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Jesus, what am I doing here?
Greyson placed a hand on the wall of the express elevator for balance as the car shot upward, leaving his stomach on the first floor. He gathered his wits in a best effort to appear outwardly calm even as his brain was screaming, and bravely offered a deliberate smile to his companion. It was too late to turn around, to change his mind. He was in the elevator now. He'd look like an idiot. He drew a deep, concentrated breath. At the top of the building was a penthouse, in which - he told himself in the midst of a continuous monologue of self-encouragement - he was going to have a great time. Whatever came to pass.
Scottie Steele watched Greyson with not a small amount of amusement; the young man's effort at calm was a flimsy cover for his terror as his eyes moved restlessly up to flying numbers measuring the elevator's progress and his lanky frame steadied itself against the wall. This was going to be very interesting. Truth be told, Scottie was impressed with Greyson's sense of adventure; after all, it would be only a bit over four weeks since they'd met. Ever since Greyson had walked into Scottie's office, searching for a property outside the city to which he could escape on weekends, Scottie had liked him immensely. The Greyson Foster in person, standing in his office of all places, out of all the realtors available in the New York area. The young playwright carried himself with an innate elegance, spoke quietly, exuded intelligence, his conversation punctuated by a gentle, near-shy smile. The smile of someone who was painfully self-aware. Over lunch that same day, Scottie had listened to Greyson talk about his need for more quiet time to write, and had marveled at the absolute modesty with which he spoke: he seemed to really have no idea that he was one of the most talked about new playwrights in the theater capitol of the world.
And so Scottie had been drawn in by Greyson's quiet but considerable personal charm from the first, and found hearing about his work in the world of theater fascinating. In the space of a week Scottie had found three prospective properties, and each had required a day's road trip to see - which neither had minded. Greyson wanted isolation, forest, dirt roads with dead ends. Hours spent in the car had allowed the two to become fast friends. "I wish my wife could meet you," Scottie had said, "She loves theater. She told me who you were before I even realized," he added, laughing.
Greyson had smiled softly and looked out of the car window, "She's easily impressed. I've been lucky is all."
On the evening of the eighth day they sat together in Scottie's favorite pub and ordered a third round. "What do you do for fun, Greyson? You don't talk about fun much," Scottie asked, his eyes mocking.
Greyson laughed. "Fun," he repeated, thinking. Then he said, "I probably could use more of that." He took a sip of cognac. "I have been trying to build a career for so long it seems, just had my nose to the grindstone." His eyes met Scottie's for a moment and he realized he might sound ungrateful, "Oh, don't get me wrong, I like what I do, and I'm thankful people actually like it, but I think I've. . . maybe forgotten how to play, especially in the last few years . . ."
"You watch sports much?" Scottie asked.
"Sometimes. Depends on what it is."
". . . Because I get together with these guys once in a while to watch football and play cards, talk, cook and eat too much, whatever. We take a whole Saturday, morning to late. It's great. You could come." Scottie studied Greyson thoughtfully, wondering how he was going to bring up the rest of the scenario. Not certain that he wanted to. He had spent a lot of time with his young friend, but still couldn't get a read on him when it came to his private life.
"Yeah, I might think about that. Thanks for asking." Greyson, ever polite, often non-committing, raised his glass toward Scottie and took another sip. "I used to play a lot of cards in college. I kind of miss it."
"You have a girlfriend?" Scottie said smoothly, leaning back in his chair, watching for Greyson's reaction to the sudden personal question.
Greyson raised an eyebrow, "Uh . . . no. Not now. I did, I had a fiancé." Then he deftly, almost imperceptibly, turned the direction of the conversation (something he was good at, as are many such kind people), "How long have you been married?"
Scottie didn't realize that it had turned, and settled into the comfort zone that Greyson created. "Seven years. It's good. She's . . . she's good, great. We're friends. You know. So it's great."
"And you have kids."
"Yes, the three little girls. You saw their photos in my office, remember. I like being a family man."
Scottie signaled the waiter, thinking that a fourth whiskey was going to put him under the table if he didn't eat something. "You're young, Greyson. You have a lot of time to get married, Man. How old are you?"
"Twenty-eight. Sometimes I feel like I'm going on fifty." Greyson declined an offer for another drink from the waiter with a soft smile, and the woman's eyes slid slowly over him and lingered as she picked up the used glasses and turned and left.
Scottie cleared his throat. Take the plunge, see what he does. He felt his face flush uncharacteristically, but he pushed on. "Greyson, uh, you know those get-togethers I have with this group of guys. Well," he stopped and looked at the rim of his glass, searching for the next words.
Greyson leaned forward, sensing and confused by Scottie's reticence. "You're all good friends?" "Yeah. They are nice guys. The thing is, we are all married and we each have been for a long time. We have a great time together though, just guy time I guess."
"That's probably a good thing, getting away from the stress of your jobs, and from your families . . ."
"It is. We have all known each other for . . . well, I've known Jack for about . . . fifteen, no sixteen years, since we were in college. I've known Colin for at least. . . nine. So this isn't something. . . " Scottie shifted in his seat and then looked Greyson hard in the eye, saying plainly, "When we get together, we usually end up having sex."
Greyson's face betrayed no emotion, but his hand stopped midair as he was lifting his glass. His eyes flitted from Scottie's left to his right and back again, quickly. "What do you mean?" he said evenly. Then he took his sip slowly, nonchalantly.
Scottie met Greyson's gaze and he didn't flinch as he elaborated. "All of us. Together. It's like a game. We don't tell anyone. What happens there stays there. It's all safe, I mean none of us has anything . . . so, the rule is we just do it when we are all together, we don't do it outside our group." He stopped then and took a mouthful of whiskey, swishing it around in his mouth and swallowing it slowly. He waited, thinking that he may have just ended the budding friendship. Greyson finally stretched his long legs in front of him, crossing his ankles and leaning back. "And . . . how is that?"
Scottie laughed, lowly. "It's fun. It's just. . .sex. I mean, no one is gay or anything. It's just fucking for fun." He watched Greyson watching the liquor melt down the sides of the glass as he swirled it slowly. Then he asked, "You ever done that? For fun? You ever been with a guy?"
"No." A small forced laugh. "No, I have not." The long-lashed eyelids swept down again to the drink. Elegant, tapered fingers brushed back a lock of longish hair.
Scottie leaned back again and smiled to himself. Greyson didn't comment further, and Scottie didn't push. He just watched. For the next half hour, the conversation was easy and light. No damage done.
One hour later, the cab they had shared pulled over in front of Scottie's building. "Come to dinner Wednesday?" Scottie asked, "Diana and the girls will be away at her folks' for the week and I'll be bored stiff. I'm a decent cook, we'll watch a movie or something?"
Greyson shrugged. "Sure, okay. Thanks." Scottie turned away and opened the door to exit the cab, "I'll call you." He gave the driver enough to cover the ride for both of them.
On Wednesday, Greyson stood on the terrace of Scottie's apartment after dinner and looked over at the building opposite. A man sat on his terrace with a beer and a newspaper. The traffic in the street below seemed a world apart from this height.
"I think this terrace is worth the price of the apartment," Scottie commented and lighted two torch-lights against the falling daylight. "I actually spend a lot of time out here. We have to be a little careful with the girls around, but they are getting big enough that they know not to jump," he laughed when Greyson looked at him. Greyson smiled at the joke, "I think I would too. I really like a view from high up."
"You don't get that?"
"No, I live in the townhouse, and it's nice enough, a common courtyard and garden. No view though to speak of."
"What?" Scottie stopped where he was clearing away dishes from the outdoor table, "No terrace to jump off? What would you do if you had to kill yourself?" He laughed loudly at Greyson's bewildered expression. In the near two weeks that they had hung out together, he had discovered Greyson to be one serious man. He secretly had made it a personal mission to loosen the guy up a bit. "Or don't writers do that anymore?" He disappeared into the apartment with the dishes.
Greyson shook his head and smiled. It had done him good to make a friend in Scottie, someone outside the theater world. Since coming to New York four years earlier, he had known only work and Lisa. No time for much else. And after Lisa was gone, there didn't seem to be much he wanted to face doing but to throw himself into the work. He knew that work had been his way to avoid having to look at what had gone wrong in the relationship, but he had come to think it through in his own time, slowly. He knew that he had proposed for the wrong reasons. She was right to leave him, sensing that his feelings for her were less than they should have been. There had been a lot of good things - laughter, people and interests in common, but there had been no deep love. He had convinced himself that it wasn't necessary to a good marriage. He had wanted a wife and kids, a family, a stable foundation to look at when the end of the day came. He had wanted to get on with an adult life - to have the things others around him seemed to have acquired so easily. He knew that he was a solid, honest, loyal man - wasn't that all it would take to be a great spouse? And he had wanted to have someone in the world whose presence he could rely upon. That was something he hadn't had for many years. But she had been right to see through him, the shallow intent. She had been right to leave. He didn't miss her as a romantic partner, but he missed her as a friend. Because in truth he had few of those, and he didn't know how to seek them out. Greyson was a contemplative, private sort of man, and although he was aware that his charm drew others in, he had found few that he wished to keep near. Words he needed to say and didn't say to a companion, he spoke through the plays. His words and ideas wafted out into the world in this way, although they were never bounced back. The intensity of this feeling of having a voice when he was writing kept him from getting lonely. He was generally content with his life.
But he had found himself changed after the jolt of surprise at Lisa's having dumped him, and it was a change he still didn't understand. It was as if - because the pieces of the life he had planned for himself weren't falling neatly into place - he had begun to panic, and was trying to find a Greyson he didn't know. One that he would become, one that would make more sense. One that might be safer. The feeling of this new revelation and enterprise was both exhilarating and unsettling. He was tired of the usual this and that, the normal middle class customs, the blandness of life. His life. After Lisa and the mess he had made with all his plans for normalcy and domesticity, he had promised himself as he watched the age of thirty draw nearer that he would open his arms and mind to life in a way he hadn't before, and with renewed enthusiasm. It would inform his experience and make him a better writer, and he might learn something in the process about himself. He might get some idea of where he was heading. He might even discover an inkling of where he wanted to be, some newly informed understanding of possibilities. And he might stop being so goddamned lost.
And so Greyson had promised himself that he would reach out for life, expand his horizons, in any way he could. The first step was to move pieces of his life outside the comfort zone of the theater world. Buy a place in the middle of nowhere at which to write in quiet solitude with himself, maybe travel, maybe meet people who didn't see everything in life in terms of the New York entertainment world. Scottie was part of that outside world, and Greyson was pleased with himself for taking the first steps toward his new goals.
He was leaning into the breeze wafting up and around with the darkened sky, and enjoying the sight of the lights and noise below, when he felt something. A caress. A hand brushing his side and around his waist. Teeth biting down gently on his earlobe. Scottie pressed himself against Greyson's back and slid his hand to the crotch, grasping Greyson through his trousers. Not overly-aggressive, not polite, far from hesitant. Silently demanding.
If I want to stop this I need to do it now. Before he goes too far. Greyson felt goose bumps rise on his arms and neck, and had the brief sensation that it was someone else that this was happening to, as if he were watching a film. He felt bewildered. Wasn't there supposed to be some foreplay? Some flirtation? Would there not have had to have been some heat between them over dinner? Some spark over all the days spent together? (Wasn't that how any sexual liaison began between two people - with sparks?) But there was not, and there had not been. It's just fucking for fun. And so this was how straight guys did each other. For fun.
Greyson found himself ultra-aware of the details. The assertive, masculine way in which he was being seduced. The feel of Scottie's fingers on his zipper, moving the trousers aside with absolute authority. The scratch of Scottie's beard on his back, and then the feel of Scottie's hands on his waist turning him around, and the scratch of Scottie's face again as it brushed Greyson's inner thigh. He found himself analyzing in a near-clinical fashion his own response. All the physiological steps were there - a quickening of his breath, his pulse pounding, a groan involuntarily escaping his mouth, his cock hardening and lifting toward Scottie's mouth. The familiar yearning to be stroked. My God this is happening. With a man.
Greyson looked down at Scottie sucking his cock and felt the delicious tightening inside his testicles. He put a hand on Scottie's head and buried his fingers in the other man's dark hair, offering encouragement. He wondered what Scottie would do as he felt Greyson near climax - pull away or swallow. Scottie worked around the head with his tongue slowly and smiled up at Greyson, which caused Greyson to moan again. When Scottie once again enveloped the organ with his mouth, Greyson closed his eyes and knew it wouldn't be long before he lost control. But then Scottie suddenly let the cock fall from his mouth and stood. He looked at Greyson's eyes, and then smiling, at his mouth. Then he kissed him roughly and deeply, his tongue demanding that Greyson's meet his.
Greyson was aware of Scottie's hand, firm at the back of his neck, holding him into the kiss. He fought the impulse to resist, a thought running through his mind that he had never been taken, but had always been the one to do the taking. The one to do the taking out of expectation. Now, it was difficult to surrender. Scottie was unbuttoning Greyson's shirt, and then slipping his tongue onto a nipple, licking, sucking, biting. Greyson swallowed hard, closing his eyes, and felt the cool of the evening breeze on his exposed groin, and his trousers where they lay tangled around his ankles.
He suddenly thought about the man on the terrace opposite. He wondered if that man had a telescope. "Scott. . . Scottie! What if someone is watching?"
Scottie licked Greyson's collarbone, and up his throat to his mouth. Greyson felt him smile against his face, "You want them to watch?" before devouring his mouth again. "You taste good. Like wine. . ." he growled, "Your mouth is so pretty, your lips. I can't get enough. . ." It felt good. Really good. At some point Greyson stopped analyzing, stopped questioning, and gave himself up.
Then Scottie said, "Turn around," and his hands once again went to Greyson's trim waist, this time to turn him to face the table. "Bend." Greyson's heart began to pound. He felt Scottie move his foot against Greyson's legs to spread them wider. The foreign feel of rough fingers feeling up his crack, and then probing his hole. The cold of something wet - lubricant? His own fear. Then surprise, when it felt so good - a finger, pushing into him. Tiny ring of muscle giving way. Penetration.
Penetration. I am now technically being fucked. Again, the startling cold of lube then the artificial warming sensation, as fingers slowly smoothed it up into him. The charge that made his cock jump in anticipation and the breathless realization that Scottie was purposely pressing his prostate. The wild longing to have that never stop. The insane thought that, right now, as he felt the head of Scottie's cock pushing at his asshole and the feel of Scottie's hot breath on his neck whispering, "Just relax, just relax. . ." he might actually start begging out loud to be fucked by a guy.
Two weeks later, Scottie called Greyson to say that the group was getting together on the weekend and that Greyson was welcome to join them. For cards, food, football and whatever else. He was only mildly surprised when Greyson accepted.
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Lichen Craig wrote non-fiction professionally for over twenty-five years before the fire overtook her to write a first novel. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of test readers despite the controversial subject matter, she took the plunge into publication of "Gentlemen's Game". Lichen lives at the foot of the Rocky Mountains with four large dogs. She spends a lot of time thinking about the nature of relationships, sexual choices, and the rapidly-changing moral world in which we live. You can visit her website at http://lichencraig.blogspot.com/