’re not a psychologist?”

“Ha ha. No, that’s my dad. There’s a lot of psychology in politics, that’s for sure.”

Bailey went to bed thinking about the call and Eric’s very good and very practical suggestion. That led to him thinking about Eric’s other attributes, and soon he was hard and pleasuring himself again, then falling asleep happy and at peace.

The Friday morning meeting was again predictable in terms of project schedule, but exciting because now the discussion was about completion of the interior buildouts, then the finishing of the small office section, and finally placement of new equipment. Over lunch Eric and Bailey chatted about the project schedule and what was ahead. After Eric walked him through the remaining timeline, Bailey smiled saucily and said, “I’ve got to tell you that twice this week I went to bed thinking about you and ended up jacking off.”

Eric’s eyebrows went up. “I take that as a great compliment.”

“It’s meant to be. I’m surprised, kind of, because for a long time I’ve only done it every once in a while. But something’s changed since we got together. I feel more alive, or something.”

“Really? Well, I can tell you I’m in the same boat. Meaning thinking about you and getting hard and having to take care of business at night.” He paused, and then went on. “So, it’s a good thing you’re staying with me tonight, right? And also, what do you want to do?”

“We’ve eaten out the last two Friday’s. How about we eat in? I can cook okay, and I’m betting you’re better than me, but I bet we’ll have fun.”

Eric nodded. “I hoped you’d say that. I shop at a small specialty market near my apartment. How about I stop and buy one of those rotisserie chickens? I’ve got all the salad stuff, and vegetables and pasta. We can make a good dinner together that’ll be easy and fun. Then do you want to visit one of the gay clubs, to check out the scene?”

Bailey found himself smiling. He may not be gay, but he’d gotten more and more curious, and it sounded exciting. “Yeah. That’d be cool. I’m not a great dancer, though. And I don’t want to be out too late because you promised me something else tonight.”

“We won’t be out late, and I’m as interested in that promise as you are. I’ll text you my address when I leave the SPCA. You can leave from here?”

“I’ve got a bag in my car.”

When he arrived, Eric buzzed the front door, and he rode the elevator up to the third floor. Eric was at the door waiting and hauled him into the apartment, pushing him against the hallway wall for a deep kiss. Bailey’s bag fell to the floor and his arms went around Eric. It took three or four minutes to make up for the week apart.

Eric lived in a fancier apartment building than Bailey’s, and the apartment wasn’t just one bedroom with a dinette off the kitchen. It had a decent sized living room that was nicely furnished, and a small dining room. Bailey’s eyes went to a long coffee table against a wall below a couple of large architectural prints. On the table were a turntable, a fancy amplifier and a CD player. Below the table on the floor were some small shelves with CDs in racks, and on either side were boxes the size of old milk crates that held LPs. A smile formed on Bailey’s face and when he looked over at Eric he raised his eyebrows. “I told you that I needed to build a stereo cabinet. That’s the goal—get all this stuff out of sight in a nice cabinet.”

Eric was still holding his hand, and Bailey tugged him close. “I can’t wait to see it now.” Eric said, “Tomorrow,” and led him into the kitchen. It was large enough that there was room for a high counter with two stools in front of it. What got Bailey’s attention was the way it was outfitted. “Wow! Look at those appliances. Mine are all pretty basic. These are all stainless steel.”

“Yeah, it’s a nice building. Good design and construction, and the apartments are all nicely appointed. That was important to me once I could afford it. Don’t make too big a deal out of it though, okay? We could cook just as good a dinner in your kitchen as we can here.” He pulled a bottle of wine out of the refrigerator and picked up two glasses, raising his eyebrows in question. Bailey followed him out to a little balcony off the living room that looked over a park.

When they finished dinner, they cleaned up and loaded the dishwasher. Eric had explained that the two main gay clubs were Trexx and Mystic, but that Trexx, while louder and glitzier, would give him a better sense of the gay scene in Syracuse. It wasn’t a long drive to downtown and Eric drove Bailey by the Niagara Mohawk Building to show off Syracuse’s famous art deco building built in the 1930’s and pointed out Dinosaur BBQ which was nearby. Finding parking was easy and as they walked to the club Eric explained that though it might seem off to have a BBQ restaurant in Syracuse, it was famous. They got there shortly after nine o’clock and the club wasn’t full. They were met by pulsing music and bright lights. Eric had told him there’d be lots of gay young men, and there were, from conventionally dressed like them, to flashily dressed out for a fun night on the town, to some in pretty amazing outfits that Bailey was almost embarrassed to look at.

He looked at Eric who grinned. “The whole spectrum is here. It used to be almost all gay guys, but then got discovered and now some nights there’s as many straight guys as gay guys. Either way, it’s a hopping place with great DJs that play exciting music to dance to. There’s also a couple of stages where there’ll be a drag show at some point.”

He leaned over and whispered in Bailey’s ear, “There’s a rule though.”

Bailey looked into his eyes and said, “Yeah?”

“Yeah. You don’t get to be picked up by some straight guy!”

Bailey looked momentarily shocked, then grinned. “As if!”

Eric steered Bailey toward the bar and asked, “What do you want to drink?”

“I’m not much on mixed drinks. Maybe I’ll stick with white wine.”

“Good choice. The drinks here are stiff, and we didn’t come here to get drunk.” Eric ordered while Bailey checked out the scene and the gyrating bodies dancing. They headed for an open table across the dance floor and sipped their wine while they watched the action. Bailey had never seen gay guys dancing before and was amazed at how sexual it was for most of the couples.

“Not everyone is here to find someone or get picked up, but a lot of them are. There’s also a lot of couples. It’s a happening place, and where the action is,” Eric pointed out.

As they watched and talked, a couple of guys walked by and said hi to Eric. Bailey smiled at him. “You’re a known entity.”

“Yeah. Well, you know, I live here and except for the years at Cornell started coming here during college. I can assure you I never showed up in a sparkly bathing suit with a lavender tank top like that guy.” He nodded at a lithe young man that was practically climbing onto the somewhat older guy he was dancing with.

“Good to know you stayed on the straight and narrow… well, the gay and narrow,” Bailey said with a giggle.

“Hey, I’m not gonna lie. I had a good time here often, including hooking up, but like I told you two weeks ago, it wasn’t fun cause I couldn’t find you.” He took Bailey’s hand and squeezed. “Is it overwhelming?”

“No. That’s the wrong word. It’s all new, that’s all. I guess most of it isn’t what I’d be doing… or wouldn’t have been doing. But I’m not closed-minded. I’m with you so I have to re-think a lot of this stuff.”

“How about we dance?” Bailey nodded and Eric finished his wine. “If we dance two or three tunes someone else will have the table by the time we get back.” Bailey finished his wine and as they walked onto the dance floor Eric said, “Don’t forget it’s a gay bar and you’re a very cute guy. Don’t be surprised if your ass gets grabbed once or twice. Take it as a compliment, not something to be offended by.”

Bailey raised his eyebrows and smiled, and they settled into dancing to an electronic tune Bailey had never heard before. He got bumped a couple of times and heard a passing, “Sorry about that, cutie,” which he took as a compliment based on what Eric had told him. The second tune was a rock song with a strong beat, and both of them got into the rhythm, their bodies moving in synch with each other and occasionally coming together for a quick bump. The third tune was more of the same, and that’s when Bailey felt his ass grabbed, and heard a good-looking guy say, “Do I get the next dance?”

Bailey just looked at him and said, “Nope, I’m dancing with him and going home with him too.”

The guy broke into a grin and said, “Lucky you! And lucky him too.”

They danced one more tune and Eric pulled him close. “Want to take a break? Get another glass of wine?”

“I think I saw another bottle of wine in your refrigerator. I don’t want to be a party pooper, but I’d rather be at your place with you.”

“Me too. Let’s go.”

On the drive back Eric asked how he was feeling about being hit on.

“I don’t know. I guess it was a compliment.”

“It was. I told you that you were cute, and you’d get grabbed. You didn’t believe me, did you?”

“Before you no one ever told me I was cute.”

“Well, trust me, you are. And now you know it’s not just me telling you that ‘cause I want to get into your pants.

“I’m pretty sure you can get into my pants anytime, if you ask nicely, don’t you know?”

“So, I’d hoped,” Eric’s said as he wiggled his eyebrows, “but it’s always nice to get confirmation.”

They settled on the couch with their glasses and talked further about the club scene, Eric explaining that he’d found himself kind of outgrowing it. Bailey raised his eyebrows seductively and said, “And what are you growing into instead?”

“You need to ask that? I’m doing a lot of growing sitting here next to you.”

Bailey said, “Show me,” and pulled him down for a kiss. They were smart enough to put their glasses on the coffee table, and before long were laying side by side, making out like they had on the pier. Bailey felt his shirt being unbuttoned and took it off as Eric pulled his polo over his head. Then he turned Bailey onto his back and after kissing him, slid down to nibble on his nipples. Bailey shuddered, realizing for the second time that this was a sensation he’d never known about.

He felt Eric’s hand sliding into his briefs and heard, “Is this okay?”

“I didn’t mean literally that you have to ask, you know,” Bailey wheezed into his ear.

“Good to know,” Eric whispered back, and put his hand to work. In a minute he said, “It’s more comfortable and there’s more room on the bed. Come on.” As they walked down the short hall, Eric slid his hand into the back of Bailey’s pants, his finger in the top of his crack, and asked, “have you ever heard of frottage?”

Bailey said, “No, but I’m guessing I want to know.”

Eric pulled him into the bedroom and said, “Think of it as the next level up from the oil handjob. No penetration, but very sexy. Trust me?”

Bailey nodded and felt himself turned and softly pushed back onto Eric’s bed.

When they were talking afterward, Bailey still blissed out at the intensity of what he’d just experienced, he said softly, “So, frottage must mean something like fucking, right?”

“Well, kind of,” Eric replied softly. “It’s the French word for rubbing. As in, we were rubbing our cocks together on each other’s stomachs. Did it feel like fucking for you?”

“Yeah, in a different kind of way, of course. But you were totally right, very sexy. I was over the top with just how the rubbing was feeling. But I didn’t have any idea it would be so intense when I came.”

Eric pulled him close. “I’m glad. I figured it’d feel good and not be intimidating. You know, less cock involved.”

“It felt better than most sex I’ve had. And guess what? Your cock isn’t intimidating. At least not where it’s been so far.”

“We’ll go slow, and only when you’re ready. We’ve got lots of stuff to explore ahead of us.”


They arrived at Eric’s parent’s home around ten o’clock the next morning. His dad was in the living room when they walked in. Bailey immediately saw where most of Eric’s features came from. Eric and his dad were the same height and build. Both had blonde hair, though his dad’s would be considered wavy, not curly. They both had the same smile and charming eyes. His dad introduced himself as Elliott.

Bailey smiled. “Elliott and Eric. Is there something about names that begin with the letter e?”

Elliott smiled back. “Not really. Tester is a British surname, though originally French. In Latin it means ‘large head,’ and you can see that fortunately neither of us qualify. Unless you speak to my wife, of course, who will tell you I have an oversized ego.” He chuckled in a self-detracting way and then went on. “I’m pleased to meet you, Bailey. Eric’s told us quite a bit about you, but I’m interested to get to know you.”

Bailey was about to say something when Eric’s mother came in from the kitchen. “So, you are here. I thought I heard a covey of men’s voices muttering away in here. Likely up to no good. Right, Eric?”

She leaned over and gave him a kiss and turned directly to Bailey, extending her hand. She had wavy, light-brown hair and blue-grey eyes. “I’m Meredith. Pleased to meet you finally. I’ve been asking Eric why he’s taking so long to introduce us to his newest beau.”

“Mom! You don’t have to make it sound like I have two or three a year,” Eric said in mock outrage.

“That’s not what I meant at all, and you know it. I simply meant that you’ve been without a boyfriend or partner or companion, or whatever the politically correct term is these days, for too long and that I’ve been worrying about you.”

She dropped Bailey’s hand and stepped back, appraising him, and went on, “It appears I can stop worrying. You’re a lovely young man. I’m very pleased to meet you, Bailey.”

Bailey flashed Eric a look and then said to Meredith, “I am as well. You know, though, appearances can be deceiving. You probably don’t want to make up your mind about me too soon.”

“Would there be a reason for me not to do so?” Her eyebrows had arched in something like a challenge, though there was smile on her face.

“Eric said he told you both that I’m not gay, so there’s that. But, to appease any concerns, this son of yours is the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time.”

“Is that right,” she replied, looking over at her husband. “Isn’t that good to know, Elliott. Eric is appreciated but clearly not running the show.”

“Mom! Is this ‘embarrass Eric morning,’ or what? You’ve only just met him.”

“That’s true, my dear, and I’m not attempting to embarrass you or Bailey. Just placing the cards as I see them. Speaking of which, I must be off. I think I forgot to tell you that I have a bridge tournament at eleven, and have a couple of stops to make on the way.”

Bailey saw a look of relief on Eric’s face as he heard Meredith say, “Sorry to meet and run, Bailey. Make yourself at home. Our house is your house.” She turned to her husband and added, “I’ll be home by three o’clock or so, dear.” With that she turned back to the kitchen, and they heard a door to the garage open.

“Well, that’s over,” Eric said.

“Don’t be so hard on your mother. You know she wants the best for you and has always supported you.”

“That’s true, but it’s how she does it that’s irritating. Besides me, how do you think that made Bailey feel?”

Elliott turned to look at Bailey, about to say something, but paused. Eric looked at him sorrowfully. Without even thinking, Bailey said, “I can’t remember that my mother ever said anything that meant she cared about me.”

Eric’s eyes widened, like he realized he’d touched a nerve. Elliott just looked between them as Bailey went on, “Anyhow, it didn’t bother me. She loves you Eric and wants the best for you. My dad was like that.”

Before Eric could respond with what was likely to be an apology, Elliott said, “Well, I’m thrilled you’re both here and that it’s just us. We can have a guy morning. Where shall we start?” He turned to Bailey. “Has Eric told you about the stereo cabinet he’s building.”

“He has. It sounds amazing, and I saw the stereo equipment and records he has for it last night. He said it’s your wood shop.”

“Both true statements. Come on, I’ll show you the shop and Eric can show you his cabinet.” The tension defused; Elliott headed down the hall toward the garage. Eric and Bailey followed, and Bailey grabbed Eric’s arm and pulled him close for a second. “We’re going to have a talk later about a large head. You never told me about that.”

“What?” The light went on for Eric. “It’s not that large.” He giggled. “You’ll just need to loosen up your jaw muscles. Come on, dad wants to show you his shop.”

They went across the garage and out a second door, to a separate twenty by forty-foot building that looked like a second separate garage. It was a wood shop with all the tools. The power tools were on rolling stands, and two walls were covered with hanging hand tools. On one end was a large worktable that Bailey estimated to be at least four by eight feet. On it sat the frame of a cabinet.

Elliott gave Bailey a quick overview of the tools, and then handed him over to Eric who explained the cabinet, the pull-out slide for the turntable, and where the tracks for the tambour doors would go.

“Where are they,” Bailey asked?

“Right now, they’re that pile of long pieces. The next step is the glue up onto the canvas, so they’ll roll up when the doors are opened.”

“It’s going to be beautiful when it’s finished. What’s the wood?

“The body is maple plywood, but the shelves will be solid maple, and the tambour panels are curly maple. That’s where the cool grain pattern comes from.”

“Boys,” Elliott interrupted, “why don’t we go back in the kitchen and make a pot of coffee.” He looked at Bailey and added, “since you’re both here I have a suggestion. Why don’t you and I get to know each other a little better and Eric can get the tambour pieces glued up. He did all the sanding and varnishing last weekend, so they’re cured and ready to go, and then he’ll stay on schedule. Make sense?”

Bailey found himself agreeing without even thinking about it, and they followed Elliott back to the kitchen where he put coffee into the filter holder of a Bunn coffee maker, poured in the water and then said, “Three minutes. Cream and sugar?”

When Elliott poured, Eric took his cup and kissed the side of Bailey’s face and said, “Is this okay, will you be alright?”

“I’m fine. Your dad is cool. I like him. Go glue up your doors.”

Elliott looked at him and said, “Living room or here in the kitchen?”

They settled in the kitchen, and as they sat down at the table he said, “I understand you graduated from Binghamton University. That’s a good school. How did you choose business management?”

“Well, I grew up helping my dad in his business, selling cars. So, I learned some things about the business and wanted to know more. Especially how to run it well.”

“Was your plan to join your dad in his business after you graduated and take over the business in the future?”

“It never got that far because he died right at the beginning of my freshman year. The business was sold to Annabelle, the lady mechanic dad employed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. And you graduated this past June?”

“Yeah. I was on track for honors through my junior year, but last year was tough and it seemed like I wasn’t with it most of the time. It was a slog to get through the year and my grades slipped. I still graduated with a good GPA, but not honors.”

“Eric’s told me a little of what you’ve gone through, it must have been some strong stuff to rock the boat like that. You’re clearly a bright and intelligent young man.”

Bailey looked at Elliott, who smiled back at him. “You know this is my first relationship with a guy. When I came back to school last fall, things were different. My girlfriend broke up with me last Christmas. The rest of the year was a slog.”

“That would have been a difficult set of circumstances to work through. My hat’s off to you for what you did. I can tell you that Eric is very happy to have met you, so clearly there’s a silver lining to every cloud.”

“I guess so. I’m happy I met him, and we got together. I told a friend a couple of weeks ago that I felt like I’d been half asleep for the last year, but since I met Eric, it feels like I’m coming back to life.”

“That’s wonderful to hear. Have you shared that with Eric?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Good. He’s a very bright and capable person, but even he needs to hear the occasional good thing about himself.”

Bailey grinned. “There’s plenty of good about Eric. Your son is a wonderful guy.”

“He is, and I’m glad to hear you say that.” Eric’s dad paused, then went on by saying, “It always helps me to understand people if I have some context. Eric tells me you grew up in Auburn. He also tells me that your dad was a wonderful person. A single parent but all in for you and your friends. Is that right?”

“He was. He was gay and in his late fifties when he took me in. He fostered me at first, then adopted me. He was the first person I can remember who really loved me. He took care of me, got me in school and back on track, then refocused his life around me. It was amazing.”

“You mentioned your mother earlier. Can I ask about your birth parents?”

“They were abusive and lost custody. I haven’t seen them since then. Well, there was one time I saw my birth father about a year ago, at the end of last summer.”

“What do you remember about your birth parents?”

“He was a deputy sheriff. They were both into discipline. Macho, head-of-the-household type strict discipline. That’s what led to me running away. Two days without food and they’d taped my wrists and ankles together with duct tape, and wouldn’t feed me ‘cause I cried, and wouldn’t let me use the bathroom. Finally, it was too much and when I got loose, I ran.”

“How did you come to see your birth father?”

“It was a fluke run in at the mall.”

“What was the nature of that interaction?”

Bailey blinked and swallowed. He’d underestimated the emotional toll it would take to tell this story. “It was horrible. It was confrontational. He was angry. He told me I’d cost them their family, that they lost all their kids. He said I was a loser and a traitor to my family and my blood. He kept talking about blood. That I was weak and always had been. That I’d run away ‘cause I didn’t have the strength to take discipline. That Colin wasn’t my blood and never would be. That he was a meddling loser. That we deserved each other, a couple of worthless losers.“

“How did you react? How did you feel about that?”

“Well, I was stunned. Stunned and hurt. It was the first time we’d even talked after all these years. Then I was offended, like who was he to say this shit to me? And then I got angry and started giving it back to him, and that’s when he called me a loser, me and Colin both losers. But then I remembered one of Colin’s sayings, ‘discretion is the better part of valor,’ and I chilled and told him I didn’t have to talk to him. That he wasn’t worth it. I turned away and left. I didn’t even tell him I had no respect for him. I just left.”

“And after the emotions receded, how did you feel about the whole encounter?”

“That he’s the bad guy in the scene. He was the child abuser. I didn’t do any of that. I was just getting the abuse.”

“In other words, what role did you play?”

“What do you mean by role?”

“In abuse situations where there is an abuser, there’s also a name for the other party. I think it’s important.”

“You mean…you mean abused. Or…or, victim.”

“Yes, I mean victim. Did you ever think of yourself as a victim?”

Bailey thought and then said, “No. Colin took me in and took care of me, and then we got on with life. I tried not to think about it. I just got on with life too. You know, school and stuff.”

“So, what happened later, after you had the run in with your father? You told me that was the end of last summer, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. I told Annabelle and my girlfriend about it. Annabelle was pissed, but Morgana never knew him, so she didn’t get it.”

“Didn’t get what?”

Bailey was staring at the floor. Eric’s dad waited. Finally, Bailey looked up and said, “She didn’t get that it shook me up. That being called a traitor and a loser really hurt…down deep kind of hurt. The more I thought about it the more shook up I got because some of what he said was true.”

“Like what, for instance?”

“Like I ran away. Like I couldn’t take my punishment like a man. I was crying like a baby. That I didn’t want to go back to my real parents, I wanted to stay with Colin. That because of me they got arrested and lost their children and all of that.”

“But in spite of that and your senior year being a hard one for you, you got through it and graduated with a good GPA and then came back to Auburn?”

“Yeah. I wasn’t planning on staying, just wrapping up some loose ends and then going somewhere else. Not all my memories of Auburn are good ones.” Bailey fell silent, and Elliott waited for him.

“But if I hadn’t come back, I wouldn’t have gotten the job I have, and if I hadn’t gotten that job, I wouldn’t have met Eric. So, it’s turned out good. A good summer so far.”

“That’s wonderful to hear, Bailey. It sounds like you’re on an upswing now from a tough year, and I have full confidence that’s the way it will continue. Is it agreeable with you if I ask you to think about why you got so shaken up last year, and about the last things you said about coming back to Auburn after you graduated? Will you do that, and then perhaps we can talk again?”

Bailey nodded in agreement.

Eric’s dad said, “I really appreciate your candor. You strike me as a wonderful young man with a good heart and a good head on his shoulders. Just remember one very important thing. By definition, victims aren’t at fault.” He was holding Bailey’s gaze as he said it, a soft and understanding smile on his face.

“Now, I think I’ll wash these coffee cups. Why don’t you go see how Eric is coming along with the glue up?”

Eric had all the strips for the first door glued in place on the first piece of canvas and weights on it to assure a solid dry. He was halfway through the second door, and Bailey walked up behind him, said hi, slid his arms around his waist and kissed the back of his head.

He heard Eric say hi back, and said, “Can I watch?”

“Sure. Pull that stool out from under the bench.” He nodded toward the workbench on the long wall. Bailey did and quietly sat and watched Eric methodically brush glue on the back of the strips and then set them in place. “Did dad give you the complete interrogation?”

“What? No! We just talked. He’s a cool guy. He wanted to get to know me. We just talked.”

“That’s his style. You remember that he’s a psychologist, right?”

“Yeah, so? Like I said, we just talked. He asked some questions, like you do. Then he had a couple of good suggestions for me. He did confide in me that you have a big head. He meant ego, big ego. Does he know your cock has a big head too?” Bailey giggled.

“Hey, that’s pretty personal, and I didn’t hear you complaining last night. But we’ve got to table this. If I don’t get these strips on perfectly straight the doors won’t open and close properly.”

“I won’t say another word.”

When Eric finished and weighted the strips on the second door, he wiped his fingers off and came over and pulled Bailey up and into his arms. “I’m so glad you like my parents. I know my mom can be a handful. Dad’s cool though. I’ve been on pins and needles that you guys wouldn’t hit it off.”


“Yeah, really. I told you that I’ve fallen for you, Bailey. I don’t know where we’re going to go, but I’m close to my parents and having you guys hit it off is a big deal for me.”

“Why were you ever worried?”

“People. Some connect, some don’t. Some get along, some don’t. Anyway, I’m happy now.” He looked at the clock. “It’s past noon. Why don’t we take dad to this deli he likes for lunch?”

Bailey nodded agreement and they all ended up ordering what Elliott has described as the best Reuben sandwich in the state of New York. They talked about Bailey’s work and his new project, and the new project Eric had received for the SPCA expansion. Bailey explained about his dad’s connection and the old design drawing he’d found and that he was now volunteering there one day each weekend. Elliott found that immensely interesting.

On the drive back to the apartment Eric asked what time he’d be driving back to Auburn.

“I was going to drive back tonight so I’d be ready for the first SPCA shift tomorrow morning. But now I’m thinking I can just get up early and go from here, if that’s okay with you?”

“Okay? It’s what I want. Tomorrow’s Sunday. There won’t be any traffic. You can be there in twenty-five minutes. Stay here, we’ll have dinner and a nice evening, and you won’t have any trouble getting there on time.”

“Let’s go out tonight, but it’s my turn to pay. Do you know of any good restaurants nearby?”

Eric rolled his eyes. “Tell me your ethnic preference and I can handle it.”

They settled on Italian, and two blocks away was a cozy family restaurant with homemade pasta and a terrific wine list. When they got back, they listened to a little music, Bailey in Eric’s arms on the couch, and then retreated to the bedroom. “I want you to teach me some more,” Bailey said demurely, with a seductive smile on his face.

“I will, but we’re going to go slow and at your pace. I can show you some porn if you want. Sometimes, just like in sports, it helps to have a picture in your mind of what’s going to happen and how to do it right. It’s either that or learn from experience.”

“This sounds like school. You’re sending me home with a study assignment?”

“If you want to think of it like that, sure. But what I want you to know is that those are performances. What we do isn’t a performance. What we do is because of how we feel about each other.”

Bailey looked at him and kissed him softly. “And how do you feel about me?”

“I already told you that you have my heart.”

“And your cock, if I remember correctly.”

“Yes, both of them. I’m falling in love with you, Bailey. There, I’ve said it. I’m sorry if it’s too much or too soon, but it’s the truth. You don’t have to say it back.”

“I’m not there yet, but I am working through all this stuff and, funny thing, you’re in the center of almost all of it.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“Now, can we have that other talk?”

“Which one is that?”

“The one about your big head. I think we need to use your bed for this talk.”

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