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Chapter One: Bah Bungholing

“I’m sorry that Neal didn’t make the funeral, Keith. It’s just that—”

“I know what it’s just like, Kim. You don’t have to make excuses for Neal’s phobias. He didn’t make the wedding either. It’s no big deal. He let me come here for Thanksgiving. That’s progress.”

“I didn’t actually tell him you were coming,” my sister said, with a little laugh of embarrassment. She looked away from me, toward the den, where Neal still had his attention unconvincingly plastered to a football game on the TV that he didn’t have a team in. I’d been sent with the “men” to the den after Thanksgiving dinner so that Kim could clean up the wreckage. It was obvious that Neal wasn’t comfortable having me in the den with the “real guys,” though.

The wreckage here wasn’t only in the dinner dishes and pots and pans from a Thanksgiving dinner spread. Where Neal was concerned the plane had exploded three years earlier when I’d come home from a Blackwater stint in Afghanistan with a male lover in tow. I had been Neal’s macho hero to that point.

When we got to the den, Neal had immediately turned on the game and was pretending he was lost in it. In contrast, his nephew, Tom, a student at the nearby Old Dominion University in Norfolk, had chattered away—nervously, I thought. Obviously he’d been told I was queer and was doing everything he could to show that he was progressive and that didn’t matter to him. There was more to his nervousness than that.

He had found a seat across the room from me, keeping his legs crossed. I knew that, at over six and a half feet, and, despite being in my late fifties, having the hard body of a mercenary soldier, I was intimidating to him. But I was seeing something else in the looks he gave me, knowing from years in the active life before settling down with Sam, when a man was—maybe despite himself—interested. It may be despite himself, but Tom was interested.

Tom was a hunk; I would fuck him in an instant.

Tom was no slouch in the size department, either. A college junior far from home in Ohio and being taken in by family for the holiday meal, he was a strapping track star. His demeanor toward me was a bit amusing, even though I felt for his nervousness. I could easily imagine that he was more intrigued and worrying about his mixed feelings than just trying to make me comfortable in what, from the conversation at the dinner table, was clearly an uncomfortable situation between Neal and me.

I let my mind wander for a moment on holding Tom close from above and listening to him groan as I entered him. But then I shook my head and rose and came into the kitchen to check on Kim. I was doing exactly what I knew Neal was afraid I’d be doing—sizing up every man in the room, including Neal, for possible bottom fodder.

Neal also was pretty much of a hunk; I would fuck him in an instant too. I’d get added enjoyment out of it knowing his prejudices but listening to his moans of passion as I nailed his ass to the bed.

“It’s just that Neal looked up to you so much before and was so proud that he had a macho brother-in-law in the Blackwater mercenary force off doing leader bodyguard duty in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Kim said. “It was like the comic books had come alive for him. He couldn’t stop talking about where you were and what you were engaged in to his friends. He made you out to be a superhero.”

“And he all know that superheroes are hetero,” I said. “Now all he has to talk about with his friends is how I was fucking one of my buddies.”

“Keith! Language, please.” We both looked around for either Susan or Neal Jr., but both had escaped as soon as they could from the dinner table and were well free of us now.

“It’s OK, Kim. Really it is. I shouldn’t have come. You shouldn’t have invited me. We can just not do this for Christmas.” There was a catch in my throat in saying that. I had looked forward to being here for Christmas. I was beginning to get antsy living alone in my Fan district row house in Richmond that Sam and I had picked out and fixed up together.

“You need to get out more now. Put it all behind you.”

“Put it all behind me? Like it had never happened? Sam and I were a couple, Kim. We got married just like any other couple. Sam died—so suddenly I didn’t even have time to say good-bye.”

“I understand that, Keith. But you didn’t die. Married couples are separated by death all of the time. I’m not belittling what you and Sam had together. I’m saying it’s not something that others don’t face and have to cope with all the time. Mom and Dad. And I lost Mark too—we weren’t married, but close enough. After the auto accident, you were there for me and helped me pull through. I’m just trying to do the same for you.”

“I know you are, Kim. And I appreciate it.” I pulled her into me and bear hugged her. I could feel the small sob she gave me. “I know you are, Kim. I’ll figure it out. Neal isn’t going to change, though, and I don’t want to make this any more difficult for you than it has to be. I think I should go now. I do appreciate the effort you’ve casino oyna gone to to invite me for Thanksgiving.”

I heard Neal exclaim from the other room about some ref call he didn’t like. I had no idea what team had been slighted. I strongly suspected Neal didn’t know either—or didn’t even care, as long as it gave him something to cheer for other than me.

Tom came out to the door to see me off. Neal pretended to not know I even was going. The look of curiosity and interest in Tom’s eyes told me that I probably could have him, if I wanted him. He was Neal’s nephew, though. I wouldn’t do this to Neal. On a certain level I fully understood Neal’s disillusionment and discomfort. Neal was in the Navy, though. None of this could really be a surprise to him, and his reaction gave me the suspicion that he’d been a lot closer to the male-male attraction than he was willing to admit to anyone—or possibly to himself. I wouldn’t be back to Norfolk for Christmas, however, that was for sure. It didn’t matter how lonely and out of sorts I was in the wake of Sam’s sudden death.

Still, all the way back to Richmond, I fantasized about having Tom underneath me, running my hands along his smooth, hard flanks to feel him tremble under me and emit a low moan. Stroking his flanks to encourage him to open to me—voluntarily—and, with a whimper, he does. Placing a hand on his shimmering flat belly, and bringing his face around to mine with my hand cupping his chin. Bringing him in for a deep kiss, my eyes locked on his, as, pressing his buttocks back with the hand palming his lower belly, I slowly enter, enter, enter him to his gasps and groans, knowing that I probably am the biggest he’d ever take. And when I’ve settled him down and was slow pumping him, looking up to see Neal sitting across the room, his cock out, stroking it, and watching Tom and me closely. Wanting to be next.

And as long as I knew it was just fantasy, I imagined barebacking Tom as I did with Sam since we declared for each other, missing the raw flesh on flesh of the stroking, my fantasy ending with filling Tom’s channel deep with my cum.

The cold shower I took when I got home in Richmond didn’t help a bit. I lay on the bed, stroking my meat, and thinking of Tom’s naked body, open to me. And of Neal, also naked, begging for me. It was the unthinkable, and after the release it gave me today, I wouldn’t think of them again. Maybe I was making some progress in coping, though. For the first time in two months I wasn’t stroking to thoughts of Sam.

* * * *

Christmas Eve and I couldn’t stand sitting at home and watching the four walls changing color. The lights on the tree Kim had badgered me into buying and decorating were driving me crazy the way they were blinking on and off. Next year less frenetic lights—if I had a tree next year—if I had a next year.

I couldn’t think of a damn reason why I’d want a next year. I missed Sam. Oh god, how I missed Sam. I was keyed up and my balls ached. I hadn’t spiked anything but my hand since before Sam died. I didn’t really see any reason to go on like this. I got up and went to the kitchen and opened the cupboard. I don’t know why I bothered to do that. I’d emptied the last bottle of booze the previous day.

The gun safe was in the bedroom. I could just . . . but maybe I’d put a bottle or two of booze in that other cabinet. No luck.

Liquor stores wouldn’t be open today. But bars downtown would be. At least some of the bars. I should go out somewhere rather than thinking about the gun safe in the bedroom.

I bet Jimmy’s would be open. Hadn’t been in there since before Sam passed. But it was worth the try. If sitting in there and nursing a drink on Christmas Eve brought memories back, I could always try buying a bottle from the bar to bring home.

At least there was booze at Jimmy’s. I found that it was just me and Eddie, the bartender, to begin with, and I almost didn’t stay. The same fuckin’ blinking lights on the poor excuse for a tree standing in the corner and the other decorations, such as they were, as I had on my tree were pathetic. That’s not why I almost didn’t settle on the stool, though. First I came in, Eddie gave me a long-faced look and said, “Sorry to hear about Sam. Here let me stand you a drink and we’ll toast him.”

I would have left right then if it hadn’t been for the drink. I growled my thanks and straddled a stool. It was a nice gesture, Eddie giving condolences and offering a drink. I didn’t want to alienate any of the good people still alive who I knew. But I was trying to put Sam in a box in my brain, not let him wander all over the place.

As I sipped, I thought about the good people I knew who were gone. Blackwater was no nursery school. We’d lost guys. It was a miracle I’d found Sam and that I hadn’t lost him—not in Afghanistan or Iraq—not until the fall, and then not to a bullet. I’d almost lost him to bullets and he’d almost lost me that once. But we’d been patched up and soldiered on. It had made us closer, had opened him to my needs—his needs too—both of us learning that life was too short to canlı casino deny ourselves—to deny who we were and what our desires were.

“To Sam,” I said, lifting my glass.

“To Sam,” Eddie said, lifting his. “And to Keith and to surviving,” he added. I hesitated before drinking to that but then did so.

I saw my reflection in the mirror behind the bar and looked away quickly. When had I grown old? Where had all the lines that made my face craggy come from?

“I must say that you’re lookin’ good,” Eddie said, which pulled me out of the depression I was beginning to sink into on the aging matter. “You have one of the faces that will never go bad, and you’re body’s great. Been workin’ out a lot? Gotten any good tail?”

The questions weren’t out of line. Jimmy’s was a gay bar. Eddie was as queer as I was.

“There isn’t much else to do other than work out at the gym when you get my age and age out of the job. I’ve got a basement gym. Work out a lot.” “A lot” was an understatement. I worked out constantly to try to control my urges and my needs—and, yes, to keep my body in shape toward the time I’d need it for pleasure.

I’m sure he’d noticed that I hadn’t answered the “get a lot of tail” question. He was being sensitive about not pursuing it. In a bar like this, there was a lot of bravado about laying guys and being laid by guys. Eddie knew—or thought he knew—I didn’t say I’d done anything I hadn’t done.

“Miss the job?” he asked.

“No, not at all.” Yes, constantly.

“What job was that?”

Both Eddie and I swiveled our heads around. We hadn’t noticed the bottle blond—maybe of age, maybe not—who had slipped onto a stool down the bar. Now there were three of us. If Eddie didn’t have that insipid Christmas music on the sound system, there might be more of us.

The new guy was maybe five and a half feet tall—more than a foot shorter than I was—trim and wearing flashy clothes, including ridiculously design-tooled cowboy boots with bits and pieces in Christmas colors. I wondered if he brought them out just for the season. He screamed of trade, although I’d never seen him in here before. Eddie was acting like he’d never seen him before—and Eddie was the local matchmaker, hooking likely guys up with each other. A lot of men came to this bar just for Eddie to hook them up with someone to take home and fuck.

“Mercenary, in Afghanistan and Iraq,” I muttered, responding to his question.

“Nice one,” the young guy countered.

“It’s true,” Eddie came back with in defense of me. “Blackwater.”

“Cool, I’ve heard of them,” the young guy said, sliding one stool closer to me. “And I can believe it. My, you are one big dude, aren’t you?”

“He’s probably got more cock then you can handle, son.” Eddie was declaring doubt on the young man’s age as well as our relative sizes. “If you came in here for a drink, I’ll have to see your ID,” Eddie added.

“Of course,” the young guy said, as he pulled open a slip of a purse he’d had hanging on a long strap from his shoulder. He did the limp-wristed thing as he extracted the license, which seemed to satisfy Eddie—the license, not necessarily the limp wrist. This wasn’t really that kind of bar. The young guy was daintily perched on the stool, too. Seeing him closer, I could see that his face was more pretty than handsome and was enhanced with makeup. It was lightly applied, but it was there. There was a small gold ring pierced to his right ear I could see when his shoulder-length blond hair was pulled to the side.

Not my type in the least. But, god, I hadn’t laid anyone since Sam was still walking the earth. Eddie’s “getting any?” question had jogged my memory. I found that I involuntarily had moved a hand to my basket. The young guy didn’t seem to miss that either, and I quickly moved the hand away. My basket was becoming constrained, though.

He wasn’t even anything close to my type and I was getting hard. Still, he was quite a good-looking little piece.

“So, what’ll you have?” Eddie asked him.

“Well, I don’t know,” he said, looking tentatively at me.

“Hit him with what we had—and me—and you too, again,” I said, taking a roll of bills out of my pocket and pulling off a few. I’d done that on purpose, of course, making sure the young guy had seen that I had money to burn. Thanks to the retirement benefits of putting my life on the line for Asian tyrants, I wasn’t hurting for money. And Sam had left me his wad as well.

“Thanks,” the young guy said, pulling over another stool to the one beside mine. “My name’s Sly,” he said.

Of course it is, I thought. “I’m John.” I looked at Eddie, who knew I wasn’t John, but he just gave a little “go for it” smile and found some glasses that needed polishing at the other end of the bar.

“Gee, there’s no telling what a girl would do for a drink and dinner,” Sly said, batting his eyelashes at me.

Just don’t try so hard, a voice in my head was screaming. I had enough lust going for me at the moment. What was gaining in need for me at the moment was release. I wasn’t interested in a pseudo kaçak casino female at the moment. I was interested in whether he had a hole that would stretch and whether he would pant for me while I was reaming it bigger. He was spoiling the mood my mind was trying to build. Anger was creeping in around the edges. I was hearing the bullets whizzing and explosions going off. I forced them into the background.

“I don’t fuck girls; I fuck men,” I said, allowing a little venom to swirl around the edge of that. “The drinks we can do here. The dinner you’d have to get on your own, I said,” pulling a fifty off my roll and laying it on the bar top.

“There more where that came from, doll?” Sly asked, giving me a smile. His stance had changed. He suddenly was more male.

Don’t call me doll, the voice in my head screamed. “How much more?”

“Twice more than that.”

I pulled two more fifties off.

“There’s an understanding motel around the corner from here.” He looked at me expectantly.

I extracted another fifty and laid it on top of the one fifty already there.

“And there are . . . uh . . . necessities.”

“I’ve got my own rubbers,” I growled. “But tell me first. Are you going to be a guy or a girl?”

“I’ll be anything you want,” he said. He’d pretty much dropped the sissyness.

“Shall we go then?” I stood up. Any more of this and I’d change my mind. I should change my mind anyway. Sure I had to pay for it now and again before Sam and I got together. And, sure, I was old now and should expect to. But this was beginning to irritate me. My basket didn’t feel nearly as painfully constrained as it did a few minutes ago. I was still nearly hard, though. It was Christmas. I couldn’t stand the idea of going back to an empty house and making love to my hand once again—or trying to remember the combination of the gun safe.

Sly’s eyes got big as I uncoiled my body from the stool and stood up.

“Shit, you’re one honking big, tall, muscle-bound dude, aren’t you?”

“I’m big everywhere,” I said, exasperated—exasperated enough that I grabbed one of his hands and pressed it into my basket.

He groaned. “I don’t know, dude.”

Eddie leaned over the bar. “I think I told you he might be too much cock for you.”

Sly jerked his head away from Eddie.

I took my roll out, pulled off another fifty, and added it to the pile. “No more screwing around. We going to do this or not?” I placed the heel of my hand on the corner of the pile of bills.

Sly gave me a resigned look, got off his stool, and pulled the bills out from under my hand. He sauntered down to the other end of the bar. “Here, barkeep. Can you hold these for me until tomorrow? You are working tomorrow, aren’t you?”

“I’m working every day,” Eddie answered. Then he turned to me. “It’s good to see you in here again . . . John. Getting’ back on the horse is the best cure. Try not to ruin the boy; feel free to bring his attitude down a notch or two, though.”

It’s what Kim had told me at Thanksgiving too—the “getting back on the horse” part. It was worth a shot. In this case, one might get a little worried about the horse.

* * * *

It started out OK, but went downhill fast.

Sly was on his back at the foot of the bed, and my jeans and briefs already off—his down around his ankles—I was working those cowboy boots off. He was sighing and cooing for me and blowing me kisses.

Just don’t do that, my mind was crying out. I fuck men. Real men.

I kissed his feet and spread them apart when I had the boots off. He’d already sucked me throbbing hard and I’d had four fingers in his ass. The passage had opened right up. He was no boy scout. I already was sheathed with the Trojan Magnum, and we both were lubed.

He jerked and groaned as I breached his sphincter with the bulb of my cock. Reaching up, he unbuttoned my shirt and ran his hand over my pecs and biceps. “God, you’ve got muscles on your muscles. A girl’s wet dream. Hard. You’re so hard. Everywhere.” He moaned as I gave him another two inches. The walls spread for me immediately. This was no innocent.

“Oh, daddy, daddy, give it to me. Give it all to me.”

He didn’t really mean all of it. He gave me all of the fake first-time, breathless “you’re splitting me,” language when I was only half in. Sam was a real man. He took it all and asked for more. I started pumping there but it just wasn’t what I wanted. I gave him another inch, and he started writhing under me and begging for mercy.

“Oh, please, daddy, you’re too big. There, there, pump me there. Fuck your little girl.”

He wasn’t my little girl. I had more inches for him. I’d paid him extra. The anger swept up to merge with the lust. The sound of whizzing bullets and explosives flowed in again. I was back on the battlefield, all adrenaline and survival. Pumping testosterone and exhilarating danger. I held him tight, ignoring his pleas and his screams. Thrusting hard, I gave him eight inches of it. There was more to spare. Another thrust, as he writhed, ineffectually, under me. And another and another. I sensed I was in as far as I was going to get and started pumping hard, matching my thrusts to the groans of the bedsprings and the thumping of the headboard against the wall.

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