The Rest of the Story
by Nick Brady
Marco woke up with a start at seven-thirty. It was Thursday, he was in Paris, and the Art Exhibition was open for the exhibitors at nine o'clock.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday it would be open to the public. Marco wanted to be sure that all his paintings had arrived safely. He dressed in jeans and a sweater, then went down to the hotel restaurant for the breakfast that was included with the room. There were free newspapers at the desk and as he glanced at them saw that 'The French Post' was in English. He picked one up to have something to read over breakfast.
As he waited to be served, he scanned the headlines. The paper featured European and International news, with an emphasis on France and the City of Paris. All the articles appeared to be summaries of longer articles from another source. Over coffee Marco had time to kill, so skimmed the rest of the paper. In the Arts and Entertainment section he found a synopsis of the article from Le Monde about the art exhibit and sure enough, his name was mentioned. Not having a copy of the original, he pocketed this one to show to the family.
When he arrived at the exhibition it was a flurry of activity. As he quickly learned, the art had arrived as promised, but the union for the crew who was to hang it was on strike. The hall was partitioned into draped stalls with placards indicating the exhibitor, but they were all empty.
Marco joined the host of exhibitors who sorted through the mountain of crates and boxes containing, somewhere, his own. The shipment from Tulsa was found but not the two sent on from London. He hoped they would show up later. The next priority was getting in line to use the limited supply of dollies and carts to transfer the things from the basement to the exhibit hall.
Once in his stall, Marco wondered how he was to display his paintings. Fortunately, the others had the same problem and the exhibition managers had gone out somewhere, and brought in a large assortment of hangers and easels for their use. It was tedious, but Marco was able to display everything, leaving a space for the two from London, if and when they arrived. It made him appreciate the work and skill of those who were intended to do this work, but it still seemed to him that to strike on the eve of a major exhibition was dirty pool.
By the middle of the afternoon, most everything was in place and tensions had eased. This was Marco's chance to look at the other exhibitors. The mix here was different than in London. There was more sculpture and more abstract paintings, some quite large. Marco had something of a problem with abstracts. They almost always reminded him of something that a small child would create if given a paint set and left unsupervised. He could not get the 'what is it' question out of his mind. He decided that he would ask his friend and mentor Peter Vandergraff to help him better appreciate these things when he next saw him. From the prices put on them, someone must think very well of them.
He noticed that there were more watercolors here, most of the dreamy persuasion, none with the color and movement of his own. Either he would stand out, or be overlooked. It all depended on the eye of the beholder.
Marco left the exhibit at mid-afternoon, satisfied that his work was properly displayed, and stepped outside to find that a light drizzle had spoiled his plan for a long walk.
In the hotel restaurant, Marco ordered the 'Spécial journalier' without asking what it was. He was developing some confidence with French cooking. It turned out to be a shrimp pasta with an excellent white sauce, and a good salad. Ignoring the waiter's wine suggestion he asked for his always reliable Coke. It was quite tasty.
Looking out the window, he could see that the drizzle had evolved into a steady rain. He hoped that the weather would improve before the exhibition opened to the public. He opened his computer and found an email from Ben.
"Hey Papa, I hope you are having a good time. We really miss you here. Please come home soon. Don't forget to bring us something cool. Love Ben."
There was another from Marty.
"Marco, Ben asked for your email address, probably to beg for treats. The twins are beginning to get on my nerves. I didn't fully appreciate all that you do for us until you were gone for a while. Especially for me. I hope I can wait until you are back in the house before I jump your bones. No doubt your Paris show will be as successful as the one in London. The French are supposed to appreciate great art, and you are the greatest. I love you. Marty."
Ben's email was a bit self-serving so Marco decided to just reply to Marty.
"Marty, Another day in Paris. Today was wet, so I amused myself with my new paints and may have a couple of things to add to my booth. The food is good here, but the company is lacking. Please reassure Ben and Sam that I will return bearing gifts, but don't plan to ship anything large. It will have to fit in my already bulging suitcase. I should get something for Brian and Lanny too, but suck at knowing what to get them. Any suggestions? This has been an adventure but I am ready to come home. If I had some red sparkly shoes I would click them and chant 'there's no place like home'. I'm ready to be pounced on. Love, Marco."
The hotel bed was comfortable, if somewhat empty, and Marco slept well. He was as ready for this exhibit as he could be.
The morning came, overcast but dry, and Marco dressed in his buckskins and left for the exhibit. As in London, his appearance on the Paris streets in Native American regalia drew only a few glances. These people were not surprised by much. In the exhibit hall a small crowd was already gathered. He took his place in his booth and put the final adjustments on his paintings. The buckskins generated interest and he was soon busy answering questions about the boys and the powwow dancing.
When he was able to take a break he went down to the storeroom and was relieved to find the paintings that had been sent on from the London show. He returned and hung them in the space he had left for them. His collection was now complete.
Other than a quick trip to the refreshment kiosk for a bite of lunch, he was busy in his booth all day. When the doors were closed and the crowd thinned to a trickle, he looked at the bid sheets and found good bids on several of his paintings.
It was not lost on Marco that several of the young men who visited his booth might have been interested in more than just his paintings. There would be able opportunity to stray in gay Par-ee, but Marco was not interested. As a result, he walked back to his hotel alone and looked forward to a quiet evening. Over the course of the day the skies had cleared and the evening was mild. It was a lovely evening. His eye was caught by a sidewalk kiosk of souvenirs. He chuckled to himself as he made a purchase.
Marco was hungry and thought to stop for something to eat before he reached his hotel. But he didn't know where to go. He might pick someplace at random but then would be on the street after dark. Brian and Lanny had each other for company and protection. He was alone and longed for Marty to be with him. He told himself that he was being foolish, but walked on to the hotel and changed clothes before eating dinner in the restaurant.
The next two days went by quickly. His booth had a steady stream of visitors, some collectors and dealers. He had no way of comparing the interest in other exhibitors, but he found it hard to get away long enough to even go to the toilet. A quick check on the bid kiosk found that all his paintings had received bids. On Sunday evening, the sheet had already been removed by the time Marco stopped by to check on it.
On Sunday evening, the exhibitors were to assemble in a lounge where a buffet supper was served while they waited for the results of the blind auction. The arrangement was the same as for the show in London. Revenue from the bidders had been collected and after the gallery took its share, a check would be cut for half of the proceeds. After all the checks cleared the other adjusted half would be forwarded. They waited patiently while the process was completed and names began to be called. When his was called, he stepped up, received an envelope with his name on it and returned to his seat.
Marco watched as many of the others opened their envelopes and reacted to the contents. Most seemed to be pleased, although a few scowled with disappointment. He decided that he would wait until he returned to his hotel to open his envelope. He slipped away quietly and walked quickly to his room. He laid the unopened envelope on the bed, locked the door and went into the bathroom to shower.
He put on clean underwear and sat down on the bed. Opening the envelope, he skimmed the form letter thanking him for his participation and looked at the check. It was for €176,750. Not as much as from the London show, but he had fewer paintings here in Paris. They had sold equally well and there were none to take home. He was thrilled. He picked up his laptop and sent Marty an email.
"Marty, The Paris show is over and I did very well. I will bank the check in the morning and you can check our balance during the day. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised. My flight leaves Paris about ten o'clock and I will arrive later in the day Tulsa time. I will call you from Chicago when I change planes and give you the arrival time. I am both exhausted and too excited to sit still. I plan to eat dinner then pack my bags. I have nothing to ship home. Please tell the boys that I have something for them. I miss you all. Prepare to pounce. Marco".
Marco closed his computer and paced around the room for several minutes. He didn't want to eat in the hotel restaurant again. He picked up his phone and called Henry.
After several rings he started to hang up when Henry answered the phone.
"Hi Henry. It's Marco. Did I interrupt you?"
"No, man. Marguerite is at her mother's and I'm just cooling my heels. Are you ready to go home tomorrow?"
"More than ready. My flight leaves at ten. What time should you pick me up?"
"It's not that far to the airport, but it takes forever to get through security. I think I should pick you up at seven-thirty. Is that OK?"
"Sure. I'll be ready. I' was just thinking about going out for something to eat."
"I haven't had dinner yet. Do you have any plans?"
"No plans. I've been eating in the hotel restaurant but wouldn't mind something different."
"It would be a shame for you to spend your last night in Paris eating alone. I can be by in thirty minutes."
"My expenses are good," Marco told him. "I could treat us to a really nice dinner. Do you have any suggestions?"
Henry hesitated. "There are a lot of great restaurants in Paris, but I have to confess that I've never eaten in many of them. My criteria is decent and cheap, but there are lots of places with great food that are not that expensive."
"Then pick a good one, based on whatever criteria you like," Marco said. "I want a good meal with good company."
Henry laughed. "I'm sure we can find good food. I'm not as sure about the company, but I'll try to be on my best behavior. A lot of the good places require reservations. Let me call around and see what I can do. OK?"
"Great. I'll be waiting in the lobby. See you when you get here."
His mood improved, Marco dressed in his new outfit and brushed out his hair. He felt ready to celebrate. Henry was a good fellow and Marco was comfortable with him. When he pulled up in front of the hotel, Marco was standing just inside the door and hurried out.
As Henry drove through the streets of Paris, Marco asked, "Where are we going?"
"We're in luck. I got us a reservation at L'Ardoise. It's not far from here. They have a fixed price menu, or you can order a la carte.
The wait for their table was fairly short although the place was crowded. The menu was lengthy and Marco was grateful to see that it was in both French and English.
Marco studied it carefully. "Is the fixed price like, here's what's for dinner, or do I get choices?"
Henry laughed, "You get lots of choices. There is a list of appetizers, another of main courses, and some desserts."
"This looks fine," Marco said. "I can live with this."
"Of course they want you to drink wine because it runs the tab up, but I know you don't drink. The mineral water is fine with me too," Henry said.
They made their selections, recited them to the waiter and settled in for a wait.
"I bet you're anxious to get back home," Henry said.
"I am. I miss my family," Marco admitted.
"I am curious about your family. I know lots of gay guys, but not many of them have kids. How does that work in red-neck Oklahoma?"
Marco laughed. "Actually, it works out better than you might think. We are part of a church community that's very accepting, which is a big help. We make it a point to be discreet and manage to mostly fly under the radar."
"You said you have twin boys? Are they yours, his? How does that work out for them? Kids can be cruel."
Marco smiled. "They are aware that having two fathers is different, but to them it seems quite normal. We keep them busy with church, scouts and sports, nag them about their homework and messy room, and do what any other family does. Sam and Ben are Seminole as am I, so most people probably assume that they are my kids, but they're adopted."
"Raising a family is a challenge for any couple I guess. Not every gay couple wants to tackle that."
"I guess not, but neither Marty nor I had brothers or sisters, and when we figured out that our marriage was solid, we wanted to have kids. These guys were suggested to us as foster kids. Before long, we fell in love with them and adopted as soon as we could. It's been good. They are the glue that holds us together," Marco said. "What about you and Marguerite? Have you thought about getting married and starting a family?"
"Yeah. She would like that, but I guess I'm dragging my heels. Too many problems, you know?"
"What's the problem?"
Henry shrugged, "Like, I don't want to live here forever, and Marguerite doesn't want to leave. Besides, I guess I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. It sounds selfish I know, but I'm not sure I want to be tied down with a family."
"It's something you want to think about," Marco agreed. "Kids become the center of your lives, but we wouldn't have it any other way."
"You seem like a really steady guy," Henry said. "I probably owe you an apology."
Henry looked uncomfortable. "When I first picked you up to take you to your hotel, I think I made some wrong assumptions. You are a pretty exotic looking guy; Native American with that long black hair. You're an artist with a male partner and I guess I tried to fit you into a stereotype. Philippe coming along for dinner wasn't entirely his idea. That was pretty stupid on my part."
Marco laughed. "Were you trying to fix me up?"
"Not exactly. Philippe is a cousin of Marguerite's and was at her place when I was talking about this Native American artist I had given a ride to. He had an idea of who you were and wanted to come with us when we went to dinner. I could have told him no, but thought you might like to have some company. Not smart."
"Don't worry about it. I know how to say no. I know who I am, and guys like Philippe don't fit into my plans."
Henry nodded. "You handled that very well. I'm just sorry if I put you in an awkward situation."
"You really didn't," Marco assured him. "I realize that I look a little different. I had some visitors to my booth who weren't interested solely in my paintings. It comes with the territory."
Before the conversation went any farther, the food started arriving and their attention shifted.
As Henry drove back to the hotel he thanked Marco for the dinner. "That was really nice of you, Marco. I'm glad you had a good show."
"I did better than I expected," Marco smiled. "This has been a real breakthrough for me."
"You will come home a hero, then."
"Marty will be happy for me. Sam and Ben will just want to know what I brought home to them."
When they arrived back at the hotel, Marco said goodbye and went up to his room. Henry sat at the curb for a moment and watched Marco as he disappeared inside, then slowly drove away.
In his room, Marco packed everything and laid out jeans and a sweater for the trip home in the morning. He checked for a last email from Marty and found only a brief note.
"Marco, Hurry home. Marty."
Marco replied simply.
"I'll call you from Chicago. Marco."
He slid into bed and was soon asleep.
When Henry arrived in the morning, Marco was waiting and very ready to return home. They drove to the airport in silence.
At curbside, Marco unloaded his bags and said, "Thanks for showing me Paris. I made at least one friend while I was here."
"The pleasure was all mine. You're quite a guy, Marco."
After his bags cleared through customs and a very thorough security check, Marco sat in his departure lounge and waited for his flight to depart. At last, his name was called and he boarded the flight home.
The family had gathered to wait for Marco's return.
"Marco said he would call us from Chicago to let us know when he would arrive in Tulsa," Marty told them.
"It shouldn't be long now," Brian said. "I think the flight comes into Chicago in an hour or so."
"How long does it take to get here from Chicago?" Ben wondered.
"Not long," Lanny told him. "It's only about a two hour flight to Tulsa."
"I'm ready for him to come home," Sam said. "I never thought I'd be tired of pizza, but I'm getting there.
""I imagine he's pretty tired," Marty warned them. "Give him a chance to unwind a little. He may want to go straight to bed."
"I wonder what he brought us?" Ben asked.
"He doesn't have to bring us anything," Sam said. "He said for you not to get your hopes up."
"I bet he does," Ben predicted. "He said he missed us a lot."
I imagine he missed all of us," Brian said. "But that doesn't mean he's going to drag home a lot of junk for you guys. Just be glad to see him."
When Marty's phone rang, they all jumped.
"Hello? Hey, Marco. It's good to hear your voice. Are you in Chicago?"
"I just got here. I should get to Tulsa about nine-thirty. Can you pick me up?"
"Of course. We'll be looking for you. Did you have a good flight from Paris?"
"I guess so. I slept most of the way."
"Hurry home. We have missed you."
"I missed you too. See you later."
Marty hung up with a smile. "He should be in Tulsa by nine-thirty tonight. Do we all want to be there?"
Of course they did. As soon as Marco emerged from the concourse, Sam and Ben almost fell over each other to be the first to hug him. "Papa, Papa!"
"Easy guys. Don't knock me down," Marco laughed. "Brian, Lanny - good to see you!"
Marty waited until the boys stepped aside, then wrapped his arms around Marco. "Man! Am I ever glad to see you!"
"I'm glad to be home," Marco assured him. "I'm beat!"
They loaded his bags into the Sienna with Sam and Ben in the back, while Brian and Lanny followed them in the Santa Fe. Sam and Ben wrestled for the bags when they got to the house.
"What did you bring us?" Ben demanded.
"Gee, fellows. Let Marco get in the house before you attack him," Marty scolded.
"That's OK," Marco laughed. "Let's get this over with."
Marco pulled a large plastic bag from his suitcase and tossed it on the sofa. "OK. Find your size."
In the bag were five red T-shirts in assorted sizes. On the front was a picture of the Eiffel Tower. On the back was the inscription, "My father went to Paris, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
"Oh, Man!" Ben and Sam whined while Marty roared with laughter.
Brian and Lanny put theirs on and instructed Sam, Ben and Marty to do the same. "Line up for a photo," Brian instructed. They lined up, first for the front, then for the back. Marco was delighted.
Marty had picked up a cake from the Walmart with "Welcome home Marco" on it and they celebrated. Marco answered questions until his eyes began to droop. Brian and Lanny excused themselves and Marty ordered the twins to bed.
"There will be plenty of time to talk tomorrow," He said. "Marco's tired and needs to get some sleep. You guys scoot!"
Sam and Ben reluctantly hugged Marco one more time then retired to their bedroom. Marco got his toiletry kit from his suitcase and left the rest to be unpacked the next day. Marty took Marco's hand and led him into their bedroom.
"I'm sure you're ready for bed," Marty said.
"I'm not the only one," Marco grinned. "Did you miss me?"
Marty pulled Marco close and kissed him earnestly. "Damn right I did!"
"Hang on," Marco stepped back. "Let's do this right. I want a shower first."
"All right," Marty grinned. "You sure you aren't too tired?"
Marco laughed and started removing Marty's clothing as they walked into the bathroom. "Get in here. I have some business to take care of."
When the water was nice and warm, they took turns soaping each other and rinsing away the suds with busy hands. Toweling each other dry, they slid naked into bed and kissed passionately.
"You're the returning hero," Marty told him. "How do you want this?"
"Hmm, you know what I like," Marco purred, and tilted his butt in the air.
Marty licked and tongued the proffered area while Marco moaned with pleasure. When he felt sufficiently lubricated, Marco turned to suck and slobber Marty's rigid cock. They were ready. Marco laid on his back with his legs in the air. "Do it!" he demanded, and Marty entered him in one plunge.
"Oh yeah! You promised to pounce on me. That's what I was missing!" Marco chewed on Marty's neck as he made up for lost time. Marty emptied himself inside Marco's ass with a gasp of pleasure.
After a few minutes of heavy breathing, Marco whispered into Marty's ear. "Now it's my turn, baby."
Their positions were reversed and Marco ravaged his lover's ass. There was nothing delicate about their lovemaking. It was a rush to compensate over two weeks of longing. Pulling up the covers, they snuggled together and continued to smooch until peaceful sleep overtook them.
Brian and Lanny were in bed in the little house they rented from Irene O'Malley.
"It's nice having Marco back home," Brian said.
Lanny laughed, "Do you think Marty was eager to get him to bed tonight?"
"No kidding. He practically threw us out."
"Yeah, I bet they are warming up the sheets. Two weeks is a long time to do without."
"Do you suppose that Marco found someone to play with while he was gone?" Brian wondered.
"You know Marco better than I do, but that doesn't sound like him."
"I don't think so. Marco is a pretty honorable guy. Marty had the twins to chaperon him, so I don't think he did anything either."
"Do you ever hear them going after it? I mean, you lived with them for a long time," Lanny asked.
"Well... Maybe sometimes you can hear them making happy noises," Brian said. "They are married for Pete's sake."
"What do you think Sam and Ben make of that? Do they know what's going on in their parents' bedroom?"
"I don't even want to think about what those horny little guys do with each other. Just about everything, I bet," Brian said. "Didn't you? I expect your mom and dad made a little noise themselves."
Lanny laughed, "They thought I couldn't hear them, but I could sometimes."
"What did you do?" Brian asked.
"Jerked off, usually. I wasn't always sure what they were doing, but it sounded like fun."
"Speaking of having fun, I think I'm in the mood for a little fun myself. What about you?"
"I wouldn't be adverse to a good screw. It's been a long time."
"Last night?" Brian recalled.
"That's long enough," Lanny grinned. "Besides, thinking about Marty and Marco going after it is sort of a turn on. Don't you think?"
Brian responded with a kiss. "It doesn't take a lot for you to turn me on."
They proceeded to make happy noises of their own.
"Papa's home, and Daddy's happy," Ben said to Sam.
"Yeah, Daddy was real happy," Sam said. "We had to go to bed early."
"You know what they're doing right now, don't you?"
"Not exactly, but I can guess," Sam chuckled.
"Shhh! Can you hear something? Listen!"
"I hear moaning. They must be pretty loud for us to hear them upstairs."
"There it is again. I think that's Papa," Ben laughed. "Wow!"
Ben pushed his hand down inside his undershorts and gave himself a squeeze. "That's hot!'
"It is," Sam agreed. "I'm getting a boner."
"I thought you didn't like to do that stuff."
"Well...." Sam hesitated.
Ben pushed his shorts down to his knees. "Well, I'm beating off. What are you going to do?"
Sam grinned and pulled his underwear off. "I would say that sounds like a good idea."
Marco's homecoming was enjoyed by all.
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