Donner and Blitzen

by Bensiamin

Part 2


I knew the interview was over Seth's lunch and didn't expect to hear till later in the day. Plus, we had another round of extra orders that came in during the morning for surgeries on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I spent part of the afternoon in the warehouse helping pack orders. The text came in about four o'clock.

< Been busy here, but interview went well! >

That was positive!

< Cool. Busy here too, I've been working the warehouse all afternoon. Can I call you this evening? >

I got a thumbs up back and smiled.

I waited till after dinner to call and after the hellos got a run down on the interview. He said it was more in-depth than he'd ever had, and I took that as a good sign. "How do you mean?"

"Well, he was asking me to tell him, like in detail, about the college work, and the intern stuff, and then had a bunch of questions about being assistant manager and what that meant."


"Well, he wanted to know if I set work schedules, supervised the other salespeople, had P&L responsibility, you know."

"Yeah, I do. Go on."

"Well, lucky me, meaning I minored in business admin, or I wouldn't even have known what 'P&L responsibility' was."

"So, you handled it?"

"Only if saying I don't have P&L responsibility counts as handling it!"

I smiled to myself. He was really being critical of himself. "Seth?"


"Craig knows you work in retail at a wireless store. Do you think he expected you to have responsibility for the store's profit and loss?"

"I don't know, actually."

"I'm betting not—it's a franchise store for a national wireless company. He knows how retail operations work. I'm betting he was testing you and seeing how much you understood about the terms and the questions."

"You think?"

"Yeah, and I'm betting you did better than you think you did." I paused, then went on, "What else did you talk about?"

"Well, he asked about growing up and family and stuff. I told him about Adrian, living in the neighborhood. Kind of like we talked about."

"I'm glad. In his line of work knowing things like that about his employees is important. Remember what Warren Buffet said about integrity?"

He was quiet, so I went on."You're not beating yourself up about your interview, are you?"

It felt like he'd started to grin, if that was even possible. "Well, don't. No need. Plus, Donner and Blitzen just told me to tell you to stop it!"

He laughed. I joined him, then said, "It sounds to me like you did a great job. Now we stand by and see what happens."

"Thanks for all your help."

"Hey, it was my pleasure. Plus, we got in a second date this week, right?"

"Did that count as a date? But yeah... that was cool. I really like Donner and Blitzen."

"The feeling's mutual. Have you told Adrian about Thanksgiving?"

"Not yet. I'm going over tomorrow after work, so I'll fill him in then."

We chatted for a few more minutes and I told him I'd check in with him on Wednesday.


It was a pretty exciting week, what with the second date, the interview and now taking Adrian over to meet the dogs on Thanksgiving. I had quit worrying about how that would go. Adrian loved animals, Donner and Blitzen were sweeties, so they'd love him. It was that simple.

I knew Wilt was busy with the last rush of orders for surgeries before Thanksgiving and we had another promo going on at the store, so we were busy, too. I hadn't heard anything from Craig about the interview, but I figured the whole thing was a long shot so no point in sweating it.

Wednesday morning, though, I got a text from Wilt.

< Just checking to see how you're doing. Any word? >

Just checking? What did that mean. He has to know that the first person on the planet who's going to hear from me after I know something is him. So, what this about? Is he feeling the same need to connect as I am? Except I'm the kid in this equation and he's the older mature guy. Nice fantasy, dude!

< No word. I didn't expect it with the holiday. How's it going for you? >

Are we both trying to low key this thing… whatever it is? Wilt was right back at me.

< That's cool. So, for tomorrow… you've got my address. Wanna come over with Adrian about six o'clock?>

< Sounds like a plan. See you then. And thanks! >

After nine months since Andrew left, it was nice having someone check in and care. I was looking forward to it and realizing that you could get used to living alone and being alone and somehow start thinking that was normal. Thanksgiving at the foster home would be okay… and just that, okay. But Adrian lit up when I told him about a new friend with two cool dogs that he'd get to meet. I got approval to take him out for two hours, which was easy 'cause it was his normal night to be out for art class.

I was wishing I'd heard something from Craig, but he did say that he'd done a lot of interviews and it would take him the rest of the week to finish his evaluations. He was sure being thorough… either that or he had a hard time making decisions!

I went back to my apartment after Thanksgiving dinner and chilled out and took a little nap. I told Adrian I'd be back about five thirty, and I'd told him where Wilt lived when we left. It wasn't raining, but there were high clouds. The closer we got the more excited he got.

I finally had to pull him over when we were a half block away. "Adrian, you've gotta relax man. Wilt's a nice guy and his dogs are really cool, and they're going to love you. Are you hearing me?"

He was staring at me and nodded.

"You don't want to scare them, do you?"

He shook his head, wrinkles appearing on his forehead.

"They're cool dogs, Adrian, like I told you. But they haven't met you before… so they're going to be excited when we get there. They've only met me once. If you're all excited, too, it could be too much."

He got that serious expression on his face that he gets when he's really thinking.

"So, you wanna play a game?"

A smile broke on his face.

"We'll play pretend, okay? We're going to pretend that we're just going to see Wilt and there's no dogs. Can you do that?"

"But we know there's dogs…"

"Yeah, but we're playing pretend. Get it?" I grinned in encouragement.

Adrian's smile widened and then he nodded. "Pretend."

"And what are we pretending?"

"That there's no dogs, there's… just Wilt."

"You got it. Okay, let's go. You're gonna like Wilt. He's a nice guy and he really wants to meet you. How about that."

A smile of self-satisfaction appeared on Adrian's face. "He does?"

"Of course." I gave him a dig in the ribs with my elbow. "Because you're my brother, that's why he wants to meet you."

"Naw, Seth…." And then he started giggling. I couldn't help it, and I joined him, and we giggled our way to Wilt's house where I rang the doorbell.

The door opened to a beaming Wilt in the doorway, framed by warm lighting from within. But there were no dogs.

"Hi, Wilt. This is Adrian."

Wilt made eye contact with Adrian and extended his hand without looking down. "Hi, Adrian. You're one very lucky guy, do you know that?"

Adrian didn't even hesitate. "Yeah, I'm lucky."

"You're especially lucky because you've got such a cool older brother. Come on in, you guys." He pulled Adrian into the hallway, and I followed.

"Where are the dogs?"

He nodded over his shoulder. "They're in the kitchen behind that doggie gate so we don't have a mob scene at the front door." With that he took our coats and then said to Adrian, "Seth told me you like dogs."

"I like all animals!"

"Do you want to meet Donner and Blitzen?"


This was their moment and I just stopped and watched Wilt lead Adrian over to the doggie gate. Both Staffies were standing on the other side, a study in animation… tails and hips wagging and excited expressions.

Wilt put a hand on Adrian's shoulder and stopped him. Then he looked down at the two dogs and said, "You two, Sit!" It took a couple of seconds, but they did even though their tails were still moving… now sweeping the floor. Then I could see Wilt squeeze Adrian's shoulder and barely heard him say, "Can you see how much shorter they are than we are?"

Adrian nodded.

"So, let's kneel down so we're on the same level as them."

I'm guessing he pushed Adrian down just a little, but there was no resistance and the next thing they were kneeling. Adrian was staring at Donner and Blitzen, and they were staring at him.

Then Wilt said, "They like you a lot, Adrian, I can tell. Now reach through the gate and scratch under their chins."

He did and the dogs loved it, suddenly in a competition to see who could lick a hand the most. "Adrian, do you want me to open the gate?"

Adrian nodded and Wilt looked at both dogs and said, "Stay!"

Then he slowly pushed the gate aside and the dogs stayed in a sit, but clearly were getting more and more excited.

Finally, Wilt said, "Release." Both dogs moved at once toward Adrian, and he ended up with one in each arm… which worked until he fell over backwards. I did a momentary panic, but then realized something amazing was happening. Adrian was on the ground, on his back, and there were two Staffordshire Bull Terriers on his chest, and they were licking his face… and he was laughing.

Wilt was closely watching to make sure everything was cool, and after a minute he looked at me and said, "I think he passed, too, and now he's part of the pack!"

I let out a huge sigh of relief and realized I was smiling… at Wilt and the scene he'd just created. I walked up next to him and said, "Sure looks like they're buds for life!"

Wilt nodded and slipped his arm around my shoulder. I liked the feel, and without consciously thinking about it I put an arm around his waist.

We let the three of them play for five minutes and then Wilt told the dogs it was enough and suggested I'd want to take Adrian to the bathroom and clean him up.

It was a good idea, and when we got back the dogs were on their beds in the kitchen and Wilt had a pecan pie on the table. Adrian's eyes got as big as saucers.

"I'm guessing you like pecan pie?"

He nodded, and Wilt went on, "With vanilla ice cream?" Adrian nodded again, and Wilt nodded toward the refrigerator and said to me, "Ice cream is in the freezer, if you would."

We had a great time together. The pie was amazing, Adrian was happy and so was I. Not only had Adrian connected with Donner and Blitzen, but he and Wilt had connected, and it just seemed so, so… natural.

After we cleaned up the dishes and put the pie away, Wilt asked if we wanted to play Scrabble. Adrian grinned mischievously and looked back and forth between us.

"Be careful what you ask for," I said with a devilish smile.


"Uh huh. Adrian has a memory like a trap. He always wins at Scrabble."

He smiled at both of us and then said, "There is an element of chance in which tiles each player draws."

Adrian flashed me a quick look and smiled, and I smiled back knowingly. "Okay, let's do it and see how the chance part plays out."

Adrian won. Which was no surprise to me. Yes, chance was part of the game, but his huge and easily accessible dictionary of words was an advantage that pretty well neutralized the chance.

When it was getting close to nine o'clock, we put the game away and Wilt asked if we could all walk back to the foster home? Adrian was nodding enthusiastically, and he got to hold the dog's leashes most of the way. Wilt said goodbye outside, and Adrian made a point of saying goodbye to him and then to each of the dogs, and then I walked him inside.

When I came back out Wilt was standing there smiling, Donner and Blitzen sitting next to him. "How's he doing?"

I looked straight into his hazel eyes, which were nicely illuminated by the porch lights. "He's totally happy. I think this is the best thing that's happened to him in a long time. He wants to know when he'll see Donner and Blitzen again."

He smiled at me, a warm and engaging smile and said softly, "I think we can arrange that. Can we walk you home?"

They did, and when we got to the apartment building, I bent down and patted the dogs to say goodbye, and then turned to Wilt. "Thanks so much. This was so great."

He was looking at me with an open and engaging expression. I didn't know what to say at first, but I knew what I wanted, and it only took about eight seconds before I said, "I really liked the feeling when you put your arm around my shoulder. Can I give you a hug?"

His face broke into a grin and his arms came up as I stepped to him, and then they were around me. He held me tight, and he was so warm and firm.

"Thanks so much," I whispered into his neck. "You don't know how great this was for Adrian."

"And for you I hope," I heard back, said softly into my neck.

"It was great for me, too."


The hug was magic. His embrace of me was strong and warm, and his beard was soft against my cheek. The walk home was blissful. The evening had gone well. I'd had Thanksgiving dinner with my brother and his family, and as pleasant and warm as that was, it was nowhere near as satisfying as the time I'd spent with Seth and Adrian.

The realization was slowly seeping up into my conscious mind. There was nothing more my body wanted to do when we hugged than to turn his face up and kiss him. Put my lips against that sweet smile, let my tongue force them apart… stop! I shook my head and told myself once again that letting this fantasy play out could only hurt us both. I was thirty-nine and as much older than Seth as Patrick had been older than me. Look how that worked out. We'd grown apart and couldn't repair it. Age differences like this usually don't work and here I was setting myself up for another… even if the age difference were reversed and I was the older one, it was still more than likely to fail.

Still, having a new really good friend was a gift, and one to be cherished. Donner and Blitzen liked him, and that meant we'd be able to do things together… the kind of things good friends do… together.

I was sitting down with a glass of wine when the text came in.

< Thanks for the best Thanksgiving ever! 🤗 >

Texting with Seth had forced me to look at the palette of emojis and broaden my usage.

< Really? 😲 >

< Totally! I have to work tomorrow. Can I walk the dogs with you this weekend? >

I grinned to myself as I sipped my wine, feeling a warmth inside me that had nothing to do with the wine.

< There will be two walks, and you have an open invitation to either… or both, lol! >

I spent Friday in the office doing catch up on office paperwork. Seth called me about four o'clock.

"It's quiet in the store and I just wanted to say Hi."

"Thanks, it's good to hear your voice."

"No word from Craig yet, in case you're wondering."

"I've had one or two thoughts about it. He's probably having a hard time checking your references over the holidays."

"Right! I've got shopping and chores to do in the morning, so I'm hoping you'll be walking the dogs in the afternoon."

"As it happens, that's the plan. We'll walk over and pick you up and head for the city park."

We did, and we did the same thing on Sunday. The weather had held over Thanksgiving weekend, but the clouds were thickening and lower in the sky and the forecast was for a few days of rain ahead.

"With rain for the next few days, long walks will be more challenging. Should we go by the foster home on the way to your place and see if Adrian can get out for a little while for a dog walk?"

"You're serious?" He had a disbelieving expression on his face.

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"No one cares about Adrian. Well, I mean I do, and my family did, and the foster parents, but Andrew thought he was a pain in the ass."

I looked him square in the eyes. "Andrew was the ass. He was an ass about Adrian, and he was an ass about you."

"You… you really mean that?"

"Yeah, I do. Meeting you is the best thing that's happened to me in a long time. I'd forgotten how important and wonderful having a good friend is. You're not the only one that's been alone, you know."

He gave me a quick hug and when we got to the foster home went in to get Adrian released for half an hour. He had a wonderful time holding the leashes and taking the dogs for a walk while his brother and I followed along!

Seth called me late on Monday, obviously from work because he was trying to be discreet.

"Craig just called me. He offered me the job."

I felt a thrill run through me for him. "And you're surprised?"

"Well, yeah. I sure didn't expect he'd offer me the job."

"Let's look at the details. More money than you're presently earning?"

"Yes, with an advancement plan because what he wants to be hiring is someone he can train into being his office manager."

"That also means his assistant. The advancement plan comes with pay increases?"

"Yes… based on performance."

"You do understand that long term this could result in you becoming a certified insurance agent and financial planner, don't you?"

"Well, yeah… I mean in general terms. But you think that's for real?"

"I know Craig really well, and if he's offering you this job, he believes it. That means, it's as real as real can be."

"So, what do I do now?"

"What's your heart telling you to do?"

"Truth! Give my two weeks' notice, right now!"

"Did you accept the job over the phone?"

"Pretty much. He wants me to come to the office tomorrow and sign the paperwork."

"Then what you do is meet him, review the paperwork and make sure it says what you discussed on the phone. Then after you sign it, you go back and give your notice. You know, many a slip twixt cup and lip, and all that."

"I owe you big time, Wilt."

"You don't owe me anything. I was fortunately in the position to connect two friends, both of whom had employment needs. If you hadn't had the experience and the skill set, he wouldn't have offered you the job."

"You are too much! I've got to get back to work. Thanks… just thanks!"

I was so happy for Seth. He seemed truly and honestly enthused about getting this job offer. I remembered the feeling when I got my first real job offer. It has been as a sales rep for a major medical equipment company, and that was the entry into the industry and now here I was seventeen years later with my own business.


I'm driving back to work after signing the papers for the job offer. It was everything Craig said, and I'm still pretty much pinching myself. I didn't plan on being in retail forever, or staying at the wireless store for years, but this just came out of the blue. And here I am walking in the door and about to give my manager my two weeks' notice.

I decided to be cool and not text Wilt but wait and call him after dinner. When I told him the offer was everything Craig had said, he basically just said, "Uh hmm," like that was what he expected. "How'd it go, giving your notice?"

"Truth? My manager said he was surprised I'd stuck around this long."


"That's what he said. I've been thinking about it, and I think mainly it's that I've been down since Andrew dumped me and haven't thought about much else. Like possibilities. Like life. You know, stuck in place, or something. Does that make sense?"

"It sure does. When you're down, much like when people are depressed, you tend to focus inward. Thinking of yourself and your problems at the expense of everything else. You can lose sight of the rest of life and the bigger picture. At least, that's what my brother the psychologist keeps telling me."

"Why would he have to tell you that?"

"Because I've gone through my share of shit and being in the dumps, too. And he was always there for me. My relationship with Patrick was going sideways a couple of years before he got his cancer diagnosis, so I've been there and done that."

"Wow! I didn't realize that, but thanks for sharing something so major with me. All of this has got me rethinking the whole thing with Andrew. I've got more still to think about."

"Go for it, you're on a positive roll right now. Are we still on for Thursday?"

I paused, and a felt a grin form on my face. "Do you mean are we on for our next date?"

"If that's what you want to call it. And, for the record, I think that's sweet. I've just gotten used to us meeting up on Thursday evening. It's a major thing for me now."

"It's a major thing for me, too. I'll see you there after I drop Adrian off at art class."

I knew I was being over-excitable and probably looking needy… and maybe dependent, but the next day I had to at least text him.

< I'm still so stoked about this new job I just have to tell you again! 😍 >

As soon as I sent it, I thought to myself, 'the hearts were probably a mistake.'


I'd been trying to rein myself in. I mean I truly was happy for Seth getting the new job, and his excitement and enthusiasm was infectious. Still, it was important not to get carried away and seem silly. He's a good friend and you support and commiserate with good friends, and I'd do that.

So, I hadn't called or texted him. If my brother had me in his office, he'd probably make me admit the real reason: fear. I didn't need another train wreck of a relationship. And there was the age difference after all! So, be cool… be there… support Seth and enjoy the friendship.

So, wow! I was really surprised when the text came in that had the heart-eyes emoji. The dogs weren't part of this conversation, so what did it mean. Had to be he was in love with the situation… the new job and future prospects. I could hear my brother in the back of my mind asking me what I was afraid of and just shut that door hard!

< You should be excited. You deserve it. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow night .>

And that was the preamble to watching Seth come into the bar. This time I'd watched him enter in the mirror behind the bar and was watching for him to look at me. He did and broke into a massive grin that came through the mask he was wearing. Our eyes followed each other as he walked my way and pulled off his mask as he came up behind me… and gave me a huge hug with his chin resting on the top of my head.

He softly said, "I can't thank you enough. I've been like walking on air all day." My hands had unconsciously come up from the bar to cover his.

"I'm glad you're so happy about these developments. Here, I saved you a seat."

He slowly disengaged and sat down on the stool next to me. "Good day?"

I nodded. "Yeah, it's the post-Thanksgiving quiet while everyone recovers from eating too much and consumes the left-overs. In another day or two it'll pick up and be like last week. Remember what I told you about all those people trying to get surgeries on this year's insurance deductible?"

"Well, that's good for business, isn't it?"

"Sure, it is. Just would be nice if it was spread out over four or five months. Anyway, what else is up?"

He took the first sip of his ale after the bartender set it down and was licking the foam off his lips as he turned to look at me. I was watching his tongue follow the shape of his lips, and almost missed what he said next.

"I've got a favor to ask you. Well, actually, we've got a favor to ask you."

"Who's the 'we' in this question?"

He smiled innocently, and then said, "Well, me and Adrian, of course."

"Go on."

"Can he start coming with us on one of the dog walks on the weekend. I mean, which ever day is best for you, but he really loves Donner and Blitzen and is so excited and can't wait, and …"

I put my right index finger on his lips. "Enough said. The answer is easy and it's Yes." I smiled at him and damned if he didn't kiss my finger. Or maybe it was my imagination… fueled by my beer and the fantasy I'd just pulled myself back from when I watched him lick his lips.

"Fabulous. I knew you'd be cool with it."

"What else would I say? You know where I work and where I live. You could make my life miserable if you wanted to."

His eyebrows went up. "Now, that's a thought isn't it. You know though, if I was going to specifically do something to your life it would be the opposite of making it miserable."

"I'm gratified! Shall we order something to eat?"


I was pumped on the walk from McMennamin's to the community center. We'd had another great time and Wilt was fully into having Adrian come on weekend walks with us. He also hadn't said a word about the first part, meaning 'our walks' with the dogs… like that was now a given. But why was he so standoffish about the affection I was trying to show him? He'd done a lot for me and the vibe between us was fun and positive, so why the hesitancy?

After I dropped Adrian off at home, I thought some more about it and kind of reminded myself of what he'd shared with me about his relationship going sideways before his partner got the cancer diagnosis. He'd told me Patrick died two years after he found out he had prostate cancer. He'd said he got the dogs a year before that, so that meant back another year or two, maybe? The relationship had been bad or breaking down for two or three years? Wow? That made the nine months since Andrew dumped me seem like nothing.

We weren't married or anything and didn't have much together. Mainly we shared the apartment and slept together and had sex… well, that's what it had turned into, and the sex had gotten less and less. But when he made his decision, it was easy for him to pack up and move out. That was way different than if we'd had years together. And then to have your partner get a death sentence diagnosis. I know some people wouldn't want to hang around for that, but apparently Wilt did. He was a great person.

I settled onto the couch in the apartment and pulled out my phone.

< Thanks for another great date! By the way, in case no ones told you lately, you're one of the good guys!>

I decided to leave the emoji with the heart eyes out this time. Didn't want to seem too emotional or anything!


I wasn't expecting a text since we'd said goodbye at McMennamin's. The line about being one of the good guys caught me by surprise. It was a very thoughtful thing to say.

< Thanks for that. I appreciate it. You're a pretty good guy yourself .>

As soon as I sent it, I wondered if it wouldn't come off as kind of lame… but, it was gone now, so too late.

We both had busy days on Friday, but I texted him about the weather forecast, that Saturday afternoon looking like broken clouds with some sun, so it would definitely be the better day. He agreed, and I suggested we drive to a larger state park and asked if he could have Adrian out for that long. He said he'd cover it in the morning, and I told him I'd pick him up at one o'clock.

When I pulled up in front of his apartment building, he was standing outside waiting. His eyebrows went up when I honked, and he realized it was me driving the Ford Explorer.

"Whoa! Nice wheels," he said as he slid into the front seat. He turned to look at Donner and Blitzen in the rear cargo area and said, "Hi guys." Then he looked at me. "Will they stay back there?"

"This will be a test. They know full well their space is the cargo area, not on the seats. I don't know what'll happen when we pick up Adrian. Who should be in the back seat, you or him?"

He paused and then said, "Probably both of us. I need to be able to calm him down if he gets excited or gets the dogs too excited. It'd be better if I'm back there next to him."

His hands were resting on his thighs, and I put my right hand over his left hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "You're a good brother, in case no one's told you that lately."

He raised his eyebrows and smiled appreciatively, and we pulled away from the curb. Picking up Adrian was easy, and they both hopped in the back seat and most of the drive to the state park was Adrian giggling with both dogs trying to lick him to death over the back seat.

It was about an hour walk, and the trails were paved so the dogs didn't get wet and dirty. Adrian seemed thrilled to be walking the dogs, holding their leashes and keeping them in position. We had him back to the foster home by 4:30 and Seth suggested I come in and meet the foster parents. He introduced me as the friend with the dogs who'd been taking Adrian on walks. They seemed nice and responsible, and after some appraising looks it appeared I passed their credibility test.

When we left, Seth got in the front seat, and when we pulled up in front of his apartment building, he looked over at me expectantly. He wasn't the only one who was wondering about what next.

I smiled. "Are you doing anything special this evening?"

"No, why?"

"Well, because we both have to eat, and I for one, am tired of cooking and eating alone when I could be asking you to be part of it. So, that's what I'm doing. Want to come over for dinner?"

He was grinning big time, and his blue eyes seemed to sparkle, reflecting the light off the dashboard as he turned in the seat to face me. "So, wait. Let me make sure I've got this right. You're asking me on a dinner date, and you're cooking at your house."

"If that's the way you want to put it. I'm just tired of eating alone and I like your company."

"I like yours, too, so, the answer is yes. I cook, too, so you've got to let me help."

"Far out! You can help cook, plan on that. I'm just tired of being alone, and maybe you are, too." I shifted into gear hoping I didn't sound lame. I hadn't been paying attention and chirped the tires as we took off.

"Wow! Are you in a hurry, big guy? What kind of an SUV is this, anyway?"

I grinned at him. "It's a Ford Explorer, but the Sport model and most people don't know what the deal is. It's a twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 365 horsepower. You can see it's got the fancy leather interior and stuff. That's why the dogs get to stay off the seats."

"Very cool. I should have known you'd be into performance stuff."

"What? Do I look like a performance guy to you?"

"You look kind of high performance to me!"

Whoa! Was that a come-on line or what? Better dial this back. I smiled at him and said, "I went shopping yesterday so there's plenty of food in the kitchen." I parked in front of the garage knowing I'd run him home after dinner.

It was a very domestic evening. We fed the dogs and they settled down on their beds. We decided on what to cook and went to work and I opened a bottle of wine. We found out we could share tasks pretty readily, and the conversation was easy. We talked about the neighborhoods we grew up in, high school and college experiences and some about our families.

When I pulled up in front of his apartment I got out of the Explorer and walked around to the curb. "Thanks for saying yes to our dinner date. I had a great time. Did you?"

He looked at me with this innocent but quizzical expression on his face. "You're kidding, right?"

"No, I'm dead serious. I had a great evening with you."

"I did, too… with you. Do I get a hug… you know, for helping you cook?"

"You get a hug for just being you."

We pulled each other into an embrace, which quickly got tight. One of those faces-in-each-other's-necks kind of hug. I felt his hands slide down my back and go under my coat and then under my shirt and then slide up, stroking the skin below my shoulder blades and then softly stroking up and down my lower back.

The feeling was wonderful but wait. We were good friends, right?

He looked at me coyly. "You get one for just being you, too."

"Thanks. That's really nice. Now, I've got to get going."

"Are you saying you can't wait?"

"It's getting difficult, because you're a lot of fun to be with."

I gave him a final quick hug and got in the Explorer to drive home, wrestling with why I'd stopped whatever had just happened between us.


Fuck! Did I go too far with rubbing his back under his shirt? He's been playing it cool, and I have to respect that after what he went through. He was so nice asking me to dinner and just saying he was tired of cooking for himself and being alone. That's just the way I feel, too. So, did I blow it?

I thought about it some more and decided that we were getting comfortable with each other and expressing it in different ways. He'd put his hand over mine and told me I was a great brother. So, I could hug him and rub his back… right?

Going under his shirt was bugging me, though, and twenty minutes later I sent a text.

< I meant what I said about a great evening with you. I'm sorry if I went too far rubbing your back under your shirt. I wasn't thinking – just responding to what I was feeling. 🙁 >

Just a few minutes later I got a reply.

<] Nothing to worry about. We've both been alone for a while and have to sort out what it all means. It felt nice, for the record. 😂 >

Well, I guess he wasn't offended, but he wasn't raving about how good my hands had felt on his skin, lol!

My phone pinged again.

< As my mom used to say, may you sleep well with sweet dreams. >

I couldn't resist.

< That's very nice, and I guarantee I will… but I'm telling you nothing about the subject of my dreams! >


Sunday we were both doing domestic chores, but I called him in the afternoon just to say Hi. I joked with him a little about his last few days at the wireless store. He was upbeat and clearly happy to end this phase and move on.

Monday started the week as crazy as the last one had ended. Not only were we really busy, but with Christmas approaching, employees were taking a day off here and there, and that meant I was filling in. With a small crew it only took one employee taking a day off or being sick and I was filling in on the delivery truck, in the warehouse, wherever. We talked in the evening, and when I told Seth he thought it was hilarious that the guy that owned the business spent a day driving the truck making deliveries.

"Small business reality! Wait till you start working for Craig, I'm betting you'll be discovering similar kinds of things."

He kind of giggled and said, "I'll give you a full report on Thursday night!"

I'd reached the point that I was looking forward to watching him walk into the bar, look for me, and walk toward me with an ever-widening grin.

He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed as he said Hi and then sat down.

"You look like a happy camper for a guy that just started a new job."

"Happy is the word. You were right about Craig. He's a really good person. Totally seems to have his shit together, really responsible and has high standards. He's also got really good people working for him."

"You were welcomed and felt accepted?"

"Completely. I mean I have a ton to learn, but they all made me feel like I was part of the team. That was pretty wonderful."

"Nice to be accepted. I doubt it'll be a cake walk for the next couple of months, but that's a great start."

He asked me if I was still driving the delivery truck and I filled him in on my week. After we'd eaten, I agreed to join him picking up his brother and walking him home. Adrian was surprised to see me, but to my pleasure stepped right up and gave me a hug. I found myself hugging him back with no hesitancy. He kind of giggled but was leaning into my chest. We talked about pencil drawing technique on the short walk to the foster home, and after we'd said goodbye Seth and I walked back to the Explorer.

"What you did was so nice to see."

"What? What did I do?"

"You hugged Adrian back when he hugged you. You're the kind of guy who accepts stuff like that, but Andrew always acted like Adrian was a leper or something. Didn't want to touch him and couldn't wait to be away."

I started the Explorer and drove the few blocks to his apartment. "You already know what I think about Andrew. Your brother is a really sweet guy… even if he does almost always win at Scrabble."

"Yeah, but you act like you're not put off by his condition."

"I'm not. My brother's a psychologist, remember? We talk a lot and I just probably know a lot more than most people about conditions. Plus, I'm in healthcare and I've seen a ton of stuff. I figure we're all fucked up one way or another, more or less, you know? It's just that for some of us you can see it… for the rest of us it's hidden away and most of us work hard to hide it and look 'normal'… whatever that is. With Adrian, what you see is what you get. With most of the rest of us it's a struggle to get us to open up and show the real us because that lets other people in to see what the problems really are."

We'd parked in front of his apartment building, and he turned in the seat. "That's pretty heavy. So, you're admitting to me that even though you're a high-performance guy, you're not as perfect as you look, and that you have problems, too?"

"Yeah, I'm not. Count on it."

"And you don't have a problem with me having a brother like Adrian… with Asperger's?"

"Why would I?"

He paused and I could see an expression that seemed like fear, and it almost looked like tears could easily start leaking. "Because I'm the only person, the only family, Adrian has left. We're like… together."

He was sitting with his hands on his thighs, just above his knees, squeezing his legs like he was nervous. I reached over and put my right hand on his left.

"Relax about it, okay. I can see how much you love him and take care of him." He looked at me, questioningly. "I know you and Adrian are a package deal."

His eyes widened at the same time as the smile started to form. Then his lips took on that incredible sweet shape as the smile widened.

He lifted my hand in his and pulled me over to him. "Thank you," he said softly as he leaned my way and pulled me in to a kiss. It got passionate quickly, and I went as long as I could leaning across the console. Finally, I said, "You're the best kisser I know, but I can't handle this console digging into my ribs anymore."

He giggled and let me go. "You're a pretty amazing kisser, too. Very sensuous! And thanks again for what you said about Adrian. You don't know what that means to me."


The first two days at my new job had gone great and I was stoked, like I told Wilt… but that was nothing to how I felt when he said what he did about Adrian. I hadn't meant to tell him the bit about Andrew acting like my brother was a leper. It just came out because we'd been sharing about ourselves and our families. And then he told me he knows Adrian and I are a package deal!

Wow! And if that wasn't enough, he admits he's fucked up in his own way and has his own problems. I mean when he said we all have problems, it sounds so reasonable, but really! Who just tells someone they're getting close to that they've got problems?

I guess now that I say it, we'd both done that. I also guess that his psychologist brother would say that kind of honesty is a good way to start a relationship. I hope we're starting a relationship. I just feel this pull. I want to be with him, be part of him.

Deep breath! Better chill on that part for a while.

I got organized for the next day, my third at the new job, and heard my phone ping.

< The weather for tomorrow afternoon and Saturday looks bad. How about we walk the dogs with Adrian on Sunday?>

Yay! Even after what I'd said we're moving ahead.

< Sounds good to me. Bet it'll be a shitty Friday night commute home for those people that have to drive, lol!>

A couple of minutes later his reply came in.

<You've got that right. Lucky us. Also, for the record… lucky me. I can still feel your lips on mine!"

I decided I didn't need to reply to that one… I just held it close to my heart.


We were doing our walk on Sunday, and both had planned chores for Saturday. It was raining hard and windy. It dawned on me that going to the grocery store and stuff wouldn't be fun, and I didn't know the details of Seth's vehicle.

< I just finished breakfast and plan on going shopping and running some errands. Wanna go with me, and we can save on gas?>

I thought that was neutral enough… just reaching out to help a friend.

< You can only save on gas if you're driving your car. Mine's a beater and I don't trust it. >

Okay, so now I knew about that part.

< Fine. Then how about instead of you getting soaking wet and freezing your ass off in the rain, you keep me company and make me happy?>

When I hit send, I immediately had that after-the-button-push feeling that I'd given too much away. I wanted his company, and it was his company that made me happy. Oh, well! It was a few minutes, as if he was thinking about what to say.

< I'm all for not getting soaking wet and freezing my ass off. I'm also happy to keep you company. If I make you happy… will you make me happy? 😳 >

I'd set myself up for that, hadn't I?

< Yes, and yes. I'll pick you up around ten o'clock, okay? >

He gave me the thumbs up and what unfolded was a day of grocery shopping, a stop at the liquor store, the laundromat because his apartment didn't come with a washer/dryer and a couple of other errands.

It was about four when I dropped him off, and he said, "Thanks for another great day. It was way more fun doing it together. So, now to make up for that and since it's my turn, will you have dinner with me… here?"

I smiled to myself. Turn around is fair play. "So, now you're setting up the second date of the week?"

He smiled back, very coyly. "No, today was the second date of the week. Dinner will be the third one."

Okay, then! "What time do you want me here?"

"How about six thirty. That'll give you plenty of time to walk and feed the dogs, take a nap, freshen up… you know."

"I'm helping cook, too. Just like you did."

"Cool. See you then"

I was back on time with a bottle of wine, and Seth immediately put me to work in the kitchen. He had some music on I recognized but couldn't identify. Like the previous weekend, we worked just fine doing the various parts of preparing dinner. He was roasting a chicken, which impressed me.

"I don't know to cook all that many dishes, but my grandmother taught me the basics and a handful of dinner dishes. This is one of those dishes that's way more impressive that it's difficult."


"That it's not hard to roast a chicken. Rub it with some oil and sprinkle some herbs and into the oven. The hard part is what goes with it and getting the timing right." He partially opened the oven door to look in and then said, "I'm guessing twenty minutes. We've having mushroom risotto with it, and that's cooked and just needs to warm. You cut up all the veggies for the salad. Let's have another glass of wine and I'll put the newest Coldplay album on, and we'll chill for a few."

"I like your thinking."

We settled on the couch, side by side, leaning together with my arm around his shoulder and talked about cooking and life and other things I don't remember. After we ate and washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, we settled back down on the couch. This time around we weren't making small talk, and before long we were making out big time.

The wine had relaxed us both and we were enjoying each other's company. He'd looked so damn cute cooking and washing dishes in those tight jeans. It wasn't long before we were laying side by side, kissing and stroking each other's face and chest, and then I felt his hand over my crotch. It felt so warm and alive, so damn sexy and hot… and it had been so long since another hand was there. I groaned, and Seth took that as agreement.

Within a minute I was rubbing his groin, too, and he was groaning into my mouth. He was already hard and felt so good in my hand. His fingertips were running up and down my shaft, and even through my clothes it was electric. It was when I felt him start to unzip my pants that I pulled up short.

I don't know why that was the trigger, but I pulled back and heard myself saying, "Seth, hey, we can't be doing that. I mean, I really like kissing and hugging you, but we've got to think about what this is."

He looked at me in total shock. "What do you mean what this is? I thought what this is, is a developing relationship that's totally great. Am I missing something?"

"Well, I mean, we've only known each other a little while, and there's our age difference and we're both kind of rebounding and…"

Seth sat up and looked at me. "Wait, I don't know what you mean. People get together and make out and feel each other up and fuck or whatever within hours or days. We've known each other over a month and have gotten closer and closer, right?"

I nodded, feeling stupid and confused. He sounded so logical.

"We've been spending more and more time together and know we're compatible. We've been kissing and making out, so what's the problem? I really, really like you. I'm pretty sure you really like me. So, what's the problem? I'm pretty sure you're not celibate, right?"

Now I felt doubly stupid. "No, not celibate, that's for sure. I'm just… you've got to understand that it's harder for me…"

"Why?" He hadn't let me finish my sentence. "Because your last partner died? Fine, I get that 'cause I only got dumped. You told me your relationship was breaking down for a long time, and I'm really sorry to hear that. But it's over. I'm hung up, too. But we've both got to get over those relationships. They're finished and what we've got is new and exciting. It's full of possibilities. Don't you see that?"

He was so sincere and so sweet, his eyes pleading for understanding.

"I do understand what you're saying. That's why it's hard. I was about as many years younger than Patrick as you are younger than me. I know how hard it is to make a relationship with an age difference like that work."

He looked at me like I'd offended him. "This is you and me, not you and Patrick. We can make it work if we want to." He eyes glinted and he was defiant.

"Okay, I'll give you that. But I told you I've got problems I'm sorting out."

"So. Tell me about them."

"I mean my partner died."

"I know, and I'm really sorry."

"But I didn't feel that bad."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, like I told you, the relationship was breaking down. If he hadn't gotten cancer we'd most probably have broken up. Then he got sick and died. And it was kind of a relief. It solved a problem. I felt like shit when I realized that's how I felt."

"But you stayed with him through it all."

"What else could I do?"

"You were loyal and committed. What more is there?"

"That's what my brother said. Still, it doesn't change the fact that I felt like that and now feel guilty. And then when I got the dogs."

"Where do the dogs fit in this?"

"I got them almost a year before Patrick got diagnosed. Things were going downhill, and I got two dogs."

"What's not to like? They're great. Patrick must have loved them, too."

"He did, but that's not the point. He went along with it because that's what I wanted to do. A while later my brother told me what he saw going on. It's called diversion and transference. In other words, the dogs became a diversion from the relationship going downhill. Like a couple adopting children to try and save their marriage. And then transferring the love and attention onto the dogs instead of on our relationship."

"Have you talked to your brother about all of this?"

"Just about everything."

"And what does he say?"

"He was brutally honest. When the relationship started breaking down, he pointed out that he thought part of why I was with an older man was to get the affirmation I'd never received from our father. That was hard to hear."

"Yeah, no doubt. But people are complex, right?"

"They are, and I think I reconciled myself to that truth, but it wasn't the only thing I found attractive about Patrick when we got together. Meaning, I was attracted to him and thought I loved him for who he was, and that he loved me, too. But it obviously wasn't enough for the long haul."

"What did your brother say about the dogs?"

"Apart from telling me what I was doing at the time, that I was making too much of feeling guilty about it. That people do all kinds of things to cope with their situations. That what matters most is that I cared enough to stick with it and saw it through and took care of Patrick."

"That makes sense to me. Have you thought about one other thing?"

"What's that?"

"That maybe without the dogs you wouldn't have been able to make it through?"

That comment left me wordless. Maybe he'd hit the nail on the head. They had made all the difference, but behind all of this was my own… what? If I was brutally honest, it was my own fear of being hurt again.

"I care a lot for you Seth, and I'm not minimizing what you went through with Andrew, I… I just don't know if I can love again… like that."

Seth wasn't giving up. "Well, it seems to me you can if you care enough."


I'm no therapist, that's for sure, even if it felt like it for a while. What I realized, though, was that Wilt was beating himself up for something he pretty much had no control over, just like I had been. Yeah, his deal was much bigger, a long-term relationship falling apart and a partner dying. Mine was just getting dumped by a boyfriend and having a brother with Asperger's. But still. It felt like the same shit.

Knock yourself down, beat yourself up, start feeling guilty about it, feel bad about yourself… and then knock yourself down again and the pattern repeats. We talked about that, and how I thought we were both doing similar kinds of things and that we weren't being honest about the situation or fair to ourselves.

He was kind of defensive for a while, but not much, and he seemed to accept the logic of it and agreed that we'd both kind of isolated ourselves in our misery.

"So, what about the age difference?"

"Wilt, who cares? I don't. I told you I like high performance older guys."

He grinned, his eyes twinkling. "That sounds like a new thing for you."

"Truth? It is. But you know what, if we both like what we have and want it to work, why can't we make it happen? And for the record, my mom died of breast cancer and my dad died in a car accident. They both accepted me being gay just like they accepted Adrian having Asperger's. I'm not looking for affirmation from an older man."

"I told you I've been through this before, the other way around, but still. You're still willing to chance it?"

"Yeah. It's how I feel about you. I want to be with you."

"I'm willing to try it if you are." It floored me that he said it. Maybe it just came out?

I leaned closer and kissed him softly. "There's a really great Coldplay song called Everyday Life , that's one of my favorites. It has a killer verse.

'Cause everyone hurts
Everyone cries
Everyone sees the color in each other's eyes
Everyone loves
Everybody gets their hearts ripped out
Got to keep dancing when the lights go out

"We've both had our hearts ripped out, we've hurt, and we've cried. How about now we see the color in each other's eyes, love a little and keep dancing if the lights go out?"

He looked at me in disbelief.

"Why are you surprised? I like music and I was an English major. I'm just stating the obvious. Are you on board?"

I looked into his hazel eyes. It seemed like he was asking himself, was it worth it?

"Yeah, I'm on board. For you, I'm on board"

We spent the rest of the evening just holding each other, making small talk and enjoying the simple pleasure of being in each other's arms.

Wilt went home late, and Sunday afternoon we all took a walk with Adrian. I worried a little in the morning about how he'd be after how heavy it had gotten the night before. But when Wilt arrived to pick me up there was no hesitation. He pulled me into a hug and gave me a kiss and simply said, "Thanks for everything last night. The talk and the affection. It was wonderful."

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were busy for both of us. It's amazing how many people want to have surgery right before Christmas. Maybe it's a way to avoid family Christmas celebrations! I also felt like I was underwater trying to get my head around how the insurance business worked. But more importantly was the reality that my first job was to learn how the office operated so I could make sure it ran smoothly and efficiently for Craig. The details about insurance policies I could get easily by asking him or one of the office team.


The community center was closed on the Thursday before Christmas, so Seth had arranged to join Adrian for dinner at the foster home. I invited him over afterwards to see a movie and hang out. I had a couple of IPAs to choose from, and we settled down on the couch to watch.

Seth wanted us to watch Boys which I guess I'd heard of but never seen and that he'd seen before and assured me I would totally love. It being the story about innocent friendship developing into love. I had to admit I was intrigued, and it was totally engaging and moving… even if Seth's description seemed a little Freudian to me.

I knew Seth was completely into the story of how Sieger and Marc realize that their friendship was developing into something much deeper and more emotional, because of how he moved as we were watching it. Moved from sitting next to me to leaning on me, to slipping an arm around my waist… which I responded to by putting an arm around his shoulders and pulling him close. I was enjoying every bit of it, the entire experience of our bodies being so close together. Of feeling his heat and just how sexy he felt in my arms. Before the movie was over, we'd somehow rearranged ourselves so that I was leaning on a couple of pillows in the corner of the couch and Seth was between my legs leaning back on my chest. I held him close to me and softly run my hands over his abdomen and up to his pecs and over his nipples. When I did, he grabbed and squeezed my thighs and sighed, "Ahh, that feels so good. Your hands are so sexy."

"You are very sexy," I whispered back in his ear. "In fact, your name is sexy. If I say Seth slowly, like Se-ee-ee-th, it almost sounds like saying sex, don't you think?"

He giggled and pulled my arms close to him as the movie continued.

By the end of the movie, I was plumping up and I knew he knew it, and I could see his pants were a little fuller, too. He tipped his head back and pursed his lips… a clear invitation for a kiss. I leaned forward and responded, and as soon as our lips touched, his tongue was in my mouth, dueling with my tongue. After twenty seconds or so I realized it wasn't comfortable for me, and had to be more uncomfortable for him, so I moved to have him turn over and face me.

He shook his head and lifted his weight on his hands, still resting on my thighs. What he was doing was sliding up my groin so that his ass was riding on my now pretty hard cock. I groaned and he sighed, "So good," and kept slowly and softly rubbing his ass on me. The harder I got the more uncomfortable it was in my pants, so I said, "This feels wonderful, but wait a sec… I need to rearrange."

I reached down, while he lifted up, and pulled my now hard cock free and laid it on my belly. He was obviously paying attention to what I'd done because as soon as I put my arms back under his shirt and started stroking his chest, he started rubbing on my cock again. This time, though, it was with an exaggerated motion, his crack riding up and then down the entire length of the underside of my cock. It was blissful, even if it was through my clothes. I continued to stroke his chest, kissing his ears and the side of his head, lost in sensations I hadn't experienced for so long that I'd almost forgotten.

Then suddenly the sensations started to overtake me. "Oh, fuck! Seth, if you keep this up, I'm going to cum in my pants."

He didn't slow down one bit, instead sighing out, "Yeah, that's the idea!"

My logical mind was trying to process the fact that this beautiful young man was purposefully working to make me feel this good and to get me off, while my nervous system was trying to process the raw sensations that were racing through it. It didn't take long for my logical brain to lose the fight and suddenly I was cumming, a totally over the top explosion of pure sensuousness… the first brought on by another person in years. It didn't matter that it was in my clothes. What mattered was what motivated it and how it felt. I was totally lost for a few seconds, breathless as I gasped into the hair on the side of his head… then fell back onto the pillow.


I'd told Wilt I wanted to watch Boys with him because I'd seen it and liked it, but I also knew it was about two guys discovering each other while they shared a common interest. For them it was training for a relay race. For us it was dogs and our life together and Adrian… all the stuff we'd shared together over the last weeks. We'd gotten past kissing and making out and even grinding on each other, and I think Wilt had even realized most of what he was hung up about with our relationship was in his head.

As we watched the movie, we got closer and closer on the couch and ended up almost on top of each other with me between his legs and leaning on his chest. When Sieger and Marc had their first kiss, that clicked for me. Wilt and I had turned a corner. We'd had that first kiss and we were now exploring and developing our relationship… and I knew what I wanted it to be. I also knew what I wanted sexually. He wasn't there yet, but he was close, and knowing that and almost not even thinking about what would happen, I started rubbing my ass on his cock. He got hard fast, then had to readjust and that made it even better as he pulled his cock up on his belly and I could now make long strokes along the length. He didn't last long, but when he came it was so intense it was like he was going to lose it. Just what I wanted.

Then, in a minute, when he'd recovered, he pulled me back tighter against him so he could kiss the side of my head and whisper how totally amazing that had been. I was so happy, and he was stroking his hands over my belly and up over my chest again, and then slowly his hands slid down and went under the waist of my jeans, his fingers under the elastic of my briefs, the fingertips playing in my pubes.

God! What a turn on. My high-performance guy was rubbing my pubes, nuzzling my ear, kissing and licking, and I tipped my head back, so it was resting on him. I barely felt his hands pull out of my pants and undo my belt and then the button and finally unzip my jeans. His hands slipped back in, able to go further down now, and his fingertips stroked around the base of my cock. I was totally hard and straining in my clothes, and he knew it because he whispered, "Lift up." When I did, he pushed my jeans and briefs down and immediately took my cock in one hand and nuzzled under my balls with the other.

"I want you to feel as good as you made me feel," he whispered softly in my ear. I knew I already was feeling great, but within a minute my hips were thrusting up into his hand and in no time he had me shooting up onto my belly and chest. It was so intense, another hand on my cock after so long. When I'd finished cumming and relaxed back against him and caught my breath, I said softly, "That was so intense, so amazing. You made me feel so good."

"That was the plan."

"We're a total mess, you know."

"Yeah, so. That's why they make washing machines."


We decided we could wash our own clothes, and I walked Seth home hand in hand. We didn't say much. We didn't have to. It had been such a pleasant and satisfying evening together. Even without the sex it would have still been a great evening.

I kissed him passionately at the door to his apartment building, and he kissed me back every bit as strongly. He leaned back, looking at me from down the length of his arms and said, "I can't tell you how strongly I'm feeling about us… about you."

I was watching his blue eyes, and even though there were warning flags waving in the back of my mind that said, "Here it comes!" I ignored them and replied, "I'm feeling that way, too. I didn't think I'd be able to care about someone this way again."

He pulled me close and then gave me a quick kiss. "Let's talk in the morning. Tomorrow's Christmas Eve, so that makes it an even more special day!"

As I walked home, reflecting on all that happened in the last three hours, I asked myself why? Why was I walking home alone? Why hadn't I asked him to stay with me, so we could hold each other as we fell asleep and wake up together?

The simple truth was because I wasn't there yet. I still hadn't resolved the challenges of our age differences, my hang ups, the responsibilities I already had to the business and the dogs and the practical reality that Seth had a brother he cared very deeply about who had Asperger's Syndrome. Add it all up and there was plenty to consider.

As I took the dogs out for a last short walk, I felt a little guilty… like I hadn't really expressed what I'd felt this evening. I pulled out my phone.

< Thanks for one of the best evenings of my life. I don't know what's happening to me, I'm not sure I've ever felt this way before, but just… thanks.>

I was brushing my teeth when I heard the ping on my phone.

< It was one of the best evenings of my life, too. I do know what's happening to me. >

I fell asleep pondering that. Was this love. Was it possible… now… again?


I knew he was struggling with his feelings and what he was going through and probably overcoming some fear, and that it was probably easier for me than him. Even so, there! I'd said it. Or, at least, I'd texted it so he could chew on it and not have to freak out hearing me tell him that I love him. I fell asleep happily sated and dreaming of what it could be.

In the morning I texted him just to check in on times. Wilt's brother's family had dinner on Christmas Eve, and he was going to be with them, so I was having it with Adrian at the foster home. He'd pick us up there about seven and the plan was that we were having the rest of Christmas Eve at his house.

Adrian had gotten accustomed enough to Donner and Blitzen and visiting Wilt's house that it hardly excited him at all anymore. We hopped in the back seat of the Explorer when Wilt pulled up and were warmly greeted by the two dogs in the rear cargo area.

When we got to Wilt's house he had some plum pudding with a great cream sauce, and Adrian had ginger ale while Wilt and I had a glass of wine. Adrian wanted to play Uno, and it took five or ten minutes to teach Wilt how the game went, and we played three games—two of which Adrian won. I gave Wilt the eye, as if to say, 'just like Scrabble!' He laughed.

Then he said, "Alright you guys, come on, time for Christmas presents." We put away the Uno cards and settled in the living room in front of his little Christmas tree.

He looked at us deviously, then reached behind the tree and pulled out two boxes, one of which he handed to each of us.

I was immediately suspicious. I recognized the size and that the two were the same dimensions. Adrian quickly said, "Can I open it?" to which Wilt said, "Of course."

Adrian proceeded to pull off the wrapping paper and was holding in his hand the box with a new iPhone. His eyes got as big as saucers, like they do when he's really surprised. "Wow! Cool! A new phone. I've never had a phone before."

I looked at Wilt, then down at the gift in my hand and back at him. "You can't do this."

He grinned at me. "Sure, I can. Adrian needs to be able to communicate with you if and when he needs to. You also told me that your phone is a lease deal you got when you were working at the wireless company. Who knows how long that'll last? I want you to have your own phone so we can communicate whenever we need to."

"That makes sense, but it's a lot of money."

He looked at me pleadingly. "Seth, I can afford it. Will you please just accept it?"

That made me feel like an ingrate, so I smiled and told him I would happily do so. Before I could unwrap my present, though, Adrian said to me, "Can we do it now?" He was grinning and looking quite animated.

I smiled back and said, "Adrian, are you saying we should give Wilt and Donner and Blitzen their presents?"

"Yes, yes!" His face was now fully animated.

I said, "Okay" and retrieved the package that was under my coat where I'd left it when we came in.

I gave it to Adrian who handed it to Wilt and said, "This is for you… and Donner and Blitzen."

Wilt smiled and gave Adrian a hug and looked my way.

"I didn't know what to buy, but Adrian did. It was his idea and I bought it for him. The credit's all his."

Wilt looked simultaneously happy and quizzical, as if he was wondering about a Christmas present chosen for him by a kid with Asperger's. I knew it was going to be great.

He carefully unwrapped the package, and as he pulled out the two gifts inside, he looked totally confused, then there was a dawning realization of what they were, and a further understanding of just what the significance was.

He was holding in his hand two overstuffed reindeer antlers for dogs. It started as a smile, then broke into a grin and that spread all over his face before he started laughing. "These are totally awesome!" He turned to Adrian and added, "Donner and Blitzen are finally going to look like reindeer!"

He handed them to me and said, "I think you and your brother need to do the honors."

The dogs had comfortably curled up in front of the couch and had probably been asleep until they heard Wilt start laughing. Still, we had to make them sit up so we could put the antlers on their heads and then take pictures of each of them.

Things settled down after than and it wasn't long before we had to walk Adrian back to the foster home. He was thrilled that the dogs still had their antlers on, and made the foster parents come out on the porch and see Donner and Blitzen wearing them.

We said goodnight to them all and started walking to my apartment. We were holding hands, each of us with a dog leash, and when we got halfway there, he stopped me.

"I want you to know, I understood the text you sent me last night with the heart."

I felt my eyes widen and I tried not to smile. "You did? You didn't reply or say anything today."

"I know. I had some more processing to do. You know, about my hang ups. Anyway, I'm at a place I can say it now. I'm pretty sure I love you, too!"

"You are?"

"Pretty damn sure. I filled my brother and his family in on the details about us today and my brother said, 'sounds like you're in love.' Later, when we were washing pots and pans, he asked me if I was in love"

I couldn't help it and smiled wryly. "And?"

Wilt smiled back. "He said that it was long overdue. Then he asked me again if I was. I said Yes, and his next question was if I'd told you yet. He knows me way too well. So, now I'm telling you, but I have one more question"

I had felt my smile turn huge and his hazel eyes were sparkling in the light from the overhead streetlamps. As calmly as I could I said, "And what question would that be?"

"It's Christmas Eve and we've exchanged gifts. Why am I walking you home to an empty apartment? Why don't you come back with us? I really want you to spend the night with me."

He was quiet, waiting for my answer.

I thought to myself, This is the gift I really wanted.

After a few seconds I said, "I will if you make love to me."

A smile spread across his face. Then he said, "only if you make love to me, too!"

Donner and Blitzen
The image is provided using photos from Pinterest, both in the public domain and provided herell under the doctrine of 'fair use' which is believed to apply.

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