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Gentle Strength

A work in progress...

Several years ago I wrote a series of short stories about the budding relationship between two men. They met in a park...Jeff was walking his dog under the watchful eye of his guardian, and he encountered Sean, a suave business man. The two formed an unlikely friendship that blossomed into more.

It's a grouping of stories that has languished on my computer hard drive since about 2001. A project I've long wanted to revise into a cohesive work, but have lacked the drive to actually do it. I had been hoping for a 2 month summer vacation, but that has been shot down to 4 day work weeks instead, hardly the uninterrupted block of time I think is necessary for taming this beast.

But, lately it's been more in the forefront, and there is a glimmer of a chance I'll finally tackle the project. In the meantime, here's a very rough excerpt of one of the original stories.

Gentle. I am not a gentle man, it is a feeling that is alien to me. In all my life, I’ve never had anyone be gentle toward me, let alone felt gentle toward anyone else. As I look across the room at Jeff, his head bent over his sketchbook, I realize that the feelings surging through me are decidedly gentle.

A chance meeting in the park changed my life for the better. I could see right away that something wasn’t right with the kid, and my love for anything remotely dealing with military strategy caused me to stop and speak to him. One look at him, his haunting emerald eyes, his smooth skin, and I was caught as neatly as a trout on a hook.

Since then, I’ve been spending more and more time with him. I don’t have much use for the man he calls his guardian, and I made that clear from the start. He comes to the park alone now with his dog Dakotah. Over time he relaxed enough to come back to my house with me. Sometimes we talk, and sometimes he watches me going about my every day life. Every day he comes out of his shell a little more.

He hasn’t told me everything about his life, but enough to fill me with anger at the injustices that he has suffered. He said he went from a world where everything was his fault to a world where nothing was his fault. Slowly, he seems to blossom as I guide him to trust himself again.

The light touches his hair through the window, making it shine with a wash of different colors. He must feel my eyes on him because he looks up with an impish smile on his face. He takes my breath away as I return the smile. He turns to gaze out the window then, his hands idle on the paper in front of him.

“What are you working on?” I ask.

He looks around with a small gasp and picks up his pencil. “I’m not wasting time,” he says worriedly. He bends to work on his drawing again.

“I didn’t say you were wasting time Jeff,” I say patiently. I watch his frantic movements for a moment, then say, “You looked like you were dreaming.”

“Dreaming is a waste of time,” he says in an undertone.

“No it’s not,” I say. “Everyone dreams sometimes.”

He stops then, and looks at me with confused eyes. “Everyone?”

I smile at him, “Yeah, even me.”

He takes a moment to digest that and then lays his sketchbook aside, and props his chin in his hand as he stares out the window again.

I watch him for several moments, wondering what he’s dreaming. Finally, I whisper his name, and he comes back from his reverie, looking over at me expectantly.

“Come over here, please,” I say softly.

Obediently, he walks over to me and I pull him into my lap, and wrap my arms around him. “You’re free to do whatever you wish when you’re in my home Jeff.”

He sighs, and cuddles against me. When he speaks, I can hardly hear him. “I’m not used to that Sean. I’m not used to people saying please, and giving me choices.”

My heart twists for a moment, and I tighten my arms around him. “I think it’s something you should get used to.”

He turns his head to look up at me, his eyes wide. “I’m afraid to,” he says. “Afraid that if I get used to it, then it’ll end.”

“It won’t Jeff because,” and it’s in that moment that I realize it, “I love you.”

His eyes well up with tears and I bend down and kiss him gently. He sniffles, but I hear him whisper “I love you,” almost like he’s practicing it to see what it sounds like. I feel uncharacteristic tears pricking at my eyes too as I hold him close. When I glance up at the window, I see that it has gotten dark.

“Spend the night,” I say on impulse, “Unless your guardian expects you home.”

He stiffens a little in my arms, but doesn’t pull away.

“Just to sleep,” I say softly. “I don’t expect anything else from you.”

He lifts his head and smiles a watery smile at me. “He said I can make my own decisions.”

I smile, lift him out of the chair and lead him to my bedroom. Casually I remove my clothes and recline on the bed. Without hesitation, he strips down to his boxers and climbs up on the bed with me.

“Will you read me a story?” he asks as he cuddles next to me on top of the blankets.

I kiss the top of his head tenderly as I reach over for the book on the bedside table. I’ve been reading him The Jungle Book, and he hangs on every word. He seems fascinated with the boy Mowgli and his relationship with Baloo.

At the end of the chapter, I lay the book aside. His breath is warm against my chest, and just when I think he’s asleep, he whispers, “I love you Baloo.”

I smile and run my hand down his back gently. “I love you too Tiger.” Somehow the name fits him. He’s cuddly like a tiger cub, yet underneath I can sense he has strength.

Soon, I can feel his body relaxing as he falls to sleep in my arms. Someday, I think drowsily, I will awaken his body to pleasure. For now though, I am content to just be near him.