ASSISTANCE GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED

 

The character of Jeff Mitchell, Harry Mitchell, Joyce and Jenny belong to the makers of the movie "The Sum of Us". I'm just borrowing them for the duration of this story. No copyright infringement is intended. The story is rated NC-17 for sexual content and language. Copyright 2002 by Darcy.

B
y Darcy

 

Joyce hurried across the street, opened the car door and got in as if the hounds of hell were after her. She kept her head turned slightly away from her daughter and brought her hand to her mouth, clearly distressed.

"Mum?"

Joyce took a breath. "What do they say? There's no fool like an old fool?"

Jenny said comfortingly, "You're not so old, Mum."

"No, but I'm a fool." She made an impatient motion with her hand, indicating that she wanted to leave. Jenny started the car and pulled away from the curb. From inside the house Jeff watched, his eyes on the lovely brunette behind the wheel, turning away only when the car was out of sight.

* * *

He was swamped, there was no doubt about it. The nurse came in three times a week and gave him a brief respite, but it was no day at the beach caring for his dad. It seemed his life was constant work: taking care of Harry, keeping up with the housework, getting in some plumbing when he could to keep them afloat financially. Not easy, but Jeff made no complaint and didn't begrudge his dad his time. Still, it was yonks since he'd been down to the Prinny for a coldie, yonks since he'd been able to play a game of footy with his mates. He hadn't once been running since Harry'd had his stroke, hadn't been to a film or a concert. He'd done nothing but care for his dad and go to work.

"And all work and no play's made Jeff a dull boy," he said to himself and grinned in self-deprecation. "Boring old bastard, that's me."

Their routine was the same, day after day. Jeff got Harry up and helped him with his wee pan, got him washed and shaved, then fed him his breakfast. After that, while Harry was settled with an audio book or the telly, Jeff got his own shower (never a drip, these days---what he'd give to see that old shower leaking now) and did whatever needed to be done around the house. In between the vacuuming and dusting, the laundry and the cooking, he went to check on his Dad. In the arvo, they took a walk to the shops or down to the Botanical Gardens to give Harry an airing. He had always been so vital and interested in everything and that had not really changed when the stroke laid him low. Jeff thought back to the day last week when his lady friend, Joyce Johnson, had come to call. Dad had been thrilled; he'd been planning to marry Joyce before he took ill. He'd been overjoyed to see her, Jeff could tell. Joyce, on the other hand, hadn't seemed as glad to see Harry. She'd been upset, off her game. Jeff had asked her to, but he was afraid Joyce wasn't coming back.

* * *

One Month Later

She sat staring out of the window, her mind miles away. Well, not miles, really. Just across a neighborhood or two, in a little bungalow with a red roof and long front porch. She couldn't get Harry Mitchell or his son out of her mind. She'd been back to see them once or twice in the time since her first visit, and she could see what was what. Young Jeff was devoting his life to his father, and it was wearing him out.

If things had gone the way they'd expected, she and Harry would either be planning a wedding very soon, or would have been married already. The three months he'd promised her were long up, and if she'd just not reacted the way she did to the news of Jeff's perversion…no, that was a hideous thing to think about him, she meant Jeff's being gay…they'd likely have been married by now. Joyce couldn't help feeling that she'd deserted Harry. Dear God, if they'd been married before he'd had this stroke, she would be taking care of him now instead of his son.

She thought about young Jeff and felt guilty. He was nothing like she'd expected, not effeminate or nancy at all. She'd watched that horrible gay pride parade thing on telly, seen all the blasphemous homosexuals dressed in nun's habits and the men in cowboy outfits with their arses bare and on display, gyrating obscenely to loud music. But Jeff was nothing like them. He was really quite nice, quite…well, normal…and so devoted to Harry. Yes, she'd over-reacted terribly the night he'd told her and now she couldn't help feeling that their argument over Jeff had something to do with Harry's stroke. She was sure it had, and the guilt was driving her mental.

Jenny came into the lounge room and put a gentle hand on her mother's shoulder. "Mum? Are you okay?"

Joyce started; she hadn't heard her daughter come in the house. She gave Jenny a quick, distracted smile and patted her hand.

"I'm fine. Thinking about what might have been. Thinking of that poor Jeff Mitchell, struggling to take care of his father all alone." She made a sudden decision and said it out loud, before she could change her mind. "Jenny, I'm thinking I'm going to start going over there in the evenings and help him." She looked up at her daughter. "After all, I was going to marry Harry. I feel responsible."

"I think that's a lovely idea, Mum." Jenny had listened to her mother's stories of Jeff's struggle to care for his father, and of Harry's helplessness. "I feel sorry for them too," she confessed. "Do you think Jeff would mind if I came to help once in a while as well? Maybe then he could get out, go to see his mates, do something besides take care of his dad. Many hands make the work light." She cocked her head to the side. "You've never said---does he have a girlfriend?"

Joyce shifted uncomfortably on the seat. "No, there's no girlfriend. I never told you because it upset me so, but Jeff's gay. I found out about it that last night, the night Harry took ill."

Jenny raised her eyebrows. No wonder her mum had been so wrought up when she'd come home on New Year's Eve. Joyce was old-fashioned about sex, couldn't really accept the idea of a gay lifestyle. It didn't bother Jenny; in her job as a nursing supervisor at the Royal South Sydney Hospital's AIDS wing, she dealt with gay people all the time. To her, they were just people, not much different from anyone else. She patted her mother comfortingly.

"Well, when do you want to start? Tonight? Do you want to go over and see Jeff and Harry now?"

Joyce stood up, resolute. "Yes. I do. We'll go right after we've had our tea."

"Fair enough," agreed Jenny. "I'll just change out of my uniform."

* * *

When the doorbell rang, Jeff almost didn't answer it. It had been one long trying, miserable, fucking day and he was rooted. Harry had a bit of a head cold. It was the first time he'd been sick since he'd had the stroke and since he couldn't move his hands, things like using a tissue were impossible. Jeff had hovered over him all day, trying to make him comfortable, and he'd seen the look in Harry's eyes. Harry was feeling guilty and wretched because he was putting his boy through so much misery. Jeff made light of it but it did no good. He knew exactly what his dad was thinking.

When he opened the door and saw Joyce there, he smiled. This was the medicine that would make Harry feel better more than anything else.

"Joyce, come in. Good to see you; Dad'll be pleased." He stepped aside to let Joyce by and saw a young woman behind her, a very pretty woman no older than himself. He remembered where he had seen her before; she'd been driving the car the first time Joyce had come to visit Harry.

"G'day, how ya goin'," he said to her as she passed him, and had a momentary wish that he was dressed in something other than his dirty gray sweatshirt and sweat pants.

Joyce made the introductions. "Jeff, this is my daughter, Jenny. She's a nurse at the Royal South Sydney."

His eyes crinkled in a tired smile. "Yeah? That's nice; I'm starting to appreciate nurses lately," he joked. "Good to meet you, Jenny." He looked at Joyce. "Dad's got a bit of a cold, but he'll be so glad to see you. He misses you, I think," Jeff said.

She nodded. "Well, he won't be missing me any more. If you say it's all right, I'd like to start coming by to help out with your dad, Jeff." She shrugged and smiled, her large brown eyes expressive. "I'm no nurse, but I could help with the cleaning and bring you some dinner a few times a week, or even fix something here. I'm not the world's greatest cook, but..." She stopped when Jeff put a hand on her arm.

"Ta," he said, his eyes glittering and grateful. "I wish I could tell you it's not necessary, but I have to cop it sweet. I'm going mental. I need a break, but I'd never leave him alone. You're saving my arse, Joyce, and I appreciate it more than I can tell you."

He was so unpretentiously grateful that Joyce was touched to her core.

"No need to thank me, Jeff. I've missed Harry so; it'll be lovely to spend time with him again." She smiled, her throat working with the effort to keep the emotion from overflowing, and turned to her daughter. "Jenny wants to help, too," she told him. "She's got lots of experience, she can take care of some of the things you've been doing, Jeff…sort of spell you a bit."

Looking at him, Joyce was suddenly overcome by the expression on his face; she read gratitude, relief, humility. She reached out and touched his cheek with gentle fingers. "You're not on your own anymore, Jeff."

His eyes grew wet but he blinked back his tears and smiled. "Ladies, I'm so touched, I hardly know what to say. Your offer of assistance is gratefully accepted. Thank you."

* * *

As time passed, he grew comfortable with them, and they with him. Joyce was like a mum to him…well, a favorite aunt maybe, nobody would ever take the place of his Mum…and Jenny became his best friend. Together they worked to keep Harry comfortable, the house decent, the cooking and the laundry and the shopping going, and, as Jenny had once said, many hands made the work light. There was time again for relaxation, for a bit of fun. Jeff and Jenny were always having each other on, teasing each other as well as Joyce and Harry, keeping them all amused with their antics. Sometimes they all went out together for ice cream or for walks, going down on the Quay so Harry could watch the boats and ferries.

With the lessening of his burden, Jeff was more like himself, and the shadows left Harry's eyes as he saw his son become happy and young again. Joyce spent the night every Friday, to give Jeff a chance to go out and see his friends, hit the Prinnie or the Barracks, relax with his own kind. Once, when she and Jenny had first started helping out, she'd stayed on through the week-end. That Saturday Jeff stayed out all night, offering no explanations and making no excuses. He'd simply asked her if she minded and when she said no, he didn't come home. She had his cell phone number for emergencies, but there had been no need to use it, thank God.

He was going to do that again tonight, stay over with a man he'd met several weeks ago. They'd been taking things slowly, acting almost like two virgins with each other. There'd been several evenings spent talking and drinking beer together at the Prinnie and then after, the two of them pashing in the front seat of his truck, or pressed against the wall at the rear of the pub. He'd had enough of Rob's hot, wet kisses and tender caresses to know he wanted more. Jeff was ready, more than ready to consummate things tonight. He wanted to taste Rob; he wanted Rob to taste him. He kept picturing them in bed in the classic position, their heads between each other's thighs, Rob's cock buried deep in his throat. Jeff shivered in anticipation. It had been so long for him, so long since he'd done anything but wank in the shower, and that, usually just to relieve the tension. He was cracking a fat now, just thinking about it all, and he knew he was going to be semi-erect the entire evening, he was so ready to go. He spoke sternly to himself, a self-conscious grin splitting his handsome face.

"None of that now!" He looked down and talked to his penis as he dried off with the towel. "No scaring the ladies with you rearing your ugly head! Just hang on a tic, mate; you'll be getting yours, no worries."

He heard laughter from the lounge room. Both Jenny and Joyce were here tonight. They were going to play cards with Harry. Jenny acted as his hands when he indicated which card he wanted her to play against Joyce. It took forever, it took lots of patience, but Jenny swore she didn't mind and Harry lived for cards night. They had a friendly competition going and so far, Harry and Jenny were kicking Joyce's arse. After all, there was nothing wrong with Harry's mind, thank you very much. He was still as sharp as ever, he just couldn't move or talk very well, though Jenny had been working on his speech with him and he was able to say yes and no now, as well as some other simple words. Jeff was grateful; it was a big improvement over using the buzzer or Harry's once-for-yes, twice-for-no hand signals.

Looking at himself in the bathroom mirror, Jeff combed his hair back then brushed his teeth. He was keyed up, excited, on edge about tonight. He moved into the bedroom and started picking through his closet. No new shirt this time; the last time he'd bought something special was for his first date with Greg, and the night had been a bloody disaster.

"New duds are a fuckin' jinx, mate," he told himself under his breath, and chose black jeans and a light blue Oxford-collared shirt. He squinted at himself in the mirror, turning to look over his shoulder and make sure there was nothing out of place. He thought he looked pretty good, but you could never tell. After all, he was used to himself, and truthfully, Jeff thought his looks were just average, nothing to write home about. He certainly didn't have the strikingly handsome face Rob had, didn't have that crisp dark hair and tanned skin that made his ice blue eyes leap out at you like diamonds on black velvet. Rob let his beard grow to just a shadow on his cheeks, just enough to add a sense of mystery and insouciance to his attitude; Jeff found it tremendously sexy. He had a great body too, he was taller than Jeff and built just the way Jeff liked, muscular, but not ripped like a body builder or those hulking wrestlers he watched on American telly. Rob was beautiful, a real looker. He could have had any man he wanted from the Prinnie; Jeff still couldn't believe Rob wanted him.

Unless he really didn't. The thought came unbidden, his insecurity rearing its ugly head for the millionth time.

Jeff wet his lips and shook his head. God, he always did this! Drove himself mental with doubts, and usually for nothing. He took a deep breath and tried to reassure himself. There was absolutely no reason to think Rob wouldn't be just as eager as he was to get it on tonight, they'd been dancing around each other long enough, and Rob had certainly not faked those throbbing bolts that had grown between his legs while they were pashing. Jeff had caressed Rob's cock through his pants, wanting to take him in his mouth so badly he had ached, but he'd waited, wanting to make sure Rob wanted him for him, not just for a quick shag. After this many weeks it seemed that Rob did want him, but Jeff still worried, and the thought flew into his head that maybe Rob wouldn't show tonight at all. Jeff pictured it all in his head; he would go down to the Prinnie and sit alone, waiting, nursing his beer for hours until he gave up, and then come home crushed, hurt, and miserable.

He stared into the mirror, his face frozen and stiff in a mask of premature disappointment.

"Fuck's sake! Stop it right now, mate!" he whispered, giving himself a mental shake. "Don't be such a bloody nong, he'll be there, and he'll be ready. You'll be fucking each other before midnight, just like you planned."

He blew his breath out between his pursed lips and nervously smoothed his hair one more time. He turned from the mirror, checked the cash in his wallet, and left his bedroom to say goodnight to the card players, who were laughing and carrying on in the lounge room. They had music on the radio, the fifties stuff Harry loved, and Jenny was giving his dad a sip from a stubbie of VB as Jeff came into the room.

"Well, whaddya think? God's gift?" he said, striking a pose in the doorway.

"Very nice," said Joyce, her cheeks going pink from embarrassment. She couldn't help but think of what Jeff was going to be doing later. If only she hadn't seen those terrible magazines; they'd been much too graphic.

Jenny jumped up and walked around him, her arms crossed over her breasts, her eyes appraising. "Very nice," she said, winking broadly. "Verrrry nice indeed. If you don't get lucky tonight, mate, there's something wrong with the blokes at the Prinnie."

"Ya think so?" laughed Jeff. "From your lips to God's ears…….or don't you think God listens to the prayers of a randy poonce?"

Jenny spluttered and started to laugh. "Bloody hell! I've never thought of it that way. I wonder if He channels them to the patron saint of poofters. Who is that anyway, Jeff? Saint Peter?"

Jeff burst into his amazing giggle. "Oh, crikey, I like that! How about Saint Willy?"

The two of them began to laugh uproariously, uncontrollably, until they were both weak and hanging onto to each other for support.

"Saint U-r-a-n-u-s, and that's pronounced 'your anus'…."

Jenny crossed her legs and squeezed. "Stop it! Stop before I pee, right here."

"And then there's the ever popular Saint Urine!" said Jeff. "Pray to him for bladder control, Jenny!"

Jenny sat down hard on the floor, laughing and weak. She smacked Jeff's leg and held her stomach with her other hand.

"Really, you two," Joyce admonished. "That's a bit rough, don't you think?"

"Saint Straight-Laced. Patron of Homophobes…." intoned Jeff, and Jenny laid her head against his leg and whooped.

"Enough! No more, or I really will embarrass myself."

'God, she's fun!' thought Jeff, then bent and ruffled Jenny's hair fondly. "Okay, you nutter. No more," he promised. "I've got to get a move on, anyway. Hooroo."

He went over to Harry and squeezed his shoulder. "Cop ya, ya old piss head," he said, and then bent and laid his cheek against Joyce's for a second. "Good night, dear." He snagged his keys from the table by the door, waved to them, and went out into the cool and misty night. He felt great, all his worries forgotten, thanks to Jenny and her delicious sense of humor.

* * *

Rob wasn't there when he got to the Prinnie. Jeff eased up to the bar, called Walter over and ordered himself a VB, then leaned against the bar and scanned the room, trying hard to appear unconcerned and at ease. It wasn't easy; all the apprehension he'd been feeling before was creeping back the longer he waited. He was on his third coldie when a transvestite approached him, his hand sliding down over Jeff's arse, startling him and making him jump nervously.

"G'day, you handsome thing," the trannie purred, rubbing against Jeff's thigh. "Still waiting for your lover boy? He's standing you up, baby…but I'm here. Want a little of what Mummy has for you?"

It was not in Jeff's nature to be unkind, but he really didn't like associating with transvestites and drag queens. They were just too over the top for him, their outlandish displays either too harsh or simply ridiculous, a caricature. He thought them insulting to women, and Jeff had always liked women. When this bloke, tricked up like a bloody King's Cross prostie, dragged his long rhinestone studded nails over Jeff's crotch, he stopped his hand and pushed it firmly off. The man's painted eyebrows flew up in exaggerated arches of surprise.

"Darling!" he said, in a resonant baritone that was absurdly out of place with his appearance. "Was that nice?"

Jeff took a slug of his beer and studiously avoided looking at the man. "I wasn't trying to be nice," he said. "Listen, mate, piss off. No offense, but I don't like your sort."

"What sort do you like, sweetie? Macho? Leather? I can be whatever you want."

"I like normal," said Jeff shortly. "Dead cert you can't manage that one."

"Don't be mean to me, hon. Everyone says you're a nice bloke, so be nice to me and I'll tell you all about your stud muffin."

Jeff narrowed his eyes and finally looked at him. "What do you mean?"

"My name is Calitra," said the trannie, fluttering his false eyelashes. "Buy me a drink?"

Sighing heavily, Jeff signaled to the barman. "Walter, give this bloke a drink on my tab."

Calitra leaned over and purred, "I'll have a Singapore Sling, darling." When he looked back at Jeff he shook his head and said in admonishment. "That wasn't very well done, love. Be a nice man, and treat me like a lady"

"Listen, mate. I bought you a drink, yeah? You gonna cop it sweet or what?"

Calitra took the tall glass from Walter and sipped daintily from the straw. "I just love these little umbrellas, don't you?" he said to Jeff, glancing at him coyly from the corner of his eyes.

Jeff's temper kicked into gear. "You can just fuck off, mate. I'm in no mood for games," he said, turning away.

"Oh, all right! You are a surly bugger, aren't you?" groused Calitra. He waved his manicured hand in the general direction of a knot of men standing by the jukebox. "Why those other blokes told me you were nice is beyond me." He took another sip of his drink and said, "I came over to tell you that if you're waiting for Rob the Heartthrob, you ought to bloody well forget it. He's not here tonight; not coming."

"And just how would you know that?" asked Jeff, unwilling to believe that a piece of work like Calitra knew anything about Rob.

"Because I know him," said Calitra, reading Jeff's face. "Quite well, actually. We used to be lovers, Rob and I, before he changed his mind about trannies and started chasing the 'normal looking' blokes like you. But whether his man of the moment is butch or a sweet piece of candy like me, Rob's a fickle bastard. You've got him pegged out, haven't you? He was supposed to meet you tonight?" Calitra questioned, tilting his head and placing a hand on his hip.

His lips pressed tight together, Jeff nodded shortly.

"I thought as much. I've been watching the two of you for a few weeks now. Been doing the mating dance, haven't you, love? But you should have gone ahead and fucked him last time, darling. You made him wait too bloody long…he's found an easier pair of pants to get into."

Jeff said nothing, simply stood and stared at Calitra until he started talking again.

"Oh, that hurts you," he said in saccharine sympathy, and leaned forward to say in a loud whisper, "I'm so sorry! How about I kiss and make it better?"

"Where is he?" asked Jeff quietly, his chin coming up and his voice turning cold.

There was something in his eyes that suddenly made Calitra feel ashamed of the way he'd been treating Jeff. Ashamed and just a little afraid. After all, those were some broad shoulders on the bloke. He decided to stop tormenting him and come clean.

"He's at the Monkey Bar; I saw him there not an hour ago," Calitra said, all traces of coquetry gone from his voice. "He's with another bloke, a bitch-butch of a biker all tricked out in leather and chains."

Jeff threw several bills down on the bar and turned to go.

Calitra called after him as he made his way toward the door, "It won't do you any good, lovey; he's not interested in you tonight." He started after Jeff, but turned his ankle on his three inch high spiked heels and almost fell. "Ouch! Fuck!" he swore, grabbing the back of a bar stool to catch his balance. Jeff was almost out of view, so he called out, loudly enough for the entire bar to hear him. "Wait, love! I'll come along for the ride and give you a shoulder to cry on…"

Mortified, Jeff ignored him and shouldered his way out of the Prinnie.

Seething with anger and hurt, he drove to the Monkey Bar, a place with an unsavory reputation among gay bars. It was noisy inside, a hard-driving rock track blared, and dark as pitch, with lots of semi-private nooks where there was plenty of action going on between the patrons. Jeff's eyes squinted in the darkness, searching for Rob. He had to really look, there were couples paired off everywhere and their faces weren't always visible, but there was no sign of him. He felt a wash of relief…that fuckin' poonce Calitra had lied to him…and then he noticed the back room. Jeff went through, his eyes scanning, and saw Rob right away. He was pressed against the wall in a dim corner, a stocky leather-clad biker on his knees before him, face buried in Rob's crotch as he sucked him off in front of every bastard and his dog. As if sensing his presence, Rob glanced up from watching the biker blow him to look straight at Jeff, his face registering the shock of seeing him, his mouth opening and closing like a fish's out of water.

Blue-green eyes reflecting the pain of Rob's betrayal, Jeff spat on the floor and turned away in disgust. He left the Monkey Bar and didn't look back, not even when he heard Rob call his name.

* * *

He drove aimlessly for a while, seething, grieving, not seeing anything much except the traffic around him, and at last stopped at a pub in his own neighborhood. There was a spattering of familiar faces inside, people he recognized from walks with Harry or their trips to the super market. He gave them a subdued g'day and took a seat at the bar, ordered a beer and sat quietly drinking it, and then two more. He thought about Rob…Rob the Heartthrob, Calitra had called him…and tried to suppress the hurt and disappointment, but it was hard to just slag it off. Rejection. It happened too bloody fuckin' often, and it hurt too bloody fuckin' much. It seemed he was just not meant to find a lasting partner; sometimes Jeff thought he must be the only gay man in Sydney who was looking for a permanent relationship and not a one-night stand or a quick impersonal blow job.

He couldn't help it, he didn't want just sex. He wanted companionship too, someone to laugh with, cuddle up to, have a beer with. It shouldn't have been too much to ask, and yet it was. He thought of Kevin, his first love, and then let his thoughts slide to Greg.

Jeff hadn't seen Greg in yonks. He didn't like to think of him, memories of Greg were always painful. Jeff had loved Greg, really loved him, and after a rocky start, he'd thought Greg loved him, too. It had almost killed him when their relationship petered out a few months ago. They hadn't fought, hadn't even really talked about why the affair was ending, it just had. Greg had gradually tapered off coming over or calling, and at first, Jeff had been so busy with Harry he hadn't noticed for a while that things were cooling off. When he finally realized that the relationship was in deep shit, it was too late. Greg was already involved with another man, and Jeff was on the outside looking in again.

Obviously, Greg had been caught up in lust all the while Jeff was hoping for love. It was always that way for him; he just didn't think like the average young homosexual. To the men he met, it was all about getting off. To Jeff, it was all about finding someone to love for the rest of his life. Lost in thought, he sat staring morosely into his beer, starting and blinking when the barman asked for last orders. He shook his head at the bloke, drained off his pint, and walked out of the pub. Once outside, Jeff sat in his truck for a few minutes thinking about what to do, and then decided to just pack it in and go home. It was raining buckets and the wind was kicking up too, driving the drops hard against the windscreen.

'Not a fit night to be out for man nor beast, mate,' Jeff thought. It would have been a great night to cuddle up to someone you loved, someone who cared about you. He should have been in Rob's arms at this very moment, but Jeff knew he'd never be in Rob's arms again. The man was a whore. He blinked back hot tears, swallowed hard to ease the ache in his throat, and turned the key in the ignition. He swung the truck out into the street and started for home.

"Bleedin' Christ," he whispered, his hands tightening on the steering wheel, "I'm so fuckin' lonely."

* * *

He let himself in front door as quietly as he could and didn’t turn on any lights. No sense disturbing Harry or Joyce, who was probably fast asleep in the little guest room off the back porch. Jeff set his keys down on the table and tiptoed back to his bedroom. Easing the door closed, he reached over and snapped on the lamp on his bureau. He toed off his blunnies, tugged off his jeans, unbuttoned the blue shirt and was starting to shrug it off his shoulders when, from the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of movement in his bed.

Jenny sat up, blinking at the light and at the picture Jeff made in his open shirt and tight white jockeys. Her eyes went over his chest, broad and lightly muscled, skimmed over the smooth and slightly rounded stomach. His legs were the best part, strapped with muscle, perfectly formed, the package between them all but breathtaking. He was stunning. Arousing. Beautiful.

She dragged her eyes up and met his. They looked at each other for a moment, Jeff's surprise at her presence plain, Jenny trying hard to keep the flare of desire she felt out of her face.

"I didn't know you were here, Jen. Sorry, mate!" apologized Jeff. Jenny thought he'd jump for his jeans, but he made no effort to cover himself.

"No, I'm sorry. I thought you were staying over with someone. The card game ran long, and Mum hates it when I go home alone that late, so I just stayed," she said quietly, her eyes on his. As she watched him, a cloud passed over his face and his eyes grew wet and glistening.

The flash of desire she'd felt for him became concern.

"Jeff?"

He bent and pulled his socks off, remaining stoically silent, but Jenny was insistent.

"Jeff? What is it? What's happened? I thought you were going to…"

He interrupted her. "Jen, love…I don't really want to talk about it." He took one look at her face, so sweet, so kind, so compassionate, and it was enough to undo his resolve to keep his troubles to himself. The words came in a rush of pain-laden emotion.

"He stood me up, Jen. Worse yet, he threw me over for another bloke," he admitted. His jaw clenched, the muscle in his cheek jumping. "I've had one hell of a shitty night, love."

Jenny's voice was soft and sympathetic as she unwittingly echoed Calitra's offer. "Do you want a shoulder to cry on? I'm here for you if you do."

Jeff looked at her, lying in his bed all tousled and warm and sweet. He nodded. "I could do with some bloody sympathy. God, I'm hurting, Jen."

She lifted the corner of the comforter and said, "Come on then. I'm a good listener."

Jeff slid into the bed. He turned on his side to face her, and she snuggled in close, slipping her arm over him, tucking her head on his chest under his chin. Unconsciously, Jeff lay his arm over her waist, his hand resting lightly on the rise of her buttocks. She was warm and soft and smelled faintly of perfume. He started talking, telling her about Calitra, and finding Rob with the other bloke. He kept on; he told her all of it, how all he really wanted was someone to love, someone he could count on, share everything with.

She nodded on his chest to show she was listening, that she understood. The skin of her cheek was soft, her hair silky against his skin. Absently, she began to stroke his back, her fingernails lightly trailing, fingertips gently massaging, pressing, following the delineations of the muscles under his skin.

At first it was soothing, but then Jeff began to enjoy having her hands on him. Suddenly she dropped a kiss on his chest, right above his nipple, and Jeff gasped. The sensation of her lips in that sensitive place was like a brand on his skin. The mood between them went rapidly from sympathetic friendship to something else, something more exciting, something ardent, and his arm tightened almost imperceptibly as his hand flattened over the curve of her bum. He could feel her breasts against his chest; surely her nipples were stiffening as his hand stroked her back. His breathing quickened, and to his dismay, he felt his cock swell. In another minute he’d be hard against Jenny's belly. Jeff tensed and shifted away, but Jenny tightened her arm around him.

"Don't go."

"Jen, I…well, I'd better move or you're gonna feel a poke."

Her hand slid down his hip and over to his groin. "Feel what? This?" she whispered, stroking his erection, her warm hand encircling, tugging gently.

It was maddening, wildly exciting, and his cock practically leapt into her hand. He groaned, said, "Jesus, love!"

"I like touching you Jeff, but I'll stop if you say so. Do you want me to stop?"

"God, no. Don't you dare."

He angled his hips and pumped himself into her hand. Slipping his other arm under her, he slid his fingers into the hair at the nape of her neck and pulled her head back to lift her face to his. For a long moment they looked into each other's eyes. Jeff didn't know what he was looking for, but all he saw in Jenny's eyes was tenderness. They were liquid dark brown and luminous, so lovely he felt lost in them. He gazed for a long moment, reading them, reading her…then he lowered his mouth. He took her top lip between his and kissed it softly, then let it go and nipped at her lower before finally taking her mouth completely. He licked with his tongue until she opened to him, then slid inside over her teeth and along the inside of her lips. Jeff's breath slammed through his nostrils, hot against Jenny's face. She was making him crazy for her, his cock was throbbing, aching. He pushed her over onto her back and threw one leg over hers, grinding himself into her thigh. Her T shirt was history, he pulled until it was up over her breasts, then bent and grasped her nipple with his teeth. It was stiff and sweet-tasting, and he licked at it until it rose up even harder. One big hand kneaded her breast and guided it to his mouth. He nursed, lapping, kissing.

Beneath him, Jenny shuddered and whispered, "Jeff. Oh, Jeff."

She bucked against him, wanting more, needing more. Jeff slid down her body, kissing and licking at her belly, nipping at the tops of her thighs. He rolled onto his back and tugged until she rose up to kneel over him. Jenny lowered herself slowly over his mouth as his tongue danced out to lick along her sex, dipping inside, tasting the flavor of a woman. She gasped at the warmth of his mouth, then moaned aloud as his tongue found her center and circled languidly, then started to flick rapidly back and forth. The stimulation was exquisite, she couldn't help herself, and began to undulate her hips, rolling them to bring her sex in closer contact with his tongue. Jeff's hands grasped her hips and pulled her down tighter to his face, his teeth nipping gently at her clit before he sucked it. Jenny cried out and lost control of her body, burst into an orgasm so violent and prolonged, she thought she might faint. The strength left her muscles rubbery, she could no longer hold herself upright and she sank down beside Jeff, whimpering, shuddering, drained. She lay with her head on his chest, breathing hard, too pleasured to think.

Jeff stroked her hair, his hand gentle, and at last she looked up at him. His eyes were heavy-lidded and glowing with a hot light, the lust in his face exciting her all over again. It was his turn. He had been patient and giving, and now it was his turn. She gathered herself and began to nuzzle his chest, his nipples, flattening her tongue and dragging it slowly across them until they were hard and distended.

"Do you like this, baby?" she breathed, nipping him sharply.

Jeff jumped, moaned, "Yes. God, yes."

"Being with a woman's not so bad?"

His sea blue eyes glittered in the dim light as he looked down at her. "Being with you is wonderful." Gently, he rubbed his thumb over her lip.

She took it between her teeth, biting him teasingly. "What do you want?" she asked, looking at him through her lashes as she ran her tongue over his thumb. "Tell me."

He shivered at the feel of her mouth, hot and wet against his hand. "I want you. I want you to make love to me."

"Do you want me to love you with my mouth?"

Her teeth held his thumb as her tongue caressed it, and she thrilled at his hissing intake of breath. "Or do you want me to ride you like I would a horse? You're hung like one." She smiled, her hand going down to stroke his cock, dipping lower to brush gentle fingertips over his balls.

"I want both," Jeff told her, his hand sliding into her hair and exerting a gentle downward pressure. "Suck me a bit, baby; I promise I won't come in your mouth."

"If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that one," Jenny whispered, laughing softly, but she crawled down his body, licking his skin as she went. She rubbed her cheek against the light hair that furred his chest and belly, pushed her tongue into his navel and nipped at the place where his thigh joined his body.

Jeff jumped and shivered; she heard him whisper, "Christ! Please, Jen!"

She teased him. "Please what?"

"Touch it. Kiss it. For the love of Christ, I'm going crazy here…."

She took him in her mouth with the suddenness of a thunderclap. He'd been poised, waiting for it, and still Jeff all but leapt off the bed as her lips pressed on him, enclosing him in wet warm velvet. She slid her mouth slowly, tantalizingly down, until every inch of him was encased in wet heat. He panted, his breath hitching in his chest as she sucked hard, her head bobbing, her lips and tongue gliding. He spread his thighs wider, allowing her to reach his sac and the sensitive place between it and his arse, and when she stroked him there, Jeff couldn't help himself. He groaned, he cursed, he raised his hips and pumped himself into her talented mouth.

She was driving him crazy, but he wouldn't last long if she kept it up and he wanted to be in her. After a few moments he whispered, "Stop," and Jenny slowly pulled her lips up his shaft one last time.

He reached into his bedside table and retrieved a condom from the drawer, handed it to her. "Fuck me, love," Jeff begged, his voice gone low and smoky. "Now…Christ, please  now."

"I'm going to make you scream for me," Jenny promised as she opened the packet and unrolled the franger over his cock. She climbed on him, rose up and guided him to her opening. "I'm going to fuck you till you're crazy for it," she whispered, sinking down on his shaft, and Jeff gasped at the sensation of tight heat closing over him, her words and the low sensuality of her voice driving him to new heights of arousal.

"Jenny," he breathed, pressing his head back into the mattress as he raised his hips to pump himself even further into her. She felt so good, so tight and hot. He brought his hands to her waist, his fingers stroking soft skin as he thrust strongly into her. Above him, Jenny threw her head back and Jeff watched, rapt, as she reached for her own climax while taking him to his. She was beautiful, her long brown hair streaming down past her shoulders, wrapping around her delicately curved throat. He watched her face, flushed with a light sheen of perspiration, as she panted out her orgasm, her eyes staring down into his, her breasts rising and falling with the violence of her breathing. The sight of her passion entranced him; he gloried in his ability to bring her to that state, even as she took him beyond passion to a wild hunger he hadn't felt for a long time. He could feel her muscles gripping and releasing him and it was driving him mad, the sensation intensely delicious.

He grunted with each thrust, no longer able to keep silent. Jenny moaned and whimpered, ground herself on him in rhythm with his hips. He felt the pressure build and couldn't get in her far enough. He had to fuck, to thrust and grind and rut. With a sudden twist of his body he lifted Jenny, pushed her over onto her back. Her legs came up around his waist and Jeff pounded furiously into her. His hair flopped into his eyes, he peered at her through it, felt the sweat drip from his nose. A drop landed on Jenny’s face, and when she licked it up, the sight of it brought a jolt of excitement that pushed Jeff into a boiling eruption of sensation. "Jenny!" he cried her name as he thrust home. The muscles knotted in his arms as he held his quivering body over her, waves of ecstasy shuddering up and down his spine. At last he collapsed, laid his head on her breast and gulped for air.

She stroked gently, his hair, his shoulders, until his breathing calmed. He kissed her breast and her neck, sweet, grateful kisses that said as much as words could. After a while Jeff rolled to his back and, reaching for her, gathered her into his arms. He nuzzled into her hair and kissed her forehead, tightening his arms around her as she tucked her head under his chin. He didn't talk. There was too much to think about.

This was what he wanted. This glorious feeling of closeness, this sweet tenderness for another human being, this warm and wonderful sense of completion. And Jeff suddenly realized it hadn’t made a bit of difference to him that it was a woman who had given him the peace and satisfaction he felt. For months now, Jenny had been his closest mate, the one who understood him best. She'd been there for him and for his dad, giving of herself and her time, always ready with a joke and a laugh. She'd been patient and sympathetic when he was feeling crook, or when the day had been long and Harry's helplessness had tried his patience to the point of frustration. Why hadn't he seen before now how good it could be with her? Why hadn't he realized how much she meant to him?

Because he'd only been thinking with half his brain, Jeff realized, the half that lusted after men. Although he'd had women before---and enjoyed them, too---he'd just always preferred the blokes; they excited him more than women. Maybe they always would. But no man had ever given him this sense of completion, of contentment. And if he had to choose between the dark excitement fucking men gave him over the warm, sweet happiness he felt now, holding Jenny in his arms, then maybe he'd choose a woman.

"Jenny?"

"Hmmm?"

"What do you think about this?"

She rubbed her cheek against his chest. "About what, love?"

"About us. You and me. About us being together."

She lifted her head and looked at him, her eyes questioning. "What--you mean now?"

"Well no...I mean for a long time. I mean for good."

Shocked, she sat up, her lovely face screwed into a puzzled frown. "What did you say?" she said.

He couldn't help it; he had to smile at her confusion. His eyes crinkled at the corners and Jenny's heart rate picked up a notch.

'God help me, he's so bloody gorgeous,' she thought to herself, and though she didn't know it, her face reflected what she was thinking.

Jeff's smile turned shy. "I said---well, I mean---I'd like to see you. You know, be with you. Date. Kiss. Make love." He reached toward her and brushed the backs of his fingers over her cheek. "Make lots of love."

Jenny blinked and said in bewilderment. "I don't understand, I thought you were gay. I…."

Jeff hushed her with a finger across her lips. "I'm changing my religion, love. For you."

A fleeting expression of hope lit her eyes before they clouded in disbelief. She shook her head, said, "Jeff, look; I've known a lot of gays in my time. I mean, I deal with them every day of my life and I know---I know---you don't just change your orientation in the blink of an eye."

She looked down for a moment, and then at him again.

"Jeff, I could love you. I already half-love you, but you…" Jenny hesitated, then said softly, "Do you honestly think you would be satisfied with a woman? Maybe it would work for a while, but wouldn't you always be wanting something else, something I can never give you?"

He had been lying on his side, leaning his head on his hand. Now he sat up too, and taking her chin between his thumb and forefinger, held her face gently.

"What about what you do give me, Jen?" Jeff asked in a voice gone husky with emotion. "What about being so close to you that sometimes, I feel like you know what I'm thinking? What about how we can laugh together over everything…..over nothing….and how you can make me feel better, no matter how far gone in a blue I am? That's what I want from a partner, love. I want the contentment, the happiness, the security of knowing you're there for me, that you love me for me…for me…not for how big my dick is." He leaned forward and kissed her gently, then insinuated his tongue between her lips and licked at her teeth. "And sex is good with you, Jen; it's great. I haven't been so turned on in yonks. You do something to me that makes me crazy, every bit as wild as I'd be for a bloke."

He took her hand and placed it on his hard cock.

"Feel this, baby? Feel how ready I am for you again? This is because I love you, Jen." He leaned in and kissed her with gentle lips, though his eyes were smoldering. Everything he was feeling was in his voice when he said again, "Unbelievable as it seems, I love you."

She felt her heart turn over and thought that it was going to be hard to resist him when he looked at her with those eyes full of such longing, such warmth. But she had to. She had to be sensible. Jenny took her hand from his groin and laid it on his cheek in a tender caress.

"And when did you discover that?" she asked, cocking her head to the side and looking at him with skeptical eyes. "Sometime between when you came in the door and when you came in me?" She shook her head. "Oh, Jeff! Don't you see? You're angry, you're hurting. You're looking for comfort and I'm here and available, so you think….you think it could be good. Maybe it could be, but the chances are slim and I'm afraid…." Her voice tapered off as her eyes slid away.

Jeff wouldn't let her hide from him. He took her chin between his fingers and brought her eyes back to his.

"That's not what this is, Jen. It's not," he insisted, when she still looked doubtful. "And what are you afraid of? Me, love?" he asked softly. "AIDS? 'Cos if you're worried, don't be. I'm clean. I always use a franger, I get tested every six months, and I haven't been with anyone in yonks."

Jenny hurried to reassure him. "No, no. I'm not worried about AIDS, Jeff. God, I'm sure I run a higher risk of contracting HIV than you do, when you consider what I do." She took hold of his hand and squeezed it, smiled at him, but her eyes were sober. She said, "I'm not afraid of you. You're the sweetest man, Jeff, you really are, and I could love you, I know I could. But I'm afraid of what it would mean to our friendship, to this---whatever it is---that we've built between us since Mum and I have been helping you with Harry. I don't want to risk that."

She stopped and shook her head; she wasn't being completely honest.

"But mostly I'm afraid that someday you'll leave me for a man," Jenny admitted. She felt the tears welling in her eyes and tried to blink them back. "That's what I'm most afraid of. Being hurt. No…..being devastated, because that's what would happen, Jeff. If we got together and I let myself love you, gave you all I had and after a while you left me for a man, I'd be devastated." Her face showed her misery. "I can't be more honest than that."

Jeff pulled her around until she was sitting tucked between his legs and wrapped her in his arms. He kissed her hair; breathed in the clean scent of it.

"I understand; I really do," he told her. "But think about this and tell me, love. Wouldn't it be just as bad if I left you for a woman? Wouldn't I be just as blown away if you left me for another man?"

She started and took an astonished breath. He had a good point; it was something she hadn't thought of. Didn't every couple that started a relationship take the same risk? Who knew what would happen in the future, who knew if they were going to make it or not? He was right, but she was still afraid, and Jeff sensed her hesitancy.

"Jenny, love. Listen just a tick," he pled, stroking her arm gently, soothingly. "You need to know that I think what we have together, even outside of tonight, is the most precious relationship in my life, except for Dad. You've got to know that I have next to no experience with women, love. I don't have a clue about what I'm supposed to do to show you what I feel; I don't know what to say to try to talk you into loving me."

He tipped her head so that she was looking up at him; wanting her to see his eyes, to see the truth in them. He took a breath and said earnestly, "All I know to do is tell you the truth, and the truth is that I want to be with you more than anybody else. I want to hold you; I want to talk to you. I want you to talk to me, tell me your troubles. I want you to make me laugh. We can take it slow, we can keep it between us and leave Dad and your Mum out of the loop for a bit if that's what you want. I'll do it any way you say but, Jenny, please. Try it. Try me…..no, try us, just for awhile. If you're not happy, I'll let you go. I won't make a scene or try to stop you."

He held her tightly, kissed her eyes and her forehead and said pleadingly, quietly, "Please."

Her chest ached from the emotion he was stirring in her. How could she resist him when he talked to her to like this? He was such a good man, a sweet man who knew what it meant to be hurt and shied away from causing anybody pain of any kind. What could she ever have to fear from Jeff? Maybe it would all go bad in the end, but Jenny knew that if it did, he wouldn't want it to. It would be circumstance, it would be fate, something completely unavoidable; and she knew that if it ended, the time they had spent together would still have been worth the cost to her heart. In the blink of an eye, she made up her mind.

This was their moment, and she was going to choose to walk toward love instead of away from it.

She looked up at him and Jeff held his breath, waiting, watching. It seemed forever that Jenny remained silent, until he finally noticed that her left hand was tapping her breast. Tap. Pause. Tap. Pause. Tap. Pause. It dawned on him slowly, once-for-yes.

"Yes? You mean yes? You'll try it?" he said eagerly, his normally deep voice going a notch higher in excitement.

Jenny nodded. "Mum's going to go starkers the first time she sees you kiss me, so lay it on thick and do it good and proper, will you, love? I want her to be sure about what she's looking at. No mistaking it for a friendly buss between mates," Jenny laughed, picturing Joyce's reaction. "Crikey, she'll have a face on her like a chook's bum."

"It'll be a good one," he promised, breaking into a wide grin and then dipping his head and taking her mouth in a bruising kiss full of passion and sheer happiness. "How was that? Think that'll do for your mum?" he asked and grinned when she nodded breathlessly. Jeff looked up at the ceiling, his face reflecting his joy.

"Holy shit, Harry!" he said, laughing. "Looks like you've got a chance at being a granddad after all."

 

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