Reservations – A Novel


By Drew Filchak



Chapter Twelve:  "Renderings


          The silence in the room stood in stark contrast to the previous hour's intensity.  Suddenly, breath again was possible and set-aside smiles, while temporarily forgotten, buoyed hope once more of surfacing.  The threatened tears remained in their crystal cave, hovering and ready for their debut. 

          I shuddered once, then released the pent-up sigh I'd held for the last five minutes. 

          Gayle nodded.

          "I'm not sure I could do this without you being here, Blair."

          Her gaze lanced into me, stilling my response as we sat quiet in the moment.  Mau's presence lingered, filtering through our thoughts and compressing our hearts in a spasm of release and relieved burden.  His smile echoed through my inner sight as if it had been set free from the taut chains that had held him bound in his mental prison.  Sunlight filled the study.

          "There's more.  You know that, don't you?"

          I nodded.  Another sigh surfaced as I dropped my gaze.  Then, I held my hands in front of me as if to ward off the pending, inevitable moment when more of the horror chose to make itself known.

          "I don't know about you, Sis, but I need something stronger than water or coffee right now."

          Gayle nodded.  "Me too."

          I stood slowly and held my hand out in an offer of assistance and an unspoken need to touch her.  Trembling and sweat-laden, her hand grasped mine and I pulled her into a hug.  As we moved close, I felt her slight frame spasm.

          A soulless whisper, deeply crawling from her core, reached my ears.  "They did so much of it to him without the drugs."  Her gasp wrenched my heart.  "And he remembers ... he lives with it every day, Blair." 

          I felt the strength of her hug begin to lessen and I increased my own embrace to support us both.  "Don't, Gayle.  Don't lose it.  I need you to hold it together.  I need you to realize the healing you just gave him.  You led him away from the horror."  Emotion choked me as I again saw the brilliance of her practice, her patience -- her intuitive understanding of what Mau needed.  She'd walked Mau through yet more unspeakable horrors while keeping him centered on the security in her voice and the strength offered by the grasp of my hand in his.  Then she'd instructed him to leave the memories where they stood and fashioned a new vision of love and hope, based with his boys and Joel ... and me, and had him walk towards it.  His tear stained face rose into a smile as he woke from the trance.

          "Yes, Gayle," I began, "he lives with it everyday, but you've now made some of it a removed fact, a disconnected occurrence.  I saw it on his face."  My lips brushed her forehead as another shudder ran through her.  "It's not over.  I know this.  But I also know that he's now shielded from some of the trauma and some of the continuing mental rape."

          She nodded.  "There's, at least, that."

          I kissed her forehead again, lightly.  "Now, I know it's only ten o'clock on a Monday morning, but I happen to know a certain bartender that might be persuaded to help out a couple of friends in need."



          Hank's eyes widened dramatically as the humor contained in Joel's words began to sink in.  His chuckle began a slow rumble outward from somewhere deep in his chest. 

          "I'm serious, Hank."  Joel said with a deadpanned expression.  "Her face glowed three different shades of red with a discernable bit of froth around her lips.  I seriously considered telling her to lie back on the couch so I could put pillows under her feet to raise them above her heart."  Joel's smirk grew as his eyes sparkled.  He turned and threw me a wink.  "I told her that what Blair had said was true.  We had six boys in total that ran around naked all the time, but didn't seem to mind because they were warm and felt loved.  It was Ben, though, who stole the show.  He rolled his eyes dramatically, like only those boys can do, and said 'yeah, right, Fu Man.  Dream on, ya old geezer."

          Gayle and I shook with needed release as our laughter rolled outward. 

          My snort preceded my cough.  "And what did Attila the Social Worker do then?"

          "It was perfect," Joel returned as the glimmer in his eyes continued.  "She laughed."

          Hank's eyes lit up.  "Really?  No way!"

          Joel nodded.  "Ben's response was perfect and so natural and relaxed that she couldn't help but see that he was okay.  I mean, it's her job to be cautious.  I was just trying to knock a little levity into the situation.  She hadn't cracked a smile once throughout the tour of the apartment until that point.  She asked to see the other boys and I took her to the media room where Cleats and Cody were in a fierce car race on the video game.  Timmy jumped off the couch in panic when he saw her and lunged at Cody who immediately stood up and told her that she needed to go find someone else to harass because, as he put it, 'Fu Man and B-Man are rad so go fuck with some other pidge'."

          I shook my head, partially in amazement at Cody's fully expected lack of respect and partially because I wasn't sure what a 'pidge' was.  "What's a pidge, babe?"

          Joel shrugged.  "I don't follow half of what they say."

          Gayle laughed as Hank grinned.  "I think a pidge is what they call the kids on the street that are dumb enough to get caught by the cops or Social Services.  It's probably got something to do with pigeons, but who knows."

          Joel nodded.  "Yeah.  Then Cody walked over to Ben, put his arm around Ben's shoulder and says, 'The interview's over'.  Just like that.  Ms. Black looked at me and all I could do was to shrug and roll my eyes, mimicking the boys.  She liked that, I guess, because she laughed again.  On her way out she shared that Steven Chambers had sent a stern letter to the Department instructing them to tread easy with this case because he was supervising it personally."

          "Then what?"  I asked.

          "Then, she left.  Said she had no concerns."

          "Well, good," I responded.  "We needed some good news this morning."

          "From the looks on both of your faces as we rode down in the elevator, I could tell it must have been as heavy a session as the first one."

          I nodded as I heard Gayle sigh next to me.  "It was, babe.  But can we talk about it later?  No real surprises except Mau remembers an enormous amount about what was done to him.  He wasn't always drugged."

          Joel studied me briefly then turned to Hank.  "How about a little more coffee for the good doctor, Hank?"

          Hank nodded.  "Coming right up."  He grabbed the pot along with the bottle of Kahlua.  He raised the bottle in Gayle's direction, offering another added shot to the coffee.  Gayle waived it off.

          "No thanks, Hank.  One was enough.  I still have my educational skills evaluations to begin this afternoon."  She offered him a small smile in thanks.

          I watched as Hank allowed a quirky grin to surface.  "You sure?  I'd do just about anything to see that pretty smile again on the face of the prettiest woman I've ever seen." 

          Gayle quickly looked towards Hank and I watched as he gave her a wink.  Gayle's smile widened.  I raised my eyebrows in surprise then grinned to myself as Gayle nodded, indicating that she was fine with just coffee.

          "But," she began as her smile dropped into a grin.  "I didn't have any breakfast, so what's on the menu?"  



          Our shared looks in the elevator, filled with surprise and knowing, led to shared grins as we stepped into the entry foyer.  The surprise element lay contained within Hank's statement regarding Gayle's beauty while the knowing aspect came from the obvious fact that there was returned interest on her side. 

          Joel stopped me with a touch.  "How did I miss that one, love?"

          I turned, grinning slyly.  "Miss, what?"

          He pulled me close and gently bit my ear.  "You know, Mr. Innocent.  When did they even meet long enough to know each other?  I mean, it's not like we made introductions when we arrived at the bar."

          "They both stopped by Saturday night when we were at Marc and Jim's, remember?  Gayle brought by the adolescent trauma literature and Hank had stopped by to check on the boys.  Chris did mention that they left the apartment at the same time, but I didn't make anything of it at the time.  You think they, uh, connected?"

          Joel's smirk and quick lift of his chin covered his assurance well.  "I may be slow on some of this stuff, but there was a definite history there."  Grinning, he slapped my butt.  "I think Hank exited from his previous relationship just in time." 

          His teeth again found my ear and I shivered as I felt his tongue.  A soft whisper reached me.  "You complete me." 

          In my delirium, crafted by his words and soft sentiment, I heard the main door open behind us and a quiet, plaintive 'B-man' fill the hall. 

          I turned to find Mau with upset and worry in his eyes.  "Mau?  What's up?  Something wrong?"

          He nodded once.  "Timmy's still crying."

          Joel pulled from me and moved towards the door.  "Still?  What do you mean by 'still', Mau?  How long has he been crying?"

          A slight twist of his head signaling thought, combined with a minor upraise of his lip.  "Since the lady."

          Joel reached Mau and shook his head in confusion then placed his hand on the boy's shoulder.  "I don't follow."

          A sigh followed Mau's grimace.  "You said 'no decision's been made yet' and he's been crying ever since."

          Joel studied the guarded look coming from the boy's eyes.  As I approached, I watched his shoulders suddenly pull back with realization and his lips parted in stalled breath.  "Oh, god, Mau."  He turned to look at me, eyes laced with concern and desperation.  "I fucked up."

          A quick 'thanks, bud', thrown over his shoulder towards Mau followed his exit.  Surprised, I sent my silent question towards Mau. 

          He shrugged.  "Fu Man said that nothing's been decided when Timmy informed the lady that Joel was going to be his dad."

          My sigh at the unexpected news caused him to nod.  "He's not like you, B.  We all know how you feel."

          I suddenly understood.  There was a fear that Joel, after initially expressing his desire to formalize our connection with the boys, might back away from the hope he'd endeared after everything settles back down to normal.  And Timmy was currently the most vulnerable and the least able to survive another disappointment or rejection.

          I touched Mau's cheek then leaned to kiss his forehead.  "Thanks, Mau.  You're the best.  You know that, don't you?" 

          He grinned slightly and shrugged. 

          I placed another kiss to his forehead.  "Maybe Joel needs a little push.  I'll catch you soon, Cub."

          A nod from him sent me through the door and instinct directed me to the boy's room.

          I found Joel squatting in front of Timmy, as he lay curled around his pillow.  Pain-filled whimpers escaped from the pillow and a lost, unsettled look covered Joel's face as he spoke to Tim. 

          "You need to understand Tim that I had to say that to her or else she wouldn't have gone away so easily.  That's all I meant by it.  I do want to adopt you."  His voice cracked with intensity, but Timmy remained turned with his back to Joel.

          I dropped to my knees beside Joel and touched his shoulder.  The look he gave was at once full of confusion while at the same time laced with heartache.  I gestured with my arms, signaling for Joel to get closer to Tim. 

          He paused then crawled onto the mattress and lay on his side in front of Timmy.  Slowly he reached to stroke Timmy's hair, but the touch only increased the boy's anxiety.  The youthful tears renewed themselves and a soft cry escaped.

          "I'm sorry I made you mad.  I wasn't going to keep it."  His words, wrung from deep within him, surfaced as he slowly sat up and moved away from Joel's touch.  Joel pulled his head back slightly.

          "T-man, I'm not upset with you at all.  What makes you think that I am?" 

          "You will be," he replied as he dropped his head to avoid Joel's look then wiped his nose with the back of his hand.  He crawled away from Joel towards Ben and Cody's bed.  "I just like holding them and looking at them.  I wasn't going to keep 'em.  Please Fu Man, can I stay if I give them back?"

          Joel sent a confused question towards me with his eyes and I could only respond with a shrug.  Then I stood and moved to sit on the edge of the bed.  "Hey, bud?  What are you talking about?  What weren't you going to keep?"

          Timmy clenched his eyes shut once and when he opened them, renewed tears rolled down his flushed cheeks.  He stuck his hand between the mattress and the box springs then pulled something out and reached his clenched fist towards Joel.

          "I just like looking at 'em." 

          As Joel moved closer, I watched as Timmy handed him two gold cufflinks.  "Please, can I still stay?  They're just like my Grandpa's was."

          Joel looked from his hand up to Timmy's face and I watched as his eyes moistened.  He nodded once, but remained silent.  Our eyes met and I signaled for him to say something.  He nodded.

          "C'mere, Kiddo," he said quietly as he gestured to Timmy with the hand which held the cufflinks. 

          Timmy looked at him with a mixture of sadness and worry, but moved closer when he saw a slight grin touch Joel's lips.  Joel reached for Timmy's hand and pulled him onto his lap, encircling the boy with his arms.  Renewed tears rolled down his young face. 

          "I'm sorry, Fu Man.  I promise not to get into your stuff any more."  He buried his face into Joel's shoulder as his slight body trembled with emotion.  Then, in a muffled voice, he continued.  "Are you still mad?"

          Joel hugged him tighter and kissed the top of Timmy's head.  "I was never mad, T-man.  You haven't done anything to make me angry."

          Timmy pulled his head back and looked up at Joel.  His body hiccupped with spent emotion.  "But I took your stuff and you say all that stuff about respect."

          Joel nodded slowly.  "Yes, and maybe you should have asked me before going through my things, but Tim, that's just not enough of a reason for me to be upset with you to the point of not wanting to go forward with your adoption.  I mean what I say, always.  And once we get settled into the new house, if you still want me to be your dad, we'll make it happen, okay?"

          Joel flicked a quick glance at me and I winked in return.  As I stood to leave, I watched as he opened the hand holding the cufflinks and then turned again to Timmy.  "Now, if we're cool, why don't you tell me about your Grandpa and his cufflinks?"

          I stepped into the hallway and turned to see Timmy grin widely as he picked one of the links from Joel's hand.

          "He was cool.  He had one just like this one."




          Rob handed the guardianship authorizations to Gayle as I reviewed her preliminary evaluations.  Her signature as a licensed educator was required in order to allow previous teacher's to discuss the boys' academic performance.  As guardian, Joel also was entitled to the information for five of the six boys, similarly for me with Ben, but it was important for Gayle to hear the reports first hand if she were to be able to shore up missing learning points and develop a corrective educational plan for the summer.  The authorizations also granted the schools the freedom and instruction to release transcripts for our records.

          We sat in silence as Gayle and I reviewed the papers in front of us.  Chris's initial scores far out reached his age and prior grade level.  He actually showed understanding of the concepts inherent on a graduate collegiate level even though he'd only just begun his senior studies in high school when his life took its turn last October.  My surprised reaction brought a knowing look from Gayle.


          My nod caused her grin to widen.

          "I'm not," she said as her head gave a quick shake.  "Bill knew it almost instantly and called me before there was any talk of my involvement with the boys."

          "Still," I began, "it's quite a surprise.  Your evaluation shows that he could skip his final year of high school and place somewhere near the level of a junior in college and that he understands concepts even more advanced.  That's pretty amazing."

          Gayle nodded.  "It is, but what also needs to be factored in is his need for a reintegration with other kids his own age, kids other than his boys."  Her face darkened.  "He made a very revealing comment about not fitting in any longer with other students.  When I pressed him, he just shrugged and said, 'who wants to be friends with a whore'."

          The import of her words struck me like a blow to my gut and it caused me to clench with real concern for all of the boys.  Their lives should never have been so polluted with the vicious and oft times brutal, sadistic realities of the adult world.  Timmy was only thirteen and Chris, as the oldest, was still just seventeen. 

          I clenched my eyes tightly then turned to the rest of the evaluations.  I felt Gayle's look reaching to me from her place on the couch.  Her quiet smile of understanding soothed me and allowed an honest focus on Ben's evaluation.  It was pretty much as I expected with his placement coming in at above average, but not advanced.  Educationally, he landed just where he needed to be, as did Cody.  Both were 'B' level students and should have been finishing their sophomore year in high school and looking forward to being juniors in the fall. 

          Timmy and Cleats' evaluations also brought a surprise, though of a more disparate nature.  Timmy would need considerable remedial scholastic support over the summer if he were to be able to keep his head above water in a class full of kids his own age.  Knowing what we knew about his upbringing, this wasn't what surprised me.  It was Gayle's assessment of Timmy's self-image as far as his place in society.  She'd asked a number of probing questions meant to determine the boys' self-image and future expectations -- how they saw themselves contributing to society after school.  Timmy said he knew he'd be a janitor because his father had been one before prison and his mom had always told him that he was just like his father … worthless.  Gayle shared that he just giggled and rolled his eyes unbelievingly when she suggested that he could do and be anything he wanted to.

          Cleats' scores also placed him at collegiate level in math and science, but the English and written expression scores were below the average level of other students his age.  Again, it seemed, environment had contributed its negative input in the shaping of the boys' self-ideation.  Cleats' father, well-intentioned but misdirected, had not allowed Cleats to read for fun.  It was the bible, a text book or nothing and he would disregard his composition work in later years because 'that stuff was for girls and homos'.  When asked what he saw as his contribution to society after school, he'd remained silent except to mumble, 'Fu Man'.  Gayle's impression was that Cleats was involved in a major, internal battle being waged between the concept of believing in himself and the dreams that previously had never been possible to achieve against his upbringing which said he has to work to provide for his family, go to church and work along side his father in the factory.  The push from his father towards math and science was for the hope that he could be a mechanic working on the line equipment instead of simply being a lineman.  

          I stared at Gayle and could feel my pulse quickening as my anxiety over the complexities tied to each of the boys' futures began to snowball through me.  It never seemed to stop for these guys … ever.  Each time a bit of good news or hope came along, their past dramatically and destructively reared up to slam into them and push their faces back into the slop. 

          I shook my head slowly, dismayed and battling for my own semblance of hope and was startled from my thoughts by the voice behind me.

          "You're forgetting something, Blair," Rob began quietly yet forcefully.  He'd remained silent throughout the last twenty minutes.  "The boys now have the love and powerful backing of Arthur and Lancelot.  They now live in Camelot and very soon, it won't just be a figurative expression, but they'll actually be gathering nightly at Arthur's Round Table and experiencing quests and campaigns and life from a suddenly, very magical perspective.  You need to remember that it's only been a little over a week.  The effects of having you and Joel in their lives … and Gayle and Bill, et al, are already beginning to show.  Give it time, Blair.  The Great Works never happen overnight, but are rendered through constancy, passion … and love."

          My face flushed as recognition of the wisdom contained in Rob's words flooded through me like an electrical current through a transformer.  My anxiety diminished slightly and my stare locked with Rob's.  I nodded slowly.  He tipped his head towards me in silent, returned response to my acknowledgement.  I breathed deeply then flipped to the last evaluation, Mau's.  But, like with everything in the past week, the hope that swelled moments before was dimmed.  His evaluation was blank.  I looked to Gayle in question.

"He refused, Blair." 

I pulled back confused.  Over the last week, the progress made with his comfort level and acceptance of us had become something that I was beginning to count on, something that I felt we could use to make plans around.  Gayle answered my unasked question.

"He doesn't plan on going to school because he doesn't think he'll live long enough to graduate."




          The elevator closed and I stood silent in thought, hand poised over the button which would take me to the lobby.  My thoughts bounced in circles between futility and determination to anger.  It was easy to believe that a kid of sixteen could honestly believe that life wasn't worth living after losing everything that was once familiar, once loving.  The loss of his father and mother, his sister, would have been enough.  But added to it was the loss of any hope for further or prolonged innocence from the repeated rapes.  And then, now, when it seemed as though there was a possibility of hope, of new life rising from the train wreck of his last five months … he's told he's been given an incurable disease, one with associated stigma and prejudice.

          It had been enough to keep my thoughts together with Gayle and Rob.  But now, I needed to either gain some strength and clarity from Joel or simply lose it with him … lose my control and let him deal with a psychotic partner.  Either way, I needed to be with him.  If the new revelation concerning Mau wasn't enough, Chris' self-ideation as a whore and Timmy's reluctant, yet accepted aspiration to be a janitor definitely was cause to scream in frustration.  I needed air.  Fresh air.

          The elevator began to descend on its own accord.  Someone had called it from the lobby.  A quick scan of my memory said that all six boys were in the apartment and I knew that Joel was at his office conducting a strategy session with the team regarding the Paris acquisition.  I looked at my watch as the doors slid open.  It was after five and I quickly calculated that I'd have a little under an hour and a half to jump to the office then get back to fix some dinner for the boys.

          "Hey, Pretty Boy.  They said you was in the crib.  Looks like you's headin' off some place."

          The glint in Ranus' eyes caused my shoulders to stiffen as I pulled back in surprise.  He was the last person I wanted to see. 

          "It's just the boys upstairs."  My voice, flat and short, conveyed the distaste I had for him which had been accented by our encounters yesterday.  Then his words sunk in.  "Who said I was upstairs?"

          "Pretty Boy Two and my boy.  Just saw 'em on the street."  His head gestured towards the main door.  His grin widened as his eyes purposefully scanned me beginning with my face and settling on my crotch.  I refused to rise to his taunts and after a moment realized he was talking about Chris and Cleats.

          "They were outside?"

          He nodded, pulling his eyes from my groin with a blatant smack of his lips.  "Damn, boy.  You're fine."

          Again, I ignored him.  "What are you doing here, Ranus?"

          A low chuckle rolled from his throat.  "Came to see you, Pretty Boy One.  I wanted to see if when Summer's legal boys do their work and I get ma' money that's owed me, if I could tempt you to jump inta mah bed and out of his."  His grin dropped into a leer as his hand cupped his groin lewdly.  "I know I got more than your white boy does where it counts."

          My gaze, fixed and unchanging, continued to focus on his smirking expression then slowly, deliberately moved to his eyes.  The taunt remained, staring back at me.  I dropped my gaze and moved around him through the door into the lobby.  His chuckle again rumbled from deep in his throat.  I pulled my phone from my pocket and dialed Chris' cell phone.  As I waited for it to connect, I approached the doors and saw Ranus' reflection in the glass following me.  I turned to face him as Chris answered.  Ranus smirked at me.

          "Chris?  What's up with leaving without saying anything to me?"  My voice contained a sharpness I didn't intend, but Ranus had set me on edge.

          "Oh …sorry, B.  I couldn't find you and told Ben.  We're just going to shoot a few."

          I immediately regretted my tone.  Pissed at myself, I shook my head once then let out a low curse.  "My mistake, bud.  I … sorry.  I just left the apartment with a quick shout that I'd be back soon.  I guess I'm a little on edge."  My rising anger over Ranus' constant games on top of the morning and afternoon's events caused my face to redden.  "You're gonna be back for dinner, aren't you?" 

          A brief pause met my question.  "Well … uh, Fu Man laid some cash on us and we were just gonna get a burger somewhere.  You down with that?"  His voice contained a small measure of uncertainty with a larger amount of upset and challenge.  A small voice in my head said to not raise the intensity of the moment.  It was a simple question answered with a proper response, but I'd already escalated beyond my limit just as Ranus again grabbed then shook his crotch at me and licked his lips. 

          "Yeah, whatever.  Have two.  Fuck!  Have four." 

          I snapped the phone shut then turned and hurled through the door onto the street.  My anger exploded and a loud, half-swallowed, 'fuck!' burst from my lips.  'Let 'em eat ten burgers!' I thought as I launched into the street towards Joel's office building three blocks to the east.  Half-way down the next block, I realized that Ranus continued to follow me like a shadow I couldn't escape.  I whirled back towards him.

          "What the fuck do you wantHuh!?"  The impotence I'd felt building yet again tied with the whirling, out-of-control, intense events of the day to funnel itself at the perfect target; Ranus Williams -- self-styled victim.  "Stop following me, stop coming on to me.  I'm not interested so just go away.  I'm sure Joel will do what ever it takes to get his pet poet back what's due to you, but just get the fuck away from me and stay away!"

          A swallowed smile crossed his lips as he held his hands as if to ward off an attack.  "Part of me would like nothing more than to keep fucking with you, but I must accede the fact that it's just no fun anymore." 

          His words and the unnerving change into complete sentences and proper grammar cut through my irrational rage.  "What?  This has all been an act?"
          He nodded.  "Your feathers are easily ruffled, Bird.  I take it there was more heavy shit that came out of your morning session with Mau?"

          I nodded warily.

          "But something else has happened to add to it."

          I nodded once more, this time surrendering to the overwhelming futility.  "Chris sees himself as nothing but a whore and Timmy aspires to be a janitor because he's 'worthless like his father'."

          "And you're surprised?  By any of this?  C'mon, Michaels, get real.  These boys are fucked up.  Cut 'em all a little slack, would you?" 

          I opened my mouth to respond, but my thoughts only whirled in confusion.  I couldn't make sense of the anger I felt nor of my desire to pound Ranus' smirking face into the pavement … repeatedly.  My thoughts collided in a chaotic spasm of ultimate frustration and shame.  I'd yelled at Chris for no reason.  Again!  I couldn't seem to communicate even the simplest point of reminding him to let me know he was leaving because my emotions blocked my rational thought with idiotic and made-up ideas that they'll never look up to me like they do to Joel, that I'll never measure up.  Three months ago, I went after what I wanted when I wanted it.  Now it seemed that I couldn't go an hour without loosing myself in what was going on around me. 

          My thoughts suddenly stopped whirling in their self-serving spiral.

'What bullshit!  What absolutely, pitiful, self-serving drivel!'  The truth in my own thoughts wouldn't be denied.  'Grow up, man!  And get a fuckin' clue.  This is what you've made of things.  You!  You've had a hand in all of this too!  This is what you've rendered, what you've set into motion.'

My unseeing gaze jumped to Ranus.  He arched his brow, prompting me.

I dialed Chris' number hoping he wasn't too pissed to answer.





The brush of Joel's fingers against mine caused my body to hum.  I felt like purring.  My thoughts drifted.  I clearly remembered the evening three weeks ago, here on Joel's terrace, when we'd sat quietly lost in our own thoughts, like we were now.

Three weeks ago, we'd finished a lengthy meeting with the executive team an hour earlier that day and ended up outside on the terrace chairs with a glass of wine and our coats slung around our shoulders as a barrier against the early April chill.  The last of the sunlight dimmed towards evening.  At the time, neither of us had foreseen what the next few weeks would bring into our new life together.  We simply were enjoying the time spent with each other.  His fingers had brushed mine then as they did now.

The topic of our conversation then was not nearly as dark as our current conversation.  Then we had talked a little about the current acquisitions and a lot about us as a couple being together.  It was a time of definition and a time of sharing who we were and what made us up.  He shared a lot about Megan that night also as the darkness had settled and the welcomed heat from the two patio heaters kept the chill away.  He'd talked about how lost he'd become, three months earlier when the doctors had informed him that there was no longer any untried treatments for Megan and that he should spend his time with her instead of looking for a miracle.

Now, I felt Joel brush my hand a little more insistently and I glanced towards him to find a hardened presence settling into his gaze.  I nodded.  I knew we had more to decide.

"All right."  I had to give him more and I knew it.  "So, that takes care of both Cheyenne and the Springs.  What about Evergreen?"  That was the real crux of what we had to decide now … what about Ben's father and Uncle.  Cody's father and mother in Cheyenne would be served with child endangerment orders requiring them to appear before Judge Chambers to answer for their crime of shutting their sixteen year old boy out of their house in the middle of winter.  It was abandonment and Federal Child protection laws would see that they answered for their actions. 

Chris' father would be luckier.  He'd committed no crime, but that wasn't going to stop Joel.  His plan was to get Chambers to force the creep into mandated Diversity courses on the drummed up potential charge of endangerment due to the proven severity of some of the 'Fix The Gay' programs.  He wanted to make the guy aware that his responsibility for Chris had included loving him even though he may not have agreed with his son's sexuality.  Chris had made it clear that he'd been given no other choice if he wanted to remain at home, but to successfully complete the brainwashing program.  Tolerance wasn't an option.  And Joel planned to force tolerance down the man's throat.

"Steven is on our side in this, Blair."  Joel's statement left little doubt that it was his intention to see Ben's uncle behind bars for rape of a minor and Ben's father along with him for aiding and abetting a rapist with his failure to report the rape to proper authorities.  Additionally, the same charges of child abandonment and child endangerment would be filed based on placing Ben in danger by kicking him out onto the street.  "Steven apprised the District Attorney's office today of the situation and they will be ready to move as soon as we have our discussion with Ben.  They are also going to move on Cody and Cleat's parents, but the jurisdiction issue has to be resolved.  Steven isn't worried.  He said he was confident that he'd have both Cody's parents and Cleat's father in front of him within a week's time."

"But what about the idea that we use the threat of action against them to force their signature on the custody papers?  I'm not following where our previous talk about that fits in."

"Well … Steven wouldn't discuss that outside of saying that actual crimes were committed by the parents and knowing that, he is mandated to act.  He couldn't say anything about the leverage issue directly, but he did say that every case usually presents at least one or two bargaining points.  I take that to mean that potential jail time will be reduced to lengthy probation time in the case of Cody's parents and Ben's dad through plea bargaining and custody signatures.  Since Cleat's father actually hit Cleats, I'm not so sure.  There is no proof in Cleat's case of physical harm.  I'll have to ask about that tomorrow.  The D.A. already knows they have to get a confession out of Ben's dad since it's been such a long time and there is no evidence to convict the uncle."

I nodded.  "All right."  I mumbled.  It was clear to me that with what we were setting into motion … what we'd already set into motion by involving Judge Chambers and the D.A., that there was no way not to involve the boys.  Joel sensed my resignation.


"It's just …"


"Can we at least try to control the amount of involvement that the boys are going to have to go through with all of this?  They are each just barely starting to settle down a bit.  I don't want to … I … we've rocked their world so much in the past week, you know?"

          He smiled tightly and I saw the hardness leave his eyes.  "God, I love you, Blair."  He pulled my hand to his lips.  "You give me such needed balance.  Here I'm all ready to wage war and you bring me back to the human element.  Of course, you're right.  Let me do some more thinking on that, okay?"

          I nodded and brushed his lips with my fingers.  I couldn't help but sigh.  The past week and a half had moved at an insane pace, whirling and bouncing from one drama to the next.  It seemed that every conversation, every thought I now had revolved around the boys and the stark reality of their lives, which in turn, now was very much a focus of our lives.  If I admitted it, sudden parenthood after such a short time in our new relationship, daunted me more than anything.  And the intensity of each new issue, seemingly each new conversation was enough to make me snap into a version of myself that I didn't particularly care for.  My harsh words earlier on the phone with Chris sprung from nothing more than feeling out of control with the situation.  Luckily, he accepted my explanation of just being wound too tightly and he and Cleats had actually retuned to the apartment within the hour.  I couldn't blame them for needing to get out of the apartment.  They were teenage boys, after all, easily bored and very used to being outside instead of cooped up indoors. 

          I looked at Joel.  "Chris cut me some slack earlier."

          "Oh?"  He paused.  "I wondered about his comment regarding a rain check on the burgers."

          My head nodded slowly.  "No need for details, but suffice it to say, I snapped at him on the phone and then hung up.  It pisses me off, but I have to admit I probably wouldn't have called him back and apologized if it hadn't been for Ranus."  I smirked to myself.  "And Chris was adult enough to answer my call.  Kudos to Chris."

          Joel chuckled quietly.  "Ranus sure does get under your skin, doesn't he?"

          "Yep," I replied with another brief sigh.  "And he knows it too."

          "Yep.  That he does."

          A high-pitched squeal, filled with laughter, suddenly flooded the terrace from somewhere behind us.  Joel and I turned to see Cleats standing in the doorway with Timmy held under his arm against his hip like a sack of flour.  Timmy squirmed in Cleats' grasp, as his feet kicked nothing but air.

          "You best stop struggling, T.  It ain't gonna do you no good, little man."  Cleats said as he stuck his free hand into Timmy's exposed armpit, tickling him quickly.  Timmy's shrieks increased.  Their play caused grins to cover both Joel's and my faces. 

          "What did Tim do to deserve all of this?"  Joel asked playfully.

          Cleats clamped his hand over Timmy's mouth and looked over towards us.  "He ate the last of the popcorn and didn' offer any to his boys."  Timmy screamed a response into Cleats' hand that I couldn't understand.  Cleats just shook his head and in one motion, set Timmy onto his feet then quickly stooped down and slung the panting twelve-year-old over his right shoulder.

          Timmy's giggles stopped briefly.  "I did not!  You're the pig who ate it all."

          Cleats shook his head then hoisted Timmy further over his shoulder as he grabbed Timmy's feet and lowered him further down his back.  Timmy's laughter resumed.

          "Now, now, T.  You better watch those lies, boy.  Your face is in the fart zone."  Cleats grinned at us as his eyes twinkled.  "Chrissy and I wanted to get out of here, so we thought we'd catch a movie and get some more popcorn.  Of course the pygmy here wanted to go, so if it's ai'ight, we're gonna catch the 7:30 show.  Mau's gonna go, too."

          I chuckled and nodded. 

          "What are you going to see?"  Joel asked.

          "Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Fu-man.  It's supposed to be so chill."

          Joel shook his head once and grinned.  "What's it rated?"

          "Don't know.  It's about zombies.  Chris said he'd cover the pygmy's eyes at the gory parts."

          "I'm not scared, you fat ass."  Timmy landed a solid punch into Cleat's hamstring causing Cleats to shake his head. 

          "You're so dead, punk."  He said, smirking.  "So, you boys down with that?"

          Joel nodded.  "Just so long as its not rated R."

          "Cool, Fu," Cleats replied, tipping his chin up towards us once.  He turned his back to us and shook Timmy a couple of times.  "Say goodbye to Mommy and Daddy, T."

          I laughed.  "Get out of here, Cleats."




"You're serious?  We're going to have a maid and a cook?"

          My eyebrows shot upwards to confirm Ben's question.  "Joel already has a woman that cleans.  You know that.  But I think that it's pretty obvious to all of us that we need to eat better than we have for the couple of weeks or so, Bud.  You may be happy with burgers and pizza everyday, but it's hardly nutritious."

          I tucked his hair behind his ear and winked.  "I want to put some meat on your bones, Bone."  I grinned and gave another wink in Cody's direction.  Ben rolled his eyes.  Cody snorted.

          "He don't need anymore meat in some places, B," Cody said.  "If you know what I mean."

          Ben flashed a strained, forbearing look at Cody then blatantly ignored the comment.  "But Blair, I like burgers and pizza, I love burgers and pizza, man.  Is this new cook going to make us eat only good stuff that I just know we won't like?"

          I nodded immediately, my face turning serious.  "Yes.  He or she will serve vegetables with every meal and you will love them and you will eat them or else you'll never have another spoonful of ice cream as long as you live." 

          A brief pause filled the room while Ben and Cody slowly turned to look at each other.  I saw Cody's upper lip begin to shake just prior to raucous, braying laughter bursting from them as they fell against each other.  I grinned from my place next to them on the couch.

          "Good one, B-man," Cody choked.  "You're so funny."

          "Yeah, B., a real comedian."

          "No more ice cream!"  Cody rolled into another peal of laughter.  "Ice cream is what Bones' whole food pyramid is based on, man!  What are you trying to do, send him into detox?"

          Cody's last comment sent them beyond laughter into uncontrolled giggles.

          From deep within me a sense of completeness welled.  I felt it wrap around my heart and hug my soul like an angel's embrace; contented, satisfying, endless.  These boys, each of them, had wormed into my heart causing feelings like nothing I'd ever experienced in my forty-some years.  And as I watched them giggle, laying against each other in their happy intimacy, I knew I'd do almost anything to protect the next few years, the next few decades of their lives.  My life had changed from the predictable, shallow portrayal of a man driven by shallow needs into one full of unpredictability; one full of love.  I was happy in this moment, here with my giggling boys. 

Unfortunately, though, there was one last thing to do before I allowed myself to call it a night.  Joel was talking with Cleats and Chris now in the study and I needed to broach the subject with Ben and Cody of the pending legal actions we'd instigated against their parents.  I just didn't want to spoil this moment.  They were so relaxed, so happy.  A deep, unplanned breath filled my lungs.  Then I sighed.

          "Let's get some ice cream, pups."

          My words reached into Ben's awareness, causing his giggles to stop abruptly.  Cody continued as his head rolled on Ben's chest and Ben's arm wrapped around his shoulder.  His look told me he sensed something unpleasant coming.  I should have realized that he would.  "What."  His smile dimmed.

          "Don't you want some desert?"  I said, ignoring his real question, but asking with my eyes that he allow me the moment.  A slight lift of his chin granted me the reprieve from immediate explanation.  He slowly lowered his head to give a still-snorting Cody a light kiss on his hair.  His eyes never left mine. 

          "C'mon, Codes.  I'm feeling a little shaky and need my cream fix.  B's scooping and you're squirting the chocolate."

          In that moment, my love for Ben skyrocketed to new realms.  He'd once again placed his trust in me, without knowing what I wanted.  What the reason was for his blind trust in me, I couldn't know and probably would never understand, but all the same, he again granted me unwavering latitude.  I pursed my lips to show my thanks as I gave a slight nod.

          Cody jumped up and offered Ben his hand.  "Squirting chocolate sauce, huh?  I know where I'd like to …"

          "Codes, man!  Stop!"  Ben said jerking his head towards me before Cody could finish. 

          I snorted as my head shook from side to side.  Cody looked at me then quickly rolled his eyes, but kept silent as Ben took his hand pulling him from the room towards the kitchen.  I followed grinning.

          I filled the bowls, giving the boys a couple extra scoops after receiving an unbelieving look from Ben.  Cody topped the cream with chocolate.  For some weird reason, it seemed like the kitchen was as good a place as any to start my conversation.  I slid to the floor against the cabinet, the ice cream resting on my raised knees.  Ben and Cody followed. 

          Ben scooped an overflowing spoonful of ice cream from his bowl and raised the spoon above him, dangling the dripping mess over his open mouth.  He looked sideways at me and the caricature created by his silliness caused me to laugh. 

          Cody egged him on.  "Go for it, Bones!"  

          Ben allowed the mounded spoonful to drop slowly into his mouth as his eyes closed in dramatic bliss.  The spoon, once removed, was clean as Ben's cheeks bulged.  Again, I slowly shook my head.

          "You better watch out, Pup, or you're gonna get a brain freeze."

          His eyes opened in synchronized movement as he playfully arched his brows and gave me a throaty, dismissive groan of delight.

          We sat quietly for a moment, the boys propped against each other.  I swallowed once, and then looked across at them.  "I need to talk with you two about something serious." 

          Cody looked up towards me with a questioning glance as another spoonful found its way to his mouth.  Ben looked into his bowl as he slowly stirred the contents. 

          "I don't know how you sensed my need to talk before, Ben, but I …"

          "Dude, your heavy sigh said it all."

          So, that was it.  I nodded once to him.  "Sorry about that."

          He shrugged.

          "Uh … right now, Joel is talking with Cleats and Chris about what I need to talk to you guys about."

          "You're dumping us.  Fuck.  This day just keeps sucking more."  Disappointment and surrender showed through his breathy sigh. 

          Cody's words and the transparency of his fears caused me to sit up quickly. 

"No!  Never!"  The immediacy of his thought, his voiced fear, stung me with the reminder of how much their lives had changed so quickly.  Each moment was big stuff for them and I suddenly realized just how fragile their belief was in Joel and me, in our mere words of love and offered security.  I set my bowl on the floor beside me and placed my hands to either side as I leaned towards them. 

          "Cody.  Ben."  I began, forcing as much seriousness as I could into my voice.  "I know you'll never fully believe and trust in the fact that Joel and I want you in our lives permanently.  I can't ask that of you.  Not with what you've all been through.  But I swear to you, by all that I hold dear and close to me, that we'll never abandon you.  Bringing you into our lives and offering ourselves to you to rely on, was not done on a whim."  My eyes darted between both boys, pleading silently with them to understand the commitment we'd made.  "Cody, we wanted each of you knowing full well that you would undoubtedly be bringing a whole butt load of hurt and most likely some problems with you.  It's expected and if we all are always honest with each other about what we're feeling and thinking, then the problems are dealt with, out in the open.  And hopefully resolved." 

I looked at Ben.  "Okay?"

          He nodded towards me as Cody dropped his gaze to the floor.  "Cody?"  He continued to stare downwards until Ben bumped him with his shoulder.  Finally, he raised his eyes to meet mine.  They were filled with tears.  I smiled.  "I love you, Cody.  I mean that.  And I want you with Joel and me on a daily basis until you're an adult and set to go out on your own, yet still knowing you'll always have us to fall back on.  Okay?"

          His tears dropped down his cheeks, but he gave me a hesitant nod.  Ben slowly reached for his hand, clasping it in his own.  Ben looked at Cody then back at me.

          "So what gives, Blair?"

          I cleared my throat.  "Tomorrow, officers and representatives of the court are showing up at your respective, previous homes to arrest Cody's parents and your father and uncle on the grounds of child endangerment and abandonment.  In the case of your uncle, Ben, he'll also be arrested on rape charges."




          "So he gave us a made up birth date."

          My eyes met Joel's, looking out at me from the closet.  I nodded.  "All day he's been waiting for, hoping for a call from his mother, and nothing's come.  And then I tell him we're having his parents arrested tomorrow."  My head hung in defeat.  I heard Joel move towards me, then felt his hand lift my chin.  His deep brown eyes held the shared defeat and misery I felt.  I looked away, then back.  "The utterly lost and alone look on his face, in his eyes, it … ripped something in me." 

          My vision of Joel blurred as my eyes pooled with heartache.  I went to pull away from him, but he swung his arms around me and pulled tightly.  My shoulders began to shake as I hung limply against him.  I couldn't stop the feelings.  My voice choked with emotion.  "When I said that I had something serious to talk to them about, he thought we were going to kick him out, Joel!"  I pulled back enough to see his face.  "Of course, I immediately reacted to what he said," bitterness laced my words, "and missed the second part … something about his day just getting better and better.  It wasn't until he wouldn't stop crying in Ben's arms that Ben finally got him to tell us what was really upsetting him."

          "What did Ben do?"

          More tears spilled down my cheeks and my face clenched with the mix of countering feelings of pain and tenderness.  "He made Cody look at him and told him that his 'rents were shit.  And then he said, 'I love you, dude.  Happy Birthday, Codes.'  And that was all it took.  I had to look away for a bit.  Their kiss was way too personal to watch.  I finally cleared my throat and they separated."

          I wiped my face with my hands to clear away the tears.  A half smile twisted my lips.  "You should have seen how red Ben's face was when he realized I'd seen them."

          Joel smiled with me as I moved from him and dropped into one of the side chairs near the closet.  I looked at him and swallowed as a haunted feeling filled me with the memory of what happened next.  "Ben then said he hated his uncle and his dad and that he hoped they rotted in prison forever."  I paused as my face twisted worriedly.  “His voice rasped as he said it, Joel.  He means it completely.”

          As Joel absorbed my words, I watched his eyes process the deeper ramifications behind Ben's statement.  A moment later, he spoke.  "That's not the first time he's used the word 'hate' in connection with his father."

          I nodded as he continued.

          "And I'm no psychologist, but, that just can't be good for a boy his age to be harboring such strong, negative emotions.  It's like they're eating away at him."  He paused then moved to sit in the chair next to me.  He leaned back, stretching out his long legs and sighed.  "I have to see if Bill can start his sessions with the boys this week instead of waiting until we move."

          Again, I nodded.  "Cody finally said that he didn't care what happened to his parents and then asked me again about staying with us, just to make sure I think that we weren't going to kick him back out on the streets.  And before I could respond, Ben cut me off by telling him 'don't be so dumb, dude', to which Cody nodded and grinned.  Can you believe that, babe?  They're amazing.  Here I'm going all nelly with emotion and drama, and they seem to absorb the punches and move on."

          Joel sighed, something he normally refrained from doing.  It wasn’t in his character.  It caused my senses to prick up. 


          He looked at me and I noticed how strained and bloodshot his eyes were.  There was a tension across his forehead, etched in deep furrows and as I continued to take in his appearance, unease filled me. 

          “Joel?  What’s wrong?”  Before he could answer, it hit me.  He’d talked with Cleats and Chris when I’d met with Cody and Ben.  Something must have happened . . . something not good.            “Cleats told me that while he really appreciated everything that we had already done for him and his boys, if we pursued his father legally, he’d leave.  He wouldn’t even discuss it with me.  He simply left the room even though both Chris and I asked him to stay.”  Joel’s hand rubbed his mouth and chin as if to wipe away a foul taste.  “And Chris refused to offer any explanation for Cleats’ position other than to look away when I asked him for his help.  Then he proceeded to tell me that we shouldn’t bother with his folks because he never wanted to see his father again and … and he considered him dead.  When I pushed him about his mother, he said that she’d been dead to him for years due to her alcoholism.” 

          Another sigh escaped his lips.  “And now, Blair,” Joel continued, “I’m suddenly at a loss as to knowing if we’re doing the right thing.  I mean …”, he paused as his eyes, previously locked with mine, dropped to study my knee, unseeing.  “Steven isn’t going to stop with the arrests.  He told me.  And if he goes forward, we stand to lose Cleats.”

          “I didn’t even know that Chris’ mom was an alcoholic.”

          Joel nodded, his resignation to that fact and more apparent in his silence. 

          “So,” I started, “that’s why you’ve been so … quiet.”  I looked down at him and watched as his eyes closed and another sigh slipped out.  

          “I … I thought I had chosen the right path for us and for the boys, but … everything we do keeps spinning out of our control.  I keep telling myself that if we just stick with it, things will settle down a bit for us, yet, it doesn't seem to be working and as far as Cleats goes, I … haven’t been able to figure out our next step.”

          His admission surprised me, almost as much as his utterly haggard expression.  His eyes held doubt for probably the first time since we'd become intimate.  That was unsettling.  It was with calm certainty that each wild issue occurring with one of the boys had been dealt with over the past ten days.  That wasn't what I saw now.  His eyes were bloodshot and a deep line furrowed his brow.  The normally relaxed cheeks and jaw now clenched tightly as if somehow that action alone could provide the direction we needed in the moment.  He needed support.  I needed to step up with an answer.  Oddly, it was simply waiting to be spoken. 

          “It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science, Joel.”  The smirk in my voice surprised even me.

          He looked at me, somewhat confused and a little chagrined at my sudden flippancy.  I stood and turned towards him.  The sudden clarity jarred my senses.  “We don’t let Steven pursue Cleats’ father.  It’s just that simple.  We tell him that we stand to lose him and we’re not willing to do that.”  I snorted irreverently.  “Period.  End of story.”

          Possessiveness – strong, unexpected, unwavering, blasted through me.  All I could think about suddenly was that my pack would not be broken up.  My whole life up to this point had been a series of fantastic false starts towards happiness and now that the real thing was before me and becoming more real with each turning day, I refused to allow some judge’s sense of social justice to deny me my happiness again with his own legal crusade.

          The world was made up of injustices.  Throughout my adult years, most of which were spent alone while watching unjust happenings in the world occur in front of me, I’d come to the most-times sickening realization that life wasn’t fair to the majority of people.  Over and over again, I’d see people being forced into situations where there was little recourse but to give in and accept their fate, their lot in life.  Others were able to overcome many of the shitty things that happened to them either because they had a stronger sense of their own place or because they didn’t take things personally and simply moved on because that’s what they were raised to do or because their mate assured them they were loved or who knows, maybe it was just because the sun was shinning and they believed it would continue to shine.  Right now, I didn’t care.  Life wasn’t fair.  It couldn’t possible be fair with what life had brought these boys!

          The past week and a half with the boys in our life, including the inherent changes and dramatic unfolding of traumas that neither Joel nor I could even comprehend had we not actually seen them happen, caused me to feel more alive than ever before.  All of us, all eight of us, plus Bill and Gayle and Ranus and even Hank, were trying to figure out a path through the insanity of the boys lives.  And we were not failing at it either.  In this moment, I wasn’t sure we were actually succeeding, but I knew we weren’t failing.  And god damn it, we weren’t going to give up or risk the loss of one of them. 

          I saw in Joel’s stunned expression that he knew my words were right.  We couldn’t allow Steven to jeopardize our keeping Cleats.  I knew, undoubtedly, in that moment, that regardless of the havoc the kids had caused in our lives, being without even one of them would have a catastrophic impact on both our souls.  I still had reservations about the whole ‘raising six messed up teenage boys’ thing, but there was no reservation with my feelings for them.  None whatsoever.  We made this situation ourselves; this was the result of our actions.  And whether or not I’d felt countless times over the past few weeks that my own life was out of my control, the very real reality that we were now in was of our own making.  It was our choice … my choice.

          A smirk spreading across Joel’s face broke through my mental raging. 

          “What?”  I asked fitfully.

          “You’ve got the same glint in your eyes that you had the day you propositioned me with doing nasty things to my earlobe.  It’s like you’re suddenly ready to take on the world.”

          I remembered that day in the diner, vividly.  I chuckled quietly as a small blush warmed my cheeks.  “I just see things very clearly for probably the first time since Ben arrived.  Life sucks big time if you let it.  And you and I have decided to make it stop sucking for the boys.  You’re going to use your influence to whatever extent is needed and stop Steven from going after Cleats and Chris’ parents.  They made their choices and the end result of their choosing cost them their own sons.  Let them live with that.  I’m all for going after both Ben and Cody’s parents and that prick of an uncle.  It was abandonment, endangerment and flagrant, criminal abuse by all four of them.  They can rot behind bars for all I care.  But I won’t lose Cleats, especially not after the two of us finally connected.  Okay?"

          He pressed his face against my bare abdomen as his arms wrapped around my legs.  His breath flowed warmly across my skin.  “Definitely okay, love.”  He squeezed tightly, desperately, and in that action I knew his moment of uncertainty about what our next step would or should be was over.  "God, Blair, watching you get all fiery and directive makes me horny as a goat."

          I laughed and stroked his hair.  "I'm just too fucking tired tonight to fuck, babe."

          The 'me too' and sigh was almost comical.




          “Uhhh … ummm ….”  Drifting to a level of wakefulness, I felt the soft caress of fingers on my naked butt.  My eyes opened, gradually focusing on the sheets and comforter covering Joel’s back.  Momentarily disoriented, I couldn’t assimilate the continuing touch on my butt with Joel’s obviously sleeping figure.  The fingers moved from my buttock to lightly clasp my shoulder and my level of alertness increased to full waking. 

          “Blair, wake up.”

          I quickly turned my head to look behind me and gradually, in combination with his whisper, realized that Chris sat on the edge of the bed. 

          “What?  What’s wrong?”  My voice was gruff with sleep.

          “I need your help.”

          I rolled onto my back and reached to turn on the beside lamp with my left hand while my right hand tried to pull the sheet from under Joel enough to cover my nakedness.  Once the room filled with the dim light offered by the lamp, I saw Chris’ gaze staring at the lump made by my cock under the sheet.  I ignored his stare even as my mind lingered on the earlier feel of his fingers caressing my naked ass. 

          After a few moments, I realized he was zoning out on my crotch.  “Enough with the peep show, Chris.  What’s wrong?”

          A strangled growl rumbled in his throat as he rubbed his forehead and bangs with his hand.  “I’m so fucking horny right now!” 

          His statement, considering his gratuitous caress, caused a small amount of annoyance to flood my senses.  “You woke me up to tell me you’re horny?”  I glanced at the clock and realized it was one in the morning and I’d only been asleep for a little over an hour. 

          “No! … Uh … yes.”  His eyes darted to mine then quickly dropped.  In the dim light I thought I saw a look that was almost haunted just as his eyes left mine -- haunted or afraid.

          “Chris!”  I exclaimed quietly, trying to keep my voice down so I didn’t wake Joel. 

          “That’s not what I mean.  That’s not why I woke you.  I just … well, fuck …it’s Mau.  And he wanted …” Chris’ voice stopped and he shot a sideways look at me.

          “What?  Is Mau alright?” 

          “Fuck.  Yeah, Blair.”  His voice dropped to a sardonic tone.  “He’s just fine and sleeping like a baby.”

          The sudden switch in his tone along with his sarcastic expression startled me.  I rubbed my face quickly and looked at him just as he jumped to his feet and turned towards me.  His hands clenched tightly causing his biceps and forearms, along with his chest and abdominal muscles, to contract and bulge.  His hair, loose from his usual ponytail, brushed over his shoulders and combined with the flexed physique into a stunning pose of raw, masculine sexuality.  My eyes dropped to the sizeable tent in his white cotton boxers.  I grunted silently as I discerned the flared head of his penis pressing the fabric outward.  I yanked my gaze back to his face in time to witness a wild expression flash across his eyes.

          “Everyone gets to have sex except me!”  He growled.

          It took me a brief moment to process what he was saying, but I gradually began to understand.  He hadn’t had any actual sex in the week and a half since he and the boys had come to live with us.  That still, though, didn’t explain why he’d woken me up in the middle of the night. 

          “Okay.  So?  What?  You haven’t gotten any since you moved in.  And,” I glanced briefly at his crotch then back to his eyes, “and you’re obviously a little hard up at the moment.  But I’m still confused.  I know you didn’t come in to get some from me,” I said unable to contain a slight smirk, “even though you thought you’d cop a feel of my ass before waking me up.”  The wildness dimmed slightly in his eyes at my last comment and I continued.  “So what’s this all about?  Why’d you mention Mau?”

          His chest and muscles deflated completed even though his erection continued unabated.  He dropped onto the mattress again.  He continued in an anguished voice.  “I just blew Mau and then he immediately passed out and I’m left high and dry and … fuckin’ horned up again.”  He spat out a gust of breath.  “I’m sick of this, B.!”

          My mouth dropped open as shock from his words enveloped my thought processes.  Anger rose in me, irrational from the start, as I absorbed and processed the implications of a sex act with Mau, especially in his completely fragile state.  “How could you, Chris?”  The vehemence of my feelings conveyed itself through my forced whisper.

          Chris’ eyes shot open wide.  “No!”  He hissed.  “I didn’t start it.  Just like Cody, man, I didn’t start it.”

          “Well then,” I shot back, “just how did it happen?”

          I could see the anger jump to his face as his eyes flared and his jaw clenched tightly.  “He started it.  He’s the one that couldn’t sleep and I woke up with him snuggling against me like he does sometimes after one of his nightmares.  I just spooned him in against me like I always do when he doesn’t want to be alone and started to fall back asleep.  Just like Timmy does, too, man.  So don’t blame it on me, Blair.”

          My anger dimmed slightly, but it was a long way from gone.  I reached over his legs that hung over the edge of the mattress and grabbed my briefs from the floor. 

          “Let me sit up, Chris.”

          Chris stood as I swung my legs from underneath the sheet and slipped them through the leg holes.  As I stood and began to pull the briefs up, I heard a low moan coming from Chris.  I looked up quickly and saw his mouth open as a sigh left his lips.  His eyes were locked on my penis.

          “Horn dog,” I muttered under my breath as the elastic waistband snapped against my hips.  I flicked my wrist meaning for Chris to follow me as I moved toward the chairs across the room where Joel and I had sat earlier as we discussed the boys.  Chris followed me over and I heard a whispered ‘fuck’ before I turned to drop onto the seat.  Chris shook his head back and forth slowly then dropped next to me in the empty chair. 

          He sighed.  “I sure hope Fu Man knows how lucky he is, B.”

          I closed my eyes, partially exasperated, partially amused, but kept my thoughts to myself.  I’d already learned with Ben and Cody that teenage hormones are not to be dealt with lightly.  I looked at Chris and continued in a slightly louder voice.

          “So, Mau snuggled up to you.  How did that lead to you blowing him?”
          His sigh contained a slight whimper.  “Well,” he began, slightly less defensively than a few moments ago.  “He kept fidgeting next to me.  I had my arm around his waist and finally said something like … ‘settle down, Mau’ or something like that anyway.  Then he just turned around under my arm and faced me.  All a sudden his face was buried into my neck and he started to kiss me and lick my neck and stuff.  I was like ‘whoa, dude’ but he didn’t stop.  Then he started humping against my dick and all and was like moaning or crying ‘please, Chris, please’.  I didn’t know what he wanted so I asked him.” 

          Chris turned his face from looking at his hands and locked eyes with me.  More of the haunted regret and shame filled his stare and I could tell he didn’t want to say anything more.  I cocked my head to tell him I was waiting.  He looked back at his hands.

          “He said ‘I need it, please’.  And I’m not dumb, you know.  I knew he just needed to get off with someone.  But Blair,” he darted another lost look towards me, “I couldn’t think of anything else but the fact that he’d been raped so much.”

          I nodded, finally seeing the full picture behind Chris’ anguish and shame. 

          “And then he rolled onto his back and pulled my head to his and kissed me and I just lost control.  He makes me so hot!  I kissed him all over.  I’d been wanting to do that for months.  He’s such a hot fuckin’ little guy and he kept making this hotass whimperin’ sound and moaning and before I knew it, his legs were in the air and around my waist and he was humping against my dick .”  His head shook back and forth repeatedly as if the vision in his mind was taking a long time to make itself real.  "And I just couldn't do it knowing everything, but I fuckin' wanted to so bad."  He shook with longing.   “I got him off with my mouth, then … fuck, Blair … then he whispered ‘I love you so much, Chrissy’ and passed out.”

          We looked at each other for a long moment.  My thoughts wouldn’t congeal.  I could no longer hold any anger towards Chris and instead, only felt a large lump in my throat and it became more and more clear that Chris’ sexual frustration must be off the charts. 

          “What do I do now, Blair?  I’ve wanted Mau since he first showed up with Ben, but never even considered it the slightest bit possible.  And fuck …” he slouched in the chair which caused his grossly tented boxers to rise up.  He grabbed his erection through his shorts and let out a long, sexual grunt.

          My own erection pressed against my briefs and I bent forward to try and hide it.  I am a gay man after all.  I hadn't once thought about having sex with any of them, but between the events Chris had just shared with me, in addition to seeing his sexy, muscled, underwear-clad body flex in sexual tension, I wanted nothing more than to throw him to the floor.  The desire was almost uncontrollable.       I drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly, then took another.  “Chris … uh … take some deep breaths with me.  We both need to settle down some.”

          He opened his eyes and looked at me.  The anguish from moments earlier gave way to surprise.  His eyes darted to my crotch as I bent further to hide my excitement.  “You’re boned, aren’t you, B.?”  A wide smirk grew on his lips.

          Fuck.  I needed to change things fast.  I took another deep breath and stood up.  His eyes shot open as he took in the sight of my erection-strained briefs.  The white cotton fabric bulged outward obscenely with my desire.  His mouth dropped open and feral lust suffused his entire expression beginning with his eyes and then finally causing a pink blush to surface on his face. 

          “Oh, god …” he groaned then began to lean towards my groin, his mouth slightly open, as his hands reached toward my erection. 

          I let out a quick breath.  “Oh, god is right, Chris, but no go.”  I quickly reached for the back of his arm and yanked him to a standing position.  “C’mon, bud.  We need to change tunes and cool off.”

          My hand continued to grasp his triceps as I turned and led us through the bedroom door.



          Fifteen minutes later, I crawled gently beneath the sheets and snuggled up against Joel’s back seeking his warmth.  My arm snaked around his waist and moved upward to pull his torso back against mine.  I felt his chest begin to shake and a low chuckle rumbled from him. 

          “You get those tunes changed and everything cooled down with our boy, B-man?”

          I could hear the smirk in his words.  “Fuck you, Fu Man, and thanks for all the help.  I wondered if you were awake throughout that whole debacle.”

          He rolled onto his back as I raised myself slightly to look at his grinning face lit slightly by the moonlight filtering through the window.  “You’re freezing, Blair.”

          “Yeah.  It’s pretty cold out on the patio.”

          Joel snorted.

          “Don’t laugh.  I had to do something.  I’d gotten so turned on by Chris’ recount of the shit with Mau and then being so close to Chris’ own horniness … god,” I said as I let out a slow breath, “that boy is simply just raw sex walking.  I shouldn't have turned you down earlier.  How much did you hear?”

          “I woke sometime around when Chris said he’d blown Mau and was still horny.  What did I miss?”

          It was my time to snort.  “Oh, just a gratuitous grope of my ass.  That’s what woke me up in the first place.  I thought it was you, but when I opened my eyes I was looking at your back.  You’d pulled the sheet and comforter to your side which left my butt open to attack.”

          “Oh, so it’s my fault that you have an ass of marble made by the gods?"  He chortled quietly.  "And it’s my fault that every time you walk into the room neither Chris nor Cody can keep themselves from staring at it or the rest of your ‘hunky’ body as Ben calls it?  I see.”  I watched as Joel licked his lips subconsciously through his smirk.  His sarcasm continued unabated.  “Please accept my apologies.  I can only imagine how tough life is for you.  I mean, having to fend off repeated attacks from a totally studded-out and horned-up seventeen year old.”  He thrust his groin against my renewed erection.  “Now that’s a turn-on, babe.”

          I let out a grunt as I felt his hard cock grind against mine.  “You mean seeing Chris naked?”

          “No,” he moaned as his mouth sought out my neck.  “None of the boys do that for me.  But picturing you being mounted by Chris and slutting out for him, surprisingly turns me on totally.”

          I froze as his words sunk in.  I pulled away slightly.  Did he want that?  No way!  “You … you mean, Joel, that you’d want to watch Chris fuck me?”

          Joel kissed my neck again quickly and laughed.  “No.  Never.  Just a momentary fantasy because I'm suddenly hot for you again.  I’m not wired the same way as you are, babe.  Other guys don’t turn me on like you do, especially when you’re being a hot slut for my dick.”

          Sighing, I fell against his chest and felt his mouth suck my neck wantonly.  “Christ, Blair … god, you make me so hot.”  Joel chuckled as my moaning drawl continued.  “You had me there for a second, but you are so totally all the man I need.  Don’t stop.  Don’t … god, don’t stop lover ….”

          Joel worked my body into a writhing mass and then … he pushed me away.  I heard his panting breath as I realized that he’d stopped … all of it – his hands on my back and butt, his lips against my neck, his dick grinding against my own.

          “Is Chris going to be all right, babe?”

          “Ughhh … maaaannnnn!  You can’t do that, Joel!  You can’t just switch gears!”

          His hand pressed against my chest as I tried to lunge towards him.  Another chuckle filled my ears.  “Sure I can, babe.  You’re mine and I hope always will be.  Exercise a little patience and tell me what happened on the patio.”

          My frustration surged.  I pushed away from him and settled on my back next to him.  “You f’ing tease!  Damnit!”  My breath panted in response to his chuckle.  “If you have to know now, I took him to the terrace to cool us both off.  He didn’t want to go outside at first and looked at me like I was crazy, but then it must have hit him that I wasn’t going to have sex with him and he kind of growled just as I pushed him through the open patio door.”

          Joel laughed openly.  “Oh, god.  Poor Chris.  He probably thought he’d finally reached the promised land.”  His laughter continued as he choked out a gasp.

          My mirth matched Joel’s.  “Let me tell you, babe, it wasn’t so long ago that I’d have even questioned his age and just gone with the flow.  He looks considerably older than eighteen and trust me, him being all horned up tonight in just those skin-tight boxer-briefs made it more than a little bit tough to be the adult.”  I sighed.

          It wasn’t that I’d secretly been having some kind of hidden desire for Chris or any of the boys.  As Joel said about being wired, I wasn’t wired for teenagers, no matter how hot they were.  But after a couple weeks of seeing them parade around in just their boxers with their lithe and budding muscular bodies on display and being so unconscious about their youth, it had definitely played its hand with my psyche.  I knew in that moment that I’d have to talk to each of them about being a slight bit more modest while they were around the apartment.  And that talk would definitely start with Chris. 

          He’d actually thought I wanted to have a hot round of sex with him.  He didn’t take my refusal well, nor did he like my advice to either take a cold shower or use Megan’s room to have a good stroke.  But I do know that in the end he heard me say that, yes, I found him attractive as a man and that his body was truly enviable from my point of view as an over 40-year old gay man, yet, it was only voyeuristically a turn-on, my libido only wanted to be satisfied by Joel.  He heard that finally.  And he also heard me warn him away from trying to instigate a repeat session with Mau.  He even stopped me from going on about his fragile state, not to mention his status, by telling me that he didn't think that Mau was gay, but had only known getting fucked, albeit through rape, as a way to get off.  Then he'd started to cry.

          "Joel, he feels so guilty that he gave in and at the same time confused about Mau's seeming desire for the passion they both felt.  He kept repeating ‘but he said he loved me so much' that it almost broke my heart.  Chris just wants to be in love with someone.  He wants it in the worst way.  I think he was very much in love with his coach and that haunts him terribly."

          "Then, Blair … "  Joel said, "you and I have to let him know that he will find love.  We have to make him believe it.  That's the only way we can help him."  He paused and in the silence between his words I knew that an answer would be there for us.  "I think that it's time I shared my 'Appointments' theory with Chris.  He needs to understand that, with time, he'll be able to see and visualize what he wants and then have the patience for it to materialize.  That's what you and I both do and that's what he needs to learn.  None of the other boys are ready to understand the concept, but Chris definitely is and once he does, there'll be no stopping him."

          Simply hearing Joel's distilled and culled version of the real issue behind tonight's drama caused a balmy comfort to quiet my anxiety.  "You know, babe ... I hope you're right.  After we'd both finally gotten totally frozen on the terrace, he walked with me to the boy's room and I followed him in.  He dropped to the mattress next to Mau and Mau automatically spooned against him."  I snorted lightly at the memory of Chris' growl.

          "It made you realize just how honest Chris really is, didn't it?"

          I nodded.  "Chris simply draped his arm over Mau's waist and whispered to me 'see, I told you'.  I gave him a kiss on the cheek and told him that I thought he was an incredible man.  Damn, Joel, you should have seen his smile."

          "So," Joel began as he forcefully pulled me over to his chest, "another crisis averted, eh?"

          I growled as I launched my mouth in a determined attack to claim his nipple.  Enough talking.  I planned on showing him just how much of a slut I could be.



Special thanks goes to Rock Hunter for his endless efforts to edit this mess.  Thanks, Bud! 


Please send any comments to