Don Hanratty
My Belovèd is mine, and I am his.
Song of Songs 2:16


Good as their word, Kevin and Cam skipped school the next day so they could go to Marin General and see their mother that morning.  The other boys wanted to go with them, but when Kevin told them they could all go to the hospital with them during afternoon visiting hours if Catherine was still there, they reluctantly agreed to stay home for their class with Mr. Montgomery.

"Killjoy!" Carl told Kevin.  "Give Catherine our love, at least.  Give her this..."  He grabbed Kevin and, standing on his toes, planted a big kiss on the taller boy's cheek.

"Hey, Hey!" Cam said, pretending to look alarmed.  "Watch the kissing!!"

"Yeah, watch it!" Kevin said

"Just do what I asked you to do, Nike boy!" Carl said.

 Kevin and Cam dapped Carl and walked out of the back door.

The four boys ate cold cereal for breakfast, and had no sooner sat down at the dining room table to wait for Mr. Montgomery than Rosa Mendez came in.

"Good morning, boys," she said in her accented English.

"'Morning, Rosa," they chorused.

"Did you eat breakfast?" she demanded.

"Yes," William said.  "But it wasn't as good as your breakfasts are."

"What you want?  You want more?" she asked.

"I wouldn't turn it down," Dan said as the other boys nodded their heads.


"Yes," William said.

"How you want?"

"Huevos rancheros, please!" Mark said.  More nods.   "My favorite."

"You wait.  I fix," Rosa said, going into the kitchen and putting on an apron.  "Where Dr. MacKenzie?" she asked.

William stood up from the table and went into the kitchen.

"Uh, Dr. MacKenzie is in the hospital."

Rosa dropped the skillet she was holding on to the floor.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you," William said, bending down to pick up the skillet and then putting his arm around the little woman.  "She had a mild stroke, I guess, at school yesterday, and they kept her overnight for observation.  She might come home today, or maybe tomorrow."

"Oh, no!" Rosa moaned.  "She work too hard.  I tell her, but she no listen."

"I know it," William said.  "But we're all going to do more around the house so she won't have to work so hard.  We'll do more to help you, too, Rosa.  Dr. MacKenzie is gonna be OK."

William lost no time making good on his promise to be more helpful.  He and Carl set the table in the breakfast nook and Mark poured another round of orange juice while Rosa fixed the eggs.  Every one of them hugged Rosa and kissed her cheek in thanks before Mark offered the grace.  The boys eat every morsel.  In fact, Mark tried to spear some of Dan's eggs off the boy's plate for himself, but Dan speared them back and ate them in one mouthful.  They finished up and put their dishes in the dishwasher just as Mr. Montgomery arrived to start class.  They went into the dining room, greeted their tutor, and took their accustomed places around the table.

*  *  *

Cam and Kevin arrived at the door of Catherine's hospital room that morning, and were surprised to find a priest they didn't recognize in the room with her.   It was Father Reilly from St. Francis University, for whom Cam had left a message on his answering machine the previous evening.

The priest said the general confession with Catherine and absolved her, anointed her for healing, and gave her Holy Communion.  After he blessed her, closed his pastoral services book and removed his stole, the two boys went in.

Catherine's eyes lighted up when she saw them.

"Father Reilly, may I introduce my sons, Cameron and Kevin," she said.  "Against my express instructions, they've skipped school and come to see me."

The middle-aged priest smiled and shook hands with them.  "Good morning, boys.  I'm glad to meet you."

"Good morning, Father," the boys said in unison.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Cam added.  "I've heard Mom praise your work at the university many times."

"Your mother is too kind.  And she's determined to get back into the classroom sooner than she should," Father Reilly said.  "I'm trying to counsel her to take some time to get back on her feet."

"Thank you for that, Father," Kevin said.  "She needs some rest."

"It's unanimous, then," the priest said.  "Catherine, I'm ordering you to take at least two additional days off after you leave the hospital.  Your teaching assistants at school are perfectly capable of taking your classes until you return."

"Totally unnecessary," Catherine said.  "But unlike my sons, I'll do what I'm instructed to do."

The boys looked at the floor.

"I need to be on my way," Father Reilly said.  "Will one of you boys call me tomorrow and let me know how your mother is doing?"

"Yes, sir," Kevin said.  "I'm your man."

"Thank you for coming, Father," Catherine said.

"I don't get to do enough pastoring these days," Father Reilly said.  "I was glad to do it.  Stay in touch with me."

"I will," Catherine promised.  "And thank you again."

"Good-bye, Father," Kevin said, and Cam shook his hand again as the priest left.

Kevin bent over his mother and gave her a big kiss on the cheek, followed by Cam.

"That's from all the boys at home," Kevin informed her.  "We almost had a rebellion on our hands this morning.  They demanded to come with us to see you."

"Is that so?" Catherine said.

"Yeah, but Kevin is such a silver tongued devil, he has those boys under total control," Cam said.  "They didn't stand a chance.  He talked them out of it."

"Correcto mundo!" Kevin told Catherine, laughing.  "I promised I'd maintain discipline at home while you're away, and I am."

"You need to get home soon, Mom," Cam said.  "Kevin's like a Marine drill sergeant.  Everybody's afraid of him.  Even me."

Kevin shook his head in an imitation of deep sorrow.  "I don't like to call you a liar in front of Mom, but you are, y'know.  A real troublemaker.  Let's move on to more positive things, shall we?"

"All right," Cam said to his mother.  "Have the doctors said when you can go home?"

"Not exactly," Catherine said.  "I think they may want me to stay another day.  They keep fiddling around with my medications, I don't know why.  I feel perfectly well now."

"But you're not, Mom," Cam said.  "Are you trying to make us orphans or something?"

"You're not going to be orphans!"

"Well, we're gonna be one parent closer to being orphans if you don't start taking better care of yourself," Kevin said.  "You scared the livin' shit out of us, don't you know that?"

Catherine frowned.  "Do you want your mouth washed out with soap?"

Kevin grinned.  "No, m'am."  He paused.  "What kind of soap?"

"Don't get smart with me!  Grandma's lye soap!"

"Oh.  I'm sorry, then."

"We wanna start doing more work around the house to help you and Rosa, Mom," Cam said.  "You're just trying to do too much for all of us."

"Seriously, that's true," Kevin said.

"You want to do something for me right now?"

"Yes," Cam said.

"Then give me a pen and pad of paper.  I'll write you an excuse for school.  I want you both back in class just as soon as you can get there."

Kevin and Cam looked at each other and reluctantly agreed.  She wrote them an excuse.

The doctors decided to keep Catherine in the hospital one more night, so Carl, Dan, William and Mark drove over in the Navigator that afternoon to see her.  They went into
the room two by two to see her, and she realized how attached she had gotten to them over the short period of time they had been living in her house.

Catherine was released from the hospital the following day with instructions to rest more and take some new medications.  Kevin and Cam picked her up, and when she arrived home, the Carson and Emrick boys and Mary Carson, who was there by then, made a big fuss over her.

All the boys, including Cam and Kevin, had been glad to see Mary drive up in her little Mercedes convertible.  She was staying at the house for the foreseeable future, a welcome guest, with Ian to join them on Saturday.

It was a very happy, very joyful household with Catherine back where she belonged.  Mary and Rosa had Catherine's room ready for her, and she was treated like the lady of the manor.  Catherine was then able to rest easier, knowing that there was now another adult in the house full time to care for the boys.

Mary had brought Alice, and Alice and Sam played in the back yard with an old rubber ball, and the two of them became inseparable. 

Kevin and William made dinner that first night Catherine was home, following Mary's instructions.  They took several packages of boneless chicken breasts out of the freezer, thawed and baked them in the oven in a sauce made of cheddar cheese soup and cream of mushroom soup.  As side dishes, they served succotash along with a green salad with tomatoes, red peppers and cucumbers,
and microwaved whole potatoes to be served with sour cream.  Dessert was butter pecan ice cream.

"I'm retiring as cook around here," Catherine kidded Mary after the latter took her up a tray of food, and Catherine had taken a first bite of the chicken.  "If the boys can turn out a meal like this with a little guidance, the sky's the limit."

Even Cam had to admit that the food was good, and didn't hold back with the compliments for Kevin's and William's culinary skills.

After the meal was over, Cam, Mark and Dan and Carl had cleared the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher, and all six boys spent a half hour talking with Catherine in her bedroom along with Mary Carson.  She told the boys that the doctor had taken her off bed rest, starting the next day.  They were happy about that.

When they were talked out, the guys went down to the TV room to watch a CSI episode.  The Las Vegas CSI team was brilliant, as always.

*  *  *

It was the weekend, and all the guys were sleeping a little later than usual on Saturday morning.  Or if not sleeping, at least they were still in bed.  Cam and Kevin were lying in Cam's bed at 8 o'clock, facing each other, just enjoying the extra, intimate time together.

"I've been thinkin'..." Kevin said to his partner.

"Oh, no, sound the alarm!" Cam interrupted.

"Shut up!"

"OK," Cam said.  "What have you been thinkin'?"

"Y'know," Kevin said, "it's nobody's fault, but I think Carl was kind of the bright star in the Emrick household in Seaside.  Bein' a wrestling star and all, the attention just kinda came his way.  Sorta like you get all the attention in this house..."

Cam snorted derisively.  "You asshole!"

"Seriously, though, I think we need to give Dan a little extra attention.  I want to get him to start running and lifting weights with the rest of us.  With the proper encouragement, I think he'll dig it.  By the way, you've been sloughing off on your lifting program, and I'm fuckin' tired of it.  You better get your ass back on schedule."

"I love it when you talk tough," Cam said, laughing.

"Somebody has to," Kevin said, looking into Cam's green eyes.  "You have a lazy streak a mile wide."

"You're such a dick sometimes, I don't know why I love you."

"Let me remind you."  Kevin took Cam's hand, and put it on Kevin's nice, plump cock.  To the surprise of neither, it began to firm up.

"You're a first class perv," Cam said.  "A wonderful quality, I wanna tell ya.  You inspire me."

"You're tryin' to get me off the subject," Kevin said.

"No, I'm not.  Why doncha just pick a subject and stick with it."

"Because you make it so hard.  Real hard.  Er, under the circumstances, maybe I should say, 'difficult.'"

"You have to choose either mind or matter," Cam said.  "'Ya pays your money and ya takes your choice.'  That's an old MacKenzie family saying."

"'Pays your money...?'  Under the circumstances, that could sound a little whorish, depending on what you're payin' for, doncha think?"

"Little?  There ain't nothin' little about me, boy," Cam said.  "Unless you've been tellin' me my dick is big so I'd give ya sex."

"I'd never lie about the obvious," Kevin insisted.

"Do you wanna get off, or what?  If not, why am I holding your dick?"

"For companionship, I thought," Kevin said.  "One dick holding another.  I'm no mind reader."  He looked down at his rigid penis.  "It does improve the blood flow."

"No, it actually traps the blood and lessens the blood flow," Cam corrected.

"Always the intellectual, aren't cha?  The technician.  The physiologist."

"The romantic.  The movie maker.  Actor and director of living porn.  Mind or matter, I can go either way," Cam said.

"Flexible, huh?"  Kevin pulled Cam's face to his own, and they kissed one another long and deep.

When they pulled apart, Cam was panting a little, and rock hard himself.

"Now look what you've done!" he said.  "You've got me all amped."

"That's what the shower is for, dufus!" Kevin said.  "We've never fooled around in the shower."

They jumped out of bed and headed for the bathroom, erections waving, skirmishing to see who got there first.  It wouldn't matter.  The water was still running cold when Kevin pushed Cam under the spray and walked in after him, shutting the glass door.  Kevin stood behind Cam and put his arms around the partner's body, holding his chest, nuzzling and licking his neck, sticking his tongue into his ear, then resting his chin on his shoulder.  They just stood under the shower head for a long time, holding one another, enjoying the feeling of skin on skin.   Then Kevin's hand moved down Cam's chest and abdomen, grasping Cam's rigid tool and giving it a stroke.  Cam sighed in anticipation, and reaching up, set the shower head to a fine spray.  He turned around to face his partner, kissed him deeply, pulling him down to the floor of the shower and into a 69 position.

"Yeah!  Give me this bad boy!" Kevin said as he licked the head of Cam's dick, tickled the frenulum with the tip of his tongue, and gradually took the whole thing down his throat until his face was in his partner's pubes.  He could feel Cam doing the same to him.  They pulled off a bit so they could breathe.  The fine spray of the shower caressed them as they began flexing their hips a bit, fucking face ever so gently.  Cam tasted his boy's sweet pre-cum as Kevin pulled out each time until only the head of his cock was still inside his partner's lips, and then moved slowly back into Cam until Kevin's dick had been engulfed.

Cam expertly massaged his lover's dick deep in his throat as it moved slowly in and out.  Kevin began to groan, but they both disciplined themselves not to speed the pace as the fine drops of water from above ran off their tanned, muscular bodies and down the drain of the shower.

Kevin popped Cam's dick out of his mouth, inspected the head of it as he licked it and stroked the pole with his hand, and then plunged back down on it.  Inevitably, that started the launch sequence for Cam, and both sped up the pace incrementally as if their movements were synchronized.

Cam moved a hand through Kevin's legs, past his low hangers, and after rubbing the boy's pucker, gently inserted his moist middle finger to the point that he felt the hard kernel that was Kevin's prostate.  He began massaging it firmly as Cam heard his partner groaning through distended lips surrounding Cam's dick.  Cam could feel Kevin's hole closing spasmodically on his finger as they both moved inexorably toward climax.  Four more strokes for each of them, and each one tasted thick manseed as it spewed forcefully into their mouths.

Totally spent, they lay on the floor of the shower, their thoughts as misty for the moment as the fine drops of water which gently cascaded down on them.  After several minutes, Kevin turned himself around, and he and Cam kissed deeply again, holding each other and exchanging their semen before finally swallowing.  Cam took his partner's face in his hands, then put his own face next to it, kissing Kevin gently on the lips again and again.

"Kev," he whispered as their eyes locked on one another.


After a long pause, Cam said, "I want to tell you something, but I don't know how to say it.  Not in a new way like I want to, anyway."  He paused again.  "I love you from head to toe.  You have every quality I've ever admired in another human being and wished I had myself." He stopped, and then continued.  "You have courage, you're loving and caring, you're honest, you're smart."  He looked down Kevin's naked body and smiled.  "And without a doubt, you're sex on a stick as far as I'm concerned."  He nuzzled Kevin's face with his nose and grasped Kevin's now soft dick again.  "I don't think it will ever be any better for me in this life than it is right this minute with you on the floor of this dumb shower.  Seriously."

Kevin hadn't been expecting to hear all that, and the tough kid melted inside.  He teared up a bit, the moisture washing away instantly down the drain of the shower.  He said nothing as he hugged Cam tightly to his body.

"I don't have the words to tell you what I feel for you," Kevin whispered.  He caressed Cam's face.  "But maybe I can show you."  He stood up and helped Cam to his feet.  "Turn about is fair play," Kevin said, and he took soap and a washcloth and began to wash Cam's body as tenderly as the latter had washed him every day while his arm and leg had been healing.

"You're a beautiful person, Mac!" Kevin told him as he soaped his partner.  "In every way."

When Cam turned around to rinse off his backside, Kevin embraced him and gave him a long kiss.  After Kevin knelt and washed Cam's feet, he kissed them, too.  Instantly, for some inexplicable reason, Cam remembered a Maundy Thursday Mass at church once where he'd seen a priest wash and kiss the feet of twelve parishioners as an act of humility and service.  Moved, Cam studied Kevin silently.

In danger of having their skin turn into the texture of prunes, they finally stepped out of the shower, dried one another off, and headed for the bedroom.

"By the way," Cam told Kevin as they were getting dressed.  "Your plan to get Dan Emrick involved in running and lifting weights?  Slammin', man!!!  Just don't make the kid fall in love with you by showin' him more attention than he's probably ever received before in his life."

"No chance of that.  He probably senses that you have a stranglehold on my balls."

Cam laughed.  "Just as long as you know that."

"It helps keep my libido in check."

"That'd be a first!"

Kevin laughed.  "And just for future reference, nice work with your finger there in the shower.  I plan to return the favor at the earliest opportunity."

"Thanks," Cam said with a grin.

Kevin took Dan aside downstairs a few minutes later, and asked him if he wouldn't like to start running with him and the other boys, and lifting weights, too.

"Uh, no, not really," Dan told him bluntly.

"Well, would you be willing to give it a try as a favor to me?"

"Well...when you put it that way, I guess so," Dan said.  "Everybody else in this house is so buff, though, I know they're gonna laugh at me."

"Bullshit!" Kevin said.  "You're a very good looking guy, and not in such bad shape either, dude!  Anyway, if the guys laugh, they're gonna have to answer to me.   You and I can run together until you really get into it. 
I'm really taking it easy running right now because my leg is still healing.  Same for the weight program until my arm is good again."

"OK, I'll try it.  But I can quit if I don't like it, right?"

"Right.  Do you have a jock?"

"No," Dan said.  "I have one at home in Seaside, but I had to pack up in such a hurry, I didn't think to bring it."

"OK, let's go."  Kevin borrowed the keys to the Camaro from Cam, and he took Dan to a sporting goods store in a nearby mall.  He not only bought him a couple of jock straps, he bought him some running shorts, a pair of shorts for lifting, a pair of board shorts just for good measure, some T's, some sweat socks, and two pairs of cross trainers.

"Man, this is a lot of stuff," Dan said, as much pleased with the attention Kevin was showing him as with the things they'd bought.  "How much do I owe ya?"

"I'll settle up later with Ian," Kevin said.  Dan went down to his room to show Mark his new stuff, and let him know that he was the house's newest jock.  Kevin headed for Catherine's room.  Mary Carson was there.

"Mom, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Mary stood up to leave so Kevin and Catherine would have some privacy.

"You don't have to go," Kevin said.  "No secrets here," he said, laughing.

Mary sat down again.

"Mom, I'm kind of taking it easy with my running right now until my leg gets stronger.  So Dan is going to start running with me so he can build up his stamina slowly.  I want to propose something to you, and don't tell me 'No' without giving it some thought."

Catherine nodded, looking curious.

"I think you should start running with us."

"You have to be kidding!" Catherine said.

"No, I'm not kidding," Kevin said.  "You just had a stroke.  A warning.  The medication they gave you will help, but more exercise will do a lot to help bring your blood pressure down."  He grinned.  "Aren't you glad I took Health class in school?"

"He's right, Catherine," Mary said, pausing thoughtfully.  "I'll tell you what.   If you'll agree to give it a try, I'll run with you.  I haven't been very faithful with my running since Carl and Dan came to live with us.  William, Mark and Cam can run as fast and as far as they want.  And Ian, when he comes.  You and I and Kevin and Dan can set our own pace."

"Well..." Catherine said, looking at Mary and Kevin.   "All right, I guess.  You won't get on my case if I can't stick it out, will you."

"No problemo, Mommy," Kevin said happily.  He bent down to kiss Catherine's cheek, and then took off to tell Dan that the two of them were going to have some company on their runs, starting at their first opportunity.

*  *  *

Ian drove up from San Francisco mid-Saturday morning, arriving about 9:30.  Everybody was glad to see him, including Alice.  He talked for a few minutes with Mary and Catherine, and then Cam, Carl, William and Mark badgered him until he agreed to go for a run with them.  Kevin and Dan likewise worked on Catherine and Dan, and they agreed to go as well.

Dan changed into a new jock and new running shorts and T with the other guys.  Just as Kevin had promised, he and Dan paired up with Mary and Catherine, did their stretches by the pool, and ran at a slower pace for a shorter distance than Ian and the other boys.  They did sort of a run-walk routine for the sake of Catherine.

Kevin gave Dan a grin as the four of them got into it.  "I think you're gonna be good at this, dude," he told him as they ran.  "You, too, Mom."

"This is a lot like work," Dan said, breathing hard.  "I've tried to get into this before, but I never stuck with it."

"Did you have anybody to run with?"

"No.  Carl always ran at school."

"Well, you do now.  And you don't get to quit until I say you can," Kevin said, unilaterally changing the terms of their earlier agreement.

"OK," Dan grinned.  "How far are we gonna go today?"

"When my leg starts to tire, we'll turn around."

When they arrived home about 45 minutes before the other runners, Kevin, Dan and Mary dropped Catherine off and ran for another thirty minutes. Coming back, they showered.  Catherine and Mary were sitting around the table in the breakfast nook drinking bottled water when Kevin and Dan joined them.

"Everybody did great today!" Kevin told them.  "Mom, how do you feel?"

"I feel fine, sweetheart," Catherine said.  "You're pretty persuasive, Kevin, to get me out there.  Dan, I predict you're going to be our star runner."

"I don't know about that," Dan said modestly, beaming at the praise.  He wasn't used to feeling this good about himself.

*  *  *

Walter Emrick sat in the the large day room of the men's section of the Monterey County jail, watching the mostly black and Hispanic inmates mill around, play cards, watch television, and read.  The readers were definitely in the minority, he noted.  Ignorant sons of bitches, he thought to himself about the other inmates.

In Emrick's book, it didn't say much for Judge McDowell that he had given in to that asshole from the Attorney General's office and revoked his bond.  Hell, McDowell was bought and paid for with untraceable gifts from him and other businessmen, or so Emrick had believed.  That old fart would pay dearly down the line for forgetting who his real friends were.

Normally an accused child molester would have endured hell on earth from his fellow inmates in jail, but Emrick was largely unscathed other than an occasional elbow to the ribs or kick to the shins in close quarters so it was hard to identify the culprit.  The balding, stocky man's build still evidenced the magnificent shape he had been in as a Marine in Viet Nam, and that gave at least some other inmates second thoughts if they had thoughts about doing him ill.  That physical strength and some money he had managed to have his lawyer smuggle into jail for him so he could spread it around to some of the more egregious bullies had kept him safe thus far..

His thoughts were never far from his son Carl, who had squealed and ruined his life so completely by revealing what he had done to him during what the man euphemistically called "playtime."

He sat quietly apart from the crowd, looking specifically for a fellow inmate he had heard was getting out of jail within a few days.   The man he was looking for, a tall, heavyset Hispanic man with a hook nose and a brush cut over a brutish, pockmarked face, finally stepped into the room and surveyed the inmates until he saw Emrick sitting over to one side of the barred space.  The new arrival, standing 6'3" and looking to weigh at least 285 pounds, walked over and sat down beside him.  He said nothing at first, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and lighting up.  He finally glanced over at Emrick.

"I heard you want to talk to me," he said as they began to talk in low voices, their conversation covered by a blaring TV.

"Are you Alejandro Hernandez?"

"Yeah.  What's on your mind?"

"I understand the murder charges against you were dismissed because the only witness against you mysteriously disappeared," Emrick said.


"Amazing how things work out sometimes, isn't it?" Emrick said with an evil grin.

"Uh huh."

They sat in silence for a long minute, appraising one another.

"You wanna make some money when you get outta here?"

The large man dragged smoke deep into his lungs.

"Depends," he said, exhaling.  "Doin' what?"

"I want you to snuff someone for me.  Two someones, actually."

The Hispanic man smiled, avarice gleaming in his dark eyes.

"Yeah, I want the witness against me to 'disappear'--permanently," Emrick said.  "Along with his brother."

"Why the brother?"

"What the fuck do you care?" Emrick asked.

"I don't," the Hispanic man admitted, taking another drag on his cigarette.  "How much?"

"Ten thousand apiece.  Five each up front, five upon completion."

"Who are these guys, anyway?"

"My sons."

"Well, ain't you just dad of the year!"  The big man laughed mirthlessly, sarcasm written all over his face.

Emrick said nothing, looking down at his shoes.

"How am I supposed to know what your kids look like?" Hernandez asked his new business partner.

"Here."  Walter Emrick reached into the top pocket of his orange jump suit and pulled out two school pictures, handing them over.

Hernandez studied the two wallet-size photos, smirking.

"Nice looking boys," he said.  "You have a thing for young boys, huh?"

Emrick's face reddened.  "None of your fucking business."

"Yeah.  Well, for doin' relatives, it's gonna cost you more."

"That's bullshit!" Emrick said.  "Why?"

"Because sure as shit, the cops are gonna like you for this, and when they sweat you, you're gonna give me up."

"That's such crap!" Emrick whispered vehemently.  "Do you think I'm gonna give you up and put the needle in my own arm?  Get fucking serious!"

"I'm gonna need more money to set up an airtight alibi for myself.  No more money, no deal!"

"Fuck!"  Emrick glared at the man.  "How much more?"

"Double, and I can guarantee you'll be in the clear," the man said.  "Twenty down, and twenty when I'm finished."

"That's fucking highway robbery!" Emrick spat out in an indignant whisper.

"It's been real!" Hernandez said, standing up and starting to walk away.

"Wait a minute!" Emrick said before he got too far off.

The big man turned his head and stared at Emrick, then came back and sat down again.

"All right," Emrick said.  "You got a deal."

"How do I get my up front money?"

"You know where Emrick Cadillac is, here in Monterey?"


"I'll give you a note to the business manager there.  He'll give you the money, no questions asked."

"All right.  If anything goes wrong, I'll be lookin' you up, faggot," Hernandez said.

"Nothing's gonna go wrong," Emrick insisted, looking insulted.  "Just do what I'm paying you for."  He stuck out his hand to shake on the deal.  The big man ignored it scornfully, stood up and walked away without a backward glance.

*  *  *

Saturday afternoon, not long after lunch, Cam and Kevin went up to their room while Ian and the other boys watched television, and Mary and Catherine talked in the latter's study.  Throwing glances at the telephone, Kevin paced up and down in his and Cam's room for twenty minutes before he came to a decision.  He strode over and picked up the phone, punching in a number.  Cam looked up from the computer.

"Hello, Mrs. Butler," Kevin said when the woman answered.  "This is Kevin.  Is Heather there?"

"She is," Mrs. Butler said.  "I'll see if she'll talk to you.  Hold on."

"Thank you."

Kevin heard the receiver being put down and hushed voices in the background.  Then the phone was picked up again.

"Hello," Heather said.

"It's Kevin."

"I know.  What do you want?"

"I've just been wondering how you're getting along," Kevin said.

"How do you think I'm getting along!?" Heather asked.  Kevin knew that if her mother hadn't been in the room, Heather would have added "you asshole" to what she'd said to him.


"I'm big as a house, and very uncomfortable, thanks to you.  And you've pretty much ignored me for months."

"It's just that you always get so upset when I call.  I didn't want to bother you."

"You're so considerate!"

"I'm just wondering whether you've made any decision about who you want in the delivery room with you when the time comes," Kevin said meekly, not wanting to start a row.

"Yes, I have.  My mother will be with me.  I don't want you within mile of me when I deliver."

"Oh," Kevin said.  "That's probably just as well," Kevin said.  "She has experience."

"You don't even care," Heather said, beginning to cry.  "You've never cared.  All you wanted was the sex."

"You know I'm sorry about the way things worked out for us, Heather."

"Not sorry enough," Heather said with a sob.  "Is that it?"

"Yes," Kevin said.  "Except, do you need anything?"

"Not from you."

Kevin sighed.  "All right, let me know if you do."

Heather slammed down the phone without saying good-bye.

Kevin gently put the phone back in its cradle, and looked over at Cam.

"Bad?" Cam asked.


Cam stood up from the desk and went over to Kevin, taking him into his arms and holding him and rubbing his back gently.

"Sorry, man," Cam said.

"I feel bad for her," Kevin said, pulling back and looking Cam in the face.  "I know this hasn't been easy for her, and I want to support her, but she won't let me.  I just don't want to get her upset.  She might not let us have the baby if she really gets upset."

"I'm glad you mentioned the baby.  We need to talk.  Let's sit down for a sec."

They sat on the side of their bed, Kevin looking at his partner curiously.  Cam put his arm around Kevin's waist.

"Y'know, neither one of us knows shit about taking care of a new baby, Kev."

"I know it."

"Well, I been thinkin' we should enroll in a class somewhere as soon as we can.  Right away.  Heather's due date isn't that far off, and we better be findin' out what we have to do and how to do it.  I don't want us to make any mistakes."

"Catherine will help us out if we don't know what to do, doncha think?" Kevin asked.

"Yeah, she will.  But we need to get some basic skills pretty quick so we don't fuck up on something important when she's not around.  And besides, I don't want to add to add to her stress level right now."

"You're right," Kevin admitted, looking down at the floor.  "I've been pushing what we're taking on to the back of my mind.  We're gonna have a lot of responsibility.  That's if you still want to help me."

"I oughtta smack you," Cam said.  "Have I given you any reason to think I'm not in this for the long haul?"

"No, but..."

"No, nothing, you asshole.  I'm gonna love this baby and take care of it like he or she was my own.  And it will be my own.  Don't you forget it."

Kevin's face softened as he looked into those green eyes he loved so much.

"I love you so much, man.  Being with you outweighs anything bad that's ever happened to me.  And there've been a few bad things."

"We are lucky," Cam said.  "Don't think I don't know it."  He kissed Kevin's cheek, buried his nose in the hair on the side of his head and breathed deeply while simultaneously giving his boy's crotch a gentle squeeze.  "Let's find Mom and talk to her about baby classes."

"I'm with ya."

They went down the back stairs, searching the house and finding Catherine and Mary Carson still in the study.

"Ladies!" Kevin said enthusiastically by way of greeting as they went in.  Cam grinned.

"Watch it, Mary," Catherine warned with a smile.  "These two want something."

"Mommy, what a suspicious mind you have," Kevin said, also grinning.  "But as always, you're right."

"Uh huh," Catherine said.  "Well, sit down and unburden yourselves."  She gestured toward an antique love seat against one wall.  The two boys went over and perched on the edge of the seat like handsome, well proportioned versions of Humpty Dumpty on a wall.

The two women looked at them expectantly.

"Well, you know that Heather's going to be having the baby soon, right?" Kevin began.  "Cam and I were just talking, and we realize we don't know anything about how to take care of one.  A baby, I mean.  So we were wondering if you could recommend some classes for us to take so we'll be good at it when the time comes.  It won't be long."

Mary and Catherine smiled, Catherine in relief that this was not one of those nasty, complicated questions teenagers sometimes ask to which there is no satisfactory answer.  At least not one that's acceptable coming from a mother.

"Absolutely," Catherine said.  "The community college runs staggered, back to back classes in the evening for the parents of newborns.  Why don't you call out there on Monday and find out when you can get enrolled?"

"All right," Cam said.  "Thanks for the info."

"Good for you guys," Mary Carson said.  "I admire you for wanting to be good at parenting."

"Thanks," Cam said.  "We don't want to make any mistakes."

"Well, you will," Mary said.  "The information you get in class will help keep you on the right track.  But you'll make mistakes.  Fortunately, babies are tougher than we think.  If they weren't, the human race wouldn't have survived."

"I know it," Cam said.  "Kevin was dropped on his head in the delivery room, and look how he turned out."

Kevin laughed and gave his partner an elbow to the ribs.

"Poor impulse control," Cam observed, looking at his partner.  "That's what happened to him."

The four of them laughed.

"While you're here, what are we going to do about church tomorrow?" Catherine asked.

The two boys looked at her blankly.

"Can I entice you you all to go to Mass at an Episcopal parish tomorrow?" Mary asked.  "I don't know whether I mentioned this to you, Catherine, but I did to the boys.  Ian and I and our boys are all taking instructions at Grace Cathedral in the city, and I'd like for you to see what their Mass is like."

"I've been promising myself I was going to do that very thing," Catherine responded.  "How about you two?"

Cam and Kevin looked at each other.  "Sure, we're game," Kevin said.  "I s'pose we'll have to pray, and all that stuff," he added slyly.

"I s'pose you will," Catherine said, smiling.  "A little more prayer is exactly what you guys need."

"When you're right, you're right," Cam said.  "What time is Mass?"

"We'll check the yellow pages," Mary suggested.

The boys said they would go to church anytime and anywhere the women decided, and went into the TV room to join Ian and the other guys.

Mary looked at Catherine after they left.

"So, I gather that Cam is going to help Kevin with the new baby?" she asked.

"Yes.  He'll be a lot of help to Kevin, I know that," Catherine said.

Mary paused for a heartbeat.  "Catherine, are Cam and Kevin partners?"

Catherine looked at her friend silently.  "I know you and Ian and the boys are part of the family, but I don't want to answer for Kevin and Cam," she finally said.  "If you ask them, I think they'll tell you."

"Fair enough," Mary said.

A few hours later, after Mary had taken a quick nap and then freshened up before going downstairs to start supper, she walked down the upstairs hall and knocked on the half open door of Cam's bedroom.  Kevin wasn't there, but Cam looked up from where he sat at his computer.

"Hi, Mary.  Enter chaos at your own risk," Cam said, laughing.  "Be afraid, be very afraid!"

She laughed and walked over to him, putting her hand on his shoulder.

"I've seen worse, believe me."  She paused.  "You know, you're really doing a good thing in wanting to help Kevin raise the baby," she said.

"I hope so."

"That's quite a commitment for you to make, even for a brother," Mary commented.

Cam just looked up at her, not replying.

"Your mother has your back.  I want you to know that.  When I asked her if you and Kevin are partners and if that's why you were going to take a parental role with the baby when it comes, she wouldn't tell me.  She just said to ask you.  I'm not trying to be nosy.  We're family now, and I'm asking you so I can give you guys the love and support all of us need in this life.  That's hard to do if you don't who people are."

Cam studied the computer screen for a minute, and then looked back up at Mary, making an instantaneous decision.

"Yes, we're partners.  William and Carl know, but I don't think Mark and Dan do, and I don't think Ian does.  I'm telling you because I've watched you with your own kids and with Carl and Dan, and you're a great mother.  Like my own mom.  So I trust you."

"Thank you for that," Mary said, putting an arm around Cam's neck and bending down and kissing the side of his head.  "What you've told me is private unless you tell me differently."

"You can tell Ian, but maybe not the younger boys.  I don't want to upset them."

"Well, I don't think it would bother Mark.  I don't know about Dan.  But it's up to you."

Cam looked up at her thoughtfully.

"Just use your best judgment, then," he said.

"All right, sweetheart.  Love ya."  Mary kissed him on the side of the head again, and left the room.

Cam felt good that he'd told her.  That was one fewer person that he and Kevin were hiding from.

When Kevin came back from his own room where he'd been working out with Dan, breathing hard from his exertions, Cam was still at his computer.  He looked over at his partner, whose T-shirt was drenched in sweat.

"Commere," Cam said, swiveling around in his chair.

Kevin walked over to him, and Cam put his arms around him, putting his face in his lover's abs and breathing in his sweat and funk.

"Yeah!" Cam said after he finally let him go.

"You're a sick puppy, but I love it!" Kevin told him as he bent down and kissed the top of Cam's head.

"For some reason, people love to kiss my head," Cam laughed.  "I guess my face is more than they can handle."

"Bad breath, ya think?"

"I doubt it.  Listen, I need to tell you something," Cam said.

"Fire away."

"I told Mary Carson that you and I are partners."

Kevin looked at him in surprise.  "Why?"

"She asked Mom why I was so willing to share parenting duties with you when the baby comes.  Mom told her to ask me.  So she did."

"And you just had to spill, huh?" Kevin said.  But he didn't look angry.

"You OK with it?  Mary cares about us, y'know."

"Yeah.  I'm chill.  But who else is she gonna tell?"

"Nobody outside the family, I'm sure.  I mean the big family."

Kevin stared at Cam solemnly, and then smiled.

"Cool, then.  Now, on to more serious things.  I don't suppose I could interest you in another shower.  You know, an encore of this morning...?"  Kevin waggled his thick, black eyebrows at his partner.

Cam looked at him for a minute with a growing smile, and then stood up slowly from the computer.

"Now that you mention it, I am feeling a little grimy."  He pulled his T-shirt over his head, dropped it to the floor, and ran for the bathroom with Kevin hot on his heels.

*  *  *

It was early Sunday morning, and the MacKenzie house was quiet.  Kevin awakened, and without moving, watched an early morning ray of sun poke around a window shade in Cam's room.  The sunbeam eventually came to rest on one of Cam's legs, which had somehow freed itself from the covers toward the foot of their bed.  Like most of Cam's body except for head, armpits and groin, his leg was smooth and bare except for just a few golden hairs now glinting in the errant ray of sunlight.

The two boys' heads were on a single pillow facing one another, and Kevin breathed in the sweet scent of his lover's breath as Cam continued to sleep.  Cam's long, sandy eyelashes were at rest, his face in repose looking completely relaxed and as good good natured as his temperament.

"Lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky."  The word sang silently and repeatedly in Kevin's head as he gazed on his partner's face, loving him, wanting to kiss those beautiful lips and look into those green eyes that never failed to give him chills when the two of them were "up close and personal."  Lucky, lucky, lucky me, he thought to himself.  He had so much love for this boy that his chest tightened up as he continued to study that face, not wanting to wake him by making even the slightest gesture of affection.  None of the superlatives, none of the laudations, none of the encomiums that he had grudgingly read in his high school literature classes in the poetry of love came close to describing his feelings for Cameron Alexander MacKenzie, his Scots Highlander boy nonpareil.

The joy and satisfaction of being in a relationship with Cam far, far outweighed the negative things that had happened to him in his life.  And some of those things had indeed been debilitating.  The death of his mother after a long, cruel illness had been terrible.  The rocky and unloving relationship with his natural father had been corrosive.  The beating he had sustained at the hands of Heather's brothers had almost killed him and drained him of every ounce of strength he had during recuperation.  And the news that Heather was pregnant, requiring him to step up to the plate and take on the care of their baby following birth rather than let the girl abort the child, had been more than draining.

It would never have occurred to Kevin, but the events that had happened to him had helped form his character, and that character was nothing of which he had to be ashamed. 

Who had been at his side through all the challenging events that had helped, and were helping, to shape his character?  The boy's face was right in front of him.  Being honest with himself, Kevin didn't believe that he would have made it intact without Cam.  He believed he might not even be physically alive without what Cam had done for him at the hospital.

Kevin knew his friendship with Cam had many facets, but respect and admiration were solidly intertwined with the physical passion for one another which had only strengthened over time.
  As a matter of fact, they'd gotten damn good at having sex with each other.  That physical relationship with his partner had helped sustain him, Kevin knew, and he gave thanks for it every day.  Their sex was guiltless, but there was much more to their bond than that.  The world could say what it would about the physical love of two males for each other, and it could scorn them, but Kevin knew it was more than right for him and Cam.  He rejoiced in the spiritual and emotional bond they had together as well.  More and more he was feeling that he wasn't going to go out of his way to hide his sexual orientation anymore, either.  He'd concluded that to some degree it would be an insult to his partner's love for him to do so.

Catherine's reaction when he and Cam had come out to her had further secured her a place in Kevin's affections, exceeded only by what he felt for Cam himself.  The love and kindness and acceptance she had shown the two of them in the midst of their uncertainty about what they could say back then to a third party about their love for each other and what they couldn't say, had been phenomenal.  Kevin knew there was nothing he would not do for this person he now considered his mother.  He had the same feelings for Alex and John.  They were all now his family, without a doubt, and the Carsons and Emricks were certainly also on the verge of being family in the truest sense of the word.

Breaking Kevin's train of thought, Cam stirred a little and his eyes slowly drifted open.  He found himself staring in Kevin's brown eyes, and a slow smile spread over his face.  He inched his head toward Kevin's and gently put his lips on those of his partner, and just left them there, unmoving.

A soft knock sounded on their bedroom door, but the two boys didn't move an inch, still holding their kiss.  Carl Emrick opened the door and looked in, standing there barechested in his boxers.

"Oh, shit!" Carl said when he saw what Cam and Kevin were doing, tame as it was.  "Are you guys at it 24/7 or what?"

"Well yeah!!" Kevin said, turning his head to look at Carl.  "DUH!"

Carl came in and sat on the edge of the bed, looking at them.  "S'all right," he said.  "I'm just jealous I'm not getting laid every night like you two."

"We'll work on that for ya," Cam said, laughing.

"Cool.  But I'm really here on a mission from Catherine," Carl said.  "She says to get your lazy asses up and showered so we can go to church."

"She said that?" Kevin questioned.

"Well, not exactly.  I put it in words I was sure you yokels would understand."

"Get him!" Cam instructed.

Kevin quickly grabbed Carl around the neck and pulled him down into the bed, where Cam proceeded to tickle the kid until he had tears in his eyes.

"You assholes!" Carl said as he finally escaped Kevin's grasp and jumped out of bed with a big bulge in his boxers.  He headed for the door.

"Assholes, huh," Kevin said.  "You're probably right.  But we can make it up to you.  You wanna shower with us?"

"Dream on!" Carl said decisively, grinning.  He shut the bedroom door behind him and walked back down the hall toward his and William's room.

The two guys looked at each other.

"Church!" Cam said to his partner.  "You really need it."

"I need it!  What about you?"

"Moi?  That's cheeky of you."  Cam grabbed a chunk of Kevin's muscular ass and gave it a squeeze.

"You're too bold for your own good sometimes," Kevin said.  "I don't have time to discipline you now, but expect me to take you in hand later."

"I'm counting on it," Cam said, climbing out of bed as clumsily as he could over Kevin's frame and making a beeline for the bathroom.

Kevin followed, and soon they were in the shower, washing each other, each enjoying the touch of his partner.

The churchgoers all met downstairs when they were ready.  The adults were conservatively dressed, and the boys were all in polo shirts and khaki pants except for Dan Emrick, who was wearing blue jeans. 

"Dan, change into some khakis, please," Ian said.  Dan went back upstairs without protest and changed.

Thirty minutes later, all nine members of the extended MacKenzie household were walking into St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.  The place was packed.  The ushers gave them Sunday bulletins, and after reverencing the altar the family occupied a full pew toward the back of the church on the gospel side after the ushers moved a few people to another pew.  The family had just knelt and finished their personal prayers when the organist finished the prelude and began playing the opening hymn.  The choir and altar party processed down the center aisle behind the thurifer and crucifer.

The celebrant of the Mass was last in the procession moving toward the altar, and Cam looked over curiously as he passed their pew.  Dressed in his alb and green chasuble, the priest was a tall, older man with gray hair.  Walking just in front of him was another priest, young and handsome, also tall and well built, but with jet black hair.  Cam knew at a glance from the way he moved that the guy was a jock.  The bulletin said he would be preaching the homily that day.

The service began as the older priest censed the altar and offered the opening prayers, followed by a reading each from the Old and New Testaments.  Then the Gospel book, bound in a gold cover, was processed down the middle aisle of the church to its center by the young priest and acolytes, and the Gospel for the day was sung there.  After the book was returned to its stand in the sanctuary, the younger priest moved down to the pulpit when it was time to preach.  Cam and Kevin glanced at each other as the priest began to speak, preparing to zone out and rest their eyes.  That didn't pan out once the preacher warmed to his topic, because he had an engaging preaching style and did not read his homily from a manuscript or even refer to any notes, looking right at the people as he spoke.

The young priest took as his text several of the verses from the Old Testament lesson which had just been read that morning from Leviticus:  "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.  And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner:  I am the Lord your God."

Coming down from the pulpit and standing at the altar rail to continue, the priest stated that "the poor" are specifically mentioned 203 times in the Old and New Testaments, with the preponderance of those occurrences being admonitions about the responsibilities of those who are well-off in life to provide for the those in poverty.  203 times.  He pointed out that verses in Scripture about poverty outnumbered instructions on sexual matters by more than twenty to one.

The priest began to outline the well documented concerns of the Hebrews and early Christians about poverty in the societies of their day compared with current economic policies in the United States.  He mentioned that the Hebrews were required to forgive all debts every seven years, periodically putting those on the bottom rung of society back on an even keel.  He then contrasted that care for the poor with our modern-day national policies in the United States, which were systematically depriving the poor of what little they had, and further widening the gap between rich and poor in our country to the peril of democracy itself.

To illustrate his point, the priest went on to discuss the aftermath of the recent hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, especially in New Orleans, where the impoverished were so deprived that they did not even have the wherewithal to flee the wrath of the storms, and were trapped on highway overpasses and in sports arenas.  He said that the TV pictures were graphic proof of what government at all levels, and particularly at the national level, tried to ignore about the depths of poverty in our country, and the effects of it on the living, breathing human beings who are creatures of God.  He said that the hurricanes had ripped the scab off a festering wound in our society which many in power would prefer to keep hidden, and went on to cite economic statistics in support of his assertions about poverty.  He added that it appeared that the nation was losing ground when it came to meeting its challenge.

The young priest eventually concluded his homily with these questions:  "Where are the prophets in our midst who should be calling God's people to repent concerning this matter of poverty?  The religious community is practically mute on what is happening to the poor.  Many who do consider themselves to be prophets content themselves with railing about matters of sex and sexual orientation rather than concerning themselves with whether people have enough food in their stomachs to make it to the next day.  Among all those who love to carry around their Bibles and glory at being "seen in the temple," as Jesus once criticized, are there none to stand up and be counted on the side of the angels when it comes to issues of poverty in this nation?

"Brothers and sister, God doesn't care whether we are Republicans or Democrats or Independents.  But we need to answer God's call to us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We have a duty in the political arena to support those who will pursue the economic well-being of all God's children.  If any of us is wondering who our neighbor is, just think about Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, and we will know.

"If we are mandated to be 'pro-life,' we need to be pro-life in all of its ramifications, not just those which happen to appeal to us.  Let's think about the good of our neighbor, particularly when our neighbor is poor.  God expects no less."

The priest crossed himself after speaking his final words, and then returned to the sanctuary and sat down.

Cam and Kevin were both stunned and elated to hear such clarity and honesty coming from the pulpit.  If they had not been strangers in that church and seated with their extended family, they would have applauded.  Kevin looked down the row at his family, and saw Ian sitting there with a big smile on his face and Catherine nodding her head in agreement with what she'd heard.  All the boys were awake and looking bright-eyed.

When it was time for communion, all nine of them went up to the altar rail to receive it.

The adults had not planned to stay for the usual coffee hour after Mass, but decided they would so they could introduce themselves to the clergy and some of the parishioners.  They particularly wanted to thank the young priest for his homily.

The two priests had removed their vestments within a few minutes and joined the crowd in the parish house.  Eventually, the young priest circulated by them, and Ian took the opportunity to introduce himself and the extended family to him.

"We're so glad to have you here," the young priest said with a smile.  "I'm Jim Mason, the newest curate on staff."

"Father, your homily was excellent today!" Catherine told him.

"Thank you so much," Father Mason said.  "I try not to overdo the social gospel, but as Christians, we do need to do right by our neighbor."

"We agree with you on that!" Mary Carson said.  "You're absolutely right about the silence that seems to have gripped the churches and the electorate when it come to caring for the poor.  It was wonderful to hear the gospel preached on that topic for a change."

They continued talking for a few minutes, and the priest had Catherine fill out a visitor's card for herself and all the boys.  Father Mason said he would like set up an appointment to call on the family within the next few days, and Catherine gave him her card and invited him to call her at the university to set up a time.

The family went back out to the Navigator, which barely held them all, and with Carl driving, off they went to a greasy spoon for brunch, courtesy of Ian.

After they ate and went home, Cam found his thoughts returning to how good looking the young priest at St. Andrew's had been, and hoping he would get to see him again soon.  Little did he know how much the family would need the young priest's spiritual strength and comfort in the days to come.

© 2005 Don Hanratty

Thanks for your patience in waiting for Chapter 13.  Although I suffered no damage to my condominium from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I was more shaken than I thought I would be by conditions in New Orleans.  If you recall scenes of urban destruction from some of the World War II vintage movies, you have some idea about what we're facing down here in some neighborhoods.  Oh, by the way, the insurance adjuster did total out my motorcycle because he believes water got into the engine through the exhaust pipes where it sat in my underground parking garage.  But my loss is nothing compared to what others have lost.

Thanks to ChicagoEric and Dan for editing and proofing this chapter.

Don Hanratty