The story below is a work of fiction. It may contain erotic or sexually explicit behavior between males. If you find this offensive or are too young, please leave now.

The author reserves copyright privileges. This work may not be reproduced, except for private use, without the permission of the author.

Dedications: This story has been dedicated to Don Hanratty, a premier writer who encouraged me to post it, and to Ry, my friend who inspired it. Special thanks go to Jojoe, Bill, and Bill H. who have all had a hand in helping to edit. Bill H had done a yeoman’s job. I’d also like to recognize Dan B. a reader who I’ve come to love and to Bert, Gerry, and Sara special friends who mean a lot to me. Last, I’d like to thank you my readers. who have stuck with me through this book. If you haven’t guessed by now, this will be the last Chapter of R & B. I plan on writing a sequel and perhaps a second story too. Look for it (them) in the very near future. I’d love to here from you if you’ve liked the story.  HUGs, John Tucker


Chapter Fifty

“How did it go?” Ron asked as he stepped into the house and saw Matt waiting for him in the family room.

“It was an adventure, for sure, “ Matt replied. “She was really afraid to take the test, but I knew she would pass. I spent all day yesterday going over the questions that I was sure would be on the test and she only missed one. The driving part was an adventure by itself. She passed that too, but I’m sure the guy from DMV was glad to be out of the car by the time it was over,” he said laughing. “I had my fingers crossed too. I sure didn’t want her to wreck my new car.”

“You let her take the test in your Mercedes?”

“Well, yeah, she couldn’t drive the limo of course, and I thought the Escalade would be too big and bulky, especially for parking. You had your car, so that left either mine or the Jeep.”

“I’m surprised that DMV was even open on the day before Christmas Eve,” Ron commented.

“I was concerned too,” Matt said, “so we had to get there early. We got back here by late morning to help Parker and the boys see to the moving.”

“Good! Then Mabel and the boys have moved to Jack’s?”

“Yeah, they are there now. They just left a couple of hours ago. Dorothy took Mabel over there yesterday, and they went shopping to pick up a few household items that Mabel and the boys will need. The boys put up the tree that we moved from the guest house.”

“I think it was a good idea you had about them moving there until their house is done in the compound,” Ron said smiling.

“Yeah,” Matt said, “They’ll feel more at home there than in the guest house, and it will take at least five or six months to get the house built. It will be nice to have the room over the holidays too ‘cause we’re gonna have a houseful. And by the way, the garage apartment has been prepared for Jeffery.  In the meantime, Mabel can still come here every day to help Dorothy until the Ted Thornton Center is open. She will be starting her business after the first of the year too, but will be phasing in the cleaning on the other buildings. She will start at the office first and then as she gets a staff that she can depend on, will take on the other jobs that Will has lined up for her.”

“When is her car going to be delivered?” Ron asked.

“She will get it tomorrow night - on Christmas Eve,” Matt answered.

“What did you pick out?”

“I found a really cute new Honda Accord, four door. I took Tony with me, but he’s keeping it a secret from Mabel and the boys. I’m sure she’ll like the gift and Tony can hardly wait to drive it.”

“That should be perfect, love. Thanks for taking care of that and everything else.”

“I needed something to do; Dorothy, Parker, Mabel and Mary have all the plans for Christmas and New Years handled.  Shopping is all I’ve done since I came here and that’s finished. Now I need to decide about what I want to do for the future.”

“Do you have any ideas about what you want to do?” Ron asked. “We’d all love to have you in the business.”

“I thought of that, and I really appreciate the offer Ron, but I don’t think it would be right to jump into the middle of your organization ahead of someone who has experience and training just because the boss man thinks he’s in love with me. The office in New York is enough”

“Maybe you’re right, Babe,” Ron replied taking Matt’s hand. “But you’d better believe that I don’t think I love ya, I know I do.”

“I know I love you too, sweet man, and I’m planning on showing you a little later,” Matt said with a wink. “Back to the subject, I’d kinda like to bounce an idea off you and I’d really like to know what you think.”

“Shoot! I’m listening.”

“Well, I talked to Bryan and Alan quite a lot on the cruise. I’ve developed an interest in social work, so I’m thinking I’d like to work at the Ted Thornton Center.”

“Wow! That would be great! You could be the Executive Director,” Ron said enthusiastically.

“You’re kidding of course, Ron,” Matt said frowning. “I’m totally ill equipped for taking on that kind of responsibility.  I don’t have any training, and in fact I’d like to go to school too. Maybe I could just be a counselor or somebody’s assistant. You know, start off small. Then I’d know if I like it, but not mess anything up while I’m learning.”

“Whatever you’d like Babe,” Ron replied. “I just want you to be happy.”

“I’m already happy, dear guy. I would just like to help people, especially young gay guys that may be having problems. You have far too many responsibilities to spend much one-on-one time with those you help and I’d like to do that. Maybe it’s not what I’ll end up doing but you’ve always said that it isn’t the money that really helps, it’s the personal contact. Does that sound crazy to you?”

“No it doesn’t Matt. It makes perfect sense. I haven’t really done that since I was in construction. After my father died and I inherited a lot of wealth, I became the ‘organization man’. In many ways I envy your choice.”

“Thanks lover,” Matt said smiling. “I’ll make you proud of me.”

“I’m more proud of you right now than you can possibly guess. It just makes me love you all the more, if that’s possible,” Ron said before he kissed the guy whose heart was his.

        *        *        *

The Cadillac SUV climbed the hill toward the house. In the seat next to Ron, Matt was turned talking to Henri, their yacht’s captain. Beside Henri, sat Robert, then Jeffery who had brought his few things from Florida to begin his job with Ron and Matt as their driver. Tim and Hans sat in the far rear seat holding hands, talking and joking with a newcomer. Tyler had made several phone calls and arranged with his grandparents for the young guest’s holiday visit. Johnny appeared very nervous and out of place in his worn but clean overalls, excited that he would soon see his friend Tony. His determination to see his best friend, and Tim’s assurances of Tyler’s character were greater than his fear of the unknown.  Even with those assurances, the entire trip had been mind boggling from the moment he was picked up at his grandfather’s farm.  The ride to the airport, the trip on the private jet and the excitement of seeing this strange city of Las Vegas had left him speechless. Even his traveling companions on the plane, Captain Larson, Hans, Tim, Robert and Jeffery were far more sophisticated than the simple country folks he was accustomed to. Now his eyes were full of wonder as the house came into view.

        *        *        *
Three hours later Matt and Ron were again in the SUV headed for home.

“I’m so glad you decided to join us tonight, Mabel,” Ron said as they drove through the gates entering the grounds of the estate.”

The Escalade climbed the long entry drive leading to the house as Mabel replied after a moment.

“I couldn’t hardly refuse the invite, guys,” she answered Ron who was driving, and turning to look at Matt who was seated next to Tony in the middle rear seat. Georgie and Petey were in the far back seat teasing each other. “I must admit, this is the first time I ever went to a gay church. I ‘bout flipped when ya told me where we were going. Then all of a sudden it made sense ta me. When I told Dorothy what I s’pected, she ‘bout fell on the floor laughing. I don’t know how I could’ve been so dumb.”

“You didn’t realize Matt and I were gay and partners?” Ron asked.

“No! I was so glad to be shed of that durn Luke, worried ‘bout how we were gonna make it, ‘n’ frettin’ ‘bout Tony goin’ ta jail, I just never noticed that you weren’t just reg’lar folks.”

Ron and Matt both broke out in a laugh.

“I don’t mean ta be disrespectful, but I sure was surprised. I never knowed no queer folks before. All I ever heard was talk and it weren’t good talk neither. I figured that all them gay people had to have two horns ‘n’ a tail, wearin’ red ‘jammers, ‘n’ carryin’ a pitchfork! Ya took me by suprise! Why I never met two nicer fellers!”

“Thanks,” Ron said, “Make that three nicer fellers.”

“Three? Mabel asked. “Who?…Ya mean Tyler’s part of your club too?”

“Yep,” Ron replied.

“I’ll be damned!” Mabel said in wonder.

“Speaking of Tyler, there he is waiting for us,” Matt added from behind Ron.

“Looky there, Ma,” Tony said joining in. “He’s standing by thet li’l car thet’s got a big red and green ribbon and a bow on it. Ain’t thet curious?”

“Yeah, I see it. Whut’s that ribbon ‘n’ bow doin’ on that car, I wonder?” Mary asked looking at Ron.

Ron nodded his head, and he and Matt said in unison. “Merry Christmas, Mabel”

“Ya mean thet car is fer us?” Mabel asked.

“Yep,” Matt and Ron said together.

“I’ll be damned!” Mabel exclaimed again.

Ron and Matt laughed.

Ron pulled to a stop next to the new car and Tyler opened Mabel’s door. He offered his hand to help her out of the vehicle, handing her the keys to the car as he did so. Ron, Matt and the boys climbed out too, and quickly surrounded Mabel as she looked at the keys in her hand, then at the car.

Mabel shook her head in amazement as tears came to her eyes.

“We got us the bes’ damn queer frens, in the whole world, boys” she said in awe. “Them folks that said gay guys had horns was sure wrong!”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Ron said before Matt and Tyler broke up laughing. Mabel looked at them strangely, but Tony was trying to suppress a giggle.

        *        *        *

After Mabel had taken Matt and the boys on a “test drive”, they returned to the house and upon entering heard voices coming the family room.  As they joined the “Christmas Eve” group gathered there, Mabel saw a few people she had not met. She pointed behind her, looking at her boys, indicating that they were to stay with her at least until they had been introduced to Ron and Matt’s friends.  Matt took her arm and they approached Ron, who was chatting with a tall, mature looking man and two older youths.
    “Mabel, boys,” Ron began, “I’d like you to meet Captain Henri Larson, Jeffery King and Robert Cantwell. Henri, guys, this is our friend Mabel Kendricks and her sons Tony, Petey and Georgie.”
    They shook hands and exchanged the customary smiles and pleasantries, when Matt asked. “Where are Tim and Hans?”
    “They’re in the game room,” Tyler answered as he joined the group. “I’ll bet the boys,” he said, indicating Mabel’s brood, ” would like to go in there with the other boys and get away from the old folks.”

Mabel smiled. “I’m sure that’s true Tyler. Is Tony’s ‘surprise’ in there?”

“Yep, he arrived with the others today,” Ron answered.

“Surprise?  What surprise?” Tony asked anxiously.

“Do you know some guy named Johnny?” Tyler asked.

“Johnny!!!!  Here???  Ya mean it?” Tony said excitedly.

Tyler, Ron, Matt and Mabel all nodded.

“Yippee!! Oh man I gotta go!!! Thanks, Thanks, Thanks!!! Yippee!!!” Tony yelled as he tore out of the room.

“You just gave him the nicest present he coulda got,” Mabel said smiling. “I had a hard time keepin’ from ‘spillin’ the beans.”

“We did too Mabel.” Tyler said with a grin, “ But judging from his reaction I’d say that we ‘done good’.”

Tony raced toward the game room shouting, ”Johnny, Johnny!”

Johnny leaped off the stool where he had been perched watching the other boys shoot pool and ran toward the sound of his friend’s voice. Rounding the corner of the doorway he ran headlong into Tony, the impact of which knocked them both backward onto the floor. Tony recovered first and scrambled to the side of his friend.

“Johnny! Y’alright?” he asked breathlessly.

Johnny opened his eyes and smiled. “Yeah, Ah’m jes’ knocked flat t’see ya,” he said laughing.

“Kinda set me back on my ass too, Bubba,” Tony said joining in with a giggle. “How’d ya git here?”

“Thet Tyler feller called grampaw, ‘n’ ‘suaded him ta let me come. Don’t rightly know how he done it, but Ah’m sher glad t’see ya.”

The boys picked themselves up off the floor and seeing Georgie and Petey entering the room, Tony motioned for them to join him and Johnny. He led the boys over to Tim and Hans, who had stopped their playing in time to watch the collision of the two friends.  The group faced the two boys who still held their cue sticks in their hands and had finally stopped laughing.

“Guys, I’d like you to meet my boyfriend Hans,” Tim said nodding to the blonde cutie beside him.”

“Nice ta meet ya,” Tony said offering his hand. “I guess you met my good friend Johnny and these are my brothers Petey and Georgie.”

The youngsters all shook hands. Then Georgie looking at Tony asked, “Can me and Petey play ping pong?”

“Sure, Georgie, go ahead,” Tony answered. “Tim, you guys go back ta your game. Me ‘n’ Johnny ain’t seen each other for a long time, ‘n’ we have some ketchin’ up ta do.”

The two pairs went off to their games as Johnnie and Tony climbed onto bar stools.

“Where ya stayin’?” Tony asked Johnny.

“Ah got me a room upstairs bigger’n Grampaw’s whole house. Ya should oughta see it. It’s plumb hugemongous! An’ ya should see all th’ clothes thet Parker feller brung me. Wow! I don’t know whar I’m agonna wear all thet stuff though. There ain’t a pair o’ overalls in the whole bunch.”

Tony grinned in understanding. “I’d sure like to see your room and all that stuff.” Tony said, giggling at his friend’s excitement, knowing just how overwhelmed Johnny felt. He had ‘been there’ just days before.

Johnny grinned. “Folla me,” he said with a wink as he hopped off the bar stool and headed for the door with Tony following his lead.

        *        *        *

The small church was decorated with poinsettias and Christmas wreaths.  The service was beautiful and well done, with a candle lighting ceremony to welcome the Christ child. Dorothy sat next to Mabel and it was obvious that they were both impressed by the service, which was indistinguishable from any other that they might have attended except for the number of same sex couples in the congregation. The pastor gave a sermon called  “A New Beginning” which certainly fit Mabel’s situation. Her younger boys were a bit squirmy, but for the most part were well behaved and looked very handsome since Tyler had taken them to the hair stylist, and they were dressed in the new clothes Parker had purchased for them.

After the group returned to the house, Mary, their overworked chef, served a late night snack and afterward Matt surprised them all by playing Christmas carols on Ron’s grand piano in the music room. They all sang along, and Ron received two additional surprises when he discovered both Tony and Matt had beautiful voices. He smiled in admiration as their clear notes carried through the room, leading the carolers in song.

After the snack and the singing were over, the group of family and friends gathered around the huge tree. Ron and Matt stood in front of the beautifully decorated symbol of Christmas as Ron spoke.

“You, our family and friends, have made our lives very full and rich. Tyler, Matt and I would like to share a few small gifts with you. Please don’t feel embarrassed or that you need to reciprocate, as we have more than we need: we have you. Some of you will be having your own Christmas celebration in the morning, so we decided to do this little thing tonight. Matt, would you do the honors?”

“Sure Ron,” Matt said as he began. He handed card envelopes to Mabel and each of the boys, including Johnny. In Mabel’s was a card and 5- $100 bills. In each of the boys’ envelopes was also a card and $100.  Matt said to Mabel who had tears in her eyes, “We know that you will need some small things to set up your household, and the boys need some spending money too. We hope it will come in handy.”

“You guys are so wonderful,” Mabel said tearfully. “I don’t know how we can ever repay you.”

“We are being repaid every day you are around, Mabel.” Matt said sincerely. Ron and Tyler joined in a round of hugs and ‘thanks” from the small family and Tony’s friend Johnny.

Moving to Henri, Hans and Tim, Matt handed a small box to Henri and envelopes to the two boys. The boys opened their envelopes as Henri began opening his wrapped gift. Inside the envelopes the boys each found a certificate that said: “This certificate entitles the bearer to a full four-year scholarship to the college of his choice.” Hans and Tim hugged each other, then proudly waving their certificates, hugged Matt, Ron and Tyler, then their dad in thanks for the gifts and their love. Henri opened his gift to find an expensive marine chronometer watch that not only was beautiful, but also was waterproof. After receiving thanks from the three guys, Matt moved on followed by Ron and Tyler.

Approaching Jeffery and Robert, Matt handed them their envelopes. In Robert’s was a card with a note attached. “Merry Christmas Robert, this gift is for you, your mother and brothers. We hope it makes life a little easier during this season of giving. Ron, Matt, and Tyler.” He found 5-$100 bills inside the card. Robert’s eyes were full of tears as he thanked and hugged each of his benefactors. Jeffery opened his next and found $500 in his card with a note that said, “Welcome to your new home. Please accept this little gift to help you get a few things you might need or want. Ron, Matt and Tyler.” Jeffery followed his companion in his own round of hugs and thanks to Matt, Ron and Tyler.”

Matt then turned to Tyler.

“Ron and I wanted you to know how much we love you, and how much we appreciate our new brother,” Matt said with Ron at his side. He handed a small box to Tyler, who had been surprised by the whole gift giving ceremony. Tyler opened his present to find a gold Rolex watch and a card that said, “Welcome to the family, brother. Ron and Matt.” It was Tyler’s time to shed a tear.

“Thanks Matt. Ron, I truly appreciate the gift and am still astounded by what’s happened for me in the last few weeks. I just want you to know, that having you as a brother means more to me than all the rest put together.”

Ron wrapped his arms around his brother saying, “I agree with you Tyler; having you as a brother has made my family complete. I can only repeat what Matt has said, we love you and want you to make our home yours.”

As they released each other Matt moved in for his hug.  He smiled at Tyler who had already made such a difference in their lives, then turned to Ron.

“Ya didn’t think I’d forget you, didja?” Matt said to his lover.

He pulled a small box from his pocket and handed it to Ron.

“Now what did you go and do?” Ron asked in surprise. He opened the small box and inside found a gold chain with a locket pendant in the shape of a small rectangle. Opening the locket he found a miniature picture of Matt on one side and another of him on the other. When the locket was closed the two pictures were face to face. Closing the small locket he saw inscribed on the outer face of the case, “Together forever”.

Tears came to Ron’s eyes and he took Matt in his arms and hugged him warmly. He said softly in Matt’s ear.  “I love you Matt, thank you so much, Babe.  I’ll wear it always.”

“I just didn’t want you to forget me while you’re out tootin’ around,” Matt said grinning.

“You don’t ever need to worry about that love, “ Ron said,  “I keep the image of you right here all the time.” He pointed to his head.

“Well then I guess I might as well take this back,” Matt kidded reaching for the locket.

“Not unless you have a dozen guys the size of Brucie and Max hiding in the closet to try and take it away,” Ron said earnestly. Then reaching into to his own pocket he pulled out his own small box and handed it to Matt.

“I was going to keep this to give to you later, but I guess now, in front of our friends and family is a better time.

Matt opened the box and saw another chain, this one running through a plain gold ring. Matt took the ring in his hand and saw writing inside. The inscription said, “To Matt, a symbol of my love, for my love- Ron”

It was Matt’s turn to cry as he read it out loud. He again turned to his man and taking him in his embrace, kissed his lover. The happy group of people who loved them both, clapped and grinned.

        *        *        *

It was a smaller group that gathered for breakfast Christmas morning. Late the night before, Johnny had begged Tyler, who he considered his own personal mentor, for permission to spend the night and Christmas morning with Tony at Mabel’s. Tyler had located Mabel still chatting with Dorothy, and after hearing Johnny’s request Mabel went one better.  “Heck, Tyler, no use jus’ making it for one night,” She said, “We’re never gonna get them young fellers apart now. Might just as well have Johnny move t’our new place. Tony’s got his own room and a big ol’ bed they can both fit in,” she said winking. After getting Mabel’s permission, he told the boys of the new plan then enlisted the help of Petey and Georgie in taking gifts from himself, Ron and Matt to Mabel’s new car, carefully loading them in the trunk, while Johnny raced to his room to pack his belongings with Tony’s help.

Jeffery and Robert had spent the night in Jeffery’s new place, then left early to spend Christmas morning with Robert’s family. Gifts for all of them as well as Jeffery had been loaded into the Escalade.

At the breakfast table were Matt, Ron, Tyler, Henri, Tim and Hans. They all started eating with a little more haste than normal, the older guys for the benefit of the younger ones, and the younger ones out of sheer excitement.

Looking at the four older men, Tim, holding Hans’ hand with one of his own and eating with the other, paused and put down a piece of toast he had just sampled. He looked Ron in the eyes. Ron, noticing the gaze of the younger man, also stopped eating.

“Ron,” Tim began. “I’d like to say something before we do the gift thing and everyone comes for lunch.” 
“Sure Tim, go ahead,” Ron said smiling. Everyone at the table finished what they were eating and paused to listen.

“When you rescued me from the streets of New York, I was afraid. I was afraid to stay there and afraid to go with you. Since then it has been like a dream. You and Matt, now Tyler too, have treated me like I truly belong. For the first time in my life I felt wanted. Then I met Hans who I love beyond all my dreams. Now Pop Henri has become like a real father to me. I just want to thank you all, just for being you and for loving me.”

Ron smiled at his ward, and replied, “I believe I can speak for all of us, Tim. When I first met you, I saw something good in you. The very first thing you did for us, even before we met you, was an act of kindness which we’ll never forget, and I’m sure that Brandt, Rich, Bryan and Alan won’t either. When we met for the first time, I could sense that the good deed you did for Brandt, was not a mistake - it was you. I couldn’t leave you there when I felt you had so much potential to do wonderful things with your life. You have not disappointed any of us.”

Ron rose from his chair and said, “I’ll be right back.” He disappeared into the living room, returning quickly with a flat package. He handed the package to Tim and returned to his seat.

“This package is a gift of our love. It’s only sheets of paper, but they are a symbol of how much we care for you. In there are a bunch of legal documents. They free you from your father and essentially give you over to us for your care. It won’t be long before those papers will be unnecessary, as you will soon be of legal age and allowed to be on your own. We give them to you so that you will know that you will always be ours: our son and our friend. Our home is your home. You will always be welcome, not as a guest but as a member of our family. We give the papers to you now so that you know that we care enough to make you free from the fear of your father, and make you ours legally, just like you’ve already been in our hearts.”

Tim broke down in tears as he heard the words of acceptance and love.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” he croaked through a constricted throat. “I love all of you so much.”

Rising from the table everyone participated in a group hug as tears fell unashamedly.  Moments later the group broke apart and Matt asked. “Aren’t you going to open your package?”

Tim looked at the beautifully wrapped gift, and holding it up before him, said. “No, Ron told me what’s in there. I’ll never unwrap it.  Ron told me once that loving is trusting. I don’t need to see it. I would rather keep it in its beautiful package knowing what it is and what it symbolizes rather than looking at a stack of legal papers I probably wouldn’t understand anyway. I love you all and I especially love Ron for giving me hope in my life. I want him to know that I trust him so much, and love him so much that I don’t need to see proof that what he told me is true.”

Ron smiled with pride in his young ward, as another tear rolled down his cheek.

Tyler broke the spell by saying, “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to open some presents.”

        *        *        *
Christmas lunch was a grand affair. In addition to the people who had been there for breakfast Mabel and her family, along with Johnny arrived first. Following them, Jeffery, Robert, Robert’s mother and brothers joined the celebration. Will, Jan, and Margaret, Ron’s office ‘team’, came with their partners, followed by the ‘new’ whiz kids, Jeff Davis and Phil Thompson.  Dorothy, under protest, came as a guest rather than her normal role as the ‘conductor’ of the affair. After the normal round of introductions of those who had not yet met, the hosts and guests began to congregate in groups.

The youngest kids were soon entertaining themselves in the game room. Mabel, Dorothy and Robert’s mother, Pam, fell into a happy trio exchanging funny stories and anecdotes in a corner of the living room. Robert, Jeffery, Jeff and Phil decided to take a stroll around the property on Ron’s jogging track. Tyler and Matt, with the group from the office, went into the music room and began playing and singing a medley of songs ranging from traditional Christmas songs to old favorites. Ron and Henri sat in some easy chairs listening to the music and talking about the yacht, the upcoming cruise and the boys now in Henri’s care. As the hour approached three o’clock, Parker came out of the kitchen and announced that dinner was ready to be served. 

The guests assembled in the huge formal dining room, a room that was rarely used because of its immense size. The large table, centered by three holly accented silver candelabra was covered with a beautiful linen tablecloth, crystal, silver, and china gracing each place setting. After everyone was seated, Ron stood and began to speak.

“Matt, Tyler and I would like to thank you for joining us at this happy time.  We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a truly wonderful New Year. Now starting off this celebration feast, I’d like to pray.”

Everyone bowed their heads as Ron began.

“A pastor skips services one Sunday to go bear hunting.”

Heads began to rise and look curiously at each other, then a few smiles began to appear. Matt simply looked at the ceiling- Ron was at it again.

“As he turns the corner along a path,” Ron continued, “he and a bear collide. The pastor stumbles backward, slips off the trail, and begins tumbling down the mountain, the bear in hot pursuit. Finally, the pastor crashed into a boulder, sending his rifle flying and breaking both of his legs. The pastor is lying there; he’s lost his gun, and the bear is coming closer, so he cries out in desperation, ‘Lord, I repent for all I’ve done. Please make this bear a Christian.’ The bear skids to a halt at the pastor’s feet, falls to its knees, clasps its paws together and says, “Lord, I do thank you for the food I am about to receive.”

Laughs and groans erupted from the table.

Ron grinned like he had just been awarded first prize.

“Now for the real thing,” Ron said after the laugher and talking died down. Heads again were bowed and all at the table held hands.

“Lord we thank you for all the many gifts You have given us. Today we have exchanged gifts. Help us to remember that the exchanging of gifts is a symbol of our caring for one another, and is a remembrance of the holy gift You have given us, the gift of Your son, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate today. We remember with our gift-giving another even greater gift that Your son gave. He gave his life in sacrifice, so that we might know You and be saved. We thank You for those great gifts and now we ask that You bless those small gifts that we have given, that they might bring joy to others. We ask that You bless this food that we are about to enjoy and all who partake of it. In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.”

        *        *        *

Matt and Ron lay in bed at the end of the day, their nude torsos exposed above their waists.  Having just left the shower that they shared together they smelled fresh and clean.

“The day turned out well, don’t you agree?” Ron asked.

“Yes, everyone had a really good time. I still think though that Christmas is for the youngsters. It’s such a joy to see their faces when they open their gifts.”

“I agree with you in almost every case, except for Mabel,” Ron responded. “It was like she was making up for a lifetime of lost Christmases. It’s wonderful to give gifts to someone who is so appreciative.”

“You did such a great job Matt, at selecting gifts for everyone. I’m so glad that you took on that task. It seemed that every gift was personalized and was either really needed or wanted by the recipient.”

“Parker helped a lot,” Matt admitted. “That man knows how to shop! When we walked into a store, the whole staff snapped to attention. I had to overrule him a few times when picking out clothes for the younger guys though. His tastes are a bit ‘ivy league’ for the more trendy styles the young people wear these days. I wanted them to fit in with their crowds, not stick out!”

“Yes, it’s a new experience for him with so many young guys around. Most of them have never even had nice ‘casual’ clothing. I have to say though that the clothes they received sure made a change in their appearance, especially Georgie, Petey, and Johnny. Speaking of Johnny, did you hear what Tyler did?”

“No, but nothing would surprise me,” Matt replied. “I know that he considers Mabel and her family his special ‘protectorate’. That now includes Johnny, I’m sure.”

“In poking around back there in Ohio keeping tabs on Luke, he discovered that Johnny’s grandfather was behind in his mortgage payments and taxes on their farm. It was not a huge amount of money, only about $25,000. The farm is worth many times that but they were in danger of losing everything, so Tyler paid off their bills. I guess he had to just about wrestle the proud old man to the ground verbally when he told him. Tyler was persuasive though. He convinced Johnny’s grandfather that the gift was really for Johnny, to make sure that the farm was his when the grandparents were gone to their rest. Anyway, Tyler accomplished ‘the deed’ and that’s what’s important.”

“Wow, Ron. I’m astounded! That Tyler is something else. If I wasn’t already ‘took’, I’d sure look in his direction.”

“Yeah, well you are took, so just forget it,” Ron said grinning. “Besides, I have other plans for Tyler.”

“What are you cooking up now?” Matt asked.

“You remember Dan, Richard’s assistant in New York? Well, I’ve invited him to join the New York bunch out here for New Years. I saw that they were attracted to each other on our building tour back there, so I took a chance. I asked him at Alan and Bryan’s.”

“I’m sure that Tyler will be delighted. Have you told him yet?”

“Nope. He’s gonna get a little surprise. Speakin’ of surprises, I’m looking forward to the one you promised me a few minutes ago in the shower.”  Ron grinned and leaned over to kiss his mate.

“Mmmmm,” was all that could be heard from Matt’s happy mouth. He wrapped his arms around his lover as they moved to horizontal positions, each of their bare bodies in full contact with the others.

Ron pulled back slightly and said to Matt, “This reminds me of a joke.”

Matt looked at Ron like he had surely lost his mind.

“You’re gonna tell me a joke?  Now?”  Matt asked incredulous.

“Sure,” Ron said grinning, “your gonna love it.”

Matt looked at the ceiling, capitulating. 

“Little Johnny was in school and the teacher asked the kids to tell what their parents did that was unusual. Little Mary raised her hand and said, ‘My daddy has a pet skunk,’ she said. ‘That’s very unusual Mary. Who else would like to share?’ Another child raised his hand. ‘My momma smears mud stuff all over her face every night. It’s pretty weird.’ ‘Yes, it is unusual what women will do to keep themselves beautiful,’ the teacher admitted. ‘Anyone else?’ Little Johnny raised his hand. The teacher was afraid to ask Johnny who always was coming up with embarrassing things, but no one else raised their hand so she said, ‘Johnny?’ ‘My daddy eats light bulbs.’ ‘He eats light bubs? How do you know that?’ The teacher asked. ‘Well,’ little Johnny said, ‘The other night I was walking down the hallway past my Momma and Daddy’s room, and I heard my Daddy say to my Mom, ‘Turn the light off, honey, and I’ll eat it’!’

Matt roared with laugher.

When his laugher died, Ron leered hungrily at Matt and said, “Turn the light off, honey.”

        *        *        *

The week passed quickly with everyone who was there from out of town at Christmas staying over for the New Years Eve party at Ron and Matt’s foothill estate. In addition to the continuing daily celebration at home, Ron and Matt drove to the airport on Friday to pick up the guests who were arriving from New York. Jeffery followed in the new limo and Tyler in the Escalade, as the party of guests was far too large to fit into Ron’s Mercedes sedan.

The autos were parked in the parking lot and the two brothers, with Matt and Jeffery went into the lobby of the executive jet terminal to be there for the arrival of their friends. The Gulfstream V had just pulled to a stop as they entered the building. Before they could reach the windows on the far side of the terminal lobby, the beautiful aircraft’s hatch swung open and the stairway descended to the ground. The ground crew was approaching the cargo hatch with dollies for the guest’s luggage when the first of the passengers appeared at the entry. Bryan smiled and waved, as he and Alan began their descent. A security officer from the terminal approached the group inside the building, offering to escort them to greet their guests. Ron accepted the offer with thanks and the four men walked out on the tarmac with waves to their friends as they appeared at the aircraft’s door.

Richard and Ann Adams, Bryan’s parents followed their son and his mate down the stairs. Bryan’s brother Dick and his fiancé, Carol followed. Behind them came Dan Barnes, Richard’s Executive Assistant who was followed by Rich and Brandt. The entourage was complete when the older couple from the cruise appeared behind Lonnie and Jack.  Tom Cordero and Sam Bjornson smiled and waved when they spotted Ron and Matt in the group at the bottom of the stairs.

Tyler’s eyes grew wide as he recognized Dan and stepped over to greet him. ‘Those rascals,’ he thought, as he shook hands and began a conversation with the handsome young man who had caught his eye in New York. He looked at Ron and Matt who were grinning at him like the cat that ate the canary.

Gathering up their carryon items, the large group followed the ground crew who were pushing the luggage dollies through the terminal to the waiting ground vehicles. After loading the cargo areas and trunks with the luggage, the ground crew left and the guests began to load themselves into the vehicles. The boys, Brandt and Rich scrambled into the limo, with Bryan’s parents, brother and Carol. Tom and Sam as well as Lonnie and Jack, joined Tyler in the double rear seats of the Escalade, while Dan positioned himself in the front. Bryan and Alan climbed into the back seat of Ron’s Mercedes sedan, with Ron and Matt resuming their seats in the front. The motorcade pulled out of the parking lot, going for a quick tour down the strip before heading to Ron’s estate in the city’s western foothills.

The long weekend passed quickly as the houseful of guests and visitors made full use of the offerings of both the city and the estate. Ron, Matt, Tyler and Jeffery were kept busy escorting their guests around town and out to Hoover Dam on quick mini-tours. Ron, Matt, Tyler, Dan, Sam, Tom, Richard and Henri, managed to sneak away from the house for a round of Golf on Sunday at the Tournament Players’ Club at Summerlin, leaving Alan, Bryan and Bryan’s parents and brother to keep an eye on the younger crowd.  Besides enjoying the city tours, the guests and visitors enjoyed the hot tub, pool and jogging track on the grounds of the property, as well as horseback rides into the mountains and helicopter flights over the city and Lake Mead. Evenings were spent in the game room, music room, family room or pool area where each guest found friends with whom to enjoy their time.

On Tuesday the household staff began early to decorate for the evening’s festivities. By the time lunchtime arrived, the house was ready. The music room, the largest room in the house had been stripped bare of the musical instruments and furniture normally found there, except for the grand piano. That instrument was moved to a corner of the huge room next to a small bandstand/stage and dance floor that had been prepared for the evening’s entertainment. Large round tables, each providing seating for ten people, surrounded the dance floor. Each table was set with glistening tableware and accessories with only the centerpieces of hothouse lilies and orchids, designed by Brandt, left in refrigeration until the party was ready to begin.

Mary had spent the day handling the dinner preparations and helping Dorothy set up staffing with the caterers, while Parker had overseen the houseboys with decorating and the set-up of the music room into a banquet room. Matt had joined in the final preparations, and once satisfied that all was ready, joined Ron and Tyler who had spent the day seeing to their guests’ comfort. At seven in the evening, all the houseguests from Florida and New York met in the family room and living room as the in-town guests began to arrive. Mabel and her boys arrived early as usual, with the boys, including Johnny, joining the group of younger guys in the game room. Mabel found her friend Dorothy and immediately began to help her with last minute preparations and coordinating to prevent her from overdoing.

Robert had joined Jeffery earlier and was helping him direct parking of the guests’, caterers’ and musicians’ vehicles as they arrived. After greeting their houseguests, Matt and Ron remained near the front door of the huge house in order to greet the arriving partygoers. Tyler acted as host to those already there, making sure that they had drinks and appetizers and that they were introduced and became friends with those they had not yet met. In addition to Will, Margaret, and Jan, with their spouses, Ron had invited the top officers of all his companies with their spouses or companions, including the rather formal Mr. Peterson and his wife.

At 9 o’clock a string quartet began playing in the banquet room as dinner was announced.
The partygoers moved into the banquet room after having been given small cards at the door as they entered the room, showing their table location. After the guests were seated, Ron stood and asked the group to bow their heads. From the kid’s table voices were heard: “Joke! Joke!”

“Folks really,” Ron said smiling, “ I was gonna let you off the hook this time.”

“Awww, come on!!!” came the voices from the younger guys tables.

“Well, alright,” Ron said grinning.

“Awww, no!” Shouted voices from the older people.

Ron laughed and sat down. Everyone looked around in amazement.

Matt, who was seated beside Ron, stood. The room became quiet, waiting for words of either praise or scolding from Ron’s lover.

“Two cannibals meet one day,” Matt began. Everyone laughed. Matt was going to tell a joke!

“The first cannibal says, ‘You know, I just can’t seem to get a tender missionary. I’ve baked ‘em, roasted ‘em, I’ve stewed em, barbecued ‘em, I’ve tried every sort of marinade. I just can’t seem to get them tender.’  The second cannibal asks, ‘What kind of missionary do you use?’  The other replies, ‘You know the ones that hang out at that place at the bend in the river. They have those brown robes with a rope around the waist, and they’re sort of bald on top with a funny ring of hair on their heads’  ‘Aha!’ The second cannibal replies. ‘No wonder--- those are friars!’

A voice was heard above the laugher.  “Oh no! Where’s Ron?”  A greater volume of laughter filled the room.

Ron stood up beside his lover and grinned. When the noise died down, he said. “After I say a short silent prayer asking forgiveness for Matt’s joke, we can ask God’s blessing on the meal.”  Ron bowed his head, as Matt slapped it from behind. His hand bounced off, nearly missing the lowering target, evoking another laugh from the crowd.

Ron turned his head slightly sideways, peeked out the corner of his eye and winked at Matt, grinning. Matt grinned back and sat down.

Ron said, “Let us pray.”

“Heavenly Father,” he began, “we thank You for the riches of the past year. You have blessed us materially, but of much greater importance, You have blessed us with each other. During this past year many of us have found a new and lasting love, some of us have shared another year with our life partner, and some have found new hope for love for the future. Some of us have found our family again and we have all made new friends.
We thank You for these gifts, the gifts of the people in our lives. As we celebrate a New Year, we ask that Your blessings continue with us. Remind us often of each other and those who have gone to be with you. Help us share the joy we have in each other with those less fortunate. Now we ask that You bless this food, so that it may bring the joy of Your existence to others, through us. In Your name we pray. Amen.

Ron sat down as waiters began serving the appetizers, and Matt rose again. “As we are served,” he said, “ I’d like to say how pleased Ron, Tyler and I are that you could be here with us tonight to welcome in the New Year. I’d like to propose a toast.”

He raised his glass of wine, and everyone in turn, raised his glass. “To love and to friendship,” Matt said, “our greatest treasures.”

“Hear, Hear,” came the reply as glassed clinked together.

Tyler rose as Matt sat down. “I’d like to propose a toast to our hosts, Ron and Matt,” he said raising his glass. “To Ron and Matt” several repeated as the glasses again touched.

“Thank you for the undeserved compliment,” Ron said humbly. “Let’s eat or Mary, our chef is gonna make Matt and me wash the dishes.” 

Laughter rolled around the tables as the guests were again seated.

Dinner was a great success with Mary and the staff having outdone themselves with the beautifully served and elegant courses. Everyone ate to satiation as wave after wave of delightful, delicious dishes were served. The string quartet in the background provided a wonderful background to ambience created by dimmed lighting and lively conversations going on during the meal. When at last dessert was served and consumed, the staff cleaned the tables of the dinner’s remnants.

A small band replaced the string quartet and began playing. Couples danced to music that was a mixture of old favorites and contemporary tunes. Mixed couples and same-sex couples intermingled on the dance floor. Ron and Matt were among the first on the floor and, along with Tyler, Henri and Dan, often asked others to be their dance partners, including Dorothy, Margaret, Jan, and Mabel.

Both Ron and Matt observed that Dan and Tyler danced several selections with each other, obviously enjoying themselves.

As the evening drew close to midnight, Ron asked the band to stop playing for a while. After requesting the boys rejoin the party from their escaped to the game room, he went to the podium and took a microphone from its stand. Everyone turned to the host.

“I hope you all won’t mind, but I’ve written a little something for this evening. It expresses the joy and the adventure that has come into our lives this past year. If you will indulge me?”
Ron pulled a paper from his pocket and began reading.

“Ron and Bryan,” he read.

“I will tell you a story ‘bout RETing,
It’s a story you won’t be forgGETing.
Profits were off the charts
Thanks to those who’re here’s parts,
Then ol’ Ron met Bryan interNETing.”

“So off to New York Ron did go,
For a lunch with ol’Bry who did show
Him the sights of the town,
>From skyscraper to ground,
Then the friendship it started to grow.”

“In that City Ron met our dear Matt,
A delectable cutie, a cat.
Ronnie found the guy charming,
With a grin so disarming,
That they both fell in love, tit-for-tat”

(“Yea, Matt,” came a voice from the younger guys, which resulted in Matt’s red face and laughter from the audience,)

“At the home of Alan and ol’ Bryan,
At the barbecue fat was afryin’.
Ron met Rich ’n’ Brandt,
And gave Lonnie a pant,
The guy who’d later send Jack’s heart aflyin’.”

“Back in Vegas the business was poppin’
Will, Jan, and Marg’ret kept things hoppin’
With a crew that was noted,
For a bunch of hearts bloated,
With good works toward man with no stoppin’.”

“At Grand Canyon young Rich went aflyin’
O’er the rim, that set Alan’s eyes cryin’,
As they looked o’er the edge,
Saw the body on a ledge,
He’d just busted his ass, ‘stead o’ dyin’.”

(The younger group cheered and laughed)

“Bry’s heart was hurtin’ with  sadness,
Lost his dad in a shouting of madness,
At a place called, ‘ (blank) Leasing,’
Ron gave Richard a greasing,
Now the family’s together with gladness.”

(Bryan looked at his parents and brother grinning.)

“In New York, Brandt upset a policeman,
An evil guy, not a keep-peace-man.
Young Tim who saw all,
Gave our Bryan a call,
Now the cop’s doing time in a steel can.

“Then Tim, now a friend, was in trouble,
with Fat Charlie, a man who weighed double.
The fat man did attack,
With two goons at his back,
But ole Brucie and Max burst his bubble.”

“Then Ron and Matt started in living,
Took a bunch of guys cruising, Thanksgiving.
With Hans, Henri, Jeff too,
On Ron’s yacht P-T II
To the beaches with sand for toes sieving.”

“And the list of guys goes to the brim,
Robert, Sam and, of course, there is Tim,
Ron, Matt, Alan, Bryan,
My head’s bursting with tryin’,
To remember all names having sin.”


“There was also along Lonnie and Jack,
On the boat there, they gave love a crack,
And, let’s see, Brandt and Rich,
My forgetter’s a bitch,
Then the phone call that made Ron come back.”

Jet flyin’ to Dor-o-thy’s side,
As her thumper had gone for a ride.
It sure gave us a start,
Her malfunctioning heart,
But she came through OK with tough hide.”

“Then appeared on the scene that bad fatty,
With a gun, shot the boyfriend of Matty,
Thanks to doctors’ great skill,
Left a wound not a kill,
And Ron’s still tellin’ jokes, that are baddy.”

(Cheers erupted from the crowd)

“Out of nowhere appeared our friend Tony,
A cute kid, but a little bit boney,
With a ‘Charlieful blunder’
Sent Fatty ‘down under’,
Who’s now feeding the worms his baloney.”

(claps and cheers rose from the crowd. Ron paused, then continued)

“And now we are blessed with another,
It’s Tyler we love, he’s our brother,
Though from our Dad’s family,
He got his looks manly,
His cute face he got from his mother.”

(more laughter)

“Into our lives came our friend Mabel,
Who’s funny as well as she’s able,
With Georgie and Petey,
She’s really a sweetie,
And Tony she hides ‘neath the table.”

(Johnny punched Tony on the arm and his loud  “Owww!” brought forth laughter and giggles from the younger guys)

“So here we stand friendships now blended,
and a year that will quickly be ended.
And from Matty and Me,
And with Tyler makes three,
Wishes New Year of joy are now sended.”

“It’s midnight!” Ron announced. “Happy New Year!”

As the guests rose, throwing confetti, blowing noisemakers and hugging and kissing their New Year’s greeting, Ron stepped from the podium into the arms of Matt. They kissed sweetly looking into each other’s eyes. Then turning to their family of friends they made the rounds hugging and giving their best wishes as the band began playing with everyone singing, “Should auld acquaintance, be forgot, and never brought to mind……”

        *         *        *

Ron and Matt stood holding hands on the balcony outside their bedroom looking over the bright lights of Las Vegas.

“You know Matt,” Ron said wistfully. “A lie almost kept all of this from happening.”

“A lie?” Matt asked full of curiosity.

“Yes,” Ron said thinking back to a day only a few months ago. “I lied to Bryan about my age when we met on the Internet, not believing we’d ever meet face to face. When we did finally meet for lunch in New York, it wasn’t the fact that I was younger that upset him, it was the fact that I lied to him and he believed me. If he had left before lunch that day, I planned to immediately cancel my plans in New York and return here. All of this would never have happened. God was smiling on me that day.”

“He smiled on me too,” Matt said. “That next day I met you. “I don’t know what happened to me, but I knew the minute that I laid eyes on you that I wanted you. You have made me the happiest man on earth.”

“This all started with two people who enjoyed each other, but the experience was tainted with a lie. The whole thing disturbed me so much that since that time I have never lied again. When I tell you that I’m in love with you, you can be sure that it’s true.”

“I know Ron,” Matt said turning to his love. “I tell you now, facing a New Year and a life together that I love you with all my heart.”

Ron looked into the face of the man he loved more than life itself.

“And I love you Matt. I love you more than I can ever express. You make my life whole. I can’t imagine going on without you by my side.” 

Ron reached into his pocket and withdrew a small object. Placing the ring he held into Matt’s hand, he looked into Matt’s eyes and asked. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” Matt said without hesitation. “Together forever.”

The two lovers kissed, then holding hands and with eyes locked in each other’s gaze, turned and stepped into their room.

        *    *    *    *    *

The End of the beginning.

        *    *    *    *    *

I hope you’ve enjoyed my story. Thanks for reading it. HUGs. John Tucker.