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Chapter Fourteen – Going Home

It had been six weeks since David and Nate returned from the cabin in Virginia, a month and a half that had proven to be a sore trial for both of them. First and foremost, the pain of being apart was a constant ache in their hearts. They both longed to return to the serenity and beauty of the Virginian mountains where they had shared such happiness, but the demands of their jobs kept them much too busy to travel, at least for the time being. Added to the unhappiness of being separated were the challenges of bringing their plans of finally living together to fruition. They had hoped for smooth sailing and very few complications. They were, of course, disappointed.

David’s talk with Rachel and the girls had been the one standout moment. Rachel was genuinely happy for him, and his daughters had damn near leapt for joy when he told them that he and Nate were a couple. It was clear that Nate had completely stolen their hearts during his brief encounter with them, and in fact David strongly suspected that he would have been faced with severe criticism had he returned to Charlottesville without Nate at his side.

The dean, his old friend Arthur Billingsley, had also been casually accepting of David’s revelation that he was now part of a gay relationship. “I always rather suspected you’d go that way,” he said with a shrug, leaving David feeling stunned and inclined to wonder how many others in his life had recognized this intimate detail of his psyche.

He knew that Arthur would keep David’s private information to himself, but he was also a realist when it came to how the university operated. News about his new relationship would get around one way or the other as such things always did, particularly since he intended to be a strong advocate for Nate’s associate professor position. He was relatively indifferent to their opinions either for or against his relationship, but he also couldn’t ignore those opinions completely because using his influence to add Nate to the university’s faculty was presenting more daunting roadblocks than he had anticipated.

The opening salvo came from Professor Reuben Fox, head of the Film and Media Studies department, the area to which Nate would be assigned if hired. Though he and David had worked closely together on several exhibits for the ‘Charlottesville Museum of History’, he had taken an oddly arbitrary position when it came to accepting Nate as an associate. David had given Nate a glowing recommendation, which Professor Fox had chosen to ignore. Frustrated, David made further inquiries, and learned that more conservative elements of the university’s faculty were determined to use university politics, an area in which David not only did not excel, but had little experience, to block Nate’s appointment.

He immediately suspected that the battle lines were being drawn between those who accepted homosexual relationships and those who did not, and his suspicions were confirmed almost immediately. Rumors reached his ears through those who supported his cause that a group of the more self-righteous and homophobic members of the faculty were actively campaigning against Nate’s entrance into their company, headed by Professor Fox.

Furious, David stormed into Arthur’s office, and demanded that Nate’s exemplary qualifications be considered above any other consideration. “The position’s open, Arthur,” David said shortly, pointing to the application paper he had retrieved from human resources. “If you allow them to discriminate against Nate because of his sexual orientation, he’ll have grounds to sue! His interview with you went splendidly–you said so yourself. Nate is totally qualified and his scholastic record is top-notch!”

“David, I know!” Arthur said, pointing to a chair next to his desk. “Sit down and let’s talk about it.”

“It’s that fucking Ruben Fox!” David said furiously. “Homophobic jerk.”

Arthur laughed shortly and nodded in agreement. “That he is. But, Dave, in order to help Nate you have to be a diplomat, not an avenging angel. You have to negotiate this thing carefully. Getting angry won’t help him get his appointment.”

David drew in a deep breath. “I know,” he said more calmly, “and I’m sorry I barked at you, Arthur. But Nate will have grounds to sue if they keep this up. And,” he added grimly, “I’ll do everything I can to convince him to do just that, up to and including informing the press!”

“Can we work on this a little bit before we start dragging in lawyers and reporters? You know I’m on your side. We can get around Ruben. Hell, no one likes the sorry son-of-a-bitch, not even his wife.”

“Can you blame her? He’s as mean as a snake! And I’m grateful for your support, Arthur, but as far as working on it a little bit, we’re running out of time!”

Arthur promised to have a talk with Reuben Fox, then leaving him to ponder the consequences of both lawsuits and press coverage of Nate’s case, David walked from the office.

He’d always been a quiet and unassuming professor. He’d climbed the ladder slowly. Through the years he had become a much-loved figure among both his fellow professors and his students. He had also, over the course of his twelve years at the college, done many favors for his fellow faculty members, favors that had never been returned.

Quietly, taking Arthur’s advice to be as diplomatic as possible, he began to call in those favors one by one. His own reputation as a man of integrity proved to be a deciding factor for most of them, and little by little he won them over. He was gratified by these successes, but his happiness was short-lived. Arthur called him into his office in early July and informed him of his opposition’s latest strategy.

“They’re going to take it public, David,” he sighed, clearly troubled by the prospect. “At least they want it debated by the university board.”

“Let them!” David said firmly. “I’ll welcome the chance to speak to the board on Nate’s behalf.

“Well, that’s certainly the last thing they’d expect,” Arthur said with a small smile.

They think I’ll back down, he thought stubbornly. They think I’m too afraid of damaging my reputation at the university to fight them at the board meeting.

He hadn’t told Nate any of this. During their daily conversations he assured Nate that all was proceeding normally and that his position would be granted before the end of summer. He only hoped and prayed that he was right. He had a twinge of guilt now and then about not being more honest with Nate about his battle with the more bigoted members of the university’s faculty, but shook it off with a quick sigh. It was almost two months before term began. He still had time to bring it all together.

***

In Los Angeles, Nate was having issues of his own because while David battled to win Nate’s position at the university, Nate was frantically trying to finish off every project still on his plate before the summer ended. Frazzled and nearly exhausted, he was putting in twelve and eighteen-hour days while still trying set aside time to talk with David.

Lance tried to help, but he had his own assignments to complete. Executive producers answered to studio management who were quick to demand that schedules be maintained and films be completed on time. Any producer who wanted to keep his job and receive choice projects in the future had to meet these requirements and Nate knew it, so he struggled to keep Lance as uninvolved as possible

At the same time, he was packing his belongings and either selling or giving away any possessions he wasn’t taking to Virginia. The time spent with David at the cabin became a dream of happiness that drifted on the far edge of his consciousness. Reality was a lot less peaceful and a lot more exasperating, and Nate was slowly becoming less and less able to cope with the constant demands on his time and energy.

“Christ, David,” he groaned one evening as they Skyped on the computer. “I’m ready to just fucking quit and walk away.”

“Do it!” David encouraged. “Lance won’t care, you know he won’t. You’re making yourself crazy with this stuff.”

Nate shook his head, looking at the face he loved, seeing the concern etched onto his expression. “I can’t, baby. I can’t leave Lance holding the bag that way. It would damage his reputation. It could keep him from getting other jobs.”

David scowled and shook his head. “Dammit!” he muttered in frustration, then sighed and forced a smile. “I’m sorry, Nate. I shouldn’t pressure you. You’re already pressured enough. And I love you for being the loyal, concerned friend you are to Lance.”

“No apology necessary,” Nate assured him. “I’m grateful for your concern, babe. And I won’t let it go on much longer. Hang in there with me.”

David agreed that he would, of course, and when their chat finally ended he arose more determined than ever to insist that the faculty holdouts confirm Nate’s appointment. He knew the associate professor’s position wasn’t the only choice possible. If that didn’t work out, Nate could easily get a job teaching at one of the many community colleges in the area or even in a local high school. Arthur had assured him that he would personally intervene to secure the best position he could for Nate outside of their own institution. But even though David was grateful for his support, he wasn’t yet ready to surrender his goal of having Nate join him as a member of the University of Virginia faculty.

He’d never before engaged in this kind of public debate, particularly one that involved an issue as private as his sexual orientation. Revealing intimate information to people who were virtually strangers to him went against his very nature.

“They’re waiting for you to wave a white flag, “Arthur informed him over dinner one evening. “Reuben as much as told me so day before yesterday.”

“That bastard!” David said angrily, but still forced a laugh. “You know what, Arthur?  A year ago– hell, six months ago–he might have been right. But the past year has changed me.” He thought about the cabin and his father’s journal. He shook his head and spoke thoughtfully: “A lot of things have changed me.”

“Well, that’ll be bad news for Reuben and his cronies,” Arthur said, throwing down his napkin.

“You’d better tell them, Arthur,” David said, leaning toward his old friend, “that I plan to consult a lawyer next week and I’m already in contact with a reporter from the Post and Courier and they will be with me at the board meeting.”

“Now, David, take it easy.”

“There’s no time left to take it easy. The new term will be starting shortly. They don’t have to defeat me, Arthur, all they have to do is delay me. I promised Nate that he’d get this job. His credentials are impeccable. He’ll make a great educator.  I refuse to be forced into a position where I have to face Nate and tell him that I let him down.”

“I don’t want that either,” Arthur assured him. “I know Nate’s qualifications and I want to help you fight for him, but David, I also have to think about this school and its reputation.”

David nodded understandingly. “Arthur, no one loves this university more than I do. I don’t want to see it hurt. But this kind of injustice has to reach beyond personal loyalties. Nate deserves this position and I’m not going to see him denied because of a bunch of redneck bigots. I’m sorry, old friend, but no matter what it costs, I’m not going to let it happen.”

David was no alpha male and he knew it, but he was fighting for Nate and that raised his courage to heights that he wouldn’t have believed possible. He felt sure that the faculty members opposing him were astounded at his willingness to carry this fight into whatever public arena was necessary. And this proved to be the critical factor that finally turned the tide. Convinced that his position was unyielding, and unwilling to see this battle fought in the press or in a courtroom, they began to slowly back down.

As July slowly evolved into the dog days of August, David’s preparation for the new term began to occupy more and more of his time. He spent several hours a day at his university office, touching base with students and preparing his new classes. He checked on his classroom and made sure that the books he had ordered were at the campus shop in sufficient number. But though these many preparations filled much of his day, he still managed to meet frequently with the faculty members critical to the approval of Nate’s position. Without the endorsement of these formidable professors, Nate’s appointment could be in jeopardy. Happily, most of them were completely supportive once David had presented Nate’s qualifications. The barriers were slowly falling.

He had booked his flight to Los Angeles and was leaving in two short weeks. He desperately wanted to be able to tell Nate upon arriving that his position as an associate professor had been secured, but time was drawing short. The board meeting was scheduled for early next week and though David had made tremendous progress he was still worried because no final decision had yet been reached. “I’ve got to push this through,” he moaned aloud, trying unsuccessfully to force his mind to focus on the more immediate task of completing final student schedules. He lifted his head in annoyance when Melinda entered and greeted her tersely: “Yes?”

“Dean Billingsley just called. He wants to see you in his office,” she said somewhat tentatively.

“Sorry, Melinda,” he apologized.  “Buzz his secretary and tell her I’ll be right up.”

He wondered, as he climbed the back stairs that led to the administrative offices, if this meeting was about Nate or about the upcoming term, and as he entered the office Arthur’s secretary waved him past her desk. “He’s expecting you,” she said.

“Hey there, Arthur,” David said in greeting, then stopped. Seated around the dean’s desk were three high-level faculty members, all of whom were fundamentally important to gaining Nate the associate professor position including his chief opponent, Professor Reuben Fox.

David sighed and steeled himself for a fight, feeling anger surge through him like a white-hot river.  Jesus!  he thought in irritation. It’s a fucking associate professor position. I’m not asking you to make him head coach of the fucking football team or anything REALLY important!

“Yes?” he said as he took the seat that Arthur indicated. “You wanted to see me?”

Arthur gave no response, but offered a sheaf of papers to David, who looked at them curiously without reading them. “These are his personnel papers, the ones he has to fill out, sign, and return to us before the beginning of term are marked.”

David leapt to his feet with a cry of elation. “Arthur!” he said, staggered by this sudden and unexpected victory. “Thank you!” He shook the Dean’s hand, then turned to the other men seated around the desk. “I’d like to thank all of you as well,” he added hoping that his tone was sufficiently gracious in spite of the fact that some of these men had bitterly opposed Nate’s appointment. He looked directly at Reuben Fox. “What about the board meeting?”

“We’ve removed the item from the agenda,” Fox replied. “But understand, David,” he added stiffly. “You forced this concession on us, so we’ll accept him. But he’s on probation for six months. He’s still got to prove himself.”

“And you understand THIS, Reuben,” David responded just as stiffly, leaning, defiantly, toward the professor. “If Nate gets a fair evaluation based solely on his work, that’s all I ask. But I will be watching and the evaluation had better pass muster.”

He felt Arthur’s restraining hand on his arm and wheeled to face him. “I mean it, Arthur. A fair evaluation.” He turned again to stare at Professor Fox. “Reuben isn’t the only one who can demand a board hearing.”

“Relax,” Arthur half-whispered. “It’ll be fair, I promise.”

David patted his arm. He nodded in understanding and gratitude and left the office clutching Nate’s papers tight in his hand. It had been a long and fatiguing summer. Never before had he fought against the university’s powerful political machine, and he was frankly astounded by the tenacity and determination with which he had dealt with their unfair resistance.

It wasn’t merely that Nate was worth fighting for, though that was unquestionably a strong part of his motivation. It was also that David was discovering reserves of previously unknown strength at the core of his being that urged him to express feelings and beliefs that he would never have allowed to surface before his trip the cabin and the revelations of his father’s journal.

He felt he understood his dad at long last, and he was determined not to live his life as his father had, with his song yet unsung. Oddly, he felt an emerging desire to make his father proud of him. And he strongly sensed that this battle to gain a fair and unbiased opportunity for Nate would have done just that. He knew instinctively that his father would have approved of his public struggle on behalf of the one he loved. And he also believed with all his heart that he could not have found the strength he needed without the insight he’d gained from his father’s brokenhearted memoirs.

“Thanks, dad,” he whispered, feeling his eyes burn with tears. “Thanks.”

***

On the West Coast, Nate was addressing a stubborn director with grim determination and more than a little anger. “I’ll tell you exactly how it is,” he said through clenched teeth. “I have zero patience left with your bullshit attitudes. We spent a LOT of money hiring this man to be your first AD, and you will either accept his qualifications and show him the respect he deserves or we’ll fire you and give him your fucking job! Now what’s it going to be?”

After securing the director’s reluctant assurances, he left and wound his way to Lance’s offices. He nodded briefly at Lance’s secretary, pushed open the door, and collapsed into a chair. “It’s settled,” he said with a sigh. “I let him hear the branch creak under him a bit.”

Lance looked up from the papers piled on his desk and laughed. “I could have sold tickets to that conversation.”

Nate scoffed skeptically. “He’s probably had the same conversation with thirty other AP’s. You’re going to have to watch that bastard. I don’t trust him not to come in over budget just to spite you.”

Lance nodded then shrugged. “Let him try it. If he comes in one minute over schedule for the duration of this shoot, that young AD of his is going to be wearing a new hat.”

“That’s basically what I told him.”

“Yeah?” Lance said. “Well I’m not just letting him hear the branch creak. I mean it!” He surveyed Nate, leaning back in his chair. “Now let’s talk about you. Where are you in this process?”

Nate sighed. “Not nearly as far along as I want to be, Lance, and I’m sorry.”

Lance smiled. “I have a bit of a surprise for you, kid.” He tossed a paper across to Nate. “Check it out.”

Nate was staring at a signed contract taking on a new associate producer. He looked back up at Lance, his mouth open in astonishment. “Where’d you find the money?”

Lance waved dismissively. “None of your business,” he replied brusquely. “He’s young, but he has some experience.”

Nate read the paper over with interest then shook his head doubtfully. “Lance, he only has college experience and a little bit of stage work! How’s he going to handle the mess I’ll be handing to him?”

“The same way you did: by the seat of his pants until he gets his bearings. You’ve got a week to bring him up to speed.”

Nate stared at the older man, feeling tears scald his eyes. “You took his salary out of your own, didn’t you.”

“So what?” Lance said, shrugging, then leaned toward him with a wry grin. “You seem to forget that as of the end of this month we’ll no longer be paying you! So I may end up being money ahead!”

Nate left the office an hour later having worked out a schedule to transfer his duties to the newly hired AP. “My God,” he breathed. “It’s done.” He looked to the west where the sun was slowly sliding toward the horizon, scarcely able to believe that the last of his many burdens would be gone within a week. He jumped into his car and gunned the engine. Then he steered the car out of the studio lot and headed for the freeway.

Two weeks later he was driving down the thoroughfares of LAX, on his way to pick up David at the arrivals area. Typically, David had insisted that Nate wait in the cell phone lot until he was securely on the ground and outside, and Nate had just received the joyful message:

“I’m here, darlin’. Come fetch me!”

Nate spotted him at once standing with his one piece of luggage, scanning the approaching cars. David waved wildly when he saw Nate’s Nissan and he dashed quickly over to open the door and clamber into the passenger’s seat, leaning over briefly to claim a quick kiss.

“My GOD, I’m glad to see you!” Nate laughed, grabbing his neck for another, longer, kiss. “It seems like years since we were together.”

David’s smile was so big it hurt his face. He was, he felt sure, incapable of finding words that could express the elation bursting in his chest at the sight of this beautiful man who so completely filled his heart.  He tried to curb the nearly overwhelming sense of possessive pride that simply sitting by Nate’s side brought to him, but couldn’t. He’s mine, he thought with quiet joy. There was no sense of ownership in his elation, and instead, a lifetime of hopeful wishes finally fulfilled.

“Right back at you,” he replied, reaching to claim Nate’s hand. “Hey, how’s the new AP coming along?”

“He’s actually pretty good! I’m relieved. I was scared to death that I’d be leaving Lance with a half-trained novice, but the kid’s got spine! Just today I saw him flay the skin off a jackass cinematographer who was trying to wring an extra day out of us. Couldn’t have done it better myself.” He grinned at David.  “How’s your end of things going? You’ve been pretty quiet about it lately. Are there problems?”

“Let’s wait ’til we get to your place,” David said, pretending a seriousness he was far from feeling. “I’ll tell you all about it then.”

Nate shot him a nervous glance, but allowed David to turn the subject to his daughters: how excited they were about school, and how they couldn’t wait for Nate to arrive in Virginia.

They walked into Nate’s apartment, each of them privately remembering the last time they’d been here together, the awful day when David had run out, presumably for good. David sighed and looked around. “Jesus!” he exclaimed in surprise. The apartment was littered with boxes of every size, shape, and description: some open, some sealed, some empty. “You’ve been busy!”

“Sorry for the mess,” Nate said, skirting the boxes to drag David’s suitcase toward the bedroom. “The movers will be here day after tomorrow!” he called from the door. “I have to have this stuff ready to go.”

David smiled, loving the chaos that only served as a remind and an affirmation. Nate would soon be with him in Virginia. He could still scarcely believe his luck. “I am the most grateful man in the world for this mess,” he assured him as Nate returned to the cluttered living room. “Where’s your couch?”

“In Jonathan Emerald’s basement,” Nate informed him with a grin. “We decided I didn’t need to bring it, remember?”

David nodded, and cleared away a space on the dining room table. “Got any wine?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Nate sighed out slowly. “I saved one bottle for us.”

“Get it,” David told him, smiling.

When he returned with two wine-filled glasses, he saw that David had spread a number of papers out on the table. David took a glass from him and lifted it in silent tribute.

“Congratulations, Professor Reese,” he said softly. “You are now an Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of Virginia.”

Nate held his glass in a trembling hand, staring first at David, then at the papers. Finally, unable to contain himself, he sat his glass down and leapt into David’s arms, barely giving him the time to set his own wineglass on the table.

“Oh my God, David,” he breathed, relief and joy flooding through him in a rush. “You’d been so quiet about it lately. I thought something was wrong.”

David kissed him passionately, then feeling his pulse quicken, he kissed him again and held him close to his chest. “It’s been an interesting summer,” he muttered against Nate’s shirt. “I’ll tell you all about it on the trip home. But it worked out. We just need to get you back there now so you can start preparing for the new term. And,” he added with a dry chuckle, “I also have to bring you up to speed on your new boss.”

“Tomorrow’s my last day,” Nate told him. “We have dinner with Lance tomorrow night and the next day we’re off to Virginia. The movers have a key and all the instructions necessary.”

“Let’s sort through these,” David said, releasing him reluctantly. “There are a couple forms here that you need to sign tonight and fax tomorrow. The rest can wait.”

They arranged the papers and Nate quickly signed the ones David indicated. “By the way,” David added as he shoved the rest of Nate’s papers back into his briefcase, “have you told your parents about all this?”

“I have. They’re happy for me, even my dad, which rather surprised me. Usually he ignores the fact that I’m gay like it’s a wart on my nose. I had to promise we’d visit them soon though,” he added, looking apologetically at David.

David laughed. “Fathers can surprise you at times.” They exchanged a smile and a knowing look. “And I’d love to visit your parents, in fact I’m dying to meet them.”  He reached out and caressed Nate’s hair. “Don’t worry, baby. I’ll impress the living hell out of them. I promise.”

“I don’t doubt it for a minute,” Nate assured him. He folded the papers to be faxed and slid them neatly into his jacket pocket. When he lifted his head he saw David staring intently at him, his hazel eyes emerald green with desire, and he smiled. “I know that look, Teach. I’ve seen it before.”

“I hope you’ll be seeing it for as long as you live,” David murmured, holding out his hand. Nate took it with eager anticipation and they walked together into the bedroom.

Their lovemaking that night was beyond anything David had ever known, even with Nate. He was reminded of an altar, and for a moment the thought of Nate as a naked offering flashed through his mind. His hands skated over his lover’s body, moving slowly, fingertips barely touching his beautiful, smooth skin. Nate’s cries were an aphrodisiac and David added the touch of his lips and tongue to the gentle movement of his hands ghosting over Nate’s skin.

He kissed Nate’s nipples while his fingertips caressed every other part of Nate’s body that he could reach. He closed his eyes and lost himself to everything except the feeling of Nate’s body. Its porcelain beauty was echoed in its smooth, satiny feel. David leaned over him, his lips moved slowly down Nate’s chest. The skin under his tongue was honeyed cream. Still beautiful. Still silken smooth. He slid lower in their bed, wetting Nate’s nipples, then nibbling them until he felt his lover’s back arch and heard him groan in anguished pleasure.

He could hear his own breathing becoming labored as his tongue slowly moved lower. He wove a zig-zag path across Nate’s taut belly, then stopped to lick the dark skin of his tattoo. He was dimly aware of Nate’s whimpers above him. “Love you,” he whispered against the quivering flesh beneath his lips. “God, I love you.”

He felt Nate’s fingers clawing at his hair. The hardness of his erection pulsed against David’s cheek. He licked across Nate’s navel, feeling desire thunder through him, setting his body on fire. His own cock was rigid. Painfully so. He pressed himself against the bed as he lay between Nate’s legs, praying he would be able to control the longing that ripped through him long enough to satisfy them both. He turned his face to lick slowly up the length of Nate’s cock… wanting with all his soul to give this man that he loved more pleasure than he’d ever experienced before.

Nate gasped and arched in a frenzy of yearning. “Ohgod,” he moaned. “David…. Davy… please….”

David captured Nate’s erection between both hands as he leaned over him. His tongue lapped sensuously. After a moment, both hands moved to gasp Nate’s hips. He felt Nate lift his hips, and as he did David allowed his throbbing hardness to glide into his mouth. Nate’s hips twitched and he cried out, but David’s hands gripped him gently holding him still. He sucked gently, almost lazily, stopping now and then to swirl his tongue around the head, then flicking rapidly, paying special attention to the split on the underside of his penis.

He heard Nate above him. His body moved wantonly. Lifting his hips upward again and again. He was gasping for breath, nearly panting. Each exhale a whimpering moan. David thought he had never heard anything as erotic as Nate’s cries of pleasure. Each one slammed him like a physical touch, taking his breath, heightening his already feverish desire.

He hunched against the bed, rubbing himself against it as his tongue and lips caressed Nate’s hard male heat. He gripped Nate’s cock, pumping it gently as his tongue beat a pattern against the sensitive head. His other hand moved to caress his thighs, grazing his testicles.

“God, Davy!” Nate cried. “I’m going to come! I can’t stop!”

“Oh yes, you can,” David groaned, releasing him gently. “Wait,” he breathed. “Baby, wait.”

He licked and kissed his way up Nate’s belly and chest, extending his hand to the nightstand to grab the small tube he had laid there earlier. Now he pressed his body against the lean, strong frame beneath him and kissed him with passionate hunger. “Want you,” he whispered shakily. “Jesus, Nate… want you so much I could scream.”

“And I want YOU,” Nate replied. “Want you NOW. Enough foreplay. Enough with the teasing.” His fingers dug into David’s broad shoulder. “Fuck me!” he ground out between clenched teeth. “Fuck me now!”

David smeared them both with the slippery lubricant, and eased himself just barely inside Nate’s body. He felt his lover tense, so he stopped, though the aching need within him was nearly unbearable.

“OK?” he gasped. “Nate? OK?”

After a moment Nate nodded. “Now,” he whispered, nodding. “Now, Davy.”

Moving slowly, David joined his body to Nate’s until he had embedding himself deeply within his body. Now his hips began to thrust in a sensuous rhythm. Buried within him, David moaned and rocked, immersing himself. Nate’s body was a hot, tight furnace that clasped him in an iron grip. He thrust deeply again and again as Nate arched to meet him in a frenzy of yearning.

David bent and their lips met in a long, drugging kiss. He reached between them and grasped Nate’s hardness. There was no need for him to move his hand, the frenzied movement of their bodies was all that was needed. He merely gripped hard, whimpering as he felt himself on the raw edge of coming… desperate with need.

Nate’s fingers suddenly gripped his shoulders. He cried out… almost a scream as David pounded their bodies together, and came with ecstatic bursts of pleasure.

David continued moving, thrusting once, twice, then a third time. He pressed himself as deeply into Nate as he could and came with an intensity that shattered him. Nearly sobbing, David felt his head spin. His whole body felt the rapture of his orgasm, as though every pore had burst with it.

“Oh my god,” he gasped. “Oh my god, Nate. Nate.” As he murmured Nate’s name, he felt his lover’s hands moving over his back, stroking him gently. David’s arms encircled him, crushing them together. “Oh baby. Jesus, that was incredible.”

Nate gave a shaky laugh. “I know. God, Davy, I know.”

David kissed his cheek, then his shoulder. “Mmmmm.. god, so sweet.. so good.”

“It’s not always this good between us, David. I mean it’s always good. But this… this was… god, this was… amazing.”

David moaned low in his throat, then slowly slid to his side, feeling a touch of sadness as he slowly withdrew from Nate’s body. “Jesus, baby, I don’t know. And I’m not sure I care. I just know that tonight you took me to heaven.”

“You look eleven years old,” Nate said, his voice warm with love. “Let’s take a shower and get some sleep.”

David smiled and turned to crawl out of bed. Their reunion had been perfection. And no matter what followed for as long as they lived, David knew he would never forget this night.

Two days later they stood beside Nate’s Nissan that was packed to overflowing with luggage, small boxes, and any other item Nate considered essential and had managed to squeeze into the vehicle’s undersized luggage area. David was frankly astonished that it had all fit into the relatively small car and smiled as he remembered the reshuffling and repacking that had finally made it possible.

Their dinner with Lance had been an event filled with both happiness and aching sorrow. David shook the producer’s hand, trying to stammer out how grateful he was for Lance’s support and help, and Nate had cried unashamedly when they finally said farewell.

“Stop it,” Lance told him gruffly, wiping away tears of his own. “I told you. I’m coming out there in October to make sure you two are alright, so stop the bawling.”  He turned to David and jabbed a finger in his direction. “If I ever hear that you’re not taking good care of him…” He left the sentence unfinished.

“You won’t,” David assured him, taking Nate’s hand in his. “I promise, Lance. You won’t.”

Now it was time to leave. They climbed into Nate’s car, its dashboard covered with maps, its glove compartment containing directions to all the motels where they planned to stop along the way.

Nate laughed in pure exaltation, gunned the motor, and they sped away to face their future…together.

 


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Here’s the list of included authors: Author Janice JarrellT.N. NovaColette DavisonSean KerrEM DenningDara J Nelson,
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Chapter Thirteen – Understanding Dad

The next few days passed in a haze of happiness. David and Nate walked the trails scattered throughout the area, discovering many new and wondrous vistas. Nate was fearless about clambering up onto heights that frightened David half to death, but he screwed up his courage and followed Nate doggedly. They discovered a waterfall that David had never seen before and they shared an unforgettable moment as they stood at the top, hand in hand, staring at the sparkling waters as tumbled to the valley floor below.

At night they lay entwined in David’s bed, the bliss of their lovemaking leaving both of them exhausted and utterly satisfied.  David would often lie beside his lover watching him sleep, stroking his hair or softly tracing the veins of his arm, scarcely able to believe that this creature, so lovely and so good of heart, was his to love and cherish. He felt he had stepped into a waking dream, and one from which he never wanted to awaken.

But their time in the Virginia mountains was drawing to a close. Nate could have stayed longer, but he felt he had to return to Los Angeles. He couldn’t leave Lance to finalize the projects they had begun together, including the one to which David was attached, all by himself. “You want your big, fat paycheck, don’t you?” Nate teased, then laughed when David rolled his eyes.

“I’d rather be here with you than have the fattest check Hollywood could cut me,” he replied. But David understood Nate’s reasoning and admired his loyalty to the friend whose urging had sent him here in the first place. “I’m grateful to Lance,” he told Nate as they sat drinking their morning coffee. “And I hope I get the chance to tell him so.”

David had not yet told him about the contents of the journal which he had discovered just the day before Nate arrived. He wasn’t sure how to bring it up and, in fact, felt a deep reluctance to revisit the memoir, a reluctance he pondered constantly. It’s the first time I’ve ever known dad to speak lovingly of me, he thought, puzzled by his own reaction. Why don’t I want to look further? What am I afraid of?

He resented his preoccupation with the journal, feeling that it sapped strength and energy which he would have preferred to give to his blossoming relationship with Nate. He felt flashes of irritation when the thought of his father’s journal came to mind, irritation which he knew instinctively that Dr. Mallory found revealing and worthy of exploration. But at the moment, David didn’t want to explore anything except the beautiful country around him and Nate’s fair, pristine body. He forced his mind away from thoughts of the book that lay on the desk behind the closed door of his father’s office, but every day that he did so, the thought nagged at him that he needed to shake off this reluctance and discover the truths hidden on its pages.

On their last day at the cabin they sat in the living room, Nate’s head resting comfortably on David’s shoulder, talking quietly about the past few days and what their time together had meant to both of them. David rose at one point to refill their wineglasses and when he returned, Nate was standing before the closed door that led to his father’s office. “What’s in there?” he asked casually, accepting the wineglass from David’s hand.

David sighed audibly, and Nate glanced quickly at his face. “That’s my father’s office,” David answered heavily.

“Don’t you mean your office?” Nate asked, moving closer, watching David’s face with careful scrutiny. “This is your cabin now, not his,” he added gently.

David smiled grimly, but his eyes never left the still-closed door. “It’s always seems like his place. Never occurred to me before that it might be mine.” He turned to Nate and bent to kiss his cheek. “There’s something I need to tell you.” He took Nate’s arm and drew him back to the couch.

They sat close together drinking their wine while David revealed to Nate some of the experiences he had gone through as a child. He spoke of his father’s coldness and criticism. He spoke of the sense of inadequacy he had always felt as a result. Nate listened without comment, only reaching now and then to stroke David’s hair or clasp his hand. Then finally David drew in a deep breath and told Nate about the journal and the singular passage that had shocked him to the core of his soul.

“I know I should read more,” he said, in a trembling voice. “But somehow I just can’t. I don’t know what I’m afraid of, Nate. I can’t get that fucking book out of my mind, but at the same time I also can’t make myself pick it up again and read it!”

Nate grasped David’s arms gently and shook his head. “No, Davy. No. There’s no should connected with this. There’s nothing you should do, now or ever. This is your cabin. That’s your office. And that journal isn’t your father’s anymore. It’s yours. It’s part of your heritage. It’s an explanation. It’s a clarification of many things that have troubled your life. But it’s also a book that you don’t ever have to read if you don’t want to. You can burn it. You can ignore it. You can tear out every page and bury them in the ground. Nothing you do with that book will be wrong!

David enfolded him in his arms, pressing his damp face to Nate’s neck, incapable of speech. He’d never before experienced such complete acceptance. Here in Nate’s arms David felt for the first time in his life that he had nothing to prove. Nothing to live up to. Nothing to compensate for. He was complete. And he was enough.

He knew he still had a long way to go, but at his deepest core he also realized instinctively that he had moved to a place of inner safety and would no longer be dominated by fears whose source lie buried deep in his past. Nate was his guide out of the darkness that had threatened to envelop him. Nate was his light into the future. He lifted his head and stared into his lover’s brilliant blue eyes. “Will you read it with me?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

Nate nodded, and together they entered David’s office and retrieved the leather-bound journal that lay waiting on the desk. They took it back to the living room and sat together on the couch, exploring its many pages as the afternoon shadows lengthened.

They discovered that Josiah Gardener had been a complex man with a deep and intense emotional core. But his own horribly abusive childhood had driven that tender and vulnerable man into a shell of fear and bitterness from which he had never been able to escape. His father, David’s grandfather, had been a violent alcoholic. In his journal, Josiah recounted many, many instances of both physical and emotional abuse heaped upon himself and his mother.

Emotion, tenderness, the expression of loving acceptance; these qualities had been internalized completely and covered over with a hard and protective shell. They discovered that the love he had for his wife and children was deep and abiding, but totally unexpressed.

David’s father wrote:

“Today I was made Superintendent of Schools for Charleston.  I should feel a sense of pride and achievement, but instead I am numb and dead inside. Would my father, cold and brutal man that he was, have finally expressed any pride in his son had he lived to see this accomplishment? I know the answer without asking the question. I’ve always known it. I could have scaled the highest mountain or achieved any level of success imaginable and he would have remained stony and unmoved. And yet who am I to criticize him? I give no more to my own son, who is infinitely more deserving of expressions of love and pride than I am myself. How I hate the man who made me what I have become! And how I hate myself for not being able to crack the mold he created and be free of him.”

David read this last and turned to Nate, his face white and his voice shaking with emotion. “My god, Nate, I could have written that passage myself! It’s exactly how I’ve felt about him for all these years!”

They turned to the last few pages in the book and read the final entry, written shortly before David’s father had passed away.

“I will die with even the smallest bit of tenderness within me still unexpressed, even to those dearest to me. I will die without them ever knowing how much I loved them. How much I longed to enfold them in my arms and beg for their understanding and forgiveness. But how can I ask them to understand what I do not understand myself? I cannot. And so I face the final days of my life alone, knowing with the deepest regret and pain that no one, no one, ever really knew the man that I am inside. The real man. I go to my grave without friend or family who can speak about who I really was. What a lonely and bitter end!”

“Jesus,” Nate whispered, his voice trembling with sadness. “Jesus, David.” He turned to his friend and saw that David was trembling all over, his face buried his hands. With a quiet moan he collapsed into Nate’s arms, crumbling into his lap, sobbing as though his heart would break.

Nate held David close and rocked him while he wept. Nate didn’t speak or try to console him. He knew this purging was necessary. David needed to grieve for the father he had never really known and for all the wasted years when they could have truly been father and son. Years that were gone now, never to be reclaimed.

Finally, David lifted his head. It had been years since he’d allowed himself to cry, to really experience the sadness and pain of that little boy who desperately sought his father’s love and approval. Now, he felt as though he would never stop crying.  His face was pressed to Nate’s damp shoulder and still he shuddered with sobs. But within himself he felt a sense of release and freedom breaking through the darkness. He felt one other thing as well, and his arms tightened around Nate, drawing him even closer, overwhelmed by intense gratitude to this beautiful man whose unconditional love and acceptance had helped lift out of despair at this critical moment in his life. With Nate’s help he had faced that dark place within him and had emerged into healing and light.

Finally David rose and stumbled to the bathroom, Nate close behind him, and splashed cold water over his face. When he turned back to Nate his face was deathly pale. “Listen, babe,” he quavered. “I’m gonna go for a short walk by myself. OK?”

“Dave… Davy,” Nate said, worry creasing his beautiful features. “Are you sure?”

David nodded and clasped his shoulder for a brief moment. “I’ll be OK. I won’t be long. Just need…a little time.”

Nate reluctantly nodded and watched as the man he loved walked out of the cabin and down the sandy path.  He tried to relax, tried to read, tried everything he could think of, but all he could manage to do was pace restlessly until, forty-five minutes later as evening was approaching, he saw David walking slowly toward the cabin. He instantly ran to meet him.

“Are you OK?”

David nodded and slid his arm around Nate’s slender shoulders. “I think so. It’s like…Jesus, Nate, it’s like…”

“A death,” Nate said understandingly.

“Yes! That’s it exactly.”

Nate nodded as they walked up the porch steps. “Because that’s what it was.” He turned to face David, both hands on his shoulders. “God, Davy, I’m so sorry.”

David quickly pulled Nate into his arms and held him close. They stood for a long time savoring each other’s embrace, taking healing from their closeness.

“He loved you so much, David,” Nate whispered at last. “He just didn’t know how to show it.”

“I know,” David whispered hoarsely. “I know.”

“Davy…baby, I’m so glad we read his journal.”

“I could never have done this without you,” David replied, his voice trembling again. “God, Nate. What am I going to do when you leave?”

They looked into each other’s eyes, then turned and walked into the cabin. This was the one subject they had yet to discuss, and they both knew the time had come when they had to face it. Nate was leaving the day after tomorrow. Their tentative plans were to return to David’s house the following morning, drop off Nate’s rental along the way, and then David would take Nate to the airport the following day.

David could scarcely bear to think about it. The past few days had been the happiest of his life, and the thought that Nate would soon be three thousand miles away and that they would once again be left with Skype sessions and emails was almost unsupportable. He tried not to overstate his sadness, but the look in his eyes spoke more eloquently than words about the depth of his sorrow.

After seating himself on the couch Nate turned and touched his cheek. “David, you know I don’t want to go.”

David nodded, chewing his lower lip, but didn’t speak.

“You’ve got the rest of the summer,” Nate said, trying to find a positive note. “You could come to LA for part of it anyway, couldn’t you?”

“Of course I will,” David told him. “You know I will. But Nate, that’s still only a temporary solution.”

“I know that, but what…”

“Listen to me for a second,” David said, interrupting him. “I have an idea.” He glanced at Nate’s face, and then drew in a deep breath. “Take a job at the university,” he said quickly. “You said you want to teach, well, I can help you get a position there. I have influence and I know they need associate professors.”

Nate stared at him open-mouthed. “Do you think…” he began. “I mean, do you honestly think there’s an available position?”

“I know there is,” David stated flatly. “They always want associates.” He grinned suddenly. “And part of the reason they always want them is that they don’t pay much, and you get a crapload of work dumped on you, at least at first. But Nate,” he added excitedly. “You wouldn’t need much money because you can live with me.”

Nate leaned back and looked at him. His face was furrowed with indecision, and he felt sudden doubts flame in his heart. “Look, Davy,” he said slowly. “That’s a big step, inviting someone to live with you.”

David’s eyes dropped. “I thought,” he said haltingly. “I thought maybe you’d want to…” his voice trailed off.

“Of course I want to!” Nate said, reaching to grab his arm. “But have you thought of what this means? Telling Rachel and the girls? Telling your friends? The people you work with? It’s a huge change in your life.”

David looked at him for a moment then burst into laughter, his body shaking all over with mirth as a slow smile also spread across Nate’s face. “What the hell’s so funny?” Nate asked at last.

“Have I thought about it?” David queried, shaking his head, still laughing softly. “Jesus, Nate, for the past three months that’s all I’ve thought about! Hell, since the day I met you that’s the only thing I’ve thought about.” He studied Nate for a moment, then smiled, his face glowing with love. He took Nate’s hand in his. “I want you in my life,” he said, his voice soft, but filled with resolve. “And I’m fully prepared to face any changes that having you in my life might bring. The only change I can’t bear to face is not having you with me.”

Nate tried to speak past the ache that tightened his throat, but couldn’t. He tightened his hold on David’s hand and nodded. “A crapload of work, huh,” he croaked out at last.

David grinned happily and nodded. “A shit ton of it,” he said with mock seriousness.

“Well,” Nate said with a resigned shrug. “Sounds like every associate job I’ve ever had, so I know damn well I can do it.”

David burst once again into laughter, but this time it was the laughter of pure joy. He clasped Nate tight in his arms, covering his face and throat with kisses.

“Nate, Nate… Jesus, Nate,” he murmured over and over again. “I can’t believe it, baby! I can’t believe it.”

“Well, believe it,” Nate informed him. He bit gently on his own lower lip and with frowning concentration began to unbutton David’s shirt.

“How dare you, sir,” David protested, giggling, while at the same time making no attempt to stop Nate’s nimble fingers.

“I DO dare,” Nate said, unbuttoning the second-to-the-last button.

“How double-dog dare you, sir!”

“Pfffffffft!” Nate scoffed, grabbing at the final button.

“How TRIPLE-DOG DARE you, sir!” threatened David at last.

“Too late!” Nate said, tugging the shirt over David’s head.

“You are a very forward young man,” David observed, reaching to grab the hem of Nate’s T-shirt.

Nate raised his arms slightly so David could pull the shirt up and off then drew their chests together with a soft moan. “And just where would I be if I wasn’t?” he murmured, his arms going back around David’s neck.

“Shut up,” David whispered. He kissed Nate again and again, nibbling his lower lip, caressing it with his tongue, while his fingers reached between them to tug first at Nate’s zipper, then at his own. “We have too damn many clothes on,” he muttered against Nate’s mouth, trying without much success to push their jeans down and away from the hardness that throbbed beneath.

“I think we’ve taken this couch thing as far as it’ll go, ” Nate told him, wriggling away so he could stand, nearly tripping over his jeans as they fell to his knees. “C’mon, Teach. Let’s go to bed.”

David stood and dragged Nate into his arms for a long lingering kiss. The sensation of their nearly-naked bodies pressed close wrenched a cry from his throat and he crushed Nate against him.

“Bedroom, David. Right now!”

David’s arm stayed around Nate’s waist as they stumbled to the bedroom, only stopping once or twice to press their lips together in passionate kisses, and remove the last of their clothing before they tumbled onto the bed.

“Oh God, yes,” David moaned as he covered Nate’s slender body with his own. “Jesus, you are so beautiful!”

Nate was already reaching to the bedside table for a small tube of lube and a condom which he quickly shoved into David’s hand. “Less talk,” he demanded, pushing David gently back so that he could roll onto his stomach. “More action.”

After a moment he gasped as David’s lips began a slow, languorous slide down his spine complete with plenty of warm breath flowing over his skin, firing off pleasurable nerve endings he didn’t even know he had. “Mmmm, Dave,” he moaned softly, lost in rapture. “Dave, Davy…  so good!”

“Turn over,” David murmured, nudging at his hip. “I want to see you. I want to see your eyes.”

Nate turned to his back, then gasped again as David’s caresses swept over his body. After days of lovemaking, David knew just what to do to turn Nate into a trembling, pleading mass of sensation. He knew Nate’s body better than he knew his own. It was his treasure and he had mapped every erogenous zone. For David there was no greater ecstasy than taking all the time he wanted to revisit each of them one by one. He took a long time touching and caressing, nearly wallowing in the pleasure, loving the trembling of Nate’s body, loving the sight of him as his desire grew.

Finally, slowly at first, he made Nate ready for their lovemaking. His skillful, lube-slicked fingers entered his lover’s body and moved in and out in a blood-slow rhythm that was matched by the rhythmic rise and fall of Nate’s hips and the labored tempo of his breathing. “Please, Davy,” he whimpered at last, hands white-knuckled from clutching the sheets on either side of him. “Enough teasing!”

David gave a choked cry and leaned over Nate’s body pressing his hardness to the small, puckered opening. “Slow, baby,” he whispered hoarsely. Moving bit by bit he eased himself into Nate’s body, biting his lip against the surge of desire that ripped through him like wildfire. “Christ, Nate!” he moaned, as they slowly became one together, melting into Nate’s body, losing himself completely in the bliss of their joining. And then he began to move.

Nate gasped. “Harder, Dave!” he cried, clutching at David’s shoulders. “Oh, God yes!”

And as much as David feared causing him any discomfort he found it impossible to resist his lover’s voice coupled with the overpowering urge to plunge into him again and again, losing himself in pleasure as Nate arched his hips wildly to accept David’s thrusts.

David grasped Nate’s lube-slick cock in his right hand and stroked it in a short, lightning-fast motion that had Nate crying out again and again. In seconds they were both thrusting, arching, writhing… all control lost as they claimed each other’s bodies…feeling the pleasure building–growing–taking them to the very edge of sanity until finally Nate gave a wild cry and his body clenched as he came into David’s fist. Seconds later David joined him in ecstasy, convulsing against him in jolt after jolt of white-hot pleasure then collapsing on top of him, feeling utterly spent.

For long minutes neither of them moved. They lay listening to their harsh uneven breathing, trembling all over from the force of their climax and the frantic pace of their lovemaking.

Finally David levered himself up onto his arms and slowly fell to his side, moaning as he slipped from Nate’s body.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Nate gasped between frantic breaths, turning to flop onto to his back.

David heard himself laughing softly and he turned to lean over Nate on one elbow. “My God, is it possible I’m getting better at this?”

“Who would’da thought it?” Nate asked, grinning. “Guess that book came in handy after all!”

David chuckled, then bent and kissed Nate’s swollen lips with exquisite tenderness. “Thank you,” he whispered.” Thank you for this and for everything that came before.”

“You mean came before we did?” Nate asked, giggling.

“I mean it,” David said, in a voice thick with tears. “You healed me.”

“No,” Nate whispered, caressing his cheek, thinking as he did that this face had become the most precious, beloved thing in his life. “You healed yourself, baby. I was only there as a witness. It took an amazing amount of courage to open that journal and read. You found that courage within yourself. I didn’t put it there.”

David shook his head doubtfully, convinced within himself that it was the love of this good and gentle man that had helped him find the courage he so desperately needed at this turning point in his life. He would never believe anything else. He bent again and kissed Nate softly. “Shower, babes?” Nate nodded and they both rose.

They spent the rest of that evening preparing to close the cabin and packing for their trip the next morning. For David this task, which had so filled him with dread the day before, had become a joyful experience, filled with trembling expectation.

“I hope we come back here soon,” Nate said, helping David to shutter the windows. “I’m going to miss this place.”

“We’ll be back,” David assured him. “We’ll be coming back here for the rest of our lives.”  Nate turned to look at him. “I know!” David said, laughing. “An incredible thought isn’t it?”

Nate scoffed. “Incredible doesn’t begin to describe it.”

Their plans for the next day hadn’t changed. They would drop off Nate’s rental car and David would take him to the airport the following day. But afterward, Nate would tell Lance that he was leaving and begin the process of packing for his move to Virginia. David would fly out at the end of the summer to join him, and together they would drive back to Charlottesville in Nate’s car.

In the meantime, David would tell his daughters and Rachel of their decision. Gaining Nate a position at the university might also mean having to quietly inform the dean and perhaps other key faculty members. He anticipated no problems, but even if there were, his course was set. Nothing would change his mind now. Nothing.

This chance at happiness had come to him out of the darkest period in his life and he would never take back the future they had planned here in his cabin.


Want sneak peeks at new Janice Jarrell projects? How about deleted scenes, alternate endings, early drafts, book release details, and exclusive giveaways?
Join our VIP group, Jan’s Jazzy Jammers, for a behind the scenes look at all of this and more!

WIN A KINDLE FIRE 7 FILLED WITH
FOURTEEN BOOKS FROM TOP MM AUTHORS!

Important announcement! We’re holding a Rafflecopter for Love’s Trials release with some HUGE prizes, including a Kindle Fire 7 filled with FOURTEEN books from some top MM authors, including an audio copy of Joe Cosentino’s Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back.

EVERY CLICK IS AN ENTRY, ANOTHER CHANCE TO WIN!!

Here’s the list of included authors: Author Janice JarrellT.N. NovaColette DavisonSean KerrEM DenningDara J Nelson,
A.d. EllisAimee Nicole WalkerKatze SnowLily LambAuthor Ga HauserNora Phoenix, and Joe Cosentino!

Every click is an entry… another chance to win!! So click them all!!!


Website and Blog

Social Links: jjarrell@lovestrials.com
Facebook: Facebook Page
Goodreads Author Profile Page
Follow me on Twitter @Revolut35174972
Follow me on Pinterest!!
My YouTube Channel


Follow David and Nate’s story in Love’s Magic!!


Love’s Magic Available now on Amazon!

Love’s Trials Pre-Order now on Amazon!