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As Dodger was enjoying his meal, he was surprised when Rafe suddenly stood.
He followed Rafe's gaze behind him and smiled when he saw Leila approaching.
"You were wonderful." Rafe said as he walked to her and pulled her into an affectionate hug.
"Thank you." Leila said with a grateful smile.
Dodger stood as Rafe guided Leila to walk back to their table.
"You were fantastic." Dodger said honestly.
"Thank you, Dodger. I'm glad you enjoyed it." Leila said timidly.
"Would you like to join us?" Rafe asked graciously.
"Oh, I would love to, but I already promised Portia and Lily that I'd sit with them." Leila said with regret.
"I won't keep you then. But we'll have to get together soon and have dinner so we can catch up on things. It's been too long." Rafe said tenderly.
Leila giggled, then said, "I would like that, Rafe. I'll call you sometime next week."
Rafe nodded, then gave Leila a gentle kiss on the cheek before letting her go.
Leila smiled at Dodger and waved 'bye' before walking away.
"She's a special lady." Rafe said with admiration as he went back to his seat.
Dodger sat down, then hesitantly asked, "I can see how much you love her, why didn't you want to marry her?"
Rafe seemed surprised by the question and took a moment to consider before answering, "I do love her. If we had married, I'd like to think that she'd still be my best friend. But... it's hard to explain. I don't feel that way about her. She's beautiful and fun and exciting, but there's something missing. I don't feel a... chemistry with her. I don't think that there's any way that I would ever be 'in love' with her."
Dodger thought about what Rafe was saying and thought that he understood, just a little.
"Is that..." Rafe said suddenly, then stood again and motioned to someone across the room.
A moment later a well dressed black man, close to Rafe's age approached the table.
"What are you doing here? I thought you moved to Mississippi!" Rafe said happily as he hugged the man.
"I did. I'm just here for a visit." the man said as he returned the hug.
Rafe released the man from the hug, then turned and proudly said, "Dodger, I'd like for you to meet another old friend of mine, this is Holly."
The man glanced at Rafe with an expression that held both irritation and affection, before he faced Dodger again and said, "It's nice to meet you Dodger, I'm Hollis."
"It's nice to meet you Hollis." Dodger said as he stood to shake the man's hand.
"Did you get to see Leila's performance?" Rafe asked hopefully.
"Yes. She was fantastic." Hollis said with a broad smile, then quickly said, "I'm here with someone and I don't want to leave him on his own for too long."
"I understand, but if you think your friend would enjoy the company, you'd be welcomed to join us." Rafe said honestly.
Hollis thought for a moment, then carefully said, "I came back to Columbus just so I could bring Clay here. He's been fighting the good fight for a while now and I think he's starting to lose hope. I thought that being here, I don't know, maybe he could see the way that things 'could' be and it might rekindle the passion he's been losing."
"Well, sitting over there, separate from everyone else isn't going to do much to help with that. Invite him over." Rafe said insistently.
Hollis thought for a moment, then quietly said, "He doesn't know...."
"It will be fine." Rafe assured, then glanced at Dodger.
Hollis followed his glance, then seemed to come to a decision.
Dodger watched as Hollis motioned across the room and beckoned his friend to come with a gesture.
* * * * *
"Rafe, Dodger, I'd like to introduce you to one of my associates from Mississippi, this is Clay." Hollis said formally.
"Clayton." The younger man in his mid twenties corrected gently.
"It's nice to meet you Clayton." Rafe said warmly, "Holly was telling us that this was your first time visiting. It's Dodger's first time too, so maybe you two can help each other deal with the new experience."
Clayton looked at Dodger appraisingly for a moment, then seemed to accept the suggestion.
Rafe noticed a waiter nearby and quickly said, "These gentlemen will be joining us."
The waiter nodded once, then rushed away.
"Please sit down and relax with us." Rafe said casually as he gestured toward the table.
"We were just about to eat..." Clayton said hesitantly.
"Here comes your food." Rafe said with a smile, then took his own seat.
Everyone else followed his example, and sat around the table as the waiter placed Clayton's and Hollis's food before them.
"So Clayton, how are you enjoying Columbus?" Rafe asked casually, then took a bite of his food.
"Well, I like what I've seen so far, but that hasn't been very much." Clayton said honestly.
"I hope Holly has time to show you around. It's a nice place." Rafe said seriously.
"Well, 'Holly' and I are just here for the weekend, so I don't know how much of a chance we'll have for sightseeing." Clayton said, unable to restrain a grin at Hollis' nickname.
"I think a weekend is just enough time." Dodger said frankly.
Rafe smiled at Dodger's willingness to join into the conversation and nodded his agreement to his statement.
Dodger turned at a movement and noticed a waiter taking away his empty glass and replacing it with a new glass of coke.
As he was taking another bite of his food, he noticed that Clayton's eyes were wide and disbelieving as he looked past him.
Dodger turned in time to see two men at the next table kissing, not passionately, but affectionately.
"Rafe said that some of the people here are in non standard relationships because interesting people tend to resist conforming to societal restrictions." Dodger said conversationally, hoping that the explanation would put Clayton at ease.
Hollis smiled and said, "I think that's a perfect way of putting it."
Clayton looked at Dodger uncertainly for a moment, then asked, "But that's... okay?"
"Why not? It's just people relaxing and being comfortable." Dodger said simply.
Rafe smiled with pride at Dodger, then added, "You know how the world is. We all try to mold and shape it to be better in our own ways. But in here, this is how we think the world should be. This is our haven where we can let go of it all and just relax in the company of friends."
Clayton took a bite of his steak, and considered as he chewed.
Finally, he looked at Dodger and quietly asked, "Are you two a couple?"
Before Dodger could answer, Rafe quietly said, "We only spoke for the first time yesterday. I don't think we know each other nearly well enough to be thinking of something like that."
Dodger nodded his agreement to Rafe's words, then added, "But I think it's nice to know that however it works out, that we'll still be able to come here."
Hollis looked from Rafe to Dodger, then back to Rafe and said, "I think that when you do know each other well enough to think about it, it could work."
Rafe glanced at Dodger to find him looking somewhat pale. With a small smile, Rafe quietly said, "That might be nice."
* * * * *
Dodger sat in the car, listening to the engine, watching the scenery pass them by, and thinking over the events of the night.
They had spent hours talking to Clayton and Hollis.
After the initial awkwardness, conversation finally started flowing more comfortably and even became pleasant.
All evening, over and over, Dodger kept coming back to the question about his relationship with Rafe.
It wasn't so much that he was against the idea, that would at least be something, he didn't know how he felt about it. And it suddenly became very important to him that he did know. If Rafe were being honest, and he always had been before, then at some future time, when they knew each other better, it would be something that they would consider.
"How are you doing, Dodger?" Rafe asked quietly.
"Um, okay." Dodger answered slowly, "I'm just thinking."
"I bet I can guess about what." Rafe said with a grin.
"How is that?" Dodger asked slowly.
"After Holly said that we could be a good couple, all the color drained out of your face. I had a feeling that you might be thinking about that later." Rafe said honestly.
"What do you think about it?" Dodger asked nervously.
"Do you mean, in general, or in regards to us specifically?" Rafe asked carefully.
"I mean, do you think you could ever do that?" Dodger asked quietly.
"If you mean, do I think I could be with a man sexually. Then the answer is yes. Because I have been... a few times. But if you're asking if I could love a man in the context of a committed relationship. I don't know. I would like to think that I could, but so far it hasn't happened." Rafe said honestly.
Dodger nodded slowly as he considered the words.
"What about you?" Rafe asked gently.
Dodger thought about playing dumb and dragging it out, but resisted the urge and answered, "I don't know why, but I think that I could love a man that way. It's the sex part I don't know about. I just don't know if I'd like that."
"Well, there's more than one thing that you can do when it comes to sex." Rafe said frankly.
"I really don't know about that. I only heard about the one thing... when the guy, you know, sticks it in your butt. And I heard that it hurts." Dodger said frankly.
"It doesn't have to." Rafe said gently.
Dodger looked at Rafe with question.
"Please just trust me when I tell you that the sex can be enjoyable. But that's only one small part of a relationship." Rafe said seriously.
Dodger slowly nodded that he had heard.
"I'm sorry the subject ever came up. I think it's too early for us to be thinking along these lines." Rafe said regretfully.
"No. I'm kind of glad that it did come up." Dodger said thoughtfully.
At Rafe's look of question, he continued, "When we were talking about school, you said that I needed to dream about the future that I wanted. I'm pretty sure that whatever future I'm dreaming about, you're going to be part of it. So I think it's good that I have this to think about, so I can decide if it's something I'd like to try. I mean, if you wanted to, too."
Rafe thought for a moment, then said, "I tell you what, Dodger. I think I'm going to be doing some dreaming too, so when the day comes that you're ready to talk about this again, I'll have a better sense of my own feelings on the matter."
"Thanks for talking to me about this, Rafe." Dodger said quietly. "I was feeling really nervous about it before, but now I feel okay."
"As long as you're willing to talk, I'll always be here to discuss things with you." Rafe said sincerely.
* * * * *
It was late when they arrived back at the house, so Rafe and Dodger said their goodnights and went to their separate rooms.
As Dodger changed out of his suit, he reflected on the past two days.
On the one hand, he had the weirdness that seemed to surround Dr. Raphael Montgomery Killian. The list of things that were 'off' or just plain 'wrong' was getting to be a long one.
But on the other hand, there was the man himself, Rafe, who was such a gentle and loving soul. Not only was he a loving person, but all the people who knew him seemed to love him and were devoted to him.
Dodger finally decided that the two hands cancelled each other out, leaving him with only his heart to decide.
And what his heart was telling him was that Rafe wanted him here. And that Rafe was someone he would be able to depend on... today, tomorrow and forever. His heart wasn't saying anything at all about love. But it was speaking volubly about Rafe's goodness, loyalty and decency.
Dodger stepped into the shower and marveled at the sense of peace that he was feeling as the warm water seemed to wash away the last of his tension.
His hands moved automatically, soaping him as he drifted in the tranquil place between thought and feeling.
He felt a tingle of desire creep through his body as one of his hands started paying extra attention to his slowly awakening manhood.
Dodger tried to set aside the 'dirty' feeling that usually came with this action.
As far back as he could remember, his brothers and sisters had always taken great delight in teasing and taunting him about 'playing with himself'. For most of his life, he didn't even know what they were talking about, only that they were being cruel.
When he was eleven, he woke up one night as two of his brothers were 'messing around' in the room that all the boys shared. He had silently watched as they started out each doing their own, then eventually each other.� Dodger was amazed by the spectacle, because their erections were so huge compared to his own. Of course, he knew now that this was because Danny was 22 years old and Duncan was 20. But at the time he had felt so small and inadequate because his little bone barely measured over 3 inches.
After that night, Dodger slept very lightly and woke immediately when his brothers started fooling around. At one time or another over the course of the next few years he had eventually seen all his brothers engaged in the activity at least once.
As he absently pumped his erection, he thought to himself, 'Why was it supposed to be wrong for me and not for them?'.
A part of him had always wanted to go over there and be with them. To touch them. To be a part of this thing that was supposed to be so forbidden. But he always knew that it could never happen.
His brothers hated him. If they ever found out that he was watching or that he had the slightest interest in what they were doing... he didn't want to think about what horrible things they would have come up with to torture him.
Dodger's hand started to move faster as his mind moved on to more pleasant thoughts.
An image of Rafe filled his mind's eye. He was standing there, dressed in his business suit, looking friendly and warm and... safe.
Dodger wondered that, if the day ever came when they decided that they wanted to be together, what would he do?
He had only seen his brothers masturbate themselves and each other. If that was something that Rafe would enjoy, he could certainly do that.
Truth be told, it's something he had always wanted to try with someone else.
And when he had told Rafe about the thing the runaway kids had said about sticking a dick up your butt, Rafe had said that it didn't have to be painful.
Dodger thought about how he felt about that.
Having a part of Rafe, touch him like that. Having a part of Rafe inside him. Rafe breathing heavily and thrusting and shooting his cream...
"Rafe." Dodger whispered, tilting his head back as his semen flew. The climax seemed to freeze time and held him in a moment of perfect bliss. Dodger pictured how beautiful Rafe would be while he was having his own climax.
His pumping hand slowed and finally stopped.
Dodger fought to get his breathing under control as he turned away from the shower to protect his, now, super-sensitive glans from the shower's spray. The warm water spraying on his neck and shoulders began to do it's work to relax him.
He pondered for a moment just what he was feeling.
Usually after pleasuring himself, Dodger felt a sense of failure, that he hadn't been able to resist it, and shame for even wanting to do it at all. But this time was different. Somehow, Rafe made it all better. He knew without a doubt that Rafe wouldn't be disgusted with what he had done, and that Rafe wouldn't tease or belittle him for having done it.
Dodger seemed to come back to himself, then made sure to rinse himself off well before getting out of the shower.
As he dried himself, it occurred to him that by some process that he wasn't consciously aware of, he had come to a decision.
When the time came for him to talk with Rafe about their relationship, somehow he would find the courage to admit that he really did want for them to become a couple.
* * * * *
Dodger slid his naked body between cool sheets and rested back in the large comfortable bed.
Even though so many things had happened in the past 48 hours, the only things he seemed to be able to think about were Rafe's beautiful eyes, his slender hands, his handsome face...
* * * * *
"Good morning, Dodger. Did you sleep well?" Rafe asked casually when he saw Dodger walking down the stairs.
"The best ever." Dodger said with a contented smile.
"Good." Rafe said happily.
"What about you? How did you sleep?" Dodger asked as he took a seat in the wing backed chair, next to Rafe's.
"Exceptionally well." Rafe said as he turned in his chair to look at Dodger.
"It's chilly this morning. The fire feels good." Dodger said as he snuggled down into the chair, then asked, "What are you reading?"
Rather than answer, Rafe held the book up so Dodger could read the cover.
"1957 Asian Influenza Statistical Summary." Dodger read aloud, then quietly said, "It sounds like a real page turner."
"I'm still hoping for a happy ending." Rafe said with a grin as he marked his place, then sat the book on the small table between the two chairs.
"So, what do you have planned for us to do today?" Dodger asked as he relaxed.
"Before I answer, have you come up with any ideas for the weekend?" Rafe asked curiously.
"Not even one." Dodger said with a chuckle. "Every time I stop to think about it, I end up falling asleep again."
Rafe nodded, as if he had expected the answer.
"So, did you come up with something?" Dodger asked curiously.
"Tell me what you think of this." Rafe said in prelude. "We could have a nice breakfast, then come in here and put on some relaxing music, then we could read or talk or nap or whatever else we feel like." Rafe said slowly.
"That sounds nice." Dodger said peacefully.
Rafe nodded his agreement, then continued, "Then later, if and when we feel like it, we could go and do a little clothes shopping for you."
Dodger opened his mouth, ready to protest, when Rafe raised his hand to prevent him.
"Yes, you have clothes. I understand that you're not comfortable letting me buy you things. But the simple fact is that you shouldn't have to make due with three changes of clothes. I'd really appreciate it if you would just go along with it this one time." Rafe finished in an urging tone.
Dodger thought for a moment, then quietly said, "Okay."
Rafe smiled and said, "Thank you."
"I told you about how I was always told that I was the 'extra' kid. That's not going to go away overnight. I'll try not to fight you about it, if you'll try to understand that sometimes I can't help it." Dodger said frankly.
"That sounds fair." Rafe said gently, then perked up a little and asked, "So, are you ready for breakfast?"
"Yeah. That sounds good. Can I help?" Dodger asked hopefully.
"How are you at making hashed browns?" Rafe asked curiously as he stood.
"Pretty good, actually. That's one of my better things." Dodger said honestly as he fell into step at Rafe's side.
"That's good. For some reason, I can never make them turn out quite right."
* * * * *
"How many pancakes do you want?" Rafe asked curiously.
"I thought you were going to make eggs." Dodger said hesitantly.
"I am, and some bacon too." Rafe said seriously.
"And I'm making hashed browns." Dodger said slowly.
"So how many pancakes do you want?" Rafe asked curiously.
"Two, if you'll make them little." Dodger said with a grin.
"Right, two silver dollars for Dodger." Rafe said happily.
"I've found the potatoes, but where is the grater?" Dodger asked curiously.
"Try that bottom drawer." Rafe said as he pointed briefly.
Dodger went to the drawer and dug around for a moment before finding the grater.
When he stood, he noticed that Rafe had put something on the counter beside the stove.
"What's that?" Dodger asked curiously.
"It's an electric griddle." Rafe said happily. "In my opinion, it's one of the greatest advances of the modern age."
Dodger smiled at the statement, then hesitantly asked, "You heard that they were able to put a man on the moon, right?"
"Yes. And that's nice, but I can make pancakes, bacon and eggs, all at the same time with this." Rafe said proudly.
"I see your point." Dodger said with a grin, then went back to work on his potatoes.
* * * * *
"Do you want toast?" Rafe asked suddenly.
"No. The pancakes are going to be enough bread for me." Dodger said quickly.
"What about coffee?" Rafe asked curiously.
"If you're having some, I will too." Dodger said casually.
"Well, I don't really like it that much. But I can make some." Rafe said thoughtfully.
"I don't like it either, Rafe. Just skip the coffee." Dodger said with a chuckle.
"Right. I just want this to be a really good meal. I don't want to forget anything." Rafe said as he carefully tended the cooking bacon.
Dodger chuckled, then said, "I think it's going to be all that we can do to eat everything we have here."
"Well, if we're not having coffee, what would you like to drink?" Rafe asked curiously.
"I don't know what you have." Dodger said honestly.
"I could make up some orange juice." Rafe said thoughtfully.
"As long as it doesn't taste like your juice in the glass pitcher, that would be fine." Dodger said frankly.
"You drank my juice?" Rafe asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I forgot what you told me about it and poured myself a glass at breakfast yesterday." Dodger said, then noticed that Rafe was looking at him with concern. "I didn't care for it."
Rafe slowly nodded, then went back to tending the things on his griddle.
"I need to let the hashed browns cook for a few minutes. I could make the juice." Dodger said seriously.
"Oh, yes. There should be frozen juice in the freezer and you'll find another pitcher over the refrigerator." Rafe said quickly.
Dodger nodded, then went to work.
* * * * *
"I hope you like your hashed browns crispy." Dodger said after returning to the stove.
"How crispy?" Rafe asked carefully.
"Not too bad, I'd say we've got equal parts hash and brown here." Dodger said thoughtfully.
"That sounds good to me." Rafe said as he handed Dodger a plate of food.
Dodger added some hashed browns to the plate, then reached over and placed it on the table.
"We make quite a team." Rafe said as he handed Dodger the next plate.
"Yeah. It looks that way now. But I think the real proof is when we do the cleanup. That's when the teamwork will cause you to sink or swim." Dodger said as he placed the second plate on the table.
Rafe looked at the two nearly identical glasses of juice on the table with question.
"That one's yours." Dodger said as soon as he noticed.
"Thank you." Rafe said quietly.
"Yeah." Dodger said with a sigh, and prepared himself to ask Rafe about what was really going on.
The anxious look in Rafe's eyes caused Dodger to completely change what he was going to say.
"There's something going on around here that I don't understand." Dodger said quietly. "Whatever it is, I know that you'll tell me about it when I need to know. So until then, I'm going to try not to worry about it."
Rafe looked at Dodger uncertainly for a moment, then hesitantly broke into a smile.
"Do we have any syrup for these pancakes?" Dodger asked curiously.
Rafe blinked at the question, then said, "Yes. Just give me a second."
Dodger watched Rafe run to the cupboard to get the syrup and smiled to himself, feeling that he may have just navigated around something that could have been very bad.
* * * * *
"I don't mind doing the washing up." Rafe said as he carried the dirty dishes to the sink.
"But you know where things belong. It makes more sense for me to wash and for you to dry things and put them away." Dodger said frankly.
"Okay. For now. But once you get more familiar with where things are, I expect us to trade off." Rafe said firmly.
"That sounds fair to me." Dodger said as he began to run wash water in the sink.
"I've thought about getting a dishwasher, but I couldn't see the point when it was just me. It would probably take a week of eating before I had enough dishes to make a load." Rafe said seriously as he picked up a towel and waited by the dish drainer.
Dodger chuckled and shook his head.
"What's funny now?" Rafe asked curiously.
"You should see the house I grew up in. Imagine how it is for thirteen people living in a three bedroom house. Ever since I was so small that I had to pull a chair up to the sink, I had to do the dishes three times a day." Dodger said distantly.
"Why is that funny?" Rafe asked quietly.
"I just think it's funny that you're talking about getting a dish washing machine to do this little speck of dishes." Dodger said, then smiled at Rafe warmly as he rinsed a plate, then placed it in the drainer.
"Well, I'm not planning on buying one, I was just mentioning that I had thought about it." Rafe said seriously.
"But..." Rafe began to say, then seemed to think better of it.
"But what?" Dodger asked curiously as he washed a glass.
"Well, I already know what you're going to say, but... you said that I should see the house you grew up in. We could do that. We could go there." Rafe said hesitantly.
"Are you talking about just hopping in the car and driving to West Virginia?" Dodger asked cautiously.
"Yes. It's not really that far. It would be possible to do it this weekend." Rafe said seriously.
Dodger seemed to think about it, then slowly shook his head.
"I didn't think so. But I thought it was important to mention that it was possible. If you ever do want to go back and visit, we can do it." Rafe said gently.
"Maybe someday." Dodger said quietly, then began to wash the dishes again.
"Take all the time you need." Rafe said with a smile.
* * * * *
"So what are you reading?" Rafe asked as he settled into his chair.
Dodger held up his book so Rafe could read the title on the spine.
"The Warlord of Mars?" Rafe asked with surprise. "That's the third in the series, isn't it?"
"Yeah. I read the first two at the library in Columbus, and I had started on this one." Dodger said happily. "When I was looking through your library, I found the whole set."
"Yes. I went through an Edgar Rice Burroughs phase. I'm pretty sure I have every book he ever published." Rafe said with a wistful smile.
"I know I enjoyed the Tarzan books. But I noticed that you have a few that they didn't have in our library back home. I'm going to have to go back and read those when I finish this one." Dodger said happily.
"Have you watched the movies?" Rafe asked curiously.
"Yeah. Some of them. That's what got me interested in the books. After the movie was over, I still wanted more." Dodger said with a grin.
"Well, I'm glad to hear that." Rafe said seriously. "Looking around the world today, I've been getting the feeling that people are replacing reading with movies and television."
"What's wrong with that?" Dodger asked curiously.
"It's lazy." Rafe said simply. "You don't have to think. You don't have to imagine. Even if it's based on a great literary masterpiece, you're letting someone else put their interpretation directly into your mind. You have musical cues to tell you what to feel, on television you even have laugh tracks to tell you when to laugh."
Dodger nodded that he understood.
"Of course, on television, you also have dozens of shows, each with a slightly different premise all regurgitating the same hackneyed story lines and trite jokes. I feel like watching television is mind numbing, it's the opposite of thinking. It decreases intelligence, motivation, imagination... I fear for our civilization."
"So I'm guessing that you don't watch television or movies." Dodger said slowly.
"I do, but very little. I think the medium has great potential if it's used properly, but I also think it has great potential to be misused. And from what I've seen so far, I'm not encouraged." Rafe said frankly.
Dodger considered for a moment, then carefully said, "I think I agree with you."
Rafe looked at Dodger with an exaggerated expression of surprise, then said, "Well, I guess there's a first time for everything."
Dodger giggled, then said, "I agree with you a lot. I usually only speak up when I disagree."
"Thank you for that, Dodger." Rafe said seriously. "I like knowing that you'll give me your honest opinion."
"You can always count on that, Rafe." Dodger said as he met Rafe's eyes. "You've done so much for me I can't even list all of it. And the only thing you've ever asked of me is my honesty. I'm going to do my best to give it to you."
"You're doing a great job so far." Rafe said gently.
Editor's Notes: Things are still progressing with regard to Rafe and Dodger's relationship. Mostly, we have seen things from Dodger's perspective, but we are also gaining some insight into the way that Rafe thinks. I see some wonderful possibilities. I am enjoying this story very much. I really do want more. Thank you very much for this heart warming story, MM.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher