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

CHAPTER 61

Art Smith pulled his car into the driveway at Cam and Kevin's house in Malibu.  He was supposed to have supper with the two of them and Carl Emrick that evening, and Art had been looking forward to it all day.  He hadn't crossed paths with any of the three guys at UCLA for a couple of days, but he hadn't thought much about it.  Sometimes their schedules just didn't mesh.  He had deliberately come over to the house early so he could have a little extra time with the guys.

All the cars are here, so they're home, Art thought to himself.  He walked through the open garage to the door into the back hall and hit the doorbell.  He heard footsteps, and Kevin, carrying Casey, opened the door.  Kevin looked at Art with surprise.

"Oh, heck, Art," he said, "I forgot to call you.  Cam flew to San Francisco to see our mom in the hospital night before last, and isn't back yet.  She had an emergency appendectomy yesterday morning.  I'm sorry I didn't call.  Cam caught a late morning plane to come home today, and we're going to the airport to get him as soon as I can round up Carl."

"I'm sorry about your mom," Art said.  "Well, we can get together for supper some other time.  No biggie."

"Listen, why don't you go to the airport with us, and we'll eat here when we get back.  Maria made us plenty of food."

"That sounds good," Art said.

For a long time Kevin hadn't liked Art because he had once been friends with the three guys who had sexually assaulted Cam down the beach.  But he had finally accepted him because Cam had confronted him about his bad attitude toward a nice guy, and turned him around about Art.  By now Kevin was even helping Art out with exercises in their little home gym when they all got together.

The pain that Casey had been experiencing from his emerging baby teeth was abating somewhat, because he wasn't crying or whining.  He looked at their visitor, reached out a hand to squeeze the young man's nose, and said, "Art."

"Hey, little dude," Art responded to the little boy with a big smile.  "You're cuter every time I see you."

"He knows you," Kevin said, chuckling.  "Come on in," he said, stepping away from the door and shouting loudly for Carl while shielding Casey's ears from his loud voice.

As Art shut the door and followed Kevin into the kitchen, he heard Carl's big feet bounding down the stairs from his room.

"Hey, Art," Carl said.  "'Sup, dude?"

"Cam invited me over for supper a few days ago, but I didn't know he went to San Francisco."

"We're just going to the airport to pick him up," Carl said.  "None of us has eaten, so come along with us, and we'll chow down when we get home."

"Thanks.  Kevin already asked me.  So let's hit it."

Kevin grabbed a diaper bag--"just in case"--and they headed for the Highlander.  After Kevin strapped Casey into his car seat, Carl fired up the hybrid, and off they went.  The traffic was heavy on the way to the airport, but Carl just took his time as the three guys talked about school.  Carl and Kevin were enthusiastic about their classes.  All the way to the airport, though, in the midst of the conversation, Kevin was thinking about how glad he would be to see Cam.  They had only been apart for two nights, but that was two nights too many for Kevin.  He loved and missed his boyfriend.

They were fortunate enough to find a parking place in short-term parking at LAX, and Kevin scooped up the baby, who unaccountably struggled to get down and walk for himself right then.

"You can walk when we get inside," Kevin told Casey, and for the moment the little boy stopped squirming.

They were a little late, and arrived inside just in time to see Cam coming down an escalator wearing a polo shirt, a pair of Levi's with no belt, and Croc sandals.  Kevin's eyes were glued to Cam's handsome face and lean, muscular body as he glided down from the second floor.

Damn, he looks good,
Kevin thought to himself, his dick stirring in his boxers.  Cam was a pleasing sight to anyone who admired a lean, well developed male physique.

They all met at the bottom of the moving stairs, and Kevin put his arms around his partner, squeezing Casey lightly between them, and kissed Cam on the lips.  Cam dropped his overnight bag to the floor and looked deeply into Kevin's brown eyes.  He was finally home, and home was wherever Kevin was.

"Missed ya, bud," Kevin told him.

"Missed ya back," Cam said.  He grinned at Kevin, kissed the baby, embraced Art and then Carl, kissing Carl on the cheek.

"Man, am I glad to be back!" Cam said, picking up his bag and sticking his free hand in one of the back pockets of Kevin's Levi shorts as they walked toward the exit.  His partner's muscular butt, flexing with every step, felt really good and ripe and ready for a squeeze.

"How's Mom?" Kevin asked, putting the baby down so he could walk a little, but keeping a grip on the little guy's hand.

"She's doing great.  She couldn't go anywhere, obviously, so we had some good, long talks at the hospital between a few naps.  She'll be released and go home tomorrow morning.  I'm glad I flew up, and she was glad to see me, I think."

"I'll bet she was.  Wish I could have gone with you," Kevin said.

"Me, too," Cam agreed.  "She said to pass on some kisses to you and Carl."

"What about me?" Art said, kidding.

"If she knew ya, she'd kiss ya," Cam laughed.

"She's not in any pain?" Carl asked.

"No, they've been keeping her comfortable," Cam said.

"This whole thing was really sudden," Kevin said.

"For sure," Cam said.

"How's William?" Kevin inquired.

"Hot and horny, just like usual," Cam said, giving Kevin's ass another squeeze through his pocket.

"Horny," Casey repeated after Cam.  "Hot horny," he added. looking up at his second dad.

Art laughed as the other three guys grinned.

Cam continued.  "William has gotten taller since we saw him last, and maybe put on a few pounds.  All muscle, though.  He's been busy in the gym, that's for sure.  I think he's tired of football, at least for this year, but he's sticking it out.  Tough kid."

"Are William and Alicia still an item?" Carl asked.

"Oh, yeah.  'I love her to death' were his exact words."  Cam looked down at Casey.  "But enough about William.  How is Casey's tooth situation?"

"Better," Kevin said.  "Maria told me he didn't need as much ointment on the gums today."

"Good deal," Cam said.

The guys found the car, and Kevin once again buckled Casey into his car seat.

Art sat in front with Carl.  Cam and Kevin sat in the second row of seats, sitting close.  Kevin put an arm around Cam, occasionally nuzzling Cam's face with his nose and feeling a few whiskers.

"You didn't shave today," Kevin commented.

"You're right.  What did I miss while I was gone?" Cam asked.

"Not a bleeping thing," Kevin said.  "Casey was good, just like usual."

"I'm not surprised," Cam said, reaching out to caress the little boy's face.

"But I had to get physical with Carl to get him to exercise in the gym."

"That's a big lie," Carl said.

"That's the only kind worth telling," Kevin said, and then put his mouth to Cam's ear.  "Since you weren't around to seduce me and make me have a lot of hot sex, I had time to finish moving us into the master bedroom," Kevin whispered.  He kissed the side of Cam's head in the semi-darkness of the SUV.  "I think we're gonna like it in that room."

Cam grinned at him.  "Like 'it' in there?  Whatever can you mean?"

"Take a guess," Kevin chuckled.

"Y'know, I was thinkin' that we should let Casey have our old room all to himself, and put a door through the wall so we don't have to go out into the hallway to get to him when he needs us," Cam said.  "We can get another nanny cam and speakers to keep track of what's going on with him from our new room."

"Good thought!  You constantly astound me with your creativity," Kevin said.  "Why don't you call a carpenter when you get a chance and make an appointment for an estimate to put in a door?  As far as a nanny cam is concerned, we should also get one for Carl's room so we can see what goes on in there when Andy visits."

"You p-e-r-v-e!" Cal said, spelling it out so Casey wouldn't pick up on it.

"I'll call someone about the door."  Cam leaned closer to Kevin.  "On another subject, you do remember that you and Carl and I are going to Magnum Studios for lunch tomorrow, doncha?"

"Lookin' forward to it."

"I can't wait to see the movie," Carl chimed in.  "Thanks for getting me an invite, dude."

"You're welcome," Cam told Carl.  "We'll be in polite company tomorrow, so I'd better check your table manners at supper tonight."

"You have awfully low expectations of me, but check away," Carl said, laughing and then snorted, "Oink, oink."

"Oink," Casey said.

"You got that right, Casey, me boy," Cam said.

"Oink!" Casey said again, louder, and laughing.

"Art, you can see why we have to be careful what we say around Casey these days," Kevin said.

"So I hear," Art said, chuckling.  "Oink."

They all laughed, and when the conversation flagged, Cam reached over in the gathering darkness inside the car to cup Kevin's crotch.  There was an immediate reaction.  Kevin's cock began swelling, and he tried to keep from groaning out loud as he put his hand over Cam's hand as the boy rubbed his package.  Cam leaned over closer to Kevin and kissed his ear, and then inserted his tongue into it and moved it around.  A minute or two passed as Cam continued his seduction, and Kevin could feel he was leaking pre-cum into his boxers.  Lots of juice.

"Hey," Carl said, looking into his rearview mirror and watching in the dim light what Cam was doing to Kevin with his tongue-in-ear routine.  "It's awfully quiet back there.  Is there anything going on that I need to know about?"

"What?!!  Just keep your eye on the road and never mind what your betters are up to in the back seat," Kevin said.

"Oh, all right!" Carl laughed.  "Safety first."

Art Smith turned his head to look into the back seat, but by then Cam had pulled his tongue out and away from Kevin's ear.  Cam still had his hand in Kevin's crotch in the darkness, giving his partner some gentle frottage that kept him hard but didn't make him ejaculate. 
Kevin's hand was along for the ride.

They arrived back in Malibu without incident and parked the SUV.  Kevin unbuckled Casey from the car seat and carried the little guy into the house, holding him strategically in front of him so Carl and Art couldn't see his prominent woody.  Cam looked pleased with himself for getting Kevin all fired up as he followed his partner into the house, watching his ass all the way.

They all went right to the kitchen, and Carl and Art heated up the multiple chicken breasts and corn on the cob which had been prepared by Maria, and fixed plates for everybody with good helpings of chicken and the corn, now cut off the cob.  They put their plates in the oven and added salad when the food was hot.

Carl offered thanks for the food when it was ready, along with thanks for Cam's safe return from San Francisco, and they sat down to eat.  Maria had cooked the chicken breasts in a tangy sauce, and they were delicious.  Carl finished first, and fed Casey some baby food.  Kevin put some ointment on the baby's gums when Casey had eaten, and the little guy was in a good mood.

Kevin released Casey from his highchair, and the boy walked around the kitchen with Carl right behind him so he wouldn't take a tumble on the uncarpeted tile floor.  Kevin took that opportunity to run upstairs and change his boxers, which were soaked with pre-cum thanks to Cam's shenanigans in the car.

Afterward, the four guys went into the study with the baby and sat and talked while Casey rolled a rubber ball around the room.  Art went out to his car to get his book bag, and they all studied some school assignments for a little while, followed by a short workout session in the gym supervised by Kevin.  He complimented Art on how much he had already improved his physique.

As the evening came to a close, Kevin suggested to Art that he stay over and run on the beach with them in the morning.

"I don't have my running clothes with me," Art said.

"Cam's running clothes will fit you," Kevin said, "and thanks to Maria, there's soap and a fresh toothbrush and towels in every bathroom.  Just pick a room."

Art agreed, and the guys headed for bed about 10 p.m., expecting a busy next day.

*  *  *

After rubbing some more ointment on Casey's gums and bathing him, Kevin put him down for the night.  Cam and Kevin went into their new bedroom to spend their first night there.

Cam looked around the spacious room with the gigantic bed, seeing it with fresh eyes.

"This may take some getting used to," he said.  "This bed is almost big enough to sleep all the guys when they come down here for Thanksgiving."

"I know it," Kevin agreed.  "If we put everyone in this room, even with a few on the floor on sleeping pads, we won't have to turn the living room into a dorm."

They stripped off their clothes, and then headed into the huge bathroom.  Kevin had moved all their toiletries from their old bathroom to the cabinets at the double sinks in the new bathroom.  They brushed their teeth, then washed each other under the multi-head shower, with Cam again paying special attention to Kevin's cock.  By the time they finished toweling each other dry, they were both hard. 

Cam went to the door of the their new room and opened it, leaving it open so that they could hear Casey if he fussed during the night.  Then he flipped the hidden switch in the closet which turned on the camouflaged mirror over the bed before joining Kevin under the covers on one side of their big new bed.

Cam broke the silence as they faced each other and looked into one another's eyes.

"I need to tell you something," he said.

"What?"

"Promise me you won't get mad."

"I won't get mad," Kevin said.

"William and I stayed at the apartment while I was in San Francisco.  I was surprised when he wanted to sleep in the same bed with me.  I let him, but I didn't want to get frisky with him.  Sometime during the night, though, he came bigtime.  I'm not sure whether I jacked him off without knowing it or not, but I did have some of his cum on my hand.  When he got up to go to the bathroom, I saw there was a big wet spot on his side of the bed.

"I swear to you that I had no intention to touch him," Cam continued, "but I may have done it in my sleep.  Please believe me when I tell you that wasn't my plan, though.  After he went to the bathroom  and
came back to bed, he tried to grab my cock to get me off, but I wouldn't let him."

Kevin pulled his face back from Cam, and frowning silently, looked him full in the face for a long minute.

"William is so fucking hot," Cam finally said to fill the silence, "I admit I wanted his body.  But I would never intentionally be unfaithful to you, Kev."

Kevin pulled his free arm from under the covers and caressed Cam's face with his hand.

"I know you wouldn't," he said.

Cam teared up a little in relief.

"Now I want to tell you something, and it's something I don't do enough of," Kevin said.

"What?"

"I want to tell you how much I love you and admire you, Cameron, and it may take a little while."

"Why do you want to do that after what I just told you about me and William?"

"Because you didn't hide what happened in San Francisco from me, and that just makes me admire you more," Kevin said.  "I won't give you a complete list of reasons right now I love you so much, but for starters, I hope you realize how
brave and honest you are.  I've watched you over the past year--what you've been through--and you've been totally genuine in the way you've reacted to everything that's happened to you, and to us.  You've been tough and resilient about dealing with being assaulted down the beach, and then with losing Alex and John.  You've faced your demons, and beat the shit out of 'em, and you never keep secrets from me.

"You're just sex on legs as far as I'm concerned.  So fucking cute and handsome.  I got a chubby at the airport the minute I spotted you on the escalator.  Not to mention from what you did to me in the car."  He moved to head over and kissed Cam on the nose.

"Another big turn-on for me is the way you are with Casey," Kevin continued.  "I know how you are with him, the way you love him and care for him.  Nobody can fake that.  Little kids are needy.  If we didn't know that before, we sure know it now.  How could I not love you for all you do for him?  And he loves you for it.

"And the love you have for every member of our family and for our friends, well, I've never seen anything like it.  Those feelings draw everybody in and makes it possible for them to be the kind of people they're meant to be.  You're a love dynamo, dude.  That's a rare and beautiful gift.  The way you've rescued Art Smith and Jeff Miller from what was a pretty lonely life for them are just two examples of what I'm talking about.  And you've been so tolerant of Mark Carson's crush on me, and never made him--or me--feel guilty about it.  He's another example of how you reach out to people in such a wonderful way.  And I could pick out a lot of other people you've influenced for the good.  I find myself emulating you every chance I get.

"Just speaking for myself, it's one thing to love someone, but being able to admire them totally and respect them for all their personal qualities makes that love complete in every way.  You make that possible for me, even easy for me, Cam.  You're my boy, and I respect you and admire you and love you and lust for you with every fiber of my being.  These feelings get stronger every day that I live with you, and I'm thankful to you for making my life joyful and worthwhile and fulfilled just because you are who you are.

"One last thing.  I love you totally.  But I hope you know how much everybody loves you back for the kind of person you are.  You're such a strong person, and yet you inspire and bring love out of others.  Some people assume love is a soft emotion, but coming from you, it's the most powerful force in this world."

Cam tried to respond, and couldn't at first.  He couldn't even swallow because of the lump in his throat.  He finally rasped out, "I should go away more often!  Thank you for what you said.  You're in my heart, Kev.  Really, you are my heart.  I love you so much I want to be you."  He was so moved that tears began running down his cheeks.

That made Kevin mist up, too, something rare for him.  They actually wept together in the happiness of being back together, caring for each other without reservation.  They kissed the tears from one another's face.  Then they drifted off into a deep sleep with Cam's last thought being how much he appreciated Kevin's annunciation of his affection and admiration for him.  Cam had never, ever, felt unloved by his partner, but Kevin had rarely been that explicit about his feelings.

When they awakened in the middle of the night, it was to make love, not just to have sex.  After feeling up each other up, hitting all their erogenous zones with fingers and tongues, they sixty-nined until they were both leaking profusely. 

Kevin pulled off of his partner's dick and swiveled around in bed.

"Make love to me, Cameron."

Cam nodded and began to move over his partner's frame, kissing and licking the sensitive parts of the body of this man he loved.  Then he reached over and found lube in the bedside table and greased Kevin and himself up, finally slipping inside Kevin with Kevin's legs on his shoulders.  Cam lay there quietly on top of his handsome, muscular partner for a long time, kissing his face, savoring the one-ness of their physical and emotional bond until he eventually began moving inside of him.  He thrust ever so slowly into Kevin's silky, velvet smooth, welcoming insides until their passion translated and escalated into the best, most satisfying, most vigorous session of lovemaking they'd had in a long time.  Kevin watched the ceiling, where the mirror image of Cam's lithe body and sweet, tight ass was moving ever so erotically overhead as his boy's abs simultaneously massaged Kevin's cock which was trapped between them.

Changing his tactics, Cam raised up to take hold of Kevin's hard dick and began to jack it with his right hand while speeding the assault on his boy's ass.  At the same time Cam lowered his head, capturing Kevin's mouth as their tongues dueled.  Then he began to nibble on Kevin's nipples.

Sweat poured from their bodies as Cam repeatedly pummeled Kevin's prostate until the latter, who had been groaning through most of the thirty minutes of their coupling, eventually shot ten times in quick succession up between their abs and chests.  The space between their bodies was flooded with semen, immediately lessening the friction on Kevin's dick from Cam's body and hand.  At the point that Kevin's anus had contracted over and over around Cam's penis as Kevin had ejaculated, Cam could no longer hold off and filled his lover with copious amounts of his own sperm before he finally stopped thrusting.

They lay there as if they'd been poleaxed, totally relaxed by their explosive sexual release and reveling in their passion for each other.  Eventually, many minutes later, Cam licked the semen off Kevin's abs and chest before sliding out of his partner and out of bed to get warm, damp hand towels to finish cleaning up what his tongue didn't get.  Then they clung to each other for a long time, with Cam planting his nose in the hair of Kevin's head and the skin of his body, inhaling the scent of his partner's cum and his sweat.  Finally they fell back to sleep, still intertwined. 

It had been just the kind of baptism of their new room and new bed that Alex and John would have wanted for them.  And appreciated.

*  *  *

The four boys ran Wednesday morning with the dogs at 7 a.m.  Art ran only five miles rather than eight, but he was obviously gaining stamina as he became better conditioned.  Kevin stayed with him this time when he turned around to go back to the house.  After they had all returned and showered, Maria made them omelets filled with tomatoes, green peppers and crisp bacon bits.  Art Smith left for school right after breakfast, full of thanks for the hospitality he had enjoyed.

After their food had settled, despite protests from Cam and Carl, Kevin made them spend an hour in the gym under his supervision getting buffed up a little by doing a variety of exercises.  After yet another shower, they dressed in pastel shirts, nice suits and ties, and well shined shoes for their highly anticipated trip to Magnum Studios to preview Alex's and John's last movie.

"You boys sure clean up well!" Maria told the guys when she saw them congregated in the study waiting for their ride to the studio that CEO George Eisner had promised them.

A sparkling white limousine with a liveried chauffeur rolled into the driveway at 10:30 on the dot, and drove them to Magnum.  The boys checked out the liquor cabinet in the passenger compartment--there was a nice selection of premium booze--but didn't help themselves to anything, of course.

"That's tight," Carl said about the bar.

"You should put a bar in your Mustang," Cam suggested to Kevin.

"Yeah, so Casey can get all liquored up, I s'pose," Kevin scoffed.  "You dufus!"

Cam laughed and pulled Kevin toward him to kiss his cheek.

When they arrived at the studio gate, the guards recognized the car assigned to Mr. Eisner and opened the gate without even checking who was arriving.

The chauffeur opened a rear car door for them at their destination on the lot, and directed them to the front door of a fancy, ten-story office building.  They thanked the driver and went inside, where a perfectly coifed and very attractive older woman behind a reception desk greeted them.  She checked her book to confirm their appointment, and then asked them to be seated in the reception area until someone came downstairs for them.  Within five minutes a beautiful young lady walked up and introduced herself as Natalie Renner, Mr. Eisner's executive assistant.  She must have liked the way Kevin looked, because Cam noticed she really checked him out.

He's already taken, Natalie, Cam thought to himself with a smile.  In all the ways you can be taken.

Ms. Renner led them into an elevator to the 10th floor, and then out of the elevator past another reception desk for the executive offices.  She knocked on a door at the end of the corridor, and opened the door into an immense office without waiting.  George Eisner was seated behind a massive desk, and stood up when the guys came in.

"Gentlemen," he said with a big smile.  "I'm so glad you could join us!  Today wouldn't have been complete without you."

"Thank you for having us," Cam said as he shook hands with the tall, rather beefy looking man in a $3,000 suit.  "Mr. Eisner, this is my partner, Kevin Stoltz, and this is our good friend and roommate, Carl Emrick."

Eisner shook hands with Kevin and Carl, and then motioned them over to a couch and easy chairs in a conversation center to one side of the room.  Huge plate glass windows offered them a magnificent view of the Los Angeles skyline, a little smogged in as usual.

"Thank you, Natalie," Eisner told his assistant.  "You'll join us for lunch, won't you?"

"Yes, sir," the woman said.  "Thank you.  I'll let you know when the chef is ready to serve."

"Thanks," Eisner told her, then turning his attention to his visitors.  "Have any of you ever taken a tour of Magnum Studios?"

"No, sir," Kevin said.

"Well, we can set something up for you at a time that's convenient for you," Eisner said.  "Now Cam, I know you're in school at UCLA, studying cinematography, if my memory serves me correctly."

"Yes, sir," Cam said, surprised that the man knew that.

"Kevin and Carl, what about you?"

"I'm studying physics at UCLA," Kevin said.

"I'm a business major, also at UCLA," Carl said.

"Wonderful," Eisner said.  "You each have varied interests, obviously."

"Yes, sir.  Very much so," Kevin said.

"Anyone else at home?" Eisner inquired.

"Kevin and I have a little boy, Casey, who's a year and a few months old," Cam said.

"I see," Eisner said.  "I imagine he keeps you busy.  Do you have someone helping you care for him?"

"Yes," Kevin said.  "We have a excellent housekeeper/cook, a lady with children of her own who are in school during the day, and who takes excellent care of Casey when we're at UCLA or elsewhere.  We'd be lost without our Maria."

"She's part of the family," Carl said.

"Good," Eisner said.  "I'm sure that having someone you can count on takes a load off your mind."

"It really does," Kevin said.

"Kevin and I plan to be married when we're both 18, which won't be long," Cam volunteered.  "Particularly now that same-sex marriage is legal in California."

"Congratulations to you both," Eisner said warmly.  "It's about time that everyone has his or her civil rights."

"We certainly agree with that!" Kevin said.

"Carl, what about you?  Do you have a 'significant other'?"

"Yes, sir, my boyfriend lives in San Rafael.  He'll be moving down here to live with me--with us--next semester."

"That's good to hear," Eisner said.

"What about you, Mr. Eisner?  Are you married?" Cam asked.

"Yes, I am.  I've been married to the same woman for 40 years.  We have five children, and three grandchildren. Ours isn't the usual California story because my wife and I are still very much in love."

"That is a little unusual," Cam agreed.  "I'm happy for you."

"Thank you," Eisner said.

Eisner's assistant, Natalie, returned to say that luncheon was ready be served, and the three young men and their host rose and followed Natalie into a dining room adjoining the CEO's office, a beautifully paneled room which could seat fifteen people.  There were four people already gathered, and they stood up as the others came in.  Eisner introduced Sam Hamilton, the producer of Alex's and John's picture, William McGrady, the executive producer, Rafe Allen, a young man in his 20's who was Hamilton's assistant, and Dan Cantwell, the director of photography, to Cam, Kevin and Carl.  They all shook hands.

Apparently no one else had been invited to lunch.

There were name cards, and everyone sat down at the places designated for them, with Eisner sitting at the head of the table with Cam on one side, Kevin on the other, and Carl next to Kevin.  Crystal glassware was filled with ice water which was beading on the sides of the glasses, and sterling silver cutlery graced each place setting along with an embossed card which listed what would be served for lunch:

            
Caviar on ice
             Cold gazpacho soup
             Rosemary herb dressing in a bed of haricots verts
             Rack of lamb
             Mangetout and baby sugarsnap peas with chickpea risotto suffused with saffron

             Creme anglaise of pure custard
             Earl Grey tea and biscuits

Cam looked at Kevin with raised eyebrows.  Obviously no expense had been spared for the occasion.

A uniformed wait staff began to serve the caviar followed by the soup, and out of habit Kevin, Carl and Cam bowed their heads and said a silent grace, trying not to call attention to themselves.  But Mr. Eisner, sitting at the head of the table, noticed.

"I see that you boys offered thanks," he said.  "A good reminder for all of us.  Would one of you like to say grace for us?"

"Cam would."  Kevin smiled, looking across the table at his partner, whose face turned red.  But Cam didn't argue.

"Cam?" Eisner said, reaching out for Cam's hand and Kevin's hand on the other side of the table.  The other Magnum people sheepishly reached out to link hands--obviously not their usual practice at such a lunch.

"Let us pray," Cam said.  "Heavenly Father, we thank you for this opportunity to gather today to preview Alex's and John's last picture, knowing that you have blessed their work and the efforts of all who supported that work.  We also ask a blessing on the food being set before us and upon the hands of all those who prepared it.  In your name we pray."

"Amen," Kevin and Carl said, followed by Mr. Eisner and the other guests as they loosed hands.

Short, sweet and to the point.

"Cam, thank you," Eisner said.  "Are you three churchgoers?"

"Yes, sir," Kevin said.  "We all attend Mass at St. Dunstan's, Hollywood.  As did Alex and John before they died.  All the members of our family are Episcopalians.  So are our next door neighbors, Sean and Susan Miller."

"I know the Millers very well," Eisner mused.  "So St. Dunstan's is where I've seen you before," Eisner continued.  "You three looked familiar to me when we met today.  I knew I had seen John and Alex at St. Dunstan's on occasion as well.  By the way, I would have been at their Requiem, but my wife and I were out of town at that time.  She and I belong to that parish, and raised our family there.  Father Ryan is a wonderful priest!"

"Now that you mention it, I've seen you at a distance at St. Dunstan's coffee hour after the late Mass," Carl said, the light dawning.

"You know, I've think I've seen Casey there with you, too," Eisner said.  "Father Ryan's daughter Rachel likes to walk the little guy around the parish hall at coffee hour while he stands on her shoes, if I'm not mistaken.  He's a cute little bug!"

"You're right," Kevin said, looking at their host and chuckling.  "Casey's always on his best behavior at church, and he loves the Ryan kids, especially Rachel.  They always make a fuss over him."

"I could tell just by looking at him that you take good care of him," Eisner told the three guys.  "I know that caring for a one-year old can be demanding, but enjoy it while you can.  He'll be a teenager in the blink of an eye, and then you'll really have some challenges."

Everybody laughed dutifully.

The conversation drifted off to other subjects after the caviar was consumed and then the soup.  The appetizer and the cool soup had been delicious.

The wait staff was clearing the table in preparation for the main course when Eisner looked over at Sam Hamilton, the producer.

"Sam," Eisner said, "why don't you tell these boys what a producer does on a major film project like this one."

"Sure," Hamilton said.  "The producer, in theory, is in charge of assembling all the resources required to make a successful movie--choosing a director, purchasing or developing the script, rounding up appropriate staff, making sure that the executive producer's budget and fundraising are adequate to carry out the artistic goals that the director brings to the project, and a thousand other details.  The reality of who manages the overall process depends on the understanding between the director and the producer about who's really in charge--who has the experience and the vision to achieve the best film possible with available resources.  It sometimes takes some negotiation, as it did in our case."

Hamilton looked at Cam and chuckled.  "You probably knew your father better than any of us, so you're probably aware that he was strong-willed, and so was John Kelley.  After a few early skirmishes, your dad, John, Bill McGrady, Rafe Allen, Dan Cantwell and I reached a détente that allowed us to work together very well.  The détente was that Alex told us what he and John wanted to do, and we said, 'Yes, sir.'"

Bill McGrady laughed with a twinkle in his eye.  "You got that right," he said.  "But the finished product in this case proved that that arrangement was the best decision we could have made.  This film is going to knock your socks off, the fact that it came in over-budget notwithstanding."

The lamb and side dishes were served, and it was all melt-in-your-mouth good.  Conversation stopped at first while everybody concentrated on eating.

After a few bites, Cam turned to Mr. Eisner.

"Would it be out of place for me to ask what the title of the movie is?"

Eisner dabbed at his lips with his napkin.  "Well, the working title was Love and Destiny throughout the filmingBut we all still like it as it stands, so I think it's about ninety-nine percent sure that title will stick.  Wouldn't you agree, Sam?"

"Yes," Hamilton said.  "That title has my vote."

"I'm down with that," McGrady agreed.

Everybody continued chatting amiably through the custard, biscuits, and tea.

"Wonderful meal!" Carl commented when the wait staff came to clear the table.

"Thank you, Carl," Eisner said.

"Would it be possible to ask the chef to join us for a moment?" Kevin asked.  "We'd like to thank him or her personally."

"Of course," Eisner said, nodding at Natalie.  She rose from the table and went into the kitchen, emerging a moment later with a man dressed in white wearing a large apron and a tall chef's hat.

"Gentlemen, Rudolfo Rossi," Eisner said.

Cam began to clap, and everyone joined him.

"Rudolfo, our guests, Mr. MacKenzie, Mr. Stoltz, and Mr. Emrick, wanted to thank you for our magnificent lunch today," Eisner said.

"Delicious!" Cam said.

Rudolfo bowed.  "Grazie," he said with a smile and a wave.  Then he turned and went back into the kitchen.

"Very kind of you to do that," Eisner observed to Kevin as everyone rose from the table.

"Why don't we take a ten minute break and reconvene in the small theater down on the ninth floor?" Eisner suggested.  "There is a bathroom up here just off my office, and other facilities in the hall if you need to use them," he told Cam, Kevin and Carl.

The group scattered, with Cam, Kevin and Carl crowding into Mr. Eisner's private bathroom to relieve themselves.

"First class operation, huh?" Cam observed as Carl used the urinal and Cam and Kevin shared the toilet to take a leak.

"The lunch was perfect!" Carl observed as he moved over to the sink to wash and dry his hands.

Kevin nodded as he and Cam finished up and moved toward the sink.  "The food was great!  But for every-day meals, I'm still very satisfied with what Maria does for us."

Carl high-fived him in agreement, and then realized that Kevin hadn't washed his hands yet.  "Oh, shit," Carl said, "I just high-fived the hand you held your dick with."

"Don't worry about it," Kevin laughed.  "My dick is clean enough for you to eat off of."

"In some company that would be a disgusting thought!" Carl said, chuckling.

"You guys are so fucking crude!" Cam observed.  "I can't take you anywhere."

The three of them were laughing when they emerged from the bathroom.

Mr. Eisner was just hanging up his telephone when the boys walked up to his desk.

"They're all ready for us downstairs," he said, smiling.  "Why don't we go on down and get the best seats."

They went out into the hallway and caught an elevator to the floor below.  Mr. Eisner led them down the corridor some twenty feet to a double door, and they went into a small theater furnished with 15 plush, reddish-tan leather seats which rocked forward and backward and swiveled when the occupants wanted them to do so.  Eisner and the three boys were the first on the scene, and he waved them into the center seats in the third row, and seated himself to one side of Cam and Kevin.

The other guests at lunch trickled into the room.  On the arm of each seat was a card headed, Love and Destiny, followed by a synopsis of the story.  Cam glanced down at the card and quickly scanned it:

Dorian Matthews, the younger son of the Earl and Countess of Ripon, himself a product of Eton and Cambridge and a captain in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, was married shortly after his twenty first birthday to Mary, the stunning daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Dorchester.  It was, as was often typical of marriages among the nobility during the latter part of the nineteenth century, an arranged marriage in which love was yet to bloom, if at all.

Matthews' best friend and erstwhile lover at Cambridge, Eric Rutledge, a lieutenant also in the Marine Light Infantry, served as Dorian's best man at the wedding.

Only days after the marriage had been consummated, Matthews shipped out with the Sudan Expeditionary Force in 1883 under the overall command of General Sir Gerald Graham, VC.  General Charles George Gordon, governor general of the Sudan, was head of the army which was under siege by the Mahdi and was already in residence in Khartoum.  Rutledge was shipped out with the expeditionary force as well, and both he and Matthews were attached to the intelligence company for service in what was then part of Egypt.

Matthews and Rutledge, as spies of a sort, had a good deal of flexibility and autonomy in carrying out their duties.  Disguised as Sudanese natives, they often elected to work together on operations of a secret nature.  They were partners in most of their military activities, which gave them ample opportunities for personal contacts of a sexual nature.  If known, their relationship would of course have caused them to be cashiered from the Royal Navy.  They took care to mask their feelings, but they were deeply in love with one another.

The intelligence gathered by Matthews and Rutledge was valuable to senior commanders in formulating strategies during the war.  One goal of the two men was to see that the civilian population was spared being slaughtered on the many occasions during which battles took place.  In that regard, Matthews and Rutledge's views were exceptions to the usual English arrogance and disdain toward native peoples which was the norm of that day.

On one occasion, Matthews was captured and was being subjected to torture by a unit of Dervish soldiers when Rutledge went into their camp carrying one of the new machine guns which he had commandeered from Army stores, and he killed Matthews' tormentors before any useful information could be extracted from him.  The two men "had each other's back" on that and many other occasions of great danger, and were decorated several times for their exploits by their Army superiors.  Their experiences caused the two men to strengthen what had already been an unbreakable bond.

Meanwhile, in England, a young son had been born to Matthews and his wife Mary, the fruit of their wedding night.  Mary was subsequently killed early in 1885 along with Matthews' older brother and his parents in a terrible carriage accident as they were traveling to visit Mary's family in Dorchester.  The young son, Edward, was thrown clear of the wreckage, and survived, and he was transplanted to Dorchester to be raised by his grandparents pending his father's return from the Sudan.

Once the details of the accident were known, Dorian Matthews, now the Earl of Ripon upon the death of his father and brother, was immediately detached from his company and regiment, and shipped home to England to care for his son.  Rutledge remained behind, now bereft of his friend and lover.  Their parting in the Sudan was anguished.

Matthews had a difficult time getting custody of his son from his in-laws after he arrived back in England, but eventually prevailed.  He devoted his time and energies to raising his son and seeing him educated as befitted the son of a peer of the realm.  He himself served in the House of Lords as one of the more liberal members of the peerage of that day.

The Sudan Expeditionary Force was eventually withdrawn from the Sudan in 1885 upon the death of General Gordon, and the survivors, including Eric Rutledge, returned to England.  Rutledge moved to a village near the manor house in Ripon, and the two men resumed their relationship as circumstances permitted.  Rutledge was eventually hired by Matthews as administrator of the far-flung estates of the earldom.

Matthews and Rutledge made it one of their major objectives to rectify the grinding poverty in which the working people of the day lived within their jurisdiction, and Matthews used his membership in the House of Lords to achieve the same ends on a wider basis.  Rutledge ran for and was elected to the House of Commons, where he served several times in the cabinet, selected by powerful and popular prime ministers.  He played an important role in moderating the conservative views of the Tory party.  Rutledge was eventually knighted by the crown for his work.

Young Edward Matthews grew apace, and over the years enjoyed an especially close relationship to his father and to Eric Rutledge, though unaware that the two men were lovers.  Edward was straight, although he had had some sexual experiences with several male classmates during his growing-up years.  Shortly before the Earl's death, his father confided to his son that he and Rutledge had been almost lifelong lovers, and asked his son to continue laying the foundation for greater equality for all citizens as opportunities presented themselves.  Edward Matthews promised to do so.

Matthews and Rutledge died within weeks of one another of natural causes in their late seventies.  Young Edward and his wife were present at their respective bedsides as they were mourned by multitudes of their friends and colleagues.  The British royals attended the funerals of both men, at which each received additional military honors for their service in the Sudan.  The respective parish churches from which the men were buried were surrounded outside the buildings by hundreds of commoners, both men and women, who were there because of Matthews' and Rutledge's records of service to the realm and the work they had done to help create a middle class in Great Britain.

Edward Matthews, now the Earl of Ripon, took the secret of his father's and Eric's relationship to his grave.

The final scene was of the young Earl and his wife standing where his father and Eric Rutledge were buried next to one another, remembering their good works and weeping at the loss of the two men Edward and his spouse had loved and admired so much.   


The other luncheon guests at lunch had trickled into the room, and when everyone was present and seated, Eisner pushed a button on the arm of his seat and said, "Tony, we're ready."


"Yes, sir," a voice answered from a speaker in the ceiling.

The lights dimmed, and a curtain opened to expose a glistening white screen in the front.  A beam of light hit the screen along with a flood of music, and the Magnum Studio logo appeared followed by the production company's credit.  Then the title of the movie appeared in red:

Love and Destiny

The first scene was of a man and a woman standing in front of the high altar of a large English cathedral, being married by a tall bishop in an alb and stole in accordance with the Anglican rite of that day.  The bride was clothed in a magnificent white gown and train, and Matthews and Rutledge were dressed in their Royal Marine uniforms, complete with sabers.  As the service proceeded, the camera panned around the church to reveal a large congregation dressed in 19th century garb.

The wedding night was filmed well, with just enough revealed to know that the bride's virginity was taken.

The noise and confusion on the wharf when Matthews, Rutledge and the Expeditionary Force boarded the warships and debarked for the Sudan was beautifully handled, with all the pomp and ceremony of the occasion, along with the apprehension of the families left behind, adroitly portrayed.

>From beginning to end, the costumes and locations in the film were accurate to a fault, and the story moved forward at a pace which kept the viewers' attention glued to the screen.

The synopsis, although an accurate account of the story which unfolded, didn't begin to convey the admiration that the actors inspired in viewers for the characters they played. 
The character development of the leading actors was meticulous and perfect, especially capturing well the efforts of Matthews and Rutledge on behalf of the commoners of that day.  The emotions of the cast members seemed genuine in every instance, and Cam, Kevin and Carl were very moved by the film.  They weren't alone in that regard.

Cam couldn't help but reflect how much his mother and Ian and Mary Carson would like the social context of the film when they finally got to see it.

No one in the little theater stirred or spoke a word when the credits rolled at the end, or for several minutes after the lights came up.  During that time Cam realized how much he identified with the characters Matthews and Rutledge.  He admired them not only for their physical courage in the Sudan, but for their steadfastness, as people of privilege in nineteenth century Great Britain, in working tirelessly on behalf of the downtrodden of their day.  He didn't know it at the time, but Kevin and Carl were thinking much the same thoughts.

"Where were the scenes in the Sudan filmed?" Cam finally inquired after he finally refocused on the present.

"John took a unit to Morocco," Eisner said.  "Some of the terrain there is very similar to the Sudan."

"I didn't know anything was filmed outside of England," Cam said, looking at Kevin.

"Me, either," Kevin said.  "I had assumed everything was filmed somewhere near London."

"Where the Sudan segment of the movie was to be filmed was one of Alex's and my early battles," Sam Hamilton said.  "But in retrospect I have to tell you Alex was right.  Reality was served.  Filming there put our costs through the roof, though."

"I can attest to that," Bill McGrady said.  "But it was worth it."

The group continued to talk about the film for over thirty minutes until George Eisner looked at his watch.

"Gentlemen, I hate to leave you, but I have another meeting in about fifteen minutes."

"I have to take my leave as well," Bill McGrady said.

Everyone stood up and began to say their good-byes.  Before they all parted company, Cam sought out Dan Cantwell, the director of photography.

"Mr. Cantwell, I want to tell you how impressed I am with the photography in Love and Destiny.  I'd really like to talk with you at some point if you'd have time.  I'm taking a cinematography class at UCLA right now.  It's a good class, but I know you could help me expand my horizons."

Cantwell, a man of about thirty years of age, smiled and pulled a name card out of his breast pocket and handed it to Cam.

"I'd like that," he said.  "Give me a call, and we'll get together whenever is good for you."

"Thank you," Cam said.

"Why don't you boys come up to my office before you leave," Eisner said to Cam, Kevin and Carl.  "We'll set up a tour of the studio for you at your convenience."

"That would be great," Kevin said.

They went upstairs.  Knowing that the whole family would be down for Thanksgiving week from San Rafael, Cam asked if he could expand the tour numbers to include all the out-of-towners along with Jeff Miller and Art Smith.   Eisner said that was no problem, asking only that he be given the opportunity to meet everybody when they showed up on the lot.  The boys thought that was really generous of the man.

Cam, Kevin and Carl expressed their thanks profusely for the lunch and the movie preview, and said good-bye to George Eisner and Natalie Renner, who once again gave Kevin the eye when they parted company.  Cam chuckled inwardly about that.  I wish I had the time and opportunity to fill Natalie in on just how gay Kevin is, he thought to himself.

The guys made their way downstairs and out to the waiting limo.

"I think you made a conquest," Cam told Kevin once they were all seated in the back of the car behind the glass barrier between them and their driver.

"What are you talking about?" Kevin asked.

"Ms. Renner was giving you the eye, dude," Cam said.

"He's right," Carl told Kevin.

"I didn't notice anything," Kevin said.  He smiled.  "Were you jealous?"

Cam laughed.  "Yes, I was.  I was pissed every time she looked at you and undressed you with her eyes," he said.  "But then I remembered what we did in bed last night, and I knew that all was right in our little world."

"Did you do something special in bed last night?" Carl asked innocently, needling them a little.

"Nothing you and Andy haven't done, I can assure you," Kevin said.

"I'm relieved to hear that," Carl said.  "We're not trying to break new ground."

"Don't mess with perfection," Kevin said, and punched Carl on the shoulder.

The boys spent the rest of the drive talking about Love and Destiny.  Cam thought to himself how right Bill McGrady, the executive producer, had been.  The film had indeed "knocked his socks off."

*  *  *

After the limo dropped them off in Malibu, the guys changed clothes and Cam went down to the study and started making calls on the landline to confirm who was coming for Thanksgiving dinner.  First he called next door to the Millers.  Susan Miller answered the phone.

"Mrs. Miller, it's Cam."

"Cam!  How are you?"

"Good.  Listen, I just wanted to make sure you and Mr. Miller and Juanita are coming over for Thanksgiving dinner.  You probably already know that Jeff will be here."

"He told me.  We're all looking forward to being there, Cam."

 "Good deal!  By the way, Juanita will be here as a guest, not to work.  I think you knew that."

"I did.  I know she's looking forward to it.  Will Maria be there?"

"Yes.  We invited her and her husband and kids."

"That's awfully nice of you, Cam.  Can we bring anything?"

"No, m'am.  Just yourselves."

"Sean and I will be there with bells on.  Thank you.  I know everybody will have a good time.  I want to see that Casey.  We never get to see enough of him."

"He's been getting his baby teeth, and has been a little cranky lately.  But he'll be in good shape by Thanksgiving."

"Good.  We'll see you then, Cam.  Thanks for calling."

They hung up.  Next, Cam checked the phone's directory, and called Ian Carson at his law office in L.A.  Ian's secretary, Beverly, put him right through.

"To what do I owe the honor of this call?" Ian's baritone voice asked with a chuckle.

"In the unlikely event I ever commit murder, will you represent me for free, or will I have to pay?" Cam said.

"You'll have to pay double, and give me free room and board at your house during the trial," Ian said.

"I'm shocked to hear that after all we've meant to each other!"

"My services would have been free if you hadn't made me fly the whole family down there for Thanksgiving," Ian said.  "Again."

"Can't you write it off as a business trip?"

"That wouldn't be honest, now, would it?"

"You're an honest lawyer?  What's this world coming to?"

"When an ethical question comes up, I just ask myself, 'What would Cam MacKenzie do?'"

"Well then, the bar association and the Justice Department will be investigating you before you know it."

"Thanks for the heads-up.  Now, what's on you mind, bud?"

"First, how's Mom doing?"

"She's doing well.  I talked to her at noon.  She'll be home when when I get there tonight."

"Excellent!  Now, have all the arrangements been made for the trip down here for Thanksgiving?"

"Absolutely.  Beverly made them, so everything is bound to be right."

"That's a relief!  Is Andy Helder coming with you?  Carl will want to know."

"Yes."

"And Yolanda?"

"Yes."

"And Father Mason?

"Yes."

"All right!  I can't wait to see everybody!  What time will you be getting into L.A.?"

Ian glanced down at his calendar.  "We're leaving San Francisco at 10 a.m. on Monday of Thanksgiving week, and will get in about noon."

"You are a god among men!"

"So my staff tells me."

"And rightly so.  Two last things.  One, give Mary and Mommy and Yolanda and the guys my love."

"Consider it done."

"Two, Kevin and Carl and I were at Magnum Studios today for lunch, and saw a preview of Dad and John's last picture.  It's outstanding!  You and Mary are going to love it when it's released!"

"I'm glad, Cam.  It sounds as if George Eisner treated you guys well."

"Like kings."

"I'm pleased for you, bud."

"Well, he and his wife are members of St. Dunstan's.  That explains a lot."

"Good.  Maybe we'll see them at church, then."

"Yep.  Father Ryan got all kinds of kudos from Mr. Eisner when we were talking today.  He loves him and his family."

"Everybody does."

"I know it.  Well, Ian, I'll let ya go.  Love ya, and I can't wait to see you."

"Love you back, Cam.  Give Kevin and Carl my love.  See you soon."

Cam hung up and then called Art Smith, who answered his cell on the third ring.

"Dude!" Art said.  "How was the movie?"

"It was great!  I'll tell ya all about it when we see each other."

"Excellent!"

"Listen, I don't know what your plans for Thanksgiving are, but if it won't cause any hard feelings with your family, you're invited to join us.  We're going to Mass at 10 a.m.  Go to church with us, and then the afternoon is ours.  Dinner will probably be at 4 o'clock, but that's subject to change.  Bring swimming trunks, 'cause we're going to swim next door at the Millers' pool.  And plan to stay over.  With all the guys here from San Francisco, it's gonna be raucous!"

"Wow!  Thanks for the invite.  Let me talk to my mom and dad, but things haven't been too good between us lately.  So I'll let you know tomorrow, but I really want to be there."

"Good, Art.  Come for supper tonight.  Maria will have something good for us."

"I feel like I might wear out my welcome if I come over too often, Cam."

"Getcher ass over here after school, and don't plan to go home tonight."

Art laughed.  "Well, when you put it that way..."

They hung up, and Art headed for his next class at UCLA with a big smile plastered on his face.

Cam next dialed Father Ryan from the phone directory.  The church secretary put him right through.

"Cam, how are you?" the priest asked.

"Good, Father.  I'm just calling to confirm that you and Mrs. Ryan and the kids are coming here for Thanksgiving."

"We are, Cam, and we're all looking forward to it so much."

"Father Mason will be here."

"He told me that the other day," Father Ryan said.  "Your family is all coming down here?"

"Yes."

"It sounds as if it's going to be a great celebration.  What time were you planning dinner?"

"Well, your kids are young, so let's plan around them.  What time do you want to eat?"

"That's very considerate of you.  Mass on Thanksgiving is at 10 a.m., so anytime after noon would be fine.  You guys set the time."

"Would 4 p.m. be too late?  That will give the young crew plenty of time to swim and get rowdy over at the Millers' pool before we eat."

"Sounds good, Cam.  Thanks again for the invitation.  Lisa and the kids are thrilled.  See you then."

"Father, before I let you go, have you had any carpentry work done at the church?  I'm looking for a recommendation for a carpenter to do some work here at the house."

"As a matter of fact, we have had some work done here, and by a member of our congregation.  He did a good job at a decent price, and I have no hesitation in recommending him.  John Rogé is his name, and I can give you his number if you want to hold on for a minute."

"Sure," Cam said.

The priest put him on hold, and was back with him in two minutes.  "You have a pencil?"

"Yes, sir."

The priest gave him the telephone number, and said that Cam should mention who gave him the referral when he called.

"Thanks, Father.  Will do.  We'll see you this Sunday, and then at the Thanksgiving Mass.  Take care."

Kevin strolled into the study just Cam hung up.  "Whadda ya doin'?" he asked with faux sternness.  "And don't lie to me."

"I wouldn't dream of lying to you.  I've been calling my boyfriends all around the world.  They all said to tell you 'hi.'  And I talked to Father Ryan, and he gave me the number of a carpenter to call about putting in a doorway upstairs."

"You never cease to amaze me," Kevin said.  "Most of the time in a good way."

Cam stood up from the desk, grabbed Kevin, and gave him a big, juicy smooch on the cheek.

"Ugh!" Kevin said, smiling and wiping his face.

"Sometimes love is damp," Cam said.




© 2013 Don Hanratty

dhanr1@msn.com

Thanks, as always, for your patience in waiting for new chapters of Beloved to appear.

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