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  1. 21 points

    From the album Story Tiles

    Here are Randy and me on February 23, 2016, our eighteen year anniversary from our first date.
  2. 18 points
    An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA by Riley Jericho Provoked The next couple of days passed fast, though Simon had mixed feelings about being back at school. Unexpectedly, his mum and dad offered him an opt out—staying at home for a few days to properly ‘recover’ if he wanted to. He had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, he really had no desire to see Toby Skerrit, yet if he stayed off, it was just going to invite difficult questions from the rest of them. At the same time, home had become oppressive, so he decided in the end to get in Luke's car on the first day back to school. What he did accept from his mum was a letter excusing him from any and all sport during that week and—if he had his way—several to come. They were in the big gymnasium that first day, though nobody wore their kit. Even though his new timetable should have had them over at the sports block playing football that morning, they were gathered for another reason. In fact, the whole school had squeezed in! It was only the second year—as far as Simon knew—that the Academy students and staff had assembled like this; not just the High school, but Middle and Elementary too. All the bleachers were packed, and the floor in the middle was filled with chairs. Even that wasn’t quite enough and many of the younger Elementary kids sat cross-legged on the floor right at the front, mostly looking around themselves curiously and fidgeting. The last of the massed round-up were squeezing in, and on a platform at the end, the Principal was getting ready to speak. Around about Simon on the bleachers, his classmates, now sophomores, preened themselves as they waited for the usual drivel to do with ‘achieving’ and ‘community’. They were towards the back on the left, and were able to look down at the rows of mere freshmen with disdain. Life had moved on a year and they weren’t the ‘kids’ in the high school anymore. With amusement, they studied the new batch, fresh out middle school in their pristine high school black jackets; kids who would shortly find out that the homework schedule was about to go up several gears! Across the other side on the opposing bleachers, Simon spotted Luke, Ryan and Todd and the rest of their friends—this year’s Juniors. They were smiling and talking and seemed confidently at ease. Then, the general chatter began to diminish as the Principal turned towards the microphone, set in front of a formal podium, ready to address them all. Down at the front, some little kid with short trousers and curly hair suddenly stood. Apparently unaware that you didn't do that when the Principal was about to hold forth, he had a bright grin on his face as he waved enthusiastically—presumably to some older brother. The older brother in question seemed to be squeezed into the row right below Simon. "Oh my God," snickered Marco, flicking Danny Gillespie—who was in the row in front—on the back of his head with his fingers. "Is that Ben? Don't tell me we've got another one now!" The Elf waved back down the front, as unconcerned as his little brother that the whole school seemed to be watching them in bemusement. Under the cover of smatterings of laughter, he chuckled, "He just started Elementary. Go Benny! Cool start!" A rather hassled-looking Elementary teacher hurried over to the young lad, and under the bristling glare of the Principal, got him seated. It was hilarious and it all went pear-shaped for a few moments until order was restored. Even Simon found himself grinning. Another Gillespie? Did the Academy have any idea what they were letting themselves in for? Two rows below on the bleachers, Toby turned in his seat, glancing up through the middle of the outbreak of humor, trying to catch his eye. Simon looked away. Toby had tried to talk to him on several occasions that day already, but there was nothing to say. The crowd settled down, and everyone tuned off as the Principal droned on. * * * Just over two weeks later, Simon passed yet another slow sports period in the library. While his classmates were out on the football pitch, he'd been coming here for those periods since school started, getting his mum to write excuse note after excuse note for him. Hard contact would be dangerous he'd told her the first few times. After that, he'd pleaded that he just wasn't ready; still didn't feel a hundred percent. It had got him out of going to anything that was linked to the locker rooms. Each time, he'd taken his letter of excuse to the main desk, and they'd issued a temporary exemption that, instead, required him to pass the allotted time in the confines of the school library. That particular day, he spent the time glowering at a textbook, uptight with the knowledge that his mum had put her foot down. This is the last one, she'd said, handing him the signed note. And don't tell me you're afraid of getting hurt, she'd added as he'd tried to interrupt. It's been more than long enough since your operation, and you wear a protective cup anyway! Enough is enough...it's time to just get on with it! She'd been firm without getting mad about it. She probably thought it would help him move on and get back to normal! His thoughts were dark, and he turned the page roughly. It ripped in the process further adding to his foul mood. The two weeks had steadily gone downhill. He just couldn't get into a groove, and lost his rag with Mason by the second day. And Mase wasn't the only one. By the middle of the second week, Simon picked up his first ever detention. It had been because of a math test on something none of them had done before that semester, for which they'd been given the weekend to get themselves up to speed for a full-on test on the Monday morning. He tried, but he just couldn't concentrate, and whenever he started looking at the equations, his mind started drifting. When they got the test back a couple of days later, he was appalled to see he got one of the worst results in the class. Even Fontana had done better! Almost all of them had started laughing when the teacher picked on him, bemused that Simon Summers—the math king—had bombed out! Even Skerrit dared to smirk! Simon had lost it. Throwing the paper on the floor, he'd let loose at them all—and would have to spend the next three lunch breaks in detention as payment. Afterwards he'd stalked out of the class, and ignored anyone who came close. Another week passed, and after yet another lonely lesson in the library, he rejoined his class, keeping his head down as he slipped through the desks to take his seat. In comparison, off the back of what appeared to have been a rowdy game on the football field, the rest of them were full of jubilant energy. They seemed so together, and he so alone; more an outsider now than he'd ever been when he first joined this class. The next day would be the annual tri-school sports day, and the event was on everyone's agenda. Expectations were high, and those who would be competing were being built up and encouraged. He’d never competed himself, but was always vocal on the sidelines, giving his friends every ounce of his enthusiasm. "So what's wrong with you this time?" Gabe Larsson swiveled at his desk and skewered him with an appraising glint. "Why weren’t you on the field? That's at least the fourth one you've missed!" "What part of mind your own fucking business don't you get?" Simon’s reply was angrily short as, off to one side, he could see Toby watching him through lidded eyes. Around them, an uneasy silence followed another of his outbursts. Gabe's eyes flared in anger. He paused a beat, and then his face narrowed as he kept a lid on it. "Sorry for fucking asking then," he said, his voice was devoid of emotion. He turned his back and shut the door. At once, Simon felt angry—not so much at Gabe or the others—but at himself. The back of his neck flushed as he could sense those that used to be his friends watching him. He kept his mouth shut, but inside he screamed. Everything he did was wrong. Everything he said drove a wedge between him and them. He was cutting himself off, but he just didn't know how to stop it. Back home at the end of the day, he escaped the confined space of his brother's car as quickly as possible and hurled in the front door. "Simon?" As soon as he was through the door, his dad appeared out the kitchen. It was a surprise he was home so early on a Wednesday. "What?" "Can you come in here a minute?" Simon was immediately wary. "I only just got in, can't it wait?" His dad held the door. The expression on his face gave the impression he felt it couldn't. “Do you want me, too?” Luke’s puzzled voice carried from just behind Simon. Geoff shook his head. “Mum and I just wanted Simon for a few minutes. Nothing bad…just to talk about something.” He continued to stand at the door, waiting. “What? I didn’t do anything.” Simon couldn’t hide his irritation at their cloak and dagger approach as he came into the kitchen. He studied them warily as his dad closed the door behind them. His mum was sitting at the table, waiting, and she said, “Nobody said you did. Dad and I were just talking about a few things, and we thought you should hear what we’ve got to say.” She patted the chair next to her, invitingly…and meaningfully. Feeling even more nervous, Simon came and sat. This was worse than his recent visit to the doctors! His dad sat at the end of the table, hemming him in on the other side. “We heard that you were in detention last week,” she said. It came out of nowhere, though her tone wasn’t angry. “Who told you that?” Simon said at once, though he guessed it had to be Luke. The bastard should mind his own business! “It doesn’t matter,” she said carefully. “What matters is that there are lots of people who are really worried about you.” Becoming sullen, he dropped his eyes, wondering where she was going with this. His dad said, “Mum and I think it’s time that you talked to somebody.” “If you want to,” she added quickly. “Nobody’s forcing you, but maybe it would help?” Simon suspected what they were referring to. He bet they meant a shrink…therapy! He bristled and said “Why? Just because I got a detention? There’s nothing to talk about!” Even so, his stomach twisted. Did they really think it was as bad as that? “No, not just because you received the detention,” she said, steadily, watching him carefully. “Can I go now?” Simon’s eyes flicked towards the door. This wasn’t anything he wanted to talk about. “It’s there if you want it,” she said, not answering his question. “But it can’t hurt. All we’re saying is think about it.” “Sure.” Simon’s voice was gruff. He’d give it a second’s thought. “Can I go?” She nodded and he left, and headed straight upstairs to his room. He met Luke on the stairs and glared at him but said nothing. Fucking tell-tale! Throwing off his jacket once he got to his room, he dumped his backpack into the corner, and it was only then that he noticed the package that had been left on his bedside table. Curious, he picked up what looked like a roll-on deodorant bottle, and turned it over in his hand, trying to get a measure of what it was. He read the label, frowned, and then read it again. Within moments, his anger boiled over. Astroglide? What the hell were they fucking playing? How dare they! The provision of the bottle of ‘personal lubricant’, which even he knew was the kind of stuff people used for sex, wasn't even discreet! So, he was a whore now? A wanker? Livid, he stormed back downstairs. They were all in the kitchen. His dad was still sitting in the same chair, and his mum had started mixing a salad by the sink. Luke was searching the fridge. Simon's anger broke the easy atmosphere that had prevailed as he slammed the Astroglide on the table. "What the HELL is THAT?" His mum turned and the reprimand was already in her face, even before she said, "Excuse me?" "Si..." Luke sounded uncomfortable and his eyes betrayed that he knew more than he was letting on. "Sorry...I said I'd....well, I was going to try to..." He fumbled over his words and began to flush. "Explain WHAT? How to jack off?" He glared at Luke, who flushed even deeper. "Simon..." Geoff's growl held a clear warning. "Just calm down," said Lucy. She wiped her hands on a towel and remained composed as she offered her own explanation. "If you want to know, I got it for you. Dr. Tiberius recommended it for both you and for Luke." Stepping up to the table, she picked up the bottle, and slid it quietly into a draw. "It wasn't my intention to embarrass you, and Luke was just trying to help. If you don't need it, that's fine. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?" "Bloody right I don't need it!" Simon glared at her. Now he had something to pin his anger on, he was unable to rein it in. "I haven't touched my fucking dick like that since you cut it, and I never will again. EVER!" He spat the words at them and pointed an accusing finger at Luke. "If he likes to jerkoff so much, give the stuff to HIM! " Spittle flecked his lips and he was breathing hard as their eyes widened at his outburst. He still couldn't stop. Pressure that had been building up over weeks became a force that cracked the wall of his self-composure. All at once, he exploded. "In fact if you think I'm such a wanker, why didn't you just go get me CASTRATED while you were at it? I can’t fucking use them anyway!” He panted into the aghast silence that took the kitchen, no longer caring what they thought. It was his dad that responded first. "GET OUT!" Geoff stood suddenly and loomed over him, tall and angry as the gentle probing nature of their earlier talk evaporated. His eyes blazed, and the words snapped out like a whip. "How DARE you speak like that to us? Go to your room, and stay there! I don't want to even see your face right now!” The enormity of what he'd just done came crashing down, and Simon flinched. He thought his dad would hit him, he looked so mad. His mum stepped in between them. “Just go to your room!" Her tone was just as harsh as she pointed to the door. "We’ll talk about his when you’re ready to apologize!” Simon turned on his heels, stalked out of the kitchen, climbed the stairs, and banged his door as he shut it. If it was meant to be some sort of a victory, it was hollow. In fact, he felt more of a failure than ever. And scared. How had he allowed that to happen? Of course, it wasn't over by any means, and his dad came and ranted at him for an age. Then his mum. And Luke? Luke was far too pissed with him even to talk. Head down, stoically he bore it without making eye contact. They can NEVER know, he kept reminding himself. Nobody could EVER know... Finally, they left him to ‘have a long careful think’ about his behavior, only to join the family again when he was ready to apologize. Alone, he cried at the injustice of it, and then tried to dry his eyes as, several hours later, after a family dinner that he wasn't invited to and couldn't have stomached anyway, he came downstairs. They must have heard him on the stairs as they were all in the lounge sitting in an awkward, brooding silence when he came and stood before them. An outsider now, he didn't belong. There was no encouragement, no compromise. He hung his head, his intention to do nothing other than make his apology and then return to the dark thoughts that weighed him down. They would hate him, but no more than he hated himself. "I'm sorry,” he started. “It won't happen again." He tried so, so hard to remain strong, but he couldn't help it and started crying again as his frame became racked with shuddering, uncontrollable sobs. He could see all kinds of alarm bells ringing in her face as his mum pushed up from her seat and moved towards him. "Simon...you have to tell us what's wrong…" Her voice was laced with worry as she reached for him, but he backed off. "I'm just sorry," he mumbled. He went back to the script. "I've been horrible, and it's my own fault. It won't happen again." He turned and hurried back upstairs to his room, where he retreated into the bathroom, locking the door behind him. Maybe he should have just told them everything, and so much of his normal self screamed that that was what he should do. But where could he begin—and more importantly, where would that path end? I'm gay? I have—had—a boyfriend? The same one that…? They would hate Grace, though it wasn't her fault, and he couldn't bear the thought of how ashamed they'd be of him. The comforting hugs like the ones it would start off with would soon go, replaced by awkward disapproval. They would take his computer, and everything he was would be put under the microscope and judged. Every comment. Every passing glance. He just couldn't. Again he buried it, forcing the truth down until it was deep enough to seal it, and the tears, away. The last thing he needed was anyone’s sympathy. He just wasn’t strong enough for that. They followed him upstairs, and voices called for him, but he ran the water and told them he was having a hot bath. He lay in the hot water, totally exhausted by the emotions that had overwhelmed his world in a flash flood, and tried to take stock. He couldn’t go on like this. Something had to change. However messed up he felt, he needed to do more than nothing. It had been nearly three weeks since he’d sat in this same bath and taken the bandages off. The marks, though healing now were still visible as a circumference of infuriated ants tucked close under the head of his dick. There was no two tone of remaining foreskin. Some might have called it neat, the result cosmetically pleasing. An unmarked shaft with little to no blemishing scars. To him, his complete and reckless unhooding was an act that had left him crushed. He was soft just then, but was still taunted by erections from time to time. However, the joy he used to find at that jaunty arousal had gone. Now, if a boner came for whatever reason, all he had to do was remember Toby and the anger and shame was more than enough to make it pass. What he had said to them downstairs was true; he hadn't masturbated since the day it had happened. Since his circumcision, his appearance had changed radically. The shaft appeared thicker and, without the benefit of his extended foreskin, the three and a half inches had reduced to three. Perched over it, a bulbous acorn was still red, and shiny with indignation. He couldn't change it now, but there was nothing about it that brought him any sense of pleasure anymore. Everything was different. Even his own family didn't like him anymore. Still, he knew he had to change something...just to move on enough to survive. He added more water and closed his eyes. * * * Not long after it appeared that Simon had taken a bath, Luke had left them to go upstairs too. It had become awkward in the lounge, however now that it was just the two of them, he and Lucy could speak freely. He’d been as shocked as her by Simon's outburst, yet now, having just observed him break down like that, Geoff wondered if he’d really had mishandled the whole thing, and had an uncomfortable feeling that all he’d gone and done by blowing up was to make it a whole lot worse. Lucy shook her head in bewilderment as she continued her muted conversation with him. “I mean having the procedure worked out well for Luke didn’t it?” she said. “But don’t forget, Luke wanted to be circumcised,” he countered. “Simon didn’t. Even then, I don’t see how we could have done anything differently.” It was all old ground they'd covered before. He shrugged, but felt as uptight as her. “Stretching seemed the right way to go.” “And maybe we should have just left him alone in the first place. Was it really that bad?” She paced, arms wrapped around herself though it wasn’t cold by any means. “I got him the lubricant because I thought it would help…I never thought he would…” Tears spilled out of her eyes and Geoff reached to comfort her. He had no answers, but recriminations didn’t help either. "We really do need to get him help,” she said. "I sure as hell don't seem to be able to get it right!" “Me neither,” he said. “I really went off the handle! But what if he doesn’t want to? We could make him go, but that doesn’t mean he’ll talk about it.” They’d started discussing the possibility of getting Simon to talk to a counsellor the previous day. He wasn’t keen, it sounded so drastic, but the way things were going, the need for that option was escalating fast. She said, “What about somebody he knows? Maybe Grace could help—that’s what she does, after all.” Geoff shook his head. “Don’t you think it needs to be a guy for something like this?” “Oh…” She grimaced as she settled on the chair arm. “I guess you’re right.” “Let me have another go at talking to him first,” he said. He really didn’t like the idea that his son needed a shrink. Surely it wasn’t that bad? In fact, the more he thought about it, the more having a ‘man talk’ seemed like a good idea. He should have probably done that ages ago. "If he's still no better in a couple of days, then you're probably right. We should find some help. I'm sure Grace could recommend someone," he added as an afterthought. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that, though Simon's outburst still reverberated in his ears. 'I haven't touched my fucking dick like that since you cut it, and I never will again. EVER!' The more he thought about it, the more worrying it was. He had no doubt that both boys masturbated—at their age he was at it hammer and tongs! They were teenage boys, and that’s what they did! But if Simon had tried and found he couldn’t anymore, at least in the way he was used to, that would certainly be bad news. Tiberius knew his stuff, so he was probably right—lubrication was probably a good thing, and it seemed Luke appreciated it well enough. But what if Simon felt awkward about relying on something like that? If that was what the problem really was. What they did know was that for a month—ever since the operation—Simon had almost completely shut them out. It wasn't getting any better and it was hard to know what was going on behind those frequently sullen eyes these days. He waited until he could hear Simon get out of the bath, and gave it a few more minutes. Then he went via the kitchen and retrieved the bottle of lube from the drawer. Maybe Simon just needed to get his confidence back—and to know that it really was okay to use a little help down there if that’s what he needed? Upstairs, he tapped gently at the door of Simon’s room. He would probably be in bed now. “Simon?” He waited, hoping he might receive an invitation to enter, but none was forthcoming. He sighed. Either way, he wasn’t going to just leave. He opened the door to a gloom filled by the remains of the late summer's day, seeping through the blinds. Opening the door further spilled enough light to see Simon in his bed, turned away to the wall with the sheets pulled around him protectively. It didn’t even cross his mind to believe his son was asleep. Crossing the room, he turned on the bedside light and then went back to close the door to give them some privacy, before settling on the edge of the bed. Lightly he rubbed the back of Simon's head and murmured. “Hey there...how’ya doing?” There was no answer, and, softly, he tried again. “Come on…what’s up?” “I said sorry, didn’t I?” Simon’s reply was low and empty. “I’m tired. I just want to go to sleep.” “Me and mum are just worried for you, that’s all.” “I thought you said you didn’t want to see my face again.” Geoff sighed. If what he suspected was true, then no wonder Simon had gone off the deep end. The kid was probably pretty anxious! “I’m sorry too. I was angry. I shouldn’t have said what I said.” Note to self—again—remember that there was always a bigger picture! He thought he'd learned that lesson with Ryan! There was no response, so he stood and moved around to the other side of the bed where he could see his son’s face. Simon’s eyes were open, but he didn’t make eye contact from where he lay scrunched into his pillow. Geoff said, “Whatever this is, we can fix it, you know.” Simon remained set in stone. Geoff pushed a little harder. “Am I right in thinking that since your circumcision, you’re finding things a bit difficult?” Still nothing. Ah well – in at the deep end then… “Sunshine, I don’t know what you’ve read or what other people say, but there’s nothing wrong with masturbation.” At the word, Simon blinked. His eyes briefly darted upwards and he flushed. Geoff took it as a sign he was on the right track, though still Simon remained tight-lipped. He thought he knew what he wanted to say, but he still had to choose his words carefully. “It’s perfectly normal for guys your age.” Though Simon kept his eyes averted, he knew he was listening. “If you’re finding it a bit more difficult because of trying to get used to being circumcised, there’s no shame in getting a bit of help.” “I don’t want to talk about this.” Simon’s tone was evasive. "Just leave me alone." “And has not talking about it helped at all?” Geoff inquired, letting a little irony flow into his tone. For the first time, it seemed that Simon let slip his control as he swallowed. His face seemed lined with discomfort. Geoff lifted the bottle of Astroglide into Simon’s line of sight. “All I’m saying is use it if you need to. Don’t suffer if you really don’t have to—it might just get you back on track again.” He put the item down on the bedside table. “Enough said about that. Is there anything else that’s bothering you? Anything you want to talk about?” Simon shook his head. “Can I go to sleep now?” He sounded distant once more and Geoff sighed. It was hard to know if they'd made any progress as he tussled his son’s hair and got ready to leave. Maybe he really should be making some enquiries with Grace. “Sleep well, then,” he said, and he turned off the bedside light. Walking back to the door, it was the first time he’d ever hoped that any of his kids would beat off before going to sleep! Simon really needed to find his way forward, and there wasn’t a lot more he could do to help. “Dad?’ At the door, Geoff swung around. In the semi-dark, Simon was sitting up in bed. Geoff smiled at him in anticipation of the grateful words of a relieved son. Simon picked up the bottle from nearby and lobbed it Geoff's direction. “I don’t need this. I don’t masturbate,” he said. With that, he turned away and pulled the sheets over himself.
  3. 16 points
    Watching a monitor in a conference room at the court house, Cam and Kevin had witnessed Superior Court Judge Robert MacClaine sever Rory Lomer's case from those of Eric Clymer and Peter Murtha in the brutalization of Cam down the beach from Cam and Kevin's house. Lomer had agreed with the DA's office to plead guilty to a reduced charge of sexual assault of a minor in the second degree, and to serve as a witness in the trial of Clymer and Murtha for kidnapping, attempted murder in the first degree, and aggravated sexual assault of a minor in the first degree. "Read the charges," Judge MacClaine had ordered. The three defense attorneys had stood up, and one of them had said, "Defendants Clymer and Murtha waive a complete reading of the charges of kidnapping, attempted murder in the first degree, and aggravated sexual assault of a minor in the first degree, your honor." "Defendant Rory Lomer also waives a complete reading of the charges of kidnapping, attempted murder in the first degree, and aggravated sexual assault of a minor in the first degree, your honor," Lomer's attorney had stated. "Very well," the judge said. "How do you plead?" he asked the defendants. "Eric Clymer pleads 'Not guilty' to all charges, your honor," Clymer's lawyer said. "Peter Murtha pleads 'Not guilty' to all charges, your honor," Murtha's attorney said. "Rory Lomer pleads 'Guilty' to a reduced charge of sexual assault in the second degree, your Honor," Lomer's attorney said, "pursuant to a pre-trial amendment of charges by the office of the District Attorney, Los Angeles County." "The plea of defendants Clymer and Murtha will be noted for the record. The amended plea of defendant Lomer is accepted, and noted for the record," Judge MacLaine had stated. The conjoined trial of Lomer and Murtha had commenced immediately, with Lomer's sentencing scheduled in his guilty plea to take place following verdicts in Lomer's and Murtha's cases. The Lomer/Murtha trial had taken only two days to complete, with both defendants found guilty of all charges in a unanimous verdicts by the jury. Four days after the verdict had been handed down, Judge MacLaine had sentenced Clymer to fifteen years in prison without parole, and Murtha to twelve years, also without parole. Rory Lomer, having fulfilled the terms of his deal with the DA's office for what proved to be very graphic testimony against his former companions, was sentenced to five years in prison, with parole possible after three years. The metro sections of all the LA papers had covered the two trials to the degree possible given the closed courtroom, and fully covered subsequent sentencing in detail. This time they had omitted Cameron's name as the victim of the crimes. Of course Cam's victimization had been reported to the community previously by the newspapers, but having had the support of Kevin and Art and Carl and the rest of the family in San Francisco, along with previous therapy, at this point he refused to relive what had happened to him down the beach. He had successfully put those issues behind him. The past was now the past. * * * It was early on a Saturday morning several weeks after the trial was over. Lying in bed, Kevin was awakened by a sound from the speakers of the nanny cam surveying Casey's room, and he glanced at the little screen on the bedside table. He saw Maria go to Casey's bed, pick him up out of the crib, kiss the little boy's head, croon to him, and take him into the bathroom to check his diaper. Five minutes later, with the little guy freshly diapered, she carried Casey out the door and down the stairs to the kitchen for some breakfast. Kevin silently gave thanks for the wonderful, loving care Casey received day after day from his and Cam's housekeeper. He promised himself he would talk to Cam about what they could do, financially or some other way, to return to Maria and her family some gift in response to the blessing her presence brought to their household, and especially to Casey. Adjusting the sheet covering him and Cam, a smiling, naked Kevin rolled over on top of his partner. The two of them always slept au naturel except when the guys from San Rafael were in town staying in their room with them, and then they wore boxers to bed. Cam labored a little to breathe as his eyes fluttered open. He looked up from his pillow directly into Kevin's handsome face and dark brown eyes. Kevin began kissing Cam's face gently and rubbing noses with him. Cam grabbed a breath. "'Sup?" he asked. As if he didn't know! He repeatedly ran his hands up and down Kevin's sides and his back, eventually coming to rest on his partner's muscular bubble butt that always turned him on so much. He inserted a finger into Kevin's crack just a little, and lightly rubbed his hole. "Oh, yeah!! You're way too cute for your own good!" Kevin responded. "And too good in bed. Sometimes I just can't stand it." "Well, you won't have to stand it for long if you don't let me breathe." Kevin didn't answer except to pump his hips once, where his rapidly inflating cock was planted firmly on Cam's package. "Oh," Cam said in anticipation of what was about to happen. His own cock started to harden as Kevin pressed against him. "Is Casey awake?" he asked. "Yes." Kevin glanced again at the nanny speaker and screen on the bedside table. "Maria came up and got him a few minutes ago. But don't change the subject." "What is the subject?" Kevin pumped his hips one more time. "You're the subject." "No, you're the subject." Cam ran his hands up and down Kevin's back and sides to his butt again, and began to rub his ass cheeks more firmly. A finger found its way into Kevin's crack yet again, and entered him a little more deeply, this time to the first knuckle. "You're so bold!" Kevin told him, pleased and smiling. "You inspire me." "Good to know." Kevin rolled over and pulled Cam on top of him, and they began to kiss passionately with lots of tongue. They were each fully hard in just seconds as they began to pinch each other's nipples. "Do me," Kevin eventually told his partner after the touching grew more insistent. "I want you in me, dude. Fill me up." He slipped off Cam's body on to his own back. Not needing to be convinced, Cam slid over to the drawer of his bedside table and found some lube. Returning to the center of the huge bed, Cam kissed his way down his partner's awesome abs. He briefly mouthed his boy's long, thick cock, and then pushing Kevin's legs back, proceeded to lube his hole, open him up with his fingers, and then lube his own dick. "Put it in me," Kevin demanded again, fisting Cam's slippery and erect penis which was more than ready for business. Cam obliged him, raising his partner's legs higher and moving between them, then working his dick fully into Kevin. Once he was fully at home inside his boy, he just lay there on Kevin's body letting his boy become accustomed to the welcome intruder. They lay there for several minutes, wordlessly studying one another's face before Cam pulled back from where he was buried inside Kevin's hole, plunged back in, and started to rhythmically pump his lover's ass slowly and then with increasing vigor as minutes passed. Kevin groaned as his prostate began to respond to Cam's cock repeatedly massaging it. A pearl of pre-cum appeared at the end of Kevin's penis, which pulsed where it laid on his abs. After five minutes, Kevin groaned and reached down to grab Cam's butt, slowing his in-and-out momentum. "Lord, you do know how to fuck!" he gasped to his lover. "But let's make this last for awhile!" "Yeah," Cam gasped back, slowing his tempo. Eventually Kevin began tightening his hole when Cam thrust into him, and loosening it when he backed out, multiplying the sensations that both of them were feeling. "Oh, yeah!" Cam said, and his pleasure increased even more when Kevin began raising his ass to meet Cam's thrusts into him. He encircled Cam's butt with his legs, locked at the ankles, pulling Cam forcefully into his hole each time. Cam eventually couldn't help increasing the speed of his thrusts to what they had been before, and at the fifteen-minute mark he flooded Kevin's smooth, tight insides with his sperm. Then he lay there, spent, on Kevin's body as Kevin lowered his legs to the bed. Cam softened, and his cock finally fell from its favorite home. "Sorry I couldn't last longer," Cam whispered when he finally regained speech, gently kissing his partner's face again and again. "You did great!" Kevin assured him. "You're so good at fucking I may never let you out of bed again." Kevin's abs were coated with his own pre-cum, but he had not yet ejaculated. Cam scooted down in bed, and after licking up Kevin's pre-cum, he put the still-swollen head of Kevin's cock in his mouth and pumped his partner's dick with his hand. Two pumps later he was swallowing as fast as he could, bringing Kevin off with seven full shots of semen. Some of the thick juice leaked out of the corners of Cam's mouth, and Kevin pulled Cam's head down and tongued his own seed from his boy's face. "Oh, man!" Kevin groaned, licking his lips when he finished. "You always feel so good inside me!" he said as his body relaxed. "And I taste pretty good, if I do say so myself." Cam smiled. "Yes, you do," he said. The guys kissed each other deeply, sharing the remnants of Kevin's cum before hitting the bathroom and emptying their bladders. Then it was back to bed, holding each other tight before they dropped off into a blissful, post coital coma. When they woke up twenty minutes later, Cam kissed Kevin and looked at him appreciatively. "I couldn't ask for a better lover than you, Kevin Stoltz," he said, looking him in the eyes. "Likin' that!" Kevin said. "I love you so much, Cam. Sometimes I could come in my pants just from lookin' atcha." "Well, this bears a lot more discussion. But why don't we clean up a little, wake up Art, and take a run before we shower and eat breakfast?" he asked. "You read my mind," Kevin said. They bounded out of bed and into the bathroom, where they ran damp wash cloths over other's bodies before putting on jocks, running shorts, T-shirts and running shoes. They went downstairs. Maria was sitting at the kitchen table beside Casey in his high chair, feeding him. "Morning, Maria," Kevin said, bending down and greeting the woman with a kiss on the cheek followed by a kiss on top of Casey's head. "Thanks for taking such good care of Casey." "What brought that on?" Maria asked. "That's my job." Cam gave her a sideways hug and kissed her cheek. "It may be your job, but what you do for Casey, and for us, is obviously more important to you than just a job." "Well..." Maria said, at a loss for words. "Hey, Casey," Cam said, bending down and giving the little guy a kiss on the head. "Daddy," Casey said, not specifying who he was talking to. "If you guys are going out today, will you stop at a hardware store and get us some gates for the stairs?" Maria asked. "One for the top and one for the bottom? I caught Casey yesterday trying to crawl upstairs." "You're kidding," Kevin said. "No, I'm not. He's strong, and he's active," Maria said. "Thank goodness for that, but we don't want any accidents." "We'll get the gates today," Cam promised. "Right now, we're going for a run." "All right," Maria said. "I'll fix you some breakfast when you get back." "Sounds good," Kevin said. The landline rang just then, and Maria stood up and answered it. "Good morning. MacKenzie-Stoltz-Emrick residence," she said. "Good morning," a man's voice said. "This is Ralph Abernathy at Rodeo Drive Jewelry, calling. Is Cam or Kevin available?" "Yes, sir," Maria said. "One moment, please." She covered the speaker. "It's Mr. Abernathy at the jewelry store." Kevin held out his hand and took the receiver. "Good morning, Mr. Abernathy," he said. "This is Kevin. What's the good word?" "We have your rings ready to look at, Kevin, at your convenience. When do you and Cam think you might be able to stop by to see them? I want to double-check that they're correctly sized." "Hold on for a moment, sir, and let me talk to Cam." "Of course." Kevin hit the hold button, and the main line began to blink. "Our rings are ready to check out," he said to Cam. "When do you want to stop by the store?" "Excellent!" Cam said enthusiastically. "What about two o'clock this afternoon?" "Sounds good," Kevin said, reconnecting with the blinking number. "Mr. Abernathy, would you be available at two o'clock today? We're eager to see the rings." "I'll be on hand at two o'clock. I'll look forward to seeing you both then," Abernathy said before hanging up. Cam looked at Kevin after he put the phone back on the wall. "Wow! I'm really excited to see them!" Cam said. "Me, too, man!" Kevin agreed. "Maria, I think we'll take Casey with us when we go to the hardware store and the jewelry store. We need to spend some time with him anyway." "Well, if you're sure..." "That'll give you some peace and quiet for a change," Cam agreed. Kevin picked up the phone, pushed the intercom button, and punched the number for Art Smith's bedroom. A sleepy voice answered. "Yeah?" Art said. "Throw on a pair of running shorts and meet us downstairs on the deck, my man," Kevin said. "Let's run before breakfast, and then we'll take care of some errands." Art groaned. "OK. Give me a couple minutes." "Yep." Kevin replaced the receiver and went to the refrigerator, grabbing three bottles of water, one each for himself, Cam and Art. Cam and Kevin went out to the deck after some conversation with Casey, where they met Art Smith, greeted the dogs, and did their warm-ups. Thirsty, they each swigged down a bottle of water before hitting the beach along with Alice and Samantha. Running on the beach was dog heaven for the two border collies. Art glanced over at his two hunky companions as they all started their run. It was one of those rare occasions when the wind wasn't blowing off the bay, and when the three of them had been limbering up on the back deck, Art had caught a whiff of sex from his fellow runners as they stretched their legs. Cam and Kevin weren't making goo-goo eyes at each other or anything like that. In fact they weren't looking at each other at all. There was no overt communication between them. But there was this aura surrounding Cam and Kevin that morning that Art had seen before, but not all that often in public, between people who were deeply in love. It required no stretch of Art's imagination that the two young men had probably had physical relations that morning. They had likely been "one flesh," for damn sure. For a person his age, Art was a keen observer of social interactions and the vibes that characterized them. It had always been clear how his two hosts felt about each other. But this was one of those occasions when the solidarity of Cam and Kevin's relationship, their deep love and respect for one another, was on perfect display for anyone paying attention. The partners seemingly didn't have to work very hard at it. It was just there. Art hadn't received a great deal of love in the bosom of his own family, but he knew love when he saw it. And he was seeing it. Despite himself, Art was envious. Who wouldn't be? Art wanted a loving relationship like that for himself with somebody. Whether that person would be a man or a woman wasn't yet perfectly clear to him. Probably a guy. But fortunately, thanks to running and working out in the gym with Kevin and Cam, he was starting to attract some attention in public--from both males and females--for his steadily improving physique. He was looking better every day. "I wonder how Carl and Andy and Father Mason and the San Rafael boys are coming along with the move?" Kevin asked after the three guys hit their pace on the beach. Carl had flown up to San Francisco to meet Andy and the priest, pick up the truck Ian Carson had rented for them, and commandeer William, Mark, Berto and Dan to load up Mason's clothes and furniture along with clothes and a few items Andy had ready for the trip to Los Angeles. "I'm sure they're doing OK," Art said. "But it feels strange not to have Carl here, doesn't it?" "I know," Kevin admitted. "I miss that cute little shit." "Me, too. He'll be happy when Andy moves in here with him, I know that for sure," Cam said. "Yeah," Art agreed. "Art, have you talked to your parents at all lately?" Cam asked. "I talk to my mom about once a week. My dad, never. He hates me, for sure." "I know from personal experience what a pain in the ass it is to have a father who's an asshole," Kevin told him. "Your dad ought to be grateful to have a son like you." "Thanks, Kev," Art responded. Compliments didn't come along all that often in life, and the boy was pleased. Cam looked over at Art. "Are your classes going well?" he asked him. "Yeah. I'm having a little trouble with chemistry, but I'll get through it somehow." "Don't fall behind," Kevin suggested. "I can give you some help, y'know. The physical sciences are no problem for me." "I know that," Art said. "I just may take you up on that offer." "Yeah, I've noticed that nothing physical is a problem for you," Cam told Kevin with a leer. "Don't start!" Kevin warned, making Cam and Art chuckle. When they reached the two and a half mile mark, Cam whistled at the dogs, and the three boys turned around. Kevin had cut them back from seven miles a day, first to six and then to five miles daily, after reading the latest research on excessive exercise leading to free radicals in the body. He'd not had blowback from anybody about that decision, including Ian and the San Rafael boys, when he suggested during their last visit that they do the same after they went home. They ran in silence back toward the house for a while, with the dogs happily dodging in and out of the surf. Cam spoke up. "Hey Art, Kevin and I are going out this afternoon to pick up some safety gates for the top and bottom of the stairs. Maria caught Casey climbing up the stairs the other day, and we don't want any accidents now that he's getting more mobile. Then we're going over to Rodeo Drive Jewelry to look at our engagement and wedding rings. If you don't have something else going on, why don't you come with us?" "Thanks. Sounds like a plan," Art responded. He was always pleased to have an excuse to spend some time with the guys. "We won't leave until after breakfast settles," Kevin interjected. "That'll give us plenty of time to work out in the gym. You guys are looking a little flabby." A blatant lie. "You need to do more than just trot up and down the beach every day to stay in shape." "We gotta get a muzzle to shut you the fuck up, Kevin," Cam responded. "So we'll add a pet store to our itinerary for this afternoon." Kevin and Art laughed. Arriving back home, they ate some of Maria's special huevos rancheros, their favorite breakfast, after Kevin offered thanks. Cam went out to the garage after they finished up and found a tape measure in their tool box in the garage. He measured the width that the stairway gates would have to cover, and wrote the figures down on a sheet of paper. Then they worked out and worked up a sweat in the little gym after their breakfast had settled. Kevin complimented the guys on how well they did with the weights. Afterwards, they showered. Cam and Kevin washed each other under the pelting water, as usual, and then dressed in their usual T-shirts, Levi's and Skechers. Art jacked off in his own shower as he fantasized about his hosts having had sex that morning, and was in a good mood when he joined them downstairs after dressing. Kevin checked Casey's diaper, found out the little guy was all right, and after saying good-bye to Maria, the three boys loaded the baby, the baby bag, and themselves in the Mustang. Cam sat in the back seat to interact with Casey in his backward car seat. "We have plenty of time before we have to be at the jewelry store, so let's go to Lowe's first and see if they have the gates we're looking for. If they don't, we can hit Home Depot," Kevin suggested. "You're a master shopper," Cam told him. "That's more satisfying than being a master bator," Kevin responded. "Oh man! You should warn me when you're going to talk like that so I can cover Casey's ears," Cam kidded him. "Oops," Kevin said. He smiled. "You're right." They found a pair of attractive, sturdy gates at Lowe's, and checked carefully to see that all the needed hardware was in the boxes. They rolled the boxes out to the car on a cart and loaded them into the trunk of the Mustang. Kevin had put the purchase on his credit card, where Ian Carson would probably see it on the bill and ask him about it. Ian never argued about any purchases the guys made, but he did monitor what the boys spent, and Kevin and Cam didn't resent that at all. They knew he was watching out for them. Heading out of the lot, they stopped at an In and Out Burger to get some burgers and milk shakes, and drove toward Rodeo Drive. Cam had picked up a plastic spoon at the cash register, and he fed a couple of small spoonfuls of his vanilla shake to Casey. The little guy had a sweet tooth, and really liked that. There were no parking places on the street near the jewelry store in Hollywood, so they parked in a garage. "Why don't you let me carry Casey so you guys will be hands-free to deal with the rings," Art suggested as they got out of the car. "Thanks, Art," Kevin agreed, and helped Art put on the baby sling. They settled Casey into it and walked down the street toward the store. Passers-by all smiled and checked out the baby as they went by. They entered the jewelry store and were promptly greeted by a friendly female sales person. Cam didn't see the young man who had acted homophobic to Kevin and him the first time they'd visited the store, and he wondered if the guy had gotten the ax for his bad attitude. "We have a two o'clock appointment with Mr. Abernathy," Kevin told the young lady. He glanced down at his watch, and they were right on time. "Yes, sir. He's back in the work area. I'll call him." "Thank you, m'am," Kevin said. Abernathy joined them shortly, and Cam introduced Art to him and identified Casey. The little guy had fallen asleep. Abernathy smiled down at the little boy, and said, "Beautiful baby!" Then he led them to a counter toward the back of the store. Unlocking a glass cabinet, Abernathy pulled out four jewelry boxes and placed them on the counter. Kevin's name was taped to two of the boxes, and Cam's name to the other two. One by one the jeweler snapped open the boxes. Two boxes held the wedding rings, and two, the engagement rings. Cam's and Kevin's eyes were initially drawn to the engagement rings. As Abernathy had promised, they were elegant and beautiful without being flashy or overpowering. A sizable, flat cut ruby dominated the center of each ring, with two smaller emeralds bracketing it, but the gems all hugged the rings without protruding. Looking closely, Cam and Kevin saw that the gold engagement rings had a filigree running around it which appeared to match the one on the wedding rings. Even without trying them on, Cam's and Kevin's first thoughts were that the engagement rings would be comfortable for them to wear--not only physically, but because of what they stood for. Cam and Kevin looked at each other, and Kevin briefly put his arm over Cam's shoulders and gave him a side hug before they reached down and pulled the engagement rings out of their respective cases. Cam took Kevin's left hand and put the ring designated for him on his ring finger. It slipped over Kevin's knuckle with just a little effort. Kevin put Cam's ring on his partner's finger, and it fit perfectly without being too snug. They each held out a left hand, and regarded them silently. The rings had some heft, but they weren't overly heavy. "Oh, my gosh," Kevin said quietly, eyes a little moist, before pulling Cam into his arms and kissing his cheek. "They're perfect!" "For sure," Cam said. He looked over at Ralph Abernathy. "These rings are like our dreams come true, sir," he told him. "You captured what we wanted perfectly!" "Good!" Abernathy said with a smile. "I'm really pleased with the finished product! The gems are all of high quality, I can assure you of that, and they speak very well to your relationship." Cam and Kevin reached down the counter to pull the wedding rings out of their cases. They were gold, matching the gold color of the engagement rings. The wedding rings were moderately wide, and the guys could see clearly up close that they were indeed decorated with the same delicate filigree which spiraled around the engagement rings. A perfect match. "Let me show you how the wedding rings interlock with the engagement rings," Mr. Abernathy suggested. Cam pulled off his engagement ring and handed it to the jeweler. Abernathy lined up Cam's engagement and wedding rings, pushed them together, and then rotated the wedding ring a degree or two, causing it to seat firmly with the engagement ring. He handed the two rings back to Cam. He put the rings back on his finger to check them out, and then removed them. It took a firm twist before Cam could separate the two rings again. "Excellent," Kevin noted with satisfaction. "The interlock will keep the engagement rings from spiraling around from the weight of the gems, so you won't have to be adjusting them all the time," Abernathy said. "And by the way, your first names are inscribed on the underside of each ring so they don't get mixed up. You wear different sizes." The guys put the wedding rings back in their boxes and closed them up, and but kept the engagement rings handy. "Ask me," Kevin instructed Cam, handing him Kevin's designated engagement ring. Cam knew exactly what Kevin meant. "Kevin, will you marry me?" he asked. "I will," Kevin said, and Cam slid the engagement ring on the third finger of his partner's left hand. "Cameron, will you marry me?" Kevin asked in turn. "I will." Kevin put the engagement ring on Cam's ring finger of his left hand, and they kissed each other lightly on the lips without making a big spectacle of it. The store wasn't busy at the moment, and the staff had been watching Cam and Kevin's reactions to the rings. They applauded when the two guys kissed and embraced. Mr. Abernathy beamed at them. "Gentlemen, congratulations," he said, and then shook hands with each them. "I hope you'll invite me to your wedding." "Count on it!" Cam said. Then Art shook hands with each of his roomies, and gave each a hug of congratulations. Despite the seemingly casual exchange of rings, he was moved, though he tried not to show it. After a little more conversation, they all went to the payment desk, and each pair of rings was charged to the guys' respective credit cards. The charges went through with no problem. With final thanks to Mr. Abernathy, who said a special good-bye to a sleeping Casey, the three guys left the store and began walking back toward their car. "Wait 'til Ian sees our credit card bills," Kevin said, laughing. "He'll fall on his ass!" "Well, it isn't as if we didn't tell him what we were going to do," Cam responded. "But I do hope this is the last time we spend this kind of money on each other just for 'stuff.' There are a lot of hungry people on the street without a roof over their heads in our country, for us to be this selfish. I love the rings, but y'know, enough is enough. Let's make a good contribution to the Santa Monica homeless shelter." "I totally agree, Cam," Kevin said. "By the way, on another subject, I think we should do something special for the Romeros, especially for Juan, Jr., and Roberto. Maybe make some substantial down payments on a college fund for each of them. I know Maria and Juan, Sr., may be a little reluctant to accept a gift like that, but let's make it happen. And let's raise Maria's salary. When Andy moves in, she'll be taking care of five of us now along with Casey." "What a great idea!" Cam agreed. "Let's talk to Ian about what we can do for the whole family. I know the Romeros aren't exactly poor, and I think Juan is going to end up being a highly successful contractor in the L.A. area. But we couldn't buy the kind of care we're getting for Casey and the rest of us for two or three times what we're paying Maria. You know that's true." "No doubt about that," Kevin said. The guys couldn't help lifting their hands and inspecting the new engagement rings periodically on the way back to the car, and felt a deep sense of satisfaction with their beauty. Once at the parking lot, they put Casey back in his car seat without waking him, and headed for Malibu. Cam carried the baby into the house and put him in his downstairs crib after they arrived home, while Kevin and Art brought the new gates for the stairway inside. Maria came down from upstairs when she heard the boys come in. "All right!" she said. "Let's see the jewelry!" Cam and Kevin extended their left arms, and she held their hands for a moment while she inspected the engagement rings. "Oh, my goodness!" she exclaimed. "They're absolutely beautiful!" She gave each of them a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks," Kevin said, pleased that Maria agreed with his own opinion of the rings. "Mr. Abernathy did a great job." "They're just what we wanted," Cam said. "What do you think, Art?" Maria asked. "I think they're beautiful!" Art said. "Outstanding!" 'Let's see the wedding rings," Maria said. Cam and Kevin pulled the jewelry boxes out of the pockets of their Levi's, and opened them up. "I see the filigree on the wedding rings matches the engagement rings," Maria observed. "It does," Cam said. "And the engagement rings and the wedding rings interlock as well. Everything is perfect!" "For sure!" Kevin said, ready to move on. "Now, on another subject, as you can see from the big cardboard boxes, we got the gates," Kevin said. "We'll install them right away." "That will be one less worry," Maria said. "I appreciate it." "While you guys pull out the gates, I'm going to take pictures of my rings and send it to Mom, Carl and Andy and Fr. Mason and Jeff Miller, and the whole crew in San Rafael," Cam said. "I think he likes his rings," Kevin said, chuckling. "Well, get to it. Art and I will start on the gates." Cam sent the picture of the rings with a caption to the family, and it wasn't long before the accolades began pouring in. * * * The following Tuesday, Juan Romero pulled up to the the main gate of Magnum Studios, the date that George Eisner's secretary had given him for a lunch meeting. It was 12:45. A uniformed, Caucasian guard came out of his shelter right away, looking skeptically at Juan's beat-up old truck with the chipped paint. "Romero Construction" was painted on the door. "May I help you?" the guard asked, bending down to check out the inside of the truck while not betraying a whole lot of respect for the visitor. "Yes," Juan said. "I have a one o'clock appointment with Mr. Eisner and Mr. Lazlo." "Yes, sir," the guard said, his face suddenly looking more welcoming and his posture straightening. "One moment, please." The man went back into the guardhouse, picked up a telephone, dialed a number, and spoke into it. Two minutes later, having received a response, the guard walked back to the truck. "Yes, sir," the man said, this time with respect. "Just follow the signs that say 'Administration,' and park in the lot in front of the Administration building. Go in the front door, and a staff member will be waiting for you at the reception desk." "Thank you," Juan said as the guard hit a button to raise the striped pole blocking the entrance and touched a finger to his uniform cap as the truck rolled by. Damn, you just never know who the fuck is going to show up here to see somebody important, even if they're driving a piece of shit like that truck, the guard thought to himself as he watched the truck pull away and he went back inside his hut to await the next visitor. Juan followed the guard's instructions and pulled into the parking lot of the main office building. Before alighting from his truck, he took off his cap and studied his image in the rear view mirror. His saw that his jet black hair was still neatly combed, parted on the left, and his face neatly shaven. He was a handsome and well-built man with light tan skin, neatly dressed in clean work clothes with his company logo over his left breast pocket. He had thought about wearing a suit to this meeting, but had decided against it. He had surmised that Messrs. Eisner and Lazlo weren't going to base their decision about whom to select for a building contractor on how much he looked like a desk-bound businessman. Leaving his Romero Construction cap on the passenger sear, he opened the driver's door of his truck, got out, and snaked his way through the parked cars to the main entrance of the Administration building. Another guard greeted him inside the building at a revolving door, and directed him to a reception desk where a well-coifed, middle aged Latina greeted him in a friendly manner. "Good day, sir," she said. "How may I help you?" "I have a lunch meeting with Mr. Eisner and Mr. Lazlo." It was now 12:55. 'Yes, sir. Your name?" 'Juan Romero." "One moment, please." She stepped to a telephone and punched in a number. "Stephanie, Mr. Romero is here for his meeting with Mr. Eisner and Mr. Lazlo." She nodded her head and hung up. "Señor Romero, if you'll take a seat over there, someone will be down in a moment to escort you upstairs." She gestured with a graceful wave at some leather chairs at one side of the lobby. "Gracias, Señora," Juan said, and headed for a seat. He had only been seated for about two minutes when a young woman emerged from an elevator and approached him. "Mr. Romero?" she asked, extending a hand. "Welcome to Magnum Studios. I'm Stephanie Anderson, Mr. Lazlo's administrative assistant." Juan greeted her and they shook hands. "If you will follow me, I'll escort you to Mr. Lazlo and Mr. Eisner for lunch in Mr. Eisner's office." "Thank you," Juan said, and followed the svelte, shapely young woman to the elevators. They made small talk on the way up to the top floor. Without waiting after knocking, she opened a door labeled George Eisner, Chairman. Two men rose from a couch where they had obviously been waiting to greet their guest. "Mr. Romero," the taller of the two men said with a smile, "Welcome to Magnum Studios," he said, shaking Juan Romero's hand. "I'm George Eisner," he identified himself. "And this is Rick Lazlo." Lazlo smiled, and shook hands. "Glad you could make it. Hope you're hungry. George sets a good table." "I think I can sit up and take some nourishment," Juan said with a grin. "Well, let's have at it, then," Eisner said as they moved over to the table. Before they pulled out their chairs and sat down, Eisner offered thanks over the food. "I appreciate the prayer," Juan said when Eisner finished and the three of them made the sign of the cross. "My family started saying grace because the young men my wife works for customarily offer thanks before meals. My family has gotten in the habit." "I know who you're talking about, Juan," Eisner said. "Your wife's employers attend my parish church." "Excellent family!" Juan said. "They've been so kind to us." "Good people," Eisner said. "Good boys with good friends. They've experienced some tragedy at a young age, and come out of it successfully. Cameron MacKenzie's father and his partner worked for Magnum, and were killed in a plane crash coming back from England. And Kevin Stoltz has had his own family problems. Ian Carson, who recommended you for the construction job we're going to talk about today, has been sort of a foster father to the boys." Juan smiled. "I met Ian and his wife, and their maid from San Rafael, along with all the boys in the Carsons' extended family, at Cam and Kevin's house on Thanksgiving. Cam and Kevin had invited Cam's mother and her maid, our family, and their next door neighbors Sean and Susan Miller, along their maid, who is my wife's sister, and the Miller boy and another young man from college, for the meal. I should mention that the maids were the guests of honor at that meal, and the families did all the cooking and serving." Juan Romero looked at his hosts. "I didn't think I'd have a good time because I'm a laborer only one generation removed from being an immigrant myself, but we all had a ball! They're all easy people to relate to. And I do." George Eisner nodded in agreement. "You see what I see, Juan." Eisner studied him for a long moment. "You speak English well. Where did you get your schooling?" "I attended an Anglican primary and secondary school in Mexico City where my father was the janitor. I guess my schooling explains my English proficiency, and then I graduated from college at the National Autonomous University, also in Mexico City, on a scholarship in architecture. I immigrated with my parents after graduation, met my wife here in LA, and the rest is history. Although I was a legal immigrant, the architectural firms wouldn't hire me here because they thought I was a wetback and lying about being legal." George Eisner shook his head in shame. "Times have changed." "To some extent," Juan said with a smile. "You wouldn't know it to listen to some of the presidential candidates these days, though." "I guess you're right," Eisner admitted. Lazlo studied the two men as the three of them continued with the meal. It might be true that hiring a building contractor was technically his decision, but Lazlo also knew that Juan Romero was as good as selected as far as his boss was concerned. If he didn't get this particular contract, Eisner would most certainly bring him aboard in some other capacity. When they finished their light noon meal, prepared for hot weather, of cold vichyssoise soup, thin sliced veal cutlets, raspberry jello salad with a dab of sour cream dressing and pecans, and miniature cinnamon rolls, they moved right on to dessert: iced coffee with freshly baked apple tarts. There had been no alcoholic drinks served, nor wine with the meal. And that suited Juan just fine. He wanted all his wits about him for the conversation to come. Two white-coated waiters cleared the table after lunch, and the three men just sat there at the lunch table and got down to business. Romero and Lazlo sparred over some of the costs and details of the new construction that Magnum Studios had in mind as they looked at plans and blueprints while George Eisner just sat there listening quietly and patiently, but eventually Juan Romero got pretty much what he wanted in the contract. He knew his stuff, and was happy with the outcome of their discussion. He knew that getting this contract would be a huge step forward for Romero Construction. "Rick, do you have rough copy of a contract I can let my attorney take a look at?" Juan asked when they had wrapped up. "Let me re-work it to reflect the changes we've discussed today, and I'll have one ready for you by the end of the week," Lazlo said. "Ian Carson looked over the current draft of the contract and approved it on our behalf, and I'll ask him to take a look at the changes as well." "Sounds good," Juan said. The three men removed their napkins from their laps, and stood up, pushing in their chairs and then shaking hands. "Thank you so much for joining us for lunch, Juan," George Eisner said over a firm handshake. "Thank you for having me," Juan said, turning to shake hands with Rick Lazlo. "I'll call you when we get a contract cleaned up and ready for you to look at," Rick said. "We're looking forward to working with you." "And I with you," Juan said. The good-byes said, Juan headed for the door and then to the elevator. "What do you think?" Lazlo asked, looking at his boss after Juan had gone. "He's a perfect example of the future of American business, Rick. All our families were immigrants once upon a time. I think this is going to be a good relationship for us, don't you?" "I do. I am a little curious about why you've taken such a personal interest in hiring someone for this particular contract, George." Eisner smiled. "Well, you're right. I admit I have a personal interest in the Romero family because of my relationship with Cam MacKenzie and his partner, Kevin Stoltz, and the little boy they're raising with the help of Juan's wife. As I mentioned earlier, Alex MacKenzie was working for us here at Magnum when he and his partner were killed, and I feel we owe their survivors, and those who help them, to do a good turn for these folks when we have a chance. I hope you don't feel that I've pre-empted your decision. That wasn't my intent. I do think Juan Romero is our best option to be our principal building contractor, being that he's an architect as well as a builder. He has the skills and the expertise to do the job. But if you don't feel he should be our guy, I'm open to discussing it." Lazlo was silent for a moment. "No, I don't think we need to discuss it further," he said. "Juan Romero has the personal skills and the organization which will best serve our purposes. I can't quarrel with your analysis of Romero's strengths, and I'm good with giving him the contract. I was just curious, that's all." "Good. Let's move ahead with the contract, then," Eisner said. The two men shook hands, and Lazlo turned to walk away. At the door, he turned around and looked back at his boss. "Your loyalty to people who deserve it is a major reason this organization is so successful, George. And such a great place to work." Lazlo stepped through the door, closed it, and went back to his office. * * * As he prepared to move to Los Angeles, Father Mason's good-byes to Father and Mrs. Blackburn and to the entire parish family at St. Andrew's church in San Rafael had been emotional for all concerned. The parish had held a special dinner to honor their departing curate on Thursday evening, and many kind words had been said to and about Father Mason. Among those attending the meal had been Catherine MacKenzie and the extended Carson family, of course. The parish hall was packed, a testimony to the popularity and respect in which the priest was held. The junior choir, which customarily sang at the nine a.m. Mass each Sunday morning, sang several musical selections during the meal which included pieces which were known to be favorites of the priest. Ian Carson had been one of the featured speakers, and what he said about Jim Mason concerning his unfailing kindness to all he encountered, his authentic spirituality, the special inspiration he had provided to the young people of the parish, his powerful preaching and his ability to evoke a real connection with God when he celebrated the Mass was very moving. Mason's response to the speakers had also been moving. The upshot of his remarks was that whatever success he had had at St. Andrew's was due to the deep commitment of parishioners to the faith, and to the strong leadership of the Rector, Father Blackburn. He cited several major steps forward for the parish due to the strong partnership of the clergy and the laity in the San Rafael church. "I know that I have been in your prayers during my time with you here because I have felt the benefit of those prayers. Some of you may know that my mother lives in the Los Angeles area, and is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Were it not for the rapidly deteriorating health of my mother, I hope you know I would continue working here with joy in my heart and love for all of you."When Father Mason had concluded his remarks of affection and praise for the parish, along with thanks for the many kindnesses he had received during his time there, Father Blackburn asked him to offer a final prayer and a blessing. Mason raised his right hand over the crowd. "O God of hope and author of our salvation, we thank You for the bounty we have received from You in the lives of our families and our parish, and particularly during this wonderful evening. We ask for a continuation of Your grace, that the deep relationships of kindness and esteem we have built with one another in Jesus Christ may continue to thrive despite our physical parting of the ways. May the Holy Spirit continue to bless the work we have all undertaken on behalf of St. Andrew's Parish, our Diocese, and our national church. May the doors which we have opened here to all God's children remain open and welcoming. And now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you this night and remain with you always." Mason made the sign of the cross over the crowd to a resounding "Amen" from the parishioners. He saw Mary Carson, among many others, wipe some tears from her eyes, and recognized anew that this was no casual parting of the ways for so many. The priest had given the people his love during his time in San Rafael, and it was being richly returned. * * * Carl Emrick stayed overnight with Andy Helder at the Helder family home on Thursday night after the big church shindig. When they stripped off their clothes and slid into Andy's big bed, the two guys held each other for a long time just looking into one another's eyes before they had sex. "I can hardly believe that this is the first of so many nights we're going to be able to hold each other like this and make love," Carl told his partner. "It's been a long time coming." Andy grinned, and french kissed Carl. "Yeah. Coming. Literally. I've missed you so much, Carl." They made sweet love twice that night--once before they went to sleep, and then again in the middle of the night. They spent the next day, Friday, at Father Mason's apartment helping him take apart his beds and finishing packing up the rest of his books and miscellaneous stuff. That night there was a big family meal with the Carson family at Catherine's former home to which Father Mason and Andy's parents and Catherine MacKenzie had been invited. Rosa Mendez and Yolanda Vega had prepared a wonderful meal. The evening was fun, with the boys all talking a mile a minute and insulting one another as usual as opportunities presented themselves. Andy began to realize how much he was going to miss Catherine and Ian and Mary Carson and all the boys as the evening drew to a close. "We'll see you at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning at Father Mason's apartment," Ian told Carl and Andy as they left to go home. "After we load Father's furniture we'll go over the Helder's house for Andy's stuff. You did pick up the truck?" he asked Carl and Andy. "Yes," Andy reassured him. "This afternoon. Complete with the hitch for Father Mason's car. Thanks again for renting it for us. We'll be ready for you bright and early." "Remember, we're going to have breakfast ready for all of you when you get to our place," Mrs. Helder told them all by way of reminder. "Are you sure you want to feed this ravenous crew?" Mary Carson asked, eying the boys. "We could stop at a McDonald's before we come by." "No, we want to do this," Mr. Helder told them. "St. Andrew's and your family has done so much to help us understand the love that Andy and Carl have for each other, and support them in their relationship. It's the least we can do." Everyone was a good as their word, showing up at Father's Mason's apartment at 6 a.m. sharp on Saturday morning. It was an unusually warm morning for northern California, and the boys began shedding their T-shirts as they really got into moving the priest's furniture, boxes of books, bedding, clothes, pots and pans, and other stuff down to the truck. Despite efforts to look away, Carl Emrick's eyes were repeatedly drawn to the boys' bodies as they toiled away, sweating as the morning warmed up. Starting with William Carson and Berto Hernandez, and including his own partner and even the younger guys, the chests, backs and butts on display kept Carl half hard in his shorts throughout the morning. Andy caught Carl staring a couple of times, and grinned at his partner. Carl blushed, but couldn't help himself. These boys all had gym bodies, and were fucking beautiful. He knew he'd like to lick the sweat off every one of them. Once Father Mason's apartment was empty and the truck loaded, Ian Carson and Father Mason hooked the hitch for the priest's car to the truck, and Mason drove the auto up the shallow incline until the front wheels were seated in the wells provided, with the rear wheels remaining on the street. The men then chained down the car, and they were ready to go over to the Helders' house. Andy's mother had been forewarned toward the end of loading the truck that the moving crew would be on the road shortly, and she was ready for the hungry crew when they arrived. She had fixed huge bowls of scrambled eggs, platters of bacon and sausage, fresh fruit, pitchers of orange juice, and carafes of coffee. Father Mason offered thanks for the food, and then everybody found places around the Helder's huge, expanded dining room table in the spacious dining room. The house was large, in a neighborhood with many pricey homes. Except for the clinking of silverware, silence initially reigned at breakfast as stomachs were filled. The boys were all refilling their plates and starting on seconds when William Carson spoke up. "Mrs. Helder, this is a delicious breakfast! Thank you so much for going to all this trouble!" Berto Hernandez began to clap his hands, and the other guys joined in. "Wonderful breakfast!" Mary Carson chimed in. "We really appreciate it. And your home is beautiful!" "Thank you so much," Mrs. Helder said. "It's going to seem awfully empty for us now that Andy is moving out." To her own surprise, tears began to run down her cheeks. Mary Carson was sitting beside her, and she reached over and held her hand. "We're going to to be good friends, because Ian and I are facing the same thing before long." "Hmm," Mark Carson said between bites. "Well, there'll be a lot of cheering at our place when William moves out!" Dan Emrick began to laugh, and William scowled at both of them. Before he could respond, their dad interrupted. "All right!" Ian Carson told them. "Don't start! We're guests here!" "You're right, Dad," William Carson said, starting to laugh himself. "I'm far too well mannered to respond in kind. Get a clue, Mark!" Changing the subject, Ian looked over at Father Mason, Carl and Andy, sitting beside one another on the other side of the table. "Have you three decided where you're going to stop tonight?" "San Luis Obispo," Carl spoke up. "That's more or less half-way to Malibu." "Did you already make reservations somewhere in town?" Mary Carson asked. "There's a college there, and you don't want to have to sleep in the truck if the motels are full." "You're right, Mary," Father Mason said. "I'll get on the phone before we leave." He looked at Carl and Andy. "I'll get you guys a double room, and me a single." "Thanks, Father," Andy said, appreciating the privacy for himself and Carl. The serving dishes were all bare when the boys helped clean up the table, taking the plates and silverware to the kitchen for the maid, who had not yet arrived, to fill the dishwasher. Once they got started, it didn't take long for all the boys to load Andy's computer desk, desk chair, and some of his miscellaneous stuff into the truck. Everyone gathered in the Helders' driveway when it was time for the three travelers to go. There were lots of hugs and kisses exchanged as Father Mason, Andy and Carl prepared to climb into the truck after they had thanked the extended family for all the help they had received. Andy took a few minutes alone with his parents, during which his mother wept again. Andy calmed her down by promising to email her daily for the time being, and call her at least once a week. He let them know yet again how grateful he was for their financial support, and their love and understanding for his and Carl's relationship. They were on the road by 10:30, with Father Mason at the wheel for the first lap of the trip.
  4. 15 points
    It felt good to work with power tools again, or maybe it was just the feeling he had working on something made him feel good about himself. Creating the set for Danny was one part atonement for being an ass, but the rest was just how cool it would be to see the play come to life with all the bells and whistles. Measuring out the last piece for the ring frame, he cut it and carried it over to the rest of the pieces, then set about assembling the base and building up the sides and the small set of steps in the back that would allow the actors to step inside without having to navigate the ropes. Was a good thing he knew a little about wrestling and what it was supposed to look like. When Danny had suggested painting the base blue, Jax had balked, explaining it was supposed to be fabric. Little had he known that would send him on an excursion to a fabric store to find something that would work. Hours spent wandering the racks and rolls of material had finally yielded something that would mimic the right color and consistency, and as he spread it over the base, he was feeling pretty pleased about the way it was all turning out. “Holy shit that’s nice.” Jax jerked his head up to see a guy in a mask watching him. Phillip, he thought Danny had said the man’s name was. He was playing Az, that Jax knew for sure, and would be one of the actors performing inside the ring. Jax watched as the guy fiddled with the mask before finally peeling it away from his face. “Damn that thing is hot, it’s gonna be a bitch when all the lights are shining on the stage.” “I bet,” Jax replied conversationally, wondering what in the world the guy wanted. “Seriously though, awesome job on the ring, it looks really real,” Phillip said. “I wasn’t sure at first what Danny had in mind when he was trying to explain all the scenes to us. I’ve never watched wrestling, I thought about watching a match or two when I got the part, but work and rehearsals and shit, I just never really got around to it.” “I’ve watched it a few times, enough to figure out what I’m doing anyway,” Jax admitted. “Cool. I just wanted to come back and see it, get a better feel for what I was in for, ya know,” Phillip said. “I’d better get back out there, but thanks for stepping in and helping.” “No problem.” Jax watched as Phillip wandered back out towards the front of the stage, then he turned his attention back to his work. Turned out Phillip wasn’t the only one grateful for his help, several times over the course of the day members of Danny’s crew wandered to the back and introduced themselves, admired the ring and made casual conversation with him. It was odd, but not at all unpleasant to feel like he was a part of their team. The way he saw it, this was the easy part. No way could he ever see himself doing what they did, standing out on the stage for people to stare at and securitize. He was pretty sure he’d puke before he ever stepped foot on the stage. He had to admire the courage it took to do what they did, which just made him even more pleased to have a small part in making it happen. Doubling his efforts and his focused, he finished using the staple gun to get the floor covering in place, then moved on to constructing the ring posts. 4 x 6’s had to be shaped into posts, then wrapped in paper mache to make them thicker. Those would have to harden for the next two days before he could spray several coats of black over them until they looked like shiny metal. Best to get started at them next, to make sure they were ready for Friday. The ring ropes would be hose material painted blue and red, since they would best mimic the thickness. Bending to his task, he quickly lost track of time, so much so that when Danny tapped him on the shoulder after he’d turned off the machine, that he jumped and looked around. “Hey,” Jax said when he saw Danny standing there. “Hey, yourself, it’s getting late. I know you have to be at work in a couple hours, I thought you might want to grab something to eat before you had to go.” “Naw, I’m good,” Jax said. “I want to get these wrapped in paper mache before I leave for the day, so they’ll be ready to paint on Friday.” “You don’t have to rush, you know, we’ve got a little over a week before dress rehearsals, and with all the progress you’ve already made, I don’t have a doubt everything will be ready.” “Thanks.” “So, join us for dinner?” “Thanks, but I’m not really hungry.” Danny shuffled from foot to foot, frowning. “What’s up?” Jax asked, looking around at the pieces he’d already completed. “Did I fuck something up?” “No, not at all, everything is awesome, I don’t know how you found the old posters for the gym walls but between them and the office set you finished yesterday, everything looks amazing. I can’t believe what you’ve been able to do in just a week.” “The set designs were pretty simple, it helped that you had the supplies and everything already here, it really saved me some time.” “I’m glad. I know it was kind of last minute, you helping out, so at least we had most everything you needed.” “Yeah, and folks helping paint really made things come together quicker too,” Jax said. “That’s what a production is all about,” Danny replied, a small smile crossing his face. “It’s not a division of actors and tech crew, it’s everyone trying to work together to make a performance happen.” “That’s cool. What you guys do here is pretty awesome. Never would have imagined so much went into it.” “What we do here.” “Huh?” “You said, ‘you guys,’ but you forgot to include yourself,” Danny pointed out. “Some screws and bolts aren’t the same as what goes on out there.” “Don’t do that.” Jax frowned and studied Danny, confused by the sudden look of fury on his face. “Do what?” “Undervalue what you’ve done to help.” Danny snapped. “And don’t think none of us have noticed the way you never seem to take a break, not for a snack, not for lunch, you just guzzle water and that protein stuff you carry with you.” “I grab something on my way to work.” “Okay, then come on, let’s go grab something,” Danny insisted. “Why are you making such a big deal of this?” “Someone has to,” Danny said. “I’m worried about you. I know it’s none of my business, but I um, I think you’ve got an eating disorder.” Jax blinked, stunned at the words that kind of sat in the silence between them. He wanted to lash out at Danny, tell him to fuck off and storm out of there, but he couldn’t desert the show and he couldn’t deny the truth in what Danny was saying. “I’ve had one for a long time. I manage,” Jax grumbled defensively. “Have you um, ever talked to someone about it, like, a professional, someone who might be able to help?” “Yeah, just haven’t needed to in a while.” “I kinda think you do. I don’t mean to be pushy or anything but, it’s getting hard to miss.” Jax crossed his arms and glared at the ground, “Yeah, well, I’d rather it to being a fatass.” “Huh?” “Look, I used to be really fuckin’ fat okay. I used to overeat and sometimes I pig out on stupid shit, like ice cream and pizza and other crap, so, sometimes I skip a few meals after I do that shit, to kinda balance it out.” “Not sure it’s the healthiest way to balance it out.” “Yeah well, it isn’t your body, so, it shouldn’t matter to you.” Jax grumbled, checked his watch and set about unplugging things. “I’d better go, don’t wanna be late to the shop.” Before Danny could get in another word Jax hurried away, the sudden sting of the cold air on his face as he stepped outside a harsh reminder of the tears that were flowing down his cheeks.
  5. 14 points
    When we arrived at school, I fumbled around with my book bag so that Samuel- or Tiffany- could exit before I did. I don’t know why, but I wanted to watch other students’ reactions as he-or she- entered the school. I guess since she enrolled into school as Tiffany, I might as well get used to referring to him as a girl. As I followed her, I tried to understand what would make someone want to go through the torment and ridicule that she would surely experience. However, no part of my brain could comprehend it. I had been struggling with my own sexuality since I entered puberty. However, living with a father as rigid as mine, I never allowed myself to explore my feelings. Sometimes late at night after he and my mother were sound asleep, I would imagine sinful things. Sometimes, I would wonder what it would be like to kiss a girl and cup my hands around her breasts. Other times, I would close my eyes and remember my classmates playfully chasing each other naked in the shower room in the ninth grade as they tried to snap each other with a wet towel. My imaginations always left me with a hard erection. However, I never dared to touch myself as I had heard boys often do. Instead, I would roll over on my stomach and rock gently until my erection would erupt and my body would feel exhausted. I would then get out of bed, remove my soiled underwear, hide them under the bed and put on a clean pair. In the morning, I would wash them clean when I took my morning shower. I would then hang them on a nail at the back of my closet where they wouldn’t be seen by my mother. Once they dried, I would take them to the laundry room and bury them at the bottom of the dirty laundry hamper. So I felt as confused as Tiffany. And although I hated to admit it to myself, images of the boys in the shower always produced a stronger orgasm than cupping my hand around a girl’s breast. Buses let students off on the south side of the building. There is a long sidewalk that leads to the front doors of the building. Along the sidewalk are numerous concrete benches where students congregate until the final warning bell rings. Students then make a mad two-minute dash to his or her first period class. As Tiffany made her way toward the building, the reaction of other students was cruel and tormenting. She held her head down and clutched her book bag tightly as she shuffled slowly forward. I watched as my fellow students laughed and muttered vulgar obscenities. In all the years I had known them, I had never witnessed them to be so cruel and vicious. I had been the object of many of their comments since grade school, but they had never uttered such vile and abusive language toward me. Usually, it was harmless comments about my clothing or my religious character. However, what I was witnessing was shameful and disgusting. I couldn’t understand how they could treat someone so cruel. They seemed to delight in mocking and ridiculing Tiffany’s sexuality. Several boys grabbed their crotches and made sexual comments to her as she passed. Everyone would then break out into hearty laughter. However, she trudged forward and appeared to ignore their vile comments. I sensed that it was probably something she was accustomed to doing. And again, I wondered why she would permit herself to be their object of their ridicule. Why had she enrolled in a rural community knowing how other students would react to her presence? She had almost made her way into the building when Darryl Standafer stepped into her path. Darryl is quarterback of our football team. To say he is handsome would be an understatement. Many nights I had rolled over onto my stomach after imagining him chase other boys naked around the shower room with a wet towel. Others gather quickly to watch as he folded his arms and blocked Tiffany’s path. He stood defiantly before her and hissed angrily, “We don’t want your kind around here.” Other students started to mutter their agreement. Tiffany stood before him with her eyes looking downward. I heard her timidly ask, “May I go into the building now?” Darryl’s face reddened with anger and his voice became louder. “Didn’t you hear me, Freak? We don’t want your kind around here.” By now many students had formed a circle around Tiffany and began to taunt her. Again, they began to shout vulgar and cruel words at her. Unable to bear it any longer, I closed my eyes, looked toward heaven and prayed softly, “God give me the strength to do this.” I then pushed several students aside until I was standing face to face before Darryl. His eyes narrowed as he angrily asked, “What do you want Jacob Long?” Everyone burst out laughing when he asked, “Are you here to protect your girlfriend?” I shook my head and replied, “This isn’t right, and you know it.” He asked mockingly, “What isn’t right?” He looked around the students for support. “What isn’t right, Jacob Long?” He then pointed his finger at Tiffany. “What isn’t right is this faggot coming to our school.” All around me were shouts of agreement. Darryl laughed and continued, “Look at him. He’s... he’s.... a friggin’ freak.” I glanced over to see tears welling up in Tiffany’s eyes. She looked like she wanted to run, but she was bolding standing her ground. Our eyes met and she slightly shook her head. In an almost inaudible whisper she said, “You don’t have to do this.” She clutched her book bag tighter. “I can take care of myself.” Again, there was a burst of laughter and more crude comments were made. I reached out and grabbed her arm. She backed away at first, but then she let me grip her tightly. “Come on,” I said as I tried to lead her from the mob of students. Darryl attempted to block us. Our eyes met briefly. My cold stare let him know that I wasn’t going to be intimidated. One of the advantages of never being confrontational was that others didn’t know how I would react if I was challenged. This was the first time I had ever challenged their behavior, and I could tell they didn’t know how to react. Besides, they were probably afraid that if word got back to my father, he would appear on their doorstep interrupting their family dinner. Students began to part from the sidewalk and a path opened for us. As we continued forward, I gripped tightly to Tiffany’s arm. When we were ten feet away, I heard Darryl threaten, “This ain’t over, Jacob Long.” When we entered the building, Tiffany took her hand and removed mine from her arm. Her eyes glistened with tears as she muttered a quick, “Thanks,” and then hurried down the hall towards the office. Behind me, I could hear students entering the building. They were still laughing and discussing what they had just witnessed a minute earlier. My book bag was violently ripped from my shoulder and tossed across the hall. Darryl looked angrily into my eyes and threatened, “Do something about it, Fag.” He pushed me before hurrying off down the hall surrounded by his admiring friends. Dear God, Why do people have to be so cruel? Bobby I don’t usual write in my journal until late at night. However, when I entered my first period class, I had to pull it out of my book bag and jot down this question. Tiffany should never have been treated so inhumanely as she was this morning. I’m still not sure yet how I feel about the whole situation, but at least I didn’t treat her like some mongrel dog. It broke my heart when she looked me in the eye, and I saw tears in hers. My heart literally ached. It was as if I could feel her pain surge through my body. She seemed so small and fragile. For a brief second, I wanted to hold her and tell her that everyone wasn’t so judgmental. It’s ironic that I’m a preacher’s son, yet I felt the most concern for her. I even stood before Darryl and told him to leave her alone. When I got dressed for school this morning, a confrontation with Darryl Standafer was the last thing I would have thought I would experience today. Everyone would have assumed that I would harbor my father’s bigoted and judgmental attitudes. After all, many of them had seen his values instilled in me over the years. However, no one had ever taken the time to sit down and talk to me. I had never opened my heart to anyone, except God in my journal. Only He knew what my heart really contained. I was nothing like my father. In fact, I despised everything he stood for. I would sit and listen to his weekly sermons, and then I would go home at night and tell God how wrong he was. So even though it surprised everyone else when I stood before Darryl and tried to protect Tiffany from his intimidation, it didn’t surprise me. They were wrong for what they were doing, and I couldn’t just stand idly by and watch. “Jacob Long?” I looked up when Mrs. Hawthorne, my English teacher, called out my name. My face reddened as everyone turned to stare at me. I had been lost in thought, and I didn’t know what she had asked. I replied timidly, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Hawthorne. Could repeat the question?” She smiled slightly and asked, “What did you do this summer? If you had been paying attention, you would know that we were discussing how we spent the summer?” My face reddened even deeper as several girls began to snicker. I began to stammer, “I... I... I didn’t do much. I read a lot.” Several more students tried to contain their laughter. They all knew that I lived the life of a hermit. Mrs. Hawthorne responded, “That’s nice, Jacob. What kind of books did you read?” A boy sitting to my right muttered, “The Bible. What else?” Several boys started to giggle. I attempted to ignore them as I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “Just books. Nothing special.” I knew that they would have laughed if I told them most of my reading material had been historical novels. Since taking American History last year, I had developed a keen interest in slavery in the South. I was particularly interested in the inhumane way slaves had been treated. I think Mrs. Hawthorne began to feel guilty for calling on me. She had been my English teacher in the ninth grade, and she understood what I was going through socially. She had many times offered to stay after class if I wanted someone to talk to about my problems. When she first moved to Northdale, she had attended my father’s church. She and her family left several weeks later. I don’t think she agreed with his sermons. She’s also the only person who knows I want to be called Bobby, but she only calls me that when we are alone. One day she gave us a creative writing assignment in which we were to describe what one thing we would change about ourselves if we had the chance. Earlier that morning, I had a big fight with my father. I was still upset when I wrote that I hated my name, Jacob. I rambled on about how it stereotyped me as a preacher’s son. Other students would stress my name to ridicule me. In my essay, I confessed how I wanted my name to be something simpler, like Bobby. Since then, when no one is around, she’ll call me Bobby. I think she’s testing me to see if I really want to change my name. Anyway, my father and I had gotten into a serious confrontation during breakfast. I was growing up, and like most teens, I felt that I should begin to exert some control over my life. I was too big to switch then, or I’m quite certain he would have beaten me to death for my insolence. It was after Christmas, and I was starting back to school in the New Year. My Aunt Joyce, my mother’s oldest sister, had spent the holidays with us. She was a widow from Milwaukee. My Uncle Ted had died before I was born, so I never met him. However, I knew all about him because she talked incessantly about their lives together. Anyway, the day before Christmas, she took me to the mall. We went inside a Sears store, and she told me to pick out a shirt that I liked for a Christmas present. I started to pick out a plain white cotton shirt, but she stopped me. She took my hand and led me over to a rack with colorful shirts. She took several off the rack and held them up to my chest. “Your eyes are so pretty and blue,” she said with a smile. “We should find a shirt to match them.” After holding several up to me, she finally decided what she considered the perfect color. I tried to convince her that my father would never let me wear anything but white, but she wouldn’t listen. “He still thinks we live in the fifties,” she snorted. “He won’t let me wear it,” I lamented as I left the store carrying the bag in my hand. I hid the shirt from my parents during Christmas. I was surprised when my aunt lied to my mother and told her she had given me cash for Christmas. I guess she felt guilty, because before she left, she did slip me a twenty-dollar bill. When I dressed to go to school, I pulled the shirt from the bottom of my dresser drawer and put it on. It really was a nice shirt. It was like the ones other boys wore when they wanted to dress up to impress a girl. The label read Tommy Hilfiger, but that didn’t mean anything to me. I just knew it was expensive. It was a pale blue with colorful stripes. When I looked closely in the mirror, it did match the color of my eyes. When I furtively entered the kitchen and sat down, my father glanced over the top of the newspaper at me and asked angrily, “What do you have on, Boy?” I looked down at the table and responded meekly, “A shirt, Sir.” I jumped when he slapped his hand on the table, “Go upstairs and take it off.” He shouted louder, “Now!” I could feel my body trembling inside. I’m sure he noticed how scared I was. I jumped again when he hit his fist on the table. “Well? Did you hear me?” “Yes, Sir,” I managed to squeak out. I then looked up into his eyes and said valiantly, “I like this shirt, Father. Aunt Joyce gave it to me for Christmas.” He huffed and said, “Your Aunt Joyce is a sinful old fool.” My mother didn’t say a word as she poured more coffee into his favorite mug. Tears started to well up inside my eyes, but I knew better than to cry in front of him. “Please, Father,” I begged. “Please permit me to wear this shirt. All the other boys wear them.” He stood and held out his hand. “Jacob,” he insisted. “Take that shirt off.” My mother stepped in front of me and began to unbutton the shirt. I stepped back and continued to unbutton it. I removed it and threw it in his outstretched hand. His eyes narrowed in anger as he scanned my bare chest. I think it surprised him that my body was muscular. Then, I was almost six feet tall, and my body was becoming well- formed. I had secretly been doing sit-ups and push-ups in my room late at night. Looking back, I think I was trying to rid my body of the sexual tension I was beginning to feel. I would often work out so intensively that I would crawl into bed when I finished and go fast to sleep. Without saying a word, he walked over to the fireplace and tossed the shirt into it. He then returned to the kitchen, got a book of matches, returned to the fireplace and set the shirt on fire. He watched it burn for a minute before returning to the kitchen. I could hardly contain my anger, but I did. His look challenged me to say something. He then sat back at the table, took a sip of coffee, opened his newspaper and began reading. I wanted to cry out, “I hate you!” However, common sense overcame my teenage adolescence. I stormed out of the kitchen, returned to my bedroom and put on a clean, crisp white shirt. As I buttoned it up, I swore to myself that I would leave as soon as I graduated from high school. And the first thing I would do... change my name to Bobby. After that, I did start signing my letters to God with my new name. I just hope He knows it’s me. School is school. It never changes. I don’t think it has since the Pilgrims educated their children. The only difference is the Bible isn’t taught in school anymore. I’m really glad for that. I get enough of it at home and at Sunday worship services. Since I do nothing but study when I get home, school comes rather easily for me. Other students resent me for that. I’ve had teachers who grade on the bell curve. More than one has announced that I ruin the curve. That hasn’t helped my social standing in school. My morning classes dragged on infinitely. By the end of fourth period, I felt like leaving. If I had, though, the office would immediately call my father because they would have feared that something terrible had happened to me since I never missed any classes. Even though I’m too big to whip, I’m sure he would think of some appropriate punishment for my sinful transgression. Once in the eighth grade, he made me copy the entire Book of Psalms. All I did then was fail to turn in an assignment I had forgotten to complete. The teacher called him that night to inform him of my ‘deviant behavior,’ as he called it. She was more concerned that I was having trouble with the assignment, and she offered to tutor me after school. He was offended that his child needed special assistance, and he rudely dismissed her offer. I didn’t escape his wrath as easily. It took me almost a week to finish his punishment. Lunch follows fourth period. I eat the garbage they dish out to us. In junior high school, mother packed my lunch, but I got tired of eating a bologna and cheese sandwich each day. My father felt that after a big breakfast she served each morning, I could wait until dinner to eat again. He viewed the sandwich as just a snack. The cafeteria was buzzing with excitement when I entered. Since it was the first day back, students were catching up on the latest gossip. I couldn’t help but hear Tiffany’s name mentioned several times as I made my way to the lunch line. I had to wait over five minutes before I reached the serving line. Two girls in my class talked incessantly about Tiffany. They knew I was listening, but they didn’t seem to care. “Did you see him yet?” Marilyn asked Jenna. “You mean that freak show, Tiffany?” They hugged each other and began to laugh. “I don’t get it,” said Marilyn. “Why would a guy want to be a girl?” Jenna asked, “Do you think he’s done it yet?” Marilyn gave her a puzzled look and asked, “Done what?” “You know,” giggled Jenna as she pretended to cut the air with a pair of scissors. “Had his dick cut off?” “Oh, my God,” squealed Marilyn. “I didn’t even think of that.” They continued to giggle and talk about Tiffany. Each comment became more outrageous. I considered leaving the line, but I was hungry. I should have, though. The hamburger was undercooked, and the French fries were cold. I headed for the table in a far corner where I had been sitting alone for the past two years. However, a group of freshman were sitting there. They appeared afraid, and I guess they thought that table was good for not gaining the attention of other students. I shrugged my shoulders, looked around and headed to another. Cafeteria tables are designed for six students, and most were full. However, I noticed a table where only one student was seated, Catherine Downing. In previous years, students had nicknamed her Acne Cathy. Pubescence, I guess, hit her with a vengeance. For about four years her face was covered with red, swollen zits. I always felt sorry for her, and I attempted to talk to her whenever I could. However, many years of teasing had made her timid and quiet. That was something I could relate to. Now that she was older, she had outgrown the hideous complexion problems of the past. That didn’t, however, didn’t change her social standing. When I sat down, she looked up from her laptop computer and smiled slightly. I nodded, opened my hamburger and took a bite. I looked over at a table where the students had burst out into uproarious laughter. A boy had stood and cupped his hands over his breasts. I assumed they were probably making fun of Tiffany. Cathy looked over quickly, then looked at me, frowned and muttered, “Fucking morons. They need to grow up.” I had just taken a sip of my coke, and I immediately started to choke. Cathy was the last person I would expected to respond like she did to our class mates antics. For years, she had been the target of their immature behavior. I had never seen her respond to their intimidations. I couldn’t contain my laughter. I asked, “What did you say?” She closed her laptop and moved to the seat directly across from me. A sullen look appeared on her face as she asked me, “Don’t you get tired of it, Jacob?” “Get tired of what?” I asked. She looked over at the adjacent table as the students once again burst out into laughter. “Their bullshit,” she replied as she shook her head. I shrugged my shoulders and responded, “Yeah, I guess.” “Oh, come on, Jacob,” she said as she studied my face. “Me and you. We’ve been putting up with it since grade school. Don’t you get sick of them sometimes?” I laughed and replied, “I get sick of them all the time.” A slight smile formed in the corner of her mouth. It was the first time I had really noticed Cathy, other than the zits that had previously adorned her face. She had grown into a pretty woman. She was slightly overweight, and that is probably why boys never considered asking her out for a date. Besides, whoever did, would be forever labeled the guy who took Acne Cathy out to a movie. Her facial features, however, were pretty. Years of medicated creams had smoothened her complexion. She had large brown eyes that seemed to dance when she spoke. It seemed funny that I had never taken the time to notice before. We both turned when we heard laughter coming from another table. Five students were looking at us and giggling. Cathy looked at me and sighed. “I guess they’ll have us boyfriend and girlfriend by the end of the day.” She started to get up and move to the seat where she had been sitting. “No, don’t,” I pleaded. “Please sit back down.” She looked worried as she sat and asked, “You sure?” I smiled and replied, “They’ve been talking about us for years. What’s a little more gossip?” “Yeah,” she giggled. “Who gives a shit what they say.” I laughed, “Yeah. Who gives...” My face began to redden. “Who really cares.” Cathy smiled and asked, “You can’t say it, can you?” “Say what?” “Shit,” she giggled. “You really can’t do it.” “Sure, I can,” I insisted. “I just don’t think it’s necessary, is all.” Cathy’s smile faded. “It must be awful being a preacher’s son.” I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “I manage.” Cathy smiled warmly. “I guess you have to.” We ate in silence for a moment when suddenly I mumbled, “Shit.” Cathy’s eyes widened and she started to giggle. “No, you didn’t!” I looked around to make sure no one was listening. Then I leaned toward her and said softly, “Shit, shit, shit.” She laughed again and asked, “It feels good, doesn’t it?” I looked worriedly at her and replied, “I hope God doesn’t strike me dead.” Cathy replied, “Jacob. We’ve been dead a long time.” I gave her a puzzled look. “What’s that supposed to mean?” She sat back and looked around the cafeteria. “Look at us,” she said. “We’re sitting here in a crowded cafeteria with hundreds of other kids, and do you think anyone really cares?” I shrugged my shoulders and responded sadly, “Probably not.” She looked around the cafeteria again. “All they care about,” she continued, “is who they can talk about next.” She leaned closer and asked, “Have you seen that new person who enrolled in school?” “You mean Tiffany?” I asked. She remarked, “I thought he was a guy?” “I don’t know,” I replied. “She rode my bus this morning, and everyone gave her a really hard time.” She asked, “Did you?” “Of course not,” I responded with indignation. “I would never be cruel to anyone.” She smiled softly and said, “Same old Jacob. You’ll never change. Will you?” Before I had a chance to reply, the students at the adjacent table broke out in laughter once again. A guy pretended to pull out his genitals and cut them off with a knife.” “Assholes,” muttered Tiffany angrily. “Yeah,” I said. “Assholes.” We looked at each other, and for the first time began laughing.
  6. 14 points
    Cards on the Table Chapter 56 “Those guys are freaking hilarious!” Bodie exclaimed once they were back in their room. “Did you see Uncle Kendall’s face? He likes to take my temperature. Oh, man, I bet Uncle Mike is in big trouble right now.” Both boys collapsed on the bed, side by side, in uncontrollable fits of laughter. It took a few minutes, but they eventually lapsed into silence. “Your family is really cool, Nate. I feel so comfortable here. It’s weird, being gay and having people other than Mom and Dad think nothing of it.” He turned his head and smiled at his boyfriend, but there was seriousness behind his statement. “Yeah, I know it’s not going to be like this everywhere, even when we’re grown up. Uncle Kendall says there will probably always be those who don’t accept us. My grandparents are pretty special, eh?” “They’re the best. You’re lucky to have them.” “We are lucky to have them. They’re your grams and gramps too now.” Bodie grinned. “Yeah, it’s incredible how they’ve welcomed me. They don’t even really know me, yet they’ve made me part of the family.” “It’s easy to know you.” Nate turned on his side to face the blond boy. Bodie did the same. “What does that mean?” “It means anyone can see what an amazing person you are. I knew it in a couple of minutes… not even that long. I knew it when I first saw you smile. Everyone likes you right away.” “Thanks for saying that, but it sure doesn’t apply to the guys I grew up with.” “Yes it does. They liked you, but now they’re jerks who have to figure out that they are jerks, and realize you’re still the same person. It’s their loss if they don’t come around.” “Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. I have you, and that’s more important to me than some fair-weather, small-minded ex-friends.” “Yes, you do have me, but don’t give up on your buddies forever. Look at Josh. He was a first-class asshole. Peer pressure makes us do stupid things. Uncle Kendall told me that… so did Uncle Mike, and I believe them now.” “I understand it was a shock to them, but there’s been plenty of time to get over it. I think if anyone will ever come around, it would be Evan. Dan and Kyle, I’m not so sure.” Bodie looked pensive, and Nate could see how much it still did matter. Maybe he’d be able to help in some way, once he started at the same school. “Thanks for last night.” Bodie chuckled. “You’re thanking me for getting into your bed and holding you? Yeah, it was a big sacrifice.” He leaned in and kissed the tip of his boyfriend’s nose. Nate giggled. “I was being serious.” “So was I.” “Okay, but anyway, thank you for making me feel safe. It felt nice… the way you held me all night.” “It was nice to be able to hold my gorgeous boyfriend. It was a dream come true for me.” “For me too. I’m going to miss that.” “Hey, I’m here tonight too.” “I know, but I may not have a nightmare tonight?” “Maybe I will then, and you can hold me?” The lifting of his eyebrows made Nate giggle. “You realize my uncles checked on us early this morning?” “They did?” “Yeah… they were smiling when they saw us, so it was cool.” Bodie looked relieved, and the temporary concern left his face. “Good. I wouldn’t want them to think badly of me.” “One thing’s for sure, Bode. They think you’re awesome too.” “Too?” “Well yeah. I’m not your only fan,” he said as he stared into impossibly blue eyes. Bodie’s response was to bypass the nose this time, and zero in on his lips. Nate couldn’t help but think kisses didn’t get any better than the one they were sharing as he felt the light caress of Bodie’s tongue against his own. Pulling back slowly, he was pretty sure it was love looking back at him, and he experienced an overwhelming rush of emotion. Saved by the bell. Nate’s email alert went off. “That might be Josh,” he stammered, not able to look away from such devotion. For sure, Josh had never looked at him in such a way. Bodie gave him a tender smile. “You should check. It might be important.” “Yeah, okay.” Nate swung around and stood up, keeping his back to Bodie as he went to his desk. Glancing over as he sat down, he saw that same smile still gracing the handsome face, and he returned it. “Yeah, it’s from Josh. Come read it with me.” “Hey Natey. I did it! I took your advice and told my mom. She’s cool. She said she already figured it out, and guess what- she didn’t like Sarah either lol. We were up really late, and it’s early, but I can’t sleep. I hope you don’t mind that we talked about you some- she said she knew about both of us- honest. We’re gonna move, Nate! She’s going to call all the schools and see which ones have the best policies for guys like me, gay, I mean, and we’re gonna move into that district. I’m prolly going to have to finish the year here, but maybe not. I just want away from all these people, and I don’t give a rat’s ass about playing hockey. I’m tired of being around haters, and all the shit that comes out of their mouths. When anyone says anything about you, I just want to punch them. Thanks for sticking with me, Natey n don’t worry- I’m not gonna tell anyone around here. They’d treat me even worse than they treated you. When I talked to my mom she told me some stuff about my dad, and it makes me not want to live with him. She was trying to protect me from him- you know what she’s like, and ur right- I don’t want to leave her. I checked and he lives far from you anyway so it would be really hard to hang out. I don’t feel so alone now, cuz she’s got my back, and it’s nice to know I can visit your dad if I need to talk to someone else. He’s cool too, Natey, and so is your mom. It’s really weird to see a for-sale sign on your house, though. I’m gonna try and sleep some more- I think I can now- being able to talk to you helps me a lot. Love you man. J.” Nate stared at the screen and breathed an audible sigh of relief. Bodie had ended up behind Nate with his hands resting lightly on his shoulders. “I’m so happy he told his mom,” Nate managed to say before his voice broke, and he was forced to swipe at his eyes. “You were worried, huh?” Nate took a moment to answer. “Josh is the kind of guy who needs someone to look after him. Now he has his mother, and even my dad, to keep an eye on him. He’ll do a lot better if he goes to a high school in the city. I hope it happens soon because if he does get centered out, he might panic. His mom is pretty smart. She’ll know what to do to make it easier for him. Yeah, I was worried.” “He has them, but he has you too. Notice how after he sent this, he felt like he could sleep? That means a lot, Nate. You don’t need to be right next door to be his friend.” Nate blew his nose and wiped his face before standing up and turning around. “Can I have a hug?” “Anytime.” Bodie wrapped him in his arms, and Nate felt peace. Josh was going to be fine. And Bodie was right that he could be his friend no matter how far apart they lived. “Thank you.” “No problem. You can always count on me… always. Are you going to answer him, because Gramps will be calling up to us soon?” “Oh yeah, right. Skating. Okay, I’ll answer him now, so it’ll be there when he wakes up, if he did get back to sleep.” “Hey, J. That’s great news! Edmonton is a cool city, and it should be a lot better in one of those bigger schools. Our school was okay if you’re not different, but when those guys smell blood, they’re assholes, and everyone knows everyone, and nobody minds their own business. I knew your mom would be cool and it’s nice you think that way about my dad. Go talk to him, especially if someone does give you a hard time. He meant what he said. You could talk to my mom too, if you want. Tell your mom I said she rocks for doing this, and I don’t mind you and her talking about me. I don’t have to hide anymore, but you do, for a little while longer, and I’m glad you realize that. Thanks for getting back to me right away. I was worried about you, Josh, but I’m not so much now. Stay safe. Going skating again with my gramps. Talk to you soon. Love you too, man. Nate. PS… I had an awesome birthday!” He looked at Bodie when he was done. “Does it bother you?” “Does what bother me?” “The way I signed off?” “What? No. I understand. He came before me. I know you can’t just stop how you feel about someone.” “You think I love, love Josh?” “No… I don’t know. Maybe you do a little, but I get it, and I trust you… like I said yesterday… I know what we have.” Gone was the serene smile, replaced by a nervous fidget of his fingers. “I don’t. At least, not like you might think.” Nate sighed. “I talked to Uncle Mike about it when you were getting your hand looked at. Josh was my best friend, and I cared about him a lot. But meeting you made me realize it was a crush. Do you believe me?” A blazing smile appeared on Bodie’s face. “I will always believe anything you tell me. I trust you. So you’re saying Josh wasn’t your first love?” “Yup. That’s what I’m saying. He was my first crush… if you don’t count Uncle Kendall, when I was a kid.” “Sooo… meeting me made you realize that?” He was teasing now, and Nate played along despite thinking he might have said too much. “Are you going to repeat everything I say?” Bodie laughed. “You’re way too sharp for me.” “I can tell when someone’s trying to get me to say something, and you, buster, will have to wait. I admit nothing.” “Fair enough.” Bodie changed the subject but there was a twinkle in his eye Nate was painfully aware of. “We should grab our skates and stuff and head down.” “Good idea. That way, Gramps won’t be able to give us the gears.” They gathered up everything they would need and headed out of the room. “Nate?” “Yeah?” “Me too.” Nate almost tripped over his own feet before regaining his balance. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he muttered. Bodie laughed aloud, and Nate knew it was because he was blushing furiously. Despite the heat in his face, he smiled as he led the blond boy out of their room. Michael and Kendall said their goodbyes to Chet and Arron outside of Denny’s, and began heading to the truck. “Do you want to drive?” “Sure. It’s not often you let me drive Beauty.” “That’s because I don’t want to spoil your Chev for you.” Michael groaned. “No worries there. My truck rocks.” “If you say so.” Kendall felt Michael’s eyes on him. “What’s wrong?” Kendall caught the concern on Michael’s face and knew he’d been seen through. “I got a text while you were in the washroom.” He tried not to sigh but one slipped out. “From who?” “Candy.” “And?” “She wants to see us. She wants to discuss our deal.” Michael’s eyes widened for a second, and his groan this time was pure frustration. “I fucking knew it. God damn it! I fucking knew it.” “Maybe we’re jumping to conclusions here. I can’t see her trying for more money. She has too much to lose.” Kendall had been wracking his brain and all he could come up with was that Candy wanted to keep their son. Or have access to him after he was born. The sick feeling in his stomach was building at a rapid rate now that it was just the two of them. The irony didn’t escape him that after hearing about Chet and Arron’s future baby, they could be facing the possibility of losing theirs. “Nothing is ever good where that woman is concerned. She’s like a snake hiding in the grass, waiting to strike.” “Michael? What if she’s decided to keep the baby? Candy has all these pregnancy hormones running through her, and she’s seen him on the ultrasound. It makes sense a mother might change her mind. We fell in love with him… maybe she has too?” As hard as he tried, he couldn’t keep the worry from escalating, and he felt tears form. “Babe, whatever it is, we’ll deal with it. We’ll fight her with everything we’ve got because he’s our son, and she’s not fit to be a parent.” Michael slid over on the bench seat and pulled Kendall close. The last thing Kendall wanted to do was fall apart, but the fear of losing their child after all they’d gone through, was overwhelming. “Candy’s changed. I know she has. It’s possible she could win, if there is a fight, because of being his mother.” “I don’t believe she’s changed that much.” “I’ve spent more time with her. She’s not as hard.” “Did you text her back?’ “No, of course not. I wanted to talk to you first. I’m worried.” “I know you are. Me too. Whatever it is, it won’t be good. When did she want to talk?” “As soon as possible.” “Are you ready?” “Yes.” He let up on his embrace. “Okay, text her back and tell her we’re on our way. We’ll find out what this is all about, and go from there.” Kendall looked at his other half, drawing strength from him, and felt his determination blossom. Whatever happened, they weren’t giving up without a battle. He gave Michael a smile after he sent Candy the message. “Thanks, Sunshine.” “We’re always a team, Babe, and we have something worth fighting for.” Riding up the elevator, Kendall cautioned Michael to not get riled until they had all the information. Michael nodded. “I think I’ve learned my lesson with her, and I’ll really try, but my brain goes out the window when that bitch is near me. Pregnant woman or not, we had a deal.” “I know it’s tough. It won’t be easy for me either.” The elevator door opened and conversation ended. Cady’s door opened just as they arrived. “Come in.” She sounded subdued to Kendall, and looked worn out. “Thanks for showing up right away. There’s something I need to talk to you about.” “We’re not changing the deal, Candy.” Michael stood just inside the doorway, glowering. “Oh, Michael, settle down, and move so I can close the damn door. Don’t be jumping down my throat just yet. Go into the living room and sit down. I’ll be there in a minute, after I pee for the tenth time today. Go! Sit!” Despite his agitation, that command, and Kendall’s arm got him moving toward the couch. They watched her head down the hallway. “I’m sorry. I knew I wouldn’t last long, but we shouldn’t have to go through this crap again.” “It’s okay. I don’t blame you,” he responded with a weak smile. He’d tried, in that short span of time, to read this woman who’d played with them so maliciously in the past. “Something’s bothering her, but she doesn’t have her shields up, so let’s give her a chance to say what’s on her mind, and hope for the best. I don’t sense the ‘bitch’ in her, at least not yet.” “If that wasn’t ‘bitch’ I don’t know what is. You give her a lot more credit than I do. Keep hold of my hand and I’ll do my best, okay? I’m pretty freaked out,” Michael whispered. “I hear you, and you’re not alone.” Their heard the sound of a distant toilet flushing, and with hands gripped tightly, they sat and waited for the other shoe to drop. “Can I get you anything to drink?” Candy asked, playing the polite hostess as she re-entered the room. She was looking more pregnant than the last time Kendall had seen her. “No, thank you,” Kendall answered for both of them, and matched her polite tone. “Are you feeling okay? Is everything okay with our son?” Candy smiled, and Kendall was sure it was at his pointed reference. “Yes, I’m fine and he’s fine. Thank you for asking.” The grip on Kendall’s hand increased, and he knew Michael was brimming with impatience. “So, you said there was an issue, something to do with our agreement?” “There has been some stuff going on in the last couple of days,” she said thoughtfully, as if she was struggling with something. Kendall had trouble keeping a lid on his fear, and apparently it showed on his face. “Oh, for God’s sake. Relax, you two. You look like you’re headed for the gallows. Michael, I can tell right now you’re thinking the worst of me… and I can’t say as I blame you, but let me get this out.” She sighed, and Kendall didn’t know what to think. “I have to do something, and it’s hard for me. The bottom line is I owe you guys, and it’s not been my nature to admit it.” Now Kendall was really confused, and he looked at Michael. He might have laughed in different circumstances, at the mixed expression on his face. It was a look he’d never seen before. For both their sake's, he needed something clarified right away. “Have you changed your mind about custody?” Her look was contemplative as she formed her answer. “I’ve been going back and forth, and doing a lot of thinking.” She took a deep breath. “I told Lionel about the baby, and….” Kendall was stunned. Michael exploded off the couch before Kendall could stop him. “What the hell would you do that for? You wanted to keep this all secret. What are you telling us here? Just spit it out so we can get ready for a fight. We are not letting you take our son away from us!” “Ace. Please sit down and let her talk. Please.” Kendall saw a kind of amusement on Candy’s face, yet she didn’t look mean. “Candy, what exactly are you saying?” “I need to tell you the whole thing, so you understand, but I’m not going to fight you for custody… I’ve thought about it… a lot, but I’ve decided I’m going to do what’s best for this baby, and that is you two being his parents.” Kendall put his head down, the release of tension making him dizzy, and felt Michael’s arms close around him. He experienced a shudder before raising his head. “You know you scared the hell out of us?” “Yeah, sorry. I told you to relax, but I guess you didn’t get the message. I’ve been going through a lot lately, and frankly, I’m really tired. This isn’t about that part of the agreement.” Michael let go of Kendall and leaned forward. “What part of the deal is this about?” “God, Michael. There you go again. I don’t want more money, either. Can I just please tell you what this is about before you go flying off the handle again?” She still didn’t sound or look mean… and Kendall could see the exhaustion in her. Michael looked somewhat contrite. “Sorry about yelling earlier,” he murmured. “It’s fine. You just showed me I made the right decision. It’s what I would have expected, actually.” She gave them a little smile and both men sat further back on the couch, their fingers entwined once more, in a much better state of mind. Now, they were curious. “Why was there even a decision to be made?” Kendall questioned. “Things changed, and I had a choice all of a sudden. Look, Lionel wanted us to meet up for ten days in March, when he had R and R. He wanted to fly me over.” She looked at them both, and they immediately understood the dilemma of that request. “Anyway, I made up this lie about having to go for a mandatory training course for work that would be good experience for me, and I got away with it.” “Why do you look like that wasn’t a good thing? Did Lionel find out about the lie?” Kendall was coaxing. “Well, he did, but only because I told him. After succeeding in convincing him, I felt guilty, and to be honest, it surprised me how bad it felt. It was just so easy to lie,” she mused, looking disgusted. “I really love him… I always have, and it didn’t feel good… starting off like that with him. I look at you guys, and Janine and Lanny, and I want to have that with Lionel. He’s a good man, and he loves me.” Kendall was a little taken aback when her eyes watered. “I screwed up. So many times I’ve screwed up. I’ve been acting like a spoiled bitch for so long….” She went dead quiet, and Kendall watched her struggle with her emotions. “So, what happened when you told him?” Coming out of her reverie, she responded. “He listened, and I told him most of it, but I said it was an accidental pregnancy. I was too ashamed to tell him all of it. I know that’s wrong, after saying how I didn’t want to lie, but I just couldn’t… because it’s so horrible, what I did.” Tears again, and Kendall felt more than a modicum of sympathy. “Anyway, he waited until I was finished talking, and then he said he had to go, and hung up. That was last night. I spent all night thinking. I figured there was a good chance that was the last conversation we’d have, and it hurt so much, but I knew it was right to tell him. He deserved the truth, or at least most of it.” “And you haven’t heard from him since?” “Yes, I did.” Her face lit up, and Kendall watched her become animated. “He called me at five this morning. We talked for almost three hours, and the first thing he said was that he loved me; then he asked me what I wanted… he meant about everything. What I wanted to do about the baby, and the deal with you guys, and about him and I, and our plans. “I told him I wanted us to keep things the same, and do our missionary work together, that it was important to me too. When we talked about the baby, he said we could make it work if I wanted to keep him.” She took a minute to blow her nose while Kendall locked eyes with Michael, both realizing how close they’d been to having things turn out differently. “So we talked for a long time about possibilities, and about you two. I told him I wasn’t ready for a baby, and that it already felt like it was your baby and not mine. I thought he might be disappointed in me, but he wasn’t, and agreed it was the right decision to make. He also said he was proud of me for having the courage to stick to our faith, and not terminate the pregnancy. He pointed out five years of missionary work with a little one would have been a dangerous undertaking, with some of the places we’ll be going, and we’d have likely been forced to postpone it for the baby’s first year. Lionel also said it sounded like you two were the right choice to raise the baby because you are obviously ready. He’s not homophobic at all, and asked a lot of questions regarding your situation. I had nothing bad to say about either one of you because I have no doubts about you being good parents.” She blew her nose again, and Kendall, while riveted, wondered at her emotional state. Was part of it the pregnancy? He wanted to give her a hug, but this was still Candy. “I think you’re doing the right thing, not just for us and our son, but for you and Lionel as well. And he’s right about us being ready. We’re more than ready. What about your family?” “Like I said, I have no concerns about that,” she said with real conviction. “My family is difficult, and that’s putting it mildly. Lionel knows them well. My dad loves him, and he’s really happy we’re back together. We both think it’s best to keep this between us, and quite frankly, I’m relieved we’re on the same page. There’s only one thing we’re not comfortable with, and that’s the money part of the deal. Lionel feels it’s wrong to accept money for bringing one of God’s creations into the world, and I agree. I was so angry at you, Michael, and even you for a while, Kendall, but all that rage has gone. Now, I can see how misguided it was, what I did. It amounted to selling this child. You’ve fixed up my car, but I can live with that because it was for the safety of the baby, and you can pay for the Lamaze classes if that’s okay, because that’s $300 I don’t have, but I don’t want any kind of payment. I can’t call myself a Christian, and expect or accept such a thing from you.” “Wow,” Michael uttered, and then flushed. “Sorry, but this is not what I was expecting. To be honest, I expected the worst… for you to be, you know… you.” “That’s fair. I deserve that. It’s okay, Michael, and I’m sorry for what I did. I truly am. I did really care about you, and when you dumped me, I went a little crazy. I’d convinced myself it was in your best interest too, for me to get pregnant, and that was so warped. It was such a terrible idea, and an awful thing to do to you. And Kendall, thank you for making me look at myself differently. I needed… need to change, and you let me see that. That day you spent with me in the hospital made me start looking in the mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw. Lionel and I have a real chance, now that I have nothing more to hide from him. He makes me want to be a better person.” Her little blush made Kendall smile. “So can we draw up a new agreement that’s just about giving you two full custody, and get rid of the money part? I would like it done right away, because I want to tell Lionel that it’s been taken care of when he calls tomorrow night. It’s the one thing he was most disappointed in… he never said it, but I could tell.” Candy looked like a child herself, sitting there, and Kendall perceived how alone she was feeling. That was probably a good thing. She’d come a long way, but it was early days. Her need to please Lionel, though, said much to him. “Of course,” Kendall responded. “I’ll call Stuart first thing in the morning. It shouldn’t take long to do. His office is very efficient. Do you want me to let you know when the new one is ready to sign?” “Yes, please.” She smiled at both men. “I’m not used to apologizing, you know? It wasn’t that bad at all.” Her giggle was strange to hear at first, but both men smiled. It appeared Candy was genuinely trying to change. “You look happy, Candy.” “I am, for the first time in a long time. I really believe Lionel and I are soulmates, just like you and Michael are.” She started to say more, stopped, and then continued. “I’m sorry for the homophobic remarks I made. They were uncalled for. I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of months. Just seeing how united you guys are and how much you love one another... and how fiercely you fought for this child... has taught me how wrong my beliefs were. And what Lanny did… it was all my fault. I was despicable. I hope he’ll forgive me one day.” Again, she hesitated. “I hope you never tell this child what his mother did. I wouldn’t like to think he might grow up to hate me.” “We would never say anything to denigrate you or put you in a bad light,” Kendall assured her. “What about contact? Will you want to have any contact or do we leave that part the same?” Candy sighed. “Leave it the same… no visitation. It has to be a complete break, and I have to know that in my heart, but if you ever think he needs to see me when he’s older, I would want you to contact me, okay?” “Okay. Lionel sounds like a heck of a guy.” Kendall squeezed Michael’s hand and held tight. He wasn’t sure why his heart was hammering, but it was. “He is. I’m lucky he wants anything to do with me after the way I’ve treated him in the past. It’s why I want to do the missionary work with him. I want to show him I’m not that petulant little girl who throws temper tantrums anymore… that I’ve grown since I moved down here. I want to help people for a change, and show God my heart is in the place he wants it to be.” Michael cleared his throat. “Sorry. Here I am talking to you guys like we’re friends. You’ve heard the important part. Sorry to take up some of your weekend, and sorry that I scared you.” “Candy. Relax,” Kendall said teasingly. “And stop saying ‘sorry’ to us. Yeah, we may not be best friends, but we’re happy for you. I knew there was a decent person in there, and I think Lionel is lucky to have found her. Right, Michael?” “Right.” He blew out some air and stood up. “There’s been a lot of water under the bridge, and some pretty strong feelings, but I’m going to trust that you feel remorse, and maybe now we can be friends. You’re the mother of our son, so I would like all the hard feelings to go away, and I’m willing to move on from all this. I accept your apology. Can I have a hug before we go?” Candy sat for a minute, looking up at Michael, and Kendall watched her eyes start to shimmer. “Thank you, Michael. I would love one.” After an embrace that made Kendall happy, she turned to him next. “Do I get one from you, Saint Kendall?” she asked while she held her arms out. He obliged, giving her a gentle hug. “So we’re still on for Lamaze classes?” “Yup. I marked it on my calendar. Two six hour days, the second weekend in March, right?” “Six and a half hour days, but yeah, the second weekend.” “I’ll be there. Now, you should get some rest. You’re shaking a little bit.” “I will. Michael, I only need one birthing coach, but maybe you could be in the delivery room for the actual birth, if you want?” Michael looked from Candy to Kendall, and back again. “Thanks. I think that would be awesome, if it doesn’t freak me out too much. Yeah, I would like that.” He grinned at Kendall, and Kendall laughed. This was the way it should be. “You can drive again, Michael.” They were at the truck and Kendall grabbed the snow brush from behind the back seat to clear a light dusting that fell when they were inside. When he finally got in the running truck, Michael was sitting quietly, staring ahead. “Are you okay?” “What? Yeah. I was just thinking. That was weird, huh?” “Yeah, it was, but I’m really not as surprised as I thought I’d be. People do change. Just look at my dad, and even Lanny.” “I was thinking that too. You know what means the most to me?” “What?” “I thought there was something seriously lacking in that woman, and I worried just a little that our son could take after her. She looked different to me today… like a little girl who lost her way, don’t you think? Not the evil creature I saw her as.” “She was messed up, but never evil. I saw that lonely little girl today too. Families can fuck you up sometimes, and you need to get away from them before you can repair the damage. Maybe that’s what has happened here?” “Maybe. I like that I don’t feel hatred anymore.” “Good. I was proud of you today.” “You were?” “Your hug meant a lot to her.” “I know. I could feel it. Should we invite her to the wedding?” “Yes.” Kendall beamed at Michael as he backed the truck out of its space and headed for the exit. Dealing with Candy had always been like being in the twilight zone, never knowing for sure what to expect, but this was a different kind of twilight zone, with Michael wanting to invite her to their wedding. Kendall started laughing. “What’s so funny?” “I’m picturing you hugging Candy. Never thought I see that.” Michael chuckled. “Me, neither. You realize she gave us a good start on the little guy’s college fund?” “I was thinking the same thing. Hey, where are you going?” “What do you mean? I’m taking highway 48 to Mom and Dad’s. Oh, do you need something from our place?” “No, I don’t… but I thought you wanted to make love? We could stay at the apartment tonight.” Michael sputtered. “Are you serious? What about the kid?” “He has Bodie to watch over him tonight, unless you think we need to be there?” Kendall teased. “Fuck no! We’re staying at the apartment… and no changing your mind now.” He was grinning from ear to ear. “I don’t plan to.” He grabbed Michael’s hand when it was held out to him. “Good. So whose turn is it?” “Does it matter?” “Not a bit, Babe. Maybe we could both have a turn?” Kendall laughed. “We’ll see, horn dog.” “Yes, we will. We’ll have the whole night to ourselves.” “Things change when you have kids.” “Yeah, they sure do. Thank God for sleepovers.” Kendall laughed. “Yeah, but we’re the ones on a sleepover.” “Whatever works. Do we need to call the little bugger and get his permission?” Kendall laughed again. “Well, we wouldn’t want him to worry, would we?” Michael chuckled. “When kids have their favorite toy to play with, they forget all about the parents. He and Bodie are probably making goo-goo eyes at one another right now.” He looked over at a grinning Kendall. “Babe, are you making goo-goo eyes at me?” “Uh huh.”
  7. 9 points
    Saturday, 18 January 2014 “It’s hard to be a saint in the city,” mumbled CJ, as he tried to extricate himself from Chipper. The two had moved around during their sleep, ending up in their current position. He found himself with one arm under his friend’s head, the other one draped across his chest. His morning erection, covered by his boxer shorts, rested comfortably against the other boy’s backside. “What?” mumbled Chipper, obviously not fully awake. He pushed back against the hardness nestled against him, grabbing CJ’s arm at the same time. “I said, I’m no saint. If you don’t let me get up and go pee, I’ll yank your underwear down, and find something else to do with my boner.” “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” replied Chipper, removing his hand from atop CJ’s arm. “Maybe later. I gotta go pee myself.” “You better be careful, buddy. You keep using lines like maybe later, I’m gonna start thinking you want me to get up inside you.” “You don’t scare me. How hard would it be anyway?” asked Chipper, giggling. “Never mind. I know how hard it can be. I felt it. Damn, CJ, you’re hung like a horse. And you said your cousin was real big when you saw him with Ty? Is this a family thing? Is your dad real big too?” “I have no idea. Never seen him hard, and never want to. Yuck!” Both boys had straggled into the bathroom and seemed to be at a loss on what to do next. They needed to pee, but their erections made it hard to aim properly. “Screw it. Let’s piss in the shower, I’ll run the water to rinse it off afterwards.” “You know something? What you need is a urinal in your bathroom. It’d be sooo much easier to go in the mornings.” • • • With the temperature hovering around the freezing point, the six men bundled up for the short jog to Yates Fieldhouse. Chipper and Tyler turned it into a mini race, speeding away from the others, right after they hit the pavement of Prospect Street. There was no traffic this early on a Saturday morning, so they ran down the middle of the deserted road until they reached the edge of the university campus. They bounded up the steps next to the library, but not knowing which direction to take once they reached Healy Lawn, they stopped to wait for CJ, his dads, and Randy. “Beatcha, muscle boy!” bragged Chipper. “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” replied Tyler. “Let’s see you beat me lifting once we get inside the gym.” “Are you done comparing dick sizes?” said Brett, looking from one to the other. “Chipper’s sixteen, what’s your excuse, Ty?” “He’s fifteen!” chuckled Randy. “At least that’s the way he acts when challenged.” Laughing, he gave his boyfriend a quick peck on the cheek and took off after CJ, who had started jogging again. At the front desk, each of the visitors was checked in as a guest of one of the members before they all headed towards the locker room to get rid of their coats. “Now we’re gonna see who comes out on top, little boy,” announced Tyler, jokingly pushing the teen towards the weight room. “Little? I’m six feet tall. You’re what, like five-five or five-six? And you’re calling me little?” asked Chipper, staring Tyler up and down. “Fuck you, you jerk. I’m five-nine.” “Oh, excuse me. Five-nine says shorty―” “Enough!” grumbled César. “You two are giving me a headache.” “CJ!” The shout made the men turn to see a tall, Asian guy walking towards them. “You twerp! You haven’t called me since you returned from Australia! Hi, Captain, César.” “Hey, Chatri, happy twenty-fourteen,” replied Brett. “How are you, buddy. And how’s Helen?” added César. “We’re both great, thanks. So what do you have to say for yourself, young man? You been out on your new wheels a lot?” The last time the medical student had seen CJ had been at the teen’s birthday party in December. “Sorry, bud. It’s been hectic since I got back. Hey! This is my friend, Chipper. He just moved here from New York. And the other two are my cousin, Randy, and his boyfriend, Tyler. They’re visiting for the weekend.” “Hi, guys. Nice to meet you all. Where are the two of you visiting from?” asked Chatri, while bumping fists with his new acquaintances. “Chicago,” replied Randy. “Oh, you’re the cousins CJ visited last fall, right?” “Yep. I’m one of the cousins. The other one’s my brother. Not sure if he mentioned it, but I have an identical twin. That’s who CJ referred to if he said cousins.” “What’s new, Pad Thai?” asked CJ, grinning as he stretched. “I thought of you while we were in Sydney. I think one out of three restaurants we saw were Thai. And damn were they good.” “Pad Thai? You’re still a twerp! Busy as hell. Hardly have time for the gym these days. I’ll be graduating at the end of the semester, and I’m waiting to find out if I get to stay in Washington.” “Really? You gonna do your residency in DC?” asked CJ, sounding excited. “I hope so. George Washington is my first choice. Dr. Calhoun and Dr. Harding are both pulling strings on my behalf. We’ll see what happens.” “Cool! And what you asked about Defiant, I’ve driven it once. Maybe I’ll call you one day and you can take a break and go out with me? I need to get a bunch of hours of practice with someone over twenty-one in the passenger seat.” “Defiant? Is that what you named the Jeep? I’d be happy to go out with you for an hour or two if we can time it right. There’s something I want to ask you anyway. I may need a favor from you sometime early in the summer.” “Anything I can do, you got it. I’ll text you sometime this week.” • • • Although CJ had wanted to take his own car, hoping he’d be able to get some practice time in, his dads vetoed his plan. “You’re not ready to drive in Washington traffic, bud,” said César, after the kid had vehemently argued in favor of his idea. “And you’re definitely not ready for being behind the wheel with snow falling.” “But, Dad, they said on TV all they expect is a dusting.” “That might be, but the answer’s still no. And how the hell would you fit the four of you, plus Thiago and Harley in it?” “Stop arguing, cuz,” Randy grabbed CJ’s neck, and gently shook the kid. “Let’s take Uncle César’s Caddy. We’ll all fit that way.” “Fine! You people are no fun…” “Come on, CJ,” said Tyler, stepping over to the sink to rinse out his coffee mug. “Walk with me to Dixie. We’ll be back in a few, guys,” he added, glancing at the other men. The sign in front of Dixie Liquors, located on the corner of M and Thirty-fifth Streets, proclaimed it had been in business since the nineteen-thirties. The shop staff boasted they had served area residents for several generations―Georgetown University students included. “What are we getting?” asked CJ, grabbing his coat from the hook by the front door and slipping it on. “A bottle of something or other for our hosts,” replied Tyler, following the youngster out. “You don’t have to do that. Hell, we’re not even going to their house.” “Yeah, but we’re spending the night on their boat. It’s common courtesy. How about you fill me in on the details of what’s going on as we walk?” “Ummm, I’m not sure there’s much to tell. Uncles Tom and JP are the dads' best friends. It’s who we went to Australia with. They have a house in Alexandria they’re selling, so they won’t have a dock for their catamaran any more. They’re moving it to a marina here in Washington today, where they’ll keep it from now on.” “Okay, that much is clear. Who are Bradley and Patrick?” “They’re Uncle Tom’s kids. Bradley’s my age, Patrick’s a couple years younger. They live in Boston with their mom. Uncle Tom hadn’t seen them in a long time, until they got in touch with him after he got shot last year. I met them when we all spent a weekend in New York together. That’s also when we met Chipper.” “And Harley and Thiago?” “Those are my besties from school. They’ve never met the guys from Boston, but they’ve all heard so much about each other from me, they want to meet.” “So, you’re telling me there’s going to be six teenagers together and Randy and I get to babysit you?” CJ chuckled. “I’m not sure I’d say you’re going to babysit, but yeah, you got the idea.” “Fuck! I’m getting a bottle for your uncles, and one for me and Randy.” “Let’s make it bourbon…” • • • “DAD?” “Damn, CJ! What’s with the shouting, I’m right here, you know?” “Ooops, sorry. Harley and Thiago texted me. Thanks for calling their ‘rents.” While CJ and Tyler had walked to the liquor store, César got in touch with Harley and Thiago’s parents. They had given permission for their sons to join their friends for the remainder of the weekend without hesitation. “No problem. You better head out if you want to pick them up and make it to the marina on time.” “Is Chipper up in my room?” “Yeah, he went up to put stuff for tonight in his backpack.” “CHIPPER!” called out CJ from the bottom of the stairs. “Can you bring my bag down with you?” César closed his eyes, placed his hands at his temples and slowly shook his head. Brett rolled his eyes and facetiously unclogged his ear with a finger. “Damn, boy. What’s with you and all the shouting this morning? Calm down already.” “Ooops, sorry. Guess I’m kinda excited about seeing the guys from Boston. It’s been a while.” “Hey, César,” said Tyler. “I bought a bottle of bourbon so Randy and I could have a couple of drinks tonight. Maybe I should let CJ down a shot or two so he can relax?” “He and Chipper can have one or two. You’ll have to ask Tom for permission before his kids can have any.” “Wait. I meant right now to calm him down. And I was kidding.” “He wasn’t,” put in Brett. This caused everyone one in the room to look at him. “You don’t need to walk on egg shells around us, Ty. We’re fine with CJ having a drink, in private, now and then. Please, don’t drag them to any drag shows tonight.” César hung his head and raised his hands in a display of resignation. “My husband, Brett, master of the cheesy puns.” • • • It was late in the afternoon when Brett and César left the marina and headed home to shower; they planned on going out for dinner alone that evening, since CJ and their house guests would be spending the night aboard the PP. Tom and JP followed, once they had ensured all lines were properly tied, the water and power connections to the dock were secure, and the bubbler system to prevent icing was functioning properly. The idea for the sleepover on the boat had been Bradley’s. It being the one place where their group of eight―six teens and the two guys from Chicago―could spend the night together, each having a bed. The gage on the thermometer was dropping once more as the sun set and the lights of the city became visible through the portholes of the cabins and the windows of the salon. The boat wasn’t the warmest place to be on a night when temperatures were expected to fall below freezing again, but they had all come prepared with warm clothes to sleep in, and every blanket they could scrounge from home. Harley and Thiago would be, as before, sharing a cabin, Bradley and Patrick would be using their dads’, while CJ and Chipper took the one usually reserved for César and Brett on the opposite pontoon. Randy and Tyler would occupy the one on the bow, on the same side as their cousin’s. When they finally came out to the main room, they found the younger guys dressed similarly to them: sweat pants, sweat shirts, and thick socks. Tyler carried the bottle of Four Roses he’d bought earlier in the day in his hand. “Hey, that’s pretty good music,” he said. CJ had stuck one of the CDs he’d bought at the concert in Sydney into the player. The music wafted throughout the entire vessel, providing a nice background to the gloom outside. “Okay, you guys have permission to have a couple of shots each from your parents. We thought we’d start with one now, and then do more after we eat.” “I don’t want food yet,” said Chipper. “Hell, we just finished those subs.” “I could eat―” “Harley, you can always eat!” interrupted Thiago. ”You guys wouldn’t believe the amount of food he puts away. I’m with Chipper. If we’re going to order pizza, let’s hold off for a bit. I’d rather spend time hearing from the Chicago and Boston guys. After all, we just met. The other three I see almost every day at school.” “Well, I wanna hear about Australia,” said Randy. “My cousin hasn’t given us the details about Owen yet.” A frustrated looking CJ stared at his cousin and rolled his eyes. “Why does everyone focus on Owen when they talk about my trip? I mean, ask me about surfing instead. Or climbing the Harbour Bridge? Or visiting the Opera House!” “Did you do all those things with Owen?” asked a smirking Randy. “Well, yes, but―” “And did you two sleep together during the trip?” asked Thiago, already knowing the answer. “Well, yes, but―” “But nothing, cuz,” put in Tyler. “The way that man was looking at you in those pictures you showed us told us most of what we wanted to know anyway. Now we need details.” “Oh, really?” replied CJ. “And what exactly did they tell you?” “That the two of you were prolly fucking the minute the door to the room closed.” Tyler’s comment elicited laughter and cat calls from the others. Even Patrick had a smile on his face. Looking at him, knowing what had happened during the trip to New York, CJ became concerned with the direction the conversation was headed. “Ummm, how about we not discuss any more about my trip for now. Or at least about Owen. You two”―he said looking at Tyler and Randy―”need to remember the three of us are the only gay ones in the group. This talk might make the rest of the guys uncomfortable.” “Won’t bother me,” Chipper was quick to point out. “Me neither,” added Bradley. “Or, me,” put in Thiago. “Fine, whatever.” An exasperated CJ threw his right hand up in the air. “It’s making me uncomfortable, so we’re changing the topic. What did everyone do for New Year’s Eve?” “I had a pretty good time,” replied Chipper. “Uncle Matt took me to dinner at Rogo’s. His friend Dash was with us. I got to meet Dr. Harding―that’s his business partner―Danno, Dragon, Trip, and a bunch of the older guys your dads hang out with.” He looked between CJ, Bradley, and Patrick. “Danno promised to show me his place next door next time I come by. He and Trip were having a party after midnight in there, and he said it was just for adults that evening.” “You already know what I did,” said Harley. “Bruh, I missed you being in town. The people on my block close down the street every year and hold a party. At midnight, everyone’s outside, but most of the time’s spent going from house to house. I had to keep an eye on my little sisters all night long!” “Patrick and I went to a party some kid from my school had. And it sucked!” Bradley looked at his brother for confirmation which he didn’t quite receive. “It wasn’t that bad. I mean I was like the youngest guy there, but your friends were nice to me.” “Yeah, but I was hoping to get laid. And the girl I was making out with almost all night wouldn’t even let me touch her pussy. Bitch started talking about how she was saving herself for marriage, the way the church taught. What the hell good is that? Fucking Catholic girls start much too late. I’d never marry a virgin. What if she turns out to be a lousy lay? At least you gay guys fuck first. If it’s no good, you try again with somebody else.” “Amen, brother!” exclaimed Thiago, extending his fist to bump. “I’m happy to report CJ wasn’t the only one who got laid on the thirty-first. I got lucky that night. Although, I doubt she’d admit to it since she’s in college. Not sure she wants to brag about putting out for a high school junior.” “And what makes you think I got laid that night?” asked CJ, trying to suppress a smile. “Oh please, homes,” replied Thiago quickly. “The way you talked about hanging out on the streets with your rents and that blond guy. And the amount of wine and whatever else you drank. How hard can it be to figure out? You scored.” “You were drinking in the streets? With your dads?” Patrick’s surprise was shared by his brother. “Drinking age in Australia is eighteen, and I look old enough I had no problem buying anything I wanted. But even if you’re younger, you can drink at restaurants and stuff if you’re with your parents.” “Damn! I think Patrick and I need to convince Pops to take us next time he goes to visit his family.” Bradley’s eyes were open wide in amazement. He looked at Randy and Tyler who appeared a bit lost. “Pops is John Paul. It’s what we decided to call him when we found out he’d married our dad. That drinking stuff rocks. What about you guys? How come you were in Washington and not in Chicago?” “Our girlfriend―” replied Randy before being interrupted by Tyler. “EX-girlfriend.” “Fine, our ex-girlfriend had never been to DC and wanted to come visit. And since we had Uncle César’s place…” The silence which greeted his comment made CJ smile. He was now looking forward to hearing Randy and Ty explain about having a girlfriend. He was a little worried about how Patrick would react, but he could already tell this was going to be the topic for a nice, long discussion. “Hey, you guys never said what happened with Natasha.” CJ had been told she was out of the picture the previous night, but no details had been offered. “Who’s Natasha?” asked Patrick, looking as confused as the other guys did. • • • “Man, that’s wild. Your cousins are a pair of horn dogs!” said Chipper, walking out of the bathroom in the cabin he was sharing with CJ. “Yeah, they are. Wait until you hear about what I saw when I was in Chicago. Let me go to the head first. What were you doing in there anyway? Took you forever.” Randy and Tyler had related their experiences on New Year’s Eve to a group of avid listeners. Although they weren’t graphic in telling their story, CJ knew he’d be asking for details privately later. The two of them and Natasha had gone out to a gay bar that night, danced most of the evening while doing shots of tequila, and flirted with anyone who came near their threesome out on the floor. At midnight, they found themselves in a clinch with two additional guys―students at American University―and ended up inviting them back to Georgetown. By time they called Uber the next day, Natasha was passed out, Tyler was complaining about being sore, and there was a pile of wrappers and used condoms in the wastebasket by the bed. The PP had been shut tight for the night. The heat had been turned on after their food had been delivered, but the cabin was still chilly when CJ walked back towards the bed. Chipper was already under the covers, his back propped up by pillows, clasped hands resting on his lap. His bare shoulders revealed he’d taken off his shirt. “Aren’t you cold?” asked CJ. “Nah, it’s a little cool, but once we’re both under the covers it’ll feel warm. Plus, I can’t sleep with a lot of clothes on. Last night, those damn boxers kept bunching up on me. I had a hard time falling asleep.” “You’re naked?” “Yeah… You don’t mind, do you?” “Ummm, no. But aren’t you worried about sleeping naked next to me? I mean, considering the way we woke up this morning and all?” “Nope. Not worried. You might as well lose your clothes too. We’ll warm each other up.” CJ was surprised, apprehensive, and a bit scared of what his friend was implying. “What’s going on, man? Are you drunk?” They’d made hot cocoa while watching a couple of movies after dinner; Ty had been generous with the bourbon shots he added to their mugs. “Are you?” “No, all I had were those shots. And the two after dinner were probably soaked up by all the food we ate.” “I’m the same. I’m not drunk.” “But it sounds as if you want―” “I do, CJ. Look, I’ve been around gay people at school, and plenty more since I moved here. You became my friend the moment we met. I’m not sure why, but I liked you, and knew I could trust you. This is something I’ve thought about for a while. I’ve fooled around with a couple of guys before, but I’ve never been fucked. I wanna try it. I know you won’t hurt me, and I want you to be my first.” Sunday, 19 January 2014 For the second day in a row, CJ woke up snuggled to Chipper’s warm body. His friend’s head nestled on CJ’s chest, cradled by an arm thrown over Chipper’s shoulders. Each breath ruffled CJ’s chest hair, bringing a tingle of pleasure with it. He smiled remembering the previous evening. His thoughts felt warm and so did most of his naked body. Slowly slipping his way out of the half embrace they were entangled in, he tried not to disturb the sleeping teen. CJ quietly pulled on his sweatpants, sweatshirt, and socks, gently opened the cabin door, and carefully closed it behind himself. He headed for the galley intent of getting at least a cup of coffee in himself before the others woke. Things had certainly taken an unexpected turn the previous evening; his relationship with Chipper would never be the same. No matter what happened in the light of day. He needed to do some thinking and the time before the others woke up would most likely be the only alone time he’d have all day. “Good morning.” Patrick’s almost whispered greeting startled CJ, making him drop the small coffee pod he was holding. “Damn, Patrick. You scared the crap out of me. Good morning. What are you doing up so early? It’s barely past sunrise.” “I was cold. Bradley kept pulling all the covers. Hey, do we have hot chocolate left? Or are there any of those little things for the machine? I could go for half coffee, half cocoa.” “How about Swiss Mocha? There’s a couple of them.” “Good. I’ll take it. And hide the other one.” “Here,” replied CJ, tossing the small plastic tub at the boy. “You hide it. I’m glad your dads got this machine. I didn’t feel like brewing an entire pot, not knowing what time people would be getting up.” “Yeah, me too.” Patrick stuck it in the pocket of his gold edged black hoodie. “So, how come you're up?” “I don’t know. I woke up in a good mood, full of energy, and decided to get up and enjoy the quiet. But you’re right, it’s cold. I think I’m gonna grab one of those blankets on the couch, and wrap it around myself like you did.” “Can I ask you a question?” “Sure, anything.” “When did you know you were gay?” “Oh, hell. Not sure there ever was a light bulb shining on top of my head when I figured it out. You see, I went through puberty early. The kids at school used to make jokes ‘cause I needed to shave in the seventh grade. Anyway, my step-dad and a couple of older guys would kid around about me chasing skirts, and I got a very stern talk about condoms and not getting a girl pregnant.” “From your step-dad? They guy who doesn’t like you?” “Yep, from him. Anyway, the problem was I’d look at girls and didn’t have any interest in doing anything with them. A couple of the guys at school though, they always made me feel nice when I was around them. Two summers ago, I spent a couple of days alone while in Washington. Walked all over the Smithsonian. And I realized I kept looking at the guys, deciding which ones I thought were good looking.” “So did you tell your dads?” “Nah. I wasn’t sure it was what I thought it was. I went back to Miami and eventually figured it out. My dads didn’t know about it until Lieutenant Colonel Dickhead threw me out. How come you ask?” “Oh, at school during a class, we got into a discussion about homeless teens. Somebody brought up the fact many were gay who’d been thrown out of home by their parents. The teacher said the parents were wrong, but so were the kids. That no one that young could know if they were gay or not.” “Bah! That’s bullshit. Ask my dad. He says he knew when he was eight years old!” “Really?” “Yeah, really. Anyway, how you doing, bud? Still having problems with the guys on the team?” “Meh! Sometimes. I play for a Police Athletic League team, the same one my cousin plays for. After I hurt him, he complained to grandpa who told him to be a man and stand up for himself. After I returned home from New York, he tried to push me around during practice. After a couple of days of him giving me shit, I was really pissed off. So the next time he tried to hit me, I turned the tables on him. Smashed his knee with my stick and fucked it up. He’s still not able to play.” “Remind me not to piss you off!” CJ chuckled and put his arm around the younger boy. “But good for you. Bullies are cowards and once you stand up to them, they tend to back off.” “Problem is grandpa went berserk, called my mom and bitched up a storm. She backed me up, told him I was standing up for myself, and she was proud of me for doing so.” “Good for her!” “Yeah, she came up big for me. Anyway, I was suspended for a month. Coach warned me next time I’d be thrown off the team.” “You should be okay, since your asshole cousin ain’t playing.” “Yeah, but now a couple of his friends have started making little comments. Like saying they’re going to take care of me for hurting their friend.” “Have you told the coach?” “Yeah, he gave a big speech about teammates having to stick together and help each other. I’m not sure it’ll do much good with those jerks. And even though our school doesn’t allow bullying, a couple of those guys also go there and they’ve been whispering shit to me when nobody can hear them.” “Ignore them if you can. Tell a teacher if it keeps going, and if worst comes to worst, you kick the shit out of them. Let me know if you need a hand and I’ll come up and help you do it.” “Help him do what?” asked Randy, walking into the salon closely followed by Tyler. “I need coffee.” “Want one of those little things? Or we can brew up a pot of the real stuff.” CJ pointed toward the container holding a multitude of the little containers. “The real thing. Pod coffee tastes like instant shit to me. Where’s the stuff?” asked Tyler, heading towards the galley. “I’ll do it for you,” replied CJ, standing. “So, what are you going to help Patrick with?” “Prolly nothing. I offered to give him a hand beating up some bullies picking on him. But I think this guy can take care of himself.” “Bullies are nothing but cowards,” said Tyler, sitting next to Patrick. “When I was in high school, I was a skinny runt and got picked on all the time. I decided I needed to get bigger, so I could defend myself. Since I couldn’t make myself taller, I decided to make myself wider. I started hitting the gym one summer, and by the time school started, I’d bulked up enough it stopped most of them from making fun of me. One guy kept at it and I beat the shit out of him. I was suspended for a week. When I returned, all those guys gave me a lot of space when they saw me around.” “Ha! Exactly what I told him. Stand up to the assholes. Patrick has an advantage. A lot of it happened during hockey practice, so he has a big stick to defend himself.” “That’s what we should do today. We should go ice skating,” said Chipper, stopping next to CJ and draping an arm around him. “Morning, everyone. I need coffee.” “Morning, Chipper. Why are you walking that way?” asked Patrick. “I went to the gym yesterday morning with CJ, his dads and his cousins. Short stuff over there”—he pointed at Tyler—“sets a punishing pace. I think he has this idea everyone should look like a body builder. Like him. And then, I had this guy here,” he added, squeezing CJ. “He and his dad, Captain America, kept trying to outdo each other in the weight room. I was stupid and tried to keep up with them. I’m sore in places I’ve never been sore before!” • • • Since there wasn’t much to eat aboard, the guys cleaned up, dressed, and headed out to brunch at National Harbor, where one of the best outdoor skating rinks in the city was located. Patrick complained incessantly about the quality of the rental skates, but he took his turn helping CJ out, patiently showing the rookie how to move, turn and stop. “Hey! That’s the first time your ass hit the ice in a while,” he said, extending a hand to help CJ up. “You’re getting better.” “Fuck that hurts,” complained CJ, rubbing his ass. “I haven’t skated since I was a little kid living in Germany.” “Don’t be a wuss. Stop complaining. It can’t hurt any more than getting fucked. And you seem to have survived that.” “What? Fuck! Did you make a gay joke?” CJ stared at Patrick in disbelief. “Who are you and what have you done with my friend?” “Ha, ha! Funny. I figured I better get used to those jokes. I noticed you tried to change the topic a couple of times last night and I think it was because of me. Thanks. I’m just trying to fit in. All of you seem fine talking about sex and with so many gay guys around I figured I better get in the swing if I’m going to be part of the group.” “Damn! That’s a big change from the way you acted last fall.” “Yeah, I think what's helped me the most is talking to Mom’s boyfriend. He seems to have no problems with me having a gay father.” “Your mom has a boyfriend?” “He’s not really her boyfriend.” Bradley had skated over to them to take his turn with CJ. “You have no idea what you started when you trashed our grandfather, bud. You inspired our mother to stand on her own. Not only did she let us get in touch with Dad, but after a couple of months she started going out on dates. I mean not a lot, but she’s been seeing this one guy and he even came over for dinner Christmas’ Eve.” “Wow! That means if she remarries you guys will like have three dads!” • • • Back home in Georgetown, after dropping Harley and Thiago off at their houses, CJ organized his friends so each took a turn in his bathroom showering and changing clothes. Chipper was spending one more night; Bradley and Patrick would be going back to Alexandria with their fathers later in the evening. They’d all been invited to dinner by CJ’s dads. “Ground control to Commodore Tom. Come in please.” Brett’s quip brought groans from the adults and questioning looks from the kids. “Huh?” Tom shook his head and looked at the others sitting at the table. “Damn, dude! Where the hell were you? Did you even hear Patrick ask you a question?” “Sorry. I was daydreaming. What were you saying, kiddo?” His blue eyes fixed on his son, the cop seemed to return from wherever he had drifted to. “I was asking about the house hunting. You didn’t like any of the houses you saw today?” asked Patrick. “Nope. One was too small. One too expensive, and the others too far away from the Georgetown area.” “Yeah, dad. You guys need to buy something close to CJ and Chipper,” said Bradley. “Otherwise it’ll be a pain to get together when we come visit.” Brett took a sip of beer and wiped his lips with the back of his hand before joining the conversation. He’d been quiet for a while, observing the dynamics between the teens. Something felt different. “Obviously, we’d like you guys to be as close as possible.” “If you find something close enough to what you want, you can always make changes to the place,” offered Randy. “Ty and I would be happy to help in that regard. We’ve decided we wouldn’t mind spending more time in Washington.” “Speaking of spending time in Washington,” said CJ. “When are we fixing the basement? And are you guys going to be here while the work’s done?” “By the time we finalize the plans, get bids, and pull permits, I’d say summer,” replied Tyler. “And we’ll be here at some point. Though I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time around the construction once it starts.” “Unless you get a DC license and move here to serve as general contractor for the job,” suggested César. “Who knows, you may get enough work around town to justify a regular commute.” • • • JP, Tom, and their sons left after dinner. Randy, Tyler, CJ, and Chipper ended up in CJ’s bedroom engaged in what they swore would be an epic Madden Football game. Sometime around midnight the game ended; Randy and Tyler went to their room, while CJ and Chipper took turns in the bathroom getting ready to go to bed. Uncertain of how to start the conversation he knew they needed to have, CJ chose the direct approach. “What a day,” he said, pulling off the dark blue Tombs t-shirt he’d been wearing. “You and I need to talk, bud. About last night.” “Are you upset we fooled around?” Chipper’s question made CJ chuckle. “Hell no, man. But I’m a little worried about what happens now.” “Nothing happens now,” replied Chipper, rubbing his boxers covered behind. “I’m a little sore.” “I wasn’t saying I want to do it again right now, ding-dong. I want to make sure what we did doesn’t change our friendship.” “Why should it? It may have been the first time I went all the way with a guy, but I haven’t been celibate the past couple of years, you know?” “Yeah, but―” “But nothing, CJ. You were my friend yesterday, you’re my friend today, and you’ll be my friend tomorrow. I wanted to try something and you helped me do it. Not sure I’ll ever go there again, but I have no problems whatsoever with it.” • • • The conversation César overheard coming from CJ’s bedroom, when he went upstairs to his own room to retrieve a file from his desk, was more an insult trading match than anything else. When he and Brett decided to call it a night, the door to both CJ’s and the guest room were closed, and there was no screaming or cursing any longer. “I think something happened with CJ and Chipper last night,” said Brett, once they’d closed their door. “Like an argument?” “Nope, like hanky-panky!” “Hanky-panky? What the hell? Are you back in high school?” “Hell no! I couldn’t keep up with those guys. I think they fooled around some.” “Really? My gaydar hasn’t gone off around Chipper.” “I can’t be sure. And I’m not asking. They can tell us if they want to. If they even did. But there were a couple of looks between the two of them…”
  8. 8 points
    ‘Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch but with luck it should work; how’s the lad doing?’ Fitzpatrick and Gloria were sitting in Cree’s old office, and she had just outlined her plan to flush out Billy’s assailant. ‘He’s doing great; it’s in credible how he’s not only overcome his physical injuries but mentally and emotionally he doesn’t show any effects of trauma. He’s like a proverbial red rubber ball; the harder you bounce it, the higher it bounces back. (Sigh) I wish.’ ‘Yeah, I understand what you mean. You know (wistfully), this case is screwy. With every other case I’ve had to handle, I’ve been presented with a definite suspect, but have had to go looking for evidence to nail the perp. Now we’ve got lots of evidence but no leads to the perp. That’s why I want you to go ahead with your plan. It just might work and that would be a good start.’ ‘Ok, I’m glad you agree; I feel a bit shitty using the kid for our purposes, but knowing Billy, he’ll completely understand.’ ‘Gloria, sometimes in detective work the means do justify the ends and we have to make a judgment call to solve the case; don’t worry, I’ll have your back. When do you think you’ll put your plan into action?’ ‘Depends when Billy’s strong enough, but I reckon a Friday night is the best time. Incidentally, I did mention my idea to Billy and he became enthusiastic. He thinks it’s a game.’ ‘Well, in a way it is; but a very dangerous game. Bye the way, how’s Cree’s younger brother progressing? Do you think he tried to kill himself? Christ Almighty, I mean finding your own brother, and in particular a piece of shit like Laurie Cree, fucking your wife would send anyone round the bend and want to kill . . . either yourself or the other shithead.’ ‘Yeah (nodding her head) it would certainly unbalance any normal person; he’s also been involved emotionally with Kenny Jones and I believe . . .’ ‘Jones . . . the queer footballer? I didn’t know they were having . . .’ ‘Hey! Stop right there! There’s no need for verbal abuse or discrimination; ‘queer’ is a bad word (Fitzpatrick began to go red with embarrassment) . . . a very bad word. Let me ask you Inspector; if you were born gay how would you like to be called a ‘poofter’ a ‘queer’ a ‘faggot’ or a ‘queen’. Huh? How would you feel if someone referred to you by any one of these names?’ ‘Shit (sounding humbled) Gloria, I’m really sorry . . . really sorry. You’re right; I apologize. I was wrong – very wrong; I’ve got no excuse, I was offensive. I’m not (earnestly)a homophobe . . . definitely, absolutely not; I’ve got a nephew who’s gay and I know the shit that gay people have to endure. I’m really sorry.’ ‘Ok Tom; I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be heavy. Once upon a time, we gays would endure all the profanities directed at us, but not anymore; we’ve learnt that turning the other cheek is counter-productive and demeaning. Apology accepted.’ ‘Great! Well enough of that; go and start putting your plan together, and just keep me informed.’ ‘Will do.’ ♂♂ ‘Hey Kenny, just finished going over the plan with Tommy Fitz and I’ve got good news and some really good news. What do you prefer?’ ‘I’ll let you be the judge.’ ‘Well, Fitzpatrick has ok’d the plan I outlined for you the other day; left it in my hands to implement.’ ‘And . . . ?’ ‘Jeff’s awake! On the way to see Billy I dropped in for a look . . . and there, large as life, was Jeffry sitting up in bed . . .’ ‘. . . He’s (excited) awake? He’s awake; shit almighty. How does he look? No, don’t tell me; I’m gonna drop everything and go see him.’ ‘Wow, slow down. He’s still bandaged round the head, so I doubt if you’ll get much conversation from him. He’s also like to be disorientated, and may have trouble remembering what happened. Don’t get yer hopes up tiger. He may need a lot of time to get back to normal.’ ‘That’s ok, that’s ok; I just want to be there even if he’s semi-conscious. At least coming out of his coma is a good sign; right?’ ‘Yes, I reckon it is; there's hope. But talk to his doctor or at least the head nurse; they’ll be able to tell you more.’ ‘I’m on my way. Hey, sorry, sorry; great that you can proceed with the plan involving Billy Have you talked to him about what you want him to do?’ ‘Not specifically, no. I’m gonna do that tomorrow; and if you see Jeff, will you give him my love.’ ♂♂ Kenny could feel his heart beating fast as he neared Jeff’s room; that he’d been moved out of intensive care to the general population was a very reassuring sign. Jeff was sitting up in bed watching the small TV screen provided by the hospital. As he came face to face with Jeff, Kenny experienced that familiar surge of pleasure; there was no doubt as to his feelings for Jeffry. ‘Hey . . .’ ‘Hey . . .’ (Awkward Silence . . .) (Speaking as one) Oh man; Geeze it’s good . . . (they both laughed) Then . . . ‘Shit (talking fast) Jeffry Cree you had me really worried. The last time I visited, you were at death’s door; Christ, I was really worried Jeff, really worried. You looked so vulnerable with all those tubes sticking out and that bloody monitor going ‘beep’ ‘beep’ all the time. We all thought we were gonna lose you and . . . why did you do such a stupid thing like that. You know you coulda been killed and if it wasn’t for the air bag you would’ve been killed and . . . and . . . what about Billy; he’s also in hospital with bad injuries but they say . . .’ ‘Kenny, Kenny, shut up; slow down; you’re talking too fast. I can’t keep up with you. Slow down; let me look at you. You really are a sight for sore eyes; I’ve really missed you shit-head. When I came out of the coma, my first thoughts were of you. (Pause) . . . I was scared Kenny; bloody scared.’ ‘Scared . . . what of?’ ‘Of losing you buddy; I was scared of losing you. When I hadn’t heard from you, I began to think the worst.’ ‘The worst; what do you mean, the worst?’ ‘(Pause) that you’d decided to stay in Melbourne and look after Ri . . . No! Don’t interrupt; please, let me finish. I figured that his needs were more critical than my needs. (Jeff paused and looked down at his hands) I know you told me that you loved me but . . . sorry, they’re only words, and . . . and; I know how I feel Ken. The thought of losing you was extremely painful; too painful. I was very low; I was in a dreadfully dark place. And when . . .’ ‘Is that why you tried to destroy. . .’ ‘Oh, no, no. Please don’t think that. No! The fact is I wasn’t trying to ‘off’ meself. No! Never! Suicide is a coward’s way out. I may be a dick-head but I’m not a coward; well, I don’t believe I am. Things just sort of piled up and catching Laurie . . . ummm I . . . do you know what happened with Cindy and . . . (Kenny nodded yes) Well, I went into shock I guess; it wasn’t just Cindy being unfaithful, after all she’d fucked half the white men in town . . .’ ‘You knew . . .?’ ‘Yeah, of course I knew. I mean, I’d lost any interest in her, either emotionally or sexually, from even before we were married. I knew she needed to get serviced . . . can’t blame her . . . so I just turned a blind eye to her ‘adventures’. Fact is I was jealous of her; she was getting what I needed. Shit – what a mess.’ ‘So you . . .’ ‘I just got in my car and drove like hell to get away from the whole mess. I can’t even remember how fast I was driving or hitting the bloody tree.’ Kenny went and sat down on the bedside chair and took hold of Jeff’s hand; he gave it a gentle squeeze. ‘Well you’re right in one sense; Rickie was all over me making demands he knew could not be satisfied. Because I felt sorry for him – I don’t know why- I let myself become entangled in the mess he’d made of his life. You see Jeff (becoming heated), Rickie is one of those persons who can only think of themselves; everything has to be about him, him and more him. But (pause) I’m only giving you reasons; I don’t have any excuse for not calling you. I was wrong; wrong to not call you and wrong to get ensnared in Rickie’s emotional performances.’ ‘Please, please don’t . . .’ ‘. . . Don’t blame myself? Well I do because I . . . I love you man. (Pause) I’m so sorry it took me so long to recognize it Jeff. (Choke) I know you’re sensitive and probably not very strong but that’s a part of you that makes me love you. (Pause) . . . If you’ll let me, we’ll plan a life together and grow old together. (Pause) Shit that sounds corny! But I don’t care; (choke) I don’t care about the future, I only care about the present with you, with me. (Pause) And I can’t wait to wake up and feel you lying beside me; and let me tell you you’re about the sexiest man I’ve ever seen. We’ll have happiness and (pause) yes a few sad times; life’s not easy. But it is certainly easier if you’ve got the person you love sharing the highs and lows with you. (Pause) I don’t know what else I can say . . .’ Silence . . . and then, ‘Kenny, that’s about the most beautiful spoken words I’ve ever heard; no one has ever said anything like that to me before. I don’t know how to respond; but I can tell you my cock’s as hard as a piece of steel. I think I’m gonna explode!’ (Laughing) We can fix that but not here; however here’s what I’m gonna do . . .’ Kenny got up from the chair and taking Jeff’s face in both his hands, kissed him deeply and passionately. Jeff heart rate soared as he returned the passion of Ken’s kiss; for a long moment they clung together, tongues exploring and savoring the close proximity of their bodies. It was the first time that Jeff had passionately kissed another man; he was overwhelmed. Neither man wanted to break the embrace. . . ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY HUSBAND? MY GOD . . . YOU’RE KISSING HIM! Kenny spun round at the sound of the voice, and came face to face with a very enraged Cynthia. It was a tabloid captured at a moment of time; Kenny, still supporting Jeff’s head, stared at Cynthia; Jeff sitting upright, his mouth open and looking frightened; and Cynthia, dressed provocatively, staring with open disbelief towards the two men. It was Cindy, who broke the impasse, ‘I REPEAT . . . WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH MY HUSBAND?’ ‘What does it look like . . . I’m kissing him; and keep your voice down, this is a hospital, and you’re disturbing the other patients.’ ‘YOU DIRTY LITTLE FAGGOT! GET AWAY FROM MY HUSBAND; YOU’RE JUST A DIRTY QUEER, TRYING TO CONVERT MY MAN TO YOUR DIRTY DISGUSTING HABITS. LEAVE HIM ALONE! At this point, a nurse came running into the room and demanded, ‘Please, be quiet; consider the other patients. If you have to abuse each other do it outside. Any more outbursts and I’ll ask you all to leave. Do I make myself clear . . . do I?’ ‘Yes answered Kenny, I hear you; you’re right, we won’t raise our voices (looking directly at Cynthia) . . . will we?’ The nurse departed with a withering glance at each person. Kenny was about to respond when Jeff forestalled him, ‘Cynthia, please . . . please hear what I have to say. (Pause) I’m in love with Kenny; probably have been since we were kids. I know Kenny feels the same (Kenny nodded his agreement) about me. (Pause) You know our marriage has been a joke; unsatisfactory for both of us. I know you’ve been fucking around and I don’t blame you for it. You’re only human and being a healthy woman you have to discharge your sexual needs; sexual needs that I couldn’t satisfy.’ ‘Hold on, if you think that sweet talk is gonna . . .’ ‘Let (sternly) me finish. We’re all adults here and it’s about time we started acting as adults. You don’t love me and I don’t love you, so let’s end this sham and try and get on with our lives. Yes, I’m gay and it’s been wrong of me to pretend otherwise. I’m sorry.’ Both Cynthia and Kenny simply stared at Jeff, stunned by his self-confidence and taking control. Suddenly, gone was the passive Jeff, replaced by an assertive Jeff. ‘You . . . you’re queer – a faggot? And you knew this when you married me? You (choke) you bastard! You (hostile) little piece of shit! I should sue you, for . . .’ ‘For what? You’re gonna sue me for what . . . not exposing myself to ignorant people such as you and my so-called brother? But let’s have an end to all this name calling and threats. I don’t really care what you call me, because now I’m free; free to get on with my life and with the person I love, so why don’t we bury the hatchet and try and start anew. We can still be friends, Cindy. And just for the record, I could resort to name calling, but I choose not to as that would not be helpful.’ ‘Friends! (Furious) friends! I’d like to bury the hatchet in your head. (Turning towards Kenny) And you; you piece of slime. I’d heard that a faggot footballer was in town; what a joke! You’re not a man; you’re an insult to all the real male footy players. That’s what you are . . . a joke, a disgrace . . . a faggot who’s a disgrace to the game of Aussie Rules. I bet you love getting in the showers and perving on yer mates bums! You’re sick!’ Kenny fixed Cynthia with a contemptuous stare. ‘You know Cynthia; you’re a classic case of ignorance coupled with homophobia. Go see . . . (harsh) No, don’t interrupt; for once in your life listen to someone else. I was about to say that if you see a doctor, there is a course of treatment that will rid you of homophobia. You’ve got a disease which can be cured; given time and determination.’ There followed silence. Kenny gave Jeff’s hand a squeeze to show his support with Jeff’s stand against Cynthia. With a contemptuous sneer, Cynthia turned around and stormed out of the room. Jeff and Kenny just looked at each other and burst out laughing. ‘Wow, I’m rapt Jeffry Cree, you handled that impressively. ♂♂ Kenny felt light-headed and spellbound as he left the hospital; the taste of Jeff’s mouth invoked wonderful memories with the promise of pleasures to come. His mobile rang. ‘Kenny, it’s Gloria. I’m gonna put my plan into action this Friday. I’d like you to be with me ‘cause you can handle Billy better than I can. I thought we’d start about 5.00 pm if that’s alright with you?’ ‘Sure Gloria, I’ll be there. Incidentally, I’ve just left Jeff; we had a very interesting altercation with the lovely Cynthia. I’ll fill you in when we meet. It’s looking good. Great; give the boy my love and best wishes.’ ‘Will do.’
  9. 7 points

    From the album Tassie Trip

    On the east coast of Tasmania there is a bay where the rocks have a bright orange type of lichen growing on them. Very striking.
  10. 6 points

    From the album Tassie Trip

    I love dolphins and seeing wild ones so close was a total thrill.
  11. 6 points
    But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve For daws to peck at: I am not what I am. Oth. -WS *** Chuck I woke up with my morning wood poking into Matty's ass crack. No, actually his ass crack was squeezing around my erection and rubbing it up and down. Then I heard Matty whisper. “Somebody's happy to be here with me this morning.” I smiled and whispered back. “Oh yeah ...I am.” “Not you, silly.” He turned around to go under the covers. He started to blow me again. Then he stopped and peeked out. “Little Chucky ...he's glad to be here.” I giggled, but he went back to work and gave me my first orgasm of the day. Wow, what a great way to start the day! “You want to try now? You don't have to.” “Oh yes I do ...you're not going to cheat me out of it again! But ...um ...Matty, can you sorta tell me how to do it right? I've ...um ...never done this before.” So he gave me some simple rules as I gave him my first blowjob ever. I really wanted to taste him to compare with mine from last night, so when he told me he was about to cum, I just sucked harder and was rewarded with a lot of cream to swallow. I think I got most of it. It was sorta different from mine. Maybe a little thicker and slightly stronger, but I liked it. I'll definitely put Matty-Cum on my menu! Once in the bathroom, Matty and I brushed our teeth and then something wonderful happened. He kissed me. He kissed me like he wanted to, like I was important, like I meant something to him. Following Matty’s sweet kisses, we took a shower. I had never taken a shower with another boy before. I mean, gym showers don’t count. This was something else entirely. First, the shower is big and beautiful all by itself. Having Matty wash you is, gosh, I can’t even explain it. He didn’t do any sex stuff or anything, but the tingling in my body when he soaped me and shampooed my hair and rinsed me and ran those hands over every part of my body and was just ...so Matty, you know? He’s the sweetest guy I’ve ever met! I’m not in love with him but I love him. Can you understand? He’s just so nice, how could anyone not love Matty? After showering and drying, we dressed and Matty kissed me so softly. My head was swirling. He’s addictive. Matty’s kisses are definitely addictive! Too soon we went up to the kitchen where his mom was making pancakes. There were these neat stools to sit on too. When I was on my second helping, Mark came up and walked behind me, rubbing his hand across my ass. “Sleep good?” I swallowed the pancake I was chewing. “Yeah ...great!” I smiled at him and he winked at me. God, he is cute! “Good, then you'll be back! I'll make sure I'm home to help keep you guys company.” I thought Matty was going to lose it and spit his food across the table, but he just held it in and smiled. I began to think of the possibilities. OMG I was hard again! Tommy I walked into the family breakfast with a little anxiety. Everyone was there, including the kid who looks like my brother. He was talking to my mother about all kinds of religious shit. He sounded just like Johnson! Liz hardly lives here anymore, but shows up Sunday mornings. Even she had a perplexed look on her face. My mother was answering his questions but sure didn't look happy and kept rubbing her shoulder. Every other sentence the boy said, had the word adultery in it. Mother seemed to wince every time he said it, too. I don't even know what that word means. I'll have to Google it later. We got to church and the boy went downstairs to the Teen Service or whatever it is. Hey, I'm 13! How come I'm not invited down there? Maybe it's just for high school kids. I'll be one next year. As I usually do, I tuned out Pastor Johnson and looked through the hymnal, thinking of which pop songs could be used with the hymn lyrics. I always try to imagine a few as hip-hop lyrics. I know it sounds weird, but it's the best way to amuse myself during an hour of hellfire and damnation, and yet appear to be doing churchy stuff. When it was thankfully over and the last Amen was shouted out by the crazier ones in the congregation, we started to file out. The boy who looks like my brother met us at the door. He started talking to Johnson about something that apparently went on downstairs, but he kept using that adultery word. Johnson really looked pissed off. Something’s going on I can’t figure out. But I’m gonna work on it till I do. Anyway, we finally went home. Nobody said anything in the car. The boy who looks like my brother didn't try to escape to Twoey's house, but brought out homework as we sat in the living room watching the football games. He did a TON of homework and made all kinds of notes while reading what seem to be copies of old newspapers. Then during the second game, he had a Bible and some other books out, taking tons of notes into a different notebook. What the Fuck? David never did shit like this, that’s for sure. Then something even weirder happened. He stayed with us for supper and ate all his food, which even I was having trouble gagging down. My brother would normally have only eaten like a carrot or something ...it's another way I know this boy isn't my brother. He watched TV with us, never once complaining about the crappy shows. Then he quietly went into my brother's room and went to bed. He never shut his door ...another clue this was a stranger who only looked like David. I Googled adultery and now I'm doubly confused. What the hell does adultery have to do with anything??? David2 I left a bewildered Teen church classroom (I was in good form this morning) and decided to hit Johnson with a bit of adultery conversation and it seemed to have the desired effect. Honestly, I only asked him how many times someone had to commit adultery to be damned to hell forever. He didn’t seem to like the question. I wonder why? You’re like a Pharisee, nothing but a whitewashed tomb full of decay and corruption! While I was doing my good deed, I unconsciously glanced around the exiting crowd and noticed that fucking asshole, Mr. Burch! I didn't know he went to church here! Well, of course, in retrospect it makes perfect sense. I had never noticed him before. I guess I never used to spend too much time paying attention in church. No wonder he knew I attended church. He was probably another one feeding Johnson ammunition to go after me with. Well he can’t do it anymore and neither can the woman who lives in our house. I spent a big part of the day studying for my new social class. I intend to be the most prepared student Mrs. Delmonico ever had. There’s stiff competition, as everyone is smart and motivated. I was determined to find additional aspects of our pre-revolution topics, aspects no one else might have considered. I also began my Biblical odyssey. I stumbled onto some weird stuff about Lucifer, heaven and hell. The more I dug around, the more interesting it got. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to use this stuff, but the topic was fascinating. I dug deeper and deeper. I did some thinking about tomorrow and the next several weeks of school. None of the gang is in any of my classes with the exception of Twoey. He won’t be in school until after Thanksgiving anyway. Hopefully, it’ll be all done by then. Chuck is in math with me. I think what I’ll do about math is arrive right at the bell and leave at the bell too. That way I won’t interact with Chuck much. I’m going to spend my lunch every day in the library. I can get lots of work and extra study done there. It’ll also avoid all my gang. I’ll still see Matty in PhysEd, but there’s not too much interaction with this volleyball unit. My major interest will be Adv. Prep. I think Alex and Randy are safe, since they don’t know anything about my life. I can freely interact with them. Mrs. Delmonico’s class will be my focus for the next little while. I also began thinking about Enos Johnson. Make no mistake, David’s war is with him. He’s Goliath. I can’t take a passive role, merely reacting. It’s all I’ve been doing, and look where it got me. No, I have to go after the fucker. I don’t mean keep saying adultery in front of him, although I’ll certainly keep doing that. No, I need to take the battle to him. Like any good planner, I need recon. Tomorrow will begin that phase of the Goliath Project. It’s funny, but with all my feelings shut down, many things don’t bother me anymore. It’s certainly something to think about. If I never brought David back, I might prefer to live like this. Having little interaction with other people is freeing, in a way. It’s certainly a thought worth pursuing. I was able to eat my entire meal because I didn’t care anymore. Food is becoming something to keep my engine running, nothing more. TV football and sitcoms just slide over me, while I think about what I want. And what I want is Enos Johnson. I want his fucking head on a stake! I think I’ll pay him a visit tomorrow, but he won’t know. Without the intrusion of the human stuff poor David had to contend with, I was able to devote hours to planning. Maybe I should leave David on the shelf. Twoey I stayed in my room today only coming out to eat. Mom didn't bother me or ask any questions. I think she was using the give him some space tactic. Naturally, my thoughts were on the only thing my thoughts could be on. The thing is, I know exactly what’s going on. I’ve been with him enough to know how he works. My David lets a lot of stuff slide by. Stuff his mind doesn’t classify as top priority. But when it raises itself to that level, watch out! His love for me was certainly one of those things. He thinks, re-thinks and over-thinks. He worries and fusses as he attempts to come to a conclusion he can live with. He’s always very logical and isn’t satisfied until he can accept the result. I thought, with therapy, he was getting nearer that conclusion about us. I really think he was close. But then this war with his pastor hit. He let it slide for a long time until they invaded his room. I think when he saw them fucking on his bed, it was so unexpected and shocking, he went off the deep end. Now this is the number one priority in his life. He believes he needs to marshal all his forces for the battle. I can completely understand what’s happening. I don’t like it, but I understand what he’s doing. What he’s doing is more dangerous than he can imagine. I’m crying a lot. I’m crying because I won’t see him until this is over, which could be a long, long time. I’m crying because I’m worried for him. I’m crying because there is the distinct possibility I’ll never see him again. That’s how dangerous these people are. God! How can you do this to me TWICE? Give me a boy, then snatch him away for yourself to enjoy? I cried a lot.
  12. 6 points
    March 27 – Monday More bad dreams last night. More torment from Dad, and a guest appearance from Uncle Ray, who held Zander down in my dream. At least Zander didn't wake up when I sat up in a cold sweat at two in the morning. Could I really be the beast my Dad was? Should we get married, or should I ask Zander to call it all off? Because it's happening. It's really happening. It hit me like a freight train today after school. I'm getting married on Friday. This Friday. As in, four days from now, Friday. As in, I'll be married in time for the weekend. This is turning out to be completely weird. My usual day looks almost normal – wake up, go running, go to school, track practice, maybe a session with Dr. O'Shea, come home, eat supper, do homework, bed. Oh, and make out with my boyfriend before bed, and in our bed after lights out at some very late hour. I did say 'almost normal.' How many 'normal' kids will add "Marriage Counseling" to their calendars before "homework" on Wednesday night? Or cram "Wedding Rehearsal" into a suppertime slot on their Thursday planner? Or "Get Married" in the space right after "Track Practice" on Friday? How many 'normal' kids have to meet and get the seal of approval from brand-new family in the same week – on the same day - as their first ever Track meet? And Monica insists I have to go with her sometime to get a haircut. God knows where we'll pencil that in. At least Zander's grandmother Nonna Costanza likes me. Or at least, she likes to see me eat; she thinks I'm too thin. I still can't believe she gave us wedding rings. Monica took them down to the jeweler (Jeff's dad again!) to get resized today. Two weeks ago, I didn't even know they could do that. From Father Brewer, I've learned that it's pretty unusual to get married on a Friday. Almost everyone gets married on a Saturday. Funny, I just wanted to get married as soon as we could, and that was the earliest date. Father Brewer gave Zander and me some homework to do for tonight – we have to pick out readings from the Bible for the actual wedding. He needs them tomorrow, so we were looking at some suggestions and a big online bible index thing called a concordance tonight. This task is what really made me realize that this wedding is really going to happen. Anyway, I found the reading I want to use pretty quickly. I'm not going to quote the whole thing, but this is the part that makes me think of Zander: ”Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." I think it's perfect. It fits the way I know the boy I love. All I want is to love him like that, forever, without the specter of my Dad hanging over our heads. I wonder what reading Zander will pick? I've been writing for a while now, and he's still doing online research. Time to make him finish up and choose something, or we'll be here all night. It's going to be one in the morning before too long. I remember picking out something to read to you at the wedding. Father Brewer's list of suggestions didn't really connect with my experience of you. Funny how you can look for something, and then realize it's right there waiting for you to find it. Kind of like how you were waiting for me last fall, too. The last reading in the handwritten list turned out to be the perfect one. It sounded so poetic, but also perfectly like your experience. I read it over and over again, letting it sink in. It was going to be exactly right. I wanted to show it to you and explain why it worked so well. But when I turned you, I saw you'd fallen asleep. The sight of you, curled up at my side, totally at peace, made my heart skip a beat. Your shoulder and ribcage moved a fraction of an inch with every breath. Your face wore a tiny smile, like you were remembering some wonderful secret. That image is still etched in my memory, years later. March 29 – Wednesday The clock is ticking. Literally. I can actually hear Zander's watch softly ticking away on the dresser. He's asleep, and I don't know how he does it. Zander is pure comfort to me, and I still can't sleep. Even now, he's snuggled up against me, an arm wrapped around my middle, all warm and cozy. And there is something incredibly sexy about his bare shoulders. He's making it very hard to write. And yet. I'm still hesitant. Still worried sick that once all the excitement wears off, and we try to go back to whatever turns out to be normal for us, I'll grow into a clone of my Dad. Or worse, of Uncle Ray. Those dreams haven't gone away. You can't escape your heritage. Can you? I thought about this. I wanted to ask Uncle Allan, but it's not the kind of thing you can text. He sent regrets that he couldn't be here for Friday, and passed on the unsettling news that his mother, my Grandmother Walker, wasn't responding to his emails or messages about the wedding. Guess she's not happy about it, after all. Worse still, I couldn’t make my Tuesday session with Dr. O'Shea, but the kinds of questions she would have asked floated around in my head. What makes me angry? What do I do about my anger? When have I hurt someone in anger? What did I think about that? And all I can think of is the satisfaction I got from goading Bruce Mack into running himself into the ground. I didn't enjoy seeing him hurt. At least, I don’t think so. But I think he had to be taught a lesson. That he couldn’t pick on Zander and me and get away with it all the time. And that we're just as good as he is. But did I mean to see him hurt? And did it feel good when he pulled a muscle? Kind of. And when I admitted that to myself, I wondered when the genuine Gunnar Ericsson rage would set in. And could I hurt Zander when that happened? No. Never. Shit, I've gone round and round and round on this for days. It's still bothering me, and the therapy questions haven’t really helped. In the meantime, I've pasted a smile over my fears and gotten ready for the big day. Maybe all I have is jitters. Forty eight hours from now, and I'll be a married man. Kaz and Terry agreed to be our wedding party – there's no bride or groom, and no best man or maid of honor; just Zander, me, and the two friends who will stand with us. I think Zander is relieved not to have to ask his brother Frank to be part of it. Zander's brothers and sisters are coming tomorrow, and that has me seriously worried. No surprise there. It helps that Nonna Costanza smiles at me and gives me a hug - and a snack - every chance she gets. She also made me eat something more sometime after supper last night, too. She should have seen me last summer. Anyway, she's been very encouraging. Zander's oldest sister, Maria, will come in tomorrow while we're in school. Her husband, Ken, won't be coming. He's apparently bent out of shape about Zander being gay, so he made some excuse. But he's the only one, and Maria is coming, anyway. Zander says he's happy his sister is coming, but I worry that we're doing something bad to their marriage. Zander's brother Frank and his wife will be coming together with his sister Carol and her husband, Jeremy, tomorrow late in the afternoon. Frank worries Zander, because he's known for pulling practical jokes. What would he do? Anyway, they're going to fix supper here at the house with Nonna, while we have a wedding rehearsal at St. James'. Then we can come home for supper, when I get to meet the family. Zander's other grandparents, Garrett's mother and father, will be arriving Friday for the wedding, and staying with friends of theirs in town. Zander isn't sure if they completely approve of us as a couple – let alone our getting married. But they'll be there at the church, all the same. Oh, and did I mention that we have our first track meet tomorrow? We got our uniforms yesterday. I'll be running in the 100 and 400 yard dashes, and I'll get my first chance to compete in the pole vault. But I doubt I'll remember any of it. I'll be too nervous about what happens after. To cap it all off, tonight is my last night here in this bed with Zander until after we are married. Monica and Nonna want us to observe all the superstitions and wedding customs. Or at least a bunch of them, anyhow. Here's the most obnoxious one: the happy couple should not be together in the same house the day before the wedding. Actually, they’re not even supposed to see each other, but that's pretty impossible. Still, starting tomorrow after the rehearsal dinner, Zander and I are going to be kept apart as much as Kaz and Terry can manage it. Yes, our best friends have gotten into the act. Just wait until it's their turn to get married. Anyway, I get to spend tomorrow night at Kaz's house; then we get to cut Track practice on Friday and get ready for the wedding. There's going to be a party of some kind afterwards, but I have no idea when or where. All that has been Monica's doing, with Nonna Costanza's help, I think. I'm pretty hazy about what happens after that. Probably back here to the Stevenson house. Our house. It's not as though we can go on a honeymoon. But I'm absolutely certain Zander and I get to be together afterwards. I'm not negotiating that with anyone. I can't believe that I'm getting all wound up about this – and that I'm not taking advantage of being together with Zander one last time. I'd like to wake him up with a kiss, and then we could cuddle, or even let things get a little hot. I love feeling how hard Zander gets. But the last time we did that – was it just last night? – I had his shorts down to his ankles, and oh dear God, my lips were an inch from the tip of his cock, when he gently pulled my hair and said, "No. Stop." I twisted and sat up. I saw Zander's chest heave. "No. We shouldn't do this," he said – I don’t know who he was speaking to, himself or me. "We promised." Well, we did promise and that was true. But Zander was so hard, his balls must have ached, and I wanted Zander so badly. Not fair. So, so not fair. He turned to me. His face looked pained. "I'm sorry, A. I'm sorry. I got carried away, and I'm leaving you high and dry. I really want you," he continued, stroking my leg, "but I really want to wait until Friday. After it's done, when we don't have to hide or pretend. And can take all the time we want," he finished, almost shyly. Despite myself, despite my raging desire for Zander, I nodded. I knew what he meant. I wanted that, too. When we'd have forever. And besides, I remembered all that Monica and Garrett were doing for us – for me – and I wanted to honor that. So, of course, I cooled down, and got dressed. And then tossed and dreamed badly all last night. I have the feeling that's going to happen again. March 30 – Thursday Less than twenty four hours to go. Am I counting? Today was an exercise in concentrating on the moment I lived in. If I thought too far ahead – even a few minutes ahead – I started getting nervous enough to puke. Looking back on things tonight, maybe I was stupid to be so apprehensive. But in my defense, I had lots to be scared about. At school this morning, I parted with Zander before classes began. I gave him a hug, a big one, and whispered "I love you," into his ear. Just in case he forgot. At lunch, only Terry and Alyssa and Jeff sat at our table. When I cocked my head at Terry, she grinned and said, "Kaz and Nick are having lunch with Zander at a secret location. Bachelor party." I grimaced at that one. I am not a bride. He's not a groom. I'm just his Andy, and he's my Zander. That's all. Anyway, how many people knew Zander and I were getting married? I wasn't sure I liked the idea of everyone in the school knowing, even though it was pretty much out in the open that Zander and I were boyfriends. Kaz and Terry were probably the only ones who knew about our plans for tomorrow. I wondered what was happening in the Guidance Office, and I hoped Zander wasn't getting an earful from Kaz. "Don't worry, Andy," Terry went on, noticing my face, "they're just eating in the Guidance Office." It was a good lunch, though. Terry worked hard at keeping things light, and she was really good to include Jeff in the conversation. Alyssa chipped in comments from time to time, though she seemed a little subdued. She and Jeff got up to throw away their trash toward the end of the period. "You know, Andy, I'm jealous," Terry said, watching the others make their way across the cafeteria. "Of what?" I asked, surprised. "Of you and Zander. Getting married. You’re going to get to be adults, treated like real people. Kaz and me? We're just sweethearts." She sounded peeved. "Oh." I thought about that for a second. "I'm not sorry," I replied. "I mean, I'm sorry if we're spoiling it for you, but…" "Oh, stop Andy. I'm just impatient, that's all. You're not spoiling anything. It's just that Kaz and I have to wait more than a year still," she sighed. "No way are we going to wait," I stated flatly. Terry smiled. "Yeah, well, I don't blame you. I've known Zander since we were in grade school together. Third grade. Mrs. Schmelling's class. Zander was cute then," she reminisced, "But not as cute as the two of you are now," she added. "You can thank me for that." I had to laugh then. Terry's face got serious again. "But it doesn't matter how long I've known Zander, Andy. When you got here last year, something seemed to happen – not just with Zander, with all of us. It's like you were the part we were all missing until you showed up." She bit her lip. "I just want you to know that I love you not just because you're Zander's boyfriend, but because you’re Andy. For being you." And then she astonished me by getting up out of her chair and giving me a big hug. Later, when I thought her words over more carefully, I choked up a little. To be loved for myself; it was one of the nicest things she could have said. I finally got to be with Zander in math. We actually sat next to each other in Trig, and Mrs. Gersheimer didn't seem to mind much. I thought I saw her smiling indulgently at us once while we worked together on a challenge problem, but I dismissed that as being a weird figment of my imagination. We had a few seconds in the hall together to talk. Zander warned me that he was off on a mysterious errand of his own right after Art ended. "Don't worry," he said in response to my quizzical glance. "I'll be back in time for the Track meet to start." He read my mind. We're getting better at doing that for each other. Funny. "Are we walking to St. James' after the meet is over?" I asked. "No, I think mom is picking all of us up." All of us, meaning Zander and me and Kaz and Terry. I checked around quickly for teachers in the hallway and then, leaning in, I stole a kiss. I couldn't help it, and I really didn't care who saw. Not even Bruce Mack could have spoiled my seeing Zander's pleased and startled smile. Which made me wonder at the time: can married couples kiss in school? I doubt it's in the student handbook. After school, all I could concentrate on was my first Track competition. They talk about butterflies in the stomach. I had a whole flock of birds in my gut. I locked myself in a stall in the changing room and got into my track uniform. I made sure to wear a t-shirt under the flimsy tank top; I felt like the shorts were absolutely weightless. And I was going to wear the warm-up suit they issued us for as long as I could. Kaz met me coming out of the stall and guided me out to the track. He helped me focus on stretching and reminded me of everything he'd tried to teach me about acceleration and speed. He meant to be very encouraging, but I kept looking around for Zander. Where had he gone? "Andy, he's not on the field right now, stop looking," Kaz chuckled, noticing. "Shit, Kaz, I can’t do this," I whined. "I'm just too messed up." "Yes, you can," he smiled reassuringly, "it happens to everyone. You're nervous, but you're also good. You’re gonna be great. And don't worry about Zander. You'll get your chance to see him later." I did get to see Zander later, at a distance. He had arrived late, with Nick Lewis, stretched hurriedly, and then hustled to his first event. I watched him compete in the 4 x 800 relay, which Blackburn won pretty handily. Then I had to wait, getting more and more nervous, through another race until it was my turn. We lined up at the starting blocks, and I tried hard to keep my mind focused on the sprint ahead of me. Just that short length of track. Just that distance to cover, as fast as I could run. I was so edgy that I practically leaped out of my stance with the crack of the starter's pistol. All I could think of was getting there, getting to the finish, getting to the place where I could say I had done my best. And then it was done. It had taken no time at all. And I had won. I was engulfed in a huge hug by Kaz, and Nick, and yes, Zander, too. Where had he come from? I thought he was supposed to be doing his long jumping. And then I heard some loud, raucous cheering in the stands and realized Monica was there, clapping and whistling and making a spectacle of herself. For me. Another first. Never had a parent cheering for me before, not for anything. It was a good thing that I had a bunch of races to wait out before my next one. How are you supposed to race when you want to cry instead? So call me a big baby. In the meantime, Kaz got to do the 1600 yard run, and Zander went off to practice for his jumps. I remembered that I was going to have to try a pole vault event and then go run again. I prayed that I wouldn't sprain my ankle. As it happened, my first try at the pole vault was pretty awful. I know I need a lot of work, despite all the coaching I've gotten from Mr. Shanahan and from Nick. There's just so much to concentrate on in the milliseconds it takes to actually do the jump. Launch, pull, flex, push. On my first try, my leg caught the bar and pulled it off. On my next try, I had to abort my jump, because my foot planted wrong. And on my final attempt, I knocked the bar clean off with my heel as I went over. But at least I got over and didn't hurt myself. By the time I began lining up for my second sprint, Kaz had already won the 1600, and Zander was in the middle of long jumping. This time, I noticed Monica in the stands, and I made a point of waving to her. I was much more relaxed at the start of this race, and I immediately paid for it; I fell maybe four or five strides behind. Even though I had more time and space in which to catch up, I felt disappointed in myself. I ran hard and made up some ground, but finished third. Kaz congratulated me just the same, hugging me as if I had won. I shook my head at him, saying "Kaz, I lost that race. I just blew it. I should have come in at least second. I know it." I was frustrated with myself. Kaz just laughed. "Listen to yourself, Andy. What was it, a month ago you told me, 'I'm no athlete.' Now you tell me you're mad at yourself because you blew a race. Tell me who's an athlete now." Shit. He would remember that. And it just went to prove how right he was, and to show how much my mind matters in making a success of things. Zander placed third in the long jumps, and his 4 x 400 relay placed second. Kaz cleaned up in the 3200 yard run. Distance is really his thing. We had a lot to be happy about. So much so that I forgot to be nervous after getting out of the shower and being met by Monica, who shepherded us all into the Toyota so we could get to the church. At St. James', Father Brewer walked Kaz and Terry and Zander and me through the wedding 'liturgy' that's going to happen tomorrow. I know that I get to read scripture to Zander, and he reads to me. I know we get to say "I do," although it turns out there's a lot more we have to say than that. I hope I'll remember what I'm supposed to say, where I'm supposed to stand, and sit, and kneel and all that. We're trusting Kaz with the rings. Then there's the music – nobody told us about the music, but apparently there's an organist and a processional and all that. Father Brewer recognized the glazed look in our eyes last week when he brought it up (I barely remembered him doing that), and he apparently made some suggestions that Monica approved on our behalf. Let's hope she didn't tell them to play country tunes about broken hearts and lost loves. So much to remember, but the rehearsal went really fast. Most of the time, all I could do was hold Zander's hand and glance around nervously – and it looked as if Zander was as scared as I was. I was reminded more than once to speak up loudly, so everyone could hear. Everyone? Who was coming tomorrow except a few people in the family? Then we were off for home – home! – for the post-rehearsal, meet-the-family dinner. I was more nervous about that than about forgetting to say 'I do,' or 'I will,' or any of the other stuff I have to remember. Meeting Zander's siblings shouldn't have made me sweat and tremble, but I was nervous and twitchy by the time we reached the kitchen door; that same door where I'd left Christmas presents; the kitchen door that meant home to me. Monica led the way in, followed by Zander, who held very tightly on to my hand. Did he think I was going to bolt on him or something?
  13. 5 points

    From the album Tassie Trip

    Tasmania has many, many spectacular cliffs.
  14. 5 points
    “I just have a simple question. Who the hell is asleep in your bed?” Anger radiated off my boyfriend in palpable waves. His face was bright red, and I swore his eyes were going to start shooting flames at any moment, incinerating me on the spot. I froze under his wrath, hand suspended inches from my mouth, the spoon I held dripping milk into my cereal bowl full of now soggy Frosted Flakes. “You could have warned me before I went back there, you coward. At least have the balls to tell me face to face that you’re having an affair!” Spittle flew from his mouth and joined the milk dripping into my bowl. I narrowed my eyes and lowered my spoon. “I know you’re mad at me, but that’s no reason to make up lies.” My words had the same effect as the President pushing ‘the button’. I imagined my enraged boyfriend’s head exploding in a mushroom cloud of pure fury. I wondered how his heart withstood the strain. “Lies? Lies? You’re the one with another man in his bed, and I’m the liar?” “Sweetheart, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” “Don’t ‘sweetheart’ me! Now I know why you keep cancelling our dates and why you’ve been so distant.” My normally stoic boyfriend had tears streaming down his bright red cheeks. I rose from the couch and reached out to him, but he crossed his arms and backed away, shaking his head. “I’m sorry I’ve been so distant. I’m horrible at expressing my feelings. The closer I feel to someone, the more I seem to pull away. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I’m working on it. As far as cancelling our dates… I can’t pass up the overtime at work. The money’s too good.” “Is it worth losing me?” I shook my head emphatically. “No. But it’s mandatory overtime, Tone. I could lose my job if I refuse. I thought you understood that.” His face was slowly returning to its natural color, and he raised an eyebrow. “So you’re really at work? Not at some other guy’s place?” “Of course not! How could you even think that?” He let his breath out in a slow stream. “OK. I believe you.” I smiled in relief, and he finally allowed me to embrace him. “I love you, you know,” I whispered. His arms tightened briefly around my back before he pulled away enough to look into my eyes. The corner of his mouth lifted into a tentative smile. “That’s the first time you’ve said that to me.” I kissed him. “Well, it’s true. I may not be the best at expressing it, but I have loved you ever since I first met you.” A fresh tear slid down his cheek. He pecked my lips, then looked at me evenly. “I just have one question for you.” “Name it.” “Who the hell is sleeping in your bed?” I frowned. “Um…nobody?” He pushed away from me, frowning. “I’m serious, Patrick.” “So am I, Anthony. Nobody’s here. I’m not having an affair. You’re way too special to risk losing you.” “I’m telling you that there is a man in your bed!” “Maybe it’s just the way I have the covers bunched. Sweetheart…I’ve been here alone all night. I fell asleep on the couch watching a movie after I got home from work. I was too exhausted to even make it to my bedroom.” “Covers don’t have blond hair.” He grabbed my hand and dragged me to my bedroom. “See?” He gestured toward my bed. There was, indeed, a blond man sleeping in my bed. The man stirred, yawned, and then started snoring. I grabbed Anthony’s arm and dragged him into my living room. I fumbled around the coffee table, pushing papers and magazines out of the way, frantically searching for my cell phone. “Where’s your phone?” He reached into his pocket and held it up. “Call 911,” I said. “What?” “Call 911! I have no idea who that man is or how he got in here!” Anthony’s face paled. His hands shook as he pressed the buttons to dial 911. We headed outside to wait in Tony’s car for the police, keeping an eye on my house in case the intruder decided to leave. It took the cops about five minutes to reach my house. We spoke with them briefly to explain the situation before they headed inside. After an interminable wait, they emerged with the man in handcuffs. He was kicking and yelling and putting up one hell of a fight. They stuffed him into the back of their cruiser before heading over to where we waited, near my car. “How long have you lived here?” the officer asked. “I bought the place a couple of years ago. It’s my understanding that the previous inhabitants went into a nursing home.” “Well, apparently this guy grew up here. He thought he was home and didn’t understand why we were dragging him out of his own house. He seems like he’s either mentally ill or on drugs. You did the right thing by letting us handle it.” “Do you want to press charges?” the other officer asked. “I’d like to know more about the situation first. And I think I’d like a restraining order.” “OK. We’ll be in touch with the details.” I nodded. “Thank you, officers.” They each nodded in return, then headed to their cruiser and drove off. I turned to Tony and embraced him tightly, shaking from the thought of a crazy person getting into my home without my knowledge. I wondered if I’d ever feel safe again. “Why don’t you come stay at my place for a little while?” Tony asked. “I have a better idea,” I replied. “Why don’t you stay with me?” He laughed. “You just don’t like the way I keep my apartment.” “Well, you are a bit of a slob, but that’s something we can work on.” “What do you mean?” “I mean… I want you to be a slob at my place. Well, our place. Move in with me, sweetheart.” He smoothed my hair away from my eyes and looked at me questioningly. “I know you’re scared, but we don’t have to make that big of a leap right now. I want you to think about it before making any rash decisions.” I frowned. “It’s not a rash decision. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. I hate coming home to an empty house. The nights you stay over are the times when I’m the happiest. Your lease is up next month, and I don’t want you to renew it.” He smiled into my mouth before kissing me. “I don’t want to renew it, either.” He took my hand and started walking towards the house. “C’mon. Let’s celebrate properly.” “OK, but on the couch. I want to throw out those sheets and put new ones on before we go anywhere near my bed.” He laughed. “Sounds perfect to me.”
  15. 4 points
    Date Night We were planning on meeting the girls in a few minutes because we had reservations for dinner at one of the swankier restaurants at the hotel, so we had to dress up a little. Parker put on a yellow V-neck sweater over a white dress shirt and added a mostly red patterned tie. “Oh, you look nice,” I uttered when I saw what he was going to wear. “It’s very, uh, Haircut 100.” He said, “Hmm,” and went in front of the mirror posing a few times to the right and then left. “Well, they were a good band, right?” “I like it. I like it,” I assured him. I put on a more traditional Oxford crewneck pullover on top of a black dress shirt with button down collar (a new experiment in my wardrobe). “Whaddya, think?” I said asking for his opinion. “Here, squat down a little so I can see the top,” he directed. He brushed the shoulders with his hands, pulled on the collar, tipped his head this way and that. “Yeah, that’ll work. It’s a little conservative, but I’d fuck you.” “Is that all I am for you, a fuck?” I joked. “Of course not, you have a huge cock too,” he replied with a smirk. “Now you’re gonna get it…” I grabbed him by the collar, pinned him against the wall, and began kissing him full on the lips…of course, he was happy to assist me. Then there was a knock at the door and we knew it was time. We pulled our lips apart and I said, “I’ll take care of you later.” “Promises, promises,” he replied. We opened the door and walked out into the hall to meet the girls. “Well, get a load of you two looking so sharp,” Aunt Helen said checking us out. “Gee, Aunt Helen, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a dress before...looking good!” Parker extolled. “Yes, you HAVE seen me in a dress before, smart ass. But I appreciate the compliment none the less.” “And here’s Ginny looking very glamorous,” I said making sure not to ignore her efforts. “Yeah, Mom, like a movie star!” “Thank you boys. You two do look very dapper…for a change.” “For a change?” Parker inquired. “Yeah, Parker, you’re always dressing so slutty,” I joked. “What!” Everyone laughed. We made our way around the lobby to the restaurant and checked in. We were a few minutes early but were seated anyway. The restaurant, I’ve since forgotten the name, was billed as Tuscan cuisine which is northern Italy. I guess Tuscany is more about meat, beans, soups, and cheeses and less about pasta, although there were a few pasta dishes for good measure. The atmosphere was very nice and the food and service were top notch. We had a conversation over dinner about our plan on how to tackle the parks. Ginny was told that Monday through Wednesday were the best days to visit because the closer you get to the weekends the more locals come to the parks. Since today was Saturday, we’d spend Sunday around the hotel, exploring the grounds, using the pools, and just relaxing. Then we’d begin with the Magic Kingdom bright and early on Monday. I was more than happy with this approach. Sleep late and lounge around the pool for a day to decompress and then do three days of Disney parks in three days. There was also talk about the next two days at Universal Studios theme park. I smiled to myself thinking the girls may need a vacation to recover from this vacation. I’m an amusement park junkie, so the more spinning, hanging upside down, and big drops I can experience, the better. From the rides that Parker told me he tackled while on his Senior trip, I was sure he’d be able to keep up with me…though Disney and thrill rides are hardly synonymous. As for the girls, well, let’s just hope they don’t get sea sick on It’s a Small World. That would make for a very long week. But getting back to where I started, I was happy for a day to relax before the mayhem ensued. When the meal was over, the girls announced that they were going to go to the piano bar for an after dinner drink. Parker and I, knowing we weren’t “of age” for that venture (or fans of piano music), decided on an evening walk of the grounds around the hotel to get our bearings for the next day. It was decidedly night time and the paved walkways were lit with expensive-looking lamps. I say “expensive looking” because not all in Disney is as it seems. As we slowly walked the grounds, we were alone in our travels. It didn’t take long for Parker to grab hold of my hand. I took his hand and brought it up to my face and kissed it. He just let out a little hum of approval. As we rounded the corner of the building, another group was approaching from our front. It looked like two couples: a middle-aged couple and a younger one. I was guessing a mother and father traveling with son or daughter and spouse. My first inclination was to immediately stop holding hands, but that night I didn’t. So it became like a game of chicken. The couples were drawing closer and closer with each step. Who was going to release hands first? I sensed my heart racing and something like a cold sweat over my body. Good or bad, I had something to prove to Parker and to myself, and I was in this until the end. The couple passed by, said “Hello” and continued on their way unfettered. After we passed them, I looked over at Parker. He returned a wry smile. “You’re getting better at this, you know,” he said. “Yeah, I guess I am,” I smiled back and I kissed his hand again. “I’ll make a respectable gay boy out of you yet,” he giggled. “I thought you just liked straight boys?” I reminded him. “Straight boys who like boys,” he replied. “Straight boys who like hot, sexy boys,” I corrected him. “A boy like me would think you’re trying to get in my pants.” “I don’t need to try…much.” “I can’t argue that one,” he said and we both laughed. We walked to see the pool area which had a large water slide. It was a little cooler that night, so no one was courageous enough to take to the water and brave the cooler temps. We took a turn and reached the back of our building, which had a smaller grand entrance. “Ready to go back to the room, young man?” I asked as we neared the entrance and released hands. As I held the door for him, he stood on his toes and whispered in my ear, “I have a boner.” “I’ll take that as a strong YES!“ I countered suppressing a laugh. We made it to the elevator, to our floor, and finally to our room. And without a break in stride he made his way to the bathroom and said, “I’ll run the water for our bath now.” And a few seconds later from inside the bathroom, he added, “Oh wow, and they gave us bubble bath stuff, too!” A shower, or in this case a bath, was clearly warranted after a full day of travel and was a nice perk before bed. “Well, why don’t we unpack a bit while we wait for it to fill up,” I suggested. So we opened our suitcases on the bed and began filling drawers and hangers. A few minutes later, Parker checked on the tub, “Almost there. Oh look, and fresh bathrobes!” he said opening the closet to hang his clothes. We continued until the suitcases were empty and all of our clothes were in their designated places. “OK, tub’s ready,” he finally announced. We gathered in the bathroom looking at the tub. “Wow, that is quite the bathtub,” I said expressing what we were both thinking. I dipped my hand in. “Whoa, run some cold water to even it out.” “Yikes,” he said dipping his hand in for a second opinion. In a few minutes he had it just right, or so I thought. We undressed and I climbed in first. “Ah, hot hot. Ooo,” I said as I stepped in gritting my teeth. “Well, add some more cold, then. I don’t want you to burn your nuts off because I might need them later,” he advised. “Yeah, me, too!” I replied. So I stood in the tub while Parker ran the cold water for a minute more. Then I eased myself into the hot, sudsy tub. “OK, here I come,” he announced. I spread my legs to allow him to sit right in front of me as he eased himself in. Once he was seated, I wrapped my arms around his torso and pulled him into me. We sat there silently in the hot tub while I held him. When he was wet and soapy, he was very slippery due to his low-hair body. He began slowly washing my legs and feet, which were on either side of him, with soap and a washcloth. “Matt?” he said slightly above a whisper. “Hmm?” I urged him. “Thank you.” “Thank me? For what? You’re the one that invited me on this trip, remember?” “I know, but thank you for coming with me.” “Well, Parker you really had no choice. We would have been miserable otherwise.” “Ha, ha. You’re probably right. Here, stand up so I can wash your legs properly,” he answered. I stood in the tub while he continued to wash my legs, waist, and private areas. He spent a little extra time making sure my ass crack and hole were clean. “Now crouch down in front of me, so I can do your back and chest,” he said continuing his orchestration of suds and skin. Then we switched positions and I began with his back, neck, and I reached around to wash his chest. “Your turn. Stand up so I can wash your legs.” As he did with me, I spent a good deal of time washing his ass crack and then I remembered to pull back his foreskin to wash that area. Foreskins because of their normal biological structure can get very smelly if they’re not pulled back and cleaned well and often. I never caught Parker’s equipment smelling funky, so he must have stayed on top of it. “What happened to your boner?” I asked. “It’s taking a break, but it’ll be back!” “I’m sure of that,” I joked. “OK, squat down to rinse,” I instructed. He did as I asked and I helped push water up on him to get him rinsed. We returned to the seated position with him between my legs so we could enjoy soaking in the hot water some more. After a minute of silence, I heard, “Hey, have you noticed that penises float in baths?” “What?” “Just look down and you’ll see.” I looked down at my Johnson and sure enough it was flaccid yet pointing upward, floating. I looked over and his was doing much the same thing. That’s the one difference between showers and baths. In a bath, a guy’s penis achieves a natural buoyancy that we never get to see in a shower. After our return to soaking, I suddenly remembered something. “Hey, when we were eating breakfast this morning, I saw your report card hanging on the fridge—three A’s and two B’s,” I mentioned. “That’s pretty good stuff.” “You saw that?” he asked hesitantly. “Yeah, I was so proud of you, but I never said anything because I didn’t want to embarrass you. It looks like you did better in high school than I ever did. You are an intelligent person, and anybody could see that you deserve to be in college. You’ll do really well, and I’ll be there to see to it.” “Oh, Matt!” he swung around and hugged me. I slipped backward and my head hit the tub. I saw stars or more like white spots. The next few minutes were kind of fuzzy. He helped me get out and dry off. We made our way to the bed and he set up some pillows and went to get ice. He put some ice in a towel and placed it on the back of my head where I smacked it. He must have apologized a dozen times over the course of the night although I didn’t see it as his fault. I was feeling really tired after such a long day, so it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep as I lay there with a towel full of ice against my head. I woke up to the feeling of Parker examining my skull with his hand. He had a towel still wrapped around his waist and so did I. “So how are you feeling?” he asked when he saw my eyes open. “I’m fine,” I replied. “Apparently, I have a hard head.” “Or two,” he added with a smirk. “Yes, whenever you’re around.” “Are you suggesting that I’m a little horny?” “No…you’re a lot horny,” I said with a chuckle. “But that’s apparently my type.” “So you like horny 18-year-old boys?” “I like this horny 18-year-old boy,” I said grabbing him and pinning him to the bed. We started making out on the bed. We kissed on the mouth and then I moved around his upper body. I kissed all around his neck, his shoulders, his upper chest, and worked on his nipples for a while. He was completely submitting to my tongue work and he began making a little squeaky moaning sound as I protracted my time with his nipples. In my opinion, his body was so flawless, it didn’t matter what I kissed. It was all good. “Here, stand up for a second,” he proclaimed. I did as he suggested. “Oh, my god! Ha ha ha, look!” he said pointing at my midsection. I looked down and my poker was pointing straight out under the towel. “Ooops,” I giggled. He peeled his towel back to reveal that he was not immune to the moment. “See, I told you it would be back,” he declared. “So…do you want to just fuck and get it over with?” I suggested attempting to move things along. “No, we can ‘just fuck’ anytime. I’ve got a better idea,” he said pulling the towel off his waist to reveal his remarkable nakedness. He stood up and turned to his left and fished through his carry-on bag. He pulled out the familiar plastic bottle of lube. He moved in front of me and released my towel which fell to my feet. He looked me up and down like a hungry animal. “Look at that thing. It’s so big!” he growled. “It’s the same size as last time,” I confessed. “Yeah, size XXL!” he determined. He turned to the glass slider to the deck and opened it. He grabbed two pillows from the bed and tossed them on a deck chair and placed the lube on the little side table. “C’mon,” he said getting behind me and pushing me out onto to the deck. “Parker!” I protested in a whisper. Consequently, I found myself standing on the deck completely naked with an erection. I nervously looked around to see if anyone was stirring on the grounds below, but it was completely still. Our porch light was off and the lights in the room were out as well, so our deck was mostly in the shadows. “What time is it?” I asked in a whisper. “Hmm, clock says 3:12.” “It’s three in the morning?” I replied disconcerted. “3:12. Now shush!” he ordered. He came up behind me and pinned his naked front right up against my naked back. Then he wrapped his arms around my torso and held onto me. There was just a hint of a chill in the air, so the warmth of his body felt really good against mine. After a few minutes, he began gently kissing my back in one general area while he continued the embrace. I was shivering a little bit, partly because the front of me was cold and partly because I was nervous about being spotted. Parker gently kicked my legs as he urged me to stand with them spread more. Then he took one of the pillows from the chair and placed it behind me on the wooden deck floor. “Here, bend over and grab the railing,” he directed. The porch railing was maybe three feet in front of me, so I held my arms straight out and leaned forward until my hands were gripping the railing. Parker kneeled down behind me on the pillow, spread my ass cheeks, and began—well, I guess it would be eating me out. I tried to hold back any vocalization, but it was impossible. I was able to stifle my moans at first, but it didn’t take long for an “Oh, god!” and a “fuck!” to escape my control. It was immediately followed by a hard slap on my ass, the sound of which I swear ricocheted across the lake like a gun shot. I understood the slap as encouragement to keep quiet, but I was fighting a losing battle. “Here!” Suddenly, the second pillow appeared in front of my face…courtesy of my partner in crime. I positioned it across my arms and I buried my face in it. As I stood there in near ecstasy, moaning into a pillow, two thoughts crossed my mind: 1) I really enjoyed getting my ass eaten, and 2) I’ll have to remember not to kiss him when he’s done. Then I felt his lubed finger enter me. I let out a groan into the pillow. He worked it in and out, and after applying more lube, he added a second finger. Soon his two fingers were sliding in and out of me without much resistance, clearing the way for the next step. Parker stood up behind me, lubed himself up, and I soon felt his warm, greasy sausage at my back door. He applied pressure, and in he came. That feeling of needing to shit returned. Even if you know you are empty, it is an unsettling feeling, but you have to work through it. The most embarrassing thing in the world I could think of would be to lose control on your partner when your bowels are not as empty as you thought. This, my friends, I was informed was called a mudslide. Enough said. After successfully passing that milestone, the feeling went away… only to be replaced by the familiar feeling of being full. Of course I was full—full of Parker. From previous experience, I knew this was the point that the person being penetrated needs to begin masturbating...and that was me. I reached down and discovered there wasn’t a need to prepare things. There was pre-cum already leaking out of my nozzle greasing the way. I grabbed hold and began working. I fought to balance the pillow with just one arm and my face while jerking myself with the other. It wasn’t long before I could hear Parker’s whispered grunts, meanwhile I was damn close. I was cresting the first big hill of this rollercoaster and I was all in. There was something incredible building inside me and all hell was about to break loose. As I was jerking and being pounded from behind, I tried to keep my face buried in the pillow as I was about to go ballistic. My body jolted as frozen ropes were launched out of my musket, destined for a landing zone somewhere in the darkness. Did my shots land on the deck, hit the railing, or clear everything and land somewhere three stories below? It was hard to tell. Based on the intensity of my orgasm, I’d like to think that many of my shots cleared the porch completely. Next it was Parker’s turn to bring it home. I could hear his whispered grunts as he was nearing blastoff. He had been trying to keep his thighs from slapping against my ass and creating a racket. He went in as far as he could and made short, deep thrusts inside me from behind. Suddenly, Parker reached up and grabbed my shoulders. I could feel his hot breath on my back as he leaned forward. He let out several stifled groans as he emptied himself into me. I happily took his warm seed. After standing there breathing hard for a minute, Parker pulled his weiner out of my behind and we gathered everything up. We quickly left the porch hoping we didn’t give someone out there an eyeful. We went into the bathroom together. Parker took the sink and scrubbed his dick with soap and warm water, and then he washed his face. I went to the tub and soaped up a facecloth to wash my posterior. I soon realized we should have had the sex first and then the bath. Oh well, I enjoyed it regardless, although the knot on my head from the tub incident was now throbbing. We dried our parts, brushed our teeth, and got into bed. I avoided lying on my back because due to our previous activity, gravity would be my enemy while I was asleep. I didn’t want to risk leaking in bed when my body was relaxed for an extended period of time. I broke from tradition and instead of having Parker snuggled up against me, I snuggled up against him. He was confused at first, so I said, “You were the top tonight, so we’ll change positions in bed accordingly.” He said just smiled and said, “Oh, OK.” He put his arms around me and held me to his chest. I placed my head on the right side of his chest and stroked his left chest with my fingers. “Matt?” “Yeah?” “I’m kinda confused?” “About what?” “Like I never topped before, but now I realize I like it. And you’re a really good bottom. I feel like I have a lot of lost time to make up for. But you have a big, beautiful cock that makes you an amazing top.” “Well, Parker, first of all no one is keeping score. Just do whatever you want? You know whatever you feel like at the time. If you want to top, you top. If you want to bottom, you bottom. “ “You mean be versatile?” “Why not? Top or bottom…it doesn’t matter to me. It’s always the best sex of my life.” “Yeah, me too. I guess we’re perfectly matched sex partners…you know, among other things,” he reasoned. “Other things?” “Yeah, you know, like I enjoy being with you even when we’re not having sex.” “There you go. You just discovered the problem that sinks many marriages,” I stated. “Yeah, you actually like when I molest you.” “Always,” I replied.
  16. 4 points
    Dear God, I know I’ve said this many times over the years, but this time I think I’m serious. I just can’t take it anymore. I promised you I would be strong, but each day my strength is weakening. It’s getting harder and harder to live with Dad. I know sons are supposed to honor and respect their parents, but you don’t know what it is like living with him. Well, maybe you do. I just guess you listen to him more than me. Anyway, God. I just wanted you to know I feel like I can’t take it anymore. Dad says God challenges us each day. He says you put obstacles in our way to test our faith. I just don’t think I have any faith left. Sorry I’ve failed you. Bobby I guess this sounds kind of silly, but I write God all the time. I write especially when I am having trouble with things, and that seems like all the time anymore. Most of my problems center around my dad. You see, he’s a big time minister. When I was little, I had trouble talking about what was bothering me. So one day, he handed me a pencil and a little notebook. I think I may have been about five then. Anyway, he told me if something bothered me, that I should write a letter to God. He said God reads everything. When I started writing, things were simple. The first time I wrote a letter to God, it was because Charles stole an apple from my lunchbox, and I called him a bad name. That night, I opened up the notebook, and I asked God to forgive me of my sins. At five, calling someone an asshole was a big deal. If Dad had heard me, he probably would have made me stand before the congregation, and then he would have spent the next ten minutes using me as an example of how young people are straying away from God and following the wicked ways of the devil. He did that once when I was twelve. I was climbing around on the roof, and I slipped and fell. I didn’t hurt myself, but when I hit the ground, I hollered out rather loudly, “Shit!” Unfortunately, I fell outside his study, and he had the window open and he heard me. He came to the window, but he didn’t look out to see if I had hurt myself. Instead, he hollered out, “Jacob, come into my office. Now!” It seemed like it took forever to get off the ground and walk slowly to his study. I knew what was awaiting me for I had been through it many times before. I had heard him warn parents many Sundays, “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.” And he lived by that saying. On more than a few occasions, I had experienced the rod. Well, not really a rod, but a switch from a sycamore tree in the back yard. When I was ten, he had pulled me out into the yard, made me climb the tree and cut a branch he had pointed out. I can’t even recall what I did to get whipped that day. I probably didn’t move fast enough when he told me to do something. When I entered his study, he was waiting. He had the switch in his right hand, and he was hitting his left hand with it. My skin crawled from the sharp, cracking sound it was making. He then hit his desk sharply with the sycamore stick. Tears started to stream down my cheeks as his dark brown eyes stared angrily at me. They seemed to turn black as be began to admonish me. He shouted, “The Devil is in you, Boy!” He waited a second before he shouted, “Well?” I jumped and muttered, “Yes, Sir.” I sniffled, but I didn’t dare cry. “Crying is for sissies,” he had warned me over the years. He would then relate stories of how men in the Bible, like Noah and Moses faced hardships and didn’t cry. “Even the Good Lord as he hung on the cross didn’t cry,” he warned me. “And no son of mine is going to be weak. The Devil makes men weak. God gives them strength.” As he sharply whipped his left hand with the switch, he began to rant about my sinful transgression in the backyard. Not once did he ask me if I had hurt myself. He was more concerned with exorcising the demon within me that had made me blurt out that sinful word. When he had finished, he approached me with the switch clutched tightly in his hand. “Now, Boy,” he said angrily. As I stifled back my tears, I turned toward the wall and pulled my shorts and underwear down to my knees. I heard him pray, “Dear God, save this boy from the Devil. Forgive him of his transgressions, so that one day he will earn a place beside you in Heaven.” My body trembled as I stood exposed to him. I jumped when he hollered out, “Now, Boy!” I muttered, “Forgive me, Jesus. I know not what I do.” The first hit is the worse. You know it’s coming, and you know it’s going to hurt. And it does. It is almost like your mind blocks out the others, usually five or six depending on the sin. That day earned me a dozen or more. I don’t know because I didn’t count them. When he finished, he turned me, and with myself still exposed, he had me bend down on my knees to pray. He knelt down and put his hands on my head and once again, he asked God to save my wicked soul. When he finished, he stood, looked down on me with disdain, and then he left the room. I stood and felt behind me. There were slight traces of blood on my hand. There always was from the sycamore switch. I pulled my clothing over my tender skin and left. I made my way to my room, closed my door, climbed atop my bed and cried. Only in loneliness did I dare to weep. That was five years ago. Since I’m now older, and taller than him, he stopped using the switch. However, now his words bite into my soul deeper than any sycamore switch. Today, they made a deep and lasting impression. His Sunday sermon started out like it usually does. He has the congregation stand while he calls upon the Lord to come into our souls and bear witness of his love. My mother and I sit in the front row. She is my father’s greatest admirer. I have heard her say since I was a little boy that my father is a true man of God, and that the Holy Spirit runs through his veins. She nods and says, “Amen,” after almost every sentence he utters from his large, oaken pulpit. When I was little, I couldn’t see him unless he came out from behind it. As I grew taller, his face seemed to emerge like the rising sun from behind the pulpit. Now, I can watch as his face tightens as he rants about worldly sins, and I can watch as the veins in his neck protrude in anger. Today’s sermon was on human failings, one of his most popular themes. As I’ve grown older, I am beginning to question why he devotes so much time to the subject. I would think that perhaps he struggles with his own demons, but I have never known my father to ‘be bitten by Satan’s temptations,’ as he calls them. From what I can tell, he lives the life he expects others to live. Perhaps, if he had some recognizable failure, then the pain I am experiencing might be lessened. I could tell myself that since he is not perfect, then he cannot expect me to be. However, he doesn’t. He’s a bitter and cruel man, but the congregation views this as a strength of character. They see him as a warrior against Satan and evil. He has told them often that he will smile once he sits at the table with Jesus in heaven. So today, his sermon began with the admonition of falling to the temptations of the Devil. Several times, I closed my eyes briefly until he would slam his hand down on his oaken pulpit to illustrate his anger. Then, I heard him holler out, “The days are now coming to an end! The Rapture is neigh. God said that the end would come when the world embraces the sins of the homosexuals.” His sermons had often contained Biblical quotes about the sins of homosexuality. That was nothing new. However, today, he seemed to be directing his comments at me. His eyes flared with anger as he slammed his hand on the pulpit, looked down condescendingly at me and shouted, “Man sleeping with man, woman sleeping with woman.” He held his Bible into the air and shouted louder, “This goes against everything that God has written in this Good Book.” He then looked down at me and growled, “It goes against everything I believe.” Even though I didn’t look over, I could sense my mother looking up at me. My face reddened as I felt everyone in the church was looking at me. They knew my father well enough to know when he was singling someone in the congregation out. He had a way of doing that. A rumor or hint of gossip could be either confirmed or denied by a single stare. Everyone shrunk from his admonitions, as I was now doing. Although I didn’t know why I was doing it. He couldn’t be implying that I was a homosexual. I didn’t know myself if I was straight or gay. Living under his roof, I always assumed that any thoughts of sex was sinful and forbidden. While my friends talked about masturbating, I viewed it as a filthy and lustful activity. I was always afraid he might walk into my room late at night and catch me in the sinful act of pleasuring myself. I was also prone to having wet dreams since I didn’t relieve my lustful desires. A nightly eruption as I slept couldn’t possibly be considered sinful. It was something that was entirely out of my control. Two years ago I considered asking my father for his advice about the subject, but I was afraid of his reaction. I was quite sure he would tell me that my curiosity was one of Satan’s temptations. I cast my eyes upward when he slammed his hand back down on the pulpit. I could see the anger darting out from behind his cold, dark eyes. “The Lord is coming!” he shouted. He extended his Bible toward Heaven. “In the last days,” he warned, “We won’t know if man or woman walks among us.” I was becoming confused. I thought he was directing his anger at me, but now he stood gallantly behind the podium and stared around the congregation. “You heard me right,” he stated again. “We won’t know if man or woman walks among us.” My mother shouted, “Amen,” and began waving her hand into the air. Others soon mimicked her action. My father emerged behind the podium and stood before the stairs leading up to the altar. He looked out onto the two hundred people who had congregated to hear his words. He spoke low and with a tone of warning. He then looked down at me and said angrily, “Watch your children, you mothers and fathers.” His voice grew louder. “There is today a child of evil in our high school.” I looked back and saw others with puzzled expressions as they looked up at my father. “I have been told that there is a young man who has enrolled in Northdale High School,” he said as he began to descend the stairs. He looked down at Mrs. Emory, one of the octogenarians of our church. “His Lord given name is Samuel. That is a good Holy name.” he spoke reverently. Mrs. Emory looked up, smiled and nodded her head. He then stepped out into the aisle, shook his head unbelievingly and said angrily, “But his mother enrolled him into the school with the name of Tiffany!” There was a collective gasp throughout the church. My father dramatically slammed his hand upon his Bible. Everyone, including myself, jumped when his hand smacked the ornate cover. “Tiffany!” he shouted angrily. “A young man whom God deemed to be a man portrays himself to be a woman!” I watched as my father’s body shook with anger. He stared out over the congregation, shook his head solemnly and then returned to the stage. He dramatically waited until the conversation had turned to silence inside the church. “I’ve read of this happening elsewhere,” he muttered softly. He shook his head and continued, “I was hoping that our children would never have to experience this evil in their lifetime.” He raised his Bible into the air. “But that evil now lurks among us.” He began to point his finger at the parents in the room, particularly those who had children in high school. “Watch your children,” he warned. “Perversion is among us. The Devil walks the halls of Northdale High School.” The hair on my neck stood on end when he looked down at me and stated, “Keep your child close to you, and he’ll not stray from the Lord.” He then lifted his arms and told everyone to rise. He lead the congregation in a solemn singing of “Just As I Am.” Mother and I rode home in silence. She looked at me several times, and I knew she wanted to ask me about Samuel, Tiffany or whomever they call themselves. There was nothing I could tell her. School doesn’t start until next week, and since I’m not exactly a social butterfly, there is no way I would be aware of any of the gossip that might be going around. Most students avoid me like I am some kind of a leper. They have since I first started school. The few people my age I talk to are those who attend my father’s church. And even then, they have little to do with me other than at Sunday Bible study. It’s not that they don’t like me. They fear my father. They think that if they say something wrong in my presence, then I might tell my father. I would never do that, but I’ve never had a chance to tell them. I’ve heard the beginnings of their quiet conversations, but they always stop if they think I am in close enough to hear. For just one minute, I wish I was like them. I wish I could go to a football game on Friday night, and maybe a movie on Saturday. But my father would never permit it. He thinks such activities are evil. Sports is the devil’s meeting ground, and I can’t even begin to discuss his rants about television and movies. In fact, we don’t even have a television in our home. I have a laptop computer, but it has parental control. He monitors my activities regularly to make sure I’m not visiting sites that is filled with sin and temptation. I’ve watched him sneak into my room late at night and remove my laptop. A half hour later, he’ll creep back into my room and replace it on my desk. I know what he has done, but I would never confront him about it. If I did, it would only make him more suspicious. I feel like I’m choking now. All I need is for him to tighten his reins even more. So I live the life of an outcast. I have no real friends other than the few students who talk to me occasionally. Because I live the life of a hermit, I read a lot. Of course my father has to approve my reading material. He wants to make sure I’m not reading anything the ‘devil has laid his hands upon.’ He also makes sure that I complete my homework assignments before I can do anything else. Which is funny because what else is there for me to do other than my chores and reading? I’ll be a junior next week when I start school. I’ll probably be the valedictorian of our class, but not because I want to be. In fact, I tremble each time I think about having to give the valedictorian speech at graduation next year. I’m quite sure my father will write it for me. That means it will be laced with warnings about my generation being sinners, misfits and degenerates. I’m quite sure it will end with some prayer in which I will be forced to asked God for forgiveness of my classmates’ sins and transgressions. Maybe I’ll get sick on the night of graduation. However, it wouldn’t matter. He’s made me go to school when I had severe colds and migraine headaches. I’m one of three who will probably graduate with a certificate for perfect attendance. By now, you’re probably saying, “Poor Guy.” But I don’t need anyone’s sympathy. What I really need is a pocketful of cash and a decent car to help get me away from this place the night I graduate. My father has enrolled me in a Bible college thirty miles away. He wants me to become a preacher like him. I don’t know how to tell him I don’t want to do it. That is a conversation I’ll never be able to have with him or Mother. So I plan to run away- just leave. I don’t know where I’ll go, or how I’ll get there. However, I have a year. Maybe some escape plan with materialize by then. Dear God, School starts tomorrow, and I really could use some strength. Each year I feel like I’m just going through the motions, because I don’t know where you want me to go. Father’s sermon yesterday upset me. He always preaches about your love, but I can’t understand why his heart is filled with so much hate. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Are you a wrathful God or a loving God? Bobby I hate the first day of school. It is always the same. I wait at the end of the lane for the yellow school bus to arrive. Mother stands on the porch in her apron, waits for me to board, waves goodbye and then dries the tears from her eyes. She used to wait beside me at the road, but when I entered middle school I begged her not to anymore. It was embarrassing. None of the other mothers accompanied their child to the bus stop and made sure they got on safely. Other students would ridicule me unmercifully, and it only reinforced the social stigma that was already building around me. Other boys referred to me as a “Mommy’s Boy,” as I trudged red-faced to the back of the bus and plopped dejectedly down into a seat. It took me weeks to finally convince her that I was old enough to board the bus alone. She wept on the sofa and stroked by blond hair back as she cried, “My little boy is growing up.” Finally, she relented. Now, she embarrasses me by waiting on the porch, but at least I can deal with that. As soon as I board the bus, others began to giggle. I stood looking down the aisle, afraid to make my way to the back. I had to be careful to dodge a boy’s foot who thought it would be funny to watch me trip over it. I was dressed in my usual attire: white dress shirt, black pants and black loafers. If I was wearing a black tie, I would look like a young Mormon missionary. Two years ago, I asked my father if I could wear ‘normal’ teenage clothes. I had to endure an hour rant about how young people’s dress was immoral and ungodly. All I wanted to do was wear a tee shirt and denim jeans. How ungodly could that possibly be? As I made my way down the aisle, I could hear others snickering and giggling. I knew it was because of my clothing. Since my demeanor was quiet and demure, most students left me alone. I took a seat on the last row and I stared out the window as the corn fields rushed past. It was a beautiful morning, but it just didn’t match my mood. Occasionally, I would glance forward to see other students sharing animated conversations. I imagined that most involved catching up on the summer fun. The bus ride takes about twenty minutes to school from my stop. The distance is less than two miles, but there are numerous stops. As we neared school, the excitement began to build. Laughter and excitement filled the bus. Then suddenly, everything became silent. I looked out the window to see what had happened to bring about such silence. A young girl was running from her home. She dropped a book on the drive, motioned for the bus driver to wait before she continued to run to get on. She stood at the front and peered around. She was small and petite, maybe about 5’6. Her waist was so small, I thought I could easily put my hands around her. She had straight, long blond hair that flowed down around her neck. She had on designer jeans and a brown silky blouse. A large turquoise necklace clung tightly to her chest. I thought she was very pretty. Several students began to giggle, and before long, the bus was filled with laughter. I didn’t know what was so funny. The girl appeared humiliated. She hung her head and slowly made her way to the back. For a minute, I thought she was going to sit beside me, but she sat in the seat opposite the aisle. Everyone had turned to stare at her. Giggles and muted murmuring continued to fill the bus. I glanced over at her, and her hands were trembling. She sat looking down at the floor as she nervously adjusted the three books in her lap. Once, she glanced over at me, and our eyes met briefly. She was extremely pretty, and I couldn’t understand why everyone had reacted like they did when she got on the bus. I would have expected the boys to react differently. Catcalls and whistles would have seemed like the normal reaction to a girl so pretty. Even the other girls on the bus didn’t appear intimidated as they usual do when another new girl enrolls in school. I became embarrassed because others continued to stare. Each time the bus would stop to pick up more students, before the bus even began to lurch forward, they would be informed of the new student sitting in the aisle opposite me. Once when the bus pulled off, I glanced over. She was peering out the window, and she appeared to be ignoring the attention that was directed towards her. As I studied her pretty features, I noticed the slight trace of a wispy mustache above her lip. Suddenly, it occurred to me that this was the young man my father had ranted about the morning before at church. The student sitting opposite me was Samuel- or Tiffany. I wasn’t sure. As I looked forward, most students had returned to their conversations. I glanced back over at the girl- or boy- and I saw her hands still trembling. An unexplained surge of sadness enveloped me. It was soon replaced by fear.
  17. 3 points
    Raphael was not even aware this village existed till now. A tiny settlement of not even 50 people, far west of the Forest of Anza. A few homes and a church was all there was to it. The two had traveled all day and reached the destination just before dusk. Straight away they made their way to the church, Amon greeting the priest that tended to the place and took a door at the back of the building and down a flight of stairs. It let into a small room where a single bed was, and on it a young girl in her early teens lay, still and motionless. If one did not look very carefully they would assume her dead- all the colour had gone from her skin and her chest barely moved so it was hard to tell if she was even breathing. "I need you to heal her." Amon spoke after a few moments. Raphael nodded, walking over to the girl. He could tell straight away she was cursed- and badly at that. it was a miracle she was still alive. "How long has she been like this?" Raphael asked softly. "Around 2 years." Raphael reached out, gently placing a hand on the girl's forehead. The skin felt icy- really this was no more than a dead body kept alive by magic. Now he understood why Amon didn't want what he thought was a curse on himself removed. It wasn't a curse that was on Amon but a soul siphon spell that probably he had put on himself to keep this girl alive. Raphael started to channel a bit of his own energy in to see how she would react. "And do you know what sort of spell made her this way?" "Immoral magic." Amon replied in a dark tone. Just thinking about it made him furious... How did he let this happen? Immoral was the derogatory term for people who were a Magus, not many people in Estel thought of them too fondly. As tribes they mainly lived in the desserts north-west and usually took profession as assassins, bandits and people other nations hired to do dirty work. They also were known for their violent raids on unsuspecting villages and towns. It was also they way they acquired their abilities, from their tradition of fusing monsters with themselves that was the root of the discrimination. Raphael took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He started the incantation words of the Goddess. his whole body glowing a soft silvery blue. He could hear the girl's heartbeat now, the stillness of her sleeping mind. To drive out curses one had to touch their soul he just had to reach it... Raphael jolted as the curse pushed him away. It felt as if he had hit a solid wall. He could tell this was no good. He slowly withdrew his hand from her. "I'm sorry..." The blonde said softly, looking up to meet eyes with Amon. "This isn't the sort of curse you can reverse or expel from someone one they have been affected... specially after this long..." Amon made a sound of frustration. He actually knew this may be the case. he had already gotten advise from many healers and famous clerics and they had all told him the same thing. That she could not be saved. But he had to save her. He asked Amon to look after her and he had failed... ".....Thanks for trying." Amon muttered, turning now to lead Raphael out. "I'll... show you out. You kept your promise so you are free to go. I'll take you back to where I took you from. That's okay right?" "Erm.... you know that...if you carry on using your soul like that to keep her alive you will turn into.. a monster...don't you?" Raphael felt like it was not really his place to say but he couldn't help but worry about the other man. It must hurt a lot to keep doing that for so long. And a human without a soul but strong in elemental mana like Amon would turn sooner or later into a monster that would probably create more tragedy. Even if Raphael had only known him for a short time he didn't want that. He could tell Amon wasn't a bad person- just someone who had lost his way. "It's fine." Came the short reply. "I told you. It doesn't matter what happens to me." It was already night time by the time they left the church and it was dangerous to be wandering around in the dark if it could be avoided. Stronger monsters roamed the land at night, not to mention all kinds of unsavory characters. "...you can stay at mine for tonight. We can leave at dawn." Amon said making his way to the house he had bought here to store his small amount of belongings. It was an almost empty place, not really something you could call a home. Even an inn had more character. Raphael felt like it showed the world though Amon's eyes and it made him feel sad. Wasn't there anything he could do? "...I'm sorry there's not much I only come back here to sleep sometimes." Amon said as he threw his cloak on a chair in the kitchen. He started to make tea as that was the only thing he had in the house before he walked over to the fireplace and with a snap of his wrist lit a fire. "Make yourself comfortable." He added a little awkwardly motioning to the chair. Come to think of it, he had never had anyone but himself in this place before... "Thanks." Raphael felt a bit bad taking the one seat in the whole place but he did as told, taking off his own cloak. The room started to get warmer now and the faint scent of tea filled the room. "Here." "Thank you." He was handed a cup of tea and saw Amon casually sitting on the floor in front of him. There was a few minutes of awkward silence as they drank the tea, neither of them knowing what to say. "I know you probably think I'm an idiot but I need to save Anna. No matter what. I was asked to look after her by someone... very important to me. I... I can't let her die." Amon spoke, breaking the silence. Raphael looked up from his cup. "But to be honest I don't know what to do anymore... everyone tells me the same thing. She can't be saved. But..." Amon felt his throat tighten up. Why was he telling Raphael this? His emotions were bubbling on the surface of his usually calm self and it wouldn't stop, like boiling water threatening to overflow. "I..it was my fault... everything... the first time they came I couldn't protect my clan...we... we just barely survived....Azel and Anna and myself... And we thought we had got away but after years.. they found us and it was the second time... I was an adult I should have been able to protect us all but..but I failed...I was useless..." Amon closed his eyes tightly, trying to hold back tears and calm his emotions, his breathing uneven. His shoulders shook as his hands balled into fists. He only semi noticed Raphael standing and walking over to him, wrapping his arms gently around him in a comforting embrace. Amon subconsciously leaned into him for a few moments before he realized what he was doing and pulled back. "S..sorry." He uttered, regaining his composure. Since when had he become this weak? Raphael shook his head. "It's fine. I... I'm sorry I touched you without your consent." Raphael's heart was beating hard in his chest and he wasn't too sure why. Seeing Amon in emotional pain like that made him act without really thinking... He fidgeted a little, brushing some of his hair that had fallen into his face away, not too sure what to do with himself. It was...only normal to want to comfort someone in pain right? Then why did his heart race like this? Amon looked away. it wasn't like that. The problem lay more in that he had leaned into it... The only person he had ever had that sort of contact with was Azel and he had vowed not to be involved with anyone else ever again. ".....If you help me on my mission, I can help her." Raphael said after a few moments of thinking. Sorry Father, I know you told me never to tell anyone about this but.... I have to help this man. Amon looked up with a frown. "What do you mean?" "I... have a way I can help Anna, that's what her name is right? But if I do it now, it means I can't complete my mission. And no matter what I need to succeed it. So if you help me complete my mission, I will come back here and help her." There was a mountain of risks in saying this but he had faith in Amon. Possibly a baseless faith but he trusted him. "...how? You said it can't be healed..." "No, it can't. But I... have an ability. If I use that she can be cured of her curse." Raphael shuffled over to Amon on his knees so he was the same level as the assassin. He thought it easier if he just showed him instead of trying to explain it. He took Amon's free hand into his own, pressing his palm down onto Amon's hand. "Benedicere" As Raphael spoke the words a bright blue flash burst from his palms and as fast as it had some, disappeared. Amon frowned, not really sure what had happened for a moment before Raphael pulled his hands away and he noticed all the scars he had received from many battles and the roughness of the burnt skin had gone. Did the cleric heal them? But how was this going to help Anna who cannot be healed? "Father told me I am unique in this ability. It has not much to do with the ways of white magic that I follow." Raphael said as he held out his hands to Amon, towards the light so the other could see what had happened. All the injuries and scars that were on Amon's hands had transferred onto Raphael's. Looking at it now on someone else they looked painful, specially on Raphael's smooth, pale skin. Amon blinked in surprise. Indeed he had... never heard of someone who could do this. "I can absorb aliments from someone and take them onto myself." Raphael added softly, looking down at his own hands. For Amon's hands to be this damaged... how much had this man gone through? The burnt skin was already fading, turning back into healthy soft skin and Raphael rubbed a finger over the scars and in turn they started to disappear also. "Usually, if it is something like this I can heal them and it's easier to do once it's on myself. I naturally have a very high regenerating ability." He explained with a small smile, holding up his hands again now and every trace of the scars had gone. "It's a gift from the Goddess that She has blessed me with." Amon frowned when he realized what Raphael was offering. "So you are saying you will use this on Anna." "If you help me, yes." "Then what will happen if you do?" "I probably will die. But rest assured, Anna should wake up and be fine as the curse will transfer to me wholly." Raphael replied. For a person saying they will die, he was rather calm about it. Like it was just how things went. The way Raphael spoke as if that was just a matter of fact scared Amon just a little. Was Raphael not scared of death? "....and what do you want me to do?" "Accompany me to the Hall of the Gods." "....you mean of the legend?" "Yes. I need to get to the crystal. And firstly, as I said to you before I don't have any fighting ability in case monsters attack me on the way there. Secondly, the hall needs people of the 6 elements to open the door. I am personally of the light and water element and you are fire correct?" Amon had thought Raphael as a rather mild, weak willed sort of person but he realized how wrong he was. The Raphael before him now was someone who felt stronger than he ever could wish to be emotionally. "So basically, you want me to take you to the Hall of Gods and open the door." "Yes. And once my wish is granted, I will come back here and take Anna's curse." "....and how do I know you are going to keep your word?" Raphael paused, thinking about it for a moment before speaking. "...You can keep my soul crystal as collateral." Amon stared back at him as if Raphael was totally insane. He now definitely confirmed Raphael was way too trusting for his own good. "So if I do betray you, you can destroy it and I will not be able to use most of my spells anymore. And it will also mean I will have to be close to you at all times so you can keen an eye on me." A soul crystal was the source of strength for the few people who owned one- a concentrated physical form of their elemental mana. It was so that their immense power could be taken off their physical bodies so it would not be too much of a strain on the person and so they can develop even more. Usually it was something guarded with one's life but now this man was offering to put it in the hands of someone he barely knew... Amon guessed it was more than enough put at stake on Raphael's part as it was true, he could break or even sell it on the black market for a ridiculous amount of money... "...are you sure about this?" "Yes." "....alright." "Thank you, Amon." Raphael smiled at him, genuinely pleased he had decided to help him. Amon looked away a little awkwardly as it wasn't like he was really doing much of a favor, it was a deal of sorts... "...it's...getting late. We should sleep." Was all he could say to fill the gap. When they got to the bedroom Amon took off most of his outer garments, though still keeping his blades on him. He guessed he would just sleep on the floor for today. "You can have the bed." He said as he bundled some of his clothing into a make shift pillow, planning to use his cloak as a duvet of sorts. "B..but... your bed....I feel bad..." Raphael mumbled as he started to take his own robes till he was in his under garments and took off his top, revealing his skin. Amon pretended he had never seen him naked before though he had. However the last time he didn't notice that at the center of Raphael's chest he had a light blue jewel like object embedded into his skin,probably because the cleric had his back turned to the window last night. Raphael tapped the stone twice with three of his fingers together and the stone dropped out of his chest onto his hand, leaving a shaped dent where it had been. "Here." Raphael held it out towards Amon. Amon for a moment wondered what he was looking at and realized it was Raphael's soul stone. He had never seen one before as it was pretty rare in the first place. He took if from him carefully. It felt warm and it seemed to pulsate very slightly, like a miniature beating heart. "...I'll take care of it..." "Please do! And try not to leave me for too long without it because it will hurt." Raphael smiled, wanting to lighten the mood as Amon looked so serious and grave. "We could probably sleep on this together you know." He added, looking at the bed. "There's enough room and...I feel bad making you sleep on the floor." "But.." "Come on!" It was more effort to argue than to go along with it so Amon sighed, standing up and walking over to the bed as Raphael put his upper garment back on. And he knew it was with innocent intention the blonde had offered and he was the one overthinking things... "Good night Amon!" Raphael said cheerfully as they laid down once the lamp had been extinguished. "...good night..." How long had it been since he slept in the same bed as someone? Ever since Azel had died.... 2 years ago... It somewhat was starting to feel like such a long time ago... The slight warmth raidiating from Raphael next to him felt soothing. Amon's conscious faded slowly into black, enveloped by the warmth and soft faintly sweet scent...
  18. 2 points
    Simple Questions “I just have a simple question. Who the hell is asleep in your bed?” “Huh?” I cracked open one eye, and looked up at Jason from my place on the sofa. Jason glared at me. “Well?” I groaned and swung my legs over the side and sat up. “Why are you looking into my bed anyway? It’s not your business anymore who is or isn’t in my bed.” “Maybe not, but it’s my house, you just rent a room. So if there are strangers here, I deserve to know.” Jason had crossed his arms. I stood up. “If you must know, his name is Dennis. He’s 27 years old. I work with him. Last night we went for a few drinks. He lost his keys, so I offered him my bed. That okay with you?” “Is he your lover?” “That’s none of your business, Jason.” I reached around to scratch my back and peered at my tormentor. “If he was my lover, don’t you think I’d be in bed with him?” Jason snorted in a very un-lady-like manner. “Well, when we were together, you often slept on the couch!” “Only because you chucked me outta bed every time you were having one of your hissy fits.” “You never loved me, Sammy.” Oh here we go! “That’s bull and you know it. I wanted us to be married. I guess you’ve forgotten the trip we took, the water-fall, and the proposal.” “If that’s true, where’s the ring?” “Right where you left it, Jason, at the bottom of Vintgar Gorge!” I sat down. I did not want to deal with Jason and his whining at whatever o’clock it was. “Sammy?” “Sammy?” I sighed. “Let me go back to sleep, okay Jason? I’m tired. Please.” “You never slept well on the sofa, Sam.” I lay down and pulled the blanket over myself. “Nope I didn’t.” I turned over to face the back of the couch and closed my eyes. “You … don’t need to sleep here.” Jason’s voice was a whisper. I lay still with eyes open – saying nothing. There was a sound of the coffee table being moved, then I felt a hand on my upper thigh. Pressure – his chest against my shoulder blades, a soft kiss on my neck, then his warm breath on my ear as he whispered, “You don’t need to sleep here.” The hand on my thigh dropped down and caressed my butt, and the kisses he rained on my neck became more fervent. Believe me, the attention was affecting me; I’m a man and human. But Jas and I have been down this road once too often. We’d go to bed, kiss, make out, and I’d bottom for him. Afterward he’d humiliate me like he always does, and then we’d fight. I couldn’t do this anymore. I turned over. He tried to kiss my lips then and I pulled away. Jason sat back on his heels. “Sammy?” He reached out to stroke my hair but I pulled back. “Don’t, Jason. No more, okay? You and I are finished.” “You are in love with that … whoever he is, Dennis.” “No, I’m not. He is who I told you he is.” I sat up again, pulling the pillow into my lap. I regarded my beautiful ex-boyfriend and remembered how good it had once been. How happy we were together all that time ago. I smiled at him as he knelt on the carpet. “Sammy?” Jason reached up to touch my cheek. “You’re crying. Why are you?” He clambered up beside me, he put his arms around me, and I let him. I cried then, sliding my arms around this man who I had once loved deeply, but that I knew I could not any longer. “Sam, please tell me what’s wrong.” I moved out of his arms. “Jas, I need to move out. I can’t do this anymore.” Jason gasped. “We aren’t helping each other by staying in the same place.” I gazed into his sweet brown eyes. “We both need to move on and forget.” “You think I want to forget you?” His voice had gone up an octave. “Is that what you seriously think, Sam?” Is that what I thought? Did I want to forget Jason? “Yes, I want to forget everything, until the day when the memories of you, of us don’t hurt anymore, Jas. And we can never get to that place living together like we do.” “Well, I don’t want you to go.” Jason stood up and crossed his arms like he always did when he wanted his way. “Did you ever think about what I want?” “Don’t start something, Jason. Do not be the whiny bitch. What you want ….” That really pissed me off and he always got away with it. “Wait, you know what? Go ahead tell me how I never thought about what you wanted. Please, go on.” Jason looked confused. “I … what do you mean? What are you doing, Sam?” “What am I doing? Well Jas, I’m giving you the opportunity to tell me just how I never thought of you in the eight years we were partners. So please, just let me fucking have it.” “Stop it, Sam, please.” “Sorry, what?” My voice was raised. “Okay, Sammy. I get it. I’m a bitch and I was a rotten partner.” Jason sat down on the over-stuffed chair. “I’m sorry.” Oh, perfect, did I have to do that to him? “No. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. There was no need for me to be such a dick.” Jason was quiet for a few minutes and I felt like crap. “Sam, was it really so bad?” Shit, bugger, damn. “No of course it wasn’t, Jas. Mostly, it was brilliant.” “I still love you, you know, Sammy.” “I love you too, Jason.” I stood up and went to him. I pulled him to me and held him close. “So say you won’t go. Let’s try again, please Sam.” “You know what Jason. I think we could.” I held him by the shoulders. “But we’ve said that each time and it’s never worked.” “You’re going this time for real, aren’t you?” Nodding, because I couldn’t speak, I hugged him, and went to my room to pack.
  19. 2 points
    I wanted to write a longer Rubaiyat because I think this is a longer poem traditionally. But I was having issues with inspiration, so I thought about classic stories and fairy tales and thought of the Little Match Girl. Here is a rubaiyat inspired by that classic story. A Peddler’s Memoriam Tis the final night of the good, past year The crowds are happy, and enjoy their cheer In my too large shoes, I walk on unseen Darkness falls quickly but the way is clear Papa had set me on my path to glean Money from the wealthy folk he is keen It’s my duty to sell my meager wares I try, but am awestruck by the scene Houses glow brightly, while candles flare The smell of roasting meat is in the air Can they not hear my empty belly sing? The people laugh and dance without a care The gaily-painted women walk and swing Men watch, follow and pay them for a fling None of them will buy my goods this cold night I dread the angry words failure will bring Papa will rage, he and Mama will fight Our house will be cold, there will be no light We kids are quiet for our own sakes Until yelling stops and things are all right I shelter 'tween houses, I've got the shakes Deep is the chill and my poor body aches Carriages carrying sweet lovers abound I need to sell, no matter what it takes Snow is heavy and it covers the ground Suddenly there are specters all around But I know it’s the cold causing these sights I wish for a fire to keep them earthbound Years before now, a girl suffered this plight She did not escape, but froze that sad night And she died where she'd huddled from the cold The poor little match girl covered in white Alone with no shoes, her burnt matches told A story of fear and of sadness bold No one did miss her or for her did mourn Nor that night were any bells for her tolled So onward in shoes that are over-worn I sell all through the night until the morn, Now my pockets are full and I do twirl Maybe Papa will be glad I was born. I look out and see pretty snowflakes swirl Papa smiles, Mama has put in a curl Tis the first day of New Years, so we feast I, in mem'ry of the little match girl.
  20. 2 points
    Chapter 23 Merrick followed Senator Elsan to the throne room, aware of his surroundings, but deep in thought. It had been a productive morning for the investigation so far. When the Alecteran came to their room, he confirmed that individual interviews had been arranged with the counseurs. Just prior to the senator’s arrival, Landin discovered the name of the Ultec ship and its captain, and forwarded the information to Jenson and the human investigator. Fortunately the ship was still in orbit around its home planet. Merrick was pleased with the progress being made, but was disturbed by the news Jenson had to share. <><><> “We have the name of the captain.” Merrick smiled at the handsome face on the screen. “Landin should be sending that to you now.” “I have it, thank you.” Jenson sounded distracted. “I have some information for you too.” “What’s going on, J?” “I looked through my mission notes after we signed off yesterday.” Merrick looked more closely at the vampire and realized how tired he appeared. There were dark smudges under his eyes, like he hadn’t slept at all since their last conversation. “Mission notes? From Alect-3?” “No.” Jenson sighed. “Logs I have from other operations over the years. The ones where things went wrong. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first assignment I’ve been on where people have been hurt.” “What did you find?” Merrick had a feeling that he wasn’t going to like what Jenson discovered. “It looks like the Terezinians may have been involved in more than bringing flauros to Alect-3.” Merrick felt anger spark inside of him. “What do you mean?” “During an operation several years ago, two of our ship’s crew were badly hurt when an unmanned deep core drill exploded. I was on Veanga to assess a potential collaboration with Anglia to manufacture the drills on a large scale. The builder was adamant something must have been tampered with, but at the time we attributed the accident to faulty design and put a hold on talks. A few minutes ago, I confirmed with the Veangan attaché that the cooling system they used was purchased from Terarzin a few weeks before testing. There were a few other incidents over the years that I didn’t connect at the time. They were on different planets… with different species. Every representative I’ve been able to contact has confirmed their planet has a trade relationship with Terezin. There was either a Terezin representative cleared to be in the area or their technology had been used in some way during each accident. These incidents may not be connected, but there are far too many similarities to be coincidental.” Merrick swore out loud. He was sure Landin and Kalen would have heard him from the other room. “Those bastards. Didn’t they care how many people they could have hurt?” “I think this has to be Jorrah’s doing. There’s no other logical explanation.” Jenson sounded weary… and very sad. “He works for the Terazin Trade Alliance and has the connections to pull this off.” “Shit… I’m sorry, J.” Merrick wished he was there to pull the vampire into his arms. Jenson only nodded in response. He didn’t miss the telltale dampness of the vampire’s eyes. “I’ve spoken to my father, and if the Ultec captain confirms Terezin involvement, he’ll be requesting their government surrender Jorrah to Anglia for questioning.” “I’ll make sure you’re one of the first to know,” Merrick promised. “We’ll get to the bottom of this, J. I swear.” He hesitated for a second, not liking what he was going to have to say next. “Jenson? If we find out that Jorrah is involved, I need to tell Landin and Kalen about Kel. They need to know what we could be dealing with.” The vampire was clearly not happy about having his private life discussed with anyone, but he acknowledged that Merrick’s men needed to be prepared. Merrick left the conversation wanting to head straight for Terezin and shake the truth out of Jorrah Varro. What happened to Kel was tragic, but it was an accident. Jenson would never have purposely hurt Kel. The man should have been around the two lovers long enough to know that. <><><> “Wait here.” The Senator’s voice drew Merrick from his thoughts. “Someone will come to get you when we’re ready.” Merrick acknowledged his understanding and watched the door close behind the tall male. While waiting, he decided to distract himself by examining the etchings on the floor. The language wasn’t familiar, but it was beautifully carved. He could feel the guards’ eyes following him, but wasn’t bothered by their scrutiny. Being in such close proximity to the Maser and Counseury, he would have been disappointed if the guards weren’t wary. “Commander Weir?” A soft voice called to him. Waiting by the open door was a very young-looking male, whose petite frame seemed to drown in his ornate robes. “The Counsery is ready to see you now.” The first thing Merrick noticed when he stepped into the room was the barely veiled disgust on the faces of a few of the counseurs. The Maser sat at the head of the large table, with the Senator sitting to his left. Merrick thought the leader looked rather pleased with himself. “Gentlemen.” Merrick bowed to the group and moved to the far end of the table, where the young Alecteran pulled out a chair for him. “Thank you for meeting with me.” “Of course, Commander.” Maser Luda gave him a wide smile. “We’re as anxious as you are to discover who’s responsible for the attacks on Alect-3.” “Thank you, Maser.” He inclined his head. He could see several of the males around the table scowling, but no one voiced any objections. “I understand I’ll be meeting with each Counseur individually?” “Yes,” Maser Luda agreed. “The Counseury was asked to make themselves available to you and your team during the investigative process.” The leader turned his attention on the males sitting around him. “Our business for this morning is concluded. This meeting is adjourned. Senator Elsan will contact you to confirm our next meeting date.” The counseurs stood with their leader, and bowed as he swept out of the room with several guards in tow. After the doors closed, Senator Elsan addressed Merrick. “Commander, your first appointment is with Counseur Rossud.” He gave a hard look to the males at the table. “The rest of you have your itineraries. Please ensure that you’re available, as scheduled.” In silence, the group left the senator and Merrick alone in the room. As soon as the doors closed, Merrick turned to the taller man. “I need Kalen and Landin here for the interviews.” “Of course. I’ll have someone bring them from the visitor’s quarters. Come, let me show you the office you’ll be using.” The room they entered was fairly close to the throne room, and in the same wing as the counseurs’ offices. Since this was a heavily secured area, only Merrick was given access the room and limited, supervised access to the rest of the wing. Kalen and Landin were sitting on either side of him at a small table when Rossud arrived. Their research told them he was younger than the rest of the counseurs by several years. As was the case in many patriarchal societies, family leadership and landholdings were passed down from father to eldest son. Rossud’s father had died the year before and his son now occupied the position of leader for their territory. “Thank you for joining us, Counseur Rossud.” Merrick rose and bowed to the younger male. Although it rankled him to show deference to the arrogant Alecteran, Merrick knew there were customs he needed to abide by. “I wasn’t given a choice… believe me.” The young male muttered, sitting heavily in the chair offered to him. “Let’s just get this over with, shall we?” “Of course.” Merrick gave the male a bright smile before turning to Landin. “Do you have the logs?” The Anphilian handed Merrick his comm pad with the required information already loaded on the screen. “I’ve been granted access to the security logs for the inter-planetary communications system. During our review, there appeared to be some unusual activity using your clearance.” Merrick turned the screen to the male across the table. “Normally, off planet transmissions aren’t unusual, but Alecterans don’t make it a habit to communicate with other species. It looks like you’ve made contact with someone from the planet Ultec several times over the last couple of months.” Merrick watched the younger male closely and noticed a tightening of his lips as he stared at the screen. “Can you explain this?” “Is it a crime to contact our trading partners?” The male scoffed, leaning back in his chair. “It could be, when the counseur making the transmissions isn’t on the trade committee, and the trading partner in question is potentially responsible for illegally delivering flauros to Alect-3.” The young male’s brow furrowed in apparent confusion. “I don’t… that wasn’t why…” The counseur stuttered for a moment before straightening in his seat and clearing his throat. “I have no idea what you’re referring to.” Merrick studied the young male for a few moments. He seemed agitated, but Merrick’s gut told him whatever the young male was doing, it didn’t have anything to do with Alect-3. “Counseur Rossud….” Merrick softened his voice. “Why were you contacting the Ultecs?” The male shook his head slightly. “It isn’t a crime to contact our trading partners,” he repeated. “Would this have anything to do with the fact that several of your family’s companies are on the verge of closing?” Kalen interrupted, leaning towards the young Alecteran. “What?” The male startled visibly and turned on Kalen. “How did you…? Who told you that?” “It was easy enough to find out.” Kalen shrugged his shoulder. “Before your father’s death, two Rossud factories ceased production. Since you took over the family title, you’ve had to sell off several land holdings. How much debt did he leave you with? Is that why you were so easily convinced to help deliver those creatures to Alect-3? For the money?” The counseur sputtered and pounded his fist on the table. “That’s a lie… it’s outrageous. How dare you insult my father!” “Counseur Rossud,” Merrick began again, drawing the agitated male’s attention back to him. “No one is trying to insult your father. I’m sure Kalen didn’t mean it that way. We don’t always have control over the economy or the viability of a business. I sympathize, but we do need answers. Why have you been contacting the Ultecs?” Merrick paused for a moment, letting the Alecteran fidget in front of them. “We can look into this more closely… speak to the Counseury and trade committee, but I thought you might like to give us your version of events first.” The male sat stiffly for several seconds before he seemed to deflate. “I was trying negotiate a deal to ship garments and textiles to off world markets,” he whispered. “Why didn’t you just go through the trade committee?” Merrick was confused. Why would such a straightforward trading contract need to be kept secret? “Those items aren’t on our approved trade list,” the male looked down at the table, his long fingers scrubbing at some invisible mark. He looked even younger as he sat across from them, squirming in his seat. “Surely the Counseury would have approved those items if you’d asked?” “And admit how badly my companies are doing? That would be tantamount to admitting my failure as territory leader. I will NOT lose my territory.” The Alecteran’s retort was harsh before rising with a sigh to stand behind his chair. “Are we done here? Can I leave now? I think I’ve told you everything you need to know.” He looked uncomfortable as he waited to be dismissed. “Yes, for now,” Merrick replied. “But we may have more questions for you later. I’ll also need the names of your contacts on Ultec to confirm what you’ve told us.” The counseur nodded without a word, before hurrying out of the room. Merrick looked between Landin and Kalen. “Thoughts?” “I think he’s telling the truth.” Landin’s voice was hesitant. “I know I’m not an expert interrogator, but he seemed honestly upset about his businesses, and too proud to admit the trouble he’s in to the rest of the Counseury.” Merrick turned to Kalen. “I agree with Landin.” The man leaned back in his seat. “The story is plausible. His arrogance and pride would keep him from asking for help. I’m not sure how he thought he could continue to keep his side trade agreement a secret, but I doubt he was thinking that far ahead.” “Or, he was too arrogant to think he’d ever get caught,” Landin added, causing the other two to laugh in agreement. The last two morning meetings were uneventful. Each counseur seemed cooperative, and Landin didn’t find any unusual activity associated with their security clearances. Counseur Jolquin wasn’t friendly, but he wasn’t overtly hostile either. Merrick got the impression the male felt it was beneath him to be answerable to a lowly Commander. Despite the conceit, he didn’t believe the older male was associated with the attacks. Counseur Mentach was congenial and answered all of their questions without hesitation. He was even supportive of his leader’s attempts to drag Alectera out of its isolationism. One of the reasons, Merrick learned, was that Mentach’s younger son wanted to attend the Anglian academy for envoy training. The young male had aspirations of someday filling that position for his home world. Merrick hoped they could learn something useful from the five counseurs they were seeing in the afternoon. He wondered if the Ultec captain knew anything beneficial to the investigation. They were lucky the Earth ship, The Marquis, was returning from a nearby sector and was easily diverted to Ultec. They had just returned from the noon meal and were discussing strategy for the afternoon when he received a vid call request from The Marquis. He left the other two huddled around the computer while he accepted the call. Agent Telepyleia Harndi’s familiar face appeared on the screen. “Commander Merrick Weir. How long has it been? Five years?” “More like six, Agent Harndi.” “Call me Leia, please.” The older woman smiled. Merrick returned the grin. He had admired the retired Agent since she’d taught his Inter-Planetary Criminal Investigations class at the academy. He was happy when he’d learned of her return to active duty shortly after he graduated. “Leia, then. I heard they managed to talk you out of retirement.” Leia’s throaty laugh echoed over the vid screen. “I was tired of sending everyone out into the field and not going myself. I missed the excitement. We’ll have to catch up again soon. You were always one of my favourite students.” Merrick chuckled. “If that was true you would have given me an ‘A’ in your class.” “Just because I liked you didn’t mean I wasn’t going to challenge you,” she retorted. Her eyes twinkled with mirth before she turned serious. “I believe I have the answers you sent me here to look for.” Merrick straightened in his seat. “What did you find out?” “I spoke with Captain Uremar and his crew. He claims they were hired by the Alecteran trade committee to deliver cargo to Alect-3. His ship has made so many deliveries to and from Alectera that he didn’t ask any questions. He claims the containers were already sealed when they were delivered to the ship.” She paused and appeared to be reading something on her screen. “The manifest said the pods contained materials for a water treatment system on Alect-3. It was signed and approved by an officer in their export offices with a note that a passenger would accompany them. After the drop off, the ship went to Alectera for its usual pick up, before returning the Ultec. Several of the crew told me the passenger disembarked as soon as they returned and no one knows his current whereabouts.” “Is there proof of the requisition from Alectera?” “I have everything. Manifests, delivery slips, communications, even their loading and off-loading logs. I’ll send copies to you shortly. Whoever arranged the delivery used very official looking documentation.” “Official looking?” Merrick’s eyebrow raised at Leia’s choice of words. “Oh, I have no doubt it was forged.” One side of her mouth lifted in a smirk. “I’ve compared it with other requisitions they’ve received, and there are subtle inconsistencies I’ll point out in my report. The trade bureau here has been extremely helpful to my investigation, especially since they’ve just entered into negotiations with the EAC for long range delivery contracts.” Merrick chuckled. Telepyleia Harndi could be tenacious, and he had no doubt the Ultec government had offered their full cooperation. “What about the passenger? Do you have any information on him?” “I haven’t been able to identify him… yet. He called himself Mihenkel. I doubt it was his real name, but the crew did confirm he was Terezinian. I have an image from the security feed in the shuttle bay. I’ll send that to you as well.” Merrick’s heart thumped in his chest. Mihenkel? Wasn’t that Kel’s full name? If he had any lingering doubts about Jorrah Varro’s involvement, this news dispelled them. It was too much of a coincidence. “Send me everything as soon as you can. I’d like to read your report before the interrogations this afternoon.” “You’ll have it within the hour.” Leia smiled again. “It is good to speak to you again, Merrick. Don’t be a stranger, all right?” After they signed off Merrick turned his attention back to Landin and Kalen. They must have picked up on his mood because they stopped what they were doing and turned to their commander. “There’s something I need to tell you both about Terezin,” Merrick began.
  21. 2 points
    Jax trudged up the steps having a hard time putting one foot in front of the other, he was so tired and shaky after finishing up at the shop. Steph had noticed too, and it had sucked being peppered with a stream of questions ranging from how well he was sleeping to if he’d been getting enough to eat. After the binge with the ice cream he’d been careful to limit himself to two small meals a day and extra workouts, but he wasn’t sure it had erased the damage done. Standing in the mirror in the morning when he’d gotten dressed, he’d looked at himself from all angles. His jeans were still fitting right, even hanging a bit low on his hips the way he liked them. He’d stroked a hand over the ridges of his abs, poking them a bit, wondering if it was a bit of flab beginning to show. Anger had raged inside of him, because he’d worked so hard only to fuck it up so badly. For a moment he’d contemplated smashing the window, but the last thing he needed was more bad luck in his life. For a moment, he’d simply stood there, staring at his reflection, disgusted with himself, before finally pulling a t-shirt on. Hiding himself from view always felt better on days like this, though it always felt like a shame to cover up all of that beautiful ink. Those pieces would have been better on someone else, someone who wasn’t disgustingly undisciplined. He was so busy wallowing in dark thoughts and misery that he didn’t notice Danny’s door was open until the other man’s voice stopped him cold. “Hey Jax, you got a minute?” He lifted his head, wondering what Danny could possibly want after the way their last conversation ended. “Yeah, um, sure,” Jax said as he climbed the final step and crossed the hallway to lean against the wall. “Do you mind coming in?” It was impossible not to let the shock show on his face at Danny’s suggestion, but he nodded, and stepped past him into the well-lit apartment. The cats where there to greet him, winding around his feet, so adorable that Jax couldn’t help but kneel down and scratch beneath their chins and rub their fuzzy heads. Lyric arched and purred, making Jax smile a bit as the big cat put her paws on his shoulder and rubbed faces with him. “Well hello to you too,” he said, rubbing the fluffy furball even more. Mrrrumph, Lyric replied, headbutting his hand. Jax laughed, gave her one final skirtch beneath the chin, and stood to find Danny watching him, an unreadable look on his face. Jax squirmed, a little uncomfortable at the way Danny was watching him. “What’s up?” “Would you like some coffee or tea or anything?” “Umm water, please.” “Sure,” Danny said, heading for the kitchen. “Grab a seat.” Looking around, Jax decided on one of the wooden chairs at the dining room table and dropped into it, catching sight of a bottle of whiskey on the counter as he did. He could have gone for some of that at the moment, if Danny was offering, might have cut down a little on the nerves he was feeling. When Danny sat the ice water on a coaster in front of him, he drank it gratefully, glad to have something to do with his hands as Danny settled into the chair across from him. “After the last conversation we had, I know I have no right to ask this, but I need a favor and you’re the only one I know who might be able to help us out with this,” Danny began. Jax exhaled, finding himself instantly more at ease at hearing Danny’s words. A favor he could handle, he’d been worried Danny wanted to talk about their messed up attempt at friendship. Settling more comfortable in his chair, Jax had a brief moment to wonder about the prickle of disappointment he suddenly felt, before Danny started talking again. “Herman’s cousin Thatcher was supposed to build the sets for the play, but he bailed on us, kind of last minute to take a better paying job, and I was wondering if you would have the time and be willing to finish the sets for us.” Jax tapped his fingers together, letting Danny’s words sink in. Helping with the sets would mean seeing Danny every day and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. It would be harder to keep just how much he liked Danny to himself if he had to constantly interact with him, but on the other hand, he’d really enjoyed hearing the script performed. The play had spoken to him and it would be kind of cool to have a hand in making it happen. If only…. Jax raised his head to meet Danny’s eyes, then dropped it, because Danny’s gaze was just too intense. “What’s your backup plan?” he asked at last. “You are the backup plan,” Danny admitted and Jax could hear the weariness in his voice. “If you can’t do it, then we’ll have to cancel the show and hope we can get a time slot for some time next year.” “Damn.” Danny sighed. “Yeah, pretty much. Like I said, I’m sorry to have to ask you. I know you’re busy with work and all…” “Only in the evenings,” Jax blurted. “Most days I just spend my time at the gym.” “Oh.” “I’ve got all the tools we’d need, do you have plans or drawings or something to show me what the sets are supposed to look like?” “Wh-what?” “Plans, did you have anything drawn up?” “Yeah, does that mean you’ll do it?” Jax raised his head and once again met Danny’s eyes. “Yeah, actually. I don’t want you to have to cancel your play. I liked what I heard at the rehearsals, I’d kind of love the chance to see it live.” Jax watched as Danny’s eyes went wide, relief washing some of the stress lines away from his face. The rest fled when he smiled and Jax felt a special kind of pleasure at having put that smile there. Maybe he’d fucked up any shot at friendship, but perhaps he could make it up to Danny, just a little, by hoping with the play this way. “Holy…Jax thank you. Thank you so much, I-I don’t even know what to say right now, I, just thank you for agreeing to do this. This play means so much to me and if the critics come and they like it, then some favorable reviews can really help me get some of my other plays in theaters around the city and maybe in Missouri too and who knows, maybe it could go further, and…listen to me, ranting on and on and we haven’t even performed opening night yet.” Jax couldn’t help but laugh at that, and Danny’s passion and energy. “That’s pretty awesome, how into your work you are.” “This is the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do. I love writing plays. I hope I can connect to the audience with them. That they’ll take something away from what they saw that makes them want to talk about it with friends, encourage them to come see the play too.” “That’s cool. It really is. If you’ve got a copy of the plans here I’d love to take a look at them.” Danny nodded, shoved his chair back and hurried to his bag, returning to the table with a folder market set designs. This time, when he sat it wasn’t across the table from Jax, but in the chair closest to him, laying out the plans on the table in front of him. “This is the biggest piece,” Danny explained, pointing to a corner section that jutted out from a wall. “It has to look like a wrestling ring.” Jax nodded, studying it. It looked simple enough to construct, as a stationary prop. He checked the dimensions, and the notes beneath explaining that a few scenes would actually be taking place in it. That was good to know. “What’s this?” Jax asked, pointing a piece of the plans that had a big X through them. “Oh, we had to scrap that,” Danny said, reaching for the paper. “Why?” “No one knew how to make it work out.” “What was it?” There was a scene in the play where Az is trying to kill a mouse, but you can’t use a real mouse on the stage and the movements in cat toys don’t last long enough. You pull the string and it goes a little and dies. We tried battery operated ones but they zip across the floor too fast to be realistic. Jax cocked his head to the side, studying it. “So what happened to the scene?” “We left it in, it’s a key scene, we just decided to pretend there was something there and hope the audience will suspend disbelief for a moment.” “Or we can take the guts out of a stuffed mouse and replace them with the inside of a remote controlled car, and have someone off to the side control the mouse for the scene.” Danny’s jaw dropped, his eyes blinked and Danny watched as he glanced from the paper, back to Jax, then back to the paper again. “Holy shit that could work. Can you, do you know how to do that?” “Yeah. I loved remote control cars growing up, we were always fiddling with them, building them and motorizing shit to scare people with. I can put it together, no problem.” “Thank you. Damn. I, this is way more than I expected.” Danny admitted. Jax just shrugged. “I should be thanking you. You’re giving me a chance to fiddle with that stuff again.” “Why’d you stop?” Shrugging again, Jax rested his head on his hand. “I dunno, guess I figured I’d outgrown it or something.” Danny laughed a little, and Jax picked at the sleeve of his shirt as he tried to figure out why. “I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at you,” Danny said, waving his hand in the air between them. “It’s just, it sucks that as we get older we start to feel as if we have to give up on the things we love. Why? I don’t get it, even though I’ve come to realize I’ve let a lot of things go for the same reasons.” “Yeah, like what?” “I used to love roleplaying games and all night gaming sessions. You name it and Herman and I used to play.” “No shit?” Jax chuckled. “I’ve played a few times, but Callum and Max play a lot, they’ve got tons of games. You should go down and talk to them sometime if you’re still interested in playing. I’m sure they’d be happy to have you join in and Herman too if he wants.” For the second time tonight, Danny’s smile made Jax feel good about having put it there. “You know what, when this play is over, I’m going to do just that. Thank you.” “No problem.” Jax stifled a yawn and stood, unsteadily. “Well, if I’m gonna be building sets for you in the morning, then I’d better get a good night’s sleep.” “Yeah, I’ll see you at the theater at ten.” “That’ll work,” Jax said and turned, intending to head for the door when the whole room spun and spots sort of danced in front of his eyes. He swayed and grabbed hold of the table, shocked when he felt Danny’s hands on his arm and back. “Are you okay?” Jax shook his head to clear it, then took a deep breath and let it out slow, steadying himself and easing away from Danny. “Yeah, um, fine, just more tired than I thought, sorry,” Jax said as he headed for the door, willing himself to walk a straight line to his apartment. He fumbled with the door for a moment and once inside, thought to head to the kitchen and grab some food. He knew he should, but the moment he was alone that nagging voice returned, reminding him he still had all of that ice cream to make up for. In the end, he just went to bed.
  22. 2 points
    I don’t get it. I really don’t. I’m lying in a hard uncomfortable bed and these people keep coming up to me and talking. I don’t understand what they are saying but I watch their mouths move; open, shut, open, shut. They point to things and their voices get louder. I wince when they do that. It hurts. Sometimes I think that is all that is left to me; pain. Then again, I don’t remember anything else so maybe that’s all there really is. I don’t know. Those people don’t seem to be in pain but maybe they can hide it. Hiding. I think that’s what I’m doing. That just came to me. I’m not sure if I’m thinking really but all of a sudden I know I’m hiding. I don’t know what from, I can’t remember, but it’s bad. I hear the voices again and I panic. I’m supposed to be hiding. No one is supposed to see. Move, move, move! Pain! *** “Jesus Christ!” The doctor and nurse went running when they heard the agonized scream from Room 11. The patient was nowhere in sight. Rushing into the room they found him unconscious on the floor in a tangle of blankets and wires. “How did he even move?” Evan asked. The doctor knelt down and began examining him. “I’m not sure. The pain of his injuries should have been enough to keep him unconscious, even if we didn’t have him on enough medication to drop a horse.” Paul put his stethoscope back around his neck. “We’re going to need more x-rays to make sure he didn’t do more damage to his ribs or broken arm. We’re probably going to have to redo some stitches, damn it.” They gingerly picked the boy up and put him back on the bed. Evan and Paul quickly checked the IV’s, wires, and tubes. “I’m going to have to replace this Foley,” Evan said. He quickly got a kit and replaced the damaged catheter. “Okay, all ready. I’ll take him down to x-ray.” Paul scribbled out the orders for the chest and arm x-rays and hung the chart on the end of the bed. “Make sure they know to rush these films. I don’t want to have to take the poor kid back into surgery, much less another emergency surgery.” Evan nodded. “Will do, Dr. Michaels.” Paul sighed as he looked at the bloody stripes on the floor. The kid’s back did break open when he fell. He ran his hand through his hair and shook his head. He called maintenance to get some cleaning staff up in the room to take care of the mess and then went to the doctor’s lounge. Sinking into one of the chairs there he closed his eyes. As hard as he tried he couldn’t stop the tears that leaked out. Someone needed to cry for the kid. He had seen him before the police and ambulance showed up; the horrible conditions he had been left to die in. They had tried to fix as much of the damage as they could but there was so much they couldn’t touch with a scalpel. The mental damage might be more than anyone could hope to fix. *** “Dad!” A young man went running into his house, the back door slamming. “Daniel Roberts! How many times do I have to tell you not to slam that door?” his father scolded without looking up from his paper. “It’s important Dad! It’s the kid, he needs help!” Danny was breathing hard, his chest heaving. He looked scared. “What kid needs help? What are you talking about?” Paul dropped the paper and walked over to his son, giving him a quick hug to calm him. “Now slow down. Tell me what’s going on.” Tears in his eyes, Danny shuddered and then spoke, “I saw him for the first time this morning. I… I broke a window in the house behind ours hitting my ball, or it sounded like I did. I hopped the fence and I was looking before I went to apologize. I broke a small window in the basement but when I looked inside there was this kid in there. “I tried talking to him, to ask for my ball back but he just looked at me. Then I heard a man yelling inside and he looked so scared Dad. He told me to run. The door to the basement slammed open and this big guy saw me looking in and started screaming and cussing. I was so scared I ran back here and hid in my room. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” Danny was rambling, his shock making it hard for him to think. “That’s okay son, we’ll talk about that later. Focus now, who needs help?” “The kid next door. I went over there, you know, to try and talk to him and stuff after I saw the man leave. No one answered the door and then when I went to the basement window I saw him.” Danny let out a sob, “He was laying on the floor, Dad, and he’s covered in blood. His arm looks like it’s broken and he was looking at me, I could see his eyes but he wouldn’t talk to me.” Danny was shaking and Paul eased him into a chair by the table. Handing him the cordless phone Paul said, “Call 9-1-1 and tell them to send the police and ambulance. Tell them I will be in there with him so don’t shoot me.” He ran to the cupboard and grabbed his first aid kit before charging out the back door, letting it slam behind him. The short fence was no trouble with his long legs. Running around the house he checked to make sure the car was still gone from the driveway before he burst through the front door, breaking the lock and leaving it wide open. He walked quickly through the living room, past a couch and big screen TV. The house was clean and neat but there were no pictures on the walls or any sign that a teen lived there. Paul walked into a kitchen and looked around. He headed for a door in one corner with a thick padlock on it. He had no hope of breaking that lock so he stepped back. Using the counter to balance he kicked the door repeatedly until it broke away from the hinges. Pushing it aside he rushed down into the dim basement, empty of anything but a mattress, bucket, and a baseball into one corner. The boy was lying in the middle of the bare floor on his stomach. Paul’s first reaction was one of shock and horror. The kid looked young and was extremely emaciated. His blond hair was lank and greasy, hanging in blue eyes that were open but staring at nothing. Worse was the blood splashed around him and the bloody mess of his back and legs. Paul dropped to his knees and began assessing him, checking his pulse and finding it thready. The boy was barely breathing and his skin was both cool and clammy. “Shit!” Paul took a pair of scissors out of his kit and cut off the remains of the bloody t-shirt and shorts. They smelled dirty, beyond the scent of blood. “Hold on kiddo, help is coming.” Not getting any reaction Paul kept on examining him for other wounds. ‘Broken arm, possible broken ribs, whip marks. Signs of malnutrition, dehydration,’ he shook his head. ‘This is bad’. “Police! I'm coming in!” “We’re down in the basement!” Paul yelled. “We need the ambulance here, stat!” Booted feet came thundering down the wood stairs. “Put your hands up!” Paul’s hands went into the air. "I live behind here. I'm a doctor. My son is the one who called 9-1-1." "Just keep them up!" "I understand you are doing your job but I really need to keep assessing him for the paramedics. I need to put my hands down. My name is Paul Michaels; I am a doctor at St. Mary's. I will not harm him, especially with you standing here." The officer looked at him warily but nodded. Paul began running his hands down the legs of the prone teen. Not finding any open breaks he went back to take the kid's pulse. It was even weaker. "Damn it. He has to have internal bleeding. Can you get a rush on that ambulance?" Paul asked the officer. He turned his head and spoke into his mike, "Dispatch, this is Officer Tenter, I'm on scene. I need an eta on that bus." His radio crackled and a female voice blared out in the quiet basement. "Just pulling up outside. Is the scene secure?" "Scene secure. I could use some back-up for when the homeowner gets back though. This is some bad stuff Evie." The paramedics came into the house and the officer called out to them. They came down the stairs carefully with a backboard. They hustled over to Paul and the boy. "Excuse us, sir, you're going to have to move aside so we can treat your son," one said to Paul, trying to nudge him out of the way. "He's not my son, I'm his neighbor," Paul told him as he shifted away so they could do their job. “My name is Dr. Michaels. I've assessed his initial condition as best I could. He appears conscious but unresponsive, pulse fifty and thready, respirations ten. His right pupil is blown, most likely a result of the large contusion on his temple. Obvious fracture of the right radius and ulna and possible broken ribs, again based on large contusions to the area. Multiple bruises and lacerations from his neck to his knees; mostly likely from a whip of some sort. "His pulse has been growing weaker since I got here; there isn't much blood around him so I suspect internal injuries. Apparent malnutrition and dehydration. We need to get him to the hospital right now." Paul stepped back as they carefully rolled the teen onto the backboard. His entire body flinched when it came in contact with the sheet covered plastic but he didn't make a sound. "Looks like we can add responsive to pain but still no response to other environmental stimuli," one paramedic said, jotting down notes. The other paramedic was busy attaching the belts around the thin body. He looked at the automatic cuff, "Blood pressure 100 over 60, pulse rate continuing to fall. Let's get this kid over to General." Paul interrupted, "Take him to St. Mary's." They were picking up the backboard and starting to tote him out of the room. The officer went up the stairs first to hold the door. "St. Mary's is a private hospital, doc," one of the paramedics said. "I'll be responsible. The best pediatric surgeon in the state works there and is a friend of mine. He'd do this pro bono even if I wasn't asking. Just take him. I'll call the Chief right now." Paul pulled out his cell phone and called the hospital, asking to be transferred to the Chief for an emergency call. He put his phone on speaker. The paramedics were busy trying to navigate the stairs but he could tell they were listening. "This had better be serious Paul, I'm doing an emergency appendectomy on a ten year old," an annoyed voice said, echoing through the open speaker. "Let O'Brien take it. You're going to need to get down to Emergency. I'm sending over a neighbor kid, he's in bad shape, Anton, really bad. Looks like he was abused, beaten. Long-term too." He held his breath; he knew how Anton felt about child abuse. The swearing coming through the speaker was expected but still made him blush. "O'Brien, get over here and finish this. Make sure you flush the abdominal cavity thoroughly." "Yes, sir." "What's the ETA on the kid, Paul?" Anton asked. "He's literally a neighbor, so ten minutes via ambulance. They just need to hear approval to bring him in, procedure is General. I'll foot the bill; just need some back-up and your steady hands to help do the work." "You've got it. The hospital has funds for pro bono anyway. Just have them get the kid here, I'll be waiting. Scrub in as soon as you get here." "I will." Paul hung up his phone. "Good enough for you guys?" "Sure thing. St. Mary's it is." The paramedics were quickly moving out the door. Paul went to follow them. "Could you wait a minute doc? I need to ask you some questions," Officer Tenter said, putting a hand on his arm. "We need to make it quick. I'm needed at the hospital." He nodded and held his pen and paper ready. "You said your son called? How do you know the victim?" "I don't. My son saw him this morning when he accidentally hit his ball and broke the basement window. He said he saw a big man come into the basement yelling and ran home. He went back later and saw the boy on the floor and came and got me. That's when I told him to call 9-1-1 and rushed over," Paul said. He went back into the kitchen to wash his hands; he couldn’t go home with blood on them. Danny would freak out. He didn’t need that on top of the stress he was already feeling. "Do you know the boy's name? His parent’s names or where we could find them?" The officer was scribbling in his notepad. "Mr. and Mrs. Sarcoplis. I've never been over here before. I really don't know them, I have only seen them in passing at neighborhood events; they've lived here for almost two years. We've never seen a kid here; I assumed they were childless." The officer was still scribbling as Paul dried his hands. "Look, I really need to go. I assume you'll be by the hospital after you are done. I will answer any more questions you have then." "Okay, thanks Doc. I'll definitely come by the hospital later to check on him." He handed Paul a card with his name and extension number on it. They were walking into the living room when a large, imposing man walked in the front door. "What the hell are you doing in my house?" he bellowed in surprise. "Mr. Sarcoplis?" Officer Tenter asked. "I am. What in the hell is going on?" he snapped. He glared at Paul. "I'm afraid I have some bad news. It appears your son was badly beaten. We have some questions for you and your wife and then you can go see him in the hospital." The man's entire face flushed red, "You took him out of the basement? The boy must be confined so his disease doesn't spread. He is impure, contaminated." Mr. Sarcoplis advanced on them, "Bring him back! We are not done purifying him, he's unclean, unclean!" the man screamed. "Sir, you need to calm down. Step back," Officer Tenter warned him Mr. Sarcoplis turned his anger on Paul. "You! I know you; you’re from that house behind me. You are a sinner! Your son was tempting the little bastard into sin with him just this morning. I've seen how you flaunt your devil ways. Get out! Get out!" The man shoved Paul before the officer could stop him, thrusting him back into a large bookshelf. Paul’s breath was knocked out of him as his back slammed into the shelf. He fell to the floor; books and knick-knacks raining down on him. "You’re under arrest! Hands behind your back!" The officer struggled with the incensed man. "Freeze!" A new officer stood in the door, gun trained on Mr. Sarcoplis where he fought the hold Officer Tenter had on him. Mr. Sarcoplis saw the black pistol trained steadily on his forehead and froze. His mouth didn't stop running though, even as he was handcuffed and forced to kneel on the ground. "You'll all be sorry for this. I'll have your badges." Spit sprayed from his mouth. "You'll all rot in hell with the rest of the sinners." He continued to rave as the second officer holstered his weapon. They all ignored him. "Thanks, Saul. I’m glad you showed up when you did.” The other officer nodded, “Well I’d hate to tell your wife I let you get beat up at dinner tonight.” They both grinned. Paul stood up from the mess on the floor. “I'll assume you want to press charges," Officer Tenter said to him. "Damn right!" he winced, rubbing his back. "I think we both understand exactly who hurt that boy. Lock up is the best place for him for now. I really need to get to the hospital though. Can I fill out my statement later?" Just then another person came running in, a woman this time. "Oh my god! Jerry, are you okay? What are you doing to my husband?" "Mrs. Sarcoplis?" "Yes! What is going on here?" The second officer was pulling a still raging Mr. Sarcoplis out the door but Officer Tenter stopped his wife from getting close to them. "Ma'am, we suspect your husband has beaten and severely injured your son. He's on his way to jail and the ambulance is taking your son to St. Mary’s." Paul broke in, "We'll need your consent to do surgery to save his life. He's very close to dying." She sneered. "That filthy sinner can die for all I care. Nothing more than he deserves for his perversions. My husband was doing his duty to remove the evilness staining his immortal soul." Paul flinched back and his mouth dropped open in shock. "How can you say that? He's your son! You would let him die? " "Gladly. He's a sinner. He deserves to die. At least then his debt would be paid," she said nastily. Paul looked sick. Officer Tenter was already pulling out cuffs. "Ma'am, you're under arrest. Place your hands behind your back.” Mrs. Sarcoplis' eyes went wide. She spluttered, "What... how dare you! You have no right..." Paul almost ran out the door, already on his phone to the hospital’s legal department. They would need emergency authorization to perform surgery. He hopped the fence and rushed in his house for his car keys. "Dad?" Danny said warily, shock showing on his face as he stared at the blood all over Paul’s clothes. "I'm fine. An ambulance came and took the boy to the hospital. His parents are under arrest so you don't need to worry that they'll come over here. Just lock up behind me and stay home today, okay? I don’t know when I'll be back." Paul leaned over and kissed his son on the forehead. "Okay, Dad," Danny said, blushing after Paul moved away. "Just... I love you, son. You know that right?" Paul asked softly. Danny nodded, a little confused. "I love you too," he said. Paul smiled and pulled a twenty out of his wallet. "You can order pizza for dinner if I'm not back." "Thanks Dad. Let me know how he's doing, will you? I just feel... I don't know. I guess I feel responsible." "Look son, I can't stay and talk about this with you right now, Anton needs me, but this was not your fault. Whatever happened to that boy has been going on for a long time." Danny looked sad. "That's just not right!" Paul sighed, "No son, it's not." *** More voices and clicking noises. There are bright lights behind my eyes. I don't want to open them. Please let me be dead. Please let me be dead. I lost track of time again. The voices went away for a time and I am left alone; beeping noises and dripping the only sounds I can hear. I float, adrift in a sea of fiery pain. The voices come back; hands touch me and move my body. Bursts of pain break through the barrier and a great tidal wave of agony washes over me and I feel myself just fade away under the onslaught. Let me be dead. Please let me be dead. *** "You’re going to be okay, Joseph. Can’t you try and talk with us?" Paul and Anton stood in their white coats and stared down at the scared boy in the bed. The teen stared back at them, shrinking away. Birth records showed his name was Joseph Sarcoplis. He was fourteen and his medical records stopped at age twelve, as well as his school records and any proof of his existence at all. Anton pulled Paul out of the room and into the doctor’s lounge. They hugged, both needing the comfort though they tried to hold displays of affection to a minimum at the hospital. “Why Anton?” Paul said in a small voice. “How can anyone have such a beautiful child and do that sort of thing to them?” He looked on the verge of tears and leaned into Anton, needing the embrace. “I don’t know, babe. The world is full of bad people. All we can do is try to put the pieces back together as best we can.” Anton stroked his back. “It was hard enough with Danny; do you think we would be able to help another abused teen?” “I can’t bear for him to go into the system right after something like this. He needs to be with people who are really willing and able to help him. Can we think about calling Social Services and renewing our foster parent license?” Anton leaned forward and gave Paul a quick kiss. “Yeah babe, we can think about it.” Paul looked frustrated. “He won’t even talk to us right now. Maybe he wouldn’t want to live with two gay guys. We need to talk to Danny too. This has been hard on him; he had nightmares last night again. I don’t want to push him into a relapse.” "Of course, Danny is part of our family, an important part. We couldn’t do this without him,” Anton said. “Let’s give it a day or two and then talk to him. Joseph was starved nearly to death, dehydrated, beaten and then went through surgery. That's a lot to go through and he won’t be ready to come home for a while. We have time for him to get used to us if it all works out for him to come live with us. “Right now I would be shocked if he was willing to trust us with all he’s gone through; even if he wasn't doped to the gills. He will need some time to learn that not all adults are like his parents. I've called psych down for a consult. Dr. Sanghi is the best, she helped Danny; she can help Joseph too." *** I am not as out of it as they seem to think. I hear what they say and now I remember the words. I now understand the strange people are doctors. I dart my eyes around the room now that they are gone. The pain is better. I won't trust them though. They might seem nice but once Mr. Sarcoplis seemed nice too. Back... before. Before they found out. Before they said they were no longer my parents. I don't remember much from that time, the magical 'before'. It hurts to remember; I feel so confused. Soft bed, warm showers, food that didn't come in a can with a dog on it. Before touch meant pain and I wasn’t a dirty sinner. I sometimes stared out my little window and watched. I saw the men in white coats once through a hole in the bushes. They were doing that thing; the one that my parents said was sin. The one they caught me doing in the before time. Did the kissing mean they were sinners too? Was this hell? Did God finally forgive me and let me die like I prayed for? *** "He's shut down. I don't know if he's in too much pain or just too afraid, but he won't even look at me. Do you know of anyone he's responded to in the past? A family friend or neighborhood kid he might open up to?" Dr. Sanghi asked. She and Paul were sitting at a table drinking coffee in the doctor's lounge and talking about Joseph. "The family moved in about two years ago. I never saw the kid, not even during the summer. Danny said Joseph told him to run when he saw him the morning we found him. Other than that I don't know if I've heard him make a single sound other than that scream when he fell out of bed. He doesn't trust us," Paul said sadly. "I'm not surprised. What I've seen of the police report and the old injuries his x-rays showed he's been a victim of extreme abuse for some time. I don't know what to do with him. He is most likely not going to respond to any adults but he needs help. I can see it, this great need to share his pain, but it's walled up behind a dam that I can't breach from the outside. Do you think Danny would be willing to talk to him?" Paul looked hesitant. "I don't know. He still has nightmares sometimes, even after all these years. I don't want to make him have another relapse." Dr. Sanghi patted his arm, standing up from her chair. "I understand though I think it might actually help him to use his own experiences to help someone else. At the very least he would have a good idea of where Joseph is mentally and be prepared for it. But if you think it's too much for him, I understand. I’ll try to think of something else." Paul sank back in his chair, chewing on his lip. He sighed. "I'll ask him. He's been pretty upset over this whole situation. He feels bad he didn't get help right away but he had a flashback when he saw that man screaming. It might help him feel better about that too." Dr. Sanghi looked concerned. "Do you want me to schedule him for a few sessions?" Paul thought about it. "No, not right now. I'll call you if he doesn't bounce back. He's a pretty happy kid most of the time now." He stood up and gave Dr. Sanghi a quick hug, "That's due in large part to you." "Hey, you put up with more than most people would, even if it was their own kid," she reminded him. "You took on an abused teenager that needed a lot of time and attention and turned him into a happy, loving kid. I wouldn't expect him not to have some relapses, even if it's been almost three years. But maybe these guys can help each other out." Paul nodded. "I'll see if he wants to come to the hospital later today. He has baseball practice until four." "Thanks Paul." *** Voices again. One soundd different. Softer. Wait... now it's closer. "Hi," the new voice says. It's so quiet my head doesn't hurt at all. "My name is Danny. I wanted to come and talk to you." I can't help it; the voice is too much. I opened my eyes. Sitting in the chair beside the bed is a boy. Well, he looks like a teenager with those wide shoulders and brown stubble on his face so he can’t be that young. I stared at him, I've seen him before. My head hurts too much to think of it. "I wanted to say I'm sorry." His brown eyes drilled into mine. Tears filled his eyes and he sniffled. No, that's wrong. He is meant to be happy. I know I've seen him before, smiling and laughing. He's like a sun, my sun. Memories flowed into me over the waves of pain. The window. I remember now. Watching him play with his things, talking and laughing with the men that came in wearing the white coats. He lives with the men Mr. Sarcoplis said were filthy sinners. He said they should all die. I don't want him to die and go to hell! My face scrunched up and I felt tears in my eyes. "What's the matter? Are you in pain? Do I need to get a nurse?" Danny panicked and stood up, backing toward the door. He was going to leave. "No," I croaked. "Please, don't go." Danny stopped. Oh thank god he stopped. He moved back to the chair but he still look upset. He was gripping his hands together so tight that his knuckles were bone white. He was shaking a bit but determination flowed across his face and he squared his shoulders. "Look, I can understand if you hate me. I know how you must feel right now. My last foster parent before Dad hurt me really bad. I was so mad that no one said anything. The other kids just let him do it. When I saw your dad it all just hit me again and I was afraid; so afraid. I hid in my room but you couldn't. I didn't help you; just like those kids didn't help me. I'm sorry." Tears flowed down his face. I stared at him. He had been hurt? Why do people do that? What’s wrong with them? I felt a burning rage that someone would dim the bright happy sun of his soul. I had watched him for months when I was chained to my mattress by my injuries. He had kept me sane as it got worse and worse. I didn't know what to believe anymore but I had to make the pain in him go away. "It's okay. Not mad," I forced out. "My fault." Danny shook his head gently, "No! It's not your fault. No matter what, no one should treat anyone like that. Like I was treated, like you were treated. We're human beings!" he said in a fierce whisper. "But I..." "Nothing. Nothing you could have done, Joseph. You are a good person." I couldn't help but sigh. I used to feel that way. Maybe I could again. I gave him a tentative smile. He chuckled and smiled back, "Hey, you smiled Joseph! You should do that more often!" That made me frown. I hate that name. I want this boy to call me something else, not the name they used. I want him to talk to me, the real me. I think that would be good. "Joey." Danny smiled, his natural happiness bubbling out. "Joey," he repeated. I guess he wants to talk to the real me too. Please visit the story discussion topic at: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/31484-hiding-by-cia/
  23. 1 point
    The Goddess of Dawn saw the world; And what it had become, She shed a tear, For its pain, Its suffering, Its corruption. The tear fell to the earth, Into the depth of darkness, And formed a crystal, Radiantly shining, Waiting for the one to come and wield its power; She left it to fate whether it will be for its downfall, Or its salvation. Village of the dawn, Einia, Estel. The sun shone brightly that day, believers would say it was a sign from the Heavens giving blessing to the young cleric's holy mission. A small group of people had gathered to see him off, devotees of the church of Dawn. "Please do take care!" "May the Goddess light your path always." Raphael gave a smile, his heart warming at the words. Even in times like these, there was hope. He liked to believe in the Church, Father's teachings and that dawn will one day break over this dark era. He felt blessed to have been brought up here and that now he had a chance to repay this world back for all the kindness he had received. "I will be going, Father Sorel." Seeing the old man nod, with a small smile Raphael started to walk away, waving at the children from the orphanage who came to see him off as he passed. Did Father always look that old? Or maybe it was because he himself had grown older now that it seemed that way... He had been half surprised Father had let him go on this mission, seeing as there were a lot of risks and chances of failure and Raphael was well aware that he was an important asset to the village- he was set to become the next leader of their church, a vital role for the village to survive. His white magic was second to none and he had by the time he was 16 surpassed even Father Sorel at it. Now 22, he was aware that there were voices of disapproval from the village for him wanting to embark on such a lofty and ambitious mission that only had a slim chance of even succeeding when he was meant to look after the village but he was thankful to Father for letting him go without a word. I have to succeed. Legends told of a crystal, send from the Dawn Goddess herself which would grant the person who touches it first any single wish; as time went by, people started to dismiss the story as a simple wishful rumor in these dark times but the most devoted of the Goddess's followers still believed it true. It was said to lie deep in the mountains far north, now known as Xarbar. It was a long journey- around 200 days in total traveling, if weather was fair. Raphael hoped to get to an inn two villages north from Einia by sunset. It wasn't an impossible goal and he was making pretty good progress. Admitidly it was the first time he was venturing out so far on his own- familiar surroundings were getting smaller and smaller behind him. I can do this. I must do this. Sundown and Raphael had reached his goal for the day, a small village close to the Forest of Anza, also known as the forest of secrets. Admitidly it was the first time Raphael had ever been in a Tavern- as a cleric he did not drink so usually never had business in one, but as it was also an inn this was going to be his bed for the night. He looked around a little amazed by the foreign surroundings for a few moments before he walked up to the counter, paying for his room. He guessed he should eat before going to bed so ordered food also and took a seat at a table in the corner. He could feel eyes staring at him and subconsciously pulled his cloak a little tighter around him, hoping his blue, gold and white robes did not show too much. He was sure these people were not bad or anything but he didn't want to attract too much attention either. His plan was to eat as fast as possible, bathe and retire to his room. Come on Raphael.... Get yourself together. "What's a cleric doing here?" "Beats me, maybe we should go and ask His Holiness for a blessing!!" "How about we get more ale instead?" "Waiiit isn't that Raphael of Dawn?" "What the young master of that church?? What's he doing here? Maybe he needs to let off steam too sometimes!!" The men's words and laughter made Amon look up- it got his attention alright. He looked in the direction of the attention and saw a cloaked figure taking a seat in the corner far away from the others. Male, around his age, element aura reading light, high amount of mana energies. His elemental aura was very strong. A bit too strong for an average cleric. Amon profiled the other from what he could make out. He squinted to try and see the other's face but couldn't really see, it was obscured by the hood of the cloak and soft blonde waves of hair. "...who is that?" Amon asked the man on the next table to his. Even though his voice was low and quiet, it seemed to cut through the noise of the tavern. "Wha- Ah... Uh... You don't know? That's the young cleric from a few villages south." The man Amon spoke to replied, looking his way a little startled. Since when was this person next to him..? Sharp green eyes stared back at him as if looking into his soul. The local shifted a little uncomfortably. This man made him feel uneasy, like he was prey. What was he? An assassin? A rogue? Either way he didn't really want to find out. This outsider seemed dangerous so it was safer to answer his questions and hope he leaves him alone. "G-gifted at doing stuff like you know healing and stuff...apparently..." The man was starting to blabber a little, trying to fill in the awkward silence with words "M..Man of the Goddess...y..you know them types of people....f-fancy seeing him here....m..maybe he had business h..here or somethin..." "I see." Was the only reply the man got from the hooded figure before he turned away back to his meal and the man let out a nervous sigh of relief and he stood up, pretending to go over and buy another drink to avoid having to talk anymore. Raphael stood up the moment he had finished his meal, gripping the keys to his room a little tighter than he normally would. He didn't want to admit it but it was.. a little scary. Unfamiliar surroundings, alone and his future was rather uncertain. He felt like a lost child. Goddess please guide me... He made his way to his room, taking off the outer-layers of his clothing and putting them down on the chair in the simple room that was going to be his for the night. It had a small window near the bed and a single chair. He didn't really mind, he didn't need luxury. He took out a flannel from his bag and left the room to use the baths down the hall. Amon had followed the blonde all the way to his room and hid in the shadows at the other end of the corridor until he saw the man leave the room again. He didn't even lock the door....is this some kind of trap? Maybe he had been noticed already? With doubt and a hand at one of his concealed daggers, Amon turned the knob. It opened. No trap waiting for him. ....is this guy for real? Talk about unguarded... If Amon had been a common thief all of the cleric's belongings would have been gone by now, but even if it was doubtful whether it was fortunate or not, he wasn't so instead he took a quick glace around the room to remember the layout and went over to the window to unlock the latch,hopping out and landing on the small ledge below it. He carefully closed the window after himself to make it not look obvious it was still open. Amon closed his eyes, pressing his head against the wall next to the window. He could faintly hear footsteps coming closer to the room and from the elemental aura the approaching person was giving off he could tell it was the cleric. Fortunately for him the moonlight wasn't so bright that night, obscured by clouds making it terribly easy to look into the lamp lit room but unless one looked really hard, outside was a pitch black. Raphael had rushed drying off in the baths, not used to having to bathe with other people. It made him feel a little uneasy and thanks to that his robes were now wet. Great... He pulled them off, stripping down and draped the damp garments over the single chair in the room to dry and started to dry himself properly now he had privacy. He had a small symbol, a bit like a crest on his hip, on the right of his tailbone. It wasn't a brand, nor was it a tattoo but...he had it ever since he could remember. Father had told him never to show it to anyone and he had never really pressed on why, the serious tone Father had said it in made him unable to. He didn't like causing trouble to people and avoided it as much as possible. He hoped no one saw it at the baths.... how was he going to bathe from now on? Amon had been watching the man undress and dry himself to make sure his target didn't have any concealed weapons. It seemed not. His eyes stopped at the mark on the man's hip and his brows furrowed. It looked...familiar somewhat. Looked a bit like a clan or family symbol of some kind. Maybe he had been hired by them sometime? But those sorts of symbols were usually used by noble families not clerics... Whatever... Doesn't matter. Raphael had decided he would worry about this issue when it came to bathing next time.. Maybe he could find some rivers to bathe instead... He planned to get up early the next day so decided to go to bed, putting on his under clothes and slid into bed after putting out the lamp. Now he was laying calm in bed he could sense all around him energies of everyone else in the inn- some felt so dark in element it gave him shivers. I must sleep.... block it out....I am safe... The Goddess will protect me.... Amon made sure the target's breathing had switched to a deep one, signalling he was asleep before he silently opened the window and hopped in. He was an expert at doing things like this and today was no different, though admittedly he did it for work normally rather than his own interests. He wondered if he was going to be damned for doing what he was going to do to a man of the cloth and immediately told himself that was a dumb thought. He had done far worse before and one more sin wasn't going to do any harm. Walking over to the sleeping man, he held out his hand over the blonde's head and a dark purple glow emitted, the light starting to move as if alive, crawling over Raphael's face until it had covered it. Raphael did not even stir, his breathing slowly getting more and more shallow. You'll be coming with me. For Anna.
  24. 1 point
    Not wanting to make a phone call, Fitzpatrick and Gloria headed to the forensic lab which had been established at the local hospital. They remained silent avoiding any speculation on the supposedly good news. They were ushered into the lab where the chief forensic scientist met them excitedly, and asked them to be seated. ‘Well, (demanded Tom Fitzpatrick) for Christ’s sake don’t keep us in suspense; what have you got? ‘As I reported Tom, before we’d been all over the corpse . . .’ ‘Jesus . . . get on with it! I don’t want a history lesson; what have you found?’ ‘We didn’t (sounding apologetic) inspect the appendage that had been placed in the corpse mouth. After all it’s not usual procedure . . .’ ‘For shit’s sake (angrily) what have you found?’ ‘Spit!’ ‘Spit . . . you found spit. What’s so . . . (it dawned on Fitzpatrick) DNA! You’ve got the bastard’s DNA. (Jumping up from his chair) Are you telling me we have the perp’s DNA?’ ‘Yes inspector, that’s what I’m telling you; we were able to extract the foreign DNA from the sample of spit we obtained. And it’s a good sample; whoever did this was extremely careless, not to mention cruel.’ ‘Wow! (this from Gloria) all we have to do now is match the DNA to someone; I guess Boss that you’ll want DNA samples of all the college students and faculty soonest?’ ‘You betcha . . . round them up senior constable; this is the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for. I’ll leave that in your hands Gloria; soonest.’ ♂♂ In the midst of all the excitement, Brother Peter appeared at the police station and asked to see the Detective in charge of the investigation. He looked a wreck. The dark circles under his eyes bespoke of many sleepless nights and the tremor of his hands indicated extreme nervous tension. With Gloria over at the Marist College, Fitzpatrick took the Brother into the interrogation room, accompanied by another cop as witness. ‘Well brother, what’ve you to tell me; you indicated at the desk that you’ve something to confess.’ The professional in Fitzpatrick scrutinized the man before him. Hmmm . . . He’s definitely in distress; has not slept well for a while, and shaking with tension. I’d say the man is struggling with heavy guilt and he's about to emotionally collapse. Something tells me I’ll have to handle this priest with extreme care. ‘Brother . . .?’ ‘I . . . my name is . . . Bro. . . . Brother Peter. Yes, Brother Peter; I, t . . . t.t teach at the Marist College here.’ ‘Can I just call you Peter? (Affirmative nod) Peter; just relax and in your own time tell me what’s troubling you. Oh . . . I’m being inhospitable; would you like something to drink . . . tea or coffee?’ ‘Ummm, coffee please; no milk, just two sugars. (The young cop disappeared to fetch coffee)’ Fitzpatrick turned on a recording devise and went through the process of stating the time, the date and identifying all present. ‘What do you teach at the college Peter? 'I teach History. I’ve loved history from when I was a young lad; I used to borrow all the books on ancient history that I could, and soon I became very knowledgeable on both the Roman and Greek . . .’ ‘Thanks (interrupting) Peter, but can we stick to the reason you’re here.’ Bro. Peter (silently) took a deep breath to try and compose himself. He knew he was in a bargaining position, but didn’t know how far he could push himself with this cop. Looking at Fitzpatrick, he saw a man in his forties with a craggy face and eyes that seemed never to smile. His demeanor told of a man who had seen too much of violence and tragedy. But his deportment was relaxed and nonthreatening. ‘(Slowly and carefully) before I perjure myself I want an affirmation that the information I give you won’t bring charges against me. What I’m about to tell you will help your investigation, but I want some assurances that I’ll be treated leniently, and my contribution recognized; I want to be treated as a witness for the crown. Do I have your assurance?’ ‘No! Of course not! I can’t give you such assurances, but (sounding reasonable) I can recommend to the Public Prosecutor that, if your information is material and assists us in solving this case, the prosecutor’s office will treat you leniently.’ ‘No, (assertively) that’s hardly an inducement; remember I came here of my own free will. I need some encouragement to tell you my story.’ ‘I’m sorry Peter, that’s all I can do for you at this time; I mean I haven’t yet heard what you have to say so I can’t judge the veracity of what you’re about to tell us. But, you have my assurance that I’ll regard your information, such as it, very favorably.’ Just then the coffee arrived and this gave Brother Peter pause to consider what Fitzpatrick had said. I can’t back out now. He seems a reasonable man for a copper and I can’t continue like this. I’m not built to sustain any emotional trauma. (Sigh) I’ve crossed my own Rubicon; the dye is cast. ‘Now just take your time, Peter; tell us what’s troubling you.’ ‘(Slowly and haltingly) although I’ve taken the vow of celibacy, I can’t control my yearning to have sex with a partner . . . a male partner. (Pause) I believe I am homosexual and you know what the Catholic Church thinks of homosexuals and homosexual acts; (becoming agitated)but I believe they’re wrong, very wrong . . .’ ‘Peter, try and keep to the facts; believe me, when you’ve got all your troubles out in the open, you’ll feel relieved. (Fitzpatrick looked to the young cop and was rewarded with a nod) So try and keep to the facts. As far as being homosexual is concerned, my personal opinion is that being gay is far more natural than being celebrate.’ ‘Ummm . . . sorry; (gaining confidence) well I heard that some of the Abbo kids were performing sexual favors for money and . . . I . . . arranged to meet the boys after school in a secluded place. Sometimes it was the same boy, but sometimes other boys offered themselves. It was the money. The money I gave them apparently was given to their parents; they knew what we were doing. It was a win, win situation; I got sexual relief and the parents received extra money to spend on . . . well, I don’t really know. Just money to spend I guess.’ ‘So you’re admitting you had sex with under-age boys; boys who were your students. Is that what you’re saying?’ ‘Ye. Ummm . . . Yes.’ ‘(sternly) that would constitute two criminal charges; one, having sex with a minor; and two, failing your duty of care as a teacher. Both can be serious offences.’ ‘But (passionately) they weren’t victims. I didn’t force myself on any boy. They gladly performed sex favors because it was working well for everyone. It would have continued (raising his voice) had not stupid Brother Simon killed that poor little girl. He was a disaster waiting to happen and I can never forgive him for killing the child. We all operated on the principle that no harm would come to the children. It was kept very, very quiet. I’ve also heard that other men, not clergy, are using the boy’s favors. There is a very active ring of . . . well, pedophiles; not only here but throughout the state.’ ‘And (harshly) you can supply details of who these men are?’ ‘No! . . . No, I can’t . . . but I know who can?’ ‘Well who? . . . Come on Peter you’ve done very well so far; tell us who this person is.’ ‘The man who co-ordinates all activities; who arranges communications, and whose been blackmailing myself and other brothers for years . . . Brother Michael!’ Silence . . . ‘(Disbelief) Brother Michael! The deputy principal of the college?’ ‘Yes! He’s also the sport master and is very dangerous; I believe he’s capable of anything. He’s a very hard man; he behaves like a mafia Don.’ ‘Do you think he killed Brother Simon?’ ‘At first I did, and that’s when I started to get very frightened. I know Brother Simon was wavering and considering giving himself up. Before he was killed he was a wreck; he couldn’t have lasted much longer before he had a physical and mental breakdown. He was a threat to all of us.’ ‘You say, at first you believed Brother Michael to be the killer . . . I take it now you’re not so sure?’ ‘No; I mean yes . . . because I know he communicates with someone else. I’ve heard snippets of conversation when he didn’t know I was listening. He talks to, or reports to someone else.’ ‘Let’s back up a bit and talk about Brother Simon’s murder. First, did you have any knowledge that he’d killed Ruth Jalla?’ ‘(Emphatically) No . . . No, I did not! But after the girl was found I had my suspicions. Bro. Simon was an emotional mess; he didn’t have any self-control.’ ‘Aha (thoughtfully) and when Bro. Simon’s body was found, what was your reaction?’ ‘Fear! (Choke) Fear so real I could smell and taste it! I knew I’d be next.’ ‘Why? Why did you think you were in danger?’ (Angrily) Because Bro. Michael told me! He has this hold over everybody. Anybody who didn’t comply with his demands was threatened with exposure; not to the police . . . you guys, but to the diocese.’ Why . . .?’ (Laughing) Because the culprit would have been chastised by the Bishop and moved to another location; it would never go as far as being reported to you people. But your days as a clergyman would be over. This has happened in so many cases; too many cases. (Gathering confidence) You lay people have got no idea how much the church has covered up sex crimes against children! And I mean real crimes, when great harm has been done to children in the church’s care; in boarding schools; with altar boys; molesting choirboys and girls. And it goes back a very long time! (Pausing to gather his thoughts) What’s really incredible is that all of the offenses have been fully documented and handled by reputable solicitors. The Church has been paying shut up money to victims and then legally compelling them to silence. The whole litany of injustices has been hushed up. This is incredible; if what he says is true we will have to shift our attention to the entire Catholic Church. Shit! This is a Bombshell! Good ol’ Bro. Peter does not comprehend the ammunition he’s just divulged. Fuck me! This will make my career. But I’ll have to be careful not to let the Brother realize how important a witness he is. But it’s too much for me to handle by myself; I’ll have to buck it upstairs. Now . . . what to do about the Brother? (Speaking sternly) ‘That’s an incredible accusation Peter; do you have proof? I mean you just can’t go making wild accusations without being able to back them up. What can you tell me?’ ‘It (Sensing he held the upper hand) it depends on what you can offer me. If the deal is right, I’ll give you names of the perpetrators and some of the victims. But I want a deal.’ ‘Oh do you! (Speaking slowly and thoughtfully) Well, here’s all I can do for you now. I won’t charge you at this time, but I’ll immediately take the matter up with the Public prosecutor and see what we can offer you; but I must ask that you surrender your passport. That’s all for now, Ok?’ He closed the recording device down. ♂♂ After receiving Fitzpatrick’s call, Gloria hurried back to the police station. With a fresh coffee in her hand Gloria listened to the recorded interview with Br. Peter. “That’s incredible,’ she managed. ‘This is becoming awesome; what are you going to do?’ ‘I’ve made an appointment with the Prosecutor to discuss the whole matter. I’ve no doubt it’ll be taken out of our hands; it’s too big for us. Anyway, our main focus must be on solving the murder of Bro. Simon. But I’m gonna recommend a charge followed by a suspended sentence for Bro. Peter; that’s the best we can do.’ ‘But (sounding terse) he’s admitted to having sex with underage boys; not to mention failing in his duty of care as a teacher.’ ‘True; and if he hadn’t supplied us with info on pedophiles, I would’ve been very severe, even if, as he claims, there is no victimization involved. He’s just lucky he brought a big bargaining chip to the table.’ ‘I guess (sounding exasperated) we have to swallow the proverbial bitter pill.’ ‘Yes; now tell me how we’re progressing with the DNA swabs?’ ‘We’re not; at least we’ve only got to do the faculty. The children are off limits, unless we have their parent’s consent; that’s not gonna happen. Bro. Michael is becoming very hostile.’ ‘I (angry) bet he is; according to Bro. Peter he’s in this up to his hairy armpits. I’m convinced that the Marist College is the hub of a criminal conspiracy involving murder and pedophilia. When I first came here if you had said that to me, I would’ve had you transferred to the outback.’ ‘Thanks (laughing), and I would have disserved it. But where are we now; I mean how should we proceed?’ ‘The first issue is to find out how far Bro. Michael is involved in this mess. Bro. Peter says he talks to someone else . . .’ ‘But (interrupting) doesn’t he think the brother capable of killing . . .’ ‘Yes, I know. But we have to learn more. We need to have something against him to make him talk.’ ‘How we gonna do that?’ ‘Tap his phone. I’ll get the local judge to give me the authority based on Bro. Peter’s interview.’ ♂♂ It was the sight of a Twenty-dollar note in the man’s hand that persuaded Billy to overcome his original reluctance. He was a big white man with a powerfully muscular frame. The stubby shorts he wore showed brawny muscles and the tan of a skin obviously gained from working outside. His eyes were narrow and it seemed, menacing; but when he lowered his shorts all Billy could think was a bit of fun and a quick twenty dollars . . . for him, not his boozy dad. ‘C’mon blackie, I hear tell you’se is good with yer mouth. I ain’t had no sex with m’ missus and me balls are set to bust. Do a good job and I might give you’se another ten dollars. That’s a good lad!’ So Billy knelt before the man and grabbed hold of his penis . . . and never saw the heavy punch to the side of his head that sent him crashing onto his back. This was swiftly followed by a kick to his guts and more vicious kicks followed to every part of Billy’s exposed body. ‘You dirty piece of black trash (oomph) I’ve heard about yer filthy doings and I’m here to teach ya a lesson (oomph). Yer fuck’n disgusting (oomph) you and those filthy poofter priests; ya make me sick (thump).’ Billy was in so much pain he hardly heard what the man was saying. Defensively, he’d doubled up into a fetal position to try and absorb the kicks as they slammed into his body. He was kicked in the head; to his stomach; on his buttocks; to his thighs and between his shoulder blades. It was a follow up kick to his stomach that started him retching . . . over and over and over. Then if his pain-racked body had not endured enough, the man began to urinate on Billy’s tormented body. A thick steady stream of pungent urine was slashed all over his body; it went on and on until the man emptied himself and looked down on his creation. ‘You and the rest of you bludging black trash should be herded into a concentration camp and the Hitler solution applied. The country would be well off if you and yer kind just simply disappeared . . . hopefully into an oven. If I haven’t made meself clear, here’s my parting message . . . and he spat a thick gob of yellow spit onto Billy’s pain ravaged face. He was in so much pain he couldn’t move; any movement only amplified his distress. He began to moan and then started crying. ‘Shut the fuck up! Or I’ll give you’se another dose of me foot. Shut up faggot; you’se disgusting and so’s yer fucking black parents. Fuck’n black wingers; yous’re parasites . . . and here’s (thump) one for good riddance.’ Billy didn’t feel the last kick as he slipped from semi-conscience into a comatose state. He was out cold. ♂♂ Luckily, about an hour later he was found by one of the other kids out looking for business. His call to triple zero activated an alert to the police as well as calling for an ambulance. Gloria responded immediately and was first on the scene; a scene that horrified her. Billy was barely breathing and deep in shock. She kept his head as comfortable as possible until the ambulance arrived and whilst waiting she could smell the urine on the kid’s shorts and footy jumper. Mongrels! Don’t worry Billy I’ll find out who did this. This was a gutless attack on a young kid. Whoever did this is a very sick spineless piece of shit; but he’s left his calling card all over you and that’s gonna be his downfall. Billy looked a pitiful sight as the paramedics tried to make him comfortable before loading him into the waiting ambulance. As they were placing Billy into the ambulance she asked about the extent of Billy’s injuries. ‘He’s got two broken ribs and one has fractured near his heart; it’s that we’re most concerned about. Other than that, the boy has sustained vicious trauma to just about every part of his body; the kick to the side of his head rendered his unconscious and the doctor will probably put him into an induced coma. I hope you get the cruel bastard who did this; I’ve seen many attacks on people but nothing like this . . . and to a kid. This was a planned attack Senior Constable; I hope the vermin gets charged with attempted murder.’ ‘I want his clothes and a sample of the spit on his face (the paramedic nodded); there’s enough DNA evidence here to bag this fucker; don’t botch the job. Get the results to Detective Inspector Tom Fitzpatrick as quickly as possible. Are we good? (Another nod) ‘Right! (Sadly) I’m off to tell his parents.’ ♂♂ The emergency room was crammed with Billy’s relatives and as Gloria walked through, they all wanted to know who did this to Billy. To the assembled cluster of distraught black faces she tried to give some comfort. ‘I’m just going to talk to the doctors; I’m sure they’ll be with you presently to give an update on Billy’s situation. But I want to assure you we’ll get the cockroach who did this to Billy; he’s just a kid and this vicious attack will bring the full weight of the white man’s law down on him.’ Two of the elders looked at each other and nodded slowly; tribal law had been sanctioned. ♂♂ Gloria felt conflicting emotions of rage and sadness as she looked down on Billy Yorta. Here was this beautiful sixteen-year-old kid functioning only on life support systems, the steady ‘beep’, ‘beep’ of the monitors, being the only evidence that the child was alive. She threw a questioning glance at one of the doctors who then indicated she should follow him outside. ‘He’s really taken a battering; (shaking his head) I haven’t seen a case like this, particularly to a child, for a long time. Besides the trauma to his body the blow to his head has us worried. We’ll have to do a catscan to determine if there is any permanent damage to his brain. Our immediate concern is that a blood clot may develop and cause a hemorrhage; so we’ve introduced blood thinners to the drip, hoping they'll prevent a clot developing. (Pause) ‘We’ve stabilized the fractured rib that was threatening his heart so that immediate danger has been averted.’ ‘How long will he be unconscious Doctor? Only Billy can recognize his attacker.’ ‘Depends; depends on how healthy he is and how we can avert any hemorrhage threat in his brain. I’d say he’ll be in an induced coma for at least a week; talk to me then.’ ‘Thanks; will you talk to his people? They’re all waiting outside for news and they’ll be asking questions that I can’t, and shouldn’t answer.’ ‘No, leave it to me; sadly we’re used to this kind of thing.’ ♂♂ Once again they were frustrated; another dead end. The forensic people were able to extract a DNA profile from urine and the phlegm on Billy’s face. But it was useless until Billy could identify his assailant; and Billy was still in an induced coma. A general appeal went out for anybody who had any knowledge of the attack to come forward. No one did. Back in the temporary command room, Fitzpatrick vented his frustration by throwing a book at the incident board; Gloria, (ducking to avoid the projectile) suppressed a smile at the show of childish irritation. ‘What’s happening about the phone tap on Bro. Mike’s phone? At least that’s one positive lead we can follow.’ ‘Yes, yes; thanks! I forgot about that. Yes; I’ve been trying to concentrate on the Billy Yorta assault and clean forgot about our dear Bro. Mike. Yes; the approval came through yesterday.’ ‘Well . . .’ ‘I’ll get the tech boys to set it up by tonight. It may not lead anywhere but you never know what might come out of the tap; but let’s not get our hopes up . . . this despicable bastard is one cool cookie and my bet is he’ll play his cards close to his chest.’ ‘Hey boss, don’t go sounding so negative. All through this investigation when we think we’ve come up against a brick wall something comes along to keep the investigation ticking over. Let’s see what this bullyboy does. Say, what’s the decision on Bro. Peter? Have you talked to the Public prosecutor yet?’ ‘Oh yes; sorry, I forgot to tell you. I need a kick up the arse. Yes I had a call from Melbourne; they’ll offer him a conviction but with a suspended sentence of five years. But he must come through and spill what he knows about the pedophile ring and their activities; he’ll be asked to name names and if he lies or omits valuable info, the sentence will commence in Loddon correction Centre.’ ‘Ok; that’s near Bendigo isn’t it?’ ♂♂ . . . (Click) . . . (Click) . . . ‘Hello, Brother Mike speaking.’ ‘I was expecting you to call; I want to know why it was necessary to bash the abbo kid up . . . (angry and loud) are you out of your fucking mind! He’s just a kid for Christ sake; I would’ve thought that even you and your cronies wouldn’t stoop so low as to . . .’ ‘Shut the fuck up! Shut up you ignorant bastard . . . don’t use the lords name in vain in my presence; swear as much as you like but I’ll draw the line at using the lord’s name in such a manner . . .’ ‘Jesus . . . (sounding derogatory) aren’t we being petty. It’s all right to bash up young kids to near death but you can’t use yer bloody Christian god’s name. You lot make me sick. We’ve all known about the kids’ activities haven’t we? It makes me laugh; the kids regard your lot as their best customers, and then you go and spoil it for everybody by maiming one of the nicest darkies I’ve ever known. You know the kid had a great footy career ahead, but now thanks to you he’s gonna be lucky to walk again. (Sneering) Arseholes!’ ‘You’re just a common ill-mannered blowhard sergeant. . .’ Sergeant! Both Fitzpatrick and Gloria exchanged looks of complete surprise. Sergeant! Sergeant Cree? ‘. . . and I find you a very unpleasant human being. No; you shut up! Don’t interject; let me have a say for once. For your information, it wasn’t any of my people here who bashed the kid up. Think what you want but I’m telling you it wasn’t any of the people here who did the kid in. It’s more like the thugs you associate with who’d do something so brutal. Ok; we’re hypocrites when it comes to sex activities, but we’ve never . . . I repeat never victimized anyone.’ Silence. ‘Alright, (conciliatory) alright, if it wasn’t the clergy who done him in . . . then who?’ ‘Don’t know! You’re a copper; you’ve got the means to investigate . . . we haven’t’ ‘Ummm . . . I’ve been taken off the case, so I don’t know what that smug fuck-whit from Melbourne and that bitch Lesbo are doing. But the whole shebang is about to go belly up. That weak bastard of yours, Brother Peter is copping a plea in exchange for testifying about our activities . . . ‘Ours! Our activities’ Fitzpatrick and Gloria were riveted; Cree was up to his neck in the mess. . . . Whoever silenced Brother Simon should have fucked Brother Peter as well.’ ‘I wish you could refrain from foul language.’ ‘Oh do you! And I wish I hadn’t listened to you when you came and asked for protection nearly three years ago. At that time I was entirely sympathetic to your suggestion, because I agreed it was wrong for the Church to deny anybody sexual relief, and (laughing) I didn’t know you’re a bunch of homo’s.’ ‘So, what’s your point? My needs are purely heterosexual, but you have to admit sergeant that gay people give you police less trouble then straights do. Anyway, we’re off the point. I know my people didn’t kill Brother Simon and if you say the police didn’t then who; who killed Brother Simon?’ ‘Who indeed; perhaps he was just a wrong person in a wrong place at the wrong time. These tragic instances do happen. But I’ve been removed from the investigation so my info is via the grapevine .That’s why I called you to tell that your Brother Peter is about to spill his guts out and we can’t do anything about it . . . short of silencing him; and that ain’t gonna happen. Just be prepared.’ ‘Well; thanks for the heads up. (Earnestly) I really do appreciate the warning. (Sigh) I’ll have to inform the Headmaster about the whole mess and that’s not something to look forward too. ♂♂ Jeff toyed with his beer, letting the sounds of the RSL swirl around him. He was in a very dismal place; a very bad dark place. He left work for lunch and then stayed on at the club; drinking and thinking and worrying and feeling hopeless. He was in love; desperately in love. Love was a new emotion to Jeffry; he had never known a parents love and although his aunt Betty had tried to love him, it wasn’t the same as a mother’s love. And he definitely didn’t love Cindy; that was an arrangement that disguised his homosexuality. Kenny, Kenny, Kenny; where are you. It’s been three days now and not a word. I miss you; I’m scared you won’t come back. Even being HIV positive, Rickie has more to offer than me. They’re probably having sex, protected sex right now; just the thought of what they may be doing is driving me mad. Kenny! Where are you Kenny; where are you. Why don’t you call? You know about Billy; you should be here with us, with me. We should be sharing our grief for the battered body of that beautiful young man. Yeah, you say you love me. Huh! Words just words. All that diseased piece of shit has to do is call and you come running. I hope that you enjoy getting off with him . . . no, no, no! I shouldn’t be thinking like this. I shouldn’t; but I can’t help it. I can’t help it. I wish I could find a little dark corner to hide. As the afternoon wore on and he sank deeper in the mire of wretchedness, Jeff realized he needed more money; but he’d left his ATM card at home. Through his foggy brain he decided to go home, collect his card, and then head over to the Shearers. But he was well over the limit and would have to drive carefully. But even being caught and sent to jail had an appeal. There would be plenty of sex; yes, even the danger of Aids in jail, and it would break the misery of his present despair. When he arrived home he fancied he heard sounds coming from upstairs. Even in his befuddled state he realized that something was wrong and he slowly and quietly climbed the stairs to their sleeping quarters. As he got closer the sounds became guttural interspaced with little squeals. A feeling of dread overcame him as he quietly opened his bedroom door and saw . . . An ugly hairy bum thrusting enthusiastically into . . . Cindy, his wife who was squealing with passion at each bestial thrust. Then, becoming aware of an intrusion the head attached to the hairy bum ravaging his wife turned and . . . and . . . and he looked into the face of his brother . . . Laurie! For one insane moment three people formed a tabloid of guilt, betrayal, and contempt. Cindy was the first to recover with . . . ‘Oh Jeffry, Jeffry I’m sorry, sorry; you . . . you weren’t supposed to come home until . . .’ Something snapped inside Jeff. There is a limit to the amount of despair the brain can withstand and Jeffry had reached his. One by one his senses closed down until he was, and became, an emotional shell; and was made absolute by the sneering laughter that emanated from his brother. But he didn’t hear his brother’s sneering laughter or his wife’s pleas for forgiveness; he went back down the stairs and climbed into his car. By some instinct he drove out to the edge of town where a long, straight stretch of highway disappeared into the distance. Jeffry put his foot down hard on the accelerator, and . . . faster . . . faster . . . faster . . .
  25. 1 point
    A young man must chose between his strict religious background or decry the hate and intolerance towards a new student who enrolls in his school.
  26. 1 point
    The Investigation team was frustrated and stymied. All pertinent statements had been received, then perused and then double-checked, but nothing significant had been found. No lies detected; no new evidence and no new leads. All the college clergy had demonstrated a healthy (or unhealthy) respect for Bro. Michael; he, not Bro. Dominic, was the dominant force at the college. The forensic report simply confirmed the cause of death and didn’t establish any new clues. No foreign DNA was found on or around the corpse of Bro. Simon. They were staring at a dead end. In a fit of frustration, Fitzpatrick hurled the forensic report against the wall. Gloria flinched as the document sailed over her head on its journey of frustration. ‘Shit, fuck, damn! I know we’re missing something. This is all too tidy; too clean. From my past experience perps always make an error; a small error, something usually insignificant. Believe me Gloria, there is no such thing as a perfect crime; any thoughts?’ ‘No, not really. But Bro. Peter intrigues me; when I interviewed him he was extremely uncomfortable, scared even. My cop’s intuition was that he’s withholding something; something he wanted to tell but was afraid. I’d like to interview him again, if you agree.’ ‘Yeah . . . go for it. We have to start back at square one anyway and go over all we’ve got. Sometimes it works; sometimes not, but we have to try. I’m gonna send the forensic report back and ask them to start afresh. I think I’ll light a candle in the chapel to see if the Catholic God can give us a heads up!’ ‘Shit (laughing) Tom, you’re really getting desperate!’ ♂♂ ‘(Unsteady voice) Forgive me father for I have sinned. My last confession was two weeks ago.’ Fa. James was roused from his drowsy state when he heard the shaky voice of the penitent. It had been a boring afternoon session; in fact only one other had graced the confessional all afternoon. He was about to ask the conventional question when the repentant continued, ‘Father I’m scared, very scared. I’m scared for my very life and most importantly, for my immortal soul. I’ve done some awfully wicked things father and I think I’m about to be exposed. I’m frightened . . . !’ ‘Please (interrupting); please confess your sins then we can have a talk. If you make a full and complete confession, you’ll be free of mortal sin; but you must confess everything. Understand?’ ‘Yes father I do. I . . . I’m . . . a teacher at a local Marist Brothers college and for some time I’ve been havi . . . Ummm . . . paying for sex with local aboriginal boys. I can’t help myself father (stifled sob). . . I’ve tried, but my lust always wins out; I have a terrible need for sexual relief. Usually (choke) . . . I commit the sin of self-abuse to satisfy my cravings; then soon after, I feel the overwhelming need for male company. By male company I mean abbo boys. I don’t do any harm and I know the kids parents are in need of the money I give the boys.’ Fa. James stayed silent whilst the penitent steeled himself to continue; then, ‘I know who killed Bro. Simon and I’m scared I’m going to be next. Also, (stifled sob) I have information on a ring of pedophiles who operate here in town and within the whole country. Some very important . . .’ ‘Are you (Fa James interrupted) telling me that influential people here in town are not only involved but coordinating these disgraceful activities?’ ‘Yes, yes I am! That’s why my life is forfeit. I feel it’s only a matter of time before the fate that befell Bro. Simon is also visited on me. I really need help father; can you help me?’ ‘All I can do is make an Act of Contrition with you, but for your penance you must . . . and I repeat must, go to the police and ask for protection. I will only give you absolution on the understanding that you’ll give yourself up and tell the police everything you know. Do I make myself clear?’ ‘Yes . . . yes father, and thank you; I know you’re right. I’ll tell the police everything.’ ‘Good; now repeat after me . . . ‘Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all of my sins because . . . ♂♂ Leaving the confessional Fa. James encountered Fa. O’Brien who was looking puzzled. ‘I believe that was Bro Peter from the Marist College who you just heard in confession. I hope it wasn’t anything too serious; he’s my bridge partner, and a bloody good one at that.’ ‘You know him?’ ‘Well yes; I’ve known Peter for some time. Is something wrong?’ ‘Oh (sounding upset) shit! Yes, there is something wrong; very wrong. Come, I’ll make you a cup of tea. Stuff the sanctity of confession; it wasn’t designed for the mess I’m in. And I’m sorry for the crude language Peter, but I’ve really had a gutful!’ They adjourned to the kitchen and while James was making tea he told Fa. O’Brien the full story. There followed silence. Fa. James stood by the sink holding a steaming cup of tea, whilst Fa. O’Brien (shaking his head sadly) slowly stirred his teacup. ‘James, this must go no further; we’ve . . . I’ve already sullied the sanctity of the confessional. I guess I rationalized that because we were dealing with a confessed killer. This is different; the only crime committed was having sex with under aged boys. I don’t think . . .’ ‘No, (speaking harshly) Peter that’s not true! We’re consciously withholding evidence from the authorities. Didn’t our Lord say ‘Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesars’ and give to our father the things that belong to him’; I may not be doctrinally correct, but the intent is clear (Fa.O'brien went to interrupt) . . . no, please Peter let me finish. You also have to consider your own situation. As Bro Peter is an acquaintance of yours, you could be charged with withholding evidence to protect him. You’re in a tight spot, Peter.’ With a sigh Fa.O'brien acknowledged, ‘Ok, Ok, you’re absolutely right; bugger what a mess. I’m finding it hard to believe that Bro Peter is a homosexual. He’s never given any indication to me or, for that matter, anyone else; what a mess. Well hotshot, what do you propose?’ ‘Well, I did give him absolution on the premise that he’d go straight to the police and confess his involvement. I’m going to wait to see if he does what he promised; I’ll give him forty-eight hours. If we’ve heard nothing, I’ll go straight to the man and give him a choice; either he goes to the police or I will.’ Peter O’Brien sat slumped back in his chair and seemed entirely deflated. ‘You know James, sometimes I find the strictures of our faith too demanding. I mean what would be wrong if Bro Peter were to have a partner . . . a male partner if he so desires. What harm would it do? And the same applies to heterosexual clergy; why can’t we indulge our sexuality with a partner?’ ‘Peter, you astound me . . . you really do. It’s my generation of clerics who are agitating for reform – not yours. Do I detect a story behind your statement?’ ‘Ah yes, (looking and sounding wistful) there was a lass once who I really had a yen for; I was only twenty-two at the time. But I experienced real passion; the sight of her . . . her name was Helen . . . the sight of her would drive me into tender, loving carnal, caring, lustful (Fa. James at this point was laughing at the prospect) and scandalous fantasies. (A pause as he remembered tender memories) I determined to marry Helen but unfortunately her father . . . and in fact her whole family . . . were Baptists; Baptists who hated the Roman Catholic Church and therefore me. Of course my own church would not have let me marry her unless she became a Catholic and brought up our kids as Catholics. As the saying goes ‘we were up shit creek without a paddle.’ ‘Peter (intrigued) why haven’t you said anything about this before. It’s proud you should be to have real human feelings. And I’m thinking that you were a bit stodgy.’ ‘Well, (laughing) I don’t like to dig up the past; sometimes the memories are a bit raw. What about yourself . . .’ ‘No (also laughing) you don’t get out of it that easily; what happened to . . . Helen? Did she marry a boring old Baptist?’ ‘Yes, (sighing) yes she did. And she had three fine kids . . . and an unhappy marriage. He turned out to be someone who definitely did not practice what they preached. He played around; used prostitutes and contacted venereal disease. The marriage was dissolved after fifteen years; eventually I think he went insane. But what was really distressing, the family blamed Helen for not seeing to her wifely duties which made . . . what was his name? Ummm . . . yes . . . Bill; made Bill look for sex elseware. People never cease to astound me.’ ‘Arrrrh, isn’t that the truth; did (sounding embarrassed) . . . did you get to ‘know’ her in the biblical sense?’ ‘C’mon James, (laughing at him) there’s no need to be coy; you’re asking if we screwed, and yes we did . . . it was wonderful. I can still remember the experience.’ ‘So then (curious) why did you become a priest? What appealed to you about the priesthood?’ ‘I suppose in a way I was a coward. After having my feelings damaged by Helen, I just vowed never to repeat the same circumstances. Taking a vow of celibacy appealed to me; and at the same time I was a strict catholic so it all fell into place. It seems so puerile now. I’ve often asked myself what would I prefer most, to be a priest or to be a family man. Never came up with a good answer.’ ‘Well, funnily enough, I was about to ask that very same question. So you don’t know what you’d prefer?’ ‘Well, the grand thing about being a priest is that you don’t expose yourself emotionally, not to personal emotions anyway. Just from the confessional I hear terrible stories of married life; infidelity, physical abuse, financial woes and substance abuse. How some marriages survive in this age is a wonder. Now (enquiring) young man . . . now that I’ve exposed myself to your forensic emotional dissection, how about you. How came you to the priesthood?’ ‘Arrrrh, there’ll be a grand tale for you. My family were poor farmers in Co.Wexford. Our family was big; four brothers and three girls. I was never interested in girls as such, and I vowed not to take the same path as me Dar; I saw too much suffering. Oh Peter, the way my folks had to struggle just to feed, clothe and educate us, still brings tears t’ me eyes. Then (sounding sad) me Mar died, and it became too much for m’ Dar. He really tried to look after all of us but it was too much, so I went into the seminary.’ ‘Sooo . . . what brought you here to this fair town? We’re a long way from Co.Wexford.’ ‘I heard there was a shortage of priests in country areas, so I left Ireland and settled here; and before you ask do I miss the family, yes . . . yes I do. I write to me Dar often and on special occasions; Christmas, Birthdays and so, I’ll call them up. I try and send money regularly because I know how difficult it is with a large family. Sometimes I get cranky with our faith when we urge couples to have large families but don’t do anything to ease the financial burden.’ ‘So what do you value most in being a priest?’ ‘I guess being more of a social worker than a mender of souls. I love people, especially kids; at times they can be pure delight. They are so innocent and trusting; that’s why I abhor people who abuse kids physically and sexually. Of all crimes the abuse of children ranks just below murder in revulsion; and when the perpetrators are the kids own parents well . . . well, it’s disgusting.’ ‘Yes (sighing) yes I agree. But we can’t blame modern living for these detesting excesses; child abuse has been around for a long, long time. What about the use of child labor during the industrial revolution in England in the eighteenth century.’ ‘Please (laughing) don’t get me to talk about the excesses of Mother England; I might break into some rather poignant IRA songs. But we’ve got sidetracked; what are we gonna do about Bro Peter?’ (Sighing) I don’t know James, I really don’t know; for the time being I s’pose just wait and see what happens.’ Wonder what he meant by never being interested in girls? James doesn’t appear to be gay. When the time comes I’ll broach the subject with him. ♂♂ Kenny had resumed coaching Billy at footy; despite of all the troubles at the college and with Jeff, it seemed like a sensible thing to do. He was sure that Billy was still affected by his talk with Jeff, because at school he was acting distracted and often surly. As the practice session ended they were walking towards the showers when Kenny confronted Billy, ‘Hey man, you haven’t been your old sunny self of late; I miss your beautiful smiles. Mind if we have a talk?’ ‘Nah . . .’spect it’s about Mr. Jeff hey? I’se all mixed up Mr. Kenny . . . all mixed up. Don’t know if you’se can help me.’ They had reached the shower block, so Kenny said, ‘Hey, let’s sit here and yarn b’fore we shower.’ Kenny led Billy to a bench and patted the space beside him and when Billy sat, he half turned towards the boy ‘Billy, (here Kenny looked directly at Billy who then cast his eyes downward) I’m really thrilled the way you’ve improved at training; you must be feeling more confident now than when we first started. But footy training involves both physical and mental conditioning. When you go out to play a big match, you have to clear your mind of all negative thoughts so you can concentrate on the game ahead; and I don’t mean the whole match, I mean quarter by quarter.’ ‘Yeah, (looking at Kenny directly) I knows that Mr. Kenny . . . I knows that; I guess Mr. Jeff told you about our last meet, right? (Kenny nodded yes). Well, what you do when you’se really likes someone and they’se doesn’t like you back?’ Kenny paused; a bloody good question! ‘This point is Billy that Jeff does like you; I know he does. But he can’t get into any relationship until he resolves his own problems; his marriage for one. Look, I don’t want to get involved in your emotional life, but I think you’ve got to look elseware for someone to identify with; someone your own age.’ ‘Don’t (raising his voice), don’t bullshit me Mr. Ken; don’t bullshit me. I’se expected more from you. What you’se saying is me find another blackfella eh! Well, there ain’t any other gay blackfellas that’s I knows about. We’se banned from blackfella tribes; don’t know any others same as me. So what I gotta do, eh?’ ‘But that’s (talking earnestly) where your wrong. I know of one blackfella who plays for Essendon whose gay; and there’s probably a lot more. Just bide your time until your eighteen then you can go where you want. Trust me Billy, I’ll look after you.’ ‘Bide’s me time (angrily); bide me time! So what do I do when the urge comes a calling; just beat off by meself. Seems I’m randy all the time; can’t get enough. Don’t want to have no sex like dem hippos; sex is good, I likes it! So why should I not do it when I wants it. Shit Mr. Ken I’m real randy now; can’t help meself. Can I suck you off, please Mr. Ken, please! ‘Geez Billy, no. . . .’ ‘Look (Billy undid his shorts and flashed a very hard brown penis at Kenny), look Mr. Ken . . . he’s beautiful isn’t he?’ Billy, (his voice becoming hoarse) Stop it; I’m your teacher . . .’ ‘Bugger that boss, I think you’se randy as me; no harm is there? Please let me touch you boss; Billy’s good (he let his hand fall on Kenny’s cock which was now straining against his footy shorts)’ ‘(Gasp) Billy. . . Billy (hoarse), oh that feels good. But please stop . . . we shouldn’t . . .’ ‘No can do Boss; sorry no can do. Just lie back and let Billy do what’s best for you; I knows what you want. I’ll just take your footy shorts off and, wow . . . Mr. Kenny, that’s some spear you’se, got; an look he’s all wet. I’m gonna lick it all up. Can I do that boss? Can I do that?’ ‘Oh god . . . stop, please stop . . . this is wrong . . . wrong! Oh . . . shit!’ Every human being has a resistance threshold, and Kenny had reached his. The euphoric feel of Billy’s mouth around his penis had shredded any morsel of self-control; his need for sex simply overrode any restraint he had, and he gave himself up to the boy’s insistent demands. ‘Ok, now take Billy’s spear and suckle it. (Kenny dropped to his knees and virtually gobbled Billy’s erectness) Oh man . . . dat good . . . please, don’t stop. . . Oh, you’se good Mr. Ken . . . the best . . . can’t hold back any longer . . . I’se’ (loud ecstatic moan followed by shuddering) and Billy released. After his shuddering subsided the boy immediately took Ken’s painfully hard penis in his mouth. Using only his tongue and lips he performed oral masturbation until Kenny cried out with ecstasy, and flooded into Billy’s waiting lips. They sat back side by side against the wall, footy shorts down around their ankles, both satiated and drained. There was a silence until Billy turned towards Kenny and kissed him on the cheek. ‘I’se been wanting to do dat from the first time I saw you’se. Makes me feel real good Mr. Ken, real good; fact is I could do it again now, if you wants me to. I can also lick yer bum special like; can I? ‘Billy . . . please; just wait a moment please until I come back to earth. (A moment’s silence) I shouldn’t have done that with you Billy . . . it’s all wrong; I’m your teacher and could get into a lot of trouble if someone found out that I had sex with you . . . real trouble. I’m supposed to protect you from predators, and now I find that I’m a predator. Shit! Shit! Shit!’ ‘(Angrily) what the fuck are you talking ‘bout? It pisses me off t’hear you calls yerself ‘predator. I knows the difference ‘tween someone forcing themselves on an udder who don’t want to sex and two fellas who want to do it. Bullshit Mr. Ken, bullshit; dat Jesus fella’s got ya balls all twisted and bitter ‘bout sex. If’n one person becomes a victim den dat’s wrong; If’n both fellas have a good time den dat’s great! Ok?’ Kenny studied Billy and could see he was genuine . . . and absolutely right. Sure it’s a thin line but he’s right; as long as an older man doesn’t force himself on a younger man and the younger man consents then no real harm has happened. Bullshit! I’m rationalizing. ‘Billy, (softly) I hear what you’re saying but our laws are quite explicit. I shouldn’t and can’t have sex with you; full stop, end of story. Hey, (standing up and moving towards the shower) we’d better shower now.’ ‘Well, (standing up and following Kenny) you say you’se can’t have sex wid me; but ya didn’t say dat I’se can’t have sex wid you. . . (Laughing) Hey?’ ♂♂ Kenny was in turmoil; filled with remorse and self-recrimination. After Billy left, in what could only be described as a jubilant and happy mood, Kenny sat outside the shower block on one of the spectator seats. Even showering was an ordeal; Billy’s cock just refused to obey any attempt to deflate and Kenny had to close his eyes and turn away. As the boy said . . . he was ready to go again! What a hypocrite I am; chastising Jeff for having sex with the boy and then I go and do the same. But Billy is so insistent and his sexual needs are more than most young kids’ possess. Oh shit! . . . Young kids, Geeze I said it myself; I’ve had sex with an underage boy. Shit! Shit! Fuck! Well, Kenneth my boy, it’s not about what’s happened but what’s gonna happen now. If it gets out, I’m finished as a teacher; and perhaps jailed for having sex with a minor. Fuck! I guess the real question is what’s Billy gonna do? Will he demand more; will he blackmail me . . . and Jeff. Yeah, Jeff’s vulnerable too; but maybe not as much as me. And Billy is at a tender and difficult emotional age; an age when emotional adversity can be traumatic. Particularly rejection; they can’t handle rejection at all. (Sigh) But the bottom line is that Billy has power over both Jeff and I, and the only question is how will he use that power? Fuck! Shit! I should’ve been stronger and resisted . . . hey don’t go there. It’s happened and like any crisis it has to be managed. Should I tell Jeff? Should I admit to being weak and giving into a young abbo boy (sigh) well, if I tell Jeff at least it levels the playing field. Yes, I must . . . no, no, and NO! Not just yet! I’ll just wait to see what happens’ ‘Well, (sneering) if it isn’t our great footy star sitting all alone and pondering . . . what? (Laughing) How to fondle little boys in the shower?’ Everybody also has a threshold of tolerance to insults and Kenny had reached his. He stood up, took three steps towards Bro. Michael, and slammed his fist into his sneering face. The force sent the Brother onto his back howling with pain from a broken nose and cut lips. Nursing his bloody face, Bro. Michael managed, ‘You bastard . . . I’ll get you for this!’ ‘You are a bloody disgrace to your vocation; a bloody disgrace to this school; and a bloody disgrace as a human being. If you want to report me . . . go ahead; believe me it’ll be worth it! But the fight with Bro. Mike had steeled Kenny’s resolve. He reached into his gym bag and pulled out his mobile. ♂♂ It was an unlikely scenario for two close friends; one rigid with anger, whilst the other was slumped and defensive. Even in the warm atmosphere of the Shearers Arms, there was a zone of glacial silence in the booth occupied by the two men. ‘You (accusing and hostile) had sex with Billy Yorta? You’re telling me that you had sex with the boy? Please tell me I didn’t hear you right!’ ‘Ummm (sounding guilty) . . . yes; yes I did. It . . . it just happened; it just happened.’ ‘Oh (parroting and sneering) . . . It just happened did it; just like that (a snap of fingers). There was, of course, nothing you could do about it; no wait there, I suppose you could’ve said No! I mean you’re not only his teacher but he is under age . . . isn’t he?’ ‘Jesus Jeff! (Harsh); don’t be so bloody pedantic. You sound like a girl having histrionics. I didn’t set out to have sex with him . . . it just happened!’ ‘It just happened! (Mimicking) It just happened; I’m (raising his voice) sick and tired of hearing you say that . . . It just happened. I know it just happened because you told me . . . it just happened. Fuck you Ken!’ ‘And (raising his voice) fuck you too! I mean you’re no angel are you? Who are you to sledge me when the same thing happened to you? You’re a fucking hypocrite!’ ‘Ummm . . . excuse me girls, but I don’t want any rowdiness or swearing in my bar. If you girls want to fight . . . take it outside, please!’ So involved with the intensity of their quarrel, neither one had noticed Ivan the barman approach. Nor did they realize other patrons were looking at them. ‘Ok Geeze, sorry Ivan, we apologize (Jeff nodded); we’ll be quiet. Sorry!’ ‘Ok; what’s with you two? You’re usually pretty laid back; you’ve never had an argument before that I know of!’ ‘Yeah’, said Kenny. ‘We’re just sorting each other out over a minor matter. I’ll come and get a refill if that’s Ok with you?’ ‘Sure, I’ll get you two of the same?’ By the time Kenny returned with their refills, a breathing space had been established and both had calmed down. ‘I don’t know why I feel hurt and wounded Ken; after all it’s really none of my business. I’m sorry if I sledged you. I guess I’m pretty fragile these days. Nothing in my life is going well; but that’s no reason to dump on you. I’m sorry.’ ‘Yeah, I must admit that I felt a little miffed when you told me about Billy and you. For a sixteen-year-old kid he can be very persistent. I guess I was feeling very randy . . . that’s the only sex I’ve had with a partner since I broke up with Rickie. Well . . .’ ‘I know (Jeff interjected) . . . it just happened.’ Both men laughed. What I wanted to talk to you about (giving Jeff’s wrist a squeeze) is how exposed we both are if Billy feels betrayed. We both are guilty of having sex with an underage kid; but in my situation, I’d lose my job and be probably jailed.’ ‘Yeah well, It’s the same for me . . . I’d probably be facing jail time and Cynthia would divorce me in a blink; not that that’s a problem, but she’d get her hands on the only assets I have . . .(sigh)what little I have. What should we do Ken?’ ‘Not sure. It’d help if we know what Billy is thinking; it depends on how he views his future relationship with either of us. He told you he loved you didn’t he? (Jeff nodded) But is that his true feeling? After all he’s just going through puberty which means he’s very fragile and unpredictable.’ Kenny paused as each man considered the situation they were in. ‘You know Ken (jokingly) it would help if we could find someone else to satisfy his urges. I’m . . .’ ‘Hold on . . . that just might be it. (Jeff looked curiously at Kenny) What you said, that might be a way out.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ ‘If I could take Billy over to Melbourne and introduce him to the gay scene and particularly the indigenous gay scene, he may find someone to satisfy his cravings and forget about you and me. What think you?’ ‘Would that be possible?’ ‘Very! (Excited) There are many young black gays in Melbourne; they tend to congregate in a bar called ‘Alfies’. I could introduce him around; be his mentor, so to speak. If he’s as randy as we’ve both experienced he will jump in without thinking.’ ‘Geeze, (doubtful) I don’t know Ken; it seems like we’re taking advantage of a young black kid; it don’t feel right. No . . . even if it worked, I wouldn’t feel decent; Nah . . . there must be something else we can do.’ A pause; Kenny took a sip from his beer and looked respectfully at Jeff. Then he leant over squeezed Jeff’s shoulder. ‘You’re right, it wouldn’t work; just an idea. Let’s not go there . . . eh! But that still leaves the problem unsolved.’ ‘That’s assuming we have a problem; maybe Billy will keep his mouth shut.’ ‘Maybe, (taking a sip of beer) maybe he will. I don’t want to talk to him and elevate the issue in his mind. But one thing’s for sure; no more dalliances with him. If he comes on to me again I’m just gonna tell him that I’d be breaking the law to have sex with him; surely he wouldn’t want to have me arrested and banned from teaching. I think Jeff, you should do the same; I mean run the risk of being arrested.’ ‘If he comes on to me, I will. In fact I’ll try and avoid him as much as possible; I guess that’s easier for me than for you.’ There was a pause as Jeff seemed to be considering something. Then, ‘I’m sorry for sounding like a little bitch . . .’ Just then Ken’s mobile rang and he interrupted Jeff to take the call. ‘Hey, this is Ken . . . who? . . . Hey Rickie! What’s’ up man? . . . Woo . . . woo . . . take it slowly; I can’t . . . (silence) . . . Jesus, shit; are you sure?’ Jeff watched Ken’s face going from curiosity into concern and then silence as he listened to what obviously was a disturbing phone call. He said nothing and took a swig of beer while he waited for Kenny to conclude. ‘Yeah . . . no I’m Ok; yeah had me tests done coupla weeks ago. . . . Don’t cry Rickie, don’t cry. Look I’ll slip down to Melbourne tomorrow and see you. Where are you staying? Ok; see you then. Bye!’ Ken rang off without a further word and answered Jeff’s unspoken question. ‘As you can guess, that was Rickie; he’s tested positive for HIV. (Silence) I’ll go to Melbourne tomorrow to see if I can prop him up; he’s not very strong. He’s a great guy and a good footballer but he doesn’t handle emotional issues well. (Long pause while Jeff waited for Kenny to continue).This’ll (musing) put an end to his footy career; probably change his whole life. Shit, what a bummer!’ ‘But (getting panicky) it’s not your problem Ken; what’re you gonna do down there with him? Hasn’t he got other friends and family to console him; why you?’ Why is Jeffry getting so uptight? I mean it’s the least I can do to help someone I’ve been really close to deal with a big issue like AIDS? I guess Jeff doesn’t know Rickie like I do. ‘Well (speaking carefully), we were very close at one time and were lucky enough to emerge from our relationship as good friends. I don’t know whether you’ve had anything to do with AIDS Jeff, (he shook his head) but it’s an extremely cruel disease. Young men, in their prime, are reduced to pitiful shells and die a very painful death; I count myself very lucky. It really is a lottery.’ ‘That’s what I love about you Kenny; you’re all too ready to help the other guy. I guess it’s a tick in the good guy column. But at some stage you’ve gotta start looking after yourself. If you go down there, promise me . . . promise me you won’t stay too long. You’ve got your future to think about now Ken, and your future’s here, not in Melbourne.’ ‘Hey buddy, I can’t make promises without knowing how bad Rickie is. I mean, if it were you who needed my help how would you feel if I said ‘I know you’re sick but I can only stay for two days.’ What would you think? How would you react?’ ‘Don’t know, so I can’t answer you. But your priority is like me, to be on top of any problems Billy may cause. (Shit, I hope I don’t sound selfish) Can I call you if I need to?’ ‘Yeah, of course; anytime you want. Be glad to hear your voice. Now I’d better get home to get ready for tomorrow. I think I’ll get going about five a.m. so I’ll have a clear run. Coming?’ ‘No . . . you go. I feel like a few more. Anyways, I don’t feel like going home to Lady Cynthia. See ya!’ When Kenny left, Jeff got a refill and settled down with his thoughts . . . and fears. He settled back into his chair and moodily dragged his beer glass around in circles. I’m shit scared that Kenny may not come back. Why am I scared; because, I love him. When he said that Rickie was on the line, that big pang of jealousy almost shriveled my balls; I’m afraid of losing him. When he comes back I’m gonna tell him how I feel. Sure he's told me how special I am t but it's not enough for me . . . not nearly enough. I’m sick of masturbating with his image in me head. Now I want the real thing. God how I want him; I want to be so close I can smell his body odor; feel his breathing and hear his heartbeat. I’ve never felt this way before. Never! But, Oh shit; what if he doesn’t feel the same about me? I think I’d kill meself. ♂♂ It wasn’t the need for coffee that found Tom Fitzpatrick and Gloria in the coffee shop; more the need to get away from the depressing environment at the station. They had reached a dead end in the investigation . . . a complete brick wall. The interviews at the college had yielded only minor matters of interest, but no strong leads; nada – Nothing. Fitzpatrick was slumped in his chair looking morosely at the menu and without any enthusiasm. Gloria was half turned in her seat peering out the front window as if waiting for inspiration. ‘I’ve (sigh) never had a case . . . (he was interrupted by Robyn Ballard to take their orders) . . . a case like this before. We’ve had two murders; one of which has been solved, but all leads to the other murder have come to a dead end. For Christ’s sake Gloria tell me something that I can pursue.’ ‘Nah . . . I’m all out of inspiration. I did re-interview Brother Peter but nothing positive came out, except he seemed very uncomfortable during the going-over. . . I think he knew something but was too scared to tell me.’ 'Yeah . . . sometimes it’s good to backtrack; it’s amazing the little things that tend to be overlooked in an initial interview. I have (he fell silent as Robyn Ballard delivered their coffees) I have every confidence in you Gloria; have you ever considered applying for detective?’ ‘Ummm . . . no; never really thought about it. Do you think I’d make a good detective?’ ‘Yeah, (stirring his steaming coffee) yeah, I do. You’ve got a very inquisitive and inquiring mind. Naturally you’d need to be trained but if you put in an application I’ll support you. No problem.’ ‘Ummm, sorry for interrupting (Robyn Ballard had come back to their table) but is there any news about the murder of Brother Simon. I know you can’t say too much but people are getting scared thinking that there’s a vicious killer running loose in town.’ Before answering, Gloria introduced Tom Fitzpatrick to Robyn and explained who she was amongst the townspeople. Fitzpatrick responded, ‘Yeah . . . we can’t really say too much ‘cause it’s a matter of following every lead we get; that’s why it’s important for you townies to give us as much info as you can. I mean even the smallest item could become very meaningful to the investigation. I’d like you to tell people that we rely on them heavily when we’re trying to track down a culprit.’ ‘Well thank you inspector, I’ll pass . . .’ Just then one of the younger cops came bursting into the shop, looking very agitated he said to Tom, ‘Boss, please call the forensic people as soon as possible; they say that some new and important evidence has emerged!’
  27. 1 point
    The parents of little Ruth Jalla were distraught that she didn’t return home when expected. Ruth was known to wander off alone and this added to their concern. All the clan came together and started searching the bush where she loved to play. Sadly, it was a short search. Her body, crudely hidden by brushes and a few rocks, was found, not by her own people, but by a bush walker out for a stroll. The whole clan, and indeed the entire tribe rallied around her parents who were, in a word . . . gutted. Laurie Cree and Gloria were called to the scene and immediately set up a crime site. It became apparent that she didn’t die where she was buried. Within a short time the true site of the killing was established . . . beside a small stream and so another crime site was cordoned off. Silently, both officers surveyed the body which had been left bruised, bloody and twisted like a broken doll. Cree didn’t offer any comment but Gloria spoke aloud, ‘Well, it’s certainly obvious that she’s been raped; brutally raped and then . . . I was gonna say strangled but there are no signs of any ligature or hand marks around her neck. But look at her mouth; it’s all bruised and lacerated. My guess – and it’s only a guess – is that she was suffocated. I don’t think he intended to kill her . . . if that’s any consolation.’ Cree just mumbled, ‘Looks like it,’ and continued staring at the body. Then, ‘Must ‘ave been one of the abbos junked up on booze and petrol sniffing. Let’s get the body to the coroner as quickly as possible; she’s gonna start stinking soon.’ ‘Hey Sarge, shouldn’t we call in the forensic team. There must be loads of invisible evidence we have to gather.’ ‘Such as . . . ?’ ‘Look on her body; it’s covered with body fluids that aren’t hers. I’d say he sweated a lot and it’s all over her. We’ve got great DNA evidence which we can’t ignore. All we have to do is match the DNA to a perp and we’ve got him!’ Grudgingly, Cree agreed and instructed, ‘Get onto Melbourne and have a forensic flown out here ASAP. Assign two coppers to guard the crime scenes; and keep the bloody abbos away. They’ll have to wait until we’re finished before we can release the body to them.’ As Cree sauntered away, Gloria looked down at the broken body of little Ruthie Jalla. You poor little girl; no one deserves to die like this; brutally raped and then suffocated; left in a shallow grave at the mercy of animals. What kind of depraved mongrel would do this; could do this. We’ll get you shit face. You left your calling card all over her body. Now little Ruthie is yelling at us to take the evidence you left behind so we can strike you with the full extent of white man’s justice; that is if the abbos don’t get you first. The news of Ruth Jalla’s death spread like a bushfire throughout the community; particularly the Aboriginal community. Kenny accompanied Gloria to the settlement where they tried to comfort parents who were inconsolable. A death is always a traumatic event, but the death of a young child, and the circumstances of that death, is a heavy burden for any community to carry. Gloria had to ask questions about Ruth’s last known movements; she found it a difficult and loathsome task. But the early enquiries were disappointing and Gloria had to pin her hope on the forensic team coming up with some clues. At least they had DNA which was extremely important; she advanced the idea of having all the males in town providing DNA samples but Laurie Cree objected to this; at least at this time he wanted to pursue traditional avenues of investigation. Then the forensic report arrived and confirmed the existence of foreign DNA on Ruth’s body. But strangely, they also found tear drops on Ruth’s face; it seems that the perp had cried over the body when he’d finished. What did this mean? Did the perp suddenly regret his killing? After three days the investigation became bogged down, and Ruth’s body was released back to her people for burial. ♂♂ ‘Do you know what you’ve done? I assume it was you who killed and raped the child. It was you . . . Wasn’t it?’ ‘Yes, yes, yes! I didn’t mean to; you’ve got to believe me. It was an accident. I . . . I Ummm, got carried away. I didn’t know she was dead until . . . until, I’d . . . finished. Oh God, I feel awful. I . . . just had to talk to you . . . or someone!’ ‘And I shouldn’t have answered my phone; but I knew it was you and needed to talk . . . you fuck’n idiot! You’ve put us all in danger. I’ve talked to a few of the others and they’re ordering you to lay low; don’t go out foraging until the heat dies down . . . if it ever will. You’re a fuckwit!’ ‘Oh shit, I don’t know what to do. I’m so sorry. What can I do? What do you want me to do?’ ‘Drop dead would be nice, but that’s too much to expect from you! D’ya know you left your DNA all over the child? Ya may as well leave a calling card!’ ‘How can I get ’round that?’ ‘Ya can’t! Just make sure they don’t obtain a sample of your DNA, because if they do, it’s all over for you. You’ll do time; but not for long, ‘cause you’ll be found dead with a crowbar up yer arse.’ (Sobbing . . . muffled sobbing) ‘Look, just act normal; hide your feelings and don’t panic. I’ll keep watch on the situation and I’ll let you know of any developments that may point your way. Play it cool! Ok?’ ‘Yeah . . . all right. I’ll do what you say. I promise.’ ‘Ok; don’t call me, I’ll call you. ♂♂ Two days after Ruth’s death, Billy told Kenny he wanted to talk. ‘ . . . I’se really got the wind up about little Ruthie. What if it was one of the hippos who killt her? They know they’se not gonna try any rough stuff on me, and Botj is a real hard-arse even though he’s only ten. The filthy perv’s gotta pick on some little abbo girl who can’t defend herself like us boys can. Fuck’n coward!’ ‘Yep, that’s true Billy . . . but what’s your point?’ ‘I’se wondering if we could bribe the hippo’s info for sex? They get very hungry for a blow job or better and I think they’ll do anything for a bitta relief.’ Kenny exploded, ‘No way, no way hosay! Don’t you go getting involved Billy and that applies particularly to you brother . . . and any other kids involved. We’re dealing with some bad people here. They’ve killed once and I’m sure their gonna kill again . . . if they have to. Leave it to the cops; they’ll find who killed little Ruthie.’ ‘What if the cops are involved; what if they’se covering up? How we gonna get justice If’n they’se all bad?’ ‘The local cops aren’t involved any more. They’ve brung a team from Melbourne to handle the case; and Constable Meadows . . . you know Gloria Meadows? (Billy nodded yes) . . . she’s been asked to coordinate with the Melbourne cops.’ ‘But If’n they’se come in my mouth and I give the juice to you, won’t you get that den nay from it?’ ‘You mean DNA. Yes that’s true but you don’t know the name of . . . Jesus, how to I say this properly . . . the person belonging to the DNA sample.’ ‘Uhh. . I see the problem; but . . .’ ‘Billy, just leave it, huh! I know you’re only trying to help but let the Melbourne cops – the Criminal Investigation Unit – do their job. Promise me you’ll not do anything foolish!’ ♂♂ ‘Gloria, can you imagine the bloody position I was in; there was this kid offering a mouth full of cum up for DNA analysis. It’s bizarre. I didn’t know what to say, except just ‘leave it be’ and let the professionals do their work. With Ruth Jalla’s murder, all the rules have changed . . . somehow I’ve got to stop the boys offering sex favors for money. But I don’t know how . . . I’m frustrated.’ ‘Same here.’ ‘What’s the latest news from the investigation team, or are you not allowed to tell me?’ ‘I‘ll tell you what I can, but right now we both need a refill.’ As Gloria made her way to the bar, Kenny looked around at the crowded RSL. Was the killer here in this crowd, right now? Were there people who could offer more info? What does a killer look like? Questions, questions, questions. Gloria returned from the bar and re-settled herself. ‘All I know is that we have the perps DNA . . . loads of it. We even know he cried over the body, presumably after . . . he’d finished. All we have to do is match the DNA to whomever and the case is solved. Simple? . . . yeah right.’ ‘There must be some way; there must be some way to get samples of everyone’s DNA. I’m gonna go down after school and let them take a swab from me. Surely, it’s a process of elimination; the more they can narrow the field, the closer they’ll get to the killer. But that’s another issue; do you think I should tell them about the boys performing sexual favors for church people?’ ‘Oh, absolutely! Now that a child has been killed, the investigation team needs all the info it can get; at this morning’s meeting they admitted that they had no fresh leads. Look at is this way, if you don’t tell them you could be charged with withholding evidence or obstruction of justice. Do it ASAP!’ ‘Yeah . . . you’re right. But first I’ll tell Billy to pass the word around so’s they don’t get caught out.’ ‘No! No, absolutely not! You mustn’t warn them. I know it’s hard but . . . look Kenny; you don’t owe anybody anything anymore. A child has been killed . . . brutally, so it’s not the time to observe social niceties. Just do it! . . . or I’ll do it myself!’ ‘Ok, Ok. I’ll . . .’ Just then Kenny’s mobile rang and when he answered, ‘Ken, it’s Jeff. Look . . . Ummm, can I see you ASAP. I need to talk. Any chance you can meet me at the Settlers Arms in say, about half an hour?’ ‘If it’s important, Ok. I’m at the RSL with Gloria Meadows; I can come now if you want?’ ‘I want; and Ken can you come alone. No reflection on Gloria but what I want to talk about is personal.’ ♂♂ ‘Did Gloria mind? I didn’t want to insult her or anything, it’s . . . well, I want to talk just between you and me.’ After a pause he said. ‘Fuck Kenny, my life’s a train wreck. My life’s all shit! I don’t know how much longer I can hold it together.’ Jeffry looked miserable. He was sitting forward with his arms on the table and his head hanging down. He hadn’t shaved and was looking unkempt. Kenny leaned forward and gave him a comforting squeeze on his shoulder. The Shearers Arms was quiet and the lighting subdued; all conducive to a private meeting. This time Jeffry was only drinking beer without tequila shots. ‘No, Gloria’s Ok. Jesus Jeff . . . what’s happened? The other night you seemed happy; maybe drunk happy, but happy just the same and now . . . what? What’s happened to bring this on?’ ‘You, Ken . . . you. You happened!’ When Kenny’s face portrayed his puzzlement, Jeff continued, ‘I’m like you, Kenny . . . I . . . I’m . . . gay! No, please don’t interrupt; please let me get it all out. I’ve been harboring these fears for a long time now and beside from medical people, I’ve had no one else to talk to. I feel trapped! I’m deeply depressed, I hate myself, and I’m very, very scared. I’ve tried to make my marriage to Cindy work . . . all these years I’ve tried; but when we have sex, I imagine I’m fucking some beautiful guy. I’m sick, (choke) sick, sick! , and . . .’ The pent up emotion overwhelmed Jeff and he started to cry, gently at first but then worsened into deep racking sobs; he lost complete control. His emotional abyss was so deeply distressing that Kenny was at a complete loss on how to respond. In his confusion he just let Jeff cry it out. Eventually, when Jeff had exhausted himself, ‘Shit Jeffry, I’m flabbergasted. Geeze. Wow! Now I can understand why you’re so miserable. I hate to see you or for that matter, anyone so distraught.’ There followed silence as each struggled with their emotions. Eventually, ‘Look Jeff, in a few words you just walked across a minefield. Let’s start by me asking why you’re so afraid?’ Jeff took his time to consider his response. ‘Well, wouldn’t you be afraid having to live with both Laurie and Bert Cree. They’re both so homophobic that if I had’ve told them I was a poofter they, or at least Bert, would’ve disowned me . . . or worse. Remember, even though Bert adopted me, I was an outcast. I had no close family ties to him; I was only the product of his wife’s sister and my own dad. And remember, back then, being a queer, a faggot, was almost a death sentence. And who could I talk to? I felt a kinship with you, but back then I didn’t know about your own sexuality. And we were just kids. Shit!’ Kenny took Jeff’s hand and looked earnestly into his eyes before replying. ‘I was in a mess meself Jeff. I knew I was different, but didn’t know how different. Then one day I met an older guy, about 16 . . . I think I was only twelve, and he introduced me into the gay world. He was kind and gentle . . . I guess I was lucky. And when I met other gays, I realized I wasn’t alone; that I simply was part of an enormous community that endured heavy discrimination. I guess I was lucky Jeff, really lucky.’ ‘Did you tell your parents . . . Bill and Clair?’ ‘Yes . . . (laughing) and I got two entirely different reactions. My mother called me every bad name she could conjure – faggot, queer, poofter - and screamed that it was my father’s fault; my father just ignored me, wouldn’t speak to me.’ ‘How old were you?’ ‘About eighteen, I guess. I left home and went to live with my aunt down in Lorne. She was sympathetic and I never knew why . . . until my uncle, her younger brother, tried to rape me.’ ‘Shit! What happened?’ ‘Another story. Right now we’re discussing you. You also mentioned talking to medical people. What’s that all about?’ A shadow crossed Jeff’s face and his brow crinkled as he fought painful memories. He sat back with one arm on the table. His posture became rigid, defensively rigid and he half turned away from Kenny. It took some time for him to respond. Then, ‘I finally had a breakdown about two years after marrying Cindy. I just couldn’t cope anymore.’ He remained silent; dealing with painful memories. Kenny let him talk at his own pace. ‘I blacked out, and they told me I was trying to punch a hole through a plank table. I woke up in a medical facility that dealt with mental issues. I talked to psychiatrists and attended group therapy sessions but never ever told anybody about my homosexuality. I just couldn’t; it was like I’d erected a huge defensive wall and wouldn’t allow anyone to breach it. I stood alone against the world.’ ‘You were that afraid? Christ! How painful that must have been!’ ‘Yeah! Eventually, one of the doctors who realized I was holding something back suggested using drugs to overcome my barriers. I agreed. They gave me LSD which didn’t do anything and then . . . Sodium Pentothal, the truth drug. That worked . . . but I still resisted. I remember asking the female nurse to leave before I outed meself. These were the days when homosexuality was regarded as a mental illness, so I entered the next phase which they said would to ‘cure’ me and make me straight.’ Kenny was outraged. ‘You’re kidding right? You gotta be fucking kidding! I didn’t know that the medical profession thought we were all sick. Today it’s homophobia that’s regarded as a sickness, not homosexuality.’ ‘Yeah well my friend, times change; slowly but eventually they do change.’ Jeff fell silent and Kenny could see he was taking deep breaths. But his posture had softened; apparently talking about a painful past was helping him. Helping him to get it all out. Eventually, ‘They gave me aversion therapy. Aversion therapy; (another deep breath) which consisted of electric shock treatment, followed up by drugs.’ Jeff paused, but Kenny remained silent too traumatized to say anything, too anguished to find the right words. He kept silent because he just didn’t know what to say; he let Jeff continue. ‘I don’t know if you know anything about aversion therapy Ken, (Kenny signaled no!) Well it’s very simple; first they electrocute you with increasing voltages and then this is followed by wiring you up to a machine which projects images on a screen. When they want a negative response they jab you with electric shocks. In my case every time a male image appeared on the screen I received an electric shock! Another treatment is to make you violently sick whilst watching nude male images.’ Jeff fell silent. Kenny too sat drained of emotion. Eventually, without saying a word, he collected their glasses and headed to the bar for a refill. On returning he prompted Jeff, ‘What happened then? I mean after they fucked with you?’ ‘Then it was over to LSD. I was given a dose, I don’t know what strength, and pictures of naked females would be projected in front of me.’ Jeff stopped and started to sob. “I’m . . . (sob) sorry Kenny. It’s a (sob) . . . bit distressing.’ He downed a large gulp of beer. On an instinct, Kenny went to the bar and came back with two shots of tequila. Jeff downed his and then virtually smashed the glass against the table top. Just then, Ken’s mobile rang. It was Gloria. ‘Is everything alright? Is Jeff OK? D’ya need my help?’ ‘Thanks for calling Gloria. No, Jeff is very not OK. He’s been telling me a story that is just unbelievable. It’s mind-boggling. I’ll fill you in; no, I’ll let Jeff. . . (Jeff nodded OK) fill you in when he’s able. I’d rather let Jeff tell you himself. However we’re into shots now. But don’t worry; we’ll call a cab.’ When he finished the call, Jeff – fortified by the booze - took up his story. ‘After several weeks, I left the hospital . . .’ Kenny interrupted, ‘Did Cynthia know any of this; your outing that is. Did she know you’d told the medical people that you were gay?’ ‘No! When I left the hospital I just resumed my life before the breakdown. No one knew I’d outed myself. Only me; little o’l me. I just resumed my previous life as if nothing had happened.’ ‘I’m confused; what was the point of going through all that pain without any gain. It doesn’t make sense.’ ‘You’re right! Absolutely right. What happened was an outcome even the medical people hadn’t predicted. I was left with an identity crisis. Part of me . . . a small part of me was trying to react to the aversion therapy but the other larger part retained my homosexuality. They really fucked me up! They thought they could change black to white, but I just ended up being a mixture of both. Call it a very dark shade of grey. The bottom line was I didn’t really know who I was; and that’s the way I’ve been living for years. Except that my homosexuality just became stronger and stronger; the more I ignored my natural orientation, the stronger it grew.’ ‘Jeff,’ Kenny said softly. ‘That’s a horrible story. I can’t begin to imagine the stress you’ve had to live with. And you’ve been holding this inside all alone. What mongrels those medico’s were! They tortured you; no other word for it. You were tortured in the modern era as you would have been in mediaeval times; except, there was no visible injury. No blood spilt. Shit!’ Kenny looked deeply into Jeff’s eyes and tried to convey reassurance. But Jeff continued, ‘So here I am Kenny, a gay man trapped in a heterosexual marriage and terrified of ‘coming out.’ That’s me in a nutshell!’ ‘Jeff, what do you want to do? How would you like to end this impasse? Look, as I see it, you’ve only really got two choices; continue as you are and somehow live with the strain or ‘come out’; get a divorce or annulment from Cynthia and begin to live your life. You’re still very young; still young and attractive enough to find a partner and live as a gay man.’ Jeff sat mulling over what Kenny had said. Then he got up, grabbed their empty glasses, went to the bar, and returned with refills and two more tequila shots. He still hadn’t answered Kenny’s question. ‘It’s not that simple; (Kenny sat back showing his frustration) Cynthia is a strict catholic and won’t agree to divorce. And I don’t think I can handle the hostility that coming out would attract. I’m not strong like you Kenny. I’m weak; I guess both Cindy and Laurie know that.’ ‘We’re all weak at times; every person has their strengths and weaknesses. Jeff, what you’ve been through would crush any man. What they did to you is . . . is disgusting. You’ve survived but you’re damaged; but not damaged beyond repair. You can get your life back, but only you can do it. Whilst I - and Gloria - have got your back, you’ve got to start being pro-active.’ Kenny hesitated but before Jeff could interrupt, Kenny continued, ‘It’s always easy for someone from the outside to give advice; giving advice is easy. Acting on that advice is really hard. I’m gonna be there for you buddy,’ and Kenny leant across the table and gave Jeff’s hand a squeeze. Once again Kenny felt a surge of sheer pleasure; Jeff’s tense facial features also softened for a moment. ‘C’mon, enough of drama; let’s get pissed and catch cabs home.’ ♂♂ “I’m sorry, I need to talk to someone . . . I can’t go on pretending. I keep looking over my shoulder, waiting for the police to arrest me. How could I have killed that poor little girl? I didn’t mean to . . . I think it’s better I go straight to the police and confess.’ ‘Are you completely mad? You fuckwit! What about the rest of us? Hmmm. You don’t give a shit about anybody except yourself. You disgust me; go away, keep quiet and let things cool down. Remember they might have your DNA but they can’t match it to anyone. And you’re looking a mess. Go and clean up; then go and relieve yourself with a little girlie porno. ♂♂ ‘We have a problem! Unfortunately, it’s become a serious problem.’ ‘Let me guess . . . our little friend?’ “Yes. He’s starting to crumble . . . already; and I’m sure that when he does, he’ll take us all down with him. We’re running out of options.’ ‘Don’t be a fuckwit! You mean we’ve run out of options. He’s made the decision for us. Put simply, it’s either him or us. Correct?’ ‘(Sigh) yes. I kept hoping that we could ride it out, but I know now that we cannot. I don’t know what the next step is? I’ve . . . I’ve . . . well, I’ve never had to face anything like this before. I feel terrible.’ ‘Bullshit! You know exactly what we have to do now. If you’re so squeamish, I’ll have to handle it; we can’t have you getting your lily white hands dirty, can we? You make me wanna puke!’ ‘You can drop that superior tone. You’re just as concerned about your part in the whole mess. The difference between you and I is that I feel remorse whereas you obviously don’t.’ ‘(Sniggering laughter) Ok, just leave it to me.’ ♂♂ Fa. James yawned and stretched his legs. His watch indicated only another twenty minutes before the afternoon confession ended, and he was already looking forward to a cup of tea with Fa. O’Brien. Then the indicator light came on signaling a penitent had entered the confessional. With practiced ease he slid open the communication panel and waited for the parishioner to begin. . . . And waited. Then came the sound of sobbing . . . soft racking sobs. ‘Don’t be stressing yourself so. Take your time; and if you’ll be wanting to freshen up, there’s a box of tissues nearby. Gently now; I’ve got all the time in the world, so you take your time. Let’s start with your last confession; when was it?’ ‘(Sob) about three weeks ago . . . no, it’s more like two weeks ago; no . . . it’s three weeks now. I’ve . . . (sob) I’m all confused.’ ‘That’s a good man. Now, what’s happened in the last three weeks that has troubled you so?’ ‘I’m (sob) fright . . . frightened to tell you. I’ve done something really, really bad. I . . . (sob) . . . I . . . it’s so bad I can’t say the words. I wish I was dead! Father, my sin is so bad I don’t think you can forgive me.’ Silence again . . . with the sound of sobbing. Fa. James waited. And then, ‘There is no such sin that cannot be forgiven. Are you a good practicing catholic? Do you understand the grace given to you by making confession?’ ‘Yes, oh yes. I’m a brother at a catholic college. I understand my religion thoroughly. I (sob) . . . I know about forgiveness. But father, you may be able to forgive me, but I can’t forgive myself.’ ‘Well you came to confession for a reason, didn’t you? You want to confess this sin that’s eating away at you. You’ll be wanting to share the burden?’ ‘Yes father, yes, yes, yes. I can’t sleep; I’m depressed and have even considered suicide. I just can’t go on pretending all’s ok. I need to be punished!’ ‘Hold there; you know killing yourself is a mortal sin. You have no alternative now; you must confess.’ Silence; except for the sobbing and then, ‘I suppose I’m really past caring . . . I . . . I killed someone; I killed a little girl; I (sob) choked her to death with my hands; hid her in a shallow grave hoping that she wouldn’t be found. I killed one of god’s creations, with my own hands. (Sob) Now I’m so sorry and scared.’ ‘(gasp) Are you talking about the little aboriginal girl that’s in all the papers?’ ‘Yes . . . yes father . . . I am. I’m the (sob) one that killed her.’ Blessed Jesus! This is unbelievable. Here, in my confessional, is the killer of that poor little girl. And he’s come here to confess and seek forgiveness. How can I forgive his sin? His monstrous sin. But I don’t have a choice; as atrocious as it is, I have to forgive him in the name of Jesus. Fa. James allowed a silence to grow as he considered his position. Then the penitent asked, ‘Can I be forgiven Father? I did not mean to harm the child but my . . . err . . . umm, lust drove me to it. Even though I’ve taken a vow of celibacy I still get unnatural urges that I try to suppress or control. Now, I can’t control my urges any longer; for years I held them under control, but I can’t anymore. My sexual urges are destroying me . . . have destroyed me.’ ‘In a way I can understand your dilemma; celibacy is a very hard way to live. If it were an adult I’d be understanding . . . probably sympathetic. I’d after being a hypocrite to say I’ve not had desires; but you raped and killed a little child. A little child of – eight I think – yes, eight years. That’s not natural; it’s unnatural. It’s perverted; you’re a deviant! A very sick deviant.’ ‘(Sigh) yes father I know. That’s why I should kill myself. I don’t deserve to live.’ ‘Enough of that!’ Fa. James thundered. ‘I’ll hear no more talk of suicide. What you need is help. Psychiatric help! I can’t help you there.’ After a pause . . . ‘I’ll give you absolution only, and I mean only, if you’ll give yourself up to the police. Will you promise me, on your immortal soul, that you’ll go straight to the police and confess to the crime? Will you do that?’ ‘Yes father, yes, yes, yes! I want to cleanse my soul. I’m just part of a ring of pedophiles operating in this town and else-ware. I acknowledge my sickness; I know I’m not normal, I’m a pervert but I’m not alone; this depravity has got to stop else there’ll be other young kids killed.’ ‘(under his breath) Sweet Jesus!’ Silence . . . then, ‘I give you absolution for your sins. Your penance will be going to the police and owning up to this horrible crime; you must also alert the police to the pedophiles you say are operating in this town. Do you agree?’ ‘Yes father; yes I do.’ Then let’s say the Act of Contrition, ‘(together) Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all of my sins because . . .
  28. 1 point
    Chapter 1. The wurl Elias Trost just wanted to get to the lab. But then the wurl attacked. The harsh electronic siren boomed throughout the entire colony, a terrible sound with which everyone was all too familiar. Elias knew he should get indoors, preferably at his parents’ house, but he was already close to the laboratory. Maybe he could sneak past – “Citizen!” a youthful, booming voice called. “You cannot be outdoors. Not unless you actually want to help.” That last sentence had been spoken with open scorn and Elias was forced to stop in his tracks. The youngest member of the Colony Patrol approached him, clutching his shock spear in both hands. His helmet’s visor was open, and intense brown eyes stared daggers at Elias from beneath bushy eyebrows. “Leave me alone, Tristan,” Elias said. “Go poke some wurl with your giant stick.” Tristan’s frown deepened. His mouth was set in a thin, straight line, and in spite of himself, Elias had to admit that Tristan McLeod was attractive. He was sixteen, just like Elias, but he looked far older wearing the uniform of the Colony Patrol. More dangerous. “You could come with me, get some hands-on experience,” Tristan told Elias, stopping just a couple paces away. Elias refused to back down from the unspoken threat. He was sick of being bullied by Tristan at every corner. “No, thanks, soldier boy. I’m a scientist, not a knucklehead.” Tristan twirled the shock spear casually in both hands, almost hitting Elias. “You wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for us knuckleheads. What would you do if the Patrol wasn’t here, huh? Wet your pants in a corner of your abandoned laboratory, waiting for the wurl to pepper you with spines?” “Violence is the resort of a weak mind,” Elias retorted. “Tell that to the wurl who attack us all the time. Oh, that’s right. You’ve never stood your ground in front of one of them. You’re a man now, of an age to contribute to the colony, and instead of helping us you waste your time reading old records. You’re a coward.” “Says the guy holding the weapon,” Elias said, biting down his anger. As much as he would have liked to punch Tristan in the nose, he knew that Tristan was a far better fighter, stronger, quicker, and taller. The alarm changed tone to a repetitive keening. “They’re inside the perimeter,” a tinny female voice said from Tristan’s helmet. “All units, converge next to the generator array. We have three juveniles, very aggressive.” “Sounds like fun,” Tristan said into his mike, grinning at Elias. “Go hide in your laboratory, scientist. I’m off to save your life.” He left before Elias could think of anything cutting enough to say. Now alone, Elias ran the rest of the way to the abandoned laboratory. He hated to admit it, but Tristan was right. He had to go hide unless he wanted to be impaled by one of the wurl’s spines. But I’m not a coward, he fought fiercely. I’m working to save the colony, just like Tristan. Only in my own way. The entrance to the dilapidated compound that had once been a laboratory was well hidden. The entire building had been built against the slope of one of the hills closest to the colony, about three kilometers away from the main cluster of prefabricated homes. Elias had uncovered it three summers ago, almost by accident. He had been gathering interesting bits of scrap metal to use for his latest project when his terrain surveyor had told him that the ground beneath him was hollow. Getting in that first time had been hazardous, but since then he had improved and reinforced the structure of the narrow chute that served as his main entryway. Now, he barely thought about navigating the intricate way down, deeper into the hillside, and into the buried laboratory. The familiar, comforting smells of wet earth and burnt circuitry greeted him as he stumbled upright at the end of the chute. He walked precisely four steps forward and two to the right, felt around briefly, and hit the switch that started up the generator he had installed two years ago. Light flooded the space instantly, flickering down from several retrofitted neon tubes that Elias had hung from the ceiling, connected directly to the generator’s output lead. The harsh, white light revealed a single large room partitioned into smaller spaces by weak drywall divisions. Many of them had long since crumbled into dust, the fragments joining the piles of broken machinery, desiccated plant life, dust and garbage which covered the floor. He sat down at the one workstation that had been thoroughly cleaned. He kept most of his notes there, as well as one barely-functional computer terminal which served as his data repository. He picked up where he had left off the day before, trying to puzzle out the location of a hidden room in the lab which Doctor Wright’s notes seemed to hint at describing. At first he couldn’t concentrate, however. The incessant whine of the alarm siren echoed even in the lab, and in spite of himself Elias felt a momentary pang of guilt. Should he really be out there, fighting against the overgrown reptiles of this unforgiving, winter world? Or should he be poring over notes which had to be at least a hundred years old, trying to find a way to save the colony? The alarm died out. Grabbing a thermo-isolating blanket he had brought from home, Elias tried to ignore the cold and set to work. It wasn’t long before he was fully engrossed in what he was doing. The laboratory had belonged to someone called Doctor Thomas Wright, one of the founding members of the colony. That meant that Doctor Wright had been one of the original crew members on board the generation ship Ionas, which had made planetfall 113 years ago on the world they had named New Skye. As always, Elias couldn’t suppress a faint but pervasive feeling of awe as he navigated the intricate virtual labyrinth of the Doctor’s files. He was reading reports, log entries and experimental data written by someone who had traveled through the stars, someone who had probably grown up surrounded by technological marvels Elias could only imagine. It was fascinating reading, and all the more so because Elias had seen no mention of it anywhere else in the colony’s archives. It was strange, in a way. All of the original colonists were larger-than-life figures in the history books. There was Captain McLeod, who had founded the first and only settlement in New Skye, Portree. An obelisk dedicated to him had been erected in the center of the colony plaza, which Elias saw every day. There was the Chief Engineer, Ileana Jones, whom the Colony Patrol had elevated to near-goddess status because it was she who first designed the shock spears they used to fight off wurl. Prayers were still said thanking Virologist Ai Hino, the gifted medical officer who created the engineered virus with which she infected the entire fledgling colony, allowing the human immune system to adapt to the alien environment and all its microorganisms. And so on, and so forth. It was odd that Elias had never heard of Doctor Wright, and even more so since Elias was certain that the Doctor had been an important scientist for the colony of Portree. He appeared to have been a biologist, since most of the notes Elias has found were detailed accounts of the flora and fauna of New Skye, each one carefully labeled in the terminal mainframe, and linked to a series of incomprehensible spreadsheets that presumably listed all the properties of each new life form. Elias had spent nearly the entire summer reading those notes, fascinated by the wealth of knowledge of the early colonists. Nowadays, people barely left Portree for any reason, but it appeared that in the past there had been expeditions to the far reaches of the continent, and the creatures they had found were marvelous. The Doctor appeared to have been an agronomist as well, given the thorough stacks of files which covered things such as food output, average plot yield, chemical composition of fertilizers used, and many other things that Elias found fascinating. He would have suspected the data to be fabricated if not for the obvious professionalism of each report. It was hard to believe, though. Portree, a thriving colony with a surplus of food each year destined for long-term storage? It sounded like a fairytale. Elias spent nearly an hour reading about the suspected medicinal properties of a flower endemic to the high mountain passes of the west before he remembered that he was supposed to be looking for a blueprint of the laboratory, or something that could tell him where the secret room was located. He immediately switched focus, plugging in one of the axillary drives he had found in the lab to the mainframe. The computer drive was full of errors and unreadable code, a far cry from the perfectly preserved files in the mainframe, but Elias had developed a parsing algorithm that allowed him to at least extract simple text blocks for him to analyze. It was boring, repetitive work, but his curiosity had been piqued. He discarded irrelevant data files, his fingers dancing on the tactile interface, until he found something promising. It looked like an efficiency report of a heat generator located in the lab, and Elias quickly extracted all the useful bits of information. As he had hoped, the efficiency report had been broken down into two separate areas, one for the main laboratory building and the other for the secret room. It even listed its location: the northern wall. Elias looked around the frigid laboratory with mounting excitement. The northern wall was half buried in debris from a landslide that had happened sometime in the past, so he had left it alone. Now that he knew that a hidden room was there, though, things were different. He stood up, walking to a spot near the entrance where he had stashed a shovel. Time to get to work. Clearing out the debris was a brutal endeavor. Before an hour had gone by, Elias had taken off his jacket and shirt, sweating even in the chill of winter. Most of the debris was hard packed, some of it even frozen solid, and if it hadn’t been for the monomolecular edge of the shovel, he wouldn’t have been able to clear even a tiny segment of the blockage. Elias didn’t give up, though, and little by little his progress grew. His stomach rumbled with hunger, but he was used to that. He came across a pile of broken concrete and spent another hour dislodging each fragment from the mess, piling it against a nearby wall. After that was done, there was more dirt and ice to go through. He kept going. He was in the lab for so long that the generator began to whine, protesting its extended work period. Elias’s arms were trembling with exhaustion and his lower back was hurting by the time his shovel finally clanged against something metallic, big, and solid. Getting on all fours, Elias cleared out that section of the wall and sighed in exhausted relief at seeing the unmistakable outline of a metal door. He continued working with renewed efforts, and soon was rewarded with the sudden collapse of the remaining layer of dirt and debris, which fell off from the door like a discarded skin. Panting and leaning on his shovel, Elias regarded the secret door of the lab. It looked heavy, imposing, and mildly threatening. There was no sign of rust or corrosion on its frame, which told Elias that it was of pioneer build, flawless and efficient. There was a handle on it, but although it held in one piece when Elias tugged, the door did not budge. Above it, an input panel waited patiently for the right code. Elias reached for it, tapping some of the number keys experimentally. The panel lit up, startling him. Anything that was still working after a hundred years had to have its own power source somewhere. It was incredible. It also meant that whatever was in there was really important. There were ten number keys to try, and the display panel above had space for four integers. Doing some quick math, Elias realized that there were ten thousand different codes to try if he wanted to gain access. Too many. Elias stepped back from the door, tired and disappointed. He wiped the sweat from his brow and got dressed again. A quick glance at his wrist-held link, a flat computer interface with a holographic projector, showed him that it was almost time for dinner anyway. And he was starving. He shut down the terminal and covered everything in case of any unexpected water leaks. He put the shovel aside, tried to wipe some grime from his hands, and walked back to his entry chute. Getting out was a little more complicated because there were no stairs or ladders to use to climb up. Instead of that, there was a rope which Elias had hung and secured to a sturdy metal latch at ground level. He grabbed his rope, tested it with a couple of yanks, and started up. Even though his arms were tired, it was easy to pull himself up the three or so meters that separated him from the surface. As soon as his head cleared the hole in the ground, a frigid blast of wind greeted him, making his teeth chatter. Elias climbed awkwardly out, wincing at a faint ache in his left shoulder, and rolled away from the hole until he was lying on his back on the gentle slope of the hillside, looking up at a dark, cloudy sky. The light of the moons struggled to shine through, bathing everything in a dull silver twilight. It was even colder now that the sun had set, and Elias knew that he had to get home quick if he didn’t want to get into trouble yet again. Grunting, he sat up. And saw the wurl. The beast was standing less than ten meters away, and it appeared to be as startled by Elias’s sudden appearance as Elias was at seeing it. There was a brief, brittle moment of mutual regard when both of them looked at each other, breathless, immobile. Then the wurl roared. It was a terrible, earsplitting sound, a screech like two sharp metal plates grinding together, amplified and overlaid in a guttural, threatening boom. Elias jumped to his feet and tried to run in the direction of the colony, but the wurl was much faster. It jumped up in the air, tucking its six legs into its underbelly, and rolled like a needle-spiked donut downhill, cutting off Elias’s retreat. Elias was forced to stop, terrified, as the wurl halted its rolling and settled into a graceful, predatory crouch. The silver moonlight glinted off its obsidian plates, covering a slender, sinuous body that was almost five meters long and nearly as tall as Elias. Its arrow-shaped head was held low to the ground, the jaws half open, showing row after row of jagged, white teeth. The wurl had three eyes on the top of its skull, red, luminescing faintly. They were all locked on Elias, watching him with a disturbingly intelligent look. Elias was very close to panicking. He wasn’t prepared for this. He tried running right, but the wurl slithered on the ground, faster than thought, its tail hissing through the air from the speed of its motion. The moonlight threw sharp reflections off the spines that covered the creature’s back. Each of those spines was as long as Elias’s forearm and nearly as thick. Elias knew that the wurl could launch them at distances of nearly ten meters with enough force to punch through anything not armored. Including human flesh. “Help!” Elias shouted, remembering he had a voice. “Somebody, help!” The wurl growled low at the sound. It was only a juvenile from the looks of it, but that made it even more dangerous. The older wurl were big and lumbering. This one looked quick. Deadly. The lab. Elias could hide in the lab. He turned around without a second thought and dashed uphill. He could see the entry chute now. It was just – Schwook. An obsidian spine hissed through the air and punched into the ground right in front of Elias. He stopped in horrified shock and jumped out of the way as a volley of three more spines impaled the dirt right where he had been standing. He rolled down the slope, out of control, for nearly three seconds before he was able to stop himself. Then he stumbled up right, chest heaving, looking up. The wurl was standing between him and the laboratory entrance now. The ground in front of its hulking frame had cracked where the spines had hit. No way out. I’m going to die here. The wurl charged. It opened its maw and its three eyes appeared to blaze with malevolence as it tucked its legs into its body, folded its head in, and started rolling downhill at Elias. Elias ran for it. He pumped every inch of strength into his desperate flight, stumbling over rocks, wishing he could get inside the perimeter of the colony that was so near and yet impossibly far. Behind him he heard the wurl gaining speed, and a fleeting glance back showed him that it was almost upon him. Elias was forced to jump to the left. The wurl surged by, trailing a sharp reptile scent, and rolled to a stop a few meters away. Then it uncoiled, settling on its three pairs of legs. It looked at Elias, tilting its head to the right. It’s playing with me, Elias realized. It could have killed me three times over. It’s just dragging it out before ending this. Elias knew about wurl. They were supposed to be borderline intelligent, and very dangerous. They were also supposed to be a threat for others to deal with. But now… “Help!” Elias shouted again, this time remembering to hit his link with one hand. He activated the communication device and sent out a distress signal. Please. Please, someone… The wurl walked closer, tilting its head left and then right as it advanced. It was terrifying, because the gaze of the red eyes never wavered, never blinked. Elias tried backing away, but he tripped on a boulder and fell down hard on the frozen ground. The wurl walked up to him, close enough to touch. Its alien stench was overpowering, and as it opened its maw Elias saw clearly the second row of teeth hidden behind the first. Elias’s bladder simply let go. The wurl closed its jaws and sniffed the air once, as if curious. “Keeya!” The warcry startled both Elias and the wurl. The creature looked back, downhill, and Elias saw someone running straight at them, holding a blazing shock spear in one hand. The weapon’s two ends shone blindingly bright in the dim twilight, blue and white, surging with arcs of pure electricity. The wurl twisted its body around, crouched low to the ground, and fired. Elias had never seen a wurl attack with spines from up close. A ripple made its obsidian plates tremble, and a powerful muscle contraction gathered explosive strength in the nearest spine. The projectile was released with a wet squelch, almost as fast as a gun firing. The spine found its mark now that the wurl wasn’t playing. The running figure was hit square in the chest and it stumbled backwards. The spine fell away from the dented armor. The warrior kept coming. “Keeya!” Elias recognized the voice now. It was Tristan, charging fearlessly at a wurl twice his size. The creature seemed to sense the threat, because it slithered away, further up the hillside, firing spines as it went. Speechless, Elias saw Tristan dodge them. The wurl screeched at the top of its voice, rolled up into a ball, and attacked. Tristan never stopped running. He faced the rolling, spine-covered armored beast head on, shock spear in hand, and at the last possible moment jumped out of the way, slicing the air with his weapon. The spear found its mark. Searing electricity surged through its tip when it made contact with the alien creature’s plating, blinding, shredding through its entire body. The wurl stopped rolling, roared, and fell on its side. Tristan followed the momentum of his own motion, rolled on the ground, and jumped up without missing a beat. He assumed a fighting stance, facing the beast. The creature crouched on the ground and fired another spine. It bounced off Tristan’s armor. The wurl opened its jaws in a threatening display, the luminescence in its eyes flaring, and approached Tristan, twisting its head left and right. Tristan did not move. He held the spear in his right hand, motionless, and Elias was about to cry out in warning when the wurl gathered speed, rushing up at the armored fighter to crush him under its bulk. The impact never came. Elias’s cry died in his throat when he saw that the wurl stopped mere centimeters away from Tristan. He could not see Tristan’s face because of the helmet, but he could see the wurl. After it stopped, it growled at Tristan once, earsplittingly loud. In response, Tristan lowered his electrified spear. The wurl turned away immediately, slithering downhill. It quickly tucked its body into a ball again and rolled away, out of sight. Elias’s heart was hammering in his chest. He watched, spellbound, as Tristan approached calmly. Tristan took off his helmet and revealed a confident, perfect smile. “No need to thank me,” he said smugly. “I’m sure something in your lab would have saved you if I hadn’t come. Right?” Elias could think of nothing to say. Tristan got close enough that Elias could see the moonlight reflected in his dark eyes. “Maybe next time, before calling me a knucklehead, remember I saved your life. Scientist.” By the time a comeback came to Elias, Tristan was almost out of earshot. Elias did not shout it out, though. The anger simmering inside him was fueled by deep shame. Tristan had saved him. Elias had been powerless, helpless. Even the wurl had known. It had just played with him when it could have killed him several times over. Not like when Tristan had come. Tristan had been a threat. Dangerous enough to make that powerful creature retreat. Elias bunched his hands into fists, walking home in the deepening twilight. A small part of him wished Tristan hadn’t saved him. Because now, it would make his life a living hell.
  29. 1 point
    Chapter 3: Lions At The Gate It took some serious will power to hold out for longer and longer periods of time between calls. Something about the way Alex was worrying about his folks just made me worry a little bit more about my own. I was super happy to be connected with Cain again, but as the hours passed me by, I started wondering if maybe my short conversation on the phone with my parents the other night was a bit of red herring when it came to our family being reunited the way we were hoping. I should be more patient though, right? Maybe I should just relax a little? My mom did say that it would take a few weeks for the military forces to get things settled in. I guess the rescue mission is the most important part of the process for right now. They can switch schedules and transport people to be with their families once everybody has been documented and checked out for bites and scratches and the like. I'm sure it's just a temporary delay, right? They'll be here. Eventually... The more I tried to get through, the more I kept getting an annoying busy signal, or a recording telling me that all the lines were down. I found myself getting more and more frustrated by the second. I mean...arrrggghhhh, what the hell? How can my phone just NOT work? Just as I was fighting the urge to kick a full blown dent in the high school locker in front of me, my brother, Cain and his best friend, Jamie, came walking down the hallway to greet me. Cain was the first to say, "Don't even try it, Jake. The phone lines are about as tangled as they can get. You're not getting through. Emergency lines only." I said, "I just need a couple of seconds to get through to Mom and Dad. A few SECONDS! Just so I know they're ok." "Mom and Dad are fine. Alright? The downtown metro is locked up tight. They're probably even more fortified than we are right now. You've just got to mellow out and wait until everything isn't so twisted." Cain said. Jamie gave me a pat on the shoulder, his brown eyes trying to bring me comfort from under a canopy of dark red hair. "I'm sure your folks are ace, dude. You've just got to find a way to distract yourself, you know? Take your mind off of things." Cain grinned. "Ohhh, my baby brother's got something to distract himself with, alright. Something hot." If anything was going to take my mind off of getting in touch with my parents, it was that particular comment, followed up by one of my brother's taunting smirks. I hung up the phone and rolled my eyes at him. "Come on, Cain. Really? Just leave it alone, ok?" "What's going on?" Jamie asked. "The little squirt here got himself a certified sweetheart on day one from being locked up in here." Cain told him. "He's a catch, too. I've got to admit that I'm proud of the little butt sniffer." Jamie grinned, "God damn, Romeo! Way to mark your territory." "It's not LIKE that, you guys. Ok? At least...not yet. Or...er...whatever. I've got bigger things to worry about right now." "No. You really don't." Cain said. "Listen, there's absolutely nothing that you can do about the communications issue, there's nothing you can do about speeding things up with getting Mom and Dad to join us here in the high school, and there's certainly nothing that you can do about the zombie outbreak beyond the fences. So just...take a deep breath, let it out slowly, and try to adapt to what's going on with a little bit of patience. Alright?" He could see the growing aggravation in my eyes. I just felt really helpless at the moment. I hated feeling helpless. So he moved closer to hug me around the shoulders. "Listen, I know it sucks. I'm worried about them too. But there's nothing but chaos going on out there right now. Until people can figure out a game plan, and they will...we've just got to roll with it. It'll be alright. I promise." It felt good to be wrapped up in his warm embrace. It was awesome to have him tell me what I wanted to hear, and make it seem like everything would work itself out as long as I waited for the madness to be over. But I just couldn't believe him. Not like I wanted to believe him. It was only a moment later when I let my brother go and heard a bit of commotion in the hallway. The sound of charging boots coming around the corner. Orders being shouted into wakie talkies. We were able to get to the side of the hall just as a group of four or five soldiers rushed past us. Jamie's eyes lit up immediately. "Holy shit, dude! Something's going down!" Cain was going to stop him, but Jamie was already in motion behind them with a giant grin, beckoning us to follow. Cain sighed and gave me one more squeeze before we too trailed the noise back to its source. There would have been a swarm of soldiers the likes we've never seen before had it been something really terrible. I'm sure of it. The high school has a bunch of doors by the gym that are large enough to accommodate the newly arriving refugees. Two or three times a day, the trucks seem to bring in more. Each load heavier than the last. But as the situation worsened for those few people who found themselves lost or trapped in traumatic situations...their eyes seemed to be a bit more wild. Their level of tension was so high that it looked like they'd snap at any moment if you so much as made a childish face at them. You could see long marks on their cheeks, where a flood of panicked tears caused the dirt and grime on heir faces to run like heated war paint. The tables were turning out there...and not in our favor. As the soldiers attempted to calmly get people off of their respective rescue vehicles and line up at the doors to be processed by the doctors on hand and given a 'bite-check' before being allowed entrance into the building, the uniform lines that had been set up quickly began to fall apart. The rescue trucks come by so fast sometimes that you really don't have much of a chance to get all of your loved ones in the same convoy. The moment their feet hit solid ground, the frantic search for their families begin. Eye contact is made from across a crowd of chaotic strangers, and both people instantly step out of line to run towards one another and offer comfort. Others make three or four mistakes before finding the person they're looking for. The soldiers try to keep order, but the people won't listen. They yell and scream and fight hard to regain some illusion of 'control' while they defy every well thought out procedure put in place to keep them safe. My brother and I watch as minor scuffles begin to erupt within the crowd. And it was a big crowd. Bigger than the convoys Cain and I came in. As people started to push and shove one another, the entire mass of people began to sway like stalks of wheat in the wind. They pushed the soldiers, the soldiers pushed back. The doctors stood up on chairs and tried to get everyone to "PLEASE, remain calm! We will have room for you all to reconnect with your loved ones inside once you've all been individually checked for for possible infection! Let us do our job!" The crowd barely settles at all. If anything, the mass becomes even more turbulent...with half the crowd agreeing with the doctors and soldiers trying to help...and the other half still forcing their way out of line to look for their brothers, their sisters, their children. Horrified by the idea that, during all of the madness that was going on as they ran towards the trucks to be evacuated...they may have left someone special behind. A few older men put up quite a struggle, and soldiers had to detain them by forcing them to the ground and practically bringing their boots down on their necks and holding them still while thing plastic restraints held their wrists together behind their backs. The force wasn't overly excessive, but it looked like it hurt. Jesus... But it was a fresh, young, face that caught my eye. More than any of the others. I don't think I've ever seen him in this high school before, but he was certainly of high school age, albeit a grade or two higher up than I was. He was wearing mostly black, including a slightly worn leather jacket, and a small chain bracelet on his right wrist. It was the eyes that really fascinated me, though. Light blue, almost silver. With the softest, most comforting, almond shape to them. A harsh contrast to the dark mass of nearly black, loosely twined, curls that sit above them. He had the smoothest, olive skin, and a face that was undeniably cute...even when it was frowned up in anger. The boy had somehow been pushed to the front of the line by the mosh pit behind him, his arms spread out, his sneakers digging into the cement. The soldiers as well as a few police officers and, what looked like, a couple of random security guards that the military could grab from any bank or shopping mall in the area, all stepped in to suppress the bedlam before them. Some of the people who tried to get out of line were pulled aside and restrained. They were roughed up a bit too, if the officers deemed it necessary. Hell, after all they've been through they probably see beating people up as a great stress reliever. But that one boy...for a moment...just one moment...I could have sworn that his eyes connected to mine as the crowd continued to push and shove behind him. "Ladies and gentlemen, PLEASE! We need you to keep it together!" Shouted one of the doctors, barely being audible over the rabble rousing being created by the sea of refugees. There was some more pushing. Followed by more pushing back. Things were escalating quickly and soldiers moved in to find the troublemakers and yank them to the side. And that's when a few punches were thrown, and the front of the crowd lurched forward, pushing the boy out of line and past the guidelines set for incoming civilians. I was looking right at him, so I knew it was an accident. But the local police officers that had rushed in to help didn't see it that way. As the boy stumbled forward, fighting to keep his balance, two officers apprehended him and brutally pushed him down to his knees. Then forward onto his chest. Shouting orders at him and binding his hands behind him like they had done to all of the others. I could see the anger in his eyes, but he didn't protest at all. If I didn't know any better, I would have sworn that he was used to the bullshit treatment...even though he had done nothing wrong. Our eyes made contact one last time. There was such a subdued sense of fury burning behind the stunning beauty of those eyes. It wasn't directed at me personally, but he made no attempt to hide that it was there. Then I watched as he was haphazardly yanked to his feet and dragged out of my sight. This whole situation is getting more and more insane by the hour. Cain put his hand on my shoulder and said, "It looks like things around here are getting a little intense for my tastes. Let's get out of here." I could hear the sounds of so many people shouting. Crying. Confused. Angry. You could feel the negative energy radiating off of the masses in waves. And the heat was rising. I walked away, trying to forget the look in that boy's eyes. In all of their eyes. With every new delivery of civilians...we're reminded of just how bad the world has gotten since we've hidden ourselves away from it. I spent a great deal of the morning and most of the afternoon all alone. Wandering the halls of the school, practically going in circles. So lost in a haze of my own thoughts that I might as well have been a zombie myself. The skies had turned gray, and the town was treated to a soft drizzle for a few minutes before turning into a storm. I put my headphones on to drown out the thunder, even though the sound of rain against the school windows could be eerily soothing at times. There were a lot of new faces there now. All scanning the school's many rooms to see if they could find someone they knew. Perhaps someone to latch onto in a time of need. We were far from being crowded, but there was a certain thickness to the amount of foot traffic roaming the halls that wasn't there before. How many did this last convoy bring in? One hundred? Maybe two? Hard to tell. It wasn't until I went up to the second floor for a change of scenery that I noticed a small crowd standing over by the giant library windows in the main hall. All huddled together like that, I couldn't help but to be magnetized to the rest of the herd, wondering what could be so interesting after what we've seen. I had to move to the sides, trying to edge my way in at one of the corners, and was extremely delighted when I saw Alex pressed against a nearby window as well. My heart started pumping double time, but I didn't want to come off as being too nervous. My hands were already shaking and he hadn't even noticed me yet. I side stepped and squeezed myself past a few onlookers as I made my towards him. It was pleasantly frustrating being so close to his brilliance and still feeling unsure of what it all meant. There was SO much more I wanted to know about him. So much more that I wanted him to know about me. If we could only spend more time together. You know...alone. "Hey..." I smiled. Alex smiled back at me, and I felt goosebumps raise up on the surface of my skin. "There you are. You've been a ghost all day." He said. "Yeah. I guess I just...figured everybody needed their space today. Maybe I needed some too." He nodded, then asked, "Have you been watching this?" He directed my attention out of the window, but between the rain and the darkness, I couldn't see much of anything. "What's going on?" "Wait for it..." He said. So I stood their watching, waiting for something to happen. And then...lightning flashed in the sky overhead, and the brief moment of illumination revealed the many zombies standing there just outside of our perimeter. Slowly lumbering closer to us in a huge mob, the pouring rain cascading down on them with a relentless assault of its own. "Oh. Yeah. That's nothing new. You'll get used to it. There always out there. The soldiers keep the fences well guarded though, and they're constantly doing checks to see whether or not..." "Shhh, wait..." He said. "Just keep watching." I looked back out the window, but I wish I could just talk to him some more. It almost hurt to have him pay attention to a random thunderstorm and not to me. I wasn't trying to be selfish, I just....oh God, he's right THERE! I want us to sneak off somewhere and go back to kissing! I want to feel the tender pressure of his lips touching mine and experiencing the dizzy swoon that comes with sensation. He smells good too. So good. I tried to concentrate on the outer fences but...my eyes were continuously drawn back to the splendor of those bright green eyes instead. Do you have any idea how SEXY his pretty lips look from the side. My breath had gotten so short that it almost felt like I was crying. Aching to get his focus back on me again. On us. So many distractions. I already know that it's ok and that he likes me. I just don't want to be the guy who's like, "Sure hope your parents haven't been eaten alive by the undead. Hey! Wanna make out now?" Suddenly, as another few flashes of lightning soared across the sky, Alex said, "THERE! You see it???" Other people behind us began to crowd us as they moved in closer to the windows as well. I looked back out and saw pretty much the same thing. But then...I noticed it. The silhouettes of a few choice zombies, maybe only one or two...were actually on the fences. They were...climbing up the side. "What the...?" I stared at the few zombies trying to reach the top, and then I heard a few loud 'popping' sounds coming from the windows on the floor above us. And in an instant, the heads of the few zombies climbing the fences absolutely exploded into a shower of brain matter and skull fragments before they fell back into the horde and ceased to get up again. "Shit!" I gasped. "Yeah. The soldiers sealed off the whole third floor from all inhabitants so they could set up a crow's nest for shooting anything that looked like a major threat. They've been picking them off for almost an hour now." Alex said. "So weird." Other people in the crowd had a variety of reactions to what was happening. From getting fired up over seeing a zombie's head blown apart from a direct sniper shot, to people crying over the fact that the enemy was still searching for new ways to get inside. "Why is it that only some of the zombies try climbing the fence?" "Huh?" "I mean...there's gotta be hundreds of them out there. Most of them are just mindlessly pawing at the fence or bumping into other zombies. But a few of them are...I don't know...they seem to be smarter than the others, you know? It's just weird." I heard the muffled cries of a lady behind me who was sobbing softly into her husband's shoulder while he tried to comfort her. Some of the other people around the window kept an eye out to see if anything else tried to get over that damn fence. The whole scene was really creeping me out. "Say...um...do you wanna go get some coffee or something?" I don't know what made me say it, but I didn't want to think about any more of those monsters finding out that fences can be climbed and that bullets are limited. We're all dead meat if they ever get wise to the concept of them outnumbering us a million to one. Alex remained distracted for a few moments longer. He didn't respond until the next flash of lightning revealed that there were no more zombies on the fences and the coast was clear. Then he said, "Yeah. Ok. I'm coming." We had to press and push our way back from the window, the hungry spectators quickly closing in on the space we left behind. I heard some more thunder as we left the library but didn't bother to turn around. Even if Alex did. I became infatuated with his beauty all over again. He smiled at me, and those glorious dimples of his appeared, nearly knocking me into a full blown stupor. I know what Cain told me before. It's not really love that I was feeling just yet, but it was more than just a temporary crush. I was sure of it. The way that I was being drawn to him was so damn powerful that I could hardly put three words together without giggling. I knew that we were in a hallway full of people, but I kept looking for little corners and potentially empty rooms to pull him into. I wanted to kiss those lips so badly. I didn't realize how addicted I had become to the memory of holding him close until I was walking by his side again. "They were talking about getting a divorce, you know?" He said. "I'm sorry, what?" "My parents. About six or seven months ago...just before the world went to shit." Alex seemed troubled by the thought of it. I felt bad for not paying attention while shamelessly ogling him with my eyes and my heart while he was going through such a tough time. "Everything was a fight with them. Every cold dinner and unwashed dish. Every unpaid bill, every spot on the wall...right down to who was the last to put gas in the car. I tried to get them to grow up and stop bickering about stupid stuff, but...it's like they wanted to be angry. They pushed each other's buttons deliberately, waiting for a mean-spirited reaction so they could argue again. It sucked." Then he lowered his head a bit, and he said, "So I told them that I was sick of it. SO sick of it. I was going to stay at a friend's house until they sat down like a couple of mature adults and quit barking at each other like wild dogs. And...that was the last time that I saw them. The last thing I remember is the looks on their faces when I told them I was leaving. It's the first time they looked like they even want to TRY to put their pride to the side and work things out for a change." "I'm sorry, Alex. Honestly." I said. "I'm sure you'll get in touch with them soon." "Heh...thanks. But I'm not really keeping my hopes up at this point." He said. "My dad can be selfish sometimes. My mom can be really neurotic. I just...I don't trust them to take care of one another, you know? Maybe if I was out there with them. But by themselves...I don't know." I tried to cheer him up by saying, "You know, I've been trying to call my parents all day too. But no calls are going through. My brother says that all the lines are tied up for city emergency contacts only. I'm sure they're tying up the lines like crazy right now. Your parents couldn't get in touch with you even if they tried." "You think so?" "I'm sure of it. Once the shelters are all checked out and deemed as being safe, they'll work out all of the other details later. You'll see." I said, and Alex gave me another one of his magic grins, causing me to feel all wiggly on the inside. "Thanks, Jake. I'm sorry if I'm being a downer. It's just been a really lousy day today." "Heh...s'ok. Hopefully, I did a little something to make you feel a bit better." "A lot better." He grinned. And there it was! That adorable blush of his! Omigod, omigod, omigod! Can we go somewhere and kiss now??? I REALLY hope we can go somewhere and kiss! "You know..." "AHHHHH!!!!! No no no no!!! NO WAY!!!" Came a screeching teen boy voice from behind one of the closed doors on the side of the hall. Everybody jumped and looked around as a table was turned over and a bunch of metal bowls and pans were tossed to the hard floor. "Don't you DARE! Unh unh!!! GET AWAY!!!" "What the hell is that?" Alex asked. Suddenly, the door to one of the classrooms was flung wide open, and this tiny late bloomer boy came spilling out of it at top speed. Barefoot and wearing nothing but a hospital gown that was wide open in the back. Both Alex and I gasped as the boy gave us a full flash of his taut little bottom as he looked both way and took off running down to the other end of the hallway! He was seriously one gust of wind away from being completely naked! Two nurses and a male doctor came running out after him, and everyone just kind of had to stand back and watch as they tried their best to catch the brown haired cutie before he could wiggle out of their grasp. The kid was definitely fast on his feet. He couldn't have been more than 12 years old at the most, but those short legs were carrying as fast as his boyish muscles would allow. He was zigging and sagging so fast that the doctors were tripping over their own feet trying to keep sight of him. He spun around other people in the hall, turned over trash cans, and gave them a chase that they'd never forget! All while experiencing a draft on his backside that made those pouty little cheeks pucker up from the cold. Alex and I couldn't help but to laugh as he did everything from crawling between their legs to practically running up the side of the wall like some sort of cartoon character. Hahaha! There was a time or two when they put their hands on him, but he squirmed right out of their grip like a greased piglet. And that's when we saw him running our direction. Those big blue eyes wide with fright as he attempted to keep up with his momentum. "STOP HIM!!!" The nurse shouted to us. It was sort of a reflex to the voice of authority that made us do it, I think. The kid ran right for us, and Alex and I suddenly reached out to grab him by the shoulders to keep him from running. The real key was to keep his slender hips from wiggling. Otherwise he would have spun right around us too. Before the poor kid had a chance to come up with a new strategy, the nurse ran up behind him, and since his bare booty was already exposed for the world to see...she jabbed a needle deep into the meatiest part of his rump and pushed in the liquid in the syringe. "YIPE!!!" He squealed. I looked down to see his eyes look up at me with such a sense of betrayal. "I really...really hate needles..." He moaned, and then his eyes went all funny and he fell down to the floor in a heap at my feet. The nurse took a moment to catch her breath, the other nurse and doctor still trying to pick themselves up off of the floor where the bratty little imp had given them a run for their money. "Dammit...huff huff..." She wheezed. "What kind of sedative did you give him?" Alex asked. "It's NOT a sedative. It's just a vaccine." She puffed. "He just fainted." That only caused us to snicker some more. She called her assistants over, and breathlessly told them, "Take him to room 212 and check his name off of the list. I don't want to lay eyes on him again until it's absolutely necessary." The doctor grabbed his clipboard, still limping a bit after banging his knee on a trash can. "Which one is this again?" The nurse checked his wrist band. "Preston Miles. Check him off. Get him out of my sight. I mean it..." She said. "Ouch. Damn kids!" They wrapped his open gown around him as carefully as they could, picking his waifish frame off of the floor, but they didn't have much material to work with. Good for you, Preston Miles! That's showing them! You had a damn good run before it all came to inevitable end. I was grinning to myself at the moment, but before I could work the involuntary giggles out of my system, Alex turned to me and gave me a surprise kiss on the lips. A short one. My body went rigid for a moment, then melted into this marshmallow fluff that barely had the strength to stand while looking him in the end. "I...I uhh...hehehe...what was that for?" "It's for being away from you all day." Alex said. "And...for helping to make me smile." Awwww, GOD! It felt like someone had a giant pink feather and was using it to tickle the living shit out of my heart! He said, "Listen...I want to stick around the check in downstairs for a while. Just to see if my parents come in with one of the evening convoys. But...if they're not mixed in with any of the incoming refugees...it would be cool if we could just, hang out. You know?" He lowered his eyes when he said it, but those dimples were too sexy to hide. "Maybe your company can help to keep me patient." "Maybe yours can keep me patient too." I giggled. "Well...you know where to find me. Right?" "Always." As I watched Alex walk away from me, I felt renewed somehow. I still wish that we had gone down to the cafeteria to get some coffee together, but I'd be a hypocrite if I said that I didn't understand what it was like to just have stress on the brain for the moment. It's ok though. He's interested. I'm interested. In a different world, at a different time, this would be the PERFECT romantic set up. But for this giant global mess that we're dealing with...we've got a few kinks to work out first. Hopefully...the same potential ending is attainable for us both. We deserve a fairy tale...not a horror flick....
  30. 1 point
    It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. The adults staying with Cam, Kevin and Carl over the Thanksgiving holiday had all gone over to the Millers' pool with Casey to enjoy the sunshine, the water and a little quiet conversation. Left to their own devices, the young guys were scattered here and there back at the Cam and Kevin's house--a few talking, several playing cards and Xbox and competing at Wii, and William and Jeff Miller and Berto were working out with Kevin in the little gym. Kevin and William were criticizing each other's performance in the gym in a good natured way. Carl Emrick and Andy Helder were sitting in the study on the big leather couch, holding hands, not talking much, just enjoying each other's company as the time for Andy to go back to San Rafael on Monday drew closer. Andy leaned over and kissed Carl on the side of his partner's head. "Let's go for a walk," he suggested. Carl nodded, and they stood up and made their way out to the beach. They only walked as far up the beach as the Millers' front deck, and sat down on the steps. Andy took Carl's hand again and held it as they looked out at the bay and a cloudless sky. "It won't be long before I'll be moving down here," Andy said. "That makes me happy, man, 'cause I miss you all the fucking time. Just texting and talking to you on the phone doesn't do it for me. There's a hole in my life when I'm not with you." "Same here," Carl agreed emotionally, swallowing hard. "I can't wait for you to get down here permanently." He put an arm around Andy's muscular frame. "Don't laugh at me, but every time I touch you, it's like a little 'love bomb' goes off inside me. I wanna feel that every day for the rest of my life." Andy couldn't help smiling. "Me, too, dude." The wind wasn't blowing, and Andy could detect the clean smell of his partner's body. He turned his head and looked Carl in the face. "When I go to bed at night and close my eyes," he said, "I get a picture of you in my mind that stays with me until I fall asleep. I'm surrounded by friends all day at school, and I spend a lot of time at Catherine's house with the guys, but I'm still lonely without you." "I know the feeling. Have you had any more feedback from your mom and dad about transferring down here for school?" Carl asked. "Not a lot. But what I have gotten has been positive. They say they'll miss me, but they're been clear from the beginning that they support our relationship and understand why we want to be together. They're going to continue giving me money for school. I'm going to work hard before I move here to make sure they don't feel I've abandoned them and don't care about them." "That's good. I really appreciate everything they've done to make me feel welcome in your family. As soon as you get down here and get settled, let's invite them to Malibu. I want to get to know them better." That pleased Andy, and he turned his face and rubbed noses with Carl. "That would be great!" he said. Carl leaned into Andy's body. "Y'know, we need to think about how we're gonna get your stuff down here from San Rafael." "Yeah. Any ideas?" Andy asked, turning his head again and searching his partner's face. He liked looking at Carl. A lot. Andy could feel his cock start to thicken in his shorts, and he spread his legs a little. "I guess it all depends on whether you want to bring any of your bedroom furniture with you or just limit yourself to your personal stuff," Carl said. "Your bedroom here--er, our bedroom, is great just as it is," Andy said. "I might wanna bring my computer desk down here from San Rafael with me, though. I love my tablet, but I still like using a notebook for school papers and stuff. You think Kevin and Cam would be all right with another piece of furniture in the house?" "Not a problem," Carl assured him. "What we may want to do is rent a U-Haul or a truck up north so we have room for all your clothes and anything else you want to bring." "How would we pull a U-Haul?" "I think we'd have to get a car up north. I wouldn't want to drive the Highlander up there and then drive it back down here pulling a trailer. It would put a strain on the hybrid engine from shifting back and forth to the gas engine, doncha think?" "Yeah," Andy said. "But where could we get a car up there?" "Well, Dan and I still own the Cadillac dealership in Monterey," Carl said. "I'm sure Ian would help us get a new or good used car from Emrick Motors to pull a trailer back down here." Carl paused. "I suppose we could get an Escalade--it wouldn't hurt to have another car down here, I guess. On the other hand, I don't think we want to have a big Escalade sitting in our driveway all the time, either. The Highlander is plenty big enough for the family." "I think you're right. Why don't we see if Ian has any thoughts about this?" "Good idea," Carl agreed. Then a light bulb went off in his head. "Hey," he said, "I just had an idea." Andy laughed. "You had a what?" Carl elbowed him in the side. "Don't make me hurtcha." "I'm all ears." "Father Mason will be moving down here before long. Why don't we see if we can move you and him down here at the same time? We could rent a truck in San Rafael or San Francisco." Andy looked at Carl, and then pulled his head over for a smooch. "Y'know," he said, "that's actually a great idea. Let's talk to him." They continued to look at each other just as a bunch of girls walked past them down the beach close to the water. The girls all turned their heads to scope out the two handsome, well-built, muscular guys sitting on the Millers' front steps. The girls waved and smiled, and Carl and Andy waved back. Carl's body was still in good shape from wrestling in high school, and Andy's from still doing martial arts in the San Francisco area. Running every day hadn't hurt either one of them, either, and both of them watched what they ate. And Maria made sure Carl, Cam, Kevin and Art Smith ate a healthy diet. Once the girls had passed by, the guys turned their heads and kissed each other on the lips, Carl pulling Andy's face to his own and holding it there as their tongues wrestled with each other. "Lord, I love you, man!!" Andy sighed once they had ended their lip lock. "You're fucking makin' me hard," he said. "How could I be so lucky to find a great guy like you who likes dick as much as I do?" Carl looked down between his own legs, where a big bulge testified to the same condition Andy was in. He reached over and cupped Andy's package, squeezing the bulge in his boy's shorts. "Oh, yeah!" Andy sighed, bringing his legs together, trapping Carl's hand in place. "I wish there was someplace we could and go and make love." "There is. I'm pretty sure Cam and Kevin have been using the downstairs bathroom for sex since you guys all got down here. Let's go over there," Carl said, smiling in anticipation at the thought. "How do you know they've been using that bathroom?" "I've seen them come back to their room in the middle of the night. With all of us bunking together, that bathroom is the best bet for a little privacy." Andy grinned. "Love always finds a way." Carl nodded in agreement, and they sat there for a minute or so to let their erections subside before standing up and heading back next door, holding hands. Once in the house, they strolled along the downstairs corridor heading for the bathroom where they could be alone. His body covered with sweat, William eyed them when they passed the gym doorway, and a smirk passed across his face. He was pretty sure he knew where the guys were headed. Andy and Carl went through the bathroom door, flicked on the lights, and shut and locked the door behind them. For a long moment they stood in the middle of the room, holding each other in a long, passionate kiss before they toed off their Skechers, eased off each other's T-shirt, pulled down each other's cargo shorts and boxers, and moving with all deliberate speed, hit the floor. Naked, they fronted each other again for several minutes, hugging one another with their growing erections trapped between their bodies. They stroked each other's leaking dicks before breaking to spread towels on the carpet and throw rugs for a bed and getting horizontal again. First they sixty-nined, breathing deeply of the musk from each other's crotch. Well endowed and hard, they began to lick and suck one another's cock until a serious amount of pre-cum began to leak into their mouths. Each of their tongues probed his partner's piss slit as deeply as possible as the volume of sweet-tasting pre-cum increased. Several minutes later and already close to the edge, Andy pulled away and shifted around face to face Carl. "Sweet!" Carl told his partner. "And sweet tasting. You taste so freakin' good!" "You, too," Andy said. "Dude, after I move to Malibu, I can't wait to suck your dick and taste your juice every night before we fuck and go to sleep. I think about that every time I jack off." He chuckled. "And lots of times when I'm not jacking off." Carl covered his partner's lips with his own, and then pulled back to look into Andy's eyes. "So you've been jerkin' it between your visits to LA, is that right?" Carl demanded, simulating outrage. "You've never asked me for permission to shoot a load when I'm not there to help you get off." "I didn't know I was supposed to do that," Andy said unapologetically. "What about you?" "I never get off without your mouth or hand making it happen. I walk around here hard all the time." Andy began laughing. "You're such a liar! A provocateur!" "No, I'm not. I've learned everything I know about sex from you," Carl insisted, "so naturally I stay sexually frustrated between your visits because I've always thought you'd be in the same condition whenever we're apart." "I think I heard Satan turn up the fires of hell when you lied just then," Andy kidded Carl. "You need to go to confession--not for cranking one out now and then, but for lying to your partner about being celibate when I'm not around." "Shut up!" Carl said. He raised up from the floor and opened the lower drawer of the sink. "Let's see what Cam and Kevin have left behind to promote a good fuck." And there it was at the very back of the drawer--a partly used tube of lube. Carl showed it to Andy. "Outstanding!" Andy said. "Who's going to top?" "Rock, paper, scissors?" Carl suggested. "Yep," Andy agreed. "One, two, three," Carl said, and they flashed their choice. Carl--rock. Andy--scissors. "Oh," Carl said with a grin. "Too bad, man." "Well, that's just the thing," Andy demurred. "When it comes to sex with you, there's no 'too bad.' There's no loser no matter who's doing what." "Back atcha!" Carl said. He took off the cap of the tube and squeezed a healthy dollop of lube on to his middle finger. Andy was lying flat on the floor, and pulled his legs back. Carl found Andy's hole. He used his tongue to taste Andy first, and then had his partner slicked up with lube in no time and ready to go. Carl's middle finger entered his boy, and found and rubbed Andy's prostate with the tip of his long middle finger. "Oh, yeah!" Andy breathed quickly in and out as Carl soon added a second finger. "Oh, fuck yes!" Carl let his fingers do the walking for several minutes before eventually introducing his hard, leaking dick to Andy's hole, working it in until his pubes were tight against Andy's ass. "Oh yeah!" Andy hissed again with pleasure. At first Carl remained unmoving after he lowered his body on to Andy's abs and stomach, and then in a few minutes he put his tongue into Andy's mouth and explored it. But it wasn't long before Carl began to pump into Andy as they continued kissing, his long, thick cock rubbing Andy's prostate and making his partner groan with pleasure. Andy pulled Carl tight to his body, his own penis now getting a good massage from the smooth skin of Carl's muscular abs sliding over it, lubricated by Andy's pre-cum and their mutual sweat. Carl gradually increased his speed and pumped away with love and enthusiasm. Andy reached a long arm down Carl's sweating back to the boy's ass and into his crack. Finding Carl's hole and rubbing it, Andy worked a middle finger into him. Carl groaned in pleasure when Andy found his prostate. "Oh, fuck," Carl rasped as he moved inexorably toward ejaculation, but fought the urge to just let go. Andy raised his legs to encircle his partner waist and ass, and clasped Carl even tighter to himself. Carl liked that a lot. Perhaps fifteen minutes later, although Carl had manfully tried to slow the pace they had set so he wouldn't lose his edge, both guys groaned deeply and repeatedly as they almost simultaneously ejaculated. Andy was deluged with Carl's cream internally, as well as up and down his abs and stomach with his own cum. Andy slowly lowered his legs to the floor, and the two of them lay there, Carl still on top of Andy, both of them breathing deeply and gasping and then dozing until Carl eventually slipped out and off of Andy and lay beside his boy, holding him now in a relaxed mental and emotional haze. Eventually they began to regain full consciousness and move their limbs a bit. Andy turned his head and studied Carl, whose blue eyes were open and looking at him. "Well," Andy said quietly, "celibate or not, you sure haven't forgotten how to do it!" "Thanks," Carl whispered and nuzzled Andy's face. "When your mind and your heart and your dick work together the way ours do, amazing things happen. I love you to death, man." "Y'know, you sound like a poet more than a business major," Andy said, smiling. "I don't know how getting fucked could feel any better, and I've never heard anybody describe great sex better than you just did! Not bad at all for an accountant!" Andy rolled toward Carl, and after licking some of his own cum off Carl's torso, plunged his tongue into Carl's mouth. Then they continued to kiss deeply until they conked out again for several more minutes, still clasped tightly together. They finally awakened for good, jumped into the shower and enjoyed scrubbing each other, using hands and fingers to wash and probe and massage every part one another's body, finishing up with soapy wash cloths. Turning off the water, they got dressed, and cleaned up the bathroom. They dumped the soiled towels and wash cloths into the downstairs washing machine before finding and mingling with the other guys. Maybe it was Carl's imagination, but he thought he got some knowing looks from the others, especially William. He wondered in passing whether William was getting any action since he and his squeeze Alicia McCaskill had been outed to Ian by Alicia's father. Ah, so fucking what! Carl thought to himself about the guys' speculation about his and Andy's sexual activities. Andy and I aren't the only ones thinking about sex all the time. The difference is, we get to do something about it. It's better to do it than just think about it. He laughed, imagining a little devil in a red suit on his shoulder, laughing and jumping up and down for joy. After supper that night, everybody in the house went to the movies along with Sean and Susan Miller to see Whiplash, and they all had a great time. Even straight William agreed that Miles Teller, playing the young drummer in the film, was handsome as hell. Cam looked over at William as they all walked out of the theater to their cars. "William, I don't want you fantasizing about Miles tonight after we sack out." Before Cam could dodge retaliation, William grabbed him around the neck and gave him hard nuggies on his scalp. Cam yelped and managed to escape. "Miles Teller isn't a problem for me," William said. "But make sure to take your own advice." "Thanks," Cam said. "But with Kevin around, who needs fantasy." * * * Cam and Kevin got up early on Saturday morning, leaving the rest of the guys snoring away in the master bedroom. Maria served the two of them eggs and pancakes which the two guys downed in short order. After breakfast, they went into the study and tried to come to a final decision about what they wanted their engagement rings to look like. They finally agreed on Cam's suggestion that the major stone be a flat cut ruby for the engagement rings, with two small emerald stones to each side of the ruby. As they had discussed with Ralph Albernathy at the jewelry store, the engagement rings would interlock with plain gold, filigreed wedding rings which would be blessed by Father Mason at their wedding. The decision made, they went back to the kitchen and told Maria what they had decided. They asked her what she thought about the stones they had selected, and she said she liked what they had agreed upon. "You're just saying that," Kevin kidded her. "Come here, you," Maria said, laughing and reaching out and pulling Kevin into a hug and kissed him on the cheek. "Have I ever lied to you?" "Never," Kevin admitted. "Just checking. Speaking about checking, are Juan, Jr., and Roberto still having a good time with the guys here?" Maria's boys had just continued to stay with the family since the Romero family had come over for Thanksgiving. "They're having the best time ever!" Maria said. "I can't thank you guys enough for including them in all the fun things you've been doing. Everybody's been so nice to them." "They're great kids," Cam said. "Just know that they're welcome here anytime. And so is Juan, Sr. Nobody needs to wait for a special invitation." "Well, I can't tell you how much Juan and I appreciate all you've done for our family." After the two of them talked with Maria, they went back to the study and got on landline extensions to Mr. Abernathy and filled him in on their decision about the rings. The jeweler shared his favorable opinion about their choices. "A fiery, polished ruby makes the principal statement about your feelings for each other," Abernathy said, "and the emeralds are the parentheses to that statement. Good decisions, gentlemen. I can't wait to see these two rings myself when they're finished. They'll be beautiful and wearable without being overpowering. Not overly flashy, but making a clear statement." "That's what we were going for!" Kevin said enthusiastically. He and Cam gave the jeweler permission to begin crafting the rings. The two of them had been sitting on a leather couch beside each other while they talked with the jeweler, and after they hung up the phones, Cam pushed Kevin flat on the couch and lay down on top of him and looked into his face. "Now that we've decided on the rings, getting married is really, really starting to hit me," Cam said, kissing his partner. "Me, too," Kevin agreed when they broke their kiss. "Have you given any thought to who you want for your best man?" he asked. "Yeah," Cam responded. "I want Carl to be my guy." "All right," Kevin said. "I'm going to ask Berto." "Good choice. What are we going to give William to do? I don't want him to be pissed off when he doesn't get to be best man for one of us." "I know it. What about making him head usher?" Kevin suggested. "Good idea. Either that, or ask Father Mason to train him after the family goes home to San Rafael to be Master of Ceremonies at the wedding and the Mass. That's pretty high profile." "You're so smart," Kevin said, pulling Cam's head down and kissing him again. "Offering William some options is a great idea!" "You always inspire me to come up with some new shit," Cam said. "It's a gift," Kevin said. Cam laughed. "Always stay as humble as you are," he said. "You have my word on that. Listen, since we didn't run this morning, why don't we see if the guys want to do that before it gets any hotter outside." "Good idea. You're looking kind of chubby lately. And I can lick the sweat off your body when we get back." 'If I didn't love you so much, I'd hurtcha real bad right now," Kevin said, holding his partner's head and kissing him on his nose. "Let me up and I'll go see if the guys want to run." "I might let you up, and I might not." Kevin laughed as he grabbed Cam's body and lifted him straight up, holding his boy's lanky body suspended directly over himself. "Show-off!" Cam said. Kevin lowered his partner back down on to himself, and then began to tickle Cam's midsection. Cam began to laugh. "Ow, ow, you're hurting me! Domestic violence!" Just then William came into the study. "Kinky!" he said. Kevin stopped tickling his boy, and looked at William. "I know it's a little later than usual, but are you interested in going for a run?" "I'm always looking for an opportunity to show up you pseudo-jocks," William said. "Good," Cam said. "You have to run naked because you're such a wise ass." "You'd like that, wouldn't you?" William said with a smirk. "Where are the rest of the guys?" Kevin asked. "They're just getting up," William said. "Catherine and my mom and dad already took Casey and went over to the Millers' pool for some morning sun. "Why don't you go upstairs and kick some ass to get the guys to run," Kevin suggested, "and I'll go next door and do the same thing with the grown-ups at the pool. Only in a more genteel fashion, it goes without saying." "You? Genteel? Give me a break," William said. "When were you ever genteel? I must have missed it," he said as he turned and headed for the stairs. Twenty minutes later, the extended family were doing their warm-ups on the front deck and preparing to hit the beach while Maria took charge of Casey. The border collies, Alice and Samantha, were pleased, as usual, about the impending run. * * * The family all went to church together at St. Dunstan's on Sunday. Father Mason served as Deacon of the Mass, reading the Gospel selection for the day as perfectly as he always carried out liturgical functions. During the announcements, Father Ryan announced that the clergy staff at St. Dunstan's would be expanded soon when Mason would be returning to the parish, where he would be concentrating on parish publications, liturgical training, and youth work. Many in the congregation remembered Father Mason as a newly ordained deacon at St. Dunstan's, six months before being ordained a priest and being called to St. Andrew's parish in San Rafael to work for Father Blackburn. Father Ryan spoke warmly of then-deacon Mason's work in the parish, pointing out that it was Father Mason's planning that helped lay the foundation for the remarkable growth the parish had sustained in recent years. The congregation broke into smiles and spontaneous applause upon hearing the good news, and Father Ryan went on to say how much he was looking forward to working again with a dear friend in continuing to serve and grow the parish. He called Mason down from the altar where he was preparing the elements of bread and wine for consecration to greet the people close-up. After they arrived back at the house after Mass, the family spent the rest of the day swimming, playing volleyball and football on the beach. Father Ryan, Lisa and their three kids had joined them in Malibu along with Juan Romero, Sr., after church. Ian Carson and Sean Miller took charge of cooking spareribs and potatoes on the grills on Cam and Kevin's deck in mid-afternoon, while Maria and Juanita tossed big bowls of salad in the kitchen. Cam asked Father Mason to offer thanks as the lines formed to serve the food. The priest opened his arms wide, saying, "The Lord be with you." "And also with you," the crowd said. "Let us pray... "Heavenly Father, we offer you grateful hearts for this food You have provided us, and also for the love and companionship which we enjoy with one another. As when our Lord Jesus fed his disciples during His time on earth, so we thank you for Your bounty in feeding us today and holding us in Your hand during our journey through life. Bless this food to our use, and us to your service, and make us always mindful of the needs of others, through the same Christ our Lord." "Amen," the family said, making the sign of the cross. William grinned and high-fived Father Mason. "Good job, Father," he said. "We're sure gonna to miss you in San Rafael when you move down here." "Back atcha on that, William," Mason said. "But I know I'm going to continue to see you down here a lot." "Count on it," William said. He impulsively embraced the priest, and to his own surprise, kissed Mason on the cheek before joining the line filing past the grills and the tables with salad. Cam was behind William in the line, and told him quietly, "See, when ya show affection like that, that's why I love ya, even when you're a jerk sometimes." William grinned. "Thanks, I guess." Carl and Andy sat near Ian and Father Mason, and they worked out Andy's and Father Mason's move from San Rafael to L.A. by the end of November. They agreed that renting a truck would best accommodate moving both of them south. Carl would fly to San Francisco so he and Andy could drive the truck. "If we tow my car, I could trade off with you guys in driving the truck," Mason said. "Sounds like a plan," Andy said. "Andy, how much furniture are you going to have?" Ian asked. "Just a computer desk," Andy said. "That and my clothes will be about it." "Father, how about you?" "A bed, two dressers, couch, three easy chairs, a bookcase and books, a dining room table and chairs, pots and pans, and clothes. That'll be it," the priest said. "Well, when you settle on a date for the move, I'll make sure we have plenty of 'boy-power' to load the truck," Ian said. "Are you going to put your furniture in storage down here until you find an apartment?" "Yes. Cam and Kevin have invited me to stay here at the house until I find a place of my own," Mason said. "Give me a firm date for the move after we get back to San Rafael, and I'll reserve a medium sized moving van for you and Andy," Ian promised. * * * The family gathered in the driveway on Monday morning after they showered and packed following a last run on the beach. Saying goodbye was bitter-sweet, as always, with the family milling about saying their farewells as the two border collies watched everybody. Tears in her eyes, Catherine held Casey as long as she could before passing the little boy to Kevin. Carl and Andy Helder only reluctantly let go of one another as Andy stepped into the bus. Kevin, Cam and Carl accepted the thanks of the San Rafael contingent as they all boarded the bus. "Stay in touch," Ian told Cam, Kevin and Carl, giving each of them a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "You, too, Juan," he told Juan Romero, Sr., as he shook hands with the man. "Let me know when you hear from Magnum Studios about doing some work for them." "Will do," Juan said. "Thanks again for the positive recommendation." "De nada," Ian said with a grin. "Saying goodbye doesn't get any easier," Kevin commented as the driver closed the doors of the little Mercedes bus, fired up the engine, and the vehicle pulled away. "No kidding," Cam admitted. "It makes my stomach hurt every time they leave." * * * Juan Romero, Sr., was inspecting one of the building sites that a team of his workers was finishing up in LA on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving when his cell phone rang. Pulling it off his belt, he glanced at the caller ID before answering. The phone said "Magnum Studios," and his heart started beating faster. "Romero," he said into the phone. "Mr. Romero," a well modulated female voice said. "Mr. Eisner at Magnum Studios is calling. Are you available to speak with him?" "Yes, m'am," Juan said. "One moment, please." The line went dead for a few seconds, and then a deep male voice came out of the speaker, getting right down to business. "Mr. Romero? This is George Eisner, chairman at Magnum Studios. Ian Carson, our attorney for special projects, gave me your name and number, and highly recommended I contact you concerning some construction we're planning on our movie lots here in LA. Would you be available to take a lunch meeting with me and our Vice President of Facilities, Rick Lazlo, sometime in the near future?" "Yes, sir." "Good. We've checked out your company, and know you do good work. We'd like to explore doing business with you." "I'd be delighted to talk with you, sir." "Excellent. Let me put you on with my secretary for a date that's good for all of us, and let's get together soon. The sooner, the better." "I'll look forward to it," Juan said. The phone again went dead for a moment, and then the female voice was back. They set a date for lunch for one o'clock at the studios for Tuesday of the following week. Juan felt a little weak in the knees at the speed with which George Eisner had responded to Ian Carson's recommendation. The latter had been as good as his word given to Juan at Thanksgiving dinner that he would contact the studio on his behalf. Carson must have some heavy clout with the powers-that-be, Juan thought to himself. He was pumped about the potential for some new business. * * * It was midmorning on Thursday after Thanksgiving when Maria answered the call for Cam on the landline. She was in the kitchen washing and waxing the floor after the previous week's heavy visitor traffic when she picked up the phone and glanced at the caller ID. LA District Attorney, it read. "MacKenzie--Stoltz--Emrick residence," she said. "Cam MacKenzie, please," the voice stated. "Mr. MacKenzie isn't at home," Maria said. "May I ask who's calling?" "This is Allan Petrie at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office." "Cam is in class at UCLA this morning, Mr. Petrie," Maria said. "May I take a message?" "Is there any way I can reach him?" "No, sir, I don't think so at present. As I say, he's in class, and he doesn't take any calls at school." "Will you give me his cell phone number, please?" "I'm not at liberty to do that, Mr. Petrie. But if you'll give me your telephone number, I'll contact him as soon as possible and ask him to call you." Petrie wasn't in a very good mood, having just emerged from a rather unpleasant conference with his supervisor about moving his cases along at a faster pace. He decided to try to get Cam's number by bullying the help. "M'am, I want Cam's cell phone number, and I want it now." 'Perhaps I wasn't clear with you, sir. I'm not giving you Mr. MacKenzie's cell phone number without his permission. Please let me have your phone number, and I know he'll want to get back to you as soon as possible." "I'll have your job for this, lady! What's your name?" Maria barely stifled a laugh. "You're welcome to try that, sir. My name is 'Maria.'" "Maria what?" "Just Maria. I can put you in touch with Mr. MacKenzie's attorney, Mr. Ian Carson, in San Francisco if you like. Mr. Carson has Mr. MacKenzie's cell phone number, and perhaps you can get it from him." Oh, shit, Petrie thought to himself. All I have to do is get in trouble with the President of the California Bar Association, and naturally a personal friend of the DA. "Never mind," Petrie said, the anger now drained out of his voice. "Here's my number." He gave Maria his phone number. "Ask Cam to call me ASAP, please." He hung up with a bang. Maria hung up the landline with a smile, and opened a drawer with her purse in it. Taking out her cell phone, she brought up Cam's name on the contact list and texted him: Cam, you just had a call from Mr. Allan Petrie of the LA District Attorney's office. Please call him at 213-xxxx when you get a chance. Just a heads up: he threatened my job because I wouldn't give him your cell phone number. Maria When Cam left his class on computer generated imagery fifteen minutes later, he pulled out his cell phone, turned it on, and read Maria's text. "Son of a bitch," he muttered under his breath--for two reasons. One, the call probably meant that the Clymer-Murtha trial was coming up fast, with Rory Lomer hopefully having pled out. Shit, he thought to himself--the trial might well be before Christmas. Secondly, Petrie had threatened Maria with the loss of her job, and that pissed him off. Really pissed him off. He dialed the number for Petrie that Maria had sent him. It rang. "Petrie," a voice answered. "This is Cam MacKenzie," Cam said, his voice icy cold. "What the fuck!" he said. "What's the matter?" Petrie asked, having a pretty good idea exactly what was the matter. "What the fuck do you mean calling my house and threatening my employee Maria with the loss of her job because she followed my instructions not to give out my cell phone number? She doesn't take fucking orders from you." "I was wrong to do that," Petrie admitted sheepishly. "I apologize." "Don't apologize to me," Cam said. "You call Maria back and apologize to her!" Petrie's face flamed red. How had he put himself in the position of taking orders from a wet-behind-the-ears college student? Unfortunately, Cam MacKenzie was a wet-behind-the-ears college student with important connections. "I will." "I'll check with Maria when I get home to make sure you did," Cam warned. "Now, why was it so imperative for you reach me?" "The Clymer/Murtha trial is back on the docket for a week from Monday. Rory Lomer will plead out and testify against his buddies. But would showing up on that Monday be a problem for you?" "No, But do I really have to be there?" "Probably not," Petrie said. "The only possible glitch would be if Lomer had a last minute change of heart and decided not to take a plea. I don't think that's going to happen, but if it did, we'd have to ask for a continuance to get you on deck, and this judge would hate that. Lomer's had a rough time of it in jail, if you know what I mean. He was raped repeatedly before he went into solitary for his own protection, and didn't like any of it. But if he didn't take a plea, you'd have to be in the courtroom to testify against all three of them." "I almost feel sorry for Lomer. Almost. At any rate, I can be in the courtroom that Monday, just in case. What time?" "Ten a.m. Downtown courthouse." "I'll be there." "Good," Petrie said. "Anything else?" "Nope." "Don't forget about Maria," Cam told Petrie, still hardass before thumbing the Disconnect button on his phone. "Motherfucker!" Petrie mumbled to himself as he looked up Cam's landline number in Malibu again and started punching buttons on the phone. * * * Cam went to one more class before meeting Kevin, along with Carl and Art Smith, in the student union at lunchtime. "Let's go off campus for lunch," Cam suggested when they all arrived. "I have some info for you about the trial, so let's go somewhere quiet." "You got it," Kevin said as they headed for the parking lot. "You drivin'?" Carl asked Kevin. "I wanna ride in the 'Sting." "Everybody wants to ride in the 'Sting," Kevin said. "It's a quality ride, and you all know it." "It's no Camaro, though, that's for sure," Cam responded. "For one example, the Camaro has ports that close and cover the headlights when you turn the lights off." "So what?" Kevin said. "So when some car throws up a stone on the road when the ports are closed, it won't break the headlights," Cam said smugly. "No such luck with the 'Sting." Kevin couldn't deny that, and could only say, "Big fucking deal." "I call shotgun," Cam said as they approached the car. "You're so selfish," Carl observed to Cam as he climbed into the back seat. "You're lucky I don't tell Casey about how possessive you are about shit like riding shotgun all the time." "If you wanted the death seat, you should have called it," Cam said. "I can't read your mind. I just like to sit beside my boy Kevin." Art got in the back seat with Carl, and laughed to himself as his three housemates continued to verbally abuse one another as they drove to an In and Out Burger not far from campus. They ordered at the drive-in, pulled ahead, and when their food was up, Kevin headed for a quiet corner of the parking lot. Cam said a quick grace, and they chowed down right in the car. "Don't spill anything on this fine Corinthian leather," Kevin warned his passengers about spilling anything on the seats. "Now, now, after all the juice you spilled on this 'fine Corinthian leather' in your horny high school days with Heather Butler, this would be the least of your problems," Cam said. "I can still smell your juice on the seats." "Yeah, I'm positive you know what it smells like," Kevin laughed. "But don't bring up Heather Butler's name again." "Sorry," Cam said, pretending to be be contrite. "If I remember correctly, I read somewhere that only Chryslers had 'fine Corinthian leather,'" Carl interjected. "It was mentioned in their ads. That was before our time, of course." "Why don't you all stop running your mouths so we can get the trial news?" Kevin told the guys. "All right," Cam said between bites of a big, thick burger. "Petrie called me from the DA's office. The trial starts a week from Monday at 10 a.m." Kevin looked over at Cam to see if he was upset. "You OK with that?" "Yep," Cam said. "It's been a long time coming. I wanna get it over with." "I'll go with you," Kevin offered. "That's why I love you," Cam said appreciatively. "It would be great to have some company just in case I have to testify." "Anything else?" Carl probed. "It still looks like Rory Lomer is gonna roll on Clymer and Murtha," Cam added. "If Lomer is gonna do his thing, why do you have to be in court?" Kevin asked. "In case he has a last minute change of heart," Cam said. "Petrie doesn't think that's going to happen, but you never know." "And. . .?" Carl asked. "That's it on the trial," Cam said. "But Petrie threatened Maria on the phone with losing her job." "What?!!" Kevin said, looking over at Cam with big brown eyes, dark with anger. "Yeah," Cam said. "He wanted my cell phone number so he could call me at school, and she wouldn't give it to him. So he told her she could lose her job for that." "What a dick!!" Art Smith said. "What the fuck?!!" Art really had really bonded with Maria since he had moved in, and was outraged. "Yeah," Cam said. "My sentiments exactly. After Petrie hung up, Maria texted me that I should call him ASAP, and also mentioned his threat about her job in the text. So I called him right away after class, and yelled at him for what he'd said to Maria. He apologized to me, and I told him he better call Maria and apologize to her. He said he would. When we get home, he'd better have called her and said he was sorry, or he and I are going to have a big problem." "What a prick," Carl said about Petrie. "The world's full of 'em, unfortunately!" "Amen to that!" Art said. "Just when I think I've met 'em all, another one shows up." They continued to eat their meal and talk, and Cam changed the subject to talk about his film class, explaining to the guys some of the finer points about computer generated imagery (CGI) that he'd been learning. When they finished eating, Kevin collected the refuse and dumped it in a nearby receptacle. "You may have your faults, Stoltz, but you do keep your vehicle clean," Carl said. "I have to give you that." "You're right," Kevin responded. "You should keep your body as clean as this car, Carl. We'd all appreciate it. Especially Andy." Cam and Art laughed as Kevin fired up the Mustang and they headed back to school. When Cam arrived home after school that day, the first thing he did was look for Maria. Kevin, Carl and Art followed him into the kitchen. "Did Mr. Petrie get back to you today?" Cam asked her. "Yes, he did," Maria said. "How did you know?" "Lucky guess. What did he say to you?" "He apologized to me for saying that I might lose my job for refusing to give him your cell phone number." Cam nodded in satisfaction. "Mr. Petrie never should have said that to you," he said. "You're part of this family, and nobody gets to talk to you like that. Ever. Period. End of story." "Well. . ." Maria started to say when Cam embraced her and kissed her on the cheek. Kevin hugged her in turn, and pointing at Cam, told her, "What he said!" Art and Carl embraced her as well, and as always, Maria was moved by the affection these four boys had for her. "Now, where's the little guy?" Kevin asked. "He should be in the study, just waking up from his afternoon nap," Maria said. "Was he a good boy today?" Cam asked. "Always." All four of the guys trooped into the study to find Casey standing up, gripping the side of his playpen and still looking a little sleepy. The little boy raised his arms to be picked up, and Kevin passed Cam his backpack and obliged the baby. "Mr. Casey," Kevin said, kissing the little guy on top of his head. "What have you been doing today?" "Playing, Daddy," Casey said. "I wanna play now." "Me, too," Kevin agreed, sitting down with him on the floor near a pile of toys. Cam joined his partner and the little boy on the floor. Kevin and Cam played roll-the-ball with Casey as Carl and Art watched for a while. Carl and Art eventually excused themselves to go upstairs to start on some homework. "Let me know when it's my turn for some playtime," Art instructed before he left the room. He'd grown very fond of the baby since he'd become part of the family. "Will do," Kevin said, always appreciative that Art and Carl were so unselfish in wanting to spend time with Casey. When Kevin and Cam had sufficiently worn Casey out, they took him upstairs, changed his diaper, and put him in his crib for some quiet time before supper while the guys cracked their books for the next day's classes. Before supper Art spent some one-on-one time with the little guy. * * * It seemed as if the following week went by in a flash. Monday's trial date was upon them when Kevin woke up early that day, snuggled up to Cam in their big bed. Even though they really missed the guys from San Rafael, they were glad to have reclaimed their bedroom so they could resume their frequent private times together. They had spent a good hour making love to each other the previous evening after Casey was down for the night, and no matter what they did to and for each other sexually, it had never gotten old for them. The excitement and fulfilment they provided one another had never abated. Kevin moved closer to Cam that morning, and lowered his head to gently kiss his boy's beautiful, smooth, muscular chest, and inhale the smell of him. Cam's smell never failed to arouse him. Cam finally stirred, epened his green eyes, and looked at his partner. "Last night was so good. . ." he whispered to his partner. "Bud, it's always so good with you," Kevin said. "Do we have time for an encore?" Cam asked, reaching over and making a fist around Kevin's usual, early morning hard-on. Cam had a huge paw, but he could never quite close it completely around Kevin's girth when his partner was fully aroused. Kevin groaned and looked over at the clock on the bedside table. It was 6:30 a.m. "Not if we want to be on time at the courthouse. You know what the freeway going downtown is like in the morning." "Damn!" Cam said, disappointed. He bent himself double and kissed Kevin's cock, putting the head of it in his mouth, releasing it only after tonguing it thoroughly. "I'll take care of this bad boy later," he promised as he unfolded himself. "Let's just cuddle for a couple minutes," Kevin suggested, quickly checking the clock again. "I love you so much, Cameron. I'm thankful to have you for my partner. And happy to have you share Casey with me." Cam was moved. He knew Kevin loved him, but he wasn't usually that verbal about it. "Oh, Kev..." Cam didn't say anything else. They just clung together, and finally shared a soul kiss before jumping out of bed, both of them still hard, and heading for the bathroom. After brushing their teeth, they hit the shower to wash one another and then towel each other dry. Back in the bedroom, they put on dark suits, dress shirts, ties and highly polished black shoes, and then went downstairs for a quick breakfast. Maria had already brought Casey downstairs, and he was perky and sitting in his highchair eating baby food and a little cereal. The guys kissed the baby on his head before sitting down at the table. "You guys clean up so well," Maria told Cam and Kevin. "Those are beautiful suits." "Thanks," Kevin said. "Maybe we'll get some points with the powers-that-be for looking nice." Maria busied herself at the stove, and served them up scrambled eggs, salsa on the side, with oatmeal toast, accompanied by mocha coffee. Kevin said grace. "Yum," Cam said after tasting the eggs and toast with a forkful of salsa, and taking a swig of coffee. "Thanks, Maria." "You're welcome." "Good stuff," Kevin agreed with a grin. "Do you boys know when you'll be home today?" Maria asked. "Not exactly," Cam said. "If we can make it to our last afternoon class right after court, we'll probably get here at the usual time." "All right," Maria said. "Just wondering." She looked at Cam. "Do you think you'll have to testify?" she asked. "I'm not sure," Cam said. "I know you'll be all right whether you testify or not," Maria reassured the boy, patting him on the shoulder and kissing his cheek. Both unshowered at that point, Carl and Art came downstairs and into the kitchen right then, patting Casey on the head as they went by him. "Cam, I--we--just want to wish you well today," Carl said. "Everything will come out great, I just know it. I'm looking forward to hearing some good news tonight." Cam stood up from the table and hugged his two friends. "Thanks, guys," he said. "If you have time, say a prayer for me in case I have to testify," he said, speaking a little shyly about his request. "No problem. You got it!" Art said as he and Carl went back upstairs to get ready for their run. Cam sat down again, and he and Kevin finished up their breakfast and then said good-bye to Maria and Casey. They went out to the driveway. "You want to drive?" Kevin asked. "Yeah," Cam said. "It'll keep my mind off what may happen in court," he added. They shed their suitcoats, laying them on the back seat, and stepped into the Camaro. Cam pulled his cell phone out of his dress pants, turned it on, and put it into a receiver which was plugged into the dashboard. Cam fired up his car, and the phone beeped to indicate it was ready to receive calls. By the time they were out of Malibu and eventually hit the freeway around Santa Monica about 7:30, the traffic heading downtown was its usual nightmare. The guys talked and listened to music, and Cam was surprised about how calm he felt about whatever lay ahead of him in court. His phone rang, and Cam punched a button on it to receive the call without having to put the phone to his ear. It was Ian Carson. "Are you on your way downtown?" Ian asked. "Hey, Ian," Cam said. "Yes. Kevin and I are on the freeway. We'll be at the courthouse in plenty of time for a brief meeting with Allan Petrie. Hopefully, Rory Lomer is going to plead guilty and testify against Clymer and Murtha, and I won't have to testify." "I know," Ian said. "I talked to DA Jim Nolan himself first thing this morning, and according to him, Lomer really is going to roll on his buddies." "Thank goodness," Cam said. "Thanks for confirming that. I'm relieved." "Well, I wanted you to know that. And that the family is thinking about you and praying for you. We love you, and we're behind you one-hundred percent." Cam choked up. "I don't know what to say." "I'll call you later today, okay? You're going to be fine, Cam. Leave your phone on when you can, and I'll be in touch to get the good news." "Thank you, Ian. It's means the world to me that you'd call." "You're welcome, buddy. Talk to you later, Cam. And you take care, Kevin." "'Will do. Bye, Ian," Kevin said. Cam punched a button to end the call, and looked over at his partner. "That was nice of Ian to call." "That's the kind of person he is," Kevin observed. "I'd have been surprised if he hadn't called." They continued driving, and once downtown, found a parking garage in the vicinity of the courthouse. They parked in a vacant, out-of-the-way spot on an upper floor. Putting on their suitcoats and pulling up their ties, they strolled over to the courthouse. After dumping their keys, wallets, and other contents of their pockets into plastic baskets, they successfully went through screening and headed toward an information kiosk. They asked for directions to the onsite offices for ADAs involved in daily trials, and made their way through crowded corridors to find Allan Petrie up on the second floor. A receptionist at the DA's front desk called the Assistant DA, and he came out to the desk, unsure of how Cam would greet him given the words they'd had over the Maria debacle. Petrie and Cam shook hands without betraying any bad attitude, and Petrie shook hands with Kevin, and he escorted them back to a cubbyhole with a desk against one wall and three chairs. They sat down, crowded together. "Ian called this morning after talking to your boss, and gave me the word on Lomer," Cam said immediately. "Nothing's changed, I hope." "No. He's taking a plea, and will testify against Clymer and Murtha," Petrie said. "That's the last word I had from his lawyer about an hour ago." It might be old news by now, but Cam heaved a sigh of relief, and Kevin could see his partner's face relax. "I'm glad to hear that," Cam said. "Do you want me in the courtroom, then?" "No. We'll put you and Kevin in a vacant jury room across the hall from the courtroom. We put a TV monitor in it, and you'll have a perfect view of everything that goes on as the trial gets started. The charges will be read after the judge calls the proceedings to order, and the defense will most likely waive the complete reading of the charges. When the judge asks the lawyers to enter a plea, Clymer and Murtha will plead 'not guilty' and Lomer will plead 'guilty.' At that point, the judge will most likely sever Lomer's case from that of Clymer and Murtha, will accept their 'not guilty' pleas for the record. In Lomer's case, the judge will most likely ask for a sentencing recommendation from my office and from social services, and put Lomer's sentencing on the docket for later. "Once Lomer's attorney enters his client's guilty plea," Petrie continued, "you and Kevin are free to go. Or you can stick around. It's up to you." "Ok," Cam said. "We might watch the proceedings for awhile." "You might want to. I think the judge is going to publicly castigate the scandal-mongering rag of a newspaper that first published your name rather than keeping your identity secret. The publication didn't break any laws, but news outlets here in town have an agreement with one another another and with law enforcement not to identify minors who are victims of sex crimes. They broke with that understanding. You may want to talk to Ian Carson about whether you have grounds for a civil suit against that paper." "I never even thought about that," Cam said. "But I think I'd rather not open myself up to more publicity." "Understandable," Petrie said. "Well, unless you have any questions, let's go downstairs." They stood up and began to walk out of the large common room when Petrie stopped at the receptionist's desk. "Margaret, give me the key to Jury Room 2, please," he said. The lady smiled and reached into a desk drawer, handing Petrie a key on a large plastic fob as she simultaneously answered her phone. The three of them walked down some stairs rather than waiting for an elevator, and walked to a closed and locked door on the first floor corridor. Petrie used the key he'd been given, and the three of them went to a table with a large TV monitor on it. Petrie turned the monitor on, and a clear picture of a courtroom was displayed. Cam immediately spotted LA Sheriff's Detectives Simon Roker and Emilio Suarez, who had so vigorously investigated what had happened to Cam and presented the evidence to the DA's office for charges, sitting toward the front of the courtroom. The bench was still empty, as the judge had not yet entered the room, and the courtroom was only sparsely populated because Cam, the victim, was a minor and the trail was not open to the public. The ADA moved toward the jury room door to leave for the courtroom. "This jury room door automatically locks when you go out, so if you leave the room to use the restroom at any point, one of you needs to stay here to open the door when your partner returns," the ADA told them. "Got it," Cameron said. Cam and Kevin sat down at the table in front of the monitor, and watched as Clymer, Murtha and Lomer, dressed in suits, were escorted into the courtroom by Sheriff's police. Cam noted that none of the three defendants exhibited the same cocky attitude that he remembered so vividly, but his hands began to tremble when he saw the men who had assaulted him for the first time since that awful evening down the beach. Kevin reached over put his hand over Cam's, and the trembling stopped. Two minutes later, the bailiff stepped in front of the bench and bawled, "All rise! Part A of the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles is now in session," he said, "the Honorable Robert Hugh MacClaine, Presiding." The judge took his seat, and the bailiff instructed the spectators to be seated. "The Bailiff will seat the jury," Judge MacLaine ordered. The bailiff opened a door to the back hall, and seven men and five women walked into the courtroom and went into the jury box. The judge told the bailiff to announce the case. "The State of California vs. Eric Clymer, Peter Murtha and Rory Lomer for kidnapping, attempted murder in the first degree, and aggravated sexual assault of a minor in the first degree." "Read the charges," Judge MacClaine ordered. The three defense attorneys stood up, and one of them said, "Defendants Clymer and Murtha waive a complete reading of the charges, your honor." "Defendant Rory Lomer also waives a complete reading of the charges, your honor," Lomer's attorney stated. "Very well," the judge said. "How do you plead?" he asked the defendants. "Eric Clymer pleads 'Not guilty,' your honor," Clymer's lawyer said. "Peter Murtha pleads 'Not guilty,' your honor," Murtha's attorney said. "Rory Lomer pleads 'Guilty' to a reduced charge of sexual assault in the second degree, your Honor," Lomer's attorney said, "persuant to a pre-trial amendment of charges by the office of the District Attorney, Los Angeles County." Allan Petrie stood up. "Your honor, the State stipulates to the reduced charges for Rory Lomer, and at this time the State requests that the case of Rory Lomer be severed from the cases of Eric Clymer and Peter Murtha," he said. "Granted," Judge MacClaine said. "The court recognizes and approves the reduced charges against Defendant Lomer, and severs his case from those of Defendants Clymer and Murtha. Bailiff, please remove Mr. Lomer from the courtroom until recalled." "Thank you, your honor," the ADA said. "Mr. Petrie, is the State ready to proceed to trial?" the judge asked. "Yes, your honor." The judge looked at the defense table. "Is the defense ready to proceed to trial?" he asked. The defense attorneys stood up. "Yes, your honor." "Mr. Petrie, you may offer your opening statement." Petrie walked over to the jury box and greeted the jury, and then began. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is my duty to recount to you a set of some of the most egregious criminal acts our office has ever encountered, in which a young man, a minor, was abducted from a beach in Malibu, taken to a vacant house, and repeatedly beaten, tortured and sexually assaulted by the defendants. At the conclusion of their protracted activities, the defendants left the victim bound and unconscious on the floor to die. He would indeed have died had the victim's housemates and their dogs not tracked him down the beach and found him on the scene of the crime, unconscious and helpless, and telephoned the sheriff's police and paramedics. . ." Cam reached over and snapped off the monitor and looked at Kevin. "I can't listen to this," he said. "Let's go home, Cam," Kevin said, throwing an arm around his partner, kissing his cheek, and moving him toward the door.
  31. 1 point
    Chapter 2: Do You Feel Safe Yet? Waking up the next morning was a breeze for me. In fact, I was so excited to reconnect with Alex again that I'm surprised I got any sleep at all. Not that the discomfort of trying to adjust to the idea of sleeping in this makeshift hostel of ours was going to allow me much of a good night's sleep anyway, but it wasn't hard to ignore the sore and stiff limbs for a while as I prepared to be bathed in the glow of his golden presence once again. My big brother, Cain, had already gotten up and wandered off somewhere by the time I was able to rub the fatigue out of my arid eyes. I looked down and saw a small wet spot on my pillow. I have a tendency to drool a lot when I'm uncomfortable. It's embarrassing. I wish I had a mirror so I could check my face for chalky white drool stains before anybody caught sight of me. The last thing I needed was for Alex to see me waking up like this. You know...looking all disheveled and ugly and stuff. I felt a gnawing ache in both of my shoulders, my arm...numb from having laid on it in an awkward manner for most of the night. I miss my bed at home already. Even sleeping on the living room couch was better than this hard linoleum floor. Even with a thin, raggedy, mattress between us. I managed to get to my feet, stretching out, my bones popping and snapping as my muscles tried to warm up for their daily function. I attempted to smooth my hair out, and reached into my small travel bag, looking for my toothbrush and wash cloth to take with me to the high school bathroom down the hall. I was groggy, but gaining balance as I forced myself to move around a bit more. Shuffling down the school hallway, I walked into the boy's bathroom to see a few other men in there trying to clean up as well. All adults. It was a strange thing to bear witness to. I'm SO not used to seeing adults in the boy's bathroom like this. The place looked like a truck stop now, blaring white lights and all. I found myself an available sink and a mirror over by the wall to brush my teeth. Surprisingly, outside of a few rusty marks in the corners of my eyes and a little spittle on the side of my mouth...I didn't look all that bad. My hair was a mess, but it's the freakin' zombie apocalypse. Give me a break. I heard some of the men talking to one another, saying that more convoys were already heading in to bring more survivors into the school today. Some of them worried that we were filling up with way too many people, way too fast. Others worried that we'd run out of supplies much faster if we had a larger populace to watch over and take care of. And some of the men there just...stared blankly at their own reflection. Not saying anything at all. Still unable to digest the horrors of what was really going on out there. Perhaps thinking back to a friend or a family member that they lost trying to survive themselves. So far, I've been lucky in having my mother, father, and brother, all spoken for. Safe and sound. I can't imagine what I would do if they weren't. Maybe I'd end up staring blankly at an unrecognizable reflection myself. Always wondering...what comes next. I cleaned up as best as I could and hurried back to my stuff where I was sleeping last night. I was getting more alert by the minute, and looked through my crumpled up pile of clothes to find something...I don't know...alluring. Or at least 'less wrinkled'. I think that's the best I can hope for at this point. It's funny how you can get totally infatuated with a complete stranger, and immediately all of your habits become about them and their perception of you, instead of your own lazy attempts to be neat and tidy for 'neat and tidy's' sake. It wasn't until I put my shirt on that I actually noticed Alex standing right there next to me! Green eyes shining like the most exquisite jewels in the crown of a true king. I didn't 'jump' when I saw him, but he did catch me by surprise. I suddenly found myself wishing that I had something to hold on to. "Hehehe, hiiii...." What the heck am I giggling for? Wow, he made me so weak in the knees. I thought he was beautiful before, but in the daylight, he was...he was just like....wow. I am SO glad that I got a chance to clean up first! "You didn't forget about me, did ya?" He smiled. "Alex. Remember?" I was frozen, I think. Unable to really process any of my thoughts into physical action. Not unless you count the craving to smash him up against the nearest wall and start kissing him, hard, on the lips until my lungs collapsed from a lack of oxygen. "We were gonna go get some breakfast this morning?" Omigod, how long have I been standing here staring at him like an IDIOT??? "YES!!!" I shouted it out so loud and so abruptly that Alex was startled by the sound of it. He held his hand to his heart, and I was terrified of what he might say next. I felt so STUPID! But once his pulse slowed down a bit, he wrinkled his brow and smiled, a fit of giggles following shortly afterward. "Give me a heart attack, why don't ya?" He laughed. "I'm sorry! I'm being...I'm weird. That was totally weird." I said, embarrassed, but giggling right along with him. "Can you wait until after the zombie cannibal thing to be so spontaneous?" "Obviously, I can't." I grinned. "But, what lies therein is the very definition of 'spontaneous'." I said. "Don't be a wise ass. Hehehe! Let's get some shitty waffles and runny eggs in your mouth before you start a full blown 'panic' around here. Geez!" We got in line for breakfast. A very long line, mind you. But as I tried to keep a casual coolness about me when making small talk with Alex, I couldn't help but to look around and take notice of all of the sullen faces around me. Familiar faces. People I went to school with. People I knew from the neighborhood. People that used to deliver mail to my house, or coach junior soccer at the local Rec Center, or bag groceries for my mom at the corner store. People that I passed every day in the street, and never really paid much attention to. Now that we're all here under the same roof, all dealing with the same problem...I guess we're all forced to pay attention now. Breakfast was....err...'edible', I suppose. That's the highest grade I could give it as far as taste was concerned. I was almost a little disappointed that Alex chose to sit on the opposite side of the cafeteria table instead of being right here next to me, but...I guess it was a blessing. Because I could look at his pretty face now and gaze into his eyes as I sipped out of my orange juice cup. Alex made the most adorable 'yucky' face as he munched on some of his scrambled eggs, even have to pull a small piece of eggshell off of the tip of his tongue. It made me laugh to see him try to bury the taste by taking a bite of bacon...which he expected to be crispy, but instead was stringy and soft. He was so CUTE though! I couldn't help but to chuckle to myself for watching him put on such a brave face. "Well, at least someone is getting a good morning kick out of this breakfast." He grinned. "Don't worry, hehehe, I know this sucks. We might as well make faces at each other instead of trying to pretend it's something better." I said. "I suppose that's a good way of looking at it." Alex wiped his mouth and said, "But if this is gonna be as good as it gets, I might just side with the zombies and go see what they've got on the menu for this morning." "Umm...I think we're on the menu for this morning, dude." I joked. "Hehehe, well, makes sense." He said. "You look pretty tasty to me too." Was he flirting with me? Omigod, he's flirting with me, isn't he? I took a deep breath as an intense rosy blush took over my face and forced my eyes downward to avoid the blinding grace of his smile. I wasn't really good at being witty when it comes to this kind of thing. I had a sense of humor and definitely loved the attention, but I was never the kind of guy who could snap back with a funny or affectionate comeback after hearing something like that. "Thank you..." I sighed softly. We had already shared a kiss. Mostly because I lost control and basically attacked him, but...I mean the actual kiss still stands, though. Right? There was an awkward silence between us for a moment, where we both looked like we were getting ready to say something. Then, Alex started with, "You know, Jake...about last night...by the window? I mean, I didn't just dream that up right? That was real?" Omigod! He's been thinking about it too! SCORE! "Uhhh...nope. That was definitely real." "Ahhh, ok." He nodded. Then I nodded. Then he started to sport a boyish blush of his own as we giggled about it together. "Say...once we're done trying to survive off of this well prepared 'road kill'...how about you and me...well...maybe we can....?" Suddenly, we were interrupted by a loudly spoken voice from the front of the cafeteria. A well built man, dressed in camouflaged army fatigues. Creases so sharp that it almost looked like you'd cut your finger if you touched them. His voice was calm, but firm. And it echoed throughout the entire room with hardly any effort at all. He had this incredibly overpowering strength of character that intimidated you from a distance, and steel blue eyes. Scary. "Ladies and gentlemen, if I may have your attention for a few brief moments..." He said, and everybody else in the room seemed to be just as captivated by his level of authority as I was. "Thank you. I want to take a moment to introduce myself to you all. My name is Sergeant Brower. I'm one of the commanding officers in this particular program. I am one of the men who has been given the responsibility of keeping you all safe during your stay here." He looked around the room, but it always felt like he was speaking to you directly when he said anything. "Safe. The word...it takes on a whole new meaning now, concerning what we're dealing with at the moment. I want you to know that I intend to protect each and every single civilian life that enters this facility. That is my job. I happen to be very good at it. But you will only make things worse by not being a supportive part of the effort that I am willing to put forth on your behalf. Cooperation is going to be key in all of us surviving this viral outbreak...and hopefully rebuilding things in a way that will one day restore our way of life. This will take time. This will take patience. And yes...this will take sacrifice. On all our parts." Scanning the room again, he took a few steps forward to address the crowd with a bit more intensity. "There will be more civilians arriving today. More tomorrow. And more the next day. It is a known fact that everyone who can't be saved from the infection is another soldier added to the enemy's numbers. NUMBERS...are their advantage, people. Their advance is relentless, and they fear...nothing. If we're sloppy about this...it will be our downfall. But if we're smart...we can see them coming. Until we get a better idea, this is our best method of fending off the enemy threat, and maintaining a stronghold that we can hopefully consider....'safe'." I don't know why I felt the urge to peek back over at Alex, but I did. He seemed to be completely invested in what Sergeant Brower had to say. His lips slightly parted, his eyes focused forward. I almost regretted having to share my green eyed beauty with the unfathomable tragedy surrounding us. Sergeant Brower began to slowly pace back and forth in front of us. "Safety. There's that word again. Safety." Then, he faced the inquisitive crowd and made eye contact with us all. "We're in a very serious position, people. We are huddled together in a secure location for the moment, but make no mistake...we are hiding, ladies and gentlemen. We are ducking our heads in the sand, and hoping that we get enough of a chance to regroup and formulate another plan for coming out of this alive. This room...this school...this entire fenced in area, is temporary. Those...'things' out there...they're waiting at the gates. Waiting for us to slip up. Waiting for us to get comfortable, so we can leave ourselves open. I don't think that I have to tell you what horrors await us if we allow this to happen. We need you all to stay vigilant. Be aware of what's going on around you at all times. The armed forces here will do their jobs, and do them well. But we will need your help to get through this. It's the only way that we can ever hope to keep them out." Alex looked over at me, and he seemed a bit disturbed by the news. "It's still so hard to believe this is happening..." He whispered. I think it was more for himself than for me, but for a brief moment, his blank stare almost resembled the ones I saw in the boy's bathroom earlier this morning. Sgt. Brower went over a few bits of safety protocol with the rest of us, the entire room listening while our breakfast got cold and even more tasteless by the minute. However, he really grabbed my attention when I heard him say, "I'm going to be honest with you all, right now....and I want you to remain calm. This is a time when I believe that full disclosure is necessary in order to keep us alive. So full disclosure is what I'm giving you." With a stern look and a steady voice, he said, "Earlier this morning, around 4 AM...three of our soldiers found a small group of the infected shuffling around within our borders. This was less than four hours ago, people. They were here. Inside the gate. Inside this building." There were gasps heard all around the room, and you could almost feel the muscles tensing and getting wound up to the point of wanting to snap. But Sgt. Brower assured us, "Don't be alarmed. We dispatched the enemy and made certain that the situation was handled immediately. The problem is...we have no idea where these entities came from. We don't know how they got into the building, and we don't know if there are any others walking around in places that we may not have sealed off from the immediate threat." He shocked me by saying, "This is obviously our number one priority. And this is why we are going to need the help of all the teenagers in this building right now. Preferably the ones who attend school here." Teenagers? Like me? I mean...excuse my shock, but even in times of crisis...adults never seem to really respect or need us for much of anything. Is it any surprise that I half expected the military to huddle us all together in some stupid 'nursery' somewhere and ask us to sit tight while the big boys figured out how to stop a global takeover by an army of the dead? Instead, Sgt. Brower said, "That's right. I'm speaking to you youngsters in the audience right now. This is important, so listen up." He certainly had my attention. "We have a 'leak', people. Some how, some way...those horrible monsters outside the gates are getting into this building. We've only had one incident so far, but considering that we haven't found the breach in our security yet...we can expect more of these things to wander in under our radar. I don't think I have to tell you how potentially dangerous it would be if we were caught unprepared." Now directing his harsh gaze at all of the teenaged boys and girls in the room, he said, "This is where you come in. We need your help." I heard the voice of another boy on the other side of the cafeteria ask, "But...what can we do?" To which he answered, "You kids know the ins and outs of this building better than any of us. You're here every day during the week. And, having been a teenager myself once...I know that you all have your secrets. Secrets that no longer count when it comes to fortifying our position and making sure that those monsters don't find they way in here. Do you understand what I'm saying to you all?" He began pacing, and he told us, "The time for secrets is over. I was honest with you, I need for you teens to be honest with us in return. I want to know every nook and cranny of this place the same way that you do. I need to know what side doors you use to ditch classes. I need to know where you go when you want to smoke. I want to know every janitor closet and every hidden space under the bleachers that you use to make out with your girlfriend. I need to know every dark corner that you run to when you need to hide from the school bully. Our very existence may depend on you all stepping forward and helping us find the weaknesses in our defenses before it's too late." He looked at the rest of the crowd, and said, "This is a very real threat, folks. And I realize that you have all been through a great deal of stress. Some of us have had to make some very tough decisions at the spur of the moment. Some of us...have lost those dear to us along the way. But right now, our main concern is finding the most effective ways to defend our perimeters and safeguard our position here in THIS building. We need to find the leak before more of those things do. And we need to work together to make sure that we're all on the same page as far as security goes. If you see something strange or out of place? Report it immediately." Before ending his announcement, he said, "It only takes ONE break, ladies and gentlemen. One bite. One loss of focus. And it could endanger the lives of everyone sitting next to you. Remember that." Followed by a mumbled, "Enjoy your breakfast." I still felt as though the sudden morning announcement had been poured over my shoulders like a thick and heavy dose of wet cement. but I was hoping that Alex would be able to brush it off with a grin and get back to flirting with me over what we might get up to later on today. Hehehe! Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I saw Alex looking at his cell phone and checking his messages and stuff. Apparently upset that he hadn't gotten any. Seeing the distress in his face, I asked, "Is everything ok?" He whimpered, "My mom still hasn't gotten back to me yet. I don't even know where she is." I said, "I'm sure she's ok. She might just be out there somewhere...looking for a way to talk to you. Cell phones are shit, right now, anyways..." Alex suddenly stood up from his seat, his breakfast half eaten, and with a trembling voice, he said, "I'm gonna try her again. She's got to be worried to death. I just want to make sure she's alright. I just want to hear her voice. That's all." And before I could say anything to comfort him, he turned and walked away from the table. I totally understand. I'd be a basket case too if I was separated from my mom and dad during all this. Maybe I should call them too. You know...just to make sure they're alright....
  32. 1 point
    The Dorm Fiesta “Who was that?” Parker asked after Joe was out of ear shot. “One of my friends. I’ll introduce you two when he comes back,” I replied. “Oh, OK,” he said as he went back to sipping his root beer. I didn’t want Parker to know it was Joe quite yet because he’d get all freaked in the interim. You see, Parker had it built up in his mind that Joe was his nemesis because he figured Joe would resent him about the whole roommate thing, which had already been amicably worked out. By the same token, Joe didn’t know that the person sitting at the table with me was Parker. He probably figured it was one of my friends on campus who he hadn’t met. So I was going to wait until they were both in attendance before I dropped the dime. Joe returned with his tray of food and sat next to me. He looked across the table and said, “Ugh, where are my manners. Hi, I’m Joe,” and he stuck out his hand to shake. Parker shook his hand and said, “Hey, I’m Parker.” It took Joe a few seconds before asking, “You mean THE Parker?” Parker looked at me quizzically, and said, “I guess.” Then his light bulb went off. “Wait...are you Joe...his roommate?” “Soon to be ex-roommate thanks to you,” Joe shot back. Oops that did it. Parker’s face froze. Joe quickly put an end to the tension, “You know I’m just busting your balls, right?” “Uh, my balls?” “I’m totally cool with it. If the shoe was on the other foot, I would have done the same thing,” Joe added. “Really? You’re not mad or anything?” Parker managed. “No, no. We’re cool...unless you’re an idiot or something.” “I don’t...think...I’m an idiot,” he slowly sputtered as he looked at me. “Parker...just so you know...you’re not an idiot,” I maintained. “Then consider me your friend,” Joe assured him. “And FYI...you’re getting a great guy here,” Joe added placing his hand my shoulder like I was the prize on a game show. Parker looked at me, smiled, and said “I know.” Joe smiled back. It was a veritable love fest...a pretty good start for the boy. “And don’t even bother trying to talk me out of it, you two can have the room to yourselves tonight,” Joe informed us. “I’m sure you’d prefer it that way.” “Thanks, man,” I responded. Just then I heard Parker slurping with his straw at what was left in his cup. “You know, refills are free once you’ve paid for your meal.” “Really?” “Yeah, it’s buffet style. Go ahead we’re not going anywhere.” “OK.” And he got up to return to the beverage station. After a few seconds of silence, Joe asked, “So is that your type?” “My type?” “Yeah, like all guys have a type....you know, for what they are attracted to. He’s sort of a teen idol type. Is that what you like?” “Hmm, I never thought about it that way, but yeah, I guess that’s my type. But isn’t the teen idol everybody’s type?” I posited. “I guess that’s what makes them idols,” Joe thought out loud. “Yeah, I mean he’s cute, right?” “Yeah, I guess...in a muppet sort of way.” “Well, let’s just say I’m a fan of muppets, then,” I proclaimed. “Hmm, you might want to stay away from Miss Piggy, though. She’s enough to make a guy go gay. Oops, too late!” “Ha, ha. Very funny. But I’m not gay.” “Of course not. You’re just into dudes.” “No, I love one person who happens to be a dude,” I asserted. “Yeah, whatever. And I suppose lesbians like to suck a lot of cock, too.” “Geez...” “I’m just saying.” “Let’s just say I’m bisexual and leave it at that, OK? Now, stop busting on me because here he comes.” Parker sat down to total silence and he sort of looked at me and then Joe and back to me again. “Don’t worry, we weren’t talking about you,” I said. “I didn’t say anything,” Parker replied. “I know, but you were thinking it. We were talking about me and then Joe was saying that I’m gay.” “Nah, Matt’s bi,” he declared as if it was common knowledge. “OK, since we’re all in agreement on that matter, I need to mention that a bunch of us are going to the movie tonight. And the party starts right after,” Joe explained. “Oh, what are they showing tonight?” I asked him. “Young Frankenstein!” “Oh, good choice,” I commented. “Frankenstein? Like the monster movie?” Parker questioned. “No, Young Frankenstein like the comedy. You know, Mel Brooks directed with Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, and many others.” “Hmm, can’t say I’ve seen it,” Parker declared. “Well, my friend, you are in for a treat,” assured Joe. Every Saturday night, the theater department would show older mostly cult classics that were voted on by the students. It was started in order to give resident students something to do on the weekends...other than party and vandalize the campus. The college administration found that once the Saturday night movies began, negative campus incidents dropped dramatically. And the movies were well attended because it was only $2 a person for students and their guests. It was still a bit early, so the three of us walked back down to the parking lot to get Parker’s backpack in my car. Parker fastened it over his shoulders and then we slowly made our way up the hill toward the auditorium. Parker said that there was an energy of activity he noticed as soon as he got on campus. Then Joe said, “Look at it this way: On campus, you have several hundred people, mostly between the ages of 18 and 22, who are looking for something to do. There’s no place you can find like that, except for another college campus.” That was oh so true. Students have the option to channel that youthful energy in good, creative ways or not so good ways...and we had witnessed mostly good over the semesters we attended. I think Parker was realizing that there are perks to being a college student that you don’t get from your typical public high school experience. And that generally had to do with being a resident of the college rather than a daily visitor like at public high schools. In a college setting, you are allowed more latitude in creating your own experience since you are part of the campus community. Our expected crew showed up a few at a time until we had a total of eight. There were the three of us, plus Chris and Rob (our dorm neighbors), Rob’s girlfriend Kim, and Marlene and Joanne from our floor. People would joke that Marlene and Joanne were lesbian lovers because they were always together. You’d see one and you’d always see the other. They were roommates, but they were very much straight. They just travelled together a lot because they had the same interests, plus it was safer to travel in groups when you are a female on a college campus. As I mentioned, Chris and Rob were next door neighbors to Joe and me. We actually shared a common wall. Chris was a good-looking tall blond who had odd musical tastes—artists who played material that, to me, sounded not too much like music and more like noise. I was told his long-term girlfriend was hoping to land a black boyfriend before she started dating Chris. How a 6 foot 4 inch tall blond with blue eyes can fit the bill of someone seeking an African American boyfriend was always a mystery to me. However, word on campus was that Chris was huge downstairs, which I’ve come to learn is very common among men of Swedish descent. So maybe in some way he seemed like a blond-haired black man to his girlfriend. I dunno. Rob was very likeable and I realized it was because he was a people pleaser. He’d agree with anything you said even if he didn’t feel the same way, which isn’t always a good thing. He was about 5' 9" with short, dark hair and he played guitar. He hated to create waves, so he was rather quiet, yet very creative. He had that bohemian thing going on but with an alternative sensibility. Rob and Kim were a couple. Kim staffed the info booth on campus in her free time to make a few bucks. We used to refer to it as the "nympho" booth, based upon the frequency of odd places that Rob and Kim would be seen emerging from and readjusting their clothing. Kim was short, cute, and carried a few extra pounds, and she was as horny as any guy. That’s probably why Rob stuck with her. She did tell me once at a party after a few drinks that if Rob didn’t want to go out with her, I was her next target. Might things have turned out differently for me? Probably not, since I’ve never been into plus-sized young women...or men. But testosterone levels can make a guy do unexpected things. And of course, then I would never have met Parker. So maybe Rob had done me a favor without realizing it. I introduced everyone to Parker as they arrived and I didn’t get into it too deep. They all just assumed he was another student. He also made some brownie points when he passed around a pack of sugar-free spearmint gum, which everyone took him up on. We filed into the theater when the doors opened and all sat in the same row nearly taking up all the seats across. I had Parker on my left and Joe on my right, and we were all there to see Young Frankenstein. About half way into the movie, Parker and I discretely held hands down low for a time, unseen by anyone else in the theater. The movie, as always, was a big hit with the audience and I remember hearing Parker chuckle a good number of times, so I knew he enjoyed it as well. As our group walked to the dorm after the film, there was the usual recalling of memorable lines. I always thought the horses naying and the lightening flashing each time the name “Frau Blucher” is uttered is hilarious. As we entered the dorm, I made sure Parker and I hung in the rear of the group. I’d have to sign him in at the front desk and I didn’t want to hold everyone else up. We made it up to the floor a few minutes later. The first thing we saw was a small inflatable toddler’s wading pool in the hallway filled with ice and a mixture of canned and bottled beer and wine coolers. Whoever thought of the pool idea had a stroke of pure genius. I mean, who keeps an inflatable kiddie pool in their dorm room? So someone had the foresight to go out and purchase a kiddie pool to hold the ice and drinks. And to elude suspicion about a party happening in the dorm, all beverage cases were hoisted up the outside of the building with rope and brought in through the windows. The hoisting of the cases was a common weekend evening activity because alcohol was not permitted in areas where there were underage students present...like a dorm. Therefore cases of alcoholic beverages were not allowed in through the front door, but once such beverages were on the floor, most students turned a blind eye. I always thought it would be great to film the outside of the dorm on a Friday night, then show it back in time lapse. All of the ropes dropping down and cases hoisting up all night long would have made for a hilarious sight. When more than half of the people on campus are under the legal drinking age of 21 in the U.S., sometimes you have to be a little devious and inventive. And students on a college campus have no shortage of either of those traits. Back at our party, there was a mandatory donation of $5 if you were going to drink from the pool as someone obviously fronted a lot of money for the array of beverages on display. Lila, a girl who lived in a room down the hall, was at the pool wearing a lifeguard shirt and collecting the money. “Here you go,” she said grabbing my arm and putting a “paid” band on my wrist. “Joe already paid for you and your friend.” “Oh, uh, thanks,” I mustered. “Don’t thank me. Thank him,” she commented. “So, what if Sue Hart turns up?” I asked. Sue was the RA on our floor. The RA is the resident assistant who gets a housing reduction and a single room in exchange for being the student responsible for the proper conduct of all individuals on that floor. She’s basically the one in charge making sure things like keg parties, under age consumption of alcohol, pot smoking, and every other thing that’s against university policy don’t happen on her watch. Although Sue was generally a reasonable person, she took her RA responsibilities seriously. RAs can be replaced and lose all of their benefits if order is not maintained on their floor, so most take their positions seriously. “Sue is visiting her folks this weekend in Schenectady, so her responsibilities fall upon the assistant RA—me. And I don’t give a crap because I graduate in a month and I want to have a major party before I leave. So have a drink on Joe already!” Lila proclaimed. I had never had an alcoholic drink with Parker in attendance before because we were both under 21 and the opportunity never presented itself. We timidly approached the edge of the pool and I reached down and pulled up two wine coolers. I looked at Parker and he looked at me as I handed him one of the chilled bottles. I shrugged my shoulders and he shrugged his in response, so I guess we were drinking tonight. Heck, we weren’t driving anywhere, so we just needed to pace ourselves. As we made our way around the floor with our beverages, the long table in the communal kitchen area was nearly full of snacks ranging from Cheetos to brownies to cheese and crackers. Parker and I made our contribution of small and large plastic plates for the food, so we unwrapped and placed them on the table. We each filled up on the food for a few minutes before continuing on. I spotted Joe in the hall for a brief moment before he disappeared into a room. I wanted to thank him for paying our way, however, he disappeared into Tim’s room. Tim was a jock and played on our historically bad football team. He was built for football and perhaps Rugby, which I’d heard he also played. Although he was a big strong guy and he meant well...he was not exactly the brightest bulb in the set. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of everything sports. He could figure out the brackets for March Madness, yet he couldn’t even correctly spell the teams he was choosing. My friends gave him the nickname Bullwinkle after the large, but not particularly bright, cartoon moose by that name. Rather than follow Joe into that room and become engaged in a night of college basketball conversation, I decided to seek another venue. Don’t get me wrong, I could hold my own in conversations about professional baseball or football, but college basketball was totally alien to me...and I liked to keep it that way. Then we spotted my neighbor Chris (remember? Tall, blond, legendary big cock?) appear at the swimming pool to reload his drink supply. He saw me and said, “C’mon, we’re all hanging out in Bud’s room.” I didn’t know Bud that well. His real name was something like Warren, but no one ever called him by his real name, except during roll call in classes. Bud was a husky guy with longish curly dark hair who shared Chris’ love of...ahem...eclectic music. Bud always wore the same pair of black combat boots. He wouldn’t be classified as EMO, goth, or metal. I’m guessing he was a hardcore punk holdover, minus the mohawk and the attitude. He turned out to be soft-spoken and insightful, but with an offbeat sense of humor. Nearly everyone in the room at that time was with us earlier at the movie. Kim and Joanne were the only ones conspicuously missing and there were a couple of others from the floor in attendance. When I walked into the room, I introduced everyone to Parker. And as soon as the conversation turned to new alternative music, Parker lit up and the conversation remained there much of the night. Bud and Parker had an immediate connection via the similar bands they followed...although Bud had wider ranging tastes...not always a good thing in my opinion. But I felt myself smiling as I watched Parker's facial expressions as he laughed and his eyes sparkled while he talked about his first love—new music. I was perfectly content being his second love. About thirty minutes later, Joe discretely walked in. There wasn’t much space for him to sit, so he stood behind the rest of us who were sitting on the floor. We greeted each other from across the room with a head nod of acknowledgement. Then Lisa walked in and stood next to Joe. And after no more than ten seconds, she leaned over to Joe and said, “WHO is THAT?” as she was looking at Parker. Joe quietly said, “Down girl. He’s going to be Matt’s new roommate next year.” He said it quietly, but everyone heard and all conversation stopped. Uh oh. Joe, true to his diplomatic nature, explained that he was finally moving to Towers to keep Nick company and Parker was moving in to keep an eye on me. It all sounded quite logical, even if it wasn’t 100% accurate. Then Lisa followed with, “Damn, there goes that bet. I predicted that Joe and Matt would be sleeping together by the end of next school year.” At that, everyone burst out laughing. Someone once told me that Lisa was a witch...like a real bona fide Wiccan witch. And in this case her powers of perception were not that far off. Parker managed to explain to those in attendance that he wouldn't be a student until next year, so he was there scoping things out. Surprisingly that made Parker an instant celebrity in the room. No matter who they are or where they came from, people seem to have this romantisixed version of their high school experience in their head. Parker suddenly became the spokesman and the link for everybody in that room to their high school years. That's when we heard all the hilarious stories of things some of them had done in high school. Over the next few hours, the main conversation rolled from music, to politics, to religion, and that’s when the window fan was turned on and the pot came out. Before I even had a chance to devise a counter strategy, Parker was introduced to his first experience with marijuana. Parker was proud that he was “straight edge” and had never smoked pot before and generally abstained from under-age drinking. But I think the two wine coolers he drank had primed him for some experimentation. So his years of abstaining ended on this night of the Dorm Fiesta. Of course, it was all quite social and everyone was partaking, so maybe Parker was just looking to fit in and just be one of the guys. Fortunately, a bong was being used because I was done with choking on rolled product. Sure, joints are much more portable, but when you don’t smoke that often and then you take a hit on a joint, coughing is usually the end result. And who enjoys that? I was never a regular pot smoker. The main reason is that it made me sleepy. I was always a mellow person, so when you mellow me out more, it’s nap time for ol’ Matty boy. And I never ever bought weed. The only times I had an encounter is when someone else was supplying and sharing. So I wasn’t anti pot so much as it really wasn’t in my DNA. As a sleep aid, I could see the benefits...but I never had trouble sleeping. The discussion about religion that took place at 1:30 a.m. while quite stoned was a benchmark in the beginnings of my acquiescence of atheism. The more educated one becomes, the less religion makes sense. The reason for that is college teaches something called logic. I mean, how can Jesus save us if he couldn’t even save himself? Or why did God have to send a son down to earth to die on a cross to absolve our sins. If God is all powerful, why couldn’t he just absolve us of our sins and be done with it? I was raised a Christian, so that’s where my frame of reference lies. I’m not just dumping on one religion. Up until the 1700s, most early scientists believed that the Earth was the center of our solar system (geocentrism). However, what they were observing in the night sky did not fit that theory. Even though it was at first considered to be heresy, both Nicholas Copernicus and Johannes Kepler performed scientific and mathematical experiments that proved the sun was the center of our solar system (heliocentrism). It seems the Earth was not as self important as we thought. Eventually, everyone got on board with the sun being the center of our solar system because that’s what the evidence proved. And therefore it made sense. Even religious types had to reluctantly accept what the facts proved. Science brings us knowledge and eventually happenings that were once attributed to “acts of God” like earthquakes, were proven to have less to do with God and more to do with the grinding of tectonic plates. Religion was used for centuries to explain things that people didn’t understand. And things man was unable to understand at that time were attributed to God (or Gods). But as we’ve become more educated about such things, we also have to determine which beliefs make the most sense. In my book, if you believe in God, you have to believe in Santa Claus (or Father Christmas for some). He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad (sin) or good, so be good for goodness sake (so you can get into heaven). Same story just different characters and some snow and elves (angels) thrown in for good measure. Santa lives in an inaccessible place called the North Pole and God lives in an inaccessible place called Heaven. How does Santa deliver all of those presents in one night? He doesn’t. How does God watch over 7 billion people in the world? He doesn’t. But some people the world over feel better if they think there’s someone up there watching over us. And if that helps people feel better about their plight or helps them get up in the morning and try to be a good human being...more power to them. But would someone who is powerful enough to end drought, starvation, and cure all the world’s ills, not do so? And in God’s defense, they will say “the Lord works in mysterious ways,” which basically means “I can’t make sense of it, so I guess it’s part of God’s plan.” But a more rational explanation exists. There is no plan because there is no God and there are too many people wasting their time looking for answers in the Bible, which is a collection of fairy tales, some of which are partially based on real stories. And furthermore a class I took one semester called “The Bible as Literature” taught me that the books of the Bible were written on ancient scrolls by real people. It wasn’t written by God as some people assert. So if someone believes in Adam and Eve (and is too thick to concede to Darwin’s theory), I ask one question: if Adam and Eve is the truth, and they had two sons, Cain and Abel, how did the world become populated? Unless two boys can procreate, explain that one. Now read Darwin’s theory. Feel free to think what you want and believe in what you want. I’m just reporting on what was discussed that night and where I’m at on the subject. What you want to spend time doing is your own business. Since we all have a finite time on this earth, I prefer not to waste any of it chasing shadows and engaging in blind faith. Of course, I continued to never mention any of this to my parents who were church members. I didn’t want to reveal to them that their college tuition was going toward making me think logically. As a precursor, I also learned in school that Santa Claus did not exist when I was eight. Sure, religion serves its purpose when it teaches people to love each other, help the needy, and other morally upstanding practices. But history has shown that religion can also be hijacked to create power struggles and lead to mass murder. Yet God said thou shalt not kill. It all becomes one big hypocrisy. God works in mysterious ways indeed. Now keep sending us your monetary donations so we can keep this charade going. Eight college students smoking pot and drinking alcohol in a dorm room one night had it all figured out. And Parker made friends with all of them on that same night. Joe even pulled me aside and said, “You know what? Parker is a great guy and he’s got a great sense of humor too. So you made a good choice. Sure he’ll never be me, but he might be good enough in my absence. And don’t worry, mum is still the word.” I thanked Joe and decided to gently extricate Parker from Bud’s room because I was fading fast at just after 3:00 a.m. I sat back down next to Parker who was sitting Indian style on the floor and I whispered near his ear, “It’s time to go.” He just turned to me and mouthed “OK.” So we declared that this was the best party ever and bid everyone a good night because it was well past my bed time. Bud said, “I look forward to seeing you next semester, Parker!” And everyone else seconded it. And Parker said, “Same here.” With that, everyone in the room thought it best to end it there also. The room emptied out and everyone staggered off to bed. As soon as we arrived inside my room, I told Parker I was amazed at how well everyone received him. “I don’t understand it. I spent two school years—four semesters—collecting these people as my friends. You show up for the first time ever and in a few hours you made friends with all of them. You have this natural charisma that attracts people instantly, where I had to work at it for two long years. And you made it look so easy.” He responded with, “You’re looking at it all wrong. You did all of the work finding this great group of people at your dorm, both girls and boys. That was the hard part. You set the table and I simply came for dinner. If they were perfectly accepting of me, it’s because you did such a good job. You managed to get all of the right people in the same place. I may be a decent operator, but I never could have done what you did.” He gave me a big hug. “You know, you smoked pot for your first time today. I hope you’re not regretting that,” I reminded him. “Nah, I figured we weren’t going to be driving anywhere and the place I would be sleeping was a couple of doors away. So I decided I might as well try it when the situation presented itself,” he explained. “I am pretty high though,” he said giggling as he grabbed me and wrestled with me onto the bed. “Thanks, this night has been really fun,” he said as he kissed me. “But how are we going to sleep? These beds are tiny.” “Ah, I have that all figured out. Meet...the guest mattress,” I announced as I slid the apparatus out from under my bed. “Check this out,” I said hitting the switch on the air pump and it was fully inflated in about a minute. “Wow, pretty cool. What do you use this for?” Parker asked. “It’s for cute 17-year-old boys when I want to have my way with them. You know any?” I joked. “Hmm, I can think of maybe one or two.” “I got it in case we ever have a guest stay over. I got it as a Xmas present in my freshman year. I figured it might come in handy some day, but I’ve never had a reason to use it before tonight. I guess people don’t visit their friends in college like I thought they would.” “Well, I’m certainly glad you got it.” “Yeah, who knew?” I had a set of sheets, a comforter, and a couple of pillows ready to go, so we quickly made up the bed together. It wasn’t picture perfect, but it was close enough for our purposes. We brushed our teeth in the mini room sink, got undressed, and hopped under the covers. That’s when I said, “Let’s try something different.” Before he had the chance to respond, I continued, “How about we just cuddle tonight?” “Just cuddling? OK, that’s fine by me,” he agreed. “Can we kiss, too?” “Sure, I guess kissing sort of goes along with cuddling.” So he slid up next to me and we wrapped our naked bodies around one another. I always loved the feeling of his smooth, soft warmth against me. And we kissed until my mouth was numb and we both drifted off.
  33. 1 point
    Chapter 17 Martin eyed his nephew warily. Something seemed off with him lately, but he couldn't figure out what it was. There was almost a quiet rebellion brewing in the boy. He couldn't quite put his finger on what was causing that feeling though. Was it the intensity with which Casey sometimes met his gaze, something the boy rarely ever did? Was it the way he'd make dinner but disappear as quickly as possible to his room? It wasn't like Casey to not attempt to connect with him in some way. The boy had always craved Thomas's attention, and after Thomas died, he'd often tried to find that in Martin. Some days Martin felt more obliging than others, but most of the time, he found it useful to withhold any semblance of affection until he needed to use the boy. But now, it was almost as if Casey thought he didn't need him anymore. But that couldn't be possible. He'd always made sure that Casey had to rely on him for everything, even companionship. He'd ensured that Casey knew he wouldn't survive without Martin's help. So what the hell was going on? The boy hadn't even asked to swim longer in the open ocean when they'd gone pearl hunting a couple days ago. Instead, Martin noticed that Casey had spent an unprecedented amount of time in the tank at night the last couple weeks. He stared at the sun-kissed skin of his nephew's bare back as the boy fixed a cup of coffee and grabbed a banana. Martin sipped his own steaming cup of java, contemplating the odd mix of complacency and insolence. It was almost as if Casey were toeing the line that Martin had drawn when he'd demanded Casey stay inside and out of sight with the appearance of that Shawn guy, but was in the mean time biding his time for something more. What that 'more' was Martin couldn't figure out. Martin cleared his throat loudly, smirking when it caused Casey to jump. Good, maybe the boy still knew his place in this household. "Casey," he began but waited for the boy to turn to face him, "I've noticed that you've taken to using your tank more recently." There was a flash of something in those smoky gray eyes, but he didn't know what it meant. "Yes, sir," Casey stated, and Martin couldn't help but feel like the 'sir' slid oily off his nephew's tongue--another moment of that odd mix of submission and defiance. "You've never cared much for the tank before, why now?" he pressed. Casey's lips thinned and his grip tightened on his mug. "You're the one who confined me to the house, berated me for shifting in the ocean, even if it was before dawn. You'd think you'd be happy I was using the tank and not complaining." Martin gritted his teeth at the tone in his nephew's voice. Yes, he was definitely pushing the point of defiance, and that irk Martin to no end. Martin narrowed his eyes at the boy, irritated that Casey managed to hold his gaze for several seconds before finally averting his eyes. "I see," he finally said. "Maybe I've been too harsh. This neighbor of ours has had me on edge, I admit. But I'm just worried about you," he said as gently as he could. Usually that tone had any irritation Casey might have dissolving under the boy's need to feel loved. He'd often been able to get the boy back under his domain with a few words that implied he was only looking out for the boy. But today, it was different. Today, Casey didn't look like he believed it. Fuck, that couldn't be good. If Casey ever thought that he didn't need Martin's help anymore, then his plans could be ruined. He rose from the table, crossing to where Casey was leaning against the counter. "Casey," he began softly, keeping his voice gentle. Then he played one of his aces that he was sure the boy couldn't ignore. "Son," he amended, and he relished the faltering of Casey's demeanor. "You know I care for you. I know I've never been very good at showing it. Not even when Thomas was alive," he added, and he was rewarded with the glistening gaze of those soft eyes looking up at him hopefully. Yes, he still had the boy. "If you really need to shift in the ocean, wake me and I'll go with you in the early morning, to keep you safe. And next full moon, I promise to let you use the cove instead of the tank." "Really?" Casey asked, and Martin could see that the boy was desperately wanting to believe every word he said. That was what Martin had been counting on. "Yes, of course," Martin said as he brushed a hand over the boy's cheek, watching the hope of a sliver of love wash across the boy's beautiful features. It was that hope that he could exploit. The boy's guilt was another, but that was for another day. As for himself, he wasn't going to let love get in the way ever again. He'd allowed that to happen once, and it had nearly destroyed him. "Here, I'm sure you could use a bit of sun before I have to leave," Martin stated. "Let's finish our coffee on the deck." A small frown marred Casey's face, but he nodded and finished fixing his coffee. Martin picked up his own cup and his tablet and headed out onto the deck. He settled in the padded deck chair before his nephew followed him out and sat in the second chair. Figuring he needed to keep up appearances of concern, Martin stared out over the ocean. From the height of the deck over the small cliff, it was easy to see into the crystal turquoise waters. From here, they could see the reef as well as some of the larger fish and sea turtles. There were no dolphins today, but they could see the long dark shape of the reef shark that sometimes scoured just off shore for easy meals. "You need to be careful out there," Martin stated. "It looks like that reef shark is hanging around more often." Casey nodded. "I've seen it a few times. I wonder if it's a female. She could be looking to give birth in the shallower waters." "Could be," Martin agreed. "In that case, you'll need to be even more careful if you go out in the mornings. If she does deliver young, they might hang around a bit." Casey shrugged. "They tend to stay away from me. I think I look like a dolphin or something." "Guess that makes sense, considering how you were engineered," Martin stated, taking a sip of his coffee. He didn't miss way Casey's body went rigid. Martin smiled into his cup. It didn't hurt to remind the boy of his origins every once in a while, especially if he was thinking he could survive without Martin. @@@@ Shawn grinned up at Casey. His head was resting on the back of the couch, his body practically boneless. He gave one last lick at the now very sensitive cock softening in front of him. Casey jerked as the sensation ricocheted through him. "Shit!" Shawn just smirked, climbing up to press kisses along the heaving ribcage until he reached Casey's neck. He carefully kissed along the collarbone, avoiding the thick silver chain around his neck. He had a moment again of wondering if Casey kept the chain from his Uncle Thomas on out of love or guilt. After broaching the subject about it before and releasing the dam of guilt that Casey had built (he hadn't meant to cause Casey so much emotional turmoil), but it seemed as if the man just held on to so much guilt over the death of his uncle. Shawn had tried to convince him otherwise, but he wasn't sure how much Casey believed him. Maybe he'd bring it up later, when Casey wasn't mindless in the afterglow of his first blowjob. "So, what do you think?" Shawn asked huskily. "As good as you thought it would be?" Casey barely managed to roll his head in Shawn's direction. "Oh, hell, even after seeing it in videos, I never expected it to be like that." "Baby, nothing is better than the real thing," Shawn growled against Casey's throat. "I love the way you taste, so salty and sweet." He could sense Casey's embarrassment before Casey even shifted. So he climbed up and straddled Casey's lap before he could move, and he grabbed Casey's face in his hands. "You were beautiful, Case. You don't need to hide from me. I know what you're feeling. I've been there too. And I'm just excited to be your first." The flush over Casey's cheeks was adorable, and Shawn could see the indecision in his eyes as to what to do next. Casey obviously thought he should reciprocate, but Shawn wasn't sure he was quite ready. While they'd done a lot of kissing and touching, they'd only jerked each other off a couple of times so far. Today, when Casey had arrived, he'd seemed oddly tense. Casey only said that his uncle was acting weird this morning but didn't explain much more than that. Shawn noticed that Casey was clinging to him more today, and that made him wonder just what the hell Martin had said or done. Casey worried his bottom lip, looking like he wanted to say more, but couldn't. Shawn had found himself sitting on the floor in front of Casey, attempting to soothe his nerves by offering a foot massage. Casey had slowly relaxed back into the couch, and while he didn't divulge whatever was on his mind, he did allow Shawn to slowly work the massage up his calves and thighs, and eventually higher. @@@@ Shit, when Shawn's hot mouth had engulfed him, he'd almost come right then. He'd been worried about Martin's attitude this morning. It wasn't like the man to be, well... it wasn't affectionate... but congenial, maybe? For a while, Casey actually believed that Martin was trying to tell him that he really did care for him, in his own way. But then he'd brought up the fact that Casey wasn't human--that he was just an experiment. It wasn't that Casey didn't know that--he'd always known, well, at least since he was about seven or eight, that he was the result of a genetic experiment. He'd always had dreams about a different place where he'd lived before here, and Thomas and Martin had eventually told him the truth when he'd wanted to know why he could shift and they couldn't. It also explained why they often took blood samples and did tests as he was growing up. So it wasn't knowing he was a mutant that bothered him so much, it was his uncle reminding him that he was just an anomaly, a thing that needed to be tested and observed constantly for changes. Both of his uncles had always been worried about the stability of his genes, whether the shifting would cause his body to deteriorate faster given the strain on his bones and muscles. It was why he couldn't leave. Martin was the only one who knew who he was and whether or not his body would continue to thrive or not. He didn't feel like he was going to fall apart, but Martin constantly seemed worried about it, always doing tests and taking blood and other samples. Casey often wondered what the results were, but Martin never shared and Casey couldn't read them. So he just figured if it was becoming a problem, his uncle would tell him. Maybe. Wouldn't he? Or would he just keep taking samples and recording his demise? If he couldn't do anything about it, maybe his uncle wouldn't say anything to spare him the anxiety of knowing he was dying? Shit. Now, he was wondering if he was dying. Damn it. He didn't feel like it. But would he feel the changes, or would they be so subtle that he wouldn't notice? His brain had run amok after his uncle's off-handed comment. He was suddenly anxious again about things that he thought that he'd accepted long ago. He couldn't change how things were, so why should he worry about it. But now there was Shawn. And he'd been thinking about his future. A possible future with Shawn. Maybe his fears were surfacing again because he had considered telling Shawn about his 'dysfunction.' As much as he was worried about what Shawn might think, he was getting to the point where he wanted Shawn to know everything. He hated keeping his mer side so contained and secret. And he was terrified that Shawn would find out accidently and be even more freaked out. Maybe if he told him, broke it to him gently.... Oh, hell! Casey had gasped as Shawn's massaging of his feet and legs suddenly morphed into a moist heat engulfing his semi-hard cock, breaking him from his thoughts. After that, Casey couldn't remember what he'd been thinking about. @@@@ Casey couldn't believe that Shawn had done that. He'd dreamed about it, certainly. Hell, he'd dreamed about even more, but he wasn't sure if or when they might progress farther than hand jobs. But hell, that was... fucking awesome. But now he was embarrassed, and worried, that maybe Shawn had done it expecting that Casey would return the favor. And it wasn't that he didn't want to try, but he was nervous that he wouldn't do it right. Would Shawn find him too clumsy and inadequate? Shit, if Shawn didn't like it, would he decide Casey wasn't worth his time anymore? "Stop thinking," Shawn's voice invaded his thoughts with a smile. Casey focused on the hands holding onto him, on the blue eyes piercing his heart, and he relaxed. "I just... I want to..." Shawn was smirking and shaking his head. "No, not right now." Casey stared at him incredulously. He was turning him down? "You don't want me to--?" "I do, but not right now," Shawn said softly. "This was just for you. I wanted to make you feel good, to forget whatever it was that was putting that frown on your face." Casey chuckled. "Well, you certainly managed that." "Good," Shawn smirked, pressing a quick kiss to Casey's lips as he stood and patted Casey's thigh. "Now, let's go for a run. I need to expend some energy." Casey wasn't sure if he could move yet as Shawn disappeared into the kitchen for a couple bottles of water. "You know, I could help relieve some of that energy in other ways." Shawn quirked his lips. "Maybe later, after I build up a bit more sexual frustration by staring at your ass while we run." "What makes you think you'll get to stare at my ass? Maybe I'll be the one staring at yours," Casey shot back with a grin as he took one of the bottles of water. "Fine, we'll take turns staring at each other's asses," Shawn conceded. "Now let's go." For the next half hour, they spent the time making laps back and forth along the shore. Casey enjoyed having someone to compete with, since he'd never had anyone to run with before--hell, to do anything with really, since Thomas died. It was fun and energizing to sprint after Shawn, sometimes catching him before taking off again and becoming the prey. Finally, they waded into the surf briefly to cool off. Casey made sure they didn't wander too far in since he wasn't sure if the prowling reef shark had decided to retreat back to open waters or not. Shawn started walking down the beach, taking Casey's hand. Shawn brought their hands to his lips and kissed the back of Casey's hand before smiling and walking on. Casey felt his heart flutter at the oddly intimate gesture. They walked in silence for a few minutes before Casey's thoughts started to run rampant again. "Shawn," Casey began hesitantly, "how much longer are you planning on staying here?" Shawn's hand tightened on his, and Casey glanced over at him, worried about the answer. He didn't want to think about it, but when he'd thought about telling Shawn his secret, about falling in love with Shawn, it had occurred to him that maybe Shawn wasn't planning on hanging around. Shawn had told him when they'd first met that he was here just to escape public scrutiny for a bit. Didn't that mean he was planning on heading back at some point, maybe sometime soon?
  34. 1 point
    Chapter 13 Casey still couldn't get Shawn's kiss out of his mind. He'd woken up before dawn today, desperately needing to shift, and he had spent a good hour gliding through the serene dark waters. A small pod of dolphins had joined him this morning. He'd been so euphorically happy for the first time in so long that he didn't realize how far he'd followed the dolphins until a sharp jolt at his neck caused him to gasp, swallowing water as he floundered in pain. He launched up to the surface, sputtering as he darted back towards shore. A few seconds later, the pain stopped. He flipped onto his back, breathing heavily as he floated for a few minutes to get his heart rate under control. He fingered the collar with shaking hands. Shit, he'd let himself get careless. What the hell was he thinking? He was thinking about Shawn, that's what. And the kiss. And how he wanted more. Damn. He flipped over and darted back to the cove before he could let his thoughts get him into any further trouble. Of course as he hoisted his body effortlessly out of the water onto the dock, he noticed a silhouette at the top of the hill just barely visible in the pre-dawn light. Shit, Uncle Martin must have been alerted by the collar going off. It was too much to hope that he might have slept through his little mishap. The damn app on Martin's phone must have alerted him that Casey had set off the perimeter alarm. Too bad Martin hadn't left the damn thing in his study last night. He unconsciously rubbed at his neck as he swiped up the towel he'd left on the wooden dock. He debated walking slowly, just to put off the inevitable lecture, but that would just make the man even angrier. So he jogged up the slope as quickly as he could in his bare feet. As he crested to the top of the cliff, he stood under his uncle's irritated gaze feeling terribly exposed for some reason. It was odd since he'd been naked around his uncles for years that standing in front of him with a towel wrapped around his waist shouldn't bother him at all. Shawn. His liquid blue eyes popped into his mind, and he realized he only wanted Shawn seeing so much of him. Shawn's gaze made him feel confident and cherished. Martin's seemed to make him feel insignificant and worthless. He tucked his arms across his chest, shyly trying to hide from his uncle's scrutiny. "Where exactly did you think you were heading?" the man's deep voice finally broken the silence. "Nowhere, sir. I just needed to shift. It's been a while and the shifts in the tank just weren't enough," Casey admitted. Martin harrumphed and turned toward the house, obviously expecting Casey to follow without question. Casey breathed a sigh of relief that he'd gotten off so easily. Now maybe he could nap for a bit before meeting up with Shawn later. "It's the new moon. Your need shouldn't be overwhelming right now," Martin mused as Casey followed him into the house. "Especially not strong enough to make you breach your boundaries." Casey worried about where his train of thought might be going. "I just got caught up following some dolphins. They wanted me to--" "Losing your focus is dangerous," Martin snapped. "It's been years since you've been so careless, especially at this moon phase. We'll need to do a work up now. See what's going on, what must have changed." Casey froze mid-step. Oh, shit. He hadn't expected his uncle to demand that. All those needles, and samples, and stamina exercises...damn it. The older man strode directly for the study. Casey briefly thought about heading upstairs instead but defying his uncle would only make the man more upset. He had no illusions that Uncle Martin was doing this for his own welfare right now. The man knew how much he hated these full workups, and therefore he often demanded them when Casey was the least prepared, mentally and physically. "In here now, Casey," his uncle's baritone voice filtered from the study. "Don't bother thinking about getting dressed. You know that would be pointless." Casey sighed heavily, tightening his grip on his towel as he slowly trudged into the study. "Can I at least eat first?" Martin was rubbing his short blond beard apparently debating a moment where to start when Casey walked in. "No, you can eat when we're done. Get up on the table first. Let's get the samples first since you've just freshly shifted." Damn it, he thought as he edged up onto the cold lab table. He really needed to be more careful. He just hoped that this didn't keep Martin from going to work later. @@@@ "Hey!" Shawn called as Casey made his way over to the lounge chairs that Shawn was dragging out. Casey walked a little slower today, having exhausted himself with his uncle's tests this morning. He also prayed that the marks on the inside of his elbow from the syringes weren't very noticeable. Sometimes they bruised pretty badly if Martin was in a hurry. He was still worried about what Shawn might be thinking after the kiss yesterday. He'd tried not to think about it while in the lab because he was pretty sure some of his readings would have been off, especially his heart rate and blood pressure. And he really didn't need to be sporting wood around his fucking uncle. As he made his way towards Shawn though, he could see the same easy smile and friendliness that the broad shouldered man had always had. Then Shawn dropped the chair into place and casually embraced Casey in a quick hug. "Hey, did you sleep well?" For a second, Casey didn't respond, stunned by Shawn's warm arms engulfing him. But just before those strong arms went to release him, Casey wrapped his free arm around Shawn. "Uh, yeah," he said automatically. "Really? 'Cause you look a little tired today?" "I just woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep. So I, uh, exercised a bit this morning," he said truthfully. "Cool. I was up writing. So nothing quite as exhausting as you," he said as he playfully patted Casey on the stomach before turning back to setting up his chair. Shawn's easy smile as he laid his towel out on the chair had Casey grinning in relief. He'd been so nervous about the quick kiss and what it might mean, that he'd allowed himself to get so tense and worried about what might happen today. Would it be awkward? Would Shawn kiss him again? Would he pretend it never happened? Should I pretend it never happened? But with the simple hug, Shawn banished all those anxious thoughts, and Casey knew everything was good--better even--between them. They'd crossed the threshold of simple friendship to flirting interest. Casey dropped his towel on the chair and bravely draped an arm across Shawn's shoulders, leaning close to whisper. "So you ready to brave the waters again?" Shawn rolled his eyes, but Casey felt the man's body nudge closer to his. He could feel the man's breath on his cheek when he asked, "You really want to drag me back into those Nemo infested waters?" Casey chuckled as they each stepped away to pull off their t-shirts. "You know the ocean hasn't really changed since you got here. Nemo, Dory, Crush, Mr. Ray... they've been out there the whole time you've been swimming in it." Casey didn't bother to hide his blatant perusal of the taller man as the shirt came off over his head. "Yeah, I'm sure you'll tell me that Flotsam and Jetsam are running around out there too." Casey scrunched up his nose. "That's the Little Mermaid, idiot." Casey felt the Shawn's hand pat his stomach. "Now see, why can't fucking Ariel be swimming around out there? Or actually Eric would be better--didn't he become a merman after he kissed the red-headed fish?" Casey felt his throat go dry, but he quickly smiled and took off for the water to hide his discomfort. "No, she became human, dumbass," he called over his shoulder. "Oh, well that sucks." Casey could hear Shawn running up behind him. "Why the hell are we discussing Disney movies anyway?" "Because someone is afraid of cartoon sea creatures," Casey teased. "Cartoon, my ass. That fucking sting ray was freaking real." "Manta ray," Casey corrected. "Whatever," Shawn scoffed. "It was still fucking huge." "You didn't have a problem with the turtle, and he was more likely to bite you than Mr. Ray was." "What are you an encyclopedia of sea animals?" Shawn squinted at him. Casey turned as the tide washed over his feet, hands rising to his hips. "You live out here for fifteen years and see if you don't learn a few things." Shawn stepped up really close looking down at him, and Casey felt his breath sucked away wondering if Shawn might kiss him again. "So are you telling me you've met Bruce and Flotsam and Jetsam and whatever hell else out there?" he waved toward the water. Casey debated telling him the truth. In all honesty, Shawn was unlikely to run into a shark or eels, but Casey had pretty much seen it all so.... "Oh, fuck," Shawn growled, turning and rubbing his hand through is chocolate waves. Obviously, he'd taken Casey's hesitation for an affirmative. When Shawn looked like he might back out of going into the water altogether, Casey grabbed his arm and pulled him back. He looked up and took the man's face in his hands. "I promise, there's nothing to worry about. Sharks don't come close to shore around here. I swear." Shawn's bright blue eyes studied him and he dropped his forehead against Casey's in resignation. "God, I hope you're right." "It'll be fine," Casey said. Then quickly pecked a small kiss on Shawn's nose before forging into the waters. "I'm going to bring down that inflatable raft next time," Shawn grunted. "Then I can just float on top and not worry about what's swimming around under me." Casey managed to hold back his chuckle when Shawn slowly picked his way into the water. After yesterday's 'scare' with the baby manta, Casey could understand why Shawn would be a little more hesitant about traipsing back into the water. He probably shouldn't have joked about running into a shark. They kept close to shore today, more or less just bobbing around in the waves. After the quick kiss Shawn had given him yesterday and their briefly intimate moments today, Casey couldn't help but feel a little more on edge. He felt jittery and anxious as he watched Shawn carefully for reactions to their touches and teasing. The glitter in Shawn's eyes told him that he had nothing to be worried about.
  35. 1 point
    I kept learning. I learned about the difference between a soliloquy and a monologue, directions on stage or looking at the stage. How to project your voice without yelling so even those in the back can hear you just fine. How to stand, how to sit, how to gesture...how not to gesture. It was all new to me because every moment I had to be aware of how the audience would see me. Could they see my face? Were they meant to at that moment?. Was I turned out too far or too little? Sarah was a big help during those first weeks. Along with what Meg was helping me with she would fine tune it to where I seemed to have been in the theater my whole life. My best attribute was the blocking. I knew exactly where I had to be and when. “How do you do that?” asked Connie one day. “Actually football. Taught me where I needed to be in the overall scheme of things and how to get there if my way was blocked.” “Yeah right!” “He's telling the truth,” Hector said. “He may be an average actor, and getting better, but he is the best damned quarterback I have ever seen.” I blushed a bit. I had gotten a sincere compliment out of him. I was a good quarterback, I knew that, but it was the actor part. He was noticing I was getting better. Hell he was noticing me period. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and he wore a kind of silly grin, like he knew what he was doing to me and found my reaction so adorable. “Still needs to work on his lines though.” I snorted. The Hector I was coming to know was back. One afternoon in late January was devoted solely to the fight scenes. There were two of them and the one with the least cast members had five fighters. This one was set in a bar, what a shock for a western play, and I was required to break six bottles and two tables in the sequence. Anything more would be icing on the cake. I asked to see what the basic set would look like when it was complete. In a few minutes I had the layout done and was looking it over. “Okay. Sheriff Tate would be about here when the fight begins.” I stood where the bar was to be. It was represented by a rope for now as it had not been built yet. Six X's were the bar stool positions and the tables were set out, including two breakables. “Outlaw one and two would be at this table with bystander three, four and five at this one playing cards.” I walked over and gestured. The cast members placed themselves accordingly. “Moe the barkeeper you know where you are.” He stood behind the bar. “Deputy one, me, is by the Sheriff, and Black Pete will be center stage.” Hector took his place. He was the villain of the story, a weaselly man who was into gambling and killing anyone who beat him. “Everyone else knows where they need to be I hope, because I did not look at that part yet.” The other cast members took their places where there were open chairs or bar stools. I looked around and closed my eyes. I began to move about the stage throwing punches and knees, missing everyone by fractions of inches. A few flinched but I had aimed far enough away that they would not get hit. I avoided everybody and wound up on the other side of the stage. “What was that?” asked the teacher. “The flow of the fight in my head.” “With your eyes closed?” I nodded. “I could have sworn you were watching where you were going.” “Naw, I knew where everyone was.” They all just gawked. “So I'm a freak of nature, can we move on?” They laughed at me and with me so it was cool. “Okay. Sheriff, you will make your way towards Pete. Tyler, I want you to get in his way a bit because he is going to shove you out of the way and you'll crash into Brad.” I showed them slowly how I wanted it to look and they got it in one try. “Great. Sheriff, once past him you'll swing on Pete but he'll duck and spin around to kick you in the rump and send you crashing into this breaking table where the bystanders sit. They will either fall out of their chairs or jump away.” I demonstrated the spin and kick. “Can you handle that, Hector?” He tried it but got hung up by his own feet. I helped him up and helped him place each foot to get him down and behind the Sheriff. It took a few tries, but he got the gist of it. “We'll work on that. Once the bystanders are scattered I and the outlaws join the fight. Hector will duck my punch, grab my arm and throw me at the outlaws for them to deal with me.” They groaned. “Hey, only one of you guys get beat and arrested.” The rehearsal went into the evening and I was happy with the progress as a whole. No one was getting hurt even on accident so that meant the were learning how to fall, hit and take a hit faster than I could have hoped. There was only one snag and that was Hector. He just could not get his feet and body to cooperate. I think it had to do with the various steel pins and that permanent limp. “Hey, Hector, can I talk to you?” Everyone was leaving for the night and he looked a bit uncomfortable but he nodded. “I know this seems a bit awkward, but you'll get the hang of it.” “It's just, I'm not much of a fighter. I can't even dance. No coordination.” “Then we'll work on it. Do you have the time now or should we schedule a session?” “Really? You'd take time to help me?” He seemed shocked. “Yeah. It's my job and if it will help you become a better actor, then I want to help.” I tried to put every fiber of sincerity into my voice. “I guess we could do it now. Where though?” “We could use the grass outside the PA wing. No one will be around this late.” He shrugged and we left the auditorium. There was no one out there. It was a Thursday night and late classes stopped at nine. It was after ten so no one would be there. We set our stuff by one of the trees and stood there for a moment. “Okay, the spin seems so be the most tricky.” He nodded. I stood next to him and took him very slowly through each step. Lean back while swinging your body to the right, left leg crosses right while the body circles, step with right leg and while rising kick with left leg. Twice I had to stabilize him and shift his foot to a better position so he could pivot. Once he fell into the grass and laughed at himself. “I'm never going to get this,” he said laughingly as I helped him to his feet. “Yes you will. I have faith enough for the both of us. I have never seen you fail at anything that had to do with acting yet and I will not see you fail at this.” He looked at me like I was that alien invader again. He had a way to combine looks, like I was either crazy or being very nice. “Let's do it again.” I took him through it a few more times slowly looking for his problem and I think I found it about the fifth time. “This is impossible.” I rushed at him with my arms out and he ducked my grab, pivoted and kicked me in my ass. “Justice!” I went sprawling into the grass with a laugh. He ran over to see if I was hurt because I was not getting up. He turned me over and saw I was laughing too hard to stand. “That is not funny! I thought I hurt you.” “Do you realize you did it?” He looked at me in confusion. “You did it perfectly.” It took a moment for it to sink in but the spreading grin was so full of wonder that I wanted to reach up and give him a hug. “I did it. How?” “It was too slow for the move to carry you through. You lost your balance because it was too slow.” He took my hand and helped me up. That contact had my heartbeat racing. I was holding his hand. I let go reluctantly and wiped grass and dirt off me. I could not stand holding his hand because I did not want to let go. “So let's try this at the speed it will be done.” Three times we tried it and all three times I was ducked and kicked. “I've got it!” He was so proud of himself. “Yup, now for the rest of the fight.” His smile of triumph fell away and I snickered. “It's not that bad. From the throw.” It was all going perfectly until his natural clumsiness took over and he slipped. He was in the middle of a punch when he slipped. My face got in the way of a full weight left hook and he caught me right in the right eye. He fell down and so did I, only he fell atop me. We landed with an oof and began laughing. “Oh god did I hit you?” he asked through the laugh. “My eye! My eye! I'm blind!” I was laughing hard because it hurt like hell but was totally funny. “You brute! You beast! You monster!” “Oh shut up you drama queen.” That wiped the smile off my face. I was so shocked and the look on his face made me think he instantly regretted his choice of words. Then I began laughing again. “You are such an asshole Justice Anderson.” We lay there for a few minutes catching our breath when we both realized he was laying half on top of me and I was not caring. Well I was when I realized it. I liked the feel of him there. Our eyes met and I saw what Sarah meant. He was as torn up about our fight as I was and it showed in his eyes right then. He longed to make it right but did not know how. God I wanted to pull him down and hold him. I almost did too when he got up and helped me to my feet. My eye was starting to swell a little and I knew I would have a great black eye come tomorrow. “I hit you pretty good, didn't I?” “Yeah, but it happens. I've had far worse in football.” “I'm pooped and you're half blind so I think we should call it a night.” His voice was back to the neutral tone he'd had for the entire month. Did he not see how I felt when he looked into my eyes? I was such a coward to not tell him. “Yeah. I'll see you tomorrow in class.” I grabbed my bag and tossed him his. “Yeah. C'ya.” I could tell he wanted to say something, but he held back. He was as scared of being rejected as I was and I could no more tell him that I was falling for him than I could fly. He turned and walked to his bike to go home. I passed the amphitheater and heard footsteps behind me. “Justice?” I was hoping it was Hector, but no. “What are you still doing here, Seth?” “Steven forgot about me again. Can I crash at your place?” I chuckled and put my arm around him. “C'mon little bro.” “Your eye okay?” I looked down at him. “Yeah I saw. The sissy boy walloped you a good one.” I shook my head. “His name is Hector so please use it.” My tone was serious. “Okay. Sissy boy or Hector he still got you good.” I laughed and gave the little pest a shove. “Still does not mean I can't throw you into the koi pond from here.” He smiled and followed me back to my room. I flicked on the light and tossed my stuff in my desk chair. “You get the floor.” I unrolled a sleeping bag for him and got out an extra pillow. “You want to take a shower? I got an extra towel.” “Yeah.” I got a good look at him. His side was covered in mud. “How did you get all muddy?” “I got knocked into the mud.” He said it so simply that I knew he was not upset about it and that made me know who did it. And why that dick Steven conveniently forgot to take him home. “Why?” I wanted to get the story now when he was not there to intimidate the kid. “He got turned down by Heather Murphy.” And he took out his anger on Seth, the Crowd's whipping boy. Not while I was around, but then I was not around much anymore. I tossed him the towel and gave him soap and shampoo. “Leave the dirty stuff. I'll get it washed and you can wear something of mine tomorrow.” He looked like a kid in the candy store and a hundred bucks to spend there. He stripped right there and I sucked in my breath. There was a nasty bruise along his side and the left side of his chest. “Did he do that too?” Seth looked torn between telling me the truth and protecting someone he thought was his friend. “Never mind. By your silence I have my answer. Go shower.” I watched him wrap the towel around his tight body and had to admit he had a really great butt, but his abs were better. An eight pack with the V that formed where the legs and pelvis met. I was not attracted to him because he was like a brother, but I could see his appeal. The next day was interesting. I was in the cafeteria that morning when the Crowd came by and stared. “Who the fuck clocked you one?” asked Steven as if he cared. “I got into a fight last night.” “Want us to find the fuck wad and kick his ass?” I grinned. “No, it's over with. Ask Seth. He was there as my back up because someone forgot to take him home again.” Seth nodded. He was wearing a pair of my smaller jean shorts and a nice looking off white button up. Not a bad look on him with his dark skin except the shirt was a bit too big. “How many hits did the guy get in?” I asked Seth. “Just the one, the rest was more like you were dancing with him.” I tried to hide my smirk because that was probably what it did look like to him. He did not even have to lie, which he was bad at, but he knew what not to say. He lived by the rule of “best to keep silent, and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” “So you whooped him? Good.” I got up and motioned Steven over like I always did when I wanted his help on something. “What's up bro?” I kept a smile on my face as I said “If you ever lay a hand on Seth again because your ass gets turned down I will beat you so bloody they will have to use your dental records to ID you.” The color drained out of his face. He wanted to deny it or excuse himself, but I fixed him with a steady stare. “Are we clear?” He nodded. I clapped him on the back. “Thanks bro,” I said with false cheer. I guess the acting lessons were paying off. “C'mon little bro. We have history.” Once out of earshot Seth looked up at me. “Will he listen?” “I hope so, you little lip reader. For your and his sake, I hope so.” “Why do you always stick up for me?” he asked. “Honestly? Because you don't do it for yourself. It's the same with Hector and that night. He could not fight back, so someone had to help. And Jason that night. I guess I just don't think it's very nice or cool to pick on someone who can't fight back. You get it?” “Like that mean Mister Gutierrez who kept hitting his daughter and Mama went after him with a frying pan.” I had been over at his house dropping him off when Steven had not and witnessed a massacre via non-stick Teflon coated cooking wear. “Exactly. Your Mama was just doing something for someone who could not do it for themselves.” He nodded like he got it now. He also had that strange lucid look in his eyes like his brain was working a puzzle where only he saw the pieces. Drama was just that. All of them came over to admire my shiner and ask how it happened. “I was helping a friend and got this as a reward.” Hector's mouth worked a few times like a fish out of water and then he went into the wings to start dragging set pieces in. Sarah, who probably knew how I got it, watched with amusement in her eyes. All the girls would come over and tell me what a great guy I was to help a friend and take a punch for him. It took every ounce of acting power not to laugh at how ridiculous it all was. I was able to extract myself from their worried clutches to help Hector move some of the heavier pieces. “Friend, huh?” “Would you rather me have told the complete truth? What would they say to that?” “That you were stupid to help me when they know how klutzy I am.” He did not seem too happy with me right then. I had about enough of the attitude so when no one was watching I grabbed him by his shirt front and dragged him into the hall. He was so shocked that he could not utter a word. “Listen. I have been trying my damnedest to be nice, to make up for all the shit I put you through.” His eyes were as big as saucers as I backed him against a wall. “I have been taking your tactless but true comments all month and waiting for even the smallest hint that what I've been doing has changed the way you think of me. I have been hoping you would see all of this not being your friend was bullshit. That I wanted to be your friend.” His mouth hung open like bear trap. “But no. You did not see it, so you know what, I'm going to tell you something I have been waiting for years to say.” I was almost shouting and I clamped down so I did not. My jaw clenched as I ground my teeth to stop what I knew would be the most uncool thing for me to do...I would not cry in front of him. “I'm sorry.” By the stunned look in his eyes it was not what he had been expecting at all. “I am so damned sorry I put you through hell. I'm sorry you saw the military brat, homophobic, dip shit, dumb fuck moron that first day in school when you wanted to talk to me. I'm sorry I could not stop them from giving you that limp.” I wiped my eyes as my lower lip began to tremble. So much for coolness. “I'm sorry I've been everything I hate! I'm sorry for man handling you just now.” I was in tears and he just stood there with his mouth hanging slightly open. “I am so, so sorry about the lake and how I said things after to make you think I did not want to be your friend because dammit it's all I think about. Making up with you and letting you know I was not that guy any more.” There, the demon had been summoned. I had declared that I wanted to be his friend so badly that if he did not know by now that I wanted more he was a blind fool. “So now it's on you. I've said what you told me to save when you showed up on my doorstep with a cane and stutter. I've saved it long enough. It's done. The next move is yours.” I ran back into the auditorium and grabbed my bag and ran out the back exit before anyone could get a word in edgewise. I ran to my dorm and slammed the door, put the bar in place and fell onto my bed. I had said way too much, told him somethings I never wanted him to find out. But it was out there now and I could not take them back. I was not crying when I got back to my room, I was past the tears and into a numbed state that just made me feel tired and lethargic. Why, oh why had I even opened my big mouth? And why had I grabbed him like that? He's probably telling Sarah right now that I was no different than last year and it has all been an act. I had screwed up every chance I had with him. Someone knocked on the door but I just lay there wishing I could go back in time. I would stop the Senator from being shot thus stop my being shipped to JROTC which would mean I would have been in a different school and would never have met Hector and made his life hell. “Justice, it's Sarah, open up sweetie.” I lifted my head and then got up and opened the door. She rushed in and closed the door behind her and locked it. Great, she's going to kill me and I couldn't even call for help because she barred the door. “What's wrong, sweetie?” “Wrong? My entire life is wrong. I'm in love with a guy I just threw up against the wall and yelled at while apologizing at the same time.” I went and sat on the bed and she sat next to me. “I am so mixed up inside right now I don't know what to feel. I'm so pissed at him and his attitude that I want to smack some sense into him, but the attitude is my fault and my stupid pride. I finally got to apologize for all the things I've done to him and I love him, Sarah. I'm so scared that he's going to really hate me now. I tossed him around like a rag doll so easily. It was absurd how easy it was to do and it scares me because now he will only remember the bad stuff and everything I have been trying to do has just been shit on and thrown out the window only to boomerang back and slap me across the face. “And you're probably here to kill me because he told you everything and it only proves I'm the asshole of the century. You locked the door so I could not leave and you will lure me in with false worry and slit my throat or smother me or some other hideous way to die.” I stopped when she laughed. I turned my head to look at her. “You have been hanging out in drama too much. Justice, I'm not here to kill you or do anything other than find out what is wrong with the two of you. Hector's hysterical and I could not get more than the word stupid out of him while he banged his head on the wall. So I came to the one place you could get away from everyone. And when I checked the cafeteria that Mexican chulo you're always hanging with said he saw you headed towards the dorms.” Little turncoat. I had never taken Spanish so I did not know what a chulo was. Probably another word for guy. All guy words end in O, right? “So I take it then that you blurted out that he's the reason you've changed?” I nodded. “Well good. Maybe it will be his wake up call and maybe he'll stop being so stupid and see how much you work every second to better who you are. I wish I had your drive to be a better person.” “Sarah, you will always be a better person than me.” “That is so sweet. Untrue, and I think that your stupor is clouding your brain, but sweet.” I smiled a bit. “Does he know the rest?” “If he doesn't then he's blind. God let him be blind.” She looked at me quizzically. “That way if he still does not want me as a friend it won't be because... because he's not attracted to me.” She laughed at me. “I hate you,” I said pitifully. That made her laugh harder. “What is so funny?” “Have you seen the guys he likes?” Only one, and I told her so. “He likes jocks. The bigger the arms and chest the better for him. And you, dear Justice, have both of those in spades.” I grinned shyly, her words staring to break apart this stupor. “There is only one last hurdle for you isn't there. He has to forgive you.” I nodded. “Well, sounds like if he doesn't he'll be the one missing out and being a dick.” I snorted. “What?” “Nothing, it's a nasty comment.” “Tell me.” “Well, we are what we eat, aren't we?” She clapped and rolled back on the bed shrieking in laughter. “You know that makes you a pussy, right?” I fell back beside her and we laughed for almost an hour. Turned out she was a cow, her favorite thing to eat being hamburgers. It was one of those afternoons where everything was funny. I was so emotionally drained that I found even the dumbest thing hilarious. The Crowd thought I was high. I missed drama, but then I was seriously thinking about dropping the class and taking band. I did not want to be rejected. “That is just the most retarded thing you have ever said, Justice Leonard Anderson. If you drop out of drama I will never forgive you. Not for the past, that's almost gone, but for working so damn hard only to let that idiot drive you away. The Justice I know is no coward, so do not even think it buster.” She drove her finger into my chest. “You are trying to kill me with the finger of death. Help! Help!” She tried to glare as I spun in circles looking for someone to help me. Tried, but it turned into a look of fond silliness. “God you two are perfect for each other. Both idiots.” When I trudged into the cafeteria Seth looked up at me with concern. I love the kid, I do. He is just like a little Spaniel puppy that loves me no matter what and wants nothing more than to see me happy. “Are you okay, Justice? That pretty senorita from high school was looking for you. It seemed important that you see her.” Pretty girl? Oh, Sarah. He thought she was pretty? Well, she did have a killer smile and a dynamite attitude, and Seth always did like his girls plump. “Yeah, I'm fine now. So, you think Sarah's pretty, huh? Want me to introduce you?” I nudged him with my elbow and he grinned and shook his head. “She would not want me. I'm not smart enough for her.” His accent really comes out when he is feeling bad about himself. “Bullshit, but if you ever want me to, I will.” He seemed to like that thought very well because his eyes glazed over as his entire brain cell was consumed by her. I laughed at the dreamy eyed look to his face and could not stop. I had the weekend to stress over what he would say, what he would do. I do not deal well with waiting. I have to do something. So I did. I called up Meg and told her in no uncertain terms I was kidnapping her for all of Saturday and she could tell whatever boy toy she had seduced that I was taking his place. “Really? And I'm supposed to drop whatever plans I have to go listen to you piss and moan about Hec?” “That and a shopping trip.” “Did you say shopping?” Bingo. She said she would be in Redding as fast as she could get here legally. “Good. I got one more call to make. See you later.” I called one last number. “Sarah's House of Insanity, some are here some are not, this is Sarah, how may I direct your call?” “Cute.” “Hey sweetie! You called me? Wow, the highlight of my life.” She sounded happy that I called her. Sarcasm aside. “I doubt it, but if you're really good I will tell you the name of a guy who has a crush on you. I'm serious about that too.” “Nuh uh! Someone likes me?” She was so shocked and so disbelieving that I chuckled. “Shocked me too. Not that he picked you, but that he picked any one.” “Kinda a compliment but almost rude. You've been listening to the Idiot too much. I'll be good so I might get a date. So, what's up?” “You, me and Meg are going shopping today, all day.” “Really? This had better not be for sports gear. I will totally go ape shit on you.” “Nope, not unless you want a jersey to sleep in or some strange girl cult ritual.” She snorted on the other side of the line. “This would not be a 'I need to distract myself' outing would it?” “Bingo. I'm too chicken shit to call him.” “Good thing too because he's not even answering my calls. He's gone into seclusion for the weekend and when he does this no one can get him out of his room. So, where are we going?” “You'll see.” I grinned evilly as I heard her grinding her teeth in an effort not to yell at me. She hates surprises. Once Meg got to my dorm we swung by Sarah's house to pick her up. “Is this a ladies day out or what?” she asked when she jumped into the front seat. She would not fit into the back one and Meg knew that ahead of time. “Har dee har har. Even if I was a girl, which thankfully I am not,” I said with so much conviction they laughed, “I wouldn't be no damn lady. Next stop, Redding airport.” Meg was suddenly grinning. “Another one of those crisis days?” Meg asked. “You could say that. You tell her, Sarah, I don't want to be crying while I'm driving.” So she did. She told her what had been happening since the last time I had spoken to her. All that drama that was my life and how much she was going to give “the Idiot” a piece of her mind when he was done thinking. Then to put it into a lighter note she told Meg about her secret admirer. “And Justice won't tell me who it is.” “Do I know him?” Meg asked. “Don't know, but Sarah does. She's known him longer than she's known me.” Sarah kept grilling me for hints as we got on the plane, my father's plane that I had at my disposal anytime I wanted to use it. I'd used it more than he had. “I'm not telling you unless you're good.” She pouted. “Okay, I'll tell...Meg.” Her hopes had soared only to come crashing back down. I whispered into Meg's ear. “Really? Well Sarah, he's not ugly by any measure. I'm not sure about his personality, but his body is nice and I do trust Justice's judge of his character.” I grinned as I passed out sodas. Seth would be turning so red to hear the Meg, the girl every guy in college wanted to bone, thought he had a nice body. The entire trip took us to Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills with a stop on Fifth Avenue, Sacramento, Ashland Oregon and finally back to Redding. I had expected to spend a lot of money since I was footing the bill with my own money, but I was surprised how little they spent on themselves. When this had become a day that revolved around me I did not know, but somewhere between The Hills and Fifth Ave the girls had begun to pick out clothes for me and insisted I buy at least one they each picked out from every place we stopped. They insisted that I model everything, and by everything I mean anything they thought would go good with my pale complexion, raven hair and muscles. I tried on every black silk shirt, burgundy wine jacket and sapphire blue bolero they had and, I feel really ridiculous to say this, but they were picking out clothes that made me look like the amount I was spending for them. None of it went with the black eye that was already fading to a pale yellow, but there was one button up that was a pale cream made of velvet that was so perfect for me that I could have sworn it was tailored to my frame. Somehow, during that trip, I had not thought about Hector or my life, just seeing their reactions to what I wore. I think that was their goal, and the goal of women's shopping sprees. To forget the reason you're spending a day among friends and doing something that was solely about making yourself feel good in your body. I could be wrong, but probably not. Monday I was dressed to kill. I wore that cream shirt with a caramel brocade silk vest with gold and emerald buttons, chocolate silk slacks and caramel shoes. I had gotten my longish hair cut Saturday. It was still long in the bangs that fell almost into my eyes but got shorter and a bit spiky in the back. I admit I liked the way I looked when I gazed into the mirror. The colors brought out what little tone I had to my skin and set off my brown eyes like glistening gems. When I left my dorm room every guy and girl in the hall stared. They were used to seeing me in jeans and t-shirts and my tennies. It would have been perfect for a slow mo moment with every head turning to follow my progress to the stairs and down them. I passed Kai in the hall and he looked at me with a big grin on his face. “Look out ladies, Justice is hot today.” “You know it,” I said and gave him a high five. I swung open the doors and stepped into the morning sun. God I know I looked good because I heard footsteps behind me as the girls dorm spilled out every occupant to gawk and a few even whistled and asked for my number, if I was single and whether I wore boxers or briefs. I stopped and turned, giving them my most heartbreaking smile and said, “I'm in the student directory, I am single, and neither. I prefer bikinis.” The girls screamed and cat called and I ate it up...on the outside. There was only one person I wanted to impress. I just walked by the Crowd as if I did not know them. “Holy shit!” said Steven. I paid him no mind as I strolled across the quad with one hand in my pocket like I was in a fashion show and I was the main event. Sarah and I planned it all out. She and Hector would be sitting on the benches as I walked by. “Let him get a good look at what he's giving up if he does not wise up.” Her words. I saw them sitting as planned and I got a good look at Hector before he saw me. He had been thinking. And not eating, not sleeping, had not shaved which showed he could grow a better beard than I could. He looked like pan fried hell while I looked like rotisserie heaven. I schooled my features as Sarah's jaw dropped right on cue. “Now that is hot,” I heard her say to him. She was honestly impressed too, no acting there. He turned to look and his eyes just about bugged out of his head. I think he stopped breathing. “Hey Sarah. Nice dress.” It was nice. I had picked it out for her knowing it would look good on her voluptuous body. “Thanks, Justice. You look good.” I smiled and just walked past. “Doesn't he look good,” she asked Hector in what was not meant for my ears. “Am I dreaming or is he...fuck he looks...” I had my answer. He was speechless, a very rare thing for him. Every woman's head turned, even a few I knew were lesbians, which Hector saw every one of them. “Sarah...” “Just tell him. He's actually great once you get to know him and forget what he was like.” “I couldn't talk to him now. I can't even stop staring at him how would I get a word out.” I grinned to myself. Mission accomplished. “He would not want to associate with me now anyway. I look like hell and...fuck.” “Give him the chance.” I turned the corner and lost the rest of the conversation. When I sauntered into drama everyone had either seen or heard about my makeover and were waiting to see it close up. The set had been in place for the dance scene and the guys had to choose partners. There were no lines in this, no set partners outside of the main characters, so I walked right up to Hector and Sarah and held out my hand to her. “Do you have a partner yet? If not may I have this dance?” I ignored Hector until she took my hand. “You need to either grow it or shave it,” I said in the same tones he had been using on me and escorted Sarah to one of the spots for the dance. “You are doing very well, Justice. He is so stunned he's been quiet all day.” “Well? My stomach is full of knotted butterflies and I know you can feel how sweaty my palms are. What if he doesn't talk to me?” “He will. Just give him some time.” The music started and we danced. I was a good dancer before that weekend but Sarah and Meg had me better my skills. Sarah, for all her bulk, was so light on her feet and could dance circles around me that she made me look like I was the leading role and not just the deputy. Hector was not in this scene so he watched. I saw him. His eyes never left us for a moment. “You know he's...” “Yup,” I replied, popping the P. When the dance ended I bowed over her hand and kissed it gently. She colored prettily. “Thanks for the stunning review too.” “I see what a dramatic change you have made. He has too, but he's got nightmares to deal with while all I had was issues.” We went through it many times, me claiming Sarah as my dance partner for the play just by only dancing with her. “People will think we are dating.” “I could do far worse than you, Sarah.” She smiled a genuine heartfelt smile and I returned it. “Maybe he'll get jealous and call you out for a cat fight over me. That would be hot.” She laughed and slapped my shoulder. Let him see us smiling and laughing and being friends. Friday was the first time I gave him the opportunity to talk to me. Since he was not making the next move I was giving him to opening. I sat in the back with my laptop working on my skit. I was learning more and more every day and I kept refining the pace and blocking. I had not changed the dialog one bit, it did not need it, but the rest was still being worked out. “It looks much better now, Justice. I would say you will get an A.” I looked up into those blue eyes with a grin. “You think so? I've had a lot to learn this semester and with Meg's and Sarah's help I think I'll actually enjoy this class.” I looked at him closely. He had sculpted his beard and he looked very nice, very sexy. The short hair framed his lips which were very luscious and full and called attention to them. “Nice beard. A little uneven on the left side, but once it grows in you'll have some guys checking you out.” “Thanks.” I could tell he was wanting to say something to me, but he could not. I was still dressing in the outfits the girls had picked out for me and I would be until I wore the last one on February fourteenth. If he had not made his move by Valentine's day I was going to really be hurt and would grunge out for the next month. “How are your lines coming?” “I have plenty of time for those.” His brows pulled down or a moment as he was about to tell me to study them but he just walked away. I sighed and went back to my skit. It was the day before Valentine's Day and he had not said anything else to me, not even to tell me to study my lines, and I was giving up hope of his ever being my friend. There was only so much I could do and still retain what little pride I had left. I had done what I could to make amends, everything short of telling him I wanted to be with him, and there was nothing left to do. Almost nothing. I had one last ditch effort. I had signed up to deliver the roses and valentines all over campus and I had three surprises set up. Since the fund raiser was done through the student executive body, and Kai was in charge, I asked him for three specific deliveries. “Have a couple of ladies on the line?” “No. I'm trying to get two people hooked up and the other is just a special friend.” “Sure, Justice. Gimme the names...” “Nope, I'll just take all of them for those people.” He shook his head but nodded. Step one complete. I went to the cafeteria and found Seth sitting by himself because the other guys had class right then. Since I knew Seth's schedule I knew when and where to find him. “Hey little bro, I need your help.” He perked up. I had never uttered those word to him and he looked so over joyed to finally be asked that he almost was ready to jump over the moon. “There is this girl, and I want to give her a rose, but I don't know what to say to her.” “You? Justice, you've had more women that I have. You've had more women than I know!” “Yeah, but I've never felt like this before. I know lines, but I want something from inside and I can't get it out. What would you say?” He thought about it. “I'd tell her she was the stars in my eyes, the beat of my heart, and the reason I get up in the morning.” My mouth actually dropped. Where had that come from? God it would work on the most frigid of women. Hell it was working on me because the way his eyes sparkled when he said it...he was just so adorable! “That bad?” “No, I am so damn impressed. Could you write that on this? She knows my hand writing and I kinda want it to be like a secret admirer thing.” I handed him the card and he wrote it in a very neat, very small script. “You are the best, little bro. Thank you so much.” I gave him a guy hug and went off to the next part of my sinister plan. I found Sarah just coming out of French class and rushed her. “Sarah, I need your help.” “Sure.” “I need you to write something on this card. When they deliver the flowers tomorrow I want it delivered to me so Hector thinks I've got a secret admirer. I would use my own handwriting but I write like guy.” “You will be the death of me,” she said grinning but she took the card. “How mushy?” “Like you think I'm cute and want to get to know me better.” She thought about it and then put down a few words. “You're a life saver.” I gave her a kiss on the cheek and went running off. I think she was stuck there for a minute in shock. I had one more stop to make and then I had to turn the money in for the roses. This would be fun. Friday. Valentine's Day. Judgment Day for me. I had a gross of roses to deliver all over campus from 9am to 11am and I had to time it perfectly to catch my surprise victims in the class they shared. I walked in to math wearing my burgundy wine suit with black silk shirt and wine tie. I had been saving it for today. “It looks like someone is getting flowers,” I said and walked over to Seth. “Looks like you got one, little bro.” He went wide eyed as I handed him the red rose and the card. His smile was huge as he read it and looked up at me. “Don't ask, I don't know who sent it. The only other one in here is for you Sarah.” I went over and handed her a red rose and a card that said “You are the stars in my eyes, the beat of my heart, and the reason I get up in the morning. Your secret admirer.” She read it twice before she looked at me. “I've been good, Justice.” There was more than a little whine in her voice. “Yep. Here is your first clue. He is in this class,” I whispered to her. I left before she could ask for more. I had the biggest grin on my face. It had been totally worth it to see the looks on their faces. One last one to deliver and I had to hoof it over to the other side of campus to get there in time. I made it there with a few minutes to spare. Hector sat in the aisle seat next to the windows and I had to cross in front of the entire class to hand him the two dozen red roses from me. “You had to have class out here.” I handed him the card and then the roses. I made sure he was looking up at me when I handed them to him, trying to put all my feelings into my eyes so he would know they were from me. @~To a wonderful man whose heart has stolen mine and I hope it never gives it back~@ Your not so secret admirer He looked up at me and back at the card a few times before I turned away and walked out of the class. I leaned against the wall outside and let out my breath. There. It was done. I had told him and I hoped he got the message. I had not made it obvious but he was smart and observant. I hope he got it...and I hoped he did not. Drama came around and when I got there I saw one of the other deliverers there with an entire basket load of flowers. “Finally! Justice these are all for you.” I dropped my bag in a seat and looked at the six dozen roses. There were dozens of red ones, dozens of pink ones and a single white one. With them came a stack of cards, each one signed by a girl, or in the case of one pink rose, a guy named Joey. I knew six Joeys and I did not think it was any of them, but I could not be sure. Either way, I would not be looking for any Joey when I wanted a Hector. “Thanks Stacy.” I saw a pink rose from Sarah and gave her a hug. But that single white rose was staring out at me. I looked at the card and then searched the hall for its sender. I found him sitting by himself and looking at me. The card was simple: Truce and Peace, Hector I went over to him with the basket in my arms and looked at him. “Cool,” was all I said and walked away to put that huge bouquet with my bag and removed my jacket finally. He had made his move and I was able to relax. Back to square one, but a new square.
  36. 1 point
    Second Chances By Andrew Todd Chapter 8 Ace, Jesse and Diego were waiting in front of the main house to meet their arriving friends. When the black SUV stopped Zak, Dusty, Spin, Devon, CJ, Danny and Josh spilled out. “Hey, guys!!” Ace grinned. “Welcome to Rancho Del Cielo.” He gestured to Diego. “This is Diego, his dad’s the new owner and he’s been our guide for the last few days.” Diego stepped forward. “My father sends his regrets that he is unable to greet you in person--he had a last minute business trip come up. He hopes to be back before you leave.” Ace and Jesse introduced everyone to Diego and then they led the newcomers to the bunkhouse. Ace showed Spin to the room he would share with Mattie, while Jesse brought Josh to Casey’s room and Diego showed Zak and Dusty, CJ and Danny and Devon to their rooms. Devon knew he would probably end up with Ace, but he simply followed Diego to his assigned room. After everyone was settled they all met in the great room. “Hey, when is Mattie getting back?” Spin asked anxiously. “Well, they left about two hours ago, so they should be back in an hour or two,” Diego answered. “Where’s Dylan?” Zak asked. “Ernesto called and said that Dylan had decided at the last minute to go with Mattie,” Jesse answered. Zak walked over to Jesse and whispered to him, “He didn’t wait for you?” Jesse shook his head. “No, he wasn’t even interested in going when we talked about it last night. I don’t know if Mattie talked him into it so he didn’t have to go alone.” “Why wouldn’t he have asked you?” Zak asked. “You and Dylan never go anywhere apart and Mattie’s closer to you than he is to Dylan.” “Well, Ace and I were out with Diego early this morning and Dylan slept in, so maybe Mattie grabbed him at the last minute.” Zak nodded. “I guess so.” Zak thought more about it and thought something didn’t seem right. Diego’s cell phone rang and he stepped into the entryway to answer it. He returned a few moments later looking very concerned. “Ace!” he called. “We need to get to the main barn, something is wrong.” “What?” Ace asked. “I’m not sure, let’s go,” Diego called as he ran for the front door, all the other boys on his heels. When they reached the main barn, they found Casey sitting on a bench; he was holding an ice pack to the back of his head. One of the hands came over to Diego and began speaking frantically in Spanish. CJ picked up on the conversation and began asking the hand questions. The hand tried to answer, but most of CJ’s questions were answered with a head shake. Josh went over and knelt by Casey. “Case, what happened to you?” Josh asked. Casey shook his head. “I’m not sure. Ernesto asked me to check something with him in one of the tack rooms and then I woke up on the floor with my hands and feet bound. I’m not even sure how long I was there before Santiago there found me.” “Where’s Mattie and Dylan?” Danny asked Casey. “I don’t know. I was supposed to go with Mattie and Ernesto to the other ranch,” Casey answered. “Dylan wasn’t supposed to go with us.” “Ernesto called Diego and said that Dylan had decided to go with you,” Ace explained. Casey shook his head. “No, that’s not right. I saw Dylan in the bunkhouse when Mattie and I were leaving to meet Ernesto; he was planning to meet up with you, Jesse and Diego.” By now, everyone had gathered around Casey, except CJ and Diego who were still in conversation with Santiago, the ranch hand who had found Casey. After a few more minutes, CJ and Diego joined the group. “Something is definitely not right,” CJ said. “No one has seen Mattie or Dylan or this Ernesto in several hours and there is another hand missing who worked very closely with Ernesto. The SUV they were supposed to take is gone as well, so everyone assumed that Ernesto had gone to the ranch with Mattie and Casey.” “Has anyone tried to call this other ranch?” Danny asked. Diego was just disconnecting his phone. “I just called the rancho and no one from here showed up there today.” “So no one knows where they are or what the hell is going on?!” Spin shouted. Zak grabbed Spin’s arm and pulled him to the side. “Spin, calm down,” Zak whispered to his best friend. “Shouting and getting excited is not going to help Mattie or Dylan. Let CJ figure out what’s going on, ok?” Spin nodded and looked down. Zak grabbed him in a hug; he knew Spin was all mouth and bluster most of the time, but he also knew Spin loved Mattie and was scared for him. Zak looked over at Jesse who was wrapped between Ace and Devon. Jesse had lost so much in a short time, Zak didn’t know if he could survive losing Dylan as well. CJ went over and grabbed Ace and Danny went to get Josh. The four and Diego went into a nearby office. “Ace, call your dad and tell him to lock down the ranch and call all the guys back.” “Sure, but why?” CJ lowered his voice. “There’s a good chance my uncle is behind this.” “What?” “We didn’t want to alarm Mattie or any of you guys, but my uncle was planning to hurt Mattie to get control of his inheritance. We found out because he tried to get Pete to help him and Pete told my dad. Uncle Juan was arrested and Natalia, who was helping him, was banished to South America. Juan’s trial is scheduled to start right after we leave. Mattie disappearing is too much of a coincidence. I can only assume that this Ernesto was working for my uncle.” Diego shook his head. “I can’t believe that. Ernesto has been working for us since my father purchased the rancho; he’s always been so loyal.” “Where did he work before?” Danny asked. “He was here when we got here.” “But he didn’t work for my grandfather,” CJ stated. “I knew his foreman. So it’s possible that Juan hired him to make sure he had an inside man here and then when he found out Mattie was coming here, the opportunity was too much for him to pass up.” Ace took his phone and walked away to make his call. “Dad?” “Hey, Ace, how’s Spain?” “Well, it was good until today.” “What’s wrong?” “We think Mattie and Dylan have been kidnapped.” “What?!?” Ace explained what had transpired and that CJ wanted the ranch locked down and all guards recalled. “Ace, let me talk to CJ.” “CJ!!” Ace called. “My dad wants to talk to you.” CJ took the phone. “Sarge?” “CJ, do you need me over there?” “No, my dad has security people over here that will be more familiar with the area. I need you to keep an eye on things in case my uncle has plans for the ranch as well.” “Do you want me to contact Dylan’s parents?” “Let’s hold off for just a bit, until we are 100 percent sure that something has happened to them.” “Ok, but as a parent, I can’t keep this from them indefinitely.” “I understand. Give me a few hours and I’ll call you back.” “Ok. Take care and get those boys back.” “We will.” CJ had no sooner disconnected Ace’s phone than his own phone started to ring. “Hello…Mother…He did…we thought that would be the case…what does he want?…of course…you and father stay put and make sure you have a full security detail there and on Idgie…we will…whatever it takes.” CJ disconnected the call. “Someone claiming to represent my uncle called my father,” he said seriously. “They have Mattie and Dylan. They want Pete to change his testimony. Without that they can’t convict my uncle and then they want Juan reinstated as executor of the estate and for him to have full control of Mattie’s inheritance.” Danny wrapped his arm around CJ’s waist. “You think they’re going to kill Mattie, don’t you?” CJ looked at Danny and nodded. “There’s no reason to keep him alive if we do as they ask. The only way my uncle gets control of the money is if Mattie’s dead.” Ace spoke up. “What about Dylan?” CJ shook his head. “I don’t know. They mentioned that they had him. They told my parents they had their son and grandson, so maybe they think Dylan is Jesse, which may help keep him safe for the time being. “ Josh pulled Diego to one side. “Diego, it’s pretty isolated around here. There can’t be too many places they could safely hide two teenage boys in just a couple hours.” Diego nodded. “True. The rancho itself covers a lot of land.” He turned and dug through a nearby desk. He pulled several rolled-up sheets from a drawer. He unrolled them and spread them out on the desk. “This is the rancho and the surrounding area.” He studied the map for a few minutes and then pointed to an area on the outskirts of the rancho. “HERE!!” he exclaimed. Everyone gathered around the desk. “On the other side of these mountains, there are several deserted buildings,” Diego stated. “I believe at one point, Mattie’s grandfather had planned to build a small town for the workers, but when he became ill, the plans were dropped. It’s very secluded and would be a good place to hide out.” CJ and Josh turned the map around and examined it closely. CJ nodded. “I remember this area. Grandfather showed it to me and Mattie the last time we came out. It would be a great hiding place and they would see a vehicle or helicopter coming from miles away.” He looked up. “Diego, Ace, I want you to go back out with the others. Let them know what’s going on and keep them calm. I’m going to call my father and get his security people here so we can proceed.” Diego and Ace went out to the barn where the other boys were all pacing around. When they saw Ace and Diego everyone gathered around. “What the hell is going on?!” Spin demanded. Ace looked from Spin to Jesse. Spin was red with rage and Jesse was pale from the stress. Devon was practically holding Jesse up. Ace walked over to Jesse and wrapped his arm around him. “Mattie and Dylan have been kidnapped,” he stated. “Mattie’s uncle is behind it; he’s in prison awaiting trial and they want Mattie’s brother Pete to change his testimony so that he gets off.” “WHAT?!?!” several voices cried at once. Ace tried his best to explain what was going on and what they knew about Mattie’s and Dylan’s disappearance and Diego’s idea about where they might be held. “Then let’s get over there!!” Spin blurted. As he started for the barn door he was grabbed from behind by Dusty. “Let go, Dusty!! We need to find Mattie.” “And we will, Spin,” CJ said as he came out of the office followed by Danny and Josh. “We just talked to my father’s security people as well as Senor Montoya. Some of my father’s men are on their way by helicopter; they should be here within the hour and then they will formulate a plan to find Mattie and Dylan.” “We can’t wait that long,” Spin argued as he struggled in Dusty’s grip. CJ walked over to Spin and nodded at Dusty who released Spin. CJ grabbed Spin in a hug. “I know you’re worried about Mattie, I am too.” He looked over at Jesse who was holding onto Danny like a life preserver. “And Dylan as well, but we need to be patient and do this right so they come back to us safe. If we rush into it someone could get hurt or worse.” He looked down at Spin. “I know you love Mattie and I know he’s gonna do everything he can to get back to you. But you need to be strong.” Spin hugged CJ tight and wept. CJ held him close and led him away from the other boys. Zak followed after CJ and Spin and helped to comfort his friend, while Ace and Danny held tight to Jesse. After a few minutes, everyone headed towards the bunkhouse. Zak, Ace and Josh took Spin, Jesse and Casey up to their rooms, while everyone else gathered in the great room to wait. CJ received a phone call and nodded to Danny, who ran upstairs to get Josh. Josh and CJ left to meet with Mr. Alvarez’s security team. A while later CJ came back into the great room; by that time everyone except Casey who was resting in his room had gathered. “Ok, guys, Josh and I are going with my father’s security team. We’re going to fly out and land in a clearing about five miles from the compound and then hike in after dark. Danny’s going to stay here with you guys and I’ll relay information to him,” CJ said. “You guys need to stay close to the main buildings here. There is extra security all over, but I don’t want anyone taking any chances since we don’t know if anyone else on staff is working for my uncle.” It was late afternoon when CJ and Josh took off with Mr. Alvarez’s security team. Diego gave the new arrivals an abbreviated tour of the rancho, but there was very little enthusiasm amongst the group. Diego arranged for his father’s cook to prepare dinner for the boys. Since no one was particularly hungry, he had her set up a buffet table in the great room where people could grab a bite when they felt hungry. As the evening wore on, most of the boys retired to their rooms until only Diego and Ace remained in the great room. Ace was lying on one of the couches with his eyes closed, trying not to worry about Mattie and Dylan, while Diego was rummaging through some papers he had retrieved earlier from the main house. “Madre De Dios!!” Diego exclaimed jumping from his seat. Ace bolted upright. “What? What?” he said sleepily. Diego ran over the couch that Ace was sitting on and sat beside him. “I have been so stupid, my friend,” Diego said solemnly. “I was wrong.” “Wrong about what?” “Mattie and Dylan. They are not here.” He pointed to the spot he had found earlier. “They are here.” He pointed to a spot almost directly across the property from the spot he had originally pointed out. “How do you know they’re there?” Ace asked looking at the new location. “When Mattie’s grandfather was building the housing that I sent CJ to, he was also building some warehouses and a power plant over here. These buildings are abandoned as well.” “What makes you sure they’re in those buildings?” “I don’t think they are in those buildings,” Diego said assuredly. “I know exactly what building they are in. There is a warehouse that was built into the side of the mountain. It was made for cold storage. There is a garage where they could hide several vehicles and since most of it is below ground it would be hard to detect them.” “How far is it from there to where CJ and the guards are headed?” “Probably over an hour by ground. Visibility around those mountains would be very bad at night, nearly impossible for a helicopter.” Diego thought for a moment. “But we could take horses and ride into the mountains here. There are several entrances that we could use to enter the warehouse and rescue Mattie and Dylan.” “We?!” “Yes, you and I,” Diego said expectantly. “And me.” Both boys turned to see Jesse standing in the doorway. Ace stood up and shook his head. “No way, Jesse,” he said as Jesse walked towards him. “There is no chance in hell that I am going to let you come with us.” “Ace, you’ve been teaching me self-defense and shooting since January. You’re not going to leave me behind while you go looking for Dylan and Mattie. If anything happened to him and I didn’t try to help…” Jesse gasped as his voice quivered and tears came to his eyes. Ace grabbed Jesse and pulled the younger boy to him. “I know, I know.” He hugged Jesse tight and then looked over at Diego. “Ok, Diego, if we’re gonna do this we need to get going, before everyone is down here. This won’t work if we drag ten guys out to look for them.” Ace thought for a moment. “Do you have any weapons here?” Diego grinned as he stood up from the couch and signaled Ace to follow him. Ace kept his arm wrapped around Jesse as the two followed Diego to a door in the back of the house. Diego punched a code into the keypad by the door and it slid open. Ace whistled as he looked at the weapons cache that filled the small room. “What do you have all this for?” Ace asked incredulously. “My father has long been afraid that what happened to Mattie and Dylan would happen to me,” Diego explained. “So he has had me trained to use all of these as well as in many types of self-defense.” For the next ten minutes, Ace’s military life took over and he outfitted himself as well as Diego and Jesse with an array of small firearms that they could carry easily on their person. He also grabbed a couple of rifles and plenty of ammunition. Just when he thought they were ready, Ace was once again surprised when Diego opened a small drawer. Inside were several KA-BAR knives in sheathes. Ace grabbed three and handed one to Jesse and one to Diego. The boys all attached the knives to their belts. Jesse was also given a backpack with other provisions. Before they left, Ace ran upstairs to get a couple heavy jackets for him and Jesse. The mountains would be chilly at night. He stopped by Dusty and Zak’s room and knocked. Dusty came to the door. “Hey, Ace,” he said quietly. “Zak finally nodded off, what’s up?” Ace quickly told Dusty what they were attempting. Dusty shook his head. “Are you sure about this? Wouldn’t it be easier if we all went?” “No,” Ace answered. “It would be easier if it was just me and Diego. I’m not even sure if this is the right spot--it probably isn’t; but it’s worth checking out. I’d rather leave Jesse here, but he wouldn’t let us get ten feet from the ranch without telling someone.” “What do you want me to do?” “If you don’t hear from us by dawn, then let Danny know where we went. Diego says it will take a couple hours to ride out there.” Dusty answered hesitantly. “Ok, but be careful,” he warned. “Will do,” Ace said as he ran back downstairs. Diego led them out the back of the bunkhouse and towards a small barn where Ace and Jesse knew Diego’s personal horses were kept. There would be no hands there at this time of night, as Diego took care of his string of horses personally. Diego directed Ace and Jesse as to which horses they should get and he went to the stall of Domingo, his favorite of his horses. Within a few minutes all three boys had their horses saddled and they were ready to move out. They mounted up and Diego led them away from the compound at a walk. They did not want to awaken anyone, so they waited until they were far enough from the compound that the sound of hooves would not disturb anyone before they all kicked the horses into a run. *** Mattie hadn’t heard anyone come into the room since he had awakened a second time. He could hear someone else breathing in the room, but he hadn’t said anything in case it was Ernesto. He had recognized the foreman’s voice before he had been drugged a second time. He had let his head clear this time, before he tried anything. He started to remember what had happened at the ranch. One of the ranch hands had come to him to tell him Ernesto was running late. He remembered being grabbed from behind and a cloth being placed over his mouth and then he had awakened here. He felt the plastic ties digging into his wrists. He had been trying to pull his wrists apart for a while with little success. He finally decided that he needed to try and move around and get some idea of the layout of the room. He scooted along the floor slowly trying to feel as far as his arms could reach. “Who’s there?” he heard a familiar voice say. “Dylan? Is that you?” “Mattie? What happened? Where are we?” “I don’t know where we are, but I think we got grabbed by Ernesto.” “That makes sense,” Dylan answered. “When I was looking for Casey, I found him tied up in one of the tack rooms and then someone grabbed me from behind and knocked me out.” “Me, too,” Mattie said. “Are your wrists tied?” “Yes, it feels like plastic.” “I’m gonna try to scoot over to you and see if we can get them stretched or cut,” Mattie said as he slid in the direction of Dylan’s voice. Mattie bumped into Dylan. “There you are.” He chuckled. He felt his way around Dylan until they were back to back. “Just relax,” Mattie said. “Let me see if I can get yours loose--your wrists are skinnier than mine. Dylan sat as still as he could as Mattie pulled and pried and grabbed at the plastic bindings. Every few minutes he would have Dylan try to slip his wrists through. After working them for what seemed like hours, Dylan was finally able to slip one of his wrists free. He rubbed his raw wrist and then reached up and pulled the hood off his head. The room was dark and gloomy lit only by a bare bulb on the ceiling. Dylan turned around and grabbed the hood off of Mattie’s head. Mattie blinked as his eyes tried to focus. He looked up at Dylan and grinned. “Hey.” “Hey.” Dylan grinned back and hugged Mattie. Dylan looked around the room and saw some broken glass on the floor in a far corner. He crawled over to where the glass was and carefully picked up a piece and cut the bindings on his legs. He stood up and went back to Mattie and cut through his bindings. When he was free Mattie stood up and rubbed his wrists. He looked around the room. It was a large barren space. It looked like they were in some type of storage area or a warehouse. Mattie went over to check out the one door they could see. He turned the knob slowly and the door opened. Dylan was right behind him. “It’s not locked?” he asked. “They were probably confident that we would stay immobile,” Mattie replied. Mattie carefully peered out the door and seeing no one, signaled Dylan to follow him quietly. They entered a long hallway and started their search for a way out. *** Diego, Ace and Jesse had been riding for several hours when Diego called them to a stop. “We need to walk from here,” Diego announced. “It’s about another mile or so to the warehouse, and we can travel easier by foot. There should be enough trees and foliage to give us cover.” The boys quickly dismounted and tethered the horses to a fallen tree. There was plenty of grass around for the horses to graze on. They grabbed all the weapons they could comfortably carry and started walking. They walked for a while before they came to a dirt road carved into the wilderness. “We’re almost there,” Diego stated. “We can follow the road from here, but let’s stay along the tree line so we aren’t spotted.” They walked along the road until Diego again stopped them. He didn’t speak, only pointed to the entrance of the warehouse. There was a single guard posted. The guard appeared to be bored as he was not actually keeping watch anywhere in particular. Diego signaled to Ace who nodded. Ace picked up a large branch and carefully walked through the woods and found a spot to wait near the guard. When he saw Ace was in place, Jesse jumped on several broken branches. The noise they made brought the guard out of his daze. He lifted his rifle and walked towards the woods. Both Diego and Jesse had their guns trained on the guard. When the guard passed the spot where Ace waited, he stepped out and swung the branch like a club. He connected with the back of the guard’s head and the guard went down. Ace jumped forward and grabbed the guard’s gun. He made sure the guard was out cold and signaled to Diego and Jesse, who came out of the woods. Diego and Ace dragged the unconscious guard into the woods. Jesse took a length of rope from his backpack and tied the guard’s hands; he then placed a length of duct tape across his mouth. When the guard was securely out of the way, Diego had Jesse hand him the plans that he had in his backpack. Diego unfolded the plans and looked over his should to the entrance the guard had been watching. “Ok,” he whispered as they all bent over the plans. “We’re here. I would think they are probably holding Mattie and Dylan in one of these rooms.” He pointed to several large empty spaces on the plans. “They were set up to hold provisions, but would be large empty spaces now.” “Right, let’s stay together and check each one,” Ace said. “Diego, you’re more familiar with the layout so you take point, Jesse you stay in the middle and don’t make a move unless I tell you and I’ll take the rear.” Diego and Jesse nodded. “Good, let’s move.” The three scurried across the road to the warehouse entrance. Diego entered first and checked around, but saw no signs of life. Diego signaled the others to follow and they began methodically seeking out and searching the rooms that Diego had noted on the plans. As they checked each room, they became more and more frustrated that they were finding no sign of their friends. Ace knew that if there was a guard, there would have to be something worth guarding. He kept reminding Jesse of this as the younger boy became more disappointed. They entered one of the last rooms they had to check and Ace immediately knew that something had happened. He ran to the far corner of the room where there were some discarded plastic ties like police would use on suspects; there were also two stocking caps with patches sewn over the eyes and mouths. “Look,” he whispered to the others, as he held up the ties. “There was someone here.” Jesse ran over and looked around. He pointed to a spot on the floor. “Is that blood?” he asked nervously. Ace looked at the spot and then stood and wrapped his arm around Jesse. “Jesse, it’s just a little spot. It looks like they used that piece of glass to cut the ties, so someone probably got a small cut.” “So did they escape or…” Ace took Jesse’s face in his hands and looked him in the eyes. “Hey, until we hear otherwise, this is still a rescue mission. We need to assume they found a way out of this room and now we need to turn this place inside out to find them.” Diego pulled the plans back out and grabbed a small penlight to illuminate the map. “The biggest problem is that since we are underground, they aren’t going to know what direction is out,” he said. “Let’s assume they are going away from the entrance we came in since we saw no sign of them and let’s work our way back. Now, we need to search every room for signs of them.” Ace and Jesse nodded and the three took their positions and continued their search. *** Mattie led the way down the corridor. Dylan was close behind him. They came to a dead end with two doors. Mattie signaled Dylan to stay silent while he listened at each door. He couldn’t hear anything behind either one. They had been running through this maze of hallways for a while now; if they didn’t find a way out or at least a place to hide they were as good as dead. Mattie blamed himself for this mess. He knew they only wanted him, and that Dylan was collateral damage. Mattie decided to try the door to the right. He slowly turned the knob and opened the door. The room looked empty as he peered in. “C’mon,” Mattie whispered to Dylan as he entered the room. As Mattie stepped into the room, he felt someone grab his arm and pull him in. Before he could warn Dylan there was a hand placed over his mouth. *** The three would-be rescuers diligently searched each room they came to. They were again becoming disheartened by the lack of evidence that Mattie and Dylan had been there. As they walked slowly down one hallway, Diego stopped. There were shadows coming towards them. Diego saw a door and signaled to Ace and Jesse to follow him. The three slipped into the room and waited for the people to pass. They heard footsteps that stopped in front of the door. Ace signaled Jesse to hide in a far corner of the room. Diego stood behind the door and Ace stood just inside it, prepared to take on whoever entered. The door opened slowly and a head poked in. “C’mon,” Ace heard a voice whisper. He grabbed the figure and placed his hand over the person’s mouth. Diego grabbed the second figure and quickly shut the door. “Mattie, stop struggling,” Ace hissed in his ear. Recognizing Ace’s voice, Mattie slumped against his friend. Ace let go of him and Mattie turned and hugged Ace. “Ace, what are you guys doing here?” Before Ace could answer, Jesse came scrambling across the room and launched himself at Dylan. Dylan’s look of joy and relief at seeing Jesse quickly turned to panic. “Jesse, what the hell are you doing here?!” “Diego thought he figured where they were holding you guys and he and Ace were gonna try to rescue you, but I made them take me,” Jesse answered as he held Dylan tight. “Guys, look, I know we’re all happy that we found Mattie and Dyl, but we’re not out of the woods yet--we still need to get out of here,” Ace declared. Diego pulled out his trusty plans and he and Ace pored over them trying to find the nearest exit. Jesse held tight to Dylan, determined to not let him out of his sight. He also reached over to Mattie and pulled his ‘uncle’ into the embrace. “I’m so glad we found you guys,” Jesse said excitedly. “I don’t know what I would do if I lost either one of you.” “I’m glad you found us, too,” Mattie stated. “We’ve been wandering around here forever trying to find a way out or a place to hide. Where are we exactly?” “We’re still on the rancho,” Jesse explained. “Diego thought you were in one spot so CJ and Josh went with your father’s security guards to find the place, but then Diego remembered this place and thought it would be a better place for the kidnappers to hide you.” “Of course,” Mattie laughed. “This is part of the warehouses and utility buildings grandfather was building in the mountains. I had forgotten all about them.” Diego and Ace came over to join them. “Mattie, have you seen any sign of Ernesto or anyone else here?” Ace asked. Mattie shook his head. “No, I haven’t seen Ernesto at all, but I know he was here. They had us tied up and had hoods over our heads and when I first woke up, I heard him say something before he injected me with something that put me back under.” “Well, then we need to be on the lookout for him and anyone else that’s working with him,” Diego declared. Ace handed a small hand gun to Mattie which he tucked into the back of his jeans and then Ace handed him a rifle too. Dylan looked at Ace. “What about me?” he asked. Ace smirked. “You stay in the middle of us, Dyl. Your aim is not the best.” Dylan flipped Ace the bird and the boys all laughed. They exited the room in a single-file line. Diego again had point followed by Mattie, Dylan, Jesse and Ace taking up the rear. Diego led them quickly and quietly to the nearest exit that he and Ace could find on the plans. He knew it was farther away from the horses than they had planned, but he and Ace agreed they needed to first get out of this building. They would be safer under the cover of the woods. As they got closer to the exit, Diego slowed the group down. He signaled Ace to join him up front and the two instructed the younger boys to wait behind while they made sure the coast was clear. Diego and Ace crossed to the exit and stood on either side of the door. Diego peered out and signaled to Ace that there was someone outside. Ace held up three fingers to Diego, who nodded. Ace then nodded his head in a countdown. On the third nod, Diego pulled open the door and Ace rushed out. Before the guard knew what had hit him, Ace tackled him to the ground. As the guard struggled to get up, Diego rushed up and coldcocked him with the butt of his rifle. Ace stood up and looked down at the guard. “Ernesto,” he spat. Diego nodded. “Well, if it was just Ernesto and his friend, then we should be free and clear.” “I sure hope so,” Ace answered as he walked back into the warehouse. “Guys!” Ace called. “You can come out.” Mattie and Dylan stepped into the hallway. Both had a scared look in their eyes. “C’mon, guys, let’s get out of here,” Ace said. “Hey, where’s Jesse?” “Right here,” said a deep voice. Jesse stepped forward followed by a figure that Ace and Diego immediately recognized. The figure held a gun to Jesse’s head. “F-F-Father!?” Diego stammered. “What are you doing here?” “Diego, what are you doing here?” Senor Montoya answered. “You have ruined months of planning.” “You’re involved with this, Father?” “I had no choice, my son. The only way for us to get the rancho was for me to help Mateo’s uncle.” “You did this just for the rancho?” “No, my son, I did it for you, so that you would have a legacy and something to build on.” Ace tried to creep closer to Senor Montoya, but the older man saw him. “Don’t move, Ace,” he instructed. “I know you are proficient with firearms, but at this range, I guarantee I will kill Jesse before you can even aim.” He nodded to the four boys. “All of you against the wall and throw your weapons on the floor.” Ace, Diego, Mattie and Dylan all backed up against the wall. Mattie, Diego and Ace threw their rifles and knives into a pile on the floor. “And you, Dylan?” Senor Montoya asked. Dylan shook his head, raised his arms and spun around. “They didn’t give me one--my aim is pretty bad.” Senor Montoya grinned. “Now, what, Father?” Diego asked. “Now we wait,” Senor Montoya answered. “I’ve called for a couple of my men to come and meet us. Then, Mateo and Jesse and I will leave until Senor Juan’s demands are met.” Senor Montoya stepped out from behind Jesse. He pushed Jesse against the wall. “Go stand with them,” he ordered. Dylan was next to Mattie with his hand against the wall. He placed his hand on Mattie’s back and noticed that Mattie had kept the pistol that Ace had given him. Mattie felt Dylan’s hand slide down his back and grip the pistol. He knew that they would only have one chance at this. Mattie pressed his back against the wall to signal Dylan to wait. Dylan drummed his fingers against Mattie’s back to signal that he understood. In preparation, Dylan flipped the safety on the pistol. Mattie and Dylan watched Senor Montoya pace around the hallway. He was definitely nervous. Every time he changed directions he would turn his back to them. Mattie counted the steps and then tapped his fingers on Dylan’s thigh. Dylan tapped Mattie’s back the same number of times. Mattie then tapped Dylan’s thigh three times slowly and Dylan replied in kind. Mattie pulled away from the wall and watched Senor Montoya. As Senor Montoya started his third pass, Mattie felt Dylan pull the pistol from the back of his jeans. When Senor Montoya started to turn his back, Mattie dropped to the floor and Dylan leveled the pistol and fired. The sound of the gun shot thundered through the hallway. Senor Montoya grabbed his leg where the bullet had torn through. Diego sprinted across the hall and tackled his father. Ace followed right behind him and grabbed Senor Montoya’s gun. Jesse tossed Ace some rope he had in his backpack and Ace bound Senor Montoya, while Diego held him down. Ace got up and walked over to Dylan who was still standing against the wall holding the pistol. Ace quietly took the pistol from Dylan. “Nice shooting, Dyl.” Ace grinned. He reached over and grabbed the gun. “Why don’t I just hold that for you.” Dylan let Ace take the gun and stood stock still, beads of sweat dripping down his forehead. “Thanks, but I was actually aiming for his head.” He shrugged. Jesse ran over to Dylan and grabbed him in a hug. “Guys, we need to get out of here, before Senor Montoya’s men get here,” Ace said as they all dashed for the door. As they ran for the woods they heard a vehicle coming up the road. “The woods!!” Ace ordered as they all ran. “ACE!! DIEGO!! JESSE!!” they heard echoing through the woods. “Guys, wait up!!” Ace hollered turning back. They gathered at the edge of the woods and saw CJ, Danny and Josh getting out of an SUV while a platoon of security guards emptied out of two others. “CJ!!” Mattie yelled as he ran from the woods followed by the other boys. CJ grabbed Mattie in a huge hug and Danny ran to Dylan and Jesse. CJ shook his head at Ace and Diego as he pulled Danny, Jesse and Dylan into his embrace. “How did you find us?” Diego asked. “Well,” CJ said glaring at Ace. “Ace had the forethought to tell Dusty where you guys were going, but he made Dusty promise not to say anything until morning. When the first site didn’t pan out, we came back to the ranch and noticed that you three were missing. Dusty came clean and we grabbed who we could and headed out here.” “My father has more men on the way,” Diego explained. Josh shook his head. “Nope, we intercepted them as they were leaving the ranch. The authorities should be there by now and should be on their way here.” Ace and Diego directed the security personnel to the spots where they had left Senor Montoya, Ernesto and Ernesto’s accomplice. They soon had the three loaded into an SUV and awaiting the authorities. Once the authorities had arrived, they took over processing the scene and questioning the boys. After several hours of questions and interviews, the boys were released to CJ and Danny’s custody and they headed back to the main house. CJ had sent a couple of the men to where the boys had left their horses to retrieve them and take them back to the rancho. The SUV stopped in front of the bunkhouse and Mattie had barely stepped out of the vehicle when he was tackled to the ground by a red-headed missile. Spin lay on Mattie and hugged him as tight as he could. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” Spin choked into Mattie’s ear. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Mattie felt Spin’s tears fall on his face as he looked up at his boyfriend. “I love you so much,” Mattie sighed as Spin covered his face with kisses. The rest of the boys greeted Ace, Diego, Dylan and Jesse. CJ herded everyone into the great hall so they would only have to re-tell the tale once. CJ told Ace to phone his father, who was not at all happy that Ace had gone off to rescue Mattie and Dylan without telling anyone where they were going. Sarge was happy to hear that everyone was alright. Dylan’s parents had been camped out at Sarge’s house waiting for news, so Ace had Dylan talk to them to assure them he was alright. Eventually, the rescuers and rescuees started nodding off and CJ and Danny instructed them all to head upstairs for some rest. Jesse lay in bed spooned up against Dylan. Dylan was shaking. “Hey, Dyl, are you ok?” Jesse asked. “Do you need your pills?” Dylan rolled over and faced Jesse. He pulled Jesse tight to him. “No. I was just thinking. I was ready to kill Senor Montoya today. I never thought I could do that.” “You did what you had to so we would be safe,” Jesse said quietly. “We never know what we are capable of when we’re against it like that. Look at Ace. We know he knows all that shit, but you never think he would use it. But you should have seen him bust those guards’ heads when he knew it was you and Mattie on the line. You did what any of us would have done in the same situation.” “I guess,” Dylan sighed. “I’m just glad my aims sucks.” Jesse laughed. “So are your parents coming over?” Jesse asked. Dylan rolled his eyes. “They wanted to, but I told them not to. We’ll be home in a week and Mr. Alvarez has so much security on us now, it’s insane.” “And Senor Montoya and Ernesto are singing about Uncle Juan.” Dylan nodded. “Yeah, CJ said there may not even be a trial for him. They think he’ll plead out. I just feel bad for Diego.” “I know; me, too.” Jesse held Dylan tight as the two drifted off to sleep. Diego sat on his bed. He couldn’t sleep. There was a knock on the door. “Come in.” CJ and Danny came in and shut the door behind them. “Hey, Diego, how are you doing?” Danny asked. “I don’t know. I guess I am still in shock over my father and now I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.” “Diego, I hate to be the bearer of more bad news,” CJ said as he and Danny sat on either side of Diego. “But I just got a call from my father. His lawyers have been reviewing the sale of the rancho and none of it was legal. It looks like Uncle Juan and your father dummied the sale with the idea that they would make it legal after my uncle got rid of Mattie.” “So now I don’t have a home either?” Diego buried his face in his crossed arms and started to sob. “None of this, the bunkhouse or the horses are mine?. Danny put his arm around Diego’s shoulders. “You don’t have any other family here, do you?” he asked gently. Diego shook his head. “No, my mother died years ago and neither she nor my father had any family.” “Then, you are coming with us,” Danny announced. CJ looked at Danny and grinned. He knew that Danny couldn’t leave anyone behind. Diego looked at Danny with tear-filled eyes. “You want me to come with you? Even after everything my father has done?” “Diego, you are not your father,” Danny said gently. “You risked your life to help Ace and Jesse find Mattie and Dylan and when you knew what your father had done you stood with them against him. You don’t have any other family and I think Mattie and Jesse would like it if you came to live with us.” “I know I would,” Mattie said from the doorway. Diego looked up and smiled. “Thank you, Mattie, but I do not think that Spin would like it very much.” Spin stepped around from behind Mattie. “Oh, I think it will be ok,” he said with a grin. “As long as you keep your lips off my boyfriend, buster.” Diego blushed red and nodded his head.
  37. 1 point
    Riding Lesson III: Second Chances By Andrew Todd Chapter 7 The boys all piled out of the two SUVs. Most of them stopped and stared at the private jet that sat on the tarmac. Mr. Alvarez had arranged their transportation to Spain, not wanting the boys to have to deal with a commercial airline. “Come on,” CJ hollered to the boys. “These guys will take care of the luggage.” He gestured to the luggage handlers swarming the cars. “Let’s get on board.” The boys all climbed the stairs into the plane. There was seating for twenty scattered around the main cabin. Mattie was the first of the boys to enter. He saw a familiar figure standing there waiting. “Pete!!” Mattie smiled as he ran and hugged his oldest brother. “I didn’t know you were coming.” Pete hugged Mattie back. “Father’s been after me to come over and I was able to clear some time, so I thought I’d bum a ride over.” “Cool.” Mattie grinned. As the rest of the boys came on board and took their seats, Mattie led Pete around the plane introducing to the boys he had not met. Mattie stopped to introduce Pete to Jesse. “So, you’re my new nephew.” Pete smiled. “Yes, sir,” Jesse answered politely. Pete laughed, “Call me Pete; ‘Sir’ makes me feel so old.” CJ came up behind Pete. “But, you are old,” he joked. Pete turned around and grabbed CJ in a hug. “Good to see you, little brother,” he laughed. He always called CJ ‘little brother’ which they both found amusing since CJ was about 6 inches taller than Pete. Pete saw Danny standing behind CJ holding Idgie. “And this must be my other new nephew.” He looked from Danny to CJ. “You guys don’t waste any time, do you?” Danny smiled and shook his head. “Nope.” A young man dressed in a white shirt and black slacks came up to CJ. “Mr. Alvarez, I’m Chad. I’m the head steward. If there is anything I can get you, let me know.” CJ nodded. “Thanks, Chad.” “The captain has asked that you all take your seats and get buckled in so we can take off.” The younger boys had taken seats in the chairs around the main cabin. CJ led Danny and Pete to the rear of the plane where there was a smaller salon. He signaled to Josh and Casey to join them. After they had been in the air about thirty minutes, the captain turned off the seatbelt sign and told the passengers they could move about the cabin. In the rear salon, Chad finished serving the five men drinks and left for the main cabin. “So, you haven’t said anything to Mattie?” Pete asked. CJ shook his head. “Father and I agreed to try to shield him as much as possible. He really doesn’t need to know that his uncle and his sister were ready to kill him for money.” “Has he asked about Nat?” “No. After the way she behaved at my party, I think he’s fine with not seeing or hearing from her,” CJ answered. “Father says she is being watched. He’s stripped her of everything. It’s only because she’s his daughter that she isn’t being prosecuted.” “Speaking of which, did you know that Juan’s trial starts the day after you guys leave?” “That’s why you’re here?” Danny spoke up. Pete nodded grimly. “Yes, I have to meet with the prosecutors and then I’ll be testifying against him.” “Have you heard from him at all?” Josh asked. “The usual veiled threats coming from his lawyer,” Pete answered. “The usual garbage about what happens to ‘snitches’.” “Father has you covered while you’re there, right?” CJ asked. “Yes, he has some of his men meeting us at the airport. He has two assigned to me the whole time I’m there and he’ll have a couple on you guys in addition to Casey and Josh.” CJ nodded to Casey and Josh. “I want one of you guys on Mattie at all times. Wherever he goes. Don’t let him know that it’s for protection. That’s one of the reasons I like having you guys around--he thinks of you as friends and he won’t question you being with the boys.” Casey and Josh both nodded their agreement. In the main cabin, the boys had fallen into smaller groups. Some were sleeping or watching movies on their iPads, while others played games or read. Dusty walked over to the couch in the back of the cabin where Devon sat alone. “Hey, Dev,” Dusty said as he sat down. Devon nodded. “Hey, Dusty.” “Are you hiding over here?” Dusty asked. Devon shook his head. “No, just doodling to try and pass the time.” Dusty looked at the sketch pad in Devon’s hand. The sheet was covered with a pencil sketch of TJ. Dusty grinned. “Man, you got it bad.” Devon rolled his eyes. “Like you don’t,” he laughed. “Guilty,” Dusty nodded. “But, whatever it is you are doing, keep doing it.” “What do you mean?” Dusty paused a moment. “I’m trying to think of a nice way to say this. Since he got together with you, TJ is like a whole new person. It’s not just that he’s in a relationship, it’s your influence. Something about the two of you together. I’d have never thought it.” “Why?” “Dev, did he ever tell you about us?” “Yes, one of the first things he ever told me.” “One of the reasons we didn’t last was that he was so afraid of being found out. He was fighting his nature, not wanting to be gay. Now, he’s with you, and let’s face it, you are as out as someone can be. For him to want to be with you, he’s basically challenging everything he ever thought about himself and changing the way he looks at things.” Devon nodded. “That was part of the agreement. When I told you guys, he had to tell his parents. I know how hard it is for him, so I haven’t been pushing it. I know he’s had some talks with his mom to kinda feel her out, but the idea of telling his dad and brothers terrifies him.” Dusty nodded. “His mom will accept it eventually. TJ is her baby. As pushy and obnoxious as she can be she loves him. His dad and his brothers are assholes. They just push him. They did the same thing when he and I were friends.” “I’m scared for him,” Devon said. “I’m ready to tell him to just forget telling them.” Dusty shook his head. “Don’t tell him to forget it, just tell him to take his time and make sure he is ready. If things go too wrong, he’ll have a place with us.” Devon looked up. “You’d really do that?” Dusty nodded. “TJ has a lot to atone for, but I was in his place once and Mr. Jones gave me a chance. TJ earned a second chance with us. He’s done a one-eighty plus what he did for Dylan.” “He just helped him that night.” “Devon, since that night Dylan is a completely different person. He was always a sweet guy, but he’s a kid again. Happy-go-lucky and joking all the time. I know a part of it is being with Jesse, but getting that kid Cody put away was a huge relief for him. And TJ was a major part in that.” “Well, hopefully, it doesn’t come to that,” Devon said. “Hopefully, his mom accepts him and his dad at least tolerates him.” “I hope so, but I’ve had a few encounters with Mr. Oliver and ‘tolerant’ is not the first word that comes to mind when I describe him.” Devon grimaced and nodded. He knew Dusty was right. TJ had told him all about his father. He decided that when they got home he and TJ would have a long talk and try to come to a decision about how to proceed with Mr. Oliver. Dylan was walking back from the galley at the rear of the plane when he saw Ace sitting in a corner by himself. He had a blank look on his face like he was contemplating the universe. Dylan snuck up behind him and wrapped his arms around Ace’s neck. He rested his head on Ace’s shoulder. “Penny for your thoughts,” he whispered with a giggle. Ace chuckled and reached back and dragged Dylan over the chair so he was sitting in Ace’s lap. “You better watch out, you don’t want Jesse getting jealous.” Dylan laughed. “Jesse wouldn’t be jealous of you.” Ace feigned a hurt expression. “Gee, thanks.” Dylan beamed. “You know what I mean. You’re our big brother. Jesse knows I love you and he loves you just as much. So, no, he wouldn’t be jealous of you. He knows how much I love and need him.” Ace wrapped his arms around Dylan and hugged the younger boy tight. “You are almost a different person,” he whispered. Dylan tensed for a second and then relaxed. “I don’t know about that. I’m just more relaxed not having to look over my shoulder all the time. Not having to worry about Cody is like having a huge weight lifted off me.” Dylan slid off Ace’s lap and sat next to him on the chair. “Speaking of which, you look like you’re carrying the weight of the world today.” Ace thought for a minute and then spoke to Dylan in a low voice, “It’s probably nothing, but I keep getting a weird vibe.” “Vibe?” “You know that I’m part of the security detail, right?” Dylan nodded. “You’re our ‘bodyguard’ at school.” Ace grinned. “Right. Well, when I started I was meeting with Dad and CJ on a weekly basis; they were very specific about keeping an eye on everyone, but Mattie specifically. They never mentioned anyone by name, but it always felt like they were wary of someone. Then in January, things changed. The sense of urgency was gone. When we started planning this trip in December, there were supposed to be way more guards on our team. Dad was gonna come, Casey and Josh, me and at least two other teams. Then after that point in January, everyone seemed ok with just Casey and Josh. It’s like whatever danger they were all fearing was no longer there.” “Isn’t that a good thing?” “It would be, but I just get this nagging feeling that something is off,” Ace said. Dylan looked at him quizzically. “You know how I told you my mom always called me ‘empathic’…I can read people, but I also sometimes get a funny feeling when something is gonna happen. I had it right before my mom was diagnosed and right before we found out I was moving.” “Is it always bad?” “Usually. It’s probably nothing. Let’s just keep it between us.” “Does something bad always happen?” “Not always and not always bad,” Ace answered. “It’s just me--I’m probably over thinking.” “We need to get you a girlfriend, so you can focus on you.” Ace laughed and grabbed Dylan around the neck. “Are you trying to get rid of me so you and Jess can have private time?” “No, you’re the only one of us who doesn’t have someone. And you’re the one who deserves someone and to be happy,” Dylan said quietly. Ace slipped his arm from around Dylan’s neck to his back and hugged him hard. “I love you, little brother,” he whispered in Dylan’s ear. Dylan hugged Ace fiercely. “Love you, too, big brother.” Zak and Jesse sat on one of the couches in the front of the cabin. Jesse was watching Dylan and Ace. “Jealous?” Zak grinned at Jesse. “Of what?” Jesse smiled back. “Dylan loves Ace. He’s like a brother to both of us.” Zak laughed, “I know that. I’m just teasing you. I know how important Ace is to both of you.” Jesse nodded. “He’s the best.” “So, how are you and Dyl doing?” “What do mean? We’re fine.” “I think you’re more than fine,” Zak laughed. “Dylan’s like a new person the last few weeks. The changes in him are remarkable. He’s so full of life now and you’re a big part of that.” Jesse’s cheeks went pink. “No, he did that.” “No, Jess.” Zak got serious. “You know I was with Dylan when he found Dodger and when he told me and Danny about Cody. I’ve watched him heal over the past months, but since he found you his improvement has been amazing. He really loves you. I can see it every time he looks at you. And I know you really love him too.” Jesse nodded. “I do. I can’t describe how he makes me feel. After Seb, I figured I’d be alone forever. A part of me thought that I’d be betraying Seb if I loved someone else. Then after meeting Dylan, I realized that Seb loved life and me so much that he would feel more betrayed if I mourned him forever and never let love in. Seb would have loved Dylan.” Zak slid closer to Jesse and wrapped his arm around him. “I’m glad you’re letting yourself be happy,” he whispered. “You deserve it and you’re right, Seb would not be happy if you didn’t share your love and light with everyone else. You and Dylan are so perfect together,” Zak said wistfully. “We’re no different than you and Dusty or Mattie and Spin,” Jesse protested. “Yeah, Jess, you are,” Zak said quietly. “Not that you love each other more than any of us, but you guys need each other more. You’ve both been through the wringer and you’ve helped each other heal. The rest of us might have some ‘bumps’ along the road, but nothing that we ‘need’ each other to get past. You and Dylan are almost symbiotic.” “What do you mean?” “You feed off each other. On your own, you’re great guys, full of love and fun, but together you shine that much brighter. You have a connection that I envy.” “You’re losing me.” “I love Dusty with all my heart. But we can go off and do things separately and then come back together. We are together cuz we love each other, but we don’t ‘need’ each other, not like you and Dylan. You guys could do things separately, but you’re happiest when you are together. You don’t get sick of each other or need alone time.” “You get sick of Dusty?” Zak shook his head. “I’m not saying this right. I don’t get sick of Dusty, but sometimes we go off and do our own thing, like him and Erik working with Rain. If it was Dylan or you training Rain, you would have done it together and never thought of working alone or with someone else. Most of us, no matter how much we love and need our partner, we look for some space, some way to be ourselves. You guys don’t, you function as a single entity so much of the time. When Dylan needs to work Dodger, you’re right there; when you are working Val, he’s right there. I’m amazed you guys can get through a school day, since you don’t have many classes together.” Jesse looked at Zak thoughtfully. “I guess I get what you are saying. I don’t like being apart from Dyl. We talk all the time about what we’re gonna do when school is done and we can finally be together all the time.” “That’s it. Dusty wants to work on a ranch and train and teach. I’ll probably always ride and enjoy it, but I wanna be a teacher or something like that. But you and Dyl, I can see you working and living together forever and always being happy.” Jesse looked at Zak his eyes brimming with tears. “I hope so,” he whispered. “I know so,” Zak said as he leaned forward and hugged Jesse. “Hey, can I ask you something?” “Sure.” “It’s kind of private, so if you don’t want to answer you don’t have to,” Zak said gently. “Have you guys…” Jesse looked at Zak. ‘Had sex?” he asked. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.” Jesse shook his head. “No, it’s ok, Zak. I know you’ve been Dylan’s confidant since he came to the ranch and I know you are only looking out for him and me,” Jesse said. “The truth is, we’ve come close a couple times, but I just don’t think we are ready. Dylan still has some lingering ‘issues’ from the rape and I don’t want to compound things jumping into sex.” “Is he still hung up on the virgin thing?” Zak asked. “Yes. No matter how many times I tell him that as far as I am concerned he is a virgin, he still goes back to what Cody did and thinks that he’s somehow damaged. It’s gotten better since Cody’s been locked up, but I want us to take our time. I love him and I’m going to be with him forever, so I’m in no rush.” Zak grinned at Jesse. “I don’t think Dylan could have been any luckier than finding you, Jess. You are exactly what he needed and what he still needs.” The boys passed the long flight moving around the cabin and getting together in small groups. CJ, Danny, Pete, Casey and Josh eventually joined the rest of the group in the main cabin. Idgie was passed from lap to lap through the flight enjoying the attention he received from his ‘uncles’. About two hours out of their destination, Zak and Dusty were sitting quietly on one of the couches when they saw Spin and Mattie sneak out of the cabin and head to the rear of the plane. Zak looked at Dusty and grinned. “Mile High club,” he mouthed silently. Dusty shook his head and smiled at Zak. “Don’t get any ideas,” he said. Zak blushed and Dusty wrapped his arm around the smaller boy and pulled Zak to him. “You were thinking about that, weren’t you?” Dusty whispered. “Not until you mentioned it,” Zak whispered back. “But, I don’t need everyone knowing what we are doing, so we won’t be doing that today.” Dusty kissed Zak’s forehead. “We don’t need to have sex ten feet away from our friends and family to prove how much we love each other,” he said. “And those two are way more adventurous than us.” Zak laughed and nodded. By the time they landed, everyone was ready to get off the plane. Even though they had the plane to themselves and could move around, teenaged boys did not operate well in confined spaces. They landed at a small private airport. Before they could disembark, the plane was towed into a large hanger; once they were securely inside the hanger the passengers were allowed to leave the plane. CJ and Danny were the first off the plane and they were greeted by a tall muscular man wearing a rather expensive black suit. “Mr. Alvarez?” the man asked. “I’m CJ Alvarez.” “Very good.” The man nodded offering his hand to CJ. “I am Diego Reyes, your father’s Head of Security in Spain. He sent me to make sure your arrival and processing through customs went smoothly and then to transport you all to his villa.” “Great,” CJ replied. He then introduced all the men and boys to Mr. Reyes. Mr. Reyes led them into a small room where they waited for their luggage to be unloaded. True to Mr. Reyes’ word, they breezed through a cursory customs inspection and were then loaded into two vans. CJ, Danny, Idgie, Zak, Dusty, Pete and Casey took one, while Mattie, Spin, Dylan, Jesse, Ace, Devon and Josh loaded into the other. Each van was driven by a member of Mr. Alvarez’s security team and a second guard rode in the front passenger seat. It was an hour’s drive from the airport to the villa that Mr. and Mrs. Alvarez had recently purchased. When they arrived at the ‘villa’ several of the boys were awed by the size and opulence of the place. Mattie and CJ were used to their parents’ extravagance and Zak, Dusty, Spin, Danny and Dylan had seen the house where Mattie had lived in the States, but Jesse, Ace, Devon, Josh and Casey were floored by the immense house. The boys piled out of the two vans and were led into the house by Mr. Reyes. Before they were even at the door to the house, servants had already begun unloading the luggage from the vans. They walked through the front door and found themselves in a cavernous atrium. In front of them stood Mr. and Mrs. Alvarez. Mr. Alvarez had lost some weight due to his treatments, but he and Mrs. Alvarez had assured their sons that his doctors were optimistic about the success of the treatments and felt the visit from family and friends would be good for him. Mattie ran to greet his parents. “Mother! Father!” he called as he hugged them both. “Ah, Mateo, it is wonderful to see you and your friends,” said Mr. Alvarez. He surveyed the group. “I see we have some new faces.” CJ stepped up and greeted his mother with a kiss and a hug and his father with a hug as Pete did the same. “Yes, Father,” CJ began. “We’ve picked up a few more friends and family since we last saw you.” He motioned to Danny, who walked over carrying Idgie. “First, I need to introduce you to your grandson, Aaron James Alvarez, but we just call him Idgie.” Mrs. Alvarez took the baby from Danny and cradled him in her arms. “Idgie?” she asked. CJ and Danny smirked. “It’s a nickname that he got from his brother.” Mrs. Alvarez looked at Mattie. “Mateo, you named my grandson ‘Idgie’?” Mattie laughed, “No, Mother. CJ said Idgie’s brother did it, not CJ’s brother.” Mr. and Mrs. Alvarez both had confused looks on their faces. CJ nodded to Jesse who stepped forward. CJ placed his hands on Jesse’s shoulders and he faced his new ‘grandparents’. “Mother, Father, I probably should have told you before this, but we wanted it to be a surprise. This is Jesse; he’s Danny and my foster son.” Mr. Alvarez stepped forward and offered his hand to Jesse. “Welcome to our family, Jesse,” he said. Mrs. Alvarez motioned for Jesse to come to her. Still holding Idgie, she leaned forward and kissed Jesse’s cheek. “It is very nice to meet you, Jesse, but you must tell me how you came to give my grandson, your baby brother, this name.” Jesse grinned and gave Mr. and Mrs. Alvarez the short version of how CJ and Danny overheard him calling the baby ‘Smidgen’ and how ‘Smidgen’ became ‘Idgie’. Mrs. Alvarez smiled warmly at Jesse. “Well, seeing as how this name came from a place of love, I cannot fault it.” Mattie spent the next several minutes introducing the friends that his parents had not yet met and re-introducing the ones they knew. After all the introductions had been made two young women came into the atrium. “Gentlemen, this is Consuela and Nadia--they will show you to your rooms,” Mrs. Alvarez announced as she handed Idgie back to Danny. “The whole house is at your disposal while you are here. Please make yourselves at home; if there is anything you need simply ask one of these young ladies and they’ll do everything they can to help you. I’m sure you’re all very tired after your flight. We’ve planned a welcome dinner for you, but you have several hours to rest until then.” The boys followed the two young ladies up a grand staircase. And down the hallway. Nadia turned to address the boys. “Mrs. Alvarez was uncertain how the arrangements should be made so there are ten rooms on this floor and they have all been made up and prepared for use. You may choose any room on this floor, except this one.” She gestured to a door to her right. “We were instructed that this room was for Master Carlos and Master Daniel.” Danny blushed at being addressed so formally. CJ chuckled. “Ladies, I know my parents insist on a bit of formality here, but please, I’m CJ and this is Danny.” Consuela shook her head. “Oh, no, Master Carlos, that would be improper,” she stammered in Spanish. CJ walked towards the young woman and spoke to her in Spanish in a low voice, “Consuela, my parents know how my brother and I feel about these formalities. They will be fine with you addressing us as we wish to be addressed. These are my family and friends and my parents want them to feel comfortable in their home. If you insist on being so formal with them they will be uncomfortable and ill at ease and I assure you that would disappoint my mother more than you addressing us in more familiar ways.” Both young women nodded at CJ. “We will try, Mas—CJ,” said Nadia. “Gracias.” Consuela showed Danny and CJ to the master suite that had been set aside for them and Idgie, while Nadia opened the other bedroom doors so the boys could check out the accommodations. All the rooms were large with private bathrooms. All had queen-sized beds. Dylan and Jesse chose the room next to Danny and CJ, while the others scattered along the hallway. Devon and Ace opted to share a room since they were used to sharing the same bed. Mattie told them they could each have their own room, but both boys assured him they would prefer it this way. Once the boys had chosen their rooms, Nadia showed them where their luggage had been stored. As each boy claimed his luggage, Nadia handed it to several men who were waiting to deliver it to the proper room. In no time, the entire luggage had been sorted and delivered and the boys all retired to their rooms to deal with the jetlag. Consuela assured them that she would make sure they were all awakened in time to get ready for dinner. *** Sarge was enjoying the peace and tranquility of the ranch. CJ had closed it for the next two weeks, so the finishing touches could be put on all the new buildings. Boarders were allowed to come and use the trails, but there were no lessons or trail rides for the duration. Sarge made a rotating schedule for the guards/hands so they could take advantage of the quiet period. Since all of the boys were in Spain, there was not much guarding to do and he really only needed a couple of hands at a time. He had been planning to take a few days off, but the old Army buddy he was supposed to visit had just become a grandfather and was flying to Washington State to see his new grandson. The only thing he had on the agenda for today was the arrival of the Andros twins’ horses. Ace had introduced them to him the day before yesterday. Sarge got a kick out of how different the two were. The girl, Stephanie, was very laid-back. All she cared about was that her horse have a stall and a daily turn out. The boy, Luka, however, was as high-strung as they come. He had given Sarge a four-page list of instructions regarding the feeding and care of his horse. The only thing that had stopped Luka from talking was when Ace had introduced him to Danny. Luka had been so starstruck he was dead silent. The horses were due to arrive this afternoon and the twins wouldn’t be moving in till next week, so Sarge assured them the horses would be well taken care of. He had just finished letting the horses out of the private barn when he saw a young boy on a bicycle riding towards him. He walked towards the boy and met him halfway. The boy was probably thirteen or fourteen. He had curly brown hair with blond highlights and hazel eyes. He was about 5’3’ and slender. “Excuse me, Sir,” the boy said as he came to a stop. “Are you the man in charge here?” “Well, son, that depends on what you’re looking for,” Sarge answered. “I’m the ranch manager, but not the owner--he’s away. Are you looking for lessons or a trail ride?” “Well, actually, I was wondering if you were looking for any help.” “Well, we’ve got quite a few hands. I know when the rescue opens in a couple of weeks they are going to be taking volunteers--or are you looking for a paying job?” “Kinda,” the boy said, fidgeting. “I wanted to see if I could work cleaning stalls or something in exchange for lessons.” Sarge looked at the boy. “What’s your name, son?” “Brandon…Brandon Abbott,” the boy said, extending his hand to Sarge. Sarge took Brandon’s hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you, Brandon. I’m Sergeant Major Evans, but everyone just calls me Sarge. How old are you?” “I’m fourteen, Sir.” “So where do you live? I don’t recall seeing you around here before.” “I live over on County Road 81, Sir.” “Son, that’s about 2 miles from here,” Sarge said, the surprise apparent in his voice. “Closer to three, Sir.” “You rode your bike three miles here on the off chance that you might be able to work off some riding lessons?” “Yes, Sir. You see, I want a horse in the worst way, but my dad…” “Doesn’t think you are responsible enough?” “Oh, no, Sir. He knows I’m responsible. I have a dog, a cat, a turtle, a macaw, two large aquariums and a guinea pig. I take care of all of them myself. My dad thinks I’m involved in too much and won’t have time for a horse. So he said I couldn’t get one. And if there is one thing I don’t like, it’s when someone tells me I can’t do something.” Sarge chuckled. “So does your dad know you are here?” “Yes, Sir.” Brandon nodded. “I told him that I was going to see about riding lessons. He said he wouldn’t pay for them, so I said I would try to work them off.” Sarge was impressed with the boy’s tenacity. “Well, Brandon. Right now the ranch is closed. The owners and their family are on vacation for two weeks and when they come back we are going to have the grand re-opening of the ranch here and the grand opening of the rescue next door.” “Oh,” Brandon said dejectedly. “So I have to wait until they come back?” “Well, all hiring is up to me,” Sarge said with a smile. “So if you really want to help out around here, you can come after school and help with feeding and mucking stalls. Then next week when you’re on vacation, you come out during the day and I’m sure I can find some things to keep you busy.” “Like riding?” “Well, probably no riding till the boys get back. But I’ll keep track of all the work you do here and when CJ, the owner, gets back I’ll make sure that you get some lessons.” “Thanks, Sarge.” Brandon smiled wide. “I’ll be here right after school tomorrow,” he called over his shoulder as he rode away. *** Dinner the first night in Spain was an elegant affair. Knowing what their parents would plan, Mattie and CJ warned their friends and everyone was dressed in dress shirts and slacks. Mrs. Alvarez was beside herself seeing her sons and their friends dressed so nicely for her welcome meal. After they were seated at the large table she addressed them, “Boys, thank you so much for all of the love and friendship you have shown my sons and thank you for accompanying them to visit us. While I certainly appreciate the attention to dress that everyone has shown tonight, let me be clear that after tonight, casual dress will be the rule around this house.” All the boys silently cheered that this would be the end of the ‘church clothes’ as Mattie called them. As they ate the wonderful meal that had been prepared by the Alvarez’s chef everyone made small talk until CJ addressed his parents. “So, Mother, Father is there anything special on the agenda for us?” “Well, we have arranged a visit for Mateo to your grandfather’s rancho,” Mr. Alvarez said. “I know he is anxious to see the land and you mentioned he might be looking for a mare.” Mattie nodded furiously. “Yes, Father, we found out that Ash is part of grandfather’s original line and I want to see if we can get a mare, or maybe more than one, to restart the line.” CJ laughed, “Let’s see if we can find one mare to start with, Mattie.” Mattie nodded. “Ok.” He looked to his parents. “So when do we go?” “Well, since it’s a long drive from here, I thought you could go on ahead and then the rest of the boys could join you in a few days,” Mr. Alvarez said. “Senor Montoya, the new owner, is most anxious to meet you and he asked that you stay for a few days so he could show you what he has done to the property and show you the breeding operation.” “That’s awesome, Father,” Mattie said excitedly. “But, am I just going myself?” “Well, we assumed Anthony would accompany you, but we weren’t sure which of the boys would want to spend several days there or if they would prefer sightseeing around the city.” At this point a discussion broke out amongst the boys over who wanted to do what. Finally, it was settled that Jesse, Dylan and Ace would accompany Mattie and the other boys would stay behind and meet up with them in a few days. Jesse and Ace were very curious about Spanish riding and seeing the estancia and Dylan was not about to let Jesse go without him. Spin told Mattie he would go if Mattie wanted him to, but he would just as soon sightsee with the other boys and hang out by the pool. Mattie agreed. Casey asked Mattie if he could accompany them, since he was also curious about the estancia. Mattie agreed right away as he enjoyed Casey’s company and he knew him to be an excellent horseman. The rest of the evening was spent discussing plans for the next few days. Mrs. Alvarez insisted that she and Mr. Alvarez would care for the baby, so that CJ and Danny could partake in sightseeing and exploring. Devon wanted to visit some of the countryside so that he could take pictures and do some sketches. Josh agreed to take him out the next day along with one of Mr. Alvarez’s regular drivers. The other boys decided that they would stay close to the villa for the next few days and take advantage of the Alvarez’s hospitality. The next morning Mattie, Jesse, Dylan, Ace and Casey loaded into a black SUV driven by one of Mr. Alvarez’s security detail. The driver would drop them off at the estancia and return since Senor Montoya had his own security people and Casey would be with the boys at all times. It was a four-and a-half-hour drive to the estancia. The boys had brought iPads and iPods with them and were all busy watching movies and listening to music during the ride. When they reached the gates, Mattie excitedly starting shaking his friends. “Look!!” he cried excitedly pointing out the window. A large iron gate was in front of the SUV topped with an ornate sign that read ‘Rancho Del Cielo.’ “Rancho Del Cielo, what does that mean?” asked Dylan. “Ranch of the skies,” Mattie answered. “Since the rancho was in the mountains, Grandfather liked to think that he was in the heavens--just him, the horses, dogs and his family.” The driver buzzed the call box and after a brief exchange the gate opened for the SUV. They drove for another ten minutes before Jesse asked, “Mattie, I thought we were on the ranch?” Mattie laughed, “We are. There are miles of land that belong to the rancho. From the gate to the main house is about a twenty-minute drive.” The SUV began to climb a rather steep driveway and when it reached the top all the boys looked out the window to see a large ranch house. “Gee, somehow, given the size of the property, I was expectin’ a mansion,” Ace joked. “Grandfather wasn’t one for all the flash of wealth,” Mattie explained. “He would rather invest in expanding the rancho and increasing the value of the land and the rancho than spending the money on himself. The boys filed out of the SUV and all took a moment to stretch out the kinks that develop during a long car ride. A man dressed in jeans, boots and button-down shirt came up to them. He was about forty and was flanked by two younger males--a muscular man of about twenty-five and a younger boy who looked to be around sixteen. “Mateo?” the older man asked. Mattie stepped forward. “I’m Mateo Alvarez, sir, but everyone usually calls me Mattie.” The man embraced Mattie in a tight hug. “How wonderful to see you after all these years, Mattie.” “Uhh…” Mattie stammered in the man’s grasp. The man stepped back. “I’m sorry, you don’t remember me. You were only a little boy the last time I saw you. I am Stefan Montoya. My first job as a teenager was working for your grandfather here at the rancho. I worked for him for ten years, before he helped me to start my own. When he passed away and I heard your uncle was planning to sell the rancho, I knew I could not let someone purchase it that would defile the great work your grandfather had done, so I found some investors and we purchased the rancho with the promise that we would continue the great traditions started by your grandfather.” “Wow. Thank you, Senor Montoya. It makes me feel much better about the rancho being out of the family, knowing how you feel about it.” “I am glad,” Senor Montoya said, smiling. He gestured to the younger man standing beside him. “Allow me to introduce my son, Diego, and my ranch foreman, Ernesto.” He gestured to the older man. Mattie turned to his friends. “These are my friends Jesse, Dylan, Ace and Casey.” “Welcome, my friends. Diego and Ernesto will be your guides for the next few days. Diego doesn’t get a chance to spend much time with boys his own age and Ernesto is one of the few employees on the rancho who speaks good English. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to ask. Mateo, your father tells me that you have a decendent of your grandfather’s original line.” “Yes, Sir,” Mattie nodded. “We’re not sure how he came to the USA, but we verified his lineage at the end of last year.” Senor Montoya grinned. “Very good, so you will be able to start a new line.” “That’s what I’m hoping.” “Ernesto will be showing you a few mares that we have here, but there are also some that we sold to a nearby rancho that are now up for sale. I’ll probably buy them back to keep them from going to inferior breeders, but you may want to take a look as they are desperate for cash right now.” Mattie nodded. “Sounds good to me.” “Very good. Ernesto will make arrangements to visit them in the next day or two. In the meantime, Diego will show you to your rooms and then he’ll give you a tour of the rancho. I will see you all at dinner.” “Thank you, Senor Montoya,” Mattie said as the older man took his leave from the group. Diego stepped forward; he was a handsome young man with tanned skin, shoulder-length black hair and vibrant blue eyes. “Welcome,” he said to the boys. “Please let me show you to your rooms and give you a chance to rest before we begin our tour of the rancho.” He looked at the older man. “Ernesto, if you’d like we can meet you at the barn.” “Of course,” Ernesto answered as he nodded to Diego and took his leave. “Come,” Diego instructed with a smile. The boys and Casey followed as the young Spaniard led them down a small walkway that wound around the main house. When they were in sight of a smaller house, Mattie became excited and ran towards the building. “The bunkhouse!!” he shouted and he turned back to Diego. “You kept it?” Diego grinned and nodded. “Oh, yes. When my father purchased the rancho it was in a very poor state, but I fell in love with it and insisted that my father refurbish it so that I could live here.” “You live in the bunkhouse?” Dylan asked. “How old are you?” Diego laughed, “I am sixteen, but since this is a large property, my father felt it was alright for me to have my own, how to you say it, space? Yes, space. We call it the bunkhouse as Mateo and his brothers did, but it is rather nice inside.” He opened the front door and gestured for everyone to enter. They entered a large open room with a high cathedral ceiling and a floor-to-ceiling window on the far wall. There were small carpets laid on the hardwood floors and comfortable recliners and couches on the carpets. Bookcases filled to capacity covered two walls of the room. It was a very airy and welcoming room. Diego led them into the room. “This is my great room,” he said. “There’s a television and dvd player behind the door.” He pointed to a spot in the far corner of the room. “But mainly I just like to sit here and watch the sunrise out the windows and relax and read. This room is very peaceful to me.” The boys wandered around the room, admiring the comfort and design of the space. Diego showed them to the kitchen, which was another huge open space. He assured them that they were welcome to anything they found in the cupboards, pantry or refrigerator. He also noted that if there was anything they were looking for that was not there to simply ask and he would have the cook at the main house bring it over or send someone to buy it. Diego then led everyone upstairs. He showed them his master suite which was at the far end of the hall. He then led them to the guest rooms. He had four rooms prepared for his guests, but Dylan and Jesse assured him that would share a room. Diego raised an eyebrow at this, but said nothing that might upset his guests. Each of the rooms had a private bathroom. The boys’ overnight bags had been delivered to their rooms. Diego told them they should take some time to rest and freshen up from their journey and he would meet them down in the great room in an hour. The visitors went into their rooms. Ace and Casey said they were going to relax for a bit and Jesse and Dylan wanted to take showers and change. Mattie checked out his room and then headed down the great room where he found Diego waiting. “Hello, Mateo.” Diego greeted Mattie with a smile. “I did not expect anyone for a while longer.” “Well, the others are resting and cleaning up, but I can’t wait to tour the rancho, so I was going a bit stir-crazy in my room. And, please, call me Mattie.” “Very well, Mattie. Please come sit and we can talk.” Mattie sat on the couch with Diego. Diego was a very handsome boy and were he not involved with Spin he thought he might be someone he would consider pursuing. Diego and Mattie spent several minutes talking about the rancho, horses and their lives. As they talked both became more animated and they kept moving closer together. Without warning Diego leaned forward and kissed Mattie on the lips. Mattie jumped back like he’d been shocked. “What are you doing?!” he asked. Diego pulled back. “I’m sorry. I thought that you were, I mean, Jesse and Dylan and you and…” He looked down at the floor. “I am sorry.” Mattie slid next to Diego. “Diego, it’s alright. I am gay, but I have a boyfriend.” “Oh, no. Now I’m even more sorry. If I had known that...” “How could you know?” Mattie said. “If Jesse and Dylan hadn’t been so adamant about sharing a room, you probably wouldn’t have suspected about any of us.” Diego shook his head. “No, I would not. Are you all…?” “Gay?” Mattie asked. Diego nodded shyly. “Jesse, Dylan, Casey and I are. Ace’s straight as they come. But Ace is also the only single guy.” “Why is your friend not here?” “My boyfriend, Spin, stayed back at my parents’ villa. He and some other friends who came with us wanted to relax a little more. They are all riders and they will be here in a few days.” “Then I look forward to meeting them, and again, I am sorry.” “Don’t worry about it.” Mattie smiled. “I know what it’s like to not have anyone around and be dealing with all the hormones and emotions. If you want to talk, just let me or any of the guys know.” “Thank you, Mattie.” Just then the rest of the group came into the great room and Diego and Mattie got up to meet them and led them to the main barn where Ernesto and several ranch hands were waiting with six Andalusians saddled and ready to go. Diego spent the afternoon giving his guests a riding tour of the rancho. Everyone was impressed by the large property and Mattie was very pleased to see how well it had been kept up. Over the next two days, Mattie, Ace and Diego spent much of their time riding different horses and exploring the property. Mattie also looked at several of the mares that were available for sale. Casey, who had a basic knowledge of Spanish, stayed with Jesse and Dylan who had accepted Senor Montoya’s invitation to take some Spanish riding lessons with one of his trainers. On the day that the rest of their party was to arrive, Ernesto had made arrangements for Mattie to visit the neighboring ranch and see the mares they had available for sale. Casey was going to accompany Mattie to the neighboring rancho while Jesse, Dylan and Ace stayed behind to await their friends with Diego. Mattie was waiting for Ernesto and Casey at the black SUV they would be taking. He saw Dylan walking by. “Hey, Dyl, can you check in the barn for Ernesto or Casey?” he said. “We were supposed to leave fifteen minutes ago.” Dylan nodded. “Ok.” Dylan ran to the barn and started looking around for Ernesto, figuring that he had gotten caught in some type of emergency. He opened one of the feed room doors and quickly looked around. He was about to leave and shut the door when something caught his eye. He walked over and looked behind a tall rack of shelves. He gasped when he saw Casey lying unconscious on the floor. He turned to yell for help and someone grabbed him from behind. He struggled in the strong grip while a strong-smelling cloth was placed over his mouth. He tried to hold his breath, but the fumes were too strong. His head began to spin and he blacked out. Ernesto looked around the barnyard and seeing no one, he carried Dylan’s unconscious body to where the SUV waited. He nodded to the man behind the wheel and opened the back door and laid Dylan next to an unconscious Mattie. “We were only supposed to take the Alvarez boy,” the driver said in Spanish. Ernesto nodded. “Yes, but the other one found the bodyguard. I didn’t want him to yell for help. If he is too much trouble we will dispose of him,” he said. The driver nodded as headed the SUV down the road. *** “Uhh,” Mattie groaned as he woke up. His head was throbbing and shoulders were sore. He opened his eyes, but everything was black. He felt cloth against his cheek. There was something covering his head. He tried to raise his hands to pull it off and realized his hands were bound behind his back. He felt sharp ties cut into the tender skin of his wrists. “Where am I?” he thought. His head was so foggy, he couldn’t remember what had happened. He heard a groan. Someone else was in the room. “Who’s there?” he whispered. “Awake so soon?” he heard a voice say. Mattie thought he recognized the voice, but with the haze in his head, it took him a moment to place it. He started to say something, when he felt a hand grab his arm. “No!” he cried as he felt a needle pierce his skin. Within seconds his head was heavy and he felt himself falling into the abyss.
  38. 1 point
    The glass was cold against my fingers. I traced the small chips that made up the bright red berries of the holly. I blew on my fingertips, then tucked them under my arms. My ears and nose burned. My steps squeaked in the snow as I walked away from the new store. I coughed, the rasping bark breaking the quiet as I fought the spasm. On a dead street, in the tiny town I’d recently drifted into, everyone was at home enjoying the holiday with family. Except me. “Hey!” A hand grasped my shoulder, stopping me. “Hold on a second.” I stopped, too tired to argue when he turned me, never letting go. “What?” All I wanted to do was sleep. “You don’t sound too good. Maybe you should come inside?” Blinking, I studied the man staring at me. He was older, his hair gray with bushy eyebrows shadowing his dark blue eyes. He looked at me funny. “I’m not homeless,” I blurted out. He chuckled. “Okay.” “No, really. I’ve an apartment four blocks over. I just was cold and I have to walk to work.” Okay, the second jacket I had on was ragged, but it was one Mack had left when he back home for the holidays. He’d taken his good one. I’d been traveling light before I found my way to my one college friend so I’d borrowed it. I was too tired to argue with this guy though. “I swear, you can che—” I started coughing. Fighting to breathe, I couldn’t stop the man from pulling me back to the holly building. He pushed me down onto a couch. My whole body ached but the cushions cradled my body. I tried to sigh and started coughing again. “Stay right there.” He picked up an earthernware mug and filled it with yellow liquid from a teapot. I wrinkled up my nose. Tea was not exactly, well … my cup of tea. The man chuckled. “Just try it.” The first sip wasn’t too bad; the heat soothed my throat. I groaned as warmth began to soak into my body. I took in the shop around me. Mack would love it. It was full of antiques-many of them Celtic. Blinking began to take more effort. I didn’t want to move but I needed to get home to my cold, quiet apartment. Where I would be alone, at Christmas, while sick. Happy Holidays to me. My voice was raspy when I said, “Thanks for the tea, but I need—” A yawn took over before I could tell the guy I needed to go home. I couldn’t seem to stop drinking the tea. “I know what you need. First you must rest.” I couldn’t stay with a stranger. “I don’t even know your name.” “Call me Dag. This is my shop.” “Thanks, Dag, but I’m—” The cup slipped in my hand and Dag caught it before it broke. He chuckled and set it aside, guiding me down. The pillow felt like a cloud under my head and my exhausted body was too heavy to move. I should’ve been worried but I wasn’t. “You can sleep safe here, friend. The holly will have you better before you know it.” Dag tucked a blanket around my shoulders. I yawned. He mumbled, “Now for the other.” ** “You’re a wee fool, aren’t you?” The accented voice woke me. Cracking open my eyes, I looked up. Mack was scowling down at me. “How did you get here?” I croaked. Mack held out a glass of water. “How did I get here?” I was in the bed in Mack's apartment. I tried to figure out how I’d gotten home. Had I imagined the store? “A weird guy named Dag called, said he’d rescued you walking down the street with a fever. He helped me bring you home. I told you to use my car while I was gone. Instead the only thing you borrow is my ratty old jacket.” I’d never admit I’d borrowed it more for the fact that it was his than warmth. Way too juvenile. “You’re already giving me a place to live til I get my feet under me.” Having a place to call home this year meant I was better off than last year. I’d been nursing a bit of a flame for Mack for a few years but I was trying not to screw things up so I’d kept it to myself. “Well you can’t stay here now.” My heart sank. I’d screwed up again. No real family and I was bad at making friends. Mack was really the only person that I’d cared to keep tabs on. I threw back the blanket, meaning to leave before the tears burning in my eyes could fall. “I’m naked.” Mack snorted. “Why’m I naked?” “You were soaked when your fever broke.” That was not how I’d wanted Mack to strip me. He’d already seen me so I threw modesty to the wind and stood up. Tried to, at least. I would’ve crashed into the table if Mack hadn’t caught me. “Where are you going?” he snapped, pushing me down. I needed some clothes and my shoes then I’d be out of Mack’s hair. “You said I couldn’t stay.” “I said stay here. Mom said I was to bring you home. Now that you’re too weak to argue, you’re going.” So Mack could take care of me? “You know, you talked a lot in your fever.” Nausea twisted my stomach. What had I said? “I thought you weren’t interested in being more than friends,” Mack said. “Have you really been carrying a torch for me for five years?” I shrugged and looked away. Mack’s hands felt good on my face as he pushed my hair back. “I want you to come home with me for Christmas, as my boyfriend.” I was lost when I met his bright green eyes. “Okay.” Maybe it would be a good Christmas after all. **** I spent Christmas day on the couch at Mack's parents. He gave me a warm fuzzy blanket. I liked that it was the same bright green of his eyes. When I rubbed my face against it the softness felt like warm fur. Buying a gift for Mack hadn't been in my budget, plus I'd expected to spend the day alone. I'd been shocked when I pulled the Celtic knot bracelet out of my coat pocket. I know I hadn't taken it; I'd never gotten off the couch at Dag’s store. The note I felt crinkly in the pocket just said Happy Holiday with a stylized D. What a strange man. I begged a gift bag from Maggie, Mack's mom. I loved the surprised grin on Mack's face when he opened it and instantly put it on. "Thank you Jo," he whispered. I shuddered when his soft lips touched my ear. I smiled weakly. "Thank you too." I rubbed my cheek on my blanket. "I love this, it's so soft and warm." Mack's eyes burned into me. "I wanted to keep you from getting cold." The arrival of Mack's mother let me look away. I cleared and started coughing. Maggie patted my back before handing me a cup of tea. "Drink up, lad. You'll be right as rain in no time." I’d no idea how to respond to mothering, so I took a long drink. She seemed satisfied with that, smoothing the blanket over my shoulder. "Dinner will be ready soon." I yawned, being sick sucked. I finished my tea, grimacing at the sweet honey. Mack plucked my cup from my hand, then put my head in his lap. I was surprised but when his hand started sliding through my hair, I decided I didn't care. The headache from all the sinus pressure eased as I relaxed. "Take a nap. We're gonna watch the game." Another surprise, Mack's dad came in and sat down in the chair without saying a word. Like my head in Mack's lap was nothing. What a strange family … but I think I liked them almost as much as I did Mack. ** It took five days before I didn’t feel like I had a hangover. Thankfully, I always recovered quickly and only had to use two sick days. It was New Year's Eve and the tension between us was driving me crazy. Mack had rubbed my head and fed me soup and medicines til I was better. We planned on going out to celebrate, toast a new year together. My black jeans fit like a glove and I paired them with a clean white t-shirt. "Ready to party?" His black shirt made Mack’s pale skin glow. I blinked, enjoying the way he moved as he bent over and pulled on his shoes, and not listening at all. "Jochym!" I glared at him. "Don't call me that." "Well then pay attention." I so was. Mack walked over to me, his hips swinging. I swallowed hard. "I asked if you were ready to go to the club." He stood close enough I could feel the heat of his body. I’d planned on kissing him at midnight but … I yanked Mack close, one hand on his neck and the other against the small of his back. "I'm tired of the teasing," I growled. Mack raised one eyebrow. "So?" A week of being too sick to do anything about the bulge that kept growing in his jeans made me impatient. Our teeth clicked together as I shoved my tongue in his mouth, tasting and exploring every inch. His hands clutched my shoulders as Mack kissed back. It was every bit as good as I'd imagined but now my pants were too tight. My cock ached as I rubbed against him, feeling the ridge of his erection. "Bedroom." He hauled me to his room by my wrist. It was a race to see who could undress first. I waited for the right moment, then pushed Mack down on the bed. “Hey, my boots!" I yanked them off and then pushed his pants down. "Commando, huh?" Mack's green eyes gleamed. "Quick." "Hot." Our cocks rubbed together as I kissed him. We both moaned. I pushed up, stroking his chest and flicking his nipples. His legs closed around my hips and yanked me close. "We can do the foreplay thing later." His erection was angry red and weeping. "I need you." His hoarse voice and the way his eyes darkened with need stole my ability to speak. Mack reached under the pillow and pulled out lube and a condom. How like my Mack. "I wanted to be prepared, just in case." I took them from him. I put the condom on first, knowing that as soon as I touched him I'd be lost. I was right; his soft heat pulled me in as I slicked him up. His back arched as I nailed his prostate with two fingers. "Now!" he gasped. My mind shattered when I pushed into him. I was left with scattered impressions of tight heat, a pounding rhythm and small pricks of pain as Mack's nails dug into my ass. He demanded more and I shoved a pillow under his ass, shifting until he shuddered and cried out. I pushed in over and over, nailing his prostate. He came first, my hand stroking him as I bit my cheek, trying to hold back. He shouted my name as cum shot across his stomach and chest. I let go of my control and pounded into him until the hardest orgasm of my life sent me flying. "Mack!" Panting, I collapsed on the bed. Mack sighed. "Why'd we wait so long to do that?" I shook my head. "I dunno." "Want to go again?" Amazingly, I did. He teased me for ages. By the time the clock struck midnight we were both sweaty and sticky. I finally gave him the long, slow kiss I'd planned. "Happy New Year." The End
  39. 1 point
    Luke Summers is from the UK, but finds more than he expects when his family move to make a new life, just north of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. But don't be fooled. An English Teen, Circumcised in the USA is a lot more than it seems as young people try to figure out who they are in this extraordinary tale of life, love and loss.
  40. 1 point
    “Jimmy watch out,” Julian exclaimed even as he heard his cat react to James stepping on her tail. “Jules, get Cara out of the way. She is going to make us fall on her.” “She was happy to see you,” Julian chuckled. “Cara, come here girl.” Julian held his hands out for the cat that gladly leapt up to take her spot on his lap. “Is Colin still out there?” “Yep, he's bringing in his stuff now. So where are you sticking me so I know where to put my stuff? I assume that I won't be sharing your room.” “Do you think I would ever want you in my bed,” Julian said wrinkling his nose playfully as he continued to pet Cara. “Whoa what did I just walk in on?” Colin asked; his arms filled with bags. Julian blushed and focused on his orange cat so he wouldn’t have to meet Colin’s gaze. “I’m giving my best buddy here a hard time because I can.” Jams replied. “I figured that that he wasn't willing to share the bedroom with me so I was just asking where my perch will be.” “Well the only person he’s going to share the bedroom with is me…right Julian.” “Are you two determined to turn me into a beet?” Julian asked still not moving his head. “Neither of you are sleeping in my bed…at least not right now. Colin you get to sleep in there,” He pointed to the spare bedroom, “and Jimmy you can either sleep in there with him or take the other room. I will leave that up to you. Heck one of you could take my bed since it will probably be safer for me to stay on the couch.” “Geez dude did that cart break your sense of humor too. We are just messing with you. I really think you would be better off in your own bed, but one of us should at least stay in there with you for a couple of nights until we make sure you aren't going to fall.” “I’m sorry,” Julian sighed as he looked at his best friend and his boyfriend. “I know you guys are joking…forgive me, I guess I’m already cranky because I know I can’t move around at all!” “Its okay, Julian,” Colin spoke up. “How about for the first couple of nights, I will camp out on your floor and James can take the spare room. Then after that we will figure out what to do okay? Does that work for you, James?” “That works for me,” James sighed. “Don't worry Julian we'll make this as easy as possible. I should have been a little more sensitive, I’m sorry.” “Yeah…me too. I didn’t mean to be a jerk.” “Well I should have kept my big mouth shut. We will make this work, guys.” “Yes we will,” Colin agreed. “Now I am going to stick this stuff in your room, Julian. You and James kiss and make up okay?” Colin turned and headed towards Julian’s room and Julian shook his head and looked at his best friend. “You know I love you for putting up with me. I’m really sorry. We will make this work and I will try not to be so stubborn okay?” “Yeah no worries. You work on stubborn and I'll work on not being so obnoxious. Now what is Colin gonna have to work on because I'm sure we can come up with something, can't have him feeling left out.” Julian laughed, but it quickly turned to a wince as he held his side. “No fair making me laugh Jimmy,” he said beaming at his best friend. “Though I think Colin will work on being the best boyfriend he can be.” “Julian, you have to be careful,” Colin remarked as he came into the room. “I know you like to laugh, but your ribs need to heal and laughing won’t help right now.” “I’d say he’s off to a pretty good start,” James commented. He winked at Julian and disappeared into the spare room to take care of his things. Colin watched the door for a minute before turning to meet Julian’s gaze. “What was that about? More secret language?” he smirked and came to sit on the couch, trying hard not to hit Julian’s leg. “Jimmy and I were talking about what we need to work on,” Julian explained. “He didn’t want you to be left out so I said you’d be a great boyfriend. Jimmy was just saying you were off to a great start.” Colin smiled and leaned forward placing a soft kiss on Julian’s lips. Cara meowed in protest and scooted off her daddy’s lap. “Today just isn’t her day,” Julian chuckled. “I think she’s jealous,” Colin mused. “She has to share you now.” “She at least likes you,” Julian grinned and leaned forward just enough to touch Colin’s forehead with his own. “I hope so,” Colin whispered. Julian could feel how close Colin was, and he was about to close the gaps between their mouths when they heard James clearing his throat behind them. They pulled away and turned slightly to stare at him, their expressions saying this better be good. “If you lovebirds are done,” James said quite amused, “We still have to get other stuff in here before it gets too late. Then we can celebrate this moving in arrangement with pizza and drink and you two can go back to your little love fest.” “Screw you, Jimmy,” Julian said his smile clear in his eyes. Colin stole another kiss before getting up, and he and James finished moving their things into the condo. Cara stayed out of the way while Julian continued to direct the boys on where to put things. All joking aside, Julian was grateful to his friends for being here with him. James was always a lifesaver and Colin…Colin never ceased to amaze him and if he could be honest with himself for at least a moment, he was slowly falling for the passenger who had caught his eye just mere months ago. ** As the night progressed Julian found himself paying particular attention to how his best friend and his boyfriend interacted with each other. It meant a lot to him that they seemed to be getting along. Colin was easily intrigued by James’ stories and his sense of humor, and James…he seemed impressed with Colin. Julian was impressed too, and with every word the man spoke he felt just a little more attached. These feelings frightened him as well as excited him. He had never known anyone quite like Colin; the man was an enigma and Julian wondered how he could have been lucky enough to find him. He wasn’t jaded…he knew Colin wasn’t perfect, and he didn’t think he pretended to be. After Marc, Julian had vowed not to be that naïve. However there was this innate trust, something so intense and personal that he wanted to hold on to it for as long as he was allowed to. “You’re kidding right,” Colin’s voice drew him out of his reverie. His boyfriend was holding his glass of soda about an inch from his mouth, and he was looking at James as if he had said something completely insane. Somehow Julian didn’t doubt that was the case. “You are not sitting there saying that Vick should be let into the game, say it ain’t so man.” James held up his hands in surrender and laughed. “That wasn’t what I said at all, Colin. I’m just saying that Spaulding’s crime was just as bad as his, yet they are letting him play this year and that just isn’t right.” “Okay, I feel better now,” Colin said sipping his drink and smiling. Julian shook his head and reached for another slice of pizza. “Let me get that for you, baby,” Colin said before Julian could reach the box. Colin placed the box on his lap and Julian gratefully picked up another slice. “Thanks,” he said gratefully. Silently he was glad that Colin hadn’t just picked up the pizza slice for him, but he didn’t want to voice that out loud. Everything was so peaceful he didn’t want to start a fight. “Would you like some more juice?” Colin asked as he stood to go into the kitchen. “I’m okay, Colin.” “I want some juice,” James piped up. “Then get off your ass and get it,” Colin laughed. “I guess he told you,” Julian grinned as his best friend got off the floor chuckling. “Your boyfriend is a mess. I’ll be right back.” Julian smiled. He liked the sound of that…his boyfriend. It had been weeks now since he had given Colin a key to his home, and now they would be living together under interesting circumstances. He hoped this move could only bring good things…he wanted it to. He wanted more than anything to be close to Colin in every way possible…he just needed to be careful. He didn’t want to lose himself in this relationship; if this was going to work then they had to be equal…it was the only way. “Penny for your thoughts?” Colin’s voice drew him out of his reverie and he smiled as the taller man settled down beside him. “I was just thinking about you,” he admitted softly. “What about me?” Colin asked flashing that smile that Julian found addicting. “Well,” Julian said ducking his head shyly, “I’m just thinking that I could easily lose myself in you, you just have this effect on me that’s just…” “Intoxicating?” Colin supplied the word as he caressed Julian’s cheek. “Yeah, that’s it,” Julian’s voice was a whisper as he gazed deeply into Colin’s eyes. “I expect to be completely head over heels for you by Christmas.” He blushed crimson, realizing too late that he had said that out loud. He was certain Colin would think he was insane. They were truly only getting to know each other, even if it seemed like they’d been acquainted or years. Colin chuckled and kissed the top of his forehead. “I don’t think it will take me that long, baby…I’ve already started. But don’t worry I love…I mean…I really like who you are and I have no intentions of changing you or making you change in any way shape of form.” It was Colin’s turn to turn crimson and Julian laughed and shifted uncomfortably. His ribcage was not happy with him, and it would be time for him to medicate himself and get some sleep. “If you would like, I can forget that you used that four letter word…at least for today.” “Thank you…though I am sure I will say it to you soon enough.” Julian smiled. “I’m glad you’re here, Colin. I’m glad you dropped everything to come to me…and I’m glad you don’t ask me to quit my job.” Colin moved forward to hug him gently, and he leaned into the embrace, placing his head on Colin’s shoulder. It was nice to be held, and he couldn’t wait for the day when he would be able to be properly in Colin’s arms. “I’m glad I’m here too…and I’m glad you want me,” Colin whispered in his ear and he just smiled, forgetting about the pain momentarily. They pulled out of the hug when James reentered the room making a joke about saving the antics for closed doors. Julian glared at him, which only made James laugh, and Colin just shook his head and chuckled. This was definitely going to be an interesting living arrangement. ** He reluctantly let Colin and James get him ready for bed. With his leg in a cast, and his ankle damaged he really couldn’t walk, and that aggravated him to no end. He tried not to take it out on them, it wasn’t their fault…and they only wanted to help. He felt slightly embarrassed that Colin had to undress him, but he didn’t react to that either. Once he was settled in the bed, James retired to his room and left Colin to tend to Julian. “Are you comfortable?” Colin asked him as he handed him his pills and a glass of water. “Yes, thank you,” Julian smiled. He took the pills and swallowed with water, handing Colin the glass as he wiped his mouth. “Think you can help me lay down?” Without hesitation Colin helped him to lie down at an angle, making sure his leg was elevated, and his ankle was comfortable as well. “I hope you are going to be okay, Julian.” “I hope you’re going to be okay on the floor,” Julian commented. “I think it would be okay if you slept on the bed…I mean I don’t want you to be, you know, uncomfortable just because you are helping me and all.” “You know, you are so adorable when you get shy,” Colin chuckled. “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable, and you need to recuperate.” “Well, you won’t be able to take care of me if you have to sleep on the floor,” Julian pointed out. “And besides that, we slept in the same bed that one time, remember? I trust you…and I’m kinda stationary here so…” He knew his cheeks were red hot and he bit his lips so he could stop from rambling. “Why, Mr. Sinclair are you asking me to sleep with you?” Colin asked playfully. “If that’s what you want to call it,” Julian retorted. “Hmmmm I don’t know,” Colin said slyly. “Aren’t their rules and regulations you have to follow when it comes to your clients.” “What,” Julian laughed despite himself. “Now you’re just being an ass.” Colin chuckled. “I will report you to air traffic control.” “Colin!” Julian shook his head as Colin slipped out of his shoes, his socks and his pants and joined him on the bed. “I got you to laugh, there for I think my work is done.” “Air traffic control?” Julian giggled. “I just dealt with air traffic, and believe me I do not want to speak with them anytime soon.” Colin propped himself up on an elbow and smirked. Julian thought it was the cutest thing ever. “I want you to tell me all about it,” he said causing Julian to frown. “Tell you all about what?” he asked puzzled. “The turbulence?” “Well that too,” Colin said nodding slightly. “Tell me about your job, Julian. I want to know all about commercial airlines. Help me understand what it is you do to keep our skies friendly.” “You want me to tell you about work?” “Yes,” Colin said seriously. “I want to be able to understand all the terms you spout on the aircraft and what you teach the newbies like Mindy. Your job is a part of you so I want to know about it…and you.” Julian smiled and pulled Colin to him for a soft kiss that left him dizzy. “I feel nice and warm…and fuzzy,” he giggled. “And that’s either because of you or the drugs.” He grinned happily. “But whatever, I’ll tell you everything when I’m not doped up…and Colin?” “Yes,” Colin asked stroking Julian’s cheek. “Thank you.” ** “Mmm that feels really good,” Julian moaned. “Go lower, please just a little…yeah right there. Oh yes, yes, thank you god.” James stood and watched the scene from the doorway trying not to laugh. Julian was bent slightly with his eyes closed with Colin behind him, hands resting on Julian’s bare shoulders. Colin was working his fingers into Julian’s flesh, and from the sound of it Julian was enjoying it very much. “You’re so tense,” Colin commented as his fingers continued work their magic. “I’m not hurting you am I?” “Colin, that feels incredible. I’ve never had a massage like this before.” “Really,” Colin asked looking towards the door as if James held the confirmation to that statement. “Face it Colin, you have the Midas touch,” James laughed. “I don’t think even Marc ever touched him like that.” “Hey, no more mention of that name,” Julian said sighing contentedly under Colin’s ministrations. “That’s fine with me,” James said crossing his arms. “If it were up to me,” Colin said as his hands continued to glide over Julian’s back, “We’d completely eradicate that guy from our thoughts. But somehow I don’t know if that will be possible yet.” “You’re right, Colin,” James agreed. “I doubt we’ve seen the last of that asshole.” “You two are not helping my mood,” Julian gasped. Colin stopped his hands and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend. “Are you okay? I’m not hurting you am I?” Julian nuzzled into the embrace and relaxed. He was actually feeling a lot better. His ribs were healing nicely, and somehow he had managed not to kill either of his roommates. Having James around full time was actually great, and having his boyfriend doting on him hand and foot was very nice indeed. He was going to miss this when things went back to normal. “No, you weren’t hurting me,” he responded to Colin’s inquiry. “That felt really good.” “It sounded orgasmic,” James teased. “Fuck off, Jimmy,” Julian laughed. “You’re just jealous.” “You’re right; I just want Colin all to myself, ooh baby.” James laughed at the glares he got from both his best friend and the boyfriend. He thought it was great that he could kid like this with Colin around, and it was definitely nice to see the glow on his best friend’s face. “You know,” he said coming to sit on the edge of the bed. “I just realized how much I missed seeing you smile.” “I think this has been my longest stretch of happiness to date,” Julian admitted. “I really like having you and Colin here with me. I thought I would hate it, but you guys don’t overdo it and I have to admit I love the company.” “Well, if we’re being honest, I like the fact that I can say whatever I want without fear.” “You weren’t scared of that jerk were you?” Colin asked amused. “I was under the impression that you didn’t scare easily. “He doesn’t,” Julian laughed. “He just knew talking about Marc or arguing with Marc upset me.” “Ah now it all makes sense,” Colin said as he tightened his hold on Julian and placed his chin in Julian’s hair. “I’m going to miss not being here with you every day, Julian. I kinda like it.” “You and Jimmy both are more than welcome to stay…even after the cast comes off.” “You mean that, Jules?” James asked curiously. “I know above all else you adore your privacy, and your space.” “Plus I think Cara might have a thing or two to say about that invite,” Colin added. Julian turned slightly causing Colin to shift a bit. “Cara loves you both and you know it. She was rubbing on your leg on the first meeting, Colin.” “And I know she didn’t get along with Marc.” “I love how now you both have mentioned him by name,” Colin teased. “Well mentioning him in the past tense is probably good for me,” Julian admitted. “I think you guys are right…I haven’t seen the last of him yet, but I want to be ready for him…if and when it happens.” “That’s the spirit,” James sad as Colin kissed Julian on the cheek. “Colin and I have your back no matter what…right Colin?” “Yeah,” Colin’s reply was soft and Julian melted into his arms and beamed. James sighed and stood glancing at his friends for a long moment before turning to leave the room. “Come on Cara,” he said scooping up the tabby cat who was walking into the room. “I think these two want to be alone, no best friends and felines allowed. And you know what? I don’t mind that one bit.” ** “Oh no,” he heard someone say as glass hit the floor. He opened his eyes and was only semi-surprised to see his little brother standing in the middle of a sea of glass, flowers and water. He looked mortified, and Julian sighed as he allowed his eyes to close again. “I think I just made my brother mad at me,” Aidan said sadly. “I don’t think he’s mad,” Colin’s voice met his ears. “But I think you woke him up.” “Sorry about that, I knew we were supposed to let him sleep.” “Don’t move until we get up the glass, buddy,” Colin said keeping his voice gentle for Aidan’s sake. Julian smiled and opened his eyes again to watch what was going on. Colin was sweeping up glass as Aidan looked on, doing as he had been told to do. Colin picked up the flowers too and handed Aidan a towel to sop up the water. “Hey!” Aidan exclaimed coming over to the couch. “You’re awake. I didn’t mean to wake you up Julian, I’m sorry.” Julian smiled and moved to sit up, which he was able to do with his brother’s help. “It’s okay; it was time for me to wake up anyway. When did you get here?” “Dad dropped me off about an hour or so ago. Colin and I were just having some fun while you slept, and then I accidently knocked down your vase.” “That’s okay,” Julian said pulling his brother into a hug. “I’m just glad you didn’t cut yourself.” “Is your leg getting better?” Aidan asked his eyes full of concern. “Will you be able to walk on it soon?” “The cast comes off in a couple of weeks,” Julian said happily. “I’ll be happy when you get out of that cast,” Colin announced as he came to stand behind the chair. He bent to give Julian a kiss on the cheek. “Welcome back to the waking world baby. I hope you had a nice nap.” “I hope you enjoyed your time with my eleven year old little brother,” Julian sad even as he poked his brother in the ribs to make him laugh. “Aidan was a perfect angel,” Colin asserted. He laughed at Julian’s raised eyebrows. “Okay so maybe perfect is the wrong word but he was pretty good.” “I don’t doubt it,” Julian said pulling Aidan into a hug. “He’s a good little guy.” “Hey I’m not so little anymore you know,” Aidan protested. Julian smiled. “You’ll always be little to me, even if you grow to be as tall as dad.” “I want to be as tall as Colin,” Aidan laughed as he wriggled out of his brother’s grasp, trying to make sure he didn’t hurt him while doing so. Julian laughed and shook his head. It was nice to see that Aidan and Colin got along so well. It had been a month since James and Colin had moved in, and Julian was continually surprised at how much he enjoyed having them both there. Colin barely left his side, though Julian insisted he get some work done because he didn’t want Colin to lose his job. Colin obliged and worked from home, and had frequent conferences with his boss. Julian got to hear Colin’s side of those calls and it wasn’t lost on him how tense his boyfriend’s features became when he spoke to the man. James went to work every day, but he made sure to call in every hour to check on Julian or to see if the guys needed anything while he was out. Sometimes he would talk to James for a good hour before his friend had to get back to work. And other times Colin would speak with him, and Julian was very happy to see that his best friend and his boyfriend were getting along so well. That meant a lot to him and it gave him hope that things with Colin were going to work long term. Usually when he was off his feet for this long he was agitated and cranky. He would snap at everyone who asked him if he was okay, and if they dared help him do something he was used to doing himself he would become cross and bullheaded. Julian wasn’t a great patient, and no one knew that better then James. His best friend always stuck by him though, and Julian was forever grateful for that. Colin was proving to be just as steadfast and Julian was starting to wonder if he could go back to living alone after he was all better. So far there hadn’t been any serious fights; aside from the minor disagreement James and Colin had about laundry detergent. “Do you really have a video camera, Colin?” Aidan’s voice drew Julian out of his thoughts and he focused on his brother who was watching Colin intently. “Do you like making movies?” “It’s a hobby of mine,” Colin nodded, a smile crossing his lips. Julian loved the way Colin’s eyes lit up when he spoke about filmmaking. It was enough to make him smile. “When I was in school we had to make a lot of short films and I always thought that one day I’d be able to make a real movie.” “You should,” Aidan said excitedly. “You could get Julian to write the script for you. He used to write all the time.” “Did he now?” Colin said and Julian bit his lip as that sapphire gaze turned his way. He ducked his head and shrugged shyly. Somehow that gaze had managed to make him bashful. “He has a lot of journals in the room I told you about,” Aidan replied. “What room?” Julian asked raising an eyebrow. “Little Aidan here told me you have a room full of sea creatures and airplanes,” Colin chuckled. “I admit I’d like to see it.” Julian’s cheeks were burning as he looked from Colin to his little brother and back to Colin. “I didn’t realize you knew about that.” “Oh no, did I tell a secret,” Aidan said frowning. “I’m sorry Julian.” “It’s okay,” Julian chuckled. “I’m sure Colin would have snooped and found it anyway.” He winked at his boyfriend and reached out to tousle his brother’s hair. “As a matter of fact I have,” Colin said sticking out his tongue. Julian laughed and clutched his side as he felt a slight pain in the ribs. “You did not just stick your tongue out at me,” he gasped and shifted to make himself comfortable. “So what if I did,” Colin smirked. Julian was about ready to reply when the phone rang. “I’ll get it,” Aidan exclaimed as he ran for the phone.” “Stop running,” Julian and Colin called after him at the same time. They Looked at each other and smiled even as Aidan’s sneakers screeched to a stop “Hello?” Julian heard his brother say as he walked back towards the couch. “Hi James! Yes I’m being good for Colin. Yes Julian is awake. Did you want to talk to him? Okay, hold on. James wants to talk to you,” Aidan explained as he handed Julian the phone. “Thanks, Buddy,” Julian chuckled. “Hi Jimmy.” “Hey, dude. I just wanted to check in with you before it got too busy here. I have to work late, so you and Colin are on your own for dinner.” “You work too much, Jimmy.” “Says the flight attendant who clocks in 90 hours a week?” James countered a smile in his voice. “I have a big project to get done here, and since the rest of my staff is incompetent guess who gets stuck doing most of it.” “Are you talking about the entire staff or one coworker in particular,” Julian teased. “I don’t know what you’re implying but stop it,” James warned. “Okay, okay,” Julian laughed. “Look don’t work too hard and we will save dinner for you.” “Thanks, Man. Are you sure you’re okay?” “I’m hanging in here Jimmy. Colin’s been great…he’s been taking care of Aidan today.” “Yeah I didn’t realize the little guy was coming over today.” James interrupted. “Neither did I. You know the vase that was in the living room. “Yeah…the one my mom gave you right?” “Uh huh…it’s broken.” “Dude…” “I know, it was an accident. The crash woke me up.” James sighed. “Oh well, as long as Aidan is okay its fine. He didn’t cut himself did he?” “You heard him,” Julian smiled as he looked over to where Aidan was being tickled by Colin. “He’s fine and I think I’ve come to a decision about something.” “Hold that thought okay. I have to get back to work, but I will try not to be too late tonight. No moving unless you have to, and listen to Colin.” “Yes, Dad,” Julian chuckled. “See you when you get home Jimmy.” “Is everything okay,” Colin asked as Julian hung up the phone. He stopped ticking Aidan and wrapped his arms around his waist instead to hold him there. “Jimmy has to work late,” Julian explained, “and he said we’re on our own for dinner.” “Big project?” “Yeah they have a deadline…I think I can help cook dinner tonight. It shouldn’t be too much trouble.” “Oh no you don’t,” Colin protested. Aidan wiggled out of his grasp and Colin watched him scamper off before focusing on Julian again. “You are going to stay on that couch until it’s time for us to go into the bedroom okay?” “But Colin…” “No buts, Julian. The last time you tried to do something yourself you almost tumbled and you could have caused more damage. You’re healing nicely, and the cast comes off in two weeks. Once that happens you can maneuver around all you want, but until then you are going to let me take care of you…okay?” Julian blinked as tears filled his eyes. He knew his must have looked terrible for the next thing he knew Colin was kneeling beside him, reaching a hand up to touch his cheek. Julian tried to smile even as the tears slid down his face. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you cry, Julian,” Colin soothed. “I just don’t want anything to happen to you. You mean that much to me.” Julian shook his head and tried to articulate what was going through his head. These weren’t sad tears, not by a long shot. “You want to take care of me?” he managed a whisper as he looked into those crystal eyes he was coming to love so much. “You just don’t know how much that means to me, Colin. Thank you.” He slipped his arms around Colin’s neck and held on for a long moment. He felt Colin embracing him gently and his heart skipped a beat. As he buried his head into Colin’s neck he made a decision that would change the course of their lives forever. He could only hope that his best friend and his boyfriend would agree with him. ** “I still want you to take it easy,” Colin said as Julian stood at the entrance to his bedroom. He was finally back on his feet, being aided by a cane, and he had insisted on helping Colin with the laundry, despite his boyfriend’s protests. “I know you are happy to be back on your feet, Julian, and I want you to be able to stay that way.” “I’ll be careful,” Julian promised. “It just feels so good to be able to move again, Colin.” “I know,” Colin grinned as he came to stand beside Julian. “But if you overdo it then you’re going to relapse.” Julian leaned in to kiss him softly on the cheek and smiled. “I’ll be good. I’m just going to go get another load of clothes for you. I didn’t realize I let things get so out of hand, I’m usually much better about laundry and everything. And I can’t stand that there is a mess in my room.” “A mess you would barely notice if you were still on the go every week,” Colin commented. “I guess being off work for two months really makes you notice things doesn’t it?” “I think this is the longest I’ve ever spent in my own home,” Julian admitted. “I’m usually here for three days on average and I think a week at most. And I can’t remember the last time I cleaned so-“ Colin stopped Julian’s flow of words with a finger to his lips and then kissed him gently on the cheek. “I don’t mind your help with the laundry, Julian. I actually like doing things with you…it’s nice.” Julian smiled and blushed slightly before heading into his bedroom to tidy up a bit. It had been two weeks since he made the decision to ask Colin and James to move in with him, but he had yet to actually implement his plan. James was barely there lately. Work kept him busy constantly, and Julian was lucky if he got to speak with him on the telephone. And Colin was pretty busy as well. Today was his first free day. He had turned off his phone after telling his assistant that he would be unavailable for the rest of the week. Julian had told him that wasn’t necessary, but Colin insisted so that he could take Julian to the doctors to get his cast removed. And now they were doing laundry which in of itself was a daunting task. He wasn’t certain where all the piles of clothes came from, but he placed the next load near the door for Colin and focused his attention on his closet. He started sifting through shirts, wondering what he could get rid of and what he could move to make room for Colin. Thinking about sharing his closet with Colin excited him. It was a big step, and he knew that…but he was more certain every day that it was something he was ready for. As he moved the hangers over he noticed a shirt cuff sticking out of place. HE frowned as he continued to move the hangers, until he found the shirt falling off the hanger. He didn’t recognize it at first glance, and he wondered if perhaps it was one of Marc’s that he had overlooked when he cleared out his ex’s things. The shirt was resting on top of a box he didn’t recognize and his frown deepened as he investigated. He was almost certain that the shirt didn’t belong to him, and his suspicious were confirmed when he found the wings attached to the front. His heart beat fast as he put the shirt aside and lifted the lid off the box. He gasped and covered his mouth with his hands as his eyes took in the contents
  41. 1 point
    He groaned when he heard the phone ringing, and blindly reached out his hand to answer it. He felt like he had just gotten to sleep, after tossing and turning all night. He wasn’t sure why he was so nervous, but he was. He was supposed to meet Julian’s little brother today…and to him that was a really big deal. “Hello,” he said rubbing his eyes as he sat up in the bed. “Oh no, I woke you up, I’m sorry.” “Julian? No it’s okay. What’s wrong, you sound about as good as I feel.” “Tired, yes,” Julian tried to laugh but it was stifled by a yawn. “Look I need a really big favor from you, and I’m really hoping that you can do this for me.” “Sounds serious,” Colin frowned. “We are still on for today aren’t we?” “That’s kinda the problem,” Julian sighed. “I’m stuck in Denver.” “What? Why?” “Plane delay,” Julian explained. “If I wasn’t supposed to be working I would just rent a car and drive until I made it home. But I can’t do that, and I don’t want to disappoint Aidan…or you for that matter.” “You want me to take your brother to the water park?” “Could you?” “Are you sure that’s a good idea Julian? I’m a stranger to him.” “Oh, believe me he knows who you are. He’s looking forward to meeting you, Colin. And I just can’t let him down today. I want you to pick him up and take him to the park, so he can be there when it opens. And I will meet you guys there, hopefully by lunchtime if I can manage it” “You talked to your little brother about me,” Colin asked, a smile creeping across his face at the thought. “Yes and he’s very excited that you want to hang out with him.” “Well, I don’t want to let the little guy down,” Colin conceded. “But I will have you know I was nervous enough to meet him…now I have to meet your parents too. This is getting serious, Luciano.” There was a long moment of silence before Julian laughed and Colin’s smile grew even wider. “Are we giving each other pet names already, Payne? This is only the second date.” “And I’m meeting your parents and your little brother today.” Colin pointed out. “Good point.” “I’m glad your smiling, Julian. I wish I could see it.” “I’ll smile as soon as I get to see you and the little guy this afternoon. Make sure he knows I love him okay? I talked to him last night and I know he misses me. And just in case I am not there; let him have corndogs for lunch. Those are his favorite; we usually end up getting stuffed on corndogs and coke.” “Corndogs and coke…got it,” Colin said “I hope you make it home safely…wish me luck with your family.” “You’ll be fine, Colin. I gotta go. Thank you so much.” Julian was gone before Colin could say you’re welcome. He smiled at the phone and shook his head. His day had just gotten a little more interesting to say the least. He was happy though, that Julian seemed to trust him enough to let him pick up his little brother. It was also a big deal that he would be meeting Julian’s parents today. He hoped they liked him…he hoped they thought he was good enough for their son. He spent the next few minutes trying to find just the right thing to wear. It had to be comfortable and not too classy since he was going to a water park. Yet at the same time he wanted to look nice to go pick up Julian‘s brother and besides that this was a date. He wanted to impress Julian. He settled on a pair of denim khaki shorts and a white t-shirt, and added a light jacket just in case it got chilly during the day. He sent Julian a text message asking for his parents’ address and finished getting ready while waiting for a response. There was no message from Julian by the time he was ready to leave so he grabbed his phone and his keys and headed out the door. He called James while he was in the car, not really caring if he was waking him up. This was an emergency. “Hi James. Can you tell me where Julian’s parents live?” “Colin? What? Julian's parents? Dude is something wrong with Julian?” “No, nothing’s wrong. But he needs me to do him a favor. He just neglected to tell me where to go, and I forgot to ask. And by the time I did ask, he couldn’t answer me so I’m asking you.” “Ok, let me get my heart rate back to normal, you just scared me to death. Julian's parents live in Luther's Corners do you know where that is?” “I’m sorry James, I didn’t mean to scare you. Luther’s Corners? No I don’t think I’m familiar with that area. How far outside of Chicago is it?” “Not too far. Julian didn't want to be too far from home because of his sibs and his grandmothers. He is very close to them. I'll send the directions to your cell, that way you will have them and don't have to try and write them down. So what is going on that you are headed to the Sinclair’s?” “Well, Julian and I were going to take Aidan to the water park opening today. But Julian is stuck in Denver, and he doesn’t want to disappoint Aidan, so he asked me to pick him up. What are his parents like?” “Hey that's wonderful that he wanted you to do that. Annie and Matthew are very nice. They are good people and I'm sure they are going to love you so don't be nervous.” “I can’t help but be nervous,” Colin admitted. “Meeting the family is a really big deal, and I’m doing it without Julian which makes it scarier.” “Just the fact that Julian is sending you without him will say a lot to them. They never liked Marc because he tried so hard to cut Julian off from his family. You will be fine and Aidan is a character. He will have you wrapped around his little finger within minutes. He reminds me so much of Julian sometimes that it is scary. Julian adores Aidan and the feeling is mutual. Just be yourself and you will be just fine. Don't hesitate to call me back if you need to.” “Well I have one more question,” Colin said as he pulled into a parking lot. “I wanted to take something to the house, you know like flowers or something for his mom and something for Aidan and his dad too but I don’t know what. Any ideas?” “Flowers are always a good way to get on Annie's good side. As for Aidan, he's a typical little boy, planes, trains and automobiles are his life. Matthew, he's a little tougher and to be honest I wouldn't take something for him. Be prepared for the third degree, and just be honest about how you feel about Jules. They are just getting their happy Julian back, and I'm sure Matthew is going to want to make sure he sticks around for a while this time.” Thanks James. I’ll keep that in mind, and I’ll let you know how it goes.” Colin hung up the phone and soon received a text from James with the directions. During his drive he received a text from Julian as well. He laughed when he saw a duplicate copy of what James had sent him, along with a thank you and a smile. He was still nervous, but talking to Julian’s best friend had put him a little at ease. This was just a big deal, Julian was putting a lot of faith in him and he didn’t want to let him down. ** Thanks to the directions Colin found Julian’s family home fairly easy. He sat and looked at the huge house for a moment, and once again wondered if he was making the right choice here. According to James, Annie and Matthew, Julian’s parents, were very nice. He guessed he was about to find out. He took a deep breath and stepped out of his truck, with flowers and gift bag in hand. In no time he was at the door, waiting for someone to answer his knock. The woman who answered the door had Julian’s eyes, he noticed that right away. She was about the same height as his own mother, with hair that seemed to be a mix of blond, red and brown. It reminded him of the setting sun and he wanted to remember it to describe it to Julian. She smiled warmly at him and gestured for him to enter. “You must be Colin,” she said as he stepped into the house. “I’m Annie, Julian’s mother. He told me you would be coming by.” “Yes, Ma’am,” Colin said holding the flowers out to her. “These are for you “Thank you, Colin. These are lovely. Julian wasn’t kidding when he said you were sweet.” “”He said that?” Colin asked, not able to hide the smile that played on his lips. “Your son is too sweet himself.” Annie smiled and nodded her agreement to that sentiment. “Matthew, Colin’s here,” she called as she went to put the flowers into water. Colin breathed a sigh of relief and took a seat on the couch. Annie was as nice as James had said. He was more concerned about meeting Matthew and Aidan. Those opinions were the ones that would hold the most weight…They were at the top of Julian’s important people list. He stood when a tall man with sandy hair entered the room. Matthew Sinclair, Colin realized, was a very handsome man with blue eyes and a smile that could put anyone at ease. Colin just hoped that he could keep the man smiling. “You must be Colin; I'm Julian's father, Matthew. Have a seat, and Aidan will be down shortly.” Colin reclaimed his seat, and Matthew sat in his recliner, leaning forward so he could look at Colin. “Jules has spoken very highly of you the last few times we’ve talked. I don't want this to come off as an inquisition here, but having been distanced from Jules during his previous relationship I would really like to know what your intentions are regarding my son.” “It’s nice to meet you, sir. Julian speaks very highly of you as well. I have to be honest with you; I have real feelings for him. I don’t think I have ever felt this way about anyone in my life. I want to learn more about you, and make him happy in the interim. I have no intention of keeping him away from his family…I already know how important you guys are to him.” “And you have no problem with Jules’ work and its sometimes unpredictable schedule?” Matthew inquired. “He loves his job, and I don't want him to feel like he has to make a choice between a relationship and work.” “He shouldn’t have to,” Colin agreed easily. “I knew his job when I met him, and today is just an example of how unpredictable it can be. He has put a lot of trust in me today, sir, and I don’t want to let him down. I take his trust very seriously, and I want to be with him. If it means that sometimes I don’t see him for a few days then so be it…we can find ways to contact each other. In the last week alone I think I have maxed out my texting plan.” “I like you, Colin,” Matthew smiled. “It’s really easy to see why Jules is so taken with you. My son is happier now than I have seen him in a long time, and I don't want that to change. I guess your biggest challenge is coming down the stairs. Aidan adores Jules, and the feeling is mutual so if you can make the little guy happy then I would say the worst is behind you.” As he spoke, Colin could hear feet running down the steps, and he heard Annie’s voice telling the young man to stop running. Aidan slowed down but still tumbled forward stopping only when he reached his dad and Colin. “Aidan, this is Julian's friend, Colin. He's going to take you to the water park until your brother can get home.” “Hi,” Aidan said shyly. Colin had to smile. The little guy already reminded him of Julian. This was definitely going to be fun. “Hey there,” He said holding out the gift bag he had brought. “I have it on good authority that you like trucks.” “For me?” he asked, looking to his dad for permission to take the bag. “Go ahead son,” Matthew nodded. Aidan took the gift and looked inside. “Oh cool, it’s a monster truck! Thanks Colin, I love these.” “I figured you might,” Colin grinned. “I also have it on good authority that you like comic books.” “Yeah, Julian get’s me the new editions when they come out on Wednesdays. I really like Spiderman and X-men. Julian promised we could go see the new X-men movie when it comes out later this summer. It’s coming out around my birthday.” “Wow that sounds really awesome,” Colin laughed. “Do you think your brother would mind if I joined you guys?” “I can ask him,” Aidan said smiling real big. “You actually want to?” “I want to spend as much time with you and your brother as I possibly can. Would that be okay?” Colin could tell the young guy was in awe at that statement. It made him even more determined to make sure he had fun, and that he knew that he was important too. “Are you ready to go have some fun, Buddy?” Matthew asked rustling Aidan’s hair. “Yeah!” “Okay go put your truck away, and then you and Colin can get going. And no running,” He said as his son charged for the stairs. Colin chuckled as Aidan slowed and walked up the steps. Matthew turned back to his son’s friend and smiled warmly. “Julian was like this when he was younger too. So full of energy, and very active. I want you guys to have fun today, is there anything I can do to help out with that?” “I should be asking you that, sir,” Colin said shaking his head. “I will take good care of Aidan. Julian said he loves corndogs, so that is what we will have for lunch. And it will be my treat. Is Aidan allergic to anything or are there any ailments I need to know about? Julian didn’t have time to tell me.” “He’s as healthy as a horse,” Matthew said proudly. “And I’m impressed that you asked.” Colin smiled. “I want to stay on top of things. Don’t want to put Aidan in any unforeseen danger.” “Okay, Colin, I’m ready,” Aidan said bounding down the stairs. “You behave for Colin, okay buddy?” “Yes dad, I’ll be okay.” “Take care of him, Colin.” “Don’t worry; Aidan is in good hands, sir.” “I was talking about my other son,” Matthew chuckled. “You guys have fun.” ** Aidan was bouncing off the walls as they headed to the water park. Colin felt like he knew the name of every single ride at the park, thanks to his little charge. He didn’t mind the chatter though. In fact he found it very comforting to have someone in the car with him who was so animated. He felt like this is what it would have been like to have a little brother. “Do you think Julian will be able to make it?” Aidan asked as Colin purchased their tickets. “He’s going to try his best,” Colin replied. “Hopefully the plane won’t be delayed any longer. In fact for all we know he could be in the air now. He was looking forward to hanging out with you today.” “Yeah, he sounded excited last night,” Aidan admitted. “I really want to see him. I miss him a lot.” “You haven’t gotten to see him lately huh?” Colin asked as they headed towards the first ride. “Aidan frowned and peeked up at Colin under the bill of his hat. “He had to cancel a lot of times because of work. Sometimes I don’t think that was the reason though.” “What do you mean?” “Aidan shrugged. “Well like today. He wanted you to take me today, so that I wouldn’t miss the grand opening. He didn’t do that with Marc.” “What about with James?” “Yeah, I got to hang out with James a lot, but sometimes he works hard too. And Julian’s other boyfriend didn’t let him hang out with me as much as he wanted to.” “Ah I see, well you know what? Don’t worry about Marc. He’s not a part of your brother’s life anymore. And if he can help it, I am sure your brother will be spending a lot more time with you.” “And you too?” Aidan asked. “Would you like that?” “I think I like you, Colin.” “Same here,” Colin said placing a hand on Aidan’s shoulder. “Now come on let’s ride some rides. I’ll race you to the first one.” The words were barely out of his mouth before Aidan bolted off and Colin shook his head and followed behind him. This was going to be fun. Colin couldn’t remember ever feeling like he had just been in a downpour, but he wouldn’t trade the few hours he spent with Aidan for anything…well except for a few hours with Julian. They rode the log ride three times, each time Aidan deciding he wanted to sit behind Colin. Colin hadn’t been sure that was a good idea, and he insisted that Aidan hold on tight, and he asked the person behind them to keep both eyes open just in case. Aidan was having so much fun, Colin didn’t have the heart to tell him no. They rode the water slide next and then went for a canoe ride just to dry off a bit in the sun. They were just finishing their river tour when Colin received a text message from Julian. The plane had landed at Midway airport and he would be there as soon as traffic allowed. Colin decided it was time for lunch and he looked down at his young charge and wrapped his arm around him. “What do you say we get some Corndogs?” “Can we get some for Julian too, so he can eat when he gets here?” “Sure I think we can do that,” Colin said smiling. It was obvious just how much Aidan adored Julian, and he knew how Julian felt about his brother. He actually couldn’t wait to see Julian interact with the little guy. They sat in the sun, with corndogs and cokes, and a funnel cake for afterwards. Julian wasn’t kidding when he said Aidan loved those things; Colin counted, he ate four all on his own. He monitored him closely as they sat together eating. He didn’t want Aidan to get sick from eating so many of the greasy treats. Colin insisted that they sit still for a bit and he bought a deck of cards from the gift shop to keep Aidan preoccupied. Julian was on his way, and Colin couldn’t wait to see him. He cautioned he was just as excited about that prospect as Aidan. ** They were sitting at the picnic table when he found them, and for a moment he just stood back and watched. Colin was explaining something to Aidan who was listening intently, and nodding emphatically. His little brother looked so happy to be sitting there, and Colin seemed animated too. He was glad to see that Aidan had taken well to Colin, which was very important to him. Aidan wasn’t an easy guy to please, and in fact there weren’t many guys who passed his little brother’s test. Of course there hadn’t really been a lot of guys…just Marc for the most part, and Julian didn’t want to think about him. “Julian!” Aidan exclaimed, his face aglow as he got up from the table and ran for his brother. Julian held open his arms and immediately accepted the little guy into an embrace. Colin smiled as he watched the brothers reunite. “You made it,” Aidan was saying as Julian pulled away to look at him. “And you’re all wet,” Julian laughed. Are you having fun?” “Yeah, I’m having a good time. Colin’s been keeping me company. I asked him not to tell you that I lost my hat on the ride, but I decided it was best just to tell you that the hat fell off during the fourth time on the log ploom.” “You rode the log ploom four times?” Julian asked with a twinkle in his eyes. “And don’t worry about the hat, we can get you another…just don’t lose it okay?” “Okay,” Aidan said before dashing off with the money Julian handed him. Colin watched him run off towards the water games and smiled with a shake of his head. He saw Julian sit down beside him, and turned to focus his attention on the man who was quickly taking control of his heart. “Hi.” Julian’s smile was as bright as the sun that was beating down on him, and Colin could see the tiredness in those brown eyes. It was admirable that he wanted to make sure his brother had a good day, but when it was over Colin was going to insist that he get some rest. “Hey yourself. How was the flight?” “Do you know how exhausting it is to be cheerful when you feel like crawling into bed?” “No,” Colin chuckled. “But I know you loved every minute of it, just as much as you love your brother, and that’s why you’re here.” “I’m here to see you too,” Julian admitted. “Are you having a good time with my brother?” “Yes as a matter of fact,” Colin said pulling the corndogs he had wrapped up over to Julian. “And we saved you a corndog and a coke too, though I am sure the coke is watered down by now.” “Thanks,” Julian said gratefully as he unwrapped the corndog and took a bite. Colin stood and went to get him a fresh coke. The line was longer then he expected it to be, and by the time he returned Julian was resting his head on the table with his eyes closed. Colin smiled softly and looked over to make sure that Aidan was still in plain sight. He sat down beside Julian and placed a hand on his back, rubbing it soothingly. Julian opened his eyes, a tired smile forming across his lips. “I guess I’m more tired than I thought.” “Do you want to go home? Aidan’s had a full day and I still don’t know how those four corndogs are treating him,” Colin said worried. “Four,” Julian chuckled. “He conned you into four huh?” “Is that what he usually gets?” Colin asked wrinkling his nose. “No…I usually get him two, and then on our way home I might squeeze in another. But never four. But don’t feel bad, Jimmy made that same mistake once, and he definitely should know better.” Colin smiled. “Well at least I’m in good company. Are you sure you’re okay.” “Yeah,” Julian said sitting up and taking a sip of the coke Colin had brought him. “If I get some caffeine in me I should be fine.” “Okay, but when we drop Aidan off you are going to take a nap.” “Will you stay with me?” Colin leaned his forehead against Julian’s and smiled. “Yes Julian, I will.” “Hey guys, I won a prize,” Aidan called out as he ran towards them. Julian and Colin pulled apart just in time to see him waving a small dolphin in the air. “That’s great, buddy,” Julian said grinning as he gave his brother a hug. Colin rustled Aidan’s hair and gave him a high five. “What do you say we go play some more games then we’ll take a few more rides before heading home?” Colin suggested. “Sounds like a plan to me,” Julian agreed. He sipped on his coke and excused himself to get another one. While he was gone Colin focused on Aidan seriously. “You’re brother is tired, Aidan, but I know he wants to make this day fun for you. So you want to help me win him a big prize to thank him for a good day?” “I bet he’d like one of those big stuffed whales to add to his collection,” Aidan said excitedly. “He has a collection of whales?” Colin asked amused. “Julian loves fish of any kind,” Aidan explained. “Dolphins and Whales especially. He even likes sharks and he has a collection of stuffed ones in his room. Right along with his collection of airplanes and his comics are in there too.” “Thanks for the info, buddy,” Colin chuckled as Julian made his way back towards them. “I like your idea; we’ll try to win him a new stuffed whale.” Aidan grinned and Julian came to wrap his arm around Colin. “What are you two talking about?” he asked as he sipped on his coke. “Just whales,” Colin said meeting Julian’s gaze head on. “Aidan and I decided we’re going to play some more games. Are you in?” Julian looked at his brother’s smiling face and then looked back at Colin, who was smiling as well. “Okay,” he said holding up his coke, “let’s go play some games.” ** By the end of the day Julian was feeling a lot better. He was laughing and having fun at the park, and he was very happy and excited when Colin won him a stuffed whale. Colin could see the tiredness in Julian’s eyes despite his happiness, and finally suggested it was time to head home. Julian slipped into Colin’s truck, with his little brother in the middle, and Colin began the drive back to Luther’s Corners. Aidan was talking animatedly with his brother, and to his credit, Julian held his own, managing to sound upbeat and chipper. It warmed Colin’s heart that Julian cared so much that he didn’t want Aidan to have a bad moment. Julian visited with his parents for a few minutes, and declined an invitation to stay for dinner. Colin didn’t blame him; he could tell that Julian was about ready to fall asleep on his feet. Colin said good bye to the family, and promised Aidan that he would be seeing him again soon. Julian made the same promise and hugged his parents and Aidan before taking Colin’s hand. Colin smiled and they left the house together, ready finally to head back to the condo. When they reached Julian’s home Colin sat in the driveway for a few minutes just watching his friend sleep. Julian looked so peaceful with his blond head leaning against the window, his lips slightly parted and his arms crossed against his chest. Colin reached over and brushed strands of hair out of Julian’s face and gently shook him awake. “Julian, we’re here.” Those brown eyes fluttered open and Colin was greeted with a tired smile. He got out the car and came around to the other side to help Julian, who seemed to wake up once the cooler air hit him. They went inside and Colin asked Julian if he wanted anything to eat before settling in for the night. “No,” Julian shook his head. “Thank you for taking care of me, Colin. I think I’m just going to crash.” “Well I did say you needed a nap,” Colin reminded gently. He guided Julian to his bedroom and watched his friend strip down to just his t-shirt and boxers. He couldn’t help but notice how beautifully lean Julian’s body was, and it was a testament to how tired his friend was that he even got to watch him strip. “Are you going to stay,” Julian asked as Colin tucked him into bed. “For a little while,” Colin said sitting beside him. “Lay down with me, Colin. I want to talk to you.” Colin smiled and did as he was told. He faced Julian and propped his head up on the pillow. Julian’s eyes were already half closed. He knew he wouldn’t’ be talking long. “I had a good time today,” Julian said smiling. “Sorry I’m so exhausted, but I hate plane delays. They always throw me off my schedule.” “It’s okay, Julian. I’m just glad you got to see Aidan today, and I loved seeing you too. “Do you want to do it again?” “Is that your way of asking me out?” “Mmmhmmmm.” Julian’s eyes closed and Colin waited a split second before he heard the even breathing that signified that he was sleeping. Colin laid down and made himself comfortable, allowing one arm to cover Julian protectively. “I don’t know if you can hear me, but I wanted you to know that I’ll never say no to you, unless I think you’re wrong. You’re one of a kind, Luciano and I’m glad I met you.”
  42. 1 point
    Double The Trouble. Chapter 35. "You can wait in the car while I find some clothes for you." Well, Andy had decided on the pattern and there was no use arguing, so Peter and Matthew slipped from the car, wrapped the rug as best as they could manage round the two of them, then looking in all directions to see if anyone was watching, raced across the road. Halfway there a horn started blasting and kept sounding insistently till they reached the front door. Please! Please! Let it be unlocked. If they had to collect the hidden key to let themselves in, they’d be caught by people looking out to check all the noise. Of course it wasn't, and as if to highlight the moment there were a couple more toots. Peter turned towards the rock where they kept the key and at the same time Matthew moved to knock on the door. Whoops! There was an instant of consternation as the rug and Peter almost parted company then a giggle from Matthew at the hurried re-wrap The door opened and Beth stared at them. The horn tooted again and Andy waved before heading up his own driveway. Peter jerked forward, holding the rug much tighter this time and rushed in as Beth backed out of the way. He started blurting out an explanation. "We were having a mud fight. Our clothes are in the wagon." "You've lost your clothes again? Peter, what have you got Matthew into this time?" "Marty too. He started it and Andy's got him stuck in the wagon. We'll tell you later mum, we have to have a shower." "Slow down Peter. What do you mean, Marty's stuck? Does he need help?" "No, he's all right. He has to wait for Marty to get him something to wear that's all." "He's in the wagon without any clothes?" Matthew started laughing. "We got all slimy Beth, and there was nothing to change into. We all had the rug but Andy made us wear it across the road. That's why he was tooting, to embarrass us." "Mum, we’re late for tea. We'll tell you later." Beth nodded and Peter started dragging Matthew towards the stairs. They almost lost the rug again when Matthew stopped impulsively. "Beth, would you ring dad and tell him I won't be home for tea? Say I'm helping with coaching at Andy's." Beth nodded again then looked slightly puzzled. "What about Brent? I thought he was having tea with you tonight?" "He is, but he's at Andy’s now. He’s helping with the coaching too." That was curious. To know about Brent, Beth must already have been talking with Rob. Halfway up the stairs the rug did part company as the two of them rushed for the shower and Peter was left holding it while Matthew’s lithe body shot ahead. Having soap was wonderful, to rid themselves of the last vestiges of odor, and in very short order they were back at Andy’s where Marty was still in the shower. Andy was having a hard time trying to convince his mum that it wasn't his fault the three of them had fallen in the mud, but she couldn't have been too worried because she’d taken clothes out for Marty when Andy said it would be a good stir. After the meal was over they did their hour’s coaching. Peter felt a bit strange with Matthew and Brent watching. He thought they might play a computer game or catch some music with the earphones, but for some reason they listened and joined in the whole time. It was the trigonometry topic and it was funny when Andy was laughed at for doing his usual complaining about useless maths problems. "Andy, you don't know what you're talking about." "Yes I do. Nobody uses all these sine waves and stuff." Peter was impressed and rather surprised at Brent's response. "No you don't. Everyone uses them all the time even if they don't realise it. We wouldn't be able to hear each other without them. "Sure too!" "True. Sounds get carried through the air with sine waves, and we wouldn't have any music without them either. Anyhow, I've seen you use them and love them. What do you think the waves at the beach are?" "Are they sine waves?" "Sort of, except they get out of shape when there’s wind and the water gets shallow." "I bet you've even made your own sine waves Andy, when you were a kid." "He still is." "I'm older than you Marty, so you must be still a rug-rat, but what's these sine waves you reckon I made Matthew?" "We used to call its snakes at primary school. Two kids would hold a long rope and shake it sideways so the waves travelled along and everyone had to jump over without getting hit." Andy looked at Marty and laughed. "We called it snakes too. But that was way back in Year Three. Marty was hopeless. He was too fat." Marty fat? They all stared at him after this startling piece of news. "I was too Peter, but it changed the year before I came to high school. Andy used to call me chubby-bum till I clobbered him. It used to make me mad as a snake." This was startling news as well because Marty was always so easy-going. Peter stored it up to talk about at a later date. Right now they were getting away from their maths. They finished a bit after nine and Marty and Andy walked across the road to the start of the driveway, saying they'd all hang out together at school the next day. Brent came inside because he was driving Matthew home. Beth jumped up from the computer, gave everyone a hug, then sat on the sofa with an expectant look on her face. "Andy took us out to cheer us up mum. One of the classes found out about Matthew, so the whole school will know by tomorrow." Her smile changed to a look of concern till it flickered back to life again. "So you jump in a pool of mud? That's a rather novel approach. Whose idea was it?" She patted the couch and beckoned Matthew next to her. A strange warm feeling rushed through Peter at the sight of Matthew held next to her in the special, serious discussion cuddle. "Um, no one's really. Andy took us to a place call Johnston Reserve and they were making us try out romantic places." Matthew gave a little laugh as he remembered. "They didn't call them romantic Beth. They call it the passion pit and we had to hug and kiss whenever they told us." "And they told you to try it in the mud?" "No, we were crossing a tree trunk that had fallen over the creek and they made us try then. Peter slipped and pushed me in." Peter was quite surprised. "No I didn't Matthew, Marty pushed me to make us get closer. That's what got us off balance." The laughs built as they recounted the comedy of errors with the runners. "And what were Andy and Brent doing while this was going on?" "We were laughing. It looked like they'd gone crazy. Andy was right near the bank and he just jumped off the log, but I had to crawl along on my hands and knees. I nearly fell in anyhow from laughing. Then they started throwing mud at us and we had to dodge." "So, which was the most romantic spot Matthew?" "Under the tree ferns. I was laughing too much when we were sitting over a log and they were pretending it was, um, part of Peter." Peter watched the understanding bloom on his mum face. Just wait Matthew Peck for telling her that. "I see, well, boys will be boys. Is he a very good kisser?" Peter's mouth nearly dropped open. Matthew sat up in surprise, then realised she wasn’t being serious. "No, he needs lots and lots of practice." Peter’s mouth did open this time as an indignant sound escaped. The smiles settled and Beth got serious. "What happened at school? How did they find out?" "Like we thought they would, from the Hillston team. One of them has a cousin at our school and he told him everything, about the team and Matthew too. The whole team was talking about it after training. We've got bodyguards for a while." "Bodyguards? Peter, do you think you might be hurt?" "They're not really bodyguards mum. We’re hanging round with team guys for a while when we're not in class. Brad organised it but it will mostly be Andy and Marty and Brent. We'll be all right. It's just a few Year Twelves who aren't very nice. " "Brent, you know you're wonderful don't you?" Brent colored under this direct praise, and shaking his head awkwardly, looked at Peter and Matthew. "Of course you are, but you mustn't get into any fighting." "Mum, no one's going to fight him. He stronger than Andy and he’s fitter than anyone else at school. Look at his muscles. They'd have to be crazy." "Some people are crazy Peter. Especially if they're in a group. Am I really looking at the fittest person in the school?" Brent shook his head, but Peter and Matthew explained how much training he did and he couldn't argue against them. "What are you doing now Peter?" "Going to Matthew's place." "Good, you'll tell Robert everything won't you?" They nodded. "And I hope you're staying the night?" Peter could see how closely Beth was looking at him when he nodded again. "Ring me at lunchtime tomorrow then, so I know how things are going." Two minutes later Brent dropped them off, and inside with Rob they went through the day's events all over again. "Well, Andy’s looking after you again Matthew. Do you think he’s assessed the situation very well? No, that's not fair on him. He's been there five years so of course he knows it better than you. I'm ringing Andrew now and then we’re driving you back to Peter's place." "I'm staying here tonight Rob. Mum wanted me to." "No you're not. Beth will be thinking about you and it's better if you’re home. Matthew can stay at your place instead." He gave a very Rob kind of grin. "You're officially in charge of him for the night." The end of chapter 35. Iarwain.
  43. 1 point
    Double The Trouble. Chapter 31. "This is weird Matthew. I feel like I should be going to training." They were standing near the entrance to the teachers' car park, waiting for Mr Crossman, who came in a rush a few minutes after he'd said he would. "Hi Peter, hi Matthew. Sorry about that, there always seems to be something. Now, have you got everything?" They both nodded and then headed for the car. The ‘everything’ wasn't much, just runners, shorts and a sport shirt. The car was the same as Rob’s, just an older model and dark red instead of blue, and Matthew and Mr Crossman spent five minutes saying how good they were. "Call me Andrew when we are out-of-school Matthew. Didn't Peter tell you?" Peter had told him, but he knew that Matthew was waiting to be actually invited. "Have you played squash before? Peter told me he hasn't even held a racket." "Not very much. Dad took me four or five times to see if I liked it, but that was a couple of years ago." That made Mr Crossman laugh. "What? Have we dragged you along to something you don't like?" "No, I did like it, but swimming took over and there wasn't time for anything else." "Is that so? It sounds like you were on a heavy training regimen then?" "He was Andrew. He told me it was at least two hours every day last year." "Two hours? That's a high commitment Matthew. How much are you doing this year?" Matthew explained how he'd cut back because this year was important for school. "Was that a hard decision?" "Yes, but when we decided to move it wasn't, because it would have meant too much travelling to get to my old club." "I see, school’s going well for you isn't it? I'm impressed with all your maths work." "Much better than I thought it would, but that's because Peter helps me. He’s brilliant!" Peter wanted to thump Matthew but since he was in the front and Matthew in the back that wasn't feasible. Mr Crossman nodded then made it worse. "He's a star. Well at maths anyhow." "He helps Andy and Marty too. He coaches them twice a week and they've got their best marks ever since he started." God, what was this? Give Peter a big head day? "Really? And do you enjoy helping them Peter?" "Um, yes. Is it very far now?" It was only five minutes, and they pulled into a large sports centre. "Hi Andrew, your usual court?" "Hi George, yes, and we’ll need another one next door too if you can manage it." He pointed out the changing room and sent Peter and Matthew to get ready while he organised the courts. Peter was knotting his runners when Andrew came in and they waited while he changed. Wow, he looked so fit, about as tall as Andy and wiry like Matthew. Matthew looked sporty too, with light blue shorts, a white, good sports shirt and classy runners. "George has given us two courts and I've teed up one of the juniors to help. We'll have someone to play against all the time that way, and I’m sure you’ll like him." They gathered their belongings and headed for courts seven and eight. The first two courts they passed had glass walls, and they paused for a moment to watch some guys playing. God, the ball was flying round at a fantastic speed. One of players missed it and when they looked around they yelled a friendly greeting. "Andrew!" Mr Crossman waved back and then they moved on. "It's juniors afternoon for practice and quite a few turn up. George lets them play as long as they like for a couple of dollars instead of the usual charge. They know me because I give them a hit. Here we are." There were sounds of someone playing and Andrew pushed open the door. "Hi Ricky." The ball dropped and a young guy with dark brown hair came over, holding his racket. "Hi Andrew." "Thanks for helping out. This is Peter, and this is Matthew." They shook hands all round and Peter was struck by his friendly smile. Andrew showed them the right way to hold their rackets and after some more explanation took Peter to the court next door. "We'll have a hit for a quarter of an hour and take it from there." He dropped the squash ball on the floor and vigorously rolled it back and forth under his foot. "I'm not mad at it Peter. When it's cold it doesn't bounce properly and this warms it up quickly." They were on the courts for nearly an hour and a half. Peter felt hopeless, but both Andrew and Ricky kept showing him things and he soon started enjoying himself. Andrew was full of praise and for the last quarter of an hour he set Peter and Matthew playing against each other while he had a hit with Ricky. Matthew knew the rules so they played a proper game. Matthew won the first and then the second, but not as easily. Peter won the third game and Matthew was laughing at him. "You're a cheat! You shouldn't be able to beat me on your first day. It must have been a fluke." Peter didn't say anything because Andrew and Ricky had been watching this last game, but it felt great. They gathered their gear and went to the changing room. Andrew stopped to talk to George, and Matthew gave Peter a nudge in the side. "Bad luck Peter maybe next time." "Idiot! The same to you." A slight tinge crept into his cheeks because Ricky was listening and obviously wondering what they were talking about. "He's just stirring Ricky. Everyone does it to me." Ricky was quickest at getting into the showers and Peter got another nudge and a whisper. "I bet he checks you out Peter!" Matthew was right. Ricky did, but then Peter had a little inner smile because they were both doing the same to him. Everything was very polite, nothing like the change room at school where he would invariably have been stirred by now, and grabbed if Kenny was there. "Thanks for helping us Ricky. It was great. Have you been playing long?" "No, about six months. Are you going to be regulars?" "I don't know. We haven't got much spare time." Peter looked at Matthew to see what he was thinking but got the same kind of look back. "You should. You'd both be good, especially if Andrew’s helping you." "Did you learn everything in six months?" "Yes, it's great here. George lets you practice really cheap on Fridays and Tuesdays, and a few of the good players like helping. Andrew helps the most though." "Is he very good?" "Is he ever! He’s top seed in A grade." "Top seed? What's that mean?" Ricky gave a grin. "No one in the club can beat him." "Really? He never told us he was that good. What seed are you then?" "I'm in C. grade Matthew. They don't bother seeding till A grade." "What grade would we be in at the moment if we were playing?" "They’d put you in D grade because that's as low as they go." Matthew thought that was funny. "Ricky's being polite Peter. He means we’re in about Z grade." "You'd soon get better. I’d practise with you if you like." "Really? But we can't get here Ricky. We haven't got any transport." "I've got a car. I could pick you up if you ever wanted some extra practice." "True? Wow! Well what about tomorrow afternoon? Then you could come to the movies with us. They’re good ones aren't they Matthew?" They explained what movies were on and how they went to the Uni Theatre, and Ricky looked really interested. "What about training Peter? Would we still do that?" "Of course. Then we could go to squash after and Ricky could have tea with us at your place." It was a done deal. Peter felt quite excited about it and Matthew was pleased too, even if the suddenness of it had obviously surprised him. Peter and Matthew finished their showers and were drying off when Andrew walked in. "That was quick. Well, I'll try not to keep you waiting too long." He stripped his sports gear off and ducked under a shower. Peter's ears warmed when Matthew caught him doing the check-up. God, Andrew was even sexier than Peter had imagined. As quick as he could he pulled his jocks and shorts on then sat on a dry spot on the bench. Matthew's eyes widened and a grin spread right across his face as he too sat down. "Which one’s hottest Peter?" came the soft whisper. "Quick Matthew, let's get outside." Matthew just shook his head with a no and then Ricky arrived to dry himself and was asking about times to meet. True to his word, Andrew was quick and they were soon on the way home. They talked about the squash for a bit and then the topic shifted to Ricky. "He’s in year Twelve Peter, and finding it hard work at the moment, but he works at it and he'll get through. I'm glad you're meeting up with him tomorrow. He’s usually too shy to meet people." "He wasn't shy with us. It was his idea to practice with us." "Good, but I imagine it was one of you who organised things." Peter was getting a feeling that Andrew seemed to know Ricky fairly well. "How long have you known him Andrew?" "About six months. He’s got a flair for squash and already reached C. grade. I'm hoping he’ll manage B grade by the end of the year." "What about us? Do you think we could get a grading?" "What ever grade you liked. You’ve both got great coordination and a good eye for the ball, and you're certainly fit enough. How far you went would depend on the effort you put in. You've got your swimming though so I think you'd be better off to just play casually." Rob was already there when they pulled in and he welcomed Andrew with a warm handshake. Beth was having none of that, and Peter loved the surprised and then pleased look Andrew gave when he received one of her full-on hugs. Matthew was next and then Peter of course, and by then everyone was smiling. "How did the squash champions go then?" Andrew laughed and said they had lots of potential. "Potential? That's teacher talk for hopeless. I knew it Matthew. You were born cross-eyed and with three left feet." "It's called heredity dad. Except each generation improves on the one before." "Andrew, you're the teacher. Explain to him what a mutation is." "Well yes, it's a natural device of nature that lets a species improve and adapt to its environment." Rob stared and then laughed. "Help me Beth. I'm outnumbered." "I should think so. What a way to talk about your son. Mine was born perfect and he's got better every day since." Oh my God. What a stir! Peter didn't know what to say as a new round of grins sprang up. He didn't have to because Beth sent him and Matthew up to change out of their sports gear, saying the meal would be on in twenty minutes. "You dog Peter!" "What you mean?" Peter knew very well what Matthew was talking about but acted dumb anyway. Not that that worked because Matthew seemed able to read him like a book. "Who was the boner for? Ricky or Mr C.? I couldn't tell." Peter looked puzzled then started laughing when Matthew pushed him on the bed and sat on him. "What are you doing? Matthew, leave my belly button alone. We have to go downstairs." "All right, but tell me your answer." "Um, both I think. But let's talk about it later." “Okay, give me a hug instead then.” "Ha, that's worse than tickling." "Worse? You know what I mean." "There’s still fifteen minutes. We can have a ten minute hug." They made it just as the food was being carried to the table and Peter was embarrassed in the first few seconds when Rob gave him a big wink. Then it escalated when he realised that Andrew had noticed and had a little smile. The laughter started when Beth handed Rob the carving knife and he held it aloft claiming to be the mad butcher of the Hall household. "Mad’s right. His brain’s been roasted." "What your beef Matthew? I'm the one with the cutting remarks tonight." "No way, you're not sharp enough." Oh my God. It was going to be one of those nights. "What happened today mum?" "It was excellent Peter. I’ve now officially got more than two days a week lined up and Rob says he has three more clients for next week. Rob, start carving and everyone can help themself." The knife was wielded with great gusto and for a while the muted conversation centred round squash, swimming, and one of Beth’s clients. Andrew was interested in hearing about Rob's job and how it was different to Beth’s when they were both accountants. As sweets were being dished out Rob asked Andrew about his hiking experiences. That conversation went for half an hour, except it mostly came to hearing from Rob, who turned out to know places that Andrew had never even heard of. "You'll have to go to Moroka Gorge sometime Andrew. It's a whole series of waterfalls set into steep rock walls. There’s the Cobberas mountains too. I had a real adventure with a mob of brumbies there, and watched thousands of Bogong moths fly out from their shelters at dusk." "Bogong moths? What are they?" "Just moths Peter, but they fly in huge swarms, and I know the first Australians used them as a food source." Beth sent the boys off, which meant Peter, Matthew and Andrew, while Rob helped clean-up, and Andrew asked for another look at Peter's books. For a while the talk was about books but before long Matthew was talking about his last school and the way he was treated there. Gosh, Andrew really was as good as Beth at getting people to talk. At nine o'clock Andrew left, but only after arrangements were made for another visit in a couple of weeks and another afternoon of squash. The house was suddenly empty. Beth left with Rob to look at some new accounting software he wanted her to use. "What will we do Peter?" "Study for an hour since we've hardly done any all week, then go to bed early." Matthew grinned. "Poor thing. You must be worn out." They studied, had a quick shower and dived into bed. Well, onto it really, for a very close cuddle. "How come you asked Ricky to the movies?" "I don't know Matthew. It just came out. I was a bit surprised myself but I had a feeling he wanted something like that to happen." Matthew was nodding. "Me too, and I’m glad you did. Andrew was pleased. He's kind isn't he?" "Yes, I think he’s like you." Matthew thought that over then laughed. "What, you think he’s that sexy do you?" "You're not sexy Matthew!" "I'm not? ..Have you changed your mind?" "No, you're super sexy!" "Idiot! I saw you checking him out." "You did too, and Ricky." "Only to see what was giving you a boner." "You fibber Matthew. You had one too." "Only because I caught it off you." "I wonder how Brent’s going?" "Brent? What made you think of him?" "I don't know. I hope Andy doesn't play too many tricks on him." "Ha, I wouldn't worry. Brent would just turn into Mr Hyde and do the same back." "I suppose. I wonder if they're at Amy’s or at the beach?" There was no talk for a while, just funny little noises that neither of them could help making. "Hey Matthew!" "Mmm?” "Let's go and look for a shooting star." "Okay, but where?" "Downstairs and out the back door." "Will we get dressed?" "Just our jocks’ll do." Matthew called him a rudey and a couple of minutes later they were standing in the tiny backyard looking up at the limited area of sky that was in view. They automatically nestled close and Matthew gave a little giggle. "Mr Long wants to see the stars?" They stopped talking and Peter drank in the feelings of the moment, the warmth where they were touching, the faint gleam of their skin in the starlight and the vague silhouette of the fence and surrounding buildings. "You're smiling aren’t you Matthew?" "Yes, how can you tell?" "I don't know. You just feel like you are." "I was thinking about our first star and how nervous I was that night. Did you make a wish when you saw it?" "Not really, I was too amazed." "I did, and it came true." "What was it?" "I can't say can I? That's meant to spoil it, but I bet you know anyhow." Peter forgot about the sky while they had a strong hug. He was 99% certain but the rule meant he couldn't ask. As their attention turned back to the sky there was the hum of an engine and a flare of light behind the side fence. "Mum’s home." They didn't move. They hadn't yet seen what they were waiting for and it was another five or six minutes before a thin line of fire slashed the inky background to the twinkling stars. Matthew was right about always seeing them, but Peter's imagination was still caught. "Did you make a wish this time?" "Yes!" Suddenly, electric light shone through the little window next to the back door, and almost as soon as their heads turned to look, went off again. "Oh no, now we’re stuck. That was mum locking the back door." "Stuck? No we're not. We'll just knock and she'll let us in." "No way, we've still got boners." "We'll wait a while then." "We can't. When she checks the doors it means she’s going to bed. She’ll probably have a shower." As if on cue the bathroom light went on and water started to gurgle through the downpipe. Matthew laughed, and they stood listening to the rush of water. It finished and they still waited, but as soon as the light went off Matthew started towards the door. "Not yet, I'm not ready." "Peter, we don’t want to get her out of bed. Just hide behind me." He rapped strongly on the door, then again after a short wait. Just as Matthew was about to repeat the knocking the outside light went on, bathing them in its artificial brilliance. Beth's voice came, muffled by the intervening door. "Who's there?" "It's me mum, with Matthew. You locked us out." The door un-snibbed, opened, and Beth was revealed as some of the outside light spilled in. "Goodness! What are you doing? You had me worried." This was understandable as without climbing the side fence the backyard could only be reached through the house. "We were looking at the stars." Beth’s eyebrows had risen at the sight of Matthew in his jocks but now she started smiling. "I see, well come in then and tell me what you saw." The inside light went on, the outside light went off, and Peter, carefully hiding himself behind Matthew walked in. Beth led the way, saying she'd get some drinks and when Peter sat down in the living room he grabbed a big cushion for some strategic cover. Matthew was loving this. How could he be so unconcerned at being practically nude in front of her? When she arrived with the drinks he could tell they were both grinning at the way he was hugging the cushion. Matthew explained how they'd been watching for a shooting star and immediately received a hug. "That's very romantic Matthew. Was that your idea?" "Um.... Not tonight." "I see. So my son’s the romantic one is he?" Matthew nodded vigorously and the two of them exchanged grins. It was partly a stir, but an enjoyable one, and Peter could tell his mum was really happy to hear it. "So, what are your plans for tomorrow? Will I see anything of you?" Matthew laughed. "Peter says he is sleeping all morning and then we’re training, playing squash and going to the movies." "Squash! ...Again?" "Yes, a friend of Andrew’s is going to help us." That made Beth curious and she wanted to know what Ricky was like. "He spent the whole time at squash helping us. Andrew says he’s shy but he was talking with us all right, and he’s coming to the movies too." "I see. Well I’ll meet him tomorrow then." The end of chapter 31. Iarwain.
  44. 1 point
    Double The Trouble. Chapter 27. There was a scurry for clothes when the sound of the car interrupted, and Beth walked in just as they reached the bottom of the steps. Her smile blossomed after one glance and the hugs were on. "So it went well. Is Matthew happy too?" "That's for sure. You won't believe what Andy did mum." She did of course, nodding all the way through and asking more questions as Peter spilled out the afternoon’s events. "And you're sure everyone backs you both?" "We think so. Andy and Marty said they’re going to have another talk with one of the Year Twelves, but everyone else looked as angry as anything about what happened to Matthew." "Do you think that's right Brent?" "Yes, Andy told me to watch everyone closely and Marty was doing the same and we all agreed when we talked about it at The Mall." "So that's where you were?" "Were you looking for us?" "Rob was. He rang me when Matthew wasn't home at 5:30." "Andy took us all to the mall to celebrate. He said he couldn't concentrate on maths coaching." "How are we going to thank him this time?" Peter and Brent looked at each other. "Well, we're not allowed to do a single thing, but he’s put in an order for roast beef and tons of roast potatoes." Beth loved it, then surprised them by walking out the front door. When they looked she was halfway across the road to Andy's house. "Come on Brent. We’ll start cooking. Who knows when she’ll be back?" Beth returned, looking very pleased, just as rissoles and a pan of bacon chunks with some melted cheese were on the verge of being served. "Well that's organised but we’ll need a bigger table." "We will?" "There’ll be eight. Andy and Marty, Matthew and Rob, you and Brent, plus Colin. Andy says we couldn't leave him out and of course he's right. You can ask him tomorrow." Eight! Wow! The room would be full. "When is it mum?" "Saturday, Andy said you're going out on Friday. And who is Colin? I've never heard you mention his name before." Peter didn't really have a clue. "Do you know anything about him Brent? I know he's Year Ten and that's about all. He doesn't say much." "This is his second year on the team but I don't know anything much either." "Another quiet one?" "Except for this afternoon. I could hardly believe it was him talking." "Did he enjoy the celebrating?" "He loved it. Except when Andy got us to give him a cheer in the mall and everyone looked at us." Brent left at about eight and Peter studied. It brought him back to earth after the eventful day. Well, he sneaked in half an hour on his new novel too. The rest of the week went well, though with a few interesting surprises. Mr Crossman had a short talk at the end of double maths the next day as he’d planned at Peter's place and looked very satisfied at what he heard. The guys on the team were the biggest surprise though. One by one they sought out Peter and Matthew during the next few days, basically saying they wanted everything to go well. Peter thought Andy must have told them to, but he hadn't. More of them lined up for extra training and there was stacks of mucking around in the changing room. Kenny followed Andy's orders with such enthusiasm that it became a joke with everyone, and Peter gave up on even making a pretence of trying to evade him. *** "What's going to happen Andy?" Peter was with Andy on the way to Marty's house and got the same answer he'd had every other time he'd asked. "Who knows? Mostly just mucking around." Well the mucking round started when they arrived just after eight and Peter discovered it was a pool party and Andy had accidentally on purpose not told Peter to bring his speedos. By the general round of grins Peter realised he'd been set up. He was given no choice and there were laughs and whistles as he stripped to his jocks. Of course he'd worn his special ones because they made him feel good, and of course it was even funnier when Matthew arrived five minutes later with Brent and Paul, and caught the same as Peter, revealed he was wearing the matching pair. By 8:30 everyone was there, except Jason, one of the year nines, and there were fourteen boisterous guys in the water. God, were they all after him? They weren't, as Peter could see, it just felt like it. He could hardly stay standing since the standard form of greeting seemed to be an approach from behind then a shove under the water. An impromptu war broke out when Andy climbed on Marty’s shoulders and challenged everyone. This was total chaos because it was every pair for themselves. A ball appeared from somewhere and was the attraction for a while. At least it was soft and bounced when it hit you. Marty brought out a couple of floating mattresses which got used in endless different ways. At first everyone tried to use them at the same time, and then Justin showed a trick where you jumped from the side of the pool and tried to stand on the mattress as if you were surfing. He was good at it but most efforts ended with guys sprawling head first into the water. " Dive! Dive! Dive!" What? Andy was looking at him with a grin, which meant that in a couple of seconds everyone else was. He pointed to the edge and Peter knew he was meant to climb out. So, diving was it? That meant he was going to lose his jocks. They were awkward enough with the ordinary mucking around, needing frequent hitches and there was no way they'd survive a proper dive. They stayed on the first time because he cheated and bent his knees right up as he hit the water. That just got him friendly boos and calls to do it again. Matthew did it properly. As Peter climbed out at the side, he watched the perfect racing dive. Jocks didn't stand a chance and there were cheers when he surfaced, his jocks down past his knees. Even that wasn't good enough. They yelled for him to have another go. Okay, now Peter understood his dive wasn't going to be good enough unless he totally lost his jocks. It took two more tries, but when he came up completely free the cheer was followed by a race to retrieve the floating garment. Peter didn't win that, and neither did Matthew after his dive. That was the last they saw of their jocks for the rest of the night. Andy beckoned, and while Peter was approaching, said something to the guys on each side. It was definitely trouble because they laughed and passed it on. Andy put one hand on Peter shoulder as if he was being friendly, while the other grabbed him beneath the water. "Meet the team Big D.!" Oh God, the whole team? Andy yelled out, “Little D.!”, which set the pattern, and Peter was moved to the next person. The third person was Justin, who tugged Peter’s dick till it was growing, and then got the laughs. "Not So Little D.!" That was it. Once Peter's boner started there was no stopping it and Paul, the fourth person, made his pronouncement. "Big D.! Big D.!" Right round Peter went, with each guy now tugging his full boner, a few with quick light touches, most with lively tugs, and a few really giving him the works. Kenny didn't stop at all and Peter was only rescued by Brent pulling him away. "Big D.! Big D.!", they called in turn, while, “Bluey! Bluey!”, travelled round the other way. "Having fun Peter?" "You wait Andy. You just wait." That was what he was meant to say and Andy gave a pleased nod. "Dive! Dive!" Everyone stared at Kenny. "Dive yourself Kenny. They'll break them off if they dive now." "Council of war everyone." Everyone left the pool, typical, just when they’d given him a boner, gathered under the lights on the patio, and under Andy's direction made another of the circles like in the change room. What was with these circles? They'd never done them till this week, but Peter had to admit they were effective. "In the center, Bluey, Peter." The center? Well, every one of them had already had a grope in the water, now they were getting the full view. Peter felt a bit silly just standing there so he moved beside Matthew and put his arm round his shoulders. Wow, everyone was smiling as if they liked it so Peter left his arm where it was. "Okay, what’ll we do if Bluey gets a rough time on Wednesday?" The first few suggestions were for quite physical and violent paybacks. "Sounds great Justin but we've gotta be smart. That'll just make things worse. If we do bad stuff it'll come back on us." "How’re we going to protect Matthew then?" "We won't have too. We'll all be with him in the changing room and there won't be rough stuff when they see Marty and Brent right with him.” “They're going to say stuff to the rest of us to make him feel bad. It's the only thing they can do. We’ll just tell them to piss off as if we don't believe them. If every single one of us acts the same way it backfires on them." Everyone agreed with Paul on that and started discussing what to say. "Tell them it takes one to know one." "Call them Wankers." "Hey Andy, why don't we just agree with them?" That was unusual enough to warrant full attention on Colin. "Like how?" “Just say, "Yeah we know, but he’s a good bloke", or something like that." Everyone agreed that was the best so far. "I'm gay." God, it was Brad. Every head snapped round with the same startled look that Peter was feeling. Brad laughed and looked back. "So's Andy. And so’s Phillips and Marty. I saw it in a movie and it was really funny. We could all say we're gay." No one said anything while they took in this weird idea. "If any one of them says something about Matthew we act like we’re coming on to them. Just imagine it." Jaws dropped then smiles grew into laughs at Brad's idea. "I'll tell them he’s got the best dick I ever saw." That was it. The idea caught like wildfire and suggestions came thick and fast. Andy looked like he was in the seventh heaven from laughing and the next hour turned crazy while everyone practised being gay. Some definitely practised with a lot more gusto than others, especially when Marty carted out a slab of beer. Inevitably there were calls for a demo from the experts, as Marty called Peter and Matthew, and they were put together and told to get into it, well that was one of quite a variety of suggestions. A big frontal hug was enough, except for Kenny, Justin and Paul, who kept urging them to do other stuff. The night turned kind of normal then, with mostly music and talking or hacking round in the pool. Except it's hard to feel normal when you don't know where your jocks are, Kenny and a couple of others are frequently cranking your boner up under Andy's standing orders, and you've never experienced a party like this to know what normal means. It wasn't a late party and Peter arrived home at half past twelve. The end of chapter 27. Iarwain.
  45. 1 point
    Chapter 49: The Question Bridget took a sip of her gin and tonic, just as George walked into her parlor. She smiled warmly at him, handing him a mint julep in a gold-trimmed lead-crystal highball glass. “Great minds think alike,” George said with a chuckle, taking the drink and then holding it up to the light and savoring the sight of it, as its chilled contents hazed the crystal with a fine mist of condensation. He took a sip, enjoying the contrasting tastes of aromatic fresh mint and the sweet fire of Southern Comfort. “We’ve got reason to celebrate again. Gonzalez is up in Cocoa Beach running the manhunt, and he’s fit to be tied. Dirk and the lawyer got away clean so far; there’s been a few possible sightings, but nothing hard and it’s been days. They were damn clever about the getaway; they put the GPS trackers on a pizza delivery car to bird-dog the surveillance units, and they’d switched the plate so Ainsworth’s car didn’t have the plate we were looking for. It took the locals hours to notice the swap, and by that time, they were long gone. Now for the really good news: the prosecutor is going ahead with the indictment, including for Arnold’s murder – they want to be able to go on the news and talk about a serial killer, because every bit of publicity aids the manhunt. It’s being filed Wednesday, and it’s a done deal.” Bridget turned to face Arnold’s portrait, and after contemplating it for a few moments, turned to face George as she said, “At long last, I shall be free of that bastard. Thank you, George. However, my dear, I have news of my own; we may have even more to celebrate today than we previously believed. Sanchez has e-mailed me, and it appears we may hear good news soon. The Cartel has contacts in the Seychelles, and though they only specialize in smuggling, they have their own connections amongst the Somali pirates, who also partake in that trade. The gist of Sanchez’s e-mail is that he gave his contact Atlantis’s AIS code and anticipated route, and she was seen leaving the Seychelles. Fate was kind and there was a Somali boat near her course, which is going to attempt an interception any time now, far out at sea. According to Sanchez, ensuring that Trevor does not survive will not be an issue for them, and the bounty he offered should merely make it certain.” George gave Bridget a kiss and settled in beside her on her loveseat. “That’s great. We’ve basically got a lock on an indictment of Dirk, and now this. The only thing is... remember the fiasco in the canal? How will we know for sure that they got him?” “Sanchez said they will take a picture of their AIS display as they intercept, and some other shots as well. In addition, they will take something with Atlantis’s name on it; that is what they will exchange with Sanchez’s contact for the bounty,” Bridget replied. “Any idea when we’ll get the confirmation?” George asked. “Sanchez did not say, but my guess is within a few hours of the intercept for photos, and whenever they make port for the hard evidence.” George nodded, deep in thought. “This’ll leave just Lisa and Joel to take care of, and that’s assuming Joel follows through on the Ares search. What do you want to do if he doesn’t?” Bridget took a prim sip of her gin and tonic. “Assuming he forgets the idea of finding Ares, then I see no harm in letting him and Lisa be; they would be no threat to us, and there is also the inherent risk of complications if we frame them with the cocaine.” “I agree. As my father was fond of saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.” George took a drink of his mint julep before asking, “What’s your guess on the odds?” Bridget shrugged. “It is hard to predict what a person will do, but I would venture a guess that Joel is more likely than not to keep his word, especially as it appears that he and Trevor are brothers.” “I’ve been thinking about that. Brothers, or maybe half brothers, sharing just one parent. We know Dirk and Trevor were fighting when Trevor left, so I wonder... Could Trevor have found out that Dirk had a thing with Joel’s mother, and that’s part of what caused the fight? Or maybe... Wait a second, if Dirk is gay, then here’s what fits: he’s not Trevor’s real father, Charles Stiles is. That would explain everything,” George said, narrowing his eyes. Bridget shook her head. “Except for one glaring issue; we know for a fact that Trevor was fearful of his father finding out that Trevor is gay. That certainly makes little sense if Dirk himself is gay.” George thought for a few moments before replying, “That makes no sense, but here’s what could be useful to us: If Dirk is straight, and Rachel was screwing around with Charles Stiles, Dirk had tons of motive to kill her. Let’s leave this alone for now – it’s currently a slam-dunk case so no reason to mess with it – but... it never hurts to know that there’s more dirt to dig up if needed.” George took Bridget’s hand tenderly in his own. “I thought you might be clutching at straws when you gave Joel and Lisa use of your guesthouse, but I gotta admit, the info we’ve been getting from those two via the taps and bugs have been pure gold.” George raised his glass to Bridget’s, and offered a toast, “Here’s to you, my dear; as brilliant as you are beautiful.” “Why thank you, my dear. And here is to you, the man I love, brave, cunning, and resourceful beyond measure,” Bridget replied, tapping her glass to his, and the soft ting of fine crystal sounded amidst the opulent Edwardian parlor. The weather was perfect, exactly as Joel had envisioned. The sun was shining brightly in a sky painted with a few wispy clouds, the birds were chattering their ancient melody in the trees, and a faint sea breeze rustled the palm fronds, offering some meager respite from the sultry heat. Joel checked his watch for the thousandth time, his palms clammy and cold as he paced the hot pool deck. “Hey, you’ll wear a hole in the concrete,” Steve said, giving Joel a pat on the back. “I guess I’m nervous,” Joel said, continuing to pace. “Now there’s a news bulletin,” Steve replied, chuckling. “Let’s go get suited up. Try to relax; everything will be fine, man.” Joel took a deep breath, and turned to look at the pool. “I hope so,” he said, and then turned to walk into the locker room with Steve. For several minutes, Joel struggled to remember his locker’s combination, one he’d used almost every day since his freshman year. Two of his teammates had lockers near Joel, but resisted the urge to tease him. Finally, Joel remembered the sequence, and popped open the lock before beginning to strip. Joel tugged on his speedos and, goggles in hand, padded out to the pool, where he resumed pacing back and forth near the water’s edge. When Steve came out of the locker room, he walked up to Joel and said, “Relax, man. If there’s anyone with no reason to worry, it’s you.” Joel fled from that subject, moving on to another. “They’re already late. What if they don’t show, or won’t go for it?” Joel asked. Steve shrugged. “Then we’ll wing it, and the meet will be... races to determine rankings on the team?” Joel glanced at the starting blocks. “That’s kinda thin... Maybe we should have told ‘em?” Steve shook his head. “Not smart. It could have leaked. You know how people like to talk.” Steve had more of a point than he knew; he’d mentioned the attempt to kill Trevor to two mutual friends, and the news had spread, slowly at first, but then exponentially, resulting in the majority of the campus knowing about it by the end of the week. “Tell me again why we didn’t go with water polo, seeing as it’s water polo season?” Steve asked, with a grin. Joel shrugged. “I just figured a swim meet would be better, and we’re out of season for both, so I told Lisa it was a special regional exhibition event.” Steve angled his head and chuckled. “That’s sort of true, if you think about it.” Joel was about to reply when four guys walked into the pool area. One of them looked at Steve and nodded his head upwards once in recognition. The four runners – all members of the track team – walked up to Steve, and one of them asked, “Okay, we’re here. Now will you tell us what’s up? Or did you just need spectators for the meet? And since when are there swim meets in October?” Steve grinned and filled the track guys in on the plan, finishing by saying, “You four will play members of the visiting team. Lisa knows everyone on the swim team really well, and she’s seen us at a lot of meets, so she’d probably recognize any of us, but I don’t think she’ll recognize you guys from a distance if you’re wearing caps and goggles.” One of the runners glanced down at Steve’s swimsuit. “We’ve got to wear speedos?” he asked dejectedly, before sharing an angst-ridden look with his fellow runners. Steve rolled his eyes and shrugged. “Yeah, what’s the big deal? You guys wear running shorts, which ain’t a lot bigger. Come on, don’t let Joel down.” The four runners exchanged glances, and with some reluctance, nodded their agreement. Joel grinned. “Thanks guys; you’ll find suits, caps, and goggles on the benches in the locker room.” As the runners walked away, Steve let out the laugh he’d been holding. “They look like they’re going to their own funerals. Good thing we didn’t tell ‘em in advance; they’d have probably chickened out.” The pool area looked very much as if a swim meet was about to begin. The only things lacking were an actual opposing team, and the usual assortment of attending parents from both teams. The bleachers held twenty spectators, seated scattered about to make them appear more numerous. They were mainly the girlfriends of the team members, plus a few of the team members’ male and female friends, and the boyfriends of the team’s two out members. The swim team – except for Joel – was dressed in their matching blue and gold team speedos. Joel was wearing the red Speedo he’d purchased – at Lisa’s insistence – when he’d swam the glow plug wires out to Atlantis, prior to Trevor’s departure. The team clustered around Joel, who took a deep breath to calm himself before saying, “Okay, like we planned.” “Just don’t chicken out,” Steve said, grinning as he gave Joel a pat on the shoulder. “I gave up my fishing day for this, so if he does he’ll regret it. And Joel... you damn well better have meant it when you said the wedding date would be after you’re both eighteen and out of high school,” the coach grumped, and then smiled to show he wasn’t really angry. “We’re all set. We’ll call the race right after she gets seated.” Steve looked at the starting blocks, where the four track team members were waiting and fidgeting. He walked over and asked, “Uh, you guys do know how to use starting blocks, right?” Two of the four shook their heads, proving to Steve that they had a problem. “Okay, it’s super easy, watch me,” he said, as he climbed onto one of the angled platforms. “Just stand on it, with your toes near the poolside edge. Ignore the bars and handles below: those are for the backstroke. It’s just like diving off the edge of a pool. Dive in hands first and start swimming. Remember to stay in your lanes, too. It’s a one-length race, so the finish line is the far end, no need to learn a kick-turn.” With a powerful thrust of his legs, Steve launched himself horizontally, cutting cleanly into the water and surging into a freestyle crawl to the far end of the pool, where he kick-turned and returned. Treading water, he called out, “Okay, give it a try.” The four runners mounted the platforms, and dove roughly together, but their entries ­– throwing up huge splashes – made Steve cringe. Their attempts at a freestyle crawl were worse; none of them knew how to breathe sideways, so they pulled their heads up and looked straight ahead. Steve wasted no time; he surged out of the pool and ran to his coach and Joel. “We’ve got a problem. No way is Lisa going to buy those guys as swimmers. I guess we should have rehearsed them for a few days.” Joel’s eyes opened wide as he saw his plan disintegrating, but the coach glanced at the lanes and shrugged. “Lisa isn’t a swimmer, so what she’d pick up on is differences, not technique itself. That makes this easy: the grandstand is on one side of the pool, so give those four runners the four far-side lanes, and three of you plus Joel take the adjoining nearer four lanes. That puts you guys closer to the stands, between Lisa and the runners. If you guys muff your entries a little and then splash a lot during the race, I doubt she’ll notice anything.” “Thanks coach,” Joel replied, relaxing a little. Steve eyed Joel and asked, “Aren’t you forgetting something?” Joel stared blankly for a moment, before mumbling, “Oh shit!” and racing for the locker room. He returned at a jog a few moments later, clutching a tiny inlaid box, two inches on a side, which he’d purchased in Turkey. One of the swimmers, Chris, was the designated lookout. “Target in sight! She’s parking!” he called down from the high dive platform, where he had a great view of the parking lot. As soon as he sounded the alert, he jumped feet-first into the pool, landing with a splash before Lisa was out of her truck. Chris swam to the side and hauled himself out. He padded over, dripping, to the starting blocks, where Joel, Steve, and the rest of the swim team were waiting, along with their coach and the runners. The coach took charge. “Okay, starting at the left side of the pool, runners in the first four lanes, swimmers in the next three, Joel to their right. Just like at a meet, a couple of minutes before the pistol. Runners, watch the swimmers and follow their lead for getting on the blocks. Okay runners: caps and goggles on now, and head for your blocks.” The runners went to their places, and began fumbling with their caps. Steve watched for a second before realizing the problem and turning to his team. “Help ‘em, they don’t know how to put caps on,” he said, racing off with three of his teammates to help the runners into their caps and goggles. “We should’ve rehearsed this,” Joel mumbled. The coach shook his head. “Damn straight, but too late for that now, Joel. You should have let me in on this earlier.” Four minutes later, Lisa strode purposefully through the pool area gates, seeing to her surprise that the meet appeared to be well underway. The coach intercepted her. “Hi Lisa, glad you could make it. Joel’s big event is up first, and he talked me into letting him wear red, for luck. He wouldn’t tell me why, but said you’d understand. Take a seat; we’re about a minute and a half from the starting gun.” Lisa nodded, and as she headed for the bleachers, looked at the swimmers, instantly picking Joel out and waving. Lisa settled into a seat on the bottom row, looking around. She glanced at the digital scoreboard, which was still blank of results. At first glance, it looked like an average interschool swim meet; the swimmer’s bronzed bodies, strings of triangular blue and gold flags, and eager spectators in the bleachers, waiting to cheer their team on. Tinny music was playing over the speaker system, helping to set the atmosphere. On the top row of bleachers, the team’s designated photographer tended his running video camera, and then turned his attention to his Nikon digital still camera, checking its tripod, and ensuring that it was pointing at the area between Lisa and the pool. Lisa, for the moment oblivious to the incongruities around her, sat on the bleachers, enjoying the gorgeous day, feeling the warm sun on her face, making the shimmering pool waters look ever so inviting. The smell of chlorine hung lightly in the air, and Lisa smiled with pride, watching as Joel mounted his starting block. “Swimmers, on your marks!” the coach called out, raising his starter’s pistol as Steve, who was not in the race, ran towards the far end of the pool, taking a position he often occupied to urge his team on to victory, though this time he was careful to keep a small box concealed in the palm of his hand. A loud crack rang out, and the swimmers were off, muscles rippling as they arced through the air, their arms held just a little higher than usual, guaranteeing a larger splash on entry. The four runners performed better on this, their second time off the blocks, and together all eight guys broached the surface, pulling into freestyle crawls. Lisa surged to her feet, her attention fully on Joel, yelling and cheering him on. She yelled even louder, jumping up and down as he pulled into an easy lead. Joel touched first, the crowd cheering as he raised his fist in victory and glancing at the scoreboard for his time. Pulling himself out of the pool, Joel waved to Lisa before exchanging high-fives with his teammates, and then, in an apparent show of exuberance, Joel pulled Chris into a brief backslapping hug, and then he hugged Steve. Joel’s hug with Steve had been rehearsed, and as Joel pulled away, with his body between Lisa and Steve, Steve slipped the box into Joel’s left hand. Joel turned to face Lisa and, dripping wet, trotted towards her. For a moment, Lisa thought Joel was intending to hug her while dripping wet, something he’d often done at meets, but she didn’t mind. Grinning and proud, Lisa took a step towards Joel, holding her arms wide, ready to embrace him. Joel came to a halt an arm’s length from Lisa, and in a move he’d practiced countless times, he dropped gracefully to one knee. He looked up at Lisa, his wet hair swept back, the sun glistening on his wet body, his chest heaving though not from the race. Slowly, he raised his arms, joining them in front of him, cradling the ring box as he flipped its lid open. On cue, the loudspeakers cut out and the crowd fell silent. Lisa was used to Joel’s antics, and had thought he was playing when he dropped to one knee. Then she saw the box, and watched it open. Her calm, relaxed demeanor began to dissolve, the sudden silence leaving her distracted and confused her for a moment, but then she looked into Joel’s blue and pleading eyes, and understood. “Lisa, will you marry me?” Joel asked, in a strained, almost breaking voice. For what seemed like an eternity Joel waited, his eyes locked on Lisa’s. Less then a second after Joel had asked the question, Lisa, her throat suddenly dry, replied, “Yes, of course I will...” She wanted to fly into his arms, but he glanced at the ring and back to her eyes as he stood up, with a beatific smile on his face. Joel pulled the ring from its box, and then, his heart full of joy, he held it in his hand, feeling the heavy gold as the diamond glittered in the sun. Then, in a moment he’d dreamed of, he slipped it gently onto his fiancée’s finger, and their eyes met again. A few claps sounded as gathered people broke their silence, then more, clapping and cheering. Lisa looked at the sparkling diamond on her finger, its image blurring from the tears in her eyes. “Oh Joel, it’s beautiful,” she said, as she pulled him into her arms, hugging him tight. Joel held Lisa in his arms, feeling her breathing and the tremble of her beating heart. He pulled her closer, angling his head, hesitating tenderly, and then their lips met for a deep and passionate kiss. At last mindful again of the many people who had been part of his proposal, Joel broke the kiss, and together he and Lisa, with the swimmers gathering around, turned to face the bleachers, as the photographer kept his cameras running. Joel’s team, jumping and cheering, pummeled Joel’s back in congratulations. Joel turned and swept Lisa off her feet, holding her in his arms, as he nuzzled his forehead to hers. “Thanks for taking the plunge,” Joel said softly, as he trotted easily towards the water’s edge, keeping her in his arms as he stepped off the edge and into the water. Several members of the swim team took exuberant backflips into the pool, as Lisa surfaced, laughter in her eyes, reaching for Joel and pulling him into a kiss as they sank together beneath the waters. They surfaced together, still entwined, and Lisa glanced around her brow furrowing slightly. “Shouldn’t we get out, so the next race can start?” Joel chuckled, “There aren’t any. It’s the wrong season for a swim meet, and we almost never have them on Sundays.” Slowly it dawned on Lisa what Joel had done. “You set all this up... so you could ask me in front of everyone?” she said, in an amazed tone. Then she grinned, giving Joel a playful splash before pulling him in for another kiss. An impromptu pool party developed, and for a few joyous moments, Lisa and Joel were lost in each other, holding onto the pool edge and kissing, as the celebration roared on around them. When they broke the kiss, Joel whispered, “I need to wait a bit before getting out.” Lisa chuckled. “I can tell. Joel, this is the happiest day of my life. I love you.” “I love you too,” Joel replied, brushing Lisa’s hair from her forehead, his eyes lost in hers. Lisa’s expression grew troubled, her brow creasing. “Joel, my father won’t–” Joel touched his finger to Lisa’s lips, smiling. “Don’t worry, he won’t need to. I was thinking we could get married on your birthday next June, yours and Trev’s... you’ll be eighteen then, and out of high school.” “That would be perfect... he can’t say no. Now all we have to do is find the right time to tell him.” Joel nodded. “I know, we’ll figure that out. We’ve got to tell my parents too. We’ll be together, that’s what’s important.” One of the swimmers, who was also a member of the diving team, ascended the high-dive platform, where he executed a perfect one and a half forward dive, ripping the entry to a scattered round of applause. Steve went next, and called out from the diving platform, “So, when’s the big day? And by that I mean when’s the stag party?” Joel glanced skyward, squinting against the sun’s glare as he looked at Steve and grinned. “Sometime in early June... Trev said he’d plan the party.” “Just don’t let him pick the strippers,” Steve shot back with a laugh, and then tucked into a forward pike. “Why’d he say that? Does he....” Lisa asked, arching an eyebrow. Joel chuckled. “Yeah, the team knows. They figured it out; I didn’t tell ‘em. And ah... speaking of Trev... I was thinking we could have the ceremony on Atlantis.” “Atlantis was built in France,” Lisa said, wrinkling her nose in mock disgust. “But that was before my mom moved there, so I suppose I could overlook that, just this once.” Joel chuckled, slowly spinning himself and Lisa around in the pool. “We’ll need a place for the reception... Bridget’s house would be perfect. Do you think she’d–” “I know she would,” Lisa said, nodding with delight at the thought of having their reception in Bridget’s opulent house. “We’ll ask her, but I know she’ll say yes. I’d like to go to the guesthouse when we leave here... and I just realized I don’t have any dry clothes, but I don’t care.” Joel smiled, his eyes twinkling, “I bought some for you; they’re in my locker and coach said he’d open the girl’s locker room for you.” Lisa ran her fingers through Joel’s hair. “You really did think of everything...” Lisa pulled Joel in close, hugging him as they floated together. “I’ll remember this day always, Joel. It’s just perfect.” ~ Atlantis' Page (see what Atlantis looks like) © 2010 C James Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent. Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!" Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions. Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice. Thanks also to Talonrider and MikeL for beta reading. A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice, and to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice. Any remaining errors are mine alone.
  46. 1 point
    Chapter 46: Forces in Motion Troubled dreams disturbed Trevor’s sleep, as Atlantis rode at anchor in the moonlight, a hundred yards off the pristine palm-fringed white beach at Grand Anse, on Praslin Island’s reef-fringed southern shore. Trevor finally awoke just after dawn, feeling the wracking emotional pain as he remembered the news of the previous day: that his own father had tried to kill him. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t true, for Trevor had no way save one of knowing that. That one way was his instincts, and he tried to find a reason to disbelieve, or at least doubt, what he’d been told. Trevor sat on deck, watching the shoreline, listening to the murmur of tiny waves lapping against the sand. He replayed in his mind the events at the Suez Canal, and then in the Strait of Messina, but he could find no logical flaw that would contradict what he’d been told. Trevor sighed, and then said aloud, “I can stay here brooding all day, or go see this place.” He hoped the island could provide what he most needed: distraction. Trevor checked his cell phone again. There was no signal, so he got ready to go ashore. Getting ashore would be easy in his Zodiac, but Trevor decided that a swim would do him good. He placed a pair of running shoes, the rock, the satellite phone box, and his wallet in a zip lock bag – a standard means for swimming things ashore while keeping them dry – and locked up Atlantis, putting the keys carefully into the inner pocket of his red running shorts. With the bag in hand, Trevor jumped into the sea from the starboard stairs, and checked to make sure there was enough air in the bag to counteract the weight of its contents – he didn’t want it to sink if it slipped from his grasp. For a few moments, Trevor just floated in the warm calm waters, savoring their caress, and then he began swimming towards shore. When he arrived on the sand, Trevor went for a jog along the pristine beach, letting the warm breeze dry him, but leaving a faint dusting of salt on his golden skin. Trevor spotted a large cluster of palm-frond huts and angled inland. The huts comprised a quiet market selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and handicrafts. Trevor took his time, strolling along the stands, making a mental list of food he could buy for his voyage. Trevor walked alone though the small town of Grand Anse, soon finding its post office. Before going inside, Trevor set the rock atop one of the small boulders skirting the parking lot, and with the aid of a few strikes from a stone, fractured the lump of pink landscaping shale. Trevor separated the two pieces, keeping the smaller of the two, and taking the other inside to mail to Gonzalez, along with the satellite phone box. With that task done, Trevor emerged from the post office and stood for a moment, looking at the tropical town and the beach beyond. When he reached the grass, he tugged on his shoes and folded the bag, putting it, with the rock still inside, in the pocket of his now-dry shorts, along with his wallet. Praslin Island was not a place he’d planned to visit, and he knew nothing about it. That changed, as he spotted a small stand selling fruit smoothies, and ordered one. English was the second official language of the Seychelles – Creole being the first – so Trevor was able to browse some of the brochures and tourist posters while waiting for his order. One place on Praslin was prominent in most of the posters, and Trevor soon found it on a map that was part of a tourist poster. Trevor took a few sips of the fruit smoothie, and asked, “How far to Vallée de Mai?” The stand’s proprietor pointed inland. “Two kilometers. Maybe there is a taxi down the beach,” he said, and then handed Trevor one of the free tourist guides, which included a better map. Trevor walked a few yards away, and sat down on the grass, under the shade of a cashew tree, to finish his drink and study the map. He was not interested in finding a taxi; he knew that two kilometers is roughly one and a quarter miles, an easy walk or, as Trevor planned, an easy run. Drinking the last of his fruit smoothie, Trevor glanced up at the tree, which spread wide and thick above his head. He noticed the strange fruits, but Trevor had never seen a cashew tree or its unusual fruit, and had no idea of the tree’s species, or whether the odd-looking fruit was edible. He considered jumping up and grabbing one to look at, but soon lost interest. It was well that he did, for the cashew is a close cousin of poison ivy, and the shell of the nut – the lower part of the fruit – contains the same irritating poison. Trevor discarded his empty smoothie cup in a trashcan, and after another glance at the map, took off at a fast jog across the small town, and then along the gravel coast road. The road branched, and Trevor checked a road sign before resuming his run. After just twenty feet, he came to a halt and looked back at the sea. He looked up the beach, at Atlantis, and stood watching for a few moments, reassuring himself that she was safe, before turning and resuming his run, heading northeast into the verdant hills. It was a hot, humid day, and Trevor was running uphill. Soon, he was covered with a light sheen of sweat, feeling the cooling breeze on his bare chest. The winding gravel road made its way through a lush valley, the high jungle canopy providing shelter from the sun. Trevor let his running and the scenery distract him, which partially freed his mind from its turmoil, but it was a temporary respite at best. Soon Trevor reached the entrance to Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, a large ornate roof over a mostly open building, sitting back off the road on the far edge of a dirt parking lot. The grand building was the gateway to the park: an unspoiled valley of multi-canopy jungle. Trevor paid his entrance fee and was given a guide map, which showed the several miles of walking trails in the reserve. Trevor picked the longest, a two-mile loop, and set out amidst several other tourists. In no mood for the company of strangers, Trevor walked fast, following the mostly-dirt trail as it wound its way into the palm jungle. A hundred yards on, and Trevor was alone on the trail, which had become in places a tunnel through the thick foliage. He stopped for a moment, the earthy smell of the place in his nostrils, listening to the warbling of unseen birds, and the occasional raucous cries of parrots. Trevor continued on, listening to the strange muted cacophony of the palm jungle, surrounded by a million shades of green, punctuated in places by the vibrant yellows of cascading orchids, and velvety red flowers of more types than he could count. Trevor walked the twisting path, losing himself in the experience, feeling as if he was on another world, one far removed from his troubles. The mostly sunless green world grew darker, and Trevor could hear before he saw a burbling stream. Deep in the exotic jungle, Trevor bent down to splash some of the cool water on his face and chest, and then looked up, at one of the many massive palm trees. At first glance, they did not look overly different from ones he was familiar with, but a closer look revealed larger, finer fronds. Nestled beneath the crown, Trevor saw a cluster of large green coconuts, ones considerably larger than he had ever seen. They were the largest in the world, the nuts of the Coco de Mer, the Seychelles’ famous giant coconut, which had once been the stuff of legend, and worth more than their weight in gold. The Coco de Mer palms were abundant in the valley, and a prime reason for the reserve’s creation. Trevor had seen many since entering the park, but now, bemused, he studied the one above him for a few moments, before continuing his hike. The trail grew narrow in places, and Trevor felt the caress of palm fronds tickling his bare skin as he brushed past. Entering a small clearing, he stopped to look around the lush glade, which stood in sharp contrast to the dense jungle. Trevor glanced down, at the red running shorts, which were his only clothing that day, and smiled softly as he realized that his mostly bare skin was making him feel even more immersed in the jungle. He chuckled to himself as a he thought, ‘I should have worn a loincloth, then I’d really feel like Tarzan.’ His very next thought was, ‘Good thing there’s no flies so far, or I’d really feel like lunch... theirs.’ For the next two hours, Trevor walked on mainly alone, encountering only one small group of tourists to break his solitude. Many times, he stopped to just look and listen. When the entrance building came into view, Trevor considered taking another look through the reserve, but a clear view of the darkening sky dissuaded him, and he returned to the road, heading back for Grand Anse at a jog as the first heavy drops of the afternoon thunderstorm began to patter amongst the leaves. For a few minutes, Trevor ran through a torrential downpour, which ended as suddenly as it had begun. By the time he reached the beach at Grand Anse, he was almost dry, and the sun had returned. Trevor swam out to Atlantis, pausing there only long enough to launch his Zodiac. Trevor motored to the beach, securing the Zodiac to a convenient palm, and walked the few remaining yards to the little market he’d explored earlier. There, he shopped for fruits and vegetables, sticking mainly to familiar types, but trying a few local samplings as well. At one stand, he saw the fruits of the tree he’d seen earlier, their odd shapes intriguing him. He asked what they were and was surprised to learn that they were cashews, with the nut residing in the curved bulb below, and above it the cashew apple, a popular fruit in many areas where the ca