The characters are described engaging in protected sex where appropriate. They use condoms. Won't you? They are using common sense. Won't you?
For our friends:
You know who you are and that we love you all. Good luck Kit on your
on the Bay
A Mike and Alan Story
Prologue: Fall 1981
In Dallas, there are very few places where kids like me can go to have fun. Fun like all the other kids my age can have hanging out together. Somewhere to be with your friends, play video games, sit around and talk about life and what it means. A lot of kids my age can do that at home, hang out I mean. Others, like me who don't have a place to call home anymore...well we just have to make do with what's available...and that isn't much!
I used to go sleep in the parks along the Trinity River, but not since that kid Jimmy something, was found dead. He was all cut-up, mutilated, and he'd had been raped too. I didn't know Jimmy and I guess that I'm glad I didn't. I already got enough sadness to deal with, see Jimmy was like me: gay and alone. He didn't have any family either. I heard that he was doing tricks in the park just to eat, but I really don't know...and ya'll know how rumors fly. All that was for sure is that he's buried in the County Cemetery. He's beneath one of those little blue plastic markers pushed into the ground with a number on it - no name, just a number. I don't think anyone really knew his whole name or where he came from. It's kind of sad.
My Dad kicked me out of the house with only the clothes on my back and what I managed to put into my gym bag. Mom had caught me with my friend Troy in our camper trailer that Dad kept in the back yard behind the garage. They're both born-again Baptists...you know the type. Big on words like "Christian forgiveness" and short on deeds: Troy and I were "lost in sin and the abomination of homosexuality." Troy, well he was sent to military school by his folks. I have never seen him again. I got put out a few days after I graduated from High School. Fine, I hadn't felt any love from them for years anyway, besides when they started to go to that big church on the north side of town, the regular beatings had began. Fuck 'em. Let 'em drive the sin out of each other now.
I'd been able to stay at the runaway shelter on and off for about two months now. A kid could stay for a week then had to go. Silly isn't it? You could come back the next day and check in again though. I'd been doing that for the past six weeks. I used to go to the park and hide at night when the shelter was full. I knew it was dangerous, like I also knew that Dallas didn't hold anything for me any longer. I'd be eighteen in a couple of months and I figured that I could join the Army or Navy then. But for now, I'd decided to hitch a ride to Austin or maybe San Antonio. I had to get away from Dallas. This place was slowly killing me bit by bit and I was so lonely.
Me? Oh, sorry. My name is
Darren. This is my story.
Chapter One: Road
'Come on Blake, only thirty-five miles to Waco,' I thought to myself while I watched the lightening build in the north west.
The pain in my back was awful. I've been driving this rig for what seemed like weeks now, but I was actually only four days out of Boston heading for Corpus Christi. Today is the eighteenth. The big yacht on the lowboy I was hauling had to be in the water by October 21st or I'd loose the bonus the owner promised. The extra ten grand would allow me to go back to my hometown of Seattle and pick up life where I'd left it without my bastard ex-boyfriend and on my own terms. Damn...here come the tears again.
Why is it every time I think about Micky Randolph and that last confrontation, I start up again? I knew why of course, but that still didn't help though. I got hurt and burned big time by that son of a bitch. All the promises, all the dreams, all the lies, everything he'd done was just to postpone the inevitable explosion and break-up. Once I'd really loved him, or maybe I just thought I did. I knew that he was living on the edge when we first got together four years ago, while I was still working for the EPA in Portland.
The stories of having to work late, of meeting with clients, of having to go out to a job site, became more and more frequent. I knew he was lying. When Micky would come back to our apartment on Water Street, his eyes were always glazed over. High again. What was it this time? Acid, meth, coke or maybe even heroin? Sometimes he rushed into the shower but not before leaving the scent of cum and sex in his wake. He'd lost his job and it was weeks before he even bothered to tell me. I was heartbroken.
Then things started to disappear from the apartment. It finally was over the day I found him free basing coke in our bedroom - he'd brought his poison into our home - or what was left of it. He was so high he thought I was some kind of monstrous fantasy creature. Micky freaked out big time. After the police and paramedics had left, I packed my bags and took a few small things that were mementos of my childhood in Seattle and my tour in the Navy. The apartment was in Micky's name. Most of the really valuable things that were too big for Micky to pawn easily were mine, but I just left it all there. I had to get away from the apartment, Micky and from Portland. I didn't even leave a note. That was almost two years ago.
I called my old friend Carter Hobbs in Boston and told him that I'd like to visit. A couple of days later, I was back in Bean Town. I'd gone to Boston College for a year when I was just seventeen and hadn't come out then. It was still dangerous to be openly gay then, really dangerous. Carter had been a classmate and the first gay man I'd ever met. Although we'd never been sexual partners, we did become very good friends. and at the time we both were disillusioned by life in general and college in particular.
We joined the Navy together after our freshman year. I was trained as a Corpsman and Carter ended up in the Mekong Delta driving riverboats. That's how he ended up in the yacht business four years later and how I'd ended up on I-35 heading towards Corpus Christi with a million dollars worth of fiberglass and fittings loaded onto the lowboy trailer.
My tears were dried up on my face by the time I pulled into the big truck stop just north of Waco. With any luck at all, I'd be in Corpus by midnight.
'Come on Darren, think, think! You've got six dollars left and you aren't outside of the Dallas city limits yet. That bastard won't find you. He's worried that you'll go to the cops. Was he the one who'd killed that boy Jimmy? You were lucky he let go. Playing soccer sure helped you then. I'll bet his balls are still inside his guts. And maybe he won't try to rape some other boy. But face it Darren, you were very lucky. He only tore your shorts while he groped your privates.'
I made it as far as Waco with a man and his wife on my first ride. They seemed to be nice and after a short time talking, we rode in silence. I had told them I was trying to get to my grandparent's house in Austin after they started to comment on my age and hitching on the open road. I'm eighteen but still appear much younger. I'd taken my birth certificate from home before I left so I could prove it if I needed to. They seemed to accept that explanation.
Conversation dried up as their car crested the hill marking the Trinity river basin and behind me the lights of Dallas disappeared, for good I hoped. I never wanted to come back here. The guy who'd grabbed me as I walked along a darkened street was already naked from the waist down and hard when he pulled me into the path by the road. I knew what he wanted. I suppose I was lucky: I had been able to twist out of his grasp for a moment, but a moment was all I'd needed.
The man had already pulled my jeans down and was tearing at my underwear when I managed to kick his kneecap good. He screamed and fell onto the path. My second kick left no doubt that I'd connected where I'd wanted to. He was puking and moaning when I pulled my jeans up and ran back to the street. I recovered my gym bag from the roadside and ran. I hadn't stopped running until I was on the I-35 entrance ramp and was picked up by the couple I was now riding with towards Waco.
When I got out of their car near a big truck stop they wished me good luck. The Johnston's were good people. I thought it was unusual for a black couple to pick-up some crazy looking scared white boy, but these were really Christian folks. Not like my former parents, the hypocrites! The Johnston's farm was forty miles southeast in a place called Rosebud and Austin was due south on I-35. They had both wished me good luck and said they'd remember me in their prayers. Their kindness brought a large lump to my throat and I felt the tears threatening to flood my eyes when they said that. I managed to thank them and watched the tail lights of their old Chevy fade into the distance. I knew that they would indeed pray for me later on. I needed all the help I could get.
As I walked towards the parked trucks along the access road, the thunderstorms that had threatened all day suddenly broke and I ran down the road through the downpour for the 7 - 11 across from the truck stop. I used three dollars and bought six "Texas Red-Hots," those spicy sausage like hot dogs wrapped in white bread and a big Dr. Pepper. In their little plastic bags, the bread wrapped meat filled the pockets of my light jacket. I had a fortune in my remaining three bucks and a couple of dollars worth of change. I could live on sausage, bread and soda for a long time.
Through the thunderstorm's downpour, I saw a big low and long flatbed pull in that had an enormous white boat strapped onto it. It was the largest watercraft I'd ever seen. The driver parked his rig under the covered fueling area and started to fill the trucks saddle tanks on both sides then went into the café. The storm started to let up and since I was already soaked I walked over into the truck stop to look closer at the boat.
'Wow. It's come all the way from Boston,' I thought to myself.
The name "ATLANTIS III, Boston, Mass." Was lettered in gold on the stern. There was a ladder bolted into the side of the vessel and not seeing any sign of the driver, I climbed up onto the trailer and into the boat, just to get a look at the inside. I've always been fascinated by boats and ships, watercraft of all kinds and since it was here...well I just wanted to look. I slipped over the edge of the boat and ducked under the plastic sheeting that covered most of it. I opened the door...no, hatch I corrected myself, and took a step down into the cabin. By the dim light that was filtering in from the brightly lit fueling island, I saw that the vessel was outfitted like a big living room. There were sofa's built into the sides and tables near the kitchen...no, galley. Someday I might have something like this too.
'Yea, right,' I thought. 'That three dollars and change is the start of your great fortune.'
The floor...no, the deck, suddenly lurched, throwing me off balance. As I fell, I hit my head on the side of the galley table, and went out like a light.
'No more thoughts of Micky and Portland for the rest of this trip, Blake.' It is the least I can do for myself.
I made Corpus Christi just after four in the morning, pulling into the boat yard under the big bridge that crossed the bay. The line of heavy thunderstorms seemed to hover over the Interstate the entire way down from Waco and made driving a real bitch. October cold fronts always brought heavy weather here in South Texas, so it was almost six before the storms moved off the coast and into the Gulf of Mexico and by then I'd been able to get a couple of hours of sleep in the truck. Today was October 19th. I had made the contract and would get the bonus at the bank this afternoon. The yard foreman showed-up at 6:30 and told me they'd lift the yacht into the water at 10:00am and we'd have to complete the transport inspection before then. They'd do all the rigging and then I'd be responsible for the disconnection of the boat from the transport cradle on the trailer when the big dock crane took the strain. It would be fast and easy.
As I climbed onto the deck, I noticed a plastic wrapper with a hot dog in it lying on the step down into the cabin. "7-11 Waco, Tx" was clearly printed on the wrapper.
'Waco?' I thought in puzzlement as I picked it up.
I went down into the main cabin. There, laying on the deck just under the galley table was a young man - dressed in shabby looking jeans, jacket and torn sneaks. His shoulder length light brown hair almost hid a nasty looking gash on the side of his head. There was crusted dried blood in his hair and there were hot dogs coming out of the pockets of his jacket, and a half eaten one was still clutched in his hand. He looked like he was sleeping, but the blood made me realize that he was most likely unconscious.
After I carefully rolled him over, I saw that he was still breathing and had good color. I took his pulse and found a strong beat. My navy corpsman training came back in a rush. I closely examined his injury and although it looked superficial, I knew that he might have a concussion or even a fracture. As I gently probed the wound site, he flinched and opened his eyes slowly. They gradually focused on me as he blinked several times.
"Just lay still friend. You took a pretty nasty hit on the head."
I saw the beginnings of fear and panic in the boy's deep blue eyes. Perhaps he was disoriented or did have a serious injury. I had to keep calm or he might hurt himself further.
"It's all right. I won't hurt you or call the cops, but you have to keep still for a little while and let all your senses recover. Do you understand?" I asked the boy.
He nodded slightly.
"My name is Blake Hunter. I'm the driver of the truck and lowboy trailer this floating palace is attached to." I said to him as I continued to probe around his injury. I must have touched something sensitive because he flinched and sharply drew in his breath through clenched teeth.
"Sorry kid. I'm a Navy corpsman, or I was a long time ago. This doesn't look too bad, but you might need a stitch or two. The bleeding has stopped though and that's always a good sign. Say...do you have a name?"
"Darawwwwh," he seemed to be trying to swallow, but his mouth was so dry his lips were starting to crack at the edges of his mouth. I saw a half-empty bottle of coke laying in the corner of the galley space and reached for it.
I gently lifted his head, cradling his neck to support him as he took two long gulps.
"Darren. My name is Darren Grant," he said followed by a loud belch that surprised me so much, I almost ducked!
Talk about a tension breaker! I was laughing so hard I sat back on my butt and watched Darren's face turn beet red before he also started to laugh, until he grimaced in pain.
"Ooooowwwaaahhhh," Darren moaned.
"Yeah, now you see why I said to keep still, Darren. How about telling me why you and all these hot dogs ended up in the boat, huh?"
He told me about hitch hiking down I-35 from Dallas on the way to Austin and his "Grandparent's house" when the storms broke. I knew he was lying about it too. After the service, I'd spent almost a year trying to get my head back to normal after being fucked up bad during my tour in Vietnam. Most of the time I'd been hitching all over the country, before returning to Seattle and then Portland to try living again. Along the way I'd finally come to terms with the fact that I am gay and decided to try and live the lifestyle that I knew was really me. Although Darren never said anything to hint at his own orientation, I recognized a kindred spirit when I saw one. I guess I saw a lot of me in this kid too. I remembered being his age all too clearly.
"So Darren, how long ago did your parents kick you out?" I asked him quietly while looking into the pools of deep blue that are the color of his eyes.
I wasn't prepared for his reaction.
Darren's eyes began to fill with tears and he began to weep quietly as he laid his head back onto the deck. I saw all the bullshit and lies slide away from him revealing a vulnerable and frightened young man. I knew just how he felt. I let him cry for a few minutes without saying anything. I looked at my watch and seeing the time, finally spoke to him.
"Look, Darren...I really do know how it feels not to have anyone or anywhere to go to. I want to help you work this out, but not here. The yard crew will be hooking up to the boat soon, so how about coming up front and sit in the cab with me? Besides I can work on your injury better there. My first aid kit is in the cab." I offered him a hand up.
He looked at me through his red-rimmed eyes and the tears, and then reached out with to take my offered hand and gripped it very tightly. I thought I saw relief in his blue, blue eyes.
'Who is this man? He seems friendly enough, but there is something else about him that makes me feel so safe. What is it about his big light brown and gold flecked eyes when he looks at me? Does he want to use me like that bastard in Dallas? Or is it something else? His eyes say so much, he seems to be so...alone and is he...like me? Can I trust him?'
I wasn't ready to talk about what had happened in the park or at home before Dad threw me out, and becoming homeless, but I knew that I would, and soon. I needed to tell him and Blake seemed to be someone that I could trust. I don't know why, but I did trust him. He seemed to know what has been going on in my head and my life, but damn that would mean he's been through this himself. That would mean...is he gay too?
I watched Blake from the sleeper compartment behind the cab of the truck as he drove. He had stopped in downtown Corpus Christi and gone into a bank after he cleaned the cut in my scalp. That really hurt too, but he said that it was only a shallow cut and that cuts on the head bled a lot more than other wounds because of all the vessels just under the skin. I filed that information away as I did everything he said to me that morning. When we left the city behind, Blake headed east on Highway 35 towards Port Lavaca and further on, up to I-10 and east towards Houston. I watched him drive for a long time. I wasn't looking at the road or the passing flat salt marshes of coastal Texas, but at Blake. I didn't care where he was heading to, I just wanted to go along too.
I really like him. He told me he'd be twenty-five in November. He worked for a friend of his that he'd been in the Navy with, hauling boats from the northeast to Florida and Texas for the yacht brokerage and transportation firm his friend owned. He told me that the pay was very good, but the job was lonely and required long tedious hours of driving the Interstates..
He was actually a good-looking guy in a kind of rough way, kind of a man's man sort of appearance. I guess he is six-two and maybe one eighty. He has fairly long black hair that he keeps tied in a braid. When he helped me up off the floor...no, deck...I could tell that he is really very strong. When I got dizzy walking to the truck cab, he picked me up like I weighed nothing at all. He has no facial hair and his high cheekbones and pure black hair are a sure sign of his American Indian heritage. My ex-friend Troy's grandfather is half Comanche and he has the same features. He told me he had been a medic in the Navy and had been to Vietnam. That's really all I knew about this man who was quickly becoming my friend.
The most important thing to me is I trust this guy named Blake. There is just something about him that...well I don't really know what to call it, he just makes me feel safe, secure and protected when I'm near him. This feeling of a quiet strength seems to emanate from Blake. I've never met anyone quite like him before.
I climbed into the cab and sat next to Blake on the other seat. He looked over to me and smiled. He has the whitest teeth I've ever seen.
"You've been watching me for a long time Darren. Does my driving interest you that much or do you have something on your mind? I'll listen to whatever you want to say, and besides that, I can use the company. Keeps me awake...Zzzzzz"
He pretended to fall asleep at the wheel and made the tractor-trailer rig swerve a couple of times, before we both broke up laughing.
"I...uuhh...well...I do want to answer your question...the one you asked me on the boat. It's just so hard to talk about." He looked at me again, but just nodded his head and smiled.
"I know how hard it is too, Darren. Some things are so personal that deciding to talk about it with someone, a complete stranger like me for instance, is almost as bad as going through it the first time. But ya know...I've learned something else too...that sometimes it's easier if the other person starts off first, so I will." Darren smiled at me.
"I left home when I was 17 after my Dad began to beat the shit outta me all the time and I'd had enough. Leaving wasn't really too hard. He was a drunken son of a bitch anyway, but he turned his fists on a friend of mine too, so before I went out the door for the last time I beat the crap outta him too. I never went back. Sound familiar, Darren?"
I couldn't see anything. The tears in my eyes were blinding me and I felt myself collapse onto him as he braked the truck to a stop off the shoulder of the highway. He turned and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me tightly into his chest and I clung to him like a drowning man does to his life preserver.
Darren held onto me tightly, crying for almost half an hour. It broke my heart to hear his sobbing. He was very unhappy and if I was right about him, he'd most likely been on the streets for a while now, but not long enough to get that defensive crust built up too strong. He'd been badly hurt, maybe physically, certainly emotionally by his experiences.
We got down out of the truck and walked around a bit in the open pasture next to the highway. In the bright late afternoon sun, his light brown hair gleamed with an almost golden halo. His thin frame and angelic elfin like facial features contributed to the almost supernatural effect he was having on me.
I'm part Sioux on my Mothers side and I had spent part of my summers with cousins and my Grandfather. He always said that the male descendants of his line were truth seers. Was I seeing a vision of truth in front of me? Darren is so handsome as to be breathtaking in this light and for the first time in many months...I thought about love again.
We sat on the trailer for a while and ate some of the cheese and fruit I always had in the cooler box. I usually ate very little on the road and lightly at that but the brief repast seemed to cheer him up, until I told him we had to get going. His face seemed to drop then.
"This is so peaceful here. Can we sit for a little while longer, please?" Darren asked me almost as a plea.
So we sat on the side of the trailer for another hour, not saying anything, but watching the sun sink over the coastal plains. Darren held my hand and laid his head against my shoulder. When he touched my hand, a warmth suffused by body throughout. I think it was at that moment I began to fall in love with Darren.
When we were back on the highway, Darren just started to talk...slowly at first and hesitantly but with great emotion, he poured out his story. He could have been telling my own. When he told me about the attempted rape, I saw red for a moment. Personally, I would have damaged the bastard much more and not left his assailant just retching on the ground.
It was dark when I pulled into the Flying W truck stop on I-10 in Katy just west of Houston to fuel the truck for the last time. I'd be dropping off the rig at the Port of Houston for another of Carter's drivers to use for a return trip to Boston with a sailboat he'd purchased for a client there in New England. This was my last run for Carter too.
Before we got out of the truck, I turned to Darren and looked at him closely. We hadn't said much since he finished his tale of horrors that had consumed the last three and a half months of his life and he looked at me with both fear and expectation. I had made both a discovery and a decision while listening to him. The discovery: I was having some strong emotions concerning about the guy, emotions I thought I'd never have again. The decision: I was going to offer to take him to Seattle with me if he wanted to go. We smiled at each other and got out of the cab.
But first I was going to tell him everything...Micky...our failed relationship...my hatred of hard drugs and lies...and my feelings about him. But this wasn't going to happen in a truck stop in Katy, Texas. Other things too, would come in time, about the deeper hurts I'd suffered while in Southeast Asia.
I got us a room at the Holiday Inn in South Houston near the Astrodome for the night. I'd drop the rig in the morning. While Darren was getting showered and cleaned up, I walked over to the western goods store on the corner and picked up some Levi's, underwear, socks and shirts. I got a pair of good work boots for him too, light but sturdy and a warmer jacket. Even if he didn't go with me, I wasn't going to leave him without good warm clothes and decent footwear..
I got two large pizzas delivered and a couple of bottles of Coke, so by the time he came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around him, there were clothes piled on his bed and food on the table. I looked at his torn scalp again and was pleased to see that the wound looked healthy and was beginning to scab over.
"You didn't have to do this Blake...the clothes I mean. I really appreciate everything you've done it's more that I can ever repay...."
He'd pulled on a pair of jockey's that did nothing to hide his nice package and a t-shirt over his thin frame. He looked emaciated now, but when he was filled out and healthy, he'd look stunning.
"Darren, there is some stuff that I've got to say...things I wanted to say back in Katy at the truck stop, but coming here seemed...well, what I've got to say will take a while and I needed to get out of the truck."
He munched on the crust of a slice, but looked expectantly at me. I took a deep breath and dove in.
"Darren, you're a bright guy and from what we've been talking about over the past sixteen hours on the road, you may have figured out that I'm gay too. If you haven't...well you know now. I want to tell you a story about a half-breed kid from a little town outside Seattle...."
"...So when I told Carter that this was my last trip, he sent me down here to Texas to deliver the yacht that I found you in yesterday morning. I think that's all of it...you know the rest, except for one last thing...I'm falling in love with you. I don't just fall for guy's easily, you may have realized this from what I've just told you. Most of the men I've been in love with or I thought I've been in love with, have turned out to be disasters. Micky was the last and the worst, except maybe for Tran Loc, but not for the same reasons.
I know that this is a lot to digest at one time so I won't ask you to tell me what you think now. Sleep on what we've talked about and we'll talk again in the morning, OK?" He nodded his head from his pillows where he had propped himself up during my long rendition of the history of Blake's life.
Darren said good night and curled up under the sheets of his bed, his head outside of the covers and smiling at me as he closed his eyes. I turned out the light and fell into a restless exhausted sleep.
I was so excited that I could hardly contain myself...he loved me! Blake loved ME! His bearing his soul to me while explaining his life just convinced me that I was in love with him too. Not some kid-worship-sex driven - survivor identification kind of thing (he had saved me hadn't he), but a fairly new emotion for me...real love for another man and really true friendship on such a basic level that I felt that there were truly no secrets between us any longer. Blake knew everything there was to know about my past and me and I seemed to know a hell of a lot about Blake now too. There was a lot to digest but I could hardly keep my eyes open when I smiled at Blake. I did need to sleep on it. My eyes lids were so heavy....
The explosion seemed to come from the just outside the room, but the yelling was coming from the bed right next to mine. It was Blake! There was another flash just outside and simultaneously a loud explosion.
"Tran! Tran where are you!" he screamed.
I jumped from my bed and onto his. I wrapped my arms around Blake as he sat up in his bed shivering and staring with tear filled eyes into the distance. Was this a nightmare, or something worse? Just as Blake suddenly started screaming again, another flash accompanied immediately by loud rolling thunder that shook the entire building struck nearby, he collapsed back onto the bed. Blake wrapped his arms around me tightly and cried hard while he held me close.
"Darren...Oh Darren...thank you, baby...thank you. Don't ever leave me Darren...I need you so much...please Darren...I love you, I love you!" Blake was relaxing some, but was still crying hard and hanging onto me. I felt like I was the life preserver thrown to a drowning man.
I was crying hard too and held him just as tightly. Perhaps we were saving each other. I pulled the covers over us and stayed with him as the thunderstorm slowly moved away. I woke-up in the morning just as the purple glow of the South Texas dawn illuminated the sky. Blake had snuggled up against my chest and as he breathed in the slow deep rhythms of restful sleep, I ran my fingers through his long raven black hair and kissed his forehead gently.
"I love you too Blake and I'll never leave as long as you'll have me," I whispered softly while I cradled his sleeping form close against me.
"I love you Blake Hunter, I do love you."
It had been a very bad night for me. I had the dream again, the whole horrible dream - a memory that had been seared into my mind - would I ever be free of it? The storm and the closeness of the lightening strikes had triggered it. The thunder had sounded like the explosion that had shattered the small hotel we lived in, the explosion that had killed Tran Loc and wounded me gravely. Darren! Would Darren understand how bad the flashbacks were for me. Could he deal with all that?
Tran was my first real lover. There had been other young men and boys over the the years, brief sexual relationships, encounters, fondness maybe, but never love until I met Tran Loc.. We were both nineteen - almost twenty - when we met in the small town he lived in, up in the hills of Western Vietnam. My team had been assigned to do general medical treatments in the area and Tran had brought his younger sister in to be treated for a bad leg infection. During return visits we'd become friends. There had been a strange lull in the war right then and I was very grateful for small favors. I'd seen a lot of death and blood. I really needed that little bit of peace.
Tran spoke better English than I did thanks to his Jesuit education. My Vietnamese was so limited that all our conversations attempted in his native language resulted in both of us laughing hard. When I wanted to say something like: "I'll have rice and vegetables for lunch," it came out as: "the fish heads are purple," or some other such nonsense. Tran soon became our team's unofficial "official translator," so we had the opportunity to spent many hours just talking quietly between ourselves while walking through the old French colonial town he called home.
One day, one very special day after we got to know each other well, he told me that he was in love with me. I'd fallen for him too. A few days later, we became lovers. When I was transferred to the Military District Hospital, Tran soon followed, becoming manager of a small hotel that his family owned nearby.
I moved into the hotel with him and we grew very close. Not only was Tran a physically and spiritually beautiful young man and a wonderful lover, he was a very smart young man too. Tran was preparing to go to a university in France. He wanted to become a doctor. We had even made plans for me to move to Paris after my Navy hitch was over in less than four months. We'd have been able to continue our love together there in the City of Light.
Our lives were very good together and for a short time, the war was a distant event.
The bombing occurred six weeks later in the middle of the night. The VC had bombed the hotel, killing Tran and six others because I was living there with him - he had also helped the hated Americans, even if it was to bring medical aid to his own people. The half a dozen other foreigners, mostly newsmen living at the hotel were also killed. Tran died in my arms. That's how the MP's and medics found me after they dug us out of the rubble. I was soaked in his blood and my own. I was almost catatonic with the shock. It took them twenty minutes to pry Tran's lifeless body from my arms. Thankfully, I passed out before they separated us.
I woke up on the C-9 Nightingale medical plane sixteen days later halfway between Guam and Honolulu. A month of therapy stateside at the San Diego Naval Hospital and my body was more or less healed, the memories of that night and my life with Tran had seemed to be mercifully dim because of the coma I'd been in for over two weeks. The nightmares began soon after I'd been discharged from the Navy. Like so many vet's had suffered before me in all wars, I silently endured the horrible dreams and the heavy guilt I felt, occupying myself in rough hard work and traveling from job to job across the country over the next year and a half trying hard to forget.
Now I only had the nightmare rarely; usually when I was exhausted and there was some kind of trigger. This time it was a thunderstorm...or was it? Had my attraction and falling in love with Darren caused the terror filled dream to return?
I promised myself to tell Darren the details of that part of my life - about the nightmares - after we had dropped the rig at the Port of Houston and picked-up my pay for this trip. Since I have been working with Carter's company, I'd managed to save close to a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, with bonuses. I wouldn't have to work for awhile and the money represented a stake in starting life over again...this time I hoped...with Darren at my side.
I knew that Blake wanted to tell me about his nightmare, even after I told him that he didn't have to. We'd wakened just after sunrise, still wrapped in each other's arms. He apologized for scaring me, and I could see the fear in his eyes that he'd frightened me badly, but all I was filled with was compassion for my new friend and love. I think he understood too. Blake smiled at me weakly and promised to tell me all about it later. I knew that he would, in his own time.
After eating a big breakfast at the IHOP next door to the motel, we packed our things and set off for the Houston Ship Basin. He dropped the rig off at the Yard Masters office and Blake got us a lift back into Houston to Hobby Airport. In a quiet corner of an airport café, he asked me if I'd considered what we'd talked about last night. I told him that I had:
"I think I love you Blake Hunter. Before you say anything, let me get this said or I''ll chicken-out." He nodded his head slightly but I could see the tension on his face and the anxiety in his eyes. Just like last night after the dream.
"I know that you're a lot older than me...if not in age, then in experience...experiences no man should have to endure. In the 36 hours that I've known you Blake Hunter, you have treated my wounds, fed and clotherd my body and nurtured my soul. I know I'm only 18, but I think I know my heart, at least I think I do right now." I gave Blake a little smile and went on before he could say anything.
"I do know you did all these things for me because that is the kind of man you are. I know that you are as lonely for love as I am. I know that you love me already Blake and...and I know that I love you too. But is this what is supposed to be: a 26 year old man and an 18 year old teenager? I think it is supposed to be this way. We were supposed to meet and fall in love."
"You really believe all that Darren?" Blake asked me with his eyes wide open now.
"Yes I do. That guy who tried to grab me; the Johnstons who gave me a lift; seeing the Atlantis III at the truckstop. When I climbed aboard to look at the boat, hitting my head, you finding me...all of yesterday from the coastal road to the pizza and coke. The thunderstorm, everything you've told me...what I've told you...all of it. We were meant to meet and fall in love. Thats what I know. That is what I believe. We were meant to meet and fall in love Blake."
I wanted to go with him to where ever he was going to. I told him again what he'd said to me during the thunderstorm. He looked surprised then I saw his eyes begin to water. He reached under the table and took my hand in his. In a quiet choking whisper he told me that what he'd said was the truth. He loved me and needed me to be with him.
I smiled back at Blake through my own tear-blurred eyes and told him that I felt exactly the same way; that I needed to be with him like nothing I'd ever needed before in my life.
"I love you Blake. I think I've loved you since I woke up on the deck of the boat and looked into your face and eyes the first time. I want to be with you too, if you'll have me."
Tears ran down both our faces as he squeezed my hand tightly and nodded his head, unable to speak out loud. But then he smiled that great bright smile and flashed his set of perfectly gleaming teeth in a grin that went ear to ear. I wanted to grab him and kiss him right there and then, but I knew if we started...well I wanted to leave Houston and Texas just as fast as we could. A delay like that could stretch into days!
Blake purchased two one way
tickets to Seattle on Continental Flight 1857. We sat side by side
in the almost empty 727 holding hands and frequently grinning at each other
in anticipation of what we both knew would happen later, what we both wanted
to have happen. I loved this kind and gentle man next to me and I
knew that he loved me too. We'd both begin our new lives in together
in Seattle when the plane landed.
End of Chapter One...to be continued.
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Note: At the end of each chapter of our stories we recommend one or more other stories by Nifty authors that we find interesting and worth a stop to check out. The Knife that Twists Within and it's sequal, A Promise and a Curse by Stefan in the Beginnings section of the Archives and Parental Instincts with the story's sequal, Family Instincts by Nick Archer, located in the College section of the Archives. Finally, Rich Christopher's continuing series' Whence Cometh My Help (Adult/Friends) and Boy in the Mirror (Incest) are both excellent and are about to collide and merge together at some point. Rich's Just Beyond the Hill (Incest) is also a very good read. Look them up. They are really good stories.