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


Fall, such as it was, had come to southern California.  The days were still long and hot, but the nights were cooler.  And everything was dry.  People began to watch closely for a repeat of the destructive fires that seemed to ravage the L.A. area every year about then.

But Cam was oblivious to it all.

During the few days he'd been at home after being released from the hospital, he had gradually fallen into a haze that in truth was the beginning of a clinical depression.  He was seeing reality as if were a dream, which served as his protection against the terrible memories of being brutalized.  In his current state there was neither pain nor joy in his life.  Cam's severe reaction to what had happened to him surprised even Carl Emrick, who had had a similar experience with his own father without being so debilitated.

Cam had dropped all his classes at UCLA, except he had not yet opted out of his favorite class, cinematography.  But he had accepted the fact that he probably would drop it, too.  All of his interests were on hold.  He didn't work out in the gym despite Kevin's gentle urging to do so, and he claimed that his surgeon didn't want him running yet.  He had no desire for sex, and didn't even masturbate.  He was pretty much comatose, sleeping a lot even during the day.  He was alive and moving around, but mentally and emotionally he was in an incipient fugue state.  His interest was somewhat piqued only when he was in the company of Casey, and he spent at least a few of his waking hours with the little boy.  The time Cam devoted to Casey freed up Maria Romero to spend more time on her household duties, but the maid was deeply saddened by Cam's state of mind.  She sorely missed the happy and vibrant person that Cam had been, and worried about him.

The family had all gathered in the study and talked about Cam's condition one evening after he had gone to bed early.  Catherine had already telephoned the clinical psychologist at UCLA, Martha Owens, whom Dr. Amanda Smith at St. Francis had recommended.  After hearing from Catherine about what had happened to Cam and refreshing her own memory of events from online newspaper articles, Owens had provisionally agreed to take Cam on as a patient pending a satisfactory first meeting with him the following week.  The family had all agreed that the first meeting with Dr. Owens couldn't come too soon.  Catherine especially wanted to know he was at least scheduled for treatment before she went back to San Rafael.  Owens asked Catherine to keep her appraised of Cam's condition.

*  *  *

The evening had arrived for Father John Ryan and his family to come to supper at Alex and John's house, an invitation issued by them concurrent with Cam's release from the hospital.  Everybody had been looking forward to the occasion because they all respected and admired Father Ryan, and wanted to meet his wife Lisa, and their three kids--ten and eight year-old boys and a six-year old girl.

That wasn't strictly true.  Everybody was looking forward to the dinner party, with a swim afterward for the youngsters, except for Cam.
  Cam couldn't make himself care about the dinner party for the Ryans one way or another.

The family arrived about 5 p.m.  Alex had invited them to come early, knowing that an early supper would be best for the children, particularly if they were going to swim in the Millers' pool next door afterward.  The youngsters came into the house with swimming gear and towels under their arms, obviously looking forward to getting in the water.  Father Ryan had brought his swimming trunks and a towel, too.

Lisa Ryan, the priest's wife, was a svelte, shapely, lovely woman with long blonde hair which fell to her shoulders.  She smelled like lilacs.  She was as charming as she looked, and soon had captivated not only straight Ian, but also the gay men and boys.  There was an inner peace to her that mirrored John Ryan's own spirit.  She and Catherine MacKenzie hit it off right away.

The two Ryan boys, Samuel and Joshua, were spitting images of Father Ryan, and Rachel was a young mirror of Lisa.  The kids were outgoing, and Kevin and Carl soon had them engaged in a Wii bowling game in the study while the adults visited in the living room before supper.  John began pouring drinks, getting Lisa and Father Ryan glasses of a good pinot noir, Catherine and Ian vodka tonics, and vodka martinis for Alex and himself.  Catherine held Casey on her lap for a few minutes, and then Lisa asked to hold him.  The little guy was his engaging self, touching Lisa's face and playing with a gold chain she wore around her neck.

Cam had gone back upstairs after doing his social duty in greeting the visitors, and the priest noticed his absence in the course of checking several times what the younger set was doing in the study  He finally asked Kevin where Cam was.

"I think he went up to his room," Kevin said.  "He's spending more and more time up there since..."  Kevin's voice trailed off, and he looked stricken.

"Would you mind if I go up and see him?" Father Ryan asked.

"Not at all," Kevin said.  "His room"--not our room--"is the first room on the right at the top of the stairs."


The priest mounted the stairs two at a time, and knocked on the open door at the top.  Cam was lying on his side on the bed, facing the doorway.  The priest looked into the young man's eyes.  The green eyes which had once sparkled with life were empty.   Cam's forced, fake cordiality when the Ryan family had arrived was gone, replaced by an emotional void.

John Ryan took one look at him, and went over to the desk and rolled the desk chair over to the bedside.  He was no stranger to what he was seeing.  He had seen the blank look and dead eyes many times in trauma centers abroad during his days as an Army chaplain.

The priest sat down in the chair and reached out and took Cam's hands in his own.  Cam didn't react at all.


Still no reaction.

"Stick with me for a minute here."


"I know you're hurting, even though you're trying to block out the pain right now," Ryan said.  "But in spite of the pain you're trying to hide from yourself, you're going to learn how to deal with your feelings.  You'll deal with them in a different way than just trying to avoid the memory of what happened.  The truth is, you'll never forget what happened to you.  But you'll learn to handle what you experienced in a different way."

Their eyes locked for a moment and for a split second Ryan saw a flash of the real Cam in thereThen the old Cam was gone and his eyes were blank again.

The priest continued to hold Cam's hands for a few minutes before letting go.  Then he stood and placed his hands on Cam's head and blessed him.  Ryan wheeled the desk chair back to its place, and left the room.  He walked downstairs slowly, deeply disturbed by what he had seen.  Lisa Ryan took one look at his face when he came back into the living room and knew that something was very wrong.


Ryan looked at the group silently for a moment.

"Kevin said I could go up and see Cam," he said quietly as he sat down.  "Cam's very withdrawn."  He stared down at his feet.  "I saw this condition many times before, when I was an Army chaplain."  He paused and looked at the family.  "I think this is the time to intervene.  It's an emergency.  Has anyone talked to a professional about some therapy for him?"

"Yes," Catherine said.  She filled Father Ryan on her discussions with Dr. Smith in San Rafael and with Dr. Owens.

"I think it's time to give Dr. Owens a call," the priest said.  "Psychologists in California can't prescribe meds, but she most likely works closely with an M.D. on cases like this in which they're needed.  We can't let Cam slip away from us."

Catherine looked at Alex, who nodded, and then stood up.

"Let me go up and see Cam first," she said, "and then we can all come to a decision."

She walked out of the living room, went upstairs, and found Cam in the same position on the bed that Father Ryan had.  His eyes fluttered open, still blank, his face expressionless.

"Cam.  It's your mom.  Can you hear me?"  She knelt down at the side of the bed and held her boy's face in her hands and kissed him.

To her dismay, there was no response.

"Sweetheart, we're going to get you some help.   I'll be right back."

Before leaving the room, she went to the closet and pulled a light quilt off the shelf and covered Cam's body with it.  Then she walked walked down the stairs and back into the living room.

"All right," Catherine said.  "He needs help.  But before we make a decision, let's get with Kevin and see what he thinks.  He's more than earned the right to be heard."

"You're absolutely right about that," Father Ryan said, appreciating the respect that Catherine was giving Kevin.

Catherine left the living room and went to the door of the study as silence fell on the adults.

"Kevin," she said, beckoning to him when he looked up from the Wii game.

"Carl, take over," Kevin said.  "And don't let Sam beat you!"

"No," Catherine said.  "Carl, you come, too.  We need to talk to both of you."

The guys looked each other curiously as she walked in front of them into the living room.  Lisa Ryan stood up and went next door to the study to be with her children while the family talked.

Catherine looked at Kevin when the three of them were seated.

"Kevin, Father Ryan thinks that Cam is in bad enough shape that we need to call Dr. Owens right now," she said.  "I agree with him.  But I want to know what you think, and you, too, Carl, before we do anything."

Kevin nodded.  "I think Father's right.  He needs help.  I'm afraid for Cam right now..."  His voice broke along with his tough guy reserve, and he teared up and looked down at the floor until the lump in his throat went away.  "I don't know what's happening to him, but I know I haven't been able to communicate with him very much the last few days."

"Carl?" Alex said.  "Based on your own experience with this issue, what do you think?"

"I agree with Catherine and Kevin and Father Ryan," Carl answered.  "I've been thinking the same thing for a couple of days now.  Cam had a worse experience than I had, and because of it he's in worse shape than I ever was.  Please call someone."

Catherine looked at the family.  "Does anyone think differently?"

They all shook their heads in the negative, and Catherine stood up and went to Alex's desk and consulted some notes and telephone numbers there.  Sitting down and picking up the telephone, she punched in a number from the note pad in front of her.  Dr. Owens' answering service picked up.

"Hello.  This is Catherine MacKenzie calling.  I need to speak to Dr. Owens immediately.  It's an emergency."

The answering service took her information, and Catherine hung up.  She remained sitting where she was until the telephone rang not more than two minutes later.  The family was silent.

"MacKenzie," she said when she picked up the receiver.

"Martha Owens, Dr. MacKenzie.  Is Cam not doing well?"

"He's not," Catherine said.  "He's withdrawn and unresponsive, lying on his bed."

"He's conscious, though?"


"I'm going to prescribe some medication for him, then.  We have the option of hospitalizing him, but I prefer not to do that unless he's a danger to himself or others."

"I don't think he's a danger to himself or others."  Catherine paused.  "But I didn't know psychologists could prescribe meds."

"I'm an M.D., as well as holding a Ph.D. in clinical psychology," Martha Owens said.  "I've never practiced general medicine, but I'm able to write scripts.  What pharmacy do you use?"

Catherine looked at Alex.  "What's the closest pharmacy?" she asked, and then relayed the information to Dr. Owens.

"I'll call this in right away," Owens said.  "After Cam takes his first capsule, please call me back in an hour or so.  We need to stay on top of this situation.  I want you to be aware that some antidepressants are contra-indicated for teens.  Some of them can turn out to be depressants for teens and even promote suicidal ideation.  That's why we need to stay on top of any side effects.  What I'm going to prescribe for Cam should be all right for him, though."

"I appreciate your letting me know that," Catherine said.  "We'll watch him closely.  When do you think you can see him for an evaluation?"

"Unless he has a bad reaction to the antidepressants, I'd like to see him on Monday.  I'll make additional time if it's needed."

"I'll appreciate that so much, Dr. Owens.  I'm confident Cam's in good hands."

"Thank you.  I'll talk to you later this evening, I hope."

"Yes," Catherine said, and they hung up.

Kevin drove to the drug store to pick up Cam's prescription when it was ready.  Catherine fed Cam a first capsule right away, and then he lay down again and fell asleep.

Supper that night was a hit with the Ryans.  Maria had fixed a spicy tortilla soup, a caesar salad, sweet potatoes, and four apple pies for dessert, and Alex cooked salmon steaks on the grill.   Everything was excellent, and even the little Ryan kids ate heartily.  John Kelley served the apple pie a la mode.

Kevin took Cam's food up to the bedroom on a tray after everyone had eaten.  Cam wasn't hungry, but Kevin pulled him up off the bed and sat him down at their desk with the food tray in front of him.  When Cam stopped eating after only a few bites, Kevin took the fork and knife, cut the food that needed it, and literally fed his partner until the plate was clean.  It was the largest meal Cam had eaten since being hospitalized.

Although he already seemed to be a little more alert than he had been, after eating Cam went back to the bed and lay down.  Kevin covered him with the quilt again and kissed him on the forehead.  Picking up the tray full of dirty dishes, he carried it downstairs and left it in the kitchen before going back to the living room.

After their food settled, the three Ryan kids, Father Ryan himself, and Kevin and Carl got suited up and went over to the Millers' pool to swim.  The kids had a great time.  Kevin and Carl noticed that little Rachel Ryan held her own with her two bigger brothers very well when they all roughhoused in the water.

Two hours after Cam's first pill, Catherine went upstairs and awakened Cam.  He seemed much more alert, and she called Dr. Owens to report that he seemed more responsive when she had talked to him.  The doctor asked her to call her one more time at around 10 p.m.

The Ryans had all had a good time, and thanked their hosts profusely when they left shortly after 9 o'clock.

Catherine's final report for the evening to Dr. Owens was a positive one.

*  *  *

Eyes wide open, William Carson had lain in his bed in San Rafael at 6 a.m. a few days after Cam had been assaulted. 
He was still been very upset by what had happened to his friend, and had not been sleeping well since he had received the news.  He wanted badly to see Cam and Kevin and offer his support to them in what was clearly a time of crisis.

Right at the moment, William's bladder was full and his dick hard as he lay there scratching his nuts under his boxers.  Glancing over at a still-sleeping Berto on the other side of the room, he threw back his covers and went into the bathroom to relieve himself.  Then he went back to bed to see if he could catch a few more minutes of sleep before his mother or Rosa came upstairs to nag the boys to get ready for school.

The guys in the San Rafael portion of the family hadn't been back in school for long, but Fall had already been jam-packed for William.  Although he could have coasted through his senior year in high school when it came to academics, he had opted to take some AP classes in math and history, and was up to his ass in studying every night.  But that wasn't enough, he thought to himself.  Oh, no-o-o-o! I had to be a glutton for punishment and go out for football.

He hadn't played since his sophomore year, laying out his junior year at a private school in San Francisco.  That had been a good thing, because at that point his family was transitioning to San Rafael because of Berto's problems in San Francisco.

This year William had been a walk-on for football at San Rafael High, but it hadn't been long before he was neck and neck with a junior, Marc Street, for the varsity quarterback position at the new school.  Both of the boys were top-notch athletes with good instincts on the field, but William had his rival outclassed when it came to overall physical conditioning and mental acuity.  The smart money was on William to come out on top, with Marc as his backup.  At least William was hoping that was the way it turned out.  He knew he wasn't going to be happy riding the bench.  Just give me some decent receivers, he thought, and I'll terrorize the opposition.

He had smiled to himself as his mind drifted to the women in his life.  The girls were already lining up to date this new guy in school, and many of them weren't reluctant to share their bodies with him after a second date, either in the back seat of Catherine's big car, or elsewhere when the opportunities presented themselves.  The ladies understood that there was no commitment on his part, but still wanted the pleasure of his company before he moved on to the next girl.  And there were seemingly no hard feelings on their part when he did so, despite, or maybe because, the consensus was that he was a very accomplished lover.  It wasn't, in their minds, as if he had fucked them under false pretenses.  At any rate, they were keeping him busy enough that he rarely jacked off to relieve sexual tension.

Between academics, athletics and a crowded dating schedule, William was one busy boy.  And overall, he was happy with his life.  He could handle it.

Although he was already a member of the elite at school, he was unfailingly genial and kind to everybody with whom he came in contact there, an instinctive gift he'd had reinforced by Cam and Kevin.  He looked up to them both for who they were, but especially for their unfailing, egalitarian kindness to others.

His mind drifted back to the condition Cam must be in after being brutalized.  He had been very disturbed when he had heard the news.  William had already told his dad and mom that he needed to go down to L.A. as soon as possible to see Cam and Kevin.  Frequent telephone conversations with Kevin and Carl had only firmed up his intention to do that.  It would have to be over a weekend, though, or given his full schedule he wouldn't get everything done that he needed to get done, including hounding the boys in San Rafael to stay faithful to their weekday workout sessions in their little home gym.

Taking his cell phone off its charger, he slid out of bed again and went out into the hall so as not to awaken Berto.  Sitting down on the floor with his back against the wall, he punched his father's quick dial cell number into the phone and hit send.

"William!" Ian said, sounding in his usual good mood at the start of the day.  "Let me call you back.  I'm out running on the beach with the Catherine and the guys right now."

"Cam, too?"


"All right," William said.  "Don't forget to call me."

"How could I forget you, buddy?  I'll call you back in half an hour."

"Sounds good, Dad.  Laters."

William disconnected and headed for the shower to get a jump on his own day.  He had just finished cleaning his teeth and showering and gotten dressed when his cell phone rang.  It was Ian.

"Hey, Dad," William said.

"How are you doing, son?" Ian asked.

"I'm good.  Busy, but good.  How are things in L.A.?"

"Everybody's doing as well as can be expected, I guess.  I don't know whether it's been in the news in San Francisco or not, but I guess you know the police caught the three guys who hurt Cam.  Sean Miller from next door and Alex and John and I talked to the District Attorney, and he's going to be tough on these young men when this case goes to trial.   Catherine has found a therapist for Cam to talk to, somebody in L.A. recommended by Dr. Smith from St. Francis."  Ian paused.  "Cam isn't doing very well right now, William.  The new doctor has him on some antidepressants, and he's only just starting to respond.  Alex and John and Kevin and Carl are a little down in the dumps about things, but that's to be expected under the circumstances.  How are your mom and the boys?"

"We're all good, especially when we heard the news about the three guys getting arrested.  It was in the papers here, and Kevin and Carl told me on the phone before that.  Listen, Dad, the reason I called is that I want to come down to L.A. this coming weekend.  I went out for football at San Rafael, so I have to be here for our first Friday night game.  But maybe I can catch the last flight out of San Francisco to L.A. next Friday after the game is over, and come back home Sunday night."

"I didn't know you were going out for football.  When did you decide to do that?"

"It was a spur of the moment decision," William said.  "Things are going well, though.  I'm in the running for first string quarterback."


William grinned with pleasure at his dad's praise, and then got back to business.  "Anyway, when are you coming home?"

"Catherine and I are coming home tomorrow."

"Good deal."  He paused.  "Listen, Dad, I really want to come down to L.A. to see Cam.  I feel as if I need to do that."

"Don't you think it's a little early in his recovery to visit?"

"No, I don't.  Now's the time."

"What do you hope to accomplish?" Ian asked.

"I want to tell him how much we all love him," William said without embarrassment.  "I think now might be a good time to remind him of that and how much everybody in this family admires him.  And how much everybody who's ever met him thinks of him."  William's emotions welled up, and he stopped talking until he regained control of his voice.  "From what Carl has said about his own experience, the therapy is gonna be difficult, and Cam should know these things before he really gets into it.  It's not going to be an easy road."

Ian sighed and surrendered.  "I can't argue with you about that.  Let me check on late flights to L.A. next Friday night and early Saturday morning."  Ian paused.  "I'm so proud of you, William.  For so many reasons."

"Thanks, Dad.  I appreciate it.  And I think coming down there for a visit will do Cam and Kevin and Carl some good, or I wouldn't waste the time and money."

"All right, William.  I'm going to be talking to your mom later, and I'll give her some departure times for L.A.  Decide what flight you want, and have your mom put the ticket on her credit card."

"I will.  Thanks again.  Love ya, Dad."

"I love you, too, William."

The phone went dead, and William said "Yes!" and punched the sky.

"What are you so amped about?" Berto asked from the bedroom doorway, clad in his boxers, as he looked out into the hall before heading for the shower.

"I'm going to L.A. this weekend."

"Cool!"  Berto nodded approvingly.  "I wanna go."

"To see Cam?"


"You'll have to run it by Dad."

Berto grimaced.  "On second thought, maybe not."  He went into the bathroom as William headed down the back stairs to the kitchen for breakfast.

When the other boys had heard at breakfast that William was going to L.A., they argued with Mary that they should be allowed to go as well.  But she'd hung tough.  For the moment, only William would traveling.

*  *  *

San Rafael High lost their first game Friday night at home by one point. 
The home team kicker had failed to put the ball through the uprights for an extra point after a touchdown.  William and his rival Marc Street had both played and done well.  William's best receivers had both dropped well-placed passes, but they hadn't done any better for Marc when he was on the field.   At any rate, William still wasn't confident he had cinched the starting quarterback position.  Yet.  He would, though, he'd promised himself.

The whole family, including Ian and Catherine, both of whom were back in San Rafael by then, had gone to the game to show their support for William and the team.  That had pleased William a lot.

After a quick shower in the school locker room after the game, he'd met his dad in the parking lot.  William had only packed one carry-on bag for the trip to L.A. along with his laptop, and he checked to make sure they were in the back of Ian's SUV before climbing in and riding shotgun.  Ian had complimented his son on a well fought game as he critiqued the contest while he drove William to San Francisco International.  Traffic was relatively light on the way to the airport, and they arrived in plenty of time for the flight.  Ian had parked the Navigator in short-term parking, and went into the terminal with William.

"Love you, boy!" Ian had said as he hugged his son and kissed him on the cheek after William had checked in at the airline desk and paid the fee for his bag.  "I hope you can make things a little better for Cam."

"Thanks for letting me go, Dad.  Love ya.  I'll do the best I can."  William had kissed him back.

"I know you will.  Call us before your return flight, and someone will meet you on Sunday."

"Will do.  See you then."  William slid the strap from his soft sided leather duffel bag over his shoulder, and waved to his dad after passing through security.

The plane had taxied out to the runway after the plane boarded.  He'd sat ahead of the starboard wing in a window seat.  The plane had only been three-quarters full, and William had his row all to himself.  He spent the first ten minutes after takeoff reviewing the earlier football game in his head, and then dozed off.  He didn't awaken until a flight attendant came on the PA system to ready the passengers for landing.  It was midnight by then.  Carl Emrick was to meet him in the airline's arrival terminal at LAX.

Carl was right where he was supposed to be.  The two young men touched fists and hugged wordlessly as they exchanged kisses on the cheek.  Not having to go to baggage claim, they headed briskly for John Kelley's Highlander in short-term parking.  Carl pressed the button on the key pod to open the back hatch, and William swung his bag and laptop case inside.  Carl pressed the button again, and the hatch closed.  They climbed into the truck.

"How are ya, dude?" Carl asked as he pressed the start button for the hybrid.

"Sore," William said.  "We played our first football game tonight.  I got sacked a couple of times, and I can feel it."

"Your dad told us you went out for football," Carl said.  "That's a hell of a commitment in your senior year."

"Yeah," William agreed.  "But I like it."


William laughed.  "I guess."

They lapsed into silence.

"Well, give me the bad news," William finally said.

"Good news first," Carl said.  "
Cam is on antidepressants, and is doing much better than he was just after he came home from the hospital."

"That's good.  And...?"

"He's still in bad shape," Carl said.  "And Kevin and I are suffering right along with him."  Carl looked across the seat.  "Cam won't let Kevin touch him, even just to hold him.  And I can understand that, given what happened to me.  Kevin understands the problem intellectually, but he's hurting and feeling pretty rejected right now.  He's so depressed about Cam's condition that I'm the one who has to hound Kevin to work out and run.  Can you believe that?"

"Yes." William said.  "Good thing I'm here, then."

"The only bright spot for Cam is Casey.  He seems to draw Cam out.  Cam talks to him and plays with him for hours every day.  So that's good."

"Nobody can resist Casey," William said.  "He raises everybody's spirits.  I'd like to do that for Cam, too."

"Maybe you're just what the doctor ordered," Carl mused.  "For all of us.  When do you have to go home?"

"Sunday night."

"I was hoping you could stay longer.  But I understand why you can't."

"If I do some good on this trip, I'll try to come down as often as I can," William said.  "Did Alex and John go back to London?"

"Yes.  They didn't want to, but the studio was getting testy about all the high priced talent sitting on their asses over there and getting paid for doing nothing, so they had to."  Carl didn't mention to William that Alex had wept about the shape Cam was in when he and John had said good-bye to everyone to go to the airport, and he didn't know that Alex had almost had the limo turn around on the way and go back to the house rather than leave.  John had offered to go on to London alone, but Alex thought better of it, and they boarded their flight.

William and Carl continued to chat about family stuff until they reached home, where Carl parked in the driveway.  The motion sensors turned the flood lights on.  Carl carried William's bag while William carried his laptop.  Kevin came to the door to greet them, preceded by the dogs.  William put down his laptop and stooped down to pet the collies.  When he stood up, he noticed the dark circles under Kevin's eyes.

"Hey, bro," he said softly, engulfing Kevin in a long hug before they exchanged kisses on the cheek and William let him go.

"Thanks for coming down," Kevin said.

"Needed to," William answered.  "I want to get the scoop on Cam, but first I want to know how you're doing."  He looked him up and down.  "How are you doing?  You've lost some weight."

"A little," Kevin said.  "How am I doing?  I guess not too well.  I'm trying not to wimp out on Cam, but this is tough going."

William nodded.  "I knew it would be."  He paused, looking Kevin in the eye.  "But Cam and you are going to be okay."

"I've been needing to hear that.  Thanks."

"William played a football game tonight," Carl told Kevin.  He turned to William.  "You probably didn't get much supper.  You hungry?"

"I wouldn't say 'no,'" William responded.

"We have some great grilled salmon left over from supper a couple nights ago," Carl said.  "Why don't I nuke some for you?  And there's even a piece of Apple pie left with your name on it."

"You're talkin' my language, dude," William said.

They went into the kitchen.  William and Kevin sat at the table while Carl heated up the leftovers and poured William a glass of milk.  William filled Kevin and Carl in on the San Rafael football team while he was waiting, and told them a little about that evening's game.

Carl put the food on the table, including a piece of apple pie, and out of habit William offered thanks before digging in.

"Kev, how about some pie?" Carl asked.

"I'll get it," Kevin said.  But Carl held up a deterring hand, and went and got the pie for both of them.  Then he brought a gallon container of vanilla ice cream to the table, and scooped out generous portions to top all three pieces of pie.

William belched appreciatively after he finished his meal.  Leaning back in his chair, he looked at Kevin and Carl.

"Does Cam know I was coming down here?" he asked.

"Yes," Kevin answered.

"Did he say anything?"

"He nodded and smiled," Kevin said.  "That means he's happy about it.  He doesn't smile very much anymore."

"Well, here's my deal for this trip," William said.  "I have some things I want to tell Cam when we're alone and relaxed:  how much we all love him and admire him.  How strong he is.  How resilient he is.  How much he has to offer this world.  And how important his relationship with all of us is, especially his relationship with you, Kevin, and how he needs to work to keep that relationship what it's always been."  He looked at Kevin.  "I want to sleep in bed with him tonight.  I want to hold him while I tell him these things, if he'll let me."  He looked away and then back at Kevin.  "Is that all right with you?"

"Yes," Kevin said.  "But good luck with holding him.  He probably won't let you.  He won't let me do that anymore."  Kevin couldn't hide the fact that he was hurt about that.

"I'll work on it," William said.  He yawned and stretched in his chair, arms in the air.  "Speaking of bed, I'm ready to hit it.  How about you guys?"

"I'm ready," Carl said.  Kevin nodded, and they all stood up.  Kevin put his arms around William and grinned at him.

"I'm really glad you're here.  I'm not worried about you and Cam sleeping in the same bed, 'cause I know you're such a pussy hound, dude."

"I don't know," William told him.  "You guys are really cute."

They all laughed.

"I wanna hear all about your latest conquests tomorrow," Carl told William.  "With Andy not around, I'm horny as hell."

"Speaking of Andy, he was over for supper the other night," William said.  "He misses you, Carl.  He told me to give you this."  He grabbed Carl and planted a hot kiss right on his lips.  With a little tongue thrown in before stepping away.

Carl blushed as Kevin and William roared at the surprised expression on their friend's face.

"That felt pretty good, even second hand," Carl admitted, raising his hand and touching his lips.  "If I didn't know you better, I'd say you might swing a little in our direction, bud."

"Nah.  That really was from him," William said with a twinkle in his eye.

Carl let Alice and Samantha out into the front yard to relieve themselves for the night as Kevin and William grabbed the latter's bag and laptop and slowly climbed the stairs to the second floor.  When they entered the bedroom, Cam was fast asleep on the bedspread in his boxers and a T-shirt.  William and Kevin went over to the crib first, where William gently caressed Casey's blond curls.  Kevin felt Casey's diaper--it was dry--and bent down to kiss the little boy's head.  After going over and kissing Cam as well, he headed toward the door.

"Uh, where are you sleeping?" William asked before he left the room.

"I'm gonna give Carl a thrill and sleep with him tonight," Kevin said with a grin.

"Laters, man," William said as they dapped.

Cam had heard their voices at that point and woke up, blinking from the ceiling light.

"Hey, dude," he said to William.

William grinned and went over to the bed, sitting on the side of it.  He bent down and hugged Cam where he lay, kissing him on the cheek.  Cam's crewcut had grown out, and William caressed Cam's hair back off his forehead.

"Hey, Cameron.  I'm glad to see ya, man," he said.

"Thanks for comin' down.  Did ya catch a lot of shit about that?"

"Nope," William said.  "You know my dad.  He usually makes the right call when it's important.  The other guys are kinda pissed off that they couldn't come along, but that's life."

"Yeah," Cam said.

"I'm gonna take a quick shower and sleep in here with you tonight, if that's all right.  I wanna talk to you."

"Well, okay," Cam said, surprised.  "Uh, are you sure?"


He couldn't help watching
as William shucked off his Nikes and stripped off his T-shirt, cargo shorts and boxers before heading for the bathroom.  Lord, the kid's body was as beautiful as he remembered, and the guy's package sure hadn't shrunk any since he'd seen it last!  His ass was a wet dream in its perfection, and he was really hung!  No wonder the ladies liked him so much and gave it up to him so quickly.  From Cam's point of view, William and Kevin were neck-in-neck when it came to having beautiful, sculpted bodies.

William knelt down to get his shaving kit out of his bag, and then went into the bathroom to clean his teeth.   Cam heard the shower door open and then close after the water started running.  He drifted off to sleep again.  He woke up when William emerged from the shower and walked back into the bedroom, toweling off as he did so.  He wasn't shy about his body, and Cam got a perfect view as William dried off before finding a clean pair of boxers in his duffel bag and pulling them on.  Cam felt himself chubbing up a bit for the first time since his surgery.

"Which side of the bed you want?" William asked.

Cam was more to the right side of the bed on his back, and stayed where he was.  "This side is fine."

"Raise up, and let me pull down the bedspread," William said.  He did that and slid under the sheets, moving over toward Cam, who got a whiff of the boy's slightly damp and healthy male smell.  He liked William's aroma, but it made him a little nervous.

Now fully awake and alert, Cam blushed as he looked into William's face.  "I've never slept in bed before with anybody but Kevin," he said.  Not strictly true--there had been prom night during the last school year when he'd slept at least part of the night with his ex-girlfriend Teri McKee.  But that had been pretty much out of kindness, because he hadn't really wanted to be with her.

"Don't sweat it," William said.  "I've never been in bed with a guy before.  I'm not gonna hit on ya.  I just wanna talk."  But no sooner had he said that than he moved next to Cam and put his arm around him.  Right on cue, Cam began to tremble at his friend's touch.

William felt Cam's discomfort right away, of course, so he turned away from Cam and on to his other side.  "All right, you hold me, dude.  I just want some body contact with you while we talk."

Despite his unease, Cam turned on to his side and spooned William, who pulled Cam's arm around himself and interlocked his fingers with Cam's.  Feeling at least somewhat more in control, Cam stopped trembling and lay quietly.

"How are you feeling?" William asked.   "Physically, I mean."

"Not so good.  I still have whip marks all over my body, and the doctor just took the stitches outta my ass yesterday at the hospital.  I'm really sore.  They gave me some pills to keep my stools soft so I don't tear up my asshole when I take a shit."

"I'm sorry, man."  William swallowed hard and was silent for a minute.  "I feel so bad for ya.  We all do."


"How do you feel otherwise?"

"My head's fucked up.  Fucked up bad.  Kevin probably told you that already."

"Yeah.  But at least you know it.  A lot of people who are fucked up don't have a clue."

"I guess."

"You're gonna see a therapist?"

"Yes.  I start a week from Monday."

"Good.  Dr. Smith really helped Carl when he needed it."

"I know it."

"Listen, you're probably wondering why I came down here so soon after you got hurt," William said.


"I wanted to let you know some things you might have lost sight of in the middle of all the crap you're going through."


"Like how much everybody in this family loves you, Cam.  I love ya.  If I were gay, I'd be on you like butter on toast.  You're the best of the best, no doubt about that.  Ask any of us, and we'll tell you how much we admire you.  You're physically and mentally strong--and you work at it.  You're brave.  You always tell the truth, even when it's not convenient.  You're kind to everybody, especially to those who need it the most, and you've taught all of us guys by example to do the same.  You're sharp, and you have a great sense of humor, but you never use your wit to hurt anybody.  You're loyal to those you care about.  You're a better Christian than any of us guys, and you don't try to hide that from others just because it might not be in style...

"And there's one other thing you taught me, and I'm glad I learned it now so I don't have to be an inhibited, cold hearted asshole all my life.  You taught me not to be shy about showing somebody affection when I feel it, not even another guy, just because somebody might not think it's 'manly' enough."

William paused and
raised Cam's hand to his lips, held it there for a minute and kissed it, and then lowered it.

Cam's eyes misted over, and he had a lump in his throat and couldn't talk.  He pulled William closer to himself.

"So, bud, let me sum things up," William said.  "I'm not ashamed to tell you you're a beautiful person in every way, including physically, from the top of your head to your cute butt to the bottom of your feet.  That's probably why those evil assholes singled you out to do what they did to you.  They're motherfucking sick, and the sickos in this world always try to hurt and destroy anything that's good and beautiful.  I hope they get everything that's fucking coming to them in prison."

They lay there quietly for several minutes until Cam finally spoke up.

"William, you don't have a clue..."  Cam stopped talking as his throat closed up.  "You don't have a clue," he finally rasped out, "how much I needed a little encouragement...a little lift in my life right now.  I love ya back so much, man.  Thank you.  And ya know what?  I could say everything you said to me back to describe you, and it would be true."

"I wish.  But unfortunately, not so much."

"We'll have to agree to disagree about that."

William rolled over on to his back and looked at Cam.  "There is one other thing I want to mention to you."


"I know you've had a hard time accepting any physical affection from people because you've been hurt so bad.  But Kevin is having a hard time, too.  He's feeling pretty rejected right now.  I'm not criticizing you, and he's not either.  We both understand what's been going on with you, at least a little bit.  But sometimes when we've been hurt so bad, we tend to take it out on somebody we know will never stop caring about us.  Without realizing it, we do that just because we can get away with it.
  But Kevin needs to hear from you how much you love him right now, and that you're not deliberately pushing him away.  He wants to be a healer for you, just like you were for him after Heather's brothers beat him up so bad.  Can you cut him a little slack?"

Cam stared at him and nodded his head sadly.  "I'm ashamed that you had to point that out to me."  His face contorted, and he began to cry without making any noise, the tears running down his face and splashing on William's arm and chest.  Cam shut his eyes, unable to look at his friend.  It was the first time he'd cried since the night he had been attacked.

William's eyes misted up.  He reached over and gently rubbed the tears off Cam's face.

"When did you say you start therapy?" William asked.

"I think I just did," Cam said.  "But I start seeing the doctor a week from Monday."


Nothing else was said, and they fell asleep lying close to each other.

When William woke up early the next morning, Cam's side of the bed was empty.  He used the bathroom, and then wandered down the hall in his boxers to Carl's room.  Peering in the door, he saw Kevin and Carl in Carl's queen size bed, and lying beside Kevin, holding him, was Cam.  William smiled, and walking to the far side of the bed, pushed Carl over a little and crawled in beside the sleeping boy.

In for a penny, in for a pound, he thought to himself as he pulled up the covers and drifted off to sleep again.

The four boys woke up in the same bed about an hour later, and had themselves a good laugh about it.  Kevin was ecstatic to wake up with Cam beside him, and spirited him away to their own bathroom for a good shower together.  He washed Cam lovingly, taking care not to hurt his partner's wounds.  And then Cam washed him.  They held each other under the spray when they were finished.

"Kev, I'm sorry I've been such a prick," Cam said to him softly as he held Kevin chest to chest.  "I don't know what the fuck I've been doing.  I didn't mean to push you away from me."

"I know you didn't.  I'm curious.  Just what did William say to you last night, anyway?" Kevin asked.

"He sort of reviewed my situation, I guess you'd say.  I know I'm not out of the woods yet, but he kind of gave me a little pep talk and some perspective about what I was doing to everybody in the family and in my life, especially to you."

"I've been worried about you," Kevin admitted.  "Everybody understood why you haven't been yourself, though."

"I know.  But things are lookin' up, thanks to William.  And you.  And Carl.  And to the pills that Dr. Owens prescribed for me.  It's sort of like coming out of a bad dream."

Kevin held Cam's face in his hands, and kissed him gently.

"Love ya, man.  You're back in the game!  Listen, I'm gonna see if Carl and William want to run," Kevin said.  "You wanna go?"

"You guys run.  I'm just gonna walk and jog a little, maybe.  My asshole is still sore."

"Okay.  But I'll walk with you if you want me to."

"No, you run.  I don't want ya gettin' flabby on me."

"No way that's gonna happen!" Kevin laughed.

They dried off and dressed for the beach, and met Carl and William downstairs in the kitchen.  Maria was delighted to see that Cam was obviously starting to function better, and gave him a hug and a kiss.  They all turned down Maria's offer to fix them breakfast in favor of glasses of orange juice, and headed for the beach.  Cam refused the others' offers to walk with him, and after doing their stretches, the boys took off with the collies down the beach.

They ran at a good pace.  Carl pointed out to William the house where Eric Clymer and his friends had dragged Cam.  There was still yellow police tape surrounding the yard and sealing the doors.  William shook his head and turned his attention back to the beach.

Kevin looked at him.  "William, I don't know exaqctly what you said to Cam last night, but it made a world of difference, bro," he said.  "Thanks so much for talking to him.  And thanks for coming down here.  I know you're a busy guy."

"I know you'd do it for me if I was in Cam's shoes.  All the guys wanted to be here."

"It's appreciated."

*  *  *

Cam followed the guys when they took off, walking and then jogging intermittently toward the scene of his degradation.  As he neared the still-empty house with yellow police tape on it, his stomach began to churn.

He stopped in his tracks, staring up at the house where Eric and his cronies had mistreated him.  He began to think about what those assholes had done to him, and leaned over with his hands on his knees and began to gasp for breath. 

At that point, by a sheer act of will, he took control of his breathing, did a 360 and headed home, pleased that at least he'd had the guts to get near the scene of the crime.  When he reached Alex's house, he sat down on the deck to wait for the guys to get back from their run.

A fresh breeze off the bay wafted over him, and for the first time since he'd been brutalized, he felt glad to be alive.

© 2010 Don Hanratty

Sorry about the delay between chapters.  Vacation was good, but it's good to be back at the computer.