Months ago, a kind reader who had lived in Chicago emailed me and when I asked for a New Year's Eve venue he suggested a restaurant atop the Willis Tower. I promised to recognize his suggestion but lost his email. Who would have thought it would take so long to get to Chicago? At any rate, thanks to whoever suggested the Willis Tower.
And of course thanks to Nathan as editor and beta reader. His input definitely made this a much better read.
The night before had let Jeff know that the walls of his apartment were pretty much paper thin. The sounds of Sam and Dave conjugating numerous passionate verbs as well as the natural rhythm of flesh on flesh was kind of like listening to a porn version of PBS radio. The more he and Paul listened the more verbal their own broadcast became. Soon neither couple was really aware of or concerned with anyone other than their immediate intimate partner.
Jeff insisted breakfast was to be at a Chicago institution, Lou Mitchell’s. Paul thought the food was good, but he preferred Miss Julie’s fare. Each of the guys had something different and each enjoyed their meal. Personally, he felt the donut holes and Milk Duds were a smart way to appease impatient customers.
Jeff insisted they see the “Cloud Gate” or “The Bean” as it was locally referred to. Paul finally stopped Jeff before he could head them off to another 'touristy' destination, “Jeff, I, we” Indicating Sam and Dave and himself. “We appreciate you showing us what has been your hometown for several years. But, we are not here as tourists. We’ve had deep dish pizza, a really, really great steak dinner. We’ve seen “the bean” and tonight we are going to celebrate New Year’s Eve at the Sears, er, I mean the Willis Tower. What we should be doing right now is getting some boxes from somewhere and packing up anything you don’t want to trust to movers so we can take that with us when we fly home on Monday or Tuesday. Now, unless there is someplace you really want to say goodbye to or really want us to see, I think we should find those boxes. And besides, how the hell can it be this cold if it’s only sixty degrees”?
Jeff chuckled, breathed a sigh of relief. He realized he did, in fact, feel like he had to entertain Paul while they were in Chicago. He exhaled a deep breath and let go that notion. He then proceeded to google the nearest purveyor of cardboard boxes. Turns out that there were several boxes Jeff decided to take home on the plane. Leftover boxes were taken by his ‘Former’ personal bodyguards. Those guys would be finding new accommodations and new assignments now that Jeff was leaving town. Paul had questioned why Jeff had not developed the same relationship with his Chicago bodyguards as he did with Sam, Dave, and Fred. Jeff offered it was a matter of proximity. He had no reason to get close to these guys, whereas he actually lived with Sam, Dave, and Fred. His Father had convinced him that his security team had a job to do and shouldn't be distracted by personal interactions. Jeff arranged for his Chicago team to see to the closing down of his apartment, the minor details associated with moving and of course, shipping his Tesla. It was decided that they would rest up tomorrow and fly out on Monday. Jeff notified the aircrew.
After lunch, Paul took the time to convince his lover that Jeff was the most interesting attraction the “Windy City” had to offer. Jeff was flattered and insisted on returning the compliment.
Dinner was to be at eight. Jeff insisted that they arrive in time to step out onto the “ledge”. A plexiglass affair that Paul was not looking forward to. The high-speed elevator ride, alone, was butterfly inducing and ear popping. If they went directly to dinner that ride would have been noteworthy in itself. To step outside the building and view the city lights for miles around was impressive, even awe-inspiring. But, to look down between your feet and see over 1000 feet of nothing between you and the streets below was literally breathtaking. When he finally looked down, Paul gasped and then began walking funny, stepping lightly, in spite of knowing he was perfectly safe. He could almost see the floor cracking with each step. He did not bother to see if the other guys were intimidated, he was too fixated on his own experience. He never let go of Jeff’s hand, he didn’t care if the whole world saw. He did see Sam was busy taking selfies and pics of their group. If they lived, Paul was sure he could get copies. He hoped he wouldn't look as nauseated as he actually felt. He knew that Sam had made multiple skydiving, freefall jumps in his time in service. Somehow Paul found his calm demeanor reassuring. He still walked funny. After the “near death” experience they proceeded up to where the dinner was to be held. After a quick guest list identification/verification, they checked their overcoats and hats and proceeded to the open bar. Jeff insisted that Sam and Dave were off duty since their “driver” was awaiting their call to pick them up.
Once each had his favorite libation, it was like a signal had been sent out and they were suddenly approached by people wanting to say hello to Jeff. Jeff introduced each to Paul by their full name. Whether it was a recently hired secretary, an ancient legal assistant or one of the senior partners, he proudly introduced Paul as his fiancé. They had not moved too far from the bar so getting a second round was a simple matter. Jeff quietly let it be known he had to piss. Paul was at the bar with Dave collecting their fresh drinks. Paul asked Dave to watch his and Jeff’s drinks while he went to find Jeff.
What he saw as he opened the men's room door shocked him. There was Jeff, his lover, leaning against the far wall as a well built, dark-haired man pressed his left hand against Jeff’s chest as if holding him against the wall, while his right hand fondled Jeff’s privates. Paul’s initial thought was a flush of anger at Jeff for so blatantly betraying his trust. Then, he thought about the expression on Jeff’s face, it was one of shock and that shock had nothing to do with being caught. It had everything to do with the fact he was about to receive an unsolicited blowjob.
In a couple of hurried strides, Paul pulled the cocksucker away from Jeff just as the assailant was about to swallow Jeff’s manhood. As Paul pulled the man around to face him, the guy slurred, “What the fuck”? His question was punctuated by Paul’s fist on his face. Even as he made contact Paul realized the man was in fact quite handsome. Whoever he was, he had already taken full advantage of the open bar. Still, his inebriation could not overcome the pain of a broken nose.
Jeff began, “Paul, I didn't..” He couldn't continue with his explanation with Paul's tongue down his throat. When the kiss was broken, both men were breathing hard and Jeff’s cock was rock hard and leaking. What he saw in Paul’s eyes was nothing but loving concern. “Did he hurt you”?
“No, I was standing at the last urinal, almost through pissing, when Jackson staggered out of a stall. He spun me around and mumbled something like, ‘I should have done this years ago’. He’s the closeted guy I told you I saw in a gay bar.”
While this discussion was taking place Jeff was trying to conceal his massive erection. Even after his trousers were fastened, the log of flesh against his left pant leg was obvious. Paul kissed his cheek and lightly patted Jeff’s erection and promised he’d take care of it once they were again at the apartment.
The washroom attendant had apparently been willing to overlook the drunken blowjob, but the bloody nose had him scurrying to find security. Sam and Dave actually entered before the attendant and two burly security guards arrived. Once the situation was explained and it was determined that Jeff was not interested in filing sexual assault charges, Jackson was quietly taken down to the lobby to await EMS transport to the hospital.
Jeff searched Paul’s face as if trying to decipher what he saw, “If I caught you getting a blowjob in a men’s room, I’m not sure I would have been so, um, understanding. How did you know I didn't encourage him”?
Paul smiled, “At first, I was furious with you. That lasted almost a full second. Then I realized, I trust you. You would never risk losing what we have for a lousy blowjob in a men's room. Even if it was from a handsome man in a tuxedo.”
Jeff pulled his hero into his arms, “Well, I can't believe a broken nose will improve his looks, but I suspect Jackson will think twice before he sexually assaults another man’s fiancé.”
Once they had fresh drinks in hand they proceeded to find their table. Paul was impressed that the men’s room encounter had gone almost unnoticed.
Jeff was surprised to see they were seated next to the head table that hosted the senior partners. Oddly enough their table mates turned out to be Bradley and Doc, both of whom were standing enjoying the view and a drink. The table was large enough to comfortably accommodate eight, but the extra chairs had been removed. Jeff was seated next to Bradley who had Doc on his left. Paul was to Jeff’s right and Sam and Dave took the remaining two seats. Paul was impressed that the two professionals slid their chairs away from the table so as to be able to scan the room. He smiled knowing they would have preferred to sit with their backs to the windows.
After appropriate greetings and introductions, Jeff began looking around for familiar faces he needed to say goodbye to. Paul told him, “Look Jeff, if you want me to tag along, I will. I know you need to speak to a lot of these people tonight. So, go on. You can cover more ground alone. I’m in good company. I’ll be fine here with Sam and Dave and Bradley and Doc.”
Jeff smiled and asked, “You sure”?
“Of course, I’m sure. Go. Do what you came for. I intend to stay right here, gather my liquid courage and see if I can become brave enough to lean against the windows and look out. If I drink enough, I might just pass out tonight and not have nightmares about falling. I don’t think I’ll ever hesitate to stand next to an open barn loft door again.” Jeff kissed his lover lightly on the lips and departed.
Paul was impressed that their table had a dedicated waiter that brought appetizers and freshened their drinks without being asked. Bradley told Paul that his soon to be ex wife had gathered her clothes and had apparently headed for parts unknown with her lover. The discussion soon migrated to what sights the guys had seen in Chicago. Paul admitted he thought the plexiglass ledge was unnerving. He was pleased when Dave shared a similar opinion. Bradley admitted he refused to step out onto it even with Doc’s encouragement. He was glad that his girls had never expressed a desire to visit the tower. Otherwise, he would have to pull up his big boy pants and show them what a brave Daddy he really was. This got a chuckle all around the table. Paul assured Bradley that his Maria would have been thrilled to see the city from that vantage point. She was fearless. Sam and Dave both smiled and nodded in agreement. Doc said that both his boys had stepped out without the least hesitation. Paul began exchanging parenting stories with both Bradley and Doc, it was clear that all three fathers held a lot of paternal pride in their respective children. Paul encouraged both men to bring their children down for a visit once school was out. While his town might lack the glitz and glamour of big city life, it did possess a certain rustic charm. Both men agreed to schedule a time to bring their boys and girls to Texas to visit Paul and Jeff’s ‘real live’ ranch. Immediately afterwards, Paul realized he had not hesitated at inviting friends to visit ‘their’ ranch. It was a strange, new feeling, this sense of “togetherness”, but definitely one he liked.
The conversation was stimulating. Even Sam and Dave shared some war stories and some not so flattering accounts of celebrity behind the scene activities. They, of course, refused to name names. They’d say, “this chart-topping singer” or “this award winning actor/actress” or even “this conservative politician”. At some point, it occurred to Paul that at no time did the conversation hinge upon or even hint at the fact that all participants were in fact gay. Of course, the stimulating conversation couldn't keep him from occasionally scanning the room in hopes of seeing his lover.
Paul couldn't help but notice a sexily clad blonde woman kept looking his way. Since the Chicago skyline and lakefront were backdrops for their table, he figured she was taking in the scenery or maybe she was scouting for potential after dinner dance partners. In either case his returning lover was soon the focus of all his attention.
As Jeff took his seat, Bradley placed his hand on Jeff's shoulder and leaned in, “I think if you make any rounds after dinner, you should take Paul along with you. He’s good company, but it was obvious he missed you.” Jeff confirmed he would have liked to have Paul by his side for some introductions. They agreed that after dinner he would indeed take Paul with him as he made the rounds. Jeff stared at Bradley for a long moment. “Bradley, as kind as you were to me, I still can't think of an instance where I thought you might actually have been gay. I still find it hard to believe.”
Bradley blushed. “You know it was the last time your Uncle Raymond visited. He confronted me about lusting after you. As handsome as you are, I never felt a serious sexual attraction to you. I was simply in awe of you.
“When I was a boy, I had an attraction to my Mother’s brother. He was my hero. He was strong, handsome and a Marine F/A -18 pilot. He was ten years older than I. He was on leave the summer I turned fourteen. I seduced him. We had a memorable three weeks together. We even spent a week alone on the peninsula. I was distraught when he returned to duty. He died 27 days later when his plane suffered an engine failure and he was lost at sea. I learned later that he had broken up with his fiancé, telling her he had found someone else who had stolen his heart. I was hospitalized for severe depression. My parents found out that, in their words, “he had molested me.” They had me treated by some very unsympathetic therapists. I was convinced that indeed he had molested me and that I was not “queer”. I was encouraged to compartmentalize that “episode”. It was not until you came into my life that I began to have dreams of me and my Uncle Jim. Actually, they were memories of our joyous time together. I went through three therapists before I found Sharon. She helped me to remember my first love. She also helped me to understand being gay is just as normal as someone being left-handed is for some people. She related how an older sister had been punished for writing and coloring with her left hand. Her Father put a stop to that Nun’s ignorant and callous behavior. Sharon helped me recognize the time I spent with Doc was the most rewarding, fulfilling and sexually satisfying time I had spent with anyone.
“Jeff, it was your behavior that made a lie of all those Hollywood stereotypes of gay men. You made me remember Uncle Jim as a good man, a “normal” man and not the “pedophile” my Father and my shrinks painted him to be.
“I know our lives will have challenges. I know that equality won't be achieved until being gay is thought of in the same way as being left-handed is viewed today. But, I am with the love of my life.”
At this point, Bradley gazed lovingly into Doc’s eyes. Turning back to Jeff, he continued, “Doc and I have no illusions when it comes to the challenges of building a solid loving relationship. Especially those facing a gay couple with children. But, we're not about to let go of what we now have between us.
“So let me propose a toast, “To Jeff and Paul and really to gay couples everywhere. May you always live, as you have been, an example worthy of emulation.” Lifting his glass, Bradley was joined by his tablemates with a chorus of “hear, hear” and “I’ll drink to that.”
The blonde Paul had noticed earlier approached. He noted the look of disgust as she apparently took Bradley's glassy-eyed gaze at Jeff to be an indication of intimacy between the two. Her speech was slurred and overly loud as she addressed Jeff, “I should have known when you weren't interested in me that it was Bradley you were after. His interest in me conveniently disappeared soon after you started coming around. Then you quit coming to our house. I guess you couldn't face me, knowing you were destroying our marriage. I gotta admit, he ain't bad, but his money makes him a whole lot more attractive. I ain't gonna spend no more of it, but neither are you, faggot.”
A number of things happened at once. Paul would have to replay the scene over and over again using other perspectives to put it all together. The blonde started to draw a small pistol from her designer clutch. Dave, seated to her left, hit her in the face with a heavy leaded crystal highball glass, drink, ice and all. Sam, seated to her right, swept her feet out from under her with a raking swing of his left leg. I hurled my body to protect Jeff, knocking him over backwards and following him to the floor, with him still in his chair. Doc shielded Bradley, but instead of knocking him over he just sort of cuddled Bradley's face into his massive chest. Both he and I expected to die any minute.
The blonde, now flat on her back, glared up at the two big men standing over her. Craning her neck, ignoring her busted, bleeding lip, she surveyed the damage. Her dress was soaked in Dave’s drink. A slice of lime rested within her ample, plastically enhanced, cleavage. She glared at Dave, “You Fucktard! You ruined my dress, this is a Jess Passel original!” That last came out as a blood-curdling scream. At first, it looked as if the blonde was displaying her clutch as if to emphasize her point. The gun, still hidden within the clutch, was now pointed at Dave. Two shots rang out. Some witnesses would later insist they heard only one shot.
Paul and Jeff stood just after the shots. Both had their wallet pistols in hand. Bradley was in shock. Doc left his lover seated and immediately surveyed the physical trauma. He scanned the blonde who was unconscious and bleeding profusely from her right shoulder. Dave, on the other hand, was clasping his left bicep as a small trickle of blood oozed between his fingers. Doc ignored the blonde and moved to treat Dave. He gently removed the tuxedo jacket, then ripped Dave’s shirt sleeve open. “Dave, you’re a lucky man. This will most likely leave nothing more than a nice conversation scar. I doubt the hospital will even keep you overnight.”
Dave seemed to be reassured more by having seen his wound than by Doc’s bedside manner. “Doc, if I had been lucky the bitch would have missed me completely. I’m not buying any lottery tickets based on this wound.”
Sam had collected the blondes weapon and was hovering over Doc’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Babe. I should have shot sooner.”
“Hon, look at this! I’ve been hurt worse falling off my bike as a kid. You saved my life. That bitch wasn't likely to stop with one shot. I don't see why she was so upset, Jess Passel is so last year.” That last remark got a laugh from most all the ladies gathered round.
Doc finally attended the blonde. The whole time he was cursing the Hippocratic oath as so much politically correct drivel. He drafted one of the restaurant’s security team to apply pressure to her wound until the rescue squad and Police showed up. Dave refused to be transported in the same ambulance as his assailant, so the police provided an escort to the nearest trauma center.
What began as a potentially long, drawn out, repetitive, questioning session ended up with a simple assurance that the “gentlemen” involved would appear tomorrow to provide more detailed statements. Jeff went to thank Bradley for exerting his political influence. “Hey, I can't take credit for this. This is all on my lover. He’s the one who socializes with the Deputy Mayor and the Chief of Police.”
The New Year was welcomed in by Jeff and Paul, Bradley and Doc, Sam and Dave as well as their driver in the emergency room parking lot. After breaking their kiss, Paul observed, “Well, it isn't as romantic as the top of the tower, but I couldn't wish for better company.” Everyone seemed to echo that sentiment. Jeff had agreed to drop Doc and Bradley off since Doc’s apartment was only a couple of blocks away from Jeff’s. Paul innocently inquired as to whether one could actually “see” the lake from Doc’s apartment, without climbing on furniture. That earned him a light slap on the back of his head, from Jeff.
En route Dave asked if he was the only one that was hungry. It took only took Siri a moment to find a diner not too far away. The customers and staff never batted an eye at the crowd of tuxedo-clad men with appetites like lumberjacks who laughed uproariously at the retelling of an apparent shooting. Well, after all, it was Chicago.
Paul wasn't sure why, but when they finally dropped Bradley and Doc off in the wee hours of the morning, it felt as though he was saying goodbye to a couple of really close friends. Once back in Jeff's apartment, it was clear that everyone was ready for bed.
Jeff felt he needed to say something to Sam and Dave. “Guys, I know you’ll go over tonight’s actions and try to discern what you did right and what you could have done better. Just know that in my opinion, you both did a great job. So no matter what Ilya says or what you may think, just know in my book no one could have handled that situation any better than you two did.” With that, he enthusiastically hugged Sam and then more carefully embraced Dave. Paul echoed his lover’s opinion and likewise embraced his two friends. As they turned toward their bedrooms, Dave added, “Oh, and Paul, they gave me pain pills to help me sleep. If you two could keep the noise down to a roar, I would appreciate it. I’d hate to have to tell Rosarita that something more than just city noises kept me awake.”
Paul didn't even blush at the sound of shared laughter. Instead, he countered, “Well, maybe tonight I won’t have to listen to some heifer bawling about, “You’re sooo big.” “Do it to me harder Sammy” or my personal favorite, “Breed me like I’m your mare Stud!”
Dave sputtered. Then stammered, “I’m too heavily medicated, I suddenly don't remember having even started this conversation. So I’ll just say goodnight all.” With a grin and a wink to Paul he led his lover away.