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




Chapter 79: Double Weddings

Rick walked down the lane to the shed where Grandpa kept his farm equipment.   He had arisen early and had quietly dressed, leaving the house to spend some time alone, thinking.   He waved a good morning to the security detail that guarded the house, and noted that Mr. Curtis had directed one of his men, Joel, to follow him.   He had gotten to know a few of the guys, since Grandpa insisted that they be included in the festivities during the holidays; even though they were still on duty.

Knowing they were there was a comfort; but, at the same, time it worried him that such measures were necessary to protect him, and those he loved.   Rick's thoughts went back to his lover, whom he had left sleeping peacefully in their bed.  

As he dressed, he looked into the beautiful face he had grown to love so much.   It made him smile as he noted the little bit of peach fuzz that had managed to grow on Glenn's upper lip.   He teased Glenn good-naturedly about his lack of facial hair; but, at the same time, he loved the touch of Glenn's smooth skin under his hands.  Sometimes, Rick still couldn't believe that this boy-man loved him so unconditionally.   Rick stifled the urge to run his fingers along Glenn's jaw line to his chin and finally to caress his cheek, as he usually did every morning.   The memory of the touch of Glenn's skin made his fingers tingle.   He knew if he touched Glenn's face, he would wake him; and he wanted to spend some time alone this morning, to think about where he was headed at the beginning of this New Year.

So, instead of caressing Glenn's face, he quickly finished dressing and tiptoed out of the room and down the stairs.   He paused at the front door and listened.  The rest of the house was quiet, so he gently opened the door and softly closed it behind him.

He walked swiftly, and soon arrived at the equipment shed.   He decided to look inside.   He opened the door and caught the smell of engine oil, gasoline and metal parts as he entered the building.   In front of him were the two tractors Grandpa used to maintain the farm in good condition.   He walked around them, then decided to climb into the driver's seat.   He sat there for a moment and let the memories wash over him of his first summer here with Glenn.    Grandpa had set them to driving the tractors to clean out the weeds, etc., from in between the rows of peach trees.   He remembered Grandpa saying that they needed to get as close to the trees as possible with the tiller, to break up the soil.   He laughed to himself as he remembered Glenn's first attempt to get close to the peach trees.   Glenn didn't watch the tree limbs and ended up being knocked off the tractor.   He had panicked and had jumped off of his tractor, and ran over to see if Glenn was okay.   Fortunately, the tractor stalled out, so Glenn had suffered only minor scrapes and bruises; and they had both laughed pretty hard at Glenn's misadventure.   Glenn eventually mastered the art of driving the tractor near the trees without getting knocked off; but Rick always kept Glenn in his line of sight, just in case!  

Running his hand over the steering wheel, Rick liked the feel of the solid workhorse beneath him that reminded him of the solid strength of his adopted family.   The Scarboroughs had treated him as their own flesh and blood from the very beginning; starting with Keith and Roger and their parents, and ending with his rock-solid relationship with Glenn.  

He felt a sense of renewed strength; and a new sense of purpose as he pondered how fortunate he was to have a strong support network to fall back on, when times were tough.   He marveled at how quickly he had been able to move past the incident with Peyton.   All of the pain and suffering he had felt, as a result of his parents' rejection, had returned to him in full force when he saw Peyton enter the room that morning; and, with it, had returned the hot, fiery anger he felt toward his family, for threatening to destroy the happiness he had found in his relationship with Glenn.

After their initial comments about forgiving Peyton, his adopted family had not pushed him on the issue.   The only indication he had that they were still concerned about his feelings toward his family came last night, when Mom Nielsen had sat down with him in a quiet moment and put her arm around his shoulders, as they talked about new beginnings for the coming year.  

He heard in his memory her words, "Rick, my son, you must let go of your anger toward your family, so you can make room for all of the love and happiness you and Glenn share.   I know what I am talking about."

She put her fingers to Rick's lips as he was about to respond, "No, Rick, let me finish.   I watched your father harbor ill will and resentment towards my parents for over 20 years, because of a seemingly insignificant event.   The grudge he carried on his shoulders turned him into an angry man, who rejected our son and his partner.   It caused an untold amount of damage to the rest of my children, because of the harshness it brought out in him.   I don't want you to damage your relationship with Glenn, or inflict your anger, pain and suffering on your children.   Please consider how much time and energy you have wasted, so far, on your bad feelings.   I have watched you try to hide it from us; and, especially from Glenn.   I know Glenn feels like he is the cause of all your pain and suffering, because your family rejected you when they found out Glenn was your partner.   When Glenn sees you suffering so much, he blames himself for it.   He has asked me many times if he should let you go, to prevent you from suffering anymore; despite the fact that it would tear him up to do so."

Rick said, earnestly, "Mom, I have really tried to help Glenn see that it is not his fault that my family chose to treat me the way they have."

"I know you have, Rick, but that doesn't change how Glenn feels.   You both need to overcome this obstacle, to free yourselves of this burden.   It's not fair to either one of you to let this continue to stand between you.  You know that Glenn won't let it go, until you do; because your suffering causes him pain, too.   I am not asking you to forget what has been done to you; but, I am asking you to let go of your anger and let your wounds begin to heal.   I know it will be difficult to do; but, I am confident that my two sons can work on it together and beat it!"

Her words had stayed with him last night, and were the reason he had ended up here, to sort things out in his mind.   Mom's comments had caught him by surprise; because up to that point, he had been blind to the pain he caused Glenn, since he was always experiencing so much pain, himself.   It made sense to him, now, as he looked back over the last year and a half that they had been together, why Glenn reacted the way he did, whenever Rick felt the ache in his heart at the rejection of his parents and family,.   The realization that he and Glenn had become knit together as one soul, and what one felt the other did, as well; opened up another whole dimension to their relationship that Rick had previously overlooked.   He knew that they were starting to finish each other's sentences, sometimes; and, that he could look at Glenn and know what his thoughts were on a subject before Glenn could vocalize them.  

Rick resolved to do his best to overcome his anger, so that he could be a better partner for Glenn.   Mom was right!   They needed to make room in their lives for the joy and happiness that their love brought to each other.   Having resolved to work on his emotions and to let go of the negative feelings he had, he climbed off of the tractor and walked around the two tractors one last time; before exiting the building with a new sense of purpose and a much lighter step than when he arrived.      

He motioned to the security guard to join him as he walked back toward the house.   Rick said, "Thanks for giving me some space, Joel.   I needed some time to think."

The big, burly security guard grinned.  "I gathered that, so I waited outside, until you were ready to go back to the house."

Rick looked over at Joel, and said, "Sometimes, a few minutes alone can do wonders."

"Yes, you are correct, Rick.   You and Glenn have been through a lot with your family.   I have to admit that I had an aversion to gays when I first met you and Glenn; but, after getting to know you two and Randy and Shawn, I have had a change of heart.  You guys seem to genuinely love each other, and the way you treat each other is the same as my wife and I do.   Thank you for being patient with me and my preconceived notions about gays.   This assignment has been quite an educational one for me; as it has been for the rest of the guys.   I know for a fact that Jerry and Dan have had a change of attitude toward gays, as well, these last few days," Joel said.

"I am happy to know we can count you guys as our friends; and not just as hired guns to do a job," Rick said, smiling.

"Your family has done a lot for us this holiday season.   We were out of work and needed the cash; so, when this job came up, we were more than happy to do the job.   Your Grandpa offered us permanent jobs here on the farm, to help your uncles.   We talked it over with our wives last night, and we've decided to take him up on the offer.   Your Grandpa also hired Mr. Curtis as his full time security advisor; and we will be working with him, to set up security at all of the Scarborough properties, including those owned by the grandchildren," Joel said.

"Grandpa has always been a good judge of character.   I am glad he hired you guys.   I feel much better about sending Glenn back to school, knowing that Grandpa has hired Mr. Curtis to take care of security.   It is sad that we have to take such precautions; but we can't afford not to, given the hatred and violence toward gays that is preached from the pulpits of the churches in this country," Rick said.

"You are right, Rick.   We certainly have a sad state of affairs in our country that was founded on freedom from religious persecution, where we can't let people live in peace. who don't believe as we do," Joel said.   "Our preacher is always telling us we have to do away with sinners; but the way I read the bible, it says we must love our neighbors, and even more than that, we must love them that hate us."

Rick stopped short and turned to face Joel.   Joel had continued on and hadn't noticed that Rick had stopped, until Rick asked, "What did you just say?"

Joel, hearing Rick's voice behind him, turned around to face Rick and repeated, "Jesus taught, in his Sermon on the Mount, that we must go the extra mile and not only love those who love us, but that we must love our enemies, as well.   Any good person will love his family and friends, but it takes a real saint to love those that hate him."

"Do you really believe that, Joel?" Rick asked, earnestly.   "Do you really think someone can learn to love those that hate him?"

Joel thought for a moment, "I think so.   I believe that once you get to know someone, it helps you learn to love them.   They aren't some unknown quantity, anymore.   People fear the unknown, and, since most of the people I know don't know anyone who is gay, we believe everything our preachers tell us.   It's like, I hated gay people, before I met your family.   I listened to the bile coming from our preacher's mouth, and believed that hating gays was the way God wanted us to treat gay people; but, now that I have gotten to know you, Glenn, Randy and Shawn, I can't hate you.   You are normal people, who want to have a family and to have your loved ones near you.   You haven't tried to turn me into a homosexual, and I don't see any of you as pedophiles, or any of the other horrible things our preacher said gays are."

"Well, I am glad to know that I am none of those terrible things.   I'm still surprised at how many lies are being told about gays to frighten ignorant people," Rick said.

"Yes, you could say that they suffer from compound ignorance," Joel said, smiling.

"What do you mean by compound ignorance?" Rick asked, puzzled by Joel's choice of words.

"It means that they don't know what they don't know.   Ignorant people do things because they are uninformed, or just plain don't have the knowledge to make good judgments.   They compound that problem by assuming they know everything, and won't admit that they don't know what they don't know.   It's better to acknowledge that you don't know something than to pretend you do, and make a bigger fool of yourself, when people discover just how ignorant you are," Joel explained.   "I'm sorry to be talking so much.  I'm sure you have better things to do than talk to a simple-minded country guy."

They had reached the house and Rick turned to Joel.  "Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me today, Joel."   He shook Joel's hand, and, then opened the door and entered the house.  

The smell of fresh brewed coffee filled the air, along with the smell of freshly cooked bacon.   He made his way into the kitchen to find Grandma and Marcy setting breakfast on the table.

"Good morning, Grandma, Marcy," Rick said.

Grandma said, "Good morning, dear.   Please have a seat and I will bring you a cup of coffee to go with your breakfast."

Marcy smiled at Rick.  "Good morning, Rick.   Did you enjoy your walk this morning?"

"Yes, I did, thank you," Rick replied, a little surprised that Marcy knew he had been out walking.

"I saw you leaving, just as I was pulling into the driveway this morning," Marcy offered by way of explanation.

"Oh, I wondered how you knew I had been out this morning," Rick answered with a smile.

Grandma returned to the table with the coffee.  "I am glad you got to spend some time alone with your thoughts.   I know that you and Glenn have been inseparable since you got here, and I wondered when you were going to get some time to do some serious thinking."   Grandma smiled and put her arm around Rick's shoulders.  "We have been very worried about you, since you saw Peyton.   I know that Eva spoke to you last evening, so I won't say anything more; but, I do want you to know we love you, Rick, and will support you, no matter what you decide to do about Peyton, or anyone else in your family."   She kissed him lightly on the cheek.

Rick caught the light scent of lilacs as Grandma turned from him and passed him an empty plate.  "Go ahead and help yourself.   I am sure the others will be down shortly."

Rick looked at Grandma and noted just how much alike Mom Nielsen and Grandma were.   They had many of the same mannerisms and strength of character.   Grandma asked, "What are you thinking, Rick?"

"I was just noticing how much alike you and Mom are.   You and Mom have many of the same mannerisms, and so does Glenn," Rick said, smiling.

Grandma smiled.   "Yes, we tend to act like those around us that we love and hold in high esteem.   That is why you fit into our family so well, Rick.   We love you and you love us, so it is like you have always been part of our family."

Rick heard footsteps in the hallway and turned to see Glenn come into the kitchen.  

I yawned, and then apologized, "Sorry, Grandma.   I am still really tired."   I walked over and sat next to Rick.  "Thank you, sweetheart, for letting me sleep in.   I needed the extra couple of hours of sleep."

Rick leaned over and kissed me, before he passed me an empty plate, which I took from him and helped myself to some eggs and bacon.   Grandma handed me a cup of hot cocoa.

"Thank you, Grandma.   Good morning, Marcy," I said.

"Good morning, Glenn," Marcy replied.

"I thought you had the day off, today," I said.

"I do.   Your Grandma invited me over for breakfast this morning.   My family is still sleeping, so I won't miss anything while I'm here," Marcy said.

Grandma said, "Yes, I invited Marcy's family to join us over at our neighbors, the Braggs.   They raise horses and have extended an invitation for all of us to spend the day riding horses on their farm.   I have already made up a picnic lunch for us to take along with us."

Marcy said, "I checked the weather report this morning and it is supposed to be nice and sunny today, but a little on the cool side."

Rick smiled.   "I love riding horses, Grandma.   Thank you for arranging for us to go riding today."

I looked over at Rick.  "You will have to teach me how to ride.   I have never been on horseback."

Grandma smiled, "Yes, your Mom reminded me that none of you have been horseback riding, unless you have gone on your own, since you left home.   Your Mom learned to ride horses when she was about 5 years old."

"Mom never told us about that," I said, in surprise.

I turned around in surprise when I heard Mom say, "There are a good many things you don't know about me, son, and horseback riding is just one of them."

Mom ruffled my hair as she sat next to me.  "Good morning, Marcy, Mother.   How are you two doing this fine morning?"

Before they answered, Dad came into the kitchen.  "Good morning everyone."

We chorused good morning, as he joined us at the table.   Marcy answered, "We are doing really well this morning, Eva.   We are all ready for our trip to the stables today."

Rick and I finished eating our breakfast and excused ourselves from the table.   Rick took me by the hand and led me back upstairs to our room.   As soon as the door was closed, he pushed me against the door and pinned me there with his body, while he kissed me passionately.

When we finally came up for air, I asked, with a smile, "I wonder what you have on your mind, Mr. Lernier."

I didn't get to say another word for quite some time, as Rick showed me exactly what he had in mind for us this morning!

Later, Rick nibbled on my earlobe before he rolled off of me and pulled me close to him.   He looked into my eyes and said, "I love you, Glenn.   These last few days have been heaven on earth for me."

I returned his gaze and rubbed noses with my lover boy.   "I love you, too, Rick.   I feel exactly the same way as you do."

Rick kissed me one more time, before he said, "We need to get dressed.   They will come looking for us soon, if we don't."

He pulled me to my feet and we showered together.   We dressed in matching t-shirts and jeans.   Rick said, "You look great!"

I grinned, "So do you, lover boy!"

I took his hand and we went downstairs to find the rest of the family, who had gathered in the front room, and were getting organized for the short trip down the road to the stables.

Jason grinned at us when he saw us.  "I win!"  

"What did you win?" I asked.

Jason explained, "I bet Gary that you two were enjoying each other's company this morning, just like newlyweds, and I was right!"

I blushed and grinned, "Yes, you are correct."

"See, Gary, you have to remember what it was like when you and Jessica first were married," Jason said, grinning at his cousin-in-law.   Jason turned back to us and said, "We were speculating when you two would show up."

My brother, Gary, laughed, "Yes, you are right about that, Jason.   When we were first married, we spent more time in our bedroom than anywhere else."

Jessica smiled said, "Yes, we certainly did.   Glenn, don't let these two try to tease you.   You and Rick need to enjoy each other as much as you can, since you two will be going your separate ways in a couple of days."

"That's true.   We will head to the airport tomorrow morning to catch our flight to Thunder Bay," Rick said.

"We are leaving tomorrow, as well, and so are Randy and Shawn," Gary said.

Shawn nodded his head.  "Yes, our flight leaves tomorrow afternoon, but we plan to leave when you do, to make sure we get there in plenty of time."

Grandma came into the room.  "Time to go!"   She gave us our marching orders, and we all scattered to do her bidding.   Rick and I helped load the picnic baskets into the vehicles, then rode over to the neighbors with Keith and Kerry.

The Braggs were waiting for us as we pulled up next to their stables.   Grandpa and Grandma greeted them and then introduced them to us.   "These are my cousins, Tom and Margie Bragg," Grandma said.    We all said "Good morning, Tom and Margie!"  Then, Grandma introduced us individually to them.  

When the introductions were done, Mr. Bragg said, "Okay, first off, let's get one thing straight.   Call me Tom and this is Margie.   We don't stand on ceremony around here, so I will be very offended if I hear a Mr. Bragg, or Mrs. Bragg from any of you.   Okay?"  We nodded our heads in understanding, as he looked around the group.   "Next, who here has ridden a horse before?   Please raise your hands," Tom said.

He looked around and counted how many of us had experience on horseback.   "Okay, that means we have one coach for every two people who haven't ridden a horse.   I want you to pair up with someone who has ridden a horse who will teach you the basics and help you get acquainted with the horse you are going to be riding."

Jack ran over and grabbed Rick's hand, "I want you to teach me how to ride, Uncle Rick."

Rick grinned, and said, "Sure, I'll teach both you and Uncle Glenn how to ride.   Is that okay?"

"Yes!" he exclaimed, exuberantly.

"I bet you will learn to ride a horse better than your Uncle Glenn!" Rick said, grinning at me.   "What do you think, Jack?"

Jack looked up at Rick.  "With you teaching us, Uncle Rick, we will both be the same, because you are the best teacher in the world!"

I grinned at Rick, "Well said, Jack.   I agree with you.   Rick is the best teacher in the world."

Rick laughed.  "Okay you two.   Let's go find us some horses to ride."   Jack led Rick by the hand toward the open stable doors, where the Braggs were pointing out which horses everyone should ride, based on their skill level.

The Braggs spent the next hour or so helping us get familiar with the equipment and how to use it.   Rick showed us how to saddle the horse and demonstrated how to mount him.   Then, he put Jack in the saddle and adjusted the stirrups to fit.   He took the reins and led the horse, with Jack on it, out into the pasture, to help Jack get acclimated to riding.   The horse the Braggs had chosen for Jack was a gentle, even-tempered mare.   The horse was well trained and responded easily to the reins.   It wasn't long before Rick handed Jack the reins and asked him to walk the horse around the enclosure a few more times.

Soon his sister, Miriam, had joined him in the enclosure with Grandma coaching her.   Miriam grinned at us, and said, "Look Uncle Rick and Uncle Glenn, I'm riding a horse all by myself."

Rick said, "Great job, Miriam!   You are doing really well."   Rick turned to Grandma and asked, "Will you watch Jack while I get started with Glenn?"

Grandma nodded her head, and said, "Yes, I can take care of these two."

Rick returned with me to the stables and helped me get the horse ready.   The horses the Braggs had chosen for us were beautiful honey-colored palomino horses.   Tom said, "This one is called Happy."  


Tom turned to help Gary with his horse, while Rick wrapped his arms around me and stole quick kiss and whispered, "I love you."

"I love you, too," I whispered back.   I pulled myself into the saddle with a little boost from Rick, who, of course, took advantage of the moment and ran his hand up and down my leg.   "Rick!" I exclaimed.

Rick laughed.   "I just wanted to make sure you still reacted to my touch."   He took the reins from my hands and led Happy out of the stables and into the same enclosure with Miriam and Jack.   He handed them back to me.  "I will be with you, shortly."   Rick returned to the stable where Tom directed him to a Palomino stallion.

Tom said, "I thought you could handle Trigger here.   He's a little frisky, but normally responds well."

Rick grinned, "I think we will get along just fine, Tom.   Thanks."   Rick led Trigger over to where the saddles were stored, and tethered him to a post while he put on the saddle blanket and the saddle, adjusting things as he went.   Rick said, "Well, Trigger, sounds like you are a lot like me this morning – a little frisky, but I respond well to my lover boy's needs."   He laughed and patted the horse's neck.   Trigger snorted in response, as if in agreement.   Rick laughed, and said, "I think we'll get along great."

Rick untied the reins and climbed into the saddle, and rode Trigger out into the enclosure to find Glenn.  

It took us a while to get everyone ready.   The Braggs were very patient with us.   They joined us on horseback and led us out of the enclosure and out onto their farm.   We rode for quite a while, before arriving at a meadow next to a little stream that was surrounded by trees.   We dismounted and tethered the horses.   Grandma took charge, giving us directions as to where to place the blankets, etc.  We ate lunch and played around in the water, until it was time to mount our horses and return to the stables.   We thanked Tom and Margie for their hospitality, and returned to my grandparents' home.

Rick and I went upstairs and took a quick shower together.   We enjoyed washing each other, as usual.   After getting dressed, we rejoined the family.  

Mom said, "Glenn, let's run through your music one more time.   I know you won't have time to practice it, again, until after school starts."

"Mom…," I started to protest, when Rick interrupted me.

"Listen to you mother, Glenn," Rick said.   I gave him the "look" which just made him laugh at me.   "You look so cute when you're mad at me."

Mom asked, "When do you have to perform it?"

"Dr. Nohr said the concert would be the Friday after school starts," I responded.   "I don't know why Dr. Nohr keeps asking me to play piano concertos, when my real love is the violin.   I have told him I can play anything he wants to throw at me from the violin repertoire; but he always insists that it be a piano piece."

Rick said, "Maybe he wants to challenge you to expand your horizons, so you can be a better musician."

"I agree with Rick's assessment.   Dr. Nohr already knows you can play the violin extremely well.   You have always struggled to master the piano, son.   That is why I made you practice it so much when you were little.   You have a natural affinity for the violin, and you love it so much that I have never had to push you to play it.   So I am happy that Dr. Nohr is continuing what I started and that is to push you to expand your talents into other areas, so you will become a well-rounded musician.   So, when are you going to practice?" she asked, pointedly.

I ignored her question and said, "But Mom, I have already made a lot of progress in playing the piano.   I have done everything you have asked me to do.   I have even managed to master the right technique for playing Mozart, which you used to hammer into my head, constantly, remember?"

Mom said, "Yes, I do remember, and yes, you have greatly improved your technique, as well as many other things.   I am proud of your progress, son, but you didn't answer my question – when are you going to practice?" 

"Tonight will be the last time I will have access to a piano until we start school next week," I admitted, reluctantly, knowing that I had just lost the argument.

"I think you need to run through it one more time," Mom said, firmly.   "I don't want you to embarrass yourself in front of all those people because you decided you didn't need to practice."

"Mom, I already know it by heart.   We have played it over and over again since Rick and I got here," I said, in hopes of getting out of another practice session.   I wanted to relax with Rick and enjoy talking with the family.   Mom can be such a tyrant when it comes to practice time!

Mom didn't respond, but walked into the music room, leaving me standing there with Rick.  I looked up at Rick, as he took me by the hand, and begged, "Aren't you going to help me out, here?"

"No, your mother is right.   I'm sorry, sweetheart," Rick replied, smiling at me.   "Now, don't pout!   You know we're right and just don't want to admit it."

I allowed Rick to lead me into the music room.   "It is so unfair!   Why do you and Mom always gang up on me?  I thought you were supposed to be on my side all the time!"

Rick turned and put his arms around me and rubbed noses with me.  "We gang up on you when we know it is better for you to do something, and, if you think about it, you'll know we're right!"  Rick released me and we moved across the room together toward the piano. 

Mom took her seat at one of the baby grand pianos, looked over at me, and signaled that I should play on the other baby grand piano.   After I took my place, Rick placed his large hands on my shoulders and leaned over to kiss me, before he crossed the room to take a seat on the couch.   "Just be happy, Glenn.   It doesn't do any good to be mad when you know we are right," Rick said.

He smiled at me, as I scowled at him.   Well, at least, I tried to scowl, because he started making faces at me that made me laugh.   I can never stay angry at Rick for very long, because he knows how to make me laugh!   I guess that is why I love him so much! 

Mom began playing, and I turned to get ready for my solo entrance.   We played through Mozart's Piano Concerto #21 from start to finish.   When we finished, I was surprised by the sound of applause, and turned to see that the rest of my family had made their way into the room and had listened to our performance.   Mom and I stood up and took a bow.

Grandpa said, "Thank you for playing for us.   It is good to have fine music played here, again."

Grandma said, "Yes, it is wonderful, dear.   Eva, you have done a fine job of teaching Glenn to play the piano."

Mom smiled, "Thanks, Mom.   I have tried to teach all of my children to play an instrument; some, with a better degree of success than others."

My brothers, Gary and Eric, laughed, and Gary said, "I have to confess that I didn't try very hard, Mom.   I know you did your best, but I am just not musically inclined."

"Nor am I," Eric said.

"But, at least, you know how to read music and you both can sing pretty well, when you try," Mom said.

Eric said, "Yes, we can both sing, but we left room for the truly gifted siblings to do their thing."

Shawn said, "Randy still plays his trumpet once in a while.   Fortunately, he only does it in the middle of the day when no one is home!"

Randy laughed, "I am not as good on it as I was in high school, but I can still play a few things without sounding too bad."

Dad said, "Shawn, you have to be a saint to be able to listen to Randy play his trumpet!"

Randy responded, "He is a saint, Dad, because he married me!"

We all laughed at that statement.   I love my brother very much, but he is prone to practical jokes which sometimes can be very annoying!   Shawn knows exactly how to handle my brother.

"I think Rick got the best deal out of all the in-laws," Jessica said.  

We all turned to look at her, and Shawn asked, "Why do you say that?"

"Rick got the one Nielsen who is very easy to get along with, and the most even tempered," Jessica said, grinning at her husband, Gary, who stuck his tongue out at her.

My sister, Nancy, started laughing, "Jessica, believe me when I say Glenn is not even tempered.   He gets really moody all the time."

"Hey!   Don't be telling all my secrets!" I exclaimed indignantly.   "I am not moody, at least, not very often."

"We all know that Eric is the calmest of all of us, and the most even tempered," Nancy said.

Eric grinned, "Yes, I am the best one, aren't I?"

Nancy jabbed him gently in the ribs.  "I didn't say you were the most humble one, though."

Mom said, "No, Eric, isn't the most humble of the lot of you, but he is the calmest, and has given us the least amount of trouble… least, up until now."

Grandma said, "Let's move into the game room where we can be a little more comfortable."   We followed her down the hall where we spent the rest of the day playing games, visiting and enjoying the company of our family.   Rick and I finally retired, well after midnight.   We fell into bed totally exhausted, but very happy and content.    

The next morning, we were up early.   We showered, dressed and quickly packed our stuff.   We went downstairs and were soon joined by the others who were heading to the airport.   After a quick breakfast, we said our farewells and caravanned to the airport.

After spending all day on airplanes, we finally arrived at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay, Ontario.   We checked in and found our way to our room.   We were so tired, we stripped down and collapsed onto the bed.   I awoke the next morning listening to Rick's heartbeat.   The warmth of his body felt good against my skin.   I shivered as a cold draft cut across my bare back, as the heat kicked on.   I could hear the wind howling against the building.   It was a good thing we had made it in before the storm hit.   The weather frogs predicted it would move through quickly and that tomorrow would be much milder.   I snuggled closer to Rick who automatically wrapped his arms around me.

We both woke up a little later with Rick's hard on caught between us.   Rick looked into my eyes before his lips captured mine.   Our desires for each other were expressed without words, as we instinctively knew what the other one needed.  The only coherent thought I had was that there is nothing better than making out with my lover boy, first thing in the morning!

Later in the morning, we showered and dressed.   I said, "Let's find out who else has arrived."   I pulled out my cell phone and dialed Zach's number.

Zach answered, "Hey, Glenn!   Where are you guys?"

"We are here at the hotel.  Where are you and Todd?" I asked.

"We are downstairs in the ballroom which is next to the pool and the Scandia 1 banquet room.   Why don't you and Rick join us?   We are going over the plans for tomorrow."

"We will be right down," I said.   "Zach wants us to join them in the ballroom."

Rick said, "Okay, let's go."

 We made our way to the ballroom.   We opened the door to find Zach, Todd, Mark and Brandon surrounded by a group of people.   Zach broke away from the group and walked over to greet us.   Zach hugged us both, and said, "Thank you for coming.   Do you mind if we put you to work?"

Rick smiled.   "We would love to help."

Zach said, "Come join the crew.   We are figuring things out now.   The hotel staff is working with us to set up the space the way we want it.   They are catering dinner for us, and they also helped us hire a live band for the evening.   So, we want to have space for dancing, as well as tables for dinner and the buffet."

"Where will you have the marriage ceremony?" I asked.

"Right here," Zach replied.   "Our parents have hired photographers and a videographer."

As we approached the group of people, Mark, Brandon and Todd broke away from the discussions and greeted us enthusiastically.  

Brandon grinned and asked, "Can you believe it?   I'm getting married!"

Mark laughed, "You had better believe it, because I'm not letting you go anywhere until you have a ring on your finger and I have the marriage license signed and witnessed!"

Todd smiled and said, "We went down to city hall yesterday and got our marriage licenses, so we are ready in that regard.   We have met with Reverend Joynt, who will perform the wedding ceremony."

"The rest of our friends should be arriving sometime later today.   I know that weather may delay some of them until tomorrow, though," Zach said.

"Who else is here?" I asked.

Zach replied, "Patty, Janice, Ben, Donica, Devon, Irene, and Jimmy.   Justin and Brian are driving up from Minneapolis today with rest of the guys from the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus.   I think they rented a van or something, so they could travel together."

"What can we do to help?" Rick asked.

Todd said, "Let's ask our parents."   Todd introduced us to his parents, Sam and Vickie Ingram.   Zach and Mark's parents greeted us warmly.   We talked with them for a while about the wedding arrangements, but it seems that the Andersons, Ingrams, and Mattisons had everything under control.  

Sam said, "Boys, why don't you go and relax in the pool for a while.   I think we have the answers to our questions about how you want things, so we can get everything taken care of here."

"Yes, I think we can take care of the rest of the arrangements.   Todd, dear, do you and Zach have your weddings rings?" Vickie asked, looking up at her son.

Todd replied, "Yes, we do.   Mark and Brandon have theirs, as well."

"Good.   Are they in a safe place?" Vickie asked.

"Yes, Mom, we have them in a safe place," Todd said, grinning at Zach.

Zach said, "Guys, let's hit the pool!"

We left the ballroom and headed back upstairs to grab our swimsuits.   We were still swimming when we saw Justin and Brian.   They came inside the pool area to talk to us.

"Hey, guys, you look great in your Speedos!" Justin exclaimed, looking us over.   He turned to Brian, "Man, I love having roommates that are the best looking guys in the world."

Brian grinned, "Yes, I agree with you, but I think you are better looking than all of them!"

"Did the rest of the guys come with you?" I asked.

"No, they drove separately, because we wanted to get here early," Justin said smiling.

Brian was holding Justin's hand, which wasn't unusual; but, I noticed there was a ring on Brian's hand that was not there the last time I saw him.   I looked at Justin's left hand and noticed he wore a matching ring.   It took me a moment to process what the implications were, before I looked them both in the eye and asked, "Guys, do you have some news to share with us?"

 Justin and Brian looked at each other and grinned.   Justin said, "Yes, we got married yesterday."

Rick exclaimed, "Congratulations!"   He enveloped them both in a big bear hug.   Luckily for them, he had wrapped a towel around himself so they didn't get wet.

I hugged them both when Rick released them.   "I am so happy for both of you.   Why didn't you tell us?"

Justin looked at Brian.  "We didn't decide to get married until a couple of days ago.   We didn't want to spoil the celebration of the double weddings, so we got married yesterday."

Zach climbed out to of the pool.   "What's this I hear?   You two went off and got married without us?"

Brian smiled, "Yes, we did!"

Todd joined us, as well. "Congratulations!   I think you two should be honored at our wedding celebration, as well."

Brian turned to Justin. "See, I told you they wouldn't let us escape without celebrating our wedding with them."

Justin smiled and shrugged his shoulders.  "Okay, you were right, but I am still glad we got married yesterday."

"Why don't you two get your swimsuits and join us?" Todd asked.

"Sure, we will be right back," Brian said.

The two left us and we returned to the pool.   Zach asked me, "Why do you think they didn't want to be married at the same time with us?"

"It should be obvious to you, Zach, that neither one of them can afford to contribute to the costs of the wedding celebration.   Justin's parents disowned him and Brian's parents don't know he is gay.   I think they wanted to be married at the same time as you guys, but were too proud to ask to be part of your celebration, without having the means to help pay their fair share," I replied.

"But we would have been glad to have them with us, no matter whether or not they could help pay for the cost of the wedding," Zach said.

"I am sure they know that, but they chose to do things differently," I said.   "Besides, we can still celebrate their marriage with them."

Brian and Justin soon returned, and we had a great time fooling around in the pool and hot tub.   My stomach started to growl, since we didn't have breakfast and it was nearly noon.   Rick laughed.  "Are you hungry or what?"

"Yes, I am starving," I said.

Todd said, "The hotel restaurant is pretty good.   Let's get dressed and we will meet you there."

We spent the rest of the day hanging out with our friends and catching up with what everyone had done over the holidays.   The rest of our friends arrived just before dinner time.   Ben called me on my cell phone.

"Hello, Ben.   Where are you?" I asked.

"We just arrived and are checking in.   Have you eaten, yet?" Ben asked.

"No, we are planning to eat here at the hotel at 7 PM.   Why don't you get freshened up and we will meet you there just before 7?" I asked.

"Great!   I will tell the rest of the gang," Ben said.

I turned to Rick.  "The rest of our friends just arrived and will meet us for dinner."

Brian said, "I'm glad they made it safely here.   The weather was pretty bad last night."

"Yes, it was.   We got in just before the storm hit," Rick said.

Zach picked up the hotel phone and spoke to the front desk about reserving enough tables for our entire group.   They switched him to the restaurant.   He turned to us, and said, "I've gotten it all taken care of for dinner.  Let me call Dad to let him know the rest of our friends made it safely."

At the appointed hour, we met in the hotel lobby.   It was great seeing all of my friends.   Zach and Todd were ecstatic to see that both of their hockey teams had shown up for their wedding.   While Zach and Todd talked excitedly with their teammates, their coaches walked over to talk to their parents.  

Rick said, "It is really cool that Zach and Todd seem to have the support of their teammates."

"Yes, it is truly amazing, given the anti-gay sentiment most athletes display, as if it makes them more manly or something.   Zach and Todd are great guys and I think they have more than proven their worth to their respective teams.   They have earned the respect of their teammates; and, best of all, they are accepted for who they are," I said.

"I am very happy for them.   It makes it so much easier when your friends are there for you," Rick said.

 Devon and Jimmy walked over to us.   Devon said, "Isn't it great that the whole team is here!   Zach's Dad arranged for charter buses to bring the two teams to the wedding.   Coach Dodd made it clear to the team that he expected us to be here to support our teammates.   I heard that Coach Madison told his team the same thing.   Todd's teammates have been really cool about that fact that Todd is transferring to play on our team.   I thought they would be really upset about it, but they understand that it is important for Todd to be with his husband after they get married."

Jimmy said, "Zach and Todd personally delivered wedding invitations to each of our teammates and every one of us is here to support them.   Todd said they personally delivered invitations to Todd's teammates, as well; so they could explain why Todd was transferring schools, and to let them get to know Zach better.   Not only that, they each asked a teammate to stand up with them.   Zach asked Ben and Todd asked his teammate, Aaron Jensen.   Aaron is the center for the Bulldogs."

Ben and Janice walked into the lobby and made their way over to us.   Rick bumped fists with Ben, and gave Janice a hug.   "So, did you two get engaged?" Rick asked.

Ben grinned, "Yes, we did, and Janice's parents are really wonderful.   We have planned a June wedding."

Janice nodded her head, "My Dad thinks Ben walks on water.   My parents have already talked to Ben's parents, and the wedding plans are just about complete."

"Congratulations to both of you!   I am very happy things worked out the way you wanted," I said.

At a signal from Zach's Dad, we all moved toward the restaurant.   The rest of the evening went quickly.   We were all excited to see our best friends get married!

The next morning dawned with much excitement.   We spent the day touring the sights and sounds of Thunder Bay.   By mid-afternoon, we returned to the hotel and started getting ready for the main event.  At 5 PM, we made our way to the ballroom and joined the rest of the wedding party.

The two couples greeted us at the door - Zach and Todd in white tuxedos on one side and Mark and Brandon in black tuxedos on the other.  

Zach said, "Thank you for being here for us."

"We wouldn't have missed it for anything," Rick said.

We turned to Mark and Brandon.   Mark said, "Glenn thanks for standing up with me."

Brandon smiled and said, "Thank you for coming."

"You are welcome, Mark.   Brandon, thank you for asking Robbie to be your best man; you know it means a lot to him," I said.

Brandon's smile widened, "Yes, I know.   Besides you, Robbie helped set me straight.   After I tried my luck with you, I hit on Robbie."

"What did Robbie do?" I asked, in surprise.

"He slapped me!   I was so stunned, I didn't know what to do.   Robbie told me in no uncertain terms that cheating on my boyfriend was not acceptable; and that I had better be on the up and up with Mark, or I could expect a lot of trouble from Mark's friends and roommates.   He said a lot of other things, too, that made me really think.   So, between you two guys, I had a real awakening - to figure what I intended to do with the rest of my life.   I owe my wonderful relationship with Mark to you and Robbie, because you both had the courage to tell me straight out that I was wrong, and that I needed to change."

I hugged Brandon.  "I am glad you listened to us."

More people were lining up to greet the lucky couples, so Rick and I moved on to find our seats.  When the guests had all arrived, the two couples made their way to the stage and took their places at the center of the white archway, where Reverend Joynt waited for them.

Reverend Joynt spoke into the microphone, "May I have your attention, please.   We are here today to celebrate the union of these two happy couples.   Before we begin, I want to welcome everyone on their behalf.   We are happy you are here this blessed day."

She paused for a moment, and then said, "Will the best men join us, please."  Ben, Aaron, Robbie and I made our way to join them.   We took our places and Reverend Joynt said, "The best men will each give a reading."

We each recited our reading into the microphone.   When we were done, Reverend Joynt said, "Now we will proceed to the moment we have all been waiting for.   Each couple has written their own wedding vows, so we will start with Mark and Brandon, and will follow with Zach and Todd."

Reverend Joynt turned to Mark and said, "Mark, you may begin."

Mark turned to Brandon and said, "I, Mark Andrew Mattison, take you Brandon Earl McCray, to be my husband, my partner in life and my one true love.  I will cherish our friendship, and love you today, tomorrow and forever.   I will trust you and honor you.   I will laugh with you and cry with you.   I will love you faithfully, through the best and the worst, through the difficult and the easy.   No matter what may come our way, I will always be there.   As I have given you my hand to hold, so I give you my life to keep."  

Brandon, in turn, said, "I, Brandon Earl McCray, take you Mark Andrew Mattison, to be my husband, my partner in life and my one true love.  I will cherish our friendship, and love you today, tomorrow and forever.   I will trust you and honor you.   I will laugh with you and cry with you.   I will love you faithfully, through the best and the worst, through the difficult and the easy.   No matter what may come our way, I will always be there.   As I have given you my hand to hold, so I give you my life to keep."

Reverend Joynt said, "I now pronounce you legally and lawful married.   You may exchange rings."

Robbie and I handed the rings to Brandon and Mark, who placed them on each other's ring finger.   Then, they kissed each other.   The whole room erupted in applause.

Then Reverend Joynt said, "Zach, you may begin."

Zach turned to Todd and said, "From this moment, I, Zachary Blake Anderson, take you, Todd Anthony Ingram, as my best friend for life.   I pledge to honor, encourage, and support you through our walk together.   When our way becomes difficult, I promise to stand by you and uplift you, so that through our union we can accomplish more than we could alone.   I promise to work at our love and always make you a priority in my life.   With every beat of my heart, I will love you.   This is my solemn vow."

Todd, in turn, said, "From this moment, I, Todd Anthony Ingram, take you, Zachary Blake Anderson, as my best friend for life.   I pledge to honor, encourage, and support you through our walk together.   When our way becomes difficult, I promise to stand by you and uplift you, so that through our union we can accomplish more than we could alone.   I promise to work at our love and always make you a priority in my life.   With every beat of my heart, I will love you.   This is my solemn vow."

Reverend Joynt said, "I now pronounce you legally and lawfully married.   You may exchange rings."

Ben and Aaron handed the rings to Zach and Todd, who placed the rings on each other's hand and then they kissed each other.   Again, the whole room erupted in applause.

Reverend Joynt said, "I present to you Mark and Brandon Mattison and Zach and Todd Anderson-Ingram.   Please come up to congratulate the newlyweds."

Since I was already there with them, I turned and said, "Congratulations, Mark and Brandon.   I am so happy for both of you."   Rick joined me as I handed an envelope to them, and said, "Rick and I talked it over with our family, and we decided that, for your wedding, we will set up the Mark and Brandon Mattison Scholarship fund at the university.   You two will be the first beneficiaries of the scholarship funds.   Upon your graduation, the athletic department will use the two scholarships to help gay athletes fund their college educations."

Brandon eyes were filled with tears.  "Thank you so much!"   Brandon gave us both a hug.

Mark said, with a lot of emotion in his voice, "We love you guys."

Rick and I moved over to congratulate Zach and Todd.   Rick said, "Congratulations!"   He hugged each one.

I said, "I am very happy for you."   I handed them an envelope and said, "Rick and I talked it over with our family, and we decided, that for your wedding, we will set up the Zachary and Todd Anderson-Ingram Scholarship Fund at the university.   You two will be the first beneficiaries.   Upon your graduation, the athletic department will use the two scholarships to help gay athletes fund their college educations."

Todd looked at both of us and said, quietly, "You are miracle workers.   Thank you for making it possible for me to attend college without having to lean on my father-in-law to fund my schooling.   You don't know how much it means to me."

Zach's voice was full of emotion, as he spoke, "Thank you for being our friends; and I am especially grateful for everything you have done for us."

Rick and I made our way back to our table, as the rest of the guests congratulated the happy couples.

Rick said, "I'm glad Grandpa Scarborough agreed with your suggestion to establish the scholarship funds for them.   I don't know them as well as you do, Glenn, but I saw how much it meant to them.   They will never forget what we have done for them."

I took Rick's hand.  "It is the least we could do for our friends.   When I told Grandpa about them and everything they have done to make me feel welcome at school, and how they have become our good friends; he agreed that we should do something extraordinary for them."

"You know we will have to work with the athletic department to establish the criteria for awarding the scholarships.   I think we should ask the guys to be the chairmen of the scholarship selection committees, so we can be assured that the funds go to support gay athletes and don't get diverted elsewhere or go unused," Rick said.

I looked at my lover boy, and said, "You are a genius!   Do you know that?"

"Yes, actually, I do know that I am pretty smart!   I chose you to be my life partner," Rick said, grinning at me.   He leaned over and lightly kissed my lips.

Ben and Janice joined us and the conversation moved to other topics.   The rest of the evening went off as planned.   The food was excellent and the band was great.   We each took turns dancing with the newlyweds, and then with many of our friends.  

At one point during the evening, Mr. and Mrs. Mattison joined Rick and I for a few moments.   Mrs. Mattison said, "Thank you for the generous wedding gift.   It means a lot to both of them.   Brandon, especially, was touched by your thoughtfulness.    He thinks of you as part of his extended family."

I said, "It is the least we can do to help them get off to a good start as a couple.   We thought it would relieve a lot of stress for Mark and Brandon if Brandon had his own money for college."

Mr. Mattison said, "You are right on the mark, Glenn.   He is very adamant about the fact that he doesn't want to take our money without paying it back.   We were trying to figure out a way to help them, without upsetting Brandon.   You have done it without offending them, and in a way that will also benefit others after they have moved on to the next stage of their lives together."

Mrs. Mattison hugged us both.  "Thank you, again, for being here for them.   I know that the Andersons feel the same way we do about what you did for Zach and Todd.   I wish everyone had good friends, like you have been for our sons."

I said, "We have a saying at our place on campus that we got from Jimmy, originally.   It is that we are all part of an ohana; meaning that we are all part of the same family.   And more importantly, we know that being part of our ohana means that no one gets left behind.   We look out for each other and we stand by each other.   Sometimes that means we have to rescue one of the members of our ohana, and set them back on the road to success."

"Mark has talked about this ohana concept with us.   It means a lot to us to know that Mark and Brandon have an extended family there in Minneapolis," Mr. Mattison said.

Jimmy and Donica joined us, as the Mattisons moved on to visit with some of their friends from Duluth.   Jimmy said, "It is so cool that the guys got married.   I just wish they could have been married in the states.   It's too bad there is so much prejudice against gays that has been written into our laws."

Donica said, "You're right, Jimmy, but it falls to our generation to change those laws.   It is people like you and I that will make things better for our gay friends."

"I agree with you, Donica," I said.   "However, it is going to take a lot of us working together to get other people to understand the injustices that they have committed."

Rick said, "Now you have done it!   You have got Glenn started on his activist tirade!"

Donica laughed, "So I did!   I'm sorry, Rick, I forgot how passionate Glenn gets about gay rights.   Glenn, let's talk more about this when we get back to school.   I have some ideas about what we can do to raise people's awareness of gay issues."

I smiled, "Thanks, Donica.   Rick, I promise I won't say anything more about it, the rest of our time together.   Okay?"

Rick put his arm around my shoulders, and said, "Okay.   I agree with you, Glenn, but I can't do anything to support our cause until I am out of the military."

"I am sorry I got started on the subject," I said, turning my head so I could give Rick a kiss.

Patty and Irene came over and sat down with us.   Patty asked, "Are you ready for the concert next week, Glenn."

Before I could respond, Rick said, "He had better be, after all the practicing his Mom made him do over the holidays!"

"I think I am ready.   How about you?   Are you two ready with the Mozart violin concertos Dr. Nohr asked you to play?" I asked.

Irene said, "No, I am not ready.   I am so nervous I keep messing up a couple of the more difficult passages."

Patty looked at her friend, and asked, "Do you want some help with them?   Glenn and I could work with you on it."

"Yes, I would welcome the assistance.   I think that once I get through it a few times, I will be okay," Irene said.

"We could get together tomorrow night, after we get back to Minneapolis," Patty said.

Irene smiled, "Thanks for bailing me out.   I was getting pretty discouraged, since we only have a little over a week before the concerts."

Rick asked, "How many concerts are there?"

"Dr. Nohr scheduled four nights of Mozart concerts at his home.   Each night highlights different solo instruments:  piano and violin the first night, clarinet and horn the second, piano and violin, again, the third, and flute and harp the last night," I said.

"And the following two weeks, there are eight more concerts.   Each night highlights a different composer:  Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Sibelius, Schubert, Paganini, Tchaikovsky, and Mendelssohn.   All of the top music students will be performing at one of the concerts," Irene said.

Patty added, "Dr. Nohr gave us our assignments the day before winter break.   50% of our grade depends on how well we perform at these concerts.   Each concert benefits a different charity.   There is no admission charge; however, patrons are encouraged to donate to the charity that is sponsoring the concert that night."

"Wow!   I didn't know there were so many concerts!   Glenn told me about the concerts next week and that they would benefit various charitable organizations.   That is really cool that the school is giving you an opportunity to showcase your talents, and, at the same time, provide community service," Rick said.

"The university is very involved in the local community," Jimmy said.   "The hockey team does some similar things, but more around sporting events, etc."

Donica said, "I am very happy that the school does so many community outreach activities.   It is one of the reasons I decided to attend the U. of M. Twin Cities."

Rick and I stayed for a while longer, talking with our friends, before making our way back up to our room.   We helped each other get undressed and Rick looked intently into my eyes and said, "I think we need to celebrate."

"What are we celebrating?" I asked, rubbing noses with my lover boy.

Rick grinned, "I think we should celebrate being together - alone in our room!"

"I think that would be a great thing to celebrate," I said, laughing.   "And how do you suggest we celebrate?"

Rick didn't answer my question.   Instead, he picked me up off the ground and walked over and gently put me down on the bed.   He joined me and soon answered my question in many wonderful ways! 

The next morning we were up early.   We had an early flight back to Minneapolis, so we packed our bags and had everything ready to go in short order.   We checked out and caught the hotel shuttle to the airport.   The best flight we could get was the 5:10 AM through Toronto that arrived in Minneapolis at 10:25.

We arrived on time in Minneapolis.   Ben and the girls were on our same flight, so we hired several taxis to take us to the university and split the cost between us.  Rick and I carried our bags upstairs to our room.   After putting our clothes away, Rick turned to me with a wide grin and asked, "What shall we do for the next few days?"

"I think we spend the entire time in bed, making passionate love to each other!" I exclaimed, as I wrapped my arms around Rick's waist and looked into his eyes.

"I couldn't agree with you more," Rick said, as he kissed me.   "We need a "Do Not Disturb" sign for our door."

"I think we can make one up.   I have paper and some markers in my desk drawer," I said, releasing Rick.   "The rest of the guys won't be back until tomorrow night, and Ben will be out with Janice; so, we should have the house to ourselves for the next little while."

"Sounds like a plan," Rick said.

There was a knock on the door, and Ben stepped into the room.  "Guys, I am heading over to pick up Janice.   We are going downtown with some of her friends from the dorms.   Do you want to go with us?"

We looked at each other and Rick responded, "Thank you for the invitation, but I think we will stay home today."

Ben grinned.  "I didn't think you would be interested in going with us, but I thought I would at least invite you to join us."

I laughed, and said, "You know what we are interested in, and it's not going downtown."

Ben laughed with me.   "Yes, I figured as much.   Don't wait up for me tonight, since we plan to be out late."

Ben left, closing the door behind him.   Rick looked at me and said, "I guess we don't need the "Don't Disturb" sign, since we will be alone the rest of the day."

Later that evening, Rick and I prepared our dinner together.   We decided to make a baked ziti dish, with a salad and some fresh fruit, which meant we had to get dressed and go out to the market.   We made a quick trip to the store and returned to prepare our meal.

Rick chopped the vegetables and prepared the salad, while I put together the pasta dish.   Rick said, "I love being here with you, Glenn.   It seems like we have been together forever.   I wish I didn't have to go back to Quantico.   I am really going to miss you."

"I know, sweetheart.   I am going to miss you, too," I said, as I put my arms around Rick's neck and gently kissed him.

Rick asked, "Did you set the timer for the baked ziti?"

"Yes, I did.   Let's go into the family room and relax for a bit, while it cooks," I said.

Rick led me into the family room, where we turned on the TV and got comfortable on the couch.   I snuggled up next to Rick and he wrapped his arms around me.   We didn't find much of interest on TV, so we ended up turning it off and turning on some music.

Rick asked, "Have you decided what you want to do after school gets out in the spring?"

"Honestly, I haven't given it any thought.   I have been concentrating on surviving each day without you.   It has been much, much better, now that you are able to call me more often than when you were overseas; but it still isn't the same as being in the same room with you," I said, as I took Rick's hand in mine.

"I know how hard it has been for both of us, sweetheart; however, we need to concentrate on the positive side of things.   We are more than half way through my one year deployment.   Lt. Col. Bachman thinks we will be sent home in May, sometime," Rick said, trying to lighten my mood.

"Do you want to return to Atlanta and Georgia Tech to finish school?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"Yes, I would like to return to our condo in Atlanta.   I like being here with all the guys, but it is not the same as living with you in our own place.   I also miss Keith and Kerry.   Do you want to go back?" Rick asked.

"Yes and no.   Yes, I want to go back for the same reasons you do, and no, because I have made so many good friends here, and I finally feel like I belong somewhere.   I have never felt accepted for who I am at Georgia Tech, and I hate the fact that I have to always watch what I do whenever we are out public, for fear that someone from the Marine Corps will see us and report you," I said.

"If I joined you here in Minneapolis, I would have to transfer to the reserve unit here, and we would still have the same issues as we do in Atlanta," Rick said.

"Not to mention the fact that we have been pretty open about our relationship with everyone we know here," I said, pausing to think.   "And living with three married gay couples would also raise red flags with the Marine Corps."

Rick said, "I'm sorry to rain on your parade, Glenn.   I know how much you like it here, and how much it means to you to be yourself and not have to hide who you are, to protect me."   Rick's voice cracked, as he finished speaking.   I sensed the emotions he was feeling as he tightened his embrace.

I lifted my hand to his chin and turned his face toward me so I could look him directly in the eyes, as I said, in a tone of voice that left no room for confusion, "Richard James Lernier, I want you to listen to me.   We are going to do whatever it takes to make sure you are able to meet your obligations.   If that means we go back to Atlanta, then we will go back to Atlanta.  I need you to understand that I am going to be wherever you are, no matter where that somewhere happens to be.   Do we understand each other?"

Rick's eyes were bright with tears, as he answered, "Yes, Sir!"

I gave him the "look" and said, "You had better say, "Yes, Sir!" because I intend to be with you forever, and I want to make sure we have a clear understanding of what that means, so we make decisions that will help us stay together."

I gently stroked Rick's cheek, before pulling him towards me and giving him a kiss.   "We will return to Atlanta if you think it is best for us," I said.

Rick held me tight for a few minutes before he said, "I have thought about it a lot over the last few days, Glenn.   I have tried to think of all the consequences a move to Minneapolis would have for us.   I even drew up a chart and listed out the pros and cons.   I will show it to you, so you can make sure I didn't miss anything.   I think that you will see that, from a logical standpoint, it makes more sense to move back to Atlanta."

I said, "I will look at it, but I trust your judgment, Rick.   Let me say it, again, Rick – I trust you!"   I put my hand on his chest right over his heart.  "I trust you because you love me."

Rick took my hand in his and kissed it.   "Thank you for being my life partner, Glenn."

We heard the timer go off in the kitchen, indicating that our dinner was ready; so, we migrated back to the kitchen.   Rick set the table, while I removed the baked ziti from the oven.   Rick poured us a couple of glasses of Martinelli's sparkling cider and lit a couple of candles.   I placed our dinner on the table and dimmed the lights.   We had a nice romantic evening talking and joking with each other, followed by a wonderful, enchanted night together.  

The next morning, Rick opened his eyes to the sight of his sweetheart's angelic face.   He loved how his blond hair fell across his forehead and partially covered his eyes.   Glenn's long, dark brown eyelashes brushed his cheeks and matched his dark brown eyebrows.   As he watched, Glenn seemed to be having good dreams, as he smiled and stirred slightly.   He looked so peaceful and content, sleeping with his head on Rick's arm; his hairless chest moving slightly against Rick's side and his legs, intertwined with Rick's.   Glenn's body had filled out nicely as a result of working out with Ben and his teammates.   Glenn had always been trim, but now he was almost as buff as Rick was, himself.   Rick contemplated his beautiful lover's face for some time as he remembered their wonderful time together last night.   The memory brought tears of joy to his eyes and warmed his heart, as he thought about how much love they had for each other.

Rick thought over everything they had discussed last night.   They had gone over Rick's pros and cons chart and talked at length about their goals and aspirations, both as individuals, and as a couple.   Glenn had agreed to return to Atlanta to finish school.   It still amazed him how unselfish Glenn was about everything.   He had never known anyone, before Glenn, who totally and completely put someone else's needs above his own.  

Rick had pushed Glenn to make sure moving back to Atlanta was what he wanted to do.   In the end, the decision was made jointly, after much discussion.   Each of them had their own personal preferences, but had been willing to sacrifice them for the happiness of the other.   For Rick, it reinforced his determination to put Glenn's happiness above his own, knowing that Glenn was doing the same.   Glenn had made it very clear to Rick that Rick held the highest priority in his life, and that Glenn's happiness depended on making his sweetheart happy.

Glenn had suggested that he drive to his parents' house with Ben after finals, and would wait there until Rick could join him.   They wanted to attend Ben and Janice's wedding in June, so they decided they would stay in Swift Current for a few weeks, before making the long road trip back to Atlanta. 

Rick's thoughts returned to his lover's face as Glenn's eyes fluttered open and a smile spread across his face, as he realized Rick was gazing into his blue-gray eyes.

Rick returned Glenn's smile and said, "Good morning, Babe."

"Good morning," I said.   "You are up early this morning.   I expected you to sleep in after last night's activities!   You sure wore me out!   Remind me not to give in to you when you ask if I am ready for a marathon lovemaking session!"

Rick laughed, "I was going to ask if you were up to making out, again, this morning.   I feel so alive and full of energy.   Do you know why?"

I looked at my beaming lover boy for a moment, and then replied, "You're happy."

"Yes, I am very happy and content.   I haven't felt this way since I left you in Atlanta last May," Rick said, brushing his lips against mine.   It was just enough to make me want more!

I moved closer and kissed Rick, as I ran my hands over his well-muscled abdomen.   I love the feel of his six-pack abs.   Rick had been working out and it showed!   "I want you to make me yours," I whispered, as I nibbled on his ear.

Rick, never being one to turn down such an invitation, grinned and said, "Your wish is my command, lover boy."

We were enjoying the afterglow of our lovemaking when there was a knock on the door and Ben walked into the room.    He stopped when he saw us and said, "I'm sorry, I should have waited until you invited me to come in.   I'll come back later."

He turned to leave, but I called him back, "It's okay, Ben.   Come in and sit down."   I reached down and grabbed the sheet and pulled it up over us.

 Ben sat down on the desk chair next to the bed and said, "What do you have planned for today?"

Rick grinned, "The same thing as yesterday!"

Ben laughed, "I thought that might be the case.   Janice and I are going to spend some time at the campus bookstore getting our textbooks for our classes, and then we will probably take in a movie or something."

I said, "Why don't you meet us for lunch, and then we can all go to the movies?"

"Sounds like a plan," Ben said.

"Ben, what do you think about letting the newlyweds switch rooms with us?" I asked.

Ben thought for a moment.   "It makes sense to do that, since I am getting married in June.   Have you decided to go back to Atlanta?"

"Yes, we decided to go back to Atlanta, yesterday.   I thought that the two married couples could manage this rental for us, since you are moving into a new place and I won't be living here, either," I said.   "I also thought we could approach Grandpa about setting up a rental management company here, because I think that we could buy several more homes along this street."

Rick said, "I think that we should ask Grandpa to set up the same kind of situation for our friends as he has given us.   It would be beneficial for them, as well as for us.   What do you think, Ben?"

"I think it is a good idea, but I would like to discuss it further with Grandpa before we say anything to the guys.   If the business deal is structured properly, I think that it can be a win-win situation for all of us.   I know the guys would never intentionally take advantage of us, but it never hurts to be proactive in protecting the interests of all the parties involved," Ben said.

"Have you talked to Grandpa about buying a home for you and Janice?" Rick asked.

"Yes, I called him and my parents to talk about it while we were at Janice's home.   Her parents would chip in some of the down payment, as will my parents.   Grandpa agreed to buy the home for us, and we would make payments to him until we decided to either rent it out or sell it," Ben said.   "We would be paid by the company for managing the rental property if we rent it, and we would evenly divide the profit from the sale of the house between us and Grandpa if we decide to sell it."

"Sweet!   I knew Grandpa would help you out!   I think he will also work the same deal with the guys here.   I think they will want to stay here until they have graduated," I said.

"When are you going to talk to Grandpa?" Ben asked.

"Today.   I want to talk to the guys when they get home tonight," I said.

"Good.   I will make sure Janice and I are back by dinnertime tonight," Ben said.  Ben got up and walked toward the door.   "I will see you guys downtown, for lunch."

He closed the door behind him, leaving us to enjoy the rest of our morning together.   After a shower and a quick breakfast, we called Grandpa Scarborough.

"Hello, Grandpa," I said.

"Good morning, Glenn," Grandpa said.

"Can we talk to you about a business deal?" I said.

"Yes, what is it that you want to talk about?" he asked in return.

I outlined what Rick, Ben and I had discussed earlier.   When I finished, Grandpa didn't reply right away.   I could hear him writing down something on a pad of paper at his end.   Then, he said, "I like the idea.   Let's go ahead and propose the idea to your friends; and, in the meantime, I will get the paperwork drawn up.   If they agree to the terms we have discussed, we can go ahead with your proposal."

"Thank you, Grandpa.   I am sure they will be more than willing to work with us," I said.

"I will talk to you later today, then," Grandpa said.

"Okay," I said.

I hung up and turned to Rick, who was smiling.   "Grandpa is so cool!   I can't wait until the guys get here, so we can find out if they are agreeable to working with us, or not," I said.

Rick and I met Ben and Janice for lunch, and then spent the afternoon at the movies.   When we arrived home, the guys were home.   We all gathered in the family room and talked about the double weddings and all the excitement of having all of our friends there to support them.

After a while, I asked if I could speak to them about a business proposition.   The room went silent, and everyone looked at me.  I stood up and outlined what we had in mind.

At first, no one said anything.   I wasn't sure what they were going to say.   Zach looked at Todd and asked, "What do you think?"

Todd smiled, "I think it is a very sweet deal and we should do it."

Zach nodded, "I agree.   We're in favor of it, and we agree to the terms you have laid out for us."

I turned to Mark and Brandon, who both nodded their heads in the affirmative.   "The answer is yes," Brandon said.

Justin said, "And it is yes for us, too."

"Cool!   Let me call my Grandpa and I will put him on speaker phone," I said.

Grandpa answered, "Hello, Glenn."

"Hello, Grandpa.   I have all the guys here and I have put you on speaker phone.   They have all agreed to our business proposal and to the terms we have outlined for them."

"Good.   Let me say I am very happy to have you boys come on board with us," Grandpa said.   He continued to talk about the specifics of how things would work.   When he finished, he asked, "Are you all comfortable with how we will run things?"

They all answered in the affirmative.   "Good.   Enjoy your evening, boys, and I will be in touch with you later."

We said good-bye and hung up.  

Zach stood up and came over to Rick, Ben and I, and said, "Thank you for believing in us.   We won't fail you.   I know this is an opportunity of a lifetime.   Todd and I will make sure we make it work for us."

The rest of the guys expressed these same sentiments.   We ordered out pizza and spent the evening talking about our upcoming classes, the business proposal and our plans for after graduation.   We talked long into the night.   For the newlyweds, they not only had the excitement of the weddings, but the added buzz that entering into a business arrangement with us brought with it.   It made me very grateful for my Grandpa and his willingness to take a chance on us making things work.   It also made me realize that my friends are top notch kind of guys.   They are the type of people you can count on.   I count myself very fortunate to have good friends who love and support me.

As we got ready for bed, Rick said, "Glenn, I am glad we have such good friends.   It makes it easier for me to leave you here, knowing that you are surrounded by those who love you and will look out for you."

"I agree with you.   It doesn't stop me from missing you, but they do keep me out of trouble," I said, laughing.

Rick pulled me into bed and wrapped his arms around me.   I love snuggling up to his warm body.   I thought of how much I was going to miss him, as I drifted off to sleep, listening to the steady rhythm of his heart.

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Thank you D. for editing this chapter.

Mozart Concerto No. 21 – Part 1 of 4

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Where to get your marriage license:    

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