I wish to retain all rights to this story. However, I am delighted to grant permission for AwesomeDude, or any other person or entity, to publish this story as long as there is no charge to the reader and as long as no changes are made to the story.

Copyright 2004. All Rights Reserved.

“It’s OK to fall in love with your best friend.” – Davey Carlson.

PART ONE, The New Year

Chapter 8 The New Year

Blair woke and looked around the room. He had barely noticed anything the night before. Geoff had stripped him of his clothes and was all over him before he could do much more than fall toward the bed. Now, in the light of morning, he took in the room.

It was small, with enough room for the twin bed, a cheap dresser, a closet, and a small desk. The walls were papered with charcoal and pastel drawings of trees, gardens, and glades, along with a couple of pastoral paintings. The style was clean and evocative.

Blair glanced at the sleeping figure by him with new appreciation. That is, if Troy was the artist responsible for the drawings. Troy lay on his stomach, facing away; any glimpse of his face hidden by his thick black hair. Blair leaned up, expecting to see Geoff crowded against the wall on the other side, but he wasn’t there.

The house was almost a shack, on an older and isolated block inside the richest school district in San Antonio. He remembered coming through a cluttered front room on the way in the night before, and wondered if Geoff was out in the other room.

He sat up, pulling the covers down from Troy’s torso in the process, and scratched his head. Troy stirred and turned his head on the pillow to Blair’s direction. His eyes opened.

“Morning,” Blair said, lying back down beside him. And then he stretched. “I slept great.”

Troy extended a hand and laid it on Blair’s stretched stomach. Blair smiled, released the stretch, and rolled toward Troy. He patted the covers over Troy’s butt. “Thanks for last night,” Blair said. “That was great.”

Troy smiled. “Really?”

“Didn’t you enjoy it?”

Troy nodded slowly. “Yeah. I liked it a lot.”

Blair studied the other boy’s eyes. They were dark, and not unlike Bentolli’s; deep, intelligent. Troy wasn’t nearly as hot looking as Bentolli, but there was a solemn attractiveness to his features. Blair wondered what Troy would look like if he smiled.

“Geoff left in the night,” Troy said. “He said there wasn’t enough room on the bed and he went home. He said he’d come back for you later.”

Blair thought about it. “It’s fine with me, if you don’t mind me staying here a while.”

“I don’t mind,” Troy said.

“And your parents?”

“My mom won’t mind. My dad’s not around.”

Blair looked around the room again. “It’s a lot more comfortable here than at Geoff’s house,” he said. “I like it here.” He looked around on the walls. “Did you do all these drawings?”

“Yeah,” Troy answered. “Why don’t you like Geoff’s house?”

Blair shrugged. “He’s almost too rich. And his dad frowned at me almost the whole time I was there.”

“I’ve never been there when his dad was there,” Troy said. “I’ve only been there twice.”

Blair drew a finger down Troy’s bare shoulder. “You two are boyfriends?”

Troy nodded. “Sorta.” And then he ran a finger down Blair’s bare shoulder.

“How long have you been boyfriends?” Blair asked fingering Troy’s nipple.

Troy shrugged. “A couple of months.” He fingered Blair’s nipple.

Blair moved closer until his thickening crotch met Troy’s. Then he wrapped an arm over Troy and pulled him into a kiss. “I’m glad Geoff’s gone,” Blair whispered.

“Me, too.”

. . . . .

After a good night’s sleep, it had been Brandon who woke Ethan, his hard cock pressing hot against Ethan’s ass. And afterward, they ate in the kitchen; nude since Ethan’s mom had left for work earlier.

After breakfast, they pushed the furniture back in Ethan’s small living room, and Ethan set up his cassette player.

“We’re gonna dance naked,” Ethan said. “That way, you’ll learn to move… sexier, and besides, you’re hot as hell naked.”

He took Brandon’s hand, lifted it high, and led him to the center of the floor. “Now we’re going to learn to dance together, Sugar. And damn, we’re gonna be good.”

A mischievous smile played across Brandon’s lips. In his best imitation of a flamenco dancer, he put his arm behind Ethan’s waist, and standing tall jerked Ethan to himself, belly to belly. He looked down his nose at Ethan’s lips, breath from his nostrils flowing down Ethan’s neck and chest. He had meant it as a tease, but the move was instantly electric. “Like this?” Brandon asked in a throaty whisper.

“Oh, Sugar!” Ethan said, molding his body to Brandon’s.

. . . . .

Rose shook her head. The redhead, Hudson, was just a pretty boy, not a young man like Brandon.

She listened to the two of them, Jake and Hudson, laughing in the kitchen. Jake was a strange kid. He seemed happier with Hudson.

Tyler had come by earlier to get his toothbrush and some clothes. But he left before Jake got there, and now Jake was about to leave. It was crazy. They were supposed to be staying with her, and she didn’t like them being all over town at all hours. But Jake wouldn’t listen.

Jake and Hudson came out of the kitchen and Jake kissed her cheek. “We’re headed out again, Abuelita mia. Thanks for lunch.”

“Don’t you abuelita me, Joaquin! Rose put her hands on her hips and cut loose a torrent of swearing in Spanish.

Jake covered Hudson’s ears with his hands and shook his head with mock reproof.

“Don’t you shake your head at me!” she yelled. “I still have a bunch of leftovers. What am I supposed to do with all that food?”

Jake held up a bag. “We’re taking some. And we’ll pack some in the car when we head back to California. Hang on to it all.”

“What shall I tell the others when they come back?”

“Just tell them to be here the morning we head back or they walk.” And then Jake and Hudson were out the front door, Jake’s arm over Hudson’s shoulder.

Wait, she thought. Just wait until he wants to stay here next time.

Once in the car, Hudson grinned broadly. “So your real name’s Joaquin?” he asked.

“Yeah, baby, I know. It sucks,” Jake said before Hudson could tease him.

Hudson’s eyes went wide. “No! I love it. It’s a great name. It’s sexy. It’s exotic. It’s romantic…” He laid his head back on the car seat, and spoke softly. “What’s your lover’s name? My lover’s name is… Joaquin,” he said, almost singing the name. “Joaquin… My boyfriend’s name is Joaquin.” He glanced at Jake with a mischievous smile. “Just saying it makes me hard.”

“So you are teasing…”

“No! Honest! I love your name,” he reached across and rubbed Jake’s leg. “I really love your name. And it suits you… I mean, when you aren’t doing your ‘oh gawd’ bit. When you’re just being yourself, Joaquin fits.”

Hudson leaned back in his seat. “Who taught you to make love?” he asked softly. “… Joaquin taught me.”

. . . . .

“Is anyone else here?” Blair asked across the kitchen table. The table was the only clear surface in the kitchen. The small amount of counter space was cluttered with dishes, cans of food, and a couple of appliances.

“My mom works all night,” Troy said, coming to the table in his briefs and holding a half gallon container of milk. “She won’t get up till this afternoon.”

Blair, in boxers, poured milk over his cereal. “I used to sketch some. But nothing like what you do. You mainly like doing plants and gardens?”

“I’m good at plants. I’m great at trees. But I want to learn to do faces and bodies.” He glanced at Blair. “Maybe I can do you.”

“Cool,” Blair said, taking a bite of cereal. “I used to draw faces. Maybe I can help.”

Troy looked Blair up and down. “I want to do you nude,” Troy said. “You’ve got good lines.”

Blair smiled as he chewed, and blushed just enough for an artist to notice.

. . . . .

When they got out of the cab, the cold wind blew right through their clothing. Michael and Davey scrambled up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the bell emphatically.

Mama Bentolli, a small, round woman, greeted them with hugs, and chatter. She was known for chatter.

“Grandma!” a voice called from the rear of the house. “Let them come on back.”

Michael didn’t wait for Mama Bentolli to release them, but headed directly back toward the voice. Davey followed.

“My two favorite Grandsons!” Grandpa Bentolli exclaimed, standing up from an armchair and holding out his arms.

Michael and Davey met in the arms of the thin old man, and Davey, whose own granddad had passed away not long before, beamed at being called a grandson… a favorite grandson.

Michael hugged the old man, reveling in the familiar smell of flannel, tobacco smoke, and old spice. But there were other smells now; a faint smell of urine, and the sweat of an old body fighting for survival.

. . . . .

You should see the malls in California, Tyler told Mitch, as they passed the food court area of North Star Mall. “And out there, guys cruise the malls. You can pick up guys easy.”

Mitch laughed. “They do here, too, and sometime, I have to tell you what Bent did when he tried to show me how to spot gays at the mall.”

“What happened?” Tyler asked, curious.

“Well, you sorta had to be there. Bent thought he saw a gay guy he knew and was gonna be a smart ass, making me think he could spot gays really easy. So he went up to this guy like he didn’t know him and swatted his butt.”

“Yeah? And?”

Mitch grinned. “It wasn’t who he thought! It was a stranger… he didn’t even know him. Mean looking guy, too.”

“That’s funny,” Tyler agreed. “So did he show you how to pick up guys? I mean, like I didn’t know he knew how.”

Mitch shrugged. “We saw a couple of guys.”

“Wanna try to pick somebody up?” Tyler asked.

“You mean… for sex?” Mitch asked uncertainly.

“Yeah. Course, it has to be somebody we both agree to.”

Mitch bit his lip. “If you want to pick somebody up,” he said, considering, “you can. But I don’t want to.”

“That’s cool. I forgot that all that’s still new for you. We don’t need to. Unless you’re tired of me.”

Mitch cocked his head. “Honestly? I was glad we didn’t do anything last night. You guys wore me out the night before.”

Tyler nodded, thoughtfully. “Should I go back to Jake’s grandmother’s? Would you like me out of your hair?”

“No,” Mitch said, quickly. “No. I want us to do stuff again tonight; maybe even Blair too, if he wants to come. But we might have to wait until my parents are in bed, and then we have to be quiet… that is, if you’re willin’”

Tyler grinned. “Oh, yeah. I’m willin’.”

* * * * *

Ethan tugged at the shoulders of Brandon’s suit coat. “I think we’re about the same size. That looks good on you.”

Brandon looked Ethan up and down. “Hard to believe you own a tux as well as a suit. You look great!”

“For a date with my… special friend,” Ethan said, straightening Brandon’s tie, “I’d buy a tux. But Milam bought this for me. Sorta goes with being in dance and attending concerts, Sugar.”

Ethan finished his careful grooming of Brandon. “We oughta be able to get into SA Country now. We both look twenty-one.”

Brandon looked Ethan over, and they both said, “No,” at the same time.

Ethan grinned across the candlelit table as Brandon’s feet played with his. Then he looked out the window onto the city below. The holiday lights on the trees of the river walk glittered, and reflected in the small slivers of the river surface they could see.

The dining floor of the Tower of the America’s restaurant revolves, once an hour. They had already seen south San Antonio, and now, Ethan wanted the restaurant to slow as they looked westward.

Brandon looked down on the river too, and Ethan studied his profile in the candlelight. Ethan loved beautiful things. He loved classical dance and music, fine art, exquisite clothes, and he loved Brandon’s profile with the soft color the candle gave to his face. Brandon was already good looking, but there is an additional beauty that only your lover can have, and that beauty is what Ethan saw.

He sighed. He had fallen in love before, though no one had ever really fallen in love with him. Usually, he got screwed; screwed and then they rolled over afterwards to the other side of the bed.

But Brandon was different. His love making continued after the orgasms. His kisses became tender then. The more vigorous the sex, the more tender the kisses afterward. Brandon held him when they slept together. Maybe Brandon was used to that from having a lover like Jake. Oh, he said they were just friends, but Ethan assumed they were lovers. He could tell when Brandon’s thoughts drifted, and he knew to whom they drifted.

He wasn’t jealous, though. Brandon now called him a special friend as well. They’d laughed together. They spent the day learning dance steps and making love. And there was one thing Ethan was convinced of; he was certain that neither Jake, nor anyone else, could turn on Brandon like he did. Together, they were fire and gasoline, and when they made love, it was spectacular.

Tonight, the two of them would sneak in to a gay club, SA Country. Or they’d find a gay bar to sneak into. Ethan would keep Brandon with him, and they would show off their fire.

Michael turned out the light and then stood looking out the floor to ceiling window. Ed had told Angie, his secretary, about Michael’s love for heights, and she had booked the two of them into one of the high, executive suites at the Holiday Inn Hotel on north Lakeshore. Because his granddad was so sick, Michael didn’t want to impose on Mama Bentolli.

The hotel suite was on the city side, and it looked into the heart of downtown. Tonight, the view was spectacular. The normal brilliance of city lights sparkled with countless added holiday decorations.

Davey came up behind him, put his arms around Mickey’s waist and placed his cheek against the side of Mickey’s neck. “It’s pretty,” he said, simply.

Michael nodded. “He’s frail, Davey. You can tell how sick he is.”

“But he was happy, Mickey. You made him happy today.”

Michael ran his hands over the back of Davey’s arms. “You did, too, Davey. He likes you.”

“Are we going to do like he said?” Davey asked.

“You mean, have fun? That’s going to be hard.”

“We can do it, Mickey. He loves you. You love him. He’s still alive. And he said to have fun while we’re here.”

Michael shrugged in Davey’s arms. “It’s hard to have fun when you’re sad.”

Davey thought about that a moment. “Do you belong to me?” he asked quietly.

Michael leaned his head back against Davey’s. It was a question that they asked when one was in the mood to make love and the other wasn’t. The question meant, choose to ‘want to.’ “Yes. I belong to you, Old Man,” Michael answered. “And I already wanted to make love to you tonight. I need to make love to you tonight.”

“That’s not why I asked,” Davey said.

“Oh?” Michael asked.

“Mickey,” he said. “Your grandpa said to…”

“Our grandpa,” Mickey corrected.

Davey squeezed his waist and continued. “Our grandpa said to have fun. You belong to me, and I say to have fun. You can decide to do it, just like you can decide other things. It’s not time to be sad yet.”

Michael chuckled. “I can’t argue with both you and Grandpa.” He began unbuttoning his shirt.

“What are you doing?” Davey asked.

“I’m getting ready to have some fun.”

Davey came around in front of him, with a broad smile. He pushed Michael’s hands away from his shirt, and resumed unbuttoning Mickey, himself, punctuating the work of his hands with smiles and kisses to Mickey’s lips.

When he had Mickey’s shirt off, he quickly pulled off his own, and then pulled Mickey close in an embrace. He always loved the feel of Mickey’s skin on his. While Mickey held him in his arms, Davey released both their pants, and then followed them down, pulling Mickey’s off over each foot, along with his boxers.

While he was on his knees, he took Mickey’s hard cock in his hands, pulled back the foreskin, and took the tip into his mouth. He liked sucking Mickey. But his goal tonight wasn’t to suck Mickey off, but to make his cock slick with saliva. And once he had done that, Davey stood, kicking off his own pants. He turned his back to Mickey, put his hands on the cold window and frame, and bent forward.

Michael moved behind him. “Here?” he asked with a chuckle. “Right in front of the window?”

“Who’s going to see?” Davey asked as he felt the tip of Michael’s cock press in between his cheeks. “And you like looking out the window.”

Michael laughed, and then eased in, pulling Davey’s hips back. Behind the pressure that traveled down his cock Michael felt the familiar enveloping warmth. “Ahhh,” he said quietly. “I keep trying to loosen you up and you’re still tight.”

Davey clamped his butt. “You make me run and do weights.”

“Maybe we can run here, along the lake,” Michael said, as he held Davey’s hips and pulled him slowly back to the base of his cock, and then he pulled out, almost to the end. Then he pushed slowly back in.

“Uh-uh,” Davey mumbled, and then cleared his throat. “It’s too cold out.”

Michael began at an exquisitely slow pace, and they were both quiet as he worked, concentrating on the feel. He moved his hands to Davey’s shoulders, slowly rocking his hips, moving in and out. Past Davey, the city opened before them in tall buildings and lights.

“It’s almost like making love in the sky,” Michael said softly. “It’s almost like you’re some mystical winged creature and I’m riding you across the sky, making love to a lover on wings.” He reached for Davey’s shoulders and drew his hands down Davey’s arms, pulling them back lifting them. “Like wings,” he said softly.

They gripped each other’s forearms, Davey’s arms back, flying; Michael holding them like reins. He held them and pumped his hips in long strokes, lifting Davey onto his toes at the end of each thrust. “Riding the sky on Davey,” he said softly.

He pushed all the way in and reached under Davey’s chest to pull him upright. As Davey came back against him, Michael pressed his lips to the side of Davey’s neck and reached in front to find that Davey was rock hard. “Let’s fly,” he whispered.

Davey reached behind with both hands, holding Michael to him, and continued the dream Mickey had started. He had great wings, flying high in the night, his rampant cock jutting out in the wind, and a fair youth clung to his back, melding to him, filling him, flying him, stroking him as he flew.

Holding Davey around the waist with one arm, and stroking him with the other, Michael pumped in a long, rising rhythm, lifting them both as if on beats of a wing, the muscles of his butt flexing under Davey’s hands. Up and down they moved together, and looked out onto the lights below.

They ground more than pumped, rising on their toes, picking up their pace. And then Davey stayed up on his toes when Mickey lifted him; on his toes, muscles tense, as Mickey’s hand brought him closer and closer.

With a soft cry, Davey arched back onto Michael, who held him tightly. With heartbeats pounding in their ears and every muscle straining, they came together and only the window kept Davey’s seed from spreading on the wind.

. . . . .

“Joaquin,” Hudson said softly, as he moved closer and wrapped his arms over Jake’s shoulders.

Jake wasn’t sure why, but the way Hudson kept saying Joaquin, sensuously, almost worshippingly, made Jake feel more like what Hudson said the name implied; exotic, manly.

He put an arm behind the small of Hudson’s back and pulled him hard to himself. He kissed him firmly, even demandingly. And he backed Hudson to one of the office couches.

. . . . .

Troy knelt behind Blair in the tub and rubbed the soft washcloth over Blair’s shoulders. Blair leaned forward, resting his forehead on his knees as Troy scrubbed under his arms and down his back.

No one had taken care of him like this in a long time, if ever. Blair wasn’t sure his mom had ever washed him as carefully. It was soothing. He’d like for Troy to do this all night. But he also wanted to take care of Troy. He was pretty sure that no one took care of Troy like this.

. . . . .

Brandon lay naked on his stomach atop the bed. Atop Brandon, lay Ethan, his crotch nestled on Brandon’s butt as he rubbed Brandon’s shoulders.

“We were great tonight, Sugar!” Ethan whispered. “If you lived here, I’d make you study dance with me.” He kissed between Brandon’s shoulder blades. “Of course, I’d have to be careful taking you out… I mean, the way all those queens chased you at SA Country!”

“They were chasing both of us and you loved it!” Brandon accused with a chuckle. He wiggled his hips. “And, I’ll study dance under you, anytime.”

Ethan was growing hard and rearranged himself so that his cock lay in Brandon’s crack. “Be careful Sugar. You got a perfect butt. You’re gonna make me want to top.”

Brandon rolled over under him, so that they were belly to belly and nose to nose, and Brandon’s erection joined Ethan’s.

“You just have to go slow, Sugar,” Brandon said. “…with one that size.”

Ethan studied Brandon’s eyes, trying to see if he was serious. Brandon smiled and nodded. Their lips were close. Ethan smiled, and stroked Brandon’s red hair back from his face before he kissed him. “Special friends?”

Brandon raised an eyebrow. “Not lovers?”

Ethan kissed Brandon once more. “I could love you, easy, White Sugar. If you weren’t going back to California, I’d fall in love with you, and teach you dance, and follow you everywhere.” He kissed Brandon again, tenderly. “I’m lonely, Sugar… Silly, huh? And you’re fun and beautiful. And you’re hot as hell between the sheets. I could love you so easy.” He brushed back Brandon’s hair and held it, pressed back against Brandon’s head. “I like having a special friend”

Brandon wrapped his arms over Ethan and stared up into his dark eyes. “Brown Sugar,” he whispered with a genuine affection that had grown over the previous two days.

Ethan smiled, and kissed Brandon; a long kiss that started slowly and built to open-mouthed exploration.

The size of Ethan’s cock was intimidating, but Brandon wanted to do it for him. “Ethan,” Brandon said, breathlessly. “I thought you were going to top.”

Without kneeling up, Ethan reached an arm under each of Brandon’s legs and began to lift.

“I gotta warn you, Brown Sugar,” Brandon said. “I’m not as hot a bottom as you.”

Ethan smiled. “I’m not as hot a top as you. But we’ll teach each other.”

. . . . .

The sun shone brightly through the window when Mitch awoke. Tyler lay sleeping on his back beside him, legs slightly spread. Mitch’s eyes traveled over Tyler’s body, inventorying.

He almost felt like Tyler was his own private Christmas present; a youth with a beautiful body to have all to himself for a few days; to learn with, to make love to, to own.

Mitch sat up, and then lay down in the other direction, with his head on Tyler’s thighs, facing Tyler’s balls. They rested, nestled between the tops of Tyler’s thighs, and Mitch marveled once more at how guys were made. He watched Tyler’s testicles move inside his scrotum as he began to wake, and Mitch placed the flat of his hand over them and rubbed, pushing Tyler’s cock up onto his belly.

Tyler sighed, and spread his legs slightly wider under Mitch’s head.

Mitch moved his nose between Tyler’s legs and sniffed. He liked the smell. Tyler grew hard under Mitch’s hand, so Mitch rubbed harder. “What do you want to do today?” he asked.

Tyler moaned. “This is a good start.”

Mitch watched the skin of Tyler’s scrotum stretch as he pressed Tyler’s balls down. He licked the stretched skin. “Do you mind being stuck with me? Do you want to go back to your friends?”

“Not right now,” Tyler said with a moan.

“It’s sunny outside,” Mitch said, then nuzzled softly under Tyler’s balls. He took a deep breath and sighed. “We could get out. Say,” he asked, lifting his head, “do you like golf?”

Tyler put his hand over Mitch’s and kept it moving, rubbing, and nodded. “I’ve played a couple of times. I like it.”

“I love it,” Mitch said. “I’ve got a great drive.”

“Oh, Dude,” Tyler said with a grin, “I bet you’ve got great hip action on your drive.”

Mitch chuckled.

“And, Dude,” Tyler said, “You already love my eight iron.”

“Hey,” Mitch said with a blow over Tyler’s balls, “I get a good long stroke with my seven iron.”

Tyler laughed and ground his hips under Mitch’s hands. “Not like Bentolli does with his… whatever iron.”

Mitch lifted his head again. “You’ve made love with Michael?”

Tyler put his hands behind his head and swiveled his hips wider. “Yeah, Blair and I both fucked him, and he fucked me, and Davey fucked Blair.”

“That had to be hot,” Mitch said, taking Tyler’s thick cock into his hand. “I’d like to do them sometime, but that won’t happen now.”

“Why?” Tyler asked. “Wait a while. They’ll loosen up. Guys sneak away from their lovers all the time to get it on.”

“You think Bent ever would?” Mitch asked.

“With a cock that size?” Tyler asked. “He was made for sex. Sooner or later, you can get him. Just try to be patient. I haven’t given up. Next trip, I bet he’s more willing.”

Mitch laid his head back down and thought about Michael as he played with Tyler’s balls. Then he pulled Tyler’s erection upright, toward him. “Are you sure this is an eight iron? Looks more like my seven iron to me.”

“Hey,” Tyler said, propping himself up onto his elbows. “I’m bigger and you know it.”

“I’ve got a ruler,” Mitch said with a smirk.

“Forget the ruler. Get up here.”

Mitch slid up alongside Tyler.

“You sure yours is seven?” Tyler asked, skeptically.

“Yeah,” Mitch said, aiming his erection at Tyler’s pubes while Tyler aimed his at Mitch’s.

They pressed forward until the tip of Tyler’s crown reached the bottom of Mitch’s shaft.

“Looks like less than an inch difference to me,” Mitch said thoughtfully.

“More than an inch,” Tyler insisted, barely pulling his hips back. “And maybe you aren’t seven inches after all.”

Mitch grinned. “I’m seven.”

Maybe I’m just not completely hard yet.”

“We can fix that,” Mitch said, whacking his cock against Tyler’s in a sword fight challenge.

Tyler responded. They sword fought until Tyler rolled Mitch to his back and pressed their hands out from between their crotches with a grinding pelvis. With his hands on Mitch’s shoulders, he pressed up, putting his weight on their crotches and dropped his knees outside Mitch’s. And as he ground down on him, Mitch smiled. “Let’s try to get another half-inch out of each.”

. . . . .

After breakfast, Troy arranged Blair, naked, atop the bed. Then he sat back with his sketchpad. The day before, they had worked together, drawing ears, noses, butts, and legs. Blair wasn’t bad, though he had nothing like Troy’s talent. And yet, he did know a couple of things about sketching faces, and Troy had learned from him.

And now, he was ready to try putting the pieces together, all in one sketch of Blair on his stomach. “Pull your knee forward a little. Yeah, like that. It rounds your butt more. And lay your head on the back of your hands.”

“Are you going to make my eyes too big again?” Blair asked with a smile.

“I haven’t been making them too big. I told you; they are that big,” Troy frowned, trying to concentrate. “But when I roll you over to sketch your front, I might have to make something else bigger.”

Blair raised an eyebrow, and when he saw Troy smile for the first time, even though it was just the trace of a smile, Blair laughed.

. . . . .

It had been a good day. Grandpa felt good, and it showed all day as he teased and asked questions about everything from their cross-country running to the promise Michael and Davey had made on Christmas night.

After lunch, he napped in his chair and they sat quietly with him, the television on in the background. Michael studied the skin of Grandpa Bentolli’s face. It looked slightly transparent. Even in sleep, his brow was furrowed.

When Grandpa awoke, they played a game of chess, and then he was tired. So Michael played Davey, who Grandpa tried to coach. But mainly, the old man studied them. They were so happy. He was even more convinced that they belonged together. He had been right to encourage them.

His conscience had bothered him initially, back when he first quit fighting their love and began to give them advice and support. He wasn’t sure that he should have.

But he grew sure. He grew sure that to encourage this unique friendship was the right thing to do. And regardless of whatever else life had for them, these two fatherless boys needed each other.

He worried for them. Every couple has so much to work through. They all need help. And who would help these two? Who would help them when the hard times came? The hard times that break couples apart, or bind them tighter… who would help them through?

He leaned back and closed his eyes. He hated dying. He hated leaving Mama Bentolli, and his children and their children. And he hated leaving these two boys, who had so filled his prayers and his heart. And then he decided to think about something else before he wept; he wept so easily these days. He opened his eyes to find Michael staring at him in concern. That would never do.

He smiled. “What are you two boys doing tonight?” Grandpa Bentolli asked. “You better not just sit around your hotel room. Not when you’re in Chicago.”

Michael shrugged. “We thought we might stay here with you for a while before going back to the hotel.”

The old man shook his head. “I’m going to bed early tonight. My medicine makes me tired. You two should go out to eat, and then to a play or a movie, and then you have to go to the top of the Hancock building for dessert. Have you ever been to the top of the Hancock building at night?” he asked.

They shook their heads.

Grandpa sighed and laid his head back. “It’s beautiful, he said softly. All the lights of the city…” And he closed his eyes.

Davey came over to sit beside Michael. “Let’s do it, Mickey. Let’s do like he said.”

It would always be hard for Michael to tell Davey ‘no.’ Especially when he knew Davey would have fun going out in Chicago. Besides, Davey had the right idea. So Michael called Angie and explained what he wanted. An hour later, she called back to give him details of their reservations for steak dinner at Stouffer’s and instructions on how to pick up the tickets for Cats at the box office.

. . . . .

They dressed in suits and ties, which Gloria had insisted they pack. They combed each other’s hair, and checked each other’s tie, and looked each other over with pride, ready to show one another off in public. And finally, they donned the black wool overcoats that Dr. Meyers had given them as a late Christmas present when he heard they were going to Chicago.

People looked at them all the time now. Michael noticed again at the restaurant. People watched at they took their seats and as they studied the menu. But then he and Davey talked and forgot everyone. They always had so much to talk about; things like what to order for supper, about a new house, software design, a company, Little David, high school, cross country, summer plans, and more, always more.

At the theater, heads turned when they came in. Eyes followed them as they found their seats. “Davey, have you been noticing how people keep staring at us?” Michael asked after they sat down.

“Uh-huh. They’re looking at you. I like being the one you’re with.”

“Or maybe they’re staring at you?” Michael said. “I hope it’s because you look so cute, not because we look so gay,” Michael stated, worried.

Davey shrugged with an impish smile. “I could kiss you, right here.”

“Don’t even think about it! And what good would that do?”

“Then you’d know why they’re staring,” Davey answered with a wide smile.

Halfway through the first act, Michael leaned over to whisper to Davey. “I’m going to get you one of those cat costumes.”

Davey nodded. “Yeah, that way, nobody would stare.”

Michael elbowed him and Davey jumped with a yelp. Several heads turned. “I meant, you’d look so damned sexy,” Michael hissed.

“Meow,” Davey whispered too loudly. Several annoyed shssshes were aimed in their direction.

They elbowed each other, and quieted down. Moments later, Michael felt Davey’s hand sneak into his lap. He knew Davey wanted him to jump. Davey wanted to embarrass him. So instead, Michael spread his legs.

After the show, because Grandpa suggested it, they went to the bar at the top of the Hancock building for dessert.

The young woman at the host desk looked them over, and then looked around them, searching for an adult.

“We’re interested in dessert,” Michael said. “We were told that this was a great place to come after a play.”

She looked them over again. They might be young, but they were damned cute and elegantly dressed. “Follow me, gentlemen,” she said with a smile.

She led them to a table near tall windows that looked out toward the Sears Tower. A piano played in the background. Brightly lit buildings and Christmas lights spread before them the entire distance to the Tower, and the effect was stunning. Davey grinned as he saw Mickey’s eyes light up with delight. “No flying,” he warned.

Soon, a middle-aged waitress came to their table. She smiled when she saw their faces. They reminded her of her son.

“What would you gentlemen like?”

“Do you have a good brandy,” Michael asked.

The waitress cocked her eyebrow. “We have several great brandies. Should I ask for your ID?”

It was Michael’s turn to cock an eyebrow. He tried to stare her down.

If he hadn’t been such a cute kid, she would’ve chased him out. But he was a cute kid; very cute. In fact, she wondered if he was some kind of star. He looked vaguely familiar. And he acted like someone who expected to have his way. In those clothes, he looked like such a class act she wondered if he really was somebody… even with that haircut. The blond boy had been watching her as she thought, and spoke up.

“He’s older than he looks,” Davey said.

The corners of the waitress’ lips curled in a smile.

Michael grinned. “And we’re great tippers.”

She laughed and left the table shaking her head. Hell, they were tucked back in a corner and it was still the holidays after all. Lots of parents ordered drinks for kids younger than these two. And who knows, they really could be good tippers. She’d bring them each a shot glass of brandy and they’d probably nurse it all night.

“Have you ever had brandy?” Davey asked, leaning toward Michael.

“You know I haven’t,” Michael winked.

“Is it strong?” Davey asked.

“Maybe a little,” Michael acknowledged.

“Well I just don’t want you to get drunk,” Davey said, eyes twinkling. He leaned closer. “Because I know how much you like to screw in front of windows like these.”

Michael wriggled his eyebrows.

. . . . .

They couldn’t move the bed, so they lifted off the mattress, with its covers, and carried it to the window, placing it on the floor, right against the glass. Then they undressed and turned out the light.

Michael stood beside Davey, looking past the mattress and out the window at the lights of the buildings beyond, and rubbed Davey’s butt. “How do you want to… fly?”

Silently, Davey lay down on the mattress and rolled to his back next to the glass, opening his arms and legs in invitation. Michael knelt down between his legs and laid down on him. They embraced and grew hard against each other. They kissed gently and laughed lightly, simply because they were happy. In Davey’s eyes, Michael saw lights from the city reflected like stars.

Looking up at the reflection of building lights in Mickey’s eyes, Davey smiled, remembering fragments of a phrase, “stars in your eyes.”

They moved their hips, rubbing erections on tight bellies. Michael pushed up with his hands, holding himself up, focusing their togetherness where his hips moved between Davey’s legs. And they watched the stars in each other’s eyes as they pressed in long thrusts, holding the pleasure at the end of each before pulling back to thrust again.

There, at the window, as if perched atop a high cliff, they made love above the city streets, while outside, snow began to fall. They watched each other’s eyes, measuring the pleasure they gave and working to give more.

Snow fell harder, muffling the noises of the city below. Michael took each of Davey’s arms and pinned them on the mattress over his head. They moved their hips forward and back, and in circles, matching each other’s movements. They grew hungry for their climaxes and let each other see the hunger. Their pleasure built; mouths dropped open; breathing grew louder.

Michael lowered his torso back onto Davey and pressed his cheek to the side of Davey’s. “Ready?” he whispered.

“Yes,” Davey whispered back.

Michael released Davey’s wrists and they wrapped each other in their arms. They pumped faster and Michael pressed his mouth over Davey’s, whimpering his climax into Davey’s open mouth. And he kept thrusting with Davey, until Davey whimpered back into his open mouth.

Michael came from the bathroom, wiping his belly with a towel. He tossed the towel to Davey who was sitting on the mattress next to the window, and then lay down on his stomach next to him. Putting his chin on his hands, he looked down through the falling snow.

Davey rubbed his back and looked over Mickey while Mickey looked out the window. He loved Mickey’s body; it was precious to him, not just because it was a beautiful body, but because the body was Mickey’s. He kissed the top of Mickey’s head, smoothing the thick black hair. And then he decided to lie down on him; to feel his long body with his own. He wiggled until Mickey’s buns fitted snuggly under his loins, let his legs fall to the outside, and crossed his arms over Mickey’s shoulders. Then he nuzzled into the back on Mickey’s hair. “I love you, Mickey,” he whispered.

“I know,” Michael said, and stretched his body under Davey’s.

Davey rubbed his shoulders. “It’s fun being rich,” he said.

“It’s fun being promised,” Mickey answered.

“I had fun tonight,” Davey said, wrapping a strand of Mickey’s hair around an index finger.

“Well, yeah!” Michael said with a grin. “I’ve got the sticky stomach to prove it.”

“No, doofus,’ Davey said, and then kissed Mickey’s cheek, lingering with his lips over the soft skin. “Thanks for letting us go out,” he whispered. “I liked eating out. And Cats was fun. And so was the Hancock building.”

Michael nodded. “I had fun too. Anytime you want to invite me on a date like that, just feel real free.”

While he considered what kind of date he would like to ask Mickey on, Davey lifted his hips so he could point his growing erection up the length of Mickey’s crack, then resumed playing with Mickey’s hair. “You know what kind of date I want?” he asked.

“Uh-uh,” Michael answered. Though he found the view from the window fascinating, he enjoyed the feel of Davey resting on him more, and rearranged his own thickening cock.

“Remember what Fred told us?” he asked. “About his friend with the fishing boat?”

“It’s eighty feet. That’s almost more of a yacht. Yeah, I remember.”

“I want that for a date. You and me to go on the yacht, for like a week.” Davey moved his hips slowly forward and back.

“We might be building a new home this summer,” Michael reminded him.

“Just a week. That’s the date I want.”

Michael smiled. It was fun being rich. “Cool. Let’s check into it. Maybe we can even do more than a week.”

Davey wrapped his arms around Mickey’s neck and kissed the side of his face, their hair mixing between their pressed cheeks, white and black. They had only come once. Davey toyed with the idea of making love again.

“It’s pretty up here,” Michael said softly.

Davey kissed the side of his neck.

Michael moved his butt with Davey’s slow thrusts, and moaned softly when Davey pulled back his hair to lick in his ear. A shudder ran through his body.

Davey reached under Mickey’s chest, finding his nipples. He pinched them gently, while he ground his hips and continued to tongue inside Michael’s ear.

“Fly on me, Old Man,” Michael whispered hoarsely.

Davey licked and kissed down the middle of Mickey’s hard-muscled back, sliding his body down behind Mickey’s legs until he could push Mickey’s butt cheeks apart with the heels of his hands and bury his mouth between them. Mickey’s legs spread as Davey worked, licking down between Mickey’s legs and onto the back of his balls.

When Mickey began to squirm under him, Davey pressed his tongue into Mickey’s crack and poked with it against his opening, wetting it, getting him ready.

Davey moved up, positioning himself, then he penetrated Mickey’s warmth, his tightness, sinking in all the way. He lay down on Mickey once again and pulled Mickey’s hair back from his neck. Burying his mouth beneath Mickey’s ear, he wrapped his arms under Mickey’s chest and moved slowly, casually with his hips while he tasted Mickey’s neck and sucked close to his throat.

Michael gazed out the window, only half seeing. It was easy to imagine again; imagine he was flying, carrying Davey on his back, high over the city. “It’s so pretty,” he mumbled to himself. “Someday… maybe… we can get an apartment… high up… and have a bed by a window… and fly every night.”

“Every night,” Davey whispered and pressed in harder, deeper.

Michael moved with him, rubbing his erection on the bed.

Davey worked his knees up behind Mickey’s, forcing them forward, lifting his hips. He wrapped his arms tightly around Mickey’s chest, pulling him back until, with widespread knees they were nested like mating frogs.

Davey moved a hand to Mickey’s shoulder and another to the side of his waist, to hold him while he slowly drove forward and rocked back, over and over, driving deep. Michael rocked with him, rising and falling, cupping his balls with one hand and stroking himself with the other.

They moved like that, rhythmically, almost hypnotically. Davey held them tightly together so that he stayed deep inside Mickey as they rose on their knees and fell back on their haunches. And he admired his lover’s body, now one with his own. When they were joined like this, it felt good to him, not just good with his body, but also with his heart.

He lifted his eyes and saw that it was snowing harder outside. Mickey liked being high up. They needed to find a place to live that was high up.

He thrust far forward, bending Mickey back from his middle. Davey felt his own balls tighten. Mickey felt so good.

Mickey was making the little whimpering sounds he made when he was close to coming. Davey wrapped his arms around Michael and pulled him back. They arched back, way back, pulling Michael up off his knees. The maneuver stretched their loins, stretched them from their knees through to their stomachs. It pushed Davey deeper, pressing his cock hard against Mickey’s prostate, and it caused Michael’s butt muscles to clamp down.

Davey held them arched back, impaling Mickey; stretching him tight. He reached down on either side to clutch the strong tendons inside of Mickey’s thighs, pulling him back, pushing deeper into him by lifting his own hips.

Michael cried out and clutched his cock as his orgasm hit, spraying semen over his belly and chest. It went on and on, hyper-stimulated by the firm pressure from Davey’s cock on his prostate. His spasms didn’t stop until Davey, with a growl, rolled them over so he could thrust freely, fast, hard, pounding his seed into Mickey.

Their movements slowed. They grew quiet. Their breath returned slowly.

“Damn, you’re getting good,” Michael panted. “That was incredible!”

Davey relaxed onto him, wrapping his arms around Mickey. “So are you,” he said, nuzzling behind Mickey’s ear. “We’re damn good.”

Michael chuckled quietly. “You told Jake about other stuff we do. Are you going to tell him about this one too; so he can train Hudson?” And then Michael had a brief image of Jake’s slender body arched back, pulling Hudson back on him.

“Do you think he’ll get back with Brandon?” Davey asked.

Michael pushed the image of Jake and Hudson from his mind. “Brandon’s a fool if he lets Jake get away,” he said. “I like ol’ Jake.”

“Me too,” Davey agreed.

And then they grew quiet, dozing off to sleep until Davey softened enough to slip out.

When he did, he reached for pillows and Michael took the opportunity to move to a drier spot, his head again at the window. Davey handed Mickey a pillow, and then lay back down directly on him, placing the edge of his pillow on the back of Mickey’s head. As he settled in, he tugged a blanket onto them.

“You going to sleep this way?” Michael asked, amused.

“Uh-huh,” Davey said, snuggling on. Then he adjusted the pillow and his chest, trying for a more comfortable fit.

Michael closed his eyes; he was comfortable under Davey.

They took a deep breath together.

“Have I told you?” Michael asked quietly, “that I love you desperately?”

“I know,” Davey whispered and kissed his cheek.

Michael took another deep breath, and then Davey did. Mickey’s long black eyelashes were so close. He leaned up to kiss them. There were times, when the light was just right, that Mickey looked almost as young as when they first started rubbing. He looked at Mickey’s lips, dark in the dim light, and he strained over to kiss them.

“Mickey?” Davey asked softly.


“I love you desperately, too.”

Without opening his eyes, Michael smiled. He reached up to take Davey’s hand from his shoulder, and he kissed it. Then, holding Davey’s hand in his own, he tucked it comfortably under his shoulder. “I know, Old Man,” Michael whispered back. “Everything you do, shows me.”

Davey kissed his cheek and settled back onto him, laying his head back down.

The weight of Davey’s head on the back of his own, even with a pillow between, wasn't exactly comfortable, and yet, Michael thought to himself, he wouldn’t move from this position for a million dollars; even if he had trouble sleeping. But he was tired and soon drifted off to sleep, dreaming of flying entwined with Davey, high on the breeze in a summer sky, while trees and lakes and all the earth passed beneath.

* * * * *

“He said to tell you to be here by eleven o’clock,” Rose said.

“Tonight?” Blair asked.

“No, this morning.”

He hung up the phone with a frown.

“I want to come with you,” Troy said. “We can get Geoff to take us.”

Blair shook his head. “No. I don’t want your boyfriend there when we say goodbye.”

Troy sat up beside him in the bed and gently rubbed Blair’s bare back. “But I want to go with you.”

Blair retrieved the phone number from his pants and dialed the phone again. “Mitch? This is Blair, from the other night.”

“Hi Blair. We missed you the last couple of days. Where are you?”

“At a friend’s,” he said. “Is Tyler still with you then?”

“Yeah. Do you need to talk with him?”

“No,” Blair said quickly. “I just need a ride. Are you taking him over to Jake’s this morning?”

“Yep. We were going to leave here about ten.”

“Could I have a ride? And could my friend ride with us? He doesn’t drive. Could you take him and bring him back?”

There was a chuckle at the other end of the line. “A friend, huh? Sure. I’ll be glad to. Where are you?”

After Blair hung up, Troy kissed his shoulder. “Can we do it one last time?” he asked quietly.

Blair turned from the phone, put an arm around him and nodded. Wordlessly, he laid Troy back down and held him tightly in his arms. He kissed him, and then pressed his cheek on Troy’s. “I don’t want to go,” he said.

Troy squeezed him tightly in his arms. “Don’t go.”

Blair rocked him. “I’ll work out a way,” He whispered’. “I’ll work out a way for us to be together this summer.”

“How?” Troy asked.

Blair kissed the side of his face. “I don’t know yet. But I will.”

Blair continued rocking him, and kissed the side of his face until Troy rolled to his back, pulling Blair on to him. “Go slow,” he whispered, and Blair smiled because they had gone slow every time, and he wouldn’t rush this.

Troy lifted his legs and they used spit to lubricate each other. They had quit using condoms when they ran out of the samples the morning before.

Blair lay on him and wrapped his arms under the back of Troy’s shoulders. Then he lifted his hips and Troy guided him in with his hand. Blair went as deep as he could while keeping their torsos tightly together, and Troy pulled his knees higher to take him more deeply. And then they moved, in slow circles and long strokes while they alternately kissed and hugged.

Blair hadn’t even come when after almost thirty minutes, he pulled from Troy and they rolled to put Troy on top.

He entered Blair and with his longer length, made their joining even deeper. And when, after another twenty minutes, his orgasm could be held back no longer, they tightened their hold and he pressed hard against Blair, forcing Blair’s orgasm with his own.

When they were done, Blair lowered and straightened his legs with a kiss to the top of Troy’s head. Troy pulled out and moved up into Blair’s arms. “Don’t forget me,” Troy said softly. “Don’t forget about this summer.”

Blair tightened his embrace. “I promise,” he said. “I’ll find some way for us to be together.”

. . . . .

Jake was the first to return to Rose’s house, arriving with Hudson shortly before eleven. Tyler, Mitch, Blair, and Troy arrived next, and while Mitch helped Tyler repack in one bedroom, Blair pulled Jake into the other. Hudson and Troy followed.

“Look,” Blair said to Jake, opening the large cardboard portfolio he had carried in. Inside were sketches on large paper. The first was a portrait of Blair in charcoal.

“Wow, that’s good,” Jake said, and Hudson nodded over his shoulder. Blair grinned at Troy, who smiled back, pleased.

Blair pulled the top sketch aside, and the next was clearly of Blair, nude, on his stomach, a leg bent. The lines in the drawing were long, and languid. A small smile was sketched on Blair’s face. Jake looked up from the sketch to find a big smile on Blair’s face.

“It’s beautiful,” Hudson said quietly. Jake nodded, eyes wide.

Then Blair revealed the next sketch, of him on his back, nude, his arms behind his head. His cock hanging thick but loose out toward his hip, and his eyes looked up invitingly from the paper with a kiss-me smile.

“Oh, damn,” Jake gasped.

“Double damn,” Hudson echoed.

And then Blair revealed the last sketch. This one didn’t have the smooth lines, or the practiced hand of the first three, but instead, showed a nude that was clearly meant to be Troy, on his side, with a leg forward to hide his middle. The sketch was nevertheless good, and Blair had done an excellent job of capturing a haunting intelligence in Troy’s eyes.

Both Jake and Hudson glanced up at Troy, comparing the sketch.

“These are great!” Jake said with true enthusiasm.

“And we left more back at Troy’s house. What do ya think? Cool, huh?”

“Way cool,” Hudson agreed.

Jake studied Troy with respect, and thought about asking Troy to sketch Hudson. But then decided it wouldn’t be good idea. Troy was cute and they might…

. . . . .

When they came back to the living room, Ethan and Brandon were showing dance steps to Tyler and Mitch. Then, when Rose came from the kitchen, they took her between them to show off her line dancing.

But Rose wasn’t in a mood to be that happy.

As she surveyed the living room and saw the boys in pairs, and saw the looks in their eyes, she remembered a time, years and years before, when she stood at the dock in San Diego with other wives and saw her husband off to sea. It’s the same damn thing, she thought, lovers seeing each other off.

They packed out the car, the travelers saying barely a word to each other; but each talked with his lover. They returned to the living room and thanked Rose who frowned and refrained from inviting them back. Jake kissed her cheek. “You better head back to the kitchen for a few minutes, Grandma. This could get ugly.”

Rose’s eyes rolled back to heaven, and she held up imploring hands. Then she turned and vanished into the kitchen.

“Joaquin,” Hudson said, stepping close.

Jake wrapped his arms around Hudson’s waist, pulling his belly hard to his own, and bent him back in a kiss, while Hudson wrapped slender arms over Jake’s shoulders.

Brandon watched, and noted the use of Jake’s given name and Jake’s uncharacteristically public manliness. But then Ethan pulled him around, and molded his body to Brandon’s.

“White Sugar,” Ethan said softly.

“Brown Sugar,” Brandon replied, and he didn’t see Jake roll his eyes as he overheard.

“Special friends, White Sugar?” Ethan asked.

“Special friends, Brown Sugar.” Brandon confirmed.

Jake stiffened, and that Brandon did see out of the corner of his eye. And he regretted ever sharing that term, special friends, with Ethan. It was his and Jake’s term.

Jake pulled Hudson tighter.

Troy and Blair held each other tightly and kissed slowly, sensuously. “I’ll call you,” Blair promised. “As soon as we’re home, I’ll give you a call.” And then he kissed slowly, tenderly over Troy’s face.

Tyler watched them from the corner of his eye, while he kissed Mitch, and wondered what he might have missed out on.

The kissing went on until Tyler finally stepped from Mitch’s embrace. “We are leaving today, right?”

There were final, hurried, exchanges of promises to write or call, and to meet again. Brandon gave Rose an extra hard hug. “You can come back,” she whispered. “And Ethan.”

At the car, Jake took the driver’s seat. Brandon wasn’t ready to sit next to Jake in the passenger seat. Even if Jake wasn’t mad at him, which he suspected Jake was, Brandon wasn’t sure that he wasn’t mad at Jake.

Tyler followed Brandon into the back seat. Blair had been way too spacey over the black-haired kid, and besides, if they were going to get anything on during the trip home, he wanted more of Brandon.

As they watched the car pull away, Mitch turned to Troy. “Ready to ride back?”

Troy nodded, still watching. And while Troy’s eyes were on the car, Mitch’s eyes studied him, looked over his body, and returned to the dark eyes, staring with a fathomless expression after the car. Mitch reached out and patted his shoulder. “Your name’s Troy, right?” Mitch asked.

Hudson watched sadly, as the car disappeared down the block. A tear ran down his cheek.

Ethan noticed, and turned away. He was strangely close to tears himself; too close. He headed for his car. Ethan had no interest in the redhead, especially after the redhead he’d just had. No-one was going to compare favorably with Brandon.

But as he reached the car, Ethan stopped. That other redhead, Hudson, was feeling the same things he was. And even if Ethan wasn’t interested in a lover, Brandon had made him interested in having a friend. He turned back and caught Hudson as he reached his car.

“Want to go for a cup of coffee or a soda?” Ethan asked.

Hudson looked up, surprised.

“Look, man,” Ethan said, “I’m not trying to come on to you. I just think we’re both sad today and I thought it might be good to just… you know… go somewhere.”

Hudson smiled, and nodded.

It was silent in the car, except for yawns all around. Each one of them had made the last night special with their San Antonio lover. But fatigue was far from the only reason for the silence. There was a heaviness in the air.

Within a few minutes, Brandon and Blair were both asleep.

“When you need help driving,” Tyler said over the seat to Jake, “Just let me know.”

Jake looked at him in the mirror, and nodded. Then Tyler leaned back and closed his eyes.

Jake was mildly surprised by how he felt, being back in the same car with Brandon. Or more exactly, what he didn’t feel. There was an initial impulse to embrace him, an initial joy at seeing him. But he held back, and it passed. In fact, it died when he heard Ethan use what had been their private term, special friends. Jake had thought special friends was a final step before… well something deep, something permanent, something long-lastingly intimate between Brandon and him. But evidently to Brandon, special friends only meant somebody to fuck with.

And now, all he wanted to think about was the feel of Hudson’s slender arms over his shoulders, the softness of Hudson’s lips on his own, and the sound of Hudson’s voice saying ‘Joaquin.’”

. . . . .

Davey looked over to the other first class seat. Mickey was asleep on the pillow, and Davey pulled the blanket they shared higher over him. He thought back to earlier that afternoon, and their last time with Grandpa Bentolli.

The old man had stood with an arm around each of them and said, “Before you go, I want to give you a Grandfather’s blessing.”

Davey stroked Mickey’s arm as he remembered the tears that silently flowed down Mickey’s cheek. He didn’t understand that approaching death had converted the old man’s attitude toward the two of them. He didn’t know the things that went on in Grandpa Bentolli’s heart on his last visit to San Antonio, as he looked through their scrapbooks and saw how close they had been all their lives. Nor did he understand how the old man’s fervent prayers for his grandsons – Michael by blood, Davey by the adoption of his heart – had filled that old man’s heart with even more love for the two of them. All Davey knew was that the old man loved them both, and that between Grandpa Bentolli and Mickey, a very deep bond had formed.

He remembered Grandpa Bentolli’s tears, as with a hand on each of their heads, he said slowly and carefully, “May you prosper in all you do.” He pulled their heads closer to his own. “… May you bless the world you live in, and be esteemed by those who know you.” He kissed Davey’s head. “… May you live long together.” He kissed Michael’s head. “… May you be in love, every day you live” He pulled them close until their foreheads touched his own. “… And may you always stay best friends in this life, and the one to come.” And then he pulled them close in a fragile embrace.

He didn’t know how long the old man would live, but Davey knew that Mickey had sadness ahead. But he could make Mickey happy. That was his favorite thing to do. That was part of what he was made for.

There was not a doubt in Davey’s mind that some providential hand had given Mickey to him. He was supposed to take care of Mickey. He would always take care of him.

Davey had an idea how to make Mickey happy. He would ask Fred how to get Cats costumes. Fred knew about stuff like that.

. . . . .

They took turns sleeping, and even when someone other than the driver was also awake, they spoke little. When they stopped for gas outside El Paso, Brandon followed Jake to the john.

“You mad at me Jake?” he asked from the adjacent urinal.

Jake shrugged. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” Brandon said. “You just aren’t saying much.

“I’m tired,” Jake answered. That was true enough; he was tired. And he just didn’t feel like making the effort with Brandon. After all, someone else had finally said what Jake had wanted to hear for so long from Brandon; someone who Jake liked a lot. Hudson had told him, “I love you,” not meaning some platonic, best friend type of love, but a deep, I’m in love with you love.

And now, he didn’t want to be just friends, or best friends, or sure-as-hell not ‘special friends’ with Brandon—to only ache watching him leave with other guys from parties. It might not be Hudson, but someday, Jake wanted to find his own Michael Bentolli; someone mature, faithful, loving. And it might not be Brandon either. If Brandon wanted any relationship, he needed to get his act together, because Jake had been hurt and Jake had been loved. He wanted love. “I’m just really tired,” he repeated.

Brandon nodded. “I sure understand that! So then, is everything between us back to like it was before?” Brandon asked.

“Not really,” Jake answered, shaking off. He threw a cold glance at Brandon and walked out.

Jake climbed into the back of the car. Blair drove. Brandon took the front passenger seat. He glanced back once, after they had driven a while, and Jake was already asleep. There had been a finality to those last words Jake had said, as if what had been between them was now dead for good.

Brandon was tired too; dead tired. And he blamed that for the tears that seemed so close. Jake wasn’t his only friend. He had Ethan. But Jake was the only one that mattered to him. Brandon closed his eyes before they could fill with tears. He was so damned tired. And it hurt like hell to lose your best friend.

End Part I

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