This is the third and, obviously, last story of my "Colby Trilogy," the first two being "Brody Comes Home" and "A Writer's Romance." Readers of "Brody" will recognize many of the characters here. Although I hope you'll read those stories if you haven't, it isn't really necessary. You'll get all the information you need to follow this story right here.

I want to remind my readers that I write formula fiction, romances. If Justin doesn't wind up with a wonderful, sexy guy at the end of this tale, I'll be swamped with complaints. So even though you may guess Justin's destination, I hope you will enjoy his journey.

Sincere thanks to Mickey and Drew for their encouragement and editorial help. -Tim

Two young men came out of the gym and began walking toward the student parking lot. The first of them was a rangy 6'1" with black hair and brown eyes. His broad-shouldered companion was shorter, about 5'9" or 5'10"with light brown hair and blue eyes. Both wore crew cuts.

"I know you wanted to play third base, Jus," the taller one said, "but our defense has really improved since Coach moved you to shortstop. You're a natural in that position."

Justin shivered slightly. It might be spring in Northern Ohio, but the weather was far from balmy. He'd just showered, and the breeze chilled him. He wished he'd worn a jacket. But he grinned at his friend and said, "Yeah, who'd a thunk? But it's good to know you're behind me to catch my mistakes."

The centerfielder for the Higgins High Hornets grinned back. "That's my job, dude. Hey, you wanna go for a burger or something?"

"I'd like to, but I've gotta go home, grab something to eat, change clothes, and get back to school. Tonight's the Symphonic Winds concert."

"Oooh, gotta go and be a groupie for your boyfriend, huh?"

"Up yours, Morelli!"

"In your dreams, Quinn," Steve replied, chuckling. He stopped beside his car. "Then I guess I'll see you at practice tomorrow. Enjoy the concert."

"Thanks, bud. Later."

Justin hadn't wanted to play baseball at Higgins High. He'd played his freshman and sophomore years at St. Anselm's Academy, but when he transferred to Higgins the fall of his junior year he'd taken some flak for being openly gay, a problem he'd never faced at St. A's. It was mostly a few of the football players who'd caused the problems. They'd call him "faggot" or "queer" as he passed them in the halls or in the lunch room. Twice he was tripped. The second time it happened, Justin found himself sprawled on the floor, the contents of his backpack spilled all over. He got up and slugged Carl Lobocki in the gut. By the time the two were separated, Justin had a black eye. Both boys were sent home for fighting.

The next day the principal got on the P.A. system and talked for ten minutes about how diversity was valued at Higgins High and how intolerance wouldn't be tolerated. After that, Justin found himself a hero among the gays, the geeks, and some of the girls in his class. For as long as it lasted, he wore his shiner as a badge of honor.

During the rest of that year he'd made friends, but he refused to go out for baseball when spring rolled around, unwilling to expose himself to what he saw as the homophobia of the jock culture. That summer, however, Justin had met Brody Cox, with whom he had immediately become infatuated, and Dave Cromer, both older than he by several years. They'd invited him to play on their summer-league team, the Higgins Hammers. Later, after he'd started his senior year, both Brody and Dave had urged him to try out for the baseball team when spring came. Justin resisted, claiming that too many other things were going on. It was his senior year, for fuck's sake.

And now he had a boyfriend. But even Gary had said he ought to try out for the team - though he suspected Gary wanted him to carry the rainbow flag onto the diamond. At any rate, he'd made the team. At first some of the guys were a bit cool, but the rest of the team welcomed him, especially after they saw what he could do. And the others had come around. So it was all good. He'd made a bunch of new friends on the team. Brody and Dave had promised to come to his games whenever they could, and even his dad seemed pleased he was playing ball again.

The guest conductor for the Symphonic Wind Ensemble's spring concert was Hardy Wolfe-Ridgway, head of the music department of nearby Windsor University*. Justin had expected the program to be mostly marches, but he was surprised. They played a nice mix, including arrangements of some Beatles' tunes plus wind settings of works by Bach, Handel, and Vaughan Williams. The only march was the second encore, which was, of course, "The Stars and Stripes Forever." The audience was delighted when the tubas stood and played the flute/piccolo part in the second strain.

After the concert there was the usual mob in the hall outside the auditorium, but Justin spotted Gary's parents. After he'd shaken hands with Mr. Keller and been hugged by Mrs. Keller, he saw Gary, first chair trombonist with the Ensemble, working his way through the crowd. The Kellers told their son how wonderful the concert was and hugged him. He accepted their congratulations and then said to them, "I couldn't eat much supper. I was too nervous. Is it okay if Justin and I go grab something to eat?"

"Sure, but tomorrow's Friday and that's a school day, so be home by 11:00."

"Aww, Dad, it's 10:00 now. Can we make it 11:30?"

Mr. Keller grinned and said, "Well, you're about to graduate from high school and this is a special occasion. Sure. Justin, I assume you'll drop Gary off at home?"

Justin grinned. "You can count on it. I'll have had enough of music talk by then."

"Oh, Gary," Mrs. Keller said, "don't forget to tell Justin your news."

"What news?" Justin asked.

"I'll tell you later, okay?"

* * *

Justin and Gary were having milkshakes and fries at the BK.

"Gare, that Wolfe-what's his face dude, the guest conductor, was seriously hunky. I mean, with that curly blond hair and all. He looks like he's got some muscles, too. Not your typical musician."

Gary stuck his tongue out at Justin. "Yeah, I knew he was a star in Ohio music circles, but I'd never seen his picture. I nearly creamed my pants when Mr. Burnside introduced him at rehearsal."

"And he's gay, too."

"Yeah, but how did you - oh, of course, your gaydar is, as you keep saying, infallible."

"Uh huh. But what's with the hyphenated name? Is he a Brit or something?"

Gary dabbled a fry in catsup, ate it, and then grinned. "Nope. He used to be just Hardy Wolfe. But now he's married to Matthew Ridgway, the president of Windsor, and he added Ridgway's name to his."

"No shit? That's so cool!"

"Uh huh."

After taking a long swallow of his shake and then stifling a burp, Justin said, "So, what was the news your mom was talking about?"

Gary's face lighted up. "I got my acceptance from Indiana U today."

"Hey, Gare, that's great! I know that's the one you were really hoping for. But why Indiana? Windsor's got a great music program, and there are the conservatories at Oberlin and Cincinnati and the Cleveland Institute of Music all here in Ohio."

"Well, Windsor's too close to home."

"What's wrong with being near home?"

"Jus, I've never been anywhere, except for Interlochen last summer. I want to get away from Higgins."

"Okay, but what about the others, the Ohio schools?"

"They're more for people who want to be concert performers. I know I'm not good enough for a career as a soloist. Besides, I think I'm more interested in composition, theory, conducting, that sort of thing. And IU is great for those things."

"I should've known you'd have it all figured out. So, congratulations, Keller. You know I'm happy for you."

"Uh, Justin?"


"You could come to Indiana, too. With grades like yours I'm sure they'd take you. But it's getting late to be applying anywhere. Sure you don't want to come along and be my room mate?"

Justin waggled his eyebrows and grinned. "Yeah, I'd love to have that sweet little ass available any time I wanted it."

Gary blushed and looked around. "Justin! Somebody might hear you!"

"Well, it is a nice ass."

With an exasperated expression, Gary said, "Sometimes you're just too much."

"Okay, straight answer. I've got my acceptance at Carnegie-Mellon and at Case. As I've told you, my folks, for reasons I don't understand, aren't all that excited that I'm thinking of majoring in architecture. I've still got to make up my mind whether I want to follow in the parental footsteps and if so where I want to go to college."

"I'm sure you could study architecture at IU."

"Yeah, I probably could. But the thing is, I think I might like Colby State. After all, I know the campus, my dad's a prof there, . . ."

"You sure you just aren't afraid to leave home?"

"Oh, shit, man. You know better than that. I'd insist on living in the dorms. I'm still just not sure about the whole thing."

"Well, that's unusual for you."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, just that you're usually so self-confident."

Justin wiped his hands on his napkin. "You know me pretty well, Gare. I thought you'd have seen through that by now."

Gary looked steadily at his boyfriend but didn't say anything.

"Look, when you're always shorter than most of the guys your age, and when you're gay as well, you can either let everybody call you a shorty, a wimp, a faggot and crawl away with your tail between your legs, or you can let them think that sort of shit doesn't matter to you. I've always managed to hold my head up and still be who I am. But I used to go home and cry into my pillow a lot, too." He grinned. "I hope I'm not disillusioning you."

"No, babe, not at all." He raised an eyebrow. "I've always known you're a cream puff at heart."

"Keller, you know I hate it when you call me 'babe'."

"Oh, sorry. I forgot. I do know that, though I don't understand why."

"Because it's, well, I don't know, it's, it's too girly or something. I'm gay, but I'm a guy, dammit, and calling someone 'babe' just turns me off."

"Okay, Tarzan," Gary chuckled, "I'll remember this discussion."

As they left the Burger King, the two boys made quite a contrast. Gary was six feet tall and skinny, even gangly, with big hands and feet. He wore his straight red hair parted in the middle. His blue eyes were the best feature of his round, freckled, boyish face. Justin, though shorter, had a more athletic build and was better looking by conventional standards. And whereas Gary often had a dreamy look about him, Justin most often displayed an air of cockiness that endeared him to some and alienated others.

On Saturday morning Justin picked Gary up about 11:00. They were heading for the mall to have lunch and take in a movie.

"Hey, Gare, wanna stop by and say whassup to Brody?"

"Oh, you're in need of a Brody fix, are ya?" Gary asked, grinning.

"Watch it!" Justin replied, pretending to be angry.

Brody Cox was an ex-Marine who was now a freshman at nearby Colby State University. His family owned two flower shops, one there in Higgins and the other in Colby. Justin, who had made deliveries the previous summer for Petal Pushers, the shop in Higgins, had met Brody just after he'd returned home from Iraq with his discharge papers fresh in hand.

Brody, 6'2", blond, blue-eyed and very good looking, didn't seem to realize just how his looks affected others. Justin had been immediately smitten. He'd screwed up his courage to come on to the older guy and been gently rebuffed. Brody had made it clear that he had a brotherly affection for Justin, but that there would never be anything more than that between them.

Brody, now living with David Cromer, had worked in the Cox family business since the previous June when he'd returned home. On Saturday mornings he could usually be found at Petal Pushers, where Justin and Gary often dropped in on him on their way to the mall or whatever they had planned for the day.

Justin had repeatedly told Gary that he was over Brody and that their relationship was just a brotherly one.

They pulled into the lot behind the shop and parked. Entering through the back door, they found Brody on a stool next to one of the long work tables, reading. He looked up and smiled when they came in.

"Hey, guys."

"Hey, Brody," the two boys said simultaneously.

"You making like a student?" Justin asked, grinning.

"Yeah. But you give me an excuse to stop. It's been like a tomb around here this morning, so I've gotten a lot of reading done. Want something to drink?"

"I could do with coffee," Justin said. "How about you guys?"

"I'm coffeed out," Brody said.

"I could use a cup," Gary said, yawning.

"Yeah, it looks like you could."

"Well, Jus, you know how to do it."


As Justin spooned coffee into the filter, Brody asked, "So, what's up with you guys this morning?"

"Oh," Justin said over his shoulder, "Gary's concert was Thursday night, and it was great. A really hot gay dude from Windsor was the guest conductor."

"Come on, Jus, how do you know he was gay? Your famous gaydar?"

Gary chuckled. "Well, in this case everybody knows the guy's gay."

"But hey, don't put down my gaydar. I've got a pretty interesting picture to prove how good it is."

Gary laughed out loud and Brody blushed.

"Don't rub it in, twerp!"

"Call me twerp again, and I might have to show the pic around."

He was talking about a very embarrassing picture of Brody, taken to pay off a bet about the reliability of his gaydar. Brody had bet Justin the previous summer that Dave Cromer was straight. And now Brody and Dave were a couple.

Thinking it best to change the subject, Justin said, "Gary's got some news, too."

"What's that, Gary?"

"I've been accepted at Indiana University, which was my first choice."

Brody got off the stool and hugged Gary. "Congratulations, guy! I'm happy for you. They must have a good music school, huh?"

Gary looked flustered. His pale skin blushed easily, and he was reddening at that moment. "Yuh, yeah," he stammered "it's a great school, and I think it's the right place for me."

"Now," Brody said, looking at Justin and raising an eyebrow, "if we could just get this guy to get off the pot and make up his mind . . . ."

Justin grinned. "Get off my back, okay? I'll make up my mind before they revoke my admission, or whatever it is they do when you wait too long to respond."

Later, after they'd finished their coffee, Justin asked, "Sarge, what are you doing this afternoon? Are you and the studly Dave gonna spend the afternoon fucking?"

Brody chuckled. "Someday, Jus, your mouth's gonna get you in big trouble. But for your information, the studly Dave and I are gonna plant shrubs this afternoon. He's got a contract to do the planting around one of the new houses in the Castlemaine subdivision, and the rain earlier this week put them behind. He and I are gonna do some work so his regular crew can have the weekend off."

"Oh, man, I can just see the two of you in your work boots and jeans, all muddy and sweaty! Hot, hot, hot!"

"Be still my heart!" Gary said, putting the back of his hand against his forehead in a theatrical manner.

"We need to get a hose and wet down you randy little fuckers," Brody said, laughing. "There'll be mud and sweat, sure enough. But the sexy part comes later, when we shower together and then get it on."

"Jesus!" Gary exclaimed.

"Yeah, Sarge, you're talking to a couple of horny teens here. No need to make the picture even sexier."

"You're the one that brought up the topic . . . twerp. So what are you guys up to when you leave here?"

Justin grinned. "Well, we were planning to go to the mall, grab some lunch, and see a flick. Now I'm thinking maybe we should find a private place and get naked."

Gary groaned.

Brody laughed. "Yeah, the pheromones in here are pretty thick. What's gonna happen when you two are on different campuses?"

"Good question," Gary said.

"Uh, yeah, we haven't worked that out yet," Justin said, having lost some of his self-assurance. Then he looked at Gary. "So, what do you say, Gare, ready to head out for the mall? I think I could manage a Whopper or two. How about you?"

Gary grinned. "Yeah, a whopper sounds good."

Laughing, Brody said, "You two aren't fooling me. I just wonder if either of you has a whopper to chew on."

"You had your chance to find out, jarhead," Justin said, grinning. "And as for my friend here, I'll never tell."

"Well, guys, have fun."

"Oh, we will, won't we Gare?"

Gary just blushed and shook his head.

In Justin's car, Gary said, "You're bad, you know that? I never know what you're going to say, and sometimes I want to jump in a hole and pull it in after me."

Justin snickered. "My hole isn't that big, dude, as you know. So, are you really hungry? And do you really wanna go to a movie this afternoon?"

Gary licked his lips and grinned. "Well, my folks are gone for the day. Won't be back until late tonight. We could go to my place after lunch and then go to the mall tonight."

"Lick your lips again and we won't make it to the BK."

They made quick work of their burgers, fries, and colas. When they got to the Kellers' house they ran up to Gary's room, where they shed their clothes as two teens will when they're getting ready to have sex. They'd done leisurely strip teases for each other before, and each had slowly removed the other's clothing. This time, however, it was simply a matter of getting naked as quickly as possible.

Gary pulled the duvet and top sheet off the bed. When he had done so, Justin pushed him back onto the bed and fell on top of him. Their faces were together and they began to kiss. But because of the difference in their height, Justin could feel Gary's hot, rigid cock along the bottom of his balls and his perineum, the head just poking into his ass crack. His own tool was mashed against Gary's abdomen. Stimulated from the tip of his penis all the way to his anus, he felt ready to explode. But that wasn't what he had in mind. Not yet.

Pushing his knees into the mattress, he raised his hips. Gary's now-free cock flopped up, smacking against his own stomach. Justin lowered himself once more, and the two boys ground their pelvises against each other as they eagerly explored each other's mouths to the accompaniment of moans and grunts. Long before either of them was ready for it to happen, both powerfully unloaded their seed. Justin, who'd been resting his weight on his elbows, collapsed onto Gary. Then he wiggled around a little, enjoying the slippery feeling of the warm semen trapped between their chests and abdomens. Gary giggled and they lay still.

After a few minutes Gary wrapped his arms around Justin and rolled them both over onto their sides.

"That was great, ba-uh, Jus, but I couldn't breathe."

"Sorry, Gare."

They lay there content, enjoying the warm haze that comes at such times.

And they awoke three hours later.

"Geez, man, we're stuck together."

"Ouch! Damn!"

They pulled apart, breaking the patches of dried semen.

"I didn't think I was sleepy, but that was nice. I always sleep best when your arms are around me," Gary said.

Justin turned his head and licked his friend's ear. "Yeah. You wanna take a shower or are we gonna fuck?"

They chose the second option and then they showered.

* * *

Justin and his dad had resumed their habit of running together before breakfast as soon as the winter snow cover melted and they were able to run on more or less dry pavement.

When Justin was little, Larry had taught him how to hold a bat, had taken him to his T-ball and later little league games whenever his teaching schedule permitted. As he grew older, Larry took him to Detroit and Cleveland to see big league games several times a summer. Father and son had always enjoyed each other's company.

Like Moira, Larry had been perfectly accepting and supportive after Justin had come out to them. Both parents had been truly surprised when he told them, when he was 15. They say parents often have a sense when they have a gay child, but Justin had been all boy, an excellent athlete. Whatever they may have felt privately, they didn't even make him feel guilty by talking about the grandchildren they'd hoped for. Justin had pretty much fought his own battles so far as being gay was concerned, but he always knew his folks were there whenever he needed them.

They never complained when he got his ears pierced and began to wear a small stud in each ear. They didn't even complain when, in his junior year he let his hair grow long and began wearing it in a pony tail - though they both told him they were happy when, after he met Brody, he started wearing it short again.

Sometimes as Larry and Justin ran the only sounds were those of traffic and their feet slapping on the pavement. Sometimes they talked.

"So, Gary's going to Indiana," Larry said.

"Uh huh."

"How do you feel about that?"

"I'm glad for him. It's where he really wants to go."

"And being apart won't be a problem for you two?"

"Well, it's pretty much in the cards, isn't it, Dad? I mean, I don't want to go there, so we're gonna have to be apart."

"Son, from what you're telling me, it sounds as if you and Gary aren't as close as I thought you were."

"Shit, Dad! I'm trying to be mature here, to do the grown-up thing. Gary wants me to come to Bloomington with him. But I just can't see it."

"Don't be upset with me, Justin. I'm only trying to understand."

"Okay. Sorry."

"Have you decided where you do want to go to college?"

"What's wrong with Colby State?"

"Well, for one thing, your old man's on the faculty here. And not only that, if you're really serious about majoring in architecture, you'd be in my department."

"Is that a problem for you?" Justin turned his head toward his father and smiled.

"Not at all. I just thought it might be one for you."

"Would you be happier if I went to Case Western or Carnegie Mellon?"

"They both have excellent departments. So does OSU. Don't worry about what I want. Just do what you want, Son, please."

"Okay. I know I have to make a decision soon. I promise I'll think about it."

"You really need to shit or get off the pot, you know."

Justin laughed.

"What's funny?"

"That's just what Brody said when he was lecturing me on the same subject."

"Justin, do you think I'm lecturing you?"

"No, Dad. I'm sorry. I know you just want what's best for me. Like I said, I'll figure it out soon, okay?"

"Okay, dude," Larry said, grinning at him. Then he speeded up and talk ended. Justin kept pace as they sprinted for home.

* For the story of Hardy and Matt, see Paul Daventon's "Dukes of Windsor," on the Nifty Archive (Gay/Relationships, April 17, 2006).