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


Kevin, Carl and Cam sat in the breakfast nook watching Jeff Miller eat some of the soup Cam had fixed for him.  The young man wasn't able to eat the whole bowl because his stomach was unaccustomed to food, but he did manage to down some aspirin and Benedryl, hopefully to calm his nerves.  Cam suggested they all sit out on the deck for a while, and Kevin went upstairs, put a sleeping Casey in a sling and brought him down to the first floor deck, too.  They all sat watching the sun move into the western sky.  It was beautiful out on the deck.

"Is this your baby?" Jeff asked Kevin.

"Mine and Cam's," Kevin said.

"How does that work?" Jeff asked, looking puzzled.

"My former girlfriend had my baby, and I was given custody," Kevin said.  "Cam and I are partners now, so we're Casey's daddies."

"Partners?  You mean...?"

"Yeah, we're gay," Kevin said, never missing a beat.  "We're going to be married as soon as we're both eighteen, and then Cam can adopt Casey and we'll share custody."

"Oh," Jeff said, lapsing into momentary silence.  He studied his feet.  "I never had a clue that you guys were gay when you were down here before."

"We didn't know it then, or at least hadn't admitted it to each other," Cam said.  "We didn't find out we loved each other more than two guys usually do until after we went back to San Rafael."

"Oh," Jeff said again.  He looked out at the beach, then back at Cam.  "Well, that's cool with me.  I already told Kevin, so I may as well tell you, that I've been turning tricks with guys in West Hollywood to get money for drugs.  I don't think I'm gay, but I guess you'd say I've been whatever I needed to be to get drugs."

"Given what I know about drugs," Carl interjected, "that doesn't surprise me."

Jeff twisted in his chair nervously, wanting a fix.  "Are you gay?" he asked Carl.


"Do you have a boyfriend?"

"Yes.  Back in San Rafael."

"You won't be able to get married in California," Jeff told Cam and Kevin what they already knew.

"When we're ready, we'll go east for a civil ceremony, and then have a church wedding here," Kevin said.

"A church wedding?" Jeff asked incredulously.  "I didn't know that was done."

"It happens," Kevin said.  "Our priest at home says he'll do it."

"A Catholic priest?" Jeff asked.

"An Episcopal priest," Kevin said.

Carl, Kevin and Jeff carried on with the conversation while Cam sat in silence, his hands folded over his stomach, listening to the boys and watching the shadows start to lengthen as the sun descended.  Within minutes, though, Cam had tuned the guys out and was thinking at length about their situation with Jeff.  Forty-five minutes passed, and Cam didn't like his conclusions.  He kept thinking until, looking over at Jeff and Kevin and Carl, he broke his silence.

"I think we're in way over our heads with you, Jeff," he said.

Jeff looked unhappy.

"Don't get upset, buddy," Cam told him, "but I think you need to get into detox and get some meds in you to ease your pain, and sooner rather than later.  I think I made the wrong call putting that off.  You're in worse shape than I thought.  I don't have any experience with addicts or addictions.  If I knew where to take you tonight, I'd do it."

"You're not gonna kick me out, are you?"

"No.  But I'm worried as hell about you and how you're gonna get through the night tonight.  We'll get you through it somehow, but I gotta start making some telephone calls tomorrow, early."

"Who are you going to call?" Kevin asked.

"First of all, Ian.  He can talk to his friend Dr. Suthon and maybe get some recommendations for doctors and facilities down here.  They might even make some calls to doctors here to pave the way for us."

Kevin nodded approvingly.

"And I think I owe John Kelley a call.  He told us not to have Jeff in the house, and I want him to know why I thought we should to do it anyway."

"Will he be mad?" Carl asked.

"I don't know," Cam said.  "Maybe he ought to be."  He looked over at Jeff.  "Do you feel up to seeing your parents tonight?"

Jeff grimaced and groaned.  "Shit, I don't know."

"If you see them, they can call the sheriff's office and take you off the missing list, so you won't have to go downtown in a cruiser and sit around half the day.  That'll save some time getting you into detox and treatment."

"Where are we gonna get Jeff the money for detox and treatment?" Kevin asked.

"I don't have a clue," Cam said, looking unhappy.  "I'll talk to Ian about that.  I suppose there's always an outside chance that Jeff's mom and dad might agree to support him when and if he agrees to see them tonight."

"I'm not counting on that, and as I said before, I don't blame them if they don't ante up," Jeff said.

"Yeah," Cam said.  "Listen, Jeff, do you feel up to a walk on the beach?  I'd like to wear you out a little bit so you'll sleep tonight."

"I'm pretty tired," Jeff said, trying to get out of it.

"I know, but you're hyper, too." Cam said.  "So let's do it anyway."  He looked over at Carl.  "Would you go to a drug store and get us a couple boxes of Sominex or something like that for Jeff, and some more Benedryl?  You can start getting used to driving the Highlander," he said, trying to sweeten the pot.

"Yeah, I can do that," Carl said.

Cam pulled some money out of his cargo shorts pocket.  "Here, take this.  Do we need anything else?" he asked Kevin.

"Nope.  Not that I can think of," Kevin said.

"Okay.  Let's walk, Jeff," Cam said.

"Do I have to?" Jeff asked.


Jeff stood up reluctantly, and he and Cam headed toward the beach.

"Hey, Cam," Kevin called after them.  "Don't you be lookin' at any boys."

"I'll try to do what you'd do," Cam called back, opening the gate to the beach for him and Jeff.

Kevin laughed.

On the beach, Cam and Jeff took a left, away from the Miller house, so Jeff's parents wouldn't see him before Cam went over to invite them to Alex's house after supper.  The two guys went down to the hard packed sand at the surf line and walked along for a few minutes in silence.

Finally, Cam turned his head and looked at his companion.  "How did you get hooked so bad, Jeff?" he asked.

Jeff looked back at Cam.  "I'm not sure I have the answer to that."  They walked along.  "By the time I partied with you and Kevin last year when you were down here, I'd been partyin' hearty for three years already.  I started with alcohol and bud during my sophomore year in high school, and had just started taking a bump of coke every now and then.  I met you guys, and I knew right away that you two were pretty much drug virgins, so I didn't bring out my full arsenal and let you guys really trip out.  Your dad would really have killed me if I had gotten you high on coke.

"Given my state of mind even at that point, my story was pretty much written."  Jeff looked up at the sky.  "Pretty much written in the stars.  Or in hell, depending on how you look at it."

"When did your folks find out what was going on with you?" Cam asked.

"When I flunked out of UCLA after my first year.  I was in a fucking coma that whole year.  I never went to class"--Jeff laughed--"and eventually I even lost interest in trying to get laid.  My parents were shocked when they found out how many drugs I was into and how much I was using, and they sent me to a rehab in Santa Monica the first time.  That place was a joke as far as I was concerned.  I detoxed and went to all the classes and gave all the right answers in therapy sessions and group sessions, but I was just gaming those people.  I knew that the minute I walked out of there, I'd smoke some crack or snort some coke, and enjoy the hell out of it.

"It wasn't my parents' fault, really.  My dad is a hard working actor, and does a good job at what he does.  He was gone a lot, working here and around the world.  And Mom was involved in a lot of volunteer work, doing good for people.  Clueless.  They were clueless.  And I was a master at keeping both of them that way.  If you didn't know the signs to look for, you'd never have suspected a thing.  And they didn't know until it was way too late.

"I went downhill fast after I got outta the first rehab, and started selling my own electronics and games and stuff, and stealing my parents' shit out of their house.  I didn't want to go back to rehab after all that caught up with me, and so my dad had me charged with burglary.  I was found guilty, and if I wanted parole instead of jail, I had to agree to go back to rehab.  My folks sent me back--to a different place, this time.  This time for two months.  Same deal, though.  I wasn't ready to kick my habit.  I knew that.  But my conviction would be expunged if I finished rehab.

"I began to understand back then that everybody hates a drug addict.  It doesn't matter how much the counselors tell you that it's a sickness of the brain, down in their gut everybody you meet on the street hates you for being weak.  They don't hate cancer patients, they don't hate you if you have appendicitis, but if you're addicted to drugs, you might as well be dead.  Even some people who know intellectually it's a sickness, in their gut they hate you.  I get that.   People are afraid of us, and probably rightly so.

"Anyway, I got out of rehab the second time, starting using again, and had discovered meth in a big way.  Mom and Dad threw me out, and I've been on the street ever since, mostly living in West Hollywood because the gay guys think I'm good looking, and you'd be surprised what some guys will pay for a blowjob or a good fuck.  Whenever I'd got tired of living in town, I'd come back to Malibu and hide out.  That's how I ended up under your dad's deck.

"To go back to your original question about how I got hooked, a counselor at the second rehab facility told me one time that a lot of addictions begin because of depression.  I didn't know at the time I started using that I was depressed, but as I look back, I probably was."

They walked in silence for a few minutes as Cam digested what he'd heard.

"You know, there's one good thing about crystal meth," Jeff told Cam.

"What's that?"

"It got me off cocaine.  It's cheaper, and the high lasts longer."

Instead of laughing as Jeff had expected, Cam stopped walking, and the two guys faced each other on the darkening beach.

"All right, tell me something, Jeff.  Long story short, where are you now when it comes to wanting to get clean?"  Cam put his hands on Jeff's shoulders and looked him in the face.

Jeff didn't say anything at first.

"I knew you'd get around to asking me that."  He paused.  "I know that if I don't get clean, you may as well put me in a coffin right now.  Why wait?  But the truth is, I don't think I'm strong enough to kick it.  I'm thinking about tweakin' right now.  Right this minute.  I told you before that I think I'm done for, and I'm pretty sure that's true."

Cam sighed, and said, "Well, fuck!"

"You wanted the truth," Jeff said.

"It's only true if that's your decision, buddy.  If you believe you can't get clean, and it's not your first priority, then you're not gonna get clean."

"I want to get clean, but I just don't think I have what it takes to do it.  I've failed twice already."

"Most addicts fail before they succeed at kickin' it, or so I read.  By the way, I hope you don't have a meth pipe in the house," Cam said, suddenly concerned.

"I had one in my coat pocket, but I guess it's in the garbage now with my clothes."

"Good.  I don't want any paraphernalia in the house because we don't want anything like that around Casey.  Or around us.  Or around you, for that matter."

"I get it," Jeff said.

They walked in silence for a few minutes.

"I wanna tell you something," Cam finally said.  "A story.  I fucking hate it when people do this to me, but I'm gonna do it to you anyway."

Jeff looked at him curiously.

"When Kevin and I were sophomores in high school, we were on the varsity soccer team.  We were playing one of our biggest rivals one afternoon, and we were down 3-zip in the last quarter with about five minutes to go.  Our coach called a time out.
We huddled up, and he looked around at us, and we thought for sure we were gonna get yelled at.  But all he did was to point out the score and the time we had left in the match.  Then he told us something I've never forgotten:  'Sometimes,' he said, 'when you want a miracle, you gotta be the miracle.' 

"That's all the coach said to us," Cam continued.  "Not your usual jock pep talk, fer sure.  It was the only inspirational thing any coach ever said to us in four years.  Then Coach sent us back on the field."

Jeff turned his head and stared at Cam, eyes wide.  "Did you win?"

"Oh, hell no.  We lost 3-2.  Actually, getting those two points was kind of miraculous, given the shape we were in that afternoon.  Bad afternoon.  But that's what we all have to do sometimes when our backs are against the wall.  We hafta be the miracle to make the occasional miracle.  There aren't any shortcuts.  We hafta go out there and just fucking do it, win, lose or draw.  I'm dead serious.  I believe that.  It's one thing I learned from being a jock.  Maybe the only worthwhile thing, I don't know."

Cam paused and looked at Jeff.  "You said earlier you didn't have anybody to stick by you.  That's not true.  I'm gonna stick by you, and I think after I talk to Kevin and Carl, they will, too."

There was a long silence.

Jeff swallowed hard.  "Y'know, at this point I didn't think I'd ever, ever hear another human being say that to me again," he said.  "At least not someone who wasn't being paid to say it.  Not with my record."

"Well, you've heard it now."

After a moment, Jeff began to weep silently, tears running down his cheeks.  Cam turned them around, put an arm over Jeff's shoulders, and they began to retrace their steps.  Not another word was spoken as they trudged back to the house in the gathering darkness.

*  *  *

When Cam and Jeff reached the house, they saw Kevin standing at Alex's grill, cooking under floodlights illuminating the back deck.  The wind off the ocean had died at sunset, and a plume of smoke rose straight up into the sky.

Cam and Jeff ascended the steps to the deck, and Cam walked over to his partner, patted Kevin's butt, and kissed him on the cheek. 
"Is this a cute chef or not?" Cam asked Jeff.

"Uh, yeah," Jeff stuttered, not knowing exactly what to say.

Kevin saw that Jeff's eyes were red and knew their guest been crying, but he didn't comment.

"Where's your chef's hat, dude?" Cam asked Kevin.

"I don't need no freaking chef's hat," Kevin said, smiling at Cam.  "I can work my magic without it."

"All righty, then," Cam said.   "What are you heatin' up? Five dollar footlongs?"

Shutup!"  Kevin smirked and grabbed his own crotch.  "I got your footlong right here!"

Cam grinned and looked at Jeff.  "The thing is, he's not exaggerating all that much," he said.  Cam lifted the lid of the grill, the smoke billowed, and he saw four big pieces of blackened salmon cooking.  "Oh, good," he said, closing the grill.

"Yep.  Oh, good," Kevin parroted.

"What can we do to help?" Cam asked.

"Check on Carl in the kitchen," Kevin said.  "He's supposed to be making a salad, microwaving some potato nuggets, and cooking some string beans.  That's three jobs, and I don't know if he can handle that all at once, being a wrestler wimp and all.  If by some miracle he's on track, you and Jeff can set the table.  We're gonna eat in the dining room tonight.  The salmon will be done in about ten minutes."

"Got it," Cam said.  "Where's Casey?"

"He's in the kitchen with Carl."

"Okay.  Co'mon, Jeff."

The two guys strolled into the kitchen.  A big bowl of salad sat on the table, surrounded by bottles of various dressings.  Carl was stirring a pot full of green beans, watching the microwave carousel turn around with the already-browned potato nuggets on it, and stealing an occasional glance at Casey.  The little boy was snoozing with a pacifier stuck in his mouth.

"Everything under control?" Cam asked Carl.

"How could they not be?" Carl said.

"Let me count the ways," Cam quipped.  "We'll set the table, then.  Kevin has decreed we're eating in the dining room tonight."

"Cool.  Make yourselves useful."

Cam and Jeff walked into the dining room.  Cam looked at the long table.

"Let's take some leaves out of the table," he told Jeff.  "It can seat twenty people right now."

Cam pulled on one side of the table, and Jeff, the other, and they removed four of the leaves and set sixteen of the chairs over to one side of the room..  The table was now the perfect size to seat four, with a little extra room to accommodate a high chair for the baby.

"Your dad's house is beautiful," Jeff said.  "Nice furniture, too."

"Yeah.  Too bad we had to promise Alex and John we wouldn't have any parties."

"I know all there is to know about parties," Jeff said.

"I remember," Cam said.  He started rummaging through a breakfront, and found place mats, napkins and silverware.  Jeff put the place mats and napkins around, and Cam started laying out the silverware.

Fifteen minutes later, the food was on the table, and Casey, still dozing, was now in a highchair.  Carl, Kevin and Cam held hands before grace, and after doing a double take, Jeff closed the circle.

"Father," Kevin said, "we offer you thanks for your many kindnesses to us:  safe travel, the love of family and one another, allowing us to renew our friendship with Jeff, and this food.  We ask your blessing upon us and upon the food we are about to receive from your bounty.  Bless it to our use, and us to your service, and make us always mindful of the needs of others, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

"Amen," Carl, Cam and Kevin said as they crossed themselves.

"Good prayer, Kev," Cam complimented his partner.

The guys sat down and began passing the food around.  To Jeff's surprise, the aroma made his mouth water, and he helped himself to more food than he had eaten in a long time.  They all drank glasses of orange juice poured from a pitcher that Carl had put on the table.

"I didn't get the impression you guys were all that religious when you were down here before," Jeff said to Cam and Kevin as they ate.

"Cam and I went through some challenges this last year that kind of woke us up about that," Kevin said.  "So did Carl."

"Oh," Jeff said.  "I don't even know anybody our age who's really religious.  Except for you guys," he added.

"We have a pretty active youth group in our parish at home," Cam said.  "Our group even traveled down to New Orleans to help work on houses down there after Katrina.  That's how Carl met his boyfriend."

The four guys continued talking as they ate, and Jeff began to get a better sense about how much Cam and Kevin and Carl cared about one another despite the sometimes edgy banter they carried on.  Jeff ate everything on his plate, trying to control the occasional tremor in his hands which marked his withdrawal symptoms.  It was his first full meal in months, and his companions seemed pleased to see him eating.

Cam cleared the table when they were finished, and returned with bowls of ice cream--butter pecan, his favorite--and peanut butter cookies.

When they all had consumed the ice cream and cookies to the last bite, Cam looked across the table at Kevin and Carl.

"Jeff and I talked on the beach earlier," he said.  "I've told him that if he really wants to get clean, I'll stick by him.  Are you guys with me on that?  I told him I'd ask you."

Carl looked Cam in the eye.  "I know that if you and Kevin hadn't stuck by me when I needed it, I'd be in deep trouble today," he said immediately.  "Or maybe I'd be dead.  If you say that we should do for Jeff what you guys did for me, I'm with you all the way."

Cam nodded and looked at Kevin.  "What about you, Kev?"

Kevin stared back.  "Well..."  He looked down at the table.  "I'm scared about Jeff and what he might do.  Particularly with Casey around.  But if that's your decision, I'll back you up one hundred per cent.  I think that's what Catherine and Ian and Mary and Father Jim would want us to do, to be honest.  Jeff, you don't know this, but I almost died after we went home last year when a couple of guys beat me up real bad.  I was in a coma for a while.  I think I survived because Cam stuck by me and kept talking to me when I was off in another world.  And he prayed for me.  Now it's time for me to pay up, and I want to do that.  Count me in."

Cam reached across the table and dapped his partner and then Carl.  "Thank you.  That means a lot to me," he said appreciatively.

"Thank you," Jeff said quietly to them all.

Cam looked at Jeff.

"Well, you ready?" he asked him.


"Yeah.  To see your parents.  I'm gonna go next door and see if they're home.  If they are, I'm gonna ask them to come over here and see you."

"If you think that's the thing to do, okay," Jeff responded after a long pause.  "I'm nervous about seeing them."

"I think you need to see them face to face, Jeff," Cam said, studying the boy.  "You're looking pretty good.  Just run a comb through your hair, and I'll be right back."

"All right," Jeff said.

"Carl, do me a favor while I go over to the Millers', willya?" Cam asked.  "Check the medicine cabinets in all the bathrooms upstairs right now, and collect any prescription medicine you find.  I'm gonna hide it."  There was no hint of apology in his voice when it came to Jeff.  The kid couldn't be trusted in his current condition, and that was just a fact.

"Yep," Carl said.

They all stood up and pushed their chairs back under the table.  Cam headed for the beachside door while the three guys collected the ice cream bowls and spoons.

"Come on, buddy, and I'll find you a comb," Kevin told Jeff after they filled the dishwasher. 
Kevin picked up Casey in passing, and then he and Jeff walked up the stairs while Carl checked the kitchen for a paper bag to collect any pills he might find.  Kevin put Casey in his crib, and he and Jeff went into Alex and John's bathroom and found a comb and a brush in the bathroom vanity.  Jeff combed and then brushed his blond, shoulder-length hair before they went downstairs to the living room to see if Jeff's mom and dad showed up.  The glass tables and soft leather couches and chairs gleamed in the lamplight when Kevin hit the electric switch.

"Nice room," Jeff said nervously.  "I'd forgotten how nice it was."

"Yeah," Kevin said as they sat down.  "Do you want some water or soda or anything while we wait?"

"No, thanks."  They sat there in silence until Carl joined them several minutes later with a bag with some meds in it.

"You found some pills?" Kevin asked.

"Yeah," Carl said.  "I'll give 'em to Cam."

*  *  *

Cam walked up to the Millers' sliding door, which was emitting some light from the study out on to the deck.  Peering inside, he saw Sean and Susan Miller watching television.  He knocked softly, and Sean Miller came to the door.

"Hello, Cam."

"Hi, Mr. Miller," Cam said.  "I wanted to let you and Mrs. Miller know that we have Jeff over at our house.  I'd like to invite you over to see him."

Sean Miller's face betrayed surprise and uncertainty, and he looked back into the room at his wife.  He walked over to her chair.

"Susan, Jeff is over at Alex's house."

"Oh, thank God," Cam heard the woman say.  She began to cry and wiped her eyes with her handkerchief.  She stood up and walked over to where Cam waited in the doorway.  "Is he all right?" she asked.

"Under the circumstances, not too bad," Cam answered.  "I hope you'll both come over to see him."

"Does he want to see us?" Sean Miller asked a little plaintively.

"He's ashamed," Cam said gravely.  "But yes, he wants to see you."

"Let me get your sweater, Mother," Sean said, and walked out of the room and then returned with a sweater.  He draped it over his wife's shoulders, kissing her cheek as he did so.  "Let's do this," he said.

"Good," Cam said.

The three of them walked next door and went inside, and Cam ushered them into the living room.  The three boys in the room stood.

"Oh, Jeff," Susan Miller said, and followed by her husband, went to her son.  She threw her arms around the boy, and stood there weeping as Sean Miller put his arms around them both.  He was crying, too, and that got Jeff started.  The Millers clung together for several minutes.

When they released one another, Cam introduced Mr. and Mrs. Miller to Carl and Kevin, and everyone sat down.  The Millers sat on a couch with Jeff between them, and Susan Miller took Jeff's hand and held it.

"Where's Casey?" Cam asked.

"Upstairs, sleeping," Kevin said.

Cam nodded.  "Can I get you folks anything to drink?" Cam asked Mr. and Mrs. Miller. "Water, tea, coffee?"  They declined.

Sean Miller looked at his son.  "I'm not going to yell at you, Jeff," he said.  "We've been sick with worry, but I'm not going to beat you up about it."

"I know you're upset, Dad," Jeff said.  "I'm sorry."

"Are you all right, Jeff?" Mrs. Miller said.

"No, Mom, I'm sick.  I'm an addict.  I know that.  I'm really admitting that to myself and meaning it for the first time."

"Where have you been, son?" Mr. Miller asked.

"In the city," Jeff said.  "Mostly in West Hollywood.  I came back to Malibu from time to time and lived under Mr. MacKenzie's deck because he and his partner aren't home very much.  That's where Kevin found me earlier today."

"Why didn't you come home?" Mrs. Miller asked.

"It just would have been a repeat performance of before, Mom," Jeff said.  "A bad scene.  Even if you'd have let me in the house, I'd have robbed you blind, sold your stuff, and then bought more drugs."

"What are you using?" Mr. Miller asked grimly.

"Crystal meth, mostly."

Mr. Miller grimaced and looked at Cam, Kevin and Carl.  "I don't know what to do for him," he said sadly.

"We don't either, Mr. Miller, not exactly, anyway," Kevin said.  "But we're gonna stick with him and find out."

Cam stood up, and leaving the Millers and the guys talking, went upstairs to check on Casey.  The baby was sleeping on his back, head turned to the side, breathing softly and regularly, his body covered with a light blanket.  The skin of his face was perfect, almost glowing, and Cam's throat got a lump in it because he loved this child so much.  Before leaving, he reached down and felt Casey's diaper.  It was dry.  He thought about taking Casey downstairs with him, but decided not to do so because that would detract from the talk Sean and Susan Miller needed to have with Jeff.

Cam walked into the living room just in time to hear Sean Miller ask his son what he was going to do.

"These guys--" Jeff nodded at Carl, Kevin and Cam--"say that I need to get back into detox and rehab if I'm going to get clean.  I know they're right."

Cam spoke up.  "I guess the crucial question at this point is, where is the money to send Jeff back into detox and treatment going to come from?"  He looked at Mr. Miller, who was looking at the floor.

"If we put up more money, how do we know that it will work this time?" Sean Miller asked the guys.

"There aren't any guarantees," Carl said.  "I was hospitalized earlier this year for some problems--not drugs--and I didn't know until I went through the experience whether I was going to have what it took to work through my challenges and free myself from my demons, if I can put it that way.  Only the Lord knows what the outcome will be for Jeff."

"We love Jeff," Mr. Miller said.  "But the odds just aren't good enough to waste another fifty or hundred thousand dollars if things don't go well."

Jeff looked sad.  Susan Miller looked upset with her husband, but didn't say anything.

Rather than put more pressure on the Millers right then, Cam took a conciliatory tone.

"I understand your reluctance, Mr. Miller," he said.  "We'll see what we can work out at our end to get Jeff the services he needs."

"Why would you do that?" Sean Miller asked.

"Because we told Jeff we have his back," Cam said.  "And that's part of the deal."

Sean Miller looked confused, upset, and a little ashamed.  He stared down at the carpet.

"Where will you be staying tonight, Jeff?" Susan Miller asked, looking as if she might burst into tears again.

Jeff looked at the guys, not knowing what to say.

"He's going to stay with us tonight," Cam said.  "He'll be here until we get him admitted to rehab."

"Thank you for looking after him," Mrs. Miller said.

"We should probably go, Susan," Sean said.  "I'm making a movie," he told the boys, "and I need to be on the set tomorrow at four a.m."

"Before you leave, will you call the sheriff's office and tell them that Jeff has been located?" Kevin suggested.  "That way if they see him, they won't be pulling him off the street and holding him until you identify him."

"Yes," Mr. Miller said.  "Do you have the sheriff's number available, by chance, and a phone I can use?"

"Yes, sir," Kevin said.  He got up, went to the kitchen and came back with the flyer with Jeff's picture and the sheriff's number on it.  Kevin handed the man a phone off of a nearby table.

Susan Miller and the boys watched silently as Sean Miller punched in the number from the flyer, and then told the switchboard operator, "I'd like to talk to your watch commander, please."  He added, "My name is Sean Miller."

There was a pause, and then Miller said, "Major Norman, this is Sean Miller in Malibu.  Your department has a 'Missing' flyer out on my son, Jeff Miller.  I want to report that we have located our son, and ask you to remove his name from your search list."

He listened for a moment.  "Thank you very much for your department's efforts on behalf of my family, sir.  If I'm ever in a position to repay the department in any way, please just let me know."

He listened again, and said, "Good night, Major."

Miller hit the disconnect button on the phone and stood up, prompting everyone else in the room to stand up as well.

Mrs. Miller went to Cam, Kevin and Carl, and taking the hand of each of them, thanked them for taking care of Jeff.  Sean Miller did the same.  Then they both hugged Jeff, and Mrs. Miller kissed him, weeping again.

"Will we see you tomorrow?" Sean asked his son.

Jeff looked at Cam, eyebrows raised questioningly.

"He'll be here, Mr. Miller," Cam said.

They all walked the Millers to the beach door, and Cam walked with them on out to the gate.  They stopped, and Mr. Miller looked at Cam.

"I heard you mention someone named 'Casey.'  Just out of curiosity, do you have another person staying with you?"

"Yes, actually.  A baby.  Kevin's baby.  And mine."

"Uh, what?" Miller said.

"Kevin and I are partners.  We're going to have a civil ceremony back east as soon as we turn eighteen, and then we'll be married in an Episcopal church back here.  I'll adopt Casey at that point."

"Oh," Sean Miller said.  "Well, it's a new world," he added with a smile.  "More power to you."

Cam smiled back at him, glad that their neighbor wasn't homophobic.

The Millers thanked Cam again, and walked slowly back across the sand to their house, Mr. Miller's arm around his wife.

Cam went back inside, and found the three guys still sitting in the living room, glum and silent.

"Wake up, you yokels, and get out some cards," Cam told them.  "I wanna take some money off you before we go to bed.  Or at least some poker chips."

The guys perked up right away.  Carl found some cards in a table in the den and some poker chips, and they all went into the dining room and sat around the table.

Carl dealt the first hand, and they had just ante'd up for a game of five card stud when they heard a knock on the beachside sliding door.

"Don't look at my cards," Cam said, staring right at Kevin, who gave him the finger.  Cam went to the door, and was startled to see Sean Miller standing there.

"Yes, sir," Cam said, opening the door and beckoning the man inside.

"I need to tell you all something," Miller said.

"Come on in."

The two of them walked into the dining room, and the guys looked up, surprised.

"I want you all to know that Susan and I will take care of the detox and rehab expenses for Jeff," Sean said.

Jeff looked down at the table at first, stunned, and then stood up and walked over to his father.  He put his arms around him and held him in silence.

"Thank you, Dad," he said finally, pulling back to look him in the face.  "I'm sorry for what I've done, and I promise you that I'm gonna get clean.  I promise you."

"All right, son.  I'll see you sometime tomorrow."

Cam walked Miller out of the house again and down to the gate to the beach.

"Mr. Miller, can I ask you why you changed your mind?"

"Well, it's the right thing to do.  Besides, you don't know my wife very well, but she has a spine of steel. 
And I didn't feel like sleeping on the beach tonight."

Cam grinned.  "Well, whatever the reason, thank you for doing this.  My feeling is that Jeff is gonna make it this time."

"I hope so.  Cam, thanks again for helping make this happen."

They shook hands, and Mr. Miller walked away.

Before going back into the dining room, Cam went into the kitchen and filled a bowl with cookies, poured four glasses of milk, and brought everything back to the table on a tray.  The guys ate the cookies and drank up the milk in no time, but Cam noticed that Jeff's hands were still shaking from not having a recent fix.

They went back to the game, and Carl won hand after hand, gleefully piling the chips up in front of him.

"You little prick!" Kevin finally told Carl.  "You've cleaned me out!  I'm goin' to bed."

The guys threw in their cards, and Jeff looked at Cam.

"Thanks for letting me stay here tonight," he said.  "Where do I sleep."

"I think we'll put you in with Kevin and me," Cam said.  "Wa-a-a-y, wa-a-ay over on one side of our king size bed, and we'll be on the other side."

"We won't molest you unless you really, really provoke us," Kevin added with a smirk.

"I could sleep in another bedroom," Jeff suggested hesitantly.

"You could," Cam said, "but until we get you into detox, there's no way we're gonna take a chance you'll take a hike.  If that's insulting, tough shit.  You're an addict, and we're not taking any chances."

Jeff couldn't help smiling.  "You know me pretty well," he said.

Cam hit the button to close the garage door and then set the alarm, and they all headed for the stairs, Cam turning out lights as they went.

"'Night, guys," Carl said when they reached the upper hallway.

"Night, buddy," Kevin said, putting his hand on Carl's shoulder and kissing him on top of the head.  "Sleep well.  We running tomorrow?" he asked.

"Yep," Carl said.  "Wake me up."

" 'K," Kevin said.  "By the way, we're gonna get back into our gym workout routine starting tomorrow," he told Cam and Carl.

The two guys groaned.

Cam, Kevin and Jeff went into their bedroom, and Cam shut the door.

"You guys mind if I take another shower?" Jeff asked.  "You don't know how good it feels to wash."

"Have at it," Kevin said.

"Let me give you a clean pair of boxers," Cam said, going to his dresser.  He handed Jeff a pair covered with Golden State Warriors emblems.

"Don't you have a Lakers pair?" Jeff asked.  "I feel disloyal."

"You're outta luck," Cam said.  "You're lucky I don't give you a pair with the Clippers emblem on it."

"You should probably use the medicinal powder and the ointment again after you shower," Kevin suggested to Jeff.  "And take some Sominex and Benedryl.  Let's see if we can't knock your ass out for the night."

"Okay," Jeff said.

Jeff went into Cam and Kevin's bathroom and stripped, found a clean towel, and got into their shower.  Cam and Kevin followed him into the bathroom, cleaned their teeth, and climbed into bed after checking Casey.  His diaper was dry.

Fifteen minutes later, Jeff peered around the bathroom door at the bed, where Cam and Kevin were on their sides, holding each other face to face.  "Can one of you guys help me with the ointment and the powder for my back again?" he asked, blushing a little.

"You're up, big guy," Kevin told Cam.  "Your turn."

Cam kissed him, rolled out of bed and went into the bathroom.

Jeff was standing naked in front of the vanity, peering into the mirror.  He had already powdered and anointed the front of his body, and Cam reached for the powder and the tube of ointment on the counter.  He inspected and admired Jeff's backside.  The guy had good, broad shoulders, a nice, muscular back and a bubble butt.  Handsome kid, smooth body.  He had the remnants of what had once been good pecs and abs.  He had a big dick, too, Cam couldn't help noticing in the mirror.  Why was it that he and Kevin always seemed to attract friends who were really hung?  All his "brothers" back in San Rafael were generously endowed.  He couldn't think of one friend of theirs who had a small dick.  Not one.  Not that he was complaining.

"Your rash is looking better, dude," Cam said as he shook powder into his hand and rubbed it on the boy's back and ass, followed by ointment on the sores.  "I think the sores are better, too," he said, looking closely.

"Thanks for everything, Cam," Jeff said.  "I really appreciate it."

"That's all right," Cam said, moving Jeff over and washing his hands.  "Listen, your toothbrush is in Alex's bathroom.  Bring it back here and leave it in this bathroom.  We'll keep it for you 'til you come home from rehab.  And don't forget to take some pills so you can sleep."

"Will do," Jeff said.  Home, he thought to himself.  Now there's a concept he hadn't thought about in a long time.  He couldn't say it to his hosts, but he was very touched that someone would actually care about him and take care of him the way these guys had been doing.  It seemed like forever since he'd had a home or any real friends.  Being high on meth all the time wasn't conducive to good relationships.

By the time Jeff returned to the room from Alex's bathroom with his toothbrush and had cleaned his teeth, Cam was back in bed intertwined with Kevin.  The two of them were starting to drift off to sleep.  Now wearing the boxers he'd borrowed, Jeff pulled down the covers on the other side of the huge bed and climbed in.  He reveled in the smell and feel of clean sheets.  What a difference this day had made in his life already!

*  *  *

The alarm on Cam and Kevin's side of the bed went off at 6:30 a.m., and Jeff Miller wasn't sure where he was at first.  He had slept all the way through the night, something he hadn't managed to do in almost a year.  He hadn't even awakened when Kevin had gotten up in the middle of the night to feed Casey and change his diaper.

Cam groaned and turned off the alarm.  The three of them lay silently in bed for ten minutes, gathering their wits.  Cam rolled out of bed with a huge boner, and went next door to wake up Carl.

"Get out!!" Jeff and Kevin heard Carl yell at Cam seconds later.  Cam returned chuckling on his way into the bathroom.  He emptied his bladder and came back into the bedroom.

"Getcher asses up," he told Kevin and Jeff.  "Time's wasting!  We've got a lot of shit to do today."

"You don't expect me to run, do you?" Jeff asked him with a yawn.  "I'm way outta shape."

"Tough fucking luck!" Cam said.  He paused for a second.  "Well, maybe we'll let you run some and walk some, how about that?  Never say I'm not compassionate!"

"You're all heart, Cameron, and that's a fact," Kevin said, pulling the covers over his face.

"Yeah, like you are in the gym," Cam responded.  He went over to his dresser and rummaged through a drawer, coming up with jocks, running shorts, and T-shirts for Jeff and himself.

Cam ragged on Kevin and Jeff until they finally got out of bed, went to the bathroom, and then suited up for their run.  They met Carl in the hall.

"Are you in a better mood?" Cam asked him.

Carl ignored the question.  "Where'd you put our new pedometers?" he asked Cam.

"They're in the kitchen.  I'll get 'em on the way out," Cam said.

They did their stretches out on the deck, and then Kevin went back in and got Casey, putting him in a sling around his neck.  Casey, in his usual good mood, gurgled at his father.  The sun was just trying to burn its way through some early morning fog when they all walked out to the shore.

"I'll walk with Jeff for awhile," Kevin told Cam and Carl.  "When you guys pass us coming back, one of you can take over and make this boy run."

Carl gave Kevin a thumbs-up, and he and Cam started running west on the beach at their usual fast pace.

"Come on, buddy," Kevin told Jeff.  "We'll start off with a nice fast walk."

"Okay," Jeff said, and he and Kevin began striding quickly along in the same direction as Cam and Carl.

It wasn't even ten minutes before Jeff was panting and bathed in sweat.

"Let's slow down now," Kevin said, looking over at him.  "You all right?"

"I'm dyin'," Jeff said, stopping, bending over at the waist and trying to catch his breath.  "Sorry to slow you down."

"That's okay," Kevin said, grinning.  "I like it when I can conserve my energy and Cam is wearing himself out.  He's easier to handle when he's tired.  And he requires a lot of handling."

Jeff smiled as he continued recuperating.  Five minutes later, and they were again following the same path down the beach that Carl and Cam had taken, albeit at a much slower pace.

"I've never had any gay friends before," Jeff blurted out to Kevin as they walked along.

"Really?  Whaddaya think?"

"I would never have known you guys were gay at all if you hadn't told me," Jeff said.  "You seem, uh, so normal.  All three of you."

"Jeff, we are normal.  Normal for us."

"Well, you and Cam really love each other.  I can tell that.  To be honest, I'd always thought the gay thing was mostly about sex."

"Sex is an important part of Cam's and my relationship, that's no lie.  We aren't monks," Kevin said, grinning.  "Not at all.  But there's a lot more to it than sex."  He looked down at the baby in the sling around his neck.  "For instance, this little guy figures into every decision we make as a couple now."  Kevin looked over at Jeff.  "Let me ask you this.  Have you ever been in love?"

"Yeah.  With my next fix."

"That's honest.  But when you get clean, and you will get clean, one of my goals is going to be to set you up to fall in love.  Boy or girl, I don't care."

"I hope I can do that.  It'll be a girl, though, I can assure you of that."

"If you say so.  I just want you to have the chance to really fall in love with somebody the way I'm in love with Cam.  Everything about him fires me up.  He turns me on totally, and not just physically."  Uncharacteristically, Kevin blushed.  "I don't usually talk like this with people," he said.  "But having the capacity to fall in love makes a big statement about a person's life, and I want you to have that."

"Thanks, Kevin," Jeff said sincerely, wondering how he had been lucky enough to fall in with these guys when his own life was so fucked up.

*  *  *

When the four guys had finished their run/walk on the beach, and had showered, Cam knew it was time to get on the phone with Ian Carson to start tracking down a good rehab facility in the L.A. area.  Then he had to talk with John Kelley to let him know that Jeff was living with them and would be going into rehab as soon as arrangements could be made.

Kevin finished dressing first, and sat on the bed watching Cam and Jeff do the same.

"Jeff," Kevin said.


"What would you think about letting us cut your hair?"

Jeff looked at Kevin dubiously.


"Because it will be the first step in changing your lifestyle.  It tells everybody, including yourself, that the old Jeff has moved on."

"What's this 'change' bullshit you keep talking about?" Jeff asked, flashing him a smile.

"The more you resist, the shorter the crew cut's gonna be," Kevin threatened.

"Oh, man," Jeff said.  "Well, all right, if you say so."

"Let's use Alex and John's bathroom," Kevin suggested.  "The lighting's better.  And there's a pair of electric clippers in one of the drawers."

"You guys get started, and I'll get on the phone," Cam said.

Carl came in, and Cam went downstairs to the study and made himself comfortable in one of his dad's swiveling leather easy chairs before picking up the phone.  He dialed Ian Carson's cell number and waited.  He heard the man's baritone voice on the third ring.

"Carson," Ian said, looking at his phone ID.  "Is this some southern California hippie on the phone?"

"I'm not that old.  What's a hippie?"

"That's right.  I forgot you're still wet behind the ears."

"I just can't sneak anything past you, can I?"

"You know that's true, boy," Ian said, laughing.

"Sorry to bother you on a Saturday, Ian, but we have an unanticipated problem down here, and I need your help."

"What's going on?" Ian asked, suddenly serious.

Cam went on to explain at some length about who Jeff Miller was, and about his problem and circumstances, including the question, when push came to shove, about whether his parents would actually shell out any more money given what they had already expended.

"Leaving the money issue aside for the moment, what we really need is a recommendation, maybe from Dr. Suthon, for a good detox and rehab facility down here.  Carl and Kevin and I told Jeff that we're sticking with him, and we're gonna do that.  But he really needs to get into detox sooner rather than later because it's gonna get tougher over time for us to watch him 24/7 so he doesn't bail on us.  He's really hyper from not have a fix, and needs some meds."

"I admire you for doing this, Cam.  I'll get on it right away and get back to you."

"Thanks, Ian.  I really appreciate this."  Cam got a lump in his throat.  "Is everybody okay?" he asked, missing the Carsons, Catherine, Rosa, Yolanda and the boys.

"Yes.  Everybody's good.  Mary's standing right beside me if you want to say hello."

"Please put her on,"  A moment later he heard Mary Carson's calm, sweet voice.

"Cam!" she said.  "We've been thinking about you boys!  And about Casey.  You're missed.  A lot."

"Same here," Cam said.  "We miss all of you.  Where are you guys right now?"

"We're in San Rafael with your mother.  She drove over to the university a few minutes ago with Mark to get something out of her office, or I'd put her on the phone."

"I'll try to call her later.  I owe you bigtime for sticking with her."  Cam coughed to hide his emotions.

"Now, two things," Cam continued.  "First, thank all the guys for their emails we got on our way down here.  It meant a lot to hear from them.  Second, I'll mention this to Ian, but will you try to talk him into bringing everybody down here for a few days before school starts?  It'll really give us a boost to see you all.  It's gonna be lonely down here without the big family, y'know."

"That's a great idea," Mary said.  "I'll put in a word with the boss and see what he says."

"Thanks, Mary.  Love ya!"

"Love you, sweetheart.  Give my love to Kevin and Carl, please.  And Casey.  I hope we'll see you soon.  Let me give you back to Ian."

"Okay, bud," Ian told him.  "I'll get back to you right away about a place for Jeff."

"Thanks, Ian," Cam said.  "One more thing.  I just mentioned to Mary that it would be great if the whole family could come down here before school starts.  It's gonna be lonely if we don't see you all before things get crazy at school.  Bring Yolanda and Rosa and the dogs, too.  And Andy Helder.  Carl would never forgive us if he wasn't invited.  The family's just not complete without all of you."

"Anything else on your want list?" Ian said wryly.

"No, not at the moment."

"Well, I'll give it some thought."

"You are a prince among men," Cam said.

"That's definitely a minority view," Ian said, laughing.  "Talk to you soon.  Love you guys."

"Love you, too."  Cam disconnected, and punched in the number for John Kelley's cell in London.

"This is John," the man said.

"Can you talk?" Cam asked.

"Cameron!  Believe it or not, I was just thinking about you.  I can talk.  We're just knocking off for the afternoon."

"Good deal.  Are you and Dad okay?"

"We're great.  This is the second day of shooting at our first location, and things are smooth so far.  As our English cousins would say, things are going 'swimmingly.'  We miss you guys, though.  Is Casey doing well?"

"We're all fine, including Casey.  I'm glad the filming is going well so you'll be in a good mood when I tell you something you won't want to hear."

"Oh, oh.  Let's have it," John said.

"We found Jeff Miller living under the front deck yesterday, and he's staying with us until we can get him into detox and rehab."

"I see."  John didn't sound pleased.

"Mr. and Mrs. Miller came over last night, and they eventually agreed to pick up the freight on whichever facility Jeff goes into.  We hope they mean it.  Ian Carson is getting some recommendations on the best places down here from some doctors."

"That's good," John said.  "What precautions are you taking with Jeff?"

"One of us is with him 24/7.  He's never alone here, John.  Taking him in was something that Kevin, Carl and I decided we had to do.  He's an addict, but he's a good guy, and he's going to be a recovering addict and a good guy by the time we're done with him.  I think he has what it takes to get clean this time."

John sighed.  "I hope so."

"If it hadn't been for your faith in Dad, he'd probably be an addict and a bum to this day," Cam reminded John.  "So people do get clean, and we want that to happen for Jeff."

"I hear you, Cam.  I'm glad you did the responsible thing and called me about this, though.  Alex and I will pray for the kid.  You say hello to Kevin and Carl, and give that Casey a kiss for Alex and me, will ya?"

"Yep, will do.  You're not mad, are you?"

"Nope.  Hang in there with the boy, and let us know how this comes out."

"Love ya, John."

"Same here, bud.  Let's talk soon."

They hung up, and Cam stood, stretched, and exuberantly ran up the stairs to the second floor, taking two at a time.  He went into the master bath, temporarily a barber shop, where Kevin and Carl were putting the finishing touches on Jeff.  He looked good.The kid now sported a short, short crew cut as he sat in a wooden chair naked to the waist, surrounded by what looked like a ton of curly blond hair on the floor.

"Don't throw the hair away," Carl suggested.  "If it's all right with you, Jeff, we'll give it to one of those places that makes wigs for people with cancer."

"That's cool," Jeff said.

Kevin high fived Carl.  "I like the way you think, buddy," Kevin told him.

"Me, too," Cam said, running his hand over Jeff's newly shorn head.  "Co'mon, Jeff.  Let's go next door and show your mommy your new haircut.  She'll like it.  We'll pack you some clothes for rehab.  And get you something nice to wear to church tomorrow."

"Church!  You gotta be kidding."

Cam looked at him without the hint of a smile.  "Do I look like I'm kidding?"

"Uh, no."

"That's your answer, then."

Carl used a soft brush to clean Jeff off before the latter put one of Cam's T-shirts back on.  After taking a last look at his image in the mirror, Jeff thanked Kevin and Carl, and he and Cam took off for next door.

© 2009 Don Hanratty

Many thanks, as always, to Dan and Mike G. for their excellent proofreading!