The Farmer & Dale Ch. 07bydlmercer©
Steven stood at the window gazing out at the view. It was spectacular; clear azure-blue skies unmarred by even a wisp of cloud; creamy-white, sandy beaches caressed by gentle waves. The rhythmic ebb and flow of water erased any trace of those impertinent enough to believe they could leave evidence of their passing.
Far out on the diamond-bright water, several boats, their sails full-set, gracefully skimmed the waves. Closer to the house, seated in lounge chairs, were two men. Both were a healthy shade of bronze, kissed by the sun they'd courted daily.
Steven studied them both. The man on the right, with his raven hair touched only slightly with gray, was his lover, James. The expression in his eyes softened as he regarded the man who had shared his life for almost thirty years. He again felt astonished at the thought; it seemed impossible that so many years had passed. He and James had not only managed to stay together, something that so many couldn't accomplish, but they continued to love and cherish one another. Steven thanked the divine providence that had brought James into his life.
His gaze shifted to the man on the left.
Gerald's honey blonde hair had lightened in the sun so that it gleamed with pale highlights. Steven's fingers twitched as he remembered the feel of his former lover's skin, how they'd touched and loved each other through so many endless nights. He ached to go to him, to pull him into his arms and draw the pain from him.
Gerald had finally agreed to Steven and James' entreaty to go to Florida with them. He'd stubbornly resisted until Steven used the one argument he knew would sway him: his family. His children were worried about him; this trip would reassure them that he had an opportunity to heal. Gerald had given in, thinking that perhaps Steven was right, and that now his sons and daughters wouldn't fuss over him so much.
Steven was relieved that he'd agreed, but he was still worried. Gerald was eating better, he'd even re-gained some of the weight he'd lost. He seemed to enjoy all their activities from simple sun- bathing to the concerts they had attended. They went to movies and Gerald participated in their conversations and discussions, laughing in all the right places. He seemed his old self. Seemed, being the key word.
Gerald had built an invisible barrier between himself and the world. Behind that barrier, he held on to his loss, held on to his pain and grief. After breaking down at the hospital, he had not cried again for Irene. He stoically endured, saying little about her, acting as though everything was fine, when little by little he was dying inside.
Steven had caught him several times with a sad, faraway look on his face, the sparkle dying in his eyes. Those sparks of inner fire were growing dimmer with each passing day. He knew Gerald was trying to bury his heart and emotions, trying to deny the pain as if with his denial the cause for it would no longer exist. Steven knew something needed to be done. He had an inkling of what that was, but was unsure how to go about it.
He sighed and made his way to the kitchen. After eating out the last four evenings, the three of them agreed that, for a change of pace, it would be nice to stay in and enjoy a 'home' cooked meal. Considering where they were, they'd enjoyed many a meal of seafood, so Steven had decided on simple baked chicken breasts, salad, baked potatoes, crusty rolls and sorbet for dessert.
He'd chosen a crisp white wine to serve with their dinner and had found a special blend of coffee he wanted to surprise Gerald with. Gerald had confided his addiction to Dale's coffee. Steven thought perhaps this blend might come close to that which Dale brewed, and that it might produce pleasant memories to help steady him.
Steven prepared the chicken, lightly seasoning it and laying it out in the baking dish. The potatoes were washed and like-wise the salad greens which were also drained and placed back in the refrigerator to keep them crisp. The rolls had only to be warmed.
He was just about to go out to ask James and Gerald when they would like to eat, when they came to the back door. Steven beamed at the sight of them. They looked so fit, healthy and beautifully male in their bathing trunks which exposed lots of smooth, tanned skin. They stood in the doorway using their towels to wipe down and to brush the sand from their feet. After Steven's complaints about the sand being tracked in, they knew to use the broom that rested by the back door to sweep the excess sand from the walkway that led to the door.
The two of them were joking about whose turn it was to sweep. Over the past two weeks Gerald had become quite as comfortable with James as he was with Steven. They joked sometimes, calling themselves the Three Musketeers.
The first to walk in, James observed Steven's preparations, "Why didn't you come and get us, love? We'd have helped you get things ready," he said, wrapping an arm around Steven's waist and giving him a kiss.
Steven breathed in his lover's scent; James smelled of suntan lotion, fresh air and heated male, a potent combination, one his cock approved as it twitched and thickened under his shorts.
Gerald smiled at the two of them, "I thought you were coming out to join us? What have you been up to besides getting dinner ready?"
"I was doing a little reading, and lost track of the time." Steven confessed, then grinned mischievously, "Actually this book might interest you. It's a first effort by a very talented young man by the name of Richard Hunter."
Gerald returned his grin, his eyes sparkling with pride, "Talented, huh?"
"Oh yes, it's actually quite good, but then we don't offer contracts for mediocre manuscripts."
"I'll tell him you said that."
Gerald walked to Steven, leaned in and placed a quick kiss on his cheek. He jerked back, surprise, embarrassment, and dismay registering on his face. His cheeks flushed and he began to apologize.
"James, Steven, I'm sorry, I don't know why I did that," he began to back away.
James placed a hand on his arm, halting him, "Gerald, it's ok," he told him gently.
His arm slipped around Gerald's waist. With his other arm around Steven, he drew them into a three-way hug. Gerald stood stiffly at first, then slowly relaxed, his head dropping gently down to rest on James' shoulder. With a sigh, the tension flowed out of his body. Steven smiled softly and slid his free arm around him, his eyes meeting James' over Gerald's head. Steven gave him an encouraging nod.
James rubbed his chin over the top of Gerald's head. Steven knew then that this was the key. Touch was the answer to dissolving the barrier that Gerald had erected around himself. Steven watched his lover touch Gerald in this simplest of ways and knew that Gerald, however unconsciously, had opened the door. Steven rubbed Gerald's back gently, eliciting another sigh from him.
He and James had discussed just this possibility. This simple, human need to be touched, could unlock Gerald's heart. It was not something they had done before, sharing their bed with anyone, but they had agreed that if doing so would help Gerald, they were both willing and yes, even eager to do so.
When they first met, they had discussed all the aspects of Steven's relationship with Gerald. They had been very open and honest with each other about all their previous experiences and love affairs. James knew, that had Gerald not chosen to honor his engagement to Irene, that he and Steven would very likely have stayed together. Just as Steven had earlier thanked the divine intervention that brought James into his life, James previously had had those same thoughts.
He could so easily never have had the opportunity to meet Steven, let alone build the life they'd made together. But they did have a life together. Their love was strong, solid and unshakable. They both knew that loving Gerald would only strengthen their commitment, each to the other. They were determined to see this man, so good and so deserving of more, recover and find joy again in his life. Working together, to heal their friend, would be yet another bond between them and a proof of their trust in each other.
Gerald's head lifted from James' shoulder as he slowly pulled out of their embrace, "Thank you." he said with quiet, sincere dignity, "I'm going to get cleaned up."
After he left the kitchen, James and Steven met each other's gaze and smiled, "It's just as you thought," James told him.
Steven took James' hand, his fingers lightly exploring the contours and curves of it, "How could it not be?" Steven answered, "When he lost Irene, he didn't just lose his wife, he lost his lover as well. Rick told me how affectionate they always were with each other. Beyond a few hugs from his children, Gerald hasn't touched anyone in months. It has to have an affect on the psyche. It must be like going through withdrawal."
He brought James' hand to his mouth and kissed the knuckles, "It's so easy to take everything we share for granted. Not only is that person there to talk with and to share things with, but there are the tactile things. Not just making love," Steven stepped back, releasing James' hand, "but simple touches. Have you ever thought about how many times we touch each other in the course of a day?"
James shook his head.
"I'll bet it would surprise both of us just how many touches we actually share in that time-frame. To suddenly have that withdrawn, the warmth, comfort and love that each touch conveys," Steven's eyes filled with tears, "James." he whispered, his throat suddenly constricted.
James reached out and enfolded Steven into his embrace, "It's ok, baby. We're going to fix this. It's all right."
Steven relaxed into the comfort and strength of his lover's touch.
* * *
Gerald stood under the warm shower spray, his body tense again, his thoughts in turmoil. He could still feel the warmth and comfort of his friend's embrace, how his body had yearned for it, and reveled in it. He sighed, and cursed softly as he felt his cock stir.
Since Irene's death he'd not had an erection, had not experienced desire of any kind except one. The overwhelming desire to be with her. It wasn't that he contemplated suicide. That was something he would never do, it was just that he dreamed of things being as they had been before the accident. This world that he was left in, seemed empty. He felt desperately alone, even when he was surrounded by the love of his children and grandchildren.
But now there was this burgeoning desire for Steven and James. He squeezed his eyes tightly, burying his face in his hands. How could he even contemplate such a thing? His beloved Irene was gone. How could he possibly consider finding happiness, or even physical pleasure without her? Even now, his body was betraying him; his cock stiffened as that scene with Steven and James replayed in his head.
In the darkness behind his closed lids, his thoughts strayed from impression to impression. The scent of them, each was different yet equally provocative. James had been warm from the sun, his scent stronger, musky male mixed with sunlight and suntan lotion. Steven's scent was more subtle, his fresh, clean yet masculine aroma had risen subtly with the warmth his body exuded. It aroused Gerald senses, drawing him into the past, to a place and time that he had reluctantly put behind him.
And when they touched him, dear God, had anything ever been so welcome? For those fleeting moments the pain receded, the desperate anguish diminished so far that he no longer felt like a helpless child, cowering in the dark, crying for the one person who would make it all better. Irene, who could not be there, who would never be there again.
He dropped his hands from his face and looked down the length of his body. He stared at his erection as though it were some unfamiliar and alien part of himself, something he'd never seen before and certainly nothing he welcomed. Slowly his hand moved down and he wrapped his fingers around himself. A groan burst from his throat as pleasure shuddered down his spine. His breath began to speed, his hand moved, slowly stroking.
"Ah God!" he groaned.
Images of Steven, of their past, appeared in his mind, being acted out like a play on a stage. His perspective shifted to the present, shifted to include James. The thoughts that filled his head were shocking in their conception, stunning for the sheer sensuality and daring of them. Another groan was torn from his throat. He felt the familiar tingling buildup that told him he was still very much a man.
Suddenly, wrapped in the approaching pleasure came another image. An image of Irene as she moved beneath him, welcoming every pounding thrust of his cock. Irene, Steven, James. Each face vied for supremacy in his mind. With an anguished wail, Gerald pivoted and cut the flow of hot water. The shock of the shower spray, now icy cold, sliced through the images, shredding them like so much tissue paper. His lust disappeared as fast as his erection. Shaking and shivering with cold, he shut off the water completely.
Shuddering, he stood frozen for a few seconds, his eyes wide, unseeing, as he fought to hold all his wildly careening emotions at bay. At last he stepped slowly from the shower, and taking a towel he began to dry himself, his expression mirroring the blank state of mind he achieved. Automatically, he returned to the bedroom and dressed. He sat on the edge of the bed, debating whether to wear shoes and socks. The only evidence of his buried agitation was the occasional twitching of his fingers as they sought to tighten into fists.
* * *
James had set the dining room table, lighting some candles to enhance the atmosphere. Gerald had rejoined them and volunteered to help. Steven had set him to tossing the dressing into the salad. They had exchanged several significant looks over Gerald's withdrawn and subdued mood; he wasn't making the slightest effort to put on a show of normalcy.
The food was carried into the dining room and they began their meal. James and Steven carried the conversation; Gerald would not speak unless a question was directed his way. He played with the food on his plate, eating very little. Steven and James' own appetites were affected until the food seemed some tasteless mass that dared them to consume it.
Steven's nerves, stretched taut, hit the breaking point. He reached out and covered one of Gerald's hands with his own.
"Don't," Gerald told him without making eye contact.
"Don't what?" Steven asked.
"Don't touch me."Gerald elaborated, he looked up, his eyes bleak, "You don't have the right to touch me."
"You're right, Gerald, I don't have the right to touch you. I'm just trying to offer you some comfort." Steven told him quietly.
Gerald's face flushed, his eyes taking on a glittering anger, "I know what you're trying to offer. You've got no right," he snapped, "no right to make me feel..."
"What are you feeling Gerald?" James, seeing Steven's face blanch with hurt, decided it was time to intervene.
Gerald turned his anger on James, "And you, you're just as guilty. Trying to make me betray Irene."
"Is that what you'd be doing, Gerald? Did Irene tell you that she expected you to stay celibate and alone?" he demanded. Gerald didn't answer and James repeated sharply, "Did she?"
Gerald flinched, tears sparkling in his eyes. He shook his head, "We made a pact," he swallowed hard, tears clogging his throat, "We agreed that if something happened to either of us, the other would go on living."
James nodded, "That was good. Irene is very wise, she loves you so much. Did you notice that I said she loves you, present tense?"
"That's because she's still with you, Gerald. She's an integral part of you and always will be. You do know that don't you?" James questioned.
Gerald nodded again.
"Do you think Steven and I would ever want to change that, that we would try to take that from you?"
He shook his head, tears starting down his cheeks. He turned to Steven, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." he whispered desperately.
Steven stood and went to Gerald, who buried his face in his midriff. Anguished sobs wracked his body. James moved in behind him and they held him between them, James massaging his shoulders and back as Steven murmured words of comfort, his hand sliding through the thick strands of Gerald's hair. Eventually he quieted. Steven urged him to stand and he and James shepherded Gerald to their room.
Steven steered him into the bathroom, "Why don't you get yourself cleaned up?. There's some aspirin in the medicine cabinet; I think you should take two or three, they'll help you to relax, ok?"
Gerald nodded and with a sigh, went into the bathroom and closed the door.
Steven drifted into James arms and laid his head on his shoulder, "Thank you. I would never have found the words."
James hugged him tightly, "You would have. I've just had all that experience at cross examining people. Gerald was trying to hide from his feelings, and we just had to make him see them."
Steven sighed, "We should go clear the table and clean up."
"You stay here, love. I don't think he should be left alone right now."
Steven began to protest.
"Hush, don't fuss. I'm only going to throw everything in the fridge, rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher. It won't take me long. Now do as I say." he gave Steven's ass a light swat.
Steven smiled, "I just love it when you go all alpha male on me."
James chuckled, "Too bad I can't show you just how alpha I'm feeling right now," he sobered, "Are we keeping Gerald with us tonight?"
"I'm going to try, is that all right?"
"Of course, but you should make it clear that nothing is expected of him." James instructed, "I don't think he's ready for that yet, if ever."
Steven agreed. James left to take care of the cleanup. Steven sat on the bed and listened for Gerald's movements. He heard the toilet flush and the water in the sink running for a bit. A few minutes later, Gerald emerged from the bathroom.
His face was freshly washed, his eyes and lips were still slightly puffy from his tears, but he looked much more serene and in control. He looked at Steven almost shyly, a hesitant smile trying to make its appearance.
Steven smiled in return and went to Gerald, taking him in his arms. He sighed, laying his head on Steven's shoulder as he slowly rubbed his back. Gerald could feel the tension drain away as exhaustion swept in.
"Ok now?" Steven asked.
"Yes." Gerald admitted quietly. He hadn't felt so at ease in months, it was a relief to drop his guard and release the pain that had imprisoned his heart.
"Gerald, we want you to sleep with us tonight." Steven could feel Gerald grow tense in his arms, "We don't expect anything from you, now or ever. If something happens or not, it's your decision, but we want you with us, neither one of us wants you to be alone."
Gerald pulled away feeling suddenly shy as butterflies took wing in his stomach, "Could we just sleep? I hate sleeping alone." he whispered.
"Of course we can. Why don't you get undressed and get in bed, James is doing a quick cleanup in the kitchen and I'm going to make use of the bathroom for a few minutes."
Gerald nodded and started undressing, pulling his polo shirt over his head. He emerged from under it to see the bathroom door close as Steven went in to get ready for bed. Gerald was feeling very strange, excited, yet apprehensive, all underscored by a weariness that dragged at him unmercifully. He took off his shorts and folded them and his shirt, laying them neatly over a chair. He usually slept nude and debated for a moment then decided to keep his briefs. They gave him a feeling of security, even though he knew that neither Steven or James would try to force anything from him.