"Get up, you slackers!" Martha demanded.
Matt looked up sleepily from the bed at Jeff and Martha as they stood there smiling down on him. His bedmates, Mike and David, still dead to the world, gave no sign they had heard the new arrivals come into their parents' guest room. Matt's first thought was for his father.
"Who's with Dad?" he asked.
"Mom," Jeff said. "We went right to Walter Reed when we got into Washington. Mom said she'd relieved Mike a couple hours ago, so she sent us back here for now. Get up."
Mike's eyes popped open just then, and still spooned by Matt, he stretched languorously as he eyed Jeff and Martha.
"Beauty and the Beast are here," he said.
"Mart, you don't have to take that!" Jeff counseled his sister. "I keep telling you, you're no beast!"
Martha ignored Mike and Jeff and went around to David's side of the bed, bending down to kiss him. The tall priest's eyes fluttered open. He smiled when he saw who it was, and reaching up, pulled her face down to his for another kiss.
"Hi, sweetheart," David said to her. "I'm glad you're here."
"Me, too," Martha said, smiling. She walked to the other side of the bed and bent down to kiss her brothers.
"Hi, Mart," Mike said, kissing her face as Matt smiled up at her.
"Good to see ya, Sis," Matt said to his sister as he kissed her He rolled away from Mike and on to his back, looking at his siblings and David. "Before we schedule our time with Dad, let me ask. Are we gonna run today? It's nearly noon, but we could still prolly get a few miles in."
"Why don't we take the day off?" Mike suggested.
"That's OK by me," Matt said. "David? Mart? Jeffy?"
"Yep," David said.
"That's fine with me. If you guys are nice to me, I'll go fix you some lunch," Martha suggested.
"We're always nice to you," Matt said with a grin.
"You're always full of it, but I'll let that go," Martha said.
Three big smiles from the bed told her that lunch was a popular idea, so she left for the kitchen.
"Get out, Jeff. I don't want you to see me naked," Mike told his brother, simultaneously throwing back the sheet and standing up to reveal a big bulge in his boxers.
"Uh huh," Jeff said as he pulled Mike into a hug with one arm and patted his brother's ass with his free hand. He kissed Mike's cheek as the latter's hardon poked him in the crotch.
"Yeah, yeah, so I'm glad to see ya," Mike said, pre-empting Jeff's inevitable comment about his erection. Jeff grinned and let him go, and Mike headed for the bathroom.
"Jeffy!" Matt said as he got out of bed, also with morning wood, and hugged and kissed his brother. "How ya doin', babe?"
"Good, man!" Jeff told him, patting his ass, too. "Nice butts in this family, if I do say so myself. Next victim," he said, looking down at David.
A little sheepish, David climbed out of bed and got the same treatment.
"Does my butt pass the 'Jeff test?'" the priest demanded.
"Without a doubt! Martha likes it, too," Jeff said.
"Get outta town!" David told Jeff with a grin, heading for the bathroom.
Jeff smiled and left for the kitchen to join Martha.
David walked into the bathroom as Matt and Mike were standing side by side, urinating into the toilet. Finishing up, they stripped off their underwear, and Mike turned on the water in the shower and started adjusting it for the right temperature as Matt stood beside him.
"Come on, David," Matt said, grinning as the water started hissing out of the shower head. "There's room in here for you, too."
"No way," David said, relieving himself at the toilet by then. "I'm gonna go keep Martha company in the kitchen. Besides, who knows what weird marital stuff is gonna go on in there. I can wait."
"Oooooh!" Matt told David. "Weird stuff, you say! What a good idea! When you're right, you're right!" He shut the shower curtain behind him and Mike, and taking Mike into his arms from behind, hugged him to his chest as the water pelted them. Reaching around, he softly traced the contours of his partner's chest, gently rubbing his pecs and pinching his nipples, and then moving his hand down, caressing Mike's taut abdomen.
"You guys save me some hot water," David instructed the partners. Matt and Mike heard the priest take the terrycloth robe hanging on the back of the bathroom door off its hanger. Shrugging into the robe, David headed for the kitchen, shutting the bathroom door behind him as he left.
"It's only been a couple of days, but I've missed the hell out of you," Matt told his lover.
"Same here," Mike said. "I don't sleep so good when you're not in bed. You may tell lousy jokes in bed sometimes, but I sure do like to reach over at night whenever I want to and feel up your sweet ass."
Taking the bar of soap from the holder, Matt started to lather up Mike's back and butt, and then moved a little to the side to lubricate his partner's package. Mike spread his legs and leaned back against Matt, his penis almost instantly hard.
Matt continued washing his partner's body. "Nice dick, man. And this has to be the cutest, sweetest, tightest little butt I've ever had the privilege to rub," he told his partner as he soaped it up again. "My hand fits on it perfectly." Matt squeezed Mike's butt cheeks and then gently inserted a soapy middle finger in Mike's ass to the first knuckle and twirled it around.
Mike exhaled rapidly and grinned. "Well, you sure do know how to treat it."
Matt concentrated the soapy palm of his other hand exclusively on Mike's penis, much to the latter's delight. "I wish I had time to put a more permanent smile on your face," Matt said.
Stroking his partner in earnest, Matt didn't have to continue for long before Mike gasped and exploded against the tile wall of the shower. He collapsed back into Matt's arms, a little wobbly.
"Holy shit!" Mike said.
"Yeah," Matt agreed, pleased with his efforts. He finished washing Mike thoroughly, and then diverted water from the shower head to the semen which was sliding slowly down the wall of the tub. He watched it wash down the drain. "A clean workplace is the sign of a true craftsman," he said.
"Uh huh," Mike said, beginning to recover. He turned around to face Matt and began rubbing soap on him. "You want me to...?"
"Oh, yeah, bro!"
Mike slowly, deeply kissed the man he loved on the lips, their tongues gently probing, and then bending down, kissed his partner's erecting penis. Straightening up, he began soaping and stroking Matt deliberately and relentlessly. Matt groaned with pleasure.
"You're good at this!" Matt panted as the tension in his balls began building. His testicles began to retreat into his groin.
"I learned everything I know about really, really good sex from you, bro," Mike commented as he worked.
"It's all good," Matt said.
Mike didn't have to persist for long, and Matt rose on the balls of his feet and began firing thick strands of cum on to his partner's abs. Matt sagged against Mike with his arms around his neck.
"You were horny," Mike said with satisfaction, reaching down behind and between his partner's legs as the two men clung together in the warm spray, cupping Matt's testicles in their silken bag. "These little factories have been working overtime."
"Only for you, man!" Matt said. "You make me feel good, Mike! Thanks."
They shared a second, more lingering kiss. Matt pulled back and focused on his partner's face.
"Y'know, sometimes it's like a flashbulb goes off in my head! It's a reality check, I guess, and it tells me to be really, really happy, because we get to do this with each other, Mike! We get to do this. I get to have sex with you whenever and however we want to! Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am because I'm gay and I have you for my partner." Matt hugged his lover to his body. "After all the years we've been together, loving you and touching you still thrills the living fuck out of me. Having sex with you makes me feel like a whole person. Since the day you said you'd take me back after Sarah died, I've known I belong with you and nobody else. No doubts, no fears. You make me so-o-o happy. The people in this world who can't identify and accept what we have with each other for the blessing that it is for us, well, I feel sorry for them."
"What brought this on?" Mike asked, taking Matt's face in his hands.
"I don't know. It's just that when I see how some people, particularly gays, have to struggle, I'm...thankful for what we have together. They're either struggling with what the world thinks of them, or with themselves trying to admit to themselves who and what they are and what they want in a relationship. Or if they know what they want in a relationship, struggling to find the right person. Or, for that matter, maybe not even knowing they're looking for the right person. So. I just love the fact that we're in love, and that we can 'do it' however and whenever we want to, and feel terrific about it, and have it strengthen our relationship. That's all."
Mike said nothing. He held Matt silently in his arms for a long time under the spray, thinking about what he had said. His partner was absolutely right. Their relationship was as good as it gets as far as Mike was concerned, and every time they had sex, no matter what they did with one another, it did strengthen and reconfirm their relationship. In reality, the ever-horny Mike loved Matt so much and loved having sex with him so much that he wished they could do it twenty-four hours a day, non-stop, if only their human equipment would allow them. In their case, their love and their lust were commensurate.
Eventually finishing up their shower and stepping out of the tub, they toweled one another's glowing body dry. As they left the bathroom and walked into the bedroom toward their suitcases, Mike admired Matt's broad shoulders and muscular back as it tapered down into a narrow waist and then flared into a perfectly shaped bubble butt. Looking at his partner's body as they put on clean underwear started to make him hard again, so he deliberately directed his gaze and his thoughts elsewhere.
After dressing, they went to the kitchen. They entered to find David and Martha standing in front of the stove, kissing, oblivious to Jeff sitting at the table in the breakfast nook watching them. A big pot of soup from two giant size cans of Campbell's soup was bubbling away in a pot on a front burner.
"Love is in the air," Mike said, grinning.
"Tell 'em to stop it," Jeff said to his brothers, nodding toward David and Martha. "They're getting me hot."
"I'm pretty sure it would be out of line for us to tell our priest to 'get a room,' let alone telling our sister," Matt said, sliding into a chair across from Jeff at the table in the breakfast nook. "If we make Martha mad, she could hurt us, y'know."
"I wish Andie were here," Jeff said wistfully.
"I know you do, bro," Mike said, sitting down at the table as well, looking fondly at Jeff. "She came over to the condo on Sunday afternoon to spend time with the kids. They had a good time. She misses you, believe me."
Martha and David separated from their clinch in front of the stove, and Martha began ladling soup into bowls as David took a loaf of wheat bread out of the refrigerator and put half the loaf on a plate at the table with a tub of margarine and jars of peanut butter and jelly. Then he poured five glasses of orange juice out of a plastic container from the refrigerator and put them down at the place settings.
When everything was ready, Matt, Mike and Jeff stood up, and the five of them joined hands.
"Wait, let's ask the security guy if he's hungry," Martha said. She went to the front door of the apartment, coming back alone. "He already ate a sandwich he brought from home," she told them. "He said thanks."
The five of them joined hands around the table again as Matt nodded at David.
"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, we thank you for your goodness and kindness to us in providing this food," David prayed. "We are grateful for it, and also for your healing power as you begin to restore your servants Matthew and Marie from weakness and sickness to health and wholeness. Just as we take strength from this food, may they be strengthened by your grace in the healing process. Thank you, Lord, for preserving them to us, knowing that our love for them is but a pale reflection of your own powerful love for all your children. Please keep us all mindful of the needs of the whole human family, through Christ our Lord."
"Very nice, David," Matt said as the priest seated Martha and they all sat down. "You do have a way with words."
"Thanks," David said.
They began eating, in silence at first. Then Mike spoke up.
"Who's gonna talk to him?"
"I'm guessing you mean Dad?" Matt said.
"Yeah," Mike confirmed.
"About what?" Jeff asked.
"His exercise program, and eating right," Mike said. "He needs to get serious about it."
"Well, either you or Martha," Matt finally said to his partner. "He's more likely to listen to one of you, doncha think?"
"You're such a wuss!" Mike told him.
"Yeah, when it comes to confronting Dad, I am. I admit it," Matt said.
"I love ya anyway," Mike told him.
"Can't Mom do it?" Jeff asked.
"He'd listen to her," Mike agreed. "But this one time, let's not make her the bad guy. One of us should do it, 'cause we're all gonna scatter to the four winds pretty soon, but she'll be here right by his side, like always. Let's give her a break."
They all studiously kept their eyes on their plates, not looking at each other as they quietly continued to spoon their soup and eating PB and J sandwiches.
At long last Mike sighed and set his jaw. "All right, I'll do it," he said. "I don't want to, but I'll do it."
"Mike, I'll do it if you really want me to," Matt said, feeling ashamed. "I know you've already done more than your share of facing off with Dad when something had to be said."
"I'll take care of it," Mike told his partner. "But you owe me big time, dude! All of you owe me."
"Thank you, Mike," Martha said. "You're right, we do owe you." She was sitting next to him, and putting her hand on his neck, leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I've been pretty worried about how we were gonna get Dad to do what he needs to do."
When they had all finished eating, Matt and Mike cleaned up the kitchen, putting the dirty dishes and utensils in the dish washer while David went and showered. Martha and Jeff were sitting in the living room talking quietly when their two brothers joined them.
"What have the kids been up to?" Martha asked Mike and Matt when they sat down.
"They're really loving school and doing well," Mike said, smiling at his sister, "and of course they look forward to all their Gung Fu sessions. Master Kim has done such a great job with them. He's personally worked with them himself since Day One instead of turning them over to another master, and they love him to death. Behavior-wise, he's done wonders with them. They almost always do what they're told, which is a break for all of us. For little guys, they're really centered, and they're so good to one another. I'm really pleased with them, aren't you, Matt?"
"I couldn't be more pleased. They're great kids. I have no fears about how those guys are gonna turn out."
"I miss 'em so much," Jeff said. "I hate it that you guys are so far away from Mart and me."
"Not for long, dude," Matt said. "Your condo awaits."
"I know. I'm looking forward to that," Jeff said.
"Speaking of home, Mike," Matt said, "did Marie Angelo come to the condo like we planned when they discharged her from the hospital?"
"Yeah. And she's doing really well. Tony's staying there, too. We put a hospital bed and a single bed in one of the guest rooms, and they're happy as clams in there. Linda and Mary are taking good care of Marie while Tony's at work. The surgeons didn't have to remove her uterus, by the way, just as we'd hoped. I guess you knew that. They just removed the tumors, and did a little reconstructive work, and she's healing fast."
"That's excellent!" Matt said. "She's been on my prayer list."
"Mine, too," David said.
Mike glanced at his watch and stood up. "We better get going. Mom needs to come home and rest, and Dad and I need to have our little talk."
"Yep," Matt agreed. "By the way, Mom said we can use Dad's car, too, if we want to. Did you guys fly or drive over here?" he asked Martha and Jeff.
"We drove my truck," Jeff said. "Let's take all three vehicles to the hospital. That'll give us maximum flexibility for taking shifts."
That's what they did, and 45 minutes later Mike was greeting their mother at their dad's bedside at Walter Reed while the others waited in the waiting room. She looked tired.
"Hi, Mom," Mike said, giving her a hug and kiss. "Time for you to go home and get some rest. Hi, Dad." Mike went over to the bed and bent down to kiss his father. "How you doing?"
"Good, son," Justice Broman said. "I'm glad to see you. Mom says Martha and Jeff and Matt are here. I want to see them."
"They want to see you, too. We'll send 'em in one at a time."
"Dad's doctor stopped by," Jane Broman said. "They're going to move him out of ICU tomorrow and into his own room."
"Good deal," Mike said. "I'd say you're improving a little ahead of schedule, then."
"I'm feeling pretty well," Justice Broman said, "and I'd feel even better if they'd stop poking and prodding me all times of day and night. Very honestly, I didn't figure on bouncing back this fast."
"They gave you an anti-coagulant right away after the attack," Mike said. "That minimizes the damage from clotting when it's administered in a timely manner after a thrombosis."
"What do they call that stuff?" Justice Broman asked. "t-PA, or something like that?"
"No, they gave you something better called TNKase, according to your chart. Studies have shown it's even better than Activase, or t-PA, as it's commonly known. You got the good stuff."
Jane Broman smiled at her husband and kissed him. "I'm going to go, sweetheart," she told him.
"I love you, darling. You're the real reason I'm recovering so fast, not the TNKase, or whatever the hell it is. You and the rest of this family."
"I'll be back in a few hours," Jane Broman said.
"I want you to stay home tonight and get some sleep, Jane. The kids are here, so someone will be around to hover over my bed and listen to me snore," the justice said with a smile.
"That's a good idea, Mom," Mike said. "Dad's on the road to recovery. Why don't you go home, get into bed and stay there until we wake you up. OK?"
"We'll see," Jane said. "I can stand a good nap, for sure. Now about sleeping arrangements, we don't really need the air mattresses, even with Jeff and Martha here. Jeff and Father David can sleep in the third bedroom, and Martha can sleep with me."
"Mommy, you're the hostess with the mostest," Mike chuckled.
Jane laughed, kissed her son and left the room. Mike sat down in the plastic chair and studied the face of the man he loved and admired so much.
"Dad, we need to talk," he said.
"You're not going to give me a hard time while I'm in a weakened condition, are you?" Justice Broman asked him.
"No, sir. Ordinarily I'd wait on this, but Matt and I need to get back to Chicago to the kids and school now that you're out of the woods," Mike said. "We need to have a little heart to heart, though, and I guess it has to be now."
The older man sighed, and looked down the bed at his feet. "All right. What's on your mind?"
"Let me start off by saying that you probably think you know what you mean to all of us when it comes to the way this family functions, but I'm not sure you do. You're proud of everything that your children have accomplished in their lives, but I don't think you understand how much of it is due to you and what you mean to us--what you stand for, Dad."
"You and Mom are both pivotal to this family, and I guess maybe I see that so clearly because I came late to it. A lot of fathers in a lot of families today think their job is just to bring home the scratch. Not you. You and Mom have both been the involved in raising your kids, the way it's supposed to be. In so many families today the male has abdicated most of his duties and responsibilities with the kids to his wife, but you never did that. You and Mom have been true partners, and I think that's why your kids have turned out well. You've had a tremendous, positive effect even on a latecomer like me, if I can say that. No, let me say it the way it is. Both of you, and Matt, saved my freaking life. That's why when something threatens the foundations of this family, I get really upset about it. Something like your heart attack, for example. It's a wake-up call, if there ever was one." Mike's eyes looked damp at this point, and he took out his handkerchief and wiped his face, then put it back in his pocket.
"Let me finish what I have to say, Dad. Y'know, we're all on borrowed time from the day we're born. Studying medicine has really brought that home to me. There's only one end for all of us so far as this material existence is concerned. So I know that despite anything we do along the way that prolongs our lives, even when others need us, we're just postponing the inevitable. I understand that. It then becomes a question of what we need to accomplish in the time we have allotted to us, how important these accomplishments are to us, as to what we should be willing to do to lengthen our stay on this earth. Certainly, one of the things we can do to lengthen our stay here is to take the best care we can of our bodies, and that means, among other things, exercising properly and eating right.
"Now, I know you've kind of fiddled and farted around the edges with proper eating and exercise, Dad, but it's time to get serious about it. I want you to live out your role for yourself and for all of us. And for the country, too, for that matter. Yeah, you're needed on the Court. It seems as if you're one of the last political moderates around in any position to do this country some good. And from the family standpoint, I want you to see all your children married, and your grandchildren born, too. I want you to continue to be for all of us what you, with Mom, always have been--a presence in our lives that guides us and strengthens us even when we're not specifically thinking about it. Please don't bail on us by not putting the effort you need to into staying physically fit The people in this family need you in ways that none of us probably understands fully.
"But this has to be something you think is important. Not even Mom can stand at your elbow every day and monitor what you eat and how long and how hard you exercise. I wish we could, but we can't. So, I'm asking you, Dad, for all of us, please, because we love you..." Tears were running down Mike's face by that point.
"Son, come sit on the bed here with me for a minute," Justice Broman said, moving over a bit in his bed.
"I'm a little old to be crying like a kid, but there you are. I'm not trying to blackmail you with the waterworks, I hope you know that," Mike said, the tears still running down his face as he sat down beside his father.
"I know," Matthew Broman said, pulling a couple of tissues out of a kleenex box at his bedside and handing them to Mike, who wiped his face and blew his nose.
"I can't argue with anything you've said, Mike," the jurist continued, looking Mike in the eye. "I take a lot of satisfaction in what you think of me, by the way. What father wouldn't? And I give you my word, here and now, that I will get 'freaking serious,' as you boys would say, about taking better care of myself. I want to see Jeff and Martha marry the people they love. And I want to set my eyes on all the grandkids, too, the ones born and the ones that aren't here yet, more than anything in this world. I know you won't want to hear this, but I need to be honest with you. I resent every damn minute I put into exercising. But I'm going to do it for all the reasons you mentioned. You have my word on it."
Mike put his arms around his father and hugged him and kissed him.
"Thank you, Dad. I love you so much. We all do."
"And I love you. Thank you all for caring so much about me. Now, how about letting the old man get a little rest?"
"Yep." Mike kissed him on the cheek again. "I hope you're not mad at me."
"It would really be tough for me to be mad at you, Mike."
Mike smiled and slipped off the bed as his father shut his eyes and began to relax. Mike sat down in the little plastic chair until his father was breathing slowly and regularly, and then tiptoed out of the cubicle and went into the waiting room.
"You were in there a long time," Jeff observed, looking at his brother's red eyes. "Was it tough?"
"No, not really," Mike said. "Did Mom go home?"
"Yes, she just left," Martha said. "Why, did you need to talk to her?"
"No. Not right now. Dad and I had a good talk. He promised me that he's going to exercise right and eat right. He never breaks his word, so I feel better."
"Good job, Mike! Thank you!" Matt said. He stood up, and pulling his partner into his arms, kissed him right on the lips. A middle aged couple in the waiting room stared at them and quickly looked away. Matt smiled at that as he and Mike sat down in adjoining chairs, holding hands.
"Dad wants to see all of you when he wakes up, by the way," Mike said.
"We'll go in one at a time. Listen, the boys should be home from school by now," Matt observed. "Let's call them while Dad's sleeping."
"Good idea," Mike said, pulling out his cell phone. "Dad can talk to them tomorrow when he's in his own room. Jeff, Martha, David, you wanna talk to the kids now?"
"Absolutely!" Jeff said as Martha and David nodded, smiling.
Chris answered the phone in Chicago, and after being reassured about Justice Broman's condition, rounded up the kids and put them on the phone. The little guys were were so happy to hear from their dads and the people who meant so much to them. Everybody at the Washington end of the call got an earful about what was going on and was pretty happy about it.
After they were off the phone, Matt went into his father's room for a visit, followed by Martha, and then Jeff.
Jeff was surprised to see his father looking as well as he did, considering what he had been through.
"Lookin' good, Dad!" he told his father after he bent down to kiss him and sat down in the little plastic chair.
"Thanks, Jeff. I owe a lot of that to the family's all being here, I think," Justice Broman said. "You're looking good yourself, boy." Jeff had that quintessential jockboy look to him--glowing skin, muscular frame, great carriage. He was one handsome young man.
"Thanks," Jeff said. "Our baseball team at school is gonna be killer this Spring, and I'm really looking forward to playing with the Cubs in Iowa after school's out. My studies are pretty light for senior year, my grades have been good, and Andie and I love each other for sure. So everything's roses right now."
"Good. You deserve it, Jeff. Your mom and I are proud of you, son. I hope you know that."
"Thank you. I'm glad."
"Is Andie all right?"
"Yes. She's fine. We talk on the phone almost every day."
"She's a wonderful girl. I like her a lot," Justice Broman said. "So does Mom."
"I miss her," Jeff said.
"I know. That's why I'm hesitant to ask what I'm going to ask you. What are you doing over Spring break this year?"
"I don't know. I thought about going to Chicago and spending it with the condo family. I want to see Andie, of course, and the kids."
"I understand. Well, I'll ask you anyway. I'd like to invite you to come to Washington and spend the week with me." Matthew Broman paused. "You know, except for that one little incident with heroin, you and I have never really butted heads. You've never given your mom and me much trouble, and lacking any problems over discipline, sometimes I feel as if I've never gotten to know you the way I should have. Not as an adult, anyway. I'd like to rectify that, and I don't know when we're going to have another chance like Spring break this year to do it. I probably won't be back to work full time by then, but so much the better! I'll have more time for you. Mom would be coming to Washington on the weekend anyway, and you could send Andie a plane ticket so she could join us toward the end of the week. Mom and I would like to get better acquainted with her. By the way, don't think that this invitation is the heart attack talking. I've wanted to get together with you for quite a while."
"Wow!" Jeff said, smiling from ear to ear. "Are you sure you really want to spend time with me?"
"I really do," Justice Roman said seriously.
"Jeez, Dad, I'd love to do that. I accept. Thank you."
Justice Broman looked pleased. The two of them finished up their conversation, just talking about inconsequential stuff, and with a kiss and a hug, Jeff left his dad in his cubicle. When he returned to the waiting room, he was beaming.
"'Sup, Jeff?" Mike asked.
"Dad wants me to come to Washington over Spring break and spend time with him. I'm flattered, to tell you the truth!"
"Doncha know that every one of us has a special place in Dad's heart, dude?" Matt said to his brother. "He loves you. I hope you accepted."
"I sure did," Jeff said happily. "Andie and Mom will come over at the end of week. It'll be perfect!"
* * *
Neil Anderson was cold, tired, hungry and angry, and looked like hell. His clothes were filthy and hung from his body, and his hair was matted under a dirty knit cap. He huddled in the elevator shack on top of the building where he had been living across the street from the Bromans up to the point he had been rousted out of his apartment by a police sweep. It had been a narrow escape. They must have known he was living there, because there had been a cop stationed on the door of his place downstairs for awhile. But soon the police were only a sporadic presence there. The lock on his apartment had been changed, but picking it hadn't posed much of a problem for a man who had learned as much in prison as Neil had. He'd garnered a whole spate of useful information there in jail, and this skill was no exception. He'd needed to get into his apartment so he could retrieve his sharpshooter rifle from behind a false panel in one of the closets.
But with cops frequently popping in and out of the building, it was still too uncertain a situation for him to move back in downstairs. So it was the roof for him. The roof gave him a better vista of the Broman condo across Sheridan Road, anyway.
He had noticed that things weren't quite normal over there. Matt and Mike had inexplicably disappeared from the scene altogether, and Neil hadn't watched television or read a newspaper to learn of Justice Broman's heart attack. The Chicago cop in the unmarked car who had been a sporadic visitor before was now staying there full time. That older guy had a no-nonsense, cop's face. He looked tough as hell, and his presence there just added to the annoyance provided by the private cops and the two other young cops who lived there. Shit, the place was like a fucking police fort!
Anderson considered his options for revenge, and they weren't many. Those options no longer included getting into the condo physically. The police presence wasn't the only problem. The other challenges from security measures such as the swipe cards to operate the elevators, and the surveillance cameras and the panic buttons--all these things just seemed overwhelming to him. So if he were going to succeed in giving Matt Broman even some semblance of the pain that he deserved for what he had done to Neil, the Weasel knew he needed to plink a member of the family in the foyer, preferably one of the little kids, before the fucking cops caught him. He'd come to accept that they would indeed catch him, probably sooner rather than later. In a way, it would be a relief. He'd been on the run for so long, and he was bone tired. Only his inner rage, his hatred, his thirst for revenge, kept him going.
The view from the roof let the Weasel clearly see anybody who passed through the foyer through the huge window that faced Sheridan Road. At night the lights in the foyer dimmed--maybe they were on a timer or something--but there was still plenty of light for the night scope on Neil's rifle so that he could draw a bead on anyone who walked through. His plan was to catch the kids there, maybe when they were riding their bikes, and put one of them down for good. Killing one of the boys would have to be in lieu of fucking Mike after rendering Matt helpless and making him watch, or even of fucking Matt himself. Neil just didn't see how he would be able to punish Matt personally with the most brutal sex imaginable, the way he most preferred, before his own string ran out. But killing one of the boys would undoubtedly be more painful for Matt than anything else he could do to him, anyway.
* * *
While Matt and Mike were out of town, Stan was nominally the boss around the condo, but he wasn't around all that much. He had school, but in addition to that, he had begun spending a lot of time scouting run-down, largely abandoned industrial properties in the area around Hospice that might be appropriate to snap up for Matt's Brandon House project. Stan had the authority to write checks for the project, but wanted Matt to see some of the properties before he started buying them up. Matt and Mike had formed a new not-for-profit corporation in Illinois designated BHC (Brandon House Corporation) under the 501-c-3 provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Stan Rosinski was listed as CEO. The Board of Directors was Matt, Mike, Stan, Father David, and Sister Angeline.
Stan's busy schedule left it up to Chris to make sure things went smoothly around home. Chris had no problem assuming responsibility, and he was pretty matter of fact about giving people their marching orders when that needed to be done, all in a very nice way, of course. Nobody resented it, and Chris' leadership qualities only made Josh love him more, much to his disgust with himself.
At this point, Josh Harkness was all at sixes and sevens when it came to life in general, let alone his love life. On the one hand, he hadn't resigned his job with the Illinois State Police, but he was still on Chris' security payroll for the Bromans part-time. He had seen no sign from Chris that the latter had had any change of heart (or orientation) when it came to entering into a relationship with Josh, but Chris wasn't dating any women, either. At the same time, Josh hadn't made any effort to start dating any guys. He wanted to start dating, but somehow he just couldn't do it, even with the support that came from living in a gay-headed household. He couldn't bring himself to walk away from Chris like that. Shit! Chris was far from being out of Josh's system. He loved him so much, but by the same token, he despised himself for it.
Josh had been scheduled to talk with Justice Broman as the two of them had arranged after Stan's and Linda's wedding, but he had, of course, postponed his telephone call once he heard the jurist had had a heart attack. He really wanted to talk to him. On the other hand he didn't feel he had much progress to report so far as following through on his need to start dating--a man. Even thinking about starting to hit the gay bars on the weekends made him sweat, but on the other hand he still wasn't all that clear about where to begin meeting gay men he might want to date. Besides, starting to date would take him away from spending time with Chris at the condo.
Then something happened late Tuesday afternoon while Matt and Mike were still in Washington with their dad that confused Josh even more. At the same time, it elated him. When Josh arrived home after his shift patrolling out on the expressways around Chicago, the kids were riding their bikes in the foyer. Josh chased each of them down as they laughingly tried to avoid him, and he gave each of them a whack on his little butt. The boys loved it.
Chris was sitting in the den, feet up on the big coffee table, working on the following week's security schedule for the condo. Chris nodded to his buddy and put down his paperwork. He patted the couch and Josh sat down with him.
"How ya doin'?" Chris asked gruffly.
"All right," Josh said, unbuckling his gun belt and wrapping it around the holster after he took it off. "Same ol', same ol', I guess."
"Uh, you busy Friday night?" Chris asked, looking away and down at his feet.
"We haven't been out in awhile. I thought maybe we could go out for dinner and then drink a few beers, like old times."
"Sounds good to me," Josh said. "Anything special on your mind?"
"No, not really," Chris said, knowing that was a lie before the words were out of his mouth. "I just wanna talk."
"OK, I'll make sure that we have plenty of security coverage while we're gone."
"Good," Josh said, trying not to show how surprised and happy he was. "When are Matt and Mike coming back."
"They'll be home tomorrow," Chris said.
"How's their dad doing?"
"Great, according to Mike. There's no permanent damage to his heart, and he's being moved out of ICU into his own room. Everybody's pretty happy about the way he's recovering." He turned his head and looked at Josh. "This would have been one sad place if he hadn't made it."
"Tell me about it." Josh stood up, picked up his belt, holster, and gun, and started for his bedroom. He walked away slowly, thinking about Friday night. He felt totally pumped, but hid his emotions well.
* * *
By Wednesday, the Bromans felt secure in the knowledge that Justice Broman was making a rapid recovery. None of his blood vessels in his heart was occluded enough to require any medical procedures at that point. He was now ensconced in his own room at Walter Reed in an internal medicine wing, and was tentatively scheduled to be released, barring complications, at the end of the week. He planned to go home to Pennsylvania as soon as he could travel so he could spend the first part of his convalescence in the place he loved most on all on the earth.
Matt, Mike and Father David caught a redeye flight from Washington to Chicago on Wednesday morning. The three of them were casually dressed in Levi's, T's, and sneakers. They were flying tourist, three across, with Mike at the window, David in the middle, and Matt on the aisle. As soon as they were airborne and the seat belt light went off, Matt looked across David at Mike.
"I'll bet David would enjoy a story about now, don't you think?"
"There's no doubt in my mind," Mike said.
The tall priest squirmed a little in his seat. "Is it clean?"
"Clean as my jockies," Matt said.
"It's pure smut, then," David said, grinning.
"Relax and enjoy it," Matt said. "It's a story about church.
"A curate like yourself was giving the children's message during Mass.
For this part of the service, he would gather all the children around him at the
chancel steps and give a brief lesson before dismissing them for children's
"On this particular Sunday, he was using squirrels for an object lesson
industry and preparation.
"He started out by saying, 'I'm going to describe something, and I want
to raise your hand when you know what it is.'
"The kids nodded eagerly.
"'This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)...'
"No hands went up.
"'And it's gray (pause)
"and has a long bushy tail (pause) . . .'
"The children were looking at each other, but still no hands raised.
"'And it jumps from branch to branch (pause)
"'and chatters and flips its tail when it's excited (pause) . . . '
"Finally, one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The priest breathed
sigh of relief and called on him.
"'Well," said the boy, 'I KNOW the answer is supposed to be Jesus --
but it sounds just like a squirrel to me!'"
Matt and Mike laughed, and David grinned and shook his head.
"The kids get a squirrel, and I get a rat," David said, looking at Matt.
"By the time I'm done with you, buddy, you're gonna love jokes, just like Mike. He was a struggle, but look at him now. He's a devotee. You'll grow to love jokes so much that when I merely suggest I might tell one, you'll laugh."
"We should live so long," the priest muttered, sinking down in his seat a little and closing his eyes.
The flight was uneventful, and landed at O'Hare Field right on time. The three of them caught a cab, and dropped David off at his apartment on the way. Matt stepped out of the car as David retrieved his suitcase from the trunk.
"Mission accomplished," Matt said. "You done good in California, Padre! And in Washington, for that matter."
David put his bag down and drew Matt into a big hug.
"I love ya, man, bad jokes and all," David said, kissing his friend's cheek. "Say hello to the boys and everybody, will you?"
"Yep," Matt said. "Thanks for everything."
The kids were in school when Matt and Mike arrived at the condo. They greeted Dominic and the private cop in the downstairs hall. They didn't see anyone around after the elevator took them upstairs except for a security guy and Breakers, who came running full speed into the foyer when he heard their voices. The guys dropped their suitcases, and Breakers jumped up into Mike's arms, trying to lick his face. Matt patted the dog's head, and got a lick himself for his trouble. The security man looked at them and laughed. Canine greetings completed, Matt and Mike went back to Marie's bedroom to say hello, Breakers right on their heels, tail wagging vigorously.
Marie was resting comfortably in bed, in good spirits, and gave each of the boys a hug and kiss.
"Marie, I was really happy to hear that your surgery wasn't as extensive as it could have been," Matt said. "You've been in my prayers every day."
"Thank you, sweetheart," Marie said. "I appreciate it. And I've been returning the favor by praying for your dad. Thank God he's on the mend. I know that having the family surrounding him made a big difference."
"That's a fact," Mike said. "I don't know whether you know it or not, but when I was in college I contracted meningitis, and I was dying. The family came, and long story short, I pulled through, thanks to them. The medical arts can do a lot, but they're not the whole answer sometimes. Anyway, I hope you know that you and Tony are family here, and that we love you."
"Truthfully, you're like sons to us," Marie admitted. "I don't know how we'll ever repay you."
"Well, if we're like sons, then I don't want to ever hear that word 'repay' again," Matt said. "OK?"
Marie nodded. After talking for awhile, Mike asked her if she needed anything. She didn't. The guys told her they were going to try to catch some late morning classes at school, and that they would see her later.
Passing back through the foyer, they picked up their suitcases and went to their bedroom, Breakers still on their heels. Matt patted his partner's ass and looked longingly at the bed, but they threw down their bags, grabbed up their backpacks, and headed out for school.
When Matt and Mike arrived home from classes in the late afternoon, they were ambushed by their sons in the foyer as soon as they got off the elevator. Matthew and Kyle each rode on one of Matt's shoulders and Michael on Mike's neck as they marched back to the partner's bedroom. Then there was a good roughhouse session on the bed with the kids, with the boys naturally triumphing in the end. The winners in the epic battle on the bed received plenty of kisses from their dads and pretended not to like them, but they were clearly very, very happy to have the two men home.
It was party time when everybody else got home, and Mike ordered in cases of beer and soft drinks and boxes and boxes of ribs and cole slaw so Mary wouldn't feel she had to cook. Tony Angelo put Marie in a wheelchair during the dinner hour so she could join everybody in the dining room for a few minutes. When it was time for grace, Josh, by now accustomed to being called upon to pray without any notice, offered a grace that thanked God for the food and for the strides toward health being made by Justice Broman and Marie Angelo.
It was mass confusion as everybody lined up, talking a mile a minute, and began to fill plates with food. Matt put an arm around Josh as they waited, pulling him close as people milled around.
"How you doin', bud?" he asked the young cop.
"Good, Matt. Glad you're home, and that your dad's getting better. Uh, to tell you the truth, there's kind of a hole in everybody's life around here when you and Mike are gone."
"Well, thanks. As far as Dad's concerned, we're all relieved. He's doing great. Anything new going on around here?"
"Well..." Josh glanced over at Chris as the latter stood at the table talking to Mike as they helped themselves to ribs and beer. "Don't read too much into this, but Chris and I are going out to dinner Friday night."
"All right, dude! I'm glad. Have some fun, you hear me!" Matt said as they high fived. Josh grinned big time.
Everybody took plates back to the den, and they all sat around having a great time. Unlike the first time the three little boys had eaten ribs, this time they ate their fill, strong sauce and all, with no interference from their dads. After cleanup, Matt and Mike excused themselves and went back to their bedroom to hit the books. Several hours later, the kids came back to their dads' room, and Matt and Mike took a break and gave them their bath and put them in their pajamas. Then they heard their prayers.
"Daddy?" Kyle said when they were done, looking at Mike.
"Can we sleep with you and Dad Matt tonight?"
Mike looked at Matt. They had other plans, but Matt shrugged.
"Yes, you may," Mike agreed. "But Dad and I have to study for a long time before bed, and the lights will keep you awake. So you get in your own beds for now and go to sleep, and we'll come and put you in our bed when we're ready to sleep. How's that?"
"Cool," little Michael said, and the other two looked pleased.
Matt and Mike pulled the sheets over the three, kissed them, and shutting off the overhead light, went back to their own bedroom.
"Well, so much for the five hours of continuous sex I was planning for you later," Mike said.
"Well, we could do it before we move 'em, but you're so juicy it would fuck up the bed," Matt said, taking Mike in his arms and kissing him. "It'll keep. The guys missed us. I guess this is important to them."
"Yep," Mike concurred, kissing his husband, inhaling the "Matt smell" from his hair and skin.
They unclenched, reluctantly, and stripping down to their undershorts, each sat down at his desk and got busy. They had just started reading when Matt looked up over at the perfect planes and lean, muscular contours of Mike's body as he sat at his desk.
"You're too fucking beautiful for your own damn good, man!" he told him. "I can't stand it."
"Uh huh," Mike smiled. "Read your book, now, and you won't be horny for long. Reading the law is probably the best anti-aphrodisiac in the world. It's guaranteed to take the lead out of your pencil. You'll be soft as a baby. You may even fall asleep right at your desk."
"You won't be so cocky when I pass the bar exam and start suing your sweet doctor ass!" Matt said.
Mike grimaced at him, and they got down to serious reading. Their only break was an hour later when Matt wadded up a sheet of paper and bounced it off Mike's head.
"Ow!" Mike said. "That hurt."
"You're such a liar!"
They grinned at each other, and then it was back to work.
About 1 a.m., Mike stretched, groaned, and then reached over to shut off his reading lamp.
"I've had enough," he said. "You ready?"
"Yeah. Let's bring 'em in." Matt turned off his light, stood up, and went over to their bed to turn down the bedspread and sheet.
They went into the next room. Mike picked up Matthew and Michael, and Matt got Kyle, and soon the three kids were laid gently in the center of their dads' big bed. The two guys looked down on their three sleeping sons. The boys' complexion was so fair and their blond hair tousled, and they breathed slowly and evenly in repose. Mike felt so much love for them that he involuntarily shivered. He looked at Matt, and his partner's eyes looked damp as he stared down at the boys. After Mike checked the alarm clock setting and turned off the overhead light, he climbed into bed on his side as Matt climbed into bed on the other. The clean smell of their children filled their nostrils.
"'Night, babe," Matt said. "Love ya!"
"Love you, too, Matt. More."
Matt snickered, and the two men soon joined their kids in deep and refreshing sleep.
My thanks to the many readers who inquired when this chapter would be appearing. Please accept my usual apology for my tardiness in getting this chapter written and posted. The next chapter will highlight Chris and Josh as their relationship changes and moves to a new plane. Neil Anderson will meet his Maker at the hands of Tony Angelo, but not before he does something terrible. Stan proves to be a tough negotiator when it comes to buying up property for the Brandon project, and the Broman-Berman Foundation comes through with its first contribution to the work on behalf of gay kids in Chicago. Matt and Stan meet with the Mayor of Chicago and several Aldermen to start getting their political ducks in a row so BHC won't have a problem getting city clearance for new buildings.
Thank to Eric and Scott (Reddog) for proofing. I appreciate it.