by TA (Terry)
Emma rescued me from a group of politicians, and taking my arm led me to a quiet corner of the room where we sat together on a fragile looking settee. The room behind us glittered with crystal and candlelight, tuxedos with starched white shirts, and jewels hanging from the throats of elegantly dressed women. The men and women seemed to separate by sexes, with the men standing with cigars and their hands in their pockets and the women talking animatedly together.
Emma's voice was a mystery, a combination of delicate accents that spoke of Richmond as much as Boston, with more than a touch of New York and Washington. Her hands seemed fragile and touched my hand or arm periodically in punctuation like butterflies landing for a moment and then fleeing.
"Mark, you've had a successful week, or at least that's what Monty tells me." It had been more successful than anything that I had ever imagined. The unspoken sponsorship of the Block family was like a magic wand, everyone wanted to talk to me.
"Thanks mainly to you and Monty, Emma. I'm not so sure that those folks would have given me the time of day otherwise. But yes, it has been a good week."
"Well, I can't speak for Monty, but Lord, even though most of these folks would do about anything for a free meal, I can't believe that an invitation to a dinner here would have that much of an overall effect on them."
We sat for a moment saying nothing, just listening to the music from the quartet at the other end of the room and the steady rise and fall of other peoples' conversations. Emma was one of the few women that I've ever known that I felt totally comfortable with, as if we shared a deep bond that joined us together on some wordless level.
Emma took my left hand in hers, then leaned back and looked at me. "Okay, what do you suppose they're doing at this very moment?"
I looked at Emma and raised a questioning eyebrow.
Emma smiled. "The people that you've been thinking about for most of the evening, David and Alex."
I laughed. "I'm that transparent?"
She touched my arm. "Just when it comes to them. So, what are they doing right now?"
"Oh," I glanced at my watch, "I would think that about now David would be trying to get Alex to bed, maybe reading him a story. David's been reading him a bit of Treasure Island every night."
"Mark, don't try and tell me that you don't have a picture of Alex in your wallet - let me see it."
I pulled my wallet out of my pants pocket and a bit sheepishly handed her a picture of Alex.
"My Lord, he's beautiful! That hair… who took this photo, it's fantastic?"
"A friend of ours… he's a dentist, but he likes to mess around with photography. It's cool the way he got Alex's hair back lit like that. It captures the kinda 'other' worldly quality that seems to surround him when the light is just right." I looked at Emma. "He's a good boy."
"Of that I'm certain, Mark. You and David wouldn't raise a little boy to be any other way. Now, I want you to promise me that you'll bring him to Washington so that I can meet him." She glanced around the room as if imagining Alex already there. "It would be wonderful to see a little boy running around this house again."
"Sure, Emma, he was here once for a few days. The first time that I met you, Alex was back at the hotel with babysitters, but yes, we'll bring him again."
"Rumor has it that you've hired Ted Olson to run the office here."
"Yes, yes I did. Actually, we reached an agreement yesterday. I think he'll be good."
"Better than most people know, Mark. Ted is one of the most undervalued people in Washington. His wife was killed in an automobile accident a few years ago and Ted pretty much fell apart. And you're not ever supposed to fall apart, no matter what happens… not in this town… the idiots! The thing is he's pretty much over that now and he's got experience that you simply can't duplicate - and he's loyal too… not a commodity in excess supply around here."
I held Emma's hand and lightly massaged it. "He's got some great ideas for the office here. I've pretty much given him a free rein with it."
"He won't let you down, Mark. You'll be impressed with what he turns out."
"I think so too. Nice guy. I'm meeting with General Shetland tomorrow. He's introducing me to the military types and the DOD guys."
Emma laughed. "Well, I was going to say that you'll have a boring time, but then I remembered how you boys love talking to one another." Emma continued to smile and slowly shook her head. "It'll be all rockets and bombs and things that go bang."
General Shetland sent a car and driver for me, it wasn't anything like the Block family limo, but a sensible black four door Chevy with a military driver. The General's home was in Virginia and set well back on a large tract of land done in white painted brick it seemed to go on forever in every direction. It occurred to me that this setup wasn't paid for on a military man's salary.
The General met me on the front porch. He took one look at me and laughed.
"Rich wife!" He took me by the arm and led me up the stairs. "You were wondering how the hell I could afford this, weren't you?"
"Well, now that you mention it, I guess I was."
"Not that it matters, but she wasn't very rich when I married her. She ended up inheriting it, but I guess it's really all the same." General Shetland, or Jimmy as he had begun to insist that I call him, led me into the house that seemed packed with men. Some were in suits, some in casual clothes, and some in uniform; but they all seemed very relaxed and were helping themselves to the beer and food that was set up at a huge buffet.
"This little get together lets me pay off a lot of IOUs that I've accumulated over the year; well, at least partially. Anyway, the guys love getting out of DC and having a chance to just be jerks for a day. I figured that this was the perfect chance for you to meet some of the guys that you haven't had a chance to meet yet without worrying about how the fuck you're dressed. Besides, I found the perfect guy to introduce you around. This fucker knows everyone." We were approaching a gray haired man from behind who was seated on a sofa. He turned when he heard us getting near.
"Marky! I was wondering when the fuck you'd get here!"
"Frank! What are you, the fucking Scarlet Pimpernel? How'd you get here?"
Frank shoved his unlit cigar in his mouth and talked around it. "Car, plane, car. Okay, you're up to speed." He patted the sofa next to him. "Sit down, kid. Tell me how it's goin."
Due to the new security measures at airports, David could no longer meet me at the gate, so he and Alex waited just outside of the gate area. I kissed David and wrapped my arms around Alex's back as he jumped up and wrapped his legs around my waist. One of the great advantages of having an office in Washington was that I could leave a bunch of clothing there and travel light.
"Dad, wait till you see the driveway!"
The leaves were beginning to fall in sudden bursts, great clouds of orange and brown twisting and twirling as they fell to the ground. There seemed to be squirrels everywhere, chattering between themselves while they ran rolling and tumbling through the crunchy leaves.
Just as last year, David and Alex had lined the driveway with carved pumpkins and Alex was pulling me along giving me the story behind each one. It suddenly dawned on me that he looked bigger than he did when I left. Surely, he couldn't have grown that much in a week. Of course, my point of view had been reset by being gone for a week.
Alex was still talking and holding my fingers when I hunkered down next to him and watched him as he talked. He was thin and I was pretty sure that he'd never be anything but - in the afternoon light his eyes were a brilliant blue. Now that I was more on his level, he moved in between my legs and threw an arm over my shoulder in exaggerated camaraderie, and I wrapped my left arm around him.
"You can see, Dad! We've been working hard!"
"I see that! How long did this take you guys?"
"A long time, Dad! Weeks and weeks!" Well, I had only been gone one week, but that was just a minor detail. "We wanted it to be done for when you got back!"
"Well, you sure did a wonderful job." I pulled Alex into me and kissed him on the side of his neck while I hugged him. "It's really pretty to come home to. And it's pretty good to come home to you too. I missed you."
Alex's face lit up and he smiled broadly. "I missed you too, Dad. I missed you a lot!"
I felt David's hand on my shoulder, stood up, and started steering Alex into the garage. He was marching ahead of us using high marching steps and swinging his arms as he headed for the door that led into the house. I put my left hand around David's neck and pulled him to me for a quick walking kiss.
Behind the door to the house I could hear the clicking of Joe's toenails on the tile. His frustration at not being outside was causing him to begin to whine. When I opened the door he went ballistic, and wouldn't calm down until I actually picked him up and held him while he tried licking me to death. With his pale taupe color and blue eyes, Joe always had this ghost-like quality about him. And I couldn't help but remember the first time I carried him into that house inside my coat when he was just a puppy.
Alex and Joe were tearing down the hall together when I bent down and scooped a screaming Alex up on the fly. I threw him over my shoulder and ducked into the den with him.
"What, Dad?" He was breathless and giggling. "Why'd ya grab me?"
I sat in the desk chair with Alex facing me on my lap. "You know who's birthday it's gonna be pretty soon?"
Alex looked up at me hopefully. "Mine, Dad?"
"No, sweetheart. Yours isn't for a couple of months. It's gonna be David's." I had to smile at the disappointed look that washed over his face. "Are you gonna buy him a present?"
"I don't have any money, Dad. Well, maybe there's a little in my elephant bank. Would that be enough?" Mike had bought Alex a ceramic bank in the shape of an elephant.
"I'll give you the money, Alex. But you gotta pick it out. It'd mean a lot more to David if he knew that it was something that you picked out. So what I was figuring is you and I would go to the mall on Saturday and buy him a present that would be just from you. Wanna do that?"
"That'd be cool, Dad, but what'll I get him?"
Well, Alex, that's what you've got to figure out, and you've only got a few days to do it. You have to talk to David and try to figure out what he'd like, but you can't let him know what you're doing, cause it's supposed to be a surprise."
"Should we get him something fuckin good, Dad?" I'm not sure, but I think my eyes crossed. Was this something that he'd heard me say, or David? We really did try to be careful, but little boys hear everything.
"Where did you hear that word, Alex?" I can't imagine what the expression on my face must have looked like, but Alex kinda froze.
"Tommy told me. Is it a bad word, Dad?"
"Well… it's a bad word mostly, and it's especially a bad word when little boys use it."
"Is it a bad word when grownups use it, Dad?"
"Yes… well, there may be a time or two when it isn't, but mostly it is, and you shouldn't be using it."
"Are you mad at me cause I said it." Alex's face had become totally serious.
"Nope. See, Alex, it's just one of the things ya gotta learn… nobody is born knowin all this stuff. You wouldn't expect me to be mad at ya for not knowing something that ya never got a chance to learn, would ya?" Alex kept his serious expression and shook his head slowly, no. "Well, anyway, there's gonna be lots of stuff that Tommy tells you, or that somebody else will tell you, and some of it is gonna be good and some of it maybe not so good."
I pulled Alex onto my lap. "Kiddo, this is one of the things that Dad's are good at, or at least they should be. Whenever you're wondering about something, just come and ask me. I won't ever be mad at you, Alex, as long as you're being honest and kind… and remember, Alex, you can ask me anything." I touched his hair. "You can talk to me about anything, son. I'm like totally on your side, and nothing that you ever say or do is gonna change that one bit."
I smiled. "Unless of course I decide to feed you to the alligators that live in the basement."
"DAD!!! You promised that you wouldn't talk about alligators in the basement anymore!"
I laughed, pulled Alex to my chest, and kissed the top of his head. "Okay, okay! No more alligators in the basement. Boy, you sure are a spoil sport!"
"I hate alligators!" Alex gave an exaggerated shiver.
I kissed the top of his head again. "You don't have to worry about alligators, Sweetheart. Besides, I think the bears ate 'em."
I finished toweling off my hair, walked out of the bathroom and sat naked next to where David was lying on his side watching me. "Well, four years old and our son has already learned to say 'fuck'.
David sat bolt upright. "What? Where the fuck…?"
I smiled and kissed his forehead. "Well, God knows that it couldn't have been us, we'd never use language like that."
David started to open his mouth...
"It wasn't us, Babe! Tommy provided the instructions." I turned and kissed David's neck where a large vein was pulsing. "But you can also bet that he's heard us say it too. Just probably didn't sink in or mean anything to him at the time."
David pivoted and lay on his stomach, burying his face in the pillow. His voice was muffled. "I knew that it had to happen." He turned, looked up at me and smiled. "It's like the beginning of the end… I figure he'll be buying a motorcycle and smoking any day now."
I ran my hands inside David's boxer shorts and squeezed his butt. "Well, unless he's got way more in that elephant bank then I figure possible, I don't think he can afford either of those things."
I turned my body so that I was lying next to David on the bed, my naked body pressed to his. I laid my head on his shoulder so that my face was buried in the crook of his neck and my left leg was across his body.
"I don't think that we have to worry about Alex. First of all, he's a really decent and loving kid, so unless we really fuck up big time he'll stay that way. Yes, I know, there's that word again." David was rubbing my shoulders lightly and just grunted. "You know, the thing is if Alex asks me why he can't use that word I'm not too sure I can come up with a really great reason. Except, of course, the whole socially unacceptable line. After all, it just describes an act of love and lust that supposedly nobody's ashamed of."
David began running his fingers through my hair. It felt wonderful and I really wanted to just fall asleep with my head on his chest and knock off about twenty hours… it'd been a tiring trip.
"Well, you did tell him not to use the word, didn't you?"
"I mean, we can't have him talking like that."
"Emma wants me to bring him to Washington." I yawned and snuggled closer. "She thinks… well, I guess that I don't really know what she thinks, but she wants to meet him."
David must have realized just how exhausted I was, because while we continued talking he pulled the covers over us and continued to stroke my hair.
"She's got this thing about him," I yawned again and snuggled deeper, "really wants to meet him."
The next thing I was aware of was the feeling that my cock was both hard and being held in David's hand and that some time had passed. I couldn't quite get myself to open my eyes and wasn't even totally awake, but some primal part of me was causing me to thrust my hips forward - the basic male desire to fuck. Then I felt a sudden wet warmth and some part of me knew that I was inside of David, so I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face in his hair while I fucked him. I still hadn't opened my eyes, but somehow knew that it was dark in the room - the early pre-dawn hours.
I felt David wrap his right leg behind mine and his hand pull mine tighter to his chest while the only sound he was making was a rhythmic gasping sound. In my mind we were in a park somewhere. We were both fucking and yet sitting and talking together, totally aware of where we were and what we were doing.
What my cock was doing in his ass was so clear in my mind, the way that his muscles were stretched and how they grasped my cock, holding onto it as I dragged it slowly outward. Then when I came, it was almost like I was watching my cock shoot time after time, great sprays of semen filling him, spilling out of him, running over my hip, soaking the bedding.
The next thing I knew David was sitting on the edge of the bed wrapped in his white terry cloth bathrobe with a cup of coffee in his hand, and the sun was streaming in through the window.
I finally managed to keep one eye open, my voice sounded hoarse. "That for me?"
David put his right hand on the side of my face, then bent and kissed me. "You ready for it, or ya wanna sleep some more?"
I smiled at him. "If I opened my mouth, could you just pour it in?"
"You're ready for it."
I wrapped my hand around his leg and held it. "We fuck last night or did I dream that?"
"I guess I instigated it; you were hard and I started to play, then one thing led to another."
I gently pulled him down on the bed next to me and pinned him down with my body as I looked at him. "I didn't hurt you, did I? I wasn't even sure that it was real. Was I too rough?"
David black hair was splayed out over the white pillowcase and his emerald green eyes were even more intense than usual. "It was perfect, different than usual, but still perfect."
A few days later…
"I didn't forget you know… happy birthday. I called George and made a reservation for us for dinner tonight. Did Alex give you his present?"
David smiled. "He was really sweet. Maybe I'll wear it tonight."
I slid my hand inside his bathrobe and lightly held the side of his naked body. "I kinda like you this way… all bare assed and needing a shave."
I heard Alex walking down the hallway and talking to Joe just a second before bursting into our room.
"Dad, when are ya gettin up? We're supposed to have a birthday breakfast. That's what Mrs. Meurer says."
I slid my hand smoothly out of David's bathrobe and rolled over to face Alex and Joe. "Com'ere, ya little critter!" I grabbed Alex and hauled him up onto the bed next to me. Joe jumped up and sat very close. Alex was laughing and rolling into a ball in case I tried to tickle him.
"Honest, Dad! Mrs. Meurer says we gotta come and eat." He was rolling over until he was wrapped up in my arms - a warm little boy in blue flannel pajamas.
"What are we having, Alex?"
"All kinds of stuff, Dad! Eggs and sausages and bacon and potatoes and toast." He rubbed his eyes with his fists. "Is it gonna be my birthday soon, Dad?"
"December 1st, about another month, Kiddo."
"Am I gonna get good stuff, Dad?"
"I was thinking maybe we'd get ya a years supply of vegetables… cauliflower maybe."
"Dad! Noooo vegetables! Boys don't want vegetables. I wanna bike. You think I'll get a bike?"
David stood up, adjusted his bathrobe and held out his hand to Alex. "Come on, Sweetheart. Let's give Mark a chance to take a quick shower. You can show me my birthday breakfast. Okay?"
Alex jumped up, grabbed David's hand, then used it to swing himself off the bed. Joe was already running ahead, looking back to make sure they were coming. I headed into the bathroom and took my shower, wondering if they would be able to get my present to David installed in the short time we would be out to dinner tonight.
Walking into our favorite restaurant the owner, George, immediately kidnapped Alex, showing him off to other diners and eventually handing him into his wife's outstretched arms. Alex claims that he hates this, but whenever we want to go out to dinner, George's is the only restaurant he ever wants to go to. Usually after about fifteen minutes of this baloney, we get our kid back with a smug smile on his face. Alex takes his place between us in the round booth, kneeling so that he's high enough to be sure of our attention. When we first began taking Alex with us to restaurants we both, automatically and without discussing it, stopped drinking our usual martini and started opting for Coke instead.
Alex put both hands flat on the table and leaned over towards me. "David's wearing my birthday present!"
"I know, and it looks great on him. Matches his eyes." I glanced at David whose black hair was beginning to hang down over his forehead.
Alex looked momentarily perplexed, then he knee walked toward David and peered into his eyes. "Yeah!" He sat back on his haunches to contemplate this development and stared at David's face. "Your eyes are green, Dad!"
David smiled and put his hand on the side of Alex's face. "You noticed that, did you?"
Alex turned his head to me. "David's eyes are green like the sweater." Then in a sudden shift of interest. "I want a hamburger, Dad, but I don't wanna have vegetables." He was slowly shaking his head.
David touched Alex's shoulder. "You're gonna have at least a salad."
Alex just stared up at him. "Okay, but can I have fries too, then?"
Out of the corner of my eye I could see a man in the far corner of the restaurant staring and frowning at us from time to time, then he'd turn to his wife and seemed to be talking angrily. I didn't say anything to David, and he couldn't see the guy from where he was sitting. I wanted to go over and beat the guy to a pulp. It'd been a long time since I'd been in a fight, and an even longer time since I'd been in combat. It seems weird to say, but there's something pleasurable about it; something frightening but deeply satisfying; and for a few moments I could imagine my fist connecting with that guys face; the crunch of bone and the spattering of blood; and I could remember the adrenaline rush.
I forced it not to show on my face and forced it from my mind.
"David, you haven't asked me what I've gotten you for your birthday." I swore that he could read my mind and a shadow passed over his eyes for just a second and then disappeared.
He smiled at me. "Well, it's gotta have something to do with computers, because I found out that you've been talking to my IT guys about something for the house."
"Did they tell you what?"
"Nope, they're all acting innocent - don't know what I'm talking about." He leaned back and crossed his legs. "You know that I've got all the computers that I could ever use, so it can't be that."
Alex leaned into David. "Maybe he got you a bike, Dad." He turned and looked at me. "Is it a bike? Did you get him a bike?"
The waiter brought our food to the table and after getting it sorted out, stepped back, looked hard at Alex, then pretended to draw a six-shooter and fire. Alex grabbed his chest and collapsed on the seat of the booth for two seconds, then sat up laughing. As the waiter was walking away, Alex explained, "Darren and I were playin cowboys."
David looked like he was about to swallow his tongue, so I thought that I better do a little diverting. "David, you live all day with some of the most sophisticated electronic stuff on the planet, so I thought that maybe something older and more handmade might be nice. The reason your guys have been acting so weird is that it's being installed in your office at home right now, and I wanted at least one of your guys there so nothing got screwed up."
David sat up straight. "Well, what the fu… what is it?"
I took a bite of steak and talked while I was eating… exactly what we tell Alex not to do. "It's an old wall mounted astronomical regulator, a clock made in the late 1800s by the Edward Howard Clock Company. They had to be really accurate, because they used them to time the movement of the stars. I had told Emma that I was kinda thinking in this direction and she musta put the word out, cause we had one in two days. But we had to have it refurbished and there's not all that many people left who can do that, at least not to the original standard." I looked at him and kinda ducked my head, then looked at him again. He was smiling. "I hope you like it."
He was looking straight at me across the table, his eyes had taken on a calm deep quality like dark emeralds, and his voice was soft and warm. "It's perfect, I know I'll love it."
Later that evening, we walked into his office and there on the ten foot high wall was the seven foot Howard Regulator doing exactly what Edward Howard had designed it to do more than a hundred years before. The huge pendulum was slowly swinging, ticking away the seconds, the hours, and the days… impervious to the perils of the century and a half since its creation.