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 83

By: Tim Keppler (nemoami@yahoo.com)

 Edited by: Bob Leahy

Our last day in Paris is also Evan's birthday. He is 21 today. We're all going to have lunch to celebrate because we can't have a big birthday dinner. We'll all be flying on to Hong Kong before dinner time.

When I turned 21, my father took me for a walk and told me a whole bunch of stuff I already knew -- fatherly wisdom stuff. He stopped short of telling me about the birds and the bees, figuring, I guess, that maybe I'd already been sexually active, and it was too late for that. And, of course, I was gay and he wasn't. What was he going to tell me, "Go slow, and stretch him first"? Somehow, I don't think he'd be likely to know that. I don't plan to lecture Evan as my Dad did me, but I like the idea of a walk. I like the idea of imparting wisdom, or maybe "exchanging" wisdom is a better way of putting it. Evan is very wise in his own right. His childhood was not ideal. Any boy who can live on the streets without turning to theft or prostitution, who can do that for years while still maintaining good grades and still looking like every other kid, that boy has wisdom to impart. I feel very, very close to Evan. I've tried to be there for all my kids, but I have a special love for Evan because he's had to work so hard to survive, and has done that with grace and humor. He's done it with honor.

"I'm so proud of you!" I say as we leave the flat for a walk through the neighborhood. "But, I'm a little sad, too. You're 21 now. You don't need me any more."

He instantly goes teary-eyed, stops, reaches over, and hugs me. "I'll always need you," he whispers. "Always...always." Then he rears back and smiles, his eyes brimming with tears. "Umm...now that I'm 21, now that I `don't need you anymore,' can I umm...call you...Dad? I've...sort of...always wanted to."

The question stops me in my tracks. Neither Ian nor Evan has ever called me "Dad". We met at a time in their lives when it seemed a little...late to establish that kind of...filial relationship. It felt...awkward...to me. But, apparently that was just me. It was something Evan longed for, apparently, but couldn't bring himself to ask for probably because he sensed my awkwardness. This reminds me of that O'Henry story, "The Gift of the Magi." A woman sells her long and flowing hair to buy her husband a watch chain for his pocket watch as a Christmas gift, but her husband sells his pocket watch to buy his wife combs for her long and flowing hair. That story made me cry when I first read it at ten years old, and here I am living it. I would have been happy for Evan to call me "Dad," but I didn't want it to be awkward for him. Now I come to find out that's exactly what he wanted, to have an acknowledged father, someone he could call his own. How stupid of me not to have guessed that given his background! "The Gift of the Magi" strikes again, and I begin to cry -- from a mixture of joy and regret. I am joyous that Evan feels this way about me. I regret that I've allowed us to get this far without realizing how he feels. I reach out and hug him. "Of course...you can...call me...Dad. I'd be honored to be `Dad'." I clutch him abruptly, and we just stand there hugging in the middle of the sidewalk. I don't know that I've ever felt closer to anyone in my life, or more important. I'm "Dad". It sounds corny, I know. But that's probably because I had one. I took my Dad for granted. I didn't have to define his role by myself. He came prepackaged -- "My Dad". For Evan, it wasn't so easy. We had to establish our roles, our relationship. That it's come to this...is...a dream come true.

After a few more minutes of maudlinness, we're on our way again, chatting comfortably. "So, how's Joaquin? He seems very happy."

"He is. He's gotten so good. Could you hear the difference?"

"His fingering is what I noticed. I remember his fingering being a little...muddy. Not precise. That isn't true anymore."

"Exactly! I listen to him play some of the Bach transcriptions from this concert and compare him with Segovia's recordings and I'm amazed. Can he actually be that good?"

"Seems like. And how about the two of you? You still in love?"

Evan rolls his eyes.

"Yeah, that was my impression," I say, giggling.

"I couldn't love anyone more. He's so sweet, and so considerate. And he knows me so well." He lifts the cuff of his pants, and I see a heavy gold chain encircling his ankle. It's a fascinating thing because there's no clasp. How'd he get it on? How'll he get it off? "We had it soldered on," he tells me. "He gave me choices about how to attach it. `If we solder it -- gold solder -- you will not be able to take it off,' he warned me. But, that's what I wanted. I didn't want to be able to take it off. I need to belong to someone. I want someone to...own me. Not like in the sense of a...pet, but I want someone to feel responsible for me. I want someone to care for me, like you care for Jason." What he doesn't add, because he doesn't really understand our relationship (or maybe his own), is: "or, like Jason cares for you." Couples complement each other. They care for each other. It's a two-way street.

"I'd really like for you to come home and visit us," I say. "It's been a long time since you've been back to San Jose."

"Actually, we're working on that, but not just for a visit. I want to come home...for good. Joaquin wants to come back, too. He's been talking with Tilson Thomas about coming back to San Francisco. San Francisco wants him. It's just a matter of timing."

I'm stunned. "How soon?"

"It sounds like October. Two months."

I fling myself at Evan. I'm just so fucking excited. I love this boy so much. "That is just the best news I've gotten in a while, and believe me, I needed some good news today."

"Yeah, what's going on? You seemed a little down this morning?"

"I got a call from Ian last night. I don't really understand what he's going through right now. I was thinking of going home early, but realized that changing the reservations would probably take me the three days I could spend happily in Hong Kong. Don't sweat it. Once I figure out what's going on, I'll let you know. So, is coming home a sure thing?"

"Pretty sure, I think. We don't have a written offer yet, but Tilson Thomas has given Joaquin a verbal offer. We're both really excited. Mexico City is not San Miguel de Allende. It's just a big city. It doesn't really have any...character. I suppose San Jose doesn't either, but San Jose has...you. It has you, and Jason, and Kenny, and the boys. I just really want to come home."

I stop and swing him around, and then I kiss him. "And we really want you to come home. We've missed you, baby. A lot. I really want you to come home!"

We have Evan's birthday lunch at a little bistro I know over by the Opera. Their specialty is seafood, which is good because it's our specialty, too. Given that there are eleven of us, I called ahead. They don't usually take reservations, but for eleven they will. We arrive at 11:30, and they take us to a private room. I mentioned that this was a twenty-first-birthday celebration. I didn't expect that to mean anything, but it does. There's a huge banner tacked to one wall "Joyeux Anniversaire!" Another poster says "21". That's very nice of them. The minute the boys hit the room and see the signs, they scream. "Happy Birthday, Evan!" Evan is touched. He picks up Kai and swings him around, followed by Feng, followed by Tan. The waitress returns with a single glass of champagne which she hands to Evan. "Joyeux Anniversaire," she says, softly.

"Merci, mademoiselle," he says, misjudging her age accidentally or on purpose. She giggles and leaves us to make our selections from the menu. Typically, when we eat out, we try to be frugal, but this is a birthday, and a twenty-first birthday at that. I order a small bowl of Caviar, something I know we all love (well, all the adults, at least), some blinis, some chopped onions, and a bottle of Champagne. "İQue Bueno!" says Joaquin. Quan isn't wild for the Caviar, but he loves the shrimp that I also order. Tan and Feng, who have never had Caviar before, are crazy about it. I have to order another bowl of it very soon. "This good!" Feng opines. He's right. It's delicious. And so is he.

While we've been nibbling on the Caviar, I've been whispering to Joaquin. Finally, after about half an hour, I clink my glass. "So, this is my son's twenty-first birthday, and I for one couldn't love him more. He has made it to the age of his majority and, in his case, that wasn't a sure thing. Congratulations, baby!" I scream, hugging Evan. "But, while that's good news, that's not the best news." I make a long pause for effect. Joaquin knows exactly what I'm going to say, because I've just cleared it with him, and Evan figures it out in seconds. "The best news is...they're coming home to us!" I scream. "They're moving back to San Jose! Joaquin is coming back to the San Francisco Symphony!"

Pandemonium! The moment the words are out of my mouth, Jason lets out a whoop, and is jumping up and down. Jason and Evan have always been best friends. Kenny and Evan are also very close, and Kenny starts to clap before crossing the room to kiss Evan. Dinh, too, is very jazzed, but moves first to Joaquin, hugging and kissing him, and then to Evan. "This is such good news," he says, fondly. And, of course, the boys are nearly beside themselves. Evan was Kevin and Kai's favorite babysitter, their favorite playmate. They're both elated at the prospect of him coming home. I cross to Joaquin. "I'm so happy. You can't imagine how happy I am at the prospect of having you back. I love you both so much."

We hug just as the waitress returns for our orders. I order a fresh baked tomato stuffed with chèvre, and monk fish. Kenny and Jason both order Bouillabaisse. Dinh orders grilled catfish. Kevin and Joaquin order Snapper. Kai and Evan order steamed clams, and we order another mixed-grill platter of fish for Feng, Quan and Tan. "Mmmmmmm," says Quan as I feed him a mouthful of Salmon. This boy loves his fish, all kinds of fish.

On the pretense of going to pee, I leave the room and go find our waitress. "Do you have cake?" I ask.

"Oui, monsieur. What kind would you like?"

"Do you have lemon?"


"Make it lemon. Bring it at the end of the meal."

She nods and smiles, preparing to walk away to place the order. Suddenly she turns around. "Our baker is here today. Would you like an `inscription'?"

Perfect! "Joyeux Anniversaire, Evan!"

"Bon," she responds with a smile, and walks away to place the order.

All told, we're here for three hours. The food is delicious, and the cake, while not what I expected, is a hit. It has a lemon cream center, which I would have expected to be too rich, but isn't. It's actually quite good. The baker, I should add, misspelled "Evan". It came out "Evin", but it's a rather unusual name even in the states these days, so I'm not surprised at the error. The bill is astronomical, but we don't typically spend much on restaurant food, so on those infrequent occasions when we do, it should be astronomical. And then there's the gift. On occasions like this, moments in life that are meaningful, it's time to dip into the "education fund," the account where we house money we haven't yet had time to invest. Gifts should be meaningful, and ideally they should also be good investments, something you can fall back on if you need to. When I turned 21, my father gave me a 24K gold chain, a necklace. It was heavy, is heavy, nearly two ounces. I still have it. It must have cost him a bundle, and that was the point. It was a nest egg. If I was ever in trouble, I could sell it. That was the idea. I've never worn it, if for no other reason than the 24K gold clasp is so soft and bends so easily, that I'm not sure it would support the weight of the chain itself. What I get for Evan is similar in intent to my chain. I get him a 24K gold peace medallion. I had it made by the same jeweler who made Evan and Joaquin's wedding rings. It's 1 ½ " in diameter and 3/32" thick. It's heavy, about 3 ounces, and because I intend it to be worn around his neck, I also get him an 18K gold chain. It's stunning, and he is absolutely thrilled. There's a little hippie in Evan. He likes the idea of walking around wearing a peace medallion, and the yellow gold complements his skin tone perfectly.

Keeping with the jewelry theme (although I'm not sure why, because no one knew what I was getting Evan), Jason, Kenny and Dinh have gotten him ear rings, 4K garnets set in yellow-gold studs. I find this an odd gift because Evan's ears aren't pierced, but the minute he opens the box he whoops. I find out later that piercing his ears is something Evan has wanted to do for a long time, a desire he confided to Jason. He just needed the motivation. The earrings are the motivation. And it's some motivation. Garnets are a deep red, and these are cut so that they reflect light vividly. They're really beautiful. They'll look spectacular on him -- as soon as he arranges for some strategically-placed holes to accommodate them.

The flight to Hong Kong is comfortable. Once again, we're on two flights -- actually three flights, because Evan and Joaquin are flying separately on a flight arranged by the Symphony. It is one long motherfucker, though. This flight varies between 12 hours and 24 hours depending on how you do it. My initial inclination was to avoid any layover in mainland China. Feng, Quan and Tan were adopted by faggots. There have been instances where children have been "repossessed" when the Chinese government figures that out. In our case, though, the boys are riding on Singaporean passports. Bob Titus, my attorney, did some research, and his best advice was simply not to be seen with them. "Let Kenny and Jason take them in. You worry about Kevin and Kai." That's what we do. So, for this flight, Dinh and I are with Kevin and Kai, and Kenny and Jason are with Quan, Feng, and Tan. Both flights have connections in Beijing, which is probably going to be fine anyway because we'll only have to pass through Immigration once, in Hong Kong. We're on Air China International, an airline I haven't flown before, but one that gets consistently high marks on Yelp. Higher marks than Cathay Pacific, it turns out. The flight is 14 hours with a layover. I'm suddenly happy to be traveling with Kevin and Kai rather than with Ian's boys. 14 hours with a three year old strikes me as the very definition of hell.

Once again, when we arrive, I'm surprised to find that Jason and Kenny have beaten us, despite having left Paris last. But here they are, waiting at our gate with Evan and Joaquin. Thankfully, we arrive in the evening. It's 7pm here. Tan and Quan are both grumpy, having apparently not slept much on the flight from Paris. Feng is fine, but exhausted. He spent a lot of time keeping his brothers calm. It takes us 40 minutes by high-speed rail to get to central Hong Kong, and another 15 minutes by taxi to get to our hotel. We get the boys to bed the minute we arrive. They can take their baths tomorrow. It's late, and they need to snooze. And, my god, they're asleep almost instantly. Quan and Tan are actually asleep before we get to the hotel. Feng collapses the minute we get inside. We have to undress him after he's fallen asleep. Even Kev and Kai are out. 14 hours is a long flight. I'd brought several videos that Kevin and Kai watched on my laptop during the flight, and I wonder now whether that was such a good idea. Would they have just fallen asleep if they hadn't had any entertainment? Dunno. But, they're asleep now. Everyone's asleep. Even Dinh's asleep. His shirt is off, and one sock. Kenny and I giggle when we see him stretched out on the bed. We pull off the second sock, his pants and underwear while he sleeps, and then Jason, Kenny and I pile in around him. We're all out by 9pm, and don't come back to life until twelve hours later. Jet lag is a bitch.

This morning we're going to head for The Peak -- Victoria Peak. The Peak is a mountain that soars something like 1800 feet above the city. From here you have a stunning view of Hong Kong's urban vistas, of Kowloon, of pretty much everything. There's a tram that will take you up there, well, most of the way up there. It takes you to Victoria Gap, a point that's about 1440 feet about the city. From here you have a nice view, and the place is packed with good restaurants. We're headed for the Peak Café, a quaint little place across from the tram terminus. I was there years ago. My recollection is that the food was good, and reasonable. Tonight I have reservations at a place where the food if great and unreasonable. Tonight we're going for Peking Duck, a Cantonese delicacy. If you've never had it, there are probably two things you need to know. First. Peking is the Cantonese name for the city of Beijing (Beijing being the Mandarin translation), the capital of mainland China. It's where Peking Duck originated. Second, Peking Duck is duck skin. So, before you get grossed out, think back to those Thanksgivings when Mom made a really-good Turkey. Did you eat the skin or did you throw it away? I know what I did with it. It was the best part of the bird. I didn't eat it. I consumed it. The Chinese have gone one step further. They've made the skin the entire meal. They consume the duck skin, and they make broth out of the duck carcass (which is to say, everything but the duck skin). In most restaurants, they slice the duck skin off the duck at your table, and then take the meat away. You can have it if you're gauche enough to ask for it, but why be burdened? (And keep in mind that they don't really have the concept of take-away in Hong Kong. What you don't finish is waste. They don't put it in a styro-box so you can take it home. Peking Duck is so incredibly delicious that it will often cost you several hundred dollars. Tonight we're having Peking Duck, but this morning we're having dumplings at the Peak Café while we admire the view of the urban landscape of Hong Kong.

There are dumplings and there are dumplings. Peak Café specializes in "soup dumplings," much like Joe's Shanghai in New York City. These are dumplings that are filled with meat, usually pork or shrimp, that's swimming in a sea of molten soup. You have to be rather careful when eating them, because the soup is just so damned hot. For the boys, we plan to drain the soup first into a bowl, and let them eat that with a spoon. For us, well, we'll just take our chances. I admit that I love these things, but you have to work at them. They're delicious, but they take constant attention, and I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't scald my mouth at least once while eating them.

It's mid-summer, and a really beautiful day. People come to the Peak, especially in summer, to get out of the heat. It's much cooler up here than it is in central Hong Kong. And the views are just spectacular. We're sitting outside on a patio of sorts. Hong Kong is different from the last time I was here. Maybe, in the twelve years since Britain returned Hong Kong to the Chinese, Hong Kong has finally morphed into a truly Chinese city. The first thing I notice is that I'm the only Caucasian in the restaurant, and the second thing I notice is that our group is the only one not speaking Chinese. Some are speaking Mandarin, but most are speaking Cantonese. We're speaking English. What's interesting is that, while I'm conscious that I'm the only Caucasian in the restaurant, Tan is conscious that he's not the only Asian in the restaurant. "Evwyone look like...me," he says, sort of dazed.

"That's true, honey. And nobody looks like me."

He looks at me and giggles.

I find this interesting because I've never had the sense before that the boys ever felt like anything but the indigenous population in San Jose -- whatever that means. I mean, we have more races in San Jose than just about anywhere on earth. We have Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Hispanics, Africans, Caucasians, Thais, Koreans. We have pretty much everyone. Despite that, though, it sounds like Tan has sort of felt like an outsider. "Is it good that everyone looks like you?" I ask Tan.

He looks at me confused. He can't really get his arms around this question. Finally, he shrugs. This is too complex for a four year old. And, honestly, I think I'm happy about that. It tells me he hasn't spent much time thinking about it, and that's as it should be. Maybe, just maybe, Tan's generation can be the first that's truly color blind. Maybe, just maybe, if we keep him out of the red states, he can grow up to feel empowered and enfranchised in these here dis-United States. At least he's not a faggot -- yet. Race is, at least, a little more straightforward than sexual orientation, if only because we've spent the last two hundred years dealing with it. And, of course, it's hard to say that race is a "choice," as we like to say of sexual orientation. Choice gives us license to discriminate. It gives us an opportunity to build up our own fragile egos based on something we're not, versus something we are. "Well, I may not be the brightest bulb on the porch, but at least I'm not a faggot, like him." I try not to dwell too much on the bitterness I feel about having supported a civil rights movement that does not support me. I try instead to look for ways to insure that Tan will never face these feelings. I will not succeed. But, like the existential hero Sisyphus, damned to roll the rock up the mountain, only to see it roll down again, we have to do our best, even if our best is woefully inadequate.


Dinh is on his knees in the middle of the bed. It's 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and everyone else is out shopping. Dinh is wearing a ball gag so our game won't disturb the other guests at the hotel. And he's wearing a two-foot spreader bar between his knees to keep his legs nicely splayed. His hands are bound behind his back. His chest rests on the mattress, pressing on the nipple clamps that I've tried to attach so they're flat against his chest. This posture places his ass in the air, and his ass cheeks spread wide apart, exposing his asshole. It also puts a lot of strain on his thighs because the weight of his body is basically concentrated there. He's been in this position for twenty minutes, and it's starting to take its toll. He's starting to cry. I've brought a knotted-tail flogger with me. This is a short rawhide flogger with twelve tails. The total length of the thing is maybe twelve inches, but that includes a "handle" of maybe two inches. So, the tails themselves are only maybe ten inches long. The leather is reasonable soft...but...there are knots tied every two inches along each tail. This creates a lot of "edges" that can provide a severe sting, depending on how hard this device is wielded. You don't use this thing like a whip. The idea is to sort of graze the skin softly and to let the pain build. And it will build. Those knots are insidious. I start on the meatiest part of his ass cheeks, swinging the flogger softly, letting the knots do their work. This thing doesn't produce weals unless you want it to. The leather isn't hard enough for that unless you really swing it. But over time, the knots take their toll, and his ass cheeks turn crimson. It's a stingy little device when applied to the ass cheeks, but Dinh knows that we're not stopping there. The posture I've placed him in makes clear where this is going, and that knowledge causes him great fear.

I think it's the fear that Dinh likes most. He knows that I'm not going to cause him any real damage, but he also knows that I will cause him real pain. He likes the pain, but I think it's the fear of not knowing what form that pain will take that turns him on the most. It makes the pain so much more...delicious for him. This afternoon, there's little mystery about how this pain will manifest itself. But, he hasn't felt it yet, so he doesn't really know how intense it'll be. He doesn't really know what to expect. He knows that his ass cheeks are on fire, but his ass cheeks are the least of his worries, and believe me, he is worried. He is seriously frightened, the more so as I begin swinging the flogger closer and closer to his asshole.

I'm quite good at this. I'm deft. I'm also fairly ambidextrous. Technically, I'm right-handed, and am therefore more...precise with my right hand. So, it's my right hand I use to swing the flogger. But, I'm also pretty good with my left hand, so I use that hand to occasionally graze his bobbing dick, which is by now rock hard and dripping. It's also my left hand I use to tickle his balls, something that invariably makes him gasp. As I come closer to his pucker with the flogger, he starts to sob. He knows it won't be long now, and he knows it'll really hurt, because I've picked up both the pace and the force of my blows. He's terrified, but continues to drip. Finally, I land the first blow squarely on his asshole, and it's not a light touch. He screams through the gag. I move past the pucker and work on the interior of his ass cheeks, landing another blow to his asshole after several minutes. Again he screams, and it's a long scream this time. Finally, I stop the flogging, lube my dick, and slide into him abruptly. He gasps, and continues to sob as I fuck him. After maybe ten minutes, I reach around and begin to stroke his dick, slowly at first, too slowly to get him off. He moans. I increase the speed, but as he gets close, I slow down. He groans. We do this over and over again, until finally I am so close that I can't pull back. I start to cum, stroking him briskly. He shoots with such vigor that I think his sphincter muscles are going to cut off my dick. He's panting, and sobbing, and screaming. And then he collapses. I think he's fallen asleep, but he hasn't, though he seems exhausted. I untie his hands, and remove the gag and the spreader bar. He stretches luxuriously and turns onto his side. I snuggle up next to him as I remove the nipple clamps. I kiss him. "Good?" I ask.

"So good!" he says, kissing me back. Then he falls fast asleep.

We wake up about an hour and a half later. Kenny is shaking us, giggling. "Are you guys going to stay in bed all day?" By now it's 5pm. We have an hour to get dressed and get to the restaurant for our 6pm reservation. We make it, but by the skin of our teeth, and the meal seems a little harried. The concert begins at 8pm, and I'm not a hundred percent sure how to get there. The Orchestra plays at the Hong Kong Cultural Center, so that means we're going to need to take the ferry to Kowloon. I know where to catch the ferry, and my recollection is that it only takes about ten minutes to cross Victoria Harbor. What I don't know is what you do on the Kowloon side. I don't know how you get from the ferry stop to the Cultural Center. Thankfully, though, I'm traveling with two guys who speak the language, so we'll ask a lot of questions, and I've no doubt we'll get there in plenty of time.

The Peking Duck is unbelievable. I've had it before in the states, and have liked it, but here the skin is just so crispy, and virtually greaseless. From the perspective of texture, It's like eating the best, thinnest potato chip you've ever had. The flavor is indescribable. It's just so good that I can't begin to find words for it. We order two ducks, which really isn't enough, but...I want the meat! I love duck meat, and can't bear the notion of having the waiters slice off the skin and take the meat away for broth. So, I sick Jason on them, and it turns into quite a discussion. He wins the battle, of course, and the waiters take the ducks back to the kitchen where they're cut up and returned to us. They charge us an additional HK$3.00 for the meat, which is something less than 50¢. The meat is absolutely delicious. Because the ducks are cooked for the skin, the heat of the oven is very intense to insure crispness. That means that the cooking time is very short. Basically they're searing the birds. This means that the meat itself is slightly on the rare side, and very moist. I have no idea why the Chinese don't eat the whole bird when they order Peking Duck. Yes, I'll grant you, it's not cooked in the traditional way for whole ducks, but it's still very, very good. My guess is that they only eat the skin as a mark of status. They can afford to throw away the meat, and so they do as a demonstration of their wealth. This would be a very Hong Kong-ish thing to do. So, Jason's campaign to recover the meat is only comprehensible to the waiters in relation to...me. Jason points to me, the lone gwilo (Cantonese for "white ghost," a contemptuous term for Caucasians). The waiters snicker, but acquiesce, and frankly I don't care what it takes or how humbled I need to be. I just want my duck meat, and I get it. "Yummy," as Kai would say.

Having finished this delicious (and very expensive) meal, Kenny returns to the hotel with Ian's kids. Kenny is the designated babysitter tonight. Dinh, Jason, Kevin, Kai and I take the MTR (Mass Transit Railway -- the metro) to the Star Ferry building, and ride the ferry to Kowloon. There, after Dinh has spent a couple of minutes at the information counter, we board a bus that drops us directly in front of the Hong Kong Cultural Center, along with about ten million other concert goers. Concerts are apparently very elegant affairs in Hong Kong. We are all dressed formally in dark suits and ties. We are not, however, dressed as formally as the locals, many of whom are decked out in tuxedos. And, honest to god, I've never seen so much ostentatious jewelry in my life. The women are literally dripping in diamonds. Rarely do I feel underdressed at concerts, but this is one of those times.

We find our seats, and there's Evan, waiting for us. Jesus, does he look good! He's in a white tuxedo, with a white tie and white shirt. His wavy, shoulder-length auburn hair frames his face. He's wearing his gold peace medallion, and, to my surprise, his garnet earrings. He apparently went out and found a piercing salon today and had his ears pierced. He is quite simply breathtaking, every inch the proper little concert-faggot. As I plunk down next to him, I lean over and kiss him, a gesture that causes the couple next to him some concern. "My god," Dinh says, reaching past me to hug him, "you clean up well."

Evan giggles. "Don't I? Joaquin told me that Carlos Miguel, the Musical Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional told him that the Chinese are very formal, and that I should bring something really elegant. I didn't have anything really elegant, so I bought this at a shop in Mexico City. It was really cheap by American standards, and I thought it looked nice on me."


"It looks spectacular on you," I reply, kissing him again."


"If you think this looks good, wait until you see Joaquin."


And, he isn't kidding! Where Evan's complexion is light and his hair nearly blond, Joaquin looks Hispanic -- his hair is dark, his eyes are dark, and his complexion is dark. Dressed in a while tuxedo just like Evan's, he looks sensational, especially now that he's grown his hair out and there's so much more of it. He's gorgeous, and I think even the Chinese appreciate the look, because there's an audible gasp when he makes his way onto the stage followed by deafening applause. And then...out comes Edo de Waart, and that deafening applause becomes thunderous. The Chinese clearly know the treasure they have here. They clearly understand the gift they've been given, and appreciate it.


De Waart looks older than I remember him, but that was years ago, and I was very young. My father took me to my first de Waart performance. He was conducting Le Carnaval des Animaux (Carnival of the Animals) by Camille Saint-Saëns, the perfect composition for a child of my age then. I was stunned at the sheer beauty of the piece, by the exuberance, and the subtlety of the music. I think I learned to sob my way through concerts then, and what's interesting is that my father didn't care...because he was sobbing, too. I come by this disease honestly. My father was also a very emotive listener. Remarkably, I still remember that performance. I've heard Carnaval any number of times since, both in live performances and on recordings. But, I've never heard a rendering that matched de Waart. It was miraculous to me, a revelation. It was joy made audible!


This concert once again starts with Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, but the difference between this performance and Eschenbach's in Paris is night and day. Don't get me wrong, Eschenbach was good, but he wasn't this good. Eschenbach began on a slow tempo and was a little...thin in terms of instrumentation. De Waart starts at a gallop and is just so...lush. The orchestra sounds so...big. You need to understand, the HKPO has never been a world-class symphony. Never, I suspect, until now. De Waart has a gift for building orchestras out of whole cloth. He has the enviable ability to transform his orchestras into world-class ensembles. He did it in Sydney, in Amsterdam, in Rotterdam, in Minneapolis, and he seems to have done it here. I heard this orchestra with David Atherton conducting, and was underwhelmed. I can't even remember what they played, so unmemorable was the performance. And Samuel Wong was no better. I just never had the impression that either of them knew how to meld disparate musical voices into something truly harmonious, something...integrated. This performance, on the other hand, is a pleasure, something I won't soon forget, and when Joaquin's guitar enters the mix of sounds, I'm just stunned at the beauty they create. Having said that, this is not the Pleyel. This venue doesn't offer the wonderful sound that we heard in Paris, but the orchestra itself, to my utter surprise, is better. De Waart has done it again!

At the conclusion of the Aranjuez concerto, we have an intermission. Then Joaquin returns on his own to play some solo pieces. Once again, what he plays are transcriptions, but in this case they're transcriptions of pieces composed for the piano. The first two are by Isaac Albéniz, the "Suite Española," and the "Chants d'Espagne," neither of which I've ever heard before, and both of which are stunning. Then, to close out the evening, we have three pieces by a composer I've honestly never heard of, but who has the longest name you can imagine: Pantaléon Enrique Costanzo Granados y Campiña. The first piece is called "Dedicatoria," and is lovely. It's very slow and elegant. The second piece, "Danza Número Cinco," it's much more sprightly, definitely something danceable. He finishes up with something called "Goyescas" which is far more contemplative, almost introspective, but it shows off Joaquin's technique, his crisp fingering, like none of the other pieces have done. It's exactly the right piece to end on because it really highlights his virtuosity as a musician, and no doubt has a lot to do with the long standing ovation he receives at the conclusion of the performance. This has been two hours of sheer bliss, and once again I'm wet by the end of it.

On the way back to the hotel after the concert, Jason leans over several time and kisses me, to the curiosity of our fellow passengers on the ferry. Jason can sometimes look a bit androgynous. His hair is long and feathered, and his cheeks are soft and smooth. But, he doesn't look androgynous tonight, not in his dark suit and tie. We are clearly two men kissing, kissing rather passionately, and this isn't something that you see much in Hong Kong, I guess. I've noticed over the years that really good music affects Jason differently than it does me. It tends to make me cry. It tends to make Jason...amorous. A straight friend several years ago mentioned that he had to "get his wife in the mood" before she'd let him make love to her. "She needs flowers, or a nice candle-lit meal, or a walk in the country. She needs romance." Jason doesn't need romance, but he appreciates it, and music is romance. When I first noticed this, I thought I was going a little goofy. I didn't believe my own observations. Then one night, Kenny, Jason and I went to see Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik played by the Seattle Symphony. They were touring. Jason had been holding my hand throughout the performance, and every now and again would lean over and kiss me. At the intermission, he went off to pee. I looked at Kenny. "Have you noticed that when the music is really good, when it's something Jason likes, he gets...umm...."



Kenny giggled. "Is this the first time you've noticed that?"

I thought about it, and laughed. "I guess...."

"You need to pay more attention, Tim," Kenny said, only half in jest. "He gets that way, and when he does, and you don't respond, that's about the only time he gets grumpy. Otherwise, he's pretty sweet-tempered, right?"

Kenny was right. I'd never thought about it before. Jason is very even-tempered, but sometimes...."

So, when we get back to the hotel after Joaquin's performance, we get the boys to bed, and then make our way to the bedroom. Kenny and Dinh take off their suits, hanging them neatly in the closet and crawl into bed. I'm sitting on the edge of the bed, waiting. Jason comes in from the kitchen with a glass of water. He sets it on the night stand, and starts to loosen his tie. I get up and spin him around, sealing my lips to his. He wraps his arms around my neck, and kisses back...with a vengeance. We kiss for several minutes before I push him away. I take off his jacket and hang it in the closet. Then I loosen and remove his tie. His shirt is next, and his undershirt. These get thrown in the corner. I pause to admire him, running my hand over his smooth chest. He feels so good. Next I unfasten his pants and lower them slowly, running my hands along his thighs. I hang the pants in the closet, and return for his sox and underwear. He's naked now, standing in the middle of the room, with Dinh and Kenny watching him with tiny grins. "Don't move," I say.

Standing in front of him, I begin to take off my own clothes -- suit coat, socks, tie, shirt, undershirt, pants and finally underwear. As each piece of my clothing comes off, the angle of his dick gets slightly higher until it's finally pointing to the heavens. I reach out and stroke it, and then lean in and kiss him again, rubbing my belly against his. He moans. Finally, I break the kiss, and hug him, rubbing my dick against his. "I'd like to fuck you, please," I whisper.

"Okay," he chokes.

"Can I?" I ask, gazing into his eyes. This is almost hypnotic, for both of us.

He nods. "Yes, please."

I push him toward the bed, and he falls against it. Then I kneel on the floor, between his legs, and start to kiss him again. He moans softly. After a while, I move to his dick, and lick it lightly, gingerly. Then I push him backwards, swinging his legs up and off the floor. I push his legs apart, and dive down between them, slowly running my tongue along his ass crack. He squirms and moans. Then I part his ass cheeks, and begin to lick him in earnest, bathing the pucker with my tongue. "Oh...oh...OH!" he moans. I flip him over so that he's lying on his belly, spread his legs, part his ass cheeks, and continue to lick him. He begins to thrash his head back and forth. Finally he stops thrashing, allowing his head to come to rest gazing absently at Kenny as I continue to probe his pucker with my tongue. He continues to moan, but then Kenny slides down and begins to kiss Jason, really kiss him, as I continue to lick him. Finally, I grab the tube of lotion on the night stand, lube myself, lube Jason, and enter him slowly and sensuously as Kenny continues to kiss him. As I establish a rhythm, I notice that Dinh is now behind me and has his arm stretched between my legs and Jason's. He's stroking Jason's dick slowly. After a couple of minutes, he increases the speed. I, in the meantime, have begun to nibble on Jason's ear lobes, and Dinh has begun to...lick my ass, something he has never, never done before. In fact, almost no one has ever done this to me before. Rimming is something you do if your body tells you to. It's either instinctual or it's not. It can't be learned. I think it's the pheromones down there that I crave, but who knows why I do it? What I've found, though, is that while virtually everyone likes to be on the receiving end of rimming, virtually no one likes to do it. So, when I feel Dinh's tongue slicker its way along my ass crack, pausing to caress the pucker, I am just outside the realm of consciousness. "Oh, Jesus Fucking Christ. Oh, my...fuck...oh, I...can't...fucking.... Oh, Jesus." And then I scream, I scream like I've never screamed before, and I cum harder than I've probably ever cum before. Jason and I are in perfect unison. He cums the instant I do, and Kenny is probably seconds behind us, because while they were kissing, Jason was stroking him off. The only one who hasn't cum is Dinh, and it takes us maybe twenty minutes before we all turn on him, and leer.

I push Dinh down onto his back, on top of Kenny. Kenny grasps his wrists and hold him. Dinh can't move. I motion to Jason with my head, and Jason moves up behind Kenny, kneeling just behind his head. I bend Dinh at the waist, moving his ankles above his head. Jason grabs them. So now, Dinh's arms are being held in place by Kenny, and his legs are being held by Jason. He's completely at my mercy, and I have none. I squirt some lotion into the palm of my hand, and begin to stroke him while I lick along his ass crack, paying particular attention to his pucker. He begins to thrash, and to scream. After several minutes of this, I lube my dick and enter him abruptly, as he likes it. He screams again, and continues to moan as I piston in and out of him. After maybe ten minutes of this, Kenny has an inspiration. He releases Dinh's arm, reaches around, and pinches his nipples, really pinches them. Dinh screams one last time as he cums in a gush, clamping down on his asshole which sends me over the edge for the second time tonight.

After perhaps five minutes, there's a light tapping on the bedroom door. It's Kai. "Daddy? You okay?"

"We're fine, sweetie," Dinh call out. "Go back to bed."

We hear Kai's feet flap on the hardwood floors as he pads away. Thirty minutes later I check on him. He's sound asleep with the rest of the boys and, thankfully, has no recollection of this the next morning. He's rested and chipper, and ready for his fried eggies.


Our second day in Hong Kong will be our last. Joaquin is playing again tonight, but I wasn't able to get airline reservations that would allow us to stay another day. And, really, what's the point? Last night's performance was perfection. The South China Morning Post raved, much as Le Monde and Le Figaro had in Paris. "Mr. de Waart's interpretation of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez was neither more nor less than we expected of him," wrote Xu Wang. "It was perfection. What a shame he can no longer surprise us. Mr. Hernandez, however, was a delightful surprise. His solo pieces from the Spanish masters were superb." And Rang Tsang Yam-kuen writing for The Standard was no less enthusiastic. "Sublime," he wrote. "This was a very special evening."

So, given that we leave tonight, we decide to take the boys to the beach, to Stanley Beach. It's a perfect place to take small children because there are virtually no waves. There's very little danger of the boys getting swept out by the tide, although Jason lectures them anyway. "And how high can the water come on you?" Everyone, including Quan touches his ankle. "And what happens if we see water higher than that?"

"We can't play no more," says Tan, remembering his experience in Carmel.

"Right. So, go play, but stay where we can see you. And, remember Kev, your job is to make sure that Quan doesn't put anything icky in his mouth."

Kevin smiles, and nods.

The kids have a blast, maybe more fun than they had in Carmel because there's less supervision required. They mostly play tag, and play with local children. Cantonese is, after all, the first language of all these boys. They can communicate easily with other children at this beach, and have fun getting to know the other kids and their parents. It doesn't hurt, of course, that they're seriously cute kids. They seem to endear themselves to every adult they run into. The four of us -- Dinh, Kenny, Jason and I -- take turns watching them, because there's also an outdoor market here. It's fun to wander through the stalls, looking at the clothes, the shoes, the jewelry and the crafts. China is known for knock-offs. You can get a Rolex watch here, or a Tag Heuer, or a Tissot for around ten bucks. Why? Because they're not made by Rolex, or Tag Heuer or Tissot. They're made by the Chinese. They've got quartz movements. But, here's the kicker. They may very well keep better time than the watches for which they're the imitations. Quartz movements are certainly more accurate than analog watches, regardless of how well engineered or expensive they are. So, if you want gold, if you want platinum, if you want diamonds, then go for the real thing. But, if you're just looking for a brand, does the brand have to be the real brand? If I put a label on the back of my shirt that says "Nautica," how is that qualitatively different from a shirt that Nautica makes? Yeah...yeah...yeah.... It's illegal, but how is it qualitatively different? A Nautica shirt will cost me $50 in the U.S. A knockoff here will cost me $5. What if I cut the "Nautica" label off the back of the knockoff? Is it still illegal? Before you answer, let me ask you another question. What if I have AIDS and no health insurance? What if I get my drugs from Canada, where they're considerably cheaper? Is there a difference between the two circumstances? Is being gouged on clothing okay, but being gouged on drugs not okay?

I honestly don't give a damn about brands, but I buy several shirts at the outdoor market. Why? Because I like them, and because they're cheap. And I do plan to cut off the labels because I don't like someone else's name on my shirts. If there's got to be a name on my shirt, shouldn't it be mine?

We stay at the beach for probably three hours, and then head up to a favorite restaurant. It's right here at Stanley Beach. The food is very, very good, but it won't be what you expect. In fact, you'll think I'm nuts. It's called Chez Stanley. It's French. It has the best Mushroom Soup I've ever eaten. So, what we've done is flown from Paris to Hong Kong to come to a French restaurant for lunch. See, I told you you'd think I'm nuts. But the food is just so...good! Their seafood is fantastic. Their soups are wonderful. And it's not fusion -- honest to god. This is some of the best purely French food I've ever eaten, and the chef is Chinese. He studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, and he has an extraordinary palate. Jacques Pepin is a close friend, as is Julia Child. I've been here three times before. I try to get here whenever I'm in Hong Kong. It's just so...delicious. The thing I like about this place is that they let you order "family style". You don't get your own meal on your own plate. You just order different dishes, and you all share. So, the food is French, but the way it's served is very Chinese. Everyone gets to try everything, and with nine of us, that means a lot of different dishes. We get a tureen of Mushroom Soup, and the minute it arrives, everyone is rolling their eyes. It's very rich, but just so good. We get a mixed green salad, several different kinds of fish, two crabs, braised leeks, pommes frites, and fruit for dessert -- custard apples, strawberries, and jackfruit. Despite the fact that I haven't been here in several years, the chef remembers me because I raved so about the Mushroom Soup. He comes out to say hello...and Jason raves about the mushroom soup. The chef laughs. "Yes," he apparently says in Cantonese. "Your friend also has quite a taste for the soup. The secret is the brandy." Yum!

Once lunch is over, we make our way expeditiously back to the hotel to check out to collect our luggage. We need to be at the airport by 4pm, and make it easily on the high-speed airport express train. Once again, we're on two flights, but this is going to be the longest flight of all because we have a seven-hour layover in Honolulu. We're all going to sleep on the floor of the Honolulu airport for something like six and a half hours. At least I hope we're going to sleep. I think the boys will sleep. The boys can sleep anywhere. I don't know about Kenny, Dinh, Jason and me. We're not quite as adept at passing out as the boys, and one of us is going to have to stay awake to make sure we're safe, which means we'll take shifts sleeping. Still, it shouldn't be too bad. I've actually done this before on my own. It's the boys who worry me. If they wake up and start wandering around, then we have a problem. That's why one of us needs to be awake throughout the night.

By the time we get to Honolulu, all of the children except Kevin are asleep. Dihn is carrying Quan, Kenny is carrying Feng, Jason is carrying Tan, and I'm carrying Kai. Kev is latched on to my coat, and is walking blindly. We find a corner of the airport near to the gate from which we should be leaving tomorrow, and spread out a couple of blankets, blankets I stole from the flight we just arrived on. And, I've also purloined pillows, though not enough for everyone, so Quan is going use Jason as a pillow, and Jason is going to use a bundle of Quan's diapers. I'm first up to guard the troops. I've brought a book for exactly this purpose. I'm hoping I can stay awake, because there are a lot of really-creepy people in airports. Here's hoping.


We get home at 7pm. We're all a mess. The only thing any of us can think of is sleep. Jeffrey from next door picks us up at the airport. Leslie is still at school, apparently, and Ian had some kind of meeting. Shawn, predictably, is in L.A. Jeffrey was kind enough to offer to pick us all up in his van, which is good because with nine of us plus the driver, we'd be technically illegal. No taxi driver, even with a van, would have agreed to take us all. Jeffrey has no such qualms.

When we get to the house, we all pile out of the van, and pull the luggage out of the back. We make our way inside. The first order of business is to get some food into the boys and get them off to bed. It needs to be something light, so Jason makes a fruit salad, and Kenny makes instant noodles. Not a great meal, but not every meal can be great. And, what's the point anyway? The boys won't taste it. All they want to do is go to sleep. Quan, in fact, doesn't wait. We get two spoonfuls of fruit into him, and probably one bite of soup, and then he puts his head on the table and falls asleep.

We finally get the boys bundled off to bed, and converge on the living room for a cup of mint tea before we ourselves succumb. Just as we do, Ian breezes in. "Can we talk?" he asks me.

I give him a withering look.

Ian has well and truly pissed me off. Calling me in the middle of a spectacular vacation to impart his news was bad enough, but the implications of that news are potentially devastating. And, he seems to believe that his life is more important that anyone else's. No, I'm not inclined to get into this with him tonight. I'm just too fucking tired.

"No. Let's talk tomorrow. What's your schedule tomorrow?"

"I'm off tomorrow," he says, warily. "I was planning to work on my dissertation...from home. What time's good?"

This is what I mean. He's planning to work from home, but we have to make a fucking appointment to talk about something this...momentous. Only his life is important. "I'll come find you when I get up," I reply with finality. Ian knows how angry I am. He knew that when we talked on the phone from Paris the day before yesterday. He knows better than to fuck with me right now. "Okay," he says, and wanders away. He doesn't ask about the trip. He doesn't ask about Evan, his brother. He doesn't ask about Paris. He doesn't ask about his children.

"I need to get to bed," I announce to Kenny, Jason, and Dinh. Leaving my tea untouched, I wander back to the bedroom, strip, and crawl into bed. I'm very close to tears, and I'm not really sure why. I'm not really sure what I'm feeling. There's such a range of emotions that I can't be sure what's brought me to this...despair. I'm angry, very angry, but anger doesn't usually make me cry. I'm also feeling very judgmental right now. What has come to pass is inexcusable, but it's happened. I guess we have to deal with that. Mostly, I guess, I'm profoundly sad. We have to find a way to make this okay. We have to find a way to reduce the pain this is likely to cause. And then, as I start to cry, I realize I'm angry again.

At some point, I must have fallen asleep, because I find myself snuggled up against Kenny with Jason snuggled up against me. I stretch a bit, and Jason whispers in my ear, "You awake?"


"You okay?"

That one takes me several minutes to answer. I start to cry again, and Jason squeezes me harder.

"What's wrong?" he whispers.

Realizing now that its 3am, and that sleep is at an end for me tonight, I suggest we go have some tea. He nods. We propel ourselves backwards and out of the bed, being careful not to wake Dinh and Kenny as we extricate ourselves from the bundle of bodies. We tiptoe out of the bedroom and make our way to the kitchen where Jason makes us a pot of chamomile tea. I am very depressed, and it shows. "What's wrong?" Jason asks again, just as the water comes to a boil.

"Shawn is gone," I reply. "He's living in L.A. permanently now. He won't be back."

We pause as Jason pours the tea. "Does that surprise you?" he asks.

"No. That one's been coming for a while."

"So, what else?"

"Leslie and Ian are separating."

Jason has been blowing on his tea to cool it down, holding the cup between the table and his mouth, blowing...blowing...blowing. When I say this, he sets the cup down, and scrunches his eyes together. Tears begin to spill out. Why? Is it the dissolution of what we thought would be a life-long commitment, or does he get the implications of this? He reaches over and hugs me, hugging me really hard. Then, after several minutes, he releases me and picks up his tea again, tasting it carefully to gauge the temperature. He takes a sip, and looks up at me with anguish in his eyes. "And?"

He knows. He's figured it out. He got it the minute I told him that Ian and Leslie were through. It's really no surprise. It's just...so...very...sad.

"And no one wants the kids," I respond.

As I say this, his lips begin to quiver. He sets his cup on the table, and scrunches his eyes again. More tears. After a few minutes, he sniffs, picks up his tea cup, and takes another sip. "And?" he says. Somehow he senses there's more. How? How does he intuit this? Is it something in my response, or my behavior? How does he know?

"Leslie is gone. He's living with a new...friend. Ian has an internship at a clinic in the U.K. He'll be gone for two years He wants us to take the kids for two years."

Jason looks up abruptly. "No!" he says angrily. "I'm not taking those fucking kids for two years! Ian is such a fucking insensitive piece of shit," he says, starting to sob. "He is such an...asshole. He wants to dump those kids, to...fucking...lease them to us for some...indefinite period of time, and then swoop back in and take them away if and when the whim strikes him. The kids are going to know they're not loved. Shit, they already know it. They know who their family is. Tell Ian to...fuck off! I want his kids. I already love those kids. But I'm not taking them for two years so he can suddenly reappear and...tear my...heart out. If he leaves them with us, he leaves them for good, forever. He doesn't get them back!"

The reason I love Jason is not because he's beautiful, which he is. It's not because he's talented, and sexy. It's not because he's one of the best cooks I've ever met and can tickle my palate better than anyone I know. The reason I love Jason is because we're soul mates, and because he's really good at crystallizing my feelings for me. I've been very depressed for the last couple of days, mulling over this situation, because I don't know what I feel. Jason has just defined what I feel. He lives so close to the surface, yet is usually so...circumspect. But sometimes, like now, his emotions get the better of him, and he just explodes. Any time you hear Jason start to curse like a sailor, you know you've tapped into something visceral, because, as Kenny says, Jason is typically very "sweet-tempered." When he's not, it's time to listen.

We go back to bed, but sleep fitfully, tossing and turning for what seems like hours. Then sleep finally takes hold. When next I awake, it's 10:30am, and I'm in bed with Tan and Quan. Kenny and Dinh have gone off to school, and Jason has gone to the Symphony. Someone has dropped Feng at daycare, and Kevin and Kai at school. You're right. This isn't fair. It isn't fair that I get to sleep in while everyone else has to be someplace. But, that's how it is. I roll over and tickle Tan awake. He giggles furiously, and this wakes Quan. We make our way to the bathroom where we all pee, and then we wander into the kitchen where I give the boys bowls of cereal and a banana. Like Kevin, they are crazy about bananas...and pineapple, and strawberries, and mangos, and.... They love fruit, and we go through a ton of it each week. Once breakfast is done, we all hop in the bathtub for a wash. Quan loves to splash around in the water. He gets very squirmy at bath time. I think he's part fish. Finally, once we're all dried off and dressed, I put Mary Poppins on the DVD player, and walk over to fetch Ian.

"So, what the hell is going on?" I ask sternly as we sit in the office.

Ian looks apprehensive. "Shawn, Leslie and I have broken up. Shawn's living in L.A., and Leslie's living with a new boyfriend."

"And you? Where are you living?"

He gives me a long look. "I have a post-doctoral internship with the University of London's school of psychology. I'll be living in London for the next two years at least."

"And the boys?"

He's staring at the rug now, looking shamefaced.

"I...umm...was hoping...that...umm...they could stay with you...umm...for a while."

I can feel my anger begin to surge. I have to manage it. We won't get anywhere if I'm irate. "How long is a while?"

"While I'm in London."

"While you're living in London for the next two year...at least."

He looks at me. He knows how angry I am. I'm trying to conceal it, but he senses it. Slowly he nods. "Yes."

I stare at him, vaguely. "I've been trying to figure out what to say to you. I've been trying to figure out how to communicate my anger in a constructive way, but I guess I'm not sure that anger is ever constructive. I guess I'm just profoundly disappointed in you, Ian, and that's what's making me angry. I guess I'm angry at myself because I wonder when I failed...you." Ian has gone suddenly teary-eyed. "You don't want these kids, do you?"

"I do," he whines. "Just not right now."

"Not right now.... You want them when they're more convenient. You want to give up their childhood, two of the most seminal years of their young lives so you can live in London." I have to take a deep breath. I feel myself descending into anger again. Finally, I can continue. "The answer is `No'."

Near as I can tell, Ian has two options, and in either case I win. One option is to do the right thing, to give up his internship in London and to stay with the kids. He could take them with him, of course, but as a single parent doing what he's going to be doing, he simply won't have time for them. He knows that. So, it's essentially the kids or the internship. If he opts for the internship, his only option is...me. This gives me enormous bargaining power. This allows me to name my terms. But, I don't think we're going to need to bargain, because if he does, in fact, choose the internship, what he's essentially saying is that he doesn't care about the kids...and never will.

"No. Jason helped me clarify my feelings about this. We're not willing to take these kids for `the next two years, at least.' If we take them, and we're willing to do that, they're ours. You and Leslie will cede your rights to them. You will not get them back after `two years, at least.' They'll be our sons. To do anything else, Ian, isn't fair to the boys, who desperately need to bond with parents who love them, and are interested in them. You know their history. They crave love and attention. Nor is it fair to us, frankly. You're asking us to invest our love in these children until, on a whim, you decide to whisk them away, much as you decided to adopt them in the first place. If you want to be rid of these kids, I'll take them, but once I take them, they're mine."

Ian is crying now. "I know," he chokes. "I know we've been irresponsible with the boys. We should never have adopted them."

"Actually, I'm glad you adopted them. Their real father is not a nice man. They needed someplace to be where there are people who love them. And, they've found that place, haven't they?"

Ian looks up, confused.

"With me," I say, pointedly. "With Jason, Kenny, Dinh and me."

This is a gut punch. It's a cruel thing to say, but it's true. Feng, Quan, and Tan spend most of their time with us. We feed them, we bathe them, and we nurture them. If one of them skins his knee, he runs to one of us, not to Ian, Leslie or Shawn. I realized two seconds ago that Ian's ambivalence about these boys isn't good enough. I want him to take the internship. I want him to give me the boys. Why? Because even if he doesn't take that internship, these boys will never really figure in his emotional life. He may care for them, but he'll never love them...enough.

He nods. "Okay," he says softly, still choking on tears. This incident has forced Ian to confront things about himself that I don't think he knew before. I don't think he really understood the depths of his irresponsibility. People treat their pets better than he's treated these boys, and I think it's that realization that finally helps him make the decision to give the boys up. In other words, it's not the internship anymore. He decides to give the boys to me because he realizes that it'll be better for them. They'll have a better life with me than they'd have with him. There's a level of maturity in that decision that gives me a modicum of hope, not much, but a little.

"Can I see them at least...sometimes?"

"Of course you can see them, any time you want, and as often as you want. But, now they'll be your brothers and not your sons. They'll be mine."

He nods. He really is despondent about the decision he's just made and about what may have motivated that decision. I don't think he likes himself very much right now, but I suspect he knows he's done the right thing. Ian lacks emotional maturity. That's not a surprise, although it is surprising how deep it runs. When I consider the notion of giving up my children because of my own irresponsibility, it nearly brings me to tears. Losing Kai or Kevin would destroy me. It would invalidate me in some essential way. Part of me would die. Maybe all of me would die. I'm not sure I could live with myself if I had to do what Ian has just done. I look across the desk at him as he cries, and I have such mixed emotions. I'm angry with him, and profoundly disappointed in the choice he'd just made, although I think it was the right choice -- the right choice for all the wrong reasons. But, I still love him. He's my Ian. He's still my son. He needs some time to grow up, and maybe this experience will help him. I'm just glad I was there to be able to clean this mess up, because these boys are precious little souls.

I pat my lap, and Ian flies to me, draping himself over my shoulder, sobbing. "I...sorry...not...good...irresponsible...so, so sorry."

I stroke his hair, and rub his back. "I'm not happy with you right now, Ian, but I think you've done the right thing. And...I love you. I'll always love you."

He squeezes me really tight, and just sobs. "Sorry...so, so sorry."

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