Copyright © 2016
by David Lee
by David Lee
Joe's admission of how depressed he'd been worried Michael. He would make sure to text more often. If he didn't hear back in a reasonable amount of time, he wouldn't assume that Joe was too busy to respond. Hopefully the ring on Joe's finger would be a constant reminder of how much he was loved, but there was no sense in assuming anything.
Their afternoon cuddling stoked the fires of passion one more time. Knowing that they'd be apart for a while, they couldn't resist sharing their bodies again.
Afterward, they cleaned up at the sink in the little half-bath connected to the room. They were still a little self-conscious about going down to the showers together. They had aired out the room a bit, and were fully dressed when there was a knock on the door. Joe opened it to admit a good-looking young man who seemed vaguely familiar.
"Hi, you're Joe, right? I'm Duffy Denlinger."
"Yeah, I'm Joe, and this is my fiancé, Michael."
"Good to meet you, man," Duffy said shaking Joe's hand, and then Michael's. Uh, did you get the text from Coach Branson?"
"I didn't see any text because I've had my phone shut off. Can you tell me what this is all about?"
"Coach thought you could fill me in about Maddie while I'm in town trying to get my scholarship reinstated. He indicated that you've got the goods on her and that he plans to pressure the administration to make things right for both of us."
"Ah, now I know where I saw you, or your picture at least. Your photo is on the wall in his office."
"Yup, and I saw yours too. I have to say that your first and last ones from this year show more changes than mine did. You've really developed your bod!"
"Um, thanks, I guess. Michael says I have."
"Oops, I think I sounded a bit over the top. Michael, I'm not hitting on your guy. I respect other people's commitments, but I can appreciate good bodies, and you guys both have them. Do I know you from somewhere?"
"You might have seen my picture in that same office. I ran for Coach Brad a few years ago."
"Wow, you're THAT Michael Bartacek! I should have known. We've all been regaled by stories of your victories for the school."
"I'm flattered, but I think they've been blown out of proportion. There wasn't as much competition when I was here."
"So, what can I tell you about the infamous Maddie?" Joe asked.
"Anything and everything that you feel comfortable about sharing. I'll begin by telling you that she enticed me into an intimate relationship with her and then tried to blackmail me into marrying her."
"That's her modus operandi. It sounds a lot like my story, but perhaps with a slightly different twist."
"Guys, it's close to dinner time, and I'll have to leave in a couple of hours. How about we go out to eat, my treat, and you two can continue comparing notes while we assuage our hunger."
"You don't have to feed me too, Mr. Bartacek, but I'd love to join you guys if you don't mind."
"If you were attending ISU on a scholarship like I was, I'm sure that being treated to an occasional meal is welcome. I'm doing okay financially, and I'll be getting a huge raise by teaching in a new school next fall. Please let me pay forward what others did for me, and please call me 'Michael'."
Joe recommended El Azteca because he was hungry for Mexican, and the prices were reasonable. He loved Michael's generous nature, but he wanted to help conserve his money at the same time.
Other than the fact that Duffy acted as if he were straight and Joe openly admitted to being gay, the way that Maddie had treated them was nearly identical.
"You were smart to get her talking and to record her admissions, Joe. I was just plain scared, and I got out of town the minute the last final was over last spring. I was afraid to come back to campus in the fall for fear she'd bring rape charges against me."
"Michael was the one who came up with the idea. He saved my future, and possibly my life. I mean that literally!"
"I hope you weren't that desperate!" Michael chimed in.
"I'd like to think that I wouldn't have opted out of life, but I was really depressed. You've been my rock so often!" Joe insisted, tearing up. "And I haven't done my best to keep us together."
"You know how I feel about you – forever!"
"Yeah. Look what he had engraved in my ring, Duffy."
"That's cool, but I think his words and actions speak even louder. You're a lucky guy!"
Michael changed the subject to the quality of the food. Joe had to admit it was very good, though no one could rival Grandma when it came to Mexican cooking.
Duffy excused himself to use the bathroom before they got back out into the cold. While he was gone, Michael used the time alone to make a suggestion.
"Do you think you should offer to let him sleep in your room tonight? I have a feeling that he's living on a shoestring, and he might not have the money for a motel room."
"Would you trust me alone with a cute guy?"
"Of course! I'm not going to be a jealous lover who's always suspicious. Besides, he said that he's straight."
"That's cool, but what if he's, you know, curious or gay and wants to mess around with me?"
"That's entirely up to you. I plan to be monogamous. I hope you do too."
"I will be! I just thought it might be awkward…."
"Well, it's your call either way. I'm not pushing."
"Duffy, do you have a place to stay tonight?" Joe asked when he returned.
"Yeah, I'll be in the same building you're in. The guy I roomed with last year has a bed for me because his roomie is taking a three-day weekend skiing. I brought my sleeping bag to make it more convenient."
"That's good! I was going to offer the other bed in my room."
"Thanks for thinking of me. Um, could I hang around with you until Jared gets back from his weekend at home. He should be here in an hour or so."
"Sure. We can talk about the track team or Maddie or whatever."
"You don't have to entertain me; I have some work to do on my laptop, and it would be less distracting in your room than the lounge."
After a tender kiss, and a tearful good-bye, Michael got on the road for home. It had been a momentous weekend! The time he had spent with Joe made him more convinced that he had found his soul-mate.
The roads he had to travel were dark, and almost entirely deserted. There wasn't much to stress him out as he traveled toward home. He was mentally composing his letter of resignation, when suddenly there was a movement on the right shoulder of the road. He slammed on the brakes, uttering: 'SHIT'; then everything went black.
Joe's cell phone rang just as Duffy was getting ready to leave. The minute he saw Joe's expression change from a smile to a look of fear, he sat back down to see if he needed help.
"Hi Kristen, what's up?"
"OH NO! You stay there, I'll get a cab. How is he? Oh, I see. Yes, I need to be there!"
"What's going on?" Duffy asked.
"It's Michael. He hit a deer about 20 miles out of town and rolled his Subaru. They've brought him here because of the university hospital facilities. I have to see him!"
"Don't worry about getting to the hospital. My car's here, and I'll take you. I'll send a text to Jared so he won't worry about me."
Fifteen minutes later, Joe was sobbing in Kristen's arms. Duffy stood nearby, hoping there was something else he could do.
"Fortunately, someone saw the accident happen and called the highway patrol immediately. They found my number in his phone as an emergency contact, so I got here almost as quickly as the ambulance," Kristen explained. "I got to see him for a minute and he seems to be pretty good. All he was concerned about was you, Joe.
The doctors are running several tests, including a CAT scan to determine the extent of his injuries. He had his seatbelt on, but it seems that it ripped out. That's the scary part."
"Duffy, thanks for bringing me. You should go to Jared's because there's really nothing you can do here. I'm sure Kristen will take care of me."
"You know I will! You're like another son, and I suspect you'll be my son-in-law before the year is up."
Duffy gave Joe a brotherly hug before he departed.
"I'll say a prayer for Michael tonight, I promise," he said on the way out. "You have my cell number, so keep me posted, please, and if there's anything I can do while I'm in town, just ask."
Kristen and Joe waited for another hour before the emergency room physician came to see them. His smile helped to put them at ease, at least as much as they could be under the circumstances.
"He's bruised up and will be hurting for a while, but he's pretty lucky. The airbags prevented more serious injury. That seatbelt failure is something that should be sufficient reason to take legal action. While I'm not into suing at the drop of a hat, I'd certainly threaten to, and hope that the company would give him a generous settlement to keep it from going to trial. I've heard of another similar case, so maybe there'll be a class-action litigation. Filing a lawsuit might very well lead to changes that could save lives in the future.
"Anyway, back to the subject at hand. You're welcome to come in and see him. We'll keep him overnight for observation, but I think he'll be released by noon tomorrow, barring any complications."
Kristen stood back as they entered the room, letting Joe have first access to Michael.
"Hey, Joey, I didn't mean to scare you."
"I love you so much," Joe cried, unsuccessfully trying to rein in his emotions.
"I'm okay, baby. I think I'm due for a new vehicle, though."
"I don't care about anything other than that you're safe!"
"I have an idea for a temporary fix for transportation," Kristen said as she approached the bed. "We still have our old Camry that Phil wouldn't trade in for the pittance the dealer offered him. You can use that until the insurance company settles. If you're not in a hurry to settle, they won't have you over a barrel."
"Thanks, Mom; I'll take you up on that! Thanks for taking care of my baby in the meantime."
"I guess I really am a big baby," Joe sniffled a bit. "I was so afraid I'd lost you."
"I meant "baby" in the sense of 'lover-boy,' not 'infant'!" Michael assured him.
"It's getting late," Kristen observed. "I should take you back to the dorm, Joe."
"I'm spending the night here!"
"Lover-boy, you have classes tomorrow and you can't afford to miss more school," Michael said. "I'll be fine."
"Please let me stay. I'll walk to class or take the campus bus in the morning. I'm not gonna sleep well worrying about you."
"Here's a thought," Kristen interjected, "why don't you come home with me Joe, and drive the Camry back here? Then you'll have wheels for tomorrow, and Michael can take it home when he's released."
"That sounds like a plan to me!" Michael smiled. "Can someone find my phone so I can call in for a sub? I'll also text Mr. Prentice so he knows I'm in the hospital and not playing hooky from school. I think I'll wait until I can talk to him face to face before I tender my resignation."
"Oh, could you call Grandma while I'm gone?" Joe requested. "I could do it, but she'll feel better talking to you first-hand."
As Joe had predicted, Maria was relieved about Michael's prognosis, having heard it from him. She promised to pray for his speedy recovery.
"I'll pray for Joe's state of mind too. He's had a tough upbringing in a number of ways. You mean the world to him, and I'm sure he's devastated at the possibility of you being ripped out of his life, just when you've become engaged."
"I agree, Grandma. We can both use your prayers. Ah, he's just coming in from bringing our loaner car back. I'll let you talk with him."
Joe and Maria spent a few minutes on the phone, and Michael could tell by the smile on his face that she was calming his fears.
Joe slept surprisingly well on the sofa in Michael's hospital room. He awoke early enough to drive back to his dorm for a quick shower and a hasty breakfast before heading to his first class.
Michael had promised to text him during the day so he'd be apprised of the situation.
Joe's teachers were all very pleased to receive his make-up work. He explained that he'd been under a lot of stress over events that were beyond his control. One of his professors told him that Dean Ordway had contacted all of his teachers to ask that he not be penalized for turning in last week's assignments late. The dean hadn't given any details, but had emphasized that Joe should be given the benefit of the doubt. Since he'd always been punctual with his work, they all were willing to give him a break.
Michael wasn't discharged until around 2:30 in the afternoon because of another test the staff wanted to run, but he didn't tell Joe right away because his class schedule ran until 3:00. Just after Joe's final class, Michael sent him a text saying he was ready to be picked up.
The two went back to El Azteca for dinner that night, and ran into Duffy and another student whom he introduced as "Jared."
"Joe, I owe you!" Jared exclaimed as he stood to embrace him.
"Hey, I appreciate the hug, but what did I do?"
"You rescued my bestest bud in the whole world. I've been so worried about him, and now he's gonna be back here next fall!"
"They've restored my scholarship, and all of my aid," Duffy added. "The dean said he'd see to all of it personally."
"Glad I could help," Joe grinned. "I guess good things can come out of bad situations."
"Yeah, Duffy told me how that chick tried to screw you over too."
"And 'screw' is the operative word," Michael joked.
Since Duffy and Jared had just ordered, they signaled their waiter back so Joe and Michael could eat with them. It was a lively conversation which covered a bit of Maddie's wiles as well as Michael's mishap. By the end of it, Joe felt like he'd made yet another close friend.
The glances passing between Jared and Duffy made Joe wonder if both of them were on the same "team" as Michael and he were.
As they departed the café, Duffy and Jared hugged both of the other young men.
"Thanks for everything you've done, and thanks recommending this place," Duffy said. "It's a great, low-cost place to eat."
"So, are you going back home tonight?" Joe asked.
"Nope, I'll get up early in the morning in time to make it to class. Jared's roommate isn't coming back until tomorrow, and we have more catching up to do."
"How about you, Michael?" Duffy asked.
"I've already put in for a second sick day. I probably could have driven home tonight, but I don't like the prospect of finding another deer on that dark road."
"He's staying with me, because we have some 'catching up' to do too." Joe grinned.
Duffy blushed, and Joe thought his suspicion had been confirmed. Either Duffy was making up for lost time with Jared, or he was embarrassed at the images in his mind of what Joe and Michael might be doing. Somehow, Joe felt it was the former.
With the twin beds in Joe's room pushed together so neither of them would end up on the floor, they cuddled, skin to skin for a long time that night. Michael offered to do whatever Joe would like, but Joe said that he didn't want to do anything to impede Michael's progress in healing.
Eventually, Michael convinced him that man-milk was filled with antioxidants and other curative properties, and they nursed on each other's cock until their mouths were filled with the magical elixir. Both slipped into dreamland early, and slept very well that night.
In the morning, after breakfast, Michael got into the Camry to drive home. Joe accompanied him to the car, kissing him on the lips before he left.
"I'm gonna be so lonesome after our time together," Joe sighed.
"It's not so long until spring break," Michael reminded him."
"Yeah, but our breaks don't coincide."
"Think of it in a positive way," Michael said. "You can sleep at my place when you're out of school, and I can come here when I'm off. That way, we get two weeks instead of one. Next year, they will be at the same time because the public schools here match vacations with the university. Maybe we can go somewhere warm together."
"That's a whole year away!"
"But summer will be here in about three months, and then we can start living together. In the meantime, we can have sex on Skype!"
"That sounds awesome! Let's Skype-jack when we get horny."
"Knowing you, that will be about every night until we get together again."
"And the problem with that is?"
"Nothing; absolutely nothing!"
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