Chapter 09

Equal Justice Under Law

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Justice: Chapter 09

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SUMMARY: The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is dead. Now, with control of the Court hanging in the balance for the first time in years, the race is on to fill this critical vacancy. Who will the President nominate? Will a closely divided Senate approve his choice or will partisan politics derail the nomination? Only one thing is certain. There will be winners and losers and the balance of power may shift in the country depending upon the outcome. In the process, careers will be affected, reputations made and lost, and friendships tested. But which side will ultimately prevail is far from clear. Please note that italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.

WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.

NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters or fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Similarly, you may not use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way without such permission. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.

COMMENTS: Comments are welcome. You can either email me directly or leave a reply at the end of the chapter. A first name (pseudonyms welcome) and valid email address are required to leave a reply, but your email address will not be published. Nor will it be sold, shared, given away or otherwise used for any other purpose.

NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so.

JUSTICE

Chapter 9

In the booth where he was sitting Eric Ford suddenly became aware of the youth on the dance floor his eyes had been staring at for some time without being fully conscious of it. Perhaps it was some unexpected gesture or sudden movement that caught his attention. Whatever the reason, Eric realized he was staring at the young man and must have been doing so for some time. That was embarrassing.

More embarrassing still, his attention had not gone unnoticed. Apparently amused by just how obviously he had been staring, the boy was returning his gaze. That was unusual. Typically the boys who frequented the place were quite deft when it came to feigning indifference to those who showed the slightest interest in them.

But this boy wasn’t playing that game for some reason. He was definitely looking at Eric; indeed, not just looking, he was smiling at him in a bemused kind of way. And because that was the case Eric was finally becoming aware of just how good looking the boy was.

He reminded Eric of Gene in some ways. He had the same beautiful smile for one thing and was shorter like Gene as well; not a lot shorter than Eric, but definitely an inch or two shorter and that was comforting. Being taller made Eric feel more secure around boys he was attracted to.

There were others similarities as well. The boy had the same type of lean body Eric had always admired in Gene. Thin was in as far as Eric was concerned. He also had similar hair; a mop of brown curly hair that seemed to remain in place miraculously somehow no matter what happened.

Admittedly, the boy’s clothes were a disaster. They weren’t fashionable at all; just an old pair of blue jeans accented by a bright orange t-shirt that called attention to him like a neon sign. That wasn’t how it was done in Washington and so for that reason alone his clothes made him stand out.

Unlike Mark, Eric didn’t judge people by the clothes they wore. They did make him cautious, however. His first reaction was that the boy was probably a hustler. But on further reflection he wondered about that.

Indeed, the more he looked at the boy, the more confused Eric became. On the one hand, there was something of the all American boy about the kid, something wholesome Eric found himself powerfully attracted to. But there was also a hint of the juvenile delinquent that appealed to him as well.

Eric liked boys who were rough and tough and never pretended to be anything other than what they were. For all of that, the most important reason Eric was attracted to the young man was the killer smile he was flashing; although in this case it was hard to decipher exactly what the smile was trying to tell him.

If anything, it was kind of an innocent smile, a smile intended to reassure Eric the boy wasn’t offended he was staring at him. Eric wasn’t sure how long he had been eyeing the boy subconsciously, what had caused him to recognize he was, or what he should do about it now.

Before he could begin answering those questions, however, the boy suddenly began walking across the dance floor toward Eric. Trapped in his booth, there was no way Eric could hide from the young man. Still, he lowered his eyes and tried to pretend he hadn’t been staring at him.

“Hi,” the boy said, having arrived at his destination. “I was just asking my friend what this booth is about, but he didn’t know. He said I should ask you. I hope you don’t mind.”

“That’s my friend over there,” he added, pointing at Aaron.

Surprised by the question, Eric fell back on the canned responses he had learned over the years.

“The booth is here to encourage people to participate in the annual AIDS Walk tomorrow. You’ve probably heard about the Walk. If not, it’s a five kilometer run and walk designed to raise money for Whitman Walker Health. Are you familiar with Whitman Walker?”

“No,” Richie responded. “Not at all; I’m not from around here. Tell me about it.”

“Whitman Walker is an agency that helps people with HIV and AIDS and those affected by it,” Eric continued. “Among other things, it provides health screenings and various other services to people in need who wouldn’t be able to afford them otherwise.”

“That sounds terrific, but what does the walk have to do with any of that?” Richie asked.

“It’s a fundraiser,” Eric responded. ”People decide to participate in the Walk and then try to get their friends to sponsor them financially by pledging to contribute to Whitman Walker if they finish it. The money raised benefits those who wouldn’t be able to get help except for the Walk.”

“Awesome,” the boy responded. “By the way, my name is Richie. What’s yours?”

“Uh, Eric; my name is Eric Ford.”

“Nice to meet you, Eric,” Richie continued. “Do you come here often?”

“Often enough to have heard that question a million times,” Eric replied, turned off to be hearing it now. “I’m only here tonight to call attention to the Walk tomorrow. I used to come here fairly often, but these days I rarely do.”

“Why not?” Richie asked, undeterred by the hint of disapproval in Eric’s voice.

“I don’t know,” Eric replied. “Does it really matter?”

“Sure; I wouldn’t have asked otherwise,” Richie answered. “This is my first time here. I was just wondering what you thought of this place. It sounds like it’s not one of your favorites from what you just said.”

“Sorry,” Eric apologized, realizing he had overreacted. “If you like spending time in bars, I guess this is a nice enough place.”

“Why did you stop coming then?” Richie asked. “I’m curious.”

“I guess it’s because I get tired of hearing the same questions over and over,” Eric replied. “You know what I mean?”

“Not really,” Richie said. “What questions?”

“You know,” Eric answered, shrugging his shoulders. “Is this the first time you’ve been here? What’s you sign? Do you come here often? What do you do for fun? Do you want to go home and fuck? That’s what conversation comes down to pretty much in places like this, isn’t it?”

Richie laughed.

Based on his own admittedly limited experience in gay bars, he thought the stranger had summed things up pretty well.

“I don’t know,” he replied, smiling. “Like I said, this really is my first time here.”

“Good for you,” Eric said. “Then you’re probably not jaded like me.”

“What does jaded mean?” Richie asked, to Eric’s surprise.

People in Washington rarely asked questions like that. Ignorance was weakness; at least that’s what most Washingtonians believed – unaware that for some ignorance was considered an opportunity to learn.

“Uh, well, I guess jaded means you’ve done something too much and it doesn’t excite you anymore,” Eric replied. “But it’s the truth in my case. The questions people ask at places like this are always the same.”

“For a while I even considered printing up a card with my answers,” he added. “I figured handing them out whenever someone asked one of those questions would make things easier for everyone.”

Richie laughed again.

He found the idea amusing, the stranger suggesting it even more so.

This dude has a weird sense of humor, but I like it.

“Do you think I should do that, Richie?” Eric asked, pressing the point because he was nervous now and uncertain whether the boy was laughing with him or at him.

“Do you think I should give people a card so they won’t have to waste so much time trying to wheedle that information out of me?”

Richie laughed still again, unaware just laughing made him more attractive to Eric.

“It probably would be easier,” the boy conceded. “But I bet you didn’t do it, Eric, did you? I mean, make up a card like that. If you did, I’d sure like one. I bet your answers would make me laugh.”

“I hope so,” Eric said, disarmed by the kid’s response. “But no; I didn’t print up a card. I just stopped coming to bars so I wouldn’t have to give the same tired old answers.”

“But you’re here tonight,” Richie countered, smiling, “and doing a good deed for others. How’s it going by the way? Have a lot of people signed up for the walk?”

“No,” Eric replied. “I haven’t been able to persuade a single person to sign up. I’m a complete failure. How about you, Richie? Would you be interested in walking tomorrow? If you help me snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, I’ll owe you a favor.”

“Think about that, Richie,” he added, winking at the boy and grinning. ”You could ask anything; anything at all.”

“Hmm, that sounds kind of tempting,” Richie answered, amused still again by the good looking stranger. “As for walking, I would if I could but I can’t. I like helping people, but I’m not from Washington. I live in Baltimore. Me and Aaron are just visiting tonight. We’ll be going home once we get tired out.”

“Then you’ll probably need one of these,” Eric said, holding up the bowl of free condoms for Richie’s inspection. “Does your friend have a favorite color?”

To Eric’s amazement, Richie did something unexpected.

He blushed.

“I, uh . . . I don’t think either of us will need one of those tonight,” Richie replied, embarrassed. “Aaron and I are friends, but we’re not friends that way if you know what I mean.”

That surprised Eric. He had assumed the older man was Richie’s sugar daddy; or, at the least, his patron for the evening.

“Uh, well, take one anyway,” Eric said. ”Who knows? You might meet someone else before the evening is over. If you’re not on the pill, condoms are a must; and if you’re sexually active at all, they help with STDs.”

“Like I said, I don’t think I’ll need one,” Richie repeated again, politely. “But thanks for offering.”

“Are you sure?” Eric asked, pressing the point since the younger boys usually took a lot more than one. “They’re free and they’re colorful as well. If nothing else, you could decorate your bedroom with them.”

That brought forth still another laugh from Richie.

“I’m sure.”

“Okay, then,” Eric replied, hoping he hadn’t offended the boy and yet anxious to continue their conversation. “Would you like to make a donation to the Walk?”

“I’ve only got two dollars left on me,” Richie said, pulling the crumpled bills out of his pocket and placing them on the table. “But you can have them. Other people probably need them more than me.”

Impressed, Eric realized he had misjudged the boy. He seemed sincere and genuinely interested in helping.

“I could take the two dollars, I suppose,” Eric replied, “but how about this instead. How about you agree to participate in the Walk tomorrow and I agree to a 50 to 1 sponsorship for you. That means if you complete the Walk you’ll have raised $100 for the cause, not just two.”

“Uh, well, that’s very generous of you,” Richie said, taken aback by the offer. “But like I said, I live in Baltimore. Even if I wanted to, I don’t have a place to stay in Washington.”

“You could stay at my place overnight if you want,” Eric replied, surprising himself in the process. “If you did that, we could do the Walk together tomorrow morning. Believe me; you’ll be a better person if you do the Walk.”

“Why would I be a better person?” Richie asked, his curiosity aroused.

“Because in addition to all the people your contribution will benefit, you’ll also be helping me keep a promise,” Eric replied.

“What promise?”

“I promised myself I would persuade at least one person to participate in the Walk tomorrow who wouldn’t have done so otherwise,” Eric answered. “But my shift is almost over and I’ve failed. You’d be a better person, Richie, because you would have made me a better person by helping me keep my promise.”

“Uh, maybe,” Richie responded, trying to digest what Eric had just told him. “But Aaron has to go back to Baltimore tonight because he works Saturday mornings; and without Aaron I wouldn’t have any way of getting back to Baltimore tomorrow if I stayed.”

“I could drive you back once the Walk is over,” Eric countered.

By now Eric was surprised at just how aggressively he was pushing the boy to participate in the Walk. As much as he wanted to prove he still had the touch, he wondered whether there was something more going on.

For his part, Richie looked at Eric and smiled. He liked his persistence in a good cause, but by now the boy realized there was more to it than that. Eric seemed different from the other men he had met in Washington; more serious and earnest in some ways, and yet funnier as well.

He isn’t full of himself like most of these dudes. He seems really into this walk.

Still, Richie had met a lot of smooth talkers in Washington by now and wondered whether Eric had a hidden agenda.

“You should get a prize for that,” he replied, grinning at Eric.

“What do you mean?” Eric asked, returning the boy’s smile; “a prize for what?”

“For being so persuasive; I haven’t been to a lot of gay bars, but that’s the most interesting pickup line I’ve ever heard.”

Perhaps in different circumstances Eric would have been offended. Before he could take offense, however, Richie giggled. That caused Eric to laugh in turn because he realized there was some truth in what the boy had just said; that perhaps his motives were not entirely altruistic.

“I’m not trying to pick you up,” he protested. “I’m just trying to respond to all the excuses you’re tossing my way for why you can’t do the Walk tomorrow. If you come back to my place, I promise not to molest you. I have a guestroom so you can even have your own bed if you want.”

What if I want to be molested? Richie replied, silently, by now uncertain what he wanted to do.

It was right about then that Eric’s replacement for the rest of the evening showed up.

“How’s it going?” his fellow volunteer asked. “Did anyone sign up for the Walk?”

“I don’t know,” Eric responded, looking at Richie. “Are you going to sign up or not? Like I said, you can stay at my place tonight. I’ll drive you back to Baltimore after the Walk tomorrow. Best of all, you’ll be doing a good deed and be a better person for it.”

Richie hesitated, uncertain how to respond. He hadn’t approached the stranger with the idea of going home with him. He was just interested in getting to know him better. But his attraction to Eric had only grown stronger as the two had chatted.

Unlike most of the men he had met in Washington, Eric was down to earth and seemed genuinely nice. He was funny as well and definitely hot, no doubt about it. But that also worried Richie because he wasn’t sure what might happen – or indeed what he wanted to happen – if he took Eric up on his offer.

Truth be told, Richie was nervous. He wasn’t sure what he wanted, but by now he was definitely tempted.

“And you have a guestroom?” he finally asked, trying to send a message to Eric. “Is that what you said?”

“I did,” Eric replied, disappointed.

“Well, then, sure; why not?” Richie said, having made his decision. “Who doesn’t want to be a better person? And what better way to become one than by helping other people.”

“Uh, well, I don’t mean to spoil your evening, but we’ll need to leave right away,” Eric replied, surprised. “If we stay here until this place closes, we’ll never be able to get up for the Walk in the morning; at least I won’t. Is that okay?”

While Richie would have preferred to stay, he realized Eric was right. And it had been a long day already in any event. He was tired.

“I’ll have to tell Aaron I’m staying tonight,” the boy said.

As Eric watched, Richie walked over to the man he had been dancing with. They exchanged a few words and then separated, with Richie returning to the booth where Eric was waiting.

****

As Eric headed toward his car with his new friend in tow, he wondered what he had gotten himself into. A seemingly innocent conversation about the Walk had unexpectedly turned into something different; something edgier.

One thing had led to another and then, surprisingly, the boy had accepted his invitation to stay overnight and participate in the Walk the following day.

Eric hadn’t expected that.

Are you sure that’s why you invited him back to you place in any case, Eric; just to participate in the Walk?

Being incredibly cute had nothing to do with it?

By now Eric realized that participating in the Walk was only part of the reason he had invited Richie back to his townhouse; indeed, that perhaps the invitation had less to do with the Walk than with something else entirely.

That made him nervous as it had been a very long time since he had last done something spontaneous like this, especially with someone he was so attracted to. Maneuvering his car on to the road, Eric wondered whether he had made a mistake.

If you did, it’s too late to do anything about it now, dude. You’ll have to make the best of it.

Hoping to break the silence engulfing the car and learn more about the boy in the process, he finally spoke up.

“Tell me about yourself, Richie.”

“What do you want to know?” the boy replied. “There’s not much to tell.”

“Uh, well, how old are you?” Eric asked.

“Almost nineteen.”

“I see; and, uh, you said you live in Baltimore. Is that where you were born?”

“No. I was born in a little town in southwestern Virginia called Pulaski. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s not too far from Blacksburg. That’s where Virginia Tech is located. You might have heard of Tech.”

“I have,” Eric said. “Do you go to school there?”

Although he was pretty certain by now Richie wasn’t a college student, Eric wanted to see if the boy would try lying about it like some of the young hustlers would have.

“Me? Virginia Tech? Now I know you’re crazy. Even if I had the money to go there, which I don’t, I’m not smart enough. I’m a lot of things, but I’m not book smart like you.”

“Why do you say that,” Eric asked, confused; “that I’m book smart? How do you know that?”

“Most of the men I meet in Washington are book smart,” Richie explained. “That’s pretty much why they’re here I guess. You have to be smart to work for the government and everyone in Washington seems to work for the government one way or another. Do you?”

“I do,” Eric replied without elaborating. “But tell me more. How did you end up in Baltimore if you’re from Pulaski?”

“Now that’s a long story,” Richie said; “too long for tonight, that’s for sure. But to make a long story short, a friend of mine suggested I move to a bigger city after I graduated from high school this spring. He had a friend who lives in Baltimore who was willing to provide a room in his apartment for me until I found a job. That’s the dude I pointed out earlier; Aaron.”

“I’m renting a room from him now,” Richie added, determined to let Eric know he wasn’t being kept by an older man.

By then they had reached Eric’s townhouse on Capitol Hill and that brought a momentary end to their conversation.

****

As they entered the place, a hungry Milo brushed against the young stranger’s leg and meowed.

“Oh; what a beautiful kitty,” Richie said, kneeling down and petting it. “What’s its name?”

“Milo,” Eric replied. “He must be hungry. Usually he isn’t friendly with strangers or even with me for that matter. How about you, Richie? Can I get you something to eat or drink?”

“No, I’m good,” Richie replied, taking the kitten into his arms and brushing his cheek against it.

Milo responded in kind, licking the boy’s cheek and beginning to purr contentedly.

“Are you sure?” Eric asked, momentarily jealous of the affection Milo was showing the stranger.

“I am, but Milo could use some food,” Richie added, putting the kitten down and turning it loose.

“Give me a moment to feed him,” Eric said. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

Walking over to the table where he usually deposited his keys and wallet, Eric suddenly had second thoughts about doing that.

Maybe you should keep your stuff with you, dude. You never know.

From there he headed to the kitchen where he quickly scooped out some of the kibble he fed Milo every evening. When he was done, he returned to the living room where Richie was examining some of the pictures on the wall.

“You have a nice place here, Eric; very big, very fancy,” Richie volunteered.

“Uh, well, I’m not sure how fancy it is, but I like living here. Would you like to sit down and talk a little, Richie; uh, you know, get to know one another better before, uh . . . before . . .

“Before going to bed?” Richie suggested, ambiguously. “As much as I’d like to talk, we should probably go to bed. You said we needed to be up early tomorrow for the walk and it’s getting late.”

“Of course,” Eric said, disappointed. “You’re right.”

“The bedrooms are upstairs,” he added, walking over to the staircase and waiting for Richie to join him.

Once he did the two made their way to the top floor. From there Eric led the boy down a corridor and into a bedroom.

“Uh, this is the bedroom where guests sleep,” he said, turning on the lights. “I mean, um, some of my guests; the ones who aren’t gay. And, uh, you’re welcome to sleep here as well like I promised.”

“Once I put on the sheets, of course,” he quickly added. “Sorry about that; I wasn’t expecting a guest this evening. The bed’s just a twin and not very comfortable. I, uh . . . I apologize for that as well. I suppose I could sleep in here instead and you could use my bed if you want. It’s a lot more comfortable.”

By now Eric was babbling on, trying to figure out what to say. He didn’t really want Richie to sleep in the room, but realized he couldn’t go back on his word either.

“And, uh, the bathroom is at the end of the hall,” he added, leading Richie back out to the corridor.

“Where’s your bedroom?” Richie asked, curious.

“Uh, well, it’s over here,” Eric said, leading Richie a few steps down the corridor and into his room.

The lights were already on.

“Wow,” Richie muttered, looking around. “That has to be the biggest bed I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Sitting down, he bounced up and down on it.

“Comfortable too,” he added.

“Uh, well, yeah; it’s a king and there’s plenty of room for two,” Eric volunteered, uncertain whether the boy would pick up on his hint or how he would react if he did.

But Richie didn’t say anything in response and that left Eric uncertain what to do next.

“Uh, well, like I said, I could sleep in the other room if you like this bed,” he finally added. “You’ll sleep better here, that’s for sure.”

Like Eric, Richie was also nervous and uncertain what he should do. He wasn’t about to evict Eric from his bed and the bed was clearly big enough for two. But was sleeping in the same bed with someone he was attracted to so powerfully a good idea?

Oh, what the hell, why not.

“If you promise to be good I suppose we could both sleep here,” Richie replied. “Like you said, there’s more than enough room for two and it would save you the trouble of having to make up that bed in the other room.”

“It would,” Eric agreed, nodding his head. “And, uh, sure, I promise to sleep on my side of the bed if that’s what you want.”

“But, uh, here, let me show you the bathroom,” he quickly added, leading Richie out to the corridor again and down the hall. “If you need to use the facilities, feel free.”

“The towels are fresh if you want to take a shower and here’s a toothbrush you can use,” he added, retrieving a new one from the medicine cabinet. “The toothpaste and rinse are on the sink. Is there anything else you need?”

“No,” Richie replied. “I think I will take a shower though.”

With that settled, Eric retreated to his bedroom, uncertain what to do once he got there. Although he had promised the boy he would sleep on his side of the bed, he had qualified the offer by adding he would do so if that’s what Richie wanted.

By now Eric realized he had been fooling himself. He hadn’t invited Richie home just to participate in the Walk the following morning. He had invited him because he was attracted to the boy and hoped the feeling was mutual.

And it’s not like you didn’t give him any choice in the matter. You offered to sleep in the other room, but he’s the one who suggested we sleep in the same bed. He probably wants to have sex as much as me.

But you don’t know anything about the kid, Eric, an inner voice cautioned. He could be HIV-positive. He could have AIDS.

You’re on the pill, Eric, another voice countered. That’s why you take it every day; so you can be uninhibited in bed without having to worry about something bad happening.

Yeah, but he could have another sexually transmitted disease; gonorrhea or syphilis. He could be a hustler.

If he was hustling, he probably would have asked for money by now, don’t you think? As for STDS, use a condom if that’s what you’re worried about. But you better figure out what to do quickly. He won’t be in the bathroom forever.

Eric checked the drawer on the nightstand next to his bed. It was where he kept the condoms and the large tube of lubricant he had bought upon arriving in Washington years ago. He had hardly used any of it over the years.

A bit optimistic back then, weren’t you, Eric?

Still not certain what to do, Eric placed a solitary condom and the tube of K-Y on top of the nightstand where Richie would almost certainly notice them. He wasn’t going to go back on his word, but would leave it up to the youth to decide what he wanted to do.

Having done that, Eric pulled down the bed covers, closed the shades, and turned down the lights to create what he hoped would be a more romantic mood. As far as he could tell, everything was as ready as it ever would be.

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