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


Cam and Jeff Miller walked out of the beach-side sliding door of Alex's house, proceeded to the gate, and headed over toward Jeff's parents' house.

Jeff rubbed his hand over his new, super short crew cut, courtesy of Kevin and Carl.  The electric clippers in Alex and John's bathroom had really done the job.  In retrospect, Jeff didn't know whether he'd really wanted to lose his shoulder length blond hair or not.  But on the other hand, it was kind of nice to have other people making some of his decisions for him.  Given his addiction to drugs, they couldn't do worse than he had done.

A bunch of guys were playing baseball on the wide expanse of the beach leading to the shoreline.  The batter hit a long ball that came right at Cam and Jeff.

"Incoming!" Jeff said.

Cam snagged the baseball barehanded right out of the air, and pegged it back to the pitcher.  That threw the game into chaos, with the batter claiming a home run due to interference.  Cam and Jeff continued walking, not looking back.

"Nice catch," Jeff said.

"Thanks," Cam said, grinning.  "'I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger.  Then it hit me.'"

Jeff groaned.  "You're funny," he said.  "Or is that 'punny?'"

"I'll take the groan.  Kevin usually smacks me when I lay a pun on him."

When they reached the Miller house, Cam knocked on the beach-side door.  A middle aged Latino woman in a maid's uniform answered it, smiling when she saw Jeff.

"Jeff, querido, your mama told me you back."  The woman opened her arms and gave the boy a hug.

"Juanita," Jeff said, smiling.  "I'm glad to see you!"  He kissed her cheek.

"What happen you hair?" Juanita asked.

"The neighbors held me down and cut it off," Jeff said, smiling.  "Juanita Fuentes, this is my friend, Cam MacKenzie, from next door."

" 'allo, Cam," Juanita said.  "I know you padre."

"Hello, Juanita.  I'm pleased to meet you.  Is Mrs. Miller home, by chance?"

"Si.  Come in.  I get her."  She waved them inside and walked away as the boys sat down in the study.  Jeff looked around.

"It feels strange to be back in this room," he said, glancing at the entertainment center.  "I see they replaced the entertainment center I stole."

"Nice setup," Cam said, admiring the big screen plasma TV and stereo components.

Susan Miller came into the room a few minutes later, doing a double take when she saw Jeff's haircut.  The boys stood up.

"Jeff, what happened to all your hair?" Mrs. Miller asked as she gave him a hug.

"Hi, Mom.  New lifestyle, new hairstyle," Jeff said.

"It looks good," Jeff's mom said approvingly.

"Hello, Mrs. Miller," Cam said.

"Hello, Cam."

"I'm still waiting to get a recommendation for a rehab center for Jeff," Cam told her, "but I was wondering if we could pack some of Jeff's clothes for when he goes in."

"Of course," Susan Miller said.  "Jeff, you and Cam go on upstairs.  Do you need a suitcase?"

"Yes, please," Jeff said.  "Maybe two."

"Juanita, would you find suitcases for the boys?" Mrs. Miller asked.

"Si, señora," Juanita said, walking away with a smile for Jeff and Cam.

"Thanks, Mom," Jeff said.

"I have to go downtown for a meeting.  But don't you dare leave for rehab without saying good-bye," Susan Miller said, tearing up.

Jeff took her into his arms again.  "I won't, Mom."  Susan Miller kissed her son's cheek.

"Thank you, Cam, for everything you're doing," Mrs. Miller said, walking over and giving Cam a hug as well.

"You're welcome," Cam said, touched.  "Things are gonna go well for Jeff this time," he added.

"Yes, I believe they will," Susan Miller said.  Taking a last look at her son, she left for her appointment.

Cam followed Jeff up the stairs.  His eyes were drawn to Jeff's fine looking ass like moths to flame as they went up to the second floor.  Cam smiled to himself and thought about how horny he was for Kevin.  He and Kevin hadn't been getting any action since Jeff had come into their lives and into their bedroom.  Making love to Kevin once or twice a day was Cam's usual goal.  More often than that, if and when things worked in their favor!  Sharing a bedroom with a third party had been in a good cause, but preferably it had better come to a screeching halt very soon!  Even when Kevin had facilitated getting him off in the shower over the last few days, that just wasn't cutting it.  Cam liked a little loving when they had sex, with some cuddling afterwards, thank you very much!

Jeff and Cam walked into a beautifully furnished bedroom, clearly a guy's room, which was drenched with light from some huge windows facing the ocean.  The view of the beach and the ocean was a twin of the view from Alex's second floor.

"Nice," Cam said.

"Yeah," Jeff said.  "I didn't know how lucky I was when I was living here."

Cam sat down the bed just as Juanita came in with two suitcases.

"Thank you, Juanita," Jeff said.

"De nada, Jeff," Juanita said, and left the room.

Jeff threw the suitcases down at the foot of the bed and opened them.  Cam watched him as he selected underwear, T-shirts and cargo shorts from a large dresser, and then some polo shirts and khaki pants from the closet, and plopped it all into the suitcases.  Then he went into his bathroom and collected some of his grooming supplies.  Cam followed him into the bathroom just to make sure that there were no drugs in the mix.  Lastly, mindful of Cam's plan to take him to church, Jeff packed a pair of slacks and a short-sleeved white shirt.

The packing completed, Jeff closed and latched the suitcases before walking over to the large windows facing the beach.  He studied the ocean for a long moment.  Turning his head, he looked back at Cam, now seated on the bed again.

"Who knows when I'll see this view again," he said.

"When you're ready, buddy," Cam responded, "it'll be here waiting for you."

Jeff nodded and walked back to the bed, picking up a suitcase.  "Well, let's bounce."

Cam picked up the other suitcase, and they went downstairs.  They said good-bye to Juanita and trudged back to Alex's in the soft sand.

Jeff took the suitcase Cam had been hauling and took them both upstairs.  Cam walked into the den, where Kevin and Carl were watching TV as they monitored Casey crawling and walking around the room.  Cam's eyes locked with Kevin's when Cam came in, and Kevin smiled, looking at Cam's crotch in his 501 cutoffs.  He knew immediately Cam was thinking about sex because that's exactly what he was thinking about.  Cam went over and sat beside his partner on the couch, taking Kevin's hand where it lay in his lap.  He moved it to his own lap.

"Carl?" Cam said.


"Do you think you could keep Jeff company and watch Casey for us for a while?"

"Sure.  'Sup?"

"Uh, Kev and I need some alone time."

"Oh," Carl said.  "OH!" he repeated, the light dawning and a big grin appearing on his face.  "You'll owe me."

"Yep," Cam agreed.

Cam and Kevin stood up and headed for the stairs, passing Jeff on his way into the den.

"We'll be down in a few minutes," Kevin told him.

" 'K," Jeff said.

Kevin and Cam raced up the stairs two at a time and into their bedroom, locking the door behind them.  Kevin went into the bathroom and relieved himself.  He returned with two bath towels which he threw on the bed.  Cam pulled him to his body, letting his arms run down Kevin's back and grabbing his butt through his Levi's.  Kevin smiled as he looked into his partner's face.

"Ummm," he said, kissing Cam, giving him some tongue, and then pulling back to look him in the face.  "I knew what you had in mind the minute you came back from the Millers'."

"Great minds..." Cam said, putting his lips back on Kevin's and moving into a nice, long, juicy kiss.

Stepping back, Kevin grasped Cam's T-shirt at the waist and slowly pulled it over his partner's chest and head, dropping it to the floor.  The beauty of Cam's body washed over him, and Kevin could feel the effects in his own crotch.  Lowering his head, he licked and gently nibbled Cam's nipples until the nubs firmed up.  Cam shut his eyes in pleasure.  Never missing a beat with his tongue, Kevin loosened Cam's belt and pushed his cutoffs down until they fell around his ankles.  Then he massaged the growing bulge in Cam's boxers until the boy was totally hard, forming a giant tent in his underwear.  Bending down, Kevin picked his partner up bodily and deposited him on the bed.

As Kevin started stripping, Cam toed off his own sneakers, pulled off his socks, and raising his butt, lost the boxers.  His hard cock lay on his stomach and abs, already pulsing.  Turning his head, he watched Kevin's defined, muscular body appear as clothes dropped to the floor.  His partner's cock was horizontal and fast rising to vertical.

Kevin raised Cam up and pulled down the bedspread, blanket and sheet, then depositing his lover on his back and lying down on top of him.  They looked into one another's eyes, brown into green, for long moments without doing anything.  Then Kevin put a hand on Cam's face, leaving it there in an unmoving, tender touch.

"Every time we make love, I don't think it can ever be better," Kevin told Cam softly.  "But somehow it always is."

Cam studied his partner's face.  "I love you so much, Kev.  I keep trying to think of new ways to show you.  But I can't come up with anything."

"I'm pretty happy with the old ways, to tell you the truth," Kevin assured him.

Cam rolled them over so that he was on top, smoothing Kevin's crew cut back from his forehead and kissing him hungrily.  Moving his head down, he licked Kevin's nipples until they hardened, and then squeezed them and twisted them gently.

He kissed Kevin's abs and stomach as he moved down Kevin's body to his package, where he held his partner's balls in his hand and licked them, drawing them into his mouth one at a time and holding them there.  Then he began to kiss and lick the boy's inner thighs until they gleamed with saliva right to the crotch.  Pushing Kevin's legs back with an arm so Kevin could grab his own ankles,
Cam stretched the muscular globes of Kevin's ass apart and put his face in Kevin's crack, his tongue snaking out to rim his hole at length before plunging inside for a prolonged tongue fuck.

"Oh, yeah!!" Kevin said, his head moving around on the pillow in pleasure.

A bead of pre-cum had now appeared at the end of Kevin's cock

Moving back up Kevin's body, Cam kissed the soft skin of his partner's stomach and abs thoroughly again, and then took the end of the stiff dick in front of him into his mouth and sucked on it gently, running his tongue over the head of it repeatedly before swallowing it whole.

"Oh, fuck yes!" Kevin groaned, closing his eyes tightly, his arms stretched out perpendicular to his body.  "Oh, fuck yes!" he repeated as Cam worked his cock.  Cam brought Kevin to the edge of orgasm, abating his attentions just in time to prevent ejaculation.  He brought his partner to the abyss several more times, leaving Kevin horny and trembling before reaching for lube in the bedside table and preparing them both for the final act in their dance of love.

Cam lubed Kevin, gently stretching his still-damp hole with one, then two, then three fingers.  After putting a folded towel under Kevin's butt, he lubed his own cock, and moved gently into and up inside his partner, his friend, his lover.  Cam's heart was beating fast as he made himself at home inside Kevin, unmoving for the moment as he lay on top of that silken skin, staring down into his boy's eyes yet again.  Only tenderness momentarily restrained the passion which would soon follow.

Cam began to pump slowly and deliberately, and Kevin felt himself swept up in the calm power and authority of Cam's lovemaking as his partner's movements gradually escalated.  Kevin felt overwhelmed.  His body felt dominated as powerfully now by Cam as when he himself had taken possession of his former girlfriend Heather and dominated her on the night he had planted the seed which would become their child, Casey.  But his body also told him in no uncertain terms that lovemaking with Cam was a better experience for him.  Far better.  Not only because he was on the receiving end this time, but because it was passion born of a purer love in both parties:  the desire to give of self.

Without conscious thought, Kevin began raising his pelvis to meet each thrust that Cam made into his body, wanting to answer the call to oneness now controlling his entire being.  Cam's abs were sliding again and again over Kevin's dick, trapped in the moisture between their now profusely sweating bodies.  They made it last over long minutes.  But eventually the die was cast, and groaning with pleasure, Kevin felt a huge load spew out of his cock and repeatedly splash up his chest between him and his lover.  Several strings of semen hit his neck and face.  Cam, feeling Kevin's rectum tighten around his dick, orgasmed almost immediately afterward, and shot his seed far up inside Kevin.

Spent and panting, the two young men lay in each other's arms, only semi-conscious as their breathing slowed.  They clung to one another in their nakedness, not wanting to put behind them what had been an especially powerful exchange of love and passion, and a promise for their continuing life together.

Cam drifted off almost immediately, but Kevin lay awake for several minutes caressing Cam's face.

He nestled his face into the crook of Cam's neck before succumbing to sleep himself.

*  *  *

Cam and Kevin had just finished showering together, and totally relaxed, were lackadaisically toweling one another dry in their bathroom when Cam's cell phone rang.  Cam walked into the bedroom and picked it up.


"Cam?" he heard Ian Carson say.

"Hi, Ian."

Kevin stuck his head out of the bathroom to listen to Cam's end of the conversation.

"I have some information for you," Ian said.  "Do you have a pen and paper?"

"Hold on one sec," Cam said, walking over to his laptop on a desk to get a pad of paper and a pen.

"Okay," Cam said.

"George Suthon talked to several experts in addictions up here," Ian said, "and everybody pretty much agrees that a place called 'Assurances' in Santa Monica has the most advanced methodology and best track record in working with addicts.  I'm told they've been especially effective with meth addicts."  He gave Cam the facility's address and phone number.

"Great!" Cam said.  "That's close to home, so at the point Jeff can have visitors, his mom and dad and Kevin and Carl and I can see him.  Sounds ideal.  By the way, Mr. and Mrs. Miller are going to pay for detox and rehab for Jeff."

"I'm glad to hear that.  An added plus to Assurances is that they're not the most expensive facility down there by far," Ian said.  "Given what the Millers have shelled out already, that should sit well with them."

"You're right!" Cam said.

"There is one small problem," Ian said.

"What's that?"

"They have a waiting list.  But when I talked with the staff there, they said that they could probably get a prospective client with an emergency need into the facility within a week.  Do you think Jeff can hang on that long without being admitted?"

"Oh, man," Cam groaned.  "I don't know."

"Here's my thought about that," Ian said.  "Take Jeff and his mother or father, or both, over to the facility.  Introduce them to the staff, and get him signed up for admission.  Then one of their physicians can examine him and, if indicated, give him some meds to tide him over until they have an opening."

"Excellent idea!" Cam said.  "Ian, I can't thank you enough for what you've done for us!  No, that's not right.  For everything you've done for the whole family since we've known you.  We love ya, man!  And I don't know how we'll ever repay you!"

"I'll get it out of you one way or another," Ian said with a laugh.  "After all, I'm a lawyer."

"I know," Cam said.  "Now that one question's been answered, the other one is, when are you all coming down here?"

"What?  What do you mean, when are we coming down there?" Ian kidded Cam.  "It's like a foreign country down there, and I don't think our passports are up to date."

"Don't make me come up there and get you," Cam said.  "I'll haul y'all down here in the back of an eighteen wheeler."

"Did you say 'y'all'?  I haven't heard that since New Orleans."

"See, I did learn something over there in Louisiana.  But stick to the subject!  Don't mess with me!"

"All right," Ian said.  "We're coming down this coming Thursday afternoon, flying into LAX on a charter flight.  We'll stay until Tuesday morning.  We have to leave then to get the guys back and ready to start school."

"What about Yolanda and Rosa?"

"They're coming along."

"Excellent!  And Andy Helder?"


"That's wonderful!  Carl will be so happy!" Cam said.  "Can I tell him?"

"Use your own judgment.  I don't know whether Andy will tell him when they talk on the phone or not."

"What about the dogs?"

"We're bringing them."

"Ian, you've made my week!  My month!  Maybe my year!  I'm so pumped!  We can't wait to see you all  
Do you want us to pick you up?"

"No, there are too many of us.  I've arranged for transportation."


"See you on Thursday, boy," Ian said.

"I love ya, Ian," Cam said, speaking through a familiar lump in his throat when he talked to family members after not seeing them for a while.

"Love you, too, Cameron.  See you soon."

Kevin had come out of the bathroom, still stark naked, and stood there looking at Cam.  Cam's eyes swept over his partner's muscular, gymboy body.

"So...?" Kevin said.

"So...?  You're fucking beautiful," Cam said.  So beautiful it made Cam's chest hurt.

"Yeah, yeah.  Let's have the news."

"Ian gave me the name of a good rehab facility in Santa Monica for Jeff.  And...are you ready for this?  The whole family's flying into LAX on Thursday afternoon.  Including Yolanda and Rosa.  And Andy Helder.  And Samantha and Alice."

Kevin walked over and gave Cam a long hug, holding him tight, skin on skin.  Both of them started to erect.

"Let's save some for later," Kevin said, nuzzling one of Cam's ears with his nose and then kissing it.

"Well, quit it, then," Cam said, trying to move away from Kevin with a good start on a fresh hardon.

"You're one horny boy," Kevin told him, grinning, reaching out and holding Cam's cock briefly before releasing it.

"I'm horny?" Cam snorted.  "You should have little horns growing out of your head!"

Kevin smiled.  "Anyway, put on a jock and gym shorts," he said.  "We're gonna use John's exercise machines."

"I'm feeling kinda weak because you made me have sex," Cam complained.  "Maybe tomorrow."

"You're so fulla shit I don't know what to do sometimes!" Kevin said.  "Get moving."

Cam groaned, but bowed to the inevitable, and walked over to his dresser and started to get ready.  He hadn't exercised for a week, and he knew it would be hell.  Kevin would make sure of that.

When they arrived downstairs and looked into the den, Casey had worn himself out crawling around and was fast asleep on the floor on his face.  Carl and Jeff were snoozing, too, on two of the leather couches.

Kevin walked over first to Carl, and then to Jeff, and gave them a little shake.  They awakened with befuddled looks on their faces and sat up.

"Getcher asses upstairs and get dressed for a good workout," Kevin instructed the sleepy miscreants.

"I probably shouldn't strain myself before I go into rehab," Jeff said.  "I need rest."

"Nice try," Kevin said.  "Get dressed."

"Did you pack some jocks when we were next door?" Cam asked Jeff.

"No.  I don't even have any that fit me anymore."

"Well, you know where mine are," Cam said.  "Help yourself.  And I have some good news.  Our friend Ian Carson found a rehab facility for you in Santa Monica.  It's named 'Assurances.'  Will you call Juanita, and ask her to have your mother call me when she gets home from downtown?  We need to get you over there ASAP to get the preliminaries out of the way.  They have a waiting list, but we may be able to get you some meds to tide you over until you go in."

"Thanks, man," Jeff said gratefully, picking up a nearby phone and dialing.

"Juanita, this is Jeff," he said when Juanita answered.  "Will you ask Mom to call Cam over here at the MacKenzies' when she gets home?"  Jeff gave her the number and hung up after thanking her.  He looked over at Cam.  "I've heard of Assurances on the street, and it actually has a pretty good reputation."

Cam nodded, and then went over to Carl and sat down next to him, putting an arm around his neck.

"Ian had some more good news," he told Carl.


"The whole family's flying in this coming Thursday and staying until Tuesday."

"Fuckin' A!! That's outstanding!" Carl said, looking pleased and excited.

"That's not all," Cam said.  "Somebody's comin' with 'em."

Carl's eyes got big.  "Holy shit!" he said.  "You mean Andy?  Please tell me Andy's coming!"

"Yeah, bud, he is!" Cam said.

Carl shrugged off Cam's arm, put his own arm around Cam's neck, and kissed him on the side of the head.  "I love ya for doin' this, Cam!  I'm so pumped!"  He stood up and started doing a little dance as Jeff watched in amazement.

"Don't thank me," Cam told Carl, looking up at him.  "Thank Ian.  He da man!!"

"Yeah, he is," Carl agreed.  When he quit dancing, he pulled out his phone and hit the speed dial for Andy Helder.

"Hey, man," he said when Andy answered.  "I just got the word that you're gonna be comin' down here next week."

"Yep.  Who ruined the surprise?" Andy asked.

"Ian Carson and Cam," Carl admitted.  "But I threatened Cam with pain and death if he didn't tell," he lied.  "This is gonna be so great.  I'm so pumped I can't stand it!"  Carl wandered out into the hall for a little more privacy as Cam and Kevin sat there in the den grinning at each other with Jeff.

Carl poked his head into the door five minutes later, telephone conversation with his lover over for the moment.

"Now I can exercise.  Come on, Jeff, let's go change."

"Take Casey upstairs and put him in his crib, willya?" Kevin asked.

Carl gently picked the baby up off the floor and started upstairs with Jeff reluctantly following, both going into Cam and Kevin's bedroom.  Carl kissed the baby, put him in his crib covered with a light blanket, and headed for his own room.

A few minutes later the four boys were gathered in Alex and Jeff's little gym.  There was a treadmill, two cable machines, and a several benches with free weights at hand. Rightly used, the equipment would provide complete workouts at any skill level.  Cam and Carl sat down on the cable machine seats while Kevin oriented Jeff a little as to what the machines did. 

When he finished Jeff's orientation, Kevin took a thin, rolled up mat from a corner of the room, and laid it out in an empty spot.

"Lie down on the mat, Jeff.  The first thing we're gonna do is work on your breathing."

"I'm breathing just fine," Jeff said.  But he followed instructions and lay down on the mat.

"You think you are," Kevin said.  "But you're mostly breathing with your chest.  We're going to work on breathing with your diaphragm."


"When you really get into exercising--and you will--you'll need to breathe with your diaphragm whenever the greatest effort is needed," Kevin said.  "It'll help you with your running, too."  He put the cap on a half full water bottle on the table, and put the bottle on Jeff's abdomen.

"Empty your lungs first.  Now, inhale slowly through your nose, pushing your abdominal muscles out without letting your chest expand.  Then exhale, and let your abdomen fall back.  You can tell from the water bottle going up and down whether you're using your diaphragm or not."

Carl and Cam were still sitting on the cable machine seats, watching.

Kevin glanced at them.  "Get your asses moving," he told them.  "Do some warm-ups, and then give me some internal rotator cuff exercises first.  Slowly.  You know the drill!  Then some externals."

"Yes, Ma-a-aster!" Cam said, going over and grabbing a couple of light free weights, holding them parallel to his body at the sides and starting some slow circles.  Carl laughed, and got right on it, too.

"Kevin's whole personality changes when he gets into the gym," Carl told Cam.  "Maybe he needs therapy."

"The only therapy I need is to kick your ass if you don't get started pretty soon," Kevin said as he hunkered down and watched Jeff breathe.

Cam and Carl laughed, and momentarily buckled down after they walked over to their respective machines.

Devoid of expression, Carl looked at Cam after a few cable pulls.  "I s'pose you wonder sometimes why I always follow Kevin's orders."

"The question has crossed my mind. 
Why do you always do what he says?" Cam asked.

"'Cause I'm afraid," Carl said, face expressionless.

"Really!  Afraid of Kevin?"

"No," Carl said.  "Afraid of how I might have to hurt him if he tried to get physical with me to make me do something I didn't want to do."

Cam laughed.

Kevin hid a smile behind his hand and pretended not to hear as he watched Jeff breathe.

"What about you?  Why do you always do what he says?" Carl asked.

"Well, look at his bod," Cam said.  "He's cute.  Seriously cute.  A stud.  I don't have any resistance.  And then there's his voice.  I always do what a super stud like him tells me to do in a deep voice.  His voice makes my nuts tingle and my nips get hard."

"Nips?  Is that all?" Carl asked, struggling not to burst into laughter.

Kevin started to laugh, and that made Jeff laugh.  The water bottle fell off Jeff's abs on to the floor and rolled over toward Carl and Cam, who finally gave in and began to roar with laughter.

All exercise stopped, and it was several minutes before Kevin regained control of his recalcitrant trainees.

After completing his breathing exercises, Jeff managed some leg lifts and pushups before Kevin took pity on him and let him stop.  Jeff sat on the floor then and watched the other three guys work out until the sweat was pouring off their bodies.  He might be straight, but Jeff couldn't help appreciating how good looking these guys were.

*  *  *

The boys showered after their workouts, including Jeff, and Kevin examined Jeff's rash and sores when the latter had washed and dried himself off.

"Your skin is still improving, Jeff," Kevin said.  "Let's do the powder and ointment again."

"Okay," Jeff agreed.  He powdered his own package and put ointment on some sores on his inner thighs, and then Kevin powdered Jeff's back, butt and legs, followed by ointment on the boy's sores on his backside.

"Thank you, Kev," Jeff said.  If he had ever been embarrassed to have another guy touch his body in intimate areas (without being paid for it, that is), he was clearly over it.  He continued to be grateful that these new friends of his cared enough about him to take care of him.

After they were dressed, they sat outside with Casey, now awake, on the first floor deck.  They were just getting comfortable when the landline rang.  Cam went in and took the call.  It was Mrs. Miller.  Cam asked if he and Jeff could come over to the Miller house for a few minutes to talk about Jeff's rehab.  She said they could, and Cam and Jeff walked back over there.

Cam reported to Mrs. Miller that their family friend Ian Carson had telephoned from San Francisco about Assurances, arguably the best facility in the area, but which had a waiting list.  He asked her if she was free to ride into Santa Monica.  They could look over the facility, and if they liked the place, get Jeff signed up for admission, make arrangements for payments, and possibly get a physical exam which might lead to some short term meds for Jeff pending admission.

"I'm free to do that, Cam," Susan Miller.  "We should probably call for an appointment, though, don't you think?"

"You're right," Cam said.  "I have the number for the admissions office written down at home.  Let me call Kevin and get it."

He did that, and was soon on the phone with Assurances.  He introduced himself, explained the circumstances of the call, and then handed his cell phone to Mrs. Miller.  The staffer told her that they had an opening for an appointment in an hour and a half.  After conferring with Cam and Jeff, Susan Miller confirmed the appointment.

When Cam and Jeff went back to Alex's and Kevin heard what was going on, he asked Jeff if he and Carl and Casey could ride into town with them to look at Assurances.  Jeff said they could, and forty-five minutes later the whole group was in the Highlander heading for Santa Monica, Carl at the wheel.  A display on the Toyota's dashboard said that they were getting 24 m.p.g., not too shabby for a fully loaded vehicle, Carl thought.  The electric motor was running alone a lot of the time on the way to Santa Monica, and even when it had been active, the gasoline engine always stopped running altogether at stop lights.

On the way into Santa Monica, Carl stopped at a wigmaker's home to drop off Jeff's hair.  Carl had looked the place up on his computer, and knew that the man involved in this work donated a good part of his time pro bono to making wigs for cancer victims.  Carl had Jeff go to the door with him, and the guy seemed very grateful to get the donation.

They arrived at their destination a few minutes early, and sat in a pleasantly decorated waiting room until the director of admissions was free.  Cam introduced Mrs. Miller and Jeff first, and then himself and the rest of the crew.  The admissions director's name was Anita Fowler.  She was a pretty, middle-aged woman, well groomed and well spoken.

"What a beautiful baby!" Ms. Fowler said, looking down into Casey's face as Kevin held him.  "Is this your child?" she asked Mrs. Miller.

"Not at my age," Susan Miller said.  "He's a sweetheart, though."

"He's mine and Cam's," Kevin said.  "Cam's my partner," he added.  "Anyway, thanks for the compliment."

After making over the baby, Ms. Fowler invited Jeff into her office.  Susan Miller asked if she and Cam could join them initially.  Mrs. Miller explained that Cam was largely responsible for identifying Assurances as their preference for a treatment facility, and for getting Jeff to the point at which he was ready to accept treatment.  So Cam and she went into the meeting with them, where Ms. Fowler asked Jeff to sign a "release of information" form allowing Cam and his mother to be a part of the private discussion.  Cam was pleased that facility personnel seemingly were sticklers when it came to client confidentiality.

After some general talk about the facility, Ms. Fowler excused Mrs. Miller and Cam.  She then elicited a treatment history from Jeff, and secured more signed and dated "release of information" forms from him to get medical and treatment records from each of the other two facilities in which he had been placed previously.

Before Jeff finalized the application for admission and they discussed costs, the admissions director gave the entire group a tour of the facility.  The two person client rooms were sunny and well furnished, as were the individual treatment and group areas.  The common areas were also nicely furnished, including a plethora of computers and electronic games with TV's and monitors in the recreation area.  They had a gym, a library, a chapel, nice grounds. and from what the boys could see of the meals which was being served to staff and clients in the dining room, the food looked (and smelled) good.

Casey got a lot of attention from workers and clients on the walk-around, and the little ham ate it up.

"Casey's always on stage, just like Kevin," Cam told Carl quietly as they explored the facility.  "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as Catherine would say."

"Catherine would be the first to admit that you're a particularly bad apple," Kevin shot back in a low voice.  "She used to tell me that all the time.  But by the time I realized she was right, it was too late for me.  I fought it, but I was hooked on you by then no matter how hard I struggled."

"'Hard' being the operative word," Carl said softly.

Cam and Kevin laughed, and continued the tour.  Kevin put Casey down on his own feet every now and then, and holding tight to his father's hand, in those moments the little guy did his own exploring.

Eventually they went back to the admissions office, and Mrs. Miller signed an agreement to be financially responsible for the cost of Jeff's board, room and treatment.  Without blinking an eye, she wrote a big check to put Jeff on the waiting list, and Jeff signed the application for admission.

Ms. Fowler then telephoned a physician that Assurances had on retainer, and arranged for a physical exam for Jeff.  The doctor was able take him right away, so Carl drove the group over to his office.  Mrs. Miller stayed with Jeff, and the boys took Casey down to Santa Monica beach and walked on the pier.  It was a beautiful, bright day, with low humidity and a nice breeze off the ocean, and they all enjoyed themselves.  Within an hour,
the Millers called to be picked up.

"Did the doc say anything about your skin?" Kevin asked him after he and his mother climbed into the car.

"Just to keep doing what we've been doing," Jeff said.

Jeff had two prescriptions for meds, so they stopped at a pharmacy.  Then Mrs. Miller took them all to lunch at a little restaurant on the way back to Malibu, and the boys, including Jeff, ate everything in sight.  Seeing Jeff eating well made everybody happy.

Jeff had taken some of the new meds with his lunch.  He seemed subdued on the ride home, but Cam didn't want to question him in front of the others.  Carl dropped Mrs. Miller off in her driveway.

"We're going to cook some steaks tonight, Mrs. Miller," Cam said.  "If you and Mr. Miller don't have plans for this evening, why don't you join us for supper?  We'll eat about seven o'clock.  Oh, and bring Juanita over with you, too."

Mrs. Miller was obviously surprised at the invitation.  "Thank you, Cam.  Let me talk to Sean and Juanita, and I'll call you."

They left it at that.  Carl drove next door and parked in the driveway.

"So, what are ya gonna cook tonight, Chef Boy-R-Dee?" Kevin asked Cam.

"I told Mrs. Miller steak," Cam said.  "But I'm open to any inspiration you may want to share with me."

"I'm fresh out of inspiration," Kevin said, climbing out of the car with Casey.  "You may have to open up a big can of beans, and that'll be it."

"I'm not feeding you beans, Kevin," Cam said, acting offended.  "I'm not a terrorist.  Feeding you beans would be like a license to spread poison gas.  I'd have to make Casey a little gas mask so he'd survive the next few days.  And put the EMT's on high alert!"

"That was cruel," Kevin said.  "Now I'm not lifting a hand to help you."

"You'll at least grill the steaks, won't you?  You're good at it."

"I doubt it.  My feelings have been hurt."

"I'll find a way to make it up to you," Cam said, grabbing his partner's Levi-clad ass and leaving his hand there as they walked into the house.

Kevin grinned.  "We'll just see about that."

Carl was used to hearing that kind of dialog from Cam and Kevin, and started laughing, but Jeff didn't smile at first until he heard Carl's reaction.

"Don't take these assholes seriously," Carl told him.  "It's what you call a love-hate relationship.  They aren't happy unless they're on each other's case all the time about something or other."

"What the fuck do you know about it!" Cam said to Carl, pretending to be annoyed.

"More than I ever wanted to know, you dumb shit," Carl said.  "Believe me on that."

Casey's diaper was wet.  Kevin took him upstairs to change him, temporarily putting a halt to his and Cam's discussion about supper.  Kevin cleaned the baby up, fed him a jar of strained apricots, and put him down for a nap.  Casey was such a calm, happy child, that as usual he just went with the flow and soon was fast asleep.  Kevin stood beside the crib and watched the baby sleep for a long time, and as usual, the sight lifted his spirits and called forth his love.

Mid-afternoon found Cam, Kevin and Carl sitting at the dining room table on their computers, registering online for their first semester classes at UCLA.  None of them had a problem getting the classes he wanted.  Each of them entered his bank routing number and checking account number in the payment section, and the computer automatically scheduled a time and date to have a picture ID issued on campus.  Then that took care of registration.

Jeff hooked up the Wii to Alex and John's big screen TV in the den, and playing against himself, worked on his bowling game.

Carl came in and watched Jeff for a few minutes, and then suggested that the two of them take a walk on the beach.  Jeff told Cam and Kevin where they were going, and they headed out.  Jeff was feeling a lot better now that his meds were kicking in.

They walked quietly for a while before Carl broke the silence.

"So, what did you think about the setup at Assurances?" he asked Jeff.  "You didn't say much."

"Nice place," Jeff said.  "Very professional."

"That's not telling me anything."

"I'll make it work."

Carl looked over at him.  "You don't want to go in, do you?"

"No.  But I have to do it, or I'm a dead man."

"Why don't you want to go?"

Jeff didn't say anything at first.

"Because I'm smart enough to know that when I kick the addictions, and I will, that's when I have to start dealing with my real problems," he said.  "Whatever the fuck they are."

Carl smiled.  "You don't know how glad I am to hear you say that.  It takes a long time for some people to find out that everything about us is connected to everything else in our lives.  Nothing exists in isolation.  So you're ahead of the game."

"How do you know that?" Jeff asked.

"I had to learn it the hard way."


"Yeah," Carl sighed.  "I want you to be successful at Assurances.  So I'm gonna tell you some stuff about me that I normally don't tell people.  Only DCFS and anyone who reads the San Francisco and Monterey newspapers know about what happened to me.  But the public doesn't remember.  My family knows, of course.  When I say 'my family,' I mean Kevin and Cam and all the people you'll meet when they come down here next Thursday from San Francisco.  Only one of my family is related to me by blood--my brother Dan--but these people are sure as hell more my family than a lot of other people have in their lives.  I'm incredibly lucky."

"All right," Jeff responded, not knowing exactly what to say.

"Last year, my father beat me and raped me," Carl said without preamble.  "I'd met Cam and Kevin on a beach down in the Big Sur, and after my dad was finished with me, I called them up out of the blue at Alex and John's cabin, and went to see them.  They called the man who's now Dan's and my foster father, Ian Carson, and he came down with a doctor, a DCFS director, and a CHiPs captain.  They took me to see a judge, and the judge put my dad in jail.  Ian, and Mary, his wife, and his two boys and me and Dan went up to San Rafael to live with Cam and Kevin and their mom, Catherine.  That's when I knew we really were a family.

"At my dad's trial, he pulled a gun he'd smuggled into the court room, and shot Ian in the shoulder.  He was aiming for me, but Ian pushed me behind him.  I'd be dead now if it weren't for him.  My own father tried to kill me.  The CHiPs captain killed him right on the spot."

Carl swallowed hard and stopped talking for a minute.

"I had some mental problems along the way from everything that happened to me, and Ian and Mary sent me to a good psychiatrist, and she put me in the hospital for a while.  Therapy with her started the same process for me that you're gonna go through at Assurances.  I started finding out who I really was, and am.  One of the things I found out, after all the girls I'd fucked, is that I'm gay.  I'm not saying that's something you'll find out about yourself.  I'm not saying that at all.  But you're gonna find out some things you didn't know about yourself, things you're gonna have to live with and accept about yourself, or maybe change about yourself.  Just do it, man.  Get it done.  It's a chance to find some happiness in your life.  I know that for a fact.

"I'm telling you all this because when you meet my whole family this coming week, you'll understand what got me through the mess I'd been in.  When Cam told you he had your back after we found you under the deck, and Kevin and I said the same thing, it wasn't just talk.  What you've got ahead of you at Assurances is gonna be hard as hell, but with the love of this family and your mom and dad, you can get this done.  When you get bummed along the way, and you will, just remember what I told you."

Jeff slowed his pace, and then stopped walking altogether.  Carl stopped, too, and faced him.

"I...I can't believe you know all this," Jeff said, stumbling a little over his words.

Carl's face was somber.  "Well, when you've experienced it, you know it.  That's all I can tell you."

"Well, thanks for caring about me and taking the time to talk to me about it."

The two guys turned around and started walking back to the house, and Carl was surprised when Jeff put an arm over his shoulders.  It was the first sign of affection Jeff had shown to any of them except for Casey.

When they arrived home, they found a note from Kevin on the kitchen counter that Jeff's mom and dad and Juanita were coming over for supper that night.  Cam, Kevin and Casey had taken the Mustang and gone to a nearby grocery store for vegetables and some dessert, the note said.  A huge mound of T-Bone steaks was thawing in the sink.  Carl broke some of the steaks apart so they would thaw faster.

Jeff and Carl went into the den and fired up Alex's big screen TV and the Wii, and did some bowling while they listened to John Mayer's "Heavier Things" album.  It was a good game, with Jeff finally winning.  They heard the back door bang, and then Kevin's head poked around the corner into the den.

"Dudes!" Kevin said.  "Whereya been?"

"Right here waiting for your sorry ass to get back," Carl said.

"I'm here.  Cam has Casey.  How about helping me unload the groceries?"

"Yep," Carl said.

The three of them went out to the Mustang, where Cam was walking Casey around on the driveway.  The little guy was more sure on his feet with every passing day.  Kevin opened the trunk of his car.

"Geez," Carl said.  "You bought out the store."

"All for you, my little weakling," Kevin told him.  "We have to keep up your strength for when Andy Helder gets down here."

"Thanks," Carl said, pondering that happy thought.

They each took two bags and went into the kitchen.  When the crisper in the kitchen refrigerator was full, Kevin took some of the vegetables back out to the garage and put them into Alex's auxiliary refrigerator.

Sean and Susan Miller and Juanita Fuentes walked over to Alex's about 5:30.  Kevin was out on the back deck firing up the grill, and he took them into the house.

"How can I help?" Juanita asked right away.

"You're a guest tonight, Juanita," Cam said.  "Let's go into the den and sit down."

"What can I get you folks to drink?" Carl asked their visitors.  "We have cocktails and plenty of wine," he added.  "And beer."

"Susan, Juanita, what would you like?" Sean asked.

"If you have Merlot, I'll have a glass of that," Mrs. Miller said.  "Juanita?"

The little Latina woman smiled.  "Do you have Dos Equis?" she asked softly, not used to being waited on.

"We sure do," Carl said.  "Mr. Miller?"

"I'll have an Absolut on the rocks," he said.

Carl headed for the kitchen, and came back a few minutes later with the drinks and passed them out.

"Aren't you guys having anything?" Sean Miller asked.

"No, sir," Carl said.  "Part of our deal with Alex and John is that we don't drink here in the house."

"And you're keeping your word!" Sean said.  "I admire that."

Cam came into the room with Casey, and sat down.  The boy sat quietly on Cam's lap, still tired out from his earlier sojourn in the driveway.

"May I hold Casey?" Mrs. Miller asked.

"Of course," Cam said, and handed the boy over.  Casey eyed this new human curiously, and took hold of a bracelet Mrs. Miller was wearing.  She pulled it off and gave it to Casey.  He immediately put it in his mouth, naturally.  Cam smiled.  It was too late to take it away from him, and it would occupy the little guy for awhile.

Jeff had been helping Kevin fire up the grill, and now joined his parents and Juanita.  Carl excused himself to go prepare a salad and nuke some whole potatoes before they went on the grill to finish cooking.  He broke the stems off of some fresh string beans, put them in a pot and started them cooking.

Back in the den, Mr. Miller looked at his son.  "I heard you had a good trip to see Assurances, Jeff," Sean said.  "What did you think of the place."

"It's nice," Jeff said.  "It'll do the job.  The people we met there were very nice."

"Good," Sean said.  "You know we're pulling for you.  I'm so happy you're doing this."

"Dad, I appreciate everything you and Mom have done for me.  And I'm sorry that I've given you both such a rough time in the past.  I know this isn't going to be easy, but I'm gonna tough it out."

They continued to talk quietly for the next thirty minutes until Kevin came in, spatula in hand.  It had been the longest conversation that the Millers had had with their son in many years.

"Last call for another drink before supper," Kevin told them.  "I'm putting the steaks on.  How do you want 'em."  They all gave their preferences, and Kevin left.

"Anybody want another drink?" Cam asked, standing up.

The guests all declined.

"Okay.  Jeff, how about helping me add some more leaves to the dining room table?"

"Right behind you," Jeff said, and the two young men went into the dining room and enlarged the table.

Fifteen minutes later, they were all standing around the table, now loaded with food.  Jeff, Carl, Cam and Kevin clasped hands with one another and bowed their heads for the grace, and after a moment's uncertainty, so did Juanita and Susan and Sean Miller.

"Carl, if you'd offer thanks," Kevin said.

"Heavenly Father, we ask you to look on us, your children, as we gather together around this table for the nourishment of our bodies, praising your name for your many gifts to us.  We thank you for the opportunity to be together, and for the kindness and good feelings of neighbors.  We ask you now to bless this food to our use, and to bless our brother Jeff as he prepares to begin a new phase in his life at Assurances, through Jesus Christ our Lord."


Juanita and the boys made the sign of the cross.

Sean seated his wife, Jeff seated Juanita, and the guys all sat down.  Kevin remained standing as the other boys sat, and began spearing steaks cooked to order off of a big platter, and giving them to the designated diners.  When he was finished with that task, Kevin sat down and pulled Casey in his highchair closer to the table so he could feed him.

"You cooked, so let me feed the little guy," Cam told his partner.  He pulled Casey over closer to his own chair, opened a jar of strained peas, and prepared to start spooning food into the little guy's mouth.  Casey was hungry, and opened his mouth right up.

"Thanks, bud," Kevin told Cam, shooting him a loving look.

When everyone had food and started eating, the compliments started flowing.

"This is great," Sean Miller said, savoring his steak and looking at Kevin.  Then he bit down on a semi-crisp stringed bean.  "Al dente," he said.  "You guys seem to know what you're doing in the kitchen."

"Kevin and Carl do," Cam said.  "I just stand back in awe of their talents. And I'm not kidding."

"I know how to light charcoal and burn stuff on the grill," Kevin said dismissively.  "That's about the extent of it.  Carl is the real cook."

Kevin ate quickly, and then took over feeding the baby from Cam so his partner could eat while the food was still hot.  It was delicious, and Cam made good headway on cleaning his plate.

The conversation continued to flow easily throughout the meal.  Carl and Cam cleared the table when everyone was finished, and came back with strawberry shortcake with whipped cream.  Kevin got a little, very little, whipped cream on his finger and put it on Casey's tongue when he opened his mouth.

"Yiiii," Casey responded, waving his arms around.  Everybody laughed.

"He has a sweet tooth already," Susan Miller said.

Carl brought in a coffee pot, and served Juanita and the Millers and himself a cup of coffee to go with dessert.

When the meal was over, everyone went into the big living room and continued talking.  Sean Miller told everyone about the movie he was currently making, and regaled everybody with a few stories about movies he'd made in other parts of the world.  Then he began questioning Cam, Kevin and Carl about school, what they would be taking at UCLA, and what their goals were.  They all talked for a long time.

Cam asked Juanita if she knew of anybody they could get to help with the housework and take care of Casey during the day while they were in school.  Juanita said that her sister's employers were selling their house and moving to New York, and that her sister was looking for a job.  Cam wrote down her name and telephone number, and said he'd call her the next day.  That made Juanita happy.

Eventually, Sean caught Susan Miller's eye, and Susan said they really had to be getting home.  Sean had to run some lines for the next day's shoot, and had to be up at 4 o'clock the next morning.  Faced with a deadline, the film company was even shooting scenes on Sundays.

When they went to the beach-side door to leave, Sean stopped Cam before going outside.

"I want to thank all you boys for supper, and most of all, for everything you've done for Jeff," he said.  "You've done something that his mother and I were never able to do--make him want to get some help.  We'll never forget it."  The man unexpectedly pulled Cam into a hug and held him for a long minute.

They stepped back.

"Don't give us too much credit," Cam said.  "Jeff was ready to get clean, and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

"You know better," Sean said.  "You're young, but you're special people.  I've been around the block, and I know them when I see them."

"Well, thanks," Cam said.

The Millers and Juanita hugged Jeff goodnight, and they went home.

The four boys got busy right away and cleaned up the dining room and kitchen, loaded the dishwasher, and took Casey out with them on to the deck for a few minutes. 
There was a gentle breeze and the sound of the water lapping the shore line was soothing. 

"You have a nice family, Jeff," Kevin said.

"I know it now," Jeff said.  "I wish I'd treated them better along the way."

"There's time now," Carl said.  "Things seem to be healing, including you."

"Thanks for having them over," Jeff added.

Carl nodded.

Cam looked at Kevin.  "Time for bed, Mister.  Thanks for cooking.  You, too, Carl.  That was a good meal and this has been a good evening."

They all stood up to go upstairs.

"We're leaving at 9:45 in the morning to go to Mass in Hollywood," Cam said.

"As Judy Garland said, 'Let's put on a show!'" Kevin said.

"Very funny.  Father Jim said it's a progressive parish, so we should check it out.  He knows the priests over there."

" 'K," Kevin said.

Cam and Kevin each kissed Carl on the cheek before he went into his room, and Kevin slapped the boy on his butt for good measure.  Jeff, Kevin and Cam went into their room.  Kevin put Casey in his crib, kissed his head, and covered him.  Then he joined Cam and Jeff in the bathroom as they cleaned their teeth.

"If you wanna shower, Jeff, I'll put some powder and ointment on ya," Kevin offered.

"I'm too tired," Jeff said.  "Thanks anyway."

They all stripped to their boxers and got in bed, Jeff on his side and Cam and Kevin on theirs.

Cam pulled Kevin close to himself, and buried his nose in Kevin's crew cut.  His partner's familiar, masculine smell soothed Cam's senses, and he fell asleep almost immediately.  Kevin put his hand on Cam's chest as it rose and fell, caressing it gently, full of love for the boy.  Then he, too, dropped off to sleep.

© 2009 Don Hanratty

Sincere thanks to Dan, Mike G. and Ken for their expert proofreading.