As the 1970s came to a close, the mantra of “sex, drugs and rock & roll” was still being practiced with wild abandon in the younger generations. The “baby boomers” had come into their own, and the “gay rights” movement was a decade old.
Alan Fritz was spending these happy, care-free times with family and friends – old and new – as he pursued a burgeoning modeling career that would soon make images of him world famous. Dean Swanson was a struggling actor in New York City, who met the love of his life at an obscure audition off-off Broadway, setting up a pairing that was destined to be a force in the New York theater scene. Things were looking up for both men as the new decade dawned.
But what the 1980s had in store was about to change their lives (and the lives of millions of others) drastically. Little did they know that they were about to face trials, tribulations, and losses brought on by a mystery disease that would come to be known as HIV/AIDS. The results of their own personal traumas with the pandemic would bring them to a brief, chance meeting, then put them on an unlikely path that would (re)unite them 30 years later.
“Never Too Late” is a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, often heart-warming tale of a long-term survivor and a supporter, as they make their way through the AIDS crisis and eventually find each other years later in a twist of fate. As the title suggests, you never know when love may make its way into your life, even if you think it may have passed you by – it’s never too late to find love.
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: Varies During Story
Protagonist 2 Age: Varies During Story
Tropes: Coming Home, Families/Raising Kids, InstaLove / Love at First Sight, Love Can Heal / Redemption, Reunited and it Feels So Good, Second Chances
Word Count: 42430
Setting: Chicago, New York City
Languages Available: English
*** PROLOGUE ***
Present Day, May: Brooklyn, New York City
Dean Swanson looked at the address above the door on the brownstone building in front of him. It matched the number on his phone GPS screen, but he didn’t expect to see such a well-kept neighborhood and building. The history he knew about the man he was looking for led Dean to think he might be living in a “less desirable” location. He climbed the steps and pushed the button under the name “Fritz - Nakemura”.
“Yes?” a voice crackled from the speaker.
“Hello. My name is Dean Swanson. I’ve spoken with Alan Fritz on the phone before. I was wondering if he would have a few minutes to meet in person?”
There was a long pause, and Dean almost pushed the button again. Just before he did, the voice came over the speaker again.
“Third floor rear.”READ MORE
With that, the door release buzzer sounded. Dean entered the building and climbed the winding stairway to the third floor. Once there, he knocked on the door at the far end of the short hallway. The door opened, revealing a handsome thirty-something man of Asian descent.
“Mr. Dean?” the man asked.
“Yes. Dean Swanson. Is Alan Fritz here?”
“Yes,” the man replied, his voice laced with an Asian accent Dean could not quite place. “He’s in the shower. He told me to have you wait, and he’ll be out in a few minutes.” The man ushered Dean to a leather sofa in the living room of the apartment.
“Are you Alan’s roommate?” Dean inquired.
“Yes. Takumi Nakemura,” the man said, offering a handshake. “I go by Kumi,” he added as they shook hands.
“Nice to meet you, Kumi.”
“Likewise, Mr. Dean,” Kumi replied. “Can I get you some tea while you wait?”
“Yes, thank you. That would be nice.”
Kumi gave Dean a slight bow before leaving the room for the kitchen. While he waited, Dean spent a few minutes perusing the books and artifacts occupying the large book cases on either side of the fireplace. There were books on Japanese culture, the history of Broadway, male models, and HIV treatments and the history of the AIDS crisis. There was a large samurai sword hanging on the wall over the fireplace with Japanese artwork above it.
As he moved to the bookcase on the other side of the fireplace, he saw histories of New York City, Boston, Chicago, and other cities around the country. Dean’s attention was grabbed by a particular book: “Historical Photo Tour of Rockford, Illinois.” He reached up and pulled the book from the shelf, opened it, and began looking at the old photos.
“You have a particular interest in Rockford?” a voice asked from behind him. He turned to see a tall, handsome man possibly in his mid-sixties, standing with a cane near the sofa on the other side of the room. His lanky form was athletic in appearance, his graying hair ringed his balding head, and a closely cropped hint of a beard and moustache gave him a very distinguished look. Dean immediately liked what he saw.
“I have friends there,” Dean replied with a smile. He replaced the book on the shelf and crossed the room, offering his hand to the other man. “Dean Swanson. You must be Alan. We spoke on the phone.”
“Alan Fritz,” the man answered, taking Dean’s hand to shake. “Pleased to meet you. Have a seat.” Alan gestured towards the sofa, and both men sat, just as Kumi returned carrying a tray with two mugs of tea.
“Thanks, Kumi. I see you two have met,” Alan observed.
“Yes,” Dean responded, nodding towards the other man. “I take it you’re responsible for some of the beautiful Japanese artwork in here, Kumi?”
“Yes. It comes from my family’s collections.” He sat the tray on the coffee table. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do on my computer.” He gave a polite bow and exited the room.
“Kumi was a student of mine years ago when I was teaching tennis. We hit it off and we’ve remained friends.” Alan sipped his tea. “This being New York, of course, when he ended up needing to find a new apartment a while back, we decided to share.”
“He seems like a very nice guy,” Dean observed.
“He is. So, tell me why you are here. In our phone conversation, you told me you needed to speak to me about my family back home. Has something happened I need to know about?”
Dean took a deep breath and sighed, his lanky body heaving in the process. “Actually, the person I’m here to talk to you about is a family member you have maybe never met. And until fairly recently, he was not aware of you or the importance of you in his life.” Dean took a sip of tea to moisten his nervous throat.
Alan looked at Dean warily. “I’m not sure where you’re going with this.”
“I’m here about your son, Chase.”COLLAPSE