Double Trails




Chapter 64

-- ERIK --

"Five minutes to New Year's," Tracer said softly to me.

We were watching the countdown on TV while lying in bed.

"You know what they say about New Year's?" I asked

"What's that?"

"Whatever you're doing at midnight is a reflection of what you'll be doing all year long," I explained.

"Hmmmm... So if you're making love to me, you'll be loving me all year long?"

"I like the sound of that," I replied. "So slip out of those pjs and let's get to it!"

"At least we don't have to be too quiet," he said as he shucked off his pajama bottoms.

"Yeah, it's good that the boys went out to celebrate tonight."

It was a quiet, slow love making session for us. They say variety is the spice of life and we did try to vary our sex from hard and pounding to laid back and easy. This New Year's Eve called for the latter.

The next morning, I was up first and went down to the kitchen to start the coffee.

"Happy 2004," I said to Will as I entered the kitchen." Did you two have a good time last night?"

"Yeah," he said, but from his tone I didn't quite believe him.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Nothing serious," he explained. "I wanted to kiss Ryan at midnight, but in the crowd we were in that wasn't an option."

"I thought you were with a group of friends who knew?"

"We were, but the club isn't a place where two guys could kiss. All the other couples turned and kissed each other. All I got was a hug."

"Sorry to hear that."

"Well, like I said, nothing serious. We remedied the situation when we got home."

"That's good."

I decided to change the subject before we got into an uncomfortable area of conversation.

"When are you two leaving?"

"Ryan wants to leave first thing tomorrow morning. We should reach Corinth by late afternoon. We'll unload Quick Split and then drive up to my folks. We'll spend all day Saturday with them and leave early on Sunday heading back here."

"Tracer mentioned that Brady won't be there when you drop off Quickie at his parents farm."

"That's my understanding. He and Bryce have a rodeo in Denver today through Saturday and then Brady's going to have to drive back, so my guess is he won't get there till mid-week. His folks are going to take the delivery."

"When do you plan to head back to school?"                  

"The following Sunday. School starts on the twelfth," he explained.

"How many more days?" I asked with a wide grin.

"You'd have to ask Ryan that. I'm not keeping track of that."


"Yeah. Worried... stressed... all combined."

"Why stressed or worried?" I asked.

"I still have five more classes to pass. Once that's done I'll destress."

"You'll do fine," Tracer said from the kitchen doorway. "Your GPA is what?"

"Three point eight five," Will replied.

"Nothing to worry about then," Tracer replied.

"Well, I've got a couple of harder courses this semester. I don't want my GPA to drop."

"Let's see, so you get five B's and then you can't get the job of your dreams!" Tracer teased.

I burst into laughter.

"What's so funny," Ryan asked as he came into the kitchen.

"They're picking on me," Will said.

"He's stressed about his grades!" Tracer teased.

"We both are," Ryan replied. "We're trying to make sure we graduate with honors."

"Good," I said. "But don't stress. I think you're both shoe-ins for the jobs you want after college."

"That was the joke," Tracer said.

With that Ryan started to laugh.

"Yeah!" he agreed.

"So what's for breakfast," Tracer asked.

"Bacon, eggs, and cheese on a toasted English muffin," Will replied.

"Sounds good."

I helped Will pull breakfast together quickly and we got out to the stables to do the daily chores. With the farm still closed, New Year's Day was fairly quiet. I noticed a couple boarders pull in and take their horses for a ride throughout the day.

About three in the afternoon Tracer started to leave the den.

"What's up," I asked behind him.

He stopped, turned at the door and replied. "Time to make some black-eyed peas."

"OK," I said back to him, a bit confused.

"For good luck! I'm just going to start them so they'll be ready for dinner."

"OK," I replied, yet again.

"It's an old Southern tradition to serve black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck. It's supposed to be the first thing you eat, but I figure eating them anytime today still counts."

"Not really familiar with that tradition," I admitted.

"Supposedly it comes out of the Civil War," Tracer explained. "Something about Northern troops burning or eating all the other crops - black-eyed peas were livestock feed. So in the end, Southerners lived on black-eyed peas."

"Not sure if I see it as a great good-luck charm, but I guess I can see why they are thought of highly."

"I'm going to do a real Southern dinner tonight."

"What got this going?"

"I've been thinking about those cooking classes Janet and I will be taking next weekend, so I started digging through some cookbooks."

I got out of my chair and followed him into the kitchen, so I wouldn't delay his preparations any further.

"What's on the menu," I asked.

"Well, I'm going to slice some of the leftover ham, make fresh cornbread, collards, Hoppin' John..."

"Hopping what?"

"Not ‘hopping'," Tracer corrected. "Hoppin' John. It's the black-eyed peas with bacon drippings, ham, cayenne pepper, onion and rice."

"OK," was all I could say. "Bacon drippings and ham... sounds healthy."

"Black-eyed peas are good for you and I'm not using that much bacon drippings."

"I'm just teasing. Can I help?"


Tracer started giving me directions and we quickly prepped dinner. We returned to the den and watched a bit of television. While we sat there Ryan and Will appeared.

"What's up?" Will asked.

"Just watching some news before dinner," Tracer replied.

"Need help getting dinner ready?" Ryan asked.

"It's all set. Need to put the cornbread into the oven at six. Otherwise, everything is set," Tracer said.

We started watching some of the college football when an ad came on for the Orange Bowl featuring Miami and Florida State.

"Shame Tech isn't playing in a big bowl this year," Ryan mused. "I'd never heard of the Insight Bowl or its previous name the Copper Bowl."

"Well, the Hokies didn't have a particularly good season," Will admitted. "I wonder how things will be once the team is playing in the ACC instead of the Big East."

"I assume the rivalry between Tech and UVA will grow much more important," I said.

"Plus Miami is moving to the ACC too, so that's taking one of our Big East rivals with us."

"So, will you root for Miami or Florida State tonight?" Tracer asked.

"Honestly, I doubt I'll bother to watch," Ryan said. "It's fun going to our games at Lane Stadium. Being as isolated as we are, students can always get good tickets."

"How big is the stadium," Tracer asked.

"It can handle something like 65,000 right now," Will explained. "They added more seats a couple years ago. Supposedly, they're going to do more work next year."

"That's a lot of seats," Tracer said.

"It's usually packed. A lot of alumni come from all over the state for games. But like I said, we can usually get decent tickets," Ryan explained.

The commercial break ended and we went back to watching the Rose Bowl. At six, Tracer slipped into the kitchen to start the corn bread. About thirty minutes later I helped him plate dinner and we took trays into the den.

Tracer's Southern traditions New Year's Day dinner was a big hit as the four of us watched USC defeat Michigan. They would have to see if LSU beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl on the fourth to see if they had any claim to being the national champions.

Friday morning dawned clear, bright, and cold. I helped Ryan and Will get Quick Split loaded into the single-horse trailer. Ryan got behind the wheel of the big Ram 3500 and headed it up the driveway. I watched them pull onto the road and until they disappeared behind the woods.

I walked into the office to find Tracer on the phone. I filled a thermos full of coffee and walked into the stables. I saddled up Shadow Dancer and rode out the back trail to the far end of the property. I led Dancer off the trail and started working my way along the fence checking for any areas that needed repair. It was a slow, leisurely ride. I'd gone a good distance when I came across a downed tree that had taken out three sections of the fence. I made note of my location, worked my way around the tree and then continued the survey. When I got to Sugar Run I dismounted and pulled the thermos out of my saddle bag. I took a good swig of the hot liquid and let Dancer amble about. It was so peaceful, quiet, and tranquil... the only sound was the water splashing along the rocks. I thought I caught a faint whiff of a smoky smell. Based on the direction of the breeze, one of our neighbors must have a fireplace or woodstove going.

I'd just gotten back up on Shadow Dancer to complete my ride when the walkie-talkie squawked. "Eri... an on pho... issue.... talk." Is all I got out of it. I didn't even bother to respond, I just turned Dancer along the edge of the creek and headed back towards the trail.

Once I knew I was roughly in the area where I could punch a signal through I called Tracer. "In range, please repeat message."

This time Tracer's voice came through clearly. "Erik, Ryan was on the phone. No issue with him and Will, but he wants to talk to you as soon as possible. Sounded urgent."

"Let him know I'll be back in the office in about 15 minutes."

"Will do."

With that, I spurred Dancer and got him up to a full gallop. I kept my head low as we moved through the woods at a pace normally reserved for the open. I was proud of myself, I'd never be the rider Ryan is but for someone who started late in life I did pretty good.

As I rode into the stables I was met by Tracer. As I dismounted I asked, "Any word on what's up?"

"Ryan said it was something to do with his high school friend Jacob's brother. He didn't have all the details, but wanted to talk to you about it. I'll take care of Dancer; you go give him a call."

I walked into the office and dialed Ryan's cell phone number. First time I dialed I got a busy signal, so I waited about five minutes and called again.

"Hello," Will's voice answered on the first ring.

"Hey, Will. It's Erik. I understand Ryan wants to talk to me."

"Yeah. Let me put the phone on speaker," Will replied.

"Hey, Dad."

"I hear you need to talk to me. What's up?"

"You remember Jacob?"

"How could I forget, one of your best friends from high school. Haven't heard about him much since you went to college."

"He ended up at Appalachian State, so I don't get to talk to him much. Anyway, he called me a while ago pretty upset. I just got off the phone with him after a second call."

"What's wrong?"

"Well, he's home for Christmas break and his younger brother came out of the closet."

"Umm.... OK. Why's he panicked? He can't handle a gay brother?"

"No. Jacob seems cool with Kirk being gay. Said he wasn't surprised."

"Good reaction," I admitted.

"The first time he called it sounded like everything was OK, but he wanted to talk to someone."

"OK. Do I hear a but in that?"

"The second time he called, evidently all hell had broken loose. I guess after about ten or fifteen minutes the shock wore off enough that his dad went off! His dad yelled and screamed; and when Kirk didn't back down, he took a swing at him. Jacob grabbed Kirk and basically they fled in Jacob's car."

"Damn," was all I could manage.

The door to the office opened and Trace walked in.

"So what's the game plan?" I asked.

"That's why I'm calling. Kirk needs a place to go."

"And you thought of us."

"You always say one more mouth to feed isn't a problem."

"I'm more thinking about what could happen when his dad shows up here. How old is the boy?"

"He's 18, Dad."

"That'll make things easier. Legally he's an adult. Hold on a second, Tracer's here and I want him to hear the conversation. Jacob's brother is gay, his Dad's not handling it well and he needs a place to stay."

The look on Tracer's face said it all.

"OK. Call Jacob and tell him to bring the boy here. We'll figure things out as we go."

"Thanks, Dad!"

"Be safe and I'll call you once thing settle down."

As I hung up the phone Tracer cut loose. "Shit. Shit! SHIT!"

"It's gonna be fine. We'll give the boy a place of refuge. He's of legal age, so that makes things easier on everyone."

"It just ain't fair," Tracer said.

"I agree. Maybe his dad will calm down. Finding out you're gay takes time. Then you spring it on someone and they need time to adjust too. It's a shame that it has such a negative stigma."

We'd talked for just a few minutes when the signal chime indicated that a car was coming up the driveway.

Tracer and I grabbed our coats and walked out to the parking lot. When Jacob got out of the car I almost didn't recognize him. He'd grown about two or three inches since high school graduation and definitely beefed up a bit.

"Good to see you, Jacob. You've definitely grown a lot," I said.

"Good to see you, Mr. Chamberlain. Thanks for helping out," he replied.

"I'm Erik, Jacob. And no worries. Nice to meet you, Kirk."

"Nice to meet you, Sir," he replied.

I looked the boy over. He reminded me of a younger Jacob. About five foot six, maybe five seven - lanky and blonde.

"Kirk, this is Tracer my business partner," I introduced.

"Nice to meet you, Sir," he replied.

"Just Tracer," he said. "I'm not that much older than Jacob."

"Let's all go into the house, sit and talk," I suggested. "It's too cold out here for you two without coats on."

The four of us walked in, Tracer and I hung our coats on the hooks by the door and the four of us sat around the island in the kitchen.

"Anyone want something to drink?" Tracer asked.

"Coffee," I replied.

"Coffee sounds good," Kirk agreed.

"Got a soda?" Jacob asked.


"That works."

Tracer pulled the carafe out of the machine, started a fresh pot and grabbed a can for Jacob.

"So tell me what's going on," I said.

"I'm gay," Kirk said with a blunt tone.

"Fine," I replied.

I think my equally blunt response surprised the young man.

"Let me," Jacob said. "Kirk told me he was gay not long after I got home from school. We've talked about it a lot since then, but agreed Dad just shouldn't be told. We talked about whether or not we could tell mom or not, but hadn't decided. This morning Dad went off on one of his typical rants - racist, homophobic... you name it, he was knocking it. Something on the news evidently set him off again."

"It was just too much," Kirk said. "I'm sick and tired of hiding. I'm sick and tired of his narrow-minded, always negative, always nasty attitude."

"And you blurted out that you were gay?" Tracer asked.


"And then?" I asked.

"At first, things were cold. Dad just kinda shut down. Didn't say anything," Kirk explained. "I figured it best to disappear, so I went to my room."

Jacob started to narrate. "I decided to call Ryan and talk. I'd figured things out after I went to college and thought he could help out."

I let the ‘figured things out' comment go by.

"I was just starting to talk to Ryan in my room when I heard Dad's rant return and then it turned to rage. I think, at first, he thought Kirk was just baiting him. You know, egging him on. Once Kirk disappeared I guess Dad figured it was true. From the sounds of it, Dad just went wild - screaming and yelling as he went storming pass my room. I hung up on Ryan and chased after him... Mom wasn't far behind. When we got there he was all in Kirk's face. Dad took a swing at him, but Kirk ducked. So I grabbed Kirk and dragged him out of the house, but then I didn't know what to do. As soon as we were out of the driveway I called Ryan again. We talked a bit and he said he'd call me back. I waited a bit and then called him a third time, that time he said for me to just head over here."

"And so you did."

"Yeah. I didn't figure things out about Ryan and Will till I went off to college and gained a little more experience. I'm guessing it's the same for you and Tracer?"

"Very observant," I congratulated him.

"Huh?" Kirk had been listening, but not really following.

"Tracer and I are more than business partners," I explained. "We've been together for over seven years. And if you didn't figure it out, my son Ryan is also gay. He and his partner Will have been together just over five years."

Kirk was very quiet for a minute.

"That's why I thought of Ryan," Jacob explained. "So what do we do?"

"That's up to you two," I explained. "You're both welcome to stay here as long as needed."

"I should call home and see how bad things are," Jacob said.

With that he pulled out his cell phone and dialed.

"Hey, Mom," he said. "How are things ?" He paused to hear her answer. "Understood. Is it safe for me to come home?" Another pause. "Understood. We're safe and have a place to stay. Call me when it's OK for us to come home." Another pause. "Well, what about his stuff?" This time the pause went on a while. "Fine. Call me when I can come home."

Jacob hung up and looked pissed.

"That bad?" Kirk asked.

"Worse," Jacob admitted.

"Dad's not only beyond furious at you, he's pissed off at me for defending you. Mom's not happy, but she loves us both."

"What are we going to do?"Kirk said with panic in his voice.

"Take it one thing at a time. As I said before, y'all can stay here as long as you need," I said.

Kirk looked only slightly relieved.

"What's wrong," Tracer asked before I could.

"School starts back up Monday. I don't have shit... I'm fucked. Damn stupid thing to do. I guess I could drop out and get a job."

"Not a fucking chance," Tracer said.

I think both Kirk and Jacob were surprised at how forceful Tracer's response was.

"Look, I got thrown out of my home when I was sixteen after my Dad caught me fuckin around with another guy," Tracer explained. "I dropped out of school and scrounged for a couple years, barely able to survive. I had the great fortune to meet Erik, fall in love, and succeed. But I'm smart enough to know how much luck played a role in my success. You will go to school on Monday."

"I don't have clothes. I don't have school supplies. I don't have my books. I don't have my computer. I don't..."

"Can it. Later we'll run over to Claypool Hill Shopping Center and get you a few outfits at Belk. That can tide you over until Jacob can get into the house to get more of your stuff out. School supplies and the computer we can deal with easy enough... we have ample stuff in the office for you to use. We'll figure out what to do about textbooks on Monday," Tracer said.

I was impressed at how fast he'd figured out a solution.

"I can't... I don't..." Kirk was searching for words.

"Just say thanks," Tracer said softly.


"How much of your stuff is at your folks," I asked Jacob.

"Not much. Just a bag for the holidays. Worst case scenario is I go into the house on Monday when Mom and Dad are at work," Jacob explained. "We both really appreciate this."

"No worries," I said. "It's getting close to lunch. Why don't you two wash up? Tracer and I'll pull out some sandwich fixings and chips, so we can eat. Bathroom is down the hall there."

The boys headed down the hall and I looked at Tracer.

"You OK?" I asked.

"Pissed... terrified... everything all at once. I think my emotions could easily overwhelm me right now," he said quietly.

"Too much like your story?" I asked.

"Yeah. It's bringing back bad memories. I can only hope Kirk's story doesn't take as long to resolve."

"Well. He's got help, much like you did."

"Oh, Scott was a big help. But at the time I met him it was a strain to have me around. I couldn't help out much financially."

"Well. That's one problem we don't have. Kirk can stay here till he graduates."

"Then what?" Tracer asked.

"Good question. Let's face this one day at a time."

We'd finished pulling out all the lunch meat, cheese, spreads, chips, and bread by this point. I grabbed four plates as the two boys returned.

"Hungry?" I asked.

"A little," Jacob admitted.

"Fix whatever you want."

Both boys made a sandwich, put a handful of chips on their plates and sat back down at the island. We ate in silence for a few minutes.

"So what are you majoring in at college, Jacob?" Tracer asked.

"I'm in industrial design. I'm hoping to find a company that wants someone to help make their products better."

"Sounds interesting," I said.

"I always enjoyed drafting and drawing in high school. This was a way to incorporate that into a career," he explained.

"Smart," Tracer said. "What about you, Kirk? Plans after high school?"

"Huh? Oh, sorry. I was thinking. Umm... plans after high school. They seem to be falling apart," he said. Tears started to come to his eyes.

Jacob put his hand on Kirk's shoulder. "What are your plans?" There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on the word ‘are'.

"I was planning on college. I got a 32out of 36 on my ACT test," he said.

"Damn, Dude, you hadn't told me that. That's great," Jacob said.

"Well, done with now."

"Not necessarily," Jacob replied. "It's not like Mom and Dad are helping me out that much. All they did was co-sign the loans."

"But I won't even have that," Kirk said.

"We'll figure something out," Jacob said.

Tracer looked at me and I shook my head no ever so slightly. His eyes looked pleading, but I just moved my head a bit more. I looked up towards the second floor and hoped he'd get my message that I wanted to talk things through before committing to too much.

"I'm sure it will work out," Tracer said. "Let's just get through this one day at a time."

"Tell you guys what," I said. "Let's clean up and Tracer can run over to Belk with the two of you while I wait for the new tractor to be delivered. When you get back we'll get you settled in the guest room, have dinner, and relax."

"You really don't have to buy me anything," Jacob said.

"Well, unless you want to live in that outfit for the next few days..." Tracer started.

"And it's too cold not to have a coat," I added.

"We'll pay you back," Kirk put in.

"When you can, that's fine," Tracer replied. "Or better yet, help out someone else in need."

After things were cleaned up, the boys left with Tracer and I walked out to the office. I'd been out there for a few moments when the signal indicated that someone was coming up the driveway. Tracer had talked me into getting the device and it was proving to be very helpful.

I grabbed my coat and walked outside to find a large truck pulling an even larger trailer. On that trailer sat our new tractor. I'd been very impressed with Will's negotiation skills. He'd haggled a very good price on the tractor and then got them to buy our old tractor for a fair price, considering its condition. I wasn't sure what the dealer would do with the old one, but I figured it would end up being chopped up for used parts.

It took the driver about five minutes to get the tractor unloaded. He climbed off and had me sign his paperwork. When he turned to leave, I reminded him that he was taking away our old tractor. I climbed onto the new tractor and drove it over toward the barn. I went in, started up the old machine and drove it out to the trailer. I climbed off and let the driver put it on himself. He secured it to the tractor, said goodbye and drove off. I went back over and put the new tractor into the barn.

Deal done, I decided I should go back to the house as we would have guests for the night or more.

I went upstairs and checked one of the guest rooms. The room, which sat unused most days, was neat and orderly but needed a light dusting. I went out to the hall closet and got a dust cloth and gave the room a quick cleaning. I then vacuumed the carpet and felt like it was ready for guests.

Back in the kitchen I checked the fridge to make sure we were fully stocked. Between having Ryan and Will home, feeding Brady and Bryce, and all the other things going on I was concerned that we wouldn't have much food. As I looked through the fridge and pantry I started making a grocery list. I figured that tomorrow Tracer and I could go to the store.

Once again the alarm rang indicating someone coming up the drive. Moments later I saw Tracer's truck pull into its space. The three of them climbed out of the truck. Jacob and Kirk were both wearing coats, but I was surprised when they each pulled a duffle bag out of the bed of the truck. In addition, all three pulled plastic grocery bags out of the bed.

As they walked in, I commented. "Glad to see you thought of groceries."

"I figured our pantry was pretty bare, so we swung by Food City and stocked up. Why don't you start putting stuff away while I show the boys where to put their bags."

"Sounds good." I wanted to figure out what was going on with the duffle bags, but kept mum.

The three of them traipsed upstairs, and moments later Tracer came back to the kitchen and started helping me put food away.

"So we'd just gotten over to Belk when Jacob's phone rang. It was his mom; she'd packed a duffle bag for each of them without their dad knowing it and put them outside. Then when she took the trash out she moved the bags further away from the house. We drove over, I got out and put the bags in the bed and drove off quickly."

"So they have their own stuff. That's good."

"Yeah. One positive so far."

"You doing OK?" I asked.

"I'm so in protective mode right at the moment that I haven't let my own emotions really come through. I'm thinking tonight I'm gonna be a wreck when I have time to think about it more. This really hits so close to home."

"Well, Kirk's gonna be OK. Sounds like his mom is going to support him however she can; and we'll be here for him."

"He's going to finish high school," Tracer said adamantly. "I made that very clear to him while we were out."

"Did Jacob talk to his mom about how things were going?" I asked.

"No. She basically told him where their stuff was and that was it."

We both stopped talking when we heard footsteps coming down the stairs.

"Well, I've got clothes for school and my text books," Kirk said as he entered the room. He took a seat on one of the stools at the island.

"My bag had everything I brought home for break," Jacob added.

"That's good," I said. "When does your break end?"

"I was planning on driving back next Sunday. The dorms aren't open until then."

"Well, as I've said, you're welcome to the guest room as long as you need."

Kirk looked very down.

"We're not bad guys," Tracer said to him. "And we're going to help get you through this."

"Just too many worries," he said. "How am I going to handle things at school?"

"I don't think you'll have too," Jacob put in. "Dad's not going to say anything. Mom's not either. So you keep your mouth shut and things will be fine."

"I'll have to explain that I'm not living there anymore. Folks will ask questions."

"It's not like it's any of their business. Just say things got rough, you're over 18 and you moved out. It's not like Erik hasn't hosted others before."


"My brother Will finished his senior year while living with us," Tracer explained.

"OK," Kirk said.

"Look, just take it one day at a time," Jacob finished.

"What's for dinner tonight," I asked Tracer.

"How about pizza? Someone grab the mixer and I'll get the dough made. It will have enough time to rise before I have to bake it. What do you guys like on your pizza?"

"I'm a pepperoni-man," Jacob said.

"Pepperoni's fine," Kirk added.

"Anything else? Sausage? Peppers? Mushrooms?"

"I like all of that," Kirk answered.

"OK. I'll do one pepperoni and one combo," Tracer explained.

He set to work on the dough.

"You two don't have to hang around with us if you don't want," I said. "Feel free to watch some TV in the den. There's a PlayStation and a huge stack of games in there as well. If you prefer, I can help you two saddle up some horses and you can take a ride."

"I've never been on a horse," Kirk said.

"I rode a lot with Ryan," Jacob said to his brother. "I can show you the ropes."

"We have docile horses for the beginner," Tracer said. "But it's almost sunset. Probably not a good time for your first ride. If you stick around here very long, you can become quite the rider if you want."

"When do Will and Ryan get back?" Jacob asked.

"Sunday afternoon," I explained. "They should have made the delivery by now and be headed up to Will's folks."

"Delivery?" Kirk asked.

"Yup. Ryan and I sold a horse to a rodeo cowboy and they're delivering it to Corinth, Mississippi today."

"You sell your horses?" he asked.

"Yes. We have three main ways we make money here. First, we're breeders, so we buy horses to improve our blood lines and sell the horses we breed to make a profit. Second, we board horses for owners who don't have their own stables. Finally, we do rentals where individuals and groups can rent a horse to ride. Oh, we also offer lessons."

"Just the two of you?"

"Actually, we currently have a full-time staff of six, including the two of us. During the winter we typically have one or two part-timers. In the summer we have two or three part-timers. And of course, Ryan and Will work here when they're home."

"Big operation," Kirk said.

"For this part of Virginia it is a big horse farm. Up in the northern part of the state there are some huge farms which deal mostly with thoroughbred horses."

"What type of horse do you have?" he asked.

"All of ours are quarter horses."

"Why not thoroughbreds?" Jacob asked.

"Well, most importantly, the farm was all quarter horses when I inherited it, and we've continued and built on that tradition. The quarter horse is a fast sprinting horse that's good for rodeos and horse shows, but most importantly, ranch or farm work. It's a related breed to thoroughbreds, but was bred with other stock in the 1600s to make it different."

"I wouldn't mind trying to ride," Kirk said.

"Tell you what - we'll pull a nice mount for you tomorrow and let you try things out."

After a little more conversation the boys went into the den. I heard the TV come on and soon heard the familiar sounds of one of the PlayStation games.

"Hopefully, that will take their minds off things," I said.

"For a little while at least, but I can say from personal experience it doesn't last long."

Tracer and I finished cleaning up the kitchen.

"What next?" I asked.

"Why don't we join them for a while? I want to make them feel at home."

We joined the boys in the den and Tracer actually started playing the game with them. I grabbed a magazine and read as they enjoyed themselves. Later, the homemade pizza was a hit, then the four of us watched a bit of TV after dinner. About nine, I commented that it was getting close to bed time.

"Awfully early isn't it," Kirk said.

"Not when you wake up at five," Tracer replied.

"Crap," he replied. "I'm not sure how I'll be at five."

"You two don't have to get up," I explained. "We get up early, have an early breakfast and then get the chores done. We have one staff member coming in tomorrow morning to help, so we should be done about nine. We've been closed for the Christmas holiday, but we reopen tomorrow. We don't have any scheduled renters, so things should be quiet. We might have a boarder or two show up for a ride. Once the day warms up a bit, the four of us can go for a leisurely ride along the trails, if you like."

"That sounds fun," Jacob said.

"Well, good night."

"Night," they responded.

Once we got upstairs, we both stripped down and snuggled up under the covers.

"How you doing?" I asked in a quiet voice.

"I'm a bit wound up," Tracer admitted. "I keep thinking how kids shouldn't have to go through this."

"I agree. Fortunately, you had help and so does Kirk. I wonder how many kids just end up on the street."

"Shit. Way too many I'm sure."

I put my arm over Tracer's shoulder as he spooned closer to me.

"Hold me tight," he said.

"Of course," I said quietly into his ear.

I held him until his breathing became regular and I could tell he was asleep. Once he was out, I loosed my grip slightly and let myself doze off.

I woke up about four-thirty and realized that Tracer was still spooned close to my body. The closeness of his ass to my prick had me hard as a brick in no time.

I didn't want to move, but I could tell that I wasn't going to be comfortable for long.

I started to roll away when Tracer said. "Hold still."

He spit a few times into his hand, reached back and slicked up my dick. He repeated the spitting process and this time pushed the moisture into his ass. Seconds later he started working his ass back onto my dick. Over seven years of fucking his ass it still fit like a tight glove.

As Tracer pushed back, I started pushing forward until my pubic hair ground into his ass.

"That feels good," he sighed.

"Damn right it does," I agreed.

I pulled back some and then pushed slowly back in.

"New Year's Eve was nice, romantic, slow, and loving, but this morning I need to be fucked and fucked hard," Tracer urged.

"I don't think I can fuck that hard in this position," I admitted.

I pulled out, grabbed Tracer, rolled him onto his back and positioned his ass on the edge of the bed. I pushed his legs up and thrust my cock back into his hole. As soon as I bottomed out in his ass I pulled all the way out and then punched back in.

"That's it, Baby," Tracer urged. "FUCK ME!"

"Bet your ass, I will."

I started punch fucking his ass with long, hard, deep strokes.

"Umph... Umph..." he started moaning as I picked up my pace and intensity.

I pushed Tracer's legs down towards his chest and pulled him toward me slightly. This gave me a better, slightly downward angle. The first time I thrust in from this angle Tracer let out a deep and very loud moan.

"Damn," he said. "That's really rubbing my prostate right."

I kept fucking into his hole. It was loosening up from my pace, but then he started clamping down as I thrust in.

"You keep that up and I'm not going to last much longer."

"I'm ready to blast and I haven't even touched my dick," he admitted.

I spit into my hand, wrapped it around Tracer's dick and stroked.

"Oh, shit... Oh, shit... OH, SHIT!" he bellowed.

His ass clamped down on my dick so hard I could barely move it as he shot a huge stream of cum up his chest, across his face, and onto the bed beyond his head. With the vise-like grip of his ass on my dick, I started pumping shot after shot of cum into his hole.

As my orgasm subsided I bent over and kissed him deeply. He wrapped his arms around me.

Breaking the kiss, he looked into my eyes. "What a way to start the morning."

"I'll agree with that." My dick finally softened enough to plop out of his hole. "Shower?"

"That would be great," he replied.

We each cleaned up and went through our morning routines. I walked downstairs and put a pot of coffee on. I heard noises coming from the den and peaked in. The television was on and Jacob was curled up on the sofa. I guess he'd heard me coming as he looked over and smiled.

"Morning," I said.

"Morning. What time is it?"

"About five-thirty. Couldn't sleep?"

"I got real restless last night, so I came down here, so I wouldn't disturb Kirk."

"That was nice of you, but did you get much sleep?"

"Probably about three or four hours," he explained. "I'll get a nap later if I need it."

"Want some coffee?" I asked.

"That would be great," he replied. He got up off the couch and followed me back into the kitchen. "We really do appreciate y'all's help."

"Don't worry about it. I just hope things work out for the best. In Tracer's case, it took a number of years, but his dad did finally come around and accepted him."

"I seriously doubt Dad will ever do that. He's just too fuckin' stubborn and narrow-minded."

"What about your mom?"

"I think she's already making the adjustments to accept him. It might take time for her to fully understand and accept, but she'll get there."

"Will she stand up to your dad?" I asked.

"I'm not sure. Only time will tell."

I started pulling out a skillet and turned on the griddle.

"Hungry?" I asked.

"Um. Not really, but if this is breakfast time I'll eat."

"Y'all can have breakfast whenever you want," Tracer said from the doorway as he came into the kitchen. "You'll just have to fix it yourself. I'll show you where things are."

Tracer pulled together a nice plate of hotcakes and sausage for the two of us. He left the batter wrapped up in the fridge and showed Jacob where the breakfast meats were so he could pick out whatever they felt like.

After we finished eating we told Jacob we'd be back inside after chores were done. Randy and Hank arrived shortly after we got out to the stables. The four of us made short work of the chores and the guys took off for home.

"How about that ride," I asked.

"It'll be warmer after lunch," Tracer said.

"Yeah, but only a few degrees and I really don't want to clean up from chores and then get out and ride later."

"Fair enough. I'll check with the boys," he said.

I chuckled.

"What's so funny?"

"The boys...? You're only two years older than Jacob and seven more than Kirk."

"Well, Old Man, I'll call them men from now on," he laughed in retort.

"OK... OK"

I went into the stables and grabbed Sir Galahad for me and Night Dancer for Tracer. I thought for a moment and pulled Bucky Ball for Jacob and Gordian Knot for Kirk. As I thought about their names, I decided I might have to talk to Will and Ryan about their naming convention for the horses.

I had saddles on Bucky and Knot and was putting my tack on Galahad when the trio came in. Tracer got his gear on Dancer quickly. I helped Kirk mount and explained the basics.

"The good thing is that Knot will follow the other three horses without much effort from you," Tracer explained.

"Huh? Excuse me, but I don't understand, not what?" Kirk asked.

"The horse you're on is named Gordian Knot," I explained.

"A what?" he asked.

"It's a term used as a metaphor to describe an intractable problem," Tracer said. "Yes, I looked it up. Essentially untangling an impossible knot."

"Oh, I thought you were saying n-o-t, not k-n-o-t," Kirk said, spelling each word.

With that resolved, we rode slowly out to the far trail and entered the woods. I led the group; Kirk and Jacob were in the middle and Tracer brought up the rear. The ride was fairly quiet until we got to Sugar Run.

"That's really pretty," Kirk called out to me.

I pulled Galahad just off the trail at the edge of the creek and Knot followed, allowing Kirk to ride up beside me. A moment later, Jacob and Tracer rode up.

"I was admiring the beauty," Kirk said. "It's so peaceful. And the woods here are so clean. Almost like a painting or magazine cover."

"We put a lot of effort into keeping the woods clean and tidy," Tracer said. "We constantly have to fight the vines."

"What all do you have to deal with," Jacob asked.

"Kudzu, Virginia Creeper, and of course poison ivy," I explained. "There are others, but those three are the worst."

"I hate poison ivy," Kirk said. "Makes me itch really bad."

"Well, unless the deer have planted some that we didn't find at the end of the season, there isn't any within about two-hundred feet of the trail. There shouldn't be any big plants anywhere within five-hundred feet of the trail."

"Big plants?" Jacob asked.

"If you don't control it, poison ivy, heck any type of ivy, will grow up trees. As it matures, the vines get very thick," Tracer explained. "I've seen it as thick as an arm growing up a tree."

"Ick. How can you tell it all apart," Kirk asked.

"Remember the old rhyme - leaves of three leave it be," I said. "And avoid hairy vines."


"Yeah, an older poison ivy vine is very hairy," I said.

"Yeah, just think of Erik's arm growing up a tree," Tracer teased.

I was about to say something when I thought about it further and laughed.

"Ready to get back to riding?" I asked.

Everyone nodded, so I led the way. When we got to the picnic area, Kirk seemed to have good control of Knot. As we entered the inner trail back towards the house I spurred Galahad into a trot.

"Weee..." I heard from behind me. I looked back to see Kirk holding on tightly as Knot moved to keep up.

I kept the pace moving, but not too fast for the ride back. Back at the stables I helped Kirk dismount. Tracer and I took off all the tack and replaced it on the racks. While we did that the boys walked around looking at the different horses.

"What's this mark mean?" Jacob asked, pointing at the stall name sign.

"That means the horse is owned by someone who boards with us," Tracer said. "We have four different marks - rentals, boarders, medical, and staff - it lets everyone know which horses can be ridden and by whom."

"We don't want a part-time employee pull the wrong horse, give it to a renter and have something happen," I explained.

"Must take a lot to run this place," Jacob said.

"I inherited a good operation and tweaked it some as I made it my own. Then more tweaks as Tracer joined the company, and I'm sure we'll have more as time goes by."

The four of us went back into the house. I noticed the answering machine blinking and found a brief message from Ryan checking in. I called him back and let him know that all was well. He and Will hoped to be on the road by seven a.m. and back to the farm by four.

I tried to let the boys do what they wanted in the house, but it was odd having guests. Over the years we'd offered our hospitality to a lot of friends - so far few had accepted.

We got through the rest of Saturday and early Sunday in what went for normal fashion in our crazy environment. About four p.m. the alarm sounded.

"What's that?" Kirk asked.

"It's a signal that someone's coming up the driveway. I'm betting it's Ryan and Will," Tracer explained.

By the time the four of us got our coats on, Ryan had the trailer backed into its space, disconnected from the truck, and Will was cranking the parking pad down.

"Need any help?" I asked.

"You can grab those boxes out of the back of the truck," Will said.

"What is all this stuff," Tracer asked.

"Mom cleaned out the attic recently," Will explained. "Some of it is yours, some of it mine, some we need to take up to Patrick. It's all stuff she'd kept over the years."

"This should be interesting," Tracer said.

The four of us each grabbed a box. Ryan and Will grabbed their bags, and we headed into the house. We took Will's and Tracer's boxes to the basement to give them a space to go through at their leisure. Patrick's boxes were set in the mudroom for the next trip up.

Jacob and Kirk followed Ryan and Will upstairs as the boys went to unpack and clean up. A while later, Ryan joined Tracer and I in the kitchen as the two of us worked on dinner.

"How was the trip?" I asked.

"Fine. The drive was uneventful. Brady's folks have a nice farm. It's smaller than ours, only about sixty acres I'd guess. The hills around there are small and more rolling, so it looked like easy land to maintain. We had Quick Split unloaded, in the stall, and checked out quickly. We made it up to Hollow Rock by dinner time and had a nice home-cooked meal. Your mom had us help out with a few chores - I think she's missing having extra muscle around to help your dad. Drive back was fine. A bit windy, but not too bad."

"Sounds good," I agreed.

"How are things going with Kirk and Jacob?" he asked.

"Well, their dad isn't budging at last check. But their mom got some of their clothing out to them," Tracer explained. His voice sounded a bit strained.

I looked at him and could tell the emotions were buried just under the surface. I could also tell that Ryan noticed this.

"It's been hitting a bit too close to home for Tracer," I explained.

"Will and I talked about that," Ryan said. "We were hoping it would work out quickly."

"From what Jacob said it probably won't - at least not with his dad," Tracer replied.

"I kinda wanted to find out from you two what was up before I really talked to Jacob about it," Ryan said. "What's the game plan?"

"Kirk's going to live in the guest room, go back to school tomorrow, and live as normally as he can for now," Tracer said forcefully. "Evidently, he'd applied to some colleges, so we have to figure out how to get their responses for him, so he can keep moving forward."

"All sounds good," Ryan agreed. "I'll talk to Jacob about getting him to school. I doubt a bus drives by here anymore. No kids down this way that I know of."

"Well, that will get him through the first week," Tracer said. "After that we'll figure something out. What are those three up to?"

"When I came down, Will was finishing his unpacking and talking with them. Will'd never met Kirk and hasn't really seen Jacob since our senior year other than the time he stopped by after our accident."

Ryan walked around the island, put his arm around me and gave me a big hug.

"What's that for?" I asked.

"For being you... For helping out... For everything..."

Prev To be continued . . .

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