Rupert pulled up in front of the bar and stopped his car. He turned to look at Pike, who was lounging in the passenger’s seat. “I really had a good time,” he began truthfully.
Pike laughed. “Do we shake hands now?” he teased. “And promise to call but never bother?”
Rupert sighed. “No, I thought we’d read each others’ palms and maybe recite some poetry,” he said in exasperation.
Pike grinned, his black eyes gleaming. “You’re fun, Rupert,” he remarked. “So what now? Was that it?”
He felt his stomach muscles clench. “Well, that’s kind of up to you,” he pointed out. “I’d like to go out with you again, but if you don’t want to…”
Pike tilted his head to the side. “Hmm, a second date? I don’t know that I’m ready for that. Tell you what - I’ll go out with you again if you sleep with me so that I’ll feel more comfortable with the whole idea.”
Rupert stared at him, trying to see if he was joking. But it was impossible to tell - Pike’s face was unreadable. He swallowed. “I’m sorry,” he began. “I like you, Pike, I really do…but I’m not going to sleep with you just to get a second date.”
Pike’s mouth widened into a wicked grin. “You’re fun to tease, Rupert,” he replied in amusement. “You fall for stuff pretty easily.”
He looked annoyed. “Look, do you want to go out on a second date or not?!” he snapped.
Pike chuckled. “Sure, why not? Hangin’ with you is fun. Where should we go?”
“Umm…I thought maybe a picnic or something,” Rupert began. “Then maybe we could go see a movie.”
“Sounds good. How about Saturday afternoon? The bar’s pretty empty at that time of the day.”
“Yes, that would be good. I’ll bring the food and everything.”
Pike nodded. “You’d have to. I’m not exactly a gourmet chef. Come and pick me up about one o’clock, okay?” Pike opened his door, while Rupert took a deep breath and tried to process the fact that Pike had agreed to go out on another date with him.
But Pike suddenly leaned over the seat, and he forgot everything else as Pike’s lips closed over his. He was kissed with that same aggressiveness that Pike had used before, and he responded to it. He opened his mouth and let Pike’s tongue slide in, moaning softly. He turned to mush in his seat, his whole body going limp.
Pike pulled away. His dark eyes looked into Rupert’s dazed ones as he smiled. “I might not know much about dating, but I DO know that there’s often a ‘goodnight kiss’,” Pike remarked. “So goodnight, Rupert. I’ll see you Saturday,” and this time he actually got out of the car, waving before he strolled into the bar.
Rupert pulled himself together slowly. He started the car, his brain trying to restart. He couldn’t believe that Pike had agreed to go out with him again! He was excited for Saturday. Maybe he was foolish to get his hopes up, but he couldn’t seem to help himself…
Rupert arrived at Pike’s Peak on Saturday, dressed for a picnic and with a large wicker basket of food resting on the seat beside him. He got out of the car, approaching the green painted door. He left the basket in the car, locking the doors behind him. This neighborhood was just too iffy for him to ever leave his vehicle unlocked when he came here.
He pushed open the door, squinting in the dimness of the interior. Behind the bar, the large man with the wild reddish hair gave him a desultory glance. “Hey,” he said. “It’s you. Pike wants you to go up there,” he pointed at a set of stairs at the back of the bar.
“Err…” Rupert said cautiously.
“It’s his apartment.” the barman replied.
Not feeling reassured by these words, Rupert tentatively walked over to the stairs and mounted them. They opened up into a large apartment that was a bit grungy and messy, but not as bad as he would have expected. Pike was lounging on the couch, watching an old TV. When he saw Rupert, he leapt to his feet. “Hey, Rupert; welcome to my pad!” he said cheerfully.
“Umm, hi,” Rupert replied, hovering near the stairs.
Pike laughed at his expression and stance. “Rupert, you look like you’re a medieval maiden waiting for me to ravish you,” he teased. “I didn’t have you come up here to ’have my wicked way’ with you. I wanted to show you something,” he added, walking over to a closed door in the far wall of the apartment. He opened it, revealing another set of narrow stairs. “Come with me,” he said over his shoulder.
Rupert walked over, wondering where this second set of stairs led. To an attic, where Pike would tie him up and sexually torture him? Hmm…why did that thought not bother him as much as it should have?
But the stairs didn’t lead to an attic…they led to the roof of the building. Rupert emerged out onto a tar-paper surface, looking around. To his surprise, he saw a large, open-sided tent to one side, and underneath it were wooden boxes full of soil. Vegetables and herbs were growing in these boxes, shaded from the afternoon sun by the tent. “You have a rooftop garden?” he said in amazement, walking over to it. “Do you grow this stuff yourself?”
“Yeah. Tank started it, and he taught me how to grow things. What? You think I biker guy can’t know how to garden?” Pike said with a crooked smile.
“Well, it’s not what I associate with the word ’biker’, I’ll admit,” Rupert said as he leaned over to look at the rows of tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, broccoli, runner beans, and a small patch of potatoes. The herb patch smelled wonderful.
“Yeah, I know. Tank was one of a kind,” Pike remarked. “Anyway, come over here. There’s something else I want to show you.”
Rupert turned and followed him over to the center of the roof, startled to see a two-story wooden tower with a platform at the top and a waist-high railing around the edge. Several flags were hanging from poles at the corners of the tower; he saw a gay pride flag on one corner, a black flag with a skull on it at the second corner, and the California flag on the third.
“Welcome to Pike’s Peak,” Pike told him, turning around. “The original Pike’s Peak, that is. Tank build this for me when I was just a kid, because he wanted a place for me to play and the parks around here can be really dangerous, even during the daytime. There used to be other stuff up here too, like a home-made jungle gym. We took those down when I got older, but I insisted that we not tear down this tower. I like to come up here and hang out a lot. I drink beer and think about things. You wanna come up and see the view?”
He nodded. Pike climbed up the ladder and onto the platform easily, calling down to him: “Then come up, Rupert! It’s totally safe, I swear.”
He ducked his head so he didn’t bang it against one of the wooden struts; the tower wasn’t really made for a guy who was nearly six-feet tall. He had to kind of twist himself to get onto the ladder. But once on it, he climbed up it, emerging out onto the wide platform at the top. He gasped a little when he saw the view from up here; the city spread out on all sides of them, with the high-rose towers at the center and low hills far in the distance. Even the light blanket of smog couldn’t detract from it.
“Great, isn’t it?” Pike remarked by his side. “You should see it at night. The city’s lit up like a fairy wonderland.”
“It’s wonderful,” he replied. “It must be so nice to just be able to come up here by yourself and think. I bet this would be perfect for meditation.”
“Wouldn’t know about that,” Pike replied in faint amusement. “Anyway, I’ve been thinking. You said you wanted us to go on a picnic. But we’d have to drive a long way to find a park that isn’t kind of dangerous, especially for white boys like us. So why don’t we eat up here? There’s room to spread out.”
Rupert looked around. “That’s a great idea,” he said. “I’ll go and get the food…”
“Nah, give me your car keys and I’ll get it. You stay up here and enjoy the view. I’ll be back in a sec.”
Rupert handed over his car keys, and Pike disappeared down the ladder. He stood on the platform after he’d gone, turning in a slow circle to take everything in. What a wonderful secret place! He rather envied Pike. It would be very nice to be able to go up on your own roof and take in the view have some quiet time to yourself, relax…
Pike came swarming back up the ladder, startling him. “You actually brought a picnic basket,” he remarked, grinning.
“Yes, why not. We’re going to have a picnic,” Rupert said defensively as Pike set the basket down on the platform.
A laugh. “Okay. What are we having?”
“Chicken. And potato salad, coleslaw, fruit salad, and homemade potato chips,” Rupert told him as he knelt down and opened the basket.
“Wow, you must be an amazing cook.”
He shrugged in slight embarrassment. “Actually, I picked it up at a deli I discovered near my apartment.”
Pike laughed. He sat down cross-legged across from Rupert. “Whatever. I’m hungry, and it smells good.”
Rupert piled food on a plate for him, then handed it to Pike along with a cold bottle of beer.
Pike’s brows shot up as he looked at the bottle. “You remember what kind of beer I drink?” he said in amazement.
“Well, yes. I notice little details. It’s part of what makes me so good at my job,” Rupert said as he filled a plate for himself and pulled a bottled water out of the basket.
“huh. That’s cool. Thanks.” Pike opened the bottle and took a long pull at it.
Rupert sat down and put his plate in his lap, handing Pike a plastic fork. They both started to eat, and the silence that fell was peaceful and relaxing. The sunlight beat down on their heads, warming them, and a soft breeze sometimes flowed across the platform and brought the smells of the city to their nostrils. Rupert shook his head silently over the fact that this was what passed for mid-winter around here. Back home they’d be knee-deep in snow right now. Such a different world he’d come to…but not a bad different. He looked at Pike, sitting across from him, and reflected that it definitely wasn’t a bad different. At all.
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