Title:  LOVING:  The Beginning -- Thunderclaps & Whispers

 

Contemporary

Author:  lucel

Characters: Ryan/Andrew

Implement:  Hand

 

 

 

 

Through shadows slowly shifting

I saw many lonely days;

Alone and lowly drifting--

Rain often on my ways.

 

No arms were there to hold me,

No fire burned to warm me.

No comfort could enfold me,

Just fear was there, to harm me.

 

Song whispered on air,

But I just couldn’t hear

’Till love’s steady care

Allayed all my fear.

 

Now Loving rules heart

And binds every tie,

No longer apart,

Our Loving flies high.

 

Love takes us higher--

As high as the sky--

Shines us with fire

And thunders on high.

 

Thunder from a freaky Indian Summer storm rumbled across The City; inky black clouds swirled overhead promising rain and menacing the residential neighborhood near the Presidio Wall. The taxi pulled into the driveway of a three-story Victorian row house, one of San Francisco’s “painted ladies.”  Wearing a United Airlines uniform with the insignia of a senior pilot, a tall blond man got out and paid the driver.  Aware of the impending storm, he grabbed his garment bag and chart case and hurried up the front steps to the big red door.  He pushed down on the antique door handle with a free elbow, only to let out a frustrated moan of annoyance when it didn’t open. 

 

“Andrew must have forgotten to unlock the front door…” he muttered to himself as he set the chart bag down to push on the doorbell.  Thinking of his younger partner made him smile.  His blue eyes brushed affectionately over the names on the simple brass plaque under the bell:   Ryan Williams and Andrew Stewart-Williams.  

 

Ryan remembered meeting Andrew Stewart exactly one year ago today at Gary’s party to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving.  Andrew was playing guitar along with some other musicians to help keep the evening lively. Taking a break, he had just poured himself a glass of Sangria at the party bar before whirling around and spraying most of his drink on Ryan as he turned.  For a frozen moment, Andrew’s totally stunned gray eyes locked on to Ryan’s just as stunned blue. Then both had shocked their host by exploding into laughter.  Ryan remembered how much he wanted even then just to hold the younger man who was doing his best to blot Ryan’s slacks and sweater with a bar towel.  What a way to meet!

 

They didn’t really mingle much with the other guests after that, and Ryan could still remember how impressed Andrew had been that the older man was a pilot.  He could remember how it felt to dance with Andrew for the first time, how hot he looked swaying and bumping, lost in the music, how they enflamed each other with hot touches and smoldering looks.  Then the tempo had changed and they slow danced with the music whispering around them.  Ryan couldn’t help noticing how Andrew’s dark hair fell into unruly curls over one eyebrow, how his head just rested naturally on Ryan’s shoulder, how the two men seemed to move together with one mind. 

 

After waiting through several informal sets of folk/rock and party sing-alongs to talk to Andrew and to dance during the breaks, it felt very natural for Ryan to invite Andrew home when the party broke up in the early morning hours.  Andrew was glad to accept, especially when Ryan’s extremely blue eyes were so full of smoldering promise, and Andrew would be able to sleep in a real bed instead of on the sofa in a friend’s apartment.

 

After leaving Gary’s place near the Marina, they collected Ryan’s Volvo and started driving down Chestnut.  Despite the threat of a rare fall storm, they enjoyed trading sultry looks, then cracking up from nerves, sheer good humor, and a shared enjoyment of the ridiculous.  Andrew was excited and impressed when Ryan turned onto lively Union Street. 

 

“Wow, do you live near Union Street?” he asked.  “I just love this neighborhood, especially with all the interesting shops and restaurants and old Victorians everywhere.  Sometimes we play a gig in the courtyard of that gallery.” He nodded to a blue and white converted Victorian on his side of the car

 

“Yes, I have a house just down at the end here by the Presidio Wall.   I’ve lived there since my parents passed on a couple of years ago and left it to me,” Ryan explained. 

 

“Oh, I’m sorry you lost your family.  But I guess it’s nice you could keep your home…”  Andrew’s voice was a little wistful.  Then he turned to Ryan and said with a suggestive smirk, “I’m glad I was able to ‘share’ my Sangria with you.”  He reached over to touch Ryan’s sweater where the red liquid had left a trail. Ryan’s stomach was firm to the touch, and Andrew’s long graceful musician’s hand followed the red “trail” down to impressive hardness straining Ryan’s dark grey slacks.  When Andrew touched him, Ryan became even harder, and the roomy blue Volvo seemed to get very warm.

 

Ryan was glad to get home…  His heartfelt excitement was evident when he turned into the driveway, then opened the door for Andrew, stopping only for a kiss full of promise by the front door.  They kissed again in the kitchen where Ryan grabbed two bottles of water, and again on the stairway.  Andrew loved how Ryan kept his hand in the small of his back as they made their way upstairs to the big master bedroom.  Ryan loved the look and feel of Andrew’s perfect bubble butt, just begging to be stroked as the younger man took the stairs. 

 

The bay window at one end of the room looked out onto the Presidio and a stand of Eucalyptus trees, which were tossing and bending with the wind heralding the autumn rainstorm.  When Ryan kissed Andrew there, their tongues touched, first tentative, then electric and demanding, tasting each other until they were out of breath and both fell together onto the suede duvet of Ryan’s big bed, their knees suddenly gone weak. 

 

They laughed, and Ryan pushed Andrew back onto the cushions, then ran his hands under Andrew’s shirt, feeling his trim shape as he lifted the shirt over Andrew’s head to reveal the young man’s well defined chest.  Ryan sat back, his face a study of appreciative enjoyment.  Andrew looked beautiful reclining on the blue and beige silk of the cushions.  His well-toned body was lightly tanned, with the smooth contours of his chest set off by darker nipples.  In the soft light, his eyes looked almost black, and his eyelashes were long and sweeping.  His face was strong, with clean, young lines; his full lips were slightly parted with his tongue resting suggestively on his full lower lip.  His hair was dark and curly, and he had the look of a demented Renaissance angel, maybe a bit too mischievous for heaven…  As if in answer to Ryan’s thought, Andrew smiled a perfectly wanton smile and reached for Ryan’s shirt, which was soon lying on the floor. 

 

Eager to see the rest of him, Ryan took hold of Andrew’s dark jeans to undo the button, release the zip, and pull them off.  The younger man had worn no socks or briefs to the party, and Ryan was impressed to see that he was very well endowed.  Perhaps his cock was not so long as Ryan’s own, but it was thick and perfectly shaped, already hard and leaking pre-cum.  Jettisoning his own slacks and underwear in record time, Ryan loved the welcome in Andrew’s strong arms as Ryan laid his longer body down on top of the younger man, Ryan’s own hard erection seeking and rubbing against Andrew’s. 

 

There was heat between them and want, and need, and desire.  Kisses and tongues tasted and touched, teeth gently nipped, and urgent fingers caressed skin and combed through hair.  Ryan had just enough presence of mind to reach for lube and condom on the nightstand.  He ripped its foil wrapper open with his teeth, and then handed the condom to Andrew to smooth onto Ryan’s cock.  With lust and something deeper in his eyes, Ryan lifted Andrew’s legs to Ryan’s strong shoulders, first warming the lube on his fingers, then inserting one finger, then two, then three in Andrew’s sweet ass. 

 

Andrew moaned raising his seeking gray eyes to Ryan’s hot gaze.  “Please, Ryan, please…take me now.”  Ryan was happy to comply, replacing his fingers with the head of his cock, finally thrusting slowly but firmly all the way in. Andrew huffed, giving Ryan a sweet knowing look as he used his muscles to give Ryan’s cock a welcoming squeeze.  Ryan bent down and kissed Andrew’s swollen lips before pulling out with a twist, then entering with a quicker thrust, grazing Andrew’s sweet spot. 

 

“Oh, Ryan!  So good!  Come on, come on….ohhh.”  Andrew’s head thrashed from side to side, and Ryan lifted the younger man’s hips raising Andrew up until he was practically resting on his shoulders.  The rising storm became a continuous rumble of sound as the two men established a rhythm with Ryan fisting Andrew’s cock as he moved.  Then with a final thrust, Andrew’s sweet cum was splashing over both of them while Ryan filled the condom deep inside of Andrew.  Ryan’s deep throated cry echoed around the room as the first thunderclap released the driving rain outside.

 

They relaxed into the crisp coolness of the sheets, Andrew’s head cushioned on Ryan’s chest.  “That was wonderful,” Andrew whispered almost one with the muted sound of rain whispering in the background.

 

“It was great,” Ryan agreed.  “I have never felt this relaxed before.  We must have known each other in anoth…”  Then Ryan noticed that Andrew was asleep.  Ryan smiled and pulled him closer still, listening to the steady patter of rain outside.  The next thing either of them knew, it was morning.

 

They hit it off, and their one night stand grew into a long weekend, then into a steady arrangement.  They were able to get together once or twice a week when Ryan was in town and not flying to some exotic, foreign place.  Then one Saturday in early February, they had agreed to meet on the green in front of the old chocolate factory at Ghirardelli Square.  The plan was to get a quick meal then go to see “Lord of the Rings” at the big Imax theater in the Metreon complex down on Market Street.

 

The day was a bit blustery, but Ryan could see there were a lot of people taking advantage of the early spring sunshine.  There were the ever present runners in sweats and wind breakers.  Youngsters flew kites in shapes ranging from cartoon characters to colorful Chinese dragons.  Lovers of assorted colors, shapes, and combinations strolled hand in hand.  “Cool” teens slouched along in look-alike groups.  Tourists stopped for photos or to look at jewelry, craft items, or artwork displayed along the way by hopeful artists and street merchants. 

 

Suddenly, as Ryan came onto the green, he noticed a fairly large crowd in front of a motley group of musicians including some steel drummers.  The music was lively, and they were just finishing a set with a challenge riff between one of the drummers and a guitarist.  An open guitar case had already acquired a fairly decent spread of largesse from the crowd.

 

Ryan had to smile when he realized the guitarist was Andrew.  He wore a deep red Tee over black jeans which showed every straining muscle of his lithe form as he concentrated on the big finish.  Seeing Andrew’s dark curls falling forward and almost touching his eyes after each crashing chord, Ryan couldn’t help thinking that Andrew looked slightly dangerous, slightly disheveled, and very fuckable.  Ryan shivered in the gusty wind, and he realized that Andrew also looked cold.  Ryan wanted to shelter him in his arms, somehow keep Andrew for himself and safe and warm. 

 

The crowd started clapping, and some walked forward to add to the loot in the guitar case.  Andrew flashed his bright smile in thanks, but the smile faded into irritated apprehension when two taller men in black leather approached him, with one of them taking him by the arm.  Andrew was shaking his head “no” and trying to pull away when Ryan came up to them.

 

Andrew was saying, “No, I’m not going with you.  I’m not into that, and I certainly don’t want your money!  Let me go!”

 

“Come on, Banjo Boy.  We know you put out.  All of you street musicians are just hustlers.  Now, come on!”  The man tugged Andrew’s arm pulling him in the direction of the nearby car park.

 

Ryan reached out and spun the man around and away from Andrew.  Exerting all the command of his most authoritative senior pilot’s voice, Ryan lashed out at the men.  “Leave my partner alone!  He wants nothing to do with you!  Now get out of here!”

 

The men stumbled in their hurry to get away leaving Ryan to turn to Andrew, whose eyes were tearing up as he shivered with shock and cold.  Without a word he moved into Ryan’s strong arms. 

 

“Ryan,” Andrew whispered, burrowing into Ryan’s chest while Ryan rubbed comforting circles on his back.  Andrew could not believe how right this felt, how safe.  Suddenly Andrew pulled back, his hands gripping Ryan’s forearms, his dark eyes enormous.  What did you say?  Partner!?  Did you just call me your Partner?!?”

 

Andrew could not believe it!  Then, taking one look at Ryan’s shocked face, Andrew didn’t believe it.  First his face fell, and then his dark eyes sparkled, and he couldn’t hold back his giggles at the play of emotion that flowed over Ryan’s face:  everything from consternation to silly smile to irritated frown to worried regret.

 

Interpreting Ryan’s expressions and shocked silence, Andrew was slightly rueful as he comforted his taller friend.  “Aw, don’t worry, Ryan.  I know you only said it to get rid of those guys…  Hey, I really am glad to see you, you know.”  Andrew gave Ryan a little shake and was rewarded with Ryan’s ready smile.  “And those guys weren’t much, not really.”  Andrew knew from experience that the unpleasant incident could have been much worse.  There were always one or two in the crowd who thought street musicians were also hustlers and didn’t like taking “no” for an answer. Playing alone or in a small group was dangerous, but they all learned to deal with the hurtful difficulties, and some guys did hustle on the side. 

 

“Are you finished here, Andrew?  Can you leave?  And do you still want to catch that movie at the Metreon?  Whatever we do, let’s get out of this wind… aren’t you cold?  Where’s your coat?”  Ryan enjoyed the sight of Andrew bending over to pack up his guitar.  Andrew was just starting to answer when one of the other musicians came up and handed Andrew some of the “donations” from the crowd.

 

“Hey, Man.  Sorry it’s so little.  We had to share with all those drummers today.  Maybe we’ll do better tomorrow.  You coming tomorrow?”

 

Andrew nodded as he counted what there was.  Ryan watched Andrew’s face fall, but then Andrew looked up, caught Ryan looking, and smiled with a jaunty air as he stuffed the money in his jeans. 

 

“Yeah, I’ll show,” he said to the other musician, then hesitated.  “Say, Joey, do you and Jim have room?  Could I crash on your sofa tonight?” 

 

“Sure, Man.  Just ring the bell…”  Joey wandered away, and Andrew was suddenly conscious of Ryan giving him a very quizzical look.

 

“What?” Andrew asked lifting one eyebrow back. 

 

“You’re going to ‘crash’ with Joey?” 

 

Andrew looked embarrassed.  “Let’s go drink something hot at the Florentine Cafe before we head over to the Metreon, OK?

 

Ryan was all affability.  “Fine,” he said.  “After we order, we can talk.”  There was a touch of iron in the no nonsense way Ryan’s hand on Andrew’s back steered him along to the nearby café.  Andrew enjoyed the attention but felt just a bit of apprehension. 

 

Finally they were sitting at a small window table overlooking the Marina with mugs of steaming lemon grass tea in front of them.  Ryan insisted that they talk by placing a gentle finger under Andrew’s chin and turning him to meet Ryan’s inquisitive blue eyes.  “Andrew, why are you crashing at Joey’s?  I thought you had your own place.” Ryan was very direct.  “I thought you just played out here for fun.”

 

“Well, when the money is good, I get a room at this little hotel down on Leavenworth Street.  But sometimes, I try to stretch my money by staying with some of the guys.  If the tourists are out, there’s usually pretty good money.” Andrew’s explanation was extremely reasonable and straightforward.  “And sometimes I can get pick up work on a construction crew or at the temp agency.”

 

Ryan was appalled.  He hadn’t realized that Andrew had no steady job and depended on donations to earn money for food and lodging.  And he certainly hadn’t realized that Andrew had no permanent address, and that he usually stayed where ever there was room for him among his fellow musicians or friends. 

 

Ryan watched as Andrew sipped at his tea, loving the way his full lips gingerly kissed the edge of the hot cup.  He felt an intense desire to take care of Andrew, to make sure he wasn’t cold and had money for food.  He needed to know that all was well with the younger man.  Ryan had been uneasy all the time he had been flying to Japan and back on his most recent trip.  It felt as though he were listening for whispers that were just out of hearing. 

 

Suddenly, he realized with a thunderclap of clarity that he had been missing Andrew.  Ryan wanted to be with him, share jokes and irritations with him.  All of his friends told Ryan he was too serious, but when he was with Andrew, Ryan smiled all of the time and even laughed occasionally.  Suddenly, Ryan needed the younger man.  Yeah, that was it; Ryan ached to be with him.  Suddenly, Ryan’s smile was full-blown and happy. He reached over and took Andrew’s hand.

 

“Andrew, I think we should do it,” Ryan said with a serious twinkle.

 

Looking slightly puzzled, Andrew looked at Ryan’s strong hand holding his and said, “Do what?”

 

“What I said on the green:  be partners.  I want us to commit to being partners.”

 

“What did you say?”  To Ryan, Andrew looked befuddled-- adorably confused-- as if he couldn’t believe his ears.

 

“I want us to be partners.  I want you to live with me.  I want to see you every morning and all the time I can.  I want you to help me fill up my house with your things…your music…you.  I want to tell you things that happen at work.  I want to know where you are everyday and what you are wearing… I want you to know about me.  I want us to take care of each other.  I want us to cook together, shower together, sleep together.  I’m tired of being alone… And I love you.”  Taking note of the younger man’s flabbergasted expression, Ryan was moved to ask, “Don’t you want to be with me?”  Ryan’s eager smile turned a bit anxious as he waited for Andrew’s response.  “Well?  Cat got your tongue?”  He gave Andrew’s hand a little shake.

 

Suddenly Andrew jumped up from his chair and threw himself at Ryan, who stood up just in time to catch an armful of very excited young man.  “Oh, Ryan!  Of course, I want to be with you.  I just can’t believe it! Yes!  Yes! I want to be your partner! I love you, I love you, too!”  Andrew pulled Ryan’s head down and began to cover his face with kisses.

 

Laughing at Andrew’s antics, but very pleased, Ryan cautioned, “Andrew!  Remember where we are!” He thought briefly about pulling back, but he just wanted to hold his amazing young man.

 

Looking around, Andrew could see that everyone in the café was staring at them.  He couldn’t wait to share his excitement, even with a café full of strangers.  “We’re going to be partners; Ryan just asked me!”  His dark eyes sparkled with happiness, and his smile just beamed.  It seemed entirely appropriate that the whole place exploded into applause and calls of “Congratulations!”  Before things had a chance to calm down, the management brought out one of their famous “cable car” shaped, double “ding ding” chocolate cakes with “I Left My Heart” written across the top in almond icing.  A tourist at the next table snapped a Polaroid of the two men cutting the cake, and it seemed to be “official”:  they were committed!  Ryan had to laugh as he whispered to his new partner, “Only in San Francisco could all of this happen so easily!”

 

The rest of the weekend was spent making plans and moving Andrew into Ryan’s house, working to make it into ‘their’ new home.  Ryan was both appalled and somehow not too surprised to discover that Andrew had “things” stashed all around the city.  There was a suitcase and a box of CD’s in a locker at the bus depot, some clothes at Joey’s, another suitcase at the hotel on Leavenworth, and some music at another musician’s place. 

 

For Andrew all the changes came together when Ryan pulled into a Home Depot.  “Ryan, why are we stopping here?” he asked. 

 

“Come in and see.”  Ryan’s answering smile was warm and teasing.

 

Ryan led the way to the department with brass doorknobs and house numbers.  “Could you show us some brass plaques?” he asked the clerk.  “And do you do engraving?”  The clerk nodded and showed them where to find the brass plates.  Ryan picked out a plate edged in fancy scrollwork, and Andrew was mystified.

 

“What will we be doing with that?” he asked.

 

“Come and see,” Ryan said again.  He took the plate to the clerk at the engraving work bench.  “We want to have our names centered here using that antique font.  Put Ryan Williams and Andrew Stewart…”  He turned to his beaming partner.  “Or should we make it ‘Stewart-Williams’?”

 

“Oh, Ryan!  I would love to share your name!”  Andrew’s eyes were suspiciously bright.  It was a great moment when they actually attached the plaque to the wall near the red door at the front of “their” house, and Ryan insisted on throwing Andrew over his shoulder to carry his very happy partner “over the threshold” and up to “their” bedroom.

 

As time went on, Ryan was glad to learn how much Andrew appreciated and needed having more structure in his life.  Since Andrew’s parents had died in an accident when he was 18, he had been alone and scrambling to support himself, drifting from place to place and job to job.  There had been no extra money for him to go on to college.  He had tried to work in construction, short order cooking, house cleaning, and car parking, but nothing had worked out for him.  When the actual money from his parents’ estate ran out, he sold everything he could.  Everything, that is, except his guitar.  He liked to play, either solo or jamming with other musicians.  When they played on the street, sometimes passers-by dropped money, which all the musicians shared at the end of the day. 

 

Making music was the one thing Andrew had done that he liked and that he felt he had any talent doing.  On sunny days being a street musician had paid more than any of the other little jobs he could find.  However, some days were gray with rain in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Andrew and his friends could earn no money.  Also, as Ryan had seen on the day he and Andrew had committed, the street work left all the musicians vulnerable to dangerous situations.  The crowds drawn by the music often included individuals looking for something more than music.  The musicians tried to help each other deal with the difficulties, but all of them knew being on the street could be dangerous.

 

For Andrew, he found that the less he cared, the less he paid attention to worrisome detail, the easier it was for him to feel invisible, to feel the illusion of safety inside the music.  Then he met Ryan, and his whole life changed again.  At first, Andrew could hardly believe that the handsome pilot was really interested in him.  But it had all felt so right:  they talked, they touched, and they made love with many a thunderclap of sensation and feeling, and lots of warm humor. 

 

As for Ryan, he knew he needed Andrew to bring life and warmth into his rather regimented and solitary existence. Andrew knew that Ryan made him want to be a better person, to have the comfort of more order in his life.  As with any new couple, they had had some difficulties adjusting to each other.  Ryan wanted to know that Andrew was safe and not working the tourist crowds.  Andrew had to get along and keep everything going without Ryan when the pilot would be scheduled to fly for several days at a time. 

 

Then, when Andrew felt anxious about not working, Ryan suggested he enroll at San Francisco State University before looking for a steady job.   With Ryan’s encouragement, Andrew had enrolled in the School of Performance Art and Music.  Together the couple worked on a schedule for Andrew, merging his new schedule with Ryan’s United Airlines flight assignments.  They were busy, but still found time they could spend together.  They loved shopping and cooking together, going for long walks in the San Francisco mist, or curling up together on the sofa with something to read or a good video to watch. 

 

Later, however, as the school year progressed, Ryan would come home expecting Andrew to be there, and the house would be dark.  No Andrew.  Hours later, he would arrive with tales of missed buses, late study groups, or just forgetting the time.  When Ryan complained, Andrew either went silent or hurled abuse at Ryan with an ease that living on the streets had given him but that shocked Ryan to hear.  When Andrew began missing meals and “didn’t have time” for helping with the chores of the house, Ryan finally insisted that they “talk.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Pushing on the front doorbell one more time and wondering again where Andrew was, Ryan remembered how it had been the day that he and Andrew agreed that Ryan should “take charge.”  Just as he seemed to be doing today, Ryan had come home to an absent Andrew.  The night before, they had talked by telephone, and Ryan had confirmed that Andrew’s schedule would allow him to be home when Ryan got there.  They had made plans to get a gyro together at the Greek place on Union Street.  Several hours late, Andrew had come trailing in. 

 

“Oh, Ryan,” he said, “I forgot the time jamming with some guys at the student union.  I hope you weren’t worried…”

 

Ryan fought the urge to yell and responded quite calmly, “Why should I be worried? You were only two hours late for a date we made just last night!  Andrew!  This is just unacceptable.  At least if you are going to be late, you should let me know.  But it isn’t only about me:  it’s about how you just aren’t on top of everything you have to do.  You can’t just drop all your commitments and ‘jam with the guys’!  How would it make you feel if you came home and found me missing?”

 

“I would feel terrible; I guess I’d feel as though I didn’t matter very much to you,” Andrew’s tone was very earnest, and his gray eyes almost black with unshed tears.  “Please, Ryan, don’t be upset with me.  You know I want to do what’s best for us…”

 

“Yeah, I know, Babe, I know.”  Ryan took Andrew in his arms for a fierce hug, and then drew him over to the sofa.  “Sit down; we need to talk this through.  I’ve been thinking about something I read about on the internet:  that we ought to try to set some rules that will help both of us to keep focused on our priorities.  This is something I’ve had to learn for when I am responsible for an airplane full of passengers, and that kind of focused commitment is what we need in our partnership… from both of us.  It may be a new idea to you, but I will take it as my responsibility to be sure you learn it and understand because I care about you, and I need to know you are safe, make sure you are all right.  I’ve been researching this, and it’s something that could benefit us both.  I want to put some discipline into our relationship.  Using discipline will help us to focus.  We know we love each other.  We also have to trust each other if we want to make this work.”

 

“You mean you would discipline me if I broke our rules,” Andrew asked with some alarm, “You would actually beat me?  Isn’t that a little kinky?”

 

“No, I would never beat you, but I would spank your bare behind! Or I might punish you in some lesser way depending on what you might have done that was against our rules.  It wouldn’t happen because we want to do something kinky, but because we want that edge of accountability… For me… I need to do this… I need to do all that I can to be sure you stay safe.  I need to know that we are staying focused on what is important to us.  For this to work for us, I need to be in charge.  You would agree to accept my judgment.”  Ryan was rubbing soothing circles on Andrew’s back.  “What do you think, Babe?”

 

“I think I would be willing.  I want to know someone cares what I do, and I don’t want to disappoint you.  I need to know that I have a real place in this partnership, to know that I’m expected to live up to something…  I think one of our rules should be to keep our schedules, to keep our promises to each other.  Or if we can’t, we should at least call.  Is that a good rule?”  Andrew turned so he could look into Ryan’s eyes.

 

“Yep, that’s a good one.  And keeping the schedules also means we won’t be late for classes, work, or appointments.    Also, we should agree that we will not curse each other, and we won’t do any drugs or anything else unhealthy or that puts us at too much risk. Oh, and there won’t be any more of that street work, OK?”  Ryan was glad to see Andrew nodding in agreement:  Now for the next part of his plan. 

 

Ryan went to his pilot’s chart case that accompanied him whenever he flew.  He quickly found a package nicely wrapped in handmade Japanese rice paper.  “I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and I picked this up when I flew to Tokyo last week.  Here, why don’t you open it?”

 

Andrew loved mysterious packages, and he spent a moment turning the gift around several times in his hands.  Presents had not come his way very often in the last few years.  Carefully, he eased the rice paper open to find a good sized book bound in soft leather.  The paper pages were supple and imprinted only with lines.  A loop to hold a pen was attached, as was a heavy red silk bookmark.  Andrew loved the simple yet rich feel which made it seem that only important things should be written there.  “This is beautiful, Ryan,” he said.  “Is it meant to be a journal?” he asked stroking the leather binding.

 

“Yeah, it’s meant to be a journal of sorts:  I want you to keep it as a record of our partnership.  I want you to write down all the important things we set as rules.  And from time to time, you may have to repeat writing some lines to help you focus on something I see as a problem for you.”  With the calm authority that Andrew had come to associate with his tall partner, Ryan continued.  “Everything that goes in the book will mean something important to us.”  He drew his young partner into his arms.  “Well, Andrew, what do you think?”

 

“I think I am glad I met you, Ryan Williams.  Come here, partner,” Andrew practically purred as he demonstrated his approval with a soul-searing kiss that left both men somewhat breathless.  Ryan recovered first, pushed Andrew to his feet, and then stood in front of Andrew.  Reaching into his inside pocket he pulled out his cross pen in pilot’s blue and handed it to Andrew.  “Well, let’s get started.”

 

“What?” Andrew all but squawked. 

 

“Put today’s date on the top of the first lined page, and then write down what we have come up with so far.  After that, I want you to write 20 times ‘I won’t be late, and I’ll keep every date so Ryan won’t have to wait.’   Do you think you can do that?”  Ryan was very definite and clear.

 

“Of course, I can do it…  But Ryan, do we have to do it now?”  There was a hint of whine in Andrew’s voice.  “I thought we were going to eat!”

 

“Andrew, do it now!” Ryan’s voice was flinty and full of command, and Andrew jumped.  “The sooner you get to work, the sooner we can both eat!”  Ryan pointed at the table in the dining room, and Andrew sat down without another word, his cheeks flaming.

 

All that could be heard for the next half hour was Andrew’s busy pen; Ryan just sat and waited with his eyes shut.  Finally, Andrew put down the pen and brought the leather journal over to show Ryan.  “Is this all right?” Andrew asked all but holding his breath.

 

“It’s perfect,” replied Ryan standing up to catch Andrew in another hug. 

 

“Ah, Ryan…”

 

“What, Babe?”

 

“What about dinner?  After all that ‘food for thought,’ I’m starving!”

 

Both men laughed into another kiss and a mutual hug, then turned their minds towards eating.  “Now, how about that Greek dinner?” said Ryan.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Finally setting everything down on the porch, a very disappointed Ryan began digging into his chart case to find his house keys.  Soon he had the door unlocked, and just in case, he went into the house calling “Andrew!  Andrew, are you home?”

 

 Ryan dropped his bags in the front hall and picked up and briefly checked the mail.  He went into the kitchen hoping to find a note on the fridge or anywhere else, but there wasn’t one.  Nor was there any relevant message on the telephone.  This hadn’t happened for weeks.  At first, after they had agreed on setting rules, Andrew had been very conscientious about keeping them.  Then one day, he had been inexplicably late, and Ryan had been very worried, wondering if he was going to show up for dinner or if he was stranded somewhere.

 

Andrew finally rolled in well after nine pm. 

 

“Andrew, where were you?  Didn’t you know you were late?  Why didn’t you call?  I was imagining all sorts of things…”  Ryan’s tone was measured and severe.

 

“Oh, Ryan, I had some extra time, so I thought I would get started on the research for my paper.  I was in the stacks, and I just forgot the time.  I’m sorry you were worried, but I can take care of myself, you know.”  Andrew’s voice was just a little on the defensive side.

 

“Well, Andrew, you know what we’ve agreed.  Now put your things down, and come here,” Ryan turned a kitchen chair around and sat down, waiting.

 

“Ryan, you aren’t serious.  I told you what happened; you aren’t going to punish me for that, are you?”  Andrew’s eyes were big.  “…Just because I lost track of time?”

 

“And you didn’t call, and you didn’t pay attention to the fact that it was getting dark outside… Now come here and drop your pants.”

 

With an incredulous look, Andrew did as he was told.  Ryan pulled the younger man across his knees and held him firmly.  He quickly pulled Andrew’s briefs down to his knees exposing his firm young behind.  Ryan rested his hand in the center, and then asked, “Now why are you being spanked?”

 

“Because I was late and broke our rules by not calling you.  I’ll try not to do that again.” Andrew’s voice was a breathy whisper…

 

“Let’s hope this will remind you of our agreement!”  With that Ryan dropped his hand with a thunderous smack and enough force to leave a red hand print on Andrew’s bottom.  He yelped in shock.  This was followed by a veritable rain of random blows that quickly turned the younger man’s creamy skin to a deep pulsing red.  At first Andrew was fairly quiet, but as the pain mounted, he finally broke down into hitching sobs that hurt Ryan to hear.  They had agreed to this, however, and Ryan was not about to let Andrew down.  Finally, the blows stopped, and Ryan pulled his partner onto his lap for a hug. 

 

“Shh, Shh, it’s all right now, it’s over.  I love you so much, Andrew,” he said comfortingly.  “I know you didn’t mean to do it, and I know you are going to try to do better.  And I will help you, you can count on it.” 

 

Andrew wasn’t sure if that was a threat or a promise!  He just knew he would do anything not to disappoint Ryan again. 

 

“Let’s go upstairs now,” Ryan’s voice was soothing, but strong.  “Let’s get you a warm shower and into bed.  You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

 

And surprisingly, enough, they both had felt better.  Andrew had a few more lapses, but he was becoming more and more easy about controlling the detail in his life, and Ryan felt very strongly that he could count on Andrew.  Every time they worked out a special schedule for Andrew to keep while Ryan was gone on one of his long flying assignments, Andrew had been meticulous about accomplishing every task.  Both of them had been proud of their progress as a partnership.   Now, here he was, missing again.

 

Ryan sighed.  …So much for his anniversary surprise.  He had made reservations for the two of them to have dinner at Julius’ Castle over in North Beach high on the hill near the old Coit Tower Lighthouse.  They both loved the beautiful view of the Bay almost as much as the culinary masterpieces the three-star restaurant was famous for producing.  Then he had hoped they could go dancing at The Endup, the very “in” dance club that they both enjoyed. 

 

While he was in Hong Kong, Ryan had had a set of platinum rings made which he wanted to give to Andrew tonight.  “Ryan’s” was engraved on the inside of Andrew’s ring, and “Andrew’s” was engraved on the inside of Ryan’s.  After a year together, Ryan thought it was time they showed something tangible to the world.  He wondered when he would finally see his partner… It was already dark, after 7 pm.

 

Turning lights on as he went, Ryan took his bags upstairs, dropping the chart bag off in the upstairs study and the garment bag in the bedroom.  He was soon in the shower, then in some comfortable sweats.  He retrieved the red silk presentation box from the pocket of his uniform and opened it to look at the rings nestled inside.  He was hoping quite fiercely that Andrew would get home in time to salvage the evening.

 

He was just thinking of going downstairs to try to call Andrew’s cell phone and to make himself some tea when the phone rang. 

 

“Hello? Andrew is that you?”

 

Ryan was totally surprised when the caller laughed, then said, “No, it is not!  It’s Gary.  Andrew said you would be expecting him!”

 

“You’ve spoken to Andrew?  Where the hell is he?  I really need to get in touch with him.  I was just getting ready to try to phone him again.”

 

“Well, Andrew convinced me to undertake something for him, so that’s why I’m calling.  He wanted me to tell you that something very important has come up, and he made me promise that I would bring you where he is because he couldn’t get to you soon enough.” Gary laughed, and then continued.  “In fact, I’m supposed to get us there as fast as you can be ready.  He told me to tell you that you need to wear a tie.  …Unfortunately.  So when can you be ready?”

 

Gary, what in the world is going on?  Andrew shouldn’t get you involved in our problems.”  Ryan was irritated that his young partner had dragged Gary into whatever problem was developing.  “Where does he want me to come; why wasn’t he here when I got home as we had planned?” 

 

“Well, Ryan, I am not entirely certain.  How soon shall I pick you up?”  Gary was all business, but Ryan was glad not to hear any anxiety in Gary’s voice. 

 

“Give me about 15 minutes, and just pull into the driveway when you get here.  I’ll be watching for you.”  Ryan was still more than a little bit conflicted about Andrew sending Gary to pick him up.  He just hoped nothing was wrong.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Andrew Stewart-Williams kept looking at his watch as he paced up and down the utility corridor in back of the bar of the renowned Oak Room of the Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square.  He practically jumped out of his skin when the cell phone in his pocket vibrated. 

 

Checking the screen, he first muttered, “About time!”  Then started speaking into the phone:  Gary!  What’s happening?  Was he home?”

 

“Yes, and he was not too happy about coming home to an empty house!”  Gary responded.

 

“Did he agree to come?  Please tell me he did!”  Andrew’s face was terrible mixture of hope and apprehension.

 

“Yes, I’m on my way to get him now.  Are you and Jimmie all set?  Is the table ready?”

 

“Yes!” Andrew shook triumphant fists to the gods of harebrained plans, only to look worried again almost immediately.  “Thanks, Gary.  I can’t believe how you helped me to set this all up.  Jimmie is great, and there’s a table right in front for you and Ryan.  I just hope he doesn’t kill me later…”

 

“Don’t you worry, Andrew, this will be wonderful.  See you soon.”  Gary signed off.

 

“Yeah, soon…”  Andrew put the phone away and picked up his guitar, checking the tuning one more time.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Ryan was very surprised when Gary took him right downtown to Union Square and pulled into the St. Francis Hotel.  They left the car with Valet Parking, and Gary led the way through the ornate lobby, all marble, brass, and red velvet, to the Oak Room.  The famous room was very distinguished, yet trendy and welcoming with its piano bar, mellow leather banquets, and cascades of old gold brocade.  Gary and Ryan were seated at the edge of the small dance floor laid out just to one side of the piano bar. 

 

A young waiter took their order:  both asked for Jack Daniels on the rocks.  Ryan saw Gary wave and nod to the piano player, who was playing a medley of Cole Porter show tunes. 

 

“Where is Andrew?” Ryan asked.  “Do you know the piano player?”

 

“Andrew will be here soon enough, and yes, the piano man is someone I used to know very well, and I am glad to report that Jimmie and I are still friends… we still see each other from time to time…who knows, maybe in the future…”  Gary looked at Ryan, and then smiled at Jimmie, who was bowing to applause, thanking his audience, and smiling back at Gary. 

 

“Now, ladies and gentlemen,” Jimmie began to introduce his next number. “I want to do something a little different and welcome a new talent to the Oak Room.  Please give a special welcome to a fine young musician who will soon be joining us here on a regular basis.  He will be introducing his new song for us tonight.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Andrew Stewart-Williams.”

 

Ryan was amazed to see his partner run confidently into the spotlight near where Jimmie was sitting at the piano.  To Ryan, Andrew had never looked more beautiful: he was slim and elegant in gray slacks and matching gray shirt which complimented the perfect tailoring of his dark blue sport coat.  His heavy silk tie was a slightly darker shade of gray, which drew attention to the dark gray of his eyes.  All of which was definitely a contrast to the student sweaters and baggy cargo pants he usually wore.  Ryan watched as Andrew settled his guitar around his neck then stepped up to the floor microphone.  Before speaking, his gray eyes found Ryan.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a special anniversary night for me, and I want to dedicate this song to my partner, Ryan Williams.  It’s called ‘Loving’… I hope you like it.”

 

Andrew nodded to Jimmie, and they began the introduction.  It was beautiful.  It made Ryan think of many things:  how they met, how they had each grown into their relationship, what it meant for them to be together, what their hopes were for the future. 

 

He had never paid much attention to Andrew’s music before, thinking of it as a kind of hobby whispering in the background of their lives.  He had even heard Andrew sing before, but his voice had not seemed extraordinary.  It had been pleasant, but Ryan just would not have thought of Andrew as a singer.  But tonight… tonight it was full-bodied and rich and warm.  It gave Ryan what Andrew liked to call the “happy shivers.”  A little piano riff was followed by a more complicated guitar riff then Andrew sang the song again:  

 

Through shadows slowly shifting

I saw many lonely days;

Alone and slowly drifting--

Rain often on my ways.

 

No arms were there to hold me,

No fire burned to warm me.

No comfort could enfold me,

Just fear was there, to harm me.

 

Songs whispered on air,

But I just couldn’t hear

’Till your love’s steady care

Allayed all my fear.

 

Now Loving rules heart

And binds every tie,

No longer apart,

Our Loving flies high.

 

Love takes us higher--

As high as the sky--

Shines us with fire

And thunders on high.

 

 

 

 

The last triumphant note seemed to ring through the air.  Then the applause began, building into an appreciation for the singer that made Andrew blush and smile and look surprised all at once. 

 

“Thank you… thank you…” he kept saying into the microphone.  Jimmie stood up and shook his hand, then nodded towards Ryan’s table.  Somehow, Andrew found himself there.  Gary took the guitar, and Ryan took Andrew into his strong arms, holding him close, whispering his love, and kissing him for all the world to see.  The applause rose again in a thunderclap of sound, and Ryan was glad he had put the small red silk box in his suit pocket:  they would certainly make their dinner reservation.  All discussions of schedules and empty houses would have to wait.