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    Don H
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Belovéd - 69. 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.

My sincere apologies to all readers of Beloved who have emailed me during the long interim since the last chapter of Beloved was posted. I won't go into all the problems that contributed to the delay other than to note I've had health and computer issues. Chapter 70 will follow in what I hope will be a reasonable time, and will conclude the series with a recounting of Cam's and Kevin's wedding and updates on occurrences in the lives of other characters..

Meanwhile, I want to thank all of you for your loyal readership. I deeply appreciate it. Don H.

dhanr1@msn.com

Copyright ©2005-2017 Don Hanratty; All Rights Reserved.
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I'm so happy to see these boys again, and Father Mason is a fun guy as the trip back to Los Angeles showed. It's nice that Carl and Andy will be together now, rather than having to be separated by school, and that Cam and Kevin are still going strong.
I'm really looking forward to seeing the rest of the boys--maybe another marathon poker game?

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I’ve live in the East Bay, so maybe that colors my impression, but I would think that someone traveling south from San Rafael would take the free-in-that-direction Richmond Bridge down to the Eastshore Freeway and then the Nimitz. That would connect to Highway 101 in San José. You’d avoid the very high Golden Gate Bridge toll and Van Ness Ave through San Francisco. It does mean you have to go through the MacArthur Maze, but San Francisco traffic would almost certainly be worse.

 

Of course, if I did take 101 through San Francisco, I’d take I-280 down the Peninsula to avoid the Bayshore and then cut across using 85 to return to 101 in South San José.

 

So if the series is winding down, I guess we won’t be seeing Casey going to school, much less graduating… ;-)

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I was thinking that this chapter was like when friends I haven't seen in a long time come by and we can pick up with time being meaningless.
I'm a geezer so health issues surround me. Hope yours only slow you down temporarily. I will truly miss the thought of not following these friends you have given us into their future lives.
Wish you well. Pax. Steve

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Don this was a reunion for sure, i was so worried about you as well as Cam, Kev and the rest of the crew. Please dont end this story so quickly. This is such a wonderful story with such dynamic characters. They are like family and friends and i love reading what goes on in there lives. to end this story before all the different tales are told would be such an injustice to the cast of characters you created and to you, I am pretty sure you have, in your mind, worked out what happens to each one and the story needs to be told. Let it play out and let it take you where it takes you.

 

thanks for sharing your family with us

 

Bob

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All i can say is that i agree 100% with all the above comments,one of the best stories on the net by far.

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With this story essentially over I’m a little surprised at what happened with Berto’s uncle, which is nothing. I mean once Carl & Dan’s dad was dead he was just never mentioned again and Ian Carson was sure he’d leave them alone as he wasn’t going to get paid anymore. I can understand him not going after Carl & Dan anymore because he was paid to do that but he had a personal grudge against Berto so I expected him to continue to threaten his life. I know not every criminal gets caught but it’s more the fact he gave up on killing his nephew rather than the fact he was never caught that leaves the story feeling unresolved.

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Good day Mr Hanratty - do you have any good news for those of us waiting in keen anticipation for chapter 70?

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On 6/29/2018 at 2:02 PM, NimirRaj said:

With this story essentially over I’m a little surprised at what happened with Berto’s uncle, which is nothing. I mean once Carl & Dan’s dad was dead he was just never mentioned again and Ian Carson was sure he’d leave them alone as he wasn’t going to get paid anymore. I can understand him not going after Carl & Dan anymore because he was paid to do that but he had a personal grudge against Berto so I expected him to continue to threaten his life. I know not every criminal gets caught but it’s more the fact he gave up on killing his nephew rather than the fact he was never caught that leaves the story feeling unresolved.

Sorry to let you know he was found dead of a drug OD I just don't remember what chapter it was but it was the 1st or 2nd chapter after Carl & Dan'd dad was shot. 

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Dear Don H,

I am hoping all is well with you and I am hoping that we get the next chapter if you are still writing. I have enjoyed all that I have read. I am hoping that you can post something soon. I  miss reading of the adventures of all the boys and the family.. :worship: 

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Chapter 69 was poster in april 2017, THREE Years ago! 
I don’t mind waiting a bit longer for chapter 70, but I am starting to worry something’s wrong?

Don H wrote, when posting #69 that this chapter was late because of computer problems, but also health issues! I sincerely hope all’s well with you, mr. Hanratty?

 

just (today, august 11) found his obituary. 
Dan H passes away in 2019. May he Rest In Peace 

 

Edited by RoyKing
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I only joined this site to let Don's readers know that he had passed away last year. I had wondered what happened to him, and found his obituary, which I am not going post here. Don Hanratty is a pseudonym. However, some of the things mentioned in the obituary matches his life events such as living in Chicago area, retirement in 2000 and moving to New Orleans, or his passion for riding motorcycles, having a graduate degree and knowledge about the Episcopal Church. So I know that is him. If you do not trust me, Google his email address. You will come to the same conclusion.

I first read "Working it out" when he just finished the last chapter. I finished reading all chapters in a day or so (I think), and wrote to him. He was kind, funny and gentle. For some reason, we started to make a joke about moles, which got out of control. It may take some time for me to digest this. I am just glad that I found "Working it out" and had opportunities to get to know Don even a little bit. 

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Such sad news. My condolences go to his family. Also sad this lovely story will not get it's ending. Was really looking forward to it. But I guess that's just life. Nothing is promised.

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On 8/6/2020 at 11:06 PM, Kussotare said:

I only joined this site to let Don's readers know that he had passed away last year. I had wondered what happened to him, and found his obituary, which I am not going post here. Don Hanratty is a pseudonym. However, some of the things mentioned in the obituary matches his life events such as living in Chicago area, retirement in 2000 and moving to New Orleans, or his passion for riding motorcycles, having a graduate degree and knowledge about the Episcopal Church. So I know that is him. If you do not trust me, Google his email address. You will come to the same conclusion.

I first read "Working it out" when he just finished the last chapter. I finished reading all chapters in a day or so (I think), and wrote to him. He was kind, funny and gentle. For some reason, we started to make a joke about moles, which got out of control. It may take some time for me to digest this. I am just glad that I found "Working it out" and had opportunities to get to know Don even a little bit. 

Thank you for sharing the news. I had written to him to thank him for his stories a few years ago. Now I'm especially thankful I did that before he passed away. (I found his obituary, too, and I agree with your comment above.)

"Beloved" and "Working It Out" are two comfort novels for me. Perhaps that sounds so lazy of me, but I think I've read each one maybe three times over the past ten years. If I'm feeling particularly crappy, re-reading one of Don Hanratty's novels is soothing. From his note at the end of chapter 69 we know the wedding he planned for chapter 70. I'm curious to know what he would have said about his other character's lives in chapter 70.

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