Castle Roland

Dessert Fantasies

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 22

Posted: N/A

Hark The Heralds Early

By Thursday, the excitement of the previous weekend had been relegated to the news archives. The media had more important fish to fry: polygamist sects, a whacko jurist, celebrity gossip, nuclear waste, questionable land deals of a U.S. Senator and a pending water shortage. Murders in North Las Vegas were the norm and considered a part of routine reporting. News from the underbelly of Vegas was always in demand.

Spike returned to the condo that afternoon and the gate guard greeted him with a polite nod. "Mr. Jensen, good to see you today."

"Nice to be back." Spike nervously smiled as he slowly drove past the guard.

Nary was there a mention of the demolition derby carnage in the garage nor the unwelcome visitors by either party. The condo staff had been advised not to discuss the events of that evening to anyone and they followed a tightly woven script created by a PR specialist at Gallant Security. Spike had now told his 'story' enough times that the fiction was now comfortably substituted for reality.

Visually, the area had been almost restored to its prior elegance. As he drove down the garage ramp, he noticed the expert patching on the walls surrounding the entrance. Once inside, more plastering was evident. 'Must be drying before they paint it,' he thought as he slipped into his parking space next to Lou's dusty but undamaged SUV. Mario told him several vehicles had been superficially banged up and were towed out for repairs. 'Must find time tomorrow to get Lou's SUV washed,' he thought as he got out of his car and removed his bags. Spike looked around and shuddered a little as he thought about the previous Sunday evening.

First stop was to pick up mail. He also wanted to say 'hi' to the front desk attendant so building security would be aware he had returned. Spike nodded to the attendant as he walked back to the mailbox area. There were just a few bills - everything addressed to Spike - and a few business flyers. He tucked the mail in his backpack and returned to the front desk.

"Hey, George. Just wanted to let you know I'm back," Spike said to the attendant. He set down his bag and shook hands.

"Welcome back, Mr. Jensen. I think you'll find everything in order upstairs. The workers completed the renovations yesterday afternoon."

"Everything's getting back to normal?" Spike had been assured that the building employees had been told to be very vague about the identity of the residents on the 39th floor - 39B in particular - other than to say that the condo was a corporate apartment. He wasn't sure about their neighbors in 39A. Neither Lou nor he had seen anyone enter or leave the condo next door since they moved in.

"Very quiet. The repairs to the garage will be finished tomorrow. You'll need to move your cars in the morning so they can paint. There's a notice posted in the elevators. Is Mr. Gallian in town?"

"No. He's been away on family business. I think he'll stay with them for the holidays and be back after the first of the year. I'll move his SUV to the street in the morning." Spike picked up his bag and added, "Oh, my younger brother is arriving for a visit tomorrow. I'll introduce him to you. He'll be here for a week before we return to L.A. for Christmas." He smiled with a nod and added, "See ya around." Spike decided not to mention Bernstein's name up on 22. Mario told him that the old man had been restrained with duct tape but was fine. Apparently, Mr. Bernstein was very embarrassed to have fallen for such a ruse and didn't want to talk about the incident.

He walked over to the elevator lobby and hit the call button with his elbow. The brass doors parted and he stepped inside the walnut-paneled elevator. Spike pushed '39' without setting down his bag or backpack and watched the doors glide closed. It occurred to him he seldom saw other people in the tower. 'But,' he thought, 'with 44 floors and only two condos to a floor there isn't a lot of traffic to begin with.' Added to the equation was the factor that several of the condos were only used as second homes for weekend visits. 'Just as well. The last thing I need is a bunch of nosey neighbors.' The floor numbers flashed in rapid succession as he ascended.

A soft bell and the elevator slowing to '39' brought him back to the moment: re-entering the condo. Spike swallowed hard as the elevator doors opened. He looked ahead and stepped out onto the marble lobby floor. 'So far, so good,' he thought as he scanned the area and walked to the front door. A slight smell of fresh paint was the only hint that something had occurred and the general appearance was pristine. He unlocked the door, cautiously swung it wide, reached in to turn on the lights and stepped inside. The familiar surroundings created a sense of stability. Spike placed his keys on the glass foyer table and admired the Vance Kirkland painting that ran the length of the gallery wall in front of him. He jumped a little when the door automatically closed behind him and it took a moment for him to relax. 'I'll unpack later,' he decided as he set down his bag and backpack. 'Time to do a fast walk-through...ready or not.'

Down the hallway on the left was the den, where he had last seen Jack, the security guy who had perished. He was pretty sure that the room had been re-carpeted. The TV and stereo remotes were in their usual places on the coffee table and a magazine was still turned to a story he had not finished. Next, he retraced his steps, and passed through the living room on the way to the dining room. Each room had been left with the retractable sunscreens down. The dining room carpet was obviously new, and the chairs around the existing round table were slightly different from the original ones. 'Guess it was easier buying chairs rather than repairing the others.' He smiled at the large, dark wood cabinet by the wall that Lou and he had just bought. It was contemporary Asian in design with individual compartments for wine bottle storage and slides for inverted stem glassware. It appeared that neither the wine bottles nor glasses had been disturbed.

The idea of wine appealed to him. 'Should have a bottle of white in the fridge,' he thought as he stepped into the kitchen and turned on the lights for a better view. Everything seemed to be in place. 'It's more like coming home after a short vacation.' Spike opened the fridge and knew he should make a run to the store for fresh provisions. He spotted a full bottle of chardonnay and took it out. He found the opener and cut the foil around the top of the bottle. Four fast twists after inserting the opener screw and firm pressure on the fulcrum lever allowed the cork to slide out of its snug home. He grabbed a tumbler glass and filled it with the pale gold liquid from Sonoma and returned to the den.

His side of the couch felt very comfortable. 'Maybe this won't be so bad after all. But I'm still happy I invited Cray and Michael over to stay the night.' Spike removed his shoes, turned on the stereo and activated his MP3 jazz selections. He leaned back and made a mental list of things to do. 'Basically, I just need to get food for dinner tonight and some milk,' he thought. 'Steaks, salad, baked potatoes and veggies. Oh, yeah...better get some O.J. for in the morning.' He decided to shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in Henderson. 'Then, I'll pick up the guys. It'll save me a trip.' The second taste of the chardonnay was even more satisfying. He leaned back and decided that the first step back to his normal routine was going all right.

The electronic chords of the 1812 Overture on his cell phone interrupted the tranquility. He reached in his pocket, pulled out the phone and flipped it open. Spike smiled when he saw Lou's cell phone number on the screen.

"Hey, babe" Spike cooed. "How ya doin'?" It was three hours later - almost 6:00 p.m. in New York. They hadn't spoken since the previous evening after Lou's mom's funeral.

"Stabilizing. The mass at St. Dominic's was beautiful and mom is at rest." There was a pause and Lou took a deep breath. "We've moved to the Manhattan apartment. Dad doesn't want to live in the Old Westbury house anymore, so I'll be relocating all my stuff to Vegas. I'm going to help him inventory all the furnishings and get the place ready for sale."

"Whoa, that's a big development." Spike had only seen pictures of the Long Island estate but knew this was a major change. 'Although a three-bedroom apartment at The Pierre on Fifth Avenue probably isn't exactly camping out,' he thought.

"Most of dad's business is in the city. Plus, my brother and his family live on 63rd Street, which isn't very far. Dad said that the only reason he had kept the house was because my mom loved the gardens and pool. Getting rid of the place will help ease any bad memories. Babe, I'm concerned about you. Did you move back into our condo?"

"Sitting in the den as we speak. I admit I was nervous when I first arrived a little while ago, but the repairs are flawless. Cray and Michael are coming over tonight for dinner and to stay the night. Bottom line is I'm ready to move felt good to come home."

"That's great to hear. Dad took a lot of interest in making sure our place was taken care of. In fact, he bought the other condo on our floor. He'll use the condo when he visits Vegas."

"You're full of surprises," Spike said with a chuckle. "When did this happen?"

"The deal was done this morning. Seems he plans on spending more time back there as we build the casino division and doesn't want to stay in the hotel. So this seemed to be the best solution. You'll be getting a FedEx package tomorrow from the previous owner. It has the keys to 39A and dad's anxious for you to check it out with some of the guys from Gallant Security. Is that going to be a pain in the butt? I know your brother is arriving to stay with you."

"Um, it's not a problem - Henry doesn't arrive until 9:00 p.m. Is it okay if Henry uses your SUV? I promise he's a good driver."

"Sure - he's my brother-in-law and the cutest one in the family. If he has a wreck, I'll just have to punish both of you with my whips."

"Okay, Mr. Marquis de Sade. And don't forget the chains," Spike replied.

"Yum. Phone sex. I love it."

"In your dreams. And don't start breathing heavy. I'll let the front desk know to expect a package and someone from Gallant can meet me here around noon. I only have two classes in the morning." Spike took another sip of wine and added, "I didn't know 39A was on the market."

"Dad tracked down the owner and made him an offer. Apparently there wasn't much emotional attachment to the condo - the guy lives in Vancouver and is in Vegas only every couple of months. Gallant will take photos of the place and email them to us. The only things the owner will want are clothes and some personal pictures. We have no idea what the interiors look like but I know dad will have it re-done at some point. He'll probably move some of the antique furniture from our house. Chippendale forever...and I don't mean the dancers."

"Sounds like I'm going to get to know your dad real well." Spike hadn't thought about the 'in-laws' and just assumed that the barrier of the 'fly-over states' would be reason enough to maintain a polite distance. "Hope he'll like me."

"Already does...because I do." Lou purred in exaggeration.

"Then it's a done deal. I look forward to getting to know him."

"Seriously, he does too. As far as the living arrangements are concerned, he won't be coming over to borrow sugar or anything like that. Part of the plan is to create better security for the 39th floor. The elevators will be keyed so only certain people will have a code to gain access." He paused for a moment and let dead air emphasize that statement. "This recent problem ran up several red flags. But don't worry; we will hardly notice. Hon, I've got to run. I'm having dinner with dad and my brother in a few minutes. Let's talk tomorrow about this time. Okay?"

"Tomorrow it is. Babe, I can't believe it's going to be another two weeks before I see you." Spike decided to toss this out to make sure the plan was still for him to fly to New York on December 27th.

"I've already got a suite booked for us a couple of floors below the apartment. It'll be more private that way."

"Gottcha. Love you and miss you. Bye."

"Kisses back at you. Bu-bye."

Dinner was a success in more ways than one. First, Spike seemed to feel comfortable being back in the condo - his home. Cray thought the tension in his older friend's eyes had disappeared by the time the last bites of steak were consumed. Second, he was able to be with Michael in a completely different setting. He enjoyed the expressions of wonder in Michael's eyes as dusk turned to evening. Beyond the large living room and dining room windows was a glorious view of the glitzy, eclectic, wondrous Strip skyline - a panorama that started with the Mandalay Bay to the south and ended at the Wynn tower to the north. In between was a fanciful visual trip that touched Egypt, Oz, New York, Paris, Spain, Rome and Venice.

Finally, he felt the unconditional love that permeated the room. On one side sat his lover; on the other side was one of his first real friends in Vegas - Mario being the other. 'We've all come a long way,' Cray thought as he pushed back his chair and smiled at Spike.

"You guys had enough food?" Spike asked. "There's ice cream I can break out."

"I'm absolutely stuffed." Michael leaned back and patted his flat stomach. "Couldn't possibly eat any" He turned and winked at Cray.

"More than enough." Cray stood and continued, "Hon, why don't you go out to the terrace and enjoy the view. I'll help Spike tidy up and join you."

"I can help..."

"Scoot. Cray and I will have this cleaned up in a couple of minutes. There's lots to see out there and the temperature's not too cold." Spike nodded to Michael as he stood and picked up Michael's plate. "Take advantage of the sights. I still think it's pretty awesome."

"You've twisted my arm. I must admit it blows me away." Michael pushed his chair back, got up and walked toward the sliding door to the terrace.

Cray gathered the remaining plates and balanced the water glasses in his other hand. He followed Spike out to the kitchen and waited for his friend to open the dishwasher. "You doing okay?"

"This has been a good evening and whatever doubts I had have melted away. Thanks, buddy." Spike placed his dirty dishes in the washer and turned to Cray. He placed his hands on Cray's shoulder and squeezed it gently. "I think we're stuck with being good friends for a long time."

"You're one of my rocks." Cray instinctively placed his hand on Spike's and rubbed it. "Um, I need to ask you a favor. Tonight I want Michael to make love to me...all the way. Since we might be a little noisy, I didn't want to disturb you or anything."

"First time?"

"Yeah. When you're 16 it's hard finding the right time or the right spot." After the episode of Mr. Turner walking in on their oral explorations, Cray didn't want his journey to the final frontier to be breeched by parental eyes.

"So this is serious? It's not just about getting your rocks off?"

"Very serious."

"Then I'm honored to help. I suppose you guys have talked about this and prepared yourselves?"

"Right out of Spike's Handbook of Lovemaking," Cray replied with a laugh. "Um, we've done the finger thing with each other. I'm nervous and excited 'bout this." Cray followed Spike back to the dining room and helped remove the remaining dishes and napkins.

"Here's what you do. Take the last handful to the kitchen and then join Michael on the terrace. I'm sure that'll be a romantic place to start this special evening." They walked together back to the kitchen. "In the meantime, I'm going to find some lube and a couple of rubbers and place them in the drawer of the guest bedroom. When you're ready, everything will be in place."

"You think we should use condoms? I don't think either of us is of any risk to the other." Cray hadn't really thought beyond the moment when they'd 'do it'.

"Them's the rules at my house and it's good practice for you young 'uns," Spike said with a smile. "Seriously, being safe is part of loving your partner and vice versa. I'm not saying you'll ever stray but it's a good idea to wear protection. Plus it prevents having to sleep on a wet sheet. Later on, you guys should be tested and go through the routine of being sure you're negative. Deal?"

"I suppose you're right. We'll do it...I promise." Although he was pretty sure they were both healthy, Cray decided he'd honor Spike's rules. 'And being pretty sure isn't good enough,' he decided.

"Okay, champ. Go out there and whisper 'sweet nothings' in that stud's ear while I set up the room. How about a few votive candles in your bedroom to get things moving?" Spike asked with a smile and raised eyebrows.

"Very romantic." Cray leaned over and kissed Spike's cheek. "Thanks." He walked to the terrace door and slid it open.

"It's a little chilly but worth it to see this." Michael took Cray's warmer hand and stepped closer.

Cray brought Michael's hand to his lips, kissed it and said, "Absolutely worth it."

On an unsaid cue, each guy placed one arm around the other's waist and stood close together. They silently looked at the skyline and slowly swayed back and forth. After a few moments, Cray turned and pulled Michael into a tight embrace. He licked his lover's ear and nibbled on the earlobe. "I must say, Sir, I'm on a special mission."

"And what special mission is that?" Michael pressed his crotch into Cray's leg and moved an obvious erection slightly back and forth.

"Feels like you're on the same mission." Cray moved his face back a little and gently kissed Michael. "I want you to make love to me tonight. It's time and I'm ready." This time he held Michael's head and hungrily launched into full-kiss-with-tongue mode.

"Ahhh," was all that escaped from Michael before their tongues met. He moved his hand to cup Cray's firm glutes. His crotch grinding became harder as they swapped spit. Suddenly he pulled back a little. "I think I'm going to cum in my pants if we keep this up," Michael said with a sheepish smile. "If we're going to do this, I wanna know how it feels, know..."

"Why not start with me and reverse positions later?" Cray knew from their sexual activities, neither had a problem with immediate re-fire. 'We've both got pretty active torpedoes,' he thought with a grin.

"Will Spike be okay if 'it' in the guestroom?" Michael gently stroked Cray's head.

"Permission asked and granted. The only thing is, he insists we be safe and use condoms." Cray looked into Michael's eyes and saw a mixture of love, lust and excitement.

"Guess I'm okay with that. First time and all."

"And he said it's less messy," Cray replied with a snicker and roll of his eyes.

"You talked about thaaaaaaat?"

"Spike's like the big brother I never had. Where do you think I got all those hints know."

"Then let's head to bed and see if we can remember what he told you." Michael slid open the door and gestured for Cray to go inside.

"Go back to the bedroom. I'll turn off the lights and join you in a sec." Cray watched Michael walk away as he switched off the dining room chandelier and living room lamps. His ears perked up when he heard Michael gasp. He trotted down the hall and stopped at the guestroom door. There, with Michael in silhouette, flickered a myriad of votive candles, perched on the chest, the bedside tables and even creating a soft glow in the bathroom. The covers of the bed had been removed and the sheets pulled halfway down.

"Oh, babe. I think our host has outdone himself." Michael turned to Cray and started unbuttoning his shirt as he toed off his shoes.

"Let me." Cray stepped closer and released the remaining buttons. He assisted Michael in removing the shirt and laid it on a chair. "Help me with this." He raised his arms so his rugby shirt could be easily pulled off. Cray felt tingly as Michael removed the shirt. Next, Michael unbuckled Cray's belt and unbuttoned the top of his khaki pants. Cray reached over and rubbed his fingers against Michael's chest. "Looking' good, babe," he said with a whisper. "I better close the door. No reason to create any more of a fuss than necessary."

"The only fuss is going to be on this bed." Michael unbuttoned his 501's and smiled as he slid them down.

Cray smiled back, sat down and took off his sneakers. Next came the socks and the pants. He stepped out of them and stood up. The sight of Michael in his briefs with a big boner veering off to the side was intoxicating. "How about taking a minute out to hang up our clothes. These are going to be what we wear to school tomorrow." He picked up his pants and opened the closet.

"Good idea. If you'll hang up mine, I'll make a pit stop and brush my teeth."

"Go ahead and I'll join you." Cray watched Michael turn and enter the bathroom. 'Those beautiful buns are going to be mine later,' he thought. His hard cock twitched as he picked up the shirts and Michael's jeans. 'Down, boy.' With everything properly stored, he joined Michael in the bathroom. The only lighting for brushing teeth came from the flickering candles. 'Can't spoil the moment,' he thought, 'besides, I don't need bright lights for this.' He retrieved his toothbrush, squirted some paste on the bristles and playfully bumped Michael's leg with his butt.

"Pushy guy," Michael slurred with his mouth full of toothpaste. He took a step to one side so Cray would have room and continued to brush. After a spit and rinse he walked over to the commode, stepped out of his briefs and kicked them into the bedroom. "I'll try to pee without making too much of a mess." He smiled and pushed his erection down to take aim.

"Don't worry. I'm right behind you." Cray continued to brush as Michael drained himself. They grinned at each other in the mirror. When Michael finished, Cray said, "See you at the O.K. Corral in a minute."

"I'm counting on it." Michael patted Cray's backside and left the bathroom.

Cray rinsed his mouth and moved over to the toilet. He copied Michael's moves and added a little more liquid to the bowl. After wiping down the rim, he flushed and then washed his hands. He took a deep breath when he saw Michael lying on the bed. The soft illumination from the candles made his trim body even sexier. The shadows created by the candles accented Michael's lithe, track athlete musculature and attentive erection. 'Beautiful,' he thought as he silently crawled onto the bed. He scooted down and kissed Michael's member.

"Oh, babe. This is a night I'm going to remember for a long time." Michael sighed and patted Cray's head.

"Let me get this a little wet," Cray said before taking Michael's penis all the way in. He moved up and down for a few strokes before releasing it. His lover's cock slapped against his stomach as Cray reached over to the bedside drawer. Inside was the bottle of AstroGlide and a handful of wrapped Trojans. He handed Michael the lube, grabbed a package and added, "Put a little lube on first and I'll unwrap the condom." Tonight was going to be perfect and Cray planned on remembering every tip Spike had passed on.

"I see there's a few condoms." Michael said as he looked in the drawer. He uncapped the bottle and dribbled the lube on his dick.

"Don't plan on getting much sleep." Cray smiled and squeezed Michael's balls as he ripped open the foil packaging with his teeth, like he had practiced several times. He tossed the torn foil on the floor and held its contents in his free hand. The other hand slowly rubbed Michael's scrotum and playfully pulled a few of the sparse hairs before moving on to the base of the hard cock.

Michael gasped and wiggled his butt. "Easy. I want this to last."

"That's the plan." Cray took Michael's erection firmly in his hand and stroked just a few times to apply a thin coating of lube. He never got tired of handling his lover. The experience of touching someone else's penis was still exciting. They were both about the same length but Michael had a narrow head at the tip of his cock and it flared fatter as you went down the shaft. 'Should be easier to take,' Cray thought as he used both hands to fit the condom, 'than him taking mine.' They had discussed Cray's blunt, mushroom glans and the extra stretching of Michael's anus that would be needed to reduce any initial pain.

Once the condom was centered, he carefully rolled it down Michael's pulsing erection. Cray got on his knees and leaned in to kiss Michael lightly on the lips. This was a time for tender love. "I love you so much," he whispered before running his tongue around Michael's mouth.

"I love you, too," Michael mumbled before his tongue touched Cray's. He greedily sucked and growled once Cray's tongue had completely entered his willing mouth.

Cray enjoyed hearing the little squeak when he roughly pinched Michael's nipple. He quickly moved down and lapped his wet tongue over the aroused tit.

"You are a devil. Love it." Michael reached up and squeezed Cray's aureole with equal determination.

"Then you'll love this." Cray carefully raised his leg, straddled the supine body below him and held out his hand. They had agreed it would be best for the guy being fucked for the first time to be on top in order to control the penetration. He trembled with anticipation. 'Funny the way my life has changed since I left Provo,' he thought. 'A good funny. Things couldn't be more right.'

"You look beautiful," Michael whispered as he poured lube on Cray's fingers. "Nuf?"

"Yeah. Take care of that gorgeous cock of yours while I get things started in me." Cray reached down and inserted two well-lubed fingers into his rectum as he watched Michael get wet. 'Practice makes perfect,' he thought as he stretched the muscles and entered a little deeper with a third finger. Both guys - together and separately - had made it a point of massaging and prepping their virgin orifices for the past month. This was the night their labors would be rewarded. Cray's emotions short-circuited with the love he felt for this man as he tried to remember all he had learned from Spike.

Michael pushed his member up vertically at the same time Cray lifted his body and positioned himself above Michael's groin area. "Want me to do anything?"

"Just like we've discussed, Babe. I'll do all the work for a while." Cray took hold of Michael's shaft and steadied it. He lowered himself until the latex-sheathed penis head touched his anus. He grunted, internally pushed outward and relaxed his sphincter. Slowly, the slippery head entered. And entered further. His bottom burned a little as he was stretched further than ever. 'Whoa, this is going to take a little time.' He felt a small 'plop' as Michael's glans passed the muscle and Cray started shaking a little as tears formed in his eyes. "Wait for a second," Cray mumbled, "I need to get used to it."

"I ain't going anywhere," Michael replied with a dreamy smile. "Couldn't if I wanted to." His eyes got a little wider as Cray moved down a bit further. "Oh, that feels so warm and snug. Babe, how you doin'? Am I hurting you?" He asked with a worried expression. "Are those tears?" Michael started to rise up but Cray pushed him back down.

"Stay put. These are just tears of love. I'm feeling pretty damned good." Cray inched down Michael's pole. He was getting used to the friendly insertion but felt the girth widen as he continued. He gasped, as his lover's penis grazed places inside he had only known from personal touch. 'This is definitely more like a four-finger operation,' he decided. "Love you, love you...ahhh. I'm getting," Cray said louder as he arched his back and momentarily clamped hard on Michael's buried cock before releasing and easing down further. He felt the scratchy hairs of Michael's bush touch his buns as he rested on his lover's pelvic bone.

"Whenever you're ready, stud." Michael put his hands on Cray's waist, thrust his cock upward and added, "You feel that? I think I found the bump."

"Ohhh, yes," Cray replied with a hiss as he slid his hands into Michael's armpits and slowly raised himself. "I'm ready." He felt Michael's dickhead almost pop out and stopped immediately. He looked down into Michael's eyes and added, "Let me know when you're getting close so we can slow down...if we can." He smiled and started the motions that men had practiced since the ancient times in Greece...and much earlier.

Spike opened his eyes and looked over at the alarm clock radio that had just clicked on. He loved the 80's rock FM station in the morning and recognized Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf". His eyes focused on the LED numbers. '7:00 a.m., time to stir,' he thought as he threw back the sheet and sat up. He stretched and got up to take a fast shower, plus everything else that was part of his morning routine. 'But first, need to wake up the kids.' He opened the door and padded down to the guestroom door in the nude with a woodie still at full mast. He knocked and said loudly, "Time to get up. Just yell so I know you're coherent."

"Thanks, Spike," Cray's voice replied through a yawn. "We're awake."

"Take showers and I'll see ya in the kitchen at 7:30." Spike returned to his bathroom, stepped into the large shower and turned on the water. After a perfunctory whiz, he moved under the warm water and started shampooing. 'Good night's rest,' he thought while massaging the soap into his scalp. 'And I don't think the guys had any problems.' He remembered getting up in the middle of the night and hearing a series of excited groans coming from the guestroom as he walked out to the kitchen. 'I better shave since the guys from Gallant will be here at noon,' he decided. Like many fellow male students, he sometimes sported a day's growth of beard for his morning classes.

A half hour later in the kitchen, a khaki pants and cotton sweater-clad Spike set out the coffee cups, made coffee and poured juice. A box of cereal was in the center of the kitchen table with a carton of milk, bowls and spoons. He was sipping coffee while watching the TV news when his two young charges arrived. 'Best not kid them about their evening,' he decided. 'It was an important moment for them.'

"Morning," Cray said in a chipper mood.

"Hi, guys." Spike nodded while noticing that although they looked a little tired, they were in great moods and glowing. 'Young resilience,' he thought without smiling too broadly, 'can bring about a rebound pretty fast.' "Got all the fixings for breakfast laid out. I didn't know, Michael, if you drink coffee or not...I got tea if ya want."

"Coffee's fine." Michael took two cups and filled them. He gave one to Cray and sat down.

"Here's the plan," Spike said as he turned off the TV and sat down. "Have breakfast and I'll take you to school. We've got about 20 minutes cuz I need to get over to my class after I drop you off. It's a bitch to find student parking."

"Works for us." Cray took his first sip of coffee. "Ah, primo." He took another sip and continued, "We both want to thank you for a great evening. The dinner was perfect was everything else." His eyes darted over to Michael with a satisfied smirk.

"Yes, everything was perfect." Michael grinned and his face turned red.

"Maybe you and Lou will come over to my house sometime for a cookout. Cray can bring Drew and Bob, and I'd like you to meet my dad. He could invite this new friend of his."

"Anytime after Lou gets back and has a chance to get organized would be great. I know he'd like it." Spike thought it was best for everyone to feed their faces and keep conversation to a minimum so they'd leave on time. However, he wanted to let the guys know how much he enjoyed their company. "Cray, it really helped having both of you in the condo last night. It's just odd knowing that some stranger has been in here without my permission." He decided not to dwell on this topic and made a quick verbal turn. "Henry gets here tonight and I wondered if you guys want to meet with us on Saturday for a movie and dinner afterwards?"

"We don't have anything else planned and I've been looking forward to Michael meeting him. Maybe an early movie at Sunset Station and pig out at the buffet afterwards?"

"I can get into that. There's also bowling at the casino if Henry's into that," Michael added. "I just need to watch my spending. Can you believe a student discount price at the movies over there is now nine bucks?"

"Don't worry. Tomorrow night's my treat. By the way, you guys and Henry can plan whatever schedule works for you guys next week. He'll have use of Lou's SUV and I'm working extra hours at the casino during the day."

"That'll be cool," Cray remarked. "Bob's meeting us at school this afternoon and will drive us over to Michael's house to pick up my clothes. I'm moving back home tonight and wouldn't bitch about Henry having a set of wheels we can use to get around in."

"Sounds like a plan, then. Just make sure my bro drives safely." Spike felt that things were returning to normalcy. Having Henry there would allow him to expand friendships and also allow the two of them a chance to re-establish a bond that had been weakened when Spike moved to Las Vegas.

The trio finished breakfast while talking about the various places Cray and Michael could take Henry. Spike was happy he had successfully diverted any further conversation away from recent events when he offered trip suggestions. The upbeat chatting and joking continued while they traveled to Green Valley High School. Spike's final statement broke up everyone when he stopped the car in front of the school. He looked at them as they were getting out of the car and said, "By the way, between your shit-eating 'just got laid' grins and walking bow-legged, don't be surprised if some of your friends yank your chain." Spike laughed and added, "Have a good day," before driving away.

With stoical expressions on their faces and a purposefully tall stride, the guys walked into the school. Halfway down the corridor they simultaneously broke out into uncontrolled laughter. By the time they reached Cray's homeroom, the two had pulled themselves together and projected a mixture of sheepish grins and pride in their achievement. It was enough of a change that their pals took their demeanor as a sign of happiness that the Christmas break would begin in only a few hours.

During lunch, Cray mentioned that a good friend of his would be visiting from L.A. and the whole crew made tentative plans to bring Henry into the fold. A mall-crawl and some of the action holiday movies were penciled on everyone's calendar. He thought Henry would fit into the crowd quite well and hoped Henry would feel the same way.

Afternoon classes seemed like prison. The teachers unenthusiastically reviewed highlights of the past lessons and appeared just as anxious to finish the school term as did the students. Finally, near the end of the last period, the principal came on the public address system and wished everyone a safe and happy holiday season. Even with the classroom doors closed, one could not miss the cheering that permeated the building.

Cray tapped knuckles with the guys and accepted a few Christmas kisses on the cheek from his gal pals. Near the front doors, he spotted Michael waiting for him. They grinned, 'hi-fived' and walked outside to look for Bob's car.

"Maybe he's running a little late," Cray said after a cursory visual sweep of the curbside.

"Look down towards the corner. Isn't that Bob waving at us, standing by that green Ford Focus?"

"You're right." Cray replied as he grinned and waved back. "Must have borrowed someone's car," he added as they walked past the line of cars to join Bob.

"Hey, Dad. What's with the different wheels? Is your car being repaired?" Cray asked Bob as they comfortably locked into a hug. It had been four days since he had seen either of his dads and this was a happy moment.

"Not a bad car, don't you think?" Bob released Cray and turned to Michael. "Thanks for putting up with Cray. Hope he wasn't too much of a pest." He grinned and shook Michael's hand.

"Just a little pain in the butt," Michael replied with a laugh.

"Come on, I was a good boy." Cray joined in the laughter and hoped Bob wouldn't pick up on the double meaning.

"Drew and I know you were a good boy. In fact, we're also very aware that you've done well in your grades...and a promise is a promise. Here are the keys to your Christmas gift." Bob gave Cray the car keys and smiled. "It's three years old and has decent mileage."

Cray felt a rush of emotions that started in his stomach and rapidly spread throughout his body. He bit his lip as the first tears arrived. "Oh, man." He pulled Bob into another hug and barely got out, "Thanks. I...I'm shocked, surprised and stoked. This means a lot coming from you guys."

"Buddy...son, you earned it. Just make sure you take care of it... these wheels need to get you through college." Bob unabashedly pulled back a little and kissed Cray on the cheek. "It's probably not much of a chick magnet, though."

"Bob, in case you haven't noticed, the only 'chick' I want in my life is standing next to me. And he ain't no chick." Cray grinned broadly and gently punched Michael's shoulder. 'Making out in front of school wouldn't be cool,' he thought. "How does it run?"

"Why don't you jump into the driver's seat and find out, Mr. Gamble?" Bob bowed and handed Cray the keys.

"I'll get in back so Bob can show you what's what," Michael said. "Neat ride." He patted Cray on the shoulder, opened the door and slid onto the back seat.

Bob opened the driver's door and indicated that Cray should get in. "Drew will be home later and then we'll all go out for dinner. You can drive us."

"Thanks. I'll take good care of it and drive safely." Cray sat down in the driver's seat, put his hands on the steering wheel and smiled at his boyfriend's reflection in the rear view mirror. 'Life is good,' he thought as he silently paraphrased the famous lines from the Dickens masterpiece he had been reading for English class, 'These are the best of times; the worst of times are behind me.'

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