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Don H

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  1. Don H

    Chapter 69

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 Father Mason was in the driver's seat as he and Carl and Andy took off from Andy's Helder's home in their rental truck, pulling Mason's car behind them. Carl was sitting in the middle of the bench seat, with Andy on his right. Andy positioned his head until he could see the crowd left behind in the driveway in the truck's big side view mirror. He focused especially on his mom and dad as they waved goodbye. His mom was dabbing at her eyes with a keenex. Carl reached over and patted Andy's leg as they slowly drove away, heading south toward the 101 to the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco. "Are you all right?" he asked, sensing Andy's emotions at saying good-bye to his parents. The parting was painful because the boy's folks had been so good, kind and loving to their son throughout his coming out as gay and in his developing relationship with Carl. Both guys knew that all too many same-sex partnerships were real horror stories due to parental opposition and cruel judgments. Andy brushed away the moisture from his eyes, and turned to look at Carl. "I'm good," he said, attempting to smile. He knew he would miss his mom and dad, but he also knew well that moving to Malibu to be with Carl was the fulfillment of a long overdue dream. For some reason Andy flashed back a few minutes to when everybody had been milling around in his parents' driveway, saying good-bye. Suddenly he had been engulfed in a firm bear hug, and he saw that he was being held by William Carson, the most popular and admired and respected kid at San Rafael High. Andy looked at the handsome face and into the bright blue eyes of older Carson boy. "Dude!" William had said to him. "I really don't know you as well as I know some of the other guys, but I just want to wish you and Carl all the best down in LA. Carl is a brother to all the guys in our family, and we love him to death. He loves you, so we all love you. Take good care of each other. You're part of our family now, and if there's ever anything I or any of us can do for you, just ask and we'll be there for you. Capisce?" And then William, the sometimes taciturn, hyper-masculine, seemingly unemotional super jock had turned his head and kissed Andy on the cheek. Andy had been deeply moved and hardly knew how to react. "Er, uh, thanks, man," he had finally said as William let him go. "I appreciate it. We'll stay in touch, for sure. Your mom and dad have done so much for Carl and Dan. I'll look forward to seeing you in Malibu the first chance you get." William had clapped Andy on the shoulder and stepped away, leaving Andy feeling really good about himself. "L.A., here we come!" Carl said as the truck rolled along, ending Andy's reverie about William's good-bye, and bringing him back to reality. The priest looked at Carl and grinned. "Don't you mean, 'El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula,' here we come?" the he asked in his best Spanish accent. Carl laughed. "What?" "That's the long version of 'Los Angeles,'" Father Mason said. "Just trying to be accurate." "Sometimes you priests are just too smart for your own good, Father," Carl said, giving Mason a little poke with his elbow. "Ow!" Mason kidded his assailant, reacting to the poke. "I don't want the Angelenos to think northern Californians like you guys don't know what's up." Andy leaned over to look across Carl at the priest. "No way!!" Andy protested. "The brisk air here in the north stimulates our brains." "How could I have missed that?" Mason said. They finally hit the 101 through San Rafael, and entering the highway on the ramp, the truck automatically ran through its gears until they matched the pace of surrounding traffic. Carl and Andy talked a little about the family members they were leaving behind before falling silent. Carl looked down at Andy's muscular legs which stretched the boy's Levi 501's, especially noting the thick bulge at Andy's crotch. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't help thinking about how well Andy was hung, how beautiful, long and thick his cut dick was. He began anticipating being in bed with his partner when they reached San Luis Obispo that night, and started to throw a little wood before making a concerted effort to direct his thoughts elsewhere before his condition became obvious to Father Mason. "Father, do you have any thoughts about where you may want to live when you move out of Cam and Kevin's place?" Andy asked, breaking the silence. "No," Mason said. "Father and Lisa Ryan have started checking ads for rentals in the vicinity of St. Dunstan's, as well as ads for housing close to a nursing home where my mother may be living if and when her condition with Alzheimer's worsens. I know my sister's family won't be able to handle her care forever, and I owe my sister a lot for the care she and her husband have already given her. Anyway, if the rental choices don't look good, I expect I'm going to have to find a realtor to help me. Maybe I'd be smart to buy rather than rent, I don't know yet." "Well, I hope you understand how Kevin and Cam and the rest of us feel about you, so there won't be any pressure to move out of the Malibu house before you're ready," Carl said. "You're a member of the family." "I appreciate that," Mason said, "but I don't want to wear out my welcome. And I don't want to be there so long that I win all you guys' money at poker." "That won't happen," Andy said. "After all, you don't kick butt at cards the way Berto does when he comes to visit. You know we're all pretty good at the poker table." "You know what they say: 'Put your money where your mouth is!'" the priest chuckled. "Do I look worried?" Carl asked. "You can forget having enough money to buy a house once we get our hooks into you." "'Do I look worried?'" Mason mimicked Carl. "Both of you talk a better game than you play." "I'd get physical with ya for saying that," Andy responded, "but I remember what you told us would happen if we hit a priest." "I'm glad at least one thing I've told you stuck in your brain," Mason said. "Refresh my memory, please," Carl said. "I'll be glad to refresh your memory. If you hit a priest, when you die the offending hand sticks out of your casket. If you hit a bishop, both hands stick out of your casket. If you hit our Presiding Bishop, both hands and a leg won't go in the casket. If you hit the Archbishop of Canterbury, all your limbs stick out and the casket won't even go into the grave at all. Just ponder that for awhile." "None of that sounds quite right to me," Carl protested, laughing. "I'm not accusing you of lying or anything, but then again. . ." "What if a Roman Catholic hits the Pope?" Andy asked. "The results are too horrible to contemplate," Mason said. "Anyway, for sure, this pope is too nice to hit. And so are all our Episcopal bishops in California, of course." "I notice you don't claim that all the priests like yourself are exempt from being hit because they're too nice," Carl said. "Well, we are, though," Mason said. "We're also learnèd and extremely compassionate. I'm surprised you haven't noticed that. Now, let's change the subject to something more pleasant than what happens to you when and if you hit the clergy." "All right," Carl said. "You win this round. Sort of." "Right answer," the priest said. He looked across Carl and over at Andy. "How do you feel about moving away from San Rafael, Andy?" "I'm really going to miss my mom and dad. They've been so great to me and to Carl, and I appreciate them so much," Andy said, staring out of the windshield at the highway. "And I'm gonna miss Ian and Mary and Catherine and all the guys a lot. They've made my life worth living in so many ways. But, not to be too mushy about it, it's no secret that my heart has been in Malibu with Carl for a long time. I love him totally, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him." Unexpectedly, Carl's eyes grew moist for a moment as he turned his head toward his partner, leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Well, never be shy about expressing your love," Father Mason said quietly. "Tell each other how you feel about each other as often as you can. We all need to hear that from those we care about, and it helps us avoid a lot of problems in our relationships." Andy looked over at the priest. "I know you're right about that, Father." "What about you, Father?" Carl asked. "When are you going to find someone?" "Good question," Mason said, his face coloring a little. "After I solve my housing issues, I want to start dating." "I don't want to put my nose where it doesn't belong, but are you looking for a male or a female partner?" Andy asked. "I'm gay," Mason said. "I've become completely certain of that by now, and as you know, I came out to the whole family some time back. Anyway, I want to be sure to get into a relationship that will be genuine, and that relationship will have to support my ministry as a priest." "That's kind of a tall order, isn't it?" Carl said. "Yes," Father Mason said. "But not impossible." He smiled. "After all, when it comes to finding the right person, you two guys found each other, thanks be to God!" "That's true!" Carl admitted. "Kevin and Cam and you two are kind of an inspiration to all of us when it comes to having good and loving partners," the priest added. "That's really nice of you say that! Thank you, Father," Andy said. "Well, that's a fact," Mason said. "So, God willing, the right person is out there waiting for me to find him." "I have a daily intercession list," Carl admitted a little shyly. "You're already on the list, Father, but I'm going to add to my prayers that you'll find the right partner. Please don't take offense. It's little enough to do for someone who's been so good and kind and generous to our whole family." The priest fell silent for a long minute, clearing his throat before speaking. "I'm moved to hear you say that, Carl. Y'know, the clergy aren't perfect by a long shot, but those you've been in contact with over the years must have done something right for you to say what you just did. So did your your famiy, Andy. I certainly don't give myself the credit, but your spiritual life and the kindness of all you young guys toward everybody around you never fails to impress me! You live your faith. It's the real deal for all of you. But at the same time, as long as I've known you, I've never heard any of you shove your beliefs down anyone else's throat. And that's a great thing, too. I don't hear you sitting in judgment on people who don't see things the way you do. Unless they get really obnoxious." Andy leaned forward and looked over at Mason. "Back atcha, Father." The sun came out just then and bathed them in light as they began to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. "Wow!" Carl said. "Look at this! We better take a good look at this view! We probably won't be seeing it for awhile." "You're right," Andy said, chuckling. "As least not in the sunshine. This ain't sunny LA." Carl reached down to the floor between his feet and picked up his digital camera, snapping the lens cap off as he handed it to Andy. "Here, bud, take some shots of the bay. When I publish my work, I'll list you in the credits." "All righty," Andy said. He opened his window and fired off about fifteen shots as they rolled along, the sun gleaming off the water in the bay. "One of these has to be good." "That's the secret to good photography," Carl said. "Keep shooting until your finger gets tired. Then the odds are with you." He looked at the priest. "Father, can we stick close to the shore as we drive south? I'd like to get some pics of the rocks sticking up out of the ocean." "No problem," Mason said. "It may add a little to our travel time, but we'll be good as long as we make it to Malibu by tomorrow night." Andy closed his window and handed the camera back just as Carl's phone rang. Cam was calling. "You rang?" Carl said. "Where are you, and why aren't you down here yet?" Cam demanded. "Because Father Mason is keeping our speed under a hundred mph, that's why." "Well, it's some comfort to know that he's behind the wheel instead of you. If Father Mason and Andy do the driving, you all just may get down here unscathed." "Y'know, we were just talking about yours and Kevin's relationship," Carl said. "None of us gets how Kevin stands being around you all the time." "It must be my winning personality," Cam said. "I doubt that. There must be something appealing about you, but I won't speculate about what it might be in front of the priest," Carl shot back. "Anyway, why did you call me? You're really annoying!" "I do what I can, you dick! Hurry up and get down here! Casey misses you, but I'm sure I don't know why." "He knows how much I love him," Carl said. "That's why. Give him kisses for me. And get off my phone now. I think we're losing our signal. . ." He held the phone away from his mouth and hissed into it, simulating interference, before hanging up. Father Mason laughed. "You sure know how to push each others buttons, doncha?" "Well, yeah," Carl agreed. "We've had lots of practice." "I'm glad you're gonna be living with us for awhile, Father," Andy said. "You'll be a calming influence." "Maybe. A big maybe on that!" the priest sad. They rode in silence for a few minutes. "Father, can I ask you something?" Carl said. "Sure." "We touched on this a few minutes ago, but what do you think are the ingredients for maintaining a good relationship with a partner over the long haul?" "Tough question," Mason said. "I don't think there's only one answer to that because personalities are so different. But I think anyone needs to start looking for an answer by realizing every relationship changes over time. What we think and feel about someone we love gets renegotiated from time to time, sometimes without our even realizing it. The things we like and dislike about a partner's personality and behaviors change, and sometimes it takes some work to continue to affirm the positives and to live with the negatives. But as I said before, we need to say positive things to our partners as often as we can." "That makes sense," Andy said. "Fortunately, Carl has no negatives." "How can you not love somebody who can lie like that?" Carl interjected. The three of them laughed, and fell silent again. Carl reached down into Andy's lap, clasped his partner's big hand, and moved it over into his own lap. Scrunching down in his seat a little, Carl leaned his head against his partner's shoulder and closed his eyes as the two of them prepared to snooze, trying to make up for lost sleep the night before. It had been a busy and satisfying night in bed. When Carl had awakened the next morning, intertwined with Andy, he had silently studied his partner's face until Andy woke up and then they'd looked at each other. Finally Carl had spoken. "Y'know, before I met you, I didn't think I'd ever be lucky enough to find myself in a relationship with somebody like you." Andy's face had crinkled into a smile as he had looked over at Carl, but he hadn't said anything as he bent his head and kissed Carl softly on the mouth. Then they had gone back to sleep in Andy's bed for a few more minutes. As the truck bounced along, Carl began to think about the first time he'd first laid eyes on Andy at St. Andrew's church in San Rafael. It had been several years ago. They had been part of a huge crowd gathered in the parish hall where the youth group and the adult supervisors and volunteers were to be oriented about their upcoming trip to New Orleans. The trip was a start to helping rebuild houses in the city after Hurricane Katrina. Andy was tall, built and muscular. The boy clearly had great pecs along with solid legs and a beautiful ass that filled out his 501's to perfection. His body, along with a pleasant, handsome face and long, bronze colored, curly hair, had drawn Carl's glance like a magnet. Once Carl had seen him, his eyes had never left him as the kid had wandered through the crowd chatting cordially with the adults and other youth group members. Carl had trailed him around the room as unobtrusively as possible, when they had finally come into proximity to each other at the refreshment table at the side of the huge parish hall. Andy had stuck out his big fist and tapped Carl's. "Hey. I don't think I know you. I'm Andy Helder." "Hi. Carl Emrick. My brother and I just moved here from Seaside not too long ago." Carl had been smitten, but he couldn't tell right away whether or not there had been an answering vibe from the boy or not. Carl was dubious he could be that lucky, but at least Andy was friendly. Carl had already known that he wanted to spend some time with this guy. Andy had studied his new acquaintance after they'd both picked up some soft drinks and chips and moved away from the refreshment table in the parish house. Carl was shorter than he was, but Carl himself was handsome, clean cut and really built. He'd obviously spent some time in the gym and had been involved in some sport. "You're a jock?" Andy asked, knowing the answer before he asked. "Wrestling," Carl said. "I was on the Seaside High wrestling team before moving here." They had found a relatively quiet spot in the room and continued talking. Andy had owned up to be involved in martial arts, but he hadn't told Carl that he was a regional champion in martial arts. He hadn't wanted to come across as a braggart. When Andy had questioned him about where he now lived in San Rafael, Carl told him that he and his brother Dan lived with Dr. Catherine MacKenzie, Ian and Mary Carson, Cam and Kevin, Berto Hernandez, and the Carson boys. Andy knew all the boys and liked them all, and especially admired William for his prowess on the football field. He had also been aware of William's reputation with the flock of girls William had dated and screwed. The kid was a legend in his own time. Carl and Andy had had a good conversation at the church, and Carl had looked forward to getting better acquainted with Andy on the upcoming trip to New Orleans. They had eventually, in fact, become roommates on that trip after Andy had saved Carl from the unwanted attention of a sexual aggressor in a gay bar in the French quarter that Kevin, Cam, Carl and Andy had found themselves in. Andy and Carl had become an item. They'd had lots of sex since then whenever they'd been together, that was for sure. Great sex. Over time their coupling had become much more than just a very satisfying physical act. It had become a true sign of their love. And now, at long last, they would be able to live together and share a bedroom in Cam and Kevin's house in Malibu. Continuing to clasp Andy's hand as they drove along in the truck toward Los Angeles, waves of affection for Andy rolled through Carl's mind and heart as he snoozed intermittently. His dick hardened again as he thought about the protracted, vigorous sex they'd had just the previous night in the Helder's house after being apart for all too long. They had taken turns loving each other up and then fucking each other twice, which explained the effects of the lost sleep they were feeling. Mr. and Mrs. Heller's bedroom was at the other end of their house, so there had been no holding back in noisily pleasuring each other. Carl wanted to reach over and cup Andy' crotch as they drove along now, but obviously couldn't do so in front of the Father Mason. Overt, sexual signs of affection would just have to wait until they checked into their motel in San Luis Obispo that night, where the priest had reserved one room for himself and one for the boys. Carl sighed to himself, and continued to slumber until he felt the truck slow and come to a stop an hour or so south of San Francisco. Father Mason had stopped the truck at an overlook of the Pacific ocean so he could check the chains holding his car to the rental truck, and also to let Carl take some pics of some huge, sun splashed rocks sitting in the water just off the coast. Carl grabbed his fancy Nikon camera from the floor of the truck as the three of them got out of the cab, and Carl began snapping photos of Father Mason and Andy inspecting the chains attached to Mason's car before turning toward the water and taking shots of the boulders offshore. Following his usual practice, he took a lot of pics of the rocks, with the sun glinting off of them. Once back in the truck, Father Mason waited patiently for a break in the traffic and pulled on to the highway. The priest squinted at his wristwatch. It was 11:30 a.m. "It's a little early for lunch, but are you guys getting hungry?" he asked the boys. "Actually, I could eat," Andy said. Carl nodded in agreement. "Me, too," Mason said. "Let's start watching for a place to stop." "Sounds good," Carl said. Thirty minutes later they had left the ocean behind and found a truck stop which would accommodate their truck and car. After they emptied their bladders in the restaurant's rest room, they washed up and found a booth. Andy ordered chicken noodle soup and a bacon-lettuce-and- tomato sandwich, and Father Mason and Carl had scrambled eggs and biscuits and gravy. They all drank iced tea to get a shot of caffeine. After lunch, they returned to the truck. Mason checked the chains holding his car yet again, and then asked the guys if one of them would like to drive for awhile. "Sure," Andy agreed. He knew that he and Carl were each signed on with the rental agency as potential drivers along with Father Mason. Carl looked at the priest. "Are you sure you want to put your life in Andy's hands?" Andy grinned. He started to tell Carl, "Don't be a dick," but at the last second looked at the Father Mason and said to Carl, "Don't be a dope." The priest had a good idea what Andy had started to say, and laughed. Andy embraced his partner, smiled and kissed him on the cheek, and the three of them climbed back into truck, Andy at the wheel with Carl next to him and the priest on the far right. Father Mason handed over the keys and looked over at Andy. "Hold the speed at 55, please," he told him. "Yes, sir," Andy said. He fired up the engine and after checking the side view mirror, pulled back on to the highway at a moderate speed. He glanced over at Carl. "Don't be falling asleep on me." "Maybe," Carl said. Andy shook his head and laughed. "See what I have to put up with," he told Father Mason. "I feel your pain," Mason said. They stopped two more times on the way to San Luis Obispo, once for gas and once so Carl could take more pictures. When they reached the motel, they registered and dropped off their bags at their rooms before going back to the truck and moving it, car in tow, behind the sprawling building for the night. There was a restaurant next door to the motel, and after the three of them had freshened up, they walked over and had a good supper. The two boys ate like pigs, while the priest ate moderately, and then they went back to their respective rooms. The three of them had agreed to meet in the facility's little gym after letting their meals settle. Once there, they worked out on the various machines for a while before retiring for the night after agreeing to grab breakfast starting in the motel dining room the next morning at 6:30. Carl and Andy showered and played around with each other's sexual equipment, dried each other off, and then hit their bed gloriously naked. They hugged and kissed and then felt each other up until they were each hard and leaking. "I've been thinking about your body, especially that sweet ass of yours and your pecs and abs and your cock, every night we've been apart," Carl told his partner. "Especially your big dick." Andy grinned. "That doesn't surprise me. I've been thinking about your body, too, and then jacking off every night before trying to sleep." Carl held Andy's hard penis in one hand while squeezing the boy's right pec and pinching and licking and nibbling his left nipple. When he pulled off, he said, "You taste even better than I had even remembered when I was in Malibu. I can hardly believe we're finally together for good," Carl said. "Back atcha." Andy groaned with pleasure before moving into a 69 position and putting the head of Carl's dick in his mouth and tonguing his slit. He gradually moved his mouth further down his boy's long, fat, hard cock as Carl positioned himself to return the favor. Once situated, neither of them moved for a long time as they began tasting one another's sweet pre-cum as it leaked into their mouths. Andy moaned and eventually sucked harder and began to move his mouth slowly up and down Carl's dick. Carl reciprocated, but they paced themselves so they would last. Knowing each other well, they varied their speed until they finally shot in each other's mouth after a good fifteen minutes of stimulation. It was instant, inevitable ecstasy. Then they lay there, just tasting each other before finally releasing one another's cock. Carl shifted back around in the bed, and they soul kissed, sharing their essence with each other. Carl withdrew from the kiss at long last, and looked deeply into his partner's eyes. "Oh, fuck, you taste so good I can't stand it!" he whispered, letting a dollop of Andy's semen slide across his tongue and then swallowing it. "Carl, I love you so much," Andy croaked. "I don't mean just physically. I've been thinking about you every day and waiting to be with you again." "Me, too," Carl said. "I know we're gonna pass out in a minute, but we're not done for the night. I want to wake up later and fuck. I'm hungry for that sweet ass of yours, that's for sure." "What an inspired thought!" Andy agreed with a lascivious grin. He kissed Carl on the mouth. "Listen, Dude, thanks for coming up to San Rafael to help me move. Most of all, thanks for being my partner and my lover. You're a beautiful person in every way. You're in my heart forever, man. I know that for a fact!" They kissed again, and Carl reached down and pulled the bed sheet over them as they fell asleep in each other's arms. Good as his word, Carl woke Andy up about 4 a.m. and made sweet love to him for a long time. They fell back to sleep with Carl still buried deep inside his partner, clasping the boy's beautiful, muscular body to his own. Andy answered the phone when the front desk gave them a wake-up call at 5:45. They grabbed a shower, washing one another gently but thoroughly. Despite their very satisfying time in bed during the previous night, they kissed deeply and touched each other all over their bodies until they were hard again. Finally they dried each other off with no further action, dressed and went next door to knock on Father Mason's door. "'Morning," the priest said, opening the door, casually dressed in Levis, tan leather boots, and a well worn T-shirt. "'Morning, Father," the guys said in unison. The priest was a shrewd observer, and had seen immediately how relaxed and happy the boys were. And he knew right away it had been a good night for the two partners. That made him happy for them and, yes, a little envious. He was a priest and no pedophile, but he could only hope that the future would bring him his own partner to love in all the ways these boys had most likely enjoyed themselves. "Let's eat," Carl said, looking at the priest and casually admiring the guy's physique. Looking good, the boy thought to himself. The man sure has stayed in shape. The priest offered thanks after they had collected their food at a buffet in the motel dining room. The three of them ate a hearty breakfast and drank several cups of coffee before going back to their respective rooms, collecting their bags, and heading for the truck. Father Mason stowed their bags behind the seat in the cab of the truck and for the umpteenth time checked the chains securing the car. Carl looked at him innocently but with a glint of humor in his eyes. "Why don't I just ride on the back ledge of the truck. That way I could call you on my cell right away if there's even a chance the chains are getting loose?" The priest frowned and looked at him sourly and then burst into laughter. "Didn't you ever hear that 'It's sharper than a serpent's tooth' when you make fun of your elders?" "No, I never heard that," Carl said. "Thinking about the chains, what about, 'Better safe than sorry?'" Mason demanded. "I think I have heard that," Carl admitted, still trying to look innocent. The priest raised his arms and looked up to heaven. "Why me, Lord?" he asked plaintively. "What have I done to deserve this torment?" The two boys looked at him, smiling. Mason looked at Carl. "You're lucky I don't make you walk to Malibu! And I'm not sure you two are a good influence on each other at all. Maybe you need more time apart." "Yes, sir," Carl said, trying to sound contrite. "Get in the truck, then!" the priest said. "I'll drive first!" Mason stated, and got behind the wheel of the truck for the first lap of that day's drive. He grinned to himself and held back from suggesting that if he drove, the guys could rest up from what had most likely been a strenuous night in bed for them. The boys obeyed and immediately climbed into the cab on the truck's passenger side, Carl in the middle. Silence prevailed while Father Mason drove out of the motel parking lot and on to the highway. Ten minutes passed. "Can we still drive along by the ocean so I can take pictures?" Carl asked. "Maybe," Mason said, turning his head and looking out of the left hand window so the guys couldn't see the big smile on his face. Silence. "When do you think you might know?" Carl asked in a quiet, subdued voice, still subtly sticking it to the priest. "After we pull off the road and spend a few hours in prayer," Mason said. "How does that sound?" Andy craned his neck and looked around Carl at the priest. "Why don't we pray in the truck," the boy asked. "It would save time." Father Mason began to laugh out loud until tears ran down his cheeks. "I thought I had you guys persuaded I was P.O.'d, but no-o-o-o. You're such wise-asses," he said. "You've heard the old expression, 'It takes one to know one!'" Andy said. The priest pretended to be outraged. "Just for that," he said, "I'm going arrange with Father Ryan at St. Dunstan's to hear your confessions soon after we get to Malibu. I'll drive you to the church myself." "That's a really good idea," Carl said. He waited a heartbeat, and then added, "And you'll be wanting to join us for the sacrament yourself, I'm sure." The three of them began to laugh until they were out of breath. They talked and laughed at one thing or another for the rest of the trip with the exception that Carl and Andy did grab short but much needed naps from time to time. But despite all the levity, the boys never strayed too far away in their conversations from the very real respect they each had for their priest. They had taken Route 101 out of San Luis Obispo south toward the coast. When they hit Route 1 and traveled a bit further southeast, they stopped for lunch in Goleta. Once again, Carl and Andy ate like it was their last meal, and Father Mason ate sparingly. "You sure don't eat much," Carl commented to the priest as they finished up their food. "I don't want to get fat like you boys," Mason told them. Andy patted his own flat stomach. "Yeah, Carl is kind of fat. I keep warning him. . ." "You oughtta see Andy waddle around the ring in his martial arts matches," Carl responded. "He stomps his feet and eventually sits on his opponents, and that's another victory. He's the Cali version of a sumo wrestler. Fat as all get out." "Just keep running your mouth," Andy said, "and I'm gonna kick your butt. It won't be difficult." After lunch, Father Mason once again checked the chains holding his car. The boys smirked as Mason found the chains were still good and tight, and then Carl took over driving duties from the priest. The closer they came to the L.A. area, the heavier the traffic had become. Carl held their speed between fifty and fifty-five miles per hour, and stayed in the far right lane so as not to impede traffic. The traffic whizzed by them toward Santa Monica. Andy's phone rang. "Where are you now?" Kevin's voice squawked at him. "We turned around and went back to San Francisco, dude," Andy told him. "We just weren't getting a friendly vibe when Cam called before." "Don't listen to him," Kevin said. "We need more slave labor down here right now, and the last arrivals always get the shittiest jobs." "That would be Father Mason, then. Carl and I are staying next door with the Millers," Andy said. "Mrs. Miller just called a few minutes ago, and really wanted us to live with them." "You lyin' sack," Kevin said. "The Millers are in New York City right now." "I know," Andy said, "that's where they called from." Kevin snorted and laughed. "Enough of your bullshit, where are you?" "We just had lunch in Goleta a little while ago, so it won't be too long," Andy said. "Have a nice welcome planned for us, please." "We'll have a nice welcome planned for Father Mason. Maria has his room ready. You and Carl will have to sleep in the front yard in tents. Separate tents. The sheriff's department doesn't allow fornication by northern Californians down here." "Oh, Lord, you are still so full of it! We'll straighten your butt out when we get there. By the way, Father Mason has arranged with Father Ryan for all you guys at the house to go to confession at St. Dunstan's so newly arriving guests like us will be properly treated in our new surroundings." "In your dreams," Kevin said, chuckling. "Hurry up and get here! Casey wants to see you! I still don't know why." "We all want to see him. We're hurryin'!" Andy said, and hung up. "'Sup?" Carl asked. "Just Kevin shootin' off his mouth." Andy paused. "Y'know, it may not be an easy stay in Malibu. Be ready." "Always. But I'm not worried," Carl said. "Father Mason will protect us." "Don't put me in the middle," Mason protested. "Although all of us priests are peacemakers by our very nature." "We'll pay ya," Andy said, laughing. "Thank you," Mason said. "Just remember my services don't come cheap, and I'll use the money to buy a house." "Just plan to lose anything we pay you at poker," Carl said, harking back to their earlier conversation. "To us, of course." "In your dreams!" Father Mason responded. A few minutes later, Carl followed Mason's instructions and turned off Route 101 on to the Pacific Coast Highway. "Things are starting to look familiar," Andy said. "Yes," Mason said. "It won't be long now." "Don't you want to check the chains to the car one more time before we hit Malibu?" Carl asked with a smirk. "You've been warned, buddy!" Mason said. Thirty minutes later they were in Malibu, where the guard at the gate nearest Cam and Kevin's house checked an admittance list and then let them into the enclave. Carl pulled up across the boys' driveway, and tooted the horn. The street near Cam's and Kevin's house was packed with parked cars. The garage door rose in a quick minute, and people began cascading out into the driveway: Cam and Kevin were in the lead with dogs Samantha and Alice, whose tails were wagging wildly. Kevin was carrying Casey, who squirmed out of his arms and began walking on his own. Walking, not toddling, collecting hugs and kisses from the new arrivals until he reached Carl. "Carl," the little boy said, and held up his arms to be picked up. Carl scooped him up, kissing his face. "Where have you been?" the little guy asked. He was talking well. "In San Rafael," Carl said. "I've been missing you all the time I was gone, though." Casey smiled and hugged him around the neck. They were followed out of the house closely by Jeff Miller (son of next door neighbors Sean and Susan Miller, who were now back from from New York), and Art Smith (living with Cam and Kevin since his father kicked him out of the Smith home on suspicion of being gay). Next were housekeeper Maria Romero and her husband Juan, along with their sons Juan, Jr., and Roberto, followed by Father John Ryan (Rector of St. Dunstan's) and wife Lisa along with their sons Samuel and Joshua and daughter Rachel. The crowd joyfully milled about, greeting the new arrivals as appropriate with handshakes, hugs and kisses, and sometimes all of the above. "It's about time you got here," Cam told Father Mason after embracing him. "Although I guess I should be thankful you made it here at all with these two yo-yo's sharing the driving," he added, looking at Carl and Andy. "I told you it was going to be a challenge living down here," Carl told Andy. "At least Maria and the dogs and Casey will be friendly." "We're friendly," Kevin chimed in. "Just candid, that's all." When the greetings had all been exchanged, Kevin turned to Father Mason. "Father, why don't you unchain your car and pull it into the driveway and then put the truck behind it. We can put your stuff in storage tomorrow." "Good idea," Carl said, overhearing what was said and looking slyly at Father Mason. "I hope the chains holding the car won 't be too tight by now. We need to free up that car ASAP." Mason looked at his brother priest. "This is just a small sample of what I've had to put up with on the trip down here." "I know exactly what you're talking about," Father Ryan said. "It's either adolescence or something bad in California water that gets to them. Maybe both." "Why don't we move the vehicles around and go inside?" Kevin intervened with a grin. "Are any of you hungry?" "No thanks," Andy Helder said. "We had lunch in Goleta." "But how about some ice water or lemonade?" Carl suggested. "Father Mason made Andy and me talk and talk and talk all the way from San Luis Obispo, and our throats are dry." Mason just looked at his brother priest and threw his hands in the air hopelessly. Maria Romero put her arm around Carl and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm so glad you're back. Let's go inside, and I'll get you all something to drink." "Thanks, Maria. Then I need to talk to Casey to make sure Cam and Kevin have been treating him all right while I've been gone." Kevin laughed at Carl. "Let's just say we treat Casey much better than we treat you, Dude! And rightly so." He looked at Andy. "I don't know how you stand Carl." "God put him in my life to test me and make me a better person," Andy said with a grin, putting an arm around his partner. "The Lord does that sometimes. Just ask the priests." Everybody laughed as the travelers pulled their bags out of the truck and the crowd began to move toward the back door of the house. Father Mason and Carl stayed behind to unhook the car and pull it into the driveway, and then parked the truck behind it. As they walked into the kitchen, Kevin pulled Carl aside with an impish look on his face. "Now, you and Andy will probably want separate bedrooms for the sake of privacy, won't you?" Kevin asked quietly. Carl's face reddened. "No, you dick," he mumbled so the priests wouldn't hear him. "We want to room together, as you well know. Why don't you and Cam split up and we'll take your room." But Father Mason had overheard Kevin. "Shame on you," Father Mason whispered to Kevin in a low voice, chuckling. "I see you're already starting to stir the pot." "A momentary lapse in judgment, Father," Kevin said, grinning. On top of things as always, Maria intervened as she continued to pass out glasses of lemonade. "Don't worry, Carl, I have a room all ready for you and Andy." "Thanks, Maria," Carl said, kissing her on the cheek as the rest of the adults and youngsters continued to talk. The issue of where Carl and Andy were sleeping was thus concluded without further discussion. Juan Romero eventually spoke up. "Well, folks I need to get back to work and finish up a few things. Carl and Andy and Father Mason, I'm glad you made it down here safely. If there's anything I can do to help you get settled, just give me a call." He looked at sons Juan, Jr. and Roberto. "These guys are free labor if you need it." Juan kissed Maria's cheek. "I'll see you later, sweetheart," he told her quietly as he left. Father Ryan's wife Lisa chimed in about helping Mason. "I know Samuel and Joshua will want to volunteer to help you too, Father, along with Juan, Jr. and Roberto." The four younger guys whose services had been offered smiled uncertainly, but none of them objected. They quickly asked their respective parents if they could stay overnight, and received permission to do so. "Ah, a full house. I love it in poker and in life. But we'll all need to help Maria out," Cam said. Kevin walked up behind Cam and threw his arms around him, and kissed him on the side of his head. "Right again, Cammy! As always!" "Y'know, I see a poker game in our future," Cam said. "Berto's not here, so some of us will have a chance to win some money tonight." Hearing that, Father Ryan gave his sons some money so they could get in the game later, and Maria pulled her purse out of a kitchen drawer and gave her boys a few dollars each as well. The two priests talked about Father Mason's starting date at St. Dunstan's, with Father Ryan urging Mason not to come to work until he had his furniture in storage and he felt rested up from his trip. Mason agreed with thanks, and Father and Mrs. Ryan left with daughter Rachel. Cam turned to Maria as the crowd thinned out. "What are we having for supper, and how can we help?" he asked. "I've thawed out all twenty-five pounds of hamburger we had in the freezer, so why don't you and Art and Jeff fire up the grills," Maria said to Cam. "Kevin, why don't you get the lettuce and start cutting up some vegetables?" "Yes, ma'am," Kevin said and went to the refrigerator to get the fixings for salad as Cam headed toward the grills on the front deck along with Jeff Miller and their housemate Art Smith. Cam opened up the grills to wipe them down, looking at Jeff as he did so. "Jeff, go over and ask your mom and dad to come over for supper if they don't have other plans. Father Mason will enjoy seeing them, and they can meet Andy." "I can do that," Jeff said, and walked toward his parents' house next door. "I'm so happy to be down here," Andy told Cam as he helped wipe down the grills. "Thanks for letting me stay here with you guys." "We're glad to have you," Cam said, laughing. "If it hadn't worked out, Carl would be making out lives miserable." Back in the kitchen, Maria was still handing out assignments. "Carl, why don't you and Andy put more leaves in the dining room table, and then set the table," Maria suggested. "Put a nice tablecloth on it." "We're on it," Andy said, coming back into the kitchen. "Where will we find a tablecloth?" "In the center drawer of the buffet in the dining room," Maria said. "Matching napkins are in there, too. There's some everyday silverware in the right hand drawer." "Father, you know where the bar is if you want a drink," Kevin said as he worked on a salad. "Thanks, Kev. I could use one after having to ride all that way down here with Carl and Andy." "I'll bet," Kevin said. "Better have two." The priest laughed and left for the study. Forty-five minutes later they were all gathered in the dining room, including Maria, whom Kevin insisted eat with the family rather than serving everybody. Sean and Susan Miller had come over from next door, and everyone stood around the table for grace with Casey standing on a chair between Cam and Kevin. Everybody held hands as steam from the newly cooked hamburgers filled the air. "Father Mason, if it's all right with you, I'd like to offer thanks tonight," Cam said. "Of course," the priest said. "Have at it." "Heavenly Father, we're grateful to be able to break bread tonight with one another, and thankful that our travelers had a safe journey here from San Rafael," Cam began. "Lord, please bless this food to our use, and us to the service of all our brothers and sisters in this life wherever they may be. Help us take the love and affection we have for You and for one another out into the world, so that everyone on this earth may be drawn to Your goodness and kindness. In thanksgiving, we pray in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." "Amen" the crowd said as they loosed hands and made the sign of the cross. Father Mason pulled out Maria's chair for her as Sean Miller did for Susan, and then everyone sat down. Casey sat at the table on a pile of pillows on the chair between his dads. "Good prayer, Cam," Father Mason said sincerely. "Thank you." Kevin reached across Casey and patted his partner's hand where it rested on the table. "Well done, bro!" he said. People began passing around the huge platter of hamburgers and crispy buns and large bowls of salad around the table, along with mustard, catsup, chopped onions and A-1 sauce. Cam cut up a hamburger into small pieces for Casey, and soon everyone was eating hungrily and drinking iced tea or water. "Compliments to the chefs," Andy Helder said between bites. "Delicioso!" "Father, where are you going to store your furniture?" Jeff Miller asked halfway through the meal. "I've contracted with a facility on the outskirts of Santa Monica to store it until I find an apartment or house to move into," the priest said. "We aren't going to let him move out of here anytime soon," Kevin interjected. "So his stuff will be in storage for awhile." "I don't want to wear out my welcome," Mason said. "That won't happen," Kevin assured him. "Jeff, if you don't mind my asking, where do you stand with your recovery?" Father Mason said, changing the subject. "I'm discharged from Assurances," Jeff said, "and I'm working part time for them in observing and documenting interactions in several of their groups. Eventually I'll need to go back to school for credentials, though, if I'm going to work in the recovery field. Assurances really helped me get straightened out, and I think they do good work there." "Congratulations," Father Mason said. "I know that recovery isn't an easy road, and I think you'd really bring some special insights to residents in any recovery facility. They'd be lucky to have you." "Thanks, Father," Jeff said. "I'm enjoying what I'm doing, and hope to take on more responsibility over time." Sean and Susan Miller smiled happily at each other because they were so pleased and grateful about how well their son's recovery from drugs and alcohol was going. By the time the meal was over, there was one lonely hamburger left on the serving plate. "Andy, you'll probably need a lot of strength over the next few days," Kevin suggested without explaining what he meant. "Why don't you take the last hamburger?" The young guys all knew he was referring to energy needed for Carl and Andy's bedtime activities, but didn't comment. Andy blushed. "Thanks, Kev," he said, grabbing the hamburger before somebody else got it. "These are great!" He cut the burger in half and shared it with Carl. After supper, all the guys pitched in to clear the table and fill the dishwasher. Miraculously, nobody had spilled anything on the tablecloth, so Maria folded it up and put it back in the buffet. The napkins all went into the wash. Then Maria left for home, leaving her kids behind to spend the evening with Father Mason and the boys. After the clean-up was finished, the young guys all gathered in the dining room with Father Mason and Sean Miller for a knock-down, drag-em-out poker game that would last into the early morning hours. Andy Helder surprised everybody by being the big winner. It was just one of the things that he and Carl celebrated in their room with sex and still more sex before they finally passed out in each other's arms. The Romero and Ryan boys all slept on pads on the floor in Cam's and Kevin's huge bedroom. There was no sex there, of course, but Cam and the other boys fell asleep quickly. Kevin was awake longer, holding Cameron, just looking at his handsome face in the dim light from the bathroom and enjoying being next to him, thanking God for him, and thinking about their upcoming marriage. For some reason, the melody and lyrics from a song recorded by Foreigner kept running through his mind: "I want to know what love is I want you to show me. I want to know what love is, I know you can show me..." He confirmed to himself before he eventually crashed that he already knew full well what love is, and that it was his partner, beautiful in every way, who had taught him everything he knew about it.
  2. Don H

    Chapter 68

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 Watching a monitor in a conference room at the court house, Cam and Kevin had witnessed Superior Court Judge Robert MacClaine sever Rory Lomer's case from those of Eric Clymer and Peter Murtha in the brutalization of Cam down the beach from Cam and Kevin's house. Lomer had agreed with the DA's office to plead guilty to a reduced charge of sexual assault of a minor in the second degree, and to serve as a witness in the trial of Clymer and Murtha for kidnapping, attempted murder in the first degree, and aggravated sexual assault of a minor in the first degree. "Read the charges," Judge MacClaine had ordered. The three defense attorneys had stood up, and one of them had said, "Defendants Clymer and Murtha waive a complete reading of the charges of kidnapping, attempted murder in the first degree, and aggravated sexual assault of a minor in the first degree, your honor." "Defendant Rory Lomer also waives a complete reading of the charges of kidnapping, attempted murder in the first degree, and aggravated sexual assault of a minor in the first degree, your honor," Lomer's attorney had stated. "Very well," the judge said. "How do you plead?" he asked the defendants. "Eric Clymer pleads 'Not guilty' to all charges, your honor," Clymer's lawyer said. "Peter Murtha pleads 'Not guilty' to all charges, your honor," Murtha's attorney said. "Rory Lomer pleads 'Guilty' to a reduced charge of sexual assault in the second degree, your Honor," Lomer's attorney said, "pursuant to a pre-trial amendment of charges by the office of the District Attorney, Los Angeles County." "The plea of defendants Clymer and Murtha will be noted for the record. The amended plea of defendant Lomer is accepted, and noted for the record," Judge MacLaine had stated. The conjoined trial of Lomer and Murtha had commenced immediately, with Lomer's sentencing scheduled in his guilty plea to take place following verdicts in Lomer's and Murtha's cases. The Lomer/Murtha trial had taken only two days to complete, with both defendants found guilty of all charges in a unanimous verdicts by the jury. Four days after the verdict had been handed down, Judge MacLaine had sentenced Clymer to fifteen years in prison without parole, and Murtha to twelve years, also without parole. Rory Lomer, having fulfilled the terms of his deal with the DA's office for what proved to be very graphic testimony against his former companions, was sentenced to five years in prison, with parole possible after three years. The metro sections of all the LA papers had covered the two trials to the degree possible given the closed courtroom, and fully covered subsequent sentencing in detail. This time they had omitted Cameron's name as the victim of the crimes. Of course Cam's victimization had been reported to the community previously by the newspapers, but having had the support of Kevin and Art and Carl and the rest of the family in San Francisco, along with previous therapy, at this point he refused to relive what had happened to him down the beach. He had successfully put those issues behind him. The past was now the past. * * * It was early on a Saturday morning several weeks after the trial was over. Lying in bed, Kevin was awakened by a sound from the speakers of the nanny cam surveying Casey's room, and he glanced at the little screen on the bedside table. He saw Maria go to Casey's bed, pick him up out of the crib, kiss the little boy's head, croon to him, and take him into the bathroom to check his diaper. Five minutes later, with the little guy freshly diapered, she carried Casey out the door and down the stairs to the kitchen for some breakfast. Kevin silently gave thanks for the wonderful, loving care Casey received day after day from his and Cam's housekeeper. He promised himself he would talk to Cam about what they could do, financially or some other way, to return to Maria and her family some gift in response to the blessing her presence brought to their household, and especially to Casey. Adjusting the sheet covering him and Cam, a smiling, naked Kevin rolled over on top of his partner. The two of them always slept au naturel except when the guys from San Rafael were in town staying in their room with them, and then they wore boxers to bed. Cam labored a little to breathe as his eyes fluttered open. He looked up from his pillow directly into Kevin's handsome face and dark brown eyes. Kevin began kissing Cam's face gently and rubbing noses with him. Cam grabbed a breath. "'Sup?" he asked. As if he didn't know! He repeatedly ran his hands up and down Kevin's sides and his back, eventually coming to rest on his partner's muscular bubble butt that always turned him on so much. He inserted a finger into Kevin's crack just a little, and lightly rubbed his hole. "Oh, yeah!! You're way too cute for your own good!" Kevin responded. "And too good in bed. Sometimes I just can't stand it." "Well, you won't have to stand it for long if you don't let me breathe." Kevin didn't answer except to pump his hips once, where his rapidly inflating cock was planted firmly on Cam's package. "Oh," Cam said in anticipation of what was about to happen. His own cock started to harden as Kevin pressed against him. "Is Casey awake?" he asked. "Yes." Kevin glanced again at the nanny speaker and screen on the bedside table. "Maria came up and got him a few minutes ago. But don't change the subject." "What is the subject?" Kevin pumped his hips one more time. "You're the subject." "No, you're the subject." Cam ran his hands up and down Kevin's back and sides to his butt again, and began to rub his ass cheeks more firmly. A finger found its way into Kevin's crack yet again, and entered him a little more deeply, this time to the first knuckle. "You're so bold!" Kevin told him, pleased and smiling. "You inspire me." "Good to know." Kevin rolled over and pulled Cam on top of him, and they began to kiss passionately with lots of tongue. They were each fully hard in just seconds as they began to pinch each other's nipples. "Do me," Kevin eventually told his partner after the touching grew more insistent. "I want you in me, dude. Fill me up." He slipped off Cam's body on to his own back. Not needing to be convinced, Cam slid over to the drawer of his bedside table and found some lube. Returning to the center of the huge bed, Cam kissed his way down his partner's awesome abs. He briefly mouthed his boy's long, thick cock, and then pushing Kevin's legs back, proceeded to lube his hole, open him up with his fingers, and then lube his own dick. "Put it in me," Kevin demanded again, fisting Cam's slippery and erect penis which was more than ready for business. Cam obliged him, raising his partner's legs higher and moving between them, then working his dick fully into Kevin. Once he was fully at home inside his boy, he just lay there on Kevin's body letting his boy become accustomed to the welcome intruder. They lay there for several minutes, wordlessly studying one another's face before Cam pulled back from where he was buried inside Kevin's hole, plunged back in, and started to rhythmically pump his lover's ass slowly and then with increasing vigor as minutes passed. Kevin groaned as his prostate began to respond to Cam's cock repeatedly massaging it. A pearl of pre-cum appeared at the end of Kevin's penis, which pulsed where it laid on his abs. After five minutes, Kevin groaned and reached down to grab Cam's butt, slowing his in-and-out momentum. "Lord, you do know how to fuck!" he gasped to his lover. "But let's make this last for awhile!" "Yeah," Cam gasped back, slowing his tempo. Eventually Kevin began tightening his hole when Cam thrust into him, and loosening it when he backed out, multiplying the sensations that both of them were feeling. "Oh, yeah!" Cam said, and his pleasure increased even more when Kevin began raising his ass to meet Cam's thrusts into him. He encircled Cam's butt with his legs, locked at the ankles, pulling Cam forcefully into his hole each time. Cam eventually couldn't help increasing the speed of his thrusts to what they had been before, and at the fifteen-minute mark he flooded Kevin's smooth, tight insides with his sperm. Then he lay there, spent, on Kevin's body as Kevin lowered his legs to the bed. Cam softened, and his cock finally fell from its favorite home. "Sorry I couldn't last longer," Cam whispered when he finally regained speech, gently kissing his partner's face again and again. "You did great!" Kevin assured him. "You're so good at fucking I may never let you out of bed again." Kevin's abs were coated with his own pre-cum, but he had not yet ejaculated. Cam scooted down in bed, and after licking up Kevin's pre-cum, he put the still-swollen head of Kevin's cock in his mouth and pumped his partner's dick with his hand. Two pumps later he was swallowing as fast as he could, bringing Kevin off with seven full shots of semen. Some of the thick juice leaked out of the corners of Cam's mouth, and Kevin pulled Cam's head down and tongued his own seed from his boy's face. "Oh, man!" Kevin groaned, licking his lips when he finished. "You always feel so good inside me!" he said as his body relaxed. "And I taste pretty good, if I do say so myself." Cam smiled. "Yes, you do," he said. The guys kissed each other deeply, sharing the remnants of Kevin's cum before hitting the bathroom and emptying their bladders. Then it was back to bed, holding each other tight before they dropped off into a blissful, post coital coma. When they woke up twenty minutes later, Cam kissed Kevin and looked at him appreciatively. "I couldn't ask for a better lover than you, Kevin Stoltz," he said, looking him in the eyes. "Likin' that!" Kevin said. "I love you so much, Cam. Sometimes I could come in my pants just from lookin' atcha." "Well, this bears a lot more discussion. But why don't we clean up a little, wake up Art, and take a run before we shower and eat breakfast?" he asked. "You read my mind," Kevin said. They bounded out of bed and into the bathroom, where they ran damp wash cloths over other's bodies before putting on jocks, running shorts, T-shirts and running shoes. They went downstairs. Maria was sitting at the kitchen table beside Casey in his high chair, feeding him. "Morning, Maria," Kevin said, bending down and greeting the woman with a kiss on the cheek followed by a kiss on top of Casey's head. "Thanks for taking such good care of Casey." "What brought that on?" Maria asked. "That's my job." Cam gave her a sideways hug and kissed her cheek. "It may be your job, but what you do for Casey, and for us, is obviously more important to you than just a job." "Well..." Maria said, at a loss for words. "Hey, Casey," Cam said, bending down and giving the little guy a kiss on the head. "Daddy," Casey said, not specifying who he was talking to. "If you guys are going out today, will you stop at a hardware store and get us some gates for the stairs?" Maria asked. "One for the top and one for the bottom? I caught Casey yesterday trying to crawl upstairs." "You're kidding," Kevin said. "No, I'm not. He's strong, and he's active," Maria said. "Thank goodness for that, but we don't want any accidents." "We'll get the gates today," Cam promised. "Right now, we're going for a run." "All right," Maria said. "I'll fix you some breakfast when you get back." "Sounds good," Kevin said. The landline rang just then, and Maria stood up and answered it. "Good morning. MacKenzie-Stoltz-Emrick residence," she said. "Good morning," a man's voice said. "This is Ralph Abernathy at Rodeo Drive Jewelry, calling. Is Cam or Kevin available?" "Yes, sir," Maria said. "One moment, please." She covered the speaker. "It's Mr. Abernathy at the jewelry store." Kevin held out his hand and took the receiver. "Good morning, Mr. Abernathy," he said. "This is Kevin. What's the good word?" "We have your rings ready to look at, Kevin, at your convenience. When do you and Cam think you might be able to stop by to see them? I want to double-check that they're correctly sized." "Hold on for a moment, sir, and let me talk to Cam." "Of course." Kevin hit the hold button, and the main line began to blink. "Our rings are ready to check out," he said to Cam. "When do you want to stop by the store?" "Excellent!" Cam said enthusiastically. "What about two o'clock this afternoon?" "Sounds good," Kevin said, reconnecting with the blinking number. "Mr. Abernathy, would you be available at two o'clock today? We're eager to see the rings." "I'll be on hand at two o'clock. I'll look forward to seeing you both then," Abernathy said before hanging up. Cam looked at Kevin after he put the phone back on the wall. "Wow! I'm really excited to see them!" Cam said. "Me, too, man!" Kevin agreed. "Maria, I think we'll take Casey with us when we go to the hardware store and the jewelry store. We need to spend some time with him anyway." "Well, if you're sure..." "That'll give you some peace and quiet for a change," Cam agreed. Kevin picked up the phone, pushed the intercom button, and punched the number for Art Smith's bedroom. A sleepy voice answered. "Yeah?" Art said. "Throw on a pair of running shorts and meet us downstairs on the deck, my man," Kevin said. "Let's run before breakfast, and then we'll take care of some errands." Art groaned. "OK. Give me a couple minutes." "Yep." Kevin replaced the receiver and went to the refrigerator, grabbing three bottles of water, one each for himself, Cam and Art. Cam and Kevin went out to the deck after some conversation with Casey, where they met Art Smith, greeted the dogs, and did their warm-ups. Thirsty, they each swigged down a bottle of water before hitting the beach along with Alice and Samantha. Running on the beach was dog heaven for the two border collies. Art glanced over at his two hunky companions as they all started their run. It was one of those rare occasions when the wind wasn't blowing off the bay, and when the three of them had been limbering up on the back deck, Art had caught a whiff of sex from his fellow runners as they stretched their legs. Cam and Kevin weren't making goo-goo eyes at each other or anything like that. In fact they weren't looking at each other at all. There was no overt communication between them. But there was this aura surrounding Cam and Kevin that morning that Art had seen before, but not all that often in public, between people who were deeply in love. It required no stretch of Art's imagination that the two young men had probably had physical relations that morning. They had likely been "one flesh," for damn sure. For a person his age, Art was a keen observer of social interactions and the vibes that characterized them. It had always been clear how his two hosts felt about each other. But this was one of those occasions when the solidarity of Cam and Kevin's relationship, their deep love and respect for one another, was on perfect display for anyone paying attention. The partners seemingly didn't have to work very hard at it. It was just there. Art hadn't received a great deal of love in the bosom of his own family, but he knew love when he saw it. And he was seeing it. Despite himself, Art was envious. Who wouldn't be? Art wanted a loving relationship like that for himself with somebody. Whether that person would be a man or a woman wasn't yet perfectly clear to him. Probably a guy. But fortunately, thanks to running and working out in the gym with Kevin and Cam, he was starting to attract some attention in public--from both males and females--for his steadily improving physique. He was looking better every day. "I wonder how Carl and Andy and Father Mason and the San Rafael boys are coming along with the move?" Kevin asked after the three guys hit their pace on the beach. Carl had flown up to San Francisco to meet Andy and the priest, pick up the truck Ian Carson had rented for them, and commandeer William, Mark, Berto and Dan to load up Mason's clothes and furniture along with clothes and a few items Andy had ready for the trip to Los Angeles. "I'm sure they're doing OK," Art said. "But it feels strange not to have Carl here, doesn't it?" "I know," Kevin admitted. "I miss that cute little shit." "Me, too. He'll be happy when Andy moves in here with him, I know that for sure," Cam said. "Yeah," Art agreed. "Art, have you talked to your parents at all lately?" Cam asked. "I talk to my mom about once a week. My dad, never. He hates me, for sure." "I know from personal experience what a pain in the ass it is to have a father who's an asshole," Kevin told him. "Your dad ought to be grateful to have a son like you." "Thanks, Kev," Art responded. Compliments didn't come along all that often in life, and the boy was pleased. Cam looked over at Art. "Are your classes going well?" he asked him. "Yeah. I'm having a little trouble with chemistry, but I'll get through it somehow." "Don't fall behind," Kevin suggested. "I can give you some help, y'know. The physical sciences are no problem for me." "I know that," Art said. "I just may take you up on that offer." "Yeah, I've noticed that nothing physical is a problem for you," Cam told Kevin with a leer. "Don't start!" Kevin warned, making Cam and Art chuckle. When they reached the two and a half mile mark, Cam whistled at the dogs, and the three boys turned around. Kevin had cut them back from seven miles a day, first to six and then to five miles daily, after reading the latest research on excessive exercise leading to free radicals in the body. He'd not had blowback from anybody about that decision, including Ian and the San Rafael boys, when he suggested during their last visit that they do the same after they went home. They ran in silence back toward the house for a while, with the dogs happily dodging in and out of the surf. Cam spoke up. "Hey Art, Kevin and I are going out this afternoon to pick up some safety gates for the top and bottom of the stairs. Maria caught Casey climbing up the stairs the other day, and we don't want any accidents now that he's getting more mobile. Then we're going over to Rodeo Drive Jewelry to look at our engagement and wedding rings. If you don't have something else going on, why don't you come with us?" "Thanks. Sounds like a plan," Art responded. He was always pleased to have an excuse to spend some time with the guys. "We won't leave until after breakfast settles," Kevin interjected. "That'll give us plenty of time to work out in the gym. You guys are looking a little flabby." A blatant lie. "You need to do more than just trot up and down the beach every day to stay in shape." "We gotta get a muzzle to shut you the fuck up, Kevin," Cam responded. "So we'll add a pet store to our itinerary for this afternoon." Kevin and Art laughed. Arriving back home, they ate some of Maria's special huevos rancheros, their favorite breakfast, after Kevin offered thanks. Cam went out to the garage after they finished up and found a tape measure in their tool box in the garage. He measured the width that the stairway gates would have to cover, and wrote the figures down on a sheet of paper. Then they worked out and worked up a sweat in the little gym after their breakfast had settled. Kevin complimented the guys on how well they did with the weights. Afterwards, they showered. Cam and Kevin washed each other under the pelting water, as usual, and then dressed in their usual T-shirts, Levi's and Skechers. Art jacked off in his own shower as he fantasized about his hosts having had sex that morning, and was in a good mood when he joined them downstairs after dressing. Kevin checked Casey's diaper, found out the little guy was all right, and after saying good-bye to Maria, the three boys loaded the baby, the baby bag, and themselves in the Mustang. Cam sat in the back seat to interact with Casey in his backward car seat. "We have plenty of time before we have to be at the jewelry store, so let's go to Lowe's first and see if they have the gates we're looking for. If they don't, we can hit Home Depot," Kevin suggested. "You're a master shopper," Cam told him. "That's more satisfying than being a master bator," Kevin responded. "Oh man! You should warn me when you're going to talk like that so I can cover Casey's ears," Cam kidded him. "Oops," Kevin said. He smiled. "You're right." They found a pair of attractive, sturdy gates at Lowe's, and checked carefully to see that all the needed hardware was in the boxes. They rolled the boxes out to the car on a cart and loaded them into the trunk of the Mustang. Kevin had put the purchase on his credit card, where Ian Carson would probably see it on the bill and ask him about it. Ian never argued about any purchases the guys made, but he did monitor what the boys spent, and Kevin and Cam didn't resent that at all. They knew he was watching out for them. Heading out of the lot, they stopped at an In and Out Burger to get some burgers and milk shakes, and drove toward Rodeo Drive. Cam had picked up a plastic spoon at the cash register, and he fed a couple of small spoonfuls of his vanilla shake to Casey. The little guy had a sweet tooth, and really liked that. There were no parking places on the street near the jewelry store in Hollywood, so they parked in a garage. "Why don't you let me carry Casey so you guys will be hands-free to deal with the rings," Art suggested as they got out of the car. "Thanks, Art," Kevin agreed, and helped Art put on the baby sling. They settled Casey into it and walked down the street toward the store. Passers-by all smiled and checked out the baby as they went by. They entered the jewelry store and were promptly greeted by a friendly female sales person. Cam didn't see the young man who had acted homophobic to Kevin and him the first time they'd visited the store, and he wondered if the guy had gotten the ax for his bad attitude. "We have a two o'clock appointment with Mr. Abernathy," Kevin told the young lady. He glanced down at his watch, and they were right on time. "Yes, sir. He's back in the work area. I'll call him." "Thank you, m'am," Kevin said. Abernathy joined them shortly, and Cam introduced Art to him and identified Casey. The little guy had fallen asleep. Abernathy smiled down at the little boy, and said, "Beautiful baby!" Then he led them to a counter toward the back of the store. Unlocking a glass cabinet, Abernathy pulled out four jewelry boxes and placed them on the counter. Kevin's name was taped to two of the boxes, and Cam's name to the other two. One by one the jeweler snapped open the boxes. Two boxes held the wedding rings, and two, the engagement rings. Cam's and Kevin's eyes were initially drawn to the engagement rings. As Abernathy had promised, they were elegant and beautiful without being flashy or overpowering. A sizable, flat cut ruby dominated the center of each ring, with two smaller emeralds bracketing it, but the gems all hugged the rings without protruding. Looking closely, Cam and Kevin saw that the gold engagement rings had a filigree running around it which appeared to match the one on the wedding rings. Even without trying them on, Cam's and Kevin's first thoughts were that the engagement rings would be comfortable for them to wear--not only physically, but because of what they stood for. Cam and Kevin looked at each other, and Kevin briefly put his arm over Cam's shoulders and gave him a side hug before they reached down and pulled the engagement rings out of their respective cases. Cam took Kevin's left hand and put the ring designated for him on his ring finger. It slipped over Kevin's knuckle with just a little effort. Kevin put Cam's ring on his partner's finger, and it fit perfectly without being too snug. They each held out a left hand, and regarded them silently. The rings had some heft, but they weren't overly heavy. "Oh, my gosh," Kevin said quietly, eyes a little moist, before pulling Cam into his arms and kissing his cheek. "They're perfect!" "For sure," Cam said. He looked over at Ralph Abernathy. "These rings are like our dreams come true, sir," he told him. "You captured what we wanted perfectly!" "Good!" Abernathy said with a smile. "I'm really pleased with the finished product! The gems are all of high quality, I can assure you of that, and they speak very well to your relationship." Cam and Kevin reached down the counter to pull the wedding rings out of their cases. They were gold, matching the gold color of the engagement rings. The wedding rings were moderately wide, and the guys could see clearly up close that they were indeed decorated with the same delicate filigree which spiraled around the engagement rings. A perfect match. "Let me show you how the wedding rings interlock with the engagement rings," Mr. Abernathy suggested. Cam pulled off his engagement ring and handed it to the jeweler. Abernathy lined up Cam's engagement and wedding rings, pushed them together, and then rotated the wedding ring a degree or two, causing it to seat firmly with the engagement ring. He handed the two rings back to Cam. He put the rings back on his finger to check them out, and then removed them. It took a firm twist before Cam could separate the two rings again. "Excellent," Kevin noted with satisfaction. "The interlock will keep the engagement rings from spiraling around from the weight of the gems, so you won't have to be adjusting them all the time," Abernathy said. "And by the way, your first names are inscribed on the underside of each ring so they don't get mixed up. You wear different sizes." The guys put the wedding rings back in their boxes and closed them up, and but kept the engagement rings handy. "Ask me," Kevin instructed Cam, handing him Kevin's designated engagement ring. Cam knew exactly what Kevin meant. "Kevin, will you marry me?" he asked. "I will," Kevin said, and Cam slid the engagement ring on the third finger of his partner's left hand. "Cameron, will you marry me?" Kevin asked in turn. "I will." Kevin put the engagement ring on Cam's ring finger of his left hand, and they kissed each other lightly on the lips without making a big spectacle of it. The store wasn't busy at the moment, and the staff had been watching Cam and Kevin's reactions to the rings. They applauded when the two guys kissed and embraced. Mr. Abernathy beamed at them. "Gentlemen, congratulations," he said, and then shook hands with each them. "I hope you'll invite me to your wedding." "Count on it!" Cam said. Then Art shook hands with each of his roomies, and gave each a hug of congratulations. Despite the seemingly casual exchange of rings, he was moved, though he tried not to show it. After a little more conversation, they all went to the payment desk, and each pair of rings was charged to the guys' respective credit cards. The charges went through with no problem. With final thanks to Mr. Abernathy, who said a special good-bye to a sleeping Casey, the three guys left the store and began walking back toward their car. "Wait 'til Ian sees our credit card bills," Kevin said, laughing. "He'll fall on his ass!" "Well, it isn't as if we didn't tell him what we were going to do," Cam responded. "But I do hope this is the last time we spend this kind of money on each other just for 'stuff.' There are a lot of hungry people on the street without a roof over their heads in our country, for us to be this selfish. I love the rings, but y'know, enough is enough. Let's make a good contribution to the Santa Monica homeless shelter." "I totally agree, Cam," Kevin said. "By the way, on another subject, I think we should do something special for the Romeros, especially for Juan, Jr., and Roberto. Maybe make some substantial down payments on a college fund for each of them. I know Maria and Juan, Sr., may be a little reluctant to accept a gift like that, but let's make it happen. And let's raise Maria's salary. When Andy moves in, she'll be taking care of five of us now along with Casey." "What a great idea!" Cam agreed. "Let's talk to Ian about what we can do for the whole family. I know the Romeros aren't exactly poor, and I think Juan is going to end up being a highly successful contractor in the L.A. area. But we couldn't buy the kind of care we're getting for Casey and the rest of us for two or three times what we're paying Maria. You know that's true." "No doubt about that," Kevin said. The guys couldn't help lifting their hands and inspecting the new engagement rings periodically on the way back to the car, and felt a deep sense of satisfaction with their beauty. Once at the parking lot, they put Casey back in his car seat without waking him, and headed for Malibu. Cam carried the baby into the house and put him in his downstairs crib after they arrived home, while Kevin and Art brought the new gates for the stairway inside. Maria came down from upstairs when she heard the boys come in. "All right!" she said. "Let's see the jewelry!" Cam and Kevin extended their left arms, and she held their hands for a moment while she inspected the engagement rings. "Oh, my goodness!" she exclaimed. "They're absolutely beautiful!" She gave each of them a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks," Kevin said, pleased that Maria agreed with his own opinion of the rings. "Mr. Abernathy did a great job." "They're just what we wanted," Cam said. "What do you think, Art?" Maria asked. "I think they're beautiful!" Art said. "Outstanding!" 'Let's see the wedding rings," Maria said. Cam and Kevin pulled the jewelry boxes out of the pockets of their Levi's, and opened them up. "I see the filigree on the wedding rings matches the engagement rings," Maria observed. "It does," Cam said. "And the engagement rings and the wedding rings interlock as well. Everything is perfect!" "For sure!" Kevin said, ready to move on. "Now, on another subject, as you can see from the big cardboard boxes, we got the gates," Kevin said. "We'll install them right away." "That will be one less worry," Maria said. "I appreciate it." "While you guys pull out the gates, I'm going to take pictures of my rings and send it to Mom, Carl and Andy and Fr. Mason and Jeff Miller, and the whole crew in San Rafael," Cam said. "I think he likes his rings," Kevin said, chuckling. "Well, get to it. Art and I will start on the gates." Cam sent the picture of the rings with a caption to the family, and it wasn't long before the accolades began pouring in. * * * The following Tuesday, Juan Romero pulled up to the the main gate of Magnum Studios, the date that George Eisner's secretary had given him for a lunch meeting. It was 12:45. A uniformed, Caucasian guard came out of his shelter right away, looking skeptically at Juan's beat-up old truck with the chipped paint. "Romero Construction" was painted on the door. "May I help you?" the guard asked, bending down to check out the inside of the truck while not betraying a whole lot of respect for the visitor. "Yes," Juan said. "I have a one o'clock appointment with Mr. Eisner and Mr. Lazlo." "Yes, sir," the guard said, his face suddenly looking more welcoming and his posture straightening. "One moment, please." The man went back into the guardhouse, picked up a telephone, dialed a number, and spoke into it. Two minutes later, having received a response, the guard walked back to the truck. "Yes, sir," the man said, this time with respect. "Just follow the signs that say 'Administration,' and park in the lot in front of the Administration building. Go in the front door, and a staff member will be waiting for you at the reception desk." "Thank you," Juan said as the guard hit a button to raise the striped pole blocking the entrance and touched a finger to his uniform cap as the truck rolled by. Damn, you just never know who the fuck is going to show up here to see somebody important, even if they're driving a piece of shit like that truck, the guard thought to himself as he watched the truck pull away and he went back inside his hut to await the next visitor. Juan followed the guard's instructions and pulled into the parking lot of the main office building. Before alighting from his truck, he took off his cap and studied his image in the rear view mirror. His saw that his jet black hair was still neatly combed, parted on the left, and his face neatly shaven. He was a handsome and well-built man with light tan skin, neatly dressed in clean work clothes with his company logo over his left breast pocket. He had thought about wearing a suit to this meeting, but had decided against it. He had surmised that Messrs. Eisner and Lazlo weren't going to base their decision about whom to select for a building contractor on how much he looked like a desk-bound businessman. Leaving his Romero Construction cap on the passenger sear, he opened the driver's door of his truck, got out, and snaked his way through the parked cars to the main entrance of the Administration building. Another guard greeted him inside the building at a revolving door, and directed him to a reception desk where a well-coifed, middle aged Latina greeted him in a friendly manner. "Good day, sir," she said. "How may I help you?" "I have a lunch meeting with Mr. Eisner and Mr. Lazlo." It was now 12:55. 'Yes, sir. Your name?" 'Juan Romero." "One moment, please." She stepped to a telephone and punched in a number. "Stephanie, Mr. Romero is here for his meeting with Mr. Eisner and Mr. Lazlo." She nodded her head and hung up. "Señor Romero, if you'll take a seat over there, someone will be down in a moment to escort you upstairs." She gestured with a graceful wave at some leather chairs at one side of the lobby. "Gracias, Señora," Juan said, and headed for a seat. He had only been seated for about two minutes when a young woman emerged from an elevator and approached him. "Mr. Romero?" she asked, extending a hand. "Welcome to Magnum Studios. I'm Stephanie Anderson, Mr. Lazlo's administrative assistant." Juan greeted her and they shook hands. "If you will follow me, I'll escort you to Mr. Lazlo and Mr. Eisner for lunch in Mr. Eisner's office." "Thank you," Juan said, and followed the svelte, shapely young woman to the elevators. They made small talk on the way up to the top floor. Without waiting after knocking, she opened a door labeled George Eisner, Chairman. Two men rose from a couch where they had obviously been waiting to greet their guest. "Mr. Romero," the taller of the two men said with a smile, "Welcome to Magnum Studios," he said, shaking Juan Romero's hand. "I'm George Eisner," he identified himself. "And this is Rick Lazlo." Lazlo smiled, and shook hands. "Glad you could make it. Hope you're hungry. George sets a good table." "I think I can sit up and take some nourishment," Juan said with a grin. "Well, let's have at it, then," Eisner said as they moved over to the table. Before they pulled out their chairs and sat down, Eisner offered thanks over the food. "I appreciate the prayer," Juan said when Eisner finished and the three of them made the sign of the cross. "My family started saying grace because the young men my wife works for customarily offer thanks before meals. My family has gotten in the habit." "I know who you're talking about, Juan," Eisner said. "Your wife's employers attend my parish church." "Excellent family!" Juan said. "They've been so kind to us." "Good people," Eisner said. "Good boys with good friends. They've experienced some tragedy at a young age, and come out of it successfully. Cameron MacKenzie's father and his partner worked for Magnum, and were killed in a plane crash coming back from England. And Kevin Stoltz has had his own family problems. Ian Carson, who recommended you for the construction job we're going to talk about today, has been sort of a foster father to the boys." Juan smiled. "I met Ian and his wife, and their maid from San Rafael, along with all the boys in the Carsons' extended family, at Cam and Kevin's house on Thanksgiving. Cam and Kevin had invited Cam's mother and her maid, our family, and their next door neighbors Sean and Susan Miller, along their maid, who is my wife's sister, and the Miller boy and another young man from college, for the meal. I should mention that the maids were the guests of honor at that meal, and the families did all the cooking and serving." Juan Romero looked at his hosts. "I didn't think I'd have a good time because I'm a laborer only one generation removed from being an immigrant myself, but we all had a ball! They're all easy people to relate to. And I do." George Eisner nodded in agreement. "You see what I see, Juan." Eisner studied him for a long moment. "You speak English well. Where did you get your schooling?" "I attended an Anglican primary and secondary school in Mexico City where my father was the janitor. I guess my schooling explains my English proficiency, and then I graduated from college at the National Autonomous University, also in Mexico City, on a scholarship in architecture. I immigrated with my parents after graduation, met my wife here in LA, and the rest is history. Although I was a legal immigrant, the architectural firms wouldn't hire me here because they thought I was a wetback and lying about being legal." George Eisner shook his head in shame. "Times have changed." "To some extent," Juan said with a smile. "You wouldn't know it to listen to some of the presidential candidates these days, though." "I guess you're right," Eisner admitted. Lazlo studied the two men as the three of them continued with the meal. It might be true that hiring a building contractor was technically his decision, but Lazlo also knew that Juan Romero was as good as selected as far as his boss was concerned. If he didn't get this particular contract, Eisner would most certainly bring him aboard in some other capacity. When they finished their light noon meal, prepared for hot weather, of cold vichyssoise soup, thin sliced veal cutlets, raspberry jello salad with a dab of sour cream dressing and pecans, and miniature cinnamon rolls, they moved right on to dessert: iced coffee with freshly baked apple tarts. There had been no alcoholic drinks served, nor wine with the meal. And that suited Juan just fine. He wanted all his wits about him for the conversation to come. Two white-coated waiters cleared the table after lunch, and the three men just sat there at the lunch table and got down to business. Romero and Lazlo sparred over some of the costs and details of the new construction that Magnum Studios had in mind as they looked at plans and blueprints while George Eisner just sat there listening quietly and patiently, but eventually Juan Romero got pretty much what he wanted in the contract. He knew his stuff, and was happy with the outcome of their discussion. He knew that getting this contract would be a huge step forward for Romero Construction. "Rick, do you have rough copy of a contract I can let my attorney take a look at?" Juan asked when they had wrapped up. "Let me re-work it to reflect the changes we've discussed today, and I'll have one ready for you by the end of the week," Lazlo said. "Ian Carson looked over the current draft of the contract and approved it on our behalf, and I'll ask him to take a look at the changes as well." "Sounds good," Juan said. The three men removed their napkins from their laps, and stood up, pushing in their chairs and then shaking hands. "Thank you so much for joining us for lunch, Juan," George Eisner said over a firm handshake. "Thank you for having me," Juan said, turning to shake hands with Rick Lazlo. "I'll call you when we get a contract cleaned up and ready for you to look at," Rick said. "We're looking forward to working with you." "And I with you," Juan said. The good-byes said, Juan headed for the door and then to the elevator. "What do you think?" Lazlo asked, looking at his boss after Juan had gone. "He's a perfect example of the future of American business, Rick. All our families were immigrants once upon a time. I think this is going to be a good relationship for us, don't you?" "I do. I am a little curious about why you've taken such a personal interest in hiring someone for this particular contract, George." Eisner smiled. "Well, you're right. I admit I have a personal interest in the Romero family because of my relationship with Cam MacKenzie and his partner, Kevin Stoltz, and the little boy they're raising with the help of Juan's wife. As I mentioned earlier, Alex MacKenzie was working for us here at Magnum when he and his partner were killed, and I feel we owe their survivors, and those who help them, to do a good turn for these folks when we have a chance. I hope you don't feel that I've pre-empted your decision. That wasn't my intent. I do think Juan Romero is our best option to be our principal building contractor, being that he's an architect as well as a builder. He has the skills and the expertise to do the job. But if you don't feel he should be our guy, I'm open to discussing it." Lazlo was silent for a moment. "No, I don't think we need to discuss it further," he said. "Juan Romero has the personal skills and the organization which will best serve our purposes. I can't quarrel with your analysis of Romero's strengths, and I'm good with giving him the contract. I was just curious, that's all." "Good. Let's move ahead with the contract, then," Eisner said. The two men shook hands, and Lazlo turned to walk away. At the door, he turned around and looked back at his boss. "Your loyalty to people who deserve it is a major reason this organization is so successful, George. And such a great place to work." Lazlo stepped through the door, closed it, and went back to his office. * * * As he prepared to move to Los Angeles, Father Mason's good-byes to Father and Mrs. Blackburn and to the entire parish family at St. Andrew's church in San Rafael had been emotional for all concerned. The parish had held a special dinner to honor their departing curate on Thursday evening, and many kind words had been said to and about Father Mason. Among those attending the meal had been Catherine MacKenzie and the extended Carson family, of course. The parish hall was packed, a testimony to the popularity and respect in which the priest was held. The junior choir, which customarily sang at the nine a.m. Mass each Sunday morning, sang several musical selections during the meal which included pieces which were known to be favorites of the priest. Ian Carson had been one of the featured speakers, and what he said about Jim Mason concerning his unfailing kindness to all he encountered, his authentic spirituality, the special inspiration he had provided to the young people of the parish, his powerful preaching and his ability to evoke a real connection with God when he celebrated the Mass was very moving. Mason's response to the speakers had also been moving. The upshot of his remarks was that whatever success he had had at St. Andrew's was due to the deep commitment of parishioners to the faith, and to the strong leadership of the Rector, Father Blackburn. He cited several major steps forward for the parish due to the strong partnership of the clergy and the laity in the San Rafael church. "I know that I have been in your prayers during my time with you here because I have felt the benefit of those prayers. Some of you may know that my mother lives in the Los Angeles area, and is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Were it not for the rapidly deteriorating health of my mother, I hope you know I would continue working here with joy in my heart and love for all of you."When Father Mason had concluded his remarks of affection and praise for the parish, along with thanks for the many kindnesses he had received during his time there, Father Blackburn asked him to offer a final prayer and a blessing. Mason raised his right hand over the crowd. "O God of hope and author of our salvation, we thank You for the bounty we have received from You in the lives of our families and our parish, and particularly during this wonderful evening. We ask for a continuation of Your grace, that the deep relationships of kindness and esteem we have built with one another in Jesus Christ may continue to thrive despite our physical parting of the ways. May the Holy Spirit continue to bless the work we have all undertaken on behalf of St. Andrew's Parish, our Diocese, and our national church. May the doors which we have opened here to all God's children remain open and welcoming. And now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you this night and remain with you always." Mason made the sign of the cross over the crowd to a resounding "Amen" from the parishioners. He saw Mary Carson, among many others, wipe some tears from her eyes, and recognized anew that this was no casual parting of the ways for so many. The priest had given the people his love during his time in San Rafael, and it was being richly returned. * * * Carl Emrick stayed overnight with Andy Helder at the Helder family home on Thursday night after the big church shindig. When they stripped off their clothes and slid into Andy's big bed, the two guys held each other for a long time just looking into one another's eyes before they had sex. "I can hardly believe that this is the first of so many nights we're going to be able to hold each other like this and make love," Carl told his partner. "It's been a long time coming." Andy grinned, and french kissed Carl. "Yeah. Coming. Literally. I've missed you so much, Carl." They made sweet love twice that night--once before they went to sleep, and then again in the middle of the night. They spent the next day, Friday, at Father Mason's apartment helping him take apart his beds and finishing packing up the rest of his books and miscellaneous stuff. That night there was a big family meal with the Carson family at Catherine's former home to which Father Mason and Andy's parents and Catherine MacKenzie had been invited. Rosa Mendez and Yolanda Vega had prepared a wonderful meal. The evening was fun, with the boys all talking a mile a minute and insulting one another as usual as opportunities presented themselves. Andy began to realize how much he was going to miss Catherine and Ian and Mary Carson and all the boys as the evening drew to a close. "We'll see you at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning at Father Mason's apartment," Ian told Carl and Andy as they left to go home. "After we load Father's furniture we'll go over the Helder's house for Andy's stuff. You did pick up the truck?" he asked Carl and Andy. "Yes," Andy reassured him. "This afternoon. Complete with the hitch for Father Mason's car. Thanks again for renting it for us. We'll be ready for you bright and early." "Remember, we're going to have breakfast ready for all of you when you get to our place," Mrs. Helder told them all by way of reminder. "Are you sure you want to feed this ravenous crew?" Mary Carson asked, eying the boys. "We could stop at a McDonald's before we come by." "No, we want to do this," Mr. Helder told them. "St. Andrew's and your family has done so much to help us understand the love that Andy and Carl have for each other, and support them in their relationship. It's the least we can do." Everyone was a good as their word, showing up at Father's Mason's apartment at 6 a.m. sharp on Saturday morning. It was an unusually warm morning for northern California, and the boys began shedding their T-shirts as they really got into moving the priest's furniture, boxes of books, bedding, clothes, pots and pans, and other stuff down to the truck. Despite efforts to look away, Carl Emrick's eyes were repeatedly drawn to the boys' bodies as they toiled away, sweating as the morning warmed up. Starting with William Carson and Berto Hernandez, and including his own partner and even the younger guys, the chests, backs and butts on display kept Carl half hard in his shorts throughout the morning. Andy caught Carl staring a couple of times, and grinned at his partner. Carl blushed, but couldn't help himself. These boys all had gym bodies, and were fucking beautiful. He knew he'd like to lick the sweat off every one of them. Once Father Mason's apartment was empty and the truck loaded, Ian Carson and Father Mason hooked the hitch for the priest's car to the truck, and Mason drove the auto up the shallow incline until the front wheels were seated in the wells provided, with the rear wheels remaining on the street. The men then chained down the car, and they were ready to go over to the Helders' house. Andy's mother had been forewarned toward the end of loading the truck that the moving crew would be on the road shortly, and she was ready for the hungry crew when they arrived. She had fixed huge bowls of scrambled eggs, platters of bacon and sausage, fresh fruit, pitchers of orange juice, and carafes of coffee. Father Mason offered thanks for the food, and then everybody found places around the Helder's huge, expanded dining room table in the spacious dining room. The house was large, in a neighborhood with many pricey homes. Except for the clinking of silverware, silence initially reigned at breakfast as stomachs were filled. The boys were all refilling their plates and starting on seconds when William Carson spoke up. "Mrs. Helder, this is a delicious breakfast! Thank you so much for going to all this trouble!" Berto Hernandez began to clap his hands, and the other guys joined in. "Wonderful breakfast!" Mary Carson chimed in. "We really appreciate it. And your home is beautiful!" "Thank you so much," Mrs. Helder said. "It's going to seem awfully empty for us now that Andy is moving out." To her own surprise, tears began to run down her cheeks. Mary Carson was sitting beside her, and she reached over and held her hand. "We're going to to be good friends, because Ian and I are facing the same thing before long." "Hmm," Mark Carson said between bites. "Well, there'll be a lot of cheering at our place when William moves out!" Dan Emrick began to laugh, and William scowled at both of them. Before he could respond, their dad interrupted. "All right!" Ian Carson told them. "Don't start! We're guests here!" "You're right, Dad," William Carson said, starting to laugh himself. "I'm far too well mannered to respond in kind. Get a clue, Mark!" Changing the subject, Ian looked over at Father Mason, Carl and Andy, sitting beside one another on the other side of the table. "Have you three decided where you're going to stop tonight?" "San Luis Obispo," Carl spoke up. "That's more or less half-way to Malibu." "Did you already make reservations somewhere in town?" Mary Carson asked. "There's a college there, and you don't want to have to sleep in the truck if the motels are full." "You're right, Mary," Father Mason said. "I'll get on the phone before we leave." He looked at Carl and Andy. "I'll get you guys a double room, and me a single." "Thanks, Father," Andy said, appreciating the privacy for himself and Carl. The serving dishes were all bare when the boys helped clean up the table, taking the plates and silverware to the kitchen for the maid, who had not yet arrived, to fill the dishwasher. Once they got started, it didn't take long for all the boys to load Andy's computer desk, desk chair, and some of his miscellaneous stuff into the truck. Everyone gathered in the Helders' driveway when it was time for the three travelers to go. There were lots of hugs and kisses exchanged as Father Mason, Andy and Carl prepared to climb into the truck after they had thanked the extended family for all the help they had received. Andy took a few minutes alone with his parents, during which his mother wept again. Andy calmed her down by promising to email her daily for the time being, and call her at least once a week. He let them know yet again how grateful he was for their financial support, and their love and understanding for his and Carl's relationship. They were on the road by 10:30, with Father Mason at the wheel for the first lap of the trip.
  3. Don H

    Chapter 67

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. The adults staying with Cam, Kevin and Carl over the Thanksgiving holiday had all gone over to the Millers' pool with Casey to enjoy the sunshine, the water and a little quiet conversation. Left to their own devices, the young guys were scattered here and there back at the Cam and Kevin's house--a few talking, several playing cards and Xbox and competing at Wii, and William and Jeff Miller and Berto were working out with Kevin in the little gym. Kevin and William were criticizing each other's performance in the gym in a good natured way. Carl Emrick and Andy Helder were sitting in the study on the big leather couch, holding hands, not talking much, just enjoying each other's company as the time for Andy to go back to San Rafael on Monday drew closer. Andy leaned over and kissed Carl on the side of his partner's head. "Let's go for a walk," he suggested. Carl nodded, and they stood up and made their way out to the beach. They only walked as far up the beach as the Millers' front deck, and sat down on the steps. Andy took Carl's hand again and held it as they looked out at the bay and a cloudless sky. "It won't be long before I'll be moving down here," Andy said. "That makes me happy, man, 'cause I miss you all the fucking time. Just texting and talking to you on the phone doesn't do it for me. There's a hole in my life when I'm not with you." "Same here," Carl agreed emotionally, swallowing hard. "I can't wait for you to get down here permanently." He put an arm around Andy's muscular frame. "Don't laugh at me, but every time I touch you, it's like a little 'love bomb' goes off inside me. I wanna feel that every day for the rest of my life." Andy couldn't help smiling. "Me, too, dude." The wind wasn't blowing, and Andy could detect the clean smell of his partner's body. He turned his head and looked Carl in the face. "When I go to bed at night and close my eyes," he said, "I get a picture of you in my mind that stays with me until I fall asleep. I'm surrounded by friends all day at school, and I spend a lot of time at Catherine's house with the guys, but I'm still lonely without you." "I know the feeling. Have you had any more feedback from your mom and dad about transferring down here for school?" Carl asked. "Not a lot. But what I have gotten has been positive. They say they'll miss me, but they're been clear from the beginning that they support our relationship and understand why we want to be together. They're going to continue giving me money for school. I'm going to work hard before I move here to make sure they don't feel I've abandoned them and don't care about them." "That's good. I really appreciate everything they've done to make me feel welcome in your family. As soon as you get down here and get settled, let's invite them to Malibu. I want to get to know them better." That pleased Andy, and he turned his face and rubbed noses with Carl. "That would be great!" he said. Carl leaned into Andy's body. "Y'know, we need to think about how we're gonna get your stuff down here from San Rafael." "Yeah. Any ideas?" Andy asked, turning his head again and searching his partner's face. He liked looking at Carl. A lot. Andy could feel his cock start to thicken in his shorts, and he spread his legs a little. "I guess it all depends on whether you want to bring any of your bedroom furniture with you or just limit yourself to your personal stuff," Carl said. "Your bedroom here--er, our bedroom, is great just as it is," Andy said. "I might wanna bring my computer desk down here from San Rafael with me, though. I love my tablet, but I still like using a notebook for school papers and stuff. You think Kevin and Cam would be all right with another piece of furniture in the house?" "Not a problem," Carl assured him. "What we may want to do is rent a U-Haul or a truck up north so we have room for all your clothes and anything else you want to bring." "How would we pull a U-Haul?" "I think we'd have to get a car up north. I wouldn't want to drive the Highlander up there and then drive it back down here pulling a trailer. It would put a strain on the hybrid engine from shifting back and forth to the gas engine, doncha think?" "Yeah," Andy said. "But where could we get a car up there?" "Well, Dan and I still own the Cadillac dealership in Monterey," Carl said. "I'm sure Ian would help us get a new or good used car from Emrick Motors to pull a trailer back down here." Carl paused. "I suppose we could get an Escalade--it wouldn't hurt to have another car down here, I guess. On the other hand, I don't think we want to have a big Escalade sitting in our driveway all the time, either. The Highlander is plenty big enough for the family." "I think you're right. Why don't we see if Ian has any thoughts about this?" "Good idea," Carl agreed. Then a light bulb went off in his head. "Hey," he said, "I just had an idea." Andy laughed. "You had a what?" Carl elbowed him in the side. "Don't make me hurtcha." "I'm all ears." "Father Mason will be moving down here before long. Why don't we see if we can move you and him down here at the same time? We could rent a truck in San Rafael or San Francisco." Andy looked at Carl, and then pulled his head over for a smooch. "Y'know," he said, "that's actually a great idea. Let's talk to him." They continued to look at each other just as a bunch of girls walked past them down the beach close to the water. The girls all turned their heads to scope out the two handsome, well-built, muscular guys sitting on the Millers' front steps. The girls waved and smiled, and Carl and Andy waved back. Carl's body was still in good shape from wrestling in high school, and Andy's from still doing martial arts in the San Francisco area. Running every day hadn't hurt either one of them, either, and both of them watched what they ate. And Maria made sure Carl, Cam, Kevin and Art Smith ate a healthy diet. Once the girls had passed by, the guys turned their heads and kissed each other on the lips, Carl pulling Andy's face to his own and holding it there as their tongues wrestled with each other. "Lord, I love you, man!!" Andy sighed once they had ended their lip lock. "You're fucking makin' me hard," he said. "How could I be so lucky to find a great guy like you who likes dick as much as I do?" Carl looked down between his own legs, where a big bulge testified to the same condition Andy was in. He reached over and cupped Andy's package, squeezing the bulge in his boy's shorts. "Oh, yeah!" Andy sighed, bringing his legs together, trapping Carl's hand in place. "I wish there was someplace we could and go and make love." "There is. I'm pretty sure Cam and Kevin have been using the downstairs bathroom for sex since you guys all got down here. Let's go over there," Carl said, smiling in anticipation at the thought. "How do you know they've been using that bathroom?" "I've seen them come back to their room in the middle of the night. With all of us bunking together, that bathroom is the best bet for a little privacy." Andy grinned. "Love always finds a way." Carl nodded in agreement, and they sat there for a minute or so to let their erections subside before standing up and heading back next door, holding hands. Once in the house, they strolled along the downstairs corridor heading for the bathroom where they could be alone. His body covered with sweat, William eyed them when they passed the gym doorway, and a smirk passed across his face. He was pretty sure he knew where the guys were headed. Andy and Carl went through the bathroom door, flicked on the lights, and shut and locked the door behind them. For a long moment they stood in the middle of the room, holding each other in a long, passionate kiss before they toed off their Skechers, eased off each other's T-shirt, pulled down each other's cargo shorts and boxers, and moving with all deliberate speed, hit the floor. Naked, they fronted each other again for several minutes, hugging one another with their growing erections trapped between their bodies. They stroked each other's leaking dicks before breaking to spread towels on the carpet and throw rugs for a bed and getting horizontal again. First they sixty-nined, breathing deeply of the musk from each other's crotch. Well endowed and hard, they began to lick and suck one another's cock until a serious amount of pre-cum began to leak into their mouths. Each of their tongues probed his partner's piss slit as deeply as possible as the volume of sweet-tasting pre-cum increased. Several minutes later and already close to the edge, Andy pulled away and shifted around face to face Carl. "Sweet!" Carl told his partner. "And sweet tasting. You taste so freakin' good!" "You, too," Andy said. "Dude, after I move to Malibu, I can't wait to suck your dick and taste your juice every night before we fuck and go to sleep. I think about that every time I jack off." He chuckled. "And lots of times when I'm not jacking off." Carl covered his partner's lips with his own, and then pulled back to look into Andy's eyes. "So you've been jerkin' it between your visits to LA, is that right?" Carl demanded, simulating outrage. "You've never asked me for permission to shoot a load when I'm not there to help you get off." "I didn't know I was supposed to do that," Andy said unapologetically. "What about you?" "I never get off without your mouth or hand making it happen. I walk around here hard all the time." Andy began laughing. "You're such a liar! A provocateur!" "No, I'm not. I've learned everything I know about sex from you," Carl insisted, "so naturally I stay sexually frustrated between your visits because I've always thought you'd be in the same condition whenever we're apart." "I think I heard Satan turn up the fires of hell when you lied just then," Andy kidded Carl. "You need to go to confession--not for cranking one out now and then, but for lying to your partner about being celibate when I'm not around." "Shut up!" Carl said. He raised up from the floor and opened the lower drawer of the sink. "Let's see what Cam and Kevin have left behind to promote a good fuck." And there it was at the very back of the drawer--a partly used tube of lube. Carl showed it to Andy. "Outstanding!" Andy said. "Who's going to top?" "Rock, paper, scissors?" Carl suggested. "Yep," Andy agreed. "One, two, three," Carl said, and they flashed their choice. Carl--rock. Andy--scissors. "Oh," Carl said with a grin. "Too bad, man." "Well, that's just the thing," Andy demurred. "When it comes to sex with you, there's no 'too bad.' There's no loser no matter who's doing what." "Back atcha!" Carl said. He took off the cap of the tube and squeezed a healthy dollop of lube on to his middle finger. Andy was lying flat on the floor, and pulled his legs back. Carl found Andy's hole. He used his tongue to taste Andy first, and then had his partner slicked up with lube in no time and ready to go. Carl's middle finger entered his boy, and found and rubbed Andy's prostate with the tip of his long middle finger. "Oh, yeah!" Andy breathed quickly in and out as Carl soon added a second finger. "Oh, fuck yes!" Carl let his fingers do the walking for several minutes before eventually introducing his hard, leaking dick to Andy's hole, working it in until his pubes were tight against Andy's ass. "Oh yeah!" Andy hissed again with pleasure. At first Carl remained unmoving after he lowered his body on to Andy's abs and stomach, and then in a few minutes he put his tongue into Andy's mouth and explored it. But it wasn't long before Carl began to pump into Andy as they continued kissing, his long, thick cock rubbing Andy's prostate and making his partner groan with pleasure. Andy pulled Carl tight to his body, his own penis now getting a good massage from the smooth skin of Carl's muscular abs sliding over it, lubricated by Andy's pre-cum and their mutual sweat. Carl gradually increased his speed and pumped away with love and enthusiasm. Andy reached a long arm down Carl's sweating back to the boy's ass and into his crack. Finding Carl's hole and rubbing it, Andy worked a middle finger into him. Carl groaned in pleasure when Andy found his prostate. "Oh, fuck," Carl rasped as he moved inexorably toward ejaculation, but fought the urge to just let go. Andy raised his legs to encircle his partner waist and ass, and clasped Carl even tighter to himself. Carl liked that a lot. Perhaps fifteen minutes later, although Carl had manfully tried to slow the pace they had set so he wouldn't lose his edge, both guys groaned deeply and repeatedly as they almost simultaneously ejaculated. Andy was deluged with Carl's cream internally, as well as up and down his abs and stomach with his own cum. Andy slowly lowered his legs to the floor, and the two of them lay there, Carl still on top of Andy, both of them breathing deeply and gasping and then dozing until Carl eventually slipped out and off of Andy and lay beside his boy, holding him now in a relaxed mental and emotional haze. Eventually they began to regain full consciousness and move their limbs a bit. Andy turned his head and studied Carl, whose blue eyes were open and looking at him. "Well," Andy said quietly, "celibate or not, you sure haven't forgotten how to do it!" "Thanks," Carl whispered and nuzzled Andy's face. "When your mind and your heart and your dick work together the way ours do, amazing things happen. I love you to death, man." "Y'know, you sound like a poet more than a business major," Andy said, smiling. "I don't know how getting fucked could feel any better, and I've never heard anybody describe great sex better than you just did! Not bad at all for an accountant!" Andy rolled toward Carl, and after licking some of his own cum off Carl's torso, plunged his tongue into Carl's mouth. Then they continued to kiss deeply until they conked out again for several more minutes, still clasped tightly together. They finally awakened for good, jumped into the shower and enjoyed scrubbing each other, using hands and fingers to wash and probe and massage every part one another's body, finishing up with soapy wash cloths. Turning off the water, they got dressed, and cleaned up the bathroom. They dumped the soiled towels and wash cloths into the downstairs washing machine before finding and mingling with the other guys. Maybe it was Carl's imagination, but he thought he got some knowing looks from the others, especially William. He wondered in passing whether William was getting any action since he and his squeeze Alicia McCaskill had been outed to Ian by Alicia's father. Ah, so fucking what! Carl thought to himself about the guys' speculation about his and Andy's sexual activities. Andy and I aren't the only ones thinking about sex all the time. The difference is, we get to do something about it. It's better to do it than just think about it. He laughed, imagining a little devil in a red suit on his shoulder, laughing and jumping up and down for joy. After supper that night, everybody in the house went to the movies along with Sean and Susan Miller to see Whiplash, and they all had a great time. Even straight William agreed that Miles Teller, playing the young drummer in the film, was handsome as hell. Cam looked over at William as they all walked out of the theater to their cars. "William, I don't want you fantasizing about Miles tonight after we sack out." Before Cam could dodge retaliation, William grabbed him around the neck and gave him hard nuggies on his scalp. Cam yelped and managed to escape. "Miles Teller isn't a problem for me," William said. "But make sure to take your own advice." "Thanks," Cam said. "But with Kevin around, who needs fantasy." * * * Cam and Kevin got up early on Saturday morning, leaving the rest of the guys snoring away in the master bedroom. Maria served the two of them eggs and pancakes which the two guys downed in short order. After breakfast, they went into the study and tried to come to a final decision about what they wanted their engagement rings to look like. They finally agreed on Cam's suggestion that the major stone be a flat cut ruby for the engagement rings, with two small emerald stones to each side of the ruby. As they had discussed with Ralph Albernathy at the jewelry store, the engagement rings would interlock with plain gold, filigreed wedding rings which would be blessed by Father Mason at their wedding. The decision made, they went back to the kitchen and told Maria what they had decided. They asked her what she thought about the stones they had selected, and she said she liked what they had agreed upon. "You're just saying that," Kevin kidded her. "Come here, you," Maria said, laughing and reaching out and pulling Kevin into a hug and kissed him on the cheek. "Have I ever lied to you?" "Never," Kevin admitted. "Just checking. Speaking about checking, are Juan, Jr., and Roberto still having a good time with the guys here?" Maria's boys had just continued to stay with the family since the Romero family had come over for Thanksgiving. "They're having the best time ever!" Maria said. "I can't thank you guys enough for including them in all the fun things you've been doing. Everybody's been so nice to them." "They're great kids," Cam said. "Just know that they're welcome here anytime. And so is Juan, Sr. Nobody needs to wait for a special invitation." "Well, I can't tell you how much Juan and I appreciate all you've done for our family." After the two of them talked with Maria, they went back to the study and got on landline extensions to Mr. Abernathy and filled him in on their decision about the rings. The jeweler shared his favorable opinion about their choices. "A fiery, polished ruby makes the principal statement about your feelings for each other," Abernathy said, "and the emeralds are the parentheses to that statement. Good decisions, gentlemen. I can't wait to see these two rings myself when they're finished. They'll be beautiful and wearable without being overpowering. Not overly flashy, but making a clear statement." "That's what we were going for!" Kevin said enthusiastically. He and Cam gave the jeweler permission to begin crafting the rings. The two of them had been sitting on a leather couch beside each other while they talked with the jeweler, and after they hung up the phones, Cam pushed Kevin flat on the couch and lay down on top of him and looked into his face. "Now that we've decided on the rings, getting married is really, really starting to hit me," Cam said, kissing his partner. "Me, too," Kevin agreed when they broke their kiss. "Have you given any thought to who you want for your best man?" he asked. "Yeah," Cam responded. "I want Carl to be my guy." "All right," Kevin said. "I'm going to ask Berto." "Good choice. What are we going to give William to do? I don't want him to be pissed off when he doesn't get to be best man for one of us." "I know it. What about making him head usher?" Kevin suggested. "Good idea. Either that, or ask Father Mason to train him after the family goes home to San Rafael to be Master of Ceremonies at the wedding and the Mass. That's pretty high profile." "You're so smart," Kevin said, pulling Cam's head down and kissing him again. "Offering William some options is a great idea!" "You always inspire me to come up with some new shit," Cam said. "It's a gift," Kevin said. Cam laughed. "Always stay as humble as you are," he said. "You have my word on that. Listen, since we didn't run this morning, why don't we see if the guys want to do that before it gets any hotter outside." "Good idea. You're looking kind of chubby lately. And I can lick the sweat off your body when we get back." 'If I didn't love you so much, I'd hurtcha real bad right now," Kevin said, holding his partner's head and kissing him on his nose. "Let me up and I'll go see if the guys want to run." "I might let you up, and I might not." Kevin laughed as he grabbed Cam's body and lifted him straight up, holding his boy's lanky body suspended directly over himself. "Show-off!" Cam said. Kevin lowered his partner back down on to himself, and then began to tickle Cam's midsection. Cam began to laugh. "Ow, ow, you're hurting me! Domestic violence!" Just then William came into the study. "Kinky!" he said. Kevin stopped tickling his boy, and looked at William. "I know it's a little later than usual, but are you interested in going for a run?" "I'm always looking for an opportunity to show up you pseudo-jocks," William said. "Good," Cam said. "You have to run naked because you're such a wise ass." "You'd like that, wouldn't you?" William said with a smirk. "Where are the rest of the guys?" Kevin asked. "They're just getting up," William said. "Catherine and my mom and dad already took Casey and went over to the Millers' pool for some morning sun. "Why don't you go upstairs and kick some ass to get the guys to run," Kevin suggested, "and I'll go next door and do the same thing with the grown-ups at the pool. Only in a more genteel fashion, it goes without saying." "You? Genteel? Give me a break," William said. "When were you ever genteel? I must have missed it," he said as he turned and headed for the stairs. Twenty minutes later, the extended family were doing their warm-ups on the front deck and preparing to hit the beach while Maria took charge of Casey. The border collies, Alice and Samantha, were pleased, as usual, about the impending run. * * * The family all went to church together at St. Dunstan's on Sunday. Father Mason served as Deacon of the Mass, reading the Gospel selection for the day as perfectly as he always carried out liturgical functions. During the announcements, Father Ryan announced that the clergy staff at St. Dunstan's would be expanded soon when Mason would be returning to the parish, where he would be concentrating on parish publications, liturgical training, and youth work. Many in the congregation remembered Father Mason as a newly ordained deacon at St. Dunstan's, six months before being ordained a priest and being called to St. Andrew's parish in San Rafael to work for Father Blackburn. Father Ryan spoke warmly of then-deacon Mason's work in the parish, pointing out that it was Father Mason's planning that helped lay the foundation for the remarkable growth the parish had sustained in recent years. The congregation broke into smiles and spontaneous applause upon hearing the good news, and Father Ryan went on to say how much he was looking forward to working again with a dear friend in continuing to serve and grow the parish. He called Mason down from the altar where he was preparing the elements of bread and wine for consecration to greet the people close-up. After they arrived back at the house after Mass, the family spent the rest of the day swimming, playing volleyball and football on the beach. Father Ryan, Lisa and their three kids had joined them in Malibu along with Juan Romero, Sr., after church. Ian Carson and Sean Miller took charge of cooking spareribs and potatoes on the grills on Cam and Kevin's deck in mid-afternoon, while Maria and Juanita tossed big bowls of salad in the kitchen. Cam asked Father Mason to offer thanks as the lines formed to serve the food. The priest opened his arms wide, saying, "The Lord be with you." "And also with you," the crowd said. "Let us pray... "Heavenly Father, we offer you grateful hearts for this food You have provided us, and also for the love and companionship which we enjoy with one another. As when our Lord Jesus fed his disciples during His time on earth, so we thank you for Your bounty in feeding us today and holding us in Your hand during our journey through life. Bless this food to our use, and us to your service, and make us always mindful of the needs of others, through the same Christ our Lord." "Amen," the family said, making the sign of the cross. William grinned and high-fived Father Mason. "Good job, Father," he said. "We're sure gonna to miss you in San Rafael when you move down here." "Back atcha on that, William," Mason said. "But I know I'm going to continue to see you down here a lot." "Count on it," William said. He impulsively embraced the priest, and to his own surprise, kissed Mason on the cheek before joining the line filing past the grills and the tables with salad. Cam was behind William in the line, and told him quietly, "See, when ya show affection like that, that's why I love ya, even when you're a jerk sometimes." William grinned. "Thanks, I guess." Carl and Andy sat near Ian and Father Mason, and they worked out Andy's and Father Mason's move from San Rafael to L.A. by the end of November. They agreed that renting a truck would best accommodate moving both of them south. Carl would fly to San Francisco so he and Andy could drive the truck. "If we tow my car, I could trade off with you guys in driving the truck," Mason said. "Sounds like a plan," Andy said. "Andy, how much furniture are you going to have?" Ian asked. "Just a computer desk," Andy said. "That and my clothes will be about it." "Father, how about you?" "A bed, two dressers, couch, three easy chairs, a bookcase and books, a dining room table and chairs, pots and pans, and clothes. That'll be it," the priest said. "Well, when you settle on a date for the move, I'll make sure we have plenty of 'boy-power' to load the truck," Ian said. "Are you going to put your furniture in storage down here until you find an apartment?" "Yes. Cam and Kevin have invited me to stay here at the house until I find a place of my own," Mason said. "Give me a firm date for the move after we get back to San Rafael, and I'll reserve a medium sized moving van for you and Andy," Ian promised. * * * The family gathered in the driveway on Monday morning after they showered and packed following a last run on the beach. Saying goodbye was bitter-sweet, as always, with the family milling about saying their farewells as the two border collies watched everybody. Tears in her eyes, Catherine held Casey as long as she could before passing the little boy to Kevin. Carl and Andy Helder only reluctantly let go of one another as Andy stepped into the bus. Kevin, Cam and Carl accepted the thanks of the San Rafael contingent as they all boarded the bus. "Stay in touch," Ian told Cam, Kevin and Carl, giving each of them a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "You, too, Juan," he told Juan Romero, Sr., as he shook hands with the man. "Let me know when you hear from Magnum Studios about doing some work for them." "Will do," Juan said. "Thanks again for the positive recommendation." "De nada," Ian said with a grin. "Saying goodbye doesn't get any easier," Kevin commented as the driver closed the doors of the little Mercedes bus, fired up the engine, and the vehicle pulled away. "No kidding," Cam admitted. "It makes my stomach hurt every time they leave." * * * Juan Romero, Sr., was inspecting one of the building sites that a team of his workers was finishing up in LA on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving when his cell phone rang. Pulling it off his belt, he glanced at the caller ID before answering. The phone said "Magnum Studios," and his heart started beating faster. "Romero," he said into the phone. "Mr. Romero," a well modulated female voice said. "Mr. Eisner at Magnum Studios is calling. Are you available to speak with him?" "Yes, m'am," Juan said. "One moment, please." The line went dead for a few seconds, and then a deep male voice came out of the speaker, getting right down to business. "Mr. Romero? This is George Eisner, chairman at Magnum Studios. Ian Carson, our attorney for special projects, gave me your name and number, and highly recommended I contact you concerning some construction we're planning on our movie lots here in LA. Would you be available to take a lunch meeting with me and our Vice President of Facilities, Rick Lazlo, sometime in the near future?" "Yes, sir." "Good. We've checked out your company, and know you do good work. We'd like to explore doing business with you." "I'd be delighted to talk with you, sir." "Excellent. Let me put you on with my secretary for a date that's good for all of us, and let's get together soon. The sooner, the better." "I'll look forward to it," Juan said. The phone again went dead for a moment, and then the female voice was back. They set a date for lunch for one o'clock at the studios for Tuesday of the following week. Juan felt a little weak in the knees at the speed with which George Eisner had responded to Ian Carson's recommendation. The latter had been as good as his word given to Juan at Thanksgiving dinner that he would contact the studio on his behalf. Carson must have some heavy clout with the powers-that-be, Juan thought to himself. He was pumped about the potential for some new business. * * * It was midmorning on Thursday after Thanksgiving when Maria answered the call for Cam on the landline. She was in the kitchen washing and waxing the floor after the previous week's heavy visitor traffic when she picked up the phone and glanced at the caller ID. LA District Attorney, it read. "MacKenzie--Stoltz--Emrick residence," she said. "Cam MacKenzie, please," the voice stated. "Mr. MacKenzie isn't at home," Maria said. "May I ask who's calling?" "This is Allan Petrie at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office." "Cam is in class at UCLA this morning, Mr. Petrie," Maria said. "May I take a message?" "Is there any way I can reach him?" "No, sir, I don't think so at present. As I say, he's in class, and he doesn't take any calls at school." "Will you give me his cell phone number, please?" "I'm not at liberty to do that, Mr. Petrie. But if you'll give me your telephone number, I'll contact him as soon as possible and ask him to call you." Petrie wasn't in a very good mood, having just emerged from a rather unpleasant conference with his supervisor about moving his cases along at a faster pace. He decided to try to get Cam's number by bullying the help. "M'am, I want Cam's cell phone number, and I want it now." 'Perhaps I wasn't clear with you, sir. I'm not giving you Mr. MacKenzie's cell phone number without his permission. Please let me have your phone number, and I know he'll want to get back to you as soon as possible." "I'll have your job for this, lady! What's your name?" Maria barely stifled a laugh. "You're welcome to try that, sir. My name is 'Maria.'" "Maria what?" "Just Maria. I can put you in touch with Mr. MacKenzie's attorney, Mr. Ian Carson, in San Francisco if you like. Mr. Carson has Mr. MacKenzie's cell phone number, and perhaps you can get it from him." Oh, shit, Petrie thought to himself. All I have to do is get in trouble with the President of the California Bar Association, and naturally a personal friend of the DA. "Never mind," Petrie said, the anger now drained out of his voice. "Here's my number." He gave Maria his phone number. "Ask Cam to call me ASAP, please." He hung up with a bang. Maria hung up the landline with a smile, and opened a drawer with her purse in it. Taking out her cell phone, she brought up Cam's name on the contact list and texted him: Cam, you just had a call from Mr. Allan Petrie of the LA District Attorney's office. Please call him at 213-xxxx when you get a chance. Just a heads up: he threatened my job because I wouldn't give him your cell phone number. Maria When Cam left his class on computer generated imagery fifteen minutes later, he pulled out his cell phone, turned it on, and read Maria's text. "Son of a bitch," he muttered under his breath--for two reasons. One, the call probably meant that the Clymer-Murtha trial was coming up fast, with Rory Lomer hopefully having pled out. Shit, he thought to himself--the trial might well be before Christmas. Secondly, Petrie had threatened Maria with the loss of her job, and that pissed him off. Really pissed him off. He dialed the number for Petrie that Maria had sent him. It rang. "Petrie," a voice answered. "This is Cam MacKenzie," Cam said, his voice icy cold. "What the fuck!" he said. "What's the matter?" Petrie asked, having a pretty good idea exactly what was the matter. "What the fuck do you mean calling my house and threatening my employee Maria with the loss of her job because she followed my instructions not to give out my cell phone number? She doesn't take fucking orders from you." "I was wrong to do that," Petrie admitted sheepishly. "I apologize." "Don't apologize to me," Cam said. "You call Maria back and apologize to her!" Petrie's face flamed red. How had he put himself in the position of taking orders from a wet-behind-the-ears college student? Unfortunately, Cam MacKenzie was a wet-behind-the-ears college student with important connections. "I will." "I'll check with Maria when I get home to make sure you did," Cam warned. "Now, why was it so imperative for you reach me?" "The Clymer/Murtha trial is back on the docket for a week from Monday. Rory Lomer will plead out and testify against his buddies. But would showing up on that Monday be a problem for you?" "No, But do I really have to be there?" "Probably not," Petrie said. "The only possible glitch would be if Lomer had a last minute change of heart and decided not to take a plea. I don't think that's going to happen, but if it did, we'd have to ask for a continuance to get you on deck, and this judge would hate that. Lomer's had a rough time of it in jail, if you know what I mean. He was raped repeatedly before he went into solitary for his own protection, and didn't like any of it. But if he didn't take a plea, you'd have to be in the courtroom to testify against all three of them." "I almost feel sorry for Lomer. Almost. At any rate, I can be in the courtroom that Monday, just in case. What time?" "Ten a.m. Downtown courthouse." "I'll be there." "Good," Petrie said. "Anything else?" "Nope." "Don't forget about Maria," Cam told Petrie, still hardass before thumbing the Disconnect button on his phone. "Motherfucker!" Petrie mumbled to himself as he looked up Cam's landline number in Malibu again and started punching buttons on the phone. * * * Cam went to one more class before meeting Kevin, along with Carl and Art Smith, in the student union at lunchtime. "Let's go off campus for lunch," Cam suggested when they all arrived. "I have some info for you about the trial, so let's go somewhere quiet." "You got it," Kevin said as they headed for the parking lot. "You drivin'?" Carl asked Kevin. "I wanna ride in the 'Sting." "Everybody wants to ride in the 'Sting," Kevin said. "It's a quality ride, and you all know it." "It's no Camaro, though, that's for sure," Cam responded. "For one example, the Camaro has ports that close and cover the headlights when you turn the lights off." "So what?" Kevin said. "So when some car throws up a stone on the road when the ports are closed, it won't break the headlights," Cam said smugly. "No such luck with the 'Sting." Kevin couldn't deny that, and could only say, "Big fucking deal." "I call shotgun," Cam said as they approached the car. "You're so selfish," Carl observed to Cam as he climbed into the back seat. "You're lucky I don't tell Casey about how possessive you are about shit like riding shotgun all the time." "If you wanted the death seat, you should have called it," Cam said. "I can't read your mind. I just like to sit beside my boy Kevin." Art got in the back seat with Carl, and laughed to himself as his three housemates continued to verbally abuse one another as they drove to an In and Out Burger not far from campus. They ordered at the drive-in, pulled ahead, and when their food was up, Kevin headed for a quiet corner of the parking lot. Cam said a quick grace, and they chowed down right in the car. "Don't spill anything on this fine Corinthian leather," Kevin warned his passengers about spilling anything on the seats. "Now, now, after all the juice you spilled on this 'fine Corinthian leather' in your horny high school days with Heather Butler, this would be the least of your problems," Cam said. "I can still smell your juice on the seats." "Yeah, I'm positive you know what it smells like," Kevin laughed. "But don't bring up Heather Butler's name again." "Sorry," Cam said, pretending to be be contrite. "If I remember correctly, I read somewhere that only Chryslers had 'fine Corinthian leather,'" Carl interjected. "It was mentioned in their ads. That was before our time, of course." "Why don't you all stop running your mouths so we can get the trial news?" Kevin told the guys. "All right," Cam said between bites of a big, thick burger. "Petrie called me from the DA's office. The trial starts a week from Monday at 10 a.m." Kevin looked over at Cam to see if he was upset. "You OK with that?" "Yep," Cam said. "It's been a long time coming. I wanna get it over with." "I'll go with you," Kevin offered. "That's why I love you," Cam said appreciatively. "It would be great to have some company just in case I have to testify." "Anything else?" Carl probed. "It still looks like Rory Lomer is gonna roll on Clymer and Murtha," Cam added. "If Lomer is gonna do his thing, why do you have to be in court?" Kevin asked. "In case he has a last minute change of heart," Cam said. "Petrie doesn't think that's going to happen, but you never know." "And. . .?" Carl asked. "That's it on the trial," Cam said. "But Petrie threatened Maria on the phone with losing her job." "What?!!" Kevin said, looking over at Cam with big brown eyes, dark with anger. "Yeah," Cam said. "He wanted my cell phone number so he could call me at school, and she wouldn't give it to him. So he told her she could lose her job for that." "What a dick!!" Art Smith said. "What the fuck?!!" Art really had really bonded with Maria since he had moved in, and was outraged. "Yeah," Cam said. "My sentiments exactly. After Petrie hung up, Maria texted me that I should call him ASAP, and also mentioned his threat about her job in the text. So I called him right away after class, and yelled at him for what he'd said to Maria. He apologized to me, and I told him he better call Maria and apologize to her. He said he would. When we get home, he'd better have called her and said he was sorry, or he and I are going to have a big problem." "What a prick," Carl said about Petrie. "The world's full of 'em, unfortunately!" "Amen to that!" Art said. "Just when I think I've met 'em all, another one shows up." They continued to eat their meal and talk, and Cam changed the subject to talk about his film class, explaining to the guys some of the finer points about computer generated imagery (CGI) that he'd been learning. When they finished eating, Kevin collected the refuse and dumped it in a nearby receptacle. "You may have your faults, Stoltz, but you do keep your vehicle clean," Carl said. "I have to give you that." "You're right," Kevin responded. "You should keep your body as clean as this car, Carl. We'd all appreciate it. Especially Andy." Cam and Art laughed as Kevin fired up the Mustang and they headed back to school. When Cam arrived home after school that day, the first thing he did was look for Maria. Kevin, Carl and Art followed him into the kitchen. "Did Mr. Petrie get back to you today?" Cam asked her. "Yes, he did," Maria said. "How did you know?" "Lucky guess. What did he say to you?" "He apologized to me for saying that I might lose my job for refusing to give him your cell phone number." Cam nodded in satisfaction. "Mr. Petrie never should have said that to you," he said. "You're part of this family, and nobody gets to talk to you like that. Ever. Period. End of story." "Well. . ." Maria started to say when Cam embraced her and kissed her on the cheek. Kevin hugged her in turn, and pointing at Cam, told her, "What he said!" Art and Carl embraced her as well, and as always, Maria was moved by the affection these four boys had for her. "Now, where's the little guy?" Kevin asked. "He should be in the study, just waking up from his afternoon nap," Maria said. "Was he a good boy today?" Cam asked. "Always." All four of the guys trooped into the study to find Casey standing up, gripping the side of his playpen and still looking a little sleepy. The little boy raised his arms to be picked up, and Kevin passed Cam his backpack and obliged the baby. "Mr. Casey," Kevin said, kissing the little guy on top of his head. "What have you been doing today?" "Playing, Daddy," Casey said. "I wanna play now." "Me, too," Kevin agreed, sitting down with him on the floor near a pile of toys. Cam joined his partner and the little boy on the floor. Kevin and Cam played roll-the-ball with Casey as Carl and Art watched for a while. Carl and Art eventually excused themselves to go upstairs to start on some homework. "Let me know when it's my turn for some playtime," Art instructed before he left the room. He'd grown very fond of the baby since he'd become part of the family. "Will do," Kevin said, always appreciative that Art and Carl were so unselfish in wanting to spend time with Casey. When Kevin and Cam had sufficiently worn Casey out, they took him upstairs, changed his diaper, and put him in his crib for some quiet time before supper while the guys cracked their books for the next day's classes. Before supper Art spent some one-on-one time with the little guy. * * * It seemed as if the following week went by in a flash. Monday's trial date was upon them when Kevin woke up early that day, snuggled up to Cam in their big bed. Even though they really missed the guys from San Rafael, they were glad to have reclaimed their bedroom so they could resume their frequent private times together. They had spent a good hour making love to each other the previous evening after Casey was down for the night, and no matter what they did to and for each other sexually, it had never gotten old for them. The excitement and fulfilment they provided one another had never abated. Kevin moved closer to Cam that morning, and lowered his head to gently kiss his boy's beautiful, smooth, muscular chest, and inhale the smell of him. Cam's smell never failed to arouse him. Cam finally stirred, epened his green eyes, and looked at his partner. "Last night was so good. . ." he whispered to his partner. "Bud, it's always so good with you," Kevin said. "Do we have time for an encore?" Cam asked, reaching over and making a fist around Kevin's usual, early morning hard-on. Cam had a huge paw, but he could never quite close it completely around Kevin's girth when his partner was fully aroused. Kevin groaned and looked over at the clock on the bedside table. It was 6:30 a.m. "Not if we want to be on time at the courthouse. You know what the freeway going downtown is like in the morning." "Damn!" Cam said, disappointed. He bent himself double and kissed Kevin's cock, putting the head of it in his mouth, releasing it only after tonguing it thoroughly. "I'll take care of this bad boy later," he promised as he unfolded himself. "Let's just cuddle for a couple minutes," Kevin suggested, quickly checking the clock again. "I love you so much, Cameron. I'm thankful to have you for my partner. And happy to have you share Casey with me." Cam was moved. He knew Kevin loved him, but he wasn't usually that verbal about it. "Oh, Kev..." Cam didn't say anything else. They just clung together, and finally shared a soul kiss before jumping out of bed, both of them still hard, and heading for the bathroom. After brushing their teeth, they hit the shower to wash one another and then towel each other dry. Back in the bedroom, they put on dark suits, dress shirts, ties and highly polished black shoes, and then went downstairs for a quick breakfast. Maria had already brought Casey downstairs, and he was perky and sitting in his highchair eating baby food and a little cereal. The guys kissed the baby on his head before sitting down at the table. "You guys clean up so well," Maria told Cam and Kevin. "Those are beautiful suits." "Thanks," Kevin said. "Maybe we'll get some points with the powers-that-be for looking nice." Maria busied herself at the stove, and served them up scrambled eggs, salsa on the side, with oatmeal toast, accompanied by mocha coffee. Kevin said grace. "Yum," Cam said after tasting the eggs and toast with a forkful of salsa, and taking a swig of coffee. "Thanks, Maria." "You're welcome." "Good stuff," Kevin agreed with a grin. "Do you boys know when you'll be home today?" Maria asked. "Not exactly," Cam said. "If we can make it to our last afternoon class right after court, we'll probably get here at the usual time." "All right," Maria said. "Just wondering." She looked at Cam. "Do you think you'll have to testify?" she asked. "I'm not sure," Cam said. "I know you'll be all right whether you testify or not," Maria reassured the boy, patting him on the shoulder and kissing his cheek. Both unshowered at that point, Carl and Art came downstairs and into the kitchen right then, patting Casey on the head as they went by him. "Cam, I--we--just want to wish you well today," Carl said. "Everything will come out great, I just know it. I'm looking forward to hearing some good news tonight." Cam stood up from the table and hugged his two friends. "Thanks, guys," he said. "If you have time, say a prayer for me in case I have to testify," he said, speaking a little shyly about his request. "No problem. You got it!" Art said as he and Carl went back upstairs to get ready for their run. Cam sat down again, and he and Kevin finished up their breakfast and then said good-bye to Maria and Casey. They went out to the driveway. "You want to drive?" Kevin asked. "Yeah," Cam said. "It'll keep my mind off what may happen in court," he added. They shed their suitcoats, laying them on the back seat, and stepped into the Camaro. Cam pulled his cell phone out of his dress pants, turned it on, and put it into a receiver which was plugged into the dashboard. Cam fired up his car, and the phone beeped to indicate it was ready to receive calls. By the time they were out of Malibu and eventually hit the freeway around Santa Monica about 7:30, the traffic heading downtown was its usual nightmare. The guys talked and listened to music, and Cam was surprised about how calm he felt about whatever lay ahead of him in court. His phone rang, and Cam punched a button on it to receive the call without having to put the phone to his ear. It was Ian Carson. "Are you on your way downtown?" Ian asked. "Hey, Ian," Cam said. "Yes. Kevin and I are on the freeway. We'll be at the courthouse in plenty of time for a brief meeting with Allan Petrie. Hopefully, Rory Lomer is going to plead guilty and testify against Clymer and Murtha, and I won't have to testify." "I know," Ian said. "I talked to DA Jim Nolan himself first thing this morning, and according to him, Lomer really is going to roll on his buddies." "Thank goodness," Cam said. "Thanks for confirming that. I'm relieved." "Well, I wanted you to know that. And that the family is thinking about you and praying for you. We love you, and we're behind you one-hundred percent." Cam choked up. "I don't know what to say." "I'll call you later today, okay? You're going to be fine, Cam. Leave your phone on when you can, and I'll be in touch to get the good news." "Thank you, Ian. It's means the world to me that you'd call." "You're welcome, buddy. Talk to you later, Cam. And you take care, Kevin." "'Will do. Bye, Ian," Kevin said. Cam punched a button to end the call, and looked over at his partner. "That was nice of Ian to call." "That's the kind of person he is," Kevin observed. "I'd have been surprised if he hadn't called." They continued driving, and once downtown, found a parking garage in the vicinity of the courthouse. They parked in a vacant, out-of-the-way spot on an upper floor. Putting on their suitcoats and pulling up their ties, they strolled over to the courthouse. After dumping their keys, wallets, and other contents of their pockets into plastic baskets, they successfully went through screening and headed toward an information kiosk. They asked for directions to the onsite offices for ADAs involved in daily trials, and made their way through crowded corridors to find Allan Petrie up on the second floor. A receptionist at the DA's front desk called the Assistant DA, and he came out to the desk, unsure of how Cam would greet him given the words they'd had over the Maria debacle. Petrie and Cam shook hands without betraying any bad attitude, and Petrie shook hands with Kevin, and he escorted them back to a cubbyhole with a desk against one wall and three chairs. They sat down, crowded together. "Ian called this morning after talking to your boss, and gave me the word on Lomer," Cam said immediately. "Nothing's changed, I hope." "No. He's taking a plea, and will testify against Clymer and Murtha," Petrie said. "That's the last word I had from his lawyer about an hour ago." It might be old news by now, but Cam heaved a sigh of relief, and Kevin could see his partner's face relax. "I'm glad to hear that," Cam said. "Do you want me in the courtroom, then?" "No. We'll put you and Kevin in a vacant jury room across the hall from the courtroom. We put a TV monitor in it, and you'll have a perfect view of everything that goes on as the trial gets started. The charges will be read after the judge calls the proceedings to order, and the defense will most likely waive the complete reading of the charges. When the judge asks the lawyers to enter a plea, Clymer and Murtha will plead 'not guilty' and Lomer will plead 'guilty.' At that point, the judge will most likely sever Lomer's case from that of Clymer and Murtha, will accept their 'not guilty' pleas for the record. In Lomer's case, the judge will most likely ask for a sentencing recommendation from my office and from social services, and put Lomer's sentencing on the docket for later. "Once Lomer's attorney enters his client's guilty plea," Petrie continued, "you and Kevin are free to go. Or you can stick around. It's up to you." "Ok," Cam said. "We might watch the proceedings for awhile." "You might want to. I think the judge is going to publicly castigate the scandal-mongering rag of a newspaper that first published your name rather than keeping your identity secret. The publication didn't break any laws, but news outlets here in town have an agreement with one another another and with law enforcement not to identify minors who are victims of sex crimes. They broke with that understanding. You may want to talk to Ian Carson about whether you have grounds for a civil suit against that paper." "I never even thought about that," Cam said. "But I think I'd rather not open myself up to more publicity." "Understandable," Petrie said. "Well, unless you have any questions, let's go downstairs." They stood up and began to walk out of the large common room when Petrie stopped at the receptionist's desk. "Margaret, give me the key to Jury Room 2, please," he said. The lady smiled and reached into a desk drawer, handing Petrie a key on a large plastic fob as she simultaneously answered her phone. The three of them walked down some stairs rather than waiting for an elevator, and walked to a closed and locked door on the first floor corridor. Petrie used the key he'd been given, and the three of them went to a table with a large TV monitor on it. Petrie turned the monitor on, and a clear picture of a courtroom was displayed. Cam immediately spotted LA Sheriff's Detectives Simon Roker and Emilio Suarez, who had so vigorously investigated what had happened to Cam and presented the evidence to the DA's office for charges, sitting toward the front of the courtroom. The bench was still empty, as the judge had not yet entered the room, and the courtroom was only sparsely populated because Cam, the victim, was a minor and the trail was not open to the public. The ADA moved toward the jury room door to leave for the courtroom. "This jury room door automatically locks when you go out, so if you leave the room to use the restroom at any point, one of you needs to stay here to open the door when your partner returns," the ADA told them. "Got it," Cameron said. Cam and Kevin sat down at the table in front of the monitor, and watched as Clymer, Murtha and Lomer, dressed in suits, were escorted into the courtroom by Sheriff's police. Cam noted that none of the three defendants exhibited the same cocky attitude that he remembered so vividly, but his hands began to tremble when he saw the men who had assaulted him for the first time since that awful evening down the beach. Kevin reached over put his hand over Cam's, and the trembling stopped. Two minutes later, the bailiff stepped in front of the bench and bawled, "All rise! Part A of the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles is now in session," he said, "the Honorable Robert Hugh MacClaine, Presiding." The judge took his seat, and the bailiff instructed the spectators to be seated. "The Bailiff will seat the jury," Judge MacLaine ordered. The bailiff opened a door to the back hall, and seven men and five women walked into the courtroom and went into the jury box. The judge told the bailiff to announce the case. "The State of California vs. Eric Clymer, Peter Murtha and Rory Lomer for kidnapping, attempted murder in the first degree, and aggravated sexual assault of a minor in the first degree." "Read the charges," Judge MacClaine ordered. The three defense attorneys stood up, and one of them said, "Defendants Clymer and Murtha waive a complete reading of the charges, your honor." "Defendant Rory Lomer also waives a complete reading of the charges, your honor," Lomer's attorney stated. "Very well," the judge said. "How do you plead?" he asked the defendants. "Eric Clymer pleads 'Not guilty,' your honor," Clymer's lawyer said. "Peter Murtha pleads 'Not guilty,' your honor," Murtha's attorney said. "Rory Lomer pleads 'Guilty' to a reduced charge of sexual assault in the second degree, your Honor," Lomer's attorney said, "persuant to a pre-trial amendment of charges by the office of the District Attorney, Los Angeles County." Allan Petrie stood up. "Your honor, the State stipulates to the reduced charges for Rory Lomer, and at this time the State requests that the case of Rory Lomer be severed from the cases of Eric Clymer and Peter Murtha," he said. "Granted," Judge MacClaine said. "The court recognizes and approves the reduced charges against Defendant Lomer, and severs his case from those of Defendants Clymer and Murtha. Bailiff, please remove Mr. Lomer from the courtroom until recalled." "Thank you, your honor," the ADA said. "Mr. Petrie, is the State ready to proceed to trial?" the judge asked. "Yes, your honor." The judge looked at the defense table. "Is the defense ready to proceed to trial?" he asked. The defense attorneys stood up. "Yes, your honor." "Mr. Petrie, you may offer your opening statement." Petrie walked over to the jury box and greeted the jury, and then began. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is my duty to recount to you a set of some of the most egregious criminal acts our office has ever encountered, in which a young man, a minor, was abducted from a beach in Malibu, taken to a vacant house, and repeatedly beaten, tortured and sexually assaulted by the defendants. At the conclusion of their protracted activities, the defendants left the victim bound and unconscious on the floor to die. He would indeed have died had the victim's housemates and their dogs not tracked him down the beach and found him on the scene of the crime, unconscious and helpless, and telephoned the sheriff's police and paramedics. . ." Cam reached over and snapped off the monitor and looked at Kevin. "I can't listen to this," he said. "Let's go home, Cam," Kevin said, throwing an arm around his partner, kissing his cheek, and moving him toward the door.
  4. Don H

    Chapter 66

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 The distant clang from one of grills on the front deck awakened Kevin early on Thanksgiving morning. He'd had a good night's sleep in the middle of the huge bed, intertwined with Cam. Mark Carson was next to him and Dan Emrick was next to Cam. The boy-heat from the bodies surrounding him felt good to Kevin. No one else in the master bedroom full of sleeping boys was stirring as Kevin looked at his watch. It was 5 a.m. The hour suggested to him that the noise from the deck was probably caused by Sean Miller making good on his promise to put the turducken into the special cooker he had loaned to the MacKenzie-Carson clan. Only time would tell if the turducken, now immersed in soon-to-be-boiling cooking oil, would really be the centerpiece of the family's Thanksgiving meal like it was supposed to be. Two small turkeys would also be put on regular grills before everybody took their usual run on the beach later that morning. The ladies--Maria Romero and her sister, the Millers' maid Juanita, along with Rosa Mendez (Catherine's maid), Yolanda Vega (the Carsons' maid), Mary Carson and Catherine MacKenzie--were all fired up about preparing the greatest Thanksgiving feast ever. It had been determined that when it came to eating the feast that afternoon, though, all the maids would be seated at the adult table to be served as honored guests. Turning away from Mark Carson next to him in the huge bed, Kevin rolled more on to his left side, moving even closer to Cam and putting his nose to Cam's shoulder. He breathed in his partner's smell, but quietly so he wouldn't wake him. He smiled to himself in satisfaction. Cam's clean smell--that of a healthy, sexy boy-man and an athlete--always turned him on, and this Thanksgiving morning was no exception. Kevin suspected that there were both similarities and differences in the basic body smells of human beings, but he was convinced that Cam's smell was unique. Uniquely him. Uniquely great. A wave of love for his partner washed over Kevin. It would have been so easy to take for granted someone with whom you interacted every day, but Kevin had long ago vowed never to let that happen in his relationship with Cam. Kevin and Cam had never let any sort of bland acceptance dampen their feelings for one another in their partnership, and it didn't hurt as well that there were so few irritations or disagreements between them. Their love for Casey just added more glue to their relationship. Kevin fought his usual morning hard-on by denying his desire to reach over and cup the ample package between his partner's legs. Having himself viewed a wide variety of male genitalia in the locker room of San Rafael High School over the years when he had been a soccer star there, Kevin was convinced that if there were a market for modeling the male package, Cameron MacKenzie would be a top contender--sought after by a host of photographers. Those photographers wouldn't necessarily have to be gay to appreciate what they saw between Cam's legs, either. Everything about the boy's equipment was big and beautiful and perfect. And as an added bonus as far as Kevin was concerned, Cam's body was almost hairless except for his pubes, arm pits and a light treasure trail. All in all, the boy's trim, lithe, lightly muscular body was ideal and faultless in Kevin's eyes. He was pretty certain that he wasn't alone in that assessment, either. In addition to the obvious physical attributes of Cameron MacKenzie and the great sex they exjoyed so frequently, Kevin Stoltz knew well the simple truth, the essential truth, about his feelings for his partner. He loved him in ways that went far beyond his great physique to the very nooks and crannies of his partner's soul. Today was a real Thanksgiving for Kevin, and not just because the extended family was together. That was wonderful, as always, but he was especially pumped because he and Cam were at the point where they could realistically look forward to being married. Kevin believed in the institution of marriage, and was convinced it would be a healthy, stabilizing factor as the two of them raised Casey, the other love of their lives. He snuggled up as close to Cam as he could get without waking him and went back to sleep. Two hours later, his telephone alarm sounded, and it was time for the family to rise and shine for their usual run on the beach. Kevin turned off his alarm amid the groaning of the other boys as they awakened. Cam yawned and then turned his head and studied his partner's face. "Hey, bud," Cam told him quietly, "yours is the face I want to wake up to for at least the next sixty years. Maybe longer, if we can hang in there long enough." "Ditto," Kevin responded. He gave Cam a soft kiss on the lips before climbing out of bed over Mark Carson. He hit the bathroom to urinate, and then waited until his morning erection had subsided enough to take his usual walk down the upstairs hall to knock on bedroom doors to rouse the other runners. He went back to the master bedroom, and deciding not to shower before running, stripped out of his boxers and got into his jock, running clothes and shoes, with Cam right at his side. Eventually all the runners were doing their warm-ups down on the front deck, with the two Border Collies watching in eager anticipation of the run. There was just a hint of the smell of cooking turducken wafting over the deck, and some of the boys salivated a little. "Hmmm," Carl Emrick said, smelling the turducken. "Something is starting to smell good!" There were no disagreements. Ian lighted the two extra grills, and Mary and Catherine put the two additional turkeys on them, small ones which would be fully cooked to a golden brown in time for the four p.m. dinner. When everybody was limbered up for their run, Cam raised his voice. "Listen up! I've been reading that we may need to moderate our exercise because too much strenuous exercise releases 'free radicals' into our bodies. So, until I can get a better handle on this, for starters we're cutting our usual eight miles to six miles." Mary Carson and Catherine MacKenzie accepted news of the shorter run with big smiles. But of course some of the guys had to give Cam some static. "Oh, heck," Berto kidded him. "And I was enjoying my free radicals so much! After all, they were free and left-wing." "Wimp," Andy Helder told Cam. Others liked the change to a shorter run. "This is the best idea you've had in a long time, Cam," William chimed in. "I like it!" "Too bad, William. You have to run eight miles, just like usual," Kevin said. "You're getting fat as a pig!" William slapped his beautiful, perfect sixpack. "You need to get your eyes checked, boy," he told Kevin. "Let's hit it," Cam said, and they all bounded off the deck and headed for the hardpack at the edge of the Bay, the dogs running ahead. Cam, Kevin and William were once again running side by side. "I can't wait to taste that turducken," William said. Kevin laughed and looked at William. "When you said, 'I can't wait,' I was sure you were going to say you couldn't wait to go to Mass this morning." "That, too," William responded. "No shit?" Kevin questioned. "Did you have a conversion experience since you were down here last?" "Fuck, no," William told him. "I didn't need one. I know what my responsibilities are." The three guys chuckled. "Speaking of church, that reminds me," Cam said, "I need to talk to Carl." He speeded up to run beside their housemate in the next row of runners. "Hey, dude, Father Ryan wanted me to get a definitive answer from you." "About what?" Carl asked, a suspicious look on his face. "I told you before that Kevin and I are going to get some acolyte training and start serving at the altar at St. Dunstan's on Sundays. How about joining us?" "No," Carl said. "You probably need to give it some more thought," Cam suggested. "Why is that?" "Because Kevin and I are going to make your life a living hell if you don't." "My life is already a living hell from living with you and Kevin." Carl's partner, Andy Helder, started to laugh. "I promise you we can make it worse," Cam said. "That changes everything, then," Carl said, also laughing. "Why didn't you give me your best sales pitch in the first place?" "I was hoping you'd see the light without any persuasion." "I do see the light," Carl said. "Good. Is that a 'yes,' then?" "Yes." "Excellent!" Cam said. He looked over at Andy Helder, who was amused by the whole exchange. "Andy, you're my witness." "Well..." Andy pretended to stammer. "Sometimes my hearing isn't too good." "There's no 'well' about it, boy," Cam said. "And your hearing is fine." Andy chuckled. "OK. I'm your witness." "Et tu, Bruté?" Carl asked Andy. "You're pretty literate for an business major," Cam commented to Carl as he dropped back to run beside Kevin again. "There's no escaping the liberal arts," Carl looked back and told Cam. "I need to impress your mom whenever I can." "What was that all about?" Kevin asked his partner. "Everything is a freaking struggle," Cam complained. "I re-asked Carl to get some training with us so he could be an acolyte for Father Ryan at St. Dunstan's, and he said 'No.' So I had to persuade him." "He didn't stand a chance," Kevin said. "I could have told him that. You're just too persuasive for your own good." "Amen to that," William said. The guys continued to harass one another until Carl consulted his pedometer and turned all the runners around at the three-mile mark and headed everybody back down the beach. When they reached the house and went to the deck to do their cool-downs, the smell of turducken was stronger. All the guys were salivating this time. Maria had fixed pancakes for everybody, and they ate quickly before going upstairs to shower, get dressed and head for church. Catherine had dressed Casey in a cute outfit after he was fed. The little guy was in his usual good mood, and Mary Carson mentioned she had never been around such a happy child. After everyone showered, they left for church, driving several cars to accommodate everyone. "Mary, you deserve being with Casey after having to listen to William cry and complain about everything until he was fifteen years old," Kevin said as they rolled along in the Highlander. "Wah, wah, wah," he mimicked a crying baby. "I wasn't alone," William responded to Kevin. "By the time we were all living together, you were still crying and carrying on when I was supervising the gym and making you exercise properly." "All right," Ian intervened. "Everybody who can't say something positive just shut-up." Things were quiet for a long minute. "When William cried like a baby, his tears helped keep his face clean," Kevin said. "That was a positive thing," he added. Everybody in the car, including William, roared with laughter. They encountered Father Ryan and the altar party in the narthex at St. Dunstan's after the family arrived, and Cam told the priest that he had three new recruits for acolyte training. "I had to do a little evangelizing, but eventually I won out," he said. "Stars in your crown, Cameron," the rector told him with a smile. Sean and Susan Miller were already seated in the nave, and the extended family, including Father Mason and Rosa Mendez and Yolanda Vega, sat with them. Jeff Miller sat right next to his parents, and his mom leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He reached over and held her hand, thankful that the wounds he'd caused his mother and father because of his drug use and thefts were well on the way to being healed. The organ came alive, the base notes shaking the church building as the altar party processed down the center aisle to the singing of the first hymn. As they passed the MacKenzie-Carson family, Cam poked Carl Emrick. "We'll soon be out there with the altar party," he said in his ear. Carl just shook his head ruefully, and began singing the processional hymn more loudly to drown out any further comments from Cam. Cam and Kevin both felt that the Mass was especially beautiful that day, and they each gave thanks for the fact that their nuptials seemed more and more likely to take place before long. Father Ryan's homily on the basic need for Christians to be thankful for their blessings especially resonated with the two boys. Among other things, the priest pointed out that another name for the Mass itself was "Eucharist"--the Greek word for thanksgiving, the heart of the Christian worship experience. On the way out of church, Catherine made sure that the Ryan family would get to Cam and Kevin's place well before dinner time at 4 p.m. so the kids could swim and the adults could have a cocktail or two before eating. Kevin mentioned to Father Ryan as he went out the front door that at some point he and Cam wanted to talk to him about the possibility of being married at St. Dunstan's by Father Mason in February, with Father Ryan celebrating the nuptial Mass. Father Ryan seemed pleased with that prospect and promised to get back with them after checking his personal calendar and that of the parish. Ian and George Eisner went into the parish house after church to talk about a business relationship between the studio and Ian's law firm, while Karen, Goerge's wife, drove her own car home. Forty-five minutes later, Ian and George had the framework of an agreement ready to complete the details. * * * Once home, Mary Carson and Catherine MacKenzie went right out to the front deck and checked on the two turkeys on the grills, with Ian monitoring the turducken in Sean Miller's special cooker. The women basted the turkeys, and Ian added a little cooking oil to the cooker, and then the adults went upstairs to change into more casual clothes. By that time, the master bedroom was full of naked boys changing out of their dressy clothes into T-shirts, shorts and sneakers. Cam, Kevin, Carl and Andy were all especially appreciative of the great scenery in the bedroom. So were Dan Emrick and Mark Carson, but they were more covert about enjoying what they were seeing. The guys all headed over to the Millers' house and got the volleyball net and ball out of the pool house and set it up on the beach. Sean Miller joined them, and he and Father Mason chose up sides. Then it was game-on, with William Carson giving non-stop harrassment to the opposing team. Whenever he rotated into the front row of his team, Kevin repaid the kid for his comments by making sure he made William eat the ball whenever he could. After a couple of games, everyone was sweating profusely. It was obviously time to swim, and Sean went home while Ian and Father Mason headed back to Cam and Kevin's to change into swim suits. The boys, having seen Susan Miller and Juanita Fuentes go over to Cam and Kevin's, went right over to the Miller's pool, stripped off their sweaty clothes T's and shoes and shorts, and plunged right into the pool sans swim trunks. Kevin came up in the middle of the pool and squeegeed the water off his face and hair, and looked around. Cam was nearby, and Kevin looked over at him. "You know, I think William's dick has shrunk since the last time he was down here in L.A." "I think you're right," Cam agreed. "Leave it to you two to check out my cock size," William shot back. "And you don't?" Kevin said. "I saw you looking at my package in the shower yesterday morning." "I just wanted to see if there were any signs of crotch rot," William said. "I'm only at risk of that when you're down here visiting," Kevin responded. "Likely story," William said. The rest of the guys were laughing about the interchange when Cam and Kevin submerged and swam underwater toward William, seeking retribution. But William knew what they were up to. He swam over to the side of the pool and heaved himself up on to the pool deck, water streaming off his naked body. Cam and Kevin didn't go up after him. Having showered and changed into slacks and a polo shirt, Sean Miller came out of the back door of his house to the bevy of naked boys. "Guys, I'd better leave you my phone." he said, putting it down one of the poolside tables. "I'll call you if any of the ladies decide to come over here and swim. If it rings, put something on." "Thanks, Dad," Jeff Miller said. "I'll bring your phone with me when we go next door." "All right, son," Sean said, and left the enclosure. It had been a while since his dad had specifically and publicly acknowledged him as his son, and Jeff was pleased right to the core of his being about it. It only strengthened his resolve to stay on the straight and narrow when it came to drugs. Most of the boys, having cooled off in the pool, took towels from a giant pile of them in the pool house and dried themselves. They also found several tubes of sunscreen in the poolhouse, and still naked, coated their genitals and butts. Then they spread their towels out on the pool deck and lay down on their backs to get some sun on those parts of their body that rarely received any rays. Mark Carson lay down near Kevin, and turned on his side toward his mentor. "Kev," he said quietly. "Yeah?" Mark moved closer. "Could I ask you something without making you mad?" "Of course," Kevin said, his eyes closed and basking in the sun. "I know William gives you and Cam a lot of shit," Mark whispered. "But you two are on his ass a lot. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve it, but I don't think you know how much he admires both of you. Maybe you could take it a little easier on him so you don't hurt his feelings. He acts like he doesn't have any feelings, but I know he does." Kevin's eyes flew open, and he turned his head and squinted in the strong sunlight as he looked over at Mark. "Thanks for telling me that, Mark." he said quietly. "I hear what you're saying, and it just reminds me what a good guy you are. You have so much kindness in you, and I loves ya, buddy." "Loves ya back," Mark said with a smile. "I'll do what you say," Kevin added, and they both lay back down to enjoy the sun. Twenty minutes later, Cam woke up the sleepers and suggested they turn over from their original positions so they didn't burn something important. "Tan those butts now," Cam said. Sean Miller's phone rang about a half-hour later, and Dan Emrick got up and answered it. "You rang?" he asked. Sean Miller chuckled. "Yes, I did. Catherine and Mary and Lisa Ryan are going to come over for a swim. And my spouse and Juanita are coming back to the house, too. Get decent." "Will do," Dan said, and breaking the connection and passing on the message on to the other guys. The boys got up in a hurry and put on their shorts. "Ready or not, here we come," Mary Carson said on the other side of the gate a few moments later. The fivc ladies came into the pool enclosure, accompanied by Casey in Catherine's arms, and new arrivals Samuel, Joshua and Rachel Ryan, and their mother Lisa. They were all wearing their swimsuits. The boys surrounded the newcomers, offering greetings to Mrs. Ryan and her children. Susan Miller and Juanita went into the house. "How's the water?" Samuel Ryan asked after everyone had said hello. "Wonderful!" Andy Helder told him. "You'll love it!" "In that case..." Samuel hung his towel over a chair, and taking a running start, dived into the middle of the pool. "Oh, yeah!" Samuel enthused as his head emerged from the water. "This feels great!" The boys, dressed in their shorts, all jumped into the pool along with Joshua and Rachel Ryan. Except for Cam. "Give me the baby face," he told his mother, holding out his arms to take Casey. "What have you been doing, Casey?" The baby said, "Daddy," followed by some gibberish. Cam began kissing the baby's face and head while the little guy squirmed and tried to get away. "Do you want to swim?" Cam asked the child who was dressed in a pair of his brightly colored swim trunks. "Yes!" Casey said emphatically. Cam went to the concrete steps at the shallow end of the pool, and walked down them carrying the baby, only gradually submerging the little guy to let him get used to the water temperature. Casey shrieked happily, splashing his hands in the cool water. Cam walked down into deeper water, making sure that Casey's head didn't get submerged, and talking to the little guy all the way. Kevin swam over to them and kissed the top of Casey's head, and hugged Cam and kissed him on the cheek as they bobbed in the water together. "'Sup, Mr. Casey?" Kevin asked. More gibberish from Casey, but lately there had been some recognizable words embedded in the sounds. This time it was "water." "Yes, 'water,'" Kevin told the little guy. "Do you like to swim in the water?" he asked. "Yes!" Casey said. Mary Carson looked at Catherine. "It's nice to hear a baby say 'Yes,' isn't it? All William and Mark would say when they were first learning to talk was, 'NO!' It didn't matter what the subject was or what I wanted them to do, the answer was always 'NO!'" The other women laughed and agreed that that was their experience with infants learning to talk, too. "I heard that," Mark Carson told his mother from the pool. "I distinctly remember being very positive and agreeable when I was learning to talk. 'No' was hardly in my vocabulary." "Your memory leaves something to be desired on this particular topic, buddy," Mary told her son. "Back then I didn't know whether I'd ever hear you say 'yes' to anything." "Not! You must be thinking of William, not me," Mark said. "'Yes' is my middle name." The wrangling continued until a puff of air from the south blew the smell of cooking turkey over to the Millers' pool. "Oh, man!" Dan Emrick said. "I'm getting hungry." "Me, too," William said. "Maybe we can eat something just to take the edge off without spoiling our appetite." Right then, Juanita Fuentes and Susan Miller came out of the Millers' back door with a tray of bread, crackers, slices of cold roast beef, and iced tea and soft drinks. The guys began to applaud. "Don't eat too much," Susan cautioned the crowd. "The cooks will never forgive us if you guys don't have an appetite for the turducken and turkey and all the trimmings." "Juanita and Susan," Mary Carson said. "You're just too nice! Thank you so much!" "You're welcome," Susan said. "Just put the dishes in the kitchen sink when you're finished, if you would." She looked at Juanita. "Why don't we go back over to Cam and Kevin's and see if we can help with dinner?" "Si," Juanita said. "That's a good idea," Mary said, and she and Catherine and Lisa Ryan stood up to go as well. "Rachel, are you going to stay here or go over with us?" Lisa asked her daughter. "I'm going with you. I wouldn't stay here with all these cruddy boys on a bet!" "Ooooh!" Samuel Ryan said to his sister. "What a putdown!" he added, laughing. "Not!" The guys ate some roast beef and drank some pop to "take the edge off," as William had put it. They were just finishing up when Ian came in the gate to the pool. "Cam and Kevin, and Carl and Dan, take a walk with me. I want to talk to you," Ian said. The four guys looked at him curiously, but stood up and congregated around him. "What about me?" William demanded. "This is business," Ian said. "Oh," William responded, looking disappointed, sat back down in his chair. The chosen few headed toward the gate and went down to the beach. They walked in silence for a few minutes, and then Ian spoke up. "The reason I wanted to talk to you is that three of you are of age or coming of age. Carl, you and Kevin soon will be eighteen, and Cam, you will be soon after them. Dan, bad luck for you, you won't reach you majority until next year, so your mom and I still get to boss you around." The man chuckled, and put an arm around Dan, pulled him over, and kissed him on top of his head. Dan smiled at him, pleased with the attention. "The fact that three of you will soon be eighteen," Ian said, "means that I need to start sharing the responsibility for how your money is invested and used. I've tried to do a good job for you in managing your funds, but it's never too soon for you to start learning how to do that for yourself. I hope you'll still be willing to take some advice from me from time to time, though." "You've done a great job for us, Ian," Kevin said. "And I don't think we've thanked you as often as we should have. We don't know much about managing money, at least not yet, so I know for sure we'll be willing to take what you tell us seriously and follow your advice." "Absolutely!" Carl added. "I appreciate that," Ian said. "Now, first things first. I'll be calling you when I get back to San Rafael with a list of names of some auditors you can choose from. None of them has any business or professional relationship with me or my law firm. I want all your funds and investments to be audited so you'll know everything I've done with your respective estates has been on the up-and-up." "I guess that's standard practice, but I hope you you know that we trust you one hundred percent," Carl said. "You've done a great job for us, and I'm confident it's been an honest job, too," Cam added. "I've really tried to do the kind of job you deserve," Ian said. "I want you to know that if the three of you were not the kind of young men you are, I'd be worried as hell about making this transition. After all, you're all multi-millionaires. Some guys your age could really botch the way you handle all this money and investments. I'm confident you won't do that because I know your values. But I want you to know that you should never hesitate to give me a call if you think I can help you with any decisions you have to make." "Thank you for your confidence in us," Cam said. "I mean that." "I am confident in your good judgment. If I may, I'd just like to add a little perspective to the challenge you're going to face as people of wealth and privilege," Ian said. "Have at it," Kevin said. "I know what I'm going to tell you isn't fashionable in today's society, and I'm not going to preach to you. But I hope you realize that all the power your wealth gives you carries a price tag. We all carry a responsibility to God and to human beings around the world, not just in the United States, to use our riches in the right way. We need to be prudent in using what the Lord has given us, but we also need to recognize the teaching of the Church that money itself never constitutes our real wealth as God's children. Generosity to those who need our help is one of the ways we fulfill our contract with God. There is a lot we can do to address human suffering, and we need to use what we have in order to do that. Unfortunately, many wealthy people in our society use the poverty of others to deny the poor their birthright as human beings, even to the point of depriving them of proper food, clothing, shelter and education. Oftentimes our business and government leaders are hell-bent on keeping people poor in the mistaken belief they themselves can become richer by doing so. That serves only to wound and destabilize our society. After all, how many houses can we live in and how many cars can we drive and how many suits of clothes can we wear? The list goes on. "But I've never seen an overly acquisitive kind of thinking in any of you boys, and I don't think I will. We can and should enjoy what we have without depriving others of a decent education and a fair wage for their work in this world. I'm sure you know that there is a tremendous income inequality in our country which is only getting worse, and we need to address that issue if we want to have good lives ourselves. Economic aristocracies and banana republics around the world aren't very good places to live for the majority of people, and I don't think we want to support that kind of future for our country. We can do better. "One other thing. There is sometimes a temptation to work independently, in isolation, on behalf of others, but we can often accomplish more in collaboration with others and their resources in working for the common good. George Bush and Bill Clinton are two examples of people you wouldn't expect to work well together on behalf of the the deprived, but they certainly have. I don't mean that we give up doing good deeds on an individual basis, but working with others is often more productive in addressing huge and sometimes seemingly intractable human problems. "We have been and are people of privilege, and we each need to pursue our destiny with our responsibilities in mind. For example, the three of you, and later on Dan when he reaches his majority, may want to consider setting aside funds to form a charitable trust or a foundation for a given cause that you may identify and feel strongly about. "Finally, just let me say what a joy and pleasure it's been to be a part of this extended family we're in, and to work with you and for you. I don't have the words to tell you how much I love you guys. I hope Mary and I and Catherine have always conveyed that. We're very much on the same page when it comes to our love and respect for you. Without any reservations, I can say we're very proud of all of you, and looking forward to great things from you." The four guys were somewhat stunned by what they had heard during their walk. Instead of focusing on a general accounting of their monetary fortunes, they had been confronted with Ian's vision about what constituted a good life in society, a view that obviously went far beyond dollars and cents. Kevin stopped dead in his tracks, causing the others to do so as well. "Ian," he said, "I know know that sometimes you and I have crossed swords and had differences of opinion, but I want you to know how grateful I am--how grateful we all are--for everything you've done for us, and how much we appreciate your guidance on things. My blood-father turned out to be a rat, Carl and Dan's dad was a sicko, Berto's parents were victims of his uncle, and Alex and John died before we really got to know them as well as we wanted to. But you've been the steady male influence in our lives. And you and Mary and Catherine and Rosa and Yolanda really created our family, and if we can accomplish a fraction as much for our family and for others in this world as you already have, we can consider ourselves real winners in this life! I don't think any of us will ever forget what you've said to us and done for us." Kevin stepped over to Ian, pulled the man into his arms and just held him there, kissing his cheek before letting him go. Cameron, Carl and Dan silently followed suit. Cam thought he saw moisture in Ian's eyes as they all turned around and headed toward home. This man was tough as nails when he had to be, but was also very much in touch with his feelings and his commitments. The four boys went back to the Millers' pool, and Ian continued walking back to Cam and Kevin's house, joining Father Ryan, Father Mason and Sean Miller in keeping tabs on the turkeys and the turducken as they cooked. Thanks to a light breeze, the smell of the cooking food was all over their part of the beach, and a lot of mouths were watering. The women who had been at the pool earlier had returned to Cam and Kevin's house with Casey, and they all milled around in the kitchen, making sure all the side dishes would be ready for the big four o'clock dinner. About 3 o'clock, Ian, Sean, Father Mason and Father Ryan walked into the kitchen from the deck. Ian announced, "The sun is over the yardarm somewhere in the world, so the bar in the study is now open." The kitchen emptied out immediately, and once in the study, Maria, Juanita, Rosa and Yolanda accepted a glass of wine, Fathers Ryan and Mason vodka martinis, Sean Miller a beer, Mary and Catherine and Susan Miller an old fashioned, and Lisa Ryan a scotch and soda. Ian fixed himself a sizable bourbon on the rocks, and served Rachel Ryan a cold root beer. Before anyone could take the first sip, Maria Romero's husband Juan, Sr., and their two sons Juan, Jr., and Roberto arrived. After introductions were made, and Juan, Sr., was served up a beer, his two boys headed for the Millers' pool to join the rest of the guys. Ian offered up a toast on behalf of the adults. "To all the great cooks in our midst!" he said. "Today, as always, we're thankful!" "Hear, hear!" the adults said, taking a sip of their beverage before some of the ladies headed back to the kitchen. By the time Juan and Roberto opened the gate to the pool, the boys there were again stripping off their shorts and preparing to dive into the water after they had sunbathed for a while. "Hey, guys!" Cam said to Juan, Jr. and Roberto as he turned around at the edge of the pool. "Welcome!" he said, re-introducing the the naked boys on the pool deck to the Romero boys. Juan and Robert didn't seem shy or embarrassed at all by the nudity, and as the other guys dove into the water, they stripped down and joined the boys in the pool. Eventually, the boys started holding races, and as boys who lost their races were eliminated, Cam and William were the last two left competing. William won. Remembering his earlier conversation with Mark Carson about brother William, Kevin handed out some sincere compliments to the champion after the final race as he studied the kid's fine physique. "Dude, you're just too fucking fast for the rest of us," Kevin admitted to William, slapping him on his bare ass and then givng him a hug. William seemed pleased, and hugged Kevin back, giving him a peck on the cheek. As the afternoon progressed, Berto and Cam made sure that Juan and Roberto were having a good time, and singled them out for some conversation. The two Romero boys seemed like really nice guys, and Cam got a clear sense that the Romeros were a happy, well adjusted family. The guys all continued swimming and sometimes harrassing each other until about 3:45, when Kevin reminded everyone they they needed to shower the chlorine off their bodies and get dressed for Thanksgiving dinner. They showered in the Millers' pool house, got dressed, and then headed next door while Cam locked the gate to the Millers' pool. When they went in the house, the turducken, the turkeys and all the side dishes had begun to appear on the large buffet table in the dining room. When the food was all in place at the stroke of four o'clock, the extended family formed a huge circle around the dining room table as Father Ryan offered thanks. "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," he began. "Amen," the family said, making the sign of the cross, and then everyone held hands. "Heavenly Father," the priest said, "we offer you great thanks for the abundance we enjoy in our nation and in our homes. We're especially grateful for the freedoms we enjoy in this country, and pray that they may continue. We thank you, Father, for the food which has been prepared for this, our extended family, and ask you to bless it to our use as you bless the hands of those who prepared it. We unite in your name, and are overcome by your many kindnesses to us as we reflect on the needs of others in this world. May your grace continue to shower upon us as we follow the path you have set for each of us. We offer this prayer in the name of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ." "Amen." "Thank you, Father Ryan," Catherine said. "The adults will eat here in the dining room," she explained. "Please take plates and begin to help yourselves from the buffet. Rachel and boys, you have a table in the study, and can follow the adults in helping yourself to food. Ian, will you carve? And Father Mason, will you open the wine?" "Yes, m'am," the two men said. Ian began carving the turducken and the turkeys at the buffet, stepping away when done to let the adults serve themselves. It wasn't long before the youngsters stepped up to help themselves as well. Father Mason then picked up a fancy new opener which opened wine bottles with no muss or fuss without involving use of a cork screw. He opened six bottles of a pinot and cabernet blend, and began to fill wine glasses on the adult table. Cam looked at his mother. "Do we get some wine?" he asked. "Yes," Catherine decreed. "Half glasses for you, Kevin, Berto, Carl, Andy, Art and William. Splashes for Dan and Mark." She looked at Juan and Maria. "Splashes for your kids?" she asked. "Yes, please," Juan agreed, to the delight of Juan, Jr., and Roberto. Catherine looked at Father Ryan. "What about Samuel, Joshua and Rachel, Father?" "Just splashes, thank you," the priest said. "Jeff, we have some ginger ale for you," Catherine added. "Thank you very much," the young man said, blushing a little at being singled out. No booze for him. Sean Miller smiled approvingly. When Ian finished pouring wine at the adult table, he put the prescribed amounts of pinot in the glasses for the youngsters, and asked Cam and Kevin to carry them to the appropriate place settings in the study for each of the kids. The four maids were seated side by side at the adult table. Maria Romero turned her head, looked down the table at her sister Juanita and Rosa and Yolanda, and laughed. "I don't know how to act, sitting here and not serving the invited guests," she said. Everybody chuckled. "The four of you are our invited and honored guests!" Mary Carson said immediately. "This isn't Downton Abbey, after all. I know I speak for everybody here when I tell you what a good job you all do for everybody you work for, and how much we appreciate everything you do." "Hear, hear!" Ian Carson said, picking up his wine glass. "Here's to Maria, Rosa, Yolanda and Juanita, with thanks!" "Hear, hear!" the crowd said as well, raising and clinking their wine glasses together. The maids were all obviously touched by what had been said about them, and Rosa Mendez lifted her napkin and dabbed at some tears in her eyes. Meanwhile, the kids' table was pretty quiet as they dug into their food. "Holy moly!" Kevin said after a few bites from his loaded plate, starting with the turducken. "Have mercy! This is the best turducken I've ever tasted!" he said, and took a sip of wine. "This is only turducken you've ever tasted, dufus!" Cam said. Rachel Ryan and the boys all laughed. "Mom made a mistake giving you wine," Kevin told Cam. "Your tongue has loosened right up, hasn't it?" "Just trying to be accurate," Cam said. Casey's highchair was situated between Kevin and Cam, and they took turns feeding him little bits of poultry and mashed potatoes along with baby food. The little guy liked the turducken a lot. Ian was seated next to Juan Romero, Sr., at the adult table in the dining room, and they began to talk. Ian noticed that the skin on the man's palms was thick and calloused, and his neck and arms were deeply tanned from working outside. Ian soon extracted from Juan that he owned a small construction firm, and that he personally held a license as a general contractor. "Union shop?" Ian asked. "Oh, yes," Juan said. "Does being unionized cause you any problems?" "It never has. I belong to the union, of course, even though in terms of my company, I'm management. We solve any problems we have by talking them out before they get too bad. I try to treat my workers fairly, and they work hard for me." "That's the way it's supposed to be," Ian said. "If I could ask, what are your biggest challenges?" "Finding the time to scout out new business, and then developing bids. If I hired someone to do that for me, the new position would siphon off a lot of my profits, which can already be pretty slim sometimes." "Have you ever done business with any of the movie studios?" Ian asked. "No. It's really hard to get a heads-up on their projects in time to submit a bid. Sometimes we get some sub-contracts, though." "Tell me about the composition of your workforce, Juan," Ian asked. "Predominantly Latino, but also a few Caucasians and African Americans." "Human Resources people like diversity," Ian commented thoughtfully, looking over at Juan. "My law firm is developing a relationship with Magnum Studios. Would you mind if I put in a good word for you with George Eisner, the CEO at Magnum? I know that Magnum contracts out a lot of their bigger set-building projects." Juan looked at Ian, a big smile breaking out on his face. "You'd do that for me?" "Of course. Magnum is always looking for honest, hard-working construction outfits with diverse workforces. Do you have a business card on you?" "I do." Juan took out his wallet and fished out a card, handing it to Ian. "Thanks," Ian said, looking at the card and then slipping it into his shirt pocket. "I'll talk to George and his business people before I go back to San Francisco, and I think you'll be hearing from them before long." "That's really kind of you, Ian. I appreciate it." All the time Ian and Juan had been talking, there had been a stream of boys starting to come back to the buffet for seconds, and then the adults joined them at the buffet to replenish their own plates. Catherine rose from the table right about then to go to the kitchen. Maria looked up from the table to see if she could help, but Catherine shook her head in a silent "No." Catherine walked into the kitchen as people were still loading up on seconds from the buffet, and clicked the 'On' button of a twenty-cup coffee maker. Then she went to the refrigerator in the garage, and removed six pumpkin pies, carrying them to a kitchen counter two at a time. The coffee maker was gurgling by then. Catherine took a stack of dessert plates out of the kitchen cabinets, and began cutting and removing generous pieces of pie from the pie tins. She began carrying the first ten pieces of pie, along with several deep dishes of whipped cream and a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream, into the dining room on a serving tray. Mary Carson and Susan Miller rose from the table and began to help her with trips to the kitchen for more pie and then some coffee. As the adults finished cleaning their plates, Catherine, Mary, Susan Miller and Lisa Ryan pitched in to help clear the adults' table. Catherine poked her head into the study. "If any of you bottomless pits want dessert, please clear the table and take your dishes to the kitchen.," she said. "What's for dessert, Mommy?" Keven asked. "Pumpkin pie with ice cream or whipped cream. Or both." "I love you more with every word you say," Kevin said. "I believe you," Catherine said with a smile. "I love you more than Kevin does," Carl said. "I hate a suck-up," Mark Carson said. "We all do," Art Smith said to general agreement. The gang hooted at Kevin and Carl, then stood up and began heading for the kitchen, dishes in hand. Cam picked up Casey out of his highchair, rested him on his arm, and with his plate in one hand, followed the gang into the kitchen where Susan Miller was scraping and rinsing the dishes and putting them into the dishwasher. * * * After dinner and the clean-up, the young guys changed back into their swimming trunks and headed back over to the Millers. Mary Carson admonished the gang not to jump right into the water without letting their food digest for a while. "Mom, the experts these days are saying that you don't have to wait anymore to swim after eating," Mark Carson protested. "I've heard that, but I don't want you going into the water right away," Mary said, unpersuaded. The guys groaned, but acquiesced, and headed out. After Cam unlocked the gate, they picked spots on the pool deck and lay down. A lot of them began to fall asleep in the warm sunshine. Cam and Kevin lay down close to each other, as did Carl and Andy. These four loved being near their partners. William Carson lay down on the opposite side of Kevin. Remembering what Mark Carson had said about being nice to his brother, Kevin started talking to William. "William, how is football at San Rafael going this fall?" "Good. We had a lot of seniors returning this year, so we've won every game in our conference so far. But the last part of our schedule is going to be pretty tough, I think." "Any injuries on the team so far?" "A few," William said. "Nothing serious, though." "That's good. Are you still pursuing a football scholarship at Stanford, if that's where you end up?" "Yes." "With your grades, you could get an academic scholarship," Kevin said. "Have you applied for one?" "Actually, yes," William said. "Why?" "Well, don't take this wrong, but I worry about you when it comes to injuries on the field. College football can be pretty brutal compared to high school, and the NFL is even worse, of course." William turned his head and looked at Kevin. "I know. You're right." "I see that Chris Borlan has retired at age 24 from the 49ers because he's concerned about head injuries." "Well, he was a linebacker. I'm a highschool quarterback, and get more protection." "I know, but you're still at risk. Whether you play or not is up to you and your parents, but I wish you weren't playing." "You played soccer," William pointed out. "True, but the risk factors are a lot less in soccer than they are in football." William was silent. "I'm not trying to fuck with ya, William," Kevin said. "You're my bro, and I just don't want anything bad to happen to ya, that's all." "I didn't know you felt this way," William said, turning on his side to look at Kevin. "Well, I do. If you get hurt, it hurts me and it hurts the whole family. I hope you'll talk it over with your mom and dad before you accept a football scholarship, whether it's at Stanford or someplace else. Injuries on the field can stay hidden for years, and then they become apparent and bite you in the ass." William's face softened. "Thanks for your concern, Kev. It means a lot to me. I'll give what you're saying some serious thought." "Thanks, man," Kevin said. They bumped fists and then dozed off in the sunshine. When the gang started to wake up and get in the pool, Kevin rolled over close to Cam and kissed him awake. "Hey," Cam said, kissing his partner back. "Would you mind if William and I went for a ride in the Porsche?" Kevin asked. "Nope," Cam said. "What's the occasion?" "William will love the Porsche, that's all." "Go for it. I'll stay here with the guys." "Thanks." Kevin woke William up. "Hey, you wanna take a ride in the Porsche?" "Yeah!" William looked excited. "Can I drive?" "Yep. Let's get our wallets and hit it," Kevin said. They put on their sneakers and T-shirts. They saw Father Mason as they went through the house, and they stopped and exchanged a few words with him. "Kevin, can I borrow your Mustang for a few hours? I need to go spend some time with my mom and family at my sister's house." "Of course, Father. The key is on a hook in the hall, whenever you're ready to go." Kevin handed Mason the key as the three of them left the house tegether. Father Mason drove off as William and Kevin uncovered the Porsche and fired it up. The motor purred and the muffler thrummed, sounding ready to hit the road. They went to the Pacific Coast Highway, heading northeast. Kevin reminded William to take it easy and not get a speeding ticket. William pushed the speed limit a little, but not enough to interest a CHIP cruiser which was monitoring the traffic a mile or so up the road. "I love this car," William said as they cruised along. "Why are you being so nice to me, dude?" "Because I should," Kevin said. He didn't mention his and Mark Carson's earlier talk by the pool about treating William better. "We give each other a hard time, but I love ya and admire ya, and so does Cam. That's it in a nutshell!" William looked pleased. "Back acha, man!" The two guys just enjoyed the hell out of their ride in the Porsche together. * * * It was an evening of good conversation for the adults, and of playing Wii and card games for the kids. That doggone Berto once again cleaned house in a poker game. Ian, Sean, Juan, Sr., and Fathers Ryan and Mason smiled wryly as they counted what was left of their chips and money Showering thanks on their hosts, the Romaros and the Ryans were prepared to leave for home about 9 p.m. because Juan Romero and Father Ryan had to be up early the next morning for work--the priest to offer Mass and Juan to unlock a construction site. At the last minute, following an invitation from Cam and Kevin, Samuel and Joshua Ryan along with Juan, Jr., and Roberto Romero negotiated a sleepover with the permission of their parents. There were plenty of extra sleeping pads in the garage for the four new guests, and additional floor space in the master bedroom. The master bedroom shower was full of boys when Cam and Kevin finished showering. Finishing first, they put on robes and slipped out of the bedroom and headed downstairs in the now dark and silent house. One of the dogs greeted them with a little yip and a few tail thumps on the floor of the study, but the canines stayed where they were. The two guys went right to the downstairs bathroom, and rearranging the throw rugs on the carpeted floor, they added a few towels from the linen closet to make the floor even softer. Shrugging off their robes, they lay down together, clasping each other, still a little moist from their shower, tightly to each other. Before long, Kevin reached over and clasped Cam's rapidly hardening cock. Then contorting his upper body, he bent down and licked and then kissed Cam's penis again and again until it was long and hard. "This has been a perfect day," he told Cam after he straightened back out and french kissed his partner. "And its just about to get even better. I wanna be inside you so bad!" "That's just where I want you, Kev," Cam whispered back. "I can't begin to tell you how much I love ya, man." Kevin smiled. "Language has its limits. We know that. It's a good thing actions speak louder than words." And he proceeded to put Cam on his back and move on top of him, looking down into his handsome face and those green eyes. He kissed him softly, and then their tongues dueled as their hard dicks rubbed together. Raising himself off his partner's body. Kevin pulled out a drawer of the bathroom sink, and reaching to the very back, pulled out a tube of lube. "Let me," Cam said, taking the tube and generously applying the lube first to Kevin's cock, and then to his own hole. After some more kissing and foreplay involving each other nipples, Kevin eventually went to Cam's anal doorway and began to move into his partner's body as Cam's legs rose and Kevin then pressed them forward around Cam's ears to the floor. "Yeah, Kevin, get it up there!" Cam told his partner as Kevin's long, slick, fat penis entered and made its way home, pressing firmly against Cam's prostate on its way by. Cam gasped in pleasure. Kevin stopped moving when his pubes were against Cam's ass, and he lay there looking down into his boy's face again. "What a great Thanksgiving!" Cam whispered up to him. "And this is the perfect end to it!" "And the continuation of a lot more sex," Kevin said. "If there were more of this going on around the world with people who love each other, it would be a lot happier place," Kevin said, pulling back and making a single abortive thrust back into Cam before going motionless again. "For sure!" Kevin planted kisses all over Cam's face before beginning what would be a loving and lengthy assault on Cam's ass. It would be a good thirty minutes at an ever quickening pace before Cam's dick spurted a big load of cum on his own chest, neck and face, and the contractions of his hole caused Kevin to empty himself into his lover. "Oh, fuck yes!!" Kevin growled out in his deep voice as he emptied his balls. They lay there silently in each other's arms after they had climaxed, unable to speak or to move for ten minutes before Kevin pulled his softening dick slowly out of Cam. Leaning down, Kevin began to lick up the mother lode of semen which Cam had deposited on his own chest when he came, until Kevin had licked up every drop. Then Kevin was able to unroll several lengths of toilet paper from its dispenser beside the toilet to begin a preliminary cleanup of their bodies. The two of them were still a little shaky on their feet when they eventually went into the shower. They clung to each other in the warm spray before they finally found the energy to begin soaping each other down. Squeaky clean when their shower was finished, they dried each other off with clean towels, threw the used toilet paper into the toilet, flushed, and took the cum-stained towels which had been under them on the floor to a washing machine on the way back upstairs. They added soap to the load in the washer, started the machine, and went back to the master bedroom. Everybody was asleep when they got there, but there had been a change in the sleeping arrangements. Mark and Dan were still at the sides of the big bed, but Cam and Kevin's spot in the middle had been usurped by William and Berto. Kevin chuckled quietly when he saw that William and Berto had ended up holding each other in their sleep. That wouldn't last long when they woke up, Kevin knew that. Cam was a little pissed at first that he and Kevin had lost their places in bed, and wanted to wake the two guys up and kick their asses back down on to the floor, but Kevin just laughed and pointed to two unoccupied sleeping pads. That's where Cam and Kevin ended up, covered with sheets and light blankets, and clasped together. They were almost immediately asleep because they were so relaxed after the great sex they'd had downstairs.
  5. Don H

    Chapter 65

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 The Wednesday before Thanksgiving began for the boys when Kevin's phone alarm sounded at 7:30 a.m. Kevin turned it off as groans from some of the guys in the master bedroom ensued. Cam and Kevin climbed out of their bed over bedmates Dan Emrick and Mark Carson, and Cam headed for the bathroom. In a good mood, Kevin strolled down the upstairs hall in his boxers, knocking on doors so the adults could get ready for the family's usual morning run on the beach. Cam was still brushing his teeth when Kevin came back and entered the bathroom door, slapping Cam on his bare ass. "Ow!" Cam protested. "What the fuck?" "Just making sure your cute little butt is wide awake and ready to roll." "That hurt," Cam complained. "I'll kiss it and make it well," Kevin responded, bending over and kissing each of his partner's butt cheeks just as William Carson came into the room to drain his bladder. "Kinky!" William said with a raffish grin. "Sorry," Kevin told William. "I didn't mean to get you turned on." "Dream on," William said, sporting his usual early morning hard-on in his boxers as he walked over and straddled the urinal. After he finished up and shook off, he stepped over to the sink which Cam had just vacated and, finding his toothbrush on the bathroom counter where he'd put it the night before, slathered it with toothpaste and started brushing. The other guys began piling into the bathroom to take care of business, and in due time the whole family ended up on the front deck to do their warm-ups before running. It was going to be another sunny, clement southern California day from the look of things. Border collies Alice and Samantha milled about in their usual state of elation about the impending run with their humans. "Everybody sleep well?" Father Mason inquired as he pulled first one leg and then the other up behind him in a stretch. Most of the guys looked like they were still half-asleep, and just grunted in response to the priest. Ian Carson laughed and shook his head. "Sometimes you have to wait until after lunch before you get an articulate response from these guys," he said. "I hear that!" the priest responded with a chuckle. Warm-ups completed, the crowd was soon down on the hardpack by Santa Monica Bay and getting up to speed. Kevin, Cam and William fell in together. "So, what do you have planned to keep us entertained today?" William asked Kevin. "It's 'Make Fun of William Carson Day,'" Kevin said. "There's plenty of material to keep everybody laughing." "No. Seriously." William said. "Cam and I have to run an errand this morning, so we're leaving you in charge of entertainment," Kevin responded. "An 'errand?'" William said. "What errand?" "None of your business," Kevin said. "If I told you, everybody would know within five minutes." "No, they wouldn't," William protested. "I can keep my mouth shut." "Yeah, maybe when your lips are on some girl's nipple," Cam interjected. "If we tell you, the rest of the guys will be pissed off that we didn't tell them," Kevin said. "Well, fuck you both, then," William said quietly so nobody else could hear. He was clearly a little miffed to be kept in the dark. "You'll get the info in good time," Kevin said. The subject Kevin and Cam were keeping quiet about was that they were going to visit some jewelry stores on Rodeo Drive in downtown L.A. to look at wedding rings. They had talked about it the previous night when they walked the dogs before bed. They had concluded then that neither one of them knew exactly what he wanted in a ring, and were hoping that they would know the right one when they saw it. They wanted to get a jump on making a selection. It was a great morning run, as usual, and they turned around at the four-mile point and headed back toward the house. William hadn't said a word to Cam or Kevin since they had refused to spill the beans about their "errand." Arriving home, the guys all piled into the huge master bedroom shower as space allowed, and when they were cleaned up, hustled downstairs for breakfast. Maria had made everybody poached eggs on cinnamon toast, with crisp bacon. She pulled everything out of the oven where they had been kept warm, and served everybody. Cam and Kevin and Berto stood at the kitchen counter to eat because it was a little crowded at the kitchen table. The food was delicious. The guys at the table took turns feeding Casey, who was his usual happy self. After breakfast, Cam had a quiet word with Catherine and Maria to let them know that he and Kevin were going out for a while. The two of them kissed Casey on top of his head, and slipped out through the garage wearing their usual attire of T-shirts, Levis and sneakers. "Let's take the Porche," Cam said. "The battery needs charging. It's been a couple of weeks since I drove it." "OK," Kevin said, starting to pull the tarp off the car. "Can I drive?" "Of course. The car is half yours." "Cool," Kevin said. Cam folded up the tarp and set it aside. The top on the 911 was already down. "Shit. I forgot the keys," Cam said. "I'll get 'em." Kevin ducked back into the house and took the Porche keys off the board for keys in the back hall, and went back to the garage. They got in the car, and Kevin put the key into the ignition and cranked the engine. It fired up right away. "Good battery," Kevin commented as he backed out of the garage, the mufflers burbling as he gunned the engine a little. He reached the street, dropped it into first gear and headed for the service road to the Pacific Coast Highway. Once there he headed south to I-10 and then over to I-405. Much to their surprise, the traffic on 405 toward downtown L.A. was actually moving, not the bumper to bumper hot mess it usually was on a weekday. "Hmmm, I think a lot of people took the day before Thanksgiving off, wouldn't you say?" Cam observed. "Not much traffic." "Yep," Kevin agreed, resting his right hand on the gearshift knob as they tooled along. "This may not take us all morning after all." The traffic was moving at a steady fifty-five miles per hour. Cam rested his left hand on top of Kevin's hand on the gearshift and squeezed it. "I'm totally excited about looking at rings." "Me, too, bud. We've wanted to get married for a long time now, and I can't wait to start wearing a wedding ring. Then the whole world will know you and I have tied the knot." He paused and cleared his throat. "You're a great partner and a great lover, and a wonderful father to Casey. I'm so lucky to have you in my life." Cam's eyes misted up when he heard that. Kevin had never had a problem being loving and physically demonstrative with Cam, but he was usually more restrained when it came to putting his feelings out there verbally. "Thanks for saying that," Cam said, swallowing hard. "I think I'm the lucky one. Especially when I look around at the people who haven't found themselves yet, let alone finding 'the one' to be in their lives." They fell silent for a few miles listening to tunes on the radio, and then Kevin broke the silence. "I had a good talk with Mark Carson yesterday afternoon on the beach. I don't want to go into the particulars, 'cause I told him we were talking in confidence, but when you get a chance to talk to him, build him up a little bit. I want him to feel good about himself. And I want Dan Emrick to to feel good about himself, too. Sometimes older brothers can overshadow the young guys. Have you had a chance to talk to Dan at all about how he's doing?" "No, but it's on my list of things to do while the family's down here," Cam said. "Older brothers sometimes cast a big shadow, you're right about that. I love Mark and Dan a lot, so I'm with you when it comes to encouraging them to have a good self-image." "Yeah," Kevin said. "Fortunately, Berto really does a good job mentoring Dan and Mark, too. He's just an all round good guy, isn't he?" "He really is. I don't know whether I'd be the man he is today if my mother and father had been murdered the way his were. When and if he gets into Stanford and then goes to law school, I think he's going to be one hell of a lawyer. Ian and Mary have done a great job with him, and they don't hide the fact that they care about him and they're proud of him. I also have to say that Berto has managed to stay in touch with his Hispanic culture without putting down Anglo culture in any way. I really admire him." Kevin looked over at his partner. "You've got that shit right! I hadn't really thought about the potential cultural conflicts in Berto's life. He's struck a good balance." "Yep," Cam agreed. After looking around to see if people in surrounding cars were watching, Kevin reached down and cupped Cam's crotch with his right hand and gently squeezed his partner's package. Cam spread his legs a little. "Liking that!" Cam said approvingly, and started to harden up. Neither of them moved until an eighteen wheeler pulled up next to them a few minutes later. The driver looked down into the Porche and sounded his air horn when he saw where Kevin's hand was. Kevin grinned and retrieved his hand as he gunned the Porche and quickly left the truck behind. They approached downtown, and Cam reached into his pocket and pulled out a map of downtown L.A. he'd printed from his computer. Unfolding it, he began to help Kevin find Rodeo Drive. Once there, they located a parking spot near the first of many swanky jewelry shops. "Y'know, I had an idea about our rings I want to run by you before we shop," Cam said before they got out of the car. "It might be a little more expensive because it involves two rings for each of us instead of one, and would require some custom work by a jeweler. But if you like my idea, I think we should consider it." "Dazzle me," Kevin invited as they continued to sit in the car. "Well, once a man and a woman get engaged, only the woman wears an engagement ring. I was thinking that you and I might change that up a bit, and we should get each get a thin gold band with diamond chips all the way around the circumference to serve as an engagement ring. That ring would interlock with a broader band for our actual wedding rings when we marry, and we'd wear both rings from then on. Does that sound too over the top?" "You little trendsetter, you," Kevin said, leaning over and kissing Cam on the cheek. "I love that idea!" "Me, too," Cam said as they released their seat belts, stepped out of the car and headed down the street toward an expensive, well-known jewelry store. They entered a large, brightly lighted shop filled with showcases exhibiting expensive watches and jewelry, and were immediately met by a nattily dressed young man who greeted them coldly with no smile. Cam and Kevin thought they picked up a somewhat unfriendly vibe from the guy. "Help you?" the man asked as he looked askance at the Levis and the T-shirts the guys were wearing. "Perhaps so," Kevin replied coolly, mirroring the man's attitude and determined not to ingratiate himself. "We want to look at wedding rings, or possibly have some wedding rings made to order." "I see," the man said. "And what would your price range be?" "We won't know that until we tell you what we want and perhaps look at some rings," Kevin responded. "Why am I getting the idea you don't particularly want our business?" "I just don't want to waste your time. . ." the young guy said when a beautifully dressed and coifed middle-aged woman walked over from a desk at the side of the large room where she had been seated, and intervened. "Thank you, John. I'll handle these customers." She held out her hand to Kevin and then to Cam. "My name is Cecile Nolan, gentlemen. How may we be of service?" She intuited that despite their casual dress, these young men were not poor. "I'm Kevin Stoltz, and this is my partner, Cameron MacKenzie," Kevin said. "We're interested in wedding and possibly engagement rings which will probably need to be custom made for us. Our union will be blessed on a date yet to be set in February." "Excellent," Cecile said, her eyes widening slightly when she heard the name MacKenzie. She looked at Cam "Are you related to the late movie director Alex MacKenzie?" "Yes," Cam said. "He was my dad." "I see. I loved his movies. If you two will step over to my desk, and we'll talk more about your needs." She led the way over to what appeared to be a genuine Louis Quatorze writing desk and chairs, and asked the guys to be seated. "Now, tell me more of how we can specifically be of help," Cecile said. "We have recently become engaged," Cam told her, "and as Kevin said, we are planning to be married this coming February at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church in Hollywood. Kevin and I are aware that it's never been customary for men to wear engagement rings before marriage, but we may want to do so. We're looking for thin gold bands encircled with diamond chips which we will wear to mark our engagement through February. And secondly, we will require matching wedding bands which will interlock with the engagement rings that we'll continue to wear following the ceremony. Is that something you can do for us?" "I'm sure we can," Cecile said with a smile. "Let me invite our chief designer and gemologist who crafts special orders for us to join us, if that meets with your approval." Kevin and Cam nodded, and Cecile picked up an old fashioned, stylishly thin, white desk telephone and punched a button. "George, this is Cecile. Do you have time to join me and some customers for a few minutes about a special order?" she inquired. Receiving a positive reply, she hung up the phone. "George Abernathy is a prize winning designer of jewelry whom we recently hired away from a top Manhattan jewelry store to join our staff," Cecile explained. "I'm confident he can develop a design for your rings which will please you. Do you live in the L.A. area?" "Yes," Kevin said. "In Malibu." Cecile smiled, her intuition that these young men had money confirmed yet again. A gray-haired, patrician looking man with a gray goatee and wearing a beautifully tailored suit came out of a door at the rear of the store and walked over to them. Cecile, Kevin and Cam stood up as the man approached them. "George, may I introduce Kevin Stoltz and Cameron MacKenzie," Cecile said. "Gentlemen, Mr. Abernathy." "A pleasure," Abernathy said, shaking hands with them and then pulling a third chair over beside the two of them. "Tell me what you have in mind." Cam went over the details of slim, bejeweled engagement rings and interlocking, broader, plain wedding rings with the designer. "What an interesting idea," Abernathy said when Cam was finished. "This is a new concept for me," he continued in a positive tone. "I've never heard of this being done before." "Nor have I," Cam said. "It just popped into my head on the drive down here, and Kevin liked the idea." "I like it, too," Abernathy said, nodding his head. "How much time do we have before you're to be married?" "We have until February," Kevin said. "We haven't tied down a date yet." Abernathy smiled. "That gives us plenty of time, then. Are you open to some additional possibilities for the rings?" "Yes," Kevin said as Cam nodded his agreement. "You might think about chips from other stones in addition to or instead of diamond chips for the engagement ring," Abernathy said. "For example, you could have emerald and/or ruby chips alternating with diamond chips, or one or the other of the stones featured alone in preference to diamonds." Cam and Kevin looked at each other. "I guess we'd have to think about that," Kevin said after a short silence. "But you don't foresee any problem in designing something for us?" "Not at all," Abernathy said. "I'd like to have no less than three weeks to craft the engagement rings for you. We'll have a little more time than that to complete the wedding rings." Kevin and Cam looked at each other and nodded in agreement. "Can you estimate the the price for each pair of rings for us?" Kevin asked. Abernathy looked at Cecile Nolan and said, "Depending on what chips you select and whether you want gold or platinum rings, I would estimate engagement rings which would interlock with the wedding rings at something in the range of $3,000 for each set. They could be more or less than that, however, depending on the stones chosen and the base material of the rings themselves." Cam blinked, but Kevin didn't react at all. They looked at each other for a long minute, and then nodded. "We can do that," Kevin said. Cecile smiled, her intuition about these boys having money once again confirmed. "George, let me draw up a contract, take finger measurements, and accept a down payment," she said. "Excellent," Abernathy said, and looked at the boys. "I look forward to working with you on what I can promise will be beautiful works of art that you will treasure. You'll let me know about the ring composition and which stones you want for chips within a few days?" "Yes," Kevin promised. He looked at Cam. "Although there's no reason why we can't choose the ring composition now, is there?" "Fine with me," Cam said. "I'll be very happy with gold rings." "Me, too," Kevin agreed. "Can we look at some wedding rings now?" "Absolutely," Cecile Nolan said. "Why don't we step over to the ring counter?" The four of them walked over to a brightly lighted counter, and Cecile began pulling out displays of men's gold wedding rings. Cam and Kevin studied them carefully and eventually chose a broad ring with a pronounced filigree around the circumference. "That's a beautiful ring," George Abernathy said. "And it's broad enough that crafting an interlock with the engagement ring won't be a problem. When you let me know what chips you want, I can begin creating the engagements rings." "We'll think about the chips over the weekend," Kevin promised. Abernathy handed them each his card. "Gentlemen, it's been a pleasure," he said, offering his hand to each of them. "I look forward to hearing from you." "Thank you for your help, sir," Cam said. "We'll be in touch with you on Monday with our decision about the chips." "Good," Abernathy said, and walked away toward the door to his workshop at the rear of the store. Cecile then took their finger sizes, completed a standard contract with the particulars, and ran Kevin's credit card for a down payment of $3,000 for the rings. After finishing up, she stood and shook hands with them warmly and thanked them for their business. Really pumped, Cam and Kevin left the store and walked back toward the Porche. "I'm glad we made a start on getting our rings," Cam said. "And I think we stopped at the right store to get that done." "Me, too," Kevin said. "And the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of having engagement rings! You're so creative sometimes you blow me away!" "Well, thanks!" Cam put his arm around Kevin as they walked along and gave him a little shake, and then let him go. "How do you feel about things?" Cam asked. "I don't mean just getting the rings ordered. I mean about life in general. With me." "I feel good." "You're gonna have to do better than that," Cam said. Kevin stopped walking and turned to Cam, who also stopped walking and pivoted toward Kevin. They looked each other in the eye. "Do you remember the first time I came into your bedroom in San Rafael to get in bed with you, back when we were in high school?" Kevin asked. "When I was getting in bed with you for first-time sex, I mean? Or more precisely, to make love to you, as clumsy as I was back then?" "Yes. I was so excited I could hardly breathe." "Me, too," Kevin admitted. "Well, that's the way I feel right this minute. Except that now I'm more deeply in love with you than I was back then. Now I've learned what loving another person, namely you, really means. And I hope I'm more ready and skillful and determined about showing you that love when we're in bed." He smiled. "Or even at times like this in public, standing on the street in downtown L.A." And Kevin put his arms around Cam and drew him in and kissed him on the mouth right there on Rodeo Drive. And didn't let go of him for a long minute. When he did let go, Kevin added with a grin, "Just to keep things in perspective, you always make me hard. And Casey always helps me remember that real love also has a pure and innocent component to it. That's a royal flush in the card game of life if I ever saw one." "Yeah. I agree," Cam said. He looked tenderly into Kevin's face, and was stunned to see tears in his partner's eyes. "Kev, what's the matter?" "Nothing's the matter. I just have never been sure that you were absolutely, completely healed from what those assholes did to you down the beach--until we sat down in the jewelry store to order our rings. Now I know for sure. So I'm totally happy and in love with you and confident about our future." "Kevin, I am totally healed. I didn't know you were still worried about me." "I didn't want you to know. It's really behind us now, and once the upcoming trial is over, the thought of what you went through is never going to enter my head again. Or yours, I hope. You're so strong, you amaze me." They embraced and kissed again, and the two of them resumed walking back toward the Porche hand in hand in silence. Cam felt weak in the knees that Kevin had confirmed his love for him and his confidence in their future the way he had. * * * After Cam and Kevin had left the jewelry store, Cecile Nolan walked over to John, the young man who had first greeted Kevin and Cam so coldly when they came into the store. She gave him hell for being so judgmental and unpleasant. "This is the twenty-first century, young man! You can't tell from the way people are dressed when they come in here how much they may spend. You'd better change your attitude and sharpen up your instincts about people if you want to continue working here!" Cecile told him. "You could have had a commission on seven or eight thousand dollars worth of jewelry, and now you get no commission at all." John grimaced and started to walk away. "Oh, and by the way, when you see gay couples come in here, you'd best give them a warm welcome!" Cecile had continued. "If you can't do that out of plain decency, just remember that their money is as green as anybody else's!" John slunk away, hanging his head. * * * The ride back toward Malibu was uneventful. Cam found a pop station on the radio, and the two of them sang along to some of the songs they knew. Cam reached over when they re-entered the I-10 and held Kevin's hand, relinquishing it only when Kevin needed it to shift gears and maneuver around other cars. Cam called Maria to check on whether they needed to stop at a grocery for any last minute items for the Thanksgiving meal. Maria said they were in good shape and didn't need anything. Cam glanced at his phone, and saw that it was almost 11:30 by the time they were back on surface streets in Santa Monica. "You hungry?" he asked Kevin. "I could eat something." "There a Mickey D's up ahead on the right. Let's stop there." "You're a good co-pilot, dude," Kevin said, downshifting as he slipped into the right lane so he could enter the parking lot. "You're too kind," Cam said. "Let's go inside to eat. I don't want food spilled on the seats." Kevin pulled into the parking lot, and found a space. He locked the glove box and made sure he and Cam had their sunglasses, and the two of them walked through the drive-in line of cars and into the building. They each ordered quarter-pounders with fries and cokes, and soon were sitting in a booth and chowing down. "I hope this meal doesn't make you fat," Cam kidded his partner. Kevin laughed. "Not when we're running eight miles a day, it won't." "Speaking of eight miles, I read an interesting article about exercise the other day on the computer." "Yeah?" Cam drank some coke. "Are you going to enlighten me?" Kevin asked. "Well, some researchers are saying that extreme exercise may let loose some harmful free radicals in the body, and that's not good." "Motherfucker," Kevin said quietly. "Isn't there anything in life that doesn't have a down-side to it?" he demanded. "I don't know," Cam said. "But maybe we should cut our usual eight miles down to six. And make sure we don't overdo it in the gym." "Can you find the article again? I'd like to check out the info before we make a decision about that." "I can find it." "Good deal," Kevin said. "I'll read it tonight." They finished up their meal and Cam belched quietly but unmistakably into his fist as they threw out their trash and stacked their trays. "That was good," Cam said. "Tasty!" Kevin agreed. "Bad for us, but tasty." When they went out into the parking lot, they found a small group of boys standing around the Porche, admiring it. "Sup?" Kevin asked the guys as he and Cam approached. "This yours?" a tall, athletic-looking black kid wearing Adidas running shorts and shoes asked him. "Yeah," Kevin said. "You like?" "Fucking beautiful," the kid said. "How fast will it go?" "I don't know," Kevin said. "Cam?" "I don't know either," Cam said. "It was my dad's before he died, and I've never had the pedal to the metal." "What's the top speed on the speedometer?" the kid asked. "250 kilometers/hour and some change, and the speedometer says in smaller numbers that's about 160 mph." "Holy shit!" the kid said. "Fer sure!" Cam said. Kevin went around the guys and got into the driver's seat, and Cam in the passenger seat. "Have a good day," Cam told the boys as Kevin started the engine, which burbled and then growled as Kevin backed up and pulled away to get back on Santa Monica Boulevard. Fifteen minutes later they were parking the Porche back in the garage. Kevin killed the engine, and he and Cam re-covered the car with the tarp and went into the kitchen. Maria, Catherine and Mary Carson were sitting in the breakfast nook having a cup of coffee and talking. "Hello, ladies," Kevin said, bending down to kiss Catherine's cheek. "Everything under control?" "Yes," Catherine said. "Hear the silence?" "Yep, you're right," Cam said. "It's quiet. Where are Casey and the savages?" "Casey and all the guys are over at the Miller's pool, with Ian and Father Mason," Mary said. "What have you two been up to?" Cam and Kevin looked at each other, and Cam nodded affirmatively at Kevin. "We were shopping for our wedding rings on Rodeo Drive," Kevin said. "They're going to be specially made for us." "Specially made wedding rings?" Catherine questioned. "I figured you'd be getting married at some point, but I didn't know it would be soon." "Yes," Cam said. "We're aiming for a date in February. And we're kind of blazing a new trail," he added, chuckling. "We're going to have engagement rings made for each of us--very slim, with chips of diamonds, or rubies, or emeralds, set around the circumference. They'll interlock with broad gold wedding rings when we marry. We have to call the designer by next Monday to confirm what gems we want. We can't wait to see them!" "You're engaged?" Mary asked, her eyes wide. "When did this happen?" "A few days ago, just before you came down here," Kevin said, smiling. "We were going to tell everyone at Thanksgiving dinner, but what the heck..." The three ladies stood up from the table, and Cam and Kevin were enveloped in hugs in short order. "I'm so happy for you two," Mary Carson said, kissing each of them on the cheek. "But you haven't set a date yet?" "Not yet," Kevin said. "As Cam said, it will be sometime in February after Cam's eighteenth birthday. We'll want to work with everybody's calendar so there are no conflicts for the family, and we'll have to clear the date with Father Ryan so St. Dunstan's can be reserved for the ceremony." "Father Ryan will probably want to have some counseling sessions with you before the ceremony," Mary predicted. "You're probably right," Kevin agreed. "Oh, this is so wonderful!" Maria exclaimed, hugging the two of them again and kissing them. "I hope my family will be invited. My boys just think the world of you two, I hope you know that!" "Of course your family will be invited," Cam said. "You know how we operate here. We're all part of one family." Cam looked over at his mother, who stood there with tears were running down her cheeks. He stepped over to her and put his arms around her. "Please don't cry, Mom," he said, feeling as if he might tear up himself. "It's just that all my prayers for you two have been answered," Catherine said. "I'm so proud of you both, and I know you're going to have wonderful lives with each other and with Casey." She embraced Kevin then, and kissed him soundly on the cheek. "Do you want to keep this quiet, or can we blab it to everybody we know?" Mary asked with a smile. "It's in the public domain now," Kevin said. "Just let us go over the pool first and tell the rest of the family. The guys will be mad if we aren't the ones to tell them directly, and I don't want to find ourselves mano a mano with William and Andy Helder." "Of course," Mary said. "Shall we change and go over for a swim, ladies?" she asked. "I need to get busy making beds," Maria said. "Do you know what you want for supper?" "If we have shrimp in the house, let's barbecue those with some potatoes au gratin and have them with succotash," Kevin suggested. Cam shook his head and laughed. "Succotash! You're weird," he said. "That sounds good to me," Mary said, and she and Catherine and Kevin and Cam went upstairs to put on swim suits as Maria headed for the freezers in the garage to bring large bags of shrimp and succotash into the house to thaw in the kitchen sink. Kevin and Cam petted and talked to the dogs while they waited on the deck for Catherine and Mary. Cam noticed that Sean Miller's deep frier for cooking the turducken along with a third grill had joined their own two grills on the deck. Mary and Catherine soon came out of the house. "You ladies look good in your swim suits," Kevin said as he and Cam stood up. And he was right. "You sure know how to talk to the ladies, Kevin," Catherine said. "Well, Cam and I are gay, not blind," Kevin responded. They all laughed and headed next door to the Millers' pool. They went in through the gate to find Father Mason, Ian Carson and Sean Miller and all their buddies all laid out in chaises or on the pool deck, soaking up the sunshine. "Hey, look who have finally graced us with their presence," William said, looking up when he heard the gate open. "The party can start now," Cam said as they entered the pool enclosure. Cam and Kevin laid out their towels on the warm cement. "Hey, Cam and I need to tell you all something," Kevin said after getting a nod from Cam. Everybody looked Kevin curiously, and he didn't keep them waiting. "Cam and I are engaged to be married, and we'll be asking for the church's blessing some time in February." The young guys all jumped up and mobbed the two guys, giving them hugs and congratulations. Ian and Father Mason and Sean Miller followed the pack, offering handshakes, hugs and congratulations. "Father Jim, we'd like to ask you to hear our vows and bless our union at St. Dunstan's, if you'd be so kind," Cam said. "And we'll be asking Father Ryan to offer the Mass." "I'll most likely have moved down here to L.A. by then, and I will be honored to do that," Father Mason said. "And I'm sure you can count on Father Ryan to celebrate the Mass." Kevin looked at the boys. "You guys will all be part of the wedding party. We just have to figure out a date that's good for everybody, and work out how everybody will fit in." "It'll be a party to end all parties," Berto said. "I can't wait. And it won't hurt my feelings to be coming down here to L.A. in the middle of winter instead of toughing it out in San Rafael." "I know what you mean," Cam told Berto. "Kevin and I really like the weather down here." "Do you have your rings yet?" William asked. "Funny you should mention that," Cam said. "That's where Kevin and I went this morning--to make arrangements for our rings." "What will the rings look like?" Dan Emrick asked. "We'll each have two rings," Kevin responded. "Two rings?" Ian asked. "What's the deal with that." "Well, we decided that we're going to get engagement rings that we'll wear 'til we're married, and then add the usual wedding rings to them. The engagement rings will be thin gold, with diamond or ruby or emerald chips around the circumference. We have to let the designer know by Monday which gems we want," Kevin said. "The wedding rings will be gold as well, but broad with a filigree. They'll interlock with the engagement rings." "That's new," William said. "Cam's idea, and we really like it," Kevin said. "That's so cool!" Art Smith told them. "The jewelry stores will love you guys if the idea of men wearing engagement rings catches on," Berto said. Everybody laughed, and then headed for their sunbathing spots. Cam and Kevin picked a spot, laid their towels side by side on the warm concrete. They slathered sun block on each other and lay down. Kevin reached over and took Cam's hand and held it. "Love ya, bud," he told Cam quietly. Cam's response was to pull Kevin's hand over to him and kiss it, saying nothing. They lay there about forty-five minutes, and then Cam got up went over to Dan Emrick, bending down and waking the boy up from a nap. "Hey," Dan said. "Let's take a walk on the beach," Cam told him. "OK," Dan said, yawning. He got to his feet and stepped into his flip-flops. The two guys walked down to the hardpack next to the water, and started walking in the same direction the gang ran every morning. Cam put an arm around his friend just to make contact, and then released him. "How are things going for you?" Cam asked after a few minutes on the beach. Dan looked at him, and smiled. "Good, I think. No problems." "How are your grades?" "I'm doing all right. I got all A's except for one B+. I'm on the Dean's list, but in our house, that's no big thing. Everybody's on the Dean's list, or else they face the wrath of Catherine. She keeps pretty close tabs on all us guys on school issues. She always makes herself available if one of us is having any problem with one of our classes." Cam chuckled. "That's my mom. She was on my ass and Kevin's ass all the time when it came to our studies. Are your mom and dad OK with it when Catherine gets involved with you guys like that?" "Mom and Dad love it!" Dan said. "To tell you the truth, Mom and Dad and your mom are a troika when it comes to parenting. None of us guys gets away with anything, not even William. And you know how he likes to test limits." "Yeah, for sure. So you're feeling pretty positive about things, huh?" "Pretty much." "Well, what aren't you feeling positive about?" Cam asked. "You won't say anything to anybody if I tell you?" "I hope you know by now you can trust me to keep my mouth shut," Cam said. "Yeah. Well..." Cam didn't say anything, walking along and waiting for Dan to feel comfortable enough to say what was on his mind. "I still don't know whether I'm gay or straight," Dan said. "And that bothers me. A lot." "Are you dating anybody?" "Yes. I'm dating a girl named Sandy Monahan. I don't know whether you remember her or not..." "I think I do," Cam said. "Cute girl. Blonde, about 5'7". Good personality, if I'm thinking of the right person." "That's Sandy. She's cool." "Sounds good. So what's the problem?" "She wants to fuck, and I'm scared to go there." "Well, I think you're right to be a little cautious," Cam said. "I don't want to sound parental, but I hope you'll always use protection when you're gettin' it on with somebody new. And don't go crazy with multiple partners. Remember how much trouble William got into when he was fucking anything in a skirt?" "I do. But I'm kind of avoiding the issue with Sandy. And to be honest, I still like looking at guys in the locker room," Dan said. "Who do you think about when you jack off?" Dan's face turned red, but he didn't hold back. "Sometimes I think about Sandy, and sometimes I think about the last guy I saw in the locker room." Cam put his arm around Dan again and gave him a little shake. "Listen, dude, I honestly don't think you need to be worried. Plenty of guys your age haven't settled for themselves just where they fall on the orientation spectrum. But either way you go, no matter whether you fall in love with a boy or a girl, any relationship needs a lot of work. Sexual compatibility and the attraction you have for your partner's body is important, but there are so many other factors involved that bring us happiness or misery in any relationship." "Your relationship with Kevin doesn't seem to take a lot of work. It looks like smooth sailing to me." Cam laughed. "We make it look good, I'll admit, but sometimes we could kill each other. But we make sure we get over it fast. We do that for ourselves, but we also do it for Casey. It's not good for kids to experience a lot of tension in the relationship between mom and dad, or in our case, dad and dad. Good sex helps keep things positive, but if that's all a relatlionship has going for it, it's not enough." They walked along as Dan thought over what Cam had said. "One more thing," Cam continued. "I don't want to play the religion card, but you need to have a little confidence that whatever your orientation is going to be, you still belong to God, and He loves you and wants the best for you. Along with that, remember that if you're gay, you're fortunate to have a family and a church family that will support you and love you no matter what. Take that to the bank." Dan gulped and lowered his head. "I love ya, man," he said. "You don't know how much it means to me to be able to talk to you about all my shit. If I do turn out to be gay, I'll be wishing you weren't already taken. I love ya to death, Cameron." The boy stopped walking, and pulled Cam into an embrace and kissed him on his cheek. "I love ya back, Dan. You're my bro and I'll always have your back, no matter what." At that point they turned around and walked back toward the house, and Dan was feeling good about things. "Now it's my turn," Dan said. "How are you really doing?" "I'm good." "Well, I've been talking to you and feeling good about it," Dan said. "Who do you talk to?" "Kevin, mostly." "And what if the problem is with Kevin?" "To tell you the truth, we don't have a lot of problems, but sometimes I use your brother Carl as a sounding board. He has a good head on his shoulders, and I can trust him not to blab anything I say to him." "Wow," Dan said. "I didn't know that, so I guess that confirms what you said about Carl being trustworthy. He's never told me anything about you and Kevin and your relationship." "Yeah, it does confirm that," Cam said. "So you don't have anything you're worried about these days?" "The only thing I'm worried about is the court trial for the guys who fucked me up down the beach. It's coming up in a week or so. The DA's office is telling me that I probably won't have to testify because one of the assholes who fucked me up is turning state's evidence, but we'll have to see whether that holds true or not." He gestured at one of the houses they were passing. "There's the house where it all happened." Dan studied the house before turning back to Cam. "As far as the trial is concerned, you'll do all right, no matter what," Dan insisted. He looked at Cam. "We were so worried about you after what those guys did to you. When your mom got home to San Rafael after she came down here to see you, she'd cry every night when she thought no one could hear her. And my mom would cry right along with her. We were all praying for you, even William. I'd hear him say your name in the Prayers of the People at Mass." "I'm grateful for the prayers, Dan. Thanks to those prayers, and to Kevin, and to a great doctor, I made it. But I was pretty messed up for awhile." Dan looked at him. "You're back to being the same Cam I knew when we were all living together in San Rafael. Thank goodness for that!" "Damn straight!" Pleased with their conversation, the two guys continued to walk back toward the Millers' pool. When they got there, they turned to each other before they rejoined the family. "Thanks for talking to me," Dan said. "You give good advice, and I appreciate it. I hope I can call you when I want to run something by you." "You know you can. And you don't have to have a problem to call me. Just call to say, 'hey!'" Cam pulled the boy into an embrace and held him and kissed him on the cheek. "Love ya, dude." "Back atcha!" Dan was all smiles when they walked back through the gate. * * * During the early afternoon, Susan and Sean Miller and their maid Juanita Fuentes brought out platters of cold cuts and rolls and condiments, along with fruit juice for the guys and beers and wine for the adults, and everybody chowed down. After letting the food digest a little, Ian, Fr. Mason, Sean and the young guys took a net out to the beach and set up to play volleyball. Berto and William chose up sides, and the games commenced. Berto's team edged William's team for two victories, and the third and final game was won by William's team. William was his usual competitive self, but he didn't seem too bothered that his team had lost two games. They took down the net, and headed back toward the Millers' swimming pool. After putting the net away in the pool house, they guys all dived into the water to cool down. Kevin and William ended up near each other, and William swam over beside Kevin. Uncharacteristically, he put an arm around Kevin. "Dude!" William said, "I'm really happy for you and Cam, and I'm really looking forward to the wedding." He cleared his throat. "There's no doubt in my mind that you two and Casey are going to be a very happy family." "Thanks, William. I feel the same way. I appreciate the good thought." Kevin gave William a hug. "What about you? Are things going all right?" "Yes and no." "Are you and Alicia still tight?" "Yes. I'm enjoying the relationship while I can." "Whaddaya mean?" "Well, we have one more year to enjoy high school together, but her parents are pretty much set on having her go to Wellesley in Massachusetts for college. That's where her mother went. And I really want to go to Stanford. And to Stanford Law for graduate school. So if we eventually end up together, it would be a miracle." "Oh man! How do you feel about that?" Kevin asked. "Kind of down, to tell you the truth." "Hey, a year is a long time. But things could turn around. The unexpected can happen. That Cam and I are on the brink of being married is kind of a miracle. That we get to raise Casey together is a miracle. Conventional wisdom says that people our age sometimes aren't able to form relationships that last. But that's not always true. So..." "We couldn't be that lucky," William said. "Yes, you could," Kevin contradicted. "I guess we can always hope." "It'll take more than hope, I can tell you that. It will take a lot of perseverance, but if you two really love each other, it could happen!" Kevin insisted. "Well, thanks for the vote of confidence," William said, hugging his friend and kissing his cheek. As the sun began to set, Catherine looked over at Sean and Susan Miller. "Why don't you come over for supper tonight? Kevin decided we're going to have barbecued shrimp, potatoes au gratin, and succotash. And ice cream for desert, if I know the guys." "Well..." Susan said, looking at her husband. "That sounds really good," Sean said. "I haven't had succotash in a while. What time?" "Come over about six o'clock," Catherine said. "That will give us time for a drink before we eat. And bring Juanita with you." "All right. You're speaking my language," Sean said. "Ian and I will have a chance to set up our schedule for cooking tomorrow." "Good call," Ian said. Ian, Mary, Catherine and Father Mason headed for home to get dressed as the boys all jumped into the pool for one last swim before supper. * * * Supper was a big success. Kevin took over barbecuing, using three grills to cook the large and juicy shrimp. Maria set the huge dining room table, fixed the succotash and the potatoes, and at the last minute created a huge green salad with tomatoes and green peppers before she left for home to feed her own family. They all gathered around the table, and Father Mason offered thanks. "The Lord be with you." he said. "And also with you," the family responded. "Father, we are grateful for this repast, thanking you for your bounty and praying that your generosity will also find those who who have not been as blessed as we are. We are grateful for one another, and especially grateful this evening for the news that Cameron and Kevin are engaged to be wed. We ask for your continued blessings upon us all and upon this food which we are about to eat. All these things we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord." The family said "Amen," and made the sign of the cross as the men seated the women first before sitting down themselves. Kevin had moved the highchair between his own seat and Cam's so they could take turns feeding Casey. After feeding the little guy some baby food, Kevin began to give him little bites of shrimp, making sure that there wasn't too much barbecue sauce on them. Casey liked the shrimp, and eagerly accepted what his dad gave him along with small pieces of potato and some kernels of succotash. The little guy banged his fists on the tray when the food didn't appear in front of his mouth fast enough to suit him. Meanwhile, Cam continued to fill his and Kevin's plates with more food as it was passed around the table. He had eaten a large first helping of everything without delay so he could take over the responsibility for feeding Casey. After Kevin finished his own first helping, Cam had restocked his and Kevin's plates, and they ate a healthy sized second helping. In the midst of free-flowing conversation around the table, Sean Miller offered to start cooking the turducken in his special cooker on Thanksgiving Day. "Are the turkeys and the turducken thawed out?" Sean asked. "They will be by morning," Catherine said. "Maria took everything out of the freezer this morning, so they've been thawing all day, a few hours on the kitchen counter alternating with a few hours in the refrigerator. They're back in the refrigerator right now, but they'll be ready to cook by tomorrow morning." "I love it when a plan comes together," Sean said. "I'll start the turducken cooking about 5 a.m." "You don't have to," Ian said. "I can do it." "I'm used to getting up early from working on movies that need morning light," Sean said, "so I'll do the turducken. I'll leave it to you to put the turkeys on the grills at some point before we go to church They probably won't have to cook as long." "Getting up that early is the price of fame, I guess," Ian laughed. "Anyway, you've got yourself a deal for tomorrow morning," Ian said. "We'll leave the sliding doors to the deck unlocked, and the turducken will be in the kitchen fridge." Sean looked at Ian across the table. "Speaking of plans coming together, did you and George Eisner at Magnum Studios ever get together when it comes to your firm doing some legal work for them?" "Yes," Ian said. "I have a lady staff member coming down here from San Francisco two or three days a week, depending on the workload, to consult with Magnum's in-house counsel. George likes her, and so far things are going well." The conversation turned to other subjects, and eventually the topic moved around to football. William talked about San Rafael High School's team for the following Fall and their chances for glory, and then the discussion moved to the NFL and the possibility various teams to would have a winning season in their various conferences. Kevin didn't add anything to the discussion, and Mark Carson waited to see if Kevin would eventually share his poor opinion of the game under its current rules. But Kevin didn't say anything. After supper, all the boys cleared the table, scraped the plates, and put everything in the dishwasher. "Let's play some cards," Berto suggested after the kitchen was shipshape. "Oh, man!" William complained. "If you're the big winner again tonight, the rest of us are going to kick your ass." "Promises, promises," Berto said. "Here's my message to you, dude..." Berto formed his thumb and index finger in a big 'L' for 'loser,' and held it up to his forehead. The guys all laughed at William as they headed back to the dining room table. The adults had all left for the living room by then. Cam and Kevin took some leaves out of the table to make it smaller, and the boys pulled chairs up to the table. Cam took cards and a caddy full of poker chips out of the sideboard and put them in the center of the table. "You should ask the grownups if any of them want to play," Berto suggested. "I don't mind taking their money. In fact, I kind of like it." "You're so freaking greedy I can't believe it!" Andy Helder said with a chuckle. "No offense, but that's a fact." The boys all laughed and nodded in agreement. Cam went into the living room and issued an invitation, and Sean Miller, Father Mason and Ian Carson took them up on it. Kevin put a leaf back in the table to enlarge it for the newcomers, and it was game-on. By 11 o'clock, the time agreed upon for shutting down the game, Berto, yet again, was the big winner. This time, Carl Emrick was the big loser, with William Carson not far behind him. "Hey, feel free to give me a call if you need money," Dan Emrick told his brother. "At a low interest rate, of course. We're family!" Dan had done better than break even. The boys did a quick clean-up of the room, and then most of the guys headed upstairs for bed. But Cam and Kevin put leashes on the dogs and went out on the beach. "Berto's smarts at poker is fucking amazing," Kevin said as they walking toward the water. "Do you think he's counting cards? I think that's what they call it." "I don't know whether you can count cards in poker," Cam said. "But if he's not, he's one lucky SOB. At this rate, he'll die a rich man, that's for sure." The dogs both stopped to pee, and when they stopped walking, Cam reached over and felt up Kevin between his legs. "I'm so fucking horny for you, I can't stand it," Cam said. "Ditto," Kevin said. "It's great having the guys down here, but it's frustrating not to be able to have sex with you whenever we're in the mood." "When the dogs have done their thing, let's use the downstairs bathroom again and do our thing," Cam suggested. "I love the way your mind works," Kevin told Cam, and leaned over, putting a hand behind his partner's head, and gave him a long, juicy kiss. Their bladders empty, the dogs tried to get the guys to take a long walk down the beach, to no avail. Five minutes later, Cam and Kevin were in the downstairs bathroom, naked, Cam on his back with his legs in the air, and Kevin's big, hard dick was moving slowly up into his partner's body. When he was in, Kevin lay down on Cam and looked into his eyes. "I can't even begin to tell you how much I love you," Cam said. Then Kevin began to pump, and the ecstasy began building for them both.
  6. Don H

    Chapter 64

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 Cam woke up about 2 a.m. on the morning of the Magnum Studios trip. The only noise in the room was from cool air blowing out of the air conditioning ceiling ducts and the soft snores of the guys sleeping here and there around the master bedroom. Cam was snuggled up to Kevin in the the middle of their huge king-size bed, with Dan Emrick at his side and Mark Carson next to Kevin on the other side of the bed. Cam put his mouth to Kevin's ear. "Hey, Kev," he whispered. Kevin stirred, and then his eyes popped open to look at his partner. Kissing Kevin's ear and keeping his mouth there, Cam whispered, "Let's go downstairs for a few minutes." Kevin at first looked at Cam uncomprehendingly in the dim night light from nightlite the bathroom, and then a big smile broke across his face. He nodded, causing Cam to smile back as he moved away from Dan Emrick and stepped over the boy to get out of bed. Kevin carried out the same maneuver, extricating himself from beside Mark Carson. They both walked into the bathroom, where they found and put on their bathrobes before they exited the bedroom. None of the guys stirred as Cam closed the bedroom door quietly and he and Kevin made their way downstairs to the first floor. They heard Alice's and Samantha's tails thumping on the floor in greeting as they walked down the hall past the study, but the dogs stayed where they had been sleeping and didn't come out to see them. "I'm so horny for you I can't stand it," Cam whispered to Kevin. "Let's use the downstairs bathroom." "You're speaking my language," Kevin told his partner sotto voce, pulling Cam close to him and feeling up his ass as they walked farther down the first floor hallway. "I was hoping you didn't bring me down here in the middle of the night just to chat." Cam chuckled. They went into the bathroom at the end of the hall, flicked on the overhead light and closed and locked the door. Shedding their bathrobes, they spread them out on the rug before dropping their boxers and lying down facing each other. The house was silent as Kevin clasped his partner's body to himself and looked into his eyes. "I love you so much, Cameron," Kevin told him. "I don't tell you that often enough, and I'm sorry I don't." He paused. "You and Casey make my life worth living. I hope you know that." "Yeah, I do. Back atcha." Cam kissed Kevin on the lips several times, the last time inserting his tongue into Kevin's mouth before drawing back and looking at his partner. "Sometimes I just want it quiet, with nobody else around, when we make love." He smoothed some errant hairs of Kevin's black crewcut back from his forehead. "I dig having the whole family down here, y'know, but right now I just want to hold you and touch you when there aren't any distractions." He put his hand on Kevin's face and held it there for a minute, and then caressed him. Kevin nodded. "Yep." He rubbed Cam's nose with his own. "I know." He gave Cam a long, juicy kiss, and began to rub his partner's hairless chest, pausing occasionally to pinch a nipple gently, first one and then the other, and then putting his head down to lick them and nibble on them. "Oh-h-h," Cam breathed in and out in pleasure, his toes curling and his free hand reaching over to Kevin's beautiful, developed pecs to massage them. They erected quickly, and Cam reached down and palmed Kevin's long, thick cock, which finished firming up at his touch. He gently stroked Kevin's hardening penis for several minutes until a drop of precum appeared in the slit, and then he swiveled around and began to suck on his partner's cock. His position put Cam's package right in front of Kevin's mouth, and he engulfed Cam's dick, taking it as far down his throat as he could as he held Cam's big balls in his hand. Neither of them moved at first, and then they began to thrust slowly and deliberately into each other's mouth, fully enjoying the moment with their heads between muscular thighs. Their precum began to flow freely into the moise caverns of their mouths. Cam and Kevin were nothing if not perseverant, and they continued to pace themselves as they emitted growing sounds of pleasure. Each of them thrust a middle finger up his partner's ass and found and massaged the prostate it found up there. It was a good fifteen minutes before they began to suck each other in earnest and, unable to hold back, finally ejaculated almost simultaneously, each flooding his partner's mouth with cum as they groaned in release. They came down slowly from their sexual high. Cam eventually worked to turn himself around after they had cleaned off each other's dick by mouth, gleaning every drop of juice as if it were nectar. "You taste so good," Kevin whispered to Cam. They kissed deeply, sharing their essence, and then dozed off in each other's arms for a good half-hour before waking up again, totally relaxed and happy and feeling the love they had for each other. "Cam?" "Yes?" "I know we've mentioned it before, but what would you think about getting married as soon as we can?" Kevin asked out of the blue as they continued to lie on the floor, holding each other. "I'm gonna be 18 in January, and you'll be 18 in February." Cam kissed Kevin's chest and looked him in the face. "I've been thinking about it for awhile, and I want to. I mean I really want to." "I know there's nobody else for me but you for a partner in this life," Kevin told him. "I feel it deep in my gut every time I look at you, dude. It's not just your beautiful body and the sex, as great as they are. It's the love I have for the total you." "Same here," Cam confirmed. "And my life, our lives, would never be complete without Casey, either. I can't even put into words how much that little boy has enriched my life and our relationship." "I know that's true!" Kevin agreed, nodding. "He's one little guy who has all the love he can handle." "He's not that much over a year old, but he kinda already has his shit together, y'know. Whenever he's doing something, he focuses on it completely. Sometimes I think he's already more mature than I am about some things." "Well, let's not go overboard, bro," Kevin said, smiling. He thought for a minute. "But you're right, he's an amazing kid. He's really an easy baby to live with. Easier than you sometimes." "Now who's going overboard?" Kevin laughed and kissed his partner again. "Let's get back to getting married," he said. "Right. Thank goodness we don't even have to travel out-of-state anymore to get married now that the California and Federal courts have done the right thing," Cam said. "And the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has been on board with blessing same sex unions for a long time now." "I know. Not only can we get a blessing in church, we can follow it up with a party to end all parties here at the house, or close by, or even in San Rafael," Kevin enthused. "When do you want to do it?" "Well, we won't be 18 until the new year rolls around anyway, so it would have to be in 2015 for sure. What about our next Spring vacation--all the guys would be on a break from school at that point, and so would Mom at Stanford. As long as Spring vacation's not in Lent, because the Church discourages marriage blessings in Lent." "You're so well informed," Cam said slyly, giving him another kiss. "Are you thinking about a service down here, or in San Rafael?" "I don't know, and I really don't care. I'd prefer to do it down here, but we do owe the family a visit up north, y'know." Kevin said. "Maybe several visits. I'm flexible, though. If we did it down here, it'd be one more excuse to get everybody down here. And maybe we could even sneak off for a few days alone for a honeymoon with someone here to be with Casey." "Now that sounds great! Let's visit some jewelry stores this week to look at some wedding rings. We'll have the Magnum visit out of the way as of later today, and we could run off for a few hours tomorrow without being missed too much," Cam said. "Nothing too flashy when it comes to the jewelry, but I'll want the world to know that I have you for a life partner after we tie the knot!" "OK. And we can announce our engagement at Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow if you want to," Kevin suggested. "I like that idea!" Cam said. "A lot." He put his nose to Kevin's chest and inhaled his scent. They lay there, just holding each other in the deep silence of the house. They dozed off and awakened several times before they eventually stood, washed up a little, put on their boxers and their bathrobes, soul-kissed one another lovingly yet one more time, and headed upstairs. When the two of them entered their bedroom and walked quietly toward the bed, William Carson raised his head where he had been sleeping on the floor and gave them a sleepy grin and a thumbs-up. He must have suspected they'd been doing more than just talking during their absence. William doesn't have a clue just how apropos that thumbs-up was now that we've decided to get married!! Maybe he's fucking psychic, Cam thought to himself as he shrugged off his robe, climbed over Dan Emrick into bed and pulled the sheet up to his chest and back over Dan. He and Kevin clasped one another closely as they drifted off to sleep again in the center of the bed. This is everything love is supposed to be, Kevin thought to himself with satisfaction as he basked in the heat from his partner's body. * * * Berto Hernandez and Maria Romero's older son Juan had run only five miles that morning of the Magnum trip, so they had already showered, dressed and eaten breakfast by the time the rest of the gang had run their usual eight miles and returned to the house. Catherine and Mary did a few perfunctory cool-down stretches on the deck when they got back, and immediately headed for their showers in the house. Cam stripped off his soggy T-shirt, stuffed it into the back of his running shorts, and had just given the dogs fresh bowls of water on the deck. He was preparing to do his post-run stretches when William Carson, dripping with perspiration, walked over to him, grabbed Cam's ass and simultaneously rubbed his sweaty face across Cam's back. "Gotcha," William said. Completely taken by surprise, Cam yelped, "You dick!" and chased his tormentor off the deck and down to the bay's edge as the boys back on the deck, and even Father Mason and Ian Carson, started to laugh. William then ran into Santa Monica Bay up to his hips, and Cam went right after him, quietly spouting obscenities and tackling him into the water. "What the fuck!!?" Cam yelled at William when they came up for air. William broke away from Cam, and swam into deeper water. "That was for pushing me into the pool yesterday," he told Cam. "Well, at least the pool water was clean," Cam said, starting to laugh despite himself. "Your sweat is fucking toxic, you douche." "Are we even?" "Hell, no, dickhead! You grabbed my ass!" "And why not?" William said, chuckling. "The way you flaunt it in front of God and everybody. . ." "I do no such thing!" Cam protested. "You must like what you see, though." "Not necessarily," William said. "But I've seen worse, I'll say that." "Thanks, I guess," Cam laughed, deciding to let the whole thing go. "Come on, we hafta grab a shower and eat some breakfast before our ride to Magnum shows up." "Yeah," William said, walking back toward the shore. He got to where Cam was standing, and threw an arm around his neck as they walked on to the hardpack toward the deck. "I'm sorry I messed with ya. Sort of." "OK," Cam said. He put his arm around the boy and gave William's body a gentle shake as they walked into the dry sand. All the runners had disappeared into the house by that time, and when they reached the deck, Cam used the hose and washed the sand off himself and William, curtailing his temptation to stick the hose down William's running shorts or squirt him in the face. Then he slid open the door and looked and listened to see if there were any women in the hall. No was was there, and Cam stripped off his dripping wet running shorts, jock, T-shirt, and socks out on the deck, and then wrung the water out of them. William followed his lead, and carrying their wet stuff, the two boys ran into the house naked and hurried up the stairs to the master bedroom. When they went in, the room was full of boys in the buff, stripped in preparation for a shower, scattered around the room everywhere. "Have you guys turned nudist?" Andy Helder asked with a grin at Cam and William as the two of them scooted into the room naked as the day they were born, quickly shutting the door behind them. "Is there any money in it?" William quipped. "You know it!" Andy said. "Under the right circumstances." "We'll talk later," William told Andy with a wink. Cam went into the bathroom, snagged a laundry bag from where it was hanging on the back of the bathroom door, and brought it into the bedroom. "If any of you guys want your running gear washed, put it in here, and I'll throw your shit into the washing machine before we leave." He and William shoved their own damp clothes into the bag. "I want all you boys to smell minty fresh when we run tomorrow," he said. The guys jeered. A naked, grinning Kevin came over to Cam and, putting a hand on his neck, guided him toward the shower. "Come on, let's get to it, Nature Boy," he said. "Yep," Cam said, dropping a hand to his partner's well-rounded, muscular butt as they went into the bathroom and claimed the shower heads against the far wall, two above them on the ceiling and two at waist level. Andy and Carl and Jeff and Art followed Cam and Kevin them into the shower. Steam soon began billowing toward the exhaust fans in the ceiling as the boys soaped up under the hot water. Cam kissed Kevin on the lips as the water began pelting their bodies. "I loves ya," Kevin said as he began to wash Cam's back and his ass. "Loves ya back," Cam said. He put his lips to Kevin's ear and said, "I'm still so fucking horny for you. We need to find some privacy after we get home from Magnum. I wanna go again." "Fuckin' A," Kevin told him quietly. "You're speaking my language." As usual, Cam and Kevin took their time washing each other, still touchy-feely despite having gotten off in the middle of the night. As usual, they relished every opportunity that life gave them to touch one another physically. They didn't try to hide that they were half hard by the time they emerged from the bathroom to get dressed, but the rest of the guys pretended they didn't notice anything untoward as everyone finished showering and pulled on their boxers, shorts, polo shirts and sneakers for their day at Magnum Studios. Once dressed, Cam grabbed the laundry bag, now completely stuffed with damp running clothes, and carried it down the upstairs hall to a laundry room. He emptied the jocks, shorts, socks and T-shirts into the machine, added soap, and started the wash cycle before heading to the kitchen for breakfast. Maria had fixed bacon and scrambled eggs along with pancakes for the adults and the ravenous boys, who had gathered around kitchen counters, standing up and eating. Father Mason returned thanks before they dug into the food. Life is so good, Kevin thought to himself as he stood beside Cam at the kitchen counter scarfing down a great breakfast. Mary Carson was feeding Casey. Kevin was thinking positive thoughts about life in general as he watched his brothers and their adult mentors eat their meal, and made up his mind right then and there that he would go along with Cam's request to get trained as an altar server at St. Dunstan's, as Father Ryan had asked. That would make Cam happy, and it would make the priest happy, and it was the least he could do for the good life he had, especially now that he and Cam had decided to marry. And if Carl Emrick knows what's good for him, he'd better agree to get trained as an acolyte, too, Kevin thought to himself. Cam ate his breakfast, and then went upstairs to move the guys' running clothes from the washer to the drier. While he had a minute, he pulled his cell phone out of the pocket of his shorts and called Sean Miller next door. Miller answered the landline. "Mr. Miller, this is Cam. We're getting ready to leave for Magnum Studios. Samantha and Alice are tied up on the deck, and they have fresh water right now. If you have time, could you check later this morning and see that they have water in their bowls?" "I sure will, Cam. At some point I have to bring the turducken cooker over to your house anyway, so I'll take care of the girls. You all have a good time at the studio, now." "Will do. And thanks." * * * The whole crew, dressed in shorts, T-shirts and sandals, had no sooner gathered outside than Father John Ryan's car pulled into the driveway and disgorged the priest and his three children. "I think everybody remembers these folks," Cam said to the crowd, "but if you don't, this is Father Ryan, and Samuel, Joshua and Rebecca." People milled around making themselves known again to the Ryans. Father Ryan shook hands with his friend Father Mason, who was now dressed informally in a golf shirt and shorts, and gave him a long hug, patting him on the back. "Good to see you, John," Father Mason said. "You and Lisa will be here at the house for Thanksgiving, right?" "Yes," Ryan said. "We need to talk," Jim Mason said. "I'm going to see my mother tomorrow morning, but from what my sister has been telling me about Mom's struggle with Alzheimers, I'm going to have to move down here sooner rather than later." "We'll talk," Ryan said. "The vestry and I have set aside funds to put you on staff at St. Dunstan's whenever you get down here. For a long time now I've needed more help than a part-time deacon can give me, so we're ready for you start work here whenever you are. The parish is growing." "Thanks, John. I hate to leave St. Andrew's and San Rafael, but I don't have any choice. Knowing I'm going to have a job and a spiritual home and an altar here is going to ease the pain of moving. I'm looking forward to being here and spending more time with my mother before it's too late So thanks for making room for me." "Good, then," Ryan said, and looked around for his older son and beckoned to him. "Samuel, come here." The priest reached into his pocket and brought out some currency, handing it to the boy. "In case you three need something extra on this little jaunt." "Thanks, Dad," Samuel said. "Be good, and have a good time," Ryan said. "We're always good," Joshua told his dad, and the crowd snickered. "Yeah, right," Father Ryan said. "Glad to see you all," he said to the group. "See you Thanksgiving Day." "Looking forward to it," Ian Carson said, shaking hands with Father Ryan and walking the priest to his car. "You and Lisa come early and stay late," he added. "Will do." "And we'll see you on Thanksgiving morning for Mass," Ian added. "Good deal, Ian," the priest said. Father Ryan had no sooner pulled away than a shiny, black, medium-sized Mercedes Benz bus, able to accommodate perhaps thirty people, swept down the entry road into that part of Malibu from the Pacific Coast Highway and made its way toward Cam and Kevin's house. The bus pulled up at precisely 9:00 and the door opened. The boys waited until all the adults had boarded before they got aboard themselves with a little good-natured pushing and shoving. Cam and Kevin sat together side by side, as did Carl and Andy, and the rest of the guys scattered around the bus. Cam noticed that Art Smith and Jeff Miller sat with each other. Catherine had Casey in a sling around her neck at that point, and the little guy was babbling away at his grandmother. Mark Carson and Dan Emrick were sitting together and each listening to tunes on their IPods, moving their heads in time to the music. The vehicle smelled new and was immaculately clean, Ian Carson had noted as he and his wife Mary had found seats in the front row. Ian was pleased to see that the driver was the same man who had picked them up at LAX the day before. "I guess you know we're going to Magnum Studios, Andrew," Ian said to the driver. "Yes, sir," the man said. "We should be there in about 45 minutes. The traffic in that direction sometimes starts to lighten up by this time in the morning." "Good," Ian said. "As long as we're there by 10 o'clock, we'll be in good shape." "No problem," the driver said. "Will there be any difficulty parking there?" Ian asked. "No, sir. There will be plenty of room." Cam saw Ian talking with the driver, and came to the front of the bus to join the conversation. "Everything good?" Cam asked the two of them. "Yes," the driver said. "Mr. Carson was just asking about parking at Magnum Studios. There's plenty of room there in the lot for the bus." The driver had remembered Ian's name, no doubt because of the nice tip Ian had given the man the afternoon before when the northern California people had arrived in town. "Super," Cam said. "We're going to take a tour of the studio, and then have lunch about 12:00 or shortly thereafter with Mr. Eisner, the CEO. I don't think there will be a problem if you want to join our group for the tour and then lunch at the commissary." The driver smiled. "Well, that's nice of you. Thank you very much." "Sure," Cam said, bumping fists with Ian before strolling back to Kevin toward the back of the bus. Ian was reflecting on Cam's invitation to the driver for lunch as Andrew turned the bus around and headed toward the Pacific Coast Highway. "Cameron is a good-hearted young man," he said to his wife quietly after sitting down. "He thinks about other people all the time, and that's a great trait," he told her. "I know," Mary said. "Mark and Dan and Berto are the same way. But I don't know about William." "I think William's going to be all right," Ian said. "We have another year before he heads to college, and we'll work on that issue some more before he leaves to be on his own." "Well, he has a good example in you and the other boys," Mary said. "Thanks, sweetheart," Ian said, clasping his wife's hand. "That's always nice to hear." They settled back in their seats to watch the scenery flash by as the bus moved along toward their destination through some light smog. There was a hum of conversation as the boys talked to each other while others played games on their phones. The vehicle arrived at the studio gate a few minutes before 10 a.m. A uniformed guard stopped them at the opening to the parking lot, stepping up to the bus driver's window. Cam went forward again and gave the guard his name through the window. The man looked at a clip board he was carrying and then gave the driver directions to the parking lot. When the guard nodded to a co-worker in the guard shack, a striped gate pole rose into the air to admit them, and Andrew drove to a portion of the lot reserved for buses. When the driver opened the door, an attractive young lady dressed in blue slacks and a white blouse with "Magnum Studios" embroidered on it stepped into the doorway. "Good morning," the young woman said. "My name is Marie Anderson, and I'll be your tour guide this morning. Is there a Mr. MacKenzie aboard?" The wise-ass guys in the back of the bus all pointed at Cam and hooted, and he blushed and went forward to greet their guide. "Good morning," Cam said as he shook Marie's hand. "Good morning," Marie said to Cam. "Welcome to Magnum Studios, sir. If I could just have a word with the group, then we can get started." "Of course," Cam told her, and then raised his voice. "Listen up, please, especially you troublemakers in the back of the bus." The guys wanted so badly to give him the finger, but they restrained themselves and fell silent. "We're pleased to have you here today to visit where movie magic is made the Magnum way," Marie said. "This is a special tour this morning, in that our boss, Mr. George Eisner, has made special arrangements for you to view some of the studio facilities and activities that are normally off limits to visitors, and then to eat lunch in the commissary." Everybody looked pleased to hear that they were to have special privileges. Marie went on to stress as they got off the bus and were gathered in the parking lot, that it would be helpful if the group stayed together as they were conveyed by people carriers and then walked to view the staff at work and the facilities. They would actually get to see scenes shot on some of the sound stages with stars, extras and crew members on sets which were usually closed. She emphasized that once the director on a closed set had given the signal for shooting a scene, visitors had to remain perfectly quiet. "I probably don't need to tell you that if a director hears any noise or disturbance of any kind," Marie said, "filming is immediate curtailed and the set is closed to visitors right away. That would obviously be very embarrassing to your host, Mr. Eisner, so I urge you to comply with that request." . "Time permitting," Marie continued, "Mr. Eisner has arranged for you to have an opportunity to say hello to the cast members and directorial staff at the completion of any scene which has been shot." "Yeah," Andy Helder whispered to William Carson, "don't fuck this up." "Shut the fuck up," William mouthed at him silently. Marie said their initial stop would be at rest rooms in case of need, and then they would proceed to the points of interest. At the end of the tour, they would go to the commissary for lunch with Mr. Eisner. After the opening announcements, they all disembarked the bus to board a long people carrier, which made a first stop at a rest facility, as promised. Everybody departed to do their business. William stood at a urinal beside Kevin in the men's room. "I hope you have your shit together today," Kevin told him. "Why would anybody think I'd be anything but a model visitor?" William demanded with a grin. "Because we know you so well," Kevin said. "Don't be a dick, or we'll send you home in a taxi. I hope you have money for that, 'cause otherwise it's a long walk to Malibu." "I'm always a model of decorum," William said. "So don't get your little pea brain in an uproar." "I'm gonna beat the shit outta you before your trip down here is over," Kevin threatened. "That's a promise." "Why in the world would you want to do that?" William asked, shaking off and zipping up. "Don't make promises you can't keep!" "Believe me, I don't," Kevin said with a laugh, finishing up and going over to a sink to wash his hands. "I'll just let Carl take you down a peg." "Carl can't do shit," William said. "Really? He's a wrestler, asshole, and he can take me down," Kevin said. "So I don't think he'd have much of a problem with you. But if he did, Andy will take over and hurtcha bad." "Humph!" William said scornfully, as he soaped his hands, rinsed them, and then dried them on a paper towel before they headed back out to the people carrier. He knew that Carl and Andy were formidable in a one-on-one fight. Once the visitors were back aboard, the people carrier began to wend it's way deeper into the heart of the Magnum Studios' lot. Cam noticed that the farther they went, office buildings somewhat smaller than the large Magnum brick headquarters building at the entrance gave way to huge metal buildings that looked like warehouses. At their entrances, a few of the warehouses had red lights flashing over signs with a legend which said, "FILMING IN PROGRESS. NO ENTRY!" They eventually stopped at one of the warehouses. There was a light and sign there, but the light was flashing yellow, not red. Marie the tour guide unhooked a microphone at the front of the people carrier, and said, "This is our first stop. Director Mario Netcas is filming the inside scenes of a musical love story set in Rome, Italy, on this sound stage. I've been informed that the stars of the film will be singing to a musical background provided by members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Gustavo Dudamel. Just a quick reminder: once the music and filming begin, strict quiet will be required. Mr. Eisner had to practically beg Director Netcas to let your party view this filming as a special favor, and he agreed only out of respect for the friendship he had with Alex MacKenzie and John Kelley. But any noise from any of us, and Director Netcas will throw us all out with no second chances. Every scene costs thousands of dollars to film, so I do ask again for your cooperation in maintaining complete silence." "Should I remain outside with the baby in case he wakes up?" Catherine MacKenzie asked Marie. "No, ma'am," Marie said. "There is a small soundproof room on the set where you can sit with the baby and take in everything that's going on," Marie said. "Thank you so much," Catherine said. The crowd filed off the people carrier, and Marie led them to the door and pushed a button. A private, uniformed cop opened the door and eyed Marie. "Yes?" the man asked. "This is the MacKenzie party," Marie said. "Mr. Eisner has arranged with Director Netcas for them to view the filming of the next scheduled scene." The guard took a clipboard from a hook beside the door, and scanned it. Finding an entry, he pulled a pen from his shirt pocket and made a check mark. "Yes, your group is scheduled." the man said. "Is the group is aware of the rules for silence during shooting?" he asked. "Yes," Marie said. The guard swung the door wide and used his foot to push down the door stop to hold the door open. "Please follow me," the guard said, and led the group to a carpeted area with upholstered seats. "Be seated, and please remain quiet while the scene is being set up." Marie had a word with the guard, and he nodded and led Catherine, holding a still sleeping Casey, to a small, glassed-in area with seating in it. Catherine went in, and the guard shut the door. Cam looked around the room, which was cavernous. The ceiling was dotted with banks of lights, mostly aimed at the stage which was perhaps 100 feet from the seating area for visitors. The back of the stage was green screen. Some of the lights were illuminated at that point, and some were not. The orchestra was seated facing toward at one end of the elevated stage, with shared music stands for each two performers facing the paired musicians. Microphones were hanging from the ceiling to pick up the music when the musicians began playing. Maestro Dudamel, whom Cam recognized from TV and from pictures in newspapers and magazines, was wearing earphones and standing at the side of the the orchestra. He was intently watching the film's assistant directors on stage moving cast members around to their marks. When the cast members were all in place, one of the assistant directors nodded at Director Netcas, who was wearing earphones with a mic on a short boom. Netcas said, "Lights" to another assistant, who pointed at a glassed in control room hanging above where the MacKenzie group was seated. A switch was thrown, and additional lights illuminated the stage with a bang as they came on. "Camera," Netcas said quietly. Then he pointed silently at the orchestra director and then at the stage. Dudamel waved his baton at the orchestra, and a cascade of full-bodied music washed over the cast and the visitors into the huge space as the music conductor partially turned to watch the action on stage. Cam glanced over at his mother, holding Casey in the special booth, and Catherine's eyes were closed as she heard the music and enjoyed it. At Dudamel's gesture, a lady cast member began to sing in a beautiful soprano voice, soon joined by a man singing tenor in what proved to be a moving duet. Cast members comprising a small choir subsequently joined the two soloists in harmonious support of the melody. The guys generally weren't fans of classical music, but they and the adults were captivated by what they were hearing and seeing. Kevin reached down in the semi-darkness to grasp Cam's hand as the music of the orchestra and the singers' voices rose and fell over a ten minute period. Cam looked over at his partner, whose eyes were also closed as he listened to the performance streaming into their space. The orchestra brought their accompaniment to a close as the film director Netcas quietly said, "Cut!" and the instruction was repeated in a louder voice by an assistant director. "Scene 24B," one of the assistant directors said after a nod from Director Netcas. "That's a wrap!" Many of the musicians, the cast and the observers in the MacKenzie party began talking to one another. Marie Anderson picked up a microphone and addressed the visitors. "Director Netcas and his assistants, along with cast members and Conductor Dudamel and the orchestra members, have graciously consented to make themselves available to meet the visitors in the MacKenzie party," Marie said. Catherine emerged from the glass enclosed seating area with Casey in his sling, now awake, and joined the line of adults and the guys waiting to meet Mario Netcas along with the assistant directors, and then Maestro Dudamel and the orchestra members. When Cam reached Director Netcas in the line and introduced himself by name, he was unprepared for the warmth of the director's greeting. "Are you related to the late Alex MacKenzie?" Netcas asked. "Yes, sir. I'm his son." He turned to Catherine and Kevin. "This is my mother, Catherine MacKenzie, and this is my partner, Kevin Stoltz and our son, Casey. Thank you so much for letting us watch the filming." "I'm so glad to have you here," Netcas said. "George Eisner is a hard man to say 'No' to," he added, laughing. "But I'm pleased to have an opportunity to meet you all." He looked at Cam. "I hope you know that your dad and his partner John Kelley did great work before their untimely deaths. I can't begin to tell you how much I learned about my job as a filmmaker by watching them at work when I was an assistant director." "You're so kind to say that," Cam said. He couldn't help tearing up momentarily when he heard the director say what he did. "Their loss to the community of the arts was a real blow," Netcas added. "I hope you'll come and see me sometime, and we'll talk." "Thank you, sir," Cam responded, and then moved on to the actor/singers and the rest of the movie staff so that the adults and the guys behind him could meet everybody. He was then led over to the orchestra, where he introduced himself to Conductor Dudamel. "MacKenzie?" Dudamel said when Cam shook his hand. "Were you related to Alex MacKenzie?" he asked with a Spanish accent. "Yes, sir. He was my father." Dudamel touched his arm warmly. "I was hurt by his passing away," the young man said. "I had the privilege of working with him several times on movie scores. In my opinion, he was a genius. I miss him to this day." Once again Cam felt moisture in his eyes. "You're very kind, Maestro," Cam said. "He's very much missed." Cam introduced his mother and Casey and Kevin to the young conductor, and Dudamel engaged Catherine and Kevin in conversation, and caressed Casey's head with the assurance of someone who had a child of his own. Cam and Dudamel shook hands again, and Cam moved down the line to greet the members of the orchestra. After the group had had an opportunity to say hello to everyone on the set, Marie herded the visitors together, and they headed for the door. Cam turned for an instant before leaving, and glanced back at Netcas and Dudamel, who were talking with each other and looking at the departing crowd. Cam waved good-bye to them and they waved back, and the group walked back to the people carrier. "It's good to hear Alex and John so well spoken of, isn't it?" Kevin said to Cam. "It really is," Cam said, putting a hand up to shield his eyes as tears flowed. Kevin put his arm around his partner, and kissed the side of his head as Cam dashed the tears from his eyes and eventually smiled. The next stop on the agenda was an open-air set with cowboys and horses on a dusty, unpaved street of a simulated town. Marie led the tour group to a spot directly behind the director and a camera on a boom riding along rails at the side of the street. The scene being filmed was a group of men riding into town to get themselves a beer in a bar. Dust squirted out from under the horses' hooves as rode in, stopping at a hitching rail and tying their horses to it before going through a doorway into a poorly lighted barroom. That scene was a wrap, and the next scene was filmed inside the tavern with the thirsty cowboys getting a drink of "beer," which Marie later told them was actually ginger ale. After a meet and greet with the staff and actors, it was back to the people carrier for travel to the next set, on which a man and a woman, lovers in the story, strolled along a walkway to which would be, via green screen, a scene of Manhattan and the Hudson River. Things didn't go as the director wanted, and the scene had to be re-shot several times. There was no music, and Cam surmised that, if there were to be any, it would be added later. The director and the cast were not in a very good mood due to the do-overs, but the staff and actors were still cordial to Cam, Kevin and the other visitors before Marie ushered them off the sound stage and back to the people carrier. It was then 11:45 by then, and at Marie's suggestion, the group headed for the commissary building for lunch. George Eisner was already there at the entrance, accompanied by Natalie Renner, his beautiful executive assistant. As had been true the first time she had met Cam, Kevin and Carl when they had come to the studio for lunch, Natalie was not shy about studying the boys and their bodies as she and Eisner were introduced to everybody. Cam watched Natalie as she and William were introduced, and if William had been a bird dog, he would have been on point. Cam poked Kevin, who laughed out loud when he observed the vibes between the young man and the woman. When everyone went into the huge facility to go through the food line, Natalie stuck to William like glue, and sat down next to him when they found spots at one of the long tables in the commissary. Right next to him. William looked up and caught Cam's eye, and they both grinned from ear to ear. "Natalie, are you in school and working part-time, or what?" William asked Eisner's assistant. The young woman told William that she was a UCLA grad in theater, but was taking some graduate courses at the film school. That started a long dialog between the two of them which continued apace. George Eisner stood between Cam and Kevin at one of the long tables. Before they could start a conversation, Father Mason stepped up and said, "The Lord be with you." Members of the group who had already sat down before going through the line rose from their seats and said, "And also with you." "Let us pray. We thank you, Father, for the great gift of companionship that we have enjoyed today. Bless the skills of the artists who lift us from the mundane in daily life by making movies and music. We also ask you to bless the food which we are about to receive to our use, and us to your service, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Everyone in the group made the sign of the cross, saying, "Amen," and then formed a line to take trays, pick up silverware and napkins, and then file past a variety of entrees, side dishes and desserts. "This food looks really good," Carl Emrick told George Eisner, who was just ahead of him in line. "It is good, Carl," Eisner told him. "I hope you'll enjoy it. We want people to have a good meal when they're visiting or working here." Carl leaned forward and introduced the CEO to Andy Helder, who was just behind him in line. "Glad to meet you, Andy," Eisner said, shaking hands. "Carl mentioned you when he was here with Cam and Kevin at the studio for lunch not too long ago." "Good to meet you, sir," Andy said. "Refresh my member, Andy. Are you in school at UCLA?" Eisner asked. "No. I've been attending St. Francis University in San Rafael. But I'll be transferring to UCLA starting next semester." Eisner smiled. "I don't suppose that has anything to do with the fact that Carl is down here, does it?" Andy was unflappable. "It has a lot to do with that, actually," he said unapologetically. Carl blushed. "Well, good," Eisner said. "What are you studying?" "I'm taking a bunch of liberal arts courses right now, but I may be a business major like Carl when all is said and done." "Hmmn. Well, come and see me here at the studio at some point before you get your degree. Or we can talk at church some Sunday. Maybe we can make a film producer out of you. We need people who know how to evaluate and sell films and raise money for them. A good producer knows hos to squeeze a nickle until George Washington is riding on the eagle's back." Andy chuckled. "I'd really like to explore some job possibilities with you when the time comes," he said. "Thank you." The most popular meal at the commissary that day was roast beef and all the trimmings, and most of the boys went back for seconds before they helped themselves to apple pie a la mode for dessert. After everyone had eaten and they'd talked for awhile, George Eisner stood up and looked at the group. "Thank you all so much for touring Magnum and having some lunch," he said. "It's been a great pleasure to have you here." The group members applauded, and then formed a line to meet him and say good-bye to him. When Ian Carson came by, he introduced Mary and himself. "Hello, Mrs. Carson. Ian Carson?" Eisner said, taking stock of Ian. "Are you the Ian Carson who is president of the California Bar Association?" "Yes, I am," Ian admitted. "I'd like to meet with you while you're here," Eisner said. "Will you be in LA all week?" "Yes, I will." "Can I reach you at Cam and Kevin's house on Friday?" "Yes. Why don't I give you my cell number." Eisner turned and beckoned to Natalie Renner, who reluctantly left William's side and walked over to him. "Natalie, meet Ian and Mary Carson," Eisner said. "This is Natalie Renner, my administrative assistant. Natalie, take down Mr. Carson's cell phone number so I can reach him later this week." "Yes, sir," Natalie said, pulling a little note pad from the pocket of her dress. Ian gave her the number, and she wrote it down and thanked him. "Ian, I can come to you for a meeting if that would be more convenient," Eisner said. "I understand you and your wife belong to St. Dunstan's Church," Ian said. "We're all going to Mass on Thanksgiving morning. If you're going to be there, why don't we meet for a few minutes after the service? That'll save an extra trip." Ian smelled some business in the offing. "Great idea!" Eisner said enthusiastically. "I'll look forward to seeing you then." He turned to Mary Carson and took her hand again. "Mrs. Carson, I'm delighted to have met you." "You as well," Mary said cordially. "Thank you so much for your generous hospitality today." "It's been our pleasure, believe me," Eisner said. The entire group began to walk toward the people carrier outside of the commissary building. "Natalie, call the office and tell them you and I are coming back on a people carrier," Eisner said. "They don't need to send a car for us." "Yes, sir." Ian sat with Mary, with George Eisner in a seat right across the aisle. The two men leaned toward each other and started a conversation which would last until the people carrier reached the Magnum Headquarters building. When Natalie Renner had boarded, she'd gone toward the back of the people carrier and sat down next to William, with Cam and Kevin right behind them. Cam and Kevin watched William and Natalie interact with each other with amusement, knowing exactly what was on their minds. If they could get away with it, they'd strip and fuck each other right here in the aisle, Kevin thought to himself with a smile on his face. The people carrier dropped off George Eisner and Natalie Renner at the entrance to the headquarters building, and then went back to the Mercedes bus in short order and the group got aboard. Andrew fired up the bus after everyone was seated, and they made their way to the Magnum Studios' exit. Pulling out on to the street, they started toward Santa Monica and Malibu. Cam and Kevin were sitting on the bus immediately behind William, who was sitting alone. Cam leaned forward. "You and Natalie seemed to hit it off," he suggested with a straight face. William turned in his seat and grinned. "You bet. Beautiful woman." "Yeah," Cam agreed. "She stuck pretty close to you." "True," William admitted. "Do you think she knew somehow that you have a big dick and like to use it, or did you tell her outright?" Cam asked, trying not to laugh out loud. William did laugh out loud. "I didn't tell her that, but I seriously doubt if she was thinking about my anatomy." "Get real!!" Kevin interjected. "Your crotch was very much on her mind." "Sex is all you two think about," William declared. "Sex has been known to occur to us," Cam admitted. "But back to Natalie. I don't suppose you shared with her that you're still in high school." "Well, no. The matter never came up." "Would I be right in thinking that something came up, though?" Kevin asked. "Maybe," William said. "Just like I'd guess it did for you two during your little hiatus from the master bedroom last night." "We don't have a clue what you're talking about," Kevin said. "We just wanted a drink of water." "You may have moistened your lips during the wee hours, but I doubt if it was with water," William insisted. "You're such a nasty, suspicious, San Francisco metro jock boy," Cam said, trying not to laugh. "No, I think San Francisco is more your kind of town," William retorted. "Cam and I will have to get up there sometime and take you on a real tour of the city," Kevin said. "You'll never think of sex the same way again." "Promises, promises. We may never know, will we?" William said. "By the way, if I can get a date with Natalie sometime this week, can I borrow one of your cars?" "That would be suborning child abuse--on her part," Cam said. "You being the child. Besides, we don't want cream and other juices all over our rich, Corinthian leather." "Never mind. I have a hunch she'd be willing to pick me up in her car." "Could be. But what about Alicia?" Kevin asked. "Well, Alicia knows I have needs." "I'm sure she does. Let's not dwell on the obvious," Cam said. "We'd better change the subject." "Change the subject to what?" William asked. "Can you keep your mouth shut until Thanksgiving?" Cam asked. "Yes." "Kevin and I are going to get married. During Spring vacation in 2015." "All right!" William looked genuinely pleased. "Congrats, guys." "We're gonna announce it at Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday," Kevin said. "It'll be a big surprise as long as you keep quiet about it." "I promise I will on one condition," William said. "There are no conditions," Cam said with a scowl. "One condition. I get to be best man for one of you. That way I could give at least one of you some badly needed sex tips." Cam and Kevin looked at each other. "You take him," Kevin demanded. "No, you take him. I want Berto for my best man." "Just a minute. Let's flip a coin," Kevin said. "Let me see if I have my two-headed Kennedy half dollar on me," pretending to reach into his pocket for change. "Don't be a dick," Cam suggested. "I'd rather have Casey for my best man than William." The quiet wrangling continued on various topics until the bus pulled into the driveway in Malibu. The gang, except for Ian, Cam and Kevin, got off the bus, thanking the driver as they passed by him. They headed for the house, and Ian pulled out his credit card and handed it to Andrew. Cam told Ian to take his card back and put it away. "Ian, you can't keep paying to bring everybody down here from San Rafael, and then pick up the tab for everything we all do while you're here," he said. "Kevin and I want to pay for this trip." He handed his own credit card to the driver, who sat there not knowing which card to use. "You and Kevin are still in school," Ian responded. "Half of the people who went on the trip today belong to Mary and me," Ian responded. "You and Kevin are doing enough by just putting a roof over our heads when we visit." "You've paid for enough," Kevin said. He reached over and took Ian's card out of Andrew's hand. But instead of handing it back to Ian, he put it in his own pocket, stepped out the door of the bus, and walked toward the house. Cam laughed at Ian. "See what happens when you're stubborn." Andrew ran Cam's credit card through a processor connected to a smart phone, and they concluded their business. Cam thanked the man and gave him a nice tip in cash. "See if you can get my credit card back from your klepto partner," Ian told Cam with a grin as they walked toward the house. "Meanwhile, thanks for the trip. Not only was it fun and interesting, but George Eisner and I are going to talk after Mass on Thanksgiving morning. I'm the rainmaker at my firm, and maybe there will be some legal business in the offing." "Crafty!" Cam said. "No minute goes to waste for you, does it?" "Nope." * * * The guys wasted no time in changing into swim trunks and heading for the Miller's pool. It was a hot day for November, and soon the water was flying as the boys tried to drown each other. Things didn't calm down until the adults began drifting over from next door. Catherine had changed Casey into his swimming gear, and handed him down to Kevin in the pool. Kevin took his time getting the baby wet, not wanting to let the cool water shock his system. Casey loved the water, and Kevin supported his abdomen and let the little guy try to swim. When the boy tired of that, Kevin held him in his arms and crooned to him, repeatedly kissing his head and chest as he moved slowly around the pool with his son. Kevin eventually passed Casey up to Mary, who sat down with him. Catherine pulled a baby bottle out of a bag, and handed it to Mary to give the child some juice. He liked the taste of that, and sucked it all up before dozing off again. After a half hour in the water, Kevin got a soccer ball out of the Millers' pool house, and the boys and Ian and Father Mason hit the beach for some soccer. They were all back in an hour, dripping with sweat, and dived into the pool one after another to cool off. Cam swam over to Kevin and put his arms around his neck as they bobbed up and down in the water. "Hey," Cam said. "Hey," Kevin replied, leaning forward to plant his lips gently on Cam's. "Have you had a chance to talk to Mark Carson yet on this trip?" Cam asked when they stopped smooching. "Not really. Why?" "I was watching him a little today at Magnum and at the soccer game. He didn't look too happy. I don't mean he looked miserable, but he doesn't have the usual spark in his eye. Maybe you could check out what's going on with him. You know he has special feelings for you, so he'll talk to you." "I can do that," Kevin said. "That'd be good," Cam said. "Thanks." Sean Miller emerged from the house in his swim trunks just then and took a shallow dive into the pool, coming up out of the water near Ian Carson. "I bought a turducken this morning for us to cook for Thanksgiving, and I brushed the cobwebs off the turducken cooker in the garage," Sean said. "If you'll help me, we can carry it over and put it on your deck so we can fire it up bright and early on Thanksgiving morning. Early Thanksgiving morning." "Sounds good except for the 'carrying' part," Ian said. "Let's make a couple of these lazy louts here in the pool with us carry it next door," Ian suggested. "Of course!" Sean laughed. "What was I thinking?" "I'm used to having my boys around to do the chores," Ian said. "As they should," Sean said. * * * Kevin hugged and kissed Cam one more time, and true to his word, swam across the pool to Mark Carson. "You got time for a walk on the beach?" he asked the boy. "Sure," Mark said, eating up the attention. The two of them swam to a nearby ladder and emerged from the pool, grabbing their towels to dry off. They put on their sandals and headed for the beach. "How're things going?" Kevin asked when they reached the ocean water and started up the beach. "Pretty good," Mark said. "Well, you haven't seemed your frisky self this trip." Mark stared down at his feet as they walked along. "Is this between you and me?" he asked. "Of course." "I've just been thinking about how much better William is doing in life than I am," Mark admitted. "Being jealous of him makes me want to puke, but I really am jealous of him. He's the big football hero, and everybody loves him, especially the women. His grades are great, and Mom and Dad are always praising him. I know I shouldn't, but I feel like I'm not even in the game these days." "How are your grades?" "They're good. William and I are both on the dean's list. But..." "But what?" "Nobody is paying any attention when I accomplish anything." "Aren't you still playing soccer?" Kevin asked. "Yes." "What position?" "I'm a striker." "Cam and I played soccer. Midfielders. And we got our share of the limelight." "I remember. But you didn't have William for an older brother. And it seems more and more like football is the only sport people are really interested in." "I know what you mean," Kevin admitted. "Football seems to be king in the sports world. But I'm glad you're not playing football, Mark, and you should be, too." "Why is that?" "Because football is fucking dangerous for anybody who plays it, that's why. High school football is dangerous enough, college football is more dangerous than high school, and professional football is totally dangerous from the first snap. I try not to even watch NFL games anymore because it's so dangerous. And I don't want to support it by watching it on TV. I can promise you that Casey will never, ever play organized football if I have anything to say about it. Not even at the Pop Warner level. I worry about William, and I'm really hoping he doesn't get a football scholarship at Stanford or anyplace else." "Don't you think you're exaggerating the risks in football a little bit?" Mark asked. "No, I don't. I agree that administrators and coaches are working all the time to get safer equipment, and they've changed the rules to some extent to try to protect players. Quarterbacks like William probably don't face the same risks that linebackers and tight ends do, for example, but it's still dangerous. They still get hit. The human body, particularly the head and the spine, just aren't made to take the kind of punishment that's handed out to them on the football field." "Well..." "You don't think that the NFL settled with retired players for millions of dollars to cover their medical problems out of the goodness of their hearts, do you?" Kevin asked. "I suppose not." "I like Aussie-rules football, for example, because there are far fewer injuries. American football is just way over the top. I understand that there is some level of risk involved in all athletics. There are risks in life in general, and it's stupid to say otherwise. But at some point the level of risk is just too high in American football. Some players are eliminated by injuries during their playing years. But others never realize what's happened to them on the field week after week until they're in their fifties, when they come down with ALS or Parkinson's or other neurological problems with no cure, or at least no cure right now. These players took one too many hits to the head during their playing days, and not a lot of thought was given to the consequences by anybody. Professional football players take pride in playing through pain. The big bucks offered at the professional level in football make it difficult for young men, especially minorities from poorer families, to turn down. Let's not forget that before anything else, football is a business. Somehow we Americans have a love of violence in our lives, both on the field and off the field. And there's plenty of violence in football." "I admit I haven't given this a lot of thought," Mark said. "Well, to be fair, violence in football isn't the only danger jocks face. Medical experts are finding out now that artificial turf, or more precisely, what's under artificial turf, may be causing different kinds of cancer. They're still researching it, but artificial turf is laid down over ground-up automobile tires containing lots of chemicals, and every time you hit the turf, you pick up some of those chemicals in your lungs and on your skin. So even soccer and lacrosse players may be at some risk, not just footballers. Some venues that really care about those who who are playing sports have begun to take up the artificial turf to replace what the turf is currently anchored in. And I'm the first one to admit that the evidence isn't completely in on this particular issue. Yet. "I love sports," Kevin continued. "You know I do. But I just want you to assess some of the risks involved in being a jock, and being good at it. I love ya, Mark. I want ya to count your blessings and your gifts a little bit more when it comes to how you look at William's successes. In the final analysis, success isn't always quite what it seems. I appreciate your skills at soccer, and I'm not alone." Mark sighed. "I hear ya." "I don't want somebody else's success at sports or at anything else in life to bring you down, bud. I want you to be more realistic about your own strong points. You're really good looking, you have a great body, you're smart and a good student, you're kind, you're loyal to friends, you're a good son to your parents, and you're an exceptional jock. But I'm glad you're not the football hero that William is, for the reasons I just stated. I have all kinds of respect for your skill and accomplishments, and that's never going to change." "Thank you," Mark said. "I mean that." "I know you do. Uh, I hope you can keep my views about football under wraps for now. It'll just lead to a lot of problems and arguments." "Okay," Mark agreed. Kevin stopped walking and faced Mark, who stopped and looked at him. "Now, to Important Topic Number 2," Kevin said. "The last time we talked, you were wondering whether you're straight or gay. Have you drawn any conclusions about that?" "No. I've been dating some girls, and enjoying it." Mark paused and looked down at his feet. "But I still like to look at guys' bodies, too." Kevin smiled and pulled Mark into a hug and kissed him on the cheek. "That doesn't mean much. Most straight guys, certainly including your macho brother William, don't look away when there's a good looking, naked and really hung boy in the shower. Looking doesn't mean somebody's gay. More goes into the equation than that. Don't let anybody tell you different. But whatever your orientation turns out to be, you're going to be much loved by everybody who really knows you." "I need to talk to you more often, Kevin," Mark said with a smile. "Let me tell you again: I love ya, dude. Don't you ever forget that." "I love you, too," Mark said. The two guys turned around and headed back toward the house, both of them pleased with their conversation.
  7. Don H

    Chapter 63

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 Cam, Kevin, Carl and Art Smith were sitting in the study of the Malibu house on Saturday night before Thanksgiving week. They were watching television when Cam's cellphone rang. He checked the cellphone screen and recognized the number for Assurances. It had to be Jeff Miller. "Jeffie Miller," Cam said. "How they hangin', dude?" Jeff laughed. "Side by side, one lower than the other. As least the last time I looked. You ask me that every time we talk." "That's called called 'continuity of care.' If they were hangin' even, we'd have to get you checked out by a balls doctor," Cam said. "So, what's the good word about your furlough for this coming week?" "I'm all set, starting tomorrow," Jeff said. "Do you think somebody can pick me up?" "I do think somebody can pick you up. Now that I think about it, why don't we pick you up in time for church tomorrow? We're going to the ten o'clock Mass. Father Ryan will be glad to see you, and I think your parents will probably be in church. I know your dad is in town, 'cause I saw him from a distance yesterday." "You're the source of so many great ideas," Jeff said. "And that's one of your better ones." "Well, pack up your shit for the week, boy, let your parents know that we're picking you up, and we'll be by to get you about 9:30. Capiche?" "Capiche. And thanks." The guys looked over at Cam as he broke the connection. "Well?" Kevin said. "We have to pick Jeff up at 9:30 at Assurances," Cam responded. "But you knew that. You spied on every word I said." Kevin smiled. "I know. But you're tricky. Sometimes you say things to throw me off." Cam looked over to see if Casey was awake. He was dozing. "That's such bullshit!" he insisted to Kevin, speaking quietly so Casey couldn't possibly hear. "Unlike yours, my conversations are an open book." Kevin grinned and shook his head in denial. "Will you guys shut the fuck up!" Carl said. "I'm trying to watch this program." Cam and Kevin subsided, but each of them gave Carl the silent finger. * * * Cam and Kevin had Carl and Art up at 6 a.m. on Sunday so they could run. Another beautiful southern California morning was dawning, a little humid that day, but cool enough for running on the beach without too much discomfort. As usual, Alice and Samantha were ecstatic to be running with their humans, and they milled around while the guys did their warm-ups before hitting the beach. Because it was Maria's day off, Kevin stayed behind with Casey as the other guys began their run. He put the baby in a sling around his neck, and walked on the beach with him for a half-hour before bringing him back to the house for a bath, fresh diaper, and some breakfast. The little guy talked a mile a minute all the way down the beach and back, and Kevin noticed that more of his babbling was making sense as time passed. Kevin smiled and stayed in a dialog with him as much as he could. Casey was going to be a talker, for sure. Kevin put the baby in his upstairs crib after bathing and dressing him while he got himself showered, shaved, and dressed, then took him downstairs to the study and played roll-the-ball with him until the three runners returned from the beach. By the time they had showered, Kevin had fixed them scrambled eggs with toast and bacon, and poured them tall glasses of cold water They were trying to cut down on the orange juice because Carl had belatedly learned on the internet that it quickly turned to sugar when digested. "Thanks, babe," Cam told his partner, and gave him a hug and kiss before saying grace and sitting down to eat. "Yeah, thanks, babe," Carl told Kevin, mimicking Cam. "I didn't know you cared," Kevin told Carl. "Andy Helder will be surprised to hear that." "Andy knows he's Numero Uno with me," Carl said happily. "But I love all my bro's." And that was true. Cam cleaned up the kitchen after breakfast while Kevin checked out the diaper bag to make sure everything Casey would need was in it when they left for church. Cam set the house alarm and the four of them went out to the Highlander. Kevin got the baby situated in his car seat--the little guy was still in his usual good mood--and they headed toward Santa Monica with Carl at the wheel. They went to Assurances first. They pulled into the Assurances parking lot right at 9:30, and Jeff Miller came out of the front entrance carrying a duffel bag on his shoulder with clothes for the week. Carl hit the button to open the back hatch. Cam stepped out of the SUV to stow Jeff's bag in the cargo area, and then greeted his friend with a hug and kiss on the cheek. "Good to see ya, dude," Cam said as they got in the car. "Back atcha," Jeff said. Jeff said hello to Carl and Kevin, and Kevin introduced him to Art Smith. "Art's staying with us because of a family situation," Cam said. "I know how that goes," Jeff told Art. "I was fortunate enough the get the same hospitality from these guys when I needed it, and it literally saved my life." Art talked with Jeff all the way to St. Dunstan's Church, and got filled in on what Jeff was doing at Assurances to stay clean. Traffic was light, so getting to church didn't take long. Carl pulled into the St. Dunstan parking lot at 9:45, found a spot to park, and the five of them headed for the front entrance with Cam carrying the baby. Father Ryan was celebrating the Mass, and the altar party was gathered in the narthex. Kevin introduced the priest to Art. "Good to have you here, Art," Father Ryan said, shaking his hand. "And Jeff. I'm glad to see you," he said, giving Jeff a hug to welcome him back. The priest looked over at Cam. "I need to ask you a big favor." "Oh oh," Cam said. "I need another acolyte to carry to carry the processional cross. The person who was scheduled didn't show." "Cam's your man, Father," Kevin told him. "He's a well trained professional who's done this once before, and he's more than ready to serve the Lord." Cam gave his partner a dirty look, but then smiled and nodded to the priest. "All right, Father. I hope I don't mess up, though." "You'll do fine," Father Ryan said. He turned to one of the other young acolytes. "Mike, take Cam back to the servers' vesting room, and get him a black cassock and a surplice, and a pair of white gloves, and hotfoot it back here. I want to start the Mass on time." "Yes, Father," Mike said, and beckoned to Cam. They quickly walked down a side aisle, through a door into a back hallway, and went into a door labeled "Vesting Room." Going over to one of many sliding doors in the room, Mike opened it and pulled out a cassock, holding it up against Cam to check the fit. It was too short. Putting it back into the closet, Mike pulled out another cassock. Perfect. Cam stepped into it, putting his arms into the sleeves and shrugging it on over his shoulders. He fastened the front snaps while the young man went over to another set of doors and took out a freshly laundered, glistening white surplice. He helped Cam put it on over his head, and smoothed out the wrinkles. "Lookin' good, dude," Mike said, reaching into a drawer for some white gloves and handing them to Cam. "Put these on, and let's hit it." "Why the gloves?" Cam asked. "So you don't get fingerprints or sweat on the handle of the processional cross. It's brass." "Got it," Cam said. They retraced their steps back down the side aisle, arriving just as the celebrant put incense into the thurible and made the sign of the cross over it with the words, "Be blessed by Him for whom you are burned," and then the thurifer ran the thurible top back down the chains. Incense was billowing as Father Ryan offered an opening prayer for the altar party and then pushed a button on the wall to signal the organist to begin the processional hymn. The thurifer moved into the main aisle, followed by Cam with the processional cross, then Mike and another acolyte side by side, and finally the celebrant in cassock, alb, stole and chasuble. They moved down the main aisle toward the altar. The choir in the balcony sounded excellent, at least to Cam's untrained ear, as they led the opening hymn for the congregation. Cam glanced out of the corner of his eye at his family as he passed them. Kevin, holding Casey in his arms, was standing beside Art, Carl and Jeff, and Cam noticed that all the guys were singing from hymnals, or at least making an attempt to do so. Mr. and Mrs. Miller were standing on the other side of Jeff, and Jeff looked happy to be with them. That pleased Cam. Father Ryan's homily presaged the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, making a case that we should not only be thankful for what we have in terms of worldly possessions, but for who and what we are spiritually as human beings and followers of Christ. He didn't mention specifically the issues of race or sexual orientation, but the implications were clear to all those who knew the atmosphere of St. Dunstan's parish that parishioners here were welcoming and thankful for all who came through its doors. Art Smith, as he was to tell the other guys later, was very impressed with the message and with the Mass itself. Cam stood in the sanctuary to the side watching the altar during the service as the Father Ryan blessed the elements of bread and wine. He was interested to see the manual acts which a priest used in creating the Blessed Sacrament which would soon be administered to the faithful. When he glanced out at the congregation later during the Lord's Prayer, he saw Kevin holding their baby and looking back at him. Cam's and Kevin's eyes locked in a look of pure love, clearly thankful for the relationship they had with each other and for the little boy they shared. Kevin leaned over to Art in their pew just before Holy Communion was administered. "Are you baptized, dude?" he asked. "Yes," Art said. "You can received Holy Communion, then," Kevin told him. So Art went up to the altar rail with the family to receive the Sacrament. At the end of the Mass, Cam had a big smile on his face as, carrying the crucifix, he led the altar party back up the main aisle to the narthex during the recessional hymn. At least I didn't trip over my own feet and fall on my ass, he thought to himself with satisfaction. When the recessional hymn concluded, since their was no Deacon present at that Mass, Father Ryan offered the dismissal to the congregation: "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord." "Thanks be to God," the people responded. Cam fastened the cross to its holder on the wall in the narthex, and turned around to see Father Ryan offering his hand. "Cameron, thank you for your help. You did a great job. Would you consider becoming a regular acolyte?" "Well, I do think I should be doing more for our parish than just attending Mass. Let me talk it over with Kevin, Father." "Good enough," the priest said. "While you're at it, ask him and Carl if they'll serve, too, and let me know." In for a penny, in for a pound, Ryan thought to himself about trying to recruit Kevin and Carl. "I'll do that. Father, is your family all set to come over to our place on Thanksgiving Day?" Cam asked. "Yes. We're all looking forward to being with you. What time do you want us to show up?" "We're not going to eat until 4:00, but why don't you come over about noon. Make sure you and Mrs. Ryan and the kids bring your swimming gear. We're going to swim in the Millers' pool and maybe play badminton or touch football or something on the beach. It's gonna be a fun day!" "Excellent!" the priest said. "The kids are excited to be spending some time with you guys." "Same here," Cam said. "I think my family will probably all come to Mass on Thanksgiving morning, but you and I may not have a chance to talk then. So I just wanted to make sure we're on the same page, time-wise." "Thanks, Cam." While Cam and the priest were talking, most of the worshippers were going through a side door in the nave into the parish house for coffee and rolls. Father Ryan stayed behind at the front door to say good-bye to the few parishioners who didn't stay for coffee hour. Kevin, Carl, Art and Jeff Miller went into the parish house with Sean and Susan Miller, and Jeff introduced Art Smith to his parents. "I've seen a lot of your movies," Art told Sean Miller, "and really liked them." The two of them began talking while Susan Miller and the other boys went to get coffee and rolls for everybody. Samuel, Joshua and Rachel Ryan congregated around the guys as they all found a vacant table and sat down. Cam came into the parish house a few minutes later and joined them after shedding his vestments. Kevin had brought him coffee and a roll. Rachel Ryan immediately took charge of Casey, and began her usual thing of walking him around the huge parish hall with the little boy standing on her black patent leather shoes. Casey loved doing that, and everywhere Rachel walked him the people made a fuss over the child. "Kev and Carl?" Cam said. "You rang?" Kevin asked. "Father Ryan wants me to ask you something. And don't give me attitude about it." "Lay it on us," Carl said. "He wants to know if you guys will join me to get some training and serve as acolytes." Kevin groaned and Carl moaned, "Oh, man. . ." "Don't give me that," Cam said. "We should be doing something here other than just showing up and dropping a check in the collection plate." "Why don't we talk about it at home?" Carl suggested. "That way, if we say 'no' and you yell at us, you won't embarrass yourself." "You better say 'Yes,'" Samuel Ryan, the older of the two Ryan sons, told Kevin and Carl. "I know from experience that misery loves company." "I'm with ya there, bro," Cam said, smiling. He was sipping his cup of coffee and looking around when he spotted George Eisner across the room with a lady, his wife, obviously. She was svelte and pleasant looking, and beautifully dressed. Cam stood, picked up his coffee, and crossed the room to the couple. "Good morning, Mr. Eisner," Cam said. "Hello, Cam," Eisner said, shaking hands with him. "I'd like to introduce my wife, Karen." "How do you do, Mrs. Eisner?" Cam said. The beautiful woman offered her hand with a smile. "Good morning, Cam," she said. "George told me a lot about your visit to the studio with your partner Kevin and another young man--was it Carl?--a few weeks ago." "Yes, it was Carl. We all enjoyed ourselves so much," Cam responded. "We had a wonderful meal and got to see some of the headquarters building. And we saw a preview of my dad's last movie. The day was a real treat." "I was so pleased you three joined us," George Eisner said. "We loved it," Cam said earnestly. "You asked us during our visit if we would let you know when the rest of our family was going to visit us from San Francisco. They're flying into LAX tomorrow morning, and will be here all week. I hope it's not too late to set up a tour of Magnum Studios while they're here." "Not at all," Eisner said. "Pick any day but Thanksgiving Day, and I'll set it up. As I told you, I'd like to meet your family. Just let me know how many there will be." "Will it be all right if we bring our friends Art Smith and Jeff Miller, along with the Ryan kids and the Millers' maid, Juanita, with us as well as the family?" Cam asked. "And our maid, Maria and her two kids also?" Eisner smiled broadly as the list got longer. "Absolutely," he said. "I think it will be twenty-four people, then, including our son, Casey," Cam said. "What about Tuesday morning about 10:00?" "Good. I'll alert our Tours Department staff. We can all have lunch in our cafeteria after the tour. The food's not bad." "I can't thank you enough, Mr. Eisner." "I'll look forward to seeing you and everybody then, Cam." Just then Rachel Ryan came walking by with Casey perched on her shoes. Cam beckoned her over. "Is this your son?" Eisner asked about the baby. "We've seen Rachel walking this little guy around before." "Yes, sir. This is Casey." "I thought it might be," Eisner said, bending down to look at the two children. "Hello, Rachel. Hello, Casey," he said. "Hello," Rachel said. Karen Eisner squatted down to get a better look at Casey. "He's darling," she said, looking up at Cam. "And he has such a pretty tour guide this morning," she said, smiling at the girl. "How are you, Rachel." "I'm fine," the little girl said. "Casey is so cute. I wish he was my little brother." "You'll get to spend some time with him on Thanksgiving Day," Cam assured her. After a little more conversation, Cam wished the Eisners a good Thanksgiving week, and ushered Rachel and Casey back over to the table where the boys were sitting. Kevin picked Casey up after thanking Rachel for walking the little boy around, and she left. "Eat up, you slackers," Cam told his bro's. "Time's wasting." "Hit him!" Carl demanded of Kevin. "I can see Holy Communion did you a lot of good, Carl," Cam observed archly. "We do not strike others when we're at church." "Why not?" Carl said. "Where better? This is a place of healing, dude." Kevin burst out laughing. "I'll really be glad when Andy gets here and gets you calmed down," Cam said in a low voice to Carl so other parishioners wouldn't hear him. "You haven't been getting enough sex." Art was a little taken aback at such talk in a church building, but Kevin laughed out loud again and Carl grinned bigtime. "You've never been more correct, Camarino. I really haven't getting enough you-know-what," Carl said. "But all that's about to change." "Let's book," Kevin said before the conversation deteriorated further. "Wait," Cam said. "I need to talk to Father and Mrs. Ryan before we leave." "Hurry up," Kevin said, just to annoy him. Cam walked over to the priest and his wife, and then came back smiling. "What was that all about?" Kevin asked. "We're going to tour Magnum Studios on Tuesday morning, and Mr. Eisner said I could invite Jeff, Art, the Ryan kids and Maria and her two kids to go with us," Cam explained. "And Juanita, too, hopefully, after I check with the Millers." He pursed his lips disapprovingly. "I suppose you and Carl will want to go along." Kevin laughed. "You're such a busy little schemer, Cameron," he told him as he stood up and kissed Casey, who squirmed and tried his best to avoid his dad's lips. Art stacked the dirty cups and dishes on a tray and took them to the kitchen, and then they all headed for the parking lot. Art Smith and Jeff Miller had really hit it off, and they talked all the way back to Malibu. "You've never met the rest of Cam's and Kevin's and Carl's family, have you?" Jeff asked Art. "No." "You'll like 'em. The guys are a gas!" "Well, if they're anything like Cam and Kevin and Carl," Art said, "I'm sure they are." Carl filled Art the newbie in on some of the San Francisco guys' more outrageous exploits, particularly those of William Carson. Art couldn't believe some of the things he heard. "You Episcopalians are pretty down to earth," he commented to Jeff. "That's encouraging." "'Down to earth' is one way to put it," Carl said with a laugh. * * * On Monday morning Jeff Miller had gone next door to talk to his parents and to Juanita Fuentes, his parents' maid. At Cam's behest, Jeff asked his parents whether Juanita could go with the family group which would tour Magnum Studios on Tuesday, and Sean and Susan readily agreed. They weren't going themselves because Susan had been there before, and Sean said he had spent half his life there. Art, Carl, Cam and Kevin sat with Casey in the study kibitzing while they were waiting for the San Francisco contingent to arrive from the airport. Kevin's cell phone rang with a distinctive whooping ring tone. He glanced at the ID and smiled. It was Mark Carson. "Marky-Mark! Where are ya, dawg?" "Where do ya think? My feet are standing on LAX concrete right now. And it's nice and warm down here in LaLa land." "That's because we're a warmhearted people here in southern California. Get your ass over to Malibu." "Ass," Casey interjected from his crib, and Kevin smacked his own knee in annoyance at himself that he wasn't better monitoring what he was saying. The other guys snickered to themselves. "If you're in that big a hurry to see me," Mark told Kevin, "you should have come to the airport. I'm not in charge of transit over here." "Yeah, yeah," Kevin said. "Have you been running every day and workin' out, or am I gonna have to make you suffer?" "I'm gonna make you suffer, dude. It's my mission in life. You're gettin' older and I'm gettin' stronger." "We'll see who suffers and who doesn't," Kevin laughed. "Hurry up. I've been missing you, bud." "Same here. See ya in a little while," Mark said, and broke the connection to get into a big, black stretch limo after helping load the luggage. The guys from up north were all amped by now and all talking at once as the driver started the engine and began to maneuver his way out of the airport. The adults watched the boys with amusement. Kevin's phone whooped at him again forty minutes later. It was Mark again. "Well?" Kevin demanded. "We just pulled off the Pacific Coast Highway. Get your ass out in the driveway and make us feel welcome!" "You're such a bold little snot!" Kevin told him. "We'll be outside, and you better have cleaned up your act by then!" Mark laughed and hung up on him. Jeff had come back from his parents' house next door by then, and he, Kevin, Cam (holding Casey in a sling), Carl, Art and Maria all went out into the driveway with the dogs just as the huge black limo pulled in on an angle and came to a stop. A back door opened, and Berto, smiling in the bright sunshine, his white teeth contrasting with the beautiful olive skin of his face, stepped out. Ever the gentleman, he stood there and helped Catherine, Mary, Rosa and Yolanda out of the vehicle as Father Mason, Ian and the young guys started pouring out of the other side of the car. Cam and Kevin surrounded Catherine first and kissed her soundly many times by way of greeting before moving on to the rest of the crew. It was chaos. There was a lot of hugging and kissing going on, and not just male/female, either. It was no surprise, of course, when Andy Helder pulled Carl Emrick into a long hug, smooched him on the lips, and then held his hand as Carl moved around greeting the new arrivals. Maria circled the group, meeting and re-meeting the group. Beautiful, loving people, Cam thought to himself as he looked around at his extended family as they milled around enjoying the sight of one another. Easy to love. Easy to look at. How could I be so lucky? He watched Kevin, who was smiling and eating up the scene, both of them noticing how healthy-looking and handsome all the boys were. These guys had obviously spent some time in the gym since their last visit, and that always pleased Kevin. Mark Carson made a beeline for Kevin, and they embraced for a long moment and kissed each other on the cheek. "Glad to see ya," Mark said. "I don't know why, but I always miss ya." "Back atcha, Marky-Mark. I'm happy you're here," Kevin said, hugging him again. William went over to Cam. Bending down, he kissed Casey in his sling, and then put his arms around them both and kissed Cam on the lips rather than on the cheek. Cam was a little taken aback by that, but responded in kind. "Dude," William told Cam. "Lookin' good! And so is Casey. He's grown since I saw him, and he's as cute as ever." "Yeah," Cam said. "Casey is talking, and even starting to make sense, unlike yourself." William laughed. "Cameron, Cameron, don't be a dick." "Dick," Casey repeated. William looked surprised. "Now you know why we have to watch what we say when Casey is around," Cam admonished his friend. William nodded. "I'll do that," he promised. After all the greetings were made, the women headed into the house and the men and boys went to the car and started unloading all the luggage. When it was all piled on the driveway, Ian pulled out his wallet and paid for their ride with a credit card. After he signed, he pressed some additional cash into the driver's hand. The driver thanked him, stepped into the car, and drove away. Kevin saw what Ian had done, and looked approvingly at him. That's Ian, he thought to himself. He always takes care of people who work for a living. As Kevin walked over to take some bags into the house, he patted Ian on the back. "Thank you for bringing the family down here again, Ian. We really appreciate it." Ian smiled. "Well, we appreciate your hospitality, Kevin. We love you guys. You know that." Once in the house, Kevin and Cam escorted the family to their bedrooms first. All the young guys would be sleeping in the master bedroom--some in the huge bed with Kevin and Cam and some on the floor on sleeping pads--so that the common areas downstairs were free for eating and socializing. At her own insistence, Catherine would sleep in Casey's room next door to the master bedroom so she could monitor the baby. Yolanda Vega and Rosa Mendez would share a bedroom with double beds down the hall. Father Mason would have his own room, and Ian and Mary Carson their own room. "Hmmm," Carl spoke to Cam quietly in the master bedroom. "How are Andy and I gonna get it on when all you guys are staying in here?" Cam grinned. "Do it in the shower standing up. Just be sure you wash you-know-what down the drain." "Call me Mr. Clean," Carl said with a chuckle. When everyone had unpacked a few of their essentials, they all went downstairs to the large living room where Casey was the center of attention. Before the visiting got out of hand, Cam informed them that they would all be leaving for Magnum Studios at 9:00 the next morning for a 10:00 tour, and then have lunch with the CEO, George Eisner. Everybody seemed really pleased about that. "Cam, are we going to need a limo for tomorrow, then?" Ian asked. "I guess we will," Cam said. "We could probably fit everybody into our cars if we used all of them, but it would probably be more fun to get a limo and use the Highlander and maybe my car for the overflow. The limo will be our treat, though, Ian. This trip has already cost you enough." "No, I'll cover it," Ian said. "We'll just tap William's college fund. He can get a part-time job when he goes away to school." William blushed and gave that idea a thumbs-down as the guys all laughed, clapped and whistled. "I'll be on a full ride football scholarship anyway," he asserted. "So I'm not gonna worry about it." Cam looked at Ian. "Ian, while I'm thinking about it, we're going to need an extra $1700 transferred into our household account this month," he said. "Gambling debts?" Ian kidded him. ""No, we had a new door put into the wall between our room and Casey's room." "I'll take care of it," Ian said. Then he went into the next room for some quiet and called the limo company about a ride to Magnum Studios. When he finished, he went back into the big living room and told Cam he'd asked for a small bus rather than a limo so they could all ride together. They all talked and kibitzed for about an hour, and then Carl suggested that they change into swimming gear and go next door to the Millers' house to swim. That got an affirmative vote, and they all headed upstairs to change. The guys all crowded into the master bedroom, and began stripping down. Standing there naked, Kevin made a quick phone call to Susan Miller to confirm that they had blanket permission to use the pool for the week, starting immediately, and got the okay. Shoulders to hips, his upper body formed a perfect V, he had a perfect sixpack, and his legs were muscular and in proportion with the rest of him. There wasn't a guy in the room who didn't take a minute to admire that boy's body and all its parts while he was on the phone! Dan Emrick looked around with a grin. "There's an awful lot of dick in this room," he said. "And the smell of testosterone in the air." "And some dicks are bigger than others," Berto said. "But no peeking!" The guys laughed, finished changing and grabbed towels out of an upstairs linen closet before heading downstairs and out the door to the front deck and the beach. They didn't wait for the adults. Cam chained up the dogs on the deck with fresh water in their bowls, and then led the guys toward the pool. Taking the gate key out of its hiding place behind a brick in the wall at the Millers', he opened the gate. The sun was shining brightly, and the emerald green water in the pool awaited. Dropping their towels on beach chairs, they approached the edge of the water. William hesitated before diving in, and Cam gave him a shove to encourage him. William hit the water hard, turning his abs red. His face emerged from the water with a shout, and with a look of innocence Cam asked him, "Is the water warm?" William laughed. "Oh, yeah! Revenge will be sweet, too, Cam! Count on that, dipshit!" Cam dived in and swam under water toward William, who also ducked under the water, saw his antagonist coming, and swam away as fast as he could. The two guys emerged about ten feet apart and eyed each other warily. "Pussy," Cam told him, swimming away as William came after him. Then other guys began cannonballing into the pool, splashing Cam and William as much as they could. Things didn't calm down until the adults finally walked onto the pool deck and staked out their spots. Catherine was carrying Casey, dressed in his little red swimming trunks. The child's skin gleamed with sunscreen that Catherine had already applied. "Mommy, come swim with me, and bring Casey," Cam said to Catherine. "Protect me. William is trying to drown me." "You're on your own, buddy," Catherine said. "Don't play innocent with me. I know you did something to get things stirred up." "She knows you too well," Dan Emrick said to the general agreement of the other guys. Carl swam over to his brother and threw an arm over his shoulder. "How ya doin', Dan. I'm glad to see ya." "Same here," Dan said. "You're lookin' all buffed up." "I don't have any choice. Kevin is a tyrant in the gym." "So was William when he was in charge of our gym," Dan said. "Thank goodness he's too busy with football and his girlfriend to spend much time with us peasants. Berto is in charge now, and gets the same results in workouts without being a dick about it." Carl laughed. "Well, Berto's work with you has paid off. You're lookin' good. How's school?" "I'm doing all right. I'm on the dean's list, anyway. Mark and I both are." "Excellent! Are you dating?" "No," Dan said. "I'm friends with some girls, but no girlfriends." "Let's talk about that later." "Okay. By the way, it's a good thing Andy Helder will be transferring down here to UCLA starting next semester. He comes over to the house a lot for supper and to study, and kind of mopes around because he's not with you. He's got it bad for ya, dude." "How could he not?" Carl chuckled. No modesty there. "Hey, did I hear my name taken in vain?" Andy asked, swimming over and putting an arm around Carl's waist as they treaded water mid-pool. "Yeah," Dan said. "We were talking about how UCLA has just raised their admission standards, and you might not be able to get in after all." "You better talk nice to me," Andy said. "I'm going to be your brother-in-law before too long." "I'll be nicer to you if you give me free martial arts lessons," Dan said with a grin. "Deal!" Andy said. Carl studied his boyfriend's great physique, and started to get a stiffie. Just then, the Millers' back door opened, and Susan and Sean Miller and their maid Juanita Fuentes stepped out on to the patio with heaping trays of sandwiches and snacks and many pitchers of lemonade, and put the goodies down on the pool-side tables. The guys cheered, clapped and whistled from the pool, and the adults stood up to offer hugs and thanks to their hosts. Juanita went back inside, and brought out a tray loaded with plastic glasses, hors-d'oeurve plates, plastic utensils and napkins, and the guys piled out of the pool and walked toward the food table. "Let's offer thanks first," Kevin suggested, and he did so for the group. Cam looked at him in amazement. His partner was more religious than he liked to let on. Father Mason beamed--his influence on the guys hadn't gone to waste. "Serve the ladies first, you klutzes," Berto told the first guys as they strode up to try to pour themselves some lemonade. To their credit, the guys listened to Berto, asking Mary, Yolanda, Rosa and Catherine if they would like glasses of lemonade. With that done, the guys poured themselves lemonade, heaped up plates of fresh fruit, sliced sausage and cheese and lunch meat sandwiches, and began to chow down. After they had eaten and let their food settle for a few minutes, the guys stretched a net across the pool and found a waterproof volleyball in the pool house. Game on! "I pick Father Jim," Kevin said first as he and William were choosing up sides. The priest stood up and grinned. "Excellent choice," he told Kevin. William chose his dad first, and then he and Kevin took turns picking the boys. The teams alternated playing from the shallow and the deep ends of the pool to even up the challenge, and were very well matched. But eventually Kevin's team won, much to a competitive William's chagrin. The game over, the guys ate some more food and drank more lemonade, and then rested a few minutes before adjourning to the beach to play some touch football. This time William's team won, and he felt redeemed. Cam noticed that every one of the guys, young and old alike, including Ian, Sean Miller and Father Mason, showed a lot of athletic ability out there. While the pool was quiet during the football game on the beach, Mary Carson and Catherine took Casey into the water, and he loved it as they supported the little guy while he pretended to swim. He fussed when they eventually took him out of the water, but he soon calmed down and went to sleep in Mary's arms in the shade of one of the large umbrellas. "I wouldn't want to be pregnant and carry a child to term at my age, but I sure do like taking care of a baby again," Mary confessed. "I do too," Catherine agreed. "And Casey has such a good temperament, it's really a pleasure. Cam was an easy baby, but I think Casey even has him beaten on that score. Kevin's mom told me once that she didn't think Kev was an easy baby, but he's turned out to be a fine, even-tempered young adult. A tough guy, I guess you'd say, but good-tempered. So apparently there's always hope." "Well, William still has some rough edges, but I think being around Berto and Cam and Kevin are good examples for him. Mark, on the other hand, was an easy baby to raise." "William is good boy," Yolanda Vega protested to Mary in her thick Spanish accent as Rosa nodded in agreement. "All these boys are good boys," Yolanda affirmed. "I know," Mary said. "One of the reasons we like to come down here is to see all these boys together and how they interact. They give each other a hard time sometimes, but they really love each other. I think they help each other become the kind of people we can be proud of." "You're right," Catherine said. Just then the football players came roaring back on to the patio, sweating and picking on each other about the game they'd just played. After washing the beach sand off themselves with a hose, one after another they dived into the pool. Ian dived in and swam over to William and drew him into a hug. He kissed his boy on the cheek. "What was that for?" William asked his dad. "I don't know. 'Cause I love you, and you just won that football game for our team. You have some moves out there on the gridiron, boy, I'll have to give you that, even when the gridiron is California sand!" To look at him, one would have thought that William just shrugged off what his dad had said to him and had done to him by giving him a kiss, but it meant a lot to the kid. "Thanks, Dad," he said after a long minute. Kevin and Mark Carson were standing on the edge of the pool. "You did a good job out there on the beach," Kevin told Mark. Then he picked him up and threw him into the water. "Ow, ow, you hurt me!" Mark yipped when he came to the surface. "You broke my ribs!" "You little liar," Kevin responded, and cannonballed into the pool next to Mark, splashing him good. Mark laughed, swam to the steps at the shallow end and got out of harm's way. Cam swam over to Kevin and hugged him from behind with one arm while reaching around under the water and rubbing his partner's package. There was an immediate reaction between Kevin's legs. "You horny little shit," Kevin said to him quietly, swiveling around to face Cam and giving him a kiss. "I'm a horny little shit?" Cam whispered to him. "I'm not the one getting hard." "Everybody's watching you," Kevin said. "Now they know what kind of person you really are." "That hasn't been any secret for quite a while," Cam said. "No, it sure hasn't," Dan Emrick agreed, bobbing in the water not too far from them. Kevin and Cam went after him, but he escaped their clutches. Cam pulled himself up and out of the pool, and went over and sat beside his mother. He held her hand. "Are you ready to move into Ian and Mary's condo in San Francisco when you start teaching at Stanford?" he asked Catherine. "No," she said. "To tell you the truth, I haven't done a thing." "Do you want us guys to come up to San Rafael to pack you up?" "No. Part of my deal with Stanford is that they'll pick up my moving expenses," Catherine said. "So I'll hire someone to pack me up. There won't be any furniture involved in the move. By the way, we have to decide whether you guys are coming to San Rafael for Christmas this year, or whether we're coming down here." "Kevin and Carl and I haven't even talked about it. I guess we should go north. All of you have been so good about coming down here for holidays, I don't think it would be right to ask you to fly down here again." "Well, we'll make a plan one way or another before we go back," Catherine said. "My only problem would be what we do about Art Smith if we go north," Cam said. "I haven't told you about his situation, but long story short, he can't go home for Christmas. So..." "Bring him," Catherine said. "We can always find room for one more." "You're a sweetheart, Mom. Thanks." "I love you, honey," Catherine said. Then she looked over at Mary. "What are we going to do about supper?" "Kevin said they have enough steaks to feed us all. But they're in the freezer, and need to be thawed out before we can throw them on the grill." The upshot was that Cam and Kevin went back to their house and pulled huge packages of filets mignon out of the freezer. Opening them, they spread them out on plastic trays, and put them in the large shower in the garage under a slow, cold spray to thaw. "Looking at all this meat gets me hot," Kevin told his partner, kissing him on the neck. "Looking at your meat gets me hot," Cam said. "Without fail." "You cute little shit. You don't know how much I love you," Kevin said. "Oh yes I do." They stood there kissing each other, exploring each other's mouth with their tongues. Kevin pulled back, and they were both hard. "We better go back, or Dan and Mark will be over here looking for us." "Yep," Cam agreed. "But let's talk with Maria first, and see what we're gonna have with the steaks." "Okay." After the bulges in their swimming trunks subsided, they conferred with Maria in the kitchen, and decided they'd have baked potatoes with sour cream, with fresh green beans, the latter first boiled and then thrown on a grill for just a minute or two to crisp them up. And salad. "Thanks, Maria," Kevin said. "Call us when the steaks are thawed, and we'll fire up the grills. If you need help with anything else, let us know." "By the way, bring your kids to work with you tomorrow so they can leave with us to tour Magnum Studios at nine o'clock," Cam said. "You're going with us, too, y'know." Maria teared up. "You don't know how much I appreciate everything you do for me and my family," she said. "We owe you a lot," Kevin said, and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "You keep things running around here, and we appreciate it." Cam did the same, and then they headed back next door to talk about supper. The crowd was enthusiastic about the menu. While they were at it, Cam and Kevin invited Sean and Susan Miller along with Juanita Fuentes to join the family for the evening meal. * * * Supper was outstanding. Ian Carson and Father Mason borrowed three grills from the Millers, making for a total of six grills on Cam and Kevin's spacious front deck to cook steaks to order, bake whole potatoes, and crisp up the green beans. The cooks were rewarded with drinks as they cooked--both of them elected to have vodka martinis made from a large, lone bottle of Grey Goose vodka that Kevin had found at the back of John Kelley's liquor cabinet. The two chefs were in a very good mood by the time they finished cooking. Father Mason, surrounded by the extended family, said grace before everyone sat down. By adding all the leaves to the dining room table and opening two aluminum tables in the study, they had enough room for everyone to sit down and eat. The adults all had glasses of pinot noir with their meal. Maria had tossed three huge bowls of lettuce and added tomatoes and green peppers for the salad, and prepared four loaves of garlic bread to complement the staples. Kevin was surprised when Mark Carson offered to feed Casey, seated in his highchair between the two boys. Kevin acquiesced, and Mark got into it, patiently spooning baby food into the Casey's mouth along with an occasional, very, very small piece of steak or piece of potato. When he had eaten most of his own food, Kevin took over the feeding duties so Mark could eat. "Thanks for the help, dude," Kevin told Mark. The young guys all ate like pigs until there wasn't a scrap of food left on the tables. Dessert was bowls of butter pecan ice cream scooped from several two-gallon cartons out of the freezer in the garage. Casey got just a little of that ice cream from his dad, and loved it, of course. Mary, Catherine and Susan Miller helped Maria with the clean-up. After clean-up was finished, the young guys commandeered the dining room table to play cards. Of the adults, only Father Mason and Sean Miller elected to join the boys in what was to be a half-marathon, low stakes poker game The other adults sat in the large living room and talked. Kevin and Cam and Andy Helder managed to break even when the poker game ended about 10 p.m., while Sean Miller, Mark Carson, Jeff Miller and Dan Emrick lost a modest amount. But William Carson and the priest were big losers. The big winner was Berto Hernandez--who else? "Can't you cast a spell on him, Father?" Andy Helder asked the priest as they watched Berto count his winnings. Mason laughed. "I'm a priest, not a warlock," he said. "Is that a 'no?'" Andy kidded him. "That's a 'no.'" Before Sean and Susan Miller left for next door, Ian talked to them about the upcoming Thanksgiving meal. "Y'know, I've never tried this before, but I was thinking about cooking a turducken to go with the turkeys for our meal on Thursday," he said. "I know it's a little late in the game, but do you know where I could rent a cooker and get a ready-to-cook turducken?" Susan looked at her husband and smiled. "You're asking the right people, Ian." "It just so happens that I have a cooker in my garage made especially for cooking turducken," Sean said, "and I know where we can get the birds, prepared Cajun style and all ready to cook. And I have the cooking oil on hand all ready to go." "Outstanding!" Ian said enthusiastically. "Fill me in on who I can call to get the birds." "Well, you're all going to Magnum Studios tomorrow morning, right?" Sean said. "Why don't you let Susan and me get the birds, and I'll move the cooker to the deck over here while you're gone." "That would be wonderful!" Ian said. "But I want to pay for the food." "Let us supply the turducken so we don't feel like we're freeloading," Susan suggested. "You don't have to do that," Ian said. "It's settled, then, Counselor," Sean said. "To be on the safe side, a medium-large turducken will take about 10-12 hours to cook, so we need to be on the ball by say, 5 a.m., to start the process." "I'll set my phone for 5 a.m. so I can start it cooking before the family runs on Thursday morning," Ian said. "And we can leave it cooking while we go to church," Ian added. "Sounds good to me!" Sean said. They shook hands, and Ian kissed Susan on the cheek before they left. * * * By 11:00 p.m., all the guys and adults had gone upstairs to get ready for bed. Catherine had bathed and put Casey down earlier in the evening. Except for Cam and Kevin, the boys had each snagged a sleeping pad to crash on the soft carpeting of the master bedroom. William stripped off his clothes and went into the bathroom with a towel over his shoulder to scout out the shower. After he checked it out, he looked back into the bedroom with amazement on his face. "Holy shit!" he said to Cam and Kevin. "Your fucking shower is almost as big as the boys' locker room gang shower at San Rafael High." "Yeah," Cam said with a grin. "Kevin likes a shower with lots of room in case he gets hard. He has a big dick, obviously, and doesn't like to scrape it on the tiles in close quarters." "The shower is humongous," Kevin admitted, laughing. "There are six adjustable shower heads in there. You guys can all shower at once, but no touching each other, please. We do have some standards." Berto went into the bathroom to confirm what William had said. There were two sinks, a toilet and a urinal in there, a bathtub, and the immense, glass-doored shower had walls and floors of marble tiles with rich brown, white and gold markings which matched the rest of the bathroom. Spot and flood lights beamed down on all the strategic places, and heating and exhaust fans dotted the ceiling. Stylish benches hugged one wall so that one could sit down and dry one's legs and feet after bathing. A cluster of switches inside the bathroom door controlled the lighting and the fans. A commodious linen closet held wash cloths and what looked to be at least fifty large, luxuriously soft towels. "Awesome!! You two must get lonely in there," Berto told Cam and Kevin before pulling off his sneakers and clothes, and joining William in the shower. The sound of water was making a hissing noise as Dan and Mark also went in to shower with Berto and William. Carl went into the bathroom and grabbed two towels. "Andy and I are gonna use the garage shower," he told Cam as he and Andy headed for the hallway and stairs. Cam gave them a smile and a thumbs-up, understanding that those two weren't shy and certainly not ashamed of their bodies; they just needed some privacy. Cam and Kevin first brushed their teeth, then stripped and joined the other four guys under two as yet unused shower heads. This is pretty much a gay boy's dream, Cam thought to himself as he and Kevin squeezed past William, Berto, Dan and Mark to go to the far wall. The four earlier arrivals were still soaping up their bodies as Kevin turned on the last two shower heads, and he and Cam let the hot water soak them. Wetted down, the partners began to soap each other from a bottle of liquid soap in a wall receptacle. Kevin grabbed a brush from a hook on the wall and began to scrub Cam's back and butt. When done, he handed it to Cam and sighed in pleasure as Cam returned the favor. Paying no attention to the others, the partners then began to wash each other all over, turning to the wall when they washed one another's crotch. By the time Cam and Kevin had finished washing everything except their feet, the other boys had rinsed off, dried themselves, and were just leaving the shower. Kevin smiled as he noticed that William's cock was half hard. The kid is well hung, Kevin thought to himself. Really well hung! No wonder all the girls in his one-time harem doted on him so much. Jeff and Art claimed shower heads after William and Berto had finished washing, and before long they, too, had left for the bedroom. Kevin and Cam took their time drying each other, and then held either other and kissed deeply before they emerged from the bathroom. They each pulled on a fresh pair of boxers and then headed for the king-sized bed. The other guys, some naked and some wearing clean boxers, were unrolling sleeping pads, taking pillows from a pile, shaking out sheets, and staking out floor space as Kevin and Cam turned down their bedspread and top sheet, and climbed into bed, moving toward the center. There was plenty of room for one boy on each side of them in bed, and Mark Carson claimed the space next to Kevin. Cam beckoned to Dan Emrick, who smiled as he moved on to the bed next to Cam. Kevin reached down and covered the four of them with their top sheet. The overhead light was still on for Carl and Andy, who arrived wearing towels around their waists, fresh from their shower in the garage. They looked happy and very relaxed. The two of them unrolled sleeping pads right next to each other on the floor, got pillows and a sheet, and lay down naked together after Carl turned off the light. Cam and Kevin rolled to face each other and kissed softly before preparing to sleep. They each gave thanks silently for their family's presence before closing their eyes. Within a few minutes, soft snores were the only noise heard over the muted sound of cool air blowing out of the air conditioning vents in the ceiling. * * * Kevin's cellphone on the bedside table sounded an alarm at 5:30 the next morning. Tuesday. Magnum Studios day. Kevin yawned, reached over Mark Carson to grab his phone on the bedside table, and shut off the alarm. "All right, you lazy assholes, get the fuck up!" he said in his gravelly, early morning voice. "It's time to run!" Groaning and complaints ensued. "Shut the fuck up," William responded to Kevin before covering his face with his pillow. Kevin laughed. First kissing Cam on the side of the head, he crawled over a supine Mark Carson and headed for the bathroom, his boxers clearly tented with his usual early-morning hardon. Fishing out his cock, he stood over the urinal for a minute until his erection eased and he could begin to urinate. He glanced over at William, who had joined him and was standing over the toilet next to him, also sporting big wood. "You should have brought Alicia down here with you to help you out with your 'little problem' this morning," Kevin suggested. "It wasn't for lack of trying," William said. "Anyway, don't be lookin' over here at my equipment." "You're right," Kevin said, shaking off and preparing to vacate the urinal to make room for the next customer. "But it is kind of 'hard' to miss." "Try 'harder,'" William said with a grin. Kevin went back into the bedroom to a tableau of built and athletic young guys in various states of undress digging through their luggage for jock straps and running shorts. Easy on the eyes! he thought to himself. And stimulating. Like the opening scenes of a male porn video! Kevin discarded his boxers and pulled on his jock, running shorts, T-shirt, socks and running shoes, and went to the bedroom door. "We still have a few minutes before we run, so if some of you want a bottle of water or piece of toast or something else before we leave, go down to the kitchen." The guys responded with nods and a few grunts as Kevin walked down the upstairs hall knocking on doors and inviting those inside to get a move on if they wanted to run that morning. Then he went downstairs to the kitchen and greeted Maria Romero and her two sleepy looking sons, Juan, Jr., age 13, and Roberto, age 11. Both were handsome boys wearing nice polo shirts and khaki pants. "Hey, guys," Kevin said, slapping hands with them. "I'm Kevin." The two boys identified themselves with a smile. "We're all gonna run in a few minutes," Kevin said. "We usually go eight miles. You're welcome to join us, but you don't have to--I guess you're not dressed for it." Juan and Roberto looked at each other. "Too far for me," Roberto said. "I brought a pair of swimming trunks and a T-shirt, so I might give it a shot," Juan said. "I do a lot of running for soccer. But I might only do about five miles," he added. "That's okay, man," Kevin said. "There's a bathroom right down the hall if you wanna change." "Cool," Juan said. Kevin took a loaf of bread out of a bread box and started putting slices into their four-slice toaster. Maria retrieved butter and apple butter and grape jelly and orange marmalade out of the refrigerator and put them on the counter so the runners could slather toast with a topping of their choice before going out to the deck to warm up. Kevin introduced the guys to Roberto as they came into the kitchen, and then to Juan when he came back from changing clothes. When Berto came in and saw the Hispanic boys, his eyes lighted up. Kevin introduced Maria's sons to him. "¡Hola!" Berto said, and went and slapped hands with the kids. He spoke briefly to them in Spanish, and they grinned and answered him in Spanish. Kevin kept making toast and supplying water until everyone who wanted a little sustenance had something, and then they all went out on to the deck and started warming up. Kevin unchained the dogs after his stretches, and everyone headed for the beach. It was going to be a hot, humid day--it was already very warm even though the sun hadn't been up all that long. Berto talked to Juan Romero before they started running. "Why don't you run beside me, and whenever you're ready to break away to go back to the house, I'll eome back with you." "Well, thanks, but you don't have to," Juan said. "I know," Berto said. "But I want to. It won't hurt me to do less than the usual eight miles." Juan nodded, and then on a signal from Cam the whole crew began running. Ian, Mary, Catherine, Father Mason, Kevin, Cam, Carl, Andy, Berto, Juan, William, Mark, Dan, Jeff and Art spaced themselves out in two's and three's so that everyone could run on the hardpack near the water rather than in the soft sand. William had brought his pedometer/stopwatch with him, and he clicked it during the first few steps he took so he could share the results with everyone when they arrived back at the house. Cam got a lump in his throat as he looked around at his extended family as they ran. He always got a little emotional when the family was all together, and counted his blessings that he was in such a close and loving relationship with people who put themselves out there to promote their health and strengthen their bodies Exercising together inevitably strengthened their bonds with one another. They were people who had never, and would never, let him down no matter what, Cam knew that. People who accepted him and Kevin and Father Mason for who and what they were, gay men in a world that sometimes wasn't all that understanding when it came to gays. Kevin glanced over at Cam, somehow sensing what his partner was feeling about the family, and patted him on the shoulder as they ran beside each other. Cam smiled at him. How does he always know what's on my mind? Love vibes, I guess! he thought to himself. Everyone was starting to perspire before very long. William was running just ahead of Cam, and Cam scoped out William's broad shoulders and sturdy legs and bubble butt as the boy moved along with long, firm strides. Looking good! Cam thought to himself. William was wearing a pair of white, sheer polyester running shorts which were becoming transparent as the boy sweat into them, revealing William's jock and the contours of his ass. Cam looked away before he fixated and couldn't look away. Then he found himself staring at Berto's butt, another great example of jock boy ass. Unfortunately, Berto's running shorts weren't turning transparent like William's had. Juan Romero looked over at Berto at about the three-mile mark, and poked his shoulder. "I think this is it for me," Juan said. "Okay," Berto said, and looked back toward Cam and Kevin. "Juan and I are going to head back to the house." "All right, guys," Kevin said. "We'll see you later." Berto and Juan swung out of the crowd and into the soft sand, and then headed in the opposite direction on the hard pack. William dropped back beside Cam. "Are Berto and Juan okay?" he asked. "Yeah," Cam said. "Juan is in pretty good shape for soccer, but he's not used to doing eight miles. How far have we run so far?" "Three on the button," William said, checking the pedometer. Cam nodded. "Okay, then that's six for Juan and Berto. Not bad for the kid." "Yep," William agreed, continuing to run beside Cam. Tongues lolling out of their mouths, the two border collies were running in and out of the surf to cool off. Not a bad idea, Kevin thought to himself. But he stayed the course and continued to run on dry land. He smiled to himself as he thought about the upcoming trip to Magnum Studios. He knew everybody would love it, especially the guys!
  8. Don H

    Chapter 62

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 Kevin Stoltz parked his Mustang in the driveway, and entered the house through the garage. He went right into the kitchen. Maria Romero was standing at the stove stirring a huge pot of--YES!--paella. "Hey, Maria!" he sniffed the air and greeted her. "What did we do to deserve paella tonight?" "Oh, I don't know. Maybe you boys just deserve a treat." Kevin grinned at her. "I can never hear those words too often." He went over and kissed her on the cheek. Maria glanced at her watch. "What are you doing home from school so early?" "My last class was canceled. The professor is sick with the flu." "Oh." "Where are Cam and the Baby Face?" "Casey is asleep in his crib in the study, and I think Cam is upstairs." "'K." Kevin walked down the hall to the study while shrugging off his backpack. He put the backpack on the couch, and then leaned over the crib to look down at Casey. "Too cute!" Kevin commented to himself, kissing his own fingers and reaching down to touch the baby with them. Casey didn't stir. Turning on his heel, Kevin ran up the stairs two at a time, and peered into the master bedroom before going in. His eyes fastened on the lithe, athletic body of his partner, and Kevin's penis, as it frequently did when he looked at Cam, stirred in the crotch of his Levi's. Cam, hands in his pockets, was standing and staring at the wall between their bedroom and Casey's room. The two border collies were with him. Alice was sitting on one side of him, and Samantha on the other, like little sentinels. The three of them were studying the new door which had just been installed over a three and a half-day period. The door would give Cam and Kevin immediate access to Casey in the next room if the little boy needed them during the night, without their having to go into the outer hall to get to him. Kevin noticed immediately that the frame and wood of the new door perfectly matched the wood of all the bedroom doors along the upstairs hall. He also noticed a dead bolt on the master bedroom side of the new door. Last week Cam had called John Rogé, a carpenter whom Father Ryan, Rector at St. Dunstan's, Hollywood, had recommended. Rogé had had a gap in his work schedule, and he had come right over to Malibu to look over the job. The carpenter had told Cam up front that it would most likely be a three and a half day job: a half-day to cut a hole in the wall, one day for an electrician to re-route the electric cables in the wall and add some outlets, one day to procure the wood needed and then frame and mount a new door, and finally a day for a plasterer/painter to match the current colors in the two rooms and do the painting. Rogé had agreed to procure and subcontract with a licensed electrician to carry out the electrical work, and also to subcontract with a painter/plasterer to plaster and then paint over the new portion of the walls in both bedrooms. The estimate for all the work had seemed reasonable to Cam, and he had signed a contract with the man on the spot. He had wanted to be sure the job was done by the time the rest of the family came down from San Rafael to L.A. for Thanksgiving week. "Hey, boy and girls!" Kevin said as he walked on into the bedroom. "The new door looks great!" He walked over to Cam and hugged him from behind, resting his chin on Cam's shoulder and looking at the door. "Do the dogs approve?" "They gave me a bark of approval just before you got home. Speaking of which, what are you doing home so early?" "The regular assignation with my secret lover fell through," Kevin said, kissing Cam on the neck and breathing in the smell of him. "So naturally I hurried right home to you instead." "No shit? Is he tired of you already?" "Kind of. All I do is talk about how sexy you are and what a big dick you have, and that pisses him off." "Glad to hear it. But really, why are you home already?" "Professor Kleinschmidt has the flu," Kevin said. "Hmmm. Well, I hope you weren't exposed to anyone else at school with the virus. It's a bad flu season. I'm glad Casey and all of us got our flu shots last month." "Yep. I hated to see you and Casey cry like babies when you got your shot, though." "Don't be a dick," Cam suggested. "I'll work on it." "Uh, by the way," Cam said, "I paid for the new door out of the household account. You need to call Ian to transfer some more money into it so we have enough to pay Maria next week." "How much was the door?" "Seventeen hundred." "What?!! Seventeen hundred DOLLARS?!" Kevin simulated outrage. "You little spendthrift!" He kissed Cam on the neck again, making him squirm a little, and then reached down and fondled the crotch of his lover's Levi's. "Why didn't you do the work yourself? You're so handy with your tool." "If I'd done it, the door wouldn't open and close, and you'd get an electrical shock every time you touched the door handle! Anyway, the whole idea of this was to save you time and trouble when you need to go to Casey at night. The new door was all for you, dude." Cam turned around and faced his partner, grinning and giving him a sweet kiss on the lips. "It's all for you. Always." "Likely story. Actually, $1700 isn't a bad price for quality work. But why do I have to call Ian?" "Because scientists like yourself are so logical and persuasive, and you can talk to lawyers better. Liberal arts guys like me are mere putty in other people's hands." Kevin grinned. "Maybe you're right about the putty thing," he said. "But in our case, at least, I fervently hope not." He groped Cam's crotch to check on that, and his boy's appendage was well on the way to being hard. Kevin looked at the door again. "I see you had a deadbolt put on our side of the door." "Well, yeah! I didn't want Casey to open the door when he gets really ambulatory and let him see us having sex. It might give him a complex." Kevin laughed. "YOU give me a complex! And a boner. Pretty much 24/7." "That's encouraging!" Kevin held his partner in place and looked into those green eyes for a long minute. "I want to tell you something," Kevin finally said. "Spill!" "Something I don't tell you often enough. Bottom line. You're my world, man. You and Casey. I know I'm not the easiest person to get along with sometimes, but if there's one thing I know I can count on in this life, it's you. You've always been there for me, in good times and tough times. I feel good about us all the freakin' time, and there's nothing I wouldn't do for you." "What brought that on? Is something wrong?" Cam asked a little suspiciously. "NO! Does something have to be wrong before I tell you I really love you?" Cam's face softened, and he rubbed noses with Kevin and then kissed him on the lips and held him close. "Well then, back atcha, babe." "Thanks." Cam looked at Kevin thoughtfully. "We've had our challenges, but when I see what other people go through in this life, we've really been lucky. Totally. Lucky to have each other, lucky to have our little boy, and lucky to have a great family and friends. Not to play the religion card, but I thank God every day for what we have together." "Me, too," Kevin admitted. "Is that the truth?" "Yeah. But don't tell anybody. I don't want to get a bad reputation." That made Cam smile. They continued to hold each other in the quiet of their bedroom until Cam finally spoke. "Now, let's talk about a really important issue. Did you see Maria when you came in?" "Yes." "What is she fixing us for supper?" "What'll you give me if I tell you?" "I'll consider letting you touch my body in certain private places when we're in bed tonight," Cam said. "Spectacular! In that case, I can't wait to tell you. Paella!" "Seriously?" "Uh huh. I saw it with my own eyes and smelled it with my own nose. It's paella all right." "Outstanding!" Cam said. "My mouth is watering already." "I'd like to throw you in bed right now and have my way with you. That makes my mouth water. But we better go down and wake Casey up, or he won't sleep tonight. And I don't want to think about you having to go through the new door to rock him all night long so he'll go to sleep." "As if." "I saw Art Smith at lunch today, and he's coming over for supper tonight," Kevin said. "Good deal." Cam was pleased that Kevin was getting along so well with Art by now. Art had at one time been friends with the three guys who assaulted Cam down the beach, so Kevin hadn't been quick to make friends with him. Cam and Kevin exchanged another kiss, a long one, and then headed downstairs followed by the dogs. They had just clomped down the stairs to the lower hall when the landline rang. Maria picked it up, and stepped out of the kitchen to tell Cam that L.A. County Assistant District Attorney Allan Petrie was on the phone for him. Cam gave Kevin a doleful look and went to the study to take the call. "Hello, Mr. Petrie. This is Cam." "Hello, Cam. How are you?" "I'm fine, thanks. What's going on?" "I wanted to give you a heads-up that jury selection for the assault trial will start the first week in December. I don't want to count our chickens before they hatch, but Rory Lomer is rolling on Clymer and Murtha, so I think the trial is going to be a slam-dunk." Cam smiled. "Well, I'm glad to hear that. Should I fill Ian Carson in on this?" "It won't hurt to mention to him that the trial is coming up, but I think the D.A. is going to call him personally about the way things look." "OK. Do you and I need to get together again at some point before the proceedings start?" "Let's wait and see whether Lomer actually turns State's witness," Petrie said. "If he does, you might not even have to testify. Why don't you call me after Thanksgiving, and we'll set a date and time if we need to." "All right. Thanks so much for the call. You and your family have a great holiday." "Thanks, Cam. You, too." They hung up, and Cam looked at Kevin, who had followed him into the study. "Well?" Kevin asked. "The trial will start the first week in December," Cam said. Kevin walked over to him and wordlessly, gently, touched his face. "Well, we knew it was coming," Cam said, not looking overjoyed about the upcoming trial. "But Mr. Petrie says that Rory Lomer is likely to testify against Clymer and Murtha, and that will strengthen the prosecutor's case a lot. I might not even have to testify." "I told you I believe in God! What kind of a deal did the D.A. offer Lomer, I wonder," Kevin said. "Mr. Petrie didn't say. But if I had to guess, I'd say he's testifying as part of a plea bargain for a lesser sentence or a less restrictive prison. Or both." They heard the door from the garage open, and then Carl Emrick's voice. "Hey, Maria. Something smells really good." "Paella," Maria said. "That's well worth a kiss," Carl said, and he walked over to Maria and kissed her on the cheek. "Can we have garlic bread with that?" "Of course," Maria said. "How about a salad, too?" "Sounds good to me," Carl said as he strolled down the hall toward the study. He looked into the study door when he got there and saw Kevin loving on Cam. "You horndogs never take a break, do ya?" "Hardly ever, just like when you and Andy Helder are together," Kevin said. "Damn straight," Carl admitted with a grin. We have news," Kevin said seriously. "The assault trial is scheduled for the first week in December." "Oh," Carl said. He dropped his backpack to the floor and sat down on the couch. "Well, good, I guess. On the bright side, we'll have it behind us before Christmas." Cam and Kevin didn't miss the collective "we" in Carl's statement. It was one more reminder to Cam of the great support he'd had all along from the family, and he was grateful for that. "Yeah," Kevin said. He let Cam go and walked over to the crib and gently scooped Casey up into his arms. "Hi, baby boy," he said to the little guy, whose eyes popped open as he started to wake up. "Daddy," Casey said. The three guys sat on the couch with the baby and had just started talking about the trial when they heard a knock on the back door. Maria opened the door and invited whoever it was inside. "Art, what in the world happened to you?" Maria asked, studying the boy. Hearing that, the three guys stood up and left the study, Kevin carrying Casey, and went into the kitchen to find out what was going on. Looking at Art Smith, they saw his left eye was black and partially closed, and that his left cheek was badly bruised and was turning black and blue. "What the heck, Art!" Kevin exclaimed. "You didn't have any bruises when Carl and I saw you at lunch. What happened?" "I just came here from home," Art said, looking downcast. "I stopped by to tell my folks that I was coming over here for supper, and that I would be having Thanksgiving dinner here, and my dad just stood up from the kitchen table and clocked me. No warning. Then he asked me if I was queer for you guys or something." Kevin handed the baby to Cam and went to the refrigerator. "Let's get some ice on your face." Carl pulled a kitchen chair away from the table and gestured to it. "Take a load off," he told Art, who sat down. Kevin wrapped some ice in a kitchen towel, twisted it closed, and put a thick rubber band around the opening. Walking over to Art, he put a hand on the boy's neck and gently pressed the makeshift ice pack to his left cheek. "Hold this," he said, and Art took over. "Shall we call the sheriff's department?" Cam asked Art. "Charges should be filed. Dad or no dad, he can't do this. Did he say anything after he hit you?" "Just that he was sick of my ungrateful attitude, and that I liked my friends more than I did my own family." Art paused. "And I guess that last part is true enough. Then he told me to get out of his house and not to come back. My brother thought it was great and just smirked at me. To give my mom credit, she was really upset about what my dad did." "Maria, do we have a real ice pack around here somewhere?" Kevin asked. "Yes, I think there's one in the downstairs bathroom. In the lower cabinet," Maria said. "Shall I get it?" "I'll do it," Kevin said, and headed down the hall toward the bathroom. "Art, you do need to report this," Carl said. "Take it from somebody who knows how this assault stuff goes when it comes to a parent. Even if you want to drop the charges later, it sends a clear message to 'dear old dad' that this physical crap just isn't acceptable." "Physical crap," Casey said. Cam rolled his eyes when he heard Casey and looked at the ceiling. "What???" Kevin said as he came back to the kitchen and saw Cam's expression. "Casey is just expanding his vocabulary," Cam said. "Why don't we go down to the study and get out of Maria's way." The guys walked down the hall, Art still pressing the makeshift ice pack to his face. They sat down in the study, and Kevin transferred the ice from the towel to the rubber ice pack. Art pressed it to his face. "Art, not to be nosey, but who's paying your tuition at UCLA?" Kevin asked. "My grandfather, my mom's dad, set up a trust fund for me and my brother before he died. My school money comes out of that." "That's good," Kevin said. "Your father can't turn off the faucet on that money, can he?" '"No. The money is deposited directly into my checking account every month under terms of Grandpa's will." "Good deal," Cam said. "This is what I think. We need to go over to your house tomorrow and get your stuff. All your stuff we can carry. Especially your underwear. You've been borrowing my clean underwear so often after running when you're over here, that the pair of boxers I picked out to wear yesterday asked me, "Who are you?" The guys all laughed. "You need to move in here with us until you decide what you want to do," Kevin said. "Well..." Art said, looking down at the floor. "Moving in here is asking an awful lot from you guys." "Oh, bull...." Kevin stopped saying what he was going to say because Casey was sitting in his lap and listening to every word. "We have plenty of room. You'll stay here with us, period. No arguments." "No arguments," Casey said. "Well, thanks, guys," Art said. "I really appreciate it." The four of them continued talking until Maria knocked on the open study door. "I'm going to leave now," she said. "I left the paella on the stove over a low flame. The salad is in the fridge, and the garlic bread is ready to go into the toaster. Eat whenever you're ready." "Thanks, Maria," Carl said. "Thanks, Maria," Casey repeated. "You're welcome. Art, keep using the ice on your face," Maria admonished from the doorway. "That should help keep the swelling down." "I will, Maria." Art said. "Thanks very much. I guess I'll be staying here for awhile. I'll try not to make you a lot of extra work, though." "That's what I'm here for," Maria laughed as she walked away. "Bye, boys." "Bye, Maria," the guys chorused. "Thanks for the paella," Kevin added. "She's great," Cam said after Maria had gone. "We lucked out when we hired her." "So true," Kevin agreed. "Art, do you want to take some aspirin and lie down for a few minutes before we eat." "Ya know, that's not a bad idea," Art said. "I have a headache." "We'll wake you up when it's time for supper," Cam said. "If the headache doesn't go away, you could have a concussion. We might have to take you to the emergency room to get checked out." "Thanks," Art said. "I should be okay. And listen, I really appreciate you taking me in," he said. "You're our bro," Kevin told him. "I'll take him upstairs and point him to an empty bedroom," Carl said. "I have some aspirin in my bathroom." "You da man, Carl!" Kevin said. Cam looked over at Kevin appreciatively as the guys left. "Thanks, Kev, for being so supportive of Art. He really needs a helping hand right now." "You mean like I got from you and your mom when my dad got all snotty and was moving to Manhattan?" Kevin responded. "He hit me and you guys took care of me, so turn about's fair play." Cam went and sat on the couch with Kevin and Casey, putting an arm across Kevin's shoulders. "I loves ya, dude," he told his partner. "Luvs ya," Casey parroted. Cam and Kevin laughed, and Kevin bent down and kissed the child's head. "Love you both back," Kevin admitted to his partner and their son. Art's situation lingered on everybody's mind, but supper that night was still a festive time for the guys thanks to having a wonderful meal to eat together. Art's headache was gone by then. The paella was excellent, and the four of them pigged out to their heart's content. Casey even got a few spoonfuls of paella with his baby food. The guys studied for a while during the evening and then worked out in the gym. Kevin noticed how running and working out frequently over the past few weeks had improved Art's physique. His stomach was flattening out and his abs and pecs were developing nicely. Cam and Carl looked really good, as always. After working out, they all showered and went downstairs again to watch a little TV before going before bed. Cam and Kevin bathed Casey before they turned in for the night. Casey loved water, and as usual saw to it that his dads were drenched before they dried him, powdered him, diapered him, put him into his PJ's and into his own bed, covered with their kisses. The little guy conked out immediately despite having had a long nap that afternoon.. After Casey was down, Cam and Kevin went into the master bathroom, emptied their bladders and brushed their teeth. Stripping off their clothes and climbing into bed, they prepared to make love to each other like they almost always did every night before falling asleep. "You want a back rub, dude?" Kevin asked Cam out of the blue. "What's the occasion?" "You're the occasion." "That would be great," Cam agreed with a grin. Kevin rolled Cam on to his stomach and found a bottle of massage oil in the bedside table. After warming it in his hands, he straddled his partner and slathered the oil on to Cam's upper body. Starting slow and easy, he worked up to a deep and vigorous massage of neck, shoulders and back, followed by butt and legs. Then flipping him over to do his chest and abs and moving down, Kevin eventually finished up with the soles of Cam's feet. Cam groaned in contentment through the whole process as the day's stress and tension left him. Kevin's attraction to his partner's body hadn't waned an iota since high school, since that very first night Kevin had joined Cam in Cam's bed in San Rafael and they'd gotten each other off. Cam's body, more lithe than Kevin's spectacular, muscular frame, still enticed Kevin, making his cock hard in a split second when occasions like this presented themselves. Good genes and persistent workouts in the gym under Kevin's tutelage had given Cam perfect definition for his height of 6'1" inches and weight of 170 pounds. A copper-colored blond, mostly hairless except for his crewcut head, his pits, light treasure trail and bush, Cam's physique and coloring was the perfect stimulus for Kevin's always rampant libido. Fighting sleep after Kevin had finished up the massage, Cam asked Kevin if he wanted a massage himself. "How about tomorrow night?" Kevin said. "I just want to hold you and make love to you, Cameron." "You got it," Cam acquiesced. He was on his back with Kevin on top as he pulled Kevin's face down for a prolonged and juicy kiss while reaching around to rub his partner's back and knead his meaty, muscular ass. Their cocks slid against each other, moisturized by massage oil and sweat as they bucked against one another without any attempt at penetration at first. A stimulated Cam encouraged Kevin to touch him at length in familiar "private places" as their passion increased. The two of them were very busy with each other, eventually ending up with Cam's well-lubed cock inside Kevin muscular ass right to the hilt. Their ability to carry off a good and satisfying sexual encounter with their long, meaty cocks in their engorged state, had improved markedly over the time they had been partners. Such were their skills that they could repeatedly bring each other to the brink again and again, this time with Cam's dick sliding smoothly in and out of Kevin's tight orifice, and then letting up before succumbing to an ejaculation. When they could hold off no longer, Cam filled Kevin's body with his seed just as Kevin covered his own abdomen with cum. When Cam eventually ceased pumping, he scooped up some of Kevin's ejaculate on his fingers and conveyed it to his own and Kevin's mouths to be fully enjoyed in the non-stop, repeated deep kissing which followed. They finally swallowed their tasty gift to one another. Their bed was a mess. Cam got up and got a large towel from their bathroom to cover the wet spots. They were ready for sleep about eleven o'clock, completely sated and totally renewed in their love. They lay on their sides facing each other, and Kevin reached over and caressed his partner's face. "Cam, I probably know you better than I know myself," he whispered. "I love you more than I love my own life. I don't show it enough, or tell you enough, but that's the reality. Without you and Casey, my life would be over. You are my life." "Well, dude, you're in my heart," Cam replied softly, and put his arms around Kevin and pulled him closer. "Every day I'm with you is a blessing. That's the bottom line." They deep-kissed again, and then drifted off to sleep * * * Finding himself once again without running clothes, Art borrowed some from Cam the next morning, and the four boys ran with the two dogs. Art pushed himself and went the full eight miles for the first time. He was pretty whipped after they got back to the house, though. After showering and eating Maria's breakfast of bacon and eggs and American fried potatoes, they all prepared to leave for school at the usual time. Cam and Art were going to drive together in the Highlander so they would have more room in the vehicle to pick up Art's things at his house after lunch. Carl was going to drive Cam's Camero to campus, and they'd leave Art's car in the driveway in Malibu for the day. "Put a scratch on the Camaro, and you die!" Cam told Carl. "You'd have to catch me first, dickwad, which ain't likely," was Carl's rejoinder. Kevin walked over to the Highlander with Cam and Art before they left, and he put his arms across their shoulders. "Listen," he told them. "I want you both to be careful when you go to your house, Art. Your dad has already proved he's a violent person, and I don't want either one of you to be on the receiving end of what you got yesterday. You feel me? If Mr. Smith is there and gives you the least sign of causing a problem, I want you guys to leave right away and head for home. We can shop for some new clothes for you tonight, Art, if your parents won't give you your stuff. 'Cause you're startin' to stink, dude." "You're so full of it," Art said with a laugh, trying and failing to keep a straight face. "Well, we get the message about Mr. Smith," Cam said as Art nodded his head. "OK," Kevin said, heading for his Mustang. Cam and Art grabbed a quick lunch at school after their late morning Cinematography class. As they drove to the Smith house after lunch, they talked a little about what Art's dad had done to Art the previous afternoon. "Yeah," Art said, confirming the obvious, "he's never been a very good natured guy," he said, touching his face and eye gingerly. The ice had helped keep the swelling down, but the marks were still clearly visible. "He doesn't have much of a sense of humor, either." "Your dad acted just like Kevin does with me," Cam kidded Art. Art laughed. "Yeah, right!" he scoffed. "You're so full o' shit! If one of you ever hit the other one, you know there would be a brawl." "I'm kidding. Nothing like that will ever happen between us," Cam responded with a grin. "Fortunately, we don't have that kind of problem. No anger. Good sense of humor. Total love." "I know that's right," Art agreed. When they reached the Smith house in Santa Monica, Art's dad's car was in the driveway, which increased the Art's fear factor. "Oh, shit," Art said as Cam parked the SUV at the curb. "I was hoping maybe Dad wouldn't be home. That's his car." "Do ya wanna take a pass today on gettin' your things?" "No, let's go to the door and see what happens," Art said. "Maybe there won't be a problem." It was a nice house, a rambling two story building with a two car garage in a good neighborhood of Santa Monica. There were well cared-for flower beds and shrubs in the front yard, and the grass was lush and green and nicely cut. Given the inflated California property values, Cam estimated that the house was probably worth in the vicinity of a million and a half dollars, if not more. Instead of letting themselves into the house right off, Art and Cam went to the front door and rang the bell. Art's mother came to the door wearing a housecoat, and let them in. She put her arms around Art and kissed his cheek as he stepped into the front hall. "Mom, this is my friend Cam MacKenzie," Art told her. "Hello, Cam," Donna Smith said. "Who is it, Donna?" Beryl Smith called from the kitchen. "It's Art," she responded. "What the fuck is he doing here?" Mr. Smith said loudly as Art and Cam began walking toward the kitchen. "I told him to get lost yesterday. Wasn't I persuasive enough?" Cam and Kevin went into the kitchen, where Art's dad was sitting in an undershirt and boxers at the kitchen table with a bottle of beer in front of him. He was a tall, portly man with hair that was starting to thin and turn white. "I just wanna get my clothes," Art said. "Why should I give you anything?" Mr. Smith said. "Because it's my stuff," Art responded. Art's father stood up from the table and looked at the boys menacingly. "I bought you everything you have! Get the fuck out of here before I really beat the shit out of you, you little cunt!" That pissed Cam off. "I saw what you did to Art's face, sir. If you don't let him have his things, I'm calling the Sheriff's office. It'll be a trip to jail for you for assaulting him yesterday." That infuriated the man, and he picked up his bottle of beer, drained it, and grasped the neck of the bottle as if to use it as a weapon. "You want some of this, you little prick? Who the fuck are you to tell me what I can do with my own kid in my own house! Are you two in love with each other, or something? Are you two fairies?" "I'm Cameron MacKenzie, Mr. Smith," Cam said. "If you're going to hit me, I want you to know my name. For the record, Art and I are just friends. Please let us get Art's stuff, and we'll be on our way without getting the law involved." "Beryl," Mrs. Smith said. "Let the boy have his things!" "Now you're siding against me, too?" Mr. Smith whined to his wife. "What the fuck did I do to deserve a house full of traitors and ingrates?" The man took a step toward the two boys, and Cam pushed Art behind him. "Let's go, Art, and wait outside." Cam looked their would-be assailant in the eye as they backed up toward the living room and the front door. "The sheriff's deputies will be here in a few minutes, Mr. Smith." "Beryl, if you don't let Art have his things, I'm leaving you," Mrs. Smith said. "I've had enough!" Her tone of voice didn't leave any room for negotiation. Beryl Smith hesitated for the first time in the confrontation as he looked at his wife and saw that she was serious about her threat. His face showed that the wheels were turning in his mind, and the outcome apparently didn't appeal to him. "All right!" he finally yelled. "You have ten minutes to get your shit and get out of here, you punk! I never want to see you or your boyfriend again!" Cam and Art went upstairs to Art's bedroom. It was a nice room by any standard, nicely decorated and full of gaming paraphernalia and computer equipment. The two boys unplugged and gathered up the electronic stuff first and took it down to the Highlander before starting to move Art's clothes out of the closets and dressers down to the car, using suitcases when they could. The move took about a half-hour, but they didn't hear any harassment from Mr. Smith while they were working as fast as they could.. Art, followed by Cam, went back into the house before they left so he could say good-bye to his mother. "I love ya, Mom," Art said, and the woman began to weep when he kissed her. "I'll call you. And you have my cell phone number if you need to talk to me." "You're taking the cell phone I paid for?" Mr. Smith yelled to Art from the kitchen as a parting shot. "Grandpa's money paid for this phone," Art said, "so of course I'm taking it." That was the end of that discussion. The two guys breathed a sigh of relief as they walked out to the SUV, got in, and Cam pulled away from the curb. They drove straight over to Malibu from Santa Monica and unloaded the Highlander, carrying Art's garments upstairs first. Maria went upstairs with them and hung the clothes up in Art's new bedroom so they wouldn't get wrinkled. Then the boys took Art's suitcases and electronics upstairs. "We'll get you a desk for your computer stuff, just in case you should ever want to study or write a paper for school," Cam said with a grin. "As unlikely as that is." Art laughed, and knew he was going to be a lot happier living with Cam, Kevin and Carl than he'd been in a long time. * * * Catherine MacKenzie walked across St. Francis's campus toward the administration building just before noon, focusing on how beautiful the grounds of the university were even in the Fall. Students were walking here and there, enjoying the weather before it turned chilly. When she reached the administration building, she went into the president's office and cordially greeted Father John Reilly's secretary. Catherine and the Jesuit priest were getting together for lunch, always an occasion which they enjoyed greatly. "Go right in, Dr. MacKenzie," Reilly's secretary said with a smile. "He's expecting you." "Thank you much," Catherine said, and opened the door to the inner office and went in. A table at the side of the spacious office was set with a linen tablecloth and napkins, and with silverware. Covered silver bowls sitting in the center of the table were steaming. Smiling broadly, John Reilly, SJ, Ph.D., rose from behind his desk and walked around it to greet his friend and guest. "Catherine, what a treat to see you. May I say how wonderful you look!" "Thank you, Father," Catherine said. "You're looking well yourself." "Appearances can be deceiving. But in your case, I'd say that the running regimen that Cam and Kevin induced you to adopt before they moved to L.A. has been good for you." "I can't deny that. Thanks to the exercise, I don't have to do much in the way of dieting." "Why don't we say grace and sit right down?" the priest suggested. They stood at the table with bowed heads as Fr. Reilly offered thanks. Both of them made the sign of the cross, and then the priest seated his guest. Uncovering the bowls, they discovered that they were having beef stew, brown rice, stewed tomatoes and a small side salad for the main course. There was a small piece of chocolate cake for desert. "Coffee or iced tea, Catherine?" Reilly asked. "Tea, please," Catherine said, and the priest filled a glass with ice and tea, and handed it to her. Fr. Reilly poured coffee for himself, and they served themselves the steaming food. "This smells good," Catherine commented. "I don't think we've ever had a bad meal all the years we've been having our occasional lunches." "You know, you're right. We may have our problems here at St. Francis, but the food we serve the students in our cafeteria isn't one of them." "I hate to think about our lunches coming to an end," Catherine said. "They've been a joy for me, Father." "And for me as well. Out conversations have certainly covered the waterfront over the years." "Are you looking forward to laying down your burdens here?" "Yes and no," Reilly said. "Working with the students and faculty has given me so much satisfaction! What I won't miss is periodically crossing swords with the Archbishop of San Francisco and his minions over issues relating to academic freedom." "I know that can't have been easy. Any inkling as to who may succeed you?" "None. The Superior General of the Society of Jesus will consult with the Jesuits in the U.S., and Provincial General will send names to St. Francis' Board of Directors. The directors will either select someone from that list or ask for more names." "Is the selectee likely to be a Jesuit?" "More likely than not," Reilly said. "But the Board could surprise us." "I'm thinking a lay person might have an easier time dealing with the Archbishop. No matter who it is, the attitudes of the new Pope may mitigate some issues. But in any case, you won't be easy to replace, John. You've done a wonderful job here," Catherine said. "That's very kind of you, Catherine. I can say with certainty the same of you. I hate to think about your leaving here next Spring, but a full professorship at Stanford is a real plum, and one which you richly deserve." "Thank you, Father. I've been blessed. Do you know what you'll be doing in the future?" "Not really. First I'll be going on retreat for several weeks. My superior hasn't told me what lies beyond that." "Well, the Society of Jesus will be remiss if they don't use your skills somewhere, and without delay. You're a real leader." "Kind words. Thank you." The priest took a bite of stew and chewed it slowly. "Tell me how your boys are doing at UCLA." "They're doing well from everything I hear. I think Kevin and Carl and Cam are in good shape, both academically and in daily life. I'm looking forward to seeing their grades, of course. Cam has totally recovered from being attacked by homophobes down the beach in Malibu, thanks to great support from the family and the work of a brilliant psychotherapist who specializes in treating PTSD. The three young men who carried out the attack have been indicted and face trial, probably by the end of the year." "Will Cam have to testify?" "I don't know. I'm hoping he won't. He can handle it, I know that, but it would be stressful for him." "Of course. Let's pray that he won't have to get on the witness stand. And how is your grandson doing?" "Father, he's a wonderful little boy. He's such a bright child, and an easy child. I love him to death, and can't wait to see him over the Thanksgiving holiday." "Are you going to L.A., or are the boys coming up here?" the priest asked. "We're going down there. The boys up here like the warmer weather in Los Angeles for the holidays." Catherine chuckled. "They keep at Ian and Mary until they wear them down and get their way about traveling south. Ian Carson is chartering a plane to take everybody down and back. The last I heard, Father Mason, the curate at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church here in San Rafael where we attend, is going with us. He's been a good influence on all the boys, and they all love him." Father Reilly cleared his throat. "I don't suppose there's any chance of my talking you into coming back to the Catholic Church," he said. "As an Episcopalian, I am a member of the Catholic Church. I say so every time I say the Nicene Creed at Mass." "All right," the priest said, smiling. "I don't want to argue with you during one of our last meals together." "Nor do I. You'll have to admit that the Episcopal Church is more hospitable to the entire spectrum of God's children than the Roman Church is. Gays are lovingly accepted into the Church family in most parishes. That's especially important to me because I have two gay sons." "I understand," Father Reilly admitted. "What was it the Pope said when asked about gay priests in the Church? 'Who am I to judge?' It sounds as if the ground shifted there just a little bit on gay issues, doesn't it?" "Yes," Reilly said. "The Holy Father answered well." "I agree," Catherine said. "Long held theological positions won't change overnight, but I have a lot of hope for this pontiff." "So do I." "I love you Jesuits, including the Pope," Catherine said with a smile. "Being a Jesuit himself with a Franciscan outlook can only enhance the Holy Father's ministry." Father Reilly agreed, and the conversation veered off into other subjects as Catherine and the priest finished their meal. Before they parted company, the two of them consulted their calendars and made one more luncheon date before Father Reilly vacated his post as president at the end of the calendar year. "Have a good Thanksgiving, Father," Catherine told her friend. "You, too, Catherine," Reilly said. "You and your family have a safe trip south and back, and a wonderful holiday!" "Are you spending the holiday with family?" Catherine asked. 'Yes, with my brother and his family." They parted company, and Catherine eyes misted over as she walked away to return to her office to prepare for her next class. She would dearly miss her friend and confidant when this fine priest and excellent administrator left the campus for good. * * * The Sunday afternoon after Mass at St. Andrew's was chaos at Catherine's big house in San Rafael. That wasn't unusual. That was just the way it was before a family trip to see the boys in L.A., what with the San Rafael guys trying to decide what clothes they needed to pack to take with them on the plane the next morning. Everybody was in high spirits, including the adults. Rosa Mendez, Catherine's long-time maid, was going along with the family to L.A. for the first time. Her husband Julio was not too pleased about that, but had agreed just this once to celebrate Thanksgiving at his parents with his and Rosa's boys instead of at their own house. Yolanda Vega, the Carsons' maid, had been down to L.A. with the family before, and was going again. William Carson had finished packing, and was lying on his bed in his boxers talking on his cell to his main squeeze, Alicia McCaskill, who was also not too pleased that William would be gone over Thanksgiving week. William was trying to placate his girlfriend without much success. He played the "I can't get out of going with the family" card, but Alicia wasn't buying it. "You'd rather spend time with the boys in your family than you would with me," she said accusingly. "Not true," William said, knowing that there was at least some truth to what she said. "Why don't you ask your parents if you can go with us," he suggested. "There's room on the plane, and Cam and Kevin have a big house with lots of bedrooms." He paused with a grin on his face, one hand in his boxers squeezing his cock. "We might even have a chance for some 'quiet time' together." "Yeah, right. That's exactly why they'd never let me go on a trip with you." William sighed. "I suppose you're right. But my mom and dad would never let me stay here alone. I promise I'll make it up to you when I get back." "You'd better!" Alicia said. Berto Hernandez came out of their shared bathroom just then, and William pulled his hand out of his underwear. "Listen," William said, "I gotta go. I love ya. I'll call you every day, so keep your cell phone charged up." They ended the call with Alicia still sounding a little pissed off about the whole situation. "Trouble in paradise?" Berto asked with a smile. He'd heard William's side of the conversation, and knew his roomie had been catching some shit. William laughed and shot him the bird. "Oh, the price we pay for a little female companionship," William observed. He wasn't too upset, knowing that an hour or two with Alicia when he got back would restore the relationship to an even keel. "She can't resist me." "Your humility is an example to us all," Berto said. "That's not humility, that's reality," William shot back. Just then there was a knock on their open bedroom door, and the two guys looked over to see Mark Carson dressed in some sweats. "Berto, do you have time to spot me on some weights?" Mark asked. "Yep," Berto said, and Mark smiled at him. Berto was never one to waste any words. Despite being psychologically shattered after his parents had been murdered by his uncle, Berto had been sheltered and then adopted by Ian and Mary Carson. The deep love of his new parents for him and the kindness and support of his new "brothers" in the family had molded the character of this adolescent to the extent that the boy knew exactly who he was, and acted commensurately. The kindness he had received was now quietly passed back to those around him in full measure. He had a brilliant mind, and worked hard at academics along with his physical fitness program. All the boys in the house looked up to him, especially for guidance in the gym because William's time and energies were monopolized almost entirely by the football program at San Rafael High. Berto had already been accepted at Stanford University the next Fall on a full academic scholarship, and Ian and Mary Carson were especially pleased about that because they were alumni of Stanford. "Come on, bud, let's do this," Berto told Mark, throwing an arm over the younger boy's shoulders as they walked together down the hall to the little gym the family maintained in the house. Mark warmed up before lying down on the bench and taking a loaded barbell from Berto. The workout which followed pleased them both. Mark's sweatshirt was soaked with sweat, and it was worth it. His body was fast becoming a smaller version of his brother William's great physique, and Mark liked that a lot. * * * The family ran together very early Monday morning with Carl's boyfriend Andy Helder, whose dad had dropped him off at the house for the trip to L.A. They all ate a quick breakfast before showering and dressing quickly, and then the boys carried their suitcases downstairs to the driveway, along with Rosa's and Yolanda's and Mary's bags, to wait for the limo to take them to San Francisco International. Father Mason drove up the driveway, parked his car in front of the garage, pulled his bag out of the trunk, and joined the group standing in the weak, northern California sunshine. "Did you run this morning?" William Carson immediately demanded of the priest with no preliminaries. "Does the sun come up in the east?" Mason answered with a grin. "Just checking. I hate to see the clergy get a big gut from lack of exercise." Ian Carson looked at his older son disapprovingly and sighed. "Just consider the source and ignore the peanut gallery, Father. No matter how much I beat the kid, he's still a wise ass." "I know," the priest said. "I don't think reasoning with him ever works, either. Why don't you make him start coming to Mass everyday before school. Maybe more grace will help him." "What a great idea," Mary Carson said. "What do you think, William?" "Probably not a good idea," Berto intervened. "More grace might only make him more loquacious." All the guys groaned at Berto's vocabulary. "Yeah, that's what I'd be," William said. "More loquacious. Explain to me later what that means, Berto." Everybody laughed, and just then a huge black Cadillac stretch limo pulled up the driveway. "Just in the nick of time," Dan Emrick said. The driver loaded the baggage into the trunk and a couple of bags into the front seat, and the family got in the car. The boys left the back seat for the ladies, and sat on seats around the edges of the big interior and on jump seats. Rush hour was over, and the traffic on the way to the airport was tolerable. The limo dropped them off at a private hanger, and Ian paid the driver with a credit card along with some cash for a tip. "I'm a little short of cash, Dad," William said. "Can you spare a few bucks?" "No problem," Ian said, low-fiving his son. But no cash changed hands, much to William's disappointment. The group climbed the retractable stairs into a medium sized jet and were greeted by one of the pilots and a flight attendant. Andy Helder and William Carson had words about who got to sit with Father Mason, with Andy getting the honor this leg of the trip with a promise that William could sit with the priest on the way home. Ground crew members stowed the luggage, and the family got seated and fastened their seat belts. A plane mover pulled them out of the hanger and on to the apron of a feeder runway, and the pilots started the three engines one at a time and warmed them up, and then joined a line of planes for takeoff. Fifteen minutes later they were wheels-up and climbing out over the Pacific, beginning to follow the coastline south toward Los Angeles. It was to be a smooth flight, with the plane on the ground and passengers disembarking within two hours. Everybody was animated and talking a mile a minute, pumped to be traveling down to see the Malibu contingent of their family. All of them had been missing the boys and the baby, and even the dogs.
  9. Don H

    Chapter 61

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 Art Smith pulled his car into the driveway at Cam and Kevin's house in Malibu. He was supposed to have supper with the two of them and Carl Emrick that evening, and Art had been looking forward to it all day. He hadn't crossed paths with any of the three guys at UCLA for a couple of days, but he hadn't thought much about it. Sometimes their schedules just didn't mesh. He had deliberately come over to the house early so he could have a little extra time with the guys. All the cars are here, so they're home, Art thought to himself. He walked through the open garage to the door into the back hall and hit the doorbell. He heard footsteps, and Kevin, carrying Casey, opened the door. Kevin looked at Art with surprise. "Oh, heck, Art," he said, "I forgot to call you. Cam flew to San Francisco to see our mom in the hospital night before last, and isn't back yet. She had an emergency appendectomy yesterday morning. I'm sorry I didn't call. Cam caught a late morning plane to come home today, and we're going to the airport to get him as soon as I can round up Carl." "I'm sorry about your mom," Art said. "Well, we can get together for supper some other time. No biggie." "Listen, why don't you go to the airport with us, and we'll eat here when we get back. Maria made us plenty of food." "That sounds good," Art said. For a long time Kevin hadn't liked Art because he had once been friends with the three guys who had sexually assaulted Cam down the beach. But he had finally accepted him because Cam had confronted him about his bad attitude toward a nice guy, and turned him around about Art. By now Kevin was even helping Art out with exercises in their little home gym when they all got together. The pain that Casey had been experiencing from his emerging baby teeth was abating somewhat, because he wasn't crying or whining. He looked at their visitor, reached out a hand to squeeze the young man's nose, and said, "Art." "Hey, little dude," Art responded to the little boy with a big smile. "You're cuter every time I see you." "He knows you," Kevin said, chuckling. "Come on in," he said, stepping away from the door and shouting loudly for Carl while shielding Casey's ears from his loud voice. As Art shut the door and followed Kevin into the kitchen, he heard Carl's big feet bounding down the stairs from his room. "Hey, Art," Carl said. "'Sup, dude?" "Cam invited me over for supper a few days ago, but I didn't know he went to San Francisco." "We're just going to the airport to pick him up," Carl said. "None of us has eaten, so come along with us, and we'll chow down when we get home." "Thanks. Kevin already asked me. So let's hit it." Kevin grabbed a diaper bag--"just in case"--and they headed for the Highlander. After Kevin strapped Casey into his car seat, Carl fired up the hybrid, and off they went. The traffic was heavy on the way to the airport, but Carl just took his time as the three guys talked about school. Carl and Kevin were enthusiastic about their classes. All the way to the airport, though, in the midst of the conversation, Kevin was thinking about how glad he would be to see Cam. They had only been apart for two nights, but that was two nights too many for Kevin. He loved and missed his boyfriend. They were fortunate enough to find a parking place in short-term parking at LAX, and Kevin scooped up the baby, who unaccountably struggled to get down and walk for himself right then. "You can walk when we get inside," Kevin told Casey, and for the moment the little boy stopped squirming. They were a little late, and arrived inside just in time to see Cam coming down an escalator wearing a polo shirt, a pair of Levi's with no belt, and Croc sandals. Kevin's eyes were glued to Cam's handsome face and lean, muscular body as he glided down from the second floor. Damn, he looks good, Kevin thought to himself, his dick stirring in his boxers. Cam was a pleasing sight to anyone who admired a lean, well developed male physique. They all met at the bottom of the moving stairs, and Kevin put his arms around his partner, squeezing Casey lightly between them, and kissed Cam on the lips. Cam dropped his overnight bag to the floor and looked deeply into Kevin's brown eyes. He was finally home, and home was wherever Kevin was. "Missed ya, bud," Kevin told him. "Missed ya back," Cam said. He grinned at Kevin, kissed the baby, embraced Art and then Carl, kissing Carl on the cheek. "Man, am I glad to be back!" Cam said, picking up his bag and sticking his free hand in one of the back pockets of Kevin's Levi shorts as they walked toward the exit. His partner's muscular butt, flexing with every step, felt really good and ripe and ready for a squeeze. "How's Mom?" Kevin asked, putting the baby down so he could walk a little, but keeping a grip on the little guy's hand. "She's doing great. She couldn't go anywhere, obviously, so we had some good, long talks at the hospital between a few naps. She'll be released and go home tomorrow morning. I'm glad I flew up, and she was glad to see me, I think." "I'll bet she was. Wish I could have gone with you," Kevin said. "Me, too," Cam agreed. "She said to pass on some kisses to you and Carl." "What about me?" Art said, kidding. "If she knew ya, she'd kiss ya," Cam laughed. "She's not in any pain?" Carl asked. "No, they've been keeping her comfortable," Cam said. "This whole thing was really sudden," Kevin said. "For sure," Cam said. "How's William?" Kevin inquired. "Hot and horny, just like usual," Cam said, giving Kevin's ass another squeeze through his pocket. "Horny," Casey repeated after Cam. "Hot horny," he added. looking up at his second dad. Art laughed as the other three guys grinned. Cam continued. "William has gotten taller since we saw him last, and maybe put on a few pounds. All muscle, though. He's been busy in the gym, that's for sure. I think he's tired of football, at least for this year, but he's sticking it out. Tough kid." "Are William and Alicia still an item?" Carl asked. "Oh, yeah. 'I love her to death' were his exact words." Cam looked down at Casey. "But enough about William. How is Casey's tooth situation?" "Better," Kevin said. "Maria told me he didn't need as much ointment on the gums today." "Good deal," Cam said. The guys found the car, and Kevin once again buckled Casey into his car seat. Art sat in front with Carl. Cam and Kevin sat in the second row of seats, sitting close. Kevin put an arm around Cam, occasionally nuzzling Cam's face with his nose and feeling a few whiskers. "You didn't shave today," Kevin commented. "You're right. What did I miss while I was gone?" Cam asked. "Not a bleeping thing," Kevin said. "Casey was good, just like usual." "I'm not surprised," Cam said, reaching out to caress the little boy's face. "But I had to get physical with Carl to get him to exercise in the gym." "That's a big lie," Carl said. "That's the only kind worth telling," Kevin said, and then put his mouth to Cam's ear. "Since you weren't around to seduce me and make me have a lot of hot sex, I had time to finish moving us into the master bedroom," Kevin whispered. He kissed the side of Cam's head in the semi-darkness of the SUV. "I think we're gonna like it in that room." Cam grinned at him. "Like 'it' in there? Whatever can you mean?" "Take a guess," Kevin chuckled. "Y'know, I was thinkin' that we should let Casey have our old room all to himself, and put a door through the wall so we don't have to go out into the hallway to get to him when he needs us," Cam said. "We can get another nanny cam and speakers to keep track of what's going on with him from our new room." "Good thought! You constantly astound me with your creativity," Kevin said. "Why don't you call a carpenter when you get a chance and make an appointment for an estimate to put in a door? As far as a nanny cam is concerned, we should also get one for Carl's room so we can see what goes on in there when Andy visits." "You p-e-r-v-e!" Cal said, spelling it out so Casey wouldn't pick up on it. "I'll call someone about the door." Cam leaned closer to Kevin. "On another subject, you do remember that you and Carl and I are going to Magnum Studios for lunch tomorrow, doncha?" "Lookin' forward to it." "I can't wait to see the movie," Carl chimed in. "Thanks for getting me an invite, dude." "You're welcome," Cam told Carl. "We'll be in polite company tomorrow, so I'd better check your table manners at supper tonight." "You have awfully low expectations of me, but check away," Carl said, laughing and then snorted, "Oink, oink." "Oink," Casey said. "You got that right, Casey, me boy," Cam said. "Oink!" Casey said again, louder, and laughing. "Art, you can see why we have to be careful what we say around Casey these days," Kevin said. "So I hear," Art said, chuckling. "Oink." They all laughed, and when the conversation flagged, Cam reached over in the gathering darkness inside the car to cup Kevin's crotch. There was an immediate reaction. Kevin's cock began swelling, and he tried to keep from groaning out loud as he put his hand over Cam's hand as the boy rubbed his package. Cam leaned over closer to Kevin and kissed his ear, and then inserted his tongue into it and moved it around. A minute or two passed as Cam continued his seduction, and Kevin could feel he was leaking pre-cum into his boxers. Lots of juice. "Hey," Carl said, looking into his rearview mirror and watching in the dim light what Cam was doing to Kevin with his tongue-in-ear routine. "It's awfully quiet back there. Is there anything going on that I need to know about?" "What?!! Just keep your eye on the road and never mind what your betters are up to in the back seat," Kevin said. "Oh, all right!" Carl laughed. "Safety first." Art Smith turned his head to look into the back seat, but by then Cam had pulled his tongue out and away from Kevin's ear. Cam still had his hand in Kevin's crotch in the darkness, giving his partner some gentle frottage that kept him hard but didn't make him ejaculate. Kevin's hand was along for the ride. They arrived back in Malibu without incident and parked the SUV. Kevin unbuckled Casey from the car seat and carried the little guy into the house, holding him strategically in front of him so Carl and Art couldn't see his prominent woody. Cam looked pleased with himself for getting Kevin all fired up as he followed his partner into the house, watching his ass all the way. They all went right to the kitchen, and Carl and Art heated up the multiple chicken breasts and corn on the cob which had been prepared by Maria, and fixed plates for everybody with good helpings of chicken and the corn, now cut off the cob. They put their plates in the oven and added salad when the food was hot. Carl offered thanks for the food when it was ready, along with thanks for Cam's safe return from San Francisco, and they sat down to eat. Maria had cooked the chicken breasts in a tangy sauce, and they were delicious. Carl finished first, and fed Casey some baby food. Kevin put some ointment on the baby's gums when Casey had eaten, and the little guy was in a good mood. Kevin released Casey from his highchair, and the boy walked around the kitchen with Carl right behind him so he wouldn't take a tumble on the uncarpeted tile floor. Kevin took that opportunity to run upstairs and change his boxers, which were soaked with pre-cum thanks to Cam's shenanigans in the car. Afterward, the four guys went into the study with the baby and sat and talked while Casey rolled a rubber ball around the room. Art went out to his car to get his book bag, and they all studied some school assignments for a little while, followed by a short workout session in the gym supervised by Kevin. He complimented Art on how much he had already improved his physique. As the evening came to a close, Kevin suggested to Art that he stay over and run on the beach with them in the morning. "I don't have my running clothes with me," Art said. "Cam's running clothes will fit you," Kevin said, "and thanks to Maria, there's soap and a fresh toothbrush and towels in every bathroom. Just pick a room." Art agreed, and the guys headed for bed about 10 p.m., expecting a busy next day. * * * After rubbing some more ointment on Casey's gums and bathing him, Kevin put him down for the night. Cam and Kevin went into their new bedroom to spend their first night there. Cam looked around the spacious room with the gigantic bed, seeing it with fresh eyes. "This may take some getting used to," he said. "This bed is almost big enough to sleep all the guys when they come down here for Thanksgiving." "I know it," Kevin agreed. "If we put everyone in this room, even with a few on the floor on sleeping pads, we won't have to turn the living room into a dorm." They stripped off their clothes, and then headed into the huge bathroom. Kevin had moved all their toiletries from their old bathroom to the cabinets at the double sinks in the new bathroom. They brushed their teeth, then washed each other under the multi-head shower, with Cam again paying special attention to Kevin's cock. By the time they finished toweling each other dry, they were both hard. Cam went to the door of the their new room and opened it, leaving it open so that they could hear Casey if he fussed during the night. Then he flipped the hidden switch in the closet which turned on the camouflaged mirror over the bed before joining Kevin under the covers on one side of their big new bed. Cam broke the silence as they faced each other and looked into one another's eyes. "I need to tell you something," he said. "What?" "Promise me you won't get mad." "I won't get mad," Kevin said. "William and I stayed at the apartment while I was in San Francisco. I was surprised when he wanted to sleep in the same bed with me. I let him, but I didn't want to get frisky with him. Sometime during the night, though, he came bigtime. I'm not sure whether I jacked him off without knowing it or not, but I did have some of his cum on my hand. When he got up to go to the bathroom, I saw there was a big wet spot on his side of the bed. "I swear to you that I had no intention to touch him," Cam continued, "but I may have done it in my sleep. Please believe me when I tell you that wasn't my plan, though. After he went to the bathroom and came back to bed, he tried to grab my cock to get me off, but I wouldn't let him." Kevin pulled his face back from Cam, and frowning silently, looked him full in the face for a long minute. "William is so fucking hot," Cam finally said to fill the silence, "I admit I wanted his body. But I would never intentionally be unfaithful to you, Kev." Kevin pulled his free arm from under the covers and caressed Cam's face with his hand. "I know you wouldn't," he said. Cam teared up a little in relief. "Now I want to tell you something, and it's something I don't do enough of," Kevin said. "What?" "I want to tell you how much I love you and admire you, Cameron, and it may take a little while." "Why do you want to do that after what I just told you about me and William?" "Because you didn't hide what happened in San Francisco from me, and that just makes me admire you more," Kevin said. "I won't give you a complete list of reasons right now I love you so much, but for starters, I hope you realize how brave and honest you are. I've watched you over the past year--what you've been through--and you've been totally genuine in the way you've reacted to everything that's happened to you, and to us. You've been tough and resilient about dealing with being assaulted down the beach, and then with losing Alex and John. You've faced your demons, and beat the shit out of 'em, and you never keep secrets from me. "You're just sex on legs as far as I'm concerned. So fucking cute and handsome. I got a chubby at the airport the minute I spotted you on the escalator. Not to mention from what you did to me in the car." He moved to head over and kissed Cam on the nose. "Another big turn-on for me is the way you are with Casey," Kevin continued. "I know how you are with him, the way you love him and care for him. Nobody can fake that. Little kids are needy. If we didn't know that before, we sure know it now. How could I not love you for all you do for him? And he loves you for it. "And the love you have for every member of our family and for our friends, well, I've never seen anything like it. Those feelings draw everybody in and makes it possible for them to be the kind of people they're meant to be. You're a love dynamo, dude. That's a rare and beautiful gift. The way you've rescued Art Smith and Jeff Miller from what was a pretty lonely life for them are just two examples of what I'm talking about. And you've been so tolerant of Mark Carson's crush on me, and never made him--or me--feel guilty about it. He's another example of how you reach out to people in such a wonderful way. And I could pick out a lot of other people you've influenced for the good. I find myself emulating you every chance I get. "Just speaking for myself, it's one thing to love someone, but being able to admire them totally and respect them for all their personal qualities makes that love complete in every way. You make that possible for me, even easy for me, Cam. You're my boy, and I respect you and admire you and love you and lust for you with every fiber of my being. These feelings get stronger every day that I live with you, and I'm thankful to you for making my life joyful and worthwhile and fulfilled just because you are who you are. "One last thing. I love you totally. But I hope you know how much everybody loves you back for the kind of person you are. You're such a strong person, and yet you inspire and bring love out of others. Some people assume love is a soft emotion, but coming from you, it's the most powerful force in this world." Cam tried to respond, and couldn't at first. He couldn't even swallow because of the lump in his throat. He finally rasped out, "I should go away more often! Thank you for what you said. You're in my heart, Kev. Really, you are my heart. I love you so much I want to be you." He was so moved that tears began running down his cheeks. That made Kevin mist up, too, something rare for him. They actually wept together in the happiness of being back together, caring for each other without reservation. They kissed the tears from one another's face. Then they drifted off into a deep sleep with Cam's last thought being how much he appreciated Kevin's annunciation of his affection and admiration for him. Cam had never, ever, felt unloved by his partner, but Kevin had rarely been that explicit about his feelings. When they awakened in the middle of the night, it was to make love, not just to have sex. After feeling up each other up, hitting all their erogenous zones with fingers and tongues, they sixty-nined until they were both leaking profusely. Kevin pulled off of his partner's dick and swiveled around in bed. "Make love to me, Cameron." Cam nodded and began to move over his partner's frame, kissing and licking the sensitive parts of the body of this man he loved. Then he reached over and found lube in the bedside table and greased Kevin and himself up, finally slipping inside Kevin with Kevin's legs on his shoulders. Cam lay there quietly on top of his handsome, muscular partner for a long time, kissing his face, savoring the one-ness of their physical and emotional bond until he eventually began moving inside of him. He thrust ever so slowly into Kevin's silky, velvet smooth, welcoming insides until their passion translated and escalated into the best, most satisfying, most vigorous session of lovemaking they'd had in a long time. Kevin watched the ceiling, where the mirror image of Cam's lithe body and sweet, tight ass was moving ever so erotically overhead as his boy's abs simultaneously massaged Kevin's cock which was trapped between them. Changing his tactics, Cam raised up to take hold of Kevin's hard dick and began to jack it with his right hand while speeding the assault on his boy's ass. At the same time Cam lowered his head, capturing Kevin's mouth as their tongues dueled. Then he began to nibble on Kevin's nipples. Sweat poured from their bodies as Cam repeatedly pummeled Kevin's prostate until the latter, who had been groaning through most of the thirty minutes of their coupling, eventually shot ten times in quick succession up between their abs and chests. The space between their bodies was flooded with semen, immediately lessening the friction on Kevin's dick from Cam's body and hand. At the point that Kevin's anus had contracted over and over around Cam's penis as Kevin had ejaculated, Cam could no longer hold off and filled his lover with copious amounts of his own sperm before he finally stopped thrusting. They lay there as if they'd been poleaxed, totally relaxed by their explosive sexual release and reveling in their passion for each other. Eventually, many minutes later, Cam licked the semen off Kevin's abs and chest before sliding out of his partner and out of bed to get warm, damp hand towels to finish cleaning up what his tongue didn't get. Then they clung to each other for a long time, with Cam planting his nose in the hair of Kevin's head and the skin of his body, inhaling the scent of his partner's cum and his sweat. Finally they fell back to sleep, still intertwined. It had been just the kind of baptism of their new room and new bed that Alex and John would have wanted for them. And appreciated. * * * The four boys ran Wednesday morning with the dogs at 7 a.m. Art ran only five miles rather than eight, but he was obviously gaining stamina as he became better conditioned. Kevin stayed with him this time when he turned around to go back to the house. After they had all returned and showered, Maria made them omelets filled with tomatoes, green peppers and crisp bacon bits. Art Smith left for school right after breakfast, full of thanks for the hospitality he had enjoyed. After their food had settled, despite protests from Cam and Carl, Kevin made them spend an hour in the gym under his supervision getting buffed up a little by doing a variety of exercises. After yet another shower, they dressed in pastel shirts, nice suits and ties, and well shined shoes for their highly anticipated trip to Magnum Studios to preview Alex's and John's last movie. "You boys sure clean up well!" Maria told the guys when she saw them congregated in the study waiting for their ride to the studio that CEO George Eisner had promised them. A sparkling white limousine with a liveried chauffeur rolled into the driveway at 10:30 on the dot, and drove them to Magnum. The boys checked out the liquor cabinet in the passenger compartment--there was a nice selection of premium booze--but didn't help themselves to anything, of course. "That's tight," Carl said about the bar. "You should put a bar in your Mustang," Cam suggested to Kevin. "Yeah, so Casey can get all liquored up, I s'pose," Kevin scoffed. "You dufus!" Cam laughed and pulled Kevin toward him to kiss his cheek. When they arrived at the studio gate, the guards recognized the car assigned to Mr. Eisner and opened the gate without even checking who was arriving. The chauffeur opened a rear car door for them at their destination on the lot, and directed them to the front door of a fancy, ten-story office building. They thanked the driver and went inside, where a perfectly coifed and very attractive older woman behind a reception desk greeted them. She checked her book to confirm their appointment, and then asked them to be seated in the reception area until someone came downstairs for them. Within five minutes a beautiful young lady walked up and introduced herself as Natalie Renner, Mr. Eisner's executive assistant. She must have liked the way Kevin looked, because Cam noticed she really checked him out. He's already taken, Natalie, Cam thought to himself with a smile. In all the ways you can be taken. Ms. Renner led them into an elevator to the 10th floor, and then out of the elevator past another reception desk for the executive offices. She knocked on a door at the end of the corridor, and opened the door into an immense office without waiting. George Eisner was seated behind a massive desk, and stood up when the guys came in. "Gentlemen," he said with a big smile. "I'm so glad you could join us! Today wouldn't have been complete without you." "Thank you for having us," Cam said as he shook hands with the tall, rather beefy looking man in a $3,000 suit. "Mr. Eisner, this is my partner, Kevin Stoltz, and this is our good friend and roommate, Carl Emrick." Eisner shook hands with Kevin and Carl, and then motioned them over to a couch and easy chairs in a conversation center to one side of the room. Huge plate glass windows offered them a magnificent view of the Los Angeles skyline, a little smogged in as usual. "Thank you, Natalie," Eisner told his assistant. "You'll join us for lunch, won't you?" "Yes, sir," the woman said. "Thank you. I'll let you know when the chef is ready to serve." "Thanks," Eisner told her, then turning his attention to his visitors. "Have any of you ever taken a tour of Magnum Studios?" "No, sir," Kevin said. "Well, we can set something up for you at a time that's convenient for you," Eisner said. "Now Cam, I know you're in school at UCLA, studying cinematography, if my memory serves me correctly." "Yes, sir," Cam said, surprised that the man knew that. "Kevin and Carl, what about you?" "I'm studying physics at UCLA," Kevin said. "I'm a business major, also at UCLA," Carl said. "Wonderful," Eisner said. "You each have varied interests, obviously." "Yes, sir. Very much so," Kevin said. "Anyone else at home?" Eisner inquired. "Kevin and I have a little boy, Casey, who's a year and a few months old," Cam said. "I see," Eisner said. "I imagine he keeps you busy. Do you have someone helping you care for him?" "Yes," Kevin said. "We have a excellent housekeeper/cook, a lady with children of her own who are in school during the day, and who takes excellent care of Casey when we're at UCLA or elsewhere. We'd be lost without our Maria." "She's part of the family," Carl said. "Good," Eisner said. "I'm sure that having someone you can count on takes a load off your mind." "It really does," Kevin said. "Kevin and I plan to be married when we're both 18, which won't be long," Cam volunteered. "Particularly now that same-sex marriage is legal in California." "Congratulations to you both," Eisner said warmly. "It's about time that everyone has his or her civil rights." "We certainly agree with that!" Kevin said. "Carl, what about you? Do you have a 'significant other'?" "Yes, sir, my boyfriend lives in San Rafael. He'll be moving down here to live with me--with us--next semester." "That's good to hear," Eisner said. "What about you, Mr. Eisner? Are you married?" Cam asked. "Yes, I am. I've been married to the same woman for 40 years. We have five children, and three grandchildren. Ours isn't the usual California story because my wife and I are still very much in love." "That is a little unusual," Cam agreed. "I'm happy for you." "Thank you," Eisner said. Eisner's assistant, Natalie, returned to say that luncheon was ready be served, and the three young men and their host rose and followed Natalie into a dining room adjoining the CEO's office, a beautifully paneled room which could seat fifteen people. There were four people already gathered, and they stood up as the others came in. Eisner introduced Sam Hamilton, the producer of Alex's and John's picture, William McGrady, the executive producer, Rafe Allen, a young man in his 20's who was Hamilton's assistant, and Dan Cantwell, the director of photography, to Cam, Kevin and Carl. They all shook hands. Apparently no one else had been invited to lunch. There were name cards, and everyone sat down at the places designated for them, with Eisner sitting at the head of the table with Cam on one side, Kevin on the other, and Carl next to Kevin. Crystal glassware was filled with ice water which was beading on the sides of the glasses, and sterling silver cutlery graced each place setting along with an embossed card which listed what would be served for lunch: Caviar on ice Cold gazpacho soup Rosemary herb dressing in a bed of haricots verts Rack of lamb Mangetout and baby sugarsnap peas with chickpea risotto suffused with saffron Creme anglaise of pure custard Earl Grey tea and biscuits Cam looked at Kevin with raised eyebrows. Obviously no expense had been spared for the occasion. A uniformed wait staff began to serve the caviar followed by the soup, and out of habit Kevin, Carl and Cam bowed their heads and said a silent grace, trying not to call attention to themselves. But Mr. Eisner, sitting at the head of the table, noticed. "I see that you boys offered thanks," he said. "A good reminder for all of us. Would one of you like to say grace for us?" "Cam would." Kevin smiled, looking across the table at his partner, whose face turned red. But Cam didn't argue. "Cam?" Eisner said, reaching out for Cam's hand and Kevin's hand on the other side of the table. The other Magnum people sheepishly reached out to link hands--obviously not their usual practice at such a lunch. "Let us pray," Cam said. "Heavenly Father, we thank you for this opportunity to gather today to preview Alex's and John's last picture, knowing that you have blessed their work and the efforts of all who supported that work. We also ask a blessing on the food being set before us and upon the hands of all those who prepared it. In your name we pray." "Amen," Kevin and Carl said, followed by Mr. Eisner and the other guests as they loosed hands. Short, sweet and to the point. "Cam, thank you," Eisner said. "Are you three churchgoers?" "Yes, sir," Kevin said. "We all attend Mass at St. Dunstan's, Hollywood. As did Alex and John before they died. All the members of our family are Episcopalians. So are our next door neighbors, Sean and Susan Miller." "I know the Millers very well," Eisner mused. "So St. Dunstan's is where I've seen you before," Eisner continued. "You three looked familiar to me when we met today. I knew I had seen John and Alex at St. Dunstan's on occasion as well. By the way, I would have been at their Requiem, but my wife and I were out of town at that time. She and I belong to that parish, and raised our family there. Father Ryan is a wonderful priest!" "Now that you mention it, I've seen you at a distance at St. Dunstan's coffee hour after the late Mass," Carl said, the light dawning. "You know, I've think I've seen Casey there with you, too," Eisner said. "Father Ryan's daughter Rachel likes to walk the little guy around the parish hall at coffee hour while he stands on her shoes, if I'm not mistaken. He's a cute little bug!" "You're right," Kevin said, looking at their host and chuckling. "Casey's always on his best behavior at church, and he loves the Ryan kids, especially Rachel. They always make a fuss over him." "I could tell just by looking at him that you take good care of him," Eisner told the three guys. "I know that caring for a one-year old can be demanding, but enjoy it while you can. He'll be a teenager in the blink of an eye, and then you'll really have some challenges." Everybody laughed dutifully. The conversation drifted off to other subjects after the caviar was consumed and then the soup. The appetizer and the cool soup had been delicious. The wait staff was clearing the table in preparation for the main course when Eisner looked over at Sam Hamilton, the producer. "Sam," Eisner said, "why don't you tell these boys what a producer does on a major film project like this one." "Sure," Hamilton said. "The producer, in theory, is in charge of assembling all the resources required to make a successful movie--choosing a director, purchasing or developing the script, rounding up appropriate staff, making sure that the executive producer's budget and fundraising are adequate to carry out the artistic goals that the director brings to the project, and a thousand other details. The reality of who manages the overall process depends on the understanding between the director and the producer about who's really in charge--who has the experience and the vision to achieve the best film possible with available resources. It sometimes takes some negotiation, as it did in our case." Hamilton looked at Cam and chuckled. "You probably knew your father better than any of us, so you're probably aware that he was strong-willed, and so was John Kelley. After a few early skirmishes, your dad, John, Bill McGrady, Rafe Allen, Dan Cantwell and I reached a détente that allowed us to work together very well. The détente was that Alex told us what he and John wanted to do, and we said, 'Yes, sir.'" Bill McGrady laughed with a twinkle in his eye. "You got that right," he said. "But the finished product in this case proved that that arrangement was the best decision we could have made. This film is going to knock your socks off, the fact that it came in over-budget notwithstanding." The lamb and side dishes were served, and it was all melt-in-your-mouth good. Conversation stopped at first while everybody concentrated on eating. After a few bites, Cam turned to Mr. Eisner. "Would it be out of place for me to ask what the title of the movie is?" Eisner dabbed at his lips with his napkin. "Well, the working title was Love and Destiny throughout the filming. But we all still like it as it stands, so I think it's about ninety-nine percent sure that title will stick. Wouldn't you agree, Sam?" "Yes," Hamilton said. "That title has my vote." "I'm down with that," McGrady agreed. Everybody continued chatting amiably through the custard, biscuits, and tea. "Wonderful meal!" Carl commented when the wait staff came to clear the table. "Thank you, Carl," Eisner said. "Would it be possible to ask the chef to join us for a moment?" Kevin asked. "We'd like to thank him or her personally." "Of course," Eisner said, nodding at Natalie. She rose from the table and went into the kitchen, emerging a moment later with a man dressed in white wearing a large apron and a tall chef's hat. "Gentlemen, Rudolfo Rossi," Eisner said. Cam began to clap, and everyone joined him. "Rudolfo, our guests, Mr. MacKenzie, Mr. Stoltz, and Mr. Emrick, wanted to thank you for our magnificent lunch today," Eisner said. "Delicious!" Cam said. Rudolfo bowed. "Grazie," he said with a smile and a wave. Then he turned and went back into the kitchen. "Very kind of you to do that," Eisner observed to Kevin as everyone rose from the table. "Why don't we take a ten minute break and reconvene in the small theater down on the ninth floor?" Eisner suggested. "There is a bathroom up here just off my office, and other facilities in the hall if you need to use them," he told Cam, Kevin and Carl. The group scattered, with Cam, Kevin and Carl crowding into Mr. Eisner's private bathroom to relieve themselves. "First class operation, huh?" Cam observed as Carl used the urinal and Cam and Kevin shared the toilet to take a leak. "The lunch was perfect!" Carl observed as he moved over to the sink to wash and dry his hands. Kevin nodded as he and Cam finished up and moved toward the sink. "The food was great! But for every-day meals, I'm still very satisfied with what Maria does for us." Carl high-fived him in agreement, and then realized that Kevin hadn't washed his hands yet. "Oh, shit," Carl said, "I just high-fived the hand you held your dick with." "Don't worry about it," Kevin laughed. "My dick is clean enough for you to eat off of." "In some company that would be a disgusting thought!" Carl said, chuckling. "You guys are so fucking crude!" Cam observed. "I can't take you anywhere." The three of them were laughing when they emerged from the bathroom. Mr. Eisner was just hanging up his telephone when the boys walked up to his desk. "They're all ready for us downstairs," he said, smiling. "Why don't we go on down and get the best seats." They went out into the hallway and caught an elevator to the floor below. Mr. Eisner led them down the corridor some twenty feet to a double door, and they went into a small theater furnished with 15 plush, reddish-tan leather seats which rocked forward and backward and swiveled when the occupants wanted them to do so. Eisner and the three boys were the first on the scene, and he waved them into the center seats in the third row, and seated himself to one side of Cam and Kevin. The other guests at lunch trickled into the room. On the arm of each seat was a card headed, Love and Destiny, followed by a synopsis of the story. Cam glanced down at the card and quickly scanned it: Dorian Matthews, the younger son of the Earl and Countess of Ripon, himself a product of Eton and Cambridge and a captain in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, was married shortly after his twenty first birthday to Mary, the stunning daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Dorchester. It was, as was often typical of marriages among the nobility during the latter part of the nineteenth century, an arranged marriage in which love was yet to bloom, if at all. Matthews' best friend and erstwhile lover at Cambridge, Eric Rutledge, a lieutenant also in the Marine Light Infantry, served as Dorian's best man at the wedding. Only days after the marriage had been consummated, Matthews shipped out with the Sudan Expeditionary Force in 1883 under the overall command of General Sir Gerald Graham, VC. General Charles George Gordon, governor general of the Sudan, was head of the army which was under siege by the Mahdi and was already in residence in Khartoum. Rutledge was shipped out with the expeditionary force as well, and both he and Matthews were attached to the intelligence company for service in what was then part of Egypt. Matthews and Rutledge, as spies of a sort, had a good deal of flexibility and autonomy in carrying out their duties. Disguised as Sudanese natives, they often elected to work together on operations of a secret nature. They were partners in most of their military activities, which gave them ample opportunities for personal contacts of a sexual nature. If known, their relationship would of course have caused them to be cashiered from the Royal Navy. They took care to mask their feelings, but they were deeply in love with one another. The intelligence gathered by Matthews and Rutledge was valuable to senior commanders in formulating strategies during the war. One goal of the two men was to see that the civilian population was spared being slaughtered on the many occasions during which battles took place. In that regard, Matthews and Rutledge's views were exceptions to the usual English arrogance and disdain toward native peoples which was the norm of that day. On one occasion, Matthews was captured and was being subjected to torture by a unit of Dervish soldiers when Rutledge went into their camp carrying one of the new machine guns which he had commandeered from Army stores, and he killed Matthews' tormentors before any useful information could be extracted from him. The two men "had each other's back" on that and many other occasions of great danger, and were decorated several times for their exploits by their Army superiors. Their experiences caused the two men to strengthen what had already been an unbreakable bond. Meanwhile, in England, a young son had been born to Matthews and his wife Mary, the fruit of their wedding night. Mary was subsequently killed early in 1885 along with Matthews' older brother and his parents in a terrible carriage accident as they were traveling to visit Mary's family in Dorchester. The young son, Edward, was thrown clear of the wreckage, and survived, and he was transplanted to Dorchester to be raised by his grandparents pending his father's return from the Sudan. Once the details of the accident were known, Dorian Matthews, now the Earl of Ripon upon the death of his father and brother, was immediately detached from his company and regiment, and shipped home to England to care for his son. Rutledge remained behind, now bereft of his friend and lover. Their parting in the Sudan was anguished. Matthews had a difficult time getting custody of his son from his in-laws after he arrived back in England, but eventually prevailed. He devoted his time and energies to raising his son and seeing him educated as befitted the son of a peer of the realm. He himself served in the House of Lords as one of the more liberal members of the peerage of that day. The Sudan Expeditionary Force was eventually withdrawn from the Sudan in 1885 upon the death of General Gordon, and the survivors, including Eric Rutledge, returned to England. Rutledge moved to a village near the manor house in Ripon, and the two men resumed their relationship as circumstances permitted. Rutledge was eventually hired by Matthews as administrator of the far-flung estates of the earldom. Matthews and Rutledge made it one of their major objectives to rectify the grinding poverty in which the working people of the day lived within their jurisdiction, and Matthews used his membership in the House of Lords to achieve the same ends on a wider basis. Rutledge ran for and was elected to the House of Commons, where he served several times in the cabinet, selected by powerful and popular prime ministers. He played an important role in moderating the conservative views of the Tory party. Rutledge was eventually knighted by the crown for his work. Young Edward Matthews grew apace, and over the years enjoyed an especially close relationship to his father and to Eric Rutledge, though unaware that the two men were lovers. Edward was straight, although he had had some sexual experiences with several male classmates during his growing-up years. Shortly before the Earl's death, his father confided to his son that he and Rutledge had been almost lifelong lovers, and asked his son to continue laying the foundation for greater equality for all citizens as opportunities presented themselves. Edward Matthews promised to do so. Matthews and Rutledge died within weeks of one another of natural causes in their late seventies. Young Edward and his wife were present at their respective bedsides as they were mourned by multitudes of their friends and colleagues. The British royals attended the funerals of both men, at which each received additional military honors for their service in the Sudan. The respective parish churches from which the men were buried were surrounded outside the buildings by hundreds of commoners, both men and women, who were there because of Matthews' and Rutledge's records of service to the realm and the work they had done to help create a middle class in Great Britain. Edward Matthews, now the Earl of Ripon, took the secret of his father's and Eric's relationship to his grave. The final scene was of the young Earl and his wife standing where his father and Eric Rutledge were buried next to one another, remembering their good works and weeping at the loss of the two men Edward and his spouse had loved and admired so much. The other luncheon guests at lunch had trickled into the room, and when everyone was present and seated, Eisner pushed a button on the arm of his seat and said, "Tony, we're ready." "Yes, sir," a voice answered from a speaker in the ceiling. The lights dimmed, and a curtain opened to expose a glistening white screen in the front. A beam of light hit the screen along with a flood of music, and the Magnum Studio logo appeared followed by the production company's credit. Then the title of the movie appeared in red: Love and Destiny The first scene was of a man and a woman standing in front of the high altar of a large English cathedral, being married by a tall bishop in an alb and stole in accordance with the Anglican rite of that day. The bride was clothed in a magnificent white gown and train, and Matthews and Rutledge were dressed in their Royal Marine uniforms, complete with sabers. As the service proceeded, the camera panned around the church to reveal a large congregation dressed in 19th century garb. The wedding night was filmed well, with just enough revealed to know that the bride's virginity was taken. The noise and confusion on the wharf when Matthews, Rutledge and the Expeditionary Force boarded the warships and debarked for the Sudan was beautifully handled, with all the pomp and ceremony of the occasion, along with the apprehension of the families left behind, adroitly portrayed. >From beginning to end, the costumes and locations in the film were accurate to a fault, and the story moved forward at a pace which kept the viewers' attention glued to the screen. The synopsis, although an accurate account of the story which unfolded, didn't begin to convey the admiration that the actors inspired in viewers for the characters they played. The character development of the leading actors was meticulous and perfect, especially capturing well the efforts of Matthews and Rutledge on behalf of the commoners of that day. The emotions of the cast members seemed genuine in every instance, and Cam, Kevin and Carl were very moved by the film. They weren't alone in that regard. Cam couldn't help but reflect how much his mother and Ian and Mary Carson would like the social context of the film when they finally got to see it. No one in the little theater stirred or spoke a word when the credits rolled at the end, or for several minutes after the lights came up. During that time Cam realized how much he identified with the characters Matthews and Rutledge. He admired them not only for their physical courage in the Sudan, but for their steadfastness, as people of privilege in nineteenth century Great Britain, in working tirelessly on behalf of the downtrodden of their day. He didn't know it at the time, but Kevin and Carl were thinking much the same thoughts. "Where were the scenes in the Sudan filmed?" Cam finally inquired after he finally refocused on the present. "John took a unit to Morocco," Eisner said. "Some of the terrain there is very similar to the Sudan." "I didn't know anything was filmed outside of England," Cam said, looking at Kevin. "Me, either," Kevin said. "I had assumed everything was filmed somewhere near London." "Where the Sudan segment of the movie was to be filmed was one of Alex's and my early battles," Sam Hamilton said. "But in retrospect I have to tell you Alex was right. Reality was served. Filming there put our costs through the roof, though." "I can attest to that," Bill McGrady said. "But it was worth it." The group continued to talk about the film for over thirty minutes until George Eisner looked at his watch. "Gentlemen, I hate to leave you, but I have another meeting in about fifteen minutes." "I have to take my leave as well," Bill McGrady said. Everyone stood up and began to say their good-byes. Before they all parted company, Cam sought out Dan Cantwell, the director of photography. "Mr. Cantwell, I want to tell you how impressed I am with the photography in Love and Destiny. I'd really like to talk with you at some point if you'd have time. I'm taking a cinematography class at UCLA right now. It's a good class, but I know you could help me expand my horizons." Cantwell, a man of about thirty years of age, smiled and pulled a name card out of his breast pocket and handed it to Cam. "I'd like that," he said. "Give me a call, and we'll get together whenever is good for you." "Thank you," Cam said. "Why don't you boys come up to my office before you leave," Eisner said to Cam, Kevin and Carl. "We'll set up a tour of the studio for you at your convenience." "That would be great," Kevin said. They went upstairs. Knowing that the whole family would be down for Thanksgiving week from San Rafael, Cam asked if he could expand the tour numbers to include all the out-of-towners along with Jeff Miller and Art Smith. Eisner said that was no problem, asking only that he be given the opportunity to meet everybody when they showed up on the lot. The boys thought that was really generous of the man. Cam, Kevin and Carl expressed their thanks profusely for the lunch and the movie preview, and said good-bye to George Eisner and Natalie Renner, who once again gave Kevin the eye when they parted company. Cam chuckled inwardly about that. I wish I had the time and opportunity to fill Natalie in on just how gay Kevin is, he thought to himself. The guys made their way downstairs and out to the waiting limo. "I think you made a conquest," Cam told Kevin once they were all seated in the back of the car behind the glass barrier between them and their driver. "What are you talking about?" Kevin asked. "Ms. Renner was giving you the eye, dude," Cam said. "He's right," Carl told Kevin. "I didn't notice anything," Kevin said. He smiled. "Were you jealous?" Cam laughed. "Yes, I was. I was pissed every time she looked at you and undressed you with her eyes," he said. "But then I remembered what we did in bed last night, and I knew that all was right in our little world." "Did you do something special in bed last night?" Carl asked innocently, needling them a little. "Nothing you and Andy haven't done, I can assure you," Kevin said. "I'm relieved to hear that," Carl said. "We're not trying to break new ground." "Don't mess with perfection," Kevin said, and punched Carl on the shoulder. The boys spent the rest of the drive talking about Love and Destiny. Cam thought to himself how right Bill McGrady, the executive producer, had been. The film had indeed "knocked his socks off." * * * After the limo dropped them off in Malibu, the guys changed clothes and Cam went down to the study and started making calls on the landline to confirm who was coming for Thanksgiving dinner. First he called next door to the Millers. Susan Miller answered the phone. "Mrs. Miller, it's Cam." "Cam! How are you?" "Good. Listen, I just wanted to make sure you and Mr. Miller and Juanita are coming over for Thanksgiving dinner. You probably already know that Jeff will be here." "He told me. We're all looking forward to being there, Cam." "Good deal! By the way, Juanita will be here as a guest, not to work. I think you knew that." "I did. I know she's looking forward to it. Will Maria be there?" "Yes. We invited her and her husband and kids." "That's awfully nice of you, Cam. Can we bring anything?" "No, m'am. Just yourselves." "Sean and I will be there with bells on. Thank you. I know everybody will have a good time. I want to see that Casey. We never get to see enough of him." "He's been getting his baby teeth, and has been a little cranky lately. But he'll be in good shape by Thanksgiving." "Good. We'll see you then, Cam. Thanks for calling." They hung up. Next, Cam checked the phone's directory, and called Ian Carson at his law office in L.A. Ian's secretary, Beverly, put him right through. "To what do I owe the honor of this call?" Ian's baritone voice asked with a chuckle. "In the unlikely event I ever commit murder, will you represent me for free, or will I have to pay?" Cam said. "You'll have to pay double, and give me free room and board at your house during the trial," Ian said. "I'm shocked to hear that after all we've meant to each other!" "My services would have been free if you hadn't made me fly the whole family down there for Thanksgiving," Ian said. "Again." "Can't you write it off as a business trip?" "That wouldn't be honest, now, would it?" "You're an honest lawyer? What's this world coming to?" "When an ethical question comes up, I just ask myself, 'What would Cam MacKenzie do?'" "Well then, the bar association and the Justice Department will be investigating you before you know it." "Thanks for the heads-up. Now, what's on you mind, bud?" "First, how's Mom doing?" "She's doing well. I talked to her at noon. She'll be home when when I get there tonight." "Excellent! Now, have all the arrangements been made for the trip down here for Thanksgiving?" "Absolutely. Beverly made them, so everything is bound to be right." "That's a relief! Is Andy Helder coming with you? Carl will want to know." "Yes." "And Yolanda?" "Yes." "And Father Mason? "Yes." "All right! I can't wait to see everybody! What time will you be getting into L.A.?" Ian glanced down at his calendar. "We're leaving San Francisco at 10 a.m. on Monday of Thanksgiving week, and will get in about noon." "You are a god among men!" "So my staff tells me." "And rightly so. Two last things. One, give Mary and Mommy and Yolanda and the guys my love." "Consider it done." "Two, Kevin and Carl and I were at Magnum Studios today for lunch, and saw a preview of Dad and John's last picture. It's outstanding! You and Mary are going to love it when it's released!" "I'm glad, Cam. It sounds as if George Eisner treated you guys well." "Like kings." "I'm pleased for you, bud." "Well, he and his wife are members of St. Dunstan's. That explains a lot." "Good. Maybe we'll see them at church, then." "Yep. Father Ryan got all kinds of kudos from Mr. Eisner when we were talking today. He loves him and his family." "Everybody does." "I know it. Well, Ian, I'll let ya go. Love ya, and I can't wait to see you." "Love you back, Cam. Give Kevin and Carl my love. See you soon." Cam hung up and then called Art Smith, who answered his cell on the third ring. "Dude!" Art said. "How was the movie?" "It was great! I'll tell ya all about it when we see each other." "Excellent!" "Listen, I don't know what your plans for Thanksgiving are, but if it won't cause any hard feelings with your family, you're invited to join us. We're going to Mass at 10 a.m. Go to church with us, and then the afternoon is ours. Dinner will probably be at 4 o'clock, but that's subject to change. Bring swimming trunks, 'cause we're going to swim next door at the Millers' pool. And plan to stay over. With all the guys here from San Francisco, it's gonna be raucous!" "Wow! Thanks for the invite. Let me talk to my mom and dad, but things haven't been too good between us lately. So I'll let you know tomorrow, but I really want to be there." "Good, Art. Come for supper tonight. Maria will have something good for us." "I feel like I might wear out my welcome if I come over too often, Cam." "Getcher ass over here after school, and don't plan to go home tonight." Art laughed. "Well, when you put it that way..." They hung up, and Art headed for his next class at UCLA with a big smile plastered on his face. Cam next dialed Father Ryan from the phone directory. The church secretary put him right through. "Cam, how are you?" the priest asked. "Good, Father. I'm just calling to confirm that you and Mrs. Ryan and the kids are coming here for Thanksgiving." "We are, Cam, and we're all looking forward to it so much." "Father Mason will be here." "He told me that the other day," Father Ryan said. "Your family is all coming down here?" "Yes." "It sounds as if it's going to be a great celebration. What time were you planning dinner?" "Well, your kids are young, so let's plan around them. What time do you want to eat?" "That's very considerate of you. Mass on Thanksgiving is at 10 a.m., so anytime after noon would be fine. You guys set the time." "Would 4 p.m. be too late? That will give the young crew plenty of time to swim and get rowdy over at the Millers' pool before we eat." "Sounds good, Cam. Thanks again for the invitation. Lisa and the kids are thrilled. See you then." "Father, before I let you go, have you had any carpentry work done at the church? I'm looking for a recommendation for a carpenter to do some work here at the house." "As a matter of fact, we have had some work done here, and by a member of our congregation. He did a good job at a decent price, and I have no hesitation in recommending him. John Rogé is his name, and I can give you his number if you want to hold on for a minute." "Sure," Cam said. The priest put him on hold, and was back with him in two minutes. "You have a pencil?" "Yes, sir." The priest gave him the telephone number, and said that Cam should mention who gave him the referral when he called. "Thanks, Father. Will do. We'll see you this Sunday, and then at the Thanksgiving Mass. Take care." Kevin strolled into the study just Cam hung up. "Whadda ya doin'?" he asked with faux sternness. "And don't lie to me." "I wouldn't dream of lying to you. I've been calling my boyfriends all around the world. They all said to tell you 'hi.' And I talked to Father Ryan, and he gave me the number of a carpenter to call about putting in a doorway upstairs." "You never cease to amaze me," Kevin said. "Most of the time in a good way." Cam stood up from the desk, grabbed Kevin, and gave him a big, juicy smooch on the cheek. "Ugh!" Kevin said, smiling and wiping his face. "Sometimes love is damp," Cam said.
  10. Don H

    Chapter 60

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 It was Father Jim Mason's day off. He had just finished reading his evening Office and sat back in an easy chair when the landline on his side table rang. He glanced at the caller ID before answering it and saw that the call was from Kevin Stoltz. "Hi, Kevin, what's going on?" "Hey, Father. It's been a while since we talked. How are you?" "I'm good. Today was my day off, and I went to see Star Trek Into Darkness this afternoon." "You're so 'with it!'" Kevin chuckled. "I hear Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are really good in it. We haven't seen it yet." "They are. The movie was really excellent. It reminded me how much I liked the Star Trek movies when they first came out." "You recommend it, huh? Cam and Carl and I will have to go see it before it disappears from the theaters." "I would. Now, to the important things. How are Cam and Casey and Carl doing?" "They're fine. Casey has started teething, so he's a little out of sorts right now. We got some stuff to rub on his gums to kill the pain, though, so that helps. He's walking better all the time. He's sitting on the floor here in the study right now. As for Cam and Carl, they're good. But they're lazier in the gym than they should be, as usual, so my work is never done. We're running eight miles every morning now instead of seven." Kevin laughed. "I hope that won't present too much of a problem for you when we see you down here next time." "Dream on, pal. I can still leave you guys in a puddle of sweat when we run." "Big talk, priest! We'll just have to see about that! And speaking of seeing you, have you talked to Ian lately?" "Not for a couple of days. He and Mary are in Chicago for a legal conference, so it's a good bet Mary is shopping big time on Michigan Avenue right about now. Why, what's going on?" "Ian is chartering a plane so the family to come down to L.A. for Thanksgiving week, or so Cam tells me. You're on the 'must be here' list. Do you think you can get off that week?" "I'll have to talk to Father Blackburn about it, of course, but I think that might work. He knows I have to go down to L.A. periodically to spend some time with my mother, and he's been really generous with vacation time. Anyway, thanks for the invitation." "You know our family get-togethers aren't complete without you. So don't take offense when I tell you to get your ass down here and have some fun." "Don't you know that when you use bad language around a priest, your hand will stick out of the grave?" "No, that's not right. You told me that if you hit a priest, your hand sticks out of the grave. And believe me, I've been tempted." "Well, bad language is like a verbal slap, so the same thing applies." "Do you just make up this stuff as you go along?" Jim Mason laughed. "No, and you're supposed to listen to everything I say. I'm only trying to convey the collective wisdom of the ages." "Yeah, right! When it comes to my hand sticking out of the grave, all I have to do is go see Father Ryan at St. Dunstan's and tell him what I said to you, and he'll say, 'Good job, Kevin! Keep up the good work!' and he'll give me absolution whether I need it or not. That'll take care of the hand problem." "You're too smart for your own good." "Hey, you're more like a big brother to me by now, so I get to push the boundaries. Now, on another subject. How's your mother doing." Mason sighed. "Not very well. It's been a long, slow decline. Alzheimer's is sent from the devil. I think we're getting close to the time that I'll have to relocate to L.A. My sisters need help with her, at least until she has to go into a nursing home. And that may not be long." "I'm sorry to hear she's not doing well, Father. Well, when you do have to move down here, I hope you know you have a place to stay with us as long as you need it. We'd love to have you here. We really miss you." "Thanks, Kevin. You don't know how much that means to me. I miss you guys, too." "Just get down here for Thanksgiving week. Among other benefits, we'll send you home in better shape physically than when you got here." "It isn't possible to be in better shape than I am right now, but I'll do my best to get down there," the priest said, grinning. "Well, I should let you go," Kevin said. "Cam just came in, and he doesn't like me to talk to anybody unless he's here to monitor the conversation." "Who is that, you lyin' sack o' shit," Mason heard Cam say before Kevin could cover the phone. Kevin laughed. "Now the trouble begins," he told the priest. "I hope I'll see you soon, Father. Laters." He ended the call. "'Father' who?" Cam demanded of his partner. "Father Mason, and he heard what you said just before I hung up. And I heard him gasp when he heard it." Cam went over to where Kevin was sitting on the couch in the study, and sat down facing him, straddling his partner's legs. Holding Kevin's head in both hands, he planted a deep, juicy, lingering kiss on Kevin's lips. "You make me crazy," Cam told his partner when they came up for air. "And I'm gonna make you pay for it." "Don't you always?" Knowing where the good stuff was, Kevin reached down and groped the crotch of Cam's widely stretched Levi's. He could feel Cam's big cock start to respond right away. "You're asking for trouble," Cam said. "I hope you know that." "That's the kind of trouble I like," Kevin said. Kevin's phone rang just then, and he answered it. It was William Carson. "I'm glad I caught you," William said. "There's a problem up here." "You're the problem up there," Kevin said. "No, seriously! Mom and Dad are in Chicago right now at a legal conference, and Rosa just got a call at the house from the San Rafael EMT's that Catherine is on her way by ambulance to San Francisco General Hospital from St. Francis University. They didn't tell Rosa much, but the EMT's think she may possibly have appendicitis. I'm still at school, but Rosa called me right away. I'm going to leave football practice early and get home." "You better not be screwin' with me, dude," Kevin said "Listen up, asshole, I'm not kidding. Catherine's on her way to San Francisco. Is Cam there?" "More or less sitting on my lap. Do you wanna talk to him?" "Yes, please." Kevin passed his phone to Cam, mouthing the word "William" to him. Cam took the phone. "We gotta stop meeting like this," Cam told William. "Tell me about it. Listen, I have some bad news. Rosa just called me from the house. She got a phone call from the San Rafael EMT's. They were called to the university this afternoon, and after conferring with a doctor by radio, they're taking Catherine by ambulance to San Francisco General. They won't diagnose, but off the record they speculate she has appendicitis, and they're not taking any chances." "Oh, crap!" Cam managed to get out before his throat closed up on him. "Oh, crap," Casey said from his vantage point on the floor. Cam and Kevin looked down at Casey and grimaced at each other. Little pitchers certainly did have big ears when it came to bad language. "Cam," William said. "I think you should come up here. I mean tonight. Kevin, too, if you can both come. Appendicitis is nothing to fuck with. Call right now and get some plane reservations. It doesn't matter how late, I'll come get you at the airport. We can stay at the apartment in San Francisco tonight, and I'll take you to the hospital first thing in the morning. If things don't look too bad at that point, maybe I'll head back to San Rafael for school tomorrow. Or not. But if it's really serious, I'll stay in town and keep you company. Mom and Dad are in Chicago, so I'm kinda holding down the fort." "All right. Thanks. First thing, though, call Father Mason. Kevin just talked to him, so I know he's at his apartment. Let him know what's going on so maybe he can go to the hospital. I'll be back with ya in ten minutes about the plane reservations," Cam said, and ended the call. * * * Father Mason was still sitting in his living room with a big smile on his face after talking to Kevin. He wasn't kidding when he'd told him he missed the guys in Santa Monica, although the rest of the family in San Rafael helped keep his loneliness within bounds. His telephone rang, and he saw William Carson's name on the screen. "To what do I owe the honor of this call?" Mason asked. "Father! William Carson. Bad news. Rosa just called me from the house to let me know Catherine MacKenzie is on her way by ambulance to San Francisco General. The EMT's were called to St. Francis this afternoon, and after conferring with a physician by radio, they think she has appendicitis. Cam wanted me to let you know." "Thank you, William. If you're going to talk to Cam again, tell him I'm going to be on my way to the city right away." "Thanks, Father. I'll tell him. Either Cam, or both Cam and Kevin, will fly up here tonight, depending on how many seats may be available on a late flight. We're probably going to stay at the apartment in town tonight, I think." "Good. I'll talk to you later," the priest said as he stood up. He snagged his black suit coat from the back of a dining room chair and put it on, checking to see he had the holy oils, a pyx with Holy Communion in it, and a priest's stole in his pocket. Then he was out the door and heading for his car. * * * Cam pushed himself off of Kevin's legs, and stood there looking down at his partner. "How does your schedule look for the next couple of days?" he asked. "I have a physics midterm exam tomorrow morning, and an English midterm the day after. But I can cut them and explain to my professors later." "No, I don't think you should do that," Cam said. "It won't be a problem," Kevin said. "I'm carrying an 'A' average in both classes, and the profs know I wouldn't miss an exam unless it was important." "I'll call you from San Francisco and ask you to come only if things look really bad when I get there," Cam said. "Besides not having you miss the midterms, one of us needs to be here with Casey while he's teething, especially in the evening. I don't want to saddle Carl with a cranky baby if he cries all night. Not that Carl wouldn't do a good job..." Kevin looked at Cam and considered the matter for a minute. "I guess you're right," he said. "But promise me you'll call right away, and if things are bad, I'll come up first thing in the morning. Deal?" "Yep," Cam said as he walked over to the desk and opened his laptop. Firing it up, he found the reservations page on Kayak, and started looking at flights to San Francisco. There was one seat left on a 9:00 p.m. flight, and he grabbed the reservation before somebody else got it. Using the land line this time, Cam called William back and told him his flight number, when the plane would leave L.A., and when it was scheduled to land in San Francisco. William promised to pick him up at the airport. Cam sat there for a minute after hanging up, watching Casey as the little guy started to cry. Kevin stood and went over and scooped Casey up in his arms off the floor. Carrying him back to the couch, he grabbed the unguent for the baby's mouth, opened the tube, and rubbed the stuff on the little guy's gums. Casey stopped crying almost right away. "I'd better tell Maria what's going on and throw some stuff in a bag," Cam said, heading for the kitchen. * * * About 7:00 that night, Kevin put Casey in his car seat, and he and Carl drove Cam to the airport. Cam kissed the baby and Carl good-bye, and then took an extra minute to say good-bye to Kevin. "I don't like leaving you and Casey," Cam told his partner, holding him in an extended hug. "What about me?" Carl asked. "All right, I hate leaving you, too," Cam said with a grin. "I know you don't want to leave, but you do have to go," Kevin said. "Mom needs one of us to be there for her right now." Kevin nuzzled Cameron's face, ignoring the sparse crowd around them. "We haven't been apart in a long time. I don't think I'll sleep too well tonight without you beside me in bed." "I know," Cam said. "Me either. I'll call you when I get into town." "Say 'hi' to Mom and William and Father Mason, and tell Mom I'll say a prayer for her tonight. Tell her she has to be better by Thanksgiving week so she can travel down here," Kevin said. "I will. Love ya, Kev. So much." "Back atcha, Cameron." Cam kissed Carl's cheek again, and then Kevin gave Cam a long final hug and a last kiss. Cam picked up his overnight bag and headed for the gate. After he passed through security, Kevin and Carl soon lost sight of him. They headed for the short-term parking lot to go home. Casey was fussing, and Kevin rubbed some more pain killer on his gums after they got in the car. * * * The plane trip was uneventful, and Cam dozed in his seat most of the way to San Francisco. When it was time to deplane, he grabbed his one bag out of the overhead bin, slung the strap over his shoulder, and made his way off the plane. Once in the terminal and on the escalator down to arrivals/baggage claim, Cam spotted William in an instant. He was surprised at the emotions that surged through him when he saw his bro waiting for him. He had missed him far more than he had realized. In the relatively short time since Cam had seen the boy, William appeared to have grown at least another inch, Cam estimated, making him a little taller than he himself was. The kid had also gained some muscle, and he was even more exceptionally, stunningly handsome than ever. William was still wearing his black hair in a crew cut, but now his side burns ran down his cheeks in a stubble to a short goatee on his chin. He was wearing a polo shirt that emphasized the outline of his pecs and put his guns on display, along with a pair of form-fitting Levi's that looked as if they'd been designed just for his body. He had a pair of flip-flops on his big feet. He was one sexy guy, and Cam felt a stirring in his groin when he looked at him. They hugged each other when Cam reached the lower level of the terminal and exchanged a kiss on the cheek. "You've bulked up, man," Cam told him, holding on to him a little longer than he thought he should. "Had to," William responded, "The ground is hard when some fucking 250 pound lineman has tackled you and is sitting on your chest. Ya gotta be in good shape for that shit." Cam laughed. "I guess!" William looked at Cam solemnly. "Y'know, I miss you guys, and I miss playtime with Casey." "Well, Kevin and Carl send their love. And Casey asked me, 'Where's William?' when the guys dropped me off at LAX." William chuckled. "How's Alicia?" Cam asked. "She's great! She's a real sweetheart, and I love her to death." "Sounds good," Cam said, "even if you aren't gettin' any pussy." "I'm horny as hell, but all in good time, my man. You got any bags to claim?" "Nope. Let's book. I guess you called Father Mason about Mom, so we might possibly see him at the hospital." "Yes," William said. "I also called hospital admitting tonight. I said I was Catherine's son. That wasn't exactly a lie, was it?" "Nope. We have a parent-sharing program." "Well, they finally, grudgingly, told me they had admitted her." "Good to know." "Let's head over there, then," William said. He glanced at his phone. 11:30 p.m. "I doubt if they'll let us see her tonight, but let's check it out before we go to the apartment." "Sounds good. Thanks for picking me up, by the way." "I wanted to." "Did you let your mom and dad know what's going on?" "Yeah. I called them in Chicago at supper time. They're upset about your mom." "When will they be home?" "They'll be back this weekend. Earlier if there's an emergency. They're gonna try to talk to Catherine by phone at the hospital." "Cool. How are Berto and the other guys doing?" "Excellent. They're hoping to see you before you go back." "Me, too, but I don't know..." On the way to the parking lot, Cam called Kevin to let him know he'd arrived in San Francisco with no problem, that William had met him as promised, and that they were heading for the hospital. Kevin told him to say hello to William and to give their mom his love when he saw her. William had Ian's big Navigator. They drove to San Francisco General, talking along the way about sports in general and San Rafael High's football team in particular. The traffic was light, and they arrived at the stroke of midnight at their destination. They met Father Mason coming out through the after-hours emergency room entrance as they went in, and exchanged hugs with him. "Father, thanks for coming into town for Mom. Is there any news?" Cam asked. "They've confirmed that she has appendicitis," Mason said. "She's scheduled for surgery at 6 a.m. They don't expect any complications." "Thank the Lord for that," Cam said, giving a quick look toward heaven. "I anointed her and gave her Holy Communion," the priest said. "She's in good hands." "Thank you so much," Cam said. "Do you suppose they'll let us see her tonight?" William asked. "They were making her comfortable and giving her a sleeping pill to knock her out for the night as I was leaving," Father Mason said. "So I doubt it." "That's alright!" Cam said. "I'm feeling relieved about things even though we can't see her tonight. We'll see her in the morning." "Father, we're staying in town tonight at the apartment," William said. "You're welcome to stay over with us if you like." "Thanks," Mason said. "But I have the early Mass tomorrow morning at St. Andrew's, so I need to go on back to San Rafael." "As soon as I know how things go tomorrow, I'll call you, Father," Cam told him. "I'll appreciate it," Mason said. William and Cam hugged the priest again and said goodnight to him, and they headed for their cars. Cam called Kevin again to let him know that even though they didn't get to see Catherine, they had met Father Mason when he left for home, and that the doctors weren't expecting any complications. "You tired?" William asked after Cam was off the phone. "A little. But I'm feeling more relaxed now that I know things are looking positive," Cam said. "We'll get a good night's sleep. I've hardly been to the apartment since we moved in with your mom in San Rafael. But Dad stays there sometimes when he has an early morning court date," William said as they reached the SUV and drove out of the parking lot. "We need to stay over in the city with all the guys some weekend when Kevin and Carl and I are up here," Cam suggested. "Yep," William agreed. "I could show you guys all the hot gay spots here in town." "Like you'd know!" "You'd be surprised what I know." "Yeah, right!" Cam said dismissively. They arrived at the apartment building and William punched a button on the overhead instrument cluster of the Navigator to open the gate to the underground garage. They went down the ramp and parked in one of the spaces marked "P" for penthouse, right near the elevator which was exclusive to the top floor. "Handy," Cam commented. "Yeah. You wouldn't believe how much these parking spaces cost." "How much?" "Dad says seventy-five grand each." "And you guys have four spaces?" Cam asked incredulously. "Yeah." "Holy shit! That's a lot of shekels." "Yep," William agreed. Cam grabbed his bag out of the back seat, and they got on the elevator. Cam's ears hurt as they ascended quickly toward the top floor, and he swallowed hard to relieve the pressure in his ears. "Ow," William said, having the same problem. They walked off the elevator into the apartment foyer, and William started hitting light switches as they walked back toward the bedrooms. "There's no food here, so maybe we can eat at the hospital when we go over there in the morning," William said. "That's cool." "Any preference on a bedroom?" William asked. "Nope." "OK, here's good," William said, pointing toward a room with a double bed in it. He looked at Cam. "Uh, can I sleep with you?" Cam stopped walking and looked at William inquisitively. "As long as you mean 'sleep,' that's all right. I know you're not gay." "That's true," William said, not looking directly at Cam. He hesitated. "But if I were, you and Kevin be the ones." Cam put his bag down on the bed, and sat down beside it, staring at William. "You're hot as hell, William, and I'm really attracted to you. But you're straight, or at least mostly straight, and I'm not going to do anything sexual with you. I can't do anything that would let Kevin down and put my relationship with him at risk." William sighed and finally looked Cam in the eye. "I respect that. I just want to sleep close to you and maybe hold you, that's all. I know that's kind of pushing it, but I'd really like to do that." After a long moment of silence, Cam finally spoke. "I can't say 'no' to that." He paused. "Or at least I don't want to say 'no' to that." "That's all I'm asking," William said, looking a little embarrassed. "Well," he clarified, "it's not all I want, but I won't ask for anything more." "All right." Cam unzipped his bag. "I'm gonna brush my teeth and take a shower." "Go ahead," William said. "There are towels in the linen closet in there." Without looking at William, Cam stripped naked, took his toothbrush and toothpaste out of his bag, and went into the bathroom. He didn't look behind him, but he thought he felt William's eyes on his back and ass as he walked into the bathroom. He took a leak first, brushed his teeth and rinsed, and then slid open the beautifully engraved glass door to the shower. He turned on the water and adjusted the temperature. When the temperature was right, he stepped inside and closed the glass door. He stood directly under the streaming hot water, letting it pound on his tense neck and shoulder muscles before he started to soap himself up. As he washed he heard William come into the bathroom, open the mirror over the sink, take something out and tear open some cellophane. A new toothbrush, no doubt. "Can I use some of your toothpaste?" William shouted over the noise of the shower. "Help yourself," Cam said. When Cam came out of the shower, the bathroom was empty. He toweled off, hung up the towel, and went back into the bedroom. Cam noticed that William's clothes, including his boxers, were lying in a pile on an easy chair. He was in bed on his back, head on a pillow, with the sheet and bedspread pulled up to his chest. Cam sat on the end of the bed, and retrieving his phone from his pants, texted Kevin that he loved him and missed him. He reiterated that he and William were staying at the downtown apartment, and that William would take him back to the hospital after Catherine's surgery the next morning. When he finished texting, Cam turned off the overhead light and walked to his side of the bed, cock swinging, with William unabashedly taking a good look at Cam's body as he walked. "Well, whaddaya think?" Cam asked William. "You're in great shape," William admitted. Cam pulled down the sheet on his side of the bed, climbed in, and pulled the covers up to his own chest in the dim light of a bedside lamp. "I hope you don't mind," William said. "I sleep naked." "I remember. You're not making this easy for me, are you?" Cam said. "I'm sure you remember I sleep naked, too." "Can I at least sleep close to you without fucking up our relationship?" William asked. "Are you sure you want to take a chance like that, straight boy?" "If not now, when?" "All right," Cam said, shaking his head resignedly. "You're a gambler!" William turned on his side toward Cam and pulled him close to his own body. He sniffed Cam's skin, and kissed him on his shoulder. "I love ya, man. That's all I'm gonna say. And that's all I'm gonna do." They drifted off to sleep in each other's arms. The next thing Cam knew, he was spooning William in the darkness. His own penis was rigid and was nestled into William's crack, and he had his free hand around the boy's long, thick, hard cock. Cam jacked him, and suddenly it was slick and wet from an eruption of cum. A lot of cum. Cam stopped counting William's shots of ejaculate when they reached nine. Withdrawing his hand, he gave it a lick, and liked what he tasted. William was awake and turned his head to look back at his bed mate. "Don't stop now," William said. "That felt great!" "I'll bet it did." Turnabout was fair play. William rolled toward Cam and reached for his dick. "No, man!" Cam said, warding him off. Cam awakened later with a start and glanced at the luminous face of his watch. It was about 5 a.m. William was lying quietly beside him, breathing peacefully. Had jacking William off been a dream or not? Cam's own cock was hard as a rock and leaking. Could all of it really have been a dream? William woke up, stretched and got out of bed to urinate just about then, and Cam looked over in the dim light from around the window shade to where his bedmate had been sleeping. The bottom sheet had a huge wet spot on it. Dream or no dream, at least this much was true: William had gotten off bigtime, with or without Cam's assistance. When William came back to bed, he brought a hand towel from the bathroom and put it down over the wet spot before lying down in bed again. They slept another hour and a half before getting up, showering separately, and heading for the hospital. There was no discussion of who had done, or not done, what had happened during the previous night. In any event, William had obviously received some much needed relief, no matter who was responsible for it. * * * William pulled into a parking space at San Francisco General shortly after 7 a.m. and shut the SUV off. He looked over at Cam. "Are we all right?" he asked. He was as direct as ever. No bullshit. Cam looked at him. "Yes." "Good." "I'm not sure how and what actually happened last night," Cam said. William nodded. "That's just as well." "I didn't mean for anything to happen." William shrugged. They got out of the Navigator and headed for the hospital entrance. A receptionist at a desk inside the front doors looked up Catherine's location, and explained how to get to the surgical waiting room. "Let's grab some coffee first," Cam suggested, and they followed the signs to the hospital cafeteria. Once there, they got some scrambled eggs and toast to go with the coffee, and ate together at a table before heading upstairs. There wasn't much conversation. Then they sought out the family surgical lounge. A volunteer at the front desk of the lounge, an elderly man in street clothes, had them sign in, and then he used the telephone. He found out that Catherine's surgery had gone well, and that she was in the recovery room as they spoke. "I can take you to recovery once Mrs. MacKenzie is awake and doing well," the man said. Cam thanked him, and he and William sat down beside each other off in a corner of the large room. After five minutes of silence, William looked at his friend. "Talk to me," he said to Cam. Cam cleared his throat. "I was just thinking that you and I are living proof about what a mystery human beings are." "Whaddaya mean?" "Well, you're a straight guy who in the course of twelve months last year fucked more pussy than most guys get in a lifetime," Cam said. "And yet I keep getting vibes that you would have liked to have done more than just hold me in bed last night. Was I wrong?" "No." "Have you ever done anything with another guy?" "Nope. The only thing I've ever done with another guy, or in this case, guys, was when I jacked off with you and Kevin in bed last year. Does mutual masturbation count?" "Have you ever wanted to do more than that with another guy?" "Well... I know a good looking guy when I see one. I have to admit that I'd do you or Kevin in an instant, given the chance, and let you do me. I think that after I did it with one or both of you, I probably would never do another guy in my life." "Why us?" "I don't know exactly what to say except that you and Kevin are the 'real deal' in my opinion." He smiled. "I love those devious minds of yours and admire your attitudes, and of course, you're jocks with great bodies." He paused. "I'm really attracted to your bodies," he admitted. "And above all I feel safe with you both when it comes to my reputation." "Do you think that doing something sexual with us would be a betrayal of Alicia?" William sighed. "Maybe. I'd have to think about it. If anything like that ever happened, I might have to go to Confession again. I don't know." "So you do have a conscience, then?" William frowned and looked annoyed. "Fuck, yes. Why would you think different?" "Haven't you heard that 'A stiff prick has no conscience'? I'm not putting you down," Cam said, "so don't get all pissed off at me. I think we're really just getting to know each other. Maybe more than most straight guys like you usually get to know a gay guy like me when it comes to sex." "Maybe so. I'm not always proud of where my thoughts take me sometimes, but I'm not ashamed, either." "Bro, I love ya and admire you, and so does Kevin. I have to tell you I'm flattered that you like us 'that way.' You have my word I'll never talk about what you've told me with anyone--except to Kevin--and believe me, he's really close mouthed." Cam reached over and hugged William across the shoulders and kissed his cheek just as the volunteer receptionist approached them. The man gave no sign that he'd seen anything untoward. "The recovery room nurse just called to say that you can see Mrs. MacKenzie in recovery before they take her up to her room," he said. Cam and William stood up. "Only one of you can go back to recovery, though," the man said. The guys looked at each other. "You go," William said. "I'll wait here." "Okay," Cam said. "Do me a favor and call Kevin to let him know Mom's all right, will ya? And call Father Mason. And Rosa, too." William pulled his phone out of his pocket and nodded, and Cam followed the volunteer out of the lounge and down the hall. Fifty feet later they reached a double doorway, and the man pressed a round silver plate on the wall. The double doors whisked open with a pneumatic sigh. Cam saw that there were thirty or so cubicles in the recovery room, some closed to view with curtains and some not. Staffers in blue scrubs, several wearing masks, were moving around the room taking care of patients. A female nurse approached them. "This is Mr. MacKenzie," the volunteer told her, "to see his mother." The nurse smiled and bid Cam good morning. "Right this way," she said. "Your mother is still a little groggy, but she's doing well." Cam turned to the volunteer and told him, "Thank you, sir," before the man walked away, and Cam followed the nurse to a cubicle. There was Catherine MacKenzie, gowned and in bed, looking surprisingly like herself. Even her hair was still well coifed. Tears of relief sprang to Cam's eyes, and he quickly dashed them away. "Mom," he said. His voice was husky. "Sweetheart!" she said, smiling. "What are you doing here?" "Where else would I be? If I were lying in that bed instead of you, you'd be standing right here." He went to her and kissed her on the cheek, and embraced her very carefully so as not to jostle the IV's in her arms. "How did you know I was having trouble?" "William called me yesterday afternoon and told me you were on the way here, and then he picked me up at the airport last night after I flew into town. He and I stayed at the apartment last night. He's in the waiting room right now. Kevin wanted to come up here with me, but he had a mid-term exam this morning and one tomorrow, and I didn't want him to miss them. And Casey is teething right now, so...By the way, we saw Father Mason downstairs about midnight last night just as he was leaving the hospital to go back to San Rafael." "What a wonderful, hard working, compassionate priest Father Mason is!" Catherine commented. "Well, I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm glad you flew up here. But I'm glad Kevin stayed in Santa Monica to take care of his exams and of Casey." "Me, too. Any idea about how long they'll keep you here?" "No. But I doubt if it will be more than a couple of days at the outside." "That's good news! I'll stay in town over at Ian's apartment again tonight, and probably go home tomorrow morning." "Thank you for coming up here, Cameron. I love you so much. I miss you and Kevin and Carl. And that baby! You say he's teething?" "Yes. The pediatrician recommended some stuff to rub on his gums, and it seems to work pretty well. But the little guy is pretty uncomfortable right now." "I can imagine. But it will be over before long." "Yeah. You'll see him soon, but meanwhile..." Cam reached into his back pocket for his wallet, and took out a picture of Casey looking happy, holding a tennis ball and grinning. He handed it to her. "He's darling," Catherine said enthusiastically. "I can't wait to see him. May I keep this picture?" "Of course. We have a lot of pics for you. You should be well enough to come down to L.A. for Thanksgiving week, don't you think? You did know that Ian is chartering a plane to take everybody down there, didn't you?" "I knew he was thinking about it, but I didn't know it was a done deal. I'm glad. It's something to look forward to. William and the other boys here in San Rafael have been pushing Ian pretty hard to make that happen." "Kevin and Carl and I are looking forward to seeing everybody." "It won't be long." "Listen, Mom, I want to tell you something I should have said a long time ago." "What's that?" "I need to tell you how much I appreciate everything you've done for me. You've been a great mother to both me and Kevin, and a wonderful grandmother to Casey, and we're always going to think of you that way. If we ever accomplish anything in our lives, it will be because of the way you raised us. And did it alone for many years, and that's wasn't easy. Then you stepped up to help the Carsons when we hardly knew them. Now that's generosity! And you accepted Kevin and me for what we are, gay men, and we're stronger people because of you. Thank you for who you are and what you've done." Much to Cam's surprise, his mother began weeping, the tears coursing down her cheeks. Cam snatched a couple of tissues out of a box on the bedside table, and gently dried her cheeks. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry." "You caught me by surprise, that's all. Thank you for what you said, Cam." They continued talking for about ten minutes, and then the nurse Cam had just met came over to the bed. "Mrs. MacKenzie," she said, "I think you're stable now and ready to go up to your room." "Good," Catherine said. "Cam, you'll come up with me, won't you?" "Yes. I'll get William from the family surgical lounge, and we'll come up. William wants to see you, but he has to go back to school pretty soon and then to football practice this afternoon." "I want to see him," Catherine said. "What room will my mom be in?" Cam inquired of the nurse. "Come over to the desk, and I'll check for you," the nurse said. She led Cam over to the counter, picked up a list of names and room numbers, and gave him Catherine's room number. "Thank you, m'am," Cam said. "You're welcome." He walked back over to his mother, and told her that he and William would be up to see her as soon as they were sure she was settled into her room. "Thank you, sweetheart," she said. "Thank you for being here. Thank you for being so kind. Thank you for being such a good son." Cam leaned down and kissed her again, and then headed back to the surgical lounge to get William. William looked up when Cam came in. "How is she?" he asked. "She's doing well," Cam said. "She doesn't seem to be in too much pain, and they're just now moving her upstairs. I have her room number. Let's give them a few minutes to get her settled, and then go on up. Mom said she wants to see you." They sat down in their chairs again. William leaned down in his chair, looking at the floor, and said, "I just hope your mom knows how much all of us guys love her and how much we appreciate everything she's done for us." "This is probably a good time for you to tell her that. I more or less just told her the same thing in the recovery room. I'm sure she'll be glad to hear it from you, though." William nodded his head. "When you're right, you're right. I'll tell her. It'll be my pleasure to tell her that because it's so true." "Were you able to get hold of Kevin?" "No, but I left him a voicemail," William said. "He's probably in class." "How about Father Mason and Rosa?" "I left a voicemail for Father, and talked with Rosa. She's relieved, and she'll give the boys the good news when they get home from school." "Thanks, man," Cam said. "Let's head upstairs," William suggested. "I have to get on the road to school myself pretty soon." By the time they found Catherine's private room, she was already settled in bed with the TV on. Cam was surprised to see that William's eyes were damp when they walked in the door to her room and saw her. "Hey!" William said as he walked over to Catherine and carefully bent down to hug her and kiss her cheek. "You gave us all a scare." "I gave myself a scare," Catherine said. Cam and William pulled up chairs and sat down. "Thank you for picking Cam up last night, William," Catherine said. "I don't want my problems to interfere with school and football practice for you, though." "I'm in pretty good shape at school," William said. "No worries. I wanted to be here. It's little enough to do after everything you've done for me and the other boys and for my mom and dad. I hope you know how much we've appreciated everything, Catherine." "Well..." Catherine said, obviously moved. "I love you boys and your parents, William. There's nothing I wouldn't do for any of you." The three of them talked about generalities for about fifteen minutes, when William finally glanced at his phone and saw the time. "I think I'd better head out," he told Catherine and Cam. "School awaits." William bent down again and kissed Catherine good-bye. "I love you, and I'll see you soon." "Thank you, William. I love you back." William turned to Cam and took him into his arms. "Are you going to stay at the apartment again tonight?" he asked in his ear. "Well, I'd like to. But how will I get in?" Cam asked. "I'll call the doorman and let him know you're coming." "Thanks," Cam said. "Will I see you again before I leave town?" "I can come back into town after football practice if you want me to." "I'd like that." "You'll grab a cab back to the apartment when you leave here?" William asked. "Yes." "Okay. Don't eat supper until I get back into town. It might be a little late, but we'll order something in." "Sounds good," Cam said. Shaking Cam's hand and pulling him into a hug again, William kissed his cheek, and with a final smile and wave at Catherine, walked out. Catherine looked at Cam thoughtfully. "You're very lucky to have a a good friend like William and a great partner like Kevin," she said. "Don't I know it!!" Catherine gave him an impish look, and quoted Aristotle: "Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit." "Hmmm. I can't argue with that," Cam admitted with a chuckle. "I'm guess I am a slow-ripening fruit, colloquially speaking." "Stop it!" Catherine said, smiling. "Well anyway, you're pretty smart, Mom. And well read. How do you remember all these quotes you come up with?" He'd almost said "How do you remember all this shit," but quickly amended what he said. Catherine laughed. "It's a gift," she said. Cam sat down, and for the moment they turned their attention to the wasteland of daytime television. Finding nothing of interest after cycling through the channels, they turned the TV off. Cam looked at his mother quizzically. "Mom, if it wouldn't upset you, would you tell me what Dad was like when you were first married," he asked. "I'm not sure I ever got to really know him well enough before he was killed, and I'd like to know more." "It's not upsetting to talk about him at all," Catherine said, pausing to gather her thoughts. "As you might expect, in the beginning," she said, "we were very much in love. Alex used to call me on the telephone from work, sometimes several times a day, to ask me what I was doing and tell me he loved me. At that time he was working on documentary films on various subjects for elementary and secondary school children, and he was very invested in his work. Sometimes after supper, before you were born, we would sit around at home holding hands, and he would tell me what he was working on. "We had a lot of friends in common back then, and we often invited people over for supper, especially on weekends. He would help me in the kitchen, and we'd enjoy just sitting around with our guests drinking wine, at least before I was pregnant. We had some good times back then. He was always sweet and kind and good." "So things started off well." "Yes," Catherine said. "When did things start to go downhill?" "I don't think I can give you an exact date. But after several years, he began to seem tense all the time and a lot less demonstrative in our relationship. You had been born by then, and I knew things were cooling off in Alex's and my relationship, but I thought it was just the natural order of things. I had no idea that he was fighting internally about whether he was gay or not. We still had sexual relations, but it seemed more and more perfunctory as time progressed. About that time he really began to encourage me to go back to school for an advanced degree. "I never had a clue about what was really troubling him until he wanted a separation, and he entered therapy. After being in therapy for awhile he finally sat down and told me he was gay. As you might expect, I was devastated and relieved all at the same time. I was devastated because I loved him so much--and continued to love him after we were divorced--and relieved because I began to understand that what had happened to us was not my fault. "I began to do a lot of research on homosexuality, and discovered that being gay is no one's fault. I'm sure you know that most gays, male or female, are born with that orientation, although in some few cases being gay is situational and sometimes has to do with relationships with one or both parents. Many of those latter individuals can achieve postive and long-lasting heterosexual relationships with a little help. Those who are born gay mostly remain so during their lifetimes. "The knowledge I had gained from studying material on sexual orientation helped me greatly when you and Kevin admitted you were having sex. The source material I read didn't lead me to believe that Alex and I were at fault for "making you gay." I wasn't so sure about what had caused Kevin to bond with you in light of his having already fathered a child. But over time I became satisfied that he is gay and not a heterosexual who was merely dabbling in gay sex with you. He truly loves you, and he loves you deeply because you are a man, and not as a passing fancy just to test the boundaries of human behavior. "Anyway, as I said before, I really never stopped loving your father, and I don't think he ever stopped loving me, either. That's part of the reason, I'm sure, that my dating life after Alex and I divorced was never very satisfactory. I was very pleased when I finally met John Kelley, and knew that he and Alex were deeply fulfilled with one another and deeply in love. I was also very grateful that Alex and I could forgive each other for what had happened in our marriage, and make you, and Kevin as well, feel that both of us loved you two very much." "Wow! Thank you, Mom, for being so forthright about Dad and you, and what you both went through. It really helps me understand what went on. I held a grudge against Dad for years before I finally began to understand what really transpired. That happened partly because of my own growing experience as a gay person. But what you've told me is really the last piece of the puzzle." "Well, you're old enough now that we don't need to have any secrets from each other." "Thank you, Mom." Cam stood up, and bending down over the bed, he kissed his mother on the forehead. Sitting back down, he studied his mother's face. "Did I tell you that I had a call a few days ago from George Eisner, the CEO at Magnum Studios?" "No, you didn't. But you told Ian, and he passed it on to me. Mr. Eisner was a good friend of your father's. What exactly did he say?" "Apparently the last film that Alex and John shot has been edited at long last, and he invited Kevin and Carl and me to have lunch at the studio with him and the producers, and then preview the movie. He's says he's very proud of it, and thinks it's going to a 'blockbuster,' to use his word. He sees it as a contender for an Academy Award for best picture, in fact. I should be getting back to L.A. just in time for that lunch, and I'm pretty excited about it." Catherine's face lit up with a huge smile. "Oh, sweetheart, I'm so happy for you!" They continued talking for several hours about the members of their extended family, and about what Catherine was looking forward to when she began teaching at Stanford Univesity in the fall. Finally, at one point, Catherine began yawning. "Why don't you take a nap, Mom?" Cam asked. "You won't leave without saying good-bye, will you?" "No, I'll be right here when you wake up. I'm staying in town again tonight at the apartment, and William probably won't get back into town until late--after football practice. We're going to have a late supper together." "When is your flight back to L.A.?" Catherine asked. "Thanks for reminding me. I haven't made a reservation yet." Cam pulled out his telephone and did just that, getting a seat for a 10 a.m. flight the following morning. Catherine fell asleep about then, and Cam dozed right along with her. Whenever she woke up periodically, Cam did so as well, and they continued to visit off and on all day. Food service brought Cam lunch right along with Catherine's meal, so he didn't even leave to make a trip to the cafeteria. To his surprise, the food wasn't bad. He stayed until after Catherine's supper arrived, turning down another hospital meal so he could eat with William when he arrived back in the city. After Catherine had eaten, he finally took his leave, holding on to his mother and kissing her repeatedly before walking out the door. They were both weeping when he left, but on the way to the elevator Cam offered a silent prayer of thanks that Catherine had come through her emergency surgery so successfully. He looked forward to seeing her and the rest of the family in Malibu during Thanksgiving week. He was lucky enough to catch a cab which had stopped at the front entrance to let off another visitor, and was soon on the way to the Carsons' apartment. His phone rang on the way, and it was William. "Hey, where are ya?" William asked. "In a cab on the way to the apartment. Did you call the doorman so I can get in?" "Is Casey the cutest little guy in the world? Is Kevin your sexy partner? Of course I called the doorman." "You da man!!" Cam said. "Where are you?" "Just crossing the bridge into town. Did you eat yet?" "No. You told me not to." "You take directions well. See ya in a few," William said. "Yep." They ended the call, and the cab soon dropped him off at Ian and Mary's apartment. Cam pulled out a wad of currency, paid the cabbie and gave him a good tip, and walked into the lobby. "Hello. I'm Cam MacKenzie," he told the uniformed doorman. "I think William Carson called so you can let me into the Carsons' apartment." "Yes, sir," the doorman said. "He did. Just step down to the last elevator." "Thank you," Cam said, and the door of the elevator opened as he approached it. He got on, and was whisked to the top floor, experiencing the usual problem with the pressure in his ears. He walked into the foyer and then into the huge living room, turning on a table lamp at its lowest setting as he went. He sat down in a comfortable chair, and put his feet up on a footstool and let the silence envelop him. It was a welcome change from the continuous activity and noise at San Francisco General Hospital. He dozed off until he heard the elevator door open. It was William. Have mercy, Cam thought to himself as William walked into the living room. The kid is so fucking handsome he's beautiful So hot!. Cam wondered if girls could appreciate this boy's body as much as he did. He stared at the bulge in the crotch of William's Levi's before averting his eyes. William was wearing a different polo shirt than he had been that morning, and had a small leather carryall in one hand. "You went home after football practice?" Cam asked. "Yeah, my boxers were getting a little ripe I brought a change." "Thank God for small favors," Cam laughed. William threw his bag to the floor and collapsed in a matching chair to the one Cam was sitting in. "How was football practice?" Cam asked. "Fucking brutal, just like usual." "I don't know how you do it." "Me either. I'm just too stubborn to quit." "That's you, all right!" Cam said. "You hungry?" "Yep." "Let's have a drink before we order in." "Kevin and I don't drink." "I usually don't either. But I'm pretty sure my dad didn't clean out the bar here when we moved to San Rafael. We need to have a drink to celebrate your mom's coming through surgery in good shape. Let's take a look." "Oh, shit," Cam said as he and William stood up to look for the booze in the little bar off the family room. And there it was, the good stuff, just where Ian had left it. Anything one desired, quality stuff, and in quantity. "What do you have a taste for?" William asked. "Oh, shit," Cam said again. "Well, if there's any tonic, I'll have a vodka tonic, I guess." William opened the door of the little refrigerator under the bar, and there was half a shelf of little bottles of tonic water. "You're in luck," William said, grabbing two bottles of tonic and a handful of ice cubes out of a plastic container. Placing two glasses on the bar, he put the ice cubes in the glasses and added generous amounts of vodka without measuring it, topping the glasses off with tonic. He stirred them with his finger, and handed a glass to Cam. "To Catherine and successful surgery!" William said. "To Catherine," Cam echoed. They clinked glasses, and took a good healthy sip. To Cam it tasted like straight vodka and no tonic. The two guys sat down on the stools in front of the bar. "This is strong," Cam said. "I know it," William agreed. "My bad." They each took another sip, and William swiveled to the side to look at Cam. "What did you and Catherine talk about all day today?" "You, mostly," Cam said, trying to keep a straight face. "We tried to figure out how God could have created anybody as perfect as you are." William snorted. "Are you drunk already?" He suddenly threw his arms wide, and sang the first line a Negro spiritual, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen..." in a surprisingly good baritone voice. Then he added in his normal voice, "I gots me lots of troubles, dude." Cam stared at him. Aided by a little alcohol, this was a spontaneous side of William's personality he hadn't seen before, probably a side of him that his girlfriend Alicia got to see all the time. And Cam felt a pang of jealousy about that. "Seriously," William followed up, "what did you talk about?" "We talked about my dad. I don't feel I ever got to know him as well as I should have. Mom told me about the early years of their marriage, and how things went downhill before they finally divorced." "I wish I could have known him, and not just met him," William said. "He was a great director." He slugged the rest of his drink down and looked at Cam. "Drink up, and let's have one more." "Well..." Cam said doubtfully, but he drank up and William took his glass out of his hand and made two more drinks. The second drink was as strong as the first, and feeling no pain, Cam vowed just to sip it slowly. William asked Cam about how his relationship with Kevin was going, and Cam shared with William at length why he loved Kevin so much--because of the love and care he gave Casey, for his great personality, for his patience, for his self-confidence, for his loyalty, especially when Cam was recovering from being assaulted down the beach, for his general kindness to the members of their extended family and people they knew and even to their dogs Alice and Samantha, for his quirky sense of humor, for his toughness on himself and on his companions in the gym and in their running regimen, for his dedication to his studies, and last but not least, for being a great sexual partner who made sure that both of them were satisfied in bed no matter who was doing what to whom. "To sum it up," Cam said, "Kevin has a tough mind and a soft, soft heart. I'm just grateful he's my partner. I know he loves me. I miss him every minute I'm away from him. I can't wait until the day we can get married." "You're one lucky duck, man," William told him, and Cam knew that he meant that. "But you also have all those great qualities you mentioned in yourself, ya know. That makes Kevin lucky as well." "Thanks." They continued talking and drinking, making less and less sense as the conversation continued. Two drinks later and no food in sight, Cam told William that he had to go to bed, slurring his words badly. Most of the vodka in their bottle had miraculously disappeared. William thought bed was a good idea, and arm in arm, holding each other up, they staggered into the bedroom they had used the night before, and Cam fell face down on the unmade bed. He was out like a light. Staggering around, William stripped off all his own clothes, and then turned Cam over. After removing Cam's shoes and socks, he loosened his belt and pulled his pants off, followed by his polo shirt. Good chest, nice pecs, and great abs on this boy, he observed to himself. He was tempted to pull off Cam's boxers to get a good, up close look at his package, but didn't. Picking Cam up in one arm, he pulled down the sheet and bedspread and laid Cam down gently, head on his pillow, and covered him up. Then he went around to his side of the bed and climbed in. Staring at the ceiling for a minute, he soon turned on his side and moved over to Cam and held him, breathing in his adoptive brother's masculine scent. "Love ya, dude," William slurred to Cam, who was dead to the world. Then it was lights out for him, too.
  11. Don H

    Chapter 59

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 It was a Monday morning, and Cam's eyes popped open at 4:50, ten minutes before his and Kevin's alarm clock would begin signaling the start of their day. The two guys were naked, lying close to each other in their bed, the sheets and their limbs entangled. They were covered with splotches of dried semen from a very active love-making session before they had fallen asleep in each other's arms the night before. Cam studied his partner's handsome face, perfectly complexioned but clearly needing a touch of the razor, as it did every morning. That face was masculine, so masculine and so beautiful. He moved his head closer to his partner to inhale the smell of Kevin's healthy male body. Their passion for one another hadn't dimmed at all over the several years they had been together. The physical urgency which still powered their lovemaking was as strong as it had been when they had first come out to each other. Cam had no reason to believe that his own hunger for his partner's body wasn't fully reciprocated by Kevin.. They engaged in vigorous, raw sex almost every night, and to say that both were pleased about it was an understatement. They were very good to each other in bed. Undergirding their sex life, building on physical attraction but going far beyond it by this point, was admiration for one another's character and gifts, and a respect which allowed even perceived flaws and disagreements in daily life to be handled with equanimity. There were rarely any long-standing arguments between them. Above all there was a mature and still maturing love. Cam continued to watch Kevin as he breathed, his sculpted, almost hairless chest gently expanding and contracting with each breath. Yes, Kevin's good-looking face and muscular body was still a key attraction in their relationship. But equally as important, he loved Kevin's confident personality and the power of his spirit. Kevin could sometimes be tough and occasionally demanding, but always and above all, his personal qualities nourished everyone around him. He knew exactly who he was in this life, what his commitments were, and how he was going to fulfill them. Casey and Cam were always first in Kevin's affections, but Catherine and Ian and Mary, along with Carl and their other "brothers" back in San Rafael in their extended family were never far behind. He had a deep reservoir of love for all those he cared about. Lord, Cam thought to himself, I love this man so much. There's no place in this world I'd rather be than right here, right now, lying right beside him, looking at him, holding him. I'm so lucky. Just before the alarm sounded, Kevin opened his eyes and saw Cam looking at him. "Hey," Cam said softly. "'Sup?" Kevin whispered, a little smile curling his lips. "Just being thankful I'm here in this bed, looking at you." Kevin responded by stretching himself taut, his body trembling with the effort before he relaxed and looked Cam in the face again. "I didn't give you permission to look at me like that," he teased Cam, pulling his partner closer and kissing him on the lips before releasing him. "You make my dick hard when you look at me like that." "Yeah? What are you gonna do about it?" "I wish we had time to do what I'd like to do," Kevin said. He grabbed Cam's hand and moved it over between his legs, where it encountered Kevin's rapidly hardening cock. Cam gave it a squeeze. "Nice," he commented. "Better than nice." "Thanks," Kevin said, reaching down and finding Cam's appendage in the same condition. "Back atcha." The alarm clock began to beep, and Kevin reached over and hit the bar giving them a nine minute reprieve before the beeping would start again. "Let's use the bathroom and come back to the scene of the crime," Cam suggested, referring to the site of their extended love-making in bed the night before. "Yep," Kevin said, rolling out of bed and pulling Cam after him. They stood at the toilet together, the golden streams crossing one another over and over as they relieved themselves. Then they ran back to bed, with Kevin trying to pinch Cam's cute, taut, rounded ass along the way. They glanced down at Casey as they passed his crib. The little boy was still dead to the world as they plummeted under the top sheet of their bed and held each other. They kissed each other several times with liberal use of tongue. Cam looked down at the stains on the bottom sheet. "Look at the mess you made in the bed last night." "That's your mess, not mine," Kevin said, chuckling. "You're such a juicy little fucker." Cam snorted. "That mess has your name all over it." "Maybe, maybe not." Kevin rubbed noses with his partner. "We have seven minutes left," Kevin announced, turning himself around in bed and then putting Cam's dick in his mouth. Cam was instantly hard, and reciprocated. He began working Kevin's cock vigorously, alternating with taking Kevin all the way down and pulling out and working his slit with his tongue. Kevin groaned with pleasure.. Within five minutes they were tasting a fresh load and lying there quietly, each holding his partner's cock in his mouth with great satisfaction. Kevin finally moved around in bed, clasping Cam to himself, and they kissed each other deeply, sharing what Cam liked to refer to as "the nectar of the gods." When they finally turned one another loose, Kevin studied Cam's face. "What are you gonna do today?" he asked. Cam didn't have his only class for that semester, Cinematography, on Mondays. "I think I'm gonna study this morning and have some play-time with Casey, and then call Assurances and see of I can have lunch with Jeff Miller. I feel like we've been neglecting him lately." "Shit. I wish I could go with you," Kevin said, pouting. "Maybe I should cut my classes today so I can monitor your activities a little more closely." "I'd love it if you would. We could spend some more time in bed. But maybe you shouldn't. You may really need a day off some time when the guys are down here from San Rafael." "You're probably right." "When we get back from running this morning, I'm gonna start moving our clothes in the dressers in this room into our new bedroom," Cam said. All of Alex's and John's clothes from the closets in the master bedroom had been given to charity except those that Cam, Kevin and Carl wanted for themselves. A tailor in Santa Monica was already staying busy making alterations to some of the suits, sport coats, and slacks. "Doncha wanna wait 'til I can help you?" Kevin asked. "I can handle it." Kevin nodded. The clock began to beep again, and Kevin shut it off for good this time. They got out of their bed, and began stripping it of its sheets so Maria could put on clean ones. Even though they realized Maria knew what they did in bed, they were still a little embarrassed about letting her see copious cum stains on the sheets. "We're gonna have to shower before we run," Kevin observed, sniffing Cam's chest. "I don't want Maria to smell the love juice you shot all over us last night." "Me?!" Cam protested. "Yes, you! I know your cum when I smell it. Get your ass in the shower!" Cam grinned in agreement, and they went into the bathroom and stepped into the shower together, and began washing each other's body as they always liked to do. Touching each other never got old. After washing quickly and then toweling each other off, they cleaned their teeth. Kevin shaved while Cam took Casey out of his crib, removed his dirty diaper, and washed the little guy in the bassinet before powdering and re-diapering him. Casey was in his usual good mood. "Daddy," Casey said to him as Cam put the baby back in his crib for a moment so he could put on his running clothes. "Hey, Casey," Cam said to the little guy. "Kev, did you hear that?" Cam asked as he pulled on his jock strap and started dressing for their run. "I didn't even have to ask, 'Who's your daddy?'" "I heard him," Kevin said, emerging from the bathroom, gloriously naked with a clean shaven face. "He already enunciates better than you do," Kevin said. "He's really growing up fast, and now the fun begins." "You ain't kidding, You think you're up to the job?" "Without a doubt! Are you?" "That's clear enough," Cam said. "Starting with the fact that I change this boy's diaper more often than you do." "Well, keep up the good work. You have a talent for it." Kevin pulled on his jock, shorts and a raggedy old T-shirt, and sat down on a desk chair to put on his sweat socks and running shoes. There was a knock at the door right then, and Carl, dressed for their run, opened it and stood there looking at them. "Come on, you slackers, let's hit it," he said. "Well, aren't you bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning!" Cam observed. "Yep," Carl confirmed. He smirked at the pile of sheets on the floor beside the bed. "What happened, did somebody have an accident in bed last night?" "Nothing happens in our bed by accident," Cam said. "Just asking," Carl said. "We're ready," Kevin said, scooping up Casey and heading for the bedroom door. They clomped their way down the stairs, where Maria was waiting for them at the bottom. "He's cleaned up and hungry," Cam said as Casey raised his arms for Maria to take him from Kevin. "Thanks," Maria said. She rubbed noses with Casey and kissed him on top of his head. "Are you hungry?" she asked him. "Yes!" the little guy said, pointing toward the kitchen. "My gosh!" Carl said. "He already talks better than you two guys do," he told Cam and Kevin as the three of them headed for the front deck, where they started to do their stretches as the dogs milled about. The sun was shining brightly, and there was a warm breeze off the bay. They were limbered up when they finally went down to the hardpack by the water. Kevin set his pedometer and they started their run. He knew right where the four-mile mark was where they would turn around to come home, but he still liked to check his pedometer for accuracy. Thank you, Lord, Cam thought to himself as he took in a big lungful of air. There had been a long time after he'd been attacked down the beach, and after Alex and John had been killed in the plane crash, when life hadn't seemed so good, and he hadn't been all that thankful about the way things were going. But as the days had succeeded one another, he'd found that Dr. Owens and Kevin and Ian had been right about life eventually getting better. Even with his attackers' trial coming up, Cam was feeling positive about things. Dr. Owens had told Cam that he was "resilient." And by now he guessed she'd been right, especially after he'd given his challenges some long, hard thought. His conclusion had been that he wasn't going to let his dissatisfactions over the negative things that had happened in his life of late rule him and put him in a bad mood. He had determined that being thankful for all the good things he had experienced until now and the good things that lay ahead would be his guide to a positive attitude. And that change in thinking was already having the desired effect. He glanced over at Kevin and then at Carl as the three of them ran side by side. These are two sweet-assed guys for sure. I know that because I'm a connoisseur of fine male asses, Cam thought to himself. That's something to be thankful for right there. Kevin speeded up their pace as they started to get into their groove, and he and Cam looked at each other and smiled. The endorphins were flowing and life was good. Cam glanced up at the house where he had been raped, beaten and tortured as they passed by it, and felt nothing. On one occasion, not long after he had been assaulted, he had passed out when he'd passed by it, and for a long time he had trembled whenever he'd gone by it. But not any more. Life had moved on. The house was occupied now, and a woman was out on the front deck watering boxes of flowers secured to the railing. She waved at the three of them, and they waved back. Their run was uneventful and both pleasantly exhausting and stimulating. Once back at the house they all headed for the showers, again a quick one this time for Cam and Kevin. Dressed in T-shirts, shorts and tennis shoes, the three of them went down to the kitchen. Casey, still in his high chair, had long since eaten some cereal and was still playing with the remnants along with using crayon on a coloring book Maria had given him.. He picked up a spoon and banged it on his tray when he saw them. Carl smoothed the little boy's hair and kissed him. "You wanna go to school with us today?" Carl asked him. "NO!" Casey said. Responses, usually one word, were becoming more frequent all the time. "Why not?" Carl asked, chuckling. "NO!" Casey repeated without explanation. "What would you like for breakfast?" Maria asked the guys. "Would Huevos rancheros be too much trouble?" Kevin asked. "I have an appetite this morning." Carl added, "What he said," pointing at Kevin, and Cam nodded in agreement. "Coming right up," Maria said, opening the refrigerator and taking out a dozen eggs and a package of tortillas. She cracked all the eggs into a large bowl, beat them, and then began cutting up tomatoes and green peppers to add to tomato chili, peppers and sliced avocados. Without being asked, Kevin got up and went to the stove. Adding vegetable oil to a large frying pan, he heated it and began to cook the tortillas while Cam set the table and Carl poured big glasses of orange juice and put the glasses by the place settings. "Chef Kevin," Carl commented. "We need to get him a tall chef's hat." Kevin grinned but said nothing, letting the tortillas simmer one at a time in the hot oil and then putting them on a plate. Maria cooked the eggs on the grill of the big, commercial sized stove that Alex and John had had installed, gradually adding the other ingredients until the meal was steaming. Then she put the tortillas on the guy's plates, topped them with the eggs, and put the plates in front of the boys. Standing around the table, the guys bowed their heads as Cam asked a blessing. Making the sign of the cross, they sat down, spread their napkins, and prepared to eat. "Yum," Kevin said, mouth watering as he inhaled the steam and folded the eggs and other ingredients into the tortilla. "Thanks, Maria!" "You're welcome," Maria said. She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down on one side of Casey. Kevin put some a little bit of egg on his fork, and blowing on it to cool it, fed it to Casey before taking a big bite of his meal. Chewing with gusto, Kevin looked at Casey. "You want some more?" he asked the little guy. "YES!" Casey said loudly and unexpectedly. Kevin scraped the hot chili sauce off another small piece of egg and fed it to him. "Good, huh?" Cam said to Casey, who didn't say anything as he finished gumming the egg and swallowing it. "He's really late starting to teethe, and he's on the brink," Maria said. "My guess is that it will be this week, so one of you might want to call his pediatrician and find out what he recommends to rub on his gums when he's in pain," she added. "I'll do that today," Cam offered. "I hadn't thought about it." Kevin looked at Cam. "Thanks, man," he said, putting a hand on Cam's neck and pulling his head over to kiss his cheek. The guys finished breakfast, chatting about their classes, and then Carl and Kevin went to get their backpacks after saying good-bye to Maria. Cam hugged Maria as she stood up to clear the table. "Great breakfast!" Cam told her as he picked Casey up out of the high chair and went out to the driveway to see the guys off to school. Kevin paused to kiss Cam and Casey as he went by them to get into his car. Abruptly he turned on his heel and walked back to Cam. He put a hand on Cam's neck, looked him in the eye, and kissed him again, this time on the lips. "I love you more every day," Kevin said quietly before heading back down the driveway. That was unexpected, and Cam was surprised. He teared up a little and got a lump in his throat. He watched his partner's broad shoulders and V-shaped back, tapering down to a trim waist, as Kevin walked away. Inevitably, Cam dropped his gaze to the material of Kevin's khaki shorts, stretched taut over that beautiful, muscular ass. Kevin's body was textbook perfect, shaped by a combination of hours of work in the gym and good genes when it came to his physique. As usual Cam could feel himself chubbing up as he did almost every time he looked at Kevin on the move as he walked away with the grace typical of many athletes. The fact that the two of them had a lot of sex never seemed to completely relieve their feelings of lust for each other. "Thanks, babe," Cam called after his partner. He turned his head to look at Carl as he in turn walked by. "Where's my kiss?" Cam kidded him. "Right here," he said, smooching Cam on the cheek to the latter's surprise as Carl went by. "'Bye," Cam said as he waved the little boy's arm at the two of them. Kevin rolled down his window and said, "Hey, don't forget to call the pediatrician," before he backed out of the driveway in his Mustang. The mufflers murmured pleasantly as he pulled away. Cam nodded at him. Carl climbed into the Highlander, driving separately because his and Kevin's class schedules were different on Mondays. He followed Kevin out on to the service road which led toward the Pacific Coast Highway, and they were gone. Cam sighed and took Casey back into the house and gave him to Maria. "Will you watch him for a few minutes?" he asked. "I'm gonna move some of our clothes into the master bedroom. I won't be long." "Sure." When he finished emptying his and Kevin's things from their dressers and putting them in the next room, he went over to the closet and threw a previously discovered, hidden switch. The ceiling over the bed turned from a decor of clouds on a shiny surface into a huge mirror. Cam smiled as he thought about having sex with Kevin in that king sized bed so that whoever was on the bottom could watch every move. Returning the switch to its original position, he went back downstairs and reclaimed the little guy from Maria. Taking him into the study he put him on the floor. Then he went over to the desk, and consulting a list of numbers, telephoned Casey's pediatrician. He wrote down what the doctor told him, and secured the paper under the base of the phone. It was an over-the-counter medication, and wouldn't require a prescription, the doctor had said. That finished, he looked at Casey. "Do you wanna play ball, little dude?" he asked. "Yes," Casey said. Playing with Casey was never a chore for Cam. He loved that little boy totally, and enjoyed spending time with him, especially now that Casey was increasingly mobile and starting to talk. Cam selected a red rubber ball from a basket of toys they kept in the study, and rolled it over to where Casey was sitting on the floor. Casey sometimes rolled a ball back except, of course, for those times when he decided to keep it. This time he put it to his mouth and gummed it, reinforcing the prediction that he would soon be teething. Cam took another ball out of the basket and rolled it over to Casey, who dropped the first ball and went for the second. Cam crawled over to him and claimed the red ball and bounced it on the floor. It flew up toward the ceiling as Casey watched it. The little guy tried to grab it when it came down and missed. The ball gave a second bounce, and Casey gave a little shriek as he crawled over to it after it landed for good. "You're gonna be a little jock when you grow up, aren't you?" Cam told him. Casey didn't answer, but this time he rolled the red ball back to his dad. The two of them played for about a half-hour before Casey crapped out on the floor. Cam got up and covered him with a light blanket and then walked to the desk to start studying when his cell phone rang. The screen identified the caller as William Carson. "Why the fuck aren't you in class?" Cam asked William when he answered the phone. "Nice greeting," William protested. "I'm on my way to my next class and had to take a leak," he said. "In the bathroom, I presume." "No, dipshit, in my locker." "I wouldn't put it past ya. 'Sup?" "We haven't talked for awhile," William said. "I miss ya, dumbass, but I don't know why the fuck I should. You're annoying as hell. Anyway, are you guys coming up here for Thanksgiving, or are we coming down there." "Well, the word hasn't come down from on high yet. Have you asked the 'rents? You live with 'em, for gosh sake." "I thought I'd give you a chance to weigh in before I broached the subject. I'd rather come down there. It's gonna cool off up here before Thanksgiving, and I wanna run on the beach in some decent southern California weather." "You're such a pussy. But yeah, I'd rather have us get together down here. You can quote me on that to the powers-that-be." "Cool. I will." William paused. "Are Casey and you guys good?" "Yeah. Casey's walkin' and talkin' a little. He's asleep on the floor here in the study right now. He's late teething, and Maria thinks he'll start this week." "All right! He'll keep your ass busy then. And how are Kevin and Carl?" "They're good. They're at school, and probably asleep in class by now." William laughed. "On another subject, do you know when the trial is coming up?" "Soon, but I don't have an exact date yet." "Are you feeling all right about it?" "Yeah. I'm feeling more like myself all the time. That allows me to be really pissed off about what those guys did to me." "Good deal. You know I'll try to come down there to be with you when you have to testify. If you want me to, that is." "You know I'd really like that, William. All kidding aside, I miss ya, dude." "Same here." "I'll need all the moral support I can get when the trial starts." "I'll be there for ya if I can be." "Thanks, man. How's football?" "Good. I'm still the starting quarterback, and we're undefeated, and it looks like we'll be regional champs again at the very least." "You won't have a game on Thanksgiving Day to fuck up our plans, will ya?" "No. The two second place teams will duke it out on Thanksgiving. We'll play the winner the following week." "Excellent! Are things good between you and Alicia?" "Yeah, I love her to death. We're getting along great." "Tell me you're gettin' some." "You know that wasn't part of the deal when I started to date her again." "So you're horny, then." "Bigtime." Cam laughed. "Well, you breeders have to make some sacrifices, at least. Anyway, being horny probably makes you more aggressive on the gridiron." "You're such a dick! But you could be right. Are you and Kevin taking good care of each other in bed?" "Things are awesome. Couldn't be better." "I'm jealous you're gettin' some and I'm not." "Turn gay and I promise we'll make ya feel good about it." William chuckled. "I don't see that in the cards, dude." Cam heard the warning bell at San Rafael High School ring over the phone. "Hey, I gotta book," William said, pausing. "Luv ya, Cam. Give my love to Kevin and Carl, and kiss the little guy for me." "Will do. I'm pumped ya called. Luv ya back, bud." The connection went dead, and Cam sat there with a big smile on his face as he picked up his Cinematography book and opened it to a new chapter. After two hours' study, Cam consulted his phone's directory and punched in the number for Assurances. The operator sounded young and answered the phone with a pleasant voice. "Assurances," she said. "How may I direct your call?" "Cam MacKenzie for Jeff Miller, please." "One moment, please." She put the call on hold, and Cam knew she was checking the approved list for those who could be put through to Jeff. After a moment or two, Cam heard the connection being made and the electronic sound of a phone ringing. "This is Jeff," a familiar voice said. "Hey, man. This is Cam." "Cam!" Jeff said. "I thought you'd deserted me." "I know. It took me a quite a while after I got assaulted to want to talk to anybody. But I'm not finished heckling you in this life." "I can take it." "I know that. Listen, can you go to lunch?" "I could. I have privileges, but it would have to be a short lunch because I have a group session here at 1:00 that I can't miss." "Well, shit!" Cam said. "Any chance you could come here for lunch? Those with privileges can have people over." "Well..." "The food's pretty good here, and I'd really like to see ya." "Can I bring Casey?" "No problem. I wanna see the little guy, and I'll arrange for a highchair. Just bring the baby food with you." "All right. What time should I get there?" "How about 11:30? That'll give us more time to talk." "Sweet! See ya then." * * * Cam studied until 10:45. Casey was just waking up. "Baby boy!" Cam said, picking him up and feeling his diaper. He needed changing, so Cam took him upstairs and did the deed. The little guy was cooperative, as usual. Cam checked out a diaper bag to make sure it had fresh diapers, wetnaps and baby powder in it. Picking up the bag and the baby, Cam went down to the kitchen. Maria had finished cleaning downstairs, and was there emptying the dishwasher. "It's early, but how about some lunch?" she asked. "Thanks, but Casey and I are taking a road trip over to Assurances to see Jeff Miller. We'll eat over there. Why doncha give me some baby food to take with me, though?" "Will do." Maria went to a cupboard and removed a couple jars of baby food, put them in a small paper sack, and put the sack into the diaper bag. "Here you go," she said, handing the bag back to Cam. "Give Jeff my love, will you? I'm glad you're going to see him. I hear from my sister that he misses you guys." Maria's sister Juanita worked as a maid for Jeff's mom and dad next door. The traffic into Santa Monica was light, and Cam pulled into the parking lot at 11:25. He unbuckled Casey from his baby seat, and picking up the diaper bag and the baby, went into the lobby of the rehab center. The attractive young receptionist, spotting the handsome young man carrying a baby, went to the office window, slid it open, and greeted Cam with a smile. "May I help you?" she asked, and studied Cam's face with an "I like what I see" look. "Cam MacKenzie to see Jeff Miller," he told her. "You're expected," the receptionist said, still smiling. "What a cute baby," she added. "How old is he?" "A little over a year," Cam said. "He looks like you," she said, trying to hit on him but not knowing exactly how to accomplish that in a business setting. Cam smiled politely. "So I've been told." Genetics said otherwise, but Cam didn't try to set her straight. "Just go to that door," the young woman said, pointing to Cam's left, "and I'll buzz you in. A security man will check your bag, and I'll have Jeff come and meet you." "Thanks." Cam went over to the door, now buzzing to allow entry, and walked through it into a large family visiting area. He couldn't help thinking about the pretty girl at the front desk trying to hit on him. Maybe I should start wearing a T-shirt that says, SORRY, GIRLS, I SUCK COCK, he thought to himself with a grin. It would save the women that he came in contact with a lot of time and effort. "Good morning, sir," a security man said. "I'd like to look in your bag, if I may." "Of course," Cam said, impressed with the lengths Assurances went to in order to see no illicit drugs came into the facility. He handed it over. The man unzipped it, ran his hand over what was inside, zipped it up and handed it back. "Thank you, sir." "You're welcome." Cam spotted Jeff, wearing an old pair of Levi's and a white T-shirt, striding down the corridor toward the big family room, his face lighted up with a huge smile. He was the picture of a healthy, handsome young male with clear complexion, someone whose well developed body testified that he had been spending a lot of time in the gym. He exuded self-discipline and a love of life. Cam had a flashback of the wreck of a person he and Kevin and Carl had pulled out from under the Alex's back deck six months before--drugged out, emaciated, haggard, face and body covered with open sores, wearing a ratty topcoat over ragged clothes that stank of urine. What a contrast! Jeff swept Cam up in a big hug, kissed him on the cheek, and then kissed Casey on top of his head. "You don't know how good it is to see you," he said. "I miss you all so much!" "Jeff, you look freakin' great!" Cam told his friend as they moved toward a cluster of upholstered chairs in front of a coffee table. Casey began to squirm, and Cam put him down on the floor, where he stood unsteadily before hunkering down and crawling over to Jeff, who picked him up. "My gosh, he's grown!" Jeff said. Casey grabbed Jeff's nose, making Jeff laugh. "He talks, he walks, and he's about to start teething," Cam told him. "Casey, do you remember Jeff?" he asked the little boy. "NO," Casey said, and the two guys laughed. "He's brutally honest," Jeff observed as Casey got comfortable on Jeff's lap. They sat talking as Jeff elicited reports on Kevin, Carl, on every one of the guys in San Rafael, and on Catherine, Ian and Mary. "I'm hoping they'll all be coming down for Thanksgiving," Cam said. "I talked to William this morning, and that's what we're holding out for, anyway. Any chance you can get leave for Thanksgiving week?" "I think so," Jeff said. "Maybe not for the whole week, but I'll give it a shot." "If the family does come down, we're going to ask your parents and Juanita to have Thanksgiving dinner with us. If you can be there, they'll be thrilled," Cam said. "I'd really like that," Jeff said. "You know, my mom comes over here every week to see me, and my dad, too, when he's in town. They've been so good to me. I owe them so much, and I love them both so much. If I make it in this life, they and this place will be largely responsible. Along with you and Kevin and Carl! You guys saved my life when you pulled me out from under your deck that day. I hope you understand how true that is!" "You're giving us too much credit. But what do you mean, IF you make it in this life. That's a foregone conclusion." "I appreciate the confidence, believe me. But you have to remember that an addiction never goes away. It's life-long, and every day is a battle not to use, at least in the early stages. Only people who have a good support system outside of a facility like this make it." "Well, you'll have that! We'll always have your back." Jeff blinked back some sudden moisture in his eyes. A gong sounded over the PA system, followed by a female voice: "Lunch will be served in ten minutes." It sounded like the voice of the young woman at the front desk. "Is that the girl in Reception?" Cam asked. "Yep." "She hot!" Jeff looked surprised. "What?" Cam demanded. "Just because I'm gay doesn't mean I don't know a pretty girl when I see one." "That's true," Jeff admitted. He stood up, still holding Casey. "Let's head for the dining room. They'll have a highchair waiting for Casey." "Good deal." Cam stood, picking up the diaper bag, and he followed Jeff toward the dining room, Casey was looking back over Jeff's shoulder to make sure that his dad was behind them. Cam couldn't help but notice how good Jeff's ass looked in those Levi's as they walked along. What a perve you are, MacKenzie, he thought to himself with a grin. The dining room was arranged with three long tables, with residents and therapeutic staff intermingling on both sides of each table. Jeff spotted a highchair sitting halfway down one of the tables, and pointing at it, situated himself across from Cam and Casey. Cam put Casey in the highchair. With everyone standing, one of the residents offered thanks for the meal, and they all sat down. Staff wearing large white aprons came through double doors from the kitchen and began putting steaming bowls of beef stew, baskets of hot rolls, plates of salad and glasses of water and iced tea in from of the diners. Jeff introduced those in the immediate vicinity to Cam, identifying Casey as Cam's son. "Cute baby," a guy about Jeff's age said about Casey. "Thanks," Cam said with a smile. Cam reached into the bag he'd carried in and took out a jar of baby food. Opening it, he began spooning some strained carrots into Casey's mouth. The little guy liked it, and eagerly opened his mouth when the spoon approached. After Casey had a few bites, Cam picked up his own spoon and tried the stew. To his surprise, it was delicious, so he dipped Casey's spoon in the bowl and gave the little guy some juice. "Is that good?" Jeff asked Casey. "Yes!" Casey said, and Cam gave him another spoonful of juice. Some of the juice ran down the baby's chin, and Jeff reached across the table with his own napkin and wiped it up. Once Casey had some food in his stomach, Cam got serious with his meal and soon emptied the bowl of stew. The rolls were homemade, and between Jeff and Cam they ate them all. Cam also downed the salad, and when he had finished, was tempted to let loose a satisfied belch, but restrained himself. After the meal was consumed, the wait staff began clearing the table. The dessert which followed was vanilla ice cream, and Cam and Jeff shared a little of it with Casey. "That was good!" Cam told Jeff. "You must work out like a demon so you don't gain weight." "You got that right. The food is always good here." Cam glanced at his watch. It was 12:30. "You said you have a meeting at 1:00," Cam said. "Can we talk some more before you have to go?" "I'd like that," Jeff said. They stood and excused themselves to those in the vicinity, and with Casey sitting on Cam's arm, Jeff led them into a small sitting room off the dining room. Cam sat down with Casey on a soft couch, and put the baby down beside him. Casey looked like he wanted to stay put, and might take a snooze. He conked out in no time. Jeff sat across from them in an upholstered chair. "Has Father Ryan been by to see you?" Cam asked Jeff. "Faithfully," Jeff said. "He comes by at least every two weeks to give me communion." "That doesn't surprise me. He's a great pastor. We're so lucky to have him at St. Dunstan's." "I agree with that! When I graduate back into real life, I'm going to ask him if I can learn how to serve him at the altar," Jeff said. "Just a little payback for all he's done for me." "That's an excellent idea," Cam said. "You make me feel guilty, though, when I think of how kind he was to me after I got roughed up down the beach. And I haven't done shit for him when it comes to pay back." "Well, you and Kevin do have your responsibilities with Casey." "True, but that's not really an excuse. I need to think about this. I could do something, fer sure. I'm glad you mentioned your plan." "We may get a chance to serve together if you decide to follow through." "If I do that, you can bet I'm not gonna let Carl and Kevin off the hook," Cam said. "They can get off their butts and get training with you and me. St. Dunstan's has a good core of servers, but I'm sure they can use some more. It may as well be us." "You're right, dude," Jeff agreed. He smiled. "I'll check back with ya about gettin' on the stick about this." They continued shooting the breeze, talking about Cam's Cinematography class and what Jeff was picking up in the various groups and classes at Assurances. Before they knew it, it was 12:55 and time for Jeff to head for his group session. They stood and Cam bent down and picked up his bag and the baby, who continued sleeping. "Before I forget, Maria wanted me to give you her love," Cam said. "Thank her for me. You don't know what it means to me to know you all care about me. I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving with Mom and Dad and your family. I hope that all works out." "We're your family, too, man. Don't forget that." "Thanks, Cam. I'm really cheered up that you came by." Jeff coughed to try to hide his emotion. He embraced Cam and Casey, and kissed them again before they left. He stood in the doorway of the sitting room and watched Cam head for the front door before letting some pent up tears run down his face. Pulling out his handkerchief, he wiped his eyes before heading for his group session. Cam's visit had meant a lot to him. * * * Maria met Cam and Casey at the kitchen door, and took Casey into her arms. "How's Jeff?" Maria asked. "He's doing well, and looks great. He sends his love." "Thanks. You had a phone call while you were out," Maria said. "From George Eisner at Magnum Studios. He wants you to call him. I left his number on the desk in the study." Cam looked surprised. George Eisner was chairman of the board and president at the studio, someone who had been a big fan and a big supporter of Alex and John's work. He was one of the most powerful people in the movie industry. Alex and John had taken Cam and Kevin to the studio for lunch one day, and they had eaten at one of the tables in Eisner's huge office. "Did he say what he wanted?" "No. Just that he wanted you to call him." "Are you good with Casey for a few minutes?" "Yes. Because he's such a good boy." Maria hugged him and kissed the top of his head. Cam walked down the hall to the study, sat down, and looked at the note with a phone number on it. Picking up the receiver, he dialed the number. "Magnum Studios, Mr. Eisner's office," the voice of an older woman said. "May I help you?" "Yes, m'am, this is Cameron MacKenzie returning Mr. Eisner's call." "Yes, Mr. MacKenzie. One moment, and I'll put you through." "Thank you." Ten seconds later Cam heard George Eisner's deep, bass voice on the line. "Cameron, how are you?" "I'm good, sir. Thanks for asking. How are you?" "I'm good. And Kevin, he's well, I hope." Cam was pleasantly surprised that this important man remembered him, let alone his partner. "Kevin's excellent, thank you, sir." "I'm pleased to hear that. The reason I'm calling is that we're almost finished with the final edit of your dad's and John's last picture they made in England. I'm thrilled with what they did with the story, and I think it's really going to be a blockbuster. Academy Award good. The performances are all superlative. We've pretty much completed our work, and I'd like to invite you and Kevin to come and see it here at the studio before we schedule a premier and start the distribution process. Is that something you'd be interested in doing?" "I'd be thrilled to death, and I know Kevin would be, too." Cam took a breath, thinking, In for a penny, in for a pound. "Is there any chance we can bring our roommate Carl with us? He really helped hold things together for us when Dad and John were killed." "Of course," Eisner said. "No problem. I know Kevin's last name is 'Stoltz.' What is Carl's last name, so I can give your names to security at the front gate?" "'Emrick. Carl Emrick.' "Got it. Why don't you three guys pick a date for us to get together and get back to me, and we'll set things up." Cam swallowed hard. "Mr. Eisner, I can't tell you how grateful I am. This is totally unexpected, and means so much to me." "It's the least we can do in return for all Alex and John did for us," Eisner said. "After you know something, call me. I'd like you all to come to the studio for lunch with me and the producers. Now that I think about it, we'll send a car for you." "Thank you so much, sir. I'm overwhelmed. I call you within the next few days." "Thank you, Cam. I'm looking forward to seeing you and Kevin and your friend Carl very soon." The line went dead, and Cam put the receiver back in its holder. Stunned, he sat there for a good five minutes without moving. Glancing at his watch, he saw that Kevin would be changing classes. Picking up the phone, he dialed Kevin's cell. "Dude!" Kevin answered, sounding as if he was in a good mood. "Kev, you couldn't possibly guess who I was just talking to." "Don't be a dick, then, and tell me." "None other than George Eisner at Magnum Studios." "Don't tell me. He wants to use you in a gay porno for beau coup dollars?" "No, dumbass. He wants you and me and Carl to come to the studio for lunch, and then preview Dad and John's new picture. He's thinks it's going to be a hit. 'Blockbuster' was the word he used, along with 'Academy Award,' and he wants us to be among the first to see it." "You're shittin' me, right?" "I swear it on Casey's sweet little cranium!" "Well, wow! That's really exciting, Cam! That makes me so happy! Listen, I'm just going into class, so we'll talk about it when I get home. Can't wait!" "Hey, ask Art Smith to follow you home for supper." "Will do," Kevin said. "Luv ya. Laters." The line went dead, and Cam replaced the receiver, stood up, and began to do a little impromptu dance around the study. It had been a long time since he felt that good. * * * Classes over for the day, William Carson walked down the hall toward the locker room to suit up for football practice. He pulled his phone out of his pocket as he walked, and looking at his list of phone numbers, called his dad's private line at his law firm in San Francisco. "Are you at football practice?" Ian Carson asked when he picked up the phone. "On the way." "Good." "Dad, I talked to Cam earlier today. He and Kevin and Carl want all of us to go down to Malibu for Thanksgiving week, and I think that's a great idea." "You do, huh?" Ian chuckled. "Yeah. You know how much you enjoy running on the beach in warm weather." "Well, that's true enough. But I know you don't like the heat down there at all." "Ha ha. No, I like it. But even more important, I don't think Cam and Kevin and Carl want to travel on a crowded plane with Casey if they have to come up here. Cam didn't exactly say that, but I think it's true. Those planes are full of germs, y'know. Not good for babies." Ian laughed. "You really have to study law, William. When it comes to the courtroom, you've got the 'devious argument' thing going for you already. I know it when I hear it." William had to laugh along with his dad. He'd been caught. "Come on," he said. "You know you really want a change of scene, and Mom and Catherine do, too." "I'll talk to them about it," Ian said. "That's the best I can do for you right now." "All right. I called because I knew you'd really be interested in my thoughts about Thanksgiving." "I always find your thoughts fascinating. Good-bye, William. Have a good practice." William ended the call smiling. He felt he'd just improved the odds for a nice trip to L.A. He slammed through the locker room doors grinning like a Cheshire cat, and greeted some of his teammates who were there changing into their uniforms: "Get moving, assholes, it's time to practice some FOOTBALL!" The "assholes" cheerfully gave him the finger along with a smattering of "Fuck you's." They really liked and respected William, but they liked to pass out shit as much as he did. Ian had been smiling, too, when he'd finished the conversation with his son. He buzzed his secretary, Beverly, asking her to track down his wife and Catherine so he could talk to them about going south for Thanksgiving week. Five minutes later, Beverly buzzed him. "Mrs. Carson on 47," she said. "Thank you," Ian said, and punched the blinking button. "Hello, sweetheart. What are you doing today?" "Rosa and I are at the grocery store, trying to figure out what we're going to feed the bottomless pits we call our children this week. What's up with you?" "I just got off the phone with William. He was hustling me to make a commitment to take everybody to Malibu for Thanksgiving week. Does that have any appeal for you, or should we ask Cam and Kevin and Carl to bring Casey up here?" "It has lots of appeal for me," Mary said. "Along with the fact that I don't want Cam and Kevin and Carl to have to travel with the baby." "You and William think alike. That's the argument he used on me. I don't stand stand a chance with either one of you." "Don't you want to go to Malibu?" Mary asked. "The kids will all want to go, and every minute we spend with them is precious. They're growing up so fast, and they won't be around forever." "Well, when you put it like that, what can I say? I know from experience the rest of the boys will probably side with William and want to go. So if Catherine is up for the trip--I haven't talked to her yet--then I may as well go ahead and charter a flight. Yolanda needs to be figured into the mix, and Andy Helder, too, probably. And maybe Father Mason, if he can get some time off. So the cost of a charter will likely be as reasonable as buying all those seats on a commercial flight." "I think you're right, sweetheart. Why don't you talk to Catherine and see what she thinks." "Will do. Buy us some good stuff as the grocery, please." "Have I ever failed you? You're hardly wasting away to nothing." "So true. Thanks for mentioning that." "Love you, honey," Mary said. "We'll have a good time in Malibu." "I know. I love you back. I'll talk to you after I run the trip by Catherine." "All right. Bye." Ian reached Catherine in her office at the university after she finished teaching her classes for the day. She was in favor of making the trip, and with that final OK, Ian called Cam. "Cam, I have some good news for you or some bad news, depending on how you look at it," Ian told him. "'Sup?" "The family wants to come down to Malibu for Thanksgiving week. Is that all right with you guys?" "'All right?' It's better than 'all right!' I'm so glad to hear you all want to come down here, Ian. Everybody will have a great time, we'll see to that. Will you ask Father Mason if he can get some time off?" "Yes, I plan to do that." "When will you get here. Do you know?" "I'm going to charter a plane. We'll go to church at St. Andrew's on Sunday, and then fly down to L.A. that afternoon." "As long as you're chartering a plane, why don't you fly down on Saturday, and then we can all go to Mass at St. Dunstan's together on Sunday. Father Ryan will really be glad to see you all." "Are you sure you want all of us for even one more day? You'll get sick of us." "I want you all here as long as you can stay, Ian. I shouldn't have to tell you that. Please come on Saturday. Kevin and Carl and I want to run you candyasses from up north into the sand every morning." Ian laughed. "You wiseass kid! Talk's cheap!" "Not in this case. Just get yourselves down here on Saturday. Do you want us to pick you guys up at the airport?" "No. We'll get a limo." "Good deal! I'm thrilled, man." "We're anxious to see you all." "I have one piece of exciting news for ya before I let ya go, Ian." 'What's that?" "I got a call from George Eisner at Magnum Studios today. Do you know him?" "We've met, but I don't really know him. He's a very influential guy, though, I know that." "Well, he called to invite me and Kevin and Carl to preview Alex and John's last movie. The studio has pretty much finished the final edit. Mr. Eisner's invited us to lunch at Magnum and to meet the producers. He thinks the movie is so good it's going to be a 'blockbuster,' as he put it. He used the words 'Academy Award.' He wants me to get back to him with a date to get together within the next few days." "Oh, Cam, I'm so happy for you guys! What a nice gesture on Mr. Eisner's part! It just shows you how much he and the studio admired John and your dad." "I know it. Things are going so well right now that it worries me." "Don't say that! All you boys, and you in particular, deserve all the good things that come your way." "Well, thanks." "Is there a date for the trial yet?" "No, but it should be scheduled any day now." "You feeling all right about it?" "Yes." "Good. We'll talk about it when I get down there. You stay positive about it, you hear!" "Yes, sir. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my luck of late, and I've come to a conclusion." "And what would that be?" "That the positives always outweigh the negatives when that's what we focus on." "Cameron, I can't tell you how important that insight is going to be in your life." "I think you're right." "Good! See you soon. Love you, boy!" "Thanks, Ian. Love you, too." Ian ended the call, and then hit the intercom button for Beverly. "Bev, please charter a plane for me from San Francisco International to LAX for the Saturday before Thanksgiving, with a return flight the Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving. There will be ten of us, give or take. We'll want to leave San Francisco at about 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, and leave LAX for home about 3:00 p.m. a week and a day later on the Sunday. We'll need a stretch limo at both locations." "Yes, sir. Any particular airline?" "Our usual vendor." "All right." Ian hung up and thought about Cam, his insight about thinking positively, and his exciting news about Alex and John's movie. It's about time that boy got a break. I'm so happy for him.
  12. Don H

    Chapter 58

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 Carl, Cam, Kevin and Cam's friend Art Smith stood together in a little clump at LAX baggage claim late on Friday afternoon. Cam was holding Casey, who was looking around with interest at the crowd of people milling about in the arrivals area. The little boy was babbling at anyone who would listen. The four guys were waiting for Andy Helder to debark from his San Francisco to L.A. flight for his usual weekend visit to Carl. Kevin always kidded Carl that Andy's Friday trips were their conjugal visits, but for some reason Carl wasn't amused by that assertion. Art Smith was there with them because Cam had instructed Kevin to have Art follow him home in his own car from the UCLA campus for supper that night, and Kevin had done that. Art wasn't Kevin's favorite person because of Art's former friendship with Eric Clymer and his two scumbag pals who had sexually assaulted Cam. But Kevin was starting to warm up to Art because the young man, when he was around, had begun to work out in the gym with him and Cam and Carl. And also because Cam liked the kid. Carl's eyes were glued to the escalator when he spotted Andy, carrying a leather duffel bag by a strap over his shoulder, gliding down from above. The new arrival was wearing a pair of dark blue board shorts with a form-fitting T-shirt from his martial arts school at home. The shirt depicted a Japanese Samurai warrior with his knee on the throat of a vanquished adversary, and was captioned, "HAI!". Carl's throat tightened up and he swallowed hard. Andy's physique and handsome face literally took his breath away sometimes. Every time Andy showed up, it seemed to him that the young man with the longish, curly bronze-blond hair who stood over six feet tall, was more defined and developed than the week before. Not even Kevin thought he could do much to further develop Andy in the gym. Andy walked over to the boys, and dropping his bag to the floor, enveloped Carl in a long embrace, kissing him on the lips. "Lord, I'm glad to see you," he told Carl. Then he gave Cam and Kevin each a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Hey, Baby Boy," Andy said to Casey, bending down to kiss him on top of the head. The baby reached up and grabbed Andy's nose, and Andy laughed. "Andy, this is our friend Art Smith," Cam said, and the two of them exchanged a slip and slide handshake. "Hey," Art told Andy. "I met you at Alex and John's funeral, but I think we saw each other last year at Disneyland when you knocked Eric Clymer on his ass." "Oh," Andy said. "You were at Disneyland?" "Yes, I was. How ya doin'?" "Good. I'm surprised to see ya here with these guys if you hung around with Clymer," Andy said. "I crossed Clymer and his asshole friends off my friendship list long ago. Before they fucked Cam up," Art said. "You have good taste, then," Andy said. "Yeah, I do," Art agreed. "Andy, you have any more luggage?" Kevin asked. "Nope, this is it," Andy said, picking up his bag off the floor and putting the strap over his shoulder. In anticipation of moving to Santa Monica in the spring, he had started bringing a few extra clothes to leave at the house at each visit. "Let's book, then," Kevin said, and they moved toward the exit and headed for the Highlander in short-term parking. Carl held his partner's hand as they walked. "Good flight?" Carl asked his boy. "They're all good when I'm coming to see you," Andy responded. "Miss ya all the fucking time." "Same here," Carl said. "You see the family lately?" "As a matter of fact, I had supper with 'em at the house last night at Catherine's invitation. I saw her on campus at St. Francis, and she invited me. Father Jim was there, too. Anyway, everybody's good, and the boys are all as buff as ever," Andy said. "And by the way, William told me he's dating Alicia McCaskill again." "No way!" Carl said. "I thought she was forbidden fruit." "Me, too," Andy said. "But you know William. He doesn't take 'no' for an answer, and he persuaded his dad and Mr. McCaskill that there wouldn't be any sex involved if he and Alicia were allowed to date again." "Hmmm. Well, I know she's been on his mind. We'll see if he can stick to that promise," Cam commented. "Yeah, I know," Andy agreed. "But he says he really loves her, so maybe he can do it." "I hope things go well for him," Kevin said seriously. "Even when he had his harem and was fucking all of 'em, he always said Alicia stood out in the crowd. Who knows? Maybe she's THE ONE. You know, like you and Carl, and me and Cam." He wasn't kidding, and put an arm around Cam, who was still carrying Casey as they walked toward the parking lot. "Maybe she is," Andy agreed. They continued talking until they reached the SUV. Carl and Andy got in the front seats, and Kevin secured Casey in the car seat in the back and then climbed in with Cam and Art. They reached the house, and they were all hungry. Andy stashed his bag in the study, and they all sat around in the kitchen shooting' the breeze while Kevin and Cam heated up the mashed potatoes, gravy, and fried chicken that Maria had left for them, and took a big bowl of salad out of the refrigerator. Carl fed Casey some baby food while supper was heating up, and after checking his diaper, put him in his downstairs crib. The little boy closed his eyes right away. Carl then washed his hands and set the table, and when everything was ready, Cam offered thanks. They all made the sign of the cross except Art and sat down. "So you saw Father Mason at supper, huh?" Kevin said to Andy. "How's he doing?" "I think he's all right, but he mentioned that his mother isn't doing too well. She has Alzheimer's, right?" "Yeah," Cam said. "He worries about her a lot. He told me when he was down here for Alex's and John's funeral that her condition is deteriorating all the time I think he has two sisters down here looking after his mom, but I'd sure love it if he moved back to Southern California. Father Ryan is great, but I'd like to see more of Father Mason." Andy nodded. "He said at supper that he may have to move back here when and if she gets really bad." "I wish his mom well, but I'm with Cam on this. I do wish he'd move back here," Kevin said. They kept visiting while they ate every bit of food on the table and topped off their meal with bowls of butter pecan ice cream. When they were finished, everybody pitched in to scrape and rinse the plates and dishes and put them in the dishwasher. Cam led the dogs out on to the front deck, chained them up, and gave them some dog food and fresh water. Then the guys all gathered in the study, and sat down. Carl and Andy sat close together on one of the big leather couches, and Andy put his arm across Carl's shoulders. "Uh, guys," Andy said, "I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am for the inheritance from John and Alex. I was really surprised. I never expected anything like that." "Well," Kevin said, "Don't thank us. I'm glad it happened, but we didn't have anything to do with it." Cam looked at the two boys. "If you want to thank 'em, just say a prayer for their souls. That's all any of us can do for them now." It was pretty obvious that Cam was still hurting. "I know," Carl said, "but we're all really thankful for what they did. What Alex and John did in their wills is a perfect example of how generous this family is." 'You're right about that, fer sure," Kevin said. Looking at Kevin, Cam watched Carl and Andy out of the corner of his eye where they were sitting as close together as they could get. He changed the subject. "Y'know, if nobody has special plans for this evening, I have a great idea," he said. "Why don't we stay up all night and watch movies on the big screen TV?" Carl and Andy looked at each other unhappily at that idea, and Cam and Kevin started to laugh, which mystified Art Smith. "What??" Art asked, not getting it. Cam stared over at Carl and Andy when they didn't respond right away. "Oh, did you two have something else you wanted to do tonight?" "Yeah, well, it won't be the same if we're not all here together watching the movies," Kevin interjected. "We could all take a break between movies and work out in the gym." Carl shook his head mournfully. "You two assholes really know how to hurt a guy, doncha?" "What?" Cam said, echoing Art and trying to look confused, but then bursting out laughing again. "Oooh! I get it. I s'pose you two horndogs want some alone time. That's kinda selfish of ya, doncha think?" "Yeah," Kevin said. "Selfish." Cam looked at Art. "I guess you know Andy and Carl are partners," he explained. "They only get to see each other on weekends, so they're horny as fuck. And that's what they do at every opportunity on weekends--fuck." Art laughed. "Well, I thought they were kinda friendly with each other." "Art, my man, 'friendly' doesn't cover it," Kevin said, laughing. "Look at Carl's eyes. They glow red whenever Andy's around." "That's true," Cam said. "Listen, you two guys can take off upstairs anytime you want to. I was only kidding about watching movies. But I did want to ask you one favor for real this weekend. Kevin and I needs to start cleaning out Alex's and John's closets in the master bedroom and donating their clothes to charity, and I was going to ask you to help us sort things out so we can move into the master bedroom pretty soon." Kevin studied Cam's face. "We're gonna clean out closets this weekend? You never mentioned that to me." "You work more efficiently when you don't have time to dwell too long on the unpleasant jobs," Cam said. "You're just full of tricks, aren't ya?" Kevin said, smiling. "L-o-t-s of tricks." "That's why you love me," Cam responded, leaning over and kissing his partner on the lips. "We'll help sort out the clothes," Carl said. "But I think we'll go upstairs right now and get Andy unpacked." "'Unpacked,' huh? Is that what you call it? Well, okay then, if you have to," Kevin said. "Will we see you again before we go to bed?" "Maybe," Andy said. "For a snack before it's time to sleep." "I'm glad you didn't say it would be a snack 'before bed,' cause that would be a split second from now," Cam said. "If that long." "Laters," Andy grinned as he stood, bending down to pick up his bag off the floor. He and Carl walked to the door with Andy's muscular arm around Carl's waist as they disappeared into the hall and went upstairs. Cam watched Art's face as Carl and Andy left the room, and saw that the young man was clearly checking out their well muscled butts as they walked out of the room. "Art?" Cam said, looking over at his friend. "Yeah?" "You don't have to answer this question if you don't want to," Cam said. "But are you gay?" "Cameron, for gosh sakes!" Kevin said disapprovingly, surprised at how brash his partner was. "Shut up, Kevin," Cam said. "There's nothing wrong with that question. It's either 'yes' or 'no.'" "There's a third option," Kevin said. "'None of your damn business!'" Art leaned back in his chair, a little stunned by Cam's question, frozen in place for a long minute. "Yes, I am," he finally admitted, breaking his silence and coming back to life. "But I'm not out to anyone. You're the first people I've ever said those words to." "We won't say anything to anybody," Kevin assured him, relieved that Art hadn't freaked out and walked out. "At least not until you tell us we can. Your parents don't know?" "No, they don't. And I'm having a hard time coming to grips with it myself," Art said quietly. "Sometimes I feel like a fucking freak. Here I am in college, and I've never even been with a guy or a girl. I've never had sex with anyone. It's been my right hand all the way." "Listen, Art, you're no freak, and there's no shame in being gay, or in not having had sex with anyone yet," Kevin said seriously. "I'm telling you the truth. Take it from someone who's a sex expert by now." He grinned. No modesty was required on that topic, in his opinion. "Listen, Art, I'm sorry I've more or less been an asshole to you up 'til now," Kevin continued. "I know you and Cam are friends, and I haven't been that nice to you. I just haven't known who you are or where you're coming from. Now I'm starting to get it. So I promise I'm gonna do better." "I'll appreciate that," Art said. He put his hands down on his jean-clad legs. "You don't know how much I envy you two. And Carl and Andy, now that I know for sure about them. You're all 'out' and proud, but I don't think I have the guts to do that." "You can only take one step at a time, Art," Cam said. "Believe me, after Kev and I came out to each other and finally had sex, we didn't run out into the street and start proclaiming we were gay. We were in love with each other for a long time before we admitted it to anyone. We were living with my mother--she was Kevin's guardian after his dad moved to New York City because of work--and we didn't even tell her. She finally sleuthed it out when she noticed that only one of our beds was being slept in every night. We had adjoining bedrooms, and we'd trade off which bed we slept in. We thought we were being so clever, but she was too smart for us." "What happened after she found out?" Art asked. "She confronted us one night at supper, and asked if we were sleeping together," Kevin said. He laughed. "We didn't know whether to shit or go blind right then!" "But we 'fessed up," Cam said. "Mom was very upset. Not that we are gay per se, but because she knew how challenging it can be sometimes to make your way in this world when you're gay and out." "It's getting better for gays all the time, but there's still a long way to go," Kevin said. "Yeah," Art agreed. "I've been scared and in the closet for so long, I really don't know what to do next." "Well, now you have two friends who know your deal," Cam said. "You'll have a chance to think about how you want to come out." He paused. "You do want to come out, don't you?" "I don't know." Art looked extremely uncomfortable. "Lemme share something with you that Carl told me when we were living in San Rafael," Cam said. "Carl was seeing a shrink at the time, and she was really helping him accept the fact he was probably gay at the same time he was getting treatment for being assaulted by his father. He was starting to feel pretty good about himself, and on the way home from one of his sessions he stopped at our Episcopal parish church to talk to Father Jim Mason. You met Father at John's and Alex's funeral at St. Dunstan's, I'm sure. Carl was raised a Roman Catholic, like us, and he asked Father Jim if there was a place in the Episcopal Church for a gay person. Father told him there was. He said something along the lines of, 'Don't be afraid to find out who you are, because God wants us to be who we really are, and loves us just as we are.' When Carl told me that, it just reinforced me in feeling good about my relationship with Kevin and with the Church. And Father's words really helped Carl be who he is. I think Father Jim gave Carl some good advice. "And I want to pass that on to you," Cam concluded. "That doesn't mean you have to run around telling everybody you're gay, but just mull it over for awhile. Get used to the idea that being gay may really be your sexual identity, and if it is, it's not a terrible thing, it's a good thing. Then make coming out to the important people in your life at some point your goal. You'll feel better about yourself, fer sure." "Have you ever read any of the stories on the Nifty gay story site?" Kevin asked. "Yes," Art said, blushing. "Well, the writer of a story I read recently had one of the characters say in so many words, 'We're only as sick as our secrets.' Something like that. And that's so true," Kevin said. "We pay dearly for our secrets, don't think we don't. But the time and the place and the people you come out to have to be your decision, not anybody else's. Totally yours. Please don't think we're pressuring you at all to come out, 'cause we're not." He frowned at Cam. "At least I'm not." "Art, could I ask you how things are at home for you?" Cam inquired, ignoring Kevin's disapproval. "Not too good, really. They've never been really, really good from my perspective. We're not a close family. There's not a lot of love there--not for me, anyway. My parents compliment my younger brother all the time, but I don't think I've ever gotten a compliment from them. Nothing I've ever done has ever pleased them much, I guess. I don't know whether they suspect I'm gay or not. I guess that not feeling close to them is why I'm so scared to admit to them I'm probably gay." "Well, thanks for coming out to Kevin and me," Cam said. "We'll never say anything to anybody until you tell us we can. No pressure here." "I appreciate that," Art said. "It's a relief to talk about it, to be honest." "Why don't you stay here tonight, Art?" Kevin suggested. "We have plenty of bedrooms, and we can all run together tomorrow morning and then work out. Maria will be here to watch Casey." "I don't have a change of clothes," Art said. "Cam has some shorts, and a t-shirt and a jock that will probably fit you," Kevin said, glancing over at Art. "You're about the same size." "Yeah, stay," Cam said. "Do you need to call your parents." Art shook his head in the negative. "They don't care what I do. I won't even be missed." "Perfect, then!" Cam said. At that point, they fired up the big screen TV and played some Wii, a newly improved version that Kevin had picked up the previous day on a shopping spree. They each won a game apiece before deciding to quit for the night after a couple hours. Hearing footsteps in the hall, they looked up as Carl and Andy stuck their heads into the room. The two guys had "the glow" on their faces, and Cam and Kevin knew exactly what they'd been doing up in the bedroom. They were barefoot and naked except for shorts. "We're gonna have some more ice cream," Carl said. "You guys want some?" "Excellent idea!" Cam said. "Well, let's get to the freezer right away, then," Andy said mockingly. "You assholes think you're really funny, doncha?" Kevin said, smiling in spite of himself. Carl and Andy just laughed, and they all headed for the kitchen. While Kevin dished up the ice cream, Art had to work not to get caught perving on the bodies of the nearly naked Carl and Andy. Fucking buff and so-o-o beautiful! he thought to himself. After the four of them shot the shit for awhile and finished their ice cream, they all went upstairs except for Cam, who let the dogs in. Kevin carried a sleeping Casey upstairs. When he got upstairs, Cam showed Art to a bedroom, making sure he had a fresh toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and towels. Everything was there. As usual, Maria had been right on top of things. Then Cam went back to his room and picked out a pair of shorts, a jock, sweat socks and T-shirt for Art so he could run in the morning and took them down to him. After he put the baby down, Kevin came back out of his room and walked down to Carl and Andy's door, knocking and opening it just as Andy and Carl had stripped down to head for the bathroom to clean their teeth. They were both already at half-mast. Impressive, Kevin thought to himself as he scoped them out. "Art's right next door and needs his sleep," he informed them. "Don't be banging the headboard of the bed against the wall all night." "Get the fuck out!" Carl suggested to Kevin as Andy gave him the finger. Kevin grinned and shut their door. Cam came out of Art's room and followed Kevin back into their own room. They stripped off their clothes before stopping at the crib and watching Casey sleep. Both thought about what a beautiful baby the little guy was. Kevin checked Casey's diaper--it was dry--and they went into the bathroom to brush their teeth. As they brushed, they playfully poked each other with their elbows and bumped each other. "Ow!" Kevin said. "Now you hurt me," he lied. "I'll kiss it and make it well," Cam promised. After they finished and put their toothbrushes in their holders, they turned and looked at each other hungrily. Kevin cupped Cam's package with one hand and pulled him into a kiss with the other hand on his neck. They each started to firm up right away. "I love your equipment, boy," Kevin said. "I love all of you, but I have to tell you I'm very partial to how well you're hung." "Spoken like a true lover of dick," Cam said. "Ditto." He reached out and took hold of Kevin's cock, simultaneously giving it a stroke. "I wanna get up close and personal with this bad boy," Kevin said, giving Cam's penis a stroke right back. They turned out the bathroom light and walked to the bed, each with a hand on the other's ass, and fell into bed, immediately moving into a sixty-nine position. Kevin took hold of Cam's penis, pushing down gently on the head with his thumb and forefinger to open the slit and licked it with his tongue. Then he took the head into his mouth, running his tongue up and down the slit a few more times before taking the whole appendage into his mouth and down his throat without any problem. He felt Cam doing the same thing to him. Their time as lovers had schooled them well in the art of sucking cock. They lay there without moving as their dicks made themselves right at home, their throats squeezing and caressing the welcome intruders. Eventually they began to move their mouths up and down on each other's dicks, and over a period of minutes began to increase and then vary the pace and the friction. The sweet pre-cum began to flow into one another's mouth. They managed to keep from ejaculating for all of fifteen minutes, and then the dam burst for both of them. Cam came first, groaning deep in his chest as his load rocketed into Kevin's mouth. Kevin followed suit almost immediately, grunting as he did so. He pulled back so only the head of Cam's cock was in his mouth, taking the full load in his mouth and not down his throat. They lay there as if they had been poleaxed for several minutes before pulling off each other, making sure that their mouths maintained the loads, not swallowing. Kevin moved around so they were face to face, and they gave one another a long-lasting soul kiss, tasting themselves in the gift they had given each other. Drawing back then, they swallowed what had been so bountifully provided. "I love doing that with you," Cam said, smiling. "You taste like pure Kevin. No surprise there." "Same, dude. You don't know how much I love you and appreciate how sexy you are." They studied each other. "I need to tell you something before we go to sleep, though. Don't get mad." "What?" Cam asked. "I thought you were kind of a badass tonight when you made Art come out to us." "I didn't mean to be." "I know. But this is my motto: 'It's better to love dick than to be one.'" Cam chuckled. "I can't argue with that. Do you think I should apologize to him tomorrow?" "Not necessarily. But when someone's that deep in the closet, it's better to be gentle." "And everybody thinks I'm the sensitive one," Cam laughed. "But I hear what you're saying." They slid under the sheets and held each other. "I love ya, Cameron," Kevin said, nuzzling his partner's face. "I loves ya back, Kev." Nothing else was said, and within two minutes they were fast asleep in each other's arms. * * * Kevin roused everybody about 8:00 the next morning, and they dressed for their run. It was Saturday, so they'd all slept a couple hours later than usual. Andy and Carl looked relaxed, but not particularly rested. They'd obviously been busy during the night. The boys greeted Maria in the downstairs hall, and Kevin passed a freshly diapered Casey to her. "Thanks, Maria," Kevin said. "He's cleaned up and ready for breakfast." "Good morning, sweetheart," Maria said to the little guy, kissing him on the forehead. Casey gurgled at her and pointed toward the kitchen where he knew food awaited him. Kevin re-introduced Art to Maria--they'd met before, but just in passing. "Maria, Art slept in the bedroom next to Carl's," Cam said. "He's probably going to stay with us off and on for awhile, so you don't have to change the sheets in his room every day." "Thanks for telling me," Maria said. Cam kissed her on the cheek as he headed for the door to the beach with the dogs, and she gave him a big smile before turning and heading for the kitchen with the baby. The little guy was trying to talk a blue streak. The guys did their stretches on the deck as Alice and Samantha milled about, anxious to get started, and then they all walked down to the hard pack. "Art, we usually run seven miles," Kevin told him. "Are you a runner at all?" "I don't run very often, and when I do, it's not very fast and usually only a couple of miles." "I'll stick with you," Kevin offered. "When you get tired, we'll walk for a while, and then we can turn around and head back to the house." "I don't want to cut your run short," Art told Kevin. "Don't worry about it," Kevin responded. "Just set your pace, and I'll be right there with ya." Cam, Carl and Andy took off at their usual fast pace, the dogs running ahead, with Kevin and Art following behind more slowly The gap soon widened as Kevin and Art ran only at a fast jog. "You sleep well?" Kevin asked. "Great. The sound of the waves put me right to sleep." "They do that, don't they?" Kevin agreed. "We feel lucky we live right on the beach." "It's perfect for you guys," Art said. They ran in silence for a few minutes. "Thanks for coming out to us last night, Art," Kevin said. "It's not easy to do that, but you had the guts to do it. You won't be sorry." "It was time," Art said. "Not being able to talk about being gay with anyone else was bringin' me down." "Yeah. I remember how it was with me." Art looked over at him. "What you said last night--what was it? 'We're only as sick as our secrets.' I can see how true that is now that I think about it. It's such a relief to be able to talk about it." "Why don't you think about spending more time at the house with Cam and Carl and me," Kevin suggested. "Don't feel under any obligation to do that, but just know you're welcome anytime." He grinned. "Once you get to working out in the gym and running with us, you'll be so tired you won't even think about being gay." Art chuckled. "Well, aren't you the optimist! With you and Cam and Carl around to look at, I'll be thinking about being gay all the time." Kevin laughed out loud. "Isn't there any eye candy at school you've been checking out?" "Oh, yeah! And all of it straight, I'm sure." "Well, that's just it. You just don't know until you know," Kevin said. "If you want Cam and me to go with you to some of the programs at the Gay-Straight Alliance, we can do that. You'll know in a hurry who's straight and who's gay then. In that group, at least." "I've thought about going to a meeting, but I've just been too chickenshit to do it," Art said. "Well, you shouldn't go until you're comfortable with it. Cam and I don't belong to the Alliance, and we've never even gone to one of their programs, but it won't kill us to give you some support while you're thinking things over." "I appreciate that, Kevin. Thank you. I'll think about it." "Your situation has made me realize how little I've done for our gay brothers and sisters out there in the world. I'm sure Cam would agree with me. If we can help you in your process, we need to do that. Especially since we've had so much support from our family." The two guys continued to talk until Art finally had to stop jogging. He bent over, gasping to get his breath. Eventually they turned around and began a fast walk back toward the house for a long while, and then resumed a slower jog in that direction. The other three guys and the dogs passed them at almost a dead run just before they all reached the house. They did their cool downs on the deck before going inside and hitting the showers. In their room, Cam stripped and stepped into the shower with Kevin. Kevin pulled him into a hug under the streaming water, holding his unshaven face next to Cam's. "Art did all right?" Cam asked his partner. "Yeah. He'll be able to do seven miles with us in no time." "He wasn't pissed about our conversation last night, was he?" "No," Kevin said. "And I thanked him for trusting us enough to come out to us." "Good deal. Thanks for running with him," Cam said. "Y'know, I'm starting to realize how selfish I've been when it comes to supporting our bros who are gay." "What brought this on?" "Well, while we were running, I was just thinking about how tough it was for Art to come out, and it's not always easy to find someone to care about once you are out. Someone who's gay. I haven't been very generous with my time, I don't think," Kevin said. "All things considered, we had it pretty easy when we came out. And we had each other to come out for." "Are you saying you've been selfish, my Kevin?" "Yes." "And?" "Art and I were talking, and I suggested that he go to some meetings of the Gay-Straight Alliance at school. I told him we'd go with him. I've never offered any of my time to anyone who's struggling with their orientation. Except for Mark Carson, that is, and that's just been to give him some advice about being patient in finding himself. He's young, yet." "When it comes to being selfish, what about me? Neither of us has much to brag about, I guess," Cam said. "At least you're carrying a full schedule at school. I have no excuse." "Well, you've still had a lot on your plate after what happened down the beach. But maybe we can do better." Cam stepped back and looked his partner in the face. "No wonder I love you so much, Kevin. You're right. Anything you want to do to help Art, I'll do it with you. Count on it!" Kevin pulled his partner to him and gave him a long, sweet kiss. "Love ya back so much, Cameron. I'd be lost and lonely without ya, dude." They finished up their shower, and after they toweled one another off and dressed, they went down to the kitchen. Art, Carl and Andy joined them a couple minutes later, and by popular demand, Maria started cooking them Huevos rancheros with toast and crisp bacon while they sipped big glasses of orange juice. After they ate and cleared the table, the boys sat around talking after breakfast, letting their food digest before Kevin decided it was time to work out. After they all warmed up in the gym, Kevin pretty much left Cam, Carl and Andy alone to do their exercises of choice, and started helping Art learn some basic techniques on the gym equipment. He wasn't too brutal with the kid, who was well built but a little underdeveloped. Some work in the gym would remedy that. They spent early Sunday morning together before Art, having declined an invitation to go to church with the guys, reluctantly went home. It wasn't until Cam and Kevin were in bed that night that Cam realized that they hadn't begun to sort through Alex's and John's clothes as he'd wanted them to do. * * * The call Cam had been dreading from the District Attorney's office came on Monday. Cam was studying his cinematography text at the desk in the den when Maria buzzed him on the phone to say that ADA Aaron Petrie was calling. "Mr. MacKenzie, this is Assistant District Attorney Aaron Petrie," the voice said. "DA Jim Nolan has assigned me to prosecute the case against Eric Clymer, Peter Murtha and Rory Lomer for what they did to you in Malibu." "Yes, sir," Cam said. "The trial date is coming up, and I want to spend some time with you going over the facts of the case as our office understands them. What we know is based on what Detectives Simon Roker and Emilio Suarez have provided us in their official reports. We need to dot every 'i' and cross every 't' before we face a judge and jury. When can we get together?" "I'll be down on the UCLA campus in class tomorrow," Cam said. "But I'm free on Wednesday pretty much all day." "Can you come downtown to my office?" "Yes." "Good!" Petrie said. "If you have a pen and paper, I'll give you the address." "One second," Cam said, opening his notebook and picking up a pen. Petrie gave him the address. "The receptionist on the main floor will direct you to my office What's a good time for you?" he asked. "Anytime after 10 o'clock," Cam said. "Let's make it 10:30," Petrie suggested. "I'll look forward to seeing you then." 'Yes, sir," Cam said, and broke the connection. He picked up his cell phone to look up Ian Carson's office number, and called him on the landline. The switchboard at Ian's law firm put him right through to Ian's secretary, who buzzed her boss immediately. "Cam MacKenzie on 44," she said. "Thank you, Beverly," Ian said, and pressed the flashing button. "I've been thinking about you, Cameron," Ian said by way of greeting. "Are Kevin and Carl and Casey all right?" "Everybody's good," Cam said. "Andy Helder was down here this weekend to see Carl. Kevin is doing well, and watching Casey grow up is a real treat for both of us. He's starting to talk more. It won't be long before he'll be sassing us back like all us guys do to you and Mary and Mom." Ian chuckled. "Isn't that the truth!" "Listen, I just wanted to let you know that the DA's office called a few minutes ago. An ADA named Aaron Petrie. He's been assigned to prosecute my case, and I'm going downtown to his office at 10:30 Wednesday morning to start going over the facts of the case and my testimony." "I knew the DA had tapped Petrie to handle the case. And we knew the first interview would be coming up," Ian said. "How are you feeling about the trial at this point?" "I'm dreading it. Getting on the stand and telling a jury of total strangers what those guys did to me is going to be horrible and humiliating. I don't want to relive it by talking about it." "Do you want me to come down and stay with you for a few days? I will if you need me." "That means a lot to me, Ian. Thank you. Why don't I let you know how the interview goes before you make plans to come down. I don't even know the exact court date yet. And you have a busy law practice to take care of." "'Family first,' pal," Ian said. "Call me and let me know." "I will. How's everybody at home?" "Everyone is doing well. The guys all miss you and Kevin and the baby, I know that. Maybe we can all get together over Thanksgiving vacation." "That would be great!" Cam said. "It's probably our turn to come up to San Francisco." "Probably," Ian admitted. "But I don't want you to have to travel during flu season with the baby. Did you all have your flu shots this Fall, by the way?" "Yes. In September. But I hear what you're saying. We'd love to have you all come down here, you know that. Don't leave Yolanda home alone, either. She's part of the family, and Rosa has her own husband and kids to celebrate with." "Well, thanks for thinking about Yolanda, Cam. You're a good guy, and given what's coming up in court before long, I don't want you to forget that fact." Cam sighed. "I'll try not to. I'll let you know what happens with Mr. Petrie. And thanks for offering to come down for moral support. Give Mom and Mary and all the guys our love." "Will do." The line went dead. Cam hung up, and marking his place in his cinematography text, he stood up and walked to the sliding doors to the beach and looked out at the Pacific. The sun was beaming down on the sand, and people were running up and down on it, exercising next to the water. They didn't look like they had a care in the world, but he felt restless and tormented by thoughts of the upcoming trial. Toughen me up, Lord, he thought to himself. It's crunch time, and it's time to man up! * * * On Tuesday night that week, Carl was upstairs studying in his room, and Cam left Kevin working on some physics problems in the study and went out to the garage. He uncovered Alex's, now his, Porsche, and sat down on the steps just looking at it. That was a trigger, because suddenly the events and consequences surrounding Alex's and John's deaths rushed back into his mind, and he sat there paralyzed with grief. Tears flooded his eyes without warning and began to run down his cheeks, dropping on his T-shirt and board shorts. He'd thought he had begun to put what had happened to his father and John Kelly behind him, but obviously that wasn't true. Even after he stopped weeping, Cam sat there for a good half-hour staring at the car, unable to move, thoughts about his loss cascading through his mind. He eventually heard the door to the kitchen behind him open, and footfalls as Kevin came down the short flight of stairs and sat down beside him and put an arm around him. "Here you are. What's the matter?" Kevin asked. Cam turned his head, his cheeks still red and wet from tears, and looked at his partner. "I don't know," he choked out before turning his face away. Kevin moved closer to Cam and hugged him, not saying anything, and put his face next to Cam's. "I thought I had put all this shit behind me. But looking at Dad's car just brought everything back," Cam said. "Everybody heals at his own pace," Kevin responded gently and reasonably after a moment. "The pain takes time to go away. Please don't be upset that you're still grieving. It's gonna get better. I'm here for ya, and so is everybody in the family." "I know," Cam said. He put an arm around Kevin and hugged him back. "Sometimes I don't think I'd want to live if it weren't for you and Casey, Kev." "That scares me." Kevin kissed Cam on the side of his head. "Do you think you need to spend some time with Dr. Owens again?" "I don't know," Cam said. "I haven't thought so up until now. I thought I was handling things pretty well." "I think you have been, but why don't you take a few days and think about it?" Kevin suggested. "You liked working with Dr. Owens after you were attacked on the beach, and she knows you and cares about you. She offered to spend some time with you when she called about Alex's and John's deaths, didn't she?" "Yes, she did. And I'll think about it." "Good. Listen, why don't we hit the bed early tonight? You seem tired." Cam's face looked more cheerful. "Y'know, I think that's an excellent idea. I always like to hear the words 'we' and 'bed' in the same sentence." Kevin kissed Cam on the side of the head again, and they stood up and covered up the Porsche again. They took Casey upstairs, bathed him, put a fresh diaper on him, and put him in his bed. The little boy had been active and exuberant during his bath in the bassinet, and Cam and Kevin were dripping wet by the time they had finished bathing him. They stripped each other down, toweled each other dry, brushed their teeth, and got in bed. But they didn't have sex. Kevin pulled Cam into his arms and kissed him and just held him. Cam began to relax in his partner's arms and was soon asleep. Kevin seldom said any prayers at bedtime, but this particular night was an exception. He thanked God for having his partner in his life, and prayed that Cam's grief would continue to heal quickly and fully. He added a Hail Mary, and then fell asleep himself, gently holding the young man he loved more than life itself.. * * * Wednesday morning rolled around all too quickly, and just to keep the battery charged up, Cam drove the Porsche downtown that day to the address ADA Petrie had given him. He parked in a lot near the District Attorney's offices, and made his way to the building. It was 10:20 a.m. when he walked in. A middle-aged Hispanic lady behind a reception desk in the foyer greeted him with a smile, and asked who he was there to see. "Mr. Aaron Petrie," he told her. "What is your name, please?" she asked. "Cameron MacKenzie." "One moment, sir," she said, consulting a directory and punching a number into the telephone. She gave someone Cam's name, and a moment later he was directed to a bank of elevators after passing successfully through security. He went to the fifth floor and was met at the elevator door by a well dressed, well coifed Afro-American lady. She introduced herself as "Mrs. Maxwell," and escorted him to a door labeled "Aaron Petrie, ADA." Mrs. Maxwell invited Cam to be seated in a row of chairs along one wall. He did so, and looked around the office as she went behind her desk, picked up her telephone, and punched in a number. She told her boss that "Mr. MacKenzie" had arrived. "Mr. Petrie will be with you shortly," Mrs. Maxwell said after she hung up the phone. Cam looked around the room. There were a few pictures on the wall, some of them copies of well known prints by famous artists. It was a busy place. Mrs. Maxwell answered the telephone periodically, handling the phone calls quickly and professionally. One party who asked for Mr. Petrie was told that the ADA was just going into a conference, taking down information so that Petrie could return the call. A little dust-up Cam had had with Kevin earlier that morning ran through his mind. At breakfast after their run, Kevin told him that he was going downtown with Cam to see the ADA. "You don't need to do that," Cam had said. "I'll be all right." "I know I don't need to go, but I want to go," Kevin had insisted. "Go to class," Cam had said. "If I can't handle this interview, I'll never be able to handle the trial." "I know you can handle anything the DA's office throws at you, but I just want to keep you company." Carl Emrick had looked at them curiously, as had Maria. Cam and Kevin hardly ever fought, particularly not in front of others. "I know, Kev," Cam had said. "But I'll be all right." He'd stood up from the table and put his dishes in the dishwasher, as did Kevin. Cam had pulled his partner into his arms and held him for a long minute, then kissed him. "You're so stubborn," Kevin had said. "It's from being with you," Cam had said. "You know I appreciate the offer." They had both parted on good terms when Kevin and Carl left for school a few minutes later. Cam emerged from his reverie about Kevin when Mrs. Maxwell's phone buzzed. She answered it and then looked up at Cam. "Mr. Petrie is free now," she said. "Please go right in that door," she said, pointing at it. Cam knocked and went right in. A balding white guy who appeared to be in his mid thirties, dressed in shirtsleeves and a tie rose from behind his desk and walked toward Cam. He held out his hand. "Mr. MacKenzie? Aaron Petrie. Please come in." They shook hands, and Petrie asked if he wanted anything to drink. Cam declined, and Petrie thanked his secretary and shut his door. For his part, Petrie saw a handsome, well built young man with short, light colored hair, wearing a blue, open-necked sport shirt under a brown tweed sport coat, and a pair of Levi's, along with polished brown loafers. The kid looked alert and intelligent. Very presentable looking. So far as appearances were concerned, he'd make a good witness in the upcoming trial. "Thank you for coming in today," Petrie said after directing Cam to a seat at a small conference room table at the side of his office. Cam noticed the man's wedding ring on his left hand. "Yes, sir," Cam responded. He couldn't help wondering whether a married, presumably heterosexual guy could and would have any sympathy for him and what he had suffered as a gay male down on the beach. "As I explained on the telephone," Petrie said, "my purpose of meeting with you today is to go over the arrest reports that Detectives Suarez and Roker submitted after you were assaulted on the beach over in Malibu. I hope our discussion will prepare you for your testimony during the trial, as well as help you be ready for cross examination by the defense attorneys." "All right," Cam said. "Have you recovered from your injuries?" Petrie asked before they got started. "Physically, yes," Cam said. "Mentally, I guess for the most part I have. Probably not completely, though." Petrie studied Cam's face, and said, "I'm sorry about what happened to you. I know this this can't be easy for you, and I want to make this process today and the trial itself as easy for you as possible." Somehow Cam knew sensed that what Petrie had said was sincere. His words weren't just pro forma. "Thank you," Cam said. "May I call you 'Cam'?" Petrie asked. "Yes." "Cam, I think the easiest way to get into this is for you to read through the dectectives' reports, and then let me know of there are any discrepancies between what they wrote and your recollection about what happened. Those reports includes the questioning of the guys charged with this crime." "All right," Cam said. His hand was trembling as he reached across the table and took the papers Petrie proffered. The two of them sat there in silence for thirty minutes as Cam carefully perused what Suarez and Roker had written. He looked up when he finished reading. "What do you think?" Petrie said. "The report on the investigation of what happened is accurate so far as I can see," Cam said. "But what Clymer, Murtha and Lomer said when they were questioned is bullshit." "All right," Petrie said. "Now let's go over the detectives' report page by page." They did so for the next hour, with Cam faltering only when they reached the point in the report at which his own account, a graphic description of what Eric Clymer, Peter Murtha and Rory Lomer had done to him, how they had done it, and what implements they had used, came up. Petrie broke in at that point. "Cam, I know how painful this must be for you The reason we have to go over this in such detail is that the defense attorney, or attorneys, will be questioning you very closely about what we're alleging the perpetrators did to you. They'll be trying to trip you up in any way that they can. If there are any discrepancies between what we're alleging and what you will say on the stand, they'll use it to impeach your testimony. So we need you to be accurate in what you say, and to be sure and confident in the way you say it, if we're to get a conviction. I want a conviction so bad because I have no doubt they're guilty as hell." "I understand," Cam said. So they dived back into the report, with Cam making a special effort to control his emotions. When he left Aaron Petrie's office an hour and a half after they had started, strangely enough, despite his discomfort with reviewing what he had suffered on the beach, Cam was feeling more more hopeful about how well he would respond to questions on the witness stand. * * * He walked back to the parking lot and handed a young attendant with a nice ass and cute face his ticket for the car. The kid trotted off to retrieve the car, and the Porsche was driven up beside him. The young guy got out and held the door open for Cam. "Nice ride," the kid told him. "Thanks," Cam said, handing the guy a nice tip. He sat down behind the wheel and adjusted the seat before pulling out on to the street. He drove a block, and then pulled into an empty spot on the side of the street and shut off the motor. Despite his newfound hopefulness about his competence at the trial, the strain of his meeting with Allan Petrie had hit him hard. He rested his head on the steering wheel for a good five minutes before firing up the engine again and maneuvering his way back into the tangled L.A. traffic and making his way back to Malibu. When he arrived home, he changed into shorts and a T-shirt, ate a late lunch prepared by Maria, and then took Casey for a walk on the beach. The little guy was walking more and more confidently with every day that passed, and talked a blue streak. When they went inside, Cam put the baby down for a nap. He gave Ian Carson a quick call before opening his cinematography text and getting down to some studying. "How did it go with Mr. Petrie?" Ian asked him as soon as he answered his phone. "Better than I thought it would," Cam said. "What did you think of this guy?" "He seems very competent and very sympathetic about what happened to me. I think he believes in the case. We spent about an hour and a half going over the detectives' reports, and toward the end he posed some questions the defense attorneys might ask me. You know, tricky questions, like all you defense attorneys pose to poor, stupefied and bewildered witnesses." Ian laughed. "You're right about that," he said. "The questions can be tricky. So how'd you do with them?" "I did all right, I think. At least Mr. Petrie thought so." "Good. Will you be getting together with him again before the trial?" "We left that open. But I wouldn't doubt it." "Well, you know my offer to come down to L.A. still stands," Ian said. "Just let me know." "I will. Thanks, Ian. I'd sure like to see you, but I don't want you to make the trip if it's not necessary. I miss everybody so much, though." "We miss you guys, too, Cameron." They talked for another minute, and then hung up. Ian put down the phone feeling better about how Cam would do at the trial. When Kevin and Carl arrived home from school, Kevin found Cam in the study sitting on the couch. He took one look at Cam's face, and knew that the interview with the ADA had taken its toll. He saw the strain, and dumping his book bag on the floor, sat down beside his lover. Without saying a word, put his arms around him, and just held him for a while. "You wanna talk about it?" Kevin finally asked. "Not really," Cam said. "It wasn't terrible. Just stressful. I'm more confident now that I'll get through it when the time comes, though." * * * Art Smith stayed over at the Malibu house again on Saturday night that week, and Cam again invited him to go to church at St. Dunstan's with him, Kevin, Carl and Andy the next day. "Were you raised going to church?" Cam inquired. "Yeah. My family was Missouri Synod Lutheran, but none of us goes to church anymore." "Well, our service may seem somewhat familiar to you," Cam said. "Episcopalians are pretty traditional liturgically, but liberal in our social views. We try to love all God's children, even gays and Lutherans. You know, like Jesus." Cam laughed, but only got a wan smile back from Art. "I don't have any decent clothes to wear for church," Art said, not all that anxious to go. "Don't sweat the clothes. You could even wear your board shorts and T-shirt if you wanted to, and nobody would pay that much attention." "You guys wear nice clothes to church, though, doncha?" Art asked. "Semi nice. Dockers and sports shirts. This is fucking California, dude!" "Well..." "I'll lend you a pair of Dockers and a shirt. They'll fit you, and you'll fit right in." Art sighed and reluctantly acquiesced. The guys ran early the next morning, as usual. Well, most of them. Maria rarely worked on Sundays, so Kevin stayed behind to be with Casey, and Cam ran a truncated route with Art at a slower pace. That left Carl and Andy, who had come down to L.A. for the weekend as usual, to run their customary seven mile course at a fast pace. But Cam and Art did run farther and faster than Kevin and Art had run together the week before. The guys showered when they returned. Cam gave Art a pair of khaki pants, some clean boxers and a sport shirt for church, and after they dressed, they ate toasted English muffins and drank some orange juice for a quick breakfast before leaving the house in the Highlander. They arrived at St. Dunstan's about ten minutes before Mass, as usual, and were greeted by Father Ryan in the narthex. Cam introduced Art Smith to the priest, who shook hands and welcomed Art to the church and then greeted Andy by name. Father blessed Casey, tracing a cross on the sleeping baby's forehead as he always did. The guys went in and found a pew with enough room to accommodate all of them along with Casey's carrier. As usual, this particular Mass was packed. Everyone stood for the opening hymn as the thurifer and crucifer led the altar party down the center aisle to the altar. Casey was still fast asleep, and would likely stay that way. Father Ryan's homily was good, as always, emphasizing the final days of the Pentecost season's message before the Church shifted into the Advent mode. But Cam had a difficult time keeping his mind focused on the sermon. Thoughts about the upcoming trial kept impinging on his concentration. When the Peace was passed later, Cam and Kevin kissed each other on the lips without any observers being scandalized, and the other guys gave and received handshakes with one another and nearby congregants. During the announcements, Father Ryan once again noted that any visitors who were baptized were welcome to receive Holy Communion. Cam looked at Art and nodded his head to indicate he should go forward when it was time for communion. Cam, Andy, Carl and Art went up for communion first, leaving Kevin with Casey. Kevin went to the altar rail when the others returned. Art tried not to show it, but receiving communion after so many years of not attending church moved him, and when he returned to the pew he actually prayed for his own family and for the guys who had brought him to church. The boys made a quick foray into the parish house after the dismissal at the end of Mass because they knew a lot of the members of the parish liked to see Casey. The child woke up, and ate up all the attention he received, especially from some of the young ladies in the parish who thought the guys who brought Casey to church were awfully cute, even if they were gay. The girls seemed to enjoy flirting with these boys, gay or not. After they finally got away from the crowd and went home, the guys changed into their swim trunks (Art into shorts) and went next door to the Millers' pool to swim and lie in the sun. The rest of the day was spent working out in the gym, playing cards and playing Wii, and a little studying for school. That evening they took Andy Helder to the airport for an eight o'clock flight back to San Francisco. Seeing Andy off was never easy for Carl, even after all the weekends they had spent together. Carl was feeling down, didn't say a word on the drive back to Malibu. Art Smith left for home about 11 o'clock that night, full of thanks for the hospitality he had enjoyed. "Why don't you bring some clothes over here and stay more often," Kevin told Art just before he left. Those words meant a lot to Art, and he drove home feeling more cheerful than he had in a long time.
  13. Don H

    Chapter 57

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 William Carson rapped his knuckles on the open door to Catherine's study at the house in San Rafael. His father was seated at Catherine's desk working on some legal papers for an upcoming trial. Ian's recent trip to Los Angeles for Alex's and John's funeral had put him behind in his work, and he was struggling to catch up. Ian looked up and smiled at his older son, and beckoned him into the room, pointing to a seat. He needed to work on the papers in front of him, but it was always "family first" for Ian when it came to priorities. "Hey, Dad," William said. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" "Yes," Ian said, sitting back a little in Catherine's big leather chair. Lord, he thought to himself as he looked at his son, William is handsome. Every one of the boys he and Mary and Catherine was raising was really good looking. Obviously all the girls who were constantly calling the boys' cell phones and the land line at the house all agreed about that. "I want to ask for your advice about something," William said. "All right." William got right to the point. "You remember Alicia McCaskill? The girl I used to date?" "Vividly," Ian said drily. "But only by reputation. I've never had the pleasure of meeting her in person." "Well, sometimes we still eat lunch together in the cafeteria at school, and we were talking..." Ian groaned internally but resisted doing so aloud. "You're still friends, then?" Ian asked. "Yes." "That's good," Ian admitted reluctantly. "And?" "We'd like to date again." "I'll just bet you would. In your case, the word 'date' covers a lot of ground, though, doesn't it? Didn't we have an agreement about you and the girls at school when it comes to 'dating?'" William's face reddened. "Yes, we did. And we do. But this isn't what you think." "What is it, then?" "I like her. Alicia and I just want to hang. Go to dinner or maybe have her come to dinner over here. Go to a movie. Go to an occasional party. You know. I didn't want to do any of that behind your back, that's all." "I appreciate that, William. But let's talk about the elephant in the room. Are you thinking about being 'friends with benefits' again with Alicia? I think that's what you young people call it today." "Well, I've thought about it, sure," William admitted. "But I know we can't do that." "No, you can't. What is it you need my advice about?" "I want to know how you think Alicia and I should approach her father about dating again. 'Dating' in the strictest sense of the word, I mean." Ian studied his son and fell silent for a moment. "Now that's a good question," he finally said, at a rare loss for an immediate answer. The two of them sat there looking at each other for another long moment. "The first answer that comes to mind is to approach Mr. McCaskill the same way you've approached me," Ian said. "Be honest about what you're looking for in the relationship and what you're not looking for. Assurances will have to be given by both you and Alicia that your relationship isn't going to be sexual. That might give you a chance with Bill McCaskill. He's a very good and very reasonable man, by the way." William nodded. "It's helpful to know that. Thanks, Dad. Alicia and I are willing to restrain ourselves. We're willing to show some discipline in our relationship." William paused. "Does this mean that you and Mom will be OK with Alicia and me, uh, dating? Just 'dating' in the strictest definition of the word?" he added quickly and smiled. "If you're telling me that there won't be any sex in this relationship with Alicia, I'm good with it. I'll talk to Mom, and I'm sure she'll be fine with it, too." "I appreciate it, Dad," William said. "Do you want me to call Mr. McCaskill and give him a heads-up that you'll be contacting him?" "That would be really nice of you," William said. "I don't want to surprise him." "I can do that, then. I'll let you know." Ian stood up and walked around the desk as William got to his feet. He took his boy in his arms and kissed his cheek. "I love you, boy. And I trust you," he added. "Thank you, Dad. I love you back." Released from the hug, William started to walk toward the door when he stopped and turned around with a serious look on his face. "I feel like I won the lottery when I got you for my dad. All us guys feel that way." Then he left the room. Ian went back and sat down at the desk, rubbing away the sudden moisture that had appeared in his eyes. How many fathers get to hear that? he asked himself. Not many, I don't think. In a good mood, William bounded up the stairs two at a time to the second floor and walked back to his and Berto's bedroom. Berto looked up from the textbook he was studying. "So?" Berto asked. William had told him earlier he was going to talk to Ian about Alicia. "Thumbs up!" William said with a grin. "One dad down, one to go!" "Damn!" Berto said. "Well, no one ever said you aren't persuasive. And persistent. Is it 'Friends with benefits?'" "Nope." Berto grinned. "Then just don't be wakin' me up in the middle of the night while you're strokin' it in the next bed, dude." William smiled back. "Let me make a note of that." He sat down at his desk and pretended to write something and then read it back. "Don't disturb Berto when he's jackin' off," he said. Berto laughed. "You're a dick!" he said. * * * Cam didn't have his Cinematography class that day at UCLA, and by afternoon was wandering listlessly around the house with Casey in tow. Bored to death. Maria was still catching up with her work after they'd had that house full of visitors before and after the funeral. Cam and Kevin and Carl had arisen that morning at dawn's early light and run their 8 miles without much conversation. They'd returned to work out in the little gym, then shower and dress, and the three of them had eaten some of Maria's spiced-up Huevos Rancheros, along with toast and orange juice. Before leaving, Kevin had held Cam in his arms for a long time and soundly kissed him several times. Then Kevin and Carl had picked up their book bags and headed for school. Cam knew Kevin was still worried about his partner's state of mind, especially after Kevin had hugged him longer than usual and kissed him repeatedly before letting go of him. Cam had followed them out to the driveway, staring at Kevin's Levi-clad butt as the two guys headed for Kevin's Mustang. I do love that boy's body, Cam had thought to himself, picturing Kevin's rounded, muscular buttocks and that sexy crease at the bottom where his butt merged into his legs. His back and chest and abs and that butt and those legs are all beautiful! Primo! Fucking works of art! Just like what's hanging between his legs! I could perve on Kevin's body all day long and never get tired of it! And that's just the physical aspect of our relationship. I love his mind and his disposition and his spirit and his determination and his toughness and his kindness and everything about him. Thank goodness he loves me and gets off on our relationship just as much as I do. Cam had sighed as the guys got into the Mustang and took off. Casey spent most of the morning in his downstairs playpen while Cam studied his Cinematography textbook and Maria worked on getting the house back in order. After having a bowl of soup for lunch, Cam rolled a rubber ball up and down the long downstairs hallway for a while, with Casey toddling along in hot pursuit and bringing the ball back to his dad, babbling all the way. Eventually the little boy was worn out. Cam checked the baby's diaper--it was dry--and then put him down in his upstairs crib for his afternoon nap. He turned on the baby monitors and went downstairs to sit in the study at Alex's desk. On a whim he picked up the landline receiver and brought up the directory. Scrolling down, he selected "Jeff Miller" from the list and hit the dial button. Some beeps, and the Assurances telephone began to ring. "Good afternoon," a pleasant, young-sounding female voice said. "Assurances. How may I direct your call?" "Jeff Miller, please," Cam said. "Who's calling, please?" "Cameron MacKenzie." There was a pause while the young lady apparently checked an approved caller list. His name must have been on it. "Please hold." The line went dead, and some nondescript, elevator type music began playing. Three minutes later, Cam heard Jeff's voice. "Hello," Jeff said. "Jeff! It's Cam. How the fuck are ya?" "Cam! Man, it's good to hear your voice! I'm doing great! How about yourself?" Cam hesitated. "I'm workin' on doin' better," he said. "We're all still trying to get over Alex and John...You know." "Yeah." Jeff cleared his throat. "I know that won't happen overnight. Nothing worthwhile does." Cam chuckled. "You're sounding a little philosophical there, guy." "I know it," Jeff said, laughing. "I guess I'm learning something here despite my thick skull." "Well, we miss you. When are you gonna get another furlough? We could use somebody who's upbeat around here. You could share some of your new insights with us face to face." "Yeah, I could share what I know. Which is mostly what I don't know. Anyway, I'm not sure when I can get away. But I'll ask and get back to ya. How are Kevin and Carl and Casey, by the way?" "Kevin and Carl are sloggin' along. We're all trying to heal up, I guess you'd say. The Baby Face--well, he's great. I just wore his little ass out chasing a rubber ball down the hallway today. He's walkin' better all the time. And he's starting to talk. He already knows more words than Kevin. The other day he said, 'Where's Jeff?'" Jeff laughed. "I miss the little guy. And you're still on Kevin's butt, I see. Some things never change." "You're right about that." I'm on his ass in more ways than one, Cam thought to himself, smiling. "Well, listen, let us know when you're gonna get sprung for a few days. You always have a bed here, you know that." "I appreciate it," Jeff said. "Thanks for calling me, bud. I'll get back to you about a furlough. Meantime, you hang in!" "Take care, Jeff. Laters." Cam hit the off button and put the phone back on its stand. Over in Santa Monica, Jeff hung up the phone and walked away with a new bounce in his step. Somebody other than my mom and dad is thinking about me, he reminded himself. Cam probably doesn't even realize how a little thing like a phone call can lift somebody's spirits. Cam went back to studying his Cinematography text some more until later in the afternoon, absorbing facts like a sponge. When he came to a good stopping point, he closed the book and took a small scratch pad out of a desk drawer. He started making a list of things concerning Alex's and John's estate he wanted to ask Ian about, along with some personal matters. First on the list was how to get the title to the Highlander so they could sign the vehicle over to Carl. For whatever reason, Carl really liked the SUV hybrid. He and Kevin didn't particularly want it, and there was no reason their bro shouldn't have it. Cam had to admit it did come in pretty handy when Kevin's Mustang and his own Camaro weren't big enough to handle a crowd. And the Porsche obviously wasn't built for group travel. Second on the list was how he and Kevin could find a good broker to invest part of the $1 million deposits a year they each would be receiving in their checking accounts from the estate once it was probated. Some of that money should be working for them. Thirdly he needed advice on how to set up a not-for-profit foundation to promote education for children living in areas with bad schools, although he needed to discuss this at length with Kevin first. And finally, he wanted to ask Ian for his advice on where he and Kevin should go to get legally married. He wanted so much for that to happen, and he was certain that Kevin did as well. The suit filed in Federal court to overturn Proposition 8, the plebiscite forbidding gay marriage in California, had not yet been decided. And Cam was getting tired of waiting. Cam knew additional questions for Ian would arise as things continued to settle down after the funeral. He saw Maria go by in the hallway carrying Casey, heading for the kitchen to start cooking the boys' supper for that evening. Cam stood up and went to the door of the study and followed her down the hall as she reached the kitchen and put Casey in his highchair. "Maria, do you have anything I can help you with? I'm bored." "Of course," Maria said. She hesitated. "Are you all right?" "I guess so. I'm just wired and need something to do." Maria nodded as they surveyed the kitchen. "What do you want for supper tonight?" she asked, pausing in front of the refrigerator. Cam smiled. "What are my choices?" "You can have beef or shrimp tacos with refried beans. You can have steaks, either shark or T-bone, with a salad and baked potatoes. You can have vegetable and beef stew, you can have fried eggplant..." "Fried eggplant???" Cam said. "What the heck is that?" "It's a vegetable and very good for you." "I think we'd have to get clearance from Kevin and Carl before we spring that on 'em," Cam said with a grin. Maria laughed. "Let's go with the tacos--half of them shrimp and half of them beef," Cam recommended. "Sounds good to me," Maria said. "Why don't you get the taco shells ready to fry, and start cutting up the tomatoes and greens. I'll start thawing the shrimp and the hamburger. The beans are in a covered dish on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and you can get them ready to heat up." Just then the land line rang, and Maria answered it. "MacKenzie residence," she said, pausing to listen. "Good afternoon, Doctor...Yes, Cam is here. One moment, please." She hit the hold button and looked over at Cam. "Dr. Martha Owens for you, Cam," Maria said. "Thanks. I'll take it in the study," he told her over his shoulder as he headed toward the door. Sitting down at the desk in the study, he picked up the receiver and punched the blinking button. "Dr. Owens, this is Cam. How are you?" "I'm fine, thanks," the familiar voice said. "I'm calling to find out how you are. I just returned from Manhattan. I saw the article about your dad and his partner in the New York Times while I was there. Please accept my condolences." Cam sighed. "Thank you. How am I? Well, I'm functioning, I guess. I think I'd have to say I'm still stunned by what's happened. And depressed, but it's nothing like what I went through after being molested down the beach. I'm pretty sad about things right now, though." "That's understandable. I'm sure all your family were down from San Rafael for the funeral." "Yes. Thank God for every one of them, that's all I can say. Ian and Mary and my mother and brothers and the priests have been great support, and Kevin has been my rock." "That's good. I was going to ask you how Kevin is doing." Cam paused. "I'm not sure. He's grieving, I know that. But he doesn't talk about his feelings like I do. Should I be worried about that?" "Well, be watchful," Dr. Owens said, "but not worried. If you notice any negative changes in Kevin's demeanor over the next few weeks, you might think about letting me know. And I want you to tell me if your own sadness doesn't start to abate over time. That won't happen right away, and each of us mourns at his own pace. But if you get worried about how you're feeling about things, please check in with me." "I will." "Is Carl all right?" "Yes, I think so," Cam said. "He was pretty broken up at the funeral, but he seems to be handling what happened pretty well." "Good. Are you going to classes? And are you able to study?" "Well, I still only have the one class. Cinematography. It didn't meet today, but I go when it does meet. And yes, I can concentrate and study without any problem." "Excellent." Dr. Owens went silent for a moment. "I want you to know that this call is more personal than it is professional. You and I formed a bond and had a real connection and collaboration when you were in treatment. I don't want to see anything negative come out of your grief about your dad's and his partner's deaths." Cam was moved. "I'll never forget what you've done for me, and I'm grateful you've been thinking about me and Kevin and Carl," he said warmly. "I promise I'll call you if any of us starts having problems." "Thank you, Cam. You guys take good care of each other. And please give your mother and the Carsons my best regards when you talk to them." "Will do." They hung up, and Cam returned to the kitchen. "Now there's an amazing person," Cam told Maria. "Dr. Owens gave me my life back earlier this year, without a doubt." Maria nodded and looked him in the eye. "You're right about that," she said. "I saw that happen." Cam removed some tortillas from the refrigerator and separated them, five for himself and five each for Kevin and Carl. Then he put some vegetable oil in a deep skillet under a very low flame to heat up. As soon as the oil was hot, he'd start frying the shells. Next he started cutting up tomatoes and red peppers and stuffed olives along with lettuce to go with the hamburger and shrimp. His mouth watered as he thought about how good supper was going to be. Basic tasks completed, he sat down beside Casey and started to feed him some baby food which now alternated, from time to time, with just a very little solid food. Casey was a very cooperative baby, a hungry baby, a healthy baby, and he ate his food like a champ. * * * L.A. County District Attorney Jim Nolan picked up the phone and rang his Chief Deputy, Ralph Caruso. "Ralph, will you set up a meeting for the two of us with Aaron Petrie? Say, this afternoon at 14 hundred hours in my office." Nolan had been in the Marines as a kid, and liked to use military time. "I want to talk about the Clymer case with him. I gave my word to Alex MacKenzie, John Kelley, Ian Carson and Sean Miller that we were going to move expeditiously on this, and I want to know where Petrie is on getting this into court. MacKenzie and Kelley are like gods in the arts community now that they're dead, and if we fuck up and lose this case, we're going to be crucified in the press." Caruso said he knew that, said he would confirm the meeting after talking to Petrie, and they hung up. Nolan's secretary received a call a few minutes later which said the meeting was on. Caruso and Petrie greeted Nolan's secretary right at 2 p.m. and walked into the D.A.'s office. Petrie was carrying a voluminous file which had grown from nothing over the past several months. "Gentlemen!" Nolan greeted the two men, and motioned toward the conference table at one side of the large office. "Have a seat." Jim Nolan didn't waste any time with pleasantries. Focusing on Aaron Petrie, he said, "Where are we on Clymer, Aaron?" Clearing his throat, Petrie popped open the file. "Eric Clymer's parents hired Jim Hughes to represent him; Murtha and Lomer are working with attorneys from the Public Defender's office. Judge Morris Rogers has been assigned the case, and last week he heard a motion by Hughes to sever Clymer's case from Murtha and Lomer's, and grant him a separate trial. But the three defendants were all physically present during the planning and the commission of the crime, and we opposed the motion. Judge Rogers ruled in our favor, so its back to the drawing board for Hughes. The two public defenders representing Murtha and Lomer are young and bright, but they're so snowed under with cases that I don't think we can expect much of a defense from them. Jim Hughes is no pushover, though, as you know, and he'll mount a good defense for Clymer, we can count on that. If we can get all the facts of this case into evidence, however, we're going to get a guilty verdict on all three defendants." "Who are the detectives?" Nolan asked. "Sheriff's Detectives Simon Roker and Emilio Suarez," Ralph Caruso said. "They're both senior detectives, both of them are good at their jobs, and they're reliable witnesses on the stand. I've reviewed their reports, and they've dotted all the i's and crossed the t's. They followed all the rules." "Is there any chance we can turn one of the perps and have him testify against his buddies?" Nolan asked. "I'm not terribly worried about the case, but having a witness who was an assailant will just make it that much stronger." "Rory Lomer was allegedly raped shortly after he was incarcerated," Petrie said. "At his request, he's been in solitary confinement for his own protection since then. I've seen him twice in the last few weeks with his PD, and I think he's on the brink of pleading guilty and testifying for us. With your permission, I'm going to sweeten the deal I offered him through his lawyer--from 7 years jail time without parole to 3 ½ years without parole and two years probation. I'm sticking to seven years without parole for Clymer and Murtha. What they did to the MacKenzie kid was heinous, no matter how you look at it." "I think you should ask for 10 years without parole for all of them," Nolan said. "Tell the lawyers that your prick of a DA changed his mind. You can still go to to 3 ½ years for Lomer if you have to." Nolan looked at Caruso. "Ralph?" "Sounds right. And let's offer Lomer the deal," the chief deputy said. "Do it, then," Nolan said to Petrie. "I've told Ralph, and I'm telling you, NO SURPRISES AND NO FUCKUPS! Let's move this case into the trial stage ASAP, and get a conviction!" "Yes, sir!" Petrie said, standing and shaking hands with the D.A. and his deputy. "I'll get with Lomer's public defender. He'll be delighted with a deal." He gathered his file and left the room. "Can he get this done?" Nolan asked Caruso when they were alone. "Without a doubt." "All right. Stay on top of it," Nolan admonished. Caruso nodded, and left the office. * * * The morning after he had talked with William about dating Alicia McCaskill again, Ian Carson pushed some of the papers on his desk at the office aside and leaned forward in his chair. He buzzed his secretary. "Bev, get me Bill McCaskill." "Yes, sir." Two minutes later his phone buzzed. "Yes, m'am?" "Mr. McCaskill on 48," his secretary said. "Thanks." He punched the line labeled 48. "Bill, thanks for taking my call." "Ian, how are you? I was just thinking about you this morning when some legal issues came up." "The planets must be aligned. I'm wondering what your lunch schedule looks like this week. I've been wanting to get together with you for a while to talk about letting our firm represent your company. And I have a family matter I want to talk to you about." "Uh, let me look...Well, today looks good. I'm tied up the rest of the week." "Excellent!" Ian said. "Why don't we meet at SZQR at 12:30?" "I love the place. I'll look forward to seeing you at 12:30 today." The two men hung up, and Ian buzzed Bev again. "Bev, get me a lunch reservation for two at 12:30 today at SZQR. Private room for us, if possible." "Yes, sir." Five minutes later, Bev told him that the reservation for a private room at 12:30 was confirmed. It was amazing what Carson's name could accomplish at a wildly popular San Francisco restaurant, even on short notice. * * * Kevin and Carl arrived home from school about 5:00. Maria was still in the kitchen puttering around with supper before leaving for home. The guys would put the finishing touches on the food when they were ready to eat. "What's for supper, Maria?" Carl asked. "I'm starved." "Shrimp and beef tacos," the woman replied. "Cam cut up the veggies, and the shells are fried and ready to heat up anytime you want to eat." "Cam did what?" Carl said. "We won't have to visit the emergency room later, will we?" "I don't think so," Marie said. "He washed his hands this time." "The menu sounds great!" Kevin told her, laughing. "I love ya. Will you marry me?" He marched over to Maria, hugged her and planted a kiss on her cheek. Maria laughed. "That's tempting, but I think you're a little late with that proposal," she told him. "Story of my life," Kevin said. He and Carl bade her goodnight, and went down the hall to find Cam. They found him on the big leather couch in the den with Alice and Samantha and Casey all on his lap together and vying for Cam's attention. The new arrivals shrugged off their backpacks to the floor, with Carl sitting down in one of the leather swivel chairs across the room and Kevin moving the dogs and the baby over so he could sit astride Cam's legs, face to face with his partner. "Hey, guys," Cam said before losing himself in Kevin's brown eyes. "Hey," Kevin said, looking into his partner's green eyes and then kissing him tenderly on the lips. With a little tongue, though. "Where's mine?" Carl asked his bros with a grin. "In San Rafael, fer sure," Cam said. "By the way, is Andy coming down here this weekend?" "Oh, yeah!" Carl said, thinking for the umpteenth time just that day about his boyfriend's body and what he wanted to do with it upon arrival. "What did you do today?" Kevin asked Cam. "Studied cinematography, thought about you; played roll-the-ball with Casey, thought about you; studied some more, thought about sex with you; helped Maria fix supper, thought about you and having sex with you again; and played with these dogs and this cute little boy here, and thought about you. That's about it." "Oh, man!" Carl told Cam. "You've got it bad!" "No lie. But I'm not alone. And don't deny it," Cam said back. "When you're right, you're right," Carl said, chuckling. He stood and picked up his book bag by the strap. "Well, I'm gonna go upstairs and hit the books for a few minutes before supper. Call me if you want some help with the food." " 'K, bud," Cam said. "Thanks." Carl left to go upstairs as Kevin put his hand on Cam's neck and pulled his boy's face to him for another kiss. Casey picked that moment to slither down off the couch to the floor and then stand there, wobbling a little. "Oh, no you don't," Kevin told the child, and picked him up for some smooches. That didn't last long. The little guy began to squirm and fuss, and Kevin soon returned him to a standing position on the floor. "Thank goodness you don't squirm around when I try to kiss you," Kevin told his boyfriend. "I'd have to take strong measures with ya." "Yeah, yeah," Cam told Kevin dismissively. "Hey, are we gonna do a little more working out in the gym tonight? I miss having you yell at me." "I do not yell. I patiently instruct." "I could shoot a video to prove my point." "You do that. I'll be on my best behavior, at least while I'm on camera." "You're way cute, even when you make me crazy," Cam informed him. "I do what I can," Kevin said. "You're very good at it." Cam studied Kevin's face. "Dr. Owens called today." "Had you called her?" "No. She said she'd just gotten back from New York City, and had read about Dad and John's deaths when she was there. She wanted to know how I was doing?" "What did you tell her?" "I said I'm a little stunned and depressed, but nothing like when I got fucked over down the beach by Clymer and his boys. I told her I can study and concentrate. When she heard that, she didn't suggest that I need to see her professionally." "Good." "Then she asked about you, how you were doing. I didn't know exactly what to tell her about that." Kevin looked at Cam and didn't say anything, scrunching up his face. He got off Cam's legs and sat beside him on the couch. Cam turned his head and held his partner's gaze. "I told her that the reason I didn't know how you're doing is that you don't talk about your feelings like I do with you." "And...?" "She told me not to be worried about that, but to be observant. I think 'watchful' was the word she used. She wants me to call her if I think you're really hurting and not letting on." "So you're watching me now?" Cam grinned. "I've never stopped watching you since I met you in third grade. Especially that sweet, tight little ass of yours. Watching your butt has been my hobby for years." Kevin didn't laugh. He sighed, but didn't launch into an argument over what Cam was saying about his not sharing his thoughts enough. "All right," he said, "what do you want to know?" "I want you to tell me how you're really feeling. I don't have a clue." "You know I don't like to talk about my feelings. At least not when it comes to what's happened lately." "Indulge me." There was a long pause. "I am hurting," Kevin finally admitted. "I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about not seeing Alex and John anymore. Your mom and the Carsons and Alex and John basically took me in and formed a relationship with me and got me through some bad shit. Catherine loved me even when I got Heather pregnant, and they all supported me when my own father was the biggest dick in the world to me about being gay and when he tried to steal our son. I owe the family everything, and now I won't see Alex's and John's faces again. I still need them in my life, but now that's not going to happen. I'm pretty down about it, to tell you the truth." Tears sprang up in Kevin's eyes as Cam took his partner's hand and brought it to his lips, kissing it. Cam's eyes watered. "Are you having any trouble studying or concentrating?" Cam asked, echoing Dr. Owens' question about his own condition. "No, I'm good on that stuff," Kevin said. "It's when I'm not studying and concentrating on school, or having sex with you, that I have problems." "I'm in the same shape you are, then," Cam said. "But Dr. Owens didn't seem alarmed about what I'm feeling, so I don't think she'd be worried about you, either." He squeezed Kevin's hand. "By the way, please don't think she called to solicit business. She told me that her call was more personal as it was professional. I know that she cares about me, and about you, too." "Good to know." "But I want your permission to share with her what you've told me if she and I talk again about how we're doing." "All right." "Thank you for talking to me, Kev. I love you. I don't know how to tell you how much." "I love you back, dude. I know I must be hard to read sometimes, but I'll try to do better about sharing things with you." "That's all I can ask." "Let's put the dogs outside and take Babyface upstairs," Kevin said. "I'll think of some way to please you while we're up there, and take our minds off Alex and John." Cam smiled. "It's about damn time." Cam put Alice and Samantha on their chains in the front yard as Kevin carried Casey to his upstairs playpen, where the little boy lay on his back watching his mobiles and then, for the moment, closed his eyes. The two guys stripped each other slowly and deliberately, and then stood at the foot of their bed holding one another's naked body. Kevin pulled Cam tighter against him as their cocks touched each other and began to firm up. Kevin lightly stroked Cam's back from shoulders to ass with both hands as they stood there facing each other. "You have such an amazing body," Kevin told Cam. "It's perfect. How should I describe it?" He chuckled, and changed his voice to sound like a beauty pageant announcer. "Muscular but willowy, with just the right amount of definition." He went back to his own voice. "I'd like to touch you and hold you 24/7." Cam swallowed hard, dipping his head to kiss, nibble and suck on Kevin's right nipple while squeezing his pec and then letting go. "Back acha," he said, raising his head. "You're the one with the great muscles, bud. Perfect proportions everywhere!" He kissed Kevin while reaching down and palming his partner's dick, which was now starting to reach for the ceiling. "I want to make love to every inch of skin on your body. No lie, I think about you all day and dream about you all night." Kevin smiled. They let go of one another, and Kevin turned down the bedspread and lay down on his back, spread eagle, and held up his arms to receive the precious cargo of the man-boy he loved so much. Cam lay down on top of him, and their kissing grew more insistent. After a time, Kevin reached over and took the lube out of their bedside table, handing it to Cam. "Do me, Cameron. Except during Physics class, I've been thinking all day about having sex with you." Cam smiled. "First things first," he said, pushing Kevin's legs back, raising his butt, and scooting down to spread his lover's buttocks and kiss him down there in his crack. His tongue was soon at his hole, circling around it, moving the little tuft of black hair residing there around before repeatedly plunging it into Kevin as far he could get it. Kevin groaned with pleasure as Cam alternated tongue-fucking and licking and kissing him down there with increasing speed and vigor. Cam loved the clean, musky. earthy smell emanating from Kevin's anus. "Oh, yes!" Kevin said, lifting his head and watching Cam at work. Kevin's now fully engorged penis had produced a glistening pearl of pre-cum at its slit as it lay there on his abs. As he returned Kevin's ass to the bed, Cam kissed his inner thighs and continued moving up, kissing and laving his balls and his dick, relieving the latter of its pearl of pre-cum before moving to his abs and then his pecs, where he squeezed and licked and nibbled first one hardening nipple and then the other. He finished up by sliding up further and deep kissing his partner as Kevin held and caressed his partner's butt. Squeezed between them, Kevin's dick was now copiously leaking pre-cum. "You're so fucking hot," Kevin said. "Use a rubber to fuck me right now so I can have your stuff afterward." "I wanna bareback," Cam protested. "I know. But I want to taste you. Please..." "I can't say 'no' to you." Cam reached into the drawer of the bedside table and removed a packaged, seldoim used condom from a box. Kevin took the package from him, tearing it open with his teeth, and rolled the rubber down Cam's throbbing dick, also leaking. "Get inside me, dude, before I come all by myself," Kevin said. "You've got me so fucking turned on..." "Don't you dare shoot!" Cam raised up on his knees, hand on his cock, as Kevin pulled his own legs back, exposing his hole still glistening with Cam's saliva. After lubing his condom-clad dick, Cam worked his member into his lover slowly so as not to hit his hotspot too vigorously and cause him to orgasm. When he was fully inside, he lay down on Kevin's body, and Kevin rested his legs on Cam's shoulders. They lost themselves in each other's eyes yet again, just enjoying the sensations of the moment before Cam began to thrust slowly back and forth inside his lover. As Cam did so, Kevin pulled down that handsome face hovering over him, and they kissed again, swapping saliva. When they stopped kissing, Kevin looked up and whispered softly, "Right now, just for this moment, everything--everything--in this world is perfect." "Yes," Cam breathed as he thrust into his friend, his companion, his confidante, his mate, his lover. They were truly one. Escalating ever so slowly, wanting to make this moment last, the two of them ministered sexually to one another as they had grown so adept at doing. Their surroundings faded away as Cam gradually increased the pace, feeling Kevin's opening to sexual heaven grasping and then easing the pressure on Cam's rampant penis again and again. Cam moved inexorably toward planting his seed into the condom inside Kevin as he simultaneously created sexual sparks in Kevin's body by massaging his prostate as he thrust. The sexual tension built for twenty minutes, culminating when Kevin reached down and inserted a middle finger into Cam's hole. Ten seconds later they finally nutted at the same time with groans and exclamations of pleasure. Kevin shot cum between their bodies, hitting his own face and hair before his force abated with each shot, then pooling on his belly and abs. Cam collapsed on his lover's body as Kevin slowly lowered his legs and clasped them around his lover's ass, ankles hooked together so Cam remained embedded in his partner. They were comatose for the next five minutes as their breathing slowed and they regained their senses. "Cameron," Kevin whispered. "Yes?" "I love you." "I know." Cam looked affectionately into Kevin's face. "I told Dr. Owens today that you've been my rock. And that's been true with every challenge I've ever had in my life. You've been a rock. My rock. I love you back." Then Cam moved down a bit and craned his neck, lowering his head, and ran his tongue up Kevin's abs and chest and neck and face, licking and sucking Kevin's ejaculate into his mouth. "Yeah!" he exclaimed, tasting his lover's essence and then deep kissing his partner. When Cam was finished, Kevin, smiling, said, "Alright, give me your stuff." "Are you sure?" "Yep." Cam slowly pulled his penis out of Kevin's body and looked down at his member. Not only was the large reservoir at the tip of the condom completely filled with his white cream, but some of it had migrated almost up to the root of his shaft. Kevin rolled the rubber down a little until he could remove it from Cam's cock. "Here, take this and feed it to me," he said. Cam took it and inverted it over Kevin's mouth, squeezing it and letting the thick semen begin to run out of the condom on to Kevin's tongue and down into his open mouth. Kevin didn't swallow, letting it marinate where it collected. When the rubber was finally empty, Kevin pulled Cam's head down and they soul kissed. Only then did Kevin swallow. "Awesome!" Kevin said. Cam kissed him again before grabbing a kleenex out of the box on the bedside table, wrapping the sticky condom in it, and dropping it to the floor. They lay there in silence again, still perspiring and intertwined, until they heard a quiet knock on their bedroom door. They knew it had to be Carl, so they didn't even bother to let go of one another or cover up. "Yeah?" Kevin said, turning his head to look at their friend as he poked his head in the door. Carl grinned as he scoped out the lovers lying in the bed in front of him, their beautiful, muscular bodies shining with sweat. "Hmmmm," he said. "It smells like sex in here. You guys make me so fucking jealous," he told them. "And hard." His hand unconsciously found it's way down to the crotch of his 501's and touched his incipient hard-on through the denim of his 501's. "Andy'll be here in a few days, Carl," Cam pointed out, trying to assuage their friend's feelings. He held a hand in the air over Kevin and himself. "And starting next summer, you two will be doing this exact same thing we did every chance you get." "You got that shit right," Carl said. "Why don't you get Casey and take him downstairs to the kitchen?" Kevin suggested. "Give us ten minutes to take a quick shower, and we'll finish working on supper together." "OK." Carl opened the door fully and went over to the playpen. Gently scooping up a still sleeping Casey, he headed toward the hall. "Hurry up," he said as he left. "I'm hungry." In the shower, Kevin showed his tender side as he gently soaped up his partner and washed him. Cam returned the favor, and they kissed in the pelting water before they emerged and dried one another with the fluffy towels. They watched each other dress, and then went down to the kitchen. Carl was already feeding Casey, who was eating baby food like there was no tomorrow. "I'm surprised Casey's eating," Cam said. "I fed him earlier in the afternoon." Kevin went over to them, kissed Casey, and then putting a hand on Carl shoulder, kissed their bro on top of the head. "What was that for?" Carl asked. "'Cause I love ya, man." Cam smiled at the sign of Kevin's affection for their brother as he went to the stove and began to warm the hamburger and shrimp for their tacos while getting the tortillas ready to be filled. * * * Ian Carson had walked into SZQR precisely at 12:30 and had been warmly greeted by the maitre d' by name, along with a slight bow of the head. "Good afternoon, Mr. Carson," the formally clad man said. "Mr. McCaskill has already arrived." "Thank you, Charles. Good to see you." "Thank you, sir," Charles said, palming two $20 bills that Ian had discreetly pressed into his hand. "Please follow me." Charles led the way through the already crowded restaurant toward the back of the large dining room and entered a small, private room. Ian greeted Bill McCaskill with a handshake before Charles seated him and handed him a menu. Ian put a carved leather letter case on the floor, leaning it up against a table leg. "How are you, Bill," Ian said. "I'm fine. Good to see you, Ian," McCaskill said. "Enjoy your meal, gentlemen," the maetre d' said as a waiter joined them and removed crisp, white napkins from the table, shook them out, and placed one on each of the diner's laps. "Thank you, Charles," Ian said to the maitre d's retreating figure. "May I offer you gentlemen a drink before lunch?" the waiter asked. "You're speaking my language, Andre," Bill McCaskill said. "I'll have a glass of Pinot Noir, please." "Yes, Andre," Ian said. "Make that two." "At once, gentlemen," the waiter said, nodding and smiling before exiting the room. "How's the family?" Ian asked as they waited for their wine. "Good," McCaskill said. "The wife is just getting over a cold, but other than that, we're in good shape. Things all right at your house?" "Couldn't be better. But I'm playing catch-up at work because the whole family was in L.A. for a funeral most of last week." "Anybody I know?" "Our friends Alex MacKenzie and his partner John Kelley died in a plane crash returning from Paris. Mary and I were close to them, and our kids and their kids are like brothers. It was a great loss to us, and we had to be there." Ian looked at McCaskill, adding, "I'm the executor of their wills." "I'm sorry for your loss. I read about the plane crash. Do they know what caused it?" "Nothing concrete yet," Ian said. "How are their kids doing?" McCaskill asked. He was an urbane San Franciscan, and not surprised to hear that two gay men had children. "They're hurting. But they'll make it." "Good." Andre brought in two glasses of Pinot Noir and served them with a flourish. "Do you gentlemen wish to order now, or would you like a few minutes?" "Bill?" Ian asked. "Why don't we order now?" McCaskill suggested. The two men looked over the menu, and both ordered what they each claimed was a favorite pasta dish. Andre thanked them, collected the menus, and left the room. Ian reached down and picked up the letter case from the floor and unzipped it. He removed some beautiful, glossy material describing the scope and depth of services offered by Ian's law firm. "I'm remiss in not getting together with you before now, Bill," Ian said, handing over the brochures. "I've wanted to make a pitch for your legal business, especially since you said a while back that your company was thinking of making a change of representation." "We are. Nothing terrible has happened to us, legally speaking, at the hands of our present lawyers. But I feel that sometimes we don't have the full attention of our current firm when we need legal advice. That's not a good feeling." "No, it isn't. As I think I mentioned to you in our last conversation, we have a real estate division in our firm which is exclusively devoted to that specialty. I can assure you that we give our full attention to any client we take on, whether we're talking about real estate or any other aspect of the law, both state and/or federal. And we have correspondent law firms in every major city in the the U.S. and Western Europe and Asia, with a concentration on China. Take my word for it, you and your interests will be well represented. You'll be important to us." Ian began to delve more specifically into first the benefits and then the costs of entering into an exclusive legal relationship with the Carson firm. Their food came, but they stayed focused on the subject at hand while they sipped wine and ate. Both men were clearly examples of leaders in their respective fields whose powers of concentration were deep and unwavering. By the time they had finished eating, Bill McCaskill admitted to Ian that he was impressed with what he had heard and had seen in the written materials Ian gave him. "I'll tell you what, Ian. Give me twenty-four hours to digest what this relationship would mean to us, and I'll call you tomorrow afternoon with my answer." "I can't ask for more than that, Bill." Andre came in to remove their empty dishes, asking how lunch had been, and offering a dessert menu. "The food was great, as always, Andre," Ian said. "I'm going to pass on dessert. I run every morning to keep my weight under control, so I'm not going to tempt fate. Just coffee for me." "Yes, sir." McCaskill nodded in agreement about the quality of the food they'd consumed. "Any dessert for you, Mr. McCaskill?" the waiter asked. "Just coffee for me as well." The two men sat back in their chairs smiling, appetites sated for the moment. "I have one other matter I want to run by you, Bill. It's personal, and has nothing to do with your legal business." McCaskill nodded, looking at his lunch companion curiously. "My son William--I know you remember him--came to me the other night and asked me for my advice about dating a certain girl. He was talking about Alicia." "Yes?" "William and your daughter Alicia have remained friends, although he assured me they've not been dating or engaging in physical intimacy of any kind. William tells me that he and Alicia sometimes eat lunch together in the cafeteria at school." Bill McCaskill frowned, but said nothing. "I questioned him about what he had in mind when he told me he wanted to date your daughter again," Ian continued. "He swears to me that their relationship would not be a repeat of "Friends with benefits" if we would allow them to date again. I believe what he says, and he asked me how I thought he should approach you about getting permission. I told him that you are, in my opinion, a very level headed man and loving father, and that he should approach you honestly and with full disclosure about what this dating relationship would entail if you permitted it to happen. I told him that I would be willing to broach the matter with you if we should talk in the near future. So there it is." McCaskill looked worried. "I wasn't oblivious to Alicia's attraction to young William and vice versa, Ian. It's like fire and gasoline. The prospect of their dating again scares me to death." "I know exactly what you mean. I won't advocate for William and Alicia to be allowed to date again. I'll only say that William convinced me that the relationship would be a chaste one should they date again." "What if I told you that if William gets to make his case to date Alicia again, I would likely not see my way clear to engage your firm for legal representation?" Ian's face turned to stone. "I would urge you to hear my son out and give him a chance to make his assurances to you and to Alicia's mother about his future dating behavior. And if you agreed to do that, I would express my regrets that you and I can't do business together." Bill McCaskill leaned forward in his chair and studied Ian. "I was hoping you'd hang tough--because I want my attorney and his firm to have some values and some integrity no matter what. I want them to stand up for those to whom they have an obligation, like you just did for William. Please forgive me for posing a stupid test." He paused. "Without a doubt I'll let William make his case to date Alicia." He paused again. "And I can tell you right now that I'm going to accept your proposal to have you and your firm represent my company in legal matters. Please get a written proposal over to me along the lines we have discussed, with a contract, and I'll sign on the dotted line." Ian smiled and relaxed. "You had me going there, Bill. I'll get the proposal and a contract in the mail to you when I get back to the office." "No, messenger them over. I want this settled today. Our contract with our present legal firm expires next week, and I need to call and give them the bad news." "All right, if you're sure." "I'm sure." Andre poured the two men a second cup of coffee as they changed the subject and talked about San Francisco issues and the upcoming Presidential election. Not surprisingly, they were on the same page in their political views. Ian settled up the bill for lunch, including a nice tip for Andre, and the two men parted warmly. * * * William Carson walked up the front steps of Alicia McCaskill's house at exactly 7:30 p.m. and rang the doorbell. He was wearing a turtleneck sweater under a tweed sport coat along with a pair of khaki dockers and polished brown loafers. "Very preppy," his mom had told him when Ian and she had seen him off on his after-supper mission. "You look very handsome." "Thanks," William had said, kissing his mother as he headed for Catherine's back door. He went down to the garage and got into Mary's little Mercedes convertible. He put the top up--it was a cool evening--and then drove slowly to his destination so that he arrived precisely on time. Prompted by his dad, William had telephoned Mr. McCaskill at work several days ago. He had been upfront about what he wanted, asking if he could stop at his house to talk with him and his wife about dating Alicia again. Thanks to Ian's recent conversation with the man, Bill McCaskill was unsurprised and cordial, and agreed to the meeting. Despite knowing the groundwork that Ian had laid at lunch with Mr. McCaskill, William was still nervous. He could feel it in his stomach, and he was sweating despite the cool turn the weather had taken. He remembered all too well the firestorm which had resulted when the McCaskills and his own parents had found out that he and Alicia were having sex. Having sex regularly. And he remembered just how pleasureful and satisfying those encounters had been, much more so than his liaisons with the other girls in his harem had been. Once discovered, he had given all that up. But he had realized early on just how much he missed spending time with Alicia. Just being around her, and not just the sex part. The door opened to reveal Mr. McCaskill, casually dressed in Levi's and a San Francisco Giants T-shirt. Unsmiling, the man opened the storm door and invited the young man inside. "Hello, William," McCaskill said. "Please come in. You're right on time, I see." "Yes, sir," William said to his host. They shook hands as he stepped inside and the man shut the door. Alicia was nowhere in sight, and William was both relieved and disappointed about that. "Right this way," McCaskill said, leading the visitor into a spacious sitting room which was beautifully furnished with antique furniture, lamps and chairs. Evelyn McCaskill was sitting in there on a loveseat, and William went over and greeted her, shaking hands. They had met before when William had picked Alicia up for their dates. Mrs. McCaskill was cordial as well, and William began to have hope that this meeting might indeed turn out well. "What may I offer you to drink, William?" Mrs. McCaskill inquired as her husband directed the boy into a gentleman's side chair.. "Just some water," William said, "if it's not too much trouble." "Of course. Would you like a glass and ice or a bottle of water?" "Bottled water will be great." His throat felt a little dry from the tension he was feeling. Evelyn McCaskill rose gracefully from her place. Except for their ages, she and her daughter could have been twins. Beautiful women. "How's school, William?" McCaskill said, looking over at the boy with a hint of a smile. "Things are going well," William said. "I'm feeling a little beaten up from some spring intermural football practice, but I'll be OK once I get back in better shape." "Will you be quarterbacking again next fall?" "I'm trying not to count my chickens before they're hatched. There are a couple of other guys who will be vying for the quarterback position." William smiled. "It keeps me on my toes, believe me." "You did so well last season," McCaskill said. "I hope they don't change horses in the middle of the stream." "Yes, sir. Me too. I'm going to be working hard to keep my job." Evelyn McCaskill walked back into the room with a bottle of water and handed it to William. "Thank you, m'am." William unscrewed the bottle and took a swallow of water. He looked over at Alicia's parents, uncertain of just where to start his pitch. Bill McCaskill took him off the hook. "From what your dad told me at lunch recently, and what you told me on the telephone, I gather that you want to date Alicia again." "Yes, sir." "Considering all that transpired the last time you two dated, why don't you tell us more." William's face turned red, but he plunged ahead with his spiel. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The kid had guts. "Let me start by apologizing to you both for what Alicia and I did. I hope what we did is water under the bridge by now. But I want you to know I had feelings for your daughter then, and I have feelings for her today." William paused, his face still red. "No, that isn't what I wanted to say. The truth is, I loved your daughter then, and I still love her. I like her and I love her. I know that's probably the very thing I shouldn't tell you, but I came here to tell you the truth, and there it is. That's why I want to date her again." The McCaskills stared at William, silent and expressionless, and he plunged ahead. "If you'll let me date Alicia again, I give you my word before God that she and I will not have have sex as long as long as we're in high school." "Only as long as you're in high school?" Evelyn McCaskill said. "Yes. If she and I are the people I think we are, and we continue to feel about each other the way we do, to say we'll never be intimate again--ever--would be a lie. And I'm not here to lie to you. I'm here to tell you the truth." Bill McCaskill sighed. "Is this something that you and Alicia have talked about?" "Yes, sir." "And what if we told you you couldn't date her again?" McCaskill asked. "Then we won't date until she can make that decision for herself." McCaskill sat upright in his chair. "I respect you for for coming over here and facing us, William, and telling us the truth about your feelings--and her feelings as well, I guess. But let me tell you something. Your feelings for each other scare us to death! I know you probably can't put yourself in our shoes, but as I told your dad, you and she are like fire and gasoline. Think about how you'd feel if you and your wife had a daughter with a suitor like you. Wouldn't you be scared to death about what might happen?" "I would be unless I trusted the word of the guy about his intentions. I'm asking you to trust my word that nothing is going to happen between us until we're adults under the law. And I'm asking you to believe me when I say that I not only love her, I respect her, and I respect both of you as her patents. That's the bottom line." Bill McCaskill groaned and leaned forward in his chair, putting his face in his hands. "Bill..." Evelyn McCaskill said. "What?" McCaskill said, his face still in his hands. "We both know that Alicia is of an age when she's starting to make important decisions for herself. We're kidding ourselves if we think we really know everything that's going on in her life. We obviously haven't known for a while, and we probably never will again. Not completely. I think William had been honest with us. Brutally honest, actually, but I'll take brutal honesty any day over a slick sales job in which we only hear what we want to hear. I think we need to make a leap of faith, and take William at his word. And hold them both to that word. Believe me, we could do worse." Mr. McCaskill leaned back in his chair, taking his hands away from his face, and silently contemplated his wife over on the loveseat for several long minutes. William started to have a bad feeling about the way this little get-together might still turn out despite Mrs. McCaskill's viewpoint, but the man surprised him. "Evelyn, you're absolutely right." He turned and looked at William. "We do take you at your word. And God help us all if you're not true to what you've told us." The man stood up slowly and offered his hand to William, who also stood. "We have a deal. Thank you for being so upfront with us and toughing it out in this discussion. I think you have a lot of your dad in you, boy!" "Thank you, sir. I can only hope I'm like my dad." Evelyn McCaskill also stood up with a smile and silently offered her hand to William. He shook the woman's hand, and then lightly embraced her and kissed her cheek. "Thank you, Mrs. McCaskill, for your trust in me." "You're welcome," she said. "Would you like to say hello to Alicia before you go?" "Yes, m'am, I would." "Bill, ask her to come down, please." McCaskill strode out into the hallway and called up the stairs as William and Mrs. McCaskill followed him. "Alicia, William Carson is here, and would like to say goodnight to you," McCaskill called out. William heard the sound of footsteps in the upstairs hall, and Alicia appeared on the stairway and came down into the lower hallway And there she was, the love of William's life. At least so far. Long, shining hair and sparkling eyes He walked over to her and gave her a hug, and then kissed her cheek. "Hi," he said, swallowing the lump in his throat. "Hi," she said, searching his face for clues about the way things had turned out. Then he beamed at her, and she knew. McCaskill cleared his throat. "Alicia, after hearing William out, we've decided that you and he should be allowed to date if you both give us your word that the days of your intimacy with him are over until you're old enough to make that decision for yourself. If you're willing to give your word about that, then your mother and I are good with you as a couple." "Daddy, Mom, you have my word," Alicia said. "Thank you for trusting us." William hugged and kissed her again, and then looked at her parents. "Mr. and Mrs. McCaskill, thank you so much for your time, and again, for your trust." They said their good-byes, and walking on air, William made his way to the car. When he arrived at home, he found his parents and Catherine having a nightcap in the smaller of the two sitting rooms in the huge house. "How did it go?" Mary Carson asked her son. "It went well. Alicia and I can date again. Thanks for all you've done for me in my life. You, too, Catherine." After chatting for a few minutes, William went upstairs. Berto was already in bed, drowsy. "Well?" he asked. "Everything's good," William said.. "Way to go!" Berto said, happy for his bro. He watched as William stripped down to his boxers and headed for the bathroom. The kid is fucking built! he thought to himself as he drifted off to sleep. It's no wonder Alicia and the rest of the girls and all the gay guys have the hots for him.
  14. Don H

    Chapter 56

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 Cam was standing at the sliding door to the front deck when Kevin tracked him down. Kevin had been visiting with the guys in the living room when he broke away to look for his partner. He found Cam morosely staring out at Santa Monica Bay, watching the waves hit the beach and spend themselves in the sand before they retreated into the ocean. It was late afternoon. "Hey," Kevin said, putting his arm around his lover and kissing him on the cheek. "'Sup?" he inquired. "Just thinking," Cam responded. "It breaks your heart sometimes, wondering why things happen the way they do." Kevin nodded silently. I wish to fuck I knew the answer to that question, he thought to himself. He rubbed Cam's back for a moment and kissed him on the cheek again, then rested his forehead on his partner's shoulder, not knowing how to comfort him. Or himself. "Let's go out and sit on the beach for a few minutes," Kevin suggested. "All right," Cam agreed, reaching for the handle and sliding the door open. They held hands as they walked off the deck together and down to the edge of the hard pack. They sat down in the dry sand, just out of reach of the more ambitious breakers. Kevin's arm encircled Cam as they sat there, and he hugged his partner to him tightly for a moment before slacking his grip. "I don't think we're ever going to know why terrible things happen," Kevin said, picking up the conversation where they had left off. He sighed. "Not in this life, anyway..." Cam stared out at the water, watching the sun as it prepared to set. He knew he could totally be himself with Kevin, and the tears he'd been holding back most of the afternoon began to slip down his cheeks. Kevin's eyes teared up, too. They sat there, pressed against each other for a long time, just grieving together about Alex and John. Hearing a noise behind them, they looked up at the house. Ian Carson had emerged on to the deck and was firing up the grills to cook hamburgers. Aromatic smoke from the stubborn residue from past meals last cooked on the grills soon began floating out toward the water. The door to the deck slid opened again, and Father Mason, now dressed in khaki shorts, a polo shirt and sandals, came out and stood there talking with Ian for a few minutes. The priest studied Cam and Kevin down on the beach as he and Ian chatted on the deck before he made a decision and walked out to where the guys were sitting. "Hey," Mason said as he stood behind them. The young men turned and looked up at him. "Hey, Father," they said. "Please tell me if I'm intruding," the priest said. "I just want to talk to you for a minute if it's OK." The guys nodded their heads, and Kevin said, "Sit down, Father." Kevin and Cam moved apart and let the man sit between them so they could both hear him over the breakers. Mason looked into their faces as he sat down and saw that they'd been weeping. He spontaneously put his arms around them and hugged them before turning them loose. "I was watching you hold each other while you sat out here," Mason said. He hesitated and then said, "I saw love at work. I think about your love for each other every time I look at you two. You're such great examples to all of us of what it means to be in a respectful, loving relationship with somebody. Offhand, you two, and Ian and Mary, are the some of the best examples I know." He paused. "I'm just mentioning this because that kind of relationship is one ingredient for getting through a serious loss like yours. "Being in a loving relationship isn't the only answer to grief in this world, but it's an important one," the priest continued. "I know how much you both cared about Alex and John. I'm not going to sit here and preach to you, I promise. Father Ryan will do a better job of that at the Memorial Mass than I can right now--because I'm grieving, too. Just let me say that we really do heal faster when we cling to God and to each other. Cam, you've already proved that with Kevin's help you know how to get through tough times like what happened to you down the beach. I hope both of you will let your faith and your love for each other and the love in this family help you through this. This is a real time of trial." Kevin looked over at the man. "Thank you, Father," he said. "I know you're right." He cleared his throat, a little embarrassed, and not used to being so evocative. "Without our faith and each other and our family, what would would we be? I don't know the answer to that." He paused. "Father Jim, I'm really grateful to have you in our lives. As a friend and as a priest." He rubbed the remaining tears from his eyes. "The family really is the heart of who we are, and you're a part of it. So, thanks for a good reminder of what's important when we're hurting so bad. We need to hear these things right now. We love ya, man." "Thank you," Mason said quietly. The priest rubbed away the moisture in his own eyes as he stood up, followed by the two boys. Mason hugged the guys and kissed them each on the cheek before turning around to go back to the house. "Hey, be sure to call us when supper is ready," Kevin told the priest as the latter started walking away. He laughed. "If we don't get a heads-up, the guys will eat up every hamburger on the grill real quick before we have a chance to get any." Mason looked back and chuckled. "You're right," he said. "I'll give you a shout." Cam and Kevin sat down again in the sand. Kevin moved as close to Cam as he could get, and reached over and took his hand. That surprised Cam, because Kevin wasn't usually as demonstrative as he was being right then, especially if someone might be watching. "Cameron," Kevin said, "I just love you to death. You and Casey mean everything to me. I know you're feeling real bad right now, and so am I. You've had more than your share of bad breaks this year. But I'm here for ya. I hope you know that." He looked at Cam. "If you and I and Casey have to give up this house now because Alex and John are gone, we can move someplace cheaper we can afford. Maybe we can get jobs. Whatever happens, I'm right there with you. You can be sure of that." "I know. But I hope we won't have to move," Cam said. "Me, too. But whatever happens, we're gonna face it together. Period. End of story." Tears began running down Cam's cheeks again as he leaned into Kevin and rested his face against Kevin's scruffy cheek. That beard required shaving more than once a day. They continued to sit on the beach silently watching the waves until a piercing whistle from Father Mason up on the deck told them supper was ready. Kevin stood up and pulled Cam to his feet. The two of them brushed the sand off their butts and then embraced, kissing each other tenderly on the lips until finally breaking to go get some burgers before those boys, those bottomless pits in the family, emptied the plates and platters of everything in sight. Supper was great. And plentiful. Despite the sadness that was affecting everyone, the boys and the adults consumed everything. Most of the guys joined up for a card game in the dining room once the table was cleared. Cam and Kevin checked on Casey. He was happy, being monopolized by Catherine and Mary in the living room. The little guy was soaking up all the attention he was getting from the family. Still feeling the need for some alone time together, Cam and Kevin went out on the deck and moved toward the beach to take a walk with the dogs. William Carson followed them. "You guys gonna take a walk?" he asked. "Yeah," Kevin said. "Can I go with you?" William asked. "We kinda want to be alone," Kevin said as he and Cam started to walk away. After a few steps, Cam turned around and looked at William, who was looking uncharacteristically forlorn from the refusal. Cam motioned with his head that William should come along, and he bounded down the steps of the deck and joined them. Cam put an arm around William. "You're too cute to say 'no' to, bud." "Hey, thanks!" William said, seldom at a loss for words. The three of them walked in silence down the beach for a few minutes. "We've just been thinking about what we'll do if we have to move out of Alex's house," Kevin finally said. William snorted derisively. "Well, it's stupid to wonder about that," he said with his usual candor. "You really don't think for a second that Alex and John would leave you two and Casey unprovided for, do ya? That's ridiculous!" "We don't know," Kevin said. "We don't even know who the executors of Alex's and John's wills are." "Well, you're not gonna have any money worries," William said decisively. "You know your mom and the rest of this family will never let you want for anything." "You're probably right," Cam said, wanting to talk about something else. "Don't you have any good news from up north to tell us?" "Here's something," William said. "Berto found out yesterday that Stanford has accepted him. He'll probably be moving into the condo in San Francisco with your mom next fall. Unless he wants to live in the dorms, that is. But don't let on to him that I told you. Just casually ask him if he's heard anything from Stanford's admissions." "Wow!" Kevin said. "That's great news! What's he gonna study, has he said?" "Pre-law will be his major, eventually. But Dad wants him to take a lot of liberal arts courses so he'll be good at speaking and writing," William said. "Berto's smart as a fuckin' whip. And a hard worker. He'll really do well." "Yeah," Cam agreed. "Have you heard anything about your own application to Stanford for year after next?" "No." "If getting in there were based on all the pussy you got this last school year, you'd be in like Flynn," Kevin said with a grin. "Without a doubt," William admitted. "Speaking of pussy, have you started dating again?" Cam asked. "No. But when I do, I really want to date Alicia McCaskill again. Maybe exclusively." "How the heck are you gonna manage that?" Kevin asked. "I thought you were in deep shit with all the parental units because you and she had had a relationship with benefits." "That's true." "Well?" Kevin said. "Well, what?" "How are you going to make that relationship happen?" Kevin asked. "I'm gonna go to my dad and explain what I want to do. Then I'm gonna go to Mr. McCaskill and explain I want to date Alicia and get his permission." "Good luck with that! What if he says 'no'?" Cam asked. "I'll ask him again, and assure him there won't be any sex, and keep asking until he says 'yes.'" Cam looked at William. "Does Alicia want to date you?" "Yes!" "How do you know?" Kevin asked. "She told me at school the other day. We eat lunch together in the cafeteria almost every day." "If you agree to no sex, will you stick to that?" Kevin asked dubiously. "Yes." Cam put his arm around William again. "I think that'll be true, then. Once you give your word, you stick to it." "I will stick to it. I like her a lot and want to hang with her. If that means no sex, so be it." "That right hand of yours will be busy," Kevin predicted. "You got that shit right!" William agreed. The guys continued to stroll down the beach, thinking about the future and talking about what they were going to do when summer eventually rolled around. Finally they turned around and headed back toward the house. When they got back, Carl and Andy Helder and Dan and Berto had quit playing cards and were playing four-way catch on the beach with a baseball in the dying light. Then they all went inside to shoot the shit for awhile and play with Casey. The little guy was walking around and talking up a storm, some of it gibberish and some not. Everybody just loved spending time with Casey. It was like watching the petals of a flower unfold as day by day he was becoming a little human being right before their eyes. At bedtime, the adults, Catherine carrying a sleeping Casey, headed upstairs while the boys moved the furniture around in the living room, making space for the sleeping pads, pillows and light blankets for all of them. Cam made sure that Mark Carson would get to sleep next to Kevin on one side, and the kid beamed. Mark still had a thing for Kevin, but nobody said anything about it or ragged on him, and that was a good thing. Cam took the dogs out to relieve themselves just before bed, and then headed back into the house. All the guys had stripped to their boxers and were lying on their sleeping pads under sheets and blankets when Dan Emrick blasted a humongous fart. There was one in every crowd. After the snickers and complaints from the long line of guys on the floor died down, everybody drifted off to sleep in no time. Almost everybody, that is. Kevin, with Mark Carson on one side of him and Cam on the other, moved closer to Cam after a few minutes, reaching out and clasping his partner's hand. He knew Cam was again weeping silently about Alex and John. Kevin moved his head over and kissed Cam's hand, and they fell asleep hand in hand despite being horny as hell for each other and unable to do anything about it. After Cam fell asleep, Kevin put his hand on Cam's chest, on his heart. The strong, steady beat made Kevin think of the strong, steady love Cam gave his partner. No holding back there. After falling asleep himself, Kevin awakened an hour later. All was quiet in the living room full of sleeping guys except for breathing and an occasional snore. Kevin moved over closer yet to Cam, who didn't wake up when Kevin pulled him in his arms and held him. We'll get through all the shit, Cameron MacKenzie, Kevin thought to himself. I love you so much. You're my heart. You're my life. * * * Cam and Kevin had notified their professors and the dean of arts and sciences that they would be missing classes, and the next few days at home went by quickly. The guys all paid special attention to Cam and Kevin and Catherine, letting them know through their presence they were there for them in their grief without intruding on their sadness. Everyone, adults and youngsters alike, stuck to their usual regimen of rising early and running on the beach every morning. The San Rafael contingent especially appreciated running in the sand, a great improvement over the partially concrete route they took every day when they were home. Kevin decided, as he had on one occasion a few days ago, that they were going to start running eight miles every day instead of their usual seven. Ian gave him a look the first day, but there were no complaints. On Sunday morning they all went to the late Mass, and Father Ryan greeted them with quiet solicitude at the front door of the church. He knew that they were all down in the dumps. The family all got to sit together toward the front, almost the last spaces to be had that morning in the crowded nave. Sweet smelling incense rose into the rafters above the sanctuary when the thurifer brought the thurible to the celebrant and he censed the altar following the procession. The priest's homily emphasized the Christian testimony to the hope for eternal life which had been highlighted in the Gospel for the day by Jesus' teaching and ministry of healing. When the peace was passed after the general confession and absolution, Cam and Kevin kissed one another squarely on the lips, not holding back, not caring who saw them. Among other announcements, Father Ryan informed the congregation that the Memorial Mass for Alex MacKenzie and John Kelley would be celebrated on the following Tuesday at 10 a.m., followed by a brunch in the parish house. All parishioners were welcome to attend, he said, to offer thanks to God with the family for the lives of the two men. After the Eucharist was over, the family made their way to the front door of the church to return home rather than opting to go into the parish house for coffee. They weren't feeling all that sociable right then, especially Cam. Casey fussed a little bit when they didn't go into the parish hall, because he loved all the attention he always received there after Mass. But William soon had the little guy cheered up by showing him special attention. Not for the first time, Kevin thought about what a good father William would be when his time to have kids of his own came along. When they arrived back in Malibu, the boys changed out of their suits and ties into shorts and T's, hanging up their church clothes. Later Catherine and Mary went through the closets where all the guys' dark suits were hanging, making sure that they had no wrinkles and would be ready to wear the following Tuesday at the Memorial Mass. The Millers had invited everyone over for a swim in their pool after church, and the guys were eager to do that. With everyone headed next door, Kevin told Cam he wanted to take a walk with Mark Carson on the beach before swimming. Kissing Kevin's cheek, Cam told him, "No problem," and when Mark came along in the line for the pool, Kevin wordlessly nodded his head toward the beach. Mark and Kevin walked toward the water, and Kevin patted the younger boy on the back as they walked along the hard pack, and put his arm around him. "I haven't had a chance to talk to you this trip," Kevin said. "How are things going for ya up north?" "Good," Mark said. "I'm getting good enough grades to be on the Dean's list at school, so that keeps Mom and Dad off my butt." "That's excellent. You're really buff, so I take it you're running and working out every day?" "Yeah. Never miss." "Berto work you hard in the gym?" "He's tough on us," Mark said. "But he's nicer about it than you and William were." Kevin laughed. "Surely you jest! William and I were always the souls of kindness." "In your dreams." "Well, I can't believe Berto is that easy on ya, because you're all buffed up, dude, and looking fit! I'll bet the girls like that." Mark tried not to let on how pleased he was to hear some praise, especially from Kevin, because sometimes he felt overshadowed by his big brother William's accomplishments. "Thanks," the boy said. "I try to push myself." "I heard you're doing some dating." "Yeah? Who told you that?" "William, I think," Kevin said. "Well, that's true." "Anyone special?" "Not really." "Are you gettin' any?" Mark's face turned red. "No," he said quietly. "Your time will come, bud. Don't mind me saying this, but please use protection. Don't make the mistake I made and get some girl pregnant. I'm not saying that Casey was a mistake. No way. He's a blessing. But if Catherine hadn't been understanding and supportive, getting Heather pregnant would have been a much worse mess for me than it was. And for Cam, too. We probably wouldn't even have custody of Casey if it weren't for Catherine. My dad was no help at all. He tried to make me marry Heather, or else put the little guy up for adoption. The whole thing wasn't fair to Heather, either, even though she wanted sex as much as I did. So, just be careful when you have sex, that's all I'm saying." "I hear that," Mark said. "I will." They walked in silence for a few minutes. "Can I talk to you about something?" Mark asked. "Anything. You know that." Mark's face turned red again, and he looked down at the sand. "Kevin, I don't know whether I'm gay or straight." "Why do you think you might be gay?" "Because I like to look at guys. You know..." "What about girls?" "Them too." "Hey, straight guys are always checking out the male competition. Don't think they aren't. Which do you think about in bed, boys or girls?" "Both." They walked in silence again before Kevin responded, choosing his words carefully. He stopped walking, and Mark stopped, and they turned to look at each other. "This might be hard advice to follow," Kevin said. "But I don't want you to worry about this right now, Mark. Your preference for girls or for boys is going to work itself out, believe me. As time passes, it's going to be very plain to you what your sexual identity is. So there's no use sweating it until the answer is clear in your own mind." Kevin reached over and pulled his friend into a hug. "Can you do that for me? Will you do that for yourself?" Mark choked up, not used to having anybody other than his mom and dad be so demonstrative. He finally whispered to Kevin, "I'll try." Kevin didn't turn him loose right away. "I hope you know, growing up in this family and being a member of the church we belong to, that whatever you find out you are, gay or straight, everybody in this family loves you no matter what. And the Lord loves you. I want you to hang on to that knowledge while you find out what your personal truth is." Kevin leaned down and kissed the shorter boy on top of his head, and then they swung around and headed back toward the house. "You're my brother, Mark, and I'll always be there for you when you need me," Kevin added. "What you've told me is confidential, and I'll never talk about it to anyone, not even Cam. OK?" "Thanks," Mark said. "I appreciate it." The two of them headed back to the Millers' swimming pool, and got involved in the horseplay there right away. All guys were in high spirits, as least temporarily. Eventually Kevin organized a water volleyball game which the guys in the shallow end won. After drying off, Cam and Kevin applied sunscreen to each other, and then Cam did William. William and Kevin have a build on them that just won't quit, Cam thought to himself lasciviously. And the younger guys aren't far behind. Cam laid himself out on a beach chair as the sun beamed down, trying to keep his dick from getting hard. This is one sweet scene. * * * On Monday afternoon, after running first thing that morning and then one after another working out in the little gym under Kevin's not-so-gentle tutelage, the guys spruced up and headed for St. Dunstan's. This was the day the family had selected for a visitation in honor of Alex and John for those who could not or would not attend the memorial Mass the following day. Cam noticed that there was not one complaint or cross word from any of the boys about having to get dressed up and spend from 3:00 to 5:00 in a receiving line shaking hands with people they didn't know and probably never would know. Cam knew that this was their brothers' gift to him and Kevin and Catherine, and he appreciated it. Tables in the parish house were covered with food and drink, and replenished often enough to accommodate what Cam estimated were over a thousand people who stopped by to offer their condolences and enjoy the refreshments. Mementos of Alex's and John's careers lined the walls, and many of the visitors were circulating around the room to refresh their memories about what the two men had offered to a public hungry for quality entertainment. The movie studio with which Alex and John had been associated had really come through with a flood of mementos from the two men's movie making careers. The walls of both sides of the huge room were lined with photographs, mounted letters, placards of their movie hits, and other memorabilia which evidenced the two men's success in turning myriad stories and scripts into celluloid hits which had been acclaimed and swept the nation and the world. Alex had been a genius, and John was right up there with him. Then the day of the memorial Mass, Tuesday, was then upon them. The Malibu house was a madhouse as everybody showered after running early that morning and then enjoying one of Maria's great breakfasts. With help from Mary and Catherine and Ian, Maria cleaned up the kitchen in short order after everyone had eaten. Catherine had made sure that Maria knew she was invited to come to the Memorial Mass at St. Dunstan's with the family. And she had accepted the invitation, changing out of her maid's uniform into a dark blue dress. Alex's and John's obituaries announcing the visitation and the memorial Mass had been in the papers, and when the stretch limousine that Ian had ordered up to transport the family rolled up to the church, the huge car was only one of scores of limos pulling up to the front door carrying Hollywood's elite to pay their final respects in worship. Two rows of pews in the center front of the church were cordoned off, reserved for the family. They joined the many mourners who wended their way through the nave of the church and found their seats. Father Mason was with the family, having elected to worship as part of the congregation rather than officiate with the other clergy at the altar. The Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles was to be the celebrant of the Mass, and Father Ryan was to preach. St. Dunstan's and the studio had gone had gone all out to honor the memory or Alex and John. St. Dunstan's choir had been joined in the rear balcony by the city's Opera Chorus and instrumentalists from the L.A. Symphony to sing and play. When the organ, singers and orchestra began to render "Surely He has borne our griefs" from Handel's Messiah several minutes before the service was scheduled to begin, stragglers began to seat themselves. The music sounded perfect to Catherine, who was an aficionado of classical music, and was especially fond of Handel. The church was packed, and ushers began setting up folding chairs in the rear and sides of the church as those attending the Memorial Mass continued arriving. Eventually there were standees left in the vestibule without a place to sit. Cam noticed in reading the bulletin before the ceremony the family's wishes that any memorials to honor Alex and John be given as scholarships for students at St. Dunstan's parish school. Glancing toward the back of the packed church, Cam saw his friend Art Smith standing in the vestibule, all dressed up in a dark suit and white shirt and tie. Their eyes connected, and Cam motioned for him to come down and sit with the family, and Art walked down as Cam made room for him, moving people over in the pew. The two young man shook hands silently as Art sat down. Kevin looked at the newcomer and gave him a slight smile and a nod. At the entry to the nave, the sound of a thurible's cover being raised on its chains signaled that the service was to be underway shortly, and when a bell pealed, the congregation rose as the altar party moved into position to process. Cam and Kevin watched the thurifer as he headed the procession down the center aisle through the congregation toward the altar, swinging the censer in complete 360° circles as he went. The handsome young man was the regular thurifer at St. Dunstan's high Mass on Sunday, and obviously knew what he was doing. The family testified to their training in the Church by bowing their heads as the processional cross passed by, following the thurifer. The bishop, in chasuble and mitre and walking behind his chaplain carrying a wooden shepherd's staff, was at the end of the procession. The bishop began reading from the Book of Common Prayer as they walked: "I am the Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord..." The bishop censed the altar upon reaching it, and then the service proceeded with opening prayers and readings from Scripture. Following the singing of the Gospel by the Deacon of the Mass, Father Ryan ascended the steps into the pulpit and greeted all the worshippers on behalf of the bishop, of St. Dunstan's parish and the extended MacKenzie family. Father Ryan began his message by testifying to the faithfulness of Alex and John in prayer and worship and service to their parish and to the community at large, as well as their faithfulness to each other. He then reminded the listeners that the Gospel for the day told the story of Christ raising of Lazarus from the dead, setting forth the dominical command, "Lazarus, come out" as the linchpin of his homily. First he spoke of the scene surrounding Lazarus's family on the day Jesus arrived, late, to be with them--the confusion, the sorrow, the soul-searching as to whether they could have done more for the dead man than they had done. Ryan spoke about the unwarranted guilt which can sometimes torture those who grieve when someone dies. You could have heard a pin drop as the congregation was drawn into the Biblical story, feeling the emotions of that long ago family. "The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus wept for His friend Lazarus. But what He did not do was give into feelings of sadness and hopelessness. He had to argue with the family to open the tomb because Lazarus had been dead three days. But when our Lord prevailed and the tomb was opened, Jesus said to Lazarus, 'Come out!' And come out he did, to the joy and initial disbelief of the family. "COME OUT! This is exactly what He is saying to our bereaved family members today and to all of us present here this morning: 'Come out!' Come out of sadness, come out of mourning, come out of shock, come out of depression, come out of any sense of deprivation. Come out and embrace hope!" Ryan assured the worshippers that on the last day, "Our brothers Alex and John will be in the midst of all the faithful with us, greeting our Lord at the general resurrection from the dead," and he reiterated the scriptural witness that even at the edge of the grave, Christians can still raise their voices confidently to God two thousand years after the Lord walked the face of the earth--by singing Alleluias to the Father at the time final prayers are said for the departed. Because in reality, they are not final prayers at all. When Father Ryan completed his homily and walked back into the sanctuary and took his seat, not a sound was heard in the church as the powerful message was contemplated. After a few minutes, the bishop along with the congregation rose and the Apostles Creed was said. At the time of communion, Father Mason took a small white stole out of his suit pocket and put it around his neck. Leaving the family, he joined the clergy and the appointed laypersons in distributing communion, first to the family, and then to members of the congregation who came forward in long lines to receive it. As the service concluded, the bishop blessed the congregation, and the organ and orchestra began the introductory notes of the closing hymn from the Episcopal hymnal, "Christ the Victorious." A resounding first of four verses reflected the tone of the homily and the Mass: "Christ the Victorious, give to your servants rest with your saints in the regions of light. Grief and pain ended, and sighing no longer, there may they find everlasting life..." On the last verse of the hymn the choir sang a descant which was so beautiful it brought tears to Catherine's eyes. Cam didn't sing, but as he listened to the hymn, he realized that despite his expectations to the contrary, he did feel comforted by the service. He felt at peace, at least for the moment, as he continued to reflect on Father Ryan's message. The extended family went immediately to the parish house, where a receiving line was formed to accept condolences from the many mourners who had obviously admired Alex and John and wanted to pay their respects. Cam and Kevin took turns holding Casey as the crowd filed past them, introducing the little boy as Alex's and John's grandson. Once again Cam noticed with gratitude the attitude of his brothers, all of them polite and cheerful as they greeted the mourners who had joined the family in the parish hall. All of the young men acted as if this crowd were their one and only priority that morning. After the visitors left, the family greeted and thanked the bishop and other clergy in the room, with Ian unobtrusively handing each of them an envelope containing a thank offering. Catherine made sure that Father Ryan, especially, knew how grateful they all were for his hard work in planning the Memorial Mass and seeing it carried out so beautifully. * * * Once back at the house, everyone changed into more comfortable clothes, and Ian gathered them all in the living room, some of the boys sitting on the floor. Maria served the adults coffee and iced tea, and Cam and Kevin helped by getting the boys soft drinks. Ian had Maria sit down with the family, and then announced to them all that he had been appointed by Alex and John to be the executor of each of their wills. No one was greatly surprised about that, including Cam and Kevin. "Unless anyone has any objections, I intend to read the wills at this time," Ian said. "I should add that each of the wills is identical with respect to the beneficiaries who are designated." "I don't think it's appropriate for all of us guys to be here, is it, Dad?" William questioned. "Thank you for raising the question, William," Ian said. "But it is appropriate because everyone present in this room is a designated beneficiary, plus at least one person who is not present." Everyone looked surprised, especially Andy Helder. Dan Emrick gasped, and Maria Romero looked stunned. "Are their any other questions before I begin?" Ian asked. No one said anything, and Ian began reading the standard words used in California to preface last wills and testaments in which assets were bequeathed to the survivors of Alex and John, and with the provisions that if both were deceased simultaneously, the assets would be distributed as designated in the subsequent body of the will. Less expenses attendant to administering the wills and for clearing any existing debt incurred by the two men, Alex's liquid net assets were roughly $780 million, John's were $256 million. The Malibu house and land were assessed at $40 million, the Big Sur cabin and land were assessed at $10 million, and the worth of the Porsche and the Highlander was unspecified. That's what a raft of smash hits in movie theaters will earn for you, Kevin thought to himself, thinking about the deceased men's assets. Of the aggregate assets, William and Mark Carson, Berto Hernandez, and Carl and Dan Emrick were each bequeathed $1 million each. Mary Carson was to receive $1 million. Catherine MacKenzie was to receive $20 million. Rosa Mendez, the family maid in San Rafael, was bequeathed $500 thousand, which would certainly guarantee a college education for her and her husband's children. Yolanda Vega, the Carsons' maid now working in the San Rafael house with Rosa, was designated to receive $50 thousand. Maria Romero was to receive $50 thousand. Andy Helder was to receive $200 thousand. Jeff Miller was to receive $100 thousand. Father Mason was to receive $1 million, and Father Ryan, $500 thousand. St. Dunstan's was to receive $1 million for their endowment fund. The residue of the joint estate of something under $1 billion in liquid assets, less the inheritance taxes but including both real properties and cars, were to be divided equally between Cameron MacKenzie and Kevin Stoltz. The designated trustees for all the boys were Catherine MacKenzie and Ian and Mary Carson. Ian concluded by reading the wishes of the departed that all monies bequeathed to minors be held in trust until those minor beneficiaries reached the age of 21 unless the trustees made an exception, and that Cam's and Kevin's liquid funds were to be held in trust until the age of 25 except for $1 million each to be placed in their control annually beginning at once. The real properties and automobiles would become theirs immediately after the wills were probated. When Ian's voice went silent, everyone in the room was speechless, struggling to take in the news they had just heard. Stony faced, Cam, seated on the floor beside Kevin, got up and left the room and went out on to the front deck, followed closely by Kevin and then by Carl. Kevin put his arm around his partner as Carl walked up and looked at Cam. "Dude, are you mad that so many people got some money in the wills?" Carl asked. Cam stared at his friend a little balefully. "Fuck, no," he told Carl. "How could you even think that? There's plenty to go around." "Well, what then? You're acting all pissed off about something." "I am pissed off. That my dad and John had to die in the prime of their lives. I'll never use a dime of their money without thinking about that." He looked at Kevin. "And I doubt of you will, either." "You're right about that," Kevin responded quietly. Carl breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness!" he said. "I'd rather give the fucking money back than have you mad at me, bro! Or feeling ripped off!" Cam stepped over to Carl and gave him a hug, followed by a kiss on the cheek. "I'm so happy that dad and John took care of the people Kevin and I care about the most," Cam told him. "That was the way they lived, y'know. Always kind. Always generous. I hope to God that Kev and I will always be as kindhearted as they were. They weren't spendthrifts, but they didn't live for their money or live just to make more of it. Dad used to say, 'You don't need big bucks to be happy, and you shouldn't ever fixate on it or let it get in your way when it comes to being a genuine human being. How much money do people really need to live a good life? Never be greedy!' he told Kevin and me one time. And he was right. They were never believers in kicking the economic shit out of the middle class and the poor in our tax policies just to feather their own nest like some in this country do. He and John were rich, and they expected to pay taxes in proportion to what they had." William had joined them on the deck, listening to what Cam had to say. "We're all good, then, with the wills?" he asked Cam. "Better than good, dude!" Cam said, beckoning William over and hugging and kissing him as he had done to Carl. William picked Cam up a few inches off the deck and swung him around in a circle. "Excellent!" William said, relieved. * * * When he had nothing to do, Eric Clymer frequently sat on his bunk in jail and thought about his two partners in the torture and rape of Cameron MacKenzie. He had been housed in a separate cell block from Pete Murtha and Rory Lomer by design, and he often wondered about how they were doing. He had heard from his public defender that Rory Lomer had been placed in solitary confinement at his own request after being sexually brutalized. What a wimp, Eric thought to himself. Pete Murtha was made of tougher stuff, and was doing all right, wherever he was, so far as Eric knew. God, what a mess we're in, though. Eric's attorney was working on a strategy which would influence the judge to mitigate his probable sentence to some degree, but it was pretty clear to all concerned that all three of them were going to do some time. Meanwhile, Clymer's mother and father only visited him when their consciences bothered them, which wasn't too often. Clymer watched the western light fade in the windows high above the jail tier in which he was incarcerated. When he was first jailed, he had watched sunset come with trepidation because he knew what would happen to him once the lights in the cell block flickered off for the night. Clymer was housed in one of the few, tiny two man cells in an L.A. county jail facility which was packed beyond belief with a third more prisoners than it had been constructed to hold. The state of California was working to reform its pardon and parole programs to reduce the pressure on the jail and state prison systems. But in the meanwhile there were far too few guards to manage too many prisoners, and the surveillance cameras were few and far between. So what happened in the cells after dark, for the most part, went unaddressed and unmonitored. Eric Clymer's cellmate was a huge, muscular Latino of Mexican extraction who was awaiting trial for a murder allegedly committed in the course of an armed robbery. The wheels of justice were grinding slowly toward a trial date for Jesus Garcia, who like Eric was represented by a harassed and overloaded public defender. Meanwhile, Jesus had needs...and the tall, handsome, athletically built young man with whom he was housed had learned quickly enough what it took to reduce the big man's tensions and take his mind off his troubles. It was sex, of course, with Jesus being on the giving end of things and Eric the receiver. Once lights-out arrived and the cell block settled down, Clymer was ordered every night by Garcia to strip and lie down on the bottom bunk, legs spread wide, sometimes on his back. and sometimes on his stomach. First, however, Eric had to take his well endowed cellmate's cock into his mouth and get the man's phallus good and hard for the activity to come. Clymer was required to lick Garcia's balls and explore the man's hole with his tongue before assuming a prone position on the bed for a vigorous and prolonged fucking. And sometimes Jesus even wanted a second session before kicking Eric out of the narrow bunk to climb up on to his own mattress with his asshole stretched and leaking semen. The first time Jesus had "requested" Eric's services, the young man had protested, and had promptly been pummeled into submission before he'd given it up to his dominant cellmate. It had taken weeks for his bruises from that beating to disappear. When asked by a guard where those bruises had come from, Clymer had said he had fallen out of bed--several times. This particular night, his cellmate was naked and seated on the edge of the lower bunk with Eric on his knees, and Clymer worked Garcia's dick until the man's salty-sweet pre-cum had coated his tongue and mouth. To add to the young man's humiliation, Garcia sometimes used his cock to smear pre-cum on Eric's face. If he slacked off during these preliminaries, Garcia slapped Eric's head repeatedly until his ministrations to the man's crotch displayed more vigor. So Clymer kept up the pace until ordered on to the bunk, face-up this time. Garcia reached down and pinched Clymer's nipples hard, digging in with his fingernails, causing the kid to gasp in pain. Then he squeezed his balls and his pecs hard several times after warning him not to yell. The man finally climbed on top of his cellmate. But before forcing Eric's legs up around his ears and spreading them, he leaned down and explored the young man's mouth with his tongue, tasting his own juices there. "You like the way I taste, boy?" Garcia demanded. "Yes," Eric told him, not wanting to provoke him. "¡Bueno!" the man said. "Now, pull your legs up I can get in your tight little pussy." Clymer complied, and Garcia put the huge head of his dick against his hole and then speared him, going all the way home in one swift motion. Garcia covered Eric's scream of pain with a hand on his mouth, waiting several moments before uncovering Clymer's mouth and beginning to pull out and plunge back into his victim's ass, deliberately giving him as rough a ride as he could. Feeling in total control, as usual, he long-dicked him for nearly thirty minutes, gradually increasing the pace until he finally ejaculated, grunting with each spurt of his spunk into the young man's tight, resilient hole. Garcia lay there on top of Clymer until his senses returned, and then contemptuously dumped the kid on the floor to climb up into his own bed. Always aroused by this time despite the discomfort of being fucked so vigorously, Eric would always lie on his mattress and fantasize about what he, Pete Murtha and Rory Lomer had done to Cameron MacKenzie in that house on the beach. It had been a sexual high point for Clymer. Those thoughts inevitably led him to jack himself off and then eat his own cum before falling asleep. What concerned Clymer most of all, whenever he allowed himself to think about it, was that these nightly, often brutal sessions with Garcia were bothering him less and less as time passed. Sometimes he even looked forward to being dominated by the burly, muscular man and then himself getting off. If he couldn't pick his partner, Garcia would have to do. What am I becoming, Eric wondered, sucking dick and taking it up the ass like this? Am I really turning gay after hating homo's so much for so long? Or have I been a queer all along? He didn't know it, but that was the opinion that Kevin Stoltz had arrived at long ago. * * * Every one of the boys had talked with Cam and Kevin privately before the night was over about what the guys had received in the wills. Like Carl and William, they wanted to know whether Cam and Kevin were upset because of the bequests they had received. The two of them reassured their brothers that they were pleased with the distribution of Alex's and John's assets, and that there were no hard feelings about it. So everybody was happy when they crashed for the evening, or at least as happy as they could be under the recent pall of death. Cam noticed that there was no horseplay or joking around before they all went to sleep. Everyone was still somber, if not a little depressed, about the death of John and Alex. They were all up early the next morning, as usual, to run their eight miles up the beach. Cam and Kevin couldn't help scoping out a lot of major wood on display when the guys pulled off their boxers to put on their running clothes. Horny as hell, Cam and Kevin looked at each other and smiled when they saw all the cock. But they weren't alone in taking in the naked scenery. William and Berto were looking around as well as the younger guys. When they all returned from their run and had showered, Ian and Mary and Catherine had the San Rafael contingent pack to return home. Ian was determined that no one would miss any more school. He told Cam and Kevin that he would be in touch with them with respect to processing the wills through probate and seeing to it that the provisions in them were implemented in a timely manner. There was the usual sadness when the limousine arrived to take the visitors to the airport, of course. Nothing was said, but everyone was reluctant to leave Cam and Kevin alone with their sorrow over John's and Alex's demise. Catherine and Mary cried and hugged and kissed the two boys before getting into the car, and William was slow in releasing them when it was his turn to say good-bye to Cam and Kevin, also with a hug and kiss. "I'll call you guys every night for awhile," William promised before getting into the limo. For a tough, hetero guy, William could be a totally sweet person. "Thanks, dude," Kevin told him. Then the family was gone, and Kevin and Cam were left alone with Casey, their two dogs, and the remnants of their grief. Thank God Maria is sticking with us, Kevin thought to himself. Carrying Casey, he took Cam's hand and they walked into the house together. Maria fixed them a good lunch, fed Casey, and then the two took Casey upstairs for his mid-day nap. They told Maria that they would strip the sheets off the bed in their room where their mother had slept, and put on fresh sheets out of the linen closet. After they changed Casey's diaper and put him down, before they changed the sheets, they stripped each other down and were instantly hard. "You can't believe how horny I am for you," Cam said, gently stroking his own engorged pole. "Oh yes I can," Kevin said, doing the same to his own equipment.. Cam fell to his knees in front of his partner, grasped and kissed the beautiful cock in front of him, and then began sucking on it, taking it all the way down several times. Minutes later, once he tasted pre-cum, he stood and walked Kevin backward until the latter sat down on the end of their bed. Following his own huge erection, Cam walked over to their bedside table and retrieved the lube where it was hidden in the back of the drawer so Catherine wouldn't have found it. He greased his boy up and opened him up three fingers worth, and pressed the head of his rigid cock on his hole until it popped inside. Their eyes locked together, Kevin's muscular legs on his shoulders, Cam moved up inside Kevin's tight ass until he could go no farther, and then lay down on top of his partner. "Loving you so much, Kev!" he said, his feelings overwhelming him as he lay there on the body of the man who owned his heart. Their eyes still focused on one another, Cam began moving slowly in and out of his partner, hitting his sweet spot repeatedly. It was heaven on earth for both of them. A good twenty minutes passed before Cam spent himself. Kevin was leaking copiously from his dick, but had not yet come. Cam took the hard cock in front of him in hand, kissed it, gave it a stroke, and then swallowed it down. Kevin came almost immediately, flooding Cam's mouth with his seed. Cam pulled off, and without swallowing, soul-kissed his lover, their tongues reveling in Kevin's thick, copious essence. His dick huge and glistening, Cam pulled out of Kevin's body. Still staring into one another's eyes before they passed out, Kevin said, "Let's think about getting married. Soon. After this semester is over. If we can't do it in California, let's go east and get it done. I love you, Cameron." Tears rolled down Cam's cheeks as he nestled into Kevin and they fell asleep.
  15. Don H

    Chapter 55

    My Belovèd is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16 Two hours after they had left William Carson at LAX to fly back to San Francisco on Sunday night, Cam and Kevin were sitting in the den watching Hawaii 50 on the big flatscreen TV and trying to read their textbooks at the same time, with only indifferent success. Cam was at Alex's desk trying to make notes from his cinematography text, and Kevin was using a yellow marker to highlight information in his physics text. When it came to Hawaii 50, they thought Alex O'Loughlin was hot! And O'Loughlin in action was a serious diversion. They heard the garage door open and then close, and shortly thereafter the kitchen door open and shut. A minute later, Carl Emrick, home from San Rafael, poked his head in the door of the den with a big smile on his face. "Dude!" Kevin said. "Getcher ass in here right now!" Leaving his duffel bag at the bottom of the stairs in the hall, Carl more or less bounced into the den looking very happy. He sat down beside Kevin on the couch. "We missed you, ya little shit," Kevin said, putting his arm around Carl's neck and pulling him over for a kiss on the cheek. "That's right!" Cam confirmed. "You've got your nerve leaving us all alone here just to go see your boyfriend." "You weren't all alone!" Carl protested. "You had Casey, and William was here. Where is Casey, by the way?" "He's in bed," Cam said. "We asked him if he wanted to stay up until you got home, but he said 'No!' and threw up just to make his point." "Is he sick?" Carl asked. "No," Cam said. "I was just fuckin' with ya. It was his bedtime, that's all." "Tell us about your trip," Kevin said to Carl. "It was great!" Carl said. "Andy picked me up at the airport, and we stayed at his parents' house on Friday night. We were wondering what the sleeping arrangements were gonna be, but his folks never even offered me the guest room. All his mother told me was, 'I put fresh sheets on Andrew's bed.' So that's where I slept, no questions asked. We made love, but we were quiet about it." He grinned. "After a week apart, he's an animal, though!" "I'm glad things were cool with the Helders, man!" Kevin said. "I guess that answered your question about what his parents" attitude is toward you two." "Yep," Carl said. "They were really nice to me. They went with us to the martial arts dealie in San Francisco the next morning, and the three of us were Andy's personal cheering section. He was awesome, by the way, and took top honors! I was so proud. And so were his folks. We sat with them at church this morning." "Did you move over to Mom's house for Saturday night?" Cam asked. "Yes. And Andy's folks were very understanding about it." "Where did you sleep when you were home?" Cam asked. "And did you sleep together?" "Oh, yeah. In your bed. There was splooge all over it when we were done. Of course, that wasn't the first time there's been cum in that bed! Anyway, I left a note for Rosa and Yolanda not to change the sheets so you two would have something to look forward to the next time you go home." Cam laughed. "Thanks, dickwad! I hope we can return the favor sometime." "Did William have a good time down here?" Carl asked. "I think so," Kevin said. "We hit a couple movies, and worked out, and played Wii, and went swimming over at the Millers'. I think he relaxed a little bit. He'd been under a lot of stress during football season." "Man, is he in shape!" Cam added. "He's really ripped, and he's grown a couple of inches. He's as tall as I am." "Good deal," Carl said. "Did he tell you about his love life? Berto mentioned that William's been taking a little break from dating after having a confrontation with Ian and Mary." "Yeah, he mentioned that," Kevin told Carl, but didn't elaborate on William's situation. "Was Mark P.O'd about William coming down here without him?" Kevin asked. "William thought he might be." "Yeah, he was pissed," Carl said. "I wonder why William didn't bring him?" "You'd have to ask him," Cam said. "O.K.," Carl said. He yawned. "I think I'll take my bag upstairs and unpack. It'll be an early night for me." "Andy wore your ass out, huh?" Cam said, laughing. "You got that shit right!" Carl admitted with a grin, standing up and stretching. "But I'm missing him already." " 'K, Dude," Cam said. "Glad you're home." Carl walked over to Cam at the desk and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek before heading upstairs. "Thanks," Cam said. "See ya in the morning." Kevin looked at Cam after Carl left. "I'm glad the Helders are cool with Carl and Andy. And I'm glad Carl had a good time." He smiled. "Just like we did this weekend with William." Cam nodded and smiled bigtime, remembering their bedtime frolics. * * * Cam walked into the den at home Tuesday afternoon after getting home from school. He was wearing a T-shirt that said "Carpe Diem" on the front of it. Kevin looked up from his physics textbook with a smile and gave his partner a quick once-over, starting with Cam's tan, handsome face and scanning down. He paused extra long at the prominent bulge in the fly of Cam's 501's before moving his gaze down and reaching the young man's big feet, encased in work boots for a change instead of sneakers. "What!?" Cam demanded before sitting down in one of Alex's Scandinavian leather swivel chairs across the room. "Your shirt should say 'Seize the Boyfriend,' not 'Seize the Day,'" Kevin said. "Don't tempt me," Cam said. "You're cuter than you have any right to be," Kevin told him. "You're taking my mind off physics. Your bod should be illegal viewing." "Uh huh. Why are you home this afternoon, anyway?" "I explained to my professor that on the chance my boyfriend might be horny, I should cut class and go home early. He said, 'You're brilliant, Mr. Stoltz, and your grasp of physics is so complete by now that you should take the day off. Go home and sow the seed of your knowledge wherever you go.' I promised I would sow my seed, and the rest is history. Here I am." "I see," Cam said. "Well, for starters, why don't you come over here?" Kevin turned down the corner of a page in his book, put it down, and went over and straddled Cam's legs, facing him, his hands cupping Cam's face. They deep kissed each other and looked into each other's eyes. Cam leaned forward, putting his nose to Kevin's chest, breathing in his scent through his T. It was all Kevin, smelling of soap and testosterone. Then one of Cam's hands snaked down between Kevin's spread legs and messaged his crotch. Two seconds later he felt a growing firmness there. Without saying anything, Cam suggested a change of venue by pointing up at the ceiling. "I thought you'd never ask," Kevin said, standing up and pulling Cam to his feet, hugging the boy and kissing him on the lips. "I'll tell Maria we'll be upstairs, so she doesn't have to worry about Casey when he wakes up," Cam said. "OK," Kevin said, heading toward the stairs. Cam turned his head to watch his partner's solid, beautiful ass in his Levi's moving away before he turned and went into the kitchen. "Maria, Kevin and I will be upstairs for awhile, so you don't have to worry if Casey wakes up," Cam said. "All right," Marie said, smiling. She had a pretty good idea what was going down. "I'm cooking the meat for Tacos for your supper tonight, by the way. When you're ready to eat, just zap it in the microwave. I'll leave the lettuce, tomatoes and other fixings in the refrigerator with the meat." "Thanks, Maria." Cam went over and kissed her cheek. "Sounds good to me." Then he hotfooted it to the stairs and took them two at a time to the second floor. When Cam went into the bedroom, he went over to the baby monitor and turned it off so any noises he and Kevin made--and he knew there would be some--wouldn't be broadcast to the rooms on the first floor. Kevin was sitting on the end of the bed taking off his sneakers and sweat socks. Cam went over to sit down beside him. "I love afternoon sex," he proclaimed, arm around Kevin and kissing him on the side of his head. "You love sex, period," Kevin said. "Right again, Ringo!" Cam said, as he bent down to unlace his boots and take them off. "Why did you wear boots today?" Kevin asked idly. "Snakes," Cam said. "You never know when you're going to meet up with a rattler on campus." "You're full of it today." "Full of 'it'? Yes, I am full of 'it.' Soon to be less so, I hope." They stood up and starting stripping each other down. They were both half hard when they finished. Cam pulled back the bedspread before they fell into bed, kissing each other with lots of tongue as their hands roamed each other's body, knowing that the dance of love was imminent. Cam cupped Kevin's swollen package as Kevin squeezed Cam's nips and twisted them a little. Cam groaned and stroked Kevin's dick until it was granite hard, standing up, and adorned with a pearl of pre-cum at the slit. That only took three strokes. "I gotta have me some of that," Cam said, swiveling around on his side while keeping Kevin's cock in his hand and going down on it. Kevin straightened his partner's legs out, swung around, and fellated his partner in one fell swoop. They enjoyed each other like that for several minutes, Cam running his middle finger behind Kevin's balls and and rubbing his perineum until moving it on to touch his hole and then lightly penetrate it. By this time lots of pre-cum was leaking into their mouths. "Yum!" Kevin said, pulling his head back and running his tongue over his lips. Cam pulled off Kevin's cock and lifted his head to look down at him. There was no postponing the main event with more foreplay. "You do me this time," Cam said. Kevin smiled and reached into the bedside table for lube as Cam repositioned himself on his back and put his head on a pillow. Lube in hand, Kevin stood at the end of the bed and pulled Cam's body toward him by his leg,s and then pushed them back. Cam grabbed them and held them to his chest. Before applying lube, Kevin knelt down and parted Cam's ass with his hands, repeatedly licking and pushing his tongue into his hole, penetrating it a half-dozen times. Cam loved being rimmed and groaned with pleasure. "Oh, fuck yes!" "What?" Kevin said, raising his head and grinning. "I was just thinking about how far we've come since the first time we had sex together. We're really good at it now, if I do say so myself. But you already know that." "Hmmm," Kevin grunted his assent, popping the lube top open and greasing Cam's hole and then coating his own thick, stiff cock. He tossed the lube on the bedside table, and grasping his dick, put the end of it to Cam's boy-pussy and popped it in after overcoming the initial resistance. "Oh!" Cam said, frowning as Kevin first penetrated him and slowly buried himself in his lover. Soon he was in all the way to his pubes, and positioned his chest down on Cam while Cam became comfortable with the welcome intruder inside him. Motionless, Kevin studied Cam's face. "Cameron, I love you to death, dude," he said softly. Cam smiled, looking deep into Kevin's brown eyes. He put his arms around his partner and pulled him tighter to his body, rubbing noses with him and feeling physically, mentally and emotionally full of the man he loved. "Back atcha," Cam told his lover, rubbing his hands on Kevin's back and sides, then cupping his buttocks and fingering the crack of his ass, and finally stretching his arm to put his middle finger inside him. "I like that," Kevin said approvingly about Cam's finger. He kissed Cam's chest and nibbled his nipples before snagging a pillow and putting it under Cam's ass. That improved the angle so he could hit Cam's prostate with each stroke. Kevin began to pump slowly, and Cam groaned appreciatively as that rampant cock explored him, his legs now on Kevin's shoulders. Kevin lay down on top of his partner. Kevin made sure Cam's hard penis, lying on his stomach and abs and still leaking pre-cum, was massaged with each movement of their bodies together. "Kev, you fuck like a champ," Cam gasped, his eyes glued to his partner's face as their passion continued to ratchet up. Kevin's only response was to pick up the pace. He slowed down five minutes later to make things last, but then escalated again when he felt more in control of himself. Cam began to raise his ass to meet and accentuate the feel of Kevin's dick each time Kevin thrust into him. "Loving you, man," Cam whispered to his partner as their pleasure continued. And continued. And continued. Fifteen minutes later, it was Cam who spewed first, wetting Kevin's chest as well as his own with one massive cumshot after another. That was Kevin's signal to go all out, each stroke now marked by groans and exclamations from both of them. It wasn't long before he emptied himself into Cam's body. Cam could feel that it was a huge load, as always, with cum shots repeated until Kevin had no more to give. The two guys stopped moving, sucking air into their lungs as if they'd been sprinting. As indeed, in a way, they had been. Kevin collapsed into the splooge between them after he slowly pulled out of his partner, crawling further up on Cam's body. He lowered his head for a prolonged kiss, and then rested cheek to cheek with Cam, both of them so relaxed that neither of them moved at all for the next ten minutes. Finally Cam stirred. "Oh, fuck!" Cam whispered. "I think that was the best sex we've ever had," he added. "I mean it!" Kevin turned his head, speaking softly into Cam's ear. "You say that every time. But you do inspire me, bud," he said. "You know I'm all about touching you and making love to you whenever I can. I want you to feel good." He reached down between their bodies and scooped up some of Cam's semen on two fingers and conveyed it to his own mouth before scooping up more and feeding it to Cam. Then they shared another long, heartfelt kiss, each tasting the result of their pleasurable coupling in the other's mouth. Eventually Kevin rolled off Cam slowly and left the bed, staggering a little at first because he was so relaxed from having given his all. He went into the bathroom and wet down a hand towel with warm water and brought it back to the bed. He cleaned Cam up first, then himself. They left the bed for the shower a few minutes later, wanting to wash up before Casey awakened from his afternoon nap. The two of them held each other tenderly under the streaming water, the love between them confirmed and renewed. Palpable. When they came out of the bathroom, Casey was standing up in his crib waiting for them. After drying each other, they picked Casey up out of his crib, removed a dirty diaper and put him in his bassinet for a bath after filling it with warm water. The little boy loved water and, as usual, splashed his dads as they bathed him. The little guy was in his usual good mood as the boys dried him, powdered, diapered and dressed him, and then got dressed themselves. "Dad," Casey said very clearly, looking at both of them. "Casey," Kevin said, pointing at the little boy. "Here we go, dude," Cam told Kevin. "He's starting to talk more and more, and he's getting around pretty good on those chubby little legs. Now it's really gonna get interesting!" "Yep," Kevin agreed. "I'm sure he'll soon be talking a lot, just like you." "And every word'll be golden," Cam predicted. "Without a doubt!" So they wouldn't forget later, Cam turned the baby monitor back on before they carried the little boy downstairs and took him to Maria. "He smells clean," Maria said as she put her nose to Casey's head and settled him into his highchair to eat. "Fresh as fresh can be," Kevin said, bending down to kiss the baby's head. "Cam and I changed him and gave him his bath. If you'll feed him, he'll be all set. You can bring him to us in the den when you're ready to leave for home. We're gonna study." "All right," Maria said. She loved the little guy and enjoyed being around him. Every day her attachment to the boy had grown stronger over the time she'd been working there at the house. * * * The next morning started out at 6 a.m. the way it usually did on a school day. Casey was still asleep when Cam and Kevin got out of bed and visited the bathroom. Then they went back to bed for ten minutes. Not for morning sex, which they both loved but was pretty much reserved for their more relaxed weekend schedule, but just to lie down together and cuddle before getting ready for school. They had started doing that not long after Cam had been molested and was still healing, well before they had fully resumed their very active sex life. It was just a time they devoted to holding each other and kissing each other and telling each other how much they were in love. It was a great way to start a day, reaffirming their affection and intimacy before plunging into the day's activities. It had become their ritual. Then they would get up, don their running clothes, and roust Carl out of bed if necessary so they could hit the beach for their usual seven mile run. On the way out, they greeted Maria, and turned Casey over to her so he could be fed. After their run, they came back, showered, dressed for school, and ate one of Maria's good breakfasts. Sometimes she fixed them bacon and eggs, sometimes pancakes, and sometimes giving them yogurt and bagels with cream cheese and cereal. Kevin and Carl usually drove to school separately, leaving Cam to come later in his own car so he could go to the library first and then to his one class. But Kevin was encouraged that Cam had already announced plans to go back to a full schedule of classes the next semester. Cam's cell phone rang precisely at noon on Tuesday as he left his cinematography class to meet Kevin and Carl at the student center. Art Smith was walking at his side. Cam pulled the phone out of his pocket and saw that it was Alex calling him from London. He saw a bench in front of them, and he and Art sat down. "Dad!" Cam said happily. "You're up early. I was going to call you tonight. How are you and John doing?" "We're fine, son. I just wanted to let you know that our movie will be finished as of today. We're tired, but happy. We think the studio and the public are really going to like this one. We'll finish editing when we get home. Anyway, first we're going to Paris for a little holiday to unwind before we catch a plane for the States." "Good deal!" Cam said enthusiastically. "You two deserve a little time off. Are you waterlogged from the English weather?" Alex chuckled. "London's been pretty damp," he admitted. "I'll be glad to see a little steady sunshine for a change and run on the beach when we get home." "Have you guys been getting any exercise at all?" "Yes. I don't want John to get flabby." "Hey!" John protested in the background." Cam laughed. "That's good," he said. "How are Kevin and Casey and Carl?" Alex asked. "They're all good, Dad." "And you?" "I'm great," Cam said. "I finished up with the doctor a few weeks ago, and she and I really worked well together. I'm feeling fine. Mom made a good choice when she picked Dr. Owens to work with me." "That's good to hear. How is your mom?" "She's doing well. I don't know whether you know this or not, but she's moving to Stanford next year to teach. As a full professor." "That's great news! I'm happy for her!" Alex said. "It was only a matter of time before she made her mark." Alex laughed. "Of course, I mean 'made her mark' in addition to giving birth to you." Cam chuckled. "Now, now, let's not go overboard!" he said. "What's she going to do with the house when she starts at Stanford?" "Ian and Mary and the boys are going to continue living there, and Mom's going to live in their condo in town." "Sounds like a plan. I was hoping she wouldn't be put the house up for sale. I know it will probably have to be sold someday, but I'm glad it's not right now. It's a great place. Lots of good memories there." "I'm glad she's keeping it, too," Cam said. "Anyway, John and I are looking forward to seeing you all," Alex said. "I'll give Catherine a call and let her know we're on our way back in a week or so." "She'll appreciate that. We can't wait to see you," Cam said. "But we'll still be here if you add a few days for your vacation. Just let us know your travel schedule when you know what it is." "Will do! Love ya, Cam. Give our love to Kevin and Carl, and kiss that Casey until he can't stand it." "Okay, Dad. Love you, too. See ya when we see ya." The connection was broken, and Cam looked over at Art with a big smile. "We've missed them," Cam said. "Them?" Art asked. "Who is your dad with?" "His partner, John Kelley." "Oh. Well, I can tell you'll be glad to see 'em," Art said. He studied Cam. "You don't know how lucky you are that your dad can say he loves you, and you can tell him the same thing--and mean it." "Your folks don't tell you they love you?" "My mom does. My dad--never. In his book, it wouldn't be the masculine thing to do." Cam reached over and patted his friend on the shoulder. "Sorry, man," he said. "I really am fortunate." He looked at the time on his phone. "You ready to eat lunch?" "Yep," Art said. They stood up and resumed their walk toward the Student Union cafeteria. When they arrived, they waved at Kevin and Carl, who were sitting at their usual table off to one side, and Cam and Art headed for the food line. The food looked pretty good, and they both loaded their trays before walking over to the table. "Room for two more?" Cam asked as they approached. Kevin and Carl smiled and moved over to make room. Art was surprised that day when Cam said grace aloud for both of them. Before then, Cam had just said his own. They dug into their food as Cam started to fill Kevin and Carl in about Alex's phone call. "So, bottom line, you don't know exactly when Alex and John will be home?" Carl asked when Cam and Art finished eating. "Not exactly," Cam said. "I told him they should take as much time as they need to wind down, though." Cam grinned. "I guess Paris won't be a bad place to do that." "I can't wait to see 'em," Kevin said. "Me, too," Carl said. "Y'know, I'm gonna have to think about getting a car to drive when they get back. John's going to want the Highlander back." "Well, that shouldn't be a problem," Kevin said. "You and Dan own a freakin' car dealership, for gosh sake. I've seen a neat little Cadillac crossover advertised on TV. It would carry Casey and the rest of us without any problem. Has a big engine, though. That's probably not a good idea for a reckless little shit like you." "Fuck off," Carl responded with good humor. "If you can handle that hot Mustang you drive, I shouldn't have any problem. It's a miracle you're not dead or in jail." Art had remained silent, just taking everything in as the guys continued to kibitz back and forth on one subject or another. When the conversation finally slowed, he spoke up. "You guys wanna hear a good story?" he asked. "Always," Kevin said. "This is a story about involuntary muscle control," Art informed them. "A University of Wisconsin professor was giving a lecture on 'Involuntary Muscular Contractions' to his first year medical students. "Realizing this was not the most riveting subject, the professor decided to spice up his lecture a little by talking a little raunchy like he knew his students frequently did to each other. "He pointed to a young woman student in the front row and asked, 'Do you know what your asshole is doing while you're having an orgasm?' "'He's probably deer hunting with his buddies,' she shot back. Art grinned. "That was pretty much the end of the lecture." Taken by surprise, Kevin, Cam and Carl began to laugh bigtime, and Art finally joined them. Their faces turned red from laughing so hard, and Carl actually had tears running down his face and Coke streaming out of his nose. Before they regained control, everyone in the cafeteria was looking at them. They all stuck around after finishing lunch, intermittently chuckling when they thought about the story, until Kevin and Art and Carl had to go to their next class. "Hey, Art, when you have a chance, why don't you bring some workout clothes over to the house and work out in the gym with us?" Kevin said before they parted company. He pointed at Cam. "Look at what I've accomplished with Cam, and you're way ahead of where he was. He used to be a skinny little runt." "You lie," Cam protested. Kevin's invitation had caught Art off guard. "Uh, ah, well, that would be great," Art said, breaking into a huge grin. "Thanks." Cam gave Kevin a hug before Kevin and Carl walked away for their next classes. None of the passers-by paid any attention. "I knew Kevin would come around," Cam told Art before Art left for his next class too. "When you're invited to Kevin's 'gym hell,' that means he likes you. But prepare to suffer." "I could stand to buff up," Art said as they parted company. "Laters, dude." * * * A week passed, and then Alex called the house, and Kevin answered the phone. Alex and John had lived it up in Paris for seven days, and Alex gave Kevin their travel schedule. They would fly out of Charles de Gaulle airport on Air France on Thursday morning for New York's Kennedy Airport, stay overnight in the city, and arrive at LAX on Saturday afternoon. He said not to worry about picking them up because the studio would send a limo to the airport. Kevin spread the word, and Cam and Carl were hyped to hear the news. They let Maria know. The house was always immaculate anyway, thanks to her, but she redoubled her efforts to make sure everything was perfect when Alex and John arrived home. Kevin called Catherine at her office at St. Francis and let her know the good news as well, and gave her Alex's and John's travel schedule. She said she already knew, because Alex had called her. Catherine didn't let on how pleased she was that once again there would be some parental guidance in the house for the boys. It wasn't that she didn't trust them, but she had always been just a little worried about the guys even though Sean and Susan Miller from next door checked on them periodically. Catherine also knew that Maria was a steadying influence as well. The next day the boys already had morning classes out of the way and were at lunch with Art Smith at the student center when Cam's phone rang. His face broke into a smile when he saw it was Catherine calling. "Mommy!" he said. "What's new?" "Are you sitting down?" Catherine asked, her voice sounding pinched and sad. "Yes. 'Sup?" "Cameron..." She stopped talking for a moment to collect herself. "An Air France passenger plane just went down over the Atlantic this morning, according to the noon news. We don't know yet whether it was your dad's and John's flight or not, but it's possible. I hope I haven't done the wrong thing by calling you right away, but I wanted you to be ready for the worst if it comes to that. Let's just say our prayers and be prepared for anything that happens." The telephone dropped out of Cam's hand to the table. His face was contorted in disbelief. "Cam?" Kevin reached over and took his partner's hand. "What's wrong?" Cam was speechless, taking back his hand and covering his face. Kevin picked up the telephone and said, "Mom, it's Kevin. What's wrong?" "Kevin, an Air France airplane went down over the Atlantic a little while ago. We don't know for certain that it was Alex's and John's plane, but it may have been. I wanted to give you boys a heads-up." Kevin looked over at Cam, whose hands still covered his face. "Thank you, Mom. We'll call you back," Kevin said to her, breaking the connection. He stood and pulled his chair around to where Cam was sitting, sat down and put his arm around Cam. Kevin could feel his partner's body trembling, his face still in his hands, his body now bent over and resting his head on the table. "You're scaring me," Carl said to Kevin and Cam. "Tell me what the fuck is going on?" "Dad's and John's plane may have crashed in the Atlantic," Kevin told Carl. "But we don't know that for a fact yet." He put his head down next to Cam's. "We don't know for sure, Cam. Let's just keep it together until we know something, dude." Cam straightened up took his hands off his face. His eyes were red and wet. "You're right," Cam said. "But I think I want to go home now." "Me, too," Kevin and Carl said at the same time. They all stood up to get rid of their garbage from lunch, leave their meal trays on the pile, and get on the road. Bewildered and sad, Art followed the three shaken boys out of the Student Union. "Art, did you drive to school today?" Kevin asked as the four of them made their way out of the front door. "No, my dad dropped me off." Kevin reached into the pocket of his shorts and pulled out his keys. "Would you mind driving my Mustang back to Malibu?" he asked. "I want to drive home with Cam. Then we'll take you home." "OK," Art said. "Which parking lot is your car in?" "We all park in the same area," Kevin said. "Just walk with us." Kevin put his arm around Cam as they walked. Cam didn't make a sound, but tears were running down his cheeks. "We just got him back when we moved down here," Cam told Kevin. "And now we're losing him again. For good." "Let's wait before we say that," Kevin said. "We don't know anything for sure. Not yet." They reached Kevin's Mustang first in the lot, and Kevin pointed at his car, giving Art the keys. Art peeled off from the group and unlocked the driver's door. "I'll meet you at the house," Art said, opening the door and sliding behind the wheel of Kevin's pride and joy. He adjusted the driver's seat and mirrors, started the car and backed out of the space, looking both ways. The Mustang murmured with restrained power as Art drove off toward the exit. They reached the Camaro next, and Kevin held out his hand for the keys. Cam gave them to him, and went around to the passenger door as Carl continued on toward the Highlander further down the lot. "I'll see you at the house," Carl said. "Maybe there will be some more news by then." By the time Cam and Kevin and Carl arrived home, the Mustang was already in the driveway with Art sitting on the rear bumper. Art stood up as the boys pulled their vehicles into their usual parking spots. "Thanks, Art," Kevin said as Art passed him the keys to the car. "Uh, do you want to go home?" "I think I probably should," Art said. He looked down at the ground uneasily. "I don't know what to say to you guys right now. I wish I knew how to help." "I know," Cam said as the four of them stood in the driveway. He went to Art and gave him a hug. "Thanks for being a friend, man." "Let me know what you find out, will ya?" Art asked. "And if there's anything I can do. . ." Cam nodded, and headed for the house with Kevin at his heels.. Carl took Art home. It was a sad, mostly silent trip. * * * Maria was surprised to see Cam and Kevin home so early from school. Casey was upstairs for his afternoon nap. Cam walked away toward the study while Kevin filled Maria in on the tragic possibilities of the day, as yet unconfirmed. She was crushed, and sitting down at the kitchen table, began weeping. Fighting off his own tears, Kevin sat and held Maria's hand until they both pulled themselves together. Kevin went down the hall to the study then and found Cam standing in front of the little bar in the corner, breaking the seal on an unopened bottle of Grey Goose vodka. Cam took a tumbler off a shelf and half filled it with vodka. He started to lift it to his lips when Kevin stood behind him and gently pinned his partner's arms to his sides. "I'm fucking numb," Cam whispered. "But not numb enough," he explained. "Yeah," Kevin said softly. "I get it. I'm numb, too. But nothing in that glass is going to make our situation any better, if worse comes to worst, dude. I know this has been one hell of a bad year for you--for us--but I don't think this is the way to handle it. Whether Dad and John are dead or whether they're alive, do you think this is how they'd want us to face our situation right now?" "What did I do to deserve this?" Cam asked quietly, his voice breaking. "What did we do to lose them like this?" "We haven't done anything wrong, Cam. You're the best boyfriend, the best person, I've ever known on this earth, dude," Kevin insisted sincerely. "You're loving, you're kind, you're giving, you never judge people, and you always do the right thing. You've made me a better person. If Alex and John are gone, please don't bring yourself down by blaming this on something you've done or haven't done. That's just not true." Cam remained silent. He put the vodka glass down on the bar and didn't make any effort to raise it to his lips. Kevin turned him loose and swung him around gently, putting his hands on either side of his face, pulling him close and kissing him on the lips before moving back a little and looking deeply into his partner's green eyes.. "Listen, Cam," Kevin continued, "whether you realize it or not, you're the fucking leader for all of us guys in our family. You're our heart. You're an inspiration to every one of us. Sure, I may run the gym and the athletic side of things and kick ass when I have to, but when it comes to having an influence on the guys about the big problems and issues in life, and on our values, you're DA MAN for every one of us. If Dad and John are really gone for good, we're gonna face some big problems and big adjustments. But we're gonna have to help hold things together for the family. Especially you. We'll have help from Mom and Ian and Mary, but all the guys are still going to be looking to you to show us how it's done when we face a disaster, and how to move on. I hope you know you have my total respect and love. I love you so much! I'm gonna need you, or I may not make it. I lost my own dad because he was a criminal. Same thing for Carl. Don't make us go it alone. Please, man!" Cam stared at his partner, and tears began running down both their faces. The grim possibility of life without Alex and his partner was finally beginning to settle into their guts. "You're right," Cam told Kevin, turning back around and stared at the glass on the bar. He opened the Grey Goose bottle again, and picking up the glass, poured the liquid back into it without spilling a drop. He capped the bottle and put it back in the cabinet, and put the glass down in the little bar sink. Facing Kevin again, Cam put his arms around him, and they clung together. "Thank you, Kev," he said softly. "I really appreciated hearing what you said. I'll try to do my best for everybody if the worst comes true." "I know you will. Watching you the last few months has already showed me what you're made of. You're cute as hell, but you're also a tough as hell. Now I guess we'll find out now what I'm made of. I just hope I can measure up." Cam squeezed him harder, and rubbed noses with him. "Why don't we go upstairs for awhile?" he asked. "I just want to be alone with you right now." "Same here," Kevin said, taking Cam's strong hand in his own. They went up hand in hand to their bedroom and lay down on their bed, clinging to each other, and soon fell asleep. Blessed sleep, avoiding the pain of loss for the moment. * * * Two hours later, and the bad news was confirmed. The Air France flight from Charles de Gaulle had disappeared from the radar about an hour after departure, and both France and the United States were marshaling operations to look for survivors and wreckage. Winter had yet to hit with any ferocity in Europe that fall, but the chances of any survivors were slim to none, or so the talking heads on TV were saying. Catherine had called. Cam and Kevin had both talked with her, and although she seemed calm, Cam could hear the deep sorrow in her voice. She admitted to Cam at long last what he had long ago realized, that Alex was the only man she had ever loved. Or probably would ever love. Catherine had informed Cam and Kevin that she would be coming to L.A. the following day. She said Ian had pulled all the boys out of school in San Rafael, and had chartered a plane to bring the whole family down to L.A., along with Father Mason. Father Blackburn had given Mason the week off to help support the family in L.A. in their grief and to help Father Ryan make arrangements for a memorial service for Alex and John at St. Dunstan's. Cam and Kevin were immensely cheered up to know that the whole family would be with them during the days of sorrow yet to come. Ian and Mary had telephoned Cam and Kevin for a brief conversation, expressing their condolences and trying to encourage them. The boys were grateful for the call, which only made them look forward even more to seeing the San Rafael part of the family despite the sad events that would bring them to L.A. Shortly after hearing from Ian and Mary, Dr. Owens had called Cam in response to the news in the media. She was brief and to the point. "Cam, I want you and your family to know how sorry I am about the loss of your father and his partner. You're special to me, and I'm always available to you and your family. Please call me if you need me." "I will," Cam said. "I learned so much from you, and it looks like what I learned will have to do double duty now." "You have my number," Dr. Owens said, and ended the call. * * * Cam was determined that he would not fall into the severe malaise which had gripped him after he had been molested on the beach. When they went to bed that night, after Alex's and John's deaths were confirmed, Kevin asked Cam if he wanted him to contact Dr. Owens the following day. Cam filled him in then on the doctor's call, and said he didn't need to talk to her, at least not yet. . "Dr. Owens taught me a lot of techniques about how to deal with depression," Cam added softly. "Getting a lot of exercise is one way. So please don't let me sit around on my ass in a blue funk, Kev. I can't let myself go downhill like the last time." Overcoming for the moment his own deep sorrow over the loss of his two father-figures and mentors, Kevin pulled Cam into his arms, touching his face and hair gently. "I won't let you go, bud. You know that. You're my soulmate, and whatever happens in this life, good or bad, we're in it together." Comforted, Cam eventually drifted off into a troubled sleep in his partner's arms. Kevin remained awake for a long time, just holding his boy and loving him. He found himself asking God why they were facing yet one more challenge in what had been months of negative fallout from the attack on Cam down the beach. It had been a terrible event which had strained their every emotional resource just to stay on an even keel, and Kevin had suffered right along with Cam during the latter's recovery. Kevin wasn't a crier, but before he went to sleep, he shed more tears for Alex and John, both of whom had been so supportive of him and his relationship with Cam. They had loved him just for himself in ways that his blood father never had been capable of doing. Finally Kevin drifted off himself, holding on tight to his best friend and lover. The alarm clock went off at its usual time the next morning. Kevin stretched out a muscular arm and hit the snooze button. His and Cam's eyes met, full of their common grief. "I might take this morning off from running," Cam whispered, looking away. "I don't think so!" Kevin said. "You asked me to keep you moving, and that's exactly what we're gonna do." They snuggled together for a few more minutes. When the alarm went off again, Kevin killed it and slid out of bed, and grasping the top sheet and light blanket they had slept under, snapped them off his partner, leaving him naked and exposed and rolling up in a ball from the chill of the air conditioning. Cam groaned but complied with Kevin's demand, sliding out of bed and heading for the bathroom with his morning hardon wagging in front of him. Kevin followed him after a quick check on Casey, who was still sleeping soundly. Going into the bathroom, he took a mental snapshot of Cam's strong, straight back, his muscular butt, and his nicely developed legs as his lover walked ahead of him. As usual, the two guys shared the toilet while they emptied their bladders. "Can I tell you something?" Kevin asked as they shook off and Cam flushed the toilet. "What?" "This isn't going to be a fun day for us. But just in case we don't have a private minute later, I want ya to know I love your bod, dude. Especially that cute, tight little ass of yours. I'm just sayin'..." Despite his dread of the day ahead, Cam couldn't help giving his partner a smile, and reached over to put his hand on Kevin's neck. "Thanks, man. I can never hear that too often. And back atcha!" Once back in the bedroom, the two of them put on their jocks, running shorts and tank tops, followed by their socks and running shoes. Kevin gently picked up Casey, whose diaper was still dry, to take him down to Maria. Cam walked down the hall and knocked on Carl's door, then opened it. Carl's eyes were open, but his bedcovers were up to his neck. "I thought we might not run today," Carl said. "No such luck," Cam responded. "Getcher ass up and meet us downstairs. If you don't, you'll just lie around in bed jacking off." "You know me too well," Carl admitted agreeably. "Okay, I'll be down in a minute." Maria poured the three runners a glass of orange juice down in the kitchen as they arrived. Her eyes had dark circles under them. There wasn't much conversation. After downing the juice, the three guys went out on the patio and did their warm-ups, with Alice and Samantha weaving in and out around them, oblivious to the previous day's tragedy. Those dogs were eager to hit the beach. "We're gonna do eight miles this morning," Kevin announced to his companions after they finished stretches. He reset his pedometer. "Why the extra mile?" Carl questioned. "Because we all need more exercise right now," Kevin said. "We have some tough days ahead of us." Carl just nodded. They headed for the hardpack at the edge of the water, and headed up the beach with the dogs running ahead of them. * * * The stretch limo Ian had rented pulled into the driveway of the house in Malibu about 4 p.m. that afternoon. Thanks to William's heads-up cell phone call, Carl, Kevin, Cam, Casey and the dogs were waiting in the driveway for the new arrivals from San Rafael. Carl nearly fell over when the first person out of the car, unexpectedly, was Andy Helder, who headed right for him and picked him up and swung him around in the air. Following in quick succession out of the car were William, Mark, Berto, and Dan. Catherine stepped out next, looking tired and drawn, and then Ian and Mary, and last of all, Father Mason, dressed as usual in his black suit and white collar. All the boys were casually dressed in T-shirts, board shorts, and flipflops. Despite the underlying sadness everyone was feeling, the greetings were prolonged and even a little joyful that the family was all together. Kevin made sure to give Mark Carson an especially warm greeting and a kiss on the cheek to assuage any hurt feelings the boy might have because William hadn't brought him down to L.A. on his last visit. The priest hugged Cam and Kevin for a long moment, kissing them on the cheek and telling them softly how sorry he was about Alex and John. Ian slipped the limousine driver a nice tip, and the big car backed out of the driveway and headed back toward the Pacific Coast Highway. They had all started heading into the house with their luggage when a taxi pulled up. Jeff Miller had asked for and received a four day leave from Assurances to be with the family during their time of trial, and had headed right for Malibu. He hugged Cam and Kevin, murmuring condolences, also kissing them each on the cheek before shaking hands with the rest of the family. Ian studied the new arrival closely, and was pleased to see that the young man looked so well. His treatment was obviously bearing fruit. "Hey, guys, grab a sleeping mat out of the garage on your way in." Kevin instructed the boys. "We'll all be sleeping in the living room while you're here." The guys grinned, groaning simultaneously for effect, as if carrying the mats was a big imposition, but did what Kevin had asked. The visitors each greeted Maria warmly as they entered the house. "Thanks for taking such good care of the slobs who live here," wise-ass William quipped to Maria after telling her hello. "Without you, this place would be a pigsty." Maria laughed. "Now, William, they're good boys," she told him. "If you say so," William responded. After stashing their own suitcases and garment bags in the living room, the boys carried the adults' luggage upstairs to the assigned bedrooms. Ian and Mary were in the master bedroom, Catherine in Cam and Kevin's room, and Father Mason in one of the two last, usually unoccupied, bedrooms down the hall. Because Andy had traveled down to L.A. with the family, Cam told Carl he could stay in his own bedroom with his partner, but Carl said he and Andy would sleep in the living room with the rest of the guys. Andy didn't look too delighted about that, but that's the way it went down. The new arrivals were pretty well settled and gathering in the living room when the doorbell rang. Kevin went to answer it, and found Father John Ryan standing there. "Father!" Kevin said, holding the door back for the priest. "Come on in. Perfect timing. Everybody from San Rafael just got here a few minutes ago. We're all in the living room." "Hello, Kevin." The priest stepped inside and shook Kevin's hand, and then gave him a hug. "I'm so sorry about Alex and John. How is Cam taking it?" "Well, he's determined not to go back into a depression like he did after the episode down the beach. Dr. Owens called earlier just to touch base with him." "Good. Are you all right?" "I'm hurting, but hangin' in, Father." "You know I'm available if you want to talk." "Thanks. I appreciate that. I know Cam will, too." "I just stopped by to see if we could make some preliminary plans for a memorial service," Ryan said. "You know how well respected Alex and John were at St. Dunstan's and in the L.A. artistic community. There are a lot of people who will want to say good-bye to them along with the family." "I'm glad you're here, Father. We were going to call you about doing some planning for the funeral. Father Mason is here, by the way." "Good. I was hoping he could get some time off and come down here. I'm sure you know he loves your family a great deal." "That's mutual," Kevin said. "Come on in. Let's join the others in the living room." Father Ryan saw Maria in the kitchen as they passed through the hall, and he stopped and greeted her warmly before he and Kevin went into the living room. The room was full, with some of the boys sitting on the floor here and there. The guys were unusually quiet and subdued. "Look who's here," Kevin told the crowd. Everyone stood up and greeted the priest, and he went around the room saying hello and offering his condolences. He hugged Catherine and Cam, and kissed them on the cheek. He greeted Jim Mason warmly, also with a hug. "I hope I'm not barging in," Father Ryan said, "but I wanted to see you all to tell you how sorry I am, and to offer help with planning a memorial service for John and Alex. I'm sure you know how well thought of they were in the parish and in the Hollywood community. They're going to be greatly missed." "Thank you, Father," Catherine said. "We're grateful for our close relationship with you and Father Mason, and we appreciate your thinking about us and coming by at a time like this. How is your family?" Hearing that question, Mary Carson looked at her friend Catherine, probably her best friend in the world next to Ian, and thought how like her it was to think about others even in the midst of personal tragedy. "The family is all good," Ryan said. "Thank you for asking." Then they got down to planning, with Father Ryan first stating that suggestions for the memorial service from the entire extended family would be entertained, with final decisions being made by Cam, Catherine, Kevin and himself. The family murmured their approval of that approach. Cam made the first suggestion, that the service be a sung Solemn High Mass. He asked if Father Ryan would celebrate, Father Mason serve as the deacon of the Mass, and asked Ian Carson if he would be a eulogist along with either Father Mason or Father Ryan when it came to the homily. Everyone looked at Ian first, and then at the two priests. "It would be my honor to do that," Ian said. "Father, as celebrant of the Mass, I think you should preach as well," Mason suggested. "I could stand to hear the message of hope you're so good at delivering." "I'll look forward to it," Father Ryan said. "Now, what day of the week and what time of the day do you want the service to take place?" "How about Tuesday at 11 a.m.?" Kevin suggested. "That way we could provide a nice lunch for people afterward in the parish house. I'm sure we can find a caterer, even on fairly short notice, to provide a buffet. It should be a nice buffet, though. Nothing cheap to honor Dad and John. That's if the parish house is available after the Mass, Father Ryan." "I'm sure it will be, Kevin. But let me just check with my secretary to be sure. And we'll need to check with the funeral director to confirm the date and time for the Mass." The priest pulled out his cell phone and stepped out into the hall for a moment to talk, and was back almost immediately. "We're good on the parish hall," Ryan said. "My secretary will check with the mortuary, but let's assume for the moment that the date and time are good." "Excellent," Kevin said. When Cam heard the word "mortuary," the reality of the situation hit him anew, and he lowered his head and stared at the floor. Conversation about the memorial Mass continued. Catherine mentioned a few of her favorite hymns that she thought would add meaning to the service, and Father Ryan wrote them down in his pocket diary to include in the bulletin. Cam sat quietly listening to the Mary and Ian and the two clergymen talk more about the service. The young guys, most of them sitting on the floor, listened intently to what was going on. Carl sat with his arm around Andy. It was obvious to everyone how much in love the two of them were. For some reason Cam was especially conscious at that moment how handsome and how masculine all the boys in the extended family were. So handsome that they were beautiful. Starting with William Carson and Berto, every one of them was buff and great looking. Obviously Berto had been working them all hard in the gym up in San Rafael, and they'd been faithful about their daily run, because under their T's and board shorts it was easy to see their developed chests, arms and legs. Cam was sure that each of them was well on the way to six-pack abs under their T's. And between their legs--Cam remembered well from their naked swimming days in the pool in San Rafael that they were all well hung, from bigger than average to spectacular. He had to stop looking at the guys because he could feel himself getting hard. Having that happen during a discussion of his father's funeral was clearly inopportune and inappropriate. Cam glanced at Kevin, sitting beside him, who had seen him looking the boys over. Kevin grinned at him and reached over and squeezed his neck, and then dropped his hand down to rub his back for a minute. When the meeting was over, Father Ryan thanked them all for their input, and excused himself to head back to St. Dunstan's. Ian, Cam and Kevin walked him out to his car and offered their own personal thanks to him for taking such good care of the family. * * * Mary and Catherine went to the kitchen to help Maria start supper after Father Ryan left. Maria had driven to the grocery late the previous day for extensive shopping, and there was plenty of food in the house. Even the refrigerator and the freezer in the garage were packed with goodies. The women put their heads together and decided they would have grilled hamburgers, baked potatoes, baked beans and green salad for the evening meal, followed by apple pie a la mode for dessert. Maria had seven apple pies baking in the two ovens already. Ian agreed to do the grilling on the front deck when it was time. Catherine and Mary let Maria know as they worked how much they appreciated the good care Kevin, Cam, Casey and Carl had received from her. "Well, I love those boys," Maria said. "Kevin and Cam and Carl are fine young men, so considerate to work for, and Casey...well, Casey is just a dream to be around." She laughed. "Casey makes me want to have another baby, but my husband won't hear of it." They all laughed and continued chatting as they thawed twenty-five pounds of hamburger, cut up buns, readied and washed enough potatoes for everyone to have two each, and washed lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers and avocados for a green salad. "I know you've enjoyed it here," Mary said to Maria as they worked. "But this has obviously been more than just a job for you. No amount of money would make you do all that you've done. Truthfully, you're like a member of the family, and we couldn't begin to thank you enough for all the care you've given the boys." "You're awfully nice to say that," Maria said. "Do you think Cam and Kevin will continue to need me here now that Mr. MacKenzie and Mr. Kelley are gone?" "Absolutely!" Catherine said. "The boys will want to finish school down here at UCLA, and where would they find someone to take care of Casey with love the way you have? So I think you're going to be here for a long time if you want to be. Please don't even think about looking for another job." "That's a relief," Maria said. "I need to work, but I do love working here." Jeff Miller stuck his head into the kitchen. "I'm gonna go next door and see my mom and dad for a few minutes," he said. "I'm not positive they know what's happened to Mr. MacKenzie and Mr. Kelley." "Let them know, Jeff," Catherine said, "and ask them to come over for supper and bring Juanita with them. There's plenty of food. Tell them we'll eat at about 6:30, but they can come over earlier for a drink." "That's nice of you, Mrs. MacKenzie," Jeff said. "Jeff, I'm 'Catherine,' and this is 'Mary,'" Catherine said. "The boys call us all by our first names, so you may as well join the group." "Thank you," Jeff said with a smile, and left for the patio shortcut to next door. He slid open the door to the front deck, and found William Carson and Kevin standing there with Cam. They were in a circle with their arms around one another. Cam was looking out at Santa Monica Bay while silent tears traced pathways down his cheeks. William nodded at Jeff, who didn't interrupt them as he walked toward his parents' house. The next few days were going to be rough on all of us, Jeff thought to himself.
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