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


The landline at the Malibu house rang about ten o'clock on Monday morning, and Kevin answered it.  It was Susan Miller, Jeff's mother, calling from next door to say that Assurances had contacted her.  The facility had a bed for Jeff to start his rehab.

Kevin hung up and went to find Jeff.  He was playing Wii in the study, bowling against Mark Carson and doing very well.  They were bowling the last frame when Kevin walked in, and Jeff put the kid away with a strike.

"Nice game, dude," Mark told his opponent.  "You ready to lose the next one?"

"Dream on!" Jeff said.

"Jeff, can you hit 'pause' for a minute and come talk to me?" Kevin asked.  Jeff nodded and followed Kevin into the hall with an inquiring look on his face.

"That was your mom on the phone," Kevin told him.  "Assurances called, and they have a bed for you.  They'd like you to report in no later than tomorrow."

"Oh, man!" Jeff responded, obviously not overjoyed at the prospect.

Kevin put his hand on the young man's shoulder and looked into his face.  "Come on now, we've talked about this," he said.  "You know you're ready, and it's time to man up and get it done."

"I know," Jeff sighed.  "It's just that past few weeks have been the most normal life I've had for the last couple years.  I hate to give it up."

"I understand that," Kevin said.  "Consider the life you've had here as a preview of the way things can be for you in the future.  Right now you have some tough work to do.  How you spend your time in rehab will determine how you live the rest of your life."

"I want to get clean and stay clean.  But I just don't know if I can make it or not."

"You can make it, Jeff."  Kevin grinned.  "Just to keep your motivation high, I promise you that if you slack off, Carl and Cam and I will hunt you down and kick your ass royally.  And then we'll fly in some of the San Rafael contingent of the family to do the same."

"All right," Jeff said, smiling.  "And I know you'd probably do that."

"Count on it.  When do you want to go in?"

"Well, there's no time like the present, I guess.  Is this afternoon too soon?"

"Nope.  Sounds good," Kevin said approvingly.  "Why don't you call your mom and see if she can go into Santa Monica with us to drop you off.  And your dad, if he's available.  I know Cam and Carl will want to come along.  And maybe some of the other guys."

"All right," Jeff said.  "I appreciate the support."

"Good deal, bud."  Kevin pulled Jeff into a hug and held him for a minute before patting him on the back and releasing him.

"I guess I better go pack," Jeff said, heading for the stairs.  "I'll call my mom and let her know that today's the day."

"OK.  Tell her she can ride with us," Kevin said.  "Ask her to get on the phone to Assurances, and let them know you'll be reporting in this afternoon."

Then Kevin wandered around the house letting family members know that Jeff would be leaving for rehab.  He was a little surprised, but shouldn't have been, that the entire family wanted to go support Jeff when he checked into the facility, including Rosa, Yolanda and Maria.  Ian offered to take everybody to lunch in Santa Monica before they went over to Assurances.

Cam grinned and threw an arm over Ian's shoulders.  "Mister Generosity!" he mocked him gently.

"No 'Mister Generosity' here, Cameron.  I'm keeping track of every cent I spend on you, and if anybody ever makes a mistake and gives you a job, you're going to pay me back every penny.  With interest."

"Uh huh.  You're gonna need a better lawyer than you are to get one thin dime outta me," Cam promised.

Ian laughed.  "I'll get you in court, and you won't know what hit you!"

The phone rang.  Cam picked up the phone this time,
and it was Susan Miller again.  Mrs. Miller said she definitely wanted to go into town with Jeff when he checked into Assurances.  Sean Miller was at the studio doing some voice-overs for his latest movie, but had told his wife he wanted to meet them at the rehab center when Jeff reported in.  Susan Miller asked if Juanita Fuentes, the Millers' longtime maid, Maria Romero's sister, who had known Jeff since he was a baby, could ride along to Santa Monica as well.   Cam assented, and after explaining their lunch plans, asked Mrs. Miller to invite Sean and Juanita to lunch with the family at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant he and Kevin liked in town.  Mrs. Miller said she'd try to spring Sean for lunch, and they hung up.

Ian had been listening to the conversation.  "Now who's 'Mister Generosity,'" he asked.  "And with my money."

"Take it out of William's allowance," Cam suggested.  "He'll just lose it at poker anyway."

 When they arrived in town in numerous vehicles, the extended family piled into the crowded little restaurant in downtown Santa Monica.  There was one vacant seat left in the place when they all sat down, and they saved it for Sean Miller, who arrived a few minutes later.  The food was good and plentiful, and Father Jim offered a grace for them all when it was served.  The guys all ate like pigs while Cam, Kevin and Carl took turns feeding Casey.

They all sat around talking for a few minutes after eating, and then Ian paid the bill, and they headed for Assurances.  They parked their vehicles in the facility's parking lot, and gathered in a little courtyard near the front entrance to say good-bye to Jeff.  He was very moved that the whole family had shown up to wish him well, and went from person to person getting hugs and handshakes.

Jeff had a private word with Kevin, Cam and Carl before heading inside.

"You guys saved my freaking life," Jeff told them quietly.  "No question about that.  I'm hoping I can do rehab right this time and make your investment in me worth something."

"You can do this, and I'm glad you know that it was and is an investment," Kevin told him.  "Call us when they start allowing you some contact with the outside world, will ya?  The family isn't complete without you."

Jeff nodded, and eyes moist, gave the three of them each a hug followed by a kiss on the cheek.  He bent down and kissed Casey in his carrier before picking up his bag and starting to walk toward the front door with his mom and dad in tow.  Sean Miller turned around at the last minute and beckoned to Ian Carson.

"Ian, come on inside with us, will you?  Maybe you could take a quick look at the paperwork."

"Yes," Ian said and followed them inside.

Anita Fowler, the lady who had interviewed Jeff for admission, met them at the front desk, and the four of them went into her office.  Susan Miller introduced her to Ian, and she recognized the attorney's name immediately.  Ian looked over the admission papers.

"These look fine," Ian told the Millers after a few minutes.  Jeff and the Millers signed the forms.

"Good.  Welcome, Jeff," Mrs. Fowler said, and then turned to Susan and Sean Miller.  "Thank you for supporting your son," she told the parents.  "Sometimes we don't start off with that advantage.  And I'm not just talking about the financial support."

"We're here for Jeff in every way we can be," Sean said, earning a grateful look from Jeff.  "Just let us know if he needs anything."

The four of them sat and talked for a few minutes, with Mrs. Fowler informing Jeff about some of the basic rules and regulations, and giving him some supplementary materials to read.  Kevin had been right about the facility's policy of limiting initial contact with the outside world for new patients until their commitment to the recovery process had been verified and counseling was off to a good start.

Jeff said good-bye to his parents and to Ian in Mrs. Fowler's office.  His mother held him, teary eyed, murmuring encouraging words and kissing him.  His father embraced him as well.

"I told you a few days ago that I love you, Jeff," Sean said.  "That's not going to change, no matter what.  I hope you'll dig deep and get this rehab done, son.  Call us when you can."  Sean kissed his boy on the cheek and turned away before Jeff could see his dad was weeping.

Jeff was surprised when Ian hugged him after shaking hands.  Ian told him quietly to stick with the process and not to give up on himself, no matter what.  "I'll be checking on you, Jeff," the man informed him with a smile.

Anita Fowler pressed a button on her desk, and a young male aide dressed in a short, white lab coat knocked and came into the office.  She introduced the young man to Jeff and the others, and after picking up his bag, Jeff followed the guy down the hall into the interior of the building with his bag, not looking back.  The young man, joined by another male aide, took him into a small treatment room, where Jeff stripped and was body searched, and his suitcase was examined for contraband.  Jeff and his possessions were clean, and after he dressed, the aide showed him to his room, leaving him to unpack.  Jeff's roommate, whoever that was to be, was out.

Meanwhile, outside in the courtyard, the family had broken up into twos and threes and were standing around conversing while waiting for Ian and the Millers to rejoin them.  Cam had been talking with Carl Emrick and Mark Carson, and turned around to see Kevin and William sitting together in the sunshine on a bench together against a brick wall.  Kevin was holding Casey to his breast in a sling, and was looking down at the little boy and talking to him.

Cam's eyes roamed over Kevin's face and body, and the sight of him gave him a sudden pang.  The intensity of his feelings at that moment stunned him, so strong that his throat tightened.  He could feel his heart beating in his chest, and it was momentarily hard for him to breathe.  Cam was suddenly, inexplicably hungry for his partner.  Not so much for overt sex, although that was a driving force in their lives almost all the time.  But hungry just to hold him.  To inhale the smell of him.  To kiss his face.  To press against him and run his hands down his strong back and grab that beautiful ass and pull him tight against his own body.  Flesh to flesh.  Soul to soul.  Cam swallowed hard and sought to turn his eyes away from his boyfriend, but he couldn't.

Kevin looked up and found him, and their eyes locked.  The corners of Kevin's eyes crinkled, an unfailing harbinger of the cute smile that soon curled his lips.  A smile that signaled he knew what Cam was thinking and liked it a lot.  Damn, Cam thought, the boy's psychic.

William watched the two of them study one another and looked over at Kevin.  "I'd give anything to have someone in this world look at me the way you and Cam look at each other," he told him quietly.

"You will," Kevin said.

Just then, Ian and Mr. and Mrs. Miller came out of the front door of Assurances and into the courtyard.  Ian gave the group a thumbs-up.  Sean thanked Ian again for lunch and said good-bye to everyone, heading back to the parking lot so he could go finish his voice-over work for the studio.  The family got into their cars, and the caravan pulled out of the lot and made a beeline for Malibu.

It was a quiet ride in each of the cars on the way home.  Everybody's thoughts were on Jeff, now alone to face his demons.

*  *  *

When they got home, Maria Romero took Casey and put him down for a nap upstairs while Kevin gave the guys the afternoon schedule for the gym.  Groaning ensued, to no avail.  Workouts were to begin as soon as the first contingent changed clothes.

The adults went into the study, and the guys stripped down in the living room and put on their workout togs.  William was scheduled in the first group, and seemed happy to have a chance to work out with Cam and Kevin and Carl.  Andy Helder joined them, and Carl perked right up just being around his lover.

William Carson started his warm-up with some leg stretches and then grabbed a couple of light free weights, holding them out parallel to his body and making slow, tight circles with them.  "I'm glad to have a chance to show you wieners how a real jock works out," he told Kevin.  "I'm not sure just how faithful you guys have been to your own regimen."

"Me?!" Kevin said.  "You're the one who's got a little paunch, dude!  You eat like a fucking pig, and Mark told us how you've been neglecting the gym at home," he lied.

"Mark didn't tell you shit," William shot back.

"Oh, yeah, he did," Carl interjected.  "And you know Mark doesn't lie."

"He lies like a rug when he's around you guys!" William said.  "I don't mean you, Andy.  You three southern California assholes are a corrupting influence on Mark.  Especially you, Kevin.  It's gonna take me weeks when we get home to get Mark back to being the obedient and truthful little brother he should be."

Cam smirked.  "Dream on," he said to William.  "Obedient?  One of these days Mark is gonna knock you on your wimpy ass, and you won't get up right away."

"You dream on!" William said.  "I've always been the boss, and that's not gonna change."  He threw the two weights down to the mat, moved over to one of the machines, sat down and adjusted the seat height, and began to crank out some shoulder presses.  "You assholes shut up now," he said.  "I have important work to do, and I don't wanna be distracted."

Cam, Kevin and Carl gave him the finger, and along with Andy, started their own exercises.

As usual, as he did his own workout, Kevin kept an eye on the other guys for any guidance they might need.  He noticed that Andy Helder's physique had improved even in the short time since he had seen him in San Rafael, and complimented him on his workout technique.

"Lookin' good, Andy," he told him.  "You and Carl are both looking great.  You're buff, and you've used all the right exercises to get there.  I'm proud of ya."

The two guys' faces reddened a little, and they smiled.  Kevin had always been consistently encouraging and supportive of others' efforts in the gym, but out and out compliments like that were rare.

"Hey!  What about me?" Cam demanded.

"The muscle that counts most in your case is in perfect shape," Kevin said with a leer.

William groaned.  "I didn't need to hear that, dude," he said.

Kevin, Cam, William, Carl and Andy finished up their workout in a little over an hour.  Carl and Andy took off to shower (together) upstairs, and William showered in the garage, but Cam stayed on to help Kevin as the next contingent of boys came into the gym to exercise.

Eventually Cam and Kevin went upstairs to shower themselves after everyone had finished working out.  Kevin shut the door to Catherine's room behind them, and he and Cam walked over to the crib to check on Casey.  The little guy was sound asleep on his back, head turned to one side, with the pacifier he'd had in his mouth when Maria put him down now discarded and lying on the sheet in front of his face.  The sight of Casey always brought out Cam's gentle side.  He reached down and softly stroked the fine black hair on the little boy's head.

"Thanks, man," Cam told Kevin.

"Thanks for what?"

"Thanks for letting me help raise this baby.  He's so perfect, he takes my breath away sometimes."

Kevin turned and pulled Cam into his arms.  They looked into each other's eyes, and Cam dipped his head and smelled the shoulder of the sweaty T-shirt Kevin was wearing, breathing deeply.

"I saw you looking at me in the courtyard at Assurances," Kevin observed seriously, no banter in his voice.

"I look at you all the time."

"This look was a little different."

"You're right," Cam said after a long pause.  "Sometimes I want to hold you so bad I can hardly stand it.  It's not just sexual.  That's powerful, but it's more than that--and you know how much I love sex."  He stopped talking and looked into Kevin's eyes again.  "You've heard at weddings how the priests sometimes talk about the people who are being married becoming one flesh?  That's why I look at you the way I do sometimes, Kev.  You and I are as close to being one flesh as anybody can be.  But sex is the gateway, not the final destination.  That's the way I think about our relationship.  Does that make any sense?"

Tough guy Kevin was moved, and his eyes misted up.

"Perfect sense," he said, swallowing hard.  "Sometimes you blow me away, man."  He nuzzled Cam's face, one hand behind his partner's head.   "I hope that when you start making movies in the not-too-distant future, those movies will show everybody who sees them what love between two people, sometimes two guys, is really all about.  You'll be able to do that, because you don't just understand it.  You live it."

They kissed deeply and went into the bathroom, where they stripped each other down slowly and stepped into the shower together.  They washed one another thoroughly, and inevitably got hard, as they usually did.  But they didn't do anything about it this time.  When they were finished washing, they just held each other for a long time under the warm spray of water, their erections trapped between those hard abs they had worked so diligently to develop.

*  *  *

At about four o'clock, the young guys were all involved in playing games downstairs, Wii in the study and cards in the dining room, while the adults talked in the living room/dorm room.   Ian sought out Cam, Kevin, and Carl when they took a break from what they were doing, and invited them to take a walk on the beach with him.

The beach front was bathed in the light of the slowly reddening sun, which would be dipping below the western horizon within an hour or so.  The four of them went down to the hardpacked sand where the surf was rolling gently on to the shore, and following Ian's lead, began to stroll southeast along the bay.  They walked in silence for the first ten minutes or so, waiting for Ian to start the conversation.

"I want to thank you guys for your hospitality on this trip," Ian finally broke the silence.  "It's meant so much to Mary and me and the boys."

Kevin cut his eyes over to where Ian was walking beside him.  "Ian, you have to be kidding.  After all that your family has done for us..."  He chuckled.  "You were kinda sandbagged by Cam's silver tongue into bringing everybody down here, I know that.  So we're the ones who should be thanking you."

"I don't think you know what a big hole you three--or should I include Casey, and say 'you four'?--have left in our lives in San Rafael," Ian said.  "And I don't mean just Catherine's life.  I mean all of us."  They continued walking.  "I'm not implying that Los Angeles isn't exactly where you guys should be right now.  But I want you to know how much you're missed up north.  So if a favor was done for anyone, you did one for us by inviting us down here."

"Kevin's right about the thanks we owe you, though, Ian," Cam said.  "Seeing the family here has given me just the jump start I needed for school."

"Good," Ian said.

"But there's more to it than just a visit," Cam added.  "We appreciate knowing you're only a phone call away if we ever need you.  We talk to Alex and John a lot for their input on things, but London is pretty far away."

"Thanks for saying that," Ian said.  "I admit I feel a little like a surrogate father to you and Kevin, especially while Alex and John are away."

They walked in silence a little way further.

"Carl, are you going to be all right when Andy leaves?" Ian asked.

Carl stared over at him.  "Uh..."

"If you don't want to talk about it in front of Kevin and Cam, I apologize for bringing it up," Ian said.

Carl laughed.  "No, I was just surprised you asked.  Kevin and Cam probably know more about me than I know about myself."

"Knowing how observant they are, I don't doubt they know you pretty well," Ian said, grinning.

Carl looked down at the sand as they walked in silence for several moments.  "To answer your question, it's going to hurt me when Andy leaves.  I think it's going to hurt Andy when he leaves."  Another pause.  "I love him," he said simply.

"I know you do.  You'll be glad to know I've heard Andy talking to Catherine about which courses at St. Francis will be most easily transferable to UCLA next year, or even next semester," Ian said.  "So if you get to feeling down, remember he's working on getting things set up so he can be down here with you.  I hope that makes you feel better during the next few months."

Carl beamed.   "It really does!  Andy's hinted about transferring, but thanks for letting me know he's serious about it.  And thank you for everything you and Mary have done for me and Dan.  If it weren't for you two, and for Cam and Kevin, I know I'd be in my grave right now.  Literally.  And maybe Dan would be dead, too."

"I agree with you about Cam and Kevin's role in the way things worked out." Ian said.  "The challenges you faced sort of opens up another subject I wanted to talk to you three about."

The three young men looked at him curiously.

"This is delicate and a little controversial," Ian began.  "Feel free to disagree with me about my opinion.  But I just want to suggest that you all need to be a little restrained when it comes to any public male-to-male displays of affection."

"Oh, shit!" Kevin said disdainfully.

"I said this would be a delicate subject," Ian said a little defensively.  "Don't kill the messenger.  You know I fully support the civil rights of gay people, and I'll do anything it takes to make equality for gays under the law happen.  But we're not there yet when it comes to PDA's.  And there are some very hostile and violent people who are threatened by any public signs of equality."

"It's funny you should mention that," Cam responded.  "I kissed Kevin on the cheek when we were at Disneyland, and four guys who were right behind us on the fairway took exception and started giving us crap about it.  We didn't want to tell you, but Andy knocked the biggest guy, a kid named Eric, on his ass when he started getting aggressive.  That ended things for the moment.  But come to find out, the four of them apparently live somewhere here in Malibu, because we've seen them out running on the beach.   Eric never fails to give us the finger and mouth something nasty when we pass them."

"Guys, the reason I mention this is because L.A. isn't as quite as liberal on gay issues as the San Francisco area is," Ian said.  "PDA's between same-sex couples that wouldn't be noticed at home can be more a red flag down here.  I'm not asking you to be something you aren't.  I just don't want you to be physically assaulted and hurt, that's all.  I'm asking you to assess where you are and the kind of people who are around you before you openly show affection in public."

"Even if we'd looked around at Disneyland, who would have guessed that four guys around our own age who saw us would have resented what we did so much?" Kevin commented.  "The majority of young people our age are much more accepting of homosexuality today, no matter what their own orientation is."

"And don't you think we need to push the boundaries a little bit from time to time?" Carl asked.  "How will be people become more accepting of gays if they don't see us in what are obviously loving relationships?"

"You're both right," Ian admitted.  "But unfortunately there are still a lot of people of all ages around who hate gays.  Many of them simply aren't persuadable.  I know I speak for Catherine and Mary and for all your brothers when I say it would break our hearts if you guys were victims of violence because you showed one another affection at the wrong time in the wrong place."

They walked on in silence for a few minutes.

"Well, thanks for caring about us enough to talk about it with us, Ian." Cam finally said.  He smiled.  "We take what you tell us seriously, believe it or not, so we'll watch it a little."

"That's all I ask," Ian said.  "Let's head back.  Carl, I need to get together with you and Dan to talk about your dad's estate, and Emrick Cadillac in particular.  I've been duking it out with the executor of your dad's will, and we've finally resolved some issues.  I need to get some input from you guys before we proceed further with things."

"OK," Carl said, looking surprised.  "I haven't given my dad's estate much thought."

"I have some good news for you, I think," Ian said.  "We'll talk about it back at the house."

The four of them turned around and headed home.

*  *  *

Ian collected Dan when they arrived back at Alex's house, and he and Carl and Dan went out on to the front deck and Ian pulled chairs into a little circle.  They sat down and looked at one another.

"'Sup?" Dan asked.

"I want to bring you two guys up to date on what's going on with your dad's will," Ian said.  "I can tell you that your dad's executor, an attorney in Monterey, hasn't been easy to deal with, at least according to the guy in my law firm who's been trying to work with him.  You two guys are the sole heirs, and you're entitled to information about what's going on with the estate, but we finally had to threaten to sue him before he'd let us know where we are on probate and other matters.

"Even before your dad's lawyer sent us any paperwork, I had an appraisal done on your house and the Cadillac dealership.  The house and the land it sits on is worth $4 million, and the dealer franchise is currently worth $200 million.  That's even given General Motors' sad financial state of affairs as a result of the recession.  I'm told that sales at Emrick Cadillac have continued to be brisk under a new general manager, and earnings are good.
  The property that the dealership sits on is worth another $15 million.  There are also some investments in stocks which have modestly regained value since the recovery has started, and are probably worth $50 million as of this date.  The upshot is that the two of you are going to be very wealthy young men once the estate is settled."

Carl and Dan looked at each other, stunned.

"I had no idea we were talking about that kind of money..." Carl gasped.

"Me, either," Dan said.

"You don't have any important decisions to make right now, but eventually you're going to have to decide what you want to sell and what you want to keep.  And what you want to invest in if you do sell the dealership and liquidate your other holdings.  When the estate is settled, I think you'll need to hire a money manager to advise you and to look after your assets.  I don't have the expertise to manage your money, to be honest, and I don't want the money manger role to get confused with my role as your father."  Ian paused and looked out at the ocean.  "My role as your father is very important to me.  Mary and I love you boys.  I hope you know that."

The boys teared up a little bit.

"Well, please don't desert us just because we're going to be rich," Dan said quietly.

"Never, guys," Ian said with a catch in his voice.  "That's never going to happen."  He smiled.  "You're never going to get rid of us."

After a moment's silence, the three of them stood up, and Ian hugged the two boys and gave them a kiss on the cheek.

Carl looked Ian in the eye.  "You and Mary have told us so often that you love us, but I don't think we've told you often enough how much we appreciate everything you've done for us.  And how much we love you two and William and Mark.  And all the guys.  We're luckier than we have any right to be."  The little jock pulled Ian back into a hug and held him for a long for a long minute, tilting his face up and kissing him on the cheek before letting him go.

Dan wordlessly did the same.

Then they went back inside.  Carl and Dan joined a card game in progress in the dining room, and Ian sat down with Mary in the study, silently taking her hand and holding it.

"You talked to Carl and Dan?" Mary asked.

Ian nodded.  "Yes," he said.

"How'd they take the news?"

"They were surprised.  When I suggested that they needed a money manager down the road to handle their affairs, they were afraid we were going to leave them on their own."

"I hope you set them straight about that," Mary said.

"Yes.  I reassured them that we love them, and that they're always going to be part of our family.  I think they get it."

"Good, sweetheart."  Mary pulled his face down and kissed him.  "You're a good father, Ian."

They smiled into one another's eyes and just sat there holding hands and enjoying each other's company.

*  *  *

Eric Clymer, who had been Cam and Kevin's most voluble tormentor at Disneyland, sat in the dwindling sunshine with his three best buddies on Eric's parent's front deck in Malibu.  They were just starting on their third sixpack of Budweiser.

Peter Murtha, Art Smith, and Rory Lomer had been friends with Eric since they were all in grade school.  All of them were tall, good looking and muscular, but Eric was the tallest, most muscular and meanest of the four, and had always been the alpha male of what their high school classmates had always called the "Four horsemen of the Apocalypse."  They weren't shining examples of young manhood in the estimation of those who knew them well.  The boys were in general arrogant, unfriendly, mean spirited, judgmental of others, racists, womanizers, and above all, totally homophobic to schoolmates they identified as gay.  Thanks to their size and physical strength, they had always tried and often succeeded in dominating most of their peers in everyday life.  They were almost universally hated for that, even among their jock teammates on their high school football team.  They were now preparing to take their abundant negative social talents to UCLA as freshmen.

Eric had been in trouble with the law several times, but had never been charged because his father was an influential businessman and a heavy contributor to the campaign funds of many local officials.  His father had warned him the last time he'd been in trouble for retail theft at a local Best Buy store that if there were any further incidents involving the law, he wouldn't be moving heaven and earth to get charges dropped.  Eric had meekly told his dad he understood.

"Dudes!" Eric Clymer said.

His three companions looked at him curiously.

"I've been thinkin' we should teach the two faggots we saw kiss at Disneyland a lesson."

The three continued staring appraisingly at Eric.

The four of them knew exactly where Cam and Kevin lived, thanks to Eric's having spotted them sitting on Alex's front deck with the rest of the guys the day after the encounter at Disneyland.  Cam had seen Eric looking at the house, but the latter had trotted off after identifying who was there.  Alex's and John's house was a mere two miles down the beach from the Clymer abode.

"Whaddaya have in mind?" Rory Lomer asked their leader.

"I don't know exactly," Eric said.  "I just want to fuck 'em up bad in some way.  Something they won't forget.  Guys shouldn't be allowed to suck face with other guys in public the way they did.  It was sickening."

"How are we gonna accomplish that?  There are too many in their posse," Peter Murtha observed.

They sat in silence.

"We'd have to catch the two of them alone," Eric said.  "Or maybe we can catch one of them out running on the beach.  Alone, preferably at night.  We can watch for him with night binoculars."

"I don't know," Art Smith said a little disapprovingly.

Eric ignored him and looked thoughtful.  "Y'know, there's an empty house two doors down," he said.  "The bank foreclosed on the losers who used to live there because 'daddy' lost his job."  Eric chuckled.  "I don't think we'd have any trouble breaking in, and we could drag one or both faggots in there and give them a little tune up.  They both deserve it.  You guys up for that?"

Peter and Rory didn't say anything, but Art Smith looked skeptical, and uncomfortable.

"What!!?" Eric demanded, looking at him balefully.

"Punching them out a little bit is one thing," Art said.  "But I'm not gonna do anything that's gonna land me in jail, I can promise you that."

"You fucking pussy!" Eric spat out angrily.  "This isn't anything we haven't done before!
  Are you with me or not?"

"We've never dragged anybody into an empty house and beat the shit out of 'em!" Art shot back.  "They're sure to report it, and I don't want my picture in the paper wearing cuffs!"

"Jesus, Art!" Eric said.  "That's not gonna happen.  The queers will be too ashamed of what we do to them to report it if we handle it right!"

"What exactly are you planning to do to them to make them that ashamed?" Art asked.
"You don't have to worry about that.  Have I ever let ya down?  Just take my word for it.  They'll be too ashamed to go to the cops by the time we're done."

Smith sat still, looking Eric Clymer in the eye.  After a minute, he shook his head, stood up, and took off for home.

"That motherfucker doesn't have the balls he was born with!" Eric said, exasperated, staring at Art Smith's retreating back.  "This might change things a little.  With only three of us, we may not be able to do anything unless we get one of the faggots alone.  But we can still get the job done."

Peter and Rory nodded their heads in the affirmative.

"Yep," Rory said.

Eric stood up.  "C'mon, let's go check out the empty house."

The three boys stepped off the deck and walked across the beach to the vacated house.  There was a realtor's sign stuck in the sand.  Some broken tree branches of various sizes blown on to the beach during the last storm littered the yard.  Entering through the little gate from the beach, they went up on to the deck and tried to peer in through the sliding glass doors.  They couldn't see in, though, due to draperies left behind in the move, shrouding the view.    Eric tried sliding the door open, but it didn't give.  It was latched.

"Not a problem," Eric said, glancing out at the empty beach to make sure they weren't being watched.

He reached into the pocket of his cargo shorts and took out a good-sized pocket knife.  Opening the blade, he wedged it up into the locking mechanism, and they heard heard a click.  The lock was off.  Eric tried to slide the door again.  But even though there was some give to it this time, the door still didn't slide open.

Peter Murtha squatted and looked at the base of the door through the glass.

"There's a little board holding it shut," he said.

"Not a problem," Eric said again.  Standing sideways and bracing his shoulder against the door frame, he began banging the door against the board.

"Keep it up," Murtha told Eric.  "It's bowing up a little more every time you hit it."

Taking heart, Eric keep mashing against the door until they heard a crack, and the board broke in the middle.  The door slid open enough to let Eric through it to dodge around the drapes and clear the door track.  Opening the door wide, the other two guys joined Eric inside in what had probably been a family room. 
Making sure the draperies were closed, Eric flicked a light switch.  The electricity was still on, and an overhead chandelier bathed the room in light.

The room was empty all right, with only some same paper debris remaining on the carpeted floor inside.  The fifteen foot ceiling was crossed by heavy wooden beams.

"How cozy," Eric said sarcastically.  "This should be perfect for our little party.  All we need is some rope to tie a faggot to a beam.  And let the party begin."

The guys cased the rest of the house, finding nothing of particular interest before they left. They slid the door to the deck shut behind them, leaving it unlocked.

"All we have to do is wait for the opportune moment," Eric told his two companions.

*  *  *

Cam was feeling a little melancholy as the time drew closer for the San Rafael contingent to leave for home.  They were to fly out the following afternoon.  Father Mason found him sitting silently on a couch in the den watching William and Berto bowling on Wii and talking trash to each other.  The priest sat on the couch next to him.

"Why so glum, bud?" Mason asked.

"I'm gonna miss everybody when you go," Cam said.

"I know," the priest said.  "We're all going to miss you guys," he added.  "When do your classes start?"

"Wednesday," Cam said laconically.

"Once school starts, you'll feel more upbeat about things," Mason said.  "You'll be busy.  I'm just so thankful we all had a chance to spend some time together here, despite the fact that my dad's death was what brought me down to L.A.  Aren't you happy that everybody got together?"

"You're right," Cam admitted.  "I am happy about that."  He swallowed hard and looked at Father Mason.  "But I'm not sure you know how much I love everybody.  I'm not ashamed to say that.  It's been so good having this time together.  I don't want to give it up."

"I knew how much you care about everybody after being around you all at your mom's house," Mason reflected.  "I'm not preaching at you when I tell you that sometimes accepting a loss helps us grow emotionally.  And saying good-bye to your family for a few months is just temporary--it's not a permanent loss by any matter of means.  We'll all see each other soon.  Until we do, we can talk as often as we want.  That's what cellphones are for.  Speaking of that, I want to hear from you and Kevin and Carl frequently about how things are going for you all down here.  I want you to promise you'll call me."

Cam smiled.  "I promise."

Just then William Carson began rejoicing loudly about a Wii bowling victory over Berto.

"'I love the smell of napalm in the morning,'" William chortled, quoting his oft watched tape of Apocalypse Now.

"Your attitude stinks," Berto told him solemnly.

William suddenly grabbed his San Rafael roommate, swept the tall boy's legs out from under him, and put him down on the floor on his back.  William sat on Berto's chest, pinning his arms, and leaned down over his face.

"Au contraire.  My attitude smells great, my little Chicano," he said.  "I won!"

"Humph!" Berto said, staring up at William.  "Then why do I have most of your spending money in my pocket from poker?"

"Mere luck," William said.  "Your temporary luck is over."

"I can say the same about your insignificant little victory at Wii," Berto said.  "Mere luck.  And we didn't even have any money on it."

Back on the couch, Cam grinned at Father Mason.  "You can hardly find entertainment like this anywhere else!" he observed, watching the two guys on the floor.  "This is what I'm gonna miss."

"I get it," Mason said.  "And I'll leave you guys to it."

The priest stood up and exited the den for less vigorous adult company in the living room.  He passed Carl Emrick on his way in.  Berto saw the priest leave and spotted the new arrival.  He appealed to Carl.

"Get this freaking load of shit off me!" Berto pleaded with Carl.

Carl, who had been a top wrestler in the 145 pound class at Seaside High School, assessed the scene and pulled William off Berto.

"Free!  Free at last!" Berto said, getting up and leaving the room while the leaving was good.

Carl began to put some wrestling moves on William, and despite William's greater weight and size, soon had the boy subdued.  William momentarily stopped struggling.

"Don't break my dad's shit," Cam warned the combatants, moving a chrome and glass coffee table further away from the action.

"Wait 'til I get you in the gym next time," William threatened Carl.

"You'll have to work fast," Carl said.  "You're leaving tomorrow.  But it wouldn't make any difference.  It's not your size, it's what you do with it that counts."

William snickered.  "That's true in bed, too.  Or so I've been told.  Anyway, get off me, you little fuck!  You're clever, but you don't have any staying power."

"Just keep talkin'," Carl said.  "You'll end up a big, hurting pile of shit on the floor by the time I'm done with ya."

The two continued wrestling for a few more minutes, but William never did get the upper hand.

Carl eventually released him.  William grabbed Carl, but instead of continuing the struggle, hugged the boy.

"You don't know how much I'm gonna miss ya, dude," William told him, bending his head down, forehead to forehead with the shorter boy.  Carl tried not to let William and Cam see that his eyes misted over when he heard what William said.  They did see it, but didn't comment.

Ian walked into the den just then, trailed by Alice and Samantha.  The two dogs went right over to Cam on the couch and starting nuzzling his legs so he'd pet them.  Cam obliged and looked up at Ian.

"I don't 'spose you'd consider leaving the dogs here in L.A. with us for a few months, would ya?" he asked, scratching the two animals behind the ears.  The dogs loved it.

"You'll have to talk to Mary about leaving Alice," Ian said.  "And if you were smart, you'd ask your mom about keeping Samantha here.  Catherine's gotten awfully attached to her.  And to Alice, for that matter."

"Well, we can't split 'em up," Cam said.  "They're a matched set.  It's both or neither of 'em."

"I agree," Ian said.  "Go negotiate.  Mary and Catherine are in the living room with Father Mason."

Cam stood up from the couch and, trailed by the dogs, went into the living room.  Catherine was holding Casey in a standing position on her lap talking to him as the little guy pinched her nose and squeezed her face.  Mary Carson sat beside them on the couch.

"Mommy," Cam said.  "Are you and Mary in a generous mood?"

"That depends," Catherine said, looking a little uneasily at Mary.  "What's on your mind?"

"Ian said I should ask you two if we can keep the dogs with us for a couple months." Cam smiled.  "It would be good for Casey if they stayed with us for a while."

"Good for Casey, huh," Catherine said, laughing.  "I know you so well, Cameron.  Aren't you boys going to be too busy to take care of them?"

"We'll be busy," Cam conceded.  "But Maria Romero will help us out with them."

"You know that for a fact?" Catherine asked.

"The Romeros have dogs at home," Cam said.  "All I can do is ask her."

Catherine looked at Mary.  "What do you think about this?" she asked.

"I don't know.  How long will you keep them?"

"We'll be home for Thanksgiving," Cam said.   "We'll bring 'em back to you then."

"Well..." Mary said reluctantly.  "I guess it'll be all right if it's all right with you, Catherine."

"I guess so," Catherine said.  "You better give them a lot of love and attention, though--like Casey gets--or the deal's off!"

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Cam said, bending down to kiss each of the two women on the cheek.  "We won't be so lonesome now.  And we'll make sure they get plenty of exercise on the beach."

Kevin came in off the deck and stood in the doorway into the living room.

"We get to keep the dogs until Thanksgiving," Cam told his partner.

"Cool!" Kevin said, looking pleased, and then changed the subject.  "Uh, what are we gonna do for supper?" he asked.

"We have some swordfish steaks in the freezer," Mary said.  "Do you want me to cook tonight?"

"No," Kevin said.  "You're on vacation.  Cam and I will cook.  Won't we, Cameroni?"

"Cameroni?" Cam said.  "How'd you come up that name, dufus?"

"I was thinking about macaroni for a side dish, and it just came to me," Kevin said, face full of mischief.  "It recognizes your Italian heritage."

"I don't have any freaking Italian heritage!"
  Cam looked at the two women.  "I've changed my mind about staying here," he said.  "I'm not taking this kind of abuse.  I'm going home with you all and the dogs tomorrow."

"No, Cam-boy," Kevin said solemnly.  "Your fate is to stay here with me and Carl and become a better person."  He walked on into the living room and put his arm around Cam's neck, kissing him on the side of the head.

"A better person? That's an impossibility.  Even if it were, with you two as role models, it would be all down hill," Cam shot back.

"Come on," Kevin said.  "Let's go start the swordfish thawing and fire up the grills."

Cam faked a sigh.  "If I have to."  He looked at Kevin.  "Who do we trust to help Maria cook the rest of the meal?"

'How about William and Carl and Andy?" Kevin asked.

Cam put his hand to his throat and made a choking sound.

Kevin laughed and dragged him out of the room, the dogs following closely behind.

That night after a good meal and an evening of Wii, card games and good conversations, Cam watched the guys in the living room stripping down to their boxers for bed.  They all looked happy and healthy, their bodies glowing from the physical regimen that they would hopefully continue at home without Kevin on their asses about it.

The living room furniture was pushed back and the sleeping mats were laid out for the last time, at least for this visit, and the boys lay down and pulled their sheets and blankets over them.  Cam gave in gracefully when Mark Carson wedged himself between Kevin and him, knowing that starting the next evening he and Kevin would be back in their own bedroom in their own bed.  Cam chubbed up just thinking about that.

Cam was drifting off to sleep when he heard the adults turn off the lights in the den and head upstairs to bed, where Carl and Andy Helder had gone long before to do whatever they did together up there.  He was pretty sure he knew what that was.

*  *  *

The following morning arrived right on schedule, much to Cam's, Kevin's and Carl's disappointment.

Kevin let the troops sleep later than usual that morning, and rallied everybody about 9 a.m. for a final run on the beach before the family had to pack up for their flight back to San Francisco.  The weather, as usual, was perfect, with a breeze off the bay cooling everybody as they ran along under the mid-morning sun.  The two dogs were in their glory as they circled the runners and chased each other into the surf as the family moved along at a brisk pace.

They had completed several miles when they spotted three young guys running toward them in the opposite direction.  Cam immediately knew who they were, and wondered idly where the fourth guy in their posse was.

As usual, Eric Clymer scowled at Cam and Kevin, and gave them the finger just as his group passed them.

The young guys all saw them do so, but because of the adults, didn't react.  Ian saw it, too, and uncharacteristically, it made him angry.  He wheeled around and shouted at Eric.

"Hey, kid!  What's your problem?"

Eric stopped and turned around, as did Peter and Rory.  "No problem," Eric said.  "What's your problem?"

"You're pretty free with giving people the finger," Ian observed.  "Do I need to have a little chat with the sheriff's office about you?"

That was the last thing Eric wanted.

"No, sir," he said meekly, faking it perfectly.  "Sorry for any misunderstanding."  He signaled his two friends, and they resumed running away from the family.

"Let's go," Ian said, and the family began running again and finally got back up to speed.  "I don't like that kid," Ian muttered under his breath.

The boys silently agreed with him, saying nothing.

Fueled now by anger, Ian rather than Kevin set the pace starting then, and it was faster than usual.  Kevin grinned when he checked his watch as they turned around at three and half miles, and headed back toward the house.  If they kept up that pace, they would set a new seven mile record for themselves.

That's what happened, and Kevin high-fived Ian when they stepped back on Alex's deck.

"You're pretty spry for an old guy," Kevin told him.

"And don't you forget it!" Ian told him, giving the boy a brief hug.  "I don't know whether I can keep up that pace at home when you're not there to push me, though."

"I can always call you on the phone before you run and annoy you," Kevin told him.  "That should do it."

Ian laughed, and after the family did their cool down, they piled indoors and began showering in shifts and packing their bags.  The two big hot water tanks in Alex's garage did their job, and the water was still hot when the last shower was finally taken.

After Catherine had come down from her shower, Kevin and Cam had gone up to their room and stripped down for their own shower.  Kevin had watched his boy as Cam shed his clothes, leaving them in a pile on the floor of the bathroom.  Kevin had reached down and picked up Cam's jock, holding it to his nose.

"You horny?" Cam had asked, chuckling.

"You know it!"

"Hold that thought," Cam had said.  "I want you nice and juicy for tonight."

"Tonight?" Kevin had said with an innocent look on his face.  "What's gonna happen tonight?"

"Getcher cute little ass in the shower, and I'll whisper in your ear about it."

"Hmmm.  Can't wait," Kevin had said, slapping Cam's ass as the latter stepped into the shower.

They had washed one another, but didn't do anything to get off, in anticipation of bedtime.  After drying each other thoroughly, they had dressed and carried Catherine's suitcases downstairs and put them in the back hall for when the limousines arrived.

That morning Maria had put on a huge pot of paella for lunch, and everybody gathered in the dining room after Mary and Catherine set the table and Cam carried the pot of paella and Carl several heaping platters of garlic toast from the kitchen to the dining room table.  The aroma had everyone's mouth watering.  Kevin put Casey in his highchair next to his own seat, making sure there were places for Maria, Rosa and Yolanda to join them for the meal.  The family stood around the table for the last time that visit for Father Mason to offer thanks.

"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," the priest said as they all made the sign of the cross and then held hands with their neighbors.


"Heavenly Father, we lift our hearts in thanksgiving for the opportunity we've enjoyed to be together these last days," the priest said.  "We see Christ in the face of those around us today, Lord.  Our love for one another reflects your love for all of us, and we are truly grateful.  We are grateful, too, for this food now set before us.  We ask you to bless it to our use as we bless you and one another, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.


The men seated the women as Ian stood at the steaming pot of paella and began ladling the rich smelling liquid and its contents into bowls.  Mary Carson stood up, and going to the sideboard for a large carafe, began pouring full glasses of chardonnay for the adults and splashes of wine into glasses for the boys.

"What's the occasion?" Mark Carson asked, picking up his glass and taking a sip.

"It's our good-bye meal," Mary answered, and nothing more was said.

When Ian was finished and sat down, the family picked up their spoons, dipped into the bowls, blew a cooling breath on the spoonful, and tasted what was in it.

"Oh my goodness!" Mary Carson said.  "Maria, this paella is magnificent!!"

"Gracias," Maria said.  "Rosa and Yolanda helped me, of course.  Don't forget them."

"Great job, ladies," William said, beaming as he lifted his spoon in tribute to the cooks.

Cam dipped a piece of garlic toast into his steaming bowl and popped it into his mouth.  "This is heaven," he said.  He looked at Catherine.  "I don't think you have to worry about us starving to death down here, Mom."

The boys practically inhaled their first bowls of the delicious soup, and were quickly back for seconds.

The adults all had second helpings, and the guys had thirds.  When the meal was finished, the pot of paella was empty and the platters of toast were bare except for crumbs.  Carl even wet a finger and cleaned up the crumbs of toast from the platter nearest him.

"Nice manners!" Dan Emrick told his brother.

"We do what we gotta do," Carl said with a grin as he drained his glass of chardonnay to the last drop.

After the meal, the guys cleaned off the table and carried the dirty dishes to the kitchen.  Away from the adults, the boys celebrated the meal with some deep, satisfying belches.

The two super sized stretch limos arrived twenty minutes later, and the family began carrying luggage out to the driveway.  Maria took Casey after everybody leaving had said good-bye to the infant so Cam and Kevin would be free to circulate around in the driveway.

Carl and Andy Helder took Andy's bags out to the cars, and then retreated back into the garage for a last few minutes alone.  Andy's eyes were red when he emerged to say good-bye to Kevin and Cam.

"Take care of my boy," Andy told them as he gave them a slip and slide handshake and a shoulder bump.

"We'll watch him like a hawk," Kevin told him.

Carl hung his head as he watched Andy get into the second limo, but he didn't shed tears.

"Dudes!" William Carson said to the three boys.  "Don't fuck up down here while I'm away, but have a good time," he told them quietly.  He hugged them and kissed all three on the cheek before walking away toward the limos.

Catherine cried when she said good-bye to Cam and Kevin, and Mary did the same when she said good-bye to Carl.  Again, long hugs and many kisses.  Rosa and Yolanda hugged the three boys, with Rosa shedding some tears.

"Call me," Jim Mason told the boys and shook hands on the way to a limo.  And they got the same message from Ian when he hugged them and kissed them good-bye.

The rest of the boys hugged the three guys and thanked them for their hospitality before getting into the limos.  Mark Carson held on to Kevin for a long time before walking away, looking downcast.

The dogs were confused, circling around in the driveway when they weren't invited into the cars.

Cam went down on one knee and the dogs came to him.  "Ladies, you're staying with us," he told them.  The two border collies, smart as whips, got the message right away and calmed right down.

Cam, Kevin and Carl stood with the two canines at the end of the driveway, hands aloft in farewell, as the limos turned around and headed toward the Pacific Coast Highway.

© 2010 Don Hanratty