This story details explicit gay sex between men, teens and boys. If you find this kind of thing distasteful, or if you are underage wherever you live, then stop reading this now, and delete this file. The story is completely fictional; the author does not condone or encourage any of the acts contained herein.



Chapter 54

By: Tim Keppler

Gary is dead.

I say that with such anguish. He's been my best friend for more than twenty years, since college. He was my best friend. Now he's gone. He had a stroke. He had a fucking stroke...at 41. They took him to O'Connor, the best hospital in the area -- except that it's catholic. It was Nathan who found him. He was lying on the floor of their kitchen. He'd had a headache. He'd taken some aspirin, but said it hadn't helped. Nathan called 911, and they sent an ambulance. They gave him an IV,apparently, and oxygen. Then they loaded him onto a gurney and popped him into an ambulance. Nathan planned to ride with them, but they told him that only a family member could ride in the ambulance. He explained that he was family, that he was Gary's husband. They looked at him skeptically, even when he produced a copy of their marriage license from his wallet, something that us married faggots have to carry. They finally let him ride along. When he got to O'Connor, though, all that changed. "We don't recognize your marriage," they'd said. They wouldn't let him into the ICU. That's when he called me.

O'Connor is right around the corner from me. I was there in two minutes. I spoke to the admitting attendant, and then her supervisor, and then the floor administrator, and then the attending physician, and then the hospital administrator. When I got to the hospital administrator, I was right where I wanted to be. I presented him with the copy of Gary and Nathan's marriage license, and he shoved it back to me. "We don't recognize this. We're a catholic hospital."

"I don't give rat dick what you recognize," I said. "The State of California recognizes this marriage. You don't have a choice."

"We all have choices, sir. You chose to bring him here."

True enough. I pull out my cell phone, and dial my home number. After a minute I say, "Eric Novak, please." Eric Novak is a well-known investigative reporter with the Merc, the San Jose Mercury News, the local newspaper. I'd never reach him in real-time, and I don't even know him very well. I want it to seem as though I have a private number. "Eric? Yes. Tim Jensen. I'm sitting here with the administrator of O'Connor hospital. My best friend has had a stroke, and...yes, Gary... He's had a stroke, and the administrator is refusing to allow his husband to be with him. No, not partner, his husband. Yes. Is this a story worth reporting? Will you send someone? Great!"

At this point, the administrator is nearly frantic, gesturing madly.

"Hold on a sec," I say to no one, covering the mouthpiece dramatically, and looking quizzically at the administrator.

"He can see him. I'll authorize it."

"How fucking magnanimous of you," I respond. "Crisis averted," I say returning to the phone, still speaking to no one. "The administrator here has decided that he doesn't want to be a prick...not today. There are more days left in the week, apparently. I'll give you a call later to let you know how Gary's doing. Yup. You too. Say hello to Gloria (a name out of the blue)." I hang up. "Well, that was fun," I say.

"I'm not comfortable..."

"I'm not real interested in what you're comfortable with," I say. "I'm not real comfortable with you. If you fuck with me, I will retaliate. Know that!"

He nods.

Kenny and Jason think I get a little...intense...when I get focused on something, and maybe I do. But I get the job done. Nathan is in with Gary five minutes after this exchange. Thank god! It isn't more than an hour later that Gary's dead, of a second stroke..

I loved Gary. He was a friend, a soul mate, a fellow traveler. He was not a lover, although we explored that. Ultimately he became something almost closer than a lover. He became a confidant. That's why his death leaves me adrift and nearly inconsolable. My inclination is to go to bed, and that's what I do. Having spent hours with Nathan and Dinh crying, I leave them with Kenny and Jason, take a pill, and go to bed, because without Gary I just feel so...vulnerable. My parents have been dead for years, and there's an emptiness I feel that's very much like what I felt when they died, as though I'm in the world alone. Occasionally, I have this longing to be taken care of, to turn over control of my life to someone else, much as Jason does. When those feelings have shown themselves in the past, I always turned to Gary, and he took care of me. Who will take care of me now, I wonder, sobbing, as I drift off to sleep?

Fourteen hours later I wake up. Kenny is shaking me to wake me up. For a moment I'm completely disoriented, not sure where I am or what day this is. And then I remember, and the two things I want to do are pee, and take another pill. I start to cry as I drag myself out of bed and make my way to the bathroom. I pee, and move to the medicine cabinet to get another Ambien. I've only taken these twice before, a year or so ago when I'd fallen skating and couldn't sleep because of pain in my knee. Dr. Cohen prescribes only fifteen of them at a time, I guess because they're pretty addictive. I don't really care right now. I just want to check back out, and they do that for me in spades -- they check me out. They pack a serious punch. Kenny has followed me into the bathroom, keenly aware of just how depressed I am. When I take the Ambien bottle from the medicine cabinet, he snatches it out of my hand. "No! We're not doing that, Tim! You need to face this."

I find myself standing in the middle of the bathroom...sobbing, and then I fall to my knees and continue to sob. By now Jason is also in the room, I think. Kenny throws him the bottle of pills, and comes over, kneeling next to me. He hugs me, and keeps hugging me for a long time. There's nothing for me to ask. I don't care why Gary's dead. He just is, and I'm not sure my life will ever be the same. We've been best friends for years and years, best friends for a lot longer than he knew Nathan. I don't know how I can deal with this void.

After maybe an hour on the floor, I run out of tears. Still profoundly depressed, I stand up and start to cross into the bedroom, but Kenny pulls me back, strips off my underwear, strips off his clothes, and guides me into the shower where the warm water does actually feel...good. I'm still very weepy, my mind covering nearly twenty years of friendship. Kenny soaps me, washes my hair, and hugs me under the warm spray. After maybe twenty minutes, we emerge, and he towels me off. He gets me dressed, much as he might Kai, and leads me out of the bedroom and into the kitchen where Jason, Nathan, Dinh and the boys are all sitting. There's not much conversation here. There's just profound sadness. Kevin and Kai both look a little frightened, and Nathan's eyes are as red and swollen as I imagine mine are. Dinh is still teary-eyed, and is actually sitting on Nathan's lap, and Nathan is hugging him for comfort. When they see me, they smile bleakly. After a few minutes chat, Nathan says, "We should probably go."

It's then that my instincts kick in. It's then that I begin to function as Gary would want me to function, to do what Gary would want me to do. "No. You shouldn't go! I don't really want you in... I don't think you should be in that house alone, at least not yet. You should stay with us. Umm...where have you guys been...sleeping?"

"We were all in Ian's old room," Kenny answers.

I nod. "You guys should stay with us. I want you to stay with us. I'd...umm...feel a lot better if you'd stay with us. I really don't want you...feeling as alone as I think you will feel in that house by yourselves."

They look at each other, and Nathan starts to cry, leaning on Dinh's shoulder. He nods, and so does Dinh.

Because no one feels like cooking, we order out from a little Thai restaurant on the Alameda. Jason agrees to pick up the food, all of two minutes away. While he's gone, we're all quiet. Finally, Kevin breaks the silence. "What happened, Daddy?" Suddenly I realize that Kevin and Kai don't know about Gary. No one has filled them in. I think Kenny and Jason have been waiting for me to do it.

I pat my lap and they come and sit on my legs. "You remember your Mommy?" I ask.

They nod.

"What happened to Mommy?"

"She went away," Kai responds.

"She died," Kevin corrects.

"Right. She died. And you couldn't see her anymore...except in your memories, except in your hearts. Uncle Gary died yesterday, like your Mommy." I'm trying really hard not to choke up in the middle of this. It needs to be crisp and clear, and not too emotional. But it's...really...really hard.

"And we won't see him again?" Kai asks.

I nod. "Right."

"I loved Uncle Gary," Kai says, starting to cry.

"Me, too, baby. He was very...sweet." I can feel myself right on the verge of tears. I don't know if I can get through this.

"Why do people die, Daddy?" Kevin asks.

This question takes me by surprise. It shouldn't have. I should have anticipated it, but I haven't been very...clear-thinking...in the last day or so. "There are a lot of reasons, Kev. In Uncle Gary's case, he wasn't as healthy as he thought he was, I guess. He tried to be healthy, but sometimes it's not easy to be healthy."

He nods, thoughtfully. "Could you die?"

I see where this is going. I pause for a long moment, trying to figure out how to respond. Finally, "Any of us could die, sweetie, but that's why having Kenny and Jason and me all taking care of you is a good thing. No one ever wants anyone to die, Kevin, but if one of us did die, you'd still have two more of us to take care of you, two more of us to love you. And we do, Kevin. We all love you."

He's been close to tears for the last couple of minutes, but then hugs me and he recovers. I'm not sure I do, though. In fact, I'm sure I don't. I'll be on the phone tomorrow morning setting up appointments with Dr. Cohen for physicals for all of us. Kevin and Kai need tetanus shots that I've been putting off for no good reason except my laziness. And, I need to contact Bob Titus, my attorney, to sort through a bunch of legal issues that I've ignored such as paternity in the case of my death. I'm the boys' adoptive parent, but if I die, what would happen to them? I suspect they'd go to the very people May, their mother, was adamant they not go to -- her parents, their grandparents. We need a second-parent adoption. These are still a little tricky in California. This one will be even trickier because the natural second parent is not the guy I'm married to. It's Kenny. They're his nephews, after all. But, can you be married to one person and co-parent with someone else? I've no idea, and I suspect Bob doesn't know either. Oh, my god! The religious fanatics would have a field day with us. Whatever we do, it needs to be under the radar. The last thing we need is to become poster children for the Prop. 8 bigots in this state, the ones who've been saying for years that same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy and worse. In our case it has, and so what?

Several years ago, Edward Albee came out with a new play called The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? The premise of the play is that a 50 year-old man, happily married for twenty-something years, an architect about to receive a prestigious award for excellence in design, a father of a happy-go-lucky seventeen-year-old gay son, has been having an extra-marital affair...with a goat named Sylvia. Jason, Kenny and I saw it in New York and later in San Francisco. If you like Albee, you'll like this play. It made us laugh until our tummies ached, but, like all Albee plays, it forces you to confront some uncomfortable questions. One of those hard questions is, whose business is it who I sleep with? Yeah, I know... I'm playing into the hands of the "Jesus people". Hoards of people left this play at the first intermission. (Christ! What did they think they were likely to see at an Albee play? The next incarnation of The Sound of Music?) I'm giving them the fodder they need to bury us. But...it's a worthy question. Why is my life their business?


Gary would want me to take care of Nathan and DInh. And it's my feeling of responsibility for them that finally pulls me out of my funk. But, it's not a simple question, and not a decision I can make on my own. So, after dinner, Jason, Kenny and I go for a walk. I'm still pretty close to tears, as I have been for hours, maybe days. Jason and Kenny know it, and are gentle with me. They let me initiate the conversation. "What do we do about Nathan and Dinh?" I finally ask.


There's a long pause. "We have to take care of them," Jason finally answers.


"We don't let them go home," Kenny adds. "Neither of them is equipped to be on his own, and especially not now. They need to move in with us."


"Gary used to kid you about picking up strays," Jason says. "And he was right. You did. But these aren't strays. We love them. We all love them. They can't go back to that house. Not without Gary. They need to live with us."


"It'll be a little crowded," Kenny says solemnly. "That's okay. We've been crowded before. At least we won't have to juggle Kevin and Kai. They'll have a `stay-at-home Mom'." This comment draws a snort from both Jason and me. Nathan hasn't worked for a couple of years, and the boys adore him. We've found caring for them occasionally a bit...challenging. With Jason at the Symphony, Kenny at the University, and me at my job, we've depended on daycare more than I've liked. Nathan gives us a nanny -- unless he finds a chef's job.


I don't know that this was the answer I expected, but it's the answer I wanted. The question is, will Nathan and Dinh accept it? We're about to find out.


When we get back to the house, I convene a family meeting. "You guys are invited, too. You're family," I say to Nathan and Dinh. We all end up in the living room. "I don't know how to kick this off gracefully, so I'm just going to dive in. I don't think... We don't think you should go...home. I don't... We don't want you in that house...alone. Fuck!" I say, in exasperation. How do I do this?


Suddenly Nathan dives in, and he's in tears. "Umm...Tim...Dinh and I have discussed...umm...going home." He looks furtively at Dinh, who reaches out and hugs him. "We'd...umm...like...not...to." And then he starts to sob. "I'm...so...afraid..." Dinh nods, tearfully, and I realize that we're done. We all agree. I walk over to them, and hug them.


"You're not going home, Nathan. Neither of you is going home. This is your home now. I didn't know how to say that without sounding...more authoritarian than...maybe I want to. But...umm...Gary would never forgive me if I let you go back to that house. You're...with us now."


Nathan reaches out and hugs me, sobbing. "Thank you," he chokes.


Kevin is elated. "Does that mean that Uncle Nathan and Uncle Dinh get to stay with us...forever?"


"That's what it means, Kev," I reply, "for as long as they want."


He's nearly beside himself, jumping up and down. "Cool!" he finally says, and launches himself into Dinh's lap, while Kai attaches himself to Nathan's leg. I think this will work very well.


And it does work well. It was actually Dinh who worried me more than Nathan. Nathan knows how much he's loved in our household. But Dinh is a relative newcomer. For a while, when he joined Gary and Nathan, his presence was...awkward. I think he felt like a fifth wheel -- out of place. I don't want him to feel that way here. And, I don't want him to feel that, because he works for Kenny at the University, that he's subservient to him at home. When Kenny first joined Jason and me, I made the terrible mistake of making him subservient to Jason. It was a mistake on so many levels. It was one of the stupidest things I've ever done. It was unfair to Kenny, and it was unfair to Jason -- who isn't equipped to manage his own life much less that of another person, a person five years older than he is. I want Dinh to feel comfortable here, to feel that he's loved and cherished, as Gary would love and cherish him. I don't want him to feel like an afterthought, like he's second-best. So, when I find him in the kitchen later in the evening, I sit down at the kitchen table, pat my lap and ask him to come sit with me. He sits on my knee, and we hug.


"Are you okay, Dinh?" I ask.


He nods.


"I mean it. Nathan wears his feelings on his sleeve. I always know what he's feeling. You're harder to read. Gary is dead and...I'm...worried about you."


He nods, and then scrunches his eyes shut, and starts to cry. Draping himself over my shoulder, he lets go, which is what I've been waiting for, what I haven't seen from him so far. People grieve. It's a natural response to the loss of someone you love, and I know Dinh adored Gary. You have to pass through that grief, even though it really hurts. My inclination was to take a sleeping pill and sleep through the pain, but Kenny was right. That was never going to work. Someday I'd wake up, having run out of sleeping pills, and the pain would still be there. You have to face it. Dinh has to face it. I had the feeling earlier that he was repressing his grief, that he was being strong for Nathan. Now it's just us, sitting quietly in this dark kitchen, and he is sobbing. "I loved him so..." he chokes.


"I know, baby. I did, too. He was my best friend in this wide world. He was my rock, as trite as that sounds. He was an anchor point that kept me from drifting too far away from reality. We were brothers, I guess. I miss him terribly."


Dinh continues to cry for several minutes, and then rears back and looks into my eyes. "Should I find somewhere...else...to be?"


I hug him. "No. This is where you need to be, and that's why we needed to have this conversation. I don't want you to think of yourself as Nathan's little brother, and I don't want you to think of yourself as someone we love because we love Nathan or loved Gary. Kenny and Jason and I have talked about his, and we all agreed that we want you to live with us because we love you, not your affiliation with either Nathan or Gary. It's you we love. Please stay with us because...we all love you, because...I love you."


He smiles bleakly, and then lunges at me, and hugs me tighter than I've ever been hugged. "Thank you!" he whispers in my ear.


So, what luxuries do you invest in if your net worth is upwards of $15 million? Yeah, I was surprised at that number, but when I added it all up, that was the total. Between the royalties from my games, Kenny's games, and Kenny and Jason's songs, that was the grand total. Our answer was...and I don't want this to sound too decadent or too...perverted. Our answer was a new bed. My king-sized bed wasn't working very well any more, not for five people. We needed something a little larger. We needed something that was the equivalent of a king and queen combined. The box springs were easy -- we just pushed a queen and a king together. The mattress was the issue. That we had custom-made. One very wide mattress. And then we had sheets custom-made as well. When I was a kid, Mom made beds in the typical American way -- a bottom sheet covering the mattress, and then a top sheet tucked in at the foot of the bed. When I grew up, though, I found that very constricting. I was too tall. That top sheet forced my feet into painful contortions. Then I went to Europe on a business trip, and realized that the Europeans have no top sheet. They just use a quilt encased in a duvet cover. Your feet stick out the end, if they must. So the sheets we have made for this ginormous bed are only the bottom sheets. On top we have quilts. This allows five adults to sleep comfortably together, and provides enough room for Kevin and Kai to burrow, when they're so inclined, which is often.

For the first couple of months after Gary's death, Nathan wakes up multiple times each night in tears. I'm not sure what he dreams of or remembers, but he wakes up sobbing, and it's usually Kenny who calms him down. They hug, and Kenny kisses him, whispering in his ear. Dinh doesn't wake up, but he attaches himself to me and does not let go for eight hours. He'll let me turn and rotate so I'm facing him, but the minute I stop moving, he reattaches himself. And, while he doesn't wake up, he does cry off and on throughout the night. But, Jason tells me I do the same thing, which is no surprise to me because I know I'm having endless nightmares. I miss Gary terribly!

By the end of the first couple months the issue of sex presents itself. It's something I should have anticipated, but didn't. Like me, Gary didn't allow masturbation in his house. So, Nathan and Dinh are pretty...desperate. Kenny, Jason and I talk. Open relationships are very complicated! Their success depends on openness and commitment to each other. But, there's commitment and commitment. I am absolutely committed to Kenny and Jason. They're my first loves, and I guess that's what I'm trying to say. I would never do anything to compromise my relationship with them. So, anything I do has to be carefully considered, and ultimately cleared with them. But neither of them is the jealous type. Neither of them lacks confidence in my love for them. That's a plus.

With five of us, we can't exactly do group sex. (Well, we can, but it's complicated.) And we're not equally matched between tops and bottoms. I usually like to top, though I'm versatile, as is Kenny, though he usually likes to bottom. Jason, Nathan and Dinh are bottoms. Then there are the natural affinities. Kenny and Nathan seem to be really attracted to each other, while Dinh is really attracted to me. I'm sure of this. He's made it very clear. So, what we agree to is that Kenny will take Nathan as a regular sex partner, and I'll take Dinh, which is fine by me because Dinh is seriously cute. Jason will continue to be a regular partner for me, and will periodically join one or the other of us as a threesome -- maybe every couple of days -- and maybe once or twice a week we'll all get together for a fivesome. Dinh and I will be first because, as the youngest among us, Dinh is the most...in need.

It takes me all morning to get up the nerve to ask him. (Is that stupid or what?) It's not that I'm worried that he'll reject me. I just don't...know...what to say. Finally I just ask, over lunch. "Umm...Dinh. I'd...umm...like to make love to you." He's gazing at me sort of blankly as he processes this request, and then it registers, and his eyes light up. We're in the kitchen, and he has a bite of tuna salad in his mouth. He gets up abruptly and comes to stand next to me.

"Could we?"

"If you want," I reply, smiling.

He nods. "When?"

"How about...now?"

He smiles broadly, takes my hand, and leads me to the bedroom where he performs a very sensual strip-tease. He's not trying to make it sensual. It just is, perhaps because I'm really, really attracted to him, and it's a little strange because he's not my "ideal" body type. I'm not typically attracted to guys this slender, this petit. I usually like them meatier, built more like Kenny. But slender, frail little Dinh just...turns...me...on. First, he's just so pretty! And second, he's just so sweet. He's quiet, and shy. Almost contemplative. He's Buddhist, and I wonder if that has something to do with his attraction. Jason and I had an argument a couple of years ago -- as much of an argument as my agreeable little Jason can have -- about Buddhism. I view Buddhism as a philosophy. He views it as a religion. I've read fairly broadly in Buddhist teachings, and admire its pursuit of peace, of inner harmony, of calm. Unlike christians, Buddhists don't seem to feel the need to be prescriptive. They don't seem to need to tell others how to live their lives. They seem to focus on their own well-being, and leave the well-being of other to...others. How refreshing. But a religion? Doesn't religion have to do with the creation of the earth, with god, with all kinds of metaphysical bullshit that is just not...viable. I dunno. Maybe Buddhism is a religion. Maybe it's the only religion. Maybe my need to make it a philosophy has more to do with my baggage than with any kind of objective definitions. I do remember the spanking I gave Jason that day, after that discussion. It's probably not a good idea to engage me in a discussion of religion on a spanking night. Probably not a good idea at all.

Anyway, by the time Dinh is naked, I'm hard. I strip quickly, and join him on the bed. We're both poking each other. We're both anticipating what's to come. "What would you like to do, bab...?"

It's a question that never gets fully asked. Before I can finish, Dinh seals his lips to mine and we're kissing -- really kissing. This boy can kiss! We kiss for what feels like hours. It's a really, really good kiss. And...and..."

Finally, he breaks the kiss, reluctantly. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that. I loved Gary, and Nathan adored him. There was a lot in him to love. He was considerate, and so caring. But I've...umm...really wanted you to make love to me for a long time. Is that being disloyal?" he asks, worried.

"I don't think so," I reply. "I know he's only been dead for a couple of months, but celibacy isn't pleasant, and I don't think it's something he'd wish on you. He used celibacy as a punishment for Nathan once, and it nearly ended their relationship. Gary always had a healthy sex life, even before he met Nathan, before he was strictly-speaking monogamous. I think he probably loved you too much to inflict that."

Dinh and I begin to kiss again, and soon, he's lying on top of me. Mostly this is about cuddling so far, cuddling and kissing, but soon Dinh rolls off of me and asks for what he wants. "Please fuck me, Tim. Please..."

I grab the lotion and lube myself and Dinh. Dinh is loose. What a gift. No preparation required. I flip him over because I want to be able to look into his eyes, and I want to continue to kiss. Resting his ankles on my shoulder, I line myself up and enter him in one slow, fluid motion. He thrashes his head from side to side, moaning, but clearly enjoying it. He is nearly frantic as I start to withdraw and then to plunge back inside him. "Oh...my...god," he screams -- literally screams. I wonder where Kevin and Kai are. Did I remember to lock the bedroom door?

I lean over and kiss him, and that kiss lasts for the entire time I continue to fuck him. I don't really know how to describe this kiss. Dinh can really kiss! He kisses with a vengeance. He is just so passionate, just so active. He has his arms wrapped around me, and is moaning, and his tongue is exploring my mouth. He's very different to make love to than Jason, who is much more passive, expecting me to take the lead. And he's different from Kenny who, while participatory, and even experimental, is less...passionate. Dinh is...wild. I've never felt so...wanted in my life. Each time I thrust forward, he thrusts back. He wants maximum penetration. He's holding me more tightly that I've ever been held before. When he starts to cum -- and he is first -- I feel as though he might tear my dick clean off from the contractions of his ass muscles. And, again, he's screaming. Then I start to cum, and I don't think this orgasm will ever end. Actually, I just don't think. I am utterly obliterated!

It takes us probably thirty minutes to come down from this, thirty minutes during which we just snuggle, kissing periodically. And, after those thirty minutes I realize I have a problem. It's actually a problem I knew I'd have. It's the same problem that I had with Dinh when he lived with us before. It's the problem that motivated me to introduce him to Gary. It's the problem I knew I'd have the day after Gary died, and Dinh walked into the house and we locked eyes. It's a problem I don't know how to cope with. It's a problem that neither Kenny nor Jason anticipated, I think. And the problem is...that I'm just flat out in love with Dinh, and he's in love with me. I just don't fucking know what to do about that.


The first step to any addiction is confession -- to oneself and to one's loved ones -- and that's where I start with my problem. Three evenings later, Kenny, Jason and I take another walk -- just around the neighborhood. I'm a little teary-eyed, both because I'm contrite for what I'm feeling, and because I'm...scared. Jason and Kenny are the loves of my life. I don't know how to tell them this. But I have to be honest.

"I...umm...have a confession to...umm...make."

Kenny starts to giggle. "Well, let's see," he says, "you haven't squandered all of our money on some pyramid schemes have you? And you haven't sold the house to amusement park developers? You haven't bought a 16kt diamond, have you? Haven't killed anybody recently? What do you think it could be, Jase?"

Jason looks at me, and then back at Kenny, and he has this huge shit-eating grin. "Golly, Kenny, I'm not sure, but doesn't he look like someone in love?"

We're in the middle of the local park, and when Jason says this, I sit down on the nearest bench and start to cry, to sob. This is not the response that either of them expected, but I just feel so bad, so...unfaithful. I cover my face with my hands, and sob. And then I have Kenny on my left, and Jason on my right, both hugging me.

"It's okay, Tim," Jason says. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you...sad."

"I'm sorry. I just feel so...bad...about this."

Kenny looks confused. "Bad about liking Dinh?"

"Yeeaaahhhh," I whine.


"I feel...unfaithful..."

Jason starts to ask why, and then understands. He hugs me. "Do I have to replay your own lecture? Just because you love someone else doesn't mean that you love me any less. We can all be in love, can't we? You love Dinh. That's no particular surprise. He's crazy about you. He always has been. You just maybe didn't notice until now." Then Jason looks at Kenny, and Kenny nods. "Umm...Tim...Nathan will be leaving us soon. He's found someone, actually someone he's known for years. He wanted to take Dinh with him, but...umm...Dinh won't go. That's how crazy he is about...you, about us. He loves you, Tim. He loves all of us. And...umm...we love him, too. He's so...sweet. We want him to stay with us. So, the family will be a little bigger, but a little smaller than it has been in the last couple of months."

This is all a complete surprise to me -- all of it. Still, I'm happy that Nathan has found someone, someone he already knows and loves. And I'm happy that Dinh will be staying with us, because Jason's right, I do love him. But I'm also scared. Not since Andrew has someone come into our lives who I've felt truly passionate about. Robbie hoped I'd feel that way about him, but ultimately I just felt too awkward with him. And Vijay was sweet, and given time what I felt might have morphed into love, real love. With Dinh, though, I'm there now -- and I didn't pass go or collect $200. Why, I wonder to myself? What is it about little Dinh? Then I realize that that phrase -- "little Dinh" -- is indicative of a whole series of very conflicting feelings about him. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Jason. He needs to be cared for. He's not meant to be living in the world on his own. And, like Jason, he never asks for anything. This is a very Buddhist thing. He seems to have overcome most material desires. I think he believes that if he really needs something, it'll come to him without his having to demand it. But then, seemingly at odds with this passivity, is his sexuality. He is one of the most passionate lovers I've ever been with. He is very...engaged when he makes love, very energetic, and maybe this is because he's just not present. Good sex is obliterating. Good sex leaves the conscious mind behind. At the end of good sex it's not always easy to remember what happened. With Dinh, more than with anyone I've ever been with, it feels like he just checks out. He loses all inhibitions and just...goes...wild. From the moment he starts to kiss you, from that first kiss, he leaves his consciousness at the door, and what's left is pure instinct. And it's in that instinct that my love for him begins. When you lose all your masks, all the filters that allow you to present a "civilized" face to the world, the face you want the world to see, what's left is the essential you. Sometimes that essential you isn't very pretty. Sometimes it's selfish, sometimes mean-spirited, sometimes petulant. In Dinh's case, his essence is like Jason's and Kenny's. It's giving and completely embracing. It's comforting. But (a big "but") it's also passionate. It craves. There's a depth of desire I sense in his lovemaking that has nothing to do with Buddhist teachings. It's very exciting. It's like nothing I've ever experienced before.

When we get home, Dinh is in the back yard playing marbles with Kevin on the lawn. I didn't know kids played marbles any more, but Kevin is really good at it. In fact, by the look of it, he's winning. It may have something to do with the lack of the passive electronic hobbies in Kevin's life. We shut down our cable TV subscription because we found that the boys were watching too much of it. And, ironically, Kenny was adamant that he didn't want them playing video games because they tend to be addictive. "I write them," he said, "and that's mentally challenging. But playing them is mindless. I don't want them spacing for hours in front of a screen." So, they don't have a Wii, or a PlayStation, or any of the other game platforms, and their computer time is monitored. What they do have are...marbles, and bicycles, and softballs, and puzzles, and board games, and each other, and us. They have friends, actual human friends to spend time with. They climb trees. They love jump-rope. They actually move around. They remind me of me when I was a kid. And Dinh is crazy about them, which is good because they pester him constantly to play with them, and most of the time he's only too happy to oblige.

"Who's winning?" I ask as I walk into the yard.

Kevin jumps up with a big grin. "I am!" he screams, jumping up and down.

"He is," Dinh says, ruefully, but with the tiniest grin playing across his lips.

"I see," I say with a snort. "Kev, why don't you go help Kenny with dinner. I think he'd like the company, and I want to chat with Uncle Dinh."

Kevin nods. "I won. I won... I WON!" he chants happily as he runs into the house.

Moving across the patio to the chaise-longue, I plop down and pat the end of it, indicating that Dinh should come join me. He sits in front of me, looking a little concerned. "Kenny and Jason tell me that Nathan will be moving on, moving in with someone he knows...and loves."

Dinh nods.

"And they tell me that, although he wants you to come with him, you don't want to go."

He nods again.

"Why not?"

"Do you want me to go?" he asks, suddenly agitated.

"I didn't say that. I'm just...curious. Why don't you want to go with him?"

He looks down into his lap and pauses. "Because I...love you," he says very softly. Then, looking up at me, "And I love Jason and Kenny. And I love Kevin and Kai. That doesn't mean that I love Nathan any less. I guess I just feel part of...something here. I feel like I have a family. I sort of felt that with Gary, and I adored Gary, but here it just feels like I...fit."

"I'm glad," I say, reaching out and taking his hand, "because I realized this week that I probably can't be happy without you. Jason had to remind me that that was okay. He had to remind me that loving you doesn't diminish what I feel for him or for Kenny, and I love them more than the world. But, I have room for you, too, room in my heart, and they know that. They're okay with that. In fact, when I was contrite for falling in love with you, when I was feeling guilty for being unfaithful to them, they were arguing in your defense. They love you, too. So, I guess this is my invitation to join the family. Right after Gary's death, I have to admit, I felt an obligation. But this isn't obligation any more, not for me or for Kenny or Jason. Please don't leave us...ever."

As I've been saying this, a single tear has formed in Dinh's left eye and has streaked its way down his cheek. He nods, and lifting my hand, kisses it. Then he moves forward and hugs me, hugs me for several minutes. Finally, he moves back and nods. "I won't," he says. "I don't think I could. I'm just so happy you...want me," he chokes, and hugs me again. Finally, getting control of himself, he looks into my eyes and smiles. "We do have to talk about the issue of spankings, though," he says with a grin, "because I haven't been spanked in nearly two months." He giggles, and so do I, and then Kevin comes to fetch us for dinner -- a pork tenderloin stuffed with brie and shallots, stir-fried Chinese long beans, wild rice pilaf, and mango pudding for dessert. A very Kenny menu.

"Yummy," Kevin opines. He right! Like me, he's passionate about good things, and only about good things.

Published first at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Nemo-stories/