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




Chapter 80: Aaron

Brandon awoke early the next morning.   He lay quietly enjoying the warmth of his lover's body next to his.   Since Mark continued to sleep peacefully, he carefully extricated himself from Mark's arms and padded naked across the room to their en suite.   After taking care of his physical needs, he stood looking at himself in the mirror.   Staring back at him was a changed man.   He no longer held onto his hatred of all men, or sought to use them to satisfy his desires for pleasure.   All that had changed, since he had fallen in love with Mark.   It had started with Glenn and Robbie calling him out and putting him in his place, when he tried to hit on them.   They hadn't done it to be mean, or cruel, but to help him to become a better person.   At the time, he could not comprehend that someone could see him for who he was; and, still, want him to be their friend.   Even now, it amazed him that every one of his roommates welcomed him with open arms, and didn't reject him when he messed up by trying to seduce Robbie and Glenn, while he was dating Mark.   Both Robbie and Glenn took the time to talk to him, point out the error of his ways; and, then, made sure he knew they were still his friends.     

The image that he saw reflected in the glass was perfect in every aspect.   He knew he could be a male model, or a movie star, because of his good looks.   He also knew how to pour on the charm and persuade people to do what he wanted them to do.   However, when he looked into his own eyes, he saw someone he was still struggling to understand.   Behind the handsome face and fantastic physique of a man in his early twenties was a very uncertain and frightened little boy, who had spent his entire life fighting to overcome the reality that his parents had abandoned him as a baby; and that none of his foster parents really wanted him, but had accepted the money the state paid them to provide food and shelter for him.   That little boy still couldn't believe that he belonged to a family that loved him, and that he was married to the most wonderful guy in the world.   It all seemed too good to be true; and, that at any moment, he would wake up and find it was all a dream.

He was still staring at his reflection in the mirror, when Mark came up behind him and slipped his arms around his waist and whispered in his ear, "I love you, handsome."

The doubts that had plagued Brandon a few moments ago evaporated in the warmth of Mark's love.   Brandon turned his head to meet Mark's lips in a passionate kiss.   He turned around in Mark's embrace and wrapped his arms around Mark, pulling him closer to him.   Brandon kissed Mark hungrily.   The newlyweds soon returned to their bed to demonstrate their love for one another.

Later, Mark looked Brandon in the eyes and asked, "What were you thinking about when I saw you looking in the mirror?   You looked so sad, and a little scared."

Brandon tried to look away from his lover's gaze; but Mark put his hand up to his face, and gently caressed his cheek, preventing him from turning his face away from Mark's penetrating look.   "Don't turn away from me, Brandon.   I want to be there for you as we work through whatever demons still torment you from your past."

Brandon looked into Mark's eyes, trying to gather the courage to speak about his uncertainties and fears.   Mark continued to gently caress Brandon's cheek while he waited.   Brandon finally said, "I was thinking about the radical changes that you have brought into my life, Mark.   I still find it hard to believe that I have a wonderful husband and a family that loves me.   I am so afraid that I will wake up and find that it was all a dream; a fantasy that seems so real, but disappears just as quickly as it came."

"Why do you have these fears?" Mark asked soothingly, encouraging Brandon to continue.

"My entire life I have longed to have a loving family, and to meet that special someone who loves me for me," Brandon said, his voice cracking with emotion.   His eyes glistened with unshed tears.   "To have my dreams realized so perfectly makes me feel so wonderful; but, at the same time, I fear that it is just that – a dream."   It was all Brandon could do to keep himself together, such was the nature of the emotions he was feeling.

Mark looked deeply into Brandon's eyes.  "Brandon, I love you, and so do my parents.   We are not going to disappear, nor are we going to change how we feel about you.   You will just have to accept the fact that you are a Mattison now.   My parents filed the paperwork for your adoption as their son, yesterday.   Dad said we will need to drive back up to Duluth to see the judge next week, then the adoption will be finalized."

Listening to Mark's words caused Brandon's tears to cascade down his cheeks.   Seeing the tears, Mark realized just how vulnerable his husband felt.   The man he held in his arms that always carried himself with confidence and sometimes a bit of arrogance.   The super jock that insisted on keeping them both on a tight workout schedule and diet, the man Mark had come to love and cherish.   Mark leaned forward and gently kissed his husband.   "Brandon, you are my husband, and I love you very much."

Mark took Brandon's hand and raised it to his lips, and then he played with the ring on Brandon's finger, "Do you see this wedding ring?"

Brandon replied, "Yes."

"It represents my commitment to you, to love you, forever.   You placed your ring on my finger when you made that same commitment to me.   We are a family, now, and we are a part of my parents' family.   Remember, you are a member of the Mattison family," Mark said earnestly, trying to inculcate these facts into Brandon's heart and mind.  

Brandon held Mark's gaze and saw the truth of Mark's words reflected there.   He knew, without a doubt, that what Mark said was true.   The certainty of it flooded his mind, washing away doubts and fears, leaving only the warmth and light of Mark's love for him.   He felt like a huge burden had been lifted from his shoulders.

Mark watched the parade of emotions march across Brandon's face, as his mind processed Mark's words.   He was much relieved when he saw Brandon's expression clear, and a look of happiness and contentment replaced the tormented visage that had worried Mark so much.   He knew that his life partner would need his continued help over the next few months, to unravel the knotted skein of self-loathing that Brandon had knitted around himself.   Brandon's fragile sense of self esteem worried Mark.   His parents had already talked to him about working to strengthen Brandon's self-image; and, thereby, strengthening their relationship.   He continued to hold Brandon's gaze, as he said, "Brandon, you are the most wonderful person I have ever known.   You are kind and gentle.   You have a tough exterior that hides a tender heart.   You are everything I have ever wanted in a mate."

Hearing the sincerity of Mark's words, Brandon smiled, "I think the same about you, sweetheart.   I am the fortunate one.   Thank you for turning me away from my profligate ways, into a path where I can walk hand in hand with you toward a future filled with happiness."

There was a light knock on the door that interrupted their conversation.   Mark said, "Come in."

The door swung open and Robbie and Adam came into the room.   Robbie said, "Good morning, you two love birds."   Robbie and Adam sat down on the bed where Mark and Brandon had made room for them.

Mark said, "Good morning, guys.   Looks like you boys just got out of the shower."

"We did and we thought we would wake you guys up.   We want to know what it's like to be married.   Do you feel any different now than before you got married?" Robbie asked earnestly.

"Yes, it feels different to me," Brandon said, smiling at Mark.  

"Why?" Adam asked with keen interest.

"Because I now have a family," Brandon replied, as he took Mark's hand in his.

Robbie smiled, "That's true, and not only that, you have lots of friends, too."

"You are right, Robbie, I have many good friends, like every one of my roommates," Brandon acknowledged.

"I am glad you guys got married.   Seeing how happy all three married couples are makes me want to get married right now!   I didn't think getting married made that big of a difference, since you guys were already living together; but, Brandon, you are right about making it official.   Now you have a real family.   I have always wanted to get married and have a family; so, watching the six of you get married this week gives me hope that someday I can marry Adam.   Then, we can start our own family," Robbie said.

Mark asked, "So, have you and Adam decided you are going to be life partners?"

Adam answered, "Yes, we have.   I asked Robbie to marry me last night and he said, ‘Yes.'"

"We plan to get married in Thunder Bay, just like all of you did this week," Robbie said.

"Have you told your parents and brothers about your plans?" Mark asked.

"No, we thought we would talk to you, first, before we told anyone else.   We wanted to know your reaction and how you felt about being married," Robbie replied.

"From our perspective, we think being a married couple is great," Brandon said.

"Good.   We will let you know what our families say, when we tell them," Robbie said.   "Thanks for talking to us."

The two boys stood up and exited the room, holding hands.   Mark looked at Brandon.   "Do you think they will be together long enough to get married?"

"Yes, I think they will.   During the short time I have known them, they have bonded with each other, and it seems that they are growing closer together every day.   They have just a little over a year before they both will be 18, and can cross the border and get married," Brandon said.

Mark thought for a moment.   "I think you might be right about them.   It's just that at their age, I was totally clueless about who I was and what I wanted to be.   They both seem so sure about themselves and their sexuality.   They radiate confidence and seem so self-assured.   I envy them, in some ways, because they have figured out who they are so early in their lives."

"Mark, you have to realize that they have a fantastic support network that has helped them to become comfortable with who they are.   When you were their age, you didn't have the advantage they have enjoyed, of being able to talk openly about their feelings for other guys and to explore those feelings, to see if that is what they really want in a relationship.   Robbie and Adam's life experiences are very different from ours," Brandon noted, seriously.

Mark nodded his head in agreement, "I am glad that they have good friends and family to nurture them.   I know when we went home just after school started, Robbie wasn't very happy at his school.   Fortunately, Glenn managed to convince Robbie's parents to let him come live with us and attend high school here.   That's how Robbie met Adam.   If Robbie's parents hadn't let him come here, he wouldn't have had the support network he has now."  

Brandon said, "I didn't know that Robbie was having problems at his high school in Duluth."

"He didn't want to tell his parents about it.   It wasn't until Glenn talked with Robbie about it that Robbie finally told his parents what was going on at school," Mark said.   "I want to provide support for all gay teens like Robbie and Adam.   Maybe we can find a way to help others like them."

Brandon smiled and replied, "We're already starting to do something to help others like ourselves, thanks to Rick and Glenn's generous wedding gift."

"Thanks for reminding me about that.   We need to send out thank you cards to everyone who gave us gifts.   I think we need to get moving soon, or we will end up running out of time today," Mark said.

"We need to start a "To Do" list, so we don't forget anything," Brandon said, putting his arms around Mark's waist and giving him a quick kiss.

"As soon as we are cleaned up and dressed for the day, I'll sit down and start one," Mark said, thinking what a wonderful husband he had. 

They climbed out of bed and jumped into the shower together.   Brandon held Mark in his arms as they stood under the warm water, as it cascaded over their bodies.   He kissed Mark and said, "I love you."

Mark grinned, "Not as much as I love you."

Robbie and Adam walked down the hall to Zach and Todd's room and tapped on the door.   Robbie opened the door, when he heard Zach call out, "Come in!"

Zach sat up in bed and smiled at his little brother, as he watched the two boys walk through the door holding hands.   "What's up, guys?"

Zach and Todd were both still in bed.   They sat up and made room for the boys to sit down.   Robbie grinned and announced, "Adam asked me to marry him last night."

Zach and Todd looked at each, and then Zach said, "Congratulations!"   He reached over and pulled Robbie into a fond embrace.  

Todd hugged his little brother, as well.   "Congratulations, Adam."

"We were wondering when you two would decide you wanted to get married," Zach said.

Adam looked surprised.   "Why did you think that?"

Todd said, "We were clued in by the questions you kept asking us, as we got ready for our wedding."

Adam frowned.  "I didn't ask that many questions."

Zach laughed.  "Yes, you did!"

Robbie looked at Adam and grinned, "Even I knew you were thinking about asking me to marry you."

  Adam looked mortified.   "I thought I was being so secretive about it."

Robbie laughed.   "It was kind of obvious when you asked me if I thought we could be as happy as Zach and Todd, if we got married!"

Adam's expression finally brightened and he laughed.   "Okay, I guess I was kind of obvious about what I was thinking, wasn't I?"

"Yes, you were," Robbie said, punching Adam lightly in the shoulder.

"When do you think you will get married?" Todd asked, looking at the two teens.

"We want to be married as soon as we are both 18," Robbie replied.

"But you won't be out of high school, yet!" Zach replied.

"We are living together already, so what difference does it make if we are out of high school, or not?" Adam asked.

Todd looked at Zach.  "He does have a point."

Zach nodded his head.  "So, when are you going to tell our parents?"

Adam looked at his brother.  "Todd, will you help me tell them?"

"Sure.   I think Mom and Dad already know that you and Robbie are life partners," Todd replied.

"I know they do, because they asked me about it and wondered if they should start planning for a second wedding," Zach said, laughing at the expressions on the boys' faces.   "Robbie, Mom and Dad already spoke to the folks at the Valhalla Inn about setting up another wedding."

Robbie's mouth opened, but nothing came out.   His eyes were as big around as ostrich eggs, "What?!"

Adam was just as surprised, if not more so.   Todd and Zach laughed at their little brothers.   Todd said, "You guys are in to each other so much, both sets of parents knew it was only a matter of time before you two decided to get married."

Adam said, "I didn't even decide to ask Robbie to marry me until last night.   How could you all know I was going to do that, even before I did?"

Zach said, "We just told you, Adam.   You and Robbie are so obviously in love with each other, it's very hard to miss.   In fact, for the past couple of weeks, you both have been practically oblivious to everything that was going on around you.   It's like you two have been living in a bubble all your own."

Adam looked at Robbie.  "I do love Robbie very much, so I guess it shouldn't be a surprise to me that everyone else knows I love him."

Robbie smiled, as he thought about how much love he felt for Adam.  "And I love you, too."   He turned back to their older brothers.  "Will you help us tell our parents?"

Zach said, "Yes, we will help you; but, I think you two can handle this one on your own, since both sets of parents are kind of already in the know, so to speak."

Adam agreed, "Robbie, Zach is right.   I don't think we need their help, but I would still like them to be there when we tell our parents.   We want to tell them when we go home for my birthday in a couple of weeks."

Todd said, "That is a good idea, Adam.   Until then, we won't say anything about it."

Adam said, "Thanks, Todd and Zach.   You are the best brothers ever!"

The boys hugged Todd and Zach and left the room, talking about their plans for the day, now that they had shared their important news.   As the door closed behind them, Zach said, "It's a good thing our parents were already aware of their relationship."

Todd nodded, "I agree with you; but I think our parents would have been cool about the whole situation, even if they didn't already know Robbie and Adam were partners."

"I am so glad we got married, Todd.   It is so wonderful to have you by my side," Zach said, kissing his husband.   Zach leaned back and said, "I still can't believe you are my husband now, and not just my boyfriend, or fiancé."

"You had better get used to it, because I plan to be with you forever, Zach," Todd said.

"The best part of the wedding for me, besides getting married to you, is the fact that all of our friends were there for us, especially our teammates," Zach said.

"I think we won several of them over when we met with them, individually.   If we hadn't done that, I know there are two of my teammates that would not have come," Todd said.

"There was only one guy on our team, Martin Montserrat, who said at first that he would not come; but, then he changed his mind.   I think his Dad is a minister at his church, and he didn't want to cause problems with his family by attending our wedding," Zach said.

"Martin seems really nice.   Is he anti-gay?" Todd asked.

"No, but his family is," Zach said.

"Is there anyone else on the team who has homophobic parents?" Todd asked. 

"No, I don't think so.   At least, no one has said anything to me if they do," Zach said.

"I just want to make sure I don't cause any problems for the team if I kiss you in public," Todd said seriously.

"Coach is really cool.   He has made it very clear that everyone is to treat us with respect and dignity.   He also made it clear that he expects us to be discrete in our public demonstrations of affection for our significant others – straight or gay," Zach said.

"I am really looking forward to playing hockey with you on the same team, instead of playing against you as a member of the opposing team," Todd said, laughing.

"Me, too," Zach said smiling.   "But you have to admit that I'm the better player!"

Todd laughed, "On or off the ice?"

"Both!" Zach responded, as he straddled Todd and leaned forward to kiss his sweetheart, effectively ending any further conversation.

A while later, they heard another knock on the door.   Zach looked at the clock.  "I forgot that Robbie and Adam have school this morning."    As he climbed out of bed, the door opened and the boys walked in dressed for school.  

Robbie grinned when he saw his naked brother's body, "See Adam, good looks do run in the family.

"Yes, they do!   I'll throw on some clothes and drive you guys over to the school," Zach said.

Robbie asked, "Can't we just take the car?   You guys can borrow one of the guys' cars if you need to go somewhere before we get out of school."

Zach stopped with one leg in and one leg out of his jeans.  "Okay, you can take the car, but don't go anywhere else except straight to the school and back."

Adam grinned, and said, cheekily, "Sure thing, Pops!"

Zach cuffed Adam up the side of his head.  "Don't get smart!"

"And Robbie, don't let Adam drive," Todd said, grinning at his little brother.

"That's not fair," Adam whined.   "I'm a better driver than Robbie."

Robbie snickered, "Adam, you need to stop while you're ahead.   You know that isn't true."

Adam gave Robbie a wounded look.  "You're supposed to be on my side.   See if I let you touch me tonight!"

Robbie grabbed Adam around the waist, and planted a big kiss on his boyfriend's lips.   "Don't pout!   Let's go, so we won't be late."

Zach handed over the keys, and took his clothes back off, rejoining his husband in their bed.   "See you guys in a little while," he said, snuggling up to Todd.

Rick and I spent the morning enjoying each other as much as possible, since Rick only had two more days before he had to return to duty.   I moved closer to Rick and he encircled me with his arms, pulling me tight against him.   I gazed into Rick's eyes and rubbed noses with him.   "I love you, Rick."

Rick gently kissed me, "I love you, too."

"I was thinking that we should expand our real estate holdings here, and give each of the married couples a rental unit to manage," I said.

"That would be a good idea, but I think they will want to continue living together for the near future.   Maybe they can manage them together," Rick replied.

I thought for a moment, "The reason I wanted to give each couple their own rental unit is to help them get started on their way to financial self-sufficiency.   Remember what Grandpa said about us becoming financially independent, so we wouldn't have to hold down a regular 9 to 5 job in order to pursue our dreams.   It's kind of hard to do that if you are tied down to a job that you hate, because you need the income.   If we can help them get to a point where their basic financial needs are met with income from the rental properties, they can concentrate on achieving their goals in life.   Besides that, there wouldn't be any question as to who would get the income from the rental properties, if each couple had their own properties to manage," I replied.

"I think it would work, as long as we continued to do business the same way as Grandpa has set it up for us.   Also, I think we should include Robbie and Adam.   Adam talked to me about getting married to Robbie when we were in Thunder Bay, so they will need our help, as well.   I know that they aren't of age, yet; but I think they are responsible enough they could manage a rental property, especially if Zach and Todd helped them, at first," Rick said.

"I agree we should include them, as well," I said.   I kissed Rick.  "That is for being the most wonderful man in the whole world, and you're all mine."

When I tried to pull back from the kiss, Rick clung to me even tighter and continued to kiss me.   The passion of his kisses had the desired effect on my body.   It wasn't long before I was returning his fiery, hot kisses, and I knew that it wouldn't be long before I would be begging Rick to make me his.

Justin and Brian were sitting at the kitchen table when Robbie and Adam entered the kitchen to grab a quick bite to eat before leaving for school.   Justin smiled at them and said, "Have a seat, guys.   I cooked some eggs and bacon, and there is some orange juice in the fridge."

Robbie came over and hugged Justin, giving him a quick kiss on the lips.  "Thanks, Justin."

Brian smiled.  "I love how you guys are so cool about showing affection for each other.   It makes me appreciate how fortunate Justin is to have found such good friends."

Adam laughed.  "I know what you mean, but with Justin, it's more than just affection; because he is more than just a friend to me and Robbie.    He's really great in bed."

Brian was blushing at Adam's blunt reference to Robbie and Adam's relationship with Justin.

Seeing Brian's expression, Adam quickly apologized.  "I'm sorry, Brian.   Now that you two are married, I will try to remember to refrain from talking about our relationship with Justin."

"It's alright, Adam.   I sometimes forget that you and Robbie were Justin's lovers before I came on the scene," Brian said.

Justin grinned, "But you don't have to worry about them having sex with me, anymore; because they have each other and I have you, now."

Robbie opened the fridge and retrieved the orange juice.   He walked over to the table and sat down next to Brian.  "We have great news for you two.   Adam asked me to marry him last night."

Brian looked between the two boys, and said, "Congratulations!"

Justin stood up and came over to Adam and Robbie, and gave each of them a hug and a kiss.  "I'm so happy for you both."

Adam said, "Thanks, Justin.   We want you two to stand up with us at the wedding."

Brian looked surprised.  "Thank you for the honor.   Are you sure you want me to stand up with you?"

"Yes.   You and Justin are very important people in our lives, and we want you to be there with us on our big day," Robbie said.

The boys inhaled their breakfast and were on their way out the door, when Robbie returned to the kitchen and said, "Talk to you guys after school."

Justin turned to Brian, and said, "I love those two."

"So do I.   I am glad they were here for you when you needed them most.   What do you think about working with Glenn's Grandpa?" Brian asked.

 "I think it's a great opportunity for us to get some experience in real estate management.   I am not super excited about property management, but I do see the advantages to having a certain amount of income coming in every month that is not tied to one of us having a job," Justin said.

"Then why did you agree to do it?" Brian asked.

"Because I know that Glenn and his Grandpa take care of their own – in other words, we are part of their family, now.   This is one of the ways they want to help us to have some financial stability in our lives," Justin replied.

"It is like how my family does things in India.   We have a very large extended family, and we all live together in a large compound.   In fact, everyone works in the family business.   I am the only one who hasn't gone straight into the business.   I managed to convince my Dad and his brothers that it would benefit the family business, if I could come to the United States to get a college education," Brian said.

"What will happen to you if they ever find out that you are married to a guy?" Justin asked.

"I don't know and I hope I never find out.   I do not plan to return to India," Brian said.  

"Then, we need to start the necessary paperwork so you can become a U.S. citizen," Justin said.

"Yes, I think that would be a great idea.   I have two years left on my student visa, and I hear it takes a long time to get through all of the red tape at the Naturalization and Immigration Service," Brian said.

"Maybe Glenn's Grandpa knows someone who can help us," Justin said.   "Let's get Glenn to ask him about it, when he talks to him."

Justin stood up and pulled Brian to his feet.   Justin took Brian in his arms and gave him a kiss.   "I love you, Brian."

Brian replied, "I love you, too.   Have a great day at work, sweetheart."  

"I will, since I know that you will be here when I return," Justin said.   He went into the hallway to retrieve his coat.  

Brian followed him into the hallway and gave Justin one more hug and a kiss, before opening the door for Justin.   Justin smiled, "Love you."

Brian said, "Love you."   He closed the door and returned to their bedroom.   He climbed back into their bed to get warm.   He hated living so far north.   The cold really bothered him.   He had never seen snow until he came here two years ago, to study.   He hoped he could convince Justin to move somewhere warm after he graduated.  

As he shivered under the blankets, he thought about his family back in India.   His family owned several different companies in Hyderabad.   Two of them were associated with computer technology:   one was technical support for several different companies from the United States, and the other was developing new applications for different software companies.   The others were more in the manufacturing of textiles – mainly clothing.  

He shuddered as he remembered how close he had come to being outed to his family, just before he left for college.   One of his gay friends, Vijay, was discovered having sex with his boyfriend by his family's private investigators.   They had tried to have them both murdered.    He had overheard his father talking with Vijay's parents about the shame he had brought on the family and that they thought they had no choice but to hire someone to kill them.   His father had agreed, and said that he would do the same if he ever found out he had a gay son in the family. 

Fortunately, Vijay and his partner had fled the country and were living in England.  Vijay had called Brian to let him know they were safe, when his mother came into the room and wanted to know who was on the phone.  He didn't know how much of the conversation she had overheard, and was scared she knew he was talking to Vijay.   He had made up a name and that he was talking to someone from a university in England.   She had believed him and he had to pretend to be talking to an admissions office, until she had left the room.   He had quickly said good bye to Vijay and ended the call.  

After he and Justin were married, he had called Vijay to tell him the good news.  

"Hello, Vijay," Brian said.

"Hello, Brian," Vijay said.

"How are you?" Brian asked.

"We are doing well," Vijay replied.

"I called to share my good news.   I got married this week to my partner, Justin," Brian said.

"Congratulations!   Where did you get married?" Vijay asked.

"We were married in Thunder Bay, Canada," Brian said.

"I am very happy for you.   Raj and I registered our Civil Union last summer.   It's not quite the same as being married, but it is the best we can do since the British only allow Civil Unions," Vijay said.

"You should be happy about that, Vijay.   Minnesota doesn't recognize gay civil unions, or marriages performed elsewhere.   We had to cross the border into Canada to get married," Brian said.

"You are right, Brian.   I shouldn't complain.   At least here, I won't be murdered for being gay," Vijay said.   "We would love to see you and your partner.  Why don't you come for spring break?"

"I would love to come.   Let me talk to Justin and I will let you know our plans," Brian said.

They reminisced about their lives back home and how things were so different for them in their respective adopted countries.  

Returning to the present, Brian kept turning over in his mind how he was going to seek permanent residency either in the United States, or Canada.   He knew Justin would go with him to Canada, if that is where he needed to go to avoid being deported to India, if things didn't work out for him.   He knew that the U.S federal government was not very gay friendly when it came to immigration laws.

Rick and Glenn talked with Grandpa about expanding their real estate holding in Minneapolis.   Grandpa indicated his support of the idea and suggested that they should talk with the guys about how they wanted to proceed.   When they decided what course of action to pursue, he told them to call him back and he would listen to their proposals.

When everyone had returned home that evening, Glenn asked them to join them in the recreation room.   Rick and Glenn then outlined their ideas; and, the group, as a whole brainstormed as to how to implement such a plan.   About an hour or so later, Ben typed up their ideas, so they could look over them.   They called Grandpa.   Grandpa heard them out, before he started to suggest a couple of things they might consider.   In the end, it was decided that they would buy a couple of more homes on their street, or on nearby streets, as well as looking into buying an apartment building near campus.   Grandpa gave them the name of the real estate agent he had used to buy the house they were currently living in, and recommended they give him a call.

Jimmy and Donica had come over in the middle of their discussions.   Jimmy said, "Wow!   I wish my family would help me set up something like that for me."

Donica agreed, "Yes.   It is great that you guys are being given the opportunity to gain some real world experience."

I looked over at Rick, Ben, and Janice, and asked, "What do you think?"

Ben smiled, "I think we need to talk to Grandpa about how we intend to grow our business.   I know Jimmy has a good head for numbers and Donica is fantastic with designing clothes and doing interior decorating.   I think there is an opportunity here."

Jimmy smiled, "You mean like hiring me as your accountant?"

Ben nodded, "Yes.   Aren't you majoring in accounting anyway?"

"Yes, I am," Jimmy said.   "But I had always planned to start my own accounting firm."

Rick said, "Maybe you should consider taking us on as one of your first clients?"

Jimmy grinned, "Do think your Grandpa would be willing to do that, since I am sure he already has an accountant?"

"Why wouldn't he?" I asked.   "We will need someone here to take care of the books.   You could do it part time until you graduate, and decide what to do from there."

Donica smiled.  "I could be the interior decorator.  You know, like choosing the furnishing for the apartments the guys are planning to buy."

Janice said, "That sounds great, Donica."

"Let's do some more brainstorming about how we could involve the rest of our friends, if they are interested," I said.   "I don't want to leave anyone out."

Jimmy smiled, "Glenn, you are always looking out for your friends.   It is one of the reasons the team has adopted you as an honorary member of our team."

I looked at Jimmy in surprise.  "When did this happen?"

"Last night.   We went out for pizza, and we were talking and having a great time when someone asked where you were.   Ben told us you were with Rick, so we didn't need to hear anymore to figure out what you two were doing!   Zach and Todd suggested that we make you and Rick honorary members of the hockey team.   Ben and Mark seconded the motion, and we all agreed," Jimmy said.

Rick grinned, and asked, "So, what does being an honorary member of the team mean?"

"It means you get a team jersey and free tickets to all of our games," Ben said.  

Zach and Todd had disappeared when Jimmy had mentioned that we were honorary members of the team.   Now, they reappeared with two team jerseys.   Zach said, "These are yours to wear on game days."

"Thanks, guys," Rick said, obviously touched.

"Yes, thank you for being our friends," I said.

"No, we wanted to thank you for being there for us," Mark said.   "You have opened your home not only to us, but to the rest of the team.   We love spending time here, if you haven't noticed!"

I responded, "Yes, I had noticed actually!  It seems that the fridge needs to be restocked all the time!"

Jimmy laughed.   "That's true; but you haven't complained, or even mentioned it.   We know no matter how tight things might get for us that we can come here and you will help us out."

I was blushing at his praises, as Rick put his arm around my waist.  "That sounds like Glenn.   It's one of the things that I find very attractive about him," Rick said, grinning at me.

Jimmy laughed, "Well, Rick, we aren't attracted to him in that way, so you don't have to worry about anyone trying to steal him away from you; or at least most of us that is!"

"I don't have to worry about losing Glenn to any of you, because I know he loves me very much," Rick said.

Brandon said, "That is very true, Rick.   I should know, because I tried and didn't succeed!"

"It's a good thing, too," Mark said.   "I'm not sharing you with anyone!"

We spent the remainder of the evening joking around with each other and enjoying our time together.

**** ***

Even with all of the excitement, Rick hadn't forgotten he was leaving soon.   The next day flew by, as he and I helped the guys finalize their plans.   We called Grandpa several times during the day to confirm that we were heading in the right direction with our little band of novice entrepreneurs (okay, okay, I will concede your point – wannabe businessmen!).    None of us had ever run a business before, so it was very helpful to have Grandpa's advice to help us figure things out, as we went.   What we had planned was much bigger than the real estate deals Grandpa had done for us in the past.   The guys were much more ambitious than Rick, or I, with regards to real estate acquisitions.   With Grandpa fronting us the capital to begin our little business venture, we were super excited.

It was after 10 PM when Rick and I retired to our room, so Rick could get his gear packed and ready to go.   Rick took my hand and led me upstairs.   He closed our bedroom door behind us, and pinned me against it.   He took my face in his hands and said, "Glenn Nielsen, I love you so much."   He kissed me tenderly, and then looked me in the eyes.  "I am so glad you are willing to take a risk with this little venture.   It speaks volumes about how much you trust our friends."

I smiled and replied, "I would trust our friends with my life, Rick."

"As would I," Rick agreed.   "I was a little nervous about sending you here to school, but it has turned out to be a good thing for both of us."

Rick kissed me again; and released me.   "I need to get packed, so I can concentrate on making this a night you will never forget!"

I laughed.  "I would like that very much, lover boy!"

Rick pulled out his duffle bag, and I started handing him his clothes.   We had done laundry earlier in the day, and I had ironed his uniforms for him.  

I thought back to that moment, as Rick folded his laundry beside me.   I was concentrating so hard on making sure everything was perfect that I jumped when Rick said, "They are only uniforms, Glenn.   Don't stress out."

I said, sheepishly, "I want you to be the best dressed marine on base, and that means perfectly pressed uniforms."

Rick laughed, "I am sure I will look just fine without all the extra starch you're using.   If you spray any more on it, the uniform will stand all on its own!"

I laughed and said, "I'm sorry, Rick.   I just want to do everything I can for you."

He took me in his arms.  "You already have done everything for me, Babe."   Rick put his hand under my chin and raised my face to meet his, as he kissed me on the lips.   "I'm already missing you, and I haven't even left, yet," Rick said, his eyes bright with unshed tears.

I squeezed him tightly around the waist and buried my face in his chest, trying not to cry.   I want to be strong for him, so he won't worry about leaving me.   I breathed in his masculine scent that I love so much.   I got control of myself before I looked up into his eyes.  "I am missing you, too, but I am not going to let it spoil our last few hours together."   I smiled and kissed him, before gently pushing him away, so I could finish ironing his clothes.   We finished our laundry and hauled it back up to our room.  Rick rolled up his military issue socks and underwear and placed them on his dresser, ready to be packed.

Rick said, "Earth to Glenn."   He was waving his hand in front of my face.

"I'm sorry, Rick.   I spaced out there for a while," I said.

"I know.   I asked you a question, and you didn't even respond," Rick said, smiling at me.   "You are such a space cadet sometimes!" Rick teased me.

I responded, "I am not a space cadet!   I only get distracted when I am around you!   You make it so hard for me to concentrate, because you're so sexy!"

"Yeah! Right!   You weren't even looking at me!" Rick replied.

"Okay, I admit I was thinking about you and how I am going to miss you," I said, trying to keep it light; even though I felt really depressed at the thought of his imminent departure.

"Good!   I would hate to think you weren't going to miss me at all," Rick said, grinning at me.

I punched him in the shoulder.  "Don't be a smart ass!"

"It's better than being a dumb one," Rick joked with me. 

"Okay, you win!   It is better than being a dumb one," I replied.

I handed Rick more of his clothes that he rolled up and put into his duffle.   His uniforms were neatly pressed and stored in his suit bag, which hung in the closet.   He finished packing up his things and placed his duffle next to the door.

He turned around and pulled me into his arms.   "I think it's time for us to relax and enjoy some time in the Jacuzzi tub," he said.   Rick led me into the en suite and started the water running to fill the tub.  Next, he turned on some nice music and lit a couple of candles and shut off the lights.   He helped me out of my clothes and into the tub, to which he had added bubble bath.   I started to speak, but he put his finger to my lips and started to disrobe, doing a strip tease routine to the music.  By the time he joined me in the tub, I was so rock hard, it hurt!  

I leaned back against his chest as he took hold of my member and asked, "We aren't turned on at all, are we?"

"No, not at all!" I was barely able to respond, as I moaned in pleasure at his touch.

 Rick nibbled on my ear, as he whispered, "We're going to enjoy each other so much tonight; you won't be able to walk tomorrow."

A thrill of excitement made me shiver in anticipation.   Rick's hands explored the rest of my body, as he kissed the nape of my neck, and I turned my lips to meet his.  This was going to be a night we would always remember!

It was quite late when Rick wrapped his arms around me, as we lay in bed, exhausted from one of the most memorable evenings we have ever spent together!   The warmth from Rick's body was having its usual effect on me, as I put my head on Rick's chest and was soon fast asleep.  

Despite the fact that his body was totally relaxed, and he was feeling very happy to have his lover boy in his arms, Rick tried to fall asleep; but he couldn't get his mind off of his impending return to the Quantico Marine Base, and the upcoming courts martial of his fellow marines.  He was very nervous about it for some reason.   He was hoping that nothing would come out about him and his relationship with Glenn.   He knew he hadn't been as careful as he needed to be, but he felt he had been discrete enough to keep his secret from getting out.   His commanding officer, Lt. Col. Bachman, had told him that things would move pretty quickly after the holidays.   He finally drifted off thinking of Glenn and his love for him.

The next morning, Rick awoke to find me staring intently at him.   Rick blinked his eyes to clear his vision and asked, "What's wrong, Glenn?"

I responded, with a smile, "Nothing is wrong.   I am trying to memorize everything about your face.   Photographs don't do it justice.   You are so handsome; cameras just don't how to handle it!"

Instead of answering me, Rick pulled me into his arms and kissed me.   "Yes, I am the best looking guy around."

I replied, "I agree with you.   I know it's time to get up and get you to the airport, but I don't want you to leave me just yet.   I want to spend a couple of minutes more to enjoy your arms around me."

 A few minutes later there was a light tap on the door, and Ben said, "Guys, we need to leave for the airport soon."

Rick replied, "Okay, Ben.   Thanks."

I reluctantly moved out of Rick's warm embrace, and we both got up and headed for the en suite.   We quickly showered and dressed.   Rick grabbed his duffle bag and his uniforms and we headed downstairs to the kitchen, where Ben had coffee ready for Rick and hot cocoa for me.   Ben hustled us out the door with the steaming mugs in our hands.   Ben drove like a crazy guy and made record time getting us to the airport.   He dropped us off at the ticketing/check-in, while he went to the cell phone waiting area.

I kissed Rick and said, "I love you.   Don't forget to call me when you get to Quantico."

Rick said, "I won't forget.   I love you."   I watched as Rick made his way through security.   He turned and waved to me, before moving out of my line of sight.

I called Ben and went outside to wait for him.   I quickly climbed into the car, as it was freezing cold outside.  Ben looked over at me, and asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I will be fine.   Just take me home where it's warm," I replied, trying to keep from crying.   I was missing Rick terribly!

I managed to get through the rest of my day without a total breakdown.   It helped that I was busy switching rooms with Zach and Todd.    Once we were done moving them into my room, we moved Ben into Mark and Brandon's room, while they moved their stuff into Ben's room.   Zach and Todd had offered Justin and Brian the option of taking the master bedroom but they had declined it.

Later that night, Rick called me to let me know he had arrived safely.   I tried not to cry, but was unsuccessful.   Rick said, "It's okay, sweetheart.   It won't be long before we are at your parents' home.

The next day, I tried to get excited about my new classes, but I couldn't concentrate.   I kept thinking of my lover boy.   After classes, I went to the practice room and started rehearsing for the concert.   I had just finished running through the Mozart when Dr. Nohr came into the practice room.

I stood up from the piano bench, and greeted him.   "Hello, Dr. Nohr."

Dr. Nohr said, "Hello, Glenn.   It's sounding very good.   Are you ready for our concert?"

"Yes, I think so," I replied, a little uncertainly.

Dr. Nohr looked at me and nodded.  "It is always good to be a little nervous before a performance.   It means you will practice harder.   I have come to ask you a favor."

I nodded my head and waited for Dr. Nohr to continue.   "I would like you to play the Brahms Violin Concerto for our concert in a week."

I didn't know what to say, at first.   I had been begging him to let me play the violin instead of the piano, and here it was; but it didn't give me much time to rehearse.   I thought about the Brahms, and decided that I knew it well enough I could polish it up over the next week.   "Sure.   Why are you asking me to do it now?"

Dr. Nohr responded, "Nolan was supposed to play it, but his arm is in a cast."

I gave Dr. Nohr a look of surprise.  "How did that happen?"

"He took a tumble when he was skiing in Colorado, so he will be unable to play on Friday," Dr. Nohr said, with more than a little irritation.   He looked like he was going to say something else; but he stopped, and looked me in the eye, "Don't let me down, Mr. Nielsen.   I have been bragging about your exceptional abilities, so I expect that you will give us your best performance."

I smiled and said, "I will do my best, sir."

Dr. Nohr replied, "I want more than your best.   I want something more like magical; so magnificent that words fail to describe it."

I gulped and nodded my head.  "Yes, sir!"

"Good," Dr. Nohr said.   "I look forward to seeing you in class tomorrow."

He turned and walked out of the practice room, leaving me totally in shock.   He had thrown down the gauntlet, and expected me to pick it up and to deliver the finest performance of my very short career as a soloist at the university.   I sat down on the piano bench, before my legs gave out.   Man!   I had some work to do!

I was still in the practice room when Rick called me.  "Hello, Rick.   You will never guess what just happened!"

"Hi, Glenn, so, tell me what just happened to get you all excited," Rick replied.

"Dr. Nohr just asked me to play the Brahms Violin Concerto next week."

Rick asked, "It's what you wanted, right?"

"Yes, it is, but I did expect a little more time to get ready," I said.

"You can do it, Babe," Rick said.   "You have played it for me many times before, so I am very confident that you will be ready by next week."

"Yes, but I want it to be perfect," I said, knowing I was whining but I couldn't help it.

"I know you.   You will practice it to the point of insanity before you will admit you are ready to perform it.   You always do it that way," Rick said.

"I'm sorry if I have over practiced to the point of driving you crazy," I said apologetically, thinking about the many times I had done just that!

Rick laughed.  "You have on, occasion; but this time you can use the practice rooms at the university.   That way, your roommates won't be tempted to take away your instrument and hide it!"

"That is precisely where I am now.   I have been here for a couple of hours now," I replied.

"I figured as much.   Things are going well here.   I just wanted to call to say, "I love you," and to check up on you," Rick said.

"I am glad you called.   I was starting to get worried about you," I said, seriously.

"You have no need to worry about me.   Things are fine here.   I will call you later tonight, after you're done practicing," Rick said.

"I should be here another hour or so, then I will head home to study.   Call me back in about 90 minutes or so," I said.

"Sure.   I love you, Babe," Rick said.

"I love you, too," I said.   The connection went dead and I returned to the piano to go through the Mozart piano concerto a couple of more times.

Rick ended the call thinking, "Boy, I'm glad I'm not there right now!   I love Glenn dearly, but he drives himself and everyone else crazy just before a performance."

Rick looked over at the clock and saw it was still too early to go over to meet with the boy scouts.   Sgt. Slade had called to remind him of their upcoming winter campout at Lunga Reservoir; and that they would be meeting tonight with the boys, to do a pack check.   Rick enjoyed meeting with the boy scouts.   It reminded him of much happier times.   He was happy being with Glenn, but he still missed his family.   He tried to put on a good show for Glenn, so he wouldn't worry about him; but there was a dull ache in his heart whenever he thought of his parents.   He managed to stay busy enough that he seldom thought of them anymore; but, today, it had hit him really hard just how much he missed his family.   It made him mad that his sister, Julie, hadn't even tried to reach out to him.   She, of all people, could see how stupid his parents were being about his being gay.   Julie worked for the state of Maryland in the education department, and her husband, Kevin, worked as a foreman on a construction crew.   He had spent a couple of summers with them.   He had watched their children for them while they worked.   Matt and Kenya were adorable little kids and he missed being with them over the holidays.   Yes, he had enjoyed being with Glenn's family, and he loved them very much; but somehow, he still felt like something was missing.   As he sat in the barracks with his laptop open, he wondered if Julie and Kevin were still at the same address.   He searched on the internet and found their phone number and address.   Yes, they still lived at the same address in Bowie, Maryland.   Maybe he could reach out to them, and they wouldn't reject him.   He wrote down the address and phone number and closed down the laptop, just as he heard Sgt. Slade come into the barracks.

Rick stood up and grabbed his coat, hat and gloves.   At least the Corps had decent winter clothing to keep you warm!   The temperatures had dropped to -9 C (16 Fahrenheit).    Sgt. Slade greeted Rick with a firm handshake.   "Welcome back!   How were your holidays?"

"Great!   It felt good to be home with family," Rick said, smiling.

"How do you like these frigid temperatures?" asked Sgt. Slade, as he waited for Rick to finished donning his winter gear.

Rick answered, "I think it's time for this Southern boy to go back home!"

"It's none too warm for a Northerner," Sgt. Slade said.   "I'm from Vermont.   It gets cold there, but the wind is what gets you."

They climbed into Sgt. Slade's truck.   A few minutes later they pulled up to Building #3305, where they found Sgt. Mason and the boys already hauling their gear inside.  Rick jumped in to help unload Sgt. Mason's vehicle.   They finished up in no time.  

Sgt. Mason said, "Okay, boys.   Line up your gear so we can get this pack check done."   He counted off the boys into three groups of four.   In each group, he appointed one of the boys to be in charge of the pack check.   He turned to Rick and Sgt. Slade and said, "Here's the pack list.    Let's each take a group, and make sure they have everything on the pack list."

Rick's group consisted of Greg, Cory, Chad and Selby.   Rick greeted the boys with a smile, "Hey guys!   How were your holidays?"

Greg smiled, "We had a great time!"

Cory didn't answer, but smiled and nodded his agreement.  

Chad said, "It was okay."   Chad's body language indicated that it wasn't really okay.   Chad's bony frame looked like he hadn't eaten a good meal in months.   His stringy, dark brown hair hung down over his eyes.   He had four earrings in each ear and a nose ring.   When he talked, Rick could see his tongue was pierced, as well.   He wore torn black jeans, with chains hanging in several loops on his right side, black combat boots, a tattered gray long sleeved shirt and a black jeans vest.   Rick was surprised at Chad's attitude.   He had worked with the 15-year old on several other occasions, but Chad had always been pleasant and eager to learn more about what they were doing.   Rick wondered if something had happened at home to cause this sudden change. 

Selby answered with his signature North Jersey accent, "Yeah, Santa Claus really delivered this time."   He stood a couple of inches taller than Rick.   Selby's green eyes sparkled with mischief.   He had a baby face and a giant body, being built like a tank.   He played basketball for his high school, but looked more like he belonged on the football field.   Selby ran his hand over his short blond hair.   He liked to keep his hair high and tight like his father's Marine Corps haircut.   He planned to join the Marines, just like his father, when he graduated in the spring.

Rick handed the packing list to Selby, since he had been appointed the leader for this activity.   "Here's the list, Selby," Rick said.

Selby took the paper from Rick's hands and said, "Okay.   Cory, let's start with your pack, first."

Selby ran through the boys' packs fairly quickly.   All of the boys had followed the pack list, and appeared to be in good shape for the campout.   Selby handed Rick back the list, and reported, "Looks like we all checked out."

Rick looked around and saw the other groups were still working on their pack checks.   He turned to Chad and asked, "What did you do over the holidays?"

Chad wouldn't meet Rick's gaze.   He looked everywhere else and kept shifting his weigh from one foot to the other, as if he wanted to flee away from Rick's gaze.   He finally answered Rick's question, "Mom and Dad had a big fight on Christmas Eve, and Mom left with my brothers, to go live with my grandparents.   I stayed with Dad, because Mom is always on my case.   Since Mom left, Dad hasn't been home much.   I spent most of the break by myself; since Dad had to work, and when he wasn't working, he was at the bar, drinking."

Chad tried to hide the tears in his eyes as he turned away from Rick and the other boys.   Rick walked over to Chad and turned him around to face them.   "We are sorry to hear that, Chad.   Can we help?"

Cory looked at Chad and said, "Why don't you spend the night at my house tonight?   Since your dad isn't home much, he shouldn't object to you staying over."

Chad looked in surprise at Cory, "Why would you want me to stay over?"

"Because you are my friend," Cory said.

Cory's statement rocked Chad's world.   Since Christmas Eve, he had been totally engrossed in his own misery.   The thought that he had someone who considered him a friend had never entered his mind.   He had been a loner for so long, he didn't think that anyone would think of him as their friend.   His look of surprise was quickly replaced by one of indifference, as Chad regained control of himself.   He couldn't let anyone see that he needed them.

Cory looked at Greg, "Isn't that so, Greg?"

Greg nodded, "I will be there, too, Chad.   We can play some video games and chillax!"

"You two are really serious about it, aren't you?" Chad asked in amazement.   He couldn't believe that one of the most popular guys on campus wanted to spend time with him.   Chad really admired Greg.   Greg always had a huge crowd around him at school; but, yet, always found time to say, "Hi," to him and the other guys in the troop when they crossed paths at school.   He had never dreamed that Greg would want to be friends with him---a nobody, a social outcast!

Greg saw the variety of expressions chase each other on and off Chad's face.   He saw the yearning for friendship; and, at the same time, the fear of rejection.   Greg crossed the short distance between them and put his arm around Chad's shoulders.   "Chad, don't you get it?   We said we are your friends and we want you to come over and hang out with us."   Greg released him, and quickly stepped back.

Chad looked up at Greg and smiled, "Yeah, I get it now." 

Greg said, "Selby, why don't you join us, as well?"

 "Thank you for the invitation, Greg, but I can't.   My parents have something planned for the family.   I would love to come some other time," Selby replied.

Cory glanced over at Rick, who had been quietly observing the exchange between the three boys.   "Rick, would you come stay with us, as well?"

Rick laughed, "You young guys don't need an old man hovering over you while you goof around."

"I didn't mean hang out with us.   I meant come visit with Joey," Cory said.

"Joey is already going to stay overnight with us, since we asked him to go with us on our deep freeze campout.   We thought you and Joey would enjoy spending some time together," Greg said, with a smile.

"It seems you boys have everything figured out," Rick replied.   "Okay, I will come spend the night with you guys, when we are done here.   I will need to stop by the barracks to get my stuff."

Cory said, "No problem!   Dad will be here in a few minutes and he can take you over to get what you need."

As if he had heard his name, Ray walked into the building and came over to Cory.   "Did you ask Rick if he wanted to stay overnight?" Ray asked Cory.

"Yes, and we invited Chad, as well," Cory said.

Ray smiled at Chad, "Good.   The more the merrier.   I am glad you are going to join us, Chad.   Do you need to stop by your house to pick up anything?"

"Yes.   I will need to leave Dad a note, so he knows where I am," Chad replied.

We packed everything into the back of Sgt. Mason's truck and bade everyone good bye until tomorrow night for the campout.   Ray drove me over to the barracks, then drove to Chad's house on base.   About 30 minutes later, we pulled into the driveway of Ray's home.   They all piled out of the car and took their stuff inside, where they were greeted by the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  Ray directed them to the kitchen.  

Rick entered to find Joey already seated at the kitchen table with Darla, eating cookies and milk.   Joey grinned.  "It's about time you guys showed up.   I thought I was going to have to eat all the cookies by myself!"

Greg laughed. "No such luck, Joey!"

The guys dived in and the plates of cookies soon disappeared, as did a gallon of milk!

Cory said, "Let's set up a tournament on the Xbox!"

"Chad, what do you want to play first?" Greg asked.

"What do you have?" Chad asked, as the boys left the kitchen.

 Darla laughed.  "Those boys never tire of playing their video games!"

"That's for sure!" Ray agreed, shaking his head.

Joey looked at Rick.  "We played our fair share of video games.  Rick and I used to hang out at my house, playing games and eating everything we could find in the fridge."

"We had some really good times," Rick said.  

Darla said, "Why don't you boys move into the family room and relax?   Ray and I need to run a couple of errands before the stores close.   We shouldn't be gone too long."

"Sounds good," Joey said.   Rick and Joey moved into the family room and made themselves comfortable.

Joey looked at Rick and asked, "How were your holidays?"

"Good.   And yours?" Rick asked.

"We drove down to visit family in Selma," Joey said.

Hearing this, Rick knew Joey must have heard something.  He had been acting kind of weird; and Rick couldn't figure out why; but now he knew.

"How's the family?" Rick asked, trying to ignore the pangs of anxiety he was feeling.

"They are doing well.   I ran in to your old girlfriend, Angie," Joey said, looking at Rick.

"Is that so," Rick answered.   "What did she have to say?"

"She said she had spent some time in jail for destruction of property," Joey responded.

Rick said, "That doesn't surprise me after she had her brothers try to murder me for getting her pregnant."

"Yeah, I remember that.   You were in pretty bad shape.   It was a good thing Keith and Roger came along, before they succeeded in doing you in," Joey said.   "She said she was dating your cousin, Peyton, when she got into trouble with the law."   Joey paused and waited to see if Rick would say anything.   He noted the closed look on Rick's face.  

Ray poked his head into the room and said, "We're off.   We'll be back in a jiffy!"

"Okay, we will keep an eye on the boys for you," Rick said, smiling.

"You won't need to worry about them," Ray said.   "They won't surface until they decide they are hungry.   If they do, direct them to the kitchen.   Darla left them another plate of cookies and there is more milk in the fridge."

Ray disappeared and Joey said, "Angie had a lot of trash to say about you and Keith's cousin, including something about you both being gay."

Rick looked at Joey, meeting his gaze.  "Do you believe everything Angie said?"

"I know how much she hates you, Rick," Joey said.   "So, no, I don't believe a word of what she had to say.   But….."

"But you want to hear me tell you we aren't gay," Rick said, trying not to let his anger get the best of him.

The tone of Rick's voice caused Joey to hesitate.   He looked at Rick's face and decided he needed to apologize, "I'm sorry.   I didn't' mean to offend you."

"You should have thought about that before you started talking about Angie," Rick said, his voice hard as steel.

Joey replied, "You're right.   I should have thought things through before putting my mouth in gear."  

Rick started to calm down and unclenched his fists.   "Can we talk about something else?"

"Sure," Joey replied, happy to change the subject.

They talked about sports and other safe subjects, but the atmosphere in the room remained cold and tense.   In fact, Rick had stopped responding to Joey's questions by the time the boys made their way downstairs looking for snacks.   Rick led the way into the kitchen and directed them to get the milk out while he retrieved the plate of cookies.

Rick relaxed as he joined the teens in their friendly banter and trash talk.   Rick noted that Chad had morphed into a very open and friendly version of his former self.   In fact, Rick wasn't sure it was the same kid who had walked through the door just a short while ago.   Chad had changed out of his clothes into pajama pants and a t-shirt and had lost the earrings and nose ring.

Chad grinned when he noticed Rick was looking at him.  "I had Greg cut my hair for me, too."

 "Wow!   Are you the same kid I saw just a little while ago?" Rick asked, laughing.

"No, I'm not.   I'm his alter ego," Chad joked.

Greg came over and put his arm around Chad's shoulders.  "We're teaching him to unwind and become human, again."

Chad grinned up at his friend.  "Greg has been really nice to me."

Cory chimed in, "What about me?   I have been nice to you, too!"

"Yes, you have been good to me, too," Chad said, laughing.

Rick noted that it was a full bodied laugh that rang out with joy and exuberance.   "I am glad you have realized you have friends, Chad," Rick said.

Chad nodded his head in agreement.  "I am, too."

The boys trooped back up the stairs to continue their tournament.   Joey sat down across the table from Rick and looked him in the eyes, "Rick, I am sorry for offending you earlier.   What I really wanted to say is that Greg told me yesterday that he is gay and wants to marry Cory when they graduate.   He asked my advice about how to tell his parents, and I don't' know what to tell him.   I had hoped that if what Angie said was true, you could help Greg and Cory.   I know that if the Marines find out you are gay, they will kick you out of the Marine Corps; so I understand why you wouldn't want to have me asking questions like I did."

Rick looked at Joey, trying to decide just how much to tell him.   Joey had been a good friend in high school; but people change over time and aren't what they once were.   Joey started fidgeting in the heavy silence that filled the kitchen after his little speech.   Rick let the silence continue for a moment longer before he spoke.

"I know about Greg and Cory.   They told me they were gay on our first campout at Lunga Reservoir.   I have already told them to be very careful who they tell about their relationship.   I specifically told them not to divulge their sexual orientation to anyone at their school or to their parents, until they were ready to live on their own, without the support of family, or friends," Rick said, quietly.   His voice was very calm, despite the turmoil he felt.   He wanted to tell Joey about his relationship with Glenn.   He wanted to have someone he could trust, as a friend; but he just wasn't ready to take the risk that Joey wouldn't rat him out to the military.

Joey breathed a sigh of relief.  "I'm glad you already knew about them.   I was afraid you would stop being their friend.   They both look up to you as a role model, especially since you helped them earn their Eagle."

"I would never reject anyone based on their sexual orientation, Joey.   What matters to me is their character.   If they are good people, I will continue to associate with them.   If they are evil and full of nastiness, then I won't have anything to do with them.   It's just that simple," Rick said.

"Thanks for understanding.   I'm sorry I misjudged you," Joey said, apologetically.

With Joey's apology, Rick finally relaxed, "It's okay, Joey."   He stopped and held up his hand signaling Joey to be quiet.   He listened carefully, then smiled, "Let's go upstairs and see what the guys are doing.   It got real quiet all of sudden."

Joey nodded his head and grinned.  "It is kind of suspicious that they have been laughing and goofing off all night and now it's silent."

They climbed the stairs and found Cory's door partially open.   Rick silently pushed open the door, until he could see what was happening inside Cory's bedroom.   The scene before them surprised them both.   The boys were totally naked, with Cory being pleasured by Greg and Chad at the same time.   Rick was the first to recover and pushed Joey back down the hallway, and silently closed the door, holding his finger to his lips.   He signaled for Joey to follow him back downstairs.

Entering the family room, Joey couldn't contain himself, "Holy fuck!  What was that all about?"

"It's called Cory being double fucked by two very hot young studs.   I don't think there was any doubt about that, do you?" Rick asked, looking at Joey.

Joey sat down on the couch with a heavy thud.   "Damn!   I never thought I would ever witness a guy being fucked by two other guys!"

Rick noticed that Joey's pants were tented, indicating that he was thoroughly turned on by what he saw.   Rick nodded towards Joey, and said, "That looks like you need to go in the bathroom and have a good wank!"

Joey blushed, "You don't miss much, do you, Rick?"

"No, I usually don't.   It seems to me that you liked what you saw, Joey," Rick said, grinning at his friend.

Joey looked a little sheepish.  "Yeah, I guess I did.   It really was pretty hot seeing my brother-in-law totally pounding Cory's pussy like that!"

Rick laughed.  "Are you ready to admit that you aren't totally straight?   I seem to remember that you sucked me off, once, in the locker room after football practice our senior year."

"I do remember that.   You're still a stud, just like you were then.   I tried to get you to suck my dick; but, you refused, saying that if I wanted to suck yours you would let me, so I did.   I haven't done that to anyone else ever!  I remember thinking that maybe I was gay, because I enjoyed sucking on your cock and swallowing your cum.   Then, I met Kathy and all my doubts disappeared," Joey said.

Rick looked closely at Joey.  "Are you okay with Greg and Cory's relationship?"

Joey thought for a moment, before answering, "I think so.   I was more than a little surprised to see them fucking.   In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'd like to join them.   Kathy would have a fit if she ever found out that I wanted Greg to fuck me; so I don't think I will ever risk it."

Their conversation came to an abrupt end as Ray and Darla entered the house.   Joey stood up and made his way to the bathroom, and disappeared for a while.   Rick smiled to himself, thinking of what was going on in the bathroom, as he entered the kitchen to talk with Ray and Darla.   He didn't know if Cory had told his parents about his relationship with Greg, yet.

"Ray, has Cory told you about his plans for college?" Rick asked.  

"No, but he has mentioned that you have invited him and Greg to visit you in Atlanta after graduation.   Are you sure?   I don't want the boys to impose on you in anyway," Ray replied.

"Yes, I am sure.   They are good guys and I think they would enjoy visiting with us.   I plan to take them to Orlando, to the amusement parks for a few days; as well as touring them around Atlanta," Rick said smiling.

"That sounds like a lot of fun.   I wish someone would've taken me to Orlando when I graduated," Joey said, as he entered the kitchen and took a seat next to Rick.

"We were lucky to have enough money to drive to the coast, and spend a few days at the beach," Rick said, laughing.  

"That's true," Joey said, in agreement.   "But, after graduation, most of us went our separate ways."

We chatted for a while longer before Darla looked at the clock.   "I think it's time we got you boys situated for the night.   Do you mind sharing a bed?"

Joey looked at me and smiled.  "I don't if you don't, Rick."

Rick laughed, "As long as you keep your hands to yourself.   I don't think Kathy would be happy if I broke her husband's arm."

Joey laughed, "Okay, I promise not to molest you!"

Darla laughed.  "Boys!   You're all alike!   Always up for a joke!   Okay, you two get the spare bedroom.   It has a king-sized bed in there that should be big enough for you guys.   Another option is to put one of you down here on the sofa sleeper, if you prefer; however, the mattress isn't very comfortable.   I wouldn't recommend it.   It would be better to sleep on the floor.   In fact, we could put you both in sleeping bags on the floor in the family room."

"It doesn't matter to me," Rick said, shrugging his shoulders.

Joey said, "Why don't we share the spare bedroom?   It would be like when we had sleepovers in high school."

"But you have to go to sleep this time.   Remember, the last time you slept over at my house, we never went to bed," Rick said.

"Yes, I do remember that; but it wasn't my fault that you wanted to play "Risk" all night," Joey replied.

"I wasn't about to let you win, so we had to keep playing until I could amass enough armies to run your forces off the map," Rick said, grinning.

Ray said, "It sounds like you have always been a military man."

"Well, not really.   I didn't decide to go into the Marines until after my ex-girlfriend sent her brothers to try and kill me for getting her pregnant," Rick said.

Darla frowned.   "It's too bad things didn't' work out.   Did she keep the child?"

"No, she had an abortion," Rick said, sadly.   "She didn't ask if I wanted to keep the child before she did it."

We heard the boys, as they came down the stairs.   The three of them entered the kitchen.   Rick noted that all three had showered and changed into t-shirts and shorts.   He smiled at Cory, who was smiling broadly.   Cory winked at Rick before he turned to his parents.

"Mom and Dad, I want to tell you something very important," Cory said.

Darla looked over at Ray, who nodded his head.   She smiled and said, "Let me guess; you want to tell us that you and Greg are a couple."

Cory and Greg looked at her as if she had grown three heads.   The looks on their faces were priceless!   "What?!   Did you think we didn't know?" Darla asked, grinning at her son and his partner.

"We have known for some time now, Cory.   You forget that we know you pretty well," Ray said.

Cory finally found his voice, "How did you know?"

"We knew the first night you two had sex," Ray said.   "You weren't exactly quiet, Cory."

Greg laughed, "No, you weren't very quiet."   He put his arm around Cory's waist.   "It's okay, Cory.   I am glad your parents know, so we won't have to try and hide the fact that we are together."

"I watched you leave the house," Cory said, still marveling that his parents already knew he was gay.

"We did leave the house; but we came back, because your mother had forgotten her purse.   When we came back inside, we could hear you two making out upstairs.   I went up to investigate and found you having sex," Ray said.

"Why didn't you confront us, then," Cory asked.

"What good would that have done?" Ray asked.   "We decided it was better that you come to us when you were ready, rather than trying to force you to come out to us about your sexuality."

"So, you aren't mad, or upset about it?" Cory asked, still not believing how his parents were handling the whole situation.

Darla said, "Initially, yes, we were a little upset, but your Dad convinced me that your happiness was all that mattered; and that our expectations were our own problem, not yours."

Greg looked over at Joey, "I am not sure how my parents are going to react when I tell them I'm in love with Cory."

"I am not sure, either," Joey said.   "I haven't known your parents as long as you have Greg.   I'm sorry that I'm not much help."

"You can come live with me, Greg, if your parents kick you out," Chad said.   "It's just me and my Dad in that big house and Dad isn't home much."

Cory looked up at Greg.  "You already know that you have a home here with me."

Ray and Darla nodded their agreement.   Ray said, "Yes, you are always welcome here, Greg.   The way I look at it, you are already part of the family."

"Thanks, Ray," Greg said.   "I guess I should start calling you Mom and Dad, now, since I have asked Cory to marry me as soon as we graduate."

"Congratulations!   I am happy to hear you are getting married," Ray said.

Darla said, "Thank you, Greg, for taking care of my baby.   Yes, I am happy that you are engaged to be married."

"I think it is so totally rad!" Chad exclaimed.

Chad's statement caused us all to laugh.   Joey said, "Yes, Chad, it is totally rad!"

"Where do you plan to get married?" Rick asked.

"We think we will go to Canada, somewhere," Greg said.

We talked some more about their wedding plans, before Darla looked at the clock, "Boys, it's time for you to hit the sack."

"Yes, Mom," Greg said, grinning.

"You had better say, "Yes, Mom," to me," Darla said.   "You could help Cory remember to say that, too."

The three teens scampered out of the kitchen and up the stairs after saying good night to us.

Joey looked over at Rick, "Are you ready to call it a night?"

"Yeah, let's go to bed, as well," Rick said.

Ray said, "I have already put your things in the spare bedroom."

"Thanks," Rick said.

The guys went upstairs and found the spare bedroom to be quiet spacious.   It was a master bedroom with its own bath.

Joey said, "I'll hit the shower, first.   Is that alright with you?"

Rick nodded, "Sure, go ahead."

Joey grabbed his backpack and went into the bathroom.   Rick pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and hit the speed dial for Glenn's phone.

"Hello," I said.

"Hello, sweetheart," Rick said.   "How was your concert tonight?"

"It went really well," I said.   "I am glad it's over, though."

"Great!   I am staying with some friends tonight," Rick said.

"Are you with your friend, Joey?" I asked.

"Yes.   I'm at Cory's house.  Cory is having a sleepover and invited Joey and me to join them," Rick answered.

"That's really cool!   I am glad you are able to be a good role model for Cory and Greg," I said.   "You are the best, Rick.   I love you!"

"I love you, too.   I will call you when I get back from the deep freeze campout, okay?" Rick said.

"Yes, I always look forward to your calls.   I hope it's not too cold for your campout," I said.

"I'm sure we will be okay," Rick said.   "Good night, Babe."

"Good night, Rick," I said.

Rick put his cell phone back in his pocket, just as Joey came out of the bathroom, dressed in his boxer shorts.   Rick looked appraisingly at his high school friend.   He had filled out since they played football, and still looked fit, even though there was a hint of belly on him.

Joey smiled and did a muscleman pose.   Rick laughed, "You were always good at doing that."

Joey said, "What can I say?   I love showing off."

Rick picked up his stuff and took care of his toilet; then came out of the bathroom to find Joey had already climbed into bed.   He stripped down to his military issue underwear and walked over to the bed.

Joey whistled, "Wow! You're ripped, man!   Your arms are huge!   You must work out all the time to keep yourself looking like that!"

"I don't have anything else to do in my spare time, so I go to the gym and work out," Rick said, as he climbed into bed.

"Remind me not to get you mad at me," Joey joked.   "You look like you could do some real damage to someone, looking like you do."

"Thanks, Joey," Rick said.

"I remember you were quite a womanizer.   You said your goal was to have sex with as many girls as possible," Joey said.  

"I don't do that anymore," Rick said.   "I got tired of sleeping with a different woman every night.   The sex was great, but it lost its appeal after a while."

"Do you think you will ever get married?" Joey asked.

"Maybe someday," Rick answered.

"I highly recommend it," Joey said.   "I love having someone to come home to at night.   When I was single, I remember how lonely I would get coming home to an empty apartment."

"I know what you mean," Rick said.   "I get pretty lonely here, sometimes.   I can't wait until my tour of duty is up, so I can return to my normal routine."

Joey didn't say anything more and was soon fast asleep; or at least Rick thought he was, because of his slow, even breathing.   Rick thought about his relationship with Glenn, and how much he loved him.   Yes, he should marry Glenn, and soon.   However, he still wanted to be a Marine.   He knew Glenn loved him.   He hoped that their love for each other would carry them forward, until he could leave the Marines and marry his sweetheart.

The following Monday, I was in the practice room, again, when Rick called me.   I picked up my cell and said, "Hello, stranger!"

"Hi, Babe, I'm sorry I didn't call last night.   I was so tired from the deep freeze campout, I just collapsed on my bed and slept.   Can you forgive me for not calling you?" Rick asked, pleading with me to understand his reason for missing our nightly calls.

"Okay, I forgive but don't do it again.   At least send me a text message, so I know you are alright," I said.

"You will never guess what happened this weekend," Rick said, excitedly.   "Greg and Cory came out to the entire scout troop as being a couple.   The amazing thing was that everyone already knew about them.   The boys were shocked that everyone else knew they were lovers.   Shelby told them it was about time they stop trying to hide it from everyone, when it was so obvious they are in love with each other," Rick said.

"That's wonderful!   How did the leaders react?" I asked.

"Sgts. Mason and Slade congratulated them on being honest with the troop about their sexuality.   Joey was with us, and was totally astonished at their courage.   He has accepted them as a couple, and is very supportive," Rick said.

"I am happy for them.   I just hope their parents are as supportive of them as the boys are," I said.

"I don't know about that," Rick said.   "I warned them to be careful about that.  Are you ready for the concert on Saturday?"

"I'm working myself to death trying to get the Brahms ready to perform.    The Mozart performance was perfect last week, so now I can concentrate on the Brahms Violin Concerto.   The entire hockey team is coming to see me perform on Saturday," I said, excitedly.

Rick responded, "That's great!   The courts martial started today.   I was called to testify this afternoon.   Lt. Col. Bachman thinks things will move quickly now.   He also said we will finish out our tour here."

"Good! I was afraid they would send you back overseas when the military trials were over," I said.

"I was, too, as a matter of fact.  I'm glad they decided to keep us here.   It looks like I will be finished here on May 25th.   I think we can make it that long, don't you?" Rick asked.

"Do you think they will let you take a couple of days off during spring break?" I asked.

"I don't know, but I can ask.   Spring break is in March isn't it?" Rick asked.

"Yes, I will send you the exact dates when I get back to the house, since I can't remember them right now," I said.

We chatted for a few more minutes before we hung up and I continued practicing.   The big day arrived and we made our way to Dr. Nohr's house.   It was a good thing Zach and Todd were driving, because I don't' think I could have done it on my own I was so keyed up about it.   Dr. Nohr greeted us at the door and led me to a small practice room to tune up my violin.  

Dr. Nohr asked, "Are you ready?"

"Yes, I am," I said, more confidently than I felt.

"Good.   We will see you on stage in a few minutes, then," Dr. Nohr said, and left me to finish tuning my violin.

A few minutes later, I heard a tap on the door and a handsome Nordic god opened the door and said, "They are ready for you, Mr. Nielsen."

"Thank you.   Please call me Glenn," I said, as I walked with him down the hall.   I couldn't help looking him over appreciatively.    

"I'm Aaron Davidson.   I'm excited to hear you play, Glenn.   I'm a first year music student, and there is quite a buzz about you at school," Aaron said, smiling.   He leaned over and whispered in my ear, "You are so cute in your tux.   Meet me after the performance, so we can get to know each other better."   Aaron laughed at my surprised look.   "Yes, I'm gay and I want to date you."    With that statement, he opened the door to the stage and indicated I should proceed.

I walked out on stage in a daze.   I was just lucky I didn't trip and fall over anything!   I mentally shook myself….I already had a boyfriend and didn't need a new one.   The audience's applause came to an end and the conductor looked at me to see if I was ready.   I nodded my head, and he began.   I almost missed my solo entrance because of Aaron!   Dang!   I finally got myself under control and concentrated on delivering a good, solid performance.

As the last note of the concerto hung in the air, the audience was on its feet and the applause was thunderous.  The conductor took a bow and indicated I should, as well.   We left the room, but the applause continued; so we returned and took another bow, as did the orchestra.   This continued for three more times.   The conductor looked at me and asked, "Do you wish to do an encore?"

"Sure, what did you have in mind?" I replied.

"I have heard you are pretty good with the Paganini concertos.   How about one of them?   Maybe the 3rd movement of concerto number one?" he asked.

 I looked over to Dr. Nohr who smiled at me, and nodded his approval.   "That would be okay."

We returned to the stage a fourth time.   The conductor returned to his podium and raised his baton.   The audience stopped clapping and took their seats in eager anticipation.

On his signal, we began.   I lost myself completely in the music.   I didn't even have to think about the notes, as my fingers flew over the fingerboard.   All too soon, the music ended and the audience was again on its feet.   This time the noise was deafening.   The conductor stepped over and shook my hand, "Congratulations!"

We both bowed, then he indicated that the orchestra should stand and take a bow.   As before, the crowd's applause brought us back to the stage several times.   The final time, Dr. Nohr came on stage and thanked everyone for their attendance; and that we would be taking an intermission before the next performance.

Aaron was at the door, waiting for me, as I exited the stage.   He guided me through the crowds of people to the practice room.   I put away my violin and turned to find him directly behind me.   He took me in his arms and kissed me, before I had time to react.

"That's your reward for such a fantastic performance," Aaron said, smiling at my surprised expression.

He released me and took me by the hand and led me out of the room.   I didn't even think to take my hand away from him, as we approached my roommates.   It wasn't until Patty tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, "Why are you holding hands with this guy?" that I pulled my hand away from him.

Aaron glanced at me curiously, but said nothing.   Instead, he waited for me to introduce him to my friends.   "Aaron, this is Patty, Irene, Ben, Janice, Jimmy, Donica, Zach, Todd, Mark, Brandon, Justin, Brian, Robbie, and Adam," I said.

Aaron nodded his acknowledgment of them and said, "Nice to meet everyone.   I'm Aaron Davidson.   I'm a first year music student at the university.   Dr. Nohr asked me to help keep the soloists from getting lost.   Glenn was totally awesome tonight!"

Zach replied, "Yes, he certainly was."   Zach's reply was courteous enough, but I could tell he wasn't exactly happy that Aaron was accompanying me.   He looked at me as if to say, "You are entering uncharted waters---be careful!"

I took the hint and turned to Patty, "Will you come with me outside for a few minutes?"   Before she could answer, I grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the front door.

Patty asked, "What is this all about?"

"I need to get some space between me and Aaron.   He kissed me and asked me to be his boyfriend," I said, looking back to see that Zach had stepped in front of Aaron to prevent him from following me, and had engaged him in a conversation.   Aaron kept looking around for me.   I pulled Patty into the foyer, so we would be out of his line of sight.   "What am I going to do, Patty?"

Patty gave me that "look" and said, "What do you mean what are you going to do?"

I gulped, "Okay, I know I need to tell him I am in a relationship, already; but how do I tell him.   He is so forceful.   I am not used to anyone being that aggressive."

"If you don't tell him, you will end up royally screwed, and I mean screwed; because he will fuck you and leave you.   I have dated his type before, and you don't want anything to do with him.   I promise," Patty said.

"Okay, let's go back and I will tell him to back off," I said.

Patty smiled, "That's the spirit!"

We returned to find Aaron still talking to Zach.   I went up and put my arm around Aaron's waist, "Can we talk for a moment?"

Aaron's smile was blinding in its intensity.   Man!   No wonder I was hypnotized by this guy.   As we walked toward the foyer, I said, "Aaron, I need to tell you that I already have a boyfriend.   I don't want to lead you on, or hurt you; but I need you to respect the fact that I am in a relationship, already."

Aaron's smile didn't falter, but his expression hardened just the same, "Yes, I know.   I have been watching you for some time now.   I know that your boyfriend is gone and you are on your own now.   I think I can convince you to drop this guy…you know the saying, out of sight, out of mind.   I think it applies here."

"Aaron, I think you are the best looking guy around, and you are very charming; but, I need to repeat what I said.   I love Rick very much, and it doesn't matter if he is here, or not.   I would rather be friends than lovers, Aaron.   Please say you will accept that, and not push me to become your lover," I said.

Aaron thought for a moment, and said, "I will accept your offer of friendship on one condition – and that is that you will seriously consider my offer to be your boyfriend.   If you will give me a chance, I can prove to you that I can be the man for you."

I reached up and put my hand on his cheek.  "Friendship only.   That is my final answer."

I turned and left him standing in the foyer, to return to my friends.   The rest of the evening was uneventful.   When I returned to the practice room to retrieve my violin, I kept looking around for him and didn't find him.   Oh, well, I guess he didn't take my refusal of his advances very well!

We returned home and I collapsed on my bed in pure exhaustion.   My cell phone rang and I answered it, "Hi, Babe!"

"Hello, sweetheart," Rick said.

"Wait until you hear what happened at the concert tonight," I said.   I related every detail to him.

Rick said, "I am glad you turned him away, and, more than anything, I am happy you told me about it.   Ben and Zach called me from the concert and were very worried about you."

I blushed to think they had already told Rick what was going on.   It was a good thing I had come clean with Rick about everything!   We continued to talk and we ended our call.   I looked at the ceiling and thanked my lucky stars for my escape from Aaron's clutches!   I had this feeling that Aaron wasn't going to give up quite so easily next time we met.  

Prev To be continued . . .

A Note from Russ:

Brahms Violin Concerto: 

1st Movement -

2nd Movement -

3rd Movement (this is the best part of the concerto in my opinion) -

Just in case you haven't already seen it, here is the Paganini Concerto No. 1 3rd movement -

I listened to this song as I wrote parts of this chapter that deal with Rick's feelings for Glenn: Hot Chelle Rae –Keep You With Me -