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


Cam awakened slowly the next morning, listening to a cacophony of birds outside.  The cabin's winged neighbors were enjoying themselves in the rare, early morning sunshine on the coast of the Big Sur.  It was often foggy there until at least mid-morning.

He raised his head and looked down the long line of boys sleeping on air mattresses on the floor in the great room of Alex's cabin.  No one was stirring.  He rolled over toward Kevin, fixing his eyes on his partner's strong jaw line where it met the blanket.  This kid is way too good looking, Cam thought to himself, smiling.  And he's all mine.  The stubble on Kevin's face looked sexy as hell.  Cam resisted the temptation to move closer and kiss Kevin on the ear, which would most assuredly wake him up and horn him up.

Cam ran his hand down his own chest and abs and into his boxers, where, as he already knew, his dick was hard as a rock.  He wrapped his fist around it, and after rubbing his thumb over the head of it, gave it a stroke.  One stroke only.  His bladder was full and he was horny, collaborating to create his current rigid condition.

Moving deliberately and carefully, he eased himself out from under the blanket he was sharing with Kevin, went to the front door, and let the dogs out to do their business.  Then he padded his way into the bathroom, where he closed the door and relieved himself into the toilet.  His erection subsided.  He washed his hands, and heading back to the great room, pulled on a T and his cargo shorts and a pair of sweat socks.  No one else had moved, and Cam headed for the kitchen to check out the supplies that Mr. Anderson, the caretaker, had left for them.  All the essentials for breakfast were there--dozens of eggs and many pounds of thick cut bacon in the refrigerator, along with five gallons of orange juice, five gallons of milk, and ten rounded loaves of sourdough bread.  Three pounds of coffee.  He opened a can of coffee, and measuring water and coffee carefully, started the first pot.  Taking two pounds of bacon, he separated the strips into two huge iron skillets, put a bacon press on each, and started them cooking over a low flame.  In a few moments he started smelling fresh brewed coffee and cooking bacon.

He took down a huge mixing bowl from the cupboard and was just starting to crack three dozen eggs into it when he sensed someone behind him.  Too late.  Two arms tightened around his chest, and someone kissed him on his neck.  Cam smiled and turned around in his captor's arms, and Kevin's lips were waiting for him, his brown eyes smiling into Cam's green ones.  Kevin was bare to the waist in his boxers, and Cam could feel his lover's erection pressing against him as he put his hands on Kevin's ass and pulled him close.

"Hey, dude," Kevin said softly.  "Aren't we the energetic one this morning?"

"Yep," Cam said, kissing him back.  "And you're feeling kinda energetic yourself, and you know where."

"I wasn't meant for a life of chastity," Kevin said.  "You probably knew that by now."

"Somebody might have mentioned that to me before.  Oh, that's right, it was you!"

The two guys stood there grinning at each other, holding each other, faces close.  Kevin kissed his partner softly on the lips as Cam rubbed Kevin's ass.

"Let's take a walk on the beach later," Kevin suggested.  "Alone."

"I second the motion.  But for right now, do me a favor," Cam said.  "Go build up the fire so the living room won't be cold when the guys get up."

"Yes, Maaaster," Kevin said, kissing Cam again.  "Your wish is--uh, what is it again?"

"My command?" Cam asked.

"No.  That's not it.  'My aversion,' I think.  Or is it 'my perversion?'  Yeah, that's it."

"You're such a brat!" Cam said, laughing and holding his partner at bay.  "Get out!"

"Yes, Maaaster!"

Cam patted Kevin on the ass as the boy turned to leave, and the latter walked off to complete his assignment.  Cam watched the boy's boxer clad butt as he left.  That's one sweet ass, he thought as he turned back to the stove.

Mark Carson came into the kitchen at that point wearing a T and boxers, passing Kevin on the way out.  Mark and Kevin smiled at each other, but didn't speak.  Mark padded up behind Cam, and put a hand on his shoulder as Cam started turning over the bacon in the two huge skillets.  Cam jumped.

"What the fuck!  You scared the shit outta me!" he told Mark.

"Sorry," Mark said.  "I thought you were on auto-pilot in here."

"Not any more," Cam said, using tongs to turn the bacon.  It smelled so good, the two guys' mouths starting watering.

"You need some help?" Mark asked.

"Of course, man.  First, though, are your hands clean, or did you touch your dick this morning?" Cam asked with a straight face.

"I touched dick twice.  I took a leak a minute ago, and then I came in here and touched you.  That counts as twice, doesn't it?"

Cam laughed, shaking his head.  The kid was quick.  "Well, wash your hands, and then finish cracking the eggs on the counter into that big bowl.  Add some milk, and get a whisk out of the drawer over there and give those eggs a good beating.  Then start cutting up the bread for toast."

"Is that all?" the little smart ass asked.

"No!  Get glasses out of the cupboard and start pouring orange juice for everybody.  Pour that pot of coffee into the big pot when it's done, and start another pot of coffee.  Set the table. 
Then take some dog food out on the deck and feed the dogs.  Make sure they have water.  You have two minutes."

"Yeah, right!" Mark said sarcastically, but he washed his hands in the sink and got right to the egg-cracking.

Wearing a pair of cargos now, Kevin came back into the kitchen, peering around.  "Well, I see you have all the help you need," he said to Cam.  He turned around to leave.

"No!" Mark said.  "I need help!"

"He doesn't need help," Cam said.

"Yes, I do," Mark said.  "Will you feed the dogs?"

Kevin grinned.  "As a special favor to you, Marko, I will."  He grabbed a bag of dry dog food off the countertop and took off.  They could hear Kevin start talking to the dogs as he opened the door out on to the deck.

Cam and Mark continued working, and it wasn't long before they heard groans and voices coming from the great room as the rest of the boys struggled to wake up.  William stood in the doorway with a huge hardon apparent in his boxers.

"Isn't breakfast ready yet?" he demanded.  "Do you dumb fucks know what you're doing?"

"Yeah, we do," Cam said.  "We're cookin', not throwin' wood."

"You been peekin'.  I gotta go pee," William said.

"Don't worry, I could barely see your dick," Cam said. "I thought it was a mosquito bite.  Anyway, get your lazy ass movin' and then get back here and help your brother, asshole."

"I'm goin' on strike if you don't talk nice to me," William muttered as he left for the bathroom.  But he came back and pitched in.

Miraculously, things came together about thirty minutes later.  Alex and John were up, and everybody gathered around a big table in the corner of the great room in various states of dress.  They all joined hands.

"William, why don't you offer thanks this morning?" Alex said.

The boy did a double take, but then offered a good prayer, and they all sat down to eat.  Now back inside the cabin, Alice and Samantha hung out beside Cam's chair, knowing that he was a softy.  When he didn't think anyone was watching, he'd slip the dogs a tiny morsel of bacon.

"Who cooked?" Alex asked when they sat down.

"Cam and I," Mark said.

"Hey, I helped!" William said.

"Well, good job, guys!" John said.  "So, what's on the docket for today?" he asked as they all got down to the serious eating.

Silence.  Then Cam piped up.

"I thought I'd call Father Mason and see if he has some free time to come down here.  Maybe spend the night if Fr. Blackburn will give him a day off.  We could talk about the trip to New Orleans."

"Good idea," Dan said.  The were murmurs of assent around the table.

When breakfast was over, Cam and Kevin put on their Levi's, sweatshirts, sneakers and jackets, and headed for the door with the dogs, leaving the cleanup to whomever.

"Where ya headed?" Mark asked as he followed them toward the door.

"We're goin' for a little walk on the beach," Kevin said.

"Can I go?" Mark asked.

"I'll tell ya what, Mark," Kevin said.  "Let us walk first, cause Cam and I need to talk, and then we'll call ya on your cell when we get back to the bottom of the stairs.  We'll wait for ya down there on the beach, and we'll walk together.  OK?"

"Yep," Mark said, turning back and looking a little disappointed.

Cam and Kevin left the deck, reached the road, and headed toward the stairs down to the beach, the dogs running ahead.

"Mark loves ya, man," Cam told his partner, holding his hand and swinging their arms as they walked along.

Kevin sighed.  "I know.  He's not gay, though, I don't think.  But I love 'im back!  He's a great kid.  I just wanna treat him nice so I don't hurt his feelings.  He's been through enough."

"Yeah."  Cam nodded approvingly.  Kevin must really like the boy, he thought to himself.  It wasn't typical of him to say out loud he loved someone.  Other than Cam himself, of course, and Catherine and Casey.

"Oh, I better call Mom," Kevin said.  "When do ya wanna get Casey?"

"Depends on when you wanna run," Cam said.  "Soon, though.  I miss 'im."

"Me, too."

"You run with the guys today, and I'll walk with Mark to keep him company, OK?" Cam said.

"Thanks," Kevin said, pulling out his cell phone, a twin of Cam's.  "Mom" he said to it, and it dialed up Catherine's cell.

"Mommy, y'all up?" he said when she answered.

The two of them talked, and arranged that when Kevin ran with the guys on the beach, he would curtail his run at the Carsons' house and go up the long stairs there to the top of the cliff to spend time with Casey.

"Let me talk to Mom before you hang up," Cam whispered to Kevin.  When he was finished talking, Kevin handed Cam the phone.

"'Morning, Mommy," Cam said.

"Hello, Cam.  You have a good night?" Catherine asked.

"Yes, thanks," Cam replied.   "You?"

"Fine.  Casey is starting to sleep a little longer between feedings."

"I know it.  Listen, I wonder if you'd do me a favor?  Would you call Father Jim and invite him down here for as much time as he can spend with us?  We can talk about the New Orleans trip.  See if Father Blackburn will let him stay overnight."

"I can do that.  Let me ask the Carsons if that's all right with them."

Cam could hear Catherine, Ian and Mary talking in the background.

"All right," Catherine's voice said into the phone.  "I'll call him."

"Thanks, Mommy.  I owe you."

Catherine laughed.  "That's the least of what you owe me, boy!"

"That's true," Cam said.  "Love ya.  Laters."

Kevin took the phone back, snapped it shut, and put it into the pocket of his Levi's.

When they reached the bottom of the long stairs to the beach, they turned south and starting walking, the dogs running ahead.  They had walked about 100 yards when Cam pulled Kevin closer to him and kissed him on the side of the head.

"I'm horny," Cam said.

"Me, too."

Cam gestured over at a small fissure at the bottom of the cliff wall, and steered Kevin over to it, whistling at the dogs so they didn't run off.  Alice and Sam wheeled around and came back.  The small opening in the cliff, once you squeezed through it, opened up into a sizable cave, the floor of which was strewn with rocks both small and sizable.

"How did you know this was here?" Kevin asked his partner, staring around in the dim light from the entrance.

"I used to come down here and play pirates."

"All by yourself?  Who were you, Long John Silver?" Kevin kidded his partner.  "I bet you used to jack off in here."

"I did, but don't be a wise ass," Cam said, grinning.  "Take off your pants."


"Take off your pants and get up on this rock."  Cam pointed to a four foot high rock next to the cave wall.

Kevin smiled and started to comply as he looked at Cam.  "What're you gonna do?"

"Give you the biggest thrill you've had since we got here."

Kevin obediently toed off his sneakers, shucked off his Levi's, and stood up on the rock still wearing his boxers.  Cam took hold of the boxers, and pulled them down to the boy's ankles, revealing Kevin's nice package with its rapidly hardening dick.

"Squat down," Cam instructed Kevin.  Cam licked his lips in anticipation as Kevin squatted.  Cam spread his partner's legs, and putting his head between those muscular thighs, licked the head of Kevin erect penis.  He pulled the head of Kevin's cock back to make the slit open up and used the tip of his tongue on it as the squatting boy started breathing harder.  Then Cam slipped his hand under Kevin's crotch, holding his cock and balls in the palm of his hand as he ran his middle finger back along his partner's perineum, finally probing gently at his hole.  Cam went all the way down on Kevin's cock as the boy moaned loudly.

"Oh, shit, man!" Kevin hissed.  "Take it slow or I'm gonna shoot right now."

Cam slacked off on hoovering, but not for long.  He put his middle finger into Kevin's hole to the first knuckle as he again increased his mouth action on his partner's dick.  It had the desired effect, and soon he was tasting Kevin's sweet pre-cum.

"Oh, oh, oh shit!" Kevin moaned.  "Oh man...oh fuck!"

Cam varied his pace, but five minutes later it was all over.  Kevin exploded into Cam's mouth and collapsed on him, leaning down on the boy from his perch on the huge rock.  Neither of them moved at first except that Kevin pushed Cam's mouth off the head of his dick, which was now super sensitive to Cam's continued tongue action.  Cam grinned as he popped off Kevin's cock and removed his finger from the boy's butt.

"Yeah!" Cam said, feeling good about what he'd done.  Kevin, still squatting on the rock, leaned down and frenched his partner, their tongues dueling in the taste of Kevin's juice.

When their lips parted, Kevin was totally relaxed, still sagging against Cam.

"Gnarly!!!" Kevin gasped.  "Now, help me down off this rock," he told Cam as he slowly stood and pulled up his boxers.  "If you don't, I'm gonna fall on my ass, and I'll be asleep before I hit the ground."

Cam smiled.  Swallowing Kevin's big load, he helped him down.  Laying Kevin's Levi's on the floor of the cave, they lay down on them together as best they could.  Kevin hadn't been kidding--he was practically in a coma for the moment.  Cam, lying more on the small stones of the cave than on Kevin's pants, held his partner gently and studied his lover's face.  Unshaven, that face looked strong and masculine and yet somehow softened by his partner's loving act.

Five minutes later, Kevin's eyes opened and he began to stir.  He reached over and gently touched Cam's face.

"You and Casey are my life, man," he said softly.  "You're such a part of me, I can't believe it.  And if I'm really, really lucky, you always will be."

Cam smoothed Kevin's crewcut back from his forehead.  "Loving ya, Kev.  Always."

Kevin looked at his partner.  "Do you want me to do you?"

"Later.  When we shower together next time, maybe," Cam said, grinning.  "Mark is probably wondering what happened to us."

Alice and Samantha came over just then and started licking the boys' faces, making them laugh and push the dogs away.  Cam stood up and pulled Kevin to his feet.  The boy put his Levi's back on, and then his sneakers.  They made their way out of the cave into the remnants of early fog and an overcast sky and walked back to the stairs up to the cabin.  Kevin pulled out his phone and called Mark.

"Marky-mark!" he said when the boy answered.

"Who the fuck is this?" Mark demanded, pretending he didn't know who it was.

Kevin laughed.  "Your best buddy," he said.

"Cameron?" Mark asked, trying not to laugh himself.

"No, dipshit.  Kevin.  We're down at the foot of the stairs.  Listen, will you do me a favor?"


"Bring my jock and running shorts and sweat pants down when you come, will ya?  They're in the green canvas bag near the wall where I slept."

"Your jock!  Do I have to touch it?" Mark asked, laughing.  "I can pick it up with kitchen tongs."

"Just bring it down here," Kevin said, smiling.  "Tell the other guys I'll give them five minutes to get dressed for running and get down here, or I'm leaving them for my run.  I'm only gonna run down the beach to your folks' cabin, though, and then go up to spend time with Casey."

"OK," Mark said.  "Get off my phone now.  You're using up my minutes."  And he hung up.

Kevin snapped his phone shut, chortling.  "That kid is something else," he said appreciatively.  "He's really grown on me."

"Hmmm, I'm beginning to think he's my replacement when I get old and tired," Cam said, putting his arm around Kevin's neck and squeezing.  They sat down on the bottom step of the long stairs.

"Uh, uh," Kevin said, shaking his head in the negative.  "No way, dude.  You're one of a kind.  I'll make my point about that clearer when we shower later."  He kissed Cam on the lips, losing himself again in those green eyes.

Ten minutes later, the gang, including John and Alex, came clumping down the wooden steps.  Mark handed Kevin's shorts to him, jock wrapped inside, when he reached the bottom.

"Thanks man." Kevin said.

"Look," Mark said, extending his right hand.  "My skin is turning black and starting to peel off where I touched your jock.  Take me to the emergency room."

The group laughed, including Kevin.  Never the shy one, Kevin stripped off his Levi's and boxers without a trace of embarrassment and put on his jock, running shorts and sweats.  Cam noticed the guys checking his partner out and smiled.  A naked Kevin, even if only a half naked Kevin, was a beautiful Kevin, so Cam could understand the interested looks.  Kevin handed his Levi's and boxers to Cam to hold for him.  Cam folded them up tight, opened his jacket and zipped them up inside.

"I'm only running down to the Carsons', and then I'm going up to spend some time with Casey," Kevin told the group.

"All right," Alex said.  "Let's do our stretches and hit it."

The guys started their stretches, some of them using a fellow runner to push against.

Cam and Kevin usually didn't show much affection in public, but when Kevin finished his stretches, Cam put his arm around Kevin's waist and kissed him on the mouth.  A few of the other guys smiled.

"Have a good run," Cam said, slapping Kevin on the butt as he took off down the beach.  Mark and Cam stood watching the group as they moved away from them.  The dogs were in their glory, running ahead.

"Well, it's you and me, buddy," Cam said as he put an arm across the shorter boy's shoulders and gave Mark a little shake before letting him go.

"Yep," Mark said.  "Thanks for walking with me."

"You need supervision," Cam said, laughing.  "When do you think you'll be able to run again?"

"I think I can run right now," Mark said.  "But Dad won't let me."

"Well, better safe than sorry," Cam said.  "You're a lucky guy, considering what happened to you.  Let's not fuck it up now."

"Yeah," Mark said.

"You prolly know this, but Kevin likes you."  Cam smiled.  "A lot.  I don't know where he got this idea, but he thinks you really have stones."

"That's what I think about him," Mark admitted, blushing a little.  "I'm gonna miss you guys when you move to L.A."

"That won't be a problem, 'cause all you guys will be comin' down to Malibu a lot.  Count on it."

They walked in silence for a few minutes.  The runners were rapidly becoming only a speck up the beach by now.

"I see you've got your iPod," Cam said.  "What're you listening to?"

"Lots of stuff.  There's a new group called Nemesis Rising.  They have a hit named, 'You're Number One in Heaven.'  They're good.  Twin brothers, and both gay, I think.  And I have some Scissors Sisters.  'I Don't Feel Like Dancin' is big.  An Aussie group."

"I didn't know you were into music that much,"  Cam said.

"Yeah, I am, I guess.  It was either music or TV when I was in the hospital, and daytime TV sucks.  When I started to know the names of characters on the soaps, I knew I was in trouble."  Mark laughed.

"Yeah.  When things settle down a little, we should get tickets for some concerts in the city before Kevin, Carl and I move south."

Mark sighed.  "I'd like that.  I'm just tired of not being able to do stuff.  Like running.  I like to be more active."

"I know.  We didn't know you yet when Kevin got beat up last year.  He was bedridden and then in a wheel chair at first while a head wound and a broken arm and leg healed up.  You think you're impatient!  You should have seen him!"

"Yeah, I remember," Mark said.  "He was still on crutches when you guys stopped at our condo in town the first time.  The day you got Samantha."

"That's right.  Well, most of us don't really appreciate how easy it is to move around until there's a problem," Cam said.

They walked.

"Can I ask you something?" Mark said.


"How did you know you were gay?"

Cam was surprised at the boy's directness.  "Well..."

"You don't have to answer that if you don't want to."

"No, I don't mind," Cam said.  "I guess I knew when I started to focus more on Kevin than I did on Teri, the girl I was dating.  I realized that I liked being around him more than I did her.  He grew up next door to me, y'know, and it got to the point that my day wasn't a good day unless I got to spend time with him.  We were both on the soccer team, so that made it easy when school was in session.  He moved into our house senior year when his father got promoted and moved to Manhattan, and then it was even easier."

"Oh," Mark said.

"You know how it's a little uncomfortable when people invade your personal space for no good reason?"


"Well, I realized that I wanted Kevin's face right in my face all the fucking time.  I wanted him in my space.  He's so beautiful that I wanted to kiss him and touch him all the time.  But I never did until we realized during our senior year that we both felt the same way about each other.  Then the relationship got physical."

"Who made the first move?" Mark asked.

"I guess I'd have to say Kevin did."

"What did he do?"

"We'd just come back from Malibu, and we went to bed at the usual time in our own rooms.  Kevin came into my room after we we'd been in the sack for awhile and asked me if he could get in bed with me.  I thought he just wanted to talk.  He wanted to talk, all right!  He told me he was in love with me, and I admitted I was in love with him, too.  We were each pretty surprised by our feelings for each other.  We were also both horny, and before long we got each other off.  That was the beginning of the best relationship I could ever dream of having.  I think Kevin feels the same way.  I hope he does, anyway."

Mark digested that in silence for a minute.

"Was it hard to tell Catherine?" he asked.

"We didn't have to come out to her, she confronted us about it.  By then we were sleeping in the same bed in my room all the time, and she noticed that Kevin's bed wasn't being slept in at all.  So she asked us at supper one night, and we had to 'fess up.  That was huge, but it wasn't like we had a choice.  She's been great about it, though, I have to say."

Mark stopped walking and looked down at the sand and rocks.

"I'm not sure what I am," he said.

Cam stopped and turned toward him.  "You mean, gay or straight?"


"Mark, you're gonna be a sophomore this coming year, right?"


"Y'know, there's no standard timetable for identifying your sexuality," Cam said.  "You want my advice?"


"Date some girls and keep an open mind.  See how you like it.  In our crazy family, being around guys all the time is heaven for Kevin and me, but I think you should give girls a chance.  You're still getting to know yourself, and there's plenty of time for you to decide what you like.  Will you do that for me?"

"All right."

"Kevin and I are going to get William some dates when we get back to San Rafael, 'cause he wants to hook up.  Why don't we fix you up, too?  There are bound to be some girls your age in the youth group at St. Andrew's.  Father Jim can help us with that."

"People laugh at me because I'm wearing this helmet," Mark protested.

"People definitely aren't laughing at you, Mark," Cam said, taking a step closer and hugging the boy.  "You're really good looking, you have a good body, and you won't be wearing that helmet forever. 
You're a survivor, dude!  People admire you!"

"They do?"


Mark's face broke out in a big smile.  "Thanks, Cam.  For letting me talk to you."

"My pleasure, bud," Cam said.  "Now, let's walk a little farther before we turn around.  Maybe when we get back, you can help me download some of that music you've been listening to onto my own iPod."

"Sure," Mark said, feeling a lot better about himself.

*  *  *

The runners among the kids engaged in their usual banter as they headed north up the beach, putting one another down whenever they had a chance.  William's pedometer showed exactly 2½ miles when the group reached the bottom of the stairs up to the Carsons' house, and Kevin peeled off to go up and see Casey.

"Laters, guys," Kevin said.  "Are you coming over here after you shower?"

"We'll check with Ian and Mary and Catherine," Alex said, "and find out what the program is for today.  Maybe they'll want to come over to our place."

"No pool, Dad," Kevin stated the obvious.  "But if you don't come over, have Cam drive over, will ya?  I know he wants to spend some time with Casey, too."

"OK, Kev," Alex said.  "See ya."

"Wouldn't wanna be ya!" the rest of the guys chorused like a bunch of little kids.

Kevin gave them the finger, and started up the long stairs to the top of the cliff.  Kevin was in great shape, but he went up fast and was starting to feel it when he finally hit the top and walked to the house.

"Hey, Kev," Ian said from the pool when Kevin walked on to the patio.  Ian was sitting in a floating chair, reading a book.

"Hey, Ian," Kevin said.  "Whatcha reading?"

"A book analyzing the Supreme Court cases that Matthew J. Broman helped decide when he was on the Court.  He was left-center, I guess you'd say, and probably one of the greatest jurists and consensus builders the Court has ever had."

"Oh," Kevin said, not knowing who Ian was talking about.  He studied Ian.  "Hey, dude, you haven't run with us for a few days.  You're starting to get a gut, or is that just the water magnifying your stomach?"

Ian grinned.  "You're really an annoying kid, you know that?  But you're right, I do need to get back on schedule.  Tomorrow morning, maybe, I'll run down the beach to Alex's and run back here with you guys."

"Better late than never," Kevin said, nodding.  "To change the subject, is Casey OK?"

"Yes," Ian said.  "He's sleeping right now."

"I'll check," Kevin said.  "If he is sleeping, I'm comin' into the pool.  You may wanna put the book aside, 'cause I'm gonna get you wet.  Real wet!"

"Thanks for the warning," Ian said.  "You just may not survive that little encounter."

"Now, now.  No threats, please."  Kevin walked into the house, where Yolanda Vega was busy in the kitchen.  Kevin went over and hugged her from behind, kissing her cheek.

"You good boy, Kevin," Yolanda said.  "Like Casey."

"Thanks."  Kevin smiled and headed for Casey's bedroom.  On the way he saw Mary and Catherine sitting outside on the front deck, talking.  He detoured and went out to see them first.

"Ladies!" he said.  "It's a little cool for deck sitting today, isn't it?"

"We knew you'd be coming by to warm us with your presence," Mary kidded him.  "How are you today, Kevin?"

"Good.  Casey give ya any trouble?"

"Not a bit," Catherine said.  "He's sleeping.  Why don't you join us?"

"I'd love to, but I just made a commitment to get in the pool with Ian and drown him if Casey was still sleeping.  Let me take a rain check."

"All right.  Where are Cam and the rest of the guys?" Mary asked.

"They're running, except for Cam and Mark.  They're walking.  When everybody gets back to Alex's and they shower, they're gonna call and see what the program is for today."

"All right," Mary said.  "We can cook again."

"Yum!" Kevin said.  "You're gonna make me fat as a pig."

"Not the way you're on the move all the time," Catherine observed.

Kevin left and went into the bedroom where Casey was sleeping to check on him.  The little boy was sleeping peacefully, lying on his back with his head turned to one side.  In his gut, Kevin could feel his love for the child welling up inside him.  He resisted the temptation to pick him up, wake him up, and squeeze him tight just to meet his own need to hold him.  He turned on his heel, though, and walked back through the house to the pool.  Despite having swimming trunks in the pool house, he merely toed off his running shoes, took off his socks and sweats, and canonballed into the pool in his running shorts.  Ian closed his book just in time, and was deluged.

"It's not like I didn't warn ya," Kevin laughed when he surfaced.

Ian tipped out of his chair, put his hands on Kevin's shoulders, and pushed him under the water.  Deep under the water.  Kevin came up sputtering.

"Hey," he said.  "You're old.  You're not supposed to fight back.  It's child abuse."

"You need somebody to shape you up, boy!" Ian said.  "I only have the summer to get the job done before you move to L.A."

"Fat chance of that," Kevin said.  "You're a couple years too late.  Just ask my dad."

"Speaking of your dad, have you talked to him lately?"


"Does he know about Casey?" Ian asked.

"Yes.  But he's never even come out here to see him.  His own grandchild!"

"Does he know you and Cam are partners?"

"No way.  If he did, he'd probably be out here filing suit to take Casey away from us."

"He can't file against you before you're eighteen because he gave guardianship of you to Catherine," Ian said.  "He'd probably have to sue her and ask for an expedited hearing, and I'm not sure he could get that.  After you're eighteen, he probably wouldn't be able to prevail in court, anyway."

"That's good to know," Kevin said.  "Uh, can I ask you another legal question?"

"My advice is worth $550 an hour," Ian said, grinning.  "You got the cash?"

"No, but I'll sell you Cam," Kevin laughed.

"That'll give you enough money for two minutes."

"I'm tellin' him you said that," Kevin said, laughing.

"What do you want to know?"

"Where can Cam and I get married?"

"Currently, only in Massachusetts.  Perhaps in New Jersey over the next few months, although they'll probably establish civil unions rather than marriage per se.  Vermont already has civil unions.  If you go to Massachusetts, you'd have to establish residency."

"What would you recommend for us?"

"You could enter into a civil union in Vermont, perhaps, and then maybe Father Mason would bless your union back here in California.  I'll bet he would.  The Episcopal bishop of San Francisco is pretty accommodating when it comes to gay unions, I understand.  It's worth asking about."

"OK."  Kevin looked down at the water.  "I do love 'im, y'know."

"Cam?  I know you do, Kev," Ian said.  "And as a matter of constitutional law, you deserve to have your relationship recognized, in my opinion."

"I don't know why everything is so difficult."

"I know.  Change is difficult, especially in a country in which fundamentalist Christians sometimes seem to have a disproportionate amount of influence.  But you and Cam are living in a great period in our history when it comes to gay rights, particularly in view of the last congressional election.  You guys have the potential for a wonderful relationship without some of the persecution that's dogged gay people in the past."

Kevin sighed.  "I hope so."  He paused.  "Uh, to change the subject, when will Mark be able to start running again?"

"He can probably start any time, but I want to check with the doctor again before I give him the green light."

"OK.  He really wants to start getting more exercise."  Kevin paused.  "He's such a good kid, y'know.  I really like him."

"That's mutual, I'd say.  You're a role model for him, Kevin.  A good role model."

"Thanks," Kevin said.  "By the way, you're spending a lot of time with all of us.  Are you on vacation?"

"No," Ian said.  "I took a leave of absence until after Walter Emrick's trial for assault and child abuse.  I'm the senior partner, so I can do that."

"RHIP, huh?"


At that point Casey's voice filtered through the house and out to the pool, crying for food.

"It's about time!" Kevin said, starting to swim toward the ladder.  "Thanks for talking to me about this stuff, Ian."

"Anytime, bud."

Kevin heaved himself out of the water and dried himself off on the deck with a towel hanging on the fence.  He wrapped the towel around his waist and went into the house to Casey's room.  The little guy looked up at his dad, who picked him up and snuggled the boy into his chest.  Casey's diaper was still dry.

"Baby boy chick," Kevin crooned to his son.  "What do you think you want?"

The baby stopped crying and gurgled at Kevin.

"It wouldn't be food, would it?"


"I thought so."  Kevin headed for the kitchen with the baby.  Using one hand, he took a pan off the counter, filled it with water, and put it on the stove under high heat.  Pulling a bottle of formula out of the refrigerator, he put it into the pan and then sat down with the baby on a stool at the counter to wait.  When the water began to steam, he turned the flame down to medium and resumed his seat.  Casey fussed.

"I'm too slow for ya, huh?  Tough luck, little dude."

When the bottle of formula was warm, Kevin carried Casey back out to the deck to a seat out of the wind.  Ian had just climbed out of the pool and was drying himself off when his cell phone rang.  The man reached down and picked it up off the deck, sitting down in a deck chair.

"Carson," he said.

"Ian, this is Tom Ridenour at CHiP.  I have bad news for you."


"Someone bombed your condo last night.  It started a fire, and there isn't much left of the penthouse floor."

"Son of a bitch!!  Anybody hurt?"


"Probably Hernandez is behind this, don't you think?" Ian speculated.

"Possibly.  Probably.  Anybody else have it in for you?  A former client, maybe?"

"No.  I win all my cases, you know that."

Ridenour laughed.

"I'll get ready and come into town," Ian said.

"Please don't do that.  If Hernandez is responsible, I think that's exactly what he wants you to do, so he can follow you to Carl, Dan and Berto.  Where are you now?"

"The whole family is down here in the Big Sur."

"Please, just stay there.  We'll sneak you into town next week when Hernandez gets tired of waiting for you to show up."

"All right, I guess," Ian said.  "I'll call my office and have one of my colleagues go over to the condo.  He can start any paperwork on my behalf that's required."

"Good.  I'm sorry about your place, Ian.  We're questioning all the doormen to try to determine how the bomber got access.  Somebody had to let him in.  Any thoughts on that?"

"No.  We've always had a good relationship with all the guys on the door and been very generous with them."

"One of the guys has a record.  We'll concentrate on him and see what we can find out."

"All right," Ian said.  "I appreciate the call."  He snapped his phone shut and groaned.

"What's happened?" Kevin asked Ian.

"Someone--probably Alejandro Hernandez--fire-bombed our condo last night.  Captain Ridenour says there's not much left."

"Oh, no!" Kevin moaned.  "You gotta be kiddin' me."

"'Fraid not," Ian said.

"I'm sorry, man," Kevin said, looking distressed and continuing to feed Casey.

"Thanks."  Ian looked toward the house.  "You don't know how I hate to tell Mary."

"Yeah," Kevin said.

Ian took a deep breath, stood up, and walked through the house and out on to the front desk where Catherine and Mary were still sitting.

"Mary," he said.

She looked up at her husband, somehow sensing that something was wrong.

"I have bad news."


Ian knelt down next to his wife's chair and kissed her cheek, hoping it was the emotional equivalent of preventative medicine.  "Tom Ridenour just called.  Our condo was fire-bombed last night, and there's not much left of it."  Better to let the facts speak for themselves than hint around.

Catherine sat there stunned as Mary stared at her husband in silence.  Tears began slipping from Mary's eyes.  Finally she spoke up.

"Oh, no, Ian.  This can't be happening. Do they know who did it?"

"Tom Ridenour thinks it might have been Alejandro Hernandez, but they don't know for sure."

Rather than give in completely to her feelings, though, Mary stopped weeping, wiped her face with her hand and looked at her husband again.

"This is terrible," she said, "and I feel bad," she said.  "But it's just stuff, y'know.  The boys are all right, and we're all right, and we all still have a place to live.  So let's just count our blessings."

Ian stood and pulled a chair up next to his wife and took her hand.  "You're truly an amazing woman, sweetheart," he said quietly.

"Will it do any good to cry?" Mary asked, shaking her head.  "Maybe I'll let go later.  When do you want to go into town to see if we can salvage anything?"

"Tom doesn't want us to go in for a week or so," Ian said.  "He thinks that's exactly what Hernandez, if he was behind this, wants us to do so he can follow us back to Carl and Dan and Berto.  Tom'll come and get us when he thinks Alejandro is tired of waiting for us to show up."

"I'm so very sorry," Catherine told the couple quietly.  "But you're right in saying you have a place to live.  My house is yours, you know that."

"Thank you, Catherine," Ian said.  He looked back at his wife.  "Meanwhile, I'm going to call the office and have one of our lawyers go over there to start any paperwork that's needed.  I'll have them secure the place so nothing else is ruined before we have a chance to see it."

"All right, dear," Mary said.

Ian studied the two women.  "Listen, the three of us haven't run for a few days," he said, and then smiled.  "Kevin says I'm getting fat.  While he's here with Casey, why don't we all suit up and get in a run down on the beach.  It'll help cheer us up."

Mary and Catherine looked at each other, nodded, and stood up to get ready.

*  *  *

Meanwhile, Alex and John and the boys had reached their northernmost destination at 3½ miles and circled around to head south again toward Alex's cabin.  Despite the cool wind off the ocean, they were all sweating and feeling great.

"You old goats are doing good!" wise-ass William told Alex and John.  John chased the boy into the shallow surf before breaking off pursuit.

"Fifty cents to whoever drowns him," John said as he rejoined the group.

"Fifty bucks and ya gotta deal," Berto told him.  "He might struggle."

William fell back and cautiously rejoined the runners, keeping a wary eye on John as he did so.  Especially the man's ass, which was looking good.  The truth was, William was really taken with these two men.  He would never have known for sure they were gay had not Cam mentioned it to him.  And, of course, they were sleeping in the same bedroom.  They were really interesting conversationalists.  Everything they said was worth listening to, and the boy hoped he would be able to spend more time during the summer with them before they jetted off to England to make their next movie. 

By an act of will, William's eyes turned away from John Kelley's ass as he concentrated on Kevin's promise to find him some girls to date in San Rafael.  It couldn't happen too soon.  He wasn't jacking off as much as he was used to, causing his mind to be focused on getting laid all the time.  He smiled as he thought about the hard core pics of naked women he had stashed in his back pack.  When he got back to Alex's cabin, it would be time to pull them out, give them a look-see, and then get into the shower to pleasure himself.  He was one horny boy.

They all swept back down the beach and were just reaching the steps up to the Carson house when they saw Ian, Mary and Catherine at the bottom of the stairs doing their stretches before running.

"Hey!" Alex cupped his hands and yelled at them.  The three newcomers looked up and waved, then completed their stretches and waited for the group, who reached them and began running in place.

"We're going to run with you back to your place and then turn around and come back," Ian said to Alex and John.  "Kevin's with Casey."

"Good," Alex said.  "If you're ready, let's hit it."

They did, and ran the rest of the 2½ miles in good time.  Cam and Mark were sitting on the bottom step of the stairs up to Alex's cabin when they got there.

"Hey, there are more of you now," Mark said.  "You cloned Mom and Dad and Catherine."

"Hi, Mark, Cameron," Ian said, thinking about the bad news he had to tell his boys and the Emricks about the condo.  "After you guys shower, why don't you drive over to our place?  Father Mason will be rolling in anytime."

"OK, Dad," William said.  "We'll be there in an hour or so."

They parted ways, and Ian, Mary and Catherine headed back up the beach.

*  *  *

Jim Mason cracked the windows of his car as he followed the highway down to the Big Sur, occasionally consulting the map he'd made with Catherine MacKenzie's directions.  The clouds had dissipated even down in the Big Sur as he'd been driving, and the temperature was rising.

The priest hadn't had a day off for a while, and was really looking forward to spending some time with these blended families.  It had been clear to him from the day he'd met them that they all liked each other a lot, and all the boys seemed to get along well without any conflict.  One of the high points of his life as a priest thus far had been to anoint Kevin Stoltz and Mark Carson for healing after Kevin had been beaten and Mark had been shot, and against all odds, see them recover.  He smiled with satisfaction about that.

The MacKenzie--Stoltz--Emrick--Carson--Hernandez young people would really add to the success he was hoping to achieve with the youth group trip to New Orleans.  He wanted to expose these kids to a culture and economic circumstances very different from their own.  He had talked with the rector of an Episcopal parish in New Orleans.  After listening to the man, Mason knew that the TV news, although graphic, apparently did not begin to convey the tragic circumstances in which many of the people who had returned to the city were living, and their psychological depression in doing so.

He remembered the televised sight of thousands of blacks trapped on the overpasses in the downtown area of New Orleans after the levies broke.  They had been trapped because they had no transportation out of the city when they needed it most.  And if they'd indeed owned automobiles but hadn't left in a timely manner, they didn't have cars now.  They were under water.

The priest had heard criticisms from some political quarters that those left behind in the city were there because they had been robbed of initiative by the so-called "welfare state."  Talk about blaming the victims!  The truth was that the city had always had a larger proportion of poor people than almost any city in the U.S., and that the blacks, in particular, if they were indeed paralyzed, were in such a state because for a long time they had had no hope that things would ever get better for them.  The pre-Katrina public educational system had been a travesty for years, turning out uneducated young people, many of whom might well have one future:  incarceration.  The wealthy New Orleaneans sent their own sons and daughter to private schools, as they had since school integration had been mandated in Brown v. Board of Education.  And he knew that next to the Roman Catholic church, the Episcopal church had more private schools than any other group there.  That was both a bane and a blessing for the community, because although such schools provided a first rate education, it took the pressure off the public schools to improve because most of their students were black and poor.

Following the map, Mason turned off the highway on to the road leading to the Carsons' cabin, driving west toward the ocean.  He reached the end of the road very quickly, and turned into a paved driveway at one end of a squat, sprawling house with a pool.  He left his bag in the car, but picked up the sack of T-bone steaks he'd brought to help out with the food.  Walking toward the fence surrounding the pool patio, he opened the gate and let himself in, spotting Kevin Stoltz sitting in a deck chair holding Casey.  No one else seemed to be around.

"Hey, Kev," the priest said.

"Father!" Kevin said, obviously glad to see the man.  Still wearing his damp running clothes, he struggled to stand up while holding Casey.

"Don't get up," Mason said, going over to him and shaking hands.  "You have precious cargo."

"I know it."  Casey had had his bottle and had started sawing wood.  "Hold on a second, and I'll put him down in his crib."

"Let me hold him for a few minutes before you put him down."

"Sure," Kevin said.

"Listen, I have some steaks here that need to go into the freezer."

"Go right through that door and you'll see the fridge."

"OK," the priest said.  "Where is everybody?"

"They're running down on the beach."

"Darn.  I should have gotten here earlier," Mason said from the kitchen as he put the steaks in the freezer.

"No worries," Kevin said.  "We'll run your butt off in the morning.  We're all in peak condition, y'know."

"Talk's cheap, man," Mason said, rejoining Kevin and Casey on the patio.

Father Jim held open his arms, and Kevin carefully handed Casey over to the priest, who sat down in a deck chair.  In slumber, the baby's face was perfect.  Beautiful.  Garden of Eden perfect.  No sin here.

"He's grown since I've seen him," Mason said.

"I know it," Kevin said, smiling.  "And he's starting to let us get more sleep at night.  Things are definitely moving in the right direction."

"Have you thought any more about when you want to have him baptized?"

"When Cam and Catherine get back over here, we'll set a date," Kevin promised.

"Good," Mason said.  "Be thinking about godparents, too."

Kevin groaned.  "That's gonna cause trouble," he said.  "If I pick some of the boys and not others, there'll be some hurt feelings.  How many godparents can I choose?"

"Usually, three.  One the same gender as the candidate for baptism, and two of the opposite sex."

"All right," Kevin said.  "We'll work it out."

"Cool," Mason said, making Kevin smile.

"You're so 'with it,'" he told the priest.

"Me?" Jim Mason said, laughing.  "Ten minutes with you and Cam and the guys, and I'm automatically up to date on the latest language.  I have to be able to speak your language to communicate, y'know.  It's all in the idiom."

"Maybe it's better if you don't use all the words we do," Kevin observed.

"Probably nothing I haven't heard before," Mason said.

"Maybe not," Kevin conceded.  "By the way, I don't know whether Catherine mentioned it to you or not, but Cam's dad and his dad's partner are here.  Their cabin is only a couple of miles down the highway."

"Wow," the priest said.  "And everything is peaceful?"


"That says a lot about the kind of people you all are.  Especially Catherine."

"You're right about Catherine, at least," Kevin said.  "See, some people really do pay attention to your message in church."

"I hope so," Jim Mason said, gently caressing Casey's face with his thumb.  "Anyway, I'm looking forward to meeting your in-laws."

"And we're all looking forward to the New Orleans trip," Kevin said.

"I am, too.  What are you doing about Casey?"

"Mary is allergic to mold and can't go anyway, so she, Yolanda and Rosa are going to take care of him while we're gone."

"Excellent!" the priest said.  "I'm gonna work your butts off.  This is going to be a great experience for all of you."

As if on cue, the sun burst from behind a cloud, and Kevin and the priest holding the little boy sat enjoying the warmth and the light sparkling on the surface of the pool.

© 2006 Don Hanratty

My thanks to Dan, Craig K and Mike G for their expert proofreading.