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


The MacKenzie--Carson--Emrick--Hernandez guys, along with the adults, all gathered around the Carsons' pool for lunch.  The priest had changed into casual clothes by then.  The boys had previously showered, played some board games, and heckled one another unmercifully back at Alex's place before they drove over to the Carsons'.  The day was warming up under a bright sun, and as far as the young guys were concerned, this was turning out to be the perfect vacation for which they had all hoped.  They were all in a great mood until Ian Carson told them about the explosion and fire at his condo in San Francisco.  Silence fell over them like a black cloud.

Understanding immediately that his uncle was probably behind what had happened to the Carson apartment, Berto became noticeably disconsolate and started to withdraw emotionally until the boys started working on him to cheer him back up again.

For lunch, Ian cooked a massive mound of cut-up chicken on his huge grill, and Mary and Catherine and Yolanda provided salad and tortillas and diced tomatoes, peppers and other ingredients for those who wanted to make chicken tacos.  They put out bowls of salsa, and cans of soft drinks sat in rows on a nearby table along with ice.  Ian asked Father Jim to offer thanks when the food was ready.

Everyone held hands around the huge center table.  "Father, for this day and for this food and for our companionship, we bless you," the priest prayed.  "Your bounty to us surpasses all that we can ever ask.  We ask a blessing upon the Carsons in the loss of their home in San Francisco even as we pray for your grace and guidance and protection for us as we prepare to travel to New Orleans to help restore people there to their own homes.  Help us turn our compassion for our brothers and sisters into work that is well pleasing in your sight.  We ask you to bless us as we hope to bless others through our labor, through Jesus Christ our Lord."


The adults looked on in amusement and amazement as the kids fixed plates and ate, because ten minutes later there was scarcely a morsel of food left anywhere on the pool deck.  The boys deliberately belched at each other, but discreetly, so as not  to offend the adults too much.  John Kelley looked around, laughed and shook his head.  He glanced over at Father Mason.

"How long are we going to be in New Orleans, and what's your food budget on this trip, Father?"

"Two weeks," Mason said.  "And I'm still working on the food budget."

"Are you sure you want to turn these savages loose on New Orleans?" he asked.  "They may not be ready for us down there.  Not in their better restaurants, anyway."

"These guys may have to fast the last few days we're down there if we run out of money," Mason suggested, also laughing.  "They need to learn self-denial."

"We're growing boys," William Carson said.  "You don't want to stunt our growth, do you?"

"You're as big as you need to be," Ian joked.

Kevin leaned over to William, hand cupped to the side of his mouth so the adults wouldn't hear.  "If we run out of money, we're pimping you out in the French Quarter, dude," he whispered.  "
We'll share your earnings equally.  You're so horny all the time, you'll love it!"

"I'm tellin'!" William warned, and the two of them laughed.

When the adults were finished eating, too, Father Mason reached down beside his deck chair and picked up a big map, which he took over to the now bare table and unfolded.  "Let me show you what the city looks like, and where we'll be working," he said.

As everybody gathered around, he began going over the map, showing everybody the points at which the levees had breached and the sections of the city which had sustained the worst flooding, including the portion of the city on the coast of Lake Ponchartrain called Lakeview.  He took a red pencil and circled the Ninth Ward, the lowest lying part of the city which had gotten the worst of it.  He also showed them the parts of the city which lay along the Mississippi River, and which, ironically, had sustained only wind damage and no water damage.

"New Orleans is one of the oldest cities in the United States," he said, "and the earliest settlers obviously knew what they were doing when they built their infrastructure.  Over the years, the land along the river, including the French Quarter and the Warehouse District, built up and have the highest elevation in the city, and the Ninth Ward was the last to be inhabited because it was built on what was originally a swamp.  A lot of the houses around the city, but especially down in the Ninth Ward, are called 'shotguns' because their rooms are built in single file from front to back, so if you fired a shotgun at the front door it would go straight through every room in the house.

"I want to warn you right now that you're going to be shocked when you see the destroyed neighborhoods," the priest continued.  "You've never seen devastation like this before.  And by the way, if any of you starts feeling depressed about what you see and experience down there, I want you to let me know right away, because that can be dangerous."

The priest told them he had secured a block of rooms in a French Quarter hotel, and that they would be staying two to a room.  Cam looked at Kevin and smiled, thinking about what they would do with each other when they were alone together in their own hotel room.  All reservations, including their flight from San Francisco to Houston, and then on to New Orleans, had been put on the St. Andrew's parish credit card.  Fr. Mason announced the tentative cost of the trip per person, and that after a final figure was set, he would need payments from each traveler within a week.  None of the adults batted an eye, so everything was cool.

Finally, Father Jim covered the kind of clothes they would need to take, and also the safety precautions, including goggles and masks, which would have to be worn because of the mold in the houses they would be working on.  They would be leaving two weeks from that very day from San Francisco International Airport.

"You will have some free time in the city, but I want to emphasize that there will be no alcohol and no illegal drugs of any kind consumed by any of you guys on this trip.  Anyone caught doing so will be sent home immediately, and I mean that."  The boys were silent.  Alex MacKenzie nodded approvingly, looking at Cam and Kevin.

*  *  *

Kevin's earlier conversation with Ian about his dad, Michael Stoltz, must have put the stars out of alignment, because after Father Mason had finished with his talk orienting the youngsters and adults sitting around the Carsons' pool to conditions in New Orleans and to the job they would be doing, Catherine's cell phone rang.  It was Rosa Mendez back in San Rafael.  She said that Kevin's father had been trying to reach him and was asking him to call.  Catherine let Kevin know and gave him his dad's cell phone number.  Stunned, Kevin just looked up at her blankly from his chair before thanking her.

For the next ten minutes, Kevin digested the information Catherine had given him, sitting stony faced, very still and not moving a muscle.  Finally he stood up, picked up his own cell phone off the table, and walked through the house and out on the front deck before punching in his father's number.

"Dad?" he said when the phone was answered.

"You're hard to get hold of," Michael Stoltz said in an unpleasant tone of voice.  "Where are you?"

"What do you want?" Kevin asked.

"I want to see you and my grandson," Stoltz said.  "I've been in meetings in San Francisco for a few days, and I'll be leaving tomorrow to return to New York.  Since you've made no effort to come to New York with the boy, I'd like you to meet me at San Francisco International tomorrow before I get on the plane home.  Do you think you can manage that?"

"Thanks for letting me know you were in the area," Kevin said, not mincing words.  "And for giving me so much notice so I could make plans!"  Then he sighed.  "I suppose I can come in.  I'll ask Cam to drive me to the airport."

"Don't bring him," Michael said.  "I have no desire to see the guy who convinced you to abandon your own father."

"What?!!  Are you nuts?!!  That's such bullshit!" Kevin said hotly.

"See, there you go, letting that temper of yours get control of you.  You're not fit to raise a child, and if the MacKenzies are helping you, they aren't either."

"You're such an asshole, Dad!" Kevin said bluntly.  "If I have a temper, I know where it came from.  You.  And if Casey and I had to depend on your paternal instincts for help in our lives, we'd be dead by now."

"I'm only sorry I didn't beat that bad attitude out of you when I had a chance," Michael answered.  "You're worthless, and you have no respect for your elders at all.  You need to clean up your act right now."

"Or you'll do what?"

Michael Stoltz paused, sensing he was blowing his chance to see his grandchild.

"All right," he said.  "I didn't call to fight with you.  I'll be at the American terminal at 2 p.m.  My plane leaves at 3.  Be there at 2 o'clock, or you'll regret it."

The call was terminated, and furious, Kevin snapped his own phone shut.  Cam was standing behind him, and put an arm around him.

"Bad news?" Cam asked.

Kevin looked at him with an angry expression still on his face.  "My father wants me to bring Casey to meet him at the airport at 2 o'clock tomorrow.  I don't know if I'm going or not!  He's such a prick!"

Cam drew his partner into his arms without a word and just held him, one hand on the back of his neck.  He could feel Kevin begin to relax in his embrace.

"Why don't you and I talk it over with Mom and Ian and Mary, and then you can decide?" Cam suggested, talking into his ear.  "I'll drive you in."

"He doesn't want you to come with me.  He says you persuaded me to abandon him."

"What?" Cam said, surprised.

"I shouldn't even have told you that," Kevin said.  "He's so full of shit!"

I should have let the son of a bitch go to jail for hitting Kevin before he moved to New York, Cam thought to himself bitterly.  But he didn't betray what he was thinking.

"That's all right," Cam said, loosening his embrace of Keven a bit and looking into his face.  "I can still drive you in and stay in the car."

"Well, I don't know..." Kevin said, then immediately amending his statement to add, "That'd be great...if I go."

Cam nodded and hugged Kevin to him again, putting his nose to his partner's crewcut head and breathing in the smell of him.  Cam smiled, drifting briefly without even realizing it at first into fantasizing about how great sex was with this boy.  Yet, as much as he enjoyed having sex with Kevin, he knew his love for the overall relationship he had with him and with their son surpassed everything else.

"I'll go or stay here, whatever you want me to do," Cam said.

"Thanks, man," Kevin said.  "You don't know how much I love you.  And how much I love my life with you."

"My very thought!" Cam said, caressing his partner's cheek with his thumb and looking into his brown eyes.  They gave each other a long kiss with lots of tongue, breaking apart with a grin only when Catherine walked out on to the deck.

"Is everything all right?" she asked Kevin.

"Not really," Kevin said.  "My dad wants me to meet him at the airport tomorrow so he can see Casey before he flies back to New York.  He's been in San Francisco for a couple of days, and never even called to let me know."

Catherine throttled her own anger at Michael Stoltz's callous behavior before answering.

"Oh," she said, not allowing her face to show her true feelings.  "Are you going to go in?"

"I don't know," Kevin said.  "I kinda wanted to talk to you and Mary and Ian about it before I made up my mind."

"Let's do that," Catherine said.  "Why don't we talk out here?  I'll get Ian and Mary."  She turned to walk back through the house to the pool when Kevin stopped her.

"Wait, Mom.  On second thought, let's talk out by the pool.  You know, everybody out there loves Casey and is a big part of his life now, so they may as well know what's going on."

"All right, sweetheart," Catherine said.  The three of them walked back out to the pool deck and sat down.  Catherine picked up a glass and banged a fork on it to get the crowd's attention.  "Everybody, Kevin wants to talk to us."

Kevin sat back in his chair and looked around.  "You all know, except maybe for you, Father Jim, that my dad lives in New York.  He made Catherine my legal guardian when he moved.  I don't want to dwell on the negative too much, but he hasn't made any effort to see me for going on a year and a half now.  After Casey was born he never communicated back to me after I emailed him about the baby's birth.  Now it turns out he's been in San Francisco for the last several days for meetings, and will be going back to New York tomorrow.  But he wants me to bring Casey to the airport before he flies out so he can see him.  I'm not enthusiastic about going, but I wondered what all of you thought about it before I make a final decision."

Silence fell as the adults and the boys looked around at each other.  Before the quiet got embarrassing, Ian spoke up.

"Kevin, why don't you tell us your reasons for not wanting to go," he said.

Kevin looked down at the deck and chose his words carefully.

"Well, very honestly, my dad hasn't been very nice to me, or for that matter, to Catherine, since he moved away.  He told me that either I had to marry Casey's mother or else somehow make her have an abortion, and I didn't want to do either of those things.  He was nasty to Catherine when she backed me up for letting the child be born, and then for helping me take him to raise.  With Cam's help"-- Kevin paused and looked up at his partner and nodded gratefully-- "and the help of all of you since we've been living together, I've never regretted my decision about any of that.  Now suddenly he shows up and is making demands about seeing the baby, and I have to admit I resent it.  My dad also blames Cam for my 'abandoning him,' and says he doesn't want to see him.  I resent that, too.  Nothing could be further from the truth."

"Can you think of any reasons why you should let him see the baby?" Father Mason asked.

"I knew you'd probably ask me that," Kevin said with a little smile.  "Well, I guess the answer is that it's probably the decent thing to do.  I hope I'd never act like my father, but I know that if I had a grandchild, I'd want to see it."

"Kevin, obviously it has to be your decision," Ian said.  "You know all the pro's and con's, and everybody will stand behind you whatever you want to do."

Kevin sighed and said with no enthusiasm:  "I guess I'll go to the airport, then.  Cam, if you meant what you said about driving in with me and staying by the car so the old man doesn't have an excuse to get ticked off, I'd like that."

"You know I will," Cam said.

"Cool," Kevin said.

The group eased into discussing other subjects while their meal digested, with the boys asking Father Mason more about New Orleans.  Among other things, he told them that they would be using an Episcopal parish just outside the French Quarter as a home base and staging area, and would be attending church there and eating some of their meals there fixed by the ladies guild of the church.  When the conversation slowed, the boys went into the pool house and changed into their swimming trunks, and were soon in the pool batting the ball around.  A volleyball game ensued, and this time Ian came into the pool and played while the other grownups watched.  The guy was good.

"You're too tall, Dad," William told his father after a few minutes.  "You should have to play on your knees."

"It wouldn't make any difference, boy!" Ian told him.  "I'd still be outmaneuvering you wimps."

"Yeah, right!" William said scornfully, and things got a little more competitive.  The boys on the opposing team started concentrating on challenging Ian with where they placed the ball, and the tall man started to feel it.

"Wearing out?" Cam asked Ian.

"Just getting my second wind," Ian said, sending a ball back over the imaginary net right in front of Cam that the boy couldn't return.

"Sh-ucks!" Cam said, changing the word he was going to say at the last minute, and grinning.

Alex, John and Catherine picked up the leftovers which were left and took them to the kitchen, where Yolanda wrapped them up for the refrigerator, and then collected the paper plates and plastic silverware and put them in the garbage while the boys played for another half hour.  Tired, the guys pulled themselves out of the water and lay down on the deck in the sun to dry off and recuperate.  Kevin looked over at Mark.

"Mark, do you need to have your dressing changed?"

"Probably," Mark said.  "Let's rest for a minute, though.  I'm whipped."

"You got it, bud," Kevin said.  "Let me know when you're ready, 'K?"

"I'd like to see how well Mark is healing when you take the old dressing off," Ian said.

Ten minutes later the two boys and Ian trucked into one of the bathrooms, and Kevin carefully removed the boy's helmet.  The dressing on the side of Mark's head was clinging to the flesh, so Kevin soaked the bandage with a wet washcloth several times until it could be removed.

"You're healing up, dude," Kevin said when he saw the wound.  "Lookin' good!"

"Yes, it is," Ian agreed as he checked it out.  He put his hand on the back of Mark's neck and kissed his boy on top of his head.  "Really!  I'm so happy that things have worked out the way they have," he added, trying to hide his still raw emotions about the boy's injury and his miraculous recovery.

Mark turned his head, peering into the mirror at the side of his head.  "I don't know..." he said doubtfully.

"No, it's healing," Kevin said.  "You didn't see how it looked a couple of days ago."

"I'll take your word for it," Mark said.  "Thanks for doin' this, though."

"No problem," Kevin said, taking a wad of cotton soaked in painless antiseptic and gently daubing the boy's head with it before taking a new dressing out of its package and affixing it in the proper position.  "There," he said.

"I'll be so glad when I don't have to wear this helmet anymore," Mark said as Kevin picked the leather device back up off the vanity to ease it back over Mark's head.

Kevin and Ian smiled.

"I bet you will," Kevin said, stretching the leather helmet open wide so it wouldn't grate on the wound as he put it on Mark.  He looked at Ian.  "I wonder why they gave him a leather helmet instead of a padded plastic one."

"They told me it's because leather breathes, and still gives good protection," Ian said.

"Well, it's doing its job," Kevin said, studying Mark.  "At least it lets you do a lot of things you couldn't do otherwise."

"Yeah," Mark admitted.  "I want to get back to running, though," he said.

"I know you do," Ian said.  "Why don't I call the doctor and see when you can get a green light?"

"OK," Mark said as Kevin fastened the chin strap, leaving it a little loose so as not to chafe the kid's skin under his jaw.  When he was finished, Kevin pulled the boy into a hug, rubbing his back with one hand.

"You're doing great, Mark!" Kevin told him.  "You're hangin' tough, and we're all behind you one hundred percent, y'know."

"Thanks, man," Mark said.

"Kevin, maybe you're missing your calling," Ian said as the three of them walked out of bathroom and back out on to the deck.  "Maybe you should be a doctor."

"I doubt that," Kevin said, laughing.  "Health in the Bay area would plummet."

Ian laughed and went over to sit down in a deck chair.  "I'll give the doctor a call right now," he said, picking up his cell phone off the deck and bringing up the directory.  Putting the cursor on the doctor's name, he punched the "send" button.  Dr. George Suthon answered his cell phone in San Francisco.

"George?" Ian said.  "Ian Carson."

"Hello, Ian," Suthon said.  "How's the patient?"

"Good," Ian said.  "Mark's wound is healing well.  He wants to know when he can start running with his buddies again for exercise."

"Let me check real quick with Peter Anson, the surgeon who worked on Mark.  But if he's not still bleeding, I don't see why he can't do some running, provided he gets back into it slowly.  Hold on, let me see if I can reach Dr. Anson."  The phone went dead momentarily, coming back to life a few minutes later.

"Ian, Anson says Mark can start doing some running at a moderate pace.  I don't want him to overdo it for the first week, though.  If there's any serious bleeding or a lot of seepage, I want him to stop right away, and you should call me."

"Will do, George," Ian said.  "Thanks.  Talk to you soon."  He snapped his phone shut.

"Well, Mark, you can start running again, but at a slow pace for the first week.  If there's any bleeding or a lot of seepage, you should stop and have me call Dr. Suthon.  Deal?"

"Yeah!" Mark said enthusiastically.  "Awesome, Dad!"  He high-fived his dad and then Kevin.  "Tomorrow, dude!" he told Kevin.

Kevin smiled at the kid's enthusiasm.  "That'll be good, Marky-mark.  It'll be great to have you back so I can watch you sweat your little butt off!"

"Yeah, yeah," Mark said dismissively, obviously buoyed by the good news.

*  *  *

The idea of taking Casey and going to see his dad at the airport was still troubling Kevin, and the negative feelings didn't go away.  His stomach was churning.  But so much was going on at the Carsons' place that he didn't have a chance to talk to Cam about the whole airport deal again, something he really wanted to do.  When Alex, John and the boys eventually went back to Alex's place, mostly for a nap, he took Cam aside into a bedroom, shutting the door and getting him to lie down on the bed with him and holding him face to face.

" 'Sup, man?" Cam asked Kevin, searching his face.

"I don't want to take Casey into the airport to see my dad," Kevin admitted.  "I'm just not feeling good about it."

"Let's not go, then," Cam said.  "We'll just stay here.  The way he's treated you, it isn't like you owe him anything, necessarily."

"If I don't go, I'll feel guilty.  Motherfuckin' guilt!  What a worthless emotion!" Kevin said, smiling at Cam and moving his head closer to kiss his partner gently on the lips.

"Let me take charge of the guilt, then, and I'll kill it off real quick," Cam told him, staring into those brown eyes.  "Hey, I'm feeling better already!"

"If it were only that simple," Kevin said.

Cam turned serious.  "Listen, Kev, it's as simple as you want to make it.  Michael's your dad, but he hasn't acted like one for a long time.  Despite that, he wants to see Casey.  He hasn't earned the right, but if you feel sorry for him, we can take Casey in."

"Dad hasn't had an easy life, with Mom dyin' and everything," Kevin mused almost to himself.  "Maybe this would give him a little pleasure."

"He hit you in the face at a time when you were feeling pretty vulnerable, Kevin.  I've forgiven him, but I haven't forgotten what he did.  Maybe he's reformed, but I doubt it.  I just don't want him pulling any shit on you or with Casey, y'know what I mean?"

"Yeah," Kevin said, sharing his partner's skepticism.  "Well, let's think it about it overnight, and make a decision in the morning."

"Sounds good to me," Cam said.

"All right," Kevin said, and then changed the subject.  "Let's talk to Alex and see if he wants to cook supper here tonight," he suggested.  "Catherine and Mary and Yolanda probably need a rest and can come over here."

"Great idea!" Cam said.  "If Mom comes over, it'll be the first time she's been in this cabin since the divorce."

"You think she'll feel uncomfortable?" Kevin asked.

"The way things have been going, I don't think so," Cam ventured a guess.  "Let's talk to Alex and John, and if they say it's OK to invite everybody, I'll call and ask her if she'd feel all right about it."

"Brilliant!" Kevin said.  "I marvel at your thought processes, dude!  Monumental!  That's what they are!"

Cam poked Kevin in the ribs, making him laugh.

"Keep it up, and I'm gonna make you take me down to the cave and blow me again," Kevin said.  "'Or else we could just lock the door..."  He reached down and gently groped Cam's crotch.  Cam started to get hard.

"The guys in the front room would probably hear me groaning with pleasure, and they'd be jealous, and then they'd be surly," Cam said, smiling.  "They're all horny, I think."

"You think?!!  Tough shit!" Kevin said.  "What good is it having a partner who's ready, willing, and oh-so-able, if you can't enjoy him?"

Cam laughed, said nothing, and pulled Kevin's muscular body tight to his own.  Kevin rubbed his nose gently on Cam's face, and then looked deep into his eyes.

"Y'know, life with you just gets better and better," Kevin said.  "And with Casey," he added.  "I'm surrounded by hot boys and some really great adults all the time.  If I were more religious, I'd offer thanks right now."

"It wouldn't hurt," Cam said, and then kissed him gently.  They lay there enjoying each other's company until they fell asleep.  About a half hour later, Carl Emrick knocked quietly, opened the bedroom door and looked in, smiling when he saw the two boys snoring at each other, face to face.  God! he thought, what I wouldn't give to be in a relationship like that.  When they didn't stir, he walked away, leaving the door ajar.

A few minutes later, William Carson barged into the bedroom.  "Hey, hey," he said, shaking Kevin's and Cam's shoulders.  "Get your lazy asses up.  We're bored here and need to be entertained!"

Kevin pretended he was still asleep, but Cam rolled over on his back.

"Jeez," he told William.  "If you're bored, go play with yourself!"

"No way," William said, smirking.  "I'm saving up for when you guys get me laid."

"Be nice, or it'll be a long wait," Cam shot back.

"Get your asses up," William repeated, grinning as he retreated to the great room.

Cam stretched out his body completely, quivering as he held the tension for a moment.  Then he relaxed and rolled back to Kevin, kissing on the side of the head.

"What?" Kevin demanded sleepily, his eyes still shut.

"The boys are bored and want us to get up and entertain them."

Kevin groaned and his eyes popped open.  "Bunch of wimps," he opined.  "They need a good beating!"

"I'll hold your coat.  Wear a jock and a cup, though, 'cause they might fight back dirty," Cam suggested.

Kevin snaked an arm around Cam's neck, squeezing hard and pulling the boy to himself.  "You cute little shit," he told Cam, smiling.  "Love ya!"

"You're a dude among dudes," Cam proclaimed as he freed himself and stood up beside the bed.  "Let's check with Alex and John about doing supper here, and then lure these guys into a poker game and take their money."

"Good idea!" Kevin said, interested.  "Go talk to Dad and John, and I'll get the game set up."

Cam went back to Alex's and John's bedroom while Kevin greeted the gang in the great room.

"Hey, assholes!" Kevin said, grinning broadly.   "Grab your cocks and pull up your socks, it's time for a cutthroat game of poker!!  I need money."

"Yeah!" Berto said, rubbing his hands together.  "I'm gonna make you a poor man!  You'll be borrowing from me with the interest set at 20%!  Compounded daily!"

The guys all laughed.  Cam came back with the news that everybody would be eating supper there at Alex's that night.  Losers at poker had to help cook.

It was a good, raucous night, with Berto being the big winner at a second card game.  All the adults, even Yolanda, played poker in that second game, and Cam held Casey nestled in the crook of one arm as he played.

"Hey, little dude, you're not being my lucky charm tonight," Cam told the infant after he'd lost a couple of hands.  Casey continued to sleep soundly through it all.  They played until late, when Ian, Mary, Catherine and Yolanda went back to the Carsons' cabin, taking Casey with them.

*  *  *

Cam and Kevin woke up at 8 o'clock the next morning in their usual spot on the floor, with bodies parallel to their own stretching out in a line toward the front door.  Alice and Samantha were snuggled up at their feet.  Neither of the boys had slept as well as usual, being preoccupied with the prospect of the airport trip.

"So?  Are we going to the airport or not?" Cam asked Kevin when his brain started functioning.

"Yeah," Kevin said reluctantly.  "Against my better judgment, but we'll go."

" 'K," Cam said.  Tucking his morning hardon up under the band of his boxers, he stood up and called the dogs to the door to go out and do their thing before he emptied his own bladder in the bathroom.

Alex and John stepped over the rest of the boys and went toward the kitchen.  Working quietly but efficiently, they began preparations that eventually led to huge stacks of buttermilk pancakes and bacon.  Once the smell filtered into the great room, the boys were up and using the bathroom so as to be ready for breakfast.  Cam let the two dogs back inside, and fed them and changed their bowls of water while Kevin pulled on his cargo shorts and went into the kitchen to help the two men with the food.  In twenty minutes, everyone was standing around the table in the great room, ready to chow down.

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

"God, for this food and all your mercies we give you thanks, through Jesus Christ our Lord," Berto prayed, tracing the sign of the cross on himself when he was finished.  Berto was never one to fool around with long prayers, a trait all the other boys appreciated.

Everyone sat down at the table, and as usual, the boys inhaled their food and emptied pitchers of orange juice.

"I should film one of our meals with you guys," John said when everyone was finished eating.  "Put food in front of you, and it's the greatest disappearing act in the world," he said, laughing.

Grinning, Carl looked out of the corner of his eye at John and Alex.  "You two have to eat slower so your stomachs don't balloon out like they're already starting to do," he said.

"Oh, good!" Alex said with a smile.  "Carl just volunteered to clean up the kitchen and put the dishes in the dish washer.  Thanks, man.  We appreciate it."

"Oh!" Carl said, taken aback at sudden retribution.  "I didn't mean what I said.  You guys are as thin as you were when you were twenty."

The other boys laughed and got out of Dodge before Carl could ask for help, scattering toward the front deck to sit out there in the watery, early morning sunshine and let their meal start to digest.  Kevin felt sorry for him, though, and helped Carl clean up the table and the kitchen.

"Are you and Cam going to take Casey to the airport?" Carl asked as they worked.

"Yeah.  My dad really doesn't deserve it, but I guess we'll go in," Kevin said.

Carl nodded.  "Well, your dad has to be a prince compared to what Dan and I got in the 'dad lottery.'  It's probably a good idea to accommodate him."

"We'll see," Kevin said.

"Are you and Cam gonna run with us before you go?"

"I'd like to, but I don't know about Cam.  I'll probably pace myself with Mark on his first day back running."

"I could do it," Carl offered.

"That's OK," Kevin said.  "I don't mind."

"You don't mind what?" Cam asked, joining them just as they were finishing up the kitchen.  He went up behind Kevin and hugged him, craning his neck to kiss him on the side of his neck.

"I don't mind having those fat, slimy lips of yours touch me," Kevin said with a straight face.  "Usually."

"Dickhead!" Cam said.  "I oughtta give you a hickey that'll last 'til we go to college!"  He cracked his partner on the ass as he let him go, and retreating from the kitchen, pulled his cell phone out of his cargos as he left the room.

"Mommy!" Carl and Kevin heard him say when Catherine answered her phone.  "How's Casey?  And are you guys gonna run with us this morning?"

"Casey's fine," Catherine told him, "and yes, we want to run.  Ian is going to stay with Casey this morning so Mary and I can run."

"We're just cleaning up the kitchen from breakfast," Cam said.  "Why don't you and Ian and Mary drive over here?  Bring Casey, so we can leave for the airport right from here."

"All right," Catherine said.  "See you in a few minutes."

Cam snapped his phone shut, only to hear his partner's voice in his ear as he was encircled by Kevin's arms in a viselike grip.  "What's this crap about 'WE' cleaning up the kitchen?" Kevin demanded.  "As usual, you didn't do diddly shit."

"I was with you in spirit," Cam insisted, trying to squirm out of Kevin's grasp.

"Dumbass," Kevin said before relaxing his arms and letting Cam go.  "Go tell the guys to get their running gear on," he said, gesturing toward the front deck where the boys were still sitting around..

"As usual, what can I say except, 'Yes, Maaaster!'" Cam responded and went outside, to be followed back inside by the rest of the gang.

Kevin went to his bag and pulled out his running shorts and jock.  Carl watched as the boy stripped down, Kevin's long, plump dick hanging down over his balls.  God, the kid has a body! Carl thought to himself as he took off his own boxers and climbed into his jock and shorts.  He would have been pleased to know that Kevin was thinking the very same thing about him.

When Ian, Mary and Catherine arrived from the Carsons', everybody but Ian, who stayed with Casey, went down to the beach and did their stretches.

"I'm running with you today," Kevin told Mark.

"I hate to slow you up," Mark said.

"Don't worry about it," Kevin said, putting a big hand on the kid's neck and giving him a little shake.  The younger boy ate up the attention and affection.

The group all took off up the beach, with Kevin and Mark jogging more slowly behind them.  William grinned with the pleasure of just being alive and doing something athletic, and glancing down at his pedometer, set a good fast pace for everyone.

"Kevin?" Mark said as the two of them began to fall behind the others.


"Do you think I'm gonna have a bad scar on the side of my head when I heal up?"

"You might have a scar at first, but it should heal up fine.  And what doesn't heal, the docs will be able to fix," Kevin said.  "Are you still worried the girls won't like the way you look?"

Mark blushed.  "A little."

"Buddy, I've told you before that you're a great lookin' kid.  The girls are gonna be all over you like hot sauce on a taco."

"I'll look that good?" Mark questioned, laughing.

"You know it!" Kevin said.  He told the boy his plan to make sure that Mark had plenty of dates lined up when they went back to San Rafael.

"I'm ready for that!" Mark said enthusiastically.

"Have you thought about playing soccer when you're finally back in school?" Kevin asked.

"You want me to be a soccer wimp like you and Cam?" Mark said, trying not to laugh.

"Soccer wimp?" Kevin said, trying to sound exasperated.  "You little fuck!  You should be so lucky."

"I don't think so.  Aussie Rules football, that's my game," Mark said.

"And just where do you think you'll get to play that here in the U.S.?" Kevin asked.  "You planning to move to Australia?"

"No.  But it's so much more exciting than American football or soccer. 
Once you start watching it, you can't take your eyes away.  It's a contact sport, but everybody's moving all the time.  It's brains over brawn. that's for sure."

"I happen to agree with ya," Kevin said.  "But it's just not gonna happen over here."

"I don't care," Mark said.  "I still like it better."

Kevin spent the remainder of the run trying to get Mark to commit to trying out for soccer, but the boy was stubborn.

Two hours later, the runners were all back at Alex's after a great run.  The two dogs, tongues lolling out of their mouths, were again covered with sand and salt from the ocean.  Berto washed the canines off with the hose as the rest of the crew went inside.  Ian sat in a rocking chair, rocking a sleeping Casey gently.

"Baby boy," Kevin said softly, bending down and gently kissing the child's head.  "Ian, let me grab a quick shower, and I'll take him off your hands."

"No hurry," Ian said.  "I'm enjoying this.  William and Mark hardly ever let me rock them like this anymore."

"You couldn't handle it, old man," William told his dad as the other boys hooted.

Cam and Kevin used the shower in Alex and John's room, and then got dressed in their usual garb of 501's and T-shirts to leave for SF International.

"I hope everything goes well with your dad," Catherine told Kevin as the latter took Casey from Ian, holding the baby in the crook of his arm like the expert at child handling he was by now.

"Thanks, Mommy," Kevin said, walking over to her and kissing her cheek.

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do," Cam told the guys who were left in the great room still waiting to take showers.

"That leaves us plenty of latitude," Carl said, eliciting a laugh from the group.

Casey was still sleeping as Cam and Kevin carried him down to the Camaro along with a baby bag.  Cam transferred the car seat from the Navigator into his own car.  Once the two guys had the seat buckled into place and the baby was strapped in, Kevin sat in the back seat so he could take care of Casey if he woke up.

They took off, only stopping in Seaside long enough to go through a drive-in and grab some burgers and fries for a late lunch.  Just as they finished eating, Casey awakened and Kevin gave the boy a bottle.

Resuming their trek, Cam turned on the CD player and listened to some Red Hot Chili Peppers at low volume so that Casey could go back to sleep.  Anthony Kiedis's shriek came through clearly despite the low volume.

Cam glanced into his rearview mirror at Kevin.  "Are you worried about seeing your dad again?"

Kevin looked up, locking eyes with him.  "A little bit."

"Maybe I should go into the terminal with you and just stay out of sight," Cam suggested.

"I'll be all right," Kevin insisted.  "Let's face it, I just don't like the guy.  That's all.  I wanna be done with him, but I guess I just don't have the guts to break the ties with him for good."

Cam nodded without speaking, maneuvering through the traffic and letting Kevin go back into his reverie.  Cam knew that ultimately Kevin's relationship with his father was something he'd have to work out for himself, so it was a silent ride except for the radio playing quietly in the background.

Cam took the freeway exit for the airport at about 1:45, and pulled into a parking garage a few minutes later.  Cam drove to a top floor so that, as usual, he could park as far away from other cars as possible.  No nicks and dents for his precious car, he thought to himself.  They sat together in the parked car until it was closer to 2 p.m., and then Kevin unstrapped the baby carrier from the car seat.  Cam got out and went around the vehicle to let Kevin out.  The two boys stood there looking at each other for a long minute.

"You gonna be cool?" Cam asked his partner.

"I'm gonna try."



"You sure you don't want me to come with you, or at least be in the terminal?" Cam asked.

"No, I'll be all right," Kevin said.  "I don't want to give Michael any excuse to be more of a dick than he already is."

"All right," Cam said.  "My phone is on if you need me."

"Yep.  Thanks."

Kevin adjusted his grip on the baby carrier and took off toward the elevator.  He walked into the American terminal at precisely 2 p.m., spotting his father sitting in a middle section of the huge space reading a newspaper.  He walked to him and stood in front of the man.

"Hello, dad," Kevin said solemnly, not smiling.

Michael Stoltz, fashionably dressed in a dark blue, pinstriped suit with a red power tie, looked up at him with a sour look on his face.

"It's about time you got here," the man said.  "I've been waiting for you."

Kevin shrugged.  "You said 2 o'clock, and it's 2 o'clock."

"Sit down and let me look at the boy, then," Michael said, removing his discarded newspaper from the chair next to his and putting it on another chair.

Kevin sat down and positioned the sleeping Casey so the older man could see the child's face.

"At least he looks like you," Stoltz said a little unpleasantly.  "I'm surprised he doesn't look like Cam!"

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Kevin demanded.

"You and Cam are too close for your own good," Michael complained.

"Is that right?" Kevin said, smiling in spite of himself.  If the guy only knew.

"I don't know where you get off thinking you know how to take care of a baby," Michael said.  "You'll probably screw him up good."

"The way you complain about me all the time, you didn't do such a great job yourself," Kevin observed.  "I can't do worse."

"That remains to be seen," Stoltz said grimacing.  "Anyway, where are you going to school next fall and how are you going to take care of the kid then?"

"Cam and I are going to UCLA in September, and we'll have a baby-sitter with Casey during the day."

"In the dorm?" Michael questioned.  "How's that going to work?"

"We won't be living in a dorm."

"Where, then?"

"We're going to be living at Alex MacKenzie's house in Malibu," Kevin said.

"Oh, God!  The kid will probably turn out to be a fruit like Alex."

"Alex is a fine man, and he's acted more like a grandfather to Casey than you have so far," Kevin said.

Michael Stoltz's face clouded up.  "You little asshole, you need a good ass kicking!"

"I can remember back when you and Alex used to be good friends," Kevin said, ignoring the inflammatory language.

"That was before I knew he was a fag," Stoltz said.  "Anyway, where are you getting the money for school?"

"Not from you, that's for sure," Kevin said.  "So it's none of your business unless you want to contribute."

"Not with your bad attitude," Michael said.  "Can I hold the baby?"

Kevin sighed reluctantly.  "I suppose so."  Kevin handed the carrier with Casey in it over to the infant's grandfather.

Michael Stoltz's face broke into a smile in spite of his foul mood.  "Hey, little guy," he said.  He looked back over at Kevin.  "You could at least have given the kid a family name.  Where the hell did 'Casey' come from."

"That's not your concern," Kevin said.

Michael shook his head in seeming disgust, and then crooned at the baby.

"Can I trust you to hold him for a minute while I use the bathroom?" Kevin asked.


Kevin got up and walked away, looking back frequently as he headed for the restrooms.  He was no sooner out of sight than a man in a suit and tie sitting nearby walked over to Michael Stoltz, and the latter handed him the carrier without a word.  Wasting no time, the stranger walked away in one direction with the baby, and Michael went another direction out the door.  Michael hopped into a taxi which then merged into heavy traffic, and was gone a minute later.

Five minutes later, Kevin walked out of the lavatory and headed back to where Michael had been sitting, starting to run as he got closer to the seats and saw they were empty.  Michael Stoltz was nowhere to be seen.

"Oh, God!" Kevin wailed, turning to a woman down at the end of the row of seats.  "Did you see where the man who was sitting here holding a baby went?"

"Sorry, I didn't notice," the woman said, going back to her magazine.

Panicked, Kevin pulled his phone out of his pocket and called Cam.

"Yeah?" Cam said, answering immediately.

"Dad took Casey when I went to the bathroom.  They're gone!!"  Kevin began running across the terminal, glancing frequently out the doors at the traffic as he ran toward the next terminal.

"Find a security guard or a cop and tell him," Cam said, panicking himself.  "I'll be right there."

"Hurry!" Kevin told his partner, snapping his phone shut.

Cam jumped out of his car and ran toward a flight of stairs down to the American terminal, not bothering to wait for the elevator.

Kevin found a cop, and told him his story.  The man looked at him doubtfully, but he did get on his radio.  Within ten minutes the terminal was flooded with cops and national guardsmen, and the automobile exits from the airport were closed down.

Between sessions with police officers as he gave them Michael Stoltz's description and repeated over and over what had happened, Kevin called Ian Carson.  Ian in turn telephoned Captain Tom Ridenour of the Highway Patrol before leaving for the airport himself.  Ridenour immediately had an amber alert posted concerning the missing infant, and police began focusing especially on the expressways in the vicinity of the San Francisco airport.

Kevin was sitting in a chair weeping, hands over his face, Cam beside him, when Ian Carson and Tom Ridenour walked into the airport security office.  After hearing Kevin's story, Ridenour immediately got on the telephone and notified the F.B.I. of the kidnapping.

Not caring what anybody else thought, Cam moved his chair next to Kevin and put his arm around him as Kevin alternately wept and sat in panicked silence, his face a mask of misery.  Cam sat there with a sick feeling in his stomach, trying not to let Kevin see how frightened he was himself.  He pictured Casey's face, and also began to weep, his tears slipping silently down his cheeks and falling on the floor.

© 2006 Don Hanratty

I want to thank Dan, Craig K and Mike G for their expertise in proofing this chapter.  Thanks, too, to all the readers who have been faithfully following this story.  Best wishes to you all for Great Holidays!!