This Old Bar.
Copyright AMc 2006. All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction and contains explicit scenes of sex between consenting adult males.
The place was an absolute pit. Debris littered the floor, there were holes punched in the walls and part of the false ceiling was knocked down and a florescent light fixture hung down like a corpse. Joe knew when purchasing the run down bar it was not pretty but he was still a bit shocked at the condition. What the hell was Dave thinking? He shook his head in wonder. Dave Howell, his best friend and business partner, obviously had no idea what qualified as a "fixer-upper". The place had a punk-dungeon-black hole decor. The walls were painted variously in pitch black, bright teal blue and hot pink, it made him nauseous just to look at them.
His contractor emerged from the wreckage of the kitchen. Bill was a lumbering man with tousled blond hair and a walrus mustache over which a large hook nose perched. The diminutive realtor followed close behind.
"It needs cleaning up. Ok a lot of cleaning up, but the buildingís sound and the electrical is up to code." Bill pronounced with a clap of his big hands.
"It has a large loading door with plenty of exits." the realtor emphasized. Joe was annoyed with his pitching. The purchase was a done deal but he was still in salesman mode.
Well thatís good news Joe sighed. It wasnít a fire trap and they would be able to move equipment in and out easily enough. Joe nodded approval and the realtor slapped Bill on the back with forced chumminess. Bill started at his impertinence and excused himself to check out the loading doors.
"It will be great when that designer is done with the place. Them fruits are good at this sort of thing." the realtor chuckled.
"Excuse me? " Joe retorted at the crass remark. The small man paled in embarrassment.
"Well I mean, Iím sorry I didnít mean to-." his voice trailed off and his eyes darted to the floor, unable to meet Joeís glare. Joe stared at him in confusion until he realized the realtor was referring to a designer Dave had raved about to redecorate the place and not him.
Had Dave said something to him? Not likely, his friend was tip lipped about Joe being gay. He hardly looked the part. Forty years old, solidly built with a slight paunch. He had black hair thinning on top and a neatly trimmed beard. He truly was an ordinary joe.
Joe spent the next two weeks having the place gutted. Well, Bill and his crew did the demolition. He mostly watched as old appliances were hauled out and trash thrown in the dumpster at a reckless pace.
This might work he mused, warming to the location. The bar was a one story storefront tucked in between two taller apartment buildings in a quiet residential area of Portland. It would make a good neighborhood bar with an adjoining restaurant.
Bill informed Joe he would start rough framing tomorrow. Joe was glad he was in charge, the jovial man and his crew had worked on his other bar so he was familiar with him. As Bill wandered off, Joe noticed a young man with a briefcase approach the building hesitantly.
"Mr. Rossini?" the blonde man asked.
"Sam Mason, the designer Dave Howell brought in." he handed Joe a resume as he explained and Joe brightened.
"Oh right, Iím glad youíre here, come in and Iíll show you the disaster area."
Joe paid more attention to the shorter man next to him than the empty space. As they walked around Joe glanced at the paper in his hands. Sam was twenty four with a Bachelorís degree in Art and Design. Joe looked up to catch sight of his preppy haircut and a small, firm butt on a slender build only seen at undergraduate gyms. Joe was instantly aroused. Not normally his type-but he couldnít think what that was at the moment-but definitely attractive. Sam turned and he affected a blank, all business expression.
"Well itís not too bad and thatís is definitely worth keeping." He pointed to the long wooden bar pushed to one side during the demolition. It was an antique with a beautifully carved face and mahogany top.
"Let me take some measurements, makes notes and see what I can come up with." he said with enthusiasm. Joe nodded and let him look around as much as he liked while he tended to other things. Five minutes later Joe turned a corner and literally bumped into Sam, putting his hands up reflexively and caught him by the upper arms.
They apologized profusely to each other and Joe once again was struck by his beauty. Sam was shorter than Joeís six foot with straw colored hair neatly combed back that showed off his smooth oval face and blue eyes. He said he had some great ideas but wanted more input from Joe on the design.
"Shit, I donít know a thing about design, thatís why we hired you." he complained in half jest.
"Letís start with what kind of customers you want to attract." he stated practically. Joe stared at him.
"The kind with money." he replied as if this was obvious. Sam smiled and Joe liked him even more.
"Do you want young or old money?" he tried again. Joe squinted, getting the drift.
"Young yet classy and comfortable. A place locals want to hang out." he answered.
"Will there be music?í
"Eventually, but acoustic and only on Fridays. I donít want the neighbors complaining." he gestured vaguely towards the building next door. He lived on the third floor and certainly didnít want to be bothered by noise after a long day at work. They continued hammering out details, Sam nodded and scribbled notes. Joe watched his hands in admiration.
Jeez I canít believe this, Joe thought as Sam went on about color scheme and the style of furniture. Here I am an old fart lusting after this boy, he chided himself. He isan interior designer, maybe heís gay after all, he thought and immediately recognized he was being as stereotypically prejudiced as that asshole realtor.
Well heís nice to look at. Just donít be obvious or youíll spook the guy, he reminded himself. He was aware of an uncomfortable bulge forming in his pants and had to settle down.
"Iíll come by later this week with a preliminary design so you can see what I mean." Sam said and Joe popped out of his reverie.
"Great, Iíll be here, Iíll be here forever I suspect." he joked and put out a hand. They shook and Joe held on a fraction longer than usual and made full eye contact with Sam for the first time. Sam made no reaction but merely smiled and bade goodbye. Joe watched him cross the street to a beat up hatch back. The pressure in his jeans reminded him he was daydreaming again. Ah, to be young and beautiful he sighed, rubbing his eyes in fatigue. The day was only half done. Joe was surprised when Sam returned several hours later with a hand full of sketches. He showed a blueprint corresponding to the conception he had. Bill wandered over and liked the design too.
"So youíll still be around to coordinate this Ďvisioní thing?" Joe asked, partially because he wanted to see Sam again and he had no clue how a design went from paper to the real thing.
"He doesnít understand the vision? Weíre doomed." Bill said burying his head in his hands. Joe ignored him and Sam laughed.
"Sure, Iím a package deal." he answered. Joe sighed in comical relief. Even if this cute guy wasnít turned on by the likes of an older widening guy like him, Joe liked him.
* * *
The young blonde lay on a bed, his body outlined against the red satin sheets. Rose petals descend like snow, dappling his creamy skin as he smiles with lust at Joe standing over him. Joe throws himself on the naked man, smothering him with a kiss, their tongues tangling. Joe is hot with desire as he rubs his rough hands over the smooth torso, sparsely covered with golden, almost translucent hair. He canít get enough of the young thing under him. Joe focuses on the familiar pulse in his loins when his attention is wrenched by an irritating noise. He turned his head and spots an enormous alarm clock propped on a table. He is puzzled by the strange object until. . .
Joe woke with a start and looked at the same clock, now normal size, buzzing loudly. He slammed the alarm off and lay in a dazed heap for a minute while the remains of his vivid dream melted away. Thatís what he gets for watching the movie "American beauty" before bedtime, realizing where the imagery came from.
He reached into his briefs and sure enough he was as hard as a proverbial board. Shit, he thought in frustration. It was only a a dream, a nice wet dream but now reality slapped him in the face with an empty bed, a useless hard on and he had to pee. Double shit.
He rose and attended to natureís call and continued with his morning ritual; shower, brush his teeth, comb his hair. He stopped to gaze at his receding hairline with a sudden but familiar awareness that he was terribly lonely. He wasnít given to such brooding but his dream brought on the old longing. He was living alone having given up on men after his last disastrous relationship.
Paranoid jealousy is not an attractive feature with anyone and his ex lover displayed it with increasing alarm as Joe spent more time at work than with him. When he threatened to go public with their liasion that was the last straw.
Itís just as well, he mused as he put the comb down and trimmed his beard. The long hours of work distracted him from dealing with feelings of inadequacy that came with being gay. Like being Jewish and feeling guilty, it was a requirement. Growing up Catholic didnít help. Looking in a mirror was like going to confession. Even after he realized the church was full of shit. Done with his grooming he dressed and headed out to work. Bill and company had things under control as they started on the rough framing. There wasnít much for Joe to do as the guys moved around swiftly, bringing in tools and large sheets of plywood to repair a section of floor.
"Youíre in the way -again." Bill said facetiously, shooing him out of the way with a wave of his massive hands. He stuck his tongue out at Billís parental tone. Joe didnít see Sam anywhere and called Dave while he stood out on the sidewalk, away from the crew and the noise.
"Hey Joe good to hear the place is coming along. Howís the designer working out?" Dave asked in his usual breezy manner, his nasal New York accent barreling through.
"Well thatís why Iím calling, your new golden boy isnít here." He said with a touch of impatience.
"Is there a problem with him?" Dave sounded alarmed. Joe didnít want to get Sam in trouble. Dave went through sub contractors and hired help with astonishing regularity.
"Not at all Iím just kind of lost in this project without him." he cringed at how helpless that sounded. Dave laughed good naturedly.
"Canít do without the eye candy huh?" Dave chuckled.
"What is that suppose to mean?" Joe was rankled by the implication thatís all he saw in Sam. Joe knew Dave was just kidding and maybe it was his earlier brooding but he was not in the mood for it.
"Nothing, just that Samís a good looking kid and-" Dave tried to explain.
" I donít lust after every guy I see." Joe snapped. He and Dave had known each other forever and he was the first straight person he came out to, but honestly, sometimes Dave carried that tolerance too far.
"Hello?" Joe asked anxiously after a very long pause on the other end.
"Um, sorry Joe. So I guess you didnít know heís gay?" Dave replied. Joe sighed, this was turning out to be a really shitty day. He stared up at the typically overcast sky in a combination of surprise and relief at the information.
"No, my gaydar is out being repaired." he replied flippantly. Dave gave another hearty laugh.
"Thatís more like the Joe I love to annoy. Iíll send blondie over right away." They rang off to Joeís relief. He couldnít believe his boorish behavior. What was wrong with him? he thought, still in sour humor. At that moment Bill came out for a consultation.
"Iím such a schmuck sometimes." he informed Bill.
"Thatís nice, would Mr. Schmuck like to show us where he wants to put the bar?" he shot back as he jerked a thumb at the construction zone. Joe forgot his annoyance now that he had something to do.
He didnít forget his preoccupation entirely. He kept glancing at his watch while Bill showed him how they were moving a wall from here to there, making the restaurant smaller and the bar bigger. After the sixth time he became aware of the gesture and realized he was anxious for Samís arrival.
So heís gay, well I wonít have to hide my glances, Joe thought with relief. Or other things, he imagined.
"Something wrong?" Bill asked when he noticed Joeís flushed face.
"Ah, itís just warm in here." he mumbled, embarrassed that his face gave him away. Joe always blushed easily and it was nearly impossible for him to hide his emotions entirely with his expressive face. Must be the Italian in him he would say and people bought the excuse. It made being secretly gay difficult sometimes.
Why did he continue to hide, he wondered as self loathing swelled in him. He didnít have to as Portland was fairly liberal. A long way from the blue collar, conservative atmosphere of Pittsburgh where he grew up. Most people here didnít give shit, whereas heíd get a hostile response in his old neighborhood.
Hell, a lot of gays frequented his other place "The Iron Grill" thinking it was a leather bar with the black furniture and chrome accents. They would laugh when informed otherwise and stay to have a couple of drinks. Even then he remained silent.
The closet, where did that asinine term come from, he thought contemptuously, like the term gay. He certainly wasnít. Frightened men and women persecuted for loving the wrong gender in an uptight puritanical society, thatís what we are, he concluded bitterly. He stewed in his anger until he saw Sam walk in the door and his ire evaporated like mist. He was neatly dressed as usual, his hair perfectly groomed.
"Dave said you needed me." he said eagerly. Joe waved his arm at the room helplessly.
"This anywhere near your vision thing yet?" he asked. Bill spotted Sam and embraced him desperately.
"Oh thank God youíre here, this man is useless." he declared in mock horror. Joe rolled his eyes. Sam stared at the two until he realized they were goofing off and laughed.
"Ok, Iíll explain it again and Iíll use small words."
Sam did more than explain his vision he helped build it. He came each day, wearing clothes appropriate for work and joined in the remodeling. For a neat nick he didnít mind getting sweaty, which surprised Joe. He knew how to use a hammer and measuring tape too. Which was more than Joe could do Bill joked.
They made a good team, Sam would make a suggestion or find the solution to a problem and Joe made sure it got done. The crew liked Sam too, cracking jokes with him when he joined them for lunch in the parking lot behind the bar. Joe and company got him to come along to The Iron Grill for a get together after work one Friday.
"So you like your job?" Joe inwardly cringed. Why the hell did I ask that? He wondered at his lack of sense as he felt flop sweat rising on his neck. Sam gave him an odd look.
"I like it but it wasnít my first choice." he said with a shrug but offered nothing further. Joe sensed he was at a dead end and tried a new tact.
"Where are you from?" He asked once they were seated at a table, waiting for pizza and beer. Sam was taken aback, until now Joe had only engaged in shop talk.
"Bend." he replied; in eastern Oregon. Joe nodded trying to find something else to say.
"Iíve never been to Bend, whatís it like?" Joe plowed on blithely.
"Hot and dry in the summer and cold and snowy in winter. Where are you from?" Sam replied, still puzzled by the awkward tone of the conversation. It seemed like Joe was on a fishing expedition but didnít know what he would catch.
"Pittsburgh." he answered and suddenly didnít feel like talking. Joe turned away overcome with a twinge of discomfort. Being here reminded him of his father and his bar. Joe pushed the pain aside and joined in the laughter from the crew as Bill regaled them with his endless supply of dirty jokes.
Joe glanced at Sam who seemed to be off in his own world. Joe shifted in his chair and Samís leg bumped into his. Their eyes locked for a moment before Joe moved his leg away. Joe maintained a blank expression with great difficulty as his mind whirled at the implications and meaning of the gesture. He felt his loins stir and hastily excused himself to take a pee.
He fled to his office down a hall, past the kitchen, slamming the door behind him. He collapsed on the long leather couch against one wall, his messy desk and file cabinet on the other side of the cramped room.
"Oh Sam, Sam," he whimpered softly as he shut his eyes, feeling his shirt stick to his back from sweat. He had never reacted to a manís touch like this, was the touch intentional? He couldnít think anymore as his member demanded release. He pulled his pants open and pulled it free as his mind drifted.
Joe imagines Sam looking for him and finds him there on the couch, fondling his hard on. Joe looks up, startled at his sudden appearance; a lewd smile spreads across Samís face. He kneels down between Joeís legs. Joe watches as Sam takes his cock, bobbing on it. Joe gasps as he is engulfed, sending him into sensory orbit.
There was a loud knock on the door and with a start Joe sat bolt upright, alone in the room with his hand around his unsatisfied member. Shit, he was never going to find release, he cursed in frustration. The knock returned.
"Yeah, who is it?" he shouted as he frantically zipped up. It was Bernard the barís manager wondering why the door was locked. Joe opened the door, an annoyed scowl on his face.
"Canít a guy have a little space for himself." he whined in a pseudo-pop-psychology way.
" I didnít mean to intrude on your meditation boss but I need an OK on this order and to change the house brew ." He handed Joe a receipt. Joe sighed, scanned the bill and nodded approval. He had to get back to the guys anyway. He smoothed his hair and beard, pulling himself together to face them and the man of his fantasies with dignity.
"Sorry I was gone, duty called." he apologized unnecessarily to the gang as he slid back in his chair.
"Didnít notice you were missing. " Bill said around a slice of pepperoni pizza. Joe made a face and grabbed a slice before it was gone, washing it down with a Coke. Sam had wandered off Joe noted as he casually surveyed the room. He returned and sat next to Joe as his old seat was taken by a late arrival. His arm brushed Joeís shoulder as he reached for some pizza. This time Joe didnít glance at him but wondered if it was an intentional accident like the leg rub. He was imagining things in his lust filled haze and dropped the speculation before he really got himself in trouble.
"What is the name of this new joint anyway?" Bill asked Joe, wiping grease from his bushy mustache.
"Iíll think of something. " he mumbled still distracted by Samís closeness.
"How about Still Life, as in thereís still life in the old dog." Bill suggested to general laughter. Joe shook his head at the lame joke.
"Nah, itís got to be catchy and memorable." he insisted.
"How about Rip City?" a reference to the Portland Trailblazers.
"No, no sports bar please." Joe quickly pleaded.
"The Boom Boom Room."
"Eat, Drink and be Merry." Joe continued to shake his head at the rapid fire suggestions.
"One More Round."
"Cheap Beer and Chicks."
"Hey, the Foodís Descent."
"Doofus." Everyone was getting carried away with the silliness.
"How about This Old Bar?" Sam, who had been playing along, said seriously. Joe turned to him as he considered it.
"I like it. Itís simple and friendly." Joe gave him an appreciative nod.
"Hereís to This Old Bar." Bill said raising his pint of beer and everyone joined in the toast.
Done with the pizza and beer, the group faded away until only Joe, Bill and Sam remained. The two older men decided to knock off work on Monday. Joe wanted to think on the changes and they had to wait for the arrival of the kitchen appliances anyway. Bill gladly agreed, looking forward to a long weekend with his girlfriend and set off. Sam got up to make a pit stop before heading off as well, leaving Joe to toy with his empty glass as he watched the bar fill with the regular Friday crowd of college students and couples.
Couples. He watched in idle fascination as a tall woman with exceptionally long blonde hair cuddled up to a man sitting on a bar stool. She slid her hand under his leather coat and around his waist. It was apparent from the body language they had been together awhile; easy and comfortable with each otherís space. Joe felt a pang of envy and loneliness settled over him like an old blanket.
Even though he owned the place and could kick anyone out with impunity he felt like an outsider. Except at a gay bar where he was well known would he even dare to touch a man the way that woman touched her boyfriend. Such a simple act of affection in public was denied to him because he was gay. It was unfair but thatís the way it goes, he concluded realistically. He started to take a sip when he remembered the glass was empty, just then a waitress stopped by.
"Can I get you another Coke Joe?" Stephanie the waitress asked. She was a great gal Joe thought, always sharp and aware of customers needs.
"No, Iím going home, get some sleep." he said wearily. He made one last round of the bar, checking in with staff to make sure everything was running smoothly then headed for the restroom he forgot to go to earlier. As he turned the corner he once again ran into Sam and both jumped at the near collision. Sam laughed in embarrassment.
"Weíve got to stop meeting like this." he joked but when he looked in Joeís face his smile died and something shifted.
Joe couldnít hold back any longer, he lunged at Sam and took him in a fierce embrace, pushing his mouth against his. They sucked on each otherís tongue then Joe broke and looked around anxiously to make sure they were alone. He pulled Sam through a door leading to his office but decided somewhere other than the scene of his earlier fantasy would be better. He pushed open an exit door with his butt dragging Sam with him and they tumbled onto the loading area behind the building.
They clutched at each other frantically as they kissed. Joe pulled Samís shirt out of his pants and ran his hands over his chest, pleased to discover that it was just as he imagined, a sparse covering of hair, a trail running down a smooth abdomen and disappearing under the waistband of his jeans. Joe practically tore the snaps off in his frenzied desire to grab Sam. He was doing much the same to Joe, feeling his ample chest and stomach with one hand while grabbing his ass with the other. Joe moved back to catch his breath.
"I want you Sam." he growled and dove back into his mouth as he pulled on the cock in his hand.
Joe could have stayed there all night but Sam didnít last and uttered a strangled groan as his orgasm unloaded in Joeís grasp.
"Oh shit." Sam managed to gasp as he came down from the climax. Joe gently let go, not sure how sensitive he was and wiped the mess on a wet dishcloth hanging over a railing. They stared into each otherís eyes, Samís blue and clear and Joeís dark and veiled, both still glazed with lust. Joe leaned his head on Samís shoulder until his panting subsided.
"You didnít get off." Sam finally said, holding Joe, massaging the back of his neck with one hand.
"We could finish this at my place." Joe said quietly and waited anxiously in the pause as Sam settled his breathing.
"That would be nice." he said with a sincerity that made Joeís heart leap.
They quickly reorganized their clothes and calmly walked out to Joeís car. Samís was still parked out in front of the unfinished bar. Sam paid no attention to the surroundings as they quickly made their way up to Joeís apartment. He was focused on watching the round ass in front of him as they entered the apartment.
"Here drink some water. " Joe handed him a glass that brought him back to awareness.
They stood in the middle of the living room, a large, high ceiled square room. Tall bay windows faced the street; covered with venetian blinds. The only light came from the kitchen visible past a breakfast counter. Joe gulped his water and took Samís glass when he was done, setting them down on a coffee table with a loud clunk.
Joe kissed Sam on the neck as he slowly unbuttoned his shirt, throwing it on the couch without looking. Sam did the same thing in return. They gathered each other in their arms as their kisses intensified. Joeís head swam as he drank in the clean scent of Sam, burying his nose in his hair and sucking on his neck just behind the ear. Sam moaned and he took that as a good sign. Joe switched to the other side of his neck, gazing the adamís apple with his tongue as he passed by. Sam put his hands on Joeís ass pushing his groin against his.
" I want to suck you dry." He whispered in Joeís ear, who hummed in response. Joe took his hand and lead him to the bedroom.
Sam remained at the doorway while Joe entered the dark room and switched on a decorative lamp on a shelf above the bed, casting a orange glow. Sam removed his shoes and socks while he took his watch off and placed it in his pocket. Now able to see the room Sam stepped in and helped Joe get undressed. His cock was plump and hard, jutting out from a dark patch of hair. Sam caressed the broad chest, the hair soft and dark between his pecs, framing large nipples Sam gently sucked on. There was a nice field of hair all the way down his torso as well. Sam felt his pants slide down his legs and Joe found his small firm ass. Both climbed on the bed and moved to the center to get comfortable. Sam was between Joeís legs, scooping him up in his mouth. Joe gave a loud moan as Sam massaged him with his tongue.
This is better than I ever dreamed, Joe thought, as he floated blissfully until it became almost unbearable. He exploded with a grunt and a gush. He put his hand on Samís head as a signal to ease off as he was very sensitive after climax. Sam lay next to Joe, placing his hand on the heaving chest, feeling Joeís heart pounding. Joe tended to drop off immediately after sex but he stayed awake to gaze at the beautiful man beside him. He reached out and pulled him into a tight embrace.
"Youíre so beautiful, I thought so from the moment I first saw you." Joe said softly. Samís face brightened in the subdued amber light.
"Really? I thought you were pretty hot too." he smiled sheepishly. Joe gave a disbelieving chuckle.
"This fat old guy, no way." he dismissed.
"Youíre not fat or old." Sam retorted so strongly Joe was taken aback by his seriousness.
They fell silent, Joe heard a thud from an upstairs neighbor and listened to the wail of a siren fade into the distance. He was aware of Sam caressing his abdomen absently, swirling his finger in his navel, then brushing the fine hair down to his crotch. Joe inhaled Sam as he leaned against his head.
"I like your hair." he said at last.
"I like yours too." Sam said as he playfully tugged on a long pubic hair.
"Sorry." Sam quickly apologized then grinned when he belatedly realized he was being kidded.
How strange is the power of attraction Joe thought as he marveled that the intimacy of the moment. Joe never imagined he could touch Sam and here he was in bed with him. It bothered him that all this time he had no clue Sam was attracted to him. Man am I losing my touch, Joe mused.
"How come you never made a move on me until tonight?" Joe asked suddenly curious. Sam looked up at him amazed.
"Made a move on you? Youíre the one who practically raped me outside the menís room. " he laughed.
"No I mean when you brushed against my leg under the table." Joe corrected. Sam frowned as he reflected on the incident.
"I didnít realize I was coming on to you." he answered. Joe shrugged, it didnít matter now. He rubbed Samís shoulder and pulled him closer. Sam kissed him in a small teasing way.
"Care for another round?" he asked. Joe nodded and they thrashed around like two teenagers in heat. At one point Joe rolled on top of Sam grinding their cocks together in his favorite position. He loved the feel of Samís body on his skin. Samís breathing became ragged and he tensed up.
"Um, youíre hur- too heavy." he stuttered and Joe was off in a flash at Samís frightened expression.
"Sorry babe, I told you I was fat." he said to ease the tension. Sam relaxed with a smile and pushed Joe on his back to attack his nipples. Joe was like a kid on a swing giddy with the air time at the top then feeling the adrenaline rush on the ride back down.
"I really want to be inside you." Joe whispered to Sam, whose eyes lit up at the idea. They switched positions, Sam on his hands and knees and Joe above him.
"Oh wait." Joe muttered and scrambled out of the room to return a moment later with condom and lube.
Suitably attired, Joe got behind Sam and entered him. The younger man grimaced at the entry of Joeís girth in his tightness. Joe held still a moment enjoying the hot grip on him. He laid his head on Samís back supporting his weight on his hands, mindful of Samís earlier reaction. He couldnít get over how wonderful his young flesh felt. He brushed his hand across Samís shoulder blades, raising goose bumps and a delighted gasp from him. He always took longer the second time around as he reached for another intense orgasm. Completely spent the two lay side by side panting, until exhaustion took over and they fell asleep.
Joe woke at dawn to the sound of the toilet flushing and a moment later Sam settling on the bed next to him. He opened his eyes slowly, dim morning light peeking through the blinds covering the one window in the room.
"Hey babe. " Joe mumbled and Sam started.
"Did I wake you?"
"Yes, and itís a lovely sight to wake up to." Joe grinned, Sam returned a wan smile, caught up in his thoughts.
"Whatís up?" Joe asked, finally noticing the far away look on Samís face.
"I was thinking about last night when you were dry humping me." he began quietly." It reminded me of something I havenít thought of years." he turned his head away gazing at the window.
"I was twelve and staying with my uncle while my parents went on vacation. A hunting buddy of his came over for the evening. I was pretty much ignored while they drank and talked." Sam gave a impatient sigh, he knew he was rambling. Joe sensed it too but knew he was getting to something important.
"That night I felt someone get in bed with me, at first I thought it was my uncle, he tended to night walk." Sam began to talk faster as he went on. "But it was his friend. The guy was heavy and smelled of beer, he pushed himself on me, rubbing against me like you did and-" he broke off and turned completely away from Joe.
Joe was aghast at the horrible memory he had triggered and reached out to Sam in encouragement but he jumped at the touch and stood up. Joe thought he would bolt from the room but he stayed rooted to the spot, his hands clinching at his sides.
"Itís not your fault." Sam shaking his head, speaking quickly while sitting down again facing Joe.
"He came all over me, and then I couldnít help myself, I came for the first time and he laughed at the sight. Without a word he got up and left, leaving me crying and bewildered. He never said anything to me later."
"Did your uncle know?" Joe was afraid to find out.
"No, not at first but he noticed how I avoided him after that and on a subsequent visit. He figured out something was wrong and I never saw the guy again." Sam looked so small, his face old with sorrow.
"My reaction to it was typical - in hindsight- I felt enormous guilt and I didnít touch myself for years." he uttered a rueful laugh.
"Can you imagine a horny guilt ridden teenager not jacking off?" he asked and Joe laughed at the irony, having gone through a strict Catholic upbringing himself.
"Oh yes I can."
"No, I mean I NEVER did except to piss or scratch and even that freaked me out." Sam added. Joe was awed by Sam, baring such a deep emotional wound to someone he barely knew and in such a calm manner.
"Then when I was sixteen, I learned that he was killed in a car accident and I felt a strange relief. I rushed into my room and had the most furious masturbation session you could imagine." he froze for a moment then groaned heavily but the tears came silently. Joe quickly moved over and took him in his arms. He held Sam as a parent would hold a child waking from a nightmare, comforting him with caresses and calming sounds. Joe held onto him until he slumped against his chest, exhausted. Joe fetched a glass of water and insisted Sam drink.
" Iíve never told anyone this before." he admitted, surprised by his confession.
"Not even your parents?" Joe was shocked, Sam shook his head.
"I figured they wouldnít understand."
"Theyíre not accepting of your being gay I take it." Joe guessed, this sounded familiar.
"No, actually theyíre very supportive. I was afraid they would think I lead him on or some such shit." he wiped his face, suddenly tired of the subject.
"Now I know better. I went through all that psychology crap and realized he was just a dirty old man who didnít know better-the bastard." he concluded with a heavy sigh. A huge burden seemed to have lifted and he looked young again, glad to be rid of the weight. Joe kissed him proudly.
"Iím honored that you trusted me." Joe said humbly.
Sam was nonplussed by his reaction, Joe wasnít angry or freaked out. He made no attempt to brush the matter aside or suddenly find him and his baggage undesirable. Sam looked at him with new admiration and wondered how he could show his appreciation. He got an idea and with a lewd smile pushed Joe onto the bed and mashed his hardening member into Joeís groin. Joe figured out what he was up to and spread his legs to give him better access. They rutted together increasing the speed until, to their delight, they came at the same time, leaving a mess between them.
"Looks like youíre stuck with me." Sam joked as they lay recovering from the workout . They looked at each other and burst out laughing, releasing the last of the tension.
"Iím sorry I dumped that on you." Sam buttoned his shirt as he walked into the kitchen. Joe was busy making breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon. He divided the eggs and handed Sam his serving still holding onto the plate.
"You Ok?" Joe asked concern etchd in his face. Sam nodded vigorously.
"Then thatís all that matters." Joe ended the discussion. He directed Sam to the flatware, glasses and place mats which he set on the counter while Joe puttered with coffee. They sat next to each other and talked about nothing as they ate.
While Joe cleaned up after the meal, Sam explored the apartment. It was pretty generic with white walls, wood floors and dull but functional furniture. A pile of laundry covered a stuffed chair. There was a large table against one wall used as a work desk, spilling over with books, papers and a computer that needed updating. The only personal touch was a couple of photos on the wall opposite the windows. One showed a old funky tavern with a sign "Gigli" over the entrance. Another was of a family lined up in a backyard. Sam asked about the family portrait and Joe identified dad, mom- very attractive- and his three sisters. He appeared to be about twelve in the picture, smiling clownishly at the camera with his fatherís arm around his shoulder. Sam noted another photo of Joe in his late teens. Taller and clean shaved standing stiffly beside his somber faced father.
"Joe Senior and still a bastard." Joe remarked bluntly. Sam frowned.
"We donít get along. Heís old world Italian where real men donít suck dick." he answered with venom. Joe seemed disinterested in the collection, calling them ghost from his past. Sam thought that curious considering the care he took to have them professionally matted and framed. A picture of a baseball team caught his eye.
"Hey is that you?" Sam pointed to a familiar face in the first row.
"Thatís me left fielder and pitcher." he said in a flat voice.
"Did you ever play in the majors?" Sam said excitedly.
"Only minor league, I was ok until my arm gave out." he rubbed his right upper arm absently.
"Want to go to Washington Park? Itís supposed to be warm today." Joe asked, changing the subject. Sam was about to agree when he suddenly remembered all the work he didnít get done last night and looked at his watch.
"Actually I need to get home. Sorry." he said and Joe looked momentarily disappointed.
"Why donít you come to my place tomorrow and weíll figure out something to do." he suggested. He really wanted to see Joe again and they agreed on a time to meet. With a hug and kiss goodbye, Sam was gone leaving Joe standing alone in the middle of the room wondering what to do. He decided to clean the apartment, something he wished he had done BEFORE Sam came. It helped dissipate his nervous energy.
Was Sam really interested in him? he wondered, his exit was rather abrupt. The sex was thrilling but he worried he otherwise came off as slovenly with dirty clothes laying around and cynical in light of his harsh commentary about the pictures. He glared at them with new anger. He really should get rid of the damn things. All they did was cause him grief but there was a part of him that held onto them as a warning, so they stayed.
He did the laundry and changed the bedding when he suddenly realized he didnít know Samís phone number or where he lived. He debated calling Dave to get the information but was reluctant to get into the subject of Sam with his inquisitive friend. He slapped his forehead when he remembered the resume Sam gave him. Rummaging around the desk became a prolonged search but he eventually found it.
The relief he felt made him realize how bad he had it for Sam. He hadnít desired anyone like this since. . . well never. What did a young kid like him see in a paunchy, balding guy like me? That thought intruded on him as he continued reorganizing the desk. No sooner did he finish when Sam called.
"I finished my errands earlier than I thought and I was wondering if youíre busy." he tried to sound casual but it came out in a nervous rush.
"I was just going out." Joe lied, he planned on staying at home.
"Great, Iíll make you dinner." Sam offered. Joe agreed and hurried out the door as soon as he hung up.
Sam lived on the other side of the Willamette River which bisected the city. It was an old neighborhood, quiet and tree lined. Joe smoothed his new jeans, red polo shirt and hair in that order before walking up to the tiny house set back behind a larger mission style house. He adjusted himself and shifted the bottle of wine in his hands to knock on the door. It was opened almost immediately and Sam greeted him warmly.
He wore baggy shorts and a PSU jersey. The house was a studio apartment with a small kitchen, bath and one large room. A dining table was tucked next to a diminutive refrigerator and there was a double bed in the far corner. The place was lit with a dozen or so candles set in dishes of water on shelves and tables. Joe was amazed at how perfect it looked- like a layout in a magazine with tasteful prints on the wall, simple but elegant furniture and soothing colors. It increased his embarrassment about the shabbiness of his own place.
"I like ĎItalianí." Sam said indicating the table with a red checkered cloth and a candle. The dinner was lasagna- store bought, a salad, and the bottle of chianti Joe brought. He found the attempt at Italian cuisine amusing but sincere. The meal was enjoyable as Sam rubbed a bare foot on Joeís leg in a very deliberate imitation of their previous brush.
After dinner, Sam heightened the pleasure by leading Joe to the bed where he undressed him then performed a slow striptease. He could feel Joeís eyes on him as he revealed a smooth, slightly muscular body. The sheets bounced with desire as Sam slipped into the bed, snuggling next to him.
He cradled Joeís head as he kissed him deeply, letting his mouth linger while he took hold of Joeís turgid cock with his other hand, massaging it. Joe had held it hundreds of times but it always felt unreal with someone elseís hand on it. Sam proceeded down his neck, then to his sensitive nipples which he licked and bit. Joe gasped, arching his back with a jerk at the touch. Joeís cock now stood at attention, pulsing to his heart beat. Sam went down on him, sucking on him like a straw in a milk shake. Joeís breathing came in short gasps as he rose to a climax expecting to feel jism on his stomach. Instead he looked down to see Sam was still on him, milking him. They lay in each otherís arm surrounded by the warm light as they recovered. Sam put his head close to Joe and it felt so right to both of them.
For the first time in a long time, Joe felt safe and happy. Here he was in a comfortable place with a handsome man who found him attractive. Joe was content and didnít want to ruin this, not this time. He let out a deep audible sigh.
"What are you thinking?" Sam asked quietly as he played with Joeís chest hair.
"How wonderful you are, how sweet it is being here." it was a glib answer but Joe was too lost in thought to articulate his feelings.
"I was thinking about what turns you on." Sam admitted with a sly smile.
"Isnít it obvious?" Joe asked looking pointedly at Sam whose face wrinkled in delight at the compliment. They went back to their silent, internal ruminations. Sam was so still Joe thought he had fallen asleep.
"When did you know you were gay?" Sam asked and Joe was taken aback by the non-sequiter. He squirmed momentarily, it was not an easy topic for him. His paranoia automatically considered it suspicious but Joe decided he was just being curious.
"When I was sixteen, I preferred to hang out with the good looking guys on the baseball team then be with a girl, I figured something was odd about that, so did my mom. I ended up telling Dad when I left for college." Joe laughed sadly, it was such an unpleasant memory. Sam turned his head to look at Joe with an expression that invited Joe to continue.
"He didnít take it well. All that Italian macho shit. ĎWell I ainít going to tell anyone and neither are you or Iíll disown youí he said, and that was the last time we had a conversation." he made a gesture of finality chopping his right hand through the air.
"Thatís terrible." Sam was appalled.
"Yeah it was. After I left baseball I took up drinking heavily, got two DUIís, sobered up and brought a bar with Dave." Joe concluded the update on his life.
"How about you, when did you know?" Joe threw back at him.
"Thatís easy, October 14, 2001." he said without hesitation. Now it was Joeís turn to encourage him to go on.
"I had just started at PSU. Me and a bunch of friends challenged some frat guys to a game of football. There was this one hunky guy and when he tackled me I think I came instantly. I knew at that moment I wanted to have sex with guys." he said matter of factly.
Joe was astonished at how honest and easy Sam was on the subject. If only he could be so open. For now he was grateful for the peace and comfort he had in his arms. He had little of that in the outside world. The outside world remained a place of caution for Joe even as they continued their relationship over the following weekends, hanging out at one anotherís apartment where they explored each otherís bodies with delight. Joe was cordial to Sam at work, as usual keeping things on a professional level.
Sam noticed how guarded he was when they were in public. He made no acknowledgment of his subtle affections; a nudge with an arm or leg, a squeeze to his thigh, a long glance. Joe made up for his public aloofness when they were alone; practically ravaging Sam and all was forgotten.
Joe knew it bothered Sam, his behavior bothered him more but his vulnerability won out. When he looked at Sam he wanted to shout to the world his affection but his old fears would grab him before he got too far.
One night he dreamed of his father. He was with Sam, they lay on a beach cuddling and laughing when a shadow passed over them. Looking up Joe saw his fatherís looming face wearing an angry scowl. He woke in a cold sweat and looked at the clock. It was six am in Pittsburgh, his father would just be getting up, he never slept more than a few hours. Mom would be up making him breakfast the way he demanded; two soft boiled, a slice of nearly burnt toast and black coffee. Nothing ever changed with that stubborn man, especially his disapproval of Joe. He stared at the ceiling and sobbed until he fell back to sleep.
It was a bad omen. Work on the bar progressed at a hellishly slow pace as one thing after another went wrong. Supplies didnít arrive then work halted while a snotty city inspector viewed the structural framing with suspicion but grudgingly passed it. The last horror was when one of the crew injured his hand and had to be rushed to the ER. He was glad Sam wasnít there. He didnít want Sam to see him at his worst. They quit early to everyoneís relief and he trudged home. The frustration with work continued and his worse fears were realized when Sam appeared the next day and his anxiety level went off the scale. Sam was his usual friendly self but Joe avoided his gaze and shied away whenever he came within arms reach.
Lunch time came and everyone sat on the tailgate of Billís pick up parked behind the building. The usual banter turned sexual when the guys spotted two women walking pass the site. Sam noticed Joe smiled and went along with it. Sam was puzzled and alarmed at a growing suspicion. Their gaze met and Joe knew something was wrong. Sam finally cornered Joe when he was making a trip to the dumpster in the corner of the rear parking lot.
"What the fuck is going on with you?" Sam asked in an uncharacteristic flash of anger. Joeís eyes darted around to make sure no one was looking.
"What do you mean?" Joe said with anxious innocence.
"You know damn well what I mean. These guys donít know youíre gay do they?" Sam pressed on tersely. Joe looked at him in growing fear, seeing the challenge in Samís gaze. He leaned in close to Sam.
"And I prefer to keep it that way." he said urgently.
Sam felt like ice cold water had been thrown in his face. He understood at last the reason for Joeís behavior and he didinít like it. Joe lived his life where so many dwelled. Sam had visited that place but he was not going to join the masquerade, that would be a step backwards. Despite his hope otherwise, Joe was not coming out into the light of day.
"Of course you do." Sam said with cold disappointment. He turned and left.
Joe was devastated Sam did not return his phone calls. Why did he have to act this way? he screamed at himself as he paced his living room listening to the phone ring as he tried to call Sam again.
"Fuck." he swore as he hurled the phone across the room. It bounced off the couch and skidded across the floor. Incongruously he wondered how much abuse they were designed to withstand, as he stood in the middle of the room, staring at nothing. He shook himself awake and looked around. The apartment was empty and barren of anything recognizable.
What have I done? He wailed internally as he squeezed his eyes shut feeling the sting of rising tears. He gasped and threw open his eyes when he realized he had stopped breathing. His rising anxiety threatened to drown him. He caught sight of the photos on the far wall and drew closer as if seeing them for the first time. There was a vague sense of emotional connection as he inspected each one critically until he came to the team picture. He clutched at his right arm as another nervous spasm came.
Sam didnít understand and Joe couldnít explain he was too afraid of his past. This was how he screwed up his other relationships. Maybe this time Iíll have the strength and support to resist those demons he told himself whenever he got involved with someone. When his lovers found out what a coward he was, they left him standing at the cliff edge of freedom, disgusted and tired of waiting for him to make the leap, only to chicken out.
He didnít blame them one bit. His self hatred came to a boil and he smashed his fist into the team photo shattering the glass. He cut his hand but ignored the pain and bleeding as he rooted around in a cabinet for an old bottle of tequila and got quite drunk, knowing he deserved the heartburn.
Sam was too furious to deal with Joe and stayed away from the work at the bar. He wasnít needed until the final stage of construction was done anyway. Presently he leaned on a railing at the ĎWaterfrontí park overlooking the river, letting his mind wander. Joeís attitude got him into some heavy thinking. Why was Joe so uptight? He had always been open about being gay so he found it difficult to deal with closeted ones. He understood their well founded fear but it didnít make it easier. He saw that fear in Joeís eyes when he confronted him and he was sad beyond reason.
Times were changing. Maybe it was the age difference or their cultural background. Thanks to TV and movies people are moving beyond the stereotype of drag queens, hairdressers and florists but there still were rabid, dangerous homophobic folks out there. Itís still a risk to be gay in some places. He remembered years before, while growing up in Bend, hearing about the Oregon Citizens Alliance thumping for support to pass their antigay initiative. Plenty of people thought it was ok but his parents were appalled so he wasnít worried when he told him he was gay. They supported him with their blessing. He smiled when he thought of how loving and tolerant they were. Even his college pals for the most part were accepting of it. The frat guy at the football game certainly didnít mind. His grin broadened at the memory of nights spent in bed with that hunk.
He looked up from the water and sighed. Joe hadnít been so lucky. He wondered what he could do to bring him out of hiding. Was it worth it? He frowned. He had no idea how much baggage the man carried around and at forty, there was probably quite a bit. It would be hard to break old chains. He wanted to be with Joe so much. He felt comfortable around him, like a big brother he never had growing up an only child. He was tender and grateful for Samís attention. But Sam couldnít pretend and hide his feelings for Joe from others.
Lots of people had to hid because of family, work or social pressure but Sam couldnít see any reason why Joe was compelled to keep his life locked away. He seemed so confident, so relaxed except for this one thing. Sam sighed again. This thinking was getting him nowhere. He dug into his pocket for the cell phone. There was three messages from Joe. He knew he had to talk to him soon or he would scare him off permanently. He suddenly remembered Dave Howell was Joeís oldest friend. He would be a good person to start with if he was going to figure Joe out. He put the phone back in his pocket and headed off.
Twenty minutes later he strode into Daveís office. The tall man was sitting at his desk, feet propped on the edge as he talked loudly on the phone. He waved Sam in as he continued to cajole the caller, smoothing his tie as he finally got what he wanted and hung up. He put his feet down and rocked in his swivel chair, gesturing for Sam to sit down.
Dave was a good looking man who towered over people with his height and presence. He spoke in a loud voice due to poor hearing caused by years working in a noisy foundry. It made him appear overbearing to some but he had an open friendly face and blue eyes full of good humor. They discussed progress on the bar.
"I havenít been there the last two weeks and frankly I wonít be needed until the finish work." Sam said casually. Dave ran his hand thru a thick stock of gray hair to cover the shadow of concern that crossed his face.
"Have you talked to Joe lately?" he asked with the same feigned casualness. Sam shook his head. He wondered how he was going to broach the subject of Joe and this was a good opening.
"Nope." Sam said point blank, with feigned indifference. Dave turned his chair away and stared out the window for a moment before answering.
"Joe has climbed into a bottle and disappeared." he said with a bruised voice. From Daveís tired tone Sam got the impression Joe had done this before.
God, heís an alcoholic prone to binges, just great Sam thought in dismay. He looked everywhere but at Dave and noticed a familiar photo on the far wall near the door. He drew closer to examine it and sure enough, it was the same team picture Joe had. He spotted Dave standing in the back row, the tallest man on the team.
"I didnít know you and Joe played ball together." It sounded more like a question. Dave swiveled in his chair toward Sam.
"Joe and I have known each other since high school. Heís one of my oldest and closest friends. I know him better than anyone." he said with pride and a large dose of significance. Sam turned and fixed his gaze on Dave as they regarded each other for a moment.
"Sam may I ask you a personal question even if itís none of my fucking business." Dave was very serious.
"Are you and Joe. . .involved?" he asked delicately.
"Will the answer get Joe in trouble?" Sam was pretty sure Dave knew Joe was gay but was being cautious.
"Of course not."
"Yes we are...I think." he frowned, he hadnít meant to add that qualifier.
"Did he tell you why he left baseball?" Dave asked and Sam wondered at the change of subject. He shook his head.
"Well I wish you would ask him because itís the reason heís afraid." his voice broke and he cleared his throat to cover the emotional slip.
Afraid? Afraid of what? Sam wondered and wanted to ask what happened but knew he wasnít going to get an answer. Sam was suddenly wary of Daveís motive. Was he genuinely concerned for his old friend or was he worried that Joeís behavior would ruin their business partnership? He was handing Sam a potential bomb that could blow up in his face, destroying Joe and their relationship in the process. Would Joe open up to him if he pried?
"What makes you think heíll tell me?" Sam asked defensively. Dave stilled his habitual rocking for a second then went on.
"I can tell youíre good for him. He told me a few weeks ago he met someone and looked happy for the first time in quite a while since youíve been around. I like it when heís happy. He deserves to be happy and heís a damn lot easier to deal with." Dave smiled briefly. Joe did have his gruff moments. Sam was flattered that he had that affect on Joe but worried he was not up to the challenge Dave was presenting.
"He needs you, he needs to let go of-" Dave waved at the picture in a defeated gesture. "Knock some sense into the son of a bitch, ok?" he pleaded. The phone rang before Sam could reply and Dave snatched it up, standing and turning to look out the window. Sam was almost sorry he came. He was expecting a simple explanation instead he got complications.
He went in search of Joe. He called but there was no answer. He stopped by the apartment where the building manger said Joe left some time ago but didnít know where. The bar next door was locked with no work crew in sight. Frustrated, Sam was about to give up when he remembered The Iron Grill, and decided to check there in one last effort.
He reviewed the strange conversation with Dave. He shook his head, what fragile lives we lead. Such demons we have. What secrets hold us back? How do you help an older, tougher man come to grips while still allowing him to be a man? Thanks Dave, really. He wasnít getting a christmas card this year, Sam thought peevishly as he parked the car.
As he expected on a sunny day, the place was empty. Two men sat at the end of the bar, one loudly pontificating, the other looked bored but nodded politely at the manís ranting. A woman sat at a table constantly glancing at her watch as she snacked on peanuts. Bernard was doing double duty as bartender and manager. Sam greeted him as he hopped up on a stool. Bernard brought him a glass of water, setting it down with a flourish.
"Whatís a bright guy like you doing in a dark place like this" the mousy man joked.
"Didnít you know Iím a vampire. Not the pale skin." He held up a forearm. Bernard eyed him suspiciously.
"Joe around?" Sam asked as he surveyed the room.
"Nope havenít since the boss for a few days." he said, irritation and fatigue showing in his voice. Sam noticed how drawn he looked. Bernard always had a hang dog face and bags under his eyes but he was slow and tired in his movements.
"He came in last Friday looking like shit and told me to take care of things, took a bottle of tequila with him, which is not a good sign. Shit, probably another fucking break up." Bernard shook his head in mild disgust.
"What?" Sam didnít understand the last bit.
"The last time he got drunk was when he broke up with Bri-" he cut himself off and looked around to make sure the bar help Chico wasnít in earshot. He looked at Sam and leaned in whispering in a conspiratorial tone.
"You didnít hear this from me, but Joeís gay."
So he wasnít as hidden as he thought if even dim witted Bernard figured him out. Who else knew, Sam wondered. He nodded confidentially.
"Wow, must have been a brutal break up." he said off handedly as bait. Sam had played this game before. He had consoled plenty of college chums through break ups with their girlfriends, lending an ear and commiserating over a pitcher of beer. They would bewail their fate and he would agree with their conclusions she was a bitch and they deserved better.
"Hardly, I get the impression he goes through a lot of guys. Theyíre like that, you know. Lucky in business, unlucky in love I guess." He chuckled cynically as he finished a mug of coffee he had been nursing. Sam shrugged noncommittally. No doubt he was pissed about work being dumped on him without notice while Joe wallowed in his problems. Sam had a beer and waited another hour with no sign of Joe.
He returned home restless and busied himself with some sketches to distract him from his disappointment when there was a knock at the door. Sam opened it to find Joe looking very pathetic. He looked like he had been beaten in a battle with his conscience. His hair was in disarray and his face was blotted and pale; his eyes vacant and staring. He looked at Joe and his heart ached for the man who was clearly miserable. In that moment he realized how much he had fallen for him. His gut told him he needed to help Joe and it was worth the effort.
"Joe." Sam said quietly and he started at the sound of Samís voice.
"I, um Dave said I should see you." he managed as he looked helplessly at Sam who stood in the doorway, his arms crossed unsympathetically.
"Sam Iím so sorry I didnít mean to, I really fucked up. I should have been more honest with you about being so-" he was babbling and stopped as the words caught in his throat.
Reluctantly Sam guided Joe into the house and to the couch. It felt odd for him to be in this position. Isnít it usually the younger guy getting counsel from the older, wiser guy about coming out?
"How can I make it up to you?" Joe pleaded.
"You need to stop drinking -now." he answered without hesitation. Joe slumped against him in defeat. He nodded, very ashamed of his lapse.
"And you need to be honest with me." Sam added. He almost said "with yourself" but thought better of it at the last second. He needed sympathy not berating. Joe nodded again, picking at a bandage across the back of his right hand.
"What happened to your hand?" Sam noticed it for the first time, a spot of dried blood staining it. Joe covered it with his other hand.
"Nothing." he dismissed but Sam gave him a warning look. Joe tensed at the reproach.
"Itís a long story." he trailed off and looked away. Sam saw the mental struggle Joe was going through so he remained silent . All in good time, he reminded himself.
"Itís a just so hard sometimes- living this life." Joe rasped, his voice broken with anxious breathing and the urge to cry.
"It doesn't have to be this way." Sam said with conviction. He rose and carefully placed a blanket around Joeís shoulders as he sat like a lost child staring at the floor. Sam knelt down and removed Joeís shoes, massaging his feet. Sam looked deeply into his face, gauging his mood, waiting for a sign from him what to do next. Joe managed a smile, touched by all the ministrations.
"Youíre really too good for me." Joe was amazed at Samís quiet resolve. He wouldnít put up with this miserable self-pity. Actually he didnít, thatís why he was a mess.
"Nah, Iím just a sucker for older men. "
Joe felt guilty for involving Sam in his problems. He was such a sweet guy he didnít deserve this. Part of him wanted to leap up and flee but he sat still with Sam holding his foot. That he didnít run away was an encouraging sign. He wasnít backing away from the cliff edge this time.
" I know you probably want to talk but can I just be with you for now?" Joe asked plaintively. Sam smiled and nodded.
He would have to wait until Joe was ready to talk. Samís mother always said he had the patience of a saint and she was right. He was willing to wait for Joe to come out of his fear lined shell. He lead Joe over to the bed where he reduced him to his underwear then removed his own clothes and joined him under the covers. They watched TV for awhile then halfway through the news Sam noticed Joe was asleep so he snapped it off and held him.
Talk to me Joe, Sam thought, as he smoothed with the rapidly thinning spot of hair on the top of Joeís head. Tell me whatís holding you down, he mentally called to him, resisting the urge to shake him and force it out. No, he has to come out willingly Sam reasoned with a heavy sigh.
Joe looked out the window watching a steady rain. The day looked as drab and gray as he felt. He bumped his injured hand as he reached out to steady himself from the bed and winced in pain. It reminded him of the dream that woke him. It was his father again, this time his face bloated with anger while pressing down to the injured hand as hard as he could, growling at Joe for breaking a valuable vase. It came all the way from Italy with his mother. How could you be so thoughtless, he thundered. Joe woke sweating and realized, as far as he knew the vase was still at the old family bar in itís revered place.
"Ah shit, so much for a warming trend." he heard Sam say. He turned to see him rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
"Hey handsome." Sam said cheerfully. Joe grimaced, he knew he didnít look good.
"Iím not a morning person." he mumbled and looked out the window again dreading the confrontation that was about to come. He promised Dave he would deal with this and wished he hadnít. He rubbed his hand and looked at Sam who regarded him silently with an intense expression of anticipation.
"Joe, talk-" Sam began.
"I know." Joe interrupted and began to dress quickly, the impulse to flee taking hold of him but his body refused to obey. He slowed his movements, hoping Sam would say something to speed his retreat. He looked at Sam who was also calmly dressing. Sam said nothing further while he made a pot of coffee but his silence weighed on Joe as if he had been lectured. Sam took hold of Joeís arm as he handed him a mug.
"Why are you afraid of being gay?" he asked bluntly and Joe shrank.
"Iím not afraid." he protested his voice rising in volume. Sam looked at him with barely concealed disgust. Joe averted his gaze unable to meet the disappointment in his face.
" Your father told you to keep your mouth shut but that was a long time ago." Sam pressed on trying to shake loose some of the burden of guilt.
"Yeah well heís an asshole, thatís why I moved as far away as I could." Joe bristled at the intrusion, he could feel himself being pushed closer to the edge of the cliff.
"Why are you still letting him run your life?" Sam asked incredulous.
"Thatís not it, itís not him." Joe realized Sam had it all wrong. Of course he did, he couldnít possibly know the truth. He scratched at a phantom itch on his right forearm.
"Does it have to do with your leaving baseball?" Sam asked. Joe gasped as if he had been slapped and knew immediately Dave had spoken to Sam. That bastard he fumed. He wished he had never let Dave in on his nightmare. Looking at Samís demanding expression he knew there was no escape. It was time, time to jump off the cliff and die or be free of the terrible pain that held him.
"You do not want to go there." Joe said dangerously. Sam continued to watch him with a firm but compassionate expression as Joe paced the floor like a frightened animal. Joeís breath came in short rapid gasps. Sam waited quietly. He had spent time on his uncleís ranch long enough to know how to soothe a spooked horse. It had the desired effect, Joe halted and set his forgotten mug on the table.
He looked at Sam in a way he never had before. He seemed like a nice, easygoing young man, polite and considerate. Joe now saw a ruthless poker player sitting with a winning hand-he never imagined. The kid had balls. Dave saw it too, thatís why he put Sam up to this. Heíd get even with his old friend later, he thought, his nostrils flaring with rage. Despite his anger Joe knew he did the right thing. He sat down on the couch in defeat, listening to the rain hitting the roof in a soothing rhythm. He wished there was thunder and lightening but that was rare in the northwest. He remembered them from his childhood, the smell of ozone and the heaviness of humidity swept away by a good thunderstorm. Everything looked clean and brand new. Joe took a deep breath and stepped off the cliff.
"I love baseball, I love everything about it, the game, the sound of a bat connecting with a ball, the rush of a double play and the crowds excitement. Most of all I loved the camaraderie with the guys. That and the tight pants." he joked, a smile briefly lit his face. Sam sat down on the edge of the bed and listened.
"I was discovering my sexuality in the dark moments between ball games, hiding as my father demanded. I longed to tell my buddies, my best friends, but I knew they wouldnít-" he stopped, his throat suddenly tight. Sam got him a glass of water then returned to the edge of the bed, his face impassive.
"By accident Dave saw me leaving a gay bar and I was terrified I Ďd been discovered but he was so cool about it. I think he found it- novel. I figured if he was cool maybe the other team mates would be." Joeís face clouded with heartache.
"I decided to come out to them one at a time, first to a guy named Tom. An upright guy and a great player, real supportive and positive. He didnít say a word when I told him, he just stared at me with a look of shock. I was scared shitless he would out me when he avoided me afterwards. " Joe drained the glass of water in one gulp and put a trembling hand to his head as he bowed in exhaustion at the memory. He paused so long Sam was about to say something when Joe looked at him with eyes brimming with tears.
"I didnít leave baseball. I was the pitcher and damn good. I was ready to make the leap to the majors but my team mates had other ideas." he voice became brittle and fierce." Tom told two other guys about me and one night they came to my apartment. They held me down, and broke my arm in three places with a bat."
Sam sat in shock, horrified at the violence inflicted on him. Sam instinctively reached out and touched his arm. That did it for Joe, like hell bursting he keened with deep grief. How could they do that? Joe asked himself for the thousandth time. How could his friends, guys he played and partied and laughed with, do that? Guys he trusted. They saw his being gay as a betrayal but they were the ones who betrayed the trust with their act of violence. God how he hated the motherfuckers, he raged as he tore them out of the dark recess they had lodged in his soul. Their foul stench finally excised from his memory.
Joe slowed his sobbing until it was a soft whimper. He rose suddenly realizing he was a mess and went into the small bathroom to wash his face. He emerged with a towel which Sam took and dried his face, kissing him as he did so. Joe snatched at Samís wrist as another revelation came to him and Sam did not resist the tight hold, seeing the look of astonishment on Joeís face.
"Thatís why Iím careful who I come out to, because I donít want to get hurt again." all the fear that held him dissolved. Sam kissed the hand that gripped him. Joe let go and Sam continued to press his lips to the bandaged hand. Finally he took Joeís face in his hands, the eyes still red and swollen from crying.
"I love you Joe Rossini. " He said in a clear voice. Joe gave a self conscious laugh, he had never heard those words said to him by another man.
"You are the bravest man I have ever met." he went on. Joe laughed again, this time a cynical bark.
"No, Iím a coward."
"Not anymore." Sam amended and gave him a deep passionate kiss.
Sam made breakfast but Joe ate little. Sam gently asked if he wanted to go home or for a walk but Joe shook his head fiercely. He seemed rooted to the plush chair he occupied, unaware of his surroundings. Sam ached for the turmoil Joe was going through and knew he needed comfort and distraction from his troubled soul. They passed the day quietly watching movies on TV and talking about them- they both had a passion for cinema. In the evening Joe took a long shower after a dinner of leftovers and lay down in bed. Sam joined him and they held each other for a long time as Sam caressed him.
"Sam I want you to make love to me." Joe said suddenly, his voice hushed as if in a church. Sam shifted to look at his drawn face, even his beard looked weary.
"Are you sure?" he asked. Joe sat up on one elbow.
"I havenít had anyone since. . ." he voice drifted off. "I drank heavily after my arm healed and let myself be taken too often, brutally sometimes in a twisted attempt to punish myself further." he looked down at his hand expecting more rejection but Sam touched his face in an understanding gesture.
" I know the feeling." he said reminding Joe of his own earlier confession.
"I didnít trust anyone after I sobered but I trust you." Joe started to say more but instead he rolled over on his stomach before Sam could register a reaction. Sam reached for him, his hand hovering over the round ass as he contemplated the request. Dave trusted him, Joe trusted him and he did not want to fail that trust. He rested his hand on Joe who responded with a twinge. Sam gently massaged him, his hand burrowing between the mounds of flesh. Joe spread his legs allowing more access to Samís probing. He leaned down and kissed the back of Joeís neck, feeling him tense slightly.
"Just say when." Sam whispered in his ear and Joe sighed again. He worried Joe wasnít ready for this but when he pushed a finger into him, he discovered Joe had cleaned himself thoroughly in the shower. Sam prepared himself with a condom and lube then knelt carefully behind him. Pushing in slowly, amazed at how tight yet yielding Joe was to the entry. Sam leaned against the bigger manís bulk reaching around to fondle his cock. Joe rose slightly and Sam was buried completely, their balls resting against each other. Sam rocked slowly at first but increased speed as the tight grip sent him into overdrive. He quickened his pace to catch up with his passion. Joe groaned underneath him and he immediately slowed, instantly focused on Joeís comfort. He gently turned Joe onto his back who looked up at him startled. Sam remained between his legs, caressing Joe, a hand tracing his beard along the line of his chin.
Sam pressed against him and Joe panicked in sudden anxiety. He shook his head, not sure he liked lying there so vulnerable with his arms and legs spread. He flashed on the image of a dog exposing himself the same way in submission to the alpha male. Sam smiled and cradled him, holding him protectively. Joe finally relaxed; convinced he was safe in his loverís embrace. Joe gave a small sharp nod and closed his eyes.
Sam resumed his lovemaking, keeping a steady rhythm like a runner in a long race. He wanted it to last but the pressure built up in him and he was rapidly headed to the finish. With a loud groan he thrust forward and shuddered as he crossed the line, his heart pounding loudly. Everything blurred for a moment then he became awareness of his heavy breathing and Joe moving under him. He slowly disengaged and rolled over next to Joe, watching his face. He still had his eyes closed and had a serene expression on his face. As Joe slowly opened his eyes a tear escaped and rolled down the side of his face.
"Thank you." he whispered and gulped down his rising emotion. Sam leaned in and kissed him, glad he helped Joe cross some private threshold he feared to tread. He rose and went to the bathroom to clean up. Joe joined him a minute later and wrapped his arms around Samís torso, burying his face in the nape of his neck. They stood and swayed in the afterglow of their intense union.
"Ready to face the world now?" Sam asked in half jest.
"No. " Joe replied seriously. Samís smile faded. Joe had a lot to think about before coming out to his friends and Sam would have to be patient with him. He caught Joe looking at him in the mirror.
"Ask me in a month." he said in a tacit promise to not retreat to his old shell. Sam took his hands and nodded at the reflection.
Chapter 5 -epilogue
The grand opening of This Old Bar was upon him as Joe paced the floor in a panic. Since his breakdown he remained a recluse in his apartment, refusing to go anywhere or see anyone but Sam. He was in too much shock to deal with the bar. Sam was there every day for the finish work, practically living with Joe, giving him a detailed report. The focus on work had a soothing effect on Joe, keeping him from further emotional meltdown. He felt terribly guilty at first letting Sam deal with all the work but Sam dismissed his concern.
He loved what Sam had done with the place the moment he set eyes on it three days before, much to Samís relief. The bar was dark but comfortable with wood wainscot paneling with walls painted a pool table green. Vintage posters of beer and soda advertisements, classic movies and a few baseball greats. Joe was displeased with those but Sam promised that was the extent of any sports motif. The round oak tables were surrounded by mismatched chairs giving the place the feel of a comfy family room. The adjoining restaurant was lighter in color; the same dark wainscoting but the walls were cream colored. There were the same oak tables with matching straight back chairs.
Joe smoothed his nervousness as staff scurried about quietly putting on the finishing touches. Glasses were spotlessly displayed, bottles of liquor stood in military rows before the mirror running the length of the bar. The wood was polished to a high gloss. A brass foot rail and leather covered stools were lined up proudly.
Opening a new bar was always nerve wracking with all the tiny last minute details. Joe intended to make an important announcement at Samís urging. He had stepped off the cliff to freedom, now it was time to see if he would land on his feet or fall flat on his face. Sam came over and put a comforting hand on his shoulder and Joe jumped.
"Donít worry, youíll be fine." He said, assuring him for the hundredth time that day.
An hour later friends and staff from The Iron Grill began to arrive, with much gawking admiration at the barís decor. Samís face threatened to split from the wide grin at the compliments he received. He constantly pointed to Joe and gave him full credit, causing him to blush. Bill arrived looking like Conan the Barbarian in a suit. He shook Joeís hand vigorously while introducing his girlfriend Sondra, a tall redheaded woman at his side. Bill grew serious and grabbed Joeís arm.
"Good to see you again bud." he said with affection. Joe was afraid Bill was offended by his absence during the end of the remodel but he showed no sign of it. Without much explanation Sam simply explained that Joe was too stressed.
A musician played jazz guitar from the small stage while everyone filled up with alcohol and food from the buffet. Sam nudged Joe to go ahead when the guitarist was done with his set. Joe stood on the stage and got everyoneís attention.
"I want to thank you all for coming, giving your help and support in bringing this place to life. Especially to Bill Thorson and his excellent crew for all their hard work." Joe indicated Bill sitting down in front. There was a burst of applause.
"Bullshit, itís that little twerp you hired." he roared back and everyone laughed.
"Speaking of that twerp. " Joe gave Sam a lopsided smile.
"I want to thank him for his diligent work here, this really is his vision." again everyone applauded forcing Sam to stand and take a bow.
"I also want to thank him for, um something. . ." Joe said hesitantly and everyone quieted at his serious expression. Joe glanced over at Dave whose gaze held him with such affection and anticipation Joe could hardly breathe.
"I have a confession to make, I have been living a lie for many years and I want to thank Sam for making me realize I canít lie anymore." Joe looked straight at Sam, who watched him with obvious love. Here I go, Joe thought as he turned to the expectant crowd.
"Iím gay." there was clap of silence and Joe trembled as he waited.
"Thank God, for a minute I thought you were going to tell us youíre Republican." Bill blurted followed by laughter and applause from the others. Most greeted the news with a mixture of surprise, relief and a causal "so what" shrug.
"Wow, I had no idea." Bernard said to no one in particular in a shameless attempt at surprise. Dave came over and wrapped Sam in a bear hug.
"Damn, I never thought Iíd see the day." he joked but there was enormous relief at no longer having to bear the burden of hiding Joeís source of anguish.
Joe was struck by the effect of the pronouncement. He hadnít expected it, but like a stone dropped in a pond, the effect rippled through the lives of those around him.
Rita, a petite woman with a pinched scowl on her face pushed her way to the front of the crowd around Joe. Joe tensed as she faced him. He always respected and kept his distance from the proud, fierce chef who ran the kitchen like a drill sergeant.
"Iím very disappointed in you Joe Rossini, I wasted three years lusting after your ass." there was silence at her rebuke until she broke into a girlish giggle. Joe hunched his shoulders in a vain attempt to hide his acute blush. There would be no end to the ribbing from her for a while. Rita reached up and gave Sam a kiss on the cheek.
"Lucky bastard, you be good to this man or Iíll kick your ass." she threatened.
"Then sheíll saute you in butter with mushrooms." Joe added half jokingly.
Sam quickly agreed, seeing the impact in Joeís revival. He couldnít be happier for the guy. Joe was equally amazed at how well everyone took his revelation in stride and he wondered why he worried so much. He walked around the room greeting people with Sam close to his side, frequently touching him on the arm or shoulder to assure him. Everyone hugged or shook Joeís hand, congratulating him on his courage. Joe would nod, too overcome to form words pass the tight knot in his throat. Some as he expected, sat in icy silence or quickly left the celebration. He suspected there would be a few resignations on his desk tomorrow.
One older man stared at Joe and his friends with visible disgust. He managed the building where The Iron Grill was. A condition of the sale to Dave and Joe was his continued employment doing maintenance. He was the most unpleasant man Joe ever met. Joe saw him out of the corner of his eye, approaching with confrontation in mind but was intercepted by Daveís large frame . There was a brief exchange then the man shot the lovers an evil look and left. Dave sauntered over, smoothing his tie as he did. Joe gave him a questioning look.
"Thank God, Iíd been trying to fire the bastard for years." he dismissed." Hey we should put together a baseball league with the other bars and restaurants. what do you think?" Dave enthusiastically wondered out loud.
Joe had adamantly refused this idea in the past. Dave was taking advantage of his off balance state. Several others heartily agreed with Dave and he felt his resolve wan. He shot Dave a dirty look. This was all happening too fast, Joe thought.
"Itís a great idea and I, for one would love to see you in tight pants." Sam smiled and Joe blushed, uncomfortable with the banter. He nodded vaguely and Dave slapped him on the back while the others celebrated. Looking around at the approval a weight lifted from Joe as realized he had a new life to go with his new bar and it felt good.