Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Gift of the Music

A Christmas/Hanukkah story, based on Ben and André, characters from “The Painter’s Assistant”

 

The calendar betrayed him. It always did. He flipped the page back in July and somehow, every year, the very next page was always December. All those good intentions? Yeah, the devil didn’t need to worry about hiring a paving company as long as Ben was alive because every goddamned brick had his name on it.

Shop early. Buy a gift a month. Save money to spend. Start in January. Fuck that, start in December in the after-Christmas sales. Lose weight. Work out. Figure out time travel so he could undo that disastrous marriage. Or at least find a fucking cheaper lawyer.

But this year …. This year it was different. This year it mattered. This year there was André.

Beautiful, curly-blonde André. André who’d shown him what love between two men could be. Who was healing him of the wounds of losing Jacob, his dearest friend, who’d loved him and wanted him and whom he’d pushed away again and again until the beast got him, until Jacob’s fucking pancreas opened its doors to cancer, so virulent he was gone three weeks after diagnosis, while Ben was still reeling from the news, turned to stone, unable to think, living so far up Denial that even the pharaohs hadn’t been buried there yet, with no time to act before it was too late, too fucking late to do anything but kneel beside that cursed coffin and pray to a god he hadn’t believed in since way before they’d bar mitzvahed, begging him to send Jacob back, promising to fuck him senseless — or be fucked by him — if only he would live.

Jacob had left him far less than whole, so shredded that Misty — god, how could he have fallen for a woman named ‘Misty’ of all things? Misty had come out of her shell of oblivious long enough to drive them both to divorce court and him to the cleaners despite her promises to the contrary.

André had rescued him from that, too. His installation “The Color Naked” was incredible … and incredibly delayed from gallery appearance. “Unavoidable conflicts”. André believed things would be back on track soon. Ben wasn’t so sure. Once the gallery owners had seen the later works, the ones featuring both him and André, things had gone south fast. One man’s body, covered in paint, pressed to a canvas — that apparently was fine. Two men, together, in various poses showing just how much they loved each other — that apparently wasn’t fine.

He was still trying to get André to back off his insistence that at least 6 of the 30 contracted for canvases be of both, in hopes that would get the installation before the public — and André paid — but so far, his lover was being wonderfully stubborn about wanting to show the world who they were to each other.

Ben had stopped taking payment months back. Janine agreed, and agreed to keep it from André. Beautiful blonde André who left all the business end to his equally beautiful, equally blonde sister would never have agreed, and so they’d simply done an end-around. Ben thought it was stupid to bankrupt them both just so André didn’t feel like he owned Ben — though Ben knew the truth and would live with it until things turned around for either or both.

It was Janine who’d clued him in to the fact that next year’s lease payment on the studio was coming up, and that André simply didn’t have the funds. He never talked about it, but Ben saw the deepened crease between his lover’s wild eyebrows, made note of the fact that more blonde curls appeared in the shower drain, worried over the fact that he had an easier time counting the ribs he loved to lick.

He’d asked Janine how much, and been rocked back on his heels by the figure. That was when he’d started funneling his pay back into the business account, glad that he’d kept his own funds separate, to avoid Misty’s lawyer — or his — getting a whiff of ‘screw the guy some more’ and going after André as well. Half the money was there, thanks to Janine’s careful stewarding, and to continued sales of André’s earlier work, but until the installation went up, and with that, the sales of the other pieces in the collection that would generate, the outgo would continue to tower over the income. Ben had to help, had to do something.

He’d finally figured out what. No. That was wrong. He’d known all along what to do. He just hadn’t had the courage to make the decision until now, with December and Christmas/Hanukkah looming. André celebrated the one, Ben the other, though neither would call himself an observant follower of any religion. André’d been raised Episcopal; Ben, Reformed.

It was tradition for them both, but they still celebrated the holidays, and this would be their first together. Ben had overheard André asking Janine about Hanukkah, setting her to research the traditions and had made it a point to make light of the whole thing, though hiding the invitations from his family for get-togethers had proved impossible. He’d wished, for a moment or two, that his family hadn’t been so accepting of André and their love, so his mother wouldn’t have called André directly with chatter about family gatherings and Kippah Kantor and all the other trappings he’d have been able to keep stuffed in that particular closet.

André knew now, though Big Beard Man in the Sky bless his mother, she’d told André very convincingly that the family exchanged activities rather than gifts — a movie night or a dutch day trip to the slopes — there was still the problem of gifts between the two of them. Janine was doing her part there, too, making sure André knew that Ben wanted more than anything a weekend for the two of them, away from the city, at a particular B&B. A B&B owned by Jacob’s family, and a free stay for Ben, though André needn’t know that.

And now, he’d worked up the courage to do what needed doing, so he could give André his gift, the year’s lease on the studio, the place they’d met, and fallen in love, and where André had waited patiently for his stupid mind and cock to catch up with his heart. It would hurt, but not as much as losing that studio would have hurt.

He’d hidden the value of the guitar collection, the one he’d amassed, dreaming of the day he’d record using those guitars, his entry into the Big Time. It had been luck and skill combined, haunting the pawn shops, looking for the guitars the buskers had to let go when times were tough. He’d not bought them all. He’d chosen carefully, the ones whose music had stopped him in his tracks, the ones he’d dreamed of being. Those guitars he’d bought. A few he’d held and watched for the haunted eyes, the lost souls whose fingers fretted ghost strings. He’d find them and when he was sure the dream was the real one, the one that fed what the world needed, the song that plays the chords of god, he’d hand those to tear-filled eyes, to the hugs that wrapped his soul with joy, knowing that even if he never heard of Joe the Picker or Fred Fingers anywhere but on the corner of Now and Forever, he’d done the universe a service, kept the music alive. Most he played and eventually sold. A very few, he’d kept and watched the hands that had fingered strings go on to finger other and better and make it, really make it. Those very few he kept close, the promise that dreams do come true.

And now, those very few were worth thousands. One of them, tens of thousands. He wouldn’t even say whose it had been. Those who would look at it, take a single look and then an incredulous second look, those people were the ones who counted, who knew without speaking. And they would pay to touch those frets again.

They would pay to keep the studio for André, to keep that dream alive, to feed the music of the eyes that the universe needed as much as it needed music of the ears.

God, it hurt, handing them over, one by one, taking pieces of paper in exchange for the dreams he’d stood guardian to. But with each piece of paper were the tears, the hugs, the soul-wrap — and the promise for André.

He’d hoped it wouldn’t take all of them. It did. And the last was the hardest, of course, the most heart-valuable, for this one had been played by father and son both, and both had given more to Ben than either man would ever know, through the songs that rode their hearts into the air, into the blackness of space, the heart of Being. He’d had to work to gain audience; so many wanted to touch the remnants there, the long-gone father, the now-in-the-light son. He’d managed it, though, to talk first to her, then to him. The wrinkles around the gently slanted eyes, the gasp of widow, the tears of son — yes, this one hurt more than them all. But that piece of paper, that paper — the unexpected, the means not to lease the studio, but to give it to André, forever, his, always his. Peace for André.

And suddenly the hurt wasn’t so much. His own dream gone, yes, for he’d never record with that one. But André’s dream secured. A small price to pay, his own dream for André’s.

Ben worked hard at hiding his elation. He’d gone around Janine even, knowing she couldn’t keep that big a secret, and taken his proposal to the owners himself, arranged it all. He’d lied to André about where he was those days, meeting after meeting, going here and there, and suffered the anger and hurt André threw his way, knowing that on Christmas morning, it would all be all right when he handed the deed to the studio to his lover, his man.

Now it wouldn’t matter what the gallery owners did or didn’t do. André could work. André could be happy, could give his gift to the universe.

Even as a Jewish boy, Christmas morning had been special. His parents had always played the Santa game, telling him it was a game, but letting him play so he had an answer to give his classmates inevitable, ‘what did Santa bring you’ questions. He was used to the anticipation and the molasses of time that led up to Christmas. Even as a boy, though, time had never passed so slowly. Christmas morning would never come. André would never look in the stocking Ben had insisted on hanging and sneaking down to fill in the wee hours.

Finally, though, the day dawned and Ben was nearly bouncing with delight and impatience. André wanted to stay in bed, as always, morning wood being precious to them both.

“Baby, let’s get up and come back with coffee,” Ben pled, though his body arched into André’s embrace. Anticipation played his body false and for the first time, his cock lay there, reluctant to do more than get half-hard.

“You’ve been up to something,” André accused him. “You’ve been gone a lot and now you’re not even — oh my god, you’re cheating on me!”

“No, no, baby, never! I’ve never looked at another man, I swear.”

“Oh shit, you’re fucking a woman?”

“No, baby, no! I haven’t fucked anyone since before we met!”

“You’re lying. Something’s going on.”

“Oh, shit, André, all right, something’s going on, but that’s not it. Just come on.” Ben stood and held a hand out.

“Oh god. You got me something for Christmas. We weren’t going to do that! ”

“André. Just. Come. On. We’ll talk about all of that later.”

André grinned. “Well, all right, but … there’s a surprise for you, too. Janine and your mother helped me figure it out.”

“What? You …” Ben spluttered.

“So, come on!” André laughed and tugged Ben down the hall to the living room. “Close your eyes.”

Ben shook his head, but complied. “I’m going to get you for this.”

“Oh, god, yes, you are. Every inch of me in every place I can find to put me.” He pulled Ben into the room and chattered on, “You didn’t think I knew, but I did. And I think it’s beautiful, such a lovely thing for you to have done.”

“You … you knew? But I was so careful! Janine wasn’t supposed to tell you! Damn, I wanted to see your face!” Ben opened his eyes and there, where there had been a bookcase, a display cabinet rested, oak and walnut inlaid in the shapes of musical notes and guitars.

“What … what is this?” Ben asked.

André threw his head back and laughed heartily. “It’s for your guitar collection, silly! Your mother told me about your collection and how much it meant to you and I had this built for you. Do you like it?”

Ben stood there, running his hands over the intricate patterns, gasping when he realized the notes were the score for his favorite songs by — he sobbed and laughed, choking on both.

“I sold the installation, Ben. I know it meant a lot to you, but I just had to …. What’s wrong? Don’t you like it?”

Ben nodded and sobbed, then handed André his stocking. “Look.”

André pulled a large rolled paper from the stocking and undid the scarlet ribbon holding it closed. “What’s — oh my god!” André stumbled and sat heavily on the floor. “The … my god! You … you bought the studio? How … where did you get …. oh dear god, no!”

Ben collapsed on the floor next to him, laughing. “Yes. Yes, I sold the collection, baby.”

“But you were going to record with those! You were going to … that was your dream, Ben!”

He shook his head. “No, baby, not any more. You’re my dream, André. You and only you. Merry Christmas, baby, oh shit, Merry Christmas!”  He lunged forward, taking André to the floor, laughing and crying as he kissed his lover. “As long as you didn’t sell your dick, we’ll make a new installation, this one bigger and better.”

“And when that one gets into the galleries, we’ll hire your guitars back for a recording session!”

“Perfect! Now fuck me senseless or I’ll tell Santa you’ve been too nice to get the kind of present naughty boys deserve!”

 

[with thanks to O. Henry]

Going Down in Smoke (Full Version)

  Smoke Me

Going Down In Smoke

Something about the scent the breeze carried stirred her. It always had, whenever the aroma had come to her, from the first memory of childhood leaps into raked up piles, to this morning’s stroll, the smell of burning leaves warmed and relaxed her. Not that she needed anything other than a good long ride to relax her. That was another ‘always had’, the way even the smell of her barn soothed her. Lia smiled as she nuzzled into Ealadha’s neck. The Percheron cross nickered softly and rubbed his face along her shoulder until she offered an apple wedge as she finished his pre-ride grooming. He’d known, always had, that she’d left it in the pocket of her jacket, hanging there on the peg by his stall.

“The folks down the way yonder think I’m crazy, Ealadha. You know that, don’t you, boy? ‘Percherons are draft, that is, working horses, miss, even with a bit of thoroughbred in there somewhere. Been better to have a man pick you a nice riding horse. Won’t be able to manage, being a woman and all. Where’s the mounting block?’” She laughed, remembering the look on ol’ Jarvis’s face when she’d stirupped her foot and swung up into the saddle easily. “Asshole. The day I need a block to mount a stock-still horse is the day I leave the stable,” she muttered.

She smoothed the saddle pad — OK, she’d admit it would have been a bit easier with a smaller animal, though she’d never say that in front of the men ‘down the way yonder’. Like they had room to talk. Most of those guys were only a inch or so taller than she was. Except for one. He was taller by at least eight inches. And damned good-looking.

“Sam.” She smiled as she said his name aloud.

“You’ve got eyes in the back of your head.”

Lia’s surprise nearly landed the saddle in the dirt. “Got it,” she snapped as he jumped to help. Damn. He heard me say his name, like some middle school girl with a crush.

“So you didn’t see — do you pretend I’m here often?”

She cut her eyes to him, ready as soon as the girth was done up tight to whap the smug right off his face. When it wasn’t there, she huffed and went back to her task. She saw him glance at the small conceit: her mount’s name on a plaque beside the stall the stall, lettered in uncial and with Celtic knot work surrounding it. Her own work, and she was proud of it.

“Ealadha is a fine looking animal,” Sam offered.

She raised a brow. He’d pronounced it properly — el-ah-tha. Surprising. She turned toward him and squirmed a bit when she realized just how close he was. “You don’t think he’s more than I can handle, like your buddies?”

It was Sam’s turn to huff. “They’re not my buddies. I just work there.”

His eyes are so green, she thought. Wonder why I never noticed before?

“Because I’ve never been this close to you before.”

She blushed and sucked in a breath. “I’m … I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”

“You didn’t,” he murmured, moving so close his jacket brushed her shirt over her suddenly hard nipples. “It’s nearly Samhain. I can hear your thoughts. And I like them,” he growled. “Especially the thoughts of what we’ll do late tonight to keep warm, lying beside that firepit of yours, with all those leaves you saved to burn.”

“How … you … are you some sort of, I don’t know, psychic or something?”

“Thank you for not calling me ‘warlock’. I’m a witch, and more, Lia. Same as you, except you haven’t stepped into your role just yet. I’m going to help you do that.”

“Witch? Me? You’re effing nuts!”

Sam smiled. “That ‘effing’ is certainly on both our minds.” He leaned closer and brushed her lips with his. “Mmm, yes, honey. I thought that’s what you’d taste like. All over, I’d imagine.”

Lia turned back to Ealadha. Damn. I almost … crap. He can hear my thoughts.

“And after tonight, you’ll hear mine.” He took a step back. “Let me ride with you. Please.”

She swallowed hard and nodded.

“I left Moirai by the paddock. We’ll wait there for you.” He was gone before she could find her breath.

Ealadha stamped a hoof and as she checked the saddle’s fit over, she whispered, “Boy, I’m going to. It’s crazy, but I’m going to.”

The ride was a good one, though quiet. Lia’s questions rattled like marbles in a tin can through her head and she decided to wait until they were feet to the ground again to press for answers. She showed Sam a trail he’d not been down, carpeted with leaves from the surrounding maples and aspens. As the sun approached the horizon and the temperature dipped, Lia suggested they turn for home.

Sam looked to the west and agreed. “Yes. It will be Samhain soon. The time is almost upon us, Lia. And yes, if you have questions still, I will answer them. When Samhain has fully come. And when we have, too.”

As soon as they turned, the horses smelled the barn and moved into a trot. Lia watched, at first covertly and then openly, as Sam caught Moirai’s rhythm to post easily. She smiled and he laughed. “All I had to do was show you I could post and you’d have been ready to fall into my bed? What would you do if you knew just how well I climb peaks and explore deep valleys?”

Lia groaned and her gelding took the pace to a canter. Good thing, she thought. Ealadha’s a bit wide for posting over any real distance. I don’t want to be too sore for Sam. Shit. Stop the horny stuff, woman!

They spoke of mundane things while seeing to the horses. Lia pointed to a stall. “Moirai can use that one, if you don’t want to take her home or leave her in the paddock.”

Sam nodded his thanks. “Let’s move a little faster, Lia. It’s almost sunset. I want all of Samhain with you, every minute.”

“Why, Sam?”

“I’ll explain during the night, if you like. It’s more fitting to wait.”

She shrugged and went back to fetching hay for both horses. “Sweet feed’s in there. Ealadha gets a full scoop, please.”

A few minutes later, they met in the aisle and Sam arm-wrapped Lia’s waist and almost dragged her out the south end, for a less obstructed view westward. As the sun began to ease below the horizon, his breath quickened and he pulled her tighter. “Lia, Lia, god, I want you. Will you make love to me as the sun sets, right here?”

She looked into his eyes, at the crimson and saffron and violet hues of the dying day reflected there against the jade of his irises. Something she couldn’t name fluttered in her chest and set her heart racing. “Oh, god, I want you, too, Sam. But no, not right here. There,” she pointed, “there by fire pit. I laid it with wood as well as the last of the leaves. Let’s light it. I want a fire tonight, besides the one you’re igniting in me.”

“It won’t be as hot as your skin, but yes.”

She smiled. “My turn,” she whispered as she tugged and pulled him toward the rock-ringed fire pit where she’d been piling leaves for a week over and under the lengths of the maples that had come down in a storm. She fished a lighter from her jeans pocket and handed him a couple of twigs. “Instead of matches,” she grinned.

“But now, Lia, let’s undress. We’ll light them naked,” he murmured into her ear, before invading it with his tongue.

She cried out softly as her body clenched with lust. She pulled his lips to hers and took his mouth hard, nipping his lower lip as she fumbled with his shirt buttons. He shrugged his sherpa jacket off and pulled away long enough to spread it on the ground, adding hers as she dropped it as well.

“Our love bed, Lia. Do you mind that it doesn’t have satin sheets?”

“Let’s just get these clothes off. I want to see that cock I’m going to have.”

He groaned and yanked his undershirt over his head. “I want to have you, too, baby. All your honey, every bit.” He reached for his belt buckle, but she laid her hand over his, shaking her head.

“Let me.” Her voice was husky and he nodded, moaning as he reached to pull the hem of her heavy tee-shirt and then her silks free from her jeans.

His belt and her tops hit the ground at the same time. “Oh god, you’re not wearing a bra. Thinking of me when you dressed?” he teased as he nuzzled the join of her neck and shoulder. His hands, his hot hands slid easily over her ribs to cup her breasts.

She shivered as the button of his fly slipped free. He stepped back before she could tug the zipper pull, and she quirked a brow at him.

“I go commando, baby, so let me do the zipper. I don’t want anything caught and neither do you.”

“My turn to moan ‘oh god’ and feast my eyes,” she murmured.

“Want a show?” he grinned and eased the zipper down one notch.

She smiled and opened her own jeans fully, dropping them to the ground and balancing a hand on his shoulder to step out of them.

“Fuck! Commando, too!” He yanked his zipper down and toed his boots off, then kicked his jeans aside. “God, Lia, you’re gorgeous.”

“And I see you were thinking of me, too,” she smiled as she put her hands on his hips, and stooped to lick up the sweetness of his pre-cum.

“Mmmmpphh,” he whimpered. “Shit, stop, stop, if we’re going to light this fire. I’m going to toss you to the ground and fuck you senseless if you keep doing that.”

“Promise?” she looked into his eyes as she straightened. When he groaned, she danced out of his grasp and held up the lighter.

The leaves caught quickly and Sam cupped her breasts, lowered his mouth to suckle as he drew her down to their sherpa love bed. “The sun’s going down. It will be Samhain very soon. Will it take you long to come, baby?”

“Not if you ….”

“What, Lia? Tell me.”

“Go down on me first, Sam, like the sun’s going down on the horizon.”

He groaned and turned along her. “Will you go down on me?”

She answered with her tongue sliding down from his navel, avoiding the cock he frantically shoved at her and instead drawing his balls into her mouth, releasing them only moments later to lick from base to tip of his cock. He groaned, seeking — and finding — her clitoris to flick and suck.

God, that’s so good! Nobody’s ever done it this good. Oh, god, Sam, yes, like that!

He moaned and nodded, letting her know he’d heard, and pulled his hips back as he murmured into her, “Tongue the slit, baby, please, tongue — oh, god, yes, in it as far as — that’s so fucking good.” He began to grunt and jab her mouth with his cock as he slid two fingers into her and curled them to stroke her G-spot.

Her entire body clenched. More, more, please, more!

He gasped and pulled away, trembling. “Lia, the sun’s almost gone. Let me in, please. I want my cock in you when Samhain starts. There will be going down on each other later, I swear.”

She tugged at him, urging him to turn, then wrapped her legs around his hips. “Fuck me, Sam.”

He positioned himself and sought her lips. “Shit, you’re so tight,” he spoke in her mouth as he eased into her.

She groaned and squeezed her legs to seat him deep inside. “Hard, do it hard,” she whispered as she followed the curve of his Adam’s apple with her teeth and tongue.

He pulled back slowly and then slammed into her hard. She cried out and arched her back to meet him. “Yes, like that, like that. God, that’s good! How could I be this close so quick, Sam?”

“We were made for each other, Lia.” He repeated the slow withdrawal and pounding entry. “I’m … oh shit ….” He looked up to check the sun. “Almost, almost, god, I’m going to come the minute Samhain arrives! Please, Lia, baby, come with me.”

Eyes wide, she nodded. “Yes, big guy, keep on like that and … oh god … soon, soon.”

Sam focused on the sunset and fought for control. “Stay with me, Lia, hold off just a little longer.”

Lia whispered, “Please, I’m so close, please!”

Sam stopped his thrusting. “Hold it, baby, please, oh god.”

They looked to the west urging the sun to hurry and as they watched, she did. Sam cried out and resumed thrusting, hard and fast as Lia pulled his face to hers and gasped into his mouth. She stilled suddenly for an instant, and then was all groans and arching, moving, pulling him closer as he ground his hips into her so forcefully it almost seemed as if his balls were making their way inside as well.

The orgasm was fireworks along her nerves, a percussive explosion followed by bursts of light dancing across her field of vision. Shudders of pleasure rocketed through his body as he emptied into her.

In near unison they cried each others’ names.

“Sam — Samael, at last, together again at last!”

“Lia, my Lilith, I’ll never let you go again!”