Gus opened his eyes and then immediately closed them again. He stretched luxuriously and ran his hand over the soft cotton sheets. He opened his eyes tentatively as they adjusted to the ray of bright sun shining in through the gap in the drapes of his hotel room.
"We're in Paris," he whispered to himself.
"Yes we are," Ray said with a big smile on his face.
"I am, and as you said, we're in Gay Paree."
"Yes, we are," Gus agreed with a beautiful smile. "So, what are we going to do?"
"First, I'm going to fuck you into tomorrow and then we're going to explore Paris," Ray said decisively.
"If you fuck me into tomorrow, we'll lose a day of our time in Paris," Gus said with a coy grin.
"Hm, point taken," Ray said, "but it would be worth it."
Gus grinned. "I love you."
"Backatcha," Ray whispered before his lips captured Gus', and their Parisian adventure began in earnest.
Quite a while later, the boys grabbed some cafe au lait and croissants from the restaurant in their hotel. They walked along the street munching on their croissants and soaking up the atmosphere.
"Where should we go?" Ray asked after they finished eating.
"What do you mean?" Gus asked with a frown.
"The Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre-Coeur?"
"You've been reading the guidebooks," Gus told him.
"Yes I have."
Gus said thoughtfully, "Let's go to Notre Dame."
"Notre Dame? Are you sure?"
"Yeah, why not?" Gus asked.
"I never thought of you as the churchy type."
"Churchy type? What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know ... religious," Ray replied.
"I'm not particularly religious, you should know that," Gus retorted.
"I'm always finding new things about you. I thought this might be another one."
Gus smiled at his partner. "I'm not religious, but I am an artist ... of a sort. Notre Dame has perfect proportions and amazing stained glass windows that I'd really like to see."
"Okay then, let's go," Ray said hailing a cab.
"Great," Gus said as they climbed into the cab.
A short ride later and they stood in front of the magnificent cathedral.
"It really is beautiful," Ray admitted.
"Isn't it!" Gus responded. "Let's get in line and go inside."
It took quite a while as the line was long and moved slowly, but finally they arrived at the main portal. Gus studied the carvings of saints while they waited to be admitted.
Ray watched Gus' face. "You really get off on this place, don't you?"
Ray shook his head. The building was certainly impressive, but it was so old. He couldn't get excited about it the way Gus did.
"We're in next," Gus said excitedly.
The boys walked in through the massive doors. The interior of the church was quite cool even in the heat of the summer. Rays of bluish light shone across the nave as the sun filtered through the stained glass windows.
"Wow!" Ray said in spite of himself.
Gus grinned. "I hoped you'd like it."
"It was worth coming here," Ray stated causing Gus to give him a hug.
They wandered around the cathedral looking at the beautiful rose window and the many side chapels and the main altar. As they made their way back to the main entrance, Gus turned and walked backwards taking it all in one last time.
"That was great," Gus said when they exited. The sun blazed in their eyes and they squinted for a couple of minutes before their eyes adjusted.
"What's next?" Ray asked.
"I think I could use lunch," Gus said as his stomach rumbled.
"Yeah, we spent a long time in there."
"And in line. Let's walk along the side of the cathedral and see if there are any cafes nearby," Gus suggested.
They walked slowly down the street beside the cathedral, looking at the flying buttresses, the stone tracery and the myriad carvings.
"It really is incredible," Ray said when they reached the back of the church.
"That looks like a commercial street across the way," Gus noted, "and I think I see a cafe."
They crossed the road and entered Cafe Michel. A middle aged waiter showed them to a table and handed each of them a menu.
"I want French onion soup," Ray declared.
"In France?" Gus asked with a laugh.
"I want the real thing."
"Then French onion soup it is and a baguette to go with it," Gus told the waiter who spoke pretty good English.
"This is the best thing I've ever eaten," Ray declared when their soup came and he took his first bite.
"Mmm," Gus agreed as he practically inhaled his bowl of soup.
"Why can't they make it like this at home?" Ray asked.
"Um, maybe because they're not French."
Ray chuckled. "That might be it."
"What are we going to do when we finish our soup?" Gus asked.
"Hm," Ray replied thinking of what he might like to see as he wiped his lips from the last spoonful of his onion soup.
"If I might suggest, messieurs," their waiter said. Gus nodded. "Many people like to stroll along the Seine and look at the booksellers stalls."
"We don't read French," Ray explained.
"There are books from all over the world and many other interesting things as well. If you tire of that, you could take one of the Bateaux-Mouches."
"One of what?" Gus asked.
"Bateaux-Mouches, the sightseeing boats on the Seine. You can see a lot of Paris that way."
"That sounds good," Ray said.
"And you might want to check out the Latin Quarter for dinner. It's just over there," the waiter said pointing. "Hundreds of restaurants to choose from. And there's a concert tonight at Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre."
"What's that?" Gus asked.
"Un moment," the waiter said as he cleared their table and returned with a flyer advertising the concert. "It is music students, a string quartet, who will be performing. It has, how you say, the atmosphere of Paris."
"Sounds great," Ray said.
They paid for their soup which was surprisingly reasonable and left a large tip for their helpful waiter.
They strolled along the Seine looking in the small green stalls that lined the walkway. When they came to one of the stops for the Bateaux-Mouches, they decided to take a ride. They ended up doing the whole tour which took a couple of hours. It gave them a good understanding of the layout of Paris and of some other things they might like to do in the coming days.
As they left the boat, they asked for directions to the Latin Quarter. Pointed in the right direction, they began walking. They asked a couple of times for further directions, before finally turning into a street lined with restaurants packed together one after the other. Each restaurant had a man standing outside, touting the type of food and its great quality, trying to draw in the passers-by.
They walked on trying to decide which restaurant might be a good one to choose. It was a bit much to take in.
"I'm bushed," Gus said. "Let's go in the next place, whatever it is, and get a beer. We can decide about dinner later.
As it turned out, they had their beer and a wonderful French dinner of coq au vin, all at the same restaurant. It gradually filled up as the sun crept lower in the sky. Gus and Ray watched the people who surrounded them and felt the ambiance of Paris drift over them.
When they were ready to leave, they asked the man who still manned the doorway for directions to Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre. It was just a few streets over but they had to navigate the maze of restaurants to get there. Finally they arrived at the squat old church, so different from Notre Dame.
"This is a lot of churches in one day," Ray observed.
"Maybe we'll get religion while we're in Paris."
"I hope not," Ray huffed.
"Atheist," Gus said with a chuckle.
They paid the fee and entered the old church to find it lit only by candlelight.
"How romantic," Gus said when they sat down.
"It really is," Ray agreed. "You don't find anything like this at home."
"That's why people love Paris. It's an experience."
Ray nodded just as the musicians entered and took their seats. Neither Gus nor Ray were fans of classical music, but in that place that night they learned how exquisite it could be. The string quartet was excellent, and the boys enjoyed the whole concert, holding hands for most of it. They let the music and the soft candlelight and the wonderful feelings that the place evoked wash over them. They were sad when the concert ended, but had a new respect for the Paris they had always heard was so magnificent. It really was very special.
When they tumbled into their bed at the hotel, both men were exhausted. It wasn't long until they both were asleep, ending a perfect beginning to their Paris adventure.
“I think I can get used to this,” Michael said as he sipped his coffee on the patio. The sun was bright but with just enough of a cool breeze to stave off unpleasant humidity.
“Hmm,” Ben mumbled, not really paying attention. He was eyeballs deep into a chapter and hunched over his laptop. Since their reconciliation, Ben was so inspired that he was practically glued to the computer; that is, when he wasn’t glued to Michael.
“I said,” Michael was about to repeat but realized that it wasn’t important. What was important was that he and Ben were together and living in the cabin. Michael was still kicking himself over that one. He should have known better, but he let petty jealousy get the better of him. And he should have listened to his family but his stubbornness won out. Until Brian made him see reason.
“When am I ever going to learn?” Michael mumbled.
“Hmm?” Ben murmured making Michael smile.
“Nothing,” Michael said as he gently kissed Ben’s cheek then turned to go back inside. Sensing that something had changed, Ben looked up.
“Love you,” Ben said with an endearing smile.
“Love you too,” Michael replied just in time before Ben returned to his writing. “Love you so much,” Michael whispered.
“Hello?” Michael called out as he walked into the cottage.
“Back here!” Michael heard Justin call out from the sun porch. Michael walked through the house to the porch.
“Hey, what’s up?” Justin asked as he stared at a blank canvas.
“Nothing really, I got bored working on my tan,” Michael quipped.
“A little late in the summer for tanning, don’t you think?” Justin mumbled around the wooden end of a paint brush.
“I didn’t have much time before. You know, working at the store and stuff,” Michael said with a touch of sadness.
“I understand,” Justin said sincerely. Then he sighed, loudly.
“I guess I’m a little uninspired at the moment. And a little hungry. Do you want lunch?” Justin asked as he put down his brush then strolled into the kitchen with Michael in tow.
“Sure. Um, where is everybody?” The cottage was very quiet.
“Bobby’s at his office clearing up cases. He’s taking most of September off, said something about baseball,” Justin replied while his head was in the refrigerator in search of the fixings for lunch. “John is on a job. He took Patrick and Peter with him. Bree’s with Rachel and her girls. Something about a girls’ day out before school starts.”
“And Brian?” Michael asked trying not to sound desperate.
“Not sure, garden center I think. Ham or roast beef?” Justin asked as he turned and waved various cold cuts at Michael.
“No bologna?” Michael asked. He chose the ham when Justin shook his head no.
They made their sandwiches, got drinks then sat at the table.
“I never realized how quiet it is out here,” Michael said between bites.
“But you’ve been out here hundreds of times.”
“Yeah, but mostly during parties.”
“What about when you were, you know...”
“When I was sick?” Michael asked. Justin nodded, blushing a little at asking something so personal. “I didn’t noticed much back then. I guess I was too scared to think about anything else.”
“Yeah, I know the feeling,” Justin admitted.
“After I was hurt, sometimes I was so angry that I’d trash things; other times I was feeling sorry for myself, but most times I was just scared,” Justin whispered.
Michael nodded with understanding. Before he knew his diagnosis and how to treat it, Michael was scared too.
“But that’s the beauty of the lane, it can be as noisy or as quiet as we want it to be!” Justin said with a sunny smile. He didn’t want the conversation to become morose.
“Yeah!” Michael agreed and then they finished their lunch in companionable silence.
“How’s Ben doing?” Justin asked when they began to clean up.
“Great!” Michael answered with a little too much enthusiasm. Michael blushed.
“And his book?”
“Good too, I think. He doesn’t talk about it much. He’s too busy typing.”
“I thought he liked writing long hand.”
“Me too but he said it’s easier to get the chapters to his editor this way.”
“Makes sense. Uh, do you have any idea how long you’ll be staying? I mean it’s not like we don’t want you here, but we share information and look out for each other since it’s a bit remote.”
“I guess that makes sense. I’d want to know who’s around just in case of an emergency or something,” Michael said after he thought it through.
“It’s not like we tell each other everything, but we know when Emm and Drew are planning to come to the lane and when they plan to stay in Pittsburgh. It helps John know what to do about their cottage. Same with Molly.”
“What’s their cottages have to do with it?”
“John sort of powers down the cottages when no one’s living in them. It saves on electricity and gas. Why heat a house full blast when there’s no one there. He’ll keep the thermostat high enough to prevent pipes from freezing and a small lamp on a timer but that’s all.”
“I never knew. You do that with our cabin too?”
“Sure. And it helps that Beau and his family do regular inspections as well,” Justin teased.
“Yeah, Lucy nearly gave me a heart attack the other night when I went to sit on the front porch for a while. She can be very quiet when she wants to be. That reminds me, we need more dog snacks.”
“I’ll give you a box to take with you,” Justin assured him.
“My mom and Carl really like it out here, huh?”
“As far as I know they do. I’m sure if Debbie changed her mind about living on the lane she’d let everyone know.”
“Yeah. Speaking of my mom, I think I better go talk to her.” Michael’s face turned a deep red.
“She loves you no matter what,” Justin said as he found a box of John approved dog snacks for Michael.
“I know.” Michael wasn’t sure what to say.
Justin gently shooed Michael out of the conjoined cottages as Brian’s Jeep rumbled through the gate and up the lane. Brian tapped the horn as Michael waved on his way to the thatched cottage. Justin watched and waited as Brian parked.
“Entertaining gentlemen callers while I was out, Sunshine?” Brian drawled with an arched brow. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Brian never got over the time when he saw Justin in bed asleep with Michael.
Justin gave Brian’s chest a light smack before reaching up on his toes to give his man a kiss. Brian took that opportunity to exert a little dominance with a toe curling kiss. Brian smiled when the kiss ended leaving him with a slightly breathless Sunshine. Justin said nothing when Brian tucked him under his arm as they strolled inside.
“How are things at the garden center?” Justin asked as he handed Brian a cup of coffee.
“Fine,” Brian replied with a grin.
Justin shook his head. “Be serious.”
“I am being serious. Todd has his crews jumping. Not only are they preparing for the fall season but he has men on retainer in anticipation for a rough winter.”
“Yes, he is. And he looks happy,” Brian said in all seriousness.
“He and Tom are good for each other,” Justin stated. “I’m happy for them.”
“So am I, Sunshine,” Brian saluted with his mug. “How’s Mikey?”
“Good. Happy. Maybe a little bored. It’s not like he can sell comics while he’s here.”
“Why not? He has a website for his store, why can’t he sell from there?”
“That’s a good question. Maybe you should talk to him and JR about it,” Justin put forth.
“Maybe I will. In the meantime, it appears we have a very quiet cottage.”
“For now. I’m not expecting Bree for hours,” Justin informed his spouse.
“Really?” Brian asked with a grin.
“Yes, really. I was informed by Rachel that girls’ day out included dinner and maybe a movie.”
“Hmm, I wonder what we can do to fill the void?” Brian waggled his eyebrows.
“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” Justin replied with a knowing smile.
Grinning like fools at each other for the moment, Justin sprang up.
“Race ya!” Justin shouted as he sprinted for their room with Brian hot…hot on his Sunshine’s tail.
Return to Gay Paree