New York was sweltering under an overheated sky, not a cloud in sight and the very worst of July still to come. Dr. Benton Quest was doing some window shopping on his way from the symposium to his hotel. His bodyguard, Race Bannon, had stopped at a camping shop to check on new sleeping bags for the boys. Benton smiled at the memory of the boys staying at his cousins fishing camp in Nova Scotia. He and Race would join them after the conference.
Ah, there was the bookstore that had caught his eye on the way this morning. Moving quickly, he darted across the street and through the brightly painted door, into welcome coolness. Allowing his eyes to adjust to the dimmer light, he moved to the window and the book by Dr. Helmut Werner that was on display.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" A pleasant voice came from the top of a short ladder. The owner was a short man with a bald head and a merry smile, who was putting away books on the top shelf of a display rack.
"Yes, thank you. I noticed Dr. Werner's book this morning. I heard about it yesterday at the conference but the Barnes and Noble near the hotel didn't carry it." Dr. Quest tucked the book under his arm.
"Yes, well, it's a small press and a small printing, I'm afraid. The theories are rather abstract and controversial." He came down from the ladder and rolled it down the brass rail to behind the counter. "I didn't understand half of it but what I did catch was extremely thought provoking. My partner and I would enjoy having Dr. Werner for a book signing. But he doesn't go out into public very often."
"I'll be seeing him next month at a conference in Barcelona. I could give him your card and mention the idea." Dr. Quest suggested.
The smile grew bigger yet and he immediately came forward and gave him a white and green business card. 'David Foster, Bookseller' it said.
"I really appreciate this, sir. We're always looking for authors who will bring in intelligent readers." He beamed up at the doctor. "Is there anything else I can help you find?"
"I think I'd like to browse for a bit, if you don't mind."
"Not at all. I'll hold on to Dr. Werner's book for you. If you have any questions, just give a shout. I'll be in the back for a moment opening a new shipment."
Dr. Quest moved around the small shop, picking up this and that but nothing caught his attention until he came to the south wall. A book lay open on the seat of a green leather chair and he picked it up to see what had fascinated someone else. When he turned it right side up, it fell open to a line drawing of great sensuality. Two men were lying and kissing by the shore of a lake and the one on top was ...
Oh my. Benton turned a few pages and under the heading 'side by side' were two men also ... Goodness. He turned to the cover of the book and read The New Joy of Gay Sex. He looked up and saw an entire row of sex manuals, all on gay or lesbian aspects of sexuality. Right next to that row were books on legal affairs, raising children, cooking, medical advice - all from the homosexual point of view.
He sat down in the leather chair and placed the book in his hands on the footstool before him. He realized that the books didn't offend him, he just felt foolish that it had never occurred to him that they might exist. The questions he'd had for the last six months could now be answered. When he had seduced Race on their vacation island, he had only had the vaguest idea of what to do. His friend was the one with the experience. He'd gently led him to ever more passionate heights of pleasure, always making sure he was comfortable with each new sensation before going on to the next.
But always there seemed to be some barrier between them. Something that Race wouldn't or couldn't share with him. Benton had the uncomfortable feeling that he was inhibiting Race. He picked up the book again and started at page one, the 'anus'. A see reference led him to page 67 and the article on 'first time' which led him to 'safe sex' and then to 'sex toys' and he began to seriously wonder if he should start taking notes.
"Finding everything all right?" David Foster called from the counter.
"Um," Dr. Quest blushed and tried to figure out what to say.
He came over and sat down on the footstool, his sharp eyes seeing the title of the book Dr. Quest held. "First time you ever saw anything like that?"
Dr. Quest nodded sheepishly and the bookseller continued. "Do you have questions I could help with? My partner and I have been together for twenty two years now and I don't think there's any thing you could ask that would shock me."
"Is it that evident that I'm new to this?" Dr. Quest asked anxiously. "It's only been six months."
David shook his head reassuringly. "It's a common reaction to our sex manuals. Does anyone in your family or circle of friends know except for your partner?"
Benton shook his head. "The boys are too young to understand. And ... my partner worked with me for almost ten years before we . . . um."
"Acknowledged your love for each other," David suggested.
Benton nodded. "He has some experience from the military, long before he came to work with me. But I've never ... I mean except for my wife, who died years ago ... I'd never made love with anyone else."
"Do you like it so far?" David asked gently.
Benton grinned in relief. "Oh, yes. It's been the most exciting time of my life. But my friend has been holding back. And according to this book, I think I know how but not the why."
"Let me guess. Kissing, stroking, mutual masturbation and the occasional blow job but never full intercourse." David spoke so matter of factly that Benton could only nod and wonder why he wasn't more embarrassed. "Some men don't like the idea of anal intercourse. It's a very real manhood issue depending on who's doing what to who."
"The book says it can hurt."
"Quite right, if done roughly, without adequate preparation or sufficient lubrication. And in this world of HIV, it could also be dangerous if the dominant partner forgets to use a condom." David pulled a book down from the shelf and proceeded to illustrate his points.
Fifteen minutes later, they had exchanged names and enough personal history to make Benton feel more comfortable with the situation. Benton bought three more books beyond the Werner book including the original one he'd sat down with, a medical guide and a macrobiotic cookbook that he knew Race would like.
David handed him another card after he'd wrapped the books and bagged them. "Here's another of my cards. Please call if you have any questions. My partner Paul and I have discovered that there is nothing about which we can not talk. Communication is the key to a lasting relationship. You may be surprised when you talk to your partner about the perceived gaps in your lovemaking. He may have valid reasons for not initiating intercourse or he may simply be afraid of going too far, too fast. Sometimes the answers to questions simply leads to more questions."
Benton laughed and shook the offered hand. "I'm a scientist, David, and I agree with your last statement wholeheartedly. I'd like to thank you for your patience and your willingness to help."
"No problem, Benton. I had a dear friend who saw me through the sometimes rocky beginnings of our relationship and he told me to pass on the favor when I could." David's eyes twinkled. "I'll ask the same favor from you. If you can help someone else, do so, and I'll be repaid."
"You've got a deal, David. I'll give your card to Dr. Werner."
"Thank you." David hesitated then spoke again. "I am not betraying a secret since it's well known in the trade but Dr. Werner is also gay. It's one of the reasons none of the big publishing houses would publish him and why the chains don't carry his titles. He's seen a lot of the prejudice first hand."
Benton just stood there a moment, trying to think back to the last time some one had mentioned Dr. Werner. He didn't have the patience for gossip nor the disposition to wonder what his fellow scientists were up to in their spare time. "I didn't know. It doesn't have anything to do with his theories and experiments."
David shook his head sadly. "No, it doesn't. But it is a fact of the twentieth century that who we love defines us in the broadest sense of all the stereotypes that still exist. Little by little we're changing those perceptions but it will probably be our grandchildren who hopefully will live in a world where love is celebrated. No matter who you love."
"Thank you again, David. You've given me much to think about." Benton nodded and slowly left the shop. The heat hit him like a blow and he took a deep breath of the superheated air before continuing onto the hotel. There was so much to think about that his thoughts swirled and he almost missed the entrance to the hotel.
"Dr. Quest." Race's deep voice sounded relieved. "I must have just missed you."
"Race. I stopped at a bookstore on the way and got to talking to the proprietor. I bought the Dr. Werner book I told you about." Benton found himself contemplating his lover's face. The worry lines had smoothed out and the blue eyes were crinkled in a smile of welcome.
"I know you've been looking for that. You're expected at the luncheon in a half hour in the Blue Room."
"Given half a chance I would have forgotten that lunch and we could have gone out alone." Benton headed for the elevators, knowing Race would follow him. "I also got you a cookbook. The macrobiotic one by the Baker sisters."
"That's great." Race smiled appreciatively. "I've been going to order it but I just never got around to it." He punched their floor and stood to one side.
Benton joined him in leaning against the wall, their arms almost touching. "The bookshop is a nice one. I think you'd like it, Race, they had a very eclectic collection. The bookseller is a very kind man who answered a lot of questions for me."
They left the elevator and strolled down the hall to their suite. Benton waited to answer his question until they were safely behind locked doors. Taking Race in his arms was a relief, feeling those strong arms come unhesitatingly around him was nirvana.
"No. He is gay." Benton said gently.
Race's whole body went still then he sighed and stepped back to look at Benton.
"I picked up a very interesting book on gay sex and it answered a lot of questions for me." Benton smiled and ran a tender hand down Race's cheek. "You know how I like to do my research."
"And you're wondering why I never said anything or got you the books you'd need to look into all the variations." Race captured the hand and kissed it before letting go and moving away, his whole body rigid. He stopped by the windows with his back to Benton. "It's only been six months, Benton. We've got plenty of time to explore all the ways to make love."
Benton joined him at the window, looking sightlessly over Central Park. What is going on here? Race has totally closed down emotionally and physically. I can feel his fear but he can't be afraid of me. Can he? Tenderly, he weighed his words. "I know, Race. We have all the time in the world. I love you more than words can say."
Race relaxed and turned to him with the familiar smile that made his eyes seem bluer. "So, I guess you picked up something to read at bedtime."
Benton let the rest of his questions go and started changing clothes, all the while talking about David Foster, the bookstore and his partner Paul. Race listened intently and walked with him to the Blue Room, taking a careful look at the security before leaving Benton with his fellow scientists.
Race left the hotel in turmoil. He'd known this day was coming but he'd hoped to have more time before these questions arose. I should have never said anything. Left Benton alone and kept my feelings to myself. Except, of course, he seduced me. Came after me. Me! The wonder of that took him down the street until he saw the bookstore sign. This was probably not a good idea. In fact, standing outside the store, it was an incredibly bad idea. I should just leave well enough alone. But what do I say to Benton when he asks questions. And I know he's going to ask questions. It's part of who he is and why I love him so much.
Steeling himself, he entered to a distant chime of temple bells that reminded him for a moment of Vietnam. A medium height man turned from the counter and the welcoming smile of a store owner changed in an instant to one of genuine disbelief.
"Race Bannon? I didn't know you were in town."
Something clicked in his mind. Bells, Vietnam, a bunker, mortar fire that seemed to go on for ages. "Paul Nemitz. 1967."
They met in the middle of the store and the handshake turned into a brief hug. "I can't wait to tell David that you came in. He's heard all the stories of 'Nam a thousand times. Did you know I was here or were you just looking for a book?"
Race panicked for a moment and the confusion must have shown because Paul instantly picked up on it. "If I can help, I will. I owe you my life."
Race shook his head but Paul touched him briefly on the arm and said firmly, "If you hadn't taken out the sniper, I would be dead right now. Don't downplay your actions or make light of your abilities. Humility is all well and good but you need to accept that what's happened, happened. And that I'm grateful."
Race froze. He'd forgotten the incident; there'd been so many missions. Why couldn't he forget the one that went wrong? Why couldn't he let it go?
"Race. Race. Come on back to here and now." Paul's voice stopped the downward spiral of memories. "Good. If you've got the time, we could go upstairs for a drink. I'll let Julie, our assistant take over the shop for a bit. You need to talk about something and I'm a good listener."
Race nodded, unable to speak just yet. Paul got them both out of the shop, stopping to send Julie to the front and up to a very nice apartment on third floor. He eased the transition with a gentle flow of information about how they started the bookstore, renovated the loft and lived their quiet lives in amazing contentment.
They settled in the brightly lit kitchen and Paul put the kettle on. Looking at the man across the table, Race realized that he needed to talk to someone who would understand and fate seemed to have supplied the perfect person.
Hesitantly, he began to explain what was wrong. The new relationship with Benton and the triggers to a time long ago that the innocent exploring of his lover had activated. The war years were familiar to both men, but Paul had never gone deep into Vietnam and he'd never participated in an operation quite like Race's last mission.
Cradling the hot cup of tea in his hands, Race was back in the jungle, reliving the night that everything went wrong. "I broke my ankle and couldn't make the pickup point. The 'Cong were everywhere and no matter what I did, I left a trail a blind man could follow."
"They captured you." Paul sipped his tea.
"Yeah. First time for everything, I guess. Colonel Bien Thu."
Paul sat his cup down hard. "He had a reputation. A bad one."
Race met his eyes. "Not bad enough."
Paul got up and opened a cupboard. Taking down a whiskey bottle, he poured a shot in each of their cups then set the bottle on the table between them. "Go on, Race."
"At first it was just the pain. He really enjoyed inflicting it. They'd splinted my ankle but his favorite trick was to kick it when I least expected it. Beatings, electric shock, knife work, all the standard instruments of torture." Race took a drink and shuddered with the clean taste of the whiskey. "But it was just pain. You absorb it and let it go. Four nights into my stay, his tactics changed. I was chained to a wall, spread-eagled. Not much left of my uniform. He came in and picked up his whip and I thought to myself, here we go again. But he just stood there in front of me and brought the whip up so gently and trailed it down my body."
"I thought I was ready for anything." Race could feel his skin crawling. "He leaned closer and told me I was beautiful, strong and virile. I kept my cool and tried to ignore him. But he kept on talking and touching me. I tried counting and doing sums in my head, anything to keep from listening to what he was saying. But when he grasped me in his hands and began to stroke me, my body responded." He took another gulp and gripped the cup harder, lost in the past.
"It had been so long without any release for me that within a few moments, I came. I've never been so humiliated in my life. 'Very good,' he said. He covered me back up and turned away to his desk to finish some paperwork. That night while I lay in my cage, I tried to come to terms with what had happened. But my mind kept replaying it and I began to dread the morning." He paused and Paul refilled his cup with tea and whiskey. He nodded his thanks and took another swallow.
Paul asked hesitantly, "Had you ever been with a man before?"
Race shrugged. "Fuck buddies. You know how it goes when there's no women around. No emotional entanglements but it had always been with men I trusted."
Paul nodded and motioned him to continue.
"The next day I was chained to the floor and wall with my back to his desk. I relaxed since I'd been in that position before. I expected another beating and I got it. But this time when he was done, he stripped away the rest of my uniform and left me naked on the wooden planks. After he ate lunch and finished giving orders to his subordinates, he told them he didn't want to be disturbed until dinner." Race began to shiver and Paul quietly got up and got an afghan from the living room to put around his shoulders. He also refilled his cup.
"He jerked me off again. And again I responded with a quick release. But this time he pushed me forward, covered the whip handle with my own semen and started to fuck me with it." Race put his cup down and pulled the afghan closer around him. "It hurt. It was worse than the beatings or the electric shocks. It seemed to go on forever but finally he removed the whip. I could feel the blood trickling down my legs. I was so close to tears I was barely hanging on."
Silence stretched between the two men and Race took a deep breath and another swallow of straight whiskey. "I thought it was over until I felt his hands on me again and he started raping me with himself. The pain was gone and when he hit my prostate, I turned on with a vengeance. He milked me dry and emptied himself into me. Then he pulled out, wiped himself off and left me alone in the hut ..."
"He raped me for a week. He always started with some object that hurt like hell and almost always made me bleed. My prostate was bruised, flesh torn, muscles ripped and I stopped being able to respond beyond an occasional discharge. I wanted to die. I could feel myself shutting down, body, mind and soul."
The silence was thick with charged emotions and Race felt as if his mind was detached from his body. It floated above his head and watched the scene. Time stretched out until Paul asked a question.
"Did you tell anyone what happened after you escaped?"
"I didn't escape. I was rescued when the South Vietnamese overran the camp. They got me and the three other prisoners back behind our lines. One of the medics discovered the damage and he shot me full of antibiotics and gave me some cream to put up inside once the bleeding stopped. The medic station was bombed out two days later, their records were destroyed and everyone was killed. I never spoke of it to anyone else." He finished his whiskey and wondered why the air conditioning was turned so high. He'd have sworn he was turning into an icicle.
"You know there's counseling available." Paul seemed to be looking for the right words and finally continued. "I can't begin to comprehend what you went through but I do know that it wasn't your fault that you were raped by a vicious, sadistic man. You are not to blame. That's not who you are and the very fact that you've come this far is a tribute to your ability to survive."
Race nodded but the tremors were getting worse and he had to grit his teeth to keep them from chattering. He understood the words but they didn't mean anything. He was so cold. "I was an empty man for years. I enjoyed women but only two ever touched my heart. Until I went to work for Quest Enterprises and fell in love. He is everything that I wanted to be."
"Are you together now?"
Race smiled and felt the ice melt a little in his heart. "Yes. We are. But he'd never been with a man before and I've been holding back. I didn't want to scare him but now I'm afraid it's really me. He was in here this morning and talked to your partner. Even picked up a copy of The New Joy of Gay Sex. And suddenly I'm terrified. He's going to want to go further than we have so far if I know him. I thought I'd dealt with the pain and trauma but it seems I just pushed it so far down into my subconscious I thought it was gone. But it's not."
"The scientist who was here this morning. David mentioned him, oh, not his name just that someone had asked questions. Is he so shallow that he wouldn't understand?"
Race felt a spark of anger burn away a little of the ice. "He's not shallow at all! It's just that he's so ... innocent. I don't want any of the filth that clings to me to touch him."
"I repeat, this is not your fault. You may feel dirty but you are not." Paul shook his head helplessly. "Please let me call a counselor I know. He's been where you are now and he survived to help others. He's a veteran himself and served two tours in 'Nam."
Race jerked a nod and clutched the afghan tighter about his shoulders. The shivers were getting worse and he was fast losing control of his body. Paul went to the kitchen wall phone and made a call. While he talked, he kept a careful eye on Race and added water to the teakettle. After he hung up, he came back to the table.
"Peter will be right over. It will take him about half an hour to get here."
Race looked at the clock and started to his feet. "I need to get back to the hotel." But he wavered as he stood and had to clutch the table to stay upright.
Paul was instantly by his side, an arm about his waist. "I don't think so, Race. Too much whiskey and too many memories. I'll have Dr. Quest come here. Lay down for now and I promise to call him."
Race tried to resist but his strength was draining away rapidly. He allowed himself to be led to a small dark bedroom; laid down on the firm mattress, his shoes removed and he welcomed the soft eiderdown duvet that Paul tucked snugly around him. The tremors were now continuous but they generated no heat to warm the ice that invaded his entire body. He fell into a doze; afraid to sleep in case the nightmare that he had thought banished forever should return.
Paul retreated to the living room and called down to the shop on the intercom. "Julie, has David come back yet?"
He sighed in relief when David answered. "I'm here, love. What's up?"
"I need you, David. Right now."
"O-o-o-oh, love. I'll be right up."
Paul kept one ear on the small bedroom and the other on the outer stairs. His partner bounced in smiling but quickly sobered when Paul sketched out the events of the last two hours.
"I'll go and talk to Benton in person. This isn't something I want to trust to the phone. I'll bring him back here." And with that matter of fact statement, David kissed him hard and left.
Benton paced back and forth in turmoil. *Where the hell is he?*
A knock at the door brought him up short. Striding over, he opened it to find the bookseller of the morning. "David. Um, come in."
David smiled and entered. "Benton, don't worry about Race. He's at our apartment with my partner Paul."
Benton's surprise was complete. He waved to a chair before
sitting heavily in the other. "Why?"
David took a deep breath and explained. Benton tried to take it in but the only thing that really got through was that Race needed him. "Let's go."
"Benton. You need to understand that this is the most violent of all the post-traumatic stress syndrome's symptoms. Race has gone into shock over something so terrible, that he's blocked it out for over twenty years. He's going to need all your love and support to get through this."
Benton took a deep breath and held it. "David, it doesn't matter what happened. Whatever Race needs from me, I will give. I love him too much to deny him anything. Whatever it takes, I'll do."
"He needs counseling, understanding and a great deal of love. Paul went through night terrors for years. Reliving bombings, snipers, the sound of choppers." David's look of anguish brought a chill to Benton's heart. "The only thing I could do was hold him through the nightmares and physically love him to exhaustion. And listen. Over and over to the same stories until he was able to let it go and move on." He paused. "But it never completely goes away. Never. It's the price we pay for loving an ex-soldier."
Benton nodded in partial comprehension. "What do I need to do?"
"Peter Bonsett will be there when we get to the apartment. He's a trained counselor and works with Vietnam veterans. He's been a good friend to Paul and I. Listen to him and follow his lead. Are you ready?"
Benton took another deep breath and nodded. They made quick work of the walk, turning in at the outer entrance and heading up the stairs to the third floor. They let themselves in and found Paul holding his arms wrapped around himself.
David crossed to give him a hug. Paul hugged him back.
"Oh, love. He's in such pain. Peter had to give him a sedative. He went into convulsions." Paul had tears in his eyes and he wiped his eyes unashamedly. He noticed Benton and smiled. "You must be Benton Quest. Peter wants to talk to you first before you see Race. He'll be out in a minute."
Benton tried to smile but all his attention was focused beyond the men to the room where a comforting murmur rose and fell. A few moments later, a tall black man with a short-cropped Afro came into the living room and shooed David and Paul into the kitchen. His eyes assessed the scientist from behind a pair of thick wire-rimmed glasses.
"Dr. Quest?" He motioned him to a chair when Benton nodded and they both sat down. "I'm Dr. Peter Bonsett. I've been dealing with post traumatic stress disorder since Vietnam. Since before it had such a fancy name. Paul tells me that you're a scientist. You probably are a good theorizer, use logic like a scalpel and practice linear thinking. None of that is going to help you bring your friend back from the corner of hell he's currently inhabiting."
Benton could feel his heart sinking lower and lower with every word.
"If you're not in this for the long haul, I need to know now. Once we start treatment, we don't stop for anything or anybody. I have a 90% success rate, especially when family helps."
Benton cleared his throat and met the piercing gaze. "Race is my friend ... my partner ... my lover. My family is also his. What ever I have to do, I will."
"It's going to be a roller coaster ride of epic proportions. It will definitely get worse before it gets better. He's going to test your current boundaries and your patience. Not once, but a hundred times. He could have psychotic episodes in which he will be a danger to himself and maybe, to others. And when you think it's over . . . it's not."
"The eye of the hurricane," Benton murmured.
"Exactly. The flashbacks could even be permanent, although controllable. So, we're talking a lifetime commitment here. Can you do it? There's no shame in saying no, it's going to take a great deal of courage on both your parts."
"Beyond logic, beyond reason." Benton took a deep breath and let it out. "He's always been there for me, giving me the strength to move ahead. Race is the other half of my soul. Whatever he needs that I can provide, I will. For however long it takes."
Dr. Bonsett looked fiercely at him for a long moment then he quirked a smile. "You just may be tough enough to get through this. I'll take you both on."
"Thank you." Benton swallowed hard, his eyes straying to the back of the apartment. "What do I do?"
"I gave him a mild muscle relaxant, didn't dare give him anything stronger on top of the whiskey. He's in a twilight zone right now, caught between the reality of here and now and the raw memories of the rape and torture. He feels like a worthless piece of shit and he's going to try and protect you from himself." The doctor's eyes were haunted with memories of his own. "Hold him. Tell him you love him. Don't let go, no matter how hard he tries to push you away. All his senses are exaggerated right now because of the drugs, so speak gently. Your voice will reassure him. Touch him tenderly. You are the anchor that will keep him in this reality."
They walked to the back room and Dr. Bonsett opened the door. Race lay on the left side of the double bed and Benton crept quietly over to kneel beside the still figure. He was conscious of the door closing behind him then all his attention focused on the pale face cradled by the dark satin pillow. He breathed so shallowly that Benton moved closer to make sure he was breathing at all.
His nose twitched and his eyes flickered open for a brief moment. "Ben ... ton."
"I'm here, Race. I love you."
The head moved from side to side in negation. "No ... not ... now."
"Now and forever, my love." Benton slipped a hand beneath the duvet and found Race's. He held on to the cold fingers and tenderly brushed a kiss across the wan cheek. "I'm holding on to you, Race. I'm never letting go. We promised each other forever and I'm holding you to that promise."
The blue eyes opened again, filled with tears. "Don't . . . know."
Benton held back his own tears with an effort and tried to smile. "Yes, I do know. Dr. Bonsett told me. We are going to face this together just like we faced a hundred battles in the past. I love you more today than I did six months ago, more than five years ago when I first realized it was love. I'm a stubborn man, Race Bannon, and you're not getting away from me."
A faint smile crossed the bloodless lips. "Bull ... headed."
Benton grinned in triumph and leaned forward to kiss him. "You have no idea just how obstinate I can be when I make up my mind. We're both going to go through therapy with Dr. Bonsett. We'll put the past behind us and we'll build a new future that's strong and secure. Filled with so much love. I promise."
"Pro ...mis' ... love ..." And the hand went limp in his grasp.
"Race ... Race!" Benton pulled back the duvet and put his ear over the broad chest. The door opened behind him and Dr. Bonsett joined him.
"The drugs have finally taken effect. He must have the constitution of an ox. He fought them right up to the end. I've got the boys from my clinic here. We'll transfer him now. You'll need to stay with him. Especially at the beginning when he's most vulnerable."
"I'll pack our things, check out of the hotel and join you in an hour or so. How long will he be out?"
"Hopefully, eight hours. Let's get going."
Race stood on a high cliff, braced against the strong winds that buffeted him. The last six months had been difficult but cleansing, just like the winds that scoured him now. He felt so light, the merest puff of breeze could blow him away. But it wouldn't. If he'd learned anything, he'd learned that he was stronger than he thought. And so was Benton.
A call from behind him turned his head so he could watch his lover come up the hill. He labored up the twisting track that led to the cliffs above the bay. Watching him come towards him, Race thought back over the ordeal they had faced together. He'd gone from depressed to apathetic to angry and back again. For a man who prided himself on his control, he'd been totally out of it for over three months. Benton had stuck with him every inch of the way, never flinching or retreating from his mood swings.
Days, when the wrong words would have him in tears or so angry he had to hit a punching bag. Nights when he needed to be hugged or couldn't bear to be touched. Times when he had to be alone and pushed Benton away. The up and down swings had gradually eased once he'd gotten into group therapy and truly began to, not believe, but to know that he was not alone. Race smiled to himself. Never alone. Not with Benton there to catch me when I fell.
The tall scientist was almost at the top of the hill, his cheeks flushed with exertion. He'd never looked better to Race's eyes. They'd regained the weight that stress had stripped from them and time had brought restful sleep to both. They'd begun making love again, gently and tenderly. The demons had finally been banished from Race's soul and instead of an empty hole, Benton had filled the space with his never ending love and caring.
"Wow! I'm out of shape. Too old to go hiking like this." Benton stopped at his side and tried to take a deep breath.
Race turned to him and gathered him into a hug. "Oh, I don't know, love. I like your shape."
Benton laughed and hugged him back, resting his head on a convenient shoulder. "I like yours, too. The boys are on their way to my cousin's. So, we have the lodge to ourselves, big guy. I wonder what we'll do with our time?" He lovingly teased.
Race squeezed him as close as two heavy coats would allow. Nova Scotia in February was freezing but the lodge was warm and there'd been no new snow for over a week. They'd skied with the boys, gone ice fishing and snowmobiled over the hilly terrain. Johnny and Hadji understood some of what had occurred. Benton had explained post traumatic stress syndrome and the group therapy that meant Race couldn't be with them all the time. But not everything, just enough to satisfy their curiosity.
They were off to a luge training camp where the US and Canadian Olympic teams were practicing for the upcoming Olympics. Race loved them both dearly but it would be nice to have Benton to himself for a while.
"I'm feeling selfish, Benton. I'm thinking a fire in the fireplace, soft music and something to nibble on."
"Sounds good to me. The kitchen is fully stocked, we can fix what we like."
Race bent his head so his lips caressed the ear lobe that peeked from the stocking cap. "Who said anything about food?"
Benton shivered and returned the caress on a sliver of throat revealed by the silk muffler. "Coffee, tea or me?"
"Always you, love." Race began a kiss that quickly turned volcanic, warming him down to his booted toes. "Let's go."
"Oh, yeah," Benton breathed in some cold air and linked arms with Race to start down the hill.
They took their time, enjoying the silence and the togetherness. A half-hour's walk brought them back to the A-frame nestled among stately pines with smoke curling from the chimney. They separated inside to tend to the chores that needed to be done. Race stacked wood by the hearth and built the fire to a roar. The strains of Nat King Cole drifted from the stereo and Benton returned with a tray of coffee and snacks, while Race spread the bear skin cover from their bed on the carpet before the fire.
Race settled himself on the fluffy white spread, stretching like a giant cat. Benton knelt by his side, setting the tray down on the hearth. Race ran a searching hand up the leg nearest him and Benton sighed and caught the hand in a tender grip, gentled by a kiss. Race pulled him down on top of him and stole another breathtaking kiss.
"I love the kids, Benton. But I'm glad they're gone and we're alone."
"Were you feeling neglected, love?" Benton nipped his way down the strong neck, leaving reddened bites behind, marking his lover as his. "I love you."
"That's only the third time today, you've told me that." Race joked, massaging his way down the lean back to the waist of the worn denim jeans and slipping his hands under the loose band to knead the muscles.
Benton arched into the body beneath his with a purr, undoing the buttons on the flannel shirt and planting kisses on the silky skin he revealed. "Once when we woke, once in the shower ... you're right. I've been depriving you of mushy love statements. Do you know how blue your eyes are in the firelight?" Benton paused in wonder and just looked at the face below his.
"The light makes yours sparkle like emeralds. The frown lines are gone from your forehead and the laugh lines are back around your eyes. I love you so much that it might be scary."
"Except you know how much I love you. So we're in this together." Benton continued his slow unbuttoning of the jeans, making sure that he exerted teasing little caresses to the swiftly growing bulge that swelled beneath the worn denim.
Race took a deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling all the tension releasing from his muscles. I love him so much. It's time. He lifted his hips and allowed his lover to slide his jeans and boxers down his legs and off. Chuckling, he twitched while Benton stripped off his socks and pressed a kiss to the high arch of one foot. He watched with hot eyes while Benton slowly but surely removed the rest of his clothes in a silent strip tease.
Then they were skin to skin and Race had to close his eyes to concentrate on the feel of warmth that burned from shoulder to hip. The silky curls of Benton's chest teased his nipples to stiff peaks while the pelt of hair danced across his abdomen like a soft brush. He was well on his way to sensory overload when he heard Benton's voice vibrate from his shoulder.
"There's so much I want to give you, Race." A slow lick up his neck to the hollow behind one ear, made him shudder with longing. "It's our anniversary, love. What would you like?"
Race slid his hands slowly up the broad back above him. Threading through the red curls, he brought Benton's head up so he could see those brilliant green eyes. "I want you." He kissed him gently. "I want you deep inside of me. Slow and sure. Claiming me as yours alone."
Benton stilled in shocked silence. His eyes closed and his smile disappeared briefly. "It's not too soon? Why rock the boat?"
Race grinned affectionately and brushed his finger gently over the sandy lashes. He waited until Benton's eyes reopened. "It's time. We've laid all the ghosts to rest. It may not be a position we use very frequently. But I don't want taboos between us." He kissed him hard, thrusting his tongue in and out of the spicy mouth until Benton moaned. "Besides, if you don't show me how it's done ... how can I make love to you that way? Filling you with my strength and heat?"
The scientist flushed and panted from the searching kiss. "You have a way with words, my love. I'll need to get something."
Race reached under the pillow beneath his head and pulled out a tube of Astroglide. "Call it an anniversary present." And he wiggled his eyebrows, a la the Marx brothers, at his laughing lover.
Benton kissed him slowly while he began a determined assault on Race's body. Race cooperated by letting go all control into his lover's hands. He loved the feel of the smooth white fingertips that glided over his skin. Shivering with sudden need, he moaned when those knowing hands feathered a caress across his rising shaft.
A warm tongue laved his stomach, making the muscles ripple and dipped into his navel, tickling him into further arousal. Race held his breath until Benton settled between his legs. Now a whole new series of sensations flooded his system. Fine hairs teased his thighs, making the nerves there jerk and sizzle with the need for more. Fingers traced subtle patterns on his skin of heat and light.
He moved restlessly. The touches tantalized but they weren't enough. He needed ... "More."
A soft chuckle was his answer and a change in the pattern. The fingers were slick now and they traced figure eights over and under his aching balls. Sliding over the sensitive skin, those tormenting fingers moved over ... around ... above ... below ... and finally in. Just one, moving slowly in and out.
"Open your eyes, Race. I need you to see me."
Race pried his eyes open with an effort. "Good, Benton. So good." That brilliant smile was back, along with a sigh of relief.
Now there were two fingers inside of him, loosening his muscles. He moved to force them deeper and Benton's other hand began to tenderly caress his iron hard shaft. When he stretched over three fingers, his whole body flushed hot and cold. "Now, Benton. Please, now."
The fingers left and something soft and warm nudged him intimately. He opened his eyes and locked gazes with Benton. The intruder was large and hard but the breaching was relatively painless. Slowly, his lover slid in until he could go no further. They were both panting and Benton's arms were trembling where they braced him above Race's body.
"I have you now, Benton. Totally mine."
"Yours." He leaned down and kissed him gently. When Race squeezed his inner muscles, the scientist gasped and began to move. "Oh, gods! You're so hot ... tight ... oh, do that again."
Race began to laugh for the sheer joy of it. Experimentally, he moved his legs to clasp tight around Benton's waist. That changed the angle of his lover's thrust and suddenly a firestorm erupted inside of him. Groaning, he tightened his grip and moved up to meet the downward drive. Fire raged through his body and he thrashed his head back and forth on the hearth rug.
When Benton's hand began to stroke his cock in time to his thrusts, Race moaned aloud. Shivers ran up and down his spine while heat pooled in his lower back before racing down to his feet. Sweat dripped onto his heaving chest from Benton's straining torso. Their loving was silent except for the panting moans.
"Now, Race. Come for me now." Benton spoke softly while roughening the strokes on the iron hard cock in his hand.
As if the words were what he needed, Race let go all restraint and flooded the warm hand with his seed. The gripping muscles pulled a low moan from Benton and suddenly warmth filled his depths to overflowing. Race relaxed completely, all his muscles going loose and limp. The world went dark and quiet.
Benton collapsed on his chest and the sudden weight woke him from his near faint. It was hard to move his arms but he managed to wrap them around the broad back and move them to their sides. Race felt his lover slip from his body and the wetness seep between his legs. Smiling, he breathed in the heady scent of sweat and semen.
"Heavens, that was ..." Benton opened his eyes and searched for the right word.
"I didn't hurt you?" It wasn't quite a question.
"Never. Never have, never will." Race leaned in and kissed him softly. The position change made his lower back spasm. "I need to move."
Benton sat up abruptly. "I did hurt you."
Race kept a firm hold on him and slowly sat up as well. "No, you didn't. But my lower back could have probably used a pillow. Next time we'll know better. We need to clean up."
"Hot water would help sore muscles." Benton traced a finger through the drying seed on Race's stomach. Bringing the finger to his lips, he slowly licked it clean while he watched Race's face.
"Hot tub first then maybe one of your massages?" Race melted at the sensuous look directed at him.
"You've got it. Maybe something to nibble on." Benton leaned in and nibbled on his lower lip. "And I mean food. Got to keep your energy levels up, you know."
"Oh, yeah." Race breathed in the salty sweet tang of his lover's breath. "Nibbling is good." He sucked on the sensitive spot just inside Benton's lower lip. "Sucking and swallowing are good too."
Benton broke into delighted laughter. Race loved it when he let go and laughed wholeheartedly. Accepting a hand up, Race thought contentedly that it really was going to be all right. The past was just that ... the past. They had a chance at a bright future now and Race knew that together they could do anything.
Anything at all.
End of part four