The story below is fiction. It may contain erotic or sexually explicit behavior between males. If you find this offensive or are too young to read it, please exit now.

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Chapter Twenty-six

In a Las Vegas Restaurant at noon.

“I came directly here once they had booked him,” Gary reported to Matt and Ron as they were reading their menus.

“It’s too bad that he’ll probably be out in 36 hours,” Ron lamented. “Even though the charges are serious, his long-time connections with the elected judiciary will probably see to that.”

The waiter arrived at the table, and after introducing himself took their drink orders.

“That may, unfortunately, be true,” agreed Gary. “The FBI has Senator Young up on kidnapping charges though, so we’ll see. I’m so destroyed by Barry’s death that if he were freed permanently right now, I’d shoot him myself.”

“I’m sure that’s how you feel, Gary,” Matt replied with sympathy, “but ‘an eye for an eye’ never works. It just prolongs the agony.”

The waiter reappeared with the drinks and asked, “Are you ready to order gentlemen?”

Ron looked around at the nodding heads and replied, “Sure.”

Everyone at the table ordered what would be considered by most people, a very light lunch. None of the trio was in the mood to eat heavily. After the waiter had departed toward the kitchen, Ron’s phone signaled for attention in the ‘beeper mode.’ Ron looked at the number displayed, turned the phone back on, and pushed “send”, recalling the number displayed.

“It’s Margaret calling,” he said to the others in a soft voice as the phone dialed his office number. “She wouldn’t call unless it was important.”

“Hi Margaret. You called?” Ron said into the phone’s mike. After a pause, he nodded and said, “Sure, ok if you say so. Thanks” He then disconnected the call.

“What was that all about?” Matt asked full of curiosity.

“It was Margaret,” he replied. “She told me to leave my cell phone on for an important call. That’s all I know.”

“Hmmm, that’s strange,” Matt mused. “Well, knowing Margaret and how she guards your privacy, I’m sure it is important.”

The words were hardly out of his mouth, when Ron’s cellular phone began ringing softly.

“Ron Turner,” he said after putting the phone to his ear. On hearing the returned greeting he smiled and responded, “Hi Jack. It’s good to hear from you. How’s Lonnie?”

Matt looked at Ron, itching to know what Jack Smith could be calling Ron for that could be so important.

“Yes, I’m having lunch with him right now,” Ron replied after a minute’s pause.

Matt wondered what Jack could want to say to him, that he wouldn’t call him directly. Perhaps it had to do with the plans for the commitment ceremony or the cruise afterward.

Ron smiled after listening to Jack’s message while Matt squirmed.

“Matt’s here. Do you want to say hi?” Ron continued.

Matt was getting ready to take the phone when Ron concluded, “Sure, we understand. We should be home this evening for your call. Goodbye, and thanks.”

Ron pressed “end” on his phone and laid it down on the table.

“OK. Give Buster,” Matt said almost before the phone hit the flat surface.

“Jack had an important customer waiting, so he had to leave. He’ll call back tonight at home to talk with you.”

“What did he want you to tell me?” Matt asked, fidgeting anxiously.

“Oh,” Ron responded with a smile, “The message wasn’t for you, it was for Gary.”

Both men looked astonished.

“Huh? Gary? He doesn’t even know Gary!”

“Yeah,” Gary agreed, “I can’t think of anybody I know named Jack that you might know too.”

“This is a bit complicated,” Ron began. “You’ve heard most of the story, Matt, but Gary hasn’t heard but maybe a little. It will help Gary to understand the message if I tell the story from the beginning.”

“I’m not sure what you mean Ron, but go ahead, I’ll listen,” Matt said in agreement.

The waiter arrived with their food, and each of the men began to eat, with Ron taking intermittent bites of his meal during the telling of the story.

“A year or so ago, Turner Consulting hired a young pair of gay analysts named Jack Smith and Ted Thornton.”

“Is this the same Ted Thornton, that the Thornton Center is named for? Gary asked.

“Yes, the same.” Ron answered. “They were partners and very much in love. More importantly to the business, they were very good at their jobs and had many clients that could not sing their praises loud enough. They were my friends too. This was before Matt, of course, and they kinda adopted me as their older brother. After one very important and successful job, they went out to celebrate with a drink before going to dinner. In leaving the club, they were attacked by a gang of homophobic hoodlums. Ted was killed and Jack was badly injured. When I went to the hospital to break the news to Jack that Ted was gone, he told me he knew.”

“I don’t understand what that has to do with me,” Gary commented.

“Jack told me that Ted had come to him in a vision, or dream, and had given him comfort. During the next month or so, Ted appeared several other times to Jack, times when Jack needed encouragement because of the loss of the man he loved so much. It seems that Ted has met someone new. That man sent a message through Ted, then through Jack, and then through me for you, Gary. The message is from Barry.”

Gary looked astonished. “Do you believe in any of this?” Gary asked in wonder.

“Let me ask you a question or two instead of answering that question,” Ron suggested. “How would a guy in New York, who has never met you, know to call right now while I am having lunch with you? How would he know that your name is Gary Franklin? How would he even know that I know you, and that your lover’s name was Barry Young?

How would he know that Barry just died? I don’t know the answers, and I’m sure you don’t know either. I’m not asking you to believe just because I do or don’t. I’m only the delivery boy. You decide.”

Gary sat thinking, before responding with, “Ok, what’s the message?”

“The message is, ‘Tell Gary that I love him and that our last and only night together at his apartment were the best hours of my life. Tell him I’m sorry that I had to go, but that I’m well and happy. Tell him to live a full and wonderful life. Ask him not to be saddened by my leaving and that I’ll be waiting for him on the other side.’ That’s all of the message for you,” Ron concluded, then added, “He did ask for me to tell his parents that he forgave them.”

Gary was weeping, and both Matt and Ron’s running eyes appeared strange on the faces of the two men who were smiling in sympathy. In a moment Gary wiped his eyes on his napkin, cleared his throat, and sat up straight in his chair.

“Thanks Ron,” he said softy. “I’ll be alright now.”

“You’re welcome my friend,” Ron replied.

The men passed the next several minutes in thought and silence as they finished their lunches. The waiter brought the check as they placed their napkins on the table, and Ron placed his credit card on the bill after penning in the tip and total. As the waiter left to finalize his business, Gary looked at Ron.

“I guess I can ask now,” Gary declared. “When are Barry’s services?”

Ron relayed the results of his morning’s work. The arrangements had been made for the viewing on the coming Wednesday, and for the funeral to be on Thursday morning at 10 AM. Ron had contacted Barry’s family and those that could come, would be arriving on Wednesday during the day. The burial would be in a local cemetery, and Barry would be placed next to Ted Thornton in one of the plots that Ron had purchased at the time of Ted’s death. Gary nodded his approval of the arrangements.

“It seems ironic,” Gary commented, “that their bodies should lay next to each other here, and they are together, there in the afterlife.”

“There is much more to life and much, much more in death than we can comprehend,” Ron answered. “It seems fitting now that Barry has sent you a message through Ted. I had no idea that there would be a message, of course, when I made the arrangements.”

Gary paused then said. “I’m sure of that Ron. It’s all strange and tragic to me.”

The waiter returned with the receipt, and thanked the guests for their patronage.

“I’ve got to get back to work,” Matt said apologetically. “I’m sorry that I can’t stay, but the news of Barry’s death was difficult for many of the boys. They have stayed home today from school, and will again on Thursday so we’re trying our best to keep them busy.”

"It’s fine Matt,” Gary responded. “I want to thank you both for lunch. I’ve taken the entire week off from work, so I’m kind of at loose ends,” he continued, “when will I see you both again?”

“Let’s meet on Wednesday about 4 o’clock. I think you should meet whatever family members come, before the visitation.” Ron suggested. “I’m not sure that Barry’s parents will be there. They didn’t accept his being gay. When I talked to his father, he was non-committal and, in fact, rather rude I’m sorry to say.”

“If you think it will cause trouble, I can stay in the background,” Gary said sadly.

“Personally, knowing how he felt about you, I’d rather you were there and proud to be in front,” responded Ron. “You loved him and his family deserted him. To hell with his family if they don’t like it. What more can I say? Of course, you have to do what you feel is right, not what I say or think. It’s up to you.”

Gary nodded. “I’ll think about it.”

Ron offered an additional thought as they stood up to leave. “Tyler asked me to convey his condolences, but said that if you feel up to it, he’d be available this week to talk to you about coming to work for Aztec-Turner Security. There’s no rush, of course, but if you have time on your hands, it might be worth doing.”

“Thanks again Ron, and thank you too, Matt. I’ll call Tyler if I get my head sorted out.”

“Thanks for joining us,” Matt and Ron said in unison.

“And that would be great. I’ll tell Tyler,” Ron concluded as they reached the restaurant’s front doors.

Wednesday Morning, University Medical Center

Ron, Matt and Tyler stepped through the doorway into room 2215 at UMC, the doorway leading to the room containing a smiling Benny Young.

“Hi Ben,” Matt cheerfully greeted his young friend.

“Hi Matt,” Ben returned the greeting, “Hiya Mr. Ron and Mr. Tyler.”

“How are you feeling today?” Ron asked.

“Hiya to you too, Benny” Tyler added.

“I’m doin’ pretty good. They’re supposed to let me out of here tomorrow. ‘Course, I can’t do too much for a while, and this arm that got broke is gonna take a while to get out of the cast the Doctor said. I don’t feel too bad about it though. Me and Matt are twins.”

Matt wiggled the fingers at the end of his own cast, the cast that was the result of the plane bombing.

“Very funny,” Matt said with a grin.

“Have you had lots of visitors?” Tyler asked.

“Quite a few. Let’s see, you guys have been here every day, of course. Then Mr. Johnson came by yesterday, and earlier today, my new Mom and Dad, ya know, Tom and Shirley. They came with all the guys from the Thornton House. Tom came before too when they let him out of this place. He still had a bandage on his head, but he looked better today than on Monday when they let him go. It was good to see the guys again. I can’t wait to get back home.”

“I see you have lots of flowers,” Matt commented.

“Yeah, they’re real pretty,” said Benny proudly. “But you know, it’s kinda funny. Most of ‘em say ‘From Ron and Matt,’ or ‘Tyler and Ron’ or ‘Ron, Matt and Tyler’, or something like that. You guys don’t happen to own a florist shop, do ya?”

Ron laughed.

“I still can’t believe all that has happened,” Benny said sadly. “I mean, with Barry and all. I saw it all happen. I was so scared. When you guys told me yesterday that he died, I was so mad at my old dad that I just wanted to go kill him. It was his fault, you know.”

“He certainly set the wheels of disaster in motion,” Matt admitted. “I guess I should tell you that he’s been arrested.”

“Good for him,” Benny said bitterly. “But I know him. He’ll get out of it somehow. All those people he knows will help him.”

“Not likely,” Ron responded. “Most of them have run like rabbits since they heard of his arrest and the charges.”

“I hope they hang him,” Benny said under his breath.

“He’ll be brought to justice, I promise you,” Ron said. “Your job is to get healed up and to get out of here.”

“I’m ready now,” Benny assured the trio.

“I can believe that!” Tyler said. “Hospitals remind me of jails. It’s not good to spend much time in either one.”

“Hehehe,” Benny laughed at Tyler’s little joke. “Mr. Tyler, you are so funny.”

“Well, we’d better be going,” Matt said. “Do you need anything?”

“Some real food would help. Something like a Big Mac. The food here is terrible. I think I get lime jello every day!”

“I’m glad to see the quality of food hasn’t dropped,” Ron said jokingly.

“Yeah, for sure,” Benny agreed. “It’s already on the floor, so it can’t drop any lower.”
“Did you know this guy was a clown?” Ron asked Matt.

“Yeah I did, now you mentioned it. I just thought he was one of those midgets that escaped from the circus.”

“Very funny, very funny,” Benny said, his voice full of gleeful sarcasm.

Benny’s face suddenly turned serious.

“Hey guys, “the youth said. “When are they gonna have the funeral thingy for Barry?”

“It’s tomorrow,” Ron replied.

“I wanna go.”

“If the Doctor will let you, you may go.”

“I’m going, if I have to walk,” Benny declared. “Hey! The guy gave up his life for me. It may not have been on purpose, but he did it anyway. Besides that, I liked him a whole lot. He was always good to me. So I’m going!”

“When you put it that way, I guess you’re going.” Ron said giving in.

“Ok then, now that’s settled, you can leave.”

The trio of visitors laughed at Benny’s ‘dismissal.’

“Bye buddy,” Tyler said as he turned and approached the door.

“Bye Tyler, Bye Ron. Bye My Twin Baby Brother.”

Matt glared with a threatening look in his eye, then his eyes lit up and he smiled at the youth who had wormed his way into his heart.

“Take care bud,” Matt said.

“Bye Benny,” Tyler said as he led the other two adults into the hallway.

Wednesday night, 10 PM at Ron and Matt’s estate.

Ron and Matt began removing their coats and ties as they entered the house from the garage. Parker, who met the partners as they came into the family room, took the black coats and conservative neckwear.

“I have your suits and accessories laid out in your room for tomorrow,” Parker informed his employers. “Just leave your clothing on the hamper tonight, and I’ll see to their care in the morning,” he directed.

“Thanks Parker,” Matt answered. “You know? Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to believe how well you take care of us.”

“It’s not only my job, Matt,” he responded with a smile at the compliment, “but it’s my pleasure. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll call it a night unless I can be of further service.”

“No thank you Parker, we’ll be fine,” Ron said sinking into a chair. “I think we’re about ready to go to bed too. Have a nice rest.”

“Goodnight then gentlemen.”

“Goodnight Parker,” they both said as their valet left the room.

“Can I get you something to drink?” Matt asked his seated partner.

“Sure, thanks Babe. I’d like a glass of milk.” Ron said, the weariness showing on his face.

Matt left the room and returned a moment later with two glasses of the white liquid. After setting Ron’s glass down on a table in front of him, he took a nearby chair matching the one on which Ron was seated.

“I’m really disappointed that Barry’s parents didn’t show.” Matt sadly admitted as he took a sip of his drink.

“I wasn’t too surprised after receiving a FedEx package at the office today. When I opened the seal, there was a Power of Attorney from Barry’s dad, authorizing me to act on behalf of his parents to handle Barry’s affairs and estate. I began to suspect then that they wouldn’t come to the funeral.”

“That is incredibly sad,” Matt commented. “Barry was such a nice guy. He was the kind of guy that any parent could be proud of. I guess I’ll never understand some people.”

“I agree Babe,” Ron replied “Are you ready for your eulogy presentation tomorrow?”

“I’ve made a few notes. I speak better with just a few notes and the thoughts in my mind than I do with a written or memorized speech. When I try to speak from a memorized text, it comes out unnatural.”

“I do the same thing,” Ron said nodding. “When I want to make a point, I’ll write the point down, and a few reminder words of how I want to get to the point. It’s all I need, and I think it’s the best way to deliver a believable talk. I once gave an hour presentation to some bankers, with one piece of paper with three lines of notes and some visual aides. Afterward, several of the audience said it was the most effective speech they had ever heard. What they said might have been bullshit, but it sounded good to me.”

Ron grinned.

“Well, we’d better get to bed. Tomorrow is another day of sadness.” Matt remarked. “Barry’s death and his premature separation from Gary has got me thinking of how lucky we are to have each other. I thank God every night for you Ron. I thank him for bringing you into my life and for letting me love you. I thank him even more for you loving me.”

“If the Bible is right in it’s declaration that God is Love, then our partnership is nothing less than holy,” Ron asserted. “I know that God has blessed our union because I love you with all my being. My heart and soul are yours for eternity.”

Matt waited for a moment as their eyes met, eyes that bespoke the sincerity of the words just spoken.

“Would it be alright if we didn’t have sex tonight Ron?” Matt asked. “I just want to go to sleep holding you in my arms and to feel you holding me.”

“Nothing would please me more my love.” Ron responded with a smile of inner happiness.

Ron stood and taking Matt’s hand, led him to the elevator that would lift them toward their room and the comfort and security of the bed they shared.

Thursday morning, 10:20 AM, Chapel of the Palms

Matt arose and stepped to the lectern facing the small congregation of mourners. To his left lay the beautiful body of their friend in it’s copper casket. In the congregation several of the boys and more than one adult’s faces showed signs of leaking eyes.

“Friends,” Matt began. “I’ve been asked to say a few words about our friend Barry Young. I’ve known Barry only a short time. We worked together and shared many happy hours in the service of the youths in our care. I got to know him well. His heart was kind and he looked forward to each day with cheerful spirit that bespoke an inner peace.”

“We knew Barry as a handsome, popular guy. One day he told me his story. His childhood was happy but then he came to understand that he was different. Many of his peers who came to know of him being gay, told him that what he was, was bad. They told him that he was unaccepted by them, and unaccepted by God. Ultimately when he graduated from high school, he was rejected by his parents and was left without their love, yet his love for them remained, and he maintained that love until he died.”

“Barry was on his own, but he listened to himself and he was far wiser than his detractors. He worked hard and earned the money to go to college. While there he made a friend who accepted him and taught him that what he was, was good, not bad; that his character was more important than his sexuality; That the man inside was the mark of a good person, not the prejudices of others. He emerged from college a new man; a man who believed in himself and believed in his acceptance by the Heavenly Father. He forgave his parents even though they never accepted him. You see, he understood love. He loved his parents unconditionally. He loved the boys that he worked with regardless of their background or appearance. He loved the adults, his friends that shared his life. And he came to love a man. Their new love was cut short by the tragedy of his death, but he knew the wonder of that kind of physical love.”

“Barry had no time to waste on hate. He had good to do. Yet it was the kind of hate that had plagued his youth that ultimately took his life. It was an act of violence, of stupidity, and of greed. It was against everything that he stood for. He died protecting his young charge who was being abducted. He gave his life so that another youth would not have to face again the ignorance and pain of hate and prejudice. He was a hero. We honor him today not just for what he did, but we honor him for who he was: the man that was inside. We honor our friend Barry. We love him, and we’ll miss him.”

“Now I’d like to offer a prayer for our friend. Please bow your heads and join me.”

“Merciful Father, we have come today to honor and remember Your servant, Barry Young. We ask that You take him in Your arms and make a place for him in Your kingdom which is Heaven. We ask that You soothe the grief that we feel in our loss, remembering instead the joy and caring he gave during his brief stay with us. We ask that we remember the example he set, and that we strive to work to better ourselves to be the kind of persons You want us to be, the kind of person he exemplified. We ask that the bitterness we feel at the wrongful loss of our friend be lifted from our hearts, and that Your spirit of forgiveness become part of our being. Finally we ask that You soften the hearts of those who feel hatred and prejudice for those who are different from themselves whatever those differences might be. Since love, not hatred is Your guiding principle, we pray that You work in the lives of all Your people to promote understanding and acceptance of each other so that peace can come to the earth. All these things we ask in Your name. Amen.

Matt stepped from the platform and sat down in his place next to Ron, Tyler and Gary. The officiating minister then returned to the podium.

“Would the pallbearers please come to their position at the front of the chapel?” he asked.

When the six oldest youths from the Thornton center lined up, three on either side of the open casket, and Benny Young’s wheelchair was in place in front of the casket, the minister continued, “After the benediction, the last rows may come forward from the outside for a final viewing and paying of respects, before exiting. The casket will then be moved to the Palm Cemetery for the final service and prayers.”

Raising his arms over the congregation, the minister spoke the benediction.

“Now may the grace of our Heavenly Father be with us and with the soul of our dear departed brother. Amen”

Soft music came over the speakers as the mourners filed past the casket and exited down the main aisle to the entrance of the chapel, where the black hearse waited for the final ride. When the mourners had departed, a Chapel attendant approached the casket, lowered the lid and sealed it. The youths acting as pallbearers, stepped to the casket and taking the handles in their hands, followed Benny in his wheelchair, rolling the copper covered container down the center aisle to the waiting vehicle. Ron, Matt, Tyler and Gary waited and when the casket was in place behind the car, helped the boys lift the box into its cradle within the hearse. The driver secured the casket, then closed the rear door, while the congregation headed for their cars.

At the Palm Cemetery the youths were replaced as pallbearers by the three housefathers on one side of the beautiful casket, and Ron, Matt, and Gary on the other. The casket was lifted from it’s cradle in the vehicle, and carried to the gravesite, where it was placed on it’s lowering stand, itself covered with drapery and flowers which had been moved from the chapel to the gravesite by the chapel staff. A canopy protected the stand and a few chairs from the elements. Matt, Ron, the Johnsons and the house parents, Tom and Shirley Anderson sat in the chairs normally reserved for the parents and family of the departed.

The minister offered the final prayer and spoke a few words of encouragement for the mourners. Shirley Anderson was then given a red rose. She stepped to the casket placing it on the copper lid, then returned to her place beside her husband. The benediction was then given by the theologian, whose raised arms signified the bestowing of God’s grace on those in attendance. The small graveside congregation then began departing for their waiting vehicles.

Ron, Matt, Tyler and Gary along with the Andersons, Johnsons and the minister, paused, waiting for the others to depart before themselves leaving. After exchanging handshakes, and thanking the minister, the two Thornton couples and the minister left the canopied area for their vehicles. As the remaining four men conversed quietly, waiting, a couple, who appeared to be in their forties approached Matt.

“Mr. Davidson?” the lady asked.

Matt turned and faced the couple, followed by remaining trio of friends.

“Our names are George and Sandy Young. We’re Barry’s parents.”

The shock on Matt’s face was apparent as he struggled for words.

“I…I…wish you had told us earlier that you were here. You should have been in our place representing the family,” he managed to offer.

“We lost that privilege when we turned Barry out,” she replied as tears appeared in the couple’s eyes. “We had a long talk together after Mr. Turner’s call. We decided to come and not reveal ourselves, because of our own unworthiness. However, after your wonderful eulogy at the chapel, we changed our minds on the way here. I just wanted to let you know how comforting your message of forgiveness was. You spoke of Barry’s love and forgiveness, and of God’s. I’m afraid that we can’t forgive ourselves.”

“I’m sure that Barry understood,” Matt responded. “I know that a person as wonderful as your son had to come from a family that had given him love and cared for him as he grew up. I know that he loved you and forgave you, that he told me himself. All I can suggest as a legacy in his honor, is that you forgive yourself and reevaluate your attitude toward others who are different.”

“We have come to realize that in the last few hours,” Barry’s father said, as he put his arm around his wife. “It will take some time for our minds to recover from this tragedy, but you have no idea what your words have meant to us. We took out a life insurance policy in his name when he was very young. Here is a check made out to the Thornton Center to cover his funeral expenses, and to provide care for the boys he loved.”

He handed the check for $50,000 to Ron’s astonished mate.

Thank you,” Matt offered, taking the check. “We’ll see that it’s put to very good use in helping the boys he nurtured. Before you leave I’d like you to meet my partner Ron Turner, his brother Tyler, and the man most loved by your son, Gary Franklin.”

Mr. Young was himself stunned. He realized that he and his wife’s new resolve of acceptance was being tested. Gathering himself together, he offered his hand to each of the men who took it, and that of his wife’s afterward. As he held Gary’s hand in his, he paused.

“Thank you for loving our son,” he said sincerely.

His wife, tears flowing from her eyes, gathered Gary in her arms. “Please forgive us, and call us. You’re all that we have left.

“I will,” Gary promised, matching the tears of Barry’s parents.

“Now if you’ll excuse us, it’s time for us to go.” Mr. Young said as he again wrapped his arm around his wife. “Please believe that we’ll take your words to heart, Matt. Goodbye.”

Turning, they walked together to their rental car, got in, and slowly drove away.

“I’ll be damned,” Ron said in wonder as the car disappeared.