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by the way

Chapter Twenty Six

8 July 2006

I was felt like I was losing my mind. This couldn't be happening. This wouldn't be happening, because I wasn't going to allow it.

I turned away from the door and went to the refrigerator. Rummaging around, I pulled out the fixin's for the burgers, then set them on the counter. A minute later the bathroom door opened, and Don stepped out wearing his shorts and shirt again. Thank God he wasn't the type of guy to sit around shirtless, or I'd never be able to concentrate on anything.

We fixed our plates and headed out to the porch to eat, and did so mainly in silence. I don't know if it was all of the whiskey I'd had that day, but my head was starting to hurt. I couldn't take any more of the mental tennis match between Don and Alan, and thankfully my mind was finally able to shut those thoughts down.

After dinner we played Monopoly for a little while. I say 'a little while' because it didn't take long before Don owned more than half the board. Once he'd totally kicked my ass, taken all of my railroads and then my money, we took a couple of drinks out onto the porch and sat down. The whiskey bottle was nearly empty. Though I had been drinking pretty steadily throughout the afternoon, at that particular moment I wasn't feeling smashed, just really buzzed. Don drank almost a twelve-pack and hardly seemed affected at all.

I sat down on the porch swing, he pulled up a chair across from me, then I took a little cheap table that was on the porch and set it between us where we could start playing Gin. He kicked my ass at that, too. Several times

"I give up!" I sat back in the swing, irritated.

"Hey man, what can I say."

"Nothing! Don't say a friggin' word. I didn't know that you were so damned good at games. Jeeze."

"I'm good at a lot of things," he smirked.

"Please. My head can't handle that kind of thought," I said, and he busted out laughing.

Don got up and walked over to the door, stepped inside and turned off the light. The interior lights cast a nice glow onto the porch and the area around the cabin. I heard him rummaging around in the cooler for another beer, but when he stepped back outside he had a glass in his hand. "You don't mind do you?" he asked, gesturing to the whiskey in his glass.

" 'Course not," I replied.

He walked over and moved the table out of the way. "Scoot over," he said.

I looked up at him. "Do what?"

"I don't feel like staring at a wall, sitting in that chair. Scoot over," he repeated.

Oh shit!

I scooched over to one end of the swing. It was about four feet wide or so, and both of us would fit on it. Don sat down and the swing rocked back and forth a little beneath his added weight. With one hand I held the chain on my side that connected the swing to the ceiling; with the other I held my drink. I glanced over and saw that Don was sitting in a mirror image of mine. Slowly, the swing started moving forward and back.

I did my best not to think about him sitting there next to me. I really did. For several minutes I'd retained a clear head. But then all I could picture in my head was me rubbing his back. Only it wasn't his back as I'd massaged it back in high school. It was his back, today. Fuck! Finally, I decided to just let my mind go where it obviously wanted to take me. I closed my eyes and leaned my head against my arm which was holding onto the swing chain. I had visions of him and me in bed, our naked bodies wrapped around each other, holding his face and kissing him. I was wanting him so damn badly at that second, and my dick started to respond to my brain. I crossed an ankle over the other knee to hide from his sight what was becoming a raging hard on. I couldn't take my thoughts anymore and stood up from the swing. Then I walked over to the railing and leaned over it, my forearms resting on top.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Mm hm."

I could hear the chains tapping against each other as the swing rocked back and forth. There wasn't very much of a moon shining yet, and if I had been in the right frame of mind, the night sounds of the woods could've lulled me to sleep right where I was standing.

"I'm glad we got to come up here this weekend," Don said.

"Me too, bud. Me too."

"Why'on't we do this more often, Paul?"

"Don't know. I've been so busy lately that sometimes I forget about taking a break."

There was a pause before he spoke again. "I kinda wish we came up here earlier in the summer. 'Sucks that you'll be going off to school again."

"Well. We can always come back over Christmas break. Maybe a few of us could come back here for a week or so."

"Few. What few?"

"Hell, I don't know. Maybe have some of your other friends come up, turn it into a big weekend."

"Nahhh. I'd rather keep it small. It's more relaxin' this way."

"Just us?" I asked.

"Mm hmm," he replied, and I could hear him taking a sip of the whiskey. The swing creaked and the chains rattled as he stood up and walked up to the railing next to me. He nudged my shoulder with his forearm and said, "Just us."

I stood quickly and said, "I need another drink." Stepping inside I asked him, "There's some left, isn't there?"

"Enough for one more drink, I bet."

Just enough, I thought, emptying the contents into my glass. My defenses were getting mighty low, but the voice in my head hadn't returned since earlier in the evening. Christ, I really didn't need him sleeping right now.

"Can I ask you a question," he asked as I came back outside.

"Suuuuure. G'head."

"You drunk?" he smiled.

"Nah. Just buzzed. A nice warm buzz. I've had it for a while."

"Well, you did drink almost a whole bottle of whiskey," he pointed out.

"It was a small bottle. Plus I'm Irish, so nobody's huntin' me down for my liver."

He laughed at that. "You're always talkin' about bein' Italian."

"I'm that, too. But right now I'm into the fermented potatoes."

He laughed out loud. "You dope."

"Mm hmm. So, what'dja wanna ask me?"

He shrugged his shoulders and looked back out into the night. "I dunno."

"Uh oh, this's gotta be good."

"Well, I know that you probably get sick of me asking this...I know I've brought it up before...but what's the deal with Alan now?"

"Oh, shit. Alan. He's at school."

"I know that, dumb ass. I meant with you and him."

I chuckled a bit. "I know what you meant. Just fuckin' with ya. We're still crazy about each other. I love 'im like a mad dog, and I know he feels the same for me, but..."

"But what?"

"Alan seems to have a problem with distance. I don't know why. I don't know if it's an insecurity thing or what. He's never really been able to explain it, and to tell you the truth, I don't think he really understands it. I just accept it."

"Accept what?"

"Accept that in order for us to get back together, we have to be living a lot closer and have more contact than only on weekends. I don't like it. I mean, when he first went off to school, I didn't like the separation, but I thought I was handling it. One thing that I found out recently was that I was the best friend he's had. Ever."

"Well duh," he said.

"What's that mean?"

"You kidding? Jeeze, Paul, sometimes, you really are blind as a bat. The guy talked about you non-stop. Still does, as a matter of fact. At least, when I'm around him. It's like he knows every move you make and wants to let everyone know that he knows."

I laughed a bit. "You make him sound like a stalker."

"Dope," he grumbled. "I just don't think that he you not around."

I thought for a second. "What d'you mean?"

"Well, the guy's still nuts for you, that much is obvious. I think, and this is just a guess, but I think that when you're not around, he doesn't know how to be."

I thought about that for a minute. "I'm still lost, Don. What the hell are you saying?"

"I think that when y'all are separated, the guy is totally lost without you. He feels like he's a part of you, and you're a part of him, and with y'all apart most of the time, the part of him that's you is missing. And maybe he can't date you, or whatever, and be separated for so long because it makes him feel...less than whole. It's order for him to feel...shit, 'complete' isn't the word, but it'll work...while y'all are together, he needs you there on a daily basis. And hell, I could be wrong about the whole thing. Maybe he just wants you so damn much and doesn't want to be in a position to say 'hey we're a couple, but we hardly see each other'. It's easier to have this distance between y'all if you're just friends and not...boyfriends, or whatever. Does that make sense, or is the whiskey starting to brew my brain."

"Well, I think that the beer got there first," I laughed. "I dunno, man." I climbed onto the railing and sat, leaning against a post. "But, that's...uh...quite insightful of you, Mister Keller." I turned to look at him.

He shrugged his shoulders again and turned away from me to look into the new shadows that had started to be cast by the late-rising moon. The lights from inside the cabin were behind him and it was hard to read his face, but I thought I saw something there.

"You've been there, haven't you," I stated.

He didn't respond.

"You've been where he's at now, haven't you," I said again.

Don just stared off into the woods, sipping his whiskey every now and then. "I was. I used to think like he does, or like I'm assuming he thinks. It sucked."

"You talkin' about Elizabeth?"

He looked at me funny. "What the hell made you think of her?"

"Dude, she was the only girl I knew that you'd dated. I mean, I know you've dated other girls, or gone out, whatever, but I never really knew any of them, or that they'd affected you like she did."

He snorted. "No. I was not where Alan is in his head now with Elizabeth."

"Then who?"

He drank again. "Does it really matter?"

"Well, I guess not."

"I need another beer," he said.

"Hang on, I'll get it." I hopped off of the railing, took his empty glass and mine inside, grabbed him another beer from the chest, then got back onto my perch outside.

"So," he continued, "what do you think'll happen with you guys after he graduates?"

"Shit," I laughed, "who the fuck knows. He's got the friggin' NFL out lookin' at his ass, and I still have four more years of studio. Fuck! Sometimes I wish I'd never wasted time in business school."

"Do you think he has a chance? I mean, playing professionally?"

"Shit man, I dunno. You know me and sports. I'm a total homo when it comes to that stuff." At that, Don died laughing. "Well I am, dammit. I know that he's supposed to be a great running back or full back." He laughed again. "Well? I can't keep that straight. I just know that he's a really big deal at UGA. To me, he's just Alan."

"So will y'all get back together?"

"At this point, I'd love to, but I really don't know."

"Four years is an awful long time to wait," he said, a bit of a doubtful look on his face.

"I know. Waiting three has sucked so far. Well, I shouldn't say that. I never really realized that I was waiting all this time. For a while I kinda pushed the whole thing out of my mind."

"So let's say he doesn't get drafted, if they're even interested in him, and he graduates in the spring. What then?"

"Well, after that, I'll only have three years left of school."

"But he won't be with you on campus, and I'm guessing that studio will get even harder as you get further into it. So it's not like you'll have a lot of time to spare, which is apparently what he's needing."

A lot of what he was saying was starting to seep into my whiskey-addled brain.

"And," he went on, "four years is a long time to wait for someone who's only an hour or so away. I mean, it's not like he went off to the Persian Gulf or anything. He's right here, in Georgia, so it's not like y'all can't get together more often. Four years, man...what does that mean for you?"


"Four years of waiting. Right? Don't you want someone in your life before then? Don't you think you'll be...lonely?"

"Yeah....and gee, thanks for pointing that out."

"And yet you still love the guy," he stated.

I nodded. "Yeah. I still do."

He turned the bottle up and took a final pull from his beer.

It was my turn to look at him. "Okay, bud, I gotta ask you this." I paused, not really sure I wanted to ask the question, but I had to know. "Maybe it's just the whiskey muscle I got. I know I'd normally never ask you this question, and I hope that I don't offend you, or piss you off, or...I don't know--"

"What, already?"

"You won't get pissed?"

"How the hell would I know if I'd get pissed. You haven't asked me yet." He stood there grinning.

"I know. I'm kinda at the low end of the tank on friends right now, and I just don't know how you'll respond--"

"Dammit, man, will you ask!" he laughed an exasperated laugh.

I took a deep breath and blew it out. Closing my eyes, I opened my mouth. "Are"

There was no response from him. I was expecting to be smacked on the back of the head or shoved off the railing, but nothing happened. I turned and looked at Don. He had a strange look on his face. "Did I ask that out loud?" I asked.

He barely shook his head, and said quietly, "No, Paul. I'm not gay. Definitely not that. Not that there's anything wrong with gay people." I laughed because it sounded like he was trying to back peddle. "I'm just not gay, that's all."

"It's okay. I know you don't think there's anything wrong with us 'faygs'," I laughed.

" 'Ey. I told you I don't like you talkin' like that."

"What? Saying 'fag'? Who cares. Nobody ever hurt me by a saying a stupid word."

"Well, it just doesn't sound very nice. And anyway, my best friend is gay, so of course I don't have a problem with that," he said with a smile.

"He is?" I was a bit shocked. "Who?"

He craned his neck a bit towards me. "Idiot. Are you for real?" Again with the 'dumb ass' tone to his voice.

"Yeah. This is news to me," I said.

"Well, since the world isn't exactly over-populated with gay guys, and I only know two, I guess that'd make it you."

"Me? I'm your best friend?" Now I was totally shocked.

He gave me another 'dumb ass' look and rolled his eyes. "Well, it ain't Alan."

I kept opening and closing my mouth in surprise.

"You're gonna catch flies, Lyons. It's not like I told you somethin' you didn't know."

"But...I didn't. I didn't know I was your best friend."

"Well, we tough guys don't talk like that a whole lot."

"Oh yeah you do. 'I love you like a brother, man.' I distinctly remember you saying that to me right after you graduated," I joked.

"Ehhh. Must've been drunk," he laughed.

"You know," I laughed with him, "I think you were."

"I'm curious, though, why'd you think that I might be gay?"

"Oh shit! How about when we wrestled around at my house the day of the move. And sometimes your comments, well, they sound...sort of like you're interested in me. And you've become quite the touchy-feely kinda guy, lately." I was laughing a bit now as a wave of relief washed over me. If Don wasn't gay, then there was definitely no choice to be made between him and Alan.


"Yeah. It's no big deal. You're always putting your hand on my back, or whatever."

"And that's gay?"

"No goof. I think I was just--"

"You were just wishful thinking weren't ya. A-ha!" He laughed at himself. In my mind a part of me was thinking, 'yeah, wishful thinking.'

"No, dope, what I was saying was that I was probably just seeing things that weren't really there. What can I say. I'm gay!" I laughed. "And it's not like you're ugly or anything, don't get me wrong--"

"So I'm right, it was wishful thinking," he nodded with a Cheshire cat grin.

"No, it wasn't--"

"So it is wishful thinking. Hmm," he said as I continued to laugh, "I didn't think I'd be pokin' in your whiskers anytime soon, because of friggin' Alan bein' on your mind constantly. But maybe if you're good..." his voice trailed off as he headed off of the deck a bit to take a leak.

"Now you're just bein' a fuckin' tease, man," I said.

"Nope," he said, still peeing with his back towards me. "I just found out that my best friend has a crush on me." He finished and returned to the deck. "Talk about an ego boost! Yo!" I couldn't help but die laughing. "Well, I'm a bit too buzzed to take you tonight. Maybe tomorrow?"

I couldn't help it. It must've been a combination of the whiskey and the relief I'd felt that I didn't have to make a choice, but I let out a huge belly laugh and slipped off of the railing. I fell onto my ass with a big thud, and the little table rattled a little as Don started laughing at me. Fortunately, I wasn't hurt.

"Damn son, it wasn't that funny," he said.

"No, I know. It's just that...all this time I've been freakin' out about you and Alan." My laughter slowly died down.


"Don, I thought that you were gay, and I'll admit, I couldn't get you out of my mind because of it."

"Why?" he asked again.

"Well, I thought that you might be interested in me because of those things I'd mentioned, and I was agonizing're gonna laugh."

He rolled his eyes.

"I kept thinking that if you'd felt something for me, I knew it'd be easy for me to feel that way for you. I mean hell, you and Alan are the two closest people in my life. I was freakin' out thinking that if you were interested in me, then I might have to make a choice between you and him."

"Really. Why a choice?"

"Duh. Isn't that obvious? But I guess it doesn't matter now, because you could never be interested in me, especially considering that you're straight. So now I don't have to make a choice, because one won't ever be presented. I mean, I love ya both, but my plumbing works differently than a girl's does, ya know." I was still amused at the whole thing.

Suddenly, a very strained look came over Don's face. It looked like a combination of shock and hurt, and he looked like he was wanting to tell me something very badly. " don't think you could...feel for me as you do for him?" he asked.

For a while we had been joking and laughing, but now we were getting serious again, and I didn't like it. "Look Don, I don't mind tellin' you this because one, I'm gay, and two, I'm buzzed...or vice-versa...but yeah. I love both of y'all. I really do. I just know that what'll be different about Alan is that I can be more than just friends with him. I can't, with you."

He folded his arms across his chest. "And why's that?"

I was starting to feel like I was in Bizarro World. "Don. You just told me you're not gay. I think that would make...relating...difficult, to say the least."

He nodded a bit. "I can see how you'd think that." He remained silent for a moment, and then laughed nervously. "Shit, how'd we get into all of this talk?"

"Oh you know, there are different stages of being drunk. There's the buzzed stage, the drunk stage, and the confession stage." Don laughed. "We just had a serious blip, that's all." I lifted my empty glass and said, "To best friends."

He held up his empty bottle. "To best friends."

Don and I stayed up a little while longer shootin' the shit before heading upstairs. He was in one bed and I was in the other one across the room from him. All of the windows were opened, and with the sound of the fans humming I was drifting off to sleep in no time. The last thought that I was aware of was thinking how unfortunate it was that I couldn't' have a guy like Don to date. He was a damn good friend, which was a good start.....

* * *

The next morning we drove over to Helen, which is touted as "A Bavarian village in the North Georgia mountains." Give me a break. Hansel and Gretel thought that they had it bad when the witch wanted to throw them into the oven. I couldn't stand the damn place, and no matter how much I tried to stay away from it, I always seemed to be visiting there with friends or family every year or two. I mean yeah, there were a few shops that had some authentic German things for sale, and some good German restaurants, but overall I always thought that the place was too damn Disneyland for me.

We found a bakery that had some incredible pastries, though, and ate breakfast there. Unicoi state park wasn't that far away, and we were on the road out of Helen by around nine o'clock. There was some sort of convention center around the back side of the lake that had a fishing pier nearby, and that's where I headed. At that time of year, not too many people were vacationing, as most of the elementary and high schools had opened back up for the new school year. We got to the pier and unloaded our fishing gear and chairs. The pier itself was located inside a small inlet which was surrounded by a mountain on one side and a more hilly forest on the other. We had the place to ourselves.

Don and I weren't fishing to catch anything, we were doing it just for the hell of it I hadn't been fishing in forever and felt like an idiot getting my new Zebco 33 ready. At one point, I almost hooked Don when I drew my arm back to cast off. We decided to separate so our lines wouldn't get crossed, and also so that I wouldn't give him any unwanted acupuncture.

I'd gotten a really good night's sleep. I know, whiskey'll do that to ya. Don seemed a little grumpier than normal. More accurately, he wasn't talking as much, and his head seemed to be somewhere else. It was a bit odd to me, because he's always been a guy who talked pretty easily to people.

We decided to forgo having lunch until after we hiked to Anna Ruby Falls, which was a short drive from where we'd been fishing. Though it was fairly warm outside, once you stepped beneath the tree canopy along the creek that the falls fed into, the air was quite cool. As you walk up to the falls, on your left is a pretty steep slope, steep enough that you'd want repelling gear if you climbed down it. The creek itself was probably twenty feet wide, or so, and on the other side the land had a bit of a lesser grade. There's a point that you have to cross over the creek on a little foot bridge. Nearby is a huge rock outcropping that's made up of two or three enormous boulders. It looked as though Mother Nature had stacked them up like a house of cards, and everyone with a camera would have their friends pose as though they were holding them up with their hands.

If you ever want to see the epitome of the North Georgia mountains, you only have to walk on that trail leading to the falls. The trees were a mix of hardwoods and yellow pines, which at one time were harvested by the same lumberman who'd named the falls after his daughters, Anna and Ruby. The waterfalls are a result of two creeks that flow over an embankment into one pool below, and then feed the creek that you hike along to see them. When we finally reached the viewing platform, we were surrounded by quite a few more tourists than you'd expect that late in the year.
I asked Don if everything was alright and told him that he seemed really out of it. He just said that he was really tired, and hadn't slept that much the night before. I didn't really believe him, but I let it drop. We'd covered some serious ground during our talk the night before, and for once I'd slept like a baby.

We didn't stay at the falls for long before we headed back into Helen for lunch at a deli. Still, he wasn't all that talkative. Part of me wanted to just pry him apart to find out what was going on in his head, but I'd long since learned that real friends shouldn't pry. Sometimes if it has to be pried, it should be left alone. As many friends as I've had go into and out of my life, especially over the previous four years or so, I was on a little bit of a high knowing that Don considered me his best friend. Alan thought of me that way too, and having the two guys that I loved the most feel that way for me just really made my world right. So I was still in a great mood during lunch, knowing how they both felt.

On the way back through Clarkesville to the cabin, we stopped off at the liquor store again. This time I opted for vodka, which was sometimes good to me and sometimes not. Don, however, bought two tall boys of beer and a bottle of whiskey as well. I must've had a funny look on my face when we were checking out, because he looked at me and asked, "What?"

I shook my head. "Nothing," and shrugged my shoulders.

"What do you want to eat tonight?" he asked.

"Um...I was gonna make spaghetti. Something easy."

"You mind if I cook a couple of steaks, instead?"

"Hey, sounds good, pal," I said as we left the store.

"Is there a general store around here somewhere? Where's that place we got ice the last time we all were up here?"

"We got the ice here, but the general store's somewhere else. Le'sgo."

Ten minutes later not only were we buying steaks, but Don picked up a couple of potatoes, some lettuce, carrots, bacon, green onions, cheese and tomatoes. He also grabbed a six-pack of 7-Up and two frozen cans of 5-Alive. At the last minute I grabbed a loaf of bread. It wasn't French, but in the mountains I guess there weren't a lot of people seeking baguettes.

"Impressive, bud," I said, pulling out of the parking lot. "You're gonna cook steaks and potatoes?"

He smiled. "Don't forget your greens, boy!"

"And a salad, too! Shit, how do I rate for this kinda treatment?"

He raised his eyebrows a bit and said, "I just figured that it might take a good meal to get you into the sack."

I died laughing at that, and he just shook his head and smiled.

"What's the juice for?"

"Ever have a drink called Swamp Water?" he asked.


"Well, it's pretty potent, and I'm gonna make that in case the steaks don't win you over."

I couldn't help but laugh at him again, and he just sat there smiling with a gleam in his eyes.

We'd gotten back to the cabin around two o'clock. Something else that Don had bought at the store were spices. I hadn't noticed them until he pulled them out of the bag along with the meat.

"What're those for?" I asked.

"I'm making a dry rub for the meat."

Being crude, I said, "I know all about meat and a dry rub."

He busted out laughing. "I'll bet you do. You really ought'a try some lotion sometime."

I was about to say something in return, but opted out.

"You ready for a drink?" Don asked.

"Mmm. Maybe in a little bit. I'm gonna head down to the creek. You wanna come?"

"I'll meet ya down there. Let me get these steaks marinating first."

"We don't have any steak sauce, dude."

"That's what the spices are for. I mix 'em up and then rub them onto the meat itself. That's where we get the term 'dry rub'."

"Ahh. Cool. Well, I'll be down at the creek."

He nodded, and I left the cabin to head down the hill. It was a beautiful late summer day in the mountains. The area around the cabin had been cleared out a little bit, and quite a bit of sunlight reached it. A little further down the hill and into the woods there were many more trees, and the forest floor was in continuous shade. It was nice to walk through the woods without kudzu and briars growing wild everywhere.

When I reached the creek I climbed over the boulders and then up the mountain face on the opposite side. It was the same place that Don and I had climbed to when we were here before my surgeries. Where I was sitting was about twenty feet or so above the creek, and I could see up the hill to the cabin a little bit better. I looked at it and imagined Don in there preparing our dinner. It was a really nice thought, and no matter how much I loved Alan and the way that I cared for him, there's nothing like having a frined like Don, who's worth his weight in gold.

At this point Don and I had been friends for around six years, and it didn't look like his was a friendship that would be going by the way as so many others had. I thought a lot about how much my life had changed once he and Alan had come into it. Sure, there was that period after Don had gone to North Carolina when things were my head and I'd wanted to end it all, but regardless of that time I knew that the guy always had my back. Alan did too, but I'm not sure what made things feel different when it came to Don. Maybe it was because I'd known him a little bit longer, or maybe I looked at Don's friendship differently because he wasn't gay.

I mentally rolled my eyes back in my head, thinking back to when I assumed that Don was interested in me because of his comments and gestures. It was sort of immature of me to think that a guy who made comments like that would automatically want to bed me. I'd remembered Alan telling me about how guys on the team were always joking around about sex with each other, and they never hopped into the sack. Man, what a scene that would be, though. Made me wish I'd played football, and I laughed out loud at the thought. I think what made me feel different about Don was that he was comfortable and strong enough with his own sexuality, or views or outlook, that he could joke around with me without wanting to take it any further.

That's what I was thinking as I sat on that ledge. It's amazing how time and events can alter a person's conceptions.

* * * *

When I returned to the cabin, instead of going inside I sat on the porch swing, my feet pushing me forward and back. Don called out from inside. "Hey man, you ready for that drink?"

"Hit me."

A minute later he came outside with a rather large plastic cup. "Here," he said, "try this."

I took the cup from him and sniffed it. "What's in this?" I took a sip. Hoofa! Whatever it was, it was strong.

"That's the Swamp Water I was tellin' you about."

"What's in it?"

"Well, I used the whole bottle of vodka, one of the tall boys, two cans of 7-Up, and the juice."

"Is this something you made up?" I asked.

"Nah. We used to make it at school."

"You didn't put your juice in here did ya?" I joked.

"Nope," he said, stepping back inside. Through the open windows I heard him say, "When I give you my juice it's gonna be by direct deposit."

As he said this I was taking a drink. I sputtered and choked a bit, then started laughing. "Damn, son. Talkin' like that, you're gonna be gay pret-ty damn soon."

"Nope," he said.

"Well Mama, when's supper gonna be ready?"

"Not for a few of hours. The steaks have to marinate for at least two hours, and the potatoes will take a while to bake, too. You want some chips or somethin'?"

"Shit. Turnin' all domestic on me. Who's yo daddy!"

He laughed and came back outside with a bag of pretzels and a bag of chips. Then he pulled the little table up in front of me again, and the deck of cards appeared from nowhere.

"So what do you think?" he asked, nodding to the drink.

"Damn, man, it's pretty strong. It's good, though," I took another drink.

"Well don't drink it too fast. It's potent."

And shit, how potent that drink was. Maybe it was because I hadn't eaten in a couple of hours, but I wasn't even finished with it when I started feeling buzzed. I slowed down drinking it as Don returned to kicking my ass at Gin, only this time I blamed my losing on the alcohol.

I decided to hold off on drinking any more until after we'd eaten dinner. And speaking of dinner, damn was it good. Don prepared the cheese and green onions, as well as cooked bacon, for the baked potatoes. He seared the steaks first on the grill, and then raised the rack so that they could cook nice and slow. By the time dinner was ready I was hungry enough to eat a horse. The smells were incredible. We ate almost without talking. I hadn't tasted a steak that good except in restaurants, and I made sure to tell Don how much I loved it and appreciated his cooking. He just smiled and nodded. Since we didn't have any really decent bread we made do by toasting the bread that we'd bought that day.

I cleaned up the dishes and Don fixed us both another drink. I still had a bit of a buzz going, but I was looking forward to more Swamp Water. "Bottom's up," he said, handing me my cup again.

"You wish," I grinned. It was fun flirting with him, I thought, now that I knew it was all just innocent. He just laughed and took a drink from his own cup.

After a while of drinking and shootin' the shit, Don decided that he wanted to get into the hot tub again. By then I was feelin' pretty loose, but not loose enough to get into the tub with him. It had nothing to do with Don, but had everything to do with my surgical scars. I was still very self conscious about them, and wasn't so drunk that I'd forgotten that they were there. I'm sure he could've cared less, but it was a personal thing. I sat with my legs in the tub, once again transfixed by Don's body in the water. Gay or not, it was hard not to fantasize about having his arms around me while we bullshitted and drank the rest of the evening away.

We talked about all the things that we used to do back in high school, all of the good times that we'd had. We talked about college and sports, and my lack of knowledge surrounding football. He'd mentioned wanting to start a business of his own someday, maybe a restaurant of some sort or a sports bar. We talked as though we had introduced ourselves to each other for the first time. I guess more accurately, it felt like we were catching up on the old times as if we'd lived them separately. Perhaps alcohol will do that to you. We were laughing and being loud, and Don stood up to climb out of the tub. He was a bit drunk too, and nearly fell over onto me as he lifted his leg over the side. I reacted by reaching my free hand up and bracing him from falling onto me. My hand landed just at the top of his chest, and my head did flip flops as I thought of the muscles flexing beneath his skin.

Damn. What a drink.

Don just laughed and grabbed a towel. My inhibitions were almost shot and I stared at his crotch as he dried his head and torso. Suddenly, he started laughing again. I looked up at his face. "You're somethin' else, Paul," he said.

I knew I'd been busted and I didn't care. I smiled and took the last drink from my second glass of that...potion. Yep. I was pretty far gone, my friends. For sure, I was damn too drunk to drive, but I could still walk and talk...and do other things.

"I'm gettin' changed," he announced, then walked inside. I could see that he wasn't exactly walking a straight line, and I stepped off the porch to take a piss. It seemed like I stood there forever, leaning against the side of the cabin as I emptied my bladder of two glasses of Swamp Water. I laughed out loud and said something to myself about making my own swamp water. "What?" he asked from inside.

"Nothin', man...just...taukin' to mahself."

"Ahhh, he is drunk," Don said.

"Was'sat?" I looked up as I walked inside.

"I said you're totally gettin' drunk."

"No! What makes ya say!"

" 'Cause, pal, yer startin' to tauk kuntry," he imitated.

I stopped and stared at him when I went in. Holy shit! my mind screamed. "Damn son, get'cho shirt on," I said.

He shook his head 'no'.

"You fuckin' with me, pal?"

"Nope. Just gettin' comfortable," he said. I saw that he'd changed out of his swim trunks into a pair of lose fitting gym shorts.

I laughed. "Don, I think you got me drunk for a reason."

He smiled and flashed his eyebrows at me.

"You know the matin' call of a Suthun girl?" I asked.


" 'Y'all, ahhm drunk." I got hysterical at my own joke. It was the liquor, I know. "Jeeze," I said, "this is kickin' mah ay-ess! How come you never gave this ta me before. It's....fffuckin'....fuck!"

"Fuckin' fuck, huh," he laughed again. My eyes were playing tricks on me because he seemed to be even closer than he was a second ago.

I shook my finger at him slowly. "Ahh know what yer tryin'a do. Yer tryin'a take a'vannage of me, ain'tcha."

He grinned. "Nah. I wouldn't want you to not be in total control of your senses. Just loosen up a little. We're havin' fun, right?"

I snorted. "Well, yer havin' fun, fuckin' around with me, ya shit," I laughed. Shit! He seemed like he was even closer than he was a moment ago.

"Trust me. I don't wanna just fuck around."

He was a step closer. Suddenly a bell went off inside my head.

"Don, please don't fuck around with me," I said, this time being more serious.

"I'm not." He had that look in his eye again. The same one he'd had in my house.

"You're not gay. Don't fuck around, here," I tried to laugh.

"I'm not gay." Again, a step closer.

I could reach out and touch his bare chest if I'd wanted to. I raised my hand to do just that, realized what I was doing, then dropped it again. "This isn't happening," I said to myself.

"Yeah, it is," he said, now about a foot away from me.

I laughed a bit and went to step away, "Dude, you sure know how to bullshit-"

"I'm not kiddin' anyone, Paul." I could see that he was breathing heavy, and he reached his arm out and put his hand on the wall to stop me from moving.

I could barely breath. "You'" It came out in a whisper.


I tried to push even further back into the wall, but there was nowhere to go. I swallowed hard and damned the buzz from the alcohol for allowing me to stand still where I was. Don put his other hand up on the wall as though he were reading my mind, and I was trapped between his arms.

"Then what--"

"I ain't gay..." he whispered. "Nervous, maybe...but not gay."

"I don't under--" He stopped me from talking by putting a couple of his fingers up to my mouth. I swallowed hard again and didn't finish what I was saying. Don slowly leaned in and his eyelids lowered as his eyes dropped to my mouth. I couldn't breathe. I'd taken in a breath but couldn't exhale. My dick was getting hard, fast.

"Just don't think, Paul." He spoke so quietly it sounded like a thought in my head. "Just lemme..." He turned his head slightly and kissed me on the lips. It was more like our lips brushed than anything else. By now, my dick was so hard and trapped in my shorts that it hurt. He leaned in and kissed me a little harder...and I kissed back. It was rather quick, and he leaned back again, both of us looking at each other. "You can breathe now, Paul."

I exhaled, and as I did I felt his hands on my jaw, pulling my face to his. Only this time I kissed him first. My mind was racing as I brought my arms around his naked torso, feeling for the first time the skin on his back. I started kissing him harder and he returned with just as much vigor. Holding his face in my hands I mashed my lips on his as years of sexual tension and wanting collided at that instant. Suddenly, I couldn't get enough of him.

I wrapped one arm around his shoulders and brought the other one down to feel his ass. It was tight as a rock and I stopped kissing him long enough to gasp. For so long I wanted exactly this, but now it all seemed like a dream to me. An extremely hard dream. I grabbed his waist and ground myself against him. Don was just as hard as I was. Suddenly, saner and more sober thoughts flew into my head, and I stopped kissing him. "Are you sure--"

He grabbed my face again. "Shut the fuck up!" he whispered, then put his mouth onto mine again. Our lips opened up and his tongue slipped into my mouth a little, almost tentatively. I responded by swirling my tongue all around his, all the while massaging his mouth with my own. The moans that escaped from my body did so on their own. The next thing I knew I was being turned, and I felt him pushing me back onto the bed. For the first time I felt his entire weight pressing down onto my body and I couldn't control myself. I grabbed Don tight against me and did what came natural, wrapping my legs around his waist.

We were kissing each other furiously now, and he was running his hands and fingers though my hair and down the sides of my body. I felt the muscles in his arms flexing with every move that he made. My legs were sliding up and down the backs of his thighs and across his ass as he ground his hard cock against mine.

I was able to flip him over onto his back, and as I did, I raised his hands above his head. I took my mouth off of his and started licking and sucking on his neck. I could hear him moaning deep in his throat as I moved my mouth around his neck, and then down towards his chest. His dick was rubbing against my own and he slowly started thrusting up and down. I moved back up and started kissing him again, this time a little more slowly so that our tongues could explore each others' mouth. I was so fuckin' excited I thought I'd cum right in my shorts. It'd been forever since I'd been touched by a man who loved me, and I wanted to slow things down a bit.

Sliding off of him, I kept kissing him while my hand rubbed back and forth slowly across his muscled chest and down his stomach. I kept one of my legs draped across his thighs beneath his crotch. I remembered how much I'd wanted this so many years ago, and for a second I believed I was dreaming, that I'd died and gone to heaven.

Breaking our kiss with my hand on my chest, I asked, "You sure about this?"

"Mm hmm."

I slid my hand down so that my fingertips were just beneath the waistband on his shorts.

" 'Sure you're sure?"

He nodded, looking in my eyes.

I slid my hand down even further and smiled. "No underwear. You were sure."

He chuckled a bit and nodded.

At this point I got a little nervous. Once I kept going I knew there would be no point of return. There would be no...fuck it! I slid my hand down into his shorts. His dick was hard but it was bent downward because of his shorts and because of my leg on him. I moved my leg and slid my fingers even further down. I finally touched the base of his cock and had to stop. I rested my head on his shoulder, then kissed his chest. His fingers were stroking my hair as my hand continued its journey down his shaft. Once I got to the head I maneuvered it in his shorts so that it was upright against his body. Don took a deep breath as I traced my fingertips from the head all the way down to his balls. All I could think was, holy fuckin' shit! I'm actually doing this to Don!

I slowly stroked up and down his dick, kissing his chest. I could feel his moans more than hear them, rumbling in his chest.

"Fuck," he whispered.

"You still sure?" I smiled.

"You stop and I'll kill you," he chuckled.

I leaned up and started deep kissing him, my mouth working on his as our tongues lapped against each other. I was beyond nervous. I wanted Don in every way possible.

Taking my mouth off of his, I kept jacking his cock. I was joking with him and I said, "And I thought that you weren't gay."

He smiled at me. "I'm not gay. And besides, I thought you still loved Alan. Looks like we were both wrong." He leaned up to kiss me, but I leaned away and stopped my hand. "What?" he looked a bit puzzled.

"What did you say?" I snapped to attention.

"I said I'm not gay, and that--"

"I heard you. But you're gonna lay here, your hard dick in my hand, and tell me that you ain't gay?" I pulled my hand out his pants and pushed away from him. "And then to top that off, you're gonna bring Alan into this?" I sat up on the bed and felt his hand grab my forearm.

"Come on Paul, I was just kidding you about Alan--"

"I do love Alan," I said.

"Then what are you doing here, with your hand on my dick."

I didn't have an answer for him. Instead, I spat, "What is my hand doing on your cock if you're not gay, Don."

He leaned up onto his elbows. "Paul, I'm not gay, but you supposedly are still in love--"

"Man, fuck this. I'm gay and I at least admit it. If you're gay, that's fine. I sure don't have a problem with it. But don't lay here makin' out with me and then deny being gay. It's fuckin' insulting to me." I jerked away from his grasp and stood as Don sat up on the bed.

"Paul, I'm tellin' you--"

"I don't wanna hear it. What kinda dumb ass do you think I am? Huh?"

"--I'm not gay."

"Man, just shut up! My hand, your dick...sorry bud, but have the fuckin' balls to admit it. You're a big a fag as I am."

He jumped up. "I told you not to call yourself that!" He was getting angry now, but not nearly as angry as I was.

"That's it bud. I'm a fag. A fayg. A pillow biter. A rump ranger. Ass muncher."

He balled up his fists and gritted his teeth.

"And admit it, Don. You are too. If not that, then you're bi."

"Don't talk like that," he practically hissed. "You don't know shit."

I got into his face and pointed my finger at him. "I can say those types of things because I can at least admit that I'm gay. I know who I am. Tell me, what fuckin' straight guy makes out with his 'best friend' and won't say that he's gay or bi, or whatever. While I'm rubbin' your dick, no less!"

"Paul, it's not what you're thinking--"

"That's it, huh! I think too much. You're right. I do. I was thinking that all of the things you'd said and done in the past meant something. Why, who wouldn't, right? Any gay guy with the slightest amount of pride wouldn't deny the obvious. But you denying it just insults me, and it tells me that I should be ashamed of who I am."

"You shouldn't be ashamed--"

"I'm not!" I hollered. "You should be ashamed of who you're trying not to be. I'm sorry I let myself do this--"

"Paul, if you'd just listen to me--"

"I'm done talking. I'm done with everything," I shouted, still pissed. "Be sure and have your shit packed, because I want out of here first thing in the morning."

"Jesus, will you fuckin' shut up and listen to me?"

"See ya in the morning," I grumbled, heading upstairs to bed. I was hurting real bad and felt used. Just when I thought that everything was alright with Don, he goes and does something like this. But to kiss me with the feelings that I knew he had, and to let me put my hand on his cock, only to tell me that he wasn't gay...well, it was like a slap in the face. I mean get real. Gay is gay and bi is bi. Since I knew that he'd dated girls in the past, and I knew that he wasn't exactly a virgin with them, my assumption was that he was at least bisexual.

But then, you know what they say about the word 'assume.'

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in Mark's own words - I'm a great big goofball who loves music and loves to sing. I'm in the home building industry and have my own company. I'm not really into sports and am mostly a homebody; I like reading, watching movies and hanging out with friends. Please feel free to e-mail me if you would like to discuss my stories - or anything else for that matter. Markp>

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