The Man from Swift Current
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 57: The Clock

Finally, the semester was over!   No more classes until the fall!   I had taken my last exam this morning, and Rick was due to take his last exam this afternoon.  I called my cousin, Ben, to make sure he was going to make his flight to Atlanta.

"Hi, Ben," I said.

"Hey, dude!   I'm just getting to the airport.   My roommate is dropping me off curbside in a few minutes," Ben said.

"Cool!   I was just calling to make sure you're going to make your flight," I said.

"I'll make it.   My flight doesn't leave for another couple of hours," Ben said.   "Do you still have my flight information?"

"Yeah, I do.   We'll meet you by the baggage claim," I said.

"Great!   I'll see you in a few hours!" Ben exclaimed, obviously excited about taking our road trip.

"Bye, Ben," I said and broke the connection.

The thought of seeing Ben lifted my spirits.   I called Mom and Dad to tell them Ben was on the way.  They both got on the line. 

Mom said, "We're driving over from Swift Current and will meet you and Ben at your Uncle Carl's place in St. Catharines."

"Cool!   I can't wait to see you."

Dad said, "I'm sorry that you have to be away from Rick for so long.   We really like him and can see you guys getting married like your brother, Randy, and his partner, Shawn."

At first, I wasn't sure I heard Dad correctly.   Even though he had accepted Randy and Shawn's marriage, I know that he still didn't approve of two guys loving each other.   I know he was trying to understand; but sometimes he just couldn't help showing his true feelings on the subject.   I finally said, "Thanks, Dad.   I agree that we make a great couple.   I just haven't convinced Rick to marry me yet.   It really hasn't sunk in that Rick is going to be gone for a year.   I'm trying not to let the thought of being away from him for so long be a drag on our last few days together."   I paused to get my emotions under control.   I changed the subject to avoid losing it completely.  "Grandpa wants me and Ben to visit some of the tourist sites on our way north."

Mom said, "That sounds like a good way to start your road trip.   I think you should travel back from Ontario with us to Swift Current for Nancy and Cynthia's graduation from high school."

I said, "I agree with you Mom.   I can't wait to see them graduate!   Do you think that we would be able to do some camping along the way?   Dad, do you remember our camping trips to Algonquin Provincial Park?"

"Yes, I especially remember the good fishing!   I think we could manage to spend a few days there if you guys want to do some camping," Dad said.

"That would be great, Dad," I replied.   One thing I have always enjoyed is being in the outdoors.

"I will call ahead and make reservations.   Let's say you spend two days in Washington.   One day in Philadelphia, two days in New York and one day in Boston then one day for travel to St. Catharines.   How many days do you want to spend at Uncle Carl's?" Dad asked.

"I think two days, because I want to see Niagara Falls and some of the other things close to St. Catharines; like we used to do when we were kids" I said.

"So that's about nine days.   Let's plan for 12 days to give you some extra time; just in case you find something you want to see along the way.   I'll make reservations for 12 days from now," Dad said.

"Great!   I'm excited to be coming home.   I love you."

"We love you, too.   Remember to be careful.   We want you to arrive home in one piece.   Good-bye" Dad said.

Next I called Uncle Dave, "Hello, Glenn.   I just heard from Ben.   He's really hyped up about this trip.   Thank you for thinking to invite him to join you.   He was at loose ends, trying to decide what to do with his summer break.   I offered to give him a job at the store; but he was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of working all summer."

"I can really relate to that," I said.   "Working all summer would really be a drag."

Uncle Dave laughed and said, "Teenagers!   You are all alike!"

I responded, "You bet we are!   I'm just as excited as Ben to be going on a road trip!   Ben and I have always been best friends, and it's going to be great!"

"Drive safely and we'll see you in a few weeks," Uncle Dave said.

"Bye," I said, flipping my cell closed, ending the call.

Next, I turned to the task of packing for our trip.   I packed my favorite jeans, t-shirts, a couple of swimsuits, shoes and threw in my camera, etc.   I placed my stuff next to the bedroom door beside Rick's duffle bag that he had already packed.   Seeing it made the tears come to my eyes.   Damn!  I'm already missing him and he's not even gone, yet.  

I picked up a note pad and wrote Rick a message, "I love you," and folded it into a little square and placed it inside one of the pockets of his fatigues.   I put another inside a pair of his socks.   I wrote a couple of more notes before I was satisfied that he'd find at least one note per day for a while.  I made my way to the piano and lost myself in my music while I waited for Rick to return from taking his final exam.  I jumped when I felt his hand on my shoulder.

"Sorry to startle you, Babe," Rick said.   I turned around on the piano bench and he took my hand, pulling me into his embrace.   He gave me a quick kiss on the lips, "Let's get a shower.   We have all afternoon before we have to get Ben from the airport."   He led me to our bedroom.

"I called Ben.   He's at the airport now, waiting to catch his flight," I said.   "Grandpa called and said they would be here tonight around dinner time and he wants to take us all out to eat."

"I'm glad they are going to be here.   I want you to have your family here when I leave in the morning," Rick said, as he turned on the shower and turned to help me strip off my clothes.

"I'm glad they're coming, too," I replied, as I helped him out his clothes, and we stepped into the shower together.   We took our time enjoying each other; savoring every minute we could before the hot water ran out!

We toweled each other dry.   Once dry, Rick picked me up and carried me into our bedroom and announced, "You, sir, have a job to do!"

"Oh, and what might that be?" I asked, grinning from ear to ear, I looked up at my lover standing over me with his fully erect member prominently on display.

"I believe that you promised me that I could make love to you all afternoon," Rick said, as he pushed me back on the bed and started caressing my body.   Man!   How I'm going to miss him! 

We made love all afternoon, madly and passionately; knowing that this was to be our last day together for a long time.

We lay on our bed completely exhausted when I heard a knock on the door.   Inwardly, I groaned; who could that be I wondered?   Whoever it is was wouldn't stop pounding on our door!   Reluctantly, I untangled myself from Rick, pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and padded to the front door.   I looked out the little peephole to see who it was.   It was my cousin, Keith.   I opened the door, letting him in.

He must have figured out that I wasn't too happy about him knocking on my door; knowing that this was our last day together, because he immediately said, "I'm sorry, Glenn, to disturb you two.   Do you know what time Grandpa is going to arrive?"

"Yeah, he said he'd be here around dinner time, and to be ready to go out to eat when he gets here," I said.

"Thanks, Glenn.   I'm really sorry I bothered you.   I really wanted to visit with you guys; but I'll wait until Grandpa gets here; so you can have the rest of the afternoon to yourselves," Keith said.   "You know that Kerry and I are going to miss both of you."

"I'm going to miss you, too, Keith.   Thanks for understanding why we need this afternoon to ourselves," I said.   "I'll see you at dinner."

Keith let himself out and I returned to our bedroom.   I stripped back down and climbed in beside my guy who was still sleeping.   I laid my head on his chest; and listened to the steady beat of his heart.   He didn't wake; but put his arm around me and pulled me closer to him.   I must have drifted off, because I awoke to Rick's passionate kisses.   What a way to wake up!   He soon had me so amped up I was begging him to make me his!

Later, Rick said, "Glenn, you are such a cuddle bug.   I've decided that will be your new nick name from now on."  He laughed as he pulled me even closer to him, wrapping both of his arms around me.

I put my head on his chest.   That's my favorite spot when Rick holds me close.   I'm going to miss him so much.   The tears started falling down my cheeks and onto his chest.

Rick asked, "What's the matter, Glenn?"

I managed to choke out a reply, "I'm missing you already.  I wish you didn't have to go."

Rick lifted my chin so he could see my face.   "Glenn, don't.   It hurts me to see you so upset.   I'm not happy about leaving you alone for so long either.   Please don't make it harder for both of us than it already is," Rick pleaded with me.

I looked into his eyes and saw the tears that threatened to overflow as he tried to control his own emotions.   It made me love him even more knowing that he was trying to be strong for me; despite how he was feeling inside.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart.   I'm just so overwhelmed right now with all the emotions I'm feeling right now.   I've never felt so out of control, Rick.   Why do I feel as if my heart is being ripped out of my body?   I know that you'll be back in 12 months; but that seems like forever to me right now.   I know that we can still talk to each other via the internet and e-mail; but it's not the same as being held in your arms," I said.

Rick ran his hands through my hair and tried to tame my wild man look.   He smiled, "You look like you've been having lots of great sex!"

I smiled back, "That's because I have.   I won't be able to walk normal for a week!"

Rick laughed, "I think we haven't quite gotten you to that point, yet.   I think we should keep going, just to make sure you remember who your lover boy is!"

"I don't know if you're up to it, Rick.   I wouldn't want to wear you out.   You're such an old man!" I exclaimed, as I started to tickle him.  

"Who are you calling an old man?" Rick asked, as he tried to stop laughing.   I couldn't respond, because he had turned the tables on me and had pinned me down; as he proceeded to tickle me in return.

After a few minutes, Rick stopped teasing me, as his hands started to caress my body.   He soon had me where he wanted me:   begging him to make me his.   Rick can be such a tease sometimes, and it drives me crazy!   He finally gave me what I wanted!  I can't get enough of him! 

I was basking in the afterglow of our lovemaking, when he looked me in the eyes and said, "Glenn, I want you to fuck me."

I looked at him in surprise.   We had talked about this several times over the last few months.   I was still a virgin, as was Rick, since I had always bottomed for him.   The last time Rick had tried to get me to fuck him, I finally confessed to him that I was scared to death to do it because of what had happened to me with John.   I didn't want to hurt him like John and his friends had hurt me.   Rick had argued that my fears were totally unfounded and ridiculous.   Rick had insisted, and had gotten me so upset, that I couldn't even think of having sex with him.   I ended up sleeping on the couch that night.   To have him ask me to fuck him now was totally a shock to my system. 

Rick saw my look and quickly added, "Please, Glenn.   I want to be totally yours in every way before I leave.   I've always been on top, and I want to have the experience of being a bottom for you."   He grinned, "I admit that I will never, ever, let anyone else touch me in that way."   He started to caress me.   He looked deeply into my eyes and saw the fear in them.   Pleading with me, he said, "Glenn, please…."

I nodded my head in acquiescence.   I pushed my fears aside and closed my eyes.   Rick kissed me tenderly and said, "Are you ready?"   Again, I nodded my head.   I felt him straddle me.   Rick's passion for me ignited my own desires for him.  

In the aftermath of our blazing inferno of passionate lovemaking; I wanted to indelibly record on my memory banks every detail of this beautiful man who loves me.   I inhaled deeply of his masculine scent.  It brought back vivid memories of his hands caressing my body, the feel of his body next to mine – skin to skin, the way I get lost in his eyes, and the taste of his lips on mine; overwhelming all of my senses with a desire for him.   I knew I would need this complete physical, emotional and mental picture of Rick to help me get through the months ahead.

Our alarm went off, telling us it was time to get ready to run to the airport to pick up my cousin, Ben.  My grandparents would be arriving soon after that; so we helped each other shower, and we dressed each other.   Our awareness of each other was so heightened, we didn't even need to speak to know what the other was thinking.  

Rick's tender touch as he combed my hair and straightened my shirt spoke more to me of his love for me than any words he could have spoken at this moment.   He rested his hand briefly on my cheek as he brushed away the single tear that had escaped, as I tried to keep my composure.   At this rate, I was going to be a basket case by the end of the evening!   I gave myself a mental shake as I thought, "Glenn, you've got to get yourself together!"

Rick kissed me lightly on the lips, "I love you, Glenn.   I now know that you truly love me."   He pulled me into his arms and just held me close.   We stayed like that until I was sufficiently recovered to push back from him.

"I love you, too," I said, remembering how we had fucked each other.   I had no idea that fucking Rick would bring us so much closer!   It seemed to add a whole new dimension to our relationship that hadn't been there before.   I could see it in Rick's eyes when he looked at me.

Rick looked at the clock, "We'd better hurry or we'll be late picking up Ben."

We hurried out the door and down the stairs to Rick's Jeep.   We made it to the baggage claim area just as Ben came up the escalators looking for us.

I grabbed Ben in a bear hug, "Welcome to Atlanta, Ben."

I released him to allow Rick to give him a hug as well, "Thanks for coming, Ben.   Let's grab your bags and head home.   Grandpa will be arriving within the hour."

Ben was dressed rather warmly for the weather in Atlanta.   "Ben, why don't you shed that jacket?  You're going to roast in it if you don't," I said.

Ben agreed as he took it off.   He spotted his luggage on the carousel and reached over to grab it as it passed.

We headed out of the baggage area and out to the parking garage.   As we walked outside Ben exclaimed, "Wow!  It feels like high summer here already!"

Rick responded, "Ben, you haven't seen anything, yet!   This is nice spring weather here in Atlanta.   The heat of summer is yet to come!"

Rick threw Ben's suitcases into the back of his Jeep.   I climbed into the back seat, letting Ben take the front seat.    I didn't mind sitting in the cramped back seat; since I could put my arms around Rick as he drove us home.

As we drove home, Ben said, "Rick, this is a real sweet ride."

Rick smiled, "Thank you, Ben.   If you think this one is a sweet ride, wait until you see my red Corvette!   How was your flight?"

"It was good.   The flight went smoothly.   The Atlanta airport is huge!   It's a good thing they have a little train that takes you to and from the terminals," Ben said.

We arrived at our condo and parked the Jeep.   Rick grabbed Ben's stuff and we headed inside.   I opened the door to our condo and indicated that Ben should go inside ahead of me.

As he walked into the front room, Ben whistled, "Wow!  This is a great place.   You've done a great job of decorating it.   Who picked out all the furniture and the paintings on the walls?"

Rick laughed, "We both did.   We had a lot of discussion over some of the items; but, for the most part, we were able to agree on what we wanted in our home."

"Yeah, it's been a great place to live.   I'm going to miss living here," I said.

Ben asked, "What are you going to do with the condo?"

Rick replied, "We're going to rent it out for the year I'm gone.   We plan to come back here to finish school."

Seeing Ben's smile fade from his face, I said, "Ben, I'm excited to be attending the University of Minnesota with you next year."

Ben smiled and asked, "So you got your acceptance papers?"

"Yeah, we got them yesterday.   I need to register for classes soon though.   I've already talked to my advisors at Georgia Tech about which classes I should take so I can transfer the credits from the University of Minnesota to fulfill the requirements of the engineering program here when we return."

Ben looked disappointed, "I'd hoped you would decide to stay at the University of Minnesota with me."

Rick responded, "We haven't ruled it out; but I can't make any promises about the future until I finish my tour of duty.   Right now, I could easily transfer to another school because I haven't started my upper division courses, yet.   However, a new school may require a different set of lower division courses in order to get into their engineering school.   I can't afford to extend my education much further.   With this year off, it will set me back a year already."

Ben nodded his head, "I understand.   I just hope you'll think about it though."

"We will, Ben.   Come with me.   I want to show you the rest of the place," I said.

I gave Ben the complete tour.   Rick put Ben's luggage in our spare bedroom.   Ben asked, "Should I unpack?"

"That's up to you, Ben.   Grandpa wants to get us outfitted tomorrow and we'll leave the next day," I said.

"I guess I'll leave my bags packed then," Ben said.

We heard a knock on the door at that moment.   Rick went to answer the door.   I said, "Thank you for coming, Ben."

Ben smiled and gave me a hug.  "I wouldn't have missed this for anything!"

We heard voices in the front room and went to see who had arrived.   We entered the front room to see my grandparents who were seated on the couch.

I walked over and gave each of them a hug and a kiss.   "Grandpa and Grandma, this is my cousin, Ben."

Grandpa stood up to shake Ben's hand, "I'm glad to meet you, Ben.   Thank you for your willingness to help Glenn."

Ben smiled and said, "You're welcome, Mr. Scarborough."

Grandpa replied, "Call me Grandpa.   We consider you to be one of our grandsons, just like Glenn and Rick."

Grandma affirmed what he said, "Yes, call us Grandpa and Grandma."   She wrapped Ben in her arms, and gave him a light peck on the cheek.  Grandma released Ben, "Let's go eat, so we can get to know each other better over dinner.   I believe that Rick and Glenn have a favorite restaurant downtown."

I looked over at Rick, who smiled, "Yes, I told them where we had our first date.   I hope you don't mind sharing it with them, Glenn."

I laughed.  "No, I don't mind sharing with them our favorite restaurant.   Who's driving?"

Grandpa said, "I believe that someone likes driving my Porsche!"

"Can I?" I asked excitedly.

"Yes; but someone needs to drive Grandma's car," Grandpa said.

I looked surprised, "Did you both drive your Porsches?"

Grandma said, "Yes, we did.   Ben, would you like to drive my car to the restaurant?"

Ben eyes grew big in surprise.   "You're being totally serious?"

"Yes, I am.   Keith can take Kerry and Rick, and then you two can switch so Keith and Rick can drive the Porsches back here after dinner," Grandma said.

Rick smiled, "Thank you, Grandma.   You know how much I love driving your sports cars."

"We thought it might cheer you up," Grandma said.

Rick laughed, "Yes, you know us pretty well, Grandma."

Grandma beamed at my guy, "Yes, I'm pretty good at keeping up with you two."

There was a knock on the door.   Rick opened it to see Keith and Kerry standing there.

Keith said, "I hope we're not late."

Rick replied, "Come in.   You're just in time to hear the transportation arrangements."

We introduced Ben to Keith and Kerry, who both gave Ben a hug, welcoming him.   Kerry said, "Ben, we are happy you are here to be with Glenn.   He has told us so much about his favorite cousin."

Ben blushed, "I hope he hasn't told you everything!"

Kerry laughed, "No, not everything I'm sure.   Don't worry.   I assure you he hasn't revealed any of your secrets to us.   The only problem is that he's put you on a pedestal so high that we aren't sure anyone could be that perfect; except, of course, his partner, Rick."

Ben laughed in relief, "Good."   He looked over at me and smiled.   "I don't intend to compete with Rick in any way.   Glenn has chosen well and we all approve of Rick."

It was Rick's turn to blush, "Thanks Ben.   I'm the lucky one to have found Glenn.   He's perfect for me."

Grandpa interrupted, "Boys I'm getting hungry.   Let's go."   He handed the keys to his Porsche to me.

Keith looked at me in surprise.   I answered his unspoken question, "You get to drive back.  Okay?"

Keith smiled, "Cool!   I was wondering what was up."

Grandma handed her keys to Ben, "Let's go.   I hope you know how to drive a standard transmission?"

Ben said, "Yes, I know how to drive a standard transmission."

"Then, we're all set," Grandma said.

We all left the condo for our separate vehicles.   I enjoyed driving Grandpa's car.   We arrived at Ray's In the City, where we were shown to the table that was reserved for us.    It was a big round table.  I had Rick on my right and Ben on my left.

As soon as we were settled, Grandpa asked, "Have you boys decided where you're going?"   He looked at me and Ben.

Ben spoke up first, "My Mom and Dad have asked us to make sure we're back in Swift Current in time for graduation."

I nodded, "Yes, Nancy and Cynthia are both graduating this year."

Grandpa said, "Yes, we are planning to be there as well; however, we aren't going to drive there.   We will be flying into Regina.   Randy and Shawn will be picking us up from the airport and driving us to Swift Current."

Rick said, "I really like Randy and Shawn.   They have been very supportive of us, and have given me good advice.   They also understand what Glenn and I have been through these last few months."

Keith said, "I have to meet these guys.   You two haven't stopped singing their praises since you went home to see them last summer before school started."

Ben spoke up, "They are wonderful people.   Randy lived with us during his senior year of high school; just like Glenn did.   He always made sure I was included in any activities he and his friends had going on; even though I'm a few years younger than he is."

 I said, "Ben and I shared a room during our senior year and managed not to kill each other!"

Ben laughed, "Only because Glenn knew I could beat him anytime and anywhere!"

"In your dreams, cousin," I replied.

Ben smiled, "Yes, in my dreams as well as in reality, dude!   No, really, we had a good time.   I'm looking forward to next year, since Glenn is going to join us at the University of Minnesota."

Kerry asked, "So, is it true that you play hockey for them?"

Ben's face grew very animated, "Yes, I'm on the university's hockey team.   We play in the Mariucci Arena.   The fans are so wild there!   I love playing for our home crowd.   They never let us down!   It gets so loud in there I can't think sometimes!  I can't wait for Glenn to see us play."

Rick said, "I'm glad Glenn is going to be spending the next year there.   I'm kind of sad that I won't be able to be there, too, but Glenn has promised to keep me posted on everything you guys are doing while I'm gone."

Keith asked, "So how are you guys going to stay in touch?"

I replied, "We are going to use the internet a lot.   E-mail, chat and Skype will be our main methods of communicating, as well as text messages when Rick can use a cell phone."

Rick added, "We've been told that we will be able to communicate with our loved ones; but will have to be careful about what information we share regarding what we're doing and where we are located."

Grandpa said, "That makes sense.   I'm glad you two have worked out what you're going to do.   Rick, how are you going to keep the military from knowing about your relationship with Glenn?"

"We've talked about that, and we've worked out some code words to tell each other we love each other; so that anyone listening or monitoring our communications won't know.   Other than that, we will have to be very careful of what we say to each other," Rick said.

Ben said, "It's too bad your military hasn't accepted that gays can serve in the military, just like anyone else."

Rick agreed, "You're right.   There is still a lot of prejudice in the Marines against gays.   Of all the services, they are the worst when it comes to being homophobic."

Grandma looked at Rick, "All the more reason to take every precaution to ensure your safety, Rick.  I've seen the effects of prejudice when taken to an extreme; so be very, very careful."

The waiter returned with our beverages, and we placed our orders.   Rick held my hand as we continued our conversation.

Grandpa said, "We need to make up a list of items we need to pick up for your road trip.   You boys need to get together and decide what you need."

I looked over at Ben, "We can put that list together pretty quickly I think."

Ben agreed, "Yeah, I've already prepared a short list of what I'll need."

Grandpa smiled, "I'm always happy to see someone who's prepared."

Ben smiled back at Grandpa, "I'm not always that prepared; but this time my Dad was pretty insistent that I put together a list that he had me read to him over the phone last night.    So, I can't take all the credit."

We all laughed at that.   Grandpa said, "Okay, I'll make sure I mention to your Dad that I like a man who thinks ahead and is training his son to do the same."

Keith asked, "Where are you guys going?"

I said, "I think I'd like to tour the major cities along the east coast of the United States; like Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston."

Keith said, "I'd love to do that, too.   What do you think, Kerry?"

Kerry smiled at her husband, "I think that would be a great idea.   We could stop at my parents place one night.   Then, the next day we could stay at your parents' place in North Carolina before going further north."

Grandpa said, "That sounds like a great idea.   I'll call tonight and make hotel reservations for the four of you.   That way, you won't have to worry about where you're going to stay."

I said, "Then we can head west to St. Catharines to meet up with Mom and Dad."

Keith looked over at Kerry and said, "And we will come back home in time for summer classes to start."

As we had been talking, Ben had been looking from me to Keith and back to me when he said, "Glenn, I didn't know you looked so much like your cousin, Keith."

Keith laughed, "Yeah, we do look a lot alike don't we Kerry?"

Kerry blushed as she explained, "Keith and Glenn used to make me guess which one was Glenn and which one was Keith.   They would put on sunglasses; and wouldn't speak so I would have to kiss each one and try to guess."

I continued, "And Kerry would try to get one of us to speak, or take off our glasses so she'd know who was who.   The way we speak gives us away every time, and so does our eye color."

Kerry said, "So these two had a lot of fun with me and my sister, Ruth, trying to confuse us."

Keith grinned, "Yes, we did enjoy it.    Well, at least I did.   How about you, Glenn?"

"Yes, I had fun doing it, too.   We had a really great time at the beach last summer," I said.

I was trying not to say too much more; because I knew that it would upset Rick.   Ruth had been with us at the beach, and Ruth was a very sensitive subject with Rick.   Fortunately, for me, our food arrived to distract us from discussing our time at the beach any further.   Our meal was delicious as usual and the company very pleasant.  We all had dessert which made a perfect end to a perfect meal.   I almost hated to see the meal come to an end.   While I ate my dessert, Rick kept his hand on the inside of my thigh, and occasionally would caress me to the point where I was starting to squirm in my seat.   I finally covered his hand with mine to get him to stop!

Rick gave me his evil grin and leaned over to whisper in my ear, "I can't wait to get you home, Mr. Nielsen."   Then he proceeded to whisper to me in graphic terms what he wanted to do to me.

Kerry saw what was going on and came to my rescue by asking, "Glenn how is your dessert?"  

This forced Rick to stop whispering in my ear so I could respond.   I said, "It's great!   How's yours?"

Kerry replied, with a knowing smile, "It's good."  

Rick laughed and said, "Kerry, you always come to Glenn's rescue when I'm tormenting him."

Kerry responded with a broad grin, "Yes, I do because Keith does it to me sometimes, and we've made an agreement that we'll rescue each other when you two decide to do that to us.   Isn't that so, Glenn?"

I kept hold of Rick's hand as I replied, "Yes, that's true."  

Keith started to deny that he did any such thing when Kerry cut him off, "Don't even try to deny it, Keith!   You and Rick are just alike."

Keith put on his wounded innocent look, "Who? Me?"

Kerry laughed, "Yes, you, and don't go trying to pretend you're innocent, because you aren't!"

Keith finally admitted it, "You got me.   Rick taught me everything I know!"

Rick laughed, "Oh, no, you don't!   You can't blame it all on me.   I admit I may have influenced you; but you certainly didn't need any encouragement from me."

I said, "I think you're right, Rick.   I think you both taught each other!"   I looked over at Ben and couldn't help but laugh at his look of puzzlement.   "I'll explain later, Ben."

Rick said, "No, you won't because you're going to be busy later!"

Ben looked down where I was still holding Rick's hand in my lap to keep him from pursuing his goal.   He laughed, "Glenn, you don't have to explain anything!"

Grandpa looked at us and said with mock severity in his voice, "Okay, you two, I can see that it's time to take you home before you embarrass yourselves."   We just looked at each other like two children who've just been scolded.   Grandpa couldn't keep from laughing at us.   "It's okay, guys.   Just keep it under control a little longer."

He signaled for the waiter to bring the check which he paid in cash leaving a generous tip.   We thanked the waiter for the fine service and we headed back to the parking garage.   Keith reminded me that it was his turn to drive.   I handed him the keys to Grandpa's car and Ben gave Rick the keys to Grandma's.   Ben and I rode home with Kerry.

As Kerry drove, she asked, "Ben, do you have a girlfriend?"

Ben looked at me before responding, "No, not at the moment.   My high school sweetheart dumped me for another guy and announced her engagement when I went home for Christmas.   I haven't really had time to date much since then.   So I'm currently single."

Ben's news surprised me.   "I didn't know that," I said.

"I know.   I was depressed about it for a couple of months.   I threw myself into improving my hockey game and studying like crazy to keep myself from thinking about it.   As a result, I achieved perfect grades this last semester," Ben said smiling.

I whistled, "Wow!   Congratulations, Cousin!"

Kerry said, "Yes, that's quite an achievement.   Congratulations!   I'm glad Glenn is going to be your roommate while Rick is gone.   We were worried about how we were going to keep him going without Rick.   Rick and Glenn are not only part of our family, but are our best friends.   We're going to miss them; but we know it's only for a short time."

Ben said, "I know how you feel.   Glenn and I have been best friends since we were little."

I said, "Keith and Kerry have been there for us since the beginning, Ben.   They are the most wonderful people in the whole world."

Kerry pulled into the condo's parking garage and we went upstairs.   I opened the door to our condo to find Rick and Keith standing in the kitchen.   "Where are Grandpa and Grandma?" I asked

"They have decided to retire for the evening.   They said to tell you good night," Rick said.

Keith said, "I guess that means we should be heading downstairs as well.   Good night, boys."

Kerry smiled at us and said, "We'll see you first thing in the morning." 

As the door closed, Ben looked at me and said, "I know you two want some time together.   I'll see you guys in the morning."

"Thanks, Ben," I said.

Rick pulled me to him and gave me a lingering kiss.   "Come with me, Babe.   I have something to give you."

He led me into our bedroom and closed the door.   He opened the top drawer of his dresser and pulled out a package wrapped in fancy paper with a big bow on it.   He handed it to me.

We both sat down on the bed as I started to open it.   Rick put his arm around my shoulders and waited for me to unwrap his gift.

I pulled the lid off the box and pulled aside the tissue paper.   What I saw made the tears come to my eyes.   I carefully lifted it out of the box.   It was a photo of Rick and me that we had taken during our trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.   We were wearing identical navy blue golf shirts, khaki pants, and matching socks and trainers; our bright white smiles standing out in our tanned faces from our week on the beach.   Rick's arm was on my shoulders and I had my arm around his waist.   It was a wonderful picture of both of us.   The photo was placed between two plates of glass and placed in a frame.   In the lower right-hand corner of the photo was a clock; and written underneath it in bold black letters was this note, "Glenn, It's time for me to tell you I love you."   Under the note, Rick had signed it 8-3-1-4, I'm yours for always – Rick.

I gently laid his precious gift back in its box and wrapped my arms around my guy and looked him in the eyes for a long moment.   "Rick Lernier, I love you.   Thank you for giving yourself to me."

We kissed for a long, long time before I released him.   I said, "I have something for you as well."

I walked over to the closet and pulled down my gift from the shelf where I placed it.   I handed it to Rick.   He opened it with trembling hands.   He looked up at me in surprise, "How did you manage to get these?"

I smiled, "I had some help from some good friends."

He picked up the gold chain with the military dog tags.   Both of them were engraved with his name and address and this inscription underneath, "Always and Forever Yours – 8-3-1-4   RGN"

I took the gold chain from his hands and placed it around his neck hiding the dog tags under his shirt.   "This way I can always be close to your heart," I said.

Rick wrapped his arms around me and whispered in my ear, "I love you, Glenn."   He held me close for some time before releasing me.  

I pulled out my wallet and handed him a laminated snapshot of myself.   "This is to go in your wallet.   I had it laminated so it wouldn't be destroyed if it got wet."

He took the photo from my hand which he held onto and gave it a gentle kiss.   He placed the snapshot in his wallet.   Next he said, "Glenn, you're my heart and soul.   I love you so much."

He pulled me into his embrace and held me for what seemed like an eternity.   I buried my face in his chest and held him as tightly as he was holding me.

Prev To be continued . . .