Sunday, January 3, 2016
TLR Chapter 45
Duke sat in his bungalow and thought about all he had heard in the classes he had attended with Jake and the discussions they had had. He called Jeff. He thought talking to his Gunny might be helpful. After all he had been in a relationship with Mutt for a while and the discipline partnership as well. He hesitated for a moment, then punched in Jeff's number.
"Jeff?" Duke asked, a little nervousness in his voice that he tried to hide. "Do you have some time?"
Jeff heard the slight tremor in his friend's voice and frowned, concerned. "Duke?
What's wrong? Are you alright?"
Duke said, "I'm all right...I'd just like to talk to you if you're not busy."
"Sure, Duke. Anything for you. Do you want to come over?"
"Can I?" He asked, a bit hesitantly.
"I'm headed home for lunch in a minute. Would you like to join us?" Jeff asked.
Duke said, "That sounds good. I'll meet you at your place. How long?"
"Give me no more than five minutes. I'll call ahead and make sure Mutt puts out enough for the fifth battalion." Jeff joked.
Duke blushed even though Jeff didn't see him. His appetite was infamous around the resort. "Sounds good. Make sure he makes enough for you and him too." He joked back.
"See you in five minutes."
Jeff laughed and said goodbye before hanging up the phone. He promptly called Mutt to tell them they were having company and who it was.
"Duke? Whew. It's a good thing we went shopping yesterday." He joked. "There goes the week's groceries." He laughed.
In five minutes Duke arrived at Jeff's bungalow. He went up the steps and knocked on the door.
"Come on in, Duke! The door's open." Mutt yelled.
Duke heard the unmistakable sound of a swat and Mutt's 'Ouch!' as he opened the door.
"I could have done that." Jeff reprimanded the boy.
Duke ducked a bit out of habit as he entered the bungalow. "Hi Mutt...is Jeff here yet?" He asked quietly, pretending that he hadn't heard the exchange between the two men.
Mutt rubbed his backside, scowling, and replied, "He's in the kitchen. Come on in."
Duke watched Mutt, but didn't say anything, just followed the young man into the kitchen. "Hello Jeff."
"Hey, Duke. How's it going?" Jeff asked as the two men walked into the kitchen.
"What would you like to drink?"
Jeff turned toward the refrigerator and showed Duke the selection of sodas and water that were in there.
Duke observed the selection and took out a soda. "This will do." He said.
Mutt held a chair out for Duke and gestured grandly for the other man to sit down.
"So Duke," Jeff said, drawing out his own chair and sitting down. "Tell me what's going on? You didn't sound too good on the phone."
Duke sat down and opened his soda and sipped at it. "Umm...I wanted to talk to you."
Jeff smiled encouragingly. "Tell me what's on your mind." He invited.
Duke glanced at Mutt out of the corner of his eye and shifted uncomfortably. "Uh...a lot of things."
Mutt and Jeff exchanged glances that said volumes.
"Oh man!" Mutt cried suddenly, "I'm sorry, but with you showing up I forgot we had a report of a leaky sprinkler pipe and I was just on my way to fix it. Can I catch you guys later?" He asked apologetically.
Duke bit his lip and then said, "Thanks for the soda...maybe this isn't a good time." He began to rise.
"Oh, don't worry about anything, Duke," Mutt said quickly. "I'll be back later. Just leave some food for me, OK?" he said with a smile.
Duke looked at Mutt and sank back into the chair. "I'll think about it." He said with a tight grin.
Jeff smiled, pride clear on his features, and kissed Mutt. "See you later." He said as Mutt fairly ran out of the door.
"Later Duke!" Mutt called over his shoulder just before the door slammed shut.
"Later Mutt." Duke returned as he watched the young man leave. He turned to Jeff. "He must keep you young."
"Things are never boring with him around." Jeff smiled. "So, Duke... tell me what's on your mind?" He asked as he leaned his elbows on the table and turned his full attention to the man before him.
Duke said, "Jeff...you've known me a long time now right?"
Jeff smiled and nodded, uncertain where Duke was going with this but willing to hear the other man out to the end. "Of course."
Duke asked, "What have you thought about me? I mean...umm...about my private life?"
Jeff frowned slightly and reached up to scratch his head while he thought. "That's hard to say, Duke, you never really talked about your private life, even when we were serving together. What is it you're looking for?"
Duke looked down and blushed. "Umm...Jake and I've been talkin' and well...I like him a lot, but I'm not sure what I am."
"Not sure what you are?" Jeff asked, wondering if Duke was saying what he thought he was saying.
Duke nodded. "Yeah...I'm confused as to why I like men better than women, although I've had women in my life, I never felt for them like I do Jake."
Jeff sighed, partially in relief and partially in consternation. The big question was how to approach Duke about such a sensitive subject.
Duke sat quietly, waiting for Jeff to say something.
"Duke, I've... well James and I both... suspected that you might be gay when we were serving together. But you were so intent on proving to everyone that you were like all the other guys. We didn't want to influence you either way. We felt it was something you had to come to grips with on your own." He began.
Duke cocked his head. "How did you know? What told you that I might be gay?"
"Many of us did the same thing... had relations with women. Some of us knew we preferred men and kept that to ourselves, for fear of retribution."
Duke nodded. "How did you know you preferred men? James too? How did you know, when did you know, what told you that you liked men better than women?"
Jeff smiled gently. "Mutt calls it Gaydar. But for me, when you'd come back from shore leave, the other guys would all be boasting about which woman, or women they'd slept with. You were very quiet on the matter. You seemed uncomfortable and a little guilty when you'd come back, and then you'd work extra hard during our tours. You'd avoid looking at any of the guys in the shower. You'd never give a second glance at our female counterparts. Even when they were dressed up in civvies you never wolf whistled like the other guys did. In fact, you looked somewhat uncomfortable with that kind of behavior."
Duke blushed. "I was...I thought it was rude."
"And it was, but the other guys weren't worried about that. To them it was just normal to do things like that. And if I remember correctly the girls admired you for not doing it. But you never really showed any interest in any of them. You didn't pursue them like the other guys did. You were always a gentleman."
Duke chuckled dryly. "And here I thought I was fooling everyone."
"Well," Jeff smiled again, "You did. Most of them, anyway. I knew early on that I was gay, but I also knew I wanted to be a Marine, and I couldn't be both, at least not openly. And no matter what we knew or thought about each other or you, we weren't going to give you up to possible court martial and dishonorable discharge."
Duke gave Jeff a grateful look. "Jeff...I thought I was bisexual, but the more I'm with Jake and attendin' the classes the more I'm realizing I'm gay.
"Ah, the awakening." Jeff tried to joke. "We wondered when or if you would ever come to grips with who and how you are. I'm proud of you Duke. That had to be a difficult thing to say after all this time."
Duke blushed and ducked his head at the praise.
"It takes a lot of courage to admit to what you just said. Like I said, I knew early on that I was gay, but also that I wanted to serve in the Marines. I had a few flings with women but they were never the same as when I'd meet up with other men. There was a thrill there that wasn't there when I was with a woman."
"So you've been attending the classes with Jake. And you've found them educational. What's your next step, if I can ask?"
Duke said, "I'm not sure. We’ve kissed and it scared me a bit and well, I'm more comfortable with the discipline aspect, although I'm not quite certain why."
"That's because you've been living with discipline since you were eighteen. Admitting to your sexuality, that's new, and you're going to have to learn to accept that at your own pace." Jeff replied thoughtfully.
Duke smiled. "How do we know if we love each other and if we're right for each other...I'm so much bigger than him, how will the discipline part work?"
"You said yourself that you kissed him and that it felt right. You also said that you liked Jake. He's awakening feelings in you that you didn't even know were there, isn't he? Are you happier when you're around him? More comfortable? Relaxed? Do you feel you can talk to him?"
"As far as the discipline goes... I'm not as tall as you are, neither is James, but when you needed it, we were able to deliver it. I don't think that your size is going to make that much of a difference once you begin. You'll both find a way to make it happen."
Jeff frowned again as his eyes lit upon the old fashioned stool with retractable steps that sat in the corner of the kitchen. It had been his as a child, and it had been his mother's before him. It had a shallow seat, but Jeff thought that a stool somewhat like that would come in handy for Jake and Duke. He made a mental note to ask Mutt if he could design a specially made one for Jake. One tall enough to keep Duke's feet off the floor but deep enough so that Jake could sit comfortably, with retractable steps so that his feet wouldn't dangle above the floor, and so that he wouldn't lose his balance when he found it necessary to discipline the taller man.
Duke nodded. "Yes, I can do all those things."
"Then if you have found the man who makes you feel that way, there's a good chance that the two of you are meant to be together. All I can advise is that you spend time with him, figure out how you feel when you're with him and what it would mean to you to be together with him. You seem happier and more contented. Take it from there."
Duke bit his lip. "I'm not sure what I feel or how I feel. I like being with him and he tends to calm me when I'm upset."
"You know he's very fond of you, but you're not sure if you love him yet?" Jeff asked quietly.
Duke said, "It's confusin'. I have feelings for him I've never had for anyone, but I'm not sure it's love. I'm not sure what love feels like. There wasn't much of that in my life." He told Jeff quietly.
"Does being with Jake make you happy? Do you feel secure with him? Do you want to spend all your free time with him?" Jeff asked with a thoughtful smile.
Duke said, "I feel secure with him, I trust him. I like spending time with him and that makes me feel good, not sure happy is the right word."
"Duke, let me ask you this, Jeff said. "Are you afraid to admit that you do love Jake?
Maybe because you are still fighting the realization that you are gay?"
Duke looked at Jeff. "Umm...I don't like the idea of being gay, but I suppose if I have feelings for men and not for women I must be, but the idea is...well difficult for me to wrap my mind around. How did you and James know and how did you become comfortable with the idea?"
"I knew when I was twelve. I also tried to fight the reality of it. When we were serving I did the same things as you did, sleeping with women to prove that I was a man, to keep people from knowing or suspecting my real orientation." Jeff began. "But it didn't feel right. Sleeping with women. Trying to kiss them. Pretending to be interested in them. Eventually I realized that I was not only hurting them but myself as well. That's when I had to come to grips with my sexuality. It took a little while but I finally decided to be true to myself. After that I was much happier."
"As for James, you'll have to talk to him. It's his story to tell, not mine."
Duke listened to Jeff and considered his words and nodded. "You didn't feel ashamed to be gay...to like men better than women?"
Jeff shook his head. "It took a bit of soul searching, but when I was finally able to admit it to myself and talk to some other men who were like us, including James, I felt free. Like someone had taken a stone off of my chest and I could breathe again."
Duke smiled. "It does help to talk about it and I trust you and James, after all the two of you have known me the longest other than my brother Dean."
"And I'm glad that you came to me to talk. I hope that it helped at least a little."
Duke nodded. "I'm still struggling with it a bit, but the more I learn about homosexuality and love and discipline the more I sense Jake is the right one for me. A certain tone, or look makes me stop in my tracks. I find it odd that he's a bit younger and a lot shorter than me, but it does that to me."
"As Mutt and I will frequently say, age is just a number, and so is height. Mutt is quite a bit younger and shorter than I am but I can't see myself without him.
Duke said, "But you’re the top and he's the brat. Isn’t the brat supposed to be younger and smaller? I know they don't say anything about that in the seminars, but I've often wondered about that. How can I be a brat being so large and all that."
"Being a brat is not determined by height or age." Jeff smiled kindly. "Look at Tank and Cary. They're just about your height and they're both Brats to Tops who are a bit shorter. One has nothing to do with the other. It's a mindset. Right now that's the best way I can think of to explain it."
Duke nodded. "So is it the way a person is wired? I've heard Jax and Mutt say things like that. Sort of the way you are inside?"
"That's a good way to look at it. It's simple but it explains quite a lot. Mutt is a perfectly capable adult, but he knows that he needs help and direction sometimes. He's wired to want and need not only help, but the discipline I give him, and he accepts it because he knows I love him. I'm wired to want to help and be needed. To protect and love. Mutt completes me."
Duke smiled, "Yes...that's how I feel when I'm with Jake like I'm solid, not at loose ends."
"That sounds like love to me, Duke."
Jeff laughed, "Yes, it does."
Duke grinned. "So...that's what love feels like."
"Well, it feels different for each couple but the basics are the same, big guy," Jeff chuckled. "And if you ask me you have been shot by cupid’s arrow."
Duke blushed at Jeff's words. "Should I find Jake and tell him?"
"I'm pretty sure Jake knows but I'm sure he would like you to confirm what he already feels for you."
Duke asked, "How did he know?"
"You know all those feelings that you feel when you are around him?" Jeff asked.
Duke nodded. "Yes."
"He feels them too."
Duke smiled. "Then I'm glad we both feel the same things."
"Then go find him. I know he'll be happy to hear it from you."
Duke grinned. "All right...I'll do just that." He stood and gave Jeff a bone crushing hug. "Thanks Jeff, you're a good friend."
Jeff gasped but smiled broadly. "Glad I could help. Now get going." He ordered.
Duke gave Jeff a grin. “What will you do if I don't?
He returned Duke's hug and then turned the larger man toward the door with a swat. He held back his wince and gasp of pain until the head of security was gone. It had been like swatting a brick wall. He felt a moment of sympathy for Jake's hand and then, grinning, he turned to clean what was left of their uneaten lunches.
Duke jumped a little at Jeff's swat, but went on his way to find Jake.
Duke left Jeff's. He checked the time and realized Jake would probably be awake now and getting ready for his shift. He headed to his bungalow and going up to the door knocked softly so as to not wake Jake just in case he was still sleeping and not quite ready to get up.
"Come in!" Jake said, wondering who it could possibly be at this time of the day.
Duke, hearing Jake's summons opened the door and entered the bungalow. "Jake?"
"Duke?" Came the confused reply. Jake got up from the couch where he'd been sitting and went into the kitchen to meet his friend. "How are you?" He asked with a friendly smile.
He gestured Duke to one of the kitchen chairs and waited until the tall man sat down.
"Can I get you something to drink?" he asked.
"I'm good...I just discovered somethin' and I came to share it.
Jake looked at Duke curiously but couldn't help but to smile. His friend seemed calmer somehow. More at peace than he'd been the last time they'd spoken, and he wondered what could have made such a big change in him. He admitted a certain pleasure that Duke would come to him with whatever this news was.
Duke said, "Can we talk for a little?"
"Sure, what's on your mind?" Jake asked with an uncertain smile.
Duke said, "Well Jeff and I have been talkin' and...well I discovered that I do love you." Duke blurted out.
Jake was taken aback for a moment. He'd heard what Duke had said but he hadn't thought he'd hear it from him so soon, if ever.
"I... I... thank you, Duke. I... I love you too. What... what did you and Jeff talk about, if I can ask? Not that I'm not thrilled to hear it, I'm just surprised. Pleased! But surprised."
Duke looked at Jake and blushed. "I'm sorry...maybe I shouldn't have said anythin' just yet, but I feel secure with you and I like spendin' time with you." He said softly.
"I like spending time with you too, Duke. And I've waited to hear those words for a long time now. I'm glad you said them."
Duke added, "I feel secure, not at loose ends...whole...complete, and Jeff said that was love." He told Jake softly, still blushing furiously.
Jake put a tentative hand over Duke's larger one. "Yes, that's how I feel when I'm with you too. I've known for a while that I loved you. I... I can't tell you how happy your words make me. There's no reason to be embarrassed, Duke." he reassured the other man.
Duke gently pulled Jake into a hug and then squeezed him tight, being careful to not crush the other man. "I trust you to not hurt me Jake. I think I told you that when we talked about discipline. I...well I discovered that I was also a brat." He said, biting his lip.
Jake couldn't help but to smile. "Considering some of the pranks you've pulled over the years, that doesn't come as a surprise to me." He joked. "I've always known that. Especially after you hid Mutt's bicycle by suspending it from the ceiling of the dining room." He laughed.
Duke grinned and blushed. "Yeah, that was one of my better ones."
Jake laughed delightedly and hugged the other man back. “I can't tell you how happy I am right now Duke. You're right. I will never hurt you, and I will always love you, no matter what."
Duke smiled, "No matter what? Even if it involves another bull moose?"
"I'll love you even if you decide to take on another bull moose." Jake grinned. "You won't be sitting very comfortably for a day or so afterward, but my love is unconditional."
Duke blushed. "You'd spank me?"
"You bet I would, young man. If you ever put yourself in danger like that again, I'd definitely spank you, and you won't mistake me for a girl when I do." He added to take some of the sting out of his words.
Duke shook his head at Jakes last words and couldn't help but give him a little grin.
"Jeff and I also talked about bein' gay...I'm still strugglin' a bit with that part, but I think I'm gettin' closer to acceptin' that part of me too."
"I'm glad to hear that. It seems you and Jeff covered a lot of ground." Jake said, reaching up to briefly pat the man on the shoulder. "When you come to accept that part of yourself, you'll feel freer and happier than you have in years. That I can guarantee."
Duke said, "Jeff said that is what happened to him once he accepted his gayness."
"It's something we all go through, Duke. We're no different than other folks. We all want happiness... and love... it's just a matter of when and with whom. You've taken a big step on your road to self-discovery, and I'd like to be the one there, walking alongside you."
Duke smiled and crushed the younger man to him. "I'd like that too and thanks Jake."
When Duke let go of him, Jake put a gentle hand on the taller man's cheek. He looked into the dove grey eyes he loved so much and leaned forward, planting a firm kiss on Duke’s mouth. "I love you, Duke Winslow Montgomery." He whispered.
Duke's grey eyes widened a moment with surprise, but then he tentatively returned the kiss, exploring the sensation and how he felt inside as well.
Duke said, "Jake Titan Marzetti I love you as well.
Ricky Gonzales smiled as he opened the letter marked Teardrop Lake Resort. He read the message there carefully and felt very happy that he and Troy had been accepted to visit and that they could arrive in two weeks, on Saturday. Ricky wasn’t sure they would be accepted as his friend Scott wasn’t a resort resident, but he had assured Ricky that he was friends with some of the resort residents and they trusted him to use good judgment and discretion and had referred others to the resort, his latest being a young man who had lost his job at a local dude ranch. He glanced at the address and decided they would take the drive across country. The Spring roundup was finished and the boss had told Ricky that he and Troy could have a month off because they had worked so hard and neither of them had had a vacation since they began working there three years ago except for a few days here and there. He knew his pickup would make it to Maine just fine. Now the trick was to get Troy to agree. He was very glad he had written to Scott in Masonville before the roundup with his concerns about Troy. The boy was taking more and more risks all the time and when Ricky had approached him about it Troy had gotten surly.
Ricky had swatted Troy from time to time and taken the belt or a switch to his backside a few times when he had been at the end of his rope with both his attitude and temper. He had been angry and the end result hadn’t been good. Troy had stomped away, his face dark with rage and Ricky had felt empty and worn out. He loved this little white boy and he couldn’t explain it to his Mexican family who had been cowboys in Arizona for generations. His Chico had gotten under his skin. Whether it was the young man’s blue eyes, dark hair, macho attitude or what, he really couldn’t say, but he wanted to keep this man in his life for as long as he lived and the way things were going now he’d be lucky if his Niño lived to see his thirtieth birthday.
Troy was eight years younger than him, but that didn’t bother him. They were partners and the sex was good. It was just the rest that was lousy. He hoped being at TLR for a couple of weeks could begin to at least point them in the right direction. He didn’t really believe there would be a miracle and everything would be perfect after they left, but hopefully they would have a better understanding of each other and some tools they could use. Scott had told him they could go back to the resort as often as they wanted to or needed to and Ricky hoped that it could become at least a yearly thing for them.
Troy Nelson Temple, known as TNT or Dynamite scowled as he cleaned the stable and groomed the horses. He didn’t like Ricky treating him like a child. He was twenty-four years old, three years past his majority. Just because he was small in stature and frame didn’t mean he was a kid.
Troy headed for the bunkhouse and saw his partner there waiting for him.
“How are the horses, Dynamite?” He asked.
Troy said, “They’re all good. None of them have any injuries that needed tending tonight.”
Ricky smiled. “That is good news…and speaking of good news Chico, I have some for us.”
Troy looked at Ricky suspiciously. “What good news?”
Ricky asked, “How would you like to vacation in Maine at a private resort for men like us only?” He asked.
Troy cocked his head. “For gay men?”
Ricky nodded. “Yes. They also offer all kinds of classes about partnerships, relationships and things I believe could help us to grow closer and better in our relationship as well.”
Troy frowned. “A school?” Troy hated school and schoolwork.
Ricky shook his head. “Not a school, but what are called seminars…presentations giving information. No tests or anything like that.”
Troy considered this. “Why?”
Ricky locked his warm brown eyes with the blue ones and said quietly, “I think the two of us have been butting heads a lot lately, especially during this last roundup. I care deeply about you Chico and I want us to feel good about being with each other and live together for the rest of our lives. That’s going to be a long time. Wouldn’t you like to live in harmony instead of conflict?”
Troy considered this and shrugged. “I agree getting along would be better, but I don’t like classes.”
Ricky put an arm around the smaller man and kissed his lips. “Chico, no one is too old to learn things and this can give us a better way to live if you’ll give it a chance.”
Troy shrugged once more. “Okay, I’ll give it a chance, but if I don’t like it can we leave?”
Ricky nodded. “We can. We’re not locked up or anything. They have rock climbing, trails to ride, swimming, fishing and other outdoor activities we both enjoy. It would be nice to go for a ride together without having to chase down cows.”
Troy nodded. “It might be, but we’ll see.” He said grudgingly.
For Ricky that was enough. “I thought we’d take our time and drive there and back, see some other things along the way.”
Troy thought about this as well and nodded. “I think that might be fun. It’s always interesting to be able to see what other towns have to offer.”
Ricky kissed Troy once more and Troy returned the kiss and then they went to their room at the bunkhouse, made love and got ready for their road trip to TLR