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


Kevin Stoltz parked his Mustang in the driveway, and entered the house through the garage.  He went right into the kitchen.  Maria Romero was standing at the stove stirring a huge pot of--YES!--paella.

"Hey, Maria!" he sniffed the air and greeted her.  "What did we do to deserve paella tonight?"

"Oh, I don't know.  Maybe you boys just deserve a treat."

Kevin grinned at her.  "I can never hear those words too often."  He went over and kissed her on the cheek.

Maria glanced at her watch.  "What are you doing home from school so early?"

"My last class was canceled.   The professor is sick with the flu."


"Where are Cam and the Baby Face?"

"Casey is asleep in his crib in the study, and I think Cam is upstairs."


Kevin walked down the hall to the study while shrugging off his backpack.  He put the backpack on the couch, and then leaned over the crib to look down at Casey.

"Too cute!" Kevin commented to himself, kissing his own fingers and reaching down to touch the baby with them.  Casey didn't stir.

Turning on his heel, Kevin ran up the stairs two at a time, and peered into the master bedroom before going in.  His eyes fastened on the lithe, athletic body of his partner, and Kevin's penis, as it frequently did when he looked at Cam, stirred in the crotch of his Levi's.

Cam, hands in his pockets, was standing and staring at the wall between their bedroom and Casey's room.  The two border collies were with him.  Alice was sitting on one side of him, and Samantha on the other, like little sentinels.  The three of them were studying the new door which had just been installed over a three and a half-day period.  The door would give Cam and Kevin immediate access to Casey in the next room if the little boy needed them during the night, without their having to go into the outer hall to get to him.

Kevin noticed immediately that the stained frame and wood of the new door perfectly matched the wood of all the bedroom doors along the upstairs hall.  He also noticed a dead bolt on the master bedroom side of the new door.

Last week Cam had called
John Rogé, a carpenter whom Father Ryan, Rector at St. Dunstan's, Hollywood, had recommended.  Rogé had had a gap in his work schedule, and he had come right over to Malibu to look over the job.  The carpenter had told Cam up front that it would most likely be a three and a half day job:  a half-day to cut a hole in the wall, one day for an electrician to re-route the electric cables in the wall and add some outlets, one day to procure the wood needed and then frame and mount a new door, and finally a day for a plasterer/painter to match the current colors in the two rooms and do the painting.  Rogé had agreed to procure and subcontract with a licensed electrician to carry out the electrical work, and also to subcontract with a painter/plasterer to plaster and then paint over the new portion of the walls in both bedrooms.

The estimate for all the work had seemed reasonable to Cam, and he had signed a contract with the man on the spot.  He had wanted to be sure the job was done by the time the rest of the family came down from San Rafael to L.A. for Thanksgiving week.

"Hey, boy and girls!" Kevin said as he walked on into the bedroom.  "The new door looks great!"  He walked over to Cam and hugged him from behind, resting his chin on Cam's shoulder and looking at the door.  "Do the dogs approve?"

"They gave me a bark of approval just before you got home.  Speaking of which, what are you doing home so early?"

"The regular assignation with my secret lover fell through," Kevin said, kissing Cam on the neck and breathing in the smell of him.  "So naturally I hurried right home to you instead."

"No shit?  Is he tired of you already?"

"Kind of.  All I do is talk about how sexy you are and what a big dick you have, and that pisses him off."

"Glad to hear it.  But really, why are you home already?"

"Professor Kleinschmidt has the flu," Kevin said.

"Hmmm.  Well, I hope you weren't exposed to anyone else at school with the virus.  It's a bad flu season.  I'm glad Casey and all of us got our flu shots last month."

"Yep.  I hated to see you and Casey cry like babies when you got your shot, though."

"Don't be a dick," Cam suggested.

"I'll work on it."

"Uh, by the way," Cam said, "I paid for the new door out of the household account.  You need to call Ian to transfer some more money into it so we have enough to pay Maria next week."

"How much was the door?"

"Seventeen hundred."

"What?!!  Seventeen hundred DOLLARS?!"  Kevin simulated outrage.  "You little spendthrift!"  He kissed Cam on the neck again, making him squirm a little, and then reached down and fondled the crotch of his lover's Levi's.  "Why didn't you do the work yourself?  You're so handy with your tool."
"If I'd done it, the door wouldn't open and close, and you'd get an electrical shock every time you touched the door handle!  Anyway, the whole idea of this was to save you time and trouble when you need to go to Casey at night.  The new door was all for you, dude."  Cam turned around and faced his partner, grinning and giving him a sweet kiss on the lips.  "It's all for you.  Always."

"Likely story.  Actually, $1700 isn't a bad price for quality work.  But why do I have to call Ian?"

"Because scientists like yourself are so logical and persuasive, and you can talk to lawyers better.  Liberal arts guys like me are mere putty in other people's hands."

Kevin grinned.  "Maybe you're right about the putty thing," he said.  "But in our case, at least, I fervently hope not."  He groped Cam's crotch to check on that, and his boy's appendage was well on the way to being hard.

Kevin looked at the door again.  "I see you had a deadbolt put on our side of the door."

"Well, yeah!  I didn't want Casey to open the door when he gets really ambulatory and let him see us having sex.  It might give him a complex."

Kevin laughed.  "YOU give me a complex!  And a boner.  Pretty much 24/7."

"That's encouraging!"

Kevin held his partner in place and looked into those green eyes for a long minute.

"I want to tell you something," Kevin finally said.


"Something I don't tell you often enough.  Bottom line.  You're my world, man.  You and Casey.  I know I'm not the easiest person to get along with sometimes, but if there's one thing I know I can count on in this life, it's you.  You've always been there for me, in good times and tough times.  I feel good about us all the freakin' time, and there's nothing I wouldn't do for you."

"What brought that on?  Is something wrong?" Cam asked a little suspiciously.

"NO!  Does something have to be wrong before I tell you I really love you?"

Cam's face softened, and he rubbed noses with Kevin and then kissed him on the lips and held him close.  "Well then, back atcha, babe."


Cam looked at Kevin thoughtfully.  "We've had our challenges, but when I see what other people go through in this life, we've really been lucky.  Totally.  Lucky to have each other, lucky to have our little boy, and lucky to have a great family and friends.   Not to play the religion card, but I thank God every day for what we have together."

"Me, too," Kevin admitted.

"Is that the truth?"

"Yeah.  But don't tell anybody.  I don't want to get a bad reputation."

That made Cam smile.  "Ian called," he said.


"The family is flying down here Monday morning instead of Saturday."

"Why?" Kevin asked.  "What's the crisis?  Did William get Alicia pregnant or something?"

"Not that I know of."


"Something about a court case that Ian needs to spend some time on," Cam said.


"Now that I think about it," Kevin said, "if you were on the phone with Ian, why didn't you ask him to transfer money into the household account instead of making me do it?"

"I already told you," Cam said.  "You scientists can talk to lawyers better."

Kevin groaned.

"Change of subject," Cam said.  "Did you see Maria before you came upstairs?"


"What is she fixing us for supper?"

"What'll you give me if I tell you?"

"I'll consider letting you touch my body in certain private places when we're in bed tonight," Cam said.

"Spectacular!  In that case, I can't wait to tell you.  Paella!"


"Uh huh.  I saw it with my own eyes and smelled it with my own nose.  It's paella all right."

"Outstanding!" Cam said.  "My mouth is watering already."

"I'd like to throw you in bed right now and have my way with you.  That makes my mouth water.  But we better go down and wake Casey up, or he won't sleep tonight.  And I don't want to think about you having to go through the new door to rock him all night long so he'll go to sleep."

"As if."

"I saw Art Smith at lunch today, and he's coming over for supper tonight," Kevin said.

"Good deal."  Cam was pleased that Kevin was getting along so well with Art by now.  Art had at one time been friends with the three guys who assaulted Cam down the beach, so Kevin hadn't been quick to make friends with him.

Cam and Kevin exchanged another kiss, a long juicy one, and then headed downstairs followed by the dogs.  The boys had just clomped down the stairs to the lower hall when the landline rang.  Maria picked it up, and stepped out of the kitchen to tell Cam that L.A. County Assistant District Attorney Allan Petrie was on the phone for him.  Cam gave Kevin a doleful look and went to the study to take the call.

"Hello, Mr. Petrie.  This is Cam."

"Hello, Cam.  How are you?"

"I'm fine, thanks.  What's going on?"

"I wanted to give you a heads-up that jury selection for the assault trial will start the first week in December.  I don't want to count our chickens before they hatch, but Rory Lomer is rolling on Clymer and Murtha, so I think the trial is going to be a slam-dunk."

Cam smiled.  "Well, I'm glad to hear that.  Should I fill Ian Carson in on this?"

"It won't hurt to mention to him that the trial is coming up, but I think the D.A. is going to call him personally about the way things look."

"OK.  Do you and I need to get together again at some point before the proceedings start?"

"Let's wait and see whether Lomer actually turns State's witness," Petrie said.  "If he does, you might not even have to testify.  Why don't you call me after Thanksgiving, and we'll set a date and time if we need to."

"All right.  Thanks so much for the call.  You and your family have a great holiday."

"Thanks, Cam.  You, too."

They hung up, and Cam looked at Kevin, who had followed him into the study.

"Well?" Kevin asked.

"The trial will start the first week in December," Cam said.

Kevin walked over to him and wordlessly, gently, touched his face.

"Well, we knew it was coming," Cam said, not looking overjoyed about the upcoming trial.  "But Mr. Petrie says that Rory Lomer is likely to testify against Clymer and Murtha, and that will strengthen the prosecutor's case a lot.  I might not even have to testify."

"I told you I believe in God!  What kind of a deal did the D.A. offer Lomer, I wonder," Kevin said.

"Mr. Petrie didn't say.  But if I had to guess, I'd say he's testifying as part of a plea bargain for a lesser sentence or a less restrictive prison.  Or both."

They heard the door from the garage open, and then Carl Emrick's voice.  "Hey, Maria.  Something smells really good."

"Paella," Maria said.

"That's well worth a kiss," Carl said, and he walked over to Maria and kissed her on the cheek.  "Can we have garlic bread with that?"

"Of course," Maria said.  "How about a salad, too?"

"Sounds good to me," Carl said as he strolled down the hall toward the study.  He looked into the study door when he got there and saw Kevin loving on Cam.  "You horndogs never take a break, do ya?"

"Hardly ever, just like when you and Andy Helder are together," Kevin said.

"Damn straight," Carl admitted with a grin.

"We have news," Kevin said seriously.  "The assault trial is scheduled for the first week in December."

"Oh," Carl said.  He dropped his backpack to the floor and sat down on the couch.  "Well, good, I guess.  On the bright side, we'll have it behind us before Christmas."

Cam and Kevin didn't miss the collective "we" in Carl's statement.  It was one more reminder to Cam of the great support he'd had all along from the family, and he was grateful for that.

"Yeah," Kevin said.  He let Cam go and walked over to the crib and gently scooped Casey up into his arms.  "Hi, baby boy," he said to the little guy, whose eyes popped open as he started to wake up.

"Daddy," Casey said.

The three guys sat on the couch with the baby and had just started talking about the trial when they heard a knock on the back door.  Maria opened the door and invited whoever it was inside.

"Art, what in the world happened to you?" Maria asked, studying the boy.

Hearing that, the three guys stood up and left the study, Kevin carrying Casey, and went into the kitchen to find out what was going on.  Looking at Art Smith, they saw his left eye was black and partially closed, and that his left cheek was badly bruised and was turning black and blue.

"What the heck, Art!" Kevin exclaimed.  "You didn't have any bruises when Carl and I saw you at lunch.  What happened?"

"I just came here from home," Art said, looking downcast.  "I stopped by to tell my folks that I was coming over here for supper, and that I would be having Thanksgiving dinner here, and my dad just stood up from the kitchen table and clocked me.  No warning.  Then he asked me if I was queer for you guys or something."

Kevin handed the baby to Cam and went to the refrigerator.  "Let's get some ice on your face."

Carl pulled a kitchen chair away from the table and gestured at it.  "Take a load off," he told Art, who sat down.

Kevin wrapped some ice in a kitchen towel, twisted it closed, and put a thick rubber band around the opening.  Walking over to Art, he put a hand on the boy's neck and gently pressed the makeshift ice pack to his left cheek.  "Hold this," he said, and Art took over.

"Shall we call the sheriff's department?" Cam asked Art.  "Charges should be filed.   Dad or no dad, he can't do this.  Did he say anything after he hit you?"

"Just that he was sick of my ungrateful attitude, and that I liked my friends more than I did my own family."  Art paused.  "And I guess that last part is true enough.  Then he told me to get out of his house and not to come back.  My brother thought it was great and just smirked at me.  To give my mom credit, she was really upset about what my dad did."

"Maria, do we have a real ice pack around here somewhere?" Kevin asked.

"Yes, I think there's one in the downstairs bathroom.  In the lower cabinet," Maria said.  "Shall I get it?"

"I'll do it," Kevin said, and headed down the hall toward the bathroom.

"Art, you do need to report this," Carl said.  "Take it from somebody who knows how this assault stuff goes when it comes to a parent.  Even if you want to drop the charges later, it sends a clear message to 'dear old dad' that this physical crap just isn't acceptable."

"Physical crap," Casey said.

Cam rolled his eyes when he heard Casey and looked at the ceiling.

"What???" Kevin said as he came back to the kitchen and saw Cam's expression.

"Casey is just expanding his vocabulary," Cam said.  "Why don't we go down to the study and get out of Maria's way."

The guys walked down the hall, Art still pressing the makeshift ice pack to his face.  They sat down in the study, and Kevin transferred the ice from the towel to the rubber ice pack.  Art pressed it to his face.

"Art, not to be nosey, but who's paying your tuition at UCLA?" Kevin asked.

"My grandfather, my mom's dad, set up a trust fund for me and my brother before he died.  My school money comes out of that."

"That's good," Kevin said.  "Your father can't turn off the faucet on that money, can he?"

'"No.  The money is deposited directly into my checking account every month under terms of Grandpa's will."

"Good deal," Cam said.  "This is what I think.  We need to go over to your house tomorrow and get your stuff.  All your stuff we can carry.  Especially your underwear.  You've been borrowing my clean underwear so often after running when you're over here, that the pair of boxers I picked out to wear yesterday asked me, "Who are you?"

The guys all laughed.

"You need to move in here with us until you decide what you want to do," Kevin said.

"Well..." Art said, looking down at the floor.  "Moving in here is asking an awful lot from you guys."

"Oh, bull...."  Kevin stopped saying what he was going to say because Casey was sitting in his lap and listening to every word.  "We have plenty of room.  You'll stay here with us, period.  No arguments."

"No arguments," Casey said.

"Well, thanks, guys," Art said.  "I really appreciate it."

The four of them continued talking until Maria knocked on the open study door.  "I'm going to leave now," she said.  "I left the paella on the stove over a low flame.  The salad is in the fridge, and the garlic bread is ready to go into the toaster.  Eat whenever you're ready."

"Thanks, Maria," Carl said.

"Thanks, Maria," Casey repeated.

"You're welcome.  Art, keep using the ice on your face," Maria admonished from the doorway.  "That should help keep the swelling down."

"I will, Maria." Art said.  "Thanks very much.  I guess I'll be staying here for awhile.  I'll try not to make you a lot of extra work, though."

"That's what I'm here for," Maria laughed as she walked away.  "Bye, boys."

"Bye, Maria," the guys chorused.

"Thanks for the paella," Kevin added.

"She's great," Cam said after Maria had gone.  "We lucked out when we hired her."

"So true," Kevin agreed.  "Art, do you want to take some aspirin and lie down for a few minutes before we eat."

"Ya know, that's not a bad idea," Art said.  "I have a headache."

"We'll wake you up when it's time for supper," Cam said.  "If the headache doesn't go away, you could have a concussion.  We might have to take you to the emergency room to get checked out."

"Thanks," Art said.  "I should be okay.  And listen, I really appreciate you taking me in," he said.

"You're our bro," Kevin told him.

"I'll take him upstairs and point him to an empty bedroom," Carl said.  "I have some aspirin in my bathroom."

"You da man, Carl!" Kevin said.

Cam looked over at Kevin appreciatively as the guys left.  "Thanks, Kev, for being so supportive of Art.  He really needs a helping hand right now."

"You mean like I got from you and your mom when my dad got all snotty and was moving to Manhattan?" Kevin responded.  "He hit me and you and Catherine took care of me, so turn about's fair play."

Cam went and sat on the couch with Kevin and Casey, putting an arm across Kevin's shoulders.  "I loves ya, dude," he told his partner.

"Luvs ya," Casey parroted.

Cam and Kevin laughed, and Kevin bent down and kissed the child's head.

"Loves you both back," Kevin admitted to his partner and their son.

Art's situation lingered on everybody's mind, but supper that night was still a festive time for the guys thanks to having a wonderful meal to eat together.  Art's headache was gone by then.  The paella was excellent, and the four of them pigged out to their heart's content.  Casey even got a few spoonfuls of paella with his baby food.

The guys studied for a while during the evening and then worked out in the gym.  Kevin noticed how running and working out frequently over the past few weeks had improved Art's physique.  His stomach was flattening out and his abs and pecs were developing nicely.  Cam and Carl looked really good, as always.

After working out, they all showered and went downstairs again to watch a little TV before going before bed.

Cam and Kevin bathed Casey before they turned in for the night.  Casey loved water, and as usual saw to it that his dads were drenched before they dried him, powdered him, diapered him, put him into his PJ's and into his own bed, covered with their kisses.  The little guy conked out immediately despite having had a long nap that afternoon.

After Casey was down, Cam and Kevin went into the master bathroom, emptied their bladders and brushed their teeth.  Stripping off their clothes and climbing into bed, they prepared to make love to each other like they almost always did every night before falling asleep.

"You want a back rub, dude?" Kevin asked Cam out of the blue.

"What's the occasion?"

"You're the occasion."

"That would be great," Cam agreed with a grin.

Kevin rolled Cam on to his stomach and found a bottle of massage oil in the bedside table.  After warming it in his hands, he straddled his partner and slathered the oil on to Cam's upper body.  Starting slow and easy, he worked up to a deep and vigorous massage of neck, shoulders and back, followed by butt and legs.  Then flipping him over to do his chest and abs and moving down, Kevin eventually finished up with the soles of Cam's feet.  Cam groaned in contentment through the whole process as the day's stress and tension left him.

Kevin's attraction to his partner's body hadn't waned an iota since high school, since that very first night Kevin had joined Cam in Cam's bed in San Rafael and they'd gotten each other off.  Cam's body, more lithe than Kevin's spectacular, muscular frame, still enticed Kevin, making his cock hard in a split second when occasions like this presented themselves.  Good genes and persistent workouts in the gym under Kevin's tutelage had given Cam perfect definition for his height of 6'1" inches and weight of 170 pounds.  A copper-colored blond, mostly hairless except for his crewcut head, his pits, light treasure trail and bush, Cam's physique and coloring was the perfect stimulus for Kevin's always rampant libido.

Fighting sleep after Kevin had finished up the massage, Cam asked Kevin if he wanted a massage himself.

"How about tomorrow night?" Kevin said.  "I just want to hold you and make love to you, Cameron."

"You got it," Cam acquiesced.  He was on his back with Kevin on top as he pulled Kevin's face down for a prolonged and juicy kiss while reaching around to rub his partner's back and knead his meaty, muscular ass.  Their cocks slid against each other, moisturized by massage oil and sweat as they bucked against one another without any attempt at penetration at first.

A stimulated Cam encouraged Kevin to touch him at length in familiar "private places" as their passion increased.  The two of them were very busy with each other, eventually ending up with Kevin on his back and Cam's well-lubed cock inside Kevin's muscular ass right to the hilt.  Their ability to carry off a good and satisfying sexual encounter with their long, meaty cocks in their engorged state, had improved markedly over the time they had been partners.  Such were their skills that they could repeatedly bring each other to the brink again and again, this time with Cam's dick sliding smoothly in and out of Kevin's tight orifice, and then letting up before succumbing to an ejaculation.  When they could hold off no longer, Cam filled Kevin's body with his seed just as Kevin covered his own abdomen with cum.  When Cam eventually ceased pumping, he scooped up
some of Kevin's ejaculate on his fingers and conveyed it to his own and Kevin's mouths to be fully enjoyed in the non-stop, repeated deep kissing which followed.  They finally swallowed their tasty gift to one another.

Their bed was a mess.  Cam got up and got two towels from their bathroom, one to dry their bodies and one to cover the wet spots on the sheets..

They were ready for sleep about eleven o'clock, completely sated and totally renewed in their love.  They lay on their sides facing each other, and Kevin reached over and caressed his partner's face.

"Cam, I probably know you better than I know myself," he whispered.  "I love you more than I love my own life.  I don't show it enough, or tell you enough, but that's the reality.  Without you and Casey, my life would be over.  You are my life."

"Well, dude, not to get maudlin, but you're in my heart," Cam replied softly, and put his arms around Kevin and pulled him closer.  "Every day I'm with you is a blessing.  That's the bottom line."

They deep-kissed again, and then drifted off to sleep

*  *  *

Finding himself once again without running clothes, Art borrowed some from Cam the next morning, and the four boys ran with the two dogs.  Art pushed himself and went the full eight miles for the first time.  He was pretty whipped after they got back to the house, though. 

After showering and eating Maria's breakfast of bacon and eggs and American fried potatoes, they all prepared to leave for school at the usual time.  Cam and Art were going to drive together in the Highlander so they would have more room in the vehicle to pick up Art's things at his house after lunch.  Carl was going to drive Cam's Camero to campus, and they'd leave Art's car in the driveway in Malibu for the day.

"Put a scratch on the Camaro, and you die!" Cam told Carl.

"You'd have to catch me first, dickwad, which ain't likely," was Carl's rejoinder.

Kevin walked over to the Highlander with Cam and Art before they left, and he put his arms across their shoulders.

"Listen," he told them.  "I want you both to be careful when you go to your house, Art.  Your dad has already proved he's a violent person, and I don't want either one of you to be on the receiving end of what you got yesterday.  You feel me?  If Mr. Smith is there and gives you the least sign of causing a problem, I want you guys to leave right away and head for home.  We can shop for some new clothes for you tonight, Art, if your parents won't give you your stuff.  'Cause you're startin' to stink, dude."

"You're so full of it," Art said with a laugh, trying and failing to keep a straight face.

"Well, we get the message about Mr. Smith," Cam said as Art nodded his head.

"OK," Kevin said, heading for his Mustang.

Cam and Art grabbed a quick lunch at school after their late morning Cinematography class.  As they drove to the Smith house after lunch, they talked a little about what Art's dad had done to Art the previous afternoon.

"Yeah," Art said, confirming the obvious, "He's never been a very good natured guy," he said, touching his face and eye gingerly.  The ice had helped keep the swelling down, but the marks were still clearly visible.  "He doesn't have much of a sense of humor, either."

"Your dad acted just like Kevin does with me," Cam kidded Art.

Art laughed.  "Yeah, right!" he scoffed.  "You're so full o' shit!  If one of you ever hit the other one, you know there would be a brawl."

"I'm kidding.  Nothing like that will ever happen between us," Cam responded with a grin.  "Fortunately, we don't have that kind of problem.  No anger.  Good sense of humor.  Total love."

"I know that's right," Art agreed.

When they reached the Smith house in Santa Monica, Art's dad's car was in the driveway, which increased the Art's fear factor.

"Oh, shit," Art said as Cam parked the SUV at the curb.  "I was hoping maybe Dad wouldn't be home.  That's his car."

"Do ya wanna take a pass today on gettin' your things?"

"No, let's go to the door and see what happens," Art said.  "Maybe there won't be a problem."

It was a nice house, a rambling two story building with a two car garage in a good neighborhood of Santa Monica.   There were well cared-for flower beds and shrubs in the front yard, and the grass was lush and green and nicely cut.  Given the inflated California property values, Cam estimated that the house was probably worth in the vicinity of a million and a half dollars, if not more.

Instead of letting themselves into the house right off, Art and Cam went to the front door and rang the bell.  Art's mother came to the door wearing a housecoat, and let them in.  She put her arms around Art and kissed his cheek as he stepped into the front hall.

"Mom, this is my friend Cam MacKenzie," Art told her.

"Hello, Cam," Donna Smith said.

"Who is it, Donna?" Beryl Smith called from the kitchen.

"It's Art," she responded.

"What the fuck is he doing here?" Mr. Smith said loudly as Art and Cam began walking toward the kitchen.  "I told him to get lost yesterday.  Wasn't I persuasive enough?"

Cam and Kevin went into the kitchen, where Art's dad was sitting in an undershirt and boxers at the kitchen table with a bottle of beer in front of him.  He was a tall, portly man with hair that was starting to thin and turn white.

"I just wanna get my clothes," Art said.

"Why should I give you anything?" Mr. Smith said.

"Because it's my stuff," Art responded.

Art's father stood up from the table and looked at the boys menacingly.  "I bought you everything you have!  Get the fuck out of here before I really beat the shit out of you, you little cunt!"

That pissed Cam off.  "I saw what you did to Art's face, sir.  If you don't let him have his things, I'm calling the Sheriff's office.  It'll be a trip to jail for you for assaulting him yesterday."

That infuriated the man, and he picked up his bottle of beer, drained it, and grasped the neck of the bottle as if to use it as a weapon.

"You want some of this, you little prick?  Who the fuck are you to tell me what I can do with my own kid in my own house!  Are you two in love with each other, or something?  Are you two fairies?"

"I'm Cameron MacKenzie, Mr. Smith," Cam said.  "If you're going to hit me, I want you to know my name.  For the record, Art and I are just friends.  Please let us get Art's stuff, and we'll be on our way without getting the law involved."

"Beryl," Mrs. Smith said.  "Let the boy have his things!"

"Now you're siding against me, too?" Mr. Smith whined to his wife.  "What the fuck did I do to deserve a house full of traitors and ingrates?"

The man took a step toward the two boys, and Cam pushed Art behind him.  "Let's go, Art, and wait outside."  Cam looked their would-be assailant in the eye as they backed up toward the living room and the front door.  "The sheriff's deputies will be here in a few minutes, Mr. Smith."

"Beryl, if you don't let Art have his things, I'm leaving you," Mrs. Smith said.  "I've had enough!"  Her tone of voice didn't leave any room for negotiation.

Beryl Smith hesitated for the first time in the confrontation as he looked at his wife and saw that she was serious about her threat.  His face showed that the wheels were turning in his mind, and the probable outcome of the situation apparently didn't appeal to him.

"All right!" he finally yelled.  "You have ten minutes to get your shit and get out of here, you punk!  I never want to see you or your boyfriend again!"

Cam and Art went upstairs to Art's bedroom.  It was a nice room by any standard, nicely decorated and full of gaming paraphernalia and computer equipment.  The two boys unplugged and gathered up the electronic stuff first and took it down to the Highlander before starting to move Art's clothes out of the closets and dressers down to the car, using suitcases when they could.  The move took about a half-hour, but they didn't hear any harassment from Mr. Smith while they were working as fast as they could..

Art, followed by Cam, went back into the house before they left so he could say good-bye to his mother.

"I love ya, Mom," Art said, and the woman began to weep when he kissed her.  "I'll call you.  And you have my cell phone number if you need to talk to me."

"You're taking the cell phone I paid for?" Mr. Smith yelled to Art from the kitchen as a parting shot.

"Grandpa's money paid for this phone," Art said, "so of course I'm taking it."

That was the end of that discussion.

The two guys breathed a sigh of relief as they walked out to the SUV, got in,  and Cam pulled away from the curb.

They drove straight over to Malibu from Santa Monica and unloaded the Highlander, carrying Art's garments upstairs first.  Maria went upstairs with them and hung the clothes up in Art's new bedroom so they wouldn't get wrinkled.  Then the boys took Art's suitcases and electronics upstairs.

"We'll get you a desk for your computer stuff, just in case you should ever want to study or write a paper for school," Cam said with a grin.  "As unlikely as that is."

Art laughed, and knew he was going to be a lot happier living with Cam, Kevin and Carl than he'd been in a long time.

*  *  *

Catherine MacKenzie walked across St. Francis's campus toward the administration building just before noon, focusing on how beautiful the grounds of the university were even in the Fall.  Students were walking here and there, enjoying the weather before it turned chilly.

When she reached the administration building, she went into the president's office and cordially greeted Father John Reilly's secretary.  Catherine and the Jesuit priest were getting together for lunch, always an occasion which they enjoyed greatly.

"Go right in, Dr. MacKenzie," Reilly's secretary said with a smile.  "He's expecting you."

"Thank you much," Catherine said, and opened the door to the inner office and went in.  A table at the side of the spacious office was set with a linen tablecloth and napkins, and with silverware.  Covered silver bowls sitting in the center of the table were steaming.

Smiling broadly, John Reilly, SJ, Ph.D., rose from behind his desk and walked around it to greet his friend and guest.

"Catherine, what a treat to see you.  May I say how wonderful you look!"

"Thank you, Father," Catherine said.  "You're looking well yourself."

"Appearances can be deceiving.  But in your case, I'd say that the running regimen that Cam and Kevin induced you to adopt before they moved to L.A. has been good for you."

"I can't deny that.  Thanks to the exercise, I don't have to do much in the way of dieting."

"Why don't we say grace and sit right down?" the priest suggested.

They stood at the table with bowed heads as Fr. Reilly offered thanks.  Both of them made the sign of the cross, and then the priest seated his guest.

Uncovering the bowls, they discovered that they were having beef stew, brown rice, stewed tomatoes and a small side salad for the main course.  There was a small piece of chocolate cake for desert.

"Coffee or iced tea, Catherine?" Reilly asked.

"Tea, please," Catherine said, and the priest filled a glass with ice and tea, and handed it to her.  Fr. Reilly poured coffee for himself, and they served themselves the steaming food.

"This smells good," Catherine commented.  "I don't think we've ever had a bad meal all the years we've been having our occasional lunches."

"You know, you're right.  We may have our problems here at St. Francis, but the food we serve the students in our cafeteria isn't one of them.  That's what we've been eating all these years."

"I hate to think about our lunches coming to an end," Catherine said.  "They've been a joy for me, Father."

"And for me as well.  Out conversations have certainly covered the waterfront over the years."

"Are you looking forward to laying down your burdens here?"

"Yes and no," Reilly said.  "Working with the students and faculty has given me so much satisfaction!  What I won't miss is periodically crossing swords with the Archbishop of San Francisco and his minions over issues relating to academic freedom."

"I know that can't have been easy.  Any inkling as to who may succeed you?"

"None.  The Superior General of the Society of Jesus will consult with the Jesuits in the U.S., and Provincial General will send names to St. Francis' Board of Directors.  The directors will either select someone from that list or ask for more names."

"Is the selectee likely to be a Jesuit?"

"More likely than not," Reilly said.  "But the Board could surprise us."

"I'm thinking a lay person might have an easier time dealing with the Archbishop.  No matter who it is, the attitudes of the new Pope may mitigate some issues.  But in any case, you won't be easy to replace, John.  You've done a wonderful job here," Catherine said.

"That's very kind of you, Catherine.  I can say with certainty the same of you.  I hate to think about your leaving here next Spring, but a full professorship at Stanford is a real plum, and one which you richly deserve."

"Thank you, Father.  I've been blessed.  Do you know what you'll be doing in the future?"

"Not really.  First I'll be going on retreat for several weeks.  My superior hasn't told me what lies beyond that."

"Well, the Society of Jesus will be remiss if they don't use your skills somewhere, and without delay.  You're a real leader."

"Kind words.  Thank you."  The priest took a bite of stew and chewed it slowly.  "Tell me how your boys are doing at UCLA."

"They're doing well from everything I hear. 
I think Kevin and Carl and Cam are in good shape, both academically and in daily life.  I'm looking forward to seeing their grades, of course.  Cam has totally recovered from being attacked by homophobes down the beach in Malibu, thanks to great support from the family and the work of a brilliant psychotherapist who specializes in treating PTSD.  The three young men who carried out the attack have been indicted and face trial, probably by the end of the year."

"Will Cam have to testify?"

"I don't know.  I'm hoping he won't have to.  He can handle it, I know that, but it would be stressful for him."

"Of course.  Let's pray that he won't have to get on the witness stand.  And how is your grandson doing?"

"Father, he's a wonderful little boy.  He's such a bright child, and an easy child.   I love him to death, and can't wait to see him over the Thanksgiving holiday."

"Are you going to L.A., or are the boys coming up here?" the priest asked.

"We're going down there.  The boys up here like the warmer weather in Los Angeles for the holidays."  Catherine chuckled.  "They keep at Ian and Mary until they wear them down and get their way about traveling south.  Ian Carson is chartering a plane to take everybody down and back.  The last I heard, Father Mason, the curate at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church here in San Rafael where we attend, is going with us.  He's been a good influence on all the boys, and they all love him."

Father Reilly cleared his throat.  "I don't suppose there's any chance of my talking you into coming back to the Catholic Church," he said.

"As an Episcopalian, I am a member of the Catholic Church.  I say so every time I say the Nicene Creed at Mass."

"All right," the priest said, smiling.  "I don't want to argue with you during one of our last meals together."

"Nor do I.  You'll have to admit that the Episcopal Church is more hospitable to the entire spectrum of God's children than the Roman Church is.  Gays are lovingly accepted into the Church family in most parishes.  That's especially important to me because I have two gay sons."

"I understand," Father Reilly admitted.

"What was it the Pope said when asked about gay priests in the Church?  'Who am I to judge?'  It sounds as if the ground shifted there just a little bit on gay issues, doesn't it?"

"Yes," Reilly said.  "The Holy Father answered well."

"I agree," Catherine said.  "Long held theological positions won't change overnight, but I have a lot of hope for this pontiff."

"As do I."

"I love you Jesuits, including the Pope," Catherine said with a smile.  "Being a Jesuit himself with a Franciscan outlook can only enhance the Holy Father's ministry."

Father Reilly agreed, and the conversation veered off into other subjects as Catherine and the priest finished their meal.

Before they parted company, the two of them consulted their calendars and made one more luncheon date before Father Reilly vacated his post as president at the end of the calendar year.

"Have a good Thanksgiving, Father," Catherine told her friend.

"You, too, Catherine," Reilly said.  "You and your family have a safe trip south and back, and a wonderful holiday!"

"Are you spending the holiday with family?" Catherine asked.

'Yes, with my brother and his family."

They parted company, and Catherine's eyes misted over as she walked away to return to her office to prepare for her next class.  She would dearly miss her friend and confidant when this fine priest and excellent administrator left the campus for good.

*  *  *

The Sunday afternoon after Mass at St. Andrew's was chaos at Catherine's big house in San Rafael.  That wasn't unusual.  That was just the way it was before a family trip to see the boys in L.A., what with the San Rafael guys trying to decide what clothes they needed to pack to take with them on the plane the next morning.  Everybody was in high spirits, including the adults.

Rosa Mendez, Catherine's long-time maid, was going along with the family to L.A. for the first time.  Her husband Julio was not too pleased about that, but had agreed just this once to celebrate Thanksgiving at his parents with his and Rosa's boys instead of at their own house.  Yolanda Vega, the Carsons' maid, had been down to L.A. with the family before, and was going again.

William Carson had finished packing, and was lying on his bed in his boxers talking on his cell to his main squeeze, Alicia McCaskill, who was also not too pleased that William would be gone over Thanksgiving week.  William was trying to placate his girlfriend without much success.  He played the "I can't get out of going with the family" card, but Alicia wasn't buying it.

"You'd rather spend time with the boys in your family than you would with me," she said accusingly.

"Not true," William said, knowing that there was at least some truth to what she said.  "Why don't you ask your parents if you can go with us," he suggested.  "There's room on the plane, and Cam and Kevin have a big house with lots of bedrooms."  He paused with a grin on his face, one hand in his boxers squeezing his cock.  "We might even have a chance for some 'quiet time' together."

"Yeah, right.  That's exactly why they'd never let me go on a trip with you."

William sighed.  "I suppose you're right.  But my mom and dad would never let me stay here alone.  I promise I'll make it up to you when I get back."

"You'd better!" Alicia said.

Berto Hernandez came out of their shared bathroom just then, and William pulled his hand out of his underwear.

"Listen," William said, "I gotta go.  I love ya.  I'll call you every day, so keep your cell phone charged up."

They ended the call with Alicia still sounding a little pissed off about the whole situation.

"Trouble in paradise?" Berto asked with a smile.  He'd heard William's side of the conversation, and knew his roomie had been catching some shit.

William laughed and shot him the bird.  "Oh, the price we pay for a little female companionship," William observed.  He wasn't too upset, knowing that an hour or two with Alicia when he got back would restore the relationship to an even keel.  "She can't resist me."

"Your humility is an example to us all," Berto said.

"That's not humility, that's reality," William shot back.

Just then there was a knock on their open bedroom door, and the two guys looked over to see Mark Carson dressed in some sweats.

"Berto, do you have time to spot me on some weights?" Mark asked.

"Yep," Berto said, and Mark smiled at him.

Berto was never one to waste any words.  Despite being psychologically shattered after his parents had been murdered by his uncle, Berto had been sheltered and then adopted by Ian and Mary Carson.  The deep love of his new parents for him and the kindness and support of his new "brothers" in the family had molded the character of this adolescent to the extent that the boy knew exactly who he was, and acted commensurately.  The kindness he had received was now quietly passed back to those around him in full measure.  He had a brilliant mind, and worked hard at academics along with his physical fitness program.  All the boys in the house looked up to him, especially for guidance in the gym because William's time and energies were monopolized almost entirely by the football program at San Rafael High.

Berto had already been accepted at Stanford University the next Fall on a full academic scholarship, and Ian and Mary Carson were especially pleased about that because they were alumni of Stanford.

"Come on, bud, let's do this," Berto told Mark, throwing an arm over the younger boy's shoulders as they walked together down the hall to the little gym the family maintained in the house.

Mark warmed up before lying down on the bench and taking a loaded barbell from Berto.  The workout which followed pleased them both.  Mark's sweatshirt was soaked with sweat, and it was worth it.  His body was fast becoming a smaller version of his brother William's great physique, and Mark liked that a lot.

* * *

The family ran together very early Monday morning with Carl's boyfriend Andy Helder, whose dad had dropped him off at the house for the trip to L.A.  They all ate a quick breakfast before showering and dressing quickly, and then the boys carried their suitcases downstairs to the driveway, along with Rosa's and Yolanda's and Mary's bags, to wait for the limo to take them to San Francisco International.  Father Mason drove up the driveway, parked his car in front of the garage, pulled his bag out of the trunk, and joined the group standing in the weak, northern California sunshine.

"Did you run this morning?" William Carson immediately demanded of the priest with no preliminaries.

"Does the sun come up in the east?" Mason answered with a grin.

"Just checking.  I hate to see the clergy get a big gut from lack of exercise."

Ian Carson looked at his older son disapprovingly and sighed.  "Just consider the source and ignore the peanut gallery, Father.  No matter how much I beat the kid, he's still a wise ass."

"I know," the priest said.  "I don't think reasoning with him ever works, either.  Why don't you make him start coming to Mass everyday before school.  Maybe more grace will help him."

"What a great idea," Mary Carson said.  "What do you think, William?"

"Probably not a good idea," Berto intervened.  "More grace might only make him more loquacious."

All the guys groaned at Berto's vocabulary.

"Yeah, that's what I'd be," William said.  "More loquacious.  Explain to me later what that means, Berto."

Everybody laughed, and just then a huge black Cadillac stretch limo pulled up the driveway.

"Just in the nick of time," Dan Emrick said.

The driver loaded the baggage into the trunk and a couple of bags into the front seat, and the family got in the car.  The boys left the back seat for the ladies, and sat on seats around the edges of the big interior and on jump seats.  Rush hour was over, and the traffic on the way to the airport was tolerable.

The limo dropped them off at a private hanger, and Ian paid the driver with a credit card along with some cash for a tip.

"I'm a little short of cash, Dad," William said.  "Can you spare a few bucks?"

"No problem," Ian said, low-fiving his son.  But no cash changed hands, much to William's disappointment.

The group climbed the retractable stairs into a medium sized jet and were greeted by one of the pilots and a flight attendant.  Andy Helder and William Carson had words about who got to sit with Father Mason, with Andy getting the honor this leg of the trip with a promise that William could sit with the priest on the way home.  Ground crew members stowed the luggage, and the family got seated and fastened their seat belts.  A plane mover pulled them out of the hanger and on to the apron of a feeder runway, and the pilots started the three engines one at a time and warmed them up, and then joined a line of planes for takeoff.

Fifteen minutes later they were wheels-up and climbing out over the Pacific, beginning to follow the coastline south toward Los Angeles.  It was to be a smooth flight, with the plane on the ground and passengers disembarking within two hours.  Everybody was animated and talking a mile a minute, pumped to be traveling down to see the Malibu contingent of their family.  All of them had been missing the boys and the baby, and even the dogs.

© 2013 Don Hanratty

As always,  thanks for your patience in waiting for this chapter to be posted.  One reader dropped me an email to tell me he had read online that I was dead.  No such luck--Beloved will continue with new chapters, albeit at a slow pace.

Please support Nifty monetarily if you can.

Don H.