Saturday, April 7, 2018
TLR CHAPTER 128
A TLR Story
OCs: Charles, Gary, and Mike
Thanks to PJ and Rosemarie for their feedback and suggestions,
and again, to Rosemarie for finding the perfect title for it.
It was a cold, wet, rainy day. Mike had the entire day, and house, to himself since both Gary and Charles were working. He'd cleaned the few things around the house that needed it, did a few loads of laundry which he then ironed, folded and put away... chores he hated to do which was a perfect testament to how bored he was.
He tried to watch television, sat through a movie which he now couldn't even remember the name of, attempted to read a bit, and in general just wandered around the bungalow sighing heavily and wishing that there was someone else to hang around with to make the time pass faster until his lovers returned.
As though he were going to find anything different than what had been there the last thousand times he'd looked, he wandered around the bungalow, opening doors and gazing in before closing them once again.
Finally, he believed he had come up with a great idea. The storage room had been allowed to become disorganized for quite some time, so he decided to fix that. Going into the utility closet he gathered the items he thought would be needed most and carried them to the offending room. With one last look, he went to the room he shared with his lovers and grabbed a bandana which he tied over his mouth and nose. He caught sight of himself in the mirror and laughed at the bandit that stared back at him. "Ah give up, Sher'if!" he said aloud, putting his hands up into the air as though surrounded by said sheriff and his deputies. He laughed once more and continued on his way.
The job was extremely dusty from the outset and he was glad he'd gone for the bandana, but soon his eyes were watering so he took a break, deciding that he would go to Mutt in a few minutes to ask if he could borrow a set of goggles. He looked once again in the mirror and saw that his hair was heavily covered with dust, which was also all over his face, causing him to look much older than he really was. He stared at the creases and wrinkles that his face normally didn't have. He drew back in surprise as he realized that he was looking at the face of his grandfather. The idea wasn't horrible, he thought, his grandfather wasn't a bad looking man, but he did hope to avoid those particular wrinkles and lines on his own face for several more years.
He took a shower, surprised and a little disgusted by the grey dirt that swirled down the drain as he washed. He scrubbed his body and hair three times before he was satisfied that he'd gotten it all, dried, dressed in somewhat shabbier clothing then got himself something to eat before grabbing an umbrella and heading over to see Mutt.
"Hey! Mikey! How's it going, my friend?" Mutt greeted him with a smile and a hug.
The younger man grinned at the diminutive and returned the hug as he explained what he was doing. After sitting and chatting over a cup of coffee, Mutt happily kitted him out with a complete work suit with hood, goggles, masks, and gloves.
Mike held them up and laughed as he looked at them. "I'm going to scare people with these on. They're going to think we have a hazardous leak somewhere."
"They make great Halloween costumes too," Mutt grinned. After a final cup of coffee and another hug, Mike left and Mutt returned to his paperwork.
The young man headed back home, a wide smile on his face. It was nice to have friends, people who looked forward to seeing him rather than people who would cross the street to avoid him. This new acceptance gave him hope for Charles.
'Old Stuck-Up Chuck', as he knew his oldest partner was sometimes referred to by the other men on the resort, was loosening up, although he had to admit to himself that some of that 'stick' was still there. Gary, on the other hand, had shown a whole new side to himself. He was funny and outgoing, and kept his employees, new friends and partners laughing throughout the day. Instead of suits, he wore khakis and the usual TLR tee shirt that everyone else wore to work, and he looked a whole lot happier for it.
Even Charles, who as the concierge for the resort felt that he had to wear a suit while he was working, would often change into khakis and a button-down or polo shirt once he was home, rather than just taking off his jacket and tie. He also, seemed happier and more at ease ever since he and Gary had had their private chat. He still wondered what Gary had said that had caused such a dramatic, for Chaz, change.
Knowing that his partners were content made Mike happy as well, and their relationship, which he had already thought was wonderful, had blossomed. As much as he loved Charles and Gary he had often wondered if he had been living up to their expectations and had worried that they would break off with him if he didn't.
He knew that coming from a family where acceptance and approval depended on excellent performance, whether it was being named first chair or soloist in music recitals or perfect scores in school, had more to do with his insecurities than anything that Charles or Gary had ever done or said, but sometimes Charles, at least in Mike's opinion, had come off more as a schoolmaster. That aspect of Charles had seemingly disappeared.
Once home, he put up a fresh pot of coffee, pulled on the suit and other accessories and began work on the storeroom again. The first thing he decided to do was get rid of all of the dust so that he wouldn't have to wear the hood, which was already beginning to make him feel overly warm.
The vacuum got the workout of its life for the next hour as he cleaned ceiling to floor, and much to Mike's chagrin, he'd had to empty the chamber twice before he thought the room was clean enough. He, Charles and Gary were usually very, perhaps obsessively clean people, and he couldn't believe that even one room in the bungalow had been allowed to get to this point. Even so, he turned on the air purifier as a precaution before taking off the mask and suit then breathing a sigh of relief.
He looked around to see what else had to be done and decided to neatly stack the storage bins that had been put in somewhat haphazardly. Bins with Christmas and other holiday decorations were sorted, then piled neatly against a wall in one corner, after being quickly wiped down with a damp cloth. Same with the bins containing seasonal clothing and blankets. He looked around, rather proud of his accomplishments so far.
Mike continued in this way until he found a trunk that was too large and heavy to move. He decided to remove some of the contents in order to make it lighter, intending to put them back once he was done. As with the other containers, he wiped it down and was surprised to see initials etched into a small, tarnished silver plate attached to the front.
A. G. R. M. E.
His eyebrows rose at the number of initials, then tried the locks before sighing in frustration as they wouldn't budge. He sat on the trunk and leaned back, which is when he felt something taped to the back of the chest. 'The key!' he crowed silently, 'It has to be!' Excitedly he peeled the tape away and tried the lock once again. Once the middle lock clicked, it was no problem to unlatch the two on either side. He knelt beside and opened the trunk, wondering what could be in it.
Jeans. Tee shirts. A pair of well worn, heavy boots. A leather jacket. With each discovery, Mike's eyebrows rose higher and higher in surprise and confusion. He was the only one who wore jeans in the household and that only after many arguments and pleading on his part with Charles, and these definitely weren't his. He tried on the jacket and found that it nearly fit. It was just a bit too big and would probably fit... Gary? Were these clothes Gary's? Mike laughed at his own silliness. Of course, they weren't Gary's. He didn't wear jeans, and he'd never be caught dead in a cracked and faded leather bomber jacket.
Mike's mind whirled, why... how... what... but mostly why? He continued to carefully and neatly unload the chest, examining each item as he took it out. The further down he went the fewer clothes he found. He began to come across a few old toys, matchbox cars, a toy dump truck and backhoe, and even older toys that he hadn't seen outside of collector's magazines. His eyes widened. If whoever owned this chest wanted to sell some of these things he could make a lot of money. Whoever had owned them had taken excellent care of them. The further down he went the more 'treasures' he found. Items still in their original boxes which were in pristine condition. He shook his head in amazement and gently put the things aside for fear of ruining them somehow.
He pulled out a box with a corner of faded blue paper hanging out. Carefully he opened it only to find a very ornate and expensive looking infant's Baptismal gown and cap, also in pristine condition and seemingly as fresh as the day it had been packed away. He carefully reboxed the item and continued his exploration. The trunk was huge and deep, and he was rather excited to see what else might be inside.
As he reached in, his hand brushed across something that felt like a book. A large book, which he took out as reverently as he had the other things. The initials A. G. R. M. E. were stamped into the dark green leather cover. It didn't look too old but Mike opened it carefully anyway. Where the child's name should have been was a big black scribble, most likely made with a thick sharpie. The other side of that page was blank, which was a good thing since the sharpie had leaked through and would have ruined anything that had been there.
The further into the book he went, the more he smiled. There was Gary. Granted, a solemn-looking Gary at just about every age, but even as a child he'd had that strong chin and beautiful eyes. So, if this was Gary's memory book, then... A.G.R.M.E? G, Gary; M, Martin; E, Elwood, he figured out, but what did the A and R stand for? Or did this trunk belong to a relative of his? If so, why was it here? And why were there pictures of Gary in it?
He flipped through the book to find the last picture which appeared to be a solemn Gary graduating high school, flanked by an equally solemn man and woman who he could only suppose were his partner's parents. Further inspection of the book revealed nothing and Mike sighed in frustration.
He'd just picked up a thick manila envelope when the sound of someone clearing their throat startled him. He dropped the envelope back into the trunk, jumped to his feet, picked up one of the heavy boots he'd found to use as a weapon and whirled around only to find Gary standing in the doorway, arms crossed and looking none too pleased with his young partner.
Mike put a hand to his chest, able to feel his heart thudding, and he leaned down, partly to put down the boot, and partly to steady himself on the edge of the chest as his heart rate slowly approached normal.
"Jeez, Gare! Give me heart failure why don't you?" Mike said somewhat breathlessly as he closed the lid of the trunk and sat down, joined shortly by his partner.
"When you find a locked trunk with initials on it which are obviously not yours, then it's good manners to leave it alone," the slightly older man said sternly as he picked up one of the pairs of jeans and held it on his lap. Mike noticed that his partner didn't look at the piece of clothing so much as pet it.
"I was cleaning up in here," Mike explained. "I just wanted to move it up against the wall and it was too heavy, so I thought if I took stuff out I could move it more easily. I'm sorry that I invaded your privacy," he finished sincerely as he picked the photo album back up.
Gary was silent for several moments, lost in thought.
"Gare?" Mike said quietly.
When his partner still didn't move, Mike tried another tactic. "I really liked seeing all of the pictures of you as a kid. Do you have any of yourself as a baby? I didn't see any in here," he continued, patting the jacket of the book gently.
"Somewhere, I suppose," Gary answered vaguely, still running his hand along the nap of the fabric and looking at nothing in particular.
"Gary?" Mike asked tentatively. "Are you very angry with me?" Once again, he found himself worrying that he'd really messed up this time, the old insecurities coming back with a vengeance. No matter how many times Charles and Gary had reassured him that he was indispensable and loved very much there had to be a line, and he worried that he may have crossed it.
Finally, Gary looked at him, his eyes coming into focus. He put down the jeans and gathered Mike up in his arms. "I'm not mad at you, sweetheart. Just seeing all of this... it made me...," he replied, allowing the sentence to trail off as he buried his face in Mike's hair.
"Are you all right?" the young man asked anxiously as he wrapped his lover in his arms. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No, hon," Gary replied with a wan smile. "It just brought back memories. Good. Bad. The usual," he finished with a wry chuckle.
"Do you want to talk? I'm here for you, you know," Mike assured his lover.
"I know, sweetheart, it's just..."
"Whenever I have a problem or I'm worried about something, you and Chaz always let me talk to you about it. Talk to me, please?" Mike said, looking deeply into Gary's eyes.
"Do you have any idea how much I love you, Michael?" the older man replied, hugging his young partner tightly.
"And I love you. And I'm here for you. Just like you and Charles are here for me. Trust me, ok?"
"Oh, hon, I do trust you, don't think for a minute that I don't."
"Then talk to me, ok? Tell me as much as you feel comfortable with but talk to me," Mike replied quietly but earnestly.
Gary took Mike's hands and held them on his lap before beginning to speak, so quietly at first that the younger man had to struggle to hear him.
"Addison Gareth Rothschild Mordaunt Elwood is someone I killed years ago. I'd thought I'd done with him. I thought I'd buried him and left him behind for good, but he keeps reappearing. He comes back just when I think I might be happy again."
When his partner stopped speaking, Mike took a calming breath. His initial response was to snatch his hand away from Gary's. Instead, he took a tighter hold on his man's hands and said quietly, almost breathlessly, "So, you... you k-killed someone?" The idea that his lover could be capable of murder nearly froze his heart.
"In a way, yes. I am... was... Addison Gareth Rothschild Mordaunt Elwood. A name guaranteed to open the door to any country club, any high-class social gathering, political event... it was a get out of jail free card... I was... not...," Gary stammered, looking for the right words. "I was A-List. I was respected because of those names... no... feared. I'd certainly done nothing to earn anyone's respect. They respected my family and the Elwood name... but I was not a respectable person when I was Addison, I didn't even respect myself. I was a spoiled, entitled, selfish...," he stopped to take a cleansing breath. Mike could feel the other man's hands shaking slightly so he held on even more tightly, moving closer to give Gary the strength and stability of his own body.
"We're all like that when we're teenagers, Gare...," Mike said softly, trying to alleviate some of his partner's self-loathing.
"Some. Some are better. Some are worse. I was worse. Worst," he closed his eyes and shook his head slightly, "I was so busy denying what I was so that mother and father wouldn't disown me, that I was.... I was cruel to other people. Only verbally... only," he repeated in a disgusted tone, "because of who I was, one word from me could ruin another person's life in a matter of seconds. If I decided that I didn't like someone, for any reason big or small, hell, I didn't even need a reason, all I had to do was reject the person, start a rumor... it's all in the presentation... present it just the right way and it's suddenly gospel and everyone not only believes it but is parroting it as though it was old, well-known information which had come from a reliable source and not from a sad little prick who had to make other people feel like crap so that he could feel good about himself."
"When I went to college... I was sent to only the best ivy league college of course... I was still a miserable son of a bitch. I hated the hustle and bustle. I hated all of the phonies with their fake smiles trying to attach themselves to me so that they could have the social status they wanted just by being my friend. I hated the blatant competition for every little thing; the professor's good graces, straight A's, staying up late into the night studying, driving myself insane. I dropped out after the first semester. My parents were livid but I refused to go back. They told me that they were going to cut me off until I came to my senses," he joked wryly.
"It was then that Addison Gareth Rothschild Mordaunt Elwood died and Gary Martin Elwood, common man, was born. Hell, I even thought of getting rid of my last name to make myself the transition complete, but for some reason, I just couldn't bring myself to do it."
"Where did the name Mordaunt come from?" Mike inquired.
"When I was born, my great grandparents were still alive. Old, but still as powerful and controlling as they'd ever been. My oldest brother had been named after our father, father's father, and mother's father. They were sure they'd never have any more children so that seemed to satisfy everyone," he laughed mirthlessly, "I guess granddad never had 'the talk' with father because two years later, along came my sister Celestina."
"My parents were relieved that it was a girl. Celestina was named in a way after my mother, Celeste, mother's mother, and father's mother. Mother had a tubal ligation done and this time they were positive that they would never have any more children."
"Despite the very, very low odds of a woman becoming pregnant after the procedure, mother found herself pregnant once again. When I came along, my great grandparents demanded that I be named after the great grandfathers, and great great grandfathers, to keep their names in the family line. My mother and father were worried that they'd be cut out of the great's wills so they gave me those names. I think that my parents disliked the bulk of them as much as I did, but they cared more for the money that they would inherit than the names I'd be saddled with. My younger brother and sister didn't have it so bad as far as names went," he laughed.
Mike's eyes opened wide, "Your mother had her tubes tied and still got pregnant two more times after you?" he asked incredulously.
"Yep, they went after the doctor of course, when they found that a third child was coming, but he'd sold his practice a few years before and no one knew where he'd gone. They couldn't very well sue the doctor who'd bought it, and the alternative, as far as my mother was concerned, was not going to happen, so they had to let it drop. That rankled on my father something fierce for years. He, after the fifth child came along, reluctantly, had a procedure done as well, and that was the end of the Elwood Baby Problem, or at least, that's how the Elwood elders referred to it."
"They called the five of you problems?" Mike asked, feeling deep sadness for the children who seemingly hadn't been wanted by their own parents. That knowledge made him feel closer to Gary than he ever had before, having come from a similar situation. His heart ached for his lover.
Gary just shrugged it off with a laugh and continued on with his story.
"I always disliked the name Addison, at least for myself, so that was an easy name to lop off," Gary continued, "I somewhat liked the name Gareth, and most people called me Gareth, Gare or Gary, at my insistence, so I kept Gary. Rothschild is a nice name, but not for me, so out it went. Mordaunt... well, Mordaunt was a no-brainer," he laughed, "so I chose Martin instead because it was the name of my favorite instructor at boarding school."
"So, you gave yourself a name change... and then what did you do?" Mike asked quietly.
Gary chuffed a laugh, "I moved as far away from Dallas, Texas as I could and took a job as a fry cook at a greasy spoon here in Maine. It was a real dive but I knew that none of my family or friends would ever be caught dead in it, so I was safe," he laughed.
"I'd always loved to cook but my parents thought it was beneath me. We had 'people to do that,'" he said emphasizing the quotation marks. "I used to sit in the kitchen and watch as meals were made. One day I was caught actually working... with my own two lily white hands, rolling out dough. Even though I insisted that I'd ordered the chef to let me help, he was fired and I was punished."
"So, there I was, fry cook extraordinaire. Thanks to Morton's tutelage, the poor guy who got fired, I knew how to cook, very well, and that greasy spoon became a favorite spot for the locals, especially a biker club which actually asked me to join them, and it was also considerably less greasy," he laughed. "I bought myself a motorcycle, boots, jeans... all the things I hadn't been allowed to have when I was Addison... because I was an Elwood, and Elwood's just didn't wear common things like that, and they certainly didn't ride motorcycles," he laughed again. "Dirt bikes were alright though, and it was a big competition there as well as to who had the best, most expensive bike, who had the best and most expensive gear. Honestly, I was expecting someone to come to a trail wearing a suit studded with jewels and an ermine cape."
It was Michael's turn to laugh, "Was it really that bad?" He'd never even been allowed so much as a bicycle. He had the vague idea that his parents were sure he'd hop on that bicycle and run away the first chance he got and smudge the Stanton name. He had often wondered if he would have.
"Well, maybe I exaggerated just a bit, but to me, it seemed as though it was really that bad, at least among my social circle," Gary replied with a wry smile, "but I did find out that this wasn't happening just among the upper crust. It was a thing everywhere. The funniest part about it was that as I watched, I found that the people who had the Average Joe bikes were the best riders. They didn't need bikes that cost five figures."
"So... you basically lived on a fry cook's salary?" Mike asked, his brow wrinkling a little as he thought of what a hard life that had to have been.
"Not entirely. Once I was old enough, mother and father began giving me a monthly stipend to spend on myself. One of our maids had given me some confidential advice. She'd told me to save half of that each month and put it where my parents would have no control over it. Once I was old enough I'd also invested some of it. I lived minimally compared to the rest of my family and avoided credit cards. I sold my insanely expensive dirt bike and bought a nice but less expensive motorcycle. Same with the gear, and I put the remainder of the money I'd made from the sale into my account, so I was pretty well off when I finally made the break and decided to go to a state college on my own dime."
"No," he sighed once again, "I never had to worry about money, not like some of the people I ran across in my travels. It was hard at first for me to blend in. I felt like.... I guess you could say that I felt like Gulliver when he met the Lilliputians. Or maybe I was Gulliver in the land of giants. Either way, it was clear that I wasn't like the rest of them at first, but eventually, I thought that I had learned what I had to do to be... Gary Martin Elwood, average guy, and not the man I had been."
"And your parents?"
Gary smiled and hugged his young partner. "I finally made the decision to tell them everything, I'd gone back home to talk to my family. It was hard at first. My siblings were a little jealous that I'd gone my own way and succeeded without mother and father's interference or help. I'd earned my degrees on my own, rather than becoming the lawyer that my parents had decided I'd been going to be."
"When I told my family that I was gay as well, my father... I swear I thought he was going to blow a blood vessel as he accused me of saying that just to get under his skin, to get back at him. Mother was appalled. My brothers and sisters just seemed shocked more than disapproving, and I could hear them arguing with our parents when I was told to leave and not come back."
"My father had a stroke a year afterward, and they were sure he wasn't going to make it. They called for me and I went despite my worries that I'd cause him stress and only make him worse. I was sure that they'd just ask me to leave again. But I went," he explained when he saw Mike's confused expression, "because no matter what else, he is my father, and I do love him, even if that love was on the shaky side. Instead, mother called each of us into his room in turn. Finally, she called for me. It was just he, Mother and I, and we talked for a long time."
Once again, Gary went silent, his eyes unfocused as he thought back on that conversation. Mike waited patiently. He knew that Gary would continue, he just needed time to gather his thoughts.
"Mother told me that she and father had had a long talk the month before and that they'd forgiven me, but weren't sure if I'd forgiven them which is why she'd hesitated so long to call. She said... that I was their son and always would be, no matter what. My father, with much difficulty, told me that I had to be one of the strongest men he'd ever met, being willing to go against family, to do what I loved to do and to succeed at it with no help from them. He told me that his stroke had been the turning point... the deciding factor to contact me. He and mother hated the idea that I would never come back. That they would never see me again, so, I was welcomed back into the family, and I had been reinstated in their wills."
"Then, as if that weren't enough of a shock, they dropped the big bomb, so to speak. They had been having me followed. They'd been aware of everything I'd done, everywhere I'd gone, where I was living and working, and they said their hearts broke when they found out that I'd joined that motorcycle club."
"Club?" Mike asked dubiously.
Gary chuckled but his expression was sad, "Ok, a gang of sorts, but we never did anything too illegal, a lot of them smoked cigarettes, and pot... don't worry, I never did," he laughed again when he saw the look on his young partner's face, "we weren't rabble-rousers, but we were tough, and no one messed with us. They were my new family. After the initiation..."
'You gotta fight. If you win, you're in. If you don't you can take your sorry ass and your sorry excuse for a bike and get outta here,' Rebel had dictated, a sparkle of something that Gary couldn't identify in his eyes.
Gary had only nodded and waited for the first onslaught. He'd been sure that he was going to be expected to take on the whole gang at once. He was an excellent boxer and had mastered both Taekwondo and Karate by the time he'd turned sixteen. He'd hoped to make a good showing at least.
His first opponent had been Star, Rebel's woman, and one of the best fighters in the group. The others created a circle around them and began cheering Star on.
Star, for her part, grinned and began taunting him. He'd known them long enough to know that no language was taboo in the group, but hers was as offensive as it could get, on purpose, of course, intended to make him angry. He just laughed.
'I'm not fighting a woman,' he'd said with a laugh, sure that they were joking with him. Just then she furiously lunged at him.
He neatly stepped aside and put out a foot to trip her, hoping to wind her. Instead, it made her angry and she got up, a look of fury on her pretty face. Gary noticed that she didn't charge again, but took up a fighter's stance, eyeing her opponent carefully.
Being quick on his feet, he'd easily deflected every attempted blow. Every time she missed she would become angrier and finally she'd lost control, one of the things his martial arts instructors had told him he must absolutely never do.
After that he'd overpowered her, pinning her to the ground until she finally stopped fighting.
He'd reached down to help her up but she'd angrily refused the gesture. She got up, dusted herself off and with one final glare returned to the group of men and women who surrounded him.
Next up had been Rebel himself. He'd had a chance to see Gary in action and he was confident that he could win. The man was disappointed with the new guy. Foxy had said that Gary was a wuss but Rebel had been sure his friend was wrong. But now, seeing how he'd fought, or rather, hadn't fought Star, preferring to dodge rather than get his dainty little hands dirty he wondered if he'd been wrong after all. He'd taken karate lessons when he was a kid and he had no doubt that the other man wouldn't be able to dodge him.
Gary effortlessly deflected every blow, managing to get a few in himself as his opponent barreled past or hesitated just that moment too long as he considered his next move.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Foxy getting ready to jump in and moved slightly so that he had a better view of the two men. He only hoped that none of the people behind him would grab him or knock him down. He believed in a fair fight and was having second thoughts about joining the club even if he did win. But Rebel, with a feral grin, waved Foxy off and made a come here gesture to Gary who just grinned back and held his ground.
Frustrated, Rebel had advanced, preparing to swing. Gary ducked the blow and landed three quick, hard punches to the other man's ribs before once again getting out of the way to allow the bigger man's momentum to carry him into the crowd who caught him and sent him right back into the center.
With that, Rebel brought out his best moves. He became quicker. His punches and kicks were harder and he managed to land a few blows on his opponent. He grinned, not realizing that he had blood on his teeth from one of Gary's punches. From what he could see, the kid was getting tired and couldn't last much longer. He was positive he could take him. He then rushed the young guy, preparing to tackle him to the ground. He was surprised to find himself on the ground, spitting dust and trying to get his breath back, his stomach aching where Gary had kicked him as he'd flown past.
'You tryin'a take over as leader of this gang, kid?' he'd demanded as he got back up, panting heavily and preparing to finish the fight. 'Maybe ya think you're gonna get Star if you beat me?'
'I don't want fuck all from you.' Gary had replied angrily. 'I sure as hell don't want to be your leader!' he'd sneered at the group. 'I'm either one of you or I'm not, enough with this beat down bull shit!'
Everyone had become still and quiet at that point, and the silence seemed to go on forever until they all began to laugh. They approached Gary who tensed up, preparing for one final fight. Instead, all of them began to praise him and cheer him on, clapping him on the back, ruffling his long, wavy brown hair.
'I knew ya had it in ya, boy!' Rebel had said with a wide smile as he pinched Gary's cheek between his thumb and forefinger with much less force than Gary had expected. Rebel laughed out loud when he saw the confused expression on the kid's face.
'We wondered about you, ya know?' Rebel explained, 'There was just somethin' off abou'cha. Don't get me wrong, you're not a bad guy, just... something about the way you talk and stuff, like... I dunno, like you're all prim and proper sometimes.'
'Prim?' Gary had echoed.
'You ain't gonna fight a woman?' Star interrupted with a grin. 'Boy, most of the women out here can take care of themselves and the guys know it. You gotta be tough or people are gonna turn ya into mincemeat, hear me?'
'So, you thought I wasn't tough enough?' Gary asked, still confused and a little angry.
'Thought you was some kinda prince like that guy in that movie we saw, I'll tell ya what.' Foxy admitted, once again clapping Gary on the back to show he had changed his mind, 'Ya eat so mannerly, an' up til now I ain't never heard ya swear. Glad ta know ya can do it,' he laughed, 'we gotta have each other's backs, ya know?'
'Yeah, we don't need some little pantywaist fag that'll be more worried 'bout his nails then his friends if there's a fight,' one of the others laughed.
'A pantywaist...' Gary had echoed tonelessly as his heart dropped into his stomach.
'Jackass, stop livin' up to your name for once,' Foxy said, punching the man hard on the arm. 'Gary ain't gay. No one who fights like that's gay,' he laughed.
'Then you're not going to want me in the club,' Gary replied, keeping his voice level, 'see, I'm one of those fags you're so worried about.'
'No, you ain't!' Jackass retorted with a laugh. 'Don't try'n pull one over on us.'
'I... am... gay," Gary said firmly, 'and if you can't handle that then you're not the people I thought you were, and in that case, no, I'd rather not join. I have to go home and file my nails,' he said pointedly.
Star delivered a hard punch to the man's other arm and shot him a dirty look. 'You forgettin' about Bethie and Megs, Jackass?' she demanded.
The man turned bright red as he rubbed at the injured area and avoided looking at Star or any of the others who were now looking at him with varying degrees of anger on their faces.
Two women stepped up from behind the rest of the group with their arms around each other's waists. 'C'mon Gary, you know us,' Megs said with a smile. 'You know we ain't no homophobes, not even Jackass, who earned his name honestly,' she continued, giving the man a dirty look.
'He just don't always think before he opens his big mouth,' Bethie added acidly.
'Yeah,' Jackass replied uncomfortably, 'I didn't mean it like that...'
'How else did you mean it?' Gary inquired, his eyebrow arched.
'It's just a word, ya know? It don't mean nothin'.'
'It means a lot when people use it in that context,' Gary argued, 'so tell me, what did you mean?'
Jackass scuffed the dirt with the toe of his boot and refused to look at anyone as he replied, 'I'm sorry, Gare, I really didn't mean it like that. Like I said, it's just a word, y'know?'
'I think you reached your limit for stupidity today, Jackass, and I think you better quit while you're behind.' Rebel glared at the man.
'I'm sorry 'bout that, man,' Rebel said sincerely, 'you know we don't care one way or the other. It can get a little rough now and again, but we got to know you pretty well at the diner, and... well, we'd really like it if you joined. You're a good guy and a good friend.'
'Just how rough does it get?' Gary asked with a little smile. He'd never run from a fight, and he knew he wouldn't start now.
'Not bad, and not real often,' Star said, 'but we run inta other, ah, bike clubs or drunk bags of testosterone who think they're tough and wanna take us down, ya know? Territory stuff that we don't give a crap about, we just wanna live our lives and travel where and when we wanna, ya know? We don't bother them if they don't bother us, that kinda thing.'
'But we gotta be willin' and able ta show that we ain't gonna run or be run off. 'Cept for the cops, ya know?' Foxy added, 'Most of 'em, the cops I mean, know us and know that we ain't gonna be the cause of no trouble, but we all know that sometimes trouble just happens.'
Rebel laughed and patted Gary on the shoulder, 'Ya might wanna teach us some of them moves ya got. We can't be accused of fightin' if we ain't got no marks on us.'
'Yup,' Foxy said with a chuckle, 'I really hate it when somebody messes up my purty face. I ain't called Foxy for nothin', ya know?' he asked, flipping back his long sun-streaked blonde hair to show off a face that one would expect to find on a model in a men's high fashion magazine. He had a body to match, broad, tanned chest, six-pack abs, toned arms and legs, muscular but not ridiculously so. The first time Gary had seen the other man in just a speedo he'd had to run into the cold ocean water until the bulge in his own swim trunks settled down.
'So, Boss, whadda ya say? Wanna be part of the club? It's all up ta you now.' Rebel asked with a grin. 'No hard feelin's if ya decide ya don't. We ain't that kinda club, see? We don't want no one in with us that don't wanna be.'
"So, I joined," Gary continued with a little smile. "I ran with them for two years even though I mostly kept close to home. I'd bought the diner and had to run the place, but they understood and were still regulars there. At first, some of the other customers were a little antsy but the group kept mostly to themselves and didn't make a lot of noise, and business picked back up. It was a nice time, to be honest."
"Things got a little strange when people in suits began to come in. I knew the place looked nice, it was clean, freshly painted and tastefully decorated. The tables were new and spotless, the seats were all new and had no cracks or tears, but it definitely wasn't the sort of place I'd have ever expected them to walk into. Not without being bound and gagged first."
Mike had to chuckle at that image. "I'm curious... I wonder how they found you and your restaurant?"
"He never admitted to it but I believe that my father spread the word amongst his friends. I can guarantee that none of them would have found the place otherwise. It was out of the way and tucked into the very center of a maze-like collection of buildings. Up until then, only the locals knew about it." Once again, Gary let out a chuckle.
"I'd found Morton, that chef I told you about, I hired him and we had expanded the menu about six months before to include things besides burgers and hot dogs. We offered seafood, club sandwiches, Italian and Greek food... I was expecting my more well-to-do customers to order the seafood or other more exotic items on the menu but they wolfed down burgers and fries like they'd never seen food before. The club sandwiches were a big hit as well and I had a lot of repeat business especially for them. I was completely floored."
"Is that when you met Charles?" Mike inquired.
"Yes, word had gotten around about my and Morton's cooking, and we were hired to cater a fundraiser for Juvenile Diabetes. That's where I met him for the first time. The second time was at an event to raise money for breast cancer. That's when he admitted that he was attracted to me and apologized if he'd gotten his signals crossed."
"I was flattered and thrilled to meet such a distinguished and kind man. The attraction was mutual so we began to date and I attended many parties with him. During one of which we met you."
Gary blushed and looked uncomfortable and guilty all at once,
"Once I was back with...once I found Charles and you... I was sort of... sucked back in, I suppose you could say. You two reminded me of all the good things I'd been missing out on during those years that I'd more or less been rebelling. Then I started accompanying the two of you to parties, running into people I knew back in the day and I found myself reacquiring my old habits, my old ways of speaking and acting, and since I wasn't with the gang anymore I didn't have anyone to keep me grounded, keep me... humble. I wasn't nearly as bad as I had been as a teen, but the old attitudes, judgments... I'm not particularly proud of regressing the way I did, but it felt so good to be back where I... felt that I belonged once again, if you can understand that."
Gary looked at Mike with an expression that pled for understanding.
Mike blushed as well since he hadn't changed his attitudes or behavior until it had been pointed out to him how badly he'd actually been behaving toward the other residents of the resort. "I do understand, Gary," he said quietly. "So, how did you meet James?"
"Charles came into the diner with James and Jeff who ordered several different items from the menu. They all tasted a bit of everything... I'd never seen people in suits sharing food before, but I could see their eyebrows raised in approval, and they were nodding their heads as they spoke quietly among themselves. James called me over and asked me for a special order, a Greek dish. Well, I had the ingredients and I knew how to make it so that I did, and he literally closed his eyes with pleasure. I couldn't think of any better compliment. Then Jackass opened his mouth and said, 'Yep, our Prince here, or should I say, Princess,' he laughed, 'is a great cook. All those gay guys are.'"
"The others pretty much ganged up on him and I don't think there was one unbruised piece of flesh on his arms before they left."
Mike chuckled and shook his head in amazement. Too bad he'd never met Jackass. He was living proof that not all gay guys could cook well. He wondered how the man managed to keep any friends with his big mouth and bigotry.
"It was then that James and Jeff approached me and asked if I would like to be the head chef and manager of the restaurant where they lived. I hesitated at first. I didn't really want to leave the diner or the people whom I'd gotten to know and had become very fond of. The money they were offering was... well... it was generous, to say the least, and they really seemed determined to have me. I agreed to visit and look around... and I never went back to the diner. I knew I could count on Morton to run the place for me and do a good job and it's still going strong. He actually bought out the unit next door and expanded it. There's even live entertainment on the weekends."
"So, you own property as well?" Mike asked, surprised.
"Several properties, actually," Gary grinned, "I told you that I had invested quite a bit of my money. Some went into stocks and bonds, and some of it went into real estate."
"Gary?" Mike asked quietly, "If you're that rich... why... I mean... and why did you... and why do you...?"
The older man didn't speak but instead grabbed up his younger partner and hugged him for all he was worth. "I love you so much," he said quietly. To Mike, it sounded as though Gary were crying so he wrapped his arms around his lover and held him tightly. "I love you, and Charles. I love this place and I love what I do here. I'm truly happy. I know that if I'd become a lawyer as my parents had initially insisted, that I would have been miserable."
"Hey," Mike said quietly, a gentle smile on his face, "I get a little lonely around here, being the only one wearing jeans, what do you say.... would you model for me?"
"Yes," came an amused voice from the doorway, "I'd love to see you in jeans and a tee shirt again. I rather miss seeing them on you."
The two men turned to find a smiling Charles standing there, neither of them had any idea of how long he'd been there.
Gary's eyes widened in surprise, Mike's in amusement. "I thought you hated jeans. I mean, you brought me out and bought me all of those new clothes when I... went back."
"That was my own pride getting in the way," Charles admitted with a slight blush, "I couldn't have my partner looking like a common street thug, even if I did find the style very attractive on you. Especially the way your jeans hugged your backside," he quipped, "I wanted that pleasurable sight all to myself."
Gary laughed and got up off of the trunk to hug his lover. "So, you really wouldn't mind..."
"It might take some getting used to, same as it did with Michael... Mike, I mean," he smiled at their youngest partner who grinned back as he also stood and walked the few steps toward his partners to join in the hug.
"How about you, Chaz?" Mike teased. "I think you'd look great in jeans. Would you give them a try?"
Charles laughed. "I'm afraid I'm a little old for jeans," he said, trying to find an excuse.
"Don't tell Jeff, Jake, Eric, James or any of the rest of them that," Gary chuckled. "They wear jeans and tee shirts all the time when they're not working, and they're all older than you... not to mention that they look great in them," he teased.
"So, you've been looking?" Charles teased back.
"Hard to miss," Gary replied with a growl, fanning himself with his hand and feigning arousal.
Before the older man had a chance to reply, Mike went up on tiptoe and whispered in his lover's ear, "I'd love to see you in a nice pair of butt-hugging jeans," before giving said butt a caress. Charles jumped a bit in surprise. It was a bold move for the younger man but he found he rather liked it.
Gary cupped one cheek and gave it a gentle tweak, "Come on hon," he murmured, "just for us. You'll never have to wear them out of the house if you don't want to, but Mike is right, you'd look sexy as all hell in a pair of faded jeans and the right tee shirt."
Charles took a breath to respond but lost it when he felt whisper light hands on his chest, lean, flat stomach, and well-shaped backside. Gary took the opportunity to kiss any objections away, and the older man gasped a little in pleasure as he felt another hand gently stroking his quickly hardening member.
"So," Gary said in a sultry voice, "are we going shopping?"
"First things first," Charles replied huskily as he took his lover's hands and led them toward their bedroom.