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


Cam climbed out of bed reluctantly on Monday morning because it was early--6 a.m., to be precise.  He needed to telephone his father in England and hoped he would reach Alex at lunch and in a good mood.  The sooner he told his dad that he had hired a housekeeper at a salary of $4,000 a month, the better.

Jeff was still dead to the world, snoring softly, and Kevin sleeping as well, chest and one leg exposed, lying there with an innocent look on his face.  Kevin has a body that just won't quit, Cam thought to himself for the thousandth time in their relationship as he studied him and then adjusted the morning hardon in his own boxers.  Cam went into the bathroom and relieved himself after his erection subsided a little.

Casey was still sleeping, and Cam didn't wake him up.

Taking his cell phone off his dresser, Cam went down to the den and dialed his father's international number.  After a series of buzzes and clicks, he heard Alex's phone ring.  A moment later the man came on the line amid a background noise of clinking glasses, clanging silverware and murmuring voices.  Good, Cam thought.  I did catch him at lunch.

"Dad?" he said.

"Cameron!" Alex said, sounding as if he was glad to hear from him.  "I've been wanting to talk to you."

"Same here," Cam said.  "How are ya?"

"If I were any better, I couldn't stand it!"

Cam laughed.  "Well, all things considered, I'd have to say the same.  What did you want to talk to me about?"

"John and I have been thinking that you and Kevin and Carl need to hire a housekeeper and someone to take care of Casey, preferably all rolled into one person.  You should do that before school starts.  How does that sound to you?"

Cam started to laugh.

"What's so funny?" Alex asked.

"That's why I was calling you.  The three of us interviewed a lady yesterday for just the job you're talking about.  Her name is Maria Romero.  She's married and has two kids.  She's Juanita Fuentes' youngest sister--you remember Juanita from next door at the Miller's, don't you?"

"I do.  Juanita does a great job for the Millers."

"Well, her sister is gonna do a great job for us," Cam said.  "We were impressed with her, and we hired her yesterday.  Are you sitting down?"

"Yes," Alex said a little apprehensively.

"We set her salary at $4,000 a month, with us paying the employer's share of social security as well, of course.  I said we'd give her two weeks vacation a year after the first year, with more generous vacation over time if she stuck with us.  Hours will be roughly 8 a.m., depending on when we have to leave for class, until one of us gets home in the late afternoon.  How does that sound to you?"

"Very reasonable," Alex said.  "But I want you to investigate how much giving her medical coverage would cost if her husband's job doesn't cover her and the kids, and get back to me about that."

Cam slapped his forehead.  "You know, I tried to think of everything, but medical never crossed my mind," Cam said.  "I'll get on that right away."

"Good," Alex said.  "What else is going on?  Is Jeff doing all right?"

"Yes.  He's going into Assurances in Santa Monica as soon as they have an opening, with Sean Miller paying the freight.  So I'm hopeful.  Jeff's really a good guy."

"Excellent!  That place has a good reputation," Alex said.  "Are Kevin and Carl and Casey all right?"

"Casey's wonderful.  The light of our life.  He's starting to eat a lot of baby food, and is walking around a lot under his own power.  The guys are good.  They're cantankerous and hard to live with, of course.  Kevin is a tyrant in the gym, but what else is new?  I may have to drug him to calm him down."

Alex laughed.  "What do you hear from San Rafael?"

"I have good news and I have bad news.  Which do you want first?"

"Oh, give me the good news first."

"Ian chartered a plane to bring the whole family, including the dogs, down here this coming Thursday.  They're staying until the following Tuesday.  I wish you and John were going to be here."

"I do, too.  I know you'll all have a good time.  What's the bad news?"

"Father Mason's dad died yesterday," Cam said.  "He flew into town this morning to get ready for the funeral.  In fact, he's coming here for lunch today before he sees his family.  He hasn't said anything, but I'm not too sure he and his family are close."

"I don't know.  He seems to fit right in with our family.  Anyway, give him John's and my condolences, will you?  I know this isn't a happy time for him."

"I'll pass along the condolences.  How's the picture coming along?" Cam asked.

"We're a little ahead of schedule, believe it or not.  If it would just quit raining, we could be home within a month," Alex said, laughing.  "But this is England, and that's not going to happen."

"Is John all right?"

"He's wonderful.  When he eventually strikes out own his own to direct some films, he's going to be formidable."

"Well, look at his teacher.  Give him our love," Cam said.

"Will do."

"Listen, to go back to the housekeeper thing for a minute, we're going to open a separate household account at a branch bank down the road.  If I email you our account number, can you direct-deposit money every month for Maria?"

"Yes.  But call me with the account number.  I don't trust email.  That way I'll get to talk to you again.  For the time being, why don't I deposit $6,500 a month on the fifteenth of every month to start with?  When we find out what Maria's medical is going to cost if she needs it, we can adjust the amount.  You and Kevin can take your spending money out of any surplus.  And Carl, too, if he needs money."

"Sounds good," Cam said.  "I think Ian has Carl covered, though."


"Dad, I can't thank you enough.  We miss you and John.  I hope you can fly back for a visit before too long."

"We'll see.  But probably not.  Thanks for taking point on hiring a housekeeper.  We miss you guys.  A lot.  Please give Kevin and Carl our love, all right?  And remember John and me to Jeff."

"Will do.  Love you, Dad.  Thanks for everything.  Come home soon."

The line went dead, and Cam closed his phone, feeling good as he headed upstairs to rouse the guys for a run on the beach.  When he walked into the bedroom, Casey was still asleep and the two lumps in the bed hadn't moved.  Cam went over and lay down flat on top of Kevin.

Kevin's eyes popped open.  "There's a big bag of shit crushing the life outta me," he mumbled.

"Do you think that's funny?"

Kevin said nothing.

"Well, do you?"

"Anytime you try to throw your weight around, it's pretty funny," Kevin rasped out.  "I'd laugh, but I can't breathe."

Cam lowered his head and kissed Kevin gently on the nose, then slid off to the side still holding him.  "I just talked to Dad," he said.

Kevin turned his head and looked at his partner.  "And...?"

"He's cool that we hired Maria.  In fact, he mentioned that we needed to hire a housekeeper before I even said anything about it."

"Is he cool with what we're gonna pay her?"

"Yep," Cam said.  "He said if there's any shortfall, I should pimp you out on a street corner in West L.A."

"In that case, I'd get some real sex for a change."

Cam snorted.  "The way you squeal and thrash around, you're getting more than you can handle right now!"

"What did Alex really say?"

"He's fine with what we negotiated, but he wants us to find out what medical for Maria and her kids would cost, if they're not already covered by her husband, so we can add it to the benefits we promised."

"Dad is a really good guy," Kevin said seriously.

"Fer sure.  Now, are we gonna run?"

"Does the sun rise in the east?  Is your dick hard ninety-five percent of the time?  Of course we're gonna run!"

  *  *  *

When Father Jim Mason called from LAX at mid-morning to say that his plane had arrived from San Francisco
, Kevin, Cam, Carl and Jeff were out on the beach playing baseball with a few stray guys who had wandered by.   Maria Romero answered the landline, and she walked out on to the beach to say that there was a phone call.

Cameron was at bat and Kevin was pitching, so Carl left his station in the outfield to run back to the house and take the call.


"Hey, Father Jim here," the priest said.  "Who's this?"

"Carl, Father.  Are you in town?"

"I am.  I'm just in the process of renting a car.  Are you guys going to be home this afternoon?"

"Yes, we are.  Can you come over to Malibu for lunch?"

"Well..."  Father Mason pondered for a few seconds.  He wasn't all that anxious to run over to Whittier, where his mother lived, more quickly than he had to.  He had to work up to seeing her slowly.  He guessed that his reluctance didn't say much for his character, but that's the way it was.

"Yes, I'd like to stop by," the priest said.  "Give me the address."

Carl did so, and they hung up after a few pleasantries.  Carl told Maria that they would have a guest for lunch and walked back out on to the beach.  Cam was still at bat.  The latter picked that moment to hit a long fly ball into the "outfield," right into the gap where Carl would have been, so Cam stretched his hit into a double.

"That was Father Jim.  He's in town, and is coming for lunch," Carl shouted to Cam.

"Cool!" Cam shouted back.  "We'll have to pack it in pretty soon then and help Maria fix some food."

Carl took over from Kevin as pitcher so Kevin could bat.  Carl's first pitch was a fast ball, which Kevin proceeded to hit over everybody's head.  Cam loped over third base and then across home plate while the outfielders scrambled for the ball.  Kevin followed Cam into home base.

The guys took the time to make sure everybody had their "ups," and then called the game to go help Maria with lunch.  They checked on Casey, whose diaper was dry and who was asleep in his crib before they headed for the kitchen.  Maria had already thawed some ground beef and was frying some tortillas when they walked in.

"What're we having, Maria?" Kevin asked.

"Tacos and refried beans," Maria said.

"Hmmm," Kevin said.  His mouth started watering.

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

"You can cut up some tomatoes, some green peppers, and anything else you want in your tacos.  And shred some lettuce.  And one of you can heat up the beans, if you want to."

"We're on it," Cam said, and the guys got to work.  They were just finishing all that up when the street-side doorbell rang.

"Jeff, you wanna get that?" Kevin said.

"Sure."  Jeff finished pulling hot sauce and other condiments out of the refrigerator, rinsed off his hands and wiped them, and headed for the door.

"Hi," they heard the priest's voice say.  "I'm Father Mason."

"Jeff Miller, Father," Jeff said, shaking hands.  "I'm staying with the guys.  Come on in.  We're all in the kitchen fixing lunch."

"Thanks," Father Jim said.  He followed Jeff back to the kitchen.  He was casually dressed in Levi's and a golf shirt.

"Father!" Kevin said, going over and embracing the man.  No mere shoulder bump for their priest.  "We miss you already.  It's really good to see you."

"Hey, Kev," Mason said, giving him a squeeze.  "Same here, buddy!"

Cam and Carl followed Kevin in giving the priest a hug, and then Cam introduced him to Maria.  She wasn't used to having clergy in proximity, and was a little flustered when she greeted him.  Cam explained to Mason that this was her first day at work.

"Welcome, Father," she said.

"Thank you, Maria," Father Mason said.  "I hope these guys are treating you well.  They can be a handful."

"So far, so good," Maria said.  "I have a couple of kids, so I think we're going to do just fine."

"Good," Mason said, laughing.  "I'm just kidding.  I can vouch for these guys."

The boys gave each other surreptitious looks.  The priest didn't look good.  He still looked muscular and fit, with a good, tight body, but he looked tired, with dark circles under his eyes, probably because he had been grieving his father's death.

"Father, we're sorry about your dad," Kevin said.

"I talked to Alex in England this morning," Cam said.  "He wanted me to pass on his and John's condolences to you."  

"Thank you," Father Jim said.  "My father's death was...sudden."

"When is the funeral?" Carl asked.

"Wednesday morning," Mason said.  "At St. Martin's Church in L.A."

"We'll be there," Kevin said.

"Don't feel you have to do that," the priest said.  "You must have things you have to do before the family gets here."

"Well, why don't we talk about it after we eat?" Kevin suggested.

"Speaking of lunch, let's eat in the dining room," Cam suggested.  "There's more room.  Guys, get what you want to drink.  Father, what would you like?"

"Iced tea, if you have it."

"We do," Carl said.  "I'll bring the pitcher and some ice."

Food, drink, condiments, plates and utensils were moved to the dining room table, and then they stood at the table for grace.

"Father, if you'd return thanks..." Kevin said.

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  They made the sign of the cross.


"Heavenly Father, we give you thanks and glory for your bounty to us.  We thank you for this opportunity to break bread together and to renew our love and friendship with one another.  Bless the food which is before us to our use, and us to your service, Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

"Amen."  They all repeated the sign of the cross and sat down.

Maria constructed three big tacos for Father Mason, put some refried beans on his plate, poured him some iced tea, and then excused herself to finish cleaning upstairs.  Kevin asked her to check on Casey when she went up, and she said she would.  A few moments later the intercom buzzed, and Maria's voice told them that Casey was awake.

Kevin wolfed down a taco, took a slug of iced tea, and rose to go upstairs.

"You bringin' him down?" Cam asked.  "I'll eat fast.  Bring down some baby food, and I'll feed him."

Cam applied himself to his food, almost cleaning his plate, and Kevin appeared shortly with Casey in his arms.

"May I feed him this time?" Father Mason asked Cam, taking a last bite of refried beans.

"Sure, if you want to," Cam said.

The priest pushed back from the table a little and opened his arms.  Kevin passed him the child, putting a spoon on the table and opening a jar of baby food.  He tied a bib around Casey's neck.

"Thanks," Father Mason said, looking into the little boy's face.  "He's grown in just the few days since I've seen him," he said.  "Hey, Casey, remember me?"

The baby stared up at him silently.  Yet another big person was talking to him.  He didn't care.  Good things like food and milk, and water on his skin when he got a bath, and clean diapers just kept coming his way.  Sometimes his humans played with him and let him walk around.  Life was good.  "Ehhh," Casey said, moving his arms around.

"That means, 'Get to work, Father,'" Kevin translated.

"I'm on it," Father Mason said with a smile.  He picked up the spoon, dipped it into the jar of baby food, and touched the baby's lips with it.

Casey opened his mouth and the good stuff was right there where he wanted it.

"Yum," Mason said.

"You're a natural at this," Cam told the priest after a few more spoonfuls.

"I don't know about that.  Casey just seems very cooperative."

"He's a good baby," Carl said.  "Exceptionally good.  It's hard to realize he's related to Kevin."

Father Mason laughed.  Kevin smiled and didn't say anything.

The boys watched the priest feed the child for a few minutes, and then Cam and Carl and Jeff cleared the table and went to the kitchen, leaving Kevin and Father Mason sitting alone with Casey.

"After you're done feeding Casey, do you have time for a walk on the beach?" Kevin asked.

"Sure.  I should get going in an hour or so, though."


The baby food was soon gone, and Kevin picked up Casey and took him into the kitchen and gave him to Cam.

"Father Mason and I are gonna walk on the beach," Kevin said.   "Back in a few."

"'Kay," Cam said.

Kevin and Father Jim headed out the back door and walked down to the water.  The Pacific was calm, and they stood there for a moment looking out over Santa Monica Bay and then turned and looked back at the mountains.  The sun was bright, and the day was getting hotter as the sun moved to the west.

"This is a beautiful spot," Mason said.  "It reminds me that we're all small cogs in a big wheel.  Loved by God, but not the center of the universe."

"True," Kevin agreed.  "I try to keep that in mind, but sometimes I forget."

They turned to the right on the packed sand and headed west down the beach away from Alex's house.

Kevin cleared his throat.  "Father, I haven't forgotten how much you helped me when I needed somebody to talk to about my dad earlier this year," he said.  "Or how supportive you've been of Cam and me in our relationship."  He paused.  "You look tired and a little sad today.  I know you're grieving.  I also know I'm pretty young, but I wondered if you wanted to talk.  If you feel awkward about it, we don't have to."

The priest turned his head and looked at Kevin with a smile.  "Sometimes you surprise me, Kevin.  Pleasantly surprise me.  I forget once in a while how mature you are for a young man your age.  You're what?  Seventeen?"

"Yes.  Almost eighteen."

"You're in a stable, loving relationship, and have a child you and Cam are taking great care of.  You're a key part of a loving and supportive extended family.  To tell you the truth, you impress the heck out of me!"

Kevin smiled and kept silent.  It was cool to be praised by someone he admired as much as he did Father Mason.

"Yes, I'd like to talk to someone," the priest said, "and since you've offered, I'm going to take you up on it."

They walked in silence for a few minutes.

"You're right," Mason finally said.  "I am grieving.  But I'm ashamed to say I'm not grieving so much about my father's loss to me as about his loss to my mother.  My father and I were never close, I'm sorry to say.  But he was the light of my mother's life.  She thought he hung the moon.  And somehow I feel totally inadequate to offer her the comfort I should be capable of giving her--you know, the Christian insights about life and death.  That's my job in this life.  That's what I'm trained to do.  But I know I don't have what it takes to minister to my own family, and that distresses me.  A lot.  I feel guilty.  That's part of the reason I'm here visiting you guys.  I wanted to see you all, that's true enough.  But my guilt about my inadequacies when it comes to my family is part of the reason I'm here now, too."

Kevin thought that over, walking along and looking down at his feet.

"I remember when Ian was getting Carl ready to go to Mr. Emrick's trial," Kevin eventually said.  "I don't know how it came up, but he told Carl at some point, in passing, 'Anybody who goes to court to represent himself has a fool for a client.'  That's kind of a cliché, I suppose, but it might hold a little truth for a priest, too.  I don't know how your family all relate to each other, but you probably can't be all that objective right now when it comes to your own feelings about your father's death.  I'm sure what you learned in seminary are basic truths for all of us, but applying those truths to your own family can really be tough at a time like this, don't you think?"

The priest stopped dead in his tracks.  Kevin took another step, and then swung around to look at him.

"You blow me away, man," Jim Mason said, staring at Kevin.  "You've given me a new insight about this.  That's exactly how I should have been looking at this situation, but I haven't been.  Instead, I've been focusing on my own deficiencies."

"The way you've ministered to our whole family, you don't have any deficiencies," Kevin said.  "You've been great.  You are great.  You're a real pastor."

They resumed walking.

"Thank you for saying that," Mason said.  "I know I have the book learning, but I still have a lot to learn.  After I get through this week, maybe I'll have time to reflect on some of these things.  I'm realizing one thing already.  What I should be grieving about when it comes to my dad is that I never created the opportunity, as an adult, for us to get to know each other better.  I should have done that.  I should have made the effort."

"I know what you mean," Kevin said.  "I'm in the same situation with my dad, and of course what he did in trying to kidnap Casey makes me reluctant to try to get closer to him when he gets out of jail.  When it comes to Casey, I'm a little afraid of what he might try to do when his sentence is finished.  But I think I have to try to form a relationship with him--while we're both still on earth."

Mason looked at Kevin.  "I think that's a really good goal!"

Kevin blushed, but didn't say anything.

"I know you're planning to study physics in college, but I wish you were preparing for work in human services," the priest said.  "You have good instincts and a lot of common sense.  There are millions of people all around us who are waiting for somebody to say something relevant about their situations, something that will lift them up and give them hope in their lives.  And unfortunately, for the most part, the job isn't getting done."  The priest sighed, and then laughed.  "Not putting any pressure on you, or anything."

Kevin smiled.  "Cam's the one you should be talking to about working with people.  He has the smarts and the charm and the insights that can turn people around on a dime, sometimes.  And he just has a lot of love for people in general.  You have to be a really bad person for him not to like you."

"Don't sell yourself short, Kevin, when it comes to loving human beings.  I seem to remember hearing that you got the prosecutors in San Rafael to mitigate the charges against Heather's brothers after they beat you up so bad last year.  That says something pretty profound about you.  But it's not my place to meddle in your dreams.  So if physics is your calling, it's your calling."

"I'll let you know if there's any change of plans," Kevin said.

Father Mason looked over at his companion.  "I know I don't really need to ask this, but things with you and Cam are good?"

"Things are really good," Kevin said.  "I think I'm the luckiest person in the world to be Cam's partner.   When he and I were kids in confirmation class together, Father Gilbert at St. Michael's in San Rafael taught us about the doctrine of original sin and how it relates to human beings.  When I looked at myself, it was obvious to me that I was pretty selfish and self centered, just like everybody else in this world, so I got it.  But when Cam and I got into a relationship, I really had to question the concept a little bit.  Cam is the least self-centered, least selfish person I've ever met.  I admire him more than I can tell you."  Kevin grinned.  "But I found out over the years that he's no pushover, either.  He's strong, he's determined, he has a mind of his own, he doesn't take any shit from anybody"--Kevin suddenly stopped talking.  "I'm sorry, Father, I didn't mean to put it like that.  Anyway, I love him more than I ever thought I could love anyone, and I'm learning new things about being in a relationship from him all the time."

"Well, you're as much a blessing to him as he is to you," Mason said.  "You're fortunate to have each other."

Kevin looked over and studied the man's face.

"Cam and I were raised Roman Catholic, and you know what their official teaching about homosexuality is.  Do you have any idea what it means to me to be able to tell my priest how much I love my male partner, and get an 'attaboy!' rather than being told what sinners we are, and that we're going to hell?  It means the world to me, Father.  Thank you."

"I'm humbled by that, and I don't know what to say except that it's a real privilege for me to bear witness to God's love for all his children.  Identifying and offering blessings is one of the most important things I do."

They continued wandering down the beach for a few more minutes, and started sharing remembrances about the trip to New Orleans the previous spring, and then talking about Mason's viewpoint of what life would be like in Los Angeles for the guys and in particular what it would probably be like for them at UCLA.  When they finally turned around and headed back toward the house, it was with even greater affection and respect for one another than before.

*  *  *

When Father Mason and Kevin walked back into the house, they heard rock music coming from the den.  They stood in the doorway of the room and scoped out an unusual scene, indeed.  An amused Carl and Jeff were sitting on one of the couches watching Cam sing and dance around with Casey in his arms.  The little boy's eyes were wide open, locked on to Cam's eyes, and he looked as if he was enjoying himself.  The Scissor Sisters' Ta-Dah album was playing on Alex's stereo, and Cam was singing and clomping around in his size 13's to the lyrics of "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'":

                                     Wake up in the morning with a head like 'What ya done?'
                                     This used to be the life, I don't need another one
                                     Good luck cuttin' nothin', carryin' on, you wear them gowns
                                     So how come I feel so lonely when you're up gettin' down?

                                     But I don't feel like dancin' when the old Joanna plays
                                     My heart could take a chance but my two feet can't find a way
                                     You think that I could muster up a little soft shoe gentle sway
                                     But I don't feel like dancin', no sir, no dancin' today.

                                           Don't feel like dancin', dancin'
                                           Even if I find nothin' better to do
                                           Don't feel like dancin', dancin',
                                           Why'd you break it down when I'm not in the mood?
                                           Don't feel like dancin', dancin',
                                           Rather be home with no one if I can't get down with you.
HST Mgt Ltd

Kevin immediately focused on Cam's ass in his snug, bleached out Levi's as he gyrated around, the little red tag on the right rear pocket drawing Kevin's eye.  Cam's 501's looked like they had been tailor-made for his body:  his butt stretched the cloth tight, just right, and his package accentuated the double thick cloth of his fly.  The boy's tight gray Hollister T-shirt and his jeans left little to Kevin's imagination, especially since he knew his partner's body as well as he knew his own.  Kevin felt a tightness in his groin, and suspected he was starting to leak into his boxers.

Cam grinned sheepishly when he eventually saw Kevin and Father Jim standing in the doorway, and walked over to the entertainment center and turned the music down.

Kevin smiled at the priest. "Is my partner multi-talented on the dance floor, or what?" he asked.

"I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it," Mason said.  "At least not since my party-hearty days in college.  Carl and Jeff should've filmed it for posterity!"  The two guys on the couch smiled.

"Cam is the epitome of grace on the dance floor," Carl said, laughing.  "NOT!"

"Casey asked me for a dance," Cam informed the newcomers.  "And what Casey wants, Casey gets."

"Give the little chucklehead to me," Kevin said.  "Whaddaya think, little dude?" he asked Casey.

Casey let go with a string of gibberish just as Kevin took him and sat down with him on one of the couches.

"I agree with you completely, buddy," Kevin said soothingly.  "Daddy Cam really is a little strange.  It's not your fault."

Joining him on the couch, Cam grinned and cuffed Kevin gently on the back of the head.

The five of them talked for a few minutes, and then Father Mason looked at his watch.

"Well, I'm gonna have to go see my mom," he said.

"Sorry you can't hang around for supper," Carl said.  "Maria's a good cook."

"Judging from lunch, I know she is.  I wish I could stay," the priest said.  "But I need to get going, I'm afraid."

"I don't suppose you know your schedule yet," Kevin said.


"Will you call and let us know where and when the wake will be, and the Mass for your dad?" Cam asked.

"When I know, you'll know," Father Jim said.  They all stood, and the priest shook hands with them all, and took his leave.  Kevin saw him to the door.

"Thanks for talking to me," Kevin said.

"I'm the one who's grateful, Kev."  He hugged the young man and left.

After the priest left, the four guys and Casey went on a shopping trip, practically buying out every sporting goods store in Santa Monica of their air mattresses.  Sleeping on the floor was going to be comfortable for the guys when the family arrived.

*  *  *

Father Mason telephoned later that afternoon to say that the wake for his dad would be Tuesday afternoon and into the evening, and gave them the details about the Requiem Mass on Wednesday morning.  Cam took the call and wrote everything down, and then got on the phone with a florist and had flowers sent to the funeral home.  He included the names of the entire extended family on the card, including Alex and John, and called both Mary Carson and Catherine to let them know about the death in the priest's family and that flowers had already been sent from everybody.

Cam found out subsequently that Catherine had then called the priest on his cell and talked with him for a few minutes, offering condolences and telling him how much the family were looking forward to spending time with him while they were in L.A. at Alex's house.  She repeated the guys' invitation to stay with them if and when he could complete his own familial duties.  Mason said he was looking forward to doing just that.

The guys ate a good supper that Maria had fixed before she left for home--pot roast, salad and ice cream--and then the boys all went into the den.  Carl and Jeff looked through Alex and John's collection of movie CD's, finally selecting Mad Max for their viewing pleasure.  After the two of them got engrossed in it, Kevin and Cam took Casey upstairs, ostensibly for a diaper change.  After cleaning the baby up and putting a fresh diaper on him, they put him in his crib.  Casey didn't fuss and closed his eyes right away.  Kevin locked the bedroom door at that point, and the two guys were out of their clothes in ten seconds and in bed.  They lay on their sides facing one another, already hard.

"I was watchin' you dance, and I had to think about something else so I didn't shoot my load in front of God and everyone," Kevin said, pulling Cam's face over for a long, deep, juicy kiss.  When they pulled back, Kevin added, "Your ass is wet dream material."

"Uh huh.  Well, if we don't start gettin' more action on a regular basis, that's exactly what we're gonna start havin'--wet dreams," Cam said.  "And what a waste that'll be!"  He reached down and grasped Kevin's cock.  It was already leaking, and running his finger over the head of it, he put the finger to his mouth and tasted the sweetness of his partner's precum.   Cam let go of Kevin's penis and began caressing and squeezing his pecs and abs and and butt, and rubbing Kevin's balls and the inside of his thighs.  His touch was light, and to Kevin it felt as if tiny sparks of love were shooting out of Cam's fingers and palms on to his skin.  Kevin began reciprocating on Cam's body, lightly stroking the boy's skin with his finger tips and gently kissing his face as he did so.

"I love you so much, Cameron.  You're my life.  You're my heart.  You and Casey are my world, dude.  I feel so lucky."

No response in words was needed.  Cam put his hand on Kevin's cheek and just held it there, looking into his eyes for a long time as a river of Cam's sweet breath bathed Kevin's face.  Scooting down in bed then, Cam took Kevin's tool into his mouth and down his throat in one shot.

Kevin tensed and almost levitated right off the bed at the pleasure of it.  "Oh, sweet!!" he said huskily.  "Don't move, though, or I'm gonna blow right now!"

Cam moved slowly and deliberately, pulling off until Kevin's cockhead lay right on his tongue, the pre-cum now flowing instead of merely leaking.  Cam resisted the temptation to stimulate the head of it with his tongue and probe the slit because he didn't want Kevin to ejaculate.  Not yet.

"Let me do you," Kevin rasped after a few minutes on the edge.  Cam pulled off completely and lay on his back as Kevin moved down in bed and engulfed his partner's dick.  He started fellating him vigorously.

"Easy, dude," Cam groaned.  "I'm so-o-o close.  Too close."

Kevin pulled off, pushed Cam's legs back, spreading them, and began rimming him.  Cam smelled earthy and clean down there.  After penetrating him repeatedly with his tongue and getting him good and wet, Kevin reached for the lube, pressing some of it into Cam and then coating his own penis.

"Yeah," Cam said approvingly as Kevin popped inside him and then held still until Cam adjusted to the stretching and pressure.  "Do me, Kev," Cam said when he was relaxed and ready.

Kevin put a pillow under his partner's ass, and moved into him steadily, letting Cam's legs fall off of his shoulders into the crooks of his arms.  When Kevin was all the way in, his balls lying up against Cam's butt, he lay down flat on his partner and searched his eyes.  He kissed Cam's eyelids as they fluttered closed, and then moved to his mouth, slowly dueling with his partner's tongue, possessing him completely.

Ever so deliberately he began to move inside his partner, his hardness passing over Cam's prostate with each thrust.  "Yes," Cam said, and as the minutes passed he began raising his pelvis to meet Kevin's movement into him.  Cam felt as if the instrument of his body was being played by a master musician, and that was certainly Kevin's intent.  Only incrementally did the speed of Kevin ministrations increase, and Cam's mouth sought his lover's mouth again with whispers of pleasure, and his hands went to Kevin's ass as the boy rode him with love and vigor.  As Kevin's tension mounted, he began to nuzzle and then suck on Cam's neck.

In the final minutes Kevin's groans signaled that he would soon plant his seed, and Cam thrust a finger up inside of Kevin and felt his partner's sphincter clamp down as Kevin ejaculated far up inside him.  Cam had not yet come, so after a few moments Kevin moved down and took his lover's penis in his hand and stroked him, putting his mouth over the head of it just as Cam cried out and shot ropes of cum into his mouth.  Moving back up Cam's body, Kevin shared the mother load with his partner in a passionate kiss.  They held each other tight, floating into rest then and only regaining consciousness after twenty minutes had passed.

They woke up side by side, nose to nose.  Their encounter, as had been increasingly true for them as their relationship had matured, had been intense and powerful, tender and evocative, and beyond all else, intimate.

"I learn something from you about making love every time we do it," Cam said quietly, kissing Kevin's lips softly as they awakened.  "It's new and it's familiar, all at the same time."  Kevin held Cam's face in the palms of his hands, caressing his cheeks with his thumbs, saying nothing.  His soft brown eyes said it all.

Eventually they got out of bed and showered, washing one another tenderly.  After checking on a sleeping Casey, they went downstairs to watch the rest of Mad Max with Jeff and Carl.  The latter gave them a knowing look, but nothing was said about their absence.

*  *  *

Tuesday and Wednesday were busy, with the guys actually putting on dark suits and ties and black shoes for the wake and then for the Requiem Mass for Father Jim's dad.  Both events were crowded.  Father Mason might not have been close to his dad, but the man was well known and well respected in the greater L.A. area, and his death drew many people to the funeral home and the church.

Cam, Kevin, Carl and Jeff met Mason's family, and they seemed appreciative that three of the four of them were parishioners from San Rafael who thought enough of their priest to attend the services.  Father Ryan from St. Dunstan's showed up at the wake, and the guys could see that Father Mason appreciated his old friend being there.

Father Mason's mother seemed dazed and confused throughout the wake and Requiem, but his sisters were both sharp, especially the older sister Lucinda, who was CEO of the Mason family business.

Lucinda wasted no time after the Requiem Mass, burial and a brief reception in the parish hall in whisking Mrs. Mason away to Lucinda's home in Brentwood.  This relieved Father Mason of staying with his mother in the family home in Whittier, so he went back to Malibu and moved into Alex's house on Wednesday afternoon.  The boys were glad to have him, and he seemed happy to be there.  The priest would join his mother and sisters later in the week for a meal after the reading of his father's will.

The four boys and the priest hit the beach around 8 a.m. on Thursday, after Maria Romero had arrived to watch Casey.  It was a beautiful day in southern California, as usual, with the promise of being hot before the day was over.  Cam and Kevin didn't know exactly when Ian Carson's charter flight would arrive that day at LAX, so the guys took their cell phones with them when they went to run.  But no call came.

They were back at the house and all showered and cleaned up before Cam's cell phone rang.  It was Ian.  The family had landed at LAX and were just loading up two stretch limos with themselves and their luggage, he said.  Ian thought they'd arrive at Alex's in under an hour.

Father Mason hadn't slept well the previous night, so he decided to take a nap in his bedroom, asking to be called when the family arrived at the house.

Downstairs, Cam and Kevin were amused as they watched Carl, usually a pretty laid back guy, become more and more strung out as he waited for Andy Helder to arrive. 

Kevin couldn't keep quiet.  "Carl, you want some Prozac, dude?  You need to calm down."

"Shut the fuck up," Carl told him with a crooked grin.  "If you and Cam were separated for a couple weeks, you'd be climbing the walls, too."

"You're right about that," Kevin said.  "Commere for a minute," he said, moving over on one of the couches so Carl could sit between him and Cam.  Carl sat down.  Kevin put an arm over his shoulders and kissed him on the cheek.  "I have good news for you.  We're gonna let you and Andy sleep in your own bedroom upstairs during his visit.  You will concentrate on sleeping, won't you?"

"Well..." Carl said.

"That's what I thought," Kevin continued.  "You probably won't want your own room, though, 'cause the rest of us guys are gonna sleep on the air mattresses in the living room.  You'd miss out on all the fun."

"Maybe not all the fun," Carl said, laughing.

After Kevin was finished teasing him, Carl walked up and down nervously in the living room, and finally went out to sit in the shade of the garage on a lawn chair to wait for the limos to arrive.  And arrive they did, fifty minutes later, in two black stretch limos full of the people he loved more than anybody in this world.  When he saw the vehicles turn off the Pacific Coast Highway, Carl ran and leaned on the back doorbell to let Cam and Kevin know the family was there.  After Cam buzzed Father Mason upstairs on the intercom to let him know as well, Kevin and Cam came out of the house just as the cars pulled up.

The first one to pop out of the lead car was Mark Carson, who made a beeline for the guys in the driveway.  It was no surprise when Kevin got the first hug.  He picked Mark right up off the ground and swung the boy around in a circle.  A mere two weeks apart hadn't diminished the special bond these two had.

"Marky-mark," Kevin said, planting a kiss on the kid's cheek with no embarrassment at all.  "Been missin' ya somethin' terrible, bud!"

"Same here, man," Mark said.  Then he gave Carl and Cam good hugs.

The boys walked down the driveway to the cars as family started tumbling out, along with the two dogs who ran around with tongues out and tails wagging.  Cam and Kevin and Carl patted the dogs quickly and then went right to Catherine and engulfed her, kissing her face, and then followed up with hugs and kisses for Mary Carson and then Ian.  Then they plied Rosa Mendez and Yolanda Vega with hugs and kisses.  After that the slide and dap handshakes began with the boys.

Carl waited until Andy Helder stepped out of the lead car, and ran to him, engulfing the tall boy with a hug and a long kiss right on the lips.  They observed all the niceties when it came to greeting others, but it was perfectly clear that they only had eyes for each other.  After they hugged and kissed each other again, they stood there with Andy's arm across Carl's shoulders.  They were obviously looking forward to being alone.

William Carson stood by the cars with a big smile on his face, handsome as hell, looking all buffed up.  It was clear that he hadn't been any stranger to the gym at Catherine's house since Cam, Kevin and Carl had been gone.

"Lookin' good, dude!" Kevin told him, giving him a hug.  "You've been keeping up in the gym, it looks like."

"Yeah," William said.  "I was afraid I'd hear your voice comin' out of the walls, whining and givin' me shit if I didn't work out."

Kevin laughed.  "You're right.  Listen, thanks for your emails when we were drivin' down here.  They meant a lot.  They helped keep our spirits up."

"Good deal.  We miss you guys."

Berto Hernandez walked over and greeted Cam and Kevin with hugs.  He was a fine looking kid, still slim but more muscular than ever, his cocoa skin glowing with good health.

"You havin' a good summer so far, Berto?" Cam asked him.

"Good, but busy," Berto said.  "Ian has me taking some tutorials for my AP classes starting this fall.  He still wants me to apply to Stanford for next year.  Anyway, my mind is particularly sharp right now, so I plan to take all you guys' money at poker while I'm down here.  I'll need every penny for tuition when the time comes."

"Knowing Ian and Mary, paying your tuition is gonna be the least of your worries," Kevin said.

Berto stepped away to help Rosa and Yolanda take their bags out of the limo they had ridden in, and Kevin looked at William.

"Are you still rooming with Berto?" he asked.


"How is he really doin'?"

"He's good," William said.  "Most of the time.  But once in a while I'll see the pain in his eyes over what happened to his parents.  It hurts me, but I don't know what to do about it."

"I don't think anything can be done," Kevin said.  "It'll just take time for him to heal."

Just then Father Mason, up from his nap and dressed in cargo shorts, a T-shirt and sandals, followed by Jeff Miller, came out of the back door.  Everybody swarmed over to say hello to the priest and get introduced to Jeff.  Jeff was overwhelmed by all the new, friendly faces.

The boys finally unloaded all the baggage from the limos, and after the drivers checked for any items left behind, the two vehicles turned around ponderously and headed back to L.A.

"Where's Casey?" Mary Carson asked as the crowd piled into the house.

"Taking a nap," Cam said.  "He may be awake by now, though.  I'll get him in a minute."

When everybody hit the main hall, Cam told the boys to put their own bags in the living room and the den, and then he had some of the guys take the adults' luggage and carry it upstairs.  He put Ian and Mary in Alex and John's master bedroom, Catherine in the room where he and Kevin and Jeff had been sleeping, and Rosa and Yolanda in a bedroom with two twin beds.  Father Mason would keep the room he had already moved into, and Carl and Andy would have a bedroom down at the end of the hall.  Andy grinned happily about that.  Everybody smiled about that last room assignment, but nobody said anything.

Maria was working upstairs putting fresh sheets on the beds, and Cam and Kevin asked her to go downstairs so they could introduce her to everybody.  After saying hello to everyone, Maria began chatting with Rosa and Yolanda in Spanish.  Rosa told Maria not to worry about the big crowd, because she and Yolanda were going to pitch in and help with the work.  As proof of that, Rosa and Yolanda went upstairs, grabbed clean sheets and began helping Maria change the beds.

Cam went upstairs again, found that Casey was awake, and took him downstairs to the living room.  The boys surrounded the little guy, and fought verbally over who got to hold him and for how long.  Catherine and Mary joined them, and eventually co-opted Casey despite protests from the younger set.  The little boy was hungry, so Cam went to get him some food.  Mary and Catherine took turns feeding him.

Ian and Mary conferred with Maria and Cam and Kevin about what they would do for that day's meals.  Maria had put a huge pot of beef and vegetable soup on when she had arrived that morning, so they'd eat lunch at the house.  After some discussion about supper, Kevin and Cam offered to cook steaks out on the deck.  Kevin went out to the freezer in the garage and found three huge packages of rib eyes.  He spotted a second grill in the garage when he took the steaks to the kitchen to start thawing them, and asked Cam to go get it and put it on the deck.  That would speed up the cooking process when it came time to cook.

Cam retrieved the grill and rolled it through the house and out on the deck.  It used propane, and Cam checked the fuel level and found out they needed a fresh tank.  Kevin took Dan Emrick with him, fired up the Mustang and drove to a nearby hardware store for a recharged tank.

"So, Dan, what's been goin' on?" Kevin asked the boy, who seemed a little subdued.

"Not much.  I've been dating someone new since you left."

"Boy or girl?" Kevin asked.

"Girl.  Cindy Schuster, from the youth group at church.  Blonde hair, blue eyes.  Good bod.  She's really cute."

"I remember her.  She's hot.  You doin' anything with her?"

"Sex?  Not yet.  We're takin' it slow," Dan said.

"I think that's smart," Kevin said.

"I wish you were around to talk to me about...things," Dan said wistfully.

"Well, I'm only a phone call away, Dan.  Better yet, you can always talk to Ian or Mary or Catherine.  Or even Father Jim.  He always listens to me and has given me good advice."

"Yeah, right.  Like I'm gonna talk to Father Jim about when I should start bangin' one of his parishioners."

Kevin laughed.  "You've got a point."

"Besides, they're all kinda...old."

"Uh huh," Kevin said.  "Older, but really smart.  And observant.  You think they don't understand what guys like us are up against, but they do.  And they all love you and Carl to death, y'know.  Don't sell 'em short."

"I know.  And I love all of them.  But talking to them isn't like talkin' to you about shit.  How can I ask them when it's the right time to start hookin' up with Cindy?"

Kevin laughed again.  "I see what you mean.  But if I'd talked to Catherine early on about what Heather Butler and I were doing in the back seat of this very car, it would have saved a lot of heartache.  I wouldn't have gotten beaten up, and Heather wouldn't have had nine months of hell carrying Casey.  She was the one who suffered the most.  It's always the girl who gets the worst of it when things go wrong.  I hope you plan on being careful when you start havin' sex."

"I hear ya.  But you and Cam wouldn't give up Casey for anything in the world."

"No, of course we wouldn't.  But we've been blessed.  Things have turned out well for us when it comes to Casey.  Don't ever think you hear me sayin' that makes it okay to roll the dice when it comes to having sex with Cindy and then just hope for the best.  Use protection every time, and DON'T GET HER PREGNANT!!" Kevin said, looking at Dan.

Dan snickered.  "Gay guys have all the luck when it comes to not having to worry about getting their partner pregnant."

"That may be true, but we have our own set of problems to deal with.  Cam and I have sex only with each other, but a lot of gay guys will stick it to anything in pants, and that can sometimes lead to emotional problems.  And gay guys aren't always as careful about using protection as they should be, so STD's, including HIV, are on the rise in the gay population.  To be fair, though, that's happening in the straight population, too.  But maybe more important than anything else, we gays don't have political equality yet in most places, not by a long shot.  So all in all, just count your blessings you're straight."

"Maybe.  But even if you were straight, Kevin, you wouldn't give up Cam.  He'd always be in your heart even if you were married to Heather or some other woman.  You know I'm right."

Kevin looked over at Dan.  "You little shit!  You're too smart for your own good!" Kevin said, laughing.

They pulled into a little strip mall with a hardware store just off the Pacific Coast Highway, and exchanged their empty propane tank for a full one.  On the way back to Alex's, they talked about Dan's expectations for his junior year in high school and what Kevin was looking forward to at UCLA.

When they arrived back at the house, Kevin carried the new propane tank out on to the deck and hooked it up to the grill.  All the young guys were sitting around on the deck stripped down to their cargo shorts, passing around sunscreen, and doing each other's backs.  When Kevin went back inside, Mark Carson followed him, and they found Catherine, Mary, Rosa, Yolanda and Maria all in the kitchen, already washing potatoes and preparing huge bowls of salad.

"You up for another trip?" Mary Carson asked Kevin.

"Sure?  Whadda we need?"

"Groceries.  I have a list.  Let's go."

"Can I go?" Mark asked.

"Yep," his mom said.  "Go put on a T-shirt and shoes."  The boy beamed, took off and returned dressed.

"I'm glad you're coming along," Kevin said.  "We need slave labor."

Mark grinned.  He loved being picked on by Kevin.  He missed him a lot.

They walked out to the Mustang.

"I've never ridden in your car before," Mary said as Kevin helped her into the back seat.  "Your mom told me that Alex had bought it back from the dealer in San Rafael and had it fixed up for you as a surprise."

"Yeah," Kevin said.  "I nearly fell over when I saw it here in the garage waiting for me."

Mark Carson looked approvingly over the dashboard and the leather seats after he sat down in the right passenger seat.

"Mom, I need a car," he said.

Mary groaned, but knew the day was coming.

Kevin grinned at him.  "Marky-mark, you don't think that the great state of California is going to turn you loose on the highways with a license, do ya?"

"You better believe it," the boy said.  "If they'll give you a license, I should qualify with no problem."

"They ask for references now before they issue a license," Kevin lied.  "A reference from someone close who really knows you, but not parents.  Someone older and wiser like me.  So if you want a reference outta me, you're really gonna have to turn over a new leaf, bud."

Mark smirked.  "Cam'll give me a reference," he said.

Mary listened with a big smile as the two guys continued to spar with each other.  Kevin drove into Santa Monica to a huge Costco.  An hour later, they checked out of the store with three shopping carts heaped high.  Mary paid with a credit card, and they wheeled the carts out to the Mustang.  Kevin grinned with pleasure when he saw his car sitting there, sparkling in the sun.  They filled the trunk with food and supplies, ran out of room, and put two full paper bags in the back seat with Mary before taking off for home.

*  *  *

It was already starting to cool off in San Francisco as fall approached, so the boys were enjoying basting in the southern California sun.  They had been out on the deck for about an hour, well slathered in sunscreen, talking up a storm.

Cam glanced over at William Carson, sitting down the row of guys from him.   Holy shit, the guy is so built!  That was no new revelation, but Cam hadn't seen William in a couple of weeks, and he was easy on the eyes.  He fills out those shorts perfectly, Cam thought, front and back!  Great pecs.  Corrugated, six pack abs.  Meaty, muscular legs.  Is he good in bed? he wondered.  Knowledgeable and competent, no doubt.  Does he take his time with his girlfriends, or is he brisk and businesslike?  Cam had a vision of William working on some girl's rack with his mouth, tonguing and sucking on her nipples, a hand in the dampness down between her legs.  I'll bet he takes his time, pulls out all the stops and leaves them exhausted and asleep in his arms.

Cam had just started working on getting his thoughts under control when Ian came out on the deck in a T-shirt, shorts and running shoes.

"I'm going for a walk," he told the guys.  He looked at Jeff Miller.  "Jeff, how about taking a walk with me on the beach and pointing out where the celebrities live?"

"All right," Jeff said, surprised at being asked by this virtual stranger to do anything, let alone take a walk.  He liked Ian's manner with people, though, and stood right up from his chair to go.

They stepped off the deck and walked toward the ocean.  "A famous movie director named MacKenzie lives right behind where we're standing," Jeff said, pointing a thumb over his shoulder back at the house.  "There are a bunch of bums sitting on the deck."

"That I do know," Ian said with a laugh.

Back on the deck, William Carson watched Jeff and his dad leave, and looked at Cam.  "Give dad thirty minutes, and he'll have the total 411 on Jeff," he said.

"No doubt about that," Cam said.  It was true.  Ian had the ability to extract all the information you had and leave you feeling good about about giving it up.  That was just one of the qualities that made him one of the most famous and successful lawyers on the West Coast.

Back on the beach with Ian, Jeff was pointing at his parents' house next door to Alex's place.

"That's my mom and dad's house," he told Ian.

"What's your dad's name?"

"Sean Miller."

Ian's eyes lit up.  "Sean Miller is your dad?  I've seen so many of his movies!  I'm an action movie guy!"

"He's good, isn't he?" Jeff said, not hiding his pride.

"Yes," Ian said.

They continued walking, and in between Jeff's identification of celebrity houses, Ian began to ask Jeff some questions.

"I think I heard that you're not in school right now, Jeff."

"I'm not," Jeff admitted.  He looked down at the sand, taking a deep breath.  "I flunked out of UCLA last year because I'm a crystal meth addict.  Cam and Kevin and Carl found me living under Alex's deck when they moved down here.  They took me in and have been watching me like a hawk.  If they hadn't, I could have been dead by now.  And I think they're really responsible for persuading my parents to send me back to rehab."

"Back to rehab?" Ian questioned.

"Yes.  I've been in rehab twice before, and didn't stay clean when I came out."

"I see.  What do you think about your chances of staying clean this time?"

Jeff paused.  "Honestly?"


"Not good."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I don't think I'm strong enough to make it?"

"Don't they tell you in rehab that personal strength is only part of the equation for success?  And maybe not even the most important part?"


They walked on in silence for a few minutes.

"Jeff, tell me what your dreams for the future are."

The young man looked over at Ian.  "I don't have any."

"When did you last have some personal dreams?" Ian asked.

"Oh, probably when I was a sophomore in high school.  That's when I started getting into drugs, and that was all she wrote."

"All right, what were your dreams before you were a sophomore?"

"I wanted to be a marine biologist," Jeff said.  "It's too late for me now, I'm afraid."

"That's bullshit, boy!" Ian said quietly.  "You're so wrong about that.  Your life is just starting."

"Yeah, well, there's a big difference between my life experiences and those of the guys sitting on Alex's deck.  They're strong and healthy and happy people, and I'm miserable inside all the fucking time," Jeff said.

"You don't know what some of those guys have been through and survived," Ian said, "and I'm not at liberty to tell you about it.  Just take my word for it."

"All right.  But the die is cast for me."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"All right for now," Ian said.  "But I'm not done talking with you yet.  We'll pick it up later."

They walked in silence after they turned around and headed back toward Alex's.

"Are your parents home tonight?" Ian asked.

"I don't know."

"Why don't I check with the cooks, and if we have enough food, why don't we invite them over for supper?"

"They'd probably enjoy that," Jeff said.

Ian pulled his cell phone off his belt, and hit speed dial.

"Yes," Mary said.

"Is this the light of my life?" Ian asked.

"At the very least," Mary said.

"Quick question," Ian said.  "I was thinking we could invite Jeff Miller's parents over for supper tonight if there's enough food.  They live right next door to Alex and John."

"There's plenty of food, sweetheart.  Go ahead."

"Consider it done."

"Let's stop at your house and invite your folks," Ian said to Jeff as he snapped his phone shut.  "My wife tells me there's plenty of food."

"Okay," Jeff said.

They stopped at the Miller house.  Sean and Susan Miller were both home, and Jeff introduced Ian to them.  Sean immediately recognized Ian's name, and they chatted for a few minutes.  Ian extended the supper invitation for 6 p.m., and the Millers accepted with thanks.

When Ian and Jeff arrived back at the house, the guys were still sitting with Father Mason on the deck, watching the sun in its march toward the ocean.  Jeff sat down with the group, and Ian thanked him for accompanying him on the walk.

Ian beckoned to the priest, and they went inside.

"I think we have a problem," Ian told Father Mason as they retreated to the den.

"What's that?"

"I don't claim to be a mental heath expert, and I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I'm afraid Jeff Miller is suicidal."

Jim Mason studied his friend, stunned and at a loss for words.

"I think that once Jeff leaves his support group of Cam, Kevin and Carl--who have been watching him like a hawk, according to Jeff--and goes to rehab, he's going to take his own life."

"Surely the clinicians watch for any signs of suicidal behavior," the priest said.

"Hopefully they will after Jeff's parents warn them.  Sean and Susan Miller are coming for supper, and you and I need to sit down with them and clue them in.  I just hope they take us seriously."

© 2009 Don Hanratty

Heartfelt thanks to Dan, MikeG and Ken for their expert proofreading.