'52 Panhead


Chapter 46



The first part of September was warm and sunny, Indian summer weather, and we took advantage of it, playing hooky from work that next Wednesday after the fair to take a long ride up into the mountains. There was no traffic to speak of, so we really let the bikes stretch their legs up the winding roads. I rode slightly behind Evan most of the time because I enjoyed the view so much. Seeing his long legs braced on the highway pegs got me thinking about last night, when those same legs had been wrapped around me.

We stopped at the waterfall where I'd found him more than a year ago, parking in the same little dirt lot and walking up the trail, only this time it was so different cause we were together. When we reached the clearing, Evan went to the fence and glanced back over his shoulder at me, recreating the moment we'd met for the third time. After I held his unsmiling gaze for a long moment, he turned fully toward me and rested his butt on the top rail as he glanced around the clearing.

"It looks the same, huh?" he asked me as I walked over to join him.

I just nodded, my thoughts tripping back to that day. I'd been so amazed to find him there because I'd pretty much given up by then. I'd jerked off to my memories of fucking him on the Pan so many times that I'd almost worn them out. I looked at him now, at the gray eyes and wide mouth, features that were as familiar to me as my own actually, more, cause I sure as hell spent more time looking at him than I did staring at myself in the mirror.

"I couldn't fuckin' believe it was you," I told him. "I swear my heart stopped for a second when you turned around and looked at me."

"Yeah, you looked pretty surprised," he replied with a smile. "That was an interesting day. A good day."

We wandered around for a few minutes and then jumped back on the bikes and headed on up the hill where we ate lunch at the little diner that was open only in good weather.

It was late afternoon when we got home, so we took Chew for a long walk through the woods before dinner. Considering that he'd lived in the `burbs all his life, he'd taken to being a country dog like he was born to it, splashing around in the creek, chasing squirrels, leaping after birds. Now and then he'd circle back to check in, his tongue lolling from his mouth as he grinned at us before dashing off again.

That night, on the back porch, listening to the horses rustle through the grass along the fence, Evan rocked quietly for a while, and then said, "We really owe Sharon."

I glanced at him, but he was looking off into the dark. "For selling us this place?"

He nodded. "There's hardly ever places like this up for sale. They've all been in the same family forever, or they get sold off to developers who chop them up and parcel them out."

He was right, we'd lucked out big time when Sharon had asked me what I wanted our place to feel like. The Farm was a gem compared to the other places she'd shown me that day. We sat out there until ten or so, then went inside and made love more calmly than we normally do. I'm always a bit rowdier in the sack than Evan, but the mood of the day was still with me as I pushed gently into him. I leaned down to kiss him, nuzzling his face and nosing around his neck until he giggled and pushed me away.

"That tickles." He looked up at me. I'm not sure how much he could see in the light from the bathroom, but after a moment, he smiled. "Awww, you're feelin' sweet, aren't ya?"

I shrugged, a little self-conscious about my lovey-dovey mood. "Yeah, I guess. It was a good day, and talking on the porch was nice, and now... doin' this. Life's just really good. Everything with you's good."

He didn't say anything, just looked at me for a second or two before pulling me back down to him. It was one of those nights where the fucking felt better than the getting off, you know what I mean? Where all I wanted to do was lose myself in the slick, snug warmth of Evan's insides and the wet heat of his mouth. It was close to midnight before we wrapped things up and settled down to sleep. I was a little tired the next day, but every time I thought about why I was tired, I smiled.


Thursday afternoon of the following week, I was a little later getting out of the gym than usual, and just as I passed Sonny's house, Don drove by headed back into town. He didn't look at me or return my wave, just stared through the windshield with a grim expression that immediately set off my ever-ready paranoia. Had he been at our place? Where else would he be coming from out here in the country? Was someone sick? Was Evan ok? I tromped on the gas and roared into our driveway, leaped up the steps and bolted into the quiet house with the first licks of panic urging me on.

"Evan? EVAN!"

"Out here," he called from the back of the house.

I slowed down, let out a deep breath, and got myself under control before glancing out the kitchen door. He was sitting on the steps, elbows on spread knees, playing with his fingers and staring at the grass, near as I could tell. I edged out the door and walked down the stairs into the yard so that I was facing him, but he didn't look up.

"What's goin' on?" I asked him warily.

"My dad was here."

"Yeah, I passed him at Sonny's."

Silence fell and, as hard as it was, I kept still. Evan didn't like to be rushed, and I'd finally learned to just stay quiet and wait for him to tell to me whatever he had to say. After a few moments, he sighed deeply, clenched and unclenched his fists once, then said, "My mom... has cancer. Breast cancer."

For that first moment, I was speechless. Oh, Maggie, I thought.

"Oh, God, Evan."

I took a few steps forward so that I could squat down in front of him. It had to be eighty out here, but his hands were ice cold when I took them in mine. When he raised his head, his face was miserable but he hadn't been crying.

"Why her?" he asked me in a tight voice. "Why not some worthless piece of shit on death row?"

I shook my head and squeezed his hands tightly. "I don't know. It doesn't seem to work that way."

He dropped his forehead down to our clasped hands and just sat there. I eased forward onto my knees to kiss the top of his head, and then rested my cheek on his hair. We stayed like that for several minutes, with Evan sighing and shaking his head slightly without ever looking up. Finally he raised his head slowly until we were forehead to forehead.

"You hungry?" he asked. "It was my night to cook but my dad came and... sorry..." His voice trailed away and he closed his eyes.

"It's ok, it's ok. Come inside and I'll make us something."

I stood and pulled him to his feet, then into my arms for a long hug. He barely returned my embrace and when I loosened my grip, he turned away and went slowly up the steps.

This is gonna sound incredibly selfish and self-centered, but I gotta say it I knew that the one thing Evan loved more than me was Maggie. If something happened to her, it would leave Evan a changed man, and that scared the shit out of me.

He entered the house without looking back and I followed even more slowly, heartsick for him. Evan opened the refrigerator door and after watching him stare into it for a few moments, I took him gently by the arm and steered him over to the table. He sat without protest, his hands loose on the table top, and I finally realized that he was probably in mild shock. I poured him a glass of cold Chardonnay, and put a plate of cheese and crackers in front of him. I turned away but kept an eye on him as I moved around the kitchen, and after a long moment, he stacked a piece of cheese onto a cracker and slid it into his mouth, chewing, and then chasing it with the wine.

I quickly threw together some pasta with olive oil and parmesan, a few slices of garlic bread, and a salad, and had dinner on the table in twelve minutes. Evan was silent and distracted, pausing often with his fork in mid-air to gaze into his plate. I kept quiet except to urge him to have another bite before it got cold, and pretty soon he'd finished most of what I'd dished up for him. After taking his plate to the sink, he put a hand on my arm. "I'm gonna take a walk. Be back in a bit."

When he turned away and walked out of the kitchen, I snapped my fingers softly at Chewy and pointed. Chew jumped up and just made it out the front screen door as it closed behind Evan. While I cleaned up the kitchen and did the dishes, I wondered if I should call Don to get the whole story, but finally decided that was a bad idea. Maggie might answer the phone and then I'd be fucked cause I wasn't ready to talk to her just yet. Evan wasn't back by the time I was done in the kitchen, so I went into the living room and sat down with a book, but I mostly kept an eye out the front door. He finally came in after it was full dark, around nine, and gave me a tight smile as Chewy trotted past to the kitchen.

"How about some mindless television? That's about all I'm good for right now," he said. "And maybe some ice cream."

We sat through a show neither of us would remember later, spooning up chocolate fudge brownie, and when it was over, we went to bed. Evan still wasn't talking much, only replying in a quiet voice when I asked him a question, and it was beginning to get to me, but I figured he'd open up when he got good and ready. I needed a shower, and by the time I shut off the water and climbed out onto the bathmat, Evan had brushed his teeth and gotten into bed. When I slid in behind and put an arm across him, he moved back into the curve of my body, fitting his bent legs to mine and gripping my hand tightly in his. After a few minutes of silence, I kissed the back of his neck, settled myself more comfortably and drifted off to sleep.

I don't know how long he'd been gone, but I woke up just before four A.M., suddenly aware that I was alone. I lay still for a moment, listening carefully, but couldn't hear him moving around the house, so I got up, pulled on a pair of boxers and a t-shirt, and walked slowly down the hall into the living room. Evan was curled up on the couch, wrapped in one of the soft old quilts Callie had given us. He looked up when I came around the end table.

"Hey." His soft voice and the ticking of the old cherry clock were the only sounds in the still house.

"Hey," I replied, sitting down next to him. "You ok?"

He took another one of those sighs that seemed to come clear up from his toes and said, "No, I...."

He took a couple deep, open-mouthed breaths and I realized he was trying hard not to cry. My heart twisted for him as I said, "Evan..."

He came to me then, dropping his head into my lap with a cry so painful and desolate it raised the hair on the back of my neck. He clutched fistfuls of my shirt in his hands and buried his face as he began to cry in hard, wracking sobs that sounded like the end of the world to me. I held him tight, rocking us forward and back as I listened to him cry his heart out for the woman who'd kept him sane when Luke died. While Evan cried for Maggie, I cried for him, tears dripping off the end of my nose into his hair as I leaned over him in an effort to protect him from a tragedy that I'd never seen coming and could do absolutely nothing about.

His sobbing eventually slowed to hitching, shuddering breaths, and soon he wiped his face on my soggy shirt and pushed himself upright next to me. I handed him a few tissues from the shelf under the table and waited while he blew his nose.

"Oh, God..." His voice was low and hoarse. "I'm not ready... to lose her."

So it was bad. "What did your dad say, exactly?"

He scrubbed his hands over his face and sat back, exhausted. Light from the small lamp we left on at night glinted on his wet lashes. "She found a lump... they're operating on Tuesday. Stage two."

I wasn't sure what that meant. Did the `stage' scale go up or down? Was it one through five or one through ten? "Is that really bad?" I asked, afraid to hear the answer, but I had to know what we were looking at here.

"Fuck, I don't know. My dad said it's not as bad as it could be, but what the hell does that mean?"

"We'll look it up. Everything's online. We'll find out what it means."

Evan nodded; knowing would help. It was the unknown that was so fucking frightening. He sighed again, and then yawned. "God, I'm so tired. I didn't sleep at all yet."

I scooted around, pulling him with me, limp as a rag doll, until we were lying on the couch pretty much like we'd been in bed facing the same direction, me behind, him tucked up against me. He protested weakly. "I'm too wound up to sleep."

"I know, just lay here with me for a little while."

I draped the quilt over us to keep the early morning chill off and lay there listening to Evan breathe. At first, it was jerky and too fast, but as my body heat warmed him, he relaxed against me and his breathing slowed. After fifteen minutes or so, I was almost sure he was asleep, but then he whispered, "I'm so scared."

I hugged him tighter for a second. "I know. Me, too."

He didn't speak any more, but he pulled the hand I had wrapped around him up to his mouth and kissed my knuckles a couple times before spreading it flat on his chest and holding it there. We did fall asleep then, both of us, and I didn't wake up until just after seven. It wasn't near enough sleep, but the couch wasn't made for two men to lie on comfortably and I had a kink in my neck from holding Evan.

I nudged him gently until he grunted and blinked sleepily in the light coming in the front windows. "Let's go to bed. I'll call work for you."

"Ok." He pushed to his feet and wandered off down the hall in his baggy boxers and wrinkled t-shirt, trailing the quilt from one hand like a little kid, and at that moment, what I felt for him almost choked me with love and sorrow. With it came again that purely selfish wish that, whatever happened, it wouldn't damage our relationship. I wasn't foolish enough to hope that something this big would have no effect on us whatsoever, but please, whatever gods there are, I thought, let it leave us whole.

I dialed Evan's office number and left a message for Tracy and Kathryn that Evan had some personal stuff going on and wouldn't be in. I had no idea if he had appointments or court dates or whatever else he did all day, but I knew the two women would handle it. Evan often said they were so efficient that he'd become totally unnecessary. I knew that was hardly the case, but it was good to not have to worry about it. I went into my office and sent Kenny an email saying that something had come up and that I'd call him later in the morning. He and Raf would wonder what the hell that meant, but it wasn't my place to tell them about Maggie. That was for Evan to do, if and when he wanted to.

When I got to our bedroom, Evan was curled up in the middle of the bed, clutching Callie's quilt to his chest. I walked closer to make sure that he was sleeping, then pulled the sheet up over him, snagged his cell phone off the dresser, grabbed some clothes, and went out to the kitchen to make coffee. Chewy and I sat on the back porch and watched the sun come up that morning. I expect he was hoping for a walk, but after seeing that I was settled in one of the rockers, he hopped into the one next to me and curled up with a sigh. I smiled at him, glad of the company, and left my hand on his furry ribs as I sat there and thought about Don's news.

I'd known Maggie not quite a year, and in that time she'd become a good friend to me. She got a real kick out of the fact that I did a lot of cooking from the little book she'd made Evan when he went off to college, so we talked recipes once a week or so. She talked to me about Evan, too, gradually telling me more and more about the nightmarish days right after the accident. One Monday night last spring both Don and Evan had been gone to some lawyer thing, so I'd accepted Maggie's invitation to dinner at the house.

"Nothing fancy," she told me, "just leftover pot roast from yesterday. That dates me, doesn't it, making pot roast on Sundays? Sounds like something June Cleaver probably did, in her pearls and heels."

We ate in the kitchen that evening, at the small table for two that sat under a window overlooking her flower garden. It was there she gazed as she told me about her confrontation in the hospital parking lot with Luke's mother.

"I'd just gotten out of my car.... I had a blue Camry then.... and she was just suddenly there, screaming at me that we had killed her boy. That if we hadn't allowed Evan to be queer, her words, not mine, none of this would have happened. She was crazy with grief, of course, we all were, but it really shook me to know that she blamed Evan."

"What did he say about it?"

She looked up quickly. "Oh, God, I never told him. I never told anyone, ever, about that day. And you keep it to yourself, please."

I looked at her then, at the calm strength in those familiar gray eyes, Evan's eyes, and thought about what she'd endured in the aftermath of a drunk deciding to drive himself home after a few too many.

"So then what happened? Did she just leave?"

"Well, sort of. She slapped me in the face and then ran off. I suppose she'd been waiting for me, so her car was probably nearby. I just... stood there for a moment, sort of shocked, I guess, and then I went up to see Evan. He was still sedated enough that he didn't notice how upset I was."

Oh, Maggie, I thought again now, clenching my fist in Chewy's fur until he raised his head in protest. "Sorry," I told him, giving him a reassuring pat on the butt. He watched me for a moment, aware that things weren't right, but then he sighed again and lowered his head back down to his paws. I wished someone would come along and give me a little reassurance.

And what must Don being going through right now? Their thirtieth wedding anniversary was coming up in November; Evan and I were planning a party. Would it be a funeral instead? I shook my head sharply. Stage 2, Evan had said. What the fuck did that mean? I pushed up from the rocker and went into the house. Evan had rolled onto his other side so that he was mostly under the vintage quilt, and in the rustic old bed, with filtered sunlight slanting through the blinds, he looked like something from another era. I waited until I saw his chest rise and fall a couple times, then went into my office and fired up Google.

I found way more information than I could even begin to process. I learned that Stage 2 breast cancer was actually subdivided into IIA and IIB, and that the 5-year survival rate for IIB was about 75%. Five years! Shit, they didn't look further out than that? Jesus... I wasn't sure if any of this was going to help Evan or not; it wasn't doing much to make me feel any better. But then one sentence leapt off the page at me.

"There was a time when any breast cancer diagnosis was a death sentence; that time is long gone."

I bookmarked that page, thumbed the monitor off and went out into the cool morning air. I needed to do something physical, something I could thrash away at to work off some of the fear and confusion I was feeling. I stood in the middle of the yard and eyed the garden. Too tame, unless I wanted to rip every single plant from the ground and hurl them at the barn. Beyond the garden, a few branches caught my eye.

The wood pile. Perfect.

Since we'd moved to the Farm, we'd been hauling home downed branches and deadfall, partially to help keep the paths clear and partially to supplement our firewood for the winter. Seemed stupid to pay for wood when we had a whole damn forest of the stuff just laying around. I went into the barn for the wood chopping tools that had come with the place and were probably older than me. Stored next to the axe was a thing that looked kind of like an axe, but with a weird head. Bill had informed me that it was a wood maul, used to split logs. A beat up wedge-shaped hunk of metal was a log splitter. I grabbed all three and figured I'd use whatever worked best on the various types of wood in the pile.

Rafael called Evan's cell around ten. "What's going on with Evan?" he demanded. "Why are you answering his phone?"

"He's asleep right now. There's some stuff happening, but-"

"Asleep? At ten A.M. on a Friday? God damn it, Jeff! Is he ok or not?" I could hear the fear in his voice, fear for Evan.

"He's fine, he's fine. Calm down. I-"

"Fuck calm down!"

"Look, man, I need to let him tell you, ok? Nobody's on their death bed or anything..." I felt fairly confident saying that after my twenty minutes of Googling, "...but it's Evan's to tell, not mine. I'll make sure he calls you when he wakes up, alright?"


He didn't like it one bit, but he eventually let me off the phone. Kathryn called shortly after that, and I gave her pretty much the same story Evan's ok, he's got some news, he'll call when he can. I went back to my firewood, dragging logs out of the pile and chopping them first into 24" lengths, and then splitting them into sizes we could burn easily. Drag, chop, split, stack. I kept at it until every muscle ached, until my hands blistered right through my gloves, until my clothes were wringing wet and I was dizzy from the exertion.

By the time Evan came out to see what I was doing, it was past noon and I was lying in the shade next to a huge pile of neatly stacked wood that hadn't been there when I'd begun. He looked at the wood for a moment, then at the greatly reduced pile of deadfall, then at me, filthy with sweat and wood chips.

"Jesus, Jeff."

I got to my feet and shrugged. "I needed to do something."

He nodded, and we looked at each other for a long moment. I could see that sleeping had helped him. His face was pale and grave, his eyes sad, but he didn't have that hopeless, exhausted look of the night before. God knows what he saw in my expression, but all he said was, "I'm going over there for a while. I need to... see her."

"Yeah, I figured... I'll be here," I added as I stepped forward to kiss him lightly, but he closed his eyes and returned the kiss with a need that surprised me.

As we broke apart, he licked his lips and said, "You smell."

I chuckled. "No doubt. I'll go shower and get something going for dinner, how's that?"

"Ok. See you later, then," he replied, but made no move to leave. After a second or two, he met my eyes. "I don't wanna go," he whispered. "It's like... if we talk about it, it'll be real." His eyes filled and he squeezed them tightly shut, then knuckled the tears away and sniffed hard. "Ahhh, God... I can't stop crying."

I realized then that he was in no shape to drive, so I brought him back into the house, settling him at the kitchen table with a glass of milk and a couple cookies while I ran and showered. Ten minutes later we were on the road to Maggie's house with Chewy in back, ears flying in the breeze, nose working overtime. I gave Evan back his cell and told him that Raf and Kathryn had called.

"Yeah, I'll get back to them... after. Tonight, maybe."

When I pulled into the driveway at Evan's folks and turned to face him, he gazed miserably back at me.

"I'd rather have my fingernails ripped out one by one than walk into that house right now," he said, but then he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders a bit and added, "I'll give you a call when I'm done."

I kept busy for the next few hours got the oil changed in the Jeep, stopped at the dry cleaners for Evan's suits, did some grocery shopping but I did it all on auto-pilot because my thoughts were with Evan and Maggie. Don had gone to work at Maggie's request, so they had the house to themselves. At first I tried to imagine the conversation they might be having, but I simply had no frame of reference for such a thing, so I settled for thinking what I could do for Evan when I got him back home.

He called me a little after four, and when I turned the corner onto their street, I could see him walking slowly down the sidewalk away from the house. I slid up next to the curb and opened the door, returning the small smile he gave me as he climbed in. While we cruised home, Evan called Kathryn and gave her the news, and then they talked about work stuff for a few minutes. When Evan got through to Raf, he spent the first several seconds listening to Rafael give him hell about being out of touch. Apparently me answering Evan's cell hadn't gone over too well. When Rafael ran out of steam, Evan told him about Maggie, and they talked briefly before Kenny got on the line. Evan repeated what he'd told Raf, talked for a bit, then clicked his phone shut.

"So Raf was pissed, huh?"

Evan smiled for just a second. "Ahhh, more worried than pissed. I don't think he's ever not been able to get a hold of me and it freaked him out a little."

"Well, I wasn't about to wake you up, not even for him."

He nodded. "Yeah. Getting some sleep helped."

"Prolly need to call Sharon, too, before she hears it from someone else."

Evan stared out the window for a moment, then shook his head. "You have my permission to tell whoever else you think needs to know. I'm not up to it."

So I called Sharon when we got home, saying what I'd heard Evan tell Raf and Kenny. She was very upset, and told me to hug Evan for her until she could do it herself.

We ate a quiet meal, watched some TV, and then took a walk down the drive, putting off bedtime until we were tired enough to fall asleep easily. I was exhausted from all that chopping, but Evan was restless, so it was almost midnight before we hit the sack.


It was a grim weekend. Evan was silent and withdrawn, sitting for long stretches of time gazing out a window, far away from me and life here at the Farm. Chewy followed him around from chair to couch to back porch steps, and Evan gave him an occasional pat, but couldn't be enticed into throwing a stick or going for a walk. I, too, followed Evan around, mostly with my eyes, worry gnawing at my insides. He gave me an absent smile now and then, but otherwise acted as if I weren't there. At first, I was very sympathetic. I knew he was worried sick for Maggie, feeling helpless to do anything for her. I understood because that's exactly how I was feeling for Evan helpless.

I kept busy in the garden and the kitchen, putting food on the table when it looked like Evan might be hungry, cleaning it up when he was finished picking at it. Saturday evening he perked up a little and we grilled shrimp and vegetables for supper, then took a walk down the lane and back before bed.


Sunday was much the same as Saturday, and by Sunday afternoon, I was going crazy. I know I was much less secure than Evan in the beginning of our relationship, but I thought I was pretty well past that. Apparently not, because after a few days of Evan barely speaking, even though it had nothing to do with me, I was feeling edgy and needy, and I hated it. I hated that my mood, my happiness, depended on Evan paying attention to me, and that whole `this-isn't-gonna-last' thing kicked back in. I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, so when Evan trailed past me into the living room to lay on the couch with a book, I followed him as far as the kitchen doorway and stood watching him. After a few moments, I walked to where I could see him over the back of the sofa.

"Do you want some iced tea or something?" I asked, just to hear his voice.

I'd barely gotten the last word out when he sat up with a rush, slapped the book into his lap and barked, "Jeff! Just leave it, will you? I know where the fucking refrigerator is!"

I felt a burning flush flood my face as I turned away and banged out the front door. I think maybe I heard him call my name as I jumped off the end of the porch on my way to the barn, but I didn't stop. The Pan started on the first vicious kick, thank fucking Christ, and I skidded sideways out the door, spewing gravel behind me. The firecracker sound it made against the side of the barn was the last thing I heard as I went down the driveway at 60.

In those first few minutes, my fucked up head had me thinking that Evan's outburst had nothing to do with the fact that he was upset over Maggie and everything to do with me. My rational mind knew that wasn't true, but love makes you irrational as all hell, and Evan had hurt me badly by shouting at me when I'd been offering comfort the only way I knew how. People are such selfish pricks sometimes.

Me, I mean not Evan.

I banged through the gears without using the clutch, gassing it hard every time a straight piece of road came into view, and soon I was miles from the Farm and totally lost. My anger had burned away by then, leaving me with the hurt and the humiliation. Evan had never yelled at me like that, and in my perfect Jeff-and-Evan-love-each-other-forever-and-ever world, he never would have, but this was real life, with real emotions, and Evan's were a wreck over his mom. I knew that, but it still stung pretty fuckin' bad. As I worked my way home, I tried to hold onto my anger because it felt a lot more righteous than the shame that was beginning to push it aside. Now that I was really thinking about it, I felt terrible about adding to Evan's problems by creeping around after him like a two-legged version of poor bewildered Chewy.

Once I back-tracked enough to figure out where I was, I stopped in a little diner in some nameless town by the side of the freeway to get something to eat. No matter how big a disaster my life might be, I was still hungry. Evan would have laughed at that, I thought grimly. The pony-tailed waitress took one look at my face and shut off her smile like it was on a switch before taking my order. The burger was juicy, the fries were hot, and the iced tea was sweet, but I chugged them down without much thought as I mulled over what had happened this afternoon. I obviously needed to find some better way to cope with what Evan was going through, but I was damned if I could come up with anything.

What a mess.

I was sitting there with my head in my hands when the waitress came back to refill my tea. "Brought you some pie," she said quietly, as she slid a plate into my line of vision. "Won't fix what ails you, but it's pretty good pie."

I stared at the lemon meringue for a moment, before looking up to thank her, but she had moved off to another table. This small act of kindness from a complete stranger almost undid me, and I sat there grinding my teeth until I felt like I could eat it without bursting into tears. She was right, it was real good pie, and I left her a twenty for my $7.63 bill.

By the time I rode slowly back down our lane and parked the bike, it was around nine. The moon was new, so the back porch was shadowy and dark, but even still I could tell Evan was waiting for me in one of the old rockers. I was so confused and depressed by then that I just dropped into the chair next to him and waited to see what would happen.

Nothing at all happened for several minutes, except that Chewy whined until I scratched his ears. We just rocked, side by side, as the night sounds of the woods and field filled the silence between us. Finally, Evan sighed deeply and asked, "You mad?"

"No." Not entirely true, so I tacked on, "Not any more."

He eyed my profile for a moment. "Yeah, you are. I'm sorry I yelled at you."

I'd been wanting an apology, but now that I had one, it felt all wrong. "No, no - I was buggin' you."

"Ah, Jeff... I'm just... I don't know. This all feels like a real bad dream."

My turn to sigh. "I know. I wanna help you, not piss you off, but I have no fuckin' idea what to do."

His hand was warm and did my battered heart a world of good when he ran it up and down my thigh before squeezing lightly. I took it in mine and squeezed back hard. "You can't fix it, Jeff. None of us can. My poor dad's going nuts."

After my initial reaction, I hadn't given much thought to Don until Evan mentioned him now. I'd been thinking only of myself and Evan, and to a lesser degree, Maggie. God, if it was Evan who was sick, I'd be... I couldn't even come up with what I'd be feeling. It was too difficult to think about it. We stayed out there for a while longer, just being together, which was all I was craving, I guess, because by the time we went in to bed, I had calmed down quite a bit. As Evan settled up against me, though, I knew I needed to talk about it some more.

"Can we talk about what happened?"

Evan scooted away, and then rolled onto his back so he could see my face. "Of course. I figured you didn't want to."

"I know, I kinda don't, but... you're right that talking about stuff helps, and God knows I could use the practice." I tried for a little joke there, but Evan cupped my cheek in his hand and my smile died.

"I know you're trying, Jeff, and I appreciate it." He kissed me, and then lay there looking up at me. The strain of the last couple days showed in his face the slightly gaunt cheeks, the dark smudges under his eyes, the line of worry between his brows.

"I, um... I asked you if you wanted something to drink this afternoon just so..." God, this was tough to say. "So..."

"So... what? Just say it. It's me you're talking to. You can tell me anything, right?"

I nodded, unconvinced, but went ahead with it. "So that you'd talktome."

I rushed the last part out so fast that I'm surprised he understood it, but he did because his face got even sadder, which made me feel like shit, and then he pulled me down into a tight embrace.

His face was buried in my neck so that when he replied, all I heard was, "...mm... ore...it," and some snuffling. I held him for another few moments, and then pulled back slightly.

"I didn't get much of that."

He snorted out a watery chuckle, took a big sniff, and then said, "I said, I'm sorry. It was either keep it all in, or cry on your shoulder every five minutes. I guess I picked the wrong one, huh?"

"Oh, man... do you think I mind when you cry on my shoulder?"

He blew out a breath. "No, but I feel like such a fuckin' baby sometimes."

"Jesus, Evan if your mom having cancer isn't enough to cry about, what the hell is? Plus, it just kills me when we're not talking."

"I know, me too," he whispered, and closed his eyes.

We lay there quietly for a few minutes, just thinking our own thoughts.

"There's some stuff on the computer..." I began.


He turned his face to me, and his eyes held mine as he reached between us to take my soft dick in his big warm hand. Even with all the stress of this dreadful day, I responded to his touch within seconds. Evan slowly worked me with his hand and by the time my cock was hard enough to do something worthwhile with, we were smiling at each other. He arched up to kiss me again as he twined a leg through mine, nudging my nuts with his knee, and then rolling onto me. He kept things moving along, and when he came, it was with a groan that ended in a long, soft, "Ahhhhhh..."

We both fell asleep easily that night; me from chopping up miles of logs and the calming after-effects of a good hard climax, Evan from just being so worn out emotionally that sleep was the only option.

And that groaning orgasm I'd given him didn't hurt any either.


* * * *


Many thanks to David of Hope for his proofing. I'm a pretty clean writer but he always finds a few things I missed. Those of you who've commended me on the grammar and spelling of this story have him to thank for the final product.

Now and then someone emails me that they were afraid the previous chapter was the last one. When the story is over, I'll say so with a big The End, but that's not gonna be any time soon. There's a lot more still to happen.