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  1. 80 points
    Chapter 21 --Bailey— Bailey woke up the next morning confused as to what day it was. It took him several moments to remember it was Friday, and he had only spoken to the Headmaster about Chris and Eric yesterday morning. It seemed like it had been days ago with how worn out he was feeling. Last night, he had suffered through his mom's scolding for not telling her about the bullying, as well as Daniel's advice for handling any repercussions. He had had to relive the assault again for the second time that day as he'd told his mother and their lawyer—if that's what Daniel Kirsch even was anymore—all that had happened. "Why didn't you tell me?!" His mother paced the living room, throwing her hands out. Bailey dropped his head back on the couch. "It was done. Over. A. Week. Ago. At least, I figured it was over. If Chris could have let it go. Well, and Declan." "You know bullies don't stop! Have you not learned anything from the last few years?!" His mother's agitation grated on his nerves. She hadn't known all of what had happened. What right did she have to lecture him on it? "If your father were here right now, you know he'd have a few words to say about this!" Bailey jerked as if he'd been punched. "Michelle," Daniel's even voice stopped his mother's tirade, "It sounds as if Bailey did what he thought was best. He tried not to antagonize this Chris boy, except for maybe showing off a little in football..." Bailey caught Daniel's small smile and nod before the man continued. "I don't know that I would have done much different in his situation. He obviously thought once Chris got what he wanted, the guy would back off. Right, Bailey?" Bailey blinked at the man. Was he really defending him? "Um, yeah, right." "Your father moved us here, to this new school, so this kind of thing wouldn't happen. And now I'm having to go to the principal's office. Your father always handled all of this." His mom was staring tearfully at the picture on the mantle, the folded flag, the shrine of his father's life and death. "I don't know how... I can't do what he..." "Mom, " Bailey sat up, "it'll be fine. You don't have to go see the Headmaster. I'm sure they can just send you a letter if you don't want to go in. Shit happens everywhere—" "Watch your language!" Daniel chuckled next to him at his mother's outrage. Bailey just sighed. "My point is... stuff happens anywhere. But this school, mom, this one—I believe everything will be okay. Just like they promised dad this summer. Things are different here. I still don't know what's going to happen, but I know Dr. Lansing isn't sweeping it under the rug like other schools have tried to do." "Are you sure, sweetheart? I don't know if I can trust—" "I believed him. Them. Even the football coach was there and said the same thing. And I did believe him. If I didn't, I wouldn't have told them anything, even though Declan already had." "If you'd like," Daniel cut in, his eyes soft as he smiled at Bailey's mother, "I can help if you want me to go with you to the school." Bailey glared at the lawyer. "I'm sure that won't be necessary," he bit out. You're not my father, don't try to act like it. She stared at him for several long moments before releasing a long exaggerated sigh. "No, I think I need to go in and talk to the principal—" "Headmaster, mom," Bailey corrected. "Yeah, right, Headmaster. How about we eat and call it an early night?" "I'll just grab some leftovers and eat in my room." Bailey darted to the kitchen. He heard his mom flop on the couch, and Daniel say something about getting her a glass of wine. Bailey dug in the fridge as Daniel walked in behind him and reached for a red wine from the cabinet. "You sure you're okay?" Daniel asked as he edged by Bailey to the drawer with the corkscrew. "I'm fine." He didn't know how many times he'd have to say it before they believed him. Maybe it would help if he believed it himself. "So..." Daniel tugged at the stubborn drawer. "The boy who was here..." He yanked a little harder before it gave and he could retrieve the bottle opener. "He's..." Bailey rolled his eyes at the man's obvious fishing. "He's a friend. He's on the football team, and he's in my math class." "Your mom seemed surprised to see him. Has he not been over to visit before?" Daniel worked the cork from the wine bottle. Bailey glared over his shoulder at the overt attempt to get Bailey to talk about his friendship with Declan. He grabbed some leftover lasagna, dumped some on a plate and stuffed it in the microwave before turning to face the man intruding on his life. "Not that it's any of your business, but Declan hasn't been over here before, none of my friends have." "Why not?" Unbelievable. Bailey shook his head. "Because I wasn't ready to have anyone here. This is my home. Mine and my mom's." He let the unspoken implication that Daniel wasn't welcome either hang between them. "And you didn't want to open it up to anyone else after your father died?" Daniel's voice was soft, sympathetic as he tilted his head questioningly, pointedly ignoring Bailey's slight. The microwave beeped as Bailey glared. "Fuck you." He yanked open the microwave door, grabbed his plate and stormed up the stairs. He slammed the door shut before dropping his plate on his desk and falling onto his bed. The man had no right to pry into his life. Bailey's fingers twitched, ghosting to his hip. God, how had his life gotten so messed up in such a short time? He pressed, itching for a little relief, but found none. Those cuts were too healed. His other hand drifted to his chest but fisted before he could dig into the barely scabbed over slice. That one was a mistake. He should never have used a place too hard to conceal. Bailey lay there, staring at the ceiling, trying to gain control of his spiraling thoughts. His mother upset with him for it happening again. The look on Chris's face as Bailey had left the conference room. The worry in Declan's eyes when he'd arrived. The shouts from students as he'd taken off. His mom still wanting his father to take care of everything, wanting to hide away and not deal with anything real. His dad for not being here to ask for advice. Hating Daniel for being here instead. He reached for his nightstand, lifting his book, and peering at the empty spot looking for it. Where was it? He needed it. Now. He was sure he'd slipped it under there after the last time. He rolled to his side, searching frantically. Had his mother found it? No, she never came in his room anymore. Then where—? He froze. Declan. Declan had been holding the book when Bailey had come back from the bathroom. Shit. Had Declan found it? If he had, why didn't he say something about it? Bailey leaned over the edge of the bed, eyes searching. He sighed in relief when he saw the sweet sliver of metal on the floor between his bed and nightstand. Maybe it had fallen there before Declan had even come over. At least, he hadn't stepped on it. A cool rush of anticipation washed over him as he shifted back on his bed. He grabbed a couple of tissues before lifting his shirt and unzipping his pants. He peeled back the edge of his black uniform trousers, barely sliding the waistband of his boxer briefs aside. The prick of the blade gave him the sweet jolt he needed to drench the fires of self-hate, grief, and anger threatening to consume him. He dropped the razor back onto his nightstand before dabbing at the wound with the tissues. He lay there just breathing, feeling the pull on the cut with each rise and fall of his stomach as he breathed. This one wasn't very big or deep, not like some of his others. Just enough to pull him through to the other side of his panic. His mind sought something to hang onto, something to keep him from falling back into the abyss. He needed something... His phone vibrated from his backpack. He'd shoved it there after speaking with his mom earlier—it seemed like forever ago, but was just this morning. He'd been vaguely aware of it making noise throughout the day but had been too upset to even look at it. Bailey finally rolled up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and reached his backpack. He dug out his phone, shocked to see so many text messages and even a few missed calls. It's not like many people even had his phone number, so who...? Justin. Of course. And Mateo, Cameron, Owen, and Luke. The team had apparently heard about his abrupt exit from school. And of course, he hadn't been at practice, so they were naturally worried about what was going on. The texts escalated in concern and urgency, wanting him to text back as soon as possible to let them know if he was okay. There were a couple voice mails from the several missed calls as well. And then the last few texts were interspersed with a new name. Declan. Declan. He thought of Declan asking to kiss him. Of Declan's lips against his. Of Declan's huge hand against his jaw. Of his breath as he whispered in his ear. And he smiled. He quickly texted his team back, letting them know he was all right, just tired now, and he'd talk to them tomorrow. Then he opened Declan's last text. D: <hope you're doing okay. enjoyed our talk... and after... > B: <thanks for coming. Sorry I was such a shit to you at first, but it was nice to talk. And of course, after was really nice too > D: < see you tomorrow, good night > B: <night> With his mind finally at ease, for the time being, he grabbed a pair of pajama pants, holding the bloody tissues to the new cut, and headed to the bathroom. He could still hear his mom and Daniel down in the living room, the TV on faintly in the background. He vaguely wondered how much of the wine his mom had drunk this time. Maybe sharing it with Daniel would cut the amount of her own consumption. Bailey locked the bathroom door. Bailey glanced down, lifting the bloody tissues. It was a little higher than he'd thought, more near his abdomen, but his pants would easily hide it. Flushing the evidence of his latest break and watching the tissues disappear in the swirl of water, he thought about how Declan had reacted to the blood earlier. He'd been worried. About Bailey. Bailey smiled to himself. Declan cared about him. And he'd kissed him, twice technically. His hand ghosted to the back of his neck where Declan's lips had been. His body tingled with the memory, of the hope... He'd spent the rest of the night wrestling with his thoughts, waking more tired than he usually did. He rolled out of bed, dressing for his morning run. A smile curled his lips as he wondered if Declan would be there today. He carefully folded his slacks and polo shirt and shoved an extra pair briefs and socks in his duffle bag for school as well as his gym gear. Hefting his backpack over his shoulder, he headed quietly down the stairs. "Good morning." The greeting was soft, a hushed whisper, but Bailey still nearly jumped out of his skin at the voice coming from the living room. "Jesus!" His back slammed into the wall as he whirled around, dropping his duffle bag. Daniel. Fuck. Bailey pressed his hand to his thundering heart, as if that would stop it from bursting out of his chest from fright. "Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you," Daniel said softly. Bailey finally focused on the man sitting in the living room, sprawled awkwardly on the end of the couch. Bailey's mom was stretched across the sofa with her head pillowed on Daniel Kirsch's lap. The man looked rumpled, grimacing a little as he shifted, probably stiff from sleeping in such an awkward position. "What are you still doing here?" Bailey accused. Daniel stroked his hand down Bailey's mom's arm. "She fell asleep, and I didn't have the heart to move her. She was exhausted last night... worried and..." "Yeah, well, there's nothing to worry about. I told her that. It's fine." "Bailey, she's just—" "Mhmm, Bailey?" his mom's sleepy voice interrupted Daniel. "Morning, mom." Bailey started to turn into the kitchen as his mom struggled to find her bearings and sit up. "Daniel, you're still here," she sighed. Bailey heard what he thought sounded like a kiss and nearly stumbled. He heard Daniel's deep voice speaking softly to her, but he couldn't make out any of the words. He was pretty sure he didn't want to hear them. "Bailey, sweetheart." He turned to see his mom walking into the kitchen as he rummaged in the pantry for his power bars. "Yeah?" he grunted, wanting her to just send Daniel away and go back to bed. "Michelle," Daniel's voice interrupted, "I'm going to run out to my car and get my change of clothes. Do you mind if I use the bathroom down here to freshen up before we go?" "No, no, of course not." Bailey froze. Change of clothes? Before we go? He turned, narrowing his eyes at Daniel before the man smiled and disappeared back out toward the front door. "Where are you going with him?" Bailey asked acidly, crossing his arms over his chest. "Sweetheart, he's going with us to your school. I asked him to come, just in case." "In case of what?" Bailey nearly yelled. "I told you already, the Headmaster and Dean were taking care of it!" "In case I need him," his mother admitted. "In case you need him." "I don't need him!" "Bailey! Stop it!" his mother snapped. "Daniel is just trying to help. And I need it. I thought we'd all have breakfast then head over to the school together." Bailey's jaw dropped. Breakfast? "So please, go get dressed in your school clothes," she added as the front door closed and Daniel's heavy footsteps tread across the floor. "I'm going running," Bailey said stubbornly. "Not today." His mom lifted her brow, daring him to disobey. "We need to do take care of this. Together. Now." Bailey stared her down for a long moment, wondering what made her suddenly care so much about his life now when she'd basically disappeared after his father's death. "Fine." He slammed the pantry door shut and stormed out of the kitchen, practically running into Daniel. "So why are you carrying a change of clothes around anyway?" Bailey snarled, not feeling the least bit amicable. Daniel blinked at his tone, but then cleared his throat, holding up the suit covered in plastic. "I had picked up my dry cleaning yesterday before coming over here to help your mom, and I always keep my gym bag in the car in case I have time to workout after I leave the office." "Yeah, sure," Bailey grumbled, reaching down to snatch up his own duffle and stomp up the stairs to change. "Bailey..." Daniel caught his arm. "Really. I'm just here to help. Both of you. I'm not... I'm not trying to replace your father. I just..." He paused, glancing down. "I want to be there for you, for both of you." "You just want my mom," Bailey accused. "Bailey—" his mom's sharp tone interrupted, but Daniel shook his head at her, stopping her rebuke. Daniel took a deep breath, glancing at Bailey's mom, before turning back to Bailey. "I do like your mom. I can't deny that. We knew each other in school, and it's been nice getting to know her again. Do I hope there might be more between us? Yeah. Eventually. Maybe..." Bailey's eyes widened at the man's admission, his mouth opening. "But," Daniel stopped any argument he might have said, "but I know we're not ready for that right now. You're not ready for it. I'm only hoping to have a chance to be a friend right now. For both of you." Tears pricked at the corners of Bailey's eyes at the words of the man in front of him. Bailey didn't want another man in his mother's heart. He didn't want someone to replace his dad, and no matter what Daniel said, that's what he was trying to do. Wasn't he? But Bailey couldn't find the words to say right now, so he turned stiffly and headed back to his room to change. **** "Bailey, it's good to see you looking well. We were worried yesterday, especially when Mr. Carter called up from the gate." The Headmaster smiled as he advanced from his office to where Bailey, his mom, and Daniel Kirsch waited. Bailey nodded. "Thank you, sir. I'm sorry I left. I just wasn't feeling very well." A sympathetic frown fell across Dr. Lansing's features. "Yes, I understand. Normally, leaving campus like that would not be acceptable; however, the circumstances were unusual. When Mr. Foster returned, he reported you were better and that your mother had arrived." "Yes, sir. Declan helped a lot. Thanks for letting him come check on me." "Somehow, I think he would have gone with or without permission," the Headmaster chuckled softly before turning to Bailey's mom. "Mrs. McIntyre, I'm so glad you were able to come," Dr. Lansing greeted, gesturing for all of them to head into his office. "Thank you," his mother said stiffly. Dr. Lansing smiled genuinely as he waved to the seats in front of his desk. Bailey watched the Headmaster turn to Daniel, his gaze curious as he held out his hand. "Hello, I'm Dr. Lansing, the Headmaster of Heritage Academy." Daniel immediately clasped the outstretched out. "Daniel Kirsch. I'm Bailey and Mrs. McIntyre's lawyer and friend. Mrs. McIntyre asked me to join her this morning." Bailey blinked. Had the man just said he was Bailey's lawyer, not just his mom's? Dr. Lansing only reacted the tiniest bit to the fact that they'd brought a lawyer to the meeting. "Of course. Nice to meet you, Mr. Kirsch." Dr. Lansing smiled as he moved to pull a third chair over so all three of them could sit down. After his mom and Daniel sat down, Bailey slunk into the third chair as the Headmaster rounded the desk to his own chair. "I want you to know that we are very sorry about what Bailey has been through," Dr. Lansing began. "Heritage has very strict policies about acceptance, tolerance, and of course, bullying. This is certainly not what we expect of our students, and I assure you Mr. Vasser and Mr. Olander's conduct is no exception." "I..." Bailey was surprised at the squeaky tone of his mom's voice. "I know my husband chose this school because of its reputation. This is... it is... We expected Bailey to be safe here. And then this..." She waved her hand, unable to finish. Dr. Lansing was nodding. "Yes, ma'am. You are absolutely correct—" "Mom, I told you, it happened off campus," Bailey interrupted, not liking the idea of her blaming the school for what had happened. "Sh—stuff can happen anywhere." "But," Dr. Lansing continued with a quick look at Bailey, "it shouldn't happen, and we work very hard to see it doesn't happen here at Heritage Academy. Mr. Vasser and Mr. Olander understood this clearly from the first day they set foot on campus." "I just need... How can I know..." his mom began brokenly, and Bailey suddenly realized just how close to tears she was. "Mom, I'm—" "Dr. Lansing," Daniel cut in, and Bailey watched his hand slide over his mother's which was gripping the arm of the chair. "What Mrs. McIntyre, and of course Bailey, need to know is, what is being done to ensure Bailey's safety going forth?" Bailey gaped at the man, so strong and poised, staring down the Headmaster. Dr. Lansing smiled and folded his hands on his desk. "Of course. Well, both boys have been expelled from Heritage for their clear violation of major school rules and community expectations..." Bailey sucked in a breath at the confirmation of their punishment. He'd known it was a possibility, but for some reason he still didn't think football stars like Chris and Eric would ever be punished so severely. He felt slightly guilty for the warm rush of relief that overcame him knowing that he wouldn't have to suffer Chris and Eric's snide remarks or furtive assaults anymore. He sat up straighter. This school was sticking up for him. "... Bailey won't have to worry about facing either one of them in school going forth," Dr. Lansing was saying. "Eric Olander will be picked up today by his parents. Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Vasser were out of the country when we contacted them. We expect them to pick up Chris on Monday morning." Bailey saw his mom frown. Daniel sat forward, a look of consternation on his face. "Does this mean Bailey shouldn't be on campus as long as this other boy is still here?" "Oh, no, of course not. Chris Vasser was moved yesterday to an empty room in the faculty residence. His meals will be brought to him there, and he will not be allowed to leave the building until his parents arrive to pick him up. I expect they will arrive sometime mid-morning on Monday, and Mr. Zamora and I will have a meeting with them before they leave campus. Bailey's studies and activities will not be impacted any further by either of them." "What about off-campus?" Daniel asked. "Could either of these boys try to seek revenge on Bailey, especially now that they are not under Heritage's supervision?" Bailey twisted in his seat, a twinge of pain sparking on his abs from it. Revenge. That was pretty much inevitable, wasn't it? There was nothing the school could do after this, and he was sure Chris would want it. Dr. Lansing spread his hands. "Well, of course, we won't have any direct influence over their actions after they leave. However, I can say with some confidence that they should not be a problem, but if you are worried, you could consider contacting the police." "Why won't they be a problem?" his mother finally spoke up, cautiously hopeful. "Well, Eric Olander lives about four hours away in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. And Chris Vasser lives in New Haven, Connecticut, over seven hours away." "Oh!" his mother gasped in surprise. Bailey's jaw dropped as well. Over seven hours away? "I had no idea students came from that far away." His mother's hand fluttered at her throat. "I mean, I know my husband told me how prestigious Heritage was but I... I didn't know just how..." Dr. Lansing smiled. "Quite alright, Mrs. McIntyre. A lot of our students are from much closer, but Heritage does have students from all over the world." "Well," Daniel smoothed down the front of his suit, "that is good to know. I'm sure it will be a relief to not have to worry about these boys going forward." "I believe you have nothing to be concerned about. We will certainly keep an eye on things here on campus, but we feel strongly that Bailey will continue to flourish here at Heritage. We certainly look forward to his first competition this weekend." Dr. Lansing smiled pleasantly. "Are there any other concerns or questions I can help you with?" Bailey turned to his mom and Daniel. The lawyer seemed to talk to Bailey's mother with his eyes before they both shook their heads, rising. "No, I think we are good," Daniel stated, taking Bailey's mom's elbow. "Yes, thank you, Dr. Lansing," his mother agreed. "I feel much better. You have handled this situation much better than I expected, considering other schools we've dealt with." "Well, I'll take that as a compliment, Mrs. McIntyre. We appreciate the trust you put in us." Dr. Lansing came around the desk, and Bailey followed behind them all as they exited the office. "Bailey, I believe first class will be starting in a few minutes, if you'd like to head over to the academic hall," Dr. Lansing stated. Bailey took the hint, having no desire to stay in the Headmaster's office any longer than necessary. "Thank you, sir." He hesitated as he turned, his mom was still clutching Daniel's arm. "Um, bye, mom." "Bailey..." she called as he shifted for the door. "Have a good day, sweetheart. What class do you have now?" "Uh, English." He edged further toward the door. Her eyes brightened. "Oh, maybe you'll get your paper back today, and he'll post grades online." Bailey swallowed thickly. The stupid English paper. "Yeah, maybe." Hopefully, not, he thought to himself, but it obviously it was inevitable. "Bye, Bailey. We'll see you later," Daniel Kirsch added. Bailey managed a cordial wave in front of Dr. Lansing before darting out the door, hoping to make it to class before the bell rang. "Thanks." **** Bailey managed to avoid students wanting to corner him with questions as he feigned being busy reading on his phone between classes, pretending he hadn't heard his name called until it was too late and class had started. He didn't want to deal want to deal with anyone upset that he'd gotten the star quarterback kicked out of school. Justin and Cameron caught up to him on his way to lunch, crowding around him protectively, practically escorting him to the dining hall. It was at least effective at preventing others who Bailey hardly knew from accosting him with questions. He kept his head down as he walked not wanting to see accusing eyes blazing at him. "Bailey, you okay? You're... well, even quieter than usual," Cameron asked. "Yeah, I'm fine." It seemed like he was constantly saying that. "You know you can talk to us, right?" Justin added. "We're here for you." "I know. I just—" He sighed heavily. "You know everyone is going to be pissed, right?" Justin blinked at him, stunned, before laughing. "Is that what you think?" Bailey frowned. His teammates broke out into huge grins. "Bailey, most of the school thinks you're a god for standing up to Chris and Eric. Chris been an egotistical asshole since he's been here, but his parents are loaded and he thinks he can do whatever he wants because he's God's gift to football." Bailey stared at Justin like he had two heads. That didn't make any sense. "Yeah," Cameron added, "I think even most of the football team is glad to be rid of him from what I heard last night." Bailey was stunned into silence as they walked into the dining hall, dropping their bags at their usual table before getting in line. This time Bailey cautiously surveyed the students flowing around him. No one was glaring at him. No one was sneering. Curious looks. Some smiles. Even a couple waves. Cameron nudged him as he absently put his food on his tray. "See? I told ya." A tiny smile tipped the corners of Bailey's mouth. Maybe it would be okay. He relaxed his shoulders, unaware that he'd been so tense they were nearly up to his ears. He breathed a little easier as he followed slowly behind Justin and Cameron back across the dining hall. He saw Declan dropping his backpack at the table next to theirs along with several guys he recognized from the football team—Nick, he thought, and Jose, Ben, and... was it Jaime? Declan was laughing at something one of his friends said when he looked up and met Bailey's eyes. The change on his face was instant. The softening of his eyes, the genuine smile. The flirtatious wink. Bailey's shoulder was suddenly jerked back as a passing student slammed into it. He nearly fumbled his tray, the plate sliding precariously. He struggled to right it as he looked up to apologize. Damn, he should have been paying attention to where he was going instead of fawning over Declan. "Sor—" "Couldn't fucking let things alone, could ya?" Bailey flinched at the vicious whisper, stepping back from the blatant anger staring down at him. "What?" he stammered, stunned. "You just had to run to the Headmaster and cry like a little girl." The guy poked Bailey's shoulder forcibly, causing Bailey to lose control of the tray. The crash silenced the dull roar that normally permeated the dining hall. Bailey's cheeks flushed bright red as the guy smirked down at him. He dropped down, immediately attempting to clean up the mess. Declan was suddenly next to him. Cameron and Justin were right behind him. Justin had leaned in threateningly, opening his mouth, when Declan beat him too it. "Eddie, what the hell is going on?" "Nothing. Just asking a question is all." Bailey looked up to see Eddie shrugging. "And what question is that?" Declan demanded. "You know what," Eddie hissed back. Bailey vaguely registered Mr. Bassinger jogging across the dining hall, his walkie-talkie up to his mouth, obviously concerned about potential trouble. Another student had stepped up behind Eddie, his arms crossed as he backed up his friend. Bailey's hands shook as he gathered up the fallen silverware. "Yeah, well, you know what?" Declan leaned forward into Eddie's face, his voice rising. "Bailey didn't turn Chris in. I did. And he fucking deserved it." Eddie jerked as if Declan had slugged him. "What?" Declan looked like he was going to say something more, but Mr. Bassinger was suddenly there, pushing between the two. "Back up. Now. Everyone calm down. What's going on?" Declan immediately stepped back, his fists unclenching, Justin and Cameron hovering at his back, letting Declan deal with the asshole. "Eddie is just jumping all over Bailey for something he didn't do." Bailey slowly stood, most of the mess of his lunch back on the tray, as Eddie and his friend stared disbelievingly between him and Declan. "But I thought—" "Yeah, you fucking thought," Declan spat out. "Maybe if you had more brain cells, and thought for yourself instead of following Chris like a damn puppy, you'd know better." Bailey stared open-mouthed at Declan, who stared down Eddie along with Justin. Cameron turned and took the tray from him, apparently satisfied that Declan and Justin could handle Eddie and his friend. "You okay?" Cameron asked, causing Declan to glance over at Bailey, those hazel eyes raking over him worriedly. Bailey nodded automatically. "Mr. Bowman—" Mr. Bassinger started but stopped at the sharp, rapid click of dress shoes. They all turned to see Headmaster Lansing striding purposefully towards them with Dean Zamora and one of the security guards on his heels. The furrowed brow and tight jaw had every boy in the dining hall involuntarily hunching in dread. "Is this about what I think it is?" Dr. Lansing stopped in front of them, his hands on his hips. For a moment, no one spoke. Mr. Bassinger was obviously giving the boys a chance to answer first. Bailey noticed that the Headmaster had barely glanced at him, his eyes boring into Eddie and Declan, demanding answers. "Yes, sir," Declan finally said. "Eddie was talking shit to Bailey because of what happened to Chris." Dr. Lansing stared at Eddie for so long, Eddie visibly cringed. "I didn't know. I—" "Stop with the excuses, Mr. Bowman. It is obvious this needs to be addressed here and now, once and for all." The Headmaster turned to Bailey, Declan, Justin and Cameron. "You boys, go sit." "Yes, sir," they both murmured automatically. Bailey turned, ready to take the tray back from Cameron to go dump it, when one of the custodians took it from his teammate. Bailey hadn't realized the man had arrived behind him with a mop at the ready. Bailey ducked quickly out of the way, Declan and his teammates following at his back, glaring at Eddie and Tripp. Dr. Lansing slowly surveyed all the students sitting in rapt attention, lunch forgotten. The Headmaster's voice rose as he addressed the whole dining hall. "These are the facts as we know them: Chris Vasser and Eric Olander physically assaulted another student. There is video footage that is not in dispute. This is a clear violation of a major Academy rule. What they did works against everything we stand for. You need to understand this. It cannot be tolerated. It will not be tolerated. As of yesterday, Chris and Eric have been expelled and will not be returning to this school. I'm telling you this so that you know exactly what happened, and what is going to happen. Do not speculate or get involved in rumors and gossip. This is not your affair, and not your business. Don't insert yourself into this situation." His tone brooked no chance for argument. "Mr. Bowman, you can come with me to my office." With that, the Headmaster strode back out of the dining hall, Eddie slinking behind him. Tripp had edged away from Eddie, but the Dean was still watching him closely. "Alright! Everyone, finish your lunch. If anyone feels the need to say anything more about this, they can come tell me. Otherwise, this is done." Mr. Zamora inclined his head to Mr. Bassinger, who nodded back, slipping his walkie-talkie back onto his hip. Silence still reigned for several minutes as Mr. Zamora spoke in a hushed whisper to the security guard before heading towards Bailey. "Mr. McIntyre, Mr. Foster, please go get your lunches." Bailey nodded numbly, still dumbfounded by all that had just happened. He glanced at Declan, who jerked his head for Bailey to follow after the dean had exited the dining hall. "Holy shit," someone whispered. The chattering noise slowly rose around them as Declan and Bailey headed to the lunch line, making their way past the custodian mopping up the remnants of Bailey's first lunch. Declan turned and grinned back at Bailey as they grabbed trays. Bailey heard other students behind him, those who hadn't gotten lunch yet either. "Man, Dec, can't believe you said that to Eddie," someone behind them said. "And Bailey, man... so sorry Eddie was being a jerk." Declan edged next to him, and Bailey felt Declan's hand slid to his back, nudging him forward. It was strange how it felt protective, as if Declan were shielding him from everyone. "Thanks," Bailey muttered, abstractedly moving food to his tray. "You okay?" Declan's whisper was so close, he nearly jumped. Bailey looked up into worried hazel eyes, a smile tipping his lips. "Yeah, I think I am."
  2. 75 points
    Chapter 20 --Bailey-- Bailey didn't even look up, but he heard Declan freeze on the steps. "You're right," he repeated. When he didn't hear any response or movement from Declan, he finally lifted his eyes. Declan just stared at him, waiting. "I know that. But I really just... I just don't care about Chris or Eric or their bullshit right now." Declan's eyes darkened with understanding. "Got better things to worry about?" Bailey's lips thinned into a tight line before he nodded jerkily, turning and retreating deeper into his bedroom. He sighed heavily as he sank down on his bed. "I'm sorry I caused so much trouble for you and your team. I really didn't want it to happen again. I thought it would just go away." He heard a creak and looked up to see Declan standing in the doorway. "Again? Did something like this happen with your old team? It sounded like it before when you—" "What do you want me to say, Declan?" Bailey huffed. "Of course, it's happened before. I'm gay and a gymnast!" "Hey, hey, hey, I'm sorry. I was just..." he trailed off, shrugging. Bailey stared intently at Declan's hazel eyes. Concern and... something else... yearning?... swirling in the brown and green depths. Bailey shifted to the side, silently offering Declan to join him. Declan twitched, as if wanting to dart forward, but holding himself back. Bailey let a slight smile touch his lips before offering a tiny cant of his head in invitation. Declan didn't hesitate this time as he stepped into the room, but Bailey did see him clench and unclench his fists nervously before he sat down. Bailey felt his bed dip under the linebacker's weight, causing him to tilt and bump Declan's shoulder. "As you might've guessed, I've always been... well, smaller than most guys my age." Bailey gave a self-deprecating smile. "Gymnastics came easy for me, but I did other sports here and there, you know, to fit in, but even so there was always someone bigger who thought it cool to push around the smaller guy." "And you never... um, you know, took like self-defense lessons or something... Your parents never...?" Declan asked awkwardly. He was curious, but he didn't want to offend Bailey either. "I didn't let them know about it. I think Dad suspected sometimes, but he was deployed a lot, and it was easy to say any bruises or stuff came from the gym. Of course, he'd shown me some self-defense stuff, but... you know, I tried not to let him know anything was wrong. Honestly, I've found... well, I get hurt less if I don't fight back." Declan's eyes widened. "Shit. Really?" Bailey almost laughed. "Yeah, bullies get bored if they don't get a rise out of you. Well, most of the time anyway." "Damn. Why did you bother doing football?" "I'd done youth football some, so when I started high school, my dad thought I might want to do it as my fall sport. I was still doing gymnastics, just not through the high school. I made the varsity team as a freshman because they needed a good runner, and I was faster than anyone they had on the team." He smiled at the memory of making the team, the general camaraderie for those first few weeks. "We won all our games." Declan grinned down at him, nudging his shoulder. "I'll bet. You're a fast little shit." Bailey smiled at the compliment. "It was good. Until, well, until some of the team found out I was gay after a game one night." Bailey heard Declan suck in a breath. "They gave you shit about it, I guess." "It wasn't like I was hiding it, but I wasn't announcing it either. A guy I'd been out with a couple times—we were friends— accidently outed me to the team that night. It wasn't like it hadn't happened before—you know, being harassed for being gay—but I didn't think it would matter this time, I mean, they knew me. I was part of the team; they treated me just like everyone else, better almost because I could run down practically every receiver." Bailey felt his eyes prickle at the memories flooding him, the look of hate in Mason's eyes... He stared down at his hands clenched in his lap. Could he tell Declan the rest? Would the guy see him differently? "It's okay." Declan's voice sounded growly for some reason, and Bailey looked up to see his eyes darkening with outrage. "It's not your fault. Some people are just idiots. Hope the coach gave them hell." Bailey frowned down at his hands, picking at a hangnail as his heart rate sped up. "No. Actually, he 'suggested'," Bailey said using air quotes, "that it might be better for team dynamics if I quit the team." "Jesus. I'm so sorry. That totally sucks." Bailey felt Declan shift a moment before an arm draped over his shoulders offering a comforting squeeze. Bailey tensed momentarily, instinctively wanting to pull away from the touch, but Declan's hold was light, soothing... not restraining... "I can't imagine that happening..." Bailey shrugged, trying not to let Declan see how it had devastated him at the time. "Dad threatened to sue them... you know, for discrimination and whatever, but... but... it wasn't worth it. And I didn't even want to be in the same county as Mason after—after all that anyway." The words caught on the end of his tongue before he spilled more than he had to anyone except his father. He rushed on, hoping Declan hadn't noticed the hitch in his voice at the mention of Mason. "So mom and dad found another high school in the next county over for the rest of the school year. It wasn't too bad there, but dad was started researching private schools. And, ta-da, we moved here, so I could go to Heritage." "Best thing that happened to me. And the school, if you ask me." Declan's hand shifted to consolatory pats on his back. "So, Mason, huh? Was he the quarterback?" Bailey dug at his finger, debating even saying anything else, but something about Declan had him wanting to confide, to give up his secrets. Maybe because Declan was the only one who knew about Chris and Eric ambushing him, maybe because he felt something a little more for Declan than he had for anyone in a long time. "He was a receiver. Alec, his best friend, was the quarterback." "I'm guessin' those two are the ones who spearheaded the 'get the gay off the team' campaign. Right?" Declan surmised, and Bailey only nodded. "Did they..." Declan broke off, obviously searching for the right words, but Bailey could practically tell what was running through the other teen's mind. "Did they, or someone, do something... did they a-attack you, to try to force you to quit?" And there it was. Bailey heaved a deep sigh. He'd gone this far, he might as well see what Declan was made of if he heard the whole story. He nodded. "Yeah." "God, I hope it wasn't as bad as what Chris—" Bailey was already shaking his head. "Well, good. I—" "Worse." Declan's mouth dropped open, horror in his eyes. Bailey could see the guy fighting between wanting to know and staying oblivious. "H-h-how worse?" "Declan..." Bailey dropped his head, shaking it. "You don't really—" "I do. If you want to tell me," Declan said, his hand slipping up to the back of Bailey's neck, kneading, almost caressing. "I'm willing to listen." "It's just not something I've talked about..." Bailey could feel his heart pounding in his chest, his body trembling... "You don't have to either," Declan said quickly, giving Bailey a friendly shake. "Only when you want to—" "They caught me leaving school late after a conference with a teacher," Bailey blurted out, causing Declan to fall silent, listening. "Dragged me off school property. There were three... Mason, Alec and Dennis... all from the team. They just wanted to rough me up a bit, make me see it would be best to leave the team. I'd already decided that, even told them I was quitting. They punched me a couple times, just to make their point, not really much more than Chris did... I thought they were going to leave... But then Mason..." Bailey's voice cracked, and he had to clear his throat. "Mason, um, got this look... And then I was on the ground... and Mason... he-he was telling the others to hold me... he was pulling at the back of my pants... they were yelling back at him... I-I don't know... it was all so fast, but slow at the same time, ya know?" Bailey didn't even look up at Declan, couldn't look into those eyes right now. He hadn't even realized that he'd started rubbing at his chest again until Declan gripped his hand and pulled it away. Declan just held him, offering gentle support. "You're shaking," Declan said softly, his grip becoming firmer on Bailey's neck and on his hand, grounding him. It was several minutes before Bailey had the nerve to look up, expecting to see disgust, maybe pity on Declan's face. But what he saw was worry laced with anger. "Did—did he—?" Declan's jaw clenched, even as he shook his head at himself. "No, sorry, I don't mean to pry, but I—" "No." Bailey cut off Declan's rambling. "He didn't. He was going to. With a beer bottle from the ground..." Declan's sharp intake of breath had Bailey rushing to finish "... but he didn't. Alec and Dennis backed off when they realized what he was planning, calling him crazy or something. Mason leaned over me, trying to hold me down himself, taunting me, calling me names, telling me how he was going to fu...fuck me up... But he couldn't hold me and... well, do what he wanted. If he'd been your size..." Bailey swallowed, words clogging his throat. "Well, he lost his grip as I fought back. I ran." Bailey's eyes flicked up to Declan's stunned face. The guy was pale and quiet, his eyes haunted. "I... I just hate... for you to see me... as weak. Well, weaker than you already do..." Bailey whispered, fighting back tears. God, how pathetic was that. Here he was about to cry in front of this huge, amazing guy— Declan drew him closer, pressing their foreheads together, those hazel eyes suspiciously wet. "You are anything but weak." Declan's voice was gravelly, and he had to clear his throat before he could continue. "Jesus, Bailey, I don't know anyone who can fight off a bigger guy, let alone three. I think you might be the strongest person I know. And I don't mean just that you can hang like a T from the rings. You've been through so much shit, I can't even imagine—the crap at your old schools with that Mason guy and now Chris, having to change schools so much, your father dying... That's intense shit. I get why you kept to yourself so much." Bailey turned slightly so he could see Declan's face, to judge his sincerity. "It took me a long time before I'd let anyone touch me after that," Bailey confessed. For a second Declan didn't move, but then he jerked back like a snake had bit him. "Oh shit." Declan yanked his arm away from Bailey, his eyes wide with alarm. "I'm sorry, I—I didn't—" "No." Bailey stopped Declan's panicked retreat with a hand on his thigh. "No. It's okay. I don't feel that way with you. I don't feel like you're restraining me when you... do that," he said with a soft smile. "But I just wanted you to know why I sometimes jump when someone touches me." Declan was still trying to pull away, obviously worried he'd pressed Bailey's limits, but Bailey leaned into his retreat. "Hey, don't. Please." Then he looked up at Declan's anxious face, and his own panic set in. "Unless... unless you..." Bailey jumped up, his hand running through his hair, lacing behind his head briefly. "Oh, fuck, I'm sorry. I thought you... we... but... oh geez, I shouldn't have told you—" Suddenly, two strong hands were gripping his face, halting his anxious pacing. "Stop. Breathe." Bailey's breath caught as hazel eyes stared down at him. He grabbed at Declan's wrists, trying to calm himself. "I'm glad you trusted me enough to tell me," Declan whispered. "I want to kill this Mason guy, but you... you make me feel so fucking..." His voice trailed off. Declan's warm breath teased his lips as Bailey's own came in sharp pants. Being so close to the gorgeous linebacker, and with the way Declan's eyes kept sweeping over him—both wanting and tender but also nervous and shy—Bailey was sure he'd never felt so nervous and shy—Bailey didn't know what to feel. But he felt more and more drawn to Declan... He'd bared his soul to Declan and the guy was looking at him like he was something to be cherished and treasured. He felt like he should say something... anything... but couldn't find any words that wouldn't just ruin this perfect moment. "I... I want..." Declan's voice was low and scratchy as his long lashes dipped over his eyes, obviously trying to gather his courage to continue. "I'd like to... kiss you... if that's all right?" Bailey's fingers tightened on Declan's wrists as the words hit him, and he could only nod briefly, afraid his voice would fail him if he attempted to use it. Bailey lifted slightly on his toes as Declan leaned down. Bailey felt a soft puff of breath a moment before Declan's full lips press hesitantly to his. It was brief and cautious at first, Declan watching Bailey's reaction for any sign of distress. But Bailey lifted farther, chasing Declan's lips as he attempted to pull back. A gasp of surprise huffed between them before Declan returned, claiming Bailey's lips firmly. Bailey licked across the seam of Declan's lips, his hands moving to the front of Declan's shirt. "Bailey, are you—" Bailey and Declan heard the woman's voice only seconds before it erupted into a shrill shriek. "Oh, my God! Get away from him, you—you--! Daniel! Help! Call the police!" Bailey barely had time to register his mother racing into the room shoving at Declan's shoulder and trying to edge her way in front of him. The thundering of footsteps on the stairs heralded Daniel's arrival a moment later, looking at them in confusion before he narrowed his eyes on Declan. He had his phone out instantly, as he edged his way in front of Bailey and his mother. Bailey almost laughed at his mother's reaction, but poor Declan was standing wide-eyed and panicked, holding his hands up innocently. It was almost... comical to see her react so strongly to Declan being in his room. "Mom—" "Daniel, Daniel, call the police," she rushed out. "This boy was attacking my son. How did you even get in here?" she snapped at Declan. "Did you think you could get away with hurting him again, you son-of-a-bitch?!" "Mom!" Bailey shouted to get her attention, but stopped and grabbed Daniel by the wrist that was holding his phone. "Stop. Don't call anyone. Declan is my friend." Daniel studied Bailey for a moment before putting his phone in his pocket. "Are you sure you're alright?" "Yes, yes, I'm fine." Bailey stepped around Daniel towards Declan, facing his stunned mother. "Mom, this is Declan. He's... he's the one who helped me, and he reported the... incident to the dean yesterday. He was just checking to make sure I was okay. That's all." His mother's mouth opened and closed a couple times before she found her voice. "He was grabbing you... it looked like..." She faltered, her hand shaking. "Are you sure he wasn't... hurting..." "He definitely wasn't hurting me," Bailey assured, and he noticed a smirk on Declan's lips as he tried to bite back a grin. Even as his mom frowned at him, Daniel's brows shot up. "Oh! Oh. Okay. Well, then. Your mom and I will wait for you downstairs... to talk about... things." Daniel took his mom's elbow and tugged, even as she tried to resist, looking over her shoulder at Bailey and Declan. "Daniel, I don't think—" "It's fine, Michelle. The boys will be down in just a minute, right, boys?" Daniel eyed both of them. "Yes, sir," Declan piped up, but Bailey frowned at the man sounding so much like his father might. You're not my father, Bailey almost snapped. You have no right to tell me to do anything! But Declan's hand landed between his shoulder blades, cutting off any retort he had on the tip of his tongue. They watched the two adults retreat down the stairs, Daniel Kirsch murmuring to his mother as they went. After they were gone, Bailey finally turned to Declan. The guy's shoulders were shaking in quiet laughter. "Well, that went well." Bailey glared at him, but Declan just grinned, spreading his hands. "Hey, it could have been worse." "She thought you were attacking me," Bailey sighed. "She thought you were Chris." Declan sobered slightly. "Yeah, I know. But it's good that she's protective." Bailey turned, staring at the floor. "It is, I guess," he said softly. "Since dad...died... she's been..." He kicked at the laundry on the floor. "She hasn't really been here, you know what I mean?" Declan stepped up behind him. "And then Daniel comes along, and she's... I don't know... she can care for him, but not—" Bailey gripped the back of his desk chair. Long fingers wrapped his biceps as Declan stepped up behind him. Bailey startled a moment when he felt Declan's lips press a tentative kiss to the base of his neck. Bailey's body sagged back into Declan's. "Let's go downstairs. She's waiting for you. I can tell she loves you," Declan tried to soothe Bailey. "Maybe she's just having a hard time showing it." "Whatever." Bailey wrenched free of Declan's gentle hold, not wanting to hear excuses for his mom's behavior, and lead the way down the stairs. Back on the first floor, he saw his mom and Daniel in the kitchen, his mom at the table and Daniel making coffee. The man seemed so at home in their home. "Declan's going to go back to school now," Bailey announced as he herded the bigger teen towards the front door. Once Declan was on the porch and they were both out of sight of the two adults in the kitchen, Declan leaned in, brushing his lips across Bailey's jaw. Bailey's irritation deflated almost instantly as Declan's breath caressed his ear. "It'll be okay, Bailey. I'll be here for you." Bailey fought a sob—of relief, of frustration, of stress—a soft bark of breath all that managed to escape as he nodded. He couldn't take his eyes off Declan as he turned to leave, those strong muscles rippling under the simple navy polo shirt, his thighs straining the khakis. "Thank you," Bailey finally squeaked out before Declan was too far to hear him. Declan turned and smiled back at him. "For everything. For telling the Dean, for confronting Chris, for coming by..." "Anytime, Bailey. Anytime." --Declan— Oh, holy hell. I kissed him. I actually fucking kissed him. Declan had detoured to Heritage park only a couple blocks out of his way because he needed time to get himself together. He dropped heavily on one of the park benches, hearing the old wood creak under his weight. He leaned forward, brushing his hands through his hair before lacing his fingers behind his head. His heart was racing with what had happened. Not only had Bailey trusted him, shared horrific memories with him, but he'd allowed Declan to kiss him. Had returned it in fact. That had Declan grinning broadly to the nearly empty park. "Fuck Yeah!" At the frown from a nearby mother watching her toddlers running around, Declan realized maybe he had been a little too loud. He waved an apology, offering her a nod before he started back toward campus. He couldn't take too much longer; the Mr. Zamora had only given him the short leave to check on Bailey. The walk didn't seem to take any time at all with his mind occupied with all that Bailey had shared with him in confidence. He hated that Bailey had had such a hard time at his previous school, especially with the Pitbulls. And this shit called Mason. Declan felt his fists clench and his jaw tighten. Damn, he wanted to bust Mason's mouth open for what he'd done to Bailey, maybe even those other two—Alec and Dennis—as well for the haunted look they'd left in Bailey's soft gray eyes. Bailey's quiet demeanor, his withdrawn, solitary behavior, when he'd arrived at Heritage Academy made so much more sense. Between being nearly raped by former teammates and the loss of his father, Declan wasn't sure how Bailey managed to cope so well. The pain would be nearly unbearable. Declan wanted to wrap Bailey up and make all his misery go away. Maybe he'd managed to do that—just a bit anyway—when Bailey had allowed Declan to hold him and then kiss him. "Good to see you made it back," the guard greeted as Declan approached and scanned his ID to check back onto campus. The man held out Declan's backpack that he'd dropped there, and Declan grabbed it. "Thank you, sir." "How is Mr. McIntyre? I've heard a little of what is going on. The Headmaster is calling a meeting with all staff members for later this afternoon, but I'm sorry about what happened. Is he okay?" Declan nodded. "Yes, he's better. Just overwhelmed, I think. His mom arrived, so I came back." "It's good he had a friend or two to help him through this. Until these last couple weeks, he's always been alone, so quiet and withdrawn. I always worried about him a little. Thought maybe he should stay on campus, be around his classmates more... well, anyway. I'm glad to hear he's okay." The security guard gave Declan a pat on the back before heading back into his little guardhouse. The school was quiet as he made his way to Bedford Hall, the academic building. As he entered and headed up to the second floor, the bell rang to dismiss the first class. Perfect timing, he grinned. He hovered outside the door as students filed out. "Declan, man, what the hell is going on?" Nick said, grabbing his arm and pulling him away from the door. "What do you mean?" Nick huffed. "I mean, with Chris and Eric. There's rumors they were talking with the Headmaster." "Why would I know what's up?" Declan lied; he didn't want to fuel rumors any more than they already were, especially if the administration hadn't yet made any decisions or announcement. Nick glared at him, Alex joining them, also hoping for some juicy information. Declan suddenly wondered of his roommate and suitemates were getting hit with the same kinds of questions. Would they stay quiet? "I gotta get into class," he said quickly. "I'll see you guys at practice. Maybe coach will know something." "Yeah, maybe," Nick agreed. Declan had no problem punting the issue to the coach for now. Declan really didn't know anything, and he wasn't about to get into trouble by stirring up more shit among the students with speculation. He headed to his desk and pulled out his phone, sending out a quick text to Evan, Logan, and Micah before Chemistry class started. D: <Guys, I shoulda said before... don't talk to anyone about the Bailey/Chris situation. Please.> E: <I got that from the HM, told Micah and Logan already.> L: <We're good, D> M: <NP> D: <Thx> He slumped back in his chair as Mr. Bassinger started up a new lesson on covalent bonds, but he could feel the various searching eyes wondering what he might know. The ninety minute period seemed to stretch out even longer today, especially with no lab to make it more interesting. Even though they played a little game guessing what kind of chemical bond various compounds had based on their chemical formulas, it was a tedious class. Declan was more than ready for class to end and to get to lunch, since he'd missed breakfast giving the Dean the thumb drive and then chasing down Bailey. Lunch, of course, was chaos. Everyone was whispering about what they'd seen this morning and what that might mean. No one had seen Chris or Eric since then, which probably meant they were still in the meeting with the Disciplinary Board, or they'd possibly been picked up and taken home already. Although that would be pretty quick. Declan thought he remembered Chris talking about his parents being somewhere in Europe right now, so maybe they were just sequestered back in their rooms or something. Declan grabbed his food quickly and found a table as far away in the corner as possible. Evan, Logan and Micah quickly joined him, forming a wall from the rest of the mess. "Thanks, guys," he breathed out gratefully, keeping his eyes lowered so as not to catch anyone's eyes. "Yo, Dec! Thought you'd be joining us over here!" Nick called out. Declan glanced up, noting that Nick sat with Ben, Alex, Jaime, and Jose—all good guys who'd never liked Chris's ego. But then Tripp and Eddie joined them, and Declan wasn't so sure about how the mood of the table would be. Eddie, especially, had been one of Chris's more vocal flunkies. And Declan wasn't in the mood to listen to Eddie run his mouth extolling Chris and Eric's virtues. "I'm just eating with my roomies today. Maybe tomorrow, okay?" Nick smiled and waved. Evan shoved a french fry in his mouth. "So. How's it going?" Declan chuckled at his best friend's nonchalant attitude. He knew the guys must want to know more, especially since they were privy to more information than anyone else at the moment. "It's good. Chemistry was boring..." A fry suddenly bounced off his chest. "You know that's not what I mean, dumbass. I saw you chase after Bailey. What happened? Is he okay? Is he seriously pissed with you?" Evan plopped his elbows on the table and waited. Declan just smiled. He leaned forward to answer, but stopped and looked up to the five students looming over his roommates. Logan, Micah, and Evan shifted to see who had dared invade their space. Justin. Luke. Cameron. Owen. Mateo. The gymnastics team. "Declan, can we have a word with you?" Justin said rather formally. "What do you need?" he responded cautiously. "We need... we need to know that our teammate is okay." Justin glanced at the rest of them. "We heard you maybe saw him... later this morning." Declan nodded, not sensing any hostility from the guys. He patted the chair next to him, for Justin to join him. The others squeezed into chairs around the table waiting anxiously for information. "Bailey is fine. As fine as he can be, anyway. He talked to the Dean and Headmaster this morning, but then he headed back home. I... I did follow him, to make sure he was okay. He was a little upset, but he calmed down while I was there. Then his mom came home and I left." Mateo's eyes darted around before he blurted out his question. "He's... he's not... leaving Heritage, is he? Please tell me he's not." Declan jerked back, shocked by the thought. "No. No. I don't think so. No, I'm sure that's not going to happen." Hell, he hoped it didn't. But Bailey's parents did have a habit of pulling him from school's that didn't protect him. Surely, Mrs. McIntyre would see that Heritage Academy wasn't like other schools. "Good. Do you know what's going on? There's talk about Chris and Eric seeing the Dean and Headmaster too." Justin cocked his head, assessing Declan's reactions. "Did they do something to him, and Bailey turned them in?" "If he did, they deserved it," Cameron spat out. "I can't really say right now," Declan said evasively. Justin and the others eyed him for several moments before nodding and rising. "I trust you to look out for him, Declan." Declan felt like he had a lump in his throat. Justin was putting a huge amount of trust on his shoulders, especially after being so wary of him so recently. "I will." **** Declan tried his best to avoid the endless stares and questions the rest of the afternoon, but he knew that football practice wasn't going to be much better. He felt the tension as soon as he walked in the locker room, every eye had turned to the door. Waiting to see if Chris walked in. Declan simply waved as he made his way to his own locker. There were subdued whispers. No one seemed willing to break the uneasy quiet. The last few guys straggled in, each receiving the same anxious stare as they pushed in through the door. "Where the hell is Chris?" Eddie hissed from down the row of lockers. "I heard he and Eric got kicked out or something," Jose whispered back with a shrug. "Fuck no! We have a game tomorrow! How are we going to play without a quarterback?" Eddie cursed. Tripp cut in. "They can't kick them out. They have to know how much we need him." Declan rolled his eyes, biting his lip to keep from saying anything. "I'm surprised Chris hasn't gotten his ass kicked out before now," Nick muttered. "And we don't need Chris or Eric. We got plenty of whoop-ass on this team." Jaime grinned broadly, receiving several 'hell yeah's' and hearty laughs. Eddie frowned, opening his mouth to say something. "All right, everyone. Gather 'round!" Coach Reed's abruptly loud voice caused everyone to jump. Jittery chatter followed his command as everyone grabbed their gear, huddling together. "I understand there may be several rumors running around," the coach started, earning several nods of agreement, everyone eager for information. "Mr. Vasser and Mr. Olander will not be joining us for the rest of the season. Due to their breaking several of the school's Code of Conduct policies, they have been removed from the team at a minimum. I can't tell you more, as the Headmaster is still in the process of contacting their parents." Voices erupted in shock, but Coach Reed held up his hand and silence fell. "Chris and Eric made serious mistakes and will have to suffer the consequences of their actions." Coach Reed stared down every player. "This is a team, and you need to be able to respect and depend on your teammates. One player does not win a game by himself. It takes each and every one of you working together." The Coach paused for a moment, letting his words sink in. Declan was pleased to see most of the team was smiling and nodding to each other in agreement. "Nick, you are now team captain." "Whoohoo!" several of the guys shouted, and Nick received several congratulatory shoves. Nick grinned, blushing slightly at the honor. Lachlan." Coach addressed their backup quarterback. "You are, of course, our quarterback for the rest of the season." At the shocked look on the freshman's face, Coach smiled. "You're more than ready." "Yeah, ya are!" Jose nudged the younger teen. "We got your back." "Are there any questions?" Coach Reed asked as the team settled back down. "No Sir!" "Everybody ready to play?" "Yes Sir!" "Then move it!" Declan looked over to see Nick jump up. "You know the drills, so get your asses moving!" Declan grinned as they ran out of the locker room. Ben patted Nick on the shoulder with a broad smile as most of the guys fell into their usual squad lines, yelling out a variety of 'Yeah's!' and 'All right's!'. "Without Chris and Eric, we're going lose big time," Declan heard Eddie grumble to Tripp, who nodded his agreement. "Chris and Eric were assholes, thought they were God's gift to football. We can handle Frexbury without them." Ben shoved his way between Eddie and Tripp. Eddie started to say something, but the high fives Ben received from several players for his comment stopped him. "You got this, Lach!" someone yelled. "Hell, yeah, we can do it!" came another shout. Declan smiled at his team rallying together, even if there were a couple who still were firmly in Chris's corner. At least the majority of the team didn't seem to be terribly upset by Chris and Eric's absence. In fact, everyone seemed more relaxed as they followed Nick, leading the drills commandingly, yet without Chris's usual derisive comments. Maybe, just maybe, everything would actually work out.
  3. 62 points
    Cards on the Table Chapter 62 “Where are you going, and what are you doing with that?” “Thought I’d put this in your truck. It’s in the underground, remember?” Kendall stood up from packing his modest collection of vintage record albums. “I remember, but why are you taking a gym bag to Beauty now? I seriously doubt we’ll have time to work out over the next few days, and you’re supposed to be packing up the rest of our closet.” Michael sighed, and then grinned. “It’s what I’m doing, and I’ve made good progress, but I didn’t know what box to put these things in.” “What things, and why are you looking like that?” “Remember those butt plugs I ordered that we didn’t use, because only the real me would do?” Michael’s grin became Cheshire-like. “Oh crap, yeah. I forgot about those. Say no more. Good idea. I don’t want Mom unpacking something like that. We’d never live it down.” “Uh huh. I could just picture her face, and of course I’d have to tell her you ordered them.” “You wouldn’t!” Kendall glared, and it was only partly in jest. The amusement slipped from Michael’s face. “Babe, she’s my mom. But don’t worry. I’m protecting you from that embarrassment.” “Oh, you are, are you? So very thoughtful of you.” Michael ignored the sarcasm, and the grin was back. “I know, right? I’ll put it behind the back seat, and this is the one with the lock. So, why are you taking those”—he gestured to the albums—“when you never listen to them?” Kendall looked down at the scattered records, again musing about why he’d started this collection in the first place, and then over to the old, unusable turntable. “Why are we keeping those”—he nodded toward the gym bag—“since we haven’t used them either?” “Oh. Should I toss them?” Michael’s sudden confusion was evident. Kendall regrouped and smiled. “Heck no. I was pointing out just because we don’t use something, or haven’t yet, doesn’t mean we should get rid of them.” “Is something wrong, Deuce?” “No… I don’t know… maybe.” Wincing as he saw Michael’s concern, he looked down. “There’s a lot of memories here.” “Here, as in the albums, or here as in the apartment?” “Both.” “And…?” His eyes lifted. “And, I was remembering a time when this old music meant something to me. Some of these are copies of ones my mom used to play every second Saturday when my dad was at work. She’d listen to them while she spent the whole day cleaning the house, from one end to the other. Not that I could ever see why it needed it, because she cleaned all week too.” “You do the same thing, Babe... go into cleaning mode.” “I do?” Michael nodded, but stayed silent. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, but not like she did. My mom would even pull the dryer out so she could clean behind it, and I’ve never done that in the whole time I’ve been here.” “Maybe it was her therapy?” As soon as those words left Michael’s mouth, Kendall saw what he’d never seen before. It became clear as the sound of a bell; she was so relaxed for the days that followed. “I believe you’re right, Ace… it probably was. Maybe it was both of ours. I… I used to help her. “This one for example”—he held up Simple Dreams by Linda Ronstadt—“I know by heart. Every single word of every single song. There are so many… Rita Coolidge, James Taylor, Phoebe Snow, Judy Collins….” Michael stepped closer. “You never told me any of this before. So, that’s why you bought that old record player and went on those searches through thrift shops after you moved in here?” “Yeah, that’s the reason,” he answered softly, finishing with a sigh as his mind drifted backwards in time. “It really hit me, with the first place of my own, just how much I missed her. I told myself it didn’t matter how things had changed between me and my family, but it did. I used to look forward to those Saturdays when it was just us in the house, my mom happy, and the music turned up. There was never any tension on those days, and my dad didn’t get home till after eight when he worked the weekend shifts.” “I’m glad I didn’t know that Carson. He’s come a long way, hasn’t he?” Kendall sighed once more before he nodded. “It’s all in the past now,” he mused with a voice that felt stronger. “I wanted to hear that sound again, in my home, with the needle scratching, and all that went with it. Mom always put me in charge of changing the records, and she’d call out her choice from wherever she was in the house at the time. I’d go running to change it before the last song ended. It was… fun.” “I can picture that. Why didn’t you get another stereo… a decent one… when you couldn’t get that piece of crap working?” “I don’t know, Michael. You’re right that it is a piece of crap. I guess, after ordering two needle cartridges that didn’t fit, I was over it. It was like an omen.” “And now?” “Now? I want to keep them, at least till after my parents arrive. Even without listening to them, they still meant something. My mom would probably get a kick out of seeing these, even if their old Telefunken stereo is long gone.” “I agree, I think she would too. Does she still have her old albums?” “I didn’t see any sign of them when we were in Chestermere. Just that Bose system. They are probably history too. But, I’ll show these ones to her, and then probably donate them back to one of those thrift stores.” Michael was peering at him intently. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this before?” Kendall’s gaze returned to the half-filled box. He’d spent too much time getting caught up in reading the old covers. “Because it was depressing. Having you and your family was enough, and I didn’t want to talk about mine back then. I didn’t feel like I even had one, and I had very few good memories to share. “I probably would have told you about that one, though, if I’d ever gotten that damn thing working.” He looked up from the album he still held. “And now look. I have them back, and soon they’ll be living in the same house with us. Life is weird, isn’t it?” “Life is good, Babe. Life is fantastic!” Michael set the gym bag down, took possession of Simple Dreams, and placed it in the box at their feet. Kendall sunk into his outstretched arms. “I’m glad you finally told me what they were about, and you’re right about this apartment having a lot of memories. The best ones of my life happened here, right in this room.” He leaned away enough to show his grin. “Remember?” Kendall rolled his eyes. “Of course I do. This is where you told me you were in love with me the first time, and where you proposed to me.” “Yeah, they were great, but I was thinking about the sex.” Kendall snorted laughter. “Well, there’s a surprise.” “I like to surprise you,” Michael said, again ignoring the obvious sarcasm. “Seriously, I remember everything about both those two days… and every one in between.” “You know what, Sunshine? I believe you do. I’m still bowled over by you remembering the date, and the amount of days that have passed since that first time. Pretty impressive.” “I am impressive, aren’t I?” Kendall nuzzled into his neck and murmured agreement. “So, should we keep those things I ordered? It’s not like we need them.” Kendall pulled back so he could see Michael’s face. “I already said yes.” “You weren’t very convincing.” “Sorry… packing up the last of the apartment is weird. I can think of a use for them, though.” “You can? What?” “Another time. We have to finish packing.” “I know, but just tell me what you have in mind.” Kendall chuckled. “It’s more fun to leave you wondering.” “That’s just mean, Deuce. Should I put the bag back in the bedroom?” Michael wiggled his eyebrows. “Ah, aren’t you forgetting the mattress is already in the container?” “We can have that back here in under a minute. Hell, I can carry it in myself.” Kendall laughed and planted a short kiss on Michael. “As appealing as that sounds, we’re on a schedule here.” “It would only take us a few minutes.” “Nothing we do in that department takes a few minutes.” “I beg to differ. You’re already primed.” Michael reached between them and gently squeezed the lump he found there. Kendall groaned at the surge of pleasure. “And so are you, but that doesn’t change the fact we need to have the container loaded by four so they can deliver it to the Manor. One of us has to be the grownup here.” “Hey, I’m a grownup.” Michael shoved his hips forward. “See?” “I give up.” “You do?” Kendall’s answer was to drop to his knees. In seconds, Michael’s track pants were pooled around his ankles, and his cock had Kendall’s lips around it. Pre-cum was already present, and Kendall soon had it all cleaned up. The man was a leaker, and there would be much more to come. He looked up when he felt fingers in his hair. Emptying his mouth momentarily, he asked, “Is this what you had in mind?” “Ah… I was thinking we’d….” Kendall pulled away from Michael’s cock again. “Don’t think… it was rhetorical.” “But, I could go get….” “Michael, shut up, or I’m going back to packing.” He didn’t hear another word, only sounds, as he took his task seriously. This was no hardship, and as much as he pretended to protest, he liked how Michael was always ready and willing to make love. He certainly enjoyed this, easily as much as Michael did. The scent, taste and velvety texture… it was satisfying on every level. As he suckled, he stroked, swirling around the rim with his tongue every time he pulled back to the head. Those heavy testicles were cradled and rolled in their sack as Kendall prepared to divert his attention. Holding the shaft upright, he took the right one in his mouth, gently pulling as his tongue darted over the much different texture. The expected groans came… Michael loved having his balls sucked. He switched to the other one, well acquainted with the pleasure that sudden coolness on the wet one induced. Taking a second, he blew a stream of air over it, and felt Michael’s shivered response. The left one lifted noticeably once he’d lavished the same attention on it. Michael was steadily advancing towards the brink. Finally releasing the second one, he returned to Michael’s cockhead, teasing it with feather-light flickers of his tongue. Another thing Michael enjoyed. He kept it up as he stroked. There’d be no deep-throating from this position because of the slight upward curve, but Kendall knew exactly what elicited the biggest responses from his man. The caresses on his head become perceptively firmer, and Kendall read the clues. When Michael’s stance widened, Kendall sped up his actions, plunging farther down on the shaft until his throat gripped and released. It was something that pleased him as much as his partner, and he experienced the throb of his own cock, still untouched and covered in cloth. Now was not the time. Michael was close. Kendall’s free hand slid up behind those now higher balls, encouraging a rocking motion with the grip he had on a muscled ass cheek. It gave him more control, and now their rhythm became perfectly synchronized. Michael pumped back and forth, with Kendall’s help, sliding through the gripping hand and into his mouth before pulling back again, his balls rubbing on Kendall’s forearm with each thrust. He still hadn’t said any words but he didn’t need to. Familiar sounds accompanied this coupling, and the pants and moans and breaths created a language each man understood perfectly. A groaned out, “Babe,” suddenly filled the air, and Kendall felt the first burst of semen. No matter how frequently they had sex, the man always had plenty when the next time came around, and this was no exception. Kendall was well-versed in handling the flood, and his swallows coincided with each repeated spurt. His continual moan was an answer to Michael, telling him he was happy… very happy. “Geez, you’re good at that. Whew.” Michael stood up straighter, his hands running down and across Kendall’s shoulders. Kendall was still nursing the rigid bar of flesh, trying to coax out more fluid. He finally stopped his gentle search when he heard the hiss of a man whose nerve endings had reached their limit. Looking upwards, he swiped his tongue slowly over his upper lip and grinned. “Satisfied?” “Fuck, you look so beautiful. That was amazing, but I won’t be satisfied until I’ve had my turn. Stand up,” he ordered. Kendall did and was once again engulfed in Michael’s arms. The kiss they shared caused another lurch of Kendall’s cock, but when Michael’s hand reached for it, he stopped him. He would be disappointed, but they had work to do. “Sorry, big guy, but that’ll have to wait.” “Aw, come on. Damn, I knew you were going to say that. We still have time plenty of time,” he whined. “Maybe… I’m not so sure, but you know how sleepy I get after I come. Maybe tonight, okay? I won’t relax until the last box is loaded up. Besides, that was just as good for me as it was for you.” He leaned in again, first gripping Michael’s lower lip with his teeth before running his tongue over it. He felt Michael’s still exposed cock lift its considerable weight against his leg. “Down boy,” he murmured after he let the lip go. “You better put that thing away. I don’t need any more distractions.” “I fucking love you, Kendall Dooley, but you are a cruel, cruel man.” “Cruel? Really? I just sucked your dick when we’re supposed to be working. I would say I was”—he claimed Michael’s bottom lip again and murmured into his mouth—“very kind.” “Jesus, you’re driving me crazy.” Kendall almost reconsidered when a hand at the back of his head forced their lips together for a possessive kiss. Michael clearly wasn’t ready to concede defeat. He sighed when it finally ended. “Did that change your mind?” Michael’s smirk was adorable. “Almost. Seriously, almost. We’ve had our fun, though, and now we have to get back on schedule. These will have to wait”—he shoved his hips forward—“for another time.” “Okay,” Michael said, finally accepting it wasn’t going to work. “I almost had you.” “Yup, you did. Now pull your pants up.” Kendall laughed when Michael made his erection swing back and forth a few times before covering up. “You are such a horndog.” “And you love it. You know what this reminds me of?” “Yes… yes I do love it. Ah, what does this remind you of?” Kendall’s mind was wandering back to the tasks at hand. “That time you left for work and came back half a minute later, through that door right there, and had your way with me.” “Oh, yeah. That was fun. I did have my way with you. Shocked the hell out of you too, didn’t I?” “Yup. One of those things I’ll never forget… makes me smile every time I think about it.” Kendall chuckled. “Do we have enough boxes?” “And… we’re back to work.” “Sorry.” “Don’t be. You rocked my world like you always do. Boxes? Are you kidding me? We have plenty. Most of the closet’s already packed. Damn, I’m feeling sleepy.” “See? I knew we should have waited. There’s still all this stuff… and I want to leave the place clean.” “Relax, would you? I was kidding. I feel energized.” His smirk had Kendall fighting the urge to smack him. “The den is empty, so there’s just the linen closet and the kitchen stuff, and these records and books. We’re way ahead of schedule.” Kendall sighed. Michael was right. What was wrong with him? Even with wiping shelves and sweeping up, they had very little left to do. All the furniture was in the big steel container sitting outside the back door.” “Kendall?” “Yeah?” “You didn’t answer me. I asked if you were hungry. It’s almost one, and we haven’t eaten since dawn.” “Sorry. Was just counting boxes.” “And?” “And you’re right. We have plenty of boxes and plenty of time. Sorry.” “Oh, so does that mean it’s my turn after all?” Kendall snorted and Michael grinned. “I know, I know… thought I’d give it a try. So how about it?” “How about what? Oh, food. Yeah, I’m starving now that you’ve mentioned eating.” “Want me to grab us subs from the Papa Joe’s?” “Perfect. That’s the first thing we ate in this apartment, remember?” “Uh huh. That’s why I asked. Roast beef and Swiss, right?” “You remember that? No way!” “Yes, way. We had those huge chocolate chip cookies too. We ate standing up because you hadn’t gotten stools for the counter yet, and we didn’t get the couch set until the next day. Do you remember?” Kendall’s response was a nod. He remembered that day very well. He finally had a place of his own, and had his best friend to help him get settled. It had just been the two of them, same as today, and had been bittersweet after having shared a dorm room for years. Never in a million years would he have imagined he’d one day be sharing a place, a bed, and his life with the guy he could never get out of his head no matter how hard he’d tried. Yeah, it had been a bittersweet time. “Hey, I’m going to miss this place too. This was more home to me than my own apartment. Whenever I was there, I wanted to be here… with you.” “And whenever you weren’t here, I couldn’t wait till I saw you again.” “We wasted a lot of time, Deuce, and….” “Don’t you dare say it. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, and I don’t see it as wasted at all. It makes what we have now all the sweeter. We’re right where we were always meant to be.” “It does feel meant to be, doesn’t it?” Kendall was caught and held by deep blue eyes. “Destiny, dude. Now go get us some food.” He was feeling emotional, and needed some time to get his shit together. “You all right?” Kendall started. He should have known. “Yeah. I’ve never been happier, but….” “I get it. I’ll be back with nourishment, and then we’ll finish saying goodbye to this part of our lives. Nothing but clear skies ahead.” “I know. Cloud Nine is on the horizon, and we’re going to live there.” Michael grinned. “Count on it, Babe. Starting tomorrow.” The big container ended up only halfway filled. Their possessions looked meager once he saw them all piled together. They really hadn’t accumulated much since college, and Michael had sold everything he’d owned, except for his coffeemaker, to the guy who’d taken over his apartment. Kendall was glad they’d turned down all the offered help for today, because they would have been little for anyone to do. The big stone house was going to look empty with the few furnishings they owned. Hell, they didn’t even have a table to eat at, nor a spare bed for guests. It had been a shared decision to ditch the futon from the den. It’d had a good life as their dorm room seating, but it didn’t belong in the Manor. Jeez, they really were grownups now. Mulling over their coming needs, he left the overhead door partly open as he went back in for another box. The kitchen was now completely packed up and emptied out, with some items making their way to the garbage bins. He had no idea what was taking Michael so long, but his stomach was starting to issue discernable rumbles. Lifting the final carton off the counter, he looked at the pillar the white Easter lily had leaned against for those few weeks. How many times had they sat here, laughing, talking, and planning? Too many times to count. He put the box back down and sat on one of the two stools still waiting for their final time at the counter… if Michael ever got here with the promised food. This is where he’d sat watching him sleep in that hospital bed, after they’d made love for the first time. Kendall smiled at the memory of Michael coming from just a kiss. It had been so fucking hot, and he felt the heat rising up his neck at the memory. How silly he’d been to have any apprehension the man would feel differently upon waking. It was impossible to doubt what Kendall meant to him, not anymore, for the man never had any qualms about showing how he felt. Like today. His very own horndog. Kendall couldn’t help smiling as his tongue moved around his mouth, searching for the long gone taste of Michael’s essence. The first time he’d tasted it had been right in this very spot. Here, the beginnings of their love had blossomed and built, but, it was only that… the beginning. He was ready for whatever came next… he was ready to leave this place, but it would always be thought of fondly. He rose and reclaimed the box of pots and pans, carrying it outside. All that was left was the linen closet, the rest of the bedroom closet, and some cleanup. They had more than enough time. Kendall heard the door open just as he finished the last bit of packing. He sighed at Michael’s timing, but then realized finishing alone was probably a good thing. He had gained some peace as the day wore on. Was that his fiancé’s plan? “Deuce? Food.” Michael called down the hallway. “In here. I’ll be right out. Your timing is fortuitous, Ace.” “How so?” Michael startled Kendall. He hadn’t heard him come down the hall. “Because this is the last of it.” He mock glared at the man, and then smiled to soften it. “Oops… sorry. I thought you were doing the kitchen first?” “Already done, and so is the hall closet. Just some wiping and sweeping up left. What took you so long?” “I got sidetracked… and stopped for gas, and Papa Joe’s was really busy.” “I needed gas?” “Uh… it was a good price. So are you ready to eat?” “Yeah, I’m starving. We should have eaten earlier… it’ll soon be suppertime.” “A sub won’t ruin my appetite for Mom’s cooking, and I doubt it will yours either. Come on while they’re still hot. There’s no way to reheat them with the nuker packed up.” “Coming. I’ll just wash my hands and be right there.” Kendall attacked his sub the second he sat down. He shook his head after he took a sip of what turned out to be root beer. “How do you remember this stuff?” “What stuff?” Michael mumbled with his mouth full. “The root beer. I don’t think I’ve had root beer since that day.” “We had it because they poured the wrong pop. It was supposed to be Pepsi, and we didn’t realize until we got back here, remember?” Kendall nodded, swallowing another mouthful. “I do now. I’m serious. Have you always had this memory? Because if you did, I never noticed it before.” Michael took a drink and sighed happily. “This is so hitting the spot. I don’t know, Deuce. I remember a lot of things I never thought about before. I guess the time we spent together as just friends meant more to me than I realized at the time.” “What does that mean?” Michael barked a short laugh out. “Good question. I think I was cataloguing a lot of stuff without realizing it.” He suddenly became earnest, and all chewing stopped. “Burying the way I really felt… I’m pretty sure the times we were together are what made that bearable. I look back now, and those days we weren’t together, I was always restless. I’m like never restless anymore. Does that make sense?” Kendall nodded again. “It’s the same way I felt. The only difference is I knew the reason, and you didn’t.” “Exactly, Babe. It drove me crazy, but maybe, in my brain, it was part of the punishment thing for thinking that way about my ‘straight’ friend. Fact is, I was in love with you the whole damn time.” Kendall picked up the regret Michael was trying so hard to hide. Would he ever let it go? “And look at us now, Ace. We have the world by the ass. Next stop, Cloud Nine.” Michael matched Kendall’s grin. “I’ve been living on Cloud Nine for fifty-nine days now. We can call the Manor that, but for me, it’s anyplace you are, Deuce. Always will be.” Kendall’s breath caught at the ease with which Michael could share his feelings. What they had now was worth every bit of the waiting. “Same here,” was all he could manage to say. He pulled open Beauty’s driver’s side door, momentarily startled before staring directly across at Michael. “What’s this?” “Jeez… how did that get there?” Kendall rolled his eyes at Michael’s smirk, returning his gaze to the brown box with the big red bow. The side facing him had the words ‘audio-technica’ stamped in black lower-case letters. He sounded the words aloud. “What is this, Michael? Is this for me?” “I don’t know. Is this your truck?” “Answer the question, smartass. All it says is audio-technica.” Kendall pulled the box closer. “Hey, is this…?” He looked up at his fiancé. “It’s a turntable?” Michael nodded. “What do you think?” “Why did you do this?’ “What do you mean, why? Isn’t it obvious? I did it because I know what those old albums mean to you now. We can listen to them together in our new home… you can tell me about those Saturdays, and anything else you might want to talk about. So, say something. Do you like it?” Kendall took a deep breath and chuckled, still a little thrown. “I can’t actually see it, but I’m sure I’ll like it… and I love you.” “Of course you do.” Michael grinned, looking quite pleased. “It’s got a brushed black finish, and I went with the clear lid over the tinted one. All the components are black… it was that or silver, and I thought the darker color would look cooler and stand out less in our new living room… or wherever you want to put it.” “Black sounds good. Components?” Kendall was confused. It wasn’t that big of a box. “Open the back door,” Michael directed. Kendall did, and saw the floor filled with more brown cartons. He looked up when Michael opened the corresponding door on his side. “I put them down there so they couldn’t slide around. One is the receiver with an MP3 dock, AM/FM radio, and CD player, and the others are five speakers for surround sound, and a sub-woofer. We can run our TV sound through it too. So, what do you think?” “I… I’m kind of stunned. Should we be spending… never mind… I love it. You’re unbelievable.” “Unbelievable?” “Yeah, in the best way possible. Where did…?” “I had to zip down to Music World. It’s why I was gone so long. I lied about getting gas. Do you forgive me?” Kendall’s eyes blinked at the sudden wetness. “After this? How could I not. You’re unbelievable.” “You already said that, Babe. I’m going to get lucky tonight, aren’t I?” Kendall laughed, after he swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. “Count on it, Sunshine. You are getting so, so lucky.” “Yes!”
  4. 53 points
    July 1800 HMS Ville de Paris Off the coast of Brest, France A single gun sounded, and the court martial flag rose up the massive ship’s mast, announcing to the fleet that the ultimate naval legal procedure was about to begin. Granger had been surprised at the speed with which St. Vincent was trying this case; he’d sent his report over to the admiral immediately after the event happened, and that was the day before yesterday. That had been followed by the arrival of the gunners from Ville de Paris and Defense, and those men had audited the report done by Roberts and Hornblower. In the end, they’d found some 50 pounds of powder sequestered away, presumably for sale on the black market. Granger had not had the chance to speak of the incident to either St. Vincent or Troubridge, and had been kept apart from the others since his arrival on board. “My lord, the court would see you now, if you please,” Lieutenant Elsemere said. He was St. Vincent’s flag lieutenant, and a nice enough chap. He had a difficult time with details, and that was making his job with St. Vincent a bit more difficult. “Of course,” Granger said, and followed him into Grey’s cabin, which had been transformed into a courtroom of sorts. Granger was somewhat surprised to see Troubridge acting as president of the court, but that was an obvious sign of the importance St. Vincent placed on this proceeding. St. Vincent was fiercely opposed to any kind of jobberism or corruption, so it made sense that something like this, where a man abused his responsibilities and stole from the Crown to enrich his own purse, would be just the kind of thing to get the old admiral riled up. Troubridge sat at a long table, one that usually served as Captain Grey’s dining table, and was flanked by several other captains from the assembled ships, all of whom Granger knew. After Granger formally stated his name and pledged his oath, the court began asking him questions. “Lord Granger, what made you aware of the potential short-charging of the guns?” Troubridge asked. “I think, sir, that it is experience. I’ve heard a number of cannon discharge in my life, and they weren’t firing true,” Granger said with a smile, getting grins from some of the other captains. “Do you have any evidence or suspicion that Captain Sawyer knew about, participated in, or sanctioned this graft, my lord?” Foley asked. It was hard for Granger to think this was the same man who led his ship around the front of the French line at the Nile, what with his restrained manner. “I do not,” Granger said confidently, since nothing had come out about that during or after his investigation. After that, they asked him about his specific actions after the event, seemingly to make sure that Granger had collected the evidence in a reliable manner. After Granger was dismissed, they similarly interviewed Buckland, Harmon, Roberts, and Hornblower, but their testimonies were brief, and again, focused on the collection of evidence. Gumbel came in, dressed quite well for a petty officer, and denied that he had planned to steal the powder. Instead, he claimed that he was saving it for live practice. It was an interesting approach, in that he was styling himself as someone who saved money on frivolous salutes to use the powder to advance Renown’s martial capabilities. That it violated the rules nonetheless seemed to escape him, but his explanation brought on a whole different round of questions pertaining as to whether Sawyer was aware of his actions, and whether he condoned it. Gumbel had painted himself into a corner, and now faced with implicating his patron or pleading guilty; Gumbel admirably fell on his own sword. In reality, Granger was not in doubt that Gumbel would be found guilty. Granger had taken too much care to prove his case, and there were too many witnesses for it to be botched up. He suspected that with the speed of this trial, St. Vincent was interested in making an example of Gumbel. In that case, the only real question was how dire would be his punishment. There was a recess, after which Granger went in with the rest of the spectators to hear the verdict. Troubridge all but glared at Gumbel, then began to read his prepared statement. “Josiah Gumbel, gunner of His Majesty’s ship Renown, you have been found guilty by this court of violating the 23rd Article of War: There shall be no wasteful expense of any powder, shot, ammunition, or other stores in the fleet, nor any embezzlement thereof, but the stores and provisions shall be careful preserved, upon pain of such punishment to be inflicted upon the offenders, abettors, buyers and receivers (being persons subject to naval discipline) as shall be by a court martial found just in that behalf.” Troubridge paused for a second as he put down his paper. “You have stolen from His Majesty, and you have done so knowingly and willingly. This court has rendered its decision, and hereby decrees as its verdict that you be stripped of your rank in His Majesty’s Navy and that you be sentenced to transportation, and further requires that you remain housed in one of His Majesty’s prisons until such time as you are transported, with no opportunity for release or parole.” The President banged his gavel, precipitously concluding the hearing. People were stunned, especially Gumbel. He just stared at the court blankly, his mouth slack-jawed, as if trying to comprehend his fate. What was obvious to everyone was that the court, and by extension, St. Vincent, were publicly explaining that any similar forms of graft or corruption would be punished severely. Granger had expected that Gumbel would be stripped of his rank, but he assumed that would be the extent of his punishment. A gunner spent years accumulating the necessary experience and certifications for his warrant, so having that removed basically wiped away all that he had accomplished with his life. At worst case, Granger felt that a short prison sentence may have been in order. Granger pondered the sentence the court had doled out, and thought that being sentenced to transportation, to live out his existence as an emigrant to Australia, was quite extreme. They led Gumbel out, then the spectators followed. Granger was following the others out of Grey’s cabin when Elsemere gently pulled on his arm. “My lord, His Lordship requested that you come see him.” That was frustrating, because Granger had hoped to spend some time chatting with his fellow captains before they left the ship, but it was not to be. “Certainly,” he said, and went down to St. Vincent’s cabin. He found the admiral sitting at his desk, writing a letter. Granger decided that correspondence was probably the biggest task of an admiral commanding a fleet, and St. Vincent was a very diligent correspondent. “It seems that you create problems wherever you go, Granger,” St. Vincent said, but with a slight grin. “I fear it is my destiny, sir,” Granger replied. “Did you think the sentence was too harsh?” he demanded. “I thought the sentence was harsh, sir, but I did not think it was too harsh,” Granger said cautiously. St. Vincent seemed to mull his words. “Practices like this, stealing from the Crown, must cease if we are to survive this conflict, and an example had to be set.” Granger thought of poor Admiral Byng, who’d been shot as an example years ago (‘Pour encourager les autres’, as Voltaire had so cynically put it), but there was no point in arguing about it now. “Yes, sir,” he said. “How do you find Renown?” “She is a good ship, and in good condition, sir. I am pleased with her crew and her officers, with the exception of her gunner and his mates.” St. Vincent stared at him, demanding more. “The officers are competent and adept at handling their duties, but with a few exceptions, there are no bright stars amongst them.” “And who are these exceptions?” “I would say the brightest of them is Mr. Hornblower, who shows exceptional skill and ability, especially when it comes to mathematics, logic, and leadership. I told Lord Spencer that his promotion of Mr. Hornblower while he was a prisoner in Spain may turn out to be one of his better decisions, sir,” Granger said honestly. “Indeed?” St. Vincent asked, seemingly impressed. “Better than posting me to command this fleet?” Granger smiled at the admiral’s sense of humor. “I would note, sir, that my conversation with His Lordship happened before you had been appointed to this esteemed position.” “Humph,” the admiral said, pretending to be grumpy. “I would also note that, while not exceptional like Mr. Hornblower, Mr. Harmon seems to have enough presence of mind to ultimately be a successful captain, sir,” Granger said candidly. “I’d like you to put that in writing for me, in the form of a report, and I’d like you to address the incident when Dragon ran into Renown,” St. Vincent said. “I’d like to know what the officers said about that.” Granger made to tell him, but St. Vincent raised his hand to stop him. “I know what happened, I just want a written record of it.” “Of course, sir,” Granger said. “Collingwood has arrived with Barfleur,” St. Vincent said, telling Granger something he already knew. “I’ve persuaded him, under the circumstances, not to be vexed with you for interrupting his salute.” “I am most grateful, sir,” Granger said. Collingwood was an excellent officer, and one who commanded his men much the same way that Granger did. He had never gotten to spend much time with the man, but he knew him by reputation. “I’ve received orders for you from London, courtesy of Barfleur,” St. Vincent went on. “It seems you’re needed back at the Admiralty.” Granger barely managed to hide his excitement and happiness that he’d be able to go home and shed himself of the Renown. “Do you know what they want of me, sir?” “I do not, and it matters not anyway,” he snapped, acting as if Granger was committing the heinous sin of questioning his orders. “Now that Collingwood is here, I can send Berkeley home. You’re to take him back in Renown.” “Aye aye, sir,” Granger said, even though he dreaded that task. He suspected that Berkeley would be in a foul mood after being exposed as a bit of a nitwit by St. Vincent, and would probably be an unpleasant passenger. “I will send you orders to close with the inshore squadron and transfer him from Mars, then you will travel at your best speed to Portsmouth. Renown will have different orders by the time you arrive there as well, I am assuming,” he said. “If she does not, you will be ordered to leave her under the temporary command of her first lieutenant.” “Aye aye, sir,” Granger repeated. “I felt that by sending you to Portsmouth, you’d at least get to gaze at your fancy fountains before you headed off to London,” St. Vincent teased. “And for that, I am most appreciative, sir,” Granger said. “I will allow Gumbel to remain here with the fleet until the next ship returns,” St. Vincent said. That was an especially nice thing to do, as it was never good for morale for a condemned man to be amongst his shipmates, even if he was under arrest. Granger wondered if St. Vincent was keeping the man here until he was sure of the verdict. It was quite possible that friends of Gumbel or Sawyer would forcefully fight the court’s verdict. “I will await your report, and upon its receipt, I will send you your orders.” “Aye aye, sir,” Granger said, and took his leave of the old admiral. He made it back to Renown and managed to evade conversation with his officers. He locked himself in his cabin and wrote a relatively in-depth analysis, based on what he’d seen, of Renown’s officers, and transmitted that over to the admiral. The next morning, he received his orders to retrieve Berkeley and return to Portsmouth. August 1800 HMS Renown The English Channel “What’s our location, my lord?” Admiral Berkeley asked politely. They’d just completed their noonday sights. “I am anxiously awaiting that result from our midshipmen, sir,” Granger said with a grin. “Hopefully they will corroborate my calculations, which will put us about midway between Weymouth and Cherbourg.” “Hopefully,” Berkeley said. They began to pace the deck together, chatting about the ship, about London, about society, and a myriad of other things. Granger had been dreading having Berkeley as a passenger, but his concern had turned out to be ill-founded. The man was interesting and quite engaging. “I shan’t be unhappy to be back home.” “I share your feelings, sir,” Granger said honestly. “I am a bit concerned about why I am being recalled.” “I’m sure they have something interesting for you to do,” Berkeley said. “I, on the other hand, will probably find myself stuck ashore.” “I think that is highly unlikely, sir,” Granger said honestly. He had gotten to see some of Berkeley’s strengths and weaknesses, and could see how he would be quite useful. He was not a fire-breathing warrior like Nelson or Pellew, as he tended to err on the side of caution, and for those reasons, he was a poor choice for command of the Inshore Squadron, which required a more aggressive posture. On the other hand, he was extremely organized, and was an active Whig politician, which brought along its own good and bad points. “So you say,” Berkeley said, with a bit of sadness. “In any event, if the government won’t give me something to do, I will just make their lives unpleasant in Parliament.” They laughed at that together. “I think my ability to do that in the Lords is one of the reasons I am constantly employed,” Granger said. “I think there are other reasons, but that is probably one of them,” Berkeley allowed. “Sail ho!” came the cry from the masthead, interrupting their conversation. Granger grabbed his speaking trumpet. “Where away?” he demanded of the lookout. Berkeley watched, a bit surprised, as this polished captain he had come to appreciate transformed into a highly focused warrior right before his eyes. “Off the starboard bow, my lord!” the man shouted. Granger strode over to the main shrouds and climbed up far enough to see the vessel, only to find there were two ships together. It didn’t take him long to discern that one of the ships was a French privateer, and another was a British merchant brig the privateer had just captured. “Mr. Buckland, I want the topgallants on her, and shake out the reefs in the courses!” Granger ordered from the rigging. “Lay us on the starboard tack.” “Aye aye, my lord,” he said dubiously, as Granger would be straining Renown’s spars to the maximum, but they were close enough to port to chance it, and capturing a privateer was worth the risk. Granger watched the two ships as they grappled together, even as he felt Renown’s massive main mast creak with the stress of the additional sail. There was no fighting going on, but rather it appeared the French were merely allocating a prize crew to the captured ship. Now safely on the starboard tack, and with the sails sheeted home, Renown was all but charging at the stationary French ship. He suspected they’d be visible from the deck now, so he returned to his proper position and addressed Admiral Berkeley and his officers. “It seems there’s a French privateer grappled with a British merchant brig ahead.” “They’ve seen us, my lord!” the lookout called. Inasmuch as a ship could have a mood, the privateer seemed to panic, hastily clapping on sail as she tried to separate herself from her prize, which was also trying to get into the wind. It would be a near thing at this point, as to whether Renown would get those ships within range before they could escape to Cherbourg. Granger thought of that port with its awesome fortifications, the ones that had so savaged Belvidera. If they could reach Cherbourg, they would be safe from Renown. Granger looked at Renown’s rigging, trying to think of ways to coax more velocity from her, but could think of nothing. Then he remembered the lesson that Calvert had taught him long ago, about the need to trust his officers and seek their input. He’d only been with this ship for a bit more than a fortnight, while these men had served on her and dealt with her whims for much longer. “Gentlemen, I am open to ideas as to how to get more speed on Renown,” Granger said. He got the standard responses, like setting the royals, which Renown could not handle, or knocking the masts loose from their lodgings. Granger was skeptical that would have any impact, while Carberry was much more sure that such a move was foolhardy. “My lord, I recommend that we run out the larboard battery,” Hornblower said thoughtfully. “And just what are we going to shoot at, Mr. Hornblower?” Smith asked sarcastically, then shut up when Granger glared at him. “My lord, it may reduce our cant to the starboard, and give us more bite in the water. I may be wrong, but I think it will reduce our leeway,” Hornblower explained. It was a fascinating strategy. Granger looked at Berkeley, who merely raised an eyebrow in curiosity. In any event, it would do no harm to try his idea. “Mr. Buckland, send the hands to quarters and run out the larboard battery,” Granger ordered. “Show our colors!” “Aye aye, my lord,” Buckland said, and the whistles began to peal, summoning the crew to quarters. The guns were run out shortly thereafter, and Renown’s flag was raised up her staff. “Will we clear for action, my lord?” Buckland asked. “I do not think that is necessary,” Granger said with a smile. One ill-aimed broadside from Renown would probably sink both of those ships, while the privateer would probably only be armed with 6-pounders. Those cannon would barely make a dent in Renown’s solid sides, much less penetrate them. “I’d like to have the launch and the cutter ready to swing out.” Granger wasn’t about to put them in the water now, and add more drag to reduce Renown’s speed. “Aye aye, my lord,” he said, and went to rig the tackles to accomplish that. Granger turned to find Berkeley staring ahead at the two ships through his glass, engrossed in their maneuvers to escape. He put down his glass and turned to Granger. “I think we are going faster, my lord.” “You think that running out the guns helped, sir?” Granger asked, a bit surprised. “I do,” Berkeley confirmed. Granger watched and indeed they were gaining rapidly on the two vessels, even though they had disengaged and were tacking on sail. “Mr. Harmon, try a ranging shot with the bow chaser,” Granger called. “Aye aye, my lord,” he replied. Granger watched as Harmon trained the forward 9-pounder on the privateer. It was at extreme range, so a hit was most unlikely, but the 9-pounder was known in the fleet as being the most accurate of their cannon, so there was hope. Harmon took his time, carefully aiming the weapon, and then fired the gun. They watched, amazed, as the ball flew through the air and struck the privateer squarely amidships. “That was good shooting,” Granger said. “I wonder if running out the larboard guns made Renown a more stable platform as well?” Berkeley mused. That was something to contemplate in the future, not now, as action loomed. The single shot, so well laid, must have convinced the privateer that she was in range of Renown’s awesome artillery. She raised her flag, and then lowered it in surrender. Renown pressed on, anxious to close the gap lest the French captain surmise that it had been a lucky shot. The captured brig was much slower than the privateer, so within minutes they were able to fire a shot at her too, and that convinced her to lower her colors as well. “Mr. Buckland, you will take command of the privateer,” Granger said. “Take the launch and a strong boarding party, along with marines.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Buckland said with a grin. He’d be hoping this was the first step in promotion for him, assuming the Admiralty bought the privateer into the service. “Mr. Harmon, I will trust you to sort out things on the captured brig,” Granger said. That would be easier, since would have already had a crew. “You may take the cutter.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Harmon said. “Bit of prize money, my lord,” Berkeley said. “As if you need it.” “While that may be true, sir, I suspect my officers will appreciate it nonetheless,” Granger said with a smile. They’d get prize money for the privateer, and a salvage reward for recapturing the brig. Not bad, Granger thought, for a simple run from Brest to Portsmouth. “I would like to request that you recognize Mr. Hornblower’s suggestion to increase our speed in your report.” Granger was subtly reminding Berkeley that, as Renown was flying his flag, it was for him to write the report on their capture of these two vessels. It may make his rather stunted homecoming a bit more palatable. “I will do that,” Berkeley said, then went aft to the cabin to draft his report, while Granger took care of sorting out his little convoy and getting them on course for Portsmouth. August 1800 HMS Renown Spithead “Let go!” Granger ordered. That order was acknowledged by the splash as Renown’s anchor entered the water. “Mr. Roberts, take in the remaining sail.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Roberts said. “Mr. Lomax, I would be obliged if you and Mr. Buckland would attend to our prizes,” Granger said to the purser. “I will attend to that directly, my lord,” Lomax said. Renown had already swayed out her boats, so Lomax took the Jolly boat and headed over to Deux Peres, the French privateer they’d captured. She was a lovely vessel, almost brand new, and would make an ideal fleet auxiliary. Granger was confident that Admiralty would buy her into the fleet, and that meant that the prize money for her would be much more substantial. “Mr. Roberts, that is my home,” Granger said, gesturing to his beautiful waterside estate in Cowes. “I have heard of it, my lord. It is quite lovely,” Roberts said, which was fulsome praise for such a stoic individual. “Thank you,” Granger replied, and then summoned Hornblower over to join them. “Mr. Hornblower is familiar with the reservoir just beyond the house. It has been modified to make watering a ship much easier.” “Indeed, my lord?” Hornblower asked curiously. “We have run a pipe from the basin to the water’s edge, and then out to the dock, as you may be able to discern,” Granger said, pointing at the contraption. “That means that there are no leaky canvas hoses to rig, at least for that part of the journey.” “Ingenious, my lord,” Hornblower said, with rare enthusiasm. “One of my footmen developed the idea, and it works quite well. I fear that Renown’s draft prevents us from closing further with the shore, and may make hoses impractical, but I would submit that the casks could be filled on the boats from that spout quite easily, saving some labor.” “Indeed they could, my lord,” Hornblower said. “Then, Mr. Roberts, with your permission, I will delegate watering the ship to Mr. Hornblower,” Granger said. “Of course, my lord,” Roberts said. Admiral Berkeley came up on deck at that moment. He had gone back to his cabin after they’d passed by the main anchorage, as if he wanted to avoid this moment. “Granger, I’d be obliged if you’d arrange a boat to take me to meet with the port admiral.” “With pleasure, sir,” Granger said. “I was wondering if you had planned to travel to London?” “I do indeed,” Berkeley said. “If I may be so bold as to propose a course of action, sir, I was thinking that, after you meet with the port admiral, perhaps you would be willing to do me the honor of being my guest at my home.” Granger gestured across the water, to where the fountains were flowing happily. “I have been anxious to see this palace you’ve built, my lord,” Berkeley said pleasantly. “I was then thinking that I could impose upon you and join you when you traveled to London,” Granger suggested. “That sounds like a dashed clever way on your part to save money on coach fare,” Berkeley teased. “Upkeep on my fountains is most dear, sir,” Granger joked back, getting a laugh from him. “I will return to your home after meeting with the admiral,” Berkeley said. “In the meantime, I will have your things transferred ashore, sir,” Granger said. “We can store them for you until you are able to ship them home.” “Most thoughtful of you, my lord,” Berkeley said formally. “And now, if you would be so good as to loan me a boat and strike my flag, I will call on the port admiral.” “Of course, sir,” Granger said. He gave the orders, for that, and Berkeley’s flag came fluttering down from the mizzenmast, hopefully not for the last time ever, and the admiral headed off in Renown’s cutter to call on the port admiral. Winkler had already stowed Granger’s possessions, including those loaned to him by St. Vincent and Troubridge, into the gig, and after seeking Granger’s permission, had them rowed ashore. Doggett and Jacobs went with him. Granger was unsure as to what Renown’s future held, but his orders had been explicit about him quitting the ship, and he had no desire to have his baggage and possessions encumbering his departure. He spent his time on the quarterdeck, directing the activity as Renown prepared to water herself and to deal with her reprovisioning. He was glad for the activity, as it kept him from feeling out of sorts. “Boat ahoy!” he heard one of Renown’s lookouts call. “Renown!” came the reply. Granger hastened over to the side to see a shore boat approaching them, carrying Captain Sawyer. “Mr. Roberts, please prepare for the return of Captain Sawyer,” Granger ordered. “Aye aye, my lord,” he said, with a hint of dread. Granger stood on the deck stoically, watching the entry port as Sawyer hauled himself through it amidst the chirping of the bosun’s mate’s whistles. “Welcome aboard, Captain,” Granger said formally. “My lord,” Sawyer said curtly, in what could only be a rude gesture. “Where’s Mr. Buckland?” “Mr. Buckland has been serving as prize master,” Granger said. “If you will look astern, you will see that Renown was able to capture two prizes while returning to Portsmouth.” Sawyer’s face bulged with fury, since he would share no part of the prize money, while his officers and men would of course get their portion. Granger was very aware that their capture of those prizes was pure luck, but it had the effect of making Sawyer look even worse. “Well get him back here!” Sawyer demanded. “Captain, I suggest that first you read yourself in,” Granger said, then turned to Roberts. “Mr. Roberts, have the hands lay aft.” Until Sawyer read himself in, he was not in command, and could not give orders as he’d just tried. “Aye aye, my lord,” Roberts said. Sawyer composed himself, and then when the hands were assembled, he read the orders from the Admiralty, reappointing him to Renown. When he was done, he turned to Roberts. “Send word to Mr. Buckland to report back here immediately.” “Aye aye sir,” Roberts said. “I trust you found my cabin to be comfortable, my lord,” Sawyer said, in an almost smarmy way. “I was able to make it so, Captain,” Granger said coolly. “After we have accounted for my stores, we can have you sent ashore, my lord,” Sawyer said, all but throwing Granger off of the ship. “There are no stores to account for, Captain,” Granger said smoothly. “I was able to provide my own, and all of my things have already been removed. You will find your cabin much as you left it.” Sawyer was quite annoyed by that, since he’d undoubtedly planned to overcharge Granger substantially for the things he’d left behind. “Quite so. Pass the word for Gumbel.” “Gumbel is no longer aboard Renown, Captain,” Granger said. “What? Where has he gone? Is he aboard that prize? Get him back here!” Sawyer said, completely flummoxed. It was obvious to Granger that Sawyer was struggling to maintain his sanity, and he cursed to hell the idiocy of the Lords of the Admiralty who were determined to leave this madman in charge of such a vital resource as Renown. At the same time, he felt a bit of pity for this man, who was clearly fighting his own demons. “Sir, if you would oblige me, I’d like to relay that to you in your cabin.” Sawyer stared at Granger and Granger could almost see his mind clearing a bit. “Quite so, my lord.” He led Granger back to his cabin, even as he looked around suspiciously, as if Granger had left some booby trap there to harm him. “Gumbel was found guilty by a court martial of stealing powder from His Majesty,” Granger said. “Who set him up for this? What is this nonsense?” Sawyer demanded, coming a bit unglued. “I assure you, Captain, it was not nonsense, and a jury of some ten captains led by Captain Troubridge reviewed the evidence,” Granger said. He relayed the events to Sawyer, who alternated visibly between anger and despair. “You set him up for this!” Sawyer accused, when Granger was done. “A man was found stealing from the Crown,” Granger said calmly. “That I discovered his malfeasance is something to be lauded, not dismissed.” “So you say,” Sawyer growled. “I think you should know, Captain, that during the trial, I was questioned as to whether I found any evidence that you were involved in Gumbel’s graft,” Granger said, and watched Sawyer’s eyes widen. “Your officers were queried about that as well. All of us were quite clear in noting that we found nothing to implicate you in this scheme.” “Well I wasn’t involved, so that’s the truth,” Sawyer said. “In any event, I will take my leave of you. Good luck, Captain,” Granger said. “Not even a by your leave, or a request for a boat?” Sawyer demanded, as if he planned to make Granger grovel for a conveyance to his home. “There is no need. I have my own boat waiting,” Granger said curtly. He left the cabin, said his goodbyes to the officers, and descended into the small boat they kept tied to the dock, manned by his own servants.
  5. 52 points
    August 1800 Ryde Granger stepped out of his boat and onto the dock, but significant activity drew his attention back to Renown. He saw her working to raise her anchor, and set the main topsail, while her boats were all recalled. Evidently Sawyer wanted to move her away from Granger’s home, and closer to the victualing yard. Granger shook his head sadly at the man who commanded her, but thought that the man or men who put him in command were just as pathetic. He resolved to put Renown behind him, and focus on the new task ahead, whatever that may be. He began to stroll up to the house when he saw William and Charlotte running down to greet him, with Caroline striding behind with more dignity. “Father, you’re home!” William cried, and all but lunged into Granger’s arms. He hugged his son, then his daughter, and reveled in the joy of seeing them. He thought about those parents who advocated keeping a cool distance between them and their children. Those people would never know the joy of embracing your own child, of loving your offspring and of having them return that love. “It is good to see both of you,” Granger said happily, then looked up to see Caroline smiling at him. “And it is especially good to see you.” It was the perfect thing to say. After all the things they’d dealt with during the last few years, all their problems, he let her know that she was still vitally important to him, and that he loved her. “When people ask me to describe the feeling of joy, I tell them that emotion is most vivid when you return from the sea,” she said to him lovingly. He hugged her tightly, and probably for too long, considering there were probably lots of eyes on them, but he cared not a fig. When he finally broke off the embrace, the four of them began walking back to the house. “If you look out at that fountain, you will see it is spouting through a newly arrived Roman god,” Caroline said. “He is quite handsome, even without water spouting from him,” Granger observed, getting a chuckle from Caroline. “He comes to you courtesy of Lord Elgin,” she informed him. “I think you will like him better than the other gift he has sent you.” “You make me fear he has sent his wife home,” Granger said with dread, which was partially faked. “And what is this other gift?” “I’ll leave that as surprise for you when you get to London,” she said mysteriously. His children demanded his attention before he could fully quiz her about that. “Father, you were on that ship, a ship of the line!” William said, pointing at Renown. “I commanded her briefly, for about a month or so,” Granger said. “I no longer have that obligation.” “Will you take us aboard her?” he asked hopefully. “Not that ship,” Granger said. “Perhaps a different one. We shall see.” There was no way he would subject his children to the insanity of Sawyer, and the dreariness of the other officers aboard Renown. They went into the house and Granger headed for the nursery to see Alexander and Elizabeth, and spent about an hour with them, just enjoying their company. After that, he left all four of his children there so he and Caroline could talk. That did not get a very pleasant response from his offspring, but Granger decided that governesses were there to deal with those foul moods, and opted to enjoy some time with his wife. As he and Caroline walked down the stairs, he noticed Jenkins waiting for him. “Welcome home my lord,” Jenkins said, and seemed genuinely glad he was there. “We are pleased to serve dinner if you are ready.” “We would be delighted,” Granger said, smiling at Jenkins, even as he led them into the dining room. “It is good to see you.” “Thank you, my lord, it is good to see you as well,” Jenkins said a bit nervously. He wasn’t as refined as Cheevers, and let his emotions out a bit more, but Granger thought that was actually rather pleasant for this home, which was in the more casual world of the Isle of Wight. “Admiral Berkeley sailed back with me aboard Renown, and I invited him to stay with us until tomorrow when he must head to London,” Granger told Jenkins and Caroline. Jenkins just nodded, then left him, while he and Caroline sat at the dining room table to eat and talk. “It will be nice to see him again,” Caroline said. “And you are going to London with him?” “That was the course of action I outlined to the admiral, unless you have other plans for me?” Granger asked. “My plans for you are for after dinner,” she said, and winked at him, making Granger chuckle. “Indeed it does sound as if it will be good to be home,” he said, and leaned in to give her a quick kiss. “I have to say that this house is quite convenient if one is serving in the Channel Fleet.” “So it would seem,” she agreed. “Have you heard from Cavendish lately?” He hoped Caroline would sense his overall concern for the young man, and know that he wasn’t trying to bring up their past issues. She seemed to understand his intentions, and nodded her head sadly because she understood Cavendish’s predicament. “He came to see me after he sent you that letter, as he was in London only briefly. He truly seemed despondent and trapped. He is usually so upbeat and seems to enjoy the jungle that is London politics, but he is feeling the effects of being unpopular.” “I did not know what to say, or how to reach out to him,” Granger said, showing her how helpless he felt. “I wrote him, but I didn’t have a trusted courier, so those letters were probably much too vague.” “I advised him to talk to your father about this situation,” Caroline said. “And did he?” Caroline responded playfully, trying to lighten the mood a bit, as this talk of Cavendish’s pending marriage had made things a bit too somber. “You do not think he was smart enough to heed my advice?” Granger raised an eyebrow at that, and then smiled. “So what did my father say to him?” making them both chuckle. “He told Freddy to talk to His Majesty,” she said. “He also suggested that, if His Majesty didn’t seem receptive, that the Prince of Wales would be another candidate.” Granger let her words concern him, since the only reason the King would not be receptive or helpful would be because his illness had returned. “His Majesty is not well?” Granger asked, remembering his upsetting meeting with his monarch just a few months ago. “He is well, but has spells from time to time,” Caroline said. “At least that is what I have heard. I suspect the spells may happen a bit more frequently than that.” “That is unfortunate,” Granger said sadly. “The Act of Union received its assent on July 2, and Pitt had promised that Catholic Emancipation would come with it. The King has sworn to oppose such a measure. I think that is weighing on the mind of His Majesty quite a bit,” she said. “That was clearly what had him agitated when I met with him,” Granger agreed. “Did Freddy talk to the King?” “I do not know,” she said. “The last I heard, he was heading to Weymouth to try. If he isn’t there, presumably he’ll be in Brighton with His Royal Highness.” “I guess it was ill advised to build a house here, when either one of those towns would seem to be a better location for a summer home,” Granger said. “I disagree,” Caroline said. “I think this was the optimal location. We are close to both of those places, yet we are here where it is much more peaceful and remote. There are enough people who summer here to provide for interesting conversation, and I find it wonderful to be able to watch the ships come and go. It helps me visualize you on your vessel, whichever one you happen to be aboard at the time.” He smiled. “I have been through a few lately. I served as captain of the Renown for a little over a month.” “So you told William,” she said. “It was not pleasant?” “It was not,” he said. He told her all about Sawyer, and the fleet maneuver that had caused such hubbub in the first place. And he told her about the dreary but competent officers on the ship, and how rude Sawyer had been when he’d assumed command a few hours ago. “I am full of anxiety for the officers and crew, and for what they must deal with in such an insane captain.” “That is because you care about the people who serve you,” she said affectionately, since she found it to be one of Granger’s more endearing traits. “You are not without options here.” “I’m not?” Granger asked, even as he began to think about it. “It seems to me that the only thing you can do is try to protect the officers from some sort of witch hunt by Sawyer,” she said. “I think that is possible. I would raise the issue with Lord Spencer when you see him.” “I will do that,” Granger said, smiling. “And do you know why I have been recalled from the Channel Fleet?” “I do,” she said, but got a bit nervous, perhaps because they’d had issues in the past when she’d interfered with his career, or more specifically, with officers who were assigned to him. “You are sending me to China?” he teased. “I am not sending you anywhere, but if I were to ship you off, it would not be to China,” she said. “And why not?” “Because I do not like the style of their furniture and décor, and I do not want you adding Chinese statues to our fountains,” she said, making him laugh. “I think you underestimate the attractiveness of a large Buddha with water bubbling out of his head,” Granger joked back. “I am not sending you anywhere,” she said. “This is Daventry’s doing.” “I am most interested to hear what he has in store for me,” Granger said, and was a bit annoyed that Daventry was acting as if Granger was at his beck and call. “There was an unfortunate incident in the channel last month,” she told him. “A Danish frigate, the Freya, was escorting a convoy and the Navy intercepted them and attempted to inspect the ships.” “The blockade is ineffective if neutral powers are able to take any cargos they want into French ports,” Granger said dogmatically. And that was the issue, for which there seemed little room to compromise. Britain refused to allow neutral merchants to import stores that were contraband, and insisted on inspecting ships before they were allowed to pass. Neutral nations, especially the Northern Powers of Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, saw this as a violation of their sovereignty. “Here’s the news sheet announcing it,” she said, and handed Granger the paper. On the 25th of July, at 6h. p.m., the Danish 18-pounder 40-gun frigate Freya, Captain Krabbe, in charge of a convoy, was fallen in with, in the North Sea, by the 28-gun frigate Nemesis, Captain Thomas Baker, having a squadron in company. Captain Krabbe refusing to allow any of the ships under his convoy to be searched, and having fired upon a boat sent away with that intention, the Nemesis and Arrow sloop opened fire upon the Danish frigate, and after a short action, in which the Nemesis and Arrow had each two men killed, the Freya hauled down her colours, having suffered a similar loss. The Freya and her convoy were escorted by Nemesis and Arrow to the Downs. Blood had been shed, which was a horrible escalation. “Are we at war with Denmark?” “Not yet, at least not as far as I know,” Caroline said. “Suffice it to say that this has not been an easy time for Lord Grenville.” “I should think not,” Granger said, thinking of the challenge this would throw at the Foreign Secretary. “There is to be a diplomatic attempt to resolve this crisis, which means we must send envoys to Copenhagen and St. Petersburg,” she said, then explained further. “Denmark is incensed about the Freya affair, while the entire Northern Alliance is the brainchild of Tsar Paul.” “It would seem to be a good idea to try and resolve this without more blood being shed,” Granger noted. “And it would also be a good idea to keep the substantial fleets of those countries from joining the French cause.” “I suspect that is a key objective,” Caroline said. “The government is planning to dispatch Lord Whitworth to Copenhagen.” “He is the biggest sage on the Northern Powers, or so I have heard,” Granger said. “He was quite influential in Russia until Paul became enamored of the French and demanded his recall,” she said. “So he will only be going as far as Denmark.” “Then who will be going to Russia?” Granger asked. “Lord Daventry,” she said. “But he will only go if you take him.” “That is a lot to digest,” Granger said, pondering what that would mean. Daventry was not a diplomat, but a member of the secret service. Why would they send a spy to do a diplomat’s job? And why did Daventry insist that he take him there? He posed the latter question to Caroline. “Daventry explained to me that there is bound to be much uncertainty, and it is most likely to be a hazardous mission, in that Russia, Sweden, and Denmark are all considered hostile countries at this point,” she told him. “He wants you to take him because you are smart, and you are good at thinking of ways out of difficult situations.” “Laudable compliments, even if they are undeserved,” Granger said modestly. Caroline found his self-deprecation to be tedious at times, and this was one of them, so she pressed the discussion on. “So that is why you were recalled from the Channel Fleet,” she summarized. “Daventry wants you to take him to Russia, so the government will task you to do just that.” “I do not have a ship to take him in,” Granger said. “I discovered that the Admiralty sent out a recall for Valiant shortly after you resolved the issues regarding the Guild with Mr. Pitt,” Caroline informed him. “I believe we resolved the issues,” Granger said firmly, giving her credit. “In any event, it is hoped that Valiant will arrive home soon, and then you can resume your command of her,” Caroline said with a bit of sadness, since that would take him away from England. “If not, I suspect they will find you an alternative vessel.” “If I am going north, I’d best make sure that whichever ship they give me has a stove in it,” he said, thinking of how miserably cold it would be in the Baltic in winter. Caroline ignored that comment, because she didn’t want to think about him freezing in some Swedish gulf. “When you are tasked to take this mission on, I would suggest that would be an ideal time to ascertain that Renown’s officers will be kept safe from Captain Sawyer,” she said. “Spencer is going to think that any time he sends me on assignment, he must barter with me,” Granger grumbled, even though he would do exactly as Caroline dictated. “I would advise you to seek out Daventry as soon as you can, so he can give you more details,” she said. “I have been ordered to report to London, so if he is not there, I fear I will be a bit in the dark,” Granger admitted. “I think that Spencer will be able to inform you effectively, even if you don’t talk to Daventry first, and I would guess, based on how he talks about you and how he treats me when you are gone, that he is quite fond of you, and would try to watch out for your best interests,” she said. That implied that Spencer had taken Granger under his wing to a much greater degree than Granger had suspected. Caroline all but read his mind. “You must remember that Spencer must not appear to be too partisan on your behalf.” “That makes sense,” Granger said. “I have a lot of respect for Lord Spencer, but I have certainly had my disagreements with him.” “Whatever spats you may have had, they certainly aren’t enough to sour how he evidently feels about you,” she said. “I am honored to be so esteemed in his mind,” Granger said, a little flummoxed by that, and a bit uncomfortable as he grappled with that in his mind. “I think it is well-deserved,” Caroline said. Desperate to change the subject, Granger raised a new topic. “What will happen to Calvert when I resume command of the Valiant?” “He is to be given command of another frigate. I believe that was part of the deal when they gave Calvert Valiant,” she said. Caroline did not really like Francis Calvert, and even though she tried to hide it, it was very visible to Granger. “That is a good thing, since Calvert is a very good captain,” Granger said. “I would suspect he had a good teacher, and role model,” she said. By mentioning Calvert, Granger had annoyed Caroline, so she had hoped to return that irritation slightly by flattering him so, but in this case, Granger wasn’t afflicted with his normal modesty. “When I was welcomed into the Lords, Lord Hood told me that what is most important is the people you leave behind you, meaning that there is nothing so rewarding as seeing one of your subordinates become very successful.” “That must be quite a feeling,” Caroline said supportively. “Lord Barnfield shuttled me to and from the Inshore Squadron on his new command, the Courser,” Granger said, thinking of another. “He is such a delightful young man,” she said, since she spent much time with Barnfield at social events. “Which reminds me to tell you of Lord Brookstone.” He’d taken Brookstone aboard Belvidera as a midshipman shortly after he’d taken command of her. “And what has become of him?” Granger asked. “He is commanding a sloop now,” Caroline told him. “Some of our nautical staff members have told me that the ship, who’s name I forget, is a sister ship of Intrepid.” Brookstone was a good officer, and a very bright man. “It is tantalizing to think of what an exceptional young captain like Brookstone can do in such a ship.” “Indeed,” she agreed. “And I should share news with you that you probably have not heard,” Granger said. “Lennox was posted.” Lennox had been one of the first midshipmen Granger had been lucky enough to appoint, back when he’d been in command of Intrepid. “Lennox is a captain? How did that happen?” she asked. “Lord St. Vincent asked one of his admirals to post him as flag captain, and used it to repay an old debt,” Granger said. “That was quite a debt to repay,” Caroline noted. She’d become quite well versed on naval politics, and knew that any admiral guarded those key staff appointments jealously, and usually had one of his own subordinates he wanted or needed to reward. “I must travel to London with Admiral Berkeley tomorrow, and I will see how things go from there.” “Do you want me to come with you?” she asked. Granger was worried that with either answer, he may be wrong, so he hedged. “I will leave that to you,” he said. “I think I will stay here, at least for now,” she said. “I will keep you informed, and you can certainly return to London if need be,” he replied. “You appear to be finished with your dinner,” she noted. He smiled at her. “I am wondering if you would like to join me for a bath?” “An excellent idea,” she said, and then, in the wonderful fresh water of his baths, Granger was truly reunited with his wife. August 1800 The Admiralty, London Granger walked into the familiar building, thinking of his former officers like Calvert and Barnfield who were so successful, but he was not filled with pride, rather, he was filled with apprehension for Harmon and Hornblower. He signed in on the register, and then scanned the waiting room, using his peripheral vision, until he landed on a familiar face. Rodney Roberts smiled broadly even as he stood up, only with his massive physique, it almost looked as if a Greek statue had suddenly arisen. He had been Granger’s first lieutenant on Belvidera, holding that position until he’d transferred to the Captain to fight with Nelson at the Battle of St. Vincent. Granger walked over and held out his hands warmly. He noticed the single epaulet on Roberts’ shoulder, showing that he was no longer merely a commander. “What a pleasure to see you, Captain, and even greater pleasure to see that your epaulet has leapt from one shoulder to the other.” “Not nearly as good as seeing you, my lord,” Roberts said, gripping Granger’s hands back firmly. “I’ve just been posted this week.” “To what ship?” Granger asked, even as he led Roberts off to less crowded portion of the room. “I’ve been given the Rattlesnake, a ship I have heard you have some familiarity with, my lord,” Roberts said. “She is a fine ship, and a worthy one for someone of your talents,” Granger said. “Is she here?” “Yes, my lord, she’s at Sheerness,” Roberts said. “I am here to receive my final orders, and then we’re to sail shortly.” “Do you mind if I ask where you’re bound?” “I am bound for the East Indies,” Roberts said. “Whom did you vex to get that position?” Granger teased, since the East Indies was not the ideal posting for most officers. “I think it was part of the arrangement, with me getting Rattlesnake, my lord,” he said. “I am wondering if I could impose upon you for a few things,” Granger said. “I am at your service, my lord,” Roberts said. “If you are free this evening, I would love to host you for dinner, and then perhaps I can give you some insights based on my own experiences in India,” Granger offered. “I would be most obliged, my lord,” Roberts said enthusiastically. “The other thing is that I would appreciate it if you would carry correspondence from my parents and me to my brother, Albert,” Granger said. “Nothing could be easier, my lord,” Roberts said. “It is rare that I have an opportunity to utilize a courier whom I can trust, so that is quite a luxury,” Granger said. “My lord, His Lordship will see you now,” the secretary said, interrupting them. “Quite so,” Granger said, then turned to Roberts. “I will see you when my meetings are over. If we are finished at different times, I will see you at my house.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Roberts said formally, since the secretary was watching them curiously. Granger turned and followed the secretary back to Spencer’s office, where he found the First Lord standing to greet him, a very polite and respectful thing to do. “Granger, how good to see you,” Spencer said in a friendly way. “It is good to see you too, sir,” Granger said, and despite his concerns and issues, began to let his guard down around this man who had evidently worked behind the scenes for him quite extensively. “I was so saddened to be recalled from the Fleet.” Spencer laughed. “I suspect that blockade duty must weigh on your psyche after your more usual assignments.” “It is a bit more dreary, sir, but it’s also interesting to watch the challenge His Lordship faces, trying to handle some 30 to 40 captains, and all the conflict that entails,” Granger said. “I shouldn’t wonder,” Spencer said, and gestured for Granger to have a seat while he poured them some claret. “I am to meet with Admiral Berkeley tomorrow, and I am not looking forward to hearing what will undoubtedly be rants against St. Vincent.” “I think you may be surprised, sir,” Granger said. Spencer looked at him quizzically. “I do not sense that Admiral Berkeley is angry and full of venom. While he was not happy about the way he was embarrassed in front of the fleet, I found him to be charming and interesting on our voyage home.” “Let us hope that behavior continues during our meeting,” Spencer said. “St. Vincent certainly did not pillory the admiral in his reports, like I would have expected.” Spencer was, in his way, asking Granger for his opinion of the man, a subtle request that Granger understood. “Begging your pardon, sir, but I think that Admiral Berkeley was an unlucky choice for the Inshore Squadron command. It requires a bit more boldness and aggression, in my opinion,” Granger said. “I am thinking back to the Mutiny at Spithead…” “What a wonderful memory for you to evoke,” Spencer interrupted grumpily. “I remember that Lord Howe was talking about Admiral Colpoys and some of his qualities, those that were predominantly focused on organizational and administrative responsibilities, sir,” Granger said. “I think that Admiral Berkeley may be that type of admiral, only with a bit more dash.” “It would not be hard to have more dash than Colpoys,” Spencer allowed, making them both chuckle. “I read your report on Renown. You seem impressed with the officers.” “I found them competent and effective, sir,” Granger said. “As I told Lord St. Vincent, excluding Hornblower and possibly Harmon, the officers are not exceptional, but they are good.” “It will be good for Sawyer to have a good team to back him up,” Spencer said hastily, as if to gloss over that issue. “Sir, from what I have heard, Captain Sawyer does nothing but abuse and undermine his officers,” Granger said firmly. “That is hearsay, then, is it not?” Spencer asked acidly, trying to shut Granger down. He didn’t realize how strongly this issue weighed on Granger’s mind. “Sir, I am very concerned that by leaving Captain Sawyer in command of Renown, you are hazarding that ship, which is sound and solid, and destroying the futures of the officers who serve under him,” Granger said. “He is all but insane.” Spencer was furious at being chided by a captain, even this captain, and was about to lash out at Granger, but Granger was one of his favorite officers, and Spencer decided that reasoning with him may work better. “I am reminded of your issues with your doctor and Sir Tobias Maidstone.” “Sir?” Granger asked, confused, since he had indeed been expecting to have all but a hurricane launched at him. “Sir Tobias was portraying Doctor Jackson as a cold-blooded murderer, and wanted him put to death; while you and your friends were all but advocating for his sainthood,” Spencer said. “You are advocating that I remove Sawyer from command because you tell me he is insane, and while I trust and respect your opinion, it would be unfair to Sawyer for me to take action solely based on that.” Granger worked that through in his brain. “You are telling me that, despite the cavalcade of evidence from people like me and Lord St. Vincent, you need something more tangible?” “Yes,” Spencer said, in an annoyed way. “Sir Tobias was, at the time, a reputable advocate against Jackson. It is possible that Captain Sawyer also has such advocates.” “I see,” Granger lied. “No, you do not,” Spencer said, finally irritated enough to lose his cool. “If I remove Sawyer because of what you and St. Vincent say, I will be lambasted by Sawyer’s friends, who will point out that I have just heard rumors, and would point out that based on the letters I get from captains in the Channel Fleet, those people would have me believe St. Vincent is no better than Sawyer!” “You must be fair, and you must be relatively unbiased,” Granger concluded. “Yes,” Spencer said, but this time he was happy, because Granger got it. “Look Granger, I understand that you are worried about Renown, so in this situation, I will share my reasoning with you.” “I would appreciate your candor, sir,” Granger said honestly. “I agree with both you and St. Vincent that Sawyer is an idiot, and if Renown had paid off, I would not find him another ship,” Spencer said. “But it is going to be very difficult for me to accomplish removing him from command here in London. I could do it, but the cost is too high.” Granger nodded, even as he thought about the world Spencer must live in, one where favors were exchanged in a very deliberate manner that was, at the same time, subtle and fluid. He would have to balance the cost of major or controversial decisions, and in this case, getting rid of Sawyer was too expensive. It briefly bothered Granger that Spencer would not worry about the minions who were involved in paying the price for that, namely the Renown’s wardroom, but then he reminded himself that Spencer was supposed to be looking at things from a broad perspective. “I think I understand, sir.” “What I can and did do,” Spencer said, “is send Captain Sawyer to a place where such a removal is possible. When he arrives in Jamaica, Lord Seymour will be able to make that decision without any such qualms.” “And then, if Lord Seymour removes Captain Sawyer and sends him home, he can be retired without a problem,” Granger mused. “Exactly,” Spencer said. “To assuage your conscience, I will do my best to keep Renown’s officers from being black-balled for this.” Granger smiled broadly then, since he had unbended along with Spencer, and this was the pledge he’d been seeking. “Thank you, sir.” “Sawyer was adamant that his officers remain aboard,” Spencer said with a frown. “But Harmon managed to get himself transferred in spite of that.” “I would think he was the only one of them with connections such that he could break free, sir,” Granger said, but in a joking kind of way. “The others will survive, I am sure, and I will try to keep a protective eye on Lieutenant Hornblower, to keep you and Captain Pellew happy.” “We would both appreciate that, sir,” Granger said. “And now, let us talk about what is to happen to you,” Spencer said, even as he pulled out a very ornate box.
  6. 51 points
    Daniel had 'snuck' out of bed and was preparing ‘breakfast in bed’ for his lover when Raymond quietly slipped his arms around his man and whispered in his ear, “Don’t you know that frying bacon is a blister hazard? I wouldn’t want to have to avoid my favorite toy because it got splattered with hot grease.” To emphasize his point Raymond extracted the aforementioned toy through the fly of Daniel’s boxers and stroked it lovingly as he nibbled on Daniel’s earlobe. Daniel turned his back to the stove and gave Raymond a coffee flavored kiss. “What about the bodyguards”? “I sent them into the diner to get breakfast. I assured them I’d be safe in the hands of the county sheriff.” Wagging his massive appendage, Daniel asked, “Do you have some place I could put it for safekeeping”? Raymond dropped to his knees and proceeded to shelter his favorite toy over and over again. When Daniel recovered from his near collapse and tried to return the favor Raymond chuckled and indicated the mess that was running down the front of the stove. After a sanitary wipe down, Raymond sat the table and breakfast was shared. Once their individual plans for the day were discussed, Daniel asked, “What should we do for New Year’s Eve? It’s tomorrow night and I thought we would spend it together. I usually go to one of the gay clubs in Dallas and hope to get lucky. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I expect to have a date with you for all the major holidays for the rest of my life. As long as we celebrate it together, I don’t care where we are.” Raymond sat his cup down and stared into his lover’s eyes. “Daniel as far as I’m concerned, you have a date for every day for the rest of our lives. I won’t pressure you on your decision to move in with me, but as for tomorrow night… I would like for us to spend it in my apartment in Dallas. While I will be living on the ranch full time, I intend to keep it. It has been my home for more than five years and I want you to be there with me. Not to show off, but to make you more a part of my life. I want us to make it our home. I want to christen each and every room so that the strongest and best memories we both have of that place will be of our time there together.” Daniel could see the hope in Raymond’s bright green eyes. “I only have one question… Should we leave today after work? I know it’s a penthouse apartment, so I figure it has lots of rooms. A man can only do so much in a day. Well, in a weekend. But if we get started early we can do some rooms twice.” Since Dallas was only a couple of hours away, Daniel had no qualms about being out of town. It was agreed that they would leave from Raymond’s ranch. Daniel’s truck would be parked out of the way and no one except Larry and Runt would know where Daniel really was. When the bodyguards appeared and asked for coffee refills, they seemed oblivious to the fact that both men were clad only in underwear. Daniel was flustered that he had forgotten all about Raymond’s ubiquitous shadows. For a moment he wondered just how long it would be until his relationship with Raymond became common knowledge. It surprised him to realize how little he cared. Later in the morning he called Raymond and chatted as they stared at each other from their respective offices. Daniel told him he had talked to his parents about Raymond and they wanted to meet him. Raymond and Daniel were invited to dinner this evening as soon as they could get there but no later than six-thirty. Once Daniel told his Mamma they were coming, it was agreed that they would meet at Daniel’s place and drive over together. Then drive into Dallas after dinner. That evening, when Daniel saw the bouquet of fresh cut flowers and the discrete brown bag holding a large bottle of the senior Mr. Lovan’s favorite “medicinal” beverage, he rolled his eyes. “Oh brother, you’re just sucking up to my folks. I wasn’t much more generous than that at Christmas. If you make a habit of bringing them gifts, I could be dethroned as their favorite son.” “Well, I could have gone for jewelry and a new pickup truck. But, I figured I’d start out with the old soft pitch. Save the big guns for when you announce our engagement.” Daniel rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, about that… I, uh…” Raymond chuckled, “Don’t worry Lawman. I won’t hold you to that proposal unless you lose the election. I already told ya that. I promise not to embarrass you by fawning all over you or making goo goo eyes.” “Well, you see. Uh, you don’t have to worry about that. The thing is, I never, never ever brought anybody home to meet my folks. Sure an occasional high school friend. Of course Jeff was always welcomed anytime. But, I never brought anybody I was dating or interested in. They know this is serious. So be prepared for some serious questions like, “What are your intentions regarding my first born”? Raymond burst out laughing. Between guffaws he managed to ask, “Is your Daddy gonna be cleaning his shotgun as he and I get acquainted? While your Momma takes you into the kitchen to grill you about what you know about this stranger in their presence”? The look on Daniel’s face spoke volumes. Raymond’s face lost all humor. “By god, you’re serious. They’re going to serve “grilled Raymond” for dinner.” Daniel was serious, “If you call now for a helicopter you could be across the border before they know you aren’t showing up. If you come to dinner with me, just know that the rules of the Geneva Convention don’t apply to the parents of an only child. I can't even promise that you won’t be left alone with Dad. I told you about him and his fishing buddy. There’s no telling what kind of questions he’s liable to ask. He might be looking to improve his cock sucking technique. I must have been crazy to think this was a simple meet my folks dinner. This is like taking you by the hand and leading you into the Spanish Inquisition.” The distress on Daniel’s face touched Raymond’s heart. “Well, you can’t be blamed. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.” He chuckled at his own joke while Daniel rolled his eyes. Raymond took Daniel’s hands, “Baby, it’ll be alright. I have faced down armed assassins in dark alleys and even meaner bastards in board rooms. I can handle a couple of overprotective parents. Trust me. I got this.” Daniel relaxed, but only a little. He muttered, “Yeah, you got this. Famous last words.” Raymond was warmly welcomed into a home that he found easy to complement. Daniel’s Momma was thrilled by the flowers and Mr. Lovan was insistent that he and Raymond sample his gift while Daniel help his Mother in the kitchen. Mr. Lovan led Raymond into the den, closed the door and indicated one of two recliners. As he poured several fingers over ice, for the both of them, he began, “You know, there was a time, back when he was in high school, Raymond Cargill was all our Danny Boy talked about. Then he quit talking about you. He seemed to get serious all of a sudden, too serious for a teenager. Now, he’s talking about Raymond Cargill Adams. Is this the same man that is going to hurt him again? Or is this Raymond Adams a better man? Daniel’s father took a sip and before Raymond could respond said, “I had a hard time when he came out to me and his Mother. I felt as though I had failed him. I worried that my own past deeds were somehow catching up to me. Then a good friend had a serious talk with me and he reminded me of when Daniel was six years old. His mother had noticed he started blanking out. He would just stop whatever he was doing and get a blank look on his face. The doctors called it a french word, “absounce”. I suppose it means absence, but it sounded fancier. We took him to Dallas, to a specialist. The man ran some tests and Daniel showed positive for a childhood disease. The Doctor said false positives happened and he grew or “cultured” some bacteria for thirty days to see if Daniel actually had this disease. For thirty days, I watched my son, thinking this may be the last time I get to see him do this or do that. It might have been the last time I held him or kissed him goodnight. I have a lot of pictures of him from that thirty day period. That thirty days was hell. I cried more in that thirty days with his Mother, with my friend and alone than I had cried in my whole life. You see Raymond, if that test came back positive that meant our Danny Boy had less than a year to live. And there was no telling how much of that year had already passed. “When we found out he didn’t have the disease. That in fact he only had epilepsy, we celebrated like crazy. I can’t remember ever being so happy. Well, he grew out of his seizures. The point is, my friend reminded me that just like having epilepsy… I still had my son. He was just gay. He was still the same little boy I loved. Today, I love my son, who happens to be gay. “Raymond, I see the light that dimmed when you went out of his life the last time is back. Daniel suddenly reminds me of the happy little boy I watched so carefully those wonderfully miserable thirty fucking days, more than twenty years ago. Just know this. Raymond you do anything to hurt my son again, and those two goons parked across the road tonight won’t protect you. “Now drink up and tell me… What exactly are your intentions regarding my only son”? “Mr. Lovan, Daniel and I have discussed our collective and individual pasts. A relationship between us back then would not have been merely frowned upon, it would have been criminal. I think we both tried to forget about each other. I don’t believe in fate, or such. But, circumstances have brought us together at a different time. As to my intentions with your Son… I intend to marry him as soon as he will set a date. He has already proposed and I have accepted. I want Daniel to be my life partner and co father to my child. His chosen profession is not currently accepting of same sex relationships even those bonded by legal matrimony. I am out. He is not. I intend to support him as much as possible in his political endeavors. Whatever he needs from me, will be his. I have funds sufficient that neither of us have to work, if we choose not to. Unlimited funds will be at his disposal in support of his election campaign. “Mr. Lovan, my Daddy died when I was just a boy, I was devastated. I expect to be a father myself within this coming year, through a surrogate mother. Even now I feel it in my heart that that child is already a part of me. I haven’t talked to anyone about this, but if this pregnancy were to terminate… it would hit me hard. If I think about it, I can almost feel that baby cradled in my arms. I hope I never experience, for even a moment, what you suffered through in those thirty days. I can’t undo what Daniel suffered because of me in the past. I can say that back then the law saw him as a boy and saw me as a man. Now that we are both adults. I give you my word that I will never intentionally do anything to hurt him again as long as I live.” Silence descended as both men sipped their drinks and pondered the changes the changes their lives were about to embrace. After minutes of contemplation, Mr. Lovan sighed and stood up. “Come on Son. Let’s go see what’s for dinner. Your Momma will likely send you home with take out, but you can’t get curb service here.” Raymond chuckled and followed Mr. Lovan into the kitchen. Daniel’s look of obvious concern was met with a warm smile and a wink. Daniel pulled his lover into his arms. “I knew you would be alright. I want you to know, if I thought it was going to be more than a little awkward, I would have never left your side.” Mrs. Lovan added, “As it was, I practically had to hog tie him to let his Daddy have some time alone with his significant other.” Mr. Lovan placed his hand on Raymond’s shoulder. “Momma, Raymond here tells me you might have a wedding to plan. These two are ‘in the family way’. Seems we’re gonna have grandchildren after all. The new arrival is due sometime later this year.” Thankfully dinner was ready to be served, because Mrs. Lovan could think of nothing but the upcoming wedding of her only son and the impending arrival of her first grandbaby. Weddings and Baby Showers were old hat to her, but always as a guest. Now she had her own coming up and she was not to be deterred. After listening to the reasons she was still not swayed. “Well, it has to be done before the baby arrives. God forbid, if anything happened to Raymond, the baby would still have his other father to raise him. It can be done without anybody knowing. We could have it in Galveston at that Bed and Breakfast. Only a few people have to know. Raymond’s immediate family and of course Fred and Betty would have a fit if we didn’t include them. But, the rest are just busybodies anyway. Worse bunch of gossips you ever met.” Then glaring at the smirk on her husband’s face she snapped, “And don’t go pointing fingers at me neither. Betty and I know plenty about you and Fred Matthews we ain’t never shared. We know when to keep a secret.” The smirk slid off Mr. Lovan’s face like ice cream in the hot sun.. Daniel offered his final argument. “Momma, we can’t get married in Texas. It would show up right away in a records search of either of our names. People will figure it out easily enough with us both being from here in town. If we did this it would have to be in another state and everybody would have to be sworn to secrecy. Raymond’s green eyes sparkled. “Lawman, are you saying you would go ahead and marry me if we did it in another state with just our families present”? Daniel visibly softened as he met Raymond’s loving gaze. “Well, yeah. But, it would have to be kept secret for a while. At least several months after the election. It’s really nobody’s business except ours and I don’t really want a big fuss, just you and me and our families and a preacher. So, yes. I think we should get married before the baby gets here.” Daniel swallowed hard. “What do you think”? Raymond extended his hand across the table. “How about Hawaii, on Valentine’s Day.” Checking the calendar on his phone, Raymond continued, “We own a ranch with guest facilities that could house everybody. Your Momma and Aunt Mellie could fly over a few days ahead on the little jet and get everything set up for us. The rest of us could fly over on the big jet and enjoy a tropical vacation. You could take a few days off and we’d have an anniversary neither of us could accidentally forget.” Everyone could see that Daniel was warming up to the idea. “What about rings? If I show up with a wedding band and no bride, folks are gonna ask questions.” Mr. Lovan offered a solution. “Simple, wear them on your right hands until you decide to go public. Your rings could easily be made to look like the kind of ring any feller might wear. They don’t have to be gaudy and feminine like.” This last comment got a rather patronizing slow shake of the head from Mrs. Lovan, a move that got a chuckle from Daniel. Daniel explained to Raymond, “That slow shake of the head is Momma’s way of saying, “You should know better.” If it had been more wrong or foolish, you could expect a smack on the back of your head.” Mrs. Lovan’s eyes sparkled. “Raymond, Son. What you’re talking about for a wedding is a lot more expensive than a ‘Hawaiian Honeymoon’. Lord knows, those are usually reserved for the ‘well to do’ around here. I wouldn’t bat an eye if ya’ll had said your honeymoon was in Hawaii, but to fly both families over to stay a week or more. Exactly, what does my future son-in-law attorney do for a living that he can afford all this? And do you have anything to do with that AFT Security Company that is buying up downtown buildings left and right. Marcy Williams says it’s a cover up for a Homeland Security training operation. She says that’s why there are so many hunky looking young men running round town. And when you say, “we own a ranch in Hawaii”, who is we, paleface?” Raymond had been warned by Daniel about his Momma’s penchant for gossip. Daniel put his mind at ease by saying, “Momma knows when to keep something confidential. I have never known her to gossip about anything that she was asked to keep to herself. We can trust my folks with our lives.” Raymond nodded and shared his background and his wealth. When it came to wealth, he didn’t go into dollar amounts nor did he list more than a fraction of his family’s holdings and none of their investments. In the end, both his in-laws were slack jawed in amazement. Mrs. Lovan showed her practical nature, “Raymond, if it would make you feel better we will be more than happy to sign one of those ‘non-disclosure’ agreements ya’ll are having everybody sign. Knowing my son, I don’t think a prenuptial agreement is necessary, but I won’t discourage Danny from signing one.” Raymond hastily replied, “Mrs. Lovan, there will be no prenuptial agreement and we never have family sign non-disclosure forms. Reaching to reassure himself and his lover, Raymond clasped his lover’s welcoming hand. “If I lost Daniel, again, money would be the last thing I would be worried about.” Mrs. Lovan brushed tears from her eyes and Mr. Lovan forcefully cleared his throat. In spite of the fact they were spending the weekend in Dallas, Mrs. Lovan sent them off with leftovers. She also assured Raymond that her quilt designs would soon be gracing every bed in their refurbished ranch house. She had mustered her quilting club to focus on completing her designs in record time. Before there taillights faded in the distance, Mrs. Lovan was on the phone with Mellie Adams. Faster than you could shake a stick they had agreed on colors, themes, music and a rough outline of the menu. It might be a clandestine affair, but it would be professionally photographed and recorded. As they headed to their penthouse apartment in Dallas, Raymond sighed. “I feel like I have known your folks forever. They just kind of welcomed me right in. Your Dad came across rather stern at first, but it’s clear your Momma rules the roost.” Daniel chuckled in agreement. “Yeah, I think you’re right. They treated you like I just brought home a new brother.” “I just hope they have no hangups regarding incestuous brotherly love.” “It just occured to me, you said they were like you had known them forever. Isn’t that what family is? People you’ve known forever? I mean, they can be good or bad. Either way, family is the people you’ve known forever.”
  7. 50 points
    The night before had let Jeff know that the walls in his apartment were pretty much paper thin. The sounds of Sam and Dave conjugating numerous passionate verbs as well as the natural rhythm of flesh on flesh was kind of like listening to a porn version of PBS radio. The more he and Paul listened the more verbal their own broadcast became. Soon neither couple was really aware of or concerned with anyone other than their immediate intimate partner. Jeff insisted breakfast was to be at a Chicago institution, Lou Mitchell’s. Paul thought the food was good, but he preferred Miss Julie’s fare. Each of the guys had something different and each enjoyed their meal. Personally, he felt the donut holes and Milk Duds were a smart way to appease impatient customers. Jeff insisted they see the “Cloud Gate” or “The Bean” as it was locally referred to. Paul finally stopped Jeff before he could head them off to another touristy destination, “Jeff, I, we” Indicating Sam and Dave and himself. “We appreciate you showing us what has been your hometown now for several years. But, we are not here as tourists. We’ve had deep dish pizza, a really, really great steak dinner. We’ve seen “the bean” and tonight we are going to celebrate New Year’s Eve at the Sears, er, I mean the Willis tower. What we should be doing right now is getting some boxes from somewhere and packing up anything you don’t want to trust to movers so we can take that with us when we fly home on Monday or Tuesday. Now, unless there is someplace you really want to say goodbye to or really want us to see, I think we should find those boxes. And besides, how the hell can it be this cold if it’s only sixty degrees”? Jeff chuckled, breathed a sigh of relief. He realized he did in fact feel like he had to entertain Paul while they were in Chicago. He exhaled a deep breath and let go that notion. He then proceeded to google the nearest purveyor of cardboard boxes. Turns out that there were several boxes Jeff decided to take home on the plane. Leftover boxes were taken by his ‘Former’ personal bodyguards. Those guys would be finding new accommodations and new assignments now that Jeff was leaving town. Paul had questioned why Jeff had not developed the same relationship with his Chicago bodyguards as he did with Sam, Dave and Fred. Jeff offered it was a matter of proximity. He had no reason to get close to these guys, whereas he actually lived with Sam, Dave and Fred. His Father had convinced him that his security team had a job to do. Jeff arranged for his Chicago team to see to the closing down of his apartment, the minor details associated with moving and of course, shipping his Tesla. It was decided that they would rest up tomorrow and fly out on Monday. Jeff notified the air crew. After lunch Paul took the time to convince his lover that he was the most interesting attraction the “Windy City” had to offer. Jeff was flattered and insisted on returning the compliment. Dinner was to be at eight. Jeff insisted that they arrive in time to step out onto the “ledge”. A plexiglass affair that Paul was not looking forward to. The high speed elevator ride, alone, was butterfly inducing and ear popping. If they went directly into dinner that ride would have been noteworthy in itself. To step outside the building and view the city lights for miles around was impressive, even awe inspiring. But, to look down between your feet and see over 1000 feet of nothing between you and the streets below was literally breathtaking. When he finally looked down, Paul gasped and then began walking funny, stepping lightly, in spite of knowing he was perfectly safe. He could almost see the floor cracking with each step. He did not bother to see if the other guys were intimidated, he was too fixated on his own experience. He never let go of Jeff’s hand, he didn’t care if the whole world saw. He did see Sam was busy taking selfies and pics of their group. If they lived, Paul was sure he could get copies. He hoped he wouldn't look as nauseated as he actually felt. He knew that Sam had made multiple skydiving, free fall, jumps in his time in service. Somehow Paul found his calm demeanor reassuring. He still walked funny. After the “near death” experience they proceeded up to where the dinner was to be held. After a quick guest list identification / verification, they checked their overcoats and hats and proceeded to the open bar. Jeff insisted that Sam and Dave were off duty, since their “driver” was awaiting their call to pick them up. Once each had his favorite libation, it was like a signal had been made and they were approached by people wanting to say hello to Jeff. Jeff introduced each to Paul by the full name. Whether it was a recently hired secretary, an ancient legal assistant or one of the senior partners, he proudly introduced Paul as his fiancé. They had not moved too far from the bar so getting a second round was a simple matter. Jeff quietly let it be known he had to piss. Paul was at the bar with Dave collecting their fresh drinks. Paul asked Dave to watch his and Jeff’s drinks while he went to find Jeff. What he saw as he opened the men's room door shocked him. There was Jeff, his lover, leaning against the far wall as a well built, dark haired man pressed his left hand against Jeff’s chest as if holding him against the wall, while his right hand fondled Jeff’s privates. Paul’s initial thought was a flush of anger at Jeff for so blatantly betraying his trust. Then, he thought about the expression on Jeff’s face, it was one of shock and that shock had nothing to do with being caught. It had everything to do with the fact he was about to receive an unsolicited blow job. In a couple of hurried strides Paul pulled the cocksucker away from Jeff just as the assailant was about to swallow Jeff’s manhood. As Paul pulled the man around to face him, the guy slurred, “What the fuck”? His question was punctuated by Paul’s fist in his face. Even as he made contact Paul realized the man was in fact quite handsome. Who ever he was he had taken full advantage of the open bar. Still his inebriation could not overcome the pain of a broken nose. Jeff began, “Paul, I didn't..” He couldn't continue with his explanation with Paul's tongue down his throat. When the kiss was broken, both men were breathing hard and Jeff’s cock was rock hard and leaking. What he saw in Paul’s eyes was nothing but loving concern. “Did he hurt you”? “No, I was standing at the last urinal, almost through pissing, when Jackson staggered out of a stall. He spun me around and mumbled something like, ‘I should have done this years ago’. He’s the closeted guy I told you I saw in a gay bar.” While this discussion was taking place Jeff was trying to conceal his massive erection. Even after his trousers were fastened, the log of flesh against his left pant leg was obvious. Paul kissed his cheek and lightly patted Jeff’s erection and promised he’d take care of it once they were again at the apartment. The washroom attendant had apparently been willing to overlook the drunken blowjob, but the bloody nose had him scurrying to find security. Sam and Dave actually entered before the attendant and two burly security guards arrived. Once the situation was explained and it was determined that Jeff was not interested in filing sexual assault charges, Jackson was quietly taken down to the lobby to await EMS transport to the hospital. Jeff searched Paul’s face as if trying to decipher what he saw, “If I caught you getting a blow job in a men’s room, I’m not sure I would have been so, um, understanding. How did you know I didn't encourage him”? Paul smiled, “At first, I was furious with you. That lasted almost a full second. Then I realized, I trust you. You would never risk losing what we have for a lousy blowjob in a men's room. Even if it was from a handsome man in a tuxedo.” Jeff pulled his hero into his arms, “Well, I can't believe a broken nose will improve his looks, but I suspect Jackson will think twice before he sexually assaults another man’s fiancé.” Once they had fresh drinks in hand they proceeded to find their table. Paul was impressed that the men’s room encounter had gone almost unnoticed. Jeff was surprised to see they were seated next to the head table that hosted the senior partners. Oddly enough their table mates turned out to be Bradley and Doc, both of whom were standing enjoying the view and a drink. The table was large enough to comfortably accommodate eight, but the extra chairs had been removed. Jeff was seated next to Bradley who had Doc on his left. Paul was to Jeff’s right and Sam and Dave took the remaining two seats. Paul was impressed that the two professionals slid their chairs away from the table so as to be able to scan the room. He smiled knowing they would have preferred to sit with their backs to the windows. After appropriate greetings, Jeff began looking around for familiar faces he needed to say goodbye to. Paul told him, “Look Jeff, if you want me to tag along, I will. I know you need to speak to a lot of these people tonight. So, go on. You can cover more ground alone. I’m in good company. I’ll be fine here with Sam and Dave and Bradley and Doc.” Jeff smiled and asked, “You sure”? “Of course, I’m sure. Go, do what you came for. I intend stay right here, gather my liquid courage and see if I can become brave enough to lean against the windows and look out. If I drink enough, I might just pass out tonight and not have nightmares about falling. I don’t think I’ll ever hesitate to stand next to an open barn loft door again.” Jeff kissed his lover lightly on the lips and departed. Paul was impressed that their table had a dedicated waiter that brought them appetizers and freshened their drinks without being asked. Bradley told Paul that his soon to be ex wife had gathered her clothes and had apparently headed for parts unknown with her lover. The discussion soon migrated to what sights the guys had seen in Chicago. Paul admitted he thought the plexiglass ledge was unnerving. He was pleased when Dave shared a similar opinion. Bradley admitted he refused to step out onto it even with Doc’s encouragement. He was glad that his girls had never expressed a desire to visit the tower. Otherwise he would have to pull up his big boy pants and show them what a brave Daddy he really was. This got a chuckle all around the table. Paul assured Bradley that his Maria would have been thrilled to see the city from that vantage point. She was fearless. Sam and Dave both smiled and nodded in agreement. Doc said that both his boys had stepped out without the least hesitation. Paul began exchanging parenting stories with both Bradley and Doc, it was clear that all three men held a lot of paternal pride in their respective children. Paul encouraged both men to bring their children down for a visit once school was out. While his town might lack the glitz and glamour of big city life, it did possess a certain rustic charm. Both men agreed to schedule a time to bring their boys and girls to Texas to visit Paul and Jeff’s ‘real live’ ranch. Immediately afterwards, Paul realized he had not hesitated at inviting friends to visit ‘their’ ranch. It was a strange, new feeling, this sense of “togetherness”, but definitely one he liked. Conversation was stimulating. Even Sam and Dave shared some war stories and some not so flattering accounts of celebrity behind the scene activities. They of course refused to name names. They’d say, “this chart topping singer” or “this award winning actor / actress” or even “this conservative politician”. At some point it occurred to Paul that at no time did the conversation hinge upon or even hint at the fact that all participants were in fact gay. Of course stimulating conversation couldn't keep him from occasionally scanning the room in hopes of seeing his lover. Paul couldn't help but notice a sexily clad blonde woman kept looking his way. Since the Chicago skyline and lakefront was the backdrop for their table, he figured she was taking in the scenery or maybe she was scouting for potential after dinner dance partners. In either case his returning lover was soon the focus of all his attention. As Jeff took his seat, Bradley placed his hand on Jeff's shoulder and leaned in, “I think if you make any rounds after dinner, you should take Paul along with you. He’s good company, but it was obvious he missed you.” Jeff confirmed he would have liked to have Paul by his side for some introductions. They agreed that after dinner he would indeed take Paul with him as he made the rounds. Jeff stared at Bradley for a long moment. “Bradley, as kind as you were to me, I still can't think of an instance where I thought you might actually have been gay. I still find it hard to believe.” Bradley blushed. “You know it was the last time your Uncle Raymond visited. He confronted me about lusting after you. As handsome as you are, I never felt a serious sexual attraction to you. I was simply in awe of you. “When I was a boy, I had an attraction to my Mother’s brother. He was my hero. He was strong, handsome and a Marine F/A -18 pilot. He was ten years older than I. He was on leave the summer I turned fourteen. I seduced him. We had a memorable three weeks together. We even spent a week alone on the peninsula. I was distraught when he returned to duty. He died 27 days later, when his plane suffered engine failure and he was lost at sea. I learned later that he had broken up with his fiancé, telling her he had found someone else who had stolen his heart. I was hospitalized for severe depression. My parents found out that, in their words, “he had molested me.” They had me treated by some very unsympathetic therapists. I was convinced that indeed he had molested me and that I was not “queer”. I was encouraged to compartmentalize that “episode”. It was not until you came into my life that I began to have dreams of me and my Uncle Jim. Actually, they were memories inof our joyous time together. I went through three therapists before I found Sharon. She helped me to remember my first love. She also helped me to understand being gay is as normal as someone being left handed is for some people. She related how an older sister had been punished for writing and coloring with her left hand. Her Father put a stop to that Nun’s ignorant and callous behavior. Sharon helped me recognize the time I spent with Doc was the most rewarding, fulfilling and sexually satisfying time I had spent with anyone. “Jeff, it was your behavior that made a lie of all those Hollywood stereotypes of gay men. You made me remember Uncle Jim as a good man, a “normal” man and not the “pedophile” my Father and my shrinks painted him to be. “I know our lives will have challenges. I know that equality won't be achieved until being gay is thought of in the same way as being left handed is viewed today. But, I am with the love of my life.” At this point Bradley gazed lovingly into Doc’s eyes. Turning back to Jeff, he continued, “Doc and I gave no illusions when it comes to the challenges of building a solid loving relationship. Especially those facing a gay couple with children. But, we are not about to let go of what we now have between us. “So let me propose a toast, “To Jeff and Paul and really to gay couples everywhere. May you always live, as you have been, an example worthy of emulation.” Lifting his glass, Bradley was joined by his tablemates with a chorus of “hear, hear” and “I’ll drink to that.” The blonde he had noticed earlier approached. Paul noted the look of disgust as she obviously took Bradley's glassy-eyed gaze at Jeff to be an indication of intimacy between the two. Her speech was slurred and overly loud as she addressed Jeff, “I should have known when you weren't interested in me that it was Bradley you were after. His interest in me conveniently disappeared soon after you started coming around. Then you quit coming to our house. I guess you couldn't face me, knowing you were destroying our marriage. I gotta admit, he ain't bad, but his money makes him a whole lot more attractive. I ain't gonna spend no more of it, but neither are you, faggot.” A number if things happened at once. Paul would have to replay the scene over and over again using other perspectives to put it altogether. The blonde started to draw a small pistol from her designer clutch. Dave, seated to her left, hit her in the face with a heavy leaded crystal highball glass, drink, ice and all. Sam, seated to her right, swept her feet out from under her with a raking swing of his left leg. I hurled my body to protect Jeff, knocking him over backwards and following him to the floor, still in his chair. Doc shielded Bradley, but instead of knocking him over he just sort of cuddled Bradley's face into his massive chest. Both he and I expected to die any minute. The blonde, now flat on her back, glared up at the two big men standing over her. Craning her neck, ignoring her busted, bleeding lip, she surveyed the damage. Her dress was soaked in Dave’s drink. A slice of lime rested within her ample, plastically enhanced, cleavage. She glared at Dave, “You Fucktard! You ruined my dress, this is a Jess Passel original!” That last came out as a blood curdling scream. At first it looked as if the blonde was displaying her clutch as if to emphasize her point. The gun, still hidden within the clutch, was now pointed at Dave. Two shots rang out. Some witnesses insisted they heard only one shot. Paul and Jeff stood just after the shots. Both had their wallet pistols in hand. Bradley was in shock. Doc left his lover seated and immediately surveyed the physical trauma. He scanned the blonde who was unconscious and bleeding profusely from her right shoulder. Dave on the other hand was clasping his left bicep as a small trickle of blood oozed between his fingers. Doc ignored the blonde and moved to treat Dave. He gently removed the tuxedo jacket, then ripped Dave’s shirt sleeve open. “Dave, you’re a lucky man. This will most likely leave nothing more than a nice conversation scar. I doubt the hospital will even keep you overnight.” Dave seemed to be reassured more by having seen his wound than by Doc’s bedside manner. “Doc, if I had been lucky the bitch would have missed me completely. I’m not buying any lottery tickets based on this wound.” Sam had collected the blondes weapon and was hovering over Doc’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Babe. I should have shot sooner.” “Hon, look at this! I’ve been hurt worse falling off my bike as a kid. You saved my life. That bitch wasn't likely to stop with one shot. I don't see why she was so upset, Jess Passel is so yesterday.” That last remark got a laugh from most all the ladies gathered round. Doc finally attended the blonde. The whole time he was cursing the Hippocratic oath as so much politically correct drivel. He drafted one of the restaurant’s security team to apply pressure to her wound until the rescue squad and Police showed up. Dave refused to be transported in the same ambulance as his assailant, so the police provided an escort to the nearest trauma center. What began as a potentially long, drawn out, repetitive, questioning session ended up with a simple assurance that the “gentlemen” involved would appear tomorrow to provide more detailed statements. Jeff went to thank Bradley for exerting his political influence. “Hey, I can't take credit for this. This is all on my lover. He’s the one who socializes with the Deputy Mayor and the Chief of Police.” The New Year was welcomed in by Jeff and Paul, Bradley and Doc, Sam and Dave as well as their driver in the emergency room parking lot. After breaking their kiss, Paul observed, “Well, it isn't as romantic as the top of the tower, but I couldn't wish for better company.” Everyone seemed to echo that sentiment. Jeff had agreed to drop Doc and Bradley off since Doc’s apartment was only a couple of blocks away from Jeff’s. Paul got a light slap to the back of his head, from Jeff, when he innocently inquired as to whether one could actually “see” the lake from Doc’s apartment. Enroute Dave asked if he was the only one that was hungry. It took some effort, but they found a diner not too far away. The customers and staff never batted an eye at the crowd of tuxedo clad men with appetites like lumberjacks who laughed uproariously at the retelling of an apparent shooting. Well, after all, it was Chicago. Paul wasn't sure why, but when they finally dropped Bradley and Doc off in the wee hours of the morning, it felt as though he was saying goodbye to a couple of really close friends. In the apartment, it was clear that everyone was ready for bed. Jeff felt he needed to say something to Sam and Dave. “Guys, I know you’ll go over tonight’s actions and try to discern what you did right and what you could have done better. Just know that in my opinion, you both did a great job. So no matter what Ilya says or what you may think, just know in my book no one could have handled that situation any better than you two did.” With that he enthusiastically hugged Sam and then more carefully embraced Dave. Paul echoed his lover’s opinion and likewise embraced his two friends. As they turned toward their bedrooms, Dave added, “Oh, and Paul, they gave me pain pills to help me sleep. If you two could keep the noise down to a roar, I would appreciate it. I’d hate to have to tell Rosarita that something more than just city noises kept me awake.” Paul didn't even blush at the round of laughter. Instead he countered, “Well, maybe tonight I won’t have to listen to some heifer bawling about, “You’re sooo big.” “Do it to me harder Sammy” or my personal favorite, “Breed me like I’m your mare Stud!” Dave sputtered. Then, with a wink, he said, “I’m too heavily medicated, I suddenly don't remember having even started this conversation. So I’ll just say goodnight all.”
  8. 50 points
    Hunting Season At nineteen and about to begin his sophomore year at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, César Marcos Abelló, Jr. had more political savvy than most people he associated with. His philosophy not yet completely defined―his views on the military and the economy aligned with conservatives but he identified with liberals on most social issues―shades of gray colored his ideology on many issues. The early morning start meant an uncluttered highway. Hunter―his treasured Harley-Davidson motorcycle―purred as it sliced through pockets of fog clinging to the ground and the sky turned progressively lighter. Mid-way through the two and a half hour ride between home and his destination, he pulled over to the side of the road and exchanged his clear goggles for sunglasses. Traffic volume increased as the scooter ate up miles of asphalt and he neared Charlottesville, Virginia. Over fifty years before, civil rights activists known as the Freedom Riders had boarded interstate buses and ridden into the segregated southern states. The mixed racial groups were intent on challenging the non-enforcement of judicial decisions mandating the desegregation of public buses. Protests, violence, and arrests met them as they traveled from the nation’s capital to New Orleans, Louisiana. What he had read in books made him think of those men and women as heroes. The situation had changed in significant ways over the decades but the racism the young idealists confronted and battled against had never died; it simmered over the years, quite quiet and hidden beneath the surface. Emboldened by recent political changes, evolving attitudes towards reminders of slavery, and efforts to relocate monuments honoring traitors to the United States, white supremacists were once again flexing their muscle. He felt a moral obligation to counter their views the way those young men and women in the early sixties had. That imperative led him to leave his home this morning to confront the hate of the far right. Apparently, so did a multitude of others. Having planned ahead, he parked the motorcycle on the outskirts of the city and called an Uber to approach the park. Hours before the racist rally was called for, people began arriving and he joined the throng walking towards the Robert E. Lee statue at the center of the Unite the Right rally. Those mired in the past vowed to prevent its removal and used it as an excuse to spew their venom against minorities. He wasn’t close to the early violence at Emancipation Park, but the shouts and screams reached his ears and he wondered why the riot-geared police had surrounded the protesters but failed to intervene. Approaching the church parking lot where a racially-mixed crowd had gathered, most of them gray-haired, was being attacked. Unable to maneuver with ease in the crowd surrounding him, he watched as young white men charged and pummeled their unarmed ideological foes with abandon. One woman was hurled to the pavement, and the blood from her bruised head was visible in an instant. The growling of a car engine and screams assailed his ears, making him push the elderly lady next to him to the ground away from the steel monster barreling through the crowd. Moments later, as he turned to help her up and apologize for the rough treatment, he caught a sight in his peripheral vision which once again made him react without thinking. “STOP HELPING THE NIGGERS!” The middle-aged man wore a t-shirt with a swastika on it and brandished a baseball bat. CJ didn’t wait for the man to raise it. He had never fired his Sig Sauer at anyone but he was ready to do so at the moment. Reaching into his vest, he withdrew Lola and aimed between the man’s eyes. Those eyes told CJ the last thing the man was expecting was one of the counter protestors to be armed and willing to pull a pistol on him. He hesitated for a second and before he could wield the hickory weapon or run away, a fist attached to a muscular arm smashed into his face. “Put the handgun away, man. This cracker ain’t gonna bother you or the lady you saved.” CJ’s breathing was ragged. He closed his eyes for a few seconds and took deep breaths. He had been ready to pull the trigger; to defend himself and the innocent bystander. The realization he could have taken a life was overwhelming. His repeated visits to the shooting range had allowed him to become a decent shot but he had followed his instincts and aimed to kill. No way was he going to risk harm to anybody else by trying for a limb and missing. “Young man, I owe you my life. Twice over.” The woman he had shoved to the asphalt stood with his help; visibly shaken but uninjured as far as he could tell. “I’m opposed to the prevalence of firearms in our streets but in this case I’m glad one of the good guys had one. What’s your name?” “I’m CJ, ma’am. Sorry I shoved you so hard but I was just reacting.” “Son, you can push me to the ground anytime if it means me living another day to spend with my grandchildren. Your parents should be proud of how they’ve raised you. Not many would risk their lives and step in to help a total stranger the way you did. God bless you.” The tension in the air was palpable; the increased activity by the authorities presaged a possible massive confrontation. The chants of “Jews will not replace us” made him nauseous and CJ decided it was time to head home. The cops, intent on shutting down the demonstrations, had blocked several intersections and CJ had to weave his way through side streets. Once he reached an area sufficiently far away from the epicenter of activity, he requested a ride from Uber. The driver dropped him off right next to where he had parked Hunter. He visually checked the bike, unlocked the helmet from the handlebar, and climbed aboard. Somewhat later, when he stopped at a gas station to fill the tank, CJ checked his phone and found a text message from his father: ***Text us NOW. Let us know you are OK*** CJ replied he was on his way back. The immediate response from his dad told him to head straight home and not stop anywhere. Arriving at the Georgetown town house, he had just turned off the engine when his parents, brother, and fiancé burst out the back door and surrounded him. He locked the forks in place and removed his helmet but was unable to dismount; Ritchie ran towards his brother and hugged him so hard the two almost fell to the ground. “Geez, bro, what the hell? How about you let me get inside the house before you attack me.” CJ’s smile died when he noticed the serious expression on his fathers and boyfriend. “What’s going on?” “You were on TV, CJ.” Ritchie spoke before any of the other men could even open their mouths. “They showed you pointing your gun at some guy.” “WHAT?” Brett walked over to the two brothers and pried Ritchie away from CJ. “Give him a chance, Ritchie. The Associated Press released a picture of you holding off some man by pointing Lola at him, CJ. It went viral and all the networks have been showing it. About an hour after it was made public, someone recognized you and FOX’s been having a field day pointing out you were a big Clinton supporter.” “SHIT! Shit. Shit.” Inside the house, CJ removed his boots and left them and the helmet by the kitchen door. He retrieved his phone from his back pocket and stared at it while shaking his head. “I have a gazillion messages. Most are from friends but some are from reporters.” “Mate, you almost managed to stay out of the limelight for a whole year!” Owen’s comment earned him a scowl from CJ. “Are you gonna talk to them?” “Yeah, I guess… But not tonight.” CJ peeled his eyes away from the phone and smirked. “I’m gonna shower, eat, and then I’ll call Trip.” Charles Beauregard Houston III―Trip to his friends―was one of the men CJ called “uncle” and a journalist. “Funny he didn’t even send me a text, he’s the one person I can trust to give me space. I’ll give him the story first and then I’ll call the others. Tomorrow.” Sunday morning, he was the first one up in the house. Once he had a mug of coffee in hand, he sat in front of the TV with the sound muted and his attention on the phone. He was reading the electronic version of the article Trip had filed the previous evening when he heard footsteps on the staircase. “Morning, dude.” Brett called out to him as the retired Marine walked towards the coffeemaker. “You have more requests for interviews?” “Morning, Papa. I think so but I haven’t checked. I was reading over Trip’s article again. The Washington Post updated the story overnight.” “Yeah? What did they change?” “No changes, they added to it. The woman I was trying to help made a statement late last night. She explained I saved her life twice and I pulled the weapon out when the nut job came at us with a baseball bat.” “That’s good, right?” “Hell, yeah! It also says AP issued a directive to anyone using their photo. They’re requiring any use of their copyrighted material include the statement from the lady.” “Damn! I’m gonna love watching FOX today. Fuckers have to deal with a leftie owning a pea-shooter and being willing to use it in self-defense. It’s gonna mess with their minds.” Although the photograph of CJ brandishing Lola had gone viral, the notoriety was short-lived. Always searching for a new story, the news media forgot about CJ. His visage disappeared from television screens, replaced by Heather Heyer’s face. The Dodge Challenger CJ avoided getting hit by struck a number of people before crashing into another car. The driver then reversed directions and backed out of the point of impact at high speed, running over some of the battered men and women. About twenty individuals were injured with Heather Heyer losing her life. As if the murder of an unarmed white woman by a white supremacist wasn’t enough, President Donald J. Trump’s statement that both sides were at fault occupied the airwaves, pushing CJ’s story out of the headlines. A few days later, CJ groused about messages from several members of Congress over dinner. “They’re praising my heroism but temper the nice words by restating their opposition to gun ownership. At least they grudgingly agree I’m someone they can trust to be responsible.” Owen stopped eating for a moment and glanced at his boyfriend. “Stop whinging. At least they’re calling you a hero.” “What the fuck’s wrong with these people? I don’t want to be a hero! I’m a fucking teenager and I just want to be a college student!” Brett and Ritchie giggled at the same time; they found themselves on the receiving end of CJ’s withering glare. “Fuck you both! Dad? How do I always end up in the middle of this shit?” “Don’t be silly, CJ. You know exactly why you get the attention. You’re handsome and you always try to do the right thing. Your looks hook them and your words and actions reel them in. It’s not so bad, buddy. Think of the crap coming down on the guy driving that car. He’s about your age and going nowhere. So stop complaining when people praise you for doing what was right. It’s their way of saying thank you.” “I’ll tell you what, dude”―Brett controlled his laughter long enough to speak―”that picture of you’s going to be on posters all over the place. It’s gonna scare the crap out of the Nazis when they realize you declared hunting season on them open.” The End
  9. 50 points
    Jeff was reading emails on his iPad when he sensed someone watching him. He looked up to find Paul intently staring at him from the other end of the sofa. “What is it? Do I have food on my face?”. He chuckled nervously. “Why are you staring at me”? “Actually, I like staring at you. It’s become one of my most pleasant pastimes. I never get tired of looking at you, even with your clothes on. You’re like one of those heroes in gay fiction I sometimes read about on Nifty.org. Too handsome, too rich and too good to be true, but here we here. “I was just sitting here trying to figure out if you are the same man I thought, just a few days ago, might have to depend on my earning power to survive. Or were you always this billionaire mover and shaker that inherently understands the nuances of proper gentlemanly dress and manners. A man that can schedule a fleet of private jets on a whim. Are you different? Have you changed? Or have my perceptions changed and somehow that makes you different? I mean, an attorney is usually considered an intelligent individual with excellent earning potential. I have seen your personality when you deal with Maria, your employees, friends and relatives. None of those interactions told me ‘this is a man of great wealth’. They just reinforced my opinion that you were a good man. Everything I’ve seen tells me you’re the kind of man I could build a life with, even if we had to scrape and save for a down payment on a bungalow. “I like the way you play with Fugly and the way you listen to Maria like she was the most important person in the world. You’re attentive even when she babbles the same thing about ‘Frozen’ for the umpteenth time. I like the way you treat Sam and Dave more like friends than employees. I like all these things about you. I think it would be easy to say ‘you’re different now’, but the truth is you’re exactly the same. It may sound funny, but it’s like Jimmy Olsen finding out Clark Kent is really Superman and realizing that while he is suddenly ‘Superman’, he’s still the same old ‘Clark’. I’ll admit, I always had a thing for Clark. He was a man I might meet someday and I definitely could fall for him. He had faults I could accept. I could never dream of even meeting Superman, much less get and hold his attention. He was too aloof. I’m glad I got to fall in love with you as Clark Kent. I probably wouldn’t have given Superman a second thought. He would have been too far out of my league. “I don’t like you more or love you more because you have money. It’s true, I don’t like the fact that you are super rich. I tried to think about how rich I would want you to be. How less rich or how close to poor could you be that I could comfortably accept. I’ve decided that there isn’t a set amount or any amount that would make you more or less appealing. Primarily, I don’t like the money because it changes me. Not so much changes as it puts me into a different... an uncomfortable situation. Suddenly, I feel like I should know all these things that you grew up knowing. How to tie a bow tie. Tipping the haberdasher. I’ve never tipped a Walmart employee. Today I tipped a single person more than I usually tip all my waiters in six months or more, and I consider myself a pretty good tipper. I have only ever tipped waiters and the occasional cab driver. Now, I can see I have to tip valets, the doormen, the concierge, bellhops… do they even really call them that? “You say that you only learned about your family's vast fortune as a freshman in high school. But, there had to be trips, purchases, benefits that other kids didn’t have that set you apart. Nice restaurants, servants, five star hotels, luxury vacations. You can’t know it, but there has to be a certain confidence that comes with being rich your whole life. You never had to worry about the basics. If you went hungry it was most likely because you forgot to eat, instead of literally not having any food. You probably never made a car payment or juggled monthly bills. You probably never, ever looked for the ‘cheapest’ anything. Don’t get me wrong. There is no value, no virtue in being poor. There are no intrinsic life lessons to be learned by being poor. You just survive with less. Many don’t survive. Poverty kills. “I don’t believe some deity decided you were more worthy and therefore deserved to be born rich while I was found to be less worthy and therefore born poor. Being rich doesn’t make you a better man nor does it make you essentially a bad man. It only gives you a bigger budget and more influence. And having money doesn’t change you any more than it changes me. It only changes our circumstance. That’s what I was thinking as I sat here staring at the man I love. “Just in case, If I ever forget, please feel free to remind me. I had much rather be too rich than too poor.” Jeff set his ipad aside. He slid down the sofa to lay his head in Paul’s lap and clasped his hands across his chest. “Sounds to me like you’re adjusting rather well to your new found wealth.” Paul welcomed his lover by laying his left hand of Jeff’s chest and running the fingers of his right hand through Jeff’s hair. Jeff closed his eyes and said, “I’ve gone to school with and worked with people who had lots of money and people who had almost no money. I have seen people who struggled and people who were spoiled by their own or their family’s wealth. I like to think I’ve helped more than a few I found struggling along the way. “I never considered myself ‘rich’ growing up. My Mom was always involved in my classroom activities. She baked cookies and worked with the PTA. Looking back I’m sure she helped those of my classmates that didn’t have. No one missed out on class activities or birthdays or Christmas. I wasn’t the only kid in my class that got to go to Disney World. I did travel more than most, during my summer vacations. We travelled on private jets or commercial first class. But, I never realized we actually owned the planes we flew in. I thought they belonged to some company my Uncle Joe’s friend worked for. Don’t ask me how I came up with that idea. No one told me that. I think I overheard some partial conversation and when some kid asked who owned the plane we flew in for that vacation, that was what came to mind. I never questioned it. “As for having more than most. I tried not to make a point of having the best or having a lot. Kids knew we had a big ranch and lots of horses. That, to a kid growing up in Texas, means you have money. Horses are more a luxury these days, than a necessity. My school uniform was boots and jeans. Even in high school I drove a pickup just like most guys did, simply because it could be used for ranch chores, whereas a car couldn’t. It’s hard to be a snob when you’re mending fences and shoveling horse shit right alongside someone who's doing it to earn a living. In college, after my freshman year, I guess I let my wealth show more. I drove a Porche as an undergrad and a BMW in law school. I like my Tesla better than any car I’ve ever driven. I really think it’s the next step in individual transportation. I’m a big fan of Elon Musk. I invest in most of his endeavors, except space that doesn’t really interest me, even though I am a big Sci-Fi fan. Now, I can get excited about batteries, solar and of course Tesla. All those have real world applications and can affect everyone’s quality of life. I’ll wait for interplanetary travel to get excited about space. Once we bring my Tesla down, I think you’ll love it too. In fact, I predict a Tesla will be your first big bucks purchase.” Paul burst out laughing and lightly slapped Jeff’s chest, chastising him for such a foolish notion. “I can’t see me spending $200,000.00 for a car. That’s more than most houses cost. Sure they’re fast, quiet and something right out of science fiction, but you can buy ten gas powered cars for that much money. I could see maybe buying a Model 3. Thirty or forty thousand is a lot more realistic for a car than $200,000.00. At the end of the day, it’s still just a car.” “Well, to say my Tesla Model X is just a car is likening an F-35 to the Wright Brothers first Aeroplane. You scoff now, but you’ll see. Maybe we should drive it down instead of having it shipped like I planned. I’d rather not think I’m about to marry an ‘ICE’ Hole. “Very funny. I know about Internal Combustion Engine ‘ICE’ holes going out of there way to challenge, or discriminate against owners of electric vehicles. I watch the YouTube videos. I think we’re on the leading edge of the electric vehicle wave. The time of oil as king is fading. Speaking of fading and of time, I’m ready for bed and how long should we plan on being in Chicago? TR and David will expect me to be at work soon. So don’t plan on a long drive.” “I had planned on flying out Saturday morning because I wanted to maximize my time here. Now that I have you by my side and plan to move back to the ranch, those plans are more flexible. I’d like to show you around a bit in Chicago, but we can do that another time. I just have to clear out my office and get someone to take care of the minutia that comes with moving across country.” He thought for a moment, then, “How about we fly up tomorrow morning and look around a bit, celebrate New Year’s Eve atop the Sears Tower at my “Hail and Farewell” and plan on coming back Monday or Tuesday.” “I’ve moved several times, I know it can be quite a hassle. But, Chicago is basically just north of here. I’d hardly say it’s across the country from us. Geez, it’s in the same time zone.” “Well, it’s about a thousand miles if you’re driving, and if you travelled a thousand miles east or west you’d probably wind up two time zones away from here. So yeah, it’s like moving across country. So what do you think about flying out tomorrow? We could go clubbing tomorrow night in Boy’s Town and I could show you all my moves. Grandma Mellie already said they were looking forward to hosting their granddaughter for a few days.” “It could be like a real date. It sounds like fun. We’re already packed, so why not. Will the plane be available”? “The plane was already scheduled for our flight. We’re taking the smaller jet so it can land at the Municipal airport right here. I just need to call and verify.” Jeff didn’t ‘call’, he texted and got an almost immediate ‘affirmative’ response. “The pilot needs to know a take off time. How does 0900 hours sound”? “Sounds like some kind of covert military operation, otherwise 9 AM sounds great. Make it so, Mr. Adams.” Paul made sure the guards and Rosarita were aware of the change and went to check on his sleeping Princess. Paul’s anxiety centering around the Chicago trip was allayed by a drawn out coupling building to a couple of earth shattering climaxes. He slept the sleep of the dead wrapped in his lovers arms. Fred would drive Maria to Grandma Mellie’s and be around for the ranches security upgrades. Rosarita would be gone back to school before Jeff and Paul returned. It wasn’t an emotional farewell, but it was heartfelt. Maria summed it up by saying, “Rosarita, your school is important just like mine is. You can have friends there, but you can always come home to the people who love you, just like I do, ‘cept not everyday. Just know that Mr. Fred will be here waiting for you when you do come home.” That sentiment brought tears to Rosarita’ eyes and it was obvious from Fred’s huge grin that he agreed with Maria’s sentiment. The couple kissed passionately, even though Rosarita wasn’t leaving until Sunday. In spite of the toiletries provided by Mark Sanders, Paul insisted on bringing his and Jeff’s grooming aids along in a separate backpack that also held clean underwear for each, just in case. Jeff chided him about the underwear, “We’re not likely to get stuck sleeping in some airport. The plane has a shower and the chairs recline into single beds. There’s plenty of food and water. Worse case scenario is we get diverted and have to spend the night, with our luggage, in some hotel in another city.” Paul accepted all that, but he still didn’t unpack the underwear. Paul wasn’t sure what to expect regarding the “smaller” family jet. It didn’t look “small” as they approached. The size in Paul’s mind shifted to medium. The only distinctive marking, on the white and chrome jet, was on the tail fin. A giant black, block lettered “AFT” set above a wavy line and surrounded by an equally bold black circle. Paul observed to Jeff, “That’s your cattle brand.” Jeff just grinned. The crew member doing the walk around turned out to be the Pilot. He was soon joined by the co-pilot and steward in welcoming his passengers. After introductions, Jeff took Paul by the arm and led him up and into the jet. The first thing Paul noticed was that it was spacious. The next thing he saw was that the interior was light and airy, done up in soft browns and blues. He had expected to have to stoop as he moved about. That was not the case. Nothing felt cramped or squeezed in. They entered near the front of the plane. To their left, Jeff pointed out the galley and beyond that was the cockpit. There were two bathrooms one forward and a larger one, with a shower and dressing room, at the rear. At the far rear was a communal seating area that centered around a 60 inch screen that currently displayed a view from the cockpit as though the camera was looking over the air crew’s shoulders. Jeff explained that the communal seating could be closed off by pocket doors and the seats could be turned into a queen sized bed complete with custom bed linens. But all that required the steward’s help. Jeff pointed out that there were three seating areas including the viewing / bedroom. The other two were made up of large swiveling recliners as well as comfortable looking love seats. All motions were electronically controlled by panels on the end of either armrest. Each seat could fully recline into a bed that came complete with custom fitted sheets to ensure the occupants comfort. The upholstery was the softest leather Paul had ever touched. Jeff explained the seats could be heated or vented by use of the tablet located in the side pockets. By Paul’s calculations the plane could seat more than twenty passengers if all seats were occupied. It obviously was intended to luxuriously accommodate every single passenger. Once the tour was complete, Jeff led the way to the forward most seating area. He explained this was closest to the galley and made it easier on the steward for serving drinks and snacks. Soon the pilot’s voice announced their flight time would be just over two hours. The weather in Chicago was overcast with possible showers. The high expected was 62 degrees fahrenheit with a low of 30 degrees tonight. He directed all to fasten their seatbelts and prepare for take off. Jeff and Paul had taken adjacent recliners while Sam and Dave did likewise across the aisle. Paul snickered as he realized there wasn’t really an aisle, or overhead stowage or seat-back-trays. This was a truly unique experience for him. He noted that Jeff, Sam and Dave were obviously used to this level of in flight accommodations. The take off was smooth. Paul had viewed the take off on a big screen monitor showing the cockpit perspective. It was strange to see the ground drop away and to feel it in his gut at the same time. After leveling off, the steward came around taking drink orders. Everyone opted for coffee. Once coffee was served, he brought around an assortment of fresh pastries. Paul watched, fascinated, as Sam and Dave pulled from the side of their chairs what appeared to be work surfaces. Paul chuckled out loud as he realized indeed these were seat-back-trays… Ok, side trays. From the side pockets they retrieved tablets and began a quiet discussion concerning the Chicago itinerary. Upon arrival at Midway International Airport, they were met by a driver with a tinted windowed, black Tahoe. Paul idly wondered why he had not seen any General Motors stock in the portfolio. He could tell by the way the driver greeted Jeff that the man had been a part of Jeff’s Chicago security team. After a hearty hug and a pat on each other’s back, Jeff introduced him as Mark Benning. On the flight down Jeff had told them they would have the world famous deep dish Chicago style pizza for lunch. Paul was looking forward to the culinary adventure. He loved pizza with everything, “except dead fish”. The deep dish was met with mixed reviews. To Jeff and Mark it was common fare and they reserved judgement. Sam thought it was great and wondered why it wasn’t available in Texas. Dave agreed with Paul that it was more like an Italian casserole than a real pizza. After all, “everybody knows pizza is topped with cheese, not sauce.” Afterwards they drove along Lakeshore drive and then took a nap at Jeff’s apartment. Sam and Dave would occupy the second bedroom. Apparently Mark Benning shared an apartment with his partner adjacent to Jeff’s. Paul was not surprised to find the apartment was tastefully decorated with a definite masculine touch. Rich earth tones and supple leather. It was first and foremost, comfortable and inviting. He had half expected a penthouse apartment with a staggering view. Jeff insisted, if he stretched just right he could see the lake. Paul was pretty sure what he saw was just overcast sky. Jeff told him the view had never been important until now. Now, he had someone to share it with. Paul was definitely more impressed with the sentiment than the view. It was almost three in the afternoon. Jeff and Paul had just drifted off after a rousing bout of hide the sausage. Jeff cursed softly at whoever dared call and disturb his slumber. It was Bradley Davis. He practically begged Jeff to meet him for dinner and when he found out Jeff had Paul with him, he quickly expanded the invitation and admitted he too would be bringing a guest. Jeff explained that he had a couple of other friends, but they would be sitting at another table. Bradley chuckled and said, “You mean your security team will be close at hand as usual. You know it got to be a game with me. I tried to pick out your security team from the milling throng. At the gym it was easy and of course the ubiquitous black SUV parked outside my house every time you visited. Your background check was intensive and revealed a staggering estimation of your net worth. I admired your efforts to keep that part of your life secret. You never rubbed it in our faces. You treated everyone with respect.” Jeff had been careful not to reveal his wealth. It was one of the reasons he remained a bit aloof from his coworkers. “Who else knew”? “As far as I know, only the senior partners and myself. I made it my business to learn as much about you as I could. The reasons for which I will explain tonight.” When Jeff tried to clear the dinner date with his lover, Paul responded sleepily, “whatever” punctuating that statement with a soft snore. Jeff and Bradley agreed on meeting at a premier steak house not far from the apartment at seven. Jeff completed the call and set his alarm and proceeded to snuggle into his lover’s somnambulant embrace. When Jeff’s alarm sounded he roused Paul and checked on Sam and Dave. Jeff advised them all that due to the “classy joint” at which they would be dining, a suit and tie would be the most appropriate attire. Using the products that Mark Sanders had provided them the four proceeded to shower, shave and dress for dinner. They would then come back to the apartment afterwards and dress more casually for the club crawl. In the elevator Paul decided he definitely liked the way Jeff smelled. It was like a an amped up version of his natural essence. It made Paul think of sexier version of the “Old Spice” his grandpa used to wear on Saturdays and Sundays. Jeff pulled Paul close and whispered, “Are you sniffing me? Do I smell bad”? “Yes, I was just thinking how sexy you smell. You smell like bedtime when you get hot and sweaty. I like it a lot.” Jeff pulled him closer and inhaled Paul’s scent. “One of the first things I noticed about you was a distinct smell of lemon and wood. Right now it seems to be more distinct yet subdued like the smells were blended with a soft rain. It’s hard to describe, but it smells really good.” Sam and Dave chuckled. Dave spoke up. “You two just got a whiff of each other’s new scent, didn’t cha. Me and Sam decided that we might not be able to buy all our clothes from Mark Sanders, but we damn sure intend to buy more of his toiletries. We’re afraid to ask for the price list. This stuff works so well, it can’t be cheap. The soap, for us, is the same, but the shampoo and every other product is different and I don’t mean just the label. I mean the smell, texture and listed ingredients are totally different. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used Sam’s DNA to get the fragrance to compliment his sweat and musk. We almost didn’t make it out of the bedroom. That stuff is killer. Sam pulled his partner close and inhaled deeply. “He smells like what I think a walking wet dream should smell like. It isn’t an aphrodisiac but it smells damn close.” Anyone viewing the security camera just then, would be perplexed as to why four sharp dressed, handsome, young men were taking turns sniffing each other’s neck. All four agreed that each smelled good in a unique way. None were repulsed, in fact each admitted to finding all the scents most pleasing, if not downright sexy. Since the four would be dining with reservations, Jeff decided to drive his Tesla. Sam and Dave were to be chauffeured for a change. Jeff used every opportunity to display the Tesla’s features, advantages and benefits. The fact that it was already warm when they took their seats was soon overwhelmed by the vehicle’s panoramic view, not to mention it’s seat-slammin acceleration. When they arrived, Jeff was pleased, but not surprised to see Doc Stellman accompanying Bradley Davis. Sam and Dave were shown to their reserved table close to and in plain sight of the other gentlemen’s booth. Once drink orders were submitted, Bradley began, “Jeff, I really meant to do this a while ago. Now that you are leaving, I want to kick myself for not having done it sooner. When you first came to work as an intern, I remember thinking, “He sure doesn’t look gay”. Then you joined the firm, I really got to know you as a fine young man. I talked to Doc about you a lot, I guess.” Doc rolled his eyes and offered, “I’ll say.” Bradley grinned at Doc, then became serious, once more, as he continued, “I remember how gays were treated when I was in school. No one dared come out. Especially, if they wanted to have a professional career. Jeff, you showed me times have changed. More importantly you showed me being gay is just one aspect of who someone is. I started talking to Doc about you so much because I wanted to sound him out. You see when we were roommates, we fooled around with each other when we got drunk. Most times we only pretended to be drunk so we could fool around. Of course we’d pretend not to remember it the next day. About the time I was ready to come out to him and profess my love, he tells me his girlfriend is pregnant and they’re getting married. Well, I crawled so far back into the closet I couldn’t have been outed by a professional mining crew with jackhammers. I can’t say that stray gay thoughts didn’t cross my mind or that I never looked at gay porn. But, I never engaged in any sexual contact except with women. I think it was because of my own father’s example that I engaged in adulterous behavior to blatantly show how “straight” I was. “Anyway, not long ago I found out my wife had been cheating on me since shortly after we married. I began to examine my feelings for her and I took a hard look at myself. I decided that I couldn’t go on pretending I was satisfied with my life. I decided to make some changes. I called up Doc and we agreed to meet at his apartment. We had just settled in the den with drinks when I decided to come out to him. Before I could begin he said, “Bradley, there is something I have to tell you...” Doc interrupted, “What I told him was that after my divorce, years ago, I had every intention of coming out to him and professing my love for my best friend. But, before I even had a chance, this dumb shit goes and gets engaged again. I kept my mouth shut and made a few gay friends on the sly. Brad’s glowing praise of you Jeff, left me jealous and hopeful. I stopped having casual encounters and decided to come out at work and to my sons and family. I decided to tell Brad first. That same week he calls and invites himself over in Friday night to have a talk. I figured he had decided to divorce the gold digging bitch that was his current trophy wife. Before he got a chance to share his bit of news, I came out to him. When I did, I was as nervous as a pup passing peach pits. I don’t think I actually got the words, “I’m gay” out of my mouth before his tongue was batting my tonsils around. Suffice it to say we didn’t leave my apartment that entire weekend. When Brad told me he wanted to take you out to dinner and thank you, I insisted I tag along. I owe you just as much as he does. It was his relating your example to me that gave me that little extra push to come out and stop living a lie. More importantly it was your example that let us both realize we belong together, as best friends, as lovers, as soul mates.” Doc looked lovingly into Bradley’s eyes for a moment, then turned back to Jeff, “We intend to marry as soon as Bradley’s divorce is final.” Jeff was amazed. He had never seen any indication that Bradley was gay. As his mind searched for any possible clue he had overlooked, it occurred to him, “Bradley, how did your wife take the news”? Bradley and Doc shared a knowing chuckle. “I’m not sure. That silicon Barbie Bitch spent the last couple of days ‘visiting her sister’ in St. Louis. I took the opportunity to change the locks and security codes as well as cancelling her bank and credit cards. As far as I know she's still fucking the guy who cuts our grass and shovels our snow for the landscaping company. To add insult to injury the video shows he has a significantly smaller dick than mine. Not that mine can compare to Doc’s, but it ain’t no shrinking wallflower either.” Paul swallowed hard. “Speaking of..OUCH!” The scowl on Jeff’s face left no doubt in Paul’s mind what the elbow to his ribs was meant to communicate. Paul slide out of range and continued, “As I was about to say, speaking of weddings, Jeff and I plan to be married during a gay pride celebration in our home town, mid to late April. If you two can, we would both love it if you could attend.” Paul sneered at Jeff as if to say, “See, it wasn’t what you thought at all. Get your filthy mind out of the gutter. Asshole!” Bradley chuckled at Jeff’s chagrined expression as if he understood the exchange that just took place. “That’s about the time my divorce will be final and we will be either newlyweds or about to be.” Getting an approving nod from Doc, he continued, “But, in either case, we wholeheartedly accept your invitation and look forward to attending your wedding celebration. And just in case Jeff was right… Paul, I have no problem with you viewing one of nature’s wonders. Just don’t just respect the ‘do not disturb’ sign.” Paul’s blush was as good as an out and out confession. Jeff was elated, “Goddamnit! I knew that was what you were going to say. You wanted to see Doc’s cock. That invitation decoy was quick thinking and almost had me fooled. God, I love your blush. It says so much.” With that Jeff exuberantly pulled his lover to him and gave him a noisy kiss on the cheek. Dinner was wonderful and Paul assured them it was one of the best steaks he had ever had. Bradley and Doc took that as a sincere compliment to their taste as it was coming from a Texan. Jeff invited both men to join them in club crawling through Boy’s Town. The over forty couple insisted the only bar they would consider visiting allowed for conversation without screaming to be heard. Hugs and commitments to attend each other’s nuptials were exchanged. The wind had picked up as they exited the restaurant producing a below freezing wind chill. Jeff chuckled admonishing his companions that this was a mild breeze compared to most days and the chill factor was almost mild for this time of year. After all it is known as the “Windy City”.Again thanks to Jeff’s Iphone APP the car’s interior was toasty warm. Paul was really beginning to like the Tesla.
  10. 49 points
    Foundation “Hurry up, Lee,” Liam calls up to the second floor at Dad’s, walking over to me. He leans in and kisses me. “You seem stressed, Honey,” I sweep Liam’s hair out of his eyes. Liam shrugs his shoulders and flatly says, “I'm all right,” “Do you want to try that again?” I smile warmly cupping his cheek. Liam smiles back at me weakly, then leans in for another kiss. Lee jumps down the last four steps, landing in a Jiu Jitsu pose at the bottom, “I’m ready suckers.” Liam and I jump apart, startled. The little shit scared the crap out of me. Lee laughs raucously, as he passes by us to go to my truck. Liam smiles weakly, shakes his head and leads me to the truck holding my hand. “Papi asked if we could stop by the café and grab everyone a coffee.” I relay, fastening my seatbelt. “Okay. Did Papi say how long they’ll need us for today?” Liam asks backing turning the truck around. “Probably a couple of hours. The lease was signed early this morning, and the furniture has already been delivered. I can’t imagine it will take very long. The computers won’t be there until the end of the week. Oliver has already said he’ll set them up for Dad when they come in.” I reach across and take Liam’s hand in mine, then resting them on the middle console. Liam squeezes my hand. He really does seem down today. I wonder if baseball is on his mind. Maybe he’s still upset that I want to go and see my Mother’s ex-husband. That’s probably what it is. “Are you still upset with me because I want to check on my Mother’s ex-husband?” I mutter to Liam. “No Babe, I was never mad at you, only concerned,” Liam answers quietly concentrating on the road ahead. “Then please tell me what has you down?” I ask with concern. He glances in the rear-view mirror, then says, “We’ll talk about it later, not right now.” The rest of the trip to the foundation office was quiet, including the stop for coffees. <>-<>-<> We off load out of the elevator into the reception area of the new offices, for ‘The William Sands Foundation.’ Two men are building a front desk, in the reception area. We three, Lee, Liam and I acknowledge them as we strode past, on our way to the central part of the office. Uncle Luke, his family, and all of mine and Liam’s family are hard at work putting furniture together. Dad and Papi ordered everything flat packed, and we had been summoned to put it together. This would save us a ‘but load of money,’ according to Papi. “Yes!” Papi says as he reaches for the coffee I’m holding out for him. Then calls, “Coffee break!” Over his shoulder to the happy helpers. “Thanks for getting these, it saved one of us stopping work to get them. Plus you were on your way here.” “You’re welcome,” Liam says as he saunters off. I watch him as he walks away, he isn’t happy at all. He doesn’t seem to be upset with me, but something is definitely off. Unless it’s baseball, or me dragging him to see my Mother’s ex-husband, I can’t think of anything that would have him this down. Liam is always so even tempered, nothing really ever gets to him. He just goes with the flow. He’s hurting, so I’m hurting, and I want to know why. I’ll get him alone later and force it out of him somehow. “Earth to Will,” Dad said, waving his hand in front of my face. “Huh?” I reply shaking my thoughts loose. I can deal with what’s plaguing Liam later today. “Which office do you want?” Dad asks, probably for the third time. “Don’t care, ask Liam, I’ll take whatever,” I answer shrugging my shoulders. “Okay,” Dad turns until he can see Liam, “Liam, which office do you want?” “Will and I can share, we probably won’t need an office each, until we finish college.” Liam looks around the floor at the offices. Dad rolls his eyes, “How did I know you two would say that?” Dad mutters under his breath. “Well, you’re in luck. See that long office between the two training room doors?” Dad points to the back of the room, at the office. Bill and I, purchased two corner desks with an extension. They interlock to make one big desk against the back wall of that office. The rest of us are going to let you figure out that nightmare. The normal desks are kicking our ass, so you boys are on your own with that one.” He snickers then sips his coffee. “Okay,” Liam and I say in unison. Our eyes meet, and we laugh. “Jinx!” We both say together. “What about me Dad, can I have an office?” Lee asks batting his lashes at Dad. “Of course you can, what are you going to do in your office?” Dad asks Lee, putting his arm around his shoulders affectionately. “I can do stuff,” Lee says thinking, “I can be Will and Liam’s assistant. They can give me things to do so I can help, like research things, make phone calls for them. They can teach me stuff,” Lee lists off what he could do. “Are you going to have time little brother?” Liam asks, “You love your job, and you spend an awful lot of time there. We don’t want to interfere with that. You want to be a florist, you also have homework. Maybe you can bunk in with us. You can do your homework in there, and if we need help, it’s better you’re with us anyway. Dad said there’s an extension between the two corner desks that can be yours,” Liam smiles affectionately at Lee. “You wouldn’t mind me being in there with you two?” Lee looks at his feet while he’s asking. “Are you kidding? We’d love you to be in there with us. We get to spend time together, it will be fun.” Liam answers, then in a stage whisper his says, “Plus Will is boring, he works too hard. You and me, we know how to have fun.” Lee looks at me sideways to see my reaction. I turn my head the other way as if I’m not listening. “Thanks, Liam,” Lee rushes over and gives Liam a hug, which makes him smile. That warms my heart. “Hmph! So that’s how it’s gonna be. I’m fun – sometimes.” I huff, crossing my arms over my chest. “Of course you are Babe, we have fun all the time,” Liam is snickering with a big smile. Lee is trying to hide his grin. “Hmph! Well, I’m going to go and put my part of the desk together and play with myself.” Then I heard what I had said, “No, not play with myself, I mean have fun by myself,” everyone was laughing. “Damn it, you all suck,” I stalk away in a mock huff, chuckling at my own absurdity. “Oh Honey, we were only kidding,” Liam calls out as he chuckles his way through. I spin around, poking my tongue out like Gene Simmons and giving him a twin figure salute. I chuckle when I could hear Liam getting ribbed by everyone. Putting my coffee on the floor, I got stuck into putting one of the desks together. Opening the box was more of a nightmare than reading the instructions. The instructions were barely decipherable at best. In the end, I give up on the instructions and decide to go with common sense. It only took me about half an hour to put the desk together. The group is still standing around talking when I finish. “What are you a bunch of city workers,” I call out from the doorway of the office, “get to work,” I chuckle as I start on the other desk. “Um, Will?” I look up and see Lee nervously standing by the door of the office, “Can I help you, please?” Poor kid wouldn’t look me in the eye. I smile, “Sure, Spud. Do you want to get started on the extension?” I point to the box, “Make sure you read the instructions all the way through before you start. Somehow it connects these two desks… Actually, how about, we do that together first. I’d hate to put this desk together only to find I have to pull it apart.” I laugh and ruffle his hair. Lee rolls his eyes, “That would suck.” He opens the box with ease. I want to kick him. It was hell trying to get the other two boxes open – typical. “I’m sorry if we upset you earlier,” Lee offers timidly as he goes in search of the instruction sheet. “You guys didn’t upset me, it was all in fun. Besides, I’ll make Liam pay for it later,” I chuckle. Lee and I got stuck into constructing the extension and the second desk. We only had to take one panel off of the desk I’d already completed to connect it all together. Lee and I stand back after finishing to admire our success. I put my hand up for a high five and Lee delivers. “I’m taking Cash and C.C. to the shelter this afternoon. Did you want to come with us, you can stay over at ours tonight if you want. We’ll get pizza and watch movies. Nothing exciting, but it will be a relaxing evening. You can bring Pickles if you want. I’ve bought her a litter tray and some food for whenever you want to bring her over.” I can see the wheels turning in his head, “Um… Maybe,” I scoffed, “Got a better offer on the table, have you? A hot date, perhaps?” I bump him with my shoulder. Lee giggles, “Noooo, smart-ass. I was going to ask if you mind Jason staying over too? I miss having him around all of the time.” “You’ll have to ask Liam about that, but I’m good with it,” I tell him. Lee went running off, “Hey Spud, come here for a second,” I call out to him. He stops, spins around and comes back. “Yeah?” He stares at me waiting. Sitting down on the edge of the desk, I pat the space next to me. “Sit down for a sec,” Lee sat down begrudgingly, crossing his legs and facing my side. “Do have a crush on Jason?” I ask with concern. Lee shook his head. “Are you sure? It’s okay if you do,” I said reassuringly. He shook his head again. I can see he’s telling the truth because he’s looking me straight in the eye. He’s not fidgety or nervous like he normally would be when he’s uncomfortable. “Okay, that’s all.” Lee screws up his face in confusion, “Why’d you think that?” “I was just checking. It’s that Jason’s a lot older than you. He’ll be eighteen in December, and you won’t be fifteen until next year. It’s a big difference at your age.” I answer. “Nah! I don’t see him like that. Wouldn’t matter if I did, the Dad’s would go bananas. I see him like I do you and Liam. Dating him would be like dating either one of you. Ew!” His whole body shuddered. “Hey, you could do a lot worse than the three of us,” I said defensively. “Sure, if you say so,” Lee grins mischievously. “Go on, get lost, ya brat,” I grin back at him. “Love you Will,” Lee calls over his shoulder as he leaves the office at the speed of light. I take a moment to drink it all in. This is going to be our office for the foreseeable future. I hope we can decorate it a little. It’s kind of drab and dull. I’d like a whiteboard on the wall. We’ll also need office supplies. I pull out my phone and start writing a list of what we’ll need. I wonder who’s in charge of the office supplies. Hopping off of the desk I walk to the door of the room and lean against the frame. Between thoughts and typing my lists, I observe everyone as they finish up what they are doing. “Hey Will, give us a hand getting these chairs into the offices,” Scott calls over to me. “Sure,” I put my phone away and help Scott. Once everything is unpacked and put together, everyone starts to gather around one of the pods. When the last tenants vacated, they left some furniture behind. It was still in good condition and already set up. There are nine work stations in three groups of three in the middle open. Dad and Papi decided to leave them there for when we need more staff. Liam comes up behind me, wrapping his arms around my middle. I let my head fall to the side and nestle in the crook of his neck. I love this man so much, I can’t imagine being anywhere but with him. He must be able to hear my thoughts, because he kissed my forehead and said, “Love you, Babe,” “Love you back,” “While I’ve got you all,” Mom announced, “Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll get together with the other members of the board, Ian, Derek, and Theo…” Liam interrupted, “Will and I won’t be able to make it, we have a meeting,” Dad frowned, “What kind of meeting?” “Nothing to do with the foundation,” Liam answers. Dad raises an eyebrow inquiringly at the pair of us. Liam and I didn’t volunteer any further information. Thankfully Dad let it go. I certainly don’t feel like explaining myself, not in front of everybody. “That’s okay,” Mom saves us, “Come for dinner tomorrow night, and we’ll fill you in.” “Thanks, Momma,” Liam replies. I’m not sure which he was thanking her for. The save or the invitation. <>-<>-<> “Hello family,” I greet the hive of activity in Mom’s kitchen. Liam is standing beside me, his arm around my waist. It smells wonderful in here, the combined aroma of the beef and vegetables is making me salivate. I love Mom’s roasts. I can’t even remember the last time she made us one. Our life has changed so much in one year, it’s insane. Dad turns to face us, a big smile on his face, “Hello my Sons, how are things?” “We’re okay,” Liam says flatly. Dad frowns, “That good huh? Did your meeting not go well?” “No it was all right we’ll tell you about it during dinner. Can we help with anything?” Liam asks. “Yes, take this meat plate,” Mom hands the plate to Liam, “and Will can you take the bread basket and gravy. Then seat yourselves at the table, dinner’s ready.” We took our givings and went to the table and set them down. Liam pulls a chair out for me to sit down. “Thank you, Baby, you’re sweet.” I lean over and kiss him once he is seated. Liam sweeps my hair back out of my eyes, my love smile plastered on his face. “You need another hair cut Babe,” Liam suggests. “I know it keeps getting in my eyes. It’s annoying as hell. I’ll go sometime this week.” I agree smiling warmly at Liam. He shrugs his shoulder, “I like seeing your beautiful eyes. We’ll go together.” “Knock it off you two, you’re sickening. The rest of want to eat and keep our food down.” Papi laughs. Both Liam and I poke our tongue out at him. “Dear God,” Papi chortles, “is there anything you two don’t do together.” Shrugging my shoulders, with a deadpan delivery I start off with, “No, not really. Just this morning, I was brushing my teeth, while Liam was taki…” I was rudely cut off. “WILL!” The family yells in unison as Liam quietly snickers next to me. It was only our immediate family tonight. It’s nice, we haven’t had a dinner with just us in a long time. I love having the extended family around and love our housemates to pieces. However, this is nice for a change. We can quietly catch up without the input from everybody. “Where’s Uncle Luke clan,” I ask curiously. “They've gone to Virginia for a couple of days,” Mom answers. Well, there you go. “So is there anything Will and I should know from today's board meeting?” Liam asks as he’s loading his plate with garlic mash potatoes. I frown at how much he put on his plate. “What?” he says to me with a straight face. “What are you pregnant and eating for two?” I smirk at him. Liam crosses his fingers holding them up, closes his eyes and retorts, “I keep hoping,” I nudge him with my elbow, and he chuckles leaning in and kisses my cheek. “Ugh! You two are gross,” Lee rolls his eyes. “Thank you,” I say in appreciation, grinning at him. Again Lee rolls his eyes. Mom intervenes, answering Liam’s question, “Not much really, John, your Dad, has given us the budget for the next six months.” “Okay, what does that mean?” I ask. “Well, first is employees. Right now it’s pretty much all hands on deck, we all need to help and do our bit. Salaries won’t be much to start out with, but as time goes by, they’ll catch up to industry norms. John has budgeted for a full-time trainer and a full-time paid assistant for Bill. Seb won’t be taking the job we offered, as he already committed to the one he was offered by the company he works at now.” Liam and I both look at each other, I guarantee we are thinking the same thing. “You boys have been budgeted for eight hours per week – not more. It’s your senior year, and it’s important you focus on that.” “Sure, that’s reasonable. We can still help when it’s needed though,” Liam tells his Mom. “I know sweet boy, and trust me, we’ll make you,” she chortled, “We’ll be advertising the positions and taking resumes. Hopefully, we’ll be able to set interviews for next week sometime.” “Hmm,” Liam mutters under his breath, “Do you need Will or I for the interviews?” he inquires. “Not if you don’t want to, I’m sure we can handle it. We’ll only need your input when a position directly affects either of your jobs.” Mom answers, “Why, what’s up?” “Nothings up, Will, and I aren’t available for the next eight days,” Liam says. My head snaps to Liam, he smiles warmly at me and squeezes my thigh. Okay, I’ll trust him. He obviously has something in the works. “What’s going on with the two of you? All this secrecy,” Dad asks with concern, and none too happy at the same time. “Well, now that it’s out there. Will surprised me with our wedding, and it was everything I wanted. The whole day was perfect. My surprise to him is a honeymoon.” He says looking at me with nothing but love. “I’m not giving any details away. Will can call you all tomorrow afternoon, once we’ve arrived,” Liam says adamantly. “Really Baby, thank you,” my eyes are stinging, and I can feel a tear escape. Liam wipes it away and kisses me chastely, “I love you,” looking around the table, Lee and our parents are happy for us. “That’s great to hear,” Dad says happily, “You boys haven’t had any time for yourselves in months. Well, practically since you first got together. Make sure you enjoy it.” “We will,” Liam says, “I have everything planned out. Will is going to love it. There is even a couples massage involved.” He waggles his eyebrows at me. “So gross,” Lee mutters, but with a smile on his face. “When I get a boyfriend, I’m going to make sure we gross you out so much. You won’t be able to eat for a week.” “Yeah, here’s a tip for you then if you don’t want to be grossed out. Always knock before you go into Dad’s office, and be sure he says ‘Enter,’ not ‘Come in.’” I laugh hysterically as does Liam, giving me a high five. Dad and Papi stare daggers. “Huh! Why?” Lee says so innocently. “Just trust me,” I wink and take a sip of my water. I can see Lee’s mind cogs at work, and the light goes on, “Eww! Really?” He looks at our Dads with a scowl on his face. Of course, Papi decides to own it, shrugs a shoulder and nonchalantly says “It’s our house, why not?” “Ew! Kids present,” I grouse. “La, la, la, la, la, la,” Liam is singing, holding his hands over his ears. Laughing I pull Liam’s hands away from his ears. “Oh, he’s finished.” Lee is frozen with nothing to say. “Lee!” I call out to get his attention. “Huh?” He grunts, turning his focus to me. “If you visit the shelter while we’re away, can you take Cash and C.C. with you please?” “Oh yeah, sure, no problem.” Lee answers still dazed. “Since you put your Papi and me on the spot. What was your meeting about today?” Dad asks seriously. I glance at Liam, “Tell them, Babe, you can’t keep it a secret,” he tells me. Resigning to my fate, “We went and met with Mitchell Pearce today,” “Why on earth, Will?” Dad gasps. “I needed to make sure he was okay,” I reply sheepishly. “Will, you don’t know the man. He could have hurt you, you don’t know what his state of mind is.” Dad is tearing me a new one. I put my hand up as if to say stop. “Adam and his partner spoke with him first and set up the meeting. They took us, we met Mr. Pearce at the diner in a public place. Adam and Payne were there the entire time.” “Okay. And?” Dad says defeatedly. What choice does he have, since we had already done it? “She broke him, Dad. The man is bitter, angry and about ten other things. He lost his house, car, all his other assets. Unfortunately, when they got married, he put everything in both their names. He’s also lost his job because of it, and his family isn’t speaking to him any longer. He’s nothing left. I’m a little worried because he’s got nothing left to lose.” “Oh dear,” Mom gasps, putting her hand to her chest, “that poor man,” “Yep, Mr. Pearce doesn’t really seem like a bad person underneath it all. He didn’t know Will existed before she was arrested. He was also upset he had a step-son and wasn’t even aware of it. He did say he wished he would have gotten to know Will and he felt robbed of the opportunity. The poor guy thought they were doing well and were happy. She’s basically pulled the rug out from under him. He’s staying at some seedy motel that you pay by the week at the moment. He’s not sure how much longer he can stay there, as his cash is depleting fast and no-one will hire him.” Liam relays the information we gathered to them. “What does he do for a living?” Dad asks. “I’m not really sure, he did explain, it kind of sounds like what Papi does. I do know that he has the same degree as you, Papi.” I answer. “Did you give him anything or offer him anything?” Dad asks. “He didn’t ask for anything, nor did we offer,” Liam assures him. “Will, I can hear your wheels squeaking from here. Spill! I know you want us to do something.” Dad says in his no nonsense voice like Father’s do. “Well, since we still have to fill the position of Papi’s assistant. Maybe we could offer it to him temporarily, or at least ask him for his resumé. That way it’s not a hand-out, and he has to interview for the job.” I said shrugging my shoulders. We were all quiet for a couple of minutes. I can tell Dad is disappointed by me going to see Mr. Pearce. For some reason, I had to make sure he was alright. “Dad, like Liam said he seems like a decent man. He just got caught in the web of that venomous devil woman. I feel for him, we are all still financial, and we still all have each other. We came out the other side faring okay, but he has nobody for support and no finances. I honestly don’t think he would take a hand-out. But if we can help him, knowing how he’s suffering, shouldn’t we help.” Atta boy Will play the heart strings. He’s the one that brought me up, and to think and feel the way I do. After a minute, Dad waivers, “Leave it with us, Will, we’ll talk about it, and then decide what to do. It’s the best we can offer you right now. How do we get in touch with him?” Dad sighs. “Through Adam, we didn’t exchange contact information with Mr. Pearce,” I reply. “At least you did something smart,” Dad mutters. “I didn’t do this to upset you, if you don’t want to do anything, don’t. I can’t and won’t force it upon you guys. I was only asking.” I say in a huff, standing and clearing the dishes off of the table. Dad follows me into the kitchen with more plates from the table. “Will…” Dad starts. “Don’t Dad,” I cut him off, stuffing dirty dishes in the dishwasher. “All I want to do right now is go home, pack for the next eight days and get ready for our trip. Past that point, I no longer care.” <>-<>-<> Laying here in the bath, with hot the water surrounding my body, the bubble tickling my nose as I sink myself lower. I can feel the tension from today subside while watching Benny’s little boat tackling the foam to forge its own path. Benny leaves the boat here for when he visits. Man, that kid is awesome. The one thing I think Liam is right about, me and him with our own children, would be us enjoying life. Even at our young age. We both enjoy being around kids, playing with them, teaching them. If we have children, it would be because we want them. The real thing would be we wouldn’t have to struggle financially. We’d still get to go to college and get an education. I think I’m going to cave on the after college before children and settle for the after school finishes. We’re too young for the adoption route, but I’d like to go with the surrogate anyway. We can look at adopting later when we are old enough. But I definitely want Liam to have his baby or babies. I have a year or so to look into it. Closing my eyes, and I feel a draft, so I know Liam has come into the bathroom, causing me to smile. “Hey Baby,” I say just above a whisper. “I wondered where you got to,” Liam says softly, sitting on the side of the tub. Reaching for his hand, “Come and join me, you’re the only thing missing to make this perfect.” He stands and starts undressing. When he pulls off his shorts and boxers, I gasp. “What?” He says in a panic, looking down at himself. Chortling, I comment, “I forgot how sexy you are,” “Move over beautiful, make room for me.” Liam pushes Benny’s boat out of his way and climbs in between my legs and lays his back to my front. I wrap my arms around him, pulling him to me. “Now this, this is perfect,” I whisper, kissing his neck. “Hmm…”
  11. 49 points
    Head Check I put Noah down in his crib and leaned on the side watching him sleep. I gently swept back an annoying piece of hair sticking out from behind his ear. Man, this little guy is perfect in every way, he has awesome parents who will love him no matter what. His two favorite Uncles would gladly do anything for him. He’s so tiny, I can’t wait for our turn. I’d let Liam have ten of these easy, problem is they grow up into one of us. What a fantastic ride though, watching your own kid grow up, go off and become something they choose to be right in front of your eyes. I hope I turn out to be half the father my Dad and Papi are. I smiled at the thought and heard a noise behind me. Turning around it was Liam leaning against the door frame watching me, my love smile plastered on his face. “Hey Babe,” Liam said, and tip toed over to me. I don’t know why he tip toed this beautiful boy could sleep through a tornado. The best thing Kat and Ollie ever did is, make sure that Noah could sleep through noise. Katherine figured a house full of boys it seemed the smartest option. Sometimes we forget he’s sleeping and make a lot of noise. “You do know you are the only one who can get Noah to sleep like that other than Kat and Ollie,” Liam said quietly then kissing my cheek. “But you get him to do this all of the time,” I countered. Liam shook his head at me, “Nope, I’m an illusion. You ask Kat. I can get him to settle when he’s fussing, but I can not get Noah comfortable enough that he ends up in a deep sleep. Kat always has to get him to sleep after I’ve had him.” “Really? News to me no-ones ever said anything.” I shrugged. “That’s because you would be self-conscious about it,” Liam smiled affectionately at me, “You’ll be a great Dad one day Babe, of that I have no doubt. Come on, let the little man sleep,” he took my hand, grabbing the baby monitor in the other and pulled me from the room leading me to the couch in the living room. “Do you hear that?” I stopped and listened, “I don’t hear anything,” I replied curiously looking around the room. “Exactly, it’s nice that we have the place to ourselves. First time since we moved in.” Liam remarked grinning. “Where is everyone?” Liam sat on the couch and pulled me down with him. I lay on my back with my head in his lap and fidgeted until I found a comfy position. Liam smiled down looking me in the eyes lovingly, “I had Dad get rid of everyone, so I could check where your head is at. And I I want to talk to you about something before they get back,” he spoke and swept my hair back from my forehead continuously sliding it through his fingers. It was a very therapeutic and relaxing, it almost makes me sleepy. “I’m okay Baby, why do you ask?” “I want to check what you’re thinking after what Callen told us. Make sure you're dealing with it all. You’ve been doing so much better since I came back from California. I want to make sure you don’t spiral down the rabbit hole again. I love you too much to fail you again, I won’t let it happen.” “Honey that was on me, not you. I didn’t speak up. How were you suppose to know I wasn’t coping? But I assure you I’m okay, not happy about it all, but I’m dealing. Thank you for loving me unconditionally though.” Liam bent his head down and kissed my lips chastely. “It’s the only way we love each other… So what're your thoughts on the outcome of the FBI interviews?” Liam’s stopped threading his fingers through my hair, so I tapped his hand to keep doing it, he smiled and continued. I blew out a breath, “Well, I’m glad Dad is in the clear. The way the interview went with me, it was like they were trying to pin stuff on him. But the Agent apologized at the end and told me it was so they could counter any claims they make against Dad. He showed me the signatures in the file. They aren’t even close to Dad’s, so how they’ll try and prove it was him, I’ll never know.” I huffed, “I’m hoping they can stop Mother’s lawyers from getting all the charges lumped as one. I think the white collar crap should stay separate from the charges to do with us. What about you?” “I’m a little conflicted. The judge can kick it all to the feds, getting it off of his docket. Then they’ll most likely lump all the charges together, and like Callen told us, the attempted kidnapping charge is the big one. If she is convicted under federal, the penalty will be much harsher. Which I’m all for by the way.” Liam watched for my reaction, but I just chuckled. “I’m not happy that if they all get lumped together and thrown to the Feds because this will be dragged on forever and she’ll still be free. I know she was given a restraining order to stay away from us as part of her bail. But it’s just a piece of paper, not an actual weight around her ankles.” I said a little bitterly. “The one good thing about all of this, if the charges stay separate, apart from that the whole awful thing being over quicker, is that I’m not needed for the Federal case as a witness. Cal said it could take anywhere from twelve months to three years before it gets to court, due to the ongoing forensic audit and now that the IRS is involved, it will slow everything down. If the charges about us stay as they are, our part will be over pretty quickly. Callen seems to think we’ll be in court by next month. Then if she’s convicted, I’m hoping the sentencing will be long enough to keep her in jail, until the Feds sort their shit out.” We sat in silence for a minute, “Oh and Callen says they want me to file a victim impact statement with the Feds for their case. What the hell am I supposed to say, “it’s stricken me,” “I could have used that money for clown college and to collect muscle cars?” “I don’t know how I’ll survive with the millions I have in the bank.” “Rock On Dude!” I threw my hand up, waving it about giving the heavy metal head bangers sign. “How on earth do I explain that something I never knew about, that I haven’t missed and don’t need has impacted my life? The only thing I could say is that my Great Grandmother, whom I don’t even remember, wanted me to have it. The whole thing is ridiculous. We really should have taken my Mother to the vet in the first place and had her put down and out of our misery.” I shook my head, thinking about how many people she’s hurt and how many lives she’s interfered with. Liam threw his head back and laughed, “I love you, you crazy man.” He bent over and kissed me quickly. “I know,” I waggled my eyebrows at him. Liam snuck his hand down the front of my body and put his hand down the front of my pants. I tried to pull it away. “How am I supposed to concentrate with your hand down there?” I chortled. Liam grinned, “I don’t know let's see.” Oh, we’ll see alright, I won’t cave. I’m going to ignore the hand down there, but ah, does that feel good. Concentrate Luke, I mean Liam, no I’m Will. Will concentrate. “I feel sorry for Uncle Luke, you just know them assholes are going to” ahh yeah, like that, focus Will, “make him travel back and forth between Australia and the US. Not that I won’t be happy to see him. It doesn’t seem fair to him though.” I stated. Yeah! That’s it just a little more… Ahhh nice. I shifted my hips a little and Liam smirked. “What about you how are you dealing with all of this?” Man, it’s hard to concentrate with him… Ah, fuck yeah, breathe and focus. “Well, being one of the victims and a witness, unfortunately, Callen seems to think I’ll be in and out of the stand. That I’m not happy about, but if it helps put the Devil Woman behind bars I’m more than glad to do it.” Liam emphasized ‘Devil Woman.’ Liam ran his thumb over the head of my cock gathering and sliding precum down my shaft. Oh, God, I swallowed audibly. “Me too,” I said chuckling, “Okay, the Devil Woman has taken up enough of our time today. What else did you want to talk to me about?” “Baseball,” that’s all Liam said, the one word. But his face washed over with seriousness. I pulled his hands from pants, sat up swiftly crossed my legs sitting sideways facing him. Man, I’m going to have blue balls the rest of the night. “You seem serious talk Baby, I’m listening,” I said uncomfortably adjusting myself. Liam looked smugly at me and licked his fingers like he’d just finished eating fried chicken. A moan released itself from the back of my throat, he smiled smugly at me knowing what he had just done to me. He is going to be on the receiving end of some well-deserved punishment when we are finished here. Liam looked me directly in the eyes, his shoulders slumped and told me, “I don’t want to play baseball through College.” I felt dread lie within my stomach, “Bullshit, it’s all you’ve ever wanted since you were eight-years-old. I don’t believe you. What’s really going on?” I took his hand and held it between mine. “I’ll explain if you’ll actually listen to what I’m saying. I’ve already talked to Mom, and she’s okay with it.” I nodded telling him to continue, “There are a few reasons. My arm isn’t healing like we wanted it to…” He held up his hand to stop me from saying anything, so I nodded. “It’s improved enough that I can throw, and it will get stronger, but not enough to actually be able to play past high school.” “Aw Liam, are you sure?” he nodded his head. “Babe, it hurts after I throw now, there is no way I could even pitch half a game. I’m not prepared to damage myself further or put up with the pain when I am never going to be able to make a living at it.” Liam’s eyes betrayed him, he wasn’t happy about this at all, “I can see how you’re looking at me Babe, I really am okay with this. When we played yesterday, and we were all mucking about, the game was fun.” I nodded confirmation, “That’s what playing for real used to feel like to me, I don’t love it the way I used to anymore. It’s become work, a chore even. I still want to have something to do with the game, I can coach little-league or something. Maybe play in a rec league, but I don’t have that drive to pursue it as my dream. I’m entirely happy with my decision, there will be no regrets. I want you to be comfortable with it too.” “You may have to be patient with me. It’s been your dream for so long. In my head, I’ve always seen you as a major league baseball player when we got older. This is what you and I have been working toward this whole time – to get you to the majors. It’s going to take some time to convince me this is what you want. Did you still want to play for the school next season?” I eyed him warily. “Yeah, as much as I can. I’ll talk to Coach Campbell, he’s going to have to use that idiot, Richard. I’ll talk to Coach, and he might let me work with Ollie, he’s a half way decent pitcher now, a bit of coaching and some practice he might be excellent. Or maybe bring up the JV pitcher to help out.” Liam said looking over to where the dogs were curled up on their bed. “I’m so sorry Honey, I love you so much, I want you to have everything you want, everything you’ve worked for.” I crawled onto his lap and wrapped myself around him. Liam pulled me to him and kissed the top of my head. “It really is okay, I swear,” Liam said reflectively. I rested in his arms quietly, trying to come to terms with what he’s just told me. I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. It’s going to be weird not talking, breathing, sleeping baseball for the upcoming season. Dreaming of Liam making it big, our scenarios getting wilder as we got older of what his life would be like as a famous baseball player. “I’ll come with you when you talk to Coach if you like,” I whispered. “I’d like the support, thank you, Babe.” “I’d do just about anything for you, especially if Mother gets off of her charges. I’ll need your help burying a body, so I have no right to complain.” I snickered. “I’ll even carry the shovels into the woods,” Liam chuckled. I stretched my neck and head upward kissing Liam’s neck. Then let out a sigh. We stayed cuddling in silence for about five minutes, happy to be in each other's company. The front door flew wide open as the family all piled in, Ollie was first through the door, he came over to the couch, “Strewth, what ‘av you blokes been up to ay! A little “bow, Chika, bow wow.” He sang thrusting and rolling his hips dancing in a circle seductively with his arms in the air. Kat walked by him and gave him a ‘Gibbs.’ He chased her out of the room. I don’t think we’ll be seeing much of them the rest of the night. “Dude, I can barely understand a word that comes out of Oliver’s mouth this past couple of days,” Liam said to me laughing. I shrugged my shoulders, “Blame Uncle Luke and Scott.” Both of which were standing over us, from behind the couch grinning like idiot savants. Benny is climbing over the back of the couch and falling on top of Liam and me, while Tracy is trying to stop him. Dad, Papi and Uncle Cam stumbled through to the living room giggling like teenagers after two beers. I looked at Liam, “Great one of us is going to have to drive these idiots home,” I looked around the room, “Who liquored up the old farts?” Mom stepped out from behind the three giggling school girls, and put her hand half way up, dead panned “That would be me, they were pissing me off,” Liam and I looked at each other and burst into laughter. I don’t recall a time ever when Mom would have said something like that. I wonder what they were doing? “Where have you all been?” “Peder’s,” they all pumped their fists in the air as they yelled. A sports bar in town – figures. Scott’s stance wobbled a little. “Scott are you drunk?” I asked concerned. His head kind snap rolled, and his eyes squinted at me, “Nope, that ship has, um…” he rolled his wrist clicking fingers over and over, shaking his head side to side. “Sailed,” Uncle Luke blurted out grinning like he was on a game show. Scott clicked his fingers one last time, lazily pointed to his Dad and said, “Yep that,” Callen walked passed them shaking his head, “Look at all these idiots would ya, I’m going to make some coffee’s,” mumbling on the way to the kitchen. Benny scampered off of our laps and ran after his Uncle, “I help Uncle Cal, I help,” Uncle Luke leaned back a little to see past Scott to his husband, “Hey Cam, how do you feel,” He kind of sung. The giggling school girls and Scott sang back, “I feel like a Tooheys,” Uncle Luke sung again, “How do you feel,” Then all five of them sang, “I feel like a Tooheys, I feel like a Tooheys, I feel like a Tooheys or two.” Little Benny came running into the room and screamed, “I feel like a Tooheys,” and ran back to the kitchen.Tracy followed trying to get Benny to calm down because it was past his bed time. Scott burped really loud, “Yeah!” he said grinning, “Will can I have a sanga, I’m starving.” “Ahh… sure…” I answered curiously. “I’m making sanga’s if anyone is interested,” Scott called out walking toward the kitchen. Liam winked at me, “Welcome to the mad house,” “You love it, and you know it,” I laughed. Liam laughed raucously. <>-<>-<> “NO! Absolutely not.” Liam said with a raised voice. He continued aggressively buttering his toast without looking at me. “It’s not happening.” “Why not? What can happen?” I replied, insisting he considers my argument. Liam looked up at me and pointed the butter knife at me from the other side of the table, “No Will, it’s not our fault, it’s not our problem.” He huffed, “We have no idea what this guys frame of mind is, he might try and hurt you. So no you’re not going,” “So you’re just ordering me around like I’m some type of fetch boy in your employ. Damn it, Liam, I only want to make sure he’s not freakin’ homeless due to that woman. The FBI guy said he’s about to lose, well, he’s already lost all his assets, they’ve all been frozen by the government.” “I don’t care, Will,” Liam said flatly, taking a bite of his toast. Enter Katherine, great. She’ll side with my bossy ass husband, “What are you two Banshee’s screeching about,” Kat said reaching for the cereal box in the cupboard then a bowl, “We can hear you plain as day all the way in our bedroom.” She yawned and pulled a spoon from the drawer, then paused waiting for one of us to answer. Liam straightened himself in his seat, “My husband wants to meet his Mother’s ex-husband, “to make sure he’s not homeless,” and I don’t want him to go. It’s not a good idea, we know nothing about the man.” “Did you just met your husband, Liam? How did you not expect this?” Kat said sitting at the table with us, reaching for the milk jug. “Why don’t you go with him, that way you’ll know he’s safe.” Kat then turned on me, “Is this really a good idea Will? And if you’re determined to do this why didn’t you ask Liam to go with you?” “I did ask him, it’s how we ended up in this argument, and it’s not like I’m going alone. Adam and his partner are taking me.” I picked up my empty bowl and put it in the dishwasher, “I’ll be in my shed if anyone wants me.” I love that I have my own place to escape. As I walked out of the back door, I heard Kat go to bat for me with Liam. She’s always so supportive of everyone. My shed was a bit of a mess, so I started clearing things away. I went through my chisels and put aside the ones I wanted to sharpen. I checked the wheel on my bench grinder to make sure there weren’t any grooves that would affect my chisels. They are a way too expensive to take any chances when it only takes a minute to check the wheel. I put my safety glasses on, and I started with my domed scraper as it is the biggest pain in my ass to sharpen. By the time I’d finished with a couple of spindle’s and bowl gouges, and gotten to my 31mm roughing gouge, Liam was standing at the door of the shed, quietly watching me. I put my chisel down, turned off the grinder and pushed my safety glasses on top of my head. “Hey,” I greeted Liam flatly. “Hey,” he replied walking closer to me and leaning against the bench next to the grinder. Liam looked into my eyes, “I’m sorry about before,” I shrugged my shoulders, not saying anything. I started to put the chisels I’d sharpened back into their respective holes. “I’m worried all of the time, that something will happen to you, Babe. I can’t stand the thought of you getting hurt. I still feel guilty about going to California without knowing how much you were hurting. I left you here to deal with everything by yourself. I suspected something was wrong, but I just put it down to what was happening with C.C. I should have done better.” “I don’t want to keep going over this Liam it wasn’t your fault that was all on me. I’m doing way better now. I’ve stopped taking on other people’s problems, taking on guilt that doesn’t belong to me. I feel a lot freer, and my load is a lot lighter.” I said working around him. “Isn’t that what you're doing with your Mother’s husband? Taking on his problems.” He asked carefully. “I haven’t taken on anything, I want to check for myself that he’s going to be alright. That woman has taken a lot from our family and us. But we are all still financial, and we still all have each other for support, and we are all doing okay. What if this guy has nobody? He’s lost his car, his house, and God knows what else. Technically, he is my step-father whether we are aware of each other or not.” I said adamantly. “But Will…” “No Liam, how would you feel if it were me, or Lee, or even Pat. You would want to help. I’m just asking to check on him. I don’t want to give him anything or hand him money. But if there is a way we can help him just a little, then I want to do that. I’ll be perfectly safe with Adam and Payne there. They’ve spoken to the guy already, and we’ll be meeting in a public place. It’s not like I’m going to his seedy hotel room.” Liam was silent, he looked at a spot on the floor, arms folded across his chest, thinking would be my guess. I picked up the rails and spokes I’d turned the other day and moved them to a project bin ready to be put together. I just needed to pick up the wheels and base board for it. “What are you making?” He flicked his chin toward the project bin I’d put the wood into. I chortled, “A baby jail for Noah, he’s growing at the speed of light and eventually Kat will need it. I made it for the living room. He’ll be able to play with his toys in there while Kat does what she needs to without worrying he’s depositing something into a power socket.” “Hmm… We really should start getting the house baby proofed before he starts crawling. I know it’s a while away, but it will be here before we know it.” Liam said pensively. “We have some time, I’ll start looking into the best way to do it. The most important will be the stairs, we’ll have to get a baby gate for the top and bottom. It’ll have to be robust enough to stand up to the dogs as well. I might make one if I can’t find one I trust.” “You should make them, at least then it will match the balustrade and not be one of those unsightly gaudy plastic jobs.” Liam smiled, he always takes pride in the material things he owns. “Can I still come with you?” He muttered. “Huh?” “When you go to see your Mothers ex-husband, do you want me to come with you?” Liam asked cautiously, his eyes lifted to me as he stood leaning against the bench. I took a deep breath, “Yes I would, thank you. I always feel more confident when you’re with me.” Liam nodded his head, “Then I’ll come with you. Let me know when Adam sets up a time.” “I will, I won’t go without you. I promise.” “Good,” Liam smiled weakly and nodded his head once. I can tell he’s not happy about the situation, but he’ll do it for me. “So this is the bat cave huh?” Tracy said as he came through to where we were standing. He looked around. “This is great Will,” he said looking around. “Do you like this extractor, I’ve been looking into one like this, but I can’t quite make the leap. My one works fine, but it’s old and smaller. Now that I’m doing bigger jobs, I should actually upgrade.” Tracy said while he inspected mine. “Yeah, it’s the best. My old one was a piece of crap compared to this one. I didn’t even realize till this was installed.” I smiled. Liam watched Tracy and me go through the workshop and my chisels. He stood quietly by, content, letting us talk shop. “Hey Trace, Bud, we have to get going, or we’ll miss our flight.” Callen said to Tracy as he walked into my workshop, “Jesus, you two were cut from the same cloth weren’t ya?” he said looking around. “Wesley is on the phone with Benny, there’s a problem with Promise.” “What?” He asked. “Wes thinks Promise is acting up because he misses Benny. Chase suggested if there was anything of Benny’s that he’s worn they can put near the horse. Maybe if he can smell him the horse might calm down.” Callen relayed the question he’d been asked. “Oh… Uh… Yeah, his PJ’s are under his pillow. He wore those the night before we left. Ask if that will do and have Wes’s brother Joseph get a key from Chase and grab them.” “Great, I’ll let him know. I don’t mean to be a pain, but we really do need to get a move on. I’ll go talk to Wes.” Callen said before he left the workshop. “Who’s Wesley? I don’t remember meeting him.” I asked. “Horses are so weird,” Trace commented shaking his head, “Huh, oh… He’s a friend of Chase's, he’s always around, he has a little brother he’s guardian for, and he’s friends with Cory and Shane. I think Wesley and Chase maybe more than “just friends,” but we can’t seem to get proof of that yet.” Tracy said mischievously. “He and Benny adore each other. The guy is really good with him too. He’s been teaching Benny how to look after his horse properly. He makes Benny do everything for the horse. He’s really firm with him, doesn’t let him get away with anything or let him be lazy. Alex thinks he hung the moon because he’s firm with Benny.” Tracy rolled his eyes. “Benny follows Wesley around, the man doesn’t mind. He’s patient and answers all of Benny’s questions. Even shows him how to do things if he wants to know. They're adorable to watch.” Trace explained smiling. “You’re jealous as all hell aren’t you?” I chuckled. Tracy’s shoulders slumped, “Of course I am,” He laughed, “Benny’s my best friend. Now I have to share.” “You’re his Poppy, I bet he loves you more than anyone else.” I tried to assure him. “I hope so,” Tracy said thoughtfully. “Come on; you guys can walk me out, I don’t want to miss our flight.” We made our way to the rental car, Cal had waiting. We said goodbye to Shane and Cory, and we gave Benny a big hug then packed him away in the car. Liam and I gave Cal the most grateful thank you we could. They were all still waving until the car was out of sight.
  12. 49 points
    Mom and I are giggling watching Paddy and Dad joking around while they pull our luggage along ahead of us from the parking garage to departures at the airport. “I think your father fell head over heels for that young boy. I haven’t seen him this spirited since you and your sister were teenagers.” Mom said fondly. “I know, it’s fun to watch them. I was worried for Pat, although I know I shouldn’t have been.” I sighed, “I just wish Anna could have been a little nicer to him. What is the deal with her Mom, she was always a little…” I don’t really know how to finish that sentence. “Selfish, self-centered, willful.” Mom replied chuckling. I chortled, “Yeah, all of the above. But Anna was never pointedly rude, cruel or spiteful, was she? And where is her husband?” Mom was silent for a few minutes, she looped her arm through mine as we walked slowing our pace so we could talk a little more privately. “No, no she wasn’t. Not when you were younger, but as she’s progressed through her twenties, Anna has changed. Not for the better either, I’m afraid.” Mom paused for a second, “I’m actually worried though, she’s taken to lying, avoids eye contact, she won’t leave the house since she arrived. It’s almost as though she’s paranoid. When she arrived a couple of days before you, we had no idea she was coming. Not that that matters, wherever we are, that will always be your home. All of you, including Paddy.” Mom smiled affectionately, “Anna told us that she’d left her husband because he was abusive and it would be the last time he would lay a hand on her. Not that I don’t believe her, but…” “But you don’t?” I said sadly. “No, I don’t. He didn’t seem like the type. But I guess you never know behind closed doors.” Mom sighed, “but there are other signs she’s lying as well. Her story seems to change when we ask about it. There wasn’t a mark on her, not a bruise, not a scar – nothing. I would have thought, if he’d been abusive toward her and then she came straight to us, there would have been some sign. If not physically at least emotionally. But nothing. Now if we say anything she gets defensive, surly even and tries to lay blame on how she was raised. There’s something that doesn’t sit right with me about it all. I’m also terrified that she is telling the truth and someone was violent with one of my babies.” “What about Dad? What does he think?” Mom snort laughed, “The first night, he wanted to go down to Florida and shoot the man.” Mom paused and clucked her tongue, “Now, he doesn’t believe a word that comes out of her mouth. But she’s our daughter; she is pregnant with nowhere else to go. I’m going to use her pregnancy as an excuse to get her to the doctors for a thorough check up, see if we can find out if there is anything to it. Or maybe it's something entirely different, maybe something mentally otherwise, who knows. I am very worried.” I stopped walking for a second and faced Mom, “Mom, let me know what’s happening with her. I know me and Anna have never been close, or even friends for that matter. But she’s my sister, and if something’s wrong, I want to know. If you need me at any time, call. I’m always there, and I’m doing a lot better now. I can handle whatever you tell me. If I can lift the burden for you and Dad a little, I’ll do it, no matter what it is.” Mom’s gave me a warm smile, “You’re so much like your father, and I’m so happy you’re doing better. We will take you up on your offer to come and meet your new family and experience your new life. I’m a little jealous they get to share that with you.” Mom grinned, “Who knew, you’d be happy in Kentucky of all places.” “Weird I know, but I do love it. And Paddy has brought me so much happiness, we still have our rough patches, but he’s fifteen,” I laughed, “we would anyway.” “Yes you would, but boys are a lot easier than girls at this age. Boys you only have to stay out of their room, be sure to knock before entering and put a limit on their shower time,” Mom screwed up her face, but then chuckled, “and teach them to do their own laundry.” My face went bright red as we moved toward the departures. <>-<>-<> I arrived at the café early again, just in case Adam was working and had to get back. This time I brought papers that I’d neglected to mark over the Christmas break. Sometimes when I’m working I forget my surroundings, today is no different. Finally coming to the end of the pile, not realizing how much time had passed, my stomach did that flip-floppy thing it loves to taunt me with, I sighed and checked the time. A text had come through from Adam, and I hadn’t realized. From: Adam Message: Sorry, running late. Please wait if you don’t have to get back to work. Crap it had been nearly forty-five minutes since I received the text. Hope he wasn’t expecting a reply. As I went to respond, Adam came through the door of the café he appeared a little frazzled. I stood to greet him with a handshake, which he reciprocated. The butterfly wings were a buzz in my chest. I am going to lose myself with this man I just know it. “Sorry Teach, please don’t give me detention, or do. Whichever one works in my favor,” he laughed, “I’m glad you’re still here, I had to drop my folks at the airport, and the traffic was hell.” “No it’s fine it gave me a chance to catch up on grading some papers. Here sit you look frazzled, I’ll get you a coffee while you get your bearings.” I suggested pulling out a chair for him. “Uh… Thanks, black, no sugar.” He replied and sat down running his fingers through his hair. Must have been a hellish morning for him. I’d like to run my fingers through those locks, they look so soft and smooth. Focus Ian: Coffee!. “Hi, could I get another standard flat white no sugar, and a standard black no sugar, and two of those blueberry muffins. Thanks.” I gave my order, paid and moved out of the way for the person behind me. I studied Adam as I was waiting, his back was to me, and he had his elbows on the table. His hands clasped together, and his chin resting slightly to the side as watched the people go walk past the window. I can’t help wonder what he’s thinking. He seems to be moving better today too. So hopefully he’s all healed. I don’t know if I could be in a relationship with someone in his line of work. Always wondering if they’re safe, will this be the day or night they don’t come home. After losing James, I’m not sure I could go through that again. Not that I wish my time with James away or regret it, what we had together was precious to me. Even knowing the outcome, I’d do it all again with James “Sir… sir, your order.” “Huh! Oh, thank you,” I smiled at the young girl, taking the drinks and pastries. I put Adam’s coffee in front of him, his eyes snapped up. “Sorry I didn’t mean to startle you,” putting his plated muffin down next to his drink. Adam smiled his straight white teeth at me. I hope that’s the only straight thing about him. I had to stop myself from chuckling out loud at my own stupid thought. “What? You look amused.” He said grinning at me while I felt the heat rise up my neck to my face. “Oh nothing, my head said something stupid to me?” I waved my hand dismissively. I need to change the subject before he asks… “Yeah, like what?” His eyebrow cocked on one side curiously. “Yum…” I shook my head and covered my face for a second to gather myself. Steeling my nerves, I persevered with what I wanted to say pretending nothing happened, “I mean… You’re looking a lot better than the last time I saw you,” How embarrassing, please floor open up and swallow me whole. Adam smirked and let my nervous rabbiting go unnoticed, “I am thank you, Mom and Dad made sure I got plenty of rest. I got the all clear from the doctor on Friday to return to work tomorrow. Thankfully, I was going out of my mind doing nothing. Not to mention Mom fussing the whole time.” He chuckled. “What about you, how was your visit with your folks?” Adam asked taking a sip of his coffee and picking at his muffin. “DAD! Great you’re still here,” Paddy said loudly across the café, “sorry to interrupt but I locked myself out of the apartment. I tried to call, but you didn’t answer.” He kept talking as he walked over to us quickly, Sasha attached to his hand. “Sorry Paddy, I had my phone on silent.” Everyone else in the world forgotten, because my son, is having a very minor crisis, although he seems to think it’s the end of the world. Pat looked at Adam and he, in turn, stared at Pat. “Oh, sorry forgive my manners. Adam this is my son Patrick, and Sasha his girlfriend. Paddy, Sasha this is Adam, a friend.” I introduced them nervously, I didn’t know what to say or explain who he is. Adam stood and put his hand out to shake Pat’s hand in greeting, Pat smiled and shook his hand and Sasha gave Adam a shy smile and small wave. “I really didn’t mean to interrupt,” Pat said again. “Pat it’s not the end of the world,” I chuckled, I took off my front door key and gave it to him, “Put it in the mailbox when or if you go back out. I have the key here to access it. Are you staying home or leaving again.” “I was kind of hoping you’d let me stay at Sasha’s tonight. I promise we won’t be late for school tomorrow.” Pat said dramatically. Ah! to be fifteen again. “Okay,” I nodded my head, “but if you are late, there will be no funny note, just detention.” “I know,” Pat said looking at his feet, “and the note wasn’t funny.” “I beg to differ, I found it very funny.” I chuckled. Pat lifted his head and smiled at me, “so it’s okay,” “Yep, off you go. Just this once because I deprived you of your holidays together.” I smiled. “Thanks, Dad,” Pat grinned. “Hang on a minute, how did you get here?” “Oliver, he’ll take me home to get some clothes and then back to Sasha’s, he and Kat are having dinner there tonight,” Pat told me. “That’s an improvement at least. Okay, well I’ll see you tomorrow, I’ll bring your lunch. Just come and find me when you want it. Love you,” “Love you too,” Pat said sheepishly as he swiftly pulled Sasha out of the café. I love to embarrass him. I chuckled to myself. Adam was looking at me with a confused face. “Sorry that’s my son, I like to embarrass him.” I smiled. “How old were you when you had him?” He asked. “Um… thirty-four,” I smiled. That didn’t help his confusion. “I adopted him last year, he was my foster child for a while too.” “Seems like a nice kid,” “He’s a terrific boy. We’ve had our moments, and I’m sure we’ll have more, but for the most part, he’s actually too well behaved and polite. It took a while for him to stop worrying I’d kick him out, but I think he’s finally come to realize that it doesn’t matter what he does, he’s here to stay. I’m fortunate to have him.” I said reflectively. Something passed over Adams' eyes for a second, like sadness and then it was gone. He smiled at me, and we sat in a comfortable silence for a moment drinking our coffee and picking at our muffins. “Do you have kids or want kids?” I asked him. “Yeah, one day. I do love kids.” Adam said pensively. I smiled warmly at the thought. Adam looked nervous for a moment and fidgeted in his seat, “Look, I’m not used to doing this, so please forgive me if I’m reading the situation all wrong. But would you like to go out with me on Saturday night?” “Like a date?” “Yes, a date,” he answered me directly. “I think I’d like that,” I replied shyly but grinning from ear to ear. He sighed with relief, “I’m going to be up front with you, I don’t like games, so I’ll just lay it out there. If you decide to change your mind, I’ll understand.” “Okay,” I cautiously pushed my coffee away and gave Adam my full attention. He nervously continued, “I’ve never been with a man before, never even been attracted to a man before,” he watched for my reaction. “I can’t be an experiment for you, sorry Adam.” He reached over the table slowly and took my hand in both of his, I almost pulled away when I felt that jolt as soon as he touched me, he seemed comfortable, I’m just not sure if I am. “That’s not what this is, I don’t know why, but I have to get to know you.” Adam let go of my hand, “Sorry I’m being too forward aren’t I.” “It’s fine Adam, it’s just that I’ve only ever had one serious relationship, it lasted over ten years, and I’ve never done hook-ups or casual dating. This is the first time I’ve even had coffee with someone that could potentially be a date or even considered moving on since then.” I said feeling disappointed that this may not be what I wanted with him. “Do you mind if I ask what happened?” Adam asked seriously. “Sure,” I answered looking down at my hands, that were dog earing students papers. “James, that was his name, he passed away nearly eight years ago, I didn’t cope very well, so I’ve kind of kept to myself and my little bubble, Life was a hard for me after James left me.” I said sadly, “Until Patrick came into my life anyway. He’s been forcing me to get out and live life a little more.” “So you’ve only ever been with one person, ever?” I nodded shyly. “And you’ve not been with anyone since.” I nodded again when it’s said like that it’s a little embarrassing and makes me feel a little pathetic. Adam audibly swallowed and his eyes glazed over a little, “That’s a really long time,” he said dazed sitting back in his chair, watching out the window at passers by. I pulled the paper together I had with me, “Sorry Adam, maybe this was a mistake, I shouldn’t have agreed to this. I don’t think I can do it.” I pulled my chair out from the table, disappointed that I’d made a fool of myself the first time out of the gate. Adam reached for me, “Don’t go, I’m just processing what you’ve told me. Please be patient with me.” I sat back down, Adam had a hold of my hand again, like he was afraid I’d bolt. I sat staring at the staff as they made orders, not knowing what to do or say, while he prepared himself. “Ian, I don’t want there to be any miscommunication between us. I’m not curious about being with a man. I’m curious about you. I need to know you. We can hang out, do stuff together, I mean go out and do actual things like movies or dinner, the farmers market maybe, not do stuff, stuff… I’m messing this all up.” Adam stared at our hands mingled together, but he didn’t let go. He took a deep breath, “I would never use anyone to satisfy my own curiosity, it’s disrespectful. It’s why I was upfront with you in the first place.” Adam took a breath and continued, “How do I put this… I’ve had this feeling each time we met. Then we kept messing it up, not getting phone numbers or names, me standing you up… That day at Kroger’s, I was supposed to sit in the car and not move. But something was telling me you were in there, that’s why I was sitting on the bench by the door,” He chortled, “I couldn’t make it any further, but at least if I sat there, you would have to pass by me. Then ten minutes later, there you were, standing in front of me, with hurt written all over your face because I stood you up. That just killed me, I don’t know what it is about you, but for some reason, we have a connection. I can feel it, even when you're close by and I can’t see you, I know you’re there.” “It’s not crazy, I feel it too.” I traced the outside of his hand with my thumb, his eyes looked up from our hands, and he gave me a crooked smile. “So will you still go out with me on Saturday?” “I’d love to,” I said with a chuckle, Adam grinned back at me. <>-<>-<> Since Patrick wasn’t home for the evening, I got stuck into the housework since we would be busy back at school and work. The whole time all I could think about is the feeling in my stomach and the butterflies. I’m not so confident about it all now. It would have to be a coincidence surely. I’ve heard about twins having that kind of connection, being able to feel the other, but never with unrelated people. I wonder if that’s even possible. James and I were connected, but this is on a whole other level. I’m so confused. I really need someone to talk to about this. I am going to drive myself crazy. I could call Mom, but that would open up a whole can of worms. Maybe Bill and John could help me, so that’s how I found myself on their doorstep at five o’clock in the afternoon. The door swung wide open, and I’m greeted with Bill’s smiley face, which quickly turned to a frown. “Come on in Ian, everything okay?” Bill pulled me into a hug, the second I stepped through the threshold. “Um, I’m not sure. I have a thing, it’s confusing, I need someone to help me figure it all out. My head is a mess.” I shook my head and smiled sadly. “Best you come in then, and we’ll see if we can’t tidy it up for you.” Bill chortled, then yelled down the hallway, “Honey, Ian’s here. He has a dilemma, we need to help him fix.” “Coming, get him a drink... Not alcohol,” John called back. Bill screwed his face up into a scowl, “Kill-joy.” Bill said quietly and snickered, “What would you like to drink, beer, wine, soda, coffee.” “Coffee would be great if you don’t mind.” “Nope, that’s fine, coffee it is. We can always make it an Irish one if things get a little rough.” Bill chuckled, rubbing his hands together mischievously. “Take a seat, John will only be a minute, and I’ll make the coffees.”
  13. 48 points
    BBQ, Baseball, and Bedtime “I’m here to take over Will, it’s too hot for anyone to stay in that get up all day,” Oliver put his hand up pointing to the home plate umpire gear I was sweating through. “From your mouth to my sweaty arm pits?” I laughed, “TIME,” I yelled for everyone to hear as I took off the gear and started handing it over to Ollie. Oliver screwed up his face, “I never thought about that, gross,” He held it with his thumb and forefinger like I’d passed him something diseased. “It’s like putting on some-ones dirty underwear.” “Hey I’m clean, I had a shower at least three days ago,” I said defending my hygiene. Ollie sniffed the breast plate and started coughing, “Geez, Will, what’d you bathe in Liam’s boxers.” “Yeah!” I said dreamily. “You’re so gross,” Oliver chortled, “Go and get a drink, dickhead before you pass out.” “Dickhead?” I frowned. Ollie pointed and chortled, “Yeah! Your Uncle Luke’s been teaching me Aussie slang. It sounds bloody funny.” He laughed at himself again. “You’re an idiot,” I smiled and walked over to the shaded area where the cooler was begging for my arrival. I saw Adam and a woman walking toward me from the driveway. “Hey Adam, are you off duty or just dropping by?” I put my hand in the cooler to grab a bottle of water. “Just signed off for the day, thought we’d come check out the game. Will this is my Partner Payne Fuller, Payne this is Will Blundell-Sands, Ian’s student, and nephew.” Adam introduced us. That was nice adding the nephew part. I’d never really given that much thought to it before, but it’s nice to know that Uncle Ian considers us family enough to tell people that we’re his nephews. “Well, I bet you both could use one of these, and happy to meet you, Payne,” I said handing her a cold beer, and one to Adam. “It’s definitely nice to meet you Will, thanks, I could absolutely use one of these.” Payne smiled knocking the lid off and downing half of the beer. “Is this all family?” Payne asked waving her hand at the diamond full, of players. “Yeah, pretty much, everyone’s related to someone, in one way or another,” I smirked, looking fondly around at my giant family. Payne squinted for a minute looking at the game, “Is that Tony and Cass out there?” I smiled, “Yeah, they’re the coaches for today's game, go down and join in the fun. Here take Coach Campbell a beer.” “Thanks, Will, I think I’ll do that. Let me know when you’re ready to leave HotShot.” Payne called over her shoulder. “HotShot! Huh?” I smirked. “Adam to you, ya little shit,” he laughed, “I’m happy to see Stephen here, it’s good of you to give him a second chance considering the circumstances.” I shrugged my shoulder, “It’s what Liam wants, for him I’ll do anything. But once Stephen told me more about his past, I was happy to give him a second chance. Nobody should have to live like that. I wish he had come to us sooner though. Probably could have done a lot more to help him.” Adam shook his head and chuckled. I was a bit taken back by his reaction. “After seeing you in the hospital that time, I expected you to be some entitled rich spoiled jock. You were fierce and mouthy didn’t give two shits we were from the FBI. I thought great two more kids thinking they’re entitled and hiding behind Daddy’s money going to make our job harder…” “Is that how we come across?” I asked a little hurt. I hope it’s not, geez. “It did that day,” Adam chuckled, “but since then, what I’ve heard from others and from watching you guys. Especially after what you did for Odie and what you are doing for Stephen, I’ve come to respect the men you’re becoming.” “Oh, thank you, I guess,” I said sheepishly, trying to focus on the game, “sorry if we gave that impression, but when it comes to Liam or me, we get a bit irrational.” Adam laughed. “UNCLE ADAM!” Benny came running from third base where he was fielding with Liam. He jumped up onto Adam’s lap wrapping his little arms around his neck. Adam pulled Benny into a tight hug, “can’t breave,” Benny croaked. Adam laughed, “Hey-a squirt, miss you lots.” Benny pulled back and put his hands either side of Adams' face, “When you coming home, I miss you.” Benny pulled Adams face toward him giving him a quick kiss. “Aw! I know buddy, but it might be a while yet. I promise I’ll come visit soon okay.” Benny smiled big and wide while he nodded his head. “Benny! Wesley is on the phone, here stay with Will while you talk okay.” Tracy said giving his young son the phone. “Hey, Bud, nice to see you. We all miss you back home. Remmy doesn’t like his new partner, says he’s going to kick your ass for leaving.” Tracy laughed giving Adam a hug as he stood from his seat to greet his friend. Tracy is my cousin Alex’s fiance and one of Benny’s fathers. He knew Adam from Florida, they were friends down there. “Come on down and join in the fun, Callen’s up to bat…” “You guys go, I’ll keep an eye on Benny,” I told Tracy. “Thanks, Will,” Tracy said, and Adam smiled and gave me a wink before they walked off. I watched as Benny paced in front of me with the phone plastered to the side of his head as he nodded at whatever his friend on the phone was saying. I smiled, Benny did a little skip. “Yep, we is having lots of fun, we is playing base-a-ball. Dults against us kids. Liam says we creaming them. I think it means we are winning.” Benny giggled. “Did you feed Promise, and ride him?” “Uh-huh!” Benny stopped toed the grass with his shoe. “Yep,” He turned and walked the other way. “Yep,” “Uh… I did, I put it in the saddle room like you showed me to,” Benny turned around again and paced back, “see I was a good boy,” he smiles and nods his head. “Ok bye Wesley, miss you too.” Benny ended the call and gave me his Dad’s phone. “Did you want a drink before you go back out on the field?” I asked him. “Yes please, could I have one for Liam too?” He gave me a cheeky grin. “Of course,” I grabbed two bottles of water and handed them to him. “Thanks, Will,” he called out as he ran back to his position at third base, giving Liam one of the bottles. Liam ruffled his hair and sent me a wave as thank you. <>-<>-<> After between the baseball game and dinner, we all had showers and got our PJ’s on. Oliver and my cousin Scott made a fire in the half drum and wrought iron stand I’d made. Not that it was cold, but you can’t camp without a fire according to the rules set forth by Pat – who’d never been camping by the way. You can’t have Smores without a fire. We all gathered around the fire on chairs or stools, chatting or mucking about. We looked ridiculous but so awesome at the same time. Liam’s dressed as Batman, he dressed me as Robin. Benny – Superman, Kat – Wonderwoman, my cousin Kristy – The Flash, Scott – Spiderman, Beau – Capt America, Seb – Thor, Oliver – Daredevil, Stephen – Hulk, Jason – Green Arrow, Pat – Iron Man, Sasha – Black Widow, Lee – Wolverine, Shane – Hawkeye and Cory – Green Lantern. Liam put masks on the dogs, they were super fur-kicks, he called them. He’s hilarious sometimes, fur-kicks, instead of sidekicks, Ha! “OKAY GATHER UP SO WE CAN GET A PHOTO!” Papi yelled, holding Liam’s camera. “SAY MARVEL-OUS,” – FLASH! – We all groaned as he took the photo. “SMILE YA SUPPOSED TO BE HEROES, GIVE US A POSE.” We all posed as our character would do – FLASH! – Dear God I can’t see, that flash is freakin’ bright. Looking around we were all blinking like crazy, trying to get our vision back. “OKAY ONE MORE, POSE AGAIN!” Twenty flashes at once along with the big one on Liam’s camera. Great now I’m blind. “Wait! Papi,” Liam called out, “I have to get one of Batman and Robin kissing.” He laughed. Papi chuckled, “Okay,” Liam grabbed me put one hand on my ass and pulled me to him, and the other on the back of my head holding me in place, then proceeded to kiss me stupid. When we broke apart, no one was around us, they’d all gone back to sitting around the fire, and the adults I assume went into the house. “Baby, don’t move yet. These costumes are pretty revealing, and that kiss made me harder than I’ve been in a while.” I groaned, “and stop rubbing yours against mine or we’ll be in all sorts of strife.” “Can’t help it, it’s like a beacon. Mine is automatically attracted to yours.” He laughed. Once we calmed down we found a place to sit, Liam sat with his back to a log they’d moved for tonight, and I sat between his legs. Liam kissed my neck and asked, “What are you humming Babe?” “Ugh! I’ve had this song stuck in my head since lunch time. It’s Alabama,” I cursed. “Sing it,” he said. “No, you know I can’t sing.” “Well it might get rid of it, sing so just I can hear,” he poked my side. I huffed, “Fine,” Rolling down a backwoods Tennessee bighway One arm on the wheel Holding my lover with the other, Liam wrapped his arms around me and started singing. A sweet soft southern thrill Worked hard all week Got a little jingle On a Tennessee Saturday night, a couple more jumped in and helped. Couldn't feel better I'm together with my dixieland delight From here everybody sang. Spend my dollar Parked in a holler 'neath the mountain moonlight Holdin' her up tight Make a little lovin' A little turtle dovin' on a Mason Dixon night It's my life Oh so right My dixieland delight Whitetail buck deer munchin' on clover Red-tailed hawk sitting on a limb Chubby ol' groundhog Croakin' bullfrog Free as a feeling in the wind Home grown country girl Gonna give me a whirl On a Tennessee Saturday night Lucky as a seven Livin' in Heaven With my dixieland delight Spend my dollar Parked in a holler 'neath the mountain moonlight Holdin' her up tight Make a little lovin' A little turtle dovin' on a Mason Dixon night It's my life Oh so right My dixieland delight And we ended it there thank God. “Hey Liam,” Benny said walking over to us and sat down on the log and put his hand on Liam’s shoulder, “I knowed a song, Daddy plays it all the time.” “Okay squirt, you start us off.” Liam smiled at the youngster. Got a big leather suitcase, all our homes inside Seems I've been walkin' for days, can't even bun the ride Try steppin' to a tune, with the rhythm of a wokkin’ man Mind drifts like a big balloon out of my hmm-hmm hand Ain't it funny how melody can bring back memory “We know that one, Clint Black right?” Liam says chuckling at the words Benny used and hand actions. Anyone who knew the song, sang along with Benny, he had the biggest grin on his face. Take you to another place in time Completely change your state of mind Walkin' down a lonely highway not feelin' alone Thinkin' back when things went my way and not the road I'm on Well, I've been down a time or two, but it never lasted long I can always make it through on a wing and a prayer and a song Ain't it funny how a melody can bring back a memory Take you to another place in time Completely change your state of mind It can make a right from a wrong, it can make you fall in love It can get you singin' along Chase the clouds away and make the sun shine above A melody can bring back a memory Take you to another place in time Completely change your state of mind A melody can bring back a memory Take you to another place in time Completely change your state of mind I love how much effort Liam puts in to make things fun. Benny is having the time of his life with all the big kids. The rest of the night was a blast, we played games, sang some more. When Tracy finally came out and got Benny, he’d fallen asleep against my chest. Tracy didn’t want Benny to sleep outside in case he woke up in the middle of the night. Which considering how much could go wrong, is fair enough. They were staying in the guest room anyway so Benny could come back out in the morning to wake us all up. “Hey Trace, how does Benny know all the words to a Clint Black song, he’s only four?” I asked him, and Tracy rolled his eyes. “State of Mind?” Tracy asked and I nodded in confirmation, “he loves it, makes us play it over and over and ooover again. That and that Wagon Wheel but he sings it Dragon Wheel,” “Ahh!” Liam and I said together smiling. That kid is seven sides of fantastic. <>-<>-<> When I opened my eyes, the first thing I could smell was bacon. Yum! I stuck my head outside the tent. Uncle Luke, Tracy, and Cal were at the grill, and Kat was walking from the house with Noah in her arms and Oliver close behind bringing food down to the entertainment area. I tapped Liam on the shin repeatedly, “Babe, get up, come on, they’re cooking breakfast, and Kat has Noah.” “Five more minutes,” Liam groaned. “Okay,” I put on my t-shirt and shorts and walked over to the grill. “Morning everyone,” I yawned stretching. “Morning,” they said one by one. “Kat, how ‘bout a cuddle before Liam gets up,” I said putting my arms out. “Sure sweetie,” Kat walked into my arms and hugged me. I squeezed her tight, she protected Noah from being squished between us, “Aw, that’s nice, thank, you.” I kissed the top of her head. “Now hand over the kid before Liam gets up.” “I knew it was too good to be true,” Kat scoffed gently off loading Noah into my arms. “Here let me cuddle you, Baby,” Oliver said reaching over and pulling Katherine to him. “Thank you,” Kat smiled and gently kissed her guy. “Man, Will, do you reckon you could come down to Florida and do our kitchen? I love that thing.” Tracy asked. “Maybe, can’t Alex get his guys to do it for you. Not that I mind or anything.” “Yeah, they could, but it will be one of those flat packed, everybody has the same kitchens. I won’t be able to brag how mine is unique and custom built. An original Will Blundell-Sands creation.” He laughed. I chuckled, “Yeah okay, do you have the tools I need or should I do it up here and ship it ready to build when I get there?” “Yeah, I should have everything you need in my workshop. Oh, and I want to see yours while I’m here this time. I didn’t get a chance last visit.” Tracy winked at me. I laughed. Tracy does woodwork but a lot more wrought iron metal, as far as I’m aware he only does custom jobs now. He sold his smaller business to make way for bigger and better things now he has his family together. “You did the kitchen, Will?” Uncle Luke looked at me with one eyebrow raised. “Yeah, I had a lot of help putting it together but all the doors and draws I made and carved myself,” I said you know, no big deal. Even though I know, it is. Well to me anyway. “Impressive.” Uncle Luke went back to cooking. Liam came and sat behind me with his legs either side and his head resting on my shoulder looking over at Noah. “He’s so beautiful,” Liam said quietly so only I could hear and kissed my neck, “Don’t think for one second you’re fooling me, Will. I know you want a baby just as much as I do. But I do get what you’re saying when you say after college. I’m really excited about starting a family with you Babe.” Liam kissed my neck again. I smiled and twisted my head around to kiss him good morning, then rest my head against his while we watched Noah sleep. I really do want one of these beautiful, noisy, tiny humans. “You boys ready for the FBI guy this morning?” Cal inquired, Liam, and I groaned, “It will be fine, answer everything honestly. If you're not sure about something simply say, “I don’t know. Okay, do not guess or give an opinion. If you don’t want to answer a question just look to me and I’ll interfere and get them to move on.” “Okay, hopefully, they don’t make this too hard. I was only little when most of it happened, so I don’t know what the FBI really expect from me.” It’s not like I was even aware of any of the information at all. I feel for Dad though, I have a horrible feeling, they are going to try and tether him to Mom’s actions. “Like I said, answer their questions, don’t be hostile, and things will move quickly.” Cal turned from the grill to make sure we were paying attention. He nodded and returned to cooking. <>-<>-<> Cal was standing with me outside our office, “Don’t be nervous, you’re not in trouble they only want to interview you. NOT interrogate you okay? Breathe Will,” he chuckled. “Okay,” I nodded. Callen opened the office door, and we moved into the room. The two intimidating gentleman were standing to greet us, and I noticed Adam leaning against the back wall. He gave me a quick nod and half smile. I didn’t even know he was here. I wonder when he snuck in, but then again I didn’t see these two guys arrive either. Dad came outside and told me they were ready for me, and nothing else. “Hi William, I’m Agent Davis of the FBI, this is Mr. Parsons, he’s an Assistant Federal Prosecutor. We’re here to interview you regarding the activities to the best of your knowledge, regarding Samantha Elizabeth Pearce.” I frowned and looked at Callen, “Your Mother’s married name,” my face must have relaxed because he gave me a small smile. “We’ll get a few formalities out of the way first since this is an interview, not an interrogation, Detective Adam Price has requested he sit in. He is not allowed to talk or interfere in any way but is here for your support. Do you agree to his presence?” “Yes sir, thank you.” I smiled and gave Adam a quick nod. “You’ve chosen to have legal representation, Callen Johnson?” He asked. “Yes sir, he’s our family lawyer,” I answered. “Okay, Mr. Johnson will you be representing the entire family, Mr. John Blundell, Mr. Lucas Edgall and Mr. William Blundell-Sands.” Agent Davis looked closer to the paper, and the prosecutor leaned over to see. They both had scowls on their faces. “It seems we have a misprint or error and they’ve put you down twice.” He did not seem happy with the incompetence of his staff. “Um sir, it’s not an error, my husband’s name is also William Blundell-Sands. I go by Will, and he goes by Liam.” The men didn’t say anything, the Agent wrote something down and then started the interview. “May I call you Will?” Agent Davis asked politely. “Yes sir,” I swallowed nervously. “What was your relationship like with your Mother, Will,” he asked. “After she left, I rarely spoke with her, and saw her even less, maybe two or three times a year for lunch.” The prosecutor wrote down on his note pad as I talked. “While your Mother still lived with you, can you remember what hers and your father's relationship was like?” “I don’t know,” I shrugged, “I remember my Mother was mean to my Dad a lot. I was young, so that’s what I noticed the most.” I looked at Cal, and he nodded. “Okay, do you recall any time spent with your Great Grandmother, Mary Edgall?” “No I don’t remember her at all, I was three when she died.” “Did you know, or were you ever told about the inheritance she left you?” “About a week ago, when Dad found out, he told me.” “Do you know how your father came across this information or had he known for some time?” Uh-huh, now we’re getting to what I feared. They are going to try and ascertain Dad knew and took part of dissolving my inheritance. “No, I don’t know how he found out. First, he told us that Uncle Luke was still alive, then he told me what my Mother had done with my trust fund and inheritance.” I tried to talk calmly, “He was furious.” The Agent froze for a second, “So your Father was upset about the money?” “No, I didn’t say that. I said he was furious. But he was angry at my Mothers actions, not about the money,” I answered firmly, Callen rest his hand on my forearm to a calm me down. I looked up at Adam, and he was scowling at the Agent. “Do you know if your Father had been counting on that money for any reason?” I snort laughed, “I highly doubt that,” “How so?” “Dad’s has his own trust fund,” I didn’t elaborate any further. Listening to myself, God, we sound like a bunch of rich, arrogant assholes. “Do you know of any monies recently taken or used from your trust fund?” I don’t remember telling him I have a trust fund now. Callen put his hand on my shoulder, “Why is that relevant?” “Just trying to ascertain, certain transactions. Did you know there have been some hefty monies moving in and out of your accounts in the last six months?” “Yes, I’m aware,” I swallowed. “Can you tell me what they are?” I sighed, “Yes, back in January, Liam and I bought this house. A month or so ago Dad probably closed one that had roughly fifty thousand, which was for our wedding. A couple of weeks ago, there would have been a deposit of thirty or so million from Dad’s trust fund. Then just this past week, a withdrawal of four million which is mine and Liam’s share of the start-up capital to our families foundation.” “I don’t see any paperwork here for a foundation are you sure that’s where the money went?” “Callen has all of the paperwork, it’s why he’s here this week,” I said flatly, “We’ve just leased a place downtown for the offices.” Callen opened his briefcase and took legal documents out and laid them in front of the Agent and prosecutor. “Feel free to check them over, I’ll have my office send you a copy next week,” Callen explained. The Agent nodded, and the prosecutor took the documents and was looking them through. Then Agent Davis changed direction altogether. I’m guessing he wasn’t getting the answers he was looking for. “Okay Will,” Agent Davis sighed, “I need you to walk us through…” The rest of the interview was going through the events leading to my Mother’s charges for her actions against Liam and I. The entire interview took three hours. I was emotionally exhausted by the time we were done. “Thanks for your time today William, I apologize if you felt some of the questions were a little leading, and against your father. But we need to make sure we can counter any claims they try to make against him,” Agent Davis stood and went to shake my hand, I hesitated for a second but Adam gave me a warm smile and an encouraging nod, so I shook the man’s hand. “Can I ask a couple of questions? Of the record.” I asked hesitantly. “Uh… Sure. I may not be authorized to answer them, but go ahead.” Agent Davis seemed as if he’d had enough also. “Did my Mother’s husband know about anything that was going on?” “Not to my knowledge no, he’s been cleared.” “Is he going to lose his house or assets, because of her actions?” I looked at the desk before looking the man in the eye. “I’m afraid that would be likely, Yes.” “Have you met him?” I need to know this poor man isn’t going to suffer because of her. “Yes, I have.” The Agent looked like he was going to say something, so I waited for him to elaborate, “He’s a decent man, although right now he’s a very angry man.” “I don’t doubt that for a second, how much trouble is my Mother actually in?” I asked curiously. “Well, that I can’t help you with at the moment. Once we’ve completed your interviews today, Callen will be able to give you an update on what happens from here.” Agent Davis gave me a half smile. “Would either of you like me to have some coffee brought up to you?” I asked I’ve no idea why. I think because he’d answered a couple of questions that had been bugging me. “We’re fine, thank you William, but we might reserve the right to change our mind later,” he chuckled. I smiled and exited the room, Adam followed me out, closing the door behind him, Callen stayed in the room. Adam looked me straight in the eye, “You want to make contact with your Mother’s husband don’t you?” I nodded my head in confirmation. “You know this is not your fault or responsibility?” “Yep,” I answered looking away from Adam. “But you’re going to do it anyway.” Adam sighed. “Okay, well he’s no longer at the same address. Let me find out where he is, and Payne and I will come with you. Under no circumstances are you to approach him without Payne or me. Do you understand?” Adam ordered, “At least if we’re there and he tries to make any claims it will be an official visit, and you’ll be protected.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “Thanks, Adam,” “You’re welcome, ya little shit! The things I do.” He said shaking his head, “Oh and don’t worry, your financial information is safe with me. I gather none of the other kids know.” “I think they have an inkling, but I don’t think they know the extent of what we have.” I said, “This is all new to us, up until Liam’s father died we lived on Dad’s salary alone, he’s never touched his trust.” “So you're really not a wealthy trust fund baby then,” Adam said, seeming pleased, “that explains why you’re a lot more down to earth than I thought you’d be.” “Thanks very much, I didn’t realize I was that bad,” I scoffed, “Actually, I’d like to bend your ear sometime in the near future. I have a program I’d like to run through the foundation but want to have my ducks in a row before I go to the others, it will take a fair bit of research and so forth. I’m not quite sure how receptive they’ll be. But if I can get the backing of you, Derek and Theo, I might just be able to pull it off.” “Does your mind ever stop turning?” Adam chuckled. “Um… nope. This time it’s your fault, you gave me the idea.” “I did? How?” he asked surprised. “We can talk about it later, maybe have lunch on your next day off or something, and you guys can give me either a bit of direction or tell me how ridiculous the idea is,” I answered. “Somehow, I don’t think it’s going to be ridiculous, but a shit load of work.” Adam sighed, nudging me toward the stairs. <>-<>-<> Uncle Cam was in the kitchen, making meatballs, I think. They looked a weird shape. Anyway, I made a coffee and sat at the kitchen table to get a minutes peace. We’re still waiting for the FBI guy and prosecutor to finish up with Dad, he was the last they had to interview. Oliver entered the kitchen, and his face lit up when he saw me. “G’day Mate, how the bloody hell are ya. Got a spare fag?” He said. “What?” I nearly spat my coffee out. Uncle Cam snickered, Oliver laughed, “Make sure you put your fag out in the butt bucket when you’re done. Oh! Well, better shove off. See ya round like a rissole,” and he exited through the back door still laughing. “Um… care to translate?” I asked confused. Uncle Cam was laughing so hard he had tears running down his face. “Sure,” he was trying to control his laughter, “You should see your face. Oh, my God.” “Hello friend how are you?” he said between bouts of laughter. “Yeah, that bit I worked out,” I said snarkily. “Do you have a spare cigarette? Make sure you put your cigarette out in the ashtray when you’re done.” “Huh?” “A fag can also be a cigarette, it’s a bit old school slang, but it’s still used. And we have these wind proof ashtrays that are called butt buckets.” Uncle Cam was still laughing. “Okay,” I said warily. “I better get going, I’ll see you around.” Uncle Cam finished. “What’s a rissole?” I asked warily. “One of these,” He held up one of his meatballs, “They’re mince meat, vegetables, breadcrumbs, and herbs. Basically, anything you want to put in them. But they are great cooked on the barbie, served with either gravy or BBQ Sauce.” “Barbie?” I screwed up my face. “BBQ, sorry.” Uncle Cam laughed again. “Who’s teaching Oliver all of this stuff?” “That would be your Uncle Luke, and I’d also say our Scott might have a hand in it. It’s a lot of slang at once. We don’t really talk that way, maybe bits and pieces in conversation, but not quite to the extent of what Ollie just came out with.” He laughed. I rolled my eyes and chuckled. Of course, they did. “It’s like a whole other language.” I shook my head sipping my coffee. I wish they’d hurry up so Cal can tell us what’s going on.
  14. 47 points
    September 5, 2003 Tribeca, NY JJ I sat at my desk, working on my latest school project, determined to get it finished so I’d be free this weekend. The Spring 2004 fashion week was starting on the 16th, and there were a bunch of pre-show events that I’d been invited to attend with Bellona. The biggest was tomorrow, where we were attending a charity banquet at the Waldorf Astoria. It wasn’t a formal show with a runway, but it was the social start of the big week. It seemed like most events were here in lower Manhattan, but with the anniversary of 9-11 approaching, they’d moved a bunch of stuff to midtown. I tried not to think about that horrible event that only happened two years ago, and actually managed to do that and really applied myself. I was pretty engrossed in my work when my phone rang, making me frown. I was going to ignore it, but then I saw it was Darius, and he didn’t call me unless he had a reason. I smiled before I answered it, thinking that he was probably calling to apologize for being such a douche to me, and then the two of us could freeze Will out until he decided to grovel and beg me to forgive him. “Hello,” I said, in a neutral tone. “So here’s the deal,” Darius said crisply, with no introduction. “You’re being a royal pain in the ass, and you’re pissing everyone off. I really don’t want to have to fly out to New York to explain things to you, so I’m going to try and do that on the phone.” “I haven’t done shit to you,” I spat back, so annoyed that he was interrupting me, and even more annoyed that he wasn’t begging me to forgive him. “Well, yeah, you have, but even worse, you’re treating everyone around you like total shit. So much that Carullo called Will and said he was planning to move out.” I sat there stunned. I didn’t know Carullo was unhappy here. I mean, we didn’t really even interact all that much. The only thing I’d done is refuse to go out with him to those nasty gay clubs he all but lived at. No one in my family should give me shit about that. If they did, I’d fucking rip them to shreds. They must be making this shit up. I decided to call his bluff. “That’s bullshit,” I said. “I haven’t done shit to him either, but if he wants to move out, he can move out.” “He’s not moving out,” Darius said, and sounded so pissed off his teeth had to be clenched. “He’s our guest there, and that means you need to treat him nicely.” “I don’t go down to LA and tell you how to live your fucking life, so don’t tell me how to live mine!” I all but yelled in the phone. “Fine, asshole,” Darius said. “I tried to warn you.” “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” I asked, acting outraged, while I was actually a little nervous. I got no response. He’d ended the call. I sat there, and now I was totally freaking out, wondering what the fuck they were going to do to ruin my life. I didn’t understand why these fucking people couldn’t just leave me alone. I forced myself to get back to work, only to be interrupted about five minutes later when Carullo peeked in. “S’up!” he said, in his happy, irrepressible way. I was so tempted to just take out all of my annoyance on him, but I was just a little nervous about what Darius would do to me. “Just trying to get my work done so I’ll be free this weekend,” I said pleasantly. He acted surprised that I was being nice, which almost annoyed me enough to bust his balls. No way did I think it was my job to be his fucking cheerleader around here, and try to make his life a bowl of fucking cherries. “Cool,” he said, and left me alone. I shook my head and pushed all of these idiots out of my mind, put my work aside, and opened the upcoming issue of Mode, letting my passion for the fashion industry block out all that other unpleasantness. September 5, 2003 Escorial, CA Will I got back from school, anxious to get my bag, pick up Darius, and head to the airport. I was dying to get to Colorado and to spend some time with Zach. It seemed like it had been forever since we’d actually seen each other, and I was hoping that a night together could help bring us closer, as opposed to our phone calls, which seemed to get more and more distant. I drove so fast, I definitely deserved a ticket, but somehow I managed to avoid one. I grabbed my backpack and all but raced into the house, glad to find Darius waiting for me. “Let’s go,” he said. I figured we’d just toss our rolling bags and backpacks into the Ferrari and rip down to the plane, but he led me out to the limo. “Got too much luggage for the Ferrari.” “What the fuck did you pack?” I asked him. It’s not like we were leaving for a week. “Bunch of stuff. I packed your rolling bag in the limo.” “Thanks,” I said, but stared at him strangely, since he hadn’t answered my question. “We got a change of plans. We have to skip Missouri,” he said. I just stared at him, not a little stunned, even as I got into the limo. He’d come up here last night, and we’d worked out our whole itinerary, and now he was changing it all around? What the fuck? He shut the door behind us and the limo started its trek to the airport. “Change of plans?” I asked. “I called JJ, to try and get him to stop being a douche,” he said. I laughed. “Yeah, like that will work.” “It was worth a try,” he said, in an annoyed tone. “Well we were already planning to go there anyway, so what’s different?” I didn’t see why we had to rearrange the rest of our schedule since we’d already planned for this. “I spent some time brainstorming with Stef on how to handle JJ,” Darius explained. “He didn’t really think my original plan would work.” “What was your plan?” He shrugged. “I figured I’d just show up and punch JJ while I yelled at him.” I rolled my eyes, because that wasn’t realistic, and it wouldn’t work. “Can we do that anyway, just for fun?” I joked. “Maybe,” he said with a smirk. “So now we have a new strategy, but that means we have to go straight to New York from the game.” I was going to give him the third degree, but the trip to New York was the shitty part of my weekend and I didn’t want to get all depressed, so I just blew it off for now. “I’ll call Tony,” I told Darius, then dialed him. “Hey!” Tony answered enthusiastically. “Dude, we cannot make the party,” I said, before he had a chance to tell me he was excited to see me. “I’m really sorry.” “It’s no big deal,” he said, and didn’t seem too disappointed. “I’m actually kind of glad.” “You didn’t want to see me?” I asked, giving him shit. “Right,” he said, and I could visualize him doing the ‘Tony look’ while he said it, where he rolled his eyes without really rolling them. “I was wrong on my dates. The pajama party isn’t until later this year.” “Well, that worked out then,” I said cheerfully. “Yeah, except now I’ll miss it,” he said, all bummed out. “Maybe. Let me know when it is,” I said. “OK,” he said. “You’re still going to stay with us, right?” I asked. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, but it was important that I be a good host. “Yeah, thanks for that. I should get there week after next,” he said. “Send me an email,” I said, then ended our call. “He got the dates wrong, so the bar would have been lame,” I told Darius. “It all worked out then,” he replied. “I have to snag a ticket to the game tomorrow.” “Let me work on that,” I said. He just shrugged. I waited until we got to the plane and got airborne, then used that phone to call Zach. “Hey,” he said crisply, to let me know he was busy. “Hey,” I responded cheerfully, but stayed on task. “We just took off. Ended up being only Darius and me. Any chance they’ll let him hang with me on the sidelines?” Darius gave me a surprised look. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said, sounding just a little annoyed at that new challenge. “You have to bring me my pass tonight,” I said, but I’d made my tone a bit sexier. “I can do that,” he promised cheerfully, then ended our call. “We’ll see if I can pull that off,” I said to Darius. “Would be cool,” he said in his calm way, even though I knew he was pretty psyched about it. “You guys doing OK?” I knew he was referring to Zach and me. “We’re doing OK,” I said. He waited for me to expand on that, so I did. “We’re getting more and more distant, so I’m hoping some time together will make that better.” “It’s going to be tough for you, because it will probably get worse,” he said, being a buzz kill. “I don’t know how to stop it,” I said, almost sounding desperate. “I don’t know if you can,” he said, staring at me frankly. “All you can really do is not be a pain in the ass about it, and try to be his friend.” “I’m not a pain in the ass about it,” I snapped, making him grin, since he’d been baiting me. “I’m going to be as supportive as I can.” “Just like he was for you?” he asked me. He let that rhetorical question sit there for a few seconds, and then he got up. “I’m going to crash.” He walked back to the bedroom while I sat there, thinking about what he said. In a few days, it would be two years since the worst day of my life. I thought about the journey I’d had to endure since then, the pain I’d had to handle, and then thought about the people in my life who had been there for me, propping me up. I could point to my family, because they’d been terrific for the most part, but the biggest rock during that hell was Zach. I let my mind wander back and remember how he’d seduced me after Robbie’s memorial, and how he’d been there for me when I’d gone back to New York to face my demons head on. He’d propped me up not just during those pivotal moments, but for the past two years, when I’d had to deal with the aftermath. I would probably be indebted to him forever for how he’d helped me through that. My mind rebelled against that, against owing him so much, and I reminded myself that I’d done a lot for him too. I’d bought him shit, like a car, and I’d been there to support him when he’d gone toe to toe with his parents, but in the end, that wasn’t close to what he’d done for me. My hand instinctively moved up and touched the necklace he’d given me for my birthday, the one that was a compass that folded flat like a coin. He’d told me he got me a compass so I could always find my way back to him. I played with it, smiling, and I resolved to put myself out there for him this weekend, to help him out however I could. I decided to use some of the flight time to knock out my homework, and managed to focus so much that when the pilot called to let me know we were about to land, the ring of the phone startled me and almost made me jump out of my seat. I went and woke up Darius, then put my stuff away. “Where are we staying?” he asked me, even as he tried not to yawn. “Basecamp Boulder,” I said. “That’s where the team is staying.” “Cool,” he said. We landed and took a car to the hotel. Our staff had managed to snag suites for both of us, and based on how busy it was, that was probably quite a coup. It was pretty packed with fans showing up for the game. We got our keys and walked to our rooms, even as I surveyed the property with dismay. It was kind of a dive hotel, more like a motel, but worst of all, it seemed like all the rooms had external doors, which meant that it would be really easy to see someone coming and going. I spotted a few rooms that had more remote doors, and called the front desk to try and swap, but they were full, so I was stuck. I called Zach and left a message for him, telling him what room I was in, and then unpacked the shit I’d brought. I still hadn’t pinned Darius down about why he’d dragged all that luggage along, but since he left it on the plane, I decided not to worry about that now. I worked on my homework until my hormones kicked in. I was so fucking horny I could hardly stand it. The last guy I’d messed around with was Dally, and that was fun, but it wasn’t all that intense. The guy before that was Buzz, and that really freaked me out, both because he was dead, and because I’d messed around with his son too. I tried to get beyond that twisted vision by thinking about the last time I’d had sex with Zach. It was on August 11 or 12. Damn, that was a long time. There was a loud, urgent knock on my door, one that got my ass up pretty fast. I went to the door and opened it, standing back so no one would see me, while Zach rushed in, looking totally freaked out. “Sorry to bang on your door,” he said. “Kind of freaky the way this hotel is laid out.” “I know,” I told him. “I tried to get a different room, but they’re sold out, so this is what I’m stuck with.” He smiled at me to thank me for worrying about that shit. It was really important to me that I not be the one to out him. It would be bad enough if he were outed, but I knew that if he was and I was involved, he’d probably end up hating me, and I wasn’t going to risk that. I couldn’t handle being totally cut off from him. He looked around. “Nicer than my room, and you don’t have to share it with anyone.” “I want to share it with you,” I said, raising my eyebrows in a sexy way. I paused to admire him, and how great he looked. It had been almost a month since I’d seen him, and he seemed to have matured by two years in that time. He had a real confident air, one that made him even more attractive than he was before. “OK,” he said, giving me his wolfish grin. “I need you to fuck me now, right now,” I said seriously, as I stared at him with an intensity that surprised him. He smiled at my hormonal act, where I was being all crazed, only it really wasn’t totally an act. “OK,” he said again calmly, then lunged forward, tackling me onto the bed. “You want me to fuck you?” he asked, with a snarl. “Yeah,” I said, and so he did. We ripped off our clothes, and then after minimum preparation, he slowly slid his big cock inside me. Feeling him stretch me open, even enduring that slight twinge of pain as I adjusted, was sheer heaven. He started fucking me, pounding me, until we were both getting pretty close, so I made him switch positions, so he was on his back, and I lowered myself back onto his dick at the same time that I lowered my mouth onto his lips. I pulled my mouth off of his and buried my face in his neck, even as he continued to fuck me. “That’s so fucking good,” he murmured in my ear, and that was so sensual it set me free. “Gonna cum!” I all but shouted, and then blasted my load all over his chest. He had slowed his pace during my orgasm, because he knew I liked that, but I could feel him struggling to hold himself back. “You hungry?” I asked in a slutty way, as I scooped up a glop of my cum and fed it to him. It was so erotic the way he slurped it off my fingers, he fired me up again even though I’d just blown a massive load. I felt my body responding to his thrusts, working with him as I got back into his rhythm. I kept feeding him my load, scoop by scoop, until it was his turn. “Ungh!” he grunted loudly, and lifted his body and mine off the bed with his legs as he blew his load in my ass. He kept grunting and moaning in the sexiest way, until he was finally done. He let his legs go slowly, pulling his dick out as he let himself down, then lay back and sighed contentedly. I was a little more task oriented, because I grabbed the towel and wiped him off, then I wiped the lube off my ass. “I am so glad to see you,” I said, enthusiastically yet softly, as I lay snuggled up to his chest, enjoying the afterglow. “I missed you so much,” he said, and was so sincere, it made me forget all that bullshit I’d worried about before, about us growing apart. “I missed you more,” I said, smiling at him. “We don’t have much time now,” he said, tensing up like he was planning to get up. “Why?” I asked, even as I slid over on top of him to prevent him from getting out of bed. “I could make you get up if I wanted to,” he said playfully in response to my maneuver to pin him down. He showed off a bicep to emphasize his point. I stroked it lovingly. “Yeah, only you’re not going to want to,” I said. “I’m not?” “No,” I said, then leaned forward and whispered in his ear. “I want you to be my nasty boy.” Now he tensed up for a whole different reason. I could feel his dick getting hard against my abdomen, even as his body filled with desire. “I can be a little late,” he said, then spun me around like I was a doll and started sucking his load out of my ass. It felt so good, I just savored the touch of his lips and tongue against my hole, while slowly stroking and teasing his cock, which seemed like it was about as hard as a diamond. “My turn.” “Fuck yeah,” I said, as I pivoted around and pushed his legs back, then began rimming his hole. The scent from his taint wafted up my nose, doing more to make me hard than his lips on my dick. And then I was inside him, not fucking him, but making love to him. We lay back down after that second, amazing orgasm, only this time, he was more insistent. “We have to go,” he said, and got up and started grabbing his clothes. I automatically did the same thing. “Why?” “We’re meeting the team at Snarfburger,” he said. That was kind of a dive burger stand right next to the hotel. “We are?” I asked, emphasizing the ‘we’ in a cautionary way. “Yeah,” he said casually. “Some of my friends want to meet you and Darius.” That surprised me a little bit, that college football players would want to hang out with a gay high school kid, but I didn’t argue about it. “Let me call Darius,” I said, then hit his speed dial button. He picked up the phone in his terse way. “S’up?” “We’re supposed to have dinner with Zach and some of his friends,” I said. “Where and when?” Darius asked. “Now, at Snarfburger,” I replied, just as crisply. “I’ll come down and meet you guys,” he said, which was totally wrong, since his room was two doors down the hall from mine, so he wasn’t descending any stairs, but I wasn’t going to argue about semantics. I was about to agree, then fortunately my brain began to function again. “We’ll come down to your room,” I said hastily. “Fine,” he said, and hung up. “Why’d you want to go there?” Zach said, annoyed. I guess he was nervous about just the two of us walking out of my room together, without Darius with us. “Take a sniff,” I said pointedly. The room reeked of sex. “Fine,” he said somewhat sheepishly. September 6, 2003 Boulder, CO Will “After everyone goes out on the field to warm up, meet me here,” Zach whispered to me. “Here?” I asked, confused, as I looked at the locker room, which was pretty wide open; ignoring that it totally reeked of body odor. “No, in that room by the bathroom,” he said. There was a door in the bathroom that must be a supply closet for the maintenance staff. “OK,” I said. “It may be best if I get back here before you do.” “You’re smart,” he said in a slightly sarcastic way. I waited off to the side, trying to be inconspicuous, and then when pretty much everyone cleared out, I went to the bathroom. I made sure no one could see me, and then I opened the door to the closet and went inside. I left the light off, because I didn’t want someone to see it from the outside. I figured that this room was about four feet wide, and ten feet deep, although I couldn’t really see all the way to the back. It looked like there was just a bunch of shit piled up there. I took out my cock and started stroking it, getting it hard and putting some lube on it, because Zach wouldn’t have much time. No more than two minutes from when I walked into the closet, the door opened quickly, making me hide my dick, then Zach came in and closed it firmly. “We have to go fast.” He was pulling his pants down and aiming his ass at me. I could see it framed by his jockstrap, and in the dim light coming from under the door, it looked really white. “I’m ready,” I said, and moved up, adding some lube, then I pushed my big cock into him slowly. As soon as it was in, he twitched a bit, his signal to me to get on with it. I pounded him as softly as I could, while focusing on forcing my orgasm to hit quickly. That in and of itself was kind of weird, because normally I was trying to hold back and make things last longer, but not this time. I knew this was what he needed me here for, and I was happy to oblige him. It didn’t take me long to blast my load up his ass, but as I went to pull out of him, I felt something nudge me. “My turn,” a shape said, scaring the shit out of me, and making me almost jump out of my skin. “Fuck!” I hissed involuntarily. The dude flipped on the light to reveal himself as one of the assistant coaches, although I didn’t know his name. He was a tall, Hispanic guy who was bulked up as you would expect of someone who’d played football. Zach scrambled to pull up his pants. The guy shoved me aside and slapped Zach’s ass, then pulled out his hard cock. It was about six inches long and pretty narrow. “I’m gonna fuck you now,” he said, his deep voice scary and authoritative. “No,” I said, getting a pissed off look from him. “Here’s a condom.” “Fuck you,” he said, and lined his cock up with Zach. “It’s fine, Will,” Zach said, but his eyes were totally glazed with lust. I wanted to intervene, but before I could, the guy plunged into Zach and just started fucking him, really going at it, but he didn’t last any longer than I did. When he was done, he pulled out and slapped Zach’s ass again. “Get out there and play,” He growled. Zach hurriedly pulled his pants up, adjusted his uniform, and then peeked out the door to check for anyone else who was there. The coast must have been clear, because he took off. I had pulled up my pants, and I was ready to go. “I should go too.” He grabbed my arm to hold me there. “That was hot.” “It was,” I agreed nervously. “So Hayes likes to take it up the ass, eh?” he asked me. “It’s more about the game,” I said. “What the fuck are you talking about?” he demanded. “Getting a guy to fuck his load up Zach’s ass is, according to Zach, like a shot of steroids, a blast of total testosterone,” I said. “Right,” the guy said dismissively. “Seems to work for him,” I said, like I was analyzing a science project, then I got a little pissed off. “Dude, you fucking barebacked him.” “So,” he said. “You did too.” “Yeah, but we’re safe, and we’re careful,” I said. “You trying to accuse me of having some evil fucking disease?” he asked, really pissed off. “That’s bullshit. You know the drill on safe sex. Do not even give me that,” I said, staring him in the eyes. It was like he wanted to just flatten me, but he really couldn’t do that. “I’m safe too,” he said. “So we’re all cool, the three of us.” “The three of us?” I asked, stunned. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ll fuck you later.” Before I could say anything, he slipped out the door, leaving me alone in the closet. I thought it was ironic that of the three of us, I was the only one who was technically ‘out’ of the closet, and that made me chuckle a bit, even though the whole thing had been pretty disturbing. I got my act together, escaped from the closet, and went out to the field to hang out with Darius. He was having an absolute blast talking to the guys on the team. I put the closet scene behind me and just kept him company. Zach wasn’t sure he’d get to play much today, so I wasn’t as into the game as I normally was. Colorado scored first, and then disaster struck, when the Bruin’s quarterback took a hit to the knee. I watched as they brought him off the field in agonizing pain, and yet again I wondered why Zach wanted to do this. This sport seemed to take a terrible toll on its players. I was talking to one of the players, a defensive end, when Darius nudged me. “He’s in.” I watched as Zach trotted out to the huddle, with another guy coming off. “With the QB out, we gotta run it,” the defensive end said. “Guy’s supposed to be good, so the coach will want to try him out.” “He is good,” I confirmed, smiling as I did. “Guess we’ll see,” the guy said, and we focused on the game. They tried a pass on the first play, but the new QB evidently didn’t have the feel for his receivers, because he missed in a big way. We weren’t surprised when they decided to run it on the second down, and neither were the Buffaloes, but they were focused on the Bruins’ other running back, and they’d left Zach lightly covered. I smiled when the quarterback took the snap and handed Zach the ball, and I grinned even more broadly as he zipped around their line with a freakish amount of speed, dodging or evading the attempted tackles, until he worked his way into the end zone. With his first carry in the NCAA, Zach had run 52 yards and scored a touchdown. I was cheering like a freak, and so was Darius. “He did good,” the defensive end said, nudging me with his massive shoulder as he put on his helmet and got ready to take the field. “Yes he did,” I agreed. UCLA ended up losing the game 16 to 14, but it was a huge victory for Zach Hayes. “We gotta run,” Darius said, as soon as the game was over. I gave him an annoyed look, then managed to get Zach’s attention. He tore himself away from his teammates and ambled over to us. “We’re bailing. You were amazing.” “Dude, you kicked ass!” Darius said, being more demonstrative. I tried to be calmer to keep rumors about Zach and me squelched, but Darius was free to be more effusive. “Thanks for coming,” he said to both of us sincerely. “I enjoyed coming,” I whispered in his ear, making him chuckle. He headed back to the locker room, while we headed to the plane, and off to our next challenge: New York.
  15. 46 points
    “James, I spoke with Bill and John. They’ve told me to be open to this opportunity to get to know Adam. I hope you’d approve of him. I think you’d approve. Anyway, I’d better finish getting ready he’ll be here any minute.” I looked at James' picture, that was sitting beside my bed as always. I didn’t feel bad about going on this date. It’s a relief, there's no guilt, no panic like there had been in the past. It’s as if James is giving me a push to help me along. Okay Ian, stop procrastinating, it’s almost time. Wallet, wallet, where did I put my wallet, I check my pants pockets, oh, thank god – back pocket. Jacket, I scurried to my closet and reach for my sports coat. I carried it into the living room again where Paddy and Sasha are watching TV cuddled up on the couch. Now my keys, I look around the living room, while I put on my coat. I can’t see them. Maybe the kitchen, I quickly went to the kitchen and have a quick sweep. They're nowhere to be seen, back to the living room, another quick sweep. “DAD! What’s wrong? What are you looking for?” Pat said amused with me, but still trying not to grin. He stood from the couch and walked toward me. “Huh? Oh… I can’t find my keys. Adam will be here any second.” I said frustrated, twisting and turning looking for my keys. “Do you mean the ones that are in your hand?” Pat chortled. I looked at my hand, and a wave of relief and stupidity swept through my body. “Geez, Dad. You need to calm down. Take a deep breath. It’s just a date, he already likes you.” Pat said grabbing my wrist and shaking it, trying to get me to loosen up. Sasha looked me up and down. “Is that what you’re wearing Uncle Ian?” She questioned my outfit with sympathetic eyes. “Um… I was going to?” I looked down at what I was wearing, “Is it that bad?” I frowned concerned, “I look ridiculous, don’t I?” I said slumping in defeat. “No you don’t look ridiculous, the outfit’s fine. It’s that it makes you look… Well… Boring and old, and like a school teacher.” She said standing, “Come on let's find you something better.” She took me by the hand as she went by dragging me to my room. Apparently, I was going whether I wanted to or not. Pat was desperately trying not to laugh at my nervousness. “Sha Love, I am a school teacher,” I said worriedly. “Not tonight you’re not.” She said facing me, stopping in front of my closet. She looked me over again, then turned and opened my wardrobe doors, and started swishing through my hangers. “Tonight,” Sasha brought out two button down shirts, one was forest green that shimmered brown in different light, the other was cream with a grape colored modern pattern, and held them one at a time under my neck. Continuing her monologue while she pensively switched back and forth between the two shirts. “Tonight Uncle Ian, you are a sexy, single, confident man,” then Sasha laid the cream and grape shirt on the bed, “who by the way, is going to look hot when I’m finished with him.” She smiled, quickly pecked my cheek and turned back to my wardrobe. Paddy laid smirking on my bed watching Sasha in her element as she excitedly dressed me up. Her very own live doll. She made me take off my sports coat and switched it for my leather jacket, and laid out my black/dark charcoal straight leg jeans under the shirt and bewitched her nose as she inspected it. “Does Sasha do this to you Pat when you go out?” I asked wondering and teasing Sasha at the same time. Paddy chortled, and rolled his eyes, “All the time, she’s a clothes snob and kind of bossy huh?” Sasha glared daggers at Patrick. “I am not bossy,” She whined, “I can’t help it if you two are inept at dressing yourselves. You definitely have that in common.” Sasha rolled her eyes, “You’re fifteen Babe, and you dress in whatever’s closest instead of what’s in style. Plus you wore blue and red together. Ew!” Sasha’s whole body shuddered at the thought. Pat just shrugged. I had to suppress a laugh. “Yep, this will do. Uncle Ian go into your bathroom and change. For the love of God, take off those shoes, I can’t even look at them.” She looked at my shoes with disgust and disdain. “I’ll go through what you have and find something…” she waved her hand at my feet, “more… suitable than those things.” Sasha picked up the chosen clothes and handed them to me. “Paddy go and get your hair product Babe, I’m going to fix that when you’ve changed.” Sasha pushed me toward my ensuite. So bossy. I hope I don’t look like an old man trying to look young when she’s finished. Maybe I should just call it off the whole thing, I’m seriously out of practice. I came out of the bathroom dressed in the new outfit, Sasha was holding my black dress boots in one hand. Her face lit up, and the smile on her face went from ear to ear. She nodded her head slowly, “You look so hot Uncle Ian,” She gave a little fist pump. “Here put these on and then we are going to fix that mop on your head.” Sasha leaned over and picked up the hair product Paddy had brought in from his bathroom. I sat on the bed putting my boots on, crap Adam’s here. What is with this connection we have, it’s the single most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced, “There’s no time Sasha, Adam’s here,” Pat scoffed, “No he’s…” Knock, knock, knock. Pat raised an eyebrow and screwed his face up at me. I shrugged my shoulder, “Don’t ask, I don’t know.” “It will do him good to wait a couple of minutes, that way he won’t think you're too eager or easy,” Sasha said matter of factly, she was so serious I couldn’t help but chuckle. “You answer the door Baby, I’ll take care of your Dad.” Sasha all but dragged me into the bathroom, sitting me down on the clothes hamper, and then went into hairdresser mode on my hair. She put god knows what in it, scrunched her finger through. Stood back a second and swept her hand through here and there. Stood back again and grinned. “Now look in the mirror,” Sasha said with her hands clasped in front of her chest looking pleased with herself. I looked at the young guy in the mirror surprised, she’d managed to knock ten years off of me. “You look so hot Uncle Ian, he’s going to be speechless,” Sasha said excitedly. I turned to Sasha and said sincerely, “Thank you, Sweetheart,” I hugged her, and she squeezed me tight. Sasha winked at me the cheeky bugger, grabbed my hand and pulled me to the bedroom. “Don’t forget your jacket.” She let go of my hand and move toward the door, but before she left my room, Sasha turned back to me and said shyly. “Me and you Uncle Ian, we have a date together next Saturday. We are going shopping and turn you back into a Prince. You might be old, but you’re not that old,” The cheeky shit, I’m not old. I heard her tell Adam I would be right out when she reached the living room. I’m so used to dressing down these past years it didn’t even occur to me that maybe I was doing it on purpose so people wouldn’t notice me. I’ve been told I’m handsome or good looking before, but I … I guess I’ll know by the reaction from Adam. What if this outfit is too much, he’s only ever seen me in my boring old man clothes, as Sasha affectionately refers to them. Well here goes nothing, I stood from the bed and looked at myself in the full-length mirror once more. I can’t believe that’s me looking back. I look young, almost fashionable. I don’t appear to look like a slob in any case. Okay, young Ian, let’s do this. Adam and Paddy had their back to me as I reached the living room. Sasha was sitting back on the couch watching television ignoring the world. Adam looked so hot, he was dressed in a deep blue button down shirt, bootleg jeans and chunky boots, Adam quickly looked in my direction and then back to the TV. His head snapped back to me, as his body turned to face me. His eyes were big and bulging from his eye sockets. “You look so…” he eyed Paddy for a second, who was smirking. Adam cleared his throat, “Ahem, you look nice.” He said flatly. Did Paddy have a word and make him say that? Oh crap, he doesn’t like it. Do I change? Do I offer to change? Do I pretend I’m comfortable with what I’m wearing? Why is this so incredibly hard to know what to do, how to act, what to say… “You ready to go?” Adam asked smiling, swinging his keys around on him finger once. “Uh-huh yeah!” I answered in quick concession. “Dad, don’t forget your keys,” Paddy said giving my wallet and keys, he must have taken them from the side when we were in the bedroom before my makeover. “Thanks, Son, um… Sasha Sweetheart, do you have a ride home or do you need me to come back and take you?” I asked. She pulled her focus from the television, “Nope I’m okay Uncle Ian. My brother is coming to pick me up at ten-thirty.” She said smiling warmly, “You guys have a lovely time,” she waved and turned her attention back to the television. Sasha is playing it cool, I know as soon as I step outside the apartment, Paddy is in for an hour of an over excited Sasha. As I pulled the front door closed, three things happened so quickly my head was spinning. I heard Sasha squeal, my back met the wall, a hand on my hip and one cupping my face, and a pair of warm, soft lips were on mine, then the front door opened and I heard my Son clear his throat. My head is spinning, I think I’ll die right now, it’s the only possible solution to deal with everything I’m feeling. This can’t be happening. Adam slowly pulled away from me, “Uh, Dad you forgot your phone,” he gave it to me with his eyebrow cocked, “Isn’t that supposed to happen at the end of the date?” Paddy now smirked. He went back inside and shut the door, I heard him yell to Sasha, “Hey Sash, you’ll never guess what Dad…” I thankfully didn’t listen to the rest. Adam stepped back quickly, and commenced rambling nervously, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what come over me. You came out of your room looking like that, your Son was watching me, and I panicked. Then you looked at me with those gorgeous eyes of yours when you shut the door. I just acted. I’m really sorry if I embarrassed you. I swear, I didn’t mean for that to happen you just look so hmmm… Sexy and HOT!” he said and moved toward me again, but I put my hand up to stop him. “It’s not how I wanted this to go, or how I wanted our first kiss either. Can we please start over, I promise to keep my lips and hands to myself.” He said in a hurry, and worriedly, his face contorted like he was in pain. I’m not even mad, just shocked and embarrassed. I think. Say something put his mind at ease, don’t let him believe that you're angry. Ian say something. I cleared my throat, “Um… Sure we can,” I moved away from the wall. Adam let out a rush of air and side eyed me as we fell into step beside each other. I nudged Adam with my shoulder gently, “People always say first dates are awkward, can’t get any more awkward than it is right now. So I guess this is going well.” I chuckled trying to lighten the mood. Adam gave a quick but almost silent laugh, “Yeah I guess,” The trip down to his car was quiet.. When he took his seat beside me, he fiddled with his keys, after a moment he broke the silence. “Ian, I am really sorry about before.” I reached over and squeezed his forearm in reassurance, “Please, don’t think about it. We’ll pretend it never happened.” Adam gently nodded his head and put the key in the ignition. “Thank you,” he said shyly. <>-<>-<> Adam brought me to one of the fanciest restaurants in town. The host at the restaurant snobbily showed us to the bar, there was going to be a wait on our reservation. We sat at a high top cocktail table waiting for a server to take our drink order. I looked around the restaurant, it was stuffy and overdone. The waitstaff in black and whites with bow ties and dress shoes. I checked Adam’s comfort level, he looked as uncomfortable as I felt. “Adam, do you usually come to restaurants like this?” I asked quietly leaning across the table. He looked at the surroundings, “No, not typically. I wanted to bring you somewhere nice.” “Thank you, that’s very thoughtful,” I smiled warmly, “but honestly, it wasn’t necessary. They’ve sat us at the bar, there’s barely a table taken, and still, no-one has even approached us for a drink order. Do you feel comfortable here? Did you want to get out of here and go somewhere else? A sports bar or pizza, something a little more low brow. Something more… us.” Adam sighed and looked around, “You’re right, let's get out of here,” Adam stood looking a little defeated. I guess this date hasn’t really been the going well. I feel bad that I’ve upset him, I shouldn’t have said anything. We walked out, Adam walked one step ahead of me. As we came close to the car, I lightly grabbed his arm as we reached the car. “Adam,” I said softly, he grunted. “Adam,” I said again, and he turned to toward me, disappointment written all over his face. I slowly lifted myself up on my toes and gently leaned into him. My lips softly touched his. He stiffened for a second and then his whole body relaxed into the kiss. His arms came around and embraced me, I put my hands on his chest and fisted his shirt holding him in place. Adam’s tongue gently asked for permission to enter, and I happily let him in. The second our tongues met, we both softly moaned. Adam let himself fall back to lean on the car bringing me with him, so I was standing between his legs and flush against his body. One hand reaching under my jacket and shirt, skin to skin with my lower back the warmth went right through my whole body. His other slid up holding my head as he kissed me. Everything around us disappeared, for that moment in time. There was just Adam and me, the world outside of us didn’t exist. The feelings I usually have when he’s around intensified by a billion. They were all present, butterflies, stomach flips and the need to get closer to him. It was overwhelming, but at the same time, it was intimate, familiar, home, comfortable, safe and I wouldn’t want to be any place else. It’s like everything in my life, good and bad, has led me to this moment. I very gently broke our kiss but made sure my lips stayed close to his, I want him to know the kiss is what I wanted. Adams' eyes opened slightly. “Best kiss I’ve ever had,” I whispered. The corners of his mouth turned upward slightly, his eyes closed again, and the distance between us disappeared. Our lips met, and he slid his tongue in to meet mine. I let go of his shirt and slid my hands behind his neck. After a couple of heartbeats, he deepened the kiss, it wasn’t frantic or animalistic. Simply a way of conveying to me what he was feeling, our kiss, this real first kiss, is full of romance, intimacy, and hope. A car out on the street went by blaring their horn and yelling out the window. We jumped apart, like two teenagers being caught by their parents. We looked at each other and chuckled shyly. Adam grabbed my jeans by the belt loops and pulled me to him. His arms came around my back, and he held me to him, I rest my head against his chest and sighed. The way it feels to be in his arms is inexplicable, it’s something I’ve never felt before, a feeling I’ll always remember. I never want to leave his embrace – ever. “I hope that was okay?” I asked, wary of what the answer might be. “That was our first kiss, that’s the kiss I want to remember from tonight,” Adam said his deep baritone burying into the top of my head before he kissed it. I felt it reach my heart and take hold, our connection just got a little stronger. “I don’t get how I can be completely comfortable with you and at the same time be so nervous.” He uttered. “I know,” I answered in almost a whisper, then my stomach interrupted our moment. I felt his whole body shake with a laugh, even though he was silent. ““What was that?” he laugh erupting, then his stomach did the same. Adam buried his head into my neck and groaned. I could feel his face heat up in embarrassment. “I think we both need might need to eat,” I chuckled, “let’s go and find somewhere that’s loud, obnoxious and plain everyday fun.” I swatted his chest lightly and pulled away from him. “You like sports right?” “Good bad and in between,” He said with a chuckle while unlocking and opening the door.. I waited for Adam to get in the car beside me before continuing, “Let’s go to Peder’s then, it’s everything I suggested and the foods good. We’ll be able to relax a little, eat and watch a game no pressure. Only arguments over who’s team is better.” Adam started the car smiling, then reached over taking my hand in his, “Sounds perfect.” <>-<>-<> Peder’s was alive, noisy and packed to the rafters with people of all ages, but we managed to score a high-top table with two stools as a couple were leaving. It had a good view to nearly all 9 of the televisions around the bar room so we’d be able to see any game we wanted to watch. Adam went to the bar himself instead of waiting for a server and brought back two beers, two menus and a small wooden bowl of peanuts in their shell. “Thanks, is there anything particular you wanted to watch?” I asked Adam. He looked around at the televisions, “Probably flick between the football and the Avalanche game that’s on the big screen. The rest look like recaps or second viewings.” He said and opened his menu. “Sounds good, who are you going for so I can cheer…” I opened my menu and stared at it before continuing, “for the other team.” Adam side eyed me from his menu, “Cheeky ass bastard,” he muttered and looked back at his menu smiling. I chuckled at him. “Do you want to share some loaded fries, and chicken wings or do you want a full meal?” “You know what, that sounds perfect. But…” He cut me off. “Get extra ranch?” He smiled cheekily. “How did you know that was what I was going to say?” I said incredulously. “Your girlfriend at the diner the other day,” I knew he was jealous, that’s cute, “brought us each a separate ramekin of ranch, and you used all of yours and moved onto mine,” Adam said laughing. How embarrassing, I didn’t even realize I’d done that. I usually do it to Liam because he only likes a little bit and never uses all of his. “Oh,” I said sheepishly, “sorry,” “Don’t be. I liked that you felt comfortable enough to steal from my plate.” He smiled warmly at me, then squeezed my hand. “Thank you for turning this date around. I was expecting you to ask to be taken home after we left the restaurant.” I leaned in so he could hear every word, looking him straight in the eye, and said “Let me be clear, I want to be here on this date. I want to spend time with you. I want to get to know you, the good, the bad and the ugly. I have been looking forward to this since Sunday when you asked me.” Adam’s shoulders seem to slump releasing any tension he was holding. The line of his mouth twitched upward toward a smile. “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad at the restaurant. It wasn’t my intention.” “You didn’t. I guess I was a little disappointed by the restaurant. I wanted you to know you are worth the effort. We didn't have the best start to the evening, and they did treat us like second class citizens. I suppose I was a little embarrassed by that too.” Adam said frustrated. “That place was stuffy, pretentious, and they were rude. I do like romantic dates, they have their place. But this,” I paused and slowly moved my hand out, “this is more us. I’d prefer we have fun together and enjoy each others company.” Adam leaned closer and quickly laid a chaste kiss on my lips grinning. He then abruptly stood, took the menus and went to the bar to put our order in. He returned to the table with a number on a metal platform and two more beers. “Going for the get him drunk and take advantage of him approach are we?” I snickered. He blushed, “No. No, I just didn’t know when we’d be able to get another, it’s so busy.” He said panicked. “Relax Adam, I was joking.” I laughed while his face went even redder as he sat down. I reached over putting my hand on his shoulder, “Okay, I’ll bet you a goodnight kiss, that San Jose kick ass against the Avalanche.” Adam grinned, “You’re on,” he put his hand on my knee. We watched the hockey game, ribbing each other while we drank our first beer. Our food eventually arrived, and we ate, drank our beer and watched the game. Adam said to me, “Hey, what do I get if I win?” I shrugged my shoulder, “What do you want?” I raised my eyebrow warily. He grinned and his eyes lit up, “You take me on a date to the Farmers Market tomorrow and buy me strawberries.” I rolled my eyes, “No good night kiss?” I teased him. “Oh, that’s what I’ll get if the Pats win over Houston,” He said matter of factly pointing to the television hosting that game. I laughed, “And if Houston win?” “I’ll take you on another date to the Farmers Market tomorrow and buy you a tray of Mango’s,” he snickered. “Blugh!! Vomit fruit. No thank you, I’ll take your strawberries.” Adam gasped, “You wouldn’t,” “Oh, I would,” I laughed. He laughed at me and squeezed my knee and pushed his ranch dressing closer for me to reach. . <>-<>-<> “So now that you owe me a good night kiss and a trip to the Farmers Market to get strawberries, what do you want to do next?” Adam asked me once we were in the car. “Well…” I started, but Adam’s phone rang. He gave me an apologetic look as he answered. “Price,” “What?” he asked shocked. “Slow down Payne, take a deep breath. Then tell me again, I can’t understand you,” Adam told her calmly. His face went pale, and he took my hand. “Okay, where are you now?” “Yep, no I’ll take Ian home, and then I’ll be there.” “No Payne, he’ll understand. I’m coming, and that’s all there is to it.” “See you soon,” Adam ended the call. “Is everything okay?” I asked compassionately. Apparently, something bad has happened. “I’m sorry, I’ll have to take you home. Payne’s father has had a stroke, she’s at the hospital by herself. She doesn’t have anyone else.” Adam looked pained and torn. “No you go to her, she needs you. I’ll catch a taxi home, no big deal.” I said as I tried to open the door. “I will drive you home you’re not catching a taxi.” Adam stopped me from leaving the car. “Adam, I’m not a kid. This is actual life and death, Payne needs you there now. I know what it feels like to be all alone in a hospital waiting for answers. I’d really prefer to catch a taxi home so you can get to her.” “Thank you, Ian, I’ll make it up to you.” He said apologizing. “It’s not necessary, this is important. Please call me in the morning and let me know how she and her father are doing.” I smiled warmly, “But I will give you your good night kiss now before I go.” Adam leaned across the console and took his kiss, a tad indecent for the car, but delicious. “Thanks, I had a really great evening, I hope Payne’s Dad is going to be okay. Drive safely please, don’t rush.” I gave his hand a squeeze and exited the car before he could say anything.
  16. 46 points
    September 4, 2003 San Francisco, CA Brad “I love this place,” Jake said, as we sat on the balcony of my condo. It was a large area for a balcony, one that held a small table and chairs, along with a separate seating area with an outdoor sofa and two chairs. “So do I,” I agreed. “I’ll have to talk to Stef about making a larger outdoor area when they redo it.” “Pretty nice just like it is,” he said. We paused to gaze off at the Bay, where Alcatraz was barely visible through the fog that was moving in. It was dark out here, but the lights from indoors, along with the general light pollution from the City, gave the balcony a rather surreal feel. It was almost as if we were floating above the City, attached to nothing. “More wine?” I asked, as I poured some more into my glass. “You’re trying to get me drunk so you can take advantage of me,” he said playfully. “I don’t have to get you drunk to do that,” I joked back, even as I filled his glass up. “I don’t turn down good wine,” he said. “And Opus One is a good wine,” I agreed. “I think the best thing for me to do is go to Mexico and see what’s going on with these cartels,” Jake said, getting back to the business at hand, planning our next moves. “I’m working on getting you an entrée,” I replied. “I don’t need an entrée,” he objected. “Stef is a close personal friend of Joaquin Rubio, and we all but raised his son Alejandro,” I said firmly. “You’re not stupid enough to ignore those kinds of connections.” “Probably not,” he said grumpily. “This is a team effort,” I reminded him. “Sometimes it’s hard to shift gears,” he said mysteriously. “What does that mean?” “It means that when I’m doing my investigating work, like I did in DC and like I’ll be doing in Mexico, I think of myself as a lone wolf. I trust no one, and rely on no one, and that keeps me safe.” “That makes sense,” I said, because I’d had to do that myself. Still, I certainly didn’t have the intensity about it that he did. “Then when I re-emerge into the real world, I have to suddenly remember that I’m a team player,” he augmented. “Except you’re working for me, so it’s not a team, it’s a partnership,” I said. “I think you’re hitting on me again,” he joked. “You’re tempting,” I said. “Duh,” he joked, but then pondered my words, and just as I’d hoped, his curiosity got the best of him. “I’m tempting?” “You’re tempting,” I repeated. “So are you,” he said, then seemed to get nervous. “I should probably go.” “Why?” “I have to pack and get organized…” he began, but I cut him off. “And that’s bullshit.” He said nothing. “You can go whenever you want, I’m not forcing you to be here, but it looks to me like you’re running away.” “If you knew me, you’d be the one who was running away,” he said, but not in a menacing way. “And if you knew me, you’d know that the one thing I hate more than anything is secrets, or at least the ones I don’t know about,” I said firmly. “Yeah, Will was pretty adamant about that,” he said, frustrating me by reminding me that he’d talked to Will about me extensively, and that Will seemed to have a window to look directly into my brain. “Then you should realize that this is getting pretty old,” I said, and not in a nice way. “We’re attracted to each other, but every time we even start to get close, you throw out these mysteries. It’s bugging the shit out of me.” “So I have to open my soul up to you, or we can’t work together?” he demanded, which almost made me laugh, since it was just the kind of bullshit statement Robbie would have thrown at me. “No, but when it’s out there that you’re into some kinky shit, and when you tell me that you’re basically dangerous, then you don’t tell me why, then I think some explanations are in order,” I countered calmly. “There is no reason for a guy like you, with all you have going for you, to put up with someone like me and all of my baggage,” he said, in a strange combination of defiance and sadness. “We all have baggage,” I said, trying to make sure that my voice had sounded calm and caring but not patronizing. “I’ve dealt with it in me, and I’ve dealt with it with guys I’ve dated.” “Like Marc,” he said. “He didn’t have many issues,” I said. He looked kind of confused. “I find that interesting guys aren’t simple, and aren’t easy to figure out. And almost by definition, they come with some hangups.” “So you’re saying that you like guys with issues because they don’t bore you?” “In a sense,” I said. “They challenge me, and if it’s the right guy, he’ll push my boundaries and help me to grow as a person too.” It annoyed me that I was starting to sound like a shrink. He nodded as he thought about that. “I have a problem in that if I jump into a relationship with someone too fast, it ends just as fast.” He must have seen me digesting that information and decided I was confused, so he augmented his statement. “I have guys that I sleep with, and then it’s over. My psychiatrist says it’s part of my defense mechanism left over from being in the closet for so long.” “So you reject intimacy because it’s a threat?” “I think it’s more accurate to say I think it’s a threat,” he said grumpily. “So you’re telling me that we have to be better friends before I get to fuck you, otherwise you’ll run away?” I joked. “That’s what I’m telling you,” he said seriously. “That happened with Marc, and it happened with Sean.” “So why am I different?” “Because I think you’re the kind of guy who will ultimately understand me, and I think you’ll end up being one of my best friends,” he said, with a sincerity that was pretty shocking. “I don’t want to mess that up for a quick fuck, even if it’s spectacular.” “It would be,” I said in a suggestive way, then we both chuckled. “Have a good trip to Mexico. Let me know if you need help.” He seemed surprised that I was willing to end things like that, but after a few seconds, he stood up, and I walked him out of the condo. September 5, 2003 Washington, DC Wade “I have so much to tell you,” Mary Ellen said in her bubbly way. It would be easy to think that there wasn’t a ruthless bitch underneath that perky exterior. She was wearing a pale orange skirt with a matching jacket, an excellent color that seemed to change with her moods, being either frivolous or alternately formal. “I’m sure I’ll find all of it interesting,” I said, with a cautionary note in my voice. I’d flown down here this morning, and since Mary Ellen had arrived within an hour of me, I’d shared my limo with her. We sat in the back with the privacy screen up, but with things as tense and dangerous as they seemed to be right now, there was no way I was risking a conversation in a car that could quite easily be bugged. She had evidently come to the same conclusion. “I’m sure you will,” she said in a cocky yet coquettish way. The car drove up to the gates of my mother’s compound and stopped. It seemed to be taking a very long time for the gates to open. Just as I was about to ask the driver what was going on, the phone rang next to me. I hit the button to put the call on speaker. “Sir,” said the driver, “I spoke to a man named Baxter, and he says he is unable to admit us.” Baxter was my mother’s butler, one who was so English he’d make Mary Ellen feel at home. “All of those years I tried to escape from this place, and now I have to break in,” Mary Ellen said jokingly, even as she opened the door and got out of the car. I watched her punch a few numbers in the pad, and raised my eyebrows as the gates opened up as if by magic. She hopped back in the car and told the driver to go on through. “How did you get the master code?” I asked, as the car proceeded in a dignified way down the driveway. “I always know the important things,” she said, making me chuckle. I had to admit, at least to myself, that I had gotten to the point where I genuinely enjoyed spending time with Mary Ellen. The limo stopped in front of the main house, and we both got out and stood there staring at the columns that seemed so contrived after the genuinely genteel architecture of Goodwell. This place looked like a badly done knock-off of the original. I swallowed a bit as I remembered the horrors that I’d endured here, and I grappled once again with how much I hated this place. Mary Ellen must have sensed my turmoil and put her hand on my arm to gently urge me forward. We walked up to the door and were met by a very flustered Baxter. “Mrs. Danfield is not receiving visitors,” Baxter said imperiously. Mary Ellen blew right past him, almost causing him to spin as she went around him on his right side. Mary Ellen had always seemed to derive sadistic pleasure from torturing our staff, so it was almost comical to see Baxter recoil from her as she escaped his blockade. While he was confused, I passed by him on his left. He hurried after us, even as we both headed directly for my mother’s study. Mary Ellen pushed the doors open with a dramatic thud and burst into the room, getting a frosty look from my mother in return. Mother was wearing a dark blue suit that was quite chic, and managed to be somber, serious, and fashionable at the same time. “Hello,” Mary Ellen said cheerfully. “It appears I have been woefully negligent in teaching my children manners,” Mother said, even as she rose up to greet us. She eyed us with contempt that was faked, and seemed to be hiding fear and apprehension, although only someone who knew her as well as I did would be able to discern that. “I hardly think that refusing to admit your children into your own home, after they have travelled a long way to see you, makes you the exemplar of hospitality,” I said. Mary Ellen gave me a smarmy look to mock me for my stuffy language. It was vaguely irritating that I seemed to absorb that style from being in law school, and from interacting with JP, Alex, and the Duke, while Mary Ellen never seemed to change her basic persona. “You’re probably here to laugh in my face,” Mother said to us viciously. “I’m not here to laugh at you, because I don’t think this is funny, not in the least,” I said firmly. “I’m here to laugh at you,” Mary Ellen said. “I think it’s hilarious.” I fought back the chuckle that wanted to escape, and even my mother seemed on the verge of a smile at Mary Ellen’s sense of humor. “Then you can glare at me, Wade, and point out how I have humiliated the Danfield name yet again, while Mary Ellen laughs in glee at my misfortune,” Mother said bitterly. “That’s exactly how I thought this would play out, and that’s why I flew all the way across the Atlantic,” Mary Ellen said. “Ah yes, your arduous journey on the Concorde,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You underestimate the absolute hell that is airport security and immigration,” Mary Ellen reminded me. “Now that you’ve both achieved your goals, you can leave me in peace,” Mother said. She walked back to her chair and sat down, then picked up what looked to be a gin and tonic and took a big swig. “I haven’t achieved my goal. I’m here to try and figure out what the hell is going on,” I said, raising my voice a little bit. That was so rare that it got a surprised look from both of them. “I would think that it’s obvious that Alexandra, in alliance with your adopted family, has decided to try to destroy me,” Mother said to me. She always sounded bitter when she referenced my ties to JP and his extended family. I wondered if that was because she was unable to inspire that kind of loyalty or trust from people. “Alexandra is not in an alliance with them,” I said firmly. “Open your eyes, Wade!” Mother snapped. “Brad worked out a deal where she takes the rap for all of those charges, those crimes he committed. He gives her money, and as part of the deal, she releases those pictures to the press.” “That is only partially correct,” I said. “You’ve become so corrupt it has clouded your mind.” I prided myself on my stoic demeanor, but I seemed to have a hard time maintaining that pose when I was dealing with my mother or Matt. “This is even more fun than I thought it would be,” Mary Ellen said, enjoying our battle. Yet in her own way, she was reminding me to keep my cool. “Bradley did work out a deal with Alexandra and he did give her money, but he was not involved with your assault and with the release of those pictures,” I stated firmly. “He knew they existed,” she countered. “It had to be part of the plan.” “Someone else paid Alexandra to lob that bomb at you,” I said. She’d been bantering with me up until now, full of bluster, but as soon as I said that, her entire attitude changed. “And who might this mystery person be?” Mary Ellen asked. “Your father-in-law, Lord Preston,” I said to Mary Ellen, then looked at my mother, raising an eyebrow as I did. “Lord Preston paid Alexandra to do that,” Mother mused. Her eyes became glassy as she began to rethink the situation. Her expression was almost one of ecstasy as she contemplated the intricate web that was being woven around her, and around the rest of us. “That’s quite a surprise,” Mary Ellen said to Mother. “The last I knew, you were doing Lord Preston’s dirty work.” “That statement does not correctly reflect our arrangement,” Mother said acidly, annoyed that she’d be classified as someone else’s stooge. “What exactly was your arrangement?” I asked. “After I tell you, I wonder how long it will take for that information to get back to Bradley,” she responded snidely. I felt my anger surge, and struggled mightily to control it. It was absolutely intolerable that my mother, of all people, would accuse me of being dishonorable and untrustworthy. Just before I lost it and completely blew my top, Mary Ellen intervened. “I have never known Wade to betray a confidence.” “Thank you,” I said to her, through gritted teeth. “And neither have I,” Mother said, backing up in the face of my suppressed yet evident rage. “Then perhaps you will tell us what plan you and the marquess launched,” I said calmly. “He was concerned that JJ’s relationship with Alex would ruin your relationship,” Mother said to Mary Ellen. “It was a concern that I shared.” “That was very sweet of you to worry about me like that,” Mary Ellen said, even though it was hard to imagine her being less sincere. “It really was unnecessary. Getting rid of JJ was never going to be the slightest challenge for me.” “I put up with all the other women when I was married to your father,” Mother said, with equal veracity. “I didn’t want you to have to deal with the same things.” “And while you both sit here and posture about your noble motives, neither one of you is being candid,” I said to them, then focused on Mary Ellen. “If you didn’t need Mother’s help to dispatch JJ, you wouldn’t have involved her in the first place.” “I didn’t need her help, but she did make it easier,” Mary Ellen said. “And really Wade, it was such a wonderful wedding present, so much better than a strand of pearls or some other trifle.” “You love pearls,” I said, almost joking. “I always thought that was because their purity contrasted with your own.” “I was quite candid,” Mother lied. “I find that hard to believe,” I said, although she didn’t share my outrage at being called a liar. “You are quite welcome to believe whatever you want,” she responded acidly. “In any event, you have dumped quite a riddle on me.” “Have you been able to find out any information about your father-in-law?” I asked Mary Ellen. “I have been unable to get solid answers from Alex, but I have a plan to get him to spill his guts,” she replied. “And how do you plan to do that?” Mother asked. “I have invited Alex, the Duke, and Nana to Goodwell so we can all meet and discuss this,” Mary Ellen said smugly. “Goodwell is Wade’s house,” Mother said, trying to stir up trouble between us. “Shouldn’t you have gotten his approval first?” Mary Ellen jumped in to respond before I had a chance, which was probably just as well. “Wade explained that Beau and I should treat Goodwell as if it were our own house, so I knew he wouldn’t mind.” “That is absolutely correct,” I said firmly. “And when is this revelatory meeting supposed to take place?” Mary Ellen raised her eyebrow to taunt me yet again for my expansive language. “The meeting will happen on Saturday, September 13. The last time you hosted the family at Goodwell things were so exciting, I thought we’d see if we can’t top that.” She was referring to last Thanksgiving, when she’d dropped the bomb on us that she was pregnant with Alex’s child. That was a hellish holiday, and the thought of it made me dread this upcoming meeting. “You can all hope for a quieter time, but regardless, I will not be there,” Mother said. “Yes you will,” I said firmly, almost an order. Mother gave me a contemptuous look, challenging me for even thinking I could give her orders. “I will be in California.” “You will be in rehab?” I asked. “I have to do damage control,” Mother said, and seemed genuinely upset that her reputation was in complete tatters. “I would think that would be a total waste of time,” Mary Ellen said, taunting her. “Matt thinks that whoever is behind this scheme, presumably Lord Preston, orchestrated much of this to get you out of the picture,” I said to her. “Matt thinks that,” Mother said with a sneer, as if Matt were a neophyte. “He does, and I agree with him,” I said. “I can’t imagine that you’d want to play into their plans.” “Why would they want Mother out of the way?” Mary Ellen asked. “Because she’s dangerous,” I said, looking at Mother. “You have certainly captured my attention,” Mother said, pondering things. “Why is Mother so dangerous?” Mary Ellen asked, mostly to try to goad my mother. We stared at Mother to give her time to think. “It is possible that they think that because I can be as ruthless as they can be, whereas the rest of you are more restrained.” That was a very interesting theory, one that I’d have to think about. “Mary Ellen isn’t,” I joked, sort of. “There’s another possibility, or an additional one.” “You have my full attention,” Mother said. “Your plans and schemes are usually so complex and intricate they are positively Byzantine,” I said to her. It was funny that she didn’t argue about that, and actually seemed to find that comment flattering. “I suspect that being able to hatch such a scheme would also make you especially good at figuring them out.” “Possibly,” Mother allowed. “I have an idea,” I said, and waited for both of them to non-verbally agree to hear me out. “I think that we should go ahead and go to Goodwell, all three of us. No one will bother Mother there, and it will give us a chance to try and figure out what is going on.” “It can be dreadfully dull out in the country,” Mary Ellen sniffed. “You can curtail your partying for a few days,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Who else will be coming to our meeting?” Mother asked. “The smart thing to do is to invite Bradley and his family members,” I said. “I really do not want to deal with those people,” Mother said, as if they were beneath her. I was smart enough to know that it wasn’t arrogance, but shame at how badly she’d behaved that was motivating that attitude. “I think they should be there,” Mary Ellen said, probably just to annoy Mother. “Is not the purpose to figure out what’s going on? They can probably shed some insight onto the situation.” “Undoubtedly,” I said. Mother sighed. “Arrange it as you like.” “Thank you,” I said. “I’ll leave you alone to get ready while I make some phone calls.” Mother went upstairs, while Mary Ellen and I found private corners to do our telephoning. September 5, 2003 Honolulu, HI Brad “Thank you for coming out here,” Keenan said sincerely, as we walked down the corridor of the hospital. He’d said that with a whiny undertone, one that made me cringe, and that was doing a lot to distract me from how attractive he was. It wasn’t just that he was this hunky Hawaiian guy, it was mostly the memory of the first time I’d seen him. He’d been on all fours in our bedroom in Maui, getting his brains fucked out by Robbie. “I wish I could have made it out here sooner,” I replied, even as the guilt enveloped me. Keenan ignored my pity party. “The doctors didn’t know what to do with his face,” he said. “What?” I asked, since I had no clue what he was talking about. Before he could answer me we got to a nurses station, where there appeared to be a doctor looking at charts and chatting with a few of the nurses. “This is Dr. Henderson,” Keenan said, introducing me to a really handsome man, even though it was obvious that his looks had gotten some help from plastic surgery. “He is Scott’s doctor.” “Brad Schluter,” I said as I shook his hand. He grinned, showing off his perfect teeth, but the whole look was so contrived it was like he was a character from one of those cheesy 1950’s sitcoms. “A pleasure to meet you,” he said, then got serious, almost in a dramatic way. “Mr. Slater has authorized me to brief you on his condition.” I wanted to roll my eyes at his privacy act, since I was paying the damn bill anyway, but he was just following the rules. “Good news,” I said, “Since that’s why I’m here.” He led Keenan and me over to a semi-private sitting area conveniently consisting of three side chairs and a small coffee table. “Mr. Slater has bruised ribs, and significant bruising on his body,” Henderson said. “Those are wounds that will heal easily. The most damage was done to his face.” I paused to think about that for a second. It made sense that Alexandra would want to damage the fake new look he’d used to hide from her goons. “How bad is the damage?” “I have had to completely rebuild much of his basic bone structure, and I’ve had to significantly alter his appearance,” he said. I blinked at him, unable to hide my shock. “He’ll look different?” “He had significant surgery done prior to the incident,” Henderson explained. “That has made the damage more intense.” “Will this end up being, uh….” I began to ask, then paused because I couldn’t think of the polite way to ask if Scott would be deformed. “I didn’t say he wouldn’t still be handsome,” Dr. Henderson said, with just the hint of a leer. “That’s a relief,” Keenan said, joking, then got silent when we looked at him. “It is,” I said confidently, to make Keenan feel better, only then I felt guilty for worrying about that, as if Scott wouldn’t still be one of my best friends if he were ugly and disfigured. “We didn’t have a guide on how he looked prior to the accident,” the doctor said. “We were surprised that we couldn’t even find any pictures in the press, or in surf magazines.” Scott’s surf shop was pretty successful, but because he’d been in hiding, he’d kept a low profile. “You didn’t have any pictures?” I asked Keenan. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “Scott hates having his picture taken, and so do I. We don’t even have a camera in the house.” Keenan’s style, the way he referred to the house as if he lived there, made it seem that their relationship was more serious than the ‘friends that fuck’ status, which is how Scott had described it the last time we’d been together. “At that point, I had to make a decision for him,” Henderson said. “As Keenan is his friend, I relied on his input.” Keenan got very nervous when he said that. He was probably worried that I’d freak out over whatever he’d agreed to. I could be pissed off that he didn’t even consult with me, since I was the one with the power of attorney, but I’d been busy and had all but blown Scott off. “Let’s hope you weren’t pissed off at him and made him look like Godzilla,” I said to tease Keenan. He grinned shyly, which was adorable. “His last name is Slater, and he’s a surfer, so I used Kelly Slater’s basic facial structure as my guide,” Henderson said. “Kelly Slater is hot,” I said emphatically. Keenan and Henderson both chuckled at my vehemence. Kelly Slater “If you think that, then I think you’ll really think Scott Slater is hot,” Henderson said with a smile. “Only you can’t see him yet,” Keenan said, a bit morosely. “He’ll have the bandages on for a while,” Henderson said. We were all silent for a few seconds, until Henderson ended our conversation and led us in to see Scott. He was lying in the hospital bed, and had bandages and shit all over his face, as if they were designed to immobilize him. “He is allowed to talk to you, but he must remain as calm as possible.” “Fuck you,” Scott said to the Doctor, but it was more of a mumble since he really couldn’t move his mouth or face much. “Maybe you can improve his mood,” the Doctor said, then stalked out of the room. “You piss him off and he’ll find a way to make you even uglier,” I said with a smile. “Fuck you too,” he said to me, but in a more playful way. Keenan walked up and held Scott’s hand gently. “I’ll check up on you later.” Scott nodded, and squeezed his hand back, then Keenan left us alone. “It’s good to see you, B,” he mumbled to me. “Sorry it took me so long to get here,” I said, feeling the guilt envelop me. “Then you can make it up to me when I get out of here,” he said, with a leer that was only apparent by his tone of voice. “I can do that,” I said, chuckling. “They decided to make you look like Kelly Slater.” “Terrific,” he grumbled in his bitchy way. “That dude is hot,” I objected. “If you’re lucky, he pulled it off.” “I’ll bet I end up hotter than him,” Scott said, flirting with me. “Probably,” I agreed. “I guess that fucking cunt tracked me down and had me beaten within an inch of my life,” Scott said morosely, referring to Alexandra Carmichael. “She did,” I confirmed. “Fuck,” he said, and said it so emphatically he must have strained his face. “Calm down,” I warned him. “It’s just so typical,” he all but whined. I guess this was my day to deal with whiny-ass men. “I finally find a place where I’m happy, I have a great business, a great setup, and now I’ll have to go on the lam again. Shit, next time she’ll probably have me killed.” “Nope,” I said dismissively. “I talked to Mike, her son, and he told me that this was her payback. She’s done with you.” “So I have to put up with all this pain, and having another new face, but I don’t have to watch my back, worrying about goons killing me?” he asked for clarity. “That’s right,” I said. He was silent for a minute as he pondered that. “Then it was probably worth it.” “That’s how I was looking at it,” I said. “I have to get back home, so I have to bail. I’ll come see you soon.” “Thanks, B,” he said, and then drifted off, deep in thought.
  17. 44 points
    “UMC-134 requested for Assistance, MDP asking for DET-331195 Cnr Lexington and Market.” “Damn it, every time,” I looked over at a cackling Payne, “Every time,” “I know, but Marshall seems to like you, and when you're there he appears to calm down. Think about the other officers involved,” Payne said grinning. Marshall is Marshall Carter, the local mentally ill person, to whom we get weekly call outs. He’s not dangerous, but he does seem to cause havoc. “Fine,” I flicked the lights on “let's get this over with,” “UMC-134 on route eta 12 minutes,” I notified dispatch. Payne took our ‘eta’ as a challenge to get there quicker – safely. I grabbed the ‘fuck me dead’ on the side above my head to hang on. Although Payne isn’t driving wildly or dangerously, she tends to take the corners a little hard to see if she can knock me off balance. It’s a fun little game ‘we’ play. When we arrived at the scene, a small crowd were milling around. Marshall was sitting on the ground with an officer holding a cloth to his head. A teenager was next to him fussing. “Uncle Marshall, are you okay?” The boy said with tears in his eyes. “Can’t you get him an ambulance or something, he’s bleeding so badly.” “Son we’ve called for medical assistance they’ll be here soon. It looks worse than it is, head wounds tend to bleed a lot, okay. I need you to quiet down so we can keep your Uncle calm.” The officer was compassionate. “Yes sir,” the kid said as he finally let the tears fall, he tried to wipe them away so nobody could see. “What happened here?” I asked sternly, to the officer but looking around the crowd, which seemed to have increased in size. “Mr. Carter here was trying to warn the good citizens of Lexington about the hole in the ozone layer,” the officer pointed to the uncovered manhole, surrounded by safety rails. “He was causing some noise, then someone threw that can,” he pointed to a can next to his foot inside an evidence bag, “and it’s split his head, we’ve called for a bus. I think it’s best we get him to the hospital. He has been requesting to speak to you since we arrived.” His eye pleading forgiveness that I’d actually been called to attend. Probably hoping I wouldn’t chew him out. “It’s fine, Officer…” I waited for him to tell me his name as I crouched beside. “Potts, Wade Potts.” He said and lifted the cloth so I could see the wound. “Ouch! I bet that hurts a little hey Marshall,” I said sympathetically, “and who’s this?” I gestured to the teenager. “I…I’m um… Stephen Carter sir,” He swallowed audibly, “this…this is m-my Uncle,” his face wet from tears. “HEY CARTER! LET’S GO, JUST FUCKING LEAVE HIM.” A kid yelled over the top of us, fidgeting and transferring his weight from left to right. I stood up quickly. “And who are you?” I asked knowing full well once I saw the kid accurately who he was. Brian Chattering. “What’s it to you?” he snarled back at me. Then he tapped Stephen on the shoulder, “let’s go, NOW!” he demanded. “He isn’t going anywhere but to the hospital with his Uncle. If you want to leave, leave.” I said with gritted teeth. “What? Get lost pig. NOW, Stephen, we’re leaving,” he spat, and one of the side kicks snickered behind him. “Come on get up,” the kid spoke with venom this time and kicked Stephen in the leg just hard enough for Stephen to lose his balance from where he was crouched next to his Uncle. The kids face portrayed everything, he was scared, probably frozen in place and unable to actually move. It wasn’t the same face he wore in concern for his Uncle, but of actual terror. God, knows what this poor kid puts up with. I remember when I first started here Payne saying something about this kids family being mean as rattlesnakes, and now he has to put up with this fuck stick. I grabbed the kids arm and restrained him with it behind his back securing him in cuffs. I frisked him and indicated for Officer Potts partner to take him into custody. “Take this back to the house and put him in an interview room. Make sure you get that evidence tagged, logged and to fingerprints right away. This kid here isn’t to be released until we find out if it is his fingerprints are on it.” The Officer grumbled something I didn’t catch, I turned and faced him, “Is there a problem?” “No detective, what are we arresting him for?” The Officer asked snarkily. “Suspicion of aggravated assault. Once the fingerprints come back, we’ll be charging him with Aggravated Assault.” I said and waved my hand at him dismissively. Payne eyed the Officer warily and slowly moved toward me. She came close to me so we could talk privately, “I’m going to go with him. I’ll get fingerprints to do this quickly for us. Lord knows Marley owes me a few favors. I’ll let you know if it turns out to be the kid's prints on the can. What do you want me to do if it’s not?” Payne asked. I shrugged one shoulder, “Hold his stupid ass as long as we can, then call his folks to come and get him.” I chuckled at my own meanness. “If anything we’ll fuck his night for him. You’ve met his family, they’ll be pissed whether he’s guilty or innocent, the fact he attracted police attention at all will put a fire in his Dad’s belly. I’ll bring Pott’s back to the house, but we’ll go up to the hospital first. See if we can’t get them to hold Marshall and get him back on his meds. Once you’re in the car can you get another car down here, maybe get them to get rid of our audience. I don’t want to leave Officer Potts alone. The least we can do is let Marshall have some dignity for fuck's sake.” “Got it,” Payne squeezed my shoulder as she passed by me and quietly said, “You’re a good man HotShot.” I rolled my eyes. “Only once a year, seems today’s that day,” I laughed, man I’m hungry. I should have eaten before work. Payne took the can in the evidence bag and went with Officer Sour Puss. Officer Potts looked at me as if to say what happens now. “We’ll follow the bus to the hospital and take the youngster home, then we’ll go back to the house. Payne will let the Captain know when she gets back.” “Thanks,” the Officer smiled warmly at me and turned his focus back to the bleeding man, “Marshall buddy, please stop fidgeting, I need to keep this cloth on the wound okay.” He said gently to his injured patient. I looked back out at the crowds, all of Chattering’s cronies had disappeared into the wind. Fuckin’ cowards. The Paramedics finally pulled up to the curb. I grabbed Stephen to get him out of their way. Poor kid was in fight or flight mode, I grabbed his shoulder and held on, whispering in his ear, “I got ya son, calm down and let them work. He’s going to be okay, it looks worse than it is.” I felt the poor kids whole body shaking under my hand. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I kept my hand there for some kind of reassurance for him. The paramedics cleaned Marshall up and put something in place to stop or minimize the bleeding. Loaded him in the back of the bus and one of the paramedics asked if the family had been notified, I told him Stephen was Marshall’s nephew, and I indicated for him to go with the ambulance. “It’s okay Stephen, go with your Uncle, and we’ll meet you at the hospital.” I gave him a gentle nudge in the direction of the ambulance. <>-<>-<> The hospital staff took care of Marshall, he acted out a bit when he realized he was at the hospital, the staff had to sedate him. His young nephew asked to stay with his Uncle instead of going home. At first, they balked at the request until I pointed out that he may be able to help them if Marshall gets agitated. Funny how quickly they changed their minds when I reminded the staff what they were dealing with as there were no beds in psych and they’d be stuck looking after him. I left Stephen with my number in case there were any problems with the hospital staff through the night, hoping he’d use it if he needed. With nothing left to do we headed back to the house. “What’s the deal with your partner and his attitude?” I asked Officer Potts with a little more attitude toward him than I meant. Officer Pott’s fiddled with his hat taking a moment before answering, “Have you noticed there’s a bit of a boys club here?” I grunted, “Yeah I noticed, I don’t tend to get involved in that shit.” “Well he does and is part of it. It starts with the Captain, then goes down from there.You being an outsider would never have been invited in their circle anyways.” He said matter of factly. I grunted acknowledgment. “It’s also why you were partnered with Detective Fuller, none of the other Detectives wanted to work with her. She transferred here already a detective. If she had been a uniformed officer, she would never have been promoted. You’re an outsider and part of the FBI, so they partnered you with her.” The Officer informed me, “Well that’s the talk around the house anyway.” “I don’t care much for rumors, but I don’t doubt what you're saying. And while we are saying, Detective Fuller is an excellent Detective.” I groused. “Sorry Sir, I wasn’t passing judgment on Detective Fuller or her abilities. I’ve seen her in action, she actually scares me a little. She’s cool and calm under pressure, she’s also tough but fair. Detective Fuller knows every uniformed Officer’s name, and she addresses them with it. I quite like her. The other detectives just grunt and say ‘oi you.’” The man nervously stated. I can’t wait to tell her that the uniformed officers like her but find her scary. “What do you know about the Carter’s?” I asked the Officer maybe he could shed some light on Stephen’s circumstances. “Um… They live at the trailer park and are the stereotypical white trash that people speak about. We get called out on domestic disturbance weekly, the old man’s always drunk. He’s a mean son of a bitch too. Their son Stephen has never given us an ounce of trouble. Although we’ve been out there a couple of times and he’s had bruises on him. I wanted to ring child services one time, but my old partner told me there was no point. I did it anyway, the report came back clean. No problem found. I’m not sure they even checked on the poor kid.” Officer Pott’s shook his head. “If you come across him again, let me know, will you? Maybe we can get him some help or something. He seems like a good kid with a shit circumstances. I’d hate for them to break him.” I said pensively. There has to be a way to get the boy away from the shit he was hanging with today and that asshole of a family. Shit, fucking jail would probably be safer for the kid at this point. “Yes sir, I’d be happy too. Thank you, sir,” He said excitedly. “Stop calling me sir,” I snorted. He chuckled softly beside me, “Yes sir, sorry Detective.” I laughed at the poor guy nervousness. I picked up the phone through blue tooth in the car, “Price,” “Hey HotShot, the fingerprints are still about an hour or so away. If you guys want to stop and get some dinner you should. Captain Knoeze is on the warpath at the moment best you guys stay out unless they call you back in.” Payne suggested. “Did you want me to swing by and grab you we’ll go catch a burger or something?” I asked. “Actually, no I’m going to pop out and see my Dad he’s been a bit off the past couple. I want to check on him, you know how he is,” Payne said with worry in her voice, she tries to school her emotions. But when it comes to her Dad, she wears them on her sleeve. “You know where I’ll be if you need me Shortstack. I’m just a phone call away or come meet us if you get the chance.” I’ve been coming up with different nicknames for Payne, I’ve yet to come across one that doesn’t come with a bruised arm yet. At least this time, she’s on the phone and not sitting next to me. I chuckled out loud without meaning to. Payne scoffed, “I’ll give you Shortstack, Shithead.” “Ah, Payne, promises, promises… What’s going on with the Captain?” I wondered. “Hang on,” I heard rustling and a door click on the other end. Payne then spoke quietly and quickly into the phone, she must be in the locker room because I can now hear an echo, “Two guys in suits were locked up in his office with him when I came back. He’s been a prick since they left, I don’t know what it was about. There’s been a weird vibe and odd visitors through here, the entire time you were on sick leave. Nobody seems to know, and everyone is finding reasons to leave the house. It’s uncomfortable around here usually, but right now, it’s toxic. A lot of follow up is getting done as you can imagine. I’m going to dinner, you guys stay out for now and go on break. I’ll call if I hear anything or meet you at the diner if I can. Let me know if you get called back.” Hmmm, it all makes me a little curious as to what is really going on.. “Sure no worries, stay out of his firing line if you can Girlie.You know he’ll take his mood out on you.” I said worriedly. “You got it, talk to you shortly,” Payne assured me she would, I ended the call. I wonder what that’s about. Payne would know if they were FBI surely. She’s certainly had to deal with them enough since I came along. Come to think of it, the Captain has been a little off himself this past week. Curious. “You should drop me back at the house if the Captain is on a tear.” Officer Potts said. “Um, that would be a no. I’ve watched him rip into the uniforms before, it’s not pretty.” The Officer chortled, “I seem to be one of his favorites, when my partner isn’t around.” “Why is that?” “Probably a million reasons, maybe none at all. I’m not one to socialize with the others, I live a pretty quiet life. My partner gives me hell for it, he says I think I’m better than everyone else. But I don’t I assure you I’m simply quiet, not naturally outgoing I guess.” He offered in explanation. “Nothing wrong with that, I’m going to sign us out with dispatch for dinner, and we’ll be golden. But I’ll wait a bit first, they still think we are at the hospital.” I said respectfully, “I’ll take any flack he throws at you when we get back. Have you eaten? Are you hungry? There’s a great diner just up ahead, has the best burgers.” I could feel my mouth salivating at the thought. “Thanks, yeah, I could eat,” He said politely. A couple of minutes later we pulled into the diner. Ian’s here! The thought popped into my head from my gut. The moment we walked through the doors my eyes went on the search. There he is, I wonder who he’s with, or if he’s actually here by himself. “Follow me I’ll introduce you to a friend of mine,” I said, heading toward Ian. I didn’t even wait to see if Officer Potts actually followed me. I was on a mission, I get to see Ian before Saturday. We’ve been texting and calling each other since Sunday, but this will be an extra treat for me. Just to be near him or see him. He had his back to me, I put my hand on his shoulder, my thumb giving a quick sweep of his jawline. “Hey,” Very smooth greeting on my part, rolling my eyes internally at myself. Ian startled, then looked up at me with those beautiful eyes of his. The smile made his whole face light up. “Hey, Hi! Wh…what are you doing here? I thought you were working tonight.” Ian said nervously but was genuinely happy to see me. Then he saw I wasn’t alone, I watched as his face faltered a little. Thankfully Officer Potts is in his uniform, so it will be easy to explain away. It also gave me a tiny flutter in my chest, that he might actually be jealous. “We were at the hospital and decided to stop for dinner break on the way back. I saw you and thought I’d say hello. We aren’t interrupting are we?” I asked warily, Ian’s alone, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t meeting someone. “No, you’re not interrupting. Why don’t you join me? I was supposed to meet Liam, but he decided to take his Mom out to dinner.” He told me as if I knew who Liam is. “Who’s Liam?” I growled. “My nephew, sort of. It’s a long story. Please sit.” Ian moved for us to join his booth. I slid into the booth across from Ian first, I didn’t even bother to ask Officer Pott’s if he minded. I’m so rude. The man hesitated, looked around the diner uncomfortably. “Sorry,” I looked apologetically at the Officer, “Please sit. Ian this is Officer Potts, Officer Potts this is my friend Ian. Ian is a science teacher over at the high school.” He smiled at Ian and put his hand over the table to shake in greeting, “Please call me Wade,” Ian smiled and shook his hand. Wade then turned to me with a shy smile, “Thanks, Detective.” “Call me Adam, we aren’t on duty at the moment.” “Sure, thanks, Adam,” Wade replied. The waitress appeared at our table as Wade finished talking, “Good evening gentleman… Oh, hello, Ian, you have different dining companions tonight,” she lightly flirted with my guy. Grrr!! “Yeah, they thought I was homeless and offered to buy me dinner.” Ian chuckled with the girl, just take our order and go girly. I’ve never been jealous before, but this is my guy. “These are my friends Adam and Wade. This is Shelly our server, she’s going to law school,” Ian gestured as he introduced us to each other. “Nice to meet you both,” she smiled her sweet perky smile at us, “would you like your usual?” Shelly asked Ian batting her lashes at him. “Yes please,” Ian answered fiddling with his knife and fork rolled inside of a napkin. “I’ll have the same,” I said handing her back the menu. She cocked an eyebrow at me, “Are you sure you know what you're doing?” I heard Ian snicker. Well, I can’t back down now can I? “It will be all right,” I answered curtly. Flirts with my guy then questions my order. Who is this brat? “And you Wade?” she smiled cutely at him. “Make it unanimous, I’ll live on the edge. Surprise me.” Wade smiled at the girl shrugging his shoulders. “You're all very brave,” Shelly ended with and left the table with a grin. “It isn’t like, lambs brains or anything is it?” Wade asked Ian quietly, a little frightened of what he committed himself to. Ian laughed, “No nothing like that. It’s a burger and fries, pie for dessert, but the burger isn’t on the menu. It’s Liam’s creation. It took him a couple of months to perfect it, but now it’s the only burger he eats. It’s huge, and mouth watering delicious.” I trapped Ian’s foot between mine and held it there. He didn’t fight back or seem upset, but he did give me a look, and I swear I saw his eyes twinkle at me. “You aren’t going to tell us what’s on it are you?” “Nope,” He said shaking his head slowly, a mischievous grin dancing on his face. “I can tell you, we usually get either cherry pie or apple pie. She always brings us which ever is freshest.” I scoffed, “Thanks, that’s helpful.” “You’re welcome,” he said cheekily. “Here you are gentlemen, your drinks. Your food won’t be long. And to cover my butt, just in case. Here is the phone number for a good cardiologist.” She put down three cokes, one in front of each of us and slid a piece of paper with a name and phone number on it, then left us to it. Ian laughed loudly. Christ on a cracker I wonder what the hell we’ve ordered. I eyed Ian, and he laughed harder. Fuck he’s gorgeous when he laughs. The sound of his laugh melts my insides. Have you any idea how difficult it is to not reach out and touch him when I hear him laugh. I felt my cock, plumping. So I quietly kept to myself for a minute, while Ian and Wade chatted. Willing the bastard cock of mine to deflate and behave for me. “Are you okay?” Ian asked with his brow raised in concern. “Yeah!” I kind of grunted. Shit that was rude. I rubbed my foot along his and cleared my throat, “I’m a bit worried about what we are going to be eating if it requires the phone number for a cardiologist.” I grinned trying to lighten my mood. Ian chuckled, “I guess you’re about to find out,” He pointed to the waitress coming our direction with a tray of plated meals. We were all given a plate with the worlds biggest burger, with a few fries. Then she rested a giant dinner plate down between the three of us with loaded fries and our own ranch dressing each. “Thanks,” Ian smiled at her, and she winked at him before she left us alone. Grrr!! I watched her walk away, with what was probably a scowl on my face if Ian’s expression was anything to go by. I grinned at him, and his face softened and smiled back. He nudged my foot with his and dug into the loaded fries. “Wow,” Wade gulped, “What is this thing?” He chuckled. “It’s cheese, lettuce, tomato, beetroot, pineapple ring, thick and greasy meat pattie, caramelized onion, mushroom, bacon, fried egg, cheese and BBQ Sauce. Your taste buds will be dancing the rest of the evening, I promise.” Ian said dreamily, squashed his burger down with his hand, so it was a little flatter. He wrapped a napkin around the bottom of it so he wouldn’t have grease run down his arm and bit into it. His eyes literally rolled back into his head, and a little moan escaped at the same time. My jealousy forgotten in an instant, my breath caught in my throat. I wonder if that’s what he looks and sounds like when he… I blew out a breath to try and keep my libido in check. I’m two seconds from throwing him over this table. “Well here goes nothing,” I said and followed Ian’s demonstration of how to get this monster in my mouth. Flatten, napkin, bite. Oh…my…God. I took another napkin and wiped my chin, this mother is juicy and so many different flavors exploding and complementing each other. My eyes also rolled into the back of my head, the same groan escaped from my throat. The taste buds on my tongue dancing. I’ve never tasted anything like it. The egg was just soft enough to add flavor and not run everywhere, the mushrooms dulling the tang of the pineapple gently, the bacon, onion and BBQ sauce giving it a beautiful sun burnt grill flavor, and the salad complementing the beef pattie entirely. This thing is the pairing of a genius. “Vis is de bess king I ever caseted.” I said with my mouth full, my hands full, my mind full, my cock full. Wade eventually gave in trying his burger and had the same reaction as Ian and me. The rest of the break went well with a light, comfortable conversation between the three of us. It was nice having a dinner with others and having normal conversation throughout. I haven’t had much of that since Anna left. Payne and I eat together a lot, but it’s usually on the fly or take out while we watch a game on tv. We all decided to get our dessert to go as we had to get back to the house. I paid the bill and left a generous tip. My dinner companions tried to argue, but I outranked all of them. My argument anyway, and I ended up winning. Wade went and sat in the car while I said goodbye to Ian. Man, I want to touch him, or kiss him, something. But I behaved, said goodbye, squeezed his shoulder and left him with the promise to pick him up at seven on Saturday night. Officer Potts was quiet until we entered back into the evening peak-hour traffic. “Um… Detective, do you mind if I speak freely?” I looked at him sideways, “Hmm, sure go ahead,” “Is um… Ian your boyfriend?” he asked very nervously. “Does it matter? Is it a problem?” I gruffed. I’m not telling someone I don’t really know anything. Although I feel completely comfortable around him. I’m not ready to tell him my every thought and feeling. “Oh, no problem for me at all, just a piece of advice, don’t let them know at the house if you are gay or bi, well, hell anything but straight is unacceptable to them.” Officer Potts said bitterly. “Firstly, it’s none of their business, and secondly I am who I am and don’t give two shits about their opinion,” I spoke sternly. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to…” “You didn’t,” I looked at him, he looked upset and uncomfortable, Jesus, “You haven’t upset me, it’s no-one’s business who I’m attracted to. That’s between the other person and me.” I tried to soften my gruff rah rah, “Do you walk up to people and say “Hi I’m Wade, I sleep with women?” Wade burst out laughing, I chuckled at him laughing and looked at him because it wasn’t a funny comment. “If I said that to anyone I know, they’d laugh me out of the place.” He fidgeted for a second and said shyly, “Women aren’t really in my wheel house.” “Well I guess you’d also be lying then wouldn’t you?” I chuckled. He let out some air to release the tension from his body chuckling softly, “You really don’t care that I’m gay?” “Nope, couldn’t give a flying rats ass.” <>-<>-<> I caught up with Payne in the bullpen as I was heading to the interview rooms. “How’s your Dad?” I inquired. “He’s alright, but he seems off. Even his skin is pale. I think I’ll make an appointment for the doctors tomorrow.” Payne said pensively, then chewing on her thumb nail. “Let me know if I can do anything alright? Any further word on what’s going on with the Captain?” “Nope nothing, and if anyone does know, they aren’t saying.” Payne shook her head. “So how did it go, are the finger prints back?” Payne’s grin said it all, “Yep and there’s good news and bad news.” “Okay, hit me with it.” “They weren’t Brian’s prints on the can, his folks showed up with a lawyer, they’ve just left. His parents were pissed, ranting and carrying on. The Captain practically shoved them through the door to get them out, they were causing quite the scene.” Payne chortled. “That doesn’t seem to match your grin though. Because that get’s us nowhere really. So spill.” “His parents were in such a frenzy over him being brought here in the first place. The lawyer was having enough trouble keeping the Captain from arresting them, the incompetent ass didn’t even ask for Brian’s fingerprints to be destroyed before he left. So somehow they found their way onto the database. Thus giving us something for the future,” she lowered her voice, “say with something like an FBI case for instance.” Payne snickered. I whooped and picked Payne up off the floor and hugged her. When I put her back on her feet, I forcefully grabbed her noggin’ pulling it toward me and gave her a lip smacker on the forehead. “I love you. You are… Ow, what was that for.” I said rubbing my arm, fuck she hits hard for a tiny human. “Don’t pick me up off of the floor like a doll asshole. And for calling me Shortstack earlier.” Payne scowled at me. I grinned at her, still rubbing my arm. I know I sound like a baby, but fuck, it hurts. Captain Knoeze came out of his office spying us, “You two,” he bellowed pointing at us. We lazily faced him from where we were standing. “Alleged assault victim at the hospital ER. Go.” Then he stormed back in his office, slamming the door. Well, there goes that good mood. Something has put the wind up his butt.
  18. 43 points
    Troy made his way carefully down the stairs to the basement. He could feel Trixie brushing his leg as he took one step at a time. He was carrying a tray with Jayden’s lunch. Once he reached the bottom, he grabbed the golden retriever’s collar as she led him across the recreation room to Jayden’s bedroom. Trixie had somehow instinctively sensed that her beloved master was having difficulty seeing. She had never been trained as a guide dog, but she obediently stayed beside Troy as he made his way along the house. She was also picking up Troy’s commands on where he wanted to go. “Jayden,” was a command which was becoming very familiar to her. She led him across the room and nudged the door open with her nose. “Can I come in?” He waited until he heard Jayden sit up in bed. “Yeah.” He couldn’t see the smile on Jayden’s face. “Come on in.” Troy carried the tray over and held it in front of Jayden. “What’s this?” he asked as he took the tray and examined it. Troy replied, “Chicken noodle soup.” He sat on the side of the bed as Jayden laughed. “Chicken noodle soup? I thought you gave that to people who had a cold?” “It was the only thing I could find,” Troy replied. Jayden laughed again as his face reddened. “I had to open three cans until I found it. I don’t think you’d have liked the others.” “What were they?” Jayden again laughed as he pictured Troy in the kitchen opening cans from the cupboard. Since his parents had both returned to work, and Penny had gone back to school, they were left alone during the day. The doctor had ordered Jayden to stay home from school for a week until his shoulder had time to completely heal. No decision had yet been made what to do when Jayden returned to school, and Troy would be left alone during the day. Mrs. Neal was insisting on hiring a maid so Troy wouldn’t be alone, but he had objected strongly. “All you want is a damned baby sitter for me!” he shouted the last time the subject came up. “Refried beans, I think,” laughed Troy. “And I’m not sure what the other can was. It could have been Trixie’s dog food.” Jayden again started laughing. “I could have gotten up and fixed us something for lunch,” he said. “It’s only been three days,” Troy replied worriedly. “You heard the doctor. He didn’t want you doing anything for at least five days.” “I feel fine,” he assured Troy. “Really.” He pulled back his shirt and examined the wound. It was still red and puffy, but it seemed to be healing quickly. As he looked at it, he realized just how lucky he had been. If Tyrone had been using a higher caliber gun, he might not have been sitting beside Troy holding a bowl of steaming chicken noodle soup. He quietly sipped at the soup as he watched Troy, who appeared deep in thought. “What?” he finally asked. “What, what?” Troy asked innocently. “I can tell when something is bothering you.” He placed the tray on the table beside the bed. “Nothing is wrong with me,” Troy insisted as he rose from the bed and reached for Trixie’s collar. “Piano, Trixie!” he ordered harshly as she started to lead him from the room. Jayden got out of bed and dressed as he listened to Troy playing the piano. The music was slow and sorrowful, almost like a dirge. He walked barefooted into the room, leaned against the door and watched as Troy ran his fingers masterfully over the keys. After listening for a minute, he quietly tiptoed over to the bench and stood behind Troy. Troy tilted his head, but continued playing. His body stiffened when Jayden placed his hands on his shoulders. “That’s beautiful,” Jayden said as he gently caressed his shoulders. “What is it?” “Something by Wagner,” Troy responded as he leaned forward to indicate he didn’t want Jayden to touch him. When Jayden sat down beside him, he scooted so that their bodies weren’t touching. “Penny said you were playing the piano almost before you could walk.” “Yeah,” he replied as he dropped his hands down on the keys. “It’s about the only thing I can do anymore.” He started playing the piece he had been playing earlier. Jayden started to laugh. “Can’t you play something a little more...um...” he paused briefly, “cheerful?” “How’s this, then,” Troy responded sarcastically. He started singing, “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there will be sunshine.” He suddenly stopped and then began banging the keys on the piano. When he started to get up, Jayden grabbed his arm. “Don’t go,” he pleaded as he pulled Troy back. He then put his arm around him and held him. Troy rested his head on Jayden’s shoulder and began to cry softly. “Why, Jayden?” he asked mournfully. “Why?” “I don’t know,” Jayden said soothingly as he rubbed Troy’s back. “Maybe someday you’ll have an answer for why this happened to you.” Troy lifted his head and looked tearfully in Jayden’s direction. “I’m not talking about me,” he cried. He threw his arms around Jayden and clutched him tightly. “I’m talking about you.” Jayden hugged Troy tightly and then lifted his head. He wiped the tears from Troy’s face and then leaned in and kissed him gently. He expected Troy to pull away, but he pressed his lips firmly to Jayden’s and kissed him passionately. After a minute, Jayden pulled away and looked into Troy’s face. “I love you,” he whispered softly before kissing him gently again. Troy returned the kiss and then rested his head on Jayden’s shoulder and sighed. “I can’t say it yet, Jayden,” he responded sadly. “Give me some time, okay?” Jayden kissed him again. “Take as much time as you need,” he smiled, knowing Troy couldn’t see it. He was just happy that he was beginning to respond to him. “Just get used to me saying it.” Troy nodded and returned the kiss. It felt good to be held again. When he began a relationship with Will a few months earlier, it had taken him a few weeks to begin to enjoy Will’s affectionate behavior. It was one of the things he had been missing. As with Will, he still wasn’t sure if it was love he was feeling or just his overactive teenage glands. But for now, he had decided that he was going to give Jayden a chance and see if it did lead somewhere. He was tired of walking down the dark path alone. If Jayden was willing to walk with him, then he knew he had to try. Jayden was still kissing him when he felt a hand slip inside his shirt. He jumped when Jayden started to lightly squeeze his nipple. His cock immediately became erect. “Oh, God,” he moaned when Jayden lifted his shirt and began licking his erect pink nipple. He grabbed Jayden’s hand when he started to squeeze his hard cock through the material of the thin shorts he was wearing. “No,” he insisted as he pulled Jayden’s hand away. Jayden leaned in and kissed him again, slowing slipping his tongue inside Troy’s mouth. “Why?” Jayden moaned as he once again reached down and began rubbing Troy’s erection. He started laughing into Troy’s mouth when Trixie rose from the floor and nudged his hand. “I just can’t,” Troy insisted. “Why?” Jayden asked, once again squeezing Troy’s cock. “I can’t tell you,” Troy replied like a young child. Jayden sat back and laughed. “Are you a virgin?” He laughed louder when Troy’s face brightened. “I thought that you and Will were dating?” “We were,” replied Troy. “Just because we dated didn’t mean we were having sex.” “Why not?” Jayden asked. “You never played around?” “Well, yeah,” Troy admitted. “We would feel each other, but we never really had actual sex.” “Why?” “If I tell you, you’ll laugh,” Troy responded with a childish voice. “No, I won’t.” Jayden insisted. “I know you will,” replied Troy, “but I’ll tell you anyway. I wanted to wait until I graduated. I wanted to give myself to Will as a graduation present.” Jayden leaned in and kissed Troy. “I think that is the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say.” Troy pulled away. “Really?” “Of course,” responded Jayden. “Will would have been a lucky guy.” “Yeah, well,” replied Troy sadly before he once again felt Jayden’s lips pressing his. “Let’s not talk about Will,” Jayden said softly. “Let’s talk about us.” Troy moaned when Jayden once again offered his tongue inside his mouth. He opened it and began sucking his eager tongue. He didn’t jump when Jayden grabbed his cock and started to stroke it through the material. He felt Jayden playing with the zipper, eventually unfastening it and opening his shorts. He felt his cock spring up and emerge through the front of his boxer shorts. Jayden wrapped his hand around it and slowly stroked it. “Jayden,” he grabbed his hand, but he didn’t attempt to remove it from his swollen cock. “We should stop.” “I don’t want to,” moaned Jayden as he took Troy’s hand and placed it against his erect cock. “I want you.” He leaned in and kissed him as he kept Troy’s hand against his hard cock. He laughed when Trixie rose and started smelling his crotch. “Come on.” He pulled Troy to his feet. He looked down at Trixie and ordered her to stay. He then led Troy into his bedroom. He sat him on the side of the bed and then resumed kissing him. Troy gently pushed him away. “I really think we should wait.” “For what?” Jayden asked. “You said you weren’t going to attend graduation, so why can’t we do something now.” Troy sighed. “It was always my dream to give up my virginity on graduation night. I know it sounds silly, but it was what I really wanted.” Jayden reached down and grabbed his hand. “Then you’ll have to attend graduation.” Troy gasped, “I can’t do that. Look at me, I’m blind.” “So? That shouldn’t stop you from getting the diploma you earned.” Jayden kissed his nose. “Besides, I’ll be there too.” Troy sighed deeply. “Let me think about it, all right?” Jayden laughed, and then took Troy’s hand and placed it against his hard cock. He then reached down and squeezed Troy’s. “What are we going to do about these?” He felt reassured when Troy playfully squeezed his. “You said you and Will played around some?” Troy nodded his head. “I’ve already seen you jack off, so why don’t we just do it together?” “I don’t know,” Troy responded as he gripped Jayden’s cock tighter. Jayden rose from the bed and began stripping off his clothes. “Come on, Troy, get naked.” Seconds later, he was standing nude before him. He wished that Troy could see his naked body. “Come on,” he said as he climbed on the bed and pulled Troy’s shirt over his head. “It’s just a little harmless fun. Besides, I’ve already watched you jerk off.” He grabbed the end of Troy’s shorts and boxers, and in one quick tug, Troy was lying naked on the bed. Troy asked worriedly, “What about your shoulder?” “Don’t worry,” Jayden assured him. He looked at the wound on his shoulder. “With the medication the doctor gave me, I hardly feel anything.” He then leaned down and licked Troy’s erect nipple. Their hard cocks rubbed against each other. Troy reached down and began stroking his. Jayden bent forward and kissed him. Troy wiggled excitedly under him. “Wait,” Troy pleaded as he grabbed Jayden’s shoulders and gently pushed him away. “Lay back. I want to feel your body.” Jayden lay back and threw the pillow over his head to stifle a loud moan as Troy ran his hands gingerly over his body. He started at his neck and stopped when he got to the wound on his shoulder. He examined it before running his hand gently down Jayden’s body until he reached his hard cock. “Nice,” Troy remarked as he started to stroke it. Jayden removed the pillow. He could see that Troy was enjoying what they were doing. Troy’s face was close to his cock as he continued to rapidly stroke him. After several minutes, he felt that he could no longer hold back the rapidly rising orgasm. “I’m going to cum,” he moaned. Troy put his hand over the head of his cock so he could feel when Jayden exploded. Within seconds, his hand was coated with white cream. “Holy crap,” Jayden moaned. He had had numerous sexual encounters the past few years, but none had been as satisfying as the one he had just received from Troy. Troy lay down beside him and nestled his head against his chest. “I can hear your heart beating,” he said softly. He remained for several minutes listening to Jayden breathe. Jayden rose and rolled Troy onto his back. “Your turn,” he said as he kissed him. He then ran his tongue down his chin and neck before licking Troy’s nipple. From Troy’s earlier reaction, he knew he enjoyed the sensation. Troy grabbed his head and giggled. “Stop,” he begged breathlessly. “You’re going to make me cum.” “That’s the point,” Jayden replied lustfully as he ran his tongue down Troy’s body and nibbled the soft brown hair surrounding his cock. Troy gasped when he ran his tongue up his erection and quickly engulfed his cock. “No, Jayden!” He pulled his head off his reddened cock. “I want to wait until graduation night. All right?” “Promise?” Jayden watched Troy nod his head. “I promise.” Jayden wetted his hand and then placed it around Troy’s hard cock. After about twenty strokes, Troy arched his back, and cum erupted onto his chest. ‘Unnggghhhh!” He shouted as Jayden continued to milk the last drops out. He threw his head back and gasped for air. Jayden scooted beside him and kissed him on his lips. “Feel good?” Troy smiled. “Hell, yeah,” he moaned. “Sure you want to wait until May?” Jayden licked his finger and applied it to Troy’s pink nipple. “I can make you feel even better.” Troy moaned and grabbed Jayden’s hand. “Yeah, I’m sure,” he laughed. “Graduation night.” He moaned again when Jayden leaned in and ran his tongue over his nipple. Jayden could taste some of the cum that had splattered earlier on Troy’s chest. “Damn,” Jayden moaned. Troy laughed and then felt for Jayden’s face. Jayden leaned forward and they kissed passionately for several minutes. Troy was the first to break the kiss. “Thanks,” he said as he buried his head into Jayden’s shoulder. “No problem,” Jayden laughed. “Anytime...” Troy placed his finger against Jayden’s lips. “No, not just for what we did,” he said. “Thanks for accepting me as I am.” This time it was Jayden who put his finger to Troy’s lips. “It’s about loving you.” He leaned in and kissed Troy. “Not accepting you as you are.” He kissed him more passionately. Troy rolled his body on top of Jayden and they kissed for several more minutes. They were startled when Trixie nudged the door open and ran barking into the room. Before they could pull away, they heard Claire’s voice. “Hey guys!” she shouted as she walked through the open bedroom door. Seconds later, they heard a shrieking scream and then footsteps running up the stairs. Both boys fell back on the bed and began laughing uproariously. “I guess she caught us having quality time,” Jayden laughed. “What?” Troy had a puzzled look on his face. Jayden leaned in and gave him a quick kiss. “I’ll explain later.” ******** Troy was nervous as he entered the large auditorium where graduation was being held. He gripped the sleeve of Jayden’s graduation gown tightly. Even though he had attended the graduation practices, he still felt uneasy knowing that he was going to be the center of attention. He felt someone grab him around the waist and kiss his cheek. “You look wonderful, Troy.” It was Mrs. Connors, his music director. “Are you ready for this evening?” “I suppose,” he replied nervously. She had insisted that he play Pomp and Circumstance as the seniors marched in. It had been arranged that Jayden would lead him onstage as she introduced him. She had also asked him to perform a solo after the senior president gave her speech. He had reluctantly agreed, but he had told no one what song he was going to sing. “Just look at you two!” Claire approached with Allison by her side. “Hold still, I have to get a picture.” Jayden turned Troy so that they were facing her. Just before she took the picture, Jayden leaned in and kissed Troy on the cheek. They chatted excitedly with other seniors. The room was filled with nervous excitement as girls helped each other with the finishing touches on their hair, and boys helped straighten a friend’s crooked tie. Jayden looked at the clock on the wall. It was 6:35. Only fifteen minutes until he was to take Troy backstage. He looked admiringly at Troy. He had improved so much the past three months. They had been to the mall several times with Claire. Troy seemed to adjust quickly to being out in public. He was even becoming comfortable eating in restaurants, but only if Jayden sat beside him and positioned his food for him. “I can’t wait to hear what you’re going to sing,” exclaimed Allison. “I still don’t...” Suddenly, everyone became quiet. Troy could sense that something was wrong when Jayden wrapped his hand around his waist and pulled him into his side. “What’s wrong?” He couldn’t see the angry looks exchanged between Jayden, Claire and Allison when Will walked up. “Hi, Guys,” he said timidly. Troy’s body became rigid when he heard his voice. He reached down, grabbed Jayden’s hand and squeezed it. “Hi, Troy,” Will said almost in a whisper. Troy nodded but didn’t say anything. Will looked nervously into Jayden’s face. “Can I talk to Troy?” he asked. “Alone?” Jayden again felt Troy’s body become tense. His face was taut. Jayden looked at Will and responded angrily, “I don’t think it’s a good idea.” “No,” responded Troy. “I’ll talk to him.” He realized that there had to be some kind of closure to their relationship. He knew that it had been over after the incident, but they still needed to talk. “Are you sure?” Jayden asked Troy worriedly. Troy nodded and released his hand from Jayden’s. He then extended it to Will. Will took it and led Troy to a nearby corner where they could talk privately. Claire started to move toward them, but Jayden put out his hand and stopped her. “Let them talk,” he insisted. “If he says something to hurt Troy, I’ll kill him,” she hissed angrily as she balled up her fists. She looked over and saw Troy and Will talking quietly. “I’m sorry, Troy,” Will apologized. “I know it was wrong for not visiting you. I really did…” “I understand,” he interrupted. “I gave it a lot of thought. At first I was hurt.” His mouth turned into a curl. “I won’t tell you some of the names I called you.” “I can imagine,” Will replied. “It’s probably some of the names I’ve called myself the past few months.” “But we are young,” Troy continued. “I couldn’t expect you to hang around and let me be a burden to you.” “Troy...” Will interrupted, but Troy again stopped him. “It’s okay, really,” he said. “I do understand. We dated for a while, and we had some fun, but we weren’t committed to each other.” “But I still should have...” Troy again stopped him. “It’s okay,” he said again. “I understand.” He reached for Will and gave him a quick hug. Will nervously looked over at Jayden who was carefully watching their exchange. Will pulled away and smiled. “He really loves you.” “Yeah,” Troy responded. “I’m a lucky guy.” “So you’re happy?” “Yeah,” he smiled. “I’m happy.” Will gave Troy a hug and kissed his cheek. He looked back over at a watchful Jayden. “Jayden’s the lucky guy,” he said sadly. He took Troy’s hand and led him back to Jayden. He placed Troy’s hand in Jayden’s and walked away. “Okay, Ladies and Gentlemen!” Mrs. Connors shouted anxiously above the loud chatter. “Line up!” Claire and Allison quickly hugged the boys before Jayden led Troy away. ******** Halfway through the senior president’s speech, Jayden took Troy backstage to get ready to be introduced for his solo. Even he didn’t know what Troy was going to sing. For the past several weeks he had tried to listen to Troy playing the piano for some clue, but most of it was classical music. He assumed that he was going to entertain the audience with a concerto. Troy stiffened when he heard Mrs. Connor’s voice. “We have a special treat for you this evening. One of our talented musicians has agreed to sing a special song for you. You will remember Troy Neal for his performance earlier this year in the role of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.” They could hear loud applause coming from behind the curtain. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce Troy Neal.” Jayden wrapped his arm around Troy’s arm and led him onstage. They stood quietly for a minute as the audience gave him a standing ovation. Jayden could feel Troy trembling. He put his hand behind his back and rubbed it gently. “It’s going to be all right,” he assured him. “I’ll only be a few steps away.” Troy felt for Jayden’s hand and squeezed it. When the applause subsided, Jayden led Troy to the piano and helped him sit down. He gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder before walking backstage and positioning himself so he could closely observe Troy. Troy sat quietly for a minute as the audience remained silent. He finally cleared his throat and spoke softly into the microphone in front of him. “As you know,” he started, “My life has changed dramatically the past few months. There was a time when I didn’t think I’d be here tonight.” He paused before continuing. “But as I sit here tonight, I know I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. Through all this, I found out what love really is.” His voice was becoming thick with emotion. Again, he cleared his throat. “I found out how much love my family has for me.” He turned toward the audience. “I don’t know where you are, but I love you Mom, Dad and Penny.” Mrs. Neal leaned her head on her husband’s shoulder and cried. Mr. Neal wiped away tears that were falling gently down his cheeks. Penny grabbed his hand and held it. “I also discovered what true friendship is.” Again, he looked toward the audience. “Claire and Allison, I love you more than you’ll ever know.” The nearby seniors turned and smiled at the two teary seniors. Jayden wiped away tears when Troy turned toward him. “And Jayden,” his voice shook with emotion. “I really do love you.” Soft applause filled the auditorium. He then sat straight and placed his hands on the piano keys. “For my number tonight, I’m going to sing a song I’ve enjoyed since I was a little boy. Tonight, it has a special meaning for me. It’s a song from the musical, Carousel. It was composed by Rodgers and Hammerstein.” His fingers ran effortlessly over the keys as he played the introduction. Everyone immediately recognized the song and began to applaud. They quieted when Troy began to sing. “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high; and don’t be…” He suddenly stopped singing as his voice started to quiver. Finally, he continued, “And don’t be afraid of the dark.” Jayden watched backstage as Troy’s shoulders began to shake. Even though he continued to play, it was obvious that he was overcome with emotion. Jayden walked over and sat down beside his distraught friend. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “I’m here.” He placed his hand on Troy’s thigh and squeezed it. Troy wiped the tears from his eyes and then sat upright and took a deep breath. Jayden smiled when the audience began to applaud encouragingly. By the time Troy had reached the final bars of the song, everyone was standing and applauding loudly. “Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone.” Jayden took Troy’s hand and led him to the center of the stage. Mrs. Connors and Mr. Fallingsworth walked over and hugged him. “That was wonderful,” exclaimed Mrs. Connors as the applause began to die down. Jayden wrapped Troy’s arm around his and led him offstage. He looked around to make sure no one was watching and then kissed him. “I love you,” he said softly as he kissed him again. “I know,” responded Troy. “I love you, too.” He leaned forward and kissed Jayden. Jayden grabbed his arm and started to head off the stage. “Now let’s go get our diploma,” he said. He looked around to make sure no one was watching before he reached down and squeezed Troy’s crotch through his graduation gown. “You’ve got a promise to keep.” ******** Jayden sat in bed with his laptop computer watching Troy’s bare chest rise and fall as he slept beside him. His eyes were filled with tears as he tried to reread the email he was preparing to send to Troy’s parents. Dear Mom and Dad Neal, Troy and I are doing well. After three weeks, we’ve finally settled into the dorm, and our lives are returning to normal. We’ve made a lot of new friends. Troy is having no problem getting around. If I’m not helping him, then someone is always ready to lend a helping hand. He’s extremely happy with the music department here. He has also volunteered to help the drama department with their fall production of Annie Get Your Gun. The nursing courses seem like they may be difficult for me. I did well in math and science in high school, but I probably should have taken more advanced classes. I can’t thank you enough for helping me get the grants and scholarships to attend school here. I know you keep saying you don’t mind, but I do. I will repay you someday for the financial support you are giving me. It is what my mother would have expected me to do. I also want to thank you for Troy. His coming into my life has been a blessing. I know it happened under very tragic circumstances, but I can’t imagine my life now without him. Before I met him, my life was going nowhere. I was traveling down a darkened path with no end in sight. Today, I wake up to a shining sun and a beautiful, smiling face. Our love grows stronger every day. I can now see a bright and long road ahead for both of us. Your other son, Jayden Jayden again looked down at Troy’s sleeping figure and through misty eyes hit ‘send.’ THE END
  19. 43 points
    “You twelve CUO’s, are now part of this team, we will split into three teams, with a Corporal and 4 CUO’s in each team, and for the next few days, you will be doing intensive bush training, that is usually done by full time army soldiers. Are you up to the challenge?” I added, “Staff yes Staff” all three Senior Cadets responded, “that is good to hear, right, I want you all to grab your kits, and bring them in here for now, then go and have some lunch. When it’s time, join us for our afternoon briefing with the Cadet Commanders and other Senior Cadets” I replied and the CUO’s filed out of the room. “What do you think guys, are they up for this?” I asked as I looked at the white board, and I got a positive reply from all three Corporal’s. After a few minutes of chatting, we headed to the dining hall to get some lunch, where we found Angela and Tom in the kitchen. As I approached the kitchen, Angela saw me coming, Tom was sitting on a chair in a corner, watching everything happening in the kitchen, while Angela was helping with serving the meals. ‘When you have finished in here, I need to speak to you and rascal” I said quietly. “Hey I’m not a rascal” Tom said loudly, with his arms crossed over his chest, and I chuckled. “Ok Tom, I need to speak to you and your mum after lunch” I responded, and Tom smiled. As I stepped out of the kitchen, I spotted the two strangers in casual clothes approaching. “Staff Sergeant Benning, I am Corporal Banks and this is Kane, Military Police” one of the men said and they produced their identification, which I studied carefully, “I have been informed that you have something for us” I said cautiously, not 100% sure if they are really MP’s, and I glanced over to Angela, who looked a little worried. “Yes, we have some extra food supplies for you in the back of the car” one of the men replied, I looked over to Mike Owens, and when I had caught his attention, I gave the field signal for enemy, which I saw the Corporals, and even the CUO’s recognised, and they quickly made their way towards us. “I do not know who you are, but you are not MP’s, as you may notice, I have 4 men and 12 cadets, who saw my signal and are about to surround you. I suggest you get down on the ground, hands spread out and don’t try anything” I said, “Everyone hit the ground now, this is not a drill” Mike shouted, and everyone, including the kitchen staff went down onto the ground, leaving just the two strangers, Mike, the three Corporals and 12 CUO’s standing. Suddenly the two strangers produced large hunting knives from behind them, and flashed them in front of them, in a vicious manner. “CUO’s stand down” I said, as soon as I saw the knives, and I saw the 12 Cadets stop and take two steps back, and remain standing. “Give me the lady and no one will be harmed” one of the strangers growled. “You know that will never happen, they are under my care, and will remain that way” I responded as I took two steps closer to the two men, not worried about the knives that they carried. In the corner of my eye, I saw Angela appear near the doorway to the kitchen, and start walking closer to me. “No Angela, stay there” I said in a concerned manner, as she continued to move closer, and she stopped just short of me, and suddenly I felt the handle of 2 knives in my hand. “Please Angela, let us handle this, go back to the kitchen” I said seriously, to her, and she slowly backed away, till she was safely back in the kitchen. I glanced over to Mike, who had a little smile on his face, which meant that he knew that I had the knives, and I signalled that I had two, and he nodded his head. “I repeat, give me the lady and nobody will be hurt” the same man growled again, as both of them took a step forward towards me and the kitchen, waving their knives around once again. “I suggest you give yourself up, you are out-numbered” I responded with a little smile, as I revealed the two knives in my hands for the first time, and mimicked what the two strangers were doing with their knives, which pissed them off, as they charged towards me, using the knife to deflect his knife way from my body, I used the butt of the second knife to slam down on his wrist, making him release his knife, which slid towards one of the CUO’s, who picked it up right away, and handed it over to Troy Masterson, who was closest to him. The other man charged me, and once again I deflected the knife away from me, and I used the butt of my second knife to hit the man hard in the kidney, making him to bend over in pain, and Mike rushed forward and grabbed the knife out of his hand. After a quick signal, Marc took the two knives from my hand, and I was now face to face with the first man. “I repeat, lay down on the ground and spread your arms out, you are under arrest for entry in a restricted area” I said to the man, who suddenly punched me in the stomach, I wasn’t quick enough to avoid the punch, but I stood firm. I hardly moved from the punch, even though it hurt a lot, and I gave a return punch in the kidney, which sent the man down on one knee, as he tried to recover. The second man approached me and I avoided his punch, and gave him a hard punch to the kidney again, which made him fall to the floor, and suddenly a heap of Cadets, landed on top of him. With a smile, I looked at the first man again, “Do you give up yet” I said to the first man with a smirk, but he came towards me again, and we both deflected a number of punches, until I finally got a punch in, right in the lower ribs, changing from a closed fist to the palm of my hand at the last moment, for a harder hit, which worked, as he dropped to his knees in pain, and Marc raced forward from behind him, and pushed him forward with his foot, and another group of Cadets piled onto the stranger. “Plastic ties please Chef” I shouted, and a few minutes later, we had the two stranger’s hands tied back as they lay on their stomachs, and the corporals and I lifted the two men to their feet, and marched them out of the dining room. “Mike, can you find out what happened to the real MP’s, and our real supplies” I said as we entered the reception area, and we sat the two men down on the floor against the wall. I went back into the dining hall, “CUO’s I request your presence outside right now” I shouted, “Yes Staff Sergeant” came a reply from all of the CUO’s as they followed me out of the dining hall, “Sorry to interrupt your lunch, but we have two real MP’s missing, I need a search of all buildings in the compound” I said to the cadets, and they dashed outside to do as I requested. About ten minutes later, one CUO rushed into reception, “We have found them Staff Sergeant, dazed, but they are ok, oh and they gave me these” the Cadet said as he handed over two sets of handcuffs, which Mike accepted and put them to use right away. “Ok, call off the search and return to your lunch” Mike said to the Cadet, as I went into the reception area, and picked up the office phone, and dialled the CO. “Sir we have had an intrusion already, after Angela and Tom arrived, the MP’s were disabled, and locked away in a building, they are fine, just dazed. The two intruders tried to impersonate the MP’s when they entered the dining hall, and once I had signalled enemy to the Corporals and Warrant Officer, and they started to close in, the intruders, produced two knives, anyway the short story version is, they were disarmed, sat on by a pile of Cadets, and are now secured with plastic ties and handcuffs” I reported. I heard the CO laugh, “I wish I was there to see that, job well done on disarming the two intruders Mitchell, I will send the police to come and collect those two intruders. Now after I spoke to you earlier, I sent another pair of MP’s to follow the first pair, they will be about 45 minutes behind the first lot, and I have informed the caretaker of their pending arrival, so they can be let in, they will have some extra supplies for you, I will hear from you tomorrow” the CO said and he ended the call. “Mike can I leave you to watch over these two for a short while” I said to the Warrant Officer who nodded his head yes, and I motioned Marc, Troy and Amos to follow me into the conference room, where we sat down. “I hope that is the end of it, but I doubt it, those two are heavy muscle, hired to do the dirty work, and I bet they will be released from custody quickly” I said, just as there was a knock on the door. “Come in” I called out, and two uniformed MP’s walked in and snapped to attention, “Sergeant Webb and Corporal King, reporting in Staff Sergeant”, the senior MP said, and I stood up and walked up to them and shook their hands, “At ease gentlemen, take a seat” I said as I returned to my seat. This is when a small box was placed on the table, and I smiled, knowing what was inside. “Are you both ok?” I asked, “Yes Staff, a little shaken up, but fine” the Sergeant replied, “Right, we have a second pair of MP’s due to arrive in…” I paused to look at my watch, “any moment now, with extra supplies of some kind, and the CO is sending the police to collect Huey and Dewy” I said referring to the two intruders. “With all the Cadets here, I want them to be protected as well, so this is what I am going to do, Angela and Tom will come with me to our undisclosed command post, that the Corporals and Warrant Officer, know the location. I want you both and the other two MP’s to take shifts to patrol this compound on a 24-hour basis, with two doing 8-hour shifts, I will be enforcing a night curfew at the compound, so as to ensure the safety of everyone. If you don’t know, I am a highly skilled sniper shooter, I will be spending every night scanning the property from my location, looking for any movement, I will give you a VHF radio, that is to be in the hands of the two duty MP’s, and I will contact you on a regular basis, to ensure that you are ok, and to inform you of any movement that I may spot. I do not have vision for the whole compound, only about 70% of it, so I will do the best that I can, and the compound is out of my firing range, so you will have to deal with any intruders. The three Corporals here will be out and about at night in the bush, so they will be a lot closer than I will be, and in constant contact with us, thanks to that box” I said, and Troy reached over to pick up the box, and he opened it, where he saw four SAS Satellite communications devices. Sergeant and Corporal, can I ask you to take over watch of the two intruders, until the police come to collect them, maybe find a building where they can’t get out” I said, and I waited for them to leave the room. “Ok guys, you can try out your new toys” I said to the three Corporals with a smile, “these are SAS Satellite communications devices, they fit into your ear, and are very easy to forget that they are there. All you do is touch the device with your finger, and it activates, it also activates all devices in a 50-km region, and because they are satellite linked, there is no interference with terrain” I explained, as Troy, Marc and Amos looked at the devices, and placed them into their ears. Amos tapped his piece and started to talk, which made the other two, to jump in fright. And I chuckled, as I picked up the 4th ear piece and walked outside, where I found Mike speaking to the two real MP’s. When he was done, Mike followed me into the conference door, and as soon as the door was closed, I handed him the ear piece, and he put it in his ear, then frowned. “Cut that out, it is not a toy” Mike shouted to the three Corporals, “Sorry sir, it’s just something new to us’ Marc replied, as he deactivated his earpiece. “Right, now that we have the Comm’s devices, let’s go and see what else the CO sent us” Mike announced and we headed outside and we found in the boot a large steal box, that was locked, and Mike pulled out a key from his pocket, and unlocked the box. Mike pulled out a smaller box, which had “SR98 Ammo” written on it, and I smiled, “That would be for me, extra ammo for my sniper rifle” I announced, Mike then pulled out another box which had “Blaser Ammo” written on it, which I was not expecting, “Ok that is mine too, but I wasn’t expecting it, there should be a Blaser Sniper Rifle in there too” I added, just as Mike pulled the rifle out of the box. Troy, can you go and get a jeep, so we can load this stuff into it” I asked, as Mike pulled out three F88 SA2 rifles, followed by a box of ammunition. “Those are for you three guys, we will keep them in the bird’s nest when not in use. It might be best if we get this metal box up there, so we have a secure place to store them” I suggested, and we returned the rifles and ammo to the box and relocked it. A few moments later, Troy arrived in one of the jeeps, and we loaded the heavy steel box into the back, “Ok I will get one of the MP’s to come and guard the firearms, while we have our briefing, then we will get this lot up to the Bird’s Nest, and pick up my other sniper rifle on the way” I announced, as we headed inside again, with Troy staying till he is replaced to guard the jeep. When we sat down in the conference room, I sighed loudly, and we were all silent for a few moments, until Troy entered the room, “The other MP’s have arrived, and they have another steel box, with nine Mark 3 Pistols and ammunition, one each for the MP’s and once each for us and Warrant Officer Owens” Troy announced as he sat down. “Well, it looks like the CO isn’t taking this lightly is he” I commented, just as Mike exited the room, when we heard the Cadets outside, and we followed, as we headed outside, where two MP’s issued each of us a pistol and waist holster, and three clips of ammunition, before we went to the inside parade hall for the briefing. The Unit Commanders were gathered in one corner of the room talking, while the CUO’s and Cadet WO’s were standing in the middle of the room, wondering what their Unit Commanders are talking about, and all went silent, as soon as we entered and they noticed the holsters and guns. “Warrant Officer Owens, it is the view of all of the Cadet Unit Commanders, that you arrange immediate transport for all of us to leave this facility” one of the Captain’s said as they walked towards us. “Not all of us Jim, some of us just want assurances that we will remain safe, during this week of training” the Unit Commander from my former school said. “Gentlemen, lets calm down for a moment, firstly we have spoken to Lt Colonel Harding a number of times today, the latest just a short while ago, he is fully aware of what is going on here. We have police on their way to collect these two thugs, and take them back to the city to be charged with unauthorised entry into a restricted facility, next as you may have noticed, we now have 4 Army MP’s here, and they are now armed as are we” I stated as I rested my hand on my pistol. “Do you think that 9 hand pistols are going to be enough to keep other thugs from coming, and putting all these Cadets and ourselves at risk” the first Unit Commander that spoke earlier, said in an annoyed tone, “Gentlemen we have a lot more than that” Mike said with a big smile as he glanced at me for a moment.
  20. 43 points
    “Paddy, are you okay? Why didn’t you say felt sick?” Dad said looking at me through the mirror, in the airport restroom. I washed my face and rinsed my mouth out, to see if I could get rid of the foul taste in my mouth. Dad opened my carry on luggage and found my toiletries kit and handed it to me. “Here brush your teeth, you’ll feel better.” “Sorry Dad, I’m not sick, I’m just so nervous.” I felt another bout of nausea heading my way. “What if they don’t like me?” “I don’t think you need to worry about that. You should be more concerned about being suffocated by Grandma’s hugs.” Dad chuckled, “They already love you, every time I talk to Mom she says, “Put my Grandson on the phone,” before I even get to say “Hello!” I think you’re golden.” “Thanks, Dad. I hope you’re right.” Just because Dad was encouraging me doesn’t mean I’ll stop worrying about it. I quickly brushed my teeth and returned my toiletries to my bag. “Take a deep breath, and remember; No matter what anyone says, you’re my son, and I love you. So no more doubts.” Dad gave me a quick hug. “Ready?” I took a deep breath, nodded my head and said, “Yes!” I used what little reserve I had in me, holding my head up, fell in step beside Dad trying to look confident, dragging my luggage next to me, out through the doors to meet my Grandparents in person for the first time. I recognized Grandma straight away, along with anyone else with eyes. She was hopping on the balls of her feet, waving her arms above her head frantically calling out “Ian, Paddy, over here,” louder than the announcements over the speaker. I saw Grandpa take a few discreet steps away from the crazy lady who was making a spectacle of herself. That made me smile, I’d all but forgotten what I was nervous about. Grandma had a huge smile on her face. Grandma reached out for Dad first and pulled him into a hug with tears in her eyes. Grandpa stepped toward me, so I nervously reached my hand out to shake his. He stopped, looked at my hand, his smile turned into a grin, he shook my hand and pulled me into him for a hug. “You’re bigger than I expected, handsome devil too. You must take after my side of the family,” he chuckled and squeezed me tighter. “I’d welcome you to the family, but you should have been here all along, just misplaced for a while.” Grandpa kissed my temple and released me from his hug but left his hand on my shoulder. Every piece of doubt that was nagging inside my head telling me “I wasn’t good enough to be here” almost disappeared that instant. Grandpa wanted me, just like Dad did. No doubt, no earning my place, he was happy I was part of his family. This is all so scary, I’ve never been accepted anywhere before. Not for just existing, usually, well before Dad took me in, my life was a fight just to exist. “Stop hogging our Grandson, Thomas. Let me get a good look at you,” Grandma gently moved my Grandpa out of the way. “My, my, but you are a sight for sore eyes. Both of you,” She looked over at Dad and then back at me, “I’m so happy you’re here,” Grandma was crying again as she hugged me, but it felt more like a sleeper hold. “Grandma I can’t breathe,” My voice all raspy, due to a lack of oxygen. She chuckled, “Sorry, I’m so excited you’re here. I just can’t believe you’re actually here. Come, come, let’s get out of the cold.” Grandma wrapped her arm around my shoulders and steered me toward the exit. Even though I was wearing a jacket an Eskimo would envy, I could feel the warmth coming from Grandma and Grandpa. Dad smiled at me, it was like he knew what I was thinking. I returned his smile. I really hope he can’t tell how nervous I still am, after everything he’s done for me, I’d hate to disappoint him. <>-<>-<> “Home, Sweet, Home,” Grandpa recited from a needlepoint framed on the wall in the entrance, “Follow me, Paddy, give me a hand with the luggage, I’ll show you to the den.” The small foyer led to the living room, it had what looked to be expensive although aged lounge suite, which was used to break the room into two areas, the other section set up with more expensive furniture creating the dining area. A fireplace which was ablaze keeping the place warm with a plush chocolate colored rug laid in front of it. They must have downsized at some point because even though the furniture looked out of place and too big for the type of home, we were standing in, it all went together and looked nice. The house smelt like cinnamon and vanilla, giving it a homey feel. I’d never seen anything as nice, outside of the television or magazines. Grandpa stopped at the end of the room with two doorways, one to the right and one straight ahead. “In there is the kitchen and breakfast nook. That’s your Aunt Anna reading the newspaper.” A woman who didn’t look anything like Dad, but still had family resemblance lifted her head and looked at me. I smiled and gave a small nod of my head because my hands were full with the luggage. She gave me a half smile and went back to the newspaper. Wow, friendly, I would have thought she’d have been happy to us, well Dad at least. But then again, I know Dad has mentioned my Aunt before, and I don’t recall him ever saying anything negative about her. But to my knowledge, they aren’t in contact with each other. My anxiety is now returning, I hope she isn’t upset that we’ve come for a visit. Grandpa gave me a warm smile and shrugged a shoulder, “Through here we have the hallway to the rest of the house. This first door,” which was shut, “is mine and your Grandma’s room,” he said moving further past the next door, “this is the guest room, the next is the bathroom and at the end of the hallway is the den. I’m sorry you have to sleep in here, young Pat.” He apologized entering the room, “Your Aunt Anna showed up unexpectedly a couple of days ago and is staying in the guest room for a while. We’ll put your Dad on the couch for now.” “That’s not necessary, Dad and I can share, he’ll be more comfortable sleeping in a bed. And if not I can sleep on the couch.” I reassured him. “You’re a good boy Paddy,” Grandpa smiled affectionately at me. My Grandparents had already made the futon into a bed and had sheets and blankets tucked in, giving the illusion to a real bed. I sat down on it and looked around the room. It was exactly what you’d expect bookcases with books, a nice desk with a laptop and printer set up and leather, high back office chair. I pulled out my phone and turned it on, about ten messages dinged their way through. “Somebody must want you badly,” Grandpa said smugly. I could feel the heat rise from the blush on my face. “My girlfriend,” I answered sheepishly, “I forgot to let her know when we landed.” “A girlfriend, well, let's grab a drink, and you can tell me all about her. Do you have any photos of her on your phone?” Grandpa asked as he exited the room, what choice did I have but to go with him. I texted Sasha as I followed him back to the kitchen, where Dad was with Grandma and Aunt Anna. Dad had a scowl on his face when I entered the room, but as soon as he saw me his face lit up. My new Aunt huffed and stalked out of the room she looked about five or six months pregnant. “What was that about?” Grandpa asked sternly. Grandma waved her hand dismissively, “Just our daughter being her usual charming self.” Dad mumbled something under his breath. I could feel my panic start to rise, I tried to keep it under wraps, please don’t ask me any questions. I’m not sure I can talk right now. It seems I was right and our arrival had upset the woman. “I’ll never understand that girl,” Grandpa muttered to himself then opened the refrigerator and took two bottles of water out and gave me one of them. “So Ian, Paddy tells me he has a girlfriend. Do we approve?” Oh thank God, he didn’t ask me. I left it to Dad to explain Sasha and plastered on a fake smile to try and hide the not so fake fight or flight, or my favorite – vomiting response. Dad chuckled, nodding his head, “Absolutely, you’d love her Dad. She’s a lot like Mom. Her name is Sasha, she’s a gorgeous creature and complements Paddy’s quiet, reserved nature – by being the exact opposite. How can I say this?” Dad thought for a second tilting his head, “She’s a firecracker, explosive and mouthy when it counts. She’s full of passion and angst. Sasha does not suffer fools and will let them know. But at the same time, she loves the exact same way. It’s all or nothing, and if she considers you family, she’ll defend and protect you to her last breath.” Dad laughed, thumbing in the direction of Grandma, “Remind you of anyone we know.” Grandpa nodded and put his hands on both my shoulders, “Now Patrick you listen to me, you marry this girl at the first possible chance you get. She’ll keep you honest, on your toes and life will never be boring.” Grandma was looking at Grandpa in a way that said she was going to either love him to death or beat him to death and she hadn’t quite decided. “I’m fifteen Grandpa,” I scoffed, weird old man. “Semantics. Love is love, you’ll see.” Grandpa released me from his grip and opened his water bottle and gulped some down. Grandma now smiled at him, she’s decided to keep him. “So Pat, do you like sports or play any sport.” I grinned, “I box, I’ve been training for about four months, I think. Dad how long.” Dad was fiddling with his phone and had a big goofy grin on his face. He looked up at me when I addressed him. “Yeah! About four months,” Dad put his phone back in his pocket, “You’d be impressed Dad, he’s quite a talented young man. You should also ask to see some of his illustrations and drawings. He could make a living as an artist if he chose to pursue it.” Dad said proudly. “Really!” He said impressed, “and boxing, it’s a good discipline, do you compete,” “NO!” Dad answered loudly, “He has a gorgeous face, and he’s brilliant. I’m keeping him intact until the law says it’s no longer my business.” “Dad relax, I don’t want to compete. I’ve met some of the older boxers down at the gym, I don’t want to end up like them. I spar with Will and a few others, I’m happy with that.” I could see Dad relax at my comment. “Who’s Will?” Grandma asked. “Will is John’s son, that’s Bill’s partner. Will respects Bill just like he’s his real Father, calls him Papi. Mom, you wouldn’t even recognize Bill if you saw him now. He’s always smiling and laughing, even has a little pep in his step. Bill and John are disgustingly happy, he slotted in with the family like he’d always been there. Everyone in the extended family loves him also.” “What do you mean extended family?” Mom said pondering what Dad had said. Uh-oh! It also looks like he might have picked a scab off an old wound. I started to get nervous again. “Well, the two boys Will and Liam, they were two young boys, one is my student had a rough day on his first day back. His parents came down to the school at the time, and I got chatting with them, that’s John, Will’s Dad and now also Bill’s partner, Kit Liam’s Mom. I asked if it were alright if I checked up on the boys later and they invited me for dinner. We all became friends, the boys Will and Liam call me Uncle Ian, which is nice. I’m treated as part of the family. Then one night, the boys all went out together including Pat. But when they went to pick Pat up, they witnessed his foster Mom abuse him. Will and Liam removed him from the home, and when they called us to meet them, we met Derek who runs the local youth shelter just by chance. He’s married to Theo who’s a child service Senior Case Worker. He helped Pat get away from his useless case worker, and since I was already an approved foster care worker, I took Paddy in, with his blessing of course. And the rest they say is history, except now Derek and Theo are also part of the family.” These boys have had a bit of a rough trot, but they um… choose good people to surround themselves with. Pat and I are part of that family, we call it our Kentucky family.” Dad looked at me for help. “I’m so glad I met them, Grandma. I hadn’t eaten in two days, they tried to feed me, and I wouldn’t accept their charity. Will swapped me one picture I drew for a sandwich, he has it framed and on his wall at home. When I saw it there on the wall, I knew they were good people. He took me seriously and wasn’t being arrogant or trying to pull a fast one to make himself feel better. He told me how he was being bullied and then asked if I was when I said yes, he didn’t offer to protect me or anything. He told me to bring my workout gear to school the next day, and he took me to boxing instead.” “There’s quite a few of us now Grandma. Will and Liam are amazing, they treat me like their little brother. There are adults and us kids, we all get together once every two weeks sometimes every week. They sit with me at lunch, we have our own table. You should come and visit and meet them, you’d love them all, and they’d welcome you with open arms. For no other reason than your Dad’s parents.” I backed Dad up, he gave me a grateful nod looking up from where he was sending a text on his phone. “Well, you do seem a lot happier now that Patrick’s come along,” Grandma said to the top of Dad’s head. I laughed, “That’s not from me Grandma, he’s been all squirrely since we went to Carols by Candlelight.” Grandma laughed, “He drag you along to that, did he? He’s always loved Christmas concerts,” she said whistfully. “Trust me it was more of a bribe, but I did enjoy it. It was the first Christmas I’ve ever actually had. Christmas has never really been celebrated in the foster homes I was in.” I said sheepishly, “But Dad made this one really special, I’ll remember it forever.” I felt my eyes sting with tears. “We are so glad you're part of our family now Patrick,” Grandpa pulled me into a hug, “All your Christmas’s will be special from now on, that I can assure you.” “Thanks, Grandpa,” I smiled up at him. Dad put his phone back in his pocket and looked up, with a big goofy smile on his face. Seeing all of us eyeing him, he got all embarrassed and looked at the floor, “What?” he said quietly. “Oh, Ian it makes me happy you're living life again.” She hugged Dad. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding, it’s going to take me a while to work Grandma out. I’m so anxious I’m going to say something wrong and ruin it. “Why don’t we get lunch on the move I have soup in the slow cooker, and I’ll quickly make some sandwiches to go with it. Thomas why don’t you show Paddy some of your photos and articles of when you used to box from your navy days. Ian can give me a hand with lunch.” Grandma was polite the way she bossed us around. <>-<>-<> “Are you sure you’re okay sleeping in the same bed with me Paddy? Because I can sleep on the sofa,” Dad kind of whisper talked at me due to the quietness of the house. “It’s about the only thing I haven’t felt nervous about since we got here Dad, plus that couch although it’s nice when you sit on it, it’s like some kind of medieval torture device. My ass is still numb from when Grandpa was showing me his photo’s at lunch time.” I said in a low volume, poking my butt cheek with my finger, “See it won’t wake up.” We stripped down to our boxers and got under the covers of the futon. Dad snickered, “I know, I’ve hated that thing, ever since they bought it. Why are you nervous Paddy?” Dad asked quietly cutting through the darkness with the one thing I’d hoped he’d skip over when he listened to me talk. It took me a couple of minutes to get my bearings, “I don’t know Dad,” I sighed, “I’ve never had a family before, it’s hard to know what to say… Or how to behave in front of them. I’m worried all the time I’ll make them mad or you’ll be mad if I say the wrong thing. I’m used to saying nothing in front of the families of the foster homes I stayed at. They never wanted to hear from me, I was there for show, kind of. It’s hard to wrap my head around, you know. That this is my for real family.” “Have they said anything to make you feel uncomfortable or upset you?” I could hear the worry in Dad’s voice. “No Dad, they haven’t I promise. They’ve done nothing but made me feel welcome. It’s just different now that we’re here and it’s not over Skype or the telephone. Although a little warning that your sister was adopted directly from Satan himself, wouldn’t have gone astray. I’m doing my best to reign in my mouth Dad, but I’m sure if she keeps up her digs at you I’m gonna say something that will get us kicked out.” I started to get upset, “Has she always been like that with you?” “Yeah pretty much,” Dad blew out a breath, “Please try and ignore her Pat. She’s a bitter woman and tends to think the world owes her something. Try and get some sleep Love, we’ll be going to see my grandparents in the morning.” “Night Daddikens,” I snickered, I only call him that when I’m being a smart ass or want to lighten his mood a little. “Smart ass,” Dad laughed, “Goodnight Son.” <>-<>-<> Dad had let me stay behind when they went to visit his grandparents, little did I know Aunt Anna was lurking in wings. They’d texted me to say the visit was over and they’d be home in forty minutes. I went to the kitchen and started putting together brunch. I found a waffle maker in the cupboard, so I pulled it out and went in search of the ingredients. Grandma has set her kitchen and pantry out like what I imagine a military kitchen would look like. A place for everything and everything in its place. Made my job a ton easier, I warmed the oven, putting the maple syrup in to warm up, and then made the batter for the waffles. I checked Grandma’s refrigerator for any type of fruit, it was well stocked. I pulled out some blueberries, raspberries, and some Greek yogurt for topping the waffles. Then I made a fruit platter with orange, apple, melon balls, pineapple, strawberries and a little banana for good measure. I was halfway through making the waffles when Aunt Anna sauntered into the kitchen, “I thought you would have gone with your “Dad,” to see the Grandparents.” She sneered using finger air quotes when she said, Dad. “Lovely,” I muttered so she couldn’t hear. Dad told me to ignore her, so ignore her I will – try. I turned my back to her, giving the waffles my full attention. I looked in the drawers for the cutlery pulling enough out to set the table and the condiments sitting them all on the counter top for when I finished cooking the waffles. “What are you doing anyway?” She yawned, stretching with arms in the air. “Dad, Grandma, and Grandpa are on their way back so I thought I would make brunch. Waffles and a fruit platter.” I said transferring the newly made waffles to the plate in the oven to keep warm and poured the next into the maker. The woman was hovering and making huffing noises to try and get my attention, but I went about the business of making breakfasts. “And what if Mom had that food earmarked for another meal. Do you always just go into other peoples kitchens and help yourself.” I could feel myself shaking, I’d never thought about that, I just thought I’d help out a little. I continued now that I’d started. Dad said to ignore her, so I’ll ignore her. “I can replace what I’ve used, it's not that big of a deal,” I said trying to hide the quiver in my voice. God, it’s so hard to ignore her, she’s so spiteful and full of hate, “I’m sure Dad won’t mind,” “What smells so good?” Grandma entered the kitchen, “Pat did you do all of this,” I couldn’t look her in the eye, what do I say. “Um… yeah sorry I thought I would help out and make brunch. I’ll replace anything I’ve used.” I said nervously. “Young man,” Grandma came over and hugged me, “You’ll do no such thing, the food is there to be eaten. This was very thoughtful of you.” She spied everything I’d put on the bench, “The least I can do is set the table.” Grandma took the items from the counter and began setting up breakfast. “The maple syrup is in the oven warming, Grandma, and this is the last of the waffles so everything should be ready,” I said taking them out of the waffle maker. I put on an oven mitt and transferred everything to the dining room table, and everyone sat down. “Don’t worry Dad, there is enough sugar in the waffles to give you diabetes.” He poked his tongue out at me. “Why wouldn’t you put sugar in the waffles?” Anna said like she had a foul taste in her mouth. “Pat has a particular diet he follows for his training, so I usually get cardboard breakfasts and healthy dinners.” Dad chuckled, “This is a treat,” he put a mouthful of waffle, topped with maple syrup and powdered sugar in his mouth, “Mmmm… Good job Paddy,” “So you use the kid as a slave then,” Anna commented shoving food into her gob. I stared daggers at her, along side Dad. “Anna,” Grandpa warned her. “What, I’m just saying…” “And I’m just saying E-nough,” her father admonished her, “Pat has made this delicious meal, and we are going to enjoy it because not even your Mother makes waffles this good.” Grandpa snickered as he bent to the side to miss Grandma’s swatting hand. Grandma pointed her fork at Dad while she chewed, “So how do you survive without your burgers Ian,” chuckling as Dad’s face slowly went red. “He sneaks off with Liam to the diner while Will and I are at training.” I chortled without looking at him. I could feel his eyes on me while I ate, “What… You… How… How do you know that?” Dad said high pitched and was looking at me with eyes as big as saucers. My Grandparents were trying to hide their laughter behind their hands. “We pass the diner on the way home, and if yours or Liam’s car is there, we go and get a Sub to give you both enough time to get home before us. Plus sometimes you bring back your slice of pie for dessert and leave it in the refrigerator. I just pretend I don’t know and you seem happy that you got your burger.” I shrugged my shoulders, “You’re not very good at covert ops Dad, lucky you didn’t join the army or something.” “That’s mortifying, does Liam know?” Dad said shocked. “God, no. Will would never say anything to him, if he did, Liam wouldn’t go anymore. It doesn’t bother him that Liam likes his burgers and desserts, but it matters to Liam that he supports Will, so we both pretend we don’t know.” I smiled at Dad, “So you keep sneaking your burgers like normal, and we’ll do what we usually do. No big deal. Don’t say anything to Liam please, let him have his fun, and bring me home a slice of pie too. I like pie.” Dad burst out laughing, “I love you Paddy, you crazy kid.” He pulled me sideways into him for a one armed hug and kissed the top of my head. My Grandparents laughed out loud at Dad and Anna snorted. She’s so delightful. “So Patrick,” Grandma cleared her throat, “would you like to go to an Art Gallery or one of the Museums after brunch?” I was a bit shocked, “Um…” I looked at Dad, he nodded with enthusiasm, “Yes please, as long as it’s not any trouble.” “No, not at all, we’d quite enjoy it actually. After you’ve finished eating use the computer in the den, well, your room I suppose and find one you’d like to go to. We haven’t had much of a chance to explore since we moved here. This seems like the perfect opportunity.” Grandma grinned and went back to eating. Dad squeezed my shoulder and winked at me, before focusing on his plate. <>-<>-<> “Hey Sha, are you having fun?” I asked her, I miss being with her. “Yeah, we are having a good time. I can’t wait until you come home though, I miss you.” “I miss you too. Have I missed anything?” “No, not really. Mom and Dad seem to have calmed down a lot, especially now that Quinn’s home for a few weeks. He read them the riot act about Oliver and the baby. Quinn’s taken Ollie, with Sebastian and Kat away for the week, camping or something. They asked me to go, but way too cold for me.” Sasha giggled, “Plus I like my bed, and heat, and indoor plumbing.” “I get it you goof,” I can just see her face as she rolls her eyes while she talks. My girl is definitely adorable. I sighed, “I wish you were here,” “Me too, but you’ll be home in a couple of days.” Sasha sighed as well. “We went to the Natural History Museum at Yale yesterday. You’d love it, Sha, they have all sorts of stuff there, dinosaurs, insects – weird bugs,” I chuckled, “you’d have liked the Native American display,” “Maybe when one of us gets our license we can go back and check it out. Tell the folks it’s a college visit.” She laughed. “That would be cool, Grandpa snuck us out today, and we went to the Yale Art Gallery. It was so awesome. I think I’d like to study there, but it’s hard to get into, I’m not sure that I’d get in. Plus it would cost a fortune, I don't know if I'd like that hanging over my head.” I said a little defeated. “Hey, you're definitely smart and talented enough. You know they only let so many people in a year, and there are plenty of other universities out there. Aim for Yale, Baby, you could be one of the lucky ones. And if not it won’t be because you didn’t give it your best. Duke also has a pretty good arts program, and there is always prestigious Art Schools, but I know you want to study other stuff too. All we can do is try Pat, then make the best of what’s on offer. No matter where we go, we’ll be getting an education. Look at this way, wherever we end up is where we are supposed to be. I believe that.” “Me too, I suppose,” I smiled. Dad walked into the room, “I better go, Dad’s here. I’ll see you soon. Miss you Sha,” “Miss you too, handsome.” I ended the call and turned to Dad, “Hey Dad, everything okay?” he had a weird look on his face. “Um yeah…” he said frowning, “I didn’t mean to eaves drop, but did you say something about going to Yale?” “Yeah, I doubt I’d get in though, and it’s way too expensive for an arts degree,” I said feeling a bit guilty. “Paddy, I don’t want you worrying about money for college, we’ll work something out when the time comes. If you want to go to Yale, then I will do everything in my power to help get you there. My wish, for you, is to go to the college of your choice and get the degree you want. If it’s a degree in the Arts, then that’s what it is. But don’t worry about the money, do what will make you happy.” Dad said squeezing my hand. “It’s long ways off yet Dad, things might change between now and then.” I tried to placate him, I don’t want him to feel obligated to pay for my education. I’m sure I’ll find my place sooner or later. “We’ll just wait and see how the next few years go.” I smiled, “I might become a serial killer and need help funding my defense yet. You never know.” Dad laughed, “I think I’ll be locking my door at night and getting rid of all the knives in the house.” “Probably the safest option for yourself, they say serial killers start close to home.” I gave him an evil grin. Dad stood up off of the bed grinning and pulled me to my feet. “Come on Your Grandparents are going to teach us how to play Bridge,” Dad rolled his eyes. “Next time you promise Grandma something, don’t include me, I’ve avoided that game for thirty-four years. Now I have no choice, and you will pay, I assure you.” “Poor Daddikens, it must be so hard being you,” I laughed and gave him a wet willy and ran down the hall where the cards were set up. Dad was hot on my tail, trying to dry his ear with his t-shirt. I could hear him muttering under his breath about teenagers and kids. Grandma looked up in surprise, with a smile on her face, “What are you two up to?” I grinned at her, “Just getting a little payback for a prank Dad pulled on me,”
  21. 43 points
    “Shit, I better hit the road, I scheduled the pool for tonight,” I sent after pulling my eyes away from the tiny screen for the first time in hours. I wasn’t running on a whole lot of sleep, Luke and I had talked away the entire night and most of the next day. He still had to hang out with Cindy some during the day and meet with his teacher. Being grounded and Cindy not knowing that Luke had a brand new toy, allowed him more time to text than he probably would have if Cindy hadn’t started holding him captive in his house. It was something that I liked to think about when we weren’t talking. Getting him a little freedom from her schedule and feeling like I finally got one up on her felt good. I didn’t really want to get out into the cold and drive all the way to the Center knowing it would just be me swimming tonight. Charlie and I had scheduled to work together on open days since we both had the most conditioning to work on with our newer events added this year. We had the most to work on with the upcoming championships in early Spring. “Okay,” he responded and I sighed as I stood from my bed and stretched heading out of my bedroom flipping the light off as I went. “Look who finally came out,” Dad said over the top of his reading glasses. He was reading over some file, probably from one of his patients. Mom was sitting across from him on the couch looking over what looked like floor plans to the factory. “Of his bedroom, I mean.” “Funny,” I groaned as he smiled and readjusted his glasses. “I have the pool tonight, I better get going.” “Be careful,” Mom said, “I don’t like the idea of you swimming alone.” “I’ll be alright,” I said reaching down to scratch absently at my stomach as my face flushed. I hated when Mom did her worrying thing. “See you later.” Heading out the door, I shivered and hunkered down against the cold evening. There wasn’t a hint of snow in the air though, just black stillness and a light that made everything look washed out and grey. I really hated this time of year, the deadness of it, I was always more of a summer guy. Rushing to my car, I quickly slid into the driver’s seat and slammed the door behind me. There was already a rim of frost around the edges of the windshield. Turning the key, I started the car and jumped when a blast of cold air hit me squarely in the face. Forgetting to turn the heat down before getting out the last time, I swore under my breath and turned dials down until the car got warmed back up. The drive over to the Center though, felt like second nature by now. I found myself surprised at times that I was pulling into the parking lot, not really concentrating on the trip it took to get there. My mind hummed with everything that Luke and I talked about since Mom got him the phone. I didn’t even take credit for it, but he promised he liked the socks, enough times to make me realize that he was probably just being nice. The place was empty and I frowned at the dark front foyer in front of me as I slipped off my seatbelt and grabbed my swimming bag. I hated feeling like a chicken, sitting out here in the car under the sidewalk lights. Swearing I opened the door and closed it quickly behind me. I didn’t waste any time jogging to the front door. Fumbling with the keys until I found the one that opened the front doors, I slid it in and turned it. Inside, I flipped on the lights already smelling the familiar smell of chlorine and waxed bleachers. Once inside the pool area, the glassy stillness of the water always made me smile. There was nothing that compared with an empty pool where no one else would be causing waves or splashing water next to you. I always felt like I could focus better, although having someone to fill the silence of the large aquatic center would have been better. The place still didn’t quite feel like the YMCA, I doubted it ever would. There I would feel completely at home, despite the shortcomings a smaller public pool provided. I still had my key to the YMCA on my keyring, but I doubted it worked. The Y’s managers liked to change the locks every now and again just as a security precaution, but Derek’s Dad would always have me a new one ready. I had almost called him after Charlie cancelled to come in and watch me, but didn’t want to explain to him how Tony’s center looked eerie at night swimming alone. There was just some things my eighteen year old ass just wouldn’t ever admit to and that was one of them. Walking into the locker room, I stripped out of my clothes, layer after layer until I stood naked. Then I unzipped my bag and pulled out my practice racing shorts and pulled them up over me. After grabbing my goggles, cap, and a pile of towels from the towel cubby by the exit. I walked back to the pool, goosebumps forming on my skin. The concrete and the water never really allowed the heat to take hold, but I didn’t dread the water, over the years I had come to like the chill of it. Diving into the middle lane, preferring the middle of the pool since it allowed me to escape the waves and slosh that I caused as I swam I started my warm up laps. Getting my heartrate and breathing up, made the water feel relaxing and I was able to zone out my nagging loneliness and concentrate. I was on my tenth warm up lap, usually my last one before I slid onto the side wall and rested for a moment, when a loud splash erupted from my left a couple of lanes away. Startled, air flew out of my mouth in an unmanly underwater scream and I gulped in water before I grabbed hold of the lane ropes and pulled myself up swearing as I coughed and retched up water. “What the fuck,” I swore seeing a figure in the pool. Pulling off my goggles when I heard laughing I saw Luke, holding onto his own lane ropes like he was holding onto the only thing keeping him alive. Frowning as I swam over, catching my breath I pulled myself up to sit on the wall beside the starting block at the start of my lane. “What are you doing here?” “I wanted to surprise you,” he said doing his best to doggy paddle back to the beginning of his lane and climbed back out. “You scared the hell out of me,” I coughed shaking my head smiling. “You almost drowned me.” “Sorry,” he said and I hated that it felt awkward seeing him in front of me after such a long time apart. I couldn’t help noticing that he also kept his distance as well, rubbing his arms trying to warm himself up, his short blond hair plastered against his forehead. “I saw that you were alone, so I stripped and went for it.” “My swimming lessons haven’t helped,” I said as I stood noticing that he was just in his boxers, the water weighing them down a few inches giving me a peek at the top of his trimmed blond pubes and the slight v of his waist. He didn’t look as sorry now and I felt my face getting hot as he mustered up the courage and was the first one to close the distance between us down to just about a foot or so. “Yeah, I wasn’t really paying attention the first time,” he countered his own face flushed. “Where does your mom think you are?” I asked then immediately hated that I brought up Cindy as he frowned. “Doing some shopping for some church members,” he answered shrugging. “Will I go to hell using the church in a lie?” “You would know better than me,” I answered trying not to laugh thinking of everything we’re doing, that lying was the least of our worries. “You looked good,” he commented grabbing a towel from where I left them stacked on an unused starting block. “Thanks,” I said smirking as I looked out across the water. The waves were already subsiding, never really making it to the edges of the pool before turning back to him. For some reason, compliments I heard my whole life made me blush and feel funny coming from him. I felt them more. “You make the water look a lot less scary,” he said wrapping the towel around his shoulders after drying his hair. It was now a mess of small spikes on the top of his head and all of my practice plans for tonight went out the window. “It isn’t that scary,” I answered kicking my feet just enough to cause ripples. Swallowing I slid back into the water then turned and offered my hand to him. His boxers were still dripping and threatening to fall down completely, but he smiled and dropped the towel from around his shoulders and walked around the starting block and took my hand. I didn’t pull him in, but allowed him to sit down where I had sat and then slide in next to me. Our bodies crushed together as I hadn’t moved to step out of his way. Feeling the warmth of his body despite the chill of the water seemed to wake my own body up. I hadn’t known what I wanted to do with him once I got him back into the pool, but I grabbed his shoulder with my free hand and pushed him back against the wall. I smiled when I felt him jump and go tense when his back made contact with the cold tiles along the side of the pool. He sucked in a quick breath as I let go of him and put both hands on either side of his head looking at his face for any sign of reluctance or apprehension. Not seeing any, I leaned back in and his lips met mine. He was still tense, and when I felt him kick his leg against me, I smiled between one kiss and the next. “You’re not going to drown,” I whispered opening my eyes to see his death grip on the side of the pool. Reaching over I grabbed his hand massaging my fingers over his until he released his grip, then I guided his hand under the water to my side shuddering when his fingers slid against my skin under the water. After a few minutes, I heard Luke’s teeth chatter between kisses. Breaking away I saw his face flushed. I felt him pull me back towards him, but I thought it was more for my body heat than anything else. Laughing I pushed off the wall and swam backwards a few yards and stopped. “Why?” He asked, a slight groan to his voice. I tried to readjust my erection, but the tight shorts didn’t allow for a lot of room. “You’re cold, you need to move around,” I said smiling as I hovered in the water waiting for him to muster up the courage to break from the wall again. “No I don’t,” he said grabbing for the wall. “This water is deeper than the YMCA’s pool.” “Yeah,” I said my chin just above the water. “Come on, come get me.” “Are you crazy?” He countered shaking his head. “Alright, I’ll come get you,” I said and the tone of my voice made Luke turn and try to climb the side of the pool. I caught him before he could pull himself completely out of the water and unceremoniously dragged him back in with a large splash. When he disappeared under the water, I swore under my breath and reached for him, but yelled when I felt hands searching out my body. When he came back up for air he shook the water from his face frowning at me. “You didn’t drown,” I commented and jumped when his hand came into contact with my dick. When he didn’t move away, I stopped smiling and the water around us smoothed back out to gentle waves after the small struggle. “I kind of lost my boxers,” he said, his voice low and a bit winded. “I think they ripped.” “Oh?” I said blinking away the remnants of the water that streamed down my face still very aware that his hand was slowly jacking me off through my swim shorts. It would have been hot if I didn’t feel the goosebumps on his skin when I touched him and still noticed that his other hand still searched out and found the ropes that divided the lanes. “Yeah,” he said smiling. “I really liked that pair too.” “Let me go get them,” I said smiling as I took a breath and gently dived under the water. With the dim lights and me not having my goggles, it was difficult to spot his boxers. They had drifted a few lanes down. Retrieving them, I turned and swam back to where he waited. “Did you get them?” He asked after I surfaced. “Yeah,” I answered holding them up, evening out my breathing. Moving forward I kissed him, his lips felt feverish compared to the cool skin of his chin when I started a trail of kisses lower. Then I took a small breath and kissed my way down his neck to his chest using my hands and his body to pull myself lower until I felt his cock bounce off my chin. I laughed, sending bubbles back to the surface as I steadied myself in front of him. My breath running out, I steadied myself and watched the last few bubbles clear away revealing what was in front of me in what little light I had under water. With my eyes stinging from the chlorine I opened my mouth and let Luke’s cock slide past my lips. The touch seemed to send a jolt through Luke, and sent a small ripple over my body like a small shockwave. It was more difficult than what I imagined, I kept floating towards the top of the water and I accidentally kicked and got my leg wrapped up into the lane dividers. After a few kicks, I felt Luke grab me under my arms and pull me to the surface. Coughing up water and gasping for air, I splashed trying to right myself in the water long enough to untangle myself. “That didn’t work out worth a fuck,” I hissed between coughs. Hearing Luke laugh as I turned back to him after successfully freeing my foot, I grabbed hold of the lane divider using my other hand to wipe water off my face and out of my eyes. “No it didn’t,” he offered shrugging when I shot him a glare. “Well I always wanted to try that, but in my head I was the one leaned up against the side of the pool, not…” I said trailing off as my face flushed. I had never told anyone about my little perverted swimmer fantasies, but after this, reality crushed most of them. “Well anyway, I think all swimmers have them.” “Yeah?” He asked and that is when I noticed that he was back to shivering, despite the grin on his face. “Come on,” I said grabbing his hand and gently pulling him away from the lane dividers back to the starting blocks. I helped him climb up first, watching his ass jiggled as he stood and walked to grab a towel. Following him, I handed him his tattered and soaked boxers smiling when he grimaced at the big hole that opened along the back end. Neither of us said anything as we walked around the side of the pool. I waited long enough for him to gather up his clothes then we kept walking back to the locker rooms. My heart was pounding in my chest and I kept glancing over to see if I could see any of the apprehension I felt, in Luke. Like always though, no matter what was going on he had a calm half smile playing on his face. The only real times I saw him frown involved Cindy and her shit. After stepping inside the locker room, I noticed Luke stop and look around. I kept walking to my station and started stripping off my shorts thankful that my erection had subsided a lot. Being in here, oddly, I felt less awkward about being naked. “It’s cleaner in here than I thought it would be,” he commented and I laughed shaking my head. “It is usually clean, yeah,” I answered, “but it is a lot better after Tony made Aiden and Matt scrub it down.” “How are they treating you now?” He asked still standing by the door. “Ignoring me,” I answered shrugging. “I won’t have to put up with their shit too much longer.” “That’s good,” he said still looking around, holding his towel around his waist. Everything was white in here. The tiles, the florescent lighting, the white porcelain sinks. In his white towel he looked tan, his wet hair a darker shade of blond than it would be dry. It made his brown eyes seem darker. When he finally looked at me, I was standing naked. When he smiled and looked down I saw that I had absentmindedly held out my hand for him to take. I was about to let it fall back to my side, but he closed the distance and laced his fingers with mine. “Is this okay?” I asked, my voice barely a whisper as I led him around the corner to the showers. “Yes,” he answered finally letting go of his towel with his other hand. It fell to the floor and he kicked it aside as I turned on the water, getting it to the temperature that I liked. The shower had a lot more water pressure than the one back home and even though I knew we were the only two people at the Center, I felt really aware of everything. More so than back at home, with the gentler water and the familiar smells of home. All of that and the complete whiteness of the room made me more nervous than I thought it would. I was standing under the spray of the water with my back facing the spray. Every so often Luke would blink away a ricochet drop of water from my body. He looked just as suddenly nervous as I was. “So,” I started, but watched the set of his shoulders change as he reached up and pushed me against the white tiled wall. My breath came out in a high pitched moan as the chill of the wall hit my hot water warmed back. Jumping, our foreheads met before anything else, and we both laughed when Luke backed away to rub his forehead and the water from his eyes. “We suck at this,” he breathed as my back got used to the temperature change. “We’ll get better,” I countered reaching up to pull him back toward me until his erection slid against mine, trapping them between our lower stomachs. When he grunted and sucked in a small breath I smiled as I closed my eyes, not wanting to fight the water to kiss him. His lips were warm and tasted of chlorine. We stayed like that, taking turns kissing under the spray of the water. My hands were on his waist, and his left hand rested on my shoulder, the other one on the back of my head. I wasn’t brave enough to let my hands explore, it was nice just being close to Luke like this. I hadn’t realized how much I missed seeing him, hearing him face to face. All the clumsy progress I made in the pool was still on the back of my mind though, it was the first time I had done anything like that. None of the, “you can do this,” whispers inside my head seemed to be registering with the rest of my body though, the only place I was brave enough to be was kissing him. Luke didn’t seem to mind though, every time I tried to come up for air he would pull our faces back together. A lot of me wished he would be the braver one now that we were here in the middle of it all. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, everything I was feeling kept wanting to push me onward. My grip on his waist probably hurt him, I had to keep telling myself not to hold him too tight. Every time I would loosen my grip, he’d let out a small breath and it would jolt me back to holding him like I was the only thing holding the both of us upright. I was just about to dip my head lower along his jawline, my brain finally winning out, when a sharp ding echoed from just around the corner. I knew it was my phone and I was planning to ignore it, but it started ringing. “Fuck me,” I groaned reaching up, I turned the water off. The temperature drop was instant and I smiled still swearing at myself when Luke shuddered. “Fucking phone.” “It probably saved us,” he said as I watched water droplets make their way down his face. When one hit his top lip and dripped to the bottom, I saw that his lips looked fuller, slightly swollen from all the kissing. “It has to be getting late.” “Yeah,” I said my voice still mostly a groan as the phone stopped ringing then immediately started again. “Someone really wants to get hold of you,” he said and I sighed as I stepped out of Luke’s way and let him walk around me. I fell in step behind him and found the towel cubby, I handed him one as I fumbled in my jeans for my phone. When I saw that Heather was calling, I felt like ignoring it. This late on a weekend trip to Florida probably meant that the girls had sneaked out of their hotel room and were up to no good. Either that or bikini pictures, both of which could have waited. Instead, I swiped my screen and held the phone up to my ear. “Oh thank you for finally answering!” Heather screeched, “Where the hell have you been?” “Swimming,” I coughed reaching up to scratch the back of my head as I glanced at Luke. I could feel my face flushing, but at least it wasn’t Tony or Mom calling, I doubted my voice wouldn’t have given me away. “Toby isn’t doing so good,” she said and I felt my heart began to quicken. The tone in her voice had changed from being annoyed to shaking, and now that I was listening I heard that she was crying as well. “What’s wrong? Is he okay?” I asked my heart racing. “Its his mom,” she answered and I clenched my jaw. “He won’t tell me, but his Dad is on some cow trip and Derek is off visiting family. Please go see if he’s okay.” “I will,” I said swallowing against the knot that formed in the back of my throat. “I’ll go right now, I need to get off here and get dressed.” “Don’t let him do anything stupid, I love him,” she said sniffling as the call ended. “What’s wrong?” Luke asked when I let my hand fall back to my side. “I need to go, something is up with Toby,” I answered turning my back to him neglecting the towel and reaching for my underwear and jeans. “I need to hurry.” “Okay,” he said as he came to stand beside me and for a moment I hated that he was standing in front of Aiden Townson’s locker. He had started putting his own clothes on, giving me sideways glances after every layer. “Heather said something about Toby’s mom,” I said as I sat down to slide into my boots, lacing them up over my naked feet. My socks were shoved into my bag and I didn’t want to waste time looking for them. “She hasn’t been in town since he was eight.” “Is she in town now?” He asked sitting down beside me to put on his own shoes. Looking up I saw that his hair was sticking up in small spikes in every direction on his head. In any other moment it would have made me want to laugh and smooth his hair out. “I don’t know. He didn’t tell Heather,” I answered standing back up. “And everyone else is gone, so.” “Do you want me to come?” He asked sliding on his right shoe, quickly tying it. “No, you probably need to get back home,” I answered not knowing if showing up with Luke would cause Toby to slam the door in our faces. “Yeah, I guess so,” he said grabbing my elbow. “Are you going to be alright, I can call your Mom.” “I’ll be alright,” I answered smiling. “I’ll text you when I get there.” “Alright,” he said and I frowned at the wet towels on the floor and my messy locker. Not wanting to waste any more time and knowing I had a bit of a drive, I led Luke out of the locker room and we turned right through the doors leading to the foyer. I hit the lights at the exit and when I opened the door the frigid air hit me head on. My clothes were wet from not drying off, shivering instantly I gave Luke one last smile before we both jogged to our cars. He had parked beside me and he let me back out of my spot first with a small wave. Luckily it still hadn’t snowed and the sky was still sparkling with stars as I drove back home. The headlights behind me, belonging to Luke’s car was a small comfort for me, but I felt completely out of my depth. Toby didn’t like talking about his mom, there was always a bit of sadness around his milestones like birthdays that I came to realize as we got older. By the time I felt like I could do anything though, Toby had seemed to stop caring. The sadness had been replaced by laughter and epic parties out in the field, where everyone came, so many people that I hoped it covered up the empty spots where his mom should have been. Luke turned into his driveway when we reached our homes. I only glanced at my house to see the lights still on in the living room. Toby only lived a couple of minutes on down the road, where the houses thinned out and gave way to farmland. The first farm being their farm. Pulling into the long dirt driveway up to his house, I kept scanning the house. Every light was off, the only hint of him being home was his truck parked out front. Parking beside it, I got out and grabbed my phone and scrolled down to Mom’s number. “I’m at Toby’s, don’t know when I’ll be home.” “Is something wrong? No partying, you have swimming in the morning.” “No party, he’s having a bad night, something about his mom, I’ll see you in the mornin.” Sliding my phone back into my pocket, I walked up the stairs to his front porch. In the darkness I felt awkward not knowing what to do. Usually I would have just opened the door and let myself in. Troy, Toby’s dad was used to us coming and going all the time. Now though, I held up my hand and gave a quick knock. Feeling instantly lame about knocking on my best friend’s front door I grabbed the door handle only to have it ripped from my grip as the door swung open. “Who the fuck is out there?” Toby asked, his voice slurred. “Toby?” I said as I heard him fighting to find the light switches. Finally finding them, I squinted against the sudden brightness of the porch light. “Jack!” Toby bellowed smiling through puffy, red eyelids. “What the fuck man? Come on in, you don’t knock, I almost cattle prodded your ass.” “Are you alright?” I asked as he stumbled out of my way. He was shirtless and holding half a bottle of alcohol too big to be any beer. Glancing up, I saw that he also, inexplicably had a pair of sunglasses pulled up on the top of his head. His smile had faded though and I saw him reaching for the door. “Fuck man, not you too,” he groaned and I just managed to put my foot out to stop the door from closing in my face. “Let me in,” I said as pain shot through my foot. My boots probably softened some of the blow as he tried to close it again. He seemed more confused about the door than angry at me though. “Why isn’t this fucking thing closing?” He finally said as he opened the door slightly and closed it again. Wincing I shoved myself against the door causing him to stumble backwards and fall as the door flew open. “Toby, what the hell?” I said my temper getting the better of me. “Are you trying to break my foot?” “No,” he answered, “are you trying to make me spill my liquor?” “Give me that,” I ordered as I quickly yanked it from his grip. He looked like a baby that had just had its bottle yanked from its hand in the middle of its breakfast. Any other night it would have been funny, but tonight seeing him sprawled out on the floor in front of coffee table had me thinking that maybe Mom would have been a better choice after all. “You want some?” He asked, “All you had to do was ask.” “No,” I answered turning the whiskey bottle around to read the label. Knowing where it came from, I looked towards Troy’s liquor cabinet. When I saw that Toby had put a baseball bat through the glass, I frowned. We all knew where Troy’s secret key to the liquor cabinet was. We found it when we were fifteen. It had taken us all of twenty minutes to realize it had been taped to the bottom of the cabinet itself, just behind the right front leg. “Heather called you, didn’t she?” He asked, already rolling his eyes like he knew the answer. I just nodded as I offered him my hand. It took him a few tries to find it, but when he did I hauled him up off the floor and guided him around the coffee table to the couch. “She said something about…” I started, but he grabbed for the bottle in my hand. Leaning back, I tried to keep it out of his reach. Instead he ended up sprawling himself on top of me still fighting to reach it. “If I’m going to tell you about my bitch mother I’ll need that,” he groaned and I noticed a tear fall from his eye and land on my shirt quickly followed by another. Swallowing, I put the bottle on the coffee table and wrapped my arms around him. Toby fought and resisted the hug longer than I thought he would. Grunting against some half-hearted blows to my side. I sighed when he finally collapsed against my chest, his head nestled between my neck and shoulder. He reeked of alcohol and not just whiskey, but beer as well and I feared what I would see in the kitchen. “Ten fucking years,” he whispered through gritted teeth. I felt him grow tense in my grip, so I started rubbing his back. It didn’t seem to relax him, instead he seemed to shy away from it so I stopped. “I don’t hear anything from her for ten fucking years and she sends me a fucking postcard. She didn’t even say goodbye to me, just vanished one night.” “You don’t have to tell me,” I said glancing down at the coffee table and seeing the small post card with neat handwriting on the back. It had a wet ring on it from a can of beer. Looking around I saw a few crushed and slung cans around the living room and down the hall towards the bedrooms. “New fucking life, new family,” he continued, stumbling over his words after a moment. “Dad’s a fucking liar, she never wanted me.” I couldn’t help hating her as Toby broke down again. This time though he reached up and grabbed hold of my shirt. I winced at his hard grip as he buried his face deeper into my shirt collar. It was different this time, back when we were all eight years old the adults took care of Toby. Mom and Derek’s Mom helped Troy out a lot. Derek and I just became the best distraction, playing, running around, and getting up to no good. Toby’s mom had left in the beginning of summer, but it had taken him all of the rest of the year to finally understand that she wasn’t coming back. He wouldn’t let Troy out of his sight for a long time and ended up taking him along on cattle sales and trips a lot that summer, something he didn’t do before. During that time I remembered Mom keeping me closer than usual as well. I was young so I had liked all that extra attention. That year was probably what cemented us as best friends, more like brothers. I had his mother to thank for that, but I knew that would have happened anyway. I couldn’t imagine my life without Toby or Derek in it, it would be like losing an arm or a leg. Toby going suddenly rigid and sitting up caught me off guard. His eyes were wide, tear streaked, and redder than they were before. Looking at me, he took a quick swig of whiskey, cringing as soon as it touched his tongue. I watched as he forcefully swallowed it down, shaking his head and taking a deep breath. “If you tell one soul we cuddled, I’ll kick your ass,” he said still looking at me. “Same,” I added smirking. “Want some?” He asked wiping his tears away with his hand. “I can’t,” I answered shrugging. “I have practice in the morning.” “One drink isn’t gonna hurt you,” he said rolling his eyes as he turned towards me on the couch slightly swaying where he sat. He was close to passing out for the night and I hoped Troy would be home bright and early tomorrow to be here with him while I was away at practice. “We never get to hang out anymore.” “Yeah, I’m always busy this time of year,” I said taking the bottle from him and placing it to my lips. I never cared for whiskey, anything that was painful to drink never appealed to me. Taking a quick drink, I coughed feeling it burn all the way down. Toby gave me a goofy half-hearted smirk as he took it back and down another drink grabbing the postcard off the table. “What the fuck am I supposed to do?” He asked looking over at me with half-glazed over eyes. “Don’t know,” I answered shrugging. “Whatever you want.” “I want to burn the damn thing,” he said slamming the whiskey bottle down. “Want to?” “Yeah,” I said reaching for the postcard in his hand. “I’ll do it, your drunk ass will burn your hand off and I don’t feel like driving you to the hospital.” “Whatever,” he said shooting to his feet grabbing hold of my shoulder to steady himself. Knowing Troy liked to smoke a cigar every now and then, I stood and walked over to the ruined cabinet. Reaching up, I found the box of cigars. Taking it down, I opened the lid and found the lighter tucked inside the box with the few left in there. “Come on,” I said putting the box back where I found it. Nodding, he followed me outside sliding into his shoes on the way out. Being only dressed in a pair of shorts, but too drunk to really notice the cold, I helped him down the steps to the front yard. His body was shivering and his breath came out in waves of condensation. Wanting to get this over with, I held the postcard out in front of me by one corner. Handing the lighter to Toby, I nodded and he ran his finger over the striker. It took the paper longer to catch fire with his unsteady hand, but when it did his hand fell back to his side. We both watched the small flame slowly build up as the corner of the postcard curled and turned to ash. When I felt the heat of the fire, I dropped the card and watched as Toby watched it burn, the fire reflected in his eyes. The postcard didn’t take long to burn and as much as I wanted to get out of the cold air, I felt like it hadn’t been enough. All of Toby’s pent up anger at his mother over the years wouldn’t be extinguished as easily. “Well, that’s done,” he grunted turning to glance at me. I had shoved my hands into my pants pockets, but when he shot me a brief smile, I nodded my head and I followed him back up the stairs and into the house. As soon as we got back inside, Toby bypassed the living room completely. I followed until he disappeared into the bathroom across the hall from his room. Not wanting to leave him, I leaned up against the wall. I heard him use the toilet then flush, then the sink running briefly before he opened the door and stepped back out, burping. The whiskey seemed to have finally hit him on top of everything else he had drank. “What do you want to do now?” I asked as I pushed myself off the wall ready to catch him if he fell. “I need to pass out, man,” he answered only half turning his head to look at me. “Sorry to leave you hangin’.” “It’s okay,” I said, and he nodded and I watched him stumble into his bedroom and falling onto his queen sized bed just inside the door. Splayed face down across it, I sighed and helped him find the head of the bed and his pillow, making sure he was sleeping in a way that if he got sick, he would suffocate. After getting him settled in, I walked back out of his bedroom closing the door, leaving just a small crack behind me so that I could listen. Then I sighed looking down the small hallway I could already see the damaged liquor cabinet. Not wanting Troy to come home to a wrecked house, I walked back down the hallway picking up stray crushed beer cans as I went. Happy that I found all of them in the living room, I found the broom and dustpan and swept up all the broken glass. Dumping that into the trash, I tackled the kitchen, and ran the vacuum over the carpet in front of the cabinet to get the smaller pieces that I couldn’t get with the broom. Sighing, I pulled out my phone and saw that it was well into the morning, I walked back into Toby’s bedroom. He had moved to one side of the bed and curled up in a ball on his side. Since he had left me most of the bed, I kicked off my shoes and pants and got into bed beside him. I listened to him lightly snore for a while until everything that had happened tonight had time to replay in my mind more than a few times before I fell asleep. The next morning I jumped and nearly fell out of the bed when I heard something thud against the floor. Opening my eyes I saw the disappearing figure of Toby entering the bathroom. Moments later I heard the toilet seat bang and the sound of him vomiting. Frowning I sat up and slid out of bed. I had just pulled my pants back up over my quickly retreating morning wood when I heard the front door swing open. “Toby?” Troy said, his voice booming through the house. Then I heard him swear before heavy footfalls came barrelling down the hall. When Troy came to a sudden stop just inside Toby’s room, I saw his fear quickly transforming to anger on his face. “Jackson, what the hell is going on here?” “Sorry,” I said jumping as the toilet seat banged in the bathroom for a second time. “Toby!” Troy bellowed turning to exit his son’s bedroom. “Troy,” I whispered fumbling around the bed. “Toby get your ass out here,” Troy ordered, completely ignoring me until I had closed the distance and grabbed his arm. “He got a postcard,” I whispered quickly as I heard the sink begin to run. “From his mom.” “What?” He asked turning to face me. He looked like all the color was draining out of him by the second and when the bathroom door opened, Toby stumbled out, his eyes mostly closed and his hair stuck up at odd angles. “Don’t yell Dad, my head is killin me,” he groaned then finally seemed to wake up enough to realize that Troy had come home. “Dad!” “What happened?” He asked grabbing hold of Toby’s shoulder. It was cramped in the hallway with all three of us standing there. I wanted to leave them to it, knowing it wasn’t going to be pleasant. I also had practice and when I slid my phone out of my pants I grimaced when I saw that I was already late. “Can we talk later?” Toby asked still looking exhausted. “I need to sleep last night off a little bit longer.” “No we can’t talk later,” Troy countered this time steering Toby away from his bedroom and down the hallway to the living room. “I know you shits know where my key to the liquor cabinet is, so why is it broken?” “I was kind of already drunk when I noticed it locked,” Toby answered shrugging out of Troy’s grip then throwing himself down onto the couch. “I better get going, I’m late for practice,” I said. Turning around, I walked quickly back into the bedroom and around the bed to where I left my shoes. Sliding them back on, I walked back to the living room to see that the talk between them had already moved on from the liquor cabinet to the post card. Not wanting to see Toby break down, not when he was for the most part sober, I gave Troy a quick wave and let myself out the front door. Looking outside I saw that the snow had come over night. Not a whole lot, but enough to give everything a nice dusting. Sighing, I carefully ambled down the snowy front steps and down to my car, noting the spot we burned the postcard was covered by snow as well. Shaking my head as I remembered last night I pulled my door open and slid inside turning the car on instantly. Hearing the gentle hum of the engine, I turned on the windshield wipers and watched the grey-white snow be cleared away. Then I turned on the defrost and carefully turned the car around. The gravel under the snow was frozen hard against the ground. The divots left from Troy’s heavy cattle trailer, probably full of cows, made the road bumpier than I remembered last night, when the ground wasn’t as frozen. Luckily though, as I approached the main road, they had already been cleared of snow, leaving small snow banks in the ditch. It was a small miracle, usually the one snow plow that came out this way never made it until the second or third day of a snow storm, no matter how bad it was. After a careful drive to Tony’s, I glanced down at the clock on my dash. Seeing that I was nearly an hour late, I almost backed out of the parking lot and went back home. I suddenly felt my stomach roll, I already knew I would be getting a chewing out, I just hoped it was in his office and not in front of the team. Grabbing my stuff, hoping everything thawed out on the way over, I slid my bag over my shoulder and closed my door, hitting the lock down button on the car. There was also no hope that the pool would ever be a warm place in winter and the cool locker rooms with all the cold tile right outside the front foyer made it worse. My teeth chattered as I entered the front foyer, the doors were closed entering the pool and when I stepped inside the main pool area, I stopped dead just as I was about to try and sneak off to the locker room. There was no one in there. Jackie wasn’t even out there coaching the dive team. The only person that was out there though, was Tony and it looked like he had just walked out of his office not expecting me to show up at all. Seeing me standing by the front doors, I saw his face redden, and I heard him swear under his breath. He gave me an unfriendly wave for me to come to him. “I’ll just put my stuff inside,” I said taking my bag off my shoulder. “Now, Forrest,” he bellowed pointing to his office. My stomach did another nauseating roll as I swallowed and walked between the practice pools. Not wanting to keep him waiting I picked up my pace once I was around the corner of the pool I spent most of my practice time in before hitting the main one. Getting a closer look at him, I saw that a vein had popped out along his temple. I hadn’t seen him this angry, not even after the Townsens threw the relay. “What’s going on?” I asked my mouth going dry. “Inside,” he growled, but fell into step right behind me as I entered his office. When I stepped inside, I saw that there was a second door standing open letting in light in an otherwise dark office. It was a door that I had never seen open and I had wondered what was behind it ever since I came here, since it didn’t seem to have a secondary entrance in the hallway down to where Jackie’s office was or to the media rooms where we watched film of our practices and meets. We had barely used the media room, Tony always preferred to watch us first hand and correct us in the pool. “Come along,” he ordered when I had stopped at the pair of small chairs opposite his desk. I had expected him to start in on me as soon as the door closed behind us. Instead I let him step around me and lead me into the second room. It was just a small as his office, but there was just one chair that stood empty in front of a large screen, that was split into eight smaller screens. Seeing them, I involuntarily groaned seeing the pool area in one screen. My eyes were fixed on it, on the center lane of the pool now brightly lit by all of the fluorescent lights. The water looked like blue glass and I felt my heart pound in my chest, my bag suddenly feeling like it weighed a hundred pounds. “Oh, damn,” I muttered as he let me stare at the screens. “I told you, Jackson,” he said through gritted teeth. “That I knew everything that goes on inside my building. Now tell me one thing, answer my one question, and nothing else. Do you understand me?” “Yes,” I swallowed not daring to look at him. “Is that boy you had in here last night, is he eighteen?” He asked his voice falling to a strained whisper. Turning to glance at him, I saw that his face had turned a deeper shade of red. “Or did I just watch child pornography on my surveillance systems.” “No, he’s eighteen,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest to try and fight back some of the anxiety I felt. “Good, there’s that then, good,” he said and I heard the chair scoot harshly against the floor. “Take a seat.” “I’m sorry,” I started, but I heard him grunt and I realized that this was going to be a one sided conversation from here. “You show up late,” he said, “I thought it was Charlie at first, I don’t live to know your social lives, so if you two were fooling around, fine, poor Simon, but fine. No, it wasn’t Charlie, I, luckily for him, finally recognized the other guy, I don’t know his name, don’t care. So I at least spared your embarrassment by not dragging innocent Charlie into this. Nothing in my wildest prepared me for this, I never would have thought any of you would pull a stunt like this.” “It wasn’t,” I started, but he turned to me, shooting me a silencing glare. “Enough,” he said, “there is nothing you can say to explain what was going through your head. It is done, we’re having a media day so that I can allow for the pools to thoroughly clean themselves.” “We didn’t,” I said looking down at my hands so that I wouldn’t see him shoot another glare at me. I thought he would at least want to hear that part of it. That I hadn’t totally desecrated the pool, but it probably didn’t matter, not focusing on my swimming had been damaging enough. The other things that happened last night, were far worse. “Honestly, I thought about just telling you to hit the door and not come back,” he said and I jerked my head back up to look at him. “Right after you get all those recruitment packages, you pull something like that. You do not own this place, this is my house. This is where I work and where I expect you to work.” “No, don’t kick me out,” I said scooting to the edge of my chair feeling suddenly sick. “I don’t, I don’t get a whole lot of time with him, I knew it was wrong.” “Why were you late?” He asked sliding the small trash can over to me. I pulled it between my legs thankful for the change in questioning, even if I knew I be in trouble for this too. “A friend needed me,” I answered glancing up at him. “His mom ran out on him when he was eight, last night she sent him a postcard, it messed him up pretty bad. His dad was gone and he was home alone.” “I can forgive that,” Tony said, his voice slightly softer than before. “Call me next time an emergency like that comes up.” “I will,” I said feeling my heart rate slow. “I swear I won’t fuck up again.” “You damn well better not fuck up anymore,” he added, “you will clean the locker rooms, from now until February.” “Yes sir,” I said swallowing. “You won’t breathe a word of this to anybody,” he added and I nodded. “And I deleted last night’s video feeds, or I probably wouldn’t have been able to look you in the eye this morning.” “No,” I said blushing, “it would probably kill me if I tried.” “I will be sending your parents an email explaining the situation,” he added and the room went slightly darker as he turned off the lights. “Now go home, you are in no shape to do anything right now, and I’m still pissed.” “Okay,” I said standing up, I side stepped the trash can picking up my bag on the way out. Tony followed, closing the door behind him, locking it with a key on his keychain. It seemed like he was herding me out of his office and when I blinked against the brightness of the pool area outside, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that it was still empty. I didn’t remember most of the trip back home, it had started snowing again. By the time I pulled into my driveway at home, the roads had become white again. This storm though, looked it it was here to stay awhile, everything was grey and there wasn’t a breeze in the air. The sky was a solid wall of clouds and when I looked towards the house after closing my car door, I saw Mom standing just inside the house in her pajamas and a robe. Her hair was pulled up in a messy pony tail and when I walked up to the front door she stepped aside and let me into the warmth of the house. “You didn’t go to practice?” She asked and I saw the surprise on her face. Tony hadn’t had time to send the email yet, I dreaded the moment she received it. “I did, but Tony sent me home,” I said wanting to just come clean, but I didn’t think I could. “I was late too.” “Too?” She said her eyebrows cocked. “Is Toby okay?” “He seemed to feel better after Troy got in,” I answered shrugging. “He was pretty bad last night, I couldn’t leave him.” “I suspected as much,” she said shaking her head. “That Lidia, she never was a mother type.” “She is now, apparently,” I said sighing. “I think that’s what messed him up, knowing she had more kids.” “Damn,” she said and I blinked. It was rare to hear Mom or Dad swear. “And I am in a lot of trouble with Tony,” I said blushing. I didn’t want to talk about Toby either, as I knew it would embarrass him the moment Mom sees him and wraps him into a smothering hug. Hopefully it wouldn’t be for awhile and she could get some of the urge out of her system. “Luke is involved.” “What have you done?” She asked sitting down immediately. “Are you still on the team?” “Yes,” I swallowed scratching the back of my head. “Me and Luke kind of, well we just kind of.” “Kind of, Jackson,” Mom hissed her eyes blinking rapidly. “You didn’t!” “No, I said kind of Mom,” I groaned shifting my weight from one foot to the other, wanting to bolt up the stairs to my room. “Well you’re a teenager, I don’t know what kind of means anymore!” She yelled, but she didn’t sound angry, more like she was trying to stifle a laugh. Also completely out of character for her. “Nothing happened, it was about to I think, but then Heather called and told me about Toby,” I answered cocking an eyebrow. “You’re not mad?” “I think Tony probably punished you worse than I ever could have,” she said shrugging. “But if you mess up again young man, and continue to jeopardize your future I will be more than ready to.” “Alright,” I said, “I need to go pass out for a few hours.” “Okay honey,” she said yawning. “I might head up to take a nap as well, I’ve not felt well off and on the last couple of day.” “Are you okay?” I asked studying her as she stood. “Yeah, probably just some stomach bug,” she said smiling. “Everything goes around the factory all the time, I’m bound to catch some of the bugs.” She walked around me, not hugging or kissing me before going up the stairs. Sighing, I kicked off my shoes grabbing my bag. I had dirty clothes that I needed to grab out and throw into the laundry room on my way up. As I rummaged through it, grabbing my underwear, and neglected socks, I just had pulled the zipper closed when a light knock came to the front door. When I opened it, I hoped it was Luke, but when I saw a baby pink bulky coat with a faux fur lined hood, I stepped out of the way and let Ally inside. She instantly pulled her hood down and pulled off her mittens. Her eyes were puffy and her nose was red, she looked like she was nursing a bad cold. “Are your parents around?” She asked whirling to face me as I closed the door. The snow had picked up a lot and I doubted anyone would be going anywhere tomorrow if it kept up like this. The snow plow man probably only had one miracle in him a year and he wasted it this morning. “Mom just went upstairs,” I answered shrugging. “Do you need her?” “No,” she huffed her face falling. “We just got in and I had to see you.” “Okay?” I said watching as she fell silent only meeting my eyes every few seconds and immediately looking away. “Why me?” She asked, finally turning to meet me. “Why not Heather, or Lily, or any of the dirty skanks at school, why me?” “What are you talking about?” I asked sighing. The sigh seemed to enrage her though as she bristled up to full height, her stony blue eyes glaring at me. In her fur lined coat she looked like a pissed off pink cat. Not knowing what I did to piss her off, I almost laughed. “I really liked you, Jack,” she said taking a step towards me. “I’m so stupid. I should have seen it, especially when he didn’t ever go away.” “Oh shit,” I hissed finally catching on. “Oh shit, Ally.” “What?” She said her eyes narrowing. “Yeah, I know, you spent a whole year lying to me, you’ve lied to Heather, you’ve lied to Lily…” “I didn’t lie to anyone,” I countered crossing my arms over my chest to keep my hands from shaking. I didn’t want to make her any more angry than she already was and I definitely didn’t want to hurt her. “You’re gay!” She yelled her arms flying out at her sides. “Right? Toby let it slip last night. So, what, you were never going to tell me?” “I was,” I said, “and I’m not gay, I don’t know what I am.” “Sure you don’t,” she hissed a tear falling from her left eye. She looked totally betrayed by it as she reached up and wiped it away. “Just tell me why?” “I like you a lot, Ally,” I answered taking a half step toward her, uncrossing my arms. When she took a step back, I stopped in my tracks letting my arms fall to my sides. “Don’t even,” she hissed. “I feel so humiliated, so, used. What if we had, you know, that night back in the summer.” “Don’t feel bad, Ally,” I said my voice cracking. She was the last person I wanted to hurt with this. That is why I never told her, I wanted her to move on. Even if it was with Bailey Ashton. He would have been better for her than me right now. Looking at her now though it was all for nothing. No matter how it happened, how she found out, it wouldn’t have mattered. She was still going to be the one who got hurt the most. I hated that I couldn’t fix it either, the look in her eyes told me she wasn’t here to hear my apologies. “I hate you, Jackson Forrest,” she squeaked more tears falling down her cheeks. “I’m sorry,” I said reaching for her again despite myself. I only was able to catch her coat sleeve as she stepped away from me. “Keep your hands off me,” she hissed crossing her arms. “I don’t want your damn pity.” “I didn’t mean for things to happen,” I countered feeling a knot forming in my throat. “Try not to hate me, you’re one of my best friends.” “Friends,” she said, her voice full of venom. “I never wanted to be just your friend, Jackson, I thought I loved you and that you, but obviously not, at least not like Luke.” “Please don’t,” I started then closed my mouth not wanting to tell her to keep my relationship with Luke a secret. I knew it would just make her more likely to tell people at school if I did. “I won’t say anything,” she said rolling her eyes. “That’s all you care about, right? Your secrets?” “No,” I answered, “I didn’t want to tell you, because I knew it would hurt you.” “So it is better that I find out from Toby when he’s drunk?” She asked as she pulled out her mittens and shoved her hands back into them. “He feels like shit about that, you know, so you might want to call him.” “I will,” I said swallowing. “Well, bye,” she said pulling her coat tightly over her as she turned and opened the front door. The cold air sent a shudder through me. “Ally,” I said and winced when she turned her glare back to me, a tear slowly trickling down her reddened cheeks. “Do what you want to me, but please don’t hurt Luke.” “Jackson,” she said her eyes narrowing and her voice calm and distant, as she stepped through the door. “Do you even know who I am anymore?” She didn’t wait for me to answer as she closed the door behind her. Every nerve in my body told me that I should chase after her, to get her to understand. I knew it would have made things worse though. The difference a day made, everything had been fine yesterday, but now everything had come crashing down around me. Heading upstairs, I pulled my hoodie up over my head completely forgetting about my dirty clothes still on the floor in the living room. Not caring enough to go back down and get them, I opened the door to my bedroom just as Mom stepped out of her bedroom down the hall. “Do you need to talk about it?” She asked her eyes darting back and forth as she studied me. “No,” I answered offering her a small smile before entering my bedroom and gently closing the door behind me. I walked over to my bed and stripped out of my jeans and shirt, then I collapsed on the bed wanting to scream and punch something, cry, or throw up. Instead I just laid there staring out my window as the snowflakes fell silently until I fell asleep.
  22. 42 points
    Day 0 My head hurts so goddamn much, I’m having a hard time thinking, but I need to get this out. I rolled out of bed an hour ago, drank water with a couple of aspirin, guzzled some antacid, and then lay down on the couch. I’ve been hurting about the same ever since, until something stirred in me. For some reason, this morning is making me realize something. Fuck! I was trying to think of the last time I woke up and didn’t do these things. Every morning I’m hung over, head hurting, stomach sour, and feeling like shit. It’s been some time, at least a month, and it scared the shit out of me. A thirty-four-year-old man shouldn’t have to medicate himself every morning, well, sometimes, early afternoon, just to not hurt. Something isn’t right about it. Maybe I’ve been depressed and drinking a little more, or maybe my life is so fucking boring I don’t have anything else to do. My head is pounding as I write this, Jesus Christ, it’s miserable. Anyway, it could be getting older has made it harder to recover. When I was in college, I could drink all night, go to class, then play beer pong in the afternoon before going to work. Alcohol held no sway over me then. I could do it all and jump out of bed without a problem. That’s probably it. I’m getting old. Or, something else is happening. Therefore, I’m committing a promise to this blog, and anyone who wants to read my ramblings, to go sober for the next thirty days. I will use this as an experiment, a case study in taking control of my life. After all, I’m a psych major who, like most psych majors, doesn’t practice in their field. I’m a waiter. My friend Maisie from college is an office manager of a real estate group. My ex is a construction worker. My college roommate is now a high school special needs teacher. We were all psych majors, and we all are doing something else. I miss it though. I loved doing research, case studies, field studies, surveys, interviews, reading others’ work. Hell, I even liked crunching the data. I have my masters, but then I quit. I’m not sure why. Maybe this little exploration will remind me. My headache is getting a little better. It only feels like someone is hitting my temple with a ball peen hammer, instead of a claw hammer like a few minutes ago. My stomach is settling down too. I should get some breakfast. Maybe some toast, or a bagel, nothing very heavy. It’s still a little gurgly. To get started, I should tell you about last night, what I’m going to call, Day Minus One. Today I’ll call Day Zero, because I know I still have alcohol in my system from last night. How do I know? Because I can still smell it on my breath, Christ on a crutch, I drank about ten drinks. About. Perhaps a little more. I’m not sure. Last night after work, Nats and I went to Gallivant’s. Who’s that? Nats is also a server, like me, at the Fisherman’s Wake, an Irish restaurant downtown. When we both work, we usually end up going out afterwards for a drink or two. We play some darts, on Wednesday’s there’s karaoke, and chillax. That’s Nats’ word, ’chillax.’ I prefer ‘decompressing’. Regardless, we walked over to Gallivant’s and had a few while talking about our night. Nats had the worst customer, some crazy lady who tried to use a fish stick coupon for her meal. Yes, we are an Irish pub with fish and chips and things like that, but using a Gorton’s Breaded Fish Filet dollar off coupon? Really? Then she got mad, yelled at Nats and finally stormed out without paying for her drink. I got stiffed a couple of times by old people. Other than that, my night wasn’t too bad. Well, except for Steve. But, he’s a player, I think, so I’ve come to expect it of him. He uses people and tosses them away. I know that. Still, seeing him with…it hurt a little. So, nothing bad happened to make me drink a little too much. I think we were playing pool and the drinks just kept flowing. I wonder how bad Nats is today, now, at this time, oh, yeah, it’s almost noon. I’m off tonight. I don’t know what I should do except maybe rent a couple of movies, go to the liquor store… wait, scratch that. I should research this first. I know a few things about sobering up. For example, I know you have to be healthy to do so. If you have a heart condition, it could kill you. I also know you need to change your habits, for example, if you usually have a drink when you go out to eat, you should go elsewhere. A different restaurant, because habits reinforce things, reinforce behavior. God, my fucking head hurts. I can do this. I think I need to. I’ll do a little more research and go over the things I should expect. I don’t drink that much. It’s not like I’m an alcoholic. I only have a few after work. It’s not a big deal to quit. Besides, tomorrow morning I’m going to feel amazing. After this awful hangover, I need to give my liver a break. I should go to the gym. I can sweat some of this booze out of my pores and then have a nice meal, vegetarian or vegan or something, and maybe a smoothie. If I eat and drink healthy things, it will get the toxins out of my system faster, right? It makes sense. Time to turn over a new leaf. Let’s get this ball rolling. I’m feeling a little better already. I can make this a good thing, a positive step. I’ll go cold turkey for a month, get my body back into shape, and feel better. It’s going to be a good thing. Instead of going to some self-help group, I’ll use this blog as my therapist. I will use my knowledge and acumen to get my head together. Did you like the word, ‘acumen’? It sounds like something a psychologist would use. I’m almost one. Pretty close, I think. Maybe I’ll call my sister. She’s always got a different perspective. I could use that. Or else, I could call Eddie. I miss him. Until tomorrow peeps!
  23. 41 points
    Chapter 8 I quickly covered his mouth with mine. I didn’t want him to talk, to ruin the moment and maybe his erection. He got the idea. Stroking him, I felt him get harder, and he moaned. So I took a chance and pushed him onto his back, then straddled him. I kissed his lips, nibbled his ears, and he held me, rubbing his now-firm member against me. Slowly I moved down his body, kissing, sucking, tasting every inch of him. I glanced up, his eyes were closed, and so I continued my southward journey. Nestled finally between his legs, I kissed his inner thighs, loving the smell of him; the maleness of him. I licked and sucked his balls, drawing them into my mouth, where I tongued and pulled them gently. His cock now stood at full attention. “Lous … baby … please ….” He moaned and thrashed as I licked and sucked him. I knew what he was begging for and I gave it to him. I wanted him to remember this forever. It had been months, and I needed him to cum and love every single minute of it. I lowered my mouth onto him, and as I did, glanced up and found his eyes open. He put his hand on the back of my head and applied gentle pressure. I slid down, letting him into my throat. He was ready and I just let him cum. He moaned my name as he let go and thrust upward. I swallowed every precious drop he gave me. I gently licked him clean, kissed his balls and inner thighs and nuzzled him as he softened. He pulled me upwards onto his chest and he kissed me. I felt the wetness of tears on his cheek. His arms encircled me, held me tight and he murmured my name. We lay together then in silence. It wasn’t long before I felt his grip loosen. Slowly I raised myself and lay down next to him. Once I’d pulled up the covers, I settled back on my pillow and knew I was falling asleep; I prayed that this hadn’t been a dream. “Lous … Lous.” “Mmmm, Donny, go back to sleep.” “No, wake up, baby.” I was warm and wanted to sleep, but I turned over. His arm was over my waist in a second. Then his lips were on mine, and we kissed hungrily. I knew he couldn’t be comfortable twisted around as he was. I moved so I lay facing him, resting on the right side of his chest. His kisses were warm and sweet. “You okay, baby?” I asked between kisses. “Yeah, I’m more than okay.” He smiled at me, his golden eyes shone. “Thank you for last night.” I just grinned. “You feel anything down there now?” “Oh, yes.” He reached under and gently slapped his cock. “What could have happened?” I spoke to him gently. “Don’t know. Maybe things have healed. Maybe you believed, baby. Whatever it is, you need to see your doctor.” We snuggled together; I lay with my head on his shoulder. Don kissed me and said, “I’m sorry about last night. If you had slept with Harry—I know you didn’t—it would have been because of me. I’ve been pretty shitty toward you. I am truly sorry, Louis.” Raising up on my forearm, I turned to stare into his eyes. “I know. None of it matters. I just want to be with you, Donny. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.” “I’ll do better. I promise.” “Love you.” Don squeezed and kissed me. “Love you.” He was quiet for a few minutes and then said, “You love me enough to get on top?” “What!” I turned on to my side. “You sure you’re up to that?” “Oh, yeah … I’m positive.” Lecherous best describes his look as he pulled me over his body. Two hours later, we finally got out of bed, showered together and took the elevator downstairs to make … lunch! I’d just put the main course in the oven when there was a knock on the back door. I found Rena there when I went to answer it. “Hey, come in!” I bent slightly to kiss her cheek. “How are you?” “Good. I just put quiche in. Stay for some.” “You don’t mind?” “No, of course not!” We walked into the kitchen. Don was at his counter chopping vegetables for salad. “Hey, Mom! Good timing!” Rena kissed Don’s cheek. “Good timing, eh? You want me to finish your salad?” Don looked hurt but then grinned. “Nah. I’m good. How are you? When are we going to meet the beau?” I’d put on a pot of coffee while Don and his mom started talking. I poured us each a cup and set out the cream, sugar and spoons. Don completed the salad and put it in the fridge to chill while the quiche finished baking. We sat at the kitchen table. Don glanced at me and smirked, I covered my stupid grin with my hands. Rena watched us and said, “Okay, you two. What is going on?” I blushed under my hands. Donny seemed to puff up. My mother-in-law’s confusion slowly morphed into a smile and then she said, “Oh, no. You’re … don’t, it didn’t? It did? You … both … together?” To us her stumbling words made perfect sense. Then she started to cry. Don’s eyes widened in surprise, he reached for his mother. “Mom, please don’t cry. This is good news!” I got up to get a box of tissues as Don rolled around to Rena. When I returned, Rena was asking, “Do you feel anything else? Anything in your legs?” “No, Mom. At least not yet,” Don replied. “Doc said that it could take a while if anything was going to happen.” “I know. Well, I’m just pleased that your … well … that you two can … I know how important it is.” Rena grinned, and her face flushed pink. I smiled at them both. “Yeah, it was pretty darned good!” Don grinned like the Cheshire Cat; a big cheesy grin. I sat down and held his hand. Rena seemed thoughtful and a bit distant. I asked her if she was okay. “Yes, I haven’t heard from Miriam. Have you two?” “No, we haven’t since her appearance here.” I answered. Don sipped his coffee. “Mom, do you have any idea what is going on with her? I mean, even when we were teenagers you knew I was Gay. But I never saw Mir with a girlfriend or a boyfriend.” Rena looked into her coffee cup and back at us. “You know, when you announced that you were Gay … came out, Don, I took that hard. I was afraid, angry and hurt. I had no idea what to do, or to say.” “Did you discuss it with Miriam?” I asked, because Miriam really didn’t seem normal. “Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have. Don’s father, Tony, had left us two years before. I had only just started to cope better with the loss of my marriage and my husband. So I turned to her.” Rena faced Don, her eyes filled remorse and tears. “I am so sorry. And I’ll tell her that too.” Don reached over and took his mother’s hand. Then he looked at me. “Lous, do we have any wine or something harder than coffee?” “Yeah, there’s wine and some spirits, if you really feel like drowning your sorrows.” “Wine’s good. Maybe we should eat?” “The quiche is likely done. I’ll have a look at it. Vino with lunch will be nice. We can all pass out later on!” Donny just smiled at me. There was laugher at lunch. I’m sure some of it was helped by the bottle of River-Bend Gewurztraminer we drank. After lunch, Rena left, and Don and I decided to have a nap. We did sleep, eventually. I was wrapped in the warmth of Don’s arms when the phone woke us. Don groaned and reached over to pick up his mobile. He pressed the talk button and held it to his ear. “Hey, Harry … Yeah, good and you? … I’m writing as we speak … Um, yeah sure, what time? … See you then, I’ll have Louis put on the coffee and bake a breakfast coffee cake.” That pricked up my ears! I flipped on my side and peered at him. Oh, you will, will you? Don smiled. “Okay, Harry, yeah we’ll see you tomorrow morning … bye now.” I poked him in his sexy ribs. “I’m baking Harry a cake, am I?” His eyes sparkled when he grinned. Don looked happy. “Well, for me too, babe.” “Yeah, okay. I’ll do it.” You are such a pushover, Louis! “Yesss!” I leaned forward and kissed him. “I think maybe we should get up and try to stay out of bed for at least two hours.” “Fine with me. If you decide you want me again, you can just climb on my lap.” I shoved him gently. “Get up, man! And I don’t mean your dick! We know it works, no need to show off!” Donny giggled and grabbed me before I managed to retreat. He kissed me, while I feebly attempted to escape. Eventually, those lips won the day! After some heavy-duty kissing, we actually managed to get up, and waited for certain body parts to go down. Don washed the lunch dishes at his special sink, and I put a chicken in to roast. I also measured out what I’d need to make the coffee cake on Sunday morning. We sat and had a cup of tea at the table. Don was looking at his laptop when he peered over it at me. “That call before. Harry wants to talk to me. I think he’s wanting me to hurry up with this story. I haven’t been too productive.” “It’s been a rough time.” I traced the handle of my mug and glanced up at him. “Harry’s glad you’re okay. I’m sure he’s willing to give you time to get back into the swing of things.” “Maybe so, but I need to get something finished. I mean, they won’t pay me unless I produce.” I smiled and sipped my drink. My mind wandered to me in running shoes. Me running for anything was a crazy notion. Harry’s words came back to me: “What about a marathon?” “That’s fine as long as I don’t have to run.” “But you will have to run.” “I can’t run down the street!” “You need to train with him. Essentially he’ll be training you as well as himself.” “Lous? Louis?” Don’s voice dragged me out of my daydream. “Sorry. I should do something I guess.” “Babe? You know we could put a washer and dryer out in the barn. I could do the laundry during the week while you’re at work.” “You wouldn’t mind?” “No. It’s fine if they are front loaders; I won’t have any problem doing that.” “Well, maybe next week we can go and see if they are on sale.” Don smiled. “It’s a date. How about lunch out as well?” I bent to kiss him. “It is a date! Love you.” I left Don writing and went to do some much-needed laundry. I cleaned and tidied the spare room where I’d slept. With luck, I won’t be back in there! Things seemed to be going well with Don. At least we had some of our intimacy back. That was good place to begin to reconnect. I didn’t really have any doubts we’d be okay, but it had been touch and go for a little while. I changed the sheets on our bed and threw them all in the wash. That done, I ran down to prep our dinner. That golden odour of roasting chicken was making its way through the house. I found Don with his mobile tucked against his shoulder while he cut up potatoes. He glanced up at me as I got the vegetables from the fridge. He was still talking as I prepped the veg for the steamer. “No man, not me anyway … yes … um, sure unless you know anyone that wants it … no that’s great, Jed. Yes … thanks. Take care.” I heard him put his phone down. “Lous? These potatoes are done. I’ll rinse them and put them on the stove.” “Okay, thanks. That was Jed? How is he?” “He’s fine. He’s got a job with another guy and he just wanted to know what to do with the bike and shit. I told him just to get rid as he sees fit. I don’t have a use for ….” I put the paring knife down and turned around. Donny had gotten the potatoes on, but now sat with his head in his hands. “Don? Heey … it’s okay.” I knelt before him and we held on to each other. He shook his head silently. I just hugged him until he finally raised his glance. “Louis, I’ve fucked up so many people’s lives. Yours, my own, Mom’s, and now Jed’s and the crew. They all had to find new jobs, and you and I nearly split up ….” Hugging him tighter, I said, “Donny … please, baby. We had some adjustment pain, that’s all. I never intended to leave you. You have to know that, baby.” He lifted his head. “No?” “No. Oh my god, no. I may have been frustrated, but I never thought of leaving.” I kissed him. “So Jed’s found a new job? I’m glad. He’s a good man. What was decided about the bike and all the equipment?” I reached over to the table and grabbed the box of tissues, and Don plucked a couple. “He said he knew someone who may want it all because the bike isn’t too badly damaged. Thought he could get decent money for everything. I told him to go ahead and sell it. I’ll need to sign the papers, but I’m going to pay off Jed and the boys.” I’d known that debt would have to be paid, and if Jed could get decent cash for the bike and other equipment, that would be good news. I smiled at my sweet husband. “Don, let’s get this dinner on the road, eh? I’ll finish the veg, and get you the stuff to make the gravy. How’s that?” He nodded. After dinner, I was feeling a bit ice-creamish, so we decided to take a drive to a nearby park for dessert. Our nearly-new van had a side entrance and ramp. We had to make sure we parked where we likely wouldn’t be blocked in. This model of van ensured that Don could sit in the front alongside me. After we parked, and Don was out, I got behind him to push the chair. Don twisted around a little and looked up at me. “Baby, let’s walk-n-roll!” Then he laughed. “Did you seriously just say that?” “You’re just jealous you didn’t say it first!” “True!” I started to push. “Hey, you come and walk beside me baby. I got this.” I did and he pushed himself along. My help was only required on some hills. We walked-n-rolled side-by-side until we’d hunted down an ice cream truck. The line wasn’t too long and we had our ice cream cones in a few minutes. We quickly found a place for me to sit. As I ate my cone, I watched Donny with his. He seemed to be enjoying it. “Lous? Isn’t that kid cute?” I turned to look in the direction Don was. There was a mom and dad with a little one in a stroller. The little girl was eating a cone; she was covered in ice cream, but didn’t seem to care. I thought it was nice the parents didn’t seem to care either. The kid was having a wonderful time. I figured you’d have to wash her clothes whether you were angry or let her enjoy it. “Yes, she sure seems to be enjoying her ice cream.” I bite into my cone and smiled at him. Don wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Lous, you ever think you’d want a kid?” I choked a little. “Shit, Donny.” “What? We’ve never talked about kids.” That was true. “No, I guess we haven’t. I’ve never really thought about it.” “Sometimes I think it would be nice. Other times, I think I must be out of my mind. Who would want me for a dad? I mean, it was bad enough before but now, with me in this thing.” “You’d be a better dad than you think, Don.” “Think so?” I smiled and leaned forward to kiss him. “Yep, I do.” “Is there a but?” “Mmm, I don’t know baby. I mean, you talking about a baby? Would you have to be the biological father? Or adopt a kid who’s older and needs us?” “Wow, I’ve not thought about all of that. But … to be honest, I don’t think I need to be the actual father … just be someone’s dad. A kid who needs us, like you say.” I stood up; it was starting to get dark. “You ready to go?” “Yeah. Can we talk about this again? Kids I mean.” Don started to push himself along. “Sure we can.” I fell in beside him. “Once we’re all settled and stuff. Sure why not.” After a few minutes of silence, Don asked, “What we gonna do when we get home?” I looked down at him. “Watch TV? Why, what do you want to do?” If his smile got any broader, I thought his face would crack. “Well, I thought maybe you could sit on my … knee.” “Huh, is that what you thought?” I moved behind him and pushed him up a small incline and over a bump onto the parking lot tarmac. “Well, maybe I can convince you then?” We got to the van and I unlocked it, opened it and lowered the ramp. I helped push Don up. He locked his chair into place while I looked after the ramp. I headed to the driver’s seat and stopped to kiss him. It was electric when our lips touched and Don reached for me as our kisses became passionate. When we finally broke apart, Don, who was still smiling, said, “Convinced?” I sat down and pulled on my seat belt. I glanced over at him. “Um, yeah I think I am.” He grinned. “Home, Lous!” ***
  24. 41 points
    When the crew returned at about 1600 hours, they were all smiles, and each of them carried some shopping bags. They sat down in the lounge to tell me all about their day, and they were pleased to see that the big screen television had been replaced. I informed everyone that the saloon doors would be installed the next day, so we would be more secure after that, and that I had arranged for additional security measures to be installed, including intruder sensors on the aft and fore decks, as well as on each of the pontoons. When the crew had put away their shopping, the boys went to the crew lounge to relax and play some games, and Simon, Sara and I sat in the crew mess to chat. I looked at Simon first, and then to Sara. “There is something we better let you know. Once all the repairs are done, we are heading north east. Our main destination is Honolulu, Hawaii, with stops in Fiji and Kiribati. The whole trip will take us two weeks to complete, not including stop over time, so I will leave it up to you if you want to leave us at Christchurch, or come with us to Hawaii. “I will say though, that if you do come with us, you will officially become a crew member, and get a fortnightly wage, as yacht’s chef and part time educator,” I said to Sara. “Well, with an offer like that, I will gladly accept the offer for employment, Boss,” Sara said to me with a big smile, and I gave a little chuckle. “I will help you with galley duties when I have the time, but once we leave Christchurch, the skipper and I will be on 12-hour helm shifts,” Simon added. I was about to say more, when my phone rang. The caller ID read G & M Fenton, and I smiled as I answered the call. “Hello, George. How are things in the UK this afternoon?” I said to the caller. George informed me that he had been in contact with their friends, and they would be pleased to join us at Christchurch for a charter cruise to Hawaii. He informed me of the names of the three couples, and that they would be arriving at Christchurch in two days’ time. I thanked George for the update and ended the call. “Now that we have secured a third adult crew member, I am happy to confirm that we have a charter from Christchurch to Honolulu - three couples, who are close friends of George and Mimi’s,” I announced to Sara and Simon. “That means you and I have to do a big shopping trip, for food,” Simon said to Sara, who was a little shocked with this news. “Don’t worry, Simon is an experienced chief steward and cook, so he will help you with the planning of the meals for the next two weeks. We will also pick up fresh supplies when we call into Fiji and Kiribati. With three couples, they will be using the master and two double guest cabins, so you and Oscar can remain in your assigned cabins for now. Simon and I will be relocating to our original cabins on the pontoons, so that will give the boys extra space to relax. Maybe I have a better idea. “I will get some carpenters in to remove the bed and make it into a study area, for schooling, and if you like Oscar can have the single cabin opposite my brothers,” I said to Sara. “That sounds like a good idea. I will get Oscar moved first thing in the morning,” Sara replied. After we had eaten dinner, the boys watched a movie in the formal lounge, before they showered and headed to bed for the night. I went up to the fly bridge, to be on watch for a few hours, before I would also go to bed. The following morning Sara offered to take all three boys for some more sightseeing, and Simon said he would remain on the yacht to work out a meal plan for the next two weeks. At 0900 hours, we had a team of tradespeople on the yacht, some of them installing the new security systems, while the others were installing the replacement saloon doors, which were three layers of glass, making it very difficult to smash. While they were working, I called Mike at Invercargill, to get a recommended marine carpenter, to do some more work on the yacht, and with that information at hand, and another phone call, I had arranged for a marine carpentry team to come in the afternoon to do the changes in the master crew cabin. I stripped the bed of linen and relocated all of my belongings over to the forward starboard pontoon, and by the time I had done this, my former cabin was now bare, and ready for the planned changes of an “L” shaped desk, with room for three people to be seated at one time. I would also be including a full-length bookshelf, along the outer side wall above the desks for the education books. I was also planning to purchase three new lap top computers, a printer scanner, and have them all connected to the yacht’s satellite internet. Once Simon and I had eaten lunch, I asked him to go and do some shopping for me, to get the computers and printer for what would be the new crew study adjoining the crew lounge. As Simon left, the glass installers had finished replacing the saloon doors. I paid them the money for their services and thanked them for their prompt work. Pleased that we now had a secure yacht again, I headed up to the fly bridge and waited for the arrival of the new contractors to do the work in my former cabin, where I would also be having the two wardrobes turned into extra shelving and storage drawers. The carpenters arrived at 1400 hours and after I had shown them what I wanted done, they got to work pulling apart the bed and measuring up where I wanted the desk and bookshelves. Simon returned just half an hour before Sara and the boys returned and placed the new computers and printer scanner in the lounge area of the bridge, while the new carpentry work was being done. The boys watched a movie in the formal lounge, since they couldn’t get to the crew lounge. When the carpenters knocked off for the day, promising to be back first thing in the morning to finish the work, Simon and I locked up the whole yacht, and we headed into town to have dinner in the city. Soon after we sat down in the restaurant my mobile rang. It was an unknown number. “Hamilton Sail charters, Anton speaking,” I said as I answered the call. “Hello, Mr Hamilton. This is Charles Branks, a good friend of George and Mimi Fenton. I believe you are expecting us tomorrow,” the caller said. “Yes, Sir, we are. Can you come no earlier than 2pm, as we are having some minor alterations being made and they will be completed by that time?” I replied. “Yes, that is fine by us. We have just flown into Christchurch and we have a late checkout time for the hotel,” Mr Branks said to me. “Would you like us to arrange transport from the hotel to the yacht tomorrow afternoon?” I asked Mr Branks. “Yes, that would be wonderful thank you. George mentioned that you were good with attention to detail and going beyond what is expected, so we look forward to an enjoyable cruise,” Mr Branks replied. “Very well, Sir. We will have a limo collect you at 2pm at your hotel. Did Mr Fenton inform you of the terms of the charter?” I asked. “Yes, we will have 45% of the first week in cash on arrival, and a bank cheque for the remainder of the two-week charter,” Mr Branks replied. “Thank-you, Sir. I look forward to your arrival tomorrow afternoon. Goodnight,” I said and we ended the call. I sighed and looked at Simon and Sara. “Well as you can guess, that was one of our guests arriving tomorrow afternoon, so first thing tomorrow, while the last of the work is happening in the new study, I want the three guest cabins cleaned thoroughly. Simon, can you show Sara the high standard that I expect, and also issue Oscar and her with some uniforms? As from after lunch tomorrow, we will all be in uniforms. That includes Oscar, as the boys will be assisting with getting luggage on board, and serving any non-alcoholic drinks.” “Yes, Boss,” Simon replied and there was a moment of silence. “Yes, Boss. Sorry. I guess it’s going to take me a little bit to get used to not being the boss anymore,” Sara said to me, and I smiled. “It’s ok Sara. I am sure you will pick it up quickly. Just remember to relax and have a good time, and if you have any problems, don’t hesitate to come and see me or Simon,” I said to Sara. “Ok, Boss. Will do,” Sara replied. After we had finished dinner, we went back to the yacht and since it was getting late, I asked my brothers to have a shower and get ready for bed. Sara asked Oscar to do the same, now that he was in the adjoining cabin in the crew area. Once the boys were in bed, Sara, Simon and I sat down in the formal lounge area. “I just want to check with you, Sara, are you ok with this change of pace? I know it might seem a little too much, but this is the main part of this yacht’s business. Because we have limited crew, everyone has to pitch in and help out. The guests’ cabins are to be serviced every day, with sheets to be changed every second day, and a high level of cleanliness in all guest living areas. “When the guests are on board, crew and family members are confined to crew areas. There is an exception for you since you have a cabin in the guest area. Now we have the study area and crew lounge this makes things a little easier for the boys, who also have the lounge area of the main bridge as permissible place to be. When the guests are not on board, the boys can also use the Jacuzzi and sunlounge area on the fly bridge,” I announced to Sara. “Neale and Jedd already know these rules, and they can help Oscar with any questions about where they are allowed to be,” Simon added with a smile. “So much to remember in a small amount of time,” Sara said to us. “It’s ok. We are here to help you settle into this new career, so try not to get too anxious about it. Get a good night’s sleep and we will see you in the morning,” I said to Sara, and she smiled as she stood up and headed down to her cabin. Simon and I did a final check around the yacht, before we locked up the Saloon doors and headed to our pontoon cabins in opposite directions. Early the next morning, I arrived in the galley, to find Simon and Sara preparing breakfast for everyone. I smiled as I sat down at the crew mess, and Simon placed a cup of tea in front of me. “How is everyone feeling this morning?” I asked my two crew mates. “I am feeling much better after a good night’s sleep, thanks, Skipper,” Sara said with a smile. After we had eaten breakfast, and chatted for a while about the day’s plans, Sara woke up the boys, while Simon and I checked the three guest cabins to make doubly sure that everything was in order and ready for the guests’ arrival. Once that was done we cleaned every surface in the formal lounge, dining room and saloon lounge, and vacuumed the floors, before heading up to the fly deck, to make sure that it was all clean up there as well. The carpenters had completed their work by late morning, and after inspecting their work, I paid them in full, and thanked them for their work. Before the boys could go in there, I had Simon install the three new laptop computers and the printer scanner, and linked them up to the yacht’s internet. Sara brought in a heap of books that she had purchased the day before, including atlases, dictionaries, general reference books, and three lots of text books on World History, Geography, Mathematics, English, Science and Foreign Languages, which she placed in the bookshelves above the desks. When the boys were finally allowed to enter the new study, they were amazed at the big change in the room. “This will be your classroom from now on. So, when we are at sea, we will have classes from 9am to 11am and 2pm to 4pm, 6 days a week. On days that we are in port we will have educational excursions, which will be part of your education,” Sara announced to the boys. “Excuse me, Miss Sara, Anton and Simon go by the 24 hour clock, so it should be 0900 to 1100 and 1400 to 1600 hours,” Neale said to correct her. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I heard this, especially when Sara turned to face me and frowned at me. “Very well, that’s just another thing I need to get used to. Thanks for the polite reminder, Neale,” Sara responded, as she faced the boys, who had now sat down in their chairs, and were looking at the computers and the books in the book case in front of them. “Classes will commence at 0900 hours tomorrow, so for now you are free to relax until the arrival of the guests, and don’t forget to change into your yacht uniforms straight after lunch,” Sara said. As I turned to head up to the bridge, my mobile rang. The caller ID said it was Gramps, and I smiled as I headed up the stairs and answered the call. “Hello, Gramps. How is the recovery going?” I asked when the call connected. “Going very well thanks, Grandson. I am out of rehab hospital, and I am back at Isaac’s place in Leeman. We have checked the house, and everything is fine there. The trees and vines are doing very well,” Gramps replied happily. “That is great news, Gramps. The boys and I are well. We have just spent a couple of days in Christchurch. We have another charter and will be leaving later this afternoon,” I said to Gramps. “Yes, I know about your trip to Honolulu. I had a call from George a few days ago, asking me why we were not doing charters for a while, and I explained that you were dealing with some personal business regarding the estate of your mother and stepfather. I mentioned that your Canadian crew members had returned home, and when he called back yesterday, he suggested that I organise for two capable replacements, to be sent over for this charter to Honolulu,” Gramps said to me. “I see, and which two capable replacements do you suggest I employ for this charter?” I asked Gramps. “They are already on their way, and will arrive in Christchurch at 1700 hours your time, although Jasper isn’t too happy about them taking off from him,” Gramps said to me, and I let out a laugh, realising he was talking about Toby and Finn. “It will be great to have them on board. Thanks for organising it, Gramps. I will make sure that someone will be at the airport to meet Toby and Finn. I will speak to you in a few days when we arrive in Fiji. Say hello to Isaac for me. Bye,” I said and ended the call. I headed back down to the crew mess and galley. Sara and Simon were discussing menu’s when I arrived, and they stopped when they saw me. “I have great news. We will have two extra crew members. They arrive late this afternoon. Simon, we took them away from Jasper, so your cousin isn’t too happy at the moment,” I announced, and Simon burst out laughing and I joined in. Once we had calmed down Simon faced Sara, who wasn’t sure what was going on. “Ok, just to fill you in with some background info. Jasper is my cousin. He is a former police senior constable, and he is the skipper of the catamaran yacht that Anton and his Gramps owned, but have sold to Jasper recently. Toby and Finn are former class mates of ours, from the high school in rural Western Australia where we lived, and they have crewed for us on a couple of occasions, when our main crew members were not available. Those crew have since returned home to Canada. We inherited them from the previous owners when Anton and his Gramps bought this yacht, and they were outstanding crew members,” Simon announced. “Anyway, Toby and Finn will be joining us when they fly in to Christchurch at 1700 hours today. Simon can you go out to the airport and meet them, and bring them back to the yacht?” I asked Simon. “We will be ready to go once you have returned.” “Not a problem. So, I guess they will have to share a pontoon cabin,” Simon replied. “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. We can leave it up to them. They can have the cabin next to you, or have the twin guest cabin next to Sara’s cabin,” I replied, and I went forward to check on the boys who were busy watching a movie in the crew lounge. We had an early simple lunch of cold meats and salad, which also made it easy to clean up afterwards, and Simon and Sara set off to do some food shopping, to be well stocked for the two -week long charter ahead of us. Less than two hours later they arrived back in a taxi bus with lots of bags of shopping, and I asked the boys to stop their computer game, and come up on deck to help bring all the shopping on board, as there was a mixture of fresh, dry, tinned, and frozen food, that needed to be put away quickly. Just as I was carrying the last two boxes of tinned food into the saloon, I spotted the limo approaching. “Attention, Crew. Guests are arriving. Boys help Sara with all the shopping, while Simon and I attend to the guests,” I shouted. With the bridge door open everyone heard me, and I heard Simon curse. “I heard that, Simon,” I said in reply, and Simon appeared from the Bridge with a dirty uniform shirt. “You better get changed quick smart,” I said to Simon, and he dashed over to his cabin to change his shirt. I stepped onto the jetty just at the limo pulled up nearby, and three couples climbed out of the back, not waiting for the driver to open the doors for them. “Good afternoon. Anton Hamilton, yacht owner and skipper. Welcome to the trimaran yacht – Last Resort,” I said to the arriving guests, and each of them introduced themselves to me, just as Simon arrived.
  25. 41 points
    “I hope you don’t mind, but they arrived yesterday, so I invited them to attend, as they need to speak to you once this ceremony has concluded” Lt Colonel Harding said to me quietly. I had no idea why I was being asked to speak to the Brigadier, until I saw the badge on his arm, the badge of Special Operations Command, and I realised that this was the same Brigadier that I spoke to last week, during the intrusion at Bindoon. The ceremony went smoothly, and Angela looked stunning in her dress, as the chaplain pronounced us Wife and Husband, knowing that it was Angela who had proposed to me, and I smiled broadly, as I kissed my wife for the first time and everyone cheered and applauded. This is when the Brigadier stepped forward, to make an unexpected announcement. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sorry to intrude on this special event, but I have limited time available to me before I fly back to Sydney, my name is Brigadier Murdoch from Special Operations Command in Sydney” the Brigadier began, as I held tight to my wife’s hand, unsure what was about to happen. “Unfortunately, you are not in uniform, but considering the circumstances, that is allowed, Staff Sergeant Benning, front and centre” the Brigadier ordered, and I looked at Lt Colonel Harding for a moment, before facing forward again, before releasing my hold on Angela and snapping to attention, before I marched over to where the Brigadier stood. “Staff Sergeant Benning, I was planning to give you a promotion to Warrant Officer, but I have been informed your CO, that you have refused a previous promotion. So, in replacement for the promotion, I am awarding you the highest bravery award, the Cross of Valour, for acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril. Along with that I am awarding you the Conspicuous Service Cross, for outstanding devotion to duty and outstanding achievement in the application of exceptional skills, judgement and dedication in a non-war-like situation. Congratulations” the Brigadier said as he handed me two cases, that had the awards in them, and I shook his hand and saluted, as everyone else applauded. Once the Brigadier and his aide had left, we all headed to the yacht club to enjoy lunch, with our family and colleagues. Tom was fascinated by the awards that I had received, and kept on asking me to have a look at them every twenty minutes or so, while we ate lunch. As we neared the end of lunch, Lt Colonel Harding stood up to make a speech. “To the Bride and Groom, I wish you all the very best for the future, and as a gift from the Army, I wish to present to you this” the CO said as he handed over a large yellow envelope, which had Special Operations Command stamped on it. “(Former) Staff Sergeant Mitchell Benning, you have been promoted to Warrant Officer, and are hereby ordered to prepare for travel to your new posting – as part of an Officer Exchange Programme. Your family will be permitted to travel with you for this two-year term exchange. Your posting is to the British Infantry Training Centre at Catterick, North Yorkshire, UK, were you will be a firearms instructor. Information on where to go, your transport to get there and accommodation details of the private house rental at nearby village of Scotton are enclosed. Good Luck, signed Brigadier Murdoch”. “Bloody hell” I exclaimed after reading the letter a second time, before handing it to Angela for her to read, and I saw wide grins on the faces of the CO and WO Owens, who obviously were aware of the orders. “Bloody hell” Angela said, echoing my comment. “Mum? Dad? What is it?” Tom asked us, and it took me a moment to realised that Tom had called me dad, which made me smile. “Tom, I have been transferred to an overseas exchange posting, to England, and you and your mum are coming with me” I announced, “Wow, awesome” Tom replied. The End
  26. 41 points
    Chapter 7 Things hadn’t been so good at home, so if overtime was available at work I took it. Currently a big case needed extra investigation, so I volunteered. In my position as a paralegal, I often did research for my bosses. My additional two hours on this Friday were just about to begin when the phone rang. I picked up. “Jackson and Montague. How can I help you?” “Louis?” The voice was familiar. “Yes? Can I help you?” “I hope so. It’s Harry.” Shit! And worse, just the name gave me the beginnings of a hard-on. Breathe, Louis! My mouth was dry. I reached for my water and sipped it. I slapped my turgid and traitorous member. It retreated somewhat. “Louis? You there? You okay?” “Yeah … yeah, I’m here. Sorry.” “No problem. Listen, I was wondering if I could take you to dinner?” “Dinner?” The r came out as a squeak! “Um … well, I don’t know, Harry.” “It’s important. There’s something I need to talk to you about.” Important? “There is? Like what?” “Well … I need to talk to you about Don.” “Is something wrong, Harry?” I felt some rising panic. “No, nothing too serious, but well, I need your help.” Harry coughed. “It would help if you were onside.” “Well, okay. I guess that means you don’t want me to tell Don then?” There was a short pause before Harry spoke again. “That would probably be for the best.” My boss, Frank Jackson, was looking at me. So I thought I’d better wrap this up. “Um, Harry, when were you thinking of?” “Tonight any good for you? Say about 7:30? I know a nice little Italian place; it’s very quiet and private.” “Yeah … sure. Tonight would be fine.” “I can pick you up.” “No, I’m in town. Have a couple more hours of work to do. Just text me the address and I’ll be there.” “Sure, no problem. I’m glad we can do this.” “Right, okay ….” “I’ll see you later then.” “Yeah, see you soon.” I hung up and smiled at my boss. “Dinner….” “Work first please, Louis!” “Yes, sir.” Mario’s Bistro wasn’t too far from the office. I saw Harry waiting for me as a waiter showed me to the table. Rising as I neared, Harry reached for me and kissed my cheek. He ordered me a drink. “You look like you could do with one.” He pulled me around to the bench seat and tugged me down next to him. God, he looked good, and smelled even better. Suddenly I wanted him, his mouth on mine, and his dick in me. It had been so long. Harry gazed at me. “Louis? Relax.” “Sorry. I ….” He took my hand and held it. Squeezed. “Have a sip of your drink. Breathe. It’s okay.” “Sorry. I guess I seem nervous.” I picked up my wine, but my hand was shaking. Smiling, Harry replied, “Pretty much.” “Christ, sorry. Look, I should go.” “Why? You’re fine. Just relax, Louis.” He finally released my hand. “Don doesn’t know you’re with me, right?” “No. Shit, did he tell you to call me?” “No. Why would he do that?” “Because he thinks I should sleep with you.” Harry’s mouth dropped open and his eyes widened. “What?” “Yeah. He thinks you’d be the perfect lover for me.” “I … um. Not sure what to say.” The waiter appeared then with two salads. “Would you care for fresh pepper?” Harry looked at me, and I shook my head, while he replied, “No, thank you very much.” “Very well. Shall I put the order in for your mains?” Harry ordered the lasagna, and I ordered spaghetti with meatballs. “But put them in in about fifteen minutes, please.” The waiter nodded at Harry and excused himself. “Now, Louis, what’s this about you and me? I mean, I can’t say I’ve never thought about it. You’re a very sexy man.” I sighed and speared a piece of tomato. “Louis, is it something you want?” My handsome companion pushed the salad around in its bowl. “Yes … no, I don’t know, Harry. I want it; I miss sex; I miss being held.” Damn it, I felt hot tears on my cheeks. “Hey. Hey … shhh. It’s okay, Louis.” Harry’s warm hand patted my thigh. “I’m not so sure that us being together, under these circumstances, would be a good thing for either of us. But I can hold you.” And he did; he pulled me close and held me as I sobbed on his shoulder. Once I’d finally quieted, he sent me to the restroom to wash and collect myself. The restaurant was very low key, filled with plants that provided privacy between each table. I could hear Harry talking as I returned. He was on his phone. Okay, I’m not proud, but I did listen from behind a ficus. “He’s fine. Don, if you say that to me again, I’m going to hang up and do what you are accusing me of. I have zero intention of sleeping with him, especially now. It would be a wrong and a horrible thing to do.” There was a pause, and then Harry continued. “I wasn’t going to tell you but that felt wrong. I just wanted you to know he’s safe and not to worry. I shouldn’t have bothered!” It was quiet except for Harry’s fork dinging the salad bowl. I brushed the large plant aside, entered our little plant cave and sat down. Harry looked concerned. “Okay? Feel better?” “Yes. I’m sorry … I ….” “Don’t worry. You and Don are both under a lot of strain. It can’t be easy for either of you. So much change.” “No. It’s not easy. I don’t know if I can keep this up, Harry.” I sipped my wine. “I overheard you on the phone with Don.” Harry looked sheepish. “Yeah, I was feeling a bit guilty.” “No reason to feel like that.” I finished the last of my salad before asking, “So, why dinner? Why did you want to see me?” “Oh, Don’s writing but not producing much, or at least he’s not sending it to me. I wondered if he’d said anything to you. I know you always read his work before he submits it.” “He rarely talks to me. Especially not about his work.” Harry took my hands in his. His eyes found mine and held real concern. “Louis, you and Don … you were the most in-love people I’ve ever met. You have to save this … you can’t just let it go.” “I’ve tried talking. We went to counselling one time, but Don cannot get over the fact that we may never have sex again and refuses to go back. I can’t live with him if he won’t even hold my hand, let alone do anything else.” “That would be hard to come to terms with. Especially for a man like Don.” “I know and I’ve tried to be understanding, be patient, and thoughtful, and do whatever he needs. But it’s not working.” The waiter came in with another bottle of wine, rolls and our plates of pasta. After giving us a bowl of fresh parmesan and dried hot peppers, he left us alone. Harry spooned some cheese and peppers over his food, and poured us more wine. I added the same flavours to my own plate. We were quiet for some minutes while we ate. “You, we, need a plan!” Harry waved his empty fork. “Something that will bring you two together.” I nodded. “Yes, but what exactly?” His fork safely back on his plate, Harry covered my hand with his. “Look at all the things he used to do, Louis. What did most of them have in common?” “Um … Ironman, the bikes of course, fun runs, marathons: races!” “Yes. He needs a challenge. Something he can do in a wheelchair.” The editor smiled and squeezed my hand. “You need to help him. Train with him, be there through it all.” “He’d wanted to do the Fat Dog 100 this year. You can’t do that from a wheelchair.” “No, he’ll have to change his expectations. What about a marathon?” “That’s fine as long as I don’t have to run.” “But you will have to run.” Harry’s eyes locked on mine. “I can’t run down the street!” “You need to train with him. Essentially, he’ll be training you as well as himself.” I let this sink in for a few minutes. Me, run? Harry ended the silence. “Let me talk to him. You need to keep quiet. I’ll bring it up to him like I used to. He did Ironman because I suggested his training and experience preparing for it would be a good story. And it was. I’ll do the same thing this time. Tell him we want him to do a hands-on story for New York or London. The Magazine will pay for his new chair, don’t worry about that.” “Okay, thanks.” I felt stunned. Run a marathon, me? The waiter returned, cleared the table and we sat and had coffee, chatting easily about one thing or another. Harry took the bill when the waiter returned with it. He handed the server his credit card and signed the bill when it printed from the hand-held payment machine. “Thank you, gentlemen. Please, there is no rush for you to leave.” We finished our coffee and Harry walked me to the car. I unlocked the door and turned around. “Thanks for dinner, Harry.” I smiled at him. “You’re welcome.” My companion put a hand on the car and leaned toward me. His voice was low. “Louis, now isn’t the time. But if you ever change your mind ….” Then his soft lips were on mine. I didn’t resist; in fact, I kissed him back. I welcomed the arms that encircled me and held on to Harry’s wool pea coat. It felt so good, and it had been so long. Finally, I think we both realized what we were doing, what could very well happen, and who could get hurt. With his hands now on my shoulders, Harry broke our embrace. He spoke first. “I guess I should apologize, but I don’t want to. I’m not sorry for kissing you and I wouldn’t be sorry if you came home with me and we made love. But I know I don’t want you to regret it, so it’s best we don’t act on how we feel right at this moment.” My eyes held his. “You don’t need to apologize, there’s nothing to be sorry for. I’m not sorry either. But … but I am married to Don. I promised—” “I understand.” Harry pulled me into a hug. “I’m here for you and Don, Louis. I am attracted to you, but more than that, I’m your friend.” I clutched Harry tighter, while tears fell again. We just stood in the parking lot and rocked together. Finally he bundled me into my car and kissed my cheek. I worried on the way home. I’d overheard Harry’s conversation with Don. What was Don thinking? I really didn’t want to go into the house, but I knew Harry was right. I couldn’t give up on Donny—on us—not yet. Steeling myself after I’d parked and locked the car, I entered the house, hung up my coat and did what I normally do; shouted hello. “Don? I’m home!” “I’m in the living room.” I walked in smiling and moved to kiss Don. He pushed me away. “Shit Don, what is wrong with you?” He glared at me. “You were with Harry.” “How did you know?” “He called and told me. Was he a good fuck?” I stared down at him and shook my head. “Seriously? I was out with him, yeah. For dinner, that’s all. I did not sleep with him.” “I don’t believe you.” “Whatever. I’m going to shower and go to bed.” “You’re damn lucky I can’t get out of this thing!” I whirled around. “Am I? Well, I’ll tell you, I sure do feel lucky. My husband hates me, refuses to touch or kiss me. I’ve lost my best friend, the man I love, to that fucking chair. So yes, I feel wonderfully lucky!” I walked away but stopped and turned back. “And another thing. I’ve never cheated on you. Never lied. Always supported you, and I still do even after you fucking ruined our lives.” My heart hitched when I saw the pain on his face after hearing that. I pretended I hadn’t seen it and walked away. The tears started about halfway up the stairs. To cover up my sobs, I put on the shower and climbed in. I don’t know how long the shower ran. I finally got out, dried myself and pulled on some boxers. Exhaustion made me feel like I was walking in mud. The bed looked inviting, so I just climbed in. *** Don’s voice woke me. “Lous … Lous? Please wake up.” Dim light spilled into the bedroom from the hall. I felt Don’s presence before I saw him. “What is it? Are you okay?” “Sort of … no. Lous, please. Please, can we talk? I’m sorry.” He sounded so sad and miserable. I pulled myself up onto my right elbow and reached out to touch him. “Sure. Of course. I’m sorry too, Donny.” “I hate that you’re in here.” “So do I.” “Then please come back to our room. I want us together. This is no power trip, I promise. If I could get into bed here, I’d join you.” He probably could have gotten into bed with me, but without the trapeze, it was definitely hard. “Okay. You go on. I’ll follow.” I got up, sliding my legs over the side. I stopped and looked at them for a minute. What would it be like not to have them, and not walk again? Don had stopped and was watching me. “It’s hard, Lous. Really fucking hard.” I could only gaze at him and nod. I got up then and pushed him back to our room. We lay face-to-face, once we’d both settled into our wonderful bed. Don put his arm over me and pulled me close. He kissed me, softly. His lips were like down on mine. My heart quickened and I couldn’t breathe. Then his tongue found mine and the hunger was alive. It was our first kiss all over again, only ten years later. *** I first saw Don outside of Rider’s Pub. Lots of hot and sexy biker types hung around there, and lots of wanna-be girlfriends did too. Then there were a few of us gay-hopeful types as well. The idea of a tough, sexy man gave me the shivers back then. I was eighteen or so, finished high school, enjoying my last summer before college. I’d never had a boyfriend, never been kissed either, and that was something I wanted so very badly. Me and my buddies, too young to drink anything but Coke, hung around for a few weeks every Friday and Saturday night that July. There were a lot hot guys around for me to ogle. A few of my friends got laid, pairing up with girls left behind by the older bikers, but not me. I had no interest in the girls. One Friday night he showed up. I’d never seen him before. My jaw dropped. He was gorgeous, muscular, tattooed, and I wanted him. I could not take my eyes off him as he sauntered from his parked bike up the path. He must have felt me staring because he turned his head, pushed his dirty blond hair off his face, met my eyes and held them. Brazenly, I didn’t drop my gaze. He reached the door, and just before entering the bar, he smiled at me and winked. Then he slipped inside. I promised myself I would not leave until he came out. The reward for my patience left the bar about an hour later. I watched him, this time though, he made his way to where I sat alone on the wall. My eyes never left his; in that light they had looked golden. He smiled and said, “You gonna be here next week? He slid his hand onto my right thigh. I decided to be cool. “Maybe.” “Hope so. See you later.” “Later.” My thigh felt like it had been seared. It took me all my time not to jump down and do a jig. That week was the longest of my life at the time. My dick was permanently a semi and my mouth was dry constantly. Finally, Friday rolled around and I sat on the brick wall outside Rider’s, waiting. I nursed a coke and my patience was again rewarded when Don pulled in around 7pm. He straddled the bike and waved me over. I did my best to be as calm as possible, and went to meet him. Indicating the helmet behind him, he spoke loudly over the bike’s engine. “Put it on.” I picked up the spare helmet and did up the chinstrap clumsily. Then I climbed on behind him. I was close. He smelled like cinnamon and pear. “Hold on to me.” I put my hands on his waist. He rolled the bike back and then pulled out of the parking lot, heading left onto the road. I slid my arms farther around him, more out of fear than desire. It had been early evening, so the sun was just setting. We roared up the road. I had no idea where Don was taking me, but I didn’t care. I’d never been on a bike and I was loving every exhilarating moment! About twenty minutes passed, and Don slowed and turned off onto a dirt road. We sped up there, after another ten minutes, Don slowed the machine again, and we pulled up to the edge of the Doncaster Quarry. I climbed off, and found my legs a bit shaky, but missed being close to Don. Don turned off the engine and settled the machine onto its kickstand. I put the helmet on the seat beside Don’s. Well, I didn’t know his name then, we’d never traded our monikers at that point. He grinned at me. “Like the ride?” He removed his black leather jacket and laid it on the seat. I nodded. My mouth didn’t seem to want to do anything and got dryer after seeing how his t-shirt clung to his muscles. “I’m Don.” He reached for my hand and held it as we walked over to the quarry. Don found a rock big enough for us to share, and we sat down. “You have a name?” Nodding again, I swallowed and managed to say, “Louis.” “Nice to meet you, Louis.” He looked away, and our gaze swept over the pit before us and the trees on the other side. There was splashing and voices down below. Kids partied here and did other stuff too. “I like it up here. It’s quieter and private. At least for now, there’s a party up here tonight.” “It’s nice. I’ve never been up here before.” I’d been to the quarry, just never to the top of it. The water was the big draw here. Don removed his sunglasses, and turned to me, his golden-amber eyes were beautiful. “No? Well, I’m glad your first time was with me then.” I swallowed loudly when I heard that. I wanted my first time for everything to be with him. We had sat there for a little while, when I heard bikes in the distance. I knew our alone time was over and the party was about to start. Don took my hand and pulled me along as riders, some with their girls, drove in. We walked around and said hello. Beer and food was put out and piled high. No one seemed to care that I was with Don. A fire was built and burgers and hot dogs were cooked. Don sent me to fetch us some. As I put condiments on, a young man stood next to me doing the same. “He won’t keep you long.” I frowned and put the top on the burger. “What?” “Don … he won’t keep you. Once you let him fuck you. He’ll dump you.” I stared for a moment. Then I piled the food on a plate, grabbed two beers and returned to Don. What the boy had said frightened me. What if it were true? He opened our beers, grabbed a burger and ate it like he’d not eaten for a day. After the second one, he drained his beer, looked at mine, then at me, and smiled. I couldn’t help but grin back and nod. I’d only had a sip or two. “Thanks, Lous.” He picked up the brown bottle and swallowed the contents. Afterward, he licked his lips. I stared at them, wondering what they would feel like when pressed against my own. The party went on. The boys were a bit drunk and several of them started their bikes and performed some stunts. Don joined them. I was terrified when one stunt didn’t quite work, the bike slid away from him and he jumped for safety. He picked up the machine and parked it. “Hey. Don’t worry, Lous. It’s okay. Come here.” He wrapped his arms around me and held me close for a few minutes. I could feel him harden as he embraced me. I know I did too. Don reached for my butt and squeezed, pulling me in and grinding against me gently. “Oh, baby, you feel so, so good.” I groaned softly and held on to his hard body. Finally, he broke away and said, “You know the sun will be up in an hour or so.” What? My parents were going to kill me. “I’ll take you home, baby. Don’t worry. You’re safe with me.” He did take me home. He walked me to my front door and held me close. I breathed him into me as much as I could. Then his generous soft lips were on mine. I moaned; as we connected. I hung on as he held me tight, deepened the kiss, until I was hard and wanting. I sucked his tongue and groaned as he grabbed my ass, lifted me and thrust against me. Finally, he released me and smiled. I missed him already. Then reaching for my hand, he ran it along his length, and it was hard. “That’s what you do me, Lous. You did this. You do this to me.” I sighed as he pulled me back into his iron embrace. “Say you want to see me again, Lous.” With his tongue deep against mine I mumbled, “Yes, yes, yes.” *** I opened my eyes. Don was looking at me. “Wow, where were you?” “Oh, just daydreams. I’m right here.” “Okay.” We hugged, and Don said, “I miss this baby. Your kisses.” Our lips touched again and we necked like kids, his hands on my ass. I let my hand slip, hunting for his cock. I found it and stroked it. It twitched and thickened slightly. Don groaned as I touched him. His eyes flew open and he grinned. ***
  27. 41 points
    “POLICE! PUT YOUR HANDS ABOVE YOUR HEAD!” It was a woman’s voice but there were others with her. I squinted into the flashlight, confused and scared as they barked instructions at us. When the kitchen light came on, I could see four officers, three men and one woman. They were pumped up and looked kitted out for combat as if they had been expecting some kind of armed resistance. The odds were undeniably stacked in their favour; they faced two teenage boys in their underwear and ten-year-old in a pair of Gummy Bear pyjamas! The woman officer shouted at me to stand up, but when I scrambled to my feet, I moved a little too quickly for their liking and for a moment, I had two officers training their weapons on me. “FACE THE WALL! DON’T MOVE! KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!” I had heard those lines before in the movies, but this was real and so were their guns. It was an unnerving experience and totally unnecessary; we were only wearing our underpants and I doubt if even Alex’s formidable appendage could have been classed as a concealed weapon. “YOU CAN’T DO THIS,” he yelled at the officers. “YOU CAN’T JUST COME IN HERE LIKE THIS!” “We have a search warrant,” replied the officer in charge. He was the tall, square-faced, Terminator type, and he reminded me of Robocop. “What are you searching for then?” said Alex. I could have had a pretty good guess, and Robocop all but confirmed it with his next question. “Which one of you is Brad?” I was still half-asleep, confused, and scared that I would say something that I shouldn’t, so I decided to keep quiet and hope that Alex answered for me. He seemed less intimidated than I was and I got the feeling that this wasn’t the first time that he had been in a situation like that. “Brad’s not here,” he said. “I’m his brother Alex and that guy is a friend of mine.” “Where’s Brad?” “I don’t know,” said Alex. Then I heard Luke upstairs; he was crying and probably too scared to venture down. “Who’s up there?” asked Robocop. “My little brother.” I cringed as I watched the officer draw his sidearm and climb the stairs, to a torrent of abuse from Alex. “HE’S JUST A FUCKING KID. DON’T POINT A GUN AT HIM, ASSHOLE. LEAVE HIM ALONE!” As Luke’s disturbing cries grew louder; Alex was wrestled to the floor by the other two male storm troopers. They were shouting at him to keep still, but he continued to struggle and an already scary situation suddenly turned very sinister. The officers looked quite young and nervous and I hadn’t seen them before around Cobourg, where the police usually kept a high, but friendly presence. The town wasn’t exactly known for its criminal element and I couldn’t imagine there being any need for a SWAT team. When I heard Alex cry out I turned my head to see one of them on top of him. He had his knee pressed into my friend’s back while the other one was trying to handcuff him. “What are you doing?” I said. “He’s done nothing wrong.” I was told to shutup and face the wall again by the uncompromising policewoman who, for whatever reason, still felt it necessary to train her gun on me. Once Alex had been brought under control, she told me to put my hands behind my back while her colleague snapped a set of handcuffs on me. They were tight and uncomfortable, and nothing at all like my fantasies. Then I was led over to the table and told to sit down. I felt exposed and humiliated but when I asked if I could put some clothes on, I was told that I would have to wait until they had conducted their search. It was a specialist job and they had come prepared, setting loose a small but enthusiastic sniffer dog, which scampered excitedly around the kitchen like a kid at Christmas before heading downstairs with its handler. I was sure that this super-sensitive mutt would soon lie down in front of wherever Brad had hidden his stash of illegal narcotics and Alex and I would be blamed. ‘Don is going to absolutely love this’. “I’m not well, I was in a coma; I’m supposed to be resting,” I said but my pleas were ignored by everyone except Alex. “If you die, Robbie, I’m a witness, I’ll make sure everyone knows about it!” ‘Thanks, Alex’. I saw Luke walking downstairs with the officer who had sensibly put away his firearm. He ran over to his brother as he was lifted to his feet and led into the living room. Now it was my turn to be questioned by Robocop who sat down opposite me and introduced himself before frowning at the police woman and ordering her to remove the cuffs. I rubbed my wrists and glared at her as he explained who they were and why the house was being searched. They were RCMP officers, or the ‘Mounties’. It began to make sense and it came as no surprise that they were searching for narcotics, but I wondered why the federal police would be looking for Brad. I was under the impression that they usually only dealt with bigger fish like organised crime and terrorists and as far as I knew, Brad was only a small time dealer. “What’s your name?” “Robbie Fullerton.” “Do you live here?” I shook my head. “I’m a friend.” “You’re English?” “No.” “You sound it.” I shrugged my shoulders but I was telling the truth. “What are you doing here?” “I was sleeping before you turned up.” I would have thought it was obvious. It was just after five in the morning when they started knocking and the lights were all off. “Don’t be smart, kid. Have you any ID?” I told him that I had my health card downstairs, but he put his hand up to stop me when the dog handler returned from his foray in the basement with the over-excited hound. He shook his head at Robocop—who looked agitated by the lack of results—before heading upstairs to search the bedrooms. I was sure that Brad would have hidden whatever he had in his room and was expecting the dog to confirm this at any minute, but as the search continued to draw blanks I noticed a few worried looks appearing on the faces of the restless Mounties. Unlike Alex, I was obviously no longer deemed a threat and dispatched downstairs by the grim-faced woman to put some clothes on and find my ID. When I returned, Robocop was pacing the kitchen like an expectant father waiting for the final verdict. “It’s clean,” said the dog handler and I smiled at the frustrated mutt as it ran around the kitchen in circles, no doubt teased by the smells of what had been there, but unable to locate a stash that would have justified the pre-dawn raid. “What nothing?” asked Robocop. The dog handler shook his head and Robocop took my health card and headed for the door to lick his wounds. Brad had most likely taken whatever he was hiding with him, which must have been the reason why he hadn’t come home. The next voice rather predictably was Alex’s. “I told you, you wouldn’t find anything, asshole!” he said as he joined me in the kitchen. I had forgotten how sexy he looked in a pair of briefs and my eyes followed him around the room. “You are gonna have a lot of explaining to do. You didn’t need to put handcuffs on us and you wouldn't let us get dressed. That’s gonna look pretty fucked up when the press finds out.” “You’re entitled to file a complaint if you want, that’s up to you,” said the officer who a few minutes earlier had been kneeling on his back. “He will,” I said. “I’ll help him.” As the others left, Robocop returned to give me back my ID. “A runaway huh,” he smiled at me. “You’re on the missing list, kid.” “I know,” I said. “Will you be taking me back?” “No, I’ve been told to take you to the hospital. What’s wrong with you anyway?” It was good news for me, it meant a further delay in getting home. “I have a head injury, they want to check on me, that’s all,” I said and he nodded before turning to Alex. “When your brother comes home, tell him that we want to talk to him urgently. It’ll be easier for him if he comes to see us, and easier for you and your little brother.” I wondered if Brad would see it that way and decide to hand himself in. “Where’s your father anyway?” asked Robocop. “He’s at work.” “Really,” said the officer and he smiled as Alex took Luke back up to bed. After everything that his old man didn’t do for them, I was surprised that Alex still went out of his way to protect his so-called dad. I don’t think that I would have done the same, but I had never had a real father to compare him with so maybe I wasn’t best equipped to pass judgement. While a disgruntled Robocop waited outside with his disappointed Mounties and a ‘cold-turkey’ hound, I went to the basement to collect my few possessions. I was happy to accept the verdict. I had been away long enough to make my point and I needed a break from Alex. He was starting to get to me. Not in a bad way but in a way that wouldn’t have been good either, and I wasn’t sure if I would have been able to hold out against his advances for another night. “Will they keep you in the hospital?” asked Alex when I saw him at the top of the stairs. I shrugged my shoulders. “Who knows, I hope so, just for a couple of days anyway. I’ll be able to see Nathan that way.” “Oh yeah, Nathan. Your gay boyfriend.” “That’s the one.” “You won’t say anything though…about, well, you know?” “No, Alex. Not to anyone…you already know that.” “Yeah, well…why don’t you call me later, and let me know…what happened? I might even visit you in the hospital…when nobody’s around. Or maybe we can meet up or something, you know, hang out someplace?” He sounded almost humble; it was a completely different Alex from the guy who I knew at school. “As long as it’s not a date,” I said. “Fuck you, queer boy.” That was more like the Alex of old, but it was only an act. I knew that for sure now, and I felt sorry for him. During my stay, I had managed to catch a brief glimpse of a frightened and very confused kid, forced to take on responsibilities that few his age would have to deal with. I wanted to help him and I was certain that he wanted that too, but neither of us seemed to know how. “It would be cool to hang out with you Alex, like proper mates.” “As long as nobody sees us,” he said. “You know, soon everyone will know about you and that won’t look good if people see me…you know?” “With a queer guy, yeah, I know.” “It’s not me…I don’t care. It’s the others.” “Of course, the others. Thanks for letting me stay, Alex, and I’m sorry that I lost you your girlfriend.” “Better off without her.” “And I’m sorry I got you in trouble with Jake.” “It was bound to happen sooner or later.” “And I’m sorry about last night.” “That’s your loss, dude,” he said and he followed it up with that cheeky lopsided grin that made me go weak at the knees. Then, as I was about to leave, he called me back and did something totally unexpected that he had previously told me he would never, ever do. After a quick look around, he grabbed my shoulders and kissed me square on the lips. “I just wanted to know what it was like…with a guy,” he said. It was such an unlikely scenario that even if I had decided to come clean and tell the whole world, no one would have believed me. * * * * * On Thursday morning; just eight days after I was discharged, I arrived back at the Northumberland Hills Hospital courtesy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who on this occasion didn’t get their man. I considered it a slightly better option than going back to the house, but the dark clouds gathered when the doctor who examined me passed me fit to go home and rest. It meant having to face Don and I wasn’t ready for what I believed would be another war of words, which he would inevitably win. “You do want to go home don’t you?” “No,” I said, “that’s why I ran away in the first place.” I guessed that he wasn’t aware of my situation, but after talking with the nurse he quickly changed his mind. “If you’re experiencing difficulties at home, then we can re-admit you for a period of observation. You were discharged early on the condition that you rest at home not run off.” “It wasn’t my fault,” I said. “I’m not judging you, I’m trying to help you get better. You may feel okay now, but it’s a serious injury and it will take a while for you to fully recover. You need to rest and if you can’t do that at home then you will have to do it here.” I was happy with his prognosis and what I considered to be a stay of execution, but he wouldn’t say how long I would have to stay for, which worried me. My day, however, brightened up considerably when I was handed over to my favourite nurse, Lorna. She took me to a different room from where I was before, and after ditching my three-day-old clothing for a hospital gown, I went for a much-needed shower. When I returned, Sue was standing by my bed talking to the nurse. I knew that they would have called her straight away but I wasn’t expecting to see her so early, she didn’t have to start work for another hour. Unlike Don, I knew Sue well enough to know how she was going to react, so I pre-empted her by walking over and giving her a hug. “I’m sorry,” I said as she put her arms around me and squeezed me until it hurt. “I couldn’t call you….” “You don’t need to explain,” she said. “I love you and I’m just pleased that you’re safe.” She was very emotional and looked on the verge of tears. “Things will be different when you get back honey, you wait and see.” I didn’t answer; as much as I missed my lifestyle, I wasn’t ready to discuss going home just yet. “They told us that you were picked up during a police search, what happened?” “I dunno but they didn’t find anything.” “Where were you then?” “At a friend’s house.” “What one, dear, we spoke to all of your friends?” “Does it matter? You just said that I didn’t need to explain.” I climbed into bed and folded my arms, annoyed at her questioning. “I’m sorry honey,” she said. “I suppose we can talk about it another time.” She looked and sounded on edge and I watched her nervously fidgeting, unable to keep still. It was a familiar trait of hers. She would make herself feverishly busy whenever something was worrying her. “How’s Amy?” As far as I was concerned, she was the only one in the family now with a perfect record. She had always been loyal to me, no matter what and I had been thinking about her a lot. “She’s good, she’s coming to visit you with Nicola.” It put a smile on my face but I knew that I would be in trouble with her sister. “I know you’re angry with me,” said Sue. “And I don’t blame you. I promised you that things would be okay and they weren’t…that wasn’t how it was supposed to be.” “It’s not your fault,” I mumbled. “I didn’t run away because of anything you did. It’s him who I have a problem with.” I couldn’t bear to even mention his name and she must have picked up on it. “Don regrets what he said, dear and he wants to talk to you, to apologise. He’ll be here later.” “Tell him not to bother, I don’t wanna talk to him.” “Robbie, you must try….” “NO! I don’t have to try anything. He made his views clear to me, I wanna go back but I can’t live in a house where I’m gonna be persecuted because of my sexuality.” “You won't be persecuted,” she said. “I promise. At least give him a chance to explain.” “Will I be allowed to see Nathan?” I studied her face as she fumbled for an answer and it was clear who was still calling the shots at home. I turned on my side and closed my eyes, trying to block Don from my head. It was upsetting enough to even think about him, I definitely wasn’t ready to talk to him. Sue reached over to push my hair out of my eyes and change the subject. “It’s no wonder you can see sometimes,” she said. “You’ll have to get your hair cut.” “I like it as it is, it suits me.” “It’s a mess.” “That’s what I mean.” “Your life doesn’t have to be a mess Robbie; sometimes you’re your own worst enemy. I know that it was wrong of him to say those things to you, and I know how much they would have hurt you, but running away wasn’t going to solve anything.” I turned my head towards her, thinking about what she had just said. I wasn’t so sure that she was right. Running away may not have solved everything, but I doubt if things would have been any better for me if I hadn’t of stood up to Don. I was sure that my actions, however immature, would force him into making at least some concessions which otherwise he wouldn’t have considered. ‘No such thing as bad publicity’, was something that my mom always used to say, but I couldn’t be bothered explaining my philosophy to the woman who had taken over from her. “I’m sorry Sue, but I’m tired, I was woken up kinda early this morning.” “Okay hun, I’ll let you get some rest.” She told me that she would pop back later but as she stood up to leave the curtains flew open and we were joined by a rosy cheeked Amy and her out-of-breath older sister. “It’s my birthday next week,” she said after jumping on the bed to give me a hug. “Yes, I know, it’s on….” I panicked looking towards Nicola for help and she mouthed ‘Wednesday’ to me and then rolled her eyes. “It’s on Wednesday, isn’t it?” “You remembered,” said Amy as she pulled away and sat down. “Of course, I wouldn’t forget your birthday, would I?” Nicola’s face told a different story. “I am so angry at you, you know that?” she said and then kissed me on the cheek. “Are you okay?” “Yes, thanks.” “Where were you Robbie,” asked Amy. “I was staying with a friend,” “You’re an ass!” said Nicola. “I’m not joking either, you had us all worried.” I shook my head but she wasn’t finished. “Don’t give me that look, I was worried sick about you and you didn’t even bother to call.” “You don’t understand, I couldn’t.” “I understand how selfish you are.” “Nicola,” warned Sue. “Please, this isn’t the time and Robbie’s here to rest remember.” “I know,” she said. “But he knows I love him.” ‘I do’? “And that’s why I’m so annoyed at him.” She was right and I lacked the will power for an argument. Maybe our days of fighting like cat and dog were finally over. Since my accident, I had been unable to summon up the same hatred that I once had for her. It was frustrating but at least it was reciprocated. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you worry,” I said but we were interrupted by Nicola’s phone. ‘There I go again being all sorry and nice, what’s wrong with me’? “I have to get to work,” Sue said to Amy. “You can stay here with Nicola and Robbie.” Then she came over to give me another torturous hug, which threatened to cut off my air-supply. “Sue, before you go…I just wanna say….” “It’s okay honey, you don’t have to apologise, it wasn’t your fault.” I nodded cautiously. “I know that,” I said. “I wasn’t going to say sorry. I wanted to ask if you could call Nathan for me and let him know where I am?” She smiled awkwardly and put her hand on my shoulder as Nicola walked back in and handed me her phone. “He’s right here.” “What? Hello.” “Hi there sexy,” said Nathan, and no three words spoken by anyone had ever excited me as much. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t anything as nice as that, and I melted into the phone like butter. “You’re not angry?” I ventured. “No, of course not. I’m just happy that your back safe. I missed you and your phone has been switched off for three days.” “Sorry, I missed you too,” I said trying to keep my voice normal and hide my sloppy grin. “But I’m not at home, I’m in the hospital.” “I know, can I come over to suck you? Oops, sorry, I mean see you,” he chuckled. I waved at Sue as she left and felt myself blushing as Nicola watched on curiously. “Don’t be sorry, you can do both if you want,” I whispered into the phone as Nicola rolled her eyes. “I’d like that. I wish that we could have some time alone.” “So do I.” “How long will they keep you in?” “A couple of days I think, but I feel okay. They just want me to rest and I do feel kinda tired.” “Don’t worry, I’ll give you a thorough examination you when I get there,” he said. I chewed my lip in anticipation. “I can’t wait.” He hadn’t said anything particularly naughty but his voice was deep and erotic and it was beginning to cause me problems. The hospital gown that Lorna had insisted I wear and the thin bed linen offered little resistance to a determined stiffie, so to avoid an embarrassing situation with Amy there, I tried to change the subject, pronto. “So how did?” I said in a squeaky voice that bore no resemblance to my usual tones. “How did it go in Ottawa?” It was a good choice; I knew that there was nothing more effective at killing a boner than talking about a dead person. “I’ll tell you about it when I see you.” “When will that be?” “In about an hour,” he said. “That’s if you’re still up for it? Are you…up for it, Robbie? Because I am.” ‘Bastard’. “Yes,” I croaked. “Good, I’m gonna get my sister to drive me. Take your clothes off.” “What? They are off.” “Good. Love you.” I looked to Nicola, unsure of how to end our conversation, while Nathan waited for a response. “I love you too,” I said very quickly and ended the call as Nicola shook her head at my stupidity. “That was cute,” she whispered as I handed back her phone. “But the rest of the call was just sex wasn’t it?” “Pretty much,” I admitted as Amy giggled in the background. After six days of little or no contact with my boyfriend, our little chat—filled with the usual sauce and double entendres—left me feeling giddy and floaty. It was as if we had just met again and I couldn’t wait to see him. ‘Maybe we can grab a quick kiss with the curtains closed’? Anything else would surely have to wait for a more appropriate time, but I was longing for that too. After four days of repelling Alex’s formidable charm offensive, I was ready for some well-deserved boy sex with my lovable partner. I was proud of myself for not caving into my friend’s advances and it felt good. I had sailed dangerously close to the edge, perhaps closer than I should have, but remained true and I was sure that because of that, our next time together—whenever that was to be—would be the best and most exciting experience ever. “Who were you talking to?” asked Amy. “Your new girlfriend?” “Kind of.” “You could say that,” said Nicola. “It was probably Nathan,” said Amy. It took me by surprise but I didn’t deny it and when I looked at Nicola, she shook her head to tell me that it wasn’t her. It didn’t matter, I was no longer hiding from anyone, except maybe Don. “He was angry when you left,” said Nicola. “Then they had a big argument and he went out to look for you, but not for long. He was sure that you would be back before the end of the day, but I knew you wouldn’t.” It made me laugh. “I thought that he was gonna chase me and call the police.” “He called them the next morning when he realised that you didn’t come home; that was when things started to get bad.” ‘So the police weren’t even looking for me when I ducked into Walter’s garden’. “What do mean, started to get bad?” “I wanna know what happened this morning first,” she said. “With the police. Were you arrested or something?” “No, we didn’t do anything wrong.” “We? Who were you with?” “I can’t tell you.” Nicola frowned at me but I was spared her wrath by the arrival of Lorna to take my blood pressure. It kept Amy amused for a while but she was getting restless. “I’m gonna take her home,” said Nicola. “You’ll probably want to have some time alone with your friend when he gets here.” “Nathan,” said Amy with a big grin on her face. ‘She knows too much’. “She’s probably been listening to people talking,” said Nicola ‘What’s that supposed to mean’? “I’ll be back,” she said and there were times when Nicola did remind me of the Terminator but they were becoming less frequent and before she left, she gave me a sweet smile that had me grinning back at her. There was a lot of love wrapped up in that smile and I wondered why she had hidden it from me for so long. * * * * * “They told me that you were at Alex Baker’s house,” said Sue when she returned at lunchtime. “Was you there all the time?” “Yes,” I said and she obviously knew nothing about him because she seemed relieved. “You look a little better now, have you eaten?” “Yes, and I managed to get some sleep when Nicola left.” Then she delivered the big news. “Don’s coming here straight from work, he’s finishing early today. You’ll feel a lot better once you’ve talked to him and he’s cleared the air.” ‘No, I won’t’. I didn’t share her enthusiasm, but there was little that I could do to stop him. It had been an eventful morning and with Don and Nathan both supposedly on their way over to visit me, the afternoon promised to be just as interesting. “Has Daniel said anything to you?” He was another one who had been playing on my mind continuously since leaving. His hot and cold approach over the last few weeks had confused me, but I still considered his approval to be fundamental. I wouldn’t be able to room with him if he hated me. “He’s been worried about you and he’s been talking a lot to Nathan. He’s going to be okay about all of this, don’t worry.” It was too late for that. “I kinda miss him.” She reached out to touch my arm as my face lit up at the unmistakable sound of Nathan’s excited voice asking the nurse where I was. “I’d better get back,” said Due but I got the impression that her sudden departure was more of a tactical withdrawal, to any embarrassment. It wasn’t as if we were going to be able to do anything naughty, but after a little absence, I guess that she was expecting at least some degree of wanton behaviour. Nathan entered the fray just as Sue was leaving but she made a point of asking him how he was and then pulling him in for a hug and kissing him on the cheek. He pulled a little face at me as she was giving him a squeeze and I giggled at his loveable antics. My eyes barely left him as he kissed my aunt and held the curtain open for her, before allowing it to fall on his sister’s face as she tried to wave at me. He was in fine form acting like the showman and looking exquisite in a new pair of designer jeans with a few tears in some interesting places. He winked, raised his eyebrows, and puckered his lips before sitting down next to me on the bed, putting his hand behind my head and leaning forward for a kiss. It was another ‘take me by surprise’ moment from my supposedly once shy boyfriend and he wasn’t holding back either as he forced his way into my mouth with a darting tongue that begged for attention. With Karen outside talking to Sue I found it impossible to resist him and when I felt his hand resting conveniently against my todger, I closed my eyes and allowed him to dictate the action. It was a good minute or two before he pulled gently away from me with a dazzling toothy smile and a gentle squeeze of my balls. It took me a while to recover as he sat up smiling at me. “A simple hello would have done, but wow, that was really cool. Have you been practising?” “Yeah,” he said, “with the cat. What do you think of the jeans?” Nathan didn’t have a cat but I loved his jeans. “They’re wicked, did you do this yourself?” I poked my finger through the rip above his knee to make contact with some bare skin. “No,” he said, “but I did the one on my ass.” He stood up and turned his back to me to show me the tear on his backside and I obliged by putting my finger through it to poke his cheek through a layer of boxer shorts. “If you play your cards right, then I might allow more than your finger through it,” he said as his sister joined us and gave him a slap across his thigh. “Hey sweetie, so are you out on parole or you still gotta serve some time?” she said as she pushed her brother out of the way to give me a kiss. I turned my cheek to her but she aimed straight for my lips instead, with a cheeky but moist little peck. Nathan eyed his sister suspiciously as she sat in the chair and then inched his way further up the bed until he was close enough for me to smell his deodorant. “Did they really raid the house where you were staying?” he said. I wasn’t sure how much he knew or where he had got his information from but I had already decided that honesty was the only sensible option. “Yes, at five o’clock in the morning, pointing guns at us.” “It must have been scary,” said Karen. “Yeah, it was horrible and they handcuffed me too, and I was only wearing my underpants.” “Kinky,” he said. “Did you get any photographs?” “No.” “Pity, we’ll have to re-create it. Dad’s gonna let me build a set in the garage to make a movie.” I loved it when he talked about movies; he was so passionate and would always get excited, which made me excited too and I think he noticed. “That’s really cool Nathan, what movies are you gonna be making?” “Mostly gay porn,” he said matter-of-factly. “I plan to turn Cobourg into the gay porn capital of Canada. No, make that North America.” “How about the world?” “I don’t wanna aim too big,” he said. “I need to keep it real and it may be hard to find the right actors.” “Or to find actors that are hard,” I said and he laughed with Karen. “What will happen when you go back home, Robbie? Will we still be able to see each other?” “Who can stop you?” asked Karen. “You go to the same school.” “I don’t know if Don will allow you to visit anymore though,” I said. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. You know he’s has called my dad and talked to him about us?” “I didn’t know that I’m sorry.” “Why are you sorry?” I don’t know why I suddenly felt the need to apologise for something that Don did, but I couldn’t imagine him seeing eye to eye with Nathan’s scatty, but very understanding father. Whenever I thought about his dad, I would picture the huge assortment of condoms which he had bought for his son after finding out about us. We had hardly managed to make a dent in them but I still considered it the coolest thing that any dad could have done. “Maybe my parents will allow you to stay over at our house for a while?” he said. “Until we go back to school or something.” “Do you think they would?” “As long as you guys sleep in separate rooms,” said Karen. “You should ask them. Actually, Robbie could share with me.” “NO WAY!” he said. “He already has a previous conviction with a girl.” “I don’t think that would go down too well with your parents either.” “But you could sleep in the basement, we could make you up a little bedroom down there and then I could sneak down in the middle of the night and we could….” He looked over at his sister. “We could…play cards.” “Oh yeah, cards. I’m not falling for that trick again.” “Nathan’s pretty good at cards,” said Karen. “Tell me about it.” Nathan looked at us with a wide-eyed expression of innocence. He wasn’t fooling either of us but I forgave him because he looked so adorable wearing that face. It made him look even more desirable, if that was possible. “Haven’t you got to do something,” asked Nathan. “I can take a hint,” said Karen and she stood up to leave us alone. “Be quick though and don’t make a mess, I’ll be back in ten.” I could never figure out if Karen was joking or not when she made that kind of remark, but I laughed anyway as she closed the curtains behind her. As soon as we were alone, Nathan was on me like a rash, determined to make the most of our ten minutes and this time I was better prepared. “Don’t, we haven’t got time,” I said when I felt his hand slide under the sheet to rub my assets. He looked dejected but it didn’t stop him having a quick grope and another slow kiss. Whenever this happened to me, I always found it difficult to keep track of time but it didn’t feel anything like ten minutes when the curtain opened. It made us both jump and he pulled his hand away, but thinking that it was only his sister, Nathan’s lips remained glued to my face. Until Don cleared his throat.
  28. 41 points
    It turned out the people Diarmad had tasked with looking after Sundial House had not been as reliable as he had thought. The place was a mess. A leak in one of the upper bathrooms had gone unnoticed for too long, as a result the trickling water had destroyed part of the ceilings of the rooms below. Animals had found their way inside, some even nested in various places. A thorough inspection showed the heating was outdated and needed replacement, as well as most of the appliances in the kitchen. Normally, Simon would have organized the necessary renovations, but as that was no longer an option, Keith’s mate Lionel offered to coordinate and supervise the construction. He moved into a small hotel near the estate, with Keith frequently visiting him to help and prepare for their king’s arrival. Furthermore, furniture, art, and books were in storage, or had found other places in Diarmad’s various homes over the decades and Becca, who organized the actual move, had to collect everything and ship it to the house before she could put them back where they belonged. Overall, it took several months before Diarmad could finally move in. Even then, the construction work wasn’t entirely finished, but at least it was at a state where he could live in the main building without being bothered too much by the noise. However, one problem remained. Sundial House had too much space for one person. Diarmad didn’t need what once had been staff quarters and guest rooms. When Ronan and Becca agreed to move into the remodeled third floor, he was secretly relieved he didn’t have to live alone in the large house. To show his appreciation, he ordered a beautiful nursery, as they were expecting their first child. Keith and Lionel didn’t want to live in the main building. They instead opted to take over the remodeled storage house near the back of the kitchen. This way they lived on their own, but were still available for Diarmad. Unlike the house, the gardens were in perfect condition. Diarmad’s first mate Luis had created them, wherefore Diarmad had always made sure they were properly cared for, demanding monthly reports from the gardeners. Luis had wanted to reflect Earth’s cultural diversity, and of course Diarmad had supported the concept. Even after Luis’ death, he continually extended the gardens. His newest addition was only two years old. Seraei living in Japan had heard of his collection and sent people to create a rock and water area as a sign of their appreciation. When Diarmad walked its paths for the first time, the minimalism had instantaneously spoken to him. Diarmad felt exhausted for months. He had been having difficulties meditating. Only by emerging himself in his new garden's simplicity, he was able to find the order he had been missing. More and more frequently, he could be found sitting on a small stone bench, staring at the stylized composition of rocks, raked sand and gravel, trying to absorb every bit of calmness the landscape emanated. To the council’s continuing displeasure, he missed important meetings and negotiations. He still couldn't completely get rid of his restlessness. He thought it was similar but not quite like the feeling he had experienced in the past when he didn't have Noël around to balance his energy. Since he saw Noël several times the week, it should have been enough to ensure his calmness, but it didn’t. *** Diarmad opened the door from the library but instinctively stopped when he heard Keith’s voice in the hallway. "Mr. Ronan, Ms. Becca told me you visited the spring festival at the Music & Art Center over the weekend.” "That’s right. Becca loves festivals, and who am I to deny my pregnant wife a wish.” “How was it? What did you see?” “It was amazing! On Friday we saw this dance performance where they decorated the whole room to look like a bar in Buenos Aires. Now, imagine a fourteen-year-old girl dressed in a slim, black suit at the piano and a guy, maybe sixteen, also wearing all black, plus a very impressive hat,” Ronan chuckled, “playing the guitar accompanying two couples, who lived and breathed the tango argentine. There was grace, barely-constrained temper breaking through, only to be reined in seconds later by controlled power; it was truly impressive. “Afterwards, Becca made me sign us up for tango lessons.” “In her...er condition?” “She didn’t listen to me when I suggested waiting until the little one is born, and I stopped arguing with her these last few weeks. I don’t want to end up sleeping at the security staff quarters again. If it gets too much for her, we’ll just cancel the lessons and continue later. You offered to babysit, right?” “Any time.” “Wait until the little hellion plays an instrument. Because on Saturday, we looked into the music lab where kids of all ages could try out every instrument available at the center, even the violins..." "Oh... That must have been pretty... noisy, sir." Diarmad grinned when he heard Keith’s polite attempt of paraphrasing ‘horrible’. "Oh yeah. The little one isn't even born yet, and Becca already plans asking Noël for piano lessons." "And he would be happy to help. The young lord told me what he likes the most is teaching music to the very young. Have you talked to him there?” “No, I only saw him on Sunday at the concert he gave with Kris.” “From what I heard it, was a great success." “You didn’t go?” “No, the King had a dinner party with business associates scheduled at the same time, and even though we hired a catering service, he likes me to oversee everything.” "That’s too bad. You missed quite the show," Ronan raved. "The hall was packed, some even climbed on the shoulders of their friends to have a better view of the stage. Those two could make a lot of money if they ever decided to become professionals.” “What songs did they play?” “They mixed their own pieces with cover songs; people loved it.” “The young lord is so talented. When he still lived with us, he sometimes played his own pieces and asked me for my opinion. I always told him how good they were, but then he would laugh calling me biased.” “As an encore, they offered to sing any song the people wanted if they donated money to the center. Never in my whole life have I heard such a crude mixture: Elvis Presley’s In the Ghetto, Imagine Dragon’s Gold, Twenty One Pilots’ Stressed Out, among others. They knew almost every piece people requested, and if they didn’t, they winged it to everyone’s amusement." "I can imagine." Diarmad had heard enough and was about to close the door again, when Keith suddenly lowered his voice. "Did you stay for the last songs?" "You mean did I hear Kris serenading Noël?" What? "So it's true..." "Oh yes. They both sang one last solo. Noël played the piano and sang Love of my Life, fulfilling a girl’s request after she dropped a large sum of money into the pot. Kris, however, didn't accept any requests for his last song. He donated some of his own money and then launched into a heartrending version of I'm Your Man. To everyone in the room, it was crystal clear whose man he thought he was." "I knew it! How did the young lord react?" "I don't know. I didn't have a chance to meet him behind stage afterwards. Becca is so emotional lately; she had been brought to tears by both their last songs, so I had to get her home right after the show." After a slight pause Ronan said, “I was wondering for a while if there is something more going on between them, though.” “It was always pretty obvious that young Kristof is in love with the young Lord.” “Yes, and now that they are living together, maybe he...reciprocates Kris’ feelings?” “Well, the King moved on. Why should the young lord not follow his example?” Diarmad held his breath. There were a few moments of silence before he could hear Ronan’s voice again. "Enough gossiping! I need to get going; the King wants me to accompany him to a court meeting. Say hello to Lionel for me, will you?" "Certainly sir." Diarmad’s hand clamped around the doorframe so hard it hurt. He was paralyzed. A small voice in is head asked, What did you expect?, but he shoved it aside. This snake Kris had been after Noël the whole time... He knew it when he first saw him. All his curly, blond hair and chocolate-eyed innocence... A sudden rage pooled inside his chest, and he grabbed a vase standing on the table beside the door and hurled it into the fireplace. Watching its shards glittering in the sun, his hands began to tremble. Things couldn't go on like this, he needed to calm down and find this place in his head again where he could be rational. With this thought in mind, Diarmad rushed out of the library, totally ignoring a wide-eyed Keith, who was still standing in the hallway, and Ronan, who came out of the office enquiring about the commotion. Diarmad needed the solace of his gardens. Outside, in his small, walled-in Kare-san-sui* Diarmad inhaled deeply, then let his breath out slowly and controlled. Repeating this a few times, he finally found a steady rhythm. His mind still jumped around even though his body had become almost motionless. Since he could not calm down his mind, he slowly detached himself and attempted to watch from the outside. With his gaze fixed on the granite plate bridging rippled water raked into the sand underneath, he finally found a resemblance of order in his chaos. *** Noël's abilities were impressive, but Diarmad didn't know how strong they had become until they had to interrogate a rogue telepath. The man, Grayson, had been sent to him by a clan on the other side of the country whose best telepath couldn't get through his defenses. They had heard of Noël and hoped he could get them the proof they needed. Grayson was suspected of manipulating several humans into giving him money, transferring their land and other possessions to him, and even doing silly or embarrassing things like walking through the street naked. In order to make it legal, the council had to witness the interrogation. Diarmad was a strong telepath, but as he sat behind the one-way mirror with three other council members, he could feel nothing from Grayson; it was as if he had become mind deaf. On the other hand, they all felt a sudden probing even though the suspect was in another room and couldn’t see them. In the end, they had to set up special devices to protect themselves from having him clawing at their shields and invading their heads. Together they watched Noël strolling into the room, wearing red flip-flops, faded jeans, and a white button-down shirt with rolled-up sleeves. His hair was held back in a low ponytail. With sunglasses in his hand, he looked more like he was on his way to the beach than to interrogate a criminal. Throwing himself into the chair opposite Grayson, he leaned back and examined the man without uttering a word. Grayson tried to stay calm, but his fidgeting hands gave him away. Not being able to crack Noël's shields was obviously making him nervous. Finally his control slipped, and he drawled, "Well, well, well, what do we have here, a black triangle telepath? I met someone like you before... and I was not impressed." Not one of the council witnesses believed his nonchalance. "Mr. Grayson, you are suspected of having used your telepathic abilities to swindle humans into entrusting you with their assets and their possessions for the sole purpose of embezzling them. What do you have to say to these accusations?" "I said this already before, but I’ll say it again: these accusations are false." Noël nodded. "Mr. Grayson, I might not look like it but I am a sworn telepath in service of the King's council. If I find that these accusations are true, it will be considered synonymous with you standing convicted. You will be sentenced by the council accordingly. By confessing, however, you could obtain a more lenient sentence." Grayson grinned. He still wasn't aware of Noël's superiority. Diarmad asked himself how the man could be so dense, the fact alone that he wasn't able to read Noël should have pointed him in the right direction. Noël watched Grayson a little longer and then finally sighed. He developed this gesture of showing witnesses he was about to get behind a person's mental shields by pushing away imaginary walls with his hands. Using only minimal movements, like pointing his finger at Grayson and then swishing it to the right, holding it for a moment then to the left, he eliminated the man's protection piece by piece. One time, he even tightened his hand as if he was cracking something. It had been a good thing they bound Grayson to his chair before Noël began the procedure. When the man realized how easily Noël could break through his shields, he started to claw at the armrests, turning his head from one side to the other as if he was trying to shake Noël out of his head. By the end of the process, Noël was ghostly pale and cold sweat was running down his face; one could see what he had to do pained him almost as much as Grayson. Then suddenly, he jumped from his chair screaming, "No! I don't need to see that!" But it was too late; Noël barely lifted his hand fast enough to shield himself. His rapidly reinforced inner barrier seemed to deflect a huge amount of mental energy, which then backlashed to Grayson. The man screamed until his voice was hoarse, then his eyes went blank. He collapsed in his chair, while blood was running out of his ears, eye sockets, and mouth. Diarmad couldn't contain himself any longer. He and Cieran O’Connor stormed into the interrogation room, grabbed Noël by his shoulders, and turned him around to face them. He looked at them with wide eyes and panted," It was a fucking trap, a fucking mental mine." Grayson died within an hour without awakening from his coma. Later, Noël confirmed that the man had indeed misused his telepathic abilities as he had been accused, but he believed it all had been a set up to render the council's strongest telepath useless by overloading his brain. Someone wanted to weaken the council. The question was why... and who. *Japanese dry garden
  29. 40 points
    The next morning I awoke feeling gloriously cocooned and blissfully content with Derrick spooned against my back. His hand had found its way to my pounding-nails-hard cock and he was running the tips of his fingers up and down its length. His own hard dick was gently rubbing my ass crack. “Mmmm,” I sighed. “Feels sooo good.” “Feels good to me too. Gabe, I love you so much.” His warm breath was tickling my neck, just behind my ear, driving me insane. When he started placing gentle kisses there the love fire in my gut flared strong and hot. “Oh Derrick, I love you so much too. So very much...” I pushed my ass back against his hardness, undulating a little to let him know what I wanted. “Somebody’s horny this morning,” he teased. “Look who’s talking,” I chuckled as I rolled to face him. Morning breath be damned, we started making out like two teenagers. We pressed the length of our bodies together enjoying that silky, slippery feeling that our skin and body hair created. “I. Need. You. To. Fuck. Me.” I begged between kisses. “Really? Now aren’t we just demanding this morning?” He pulled his lips away from mine and aimed them towards my nipples, kissing and licking left and right. I responded by arching my chest toward his lips, silently begging for more. Derrick chuckled deep and low. “Please!” I begged. “I need you inside me...now!” “Your wish is my command oh horny one. Gabe, I love you!” “I love you too! There’s lube in my toilet bag. In the bathroom. Can you get it?” He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tight moving his hips to frot our erections. “Can’t. Can’t pull away from you. You feel too good.” I felt the same way. Breaking that wonderful body contact, even for the few seconds it would take to grab the lube, would be unbearable. With a huge sigh, I said. “Okay, lazy bones, I’ll get it. But you owe me!” I pushed away quickly before I could change my mind and bolted for the bathroom to grab the lube. I considered taking the time to piss but decided my bladder could wait. Fuck first, then pee. I was back to Derrick in under thirty seconds. He was on his back, so I squeezed some lube onto his dick and spread it along the length. He let out a little hiss of pleasure. Then I swiped a dollop into my ass. I straddled Derrick, aimed his cock in the right direction, and eased down on him millimeter by millimeter. His hands rested just above my hip bones as his face contorted in pleasure. He was breathing heavily through his open mouth. “So beautiful, so wonderful,” I murmured. I set a slow pace, but even at that, it didn’t take Derrick long—well, somewhere in the vicinity of ten minutes—to reach the point of no return. He let out a primal howl and unloaded into me. His cock pulsed and spurted. His eyes rolled back. I grabbed the crown of my cock and smeared dripping precum over it. That sent me over the edge and I shot so hard I hit Derrick in the chin before subsequent spurts splattered his chest and belly. I collapsed onto him as our breathing returned to normal and his softening cock—thoroughly lubricated with his own cum—plopped out of my ass. We lay like that for a while, just enjoying each other, then reluctantly went in the bathroom for our morning piss and shower. For the sake of the environment, we showered together to conserve water (wink). Derrick had a phone message from the lawyers asking him to call. They needed to send a lawyer up to Moose Lake to take a deposition from the Nikolovs for the upcoming custody clearing. The most expedient course of action was to dispatch the jet to Winnipeg to pick up the lawyer, then take her back later. The plane’s crew were going to have a busy day. Knowing the Nikolovs were expecting us to pick up Dane for a shopping trip, we hurried to breakfast at the motel’s restaurant. When we got to the Nikolovs’ we told them about the lawyer coming to obtain their official statements. They didn’t look all that comfortable with the idea, but we assured them it was a necessary step in the process. Dane was eager to go with us. The relief on the Nikolovs’ faces as they waved goodbye was almost comical. My heart went out to them. They were doing an incredible job of looking after the little guy, but it couldn’t have been easy for them. Dane objected to being belted into his car seat. I had no idea how to deal with a recalcitrant child. I’d certainly seen my share of them in my medical experience, but I’d always had a ‘team’ to help. It was all trial and error with Dane. In the end we bribed him with the promise of buying him a toy. I hated taking that easy route, but thought that was better than escalating the situation. Once in the car, it only took a few minutes until the novelty of the drive wore off and he began to act up. First he started kicking the back of my seat, which I tried to ignore. After a few minutes (it seemed like a long few minutes to me) of being ignored he got tired of that activity. Then he said he had to pee. “Gotta pee!” So we stopped at the side of the road. Turns out he really didn’t have to pee that badly. Then he objected to being belted into his car seat again. Derrick and I remained calm, we just tag-teamed the broken record technique, saying the same thing in several different ways: we weren’t going anywhere until he got buckled in. Finally we got through to him. When he saw he wasn’t getting a rise out of us he pretty much settled down. But like any small child, he craved attention, so I began to tell him made-up stories. Realizing that this might be a good way of explaining what was happening in his life, I wove the theme of a little boy who got two new dads and flew away to live in a place where it was warm all the time. I emphasized how happy his new dads were that he came into their lives and how much they loved the little boy. I also ‘introduced’ characters that he’d meet once he got there: a new brother named Cass, a new sister named Khala, a new grandma and grandpa, the Foroughis, Alfy, and so forth. About an hour out of Flin Flon he fell asleep. The scenery along the way was interesting. We passed some wheat farms in the vicinity of The Pas, but around Flin Flon the ground turned rocky with scrub trees and small lakes everywhere. I’d heard of the Canadian Shield before, so it was interesting to me to see it firsthand. I tried to imagine what it might be like in the dead of winter. Cold and bleak most likely. After just over three hours on the road we arrived in Flin Flon. Derrick turned into the first McDonalds he saw, which was conveniently located near the Walmart and Canadian Tire stores. It had a children’s play area, and after half finishing his Happy Meal, Dane headed there. At first he was hesitant to play with the other children, but soon he’d made friends and was racing around boisterously. Lunch finished, we walked over to the Canadian Tire store. Derrick, being American, had never had the joy of shopping in Canadian Tire before—truly a Canadian institution—and he expressed surprise at the variety of interesting goods the store carried: everything from car parts and accessories to household appliances. There’s a big hardware section, and there’s even a huge selection of sporting goods. It truly is an all-purpose store. Canadians love Canadian Tire. We picked up a few toys for Dane. Cute toys, good for make-believe, like a little garage with cars, and a little barn with horses and a corral fence. We also picked up several books, some of which were for younger children, but it was obvious he hadn’t been exposed to written works before, and we needed to start at the ‘beginning.’ At Walmart, Dan was impatient and fussy. Derrick and I took turns ‘distracting’ him, but it was a trial. I was definitely getting the idea that we’d let ourselves in for more than we bargained for; I began to doubt our decision to take him. Surprisingly, there was no Tim Hortons—another Canadian institution—in Flin Flon, but luckily there was one in The Pas, so on the way home we stopped for coffee and donuts. Having experienced Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons, I declared Derrick to be an honorary Canadian. Dane had ceased to object to being buckled into his car seat. It seemed like a major victory to me. After our stop at Tim Hortons, I sat in the back seat with him. I read to him from his new books for a while, but the day had tired him out and he slept pretty much the rest of the way home. That night, with the Nikolovs’ blessing, we had him stay overnight with us in the motel. Dee handed us a small back pack and told us that was ‘all’ his possessions—clothes, toys, everything. When I saw how little he had, I said a prayer of thanks to the universe that Gerard Nikolov had reached out to us; that he had the good sense to realize that Dane deserved the best that life had to offer. I berated myself for having doubts. That evening, Derrick spoke to Dane, relating my story’s character to Dane himself. He explained that we were going to be his Dads from now on—Daddy Gabe and Daddy Derrick. That tomorrow we would all get in the plane and fly to his new home where it was warm all the time. Dane took the news calmly. He’d already been moved around a lot, so for him this was just another stop along the road, neither good nor bad. It was just the way life was. He objected to having a bath, so I used the psychology of choice. “Dane, would you like Daddy Gabe, or Daddy Derrick to give you your bath?” I asked three times, but he finally chose Daddy Gabe (yay!), but by making his own choice—it was no longer a simple ‘yes or no’ situation—he’d ‘bought into’ the idea of the bath. I bathed him and got him dressed in his new PJ’s and robe. Then we managed to find The Little Mermaid on the motel’s movie channel and we settled in to watch that. Dane snuggled up between Derrick and me as we sat with our backs against the bed’s headboard. He was mesmerized by the movie and stayed awake through the whole thing. He’d been napping on and off throughout the day and I think Derrick and I were a lot more tired—not to mention emotionally exhausted—than he was. The motel room had two queen-sized beds so we tucked him into one with his new teddy bear. Derrick and I were looking forward to snuggling each other and going to sleep. Unfortunately that wasn’t Dane’s plan. I was just drifting off to sleep when I heard Dane get out of bed. I was curious what he was up to, so I just watched him in the dim light filtering though the room’s curtains. Teddy bear in hand, he went over to the chair where we’d left his other toys (the Garage and Barn) and proceeded to play with them. He was being fairly quiet so I just let him be for a few minutes. Trouble was, I was barely able to keep myself awake. “Dane,” I whispered. He turned to look at me. “Dane, it’s bed time. Time to go to sleep. Can you put your toys down and crawl into bed?” He hesitated for a moment. I prayed this wasn’t a time he’d choose to be defiant—I was much too tired to deal with that. Luckily, he let out a sigh, picked up one of the horses and his teddy bear and headed for bed. But instead of climbing into his own bed he came and stood by ours. I lifted the covers. “Okay, little guy, come on in,” I said. So there the three of us were. I was the meat in the sandwich. Dane was snuggled with his back to my chest; my arm was wrapped protectively around him. Derrick was spooned against my back, his arm extending over me with his hand gently resting on Dane’s tummy. Dane pissed the bed at 4 am. It was a shock, but not the end of the world. We cleaned him up and dressed him in fresh PJ’s. I was wet too, so I washed myself and put on clean boxers. Derrick had been out of the line of fire. We crawled back into the other bed and went back to sleep until 8 am. Derrick’s phone, which had been on night setting, displayed an incoming text. It was good news. The day before Dane’s parents had both signed off on relinquishing their parental rights. The documents, including the statements from the Nikolovs, were to be registered with the court today, then, hopefully, we’d be granted temporary custody at a hearing in Flin Flon later in the day. Could we be at the court house in Flin Flon by 2 pm? Derrick immediately called Arlyss and told her to prepare the jet for a noon departure. We bathed Dane quickly and took quick showers ourselves. After a rushed breakfast we drove to the Mosakahisen Cree Nation Centre to gather background information on Dane’s First Nation heritage. Unfortunately, the centre was closed, but looking through the window we saw a small gift shop with various local works of art and crafts displayed. That gave me the germ of an idea for how we could reinforce Dane’s Cree heritage. I needed to flesh out the idea, but that would come. The main thing was to get legal custody. After that we’d have more time to contemplate strategy. Dane’s heritage wasn’t just Cree, he had a good bit of Russian blood in him. Same as me. My interaction with the Nikolovs had peaked my interest in my own Russian heritage, a topic which was never addressed when I was growing up. After that, we drove to the Nikolovs’ house for our goodbyes. I was itching to get into my medical bag and check them over, which wouldn’t have been wise because I didn’t have a license to practice medicine in Canada, but upon inquiry I found out they were under the care of a local physician that they liked and trusted. A local nurse looked in on them almost daily, especially to care for Mary, who did have COPD (a leading cause of death), and they had home-care help for bathing, meals and cleaning. Unless they moved to a larger city, and perhaps a nursing home—which they were adamantly opposed to—there was little else to be done for them medically or to make them comfortable. Luckily, in Canada where free medical care is universal, there was nothing that they needed from us in terms of help. The Nikolovs were happy to be in the community that had been their lifetime home. Their house was ramshackle, but it was their ‘home,’ and they were comfortable. The three of them, as they’d said, didn’t have long for this world, and they were content. Any interference from us would only upset them. After assuring us there was nothing they wanted or needed from us we said our goodbyes. They thanked us profusely again for taking Dane; Mr. Nikolov said it took a huge load off their minds to know that he’d be well taken care of and would be out of ‘harm’s way’ (a reference to their grandson’s drug use). Everyone’s eyes were glistening with bittersweet tears as final hugs were exchanged and we made our way to the car. We boarded the plane, buckled up—mercifully Dane didn’t object—and took off for Flin Flon. My ‘stories’ had prepared Dane for what was happening and he seemed nonplussed by the plane ride. We looked out the window, and I pointed to things on the ground, but I could tell he had trouble relating to what was ‘way down there.’ The lawyer from Winnipeg—a member of the Manitoba Bar—met us at the plane and briefed us on the way to the courthouse. The hearing was to be in Judge’s chambers, and Dane would remain outside, waiting with Alexander and Winston, our flight attendants, and a social worker in case the judge wanted to see him. The hearing went pretty quickly—after the judge kept us waiting for almost an hour. He had a case file on us about two inches thick and was annoyed he didn’t have more time to study it. He was cranky and fired questions at us, often harrumphing at our answers. I thought the outcome of the hearing was touch-and-go, but in the end he signed the order giving Derrick and I temporary custody and permission to take Dane out of the country. Once again, the Dea-Con legal team had come through for us. Personally, I was drained. So much had happened in the previous few days that I felt like I was in a washing machine on spin cycle. I hadn’t even had time to sort out my feelings for Dane. Yes, he was a cute little guy, but he was a handful, and I couldn’t say yet that I loved him like a father should love a son. I felt terribly guilty about my ambivalence because the poor little guy did deserve to be loved wholeheartedly. And everything had happened so quickly that Cass hadn’t been informed—had no idea—that he had a new little brother. Shit! I hope he took the news well. Nothing was prepared for him at our home in Hawaii. Which bedroom would he take? Would Cass mind if he took ‘his’ bedroom? How would we keep him safe around the swimming pool? Should we hire a live-in nanny or have someone come in only while we were working? Dane didn’t help matters by being temperamental about fastening his seatbelt for takeoff. When the plane lifted off I let out a huge sigh. I was relieved that this first important step of gaining custody was successful. But what about the future? Prepared or not, for better or for worse, Dane was going to be part of our future—forever. Derrick reached out and took my hand. He always did have a way of ‘reading’ my mood, of understanding that I analyzed everything to death. Looking into my eyes, he said, “Gabe, it’s all going to work out great. I promise. Now, let’s phone Cass and tell him he’s got a little brother.”
  30. 40 points
    “I do have my sniper rifle, locked in the arms locker at the northern compound, do I have permission to retrieve it, and use if required/” I asked, “Yes, staff sergeant you have authorisation to retrieve and use if you are fired on, for self -defence, shoot to maim, not kill understood?” the CO said to me, “Understood clearly sir, what about some assistance? I replied. “I will send Hays and Masterson to you right away, and a squad of MP’s will be there a few hours later, I will get them to call once they arrive at the front gate” the CO responded, “Very well sir, oh and the front gate was closed and locked at my request, earlier this afternoon” I stated, and moments later the call ended, and I raced down the stairs of the tower. Amos stepped out of the shower with just a towel around him, as I neared the bottom of the tower, and when he saw my face he raced to the tent to get dressed. “Angela, and Tom, I need you dressed right away, and grab your sleeping bags and a jacket, to stay warm” I said loud enough for them to hear me, and I grabbed the billy of hot water and poured it over the fire, to put it out, before entering the tent that I was sharing. I found Amos dressed in army camouflage gear, including a jacket, and in his hands, he had his army backpack, that had everything they needed to survive in the bush for a good length of time. Handing him my vehicle keys, “Can you get my hiking backpack and hydration pack, out from the back of my vehicle, and raid the esky, for some extra food, particularly fruit, and maybe that damper, would be handy, stash it into my backpack. I’m not sure how long we will be roughing it, so we need to be prepared, also I have authorisation to get my sniper rifle, so the north complex will be our first stop” I informed Amos, who dashed out to my vehicle, while I changed into my own camouflage clothes, and I retrieved my Satellite ear piece from my kit bag, and put it into my ear and activated it. “Cub to base, I am online now, we are preparing to leave the command post, to collect my special item, before we go deep into the bush for cover, over” I said softly, “Received and understood, take care out there, Masterson and Hays are on their way, and will be there in about 1 ½ hours, the MP squad will be an hour behind them” the CO responded, “Very good sir, we will be heading towards the north - east gate, I suggest the Corporal head directly to that location, and leave the MP’s to deal with the front gate” I suggested. “I will let them know, over and out” the CO said, and the call was ended, just as Angela and Tom appeared, while Amos finished filling the backpack with some food. “We have intruders on the facility, that headed further in, as soon as the caretaker turned on the outer lights, I just happened, that I was doing a scan of the area, when I spotted the intruders, and for all of our safety, we are going to take some precautions” I informed Angela and Tom, as we climbed into the Army jeep and with no lights on, we drove down the hill, relying on the moonlight, for guidance. Going at a speed a little faster than is safe at night with no lights on, and after a few turns, we were heading in a north - west direction, just north of the airfield, instead of the direct track to the main access road, which would take us too close to the intruders. When we finally reached the main access road, 3 kilometres north of the main complex, I turned the parking lights on, for a little bit of lighting, as I increased the speed up the road, for the 5-km trip to the north complex. Once I had retrieved the rifle and five boxes of ammunition, with Amos now in the driver seat, he looked at me for directions, let’s take one of the disused tracks east from here, towards the east gate, with the lights on this time, as the terrain is fairly rough” I said to Amos, who nodded his understanding and we set off. After a 45-minute slow and rough journey, we arrived at the least known facility, that is used mainly by the SAS regiment, and we parked inside one of the sheds. Grabbing our gear, we locked up the shed, and began to hike along a narrow track in a south - west direction, and we stopped about half an hour later when we reached a small creek, in a small valley. “Ok, we will set up camp near here, we have fresh water, and we can put together a good shelter with this thick patch of vegetation” I announced, as I glanced at my watch and it read just before 2100 hours. “Cub to Masterson and Hays” I said once I activated the ear piece, “Reading you loud and clear, we have passed the gate, and heading to the north-east compound, what is your current location” I heard a reply, “We have gone bush to stay hidden about a kilometre from your destination, the jeep is locked away in the shed, I suggest you do the same, and get hidden outside of that compound, to see if any intruders find it. We will report in every two hours, and I am armed with my sniper rifle, just to let you know” I responded, “Understood, we are armed too, over and out”. While Angela and Tom, huddled together to stay warm, behind a group of boulders, Amos and I did a scout around of the area, and we gathered some large branches and foliage, to start making a shelter, and within half an hour, they had made a low out of sight shelter, big enough for all of them to camp out for some time, and once we had Angela and Tom settled and asleep, I left Amos to stay with them, and I went to find a good spot to be able to see the surrounding area and the shelter. Once I had found a good spot about 300 metres away, perched high up on a nearby hill, I could see the shelter clearly, and through the scope of the rifle, I could see the north east compound, and after a little searching I spotted one of the corporals, and I sent a text message, “North west corner of building B, which one of you is it” I sent to both corporals, “That would be me staff” came a reply from Corporal Hays, and a second text made my phone vibrate once again, “I am near building F to the south” came a text from Corporal Masterson. After some searching, I located Masterson, “I see you Masterson, both of you stay in your positions, I have good coverage of most of the complex” I text back to both of them. “Just received word from the caretaker, MP’s have arrived, they found a car hidden in the bush just down from the facility turnoff, they have disabled it, and reported the vehicle details to the police, they will stay at the caretaker’s residence, till we let them know what is happening” Corporal Masterson said in his text. When I scanned the area around the campsite, I saw Amos sitting on a stone, looking around, occasionally glancing down at the camp site, and I sent a text to Amos, “you look a little bored, are they both asleep?” and moments later I received a response, “Just a little bit, and yes, they are both asleep, although I heard Tom crying a little bit, but he has settle down now” Amos said. About half an hour later I did another scan of the compound, and I saw some movement, so I sent a text to both corporals, “Are either of you moving about at the moment?” text them both, I received two replies quickly, “Negative, I am still in my same spot” Masterson said, “Not now, I did move further away from the buildings, but I am not moving now” came Hays response. “Both of you don’t move, you have a visitor, I see you now Hays, he is closest to you, don’t move” I replied, and putting my phone down, I put a bullet into the gun, and switched the safety off. Through the scope, I saw the intruder, looking at each of the buildings, trying to open each door, but finding them all locked. When I saw the intruder pick up a rock, and throw it into a window, I sent a text message to Corporal Hays. “Hays, don’t move, I saw what he just did, have you had a chance to see the intruders face?” I said, “Yes, dressed in dark clothing, he has a small hand gun, and he looks like he is ex-military, but not from here, I heard him speak into a radio, in a foreign language, possibly German” came a reply. “When I fire, it will be just to injure, move in once he has been disabled” I sent a text back to both of the corporals. I waited and watched carefully, till the intruder reappeared, and he had something large in his hands. I adjusted the scope, and put some light pressure on the trigger, as the intruders foot came into the cross mark of the scope and I squeezed the trigger, until the rifle fired, and I had a direct hit on the intruder’s foot, making him stumble and fall to the ground. Keeping the scope on the intruder, I saw Hays rapidly approaching, and he kicked the hand gun away from the intruder, and had the intruder lay flat on his stomach, with hands on his head. Masterson appeared soon afterwards, and he pulled out his phone and called me, “We have him restrained, the other one surrendered, what do we do now Staff?” the Corporal said to me, “Check to see if they have any ID, then call the MP’s, and get them to come up and collect the intruders, and they can take the injured one to hospital for his injured foot, and no mention to them on who it was that shot the intruder” I replied, “Right, understood” he responded before ending the call. I watched through the scope, as they made a searched, and found no ID, then the Corporal’s sat on the back of the intruders, so they wouldn’t move, which made me chuckle a little. A text came through, which was from Amos, “We heard a shot being fired, I presume it was you” was the message, “Yes, I shot a sly fox in the foot, Masterson and Hays have him, once the MP’s have collected him and taken him to Perth, we can head back to the command camp” I replied. “Understood, A and T were a little frightened by the shot, I am with them now, to ensure that they are safe, see you when you get back” Amos replied. About fifteen minutes later, I saw the MP vehicle arrive at the compound, and they immediately handcuffed the intruders, and once this was done, attention was then on the injured intruder’s foot, as his boot was removed and the injury was checked. From what I could see, it appeared that I had only nicked the foot, so it was just a minor flesh wound. When I saw the MP vehicle drive off, I called Corporal Hays, “We will be there in about half an hour, then we can go back to the command post, and get some sleep” I said to the Corporal, “Staff the box he carried, contained two laptop computers and a printer” Hays said to me, “Very well return them to the building and secure the building, see you soon” I said and ended the call, as I opened the bolt and checked the barrel, to make sure it was clear, before I walked back to where Amos, Angela and Tom were waiting for me. “Ok, are you all packed up, if so we can walk back to where we left the jeep, and we can go back to the campsite” I announced when I arrived. “How far was the fox, when you shot it? Tom asked me, and I glanced at Amos for a moment and smiled, “I was 1380 metres away Tom” I responded, “Wow that is amazing, how did you get that good?” Tom asked me, “A lot of practice, and I happen to have a natural talent to long distance accurate shooting, and my longest shot, was a target of about 2980 metres” I replied with a smile. Once we had arrived back at the compound, Amos took Angela and Tom to the vehicle, and I went with Corporal’s Masterson and Hays, as we stopped at the northern compound, so I could secure my rifle and ammunition again, and filled in a form, stating that I had used one bullet, that was used to disable an armed intruder. Once this was done, we set off down the main access road towards the access track that leads to Tobruk Hill, arriving about twenty minutes after Amos, Angela and Tom. There was no sign of Angela and Tom, so I presumed that they had gone to bed, and I retrieved my swag from the tent, and set it up under my vehicle awning, to allow room for the other two corporals to set up their beds in the tent, and within twenty minutes, everyone was in bed, and I lay in my swag listening to the light snoring, as well as the sounds of the bush, and I eventually fell asleep. When I woke in the morning, the sun was well up, and I could hear Angela humming as she was preparing breakfast for everyone, and I quickly dressed and made my way to the shower room to have a nice hot shower, which I missed out on having last night. When I came out refreshed and ready for another day of work, I found the three corporals seated on the bush seats, eating breakfast, and happily chatting about anything that didn’t involve work. “Good morning everyone” I said happily, just as Tom nearly knocked me over as he dashed towards me and wrapped his arms around my waist, “Good morning Uncle Mitch” Tom said cheerfully, “Good morning young man” I replied with a small laugh, and Angela handed me a plate of cooked breakfast, and I joined the others at the bush seats, to eat, and chat. “One of you in that tent is a good snorer” I commented between mouthfuls. “Guilty as charged” Corporal Hays admitted with a big smile, and we all laughed. Once breakfast was over, the three corporals and I went up to the top of the tower, so as to let the corporals see how it looks up that high, and get an idea of how it had everything set up. The 6 metres – 20-foot-high tower, is only just above the top tree line, and Corporals Hays and Masterson were amazed at how incredible the views were of the training facility. “So, what are the distances to the boundaries from here?” Corporal Hays asked, and I turned to Amos to reply, “Well it’s about 3.25 km’s to the east boundary, 5.8 km’s to the west boundary, 6 km’s to the nearest point of the southern boundary, near the main access road, and 8.25 km’s to the northern boundary” Amos replied with a smile. “So, a little east and south of the middle of the property” Corporal Hays commented, and I just smiled and nodded my head yes, to that comment. “That hill over there, 2 km’s away, known as Wewak Hill is the closest hill to the centre of the property” I said to the three corporals, and I let them take in the amazing views of the tower, and they didn’t see Tom sneak up the stairs, as I did, and he was wearing my army cap on his head. “Attention”, Tom shouted, and immediately all three corporals snapped to attention, and I burst out laughing, as I picked up Tom and gave him a hug, as he too was laughing. When corporals Hays, Masterson and Gregson realised that they had been tricked, they tried to tickle Tom, who screamed, and wriggling out of my hold he raced down the stairs, with the three men close behind. When Angela heard the noise above her, she saw Tom arrive, and he hid behind his mother, as the three men arrived at the bottom. “Whatever Tom did, he is only a boy, so he is immune to any punishments” Angela announced, and the three men looked very disappointed. “Get back up here you three” I shouted, and the three corporals groaned as they marched back up the stairs, and for the next hour, we discussed operational processes for the training camp, which were written up on the small whiteboard that was hanging on one side wall. “I think we need to have one wall enclosed, and since the east aide is side that is of less importance, regarding operational matters, that is the one that will need to be covered, by canvas or whatever you three guys can find, I will leave that up to you to sort out” I said.
  31. 39 points
    September 6, 2003 The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel New York, NY JJ Normally when I went to an event, it was centered on a runway, with hors d’oeuvres to feed people and a bar to lubricate them. This gala was different because it wasn’t a show, it was a fund-raiser for some charity, and that meant it was a sit down dinner with various presentations and pleas for cash. These were different in other respects, in that people were able to get up and walk around at various times, usually between courses, and because once the main dinner was over, it was possible to escape from the gala and congregate outside the main room. The promoters of the show had convinced the fashion industry to support it, and they’d sold tables for the event to raise some serious money. It was no surprise that Mode had bought a couple of tables, and it was no surprise that I was invited to sit at Bellona’s table. I’d arrived before Bellona, so I wandered into the dining room to find our table, see what the set up was, and to get my bearings. Appropriately enough, our table was at the center of the room, but not too close to the podium. That was important, because it wasn’t good to be so involved in the event that it interrupted conversation at the table, and most people were nervous about being near a microphone during unguarded moments. I found one of Bellona’s assistants in there, hurriedly working on putting out name cards. I stayed out of her way until she was done, then went to see who was sitting with us. I found myself sitting on Bellona’s right, in between her and Carmelita Ferracci, the head of Mode’s Milan bureau. I looked to see who was on the other side of Bellona and was surprised to see that the card simply said ‘reserved,’ as did the one next to it. That was very odd. On the other side of the second reserved card sat Patrick Christian, and next to him sat Ella. Of course. Jarvis came in to inspect things, so I engaged him in pleasant conversation, with an eye to finding out what the fuck was going on. We had a good rapport, and he seemed to understand that he could chat with me candidly and that I wouldn’t tell Bellona what he said. I thought about my brothers with annoyance, and how they used to give me shit for being a tattletale. If I were still doing that, Jarvis and I wouldn’t be friends. “Who’s sitting here?” I asked, pointing to the reserved signs. “I don’t know, and when I asked, I was told to mind my own fucking business, although perhaps the wording was a bit different,” he said, making me chuckle. It was a rare occasion for the word ‘fuck’ to come from Bellona’s lips. She’d learned to be just as emphatic without using extreme profanity. “Well then this should be interesting,” I told him. “I am sure that it will be,” he said. “The general consensus at the shop is that Paris Hilton will be joining us.” When he talked about ‘the shop’ I knew he was referring to Mode. “She’s pretty trashy for Bellona,” I noted ruefully. I was pretty annoyed that someone like that would be sitting with us, but then again, she was one of the Hiltons, so that gave her an entrée. “That is an understatement,” Jarvis agreed in his haughty tone, outsnobbing me. “Patrick managed to score a seat at Bellona’s table,” I said, raising an eyebrow. “She was impressed with his preview, so inviting him here is her way of letting everyone know that,” Jarvis observed. “That is a distinct honor,” I said, even though I wasn’t sure he deserved it. “I thought he did a good job, but I didn’t realize it was that terrific.” “You want to argue with Bellona about that?” Jarvis challenged. “No,” I said succinctly, making him chuckle. “It was a relatively late addition, so I’m sure Patrick is as surprised as the rest of us,” he said. “I thought she had these tables organized last month?” He shrugged. “Maybe there were some cancellations.” “Maybe,” I agreed. I headed out to the reception area and got a glass of wine, then proceeded to mingle with the people here who represented the height of this industry. I had a nice time, doing my usual routine at these things, where I stuck close to Bellona until she seemed to want me to leave her alone, and then I wandered around and chatted with other people. It was fun, because everyone was talking about the latest show or the latest trend, and they were not a little catty about it. I thrived on the gossip, and found the bitchiness of their comments to be hilariously entertaining. As the time for dinner grew near, the crowd grew larger, and then as it drew closer still, people clustered either in front of the entrance to the ballroom or near the bar. This was a highbrow affair, so there were no tacky announcements demanding that people move into the dining room. If Gathan were in charge, someone would probably bang a gong and yell “soup’s on!” I thought to myself as I rolled my eyes at his family and how provincial they were. Instead, the staff merely opened the doors to welcome us, and everyone waited to go in until the big players like Bellona entered. I took that as my cue to go stand next to her while she finished up a conversation with one of the execs from Dior. She took her time, a clear power gesture, but not so long as to be rude. “Let us go,” she announced, and we dutifully followed her into the ballroom. As we headed to our table, I was stunned to see my brothers standing there, both of them looking really good. Their presence here, unannounced, totally freaked me out, but I still took a few seconds to study their appearance. Darius was wearing a black Armani suit that worked perfectly for him. It emphasized his slim but fit body, and the color brought out his dark hair and blended perfectly with his skin tone, making him look very sexy and exotic. Will was also dressed in black, wearing a Patrick Christian suit that made him seem like he was at least 25. The dark color looked good with his dark brown hair, but the best effect was that it made his bright green eyes really stand out. I pushed my observations aside and let myself ponder the most burning question: What the fuck were they doing here? “Isn’t this a lovely surprise, Jeremy?” Bellona asked, with a slightly mischievous expression. “Your brothers flew here to spend the evening with us.” “It certainly is,” I lied. “Welcome, gentlemen,” she said to Will and Darius. “You two are some of the most handsome men I have ever seen who weren’t on the runway.” “That’s very nice of you to say,” Will said, grinning, even as he shook her hand. “Allow me,” Darius said to her, as he held out her chair for her. “You are such a gentleman,” she said to him in a slightly flirtatious way. “Not all the time,” he said, winking at her, and freaking me out. Darius was here in New York, hitting on Bellona? What was going on? “I think I will remain standing until my guests arrive.” “I can work with that,” he said, pouring on the charm. “Hey there,” he said to me, and gave me a man hug. I got a similar greeting from Will. I glared at them, but got a look in return that was just as unpleasant. “So what are you guys doing here?” I finally asked. “I came out to escort Bellona to this event,” Darius said. “I was under the impression you were my guest, not my escort,” Bellona said in a slightly coquettish way that seemed strange coming from the dragon lady. “That is disappointing,” Darius said, pretending to be sad. “I said that was my impression, not that I wasn’t flattered to have you as my date,” she said, and slipped her hand through Darius’ arm. “Good,” he said, and put his other hand on hers, as if to attach her firmly to him. I stood there, freaking out inside, wondering what would happen next, when Patrick and Ella came up. The tension rose quite a bit, and I saw Bellona putting on her crocodile grin as she greeted both of them. What had originally been seen as a sign of honor for Patrick was now looking like a massive slap in the face to him, and even more to Ella. “It’s nice to see you, Darius,” Ella said pleasantly, trying to make the best of the situation. “Ella,” Darius acknowledged curtly. His single word greeting was cold enough to raise eyebrows around the table. He shook hands with Patrick in an obviously stunted greeting, one that everyone around was sure to notice. Both Patrick and Ella looked horrified, to the degree that they’d let those emotions show through, and Bellona seemed quite pleased with the drama. It wasn’t surprising that our family cheerleader defused the situation. “Hey Ella,” Will said in a neutral tone, even as he gave her a kiss on the cheek. Based on the greeting from Darius, Will’s greeting was effusive. Ella was so freaked out; she excused herself, presumably to go to the ladies’ room. “Patrick Christian,” he said, introducing himself to Will. “Will Schluter,” he replied, tossing out his brightest smile as he shook Patrick’s hand. “I get to sit next to you at dinner?” “Looks that way,” Patrick responded pleasantly, probably glad to have someone here who was being nice to him. “My lucky night.” “That could very well be,” Will said, blatantly hitting on Patrick. I was infuriated with both of them for walking into my world and acting like complete sluts, but I just kept my mouth shut and watched them. “You’re wearing my clothes,” Patrick told Will. “You want them back?” Will asked, flirting shamelessly. “No, they look great on you,” Patrick said, in a slightly sultry tone. “I’d be happy to take them off for you,” Will said suggestively, but fortunately I think only Patrick and I heard him. “We’ll have to work on that later on,” Patrick said. “I would like to talk to you privately,” I hissed into Will’s ear. “I’m sure we’ll have time later,” Will said obliquely, then refocused on Patrick. I turned to zero in on Darius instead, but he was totally focused on Bellona. This whole situation was ridiculous. He’d made her the center of attention, just like he did for one of the girls he was trying to fuck, and even more annoying was the fact that she seemed to be thriving on his attention. That was unusual, because even though she was constantly surrounded by handsome men, she seemed to almost be asexual. Maybe she just assumed all the guys around her were gay, I thought ruefully. I mean, this was the fashion industry. In any event, whatever it was, she was completely warming up to Darius. I spaced out a bit, so flummoxed was I by these events. Ella came back to the table and pulled Patrick aside in what was obviously a pretty intense conversation, but that didn’t slow Will down. He just moved on and started chatting with Zac Posen. I wondered if he’d drag him to the bathroom and fuck him there, he was being so brazen. It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep an eye on him and simultaneously listen to Darius flirt with Bellona. I decided to stick next to Bellona, since she was the source of power in this group. Patrick saw Will chatting with Zac and seemed to get a little jealous, which just made this whole thing even weirder. I was listening to Darius and Bellona while I watched Patrick and Ella. Their conversation seemed to flare up in intensity, then it ended. Ella turned on her heel and walked out, trying to do it in a graceful way, while Patrick watched her go. When she was almost to the door, Patrick wandered over to where Will was and the three of them chatted for a bit, until Zac Posen evidently decided to move on to talk with a different group, leaving Patrick and Will alone. I was intently watching this scene even as I listened to Darius prattle on with his bullshit pickup lines, as if he were trying desperately to get Bellona into bed. Patrick said something to Will, prompting him to immediately walk over to us. “Patrick just told me that Ella had to leave. She wasn’t feeling very well.” “That’s too bad,” Darius said deadpan, his tone making it clear that he didn’t care if she was at death’s door. “It certainly is,” Bellona agreed, just as insincerely. She led us over to Patrick and proceeded to console him. It was amazing that, now that Ella was gone, Darius was relatively pleasant to Patrick, and that largely dissipated the tension with our group. We all took our seats, but with Patrick having no one next to him, and Will having only Darius on his other side, that left the two of them free to talk to each other. I decided that with the way he was acting, Will would probably end up pulling a train later on tonight. “I have a present for you,” Darius told Bellona. “You certainly didn’t have to get me a present,” she said insincerely, as if she didn’t expect people to fawn all over her all the time. “Actually, I’m just the messenger, it’s from Stefan,” he said. He pulled out a small jewelry box and handed it to her. “Well, since he is not here and you gave it to me, I will just assume that it is from you,” she responded. “But please thank him for me.” “You haven’t even seen what it is,” Darius said. I sat there, just staring at them, when Bellona noticed my intense look. “Jeremy, do be a dear and tell Carmelita about our plans for the Milan show,” she said, all but telling me to fuck off. “I would be happy to, but first I want to see this present Stef sent you,” I said, which was my way of being my own person, more or less. She obliged me by opening the box and smiled broadly at the beautiful fleur de lys broach it contained. It must have cost a shitload of money, because it was encrusted with diamonds and sapphires. “It is exquisite!” she said. “I’m so glad you like it,” Darius said. “I’d help you put it on, but I’d probably do it wrong, and your jacket is too beautiful to mess up.” “I’ll need a mirror,” she said and made to stand up. Darius stood up promptly and pulled her chair out like a gentleman, then gave her his arm and escorted her from the dining room. Were they going somewhere to fuck, in the middle of this dinner? I felt like I’d fallen through some wormhole and ended up in a parallel universe where everyone was fucking crazy. I felt the need to escape, so I unobtrusively got up and headed to the restroom. On my way, I saw Darius and Bellona standing off to the side in front of a mirror. He was putting the sapphire and diamond broach on her, and it looked to me like he was gently running his finger across her left breast as he did. He saw me and winked at me, and that just made the whole thing that much creepier. I looked away and hurried into the bathroom, locking myself in one of the stalls, feeling as if I’d barely made it to a sanctuary. What the fuck was going on with these people? I sat there for about ten minutes thinking about the situation, getting nowhere with my ruminations. My mind was just going in circles, and I was just wasting time, so I’d decided to go back to the table and see what else my brothers were doing to embarrass all of us. Just as I was about to get up and go back, the door to the stall next to me opened up, and I heard two voices. I rolled my eyes at how, in an industry like this with such a large gay component, there was bound to be a bathroom fuck or two thrown into the mix. I was about to leave when I heard Patrick Christian speaking. “We don’t have much time,” he muttered. “I can work with that,” Will said in a seductive way. I heard a zipper. “Nice,” Will said. After that, I heard the distinctive slurping sound of someone, presumably Will, sucking Patrick’s dick. That was confirmed when Patrick moaned almost too loudly. “That is so fucking good,” he cooed to Will. “I love the way you taste,” Will murmured, then must have gone back to work, based on Patrick’s moans. “I’m close,” Patrick said urgently. I looked at my watch and shook my head. Will had been blowing him for less than three minutes. His moans got more pronounced, then there was a loud, sexy grunt which announced to me and anyone who was in the next stall that he was blowing his wad. “Thanks,” Patrick said, after a few seconds. “That was a lot of fun,” Will said. I heard a different noise, one that sounded like they were kissing. “You go back first.” “OK,” Patrick said. The stall door opened, I heard Patrick walk out, then the door closed. I sat in my own stall, absolutely furious at Will, trying not to be too annoyed that I’d had absolutely no luck getting Patrick to fuck around with me when we’d gone out. As soon as I heard Will’s stall door open, I all but stormed out of my sanctuary. I expected Will to be surprised, but he looked at me kind of contemptuously. “What the fuck are you doing?” I demanded. “Enjoying the party,” he said. He turned his back on me and went to wash his hands. “What are you doing here?” I demanded. “Seems that you think you can come walking into our world and fuck things up, and treat people like shit,” he said, smiling. “I’m just returning the favor.” “I didn’t do anything wrong!” I insisted. He chuckled at me. “Then I think you’re going to have a pretty shitty night.” “Why don’t you go out there, get Darius, and just get the fuck out of here!” I said much too loudly. I was lucky that we were alone in this restroom. “Nope,” he said calmly. “You don’t live in a bubble, where you can treat people like shit and get away with it.” “This is bullshit!” I told him. “I’m going to call Stef.” “Still tattling?” Will taunted me, just about setting me free. “Who do you think picked out our clothes?” My mouth dropped in shock. I figured this was just Will and Darius fucking with my life, which was so typical of them, especially since I was doing so well. But Stef was involved in this thing, this attempt to ruin my life? I guess I should have figured that out from the broach that Darius brought. I thought about that, and it made sense, and in fact, Stef was the only person who could have done that. That’s the only way Will and Darius would have been able to score tickets to this deal, or tickets at Bellona’s table. He must have talked to Bellona about this. My eyes narrowed as I realized that the broach she was given was probably payment for fucking with me. But how could Stef do that to me? How could he betray me like that? I heard the door which surprised me, since I’d been spacing out so much that Will had been able to just walk out on me. I took a few minutes to wash my hands and to make sure my hair was still perfect, and then I went back out to our table. There really wasn’t anything else I could do right now but make it through this evening with as much dignity as I could muster. I got back to the table to find Will sitting in my seat chatting with Carmelita in Italian. He saw me and promptly got up, excusing himself in a polite way that would have won Grandmaman’s approval. “I did not realize that your brothers were so charming,” Bellona said to me, acting almost giddy. “They’re like modern day Casanovas,” I said, trying to make it sound funny, but I wasn’t sure if I’d pulled that off. “Casanova was legendary for being one of the best lovers of all time,” Will said to me. “Thanks.” Of course he’d know that, since he was always reading about history just to suck up to Grand. “I can’t evaluate that,” Bellona said. “Yet,” Darius said softly, so only Bellona and I could hear. I spent my time talking to Carmelita, trying to keep her amused, but after Will had wowed her with his Italian, she seemed to find me to be a bit of a letdown. That was so typical of my brothers. They come into my world and totally outshine me, steal the spotlight, and then leave me cast aside like trash, like garbage no one would want. It got to the point where the whole event was unbearable. “I’m not feeling very well,” I said to Bellona. She acted annoyed that I’d interrupted her time with Darius. “I am sorry to hear that.” “I hope you feel better,” Darius said to me, and winked at me, more of a taunt than a friendly gesture. “We’ll stop by and see you tomorrow morning.” “I’m not sure if I’ll be there,” I said, being bitchy, and then I regretted it, since Bellona gave me an amused look. “That’s fine,” he said. “Then we’ll come back next weekend and hope you’re around.” I stood up and strode out of the ballroom in as dignified a way as I could, even as I was fuming inside. I sat in the limo, and was so mad I stomped my feet on the floor. I didn’t even answer the driver when he tried to call me to bitch about it. I dialed Stef and got his answering machine, which ratcheted up my rage just that much more. I sighed, and then called Escorial. One of the less-than-bright staff members answered, so it took me three tries to get them to understand who I was, and to put Stef on the phone. “Hello JJ,” I heard the voice say, only it wasn’t Stef, it was Grand. I so did not want to talk to him. “Hi,” I said somewhat meekly. “Is Stef there? I need to talk to him.” “He is not,” Grand said. “I talked to him before he left, and he told me that if you called, I should instruct you to talk to me.” “He knew I was going to call,” I fumed, and that fueled my anger even more. “He sent Will and Darius here to embarrass me in front of my friends, and to fuck them too, then he doesn’t have the guts to even talk to me?” “I find your outrage over their breach of manners to be incredibly hypocritical,” Grand said icily. “You think that’s OK, for them to do that?” I demanded. “Did they tell you why they were there?” he asked. I rolled my eyes at that. “They’re still mad at me for trying to stop Maddy from running around the house like a demon from hell. That’s what this is about, and it’s crap, since it’s unreasonable for me to sit there and put up with kids screaming and yelling in the kitchen.” “I would point out that it was my kitchen you felt you had the right to police, and I would further point out that it is not your place to discipline Maddy,” he said. “Well then I’ll just stay away,” I snapped. “The most disturbing thing is that you have not heard a thing the rest of us have been saying to you,” Grand said. “What are you talking about?” I demanded. “You are universally prickly and mean to everyone in the family with the exception of Stefan, and then you rely on him to cover for you, and to explain your inexplicable behavior,” he said. “And worse than that, you are being rude to Mr. Carullo, who is our guest.” “I am not!” I insisted, and annoyed myself by sounding like a two-year-old. “I am going to let you ruminate on things,” Grand said, in his same cold and unrelenting tone. “I have done that, and that’s why I’m so pissed off!” I almost shouted. “You are aiming your lens in the wrong direction,” he said. “I suggest you turn it inward.” And then he ended the call. He was that mad at me that he hung up on me? I slumped back into the seat and pouted, fighting against hearing his words, and fighting even harder against actually acting on them. September 6, 2003 The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel New York, NY Will We watched JJ walk out of the room, which was so dramatic for him, and so ridiculous since this thing was winding down anyway. Bellona smiled at Darius and me. “I think you accomplished your mission.” “We won’t really know about that until tomorrow,” Darius said. “Besides, that’s not my mission.” “It is not?” she asked, raising her eyebrows at him in surprise. I was kind of surprised about that too, since I thought we’d pretty much accomplished what we were supposed to do. We were supposed to come out here and show JJ that he wasn’t going to get away with being a total douche, and that all the power and money he took for granted was something he couldn’t use for evil, more or less. “I think we established that this is a date,” Darius said to her, making his voice deeper, and much sexier. “You are adorable, but there is no need for you to continue the charade,” she said dismissively. “It’s not a charade to me,” Darius said. “I’m on a date with a beautiful woman. I’m not leaving without at least a good night kiss.” It was hard to listen without being obvious, but I was trying my best to remain inconspicuous. “You can’t mean that,” she said, and truly sounded surprised. I knew that I was. “There’s only one reason you shouldn’t come upstairs and spend the night with me,” he said. I was stunned. He was serious about this? “There are a number of reasons why that can’t and won’t happen,” she said firmly. “I can only think of one,” he said. “Alright, what’s this one reason?” she asked, smiling at him in a patronizing way. “I’ll make you a deal,” he said. “You guess it, and I’ll leave. You don’t, and you come upstairs with me. You have three tries.” “I’ll try to guess, and then we’ll see about going upstairs,” she insisted. “Because I’m old enough to be your mother.” “Nope,” he said. “I think you’re amazingly hot. I don’t give a shit how old you are.” His somewhat crass phrasing made him seem really masculine and attractive, or at least that’s what I thought. “I don’t believe that,” she said. I didn’t either. “I’m not a liar,” Darius said in an offended way that backed her up. “I can prove it to you, but you have to guess wrong two more times.” “Because relationships are complicated,” she said. “I’m flying back to California tomorrow, and I don’t get to New York all that often. I’m not talking about a long-distance deal, I’m talking about a night of fun, one that we’ll remember and smile about when we do.” “And the final reason is that you’d wear me out, and I’d be exhausted tomorrow,” she said. He didn’t say anything, so she smiled, knowing she’d figured him out. “As I have two meetings tomorrow morning, I’d have a hard time functioning.” “I should have known you’d be smart enough to guess the reason,” he said, sounding sad and dejected. “Damn.” Before she could respond, Paris Hilton came strolling up. I stood up to greet her, even though he remained seated. “S’up Darius?” she asked, even as she looked him up and down. “Paris,” he said to her casually. “And how are you Will?” she asked, acting like she wanted to fuck my brains out. “Doing great,” I said, giving her a hug. I noticed that she had some white powder on her nose, so when she pulled away from me I wiped it off in a relatively flirtatious way. She winked at me to thank me, then turned her attention back to Darius. “I didn’t know you were going to be here,” she said. “You should hang out after this. We’re going to a party.” “Thanks, I’m happy here,” Darius said, and squeezed Bellona’s hand in an obvious way. “You don’t know what you’re missing,” she said, in a slutty way, which was pretty much the only way she ever talked. She gave Bellona a contemptuous look, which was pretty bold. “Yeah, I do,” Darius said. She gave him a dirty look and sort of meandered away. “You passed up what was probably a really fun party,” Bellona said. Her voice sounded almost gleeful, probably because Darius had picked her over Paris Hilton. “I’ve already been to Paris,” he said. “I’ll probably regret this…” she said, and stood up, leaving the rest of the sentence unfinished. She held out her hand, Darius stood up, smiling, and the two of them left the ballroom. I watched them go, even as I blinked in surprise. That was not how I’d expected this to end. “Sorry, I had to talk to some people,” Patrick Christian said as he sat down at the table next to me. He was really handsome and really sexy, and best of all, he had a really deep voice. I loved that. “It was fine,” I said, smiling at him. “Well, this thing is ending, so time to bail,” he commented. “Let’s go,” I said. “Where?” “Upstairs,” I said, raising my eyebrow suggestively. “Dude,” he said in a dissenting kind of way. “I didn’t do a good job in the bathroom?” I asked him, sounding a lot like Darius had when he’d been hitting on Bellona. “You did a really good job,” he said, and gave me a cute smile. “I didn’t earn a second round?” I asked, and then pretended to pout. “You want to blow me again?” he asked quietly. I leaned up and whispered in his ear. “No, I want you to fuck me.” He backed away from me, smiled, and we both hurried to the elevator.
  32. 38 points
    Dane watched warily as Derrick walked to the back of the plane to make his phone call to Cass in private. It occurred to me that Dane always looked wary—as if the next moment might bring another unpleasant surprise. And most likely, in the little guy’s experience, that was true. From an adult perspective, rescuing Dane from a disadvantaged life, bringing him to a life of love and opportunity was a good thing. But to a child like Dane, who’d been moved from pillar to post virtually all his life, two strangers making promises to be his dads didn’t represent security, just another threat. No wonder Dane’s behavior was less than stellar. It was the only way he had of maintaining control of his world. What could we do to earn Dane’s trust? To give him a sense of permanence, of security? How could we convince him that he had a place in our hearts and in our home and in our family? Derrick interrupted my musings by returning with a huge smile on his face. “Dane,” he said. “I just talked to your new brother, Cass. He’s very excited about having a little brother and can hardly wait to meet you! And you have a new sister, too. Her name is Khala. Here, let me show you pictures of them.” He pulled out his phone, sat in the seat next to Dane and proceeded to show him several photos taken at Cass and Khala’s graduation which included Mom and Dad, Don and Marco, and several friends including the Foroughis, and Jordan, Kelly and Alfy. Alfy’s photo captured Dane’s interest. It was like he thought of Alfy as a potential ally in an otherwise endless sea of adults. That gave me an idea. I turned to Derrick and said, “Maybe our next phone call should be to Jordan and Kelly. Maybe they could bring Alfy out to meet us at the airport when we arrive at HNL?” It was my turn to go to the back of the plane to make a phone call to our friends. When Kelly answered the phone I quickly explained what we’d been up to. He was surprised of course, but also delighted and supportive of what we’d done. He said he’d phone Jordan, who was at work, right away and fill him in. And, yes, he was pretty sure they could meet us on our arrival. When I got back to my seat, I relayed my conversation with Kelly and told Dane that Alfy, the boy in the pictures, would be at the airport to meet us when our plane landed at our new home. After that the flight attendants prepared a meal for us. A healthy, but very tasty, chicken salad for Derrick and me, and chicken tenders with some peas for Dane. He didn’t really like the peas, but there were just a few of them—just enough so that he got used to eating vegetables—and ate them reluctantly with the promise of ice cream for dessert. I wasn’t comfortable with the whole ‘bribe’ approach to food: eat your veggies or you won’t get dessert.... But isn’t that pretty universal? Don’t most parents resort to that at some point? I just wasn’t sure. That’s a question I’d be asking Jordan and Kelly. After we’d eaten Dane became sleepy, hell, we were all nearly exhausted, so we retreated to the bed for a nap. (Pee and brush teeth first!) We did that sandwich thing again, with me in the middle, and we all conked out pretty quickly. After napping for about an hour we decided to watch a movie. Dane chose The Lego Movie which was actually pretty fun for us adults to watch too. Derrick and I took turns calling friends and family to tell them about Dane. Of course they were all taken by surprise, but no one had a negative thing to say about what we’d done. In fact, they were all wildly happy about the situation; all offered their congratulations and support. The only one I didn’t talk to was James, because it was night time in France; I’d call him a little later, once we’d arrived and hopefully catch him in the morning before he got to school. Once the movie was finished Derrick and I took showers and changed into our ‘Hawaii’ clothes. Then we gave Dane a wash and dressed him in shorts and a t-shirt. The plane was air conditioned, but once the door opened we’d be stepping out into a warm humid evening. Looking west out the plane’s windows we could see the beginnings of one of Oahu’s famed sunsets. It was a beautiful night to arrive home. I was glad to see Kelly’s big truck as the plane coasted into its parking spot. We waited until the door was open before we got up from out seats. Derrick exited first. Dane and I followed. As Dane and I reached the door, he recoiled as the warm, humid air hit him. Realizing the sudden change in temperature had startled him, I knelt down and said, “Can you feel the warm air, Dane? It’s nothing to worry about. In fact, most people love it. You’ll get used to it in a few minutes, and I think you’ll like it too. Shall we go down the steps? I think I see Alfy there waiting to meet you.” Dane gave me that wary look, but at least it wasn’t a refusal, so I stood up and led him down the steps. Jordan, Kelly and Alfy had hugged Derrick and turned to watch Dane and me come down the steps. Observing Dane’s discomfort, their greeting to us was more muted, but nonetheless warm. They’d brought us beautiful leis which they placed around our necks. Introductions were made. Dane and Alfy observed each other suspiciously. Please God, I prayed, Let them become friends! “This is for you,” said Alfy, as he held out a small box for Dane to take. It was a box of Legos. Perfect! Dane took the box and studied it. He glanced up at me; I knew he was happy with the gift, but he didn’t quite know what to do. He was looking at me for guidance. Thank you, Jesus! “Dane, can you say ‘thank you’ to Alfy?” “Um...thank you...” I gave Dane’s hand a little squeeze of approval. It was decided that Derrick and I would take the boys in Derrick’s Bentayga, and Jordan and Kelly would follow in their truck. We got the car seats installed and headed off home. It didn’t take long for the boys to start chattering about the Lego. Alfy seemed to be the expert, explaining to Dane what pieces needed to go where. Kids being kids, Alfy commenced an interesting monologue, “My dad said you came from Canada. Where’s that? Is it warm there? You don’t look like a Haole. My dad says not to use that word. But that’s what we call people who aren’t from Hawaii. Have you been to a luau? They had one when my dads adopted me. It was fun. I drank so much juice that I puked. Have you every puked? Do you know what the Hawaiian word for dick is? It’s ule. I’ll teach you other words too.” Derrick and I were cracking up as Alfy prattled on. It was a wonder Derrick could keep control of the car. Our little convoy arrived at our house and we let Alfy, who had clearly become Dane’s mentor, take Dane in hand to give him a tour of our yard and house, with a stern warning that they were not to go onto the beach and to be careful around the pool because Dane didn’t know how to swim. Not that we were going to let them out of our sight for a second, but Dane seemed entranced by Alfy’s take charge attitude. It took Alfy all of thirty seconds to show Dane the yard then the kids dashed in the house and up the stairs, Alfy leading Dane by the hand. “Which bedroom is his?” yelled Alfy. “The one in the back,” I shouted back. That was Cass’s room, now to be repurposed for his younger brother. I dashed up the stairs after them, thinking I should be there to explain that we’d redecorate the room into something Dane would like. “She’s hot isn’t she?” I heard Alfy saying as the two of them gazed at one of Cass’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit posters. Alfy continued to talk a mile a minute. Looking at Dane I realized that the rigid posture that was normally there was gone. He looked relaxed. And the look of wariness on his face had disappeared; he now looked animated and happy. Alfy had accomplished in a few minutes what it might have taken Derrick and me weeks to do, if ever. Kelly, Jordan and Alfy only stayed a few minutes. It was a school day for Alfy the next day and Kelly, of course, had an early shift at the radio station. As they were leaving Alfy beseeched his dad to bring him over the next day so he could teach Dane to swim. Dane’s demeanor had undergone a transformation. Suddenly, like someone had clicked a switch, he seemed more relaxed, less wary, and was more talkative. Apparently, Alfy’s promise to come back and teach him how to swim had him excited. We ‘waterproofed’ Dane’s bed by putting a large trash bag under the sheet and mattress cover. Then Derrick bathed Dane and dressed him in his PJ’s. I read to him until he fell asleep. I gazed at his beautiful little face, so relaxed in sleep, and felt my heart expand with love. Any doubts or insecurities I had evaporated. He was my son! Derrick came in at that point and we both stood, arms around each other, and stared at our little boy. We made love that night, very tenderly. The sun was barely coloring the sky when Dane came in and woke us up the next morning. His PJ’s were dry! He crawled into bed with his two sleepy dads but wasn’t about to settle down. So down to the kitchen we went, where I proceeded to make a pot of coffee and pancakes. We’d made a list (a rather long, daunting list) of all the things we had to do to help our son settle into his new home. It included tasks like: register Dane for school, hire nanny, pediatrician check up, dental check up, buy bedroom furniture, coordinate Dane’s security guys, get a dog... We missed Lucy like crazy, but weren’t keen on just replacing her with another dog. But with a small child in the house, suddenly a dog seemed important. So that task moved up to number one on our priority list. We phoned Dr. Nahua (Cass’s mentor, the vet with the animal shelter), explained we now had a six year told son, and asked if he had any suitable candidates for adoption. “Well...maybe...,” equivocated Dr. Nahua. “We’ve got a young Border Collie bitch (spayed) that just came in. Border Collies aren’t necessarily good family dogs. Well, they can be, but they require a lot of exercise. And you have to be firm with them; they’re extremely intelligent and trainable, but without proper training they can become, well...bossy. But with your large yard, and if you took her running with you, and let her exercise on the beach, she could be a very good pet. Very loyal. I have to be honest and tell you that Patsy’s owners had problems with her. They had her in a small townhome and left her alone all day while they worked. Patsy pretty much destroyed their furniture...because she was bored...” Derrick cut to the chase. “So you think Patsy would make a good family pet for us...in spite of the potential negatives?” “Yes,” replied Dr. Nahua. “I think she’d be a wonderful addition to your family. Really, your situation is almost perfect for her. She’s just over a year old, house trained, and knows several commands. So she’d out of the worst of the puppy phase. You could come meet her and go from there....” Dane had been attentively listening to our conversation with Dr. Nahua. He definitely had a hopeful look on his face. We agreed to come over that morning and look at Patsy. But first we did a quick Google search of Border Collies to see what they were like. Everything we read confirmed what Dr. Nahua had told us about their temperament, intelligence and behavior. At the shelter, Dr. Nahua fetched Patsy and brought her out to the waiting room. She wasn’t the black and white dog we’d expected. Instead, she was white and blue with one pale blue eye and one pale brown eye. Dr. Nahua explained that she was a Blue Merle Border Collie, and it wasn’t unusual for them to have different colored eyes. Patsy sat obediently at Dr. Nahua’s command and we approached for introductions, holding our hands out so she could sniff them, as we’d explained to Dane on the way over. When she sniffed Dane’s hand her tail thumped the floor with excitement. I swear to God, that dog had a smile on her face. Dr. Nahua patiently explained to Dane how to pet Patsy gently, then allowed him to give Patsy a gentle hug. Patsy sat obediently and patiently soaking up the little boy’s affection, her hindquarters wriggling in excitement and her tail beating a tattoo on the floor. Done! Within minutes we were loaded up with dog supplies and Patsy was sitting contentedly in her crate in the back of Derrick’s SUV. Dane was craning his neck to watch her. On the way home I noticed a new For Sale sign on the beachfront property a few doors down from us. I mentioned it to Derrick, and he asked me what I thought. “Hmm...let’s think about it...” I said. Once we got home we made sure all the gates were closed, then let Patsy out to explore her new surroundings. Dane was given the responsibility of giving her a tour. “Patsy, heal!” Dane commanded as he’d been taught. Patsy immediately fell in beside him, looking up at his face expectantly. Off they went with Dane repeating what Alfy had told him the night before. “This is where my gramma and grampa live, but they’re not here right now. I’ll meet them later. This is the swimming pool. Be careful, you can dr...um...sink, if you don’t know how to swim. Afy’s going to teach me to swim. This is the gate to the beach. NEVER go onto the beach by yourself! C’mon, I’ll show you my room. Our room. Dad! Can Patsy sleep in my room?” “Dane, before you go inside, maybe we should let Patsy wander a bit around the yard. Maybe she has to do her business, pee or poop.” Derrick suggested. “Just point to the yard and tell her to go and explore.” Patsy trotted off happily on Dane’s command to ‘go explore.’ She sniffed here and there, obviously picking up on Lucy’s scents. She sniffed then squatted to pee in several places. Then she circled and took a big dump. “Praise her, Dane, tell her she’s a good dog,” I said. I used one of the doggie poop bags to clean it up, showing Dane how to do it. I expected him to be grossed out by the procedure, but he didn’t seem particularly repulsed; he just observed attentively. “Why don’t we take Patsy for a quick walk on the beach,” Derrick suggested. “Then we’ll come back and have some lunch.” So we clipped on a lead and went through the gate to the beach. It was Dane’s first time on an ocean beach, and Derrick explained, quite clearly, I thought, about the ocean. He showed Dane how to look for shells in the sand and explained that once we could fully trust Patsy not to run off we’d let her loose on the beach to run and exercise. “Maybe she’ll learn to chase a Frisbee,” added Derrick. Patsy was well lead trained and didn’t give Dane a bit of trouble as we walked along. Once back at the house, and giving in to the inevitable, we set up Patsy’s bed in Dane’s room. After a small lunch, Dane looked sleepy so we suggested a nap. We first got Patsy into her bed and told Dane to give the ‘down and stay’ commands, which Patsy complied with easily. Derrick then explained to Dane that it was forbidden for Patsy to climb on the bed and sleep with him. Certain boundaries had to be maintained after all. Once we were assured that Dane and his canine friend were asleep, in their respective beds, I brought up the subject of the house for sale down the street. “Derrick, honey, I think we should buy that house.” “Were you thinking of a place for Cass?” “Well, no,” I replied. “You know that Cass and Khala want to get some acreage so they can raise Golden Retrievers—at least that’s what they’d mentioned. It might be a good place for Don and Marco, but I think they want property on the North Shore, closer to the surfing beaches. Actually, I was thinking about Jordan and Kelly....” “Jordan and Kelly...that’s a great Idea, Gabe. Would we buy it and let them live there? Or were you thinking of buying it for them to own.” “The latter,” I replied. “Only problem is you know how proud they are. It was like pulling teeth to get them to accept the Bentley...” “Yeah. That’s true. How about if we give them a choice? They can either accept it graciously, or we’ll sent MacKenzie Deacon over to have a chat with them.” I burst out laughing. “Good plan. Nobody can resist Mom’s persuasion.” I hurried down the road to get the agent’s phone number and called immediately. “Full $8 million asking price,” I told her. “Over that if we need to bid up. I want a yes answer within the hour.” The agent came through. Subject to signing the paperwork the property would be ours. The agent emailed us the offer paperwork, which we quickly signed and faxed back. Then we phoned our banker and instructed him to wire a $1 million deposit to the broker’s escrow account. Kelly was bringing Alfy over later that afternoon so Alfy could give Dane a swimming lesson. We’d break the news to him then. “Kelly...” I began. “Remember how Jordan saved my life with his skill and quick thinking?” “Yes?...” he replied. “And remember our little party where we all kind bonded? And now we’re like family?” “Gabe, what the hell are you trying to tell me. Spit it out, man!” “Okay. Did you notice the For Sale sign on the house down the street?” “Kinda, yeah.” “Well, we bought that place for you and Jordan.” “NO FUCKING WAY! Nope! Not gonna happen!” Derrick spoke up. “Now if you have a legitimate reason for not wanting to accept our gift, we’ll listen. But if it’s just your big, hairy, Hawaiian balls talking, then stuff it. You’re family. Family does for family. So at least talk to Jordan about it...” Derrick’s little speech hadn’t mollified Kelly in the least. He was breathing heavily and his fists were clenched. He’s a lot bigger than we are, and I was beginning to fear for our safety...Well, not really. Kelly’s bark is a lot worse than his bite. After giving us a good death stare—which he could tell didn’t intimidate us in the least—he took a deep, calming breath. “All right,” he growled. “I’ll talk to Jordan. But if he says no, it’s no!” “Don’t make us take extreme measures,” I said. “What the hell does that mean?” “We’ll send Mom over to talk to you...” “Awe, Gabe, that’s not fair!” “Kelly, you can do this the easy way, or the hard way,” I said laughing. Meanwhile, multitasking, we were keeping a careful eye on the boys as Alfy had coaxed Dane into the shallow end of the pool. Alfy could swim like a fish, so there was no worry there, and Dane, with the fearlessness of a six year old, was taking well to Alfy’s coaching. Patsy was anxiously pacing the perimeter of the pool, whining a little, clearly ready to rescue her new master, if needed. Alfy was demonstrating how to crouch down and dunk his head. Dane followed suit and came up sputtering and wiping water from his eyes. Alfy exclaimed, “You did it, Dane! You did it!” Dane sneezed, then turned to us and gave us a radiant smile. We all chorused our hearty approval of Dane’s bravery and accomplishment. Alfy, a natural-born teacher, and wise beyond his years, said, “That’s enough for today, Dane. Let’s go inside. I know where Dr. Gabe hides the cookies!” Derrick and I turned to Kelly, put our hands on our hips and gave him our best glares. Our unspoken question being: how can you be so cruel as to not allow these children to live near each other? “All right. Stop already! I’ll talk to Jordan. Okay? Satisfied?” We both smirked at him. I thought, Having a real family, even if it’s a chosen family, is one hell of a nice feeling. I went over, reached up and hugged the big man. “We love you, Kelly. You’re a brother to us. You know that, right?” “I know,” he huffed, “And I love you guys too.”
  33. 38 points
    Gay Authors 15th Anniversary September 13, 2017 Gay Authors has a big date now upon us. On September 13, 2002, Gay Authors was officially started. It is our official 15th Anniversary. We started off with just Comicality's and my stories hosted. We didn't really start building the community until July 31, 2003. In order to celebrate this remarkable milestone, I've asked a bunch of authors and members to reflect upon their time here at Gay Authors. I list Comicality first with the comments to honor the fact he was here from day one. Everyone else appears in no particular order. I want to thank all of them for taking the time to give some commentary for me. And I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Our authors and our community are the very things that have kept Gay Authors going strong all these years. To many more! Myr From our very first author, Comicality @Comicality "Has it been 15 years already? A decade and a half of quality gay themed fiction. Stop and think about that for a moment. Drink in the idea of how extremely rare something like this is online. Out of countless platforms providing gay stories and erotic fiction...how awesome is it for Gay Authors to be one of the first choices among them? Being a part of this site from the very beginning, I can say that the attention is well deserved. Well earned. Standards of quality and integrity have been upheld over the years, and I am so proud to be a part of something that has worked so hard to be a beacon of light for its audience and an inspiration to the new talent to sprout up in the future. Make no mistake, the Shack wouldn't be here if it wasn't for GA, and their belief in me as well as others! I never once had to doubt that I was on a winning team here, and I want to take a moment to wish you guys a happy anniversary! Here's to the celebration! And here's to many more anniversaries to come! ((Hugz)) All around!" From Bill W @Bill W Not only am I one of the oldest members on GA (in chronological years), but I'm also one of those who have been around since the beginning. Myr asked if I would like to become involved back in August 2003, and I humbly accepted his invitation. Back then, each of us had his own website, but they were all united under the GA umbrella. I was one of the last to have my site absorbed into the new format, and I think it's much better and easier for the members to view the works of all authors now, since you can find each of them at one location. I've also seen GA become a very active and vibrant community during this time, adding new members and an influx of new authors along the way. May GA's future be just as bright and productive as the fifteen years since its founding. From Renee Stevens @Renee Stevens I can’t believe that GA is 15 years old, or that I’ve been part of it for over half that time. I’ve been here nearly 8 years and honestly, I don’t even remember exactly how I found GA, but I did and I started posting in the old eFiction. I became staff within a couple of years, and I helped with the transition from eFiction to our current GA Stories software. The story section is so much better now than it was before, ask anyone who was around during the eFiction days, and the site just keeps growing and improving. I can't wait to see the ways in which it continues to grow! I’ve seen members come and go, and saw some great authors develop their talent thanks to the feedback they have received from the wonderful community here. I’ve also, thanks to the help and feedback I myself have gotten, managed to publish a few of my novels. I owe a huge thank you to GA, not just for helping polish my craft, but for all the friendships that began on-site and have just grown stronger over the years! Happy Anniversary GA!!! From Dolores Esteban @Dolores Esteban I joined GA in 2008. My writing had progressed from role playing and fanfiction stories to original stories. GA seemed a good place to share my work. I remember how excited I was when I submitted my first story to the Anthologies. Later I worked with the story and poetry prompts provided by GA staff and members. I found that poetry was definitely worth to explore. GA was always the one place to share my work. I think my writing improved over the years. The site is to me both a challenge and a source of support. There was change over the years and I remember community issues in the past, things I disliked, but overall the change was good and there was steady improvement. There were real life issues that kept me from writing, once for more than a year, but I always come back to GA. The site is the one place for writing that I visit daily, although real life still keeps me from engaging more. My thanks to GA staff and member who keep the site going, and Happy Birthday, GA. From Graeme @Graeme I have been a member of GA for over 11 years, and been a moderator here for almost 10. In that time, there have been a lot of changes as both the story system and forums have evolved. I have to congratulate Myr on his effects to continuously improve and refine the capabilities of the site, and the success GA has enjoyed can be largely laid at his feet and the feet of the other Administrators. However, in all that time, there have been two constants: great stories and a wonderful community. I have made a lot of friends here, some of which have moved on to other things, and others that have, sadly, passed on. There are many past members that I still miss, but I have many new friends to enjoy, too. As an author, a gay dad, and a member of this community, I'm proud of what we have here and I look forward to many more years of being part of what makes GA so special. From Mark Arbour @Mark Arbour Gay Authors celebrating 15 years: what a ride it’s been! I was asked to spend a paragraph reflecting on the time I’ve been at GA, but as one of GA’s most prolific authors, I decided that I’m allowed to take more than that. I joined GA on February 24, 2005, following Domluka over here like the loyal slave to him that I am. That makes me one of first wave of people to join this organization, so I’ve been around for the growth, the growing pains, and much of the drama, some of which I caused. I wasn’t always one of the easiest people to deal with: It took me all of three months before I got my first warning notification from Myr, who suffers fools badly. Before I’d spent time at GA, I’d never known that I could write anything, much less a whole story. I never knew that I could build plotlines and stories and make them flow together, and I never dreamed I’d be able to wind them together to create whole sagas. Yet with examples from other authors, support from my team of editors and beta readers, encouragement from the GA community, and tolerance by the GA Admins, I’ve been able to do just that. As of September 10, 2017, I’m working on my 16th story in the Chronicles of an Academic Predator (CAP) saga, and the 8th story in the Bridgemont adventure. One would think that would be ode enough to GA, and certainly reason enough to stop rambling, but that’s not what a prolific author does. Besides, that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of talking about all that I got out of being affiliated with GA. Writing and interacting within this community gave me an outlet for the gay side of my bisexuality, and helped me grapple with that in a much healthier way than I’d done before. My offline relationships and my overall psyche have benefitted greatly from that. Even more importantly, GA, or more precisely the GA community, taught me to be a better person. I learned some tough lessons on how to behave online, and I learned that online words can hurt just as much as those hurled in person, and I learned that being the one who hurled them is more painful than being the recipient, even if it takes a while to figure that out. I also experienced the extreme sadness of losing members of this community (Trebs and Vic, you are always in my heart!), disappointment in losing contact with others (Domluka!), the extreme happiness of seeing some of my loyal readers become accomplished authors in their own right, and the true satisfaction of developing deep friendships (Sharon! – I yell that just like Ozzie Osbourne does). In short, GA civilized and matured me, both online and offline. So when I reflect on my life journey over the past 15 years, I find it’s impossible to separate the progress I’ve made from my affiliation with Gay Authors. Even more, I’m quite convinced that if I did, I wouldn’t like the person I’d be without GA and all of you who have helped me become a better human being. From Krista @Krista Happy Anniversary GA, congratulations on making it fifteen years. On the internet that is a real recognizable milestone worth noting. Myself, I came to GayAuthors, twelve years ago. I hadn’t been writing very long and all of my posting experience had been on Nifty and a yahoo group - back when Yahoo was actually relevant. E-fiction was the posting place for Non-Hosted authors. There also wasn’t any Promising, Classing, and the pinnacle of writing goal of recognition was termed Hosted. A friend of mine, a young fan of my stories told me about Gay Authors. It took a lot of convincing to get me to join, but since he kept bringing up how nice the place was. I finally joined. It helped to see that the site hosted some of my favorite authors at the time. I hadn’t been writing very long at all when I first started posting. I had “Something Unexpected,” nearly completed and, “Good Guys Finish Last,” on its closing chapters as well. Still a high school student, with no real teaching in creative writing. I honestly didn’t know where I would be going with writing or how long. I definitely still had a lot to learn. I began writing just because at the time, especially in Kentucky there just wasn’t a gay culture where we lived. I had gay friends and I didn’t like thinking they felt so isolated. They were also scared, so scared that I honestly never was able to convince them to join the site itself. Even after my experience had been for the most part positive. People seemed to enjoy my writing, I didn’t post much in the forums, but I loved the quality of feedback I got from readers here. So much so that I closed my Yahoo group completely, saying goodbye to over a couple thousand members. I likely wouldn’t have went beyond two stories if I hadn’t joined. My friends liked my writing, but they really weren’t into reading online, amateur fiction. So Gay Author’s audience gave me a bit of a writing bug so I continued. Gay Authors allowed me to develop as a writer. I doubt I would be able to be where I am today with my writing without this community and forums. I met a lot of great people with similar interests and goals. I saw what the community did for LGBT people like my friends that didn’t have opportunities to be themselves and not be judged or scorned for it. My time here on Gay Authors has been a worthwhile ride, everything from being a Global Moderator, blowing up and nearly wrecking GA.Stories on its debut, calling JSmith a flat-ass, and being the top author on eFiction before its well deserved retirement (speaking of which, when do I get to retire?). Here’s to fifteen more. Congratulations! P.S. I love Steven, despite his Canadian shortcomings. From Jamessavik @jamessavik I joined GA in May 2005. I had some stories on other sites and saw GA as the big time of gay literature. GA hosts such notables as Dom Luka and Comicality and many others, so I joined to read them and maybe learn a thing or two. When it comes to sites like GA, people come and go with regularity. The thing that makes people stay is this community. Over the years we have literally watched a number of kids grow up, old friends pass away and you never know when someone new will bring that one brilliant spark that will change everything. This is what people were talking about back in the day when we were dreaming about what the web could bring us: a living, breathing, dynamic community. Happy anniversary GA. Here's wishing you many more. This is a very special place. From David McLeod @David McLeod I've been a member of the Gay Author's web site for longer than I thought possible. In those years, so many people... both readers and authors... have offered their comments, thoughts, and critiques of my writing. Some have thanked me for my stories, but the greatest thanks are due from me to them. I've been able to explore style and technique in a safe and friendly environment. Even those who were frank in their criticism were not angry or ugly, but supportive. And that's what has been the best part of this association—the members who have taken the time to read, offer their thoughts, and then read some more. Thank you all for our association, and best wishes for another 15 years, and more. David From Cia @Cia It’s hard to believe I joined GA almost eight years ago! I lurked for the longest time, reading all the promoted author stories I could because I was a stay-at-home mom with two young kids, ie: no money and picking up a book meant instantly someone needed my attention. So much has changed since then, both for the site and for me. But the important part has stayed the same: I love to read and write, and I visit GA every single day. Over the years as a staff member I’ve helped on so many projects, the biggest being the move from eFiction to Stories, but my goal has always been to feature the great stories we have on the site and help make them even better—mine included. Without GA, I never would have taken that first step to putting fingers to keyboard and sharing my stories, much less gotten involved in publishing and finding success there. I want to give back, and being a staff member lets me do that, even if sometimes it makes GA a little less fun. The work must be done! There are so many wonderful people willing to make GA their online fiction home, even as our active members and authors fluctuate and change, bringing so much to our community. I wasn’t here in the beginning, but I’ll damn sure be here until GA ends… which won’t be until the zombie horde rises up and the apocalypse halts technology as we know it. * * * * Thanks again to everyone that provided comments. And to everyone reading this... what has your time here at Gay Authors meant for you?
  34. 38 points
    As I stood up, when they were five metres away, everyone in the advancing group stopped. I stepped forward, passing the Captain, so I was in hearing range of the Cadets. “Cadets, get down flat on the ground now, and do not make a sound, that is a direct order, now move it” I said in a loud whisper, and the Cadets did as I ordered, seeing that I am regular army, and not a Cadet Unit Commander, once all the Cadets were laying on the ground I turned to face the Captain. I activated my ear piece so the others could hear me. “Now Captain, would you care to inform me why you disobeyed a direct order from Senior CUO Banner, which you were instructed by Lt Colonel Harding to obey” I asked the unit commander in a loud whisper, “He said it was some sort of emergency, and that we had to do as he said, I was not going to obey some young upstart who thinks he knows it all” the captain replied. “Pass the ear piece to the Captain will you please Staff, and all squad leaders remove your pieces for two minutes please” I heard the CO say, and I heard Hamish say “Oh, oh, oops sorry” before he removed his ear piece, and I heard the CO chuckle before I took out my comm’s piece and handed it to the Captain. “Lt Colonel Harding would like to speak to you in private, the others have shut off their comm’s” I said to the captain. After handing the ear piece to the Captain, I spotted Hamish and his WO’s quietly approaching, and I signalled them to lay down and wait, which all of them saw and recognised the signal and did as I commanded, “Finally some sensible cadets” I whispered to myself. I then signalled just Hamish to come forward to my location, which he did. I looked over towards the Captain, who was talking loudly. “Right Hamish, get your squad which now includes all the WO’s, to round up every Cadet, and get the hell out of here, and away from this idiot Captain, head north east away from Birds Nest, don’t go beyond the boundary fence, and try and find a good hiding place. There are a number of hills that have outcrops of boulders, and some small shallow caves, get the cadets into them, remove all traces of track and camouflage the entrances, I will be with you as soon as possible” I said to Hamish, just as Mike Owens appeared. “Follow Hamish, he is a Senior CUO now, and squad leader delta, he has all of my instructions” I said to Mike, who followed Hamish back to where the squad was laying in hiding. “Captain… shut the hell up, you are talking way too loud, we have heavily armed intruders on the property, we need to get into hiding and make as little noise as possible” I said to the Unit Commander, who took the earpiece away from near his ear, threw it at me, and stormed off in a westerly direction. Once I had the earpiece back in my ear, I could hear the Co trying to get anyone’s attention, “Benning back again sir, he just doesn’t want to listen, and now he has stormed off towards the compound, just south of Bird’s nest” I reported, “Very well, leave him to us, if the intruders don’t get him first, I will have the MP’s arrest him and shut him up, what’s happening with your group” he CO said to me. “I instructed Delta squad leader to get his CUO’s and WO’s to quietly round up all the Cadets, and head north east away from Bird’s nest, there are some shallow caves and boulder outcrops, which make good hiding places, and Mike Owens has appeared and has joined them” I reported, Suddenly, a new and unfamiliar voice came onto the Comm’s, Lt Colonel Harding, report what is happening regarding this Mayday call, over” he said. “Who is speaking please sir” I heard the CO ask, this is Brigadier Murdoch, from Special Operations Command in Sydney” the voice replied, “Squad leaders, remove your ear pieces for five minutes from now” I heard he CO say, and since he didn’t specify Mike and myself, we remained connected. “Brigadier, a few weeks ago, one of my talented young recruits, stumbled across an injured woman and her young son, on a walking track south of Perth. Since then, we have become aware that she has been fleeing an abusive ex-boyfriend, who happens to be making a big effort to locate and harm her permanently. This recruit I am speaking of is under your command, attached to the Royal Australian Engineers, as a First Responder, but he is currently on special duties as a Firearms Trainer here at the Bindoon Training Facility, just over an hour north of Perth” the CO explained. “Is this young recruit a staff Sergeant, that I have heard good things about?” the Brigadier asked, “Yes, Sir he is, and he has a comm’s piece” the CO replied, “Staff Sergeant Mitchell Benning, reporting in Sir” I said reluctantly, “Benning, can you tell me any more about this woman, and anything about this ex- boyfriend” the Brigadier asked. “Sir, I just recently learnt, that Angela Parker’s ex- boyfriend, whose name is Dean Linton, is a senior bike gang member, and Angela witnessed some activities, that she was not supposed to see. Angela fled when she knew that she and her 11-year-old son were in danger, nearly two years ago, and since meeting her, my Aunt and I have tried to keep them safe, but we have been followed regularly, somehow, they managed to find her every time, and with the small assistance from Lt Colonel Harding, who gave her a catering job here at Bindoon, I have been able to keep a close eye on her and her son- Tom” I explained. “Sir, Staff Sergeant Benning has been the key leader in organising and preparing a large Cadet camp, involving 12 units from across the state, and it happens to be in progress at this moment. Two days ago, we had two intruders overpower the two MP’s and get into the dining hall during lunch time, to try and grab Ms Parker, but thanks to the skills of Staff Sergeant Benning, and his organising team of three Corporals, who are also attached to the Special Operations Command, and the Senior Cadets, who received two days of advanced training ahead of the arrival of the remainder of the cadets, they could disarm and detain the two intruders. Because of that intrusion, I came up to Bindoon to take command of security of the facility for the remainder of the Cadet training camp, bringing with me additional MP’s and firearms for regular army personnel, about an hour ago, an MP was shot in the shoulder, as 4 heavy vehicles with about twenty heavily armed men, crashed through the closed gates of the facility. The MP is being treated and is not in danger, by pure luck, every single Cadet and Cadet Unit Commander were out doing a bush navigation exercise at four locations. At the same time, Staff Sergeant Benning and his 3 Corporals and the 12 Cadet Under Officers, were doing a separate exercise, a variation of Search and Capture, and the Cadets on the navigation course had just passed the well-hidden CUO’s when the intruders crashed through the gates. I was able to get an alert out quickly, thanks to the quick thinking of the property caretaker. Currently we have all Cadets accounted for, and in hiding, all but one Cadet Unit Commander are with the Cadets, while one arrogant idiot Unit Commander has stormed off through the bush, back towards the main compound, after I relieved him of his command of his Cadet unit, for failing to obey my orders. If the intruders don’t get him first, I will have the MP’s that are in hiding with me near the compound, detain him and shut him up” the CO explained. “Very good, sounds like you have everything controlled regarding the safety of the Cadets and their Commanders, and other staff at the facility, now what are you going to do about the intruders” the Brigadier asked, and I heard the CO chuckle, “Well sir, that is where it gets interesting. We have 12 skilled CUO’s who have Paint Ball Rifles, I have given them permission to aim for any soft spot on the body, with no concern with injuries. Mainly the groin, back of the knees and neck as the key points to aim. I also have one sharp shooter sniper, with an army issue sniper rifle, he also has a 9-mm pistol, the 3 Corporals, the MP’s and myself also have 9 mm pistols, while Warrant Officer Owens has a 9mm pistol and a regular army rifle. There are 4 other rifles at a secure location, but they cannot be reached at this point of time, due to the distance the 4 groups of Cadets are spread out” the CO replied, “Very good, it sounds like Benning has become a very useful asset to the Army, carry on with what you have planned, just keep everyone safe, I will deploy Army Emergency services, I am also going to get the SAS regiment in the air to drop in for support, do you have a preferable location for them to land?” the Brigadier replied. “Sir, Benning here, may I suggest they land at the Birds Nest, it is the code name for my Command post for the camp, it is located on top of Tobruk Hill, which is shown on all Topographical maps. Only my team, which includes the CUO’s, know of its exact location. There is a temporary scaffolding tower on top of the hill, at the top of the tower is all the details they need on the area where we are located, also each Squad leader has a Sat ear piece, so the regiment can contact us on those, they know me by my code name of Cub” I said. “Oh, so you are Cub, I have heard very good things about you, I didn’t realise the connection, very well Staff Sergeant and Lt Colonel Harding, continue on, you will have the support you need by sundown, Command out” the Brigadier said, “Holy cow”, I said not realising I was still connected to the CO and Mike, until I heard them both chuckling, “Yep, you said it my friend, you have got the attention of the big brass” I heard Mike say. “Right, let’s see how each group is going” the CO added, “Good idea sir, Attention Assault Platoon, squad leaders report in” Mike said, “Alpha Squad here, we have been on the move most of the time, we are now just north of the dam, north of the top compound” Marc reported in, “Beta Squad here, we are 2.5 clicks, south west of the north eastern compound Amos reported. “Charlie squad here, we are near marker 6 on this navigation course” Troy reported, “Delta squad here, we are as you ordered, north east of your position Staff” Hamish reported, “Staff here, any sightings of the enemy?” I asked, and thankfully each squad there was none so far. I stopped walking for a moment, and listened carefully, I could hear a vehicle, but I couldn’t quite work out where it was coming from, because of all the hills. “Can anyone pinpoint the location of that moving vehicle I can here” I asked after reactivating the comm’s, “Charlie squad here, sounds like it is north of our location, heading away from us, so heading north or north east” Troy reported, “I can confirm that, I can hear it south of us and a little to the east” Marc reported. “Ok stay hidden and silent” Mike ordered. I looked at my watch, and knowing that it was well after lunch time, I stopped and sat down with Angela and Tom, who had remained with me, instead of going with the Cadets, and we had a small meal of damper, water with an orange for desserts. Using the scope of my rifle I scanned the area, and I spotted a clump of boulders on the side of a small hill, facing south west, and we gathered our gear, and quietly made our way to that location. It was a lot better than I had expected, a large clump of boulders, with one single entry, and a large overhang, that created a shallow cave, which meant shelter from the wind and cold moisture, that will come later as darkness falls. Angela quickly set up a camping area, laying out a ground sheet for her to sit on and Tom lay down beside her, and soon fell asleep. I whispered to Angela, that I was going to set up a sniper post close by, and to stay hidden behind the rocks, and she nodded her head in understanding, and quietly I climbed up to the top of the boulders, where I was pleased to see some low shrubs, and I quickly made a sniper’s hide, and settled in for a long remainder of the afternoon. “Mike to Mitch, do you copy” I heard Mike say in the comm’s. “Copy you Mike, we have located an idea location, and I have a good view of the land to the south and west of my location, we are settled in for the remainder of the afternoon, how is your group, do you have enough water for everyone” I replied, “We found a fresh water spring, so we are fine for water, I too have set up a good view point, I can see a little of Bird’s Nest from here, plus a good view to the north-west, south-west and west. Hamish has been generous with a chunk of damper, and I have my ration packs, so we have given everyone a snack, to cover the lunch that they missed” Mike replied. “Charlie Squad here, we have plenty of water and just ration packs for our group” Troy reported, “Alpha squad here, we have the same as Charlie Squad” Marc reported, “Same for Beta Squad” Amos reported. “Just hang in there guys, reinforcements will be dropping in at dusk, if you get my meaning” I replied, and I deactivated the sat comm’s, and I started to scan the area to see if I could see any movement, and I spotted another Kangaroo, “you get let off this time, Skippy” I said quietly to myself with a smile, but that smile disappeared when I spotted something bigger than a Roo, and it was holding a gun, and just under 2 km’s away, which was within my range. I clicked my fingers to get Angela’s attention, and she stuck her head out from under the overhang, “I put my finger to my lips and indicated to stay quiet and down, Angela nodded her head and disappeared out of sight again, and I looked into the scope again, and watched the intruder stop and look around. He had found one of the navigation markers. I tapped my comm’s, “Mitchell to Troy, one man, armed approximately 2 clicks south west of my location, and south east of your location” I said quietly, “Paintball rifle sights not very clear, as it is out of range, you have best position, you go for it, I have all of my group bunkered down” Troy replied, “CO to Sniper, you have authorisation for shoot to kill” I heard the CO say, “Copy that Sir, please confirm, that is a shoot to kill order?” I replied, as I made a few minor adjustments. “Brigadier Murdoch here, yes you have the authorisation for shoot to kill” came an unexpected voice. “Copy that Command, shoot to kill authorised, Sniper out” I responded. I was beginning to slowly squeeze the trigger, when another man came into view, and I released the pressure, and watched, as the two men stepped closer, and I could see that they were arguing, I smiled then once again, slowly squeezed the trigger, suddenly both men were in the one line of sight, and I pulled the trigger harder, and I watched through the scope, what seemed like minutes, but was less than two seconds. I touched the comm’s “Sniper to Command, two target hits with one shot, both are down and not moving, over” I reported, “Command to Sniper, well done, keep us informed, over and out” the Brigadier replied. “Marc to Mitch, did I hear right, one shot two victims” I heard on the comm’s.
  35. 38 points
    Chapter 6 Sporting Men Magazine had been generous enough to keep Don’s position as a staff writer open for him. They had sent cards and flowers to the hospital, and I know his editor dropped in to see Don a couple of times. We arrived for our appointment with Harry von Stahle on time. Harry was a tall, slim man who had once been a professional high jumper. Clothes hung on him as they do on very slim people. I always thought he was hot. Today was no exception, except that he was wearing jeans and a cotton sweater. I couldn’t help but lick my lips. Don knew I thought Harry was attractive. He grinned up at me from his chair and I turned pink and smiled back. “Don! Good to see you!” Harry glided forward and shook Don’s hand. “Harry. Thanks for seeing us today.” Harry then turned to me. “Louis, how are you? You’re looking well.” “I’m not too bad, thanks.” I smiled at Harry as I shook his hand. I’m sure it was my imagination, but Harry seemed to hold on just that little bit too long. I gently removed my hand from his grip, but his eyes flashed and the message was unmistakable. However, I forced myself to look away. I hoped Don hadn’t seen anything. I decided to excuse myself, and went back out to the waiting room. It was better that Don and Harry have a chance to talk about things. Both of them protested and said I should stay. I thought it best, considering I couldn’t keep my eyes off Harry, and my dick wasn’t having the purest thoughts either. After grabbing a cup of the complimentary coffee, I sat on the black leatherette sofa and picked up the latest issue of Sporting Men. Not my thing usually, but there were good articles sometimes. I like the personal interest stories myself. I’d made it about halfway through the magazine, when Harry’s door opened. Don rolled out, with Harry right behind him. I stood up, and Don smiled broadly. “Lous, I’m just going to Human Resources. I’ll be back in a few minutes. Do you want to come with me, or you can stay and talk to Harry?” Harry smiled at me sweetly. Geez, he’s so hot. I miss sex. Me, with Harry? One night? Stop it, Louis! It is not worth it. I pulled my gaze from Harry’s gorgeous blue eyes and knowing smile, and took Donny’s hand. “I’ll come with you, baby. Just in case.” Just in case, my lips end up on Harry’s! “Okay.” Harry walked us to the door. Don rolled through it first and I moved behind him. “Don, I look forward to seeing your first article. Call me if you need anything; that goes for you too, Louis.” I turned briefly and smiled, and then grabbed the handles of Don’s chair. “I’ll push you, babe.” “Thanks, Lous.” I kissed the top of his head. After the quick visit to Human Resources, we made our way to the local mall. I pushed Don up to the main entrance where a nice man held the door for us. “Thanks very much.” “You’re welcome.” We walked on looking at the clothes stores until Don said, “You hungry, Lous?” I am.” I kissed the top of his head; again. “Then let’s eat, baby. I’m feeling a bit peckish.” Don settled at one of the tables set up for wheelchairs, and I went to order our food. We’d decided on cabbage rolls and perogies served with rye bread. It was comfort food and I ate every mouthful. As Don wiped up the tomato sauce from his plate with the last slice of rye, he said, “I’m nervous about this counselling stuff, Lous.” I dropped my napkin onto my empty plate, leaned back and rubbed my full stomach. “I know, baby. Me too, but we shouldn’t be. God, we know each other pretty well, don’t you think?” Don reached for my hand, which I gave happily. His was dry and warm, he had callouses from the wheels on his chair. They just turned me on. Oh, baby, I want you so, so bad. “Yeah, you’re right. With some of the stuff we’ve done together, why be shy now?” He drank the remainder of his iced tea and then pointed to mine. I grinned at him and nodded. He looked at me intently. “You know I love you, right? I want this to all be a dream, Lous. I know it’s not, but I want it to be. It’s so hard, so unfair, not to me, but to you.” “I’m okay, Donny. Yeah, sure things are different, hard I guess. But we’ll find our way through, like always.” I squeezed his hand. “I love you too.” “Remember when I suggested you take a lover?” I swallowed. “Yeah, I remember, but Don that’s not—” He squeezed my hand harder. “Lous, I’m serious. I saw how Harry looked at you. He’d love you in his bed. He’d be good for you. Trust me, he’d love someone who can’t marry him, who just wanted sex.” My lungs seemed to have stopped working; I couldn’t take in air. Don smiled. “Yes, it would be weird … but you’d get what you need. What I can’t give you.” I found my voice finally. “Don … baby. I am not going to sleep with Harry or anyone but you. I love you.” “Well, I think it’s a solution.” “Seriously? You’d be okay with me kissing you goodbye, getting in the car, going to Harry’s place? Getting laid and then coming back home to you? What, every Friday night?” I was still holding his hand but I couldn’t believe we were talking about this. “You know if the tables were turned, I … I … I just couldn’t do that, Donny.” “Well, babe, it’s unlikely that would happen now, isn’t it?” He was frustrating me. “Okay, I won’t lie. I miss sex, a lot. But I miss it with you! Don, if I had a lover, it would end us. Maybe not right away, but eventually it would. I don’t care what I have to give up, as long as we stay together.” Don squeezed my hand. “Lous, if you’re not ready yet, it’s fine. The offer and my understanding will always be there. I’ve never been possessive of you, or jealous, and that isn’t likely to change.” I rose and leaned over the table to kiss him. He lingered for a moment and the tip of his tongue brushed mine. It was a very sexy kiss and made want him more. I think I moaned softly; he broke away abruptly. “Louis, I’m sorry.” I sat down with a thump. “Sorry? Sorry for what? That was great.” “I don’t want to lead you on … make you think …. Shit, Louis, the truth of it is I can’t perform sexually. I don’t want to turn you on and then … then there is nothing.” “Donny, fucking isn’t all there is, you know.” Don just looked away. This conversation was going nowhere. I swallowed my frustration; this was supposed to be a pleasant day. “Don, let’s get going, okay? We need to buy a couple of things and get going to our appointment.” I put our trash together and tossed it in the closest garbage bin. Don had rolled over to meet me. “Baby, I hope I didn’t upset you.” I kissed his head. “No, I’m not upset. Let’s save this for our appointment. Right now, I need a new pair of casual shoes!” He tilted his head back and looked up at me. “Okay, Lous, we have our mission! Let’s get going!” I grinned and pushed. While I went into the shoe store, Don said he’d roll around this floor of the mall. I nodded. “Okay. I’ll try not to be too long. You have your phone, right?” “Yes, my love. I do.” “Okay. See you in a few.” Unfortunately, the store was busy and it took longer than I thought. Don had returned just as I was paying. Time was getting a little short, so we made our way back to the van, loaded Don in, and I got in the driver’s side. Our appointment wasn’t too far away. The therapist’s office was lush and full of flowering and non-flowering plants. I examined the orchids closely. They are such an oddly beautiful flower. “Mr. Taylor and Mr. McPhee?” the receptionist stood by the door to the office. “Mr. Jones will see you now.” Don rolled towards it and I fell in behind him. I squeezed his shoulder to let him know I was there. Benjamin Jones was a rotund man. That was what you first saw, but he was also bright and compassionate, and in his own way, extremely sexy. I settled in an overlarge, buttery leather chair, Don was next to me. The doctor moved around and sat on the edge of his desk, facing us. “Sexual therapy is a large part of what I do. I understand from your physician’s report that … Don … may I call you that?” Donny nodded. “Thank you. I see that you initially had some sensation, but it has diminished, is that right?” “Yes. I was so happy when I came to in the hospital … and that, well, my dick seemed to work.” “I can understand that. I think most men would.” Don glanced at me and then at Jones. “Since I can’t perform in bed, I think Louis should take a lover.” Geezus, Donny! Blunt, much? If he was surprised, the doctor didn’t show it, and then Jones turned to me. “How do you feel about that?” I swallowed. “I’ve said I don’t agree. I think we need more time to let Don heal properly. And I think there’s more to us than just sex.” “I see.” “Doc, Louis needs to see the light. A lover would ensure he got the sexual release we all need. It’s good for us.” Nodding, Jones said, “It is good. But putting pressure on a spouse about performance, or what you think Louis needs, isn’t good. What do you both want from your relationship? Has it only been about sex all this time?” I spoke up. “I love Don. For right now at least, I don’t want a lover. I just want us, and by that I don’t mean I want Don to perform, but I do want intimacy.” Jones pursed his lips. “So what does that look like to you, Louis?” I took a breath before answering. “Well, to me that means kissing, massage, baths together, just being naked in bed together, just touching … but with no expectation of the act. I mean, there are other options.” “Sounds reasonable,” Jones said. “What do you think about what Louis is hoping for, Don?” Don looked nervous. The therapist noticed and said, “Say what you feel. I think Louis understands the process. He doesn’t want you to say that’s a great idea if you’re not feeling that way.” “Okay. If I’m honest, what he wants scares me. I love Louis. I always have. I want to hold him, kiss him, but not being able to have an erection … I guess, to not be able to finish what we’ve started scares me.” Don rubbed his hands on his thighs. “I mean, he’d be turned on; I’d feel nothing.” “Do you mean that you get no enjoyment from the physical sensation that touching offers? Louis alluded to other options. So oral sex, hand jobs, mutual-masturbation are considerations we could look at?” Don bit his lower lip, thinking. “Yeah … well. I guess I would. But it wouldn’t be the same, would it? I mean kissing, touching and oral used to lead to something. Now it won’t ….” “So, you’re worried Louis would be unsatisfied?” “Yeah.” Don wrung his hands together. “And I’m afraid I’d be unsatisfied—mentally—and isn’t that worse? I mean for us, in the long run.” “I see where you’re going with that, Don. But ….” I had to interrupt Jones. “Don … Donny. Whatever we do, we need to have some kind of connection. Isn’t that everything? Isn’t that what we had before sex came into the picture?” He turned to me and grinned. “Remember back then, Lous? Shit, my balls were so blue I thought they were dyed!” I nodded and laughed. So did Don. It was so good to see him laugh. Mr. Jones had remained silent through our little trip down memory lane. Now he said, “Louis is correct. For you to have a relationship, you need connection, and part of that is touch.” “But doc, at some point … oh, Jesus … at some point Louis needs physical release as well.” “But Louis doesn’t seem to be worried about that, Don.” The doctor moved to sit at his desk and made a few notes. “You are, yet you don’t mention offering oral sex or other ways of helping Louis achieve the release you mentioned.” “I … I….” I looked at my husband. He seemed to be hurting. “I just want to be close to you, Don. Those things would be good.” I sucked in my breath and said, “But I can look after myself, or if you want to watch, we can do that too.” “You’d do that?” “For you, if it helped, if you wanted it. Yes, anytime.” There was a silence, which was quickly becoming uncomfortable. Thankfully, the doctor spoke up. “Our time is getting close to an end. I have homework for you as a couple.” He looked at each of us. “My recommendation for this week, is to stay close. Bathe together, hold hands, hug and kiss; I want you to pretend you are banned from any other remotely sexual things. Work on being close and supporting each other.” The therapist went to his desk and handed me a slim notebook. “Your diary. You need to fill it in together. Got that?” We nodded and replied that’s what we’d do. After thanking Jones, and making our next appointment, I pushed Don down the hall. I stayed quiet, though I was bursting with questions for him. I wondered if he’d say anything to me. However, I knew that Don needed time to process things. So I remained silent, knowing he’d speak up when ready. *** I pulled the van out of the parking lot and turned onto the street. It was busy. Don had said nothing, so I brought up a subject near and dear to his heart;food. “Babe? It’s busy and late, and frankly I’d just like to go home and put my feet up with a large mofo glass of wine.” I could feel Don’s eyes on me as he chuckled. “Yeah, sounds good, Lous. I can have a glass, right?” “Yeah. As long as you don’t overdo it, the doc said it was fine. Sooo, I was thinking you could call Billy-The-Greek, we could pick up some of our favourites, plus dessert, and we could just eat and drink and watch the tube. Whatcha think?” “Where’s the phone?” He pulled his from his pocket, and after a couple of flips and a moment, was talking. “Hi, yes, for take-out. Yes, that’s right. Two chicken souvlaki. Yep. Double baklava as well. Yes. Okay. McPhee. Thanks, see ya soon.” We stopped for the food and then drove home as quickly as we could. The gorgeous odour of chicken and potatoes filled the van. There was a bottle of my favourite wine in the fridge, just waiting. Once home, parked and unloaded, we went inside and unpacked. Don opened the wine and poured two glasses. I dished up the food, and we went and sat in the living room. After some chewing, and a good half-glass of wine, Donny finally spoke. “Damn, that’s nice wine, Lous.” I smiled. “Yeah, it is…food is good too!” “Yeah.” Don swallowed and gazed at me. “You know I love you.” “I know. My feelings haven’t changed either.” Don put his fork down. “Damn it. FUCK it!” “Donny?” Amber eyes seemed to be on fire. “How are we going to do this?” “We’ll do it because there is no choice. We either agree to do that, Don, or we may as well quit now.” I broke open a steaming potato with the side of my fork. “No one said it was going to be easy. You and me, we’ve been pretty lucky all this time.” “Lucky?” “Yeah. We’ve done what we wanted. We’ve had lovers, apart and together, we’ve had fights and arguments. Yet, here we are.” “True, but this is a pretty major bump in the road.” I picked up my wine and contemplated it as it sloshed up the side of the glass. “So, then answer me this. Are we better together or on our own?” As Don sucked in his lower lip and squinted, I noticed the fine lines around his eyes. I just loved him more. “Lous, honestly, baby, I don’t think I can make it through this without you.” I got off the sofa, went to him, and hugged him as best as I could. “You won’t have to. Now, let’s take the rest of the wine and drink it in the bath.” *** “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Don.” I climbed out of the tub and wrapped a blue towel around my waist. “Part of all this was supposed to be about touching each other. You are too hot and cold. You seem happy enough when we’re just together, watching tv or shopping. But you can’t kiss me, or just put your arms around me. I’m telling you, Don, I need that from you!” I pushed his wheelchair close to the tub, I opened a towel and put it on the seat, then locked the wheels in place. I swung the trapeze over his head and asked, “Can you get out on your own?” “Yes.” “Good. I’ll sleep in the guest room. Good night.” I grabbed my clothes and walked out of the bathroom. I heard him calling my name. “Lous … Lous … Damnit, Louis!” Ignoring him, I slammed the guest room door and climbed into bed. Fuck you, Don McPhee. I’m tired. I’m done. ***
  36. 38 points
    Leaving them to sort out that task, I headed downstairs, and Angela had finished cleaning up after breakfast, and Tom was sitting at the kitchen table, doing school work. “Yesterday, before all that drama happened, Corporal Gregson and I had come up with an idea to build a frame and wooden roof over the two tents, to provide rain and sun shelter, I was just wondering if there was anything else that you would like us to build, while we have a little bit of spare time before the camp happens” I said to Angela. “Maybe you could build a bigger stove, that can be a fireplace on the other side, maybe built out of stones, with some bench space, on either side of the stove” Angela said to me, “I am sure we can do that, but I will need to go into Toodyay to get some bags of cement and grave” I replied with a smile. After rolling up the awning on my vehicle, I drove down the hill, and after a little bit of searching, I found a good amount of rocks, and I put a large pile into the back of my vehicle, before heading back up the hill. When I arrived, I saw the jeep was gone, and Angela was supervising Tom with his school work. “They have gone to the main complex to get some supplies, they will be back in a few hours” Angela said to me as I began to unload the rocks from the back of the vehicle. Once I had the rocks offloaded, I suggested to Angela, that they join me for a trip into town, so they are not on their own, and Angela happily agreed to the idea. Half an hour later, we arrived in town, and we went to the back-loading yard of the hardware store, where I purchased a few bags of concrete, plus two bags of soil and two bags of gravel, I also bought another large cooler esky and had them loaded into the back. Next, we went to the main supermarket, where we did a major shopping trip, before we made the journey back to the Army training facility. The three corporals had returned, and I could hear some activity happening upstairs in the tower, and they soon appeared at ground level. “Hey guys, how are things going up topside?” I asked when they arrived, “All good Staff, we have the side wall in place, and we put the tables along that wall, and we managed to find a spare whiteboard, which is up there as well” Corporal Hays said to me. “Sounds good, I will check on that later, I have had a chat with Angela about improvements to the camp site, and she suggested to a bigger camp stove and fireplace, that is what the rocks are for near the bush seats, but firstly, can you unload the new esky, and help get all the shopping into the kitchen area for Angela, then you can help me to gather some more rocks, and start building a better camp stove and fireplace on the other side” I announced. “Sure, that sounds good, are we going to build the roof shelters for the two tents?” Corporal Gregson responded, “yes, I thought we would make that our second project” I replied, and we got to work to get the groceries sorted, before the corporals went to get some more rocks, while I began dismantling the current fireplace, and I laid down the concrete base for the new stove and fireplace, that will be a rectangular shape, and I had completed the base, just when the lads returned with a huge load of rocks. “Marc and Amos, how about you guys grab the chainsaw box, and go and find some fallen logs, to start making the supports posts and cross beams for the tent shelters, and cut some thin planks for roof shingles” I said to the corporals, who looked a bit shocked that I used their first names. “Err, yes sure that sounds fine, Staff” Marc Hays replied, and I chuckled, “Just call me Mitch, while there is no one else around, since we are working together for a few weeks” I said, and I turned to face Troy Masterson. “Now, Troy how about you and me start building this stove and fireplace” I suggested and Troy smiled and nodded his head, and with that, we all set off to do our assigned jobs. With no stove available, Angela made sandwiches for all of us for lunch, and Angela suggested that we build a small table between the two bush seats, to put food and drinks on, and I smiled and nodded my head in agreement, as I continued to eat. By the end of the day, we had the posts and cross beams above Angela & Tom’s tent completed, and we had the stove and fireplace half built. “I was thinking that we could build a narrow lean-too, over the camp seats, with a back wall for weather protection. I am glad that you guys made the tent shelters, ½ a metre bigger than the tents” I said with a smile, as we had enjoyed sandwiches for dinner, since we still don’t have any operational stove for cooking. In the morning, as we were enjoying a relaxing breakfast, my mobile rang, and the caller ID said it was the CO, “Go morning sir, how can we help you” I said with a smile, “Well you could tell me where you are, as the caretaker has no idea where on the property where you are located” the CO said, alerting us to the CO being at the facility, “Sir we are on Tobruk Hill, we wanted to limit the number of people who knew where the command post is, for safety reasons mostly” I replied, “Ok, I will be there in twenty minutes” the CO said before ending the call. “Right, the CO is on the facility, and said he will be here in twenty minutes, but I suspect it will be half of that time, so let’s get breakfast finished, and get the stove and fire place finished, so we can get cooked meals again” I announced and as Marc and Amos was mixing concrete, Toby and I were laying the stones into place, and we were almost finished with the main part of the construction, when we heard a jeep approaching. “Squad, CO is approaching” I shouted out, and we quickly gathered near the jeep and snapped to attention, as the CO’s vehicle appeared and came to a stop nearby. The CO climbed out and took a look at us, before ordering us to stand at ease, which we did. “Ok Staff, how about a tour of the command post, starting with up there” the CO said to me, as he pointed upwards, and I led the way up the stairs of the tower. At the top, the CO looked around the command post, seeing the topographical map on the large white board, the radios, a number of files and two binoculars on the table, and he picked up the day binoculars, and scanned the area, stopping for a moment when he spotted something, then continued scanning. When he finished looking, he put the binoculars down on the table. “You have a good set up here, Staff Sergeant, and I noticed that you can see some of the navigation paths from here, as well as the front entry and caretaker’s residence, plus a little bit of the main complex, and a bit of the north complex, how far away are you from the centre of the property?” the CO said to me. “Well sir, the hill known as Wewak Hill, which is about two kilometres north west of here is the closest hill to the middle” I responded, suspecting that the CO already knew this information. “So why choose this hill, instead of Wewak? The CO asked me, “Mainly the easier vehicle access and with it already being partly cleared at the top” I replied, and the Lt Colonel nodded his head at my response, and he headed down the stairs, and I followed, where I stopped at the bottom of the stairs, while the CO looked around the camp site. When Tom saw the CO, he stood up and snapped to attention. I saw the CO give a small smile, “At ease young man, return to your studies” Lt Colonel Harding said to Tom, “Good morning sir, can I get you a cup of tea?” Angela said to the CO, “Yes please Ms Parker, that would be nice, black and strong, no sugar, thank you” the CO replied, and a few minutes later he had a cup in his hand and he walked over to the camp seats and sat down. “I approve of what you have done here, but I suggest limiting it to what you have done so far and no more” the CO said. “Very well sir, we just wanted to make it a bit easier for Angela and Tom, while they are here” I responded, “That leads us to why I am here” the CO said as he stood up and faced the kitchen, “Ms Parker, if you can come here for a moment please” the CO continued, and Angles glanced at me, and I shrugged my shoulders, not knowing what this was about. “I am pleased to announce, that I have arranged for you to be employed as a part time civilian catering contractor, so you are now here on an official basis” the CO announced, and I smiled. “Well sir, this is a surprise, and I accept your offer with many thanks” Angela said in response, and the CO handed over two new ID cards showing the change of status, from official visitor to Army Contractor. “Give me the receipts for any food that you buy, and I will make sure that you are reimbursed, and I will keep Staff Sergeant Benning as your Army supervisor, since you will be here for a while. You have access to anything on the facility, including more blankets, cooking equipment and anything else that you need” the CO said to Angela, before turning to me again, “Now, Benning, I have arranged for the Cadet officers to arrive earlier, regarding the cadet officers from the country units, they have been given half a day off on Friday, and they will travel to the city that afternoon, and be up here by noon on Saturday, as will the city-based Cadet officers” the CO announced. “That is good, it gives us a full two days of training for the cadet officers, before the rest of the cadets arrive” I responded, “Ms Parker, I would like to ask you to cook for the cadet officers, at the compound for the two days, before the other cadets arrive, and there will be a catering team to take over after that, so you can concentrate on cooking for this mob” the CO stated. “Yes sir, that will be fine” Angela replied with a smile, and the CO placed the empty cup on the table before walking back towards his vehicle, stopping just before it and turning to face me, as I followed. “I will be back when the cadet officers arrive, along with one of their unit leaders, tomorrow at noon. Let’s start training for them at 1300 hours once they have eaten lunch” the CO said as he entered the jeep and slammed the door shut. “Very well sir, we will be ready for them, have a safe trip back to the city sir” I replied as I stepped back, and let the CO drive off. “Congratulations Angela” I said with a smile, once the CO’s jeep was out of sight, “Thanks Mitch, for everything you have done for us, I don’t know what we would have done, if we hadn’t stumbled into camp where you were” Angela said to me” and I smiled before replying, “you are most welcome”. The lads had got back to work to complete the stove and fire, and using the chimney tube as an inner lining, they built a stone chimney around it, to complete the job, with the whole thing looking spectacular. “Well done guys, I am sure Angela will be pleased with this” I said, and I looked around at the remaining pile of rocks, “We will leave those for something else later, let’s get this tent shelter completed, then we can get started finalising plans for the cadet officers” I said to the three corporals, and we got to work cutting the shingles for the roof, and securing them into place, and it was all completed just before lunch time. During lunch, I let Angela know the timetable for when the cadet officers and their unit commanders are here, “meals are, breakfast will be at 0630, lunch at noon, and dinner at 1800 hours, plus some supper at 2030 hours, which will be just hot chocolate, milo or tea and biscuits, on the second night, we will be having night manoeuvres, so the supper will be a lot later, at 2230 hours” I announced to Angela. “Sounds fairly easy, how many will there be?” Angela asked, “there will be 48 including the unit commanders, it will be nearly 200 when they all arrive on Monday morning, you are lucky that you only have to feed us four, for a week, after Monday breakfast” I replied, and Angela just smiled. After lunch, I asked Amos, Troy and Marc to grab some water and their backpacks, as we were going to do some hiking, and while they were doing that I grabbed my hydration pack, backpack, compass, one of my hand-held UHF radios, compass, and a smaller folded map of the region from my vehicle, before dashing up to the tower to turn on the UHF base radio, and turning it to channel 12, with the volume up a little higher than usual. I let Angela know that we would be back for a late dinner at about 1900 hours, which was six hours away, before we set off down the hill, following the access track, before turning west towards the properties main access road, which was a good 5 ½ km’s away from the top of the hill, which we achieved in just 45 minutes. From there we walked south towards the main entry gate for 900 metres, till we reached a small track on the left, which we followed for 100 metres, till I came to a stop, and the other three behind, not expecting me to stop suddenly each marched into the person in front of them, as if it was a comical sketch, and I chuckled as it happened. “Ok you lot, this isn’t a three-stooges show, smarten up” I said in a serious tone, “Sorry Staff” the three corporals chorused, before they saw the big grin on my face, and we all laughed. “Why the sudden stop Staff?” Troy Masterson asked me, “look around and tell me what you see?” I asked, and I saw them look around, with Amos spotting it first. “Navigation marker staff” he said to me, and I handed him the navigation sheet, which is the same as the cadets will have next week, before handing Marc Hays my compass. Amos read out the code on the marker, and looked at the navigation sheet, “900 metres at a bearing of 105 degrees” Amos announced, and Marc quickly got the bearing on the compass, and started to pace the distance out, and we all followed him, as he counted out the paces out loud. When we reached the distance of 900 metres, I motioned for Amos to hand the navigation sheet to Troy, and Marc to give the compass to Amos. This time it was Marc who spotted the marker, and he read out the code numbers, and in reply, Troy announced “850 metres at a bearing of 150 degrees”, and once Amos had the bearing he began to pace out the distance. The first section took us approximately 20 minutes to complete, and the second section was just two minutes shorter, and by the time we had reached the final marker which had “End” written on it, we had completed 5 ½ kilometres, and it took us nearly two hours to complete it. “Where the hell are we staff?” Marc said to me, scratching his head, as we stood on a disused track, and I chuckled as I walked up to him and pointed to the spot where we are on the map, just 350 metres south of the track that leads to Tobruk Hill, and a further 1.3 km’s east of the main access track, and I called for a rest break before we continue on, and all three corporals collapsed to the ground, which made me chuckle. “Looks like I have been making things a little too easy for you, maybe we should do a long hike every morning from now on” I suggested, “If you wish Staff, but we can keep going now” Marc replied, as he struggled back to his feet. I let them rest for another fifteen minutes, before we hiked east towards our camp for just 1.25 kilometres, then headed north for another 2 km’s, till we reached another “T” junction in the small track, near the top of a small hill, where we stopped once more. I was about to ask the squad to locate the next first marker, when a voice came over the radio. “Tom to Uncle Mitch, over” and all three corporals chuckled. “Yes Tom, receiving you loud and clear, over” I replied, after retrieving the radio from my belt.
  37. 37 points
    Jayden didn’t consider where he would go once he left school. He stopped at a nearby Starbucks, sat on the patio and watched people walk by. An elderly couple sat down next to him and tried to engage him in conversation, but he wasn’t in the mood to be friendly. He picked up his coffee and left without saying goodbye. Things were happening too quickly in his life. He had just recently adjusted to his mother’s death and moving in with his aunt and cousins. Now, once again he had been displaced. He liked living with the Neals, who wouldn’t? The only probably was, it didn’t feel like home. He was a stranger living in a strange home. He knew it wouldn’t last. He had told the Neals he would only stay with them until he graduated. That was only three months away. Then what would he do? How would he support himself? There was also another problem-Troy. It had been several years since he felt anything for anyone. He had carefully protected himself and his emotions. However, he had let his guard down and let Troy enter. He wondered if he felt sorry for him, but he knew it went deeper than that. When he saw Troy, he didn’t see a young, blind boy with scars on his body. He saw someone who touched him like no one else had ever, not even Vince. Vince had been two boys experimenting with their sexuality. He didn’t feel that way with Troy. He wanted Troy to need him in the same way he needed Troy. Somehow, it had happened. Somehow, he had fallen in love. “May I help you?” He looked down at the receptionist. Without thinking, he had aimlessly ended up at the hospital. When he arrived, he scanned the names on the board beside the elevators. Dr. Imogene Turner. “Is Dr. Turner in?” “And who are you?” “Jayden Henderson.” She looked down at her appointment book and searched for Jayden’s name. “You don’t seem to have an appointment,” she said as she looked up and smiled. “Are you a patient? I don’t recall seeing you before.” “No, Ma’am,” he replied. “I wanted to speak to her about Troy Neal.” “Troy Neal?” He nodded. She got up from her seat and disappeared down a hallway. Jayden looked around and then sat down in a seat. A few minutes later, Dr. Turner walked in. He remembered seeing her the day Troy left the hospital. She was the doctor who had been counseling Troy and his family on how to deal with Troy’s blindness. “Jayden.” She walked over and extended her hand to him. “It’s good to see you. I understand you want to talk to me about Troy. Is he all right?” “Yes, Ma’am,” he replied politely. He became embarrassed, and then turned to leave. “I’m sorry, Dr. Turner, I don’t know why I’m here.” She grabbed his arm and stopped him. “Well, you are,” she said warmly. “Now let’s go talk about whatever is on your mind.” She had worked with teen boys enough to know that it was sometimes hard to get them to open up and talk about their problems. Experience told her that Jayden was feeling very distraught. “Sit down.” She pointed to a chair as they walked into her office. It wasn’t as he had expected. He thought it might look like a typical hospital room, but it wasn’t. The walls had been painted a warm, green color and plants accented the room. The furniture was colorful and comfortable. He immediately felt relaxed as he sat down. “Would you like a soda?” He nodded his head as Dr. Turner picked up the phone and asked her receptionist to bring her two sodas and a bag of potato chips. She then pulled up a chair and sat facing Jayden. “So, Jayden,” she spoke in a motherly voice, not like a doctor. “What brings you here today?” Just then, the receptionist walked in with two glasses and a bowl containing potato chips. She set them down on a table and then left without saying anything. He reached for a handful of chips and then looked out the window. “I don’t know,” he answered shyly as he bit down on a chip. “So, you’re going to make this hard for me?” Dr. Turner smiled and took a sip from her glass. “All right, let’s play twenty questions.” Jason looked up and smiled, and then he looked down at the floor. “Question one,” she asked. “How long have you been in love with Troy?” Jayden’s head shot up, and he looked into the intent eyes of Dr. Turner. Her gaze softened and she let a smile form on her lips. “Do I need a second question?” Tears appeared in his eyes as he dropped his head. “Well?” she asked softly. He shook his head. “Jayden?” she said. “Look at me.” He raised his head and looked at her through misty eyes. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of.” “How did you know?” He tried to look away, but he turned and met her eyes. “Troy spent a lot of time talking about you in our therapy sessions,” she stated. “Of course, I can’t tell you what he said, but let’s just say I picked up on a few things.” She waited for Jayden to speak, but he sat quietly and looked out the window. “Would you now like to tell me why you’re here?” She started to laugh. “Or do we have to play twenty questions again?” When he didn’t respond, she cleared her throat. “Okay,” she said. “Let me see.” She studied the sad expression on Jayden’s face. “Question two. Are you afraid that Troy doesn’t feel for you what you feel for him?” Jayden looked up with an astonished look on his face. “And question three. Are you afraid that you may get hurt emotionally?” Tears once again welled up in Jayden’s eyes. He rose, walked over to the window and looked out. “What do I do?” he mumbled almost inaudibly. Dr. Turner walked over and placed her hand gently on his back. “Troy’s been through a life changing experience,” she said. “His whole world changed in a matter of seconds. He’s trying to adjust. He may not be ready to love someone right now.” Jayden laughed nervously. “Yeah, he told me that.” “Jayden.” She turned and faced him. “Give him a little time. You’re someone new who has just come into his life.” “What if he never does love me?” Tears started to flow down his cheeks. She took his hands and squeezed them. “I don’t think you need to be worried,” she assured him. “I met with him yesterday afternoon, and he spent half the time talking about you.” Jayden looked at her through his tears. “Really?” “Really,” she smiled as she gently squeezed his hands. “Just give him some time and don’t push him.” “So, you think I have a chance?” “I know you have a chance,” she assured him as she reached out and gave him a hug. ******** “There he is!” Tyrone pointed down a side road Anthony had just passed. He hit the brakes and quickly backed up. Jayden heard the squealing of tires, but he thought nothing of it. It wasn’t unusual to hear horns honking or cars braking on the streets. He was walking back to the Neal’s home after meeting with Dr. Turner. She had given him a feeling of hope that things might improve with Troy. One thing he knew for sure, he wasn’t going to turn his back on Troy. He had made a few negative statements recently which he now deeply regretted. He decided to follow Dr. Turner’s advice and give Troy time to sort out his feelings. Perhaps they would never be lovers, but he knew they would always remain friends. He quickly turned when he heard a car’s brakes behind him. His eyes widened when he saw Anthony’s blue van. Tyrone was pointing a gun at him. “No, Ty!” ******** “I want every available car to head toward Broadway!” Wallace shouted into his microphone. “This is a Code Red! Be on the lookout for a blue van last seen heading south in the 1900 block of Broadway. Subjects in the van are believed to be armed and very dangerous. Proceed with caution!” Wallace sped his car in the direction of Broadway. An officer had radioed him that he had spotted the van, but he had lost visual contact with it. He was extremely worried because he knew that was direction Jayden would take if he was on foot to the Neal home. “Damn it!” he shouted as he pounded on the steering wheel. He looked at his speedometer. He was traveling almost sixty miles an hour on a narrow city street. He had to get to Jayden before his cousins found him. “Subjects in the blue van have been spotted near King Street and Broadway,” announced the dispatcher. “A patrol car is following behind them.” “All units to King and Broadway! No sirens!” Wallace screamed into the microphone. He was only three blocks away. He hoped that he could overtake the van without incident. If they heard sirens approaching, they would have a better chance of eluding them before he could arrive. He looked in his rearview mirror and saw a patrol car closely behind him. Another patrol car pulled up to an intersection, but let him pass before they fell in behind him. When he turned onto Broadway, he saw the blue van stopped in the street. He also noticed a figure on the sidewalk fall to the ground. “We’ve got a person down!” he shouted into the microphone. He hit the accelerator just as the person in the van saw him approaching. They were attempting to drive away when he pulled his car in front of them and blocked their path. “Drop the gun!” He shouted as he jumped from his car and ducked behind the door. Another officer ran up and knelt beside him. He saw two more cruisers pull up behind the van, and officers get out with their weapons drawn. “Give it up, Anthony!” he screamed. He glanced to the side and saw Jayden lying motionless on the ground. “It’s all over!” Tyrone threw his arms in the air. Wallace watched as Anthony opened the door and stepped out with his gun pointed at him. He felt his finger pull the trigger, and then Anthony’s eyes widened as he fell to the ground. Officers approached the van and yanked Tyrone from it. After he was handcuffed, Wallace walked over and looked down at Anthony as an officer tried to find a pulse. He looked up at him and shook his head. “Detective!” He looked over at some officers who were kneeling beside the figure lying on the sidewalk. When he approached, he noticed a small pool of blood on the ground beside him. “Get me an ambulance here!” he screamed into his microphone. “Now!” He sat down on the ground and placed Jayden’s head in his lap. “It’s going to be all right,” he said soothingly. ******** “You know Jayden calls this our quality time?” Claire laughed as she lay beside Allison on her bed. Allison lay back and pulled Claire onto her body. “This feels good.” She leaned in and kissed Claire. She then rested her head on Allison’s shoulder and enjoyed the closeness they shared. It was several minutes before she pulled away and sat back up. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get Troy and Jayden together.” “Oh, no you don’t,” laughed Allison as she sat up. “Don’t go trying to play matchmaker again. Remember it was you who hooked up Troy with Will. Besides, we don’t even know yet what will happen with them.” “Will’s a bastard,” exclaimed Claire angrily. “He didn’t even show up Saturday when Troy came home. I called him all day, and he never answered his cell phone.” “Maybe he had a good reason,” suggested Allison. “I don’t care if he was in Rome meeting with the Pope,” she replied. “He still should have been there.” She looked over and grinned. “Besides,” she said. “I think Jayden really likes Troy.” “Duh,” laughed Allison. “Do you think so?” “So, I’m not imagining it then?” She looked expectantly at Allison. “No,” she replied. She began to remember her conversation with Troy. “But...” “But, what?” “I just don’t think we should force it,” she suggested. “Okay,” Claire said as she lay back on the bed. Allison laughed as she laid back and rolled on her side. “You’re going to do it, aren’t you?” “Do what?” Claire asked innocently. “Never mind,” she sighed as she pulled Claire towards her. She knew her well enough to know that once she set her mind on something, it was useless to try and convince her otherwise. She knew Claire was determined to see Troy and Jayden together. They were snuggled together asleep when Claire’s cell phone rang. She yawned, picked up the phone and saw that it was a call from Sarah, a friend from school. “Hello?” she asked sleepily. “Are you watching the news!” The voice on the other end shouted. Allison sat up and looked worriedly at Claire. “No, why?” “My God, Claire!” Sarah shouted. “Jayden’s been shot!” Claire closed her phone and collapsed into Allison’s arms. ******** Detective Wallace was sitting in the hospital waiting room and filling out a report of the shooting incident. Immediately after he shot Anthony, he had surrendered his gun to a sergeant on the scene. He knew the next few days would involve long, exhaustive questioning from internal affairs. Anthony had given him no choice. Wallace saw the determined look on his face when he emerged from the van with his gun pointed at him. He knew Anthony wouldn’t give up without a fight. He knew it was his life or Anthony’s. As he pulled the trigger, he thought of his wife and two young boys. He wanted to return home at the end of the day to see them. As he continued the endless report, he looked up when he heard the waiting room doors open. Mr. and Mrs. Neal were hurriedly approaching him. Troy had his arm wrapped tightly around his father’s. “How is he?” Mr. Neal asked excitedly. His wife walked up beside him and held his other arm tightly. Wallace shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. “No one has come out and said anything yet.” “Was he badly hurt?” Mrs. Neal asked. Troy turned his head slightly to hear his answer. “I don’t think so,” he replied. All three of the figures before him let out a sigh of relief. “I was at the scene and rode in the ambulance with him. He was responsive and alert. He was shot in the shoulder. The bullet didn’t exit his body, so they have to run x-rays to determine where it is lodged.” Troy asked anxiously, “So he’ll be all right?” “I hope so,” Wallace replied. “Sometimes a bullet’s path can be tricky. If it ricocheted off a bone, it could have ended up anywhere.” “Oh, Dear,” cried Mrs. Neal. She took hold of Troy’s arm and led him over to a sofa. She took out a tissue and wiped the tears from her eyes as Troy tried to console her. “He’s going to be all right, Mother,” he said reassuringly. “He has to be,” he added. “What happened?” Mr. Neal asked the detective as he sat down beside him. “It appears Jayden was walking back to your home when his cousins spotted him on the street,” he said. “We had a tip that they were looking for him, so I went to his school to get him this afternoon. It seems he checked out before I got there.” Troy and his mother leaned forward so they could hear him. “An officer spotted the van. But before we could get to them, they had already shot Jayden. One of his cousins surrendered, but the other came out of the van with his gun drawn.” He looked sadly at Mr. Neal. “I had to shoot and kill him.” “Oh, Dear,” cried Mrs. Neal. “Good,” mumbled Troy. He couldn’t see the disapproving look his father gave him. He held up the report he was working on before they arrived. “Now I’ve got a ton of reports I have to fill out. I’ll also be assigned to a desk job until internal affairs finishes investigating the matter.” “But you said you had to shoot him,” responded Mrs. Neal. “It’s procedure,” he replied. “Anytime an officer shoots someone it has to be investigated.” “I’m glad you shot the son of a bitch,” spat Troy. “After what he did to me, he deserved what he got.” “Troy!” admonished his father. “No one deserves to die.” “He didn’t care if I died that night,” he responded angrily. His father started to respond, but Wallace grabbed his arm and stopped him. He knew that there was little use in trying to argue with Troy over the events of that evening. It would be a long time, if ever, he could come to understand what had happened. They stood when Claire and Allison came rushing in. Claire immediately ran over to Mrs. Neal and fell into her arms. “Is he alive?” she cried. She pulled away and grabbed Troy. He wrapped his arms around her and held her as she continued to cry. “We don’t know anything yet,” he said softly. “But the detective thinks he’ll be all right.” She looked at Wallace who nodded his head. Allison walked over and wrapped her arms around Claire and Troy. “Oh, Troy!” Claire cried. “When is all this going to end?” ******** “You’re a very lucky young man,” exclaimed the doctor as he finished applying the bandage to Jayden’s shoulder. Jayden was sitting in the emergency room with his legs dangling from the gurney. “So, it didn’t do any permanent damage?” he asked as the doctor filled out a prescription and handed it to him. “This is for the pain,” he said. “You may feel a little discomfort for a few days.” He patted Jayden’s leg. “As to your question, no. You were shot with a small caliber gun from a distance. It looked a lot worse than it was. The bullet lodged in the muscle tissue, and I was able to remove it rather easily. As I said, you were very lucky.” A man in a business suit walked into the room. He approached Jayden and asked how he was feeling. “I’m fine,” Jayden responded. He looked at his name plate. It read, Dr. John Van Dyke, Hospital Administrator. “Good,” he said as he turned to the doctor who had been attending Jayden. “We have a number of people from the media who want to speak to you concerning this young man’s injuries. Do you think you can have a brief news conference?” A puzzled look came over the doctor. “Why?” Dr. Van Dyke walked over and placed his hand on Jayden’s arm. “It appears this young man is quite famous,” he smiled. “More like infamous,” frowned Jayden. “Yes, well,” he stated as he turned back to the doctor. “Stop by my office when you finish up here. I’ll call for a press conference in a half hour. You should be done by then?” The doctor nodded his head as the administrator left the room. “Well, Jayden,” he said as he looked at the bandaged shoulder. “You’re about ready. While you get dressed, I’m going out into the waiting room and speak to your family. They should be worried sick about you.” “I don’t have a family,” he replied sadly. “However, I’m sure the Neal family is out there. You can tell them.” “Yes, of course,” he said as he turned and left Jayden alone. He jumped off the bed, removed the hospital gown and started putting on his clothing. As he was carefully putting on his shirt, the green curtain was pulled back, and Wallace walked in. “I heard the good news.” He walked over and helped Jayden place the shirt over his head. Jayden winced in pain. “You’d better wear button-down shirts for a while,” he suggested. “Yeah,” Jayden agreed. His shoulder was throbbing with pain. After putting on his shoes, Wallace asked him to have a seat on the bed. He then sat down beside him. “Before you leave, I need to talk to you,” he informed Jayden. “Because this is a homicide investigation, you’re going to be asked a lot of questions.” “I understand,” he answered sorrowfully. Even though he didn’t like Anthony, it bothered him to see him get shot. Much of what happened to him after Tyrone had pointed the gun at him was a blur, but he was alert enough to hear gunshots and then watch as his cousin dropped dead to the ground. “Don’t talk to anyone about this matter until you’ve been questioned thoroughly. And please don’t say anything to the media. As you know, the doctor is going to have a press conference soon. He’ll tell them everything they need to know. My chief had a briefing earlier this evening, so they have all the information they need at this time.” Jayden nodded his head. He had been through this earlier when Troy had been injured. One reporter had even tried to stop him when he left school and ask him questions. “Will you be all right?” Detective Wallace asked with concern. He knew that the past few weeks had been traumatic for Jayden. “I guess I don’t have much choice,” he tried to smile. “Do I?” Just then the green curtain was pulled back again. Mr. Neal entered with Troy tightly grasping his arm. “Jayden?” Troy called out. Jayden stood before him and placed his hands on his shoulders. “Jayden!” Troy cried as he clutched him tightly around the waist and pressed his head against Jayden’s. Jayden winced in pain, but he didn’t care. He looked over at Wallace. “Yeah,” he said tearfully. “I’m going to be all right.”
  38. 37 points
    “Harding to all personnel, this is now a dedicated channel between Command and sniper, stay off this link until further notice, Harding out” the Lt Colonel said, and I chuckled at hearing that order. “Sniper to Owens, please return to my location asap, Sniper out” I said, as I wanted Mike here to look after Angela and Tom, while I went hunting. Twenty minutes later, I heard a noise to the east, and I saw Mike with his arms in the air, then I heard another noise south of him, and I quickly swung my rifle around, just as I heard a high-powered rifle shot go off. “Sniper to Mike, are you ok?” I asked quickly in the comm’s, “Yes he missed me by about a foot to the left and a few inches too high” Mike replied, as I searched to find the shooter, as soon as I had him in my sights I pulled the trigger, and the shooter fell to the ground. “Sniper to Command, third intruder is down, WO Owen was not hit, attention all squad leaders, the intruders have high- powered rifles, stay alert, sniper out” I said. Mike soon arrived, and he quickly said hello to Angela and Tom, before joining me up top, “Not as good as your rifle, but it will have to do” Mike said to me, “Go and retrieve that intruders rifle and ammo, it looks like it’s a top quality one” I said to Mike, and he quietly slipped down and made his way to the dead intruder, returning a few minutes later with the rifle and two extra clips of ammo. “24 rounds, plus what is in the current clip” Mike said as he lay down beside me, and he looked through the scope, “Wow, this is impressive” Mike whispered, “you don’t know if it is set for accuracy, so for now let me do the long range, you get the ones that get to close to0 you” I suggested, and Mike nodded his head in understanding. “Always allow for distance and wind direction” I added as a reminder. I slid down the rock and leaned in under the lean too, “Mike is staying here with you, he has two rifles, do you know how to handle a hand gun?” I said to Angela, who surprisingly said yes, “I was a member of a gun club, when I was with Dean, he wanted me to be able to protect myself from any of his enemies” Angela replied, and I passed her my pistol holster, “Only as a last resort, let Mike do all of the work, and don’t stick your head out of here, they have powerful guns with very good scopes, but not as good as mine” I said with a big smile. “Please be careful” Angela said to me, and she gave me a kiss on the lips, “I will, just look after yourself and Tom, we have reinforcements dropping in from 25 thousand feet at dusk” I said to Angela, and she gave me another kiss, before she let me leave. Quietly, I slipped out from behind the boulders, stopped and did a scan of the area through the scopes, before heading over to the body. My stomach started to churn over, when I saw that I had put a hole right through his upper chest, quickly I looked around the man, he had lots of tattoos, common with biker gangs, and I saw only just spotted the small uhf walkie talkie, partly hidden under his body. I retrieved the radio, and put it close to my ear, and adjusted the volume just a little. “Gazza, Dan, Macca, where are you guys, report in, have you got the bitch yet?” I heard over the radio, it was a deep gravelly voice, and it sounded very mean. “Col, Joe, Steve and Trev, go to the south-east area of the property, that is where the gun shots came from, remember, these guys are Army, so they have lots of target practice, so keep moving and they won’t get you”, the voice said, and I chucked when I heard this. I turned down the volume to zero, and attached the radio to my belt, before I started heading west-south-west, going nice and slow, and keeping very low to the ground. It was nearly 45 minutes later that I spotted another intruder, he too had a high-powered rifle, which he had sitting on his shoulder, he was doing a good job of stalking, but I knew I was better. Taking the walkie talkie off my belt, I turned the volume up a little and heard nothing, so I turned it up a lot more, and left it under a small bush, then quietly headed to my right, always keeping the intruder in my vision. By the time he had passed the walkie talkie, I was a good 300 metres away, and continuing to extend that distance, when I heard the walkie talkie, I lay down on the ground and soon had the intruder in my sights, as he came back looking for the sound of the walkie talkie. I saw that the shooter was left handed, so instead of a kill, I decided to disarm him instead, and the bullet went right through his hand, damaging the handle of the rifle, and when he dropped it, the gun fired, ricocheting a rock, just ten metres away from my location, as the intruder was holding his hand and groaning in pain. Suddenly two more men appeared, and then a third, “There is a shooter around here somewhere, get the bastard” the man I had shot in the hand said, with his deep gravelly voice. I decided to lay low for a while, I was a good two kilometres away from Mike, so I knew they were reasonably safe, and I let them look around, having no luck finding me, even when one of them was just five metres from me at one point. “I don’t like this, three guys are missing, the bastard shooter has shot a hole in my hand and wrecked my rifle, and it is getting late, if we don’t find the bitch soon, we will have to try something different, like get that guy Benning’s rich Aunt, I’m sure we could make her squeal” the man with the gravelly voice said, and my stomach went into knots when I heard this, so I took aim at one of the other shooters, and squeezed the trigger. It was a direct hit into the shoulder, putting his shoulder permanently out of action, also making him drop his rifle, “Man that is close, he is here somewhere, spread out and find the bastard” the deep gravelly voiced intruder said, just at that moment, another shot was fired from a distance, and I saw it hit a tree, just above one of the intruder’s heads. “A second shooter, let’s get out of here, this is getting to out of hand” the men with the injured shoulder said as he began to retreat. “Get back here you coward, let’s find the bastard and finish him off” I heard the deep voice man say, who was obviously the boss of the group. I began to slowly and quietly move further away, and I heard another shot fired from the north, obviously it was Mike trying to distract the intruders, so I could get further away. I had made the error of shooting the man in the shoulder, from a close distance, and I had put myself in harm’s way. I didn’t have my pistol with me, so I couldn’t defend myself at close range, if I was found, I needed to get out of danger, that was my priority now. As I managed to extend the distance away from them, I heard the leader call on the radio for the rest of the men to come to this location, as this is where the shooters are, which they presumed meant that Angela was close by. I knew now, that if I stayed in the area, I was in grave danger, so I hightailed out of there, heading west, quickly and quietly as I could. Concentrating on that as my priority, I had missed what was being said on the sat comm’s, but I didn’t want to say anything, to give away my location, so I ignored it and kept moving. What I had missed was that Mike had called Amos, directing him to get to the Bird’s nest as fast as possible and get another rifle and ammo, and from the nest, try to warn off the intruders, with near misses. I was in such a rush to get away, I was nearly spotted by another man rushing eastwards towards his mates, I stopped and froze in action, not wanting to attract any attention, until I was out of his line of vision, and as soon as I was, I dropped to the ground, and realising that I was breathing too loudly, I forced myself to control my breathing, as I was I hear the sound of footsteps running, and taking a careful look, I saw one other intruder, running eastwards. I hit the sat comm’s, realising that I needed help urgently. “Snipper to Mike, I have put myself in a bad position, I need help” I said urgently in a whisper”, “Copy that sniper, that is what those two wild shots were for, Amos is on his way to the nest to get another rifle, I have instructed him to take some wild shots, to give you some more space” Mike replied”, “Understood, I am away to the west from the group of three, one has a hole in the hand, the other in the shoulder, but two have just passed me heading in that direction, not sure how many more will pass me” I replied, “Settle in a hole, we will take the heat off you for a while” I heard Amos respond. Finding a medium size rock and some shrubs, I created a hide, and watched the men gathered now almost 500 metres away, and they were doing a more thorough search of the area. When I heard a shot from a different direction, from a higher altitude, I knew that it was Amos. He had missed, but only just, then I took a shot, feeling that I was far enough away now, and I hit the boot of one of the new arrivals, sending him hopping around on one foot, and I heard chuckling coming from the comm’s. “Snipper to Command, please excuse the chuckling, WO Owens and Corporal Gregson and I are playing a little game of cat and mouse, from three different directions and altitudes, with the now 7 intruders that we have in our sights” I said, “Command to Snipper, message understood, hopefully they will runaway” we heard the Brigadier say in reply, Mike sent off a shot, this time hitting the handle of a rifle, forcing the holder to let go, in shock of it happening, Amos sent off another shot, this time close to the leader, and I sent of a shot also close to the leader. “Let’s get out of here, we will come back, with some special equipment when it is dark” the leader decided, and they all began to head in a south west direction towards the main access road, just north of the main gate. “Sniper to Mike and Amos, they are pulling out, I heard them say they will return after dark with special equipment” I announced, “Copy that, I agree with that, from what I can see they are bugging out” Amos replied. “Sniper to CO” I called on the sat comm’s, “Go ahead sniper” the CO replied, “Sir, if I remember correctly, about a kilometre north west of the north compound there is a public gravel road, that goes directly to the main highway” I said, “Amos to Mitchell, according to this map, it is called Perry Road, it is 200 metres from the boundary, and it is an 8 kilometre straight line to the highway” Amos added. “Right, that is our exit plan, I will organise buses for the cadets, to take them to Irwin Barracks for the night, I will also get some MP’s to collect Mitchell’s aunt, and then come up here to collect Angela and Tom” the CO announced, “Ok, meanwhile, Mike, Troy, Amos and Marc and I will regather at Bird’s nest and wait for the arrival of the support, sir you better evacuate the Caretaker and his wife from the rear as well, so they are safe” I suggested, “Good thinking, right let’s get all the cadets moving to the exit point within an hour” the CO said. “Mike and Amos, any sign of any intruders still hanging around?” I asked, and I received a no from both of them, “Amos keep watch while we get the cadets moving north and west to the exit point” I added, before I started to move quickly back towards where Mike, Angela and Tom were located. As soon as he saw me, Tom wrapped his arms around me, “Uncle Mitch, I was scared of those bad men, and the loud noises” Tom said with tears appearing on his cheeks. “It is over for now buddy, the bad men have been scared away, because Amos, Mike and I made those loud noises to scare them away” I replied, as I hugged him tight, and I handed Mitch my sniper rifle, which he unloaded, and left open, before doing the same to his rifle, and grabbing the pistol off Angela. Half an hour later we arrived back at the bird’s nest, and while Angela arranged for Tom to have a shower and change into some fresh clothes, Mike and I headed upstairs. “Right it is 1610 hours, dusk is in two hours, I will stay here, can you two guys take the truck, go and get a jeep, and start ferrying cadets to the exit point, get the south groups first, as squad alpha are practically there already, and I tapped the comm’s, “Alpha squad, stay where you are near the dam, as you are near the exit point, Beta squad, start heading west, you will be picked up by transport shortly. Delta squad, do the same, move west, till you are picked up, and Charlie squad, move west till you reach the main access road, then head north, till you are collected, all CUO’s are to turn in their paintball rifles, and join the other cadets and unit commanders for evacuation, all cadet kit bags will be collected and taken to you tomorrow. Hamish that includes you too mate, make sure you hand in the comm’s piece to one of the corporal’s before leaving, Benning out” I announced. In just 45 minutes, we had all the cadets and their cadet unit commanders, with one exception, as he was being detained by the MP’s, were gathered at the exit point. When a jeep returned to the command post, I had Angela and Tom already packed, and they reluctantly left, after I told them they were safer at Irwin Barracks, where they will be looked after. When they arrived at the exit point and saw my aunty Jean there, they happily greeted her, and they climbed into the vehicle and were driven away from the facility at good speed. Glad that we now had a more controlled situation, with less people to worry about, as the cadets, unit commanders, MP’s, and caretakers were loaded into the school buses and driven away, leaving just the CO, WO Mike Owens, the three corporals and myself. Returning to the now very empty main compound, I suggested that we load up all of the cadet’s luggage into the back of the truck, and park it out of harm’s way, then pull down the tents, stow them temporarily in a messy pile in the inside parade all, to be packed up properly at another time. As it was nearing dusk, we had just completed packing up the luggage into the truck, and the tents into the parade hall, when the comm’s went active, “Eagle calling Cub, are you receiving” and I smiled when I heard the familiar voice. “Receiving you eagle, nice to hear you can drop in to assist” I replied with a smile, “Always happy to oblige, please confirm drop point as - 31°18'24.6"S 116°18'32.7"E, is that correct” I was asked, “That is affirmative, watch out for the scaffolding, cub out” I replied, and I started to laugh, and the others just frowned and shook their heads”. “Bad cub” Mike said wagging his finger at me, and we all burst out laughing, even the CO did too, as we made our way to the top of Tobruk Hill, as we climbed out I noticed that the CO and Mike had both brought their kit bags with them, and I smiled, “Lt Colonel Sir, that tent with the wood roof over it is yours, once the Corporals have moved to the other three tents, this one is yours Warrant officer” I said to the two officers. I smelt something cooking, and spotted the large cast iron pot with the lid on, and I smiled. “We are lucky, Angela managed to throw together some food for us, but we may need to make more to accommodate another twenty more men” I said, as I retrieved a half bag of onions and half a bag of spuds, before pulling out a bag of carrots out of the esky. Once the Corporal’s had relocated their gear, they got to work helping me to peel the vegetables. “Sir, would you mind going upstairs and turning on a small light, so the guys don’t get caught up in the scaffolding” I said to the CO. “Too late, two of them are already stuck” a voice from the darkness said, which made us all jump, I smiled when I recognised the voice. “Hey Eagle, how was the flight?” I asked, “Nothing special Cub, just the usual 25 k foot drop” was the reply, as the SAS Corporal shook my hand. “Food, I smell food” came another voice, “Now that will be bear, he is always hungry” I said.
  39. 37 points
    The response to Dragon’s video broadcast was immediate. In just a few days we started getting messages from all over the world. Dragon’s hypnotic voice carried and was just as potent as if he was standing right in front of them. We stood over Stan’s shoulder as the others were gathering to share what they found that night. Stan began feeling the weight of all the requests and messages coming in. “I need help! Look at the number messages!” He said after he saw the volume of messages com9ng in. “Going through all these messages is going to be difficult. Authenticating the senders and there are so many of them!” He waved at his screen. “Even now there are more coming.” He looked back at George and me. “How many vampires are there?” Colin shook his head. “You don’t really expect an answer, do you?” He grinned. “I feel it safe to say, there are a whole lot.” I bounced as I watched the screen and messages came on the screen. “And those are just the ones that have family or is connected to the Internet. I’m sure there are many more not connected.” My eyebrows wiggled at the prospect. Mark grinned. “That’s what we wanted, isn’t it?” He said as he hugged Stan from behind and then sat in a nearby chair. The others were dressed for their patrolling in dark colors and warmer clothing as it got cold here at night. The dark colors were not to hide what they were, but not be easily seen by others who weren’t vampires. “Why is it always with the dark clothes?” I asked. “No matter what the country vampires wear dark clothes. Is there a dress code I should be told about?” Willie grinned and pulled the serum gun from under his trench coat. “It doesn’t attract attention and it’s easier to hide this.” Mom kissed me on the cheek. “Besides, black is more slimming and always chic.” Stan nodded at Mark’s question. “It’s what we want, but sorting all this will take time.” He turned in his chair. “What I said about hacking. The system can’t be hacked; not easily, but there are others that are not vampires that are contacting us.” He patted Buddy. “He can stop a lot of attempts to hack in.” He looked back at the screen. “There are messages from Canada, the United States, England as well as other countries around the world. India, China, Japan and others…I don’t recognize some of these languages. Some of these are just teenagers and young adults that think it was cool what we sent out.” He shook his head. “There are agencies also trying to get in.” He chuckled. “So far, the FBI isn’t one of them or MI5.” I squeezed Stan’s shoulders. “That’s because there is someone in those agencies that know who and what we are.” I grinned. “We’ll get you some help, Stan.” I said patting him on the back as the others came in. “Mom can type over a hundred words a minute!” Mom laughed and rolled her eyes. “Years ago.” “But I bet you’re still fast.” I said. It was when Alex and Gabriella came in that drew our attention. Gabriella sighed wearily as she sat down as if exhausted. Alex gave grim smile as he looked at us. “Things are getting strange out there.” “Strange?” Colin asked. “You mean, more strange that it is with vampires roaming around?’ Alex gave a grudging nod. “That’s the problem, we haven’t come across one the past few nights.” Colin frowned. “You maybe just didn’t see them?” “They can’t just slink past us.” Gabriella shook her head touching her nose. “It isn’t even that.” She explained. “A vampire has…a scent.” She began. “The problem is…we’re picking up a lot of scents, but they are crisscrossing their trails and confusing us.” “The vampire tracker can’t pick up anything, if no one’s there.” Shelly said putting the tracker down. Alex nodded. “The thing is, there are a bunch of them.” “Dozens, maybe.” Gabriella said. “It’s like when you’re looking for footprints, but the area is so high in traffic there’s no way to see how many people and where they go.” Alex said. “I’m telling you, it’s on purpose. They want to disguise their numbers and where they are.” Colin nodded. “Why?” He asked no one and everyone. “What is they want?” George came in the room with Burke. “They want to be the vampire of legend; like in those stories.” He said hesitantly. “They want the power we are supposed to have.” “But we’re not that kind of vampire! No one is! They don’t exist.” Colin said again stating the obvious. “That’s why it’s a story. They are all just stories. We have a physical condition, there’s nothing supernatural or evil about us.” “Yet, we don’t die.” George said. “That one fact seems to make them think we are supernatural. The fact we don’t die is supernatural.” I nodded as I thought and did what George and Colin did as I thought out loud. “You need to realize, these vampires are old.” I looked at them again. “They believe we are more.” “Why? We simply haven’t died.” Colin asked. “It’s not evil or good. There’s no devil or god in anyone.” “Are you sure?” I asked. “When you were bitten, what did you think you were?” “I knew I wasn’t…” Colin said thinking about how to explain it. “At first, I didn’t know! When the sun was about to rise, I could feel the danger and I knew I had to get somewhere safe, so I buried myself.” “How did you know to do this?” I asked. Colin shook his head. “I don’t know. Instinct?” “An instinct that was clearly not…human,” I pointed out, “and therefore, unnatural, but supernatural.” “What!?” Colin balked. “We’re dealing with a form of thinking that predates a lot of science.” I pointed out. “Gaius and Dragon think they’re going to be punished by God.” I waved at Amasis. “He thought he was a god.” I waved my hands at the overwhelming scope of what I was saying. “I’m not looking for a theological debate, but we’re dealing with centuries of beliefs! Believing in gods is just one of those beliefs. Lucian believes we are products of supernatural…occurrences. So, why aren’t we capable of more?” Colin looked a little annoyed. “Because we aren’t.” I nodded. “And Lucian needs to understand that.” I shrugged. “You have to admit, Dragon has a talent that seems to appeal to everyone. He can influence almost anyone.” Mom frowned. “Having met him once, I have to say he does have that talent.” She gave an appreciative nod. “And it’s a pretty impressive talent.” “But it’s human.” I pointed out. “The ability to lead people…to hypnotize is very human.” I said. “Dragon is Vlad the Impaler. He won’t admit it, but he is. He had this ability when he was a man. Now that’s he’s lived as long as he has…it just got better…stronger at using it. It’s like our ability to see or smell.” I waved at Gabriella and Alex. “They pick up on scents I can only sense in close range. They can almost see a trail left by the scent. That ability is more than natural to me; our hearing…the same thing. Lucian and his followers see those enhancements, too. They think with time and teaching, they can become that legendary vampire all the stories are about.” “It’s not possible.” George said. “We are not supernatural.” He shook his head. I shook my head. “We are! You said it yourself!” I said. “We don’t die from any natural cause, that’s supernatural.” “Our life spans are a result of the venom. There is a biological reason we don’t die.” George said. “We’re kept alive to feed the venom and pass it on.” I looked at Mom. “Have you seen the venom under a microscope?” Mom shook her head. “Not really.” “How do you know you have it?” I waved at George. “He could be lying about all this.” George looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “I’m not! You know I’m not.” I nodded. “But she hasn’t.” I looked at Amasis and Wayne. “You haven’t seen it. Do you believe what he’s done and says about what we are?” Wayne also looked puzzled. “He’s not lying. We are sitting her as the result of what he’s found out and treatment.” “Well, not to lecture, but…man came up with explanations for what he saw and the Earth. That is the religions of this world.” I said. “The sun and moon rotated around the Earth. We know now…having seen the evidence we are moving around the sun. Then we found out or entire solar system is rotating in a galaxy and that galaxy is floating in space. We’re always in motion. Nothing rotates around the Earth but the moon.” I smiled. “I know this because I’ve seen the evidence. I know there is a venom, because I’ve seen it.” I waved out of the house, “they do not.” Colin nodded. “He’s right. We just introduced the idea of the venom recently.” “The Devine spark we carry as men and women is still there.” I said. “We are aware of ourselves. We have a venom. That spark is still there, but we’re now…hosts…to the venom. We never lost our souls.” “But you believe in God?” Burke asked. I chuckled. “Whether I believe in God or not is irrelevant.” I shrugged. “I believe there is something about us that’s special. I know the life here is much too complicated for my understanding…I have a hard time believing it’s just random and not a plan. I don’t care how long it took.” I waved again at Amasis. “He was born before Christ was even born! He’s not a Christian. Is he a child of any god? He’s human! These vampires are men and they were raised to believe a certain way. We can’t expect them to accept what we tell them about ourselves without proof!” “How can we prove that?” George asked. “We have no idea what their education was. Would they know what we say if we show it to them?” “We don’t have to.” I smiled. “We ask them the question. Are they now evil?” I shrugged. “I don’t feel any different. I am a vampire, but I’m still me. I still have the slightly warped sense of humor I’ve always had. I love movies and often quote them and compare situations that remind me of movies,” I grinned as they were nodding, “as you well know.” I chuckled they laughed. “I’m not evil. We need to ask them if they are.” I smiled at Wayne. “Even those we classified as wild have their humanity. Wayne got his back. He got his mind back.” I held my hands out. “Dragon is going on the serum, right?” I asked George. “Yes, I was planning to do it tonight.” George nodded. “We may put that off for another broadcast.” I said smiling. “We need to show them that what they are has nothing to do with what you did wrong or even lack of faith. The one basic is a belief. We’ll show Dragon as a vampire.” I grinned. “What is the one thing that drives a vampire back in almost all the movies and stories?” “A cross.” Mom said. “Holy water?” I nodded. “We’ll have the broadcast where Dragon does not burn because of a cross…or a Star of David or any other religious icon. He is not evil. He’s infected, just like we are. Like measles or any disease that doesn’t care what you are, in can infect you and will.” “But he may believe his is evil.” Gabriella suggested. “Will his mind will tell him he is and burn?” I shook my head. “Not if he doesn’t know it’s there.” I chuckled. “And it would have to be a powerful mind to cause him to burn because he believes it will. He has the strong mind, but I intend to prove he’s not evil.” I looked at Colin. “I think we need to include Gaius in this as well.”’ “That could be dangerous.” George said quietly, uncertain how I was going to do this. “Men of this time were willing to go to war and die for what they believed. Dragon killed brutally to defend his people and beliefs.” “Yes, he did. The Ottoman Empire soldiers were his victims, but it could make a difference for us.” I said. “I’ll be careful. I’ve seen him enraged and I don’t want that again.” I smiled at George. “You would die for your beliefs I have no doubt, but I’ll be careful.” It was later in our bedroom when Colin came over. He slid beneath the sheets beside me. “This plan of yours…to prove to Dragon he is not evil…what is it?” Colin asked. I shrugged. “I’m sort of…winging it.” I said softly. “There is no real plan, but something I intend to do.” Colin looked very uncomfortable now. “Winging it.” He chuckled, but not happily and nodded as he stretched out beside me. “Listen, Devon…when you married me…I had no idea what was going to happen.” His admission was hesitant and he didn’t look at me directly. “I knew you were special, but I had no idea how special you are.” The chuckled was not because he was trying to be funny, but… I lifted his head so he had to look at me. “Colin.” I began. “What is it that you don’t want to say?” Colin grinned and looked surprised a little. “How do you know I have something I don’t want to say?” I brought him into a kiss which he readily responded to. “Because, I know you.” I said simply. “You have this way of easing things before you tell me something not good.” I said looking in his emerald eyes. “I think I know it, but…” “I worried about what we’re doing.” Colin said. “Worried about what we’re doing? Or what I’m doing?” I asked with a smile. “Stop that!” Colin smiled and shoved me lightly. “I’m serious. This Dragon is who we know he is. This man is a dangerous man. He can hurt you.” “I know.” I nodded. “When I bit you…I brought you into a life…” Colin started. I held my finger to his lips. “Don’t say it again.” I said softly. “You didn’t know how it was going to turn out.” I said simply. “This life is not what you had in mind and so forth. How could you have?” Colin frowned. “Stop saying what I’m going to say!” He pushed me down and crawled over me to look down at me. “Knowing me as well as you do…is kind of irritating.” He grinned. I nodded as I smiled at him. “Sorry.” I gave him a look of patience, but it was put there on purpose. “Go ahead.” “Be serious.” Colin urged. “Winging it maybe what you want to do, but I want you safe.” He shook his head. “Since we met, there have been some dangerous characters like Brett Marshall who attacked you because of me. I don’t want you to be putting yourself at an unnecessary risk.” I rolled us so I was on him. “Look, Colin. When I met you, I was just hoping to get a job. Instead, I meet the man of my dreams who turns out to be a vampire.” I chuckled. “As I got to know you, I find out you’re an amazing human being. Now you’re my husband.” “But I’ve put you in danger!” He said sadly. “And not just you, your mother, too.” “Mom is fine.” I said smiling. “She’s happy. She met a great guy and happily married to him.” I gave a grudging shrug. “No, I didn’t marry a regular guy. I’ve been in combat, I’ve seen a lot of things I wish I didn’t, but I have no regrets about being in this life.” I looked at his eyes. “You’re not having regrets, are you?” Colin looked surprised. “About marrying you? No, but this is not an easy life. There are those out there that want to kill us.” “You’re worried I could be hurt by Dragon.” I nodded. “Do you trust me?” Colin rolled his eyes. “Of course.” He looked at me harder. “I trust you! It’s Dragon I’m not sure of.” “Was I wrong about Wayne?” I asked. “Was I wrong about the Old Ones? Or Alex?” “I don’t know about the Old Ones.” Colin admitted. “They are dangerous, too.” “To regular people, yes. To us? No.” I said. “They’re like…children.” I shook my head. “I can’t explain it, but…I just know Dragon won’t kill me.” “How?” Colin asked. “I thought I was the one that could sense people.” “You can….about business and stuff…it’s like when I explained about the heightened senses. It’s a part of who we are.” I struggled to find a way to explain. “When I confronted Dragon about him judging himself…I knew he was going to blow up.” I chuckled. “I was right. He did blow up. I have never been so scared in my life, but I knew…I knew…he wouldn’t hurt me.” I shook my head again. “I don’t believe he will this time either.” “How do you know?” Colin stressed again. I had to think. “I just do.” I grinned. “But you know…I’ve been feeling a little of that disconnect with you recently.” “Oh?” Colin asked with a smile. “We’ll have to do something about that.” Then he got serious again. “Just one more thing, though. I trust you. I love you. Because of that I’m super protective of you. You’re a grown man and I adore everything about you, but…understand…I will always question your safety.” I nodded as I leaned down and kissed him again. “That’s the man you are.” I reasoned. “You really killed those men that were going to attack Gabriella…I have no doubt you’d do it for me. Just…trust me. Okay?” “Okay.” He grinned and rolled us over again. “Enough vampire talk. We need to reconnect.” I nodded pulling him down to kiss me fuller, which I returned with as much feeling. “I love you.” Colin grinned back. “I know. I love you.” I increased the pressure of our kiss. “I know.” We all went below ground to Dragon that night. “Here we are again into the Dragon’s Lair.” Mark grinned to me as he waggled his eyebrows as he helped Stan bring his equipment down. I rolled my eyes. “How long did it take you to come up with that one?” I asked, but it was pretty good. Colin pulled me aside. “Devon, I know you can reach people that I wouldn’t even dream of trying to reach. We discussed it last night…or this morning…whatever it was, but I’m still trying to protect you.” I nodded. “I know.” Colin said as he looked at Dragon. “He could snap your neck…I don’t want to lose you.” I kissed him. “I know he could, but…I told you, I don’t think he will, just like I knew he wouldn’t that time I confronted him telling him he wasn’t evil. In spite, what he believes he is, he’s a logical man.” I patted him on the chest. “You are my strength. I thought about you when I confronted Dragon about him being evil that last time.” I grinned. “Now, I’ll show him.” I kissed him again deeper. “And, I told him if he hurt me…you’d kill him.” Colin chuckled. “And I would, but he could probably kill both of us.” I nodded again. “I also said my mother, Willie and all the others would kill him.” I gave him a sly grin. “I even told him George would probably do it and he knew more about us as vampires and it wouldn’t be easy if he did.” Colin nodded as he leaned closer pressing his face against my neck. “No, it wouldn’t.” When Gaius got there, I told them both what we were doing; as in, explaining that what we are had nothing to do with what kind of person we are, we were infected, plain and simple. Then George would be giving Dragon his serum. Then I further explained what we were going to do and why we were broadcasting again. Stan looked at me and waved toward us. “In this broadcast…we don’t need to be so secretive. The best angle will be if he sits up more.” He waved at his tablet that was acting as a monitor. “See?” He waved at Dragon. “If you could sit up for a better image?” Dragon was again caught up in the technology; he didn’t pay that much attention to what I was doing. I got what was needed and put it behind him. The gold cross, I had leaning against him. “Just sit up.” I said. “The best angle will be direct focus on you.” Dragon shook his head. “So many marvels in this world. I feel I’ve missed so much.” “That’s why we’re here. To catch you up.” I grinned and patted him on the shoulder. We assembled around the chamber as Dragon spoke again to everyone out there. Stan’s coaching of him to sit up paid off. He never leaned back on the cross. “…there is a vampire among us that is leading others of our kind to a conflict. Do not be deceived. Lucian is not telling the truth. Our enemy is not mankind, do not become an enemy to us.” He said “…and in conclusion, we are simply carrying an infection. There is evidence and we will show you this evidence.” The screen showed the images of normal blood and vampire’s blood. Then it showed the venom that Wayne had given to George before when he was a wild vampire with George explaining what they were looking at. “See for yourself. We have an illness. We are not the pawns of Hell.” I walked up and all that could be seen was my torso. “Neither are you.” I said to Dragon. “You are not evil; neither is any one of you evil just because you have this condition.” I added as I reached behind Dragon and picked up the gold cross he had behind him. I rested it against his forehead. “Nothing. He is not evil. I am like you, but it didn’t harm me. Nor is it harming Dragon.” Dragon had not seen what I’d pulled from behind him. He sat back as he focused and his eyes widened as he sat back suddenly in shock. “Don’t jump back now; you’ve leaned on it for quite a few minutes.” I said. “I told you, you aren’t evil.” I said softly so only he could hear. “Do you believe me now?” “You tricked me.” Dragon whispered angrily becoming angrier. I nodded. “I did to prove a point to them and to you. You are not evil. Otherwise, you’d be a cinder by now.” I pulled out some other icons of religious faiths and placed each against him. The cross was his concern, but I said without showing my face. “He is not evil. He has a soul like all of you do. What you have is an infection. You can be a criminal or a saint, you were bitten and carry an infection. We have a treatment. We need others that can help us with this treatment.” Gaius was staring wide eyed at the objects I pulled out. “It’s true?” He reached tentatively for the large cross I was holding, but not sure he could touch it. “I’m not evil?” I smiled at Gaius and shook my head. “No.” I held the cross out to him. “Take it. I’m not evil. It won’t hurt you. It’s not hurting me and we are the same. We’re vampires.” The broadcast did show Gaius taking the cross, which didn’t burn him. Now that he had moisture in his eyes it showed that there were tears coming down his face. “For centuries…I thought...” Gaius said softly. He looked at Dragon. “It doesn’t burn!” He smiled through his tears. “I’m not evil. I have a chance.” “Just like everyone else.” I said. “Believe me.”
  40. 37 points
    Lines flowed from the tip of the pencil and gradually coalesced into an image of a person lying half-propped up on a narrow bed. The angle of a bare shoulder and the curve of an exposed hip—the pencil floated up to fill in the person’s face and hovered over the page. Marcus glanced up at the painting of La Hollandaise by Walter Richard Sickert that hung on the wall of the Met. It was a painting of a faceless woman, half-shrouded in shadows in a rumpled bed. The image that materialized on Marcus’ sketchpad bore a close resemblance, except the shoulders were broader, the hips were narrower, and the woman’s breasts had been replaced by a man’s chest. And the face Marcus had been about to draw would have looked a whole hell of a lot like Andy. Marcus placed his pencil gently on the bench next to him, knowing that if he wasn’t careful, he would end up breaking it. This wasn’t the first time Andy had emerged on his sketchpad in the past several weeks. He never meant to draw Andy, but Andy always seemed to appear. It was getting fucking old. God, he wished he could have a drink, but that was no longer an option. Aside from confiscating all his alcohol, Stephen had resorted to check-in calls every couple of hours to make sure Marcus was still sober. So instead, Marcus turned to his other drug: art. Except art kept bringing him back to Andy, so maybe it wasn’t working after all. Marcus closed his eyes and took a calming breath as he waited for the tightness in his chest to ease. God, when would it stop hurting so much? There was a shuffling noise of someone stepping within Marcus’ earshot, but he ignored it. Sometimes people were curious about artists sketching in the museum and would wander over to take a peek. If he ignored them, they’d go away after satisfying their curiosity. “Marcus?” He stiffened at the sound of his name whispered in the quiet hum of his sacred place. No, this wasn’t happening; he must be hearing things. Marcus reluctantly opened his eyes and looked in the direction of the voice. Searing pain shot through his chest, and Marcus fought to breathe. Standing in front of him was the last person he wanted to see, the same person who occupied his every waking thought and haunted his every dream. Andy, with his mop of thick brown hair and big doe eyes, stood within arm’s reach, biting on his bottom lip. “Marcus?” Marcus tore his eyes away and packed his things with quick, efficient movements—anything to keep from reaching out and touching the man who had devastated his heart. He hated how his hands shook and the weakness in his knees as he stood to walk away. “Marcus, please.” Fuck, Andy was following him down the hall. Marcus picked up his pace and ignored the desperate tone in Andy’s voice. “Marcus!” The touch of Andy’s hand on his arm sent a jolt as sharp as the cut of a knife straight through Marcus’ body, and he jumped back to wrench himself out of Andy’s reach. “Don’t touch me.” Marcus bit out each word through gritted teeth. He glanced around at the other people in the gallery and tried to ignore the look of pain on Andy’s face. What did he care if Andy was hurt? “I’m sorry.” Andy’s voice was unsteady. “I didn’t mean to intrude on your space— “ “Then what are you doing here?” “—but I’d like to talk to you.” Andy sighed. His shoulders slumped in a way that tugged at Marcus’ heart despite his own reminders of how much Andy had pained him. Marcus looked away; he hurt too much. “I came here to think. I didn’t think I’d run into you, but now that I have, I really need to talk to you. I’d like to apologize and explain myself.” “Funny, seems like you’re always trying to explain yourself.” Marcus spat the words out like a bad taste in his mouth. “Yeah, I know, I’m sorry.” Andy paused before continuing. “Look, I know you have no reason to listen to me. I won’t blame you if you don’t. But... please, I want to talk to you. If you still want to walk away afterwards, you have every right to, but... at least hear me out.” Marcus wanted to say no and walk away. He wanted to reject Andy so he would get a taste of his own medicine. But the part of Marcus’ heart that was still very much in love with the man wouldn’t let him lash out. Fuck. Marcus risked shooting Andy a glare and hoped the other man didn’t notice the way Marcus’ breath caught in his chest. “Fine,” Marcus conceded. “But not here.” He turned on his heel and didn’t wait to see if Andy followed him out. There was no fucking way they were having any sort of conversation in his sacred place. Once outside, Marcus walked toward Central Park and didn’t stop until he found a secluded bench hidden behind some trees. He continued a few steps beyond the bench to the bank of a little creek and watched the trickle of water flow over rocks. Andy stood beside him, quiet in the stillness of their little patch of the park. Neither man said anything. Marcus had too much to say and no words to say any of it. “I tried calling you.” Andy finally broke the silence. “I blocked your number.” Marcus struggled to keep his voice flat. Actually, that wasn’t exactly true. Stephen had blocked Andy’s number and erased all history of their communications. Marcus had been furious when he found out, but Stephen had held his ground, and Marcus eventually gave up; he was too tired of fighting. “Oh... I guess I deserved that.” “So what do you want?” Marcus asked after a beat. He heard Andy take a deep breath and then felt the heat of Andy’s gaze. “I’m quitting.” A smile tugged at Andy’s lips. Marcus shot Andy a glance out of the corner of his eye. “Quitting what?” “The clergy. I’m leaving the priesthood.” Andy’s smile broadened. Marcus faced Andy as he tried to understand. “What?” “I’m quitting the clergy. John—my boss—finally convinced me to do it. We’re putting in the paperwork for it tomorrow.” Andy’s eyes twinkled. “And... I’m out.” “What?” A nervous little laugh escaped Andy, and he ducked his head. “I’m out,” Andy repeated. “At least to John. I told him everything.” Marcus gaped at Andy’s unexpected news. “I know this is a lot to take in. I can explain.” Andy’s excitement faltered. “If you’d like to listen.” Marcus sighed. How could he not listen now? Fuck. Marcus took two steps back and sat down heavily on the bench. He braced his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands tightly together. His knuckles turned white from the strength of his grip. Not wanting to appear affected by Andy’s revelations, Marcus struggled to remain calm. “Um, well, first of all, I want to apologize.” Andy sat beside him on the bench. Marcus tried to ignore how close their knees were and the genuine regret he heard in Andy’s voice. “I’m sorry for the way I treated you that day when you showed up at the chapel. That was extremely rude of me—and offensive. I’m sorry.” Marcus nodded his acknowledgment; he didn’t trust his voice. “I was a wreck that day. Couldn’t go back into the chapel to face those people, knowing how I had treated you. I...” Andy continued in a whisper: “I thought about committing suicide.” “What?” Marcus’ head snapped up as he searched Andy for evidence of self-harm. He didn’t see any marks on Andy’s wrists or neck, but that didn’t calm his racing heart. “Don’t worry.” Andy gave him a sad smile. “I’m fine. But that day... I didn’t think I’d be fine. I’d never thought about committing suicide before, even after all those years of denying who I was. I don’t know if you know, but according to the Catholic Church, committing suicide sends you straight to hell. So, that had never been an option for me. But that day... hell didn’t sound so bad compared to where I was.” Marcus wanted to say something reassuring, something about its gets better, or don’t give up, or nothing is worth taking your own life. But he couldn’t sort out his jumbled thoughts and emotions before Andy spoke again. “I was a mess when John found me. I’d reached my breaking point, and he pushed me to tell him what was wrong. It took me a while, but it all eventually came out. I told him about our first night at Ritz, the baseball game, then the youth night when I sang with Sophie. “I told him about how gentle and kind you are, how you were patient and caring when I had given you no reason to treat me so well. I told him about how confused and scared I was and how the only time I ever feel peace is when I’m with you. And when I’m not around you, it’s like I’m walking along a cliff, terrified that one misstep will take me over the edge.” Marcus tried to swallow around the lump forming in his throat but found that his mouth had gone dry. Every word Andy spoke was like a healing balm to Marcus’ heart, but the wound had been deep. It would take more than some kind words for it to heal completely. “I told him how guilty I felt, how sinful I felt. And then I told him that while I felt terrible for indulging in what I had been taught were sinful acts, I actually felt worse about the way I treated you.” Andy’s voice was small and intimate in their little space. His words flowed from that place of deep thoughts that Marcus had fallen in love with. “And he agreed. He thought it was right for me to feel worse about how I treated you than for being gay. Because the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And the second is to love your neighbor as yourself.” Andy smiled and looked directly into Marcus’ eyes. There was no doubt, no fear. Andy’s nervousness was gone, and in its place was a quiet confidence that came from knowing a deep truth. The confidence called out to Marcus and tempted him to lower his guard. “But he also said that I can’t love my neighbor as myself if I don’t first love myself. It sounds weird, I know.” Andy shrugged. “But it makes a weird kind of sense. I guess I hadn’t been loving myself, so I didn’t know how to love others.” It made a lot of sense to Marcus—not the weird kind—the normal, logical kind. “And then John gave me a lecture on theology that I thought I understood, but clearly I had no clue about.” “What’s that?” Marcus’ voice was hoarse. “That at the center of the Christian faith is the fact that we are all sinners.” Andy sounded like a child proudly explaining a new concept he had mastered. “But that we are all saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Anything and everything else besides that is secondary. There’s a lot of variation in the Christian faith, Christians can believe a whole slew of things. But as long as they believe that central truth, they can believe whatever they want about all the rest of it.” Andy paused and looked at Marcus. Their gaze locked for long moments before Marcus brok