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

The MacKenzie household normally slept in a little later than usual on a Saturday morning.  But Berto Hernandez tossed restlessly in his bed, sleepless for some reason by 6 a.m.  William Carson was still sawing wood on his back in the bed next to Berto's, the boy's long form stretching the sheet and light blanket taut over his body so Berto could see William's usual morning hard on.  Berto smiled at that, and finally giving up on catching any more Z's himself, visited the bathroom, and then tossed on a robe over his boxers and went down the back stairs to the kitchen.

He was surprised to find that he was not the only early riser.  Catherine MacKenzie was sitting in the breakfast nook eating toast, sipping tea and reading a newspaper.

"Good morning, Berto," Catherine said, looking up from her newspaper with a smile.

"'Morning, Mrs. Mac," Berto said, flashing his usual beautiful smile, replete with perfect, white teeth set off by his olive skin.  In the few days he had been living in her house, he had already grown very fond of Catherine, and had taken to calling her one of his own special names for her, "Dr. Mac" or "Mrs. Mac."

"You're up early for a Saturday," Catherine observed.  "Can't sleep?"

"No.  I don't know why, but I feel jumpy.  Nobody else is up?"

"Yes, Cam and Kevin.  I found a note saying they're at the hospital.   Kevin's baby is being born."

"Oh, wow!" Berto said, and smiled again.  "A baby in the house.  That'll be a change."

"Yes, it will.  Why don't you sit down, and I'll fix you some breakfast.  What would you like?"

"Uh, I think I'll wait until the other guys get up and eat with them, if that's all right."

"That's fine.  How about some juice while you're waiting?"

"Yes, ma'am.  That sounds good."

Catherine went over to the cupboard, and taking out a glass, filled it with orange juice and took it back to Berto, who was skimming the sports page of the newspaper by then.

"Thank you," Berto said as Catherine put down the juice.

"You follow sports, I see."

"Yes," Berto said.  "Especially baseball."  He continued looking at the baseball standings.  The teams in the West weren't doing that well.  The Yankees, Red Sox and the White Sox were all looking good, though.  He put the paper down and looked across the table at his hostess as she sipped her tea.

"Tell me about your family," Catherine said.

"There's not a lot to tell," Berto said.  "My mom and dad emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico City not long before I was born, and were naturalized as soon as they could get it done.  I was born in Los Angeles just before we moved to Monterey.  My mom wanted a house full of kids, but physically she couldn't have any more.  I was it."

"What does your father do?"

"He's the super for a couple of apartment buildings in Monterey.  He's a very handy person with tools, and he knows how to do a thousand things to keep an old building functioning.  I've learned so much from him about how to use tools."

"And your mom?"

"She was a stay-at-home mom until I went into fourth grade.  Now she's a seventh grade teacher in the Monterey school system."

"She must have had some college in Mexico," Catherine said.

"Yes, she's a college graduate.  She came from an important family in Mexico.  My dad was from a peasant family that migrated to Mexico City, and they met there.  They eloped, because my mother's family was dead set against their marriage."

"Do you have any relatives in the U.S.?" Catherine asked.

"One uncle, my father's brother.  He's the reason I'm in hiding.  I have aunts and uncles and cousins in Mexico, but nobody I'm close to."

"I see.  Have you done well in school?"

"Pretty well," Berto said modestly.  "My mother would have killed me if I hadn't.  She was on me all the time about studying.  I think I'd be drag racin' and gang bangin' on the street if it weren't for her."

"That's what it takes," Catherine said.  "Somebody with some vision has to really care, and make education a priority in the family."

"You're right.  Unfortunately, a lot of Latino families who come from Mexico aren't really plugged into education.  Not to the extent we should be."

"Have you thought about going on to college?"

"Yes.  It might be a little tough financially, though," Berto observed.

"I'll help you look for scholarships if you want to pursue that.  And you should.  Do you have any subjects that you're particularly interested in?"

"Yes.  I'm especially interested in the law.  Immigration law, actually.  Immigration is in such a mess right now, and everybody suffers from that."

"Does Ian know you're interested in the law?"


"He would be if you talk to him about it.  Do you know where you might want to go to school for undergraduate work?"

"Somewhere in northern California, for sure," Berto said.  "I don't want to be too far away from my family.  We're close."  He dropped his eyes to the table top, and Catherine could see the concern for his family in his face.

"You're worried about them, aren't you?" Catherine said softly.

Berto pressed his lips together and nodded his head, saying nothing.

"Well, we're glad you're here, Berto," Catherine said.  "And I'm glad to get to know you."

"Same here," Berto said.  "Thank you for taking me in."

Catherine reflected on how mature Berto seemed for his age, perhaps even more mature than Cam and Kevin despite the fact he was a year younger than they were.

They continued to talk until Mark and Dan came clattering down the back stairs a few minutes later, soon joined by William,
and Catherine got up to start breakfast.  Berto told the boys about the baby, and they were all excited and happy.

Mary and Ian Carson came downstairs later looking worried and tense, but drank some coffee and said nothing to anyone while the boys finished their breakfast.  Then they pulled Catherine aside and told her what had happened to Berto's mother and father.  Catherine's legs grew weak, and she sat down hard in a chair.

Finally there could be no more delay, and drawing strength from each other, Ian and Mary Carson asked Berto to come with them into Catherine's study, and shut the door behind them.  They sat him down on a small couch against the wall, and pulled up two chairs in front of him.  Berto was nervous, trying to figure out what he could possibly have done wrong to bring down the wrath of the Carsons on him.  It looked to him as if Mary had been crying.

"Berto, there's no easy way to tell you this," Ian said after taking a big breath.  "I know you've been worried about your parents, and unfortunately, you were right to be worried."  He took another breath.  "My friend who's a captain in the CHiP called this morning, and told me that the Monterey police found your parents this morning in their house.  They're dead."

The world turned gray and empty as Berto sat there motionless on the couch, struck dumb and blind and numb in an instant, hearing nothing and seeing nothing.  His face turned to stone.  Ian had continued talking, saying something, but Berto didn't hear what he said.  Mary moved over beside the boy on the couch and put her arm around him with no reaction from Berto.  His face was set as he sat there paralyzed, scarcely breathing, not feeling his body at all, betraying no sign of grief, not speaking and not weeping.

Ian had gone silent, groaning inside, staring at the boy's stony countenance.  Inexplicably, Ian thought of a line in the Bible from St. Paul's letter to the Romans, talking about how the whole creation groans together as the children of God await adoption by their creator.

The three of them sat in silence for a good five minutes, an eternity, it seemed, no one moving or making a sound.

Then it began.  The tears started to run silently down Berto's face, dropping on to his hands where they were clutched in his lap.  Mary began to weep again, also silently, as she sat beside the boy and began to rub his back soothingly.

"No-o-o, please no-o-o-o," Berto whispered as he raised his hands from his lap and covered his face, his body trembling.

They continued to sit there together, bonded now in sorrow, and Berto eventually uncovered his face.

"I don't know what to do now," the boy said quietly, voice quavering, the tears still flowing.

"We'll figure it out together," Ian said.  "You're with us now, Berto.  Let's catch our breath, and we can talk about what we need to do."

"We all know who did this to my mother and father," Berto said.  "I'd kill him myself if I could get my hands on that puto."

"The police will find him, Berto," Ian said.

"I should have been with my parents," Berto said sorrowfully.  "Maybe I could have stopped him."

"I know you want to believe that," Mary said quietly, "but the truth is that you would be dead now, too."

"The man is a stone cold killer, son," Ian said.  "There's nothing you could have done."

The three of them continued to sit there numbly, talking and crying together sporadically for the next thirty minutes.

*  *  *

The boys had all escaped upstairs after they got the terrible news from Catherine, and they sat on the beds and chairs in Mark's and Dan's room looking at one another, not knowing what to say to each other.  William got up and started to pace up and down nervously.  He eventually stopped and looked at the other boys.

"I'm going down to the garage and wash Berto's car."  William swung around and walked out the door, heading for the back stairs.

The idea would have seemed ludicrous had they not all been in a state of total sorrow and confusion.  Two lives snuffed out.  One bereft friend.  One dirty car waiting to be cleaned.  It made no particular sense, and yet it did.  The rest of the boys followed William down to the garage, where they put Berto's car in neutral and rolled it out of the garage into the spotty sunshine.  They found buckets and soap and rags, and began washing the low rider after first meticulously cleaning out the inside with a car vac they found near where Cam always parked.  They worked in silence, not saying a word or engaging in any of their usual horseplay with the water hose.

They had just finished washing and drying the car when Cam and Kevin drove up in the Camaro, parking under the basketball hoop.

"Hey, guys," Cam said as he alighted from the car.  "How about doing the Camaro next?"

To Cam's surprise, no one responded with a smart ass remark as they came over to him and Kevin.

"We need some good news," Mark Carson said.  "Boy or girl?"

"Boy," Kevin said.

"It's Kevin's, all right," Cam said.  "He already has a head of hair, five o'clock shadow, and good pecs."

"Congrats, man!" William said, dapping Kevin, followed by the other boys, but without anyone cracking a smile.  "When can he come home?"

"Couple of days," Kevin said.

"All right, what's the matter?" Cam asked, searching the glum faces surrounding him.

He and Kevin stood there in stunned silence as William told them about Berto's parents.  Dan Emrick turned away so no one would see him starting to tear up, and he began working on the low rider again.  He was no stranger to loss in his own life--first his mother, and then, for all practical purposes, his father.

Kevin and Cam were rarely demonstrative in public when it came to their relationship, but when he heard, Kevin put his arms around his partner without a word and squeezed him hard, holding him and kissing him on the cheek before letting him go.

"Oh, fuck!" Cam said about the situation, head down, looking at the ground.

"Let's go in," Kevin said to Cam, setting his jaw the way he did on the soccer field when he faced a tough situation.

Cam nodded, and he and Kevin shuffled reluctantly toward the house.  Catherine was in the kitchen when they went in, and she turned around from the stove, her face a mask of sadness.  The boys walked over to her and simultaneously hugged her.

"You heard?" she asked them.

"Yes," Kevin said.  "Where is he?"

"He's in the study with Mary and Ian."

Kevin nodded, and then brightened.

"Our news is, it's a boy.  Eight pounds, three ounces.  Kevin Cameron, we're naming him.  We saw Father Jim on his run over at the hospital, and he wants to set up an early date for the baptism."

"All right.  Good names," Catherine said.  "I'm happy for you guys, sweetheart!"  She drew Kevin into her arms for another hug. 

Kevin beamed.

"When are you bringing him home?" Catherine asked.

"Two or three days," Kevin said.  "They want to make sure he's OK with his formula."

"All right.  Did you see Carl?"

"Yes," Cam said.

"How is he doing?" Catherine asked.

"He's good," Cam said.  "He really wants to come home, though."

"I know it," Catherine said.  "Dr. Smith doesn't think it will be too much longer."

Just then they heard the study door open, and Ian, Mary and Berto came into the kitchen.  Cam saw that the eyes of all three were red.

Kevin didn't know Berto all that well, but he went to him and hugged him, holding him for a long moment before kissing his cheek and letting him go.

"I don't know what to say except, I'm really, really sorry, man," Kevin said.  "I wish I had better words."

Cam followed suit with his own hug and kiss.  "Me, too," he said, his usual capacity for being articulate lost in the fog of a very sad moment.

"Thanks."  Then
Berto's sad brown eyes cheered momentarily.  "So, what's the deal?  Boy or girl?" he asked.

"Boy," Cam said.

Berto nodded, and smiled briefly.  "Outstanding!"

Ian and Mary added their congratulations about the baby, embracing Cam and Kevin.

*  *  *

Outside in the driveway, the boys had found some liquid wax and some Armorall in the garage, and while Dan and Mark worked on the tires, William began waxing the car.  The results were spectacular.  Berto had always taken good care of his car, but now it looked as if it had just come off the show room floor.  Finishing the tires, Dan and Mark grabbed clean rags and helped William complete the wax job.

When they were finished, they sat down against the garage doors and admired their handiwork so they wouldn't have to go inside and face Berto just yet.  But when Berto didn't find them in the house, he came outside to be with them along with Cam and Kevin.  His eyes opened wide when he saw what they had done to his car.

"Thank you," he said simply, and the boys just nodded, saying nothing at first.  One by one they stood up and hugged him in silence, and then sat down again.

"I'm sorry, Berto," William finally said, looking down between his pant legs at the concrete driveway where he sat, not yet ready to look his roommate in the eye.

"Yeah," Berto said.  "It's really fucked up."

The other boys murmured their condolences, too, and then there was silence again.

"Look, we're just all gonna have to take care of each other," Dan finally volunteered.  "Us guys and Carl and Catherine and Ian and Mary are all we really have now."

They all nodded and looked at each other.  And a pact was made without another word.  In a heartbeat, the death and sorrow of the day, and the promise of future life and satisfaction of helping and holding on to one another, had bonded these boys into a brotherhood that would never be broken.

*  *  *

Ian knew that making the funeral arrangements for Berto's mom and dad would be his responsibility, and he wasn't about to shirk it.  He called his office and told his secretary Bev to clear his calendar for the following week due to a death in his extended family.  He didn't elaborate, although he could hear the curiosity in her voice.  Then he went outside on the back deck and yelled down to the driveway for Berto to come inside.

"Thanks again, guys, for doing the car," Berto told the boys before getting up and walking slowly up the steps to the house.

"Your car looks great!" Ian told him when he reached the deck.

"I know it," Berto said, and without warning tears began streaming from his eyes again.

Ian clasped the boy to him and held him for a minute before passing him a handkerchief to wipe his face.  The boys down in the driveway looked up at the two of them and then quickly looked away.

"Will it ever stop?" Berto asked, almost speaking to himself.

"Yes, the pain will stop," Ian said softly.  "It just takes more time than we wish it would."

They went inside, collected Mary and Catherine, and went back into Catherine's study.  Ian began to question Berto gently about his wishes for his parents' funeral.  The boy wanted them buried from their Roman Catholic parish church, Our Lady of Guadeloupe, this despite their relaxed approach to their religious duties when alive.  Or perhaps because of it.  Next, they settled on a funeral home in Berto's old neighborhood that many Mexican emigrant families used when a loved one died.  Berto's parents had many friends in their neighborhood, and he wanted them to be able to say good-bye.

Berto wanted the visitation and funeral to happen as soon as possible.

"I'll do the best I can to get the arrangements made quickly," Ian promised.  "I'll talk to my friend Captain Ridenour to find out when the Monterey medical examiner's office will release the bodies," Ian said.

"All right," Berto said.  He began to weep again.  "Thank you for everything you've done for me."

"Hon, do you want to see a priest?" Mary asked.

"I don't know," Berto said.  "I don't think so, but I'll think about it."

"All right," Mary said.

They all stood up.

"We love you, sweetheart, and we're all going to get through this together," Catherine said, hugging and kissing the tall boy, wishing she could will away his pain and tears.

After Mary, Catherine and Berto left the room, Ian immediately picked up the phone and called Tom Ridenour.

"Hello, Tom," he said after they were on the line together.  "How are you?"

"Hanging in," the CHiP captain said.  "Human nature doesn't seem to be improving much," he observed.  "What people are doing to each other under the influence of drugs is unbelievable.  I keep thinking I've seen it all, but every day something new pops up.  I say this after all the years I've been a cop.  We could cut the law enforcement budget by two-thirds if it weren't for drug abuse."

"Even the legal drugs are no picnic when they're abused," Ian said.  "Especially alcohol."

"Amen to that.  What can I do for you, Ian."

"I want to talk about the Hernandez case.  Do you have any idea when the medical examiner's office will release the bodies?"

"No.  I'm making a list of things to do, though, so I'll find out," Ridenour said.

"All right.  And I guess we need to talk about security for the funeral.  I don't want to put Berto or the Emrick boys at risk."

"Which funeral home will be handling things?" Ridenour asked.  "And will there be a Requiem Mass?"

"Rodriguez Funeral Home, and yes, Berto wants his parents buried from Our Lady of Guadeloupe church there in town," Ian said.

"Is there any chance you can meet me in Monterey on Monday?  Let's look at the sites and figure out what we may need for security.  I may ask the Monterey police chief to join us.  We're going to need some manpower commitments from him."

"Sounds good.  What time?"

"How about 10 a.m.?"

"Good," Ian said.  "Where?"

"Why don't you come to the Monterey police headquarters, and we'll go from there?"

"See you at 10, Tom.  Thanks for all your help."


They hung up, and Ian tried to call Lauren Reed of DCFS to let her know the department had a new charge in Berto, and that he and Mary wanted to assume guardianship of the boy.  Ian found out she was off duty for the weekend, and rather than disturbing her at home, put her name on his own list of things to do.

*  *  *

Kevin and Cam were feeling the effects of being at the hospital all night  They went upstairs, locked the doors to their room, and showered together before going to bed.  They were tired, but first things first.  Naked and facing each other under a sheet, Kevin kissed Cam's face gently as he caressed Cam's ass.

Cam grinned as he felt Kevin's cock harden and press up against his balls.

"Whaddaya have in mind?" Cam asked, grinning.

"The same thing I had in mind at the hospital.  I hope you're ready to cooperate now."

"I was always ready to cooperate," Cam said.  "You misunderstood me."

"Misunderstood you, my ass!" Kevin said.  "You denied me my conjugal rights."

"You didn't ask me nicely the way you should have," Cam said.  "That's why it was so embarrassing for me.  Anyway, you don't have any conjugal rights until we're married, asshole."

Kevin kissed his partner softly on the lips and pulled back, looking into those green eyes.  "Technicalities, dude.  We've never let that stop us before."

"That's true.  But as we mature--no, strike that--as I mature, we need to remember the social conventions we both care so much about."

Kevin laughed and shook his head mournfully.  "You know too many words.  And what's even worse, you use them all the fucking time.  Why don't you shut the fuck up?"

"Oh," Cam said.  "Why didn't you say so?"

Kevin put his nose down in the middle of Cam's hairless chest and smelled his skin.

"Lord," he said, "the smell of you makes me happy.  And horny as hell."  He licked Cam's nips and sucked on them, getting his partner's undivided attention when he grazed them with his teeth, stimulating them until they engorged and stood tall, and then continued a leisurely and satisfying exploration of his partner's body parts.  At last he brought the middle finger of his free hand to his mouth, wet it, and reaching down between Cam's legs, found his chute.  Gaining entry, he moved inside that moist haven until he found Cam's prostate and began massaging it, going from gentle to more vigorous as he continued.

Cam gasped, his face contorting and his mouth opening wide.  "Oh, shit!" he breathed into Kevin's face.  "You're gonna make me cum, man."

Kevin slacked off and soul kissed his partner.  "Can you reach a rubber?" he asked when he pulled back, all horned up and ready to go, after giving him a lick on the nose.  "And some lube?"

Cam grinned and rolled over on top of him and got the necessities out of the drawer of their bedside table.  Kevin held the rubber, package unopened, as he first slid down in bed, raised Cam's legs, and began tonguing his partner's hole.  It smelled fresh and clean down there from the shower, with just a hint of Cam's musk, as Kevin rimmed his channel and then started thrusting into it with his tongue, eventually stretching it open with his fingers for more depth.

"Go for it!" Cam instructed in the pleasure of the moment.  "Eat that ass!"  Kevin really got into it, pushing his tongue and nuzzling down there with his nose repeatedly, and finally sucking repeatedly on the hole.  He alternated that with licking Cam's balls, bouncing them on his tongue and then sucking them into his mouth one at a time.  Even one at a time they were a tight fit, as he rubbed his tongue over each of them, squeezing them and gently stretching them down from his partner's groin.

When Kevin finally crawled back up on the bed so they were face to face, their dicks were pulsing with each other with each heartbeat, and drooling pre-cum.  Kevin moved Cam down off his pillow, still flat on to his back, and put the pillow under his ass.  He opened the plastic package with his teeth and rolled the rubber on to his dick.  He lubed his tool and also Cam's hole before raising the latter's legs again, exposing the target of his attentions.

"You dog, you've done this before," Cam kidded him between deep breaths, watching Kevin with anticipation.

"Yep!"  Kevin pressed his cock firmly against Cam's sphincter until the head of it popped just inside, and then he lay down full out on Cam, kissing the boy's chest and his face, watching his expression until it betrayed no discomfort from his being mounted.  Kevin moved in slowly.  When he was fully inside his partner, he stopped flexing his hips and raised his head.  Looking down on Cam, holding his partner's face in his hands, he kissed him softly over and over.  It was heaven for Kevin to lie on top of that slim, hard body which unfailingly gave him such pleasure.  He could feel Cam's anal passage contracting and relaxing around his penis as it held his member firmly in place.

"I love you so much, Cam," Kevin whispered in his partner's ear.  "Thank you for being in my life.  And thank you for sticking with me through every damn stupid thing I've ever done."

Cam kneaded Kevin's ass, rubbing his rosebud and his perineum.  Then he massaged his way up the boy's back and cupped his face.

"You're everything to me, dude," Cam said.  "And baby makes three."

They stayed just the way they were for a long time, touching each other and feeling the pleasure of each other's body, before Kevin finally began to pump Cam's ass gently.  Cam moved his legs up on Kevin's shoulders, and the latter slowly moved in and out for a long time, circling his hips repeatedly before sinking down low behind Cam's crotch and so he could hit the boy's prostate anew every time he thrust into him.  They had both begun to sweat copiously.  Kevin threw back the sheet as their passion increased, grunting and moaning with the pleasure/pain of their coupling.  Kevin slacked off several time to make their lovemaking last, only to resume and bring them to new heights of ecstasy with one another.

At long last, Cam began to thrash around under his partner, and eventually Cam's dick loosed a long, thick, pearly white shot of semen which hit him under his own chin and pooled at his throat, followed by the remainder of his ejaculations that tapered off up his chest and abs with each shot.  A heartbeat later, Kevin grunted and filled the rubber, only then gradually slowing the pumping of his hips.  Cam lowered his legs and curled them around behind Kevin's ass, and they lay there in that position, unmoving, eyes closed, gasps for air gradually de-escalating into deeper and quieter breathing.  They dozed off for a good ten minutes right where they were.

Kevin awakened first.  His rubber encased penis had fallen out of Cam's rosebud, although
their abs and stomachs were still glued together with Cam's splooge.  When Kevin shifted his body slightly, Cam woke up as well, looking up into the face of the boy-man he loved so much.  Kevin kissed his partner on the lips, and then lowering his head, licked at the pool of slowly drying cum at Cam's throat, rolling it around on his tongue.

"It must be love," Cam observed sleepily, "for you to eat my spunk even after you've gotten off."

Kevin smiled.  "Yeah, well, waste not, want not, I always say."  He got a dollop of boy juice on a finger and fed it to Cam.  "You should always get at least your recommended minimum daily serving of protein.  This is my favorite method of getting it because we've already burned off some calories 'doing it.'  They should make a breakfast cereal out of cum for people not privileged to suck dick in this life.  Your dick, in particular."  He put his arms around Cam's back and squeezed him tight, chuckling.  "Eating splooge is better than steroids for building muscle, man."

"Thanks for that news flash.  I know some people would find your suggestion disgusting.  Myself, I find you to be quite a hunk, and I know that didn't happen by accident," Cam said, totally and utterly relaxed and happy as Kevin lay on top of him.

Kevin raised his torso, breaking himself loose from Cam's skin, and rolled on to his side facing his partner.  Removing the rubber from his appendage, he folded it over at the top, and dropped it on to the rug beside the bed.  The two boys contemplated each other with smiles on their faces.

"Damn, I love sex," Kevin said.  "With you, I mean," he hastened to add.

"Hmmm.  You could have fooled me.  I was clueless about that."

Kevin nuzzled into his partner's neck.  "You are clueless about a lot of things," he agreed.  "But I've noticed that every time we have sex, you're maybe a little closer to having a clue.  Or is that 'clueful?'  We need to have more sex so you'll be smarter."

"You're an animal," Cam said.

"I know it.  Aren't cha glad?"

"Oh, yeah.  But I'll tell you what I do have a clue about.  Monday, after school, Marin County Health Department.  We're getting tested.  I'm sick of this shit of having to use a rubber every time we screw."

"You're on," Kevin said.  He pulled Cam to him and hugged him tight.  "I love you to death, buddy."  He moved back and studied Cam's face, caressing it with his eyes.

"Same here.  You must mean it.  That's the second time you've told me since we hit the bed."



"Kevin, I've been thinking about Berto," Cam said.

"You were thinking about Berto while we were having sex?" Kevin protested, trying to sound outraged.

"No, while we were in our coma, you dipshit."  Cam grinned.

Kevin looked at him dubiously.  "Well, anyway.  So...?"

"Why don't we get all the guys and sleep together in the pool house tonight.  There are plenty of air mattresses, and it won't be too cold.  We can play cards and watch TV and swim an' shit.  We need to let him know we're his family now no matter what, doncha think?"

Kevin considered that proposition for a minute, and then nodded his head.  "Yeah, good idea," he said.

"Sweet.  Now, how about a shower?"

"You mean you don't wanna go again?"

"Hey, give me another ten minutes, and I'll surprise you when you bend over," Cam said.

"I believe you.  But let's hit the shower right now and then get the guys to help us keep Berto too busy to think about what's happened to his folks."

Cam rolled over Kevin, hit the floor, picked up the loaded rubber, and ran for the bathroom.  Kevin was hot on his heels.  Cam went to the toilet, dropped the rubber into it, and proceeded to empty his bladder.

"Hey," Kevin complained as he moved into position beside him to pee, "I save those rubbers to use again."

"Ugh!  You're fucking disgusting," Cam told him.

"As long as it involves fucking, anything you say about me is OK," Kevin responded, laughing.

Cam finished up at the toilet, shook off, flushed the toilet, and opened the shower door to turn on the water.  Kevin was right behind him, and when the water warmed, in they went, laughing and kissing and feeling each other up like the horny teenagers they were.

When they were finished and dressed, they went downstairs again and found the boys, including Berto, in the TV room watching a Walker, Texas Ranger re-run.

"Guys!?" Cam said, standing in the doorway with Kevin.

"Man, you're interrupting some primo TV," William Carson insisted.  He lowered the volume of his voice.  "What the fuck do you want???!!!"

"Let's all camp out in the pool house tonight," Cam said.

"Did you clear this with Mommy?" Dan asked with a big grin on his face, bent on stirring up trouble.  "Maybe she doesn't want her precious Cammy Wammy and Kevy Wevy sleeping out in the wilderness with us savages from San Francisco and points south."

Ranger Walker's exploits were forgotten in mid-kick for the moment, as all eyes looked toward Cam and Kevin.

"Kevin, kick his ass!" Cam ordered, gesturing toward Dan, who began to laugh.

Kevin started to move toward Dan when the phone rang.  Dan picked it up to stave off bodily harm.


"Hey, bro, it's Carl.  I've been sprung.  Can somebody come and get me?"

"Yeah, man," Dan said.  "Cool.  Be there in a few."

"We hafta go get Carl," Dan said, hanging up.

"Très bien, man," Mark Carson said.  "Let's go get him, and then swing by the nursery for a minute and see the baby.  I wanna see if Kevin's kid really has five o'clock shadow.  He's probably started doing sit-ups already."

With both Ranger Walker's TV exploits and Dan's impending punishment forgotten, William used the remote to shut off the TV and everybody stood up.

"I'll drive us in the Navigator," William suggested.

"No way," Kevin said.  "I wanna drive that boat, and I'm older."

"You're such a dick!" William said.

"Well, yeah!" Kevin said.  "Tell me something I don't know.  I'll let the 'rents know we're leaving, and let's bounce!"

They all walked out to the garage, Cam's arm around Dan's neck in a light choke hold.  "I'm gonna make you suffer now, you little shit," Cam said.  His fondness for the cute little wiseass had grown as he'd gotten to know him.  Dan grinned and ate up the attention.

Kevin drove to the hospital, and they went to the Psych ward first and got Carl, who met Berto for the first time, and was really happy to see the gang.  Then they all went down to the maternity floor nursery.  It was feeding time.  Kevin went around to the nursery entrance to get gowned, and then went in to hold little Kevin and feed him some formula while the boys took it all in through the plate glass window.  The baby was wearing a knit cap which Kevin removed long enough for the guys to see his little head of black hair.

"I can't wait 'til we get that baby home," William said.  "I want to hold 'im and feed 'im so bad."

"Wear a mask so the kid doesn't look directly atcha and hurl," Carl suggested, making the other boys chortle.

"I don't think the Psych ward did much for you," William said.  But he was glad to see his roomie in a good mood and coming home.

When little Kevin spit out the nipple of his bottle, Kevin lowered his face and kissed his son's head, and then stood up from the rocker.  An aide took the baby with a smile and put him back in his crib, and Kevin shed his gown and joined the guys in the hallway a moment later.  As they all walked down the hall toward the exit, Kevin pulled Cam aside.

"We should probably give them an answer on whether or not we want the baby circumcised," he said.

"I don't know what to do," Cam said.  "What don't we ask the guys what they think?"

"The blind leading the blind," Kevin said.

"Please don't quote the Bible," Cam responded.  "It may bring down lightning on us."

"Shut up.  Hey, guys, commere for a sec," Kevin said.  The boys gathered around.  "I need to give the hospital an answer on whether little Kevin should be circumcised or not.  What do you guys think?"

There was a spirited, five minute conversation about that, and then the momentous vote.  Berto, William and Mark voted "no," and Carl, Dan and Cam voted "yes."

"You guys are lot of fucking help!" Kevin complained, frustrated.  He paused.  "OK, I'm going along with the 'yeses.'"

"When he's old enough to understand, I'm telling little Kevin what you put him through, and what you cheated him out of," William said.

"How would you know?" Cam asked him.  "You're cut."

"You been peekin'!" William said, laughing.

Kevin stopped at the nurse's desk on the way out to leave instructions about the circumcision, and then they went home.  Going to the pool house first, they took a canister of compressed air and topped off the inflation in seven air mattresses.  They moved some of the furniture against a wall, and laid the mattresses out side by side on the floor in case they ever got around to sleeping.  Cam took the dust covers off the foosball and poker tables, folded them, and put them neatly in the corner.  When he fired up the TV, they had a good picture.  All they needed was bedding and snacks, and they were in business.  Starting back to the house, Kevin bent down to check the water temperature in the pool, and it felt perfect.  The pool heater was doing its thing.  Mark Carson tried to push Kevin over into the water, and failed.  Mark bailed for the house, with Kevin in hot pursuit up the back stairs to the kitchen.

Catherine, Ian and Mary were sitting in the breakfast nook having a cup of coffee when the boys came bursting in the back door.  The adults stood up and welcomed Carl home with a hug and kiss.

"How you feeling, Carl?" Ian asked, one arm over the boy's shoulder.

"I'm good," he said.  "And glad to be home.  The Psych ward was full of stoners and addicts trying to bum weed and other stuff off me."  He laughed.  "I decided to get healthy fast and get outta Dodge."

"Good thinking," Ian said.  "We're glad to have you back here where you belong."

"Mommy..." Cam said to Catherine.


"We're gonna have a little 'Welcome home' party for Berto and Carl in the pool house tonight, if that's OK.  We'll sleep out there."

Catherine looked at Mary and Ian, who nodded.

"All right," Catherine said.  "We'll eat at the usual time, and then you're on your own.  But no roughhousing out there!  I don't want any late night trips to the emergency room.  And remember, we're going to the 9 o'clock Mass tomorrow morning."

"Oh, yeah, that's right.  Thanks, Ma," Cam said.  "Can I have a few bucks for some snacks?"

Ian took out his wallet, and gave Cam five twenties.  "Think healthy when you're buying," he said.

"Yes, sir, thank you," Cam said.  "Come on, Berto, let's go shopping."  It was part of his plan to keep the kid too busy to think about his loss.

"Naked swimming tonight," Dan said quietly into Berto's ear, grinning.  Berto looked back at him quizzically.

"I wanna go along shopping," Mark said.  "You don't know what I like."

"Who cares what you like?" Kevin demanded, still looking for payback for nearly taking an unexpected bath in the pool at Mark's hands.

All the boys ended up piling into the Navigator with William at the wheel this time, and significantly depleted the shelves of a nearby supermarket after negotiating with each other at length over what they wanted and didn't want, trying to stay within their budget.

They loaded the food into the car and took it home.  After the food was stashed in the pool house kitchen, Cam gave Ian his change, a meager $2.20.

"Hey, you guys wanna go to a movie this afternoon?" Kevin asked.

"Like what?  'Mickey Mouse Goes to Washington'?" William asked.

"No, that would be too true to real life," Cam said.  "How about 'Brokeback Mountain'?"

"You won't make me hold hands with you, will ya?" William smirked.

"I'm not sittin' anywhere near you unless you change your underwear," Cam shot back.  "You're aromatic, man.  In a bad way."

William mimed saying the word "aromatic," and laughed.  "I'll remember that word for my SAT's next year."

They finally all agreed on 'Brokeback Mountain,' and went out and piled into the Navigator again.  A half-hour later, they were at a cineplex, taking up the better part of a whole row, drinking Coke and munching on nachos and popcorn.

The straight boys were a little nervous as they sat through the movie, even though there was very little portrayed that was overtly sexual.  Cam and Kevin took it all in stride, and were curious what the other guys would say about the film.  So was Carl.

They left the theater and climbed into the Navigator when it was over, William again at the wheel.

"What did ya think?" Kevin asked, throwing out the question to the whole crowd.

Nobody said anything at first.

"Fucking sad," William finally said.  "Y'know, it's not right that two human beings who love each other should have to suffer like that."  He paused.  "Not that I didn't feel sorry for the wives, too.  But Ennis and Delmar wouldn't have married them if they could have been in a relationship with each other in open society, like they should have been able to do."

"I agree," Carl said.  "Tragic all around.  And for what?  So guys who aren't all that sure which side they're playing for in real life can get drunk and play at being macho and abuse gays?  It's ridiculous."

Nobody else added anything, and the conversation moved on to other things.  When they got home, Ian was cooking brats and hamburgers and steaks on two grills on the deck, and fifteen minutes later everybody gathered around the dining room table where a buffet was set up.

"Mark, will you offer thanks?" Catherine asked.

"Yes, m'am."  They joined hands around the table.  "Heavenly Father, we thank you for your goodness in giving us this food, and for giving us this big family to share it with."  He paused.  "And Father, we ask that you help us to be merciful and kind to all your children, so that all of us can carry out your will in this life and not sit in judgment on our brothers and sisters.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord."


Mary Carson made the sign of the cross along with the others and looked appreciatively over at her younger son.  "Thank you, Mark.  That was a excellent prayer."

Kevin put a big hand on Mark's neck and gave the boy's whole body a little shake.  "Good one, bro!"

*  *  *

The pool party was everything that it should have been, and more.  First the boys watched a little television, and then decided to take a swim before starting a poker game.  Dan had been right--the occasion would feature naked swimming.  Berto watched as everyone stripped off and jumped in the pool.  He wasn't shy, and did the same.  They chose up sides for water volleyball.  Since they were an odd number, Cam's team got the extra guy, and Kevin's team had the advantage of playing in shallower water.  It was a hard fought battle, but eventually Kevin's team won bragging rights, winning both games.  Cam went into the pool house and brought out a stack of fluffy towels, and they all dried off.  Carl thought his "brothers" looked mighty fine in the buff.  He noticed that Berto, the only uncut guy there, had no need to be ashamed of his body or his equipment.

After they dried off and sat around for awhile catching their breath, they turned on the stereo and all gravitated to the big poker table with towels wrapped around their waists.  The game was on.  Cam brought out the snacks, and the guys helped themselves.  William served as banker, and chose five-card stud for the first game.  Thereafter, the winner of the last hand chose what they played.  Cam wasn't sure whether Mark was counting cards or not, but a combination of skill and a good memory started moving the chips in Mark's direction as time passed.

"I'm makin' you do double exercises tomorrow, you prick," Kevin informed Mark after the latter had won about three consecutive pots.  "Son of a bitch!  If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all!"

"Well, that's clear enough!" Mark said.  "After all, you're stuck with Cam."

Cam was sitting next to him, and cuffed him on the back of the head.  "Watch your mouth, boy!"

"I speak only the truth," Mark said, piling up his chips and then shuffling the cards after his last win.

"How do you stand him?" Kevin asked William.  "I hate a fucking cheerful winner."

"Sometimes I hold a pillow over his face for a few minutes," William said.  "That usually calms him down."

"Seven card, last two down, Jacks wild," Mark defined the game, paying no attention to his brother.  The cards flashed across the table as he began to deal.  Berto had a Queen-high flush in hearts before last two cards ever hit the table, and bet accordingly.  Dan folded immediately rather than pay to stay in.  Cam was happy when Berto won that pot.

They took a little break, and Dan and Carl pulled out the ping pong table and began to play.  Carl was quick, but Dan was good at putting English on the ball, and Dan pulled out a victory at the last minute.

Cam pulled up a chair and sat beside Berto.

"How you doin'?" he asked him.

Berto looked at him solemnly.  "I don't know," he admitted.  He tapped his heart.  "I'm hurtin'," he said.

"Yeah," Cam said, staring at the floor.  "I know you probably need to cry, but I hope you don't mind if we try to keep you a little too busy for that right now."

"Thank you for taking me in, that's all I can say.  Your mom and the Carsons, well..."  The dam broke, and the boy's tears began running down his cheeks noiselessly.

"I'm sorry I said anything..." Cam said.

"No, I have to think about this at some point, you know," Berto said.

Cam pulled his chair around and faced Berto.  "You're right.  I just wish I could help you, that's all."

"You are helping me.  You're all helping me by letting me hang with you.  I just feel like a wuss sometimes."

"A wuss?  You're tougher than I am, man, " Cam said.  "By far."  He reached over and got some tissues out of a box of kleenex and gave them to Berto.

The boy wiped his face.  "Thanks," he said.  He composed himself, and then he and Cam went back to the poker table with the other guys for Round 2.

This time the poker gods smiled on Carl Emrick, and he began to whittle down Mark's pile of chips.

About 3 a.m. they all unfolded the stacks of blankets that Cam and Kevin had brought down from the house and fixed their beds on the air mattresses.  Kevin made sure that Carl and Berto were in the middle of the pack, surrounded by friends, when they all lay down and began to fall sleep.  Kevin was going to be a good and caring father, Cam thought to himself, noting his concern for the others.  He felt Kevin's hand move unobtrusively under the overlapping blankets on top of the two of them and clasp his own hand.  Kevin's hand was warm and strong, and Cam kissed the back of it.

It felt to Cam as if his chest were full of love for all these guys as he unobtrusively snuggled up to Kevin before he drifted off to sleep.

*  *  *

The telephone in the pool house rang insistently at 8 a.m., and holding up his morning wood so it didn't flap around, Cam finally staggered up off his air mattress and answered it.

"Yeah," he groaned into the mouthpiece.



"It's Ian.  You guys have to get moving.  We're leaving for church in forty-five minutes.  Everybody goes!  No exceptions."

"Uh, OK."  Cam hung up the receiver and turned around to the six somnolent lumps under the blankets.

"Hey, assholes!" he said, loud enough to be heard without shouting.  "Get the fuck up!  Ian says we have to be ready to go to church in"--he consulted his watch--"forty-three minutes."

Assorted grunts and groans emerged as a few eyes popped open and then shut again as if to avoid a bad dream.

"I'm jumping in the pool to wake up," Cam continued.  "If you're not up by the time I come back, I'm turning the hose on your lazy asses.  Cold water.  LET'S GO!"

"I'm already up, just like every morning!" William protested in a gravelly voice.

"Not up like that," Cam said.  "You heard what I said."  After peeing in the toilet, he grabbed a fresh towel from a pile of them in a cabinet, and walked out on the pool deck.  Eureka!  The sun was actually out.  He threw the towel on a deck chair, and dived into the water, shouting from the shock when his head emerged.  He squeegeed the water off his crew cut with one hand.

Water suddenly splashed in his face as Kevin, holding his privates in one hand so they didn't get damaged, cannonballed into the pool next to his partner.

"You dick," Cam opined.

"Welcome to my world, bud!" Kevin laughed.

The other guys must have taken Cam's threat seriously about getting dowsed with the hose if they didn't get up, because soon they were all the in the pool, having also jumped into the water holding their balls and erections for protection.

"I hope none of you losers is pissing in this pool," Kevin said.  "It's feeling warmer in here all of a sudden."

"You should be so lucky," William said.  "My pee is therapeutic."

They all hooted at that and splashed around in the pool for the few minutes, and then hit the shower in the pool house.  It was tight quarters with all them in what was a sizable shower, but they managed to wash off the chlorine with touching each other too much.  Well almost.

"Mark fondled my ass," Dan complained, laughing.

"No, I didn't," Mark said.  "You think I want my fingers to wither up and fall off?"

When they were finished, they dried off, put on their boxers, carrying the rest of their clothes, and went up to the house.  Already dressed for church, Catherine was sipping a cup of tea in the breakfast nook, reading the morning paper.

"Morning, Mommy," Kevin, who was first in line to come in the door, said.

"Morning, Mommy," the rest of the boys said one at a time, mimicking Kevin, as they paraded past her in their boxers.

Catherine laughed, and gave each of them a greeting as they trooped by her on the way upstairs to get dressed for church.

At 8:45, everyone gathered in the driveway, the boys looking squeaky clean cut in their khakis and polo shirts.  The guys all climbed into the Ian's Navigator, Cam at the wheel this time, and the adults into Catherine's Lincoln, and they were on their way.

© 2006 Don Hanratty.

My sincere appreciation to Dan for proofing and editing Chapter 18.