Hey, kids. You know, I’m not getting much mail about this story. Writers have quit series for less. So kick it up a notch, suggestions, comments, just want to write to tell me you love it, I’m SchuyDncer@aol.com and my virtual door is always open. Much love and heaps of thanks for the faithful readers, including Casey, Kat, and Casper and my little helpers, Karen and Dru and to our Nifty Archivist, David, who doesn’t get nearly enough recognition. Read “Cosmic Companions”! Trust me. It’s worth it.

Disclaimer: You hafta be whatever age or whatever. Then no one gets in trouble.

Retreat 10
by Schuyler

Joey and Kevin walked up the stairs, Kevin’s arm around his love’s waist. Jerry spotted them first. “Kevin! Joe!” They traded hugs all around.
Kevin noticed the cat’s grin on Colby’s face. “Colby Rae Keating, what are you hiding?” She just smiled. “A vintage Chardonnay?”
“Something bigger and better. Come on.” Colby came out from around the counter and pushed the pocket doors back into the walls. There, beside the fireplace and in front of the big picture window was a brand-new, shiny baby grand piano.
“Colby!” Kevin shrieked, running to the bench. He poked a couple of keys. “It’s in tune!” He sat down, positioned his fingers, and began to play “Fur Elise.” Joey smiled a little, watching Kevin’s fingers flutter across the keys.
“Well, you boys have fun.” Colby picked up her keys. “I’ll come back on Saturday to close up.” Jerry and Lance each gave her a final squeeze before she headed down to her truck.
Jerry and Lance sat on the stools at the counter listening to Kevin play for a few minutes before Jerry broke it up. “Kevin, Joey, it’s time.” Kevin tore himself from the piano. Joey held the charger to Kevin’s cell phone in his hand and plugged it in beside the others. Kevin, Lance, and Jerry docked their phones and laid them in a neat row. There was a moment then of silence before Joey piped up, cheery and bright, “How about a picnic?”

Kevin went into the kitchen for his second glass of burgundy and ran into Jerry staring into the den at Lance. “Jerry, what’s up?”
“Does Lance seem, you know, okay?”
Kevin turned around and stared at Lance, sitting in an armchair, eyes fixed on the fire. “I guess he has been a little quiet lately. Do you think it’s something in the band or something here?”
“I’ll talk to him later. You two go on to bed.” Kevin turned, knowing that Jerry knew best, collected Joey, and went off to bed. Jerry poured two glasses of wine and went into the den. He sat on the low ottoman beside Lance and looked at the fire. He handed Lance a glass. “So, what’s up?”
“Nothing much.” Lance took a long sip.
“Bull.” Jerry emptied half the glass.
Lance sighed loud and sat up straight, fidgeting. “I’ll get over it.” Lance set down his glass. “I’m going to go to bed.” Lance stood and left. His best friend finished his wine with a sigh.

Kevin returned from brushing his teeth to see Joey standing beside the bed, preparing to slip beneath the covers. He watched unnoticed as Joey moved, strong but adorable, then let the door click shut. He could see Joey smile. His Joey. Kevin smiled too as he walked to the bed and laid down. Joey pulled the blankets up over his lover and wrapped his arms around Kevin’s smooth, muscular chest. Kevin turned in his arms and kissed him once. “It’s been a long time since you’ve held me.” His arms slipped around Joey. Joey turned away from him and snuggled back, pressing against Kevin’s chest. Kevin tucked his nose into Joey’s dark hair and breathed a contented sigh.
“Kevin, talk to me.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“Tell me all about you.”

The next morning, Kevin lay in bed with Joey half across his chest and their legs tangled together. He could hear Lance and Jerry upstairs making breakfast but, God help him, the last thing Kevin wanted to do was get out of this bed. But Joey stirred, running his fingertips across Kevin’s taut stomach, then pushing himself up on his elbows. “Come on, you know we gotta.”
“I just hate that this is the only time I get to spend with you, but it’s also the only chance I get to spend time with Jerry and Lance.”
Joey pulled himself up and stood beside the bed. “We’ll spend all day with them, ‘cause they’re two of our best friends, but the nights will be ours alone.” It was all so simple. Kevin smiled lovingly up at Joey. Joey stuck out his hand like a small boy to pull Kevin to his feet.
Upstairs, Jerry and Lance sat at the breakfast table with their coffee cups. “So,” Jerry asked, “do you want to talk?”
Lance sighed, his shoulders collapsing. “It’s nothing. I’m just a little sick of being responsible ‘cause it means I’m always by myself. Before it was always JC and Justin and Chris and Joey. Now, it’s JC and Chris and Joey and Kevin and Justin ... well ... Justin’s still twelve on the inside.”
“But you have Corbett now.”
“Yeah,” he smiled to himself, “I do.”
Joey scrambled up the stairs, frighteningly eager to greet the new day and with Kevin following behind him.

They were playing Trivial Pursuit when a phone rang. They all looked up at the row of chargers, a little scared, except for Lance. Joey went to the counter. “I know it’s not mine,” Lance said. “Corbett would have taken care of it.”
“It’s Kevin’s!” Joey called back.
Kevin stood to answer it. “Shame we can’t all have perfect little assistants.”
Kevin’s cousin Brian was on the other end. “Hey Kev, just a quick one, didn’t want to interrupt your vacation. When will the tour be passing through New York?”
“The fifteenth. It’s the third date.” Kevin could hear Nick and their girlfriends splashing around in the pool.
“Okay, thanks. And you have fun in California. Pick up some girls, okay? It’ll lift your spirits.”
Kevin nervously snaked an arm around Joey’s waist. “Okay, Brian. I’ll see you on Saturday.” Kevin hung up, a distant sadness in his eyes. Joey held Kevin tightly against his chest.
Lance, however, was distracted. He excused himself from the table, took his phone from the counter, and went into the den, sitting by the big clear window. He slowly dialed the numbers he knew by heart and waited for the voice. “Hello?”
He steadied himself. Why was he so nervous? “Corbett? It’s Lance.” He didn’t want her to hear how he felt.
“Hey, Lance. What’s going on?”
Her voice was calming, made him feel safer. “Not a whole lot. Just trying to rest.” He gazed out the window. “How are things with Justin?” They talked for another minute, then hung up. And Lance laid back on the window seat, for the moment content.

Joey and Kevin, unable to restrain their desire for one another, any longer had turned in right after dinner. Now Jerry and Lance sat in the living room alone, staring ahead into space. Jerry wasn’t going to push Lance into talking, but he made sure that Lance knew he was ready to listen. Lance suddenly sighed. “I’m lonely. I guess I’m just used to being too busy to feel alone, but now Corbett’s taking that load off my back and I just feel so by myself.” That was all Lance could say. He could feel the sobs rising in his throat.
Jerry saw it in his eyes. He reached out and wrapped his arms around his best friend, drawing Lance to rest on his chest. “I’m here for you, LB, you know that.” Lance was hesitant, he had never been in this position before. “Come on, Lance,” Jerry took Lance’s hovering arm, “it’s just me.” Jerry wrapped the arm around his own waist, letting Lance lay comfortably on him.
Lance was surprised. With his best friend holding him, he felt better. The desperate chill inside his heart warmed a little. They sat for a while in silence, then Jerry nudged a rapidly fading Lance. “Okay, LB, it’s bedtime.” He pushed Lance to his feet and they headed downstairs. They’d been on the couch longer than they’d realized; Joey and Kevin were fast asleep, the house was quiet. Lance hugged Jerry, whispering a “thank you,” then turned for his room. He found Jerry on his heels. He turned to Jerry, ready with the question, when Jerry smiled. “I’m not going to leave you alone to cry yourself to sleep. Go on in.”
Lance went to the corner, his back to the bed, and cautiously stripped off his clothes. He turned around to find Jerry already in his bed. He slid under the covers, a little unsure, but was instantly pulled into Jerry’s arms. That half-relief washed over him again and his eyes fluttered shut. Floating between here and there, Lance only barely heard Jerry’s last words. “I know I’m not her, but I hope I’ll do.”

Lance awoke to an empty bed, but it was less than a minute before Jerry came rushing in. “Okay, great idea. It’s Joey and Kevin’s three-month tomorrow and I’ve got the perfect gift for them.” Jerry was flushed.
Lance was amused. “What?”
“We’re going to let them wake up alone tomorrow morning. We’re going to Reno!” Jerry turned to leave. “So get up, shower, pack your bags. I’ll start breakfast.”

Lance and Jerry had been gone since lunchtime. Joey had snuggled with his boyfriend all afternoon, then taken a long bath before dinner. He dressed and came up the stairs, hearing the piano playing softly. Joey leaned against the doorframe and watched Kevin, his fingers idly falling upon the new white keys, his head turned to stare out of the window. Then Joey realized what Kevin was playing and burst into laughter.
Kevin looked over at him, his face sarcastically blank. “What?”
Joey stumbled towards him. “You’re playing ‘Una Noche’!”
“98 Degrees. Good, middle-of-the-road, non-denominational music.” Kevin finally smiled, but Joey kept laughing. Joey was so handsome when he laughed. Kevin was happy in that moment. Kevin reached out and drew Joey to him and made love to Joey in front of the window.
It was after ten when Joey’s tummy began to rumble. He poked Kevin in the ribs. Kevin sighed. “You’re hungry, aren’t you?” Joey nodded hard. “Come on then.” Joey practically bolted into the kitchen. Kevin went to the stereo and put Morcheeba’s “Big Calm” in the CD player. “And wash your hands!” Kevin called back.
“Why? All I’ve touched is you,” Joey smirked.
Kevin headed back to the kitchen. “And you don’t know where I’ve been.” He leaned across the counter and kissed Joey softly. “What have you found?”
Joey held up his treasure with a happy smile. “Chocolate chips! Can we make cookies?”

Lance and Jerry returned to their hotel room early. The boys had severely exhausted themselves running around The Biggest Little City. “I’m gonna take a shower,” Jerry said, stumbling into the bathroom.
Lance fell onto the bed farthest from the door. His cell phone rang. Lance pulled it from his pocket and fumbled with it for a moment. He knew it was Corbett, and he felt in the pit of his stomach that something was wrong. “Hello?”
“Lance? It’s Corbett.” She did sound panicked. “I need your help.”
“Corbett, calm down. What’s wrong?”
“Justin’s upset. We went to see Britney. Britney’s...um...”
“Mature?” he supplied. “Yeah, I know.” He needed something calming. He reached over to the bedside table and started the CD clock radio. The sounds of Massive Attack filled the room.
“I’m worried, Lance. I’m not sure what to do.”
The sound of her voice was breaking his heart. “Calm down, Corbett. I know you and you can handle this.” He heard a loud thump and cringed. Justin had a tendency to throw things around when life didn’t go his way. Lance tried to keep his voice even and calm. Corbett had told him one late night on the bus when she didn’t want to go back to school and leave them that she found his low voice and slow-as-syrup drawl comforting. “He’s upset. He’s angry. Just let him simmer down.” In that moment, he would have done anything to make Corbett feel better. He rolled over and advanced the CD player to “Teardrop.” “Can we talk about something else? I’m in Reno.”
“Really? Do you like it?”
“Yeah, Jerry and I came in this afternoon.”
“You guys should go up to Truckee and see Colby.” The irony was not lost on Lance.

Belly full and eyelids drooping, Joey was ready for bed. Kevin was glad they’d thought of this little late-night snack. They could stay in bed until Jerry and Lance came back at dinnertime. Joey was staring dreamily up at Kevin’s short dark hair and wonderfully searing blue eyes. Kevin picked up the cookies and headed downstairs, luring Joey to bed.
In their green bedroom, Kevin gathered the tightly curled Joey into his arms to sleep away the night.

Jerry had showered and gone down to the casino to play roulette. Three hours later, he returned to find Lance asleep with his cell phone near his ear. Jerry sighed and picked up the phone. “Corbett?” he said softly into it.
“Hi, Jerry.” She was still wide awake.
“Were you listening to him sleep?”
“Yeah, it’s soothing I guess(, just hearing him breathe). But I should get some sleep anyway. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Okay, goodnight.” Jerry pushed the END button and turned off the CD player. He looked at the sweet smile on Lance’s lips and smiled to himself before turning to his own bed.