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


Carl, Cam, Kevin and Cam's friend Art Smith stood together in a little clump at LAX baggage claim late on Friday afternoon.  Cam was holding Casey, who was looking around with interest at the crowd of people milling about in the arrivals area.  The little boy was babbling at anyone who would listen.

The four guys were waiting for Andy Helder to debark from his San Francisco to L.A. flight for his usual weekend visit to Carl.  Kevin always kidded Carl that Andy's Friday trips were their conjugal visits, but for some reason Carl wasn't amused by that assertion.

Art Smith was there with them because Cam had instructed Kevin to have Art follow him home in his own car from the UCLA campus for supper that night, and Kevin had done that.  Art wasn't Kevin's favorite person because of Art's former friendship with Eric Clymer and his two scumbag pals who had sexually assaulted Cam.  But Kevin was starting to warm up to Art because the young man, when he was around, had begun to work out in the gym with him and Cam and Carl.  And also because Cam liked the kid.

Carl's eyes were glued to the escalator when he spotted Andy, carrying a leather duffel bag by a strap over his shoulder, gliding down from above.  The new arrival was wearing a pair of dark blue board shorts with a form-fitting T-shirt from his martial arts school at home.  The shirt depicted a Japanese Samurai warrior with his knee on the throat of a vanquished adversary, and was captioned, "HAI!".

Carl's throat tightened up and he swallowed hard.  Andy's physique and handsome face literally took his breath away sometimes.  Every time Andy showed up, it seemed to him that the young man with the longish, curly bronze-blond hair who stood over six feet tall, was more defined and developed than the week before.  Not even Kevin thought he could do much to further develop Andy in the gym.

Andy walked over to the boys, and dropping his bag to the floor, enveloped Carl in a long embrace, kissing him on the lips.  "Lord, I'm glad to see you," he told Carl.  Then he gave Cam and Kevin each a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"Hey, Baby Boy," Andy said to Casey, bending down to kiss him on top of the head.  The baby reached up and grabbed Andy's nose, and Andy laughed.

"Andy, this is our friend Art Smith," Cam said, and the two of them exchanged a slip and slide handshake.

"Hey," Art told Andy.  "I met you at Alex and John's funeral, but I think we saw each other last year at Disneyland when you knocked Eric Clymer on his ass."

"Oh," Andy said.  "You were at Disneyland?"

"Yes, I was.  How ya doin'?"

"Good.  I'm surprised to see ya here with these guys if you hung around with Clymer," Andy said.

"I crossed Clymer and his asshole friends off my friendship list long ago.  Before they fucked Cam up," Art said.

"You have good taste, then," Andy said.

"Yeah, I do," Art agreed.

"Andy, you have any more luggage?" Kevin asked.

"Nope, this is it," Andy said, picking up his bag off the floor and putting the strap over his shoulder.  In anticipation of moving to Santa Monica in the spring, he had started bringing a few extra clothes to leave at the house at each visit.

"Let's book, then," Kevin said, and they moved toward the exit and headed for the Highlander in short-term parking.  Carl held his partner's hand as they walked.

"Good flight?" Carl asked his boy.

"They're all good when I'm coming to see you," Andy responded.  "Miss ya all the fucking time."

"Same here," Carl said.  "You see the family lately?"

"As a matter of fact, I had supper with 'em at the house last night at Catherine's invitation.  I saw her on campus at St. Francis, and she invited me.  Father Jim was there, too.  Anyway, everybody's good, and the boys are all as buff as ever," Andy said.  "And by the way, William told me he's dating Alicia McCaskill again."

"No way!" Carl said.  "I thought she was forbidden fruit."

"Me, too," Andy said.  "But you know William.  He doesn't take 'no' for an answer, and he persuaded his dad and Mr. McCaskill that there wouldn't be any sex involved if he and Alicia were allowed to date again."

"Hmmm.  Well, I know she's been on his mind.  We'll see if he can stick to that promise," Cam commented.

"Yeah, I know," Andy agreed.  "But he says he really loves her, so maybe he can do it."

"I hope things go well for him," Kevin said seriously.  "Even when he had his harem and was fucking all of 'em, he always said Alicia stood out in the crowd.  Who knows?  Maybe she's THE ONE.  You know, like you and Carl, and me and Cam."  He wasn't kidding, and put an arm around Cam, who was still carrying Casey as they walked toward the parking lot.

"Maybe she is," Andy agreed.

They continued talking until they reached the SUV.  Carl and Andy got in the front seats, and Kevin secured Casey in the car seat in the back and then climbed in with Cam and Art.

They reached the house, and they were all hungry.  Andy stashed his bag in the study, and they all sat around in the kitchen shooting' the breeze while Kevin and Cam heated up the mashed potatoes, gravy, and fried chicken that Maria had left for them, and took a big bowl of salad out of the refrigerator.  Carl fed Casey some baby food while supper was heating up, and after checking his diaper, put him in his downstairs crib.  The little boy closed his eyes right away.

Carl then washed his hands and set the table, and when everything was ready, Cam offered thanks.  They all made the sign of the cross except Art and sat down.

"So you saw Father Mason at supper, huh?" Kevin said to Andy.  "How's he doing?"

"I think he's all right, but he mentioned that his mother isn't doing too well.  She has Alzheimer's, right?"

"Yeah," Cam said.  "He worries about her a lot.  He told me when he was down here for Alex's and John's funeral that her condition is deteriorating all the time  I think he has two sisters down here looking after his mom, but I'd sure love it if he moved back to Southern California.  Father Ryan is great, but I'd like to see more of Father Mason."

Andy nodded.  "He said at supper that he may have to move back here when and if she gets really bad."

"I wish his mom well, but I'm with Cam on this.  I do wish he'd move back here, whatever her condition is," Kevin said.

They kept visiting while they ate every bit of food on the table and topped off their meal with bowls of butter pecan ice cream.  When they were finished, everybody pitched in to scrape and rinse the plates and dishes and put them in the dishwasher.  Cam led the dogs out on to the front deck, chained them up, and gave them some dog food and fresh water.

Then the guys all gathered in the study, and sat down.

Carl and Andy sat close together on one of the big leather couches, and Andy put his arm across Carl's shoulders.

"Uh, guys," Andy said, "I just wanted to tell you how grateful I am for the inheritance from John and Alex.  I was really surprised.  I never expected anything like that."

"Well," Kevin said, "Don't thank us.  I'm glad it happened, but we didn't have anything to do with it."

Cam looked at the two boys.  "If you want to thank Alex and John,, just say a prayer for their souls.  That's all any of us can do for them now."  It was pretty obvious that Cam was still hurting.

"I know," Carl said, "but we're all really thankful for what they did.  What Alex and John did in their wills is a perfect example of how generous this family is."

'You're right about that, fer sure," Kevin said.

Looking at Kevin, Cam watched Carl and Andy out of the corner of his eye where they were sitting as close together as they could get.  He changed the subject.  "Y'know, if nobody has special plans for this evening, I have a great idea," he said.  "Why don't we stay up all night and watch movies on the big screen TV?"

Carl and Andy looked at each other unhappily at that idea, and Cam and Kevin started to laugh, which mystified Art Smith.

"What??" Art asked, not getting it.

Cam stared over at Carl and Andy when they didn't respond right away.  "Oh, did you two have something else you wanted to do tonight?"

"Yeah, well, it won't be the same if we're not all here together watching the movies," Kevin interjected.  "We could all take a break between movies and work out in the gym."

Carl shook his head mournfully.  "You two assholes really know how to hurt a guy, doncha?"

"What?" Cam said, echoing Art and trying to look confused, but then bursting out laughing again.  "Oooh!  I get it.  I s'pose you two horndogs want some alone time.  That's kinda selfish of ya, doncha think?"

"Yeah," Kevin said.  "Selfish."

Cam looked at Art.  "I guess you know Andy and Carl are partners," he explained.  "They only get to see each other on weekends, so they're horny as fuck.  And that's what they do at every opportunity on weekends--fuck."

Art laughed.  "Well, I thought they were kinda friendly with each other."

"Art, my man, 'friendly' doesn't cover it," Kevin said, laughing.  "Look at Carl's eyes.  They glow red whenever Andy's around."

"That's true," Cam said.  "Listen, you two guys can take off upstairs anytime you want to.  I was only kidding about watching movies.  But I did want to ask you one favor for real this weekend.  Kevin and I needs to start cleaning out Alex's and John's closets in the master bedroom and donating their clothes to charity, and I was going to ask you to help us sort things out so we can move into the master bedroom pretty soon."

Kevin studied Cam's face.  "We're gonna clean out closets this weekend?  You never mentioned that to me."

"You work more efficiently when you don't have time to dwell too long on the unpleasant jobs," Cam said.

"You're just full of tricks, aren't ya?" Kevin said, smiling.  "L-o-t-s of tricks."

"That's why you love me," Cam responded, leaning over and kissing his partner on the lips.

"We'll help sort out the clothes," Carl said.  "But I think we'll go upstairs right now and get Andy unpacked."

"'Unpacked,' huh?  Is that what you call it?  Well, okay then, if you have to," Kevin said.  "Will we see you again before we go to bed?"

"Maybe," Andy said.  "For a snack before it's time to sleep."

"I'm glad you didn't say it would be a snack 'before bed,' cause that would be a split second from now," Cam said.  "If that long."

"Laters," Andy grinned as he stood, bending down to pick up his bag off the floor.  He and Carl walked to the door with Andy's muscular arm around Carl's waist as they disappeared into the hall and went upstairs.

Cam watched Art's face as Carl and Andy left the room, and saw that the young man was clearly checking out their well muscled butts as they walked out of the room.

"Art?" Cam said, looking over at his friend.


"You don't have to answer this question if you don't want to," Cam said.  "But are you gay?"

"Cameron, for gosh sakes!" Kevin said disapprovingly, surprised at how brash his partner was.

"Shut up, Kevin," Cam said.  "There's nothing wrong with that question.  It's either 'yes' or 'no.'"

"There's a third option," Kevin said.  "'None of your damn business!'"

Art leaned back in his chair, a little stunned by Cam's question, frozen in place for a long minute.

"Yes, I am," he finally admitted, breaking his silence and coming back to life.  "But I'm not out to anyone.  You're the first people I've ever said those words to."

"We won't say anything to anybody," Kevin assured him, relieved that Art hadn't freaked out and walked out.  "At least not until you tell us we can.  Your parents don't know?"

"No, they don't.  And I'm having a hard time coming to grips with it myself," Art said quietly.  "Sometimes I feel like a fucking freak.  Here I am in college, and I've never even been with a guy or a girl.  I've never had sex with anyone.  It's been my right hand all the way."

"Listen, Art, you're no freak, and there's no shame in being gay, or in not having had sex with anyone yet," Kevin said seriously.  "I'm telling you the truth.  Take it from someone who's a sex expert by now."  He grinned.  No modesty was required on that topic, in his opinion.

"And Art, I'm sorry I've more or less been an asshole to you up 'til now," Kevin continued.  "I know you and Cam are friends, and I haven't been that nice to you.  I just haven't known who you are or where you're coming from.  Now I'm starting to get it.  So I promise I'm gonna do better."

"I'll appreciate that," Art said.  He put his hands down on his jean-clad legs.  "You don't know how much I envy you two.  And Carl and Andy, now that I know for sure about them.  You're all 'out' and proud, but I don't think I have the guts to do that."

"You can only take one step at a time, Art," Cam said.  "Believe me, after Kev and I came out to each other and finally had sex, we didn't run out into the street and start proclaiming we were gay.  We were in love with each other for a long time before we admitted it to anyone.  We were living with my mother--she was Kevin's guardian after his dad moved to New York City because of work--and we didn't even tell her.  She finally sleuthed it out when she noticed that only one of our beds was being slept in every night.  We had adjoining bedrooms, and we'd trade off which bed we slept in.  We thought we were being so clever, but she was too smart for us."

"What happened after she found out?" Art asked.

"She confronted us one night at supper, and asked if we were sleeping together," Kevin said.  He laughed.  "We didn't know whether to shit or go blind right then!"

"But we 'fessed up," Cam said.  "Mom was very upset.  Not that we are gay per se, but because she knew how challenging it can be sometimes to make your way in this world when you're gay and out."

"It's getting better for gays all the time, but there's still a long way to go," Kevin said.

"Yeah," Art agreed.  "I've been scared and in the closet for so long,
I really don't know what to do next."

"Well, now you have two friends who know your deal," Cam said.  "You'll have a chance to think about how you want to come out."  He paused.  "You do want to come out, don't you?"

"I don't know."  Art looked extremely uncomfortable.

"Lemme share something with you that Carl told me when we were living in San Rafael," Cam said.  "Carl was seeing a shrink at the time, and she was really helping him accept the fact he was probably gay at the same time he was getting treatment for being assaulted by his father.  He was starting to feel pretty good about himself, and on the way home from one of his sessions he stopped at our Episcopal parish church to talk to Father Jim Mason.  You met Father at John's and Alex's funeral at St. Dunstan's, I'm sure.  Carl was raised a Roman Catholic, like us, and he asked Father Jim if there was a place in the Episcopal Church for a gay person.  Father told him there was.  He said something along the lines of, 'Don't be afraid to find out who you are, because God wants us to be who we really are, and loves us just as we are.'  When Carl told me that, it just reinforced me in feeling good about my relationship with Kevin and with the Church.  And Father's words really helped Carl be who he is.  I think Father Jim gave Carl some good advice.

"And I want to pass that on to you," Cam concluded.  "That doesn't mean you have to run around telling everybody you're gay, but just mull it over for awhile.  Get used to the idea that being gay may really be your sexual identity, and if it is, it's not a terrible thing, it's a good thing.  Then make coming out to the important people in your life at some point your goal.  You'll feel better about yourself, fer sure."

"Have you ever read any of the stories on the Nifty gay story site?" Kevin asked.

"Yes," Art said, blushing.

"Well, the writer of a story I read recently had one of the characters say in so many words, 'We're only as sick as our secrets.'  Something like that.  And that's so true," Kevin said.  "We pay dearly for our secrets, don't think we don't.  But the time and the place and the people you come out to have to be your decision, not anybody else's.  Totally yours.  Please don't think we're pressuring you at all to come out, 'cause we're not."  He frowned at Cam.  "At least I'm not."

"Art, could I ask you how things are at home for you?" Cam inquired, ignoring Kevin's disapproval.

"Not too good, really.  They've never been really, really good from my perspective.  We're not a close family.  There's not a lot of love there--not for me, anyway.  My parents compliment my younger brother all the time, but I don't think I've ever gotten a compliment from them.  Nothing I've ever done has ever pleased them much, I guess.  I don't know whether they suspect I'm gay or not.  I guess that not feeling close to them is why I'm so scared to admit to them I'm probably gay."

"Well, thanks for coming out to Kevin and me," Cam said.  "We'll never say anything to anybody until you tell us we can.  No pressure here."

"I appreciate that," Art said.  "It's a relief to talk about it, to be honest."

"Why don't you stay here tonight, Art?" Kevin suggested.  "We have plenty of bedrooms, and we can all run together tomorrow morning and then work out.  Maria will be here to watch Casey."

"I don't have a change of clothes," Art said.

"Cam has some shorts, and a t-shirt and a jock that will probably fit you," Kevin said, glancing over at Art.  "You're about the same size."

"Yeah, stay," Cam said.  "Do you need to call your parents."

Art shook his head in the negative.  "They don't care what I do.  I won't even be missed."

"Perfect, then!" Cam said.

At that point, they fired up the big screen TV and played some Wii, a newly improved version that Kevin had picked up the previous day on a shopping spree.  They each won a game apiece before deciding to quit for the night after a couple hours.

Hearing footsteps in the hall, they looked up as Carl and Andy stuck their heads into the room.  The two guys had "the glow" on their faces, and Cam and Kevin knew exactly what they'd been doing up in the bedroom.  They were barefoot and naked except for shorts.

"We're gonna have some more ice cream," Carl said.  "You guys want some?"

"Excellent idea!" Cam said.

"Well, let's get to the freezer right away, then," Andy said mockingly.

"You assholes think you're really funny, doncha?" Kevin said, smiling in spite of himself.

Carl and Andy just laughed, and they all headed for the kitchen.

While Kevin dished up the ice cream, Art had to work not to get caught perving on the bodies of the nearly naked Carl and Andy.  Fucking buff and so-o-o beautiful! he thought to himself.

After the four of them shot the shit for awhile and finished their ice cream, they all went upstairs except for Cam, who let the dogs in.  Kevin carried a sleeping Casey upstairs.  When he got upstairs, Cam showed Art to a bedroom, making sure he had a fresh toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and towels.  Everything was there.  As usual, Maria had been right on top of things.  Then Cam went back to his room and picked out a pair of shorts, a jock, sweat socks and T-shirt for Art so he could run in the morning and took them down to him.

After he put the baby down, Kevin came back out of his room and walked down to Carl and Andy's door, knocking and opening it just as Andy and Carl had stripped down to head for the bathroom to clean their teeth.  They were both already at half-mast.  Impressive, Kevin thought to himself as he scoped them out.

"Art's right next door and needs his sleep," he informed them.  "Don't be banging the headboard of the bed against the wall all night."

"Get the fuck out!" Carl suggested to Kevin as Andy gave him the finger.  Kevin grinned and shut their door.

Cam came out of Art's room and followed Kevin back into their own room.  They stripped off their clothes before stopping at the crib and watching Casey sleep.  Both thought about what a beautiful baby the little guy was.  Kevin checked Casey's diaper--it was dry--and they went into the bathroom to brush their teeth.  As they brushed, they playfully poked each other with their elbows and bumped each other.

"Ow!" Kevin said.  "Now you hurt me," he lied.

"I'll kiss it and make it well," Cam promised.

After they finished and put their toothbrushes in their holders, they turned and looked at each other hungrily.  Kevin cupped Cam's package with one hand and pulled him into a kiss with the other hand on his neck.  They each started to firm up right away.

"I love your equipment, boy," Kevin said.  "I love all of you, but I have to tell you I'm very partial to how well you're hung."

"Spoken like a true lover of dick," Cam said.  "Ditto."  He reached out and took hold of Kevin's cock, simultaneously giving it a stroke.

"I wanna get up close and personal with this bad boy," Kevin said, giving Cam's penis a stroke right back.

They turned out the bathroom light and walked to the bed, each with a hand on the other's ass, and fell into bed, immediately moving into a sixty-nine position.

Kevin took hold of Cam's penis, pushing down gently on the head with his thumb and forefinger to open the slit and licked it with his tongue.  Then he took the head into his mouth, running his tongue up and down the slit a few more times before taking the whole appendage into his mouth and down his throat without any problem.  He felt Cam doing the same thing to him.  Their time as lovers had schooled them well in the art of sucking cock.

They lay there without moving as their dicks made themselves right at home, their throats squeezing and caressing the welcome intruders.  Eventually they began to move their mouths up and down on each other's dicks, and over a period of minutes began to increase and then vary the pace and the friction.  The sweet pre-cum began to flow into one another's mouth.

They managed to keep from ejaculating for all of fifteen minutes, and then the dam burst for both of them.  Cam came first, groaning deep in his chest as his load rocketed into Kevin's mouth.  Kevin followed suit almost immediately, grunting as he did so.  He pulled back so only the head of Cam's cock was in his mouth, taking the full load in his mouth and not down his throat.

They lay there as if they had been poleaxed for several minutes before pulling off each other, making sure that their mouths maintained the loads, not swallowing.  Kevin moved around so they were face to face, and they gave one another a long-lasting soul kiss, tasting themselves in the gift they had given each other.  Drawing back then, they swallowed what had been so bountifully provided.

"I love doing that with you," Cam said, smiling.  "You taste like pure Kevin.  No surprise there."

"Same, dude.  You don't know how much I love you and appreciate how sexy you are."  They studied each other.  "I need to tell you something before we go to sleep, though.  Don't get mad."

"What?" Cam asked.

"I thought you were kind of a badass tonight when you made Art come out to us."

"I didn't mean to be."

"I know.  But this is my motto:  'It's better to love dick than to be one.'"

Cam chuckled.  "I can't argue with that.  Do you think I should apologize to him tomorrow?"

"Not necessarily.  But when someone's that deep in the closet, it's better to be gentle."

"And everybody thinks I'm the sensitive one," Cam laughed.  "But I hear what you're saying."

They slid under the sheets and held each other.

"I love ya, Cameron," Kevin said, nuzzling his partner's face.

"I loves ya back, Kev."

Nothing else was said, and within two minutes they were fast asleep in each other's arms.

*  *  *

Kevin roused everybody about 8:00 the next morning, and they dressed for their run.  It was Saturday, so they'd all slept three hours later than usual.

Andy and Carl looked relaxed, but not particularly rested.  They'd obviously been busy during the night.

The boys greeted Maria in the downstairs hall, and Kevin passed a freshly diapered Casey to her.

"Thanks, Maria," Kevin said.  "He's cleaned up and ready for breakfast."

"Good morning, sweetheart," Maria said to the little guy, kissing him on the forehead.  Casey gurgled at her and pointed toward the kitchen where he knew food awaited him.

Kevin re-introduced Art to Maria--they'd met before, but just in passing.

"Maria, Art slept in the bedroom next to Carl's," Cam said.  "He's probably going to stay with us off and on for awhile, so you don't have to change the sheets in his room every day."

"Thanks for telling me," Maria said.

Kevin kissed her on the cheek as he headed for the door to the beach with the dogs, and she gave him a big smile before turning and heading for the kitchen with the baby.  The little guy was trying to talk a blue streak.

The guys did their stretches on the deck as Alice and Samantha walked around them, anxious to get started, and then they all walked down to the hard pack.

"Art, we usually run eight miles," Kevin told him.  "Are you a runner at all?"

"I don't run very often, and when I do, it's not very fast and usually only a couple of miles."

"I'll stick with you," Kevin offered.  "When you get tired, we'll walk for a while, and then we can turn around and head back to the house."

"I don't want to cut your run short," Art told Kevin.

"Don't worry about it," Kevin responded.  "Just set your pace, and I'll be right there with ya."

Cam, Carl and Andy took off at their usual fast pace, the dogs running ahead, with Kevin and Art following behind more slowly.  The gap soon widened as Kevin and Art ran only at a fast jog.

"You sleep well?" Kevin asked.

"Great.  The sound of the waves put me right to sleep."

"They do that, don't they?" Kevin agreed.  "We feel lucky we live right on the beach."

"It's perfect for you guys," Art said.

They ran in silence for a few minutes.

"Thanks for coming out to us last night, Art," Kevin said.  "It's not easy to do that, but you had the guts to do it.  You won't be sorry."

"It was time," Art said.  "Not being able to talk about being gay with anyone else was bringin' me down."

"Yeah.  I remember how it was with me."

Art looked over at him.  "What you said last night--what was it?  'We're only as sick as our secrets.'  I can see how true that is now that I think about it.  It's such a relief to be able to talk about it."

"Why don't you think about spending more time at the house with Cam and Carl and me," Kevin suggested.  "Don't feel under any obligation to do that, but just know you're welcome anytime."  He grinned.  "Once you get to working out in the gym and running with us, you'll be so tired you won't even think about being gay."

Art chuckled.  "Well, aren't you the optimist!  With you and Cam and Carl around to look at, I'll be thinking about being gay all the time."

Kevin laughed out loud.  "Isn't there any eye candy at school you've been checking out?"

"Oh, yeah!  And all of it straight, I'm sure."

"Well, that's just it.  You just don't know until you know," Kevin said.  "If you want Cam and me to go with you to some of the programs at the Gay-Straight Alliance, we can do that.  You'll know in a hurry who's straight and who's gay then.  In that group, at least."

"I've thought about going to a meeting, but I've just been too chickenshit to do it," Art said.

"Well, you shouldn't go until you're comfortable with it.  Cam and I don't belong to the Alliance, and we've never even gone to one of their programs, but it won't kill us to give you some support while you're thinking things over."

"I appreciate that, Kevin.  Thank you.  I'll think about it."

"Your situation has made me realize how little I've done for our gay brothers and sisters out there in the world.  I'm sure Cam would agree with me.  If we can help you in your process, we need to do that.  Especially since we've had so much support from our family."

The two guys continued to talk until Art finally had to stop jogging.  He bent over, gasping to get his breath.  Eventually they turned around and began a fast walk back toward the house for a long while, and then resumed a slower jog in that direction.  The other three guys and the dogs passed them at almost a dead run just before they all reached the house.  They did their cool downs on the deck before going inside and hitting the showers.

In their room, Cam stripped and stepped into the shower with Kevin.

Kevin pulled him into a hug under the streaming water, holding his unshaven face next to Cam's.

"Art did all right?" Cam asked his partner.

"Yeah.  He'll be able to do eight miles with us in no time."

"He wasn't pissed about our conversation last night, was he?"

"No," Kevin said.  "And I thanked him for trusting us enough to come out to us."

"Good deal.  Thanks for running with him," Cam said.

"Y'know, I'm starting to realize how selfish I've been when it comes to supporting our bros who are gay."

"What brought this on?"

"Well, while we were running, I was just thinking about how tough it was for Art to come out, and it's not always easy to find someone to care about once you are out.  Someone who's gay.  I haven't been very generous with my time, I don't think," Kevin said.  "All things considered, we had it pretty easy when we came out.  And we had each other to come out for."

"Are you saying you've been selfish, my Kevin?"



"Art and I were talking, and I suggested that he go to some meetings of the Gay-Straight Alliance at school.  I told him we'd go with him.  I've never offered any of my time to anyone who's struggling with their orientation.  Except for Mark Carson, that is, and that's just been to give him some advice about being patient in finding himself.  He's young, yet."

"When it comes to being selfish, what about me?  Neither of us has much to brag about, I guess," Cam said.  "At least you're carrying a full schedule at school.  I have no excuse."

"Well, you've still had a lot on your plate after what happened down the beach.  But maybe we can do better."

Cam stepped back and looked his partner in the face.  "No wonder I love you so much, Kevin.  You're right.  Anything you want to do to help Art, I'll do it with you.  Count on it!"

Kevin pulled his partner to him and gave him a long, sweet kiss.  "Love ya back so much, Cameron.  I'd be lost and lonely without ya, dude."

They finished up their shower, and after they toweled one another off and dressed, they went down to the kitchen.  Art, Carl and Andy joined them a couple minutes later, and by popular demand, Maria started cooking them omelets with toast and crisp bacon while they sipped big glasses of orange juice.

After they ate and cleared the table, the boys sat around talking after breakfast, letting their food digest before Kevin decided it was time to work out.

After they all warmed up in the gym, Kevin pretty much left Cam, Carl and Andy alone to do their exercises of choice, and started helping Art learn some basic techniques on the gym equipment.  He wasn't too brutal with the kid, who was well built but a little underdeveloped.  Some work in the gym would remedy that.

They spent early Sunday morning together before Art, having declined an invitation to go to church with the guys, reluctantly went home.

It wasn't until Cam and Kevin were in bed that night that Cam realized that they hadn't begun to sort through Alex's and John's clothes as he'd wanted them to do.

*  *  *

The call Cam had been dreading from the District Attorney's office came on Monday.  Cam was studying his cinematography text at the desk in the den when Maria buzzed him on the phone to say that ADA Aaron Petrie was calling.

"Mr. MacKenzie, this is Assistant District Attorney Aaron Petrie," the voice said.  "DA Jim Nolan has assigned me to prosecute the case against Eric Clymer, Peter Murtha and Rory Lomer for what they did to you in Malibu."

"Yes, sir," Cam said.

"The trial date is coming up, and I want to spend some time with you going over the facts of the case as our office understands them.  What we know is based on what Detectives Simon Roker and Emilio Suarez have provided us in their official reports.  We need to dot every 'i' and cross every 't' before we face a judge and jury.  When can we get together?"

"I'll be down on the UCLA campus in class tomorrow," Cam said.  "But I'm free on Wednesday pretty much all day."

"Can you come downtown to my office?"


"Good!" Petrie said.  "If you have a pen and paper, I'll give you the address."

"One second," Cam said, opening his notebook and picking up a pen.

Petrie gave him the address.  "The receptionist on the main floor will direct you to my office  What's a good time for you?" he asked.

"Anytime after 10 o'clock," Cam said.

"Let's make it 10:30," Petrie suggested.  "I'll look forward to seeing you then."

'Yes, sir," Cam said, and broke the connection.  He picked up his cell phone to look up Ian Carson's office number, and called him on the landline.

The switchboard at Ian's law firm put him right through to Ian's secretary, who buzzed her boss immediately.

"Cam MacKenzie on 44," she said.

"Thank you, Beverly," Ian said, and pressed the flashing button.

"I've been thinking about you, Cameron," Ian said by way of greeting.  "Are Kevin and Carl and Casey all right?"

"Everybody's good," Cam said.  "Andy Helder was down here this weekend to see Carl.  Kevin is doing well, and watching Casey grow up is a real treat for both of us.  He's starting to talk more.  It won't be long before he'll be sassing us back like all us guys do to you and Mary and Mom."

Ian chuckled.  "Isn't that the truth!"

"Listen, I just wanted to let you know that the DA's office called a few minutes ago.  An ADA named Aaron Petrie.  He's been assigned to prosecute my case, and I'm going downtown to his office at 10:30 Wednesday morning to start going over the facts of the case and my testimony."

"I knew the DA had tapped Petrie to handle the case.  And we knew the first interview would be coming up," Ian said.  "How are you feeling about the trial at this point?"

"I'm dreading it.  Getting on the stand and telling a jury of total strangers what those guys did to me is going to be horrible and humiliating.  I don't want to relive it by talking about it."

"Do you want me to come down and stay with you for a few days?  I will if you need me."

"That means a lot to me, Ian.  Thank you.  Why don't I let you know how the interview goes before you make plans to come down.  I don't even know the exact court date yet.  And you have a busy law practice to take care of."

"'Family first,' pal," Ian said.  "Call me and let me know."

"I will.  How's everybody at home?"

"Everyone is doing well.  The guys all miss you and Kevin and the baby, I know that.  Maybe we can all get together over Thanksgiving vacation."

"That would be great!" Cam said.  "It's probably our turn to come up to San Francisco."

"Probably," Ian admitted.  "But I don't want you to have to travel during flu season with the baby.  Did you all have your flu shots this Fall, by the way?"

"Yes.  In September.  But I hear what you're saying.  We'd love to have you all come down here, you know that.  Don't leave Yolanda home alone, either.  She's part of the family, and Rosa has her own husband and kids to celebrate with."

"Well, thanks for thinking about Yolanda, Cam.  You're a good guy, and given what's coming up in court before long, I don't want you to forget that fact."

Cam sighed.  "I'll try not to.  I'll let you know what happens with Mr. Petrie.  And thanks for offering to come down for moral support.  Give Mom and Mary and all the guys our love."

"Will do."

The line went dead.  Cam hung up, and marking his place in his cinematography text, he stood up and walked to the sliding doors to the beach and looked out at the Pacific.  The sun was beaming down on the sand, and people were running up and down on it, exercising next to the water.  They didn't look like they had a care in the world, but he felt restless and tormented by thoughts of the upcoming trial.

Toughen me up, Lord, he thought to himself.  It's crunch time, and it's time to man up!

*  *  *

On Tuesday night that week, Carl was upstairs studying in his room, and Cam left Kevin working on some physics problems in the study and went out to the garage.  He uncovered Alex's, now his, Porsche, and sat down on the steps just looking at it.  That was a trigger, because suddenly the events and consequences surrounding Alex's and John's deaths rushed back into his mind, and he sat there paralyzed with grief.  Tears flooded his eyes without warning and began to run down his cheeks, dropping on his T-shirt and board shorts.

He'd thought he had begun to put what had happened to his father and John Kelly behind him, but obviously that wasn't true.  Even after he stopped weeping, Cam sat there for a good half-hour staring at the car, unable to move, thoughts about his loss cascading through his mind.

He eventually heard the door to the kitchen behind him open, and footfalls as Kevin came down the short flight of stairs and sat down beside him and put an arm around him.

"Here you are.  What's the matter?" Kevin asked.

Cam turned his head, his cheeks still red and wet from tears, and looked at his partner.

"I don't know," he choked out before turning his face away.

Kevin moved closer to Cam and hugged him, not saying anything, and put his face next to Cam's.

"I thought I had put all this shit behind me.  But looking at Dad's car just brought everything back," Cam said.

"Everybody heals at his own pace," Kevin responded gently and reasonably after a moment.  "The pain takes time to go away.  Please don't be upset that you're still grieving.  It's gonna get better.  I'm here for ya, and so is everybody in the family."

"I know," Cam said.  He put an arm around Kevin and hugged him back.  "Sometimes I don't think I'd want to live if it weren't for you and Casey, Kev."

"That scares me."  Kevin kissed Cam on the side of his head.  "Do you think you need to spend some time with Dr. Owens again?"

"I don't know," Cam said.  "I haven't thought so up until now.  I thought I was handling things pretty well."

"I think you have been, but why don't you take a few days and think about it?" Kevin suggested.  "You liked working with Dr. Owens after you were attacked on the beach, and she knows you and cares about you.  She offered to spend some time with you when she called about Alex's and John's deaths, didn't she?"

"Yes, she did.  And I'll think about it."

"Good.  Listen, why don't we hit the bed early tonight?  You seem tired."

Cam's face looked more cheerful.  "Y'know, I think that's an excellent idea.  I always like to hear the words 'we' and 'bed' in the same sentence."

Kevin kissed Cam on the side of the head again, and they stood up and covered up the Porsche again.

They took Casey upstairs, bathed him, put a fresh diaper on him, and put him in his bed.  The little boy had been active and exuberant during his bath in the bassinet, and Cam and Kevin were dripping wet by the time they had finished bathing him.

They stripped each other down, toweled each other dry, brushed their teeth, and got in bed.

But they didn't have sex that night.  Kevin pulled Cam into his arms and kissed him and just held him.  Cam began to relax in his partner's arms and was soon asleep.  Kevin seldom said any prayers at bedtime, but this particular night was an exception.  He thanked God for having his partner in his life, and prayed that Cam's grief would continue to heal quickly and fully.  He added a Hail Mary, and then fell asleep himself, gently holding the young man he loved more than life itself.

*  *  *

Wednesday morning rolled around all too quickly, and just to keep the battery charged up, Cam drove the Porsche downtown that day to the address ADA Petrie had given him.  He parked in a lot near the District Attorney's offices, and made his way to the building.  It was 10:20 a.m. when he walked in.

A middle-aged Hispanic lady behind a reception desk in the foyer greeted him with a smile, and asked who he was there to see.

"Mr. Aaron Petrie," he told her.

"What is your name, please?" she asked.

"Cameron MacKenzie."

"One moment, sir," she said, consulting a directory and punching a number into the telephone.

She gave someone Cam's name, and a moment later he was directed to a bank of elevators after passing successfully through security.  He went to the fifth floor and was met at the elevator door by a well dressed, well coifed Afro-American lady.

She introduced herself as "Mrs. Maxwell," and escorted him to a door labeled "Aaron Petrie, ADA."

Mrs. Maxwell invited Cam to be seated in a row of chairs along one wall.  He did so, and looked around the office as she went behind her desk, picked up her telephone, and punched in a number.  She told her boss that "Mr. MacKenzie" had arrived.

"Mr. Petrie will be with you shortly," Mrs. Maxwell said after she hung up the phone.

Cam looked around the room.  There were a few pictures on the wall, some of them copies of well known prints by famous artists.  It was a busy place.  Mrs. Maxwell answered the telephone periodically, handling the phone calls quickly and professionally.  One party who asked for Mr. Petrie was told that the ADA was just going into a conference, taking down information so that Petrie could return the call.

A little dust-up Cam had had with Kevin earlier that morning ran through his mind.  At breakfast after their run, Kevin told him that he was going downtown with Cam to see the ADA.

"You don't need to do that," Cam had said.  "I'll be all right."

"I know I don't need to go, but I want to go," Kevin had insisted.

"Go to class," Cam had said.  "If I can't handle this interview, I'll never be able to handle the trial."

"I know you can handle anything the DA's office throws at you, but I just want to keep you company."

Carl Emrick had looked at them curiously, as had Maria.  Cam and Kevin hardly ever fought, particularly not in front of others.

"I know, Kev," Cam had said.  "But I'll be all right."  He'd stood up from the table and put his dishes in the dishwasher, as did Kevin.

Cam had pulled his partner into his arms and held him for a long minute, then kissed him.

"You're so stubborn," Kevin had said.

"It's from being with you," Cam had said.  "You know I appreciate the offer."

They had both parted on good terms when Kevin and Carl left for school a few minutes later.

Cam emerged from his reverie about Kevin when Mrs. Maxwell's phone buzzed.  She answered it and then looked up at Cam.

"Mr. Petrie is free now," she said.  "Please go right in that door," she said, pointing at it.

Cam knocked and went right in.  A balding white guy who appeared to be in his mid thirties, dressed in shirtsleeves and a tie rose from behind his desk and walked toward Cam.  He held out his hand.

"Mr. MacKenzie?  Aaron Petrie.  Please come in."

They shook hands, and Petrie asked if he wanted anything to drink.  Cam declined, and Petrie thanked his secretary and shut his door.

For his part, Petrie saw a handsome, well built young man with short, light colored hair, wearing a blue, open-necked sport shirt under a brown tweed sport coat, and a pair of Levi's, along with polished brown loafers.  The kid looked alert and intelligent.  Very presentable looking.  So far as appearances were concerned, he'd make a good witness in the upcoming trial.

"Thank you for coming in today," Petrie said after directing Cam to a seat at a small conference room table at the side of his office.  Cam noticed the man's wedding ring on his left hand.

"Yes, sir," Cam responded.  He couldn't help wondering whether a married, presumably heterosexual guy could and would have any sympathy for him and what he had suffered as a gay male down on the beach.

"As I explained on the telephone," Petrie said, "my purpose of meeting with you today is to go over the arrest reports that Detectives Suarez and Roker submitted after you were assaulted on the beach over in Malibu.  I hope our discussion will prepare you for your testimony during the trial, as well as help you be ready for cross examination by the defense attorneys."

"All right," Cam said.

"Have you recovered from your injuries?" Petrie asked before they got started.

"Physically, yes," Cam said.  "Mentally, I guess for the most part I have.  Probably not completely, though."

Petrie studied Cam's face, and said,  "I'm sorry about what happened to you.  I know this this can't be easy for you, and I want to make this process today and the trial itself as easy for you as possible."

Somehow Cam sensed that what Petrie had said was sincere.  His words weren't just pro forma.

"Thank you," Cam said.

"May I call you 'Cam'?" Petrie asked.


"Cam, I think the easiest way to get into this is for you to read through the dectectives' reports, and then let me know of there are any discrepancies between what they wrote and your recollection about what happened.  Those reports include the questioning of the guys charged with this crime."

"All right," Cam said.  His hand was trembling as he reached across the table and took the papers Petrie proffered.

The two of them sat there in silence for thirty minutes as Cam carefully perused what Suarez and Roker had written.  He looked up when he finished reading.

"What do you think?" Petrie said.

"The report on the investigation of what happened is accurate so far as I can see," Cam said.  "But what Clymer, Murtha and Lomer said when they were questioned is bullshit."

"All right," Petrie said.  "Now let's go over the detectives' report page by page."

They did so for the next hour, with Cam faltering only when they reached the point in the report at which his own account, a graphic description of what Eric Clymer, Peter Murtha and Rory Lomer had done to him, how they had done it, and what implements they had used, came up.

Petrie broke in at that point.  "Cam, I know how painful this must be for you  The reason we have to go over this in such detail is that the defense attorney, or attorneys, will be questioning you very closely about what we're alleging the perpetrators did to you.  They'll be trying to trip you up in any way that they can.  If there are any discrepancies between what we're alleging and what you will say on the stand, they'll use it to impeach your testimony.  So we need you to be accurate in what you say, and to be sure and confident in the way you say it, if we're to get a conviction.  I want a conviction so bad because I have no doubt they're guilty as hell."

"I understand," Cam said.

So they dived back into the report, with Cam making a special effort to control his emotions.

When he left Aaron Petrie's office an hour and a half after they had started, strangely enough, despite his discomfort with reviewing what he had suffered on the beach, Cam was feeling more more hopeful about how well he would respond to questions on the witness stand.

*  *  *

He walked back to the parking lot and handed a young attendant with a nice ass and cute face his ticket for the car.  The kid trotted off to retrieve the car, and the Porsche was driven up beside him.  The young guy got out and held the door open for Cam.

"Nice ride," the kid told him.

"Thanks," Cam said, handing the guy a nice tip.  He sat down behind the wheel and adjusted the seat before pulling out on to the street.  He drove a block, and then pulled into an empty spot on the side of the street and shut off the motor.  Despite his newfound hopefulness about his competence at the trial, the strain of his meeting with Allan Petrie had hit him hard.  He rested his head on the steering wheel for a good five minutes before firing up the engine again and maneuvering his way back into the tangled L.A. traffic and making his way back to Malibu.

When he arrived home, he changed into shorts and a T-shirt, ate a late lunch prepared by Maria, and then took Casey for a walk on the beach.  The little guy was walking more and more confidently with every day that passed, and talked a blue streak.  When they went inside, Cam put the baby down for a nap.

He gave Ian Carson a quick call b
efore opening his cinematography text and getting down to some studying.

"How did it go with Mr. Petrie?" Ian asked him as soon as he answered his phone.

"Better than I thought it would," Cam said.

"What did you think of this guy?"

"He seems very competent and very sympathetic about what happened to me.  I think he believes in the case.  We spent about an hour and a half going over the detectives' reports, and toward the end he posed some questions the defense attorneys might ask me.  You know, tricky questions, like all you defense attorneys pose to poor, stupefied and bewildered witnesses."

Ian laughed.

"You're right about that," he said.  "The questions can be tricky.  So how'd you do with them?"

"I did all right, I think.  At least Mr. Petrie thought so."

"Good.  Will you be getting together with him again before the trial?"

"We left that open.  But I wouldn't doubt it."

"Well, you know my offer to come down to L.A. still stands," Ian said.  "Just let me know."

"I will.  Thanks, Ian.  I'd sure like to see you, but I don't want you to make the trip if it's not necessary.  I miss everybody so much, though."

"We miss you guys, too, Cameron."

They talked for another minute, and then hung up.

Ian put down the phone feeling better about how Cam would do at the trial.

When Kevin and Carl arrived home from school, Kevin found Cam in the study sitting on the couch.  He took one look at Cam's face, and knew that the interview with the ADA had taken its toll.  He saw the strain, and dumping his book bag on the floor, sat down beside his lover.  Without saying a word, put his arms around him, and just held him for a while.

"You wanna talk about it?" Kevin finally asked.

"Not really," Cam said.  "It wasn't terrible.  Just stressful.  I'm more confident now that I'll get through it when the time comes, though."

*  *  *

Art Smith stayed over at the Malibu house again on Saturday night that week, and Cam again invited him to go to church at St. Dunstan's with him, Kevin, Carl and Andy the next day.

"Were you raised going to church?" Cam inquired.

"Yeah.   My family was Missouri Synod Lutheran, but none of us goes to church anymore."

"Well, our service may seem somewhat familiar to you," Cam said.  "Episcopalians are pretty traditional liturgically, but liberal in our social views.  We try to love all God's children, even gays and Lutherans.  You know, like Jesus."  Cam laughed, but only got a wan smile back from Art.

"I don't have any decent clothes to wear for church," Art said, not all that anxious to go.

"Don't sweat the clothes.  You could even wear your board shorts and T-shirt if you wanted to, and nobody would pay that much attention."

"You guys wear nice clothes to church, though, doncha?" Art asked.

"Semi nice.  Dockers and sports shirts.  This is fucking California, dude!"


"I'll lend you a pair of Dockers and a shirt.  They'll fit you, and you'll fit right in."

Art sighed and reluctantly acquiesced.

The guys ran early the next morning, as usual.  Well, most of them.  Maria rarely worked on Sundays, so Kevin stayed behind to be with Casey, and Cam ran a truncated route with Art at a slower pace.  That left Carl and Andy, who had come down to L.A. for the weekend as usual, to run their customary seven mile course at a fast pace.  But Cam and Art did run farther and faster than Kevin and Art had run together the week before.

The guys showered when they returned.  Cam gave Art a pair of khaki pants, some clean boxers and a sport shirt for church, and after they dressed, they ate toasted English muffins and drank some orange juice for a quick breakfast before leaving the house in the Highlander.

They arrived at St. Dunstan's about ten minutes before Mass, as usual, and were greeted by Father Ryan in the narthex.  Cam introduced Art Smith to the priest, who shook hands and welcomed Art to the church and then greeted Andy by name.  Father blessed Casey, tracing a cross on the sleeping baby's forehead as he always did. 

The guys went in and found a pew with enough room to accommodate all of them along with Casey's carrier.  As usual, this particular Mass was packed.  Everyone stood for the opening hymn as the thurifer and crucifer led the altar party down the center aisle to the altar.  Casey was still fast asleep, and would likely stay that way.

Father Ryan's homily was good, as always, emphasizing the final days of the Pentecost season's message before the Church shifted into the Advent mode.  But Cam had a difficult time keeping his mind focused on the sermon.  Thoughts about the upcoming trial kept impinging on his concentration.  When the Peace was passed later, Cam and Kevin kissed each other on the lips without any observers being scandalized, and the other guys gave and received handshakes with one another and nearby congregants.

During the announcements, Father Ryan once again noted that any visitors who were baptized were welcome to receive Holy Communion.  Cam looked at Art and nodded his head to indicate he should go forward when it was time for communion.

Cam, Andy, Carl and Art went up for communion first, leaving Kevin with Casey.  Kevin went to the altar rail when the others returned.

Art tried not to show it, but receiving communion after so many years of not attending church moved him, and
when he returned to the pew he actually prayed for his own family and for the guys who had brought him to church.

The boys made a quick foray into the parish house after the dismissal at the end of Mass because they knew a lot of the members of the parish liked to see Casey.  The child woke up, and ate up all the attention he received, especially from some of the young ladies in the parish who thought the guys who brought Casey to church were awfully cute, even if they were gay.  The girls seemed to enjoy flirting with these boys, gay or not.

After they finally got away from the crowd and went home, the guys changed into their swim trunks (Art into shorts) and went next door to the Millers' pool to swim and lie in the sun.  The rest of the day was spent working out in the gym, playing cards and playing Wii, and a little studying for school.

That evening they took Andy Helder to the airport for an eight o'clock flight back to San Francisco.  Seeing Andy off was never easy for Carl, even after all the weekends they had spent together.  Carl was feeling down, didn't say a word on the drive back to Malibu.

Art Smith left for home about 11 o'clock that night, full of thanks for the hospitality he had enjoyed.

"Why don't you bring some clothes over here and stay more often," Kevin told Art just before he left.

Those words meant a lot to Art, and he drove home feeling more cheerful than he had in a long time.

© 2013 Don Hanratty

Please remember to contribute to Nifty as you are able.  It is such a fine repository of gay literature, and needs our financial support.  DH