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The contents of this story are fictional. Any resemblance of characters to living or lived persons is strictly coincidental. Certain characters engage in sexual acts which may or may not be legal in the state or country in which a reader may reside. Any reader with objections to graphic descriptions of sexual encounters between males who may not have reached the legal age of consent, or whose local, regional, state or national jurisprudence prohibits such descriptions, should not read further.

Chapter XX

Thursday, July 8, 1993

We woke at the same time, in our "comfort" position, me on his left shoulder. We always seemed to end up like that, even if we slept most of the night in a "spoon."

He kissed me on the forehead and whispered "I love you," and I replied "I love you, Brad" back, twice, the second time just shouting it. He didn't hear anything at all.

"I love you Brad." I said in a soft voice. I felt cheated that we couldn't do it on the "phone" any more. Again.

"You okay?"

"Yeah. What time is it?"

"Five, maybe five fifteen," he said in a normal voice. "Can't sleep."

"Wanna get up?" I wasn't sure I was ready to face the day, the funeral, the crematorium. But we had to get it over with, had to do it one day or another.

"Might's well," he said, planting a kiss on my nose. "Can't avoid it." Even without the telephone, we communicate pretty good.

It was weird getting up from Mom and Dad's bed. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Mom and Dad, getting up and thinking 'the boys are probably still asleep in their rooms, time to get ready for work/fix breakfast, wake the boys for school.' They did that for years and years and years, and they still loved each other as strongly as ever. I think -- I never knew the first part, of course. I wondered if they felt the same way about each other as Brad and I feel.

Then the thought came to me, if Brad died, I wouldn't want to be alone for the rest of my life. So Mom probably felt that way about Dad, and Dad about Mom. Maybe after death, they were still allowed to be together, even though their souls were united into God. I said a little prayer, hoping He would let them have that.

"Loon?" Brad's voice was a little strained. "I heard you last night."

"I know. I heard you once too."

"But not this morning."

"No." I almost managed to put my boxers back on, using just my one hand, but Brad had to help me get them up. He copped a long feel as he did, and I got a great kiss as a reward.

My shoulder ached, and there were jabs of pain when I didn't keep it still. I picked up my shorts and Birks, ready to go back to my room and get fresh. I needed the pain pill, pretty bad. Not the woozy stuff that I got with a whole one, just the soft edges the half pill produced.

Brad threw on his shorts, but not the boxers. He led the way out the door, then stopped. "Good morning," he said. Boo? Already?

I poked through the space between Brad and the door, and saw Munoz, still rising from the chair in the hall where he'd obviously been sitting all night.

"Up so early?"

"It's not easy sleeping," Brad said.

"We won't let them hurt you any more," Munoz said. "I promise you.".

"It's not that. It's the funeral." Brad said. I couldn't see his face, but I could hear the hint of tears dammed.

"I know," said Munoz. "I wish I could protect you from that, too. But I'm just a cop."

"I gotta get dressed," Brad said brusquely, and took the few paces towards his room.

Munoz moved forward quickly and stopped him from going in. "Let me," he said, opening the door quickly, looking around the room, his right hand by his hip, like he was ready to pull his gun.

"You think?" Brad asked.

"No, but it's best to be sure," he said. He looked at Brad's naked chest quickly, a nanosecond. "Don't get cold," he said, stepping away from the door..

I thought that was a strange comment from a cop on duty. Almost as if . . .then I understood, I think. He wanted to protect, but he couldn't figure how to protect from some things, like the fact that they were already dead, and all he could think of was if not that, maybe he could protect from a cold . . .? Does that make any sense? Like Mom and Dad felt, when they tried to talk to us about drugs and stuff?

I squeezed past him on the way to my room, but he stopped me, too. Same routine. I didn't like that, the idea of always worrying if another bullet is waiting for you. I was glad he was there.

I grabbed clean stuff and went into the bathroom. Munoz was gone, the chair was moved back into the kitchen. Brad was on the john. He tried to make a big deal out of it, but I told him to just chill, I needed to take a pain pill, and I wanted to brush my teeth.

"I can't take a crap when you're right next to me!" he said in a loud whisper.

"Why not?" I said flippantly. "I've been there, you've been inside me -- still are, for that matter." I swallowed the half caplet left over from last night.

"It's . . . embarrassing!"

"Oh, come on, Brad." I said. "We're going to be together the rest of our lives. I'm gonna hold the bedpan for you when you're in the hospital, and you'll hold it for me. When you get the flu, I'll be there, just like you'll be there for me. You think your shit is gonna stink any worse or better to me than it does to you?" I held out the toothpaste to him, silently asking for help.

"It's not that," he said. "It's . . . " He got this sort of startled look on his face as he took the tube and popped the cap.

"What?" I said, holding the toothbrush while he was putting toothpaste on the brush.

"I was gonna say dirty, but then I thought maybe you're right."

"Triumph! Let's mark the day! Tim was actually right about something." I started brushing.

Brad let loose a fart, and his stools shot into the water. The smell was just the smell. Brad's smelled just like mine, but a little different.

"Wanna wipe me, now?" Brad grinned evilly.

I spit out the foam. "Don't push your luck, Brad. I clean it, I'm gonna use it."

"Sounds good to me," he said, wiping himself with a wad of paper. "I'll keep that in mind."

He stood and looked at his stool, then flushed. I think we all do that, we just never talk about it. The Germans even had -- maybe still have -- these amazing platform toilets, where your stool sits up high after you shit, and your pee goes right down the hole in front. There's a little bit of water, but not much. I guess it's for better examination of the stools. Weird. Then you flush, and everything goes down the hole in front. It works. This is true, really! I've seen them! Frankfurt am Mainz Hauptbahnhof -- the main railway station in Frankfurt -- had them. Honest!

I shaved, and Brad's smell made my dump easier, so I sat on the toilet while he brushed, and we got over that little hurdle. Brad showered, and I just stood at the very back of the shower and let him wash me. Couldn't shampoo me, because of the bandages, of course. He was evil -- he put a finger inside my butt and cleaned there as well, all the way up to the prostate, making me hard.. His dick was half hard, but he wasn't in the mood for sex, and I guess I wasn't either. Well, maybe a little.

He dried me - it was faster. Helped me put on my underwear and a loose cotton shirt -- one of Dad's. It felt funny with that sleeve just hanging there, empty. We wore shorts for breakfast --our suits would come soon enough.

"Good mornin'," said Boo as we moseyed into the kitchen, drawn by the smell of the coffee. Munoz was at the little table by the door, sipping a mug of coffee and eating toast points from a plate. He looked really tired, and I felt sorry for him. His smirk wasn't there. He picked his radiophone up and listened to someone say something, but said only "four" and put it back down on the table.

Just as we sat down and swallowed the vitamin pills, Throckmorton's Jag pulled up the drive and onto the back apron. He got out, and was dressed in a black suit, black tie. I'd never seen that outfit. He walked briskly to the back door and came in.

"Good Morning, Mrs. Holmes, Officer Munoz," he said. I don't think Thurston is comfortable with first names until he really knows people well. "Hello Brad, Tim. Sleep well?"

He didn't really want to know. It was just an ice breaker. He accepted a mug of coffee from Boo, and sat across the table from us.

"Just want to give you a little idea of what the day holds in store," he said. "We'll be leaving for the Church at 1:15. Reverend Alexander will be here at nine to brief you on your duties. Services are at two. The caskets will go to the Crematorium at three thirty, and there will be a very brief informal service at four. At four fifteen, we leave to come back here."

"When de we get the . . . urns?" Brad asked.

"Not until tomorrow morning," Thurston said. "Probably around eleven o'clock."

"We're going directly up to Radford tomorrow, as soon as we have them," Brad said. "But we have a problem."

"Which is. . . ?"

"We -- I -- don't have a car any more."

"Already taken care of," Thurston said. "The insurance company has totaled the Cherokee, and will have a dealer deliver a new one this afternoon. Your car (he looked at Brad) was insured as well, and I expect the insurance will cover it, but it was so old . . ."

I saw the look on Brad's face. The 'Maro was priceless to him, but only worth maybe a thousand as far as the insurance company was concerned. I changed the subject. "Was the Cherokee that badly damaged?" I asked. It didn't look that bad when I "saw" it.

"No," Thurston said, a little awkwardly. "But when a vehicle is the scene of a murder, and there is . . . evidence . . . the car is destroyed and replaced as a matter of course."

Made sense.

"There's my relief," said Munoz.

I looked out the door, and a familiar face under a hat and over a snug uniform was at the back door. It looked like he was the same cop who had been outside my hospital door.

He went to knock, but Munoz opened the door to let him in.

"You're early! Just in time for coffee," said Munoz. He was being downright friendly. Him, the Ice Man.

"Thanks," said the cop, stepping in. "Figured you'd need a few minutes to give me the lay of the land."

"I'm Jorge Munoz," he said, extending his hand.

"David Saw," said the new arrival, shaking Munoz hand, then nodding at each of us as Munoz introduced us. Saw knew all of us by sight, of course, but we'd never been introduced. In the light of day, he was very, very good-looking. Shorter than I'd thought, probably five nine, about 150. Black hair, crystal blue eyes. Very trim, athletic build.

"How's that shoulder doing?" he said to me.

"Lucky I'm right handed," I said. "Can't do a darned thing with it right now."

"Still hurting?"

"Not much. They've turned me into a junkie with pain-killers," I said. He was nice. I wondered if he was related to . .  .of course!

"Are you Daniel's son?"

"The same!" he said with a grin. "He been telling tales again?"

"No," Brad said. "You just looked like you were. We met him when we . . . when he was here gathering information."

Boo handed him a mug. "Cream in the pitcher, sugar on the table," she said. "Officer Munoz, would you like some more, or are you going to get some sleep?

"Coffee's great, Boo, but I gotta hit a pillow." Munoz was talking to Boo, but his eyes were on Saw. All of him. All the time. Either Munoz had the hots for Saw, or he saw something about Saw I didn't. Like I said, Saw is very good looking. David Saw was no dummy, either -- he knew Munoz was looking at him, and he looked to me to be fine with it. Very fine. He seemed more . . . animated. I wondered if he was flirting.

Munoz and Saw went into the front room to talk, and Thurston started to wrap up his briefing on the day. Boo would not have to cook, as a caterer would bring in a light supper for us and some of the neighbors when we got back from the crematorium. He advised us to eat very lightly at lunch, and to drink only a little water. "Because you'll be on your feet quite a while," he said.

David Saw would be with us at all times, and there would be extra security for us -- as well as the unit attached to the Lieutenant Governor, who had confirmed privately that he would attend the service, but asked that the press not be informed.

"There is one thing we haven't covered yet," Thurston said. "Gary Davies and his wife have asked if they might be allowed to come to the crematorium with you. No publicity, no announcements. He and your father were very close, and he wants to say good-bye without people . . . noticing."

I wondered at that. Dad never talked about him at home, and Mom neither. I knew they went to some things at the Davies' home sometimes, but they'd not been to our house in ages.

I looked at Brad to see how he felt about it, just as he looked at me. We didn't "talk," but he saw that I had no objection.

"No . . . groupies?" Brad asked Thurston.

"Groupies?" Thurston asked.

"You know, guards and secretaries and all that stuff."

"His security detail will be with him, of course," said Thurston, "but they'll stay completely outside the circle."

"Okay," Brad said, checking again with me with a glance.

"I'll call him from the office and let him know," said Thurston. "He'll be very grateful. He and your Dad went through a lot in Vietnam together."

"Were they in the same . . . whatever they are in the Army?" Brad asked. "Unit?"

"They were at Khe Sahn together," said Thurston. "Your Dad saved his life when he got hit by a mortar fragment in the field. Carried him out of the battle on his back. They never discussed it much, but I saw the citation that was awarded with his medal, and it detailed it. Your Dad was a very brave man."

I never knew that -- all that time, and I never knew. Dad would never discuss the War, like he was not willing to open that chapter of his life.

Munoz left by the front door, apparently, because Saw came back by himself, and took the same chair Munoz had used, near the door. He wasn't as . . . silent? No, stealthy . . . as Munoz. He seemed a little young, but that was probably only my making comparison with Munoz.

Thurston left at about seven thirty, before William and Jeremy made their appearance. We watched the morning news for a while, but it was the same old same old. Boo changed my dressing, and said it was doing all right, draining like it was supposed to. I'm glad I didn't have to look at it. Brad wouldn't. He kept his eyes glued to the TV the whole time. When Boo changed his, I saw how close I'd come to losing him. It made me mad inside that someone would do that. His forehead was all yellowy-blue around the red groove that showed where the bullet had streaked by him. He was going to have a big scar, the rest of his life.

William and Jeremy finally came out just as Boo threw the old dressings into the bin, sealed in a big baggie. We had breakfast, and Boo offered Saw, too. He'd already eaten, he said. Jeremy was having a hard time keeping his eyes in his head. William rolled his, and swatted Jeremy a couple of times to keep him in line. He told us later, when Boo and Saw were out of earshot, that Jeremy was completely harmless, "never played around with other fellas, but regularly ravished the good looking ones with his eyes." Jeremy didn't even register the remark as being important, just said he was only human.

Jonathan Alexander showed up at eight thirty. We went into the living room and prayed together for a few minutes. Brad and Jonathan and I held hands, but it felt hollow somehow, because the last time we had prayed together, Brad and I had been together as we prayed, now we were only together. David Saw sat in the dining room, where he could see us, but not intrude.

Jonathan then told us what we were to do at each service. Basically, we just watched, from the front row, but then we walked out with him and stood at the door of the church to thank each person who came, as they left.

Normally, we would then wait outside for the coffins to come out, get loaded into the hearses, and join the cortege right behind the hearse for the ride to the crematorium. But the police wanted us to stay inside the church lobby until the coffins were in the hearse, then go out one of the side doors and get in the limo. The police would decide which door at the last minute, and we would get a signal from them where to go.

At the crematorium, we would have just a few moments of silent prayer, then the Lord's prayer, and we would watch the coffins be lowered into the crypt. I was relieved that we wouldn't see them going into the ovens.

Somehow, everything sounded clinical. Where we sat, what we did, who we followed. I felt a little numb, probably because of the painkillers.

Everything went exactly as planned. Until we left the crematorium.

We dressed -- or rather, Brad dressed us -- after we ate a little tuna salad in tomatoes, me in my dark blue suit and Brad in his dark charcoal gray one. We had a problem with the left arm, of course, and Boo had to be called to help us figure out what to do. At least I didn't have to put my arm through any sleeves. She used a lot of safety pins out of Mom's sewing kit.

The limo picked us up at 1:10. A stretch Caddy, with a back seat and a long side seat that curved around behind the partition. Mr. Sprach, one of my paper route customers, provided it. Only Boo, Brad, and me were in the back, with David Saw next to the driver. Jeremy and William left in the Bentley a little later. I started feeling awfully small.

We got through the service okay, only a few tears. I don't really remember much, just the coffins, the people filling the church, the organ rumbling. Brad and I held hands, and he kept close to me all the way through.

I was apparently not a dolt, even spoke with Mr. Davies for a few minutes, but don't ask me what I said. His wife Lisa,  was nice. She told me about how her and my Mom used to console each other when their husbands were so busy getting their careers under way. I hadn't known that they lived in the same street just after they were married, until they moved to Sacramento. It's amazing how much you don't know about your own parents.

Davies didn't look me in the eye for more than a split second. Just looked through me. I managed to not cry much -- and I was surprised at how many people were in tears. Munoz was there, which pleased me. So was everybody from the neighborhood, it seemed, and most of the people I knew from SacPro. There were a lot of people I didn't know at all. I felt like they were almost intruders, but I guess they had a right to grieve too. We all have friends our family knows not at all.

The coffins were wheeled down the aisle, and I felt nothing. Mom and Dad were already long gone to Him.

As soon as the doors were closed on the hearse, the church doors closed, and we were hustled over to the North door, where the Limo pulled up at exactly the instant we opened the door. Saw went in front of us. Boo was already in the back.

It was just the four cars that went to the crematorium - the hearse, the limo, the Bentley and an unmarked police car. Thurston was with Jeremy and William and a plainclothesman. Reverend Alexander drove on ahead, before we left. The Davies went by a different route, and got there before us. They were waiting at the door to the chapel, and there was a gray Ford Crown Victoria in the parking lot, which I guessed was theirs. I didn't see any bodyguards.

We all went in together. Mr. And Mrs. Davies stood right behind us, and I was glad they were there in a way. They were a link with Mom and Dad's life before I was part of it.

The Crematorium was just like a church, except there were no crosses or stars or anything. The coffins went up on a sort of table, or dais, and the lights went down low. Brad and I joined hands in front of the coffins and Jonathan led us in prayer, and I stumbled on the words of the Lord's Prayer, and that's where it hit me, that I'd never again see or hear them, never play catch with Dad, or fish, or make him proud with my grades. No more hugs from Mom, no more calls at the Ump because he was blind, no more . . .

I just let go, and so did Brad, and we cried like babies as the coffins sank from sight into the table, the hollow in my chest so painful I couldn't breath. I couldn't blow my nose right with one hand, and Brad helped me, and we walked arm in arm down the long aisle of the empty chapel, tears flowing. Mr. And Mrs. Davies were behind us. Mr. Davies was weeping, and Lisa's eyes were streaking. Thurston stayed behind, head bowed in front of the dais which was almost an altar, but not quite.

As we walked out the door, the limo was waiting.  So was a photographer and a reporter. Saw got between us and them, and Boo ran interference as well, and we scurried into the waiting car. But I heard the question. "Mr. Weston! Is it true somebody shot you?"

"In the car," said Boo. It was an order, not to be ignored.

Brad said "No comment." Emulating Throckmorton, no doubt.

The photographer was taking pictures at a mile a minute, the flash popping constantly. (I thought they had to recharge!) We got in, and Boo got in back with us while Saw took shotgun. One of the cops stood in between them and the door. The windows were tinted, so the photographer stopped once we were inside the limo. Mr. And Mrs. Davies stood at the top of the steps, watching the antics, probably relieved they were out of the ring for the moment. Thurston came out and said something to the reporter, then walked towards the Bentley.

"How did that guy get in?" Boo asked in a loud voice. She was mad.

"No idea," said Saw. "They were supposed to have the gate controlled."

"Nice," Boo said. "What if that camera had been a thirty-eight?" We waited for Jeremy and the poice car to pull up behind us.

Saw said nothing, but his jaw muscles were like ropes. He spoke into his radio. I couldn't tell what he was saying, but he was as ticked as Boo. After a minute, he turned back and said "They were I.D.'d at the gate. Both check out."

Then we heard a "crack!" from somewhere to our right, and I saw Mr. Davies fall like a rock to the steps, where he was standing watching us leave, holding his wife's hand. He dragged he down with him, under him. The reporter and the photographer had started to walk towards a white Ford Aerostar next to the gray Ford, apparently not noticing Governor -- sorry, Lieutenant Governor -- Davies.

The next seconds are a blur. The driver floored the accelerator, and we almost spun out as we roared around the little curve away from the door. I saw two guys come out nowhere, with guns in their hands, and heard another crack, just as the window next to me turned into a shower of crystal that blew back on the seat. While all this was happening, Boo had me on the floor, sending huge stabs of pain through my shoulder. I don't remember how all this happened very well after that. I heard some shots from behind us, felt the car spin around some, felt Brad underneath me, then a shot from up front. and tires squealing.

Boo yelled out "Go! Go! Go!"

There was a siren, then a bunch of them, then we were on the freeway, I guess, and slowed down.

"You all right back there?" shouted Saw. The open window made a lot of noise.

"Loon, are you all right?" Brad yelled. "What happened?"

Saw said nothing, at least not that I heard. I can't remember if I answered Brad.

Boo made us stay on the floor another minute or so, then helped me sit back on the side seat. Where I'd been sitting was covered with all the little blocks of glass from the window. Boo sat on the end, and Brad with his back to the partition. We were holding hands.

Saw was on his radio, and the police car was next to us.

Boo sat back, mad but silent, as we rode the rest of the way home.

"Governor Davies is down," said Saw.

The car radio said nothing, just traffic reports and headlines.

By the time we got home, my shoulder had stopped hurting so much. Brad and I said nothing. There were a bunch of people at the house when we got there. A new white Cherokee was in the garage, the door open. It still didn't have a license plate. just the dealer's advertisement.

Saw was real unhappy when he saw all that, and spoke into the radio a lot. I guess he got clearance from somebody that we could stay.

Our neighbors were throwing a party for us at the house. Mrs. Holt has a key, and they all just pitched in, bringing punch, wine for the adults, sodas for the rest of us (Although Hal Ripley poured me a glass of nice Chardonnay) salads, cold meat trays, barbecued wings, deviled eggs, bean salad, the lot. Mrs. Sprague made a bunch of pies. The Strohmeyers were both there, along with the Ripleys, Billy and his folks, Jonathan and his wife Shelly and their son Justin, Bud and his Mom, Dave Garibaldi and his family, and lots more. When the caterers got there, they sort of took over everything, and served everybody as if it was all pre-arranged. Jeremy made goo-goo eyes at one of the waiters, an entirely too effeminate guy for my tastes. But then., I've got Brad.

There were three cops there, looking completely il at ease, hovering in the background. Saw was never more than three feet from me and Brad, and he got lots of looks. He got a lot lots of looks from the women.

I used to think wakes were just a lot of hoke, but now I'm not so sure. It was good to have people around, to keep our minds off what had just happened, to hear the stories over again. "I remember when . . ." My Mom and Dad were blessed with many friends, and some of them are my friends still. Brad and I stuck pretty close all afternoon, until the party sort of petered out around eight.

Saw told us at one point that Mr. Davies was in the hospital, but would be all right. A single bullet missed his heart and an artery by an inch. Lisa was all right. One of the bodyguards had been killed, shielding Davies from another bullet. I thought about the cop. He probably had a wife, kids, just doing his job, and "snuff!" All his happy days ahead thrown down the violent drain.

No gunman was found. Somebody saw a little black foreign car speed way from the little park abutting the parking lot next to the crematorium, but it disappeared.

Thurston left as soon as we got back to the house. His hands shook when he took my hand to say goodbye. "I loved your Mom and Dad a great deal," he said. No more.

The caterers left before the guests. Bud stayed and helped with the cleanup, but there wasn't much. I think it was Mrs. Ripley that had things so organized that all we had to do was throw stuff in the dishwasher after the first load was done, and put stuff away, like the lawn chairs, the umbrellas and the tables. Jeremy and William pitched in a lot. I was useless, of course.

Afterwards, William and Jeremy, Jud, Brad and I sat in the family room shooting shit. Boo changed my dressing in the bathroom, then went into her room, and the guy that replaced Saw was in the alcove by the door, out of earshot. We watched the TV main news. The lead story, of course, was that "Lieutenant Governor Davies had been attacked in front of a church where he'd been attending a funeral of a personal friend." He was in serious but stable condition, and expected to fully recover, but would be in the hospital for an unspecified time. The reporter that was there was interviewed, and he said that Davies had lost consciousness, but was still alive, and the helicopter got him to the hospital in less than fifteen minutes.

At some stage or other, Bud asked Jeremy how long William and he had been together, and we went down a path I hadn't expected at all. Bud basically wanted to tell somebody he was gay, and I think it was me. He'd only told Brad, and sworn him to secrecy.

The conversation turned to Jeremy and William, and Bud asked them if they were "together."

"Of course!" said Jeremy. "My life would be unbearable without William." They exchanged a gaze -- you could almost see the beam connecting their eyes.

Bud asked Jeremy how he knew he was in love with William the first time, and how he'd found out whether or not William "loved him back."

"It crept up on me," said Jeremy. "I liked him at once, grew fond of him quickly, and just woke up one morning and realized that I was in love with him."

Then Jud told us, except I already knew, of course, and William and Jeremy didn't know Geoff, that he thought he was in love. I think he was surprised that I didn't react. So he dropped the bombshell.

"We're seeing each other now," he said.

Brad looked stunned. "But I thought you said . . ."

"I know," said Bud. "But I had to know if he might like me, so I asked him over to look at my painting."

"And? AND?" Bud teased.

"He kissed me," Bud said, blushing. "We . . . I mean . . .Mom was home, so we didn't . . . you know."

"Are you gonna?" I asked. I looked at William and Jeremy for support.

"I don' know," said Bud. "I really wanna, but I don't want him thinkin' I'm easy."

"Just follow your heart, Bud," said Jeremy. "Take your time, plan it ahead together. If you talk about it like it's important, and set a day and time when you'll do it together, it'll be beautiful when you actually do it for the first time together."

"I don't know about . . . fuckin' each other," Bud said. "I'm too big down there, and I'm scared it'll hurt."

"You, or him?" William asked.

"Both, I guess," said Bud.

Jeremy spoke carefully. "Bud, it always hurts the first time you do it. Sometimes it hurts every time, for a long time. But if you're with someone you love, and who loves you, it can be one of the most fulfilling things you'll ever do together."

"As for size," William said, "he'll find a way to take you inside him, just like you'll be able to take him, too. Maybe not all the way, not at first, but it will work out."

William then proceeded to give Bud a verbal Kama Sutra, suggesting various positions for penetration which could be controlled by the receiver. All very clinical, not at all lascivious. I was all ears - there were positions we'd never even thought of in the list, and I looked at Brad at a couple of points to see if he was paying attention. He was. His pants bulged.

Jeremy interjected here and there, helping to clarify some points. Brad and I remained silent. Occasionally, William would look at me and Brad, and I began to get a bit uncomfortable. I wondered if he . . . suspected that we were gay as well.

I didn't wonder for long. After Bud left, and we were emptying the last load from the dishwasher, Jeremy popped the question in a roundabout manner. "Bud seems like a . . . very nice boy."

"He is," said Brad. "He's been my best buddy since we were in third grade."

"He's very handsome. I'm surprised you didn't fall for him yourself."

"I had a crush on him for a while," Brad said.

I held my breath. Brad was coming out!

"But we never did anything. I love him, but not like . . .not like I was in love with him." He looked over at me, and the look might as well have been a neon sign.

"You're sure?" Jeremy asked.

"Don't be ridiculous, Jeremy," William said. "It's perfectly obvious who he loves first."

There was an awkward silence for a second as Brad groped for words. Then he just spit it out.

"I love Tim more than I deserve," Brad said back.

"Tim?" Jeremy said softly. He looked at me in disbelief. "Our Tim?"

"Of course," Brad said, "Didnít you know?"

For once, Jeremy was struck dumb. William had to ride in to the rescue. "That's wonderful!" he said. How long have you . . . known?"

"I've known for years," said Brad. "I fought it, I really did, but I'm so in love with him, I finally had to tell him. Last week."

I moved over and sat beside him, leaning into him. He held my hand, but couldn't put his arm around me because of my shoulder.

"Holy shit," whispered Jeremy. "Holy shit!"

William just sat there and beamed.

I'd taken another half of a pain pill, and was a little numb, but really tired. I didn't want to talk any more about it, not right then, so Brad and I said goodnight to our uncles, and we went to Mom and Dad's room.

"You've got balls," I said as we closed the door, and Brad was helping me take off my suit. It took forever to find all the safety pins.

"We can't live in a cave," he said. "I figure Jeremy and William are too important not to tell.'

"What about Thurston?" I mused. "And Jud, and . . . "

"Thurston doesn't need to know," he said as the last safety pin was found. "I . . . I told Jud . . . a long time ago."


"Before we graduated. I needed to talk to somebody about it, and I couldn't tell anybody else."

"What about me?" I teased.

"Especially not that," he said. "I was so afraid you'd hate for being a . . . queer."

"Brad, I love you more every minute." We clinched, but my shoulder got a stab, and I winced. He kissed away my hurt.

I don't think we did anything that night, just cuddled into each other, loved each other, and talked about Mom and Dad, the things we'd done together. As I drifted into sleep, I asked God to watch over Mr. Davies, me and my man, Jeremy and William, Bud and Geoff, and the people who'd shown their love for our family that day.

I asked the Devil to do some very nasty things to the person or people that did all the damage to so many lives. I think writing them down would be pointless.