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


Cam's eyes drifted open as wakefulness segued out of a deep sleep.  He turned his head and looked toward his bed companion, and blinked when he saw a blond, crew cut head on the pillow next to his.  Blue eyes looked back at him instead of the brown eyes he had been expecting..

"Who are you, and what have you done with my Kevin?" Cam asked Carl Emrick.

Kevin's face popped up on the other side of Carl, and he grinned at Cam.  "Hey, man, variety is the spice of life.  You've heard that!"

Cam groaned, putting his hands over his face.  "I don't need no eff 'ing variety."

Kevin climbed over Carl and lay full out on top of Cam, pinning his arms under the covers and kissing his face repeatedly.  "Now, now, don't be surly."  He started pretending to hump Cam.

"I'm not surly," Cam growled.  He turned his head toward Carl.  "Look away for thirty seconds, will ya?" he told the boy.  "That's all the time it takes for Kevin to nut."

Kevin simulated outrage.  "Oh!!  You miserable little shit!" he told Cam.  "After we do it next time, you won't be able to walk!"

"Only if you break my legs."

Kevin laughed and gently kissed his partner's lips, and then raised his head.  "The only reason I take your shit is that I lo-o-o-ve you so much.  I hope you know that."

"Yeah, right.  Now, get the fuck off me, or I'm gonna pee the bed.  And then I will be surly."

Kevin rolled off his partner and stood next to the bed, his boxers all tented out in the front.  "You're no fun, Cameron."

"That's not what you told me at the cabin," Cam said dismissively as he started to get out of bed.  "Are we gonna run today?"

Kevin shrugged.

"Let's skip it," Cam said.  "We need to get on the road if we want to beat most of the L.A. rush hour this afternoon.  So don't fart around and make us get a late start like you usually do, Kevin."

Kevin scowled at his boyfriend, did a quick check on Casey who was still sleeping soundly in his crib, and then headed for the bathroom with Cam right on his heels trying to pinch his partner's ass.  The bathroom door closed.

That left the bed to Carl.  He yawned and snuggled down under the covers again, breathing in the enticing, though fading, male smell of his erstwhile bed mates on the sheets.  He closed his eyes and reflected yet again on how much he missed Andy Helder.  In the bathroom, the toilet flushed, the shower started, and then he heard Kevin and Cam laughing it up as they washed, talking a little loudly over the noise of the bathroom exhaust fan.  He lay there listening to them banter with each other--lovers, yes, but equally as important, two guys who just enjoyed being around each other.  Friends.  Best friends.  Partners.  He was jealous, wanting that kind of relationship for himself.

Carl fell back to sleep, only to be awakened fifteen minutes later when a drop of water fell on his face.  Cam stood over him with a towel wrapped around his waist, his reddish hair still damp.

"Getcher ass up, boy," Cam told him.  "We gotta leave in ten minutes."

"Bullshit!" Carl responded, admiring the boy's upper body through squinted eyes.  Thanks to Kevin's demanding gym regimen, Cam's chest looked muscular and developed by now, more like a wrestler's or swimmer's than a soccer player's.  Great pecs.

"You need to spend more time in the gym," Carl lied to him.  "You look flabby."

"Wrong!" Cam intoned.  He stripped off his towel and used it to dry his hair some more, then walked over to his open suitcase next to the dresser, where he pulled out a clean pair of boxers.  Taking one last swipe between his legs with the towel, Cam stepped into his underwear.  The kid was hung, as Carl had noted on many previous occasions.  His ass was perfect, not a blemish on his skin anywhere, his upper body a V.

Carl reluctantly threw back the bed covers before he got hard from looking at Cam, and went into the bathroom.  Kevin was standing there naked, using a hair drier on his crew cut.  Yet another perfect body, even more muscular than Cam's.  Carl smiled.  No complaints about the scenery around here! he thought.  He stripped off his boxers.

Kevin slapped Carl on the ass as the boy was stepping into the shower after peeing.  "Don't play with yourself in there," Kevin told him, grinning.  "Cam's in a hurry to get on the road."

"Tough shit!" Carl said.

Kevin walked into the bedroom, where Cam was was starting to clean Casey up and change his wet diaper.  Kevin went over to the room's little refrigerator, plucked out a bottle of mother's milk, and went back into the bathroom to put it into the sink.  He left it there with hot water cascading over it.

Finished with his diaper changing task, Cam held Casey in his arms and sat on a bed, crooning to him as Kevin got dressed.  The little boy looked up at Cam expectantly, waiting for his bottle.

"Breakfast is on the way," Cam said to Casey, glancing over at Kevin as the boy pulled on his clothes.  "Look at your daddy, flaunting his body in front of God and everybody.  I hope you're not that kind of boy when you grow up."

Kevin smirked, withholding comment.

Cam retrieved the now-warm bottle of milk from the bathroom, and after testing the temperature on his wrist, sat down in an easy chair and fed Casey.

Kevin fired up his computer to check his mail.  He found separate emails from every one of the guys back in San Rafael, sent also to Cam's and Carl's email addresses, wishing them a safe trip and asking them to start pressuring Catherine, Ian and Mary to let them come down to L.A. soon.  Very soon.  Each email mentioned Casey, and sent the little guy their love.

All the guys except for William Carson had signed their messages with "Your bud," or "Your bro," but William had signed his emails to them, "Love, William."  Macho boy never fails to amaze me, Kevin thought to himself.  No fears about his masculinity there.

When he had finished reading all the messages, Kevin was pleased.  "Check this out," he told Cam as his partner finished feeding their son.  Cam stood up, put a towel on his shoulder, and read the emails over Kevin's shoulder while burping Casey.

"Your uncles all love you," Cam told the little boy as he patted and rubbed his back.
  When the gas was gone, the little guy was a happy camper.

Kevin left the computer on for Carl as Cam finished dressing and Kevin repacked their bag.   Carl read the emails when he emerged from the bathroom and was pleased, too, that the boys at home were thinking about them.

A half-hour later Casey was asleep in his car seat, and the boys were pulling into a Mickey D's drive through for breakfast.  They each had orange juice, coffee, and a Big Breakfast in the car before they hit the road again, feeling good.

They stopped at one more pulloff with an impressive array of rocks in the offshore surf.  Cam took some good pics using the eastern light, setting the camera for the maximum 10.2 megapixels to fully capture the texture of the rocks.  He was enjoying the camera that Alex had bought him in New Orleans more and more.  Almost every picture he took had little quirks and perspectives in composition that marked Cam's developing skills as a photographer.

*  *  *

Carl drove after breakfast, and following Cam's directions, stayed on Rt. 1 to San Luis Obispo, and then followed 101 after the two highways crossed.  They were now traveling some distance away from the coast, but this road was mostly four lanes, and they made better time.  At lunchtime they stopped at a Subway and ate subs with chips, all washed down with root beer.  Kevin fed Casey again.

Staying on Rt. 101 for most of the afternoon, they hit Rt. 1 again at El Rio and took that road south and then east along the Malibu coast.  The road was now called the Pacific Coast Highway.

It was noticeably warmer and more humid now, and they opened the windows of the Camaro wide to stay cool.  Kevin was driving, and Cam and Carl both sat in the back seat playing games on their phones to pass the time.  The boys beat the height of rush hour on the Pacific Coast Highway by a little, but traffic still moved slowly until they finally reached the right turnoff for entry to the service road leading to Alex and John's house.

Cam identified himself to a guard and explained that Alex MacKenzie had left keys for him.  The man searched his board on the wall holding multiple clumps of keys, and with a smile handed him keys and a garage door opener to Alex's house.  They pulled away, the trailer dutifully following.

Kevin drove slowly down the road.

"The Okies have arrived," he said, gesturing with his thumb back toward the trailer.  "Little do the neighbors know that this neighborhood has just gone to hell."

"Elitist prick," Cam said, laughing.  "It's a good thing Ian or Mary didn't hear you malign the Okies like that.  You'd get 'the look.'"

"Yeah," Kevin said.  He pulled carefully across Alex's wide driveway in front of the door of what looked from the outside like a two car garage.  But as Kevin remembered, it was deep enough to take two cars, one in front of the other, on each side.  Shifting the four-on-the-floor into reverse, Kevin turned the car off and let out the clutch, exhaling a big breath, glad the trip was over.  Cam reached over the front passenger seat and opened the door of the car to let some breeze in, and began unstrapping Casey's car seat.  Kevin got out of the car, and Carl followed him, climbing out of the back seat.

The moment was nearing when Kevin would discover his long lost Mustang, and Cam tried to hide how excited he was for his partner.  He pressed the garage door opener, and the door rose to reveal three vehicles in the garage, two of them under a car cover.  The one with the low profile, Cam knew, was the red Porsche convertible, Alex's pride and joy; the uncovered one was John's SUV, white and brand new from the looks of it; and the third had to be Kevin's Mustang.  That medium sized lump under the car cover just had to be the Mustang.

"Three cars?" Kevin questioned.  "Did Alex and John get a third car?"

Cam handed Casey to Carl.  "I dunno.  Let's check."  He walked over to what he was almost sure was the Mustang, and threw back the cover halfway.  There sat a light brown Mustang, the hood shiny as a new dime.

Cam swung around and looked at Kevin, who was standing there in a state of suspended animation, stunned, hardly breathing, with his eyes glued to the car.  He couldn't speak at first.  Cam, smiling bigtime, watched his partner.

"Oh, my Lord," Kevin finally squeaked, walking over to the car and touching the roof.  "Is this...?"

"Yeah," Cam said.  "It's yours.  Alex bought it from the Ford dealer in San Rafael when you sold it to give Heather money for school."

Kevin's eyes were moist when he turned, walked up to Cam, and picking him up off the ground, whirled him around until they were both dizzy before returning him to his feet.  Kevin kissed his partner's face.

Carl looked confused.  "What's going on?" he asked.

"This was Kevin's Mustang before you came to live with us," Cam explained.  "He sold it after he got beaten up so he could get college money for Heather, Casey's mother.  The car had been damaged when Heather's brothers beat Kevin up, and Alex bought it after it was fixed and had it shipped down here for Kevin to drive at school."

"God is good," Kevin said simply, looking at Cam.  "Now I'm gonna have to be a better person."

"Not possible," Cam said, laughing.

Kevin went back to the car, and with Cam's help, gently stripped the rest of the car cover off the Mustang.  The car gleamed in the light reflected from the driveway.  Kevin opened the door, and climbed into the driver's seat, putting his hands on the wheel.  Cam walked to the back of the car, and noticed that the license tags were current.  Good on Alex, Cam thought to himself.

"I need to call Alex," Kevin said, looking at his watch.

"Tomorrow morning," Cam suggested, consulting his own watch.  "They're eight hours ahead of us in London, so it's one in the morning over there."

"Okay," Kevin said, sliding his hands around on the steering wheel.  "I wonder if the battery's charged."

"We'll get the keys from inside and try it in a few minutes," Cam said, peering inside the passenger compartment.  "But the dome light's on and the dash clock's running," he said, "so I think it's ready to roll."

"You knew it was here all this time, didn't you?" Kevin asked.

"Yeah," Cam admitted.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"My daddy told me not to," Cam said.  "And the Bible says we're supposed to obey our father and mother, so..."

"I'm glad you're finally complying with that," Kevin said.  "I don't know how I'll ever pay Alex back for this," he added.

"Alex loves you, Kev.  He's not looking for payback," Cam told him.

"I know that.  I love you, man," Kevin said, looking up at his partner.

"I didn't have anything to do with this," Cam protested.

"You've had something to do with almost every good thing that's ever happened to me," Kevin said.

The boys admired the car for another few minutes before collecting their suitcases from the Camaro and going inside to start getting settled.

*  *  *

The house was hot when they went inside, and the first thing Cam did was to adjust the thermostat so that the air conditioning began cranking out cold air.  The place was immaculate.  Carl toured and admired the layout and the view of the Pacific, and then began to snicker.

"The place is spiff," he said.  "I be guessin' this won't last long."

"I don't care how messy it gets, as long as everything's in order when Alex and John walk in the door next time they come home," Cam said.

"Pray for a miracle," Carl said.

"You better hope it's clean, or you're gonna hafta strip to your skivvies and scrub the floor on your knees," Kevin told Carl.

"Why me?" Carl asked.

" 'Cause you're a wrestler wimp.  That's reason enough." Kevin said.

"Not even!  I'll put a fuckin' wrestling hold on you that'll make you cry," Carl dissed him back, laughing, giving him the finger.  "Then you'll be doing the cleaning."

When all of their stuff was out of the Camaro, Kevin put Casey, still in his car seat, in the kitchen so they could see him as they went in and out, unloading the trailer.

When they were finished, Carl sat down on the stairs and called, who else, Andy Helder.  Carl talked quietly, but after a pause in their conversation, Cam heard Carl say, "I love you, man.  I miss you like hell already," and then Carl listened in silence for awhile.  They hung up, and Carl said that he'd call Andy again later.

Savoring the moment, Kevin found the keys to the Mustang on the key rack in the kitchen, and the three boys went back into the garage.  Kevin climbed behind the wheel again, inserted the ignition key, and the car fired right up, the exhaust murmuring softly at idle when Kevin wasn't revving the engine.

"Sweet!" Kevin said, shutting the car off.  "We'll have to take a ride later."

"Yep," Cam said as he and Carl nodded.

When they went back into the kitchen, Kevin found a note from John on the counter saying that Carl could use John's new Toyota Highlander SUV whenever he needed a car.  It was a hybrid, the note said, and the "keys" were on the key board.  As Carl subsequently found out, you didn't need keys to unlock this car or fire up the motor--two motors, actually:  one gas and one electric.  All you had to do to get into the car when it was locked was put your hand on the door handle, and the door unlocked in response to radio waves from a little pod you had to carry in your pocket.  The ignition was a button on the dashboard that operated on the same principle.

At supper time, the boys decided to go into Santa Monica for pizza.  They took the Mustang naturally, with Casey buckled into his car seat as usual.  The Mustang purred along the Coast Highway into town with Kevin wearing a big smile all the way.  They parked the car at a pizza parlor where Cam and Kevin had once eaten the last time they'd visited Alex and John.  They ordered a large and a medium pizza, both thin crust, with everything, and it was excellent.  Kevin was still high from finding his long lost Mustang, and talked a mile a minute, joshing with Cam and Carl and loving on Casey between bites of pizza and slurping a huge cup of coke.  He was one happy boy, and that made Cam and Carl happy, too.

When they were finished, they drove around Santa Monica for a few minutes before heading for home.  Kevin pulled into Alex's garage carefully, and after he cut the engine, leaned forward and kissed the steering wheel.

"I thought you were long gone," he told the car.

Cam and Kevin had taken the same bedroom they had stayed in when they visited Alex and John before, and Carl took the bedroom right next door.  Casey was sleepy, so Kevin checked the boy's diaper--it was dry--and put him in his crib.  The child closed his eyes and was asleep in no time under a light blanket.

All five bedrooms, including the master bedroom, opened on to the upper deck, facing south toward Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific.  The view was as spectacular as Cam and Kevin had remembered.  It was a beautiful night, so the three boys went out on the deck and sat down.  The sky was unusually clear for an L.A. night, and the stars were bright despite the glow from L.A.  There was just a sliver of moon, and a warm, soft breeze off the ocean caressed them as they sat talking.

"I do like this weather," Cam said.

"Yeah," Kevin agreed.  "It'll be great until we have brush fires and a Santa Ana wind."

"If that happens, we'll take Casey and run into the surf," Carl suggested.

"How will we get the Camaro and the Mustang into the water?" Cam wondered out loud.

"Good question," Kevin said.  "I'd hate to lose that car so soon after it came back into my life."

"When are we going down to UCLA?" Carl asked, changing the subject.  "I want to get oriented a little bit before registration."

"We already know your orientation," Kevin quipped.

Carl laughed.

"I remember a little bit about the campus from when we were down here before," Cam said.  "But maybe we can get some maps at the admissions office or off the internet."

They continued to talk about school until Carl yawned and then stood up.

"I need to hit the rack," he said.  "By the way, I took the bedroom next door to yours so I can listen to you two go at it every night," Carl told Cam and Kevin.  "I'm going to record you guys and sell it as a sound track for gay porn movies."

"Perv!" Cam said.

"You're a perv!" Carl responded.

"Well yeah!!  But I'd prefer you didn't say that out loud," Cam said.

"Carl, you have to pay us a fee if you want to listen to us have sex," Kevin chimed in.  "A stiff fee, so to speak.  And we get a cut of the profit on the sound track."

"Let the negotiations continue," Carl said, laughing.  "See you tomorrow.  What time are we gonna run?"

Cam looked at Kevin.  "You want me to stay with Casey so you and Carl can run together?"

"You stayed with him at the cabin.  So you and Carl run first, and then I'll run when you get back," Kevin said.

"Okay.  How about seven o'clock, Carl?  It'll still be cool then, I hope."

"Yeppers," Carl said to Cam.  "Wake me up."


" 'Night, buddy," Kevin said.

Kevin and Cam sat on the deck for a few more minutes before they went inside.  Casey was still sleeping quietly when they went into their bedroom.  Cam cut off the upstairs air conditioning so they could leave the sliding door of the room open to the ocean breeze.  They stripped down, cleaned their teeth, and hit the bed.  Unlike the last time they had slept in that giant bed, when each of the them had occupied a far edge of the mattress, they climbed in together on one side.

Kevin pulled Cam close to him, flesh to flesh.  They were both horny, but instead of having sex right away, they just lay on their sides facing one another in the darkness, their sweet-smelling breath commingling, a soft wind off the water billowing the curtains, the surf murmuring down on the beach.

"Cameron?" Kevin whispered.


"I love you so much I can hardly talk about it."

Kevin's words caught Cam by surprise.  "I know.  You know I feel the same," Cam said.

"If it weren't for you and your family, though, I think I'd be in big trouble by now.  I think I'd be miserable, and feel alone, no matter who I was fucking or how good the sex was, boy or girl, if it weren't for you.  I don't even want to think what it would have been like if I'd married Heather for Casey's sake.  I'm just grateful to be here with you right now, this minute.  I want it to last forever."

"First of all, as far as family is concerned, we're talking about our family, bud.  You're as much a part of it as I am.  You and Casey are my life.  I think about you all the time.  24/7, if that's possible.  When it comes to our sex life, it's more than just sex whenever we do it, y'know.  I've always wanted to make you feel good in bed no matter who's doing what, and that's why it's so great for me.  For you, too, I hope.  Being with you is like being with my best self."  Cam smiled in the dark.  "And we will be together forever, because if you even think about splitting up, I'll stalk you no matter where you go."

Cam felt his partner's chest moving as the boy chuckled silently.  Kevin took Cam's face in his hands, and kissed him gently and repeatedly.

Minutes later, burrowing under the sheet and light blanket on the bed, Kevin turned around in bed until he was facing Cam's groin.  He fondled his lover's penis and balls until Cam was hard, and then impaled his face on the boy's dick until it was totally down his throat.  He felt Cam responding and then reciprocating on his own body.  Of one mind, they lay there unmoving, holding each other in that snug cocoon of mouth and throat as the precum eventually began leaking, each of them then pulling back a little to taste the sweetness in his mouth.

They were gentle with one another, and they lasted twenty-five minutes before they came.  When their equipment finally softened afterward, Kevin turned around and faced Cam.  Each of them could feel his partner's now soft cock and balls pressing into his body, and even after sex, that felt good.  Nose to nose they kissed, mingling their essence until they eventually fell asleep in each other's arms.

*  *  *

Cam pulled on his boxers and went to Carl's bedroom the next morning at 6:45, knocked gently and then opened the door.  Carl was lying on his back, sporting a big woody that put an obvious bulge in the covers.  This boy is a healthy, horny young jock, and is missing his boyfriend, Cam confirmed to himself.

"Getcher ass up, dude!" Cam said.  "Time to run."

Carl's eyes popped open, and he rubbed them sleepily.  "Oh shit, I'm tired," he said.

"Do you see tears in my eyes?  Do you see any pity?  Don't whine! Get the fuck up!  Let's go!"  Cam was in a good mood, and still all revved up following his and Kevin's session in bed the night before.

Carl mumbled something, and threw the covers back, sitting on the edge of the bed for a minute with his feet on the floor.

Cam walked out and went back next door, where he went into the bathroom and emptied his bladder.  Stripping off his boxers, he put on a clean jock and running shorts and then his running shoes and socks.  Before going downstairs, he went over to the bed and kissed Kevin on the forehead, and left him and Casey still sawing wood.  He snagged a bottle of water out of the refrigerator in the kitchen and drank a few swallows of it as Carl joined him in his running clothes, still looking sleepy.  Cam handed him the bottle.

"Drink a little of this.  Not too much, though."

"Yes, Master," Carl said.  "You're awful fucking bossy for so early in the morning."

"You got that shit right!  Kevin and I brought you down here to take orders, bro!  Your character needs work."

"Good luck with that!"  Carl took the bottle, took a couple of swallows, and poured the residue down the sink.

"You wasted that water," Cam said accusingly.  "Don't you care anything about our precious natural resources?"

"I do.  But after you have had your mouth on the bottle, only people who've built up an immunity to your particular diseases, like myself, could touch it and live."

"Hummph," Cam snorted, bested for once in that little conversation.  "Let's roll."

They went out on to the deck in the watery sunshine to do their stretches.  The air was warm and damp even at that early hour.  Ten minutes later they were down at ocean's edge on the hard packed sand, working their way up to a good pace.

At intervals they passed probably twenty people who were running, most of them young males, as they ran along.  Behind their sunglasses, the two boys checked out everybody they passed, concentrating, of course, on the guys.

"We have pretty neighbors," Carl said of the boys they passed.

Cam laughed.  "You little poufter!"

"Uh huh.  Thank goodness I'm running with someone of like persuasion."

Cam grabbed Carl around the neck for a split second and kissed the side of his head.

"What was that for?"

" 'Cause I love ya, bud, even when you annoy me.  Which is most of the time, I might add."

Carl grinned, and they picked up the pace a little.

When they had reached what Carl thought was approximately the two-mile mark, he looked at Cam and pointed back in the direction of the house, now just a smudge on the horizon in the moist air.  The guys wheeled around and headed back.

"Where's William's pedometer when we need it?" Carl said.

"We hafta grocery shop today," Cam said.  "We'll stop at Brookstone or someplace and buy some for ourselves."

" 'K," Carl said.

When they arrived back home, Cam noticed that the latticework which shielded the area under the first floor deck was loose near the stairs.  He made a mental note to find a hammer and nails on the little worktable in Alex's garage later and fasten it down.  They went inside.

Kevin was up and dressed in his running clothes, and walking Casey around in the den.

"Look at that boy walk!" Carl said.

"Yeah, precocious, just like his daddy," Cam said.

"Kevin's precocious?" Carl said skeptically.  "You gotta be kidding."

"I was talking about me, shithead!" Cam said.

"You guys are a laugh riot," Kevin opined.  "Can I go for my run now?"

"Well, uh..." Cam said, looking at Carl.  "Whadda you think, Carl?"

"Well..." Carl responded, sounding uncertain.

"If this is how life is gonna be with you two, I'm gettin' in the 'Stang and goin' back to San Rafael," Kevin said.  "Mommy and everybody will be more than glad to see me."

"All right," Cam said, taking over Kevin's duty with Casey, "getcher ass out on the beach!  Step it up for a change, and we'll have time to stop and get breakfast on the way to shop for groceries."  He kissed Kevin on the cheek.

"Get away, you stink!" Kevin said, grinning, and he left for the back deck to do his stretches, feeling good.

"Why don't you shower first, Carl, and then you can watch Casey while I shower," Cam suggested as he continued to walk Casey around the den.

"You got it, dude."  Carl headed upstairs as Cam continued to walk Casey around the room.  The little guy was talking, but there was still nothing intelligible coming out of his mouth.  It won't be too far down the road, though, Cam thought to himself, and he'll be telling us what's up.

Ten minutes later Casey was starting to flag, and Cam scooped him up and took him upstairs to his and Kevin's bedroom to change a damp diaper and put him down for a nap.  Carl walked into the room just then, looking clean and refreshed.

"Good," Cam said, "you're just in time to change Casey so I can shower."

"I could do that," Carl said, "but why don't you do it?  You like the smell of shit, or you wouldn't be Kevin's partner."

Cam acted outraged.  "I'm tellin' Kevin what you said the minute he gets back, boy.  You've gone too far now."

Carl snickered.  "Give me the baby, asshole.  Somebody has to be the adult here."

Cam handed Casey over, and began to strip off articles of his clothing as he walked toward the bathroom.  His jockstrap was last to go, and Cam threw it back at Carl.  It landed at the boy's feet.  Carl resisted the temptation to pick it up and smell it.

When Cam finished his shower and walked back into the bedroom, Casey had been changed and was in his crib, his eyes just starting to close.  Carl was sitting on the bed, and eyed Cam as he shucked off his towel and went over to the dresser and pulled some boxers out of a drawer and bent over to pull them. Lean and muscled.  Fucking beautiful, Carl thought to himself, and then he thought about Andy and his athletic body.  I don't know how I'm going to stand being away from him, especially when I have to look at Cam and Kevin all the time.  Shit!

The two boys were sitting in the den watching a morning newscast on Alex and John's big flat screen when Kevin came back.

"Where's Casey?" he asked.

"Asleep in his crib," Cam said.

"Okay.  Hey, did you notice that the lattice on the back deck is loose.  We need to nail it down."

"I saw that," Cam said.  "We'll do it when we come back from getting groceries.  Hurry up and shower, and bring Casey down when you come back.  We can still make the 10 o'clock deadline for breakfast at Mickey D's if you get a move on.  When we get back, you'll probably want to call Alex."

"Yep," Kevin said, and took the stairs two at a time as he headed up.

Ten minutes later he was back, still unshaven and his hair damp, carrying Casey who was still sleeping.  Five minutes after that they were in the Mustang heading toward the Coast Highway.  They stopped at the first McDonald's they came to just before 10 a.m., and ate breakfast.  Kevin fed Casey a little piece of egg from a Big Breakfast, and the baby ate it up.

"Wait'll Casey gets on solid food," Cam told Kevin.  "I'll be delegating diaper changes to you and Carl at that point.  Sweet!"

He got scowls in return.

They did their grocery shopping then, and practically bought out the place.  There was a Brookstone in the mall there, and Cam ran inside and bought three pedometers.  They headed home, and unloaded the groceries and put them away.  There were lots of steaks and fish, packaged potatoes and other vegetables for making quick meals, fruit, a variety of cookies, and even a few frozen dinners for when they felt really lazy.  Several gallons of ice cream went right into the freezer.

There had been a flyer on the back door beside the garage when they'd arrived home.  They'd unloaded the car through the garage, but Cam eventually went to the door and retrieved the paper.  There was a picture under a huge black MISSING header, and Cam recognized the person pictured immediately.  It was Jeff Miller, the next door neighbor kid he and Kevin had partied with the last time they'd visited Alex and John, when they had gotten on Alex's shit list for getting drunk and smoking weed.  This was the same guy John had warned them not to let into the house because he was supposedly hooked on meth.  Jeff was pictured with a beard, but his shoulder length blond hair was in corn rows and he looked handsome.  The flyer gave his particulars, and along with a phone number, said, "Contact Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office."  They put the flyer aside for the moment.

"You have Alex's phone number?" Kevin asked Cam when they were finished stocking up the kitchen.  It was a little after noon, so Alex and John were probably eating supper over in London.

"Oh, yeah."  Cam said as he pulled his phone off his belt and handed it to his partner.  The phone number was English and looked weird the way it was segmented, Kevin noted as he selected it and pressed the "Send" button.  He pressed the phone to his ear, waiting as the call went to satellite and was then beamed back to earth across the Atlantic.

"MacKenzie," he heard Alex's voice say.  Kevin heard the murmur of a crowd in the background.  He and John must be in a restaurant, he thought to himself.

"Dad, this is Kevin," the boy said.  "Can you talk for a minute, or is this a bad time?"

"Kevin!" Alex said enthusiastically.  "It's so good to hear your voice!  This is a good time!  Are you in Malibu?"

"Yes, sir.  We got in yesterday afternoon."

"Good.  Everything okay?" Alex asked.

"More than okay!  I nearly fell over when I found the Mustang in the garage!  You didn't have to do that," Kevin said.

"I know.  Well, you've weathered some real challenges this last year or so, and John and I thought maybe you'd like to have the 'Stang back as a little incentive to get a good start in school."

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate it, Dad," Kevin said.  "I'm very grateful."

"Well, you're welcome," Alex said.  "How's Casey doing?"

"He's fine.  Growing all the time.  I'd let you talk to him, but he's only making sense to himself so far."

Alex laughed.  "I wish I could hold him right now.  You want to say 'hi' to John?"


John came on the line.  "Hey, Kev, how's it going?"

"Great!  Thanks for the car!"

"That was all Alex's work, but I think it was a good idea."

"Well, I appreciate it," Kevin said.  "I miss having you around so I can run your flabby ass into the ground out on the beach, old man."

"I can tell you're as deluded as ever," John said.  "Anyway, glad you're down in L.A.  I wish we could see you."

"Me, too.  I hope you can come back soon, even if it's only for a few days.  You wanna talk to Cam and Carl?" Kevin asked.

"We both do," John said.  "Put 'em on."

Kevin handed the phone to Cam.  "It's John," he whispered.

"Blimey, John, 'ow goes it?" Cam said, affecting an Cockney accent.

John laughed.  "Things are good," he said.  "We've pretty much got our locations lined up so we can start shooting the movie."

"Excellent!" Cam said.  "Are you keeping Alex in line?"

John laughed.  "Yeah.  It's tough duty, but somebody has to do it.  He seems to like England an awful lot for a Scotsman.  Treasonous, doncha know!  You want to talk to him?"

"Sure," Cam said.  "Listen, thanks for your hospitality.  We appreciate it.  I hope you're workin' out every day over there so you won't be fat when you come back to the States.  That would be such an embarrassment.  You guys get your asses home as soon as you can, okay?"

"Will do, buddy.  Here's your dad."

"Cameron," Alex said.  "How are you?"

"Missing you and John, Dad," Cam said.  "I hope we can see you soon."

"It'll be a while," Alex said.  "We haven't shot one frame yet.  But I'm glad you're in Malibu."

"We are, too.  By the way, I'm using the Nikon you bought me more and more.  I even take pictures of Kevin, and you know how hard that is on a camera."

Kevin smiled and shook his head.

"I know," Alex said, laughing.  "You may have to use a filter to buffer the lens a bit."

"Good thought," Cam said.  "The darker, the better.   By the way, thanks for what you did for Kevin.  He nearly fell on his butt when he saw that car."

"I wish I'd been there to see his face," Alex said.

"You'd have loved it!  Listen, you wanna talk to Carl?"

"I sure do.  Put him on."

Cam passed the phone over to Carl.

"Hello, Mr. MacKenzie," Carl said.  "I just want to thank you for letting me stay here at your house this year.  It's a beautiful place, by the way."

"Thanks.  You're family, buddy," Alex said.  "We're glad you're there.  Are you doing all right?"

"Yes, sir.  I'm good," Carl said.

"Excellent," Alex said.  "Hang in.  Work hard in school.  Let's stay in touch.  I'm looking forward to seeing you when we get a chance to come home for a visit.  Now, say hello to John."

The phone was passed.

"Hello, Carl," John said.  "Glad you made it to L.A. all right.   Are you going to be able to keep Cam and Kevin in line?"

"No problem.  They're such wusses when a real jock like myself confronts them on anything.  They're used to taking orders.  But then, you know all that."

John chuckled delightedly.  "I do know that," he said.  "Keep up the good work."

"I will," Carl said.  "Come on back as soon as you can, though.  I can always use some help.  Listen, Cam wants to talk to Alex again."

"Okay, buddy, take care.  Hope to see you before too long," John said.  "I'll  put Alex on."

"Dad?" Cam said.

"I'm here."

"Listen, I just wanted to check with you.  We're trying to get Catherine and the Carsons to bring all the boys down from San Rafael sometime soon.  Maybe over a long Labor Day weekend.  Is that all right with you?"

"Of course," Alex said.  "That sounds like a good idea.  I wish we could be there, too, but I don't think we can.  Have a good time.  And have a good time in school, but not too good.  You know what I mean."

"I know exactly what you mean.  Thanks for everything, Dad.  We all love you both."

"Same here," Alex said.  "Tell Kevin and Carl we love them.  Stay in touch!"

"Will do.  Bye, Dad."  Cam slipped the phone shut.  His eyes looked a little moist.

Kevin put an arm around his partner and kissed his cheek.  "I know you miss 'em, dude.  But let's just be thankful we're here.  We have a great year ahead of us."

"I know it," Cam admitted, kissing the side of Kevin's head.

They fixed some lunch meat sandwiches and soup for a late lunch, and sat around the table in the breakfast nook talking and looking out the window at the beach, which always seemed to have people on it.

Carl cleared the lunch dishes and put them in the dishwasher.  Kevin looked at Cam.

"Let's check Alex's workbench and see if we can find a hammer and nails.  I wonder if the wind might have loosened that latticework on the front deck."

Cam shrugged, and he and Kevin headed for the garage, where they found a hammer and some nails in short order.

"I'm gonna take Casey upstairs and put him down," Cam said to Kevin.  "Do you think you can pound a nail without hurting yourself?"

"Maybe," Kevin said.  "But have the EMT's standing by, will ya?"

Cam snorted derisively, picked up Casey, and headed upstairs while Kevin walked to the sliding door to the deck and went outside.  It had clouded up outside since they'd run earlier that morning, and it was hot.  He walked down the stairs and over to the loose lattice.  Before he nailed it down, he pulled it back and looked under the deck.  He thought he saw something huddled back in the darkest corner.  He wasn't sure what it was, though, so he mounted the steps and retrieved a flashlight that Alex kept plugged into an electrical outlet just inside the door, and went back down the stairs.  Pulling back the lattice again, he shined the light under the deck.

He'd been right.  There was something back in the corner.  Something with eyes.  A human something.

"You!  Getcher ass up and get out here," Kevin said sternly.  Cupping his hands around his mouth, he shouted for Cam toward the open sliding door of their room on the second floor.  Cam came to the bedroom door and walked out on to the upstairs deck.

"Commere, dude!" Kevin said.  "Somebody's under this deck!"

Cam went back inside and ran down the inside stairs and out on to the first floor deck, jumping down to join Kevin on the sand.  Kevin stuck his head behind the lattice again, and saw the shadowy figure crawling toward him under the deck.  Kevin bent back the lattice, and whoever it was crawled out.

It was Jeff Miller who stood before them, now a dirty, disreputable shadow of his former self.  He was wearing a shabby tweed topcoat with holes in it, impregnated with sand, and a filthy white T-shirt.  His coat had no buttons, and when it swung open, Cam and Kevin saw he was wearing muddy khaki cargo shorts with no belt.  His hands, face and hair were dirty, and his wispy blond beard and mustache had sand and dirt in them.

"Jeff?" Cam said unbelievingly.  "Is that you?"  He moved back a step from the rank smell of urine and sweat emanating from the apparition.

Jeff nodded his head.  "Yeah," he said.

"What the fuck's happened to you?" Kevin asked.

The boy looked at the ground and didn't answer.

"Do your parents know you're over here?" Cam asked.

Jeff shook his head, once again saying nothing.

Carl had come out on to the deck, and was staring down skeptically at the creature standing with Cam and Kevin.

"We got a flyer today that said we're supposed to contact the L.A. sheriff if we see you," Cam said.

"Please don't do that," Jeff said in a gravelly voice.

"Are you wanted?" Cam asked.

"No.  I'm just missing.  I didn't do anything wrong."

"Why aren't you living next door with your folks?" Kevin asked.

"They threw me out," Jeff said.  "I went through rehab a couple of times and couldn't stick with the program.  So I don't blame my parents for kicking my ass out."

"What's your drug?" Kevin asked.

"Meth, mostly.  But I'll use anything I can get."

Kevin groaned.

"Let me see your teeth," Cam ordered.

Jeff opened his mouth.  He still had all his front teeth.  But they were gray now, no longer the beautiful mouthful of white teeth he'd had the last time Cam had seen him.  Yeah, meth use does that to teeth, Cam thought to himself, remembering information from a drug prevention class he'd taken in school.

"Well, shit," Kevin said.  "What do we do now?  You know what John said about not letting Jeff in the house."

"I remember," Cam said.  "But John and Alex aren't here right now.  So let me think for a minute, will you please?"

They all stood there silently, awkwardly, in the sand for several long minutes.  Kevin and Carl looked at Cam, and Cam stared at his feet.

"All right," Cam finally said, "sit Jeff down on the deck and get him some water.  I'll be back as soon as I can."  He turned and went toward the gate to the beach, and then walked toward the Miller house next door.

Jeff panicked.  "Cam, please don't tell them I'm here.  I don't want them to see me like this."

Cam stopped, and then walked back to the gate.

"I won't tell them unless they seem receptive.  I'm just going to talk to them about the flyer we got on you, and see what they have to say about your situation."

Cam continued his walk over to the Miller's gate, went in and up the stairs to the deck, and knocked on their sliding door.  Mr. Miller slid back the door.

"Yes?" he said.

"Mr. Miller, you probably don't remember me, but I'm Cam MacKenzie, Alex's son.  Me and a couple of guys will be living next door while we attend UCLA this year."

"Oh, yes, Cam.  I remember you," Sean Miller said.  "What can I do for you?"

"I just wanted to get the scoop on Jeff.  We found a flyer on our door about him when we got back from shopping today, and wondered why he's missing."

Mr. Miller, looking every bit of a year older since Cam had seen him last, but still a handsome man, stepped back from the door, and motioned for Cam to go in.  Cam stepped inside, and Miller slid the door closed.  The room was a beautiful study, full of antiques and memorabilia from Sean's career in show business.

"Cam, I don't know whether you met my wife Susan when you were here before.  Susan, this is Cam MacKenzie."

A pretty, black haired, diminutive woman seated in a leather chair stretched out her hand, and Cam went over and shook it.

"Hello, Mrs. Miller."

"How do you do, Cam?" Susan Miller said with a smile.

"Fine, thanks," Cam said.  "I'm sorry to bother you, but we got a flyer on our door today about Jeff, and wondered what's going on with him.  We spent some time with him the last time we came down here to see my dad and his partner."

"I know you did," Sean Miller said drily.  "Your dad came over here and reamed me a new one about Jeff and you guys partying.  I wish now I'd listened more closely to what Alex said back then."  Miller motioned toward a chair, and Cam sat down, waiting for the man to continue.

"This is a sad story," Miller said.  "The long and the short of it is that six months ago we began to notice things missing from the house, and came to find out that Jeff was stealing them and selling them to get money for his drug habit.  He's hooked on meth, although if he can't get that, he'll use something else.  We tried to get him to go to rehab, but he refused until we had him arrested, and he had to go as a condition of probation.  He left the first program he was in after a month, but the court was lenient and put him in another facility.  He completed the program and was discharged from probation, but started using again, we believe.

"We don't think we can trust him to live back here at home, and he's nowhere to be found," Miller continued.  "That's why we filed a missing person report with the L.A. sheriff's office to see if we can find him.  To tell you the truth, I don't know what we'll do with him if we do find him.  I don't think that sending him back to rehab is the answer--he's still an addict after two tries."

Susan Miller was weeping silently, and put her hand over her eyes so Cam couldn't see it.

"I don't know what to say," Cam said.  "From what I read, sometimes it takes two or three trips or more to rehab before a person can kick whatever their habit is.  Uh, are you giving up on him?"

"If you're implying we haven't done everything we can," Miller said with a flash of anger, "you're flat out wrong about that."

Cam wasn't intimidated.  "I'm not implying that at all," he said.  "I think you've done what you could so far.  But from what you're saying, the job isn't done yet.  Are you willing to support him if you find him and he agrees to go back to rehab?"

"His track record is terrible.  At fifty grand a month, I don't know that I am willing to throw good money after bad," Sean Miller said.  "I'm already out a hundred and fifty thousand dollars."

"That's a lot of money," Cam said slowly.  "I understand that."  He paused.  "You're a celebrity.  I just hope that when Jeff's found, somebody in the sheriff's office doesn't leak to the media that you're writing him off."

Cam had hit a nerve.

"I resent that!" Miller said, standing up.  "I don't know how you can even say that!  Get your ass out of here."

"I apologize if I spoke out of turn," Cam said.  "But you know how the media are once some show like 'Entertainment Tonight' gets hold of something about a celebrity's kid.  I'm thinking about your reputation."

Miller glared at him, saying nothing.

Cam stood and walked over to Susan Miller, and looked down at her.

"I'm sorry this has happened to Jeff and your family, Mrs. Miller."

The woman took her hand away from her face, and looked at Cam.

"Thank you, Cam.  I just hope the sheriff finds him alive."

"Yes, m'am," Cam said, turning back around.  "Mr. Miller, thanks for your time.  I'm sorry I made you angry."

Sean Miller waved his hand dismissively, and walked to the sliding door and opened it, motioning Cam through it..

"If you see Jeff, please call the sheriff's office," Miller said.

"Do you want me to let you know first if we come across him?  He may come back to familiar territory."

Miller looked back into the room at his wife.  She nodded.

"Yes, let us know," Miller said.

"All right," Cam said.

Cam walked back next door, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his cargo shorts.  Deep in thought, he mounted the steps to Alex's deck where Jeff, Kevin and Carl were sitting.

"Well?" Kevin said.

"Not my finest hour," Cam said.

"Whaddaya mean?" Kevin asked.

"I tried to get Jeff's dad to agree to send him back to rehab, and told him that the media might find out if he didn't do that.  I shouldn't have tried to muscle him like that.  They've sent him to rehab twice already, and spent a hundred and fifty thousand dollars."  He looked at Jeff.  "You've broken your mother's heart, dude."

"I know it," Jeff said sadly.

"What now?" Kevin asked.

Cam reflected for a minute, and then looked at Jeff.  "Do you want us to call the sheriff?" he asked.

Jeff swallowed.  "I don't know.  Maybe you should.  Do you think I could take a shower before you do so I don't smell when they come for me?"

Cam sighed.  "Yes."  He looked at Kevin and Carl.  "Get some garbage bags for his clothes and take him upstairs to the master bath.  Stick with him."  He looked appraisingly at Jeff.  "Some of my clothes ought to fit him."

Kevin looked at Cam doubtfully, remembering John's orders that Jeff was not to be allowed in the house.

"Don't worry, I'll take responsibility if there are any repercussions from Alex and John," Cam said.
Kevin shrugged his shoulders.  "Come on, buddy, let's get you cleaned up."

Carl got some garbage bags out of the pantry while Kevin took Jeff upstairs.  The master bath in Alex's and John's room was massive, with multiple shower heads in the porcelain and marble shower.  Four people could shower at once if they wanted to.

Kevin went right into the bathroom with Jeff, and Carl came in with the plastic bags.

"Give me your clothes, Jeff," Kevin said.

The young man began to strip without hesitation, and the smell of his clothes and his body odor were overpowering.  Carl stuffed the topcoat, T-shirt, cargo shorts, socks and boxers into garbage bags as fast as he could and sealed them up.  He put the kid's boots aside.  They might be salvageable, he thought.

Kevin and Carl looked Jeff over before they let him walk into the shower.  It wasn't prurient interest.  Well, not entirely.  His crotch and ass and feet all had a rash, and after examining him, Kevin made a mental note to get some medicinal powder out of his and Cam's medicine cabinet for the boy to put on his inflamed skin after he was clean, and some ointment for a couple of sores.  Kevin and Cam couldn't help noticing Jeff was well hung, and had a nice round butt and a good build.  He was more gaunt than Kevin remembered his being, though, no doubt from not eating regularly.

After checking the shower to see that there were soap and shampoo and a back brush in there, Kevin told Jeff to go ahead.  The water started running.  Carl grabbed the garbage bags and hauled them downstairs as Kevin put down the toilet seat top and sat down there while their guest washed.   Kevin heard Jeff groan with satisfaction as his neglected body was pelted by the hot water.  Cam came into the bathroom with a stack of clean clothes for Jeff, including a pair of running shoes, and a new toothbrush.

"Jeff has a rash here and there on his body, and some sores," Kevin said to his partner.  "Hang here while I go get some powder and ointment for him, will ya?"

Cam nodded, and Kevin walked out.  The water went off a few minutes later, and the door to the huge shower slid back.  Jeff peered out.  Cam stood up, and going to the bathroom closet, pulled out a huge, fluffy towel and brought it back to Jeff.

"Here ya go, buddy," Cam said.  Their guest looked better clean.

"Thanks," Jeff said, stepping out of the shower.  "And thanks for letting me shower.  I sure needed it."

"Yeah."  Cam studied Jeff's body as the boy dried himself, and saw that he did indeed have a rash here and there, and some sores.  Jeff wrapped his lower body in the towel when he was dry.

"I have some clean clothes for you," Cam said.  "But Kevin went to get you some medicinal powder for your rash, and some ointment.  Why don't you clean your teeth, and then have a seat 'til he gets back."
  Cam gestured toward an upholstered bench against the wall. 

Jeff brushed his teeth, and sat down when he was finished, looking over at Cam.  "So my dad was pretty mad, huh?" he asked.

"More depressed and scared about your situation than mad," Cam responded after weighing his answer for a minute.  "Your mom, too."

Jeff nodded.  "Are you gonna call the sheriff now?"

Cam looked at his watch.  It was getting late in the afternoon, rush hour, and he shook his head in the negative.

"If it's all right with you, I think we'll put you up tonight and call tomorrow morning."

Jeff lowered his head, and tears began to run out of his eyes and down his cheeks.  "I'm sorry to be so much trouble," he said.  "I think I'm done for, to tell you the truth."

"Not unless that's the way you want it," Cam contradicted.  "My dad was once in your kind of trouble, and he's a happy man today in his life and in his work.  His partner stuck by him, and that made the difference, I guess."

"I don't have anybody to stick by me.  And you don't know the things I've done," Jeff said.  "I only think about one thing--where my next fix is coming from."  He looked over at Cam.  "I've been stealing and turning tricks to get the money I needed for meth," he said, coming clean.

"When did you have your last fix?"

"Yesterday morning.  That's why I'm so strung out."

Cam didn't react.

Kevin came back right then with some powder and ointment.  "Here you go, buddy.  These should help.  Put some ointment on the sores and some powder on your rash where you can reach, and I'll do your back."

Jeff nodded, and stood up, and losing the towel, began to apply ointment and powder to his legs, crotch and chest.  He didn't turn away as Cam and Kevin watched silently.

"Ow," Jeff said at one point.  The medicinal powder must have stung in his crotch a little.  When he had finished with the areas he could reach, he handed the powder and ointment back to Kevin.

Kevin swung Jeff around, and began applying ointment to the sores on his ass, and powder to the rest of his back and legs.

"Thanks, man," their guest said when Kevin finished.

"Are you hungry?" Kevin asked.


"What about a little soup, just to put something in your stomach?" Cam said.

"All right," Jeff said.

Cam pointed silently to the pile of clothes he'd put on the toilet tank.

"Go ahead and get dressed, then," Kevin said, studying the naked boy.  "Don't be offended, but Carl or Cam or I are going to be with you all the time until you leave.  We were told not to let you in the house at all before Alex and John left for England, and we don't want to see any of their shit just walk off.  Or you just walk off, for that matter."

"I don't blame you for that," Jeff said, looking sad.  He began to pull on the clothes that Cam had brought.  When he was clad, he sat down on the bench to put some sweat socks on.  He reached for his boots, but Kevin stopped him.

"Let's dry those out tonight, and before you put them on, we'll make sure they're all powdered up inside and fit to wear," Kevin said.  "Cam brought a pair of running shoes that should fit you."


They went downstairs to the breakfast nook, and Cam heated a big bowl of grilled chicken and pasta soup in the microwave.  Cam, Kevin and Carl sat with their guest in the breakfast nook.  The spoon was shaking as Jeff tried to eat the soup, but he only downed about half of the bowl.

"Sorry I'm so jumpy," Jeff said when he had eaten all he could.

"Is there anything we can do to calm you down?" Kevin asked.

"Maybe some aspirin, or even better, some sinus medication.  I have a headache, and the sinus meds make me drowsy.  That would probably help."

Cam went upstairs, and came back with some Benedryl.  He brought Jeff a glass of water, and the boy threw back the pills and swallowed them.  He drank the rest of the water, and sat back from the table.

"What now?" Jeff asked.

Kevin, Carl and Cam looked at each other.

"That's what we're wondering," Cam said.

© 2009 Don Hanratty

Many thanks to Dan and Mike G. for their help proofreading this chapter.