Chapter 4

On his way back from Donnie's condo, Justin was trying to define his feeling about the last night and this morning. He was in difficulty, because he knew his feelings were mixed. He thought about the end of the morning, when Donnie had sucked him. He was surprised at how matter-of-fact Donnie had been about trying it. This guy didn't hesitate when he'd made a decision, a quality Justin admired.

He had quickly told Donnie, "Two things: watch the teeth, and take it slow, and if you don't like it, stop. Oh, I guess that's three."

"Thanks, teach, but I've had it done to me enough that I know what feels good, and I don't do things I don't like, except on the job. You've got to help me with the technique, though."

Stopped at a traffic signal, Justin thought about how quiet Donnie was during sex. Lack of recent practice? The guy was very tightly controlled and still raw about Lynn's death. The short bark from the horn of the vehicle behind him made him realize he had a green light.

He took off, and thought of how nice the blowjob had been—not spectacular, but Donnie was a beginner at giving. Nevertheless, just the sight of the older man on his knees, his hands on Justin's flanks and ass, had brought Justin to orgasm almost before he could warn. He thought Donnie might not swallow his cum, but he had. No throwing up afterward, at least, and then they kissed again for a while before leaving the shower.

All in all, satisfying and he was mystified by how tender Donnie had been. He couldn't imagine being on the receiving end of this guy's professional expertise. He had the feeling that Donnie could deal havoc very easily. Maybe, he thought, that was the little lack of quiet he felt. He sensed that Donnie was two people that weren't often allowed to be present at the same time.

On the other hand, he was deeply attracted to the Donnie who was always present with him. Still, Donnie hadn't commented when Justin had told him that he didn't know what he could bring to the relationship. He felt as if Donnie was fully formed and he was still a beta version of what he would become. How long could Donnie put up with that?

Justin parked at his apartment building, and went up to dress for work. While he dressed, he smelled the residue of Donnie's shower soap and smiled. Crap. If he could just let it happen, a relationship with Donnie could be fine, and he felt happy.

When he got to the clinic, he parked and went in through the back employee entrance. As he was figuring out what needed to be done today, Juan stuck his head through the doorway. "Amigo, how goes it?"

"Esta bien, Juan."

That was the extent of his Spanish and he knew that Juan appreciated that he never initiated a conversation in Juan's native tongue, unlike assholes that greeted everyone with "Ola" and knew nothing else of the language. He had worked at the clinic for a little more than a year. He could have joined a large company and done well in I.T., but he had this sense of social justice that needed nurturing.

Juan was the clinic director and oversaw a number of clinic sites on Washington's west side. He had hired Justin, and during the interview, Justin had sensed a familiar vibe that was later confirmed as their friendship grew. He knew that he had already saved the clinics a lot of money, helping them move to a solid electronic medical records platform. The clinic was a Federally Qualified Health Center that saw mainly poor people who paid, if anything, on a sliding scale. Most of them were on State assistance. Justin had absolutely nothing to do with the care of the patients, but the staff of physicians, nurse practitioners, and nursing assistants liked him because he was attentive to their needs, friendly, and because he listened to them.

"So, Justin, you have that special happy look that comes from finding love. Spill."

Now Justin was in a quandary. Donnie had never asked him to hide their relationship and had told him that he would never treat Justin like a closet toy. He immediately decided to take Donnie at his word.

"That obvious?"

"Well, when you broke up with Joey, you seemed to give up. You seemed resigned. The last couple of weeks you're anything but. Anyone I know?"

"I hope not. I mean professionally. He's a cop."

"You little shit. Is he out?"

"That's a long story, and the real answer is no, for a lot of reasons, but I think he is willing to be."

"Justin, Justin, Justin, closet cases are never a good idea. They always tell you they'll come out, but always just a little later. Don't punish yourself. You deserve better."

"Don't jump to conclusions, Juan."

Then Justin related the story of how he came to know Donnie, ending with the shower story.

"Fuck!" Juan quickly looked to the door to be sure no one had heard. "I have no idea what to say. Most people would say you're crazy. How much older is he?"

"Nineteen years, but he is unique. Right now, I can't imagine meeting a better person than he is. He's been so concerned about me and he's so direct. Guys my age come with too much drama."

"Here's a good test. Invite him to our place. See how he does with me and Sam." This suggestion was typical of Juan. He was looking out after Justin and wanted to see this paragon.

"He's not a contestant, Juan. But, if you really want to meet him, I'll suggest it."

Justin thought about Sammy, who was, how to say it, a bit nelly, but a wonderful person. A few of Justin's friends were a bit campy, and if Donnie and he were going to have a relationship, Donnie would have to like them. Now the idea did seem like a test. Donnie had trusted him, he decided, and now he would have to trust Donnie.

Justin thought about his coming out experience in high school. He had always known he was different, but unlike Donnie, his preadolescent sex play with his friends wasn't a passing pattern. His approach had not been not to try to fit in by dating girls, but neither did he behave in a way that aroused suspicion, or so he thought. Coming out in his school wasn't the end of the world, but he did see bullying.

Being different was a strain. The fact that he hadn't dated gave birth to the inevitable rumors, until one day, one of the girls interested in him asked if he was gay. He had been honest, and soon the whole school knew. He wasn't bad looking, and, although basically a nerd, he did work out and was on the swim team.

'How cliché was that,' he thought.

He'd found one boyfriend in high school. The guy was tormented by the realization that he was gay. That went nowhere. Then, in college, he had two relationships, both of which ended, one badly and one not. The first ended when he discovered that his friend was fucking around a lot.

The second, with Joey, continued after graduation and had recently ended by mutual agreement. They weren't good matches for the long haul.

'Shit, he thought, 'that was a Donnie phrase.'

After the novelty waned, they remained friends. Joey was a party guy and needed constant outside stimulation. Rather than try to find a middle ground, Joey had always treated Justin's quieter nature as a disease in need of a cure. Justin realized that one of the things he loved about Donnie was his insistence the he be his own man.

Justin had a strange work schedule. He came in at about eleven in the morning and left about eight at night. That way the computer systems weren't in use when he needed to do repairs or upgrade software and hardware. He had agreed to meet Donnie, who was still on his week off, at the gym that night for their usual workout. As he was finishing up a software upgrade for the whole system, he thought about the age difference. What if Donnie got bored with him? No, this was the worth the risk of being hurt. Juan had seen his happiness, and Justin was going to see what could be done here.

That night at the gym, Donnie and he chatted lightly during the workout. Only two or three other people were there. Justin did most of the talking.

"W A, are you nervous about something? You're usually not this chatty. Not that I mind; I like talking with you, even about simple things."

'I can't believe he can read me like this,' Justin thought.

"Got me. The thing is, when I was talking with my boss this morning, I sort of told him about us." Justin waited for the other shoe to fall.

"I'm glad you're not ashamed of me, Justin," Donnie said, smiling. "Seriously, W A, I take it that you and your boss are also friends."

"Yeah. He's gay, too."

"No relationship, other than friendship?" Donnie asked, and Justin swore there was a tinge of jealousy in the question.

"No, never. He's a good friend though, kind of protective."

"Well, W A, did he tell you that you're crazy?"

"Not exactly, old man. He said some people would think I was."

"What do you think? Are you crazy?"

There it was again, like a missile, the direct, essential question. "No, I'm not, but I do have a few insecurities here. That's, as you are fond of saying, my problem. Now, don't change the subject."

"Right. Sorry, go on."

"Juan invited us to his place so he and his partner could meet you."

"Really? You're going to risk showing me off, or is it a test?"

"Damn, it's irritating when you do that. I don't think of it as a test, but Juan and Sammy might."

"Set it up."

"That's all, set it up?"

"Well, W A, I didn't think it required a complex negotiation. It's just a fucking social invitation."

"Okay, calm down. We'll do it."

"You know this means that I get to show you off to my friends?"

"Shit. That would be some kind of interrogation."

"No, it won't. I guaranfuckingtee it. By the way, I looked up FQHC. You're obviously a very bright guy. I admire you for working somewhere that serves people who have few alternatives. Your career choice says something very nice about you. Bring guardian Juan on!"

Donnie reached over and put his right palm on Justin's chest, over his heart. Justin thought he might cry. His family, while nominally supportive, was never enthusiastic about having a gay son. He was surprised at how good it felt to have someone he cared for think him admirable. Maybe Donnie was answering the question about what he could bring to a relationship.

"W A, next time you stay over, if you want, you could bring some clothes. The dresser on your side of the bed is empty."

"I don't want to displace Lynn."

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, W A. My place isn't a shrine to the departed. I don't have her clothes anymore. She'd be happy for me, and you."

"Thanks, then. I will."

On Sunday, Donnie and Justin were both off, and off they went to Juan's. Juan and Sammy had a nice house, typical of the Northwest–not elaborate, but a comfortable two-story with a nice porch in an older neighborhood. Donnie had asked two questions: what should he bring, and would they mind that he was armed? A plant, and they didn't have to know and wouldn't ask. They knew he was a cop.

Sammy greeted them, and waving them in, hugged Justin tightly and kissed him on the cheek. Justin hoped he wouldn't try that with Donnie, but when he extended his hand to Donnie, Donnie hugged him as best he could with a plant in one hand. No kiss.

"Thanks very much for having us over. I know you must be curious about the object of W A's attention for the last few weeks."

Juan had joined them, shaking both of their hands, and then taking the plant. "W A?"

"Sorry, pet name. You can't have missed that he's a bit of a wise ass."

"Oh, I like him," Sammy said. Juan just raised his eyebrows and smiled.

Justin was stunned that Donnie had used that name for him–not upset, just deeply surprised. Donnie was fearless. They sat in the living area and chatted about the usual things, until Juan asked Donnie, "So, what are your intentions with Justin?"

Justin had shot him a look that would kill a musk ox.

"That's a question I'll only answer from Justin's father, if I propose."

Justin dissolved in laughter and Juan was stunned into silence. From there, things went well. They had a nice, quiet Sunday dinner. Donnie didn't seem uncomfortable around Sammy. He answered most of their questions about his past, his work, what he read and listened to. When he didn't feel like answering a question, he politely enforced a boundary. Justin was thankful that neither Juan nor Sammy asked the question they both most wanted to ask: how was the sex and what was that all about?

They had agreed that they would spend the night at Justin's place. Donnie had packed an overnight bag. On the way, Donnie asked, "How did I do?"

Using Donnie's usual tactic, Justin said, "You tell me. How did you do?"

"Well played, W A. I didn't fart or make any other rude noises."

Justin frowned.

"No, seriously, I like them. I learned a lot about you from watching you interact with them, all of it impressive. You have devoted friends, and not everyone has. And, you let them grill me and trusted that I'd keep the boundaries I needed without melting down. They didn't press once they knew I was uncomfortable with a question. I hope we see them again, either at your place or mine. How's that?"

"I feel so good, right now," Justin said. "I just can't figure out how someone can shift gears in the middle of a life like you have. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy you're trying, but damn, you're incredible."

"Look, I'll try to honestly let you know where I am when we get home. I can't do this in a car."

'Home,' Justin thought. 'He doesn't say anything he doesn't mean.'