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


The door of the Monterey County jail slammed behind him, and Alejandro Hernández swung around on the sidewalk, giving the turnkey on the gate the finger.  It was a small statement of freedom after being confined for so many months.  The guard frowned and then ignored him.

Alejandro stood for a moment on the curb thinking about what Walter Emrick had told him just before Alejandro had processed out:  that Walter's sons, Carl and Dan, were living with their high class attorney, one Ian Carson, in a condo in downtown San Francisco.  Alejandro stood there in front of the jail until a car he recognized pulled up and stopped.

Just as he'd been ordered to do by his mother, Alberto Hernandez, a tall, handsome, seventeen year-old kid with an athletic build, beautiful, cocoa skin, and jet black hair worn in a crew cut, picked up his newly freed Uncle Alejandro in his car outside the jail.  There was little family resemblance between the two.  Fortunately for Alberto, who had long since shortened his name to "Berto," he favored his mother's side of the family.

Alejandro opened the passenger door, threw a small bag into the back seat, and climbed into the passenger seat.

"Uncle," Berto said by way of greeting.  The boy was unsmiling and sullen, not hiding his distaste for the man he was picking up.  He had been the victim over the years of many cruelties at the hands of his uncle, including being sexually molested by him when the boy was thirteen.  He hadn't been fucked, but Alejandro had stroked him off and then laughed at him in his shame and confusion.  Berto had given him a wide berth since that day.  Unfortunately there had been no one else but him available to go to the jail that day to pick up Alejandro and give him a ride home.

"How's it hangin', kid?" Alejandro asked him, looking down at the boy's crotch.  The hulking man normally didn't pay much attention to men, being fond of women, but he was horny after many months of incarceration.  He reached down and squeezed the boy's package.

Berto pulled the car over in one quick hurry.

"Keep your hands to yourself, or get the fuck outta my car," he told his uncle.  "I'm not thirteen years old anymore."

"You oughtta treat me nicer than this," Alejandro laughed.  "Haven't I always been nice to you, boy?"

"Yeah, right!" the kid spat out.  "Where do you want to go, anyway?  I gotta get back to school."

"I'm staying with your dad and mom for awhile, you lucky guy!" the older man said.  Within a month of his going to jail, he had received word that he had been evicted from his room by his landlord, and his belongings sold.  So he was homeless for the moment.

"If you're really nice to me, I'll sleep in with you in your bed," Alejandro continued.  "You'd like that, I bet."

"You get anywhere near my bed, and I'm moving out," the boy said matter-of-factly.  "Mama won't like it when I leave, so you'll be on the way out the door yourself."

The smile disappeared from the man's face.

"You're going to the house, then?" Berto asked.

"I have to run an errand first," his uncle said.  "Go out to Emrick Cadillac."

Berto thought of asking his uncle a smart ass question about buying a new Cadillac, but he kept his mouth shut, and headed out toward a row of car dealers which included Walter Emrick's dealership.  He pulled into the parking lot, and Alejandro stepped out of the vehicle and went into the showroom, taking out his wallet as he walked.  He removed a folded piece of paper from it on which the name "Noah Smith" was written.

Five minutes later, Alejandro was in Noah Smith's office, and Smith was reading the note from Walter Emrick.  Without a word, the general manager closed the open venetian blinds to the showroom, opened a safe in the wall, and began removing packets of currency, piling them on his desk.  When he was finished, he put the currency in a canvas bag, zipped it shut, and handed it over to Hernandez.

"Nice doing business with you," Alejandro said to a silent Noah Smith, smirking as he walked out.

Still standing at his desk, Smith took the note Walter Emrick had sent via Hernandez, put it in a manila folder, and placed it at the back of a locking file drawer in his desk.

Alejandro sauntered out to Berto's car and got in.  Berto looked looked curiously at the canvas bag his uncle was carrying, but said nothing.

"Can I take you to the house now?" the boy asked.  "I told you I have to get back to school."

"Drop me off at the used car dealer down the street from the house.  I need some wheels.  Unless you'll let me use your car," the big man said with an evil grin.

"Fuck, no!" Berto said vehemently.

"That's what I thought."  Alejandro rubbed his thumb on the canvas bag he held tightly in his hands, and then looked at his nephew.  "You wanna make some money?"

"Where are you gonna get money?  You don't work.  Money for doing what?"

"I'll have the money.  That won't be a problem.  I'll pay you a hundred a night to stake out a condo in the city from 6 o'clock to midnight and let me know when a certain guy comes and goes, and where he goes.  And there are a couple of kids I want you to be on the lookout for."

"I don't think so," Berto said doubtfully.  "I'm not gonna end up in jail like you do all the time."

"I'm not asking you to do anything illegal," Alejandro lied.  "You need pussy money.  You do like pussy, don't you?"

Berto's face turned red.  "None of your fucking business," he told his uncle.

"We'll talk more when you get home from school," Alejandro told his nephew.

They drove in silence as Berto dropped his uncle off at a used car dealer and made his way back to school.

*  *  *

Kevin was sitting on the far side of the desk he and Cam shared in Cam's room, typing an answer to a soccer teammate who had emailed him.  He read over his response quickly, and hit "Enter."  A moment later the email was on its way.  Kevin took a tissue from a handy box and wiped his brow.  He was sweating from the workout that he, Cam and Dan Emrick had just finished in his old bedroom next door, now the weight room.

The boys were tired and yet exhilarated from the workout.  Kevin had badgered Cam and Dan until they'd both put on their shorts and gym shoes, and he'd supervised their workout while getting his own exercises done.  Kevin thought he'd caught Dan a few times checking out his and Cam's butts and crotches, but he wasn't positive about that.  Kevin knew it didn't mean much--gay or straight, guys always looked at each other's bodies and equipment when the opportunity presented itself.

Kevin shut down his laptop, pushed it out of the way, and put his elbows on the desk.  Resting his chin on his hands, he watched Cam standing at the mirror in their bathroom.  Shirtless, Cam was gazing at his reflection in the mirror while fingering the smooth skin on his face and neck, turning his head from side to side to make sure there were no blemishes.  There weren't any.  Like Kevin, the boy had a sheen of sweat clinging to him as he stood there barechested in his gym shorts.  Kevin noted the usual healthy bulge in front the front of Cam's shorts, and the heavy elastic of his partner's jock peeking out of his shorts at the small of his back.  His biceps were bunched and his pecs were prominent and perfect.  Kevin inadvertently smiled at the sight of his lover, eyes fixed on Cam's lats and muscular arms and legs, and having a perfect side view of his glutes and his basket.

After watching Cam study himself in the mirror for a few minutes, Kevin stood up from the desk and walked into the bathroom.  Sliding his hand down Cam's sweaty back, he quickly plunged it under the waist of the boy's shorts and the elastic of his jock until it was down on Cam's ass, his middle finger in his partner's crack, resting on his pucker.  Just resting there with no penetration.  He molded his other hand gently around Cam's left pec.

Cam turned his head slowly and looked at Kevin, not cracking a smile.

"Why are you here, young Skywalker?"

"I saw you standing here staring into the mirror like Narcissus, and I wanted to save you from the sin of vanity."

"Dude, you're awfully literate for a jock, talking about Narcissus.  So you're holding my butt to save me from sin, is that what you're telling me?"

"Well yeah!!  What did you think?"

"I think you're a lyin' sack of shit.  That's what I think."

"That's cruelly honest of you," Kevin said.  "But as long as I've been found out..."  He moved the hand on Cam's chest down and gently cupped his partner's package over his shorts, fondling it.

"Why are you so horny all the time?" Cam asked, looking deep into his partner's eyes and trying not to laugh.

"Because my superbly toned body is manufacturing more semen than I'm able to utilize conveniently on our current schedule.  Or, to put it in words you'll understand, I need more sex."

"More sex?  You can't be serious."

"I am, though."

"If we do it any more often, my dick is gonna fall off."

"Weakling!" Kevin said, giving his partner's dick another squeeze.  "What doesn't kill you or your body parts only makes you stronger."

Cam groaned.  "Have you thought of locking yourself in the bathroom with a Playgirl?"

"Those days are gone forever.  That would have been a perfect solution before we became sex partners.  But at this point you'd have to be with me naked in the bathroom to inspire me.  Forget the friggin' magazine."

I know your dick is kind of big for your hand, but if I bought you lotion, could you jerk it on your own?"

"No way!  You're the one with the magic fingers!  Besides, my juice has a mission," Kevin said solemnly.

"What are you talking about?"

"My splooge needs to be injected into your body frequently, my cock being the chosen instrument of delivery.  Nothing else will do the job."

"Unhand my dick right now, you dipshit," Cam said.  "You're really cute, but we have to leave for Baby class right after supper, and you need to shower first 'cause you stink.  And I have to shower, too, because you forced me to exercise!"

In the blink of an eye, Kevin grabbed Cam's gym shorts and yanked them down around his ankles.  Unperturbed, Cam stood there calmly in his jock looking at his partner.

"I can't countenance that kind of boldness," he told Kevin.


"I can't countenance that kind of boldness."

"What the fuck does that mean?  I'm a science major, y'know.  Speak English."

"I am speaking English, you dumb shit.  It means that I can't approve of your boldness."

"Approve this!" Kevin said as he bent down and nipped Cam's cock with his teeth right through the jock.

"Owww!!" Cam faked being in pain.

"You're such a wuss!" Kevin said.  "Get naked, and get in the shower!"

"If we shower together, can we just wash each other and then get right downstairs to eat?"

"Maybe," Kevin said noncommittally.

"You make me crazy!" Cam said, starting to strip Kevin down.  Kevin let him.  Cam shed his own jock, and then they got in the shower together.  Kevin tried to restrain himself in there with only modest success, and after a lot of laughter, the two of them eventually emerged wet, grinning and oh-so-relaxed.

As Cam was drying Kevin's body, the latter reached down to the floor and picked up Cam's jock.  He put the inside of the pouch to his nose and smelled it.

Cam grinned.  "Wear that over your face tonight in case bird flu hits while we're in Baby class," he suggested.  "Prevention is the best medicine."

"You want me to be high in class from the fumes?" Kevin said, laughing.

"That'd be OK," Cam said.  "I'll remember everything the instructor says."

They finished drying themselves off and went into the bedroom.  Kevin's gaze lingered on his partner.

"I love touching you more than anything in this world, y'know," he told Cam seriously, his dark eyes shining.

Cam said nothing, but went over to Kevin, embracing him and nuzzling his face, kissing him gently on the nose before moving away and pulling clothes out of his dresser to put on.

The two of them dressed, and hurried downstairs for supper.  Ian had arrived home from the city, and the food was ready.  William and Carl had set the table, and all the boys helped bring bring in several roasted chickens and side dishes that Rosa had prepared before she went home.  Mary Carson offered thanks as everyone stood in a circle around the table, holding hands.

"Heavenly Father, we are grateful for the bounty we share around this table tonight, and for the hands that prepared it.  We bless you, Lord, for the hospitality we have received in this house, and for each and every person here.  We ask that you keep us safe in your care because we all dwell in the palm of your hand.  We receive this food with thanks, and ask that you keep us always mindful of the needs of all your children everywhere.  We pray all these things through Christ our Lord."


"Good prayer, sweetheart," Ian said as they all sat down.  "Thank you."

There were murmurs of agreement all around.

"Tonight's your first Baby class, isn't it?" Catherine asked, looking in Cam's and Kevin's direction as they all started passing dishes around, filled their plates, and began eating.

"Yes, it is," Kevin said.  "I'm totally looking forward to learning before the baby comes how to take better care of all these boys around this table.  These guys all have little infantile quirks that really gross me out.  So these classes will help me do a better job with 'em."

The boys all hooted.

"Yeah, right!" William Carson said, not having a witty come-back for a change.  "Don't start," he warned Kevin.

"Now, now, we're all family here," Kevin said.  "Nobody cares that you, for instance, still like to suck your thumb when you sleep.  That's not evil, just a little unusual at your age."

"He is kind of a baby, now that you mention it," Mark Carson told Kevin, watching William slyly out of the corner of his eye.  "It hasn't been easy for me, being his brother and all."

William laughed good naturedly.  "Listen, you chumps!" he told the boys.  "When one of you geeks has his first adult thought, let me know right away so we can party."

"Cam, you and Kevin are my babies," Catherine interjected.  "Nothing can change that."

"Not you too, Mom!" Cam protested.  "You're supposed to be on the side of sanity!"

"I am, sweetheart," she said.

"Well, when you get back from class tonight, we'll expect a full report," Ian told Kevin and Cam.  "We can all learn something, can't we, boys?" he said to the others.

They nodded obediently, trying to look sincere.

"Take good notes, then," Dan Emrick said.

"We will," Kevin said.  "You guys are going to need to be fully informed.  You really didn't think that Cam and I are going to pull all the weight when it comes to taking care of the new baby when it arrives, did you?  We'll have a complete schedule worked out by the time the baby is born, and your names will all appear on it.  Frequently.  I know you'll all be naturals when it comes to the diaper detail.  I'll be supervising."

William, Mark, Carl and Dan all groaned.  But nobody said he wouldn't help out, Catherine noticed.  She looked at Mary, and they smiled at each other.  These are good kids, Catherine thought to herself, and she affirmed to herself yet again how natural it seemed that they were all living in her house.

"Moving on to another subject," Cam said to the Carson and Emrick boys, trying to keep the spotlight on them, "I'd like to hear a little report on how home schooling is going."

"Going well!" Mark Carson said with an innocent face.

"There should probably be some kind of final exams administered just to make sure that you've all been applying yourselves, doncha think?" Cam suggested.  "I'm hoping we don't have any slackers here, but you never know..."

"Totally unnecessary," Carl Emrick said.

"I'm sure that's true," Cam said.  "But I think Ian and Mary will rest a little easier if there's some sort of evidence to support your claim."

"I know I will," Mary Carson said, suppressing a grin.

"Mommy!" William said reproachfully.  "You know we'd never lie."

"Certainly not intentionally, dear," Mary said.  "But you should all thank Cam for bringing the subject up so that you'll know right where you stand when Mr. Montgomery finishes up his classes for the year.  And I expect the finals will be all essay questions, except for the trig and calculus, of course."

"Oh, believe me, we'll find a way to thank Cam," Carl said, giving him the evil eye.  "Count on that."

Cam just smiled beatifically and continued eating.  Mission accomplished.

The rest of the meal continued with lively repartee.  After they were finished, the boys cleared the table and cleaned up the kitchen.

Cam and Kevin were leaving for class as Ian beckoned Carl into the breakfast nook.  The rest of the boys headed for the TV room.

"Things going all right, Carl?" Ian asked the boy after they sat down.

"Yes, sir."

"Are you sleeping all right?"

"Most of the time."

"Good.  Have you set up an appointment for counseling with Dr. Smith over at St. Francis yet?" Ian asked.


"Are you putting it off?"

"Maybe I don't need counseling," Carl suggested.

"I think you do, Carl," Ian said firmly.  "And you agreed to do it.  After you've been in therapy for a while, we can talk about how long you should continue.  I told you before that you won't have to go for a minute longer than than is appropriate, but you do have to go.  I know how much you need to go."

Carl looked down at the table and didn't respond.

"Do you want me to make the first appointment for you and take you over there?" Ian asked.

"No," Carl sighed.  "I'll do it."

"Call tomorrow," Ian said firmly.

"All right," Carl said a little sullenly.

They stood up, and Ian pulled the boy into his arms, and bending his head down, kissed his cheek.

"We love you, boy," Ian said.  "I wouldn't insist on this if it wouldn't help you."

"I know you wouldn't," Carl said, a little teary eyed.  "Thank you for caring about me."

"That's a given," Ian said.

*  *  *

Cam and Kevin drove over to the community college for Baby class in the Camaro, and as usual, Cam parked as far away from other cars in the parking lot as he could to avoid any dings in his car doors. 

Before they alighted from the car, Kevin grabbed Cam's arm.

"Listen," Kevin said, "you don't know how much I appreciate what you're doing for me.  I mean, coming over here to learn how to take care of the baby when it arrives, and everything.  I just want to ask you one last time whether you're sure you really want to help me raise this baby.  It's starting to hit me what a humongous job this is going to be.  This is big, and I feel like I've dragged you into it."

That pissed Cam off.  "Y'know, Kevin, you need a good ass kicking!  What the fuck are you thinking, asking me a question like that?  Why would you think I'd do anything but help you take care of the baby?  I don't get it!  Don't you think I love you?  Or do you think I won't love the baby?"

Kevin's throat got a lump in it, and he couldn't talk for a minute.  He sat there silently, looking down at his sneakers.

"I was pretty sure you'd say that," he finally responded.  "I love you so much, man, and I'm so grateful to you."

"OK," Cam said.  "Don't ever ask me that question again.  Now, let's hit it!"

Running a little late at this point, they got out of the car and loped into the building, finding the classroom they were looking for without any trouble.

There were five other couples in the room when they arrived, all heterosexual couples ranging in age from high school to one couple in their forties.  The women were all in various stages of pregnancy.  The instructor was a pert, trim young woman with long blonde hair fixed in a pony tail, wearing camel colored slacks and a tight, red sweater.  Nice boobs, Cam and Kevin both noticed.  Hey, I'm gay, not dead, Kevin told himself.

One corner of the room was devoted to bassinets, cribs and other baby furniture, and baby bottles, along with baby doll dummies which they would obviously be learning how to handle correctly.

"Good evening," the instructor said, calling the class to order.  "I'm Ann Stewart, and I'll be your instructor for this class."  She printed her name and the course title, "First Time Parents," on the green board.

Turning around, she said, "Why don't we go around the room and introduce ourselves?"

Couples began introducing themselves and telling a bit about themselves, with the others applauding as they finished.

When it was Kevin's and Cam's turn, Kevin said, "I'm Kevin Stoltz, and this is my foster brother, Cam MacKenzie.  We're graduating seniors in high school.  My former girlfriend is pregnant with our child, and I'll be taking custody of the baby when it's born.  Cam has agreed to help me raise the child.  We don't know anything about baby care, and that's why we're here."

The younger couples applauded and nodded politely.  The couple in their forties looked disapprovingly at them, stony faced, and did not clap for Cam and Kevin as they had for the others.  The woman's expression suggested that she wanted to come over and brand Kevin with a scarlet "A" and slap him with a Bible.

"Thank you all," Mrs. Stewart said.  "Now, let me pass out the syllabus for this course.  Our goal here is to absorb the available information on infant care and to help each other learn and carry out good practices as we go along.  This is a pass/fail course for which credit is given, but the only way you can fail this class is not to attend.  Getting a "Pass" will simply be a recognition that you know how to give quality care to infants and babies.  If my past experience as a teacher holds true, we can all learn from one another as we practice the techniques together.

"Each one of you brings not only your instincts as human beings to the group process," she continued, "but also patterns from the way you yourself were raised and have seen others raised, no matter how dim you may think your memories of that are.  Don't be shocked when I tell you that neither your instincts nor information from personal observation are necessarily 'on target' one hundred percent when it comes to handling infants and babies.  There are right ways and wrong ways to discharge your parental responsibilities for care of a newborn, and you will know the right things to do by the time this class is over."

Mrs. Stewart passed out the syllabus, and Cam and Kevin looked it over quickly.  Some of the topics were fundamentals like burping, bathing, bonding with and soothing an infant, followed by the basic physiology of newborns and what to do and what to avoid:  how to support a baby's head and neck, never shaking a baby, making certain that a child is securely fastened into carriers and conveyances, and avoiding any rough play that involved throwing a baby into the air or jiggling him or her too hard on one's knee.  Also included were admonitions about the importance of a relationship with a regular pediatrician as a source for information and treatment when those things were needed.

Then they all got right into it, with the latter part of the hour being devoted to demonstrations and practicing with the infant dummies how to physically handle a newborn.

Kevin and Cam had a good time, and when class was over, they left smiling.

After they arrived home and garaged the Camaro, it was dark.  Kevin pulled Cam into the shadowy, fenced area of the pool and began to pull Cam's clothes off.

"Rape!" Cam whispered, pretending he was yelling.

"I'll give you rape!" Kevin said, putting a hand over Cam's mouth.  "Cooperate and get your naked ass into the pool!  You need a swim."

"All right!  I'll undress myself, dipshit!  Get your own self naked!"

Moments later they dived into the pool and surfaced, shaking the water from their crew cuts.

"Yeah!" Kevin said.  "The water feels good!"  Treading water, he moved slowly towards Cam, put one arm around him, kissed him, and then reached down under water with the other hand to cup his partner's package.  "This feels even better," he said.

"You have such a one track mind!  Thank goodness for that," Cam said, smiling, and returning the favor.

"Oh, yeah!!!" Kevin shouted exuberantly into the night air.

The pool lights suddenly came on, and William stood on the high back deck looking down at Cam and Kevin floating around in the pool, holding each other.

"Hey, assholes," William said softly, cupping his hands around his mouth to make sure no adult in the house heard him.  "Whatcha doin'?"

"What's it look like?  Come on in, chicken shit," Cam yelled up to him.  "And turn off the lights."

"OK," William said, cutting off the lights and starting down the steps, pulling off his T-shirt and dropping his shorts and boxers.  His trainers and socks were the last to go when he reached the pool deck.  He dived into the pool, swimming under water at the two boys, grabbing their legs and upending them.  Cam and Kevin came up sputtering and went after William, catching him before he could heave himself up on the deck to safety.

"This boy needs punishment, Kevin," Cam told his partner.

"I know it!" Kevin agreed.  "Why don't we feel him up and turn him queer like us!"

William's eyes got big.  "You fruits keep your hands to yourself," he said, and then he began laughing.  "I'm as gay as I'm gonna get, and that's not gay at all."

Cam and Kevin put their hands on top of the tall boy's head, and shoved him under water.  He came up sputtering.

By this time, the commotion had brought the other three boys out on the upper deck.

"Get your asses down here," Kevin yelled.  "We want to sacrifice one of you idiots to Neptune!"

Carl hooted, and moments later all three guys were in the pool, naked and cavorting around.  Thirty minutes later they were all exhausted, and pulled themselves up out of the pool and collapsed on the deck.  Cam went into the pool house and brought out a big pile of towels.  They dried off, and then sat on the side of the pool naked with their legs dangling into the water.  The two border collies, Sam and Alice, joined the boys sitting on the edge of the pool, just part of the gang.

Dan Emrick was sitting next to Kevin.  "How was class?" he asked him.

"It was good," Kevin said, putting an arm around Dan and squeezing his neck.  "We sure got some good pointers about how to take care of you four babies."

"Yeah, right!" Mark said.  "You don't know shit!" he added.

"We do know shit," Kevin said, peering around Cam at Mark.  "I'm lookin' at a big pile of San Francisco shit right now!"

"Hey, hey!  Watch your mouth, boy!" William said.  "But I have to admit Mark resembles that remark!"

Mark put his arm around William and dumped him back into the pool.

William came up sputtering.  "Fucking kids got no respect for their elders," he said.  "That's the trouble in today's world."

Cam reached out a hand a pulled William back up on the deck.

"William and Mark and Carl, you ready to work out?" Kevin asked.

"Yeah!" Mark said enthusiastically.

"I guess so," William said.

"It wouldn't hurt all you yokels to work out more often, y'know," Kevin said.  "You could have a magnificent body like mine if you worked at it."

"My body is already magnificent!" Carl maintained.  And he wasn't wrong about that.

"Speaking of bodies, you guys would have liked our teacher," Cam said.  "Nice boobs.  Very nice.  You'd have all had woodies!"

"What are you guys doing looking at women?" William asked.

Dan and Mark looked puzzled at William's question.

"Whaddaya mean by that?" Mark asked.

William realized he'd said more than he should have, and made a face and shook his head about his faux pas.  Then he looked over at Cam, who nodded at him.

"Tell them," Cam said.

"No," William said, shaking his head in embarrassment.

"Kevin and I are gay," Cam said.  "We're life partners.  We're gonna raise Kevin's baby together, and somehow, some way, we're gonna be married to each other some day when we find out how to go about it."

Mark Carson showed no surprise at the revelation, and merely shrugged his shoulders.  Dan Emrick looked shocked.  Knowing the truth already, William and Carl just stared down into the pool.

"Does Catherine know?" Dan asked a little plaintively.

 "Yes," Kevin said.  "For quite a few months now.  And Ian and Mary just found out recently."

"Uh, if I could ask, how is it you're having a baby if you're gay?" Dan asked Kevin.

"That's the question everybody asks when they hear that Cam and I are partners," Kevin said.  "The answer is, that I dated girls for a long time because I didn't think there was a chance that Cam could be gay, too, and that he could love me.  I knew all the time I loved him.  Once we were honest with each other, we became partners.  But I'd been stupid in not using protection with my girlfriend because I thought she was on the pill, and now I'm going to be a father.  I can tell you, though, that Cam and I are going to be the best fathers we can be, and we'll love this baby totally."

"Nobody can ask more than that," William said.  He looked at Cam and Kevin.  "I'm sorry, guys.  I didn't mean to out you."

"It's all right," Cam said.  "We're a family, and it's better if everybody knows the truth."

The six of them sat in silence for a few minutes, staring down at the pool, and then Kevin stood up.

"Come on, Dan, let's watch these guys work out."

"Uh, I think I'll pass tonight.  Thanks anyway."

Suspecting the reason Dan wouldn't go to the weight room with him, Kevin was a little hurt, but he hid it well.  "That's all right.  Come on, boys, let's hit it."

" 'K, bro!  Right behind you," William said.

The other boys stood, gave themselves a last swipe with the towels, got dressed, and went into the house while Cam and Kevin collected the towels and put them into a hamper in the pool house.

"Somebody got the shock of his life, I guess," Cam told Kevin.  "I hope Dan will be all right with it."

"We'll see," Kevin said and let the matter drop.

Kevin and Cam followed the others inside, greeted Ian, Mary and Catherine, and told them a little about Baby class.  Then they went upstairs and put on their gym clothes again.  William, Carl and Mark joined them in the weight room, and after doing some warm-ups, started working out under Kevin and Cam's supervision.

After their workout was over, William and Carl took Mark and Dan into their room and shut the door.

William looked at the younger boys.  "Listen, you guys, I didn't mean for you to hear about Kevin and Cam the way you did.  And I sure as hell don't want this to affect the friendship that we all have with them."

"I'm cool with it," Mark said to Carl.  "How long have you known?"

"They told me at their cabin in the Big Sur the same day they called your dad to help me," Carl told Mark.  "The day they saved my life."

"What about you?" Mark asked his brother William.

"I went down the hall to Cam's bedroom one morning and saw them sleeping in bed together holding each other.  Not doing anything, just sleeping.  I was surprised, but I was OK with it after I talked to Carl and Cam about it."

"Listen, Dan, you're a fool if you let this information ruin your friendship with these guys," Carl said.  "You and I wouldn't be sitting here safe right now if they hadn't taken care of me and you, like brothers do, y'know.  If you give 'em the cold shoulder because they're gay, you're giving up on the support we all give each other in this house.  Please don't do that."

"I know you're right," Dan said.  "I guess I just need some time to get used to the idea."

"Fair enough!" Carl said.  The boys dapped each other, and Dan and Mark went to their own room.  Dan was confused about his own thoughts, and felt tired.  He stripped down to his boxers, and climbed into his bed.  Mark went downstairs to watch television on big screen.

Dan was still awake an hour later when a knock sounded on the door, and it was Mary Carson.  She came in and sat on the edge of his bed.

"Are you feeling all right, Dan?"

"Yes, I'm just tired, I guess."

"Is that all it is?"


"Mark told me that you know about Cam and Kevin.  How do you feel about it?"

"I'm confused.  You get an idea about who people are, and then you find out you don't know them at all," Dan complained.

"Cam and Kevin are the same people they've always been," Mary said.  "Really good guys.  They look at all you boys like brothers.  I hope you don't turn your back on them.  That would hurt them, and it will hurt you, I know that."

"You're right," Dan said.  "I just need time to think things over."

"All right, sweetheart.  I love you.  Sleep tight."  Mary bent down and kissed the boy's forehead, and left the room.

Dan fell asleep eventually, and didn't even hear Mark when he came to bed.

*  *  *

Carl was a good as his word after his little talk with Ian, and called Dr. Amanda Smith's office at St. Francis University the next morning to set up an appointment.  Surprisingly, before the receptionist would take the appointment, she directed the call to Dr. Smith herself.

"Hello, Carl," Dr. Smith said.  She had a pleasant, alto voice, and Carl liked that.

"Good morning, Dr. Smith.  This is Carl Emrick."

"Dr. MacKenzie had alerted me to expect a call from you one of these days.  How are you doing?"

"I think I'm doing well, but my foster dad wants me to talk to you."

"But do you want to talk to me?"

" can I put this?  I'm willing, but not eager."

Dr. Smith laughed.

"Thank you for being honest with me.  Why don't we get together and give this a shot.  We won't know unless we try.  When would be a good time for you?" the doctor asked, looking at her schedule on her laptop, open and running on her desk.

"Soon, I guess.  Do you have any time tomorrow?"

"I'll make time.  What about 2 p.m.?"

"That's fine."

Tucking the phone receiver under her chin, the doctor moved the cursor on her computer, and began typing.

"Where will I find you on campus?" Carl asked when the typing stopped.

"Come in the University's main entrance and follow that road straight down to a dead end.  The building in front of you at the dead end provides offices for the medical faculty, and my office is in there.  Room 205."

"Thank you for taking me right away, Doctor," Carl said.  "I'll see you tomorrow at 2."

They hung up, and Amanda Smith buzzed the receptionist and asked her to bring up the appointment schedule on her own computer and note the addition.  The computers were networked.

The doctor was relieved the boy had called.  She had begun to be concerned about whether he would or not.

Carl didn't know how fortunate he was.  Dr. Smith was meticulous and conscientious about her practice, an excellent therapist who was knowledgeable, well read, compassionate, and devoted to learning more in her field.  She was so effective in part because she was well balanced and psychologically healthy herself.  She was happily married to an neurologist, and they had two school age children together.  She loved working with children and young people, and they generally responded positively to her.  Her skill and pleasant manner facilitated excellent "transfer" when appropriate in the therapeutic process.

After class with Mr. Montgomery the following day, Carl changed into a pair of khakis and a nice, ribbed sweater over a white T-shirt for his first session with his new therapist.  He looked like a young, handsome, care-free jock.  He pulled the Navigator into a parking spot at the Medical office building at 1:55 p.m., and found his way to Dr. Smith's office.  The receptionist was pleasant, and offered him coffee, a soft drink, or a bottle of water.  He accepted the water, and twisted off the cap and took a swallow as she handed him a medical history questionnaire to complete.  When he was finished with the questionnaire, he gave it back to to her, and she buzzed the doctor in her office.

A moment later the door to the "inner sanctum" opened and a woman with shoulder length, taffy colored hair tied back with an elastic band, emerged,  She was
of medium height, in her late thirties or early forties, with a nice shape, dressed in a skirt and blouse with a sweater.  Her outstanding feature was her face.  It was so beautiful that Carl was stunned for a moment.  She had a creamy complexion and wore no makeup.  Her eyes were dark brown, like Kevin's.  Carl felt instinctively this was someone to whom he could not only talk, but someone to whom he could pour out everything in his life, no matter how embarrassing, for the sheer pleasure of talking to her and spending time with her.

"Hello, Carl," Amanda Smith said, extending her hand. 

Carl shook it firmly as he greeted her, and
noticed she had a wedding ring on her other hand.

"Please come in," the doctor said, ushering him into her office and shutting the door behind them.  The office was a soothing light green, dimly lighted, with a desk and upholstered chairs scattered here and there.  There was a leather therapy couch on one wall.  The art work was eclectic, but heavy on modern paintings.  Dr. Smith motioned him into a chair, and sat down in another chair beside him rather than going around behind the desk.  There were to be no barriers here, Carl thought to himself.

"I'm glad to meet you at last," Dr. Smith said.  "Dr. MacKenzie thinks very highly of you."

"She's an amazing woman.  She's taken two families into her home right now without blinking an eye."

"She's greatly admired here on campus."  She paused.  "Why don't you tell me about yourself?  I'm sure you understand that our sessions are completely confidential, so you need have no concerns about anything you tell me being divulged to anyone else.  If you have no problem with it, I'd like to record our discussions so that my notes will be complete and accurate."

"That's cool with me.  How far back should I start?"

"How far back do you remember?"

"All right."  And Carl began to talk about his early recollections as a child, around the time Dan had been born and their mother had been alive.  He talked steadily, interrupted by the doctor occasionally for a clarification.  Amanda Smith wanted Carl to start with his early life experiences in the hope that he would be less self-conscious when he eventually reached the trauma that had really brought him to her office.

The doctor warmed to the boy as he told his story.  Although she often used a combination of cognitive and behavior therapies, she was not a slave to either school of thought.  She made a judgment as Dan talked that she would suspend a final decision on her treatment plan until the next session.

Carl was all right until he reached the point in his story at which his father had molested and beaten him.  His face turned red, and tears began coursing silently down his cheeks.  The boy's throat closed up as he struggled to tell the therapist exactly what Walter Emrick had done to him, and how he had submitted to the man in the belief that his father would simply mete out the same treatment to his younger brother Dan if Carl weren't cooperative.

Dr. Smith handed him a box of kleenex, and Carl wiped his eyes and blew his nose.

Carl finished up with the story of his and Dan's placement with the Carsons, and a description of the life they were living now at the MacKenzie house.  Amanda Smith and Carl sat in silence looking at each other for a long moment.

"Thank you for being so thorough, Carl," the doctor said.  "It sounds as if this extended family is an ideal spot for you to be right now."

"Yes and no," Carl said, his face still flushed.  "This is the first time I've really had a family since my mother died.  I love Mary and Ian Carson and Catherine MacKenzie.  Not just for taking me and Dan in.  I love them because they're the kind of people they are.  I can't tell you how good and kind they are, and how well they treat all us kids.  My problem is being around all the boys."  He paused.  "I think that what my dad did to me may have turned me queer.  These boys are all really good looking.  I can't seem to help perving on them all the time.  Two of the boys are gay, and I think all the time about what they're doing with each other when they have sex."

"Did you like to look at boys' bodies before you dad molested you?" Dr. Smith asked.

"Some, I guess.  You know, in the locker room.  All the guys look at each other just for comparison purposes, I guess."  Carl smiled.  "But I didn't used to look at boys the way I look at my 'brothers' now."

"Have you ever had an unforced, gay sexual experience?"


"Did you have a girlfriend when you were living in Seaside?"


"Did you have sex with her?"


"How many times?"

"I don't know exactly.  A lot."

"Do you think your interest in your brothers right now is because there are no girls of your age available to you to socialize with?"

"I don't know."

"Well, we'll talk more about your orientation as we continue to meet," Amanda Smith said.  "Or am I being presumptuous in suggesting we're going to continue to meet?"

"I know I need to do this, even though it hurts to talk openly about what's happened to me.  But even if I weren't convinced this would help me, I'd do it because my foster father thinks I should.  It's the least I can do for him after all he's done for me and Dan."

"As long as you want to do it, we can move ahead."

Carl studied her.  "I do.  Thank you for taking me as a patient."

"You're welcome.  Let me ask you this:  are you able to sleep at night?  Do you have nightmares or wake up at night for no reason? 

"I sleep pretty well.  But sometimes I do have a nightmare that wakes me up."

"How often?"

"Maybe once a week," Carl said.

"Are you able to concentrate on your studies without any problem?"


"Very good," Dr. Smith said.  "I'm not going to prescribe you any meds, then, unless circumstances change.  You'll let me know if anything changes?"


"Now, let's set up a schedule for getting together.  I'd like to meet twice a week with you for the first month, and then if we're making progress, we can go to once a week.  I know that sounds a little open ended, but I promise you that I'm going to bring our sessions to an end at the very earliest date we can."

"All right."

"What days are best for you?"

"Why don't we try Tuesdays and Fridays?" Carl suggested.

"Good.  What time?

"How about 2 p.m.?"

"That's good,"

Dr. Smith went to her desk and typed on her laptop.

"You're going to do well, Carl." she told him.  "I think you've come for help before your experience with your father has damaged you and your life too drastically.  I predict you'll be able to come to terms with what your father did and move on.  So let's feel good about our sessions, and promise each other we're going to work hard, shall we?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Dr. Smith extended her cool, dry hand and shook hands with him firmly, and Carl left the office with a smile on his face.  He was happy he had followed through in making the appointment, and he knew Ian was going to be very pleased.

That night at supper the family feasted on paella
made from Rosa Mendez's family recipe, with mussels, lobster, shrimp, chicken, pork, pepperoni, rice, saffron and wine in it.  Catherine served it from a huge pot she put down on a trivet right in the middle of the dining room table, along with a plate of hot, thick cut slices of French bread slathered in garlic butter, and a good salad.  She asked William to offer thanks before they sat down.

"Heavenly Father," William said as the delicious smell of the paella wafted over the table, making everyone's mouth water, "you are a great and generous provider of good things for your children.  We bless you for this food you have given us, and for the family surrounding this table.  They are both your gift to us.  Give us grateful hearts for what we are about to receive, through Christ our Lord."


"Good prayer, bro!" Cam said as they all sat down.

"You do me proud, son," Ian told William.  "Maybe a parochial school education wasn't wasted on you after all," he added, hiding a smile.

William shrugged it off, but inwardly he was always pleased to be praised by his dad.

The boys all talked about sports for a while, and then Kevin reminded everyone that Cam's senior prom was coming up, and that he would be wearing a kilt to the dance.

"I dunno," Mark said after a short silence, trying to keep a straight face.  "You have kind of skinny legs for a kilt, doncha think?"

"I don't think so," Cam said, laughing.  "Neither does my date."

"You and your date have talked about your legs?" Carl asked.  "I'd like to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation."

"No, we haven't talked about my legs.  Let's just say that she hasn't expressed any dissatisfaction with my legs," Cam said.

"She must like bird legs, then," Dan threw into the conversation.

"You guys keep it up!" Cam growled.  "But I'm gonna hurt ya if you do," he said.

"On another subject," Catherine interjected, "will everyone be home for supper tomorrow night?"

Nods all around said it would be a full house.

"I've invited Father Mason from St. Andrew's to join us.  I think we all need to get better acquainted with him."

"Good, Catherine," Mary said.  "I've been thinking we should do that."

They continued talking about St. Andrew's and the Episcopal church in general for the remainder of the meal.

After supper, all the boys except for Carl went into the TV room.  Carl pulled Ian aside and told him he had kept his first appointment with Dr. Smith.  Ian looked pleased.

"How was it?" he asked Carl.

"Good.  I like her." Carl said.  "She's really friendly and easy to talk to."

"Did you set up a regular schedule?" Ian asked.

"Yes.  I'll be seeing her twice a week for a while, and then once a week for a while longer.  Have you ever met her or talked to her?" Carl asked.

"No.  But when I mentioned her name to Catherine, she praised her to the skies.  That was all I needed to know."

"The reason I asked is, she promised me the same thing you did--that I wouldn't have to stay in therapy longer than was absolutely necessary."

"That's true.  You won't be sorry you did this, Carl."

Ian gave the boy a hug then, and kissed the side of his head.  Carl joined the other boys in the TV room with a smile on his face.  He not only liked Ian and Mary, he knew his appreciation for them was fast turning into love.

*  *  *

Berto Hernandez sat parked in his low rider, the pride of his life, across the street from the entrance to Ian Carson's condo building.  He had reluctantly given in to his Uncle Alejandro's offer of $100 a night for staking out the place from 6 p.m. to midnight over the period of a week.  He hated having anything to do with his uncle, but like many teenagers, he could use the money.  He had a photograph of Carl and Dan, and one of Ian Carson himself which his uncle had printed out from the morgue at the San Francisco Chronicle.  This Carson guy had apparently been in the papers a lot.  Alejandro wouldn't tell the Berto why he wanted this man's apartment staked out, but Berto had an uneasy feeling about what he was doing.  He couldn't ever remember a time when his uncle had ever done a good deed for anyone.  And he couldn't help wondering where Alejandro's new-found riches had come from, but he thought the trip out to Emrick Cadillac might have something to do with it.

Keeping one eye on the ramp to the garage and one eye on the penthouse apartment in case any lights came on, Berto thought about his family.  His father was a good, hardworking man, the superintendent of several apartment buildings, but it was his mother who had kept him on the straight and narrow.  Despite the temptations in a big city of diverse influences, the Hernandez boys knew right from wrong.  That was why his mother hated it when Uncle Alejandro stayed with the family or even visited.  She knew the man was a sleaze.  She just didn't know how much of one.  If she had found out Alejandro had touched Berto sexually a few years back, she would cheerfully kill the man even at this late date.

Berto had deliberately parked under a street light so the light poured through the driver's side window.  He could read if he wanted to.  He pulled out his social studies text and began to read, interspersed with quick glances at the condo garage and the windows of the apartment.  When his grades weren't what his mother thought they should be, she gave him hell.

The boy watched a police car drive by slowly, seemingly paying no attention to the low rider parked under the light.  It was the first of many patrols.  Berto was not surprised at the prominent police presence, confirming in his mind that the well-to-do neighborhoods generally received better protection.

His class was studying the civil rights movement in the United States, and Berto was particularly taken with Rosa Parks and the firestorm this little black woman had unleashed in Montgomery, Alabama, when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person.  He knew from the television news that Parks had died recently, and was the first woman whose body had lain in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.  Although Hispanics had not endured the same degree of prejudice that blacks had, Berto knew that Hispanics had their own battles to fight against prejudice.  But he had also been taught by his mother that he could get somewhere in this world on his own merits if he really worked at it, and he was committed to doing that.

He finished reading his assignment, and glanced up at the penthouse windows.  There were no lights he could see on the top floor of the building, and there had been little traffic in or out of the condo garage.  He slouched down in his seat, looking at his watch.  10 p.m.  Searching around on the floor, he found an empty, large mouth Gator Aid bottle, the contents of which he had finished off not long before.  Removing the cap, he unzipped his jeans, fished out his penis, and relieved himself into it.  Screwing the cap back on, he returned the bottle to the floor of the car.

Reflecting on his stakeout assignment, Berto sat there in his car until midnight, becoming more disquieted all the time about what he was doing.  He mentally reviewed all the vicious things that his Uncle Alejandro had done to so many people over the years, and at first thought about quitting.  But then he decided that he would continue his "job" so that he could devise a way to give the man some long overdue payback for molesting him at age 13, among other things.  He didn't know how or when, but he was determined to frustrate his uncle's plans, whatever they might be, for Ian Carson and those two boys in the pictures.

At midnight Berto drove home and went to bed, falling asleep immediately, content with his decision. 

© 2005 Don Hanratty

I want to thank readers for your patience in waiting for this chapter to appear.  I've found that living in New Orleans right now, despite having little personal loss when it comes to material things, is emotionally debilitating, and I haven't been as motivated as I should have been.  I want to wish you all great holidays!

My thanks to Dan for proofing and editing Chapter 14.

Don Hanratty