Looking Back

by PJ

Wes stretched and yawned as he struggled to wake, not wanting to get out of bed but knowing he needed to. Funny the difference a few months made. Then he'd been living over his grandparents' garage doing small repairs and odd jobs around their place to help out, while still having time for both his job and volunteering at the ASPCA. He was also making plans to move to the west coast, leaving behind a life he had out grown. He no longer fit in the small town he where grown up. Not that anyone had ever told him he didn't fit, it was just something he knew. Although Wes had conformed to that life, it wasn't really him. Slowly he had come to realized he had different personal wants and needs than his classmates.

The summer before his senior year, Wes met Timmy. Tim's dad had unexpectedly died a few months earlier in a car wreck so when school let out his mom had moved back to familiar ground with her son and two daughters. They moved to the house next door to the Coopers. Wes and Tim became fast friends. From the beginning this new guy was much more outgoing than Wes, a free spirit, willing to take chances. Wes was low key, more of a loner. He was older than most of his classmates, having repeated the fifth grade because he missed several months of school due to injuries he suffered in a fall from a tree. Even now he still carried reminders.

When their senior year started, Wes helped Tim settle in and Tim helped his new friend understand the real Wes. Wes soon realized they shared more than just friendship. After a couple of months, Tim revealed he was gay. Blushing, Wes confirmed he thought he was too. Tim was comfortable with who he was while Wes was just trying to accept himself. Both of Tim's parents had always supported him, but more importantly his older cousin Phil and his partner Rusty had guided Tim when he was confused and unsure. Tim took on that role of junior guide for his friend, helping him understand that his sexuality was something he was born with, making it as natural as the color of his eyes or number of toes on his left foot. Slowly Wes shared all the crazy things going on with his mind and body. And later they shared a bit more.

During spring break, Tim invited Wes along to visit Phil and Rusty. Wes had been a little nervous because he had never met a gay couple. Hell, he wasn't sure he had ever met a gay man before, except for Tim. Phil and Rusty were cool, making Wes comfortable enough to ask questions. Wes unintentionally got his first look at what he would later learn was a discipline partnership that week.

Phil and Wes were out on the back porch talking when all hell broke out in the house. "You little bastard," reached their ears just before a shirtless Tim flew out the screen door, slamming it against the porch rail. Rusty followed, his shirt soaked through. Wes watched as Rusty side armed his peeled orange at Tim, smushing juice all over his bare back.

"Enough!" It wasn't loud, but the tone froze the two men; they turned to face an angry Phil. Even Wes froze in place although he didn't know why.

Phil just pointed to the kitchen. He didn't need to say a word; both guys scrambled up the steps into the house. Once in the kitchen, Wes followed Phil's gaze and saw where Tim's Coke splattered the wall and puddled on the floor.

Turning to his partner, Phil calmly addressed him, "Rusty, go up to our room and shower. I'll be in to talk in a few minutes."

Rusty started to argue, "No, Phil, Tim started..." then looking into Phil's dark eyes, he mumbled "Yes, sir." He started to leave then turned back and whispered, "I'm sorry." Wes thought he saw a tear on Rusty's cheek.

Gently brushing his lover's face with the back of his fingers, Phil whispered, "I know, babe, go on now." Phil turned toward his cousin. "Timothy clean up this mess." Phil pointed to the wall and floor splattered in Coke. "Then hit the shower and spend some time in your room thinking about what happened and why. I'll let you know when you can come out."

"Come on, Phil, please. Wes is here," Tim pleaded.

"Timmy, you know the rules about fighting and you know it doesn't matter who is here or who started the fight. No fighting means no fighting."

"But we were just goofing around," Tim tried again.

Shaking his head Phil stepped closer to Timmy and whispered, "Do you really want to go there in front of Wes?"

Wes saw Tim look over at him. He looked back at his friend wide-eyed. Wes had backed up against the door and was ready to bolt. Tim was forcing a smile "It's OK, bro; I know better than to pick a fight with Rusty. We'll be OK. I'll be back in a little while," Then Wes saw Tim glance toward his cousin, adding, "Don't be mad at Rusty. I started it." He then left to get the mop.

Phil turned to Wes, took a deep breath, and put his arm around the confused young man's shoulders to guide him back out to the porch. "Come on, Wes. I think we need to talk."

Pulling away, Wes demanded loudly, "What was that about? Why did you send Tim to his bedroom? You can't send Rusty to your room. He's a grown man."

"Wesley, calm down and lower your voice. I won't put up with you shouting at me, young man!" Phil was using the same tone he had used with Tim and Rusty; Wes found himself obeying this man. "This isn't something I planned on discussing with you." Wes could tell that Phil was frustrated as he watched Phil rake his hands through his hair "Rusty and Tim's actions have forced a conversation you might have trouble understanding."

Wes dropped his eyes and lowered his voice as more questions poured out, "What was Timmy talking about? Why did he tell me they were going to be OK? What are you going to do?"

Wes finally joined Phil on the porch swing. He could feel the motion of swing and he began to relax.

"First," Phil began, "we have rules in this house much like you have at your own home. Fighting of any kind is not allowed, period." Wes could feel Phil watching him for a reaction and looked up meeting Phil's eyes for a second. Phil continued "Both Rusty and Tim know the rules and both of them have gotten in hot water for breaking the no fighting rule in the past."

"I don't understand. How can you make Rusty go wait in his room like a little kid?"

"Wes, you know Rusty and I are partners, right?"

Wes nodded.

"Has Tim ever talked to you about the type of relationship we share?"

"Just that you are partners and helped him through some confused times."

"OK," Phil continued, blowing out a breath. "Yes, in our relationship, we are partners. We are equal in most ways. Rusty has granted me the gift of being the head of our household. We both have input, but the final decisions are mine."

Wes didn't understand and said so. "You mean Rusty lets you boss him around?"

"No, not exactly." Phil chuckled. "There are certain areas Rusty knows he needs help. He has asked me to guide and support him by enforcing certain rules we both agreed on."

"Enforcing?" Wes questioned, rubbing the jagged scar on his shoulder. The scar was one reminder of his failed attempt at climbing the tree, and over the years rubbing it had become a self-comforting habit.

"Yes, there are consequences for breaking the rules. Both Rusty and I have discussed and agreed on those consequences so there are no surprises. Rusty knows what to expect when we talk about fighting."

"What about Tim, he was fighting too? He said he started it." Wes reluctantly asked.

"It's different with Tim. I'm the closest person Tim has to a father now that his dad is gone. I know from personal experience my uncle didn't put up with fighting. I'm sure Tim started the fight; his mom told me he has been pushing ever since the accident. That's one of the reasons I asked him to spend spring break here. I can do no less than convince Tim not to pick fights the same way Tim's dad convince me."

Wes just looked down at his hands, knowing full well what his own dad would do if he caught him fighting. "Wh...what are you going to do to Tim?" he asked despite not really wanting to know.

"What we are going to do is private between Timmy and me. If he wants to share that with you, then that's up to him."

Understanding, Wes nodded his head.

Phil waited a few more minutes then said, "Wes, I need to go talk to Rusty and Timmy now. I don't want them to have to wait any longer." Wes had a lot to think about and was glad for the time alone to sort out his feelings. "How about you fire up the grill and we'll be down in 30 minutes or so? Can you do that for me?" he said, reaching out and tousling Wes's honey wheat curls.

Wes ducked his head then answered, "Sure, no problem." He was still rubbing his scar. Phil was already heading toward the house when Wes softly called out, "Phil." Tim's cousin hesitated and turned toward Wes. "Thanks for talking to me," Wes said shyly.

"Anytime, Son, we can talk more later if you want." Phil turned back to the kitchen ready to deal with the two young men waiting for him upstairs.

Wes got the charcoal started, then walked to the far end of the yard. He loved this place. The yard was edged in trees, a path leading to the creek that ran through the back of the property. Ever since Tim first showed Wes the creek, he'd spent as much time as he could there. Usually he let Phil know where he was going. His host wasn't happy the first time Wes came up missing, and it took Phil a good hour to find him.

There was nothing like this at home. He spent an hour or so every evening just sitting under the trees watching the fading sunlight dance through the leaves, shining patterns on the water and bank, listening to the creek drown out the world as the water ran over the rocks. A couple of times deer came down to drink and once he saw a raccoon fishing in the shallows. Now deep in thought, he was staring into the water. He didn't hear Timmy call his name as he came bouncing down the steps into the yard. Tim came busting through the trees startling Wes.

"Sorry, bro, didn't mean to scare you."

"Hey, you OK"? Tim added when Wes looked away.

"Yeah, I'm good, just trying to figure things out." Then looking closer at Tim's red eyes, he added, "I guess I should ask if you're OK."

Tim blushed, "I'm ok." Wes turn back to the creek and Tim added, "Hey, I'm really OK. Phil mostly just talked to me."

"Then why are your eyes red if you only talked?" Wes demanded, concerned for his friend.

Wes watched Tim think about his answer before he answered. "We were talking about my dad. I really miss him, Wes. It's the first time I cried since he died." Wes saw his friend's hurt as he wiped his eyes. "Mom told Phil I've been running a little wild since Dad's accident. That's why he invited us here this week. When I started the fight with Rusty and Phil sent me to my room I didn't know what to expect."

Wes looked down as he told Tim "Phil told me he was going to do what your dad did to him when he used to fight." Then he carefully asked "He didn't uh...you know...spank you, did he?"

"Yeah," Tim laughed, "I'm not going to be eating dinner sitting down."

"Why did you let him hit you? I mean, he's not your dad. You didn't have to let him."

Wes could see the embarrassment on Tim's face. "I guess I could have told him no, but I just wanted it over with. I wanted to feel ok again." Tim pulled Wes to his feet and they headed back to the house. "Wes, Phil didn't hit me, he spanked me. Just the same as my dad only he would have done it bare. It's important to me that you understand."

Wes nodded "I understand, Tim, I really do. My dad would have spanked me for fighting too."

They were walking side by side when Wes heard Tim continue "We talked a lot and Phil said if I learned nothing else I would learn I wasn't alone and to make sure I did learn something I also have to write three letters of apology."

Wes questioned the numbered of letters. "Why three letters? You only got Rusty in trouble, so it should just be one."

"Yeah, I thought so too, but Phil said I have to write one to Mom, one to Rusty, and one to you." He chuckled at the shocked look on Wes's face.

"Me?" Wes couldn't think of any reason for Tim needing to write him a letter. "You don't need to write me a letter."

"Oh yes I do. I'm not taking a chance on pissing Phil off again. You are getting a letter and you better read it." Wes knew Tim was serious from the look in his eyes.

Wes looked at Tim then grinned as he smacked Tim's butt and side stepped away. "Nope, I don't want a letter."

"You think you're funny, huh?" Tim lunged for Wes and grabbed him around the waist, dragging him to the ground. They wrestled around on the grass until Tim finally straddled Wes, pinning his arms over his head. Holding both wrists in one hand, Tim tickled his captive friend.

"You know if Phil sees us you might be standing up for breakfast too." Tim's prisoner laughed as he pretended to get away.

Tim leaned down nuzzling the neck below him. Wes stopped squirming, turning his face up to meet Tim as he gently pressed his lips to Wes's. Tim teased the lips until Wes opened them, admitting Tim's curious tongue. The wrestling had turned into something more. As their bodies ground into each other's, the young men felt the rush of hormones. Breaths coming fast and hard they broke apart remembering where they were. Rolling to their knees and brushing off the grass clippings and leaves, they got to their feet. Pressing together one more time, they parted with a quick kiss.

"Oh, yeah, no question about it; Phil is definitely there for me." Tim said, blushing and gingerly rubbing his butt. "I'm just sorry I got Rusty in trouble."

"Tim"? Wes asked tentatively. "Did Phil spank Rusty too?"

"Maybe, I don't know. Phil sent me back out here before he went to their room. Even though it was my fault, Rusty did throw the orange, and Phil has a hard line about stuff like that."

Wes couldn't hide his confusion. He saw Tim look over his shoulder toward the house, then took Wes's hand in his and lead him to the steps. Tim sat on one step with Wes leaning back between his open legs on the lower step. Tim quietly asked, "Did Phil talk to you about this?"

"Yeah, I think I understand about you, but I don't get it about Rusty. Why does he let Phil punish him?"

"Have you ever heard of a discipline partnership?"

Eyes wide, Wes shook his head. "N...No."

"Easy, it's the name that goes with their relationship. We can check it out on the internet when we get home, but Rusty told me that both of them have agreed to live with Phil in charge. Rusty needs the support and security that Phil provides." Wes looked away, but he thought he heard Tim mumble, "This type of partnership might be worth exploring someday."

"Come on, let's get the steaks started. They should be down soon." Heading for the door Tim stopped when Wes asked him why Phil and Rusty weren't back outside yet. Tim sighed and turned back to Wes. "From what Rusty has told me, Phil always takes time to talk to him and make sure he's OK. I guess sometimes it takes a while, that's all. They'll be down soon."

* * * * * * * * * * *

The rest of the school year had Timmy and Wes exploring their feelings and concerns. They shared a lot and learned much. They went stag to their Senior Prom, mingling with their classmates and later slipping off to be alone. Wes kept Timmy's special goodbye note safely tucked away in his senior yearbook. After graduation, Tim moved on to college, staying with Phil and Rusty. Wes worked part time with his brother's construction company and attended the local junior college. They kept in touch on the internet, but moved on with their own lives. From the beginning, they both knew they would never be anything more than special friends. Tim gave Wes the courage to be who he was meant to be. Wes would be forever thankful for the short time they were in each other's life.

Toward the end of the school year, Wes's dad was offered a transfer to the West Coast. Accepting the transfer, Dad arranged for Wes to stay with his grandparents so he could finish his senior year of high school. And then he stayed longer to help out. He tried furthering his education for three months before dropping out to become a full time employee for his brother's construction company. Three plus years working construction filled Wes out in all the right places. Wes's body was tan and lean. His boyish good looks were framed by soft wheat colored curls hanging over his ears and down his neck. He tried to grow a beard, but couldn't pull it off. At times when he was lost in thought, a goofy grin would sneak across his face. He was unsettled in his personal life. Wesley James Cooper knew he needed to move on.

Even though Wes's brother was seven years older, Kevin was always there for Wes. After work one day Wes told Kevin he was feeling trapped and needed to get away. Later that week after a call from his oldest son, Wes's Dad called with a proposition. Wes's parents were about to retire and needed someone to stay at their house and look after things while they took some time to travel. That person would have the place to himself for at least six months. Living rent free would give Wes a chance to locate work and save some money. The town was ideal with plenty of outdoor activities and near the Pacific Ocean. Wes always wanted to explore the outdoors but never had the opportunity. He loved the time he spent at the ASPCA , but the wildest animal he saw there was a falcon. Wes jumped at the chance to start a new chapter of his life. Wes chuckled to himself as he wondered if he would meet the man of his dreams in this new town.

Before he could say yes, Wes knew he had to talk with his mom and dad. Wes didn't want to wait until he moved to talk to his parents face to face. So he made the call one afternoon. Asking both his parents to be on speaker phone, Wes started the conversation. "I need to talk to both of you. I know this will be hard for you to understand. I don't know how to tell you except straight out. I'm gay, and I wanted you to know before I accepted your offer." Wes thought he heard a chuckle on the line. "What?"

"Son, we aren't laughing at you." His dad replied, "We're just relieved that you can finally tell us what we've suspected for a while now."

"B...but how did you know?" Wes was embarrassed and relieved.

Mom answered, "Honey, we've known or at least suspected since you and Timmy were friends. You were so happy then. Kevin told us you changed after Timmy left."

"We were close and I miss him, but we were only friends." Wes thought about Tim for a second. "OK, maybe a bit more than friends. Tim helped me through a confusing time. But how did you know he was gay?"

Dad took over the conversation. "Tim's mom told us. She wanted us to know Tim was gay in case we had a problem with the two of you being friends or more."

"And you were OK with me and Tim? I mean really OK?" Wes asked, still not understanding.

"Honey, your happiness is all we care about so we were OK with you being happy. And you were already 18 when you met Tim; there wasn't much we could have done even if we'd wanted to." Then his Mom added with a chuckle, "We did keep an eye on the two of you though."

"You know, if you would have told me you knew about me being gay I wouldn't have worried so much about this conversation."

Then his Dad asked, "So are you coming out here or not?"

So Wes made his travel plans, said his goodbyes and prepared to start his new life.

~ PJ

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