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

Any similarity between the characters in this story and any actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


Mary Carson had no sooner driven out of the driveway than Cam was on his cell phone to Catherine in San Rafael.

"Hi, Mom, are you all set for your seminar in the morning?"

"Yes, I think so, Cam.  The registrations so far don't suggest standing room only, but this is a seminar on Swinburne we're talking about, after all.  I think I'll be pleased with the turnout.  And the speakers will likely be very good."

"I'm glad," Cam said.  "Listen, I wanted to ask you something.  It's Kevin's idea, actually."

"No, it isn't," Catherine heard Kevin protest in the background.

"Kevin is wondering if you'd let us get a dog," Cam said with a grin at his partner.

"You're such a brat!" Catherine heard Kevin tell Cam.

"Will I end up taking care of it, like the last dog we had?" Catherine asked.  "You didn't do much when we had her."

"That's true, Mommy, but I was just a kid then.  I'm all grown up now, and Kevin will probably mature some day himself," Cam assured her.  "So, we'll take responsibility for taking care of it."

"What are you going to do with it when you move to L.A.?"

"Well, he, she or it will move right with us," Cam said.

"Maybe your dad won't want a dog in the house," Catherine suggested.

"He already said we can move in with the baby.  Dogs, babies, hamsters, snakes, androids like Kevin, Dad won't care, you know that."

"I suppose not," Catherine admitted.  "What kind do you want?"

"We're thinking about a border collie."

"They're a good breed.  Well, if I have your word that you and your partner in crime will take care of it, you can get one, I guess.  Why are you calling to ask me about this now, rather than waiting until you get back?"

"There's a border collie breeder in Seaside, we've been told," Cam said.  "We thought we might stop there and look around on the way home."

"When are you coming home, by the way?"

"Uh, we'll probably start back Sunday morning," Cam said.  "I thought we'd stop in Seaside and go to Mass first--Kevin really needs to pray, y'know--
and then go over to the kennel."

Kevin groaned.

"Kevin doesn't need to pray any more than you do, Mister!" Catherine said with a laugh.

"That's a 'yes' on the dog, then?" Cam asked.

"Yes.  I hope you appreciate some day what a pushover I am when it comes to you boys."

"That's such a fine quality, Mommy!" Cam said happily.  "Rare and fine.  We already appreciate it."

"Uh huh.  All right, I'll see you boys at home.  I love you.  Tell Kevin I love him."

"Love you, too, Mom.  Bye."

Cam snapped the phone shut and bent down to kiss Kevin.

"She said for you to tell me that she loves me, didn't she?" Kevin speculated with a grin as he kissed Cam back.


"You'd better tell me, or when we get home I'm gonna let her know that you're not giving me my messages, and she'll take your phone away from you."

"I don't think so," Cam said.

"Count on it.  I might also let it slip that you've been sticking your dick into certain of my bodily orifices, and then your world as you know it would come to an end."

"Ha, ha!  You're funny," Cam said.  "By the way, it didn't take little Alice long to figure out that your crotch is really something special, did it?  How did it feel when she goosed you?"

Kevin laughed.  "She woke me up, that's for sure.  I thought it was you down there for a minute."

"Shut up!  Getcher ass up, and let's go over to the ocean.  You need some fresh air.  Or maybe I do."

Kevin got to his feet and put his crutches under his arms while Cam went inside to get his wallet and keys.  Kevin had negotiated the steps down to the driveway by the time Cam locked the cabin and joined him.  Cam stuck right with his partner as Kevin made it to the car and lowered himself into the passenger seat, handing Cam his crutches.

"Whaddaya want me to do with these?" Cam asked, brandishing the crutches.

"Uh, ya wanna bend over?"

"It's a good thing you're cute, or I'd have to get physical with ya, you little shit!"

"Later, bro," Kevin said.  "I'm counting on it."

Cam grinned, and walking around to the driver's side door, he tossed the crutches into the back seat and started up the Camaro.

"I love this car!" Cam said.  "It's getting a little dusty, though.  Would you mind detailing it before we go back to San Rafael?"

"Is it your birthday again?  I don't think so.  That was a lot of work last time," Kevin said.

"I know, but what a sense of satisfaction you must have felt when you were done.  Doncha wanna feel that good again?"

"You're gonna hafta perform a lot better in bed before that happens," Kevin insisted.

"You're gonna give me a complex if you keep talking like that," Cam said.  "I may not be able to get it up next time."

"I'm just kiddin', dude.  You're wonderful in bed.  And that's no shit!"

"Well, I don't know about that.  But it's not for lack of tryin,'" Cam said, reaching down to feel Kevin up after shifting the Camaro from third to fourth gear.

Kevin grinned and spread his legs.  "You're fiendishly clever at getting me to say nice things about you."

"I know it.  I can't help myself."

Cam drove a few miles north up Highway 1, and turned left down a road that led over to a little beach.  There was no one else there.  He parked, and went around to the passenger's door to help Kevin out of the car.  The sky was blue and cloudless, there was only a mild breeze off the ocean, and the waves were caressing  the beach rather than crashing on to the shore.

"Are you gonna be able to navigate in the sand with your crutches?" Cam asked.

"I don't know.  Let's see."  Kevin crutched his way on to the sand and then stopped.  "I can do it, but it's a lot of work."

"Let me get a blanket out of the trunk of the car, and let's just sit in the sun right here for a few minutes."


Cam went back to the trunk of the car, pulled out a blanket, and went back to Kevin.  Spreading the blanket, he helped Kevin sit down and took the crutches, putting them down on the blanket.  Then he sat down and cozied up to his boy, arm around his waist.

"You're my sweetboy," Cam said, hugging him and blushing a little.  "I feel a little strange talking like that, but that's what you are to me."

Kevin turned and looked him in the eye.  "You're a little strange all right, but don't think I don't love hearin' it, man.  Much as I'd like to, we can't have sex twenty-four hours a day, so we gotta have some kind of language for what we feel about each other.  For the in-between times, y'know.  So, you're my sweetboy, too, dude.  And I'm not takin' that back.  Ever."

Cam chuckled, and pushed Kevin down flat on the blanket, putting himself on his side so he could look down into Kevin's face.  Using both hands, he began to touch his lover's face, gently caressing him under his eyes with his thumbs.  Kevin sighed, relaxed his body and closed his eyes.

"So much love for you," Cam murmured.

"You're in my heart.  Thank God I have you."  That was all Kevin said, lying there glowing, almost floating off the blanket, feeling complete with Cam beside him.  Eventually, Cam turned and lay on his stomach, his right arm across Kevin's chest, and they fell asleep, heads toward the ocean.  They woke up a few minutes later when they heard a car door slam.  Cam sat up and checked it out.

Two guys and two girls, obviously couples, got out of a white Escalade.  The two guys scoped out the Camaro first, and then they all walked down on to the sand.  The two guys were hunky, on the short side at 5'8" or 5'9", and looked like wrestlers, muscular, wearing athletic jackets with a big "S" on them.  The two girls were very cute, one blonde and one brunette.  They could have been cheerleaders.

"Whazzup?" one of the guys said.

"Not much," Cam said, looking at his watch.  "School's out for the day, huh?"

"Yeah," the guy said.  "I like your wheels."

"Thanks," Cam said.

Kevin pushed himself to a sitting position with his good arm, and looked at the newcomers.

"You guys from around here?" the brunette girl asked.

"No," Kevin said.  "We're from San Rafael.  We're just staying in Cam's dad's cabin down the road.  Where are you from?"

"Seaside," the blonde girl said.

"I'm Cam, and this is Kevin," Cam said.

The bigger of the two boys, a handsome blond kid with a crew cut, stuck out his hand to Cam.  "I'm Carl," he said.  They slipped, gripped and dapped, and then the boy bent down and did the same with Kevin.  "This is Tony, Carol and Kay," Carl added, pointing at each of them in turn.

"Hi," Kevin and Cam said, nodding at the three.

"Yeah," Carl said.

Tony stared unsmilingly at Cam and Kevin.  "I saw you with your arm around your 'friend' when we drove up," he said, standing there looking down at Cam where the latter sat. 
"Are you guys fags or somethin'?" he asked.

"Yeah, or somethin'," Cam said, getting to his feet, expecting trouble.

"Tony, shut the fuck up!" Carl said, looking at his friend with disgust.  "Unless you wanna to walk home," he threatened.

"Yeah, don't be such an asshole," Kay, Tony's blonde girlfriend, agreed, looking daggers at her boyfriend.

Cam relaxed a little.

"You'll hafta excuse Tony," Carl said.  "We're still tryin' to make a human being out of him."

"OK," Cam said.  "You guys wanna sit down?"

"Sure," Carl said, and he and Carol and Kay sat down on the blanket with Kevin, Cam joining them.  Tony sat off to one side, on the sand.

The two guys and their girlfriends were seniors at the high school in Seaside, and like Cam and Kevin, were looking forward to graduation and going off to college.  They all talked about their schools and about sports and so on.  Carl was going to be matriculating at UCLA.  He and Cam highfived, and promised to exchange cell phone numbers.

"How'd you get hurt?" Carl asked Kevin after they had been talking for a while.

"A couple of guys jumped me," Kevin said.

"Because you're queer?" Tony asked with a sneer.

"No, because their sister got pregnant," Kevin said.  "I really admire jerks who gang up like that on one guy, don't you?"

"Oh," Tony said, and shut up.

Carl shot his friend a dirty look.  "Hey," he said to Cam and Kevin, "you guys wanna smoke some weed?   We got some good shit."

"Thanks," Cam said, "but we don't smoke anymore.  Don't let that stop you, though."

"You sure?"


Carl pulled his stash and a pipe out of the pocket of his athletic jacket.

"Don't you guys get drug tested at school when you're in sports?" Kevin asked.

"Not very often," Carl said.  "Life's a crap shoot.  What can I tell ya?"

Cam and Kevin watched in silence as Carl loaded the pipe, sparked up his lighter, and took the first drag, pulling and holding the smoke deep in his lungs.  The marijuana smoke eddied around as the pipe was passed from hand to hand and the four Seaside kids started to mellow out.  Kevin moved closer to Cam and lay down on his back again, tired from supporting himself in a sitting position on one arm.

"We're going through Seaside on our way home Sunday," Cam said, looking at Carl.  "We're looking for a Catholic church for Mass, and then for the kennel where they breed border collies.  Know where we might find 'em?"

"Yeah, I do." Carl said.  "For the church, once you get in Seaside, go to the second traffic light and make a right.  St. Michael's is two blocks down.  The last Mass is 11 o'clock, if you're late risers.  The kennel is called Davidson's.  Go back to the light where you turned for the church, make a right and continue north on '1,' and there'll be a sign for the kennel.  It's about a mile off the highway to your right."

"Thanks," Cam said.

The grass in the pipe now burned out, Carl tapped the pipe on the sole of his Nike's to let the ashes fall into the sand, and shoved the pipe back into his jacket pocket.  Tony moved closer to his girl sitting on the blanket, and put his arm around her.  They began a light make-out session as the others looked on.

"Tony's really shy about showing affection in public," Carl laughed.  "What a horndog!" he added.

Everybody chuckled except Tony, who said nothing, and continued to love up his girlfriend.

Cam and Carl talked a little more about UCLA.  Carl was going to be business, and Cam told him that his own concentration would be film and television and Kevin's, physics.

"Where will you be living down there?" Carl asked.

"We're staying with my dad in Malibu our first year," Cam said.  "Kevin's former girlfriend is having their baby, and we'll probably have it with us when we move south.  I don't know where we're gonna be living after we move out of Dad's house."

They talked a few more minutes, and Cam began thinking about getting back to the cabin.

The breeze off the ocean had freshened, and felt a little colder.  The afternoon sun was rapidly heading toward the horizon.  Cam looked down at his lover.

"Whaddaya think, Kev?  You ready to boogie?"

"I'm ready," Kevin said, struggling to a sitting position.

Carl pulled an old envelope out of his jacket pocket, and tore it in half.  "Anybody got a pen?" he asked.

Nobody had one, so he walked up to the Escalade and pulled one out of the glove box.  He wrote his name, Carl Emrick, and his cell phone number on the paper as he was walking back and gave it to Cam, along with the pen and the blank half of the envelope.  Cam wrote down his name and phone number, and gave it and the pen back to Carl.  Everybody stood up as Cam collected the blanket, shaking it gently to get rid of the sand, and folded it up.

The six of them walked slowly toward the cars, moderating their pace to accommodate Kevin.  Cam said good-bye to Kay and Carol and to Carl, as did Kevin.  Neither of them bothered with Tony, who walked off alone and got in the back seat of the Escalade.

"I'll call ya," Carl promised Cam as he and Cam dapped.  Carl grasped Kevin's shoulder gently.  "Kevin, good luck, dude.  Hope you heal up soon."

"Thanks, man," Kevin said.  "It can't be too soon for me."

"Maybe I'll see you guys in church Sunday," Carl said just before he hopped into the Escalade.

"Cool," Cam said.

The quartet from Seaside took off first as Cam returned the blanket to the trunk of his car.  He helped Kevin into the passenger seat and threw his crutches into the back seat.  Walking around to the driver's seat and getting in, Cam put the key into the ignition and fired up the Camaro.  The exhaust growled pleasantly as Cam put the car in reverse.

"That was an interesting group," Cam said, craning his neck as he turned the car around.  They started up the road toward the highway.

"Oh, yeah!" Kevin said.  "Carl seemed like a nice guy and the girls were cool, but that Tony was a real piece of work."

"He kinda gives you an idea of what we're up against as a couple, doesn't he?"

"I guess," Kevin said.  "I can't help wondering about guys who are lookin' for queers everywhere they go, though.  It seems to be on their minds all the damn time.  They just seem to be a little too interested in the subject, if you ask me."

"I do ask you," Cam said.  "And you've never failed me yet."

"Uh, huh," Kevin laughed.  "It's a good thing you're cute, or I'd hafta take strong measures with you.  Really strong!"

"Would it involve corporal punishment, do you think?"

"Yeah," Kevin said.  "And leather.  Lots of leather."

Cam got a kick out of that.  He put his hand on Kevin's neck, and swayed him a little from side to side in the car seat.

"I love ya to death, Kev."

"Same here, man.  Don't ever forget it."  Kevin reached over and gently cupped Cam's crotch.  "Loving you definitely involves what you've got down here, I won't lie to ya.  But I'm starting to realize there's a whole new world of knowing and appreciating each other that's starting to open up for us."

"There you go, stealing my lines again," Cam said.  He grinned and reached down to hold Kevin's hand as they drove along.

When they arrived at the cabin, Cam parked the car and went around to the passenger side and helped Kevin get out, gave him his crutches, and walked with him until he navigated the steps and was sitting in his chair on the deck.  Then he ran down the stairs and locked the Camaro.  It would be nice to have a remote to lock these doors, he thought to himself, but no such luck on that with a vintage car.

Cam came back up to the deck and sat down.  "Whaddaya want for supper tonight?" Cam asked his friend.

"Do we have any hamburger?"


"How about hamburgers with everything?"

"Sounds good to me," Cam said.  "I'll take the meat out of the freezer to thaw in a minute, and fire up the grill."

"OK."  Kevin glanced over at his partner, looking thoughtful.  "I hate it that you have to do everything for me.  I do appreciate it, though, I hope you know that.  You've taught me something since I got hurt, Cam.  The way you've handled this whole situation has helped me learn some patience.  That's something I never had much of.  You've taught me to be patient with myself, and you've been an example of how to be patient with another person.  That's love, man.  You said Father Andrew told you once that good always comes out of evil.  In a small way, I think I'm starting to see what he meant by that.  Anyway, thank you."

"You're welcome.  You're awfully philosophical tonight."

"I guess.  Being here alone with you, with no distractions, has been good for me, dude.  You help me count my blessings."

Cam smiled and ran his hand over Kevin's crew cut as he stood up and went inside to take the meat out of the freezer.

Cam could see that Kevin was tired that night after supper, so after playing a game of chess which Kevin won, they hit the bed.  Cam curled up next to Kevin, who, for the most part, still had to sleep on his back.  He kissed him and held him gently until they fell asleep.

*  *  *

Kevin and Cam awakened about 8 o'clock the next morning to the sound of rain on the roof.  Hard rain.  Cam shepherded Kevin into the bathroom so they could drain their bladders.  It was cold in the cabin.  So after Cam got Kevin back into bed and covered up, he went out into the main room, stark naked and shivering, and started a fire in the big fireplace in preference to kicking up the thermostat on the propane furnace.  The fire caught quickly, and he piled on plenty of wood so that when they eventually decided to get up for the day, the chill would be off the place.  He put the screen back in front of the fireplace when he finished, and ran for the bedroom.  Crawling under the covers, he pulled Kevin against his frigid body and held him tight, putting one freezing hand down between Kevin's legs.

"Ar-r-r-g-g-g!!  You freakin' miserable shit, you're cold!" Kevin howled.

"I know I am," Cam told him in a faux, soothing voice.  "I'm cold because you like a fire in the fireplace so much, and somebody had to light it.  Now it's your job to warm me up.  It's just the price you pay."

"You're something else!" Kevin half grumbled, half chuckled.  "And I thought you loved me."

"I do love you, dude.  I'm just trying to toughen you up a little so you're fit to be my partner.  Life isn't all beer and skittles, y'know."

"'Beer and skittles!'  What the fuck is a 'skittle'?  You sure talk funny for a jock.  Are you gay?"

Cam stuck his tongue deep in Kevin's ear and squished it around.  A Wet Willy, perfectly executed.

"Oh-h-h-h," Kevin said in surprise, his penis responding immediately by starting to grow.

"Y'know, I just may be," Cam said.  "Gay, I mean.  Yes, yes, I'm almost sure of it!  What are we gonna do about that?"

Kevin laughed.  "I think we've been doing everything we needed to do about that!  And I have to admit I've enjoyed it.  We just need to do more of it, starting now."  He ran his good hand up and down the still cool skin of the Cam's body, starting with his chest and ending up in his crotch.  Cam's dick began hardening until it filled Kevin's hand completely, and went on from there.

"You fit my hand so well, and then some," Kevin added with a grin.

"I know it."  Cam reached over on to the bedside table and picked up a condom from a pile of them strategically placed there, tearing the package open with his teeth, turning back to roll it down over Kevin's now hard dick.  Pushing himself over on to Kevin's body, he straddled his waist.  "You up for this, big boy?" he asked, bending down to deep kiss his partner.

"Oh, yeah!" Kevin said when the kiss was finished.

Spitting into his hand and lubing his hole, Cam began backing down slowly onto Kevin's penis, bouncing a little after he popped inside and had impaled himself.

"You OK?" Cam whispered when he was finally seated fully on Kevin's crotch, his knees bent and thighs spread along Kevin's sides.  He sat there, his weight mostly on his legs, not moving.

Kevin raised his arms and, using his good arm, pulled his lover's head down to his own and deep kissed him again.

"'OK' doesn't cover it," Kevin gasped after their lips and tongues parted company.  "I feel really good inside you, Cam.  Don't move yet, though, or I'm gonna blow."

Cam nodded and then bent down to take first one of Kevin's nipples and then the other in his mouth, tonguing, sucking, gently nibbling them as Kevin's cock hardened even more in its tight cocoon.  Giving Kevin another minute, Cam then began to move forward and backward on Kevin's abs as he thrust himself down on the boy's dick and pulled off, again and again, only gradually accelerating his pace so as to prolong their coupling.  Kevin began to breathe rapidly as he was thrust over and over into his lover's body.

"Oh, yes-s-s!" Kevin hissed as passion obliterated thought, and he closed his eyes and gave himself completely to his partner.

Cam maintained a steady pace over the minutes as his sweat began to drop down on to Kevin's abs and lubricated his
motion back and forth.  His own big dick was hard and leaking, and slid forward and backward on Kevin's corrugated stomach.  Kevin groaned as his tension built toward orgasm.  He began thrusting up off the bed into Cam as best he could with his one good leg, augmenting Cam's movements.

Cam maintained a steady pace as they continued to pleasure each other, but the end they both sought and yet wanted to prolong forever was inevitable.  Cam finally spewed first, the long stream of his glistening, white ejaculate hitting Kevin under his chin and then tapering off down his chest in subsequent emissions.  The tightening of Cam's sphincter as he came sent Kevin over the edge, and uttering Cam's name, he filled the condom
with his essence inside his friend, his lover, his giver of joy.  Cam collapsed with a groan on to Kevin's chest, and neither of them moved for a long time.

Cam roused himself first as Kevin's softening penis fell away from his body.  He slipped to Kevin's side, and held his partner in his arms as rational thought gradually returned.  Kevin removed the condom from his penis, folded it over, and dropped it on to the floor as Cam grabbed a handful of kleenex from the bedside table and cleaned the two of them up a bit.

"You just gave me one of the best experiences of my young life," Kevin said softly, looking into Cam's eyes.  "Believe me on that."

Cam smiled, gave the boy's left nipple another lick, and laid his head on Kevin's chest.  They dropped off to sleep again until a squall of rain on the roof woke them up about an hour later.  Cam got up and used the bathroom again, and pulled on his boxers.  Going into the kitchen while Kevin dozed, Cam fixed bacon and an omelet and toast for their breakfast.  Putting the goodies on a tray with silverware, napkins, and glasses of orange juice, he returned to the bedroom, and the two of them ate breakfast in bed after Cam offered thanks.

After breakfast Cam helped Kevin into the bathroom so he could use the toilet.  Retrieving Kevin's electric razor from his shaving kit, he let him shave.  Then Cam filled the wash basin with warm water, and while Kevin stood balancing on his good leg in front of the sink, he took a bar of soap and a wash cloth, and slowly and methodically washed every inch of Kevin's glowing body that wasn't in a cast.  Finishing up, he rinsed the wash cloth off, wiped his partner down, and then dried him with a big, fluffy towel.

Standing up, he glanced into the mirror and was surprised to see Kevin's face with tears in his eyes.

"Kev?" he inquired, concerned.

Kevin shook his head, saying nothing at first.

"What's the matter, dude?  Did I hurt you?" Cam asked.

"No, man," Kevin said softly, looking at Cam's face in the mirror.  "Far from it.  You touch me here"--
he tapped over his heart with a closed fist--"when you help me like this.  You don't just say the words, 'I love you,' you show it all the time.  I don't know what I've done to deserve you, that's all."

Cam smiled and kissed his cheek.  "Hey, bud, who would I be able to torment if I didn't have you?  We're perfect for each other."

Their eyes locked in the mirror.

"Don't laugh this off," Kevin said.  "I just want you to know how much I appreciate you and everything you do for me."

"Message received," Cam said, and took him back to the bedroom and helped him dress in clean clothes.

They went into the great room, where Cam added wood to the coals in the fireplace.  They soon had a roaring fire going to offset the sheets of cold rain they could see falling outside through the windows.  Cam got Kevin situated on the couch and brought him his laptop, plugging it into nearby electric and phone outlets.  Kevin checked his email, answered a few, and then turned the computer over to Cam, who did the same.

While he had the computer at his disposal, he clicked on Kevin's browser favorites, found "Nifty," clicked on it, and located a story he had been reading in the high school section.  Kevin looked over his shoulder.

"You want me to read to ya?" Cam asked with a grin.

"What, you tryin' to get me all hot and bothered?"

"You can get as hot and bothered as you want, just don't get any bodily fluids on the furniture."

"Huuumph!" Kevin said.  "After a morning in bed with you, I don't think I have any bodily fluids left.  Not the ones you're talking about, anyway."

"Just doin' my job," Cam said, laughing.

He began to read aloud the first chapter of a story by an author he liked, when he heard his cell phone in the bedroom ring, playing the first few bars of "Stars and Stripes Forever."  Putting the computer in Kevin's lap, he got up ran into the bedroom.

"Hello," he said after flipping the phone open.

"Is this Cam?" a voice asked.

"Yeah.  Who's this?"

"Carl.  Carl Emrick.  You know, we met yesterday at the beach."

"Yeah, Carl.  'Sup, man?"

"Not much.  I was just wondering if I could come down and talk to you and Kevin for a few minutes.  I won't take up much of your time."

"Well, yeah, I guess so.  We're not doin' much but sittin' in front of the fire and stayin' out of the rain."

"Great.  How do I get to your place?"

"Go past the road to the beach where we were yesterday, and continue south on "1" another five miles or so.  McCallister Road comes off to your right toward the ocean, and we're the last cabin on the road.  You'll see the Camaro in the driveway."

"All right.  Thanks.  See you in a few."

Cam snapped his phone shut, put it in his pocket, and went back out to the living room.

"Who was that?" Kevin asked.

"Carl Emrick.  The guy we met yesterday."

Kevin frowned.  "What did he want?"

"He wants to talk to us.  He'll probably be here in a half hour or so."

"Whaddaya suppose that's all about?"

"I don't have a clue, dude," Cam said, sitting back down on the couch and gesturing at the computer.  "Read to me in that deep, masculine voice of yours."

"Have I told ya lately how full of shit you are?  Anyway, if I read to you, you might answer the door with a hardon and give Carl the wrong idea."

"Maybe the right idea," Cam said, looking at Kevin out of the corner of his eye.  "He's pretty good lookin'."

"Yeah, right!" Kevin said, adjusting the tilt of the computer screen.  "OK, you want a story, here goes:  'It was a dark and stormy night...'"

Cam laughed, and moving closer to Kevin, put his arm around him and kissed him on the cheek.  Kevin smiled and began reading the actual story.

*  *  *

Catherine MacKenzie had been pondering what the selection of the new pope meant for teaching at Catholic colleges and universities like St. Francis.  It was galling to her, even though she taught in a comparatively "safe" department, literature, as contrasted with the theology department, that the bright, inquisitive students with whom the teaching staff was surrounded every day might have their curiosity and eagerness to learn curtailed in any way by being told that some subjects just couldn't be discussed.  It infuriated her, in fact, and she made no secret of it at faculty and administrative meetings, as she had done for years.  The Jesuits, who now ran the place after the Franciscans had turned it over to them two decades previous, were walking a fine line in the church and in academia thus far in the 21st century when it came to discussible issues.  The local archbishop had only infrequently exercised his prerogative of withdrawing the license needed by every theology professor to teach in any Roman Catholic school of higher learning within his jurisdiction, but the threat was always there.  Professors in other fields did not require such a license.

Because she
was not a teacher of theology, it was a complete surprise to Catherine when Father John Reilly, S.J., the university president, called her one day to inform her that one of the local archbishop's assistants, Father Raddley, a young, Rome-educated priest, wished to speak to her at the archbishop's office downtown in San Francisco.

"Are you sure he wants to talk to me, Father?" Catherine asked.  "I don't teach theology.  What's this about, do you think?"

"I don't have a clue, Catherine," the priest said.  "I do know that St. Francis has been getting some special scrutiny from downtown since our Law School gave Senator Clauson an honorary degree last year.  As you know, she's a Catholic who has refused to vote to criminalize abortion, so the archbishop declined to attend our commencement and made a public announcement of his reason.  I don't think it should be any surprise to you that your views on academic freedom have gotten around.  So I'd go expecting to hear some tough talk from the powers-that-be."

"Supporting academic freedom is a whole different subject from the abortion issue.  Anyway, thanks for the heads-up, Father," Catherine said.  "I may accept their 'invitation,' and I may not.  I'll communicate directly with Father Raddley on the matter, as he should have done with me."

"All right, Catherine," Father Reilly said.  "If you do go, stay in touch, and let me know what they say, if you wouldn't mind."

"I'll call you," Catherine promised, hanging up the phone.

She did decide to go, as much out of curiosity as anything else, and set a mutually agreeable date and time with Father Raddley.  She didn't question him on the telephone about the subject of their meeting, knowing that she was going to go out of curiosity, regardless.  On the appointed day she drove downtown and parked at the chancellery.  At 10 a.m., precisely on time to the minute, the priest came out of his office into the waiting room and greeted her.  The man was tall, thin, young and good looking, with a prematurely receding hairline, wearing a plain, black cassock.  They shook hands.

"Mrs. MacKenzie, thank you for agreeing to meet with me."

"I'm happy to do so.  But I'd prefer to be addressed as 'Doctor MacKenzie' for the purposes of our meeting, if you don't mind, Father."

The man smiled suavely, and nodded his head.  He was a cool number, indeed.

"Of course, Dr. MacKenzie.  Why don't we meet in the conference room?" he suggested, pointing toward a half open door.  As they went by the receptionist's desk, he took  a file from it and brought it with him.
They entered and seated themselves at one end on either side of a large table.  The priest folded his hands on the table top and looked over at her.

"How is academic life these days at St. Francis?" he asked, again smiling.

"Stimulating and interesting," Catherine said.  "And all of us on the faculty are working very hard to keep it that way."

"I know you are," Father Raddley said.  He looked down at the file folder in front of him and opened it.

"Is that your dossier on me?" Catherine asked, expressionless.

"We prefer to call it your bio and record of achievement."

Before Catherine could respond, the door to the conference room opened, and the archbishop himself, dressed in a black cassock with a purple band cincture and purple skullcap, came in.  A large pectoral cross dangled from a chain around his neck.  Father Raddley and Catherine stood up from the table.

"Your excellency," Father Raddley said.  "I believe you've previously met Dr. MacKenzie from St. Francis University."

The older man, tall with silver hair, nodded amiably and offered his hand, ring side up, as if inviting his guest to kiss the episcopal ring.  Catherine slipped her hand underneath his and merely shook his hand.

"Of course I know Dr. MacKenzie," Archbishop John Michaels said in a smooth bass voice.  "I've long admired your work on Algernon Charles Swinburne," he told her.

"Good morning, your excellency," Catherine responded.  "Thank you for your kind words."

The prelate gestured toward the chairs, and the three of them sat down.

"I suppose you may be wondering why we asked you down here for a visit," Michaels said to Catherine, getting right down to it.


"We asked you here to discuss your views on the relationship between academic life and the life of the church," the archbishop said.  "Some of your statements on that relationship at St. Francis have raised questions among the less mature and more impressionable members of the household of faith."

"Have they really?  I'm honored that any statements made by an obscure professor of literature such as myself would have come to your attention.  On the matter of maturity and impressionability, I would hope that all of us maintain the ability to be impressed by the sheer magnificence and complexity of the life God has given us, and the humility to know that we are all striving to mature as children of God."

"Of course," Michaels said.  "But the fact of the matter is that some members of the church are better equipped to understand the important issues of life and faith than others.  Our young people, young Catholics who are on the doorstep of exploring the meaning of life and faith, are so easily led astray, don't you agree?"

"And they will never explore the meaning of life and faith fully and completely unless they are confronted with the choices--the questions--that lie out there for them," Catherine said.

"But don't you think that the church has the obligation to offer divine guidance as these questions are broached and grappled with?  There is such a plethora of ideas out there that our young people, in particular, may become confused about the timeless values we stand for."

"The process of enlightenment is certainly divine in origin," Catherine said, "but learning and growing in faith and knowledge is frequently coupled with confusion and uncertainty.  You can't force feed true faith and knowledge."

"Do you believe in papal infallibility, Dr. MacKenzie?"

"As a lifelong Catholic, I accept it when dogma is properly taught and understood in terms of the process which produces infallible pronouncements.  But it's always been amazing to me that God would have left His church bereft of infallible guidance for 1869 years, until the Vatican I council in 1870 declared the pope infallible.  Until then, Catholics were pretty much left to personal prayer and looking to their own priests and bishops for guidance on matters of faith, poor things."

"We don't pick the moments when God sees fit to enlighten us.  At any rate, the pronouncement of infallibility was a natural evolution in doctrine and discipline," the archbishop said smoothly.

"It was certainly an evolution from the days when St. Paul said in his letter to the Galations that he withstood St. Peter to his face over the issue of whether Christians had to follow Jewish law before they could be Christians.  Paul won.  That confrontation would never happen today, would it?"

"No, we've pretty much put squabbles of that nature to rest, praise God," the archbishop said, avoiding the issue.

"The church can't arrive at good decisions on doctrine, and perhaps even on discipline, without full and complete discussion.  And full discussion can't be achieved in that closed little enclave that constitutes Vatican City.   Bishops around the world like yourself need to be participating fully in discussions before pronouncements are made which bind Catholics.  But the decision-making process is so centralized now that you bishops appear to have only modest input, if that.  The American Conference of Catholic Bishops is afraid to raise anything controversial with the Vatican.  You're like beaten, silenced puppies on most matter of doctrine as promulgated by Rome.  What a sad outcome for a once proud and intellectually vigorous church in this country.

"Of course, when it comes to social issues," Catherine continued, "you're very selective about which ones you do speak out on.  Gays are always an easy target, and you've gone out of your way to make life as miserable as possible for them when it comes to their human rights.  And I've never heard the Catholic bishops as a whole, or you in particular, issue any pastoral letters condemning the war in Iraq, which fails every test for a "just war" as defined by the church.  Pope John Paul II said as much.  But those in power continue this war based on lies, fueled by a personal vendetta and our tax dollars, by sending young men and women from our poor and lower middle class families to kill and be killed over there, telling them and their families it's patriotic.  Meanwhile, you focus almost exclusively on safer subjects like the absolute humanity of stem cells and embryos so as to discourage research.  For purposes of this discussion, I won't even bring up the issue of fair treatment for women both in the church and out of it, because it would be an exercise in futility.  I hear a lot of pious moaning on the deplorable condition of health care in this country, but have you bishops as a whole taken any practical steps to get the titans of industry to sit down face to face with elected officials to press for a national health care system?  None whatsoever.  You baffle me."

"There's no need to be insulting, Dr. MacKenzie," the archbishop said, raising his voice.

"Unfortunately, facts often don't speak for themselves," Catherine said.  "They need someone to do it for them.  Despite the church's efforts to shut down discussions on controversial matters, not only in our own church but in our country at large, the Spirit of God still moves among us, encouraging us to do better.  And God's Spirit also tells us that human beings made in God's image who do not believe as we do, still have rights, most certainly including the right to speak out."

"Do you have any startling insights on the issue of abortion to share with us?" Michaels asked.

"Not really.  I hate abortion.  It's a tragedy for all concerned.  I don't think anyone likes it.  Errors in thinking may not have any rights, as the Vatican insists, but people in error most certainly do have rights.  You recently insulted Senator Clausen and St. Francis University by refusing to attend our commencement at which she received an honorary doctorate.  That was because she refuses to vote to criminalize abortion.  That was your right not to attend, ungracious though it was.  But it isn't our right as Christians to shove our beliefs on matters of faith down the throats of those who don't believe as we do, and then get the government to do our dirty work for us.  You know very well that abortions were carried out by Christians for almost two millenniums, particularly by the nobility, with little comment by the church at all before it was eventually forbidden."

"That doesn't mean it was right, any more than torture and cruel and unusual punishment back in those days was right."

"Don't get me started on torture," Catherine said.  "What do you think is going on in our military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo?"

"You know we don't condone that."

"You don't publicly condemn it, either."

"Your views are a perfect example of what happens when academia runs wild, without proper guidance or respect for authority," the archbishop said sadly.

"Tell it to Galileo, your excellency.  The subject matter may change, but the scenario of repression remains the same.  What we need to see from you bishops in your pronouncements to our Christian brothers and sisters in the pews and to the public at large is a lot more persuasion and a lot less coercion.  That's particularly appropriate in a pluralistic society such as ours.  But you do have to speak to all the important issues, not just the ones that you feel comfortable with."

"I can see that we're not going to get anywhere in our discussion, Dr. MacKenzie," Michaels said.  "I have no authority over your credentials to teach, so I can't remove you from your position as I would like to do.  But I intend to inform Father Reilly at St. Francis of our discussion, and how unsatisfactory it was."

"I guess George Bernard Shaw was right when he said that a Catholic university is a contradiction in terms," Catherine chuckled.

"I believe you need to examine your conscience as to whether you are a good and obedient Catholic or not.  If the answer is 'no,' you need to refrain from receiving Holy Communion."

"You're excommunicating me?" Catherine asked.

"No, I am not.  I'm leaving that decision up to you."

"Fair enough," Catherine said, "as long as you realize that your view and my view of what constitutes Christian teaching in the Western Catholic Church may not be the same.  Vincent of Lerins said that "Catholic" constitutes that which is believed by all Christians at all times and in all places.  I think you gentlemen of the cloth are currently getting yourselves out on a limb in several areas of teaching.  I'll think about what Vincent said when I examine my Catholic conscience, as you suggested I should, remembering as I do so that the informed, individual Christian conscience is the supreme arbiter for decision-making, not the magisterium."

Catherine stood up first,
effectively ending the meeting, followed by the two clergymen.  They all shook hands.

"Thank you for your time today, your excellency.  And yours, Father Raddley."

"God bless you, Dr. MacKenzie," the archbishop said.

"And you also, your excellency."
They walked out of the conference room together as Catherine gave the young priest, file in hand, a last shot.

"I hope I've given you some good material for your dossier, Father," she said, smiling, and walked out.

The archbishop went back to his office shaking his head, and Father Raddley went into his own office.  Catherine would have been surprised to know that the young priest was reflecting with admiration on her knowledge of the church, her courage, and her intelligence.  Rather than being cowed and intimidated, Catherine MacKenzie had turned the tables on them.

*  *  *

A knock sounded at the door of the cabin, interrupting Kevin as he read an erotic gay story to Cam from the computer screen.  Kevin closed his programs and signed out as Cam got up from the couch and went to the door.

There stood Carl Emrick, as expected, a little damp from the rain and with a sad, stressed look on his face.

"Hey, dog, common in," Cam said, dapping Carl as the boy walked inside.  The white Escalade was parked beside the Camaro in the driveway.

"Thanks, man," Carl said.  " 'Sup, Kevin?" he added, going over to him on the couch and tapping fists.

"Not much, dude.  It looks a little wet out there."

"You ain't shittin'," Carl confirmed.  "I could hardly see to drive down here."

"Have a seat," Cam said, gesturing at a rocking chair near the fire.  "Take off your jacket.  Can I get you something to eat or drink?  Coffee, tea, Coke?"

"I already ate, thanks.  But a Coke sounds good," Carl said.

"Comin' up," Cam said, heading for the kitchen.

Shedding his jacket and hanging it on the rocker, Carl sat down gingerly, his T-shirt showing off his great physique.

"You said yesterday you were a wrestler, right?" Kevin asked him.  "You're built like one."

"Yeah.  I've wrestled all four years of high school, and got a wrestling scholarship that'll pay part of my expenses at UCLA."

"Cool," Cam said, rejoining them and walking over to the boy and handing him a Coke.

Cam went over and sat down beside Kevin on the couch, and the two of them looked at their visitor expectantly.

"I apologize for bothering you guys on your little vacation," Carl said hesitantly.  "I know we don't know each other at all, really, but I just got good vibes from you guys yesterday.  I need to talk to somebody, and I can't talk to any of my friends in Seaside about this.  It's just too embarrassing, and I don't know what to do."

Cam and Kevin were silent.  Carl stood up and turned around, pulling the bottom of his T-shirt out of his Levi's and up to his shoulders, exposing his back.  His broad back was completely criss-crossed with welts from top to bottom, and it appeared as if they extended down into his lower body, where the marks were hidden by his pants.

Cam and Kevin gasped.

"Holy shit!" Kevin said.  "What the fuck happened to you?"

Carl pulled his shirt down and returned to the rocker, sitting down carefully and taking a swig of Coke.

"My dad," he said.

Cam looked at their visitor glumly.  "What's going on?"

"Since I was a freshman, when my mother died, my father has been threatening me with a whipping each time I lose a wrestling match.  I don't lose very often, but he said it was to 'motivate' me.  Of course, he knew that the other guys in the locker room
would see the marks if he whipped me during the season, so he saved his beatings up for the end of the season.  Last night he played catch-up."

"Fuck, Carl," Cam said, shaking his head.  "This isn't right.  You must be hurting like hell!"

"Yeah," Carl said.  "But that's not the worst of it.  My dad has been sexually molesting me ever since my mom passed away four years ago.  I've had to put up with it for one reason, and one reason, only.  I have a younger brother, two years younger, and if I hadn't cooperated, I just knew that he'd just move on to him.  I couldn't let that happen.  Now I have to do something about it, because I'm going to be going away to school next year, and my brother Dan will be the next victim, I know it.  I can't let it happen, but I don't know what to do about it.  I'm tough, but Dan's not a jock like me.  He won't be able to take it..."

The boy put his face in his hands and began weeping silently, embarrassed, struggling not to make a sound.

Cam stood up from the couch to break the tension.  "Let me see if I can find you something for pain," he said, heading for the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.

Kevin didn't know what to say, and just stared at the boy in silence at first.   "I'm sorry, Carl," he finally said.  "We'll help you any way we can."

The boy just nodded, his hands still covering his face.

Cam came back with some pills in his hand.

"I don't know what'll work best," he said.  "So I brought one of each--an Excedrin, a Motrin, and a Tylenol.  You want some water?"

Carl looked up, his face damp.  "Naw, I'll just take them with Coke.  Maybe that'll give me a buzz.  I hope.  You think I'll have any feeling left in my extremities when these babies take hold?"  He smiled wanly, threw the pills into his mouth, and took a slug of Coke, swallowing everything down.

"If the pills don't give you some relief, there's a jar of cream for insect bites and skin abrasions and irritations in the medicine cabinet," Cam said.  "We might try that."

"Thanks," Carl said.

Cam sat down on the couch again.  "Carl, what does your dad do for a living?"

"He owns the Cadillac dealership in Monterey.  We live in Seaside because he says he likes it better in the country.  He was a Marine in Viet Nam, and thinks he's tough.  And he is, I guess.  But he's a sick man.  A real dick.  I hate him for what he's done to me.  And what he could do to my brother if he isn't stopped."

"Have you thought about going to the police?" Kevin asked.

"My dad is an important man in Monterey County," Carl said.  "He contributes to all the right political campaigns, and the mayor of Seaside and the cops think his shit don't stink.  I just don't think it would do any good.  He'd find a way to make me the bad guy, and I'd end up in a psychiatric hospital.  Don't think I'm exaggerating.  That won't work."

"What about DCFS?" Cam asked.  "Those people work for the state.  Surely they couldn't be influenced by your dad to cover up what he's done."

"I wouldn't bet on it," Carl said.  "One call to a state senator or legislator who's benefited from his deep pockets, and you might be surprised what DCFS would say in their report.  Nobody is going to take my word over his."

The three of them sat there in total silence, staring at each other for a long moment.

"No, damn it," Cam said.  "There's a way.  Let's not get discouraged.  There's a way!"

"I'm sorry," Carl said.  "I know this isn't your problem."

"Well, it is now," Kevin said, his jaw set.

Cam looked at him, and grinned at Carl.

"You see that jaw?" he asked Carl.  "When you see Kevin's jaw set like that, just believe what he tells you, dude!  Doubt me not!"

"You talk like Yoda," Kevin cracked.

Carl smiled.  "OK, then.  Who can we talk to who will believe us about this?"  Cam heard the "us" and liked that.

"I have a thought," Cam said to Kevin.

"What?" Kevin said.

"What about getting in touch with Ian Carson in the city, and ask him for his help."

"Who's Ian Carson?" Carl asked.

"He's a famous lawyer in San Francisco," Cam said.  "We met his wife yesterday when we found their dog, and she drove down here to pick her up.  She said the family was very grateful for what we did."

"Mr. Carson's a defense attorney, though, Cam," Kevin said.

"I don't think that matters," Cam said.  "What we need is somebody who's a public figure and probably has more clout than Carl's dad has, just so we get Carl's story heard.  If Mr. Carson gets involved, nobody will be able to sweep anything under the rug."

"I think you're on to something, you smart little shit!" Kevin said exuberantly, and without thinking, he leaned over and kissed Cam on the cheek.

Carl smiled.

"Oh, fuck!" Kevin said, looking at the floor in consternation.

"It's all right," Carl said.  "I already knew.  Or at least, I was pretty sure."

Cam looked puzzled.  "How?" he asked.   "Are we that obvious?"

"No, not really.  You just have to know what to look for.  Or a sense of what people are feeling for one another, maybe.  You can't hide love, guys.  I knew when we were sitting around on that blanket at the beach yesterday that I was seeing more than the usual bond between two jocks."

"Uh, are you...?"  Kevin stared at their guest.

"Gay?  I don't know.  My dad has me so fucked up by now that I don't know what I am."

"I can understand that," Kevin said, shaking his head in dismay.

Cam checked his watch.  Three o'clock.

"Let's wait until about five o'clock, and I'll give Mrs. Carson a call," Cam said.  "That way, if they've been out for the afternoon, they should be home.  And if they're going out for the evening, they won't have left yet.  I have her cell phone number."

"You're a fucking genius, Cameron, I can't say it often enough," Kevin said, grinning.

"I know," Cam said, hanging his head in false modesty.

"You guys crack me up!" Carl said with a laugh.

Cam looked at Carl.  "Depending on what Mr. Carson says, we may have to leave for San Francisco tonight, or maybe after church tomorrow.  Does your dad go to church?"

"Not since my mother died."

"OK.  Anyway, you and your brother will each need to pack a bag, and you'll have to leave your car at your house before we take off, whenever that is, so your dad can't say you stole it.  It is his, isn't it?"

"Yes.  He gave it to me to drive, but it's his."  Carl appear to be far more relaxed than when he had come in the door.  "I'll gladly give up the car if it means that Danny and I will be safe--at last.  It's just a car."

"Good." Cam said.  "Now, how's the back feel?"

"A little better, maybe.  But it still hurts like hell, to tell you the truth."

"Well, if you'll let a gay guy touch you, I'll put some cream on you," Cam offered.  "It might help."

"'Dude, I didn't plan to, but basically I've entrusted my life and my brother's life to both of you.  So yeah, I trust you."

"OK, let's go into the bedroom so you can lie down," Cam said, standing up.

"Lead the way."

Kevin struggled up from the couch, in no way averse to seeing more of Carl's body.  He followed the two boys into the bedroom.

Cam detoured into the bathroom for the cream, and followed Carl into the bedroom.  The bed was unmade, and Cam quickly drew the top sheet and blanket up and over the pillows.  He hoped that Carl wouldn't detect the smell of cum on the bedclothes, if there was any undried residue.

Cam looked a little embarrassed about his next question.  "Uh, did your dad whip your ass and legs as well as your back?"



"Yeah, I'll strip."  Carl removed his T-shirt with Cam's help, and then sat down on the side of the bed to remove his sneakers and socks.  Then he dropped his 501's and his boxers, kicked them off, and lay face down on the bed.  He looked to be very well endowed, Cam and Kevin couldn't help noticing in passing, and hairless except for blond patches in his groin and his pits.

The boy's body was strikingly beautiful from the back--broad shouldered and a masterpiece in its conformation, a perfect V-shape from shoulders to waist, with nicely flaring, meaty buttocks giving way to sturdy, muscular legs, calves and big feet.  But the skin of his entire backside, from his neck to his ankles, was angry and swollen where he had been slashed viciously and repeatedly with a cane or a whip.

"Have mercy," Cam murmured when he saw the full extent of the damage.  Shocked at what he was seeing, Kevin just shook his head.

"I'm gonna try my very best not to hurt you," Cam said, getting a gob of cream on his fingers.  Sitting on the side of the bed and starting at the boy's neck, he began rubbing the cream on the welts as gently as he could.  Fortunately, none of the welts was bleeding.

Carl groaned.

"Tell me anytime you want me to stop," Cam said quietly.

"No, go for it," Carl said, burying his face in a pillow, so Cam proceeded with his ministration of mercy.  There wasn't so much as a sigh out of his patient as Cam worked his way down the boy's body and finished his task.

"I'm gonna cover you up with a sheet, Carl.  Why don't you stay right here and rest.  I'll get you up before we call the Carsons."

"I can't thank you enough, man," Carl said gratefully.  "Both of you."

Cam went out to the linen closet and brought back a sheet, unfolding it with Kevin's help, and gently draped it over the boy on the bed.

© 2005 Don Hanratty.  Many thanks to ChicagoEric for proofing and editing this chapter.  Contact me at: .