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




Chapter 78: Peyton

Early the next morning Brandon awoke with Mark in his arms.   He looked at Mark's handsome face and thought to himself, "Brandon, you are a very lucky guy.   You have finally found someone who loves you for who you are.   Mark has been very clear about his feelings for me from our very first date.   Glenn was so right about Mark.   Now, the thought of Mark ever leaving me scares me.   Before I fell in love with Mark, it didn't matter to me when people up and left, because I didn't care.   Now that I care, I don't know if I could survive if Mark decided he loved someone else.   Since Zach and Todd are getting married in a couple of weeks, I wonder what Mark would say if I asked him to marry me?"

As he looked intently into Mark's face, Mark's eyes opened and a bright smile appeared on his face, as his gaze met Brandon's.   "Good morning, Babe."   Mark kissed Brandon and then pulled back to look at him.  "You seem so serious this morning.   What is on your mind?"

Brandon smiled, "You know me so well.   I have been thinking that we should get married at the same time as Zach and Todd."

Mark's look of surprise quickly turned to one of joy.  "Brandon McCray, is this a marriage proposal?"

Brandon grinned, "I guess it is, now that I think about it.   So, will you marry me?"

Mark kissed Brandon before giving him an answer, "Yes, I will marry you.   I think we need to talk to Zach and Todd first, before we commit to being married at the same time.   They may want to have their own day without us intruding on it."

Brandon said, "I agree with you; but, I think that Zach and Todd will be more than willing to have us join them and make it a double wedding.   I love you so much I don't want to ever lose you."

"You will never lose me, Babe, because I love you.   I think getting married is the perfect way to make our commitment to each other even stronger.   I thought you might be thinking of getting married because of how you looked at me last night when Zach proposed to Todd," Mark said. 

Brandon looked at Mark in surprise.  "Yes, I was thinking about it last night but I didn't even decide to ask you to marry me until this morning."

"I was also thinking about it last night; and if you hadn't asked me this morning, I would have asked you to marry me, at some point over the holidays.   I'm glad you asked me first, though," Mark said, smiling at his fiancé.  "Let's get up and go talk to Zach and Todd about their wedding plans."

Brandon kissed his sweetheart, then, helped pull Mark to his fee.   They walked into the bathroom and showered together.   After getting dressed, they went downstairs to the kitchen to find that Zach and Todd had already made coffee and were eating breakfast.

Zach greeted them, "Good morning, guys.   What do you want for breakfast?"

"Just some coffee, thanks," Mark said.

Zach looked closely at the two lovers and said, "Okay, I can tell there is something on your minds.   Start talking!"

Mark laughed, "Yes, there is something we want to talk to you two about; and that is, we would like to make it a double wedding, if that is okay with you two."

There was a profound silence in the kitchen as Todd and Zach absorbed the implications of what Mark had just said.   Todd was the first to react, "I would love to have a double wedding!   What do you think, Zach?"

"Do you mean that Brandon proposed to you?" Zach asked, ignoring Todd's question.

Brandon replied, "Yes, I asked Mark to marry me this morning; but we haven't set a date, because we wanted to know how you two felt about sharing your special day with us."

Zach smiled and stood up from the kitchen table.   He gave each of them a big hug.   "Mark and Brandon congratulations on your engagement!   Yes, I would love to share our wedding day with my best friends!"

Mark said, "Thank you, guys!   You don't know how much it means to us.   We haven't told anyone about our engagement, except you two.   I think that we will be talking to my parents this afternoon."

At the mention of Mark's parents, Brandon flinched as if touched by a hot iron.  "Do you mean I have to ask your Dad's permission to marry you?"

"No, but we do need to tell them we are getting married, and when.   Dad will be very supportive.   He has already told me that he likes you a lot and could see us as life partners."

"He said that, did he?" Brandon asked, in surprise.   Mark's Dad had spent some time talking to him; but Brandon hadn't gotten the impression that he was anything special to Mark's Dad.   He had expressed his desire that Brandon take good care of his son.   He had promised Mark's Dad that he would.

"Yes.   Mom agreed with him, but she is still holding out hope that she will have grandchildren," Mark said, giving his partner a serious look.

Zach said, "My Mom told us the same thing, but she seemed to accept the fact that we would have to adopt children."

Todd said, "My parents reacted the same way.   They are very happy for us, but were a little disappointed about not having grandchildren.   We promised them that we would eventually adopt children to carry on the family name."

"So whose last name will your children have?" asked Brandon, curiously.

Zach replied, "Both.   We decided we are going to hyphenate our last names into one, Anderson-Ingram.   That way both surnames will be passed on to our children."

"We haven't gotten that far in our discussions about our future together," Brandon said.   "We just barely agreed to get married this morning; and came down to see if you two were willing to share your day with us.   Thank you for being so generous with us," Brandon said.   "I have never had a real family before; and it amazes me how wonderful it feels, knowing that someone loves me, and that we have such good friends."

He put his arm around Mark's shoulders.   Mark said, "Yes, I am grateful for good friends and a wonderful fiancé."

The two happy couples continued their discussions about their wedding day.   Zach's parents had already reserved rooms at a hotel in Thunder Bay, Ontario, for their guests, and arranged for the ballroom and a live band.

Brandon said, "Mark, we need to get on the phone with Mom and Dad.   I don't want to wait until this afternoon."

Mark agreed, "They should be up by now.   Let's go back upstairs and tell them the good news.

Hand in hand, they climbed the stairs and went into their bedroom.   Mark pulled out his cell phone and dialed his parents' number.    It rang twice before Mark's Dad answered the call.

"Good morning, Mark," Mark's Dad greeted him.

"Good morning, Dad.   Brandon and I have some good news to share with you," Mark said, excitedly.

Before Mark could say anymore, his Dad said, "I bet I can guess what it is!"

"I bet you can, Dad.   Go ahead and let's see if you are right," Mark said, smiling at Brandon.

"You are calling to tell me you are engaged to be married.   Am I right?" his Dad asked.

"Yes, you're right," Mark replied, grinning from ear to ear.   Mark handed the phone to Brandon.

"Hi, Mr. Mattison," Brandon said.

"Don't call me Mr. Mattison, Brandon.   Call me Dad from now on.   You have got to realize that you are part of our family now.   And if you aren't comfortable with that, you can call me Mark, Sr., until after you are married.   My dear, future son-in-law, you need to get used to being loved and wanted.   We aren't one of your foster families, taking you in because of the money the state gives us.   We love you because you are our son, just like Mark is and you will always have a place in our home.   We are your family and you need to accept that fact, and begin to act accordingly.   Have I made myself clear?" Mark's Dad asked.

Brandon had choked up when he heard his future father-in-law express his expectations.   His tears were flowing freely, as what few barriers still existed around his heart were blown away.   He didn't know what to say, so he remained silent as he tried to regain control of his emotions.

His new Dad continued, "Son, I cannot begin to understand the pain and suffering you have experienced growing up; but I can promise you that your mother and I intend to do our best to erase those memories, and replace them with happy ones.   Mark has already told us a great deal about you and we were expecting this call.   If you intend to ask my permission to marry Mark, I freely give it."

Brandon finally found his voice, which cracked with emotion, as he said, "Yes, I am asking your permission to marry Mark."

"Well, as I have already said, the answer is ‘yes,' and now we need to know the specifics of your wedding plans," Dad said.

"Let me put the phone on speaker, so Mark can participate in this discussion," Brandon said.

"I will do the same here, so your mother can hear, as well," Dad said.

Mark said, "We want to have a double wedding with Zach and Todd.   They plan to drive to Thunder Bay, Ontario, after the holidays, to be married."

Mom spoke up, "Yes, I have already spoken to the Andersons about Zach and Todd's wedding.   I'm helping them with the wedding plans, already; so it will be easy to make it a double wedding.   Do the Andersons know that you are engaged?"

"Zach is downstairs talking to his parents now, so I am pretty sure they know about our engagement by now," Mark said.

"Good.  I will call them as soon as we finish here," she said.   "Brandon, I want to reinforce what your Dad has already said.   You are part of our family, and I expect that you will take your responsibilities toward your family as seriously as any member of our family should.   We take care of each other and we are always looking out for each other.   If you hadn't already noticed, we are a very close knit family, and I expect you to be an integral part of our family unit.   You are no longer an outsider, looking in; especially now that you and Mark have decided to commit yourselves to each other by getting married.   Mark loves you very much, and so do we.   Do you have any questions?" Mom asked, in a tone of voice that indicated that he had better not have any questions.

Brandon's tears were flowing, again, after hearing Mom reiterate their love for him and their acceptance of him as their future son-in-law.   He answered, "No, I don't have any questions about that.   However, I do have a different question."

Mom laughed and said, "Okay, what is it?"

"I want you to adopt me as your son after Mark and I are married.   Is that okay with you?" Brandon asked.

Brandon's question caught all of them by surprise.   Dad responded, "Yes, I think that your Mom and I can do that.   Does this mean you want to change your last name, as well?"

"Yes, I want to be known as Brandon Mattison," Brandon said.

Mark threw his arms around Brandon and gave him a huge hug and kissed him.   "I love you," he whispered loudly in Brandon's ear before releasing him.

Mark's Mom said, "We heard that Mark!"

Her remark caused them all to laugh.   Mark said, "I guess I wasn't being very quiet, was I?"

Grinning from ear to ear, Brandon replied, "No, you really weren't!"

They continued to discuss the boys' wedding plans.   The boys decided they would head home as soon as they could get their things packed.   They hung up and went in search of Zach and Todd, to see if they were planning to leave soon, as well.  

As they were packing, I walked into their room and exclaimed, "I hear congratulations are in order!"  I gave each of them a hug.

Brandon kissed me and said, "Thank you so much for setting me straight when we first met.  I still think you are cute, but Mark is definitely the man for me."

Mark came over and hugged us both, "Glenn, will you stand up with us at our wedding?"

"I would be honored.   Thank you for asking me," I said.   "When and where are you going to get married?"

"We're going to make it a double wedding with Zach and Todd," Brandon replied.

"That is totally awesome!  I was afraid I might miss their wedding; but now I can go to both, at the same time," I said.

Mark and Brandon released me from their embrace.   Brandon said, "We will be married on January 4th in Thunder Bay, Ontario."

"Cool!   Rick doesn't have to be back in Virginia until the 9th.  That means he will be able to come with me to your wedding," I said.

"When are you leaving for Atlanta?" Mark asked.

"I leave tomorrow morning.   Ben and Janice have a flight an hour after mine, so we plan to share a cab to the airport," I replied.   "When are you guys heading home?"

"Zach is leaving as soon as we can get packed and ready to go," Mark answered.

I gave each of them a hug, again.   "I will see you at the wedding then.   I love you guys!"

Brandon said, "We love you, too, Glenn.   Give Rick an extra big hug from us."

Mark laughed, "Glenn won't have any shortage of loving when Rick gets hold of him!"

I grinned, "You've got that right!"

I left the guys to finish getting ready to leave for Duluth, and walked down the hall to Justin's room and lightly tapped on the door.

Brian opened the door.   "Good morning, Glenn.   Are you ready for the concert tonight?"

"Yes, I am ready.   I love this time of year, because I get to sing some of my favorite hymns," I replied.

Justin was sitting on their bed, putting on his running shoes.   "We are going out for a run.   Do you want to join us?" he asked.

"Sure, I'll be right back," I replied, with a grin.   I went back to my bedroom and changed into a t-shirt and running shorts, pulling my sweats over the top.   I like to dress in layers, so, as I warm up, I can pull off a layer.   Later, when we are cooling down, I will put them back on, to stay warm.   I finished dressing and met Justin and Brian in the hallway.  

As we passed Zach and Todd's room, I tapped on the door, which opened as soon as I stopped.   Zach looked at us and said, "I wish I had time to go running with you guys, but we have got to get on the road soon."

Brian replied, "You have plenty to do to get ready for the wedding.   We will see you at the wedding."

I hugged Zach.   "I hope you have a great time with your families over the holidays.   Rick and I will see you in Thunder Bay."

Todd appeared next to Zach in the doorway, grinning from ear to ear.  "Do I get a hug, too?"

"Of course you get a hug!" I exclaimed, and gave Todd a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek.   "Take good care of Zach for us."

Todd replied, "I promise I will do just that."

Robbie and Adam came out into the hallway with their gear.   Robbie announced, "We're ready to go, Zach."   Robbie came over and hugged Justin and Brian, as did Adam.  

When Robbie came to me, he pulled me into his embrace and gave me a kiss on the lips, "That one is for Rick.   Make sure you give him a lot of those when you see him tomorrow."

I laughed.   "Don't worry, Robbie.   I will make sure Rick gets lots of attention."

Everyone laughed, and Zach said, "We have no doubt that you know how to make your man happy."

Adam hugged me and said, "We will see you next year."

"What?" I asked.   Then it clicked, "Oh, yeah….it will be next year when I see you."

"'Bye, guys!   We will see you soon," Justin said, as we turned and went down the stairs and out the door to begin our run.

When we returned, we gathered around the kitchen table and talked about the concert tonight.   I had hot chocolate, while Brian and Justin drank coffee.

"Are you ready for your solo, Justin?" I asked.

"Yes, I think I'm ready; but I always get nervous just before the performance starts," Justin said.

"You will do just fine, sweetheart," Brian said, putting his arm around Justin's shoulders and giving him a quick kiss.

Justin smiled.  "As long as you are with me, Brian, I will be okay."

"I am not going anywhere," Brian responded, returning Justin's smile.   "What are we going to do with the rest of our day?"

"I think we should go to the mall, so I can finish my shopping.   I still need to get gifts for my grandparents," I said.

"That sounds good to me," Justin replied.   "Let's meet down here in about an hour.   That should give us enough time to get showered and dressed to go out for the day.   I want to take you guys to my favorite restaurant for lunch.   It's not far from the mall."

We headed to our respective rooms and returned to the kitchen at the appointed time.

Brian asked, "Will you drive, Glenn?"

"Sure," I replied.   I shrugged on my jacket, as did Brian and Justin.   "Which mall are we going to?"

Justin replied, "Let's go to Mall of America in Bloomington."

"Is your favorite restaurant in Bloomington?" I asked, as we climbed into the Land Rover.

"No, but it's not far.   It's called the Downtowner Woodfire Grill.   They have the best margherita pizza," Justin said.

Brian agreed, "Yes, their pizzas are good, but my favorite thing is their Cajun chicken sandwich.   We have agreed to rotate between our favorite dishes when we eat there."

"Cool!   I think we have a plan for lunch.  I think we should come back to the house after lunch and take it easy until the concert tonight.   What do you think?" I asked.

Brian nodded his agreement, as did Justin.  I drove us to the mall and we made our way into the mall.   We agreed to meet back at the car at noon so we could drive over to the restaurant.

I wandered from store to store, trying to decide what I could get for Rick.   I passed several jewelry stores, but didn't go inside them.   I thought maybe a good book might do the job.   I finally went back to one of the jewelry stores and checked out their watches.   I found a Swiss Army watch that I thought Rick would really like.   He had a watch already, but it was a cheap one.   The price tag on the watch made me catch my breath!   I have never spent that much money on a watch; let alone on a piece of jewelry!   I kept looking at the other watches, and came back to the one I liked the most.   I decided to go ahead and purchase it.


The clerk pulled it out of the display case and rang it up.   She asked, "This must be for someone very special to you.   It is a very fine watch."

"Yes.   I hope he likes it," I replied, smiling at her as she put the watch in a gift bag and handed it to me.

Having made my purchase, I made my way back out of the store and continued shopping for my grandparents and my cousins.   I hate to say it, but I did quite a bit of damage to my pocketbook!

I went back to the Land Rover at the appointed time to see the guys waiting for me.  We loaded our packages into the back, and I followed Justin's directions to get us to the restaurant.   As soon as we entered the Downtowner Woodfire Grill, the host greeted Brian and Justin with a smile.   "Welcome back!   I am glad to see you, again, so soon.   Please come this way.   Your table is waiting."

As soon as we were seated, I said, "Wow!   I think I like this place already."   I nodded toward the great looking guys who were waiting tables.

Justin laughed, "Now you know why I like to come here."

"I have to keep him from making passes at them!   Justin tips the good looking guys very well, so we never have to wait for a table," Brian said.

I looked across the room at the great looking guys.  "I hope the food is as good as the eye candy!"

Brian and Justin laughed.   "Just wait until you taste it," Justin said.

Justin ordered his favorite, margherita pizza.   When it arrived, I was suitably impressed.   "Not bad, Justin.   I will have to admit they did a good job with the pizza," I said.

When we finished, we paid the bill and headed back to the house, where we relaxed, playing video games and watching DVDs, until it was time to get ready for the concert.   Justin had just finished beating me at a second game of billiards, when he looked at the clock and exclaimed, "We need to hurry, or we will be late!"

We ran upstairs and threw on our concert attire and raced to get to the concert hall on time.   I parked the Land Rover, and the three of us ran through the crowd to get backstage before our absence was noticed.   The guys were waiting for us.

Martin asked, "What happened?  We had almost given up on you guys!"

Justin gave him a weak smile.  "I was trying to keep myself distracted so I wouldn't get nervous."

"Is that what you call beating me at billiards?   He was merciless!" I exclaimed, as we made our way to the warm up room, where the rest of the guys were warming up their voices.

Peter came up and gave Justin a hug.  "We are all pulling for you, tonight."

Justin smiled his thanks, as Peter released him and we entered the warm up room.

It wasn't long before the curtain call came and we made our way onto the stage.   The guys looked great!   I even managed not to forget the words to the songs we sang!   Justin performed perfectly and the concert was a huge success!

After the concert, I drove us home.   Ben and Janice arrived just as we entered the house.   Janice came over to Justin and gave him a warm embrace.   "You have a wonderful voice, Justin.   Thank you for sharing it with us tonight."

Ben came up behind them.  "Yes, Justin, you did a great job tonight; and, so did you two."   He pointed to me and Brian.   "I really enjoyed the concert."

I finished opening the door and we all went inside.  The three of us went upstairs to change into something more comfortable.   Meanwhile, Janice prepared hot cocoa for everyone and put out a plate of sweet rolls with the hot cocoa.  

Justin said, "Hmmm…..just the right thing for a cold winter's night."  

We sat around the table and sipped our hot cocoa.   The sweet rolls didn't last long with four hungry guys at the table.   Janice laughed, "It's a good thing I put one aside for me before I put the rest on the table!"

Ben smiled, "You know how guys are always hungry!"

Janice leaned over and kissed Ben, before saying, "Yes, I do know how you men are."

Ben blushed as she rubbed his back and leaned over and whispered something in his ear, which caused him to turn an even deeper shade of red.

Brian laughed, "Janice, whatever you said has embarrassed the poor boy."

Janice said, with a twinkle in her eye, "I'm sure Ben will survive.   He had better get used to being embarrassed, since he is going to be spending some quality time with my Dad and little brothers.   I have tried to get them to promise not to tease Ben too much; but they just laugh and tell me that he needs to get broken in, before he decides he is going to become part of my family."

Ben smiled at Janice, "I guess I will have to endure it, then."   He sighed and tried to put on a look of long suffering, but Janice started laughing.

"You are going to give as much as you get, and you know it, Mr. Nielsen.   I have watched how you and Glenn trash talk each other, so I have no doubt that you will fit in nicely with my Dad and brothers," Janice said, looking Ben.   She burst out laughing, again, at Ben's attempt to look innocent.

Ben laughed with her, "You are absolutely right!   I think things will work out just fine."   Ben paused for a minute and looked at Janice, "Can I tell them?"

Janice said, "Yes, but they have to swear they won't tell anyone until after the holidays."

"Guys, will you swear you won't share what I am about to tell you with anyone, until after we get back from vacation?" Ben asked.

We all nodded our agreement.   Ben had already kind of hinted to me about what was going on between him and Janice, so what he said, next, didn't surprise me in the least.

"I am going to ask Janice's Dad for his permission to marry his daughter," Ben said, smiling.

Justin and Brian both congratulated them.   I said, "I am very happy for you both.   Do you have a wedding date in mind?"

Janice said, "I have always wanted a June wedding, so it will probably be late June."

I looked at Ben, "I thought you two had decided to wait until after you both graduated from school?"

"We originally thought we would wait, but, now that we know each other better, we decided to change our plans," Ben said.

"Ben didn't want to wait, so I agreed to marry him in June, if Dad gives us his permission," Janice said.

"Do you two plan to live here after you're married?" I asked.

"No, I think we'll rent a small apartment down the street.   We have already scoped it out, and I think we can pick it up next summer; because the couple that lives there now, are both graduating in the spring," Ben said.

Justin asked, "Then, who will move in here to take your place?"

"I don't know.   I think that there are plenty of Zach's roommates that would love to move in with you guys.   I know Jimmy has asked about moving in, as has Devon," Ben replied.

"But they're straight," Brian objected.

Ben laughed, "And so am I!   I think I am the only straight guy in the house right now!"   Ben thought for a moment.  "They are both very accepting of everyone who lives here, so I don't think it will be a problem for you, or for them.   However, I do have to warn you about Devon."

"You don't have to warn us, Ben.   Devon has already hit on us both and has made it clear he will have sex with us anytime and anywhere, if we but just say the word," Justin said, with a grin.

Brian laughed, "Yes, he has certainly made his desires known!   He has propositioned Irene, too.   I don't know what Irene's response was, but he makes no bones about the fact that he likes having sex and that it doesn't matter to him if it's a guy or a girl."

Justin said, "Okay, I won't worry about who will be our future roommates.  That means we will lose both you and Glenn."   He looked at me and asked, "You are still planning to return to Atlanta with Rick, aren't you?"

"Yes, that is still the plan at the moment.   I will let you guys know if things change between now and the end of the school year," I said.

Brian's eyes were bright with tears.  "We will miss you two."

I saw his expression and said, "Don't even start going down that road, Brian.   We still have nearly six months before anyone is going anywhere.   I think we need to concentrate on the here and now, and let tomorrow take care of itself.   I, for one, intend to enjoy every moment I have with you guys."

Brian's smile broke out, as he acknowledged the fact that we didn't need to worry ourselves about the future right now.   "Thanks, Glenn, for reminding me that we need to cherish the time we have together, instead of worrying about what might be."

Ben looked at his watch and looked across the table at me.  "We need to get to bed soon.   We have an early flight in the morning."

Janice stood up and helped clear the table.   I said, "Janice, I'll finish cleaning up.   You go with Ben, so you can get some rest, as well."

Ben took Janice in his arms and kissed her.   He took her hand and led her outside.   Brian and Justin bid me good night, and left me to finish drying the dishes.   I had just finished, when Ben returned from dropping Janice off at her dorm.

Ben came in and sat down at the table. "Glenn, I am really worried that Janice's Dad won't like me."

"Why do you think that?" I asked, as I sat down next to him.

"I don't know.   It's just a feeling I get," Ben said.

"Ben, I think you are worrying about nothing.   How can he not like you?   You are good looking, a great athlete, and you have a wicked sense of humor.   What is there not to like?" I asked, earnestly.

Worry still creased Ben's brow, as he said, "I am still not certain I will fit in as well as Janice thinks I will.   I have talked briefly to her mom and dad on the phone a couple of times.   I think they both suspect that something is going on between me and Janice."

"Well, they're right.   There is something going on between you and Janice, and you are going to validate their suspicions when you ask for her hand in marriage," I said, seriously.

"That is what I am worried about.   Her parents are very religious and believe that you should only have sex after you are married.   Janice holds that same belief.   I think they are worried that I have taken advantage of their daughter," Ben said, worriedly.

"Wouldn't you be concerned if it were your daughter?" I asked, trying to help Ben understand Janice's parents' side of things.

"Yes, I would be concerned, but I would also trust her to stand up for her beliefs, and make sure the guys understood that she wouldn't compromise her standards," Ben said.

"Ben, do you trust Janice's judgment?" I asked, looking him in the eyes.

"Yes, I do," Ben responded.   "Why?"

"Because Janice has chosen to marry you over anyone else, that is why.   Don't you think that Janice will be able to vouch for you with her parents?" I asked.

"Yes, I do, but I am still nervous about meeting them," Ben said.

"You wouldn't be normal if you didn't feel a little anxious about meeting them.   When I met Rick's parents, I was even more nervous about it than you are now.   In fact, it was way worse, because I had to be extra careful not to betray us to his parents.   Do you know how hard it is not to show your affection for your sweetheart?" I paused, as Ben shook his head in the negative.   "It's one of the hardest things I have ever done.   Even now, it is very hard for me to restrain my natural inclination to be very demonstrative when I am with Rick."

Ben laughed, "We know!   You can't keep your hands off of him whenever you are around him!"

"That is too true!   He has such a hot body and I am so addicted to him, I can't resist him!   Don't you feel the same way when you are with Janice?" I asked.

"Yes, I do; so, I can see how hard it must be for you, when you can't be as open about your relationship as you would like to be," Ben said.

"It's like pure torture some days, not to be able to hold Rick's hand as we walk down the street together like straight couples do, for fear that someone will report Rick to the military authorities.  Rick tells me to have patience and that things will change when he gets out of the Marines.   I was prepared to wait two more years, but Rick informed me when he was here last time, that it's going to be four more years before he can get out of the military," I said, letting my frustration show in my voice.

"Glenn, everything will work out for the best," Ben said, trying to comfort me.

His attempts to placate me just made me angry.  "Ben, you are going to marry your sweetheart in six months.   I have to wait another 4 years for that event to happen; and, in the meantime, who knows where we will be as far as our relationship goes.   You can tell me that everything will work out, but how do you know?   Do you have a crystal ball that shows you the future?"

Ben didn't respond and looked down at the table.   I felt bad for taking out my frustrations on him.  "I'm sorry, Ben.  It's not your fault that I fell in love with a Marine who still has another four and a half years to go before he can get out.   I sometimes kick myself for not thinking about that fact when I got involved with Rick."

 "Are you saying that you won't wait for Rick?" Ben said, looking up at me.

"I will wait," I said, miserably.  "But that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.   Rick knows how I feel about the military and their ‘Don't ask, don't tell' policy."

"Would you change your mind about the military, if they repealed that policy?" Ben asked.

"Yes, if we were treated equally.   Ben, you forget that the United States does not recognize gay marriages in their federal laws, unlike Canada," I said.   "After Rick gets out of the military, I want to move back to Canada where I don't have to hide who I am to protect my loved ones from persecution."

"Where do you think you will live?" Ben asked.

"I think somewhere near Toronto," I said.

"That is where Janice and I are planning to live.   I like the area and Janice wants to be near here parents," Ben said.

"Have you told your parents?" I asked.

"No, but I think they will understand.   Dad has always wanted to retire from managing the store and move down east," Ben said.

"Cool!   I guess I will have to work on Rick to convince him that living in Canada would be the best thing for us," I said.  "I like St. Catharines a lot, but I guess I would get used to living in Toronto, if Rick wanted to live in the big city."

"I hope you and Rick will live near us.   I would really like that," Ben said, smiling.

"It's a deal!   You have to help me with Rick, though.   I am not sure he is ready to move north of the border, yet," I said.   "I am sure that once we moved to Ontario, he would realize how wonderful it is to live in Canada!"

"We will see what we can do.   I am going up to bed.   Are you coming?" Ben asked.

"Yes, I am more than ready to get some sleep," I replied.   We turned out the lights and moved upstairs to our respective bedrooms.

The next morning, I stood in line at the airport waiting to get through security with Ben and Janice.   Their flight was an hour after mine; but they had decided to come early, instead of making two trips to the airport.   We made it through security without any difficulties, and said our good-byes as we parted ways to find our respective gates.

When they finally started boarding, I made my way onboard and found my seat.   I had selected a window seat, since I like looking out the window.   The flight was completely full, so I waited to see who would be joining me in my row.

It wasn't long before a cute Asian kid sat down next to me in the middle seat.   He stowed his gear in the overhead, including his jacket.   He wore a black sleeveless athletic shirt and bright white jeans that hugged him nicely.   His jet black hair was shaved short except on top which was long and hung down into his eyes, which were chocolate brown.   He flashed his perfect smile as he introduced himself,   "My name is Martin Rupinta."

He put out his hand and I shook it.  "It's nice to meet you.   I'm Glenn Nielsen."

"I'm on my way to Atlanta to visit my Uncle Mark for the holidays.   I'm from the Philippines.   Where are you from?"

"I am from Swift Current, Saskatchewan.   I'm going to school at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities," I said.

"Great!   I am studying there, as well.   I am majoring in Finance.   My parents own a restaurant and want me to manage the money side of the business, so they can concentrate on running the restaurant," Martin said.

"Where is your family's restaurant?" I asked, as I tried not to stare as he adjusted himself.   Martin grinned as he caught my gaze as I looked up from his crotch.

"Were you at the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus concert last night?" he asked, smiling.

I nodded my head, answering his question, "Yes, I was on stage, singing.   You?"

"Yes, I was on the front row.   I thought I recognized you.   I loved your concert, and I loved looking at all the great looking guys on stage," Martin said, grinning as he winked at me.

I returned his grin.  "I understand how you feel, because I like being part of the chorus, just so I can look at all the great looking guys."

Martin asked, "Where are you staying in Atlanta?"

"I'm meeting my partner at my cousin's house and driving to my grandparents' place, where we will be staying for the holidays," I said, noting how the disappointment showed on Martin's face at the mention of meeting my partner.

"Why is it that all the cute guys have boyfriends, already?" Martin asked in frustration.

"Martin, in reality, not all the cute guys have boyfriends, or girlfriends.   You just have to keep looking.   There are plenty of cute guys in the chorus I could introduce you to, if that is what you want me to do," I said.

Martin smiled, "That would be great!   I can't date anyone from Atlanta because my family doesn't know I'm gay.   They are very Catholic and things wouldn't go well if they ever found out."

We continued to get to know each other for the rest of the flight.   "Martin, I think you should come over and meet the guys when you get back to school," I said.

"I would love to do that.   I don't know very many people at school.   It would be nice to be able to hang out with people who don't care if I am gay or not," Martin said.

I gave him my cell number and the address.   We got off the plane and Martin and I made our way to the baggage claim.   We found the carousel that had our flight listed.   I was standing there watching for my bags when I felt someone put their arms around my waist.

Rick whispered in my ear, "Welcome home, Babe."

I exclaimed in surprise, "Rick!"  

Martin turned to look at me, and noticed Rick standing behind me.   He smiled, "You must be Glenn's partner."

Rick released me and said, "Yes, I'm Glenn's partner.   My name is Rick."

I said, "Rick, this is Martin.   We met on the flight.   He attends the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, just like I do."

"Nice to meet you, Martin," Rick said, smiling.   Rick turned to me, "Keith and Kerry are waiting in the car.  Aren't those your bags?"  

I looked at the luggage carousal in time to see my bags pass me.   "Yes, there they are.  Martin, will you grab those two bags?"

Martin grabbed them and handed them to me.   "Thanks, Martin.   Please give us a call when you get back," I said.

"I will.   Nice to meet you, Rick," Martin said, as we turned to make our way outside to meet Keith and Kerry.

Rick and I stood at the curb and waited until Keith and Kerry pulled up.   Keith popped the trunk open and we threw my bags in.   We hopped into the back seat.

Keith said, "Welcome home, cousin."

"Thanks, Keith.  It's good to be home," I said.

Rick leaned over and kissed me.  "Yes, it's good to be back where we belong.   I like visiting with you in Minnesota, but I am a Southern boy and this is where I want to stay."

Kerry said, "I agree with that, Rick.   Glenn, I am very happy to have you back.   Rick arrived yesterday, and I have to say that he has to be the most impatient guy I know!"

Laughing, Rick said, "I never have liked waiting for anything."

I took Rick's hand and said, "But you waited for me."

"Yes, I waited for you, because I love you," Rick said, smiling at me and squeezing my hand.

We arrived at our condo building.  Rick retrieved my bags and we made our way upstairs to Keith and Kerry's apartment.   Keith opened the door. "Come on in.   We called Grandpa and told him we would be up later tonight.   We still have some shopping to do before we leave town for the holidays."

Rick said, "That works for us."

Kerry laughed, "I told Keith you two would need some time alone together before we go to your grandparents' house."

"Thank you for being so thoughtful, Kerry.   I knew there was a reason I liked you when we first met," Rick said, grinning.   He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.   "You're the best.   If Keith ever forgets that, just let me know so we can set him straight."

Kerry smiled up at Rick.  "I'll remember that.   Keith, let's go get that shopping done, and leave these two lovebirds alone."

Keith gave Rick and me two thumbs up and closed the door behind them, as they left the condo.

Rick didn't say a word as he escorted me toward our bedroom.   It wasn't long before we were both naked as the day we were born.   Rick pulled me into his embrace and kissed me passionately.   He picked me up and placed me gently on the bed and started making passionate love to me.   There's nothing like a marine home on leave!

We basked in the afterglow of our love-making.   I ran my hand up and down Rick's back, enjoying the feel of his skin against the palm of my hand.   He stared into my eyes and said, "I love you so much, Glenn."

"I love you, too.   I've missed you," I said, rubbing noses with him.

"We have only 5 more months after the holidays, until I'll be back for good," Rick said.

"Do you know where you will be serving?" I asked.

"Yes, I'll continue on at Quantico," Rick said.   "I got my orders a couple of days ago.    They have moved the entire detachment to Quantico for the rest of our tour of duty.   They started the courts martial, and they recessed until after the holidays.   So, I will still be needed as a witness for a while, yet."

"Will you continue working with the scout troop?" I asked.

"Yes, I will.   I have a special interest in Greg and Cory," Rick replied.

"Why?   They already earned their Eagle Scout Awards, which was one of your goals for helping them," I said.

"They need someone to help guide them through the next few months," Rick said.

I thought for a moment about what he had said and it finally dawned on me – the two boys are gay!   It was the only thing that made sense, given what Rick had shared with me about the two boys.

"Are they gay?" I asked.

Rick didn't answer at first, but then he gave a slight nod indicating that I was right.   "I want to make sure nothing bad happens to them.   They are very naïve about how people react to finding out that someone is gay.   They could be very badly hurt by their ignorant school mates, or worse, disowned by their parents."

"Or have their crazy relatives try to murder them for being gay," I said, placing my hand on his cheek.   "I'm glad they have you to protect them.   We need to be there for them, when they decide to come out of the closet.   I hope you will tell them they are always welcome to live with us, if things get too bad for them."

Rick smiled, "I knew I could count on your support.  I will tell them when the time is right, because I haven't told them about us, yet.   I'm still a little nervous about letting that kind of information loose with teenage boys who don't understand the consequences of what would happen if the Marines ever found out I'm gay.  I'm afraid that they would let it slip if any kind of pressure was put on them; so I probably won't say anything about us, until they have graduated from high school AND they have moved away from home.   But I do want to be there for them if they need me."

"You are always looking out for those around you, Rick.   It is one of the things that make you so special.   That, and a few other things, like these," I said, as I squeezed his dick and balls.   Rick's dick grew quickly and popped free of my hand, as it hardened into the steel pole that I love so much.

Rick grinned and rolled me over on my back, saying, "I think it is time to show you how special I am!"

Keith and Kerry came back late in the afternoon.   By that time, Rick and I had showered and repacked our bags for the trip to my grandparents' home.   Keith entered the kitchen, and grinned at us.  "I see that Rick showed you how much he loves you, Glenn."

I blushed, and said, "Yes, he marked me pretty good."

"I want everyone to know that you are well loved, Babe," Rick, said, smiling.

Kerry joined us.  "Keith does the same thing to me sometimes, Glenn.   It must be a guy thing, you know; that thing about marking their territory."

I laughed.  "Yes, it must be a guy thing left over from their Neanderthal days!"

Keith and Rick looked at each other and laughed.   "I guess that I am supposed to hit you over the head with a club and drag you off to my man cave, where I make mad, passionate love to you; until you admit that you can't live without me," Rick said, grinning at me.

"You already did that, Mr. Lernier!   You know I can't live without you, so don't get any ideas about going anywhere, anytime soon," I said.

Keith said, "Okay, guys!   It's time to hit the road.   If we don't hurry, we will miss Grandma's pecan pie."

Rick said, "We can't have that happen.   We're ready, if you are."

Keith grabbed their luggage and hauled it down to the car, while Kerry locked up the condo.   We followed her downstairs with our stuff.   Rick helped Keith rearrange everything, so it fit in the trunk, and we took off for Grandma's house.

A few hours later, we arrived at my grandparents' home.   Grandma greeted us at the door.   "Take your things up to your rooms and wash up.   Dinner is ready."

We did as we were told, and quickly rejoined her in the dining room.  Entering the dining room, we found Uncle Stan and Aunt Sharon already seated next to Grandpa and Grandma.   Roger, Keith's twin and Tina, their sister, were seated at the other end of the table with Jason, Tina's husband, and her two children, Victoria and Samantha, seated across from them.  

Keith went over and kissed his sister on the cheek.  "I'm glad you could come, Tina.   Mom said you might not be here."

Tina responded, "Jason still has to work during the holidays, but we decided to drive down from Berryville, Virginia, for a couple of days before he has to be back at work."

Jason smiled.  "Being part of the merchant marine means I don't have too much control over my schedule, sometimes.   I'm based out of Norfolk, Virginia."

Keith said, "Jason and Tina, this is Glenn, our cousin, and his partner Rick."

Jason stood up and shook Rick's hand.   Jason has thinning blond hair with a bald spot on the crown of his head, he is about same height as Rick (188 cm. or 6'2") but instead of rock solid muscle, Jason had a slight beer belly, a fat round face with pale blue eyes, and a very wide mouth.   He has large bones, which he needs, since he's carries a massive amount of weight.  

"Nice to meet you, Rick," Jason said, with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

Rick replied with one short word, "Pleasure."   I could sense Rick's dislike of the man.

Jason extended his huge, meaty hand to me.  "Glenn, I am happy to finally meet you."   Again, the smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, made my skin crawl.

"Glad to meet you, as well," I replied, trying to keep from jerking my hand out of his grasp.   It felt like I was grasping a dead fish.   Jason returned to his seat and I made my way around to Tina.   I leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.  "Thank you for coming, Tina."

Tina smiled at me, "I'm glad we made it.   I've been meaning to visit Grandma and Grandpa for a long time.   Since everyone will be here, it made sense for us to make the effort to be here, as well."   Tina looked up at Rick and said, "Rick, thank you for taking care of Glenn for us."

Rick returned her smile.  "You're welcome."

We continued around the table to greet my aunt and uncle, as well as Grandpa.   We found our seats just as Uncle Bob and Uncle Corey joined us.   Uncle Bob and Uncle Corey are twins and have never married.  They are of average build, with dirty blond hair and blue eyes.   Where my mom and Aunt Sharon are identical twins; they are fraternal twins, like Keith and Roger.   They live together in a house at the other end of the farm.   They chose to build themselves a house there, so they could have a little privacy; but yet live close enough to continue to work the farm with Grandpa.

Then to my surprise, Mom and Dad walked in; followed by my sister, Nancy, and my brother, Eric.   Dad smiled at my surprise. "You can close your mouth, now, Glenn.   Yes, we are really here."

Mom came over and hugged me, as I stood up from my chair to greet her.   Dad shook Rick's hand and turned to give me a quick hug, before sitting down next to Mom.

Nancy and Eric hugged us and sat down on the other side of me and Rick.   Mom said, "We thought we would surprise you, Glenn."

"You succeeded!" I exclaimed.   "Are Randy, Shawn, Gary and Jessica coming as well?"

Dad replied, "Yes, they will all be here tomorrow."

Grandma smiled and said, "Thank you Don for making it possible for all of us to be together."

Dad replied, "You're welcome, but you should thank your daughter.   Eva made it pretty clear that she wanted to be here with her entire family.   I'm a slow learner, sometimes; but Eva has been very patient with me."   Dad leaned over and gave my Mom a quick kiss on the cheek.

She blushed, but smiled, and responded, "I am glad we are here, and I can't wait until tomorrow when the rest of the family gets here."

Grandpa cleared his throat, and said, "Thank you everyone for joining us for supper tonight.   Let's say grace."

We all joined hands and Grandpa said grace, to which we all said "amen" when he finished.

Marcy, my grandparents' maid, served the meal.   Dinner was a formal affair tonight, with many different courses.   By the time dessert was served, I was completely full.  

Of course, no one declined dessert, despite being very satisfied, since it was Grandma's warm pecan pie with a huge serving of vanilla ice cream on the side.   As usual, it was simply fantastic!

We all moved into the music room after dinner.   Grandma had moved a couple of more sofas and loveseats into the room, and shifted the two baby grand pianos to accommodate them.   Once were all settled, Grandpa smiled and asked, "Eva, would you play something for us?"

"Of course, Papa," she responded.   Mom moved to one of the pianos and started to play for us.

Grandpa smiled and turned to Dad, "Thank you for bringing my daughter to play for us, Don.   I know I have been overbearing, sometimes, and I apologize to you for that; and I ask you to remind me when I step over the line."

Dad said, "You have done nothing that requires an apology.   I have been just as stubborn and unreasonable, for my part."

Grandpa laughed.  "Yes, we have been the cause of our own suffering haven't we?"

Dad smiled. "Yes, we have."

Grandpa leaned back in his favorite armchair and closed his eyes.   As usual, he was soon fast asleep.   However, this time, a smile of contentment remained on his face as he slept.

Mom finished playing and turned to look over at her father.  "He still falls asleep while I play, just like he did when I was younger."

Grandma said, "Yes, your father hasn't changed much, dear.   He loves to listen to good music at the end of the day, and always falls asleep."

Uncle Bob said, "Corey and I usually play for him."

Eva returned to her seat next to my Dad.   Uncle Corey said, "It's nice to have someone else play.   Glenn, will you play for us?"

I looked at Grandma, who nodded.   "Sure.   What do you want to hear?"

Uncle Bob and Uncle Corey looked at each other as if they were communicating, using telepathy.   Then Uncle Bob said, "We like Hungarian Rhapsody #2.   We heard that you played it for a recital while you were at school at the University of Minnesota."

I looked over at him, in surprise.   I didn't think anyone here knew I had played it for the recital.   I glanced at Rick as I said, "Yes, I did."

Rick smiled at me, and said, "Glenn did a great job, too."

I smiled back at my sweetheart.   Rick must have told them.  "Thank you, Rick.   I will be happy to play it for you."

I adjusted the piano bench and began the piece.   When I finished, there was silence in the room for a moment before everyone started clapping.   I stood up and bowed.

I moved back to my place next to Rick.   Grandma said, "Corey, won't you play for us, please."

We took turns playing the piano, violin or singing for the rest of the evening.   At some point during the evening, Jason had taken their girls up to bed.   I don't remember him leaving, but when we took Grandpa up to his room the girls were already in bed.   

We were just about ready to take our leave of everyone and retire to our room, when Uncle Stan pulled us aside and said, "Can I speak to you two for a moment, in private?"

Rick looked quizzically at Uncle Stan, "Sure."

Uncle Stan also went over to Keith and Kerry and indicated that they should follow him.   Keith and Kerry looked just as puzzled, as we did.

We followed Uncle Stan down the hall to the kitchen, where we sat down at the kitchen table.  Uncle Stan remained standing.

We waited in silence, until Uncle Stan was ready to tell us what this was all about.   Uncle Stan said, "I had a visit from your cousin, Peyton, a couple of days ago."

Rick's expression darkened at the mention of his cousin's name.  "What did he want?"

"He wanted to apologize to you and Glenn for everything he has done," Uncle Stan said.

"Somehow, I don't believe he was sincere.   It would be more likely that he was trying to find out where we are living, now, so he can seek his revenge," Rick said.

"That was my assessment of his visit, as well, Rick," Uncle Stan said.   "In fact, his apology sounded so insincere that I looked him in the eye and told him he had to do better than that to convince me he really meant what he said."

"What did he say after that?" I asked.

"He laughed and said, ‘I didn't think you would fall for that, but I had to try.   Pass this message on to my cousin – I haven't forgotten you or your partner in sin.' And then he left," Uncle Stan replied.

"I didn't think he would give up.   He blames me for the time he had to spend in jail," Rick said.

"Yes, he does.   You both need to be on your guard at all times, no matter where you are.   Peyton has become the type of hardened criminal that won't be deterred by distance, in order to accomplish his dirty work," Uncle Stan said.   "His time in jail has only made him worse than he already was.   I've heard that he has hooked up with a criminal network, to sell drugs and other nefarious items.   The local police have been trying to catch him with the drugs on him, so they can put him away before he really does hurt someone."

Keith said, "Peyton approached us last summer, in Atlanta, and asked us where he could find you two.   When we didn't tell him what he wanted to know, he said pretty much the same thing as he told you, Dad."

Uncle Stan nodded his head.  "I remember you told me about it, when it happened.   I was just surprised that he had the audacity to come up to my front door."

Kerry asked, "What about Rick's Dad and his Uncle George?   Are they still involved with Peyton?"

"I don't know, Kerry.   We haven't seen or heard from anyone from Rick's family since they went to jail, until Peyton showed up at our front door a few days ago.   I find it a little disturbing that Peyton feels so emboldened that he can come to my front door; knowing that the local sheriff is looking to arrest him at the slightest provocation," Uncle Stan said.

"Does Grandpa know?" I asked.

"Yes, I called him as soon as Peyton left our house.   Your Grandpa has alerted the local sheriff's department about the possibility that Peyton, or some of his henchmen might try to cause trouble over the next few days.   Grandpa thinks he has been watching Keith and Kerry, to see if you or Rick showed up at their place," Uncle Stan.

"If that is the case, he may have followed us here," Rick said.

"We thought of that, as well; so that is why we contacted the sheriff and asked that he and his deputies monitor the area around the house for any strange cars, or strangers wandering around," Uncle Stan said.   "I am sorry to dampen your spirits, but I thought you should be aware of what is going on, so you can be on your guard.   I think we can still have a wonderful holiday together; but, we need to be vigilant, so we aren't caught unprepared, if things take a turn for the worse."

"Thank you for telling us, so we can also be on the lookout for anything that seems out of place," Rick said.

"We have also hired a security company to watch the house and surrounding buildings, to augment what the sheriff is doing.   They have coordinated their activities with his office, so that they don't stumble over each other," Uncle Stan said.   "Grandpa felt it was necessary to protect his family."

Kerry smiled, "I'm glad Grandpa has taken those extra steps."

"So am I," Keith said.

"That is all I wanted to talk to you about, tonight.   I'm going to bed, and I suggest you do the same," Uncle Stan said, as he stood up from the table.   "Have a good night."

We followed him out of the kitchen and climbed the stairs to our respective bedrooms.   Rick and I stayed up for a while, talking about Peyton, and finally agreed that there was nothing more we could do about it.

I looked Rick in the eyes, "I love you, sweetheart."

"I love you, too," Rick replied, as he wrapped his arms around me as I put my head on his chest.  

The next morning, we were up early.   We showered together and helped each other get dressed.   We went downstairs in search of something to eat and found Keith and Kerry were already at the kitchen table, eating breakfast.

"Good morning, guys," Keith said, as we joined them.

"Good morning," Rick replied.

Keith grinned at us, "Glenn, it looks like someone got lucky last night."

I blushed, but managed to reply, "Actually, I got lucky this morning."

Rick put his arm around my shoulders.  "Glenn gets lucky all the time.   I just don't mark him every time!"

Now, I was really blushing.   Kerry came to my defense, "You two are such teases.   Leave poor Glenn alone.   He can't help it if Rick likes to mark him."

Keith laughed.  "I love teasing Glenn, because he blushes so prettily!"

"I agree with you, Keith.   Glenn still gets embarrassed knowing that others find him so cute," Rick said, as he kissed me on the lips.

Kerry laughed.  "Glenn, you need to get used to being complimented, because you really are very handsome."

"Kerry, you had better tell him that, since I look just like him!" Keith exclaimed.

"True enough, sweetheart, but you don't blush when I tell you that you are cute," Kerry said, smiling at her husband.

Keith looked over at Glenn. "Well, Glenn, it is time you acknowledged who you are:  one of the handsomest guys around!"

Rick agreed, "Exactly!  Glenn you're the best!"

I smiled at my lover boy.  "Thank you, sweetheart."

Marcy placed two full plates in front of us.   All conversation stopped as Rick and I dug into the pancakes, eggs and bacon.

We were soon joined by the older set.   We vacated our places at the table, since we had finished eating, to make room for them.   Keith and Kerry followed us into the front room.

I got comfortable on the couch and snuggled up next to Rick, and Kerry did the same with Keith.   Keith asked, "What are we going to do about Peyton?"

Rick answered, "I don't think there is anything we can do about him, Keith.   I think we'll have to be more aware of our surroundings, at all times, and take certain precautions, like not going out alone; and always making sure everyone knows where we're at, so just in case something goes wrong we know where to find you."

"Dad mentioned that Grandpa had hired security guards.   Do you think we could do the same?" Kerry asked.

"It doesn't hurt to ask.   If Grandpa considered Peyton enough of a threat to us that he hired security guards to watch the house while we are here; I am sure that he would agree that we should pick up a security detail for when we aren't here,"  I said.

There was some commotion outside, near the front door.   Then the doorbell rang.  Grandpa came down the hall and answered the door.   We heard him say, "Good morning, Sheriff Smith and Mr. Curtis, what can I do for you?"

"Mr. Scarborough we caught this young man trying to break into your garage.   He claims he is a relative of yours," Mr. Curtis said.

Grandpa said, "Please bring him inside.   I believe we need to have a discussion with the rest of the family, don't we Peyton?"

"How do you know who I am, old man?" Peyton asked, with a sneer.

Grandpa replied, as they entered the room, "I think you know the answer to that question already, Peyton."

Rick and I stood up as we saw Peyton, in handcuffs, being led into the front room.  Mr. Curtis directed Peyton to a chair and sat next to him, with Sheriff Smith on the other side of him.   Each of them was ready to detain Peyton, should he attempt to escape.

As Peyton gazed at me and Rick, a look of pure hatred filled his eyes, and he spat on the floor.  "I came to do justice and take those two sinners out of this world.   How can any of you be in the same room with such vile creatures?"

 Grandpa looked at Peyton and said, "I think that you should reconsider your definition of who qualifies as a vile creature, and what it means to be a sinner, Peyton."

Peyton looked at Grandpa and replied, "What do you mean?"

"I believe that you met the head of your partner in jail, since you both shared the same jail cell.   I have it on good authority that you and he were lovers the entire time you inhabited that jail cell.   Would you care to comment?"   Grandpa asked.

Peyton's face was white as a sheet.   "How do you know that?" he asked, in a voice just barely above a whisper.

"Because your partner was picked up about an hour ago, trying to rob the convenience store in town, and suffered gunshot wounds when the sheriff and his deputies arrested him.   Unfortunately for you, he sang like a canary, and even requested that his confession be videotaped; so that there would be no doubt as to what you and he have done.   He even admitted to blackmailing you into doing what he wanted, because you were too afraid of what your family would do to you if they ever found out you are gay, just like your cousin," Grandpa replied, looking Peyton in the eyes.

"You can't be telling the truth.   John would never rat me out," Peyton said.   "I left John at that store only a little while ago."

"Yes, you did, that is correct.   Sheriff Smith had you followed, as you drove here.  He and his deputies were watching as your partner robbed the cashier.   When he saw the sheriff, he panicked and opened fire on the officers," Grandpa said.

Sheriff Smith said, "Yes, that is true."

Peyton looked around the room and saw that there wasn't a single friendly face among us.   "I came here to settle a score with Rick and his filthy lover."

Rick said, "Peyton, let go of your hatred and look inside yourself for a moment.   Do you like what you have become?"

Peyton stared hard at his cousin, before answering.   "No, I don't, but that doesn't change the fact that it is your fault I am where I am, today."

"How is that so?   Did I force you to destroy our apartment?   Did I force you to have sex with your cell mate?" Rick asked.

Peyton wouldn't answer, so Rick continued, "You and I were raised by parents who taught us to take responsibility for our own actions.   Can you deny that you took action against Glenn and me of your own accord?"

Peyton looked like he was going to argue, but, then said, "You're right, Rick.   I did it because I wanted to make Angie happy.   She demanded that I go after you and Glenn, to prove I was better than you.   She kept poking at me and telling me that you were a better man than me, even if you were gay."

Rick said, "What happened to Angie?"

"She is home with her parents.   After getting out of jail, she wanted nothing to do with me.   When John got out, he called me and threatened to out me to everyone in the community, if I didn't live with him.   I know how much our family hates gays, so I felt that I didn't have any choice but to do as he asked," Peyton said.

"But that doesn't explain why you continue to hate us," I said, speaking for the first time since Peyton entered the room.

Peyton turned to look at me, and said, "As long as I could make believe that you and Rick were the cause of my problems; I didn't have to admit who I am, and that I hate myself.   I didn't have the courage to stand up to Angie, any more than I had the courage to stand up to John; and I couldn't face the fact that I wasn't as strong as Rick.   Our parents' hatred of gays was just an excuse for me to project my anger onto someone else.   Their religion has truly brainwashed them into thinking it is okay to commit murder for their religious views."

Grandpa said, "It is sad to hear that your parents have succumbed to the preaching of many of our so called ‘Christian' churches.   But that doesn't mean that you have to continue to believe in the same misguided doctrines as they do."

"I know that, now; but I guess it is too late to change," Peyton said.

"You can always make a change in your life for the better," Grandpa said.   "Sheriff, what will happen to Peyton now?"

"Peyton has violated his parole, so he'll have to finish out his original sentence behind bars," Sheriff Smith said.

"Peyton, if you will make the effort to change your life, I promise you I will help you re-establish yourself as an honest and upright citizen; once you have paid your debt to society," Grandpa said.

"How will I know you will keep your promise?" Peyton asked, skeptically.

"You won't, until you are released from prison; but you can ask your cousin if I keep my promises," Grandpa said, looking Peyton in the eyes.

Peyton looked at Rick for confirmation.   Rick said, "Grandpa has always kept his promises.   I am sure that Sheriff Smith can vouch for that, as well."

Sheriff Smith smiled, "Yes, I can say that Mr. Scarborough has always been a man of his word.   He has helped me out a time or two in the past.   You are very fortunate to have someone like Mr. Scarborough as your advocate."

Peyton looked around the room, and said, "I can't believe that you would be willing to help me, after all the things I have done."

Keith said, "Peyton, you have to remember, we don't hate you.   We never did.   You were the one who decided to take action against us."

"I'm sorry for what I have done," Peyton said.   "Can you ever forgive me?"

"Yes, Peyton, I think that we can find it in our hearts to forgive you," Grandpa said looking over at me and Rick, "Isn't that correct, boys?"

Rick didn't answer, so I spoke up.  "Yes, Grandpa, I can forgive him for his actions, but it will be a long time before we can forget everything we have been through.   We will always have to be on our guard because others in his family feel the same way as Peyton did."

"Peyton, I hope you are sincere in your apologies to us; because I want to believe that at least one member of my family doesn't hate me," Rick said, looking Peyton in the eye.

Peyton blanched when he heard Rick's comment.  "I'm so sorry, Rick.   I really am.   I hope that our parents can mend their ways and come to recognize just how hateful they have been."

"I hope so, too," Rick said.

Sheriff Smith said, "Peyton, it's time to go."  He stood and helped Peyton to his feet.   He and Mr. Curtis escorted Peyton outside and into the sheriff's car.  

Mr. Curtis came over to Grandpa, "Sir, do you still need our services?"

Grandpa responded, "Yes, at least until we know that Peyton's friends have all been rounded up.   Thank you for asking, Mr. Curtis."

We returned to the front room where Grandma sat, waiting for us.   I said, "I'm glad that is over.   I guess we won't have to worry about Peyton for a long time to come."

Rick pulled me close, and said, "Yes, it is a relief to know he will be out of the way for a while."

Grandma said, "I think we all should write to him and encourage him to change, while he is in prison.   I can't think of a better way to help keep him motivated to change than to stay in contact with him.   We need to provide him the hope he will need to keep going."

Grandpa said, "Yes, I think that is an excellent idea."

Mom said, "We need to do what we can to help him turn around his life."   She looked at Rick.  "Rick, you are the one who has been hurt the most by Peyton and the rest of your family.   How do you feel about what has happened?"

Rick looked at Mom and said, "Honestly, I don't know how I feel.   I am still trying to recover from the shock of seeing him here.   I can't fathom the depth of hatred he must feel toward Glenn and me that would motivate him to follow us here, with the intent to harm us.   I heard his words and his apology, but I can't believe that they are sincere.   People don't just change because they have been put into handcuffs and will spend more time in jail.   I think he put on a performance for all us to try and help his own cause, especially with the sheriff present in the room."

Dad said, "I don't pretend to understand how you feel, Rick; but I think, for our sakes, that we need to give Peyton a chance to prove the he was sincere in what he said."   Dad paused, and then said, "I think that we need to give Rick and Glenn some time to absorb what has happened today.   The rest of us may have our own opinions of what they should do; but, in the end, they are the ones most affected by what Peyton has done."

We spent the rest of the morning talking about what had happened and what it meant to us as a couple.   We eventually left the rest of the family discussing the events of the morning and went to our room.

As soon as we were alone, Rick took me in his arms and pulled me down on the bed.   He didn't say anything, but just held me, so I snuggled up next to him and waited until he was ready to talk.

Rick thoughts were in turmoil.   He never expected to see Peyton at the Scarboroughs' home.   He should have known that Peyton would follow them, especially after what he had told Keith and Kerry last summer when he had gotten out of jail.   Time and distance had blurred his memory of what had happened, and he wasn't exactly thinking of having to defend himself and his loved ones against an attack.

The Scarboroughs were being true to form, by asking him to forgive Peyton.   They are good people and always look for the good in others.   He had experienced it himself, many times.   He knew he should be able to find it in his heart to forgive Peyton.   However, it still really hurt that not only did he try to do damage to himself and Glenn; but that he had been dating Angie.   It didn't surprise him when Peyton said she wouldn't have anything to do with him, after he got out of jail.   She was like that, and would probably always be pretty cold and calculating.

Rick listened to Glenn's breathing and knew he had fallen asleep in his arms.   It gave him comfort to feel Glenn's warmth and the press of his body against his.   This gorgeous man loved him with all of his heart, and he knew that Glenn would always be there for him.   Knowing that helped him reach a decision about Peyton.   He would give Peyton the chance to prove that he really had had a change of heart; but, at the same time, he would take every precaution to ensure Glenn's safety, just in case Peyton's words proved to be false.   He didn't think Grandpa Scarborough would fault him for being prepared for any contingency.   With that decision made, Rick let himself relax, and soon drifted off.

Rick and I were awakened by the sound of our door opening and Mom saying, "Boys, your brothers are here."   We got up and followed her downstairs, where we found Gary, Jessica, Miriam, Jack, Randy and Shawn all waiting for us in the front room.   Jack ran over and practically jumped into Rick's arms. 

"Do you remember me?" asked Jack.

"Yes, I remember you, Jack," Rick said, smiling.   "You have grown up a lot since I saw you last."

"That's because I am in the first grade now, and I am going to be seven next May," Jack said.

"Good for you," Rick said, still smiling at the little guy.   "I hope this means we will still get to play games with you?"

"Yes, it does Uncle Rick," Jack said, smiling back at Rick.

Miriam walked over and politely waited for us to turn our attention to her.   I said, "Hello, Miriam.   How did you like your airplane ride?"

"I liked it very much, Uncle Glenn," Miriam responded.   "Do I get a hug and a kiss, too?" she asked.

"Of course you do," I replied, smiling.   I hugged her and kissed her cheek.   "You have sure grown a lot taller since I saw you last."

Miriam grinned.  "Yes, I am the tallest one in my class."

"How do the boys like that?" I asked.

"They are fine with it.   They always ask me to be on their team when we play basketball for gym," Miriam said.

Gary and Jessica came forward, and gave me and Rick a hug.   "It's good to see you two together, again.   Glenn was pretty miserable without you, Rick," Gary said.

"I know," Rick said, with a grin.   "I wanted to make sure he knows how much he needs me."

Jessica laughed. "You did do that, if nothing else.   I have never seen anyone quite so down in the dumps as Glenn was when he and Ben came out during the summer."

Randy and Shawn gave us a group hug.   "We're glad to see you two." Shawn said.

Randy said, "Shawn was worried about you.   He kept telling me something was going on with you two.   And then when we get here, Mom and Dad told us all about Peyton."

Shawn looked Rick in the eyes.  "Rick, it is time to heal.   Let go of your anger."

Rick held Shawn's gaze for a moment, before he said, "I need help to do that, because the wounds are too deep for me to pretend they aren't there."

To which Shawn replied, "You have all the help you need to heal in Glenn, if you will let his love strengthen you.   You need to learn to harness the great power there is in your partner."

Rick turned to me and I looked into his eyes.   "I love you, Mr. Lernier.   I will always be here for you."

Rick's eyes were bright with tears, which he blinked back to prevent them from falling.   I put my arms around his waist and pulled him close to me, so I could whisper in his ear, "You're stronger than you think, Rick.   You're the rock I lean on, when I am weak.   Let me be the rock for you, this time."

Rick wrapped his arms tightly around me and held me for a long moment, without saying anything.   He released me when Jack pulled on Rick's shirt. "Can we go outside and play ball?"

Rick smiled at Jack.  "Yes, Jack, we can go outside and play some ball."

"The sports equipment is in the garage," Grandma said.

"Thanks, Grandma.   I know where it is," Rick said, as he took Jack by the hand and led him outside.

Randy looked at me and asked, "Are we going to join them?"

"Yes, let's go outside," I said.

Shawn and Randy followed me outside.   Rick came out of the garage with a soccer ball which he kicked across to me, while he set up the cones for the goals at either end of the yard.   Shawn stepped back inside and returned with Gary, so we would have even teams.

We played soccer until Grandma called to us to come help start a fire in the fire pit, behind the house.   We stopped our game and walked around to the back of the house.  

Randy said, "I didn't know that our grandparents were so wealthy.   Look at the size of that swimming pool!"

"You haven't seen anything yet, Randy.   Wait until you see our grandparents' cars," I said.

Shawn laughed, "What is it with you guys and cars?   Randy has to have the fastest sports car around."

"He comes by it naturally, Shawn.   Grandma likes to race her Porsche and Grandpa has a few nice cars in the garage you should take a look at later," I said, grinning.

"Yes, I remember you did tell us something about that last year when you started school at Georgia Tech," Shawn said.

Gary said, "I knew about the cars, because Dad used to talk about driving them when he and Mom were first married."

We walked down the path to the covered patio with the fire pit where we found Eric and Nancy, already there, waiting for us.

"I have laid out the wood, so it will start properly," Eric said, looking up from where he was kneeling, next to fire pit.

Gary looked at his handiwork. "It looks good, Eric.   Where are the matches?"

"Right here," Nancy said, holding out the box of matches.   "Grandma says we are going to cook tin foil dinners tonight, like they used to do when Mom was little."

"Cool!" exclaimed Jack.   "I love cooking over a fire.   Dad does a great job making peach cobbler."

Gary smiled at his son.  "Thank you, Jack.   I'm glad you like my cooking."

We took seats around the fire and talked about our favorite memories of camping as a family.   Soon, the rest of the family joined us around the campfire.   Grandpa had prepared several kinds of dinners for us.   For the children, he had them put together macaroni and cheese or pasta with marinara sauce, which they placed in an aluminum loaf tin and wrapped in tin foil, which he then attached to a hot dog roasting stick.   We helped Miriam and Jack cook their dinners.   The rest of us chose the hamburger meals with carrots, onions and potatoes that we threw into the coals to cook.   Rick helped me retrieve mine after I had turned it over to cook on the other side. 

Rick and I sat next to each other as we opened our meals and began eating.   I looked around the campfire to see my entire family enjoying this quiet time we had to share with each other.   I thought how wonderful it was to have my family close to me.

Rick must have been thinking the same thing, because he said, "I love being part of our family.   It is the combined love of every member of this family that will help me to become a better person.   We are so fortunate to have a family who loves us for who we are, and accepts us, without judging us."

"I agree with you," I said.

We spent the rest of the evening visiting with our family and getting caught up on each other's activities.   It was very late when we helped Grandpa put out the fire and we retired to our room.   Rick closed the door behind us, and pulled me into the bathroom and helped me out of my clothes.   We showered together to get the campfire smell off of our skin.  

I like the smell of the campfire when I am outside, but I don't like it when I am indoors and trying to get to sleep.   We finished getting ready for bed and climbed in.   Rick pulled me close to him and wrapped his arms around me.   He kissed me and we soon fell asleep.

The rest of the week, Grandpa let us take the sports cars out for a drive.   He took everyone on a tour of the peach farm and regaled us with many family stories.   The holidays were wonderful for all of us.   Grandpa and Grandma arranged for a family portrait to be taken of all of us.   I know that Rick and I will never forget the closeness we felt to our family, as a result of spending a few weeks together at my grandparents' home.

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus 2011-2012 Concert Schedule:

Lang Lang - Hungarian Rhapsody #2 -