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    Parker Owens
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Double Concerto - 28. Apassionata

Anyone looking for Rita or Heinrich in this chapter will be disappointed. No warnings necessary.

The old house wasn’t one he knew, yet it felt familiar; as recognizable as the palm of his hand. Paint peeled on the woodwork; moss grew on the roof and there were missing shingles in the siding, giving the whole place a seedy and gap-toothed appearance. Rotting steps led to a porch with floorboards so springy he hesitated to cross over to the front door. He had no need of his notebook; he somehow knew this was the right house, the right address.

 

He swung the rusty screen door open so he could push his way in through the heavy oak entryway.

 

The interior appeared no less neglected than the outside. As he looked around the foyer, a patina of dust covered what few bits of broken furniture remained. A toy truck in faded blue paint lay on the floor. It had been his, once, long ago.

 

Sunlight illuminated a million motes floating randomly in the air. His footsteps on the bare wood floors echoed. To his left, a space that once might have been the living room. Out of the corner of his eye, he detected motion. Turning, he spotted a cat - a brown and black tabby cat, calmly regarding him out of bright green-black eyes. It stood and silently padded out through a doorway that led to a kitchen.

 

He followed.

 

Stained and gouged linoleum suggested his guess had been correct, even though no stove or sink remained to confirm it. The cat had disappeared, though. He shifted his toolbox in his hand; he had to get to the basement, he knew that.

 

Walking to his right, he found a paneled door, its varnish crackled and alligatored. The worn metal knob turned easily; opening the door revealed a narrow staircase heading downward. Odd: it appeared bright, almost sunny down below. And in the pool of light at the bottom of the steps sat the cat, staring up at him.

 

The impulse to descend was too great to resist; down he went.

 

The house must have been built into the side of a hill; windows all along the back of the house admitted bright sunlight into the wide cellar. He stared out at a green lawn, full of dandelions. A small bird, a Chickadee, fluttered against the inside glass. How long had it been trapped down in the basement? He stepped over to the casement, and turned a crank at its base, allowing the creature to escape. Fresh, sweet air flooded the room. The white cat had become a trio of felines, which head-butted and weaved themselves around his feet. Loud purring reverberated in the room; the vibrations filling him with contentment.

 

He breathed deep and felt serenity and satisfaction.

 

Thunder rumbled outside in the distance. The feline forms scattered, scuttling away into the recesses of the room, tails raised high in alarm.

 

Rick woke from the dream with a start.

He’d had dreams about work before. This was different. He felt an acute sense of loss as the vivid vision faded. He wanted to puzzle over it to work out its meaning, but it was already dim and obscured by the thin clouds of reality to which he had awakened. His bedroom was quiet and grey with morning twilight. The sheets spread out before him, rumpled. His brain struggled to full consciousness, leaving the night and its disturbing, unexplained images behind.

What was all that about?

 

Then he remembered something else. Gus. Gus slept here, in this bed. With me.

 

He blinked, trying to recall more. Rick reached out and ran a hand back and forth over the white surface, not quite believing. No dark-skinned man graced the room now, but the scent of him lingered on the pillow. It had been real.

But where did Gus go?

 

He sat up, still clad in the previous day’s t-shirt and briefs. Rick glanced first at the clock, then out the window. Not quite five thirty. A fine rain fell outside on lawn and lake, and water dripped from the lower limbs of the pines in the yard. He shivered a little in the morning chill. Rick pulled a hand over his face and examined the floor. The previous day’s shorts lay in a heap by the dresser. Next to them lay Gus’ thin white shirt.

For a moment, Rick smiled, recalling how it felt with his own arm draped over Gus’ midsection.

Maybe Gus is taking a shower. No, he wouldn’t, not with that new cast.

 

Sliding out of the bed, Rick walked over to the closet and pulled on a pair of old beat-up work pants. He sidled out of the room and took a couple of steps down the hall. He peered in at the open bathroom door. No Gus.

Where the heck is he? He wouldn’t have gone back to Cedarcrest. No. Could Gus even find his way home? There’s always Eagle City Cab, I guess.

 

An odd sound interrupted the revving of his thoughts: a soft, muted, musical sound. Rick frowned. He turned and listened, head cocked at an angle. There it was again, coming from downstairs. With quiet footsteps, he stole down the staircase. As he descended with catlike quiet into the dim living room, Rick glanced ahead, then to his right. A broad smile creased his face.

In a far corner, Gus sat at the old upright piano, his back to the room. The dark-skinned man wore what Rick recognized as one of his own work shirts covering his frame to ward off the dawn chill. The lid that once closed over the yellowed keys was open for the first time in many years. Gus’ left hand seemed to ghost over the keys, as a melody only he could hear must have played in his head.

Rick stood motionless, transfixed by the tableau.

He couldn’t see Gus’ face, but in the silence of the big room, Rick could make out Gus’ voice, whispering, singing as faintly as a distant echo while his hands moved. The man seemed lost in whatever music he sensed, his head jolting for emphasis at some imagined cadence, making his tousled black hair move like tree branches in a storm.

Rick couldn’t remain still for long. He crept forward across the room, drawn into the hushed, enchanted scene; just as he had been in the dream he’d just left behind. He was few feet away when a stray movement, or perhaps just a tiny bit too much forcefulness on the downbeat, caused a jangling note on the piano to sound. The music of a single felt hammer barely brushing long-disused strings seemed to fill the house.

Gus straightened as the spell broke.

“Hey. Good morning.” Rick said in greeting.

Gus turned, startled. “You caught me. Did I wake you?”

“No. I hope you don’t mind my watching.”

Gus shrugged and a shy smile appeared on his face. “It’s fine. You can sit in on my practice any time. How long have you been standing there?”

“Not long.” I could have watched forever. “I woke up, and you weren’t in bed anymore.”

“I couldn’t sleep. You looked so peaceful, it seemed a crime to disturb you. Do you mind I borrowed a shirt from the closet?”

“It’s fine; you look good in it. But then, I’m kind of biased.”

 

Gus looked sheepish. “Originally, I came downstairs in search of coffee; you can see I kind of got distracted.” The man ran his fingers over faded gold lettering Vose and Sons, caressing the old wood. “It’s a beautiful instrument. Needs a good bit of work, though.”

“I could get it tuned.”

Gus smiled. “It probably needs a lot more than just tuning. There are so many parts that wear out with age. Still, I recognize the manufacturer. How did it come to be in your family?”

“I really don’t know; probably from my mother’s people. She used to play it, and I remember she made me take piano lessons for a little while. After she died, it just became a piece of furniture. Dad wanted to sell it, but I couldn’t bear to part with the old thing.”

“Come sit down.” Gus shifted over to his left and patted the piano bench.

Rick took a place beside him, their shoulders rubbing warm together. The old shirt Gus wore was only partially buttoned; he couldn’t help noticing how the patches of exposed skin seemed to glow.

Gus attempted a scale. Though some notes played true, quite a few twanged and jangled discordantly. He pursed his lips and tried another key. The result was about the same.

Rick made a wry face. “That’s awful.”

“It’s not so bad.” Gus shrugged. “It helps that I can hear in my head what it should be like, ideally.”

“Geez, I’d think that would make it worse.”

“That depends on what you want to listen to: what’s perfect, or what’s flawed.”

“Wouldn’t I want to hear what’s really there?”

Gus began flitting his left hand over the keys again. “I didn’t say hear. I said listen. You can listen to the perfect in your heart and head. It guides you. Let the flaws take over, and everything's a battle."

Rick frowned, trying to take in the idea.

“Let’s try something. Give me your hand.” Without waiting for permission, Gus used the pinky protruding from his new rainbow cast to lift Rick’s left. “Now set it down on the keys here.”

“Wait a second. I haven’t practiced the piano since I was in sixth grade.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t tell.”

Rick allowed Gus to put his meaty fingers in place. He’d have endured far worse for the pleasure of Gus’ touch.

“You’re going to play for me.” Gus laid his right arm over Rick’s left. “When you feel me press with my fingertip, use your own finger to play the note it’s on.”

“You think this is going to work?”

“Humor me. Let’s try it.”

Rick felt Gus’ pinky put subtle pressure on his thumb; he played that note. The sound wasn’t too disagreeable. More pressure, another note, then another: a few more, and it almost seemed like a melody – tentative and a little out of tune, perhaps, but a melody.

“Holy crap, that’s music!” Rick exclaimed.

Gus grinned. “Are you surprised? Just wait. Listen.”

The shorter man brought his good left hand to the keyboard. A soothing theme made itself heard, like the gentle regular waves on the lake on a bright morning. The image held despite the occasional jarring note. It seemed to shimmer like water shining on the lake.

Rick almost missed the subtle impulse on his index finger.

Gus touched another of his digits, and Rick reacted more promptly. Now Rick’s thumb, then his pinky, then the index finger again. Gus increased the tempo, and Rick couldn’t think; he simply reacted, even as the notes rolled out from under Gus’ left hand.

And in that moment, Rick understood what Gus had been saying. He listened to the music, the perfect music, without jangles and untuned strings. Rick had no idea what piece they were playing. It didn’t matter. Together, they were bringing an old piano back to life, bringing music to a house that never sang.

Gus brought them to a rest, then began again. Reacting to movements of Gus’ hand and body became easier the more he concentrated on listening, on tuning himself to the music pouring from Gus’ fingers. When the melody finally ended at a final cadence, Rick knew he’d never forget the experience. “That was beautiful.” He sighed.

“See what I mean?” Gus flashed a brilliant smile. “The bad notes and sticky action were all there, but you listened to the perfect things, not the flaws.”

Rick shook his head in wonder. “Thank you. That was wonderful.”

“Because we played some Bach together?”

“You know what I mean. I’ve never felt music like that.”

Gus smiled. “I’m glad I could share that with you. For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt what it’s like to catch a fish. I think you’re pretty amazing.”

Rick shook his head. He felt a sudden sense of inadequacy. What would such an incredible man want with me? But what came out of his mouth was: “No. You’re unbelievably brave, talented, and attractive, and I’m just … a big mess, I guess.”

Gus said nothing, but raised an eyebrow.

Rick stood. “I should get some coffee started. I’m not being much of a host.”

He turned and walked out of the room, leaving a surprised Gus still sitting at the keyboard.

In the kitchen, Rick spilled water on the counter as he filled the coffee maker. He opened first one cabinet, then another, cursing himself for his forgetfulness as he retrieved the bag of ground coffee from its usual place.

As he pulled two mugs from their hooks, two arms came around him; he felt Gus’s head leaning against the back of his neck.

They stood like that for a few quiet moments. Rick’s breathing slowed.

“Are you okay?” Gus asked.

“Yeah. Sorry about that.”

“You’re not used to compliments, are you?”

Rick shook his head. “Not … not about me, personally. Not by hot international celebrities. Hell, I’m not used to any of this.”

“Any of what?”

“Having houseguests. Another guy in the house.” Rick hesitated. “You realize you’re the first.”

“Really?”

“I’ve never had a man spend the night in my bed before.”

He could feel Gus nod behind him. “It’s been a while for me, too.”

Rick felt the arms around him tighten.

“I’ve had plenty of lovers over the years –someone I meet before or after a concert, or when I’m stressed.”

“Oh. I see. I’m sorry if I was a disappointment.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Gus asked.

“I mean, last night, we um, didn’t …”

“No. We didn’t. And I’m grateful. I’d have been surprised if we did. God, weren’t you dead tired last night? I know I was.”

Rick nodded. “I got back from the bathroom and found you sound asleep. I thought maybe I should take the guestroom, but I just couldn’t. I wanted to hold you. I hope you don’t mind.”

Gus used his good left hand to turn Rick around so they faced one another. “Don’t you understand? You’re different. You didn’t insist or whine, you didn’t talk me to death or pretend to be a porn star. Some guys think they have to perform; Jesus, it’s not an audition.”

He took a breath. “Anyway, you were a perfect gentleman. And by that, I mean you thought about what I needed, not about what you might have wanted. I haven’t slept so well in a long time. I woke up only once, and I have to say you’re a world-class cuddler.”

“I doubt that.”

“Don’t.” Gus’ tone became serious. “You put yourself down too much. No more being sorry, no more comparing.”

Rick sighed. “I’m … just not used to it. Having someone like me.”

Gus pulled Rick into an embrace. “You might want to get comfortable with the idea. I think I could like you very much, Rick.”

He felt himself blush.

Gus leaned up and kissed him. “And I’m definitely going to make sure you’re kept a secret. You’re too good to share.”

Rick couldn’t help making a face.

“I’m serious. I’m keeping you.”

“Does this mean we’re, what, boyfr --?”

Gus cut off the question with a kiss, harder and more urgent this time.

Rick smiled into the kiss, then parted his lips to let Gus in. His tongue was eager, insistent. The sensation of the new cast rubbing rough through the old tee shirt only intensified his awareness. He let his fingers wander under the hem of the old shirt Gus wore, and his hand slid over warm, bare skin.

Contentment and delight in equal measures blossomed, better than any dream. This was no dusty old memory. Those old images could be left to fade where they lay. As he and Gus kissed in the early light, Rick knew that here, finally, was a moment for which he’d yearned, a hope he’d only imagined for years. He wasn’t on one side of the glass looking out on a forbidden world – he felt desired, cherished – and free.

Rick tried to memorize the curve of Gus’ spine and flank, welcomed Gus making a survey of his teeth and mouth.

They broke apart, breathless.

Rick suddenly felt aware of his cock, thickening and hard. Gus could not possibly mistake his desire for anything else.

“Can I say I think you’re a beautiful man?” Gus looked up at him, his eyes almost black.

Rick had to stifle a laugh. “I’m not sure I’d believe you.”

“Hmmm. I thought as much.” Gus began kissing Rick’s jaw and neck, and down toward his shoulder. He let his left hand run free over the thin material covering Rick’s chest. Ducking lower, Gus grazed a nipple with his teeth, teasing, while in the same moment taking a gentle handful of hard, hot desire through the green twill of his pants.

Rick’s groan of pleasure echoed in the kitchen. “Come back upstairs with me?” He managed to get out, hoping it didn’t sound too plaintive.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

They kissed before hastening up the stairs; once more at the top landing, and again standing on the worn floral throw rug beside the bed.

Rick undid the buttons on the shirt Gus had borrowed. He pushed the fabric back, revealing the neck and shoulder he’d wanted to kiss. He so wanted to explore that expanse of lovely skin.

But Gus had other ideas; he dropped to his knees and undid Rick’s pants’ button and zipper. Before Rick could react, trousers and briefs were tugged down below his knees.

“Oh, my,” Gus said with appreciation, raising his eyes. “Looks like you’ve made me breakfast already.”

Wide-eyed, Rick could only nod, speechless.

Grasping him at the base with his left hand, Gus took a long, slow lick, all the way up to his crown; then he did it again. A half second later, the man opened his mouth and enveloped him in warmth.

“Geeeeezus, what are you doing?” Rick hissed. His knees felt weak; he braced himself on the bed.

Gus released him. “You can’t tell?”

“But, it’s …I mean, you shouldn’t … I ought to be the one …”

“Shhhhh, Rick. I want this. And you need me to do it.”

“What? Why?”

Deep brown eyes smiled up at him. “Later. Right now you’re interrupting the overture.”

Then he was swallowed in warmth again. Gus worked his tongue along the underside of Rick’s member, humming while he took it deeper still. The vibration amplified his pleasure. Long, slow, sensual movement, up and down, over and again, insistent and hungry. The fingers on a casted hand caressed his buttocks; Rick couldn’t help letting his fingers run through the black mane before him.

Gus came up for air.

Rick gasped. “You can play more than the piano.”

“You’re a high-quality instrument.”

“And out of practice.”

“Don’t worry. I know how to tune you up.” Gus sucked him down again.

Rick had blown guys after college, and a few – very few – had returned the favor. Marshall in Milwaukee had been more considerate, and more skilled. But Gus was a revelation; every movement seemed to elicit some new delight.

Rick threw his head back in pleasure, getting close to the edge. The shifting weight caused his feet to slide out from under him along the floor.

With a yelp of surprise, he and Gus thudded to the floor.

Suddenly face to face, Gus searched Rick’s eyes. “You okay?”

“I think my dignity’s broken.” Rick smirked. “You?”

Gus leaned in and kissed him. “Perfect.”

But the hard floor was less perfect than the bed. In a matter of moments, they lay on that broad, white surface, grinding and kissing and exploring. Sheets and blankets were kicked away, totally unneeded. Rick rolled on top of Gus; he could feel his lover’s need, equal to his own.

He gazed down into his lover’s eyes. All he had to do was ask. “Make love to me, Gus. Please?”

Gus nodded, a grin broadening.

Rick could hardly believe it was happening. But slicking Gus’ length and straddling his hips was real enough; so too was the pressure at his entrance. He winced at the pain.

“Are you all right? We don’t have to do this if it hurts.” Gus whispered, concerned.

“I’m fine.” Rick breathed out and tried to relax. He knew he’d rushed things. He didn’t care. He shut his eyes, let his weight do the work, and allowed Gus to open him up; then he was sliding down, down, down until he was fully impaled, perfectly joined.

He heard Gus sigh, and reopened his eyes. The man wore a beatific smile. Rick allowed his hands to skim his lover’s body. “It’s so good.”

“You think so?”

Rick nodded.

“I’m glad. It feels good to me, too. But I think I can make it better.” Gus rocked his hips, thrusting upward.

He was right. It was better.

Later, Rick tried to catch his breath as they lay side by side.

Gus turned to him, letting fingers play on his wide, furry expanse of chest. Funny that Rick couldn’t remember losing his shirt. “You’re lovely.”

“You keep saying that.”

“I needed to show you. I’ll go on showing you until you believe it.”

“But I’m not like –”

“Shhhh.” Gus put two fingers on Rick’s lips. “Don’t. I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say something about your being too this or too that. You’re lovely both here,” an elegant index finger tapped the ribs over his heart, “and here.” Gus’s hand strayed down Rick’s belly.

Rick turned on his side. “You know, I listened.”

Gus’ raised a quizzical brow.

“When we were …making love; I listened, like you said downstairs. I tried to concentrate on what was perfect and right, and not to dwell on stuff that nags and drags and pulls things down.” Rick stroked Gus’ cheek. “And what we did was perfect. Really. I’m only sorry that it’s done so soon.”

Gus grinned and kissed him. “Done? Who said anything about being done?”

 

 

Later, much later, Rick woke to being gently, but firmly nudged.

He blinked his eyes. Full daylight showed through the windows outside.

“Hey sleepyhead. I need some help.” A very naked Gus stood beside the bed; his gentle voice filled his ears.

He rose to one elbow, alarmed. “What’s the matter? Are you okay?”

The mattress dipped as Gus sat with a smirk. “I think we both need a shower, and I’m going to need help with this.” He held up his new rainbow-colored cast.

Rick sat up fully; he felt sore, yet better than he ever remembered. He stretched and smiled. “I think we can manage that. You’re not allergic to duct tape, are you?”

“I don’t think so. I was in your bathroom earlier: that’s quite a shower you’ve got.”

“One of the benefits of being a plumber.” Rick leaned in for a kiss.

“So I have two questions.”

“Oh? What?”

Gus peered out the window overlooking the green lawn running down to the lake. “One, where do you keep your towels; and two, why are there chickens in your back yard?”

My thanks to @AC Benus and @Carlos Hazday for their constant and kind help in making this story better than I could ever have made it. Should you have a reflection, rant or revelation, feel free to leave it here. I appreciate whatever you might have to say.

Copyright © 2020 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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4 hours ago, weinerdog said:

Perfect there's nothing to add to  Rick and Gus beautiful first time.

Other observations I guess Mrs.Lee's chickens being in Rick's back yard will lead to Mrs. Lee finding out  how Rick's night went.

My first reaction to Rick's Dream is I'm thinking it's the place where Gus lived as a boy where all that stuff happened.My guesses are usually wrong but that's what  came to mind.

You mentioned at the top of the chapter that anyone looking for Rita or Heinrich will be disappointed.You mean there are actually people looking for Rita and Heinrich???

Dreams are slippery things, and this particular dream will have its own meaning for Rick. It may be calling him out of darkness into light, and out of the past into the present. After a nice long shower, Rick and Gus may need to deal with Mrs. Lee's chickens. But that's for later. For now, we can imagine them taking care of one another. That's enough for one lovely morning. Thank you for reading, and for your thoughts.

 

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3 hours ago, CincyKris said:

Thank you so much!  I've been waiting for this for so long.  I think there is no question in Rick's mind that Gus is the best thing that ever happened to him. I think he would be shocked that Gus may feel the same.  If I am having a frustrating day at work, I'm going to try to listen to the perfect and ignore the flaws.

Rick is admitting to himself that he's falling for Gus. You're right that he is finding it harder and harder to imagine life without him. His responses to Gus show that he also finds it hard to believe Gus might feel for him, too. But the delight is that Gus seems determined to make him believe. I'm glad that listening to the perfect is an approach to the day that might lighten our hours. Many thanks for reading, and for your comments.

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3 hours ago, Israfil said:

That ending line was gold. So happy that Rick is getting some positive reinforcement finally and the piano scene was beautifully intimate.

I very much enjoyed writing the piano scene. That kind of closeness complements their physical attraction. It makes me very happy you liked the chickens in the yard! Thanks for reading!

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2 hours ago, Ivor Slipper said:

I'm happy for Rick - and for Gus. But I fear something is going to happen to ruffle their feathers...

What a perfect way to express it:  no doubt there will be something to ruffle the feathers of both men. Life invariably intervenes, doesn't it? Many thanks for reading!

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2 hours ago, headtransplant said:

This chapter was blissful and beautiful. Rick broke my heart with how little confidence he has, but Gus seems very good at navigating around all the digs Rick makes on himself. Hopefully Rick will continue to understand that he‘s more than good enough.

I enjoyed the dream sequence at the beginning. My interpretation is that Rick letting Gus in has opened him up to some incredible feelings and some ominous ones as well. Secrets don’t last long in a small town where everyone knows your business.

I look forward to your updates every week. Thanks for another fantastic chapter.

You're most kind. Gus is indeed persistent at knocking down Rick's walls of self-doubt. Maybe Rick will believe himself, one day. The dream sequence was fun to write. Dreams can have many interpretations, of course. My own is that the dream may invite Rick out of darkness and into light, and out of the dusty, dead past and into the present. But you're right about secrets in Eagle Lake; unless they are carefully guarded, they will come out. Thank you for your encouraging comments and for continuing to read this story.

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57 minutes ago, Valkyrie said:

I love the 'listen to the perfect and not the flaws' concept.  The descriptions in the dream were so vivid I could picture everything clearly.  It's great seeing Rick and Gus' relationship progress.  Gus will slowly improve Rick's sense of self-worth and confidence.  Now it's time to round up some chickens lol  I wonder what the neighbor will think when she sees them together?  I'm guessing Rick's secret is about to be brought to the forefront.  Great writing!  Some of your best yet :) 

Gus certainly is persistent in getting Rick to see a less shadowed, more positive view of himself. I'm hoping the dream sequence presaged this. Their relationship has deepened beyond anything Rick has ever experienced. Rounding up the chickens for Mrs. Lee may be diverting, but just now, Gus and Rick will take a nice, long shower together. Many thanks for reading, and for your kind comments.

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2 hours ago, Headstall said:

The evolution of Rick... what a wonderful journey it's been so far. This chapter was sublime... the dream was evocative... and a perfect lead in to what followed after Rick woke. Past gives way to future. Just one more thing, my writing friend... :worship: 

The summer of Willy Kohler altered the course of Rick's life. The same can be said for this summer. Gus has helped Rick grow and change. Perhaps one could say he has reclaimed himself from his past, and that he can now see the promise of brighter days ahead. I'm hoping the dream sequence brought those kinds of ideas and images to mind. I appreciate your encouragement; I thank you so much for reading and for your thoughts.

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2 hours ago, Mawgrim said:

Interesting dream sequence. In dreams, a house is supposed to represent you as a person and the basement symbolises unconscious feelings. The fact that light shone out and Rick released the trapped bird probably means that his subconscious is at last becoming able to let go of feelings he has kept shut away for years. It was beautiful to see the relationship between Gus and Rick developing. 

The dream sequence was fun to write. If it gave the idea that Rick could let go of the dusty, dilapidated old self, and release his true self into light and wholeness, then I may have been successful. The deepening intimacy between Rick and Gus has made me smile as I write. Thanks for smiling with me.

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25 minutes ago, JeffreyL said:

Finally! And it might not have been a perfect moment, but it was absolutely right for Rick and Gus! Your writing really captured the feelings they have for each other! I think Gus is the one to help Rick become his true self. I imagine there are a few more bumps in the road before the story ends. Besides making jobs and lifestyles mesh, there are still Rita and Heinrich to deal with. I am really enjoying Rick's story, and I am happy he is letting romance into his life! I look forward to reading more! Thanks. 

Thank you so much for reading. It makes me happy to know you're enjoying the story. You identified a number of possible hurdles and speedbumps with which Gus and Rick must deal, but perhaps they are developing the confidence in each other needed to work them out together. That is, unless someone else throws a monkeywrench into the works. Many thanks for your comments.

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I have found that writing dialogue is difficult, it is incredibly hard to master nuances and vocal inflections, as such, I would like to point out that this chapter is a master class in the images the written word can paint. 

Example:

Gus came up for air.

Rick gasped. “You can play more than the piano.”

“You’re a high-quality instrument.”

“And out of practice.”

“Don’t worry. I know how to tune you up.” Gus sucked him down again.

Rick had blown guys after college, and a few – very few – had returned the favor. Marshall in Milwaukee had been more considerate, and more skilled. But Gus was a revelation; every movement seemed to elicit some new delight.

Rick threw his head back in pleasure, getting close to the edge. The shifting weight caused his feet to slide out from under him along the floor.

With a yelp of surprise, he and Gus thudded to the floor.

Suddenly face to face, Gus searched Rick’s eyes. “You okay?”

“I think my dignity’s broken.” Rick smirked. “You?”

Gus leaned in and kissed him. “Perfect.”

Example:

“I don’t think so. I was in your bathroom earlier: that’s quite a shower you’ve got.”

“One of the benefits of being a plumber.” Rick leaned in for a kiss.

“So I have two questions.”

“Oh? What?”

Gus peered out the window overlooking the green lawn running down to the lake. “One, where do you keep your towels; and two, why are there chickens in your back yard?”

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52 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

I have found that writing dialogue is difficult, it is incredibly hard to master nuances and vocal inflections, as such, I would like to point out that this chapter is a master class in the images the written word can paint. 

Example:

Gus came up for air.

Rick gasped. “You can play more than the piano.”

“You’re a high-quality instrument.”

“And out of practice.”

“Don’t worry. I know how to tune you up.” Gus sucked him down again.

Rick had blown guys after college, and a few – very few – had returned the favor. Marshall in Milwaukee had been more considerate, and more skilled. But Gus was a revelation; every movement seemed to elicit some new delight.

Rick threw his head back in pleasure, getting close to the edge. The shifting weight caused his feet to slide out from under him along the floor.

With a yelp of surprise, he and Gus thudded to the floor.

Suddenly face to face, Gus searched Rick’s eyes. “You okay?”

“I think my dignity’s broken.” Rick smirked. “You?”

Gus leaned in and kissed him. “Perfect.”

Example:

“I don’t think so. I was in your bathroom earlier: that’s quite a shower you’ve got.”

“One of the benefits of being a plumber.” Rick leaned in for a kiss.

“So I have two questions.”

“Oh? What?”

Gus peered out the window overlooking the green lawn running down to the lake. “One, where do you keep your towels; and two, why are there chickens in your back yard?”

You are very kind to offer such encouraging words. You chose two of my favorite bits to include in your quote, which made me grin. If the dialogue in this chapter is good, it's only because I tried to pay attention to other excellent writers on GA. They provided the very kind of instruction you speak of, and they can smile that you think the student did relatively well here. I agree that dialogue can be hard to write sometimes. From time to time, I have had to rip out whole sections and try again, because it just sounded forced or lifeless to my ear. I have no doubt that this is true for other writers, too. Thank you so very much for your comments and for reading!

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It’s almost a shame seeing Rick so happy because you just know something is going to happen to ruin his mood sooner rather than later. I’m hoping Gus will give him the courage he needs to stand up to “daddy dearest” and Rita Skeeter. Overall it was a very sweet chapter though at the end all I can think is those dang chickens need an electric chicken wire fence or something. 😂 

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2 hours ago, NimirRaj said:

It’s almost a shame seeing Rick so happy because you just know something is going to happen to ruin his mood sooner rather than later. I’m hoping Gus will give him the courage he needs to stand up to “daddy dearest” and Rita Skeeter. Overall it was a very sweet chapter though at the end all I can think is those dang chickens need an electric chicken wire fence or something. 😂 

Gus is already giving Rick courage to do many things; stand up to ICE agents and face down Rita at the Strawberry Social, and tell Heinrich ’no’ to his attempts at matchmaking. At least Caroline Lee’s chickens didn’t interrupt Rick and Gus. After a nice long shower, they might decide to do something about the birds. They’ll wait. Thanks very much for reading and for your comments. 

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