The author reserves all copyright privileges. This work may not me reproduced except for personal use without the permission of the author, and may not be linked to any pay sites.
Dedication: To my friend Ry, the story’s inspiration and to Don Hanratty, who encouraged me to post it here.
Thanks to Bill H. who has worked long and hard on the edits for this story.
If you’d like to say hi, or tell me what you think of this story: JETjt@aol.com John Tucker
RON AND BRYAN
All the guests had gathered at the two large rear deck tables for dinner. In front of each of the chairs the table had been set with a beautiful place setting with the custom-made P-T II tableware. Two stewards filled the glasses with wine for those who chose it. All the company was dressed, albeit rather casually, but at least the nudity of the day had been transformed to nothing less than shorts and T-shirts. Alan was seated at one end of the larger table. He stood up and everyone stopped talking and to look at the handsome man.
“A couple of you know me well, but most of you don’t. I have always made it pretty clear to my friends that I’m not totally convinced of the Jesus thing, but I do believe that there is a supreme being that watches over us. We all know that Ron is a believer so in Ron’s honor, I’d like to offer a prayer of thanksgiving in advance of the celebration that we will share tomorrow. Please pray with me.”
Bowing his head he began:
“Heavenly Father, we gather here tonight to give thanks. We thank You for the material blessings that You have provided, but we thank You most for the friends gathered here and for Ron, Matt and Tim in Las Vegas. We sense in the presence of those of us gathered in spirit, if not in person tonight, a reflection of goodness and love that are a reflection of Your will for our lives. We thank You for Your protection of our friend Ron’s life. We thank You for Dorothy’s healing. New hope springs from their return to us. We dedicate our lives to helping those less fortunate, led by a good man who You have blessed with a gift for helping others. We thank You for that blessing and for the food that we now share. Amen”
“That was very nice, Alan,” Bryan said after Alan was again seated. “You know, that’s the first time I’ve heard you pray. I liked it.”
“Well, I’m not very demonstrative, but I do believe. I guess you wouldn’t be seeing it from me if Ron were here. He certainly doesn’t mind demonstrating his beliefs. Not that he pushes them off on anyone, he just lets you know where he stands. I just felt that since we were put into his shoes tonight, it would be appropriate to show we are thankful.”
“How do I love you,” Bryan said softly. “Let me count the ways.”
The two lovers’ eyes met reflecting the love that they shared.
The dinner was a party that reflected the relief they all felt for Ron’s recovery. Only his absence and that of Matt and Tim made the gathering less than complete. The day had been wild, but had served to relieve the tension that they all had been feeling. Tomorrow they would be in the Caymans for a fun-filled day without the grey cloud of Ron’s condition hanging over their heads.
Hans had rejoined the younger guys for dinner, and was the only one at the tables who had a heavy heart. He knew that his having sex with the boy from the cruise ship had badly hurt Tim. He could have lied to Tim on the phone, but he knew that if Tim later discovered the lie, any hope of their being together would be struck a blow, perhaps a fatal one. He really cared for Tim, more than anyone he had ever known. He wasn’t sure that the feeling was real love, he just knew that he felt empty when Tim wasn’t around and filled with joy when he was. He hoped that Tim could forgive him, and that they could start over. Their future together was so uncertain because of the distances that would separate them, that just the thought of the pending reunion and parting brought a feeling of joy, yet with a looming overcast. Hans was not sure what to do, but no matter what might happen later, he knew that he had to make things right with Tim.
The evening in the tiny Jamaican bay was beautiful and peaceful. After a wonderful dinner, Jeff Davis and Phil Thompson had taken the ship’s elevator to the observation deck high above the festivities below. They sat on a J-shaped built in sofa outside and took in the beauty of the bay that surrounded them, this pristine little bay which sparkled from a full moon.
The young whiz kids had remained in the background throughout the entire voyage, yet had participated fully in all the activities. They felt somewhat intimidated. Some of it was because they were new kids on the block, and partly it was the grandeur of their surroundings. It was not just the trappings of money, though that was part of it, but also the combination of Ron’s comfort with all the dazzle and his down-to-earth caring for people, especially his friends on the trip. Everyone had such interesting stories, and they all seemed to be caught up in the whirlwind that surrounded Ron.
“Phil,” Jeff said, “ These last three weeks have left me in a daze.”
“Yeah I know,” Phil answered. “I feel the same way.”
“Just think, only a short time ago we were interviewing for jobs, and now here we are sitting on a big yacht looking out over a moonlit bay in Jamaica. Everybody’s been so great, but I sometimes wonder what we got into. I mean, I love it, but we had barely begun to work and Ron whisked us off with a bunch of his friends on a luxury vacation. Then there’s Ron himself. That guy is amazing. Here he has all these companies, then the charities, and still he has time for kids like Tim and Robert, and yes even us! It’s like we’re in a dream.”
“Yeah Babe, I agree,” Phil said. “If you weren’t here with me experiencing all of this, I’d pinch myself just to see if I would wake up. It’s almost impossible to believe that anyone would shoot Ron, too. In some ways, he seems like a giant and it’s hard to believe that he’s mortal. I guess that fact of his humanity was just about proven by those crazies from New York. It’s a scary thought. Getting to know all these guys, yet knowing that Ron is the cornerstone of this whole shootin’ match is frightening when you think of what a close call he had. Not that anyone here, except maybe Tim, is really dependent on Ron. It’s just that everyone on this ship has such potential. I know it sounds strange, but it’s kinda like Ron is the fertilizer that will make the flowers grow. I mean us too. There are so many things to do and not just to make money, although that’s important, but things to make the world a better place. How could two guys be any luckier than we are?”
“I couldn’t be more in sync with you, Babe,” Jeff agreed. “I was really worried that all the potential represented on this ship was going down the drain when Ron was shot. I just had to remember that the only thing really important to me is you. Since we met in college and you told me that you loved me, I’ve considered myself the luckiest guy on earth. I wouldn’t trade a lifetime of Ron’s wealth for a moment with you in my arms.”
Jeff turned to his love and kissed the lips that were like life-giving nectar to a man dying of thirst. When at last they separated, Jeff took Phil’s hand in his, stood and pulled his lover up to a full embrace. Hand in hand, the young lovers looked into each other’s eyes, smiled hungrily, then turning they left the observation deck hand-in-hand, returning to their stateroom. They didn’t hear the sound of the anchor chain as the anchor was hauled in, marking the beginning of the journey to the Cayman Islands.
* * *
The morning was bright and beautiful in Las Vegas, as Matt sat on the deck of Ron’s house overlooking the valley. Mary had cooked an excellent breakfast for them both with Matt only eating enough to show his appreciation for her hard work. Tim’s appetite. that of a still growing boy, more than made up for it though. When Matt had set his plate aside and was just sipping his second cup of coffee, Tim asked if Matt wanted what was left on his plate. Matt said that he was finished; whereby Tim picked up Matt’s plate, set it over his empty one and proceeded to polish off the remainder of Matt’s breakfast.
Mary came out onto the deck as Tim was finishing.
“Tim, you didn’t have to eat Matt’s food,” Mary said. “I could have made you another plate of your own.”
“OK,” Tim said smiling, “But just another waffle please. I’m starting to get full”
Mary laughed with pleasure as she swept the dirty plates off the table and said that she would return quickly with the waffle.
“Well Matt,” Tim said, “What do you want to do today?”
“I’d like to spend as much time with Ron as I can. It seems strange with so much happening that we’ve only known each other a few weeks, and most of that time we were either apart or with several other people. The nights when we’ve been together have been wonderful, but it seems that in the daylight hours we are always running somewhere. Maybe now that he’s tied down to that hospital bed we’ll have time to talk and get to know each other better.”
Tim asked, “Do you believe in love at first sight?”
“Well I believe in instant attraction. But I think love is deeper than physical beauty. It’s knowing the guy inside that leads to love. I think that love can happen quickly though. When I first met Ron all I wanted to do was jump his bones, but within days I knew I was falling for him. I’ve not been disappointed. The guy inside is far deeper and more wonderful than his great looks. Why do you ask Tim?”
“Well, it’s me and Hans. I want him so bad. I mean besides being gorgeous he’s funny, competitive, and all the good things you’d want in a friend. I just think I could never be satisfied with having him only as a friend though; I want him to be mine. I want to be with him every second. Now I find that he was with a guy from a cruise ship yesterday, and I don’t know whether to get mad or cry.”
“I know how you must feel. I’m sure that it’s a disappointment but don’t make it to be worse than it is. I know Ron’s been with a lot of other guys before me, and sometime he might even stray in the future. I’ve thought about that a lot. Even if he did, I’d still love him and I believe he’d still love me. That’s what love is. It’s accepting and forgiving. I’m sure that Hans feels bad too but sometimes guys get swept up in the emotions of the situation. When we go back to the ship, the two of you need to talk.”
“Yeah, I hope I’m not being a baby about all of this, but it hurts so much.”
“Well you’ll have time to make up when we go back to the ship. We’ll be leaving about ten o’clock tonight. I want to be at the dock when the ship gets to Cancun. Are you ready to go see Ron now? I’m sure you’ll want to do something else later, but I’ll probably stay at the hospital.”
“Yeah, maybe. I may just come back here after I see Ron and see if I can go horseback riding up on Mount Charleston. I wouldn’t mind being alone for a while. I have lots to think about.”
“That sounds good. Let’s get going. Margaret gave me the keys to his car, so we can come and go as we please. If you get tired of being there, I’ll run you back here.”
“K,” Tim said. “I think I’ll take a book. Ron may be sleeping.”
“Good plan. You’re probably right. Let’s stop at a bookstore on the way. I’m sure that Ron will get tired of TV quickly. I’ll find a book to read and a couple of magazines that he can look at. I’ll pick something up for myself too while we’re there.”
* * *
The tour bus leaned as the driver swerved wildly to miss a coyote that had wandered onto interstate 15 between L.A. and the gaming capital. One more gentle hill and the bus would have caught sight of the south end of the Las Vegas strip. Instead, a wheel caught on the shoulder and the bus plunged into the wide, dished median separating the north and southbound roadways. Unable to regain control, the bus climbed onto the opposite roadway facing the oncoming traffic.
The driver of another bus, this one looking like a strange grey painted school bus, saw the behemoth suddenly appear before it. Stomping on the brakes, the driver jerked the steering wheel hard to the right, taking the smaller bus down an embankment into a large gully where it rolled onto it’s top before slamming into a stone embankment at 40 miles per hour.
The bodies of the occupants in the rear went flying toward the front of the vehicle, smashing into the wire cage that separated the prisoners from the guards seated in the front, ripping out the metal screws holding the door to the frame. Fat Charlie was lucky. He had been thrown forward with his fellow inmates, but since he was near the back and had held on when he saw the crash coming, he landed against several of them cushioning his fall. Several were crushed under his 270-pound frame.
The impact had momentarily blacked-out the large man but a quirk of fate had left him relatively unscathed. Reviving quickly, Charlie saw that the guards were either dead or unconscious. No other prisoners moved either. He crawled over the bodies strewn between himself and his objective, the prostrate body of the guard with the keys to his handcuffs and leg irons. Reaching into the man’s pocket Charlie found what he was looking for, unlocked his restraints, then crawled to the back of the bus and unlocked the rear emergency door with the keys. Dropping to the ground, Charlie moved directly up the gully from the bus and was quickly screened from highway view by a small knoll. He stumbled away from the scene as quickly as he was able, until he came to a box culvert nearly a mile away that ran under the interstate lanes. He crawled inside and waited for the darkness that would come; darkness that would hide his return to Las Vegas and unfinished business.
* * *
Ron was looking well as Matt and Tim walked into the brightly lit room. Margaret was sitting by his bedside with a folder of papers that she had brought for his review. Matt was glad. Ron seemed happiest when he was busy and got impatient when he had little to do. The one exception seemed to be when the lovers were holding each other. Somehow that was different, like he was recharging. At other times Ron seemed a whirlwind of activity, even though he appeared at the same time to be very calm as he charged through his tasks.
“Hi Margaret. Hi Ron,” Matt said smiling.
“Hi Sweet Thing,” Ron answered smiling.
“Morning Matt. Morning Tim,” Margaret greeted as she turned towards the door with happiness glowing on her face. “Brought a little work for Mr. Lazy here. Didn’t want him to think he gets away with layin’ around all day watching General Hospital.”
“Good for you Margaret.” Matt responded. “Glad you did. Now he won’t want to pester me!”
“Hey watch it! It wasn’t me peekin’ under the sheet on this bed yesterday.” Ron laughed.
“Hi Tim, did you get Matt all squared away at home?”
“Sure did. Parker put him in your room.”
“Great! That’s where he belongs.”
“Well, I’m not too sure about that,” Tim responded. “I caught him fondling your underwear. Sniffin’ it too.”
Ron roared, “Oh stop! It hurts when I laugh!”
Matt blushed much to Margaret’s obvious amusement.
Not to be outdone, Matt countered with, “Naw, I wasn’t sniffin’, just checkin’ for skid marks. Can’t be too careful ya know!”
Margaret let out a belly laugh.
“You guys are too much! I’m getting out of here. Have a great Thanksgiving guys. We all have a lot to be thankful for. Ron, I’ll be back in the morning. If you need me I’ll have my cell phone at the ready. Matt, you guys’ plane will be ready to take off at 10. I have a driver coming to take you to the airport. He’ll be there about 9:15. Have a good time. I’ll keep Ron in line while you’re gone.”
“Good luck with that Margaret,” Matt responded, “ Say hi to the family for us.”
“Thanks for bringing the reports Margaret. I’ll see ya tomorrow,” Ron added.
“Bye Margaret,” Tim said winking. “We’ll be back with the whole group Saturday.”
“I can’t wait,” Margaret responded pretending to be vexed. “I hope those other guys know how to treat a lady! Bye guys!”
She smiled at them all as she left the room.
“She’s such a nice person,” Tim commented.
“The very best,” Ron said in agreement.
Looking at his new visitors Ron asked, “What did you bring me guys?
“We got you a paperback to read, a yachting magazine, and oh yeah, we bought a “Freshmen” magazine with lots of dirty pictures of naked guys. Thought you might need it tomorrow while Matt’s not around. We got something special too. We snuck in a half dozen donuts.”
“Where am I gonna hide those?” Ron inquired.
“I’m sure you can find some ‘peg’ to slip ‘em over,” Tim said grinning.
Ron took the bag of donuts, looked inside and said. “ Nope, that’s not gonna work. The holes are too small.”
“Hmmm,” Tim said, about to burst out laughing, “ That’s the last time I hire Matt as a consultant!”
“Call the doctor, “ Ron giggled. “I’m about to slip a stitch.”
“You guys!” Matt said with tears in his eyes from laughing. “Does this go on all the time?”
“Nope,” said Tim.
“Yep,” said Ron at the same time.
Matt laughed again.
“Hey Babe,” Matt asked. “Are you gonna be alright with us going back to the ship tonight? It’s not too late to change our plans, ya know.”
“Sure, I’ll be fine. If I wasn’t a bit weak and didn’t have these bandages, I’d be ready for a good jog!”
“Tell me another one,” Matt said with a doubtful grin.
“Ok, just don’t forget you asked!”
Both visitors groaned. They knew a joke was coming.
“Sven and Ole go out duck hunting. They worked at it a couple of hours and finally Sven says, ‘I vonder vy ve aren’t getting’ no ducks Ole?’
‘I don’t know,’ says Ole, scratching his head. ‘Maybe ve’er not trowin’ da dog high enough’.”
“Oh, no! Matt said laughing. He looked at Tim who was staring at the ceiling.
“Hey don’t give up yet,” Ron responded. “I’ve got another.”
Tim stuck his fingers in his ears.
“Sven says to Ole, ‘ Ole, I see you got a sign up in your yard dat says “Boat for sale.” You don’t own no boat. All you got is your old John Deere tractor and your combine.’ Ole looks at Sven and says, ‘Ya, and dey’re boat for sale’.”
“I gotta pee,” Tim said trying to hide his mirth.
He headed for the bathroom and quickly shut the door to the sound of his laugher.
“Ron, you’ve outdone yourself sweetie. Those jokes were terrible.” Matt laughed as he moved in close to Ron’s bed, smiled and leaning over, placed a warm kiss on the lips of his lover.”
Moments later Tim returned.
“Uh, Ron and Matt, I think I’ll go back home if it’s all right. I’d like to try out the horse-back riding again.”
“Sure Tim,” Matt replied looking at his lover. “Ron, I’ll run Tim home then be right back. It should be about half-an-hour.”
“K, Babes,” Ron said in agreement. “You don’t have to come back though if you don’t want to. You can come back this afternoon.”
“You couldn’t keep me away lover. I’ll be right back. As I was telling Tim, we rarely have time to be alone.”
“Alright, I’d like that. Hey, when you come back, stop at Starbucks and pick up a couple of big coffees. By then I’ll be ready to dig into these donuts.”
“I hope eating solids is ok with the doctor,” Matt said questioning.
“Yeah, he was in this morning and said it was fine. They gave me some meds to keep all that stuff soft so it doesn’t hurt me. I’m glad, ‘cause all I had yesterday was liquids.”
“Ok. I’ll be back soon.”
“Bye Tim,” Ron said as the guys rose from their chairs.
“Bye Ron, I’ll come back and see you this afternoon. Take care, Pops.”
Ron grinned as he saw them exit. He closed his eyes and soon was asleep.
* * *
It was late when Han’s returned to the captain’s stateroom. Henri had returned earlier from the bridge, checking for the fourth time on the weather and their progress. He would now take a brief sleep, then return to the bridge at 2 AM to accompany the replacement helmsman throughout the balance of the night. Even though the ship was so automated that it could sail by itself to their destination, the captain knew that the sea could be deadly if not respected. Even the best electronics couldn’t replace a seasoned captain.
Hans sat down on the sofa in their small living room next to his dad. Henri put his arm around his son’s shoulders, giving him a hug.
“Missing Tim aren’t you?” Henri asked.
“Yeah Dad, he’s such a neat guy. I think I’ve lost him though. I just don’t know what to do.”
“Don’t beat yourself up too bad, son. Things will work out. He’ll be here in the morning; I think you should plan on spending some time with him alone. You guys need to talk and find out how you really feel about each other.”
“Yeah,” Hans said sadly. “A lot of good it’s gonna do though. I’ll have just one day with him and he’ll be goin’ back to Las Vegas.”
“I’ve been thinking about that too, son. I wonder if they’d have room for one smaller, younger guy on that plane?’
Hans’ eyes widened, and a smile broke out on his cute face.
“You mean I’d get to go with em? Oh man, that would be great!”
“Yeah, I think that there’s room on the plane so you could go. Then after I take the ship up to Palm Beach on Saturday, I’ll fly commercial to Las Vegas. I’d like to see Ron and talk to him about his ideas for the next cruise too. I can meet with Jan at the office, and get the planning started. We can fly back Monday night and you will miss only one extra day of school.”
Hans smiled but the smile faded as he realized that the inevitable would just be delayed a little.
“But what am I gonna do then? Tim will be in Las Vegas and I’ll be in Palm Beach.”
“Hans, things have a way of working out, especially around Ron. I can’t make any promises, but in three weeks Christmas vacation starts. Maybe we can figure some way that you guys can be together, I do know that I want to be with you at Christmas, though. You’re all I have left now that your Mother is gone.”
“I know Dad. I wouldn’t want to have Christmas without you either. I know that you miss her and I do too. Christmas is a special day to remember Mom and the fun times we had when I was just a kid.”
Henri smiled at the comment, and thought about how much he loved his young son.
“When I go to Las Vegas and see Ron and Matt, we’ll talk about Christmas and the future. But for now, you’d better make sure of your feelings about Tim. We don’t want to make long-term plans if the feelings you guys have for each other are just the result of a shipboard romance. There is a lot at stake, but it’s all dependant on the relationship you and Tim develop. I’m going to neither encourage nor discourage you. Just make sure of how you each feel for the other. If you’re relationship develops then we’ll work on the logistics of you guys being together as much as possible. I can’t make promises now, though. There may very well be long periods of separation. You have to make sure that your feelings for each other are strong enough to weather that kind of arrangement.”
“You’re the best Dad,” Hans said hugging his father. “I can always count on you.”
“Thanks son. You know how much I love you.”
“Yeah I do. It’s just about as much as I love you too.”
Captain Larson smiled.
“It’s time for bed Hans. We’ve all got a big day tomorrow.”
“Yeah, we do” agreed Hans. Giving his father a final hug, he left for his small room and the bunk that waited for him there. Tomorrow he’d see Tim again.
* * * * *
Another day in the lives of Ron and Bryan