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


Ian Carson was awakened early by the usual morning hospital clamor at San Francisco General.  The staff changed shifts, and newly arrived personnel went about their duties, greeting patients and checking their vitals, and eventually bringing breakfast.  After Ian ate, a nurse disconnected his IV's and walked out after promising to change the dressing on his shoulder when she returned.  Casting an eye around his room, momentarily empty, the attorney clasped his gown to his body and made a dash for his bathroom, something he wasn't supposed to do.

There was a shower in the bathroom, but his shoulder was still aching dully and swathed in bandages, so he didn't try to use it.  Feeling a little light headed, he relieved himself into the toilet, flushed it and fled back to the bed before somebody caught him moving around under his own power without permission.

Ian lay back in bed, smiling, and realized he was a happy man despite the horror of being shot and witnessing Walter Emrick's death.  The locus of his good feelings centered around the fact that Carl and Dan Emrick no longer had to worry about their father's vendetta against them--and he didn't have to worry about his own family's being hurt.  The man's death meant that Ian could go back to work at his law firm, a hiatus which he had been willing to offer for his extended family but was eager to terminate.  He loved the practice of law, and it was time to get back to it.

He glanced at the clock on the wall.  7:10 a.m.  He would wait until 8:00, he decided, and then begin paging Dr. Suthon to get himself released.  He had, after all, things to do.  First on the list was to pay a visit to his law firm, and get the associate who was most knowledgeable and adept at probate matters to track down Walter Emrick's last will and testament.  If the senior Emrick had filed a will which disinherited Carl and Dan, Ian was determined to mount one hell of a legal challenge based on the man's mental incompetence.  With any luck at all, though, having been in jail for awhile, Emrick hadn't changed an earlier will which probably still left his estate to his sons.

The nurse came back into the room and changed Ian's dressing.  She said that the wound appeared to be healing.  That pleased Ian, even though changing the dressing had hurt when the pads and bandages were pulled away from his skin.

Mary and Carl arrived at the hospital at 9 a.m., bringing a change of clothes for Ian for when he was discharged.  After Mary had skirmished with the front desk about visiting her husband before visiting hours formally started, and winning, she and Carl were admitted by the San Francisco police officer at the door and walked into Ian's room about 9:15.  Mary greeted Ian emotionally, kissing his face repeatedly as he lay in bed.  Despite her resolve to remain strong, she shed a few tears.  But she didn't upbraid him for being a victim of Walter Emrick's homicidal rage, because she understood full well that Ian had been wounded in protecting their foster son.  "Greater love has no man than that he lay down his life for his friends...", she thought to herself.

When Mary moved back from the bed, Carl stepped up, bent down and kissed Ian on the forehead, conscious yet again that he and Dan owed Ian and Mary Carson everything.

"How were things at the Ritz?" Ian asked them.

Carl smiled broadly.  "You sure know how to take care of family."

"Was there ever any doubt?" Ian laughed.

"Nope," Carl acknowledged.

"You don't know how glad I am to see you two," Ian said.

"Who could resist us?" Carl smarted off.

Ian ignored that.  "Sweetheart, I need to get out of here," Ian told his wife.

"What's your hurry?" Mary asked, frowning.

"I need to stop by the firm and get somebody started on what Walter Emrick had in his will for Carl and Dan.  And I want to assign somebody to work with Tom Ridenour in case the CHiP hierarchy tries to mess with him over shooting Walter Emrick."

"You can do that by phone," Mary said.

"I know, but I want everybody there to know that I'm still walking around under my own power, and not on the fast track to six feet under.  Not yet, anyway."  Ian smiled at her.  "And we need to stop by our condo and see how they're coming on the restoration."

"Well, let's just hear what George Suthon has to say about all this running around you want to do," Mary said.

"I'm glad somebody has some respect for healers," a voice said from the door.  It was the very same George Suthon, looking fresh and wearing a sparkling white lab coat.  He went to Mary, kissed her cheek, and then shook Carl's hand.  "Thank goodness you two are here," he said.  "Staff tell me Ian is being his usual unruly self."

"Not true," Ian protested.  "I'm a model patient!"

"Yeah, and Iraq had WMD's," the portly doctor said, removing his stethoscope from around his neck.  He plugged it into his ears, pressing the business end to Ian's chest.  "Take some deep breaths for me."  Then he repeated the procedure on Ian's back.

Suthon listened in silence to Ian's breathing.  "Things sound good.  How's the shoulder feel?" he asked.

"It hurts a little," Ian admitted.

"A little or a lot?" Suthon asked.

"Most of the time, a little.  When I move the wrong way, a lot."

"I'd really like to keep you another day, Ian," Suthon said.

"Mary and Carl and I have things to do, George.  Discharge me."

The doctor sighed, facing the inevitable.  "All right.  But I don't want you overdoing it, and stressing out that shoulder."  He looked at Mary.  "You think you can control him if I let him go?"

"No.  I'll do my best," Mary said.  "But I don't harbor any illusions about being all that successful."

Ian beamed.

Suthon pulled a prescription pad out of his coat pocket, and began scrawling on it.  "I'm giving you two weeks' antibiotics, and some pain killers.  Take the full course of the antibiotics, and the pain killer as needed."  He handed the scripts to Mary.  "I want to see you again in a week," he told Ian.

"Yes, sir," Ian said.  He looked down at the scripts in Mary's hand and then at the doctor.  "When was the last time a pharmacist could actually read your writing?"

"Don't get me riled up, now," Suthon said.  "I'm very proud of my handwriting.  I won the "Most Legible" award for script writing in medical school."

"Maybe your failing eyesight is the problem, then," Ian quipped.

The doctor laughed, and looked at Mary.  "Get him out of my hospital," he said.  "Make an appointment with my office, and I want a call every day on how you're feeling."

"Thank you, George," Mary said.  "He'll call you, I promise."

The doctor left, and Ian looked at Mary.  "Sweetheart, did you bring me some clothes?"

Mary nodded, opening the bag and taking out underwear, socks, a sport shirt and pair of chinos.  "Here you go," she said.

Ian sat up on the side of the bed for a long minute grimacing before standing, taking the clothes, and heading for the bathroom.  Two minutes later, he was calling for his wife.  She went in, and helped him put on his undershirt, the shirt, and then his boxers and pants, putting his arm back in the sling when they finished  He had Carl bring him his dress shoes he'd worn in court the day before.  Carl put them on his feet, laced them up, and Ian was set.

"What should I do about my suit coat?" Ian asked his wife.  "Carl brought it with us in the helicopter from Monterey.  It has a hole in it, and blood on it."

"Throw it and your white shirt out," Mary said.  "Let's keep the pants."  Frugal Mary.

"Okay," Ian said.  Mary put the suit pants in her bag, and when an aide came in with a wheelchair, they headed out.  Their first stop was Ian's law firm, where the attorneys and staff flocked around Ian in his office, offering their admiration and congratulations for what he had done for Carl in the Monterey courthouse.  With that out of the way, Ian huddled with John Craig, the firm's point man on wills and probate, and got him started on tracking down Walter Emrick's last will and testament.  Then he talked to Ted Solomon, an expert on civil service issues, and instructed him to get in touch with Captain Tom Ridenour, and offer the firm's pro bono services to him in case the CHiP brass gave him any grief about having shot Walter Emrick in the courtroom in Monterey.

When that was out of the way, Ian, Mary and Carl went to the Carson condo.  There had been a flurry of activity there of late, with the windows all replaced, the kitchen restored, and beautiful new hardwood floors laid throughout the apartment except for the kitchen and bathrooms.  Mary was pleased.  All they needed was furniture and art work.

Then it was back to the Ritz Carlton so Ian could rest.  They would stay overnight, and if Ian was up to it, head for San Rafael the next morning.

Carl was looking forward to seeing Rosa Mendez, Catherine's maid who had been so good to him and Dan, and also the two border collies, Alice and Samantha.  And most of all, he was looking forward to seeing Andy Helder, who would shortly be flying back from New Orleans with the church group.  The two of them talked on the phone every day, sometimes several times, but Carl missed the boy more than he thought possible.  Before he'd met Andy, he'd just about accepted the idea that he might well be alone all his life.  When they were apart now, there was an empty spot in his gut when he couldn't see Andy's face and hold him in his arms.

*  *  *

When the New Orleans work group reached Houston for their connecting flight to San Francisco, Alex MacKenzie and John Kelley prepared to catch their own flight to Los Angeles.  Alex and John said their good-byes, and Cam and Kevin, carrying Casey, walked to the L.A. departure gate with them to say a last good-bye.

"How long are you guys going to be at home before you leave for England?" Cam asked them.

"We're leaving next week," Alex said.  "John will start scouting locations for our next film in London," he added.  He looked at the boys.  "Remember, the keys to the house will be at the middle security gate waiting for you."

The boys nodded.

"Is there anything we need to do at the house when we get there?" Kevin asked.

John and Alex looked at each other.

"I can't think of a thing," John said.

"Just remember the house rules," Alex said with unaccustomed sternness.  "No drugs, no alcohol.  No parties.  We're agreed on that, aren't we?  We're trusting you.  Do it for yourselves and for Casey."

"Yes, sir," Cam and Kevin said together.

They stood at the gate chatting until the men had to leave.

"I'm glad you both came on this trip," Cam said to Alex and John.

"We haven't been able to spend enough time together since I moved to L.A.," Alex said.  "And I mean with both of you."  He pulled Kevin into his arms and held him and kissed him on the cheek.  "Take care of my son and grandson," he said, halfway kneeling to kiss Casey on the forehead in his carrier.

"Thank you for letting us stay in your house for school," Cam said as he embraced and kissed his father.  "We'll take good care of things."

"One other thing," John said after he had hugged and kissed the boys.  "You remember our next door neighbors' son, Jeff Miller?"

"Yeah," Kevin said as he and Cam looked at John curiously.

"We're pretty sure that Jeff is strung out on meth," John said.  "His dad has had him in rehab a couple of times, but Jeff hasn't been able to stay clean.  Periodically, the Millers throw him out of their house.  I bring it up because...well, I don't want him putting temptation in your way.  And I don't want him in the house unsupervised, either.  Preferably, I'd rather not have him in the house at all, but as long as you're vigilant, that's your call.  The kid needs money all the time to feed his habit, and he'd as soon steal from you as look at you.  He can't help it.  Capisce?"

"Yep," Kevin said as Cam nodded.

Alex pulled Cam aside while John was still talking to Kevin about Jeff Miller.

"Remember," he said quietly, "Kevin's Mustang is in the carport under a canvas cover.  The keys are on the key rack in the house.  I'll leave it to you how best to surprise him with it."

"So much has happened, I'd almost forgotten about that," Cam said.  "Kevin will be kissing your feet the next time he sees you.  He loves that car more than he does me."

"You know better than that!" Alex again drew his son into his arms and kissed his cheek.

Kevin and Cam waved to Alex and John as they walked away, and then rejoined their church group for the last leg of their trip home.  They caught up to Catherine, her carry-on bag slung over one shoulder, as they all walked to their gate.  Cam was carrying the baby, so Kevin took Catherine's bag off her shoulder and added it to his own load.

Catherine turned her head and smiled at Kevin, and he took her hand as they walked along.  Talking about the Malibu house with Alex and John made him think about how hard it was going to be to leave Catherine in San Rafael when fall arrived.

"I love you," Kevin told her quietly.  Short and sweet.  No interpretation needed.  Her eyes widened a little when she heard that.

"Thank you, sweetheart," Catherine responded.  "What brought that on?"  Most teenage boys wouldn't be caught dead holding hands with their mothers, or offering unsolicited endearments.

"I don't know.  But I mean it."  Kevin held her hand all the way to their gate.  Soon they were all boarding and settling down on the plane.

Going home! Kevin thought to himself as the flight took off with all the St. Andrew's crew aboard.  It had been a good two weeks, he thought.  No one in the big work group had been hurt, killed, and none of the girls was pregnant so far as he knew, which made it a good trip  The group had accomplished their goal.  He was sitting in the right hand window seat just ahead of the plane's wings.  Casey's carrier was strapped to the back of the middle seat of the row ahead so the boys could get to him easily, and the baby was in it and sleeping soundly.  Cam was sitting on the aisle.

Cam was also reflecting on their New Orleans experience, and despite the grueling work in the heat of late spring, he was glad he and Kevin had joined the group.  Their entire work crew had gone to Mass at St. Thomas' that morning, and had received the grateful thanks of the priests and parishioners for all they had done to help the New Orleans community in the recovery process.  The final words of the celebrant's homily had stuck with him for some reason.  "You all came here to help your brothers and sisters grapple with the terrible scars of this city's wreckage.  And in doing your work, you embraced the spirit and perfection of Jesus," the priest had said.  Wow! Cam thought.  Good out of evil.  An encouraging thought.

Kevin put down his magazine and looked down the row at his partner, who was now catching forty winks.  Kevin's gaze fastened on Cam's strong jaw line and his profile, two aspects of Cam's physical appearance that had first made Kevin fall in love with the boy.  Too handsome for his own good, that's what Cam is.

Kevin thought, too, about his boy's personality, and how well the two of them complemented each other.  "Complementary" was a good description for their relationship.  When Cam and Kevin were together, they were indeed complete.  One complete person in two personas.  Kevin never felt so alive as he did when he was around Cam.  And, generally speaking, as horny.  Constantly horny.

Groaning inaudibly, against his will, Kevin began to replay their lovemaking on their last night in New Orleans.  Cam's body had hovered over his own, using his mouth and tongue and hands and fingers to stimulate Kevin and get him ready to pleasure each other.  So very ready.  Kevin's rigid cock had lain up on his own abs, hard and straight, pulsing and sensitive to the touch.  Cam had dipped down and licked up and down Kevin's appendage, and then taken the head of that beautiful penis into his mouth and sucked it gently, probing the slit with his tongue until Kevin had begun to tremble and had to work not to shoot his load.  Then Cam was inside him, inside him for a long time, moving slowly before picking up the pace, their bodies dripping sweat, soaking each other and the bed.  When Kevin finally came, he didn't remember ever ejaculating so hard.  He had completely emptied himself on his belly between them.  And yet here he was, not that many hours later, fantasizing again about his partner.

Not surprisingly, their lovemaking had changed and continued improving since they had first had sex with each other.  Kevin searched for a word to define their sexual relationship now.  Intimacy described it better than any.  Real intimacy.  It was no longer the physical acts alone when they made love that gave them the most satisfaction, although that element of it continued to be one of the important keys to their pleasure.  It was the intense joy and happiness of completely knowing and serving one another in those physical acts which had raised the bar higher in their frequent couplings.

With his eye still on his partner, Kevin's gaze slid down Cam's form to his lap, noting how the bulge in the denim at his partner's crotch was accentuated by the Levi 501's the boy was wearing.  Kevin averted his gaze quickly before he threw a boner that would totally embarrass him in front of anybody who glanced at him as they passed down the aisle.  You're a lucky boy, Stoltz, he thought to himself.  He looked at his partner's crotch again, a prisoner of his own seemingly unquenchable lust.

Cam suddenly awakened from his short nap, and for some reason immediately swiveled his head to look at Kevin.  Cam caught him giving him the once-over.  Their eyes locked, and a small smile formed on Cam's lips.

"What?" Kevin demanded when Cam didn't immediately say anything.

Cam raised the armrests between the seats and slid over next to his partner, putting a hand on the inside of the Kevin's nearest thigh.  Facing the two boys, Casey was still sleeping soundly in his carrier in front of Cam.

"What?" Kevin demanded again.

"I saw what you were looking at when I woke up, boy!" Cam whispered to him, leaning over and putting his nose into Kevin's hair.  He smelled deeply of Kevin's scent before settling back in the seat.  Kevin's hair and his breath and the smell of his body inevitably turned Cam on, and sometimes aroused him at inopportune moments when they couldn't do anything about it. 

There were always possibilities, of course, but two guys trying to join the mile high club in one of the johns probably wouldn't be looked upon all that favorably by their pretty, female flight attendants.  Now, if he and Cam were straight and offered to take one of the lady attendants in there, things might be different.

"It's not against the rules to look at you," Kevin finally responded to Cam's accusation.  He was right on the edge of blushing because he hated to get caught scoping out somebody's crotch.  Even Cam's.  "I get to look at you anytime I want to," Kevin said a little defensively.

"Who told you that?" Cam asked.

"Nobody had to tell me.  It's part of our deal."

"What deal would that be?" Cam inquired with an angelic, innocent look on his face.  Kevin's cock grew uncomfortably hard in his Levi's, and he thought he might have just leaked a few drops of pre-cum into his boxers.

"You know..."  Kevin stopped talking.

"If I knew, I wouldn't be asking," Cam insisted, rubbing Kevin's inner thigh higher up toward his crotch, knowing exactly what the touch of his hand was doing to the boy.  "Payment must be made."

"You're shameless," Kevin complained.  "Stop it!  Casey's gonna wake up and see you molesting me."

"I haven't even started molesting you yet."  Cam's head swiveled around to see if anybody was looking.  Nobody was paying attention, so he cupped Kevin's crotch and gently squeezed his package, feeling the hardness there.  "Anyway, don't change the subject."

"Shutup, dude.  I don't have to tell you shit," Kevin whispered.

"On the contrary, dude, you have to tell me everything!  But never mind, I'll get it out of you tonight when I get into you.  When we go to bed.  In our own bed."  Big smile.

Kevin thought that over, and then he couldn't keep from breaking into a grin himself.  Bed.  Their own bed.  A happy ending to any story involving Cam.  Cam went back to rubbing and patting Kevin's inner thigh some more.

"You're a trip, man," Kevin said, removing Cam's hand from where it was gently caressing him.

Giving up then on his deviltry in arousing Kevin, Cam leaned forward and kissed Casey gently on the baby's forehead.  The child never stirred.

"Looking at Casey," Cam said, "it's really fortunate that Casey is so cute when he has a homely father like you."

Kevin stared at Cam and then Casey, expressionless.  "I don't know," he said.  "How did one of your little spermies get in the mix somehow?"

"Oh, I thought you knew.  When Heather wanted a real man, she came to me."

Both boys started to guffaw, quickly trying to stifle their laughter so they didn't capture the attention of a whole planeload of people.

Trying to control his mirth, Cam shook his head at Kevin, and then moved back to his own seat and picked up a magazine to read.  As he did so, he noticed Dan Emrick sitting across the aisle in the window seat, all slumped down and looking dejected.  Putting down the magazine, Cam moved across the aisle, down the empty row, and sat down next to Dan.  Sometimes it was his mission, as he saw it, to be a cheerleader for the troops.

"Hey, buddy," Cam said, putting his arm across the shorter boy's shoulders.

Dan looked at him, trying hide his sadness, but he couldn't.  "Hey," he said back weakly.

"Where's Andy?"  Andy Helder had been sitting beside him earlier

"Bathroom, I think."

"Talk to me," Cam said.

Dan didn't respond.

"Are you feeling bad about your dad?" Cam asked.

"I guess so.  I can't get what he did to my brother out of my mind.  But I can't help thinking that Carl and I really don't have anybody now that my father's dead.  Not related to us by blood, I mean."

Cam looked him in the eye.  "Buddy, that may be true, but you probably have more people in this world who care about you and your brother than anybody I know.  Macho guys like you and me"--Cam mockingly poked Dan with a finger and they smiled at each other--"don't like to talk about stuff like this a lot, but everybody in this family just loves you and Carl to death.  You should never, ever, wonder whether we care about you.  You guys are brothers to us, and sons to Ian, Mary and Catherine.  The two of you are never going to lack for people who will be there for you to help you fight your battles.  You'll never lack for anything if we have anything to say about it.  I'm not just talking about the adults here, I mean all us guys.  I thought you knew that."

Dan's eyes looked moist, and he cleared his throat, looking over at Cam.

"If that's true, it's hard for me to realize that anybody on this earth could be that lucky," Dan finally said.  "Our situation got so fucked up so fast, and sometimes I don't understand how Carl and I could be so fortunate ending up in this family.  For some reason we landed on our feet.  And you had a lot to do with that, Cam.  By helping Carl after Dad had raped and beaten him."

"Yeah, dude, you two did land on your feet, but it didn't have much to do with me." Cam said.  He paused.  "There's one more thing," he eventually said.   "Let me point out the obvious.  You're a good looking guy, and now that you're working out with Kevin all the time in the gym, you're really starting to look good.  You're going to be meeting some girls along the way pretty quick, and they're gonna like you a lot.  A lot a lot.  You're gonna re-focus in a hurry when that happens, and life is gonna look up."

"Hmmm.  How do you know I won't fall in love with a guy?" Dan asked, smiling.

"I don't.  You know that issue will never matter in this family.  But whatever girl or boy floats your boat, that person is really gonna love you because you have so much to offer in a relationship."  Cam laughed.  "I tell you that from the perspective of someone who really appreciates boys and their finer qualities."

Dan grinned, and looked happier.  "Well, thanks," he said.

"We love ya, bud."  Cam pulled the boy's head over and kissed him on the side of it.  "If you get to feeling bad and you don't come talk to me, I'm gonna hunt you down and hurt ya.  Understand?"

"Yeah," Dan said with a grin.

"All right.  Now, getcher ass up and come over and sit with Kevin and me.  Casey might wake up and want to have a word with ya."

Despite making an initial show of reluctance about changing seats, Dan was flattered, as always, to be noticed and chatted up by either of these two guys whom he admired so much.  He went over and sat down next to Kevin, who greeted him with a smile and a fake punch to the shoulder.

*  *  *

When Cam had gone over to talk to Dan, Kevin had put the magazine he'd been reading back in the pocket of the seat in front of him.  His own thoughts had turned dark.  Ian had told him a few days before Ian had gone to Monterey for the Emrick trial that Kevin's own dad's trial for the attempted kidnapping of Casey at the airport was coming up.  Ian didn't have the exact date, but knew that the case would be called within the month.  Kevin was dismayed about seeing Michael Stoltz again.  His father had some high priced lawyers defending him, but Kevin knew the man was quite likely to be found guilty.  Yet, as angry as Kevin was with him, he was reluctant to see him go to jail.

What surprised Kevin a little bit at this stage of his relationship with his father, was that he still cared.  He had had longtime mixed emotions about his father, just as Carl and Dan Emrick had had about their dad.  It was difficult to give up on someone, to completely turn your back on someone, who had been so key to your growing-up process.  Maybe he needed to talk with Cam about this when they got home.  Cam was level headed and fair and smart and pretty intuitive, and when he could be, he was compassionate in his judgments about others.  As their relationship had matured, Kevin had found he eventually got around to talking to Cam about almost everything in their lives together, and Cam had never steered him wrong.  Neither had Ian or Catherine, and he knew he could talk with them, too.  And Father Jim was available, and Kevin trusted him.  Kevin knew he had a lot of resources, and he was going to talk to one of these people when they all got home.

Just then, Cam brought Dan Emrick from across the aisle to sit with them.

Kevin liked Dan a lot, and smiled at him and gave him that fake shoulder punch.  The three of them started talking about Casey, who obliged them by waking up in his usual good mood.  Kevin took him out of the baby carrier and ascertained his diaper was still dry, and then put him in Dan's lap.  Dan held him, bending down to kiss him on top of his head.  He loved that baby dearly.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, and after getting off the plane, the group all gathered at the baggage claim.  Kevin saw Father Jim Mason at a distance talking to a lady flight attendant who had deadheaded to San Francisco from Houston, and after handing Cam the baby and telling him where he was going, Kevin picked his way through the crowd.

"Father, can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked the priest after reaching his side.  The stewardess stopped hitting on the priest, who was dressed in civvies, and stepped away.

"Sure," Mason said, and they moved farther away from the crowd standing at the serpentine conveyor belt.

"I know you're going to be busy playing catch-up at church tomorrow," Kevin said apologetically, "but could you spare me a few minutes of your time to talk?"

"Absolutely," Father Jim said.  "What time would be good for you?"

"How about one o'clock?"

"Perfect.  See you then."

"I'll be there," Kevin said, and started to turn away.  Then he turned back.  "Listen, Father, thanks for all you did to make this a successful trip to New Orleans.  I know it was a lot of work, and you did most of it, but thanks for investing so much time and effort in us kids.  I think we did some good for the city, and we all enjoyed ourselves."

"That's very nice of you to say that, Kevin.  I want to thank you and Cam and your whole family for participating."

They parted company with a smile, and bumped fists.  (Jimmy the priest wasn't so old that he wasn't still with it!)  Walking away, Kevin decided he would probably still talk to Cam about Michael Stoltz, but he also wanted to hear exactly what the Church had to say about forgiving people who committed criminal acts like kidnapping.  He was afraid he already knew the answer, but it wouldn't hurt to talk.

It wasn't long before their luggage began cascading on to the conveyor, and the church crew gathered their bags and headed for the curb.  Their waiting bus would take them to St. Andrew's in San Rafael.  Those who had cars and had left them there in the church parking lot would be good to go, and the others would be picked up by family.

The traffic was heavy, but the bus jumped right on Hwy. 101 just outside the airport, quickly navigated north toward the city on to I 280, re-merged with 101, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and was soon in San Rafael well before dusk.  It was chaos in the church parking lot as the St. Andrew's families milled around with the returnees from New Orleans.

Andy Helder looked around when he got off the bus, and spotted his smiling, waving parents.  Standing with them, to his delight, was Carl Emrick, and Andy's heart felt as if it skipped a beat.  Andy quickly grabbed his bags from the luggage storage under the bus, and walked over to his parents.  He shook hands with his dad, kissed his mother, and then shook hands with Carl and hugged him when what he wanted to do was plant a nice, moist kiss on the boy's lips.

Carl had driven Ian's Navigator to the church, and after getting permission from Andy's parents, Carl was the one who drove Andy home with his luggage.  Kevin, Cam and Casey were in the Navigator, too, but Carl was in love and didn't care if they saw signs of affection between him and Andy.  Carl and Andy held hands all the way to the Helders', and cautiously kissed each other at stop lights after checking to see they weren't being observed through the side and rear windows by others on the road.  Cam was delighted to see that Carl and Andy seemed to be in love.  He didn't know about Andy, but the new relationship was certainly a godsend for Carl.

Once Andy was dropped off, Carl drove back to the MacKenzie house.  Things were in an uproar.  Luggage was in various stages of being carried upstairs after the adults and boys who had been away greeted Rosa Mendez, who had come over on a Sunday to welcome everybody home and help get them settled after their trip.  Yolanda Vega and Rosa chattered excitedly in Spanish. 
The two border collies were running around, brushing up against everybody, begging to be petted.  The house had been in perfect shape before the onslaught of the travelers, but soon was a mess.  All the beds had clean sheets on them, though, and all the bathrooms were immaculate for the moment, anyway.

After church, Rosa had prepared and slow cooked several chickens, vegetables and dumplings in huge pots on the stove, and tossed a salad.  With the help of Yolanda, Mary and Catherine, she put dinner on the table before getting ready to go home to feed her own family.  She was happy to see everyone, and kissed every one of them good-bye before leaving.  Kevin fed Casey his bottle before joining the others at the dining room table after thanks for the food had been offered.

After supper the boys cleared the table and filled the dishwasher before finishing up their chores unpacking luggage.  Once their bags were put away, most of the guys got on their computers or watched television for a while.  Bedtime came early.  Everybody was tired, and soon the house went silent after Kevin informed them that they would all be running the next morning at 8 a.m.

Cam and Kevin climbed into bed, horny as usual.  Cam pulled Kevin into his arms under the covers and nuzzled his face, but soon both of them drifted off to sleep still clinging to each other before they had sex.  Kevin woke up once in the middle of the night, checked on Casey, and then returned to bed.   He snuggled up to Cam, gently kissing his face.  He loved that boy next to him so much that his body actually tingled, and he fell back to sleep with a smile on his face.

Good as his word, Kevin had everybody, including Mary, Catherine and Yolanda, up at 7:45 the next morning for their run.  William Carson bitched and moaned, as usual, but did what he was told after his morning hardon went down, then putting on his jock, T-shirt, running shorts and shoes.

"Look at it this way, William," Kevin said to him after waking the boy.  "It's cool outside, not hot like New Orleans.  You won't even need to sweat, you lazy piece o' shit."  William gave him the finger, and hurled some expletives.

Ian came outside all dressed to go, but Mary told him he couldn't run until Dr. Suthon told him he could.  He went back into the house pretending to sulk, but secretly he was just as happy not to be going.  His shoulder was hurting, but he was limiting his intake of pain pills.  He poured a cup of coffee, and sat down in the study in an easy chair to read the morning paper.  Rosa had already come to work, and poked her head in the study door offering breakfast.  Ian turned her down with thanks so he could eat with the family when they returned.

After doing their stretches, the runners took off, with Cam and Kevin being pulled along by Sam and Alice's leashes.  The collies were happy to have their humans back where they belonged, taking care of them.

When the family came back from their run and showered, they ate breakfast, and the boys all went down to the poolhouse and played ping pong, pool and cards.  Kevin kept track of the time, mindful that he had an appointment with Father Mason at the church at 1:00 p.m.

"Getcher asses up to the gym for your exercises before I get back," he told the boys.  "I hafta go out for awhile."

"Where you goin'?" William demanded.  "I don't remember givin' you permission to go anywhere, dawg."

Kevin laughed.  "I don't need your permission, dawg," he said, grinning.  He walked over to Cam, who was sitting playing poker with Mark Carson and Berto Hernandez.  Berto was cleaning their clocks, piling up the chips in front of himself.  Kevin put an arm around Cam from behind, kissing him on top of the head.  "I'll see you later, dude."

"Okay," Cam said.  "You taking my car?"  Kevin had talked to him last night about his dad, and had said he was going to talk with Father Jim.


"Laters," Cam said, bending up his hole cards off the table to look at them, and then tossing a couple of chips into the pot.  "Raise ya two," he told Berto.

Kevin drove the Camaro over to the church, arriving in the lot two minutes before his appointment, and entering the church office.

"Hello," he told the receptionist.  "I have an appointment with Father Mason."

"Good afternoon," the lady behind the counter said.  "Your name?"

"Kevin Stoltz."

"One moment, please."  She picked up the phone, punched the intercom button, and waited.

"Yes?" Father Jim said.

"Father, Kevin Stoltz is here for his one o'clock appointment," she said.

Listening for a moment, she hung up.  "Go through that door"--she pointed with a smile--"and go down the hall to the third door on the left.  Father Mason is ready for you."

Kevin thanked the woman, and followed her directions.  He knocked on the open door to the priest's office.

"Hello, Father," he said.

"Hello, Kevin," the priest said.  "Right on time.  Come on in."

Kevin looked at Father Jim behind the desk, which was piled high with books and papers.  Mason got up from his chair, walked around the desk, and gave Kevin a slip and slide handshake, and a shoulder bump.

They both looked tired after their working trip to New Orleans, and grinned at each other in recognition of their common condition.

"If you're too busy right now, I can come back some other time," Kevin said, looking at the desk.

"People before paper," Mason said with a smile.

"Cool!" Kevin said appreciatively.   He needed to remember that line for future reference.

"Let's go sit in the chapel," Father Jim suggested.  "I can't stand looking at this desk."

"Okay," Kevin said.

They walked out of the office, down the corridor and into the chapel.  The priest flipped a light switch, and the altar and sanctuary burst into the light.  The sanctus light hanging in the sanctuary was burning, indicating that the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the tabernacle in the wall behind the altar.  Kevin and Father Jim reverenced the Sacrament, and sat down together in the first pew and turned toward each other.

"How are things going for you and Cam, Kevin?" the priest asked.

"We're good, Father."  Kevin cleared his throat.  "I love him more every day we're together," he said a little shyly.  "It just keeps getting better.  And I think he feels the same way.  And we both love Casey.  Totally.  When it comes to Cam and our family, things are so good, sometimes I can't believe it."

"Bless the Lord, then," Father Mason said.  "I'm happy for you, especially because so many gays live their whole lives without the companionship that almost all human beings crave, or at least without any formal recognition of their relationships.  Our legislature here in California has twice passed legislation to make same-sex relationships legal, only to have it vetoed by the Governator.  The good news is that he won't be governor forever.  So you may not even have to leave the state when you want to make your relationship with Cam legal."  The priest smiled.  "And you know that when you two are of age and you want to do so, we'll bless your union right here at St. Andrew's."

"You don't know how much I appreciate that!" Kevin said.

"What else is going on, Kev?" Father Mason asked.

Kevin hesitated, and then said, "My dad's trial for trying to kidnap Casey at the airport is coming up, and I'm having a hard time with it."

"Tell me about that."

Kevin hung his head, looking at the floor.  He seemed reluctant to talk.

"Well," he finally said, "I know my father did what he did, and I'm going to have to testify to that in court under oath.  As you know, I met my dad at the airport.  I left Casey with him when I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, the baby was gone.  I hate that he did that.  Maybe I even hate him, I don't know.  I guess I do.  We haven't had much contact since Catherine MacKenzie became my guardian.  But I don't think I want to see him go to jail.  So I'm worried about what's going to happen.  I think I'm going to feel guilty when my testimony helps put him behind bars."

"May I ask you a question?"

"Yes, sir."

"Is there any doubt in your mind that your dad really did take Casey, and that he wasn't going to give him back?"

"No, none at all."

"I think the first thing you have to remember is that your father brought this on himself.  You didn't do it, he did.  His actions not only violated the law, but he breached any bond that you and he had at that point.  You say that you'll feel guilty if your testimony helps send him to jail.  You have nothing to feel guilty about, Kevin.  You can't take responsibility for your father's actions.  As Christians, we're told we have to love others as we love ourselves.  So we can't allow a false sense of guilt to impair our duty to love ourselves.  Or others.

"Secondly," the priest continued, "Jesus and the Church tell us that we have to forgive others who sin against us.  Can you forgive your dad?"

"I'm trying."

"I hope you can do that.  Keep working on that.  Ask God to help you do that.  No permanent evil came out of the airport incident to dog your life, and that's a plus.  You understand that the state, the government, doesn't use the same process we do as Christians when it comes to forgiveness.  Usually, the only mitigation of a legal penalty from government would come at sentencing, when the judge could use home detention or probation in lieu of incarceration.  The judge will seek input from a variety of sources in making that decision, and you would likely be on his list for your input.  If you believe that your father wouldn't benefit from incarceration, you should feel free to make that known.  Then the only thing to do is to wait for sentencing.

"I don't mean to make any of this sound easy for you.  I know it's not.  But you and your dad, God willing, are going to be on this earth together for a long time yet.  I want you to come out of this experience feeling good about what you do at your dad's trial and in your efforts to forgive him for what he did."

Kevin looked at the priest silently.

"I also want to mention to you the hidden costs of carrying a grudge, no matter how justified it may seem, Kevin," Jim Mason said.  "There's not only a spiritual cost to doing so, but a mental and emotional cost as well.  Refusing to forgive the sins of others means that our own sins won't be forgiven by God.  Holding a grudge also depletes our psychic energy, and sometimes we don't even realize that.  Holding a grudge requires a tremendous amount of energy that we could be using for other, good purposes.  I don't want you to be victimized that way.
  If you can forgive your father for what he did at the airport and for anything else that's weighing you down in your relationship with him, it will be a victory that no one can ever take away from you."

The chapel was silent.

"All right, Father," Kevin said after a moment.  "I guess I had a pretty good idea what you would say, but I just wanted to hear you say it.  Please pray for me."

"You know I will.  And I want you to pray about this, too.  Do you have a Book of Common Prayer at home?"

"I don't, but I'm sure that Catherine has."

"Tell you what..."  The priest reached behind them into a pew rack, and pulled out the book.  "Take this home with you and keep it--I'll replace this one."  He flipped through the pages until he came to a section at the end of the book labeled, "Prayers and Thanksgivings," and turned to page 816.   He pointed to Prayer #6, "For our Enemies."

"Let's offer this prayer right now," Mason said, "and I hope you'll offer it every night before you go to sleep."  They got up and went to the altar rail, kneeling there side by side.

Sharing the book, they offered the prayer together:

"O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies:  Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen."

They stood up, and Father Jim gave Kevin the Prayer Book, and turned the boy to face him.  Putting his hands on Kevin's head, he traced the sign of the cross on his forehead, and blessed him, saying, "By His authority entrusted to me, I absolve you from all your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

"Amen."  Kevin was moved by the man's kindness and concern.  "Thank you, Father, more than I can say.  I really appreciate it."

"You'll always be loved and supported here, Kevin, I hope you know that."

"I do know that.  And I'm thankful for it.  We'll see you next Sunday at Mass."

"I'm looking forward to it," Mason said, and they parted company and started to go their separate ways.  Kevin turned back around.

"Father, why don't you come over for supper tonight?  6:30.  We're starting to suffer withdrawal pains from not seeing you around all the time."

Mason laughed.  "Don't you think your family has seen enough of me already?"

"That's never gonna happen.  I know you're probably tired, but you don't have to stay late."

The priest smiled.  "Thanks.  See you tonight, then."

*  *  *

When Father Mason arrived at about 6:15 that night, Catherine greeted him warmly at the front door with a hug.

"Welcome.  Kevin told me you thought we might be tired of your company," she said, smiling.


"Listen, Mary and Ian and I need all the help we can get with these boys.  As the kids say about you, 'You da man!'"

"That's high praise, indeed!" Jim Mason said, laughing.  "I'll try to live up to it."

"That won't be a problem for you," Catherine said.  "You and Father Blackburn are wonderful priests."

"I'm still learning what I'm supposed to be doing," Mason said dismissively.

"You could have fooled us," Catherine said.  "It's not just what you know, it's how you convey it and live it that makes us happy.  Anyway, come on in.  Ian's in the study, I think.  The boys are all down in the pool house, doing Lord knows what.  I'll let them know you're here, so get ready for the onslaught."

The priest smiled and walked toward the study as Catherine picked up a phone and punched an intercom button for the pool house.

"Father Mason's here," she told Mark Carson, who happened to answer the phone.

"Tell him to come down," Mark suggested.  "Some of these boys need spiritual counsel."

"No, you guys come up," Catherine said.  "Supper's almost ready."

"What are we having?" Mark asked.

"Tacos and refried beans and salad."

"Outstanding! We'll be right up!" Mark said enthusiastically.  The boys all loved tacos.

Meanwhile, Father Mason was greeting Ian in the study.  The lawyer rose from his chair, and they shook hands left-handed because Ian's right arm was in its sling.  Mason looked deep into Ian's eyes.

"You gave us a bad scare!" he told the attorney.  "I'm so thankful you're all right!"

"God is good," Ian said.

"You're right about that!"

They sat down.

"There's no permanent damage to your shoulder?" the priest asked after they got comfortable.


"Father Blackburn says he read in the paper that you saved Carl's life by pushing him behind you."

"That's probably an exaggeration," Ian said.

"You did push him behind you to keep him from getting hurt, did you not?  That says a lot."

"Yes.  It was just a reflex, though, not heroics."

"I know who you are, Ian, and I admire and respect you for what you did."

Ian just smiled.  "Thank you, Father."

Silence.  It was clear that Ian didn't want to talk further about what he'd done.

"I understand from Kevin that his father's trial is coming up," Mason said.

"Yes, it is."

"Much doubt about the outcome?"

Ian smiled.  "Father, not even I could get Michael Stoltz a not-guilty verdict."

They both laughed at Ian's well earned immodesty.

"I heard that you and Kevin talked this afternoon," Ian said.

"Yes."  Mason didn't elaborate, considering his conversation with Kevin confidential.

Ian didn't press him for information, full well understanding the seal of confidentiality involved.

"Kevin is a great kid, and so is Cam," Ian said, moving on.  "And they're doing a wonderful job with Casey, by the way.  Caring for an infant takes a lot of maturity, and I'm a little surprised that two teenagers like them have what it takes to be good parents at such a young age.  Pleasantly surprised.  They never try to foist Casey off on the rest of us, although there are a lot of volunteers.  Even I love to take care of Casey, and I already did my bit with William and Mark.  Kevin and Cam are naturals at parenting, and they're going to be fine.  I'm going to miss them and that little boy when they move to Los Angeles.  But I plan to spend one day a month in L.A. with them while Alex and John are in England."

"I'm going to miss them, too," Mason said.  "Thank you for all you've done for all these boys.  Your role has been important here."

Just then they heard the thundering hooves of the boys coming up the back stairs from the poolhouse and into the house.  A moment later, Mark Carson poked his head into the study.

"Thank goodness you're here, Father Jim," he said.  "There's been a little misbehavior down in the poolhouse..."  Mark's smiling face suddenly disappeared as someone quickly pulled him back into the hallway, and Cam's face replaced Mark's.

"...but things are just fine now," Cam finished Mark's sentence for him.  "Better than fine, actually."

Ian looked at the priest, grinning.  "Obviously I'm not the only one they look to, Father."

Laughing, the boys all flocked into the study, greeting the priest and then chatting with him and Ian until Catherine looked in and told the guys to wash their hands for supper.  When the boys finished that task, the two men stepped into the bathroom off the study and washed their hands as well, and then followed the troops into the dining room.  Father Mason greeted Mary, Yolanda and Rosa warmly.  Huge platters of fixings for tacos and several mammoth bowls of refried beans and of salad sat on the table, along with pitchers of milk and iced tea.  Mouths began to water.

They all held hands around the table as Mary Carson offered thanks, including in her petition a prayer for the people of New Orleans who were homeless and without proper food.  Ian seated Mary, and Father Jim seated Catherine.  After the adults had served themselves, the boys fell to.  Fifteen minutes later there wasn't a scrap of food left on the table.  Afterwards, Rosa and Yolanda brought out bowls of butter pecan ice cream and cookies for dessert.

They sat around the table talking and letting their food digest for awhile.  Then most of the guys went back down to the poolhouse while Cam fed Casey.  William got the adults to go down, too, and played cards, while Kevin went to the gym and starting calling the guys to come up, two by two, to get back into their exercise routine.

Father Mason didn't go home until 11 p.m., much later than he had planned to stay.  But he'd enjoyed himself.

*  *  *

Dan Emrick didn't know whether he was afoot or on horseback when it came to his own sexuality.  His own uncertainty on that subject led to a rare fight between Cam and Kevin in early August.  Casey was sleeping soundly, and Kevin and Cam had just made love, Kevin on top this time, and satiated for the moment, they lay totally relaxed in each other's arms that night.

"Uh, I have something to ask you," Kevin said.

"And that would be...?"

Dan and Kevin had been in the makeshift gym working out earlier that day.  Under Kevin's tutelage, the younger boy was looking buff, and Kevin appreciated the effort Dan was making.

"Dan asked me, or us, if you'd agree to it, to do him a solid," Kevin told Cam.

Cam pulled Kevin closer to his naked body.  They were entwined as usual, facing one another on their sides, noses almost touching.  Kevin's breath washed over Cam's face, and as usual, it was turning him on for another round of pleasure.

"What does he want?"

"He thinks maybe he's gay."


"He wants to have sex with one of us, or both of us.  Just to see if he really likes it," Kevin said.  "He was really hesitant to ask, but..."

Cam fell silent.  He and Kevin had never been disposed to have sex with other guys, even when opportunities presented themselves to do so as they had from time to time.  For one thing, the two boys were so into each other and had sex with each other daily, and sometimes multiple times when circumstances allowed, that there had been no unfulfilled need driving them in that direction.

"I don't think this is something we want to start doing, is it?" Cam said.  "We already have an understanding about being exclusive!"

"I know we do," Kevin responded.  "I was just wondering if you'd want to make an exception for Dan.  He's a good guy, and he's confused and doesn't know what to do."

"We were all confused at one time," Cam said.  "He can find out his orientation on his own.  Carl did it without any help."

"Well, that's not exactly true.  He had sessions with Dr. Smith for a long time, and finally came to the conclusion he's gay.  He may have started counseling to get over being abused by his dad, but maybe finding out his orientation was the most important thing he learned about himself.  Why should Dan have to go into therapy when his only question is about whether he's gay or not?  It's not a sickness.  We could help answer that question the easy way."

"I love Dan, Kevin," Cam protested.  "We all do.  He's our brother.  But are you willing to let another person, even someone we love, come between us by having sex with one of us?  Even in a good cause?"

"I'm only asking, Cam.  I won't do anything if you don't want me to.  I'm not hot about doing him."  Kevin chuckled.  "You're more than enough for one guy to handle, I can assure you.  But won't you at least think about it for Dan's sake?"


"You do what you want," Cam finally said bluntly.  "I don't own you."

He pulled away from Kevin, and turning over, moved away, facing away from him.

"Common, Cam..." Kevin said.  "Don't be mad.  I only asked."

He put an arm over his partner, but Cam shrugged it off.

"'Common' yourself.  Leave me the fuck alone."

It was the first time they'd ever gone to sleep angry.

The next morning, they eyed each other warily as they showered (alone), Cam first, and got ready for the day.  They barely spoke.  It was Cam's turn to take care of Casey.  He changed the baby's diaper, heated half a bottle of formula, fed it to Casey, and then gave him some baby food.  Kevin came out of the bathroom, damp and gloriously naked.  Cam didn't even look at him.  Putting Casey into his play pen, he pulled down and released the stick on which the mobile was mounted on the rail, so that the birds and planes and other figures on it jumped around, catching Casey's eye.


"Don't fucking talk to me," Cam said quietly but firmly, pulling on a pair of shorts and T-shirt, and walking out of the room.  He went down the back stairs to the kitchen.

"Buenos días, Cam," Rosa said to him.
"¿Cómo estás?"

"Estoy bien." Cam lied.  "¿Y tú?"

"Good," Rosa said, lapsing back into English.  "What you want for breakfast?"

"Uh, how about scrambled eggs with hot sauce?"

"Sí."  Rosa went to the stove as Cam walked to the refrigerator and poured himself a glass of orange juice and sat down in the breakfast nook after collecting some silverware from a kitchen drawer.  A steaming plate of scrambled eggs with a bottle of hot sauce and a plate of toast appeared before the boy like magic. 

"Thanks, Rosa," Cam said.

"Da nada," Rosa said, smiling.

The two collies sat at Cam's feet to see what they could cadge off the boy, but nothing was forthcoming.

Cam ate hungrily, and when he was finished, he rinsed off his dishes and utensils and put them in the dishwasher.  After thanking Rosa again, he called the dogs and went out the back door.  Descending the stairs, he went to the poolhouse, sitting down in a chair in the silence.  The dogs found a spot, curled up, and went to sleep as Cam sat there brooding.

A few minutes later, Kevin was eating his own breakfast in the kitchen when Dan Emrick came downstairs.  The latter raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"I'm workin' on it," Kevin replied to the boy's unspoken inquiry.

After the two boys ate breakfast in silence, Kevin cleared the table in the breakfast nook and filled the dishwasher.

"Have you seen Cam, Rosa?" Kevin asked when he finished.

"He go down to pool," Rosa informed him.

Dan began following Kevin when he started down the back stairs, but Kevin stopped him.  "I need to talk to Cam alone for a few minutes, buddy," he said.  "I'll come up and find you in a little while, okay?"

Dan nodded and went back inside the house as Kevin continued down the stairs and went into the poolhouse.  Cam was sitting there in the dark in a La-Z-Boy.

"We need to talk, and don't be fucking running away from me," Kevin said when it looked as if Cam might get up and leave.

Cam sat back in his chair and looked at Kevin directly as the latter sat down nearby on a folding chair.

"I'm sorry I hurt your feelings," Kevin said.  "That's the last thing I wanted to do."

Cam hesitated.  "I know," he admitted.  "I guess you caught me by surprise."

"If you're dead set against helping out Dan the way he wants, we won't do it.  I won't do it.  You're the center of my life, dude, and that's just the way it's going to stay.  You come first.  I love you more by far than when we first got together, and I'm not going to do anything that will threaten our partnership."

"I know you think I'm acting like a jealous bitch," Cam responded.  "I'm sure you weren't trying to hurt me in wanting to help Dan.  But I do think that you look at the sexual aspect of our relationship differently than I do."

"How so?"

"I don't think of what we do in bed as 'just sex.'  Having sex doesn't totally define the love between us, but it does say something about the way partners feel about each other in comparison to others.  It says, 'You're special.'  Or it should say that.  I know some gay guys are just happy when they get off with someone else, and they don't care much who it's with.  But I've wanted our relationship to be different from a lot of other gay relationships, and I think it has been up 'til now."

Kevin got up from his chair and went to Cam.  "Skooch over," he told him.

Cam moved over in the big chair, and Kevin squeezed in beside him, their bare legs rubbing together.  He pulled Cam's face to his own and gave him a long, gentle kiss on the lips with no resistance from his partner.

"You remember when I took Teri McKee to the senior prom, and the big question was whether I was going to have sex with her or not?" Cam asked.

"Yes.  And I told you before the dance that if you wanted to do it with her, or if you couldn't get out of it and had to do her, it was all right with me.  You do remember that, too, don't you?"

Cam sighed.  "Yeah.  But I didn't do her, even though I had your permission, and the reason I didn't was because I didn't want to damage our relationship in any way.  What we have together means everything to me, Kev."

"I know that.  I feel the same way.  But do you really want to leave Dan's first time with a guy to chance?  I'm scared he'll get fucked by some asshole who doesn't give a shit about him.  And he might even catch something from the guy if the jerk doesn't use protection.  I'm just worried about him.  He's such a good kid..."

Cam was silent, thinking it over.

"If I do it with him just this once, is it a deal breaker for you?" Kevin asked.

Cam was silent again.  "No.  Not if you swear to me that you're not just looking for a new experience with somebody new."

Kevin looked hurt.  "How can you even think that? There's nobody in this world who could make me feel the way you do when we make love.  'Cause that's what it is when we do it, man.  Making love.  Every time.  As cute as Dan is, I don't love him that way, and gettin' it on with an inexperienced kid won't be any thrill, I can assure you.  Not after what I'm used to with you."

Cam's head fell, chin to his chest, and he let out a long sigh.

"All right," he said.  "I don't like it.  But you're right, I don't want Dan to get hurt or catch something."

"We could do it together."

Cam shook his head.  "No way.  I can't.  But I guess you should."

Kevin enfolded him in his arms, and they sat there in silence for a long time.

As it turned out, Kevin didn't have to do a thing about Dan's situation.  A few days later Andy Helder introduced him to a member of the St. Andrew's youth group that he thought might be gay, and the boy was.  Dan and the boy started seeing one another, but it wasn't a long term relationship.  They had sex several times, and that was about it for them.  Dan emerged from the short relationship intact, feeling all right about himself.  And he decided he'd give girls a chance, and that's what worked out for him.

The only casualty from all this was Cam, who was silent about his feelings being bruised even though Kevin had remained faithful.  Cam never mentioned the matter again, but there was a residue of hurt inside him that he didn't know how to deal with.  Seemingly Kevin never had an inkling about that.

*  *  *

The rest of the summer passed by quickly, with Ian soon losing his sling and starting to drive back into the city two or three days a week to his law firm.  Sometimes he would stay overnight in the Carson condo
, now completely renovated and furnished, but Mary and he decided that they would continue to spend most of their time at Catherine's house so as not to take their boys away before school.  They remained concerned about leaving Catherine alone in San Rafael when Cam and Kevin moved south for school.

Lawyers and investigators in his firm soon discovered that Walter Emrick's last will and testament had been drawn up immediately after his wife died, probably a year before the family had begun to seriously disintegrate and Carl had been assaulted.  That will left everything, including the family home and the Cadillac dealership to Carl and Dan.  The boys would be multi-millionaires once the property and the dealership were sold in accordance with their wishes.  At Carl and Dan's behest, the money was put in an irrevocable trust under Ian's control until the boys reached the age of 25.

All the boys swam in the pool, exercised, went to the beach, took a few camping trips, and otherwise enjoyed themselves fully that summer.  Early in the summer, Ian had planned to make all of them get at least part-time jobs, but then decided that given the stresses on them all over the last year, the guys should just be allowed to have fun that summer.  And they did.

William Carson began dating a girl from the St. Andrew's youth group named Emily.  He seemed very happy about it, but didn't choose to share whether the two of them were intimate.  And the guys respected his privacy, and didn't question him about it.

Berto Hernandez also began dating, taking out a young Latina girl named Theresa who was a member of the youth group, too.  Everybody knew Berto was very happy, but once again, didn't ask any embarrassing questions as to whether they were getting it on.  The girl was hot, though, and could hardly keep her hands off Berto when they were together, so chances were, the boys thought, that their bro was getting his ashes hauled on a regular basis.

Berto's uncle, Alejandro Hernandez, Walter Emrick's hitman, was found dead of a drug overdose in the men's room of a sleazy bar in Monterey.  That lifted yet another weight off Berto's and the Carsons' shoulders.  Berto couldn't bring himself to go to the man's funeral, even though the guys in the family said they'd go with him if he wanted to attend.  He didn't.  Ian bought a cemetery plot for the interment so that Alejandro didn't have to be buried in a potter's field.

Carl Emrick went back to Dr. Amanda Smith, the psychiatrist he had seen previously, for about eight sessions to help him clarify his feelings about his father's death.  The effect on him was very positive.  He and Andy Helder did sleepovers at one another's house, but Andy didn't come out to his parents at that time.  Carl and Andy were happy as a couple, and in their sex life, insatiable.  When at the Mackenzies', they often slept down in the pool house when they wanted to make love, which was frequently.  And for them, as with Cam and Kevin, it was indeed "making love" in the midst of their raw passion.

The helmet that Mark Carson had had to wear for so many months after being shot soon became a thing of the past.  He forsook his crewcut for longer hair that covered the scar where the bullet had penetrated his brain.  There had been no loss of brain function, and his mental acuity was excellent, for which the whole extended family was grateful.  He was a sweet and likable kid.  Everybody loved him, and they all just kind of continued their long-standing habit of looking out for him a little bit in daily life.  He, too, started to date girls that summer, but nothing serious developed with any of them.

In July, Catherine received a call from Father John Reilly, S.J., the president of St. Francis University, asking her if she would stop by his office when she was next on campus.  A few days after receiving the call, she did so.  Father Reilly told her that the upcoming academic year would be his last at St. Francis, and that he was being reassigned by the Jesuits to another ministry.  That meant that Catherine wouldn't have his protection from the archdiocese that she had enjoyed for so many years.  Her nemesis, Archbishop John Michaels, had been called to serve in Rome and given a red hat, as Father Reilly and Catherine had predicted he might be.  Unfortunately, the new archbishop of San Francisco was every bit as conservative as his predecessor had been, and was very likely to pursue the archdiocese's vendetta against the more liberal minded professors in Roman Catholic colleges and universities within the see.  Catherine thanked her mentor, and promised to drop by the campus the next week to have lunch with him.

Catherine thought long and hard about what the end of her career at St. Francis after the upcoming year would mean.  Far from panicking or becoming depressed about moving on, though, she thought that with Cam and Kevin gone, it would be the perfect time to start spreading her résumé around in the academic realm and see if she got any bites.  She knew from previous offers she had received to relocate that she was likely to be a "hot" commodity, even internationally.  The only people Catherine told about the prospect of her having to move to another school were Ian and Mary, and they were sworn to secrecy so Cam and Kevin wouldn't worry about her.

Michael Stoltz's trial in federal court for the kidnapping of Casey opened in late July.  It wasn't a long and drawn out affair.  Kevin went to court as a witness under subpoena, and testified truthfully about what had happened at the airport.  He had thought long and hard about his conversations with Father Mason and Cam, and had pretty much banished any feelings of guilt about what his testimony would or would not do to his father.  The case went to the jury in two days, and the jurors came back with a verdict within two hours:  guilty as charged.  After the trial and before sentencing, the judge queried the victim, or in this case, Kevin as a parent, as well as many experts, for sentencing recommendations.  Kevin asked the judge for mercy for his father.  But Michael Stoltz's steadfast refusal to reveal his accomplice in the kidnapping caused him to receive a sentence of 10 years, 7 months in prison, a penalty that most of the family still considered too light a punishment for the crime.  The judge said at sentencing that he took into consideration the defendant's lack of a criminal record and the fact that no weapons were used in committing the crime or ransom demanded.  And that was that.  Kevin and his father had a brief moment before Michael was led away, during which the latter apologized to Kevin for what he had done.  Kevin accepted the apology.  At least I won't have a lack of forgiveness on my conscience, Kevin thought to himself as he left the courtroom.

Finally, the day came for the big move to L.A. for Kevin, Cam and Carl.  During the third week in August, the boys had packed up the things they would need in Los Angeles, and rented a trailer to pull behind the Camaro for the trip.

Kevin, just as much as Cam, grieved leaving Catherine behind.  Their consolation was that Ian and Mary would be close by, and had promised to look after Catherine.

All the boys had a naked swim party the night before Carl, Cam and Kevin were scheduled to leave, and they all had a great time, as always.

The following morning in the driveway, the three boys went to each of their family members, including Rosa and Yolanda, and hugged and kissed them, hiding their sorrow about leaving everybody.  Casey also got a royal farewell, and Dan and Mark were moist eyed about seeing the last of the little guy for a while.  Carl and Andy Helder clung to one another as long as they could, with Andy promising to accompany Ian to L.A. soon for one of the lawyer's monthly trips to see the boys.  Last but not least, Alice and Sam, the border collies, got hugs and a lot of petting from the three guys.  Kevin wept when he said good-bye to Catherine.

Father Mason had stopped by for breakfast after his run that morning so he could say good-bye to Carl, Cam and Kevin.  He knew he would miss them a lot.

After Kevin had strapped the baby carrier to the back seat of the Camaro and put Casey in it, Kevin sat in the back and Cam and Carl in front.  They would trade off driving and watching Casey several times during the day.

The family followed the car down the driveway as Cam drove carefully toward the street.  He looked in the sideview mirror, singling out his mother.  Catherine stopped at the sidewalk as the car picked up speed, her arm raised as she waved good-bye.

Despite looking forward to L.A. and school and the freedom he'd have, Cam's felt silent tears streaming down his cheeks as he drove away.

© 2006 Don Hanratty

This concludes Part One of Belovèd.  The story will resume following a hiatus to recharge my batteries.  I won't be able to stay away from these characters too long, I don't think.  Thanks to all the faithful readers of this story, and to those who have corresponded with me about it.  And finally, thanks to Dan, Mike and Craig, who have proofread and helped me with Belovèd.

All the best to you all.