The beginning of the year is always slow for selling cars, since most consumers take advantage of the year-end clearance deals at the big dealerships. But January in Albany is even worse because of all of the snow and ice that is usually ushered in with the new year. Customers to Strachey's Used Cars are few and far between these days, and the office is quiet as Donald's only other salesman, Kenny Kwon, sits bundled up behind his desk, muttering about the cold.
"It's Albany," Donald replies, rubbing his eyes with the balls of his hands. "It's supposed to be cold."
"Yeah, but..." Kenny complains.
"You want some coffee?" Donald asks, stopping what is probably about to become a tirade of complaints about everything from winter, to Upstate New York, to Kenny's ending up alone on New Years Eve (which was, as Kenny had explained earlier, his own fault for trying to get the bartender's phone number while getting a drink for his date).
"Half caff, lowfat, doubleshot mocha with two raw sugars," Kenny rattles off.
Smirking, Donald gets up. "Two black coffees it is," he says, bundles up into his heaviest coat and warmest scarf, then heads down the street to Starbucks.
Donald takes his time, since it's been quiet all week, and sits down to read the paper while he enjoys his coffee. When he's finished perusing the Albany Herald, he gets up and warms his hands next to the gas fireplace, then gets a refill for himself and grabs Kenny's coffee before heading back out into the weather, pulling his coat tighter against the brutal wave of cold air.
A voice brings him out of his thoughts as he nears the lot, and Donald realizes there's a customer on a cellphone looking at his cars. He looks towards the office, seeing Kenny engrossed in something on his computer monitor. "Probably on another damn dating site," Donald mutters, shaking his head. "Good morning!" he calls to the customer as he approaches, raising his cup of coffee as a greeting.
The customer signs off of his call, then tucks his phone into a pocket, turning to Donald. "Good morning," he answers back with a nod.
Donald smiles, appreciating the handsome man before him; just a bit taller than Donald, with dark hair and strikingly blue eyes hidden behind a masculine pair of glasses. He's dressed smartly, and for a moment, Donald wonders what the man is doing on a used car lot. "What can I do for you?" He almost adds, "handsome" to the end of his sentence, stopping himself in time.
"I'm here for the Diocese," the man says, extending a hand. "Tim Callahan. I believe they called?"
Hand stuttering for a moment, Donald puts the two coffee cups currently occupying his hands onto the hood of a 1980s Chrysler before turning back, taking the handsome man's ungloved hand into his own. He appreciates the warmth and strength of Tim's handshake as he covertly checks for a wedding ring on the man's finger. "Donald Strachey," he offers. After a bit too long of a handshake, Donald releases Tim's hand, then blushes. "Uhh, coffee?" he asks, offering Kenny's untouched cup to the man.
Making a show of shivering, Tim smiles, then reaches for the cup. "That would be lovely," he offers as he accepts the steaming brew. He takes a sip, and Donald has to choke back a whimper as he watches the man's Adam's apple bob up and down as he swallows the coffee. "So, uhh," he manages, coming back to reality, "the Diocese, Mister Callahan?" he asks.
"Yes," Tim replies. "And please - call me Tim. Or Timothy. Either is fine."
"Okay, Timothy," Donald says, picking the more formal name since it's more befitting the well-dressed man in front of him. "Yes, I remember getting a call from a Father...Bailey, I believe it was?"
"Yes, Bub. Bub Bailey. He's the new parish priest. He recently moved here from out of state, and isn't quite used to the snow."
"Where from?" Donald asks, stalling. He's trying to remember the call, but is coming up blank.
"New Mexico," comes the response, Donald nodding his reply. "So he wanted my help in obtaining a later-model SUV to help him get around better. I'm afraid the church's little... Well, I don't know what it is - some little compact thing - it's not that good to drive in the snow. Not that Father Camron ever minded. That man could barely see over the dashboard, so he always managed to get people to drive him wherever and whenever he wanted."
"You're not with the parish, are you?" Donald asks as his flirtatious side accidentally comes out, then immediately steels himself for letting his mouth get ahead of his brain. But handsome brunets always seemed to have that effect on him.
"No," Timothy replies with a wry smile, "though I help them out from time to time as I'm a long-term parishioner; I've been going there since I was an infant. Oh, and I was a Seminary student. For a while," he offers quickly. "Is that an issue?"
"No, no," Donald says, grinning back as the man takes another swallow, Donald's eyes trained on the bobbing Adam's apple again as it moves up and down behind the buttoned collar. "So what kind of budget are we looking at?" he asks, changing the subject.
"Five thousand dollars," comes Timothy's reply. "I'm afraid anything above that will have to come out of my own pocket."
"That's not a heck of a lot for an SUV; at least not a newer one," Donald says. And while he'd normally start off by showing a customer something well out of their price range to try and upsell them, there was something about this man that Donald couldn't quite pull himself into starting that bait-and-switch process. Pointing to a 2005 Jeep, Donald says, "Well, I do have this guy... But he's a bit out of your price range, and he's a stick shift. Plus, you know," he walks up to the Jeep, patting the cloth top, "it's a convertible two seater, so... Not really practical for a priest in winter."
"What about..." Timothy starts, pointing to a Dodge Durango a few dozen feet down the lot with a $4,995 price tag.
"Actually, no," Donald says. "That's a rebuild." At Timothy's curious look, he explains, "It was totaled in an accident. Bought it as salvage and had someone put it back together for me. Probably not the best choice."
Even Donald is surprised at his honesty.
Scanning the lot, Donald spots an early 2000s SUV, then grabs Timothy by the elbow and gently guides the man to the back part of the lot where the more expensive cars tended to be. "How about this? A 2003 Toyota Highlander. Seats 7, on the fly four-wheel-drive, and a high enough clearance to get through any snowbank Albany snowplows can pile up." At Timothy's look, he adds, "Toyota's are pretty rugged, really well made, and have a pretty high resale value."
"Yes, but," Timothy says, pointing to the sticker price. "Eleven thousand?" Shaking his head, he says, "That's quite a bit out of our price range. I'm afraid I don't have much to contribute myself..."
"No, no, no," Donald says, waving his hand dismissively at the windshield. "Don't worry about that. Five thousand," he says, holding up two fingers. "Scouts honor."
"For some reason I have a hard time picturing you as a scout, Mister Strachey," Timothy says with an impish grin.
"Yeah, well, good eye," he says with a wink. "Though I was a scout...for all of about forty-five minutes." At Timothy's curious look, he says, "Let's just say the scouts and I didn't see eye-to-eye on a few things and leave it at that."
"Well," Timothy says. "Sounds like you and I may have a few things in common, then." Before Donald can ask, Timothy says, "But still... You can't just take more than fifty percent off of a car."
"I can," Donald says. Before he realizes it, he's confessing again. "Look... I got this one off a repo guy. Cost me twenty-eight hundred dollars." Again, Donald isn't sure why he's being so honest with this particular customer, but it just feels right. "So, you wanna take it for a test drive?"
"Are you sure?" Timothy asks. "There isn't some sort of catch?"
"Only if you want there to be, handsome," Donald says, letting the compliment roll off of his tongue this time with a smile.
Timothy just blushes his response.
After a beat, Donald says, "Lemme go get the keys so we can take this bad boy for a spin." He adds a wink, then jogs up to the office. Entering the showroom, he quickly closes the sliding glass door behind him, Kenny finally looking up from his computer.
"Where's my coffee?" Kenny asks as he turns his attention back to his computer monitor, Donald rolling his eyes when he hears, "Oh he's hot..."
"You lost your coffee," Donald says, grabbing the keys to the Toyota, smacking the side of Kenny's screen, and then pointing outside. "To a customer."
Kenny stands up, scanning the lot until he sees Timothy pacing near the Toyota. "Wow... He's hot - for an older guy," he says.
Donald just rolls his eyes again, then playfully punches Kenny on the shoulder. "Be back later," he says. As he's heading back out the door, he adds, "And try and pay attention for customers instead of your love life for once?"
"Don't I always?" Kenny manages with a straight face, Donald letting out a sigh before closing the door behind himself and jogging back to his customer.
Donald holds the keys out to Timothy, waiting for the man to grab them from his grip. "Am I driving?" Timothy asks.
"Why not?" Donald replies. He walks up to the passenger side door, then motions for Timothy to unlock the car, climbing in a second later.
Donald goes over the features of the car, stealing a touch here and there to guide Timothy's hand whenever possible. When Timothy's ready, he directs them out of the lot, and out onto the streets of Albany.
"Wow... This does have some good traction," he admits.
"Imagine what it'd feel like with snow tires," Donald suggests. "I know a guy that can set you up. Really reasonable."
As the car pulls to a stop at a red light, Timothy asks, "Any chance you can throw those in?" he asks, giving Donald a smile that causes Donald to discreetly adjust himself when Timothy turns back to check the stoplight.
"What's in it for me?" Donald asks, pushing back with as much charm as he can muster.
"How about..." Timothy says, scanning the area, then pointing, "I take you to the Blue Rose for drinks. They make a delectable vodka martini. And on Saturday nights, they have live jazz and dancing..."
"Are you saying I'd have to wait until Saturday to get to go out with you?" Donald quietly asks.
"Not necessarily," Timothy responds, giving Donald another sexy grin. "That could be a second or third date..."
Timothy holds his look with Donald, who beams back at him until they're bounced out of the shared moment by the blare of a horn behind them. "Oops," Timothy manages with a blush, nodding to the now green light, then slowly inches the car forward in the ice and snow.
Donald gets Timothy to sign off on the car (with as much flirting shared between the two as possible), Donald promising to deliver the Toyota to him the following day with the snow tire installed. It's $200 out of his profit, but he considers it a small price to pay - especially with the way Timothy's smile drew the breath from him every time. "Tomorrow night?" Donald asks.
"Tomorrow-" Timothy replies, then blurts, "Oh, tomorrow for delivery. Yes."
"How 'bout I bring it to your place around 7?" Donald asks.
"That would be perfect," Timothy says. "Thank you, Mister Strachey." He gives Donald one last smile, then turns, heading out into the afternoon.
Donald stands, watching as Timothy retreats until Kenny, clearing his throat, brings Donald out of his lewd-thought-filled imagination. "Uhh, boss?" Kenny manages. "Didn't you tell me we aren't allowed to sleep with our customers?"
"That only applies to you, Kenny," Donald says as he turns back towards his desk, bouncing the DMV folder off of Kenny's monitor as he passes. "Only to you."
Donald drops the Toyota off at his friend Ross' garage the next morning for the snow tire installation, with a promise from Ross to change back to the regular tires at no charge for the Diocese come Springtime. He heads back to the office, then waits a tortuously long day until 6pm closing time.
Once he retrieves the Toyota, Donald plugs the address into the navigation unit, then starts off for Timothy's house. It's in a modest part of town, but Donald is happy all the same that he's not driving his old Corolla, lest he give Timothy the wrong idea. He knows he should be driving a nicer car, what with being in the car selling business, but he just can't seem to get rid of the old clunker.
He pulls up to Timothy's house a few minutes before 7pm, then gets out and goes to the door, ringing the bell. After a beat, he hears a voice coming from the inside, then the door opens, revealing Timothy with a phone cradled to his ear.
"Yes, Senator," he says. "Yes. And while I completely understand, I implore you to do everything you can to restore funding. The Center can't take a funding hit right now, especially since it's the dead of winter." Timothy motions for Donald to come inside, so Donald does, waiting at the doorway as Timothy continues his conversation. He looks around, noting the humble belongings of the man as he listens to the one-sided conversation about funding. "I see. Well, if there's anything that I can do to help your Chief of Staff secure the funding, please don't hesitate to contact me. Thank you, Senator."
Timothy hangs up the phone, then turns to Donald. "I'm sorry about that Mister Strachey-"
"Donald... It's just that the legislature may be cutting funding for the center that I work for."
"Center?" Donald asks. It's clear from Timothy's demeanor that the man is distracted and upset.
"Kelly's Space Youth Center," Timothy replies. "It's a shelter for at-risk youth that I started after I dropped out of Seminary school to help my parents look for my sister." With a sigh and a slight tugging down of the sides of his mouth, Timothy offers quietly, "She'd started hanging out with the wrong crowd, coming home late. One night, she... Well, she didn't come home at all."
Donald reaches out, gripping the man's shoulder as if his touch could help soothe the obviously painful memory. "Did you find her?"
"No," Timothy responds, voice barely above a whisper. He pulls himself together, visibly shaking off the memories. "I helped my parents as best we could. But when it became obvious that we probably weren't going to find her, my parents put together a trust, and I started Kelly's Space. It's open 24 hours a day for at-risk youth, with programs to help them stay off the streets, like training and job placement. You know; the stuff that every kid on the street needs. The trust pays the rent and keeps the lights on, but that's just about it. We depend on outside funding for things like resources and counselors. But now it looks like our $150,000 yearly grant from the state is about to be axed."
"What can I do to help?" Donald asks as he lets his fingers knead into Timothy's shoulder.
Timothy slowly shakes his head side-to-side, then sets his gaze on an object on a nearby side table. Donald follows Timothy's gaze to a picture, Donald assuming that the girl in the picture with Timothy is his still-missing sister. "I'm sorry," Timothy says as he finally turns away from the picture and back to Donald. "In light of Senator Platt's news, I'm afraid I may notbe good company tonight." He gestures back to the phone. "And now I'm going to have to see what I can do to help secure some funding to keep us open. At least until Summer."
"No problem," Donald says. He offers Timothy a weak smile, then fishes into his jacket pocket, producing the keys to the SUV. "Here's the Toyota," he offers.
"Oh yes, yes," Timothy responds. "I'd almost forgotten about that." He takes the keys from Donald, then places them in a dish that contains some change and another pair of keys. "Thank you so much, Mister Strachey. I'll get it to the Diocese tomorrow." Timothy offers a hand, his thoughts obviously elsewhere.
Since he's being blown off for their pseudo date, Donald figures he can be a little bold and leave Timothy with some positive memory of the night. Donald accepts the handshake, then leans in, planting a chaste kiss on Timothy's cheek. "You're welcome, Mister Callahan."
Timothy smiles, making Donald melt just a little inside.
"Good night," Timothy offers as Donald crosses to the door. Donald gives him an understanding nod, then heads back outside into the cold, pulling the door shut behind him.
Standing there, Donald hears voices behind him, and figures Timothy is already on the phone, dealing with his crisis. He walks out into the night and steps up to the SUV, then hangs his head. "Shit," he mutters, realizing he'd handed his only means of transportation over to Timothy; he'd counted on Timothy driving him home after delivery of the car, and his planned offer of dinner and drinks. He debates his options, thinking about going back to talk to Timothy, but doesn't want to intrude on the important things with which Timothy is dealing.
Considering his options, he remembers a coffee shop down a few blocks away. Donald buttons his coat and wishes for his heavy scarf as he makes his way to the shop, shivering against the brisk wind.
Donald steps into the shop and basks in the warmth coming from a nearby vent. He walks up and orders a coffee, then pulls out his cellphone, hitting a speed dial. "Kenny?" he asks when it's picked up. "Okay, listen; is the guy you with Asian? Yeah? Yeah, that's Kenny. Can you hand him the phone?"
The phone is noisily passed between the pair on the other end of the phone. "What?" Kenny whisper-screams into his phone. "I'm kinda busy right now."
"Yeah, yeah," Donald replies. "
"Oh... Hey boss."
"When you're done," Donald says, not sparing the sarcasm, "can you come pick me up?" He tells Kenny his location. When Kenny starts to ask, he cuts him off, saying, "I'll tell you all about it. Just - when you're done."
"Gimme half an hour," Kenny replies.
Donald hangs up the phone, ignoring the sudden - intimate - noises coming from the receiver as he hits the "END CALL" button. He sighs, then pockets his phone and takes a sip of coffee, finding a newspaper on a nearby table to help pass the time.
Donald watches for headlights, recognizing Kenny's late-model BMW as it pulls into the parking lot. He puts his mug on the dish return stand and stashes the newspaper into a recycling bin, then heads out, climbing into Kenny's car.
"What's up, boss?" Kenny asks as he pulls out into traffic. "This better be good; the guy I just left was super hot."
"Yeah? What was his name?" Donald asks dryly.
"Gera... No. Matth... No. Hell, I don't know. I picked him up at Subway when I went to grab a sandwich, so let's just call him footlong."
"So... Spill!" Kenny asks, so Donald replays his evening to the man. "Hmm," Kenny says, cutting through downtown. "That sucks." After a beat, Kenny asks, "Anything we can do to help him out?"
"That's what I was wondering," Donald replies. "What about the dealership alliance? You think they might be able to get behind it?"
"I talked to Jonathan the other day. He said his dad made pretty good bank through his dealerships." Kenny considers the situation, then says, "Maybe you can call in a few favors."
"Yeah," Donald says, considering the options. "I'm gonna sleep on it, maybe see what we can come up with in the morning, okay?"
"Deal." The pair travels in silence for a bit until Kenny asks, "Hey boss? Why's this so important to you all of the sudden?"
Donald thinks about it for a moment, then shakes his head. "I don't know, Kenny. It's just..." Turning to the man, he asks, "You ever meet someone that you... I don't know... Just - have like an instant connection with?"
As Kenny pulls into Donald's driveway, he responds, "Yeah. Footlong." He gives Donald a wicked grin, earning a groan.
"Thanks for the ride, Kenny," Donald says as he reaches for the doorknob.
"G'night, boss," comes the response. And with shutting the door, Donald is left to his thoughts, watching Kenny's taillights as they disappear into the darkness.
Donald wakes up early and gets to the office before the sun rises, spending his time lining up contacts he has around Albany and the surrounding areas. He knows the profits from the year-end sales at the big auto dealerships haven't all been spent, so he hopes he can tap into that resource before it's too late. He pulls out a pad of paper, making notes as he goes along.
Knowing John Rutka, owner of the largest dealership franchise in Albany County, is usually an early riser, Donald picks up the phone at 7:30am and dials the number he's had memorized for years.
"Hello?" comes a sleepy response.
"Hey, Eddie - I'm sorry. I figured John'd be up already," Donald apologizes.
Donald waits as he hears sheets rustling through the connection, then the receiver being cupped. "Johnnie? Phone," Eddie calls.
The sound of an extension being picked up resonates on the line, John's "Got it," following a second later. "This is John Rutka."
"Hey, John, it's Donald."
"Hey there, Donald. What can I do for you?"
"You know how you always say you've either helped every other car dealer in Albany with starting their business, or gotten something on them that could end their business?" Donald asks.
"Ah, my standard motivational benediction. And which way are you leaning this morning?" John replies, voice overly jovial.
"Actually, hoping you can help me use a little bit of both. Have you ever heard of Kelly's Space Youth Center here in town?"
"Heard of it? Donald, I could have used a resource like Kelly's Space when I was a kid," John confesses.
"Seriously?" Donald manages. "Why?"
Sighing, John responds, "When I was fourteen, my old man threw me outta my house when I told him I was gay."
"What?" Donald asks. "I always thought-"
"Sorry," John says, cutting him off. "I don't usually tell people this. The guy I inherited the original dealership with? He was my uncle, not my father. I had to make it the 80 miles from my father's house in Little Falls to Albany by myself. Took me a couple of weeks, mostly on foot. Just... I don't normally like to talk about that part of my life."
"I'm so sorry," Donald quietly replies.
"Don't be. My dad was a son of a bitch that wasn't worth the scabies ridden asshole on a rabid camel. My uncle, though... He was the best. Raised me as his own. He's who I mean when I tell everyone the story of my dad's humble beginnings, and me taking over the dealership." After a sigh, he adds, "So what's going on with Kelly's Space?"
Donald goes through and explains what he'd found out the night before from Timothy, and he and John brainstorm until they come up with a plan. Twenty minutes later and with their plan in place, Donald isn't able to get the grin off of his face when he hangs up the phone.
Kenny comes in just after 9am, which Donald realizes is actually early for the man. "How's it going?" Kenny asks.
"Actually really good." He puts his notepad in front of Kenny to show his progress, talks about his conversation with John Rutka and the Albany Automobile Dealerships Association, and then turns to a page in his notes to a list of contacts he's not yet talked to. "These are the folks I thought I'd wait to talk to, since I know you have a 'history'," he mimics quotes as he says the word, "with some of them."
Kenny goes through the list, writing down a bunch of names on his own pad of paper, then putting an X next to the ones on Donald's list that obviously hadn't ended well for him. "I'll take these," he says, indicating his list. "The exes are yours."
"Exes being the operative word?" Donald replies with a wry smile. "Good," Donald manages, then digs back into his list.
Two hours later, Donald's hanging up the phone when he hears someone entering the dealership showroom. "Can I help you?" he calls out automatically, then looks up. He smiles when he sees a sheepish-looking Timothy Callahan walking towards him. "Mister Callahan," he says, rising up from his seat.
Blushing, Timothy quietly says, "Mister Strachey - Donald... I am so sorry for last night. I let my emotions get the best of me. I didn't even realize until this morning that without the Diocese's car, you were on foot. I could have at least given you a ride home. I'm so sorry..."
"You have nothing to apologize for, handsome," Donald says, flashing a million dollar smile at the man. "I totally understand."
"Still... I'd like to make it up to you - if I may?"
"That would be great," Donald says, his mind churning with ideas. "I know this sounds a little crazy, but how would you feel about an early dinner on Friday? Say, I pick you up about 4pm?"
Timothy gives Donald a quizzical look, then glances over at Kenny, who's quietly typing on his workstation. "That's a little early, but I guess-"
"Great!" Donald says, cutting the man off. "I assume you'll be at work?"
Timothy nods his response.
"Cool," Donald manages, hiding a grin. "Then I'll see you at 4pm at Kelly's Space." Donald leans in, kissing the man on the cheek.
Timothy nods, then makes his way out of the dealership and back out to his waiting car. As he pulls away, Kenny asks, "Friday at 4pm? What, are you gonna go hit up the buffet at the old folks home?"
"Nah, nah, nah," Donald says. "We've got some more planning to do," he adds, then sits back to get back into his work. Before long, he's happily making even more connections and lining up donors, sending Kenny to deal with any stray customer that shows up.
The next two days fly past in a blur, Donald coordinating with Kenny and Rutka on the coming festivities. When Friday finally arrives and the clock nears 4pm, Donald starts pacing the dealership showroom, threatening to wear a hole in the carpeting. He's put everything in motion, and after driving by Kelly's Space on Wednesday afternoon and noticing a leasable billboard across the street from the center, even manages to pull a few favors and get a final last-minute surprise set up.
"Will you stop pacing?" Kenny hisses as he fills out a DMV form for a waiting customer. "It's gonna be fine."
"Did you call the-"
"Yes," Kenny answers automatically. "Seriously, chill." He turns his attention back to his customers and goes over the last few details of their purchase before sending them on their way. As he watches the couple drive off, he walks up to Donald. "Are you wearing that?"
"That suit," Kenny protests.
"This is my best suit!" Donald says, a hint of fear in his voice. "Should I change?"
Kenny laughs, Donald glaring at him a moment later. "I'm just messin' with ya, boss; you look fine." Glancing at his watch, Kenny says, "It's almost time for you to get outta here."
Donald glances at the clock, then back to Kenny. "Wish me luck," he says, grabbing the keys to a newer Buick from the lock-box. He can't show up to a high-profile event in his Corolla, even if it is just Albany.
"I just hope this gets you laid," Kenny says, Donald walking out the door with his middle finger in the air.
Donald drives the few blocks over to Kelly's Space Youth Center, parking on a side street so there would be plenty of room in front of the building for the press and other guests. He smiles as he walks up to the front of the building, appreciating that the Albany weather was cooperating; it's still in the high 20s, but the sun is out, making it feel that much warmer. Passing a temporary "NO PARKING" barricade out front, Donald reaches out to touch it, then jogs up the steps and heads into the building.
"Donald!" a voice calls just as Donald starts looking around the lobby of the building. He turns, finding a slightly frazzled looking Timothy approaching him. "You're a little early... And something's going on. The media keeps calling, asking me about some 'event' that's planned." Both he and Donald look around, and Donald can almost feel an undercurrent of excitement in the air.
"Yeah, about that," Donald says, looking up sheepishly at Timothy.
"Is this-" Timothy starts, then points an accusing finger at Donald. "Are you behind this - this - whatever this is?"
Donald just smiles, Timothy giving him a quizzical look in return. "Is there somewhere we can talk?"
"Sure, sure," Timothy responds before escorting Donald to a back office, closing the door behind them. Before Donald can spill, the phone rings. "Kelly's Space Youth Center, this is Timothy," he says into the phone as Donald takes a seat. "Yes, about that..." Timothy looks at Donald, then says, "Let me let you talk to the man in charge," then hands the phone over to Donald.
"Uh, hello?" Donald asks.
"Reggie Phelan, Albany Herald. I was wondering if we could get some sort of statement on the upcoming announc-"
"I'm sorry, but you'll have to be here at 4:30 for the announcement with the rest of the media," Donald says, then hangs up the phone. He can almost tangibly feel Timothy's gaze on him, so he looks back at the man and gives him his most innocent look.
Timothy waits, Donald just smiling back at him. After a much too long, stretched-out, period of silence Timothy asks, "Well?"
"How's the Center doing?" Donald asks.
"We're getting by... Senator Platt confirmed that all funding for the Center was killed, and won't be restored. We're about twenty-five thousand dollars into fundraising, though it's been going slow. We've never had to rely solely on outside funding before, so anything we've ever gotten has usually been used to cover extra staff or a crisis purchase." At Donald's near-cheerful expression, Timothy adds, "Though for some reason, Mister Strachey, I'm suddenly feeling cautiously optimistic..."
"Yeah, well... I may have helped out a little," Donald confesses.
Raising an eyebrow, Timothy asks, "Can you define a little for me?"
Donald reaches out, tentatively putting his hand on top of Timothy's. He's socially insecure about doing it, but after all the flirting he and Timothy had been doing initially, he hopes it's not over the line. "Well... Today at 4:30, the Albany Automobile Dealers Association will be presenting Kelly's Space with a check for a hundred thousand dollars, and-"
Donald is immediately cut off when Timothy comes out of his seat. "A hundred thousand dollars?!" he nearly screams, voice incredulous. Donald..." Timothy says, then leans in, grabbing Donald's head and kissing him firmly.
Smiling as the taste of Timothy lingers on his lips, Donald says, "Yeah, well there's a little more to it than just that." At Timothy's expectant look, Donald adds, "But that you're gonna have to wait for."
"This is amazing..." Timothy says as he stands up, steals one more kiss, and then begins to nervously pace the room. "I have so many questions... I mean, how did you manage this so fast? And I know I shouldn't question your motives, but what made you do this?" Gesturing around, Donald assuming Timothy's frantic hand movements indicate the center as a whole, Timothy says, "You've no connection to Kelly's Space, other than me. And if you did all this for just a date - while I'm flattered, Donald - but you pretty much had that guaranteed." After a beat, he gives Donald a serious look and repeats, "So why all this, all of the sudden?"
Dropping his gaze to the floor, Donald instantly gets lost in his thoughts. Before he turns back to Timothy, the joyful look on his face disappears, replaced with a melancholy, almost painful, expression. Donald doesn't realize that his entire demeanor changed the instant that question came from Timothy's mouth.
"I'm so sorry, Donald; I shouldn't have pushed," Timothy quietly admits. Waiting a beat, Timothy gently asks, "Who was it?" He reaches out for Donald's shoulder, giving Donald time to think about the question.
Donald takes a deep breath as he reaches his hand up, fingers brushing against Timothy's. "His name was Kyle," Donald says, voice quiet and near breaking. He's buried the memories so deep and for so long, it makes him physically ache to bring them back to the surface. Timothy kneels in front of Donald and puts his hands on Donald's knees. "We were inseparable as kids; grew up together, went to school together - always getting into trouble. When I was sixteen he was..." Donald chances a look into Timothy's eyes for a second before dropping his gaze back down, then wiping a few tears away. "...he was my first. For about a month we were always together. Then..." he says, voice breaking.
"It's okay," Timothy says, rubbing his hands on Donald's knees encouragingly.
After taking a few deep breaths, Donald continues. "Then one day his parents caught us kissing in his bedroom. His parents threw us both out. I told him to come home with me, but he wouldn't... That was the last night I saw him." Donald steels himself with a few more breaths, though the pain just intensifies even more. "They, uh... They found his body about a month later. He'd gotten picked up by some guy who took him in, then beat the crap out of him. Left him in the snow to die..."
"Donald, I'm so sorry..." Timothy says, leaning in, pulling the man to him and holding him. "It's not your fault."
Rocking back and forth, Donald takes comfort in Timothy's embrace, letting long-repressed tears flow.
A few minutes later, there's a knock on the door. Timothy gets up, expression showing he doesn't want to let Donald go, but he has to. He opens the door just a crack and, voice in a hushed tone, asks, "Yes?"
"Yeah, Tim... There's a bunch of people including the Mayor out here," a voice responds.
"We'll be out in a second," Timothy says then closes the door, returning to Donald's side. He kneels back down, pulling one of Donald's hands into his. "You okay?" he asks.
Donald closes his eyes, tucking the memories back down as deep as he can. He finally looks up, blowing out a sigh. "Yeah," he finally says, then nods his head. "Yeah, I'm okay."
"Okay," Timothy replies. He pulls Donald's hand, urging the man up. "We can talk about this some more later, if you want to," he says, then gives Donald a chaste kiss on the lips. "But now," he says as he grabs a tissue and dabs at Donald's eyes before leading the man to the door, "it's time to go do this - whatever this is."
Just before they leave the secluded room, Timothy stops Donald. Facing him, he puts a hand on Donald's chest, then catches Donald's eye and quietly says, "You are an amazing human being, Donald Strachey. And I find that I'd like to get to know you better, if that's alright."
Donald just nods his response, Timothy smiling back and reaching down to squeeze Donald's hand. After a moment to allow Donald to compose himself, the pair head out into the small gathering of people, Timothy gesturing for Donald to take over when the questions start.
"Please follow me outside," Donald says as he hushes the crowd, then greets those in the crowd that he recognizes before going to the makeshift dais at the top of the stairs and takes his place. He lobs Timothy a knowing look, then urges the man to come stand next to him.
When Timothy is settled next to Donald, Donald gives him a quick smile, then turns to the crowd. "Hello, everybody, and welcome to Kelly's Space Youth Center. My name is Donald Strachey of Strachey's Used Cars on State Street. I'm surrounded by fellow car dealers here, and together, we make up the Albany Automobile Dealers Association.
"Kelly's Space has been here in Albany, serving at-risk youth for many, many years. Well, we from the AADA support our local community, and recently found that Kelly's Space was in need of funding to stay open. So together, each of us - from the guy who sells you a car to the clerk that gets you your DMV tags - banded together to help insure that Kelly's Space always has a bright future. Because Kelly's Space means something to all of us, and is important to the future of Albany." Donald nods to a man next to him, who moves to the center of the area, a sheet-covered placard in his grasp. "I'd like to turn this over to John Rutka, the President of the AADA."
Donald nods to John, who takes over the stage and beams at the crowd. "My name is John Rutka, of Rutka Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC. And as the current President of the Albany Automobile Dealers Association, I would like to present this check," he removes the cloth covering the oversized check, "for one hundred thousand dollars to Mister Tim Callahan, founder and CEO of Kelly's Space Youth Center." Rutka gestures to a blushing Timothy, who joins John Rutka, one hand on the check, the other one engulfed in Rutka's hand.
When the pictures and clapping finally calm down, Timothy looks over the crowd, then steals a look at Donald before turning to the cameras. "This is such a welcome surprise. A few days ago, the future of Kelly's Space was in doubt because of cost cutting measures by the State. But with the help of Mister Rutka here, the AADA, and especially Donald Strachey, Kelly's Space is here to stay!"
The crowd cheers, and there are congratulations all around as Rutka takes the mic and provides details about the program, and how the Center was important, for all of Albany, and promises that for as long as he's in business, Kelly's Space would be as well. As he talks, Donald sneaks up next to Timothy, reaching out for his hand and giving it a squeeze. When the crowd and media finally finish asking questions, John Rutka hands the microphone back over to Donald, giving him a knowing nod.
"One last thing," Donald announces as he regains the crowd's attention. "For the next five years, the AADA is proud to announce a special program here in Albany. Guys?" he calls, gesturing to four men standing across the street just beneath a billboard. He gives a thumbs up, and the men pull the covering off of the billboard, gasps coming from the crowd when they realize the enormity of the AADA's continued gift. "Every car sold by every single dealership here in Albany over the next five years is a guaranteed donation of one hundred dollars to Kelly's Space. In cooperation with every dealership in Albany, this means that new car sales alone will generate over ninety thousand dollars in donations for Kelly's Space, making sure the center will be here for generations to come." (The sign, which Donald had sketched out late Wednesday night and asked be put up in time for the event, announces in big, bold letters, "BUY A CAR, SUPPORT KELLY'S SPACE!" with a giant arrow pointing back at the Center.)
The crowd goes from stunned silence to an uproarious cheer, even the reporters partaking in the overwhelming jovial attitude.
It takes a while for the noise level to approach normality. When it does, the reporters start in on the questions. Donald nods to John, who again takes over answering questions, as Donald quietly stands next to Timothy. Donald hears the questions, but mostly focuses on Timothy, who's standing next to him, holding his hand.
After the impromptu celebration at Kelly's Space, Donald steals Timothy away, spiriting him off to the Blue Rose for their own private celebration. They share a drink at a table in the back, sitting close and appreciating the haunting melody coming from the elderly piano player, accompanied by an equally ancient bass player.
Donald takes a sip of his martini, appreciating the closeness of Timothy snuggled into his side. He puts his glass down, turning to Timothy, who gives him a bashful look before reaching out and taking Donald's hand into his.
"Thank you for today, Donald," Timothy quietly says before pulling Donald's hand up to his mouth, placing a gentle kiss on Donald's knuckles. "You're... You're just remarkable. And I'm so very glad that you came into my life."
Blushing, Donald stands up, then reaches out for Timothy's hand. When Timothy doesn't immediately stand, Donald nods expectantly and says, "Timothy?"
"Yes, darling?" Timothy responds, then blushes dark enough to be seen even in the dimmed light of the club. "I'm sorry, Donald; I probably shouldn't have called you that."
"It's okay, beautiful," Donald replies, pulling Timothy into an embrace and kissing him gently. Gazing into Timothy's eyes, he says, "I could get used to you calling me that." With a smile, he guides them out onto the dance floor, then pulls Timothy close to his side, and loses himself in the moment.