Castle Roland

Journey of Love

by The Journeyman


Chapter 24

Posted: N/A

Most of the time I can only seem to write late at night, when my lover is asleep. When the house is asleep. I dont know why. Ive shared this; its not like its a secret. But this time, Im writing in daylight. They went out, but I asked to stay home by myself. I needed to prove to myself that I can be alone and survive. They werent sure I should, and I can understand. I havent been real responsible in the past, but for some reason that all seems behind me. Its getting easier to live with myself, and I think I can do this.

Kevin Wilson was from a poor family. Ive never seen a harder working boy. He was 18, in his last semester in high school and working hard at the family truck stop caf. The truck stop opened at 5 a.m. and Kevin was there at 4:00 every morning to start the coffee and turn on the grill and fryers. He left for school in a beat-up 1985 Plymouth Horizon at 8:00, just after the morning rush. By then he had fried dozens of eggs, cooked several pounds of bacon and slathered enough toast with enough butter to give a heart attack to every man in my home town. Former home town. He had also started the soup of the day from scratch.

He wasnt a good student in school, earning Cs and Ds, most likely because he had no time for quality studying. His teachers liked him, though. His classmates seemed to like him, too, although they didnt know him very well because he didnt hang out with them much. Right after school he came home for the evening rush. Meat loaf, fried chicken, shrimp baskets, sandwiches, chicken-fried stead, mashed potatoes, gravy and gallons upon gallons of coffee. By the 8 p.m. closing time he was exhausted. And then he went to do his homework, dragged his achingly tired body to bed and fell into a deep slumber until the alarm sounded at 3:30 a.m. again.

His mom was no slouch, either. She arrived by 5:30, worked through the day while Kevin was in school, and finished at 7:00 so she could go home and clean, do the laundry and provide some love for her two sons. Their older sister, Katherine, had left two years ago, off to Las Vegas to find a career.

Jonathan, at 13, wasnt quite as involved in the restaurant. He didnt go to work most mornings. He was allowed to sleep in. But most days after school he was there, bussing tables, and washing dishes.

But Kevin was the one I admired. He did it all.

This was a family of saints and it took about two days to fall in love with them. Maybe not even that long.

Mrs. Wilson came into my room the second morning I was up and about.

Kin ya help out in the caf today? she asked.

Um, well, sure. Ive never worked in a restaurant, though. Youll have to show me what to do.

Have ya ever warshed dishes? Thats what I need.

Ive loaded them into the dishwasher. That was one of my chores.

She laughed a growling laugh. We dont have no dishwarshing machines. Youre the dishwarsher.

My hands were prunes by the end of the day.

That night Kevin crawled into his own bed and I took the sleeping bag on the floor.

Im sorry, Kevin said as he undressed. Its just that, I really need to sleep and the floor is just too uncomfortable.

Dont apologize, I said, watching him take his shirt off. I can sleep anywhere.

MY god, he was stunning. Blond hair, a beautiful/cute face and a body that well, it was perfect. His shoulders were broad and his torso made a perfect V to his 32-inch waist (I looked at his pants one day when he was out). His pecs were defined, but not cut. I figured they were pretty comfortable for a lucky chick to lay her head on. They were set off by two quarter-size dark brown nipples. The center of each was erect even though it was warm, and stuck out about -inch. You could, if you wanted (and oh, my, I wanted) grab one with your teeth and tug..

His chest was covered with the lightest fuzz. It was really nothing more than a sheen that spread lightly across his upper chest and belly. The hair was almost white. From there a light trail continued down into a flight, fluffy patch of pubic hair that flared around his cock and spread across his upper thighs. His cock was maybe four inches soft, cut. The shaft was pretty much the same color as the rest of him. The head was only slightly darker.

His butt looked sculpted from marble. The globe of each cheek bubbled from below the waist, made a perfect arc, and ended with a sharp cleft at the bottom where it met his thigh. The crack was deep and held hidden treasure. His legs were muscled but not hard. Yet the sinew was visible as it bulged then tapered back to the knee. His right knee had the tell-tale scar of surgery, and it was an angry scar at that not well tended post-surgery.

Below each knee, more muscles were evident in his calves. His ankles were sharp. The tops of his feet were lined with veins. Tendons reached out to each toe. His toes were long. The big toe on each foot was about 1 inches long. The second toe was just as long. The other three were proportionately shorter but even his little toe had a measurable length to it. The balls of his feet were hard and there was a noticeable callous behind each big toe and each little toe. The soles were tough, too and wrinkled in hard ridges when he curled his toes. The heels were soft, though. These were not juicy toes and soles like Dannys. They were utilitarian feet. And I wanted to lick and such them as much as ever. I wanted to fuck that boy in every way possible.

Of course, I didnt take that all in the first night. It took a week or more of studying that body to comprehend it all.

I slept soundly until Kevins alarm clock erupted at 3:30. He stepped over me, went to the bathroom to shower, dressed and walked across the lot to the restaurant. I got up, showered and dressed ins some of his hand-me-downs, then went to the caf, too. I startled him when I walked in, but he soon asked me to help make coffee and cut up veggies for the soup stock. We chatted when we could but we were pretty busy. His mom came in and started showing me what I was to do. Wash dishes.

I worked Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. And then Sunday again. Keith worked too, and Jonathan occasionally. Only one other person worked a lady who came in while the two boys were at school to help with the lunch crowd. Kevin and I got to know each other pretty well.

When I say crowd you probably imagine standing room only. There were only seven tables and five counter stools. It was busy, but there werent a lot of people.

Man, I thought mowing lawns was work. I thought my dad worked hard. That wasnt work. What these people did was work. And they had nothing to show for it. How weird. It wasnt fair. I mean, I knew a little but about unfair. I figured my life was unfair, too, but this this was a whole lifetime of unfair. I figured I had lost my family and my love. These people had never had anything but themselves. And yet they could let me into the family and share what they had.

Cops seemed to eat there a lot. I mean the sheriff and some state troopers. If not every day, then several times a week. About my third day there one of the sheriffs deputies, an older guy with a pot belly, asked me where I was from.

I told him.

Why are you here?

Im working my way to California.

How old are you?

Eighteen, I lied.

Uh-huh. Whats your name?

Justin. Justin Roth. Another lie. And I really am eighteen. Everyone tells me I dont look it, but I am.

Youre not a runaway, are you?

Nothing to run away from. I meant it like everything was so good I didnt have to run away. But it was really true what I said. There was nothing at home any more, so I wasnt running away from anything.

Merle, hes okay, Mama said. You dont need to worry about him. Were looking after him.

That seemed to be okay with Merle. After that I got to know the cops pretty good. I chatted with them and joked with them. Now and then Id bring em pie for free.

On Sunday the restaurant closed at 2:00 and we sat down to our dinner at 4:00, at an old, warn table, on rickety chairs. Dinner was roast beef left over from the caf.

Mama said grace. Lord, we thank you for our food. We thank you for our new boy here. We thank you for Jonathans health. And we ask you to bless us, and to provide for those less fortunate. Amen.

Simple, direct, no-nonsense.

Well, Justin, she said, tell us about yourself. We been so busy we dont know about you. You wanna start with why you ran away?

Not really, I thought as I chewed on a tough piece of roast. But I did. I told about my parents. The arguments. The refuge at a friends house. Kyle, Greg, Richie. But Danny became a girl named Dani, and I slept in a spare room, not her bed. I talked about the baseball accident and Frank and the fear and the emotional hole in me. And what brought me to their caf so I could barf in the parking lot.

They asked occasional questions, which I answered, and it took most of dinner to get through it all.

So, can he stay here? Jonathan asked. I noticed he hadnt eaten much, and he was looking sorta pale.

Mama looked at both the boys. Yes, we can take in another one.

Another one? I asked.

We get one or two runaways a year, Kevin said. I raised my eyebrows in surprise. Yah, its surprising. I guess a lot of kids come south, and this is one of the crossroads they come to.

Are there any others around now?

No. They usually dont stay long. We take them in for a few weeks, and by then theyre ready to move on. I expect youll be the same way. Do you want to stay for a while?

I thought about it. Danny had moved beyond me, I knew in my heart. I couldnt go there. Not back home. The guys would do everything in the world for me and it wouldnt be fair to them. Id be a burden just as theyre getting ready to graduate next year and go on to college. My house wasnt my home any more. I had no idea where my dad was. This was it. Fuck. This was my new home. And I had no idea who these people were.

Uh, well. There was an answer to inspire confidence.

Nah, ya dont have to answer now, Mama said. Youll be sleeping here tonight and for as long as you like.

Well, I mean, I dont even know you guys, and . . . I couldnt think of anything else to say.

No, thats right, you dont. And we dont know much about you. Well just have to trust each other.

Well, but, like, can I ask some questions about you?

Sure, Kevin said. Thats fair. Like what?

Um, I dont know. Lets start with you.

Im Kevin.

Yeah, I know that.

Hehehe. Okay.

Well, I dont know, just tell me about yourselves.

Well, weve lived here all my life. We run the restaurant. I want to go to college but my grades probably arent good enough, but I like the restaurant so thats okay, I can stay and run it. Other than that, what you see is what you get.


Mrs. Wilson was watching us with a smile.

Oh. And Jonathan has leukemia.

I gasped. No kidding. Jeez, what a comeback. Why in the world would anyone kid about that? But the problem is, I dont know how to handle sudden news like that. Im sort of a loser in that way.

No kidding. Its been in remission.

Um, Im sorry.

Dont be, Justin, Mrs. Wilson said. Its a fact of life.

I looked at Jonathan and he shrugged. I bet you thought I was a slacker by not working in the restaurant a lot, he said.

No, I said honestly, I thought you were a kid who didnt have to work in the restaurant a lot.

Yeah, that, too.

We cleared away the dishes and mama brought out some slices of pie left over from yesterday at the restaurant. Theres nothing wrong with day-old pie.

I didnt find out much more about the family. Not, that is, until we got upstairs. It was just Kevin and me.

How long has Jonathan had leukemia? I asked.

Since he was six. He had it real bad and went through chemotherapy. Then it came back when he was 10 and he had another round of chemo. It really wipes him out. I feel so bad for him. Its been awful. Hes been in remission since then. But

But what?

I dunno. I think hes been really tired lately. Thats why hes not putting in much time at the restaurant. He just gets exhausted. Thats how the other times started. Im getting sorta worried about him. I dont know if he can stand another round of chemotherapy. I dont know if I can stand it. Hes not only my brother, hes my best friend. I love him, and I dont think I can stand to see him go through it again.

Cmon, Kev, dont give up until you know. It may be nothing.

I hope its nothing.

There were a few moments of silence.

So, Dani must be a special girl, Kevin said.

Uh, yeah. I know, terrible communicator, but I felt suddenly I was on thin ice. Did he know I was lying about Danny? Did he sense it? Maybe I had slipped at some point and said he instead of she. I desperately tried to remember, but I had to pay attention now so I didnt screw up.

How long have you known her?

All my life. We grew up just a few houses from each other.

Oh. You been friends all that time?

Yep, all of us.

All of you?

Yeah, me, Danny and the other guys. We all grew up in the same neighborhood. Kyle, Greg and Richie. Me and Danny.

Man, that must have been great. Ive never had a friend like that.

Really? I cant imagine not having the group around me. Well, I guess I can now, since none of them is here. I think thats the toughest part. Have you lived out here all your life?

Yeah. Long as I can remember. I started working at the restaurant when I was six. Its pretty much defined my life. I work, I go to school, I work, I go to sleep. It never changes. I dont have time to make friends. I dont have time for homework. Ive never been to a sleepover. Did you guys have sleepovers?

Oh, yeah, all the time. We all did. Everyones birthday was a great excuse for a sleepover. We all did it. And we were all there. Well, not always. Sometimes it was just one of us staying over at someones house.

Even Dani?

Sure, why not?

Well, you all would stay over at a girls house? Her parents let you? And she would stay at your house? Alone?

Oh, um, uh . . . Almost blew that one. I gotta pay attention. Well, yeah. I mean, when we were kids it didnt really matter. Um, and then, well, they just trusted us. Uh, you remember that show, Dawsons Creek? Remember Joey used to sleep with Dawson but they didnt have sex cuz they were like brother-sister? It was sort of like that with Danny.

Wow. I wish I had friends like that, he said a little sadly.

I didnt know what to say, so I changed the topic.

Hey, um, thanks for letting me share your room. Um, I mean, for everything.

Its okay. I like having you around

About then Jonathan came into the room. He was out of breath and red in the face.

Hey, bud, how ya doin? Kevin asked.

Im okay. Just real tired. Whatre you guys talking about?

Not much, Kevin said. Were sorta getting to know each other better.

Yeah, Id like to do that, too, but Im pretty tired. Im going to bed.

We didnt say much after that. We just got ready for bed. Three-thirty comes early in the morning.

I was horny, theres not denying it. Kevin was simply beautiful, but nothing he had said or done ever indicated he might be gay, and I certainly wasnt going to risk anything. Right now I had a home. It wasnt where I wanted to be, but I knew it was here I had to be. I knew Danny had moved on, and I knew I couldnt go back home. Disaster waited there. Theyd be waiting for me, and after a few hugs, off to the hospital Id go, or worse, for being a runaway. Nosiree, not this boy. Im gonna stay right here, admire Kevins fine body, become his friend and figure out my life. Especially if he leaves his bare foot outside the covers every night. Which is what he did. Every night. Just his foot.

Kevin got up at the usual time, and I followed an hour later. He said he liked working alone that first hour. It gave him time to think.

And that set a routine for the next three weeks. We talked a lot during work and as we went to bed. Jonathan would come in to help, but he seemed to tire out pretty quick. Some days he didnt come in at all, and Kevin took it upon himself to work even harder. But as I got to know the routine, which didnt really take all that long, I wouldnt let him take all the burden on himself. This was a lot harder than mowing lawns, but these people were letting me stay in their house. Hell, they probably saved my life by rescuing me from a pool of puke.

Jonathan loved baseball, and when I told him I played in high school he was excited. He wanted to know all the team stats. Jeez, just a little Midwest high school and he wanted to know everything. He was a Diamondbacks fan, and I am a Cubs fan, so we had some excellent chats about talent, since the Cubs had fuckin given away some of its BEST talent to the d-backs. The Cubs are like the farm team to the whole National League.

The next Sunday we all sat down at dinner again. Mama thanked me for helping out.

How long are you planning on staying? she asked.

Shit, I hadnt even thought about that. I can be so dense sometimes. I get all wrapped up on my own problems and dont even realize how its affecting others. They wanted their house back. I was an intruder, an interloper who was eating up their food and not contributing a thing. Hell, how inconsiderate could I be?

Uh, I could leave any time.

Thats not what I meant. Im not throwing you out. Im asking how long youre planning on staying.

I hadnt really though about it. I mean, I dont really have any place to go. My friend in California probably isnt real eager to see me. How long can I stay?

Thats not an issue, son. Youve been a big help. It means we wont have to hire a new person to help out. We had a boy quit a few days before you showed up. Its nice to have you around. As long as you dont mind sleeping on the floor, you can stay as long as you like.

Nah, I dont mind.

Ma, he could prolly sleep on the couch if he gets tired of the floor, Jonathan said.

Oh, thats okay. I dont mind the floor. Really. Especially if Kevin is sleeping almost naked there, and that foot is sticking out of the covers.

What about school? Kevin asked.

I dont know. I guess I could call and see if we could get him into classes now. That might be tough, Mama said.

Dont worry about me, I said. I can sit out awhile. I mean, Im a pretty good student and I dont hate school, but dont go to any trouble.

Well, Ill see what I can do.

I worked the whole next week, and the three of us got tighter. But Jonathan was getting more and more tired. Finally, in Mid-March, Mama said at Sunday dinner, Jonathan, I have an appointment for you tomorrow at the doctors. I want him to see you.

Ah, Ma. Im all right. I dont want to. He said it confidently, but I could see fear in his eyes.

I dont care. Youre going.

Mama was a great boss. She let me and Kevin get away with a lot, but Kevin didnt really try too hard to get away with stuff, either. He was serious about the restaurant. It was their only source of income, and it wasnt much. That place didnt bring in much money.

Kevin was gone as usual when my alarm went off, and I stumbled to the bathroom, showered and dressed. I walked across the gravel to the restaurant and poured myself a glass of milk before I got started. Kevin had the soup going already and was forming hamburger patties. I joined him. Mama wouldnt be in until almost noon because of Jonathans appointment, so the two of us worked extra hard and extra fast. When Kevin went off to school, it was just me, but then about 11:00 Helen, the lady who helped out, came in.

Wheres Mrs. Wilson? she asked.

She hasnt come back from Jonathans appointment yet.

So its just the two of us?

Looks like it.

Oh, god. Oh, we cant do that. Well have to close up. The two of us cant run it. Not through the lunch crowd.

Well we cant close it. This is their restaurant. They cant close up for the day. They need the money.

Well why arent they here to run it, then?

I told you. Mrs. Wilson took Jonathan to the doctor because hes been feeling bad again.

Again? Oh, lord, not the leukemia again?

I dont know.

Oh, heavens, I hope not. They cant go through that again. Especially if . . . well, if he comes back.

Who? I asked.

Never mind. I shouldnt say anything. Well, if were alone, wed better get busy.

Helen took care of the kitchen and I handled the orders and cash register. And I bussed tables. I sort of taught myself as we went along.

The two hours between 11:00 and 1:00 flew by. It is still just a blur. I have no idea how we managed it, but I do recall that the customers were pretty sympathetic, especially when they found out why Mrs. Wilson wasnt there.

Helen and I just slumped onto the stools after the crowd thinned out. We looked at each other for a moment, then at the mess around us. None of the dishes had been done and they were piled through the tiny kitchen. There were napkins, silverware, pots, spatulas, and all sorts of other debris scattered around. We each did a slow scan, and our eyes met again. We started to giggle, and then laugh, and then belly laugh. We were almost helpless with laughter. She dabbed a napkin at her eyes and settled back to a giggle. We sat there catching our breath.

I suppose we should eat something and start cleaning up, she said, getting up.

Ill just have a hamburger, I said.

She cooked two and a batch of fries. She put cheese and bacon on mine, and we ate in silence. We had to stop a few times to wait on people coming in, but there werent many. Then, without a word, we started to clean up the mess. It was pretty big, but with both of us working, we had everything under control by 3:00.

At 3:30, Kevin walked in.

Wheres mom? he asked.

Theyre not back yet, I said.

Oh. Thats bad news. It happened that way last time. Oh, shit. He sounded so sad. So who came in to help with lunch?

No one, we both said at the same time.

Oh, shit. You guys did lunch all by yourselves?

We nodded.

Wow. You must be exhausted.

It was just catching up to me. Helen only worked part time, and it was time for her to go home, and thats what Kevin told her to do. I followed Kevin into the back where the freezer and pantry were. He stripped off his shirt and I almost gasped at the perfect chest, the nipples I so badly wanted to suck. I got hard right away, but my jeans and apron hid it. He pulled on a T-shirt and put on an apron.

You should go to the house and rest for a while. Im afraid youre going to have to work tonight until mom and Jonathan get home. I have a really bad feeling about this.

I said okay, but Id only be gone a half hour. I used that half hour all by myself to beat myself off, take a shower, beat myself off again, wipe down and take a 10 minute nap. Okay, so I cum quick. If youd been fantasizing about those nipples youd cum quick, too.

We did work through the night shift, and again the dishes staked up while the two of us tried to handle the orders. We did it, too. As Kevin locked the door, I shut off the lights over the tables. I saw him fall forward and rest his head against the door.

Are you all right? I asked.

Its bad news. I know it is. I fucking know it is.

How can you know that?

Because if it wasnt mom would have brought Jonathan home and told everyone. As it is hes either in the hospital already or mom took him somewhere to get his mind off it.

Maybe they went out to celebrate.

We dont have enough money to celebrate. Shed only spend money to take his mind off it.

I couldnt think of anything to say. Ill start on the dishes, I said finally.

Kevin turned around and looked at me.

Why are you here?

I thought I told you.

I mean really.

Really. I ran away from home. I was going to go see Danny but I thin k hes moved on. I dont think he wants to see me.

He got an odd look on his face, then walked toward me.

I guess you arent going to tell me, but Justin, Im really glad youre here. Youre already the best friend Ive had.

I think that was one of the saddest things Id heard, and I got tears in my eyes. So did Kevin. He came over to me and put his arms around me. Then he lowered his head to my shoulder and let out a sigh. Im really glad youre here.

We got the place cleaned up by 9:30, and just then his moms car pulled up. The two of them got out, and I knew right away it was bad.

It came back, didnt it? Kevin said.

Yes, it did, his mom said. Its back. Tears welled up in Kevins eyes. He walked over to Jonathan and enveloped him in a hug.

Jonathan didnt say anything. He just walked up the steps and into the house.

Jonathan went straight up to bed. We stayed to talk to Mrs. Wilson.

What did the doc say? Kevin asked.

He said the leukemia was back. He said it was pretty aggressive, and we had to start chemo right away. I dont know how were going to afford it.

What did Jonathan say?

Mrs. Wilson started to cry quietly, and she sat down on the couch. Kevin sat next to her. I sat on an ancient rocking chair facing the couch.

He said he doesnt want chemo.

Hell die with out it.

He said hell die with it, and hed rather not go through it again.

Ill talk some sense into him.

No, Kevin. I dont know but that the cure is worse than the curse. Youve seen what it did to him last time. He had no life. No life at all. Kevin, hes tired. Hes just so tired.

But, Ma!

I know,, honey. But we cant force him to.

Yes, we can. We have to. Hes too young to make a decision like that. He doesnt know whats good for him. He has to get treatments.

Kevin, listen to me. He does know. He knows better than we do. Hes been through this. He knows all the feelings. He knows the pain and the throwing up and how tired he gets. He knows, Kevin. Hes more grown up than you think. I think hes thought about this a lot, when he was feeling good. He didnt hesitate for a moment when the doctor told him the cancer was back. He said right away that he didnt want chemo.

And what did the doctor say? Kevin asked.

He was very direct. He said Jonathan would die without it. Jonathan said he knew. But he said hed die with it, too, and hed rather just die.

And there was nothing we could do. Jonathan was still awake when we went upstairs, but no matter what Kevin said to him, Jonathan wouldnt change his mind. I was bewildered. I had no idea what I had gotten into. There was nothing at all I could say, so I said nothing. I was exhausted anyway. We got changed and turned off the light. In moments I heard the two of them begin breathing deeply, but I couldnt go to sleep. I guess I was over-exhausted, and all I could do was lie there. Sleep just wouldnt come. Then I noticed Kevins bare foot outside the covers. It was there for the taking. Not soft, not inviting, but hard and sturdy. He was breathing heavily, and I knew nothing could wake him. My cock hardened, and I didnt waste a moment scooting over and licking ball of his foot. I licked and sucked each toe and in less than five minutes I came a shattering orgasm and shot all over my belly. I cleaned up by scooping the jism on my fingers and licking them clean, and suddenly I was tired. I went to sleep.

The next night we were upstairs after closing the restaurant, talking baseball among the three of us, when there was a sound from downstairs that sounded like the whole front door exploded. Kevin went white and Jonathan dove under the covers.

Wheres that pansy-ass bastard son? roared a voice from below.

Oh, fuck, not again. Shit! Kevin exclaimed as he shot off the bed, through the door and down the stairs.

Whats going on? I asked.

Its our dad. Hes drunk again. He hasnt been around for about six months, but he shows up now and then, meaner than ever. Justin, go help Kevin. Please?

Do what? What can I do?

Dad will beat the shit out of him.

The fuck he will.

Kevin was yelling at the man to get the hell out, and the guy said, Get out of my way you worthless shit. Wheres that dog shit you call your brother. I heard hes sick again. Aint no son of mine gonna be a pansy-ass sicko. Ill teach him was sick is.

Im warning, you, Kevin said is the most frighteningly cold voice Ive ever heard, you leave your filthy hands off him. Youve probably had them in some whores diseased pussy. Get the fuck out of this house.

Dont you fuckin talk to me that way. Youre worthless. I could squash you.

You can barely see me youre so drunk. Dont pee your pants again like you did last time.


Yeah, dont do that, either.

You fuckin prick.

Come get me, you worthless piece of junk.

Justin, Jonathan said from under his covers, go. Go help him.

I started out the door and down the stairs when I heard an OOMPH and a table break. As the living room came into view I could see the two of them struggle on the floor. The man was much larger than Kevin, and he had him down, pounding on him. Kevin had averted his face, but the flows were landing on his stomach and side. Kevin was yelling obscenities at him as the man flung wildly. Kevin just lay there, taking it, swearing at the man.

Hit me, you fat son of a bitch. Cmon. Is that all you got?

He started swinging even more wildly. Mama grabbed me and held me back. The blows began to slow some as the older man tired. When he paused for breath, Kevin sprang up, grabbed the man by the collar and dragged him to the door. He hoisted the man to his feet, planted a foot in his gut and literally kicked him out the door hard. The man fell on his back on the gravel below the porch. Mama let go, went to the phone can called the cops.

The whole thing took less than 15 minutes. Kevin looked at me sadly, brushed past me and hurried back up the stairs.

I waited a few moments, then followed him up. He was holding Jonathan and they were crying together.

Thank-you, Kevin. Thank you. It was all Jonathan could say.

Dont worry, sport. Hes not going to get to you ever again.

Again? I didnt realize I said it out loud and they both looked at me. Sorry. I didnt mean to . . .

Its okay, Kevin said. He comes back every few months. But we hadnt seen him for about six months this time. Every time Jonathan gets sick again he comes around. I guess word gets around. Hes embarrassed to have a kid whos sick.

He beat me up bad about six years ago. I was in the hospital for a few days. But ever since then, Kevin has been here to keep him from getting me, Jonathan explained.

Kevin calmed Jonathan down, and when the younger boy had gone to sleep, Kevin stood up.

Time to get ready for bed, he said with resignation.

He pulled the shirt over his head. His stomach, sides and back were already covered with bruises.

Oh, Kevin, I said. Here, let me help you.

Ill be okay.

I know you will. But let me help anyway.

I took him to the bath room and ran a tub of water.

Get in, I told him. Soak for a while.


Itll help the bruises. Really.

He began to strip the rest of his clothes off.

Well wait til I leave, I said.

No. Stay here. Stay with me. His face began to dissolve into a mask of pure sadness.

He was naked. And then he reached out to me and I held him as he cried out a decade of pain and frustration and fear and hate. He cried and cried on my shoulder, and I just held him, squeezed him gently despite his bruises, and whispered in his ear to just keep crying for a while. He sobbed uncontrollably until his knees began to weaken. I lowered us both to the floor, and he kept crying, soaking my shirt with his sweet tears. I havent washed that shirt since, and I never will. It holds far too much sadness.

I bet we stayed there for half an hour. At some point I pulled some towels from the towel rack and wrapped them around his naked body to keep him warm. His face was buried in the crook of my neck. Finally the wracking sobs slowed, but the tears still ran down his cheeks. I have never in my life seen anyone cry like that, and I probably wont ever again. Certainly not Kevin. I stroked his hair with my right hand and held him close with my left. Here was a naked, beautiful boy in my arms, his wrapped tightly around me as if he were clinging to a life ring, and it was completely platonic. I wasnt aroused, and I didnt even think of sex. I thought of his life how dismal it must be. A dreary caf, a greasy job, a drab house, an abusive father and a dying brother. He didnt have time to do well at school, he didnt have time to have a girl friend, he didnt have time for sports, he didnt have time for friends. Hed talk to them when they came to the restaurant, but thats all. And it wasnt really all that often. He told me I was the best friend hed ever had, and I had known him only for about a month.

But he was all I had now, too.

At last the crying stopped and he just held on to me a few moment more. Then he realized he was naked, lifted his head from my shoulder and said, Sorry.

For what? Theres nothing to be sorry for. Youre the bravest person Ive ever met.

No, Im really a coward. If I were brave Id have the balls to leave all of this and get on with my life. But I cant. I dont know how. I dont know what to do. Id never be able to make it. Im scared to death, Justin. The only reason I stay here is because I dont know what else to do. And I want that sonuvabitch to keep his hands off Jonathan.

He stood up, and his beautiful, four-inch soft penis was at my eye-level. I guess this looks pretty gay, huh? I flinched a little, but didnt say anything. He hadnt really said it negatively. Im sorry for putting you through that.

Its okay, I said. I tested the water and since it had cooled a bit, I let some out and topped it off with hot water. Get in the tub and soak for a while. Ill be back for you.

I let him stay in there about 15 minutes, then I figured the water was getting cool again, so I went back in. He was lying with his legs stretched out, his back against the sloped back of the tub, and he was asleep. I woke him, helped him out of the tub, and noticed the bruises were starting to darken. He was almost in a trance. I dried him and helped him into a pair of boxers I had brought. Then I took him to our room, laid him down in his bed and tucked him in.

I lay down on my sleeping bag one the floor and thought about the night. So much had happened. I mean, when Frank tried to beat up on me, I could almost understand that. I wasnt his kid. He didnt bring me into the world. He wasnt supposed to love me. Not that that gives him any right to beat me up, but at least he wasnt trying to hurt his own son. This guy was. He was trying to hurt them both. Where was the love? How could he hate them so much that he could try to kill them? Was his mind so eaten away by alcohol that he was incapable of anything else? Did he ever love them? Were they both accidents of an itchy penis? Had he fucked their mother instead of making love to her? I just didnt see how anyone could have a kid two kids, and not love them.

Then I thought about my own situation. My parents had a kid and didnt love him. I mean, sure they didnt hit me, and they provided things for me, but they didnt love me. The things were a substitute for love. They talked to me, they fed me, but they didnt love me. They were too caught up in themselves. They loved themselves and their arguments too much to love each other, or me.

All of this stuff was going through my head. So was Danny and his new relationship, so were Kyle and Becky, Greg and Richie and Charlie and home and Kevin and Jonathan and Mama and the desert and California and, and, and. And I couldnt get to sleep.

Justin? Youre not asleep, are you?


Me, either. You know those sleepovers you said you had?



Those sleepovers. You said you had them, right?

Uh, well, yeah.

How many?

Lots. Like I said, for everyones birthday wed have one.

No, I mean, how many would sleep over?

Oh, usually five. Sometimes six.

Did you each sleep alone in sleeping bags or did you sleep together in the same bed?

It depended, I said. If we were camping out we each had out sleeping bags. If we stayed like at Richies or Gregs most of us would sleep in sleeping bags, but there was also a bed, so two of us would share it.

Even Danny?

Yeah. He was okay with it.

There was a long pause. Isnt that gay?

Not really. We never did anything. Okay, okay. So Danny and I did, but I wasnt about to tell him. We just lay down and talked most of the night before going to sleep.

Oh. Pause. You wanna get in bed with me?

He had a twin bed. Thats like, for one person. I hadnt told him these were double or even queen-size (all right, not THAT kind of queen!) beds. I dont know if he could wrap his mind around having a spare double bed. Id be lying next to him in a twin bed, and wed have to be touching, really clinging to each other, the whole night.

Yes. Id like that very much.

He scooted over to the wall and opened the covers for me. I crawled in, my back to him, he spooning against me. His arm was around my chest, and like that, we drifted off to sleep.

Over the next week Kevin and I talked a lot. He asked me all kinds of questions about my childhood, my home, my friends, my parents. I slipped when I said Becky was a really good friend, my only real girl friend, and he asked about Dani. I did a quick recovery, saying that Becky was my first real girl friend. I was glad I hadnt screwed up sooner. Every night he gave Jonathan a hug at night, then he and I hugged.

The next Friday, something odd happened. Kevin asked if I would work his night shift.

I have a date, he said. I dont get many of them, and I really want to go to the dance. Could you please . . .

Kevin, I cut in. You only have to ask once. Of course Ill work for you.

He gave me a hug.

The night of the dance, he put on his best clothes at least a year old and about half a size too small. But he looked good. He left about 7:00. We werent terribly busy, and by 9:00 everything was clean and in place. Jonathan was in bed when I got up to the room.

Justin, he said, can I ask you something personal?

Sure, bud. Ask away.

Have you ever had sex.?

Oh. Shit.

Um, well, uh, gosh . . .

You havent, have you? Youre a virgin, arent you?

Actually, no. Im not. I have had.

Oh, wow. What was it like? Did you fuck her or just have oral sex?

Uh, well, thats a little too personal.

Cmon. Who am I going to tell?

So I told about my sex life, trying to remember that Danny was a girl. I think I did a credible job.

Then he said, Have you ever had sex with another guy?

Why would you ask a question like that?

Cuz. Some of the guys at school said it wasnt unusual for guys to fool around. You know, experiment.

I sighed. Yeah, once. My friend and I did it.

What did you do?

Jacked each other off. We tried a little sucking, but we didnt cum that way.

Oh, cool. Justin?


Uh, would you do that with me?


Justin, please?


Justin? Im never going to have sex with a girl. Or anyone, really, unless its you. Justin, Ive beat off lots of times. I know what it feels like with my own hand. I want to know what it feels like with someone else. Please?

He wasnt being pathetic. He was being very matter-of-fact.

Jonathan, jeez, I mean, its asking a lot. I dont know. I mean, I dont see how . . . I just . . . its not that . . . I was being my most eloquent again.

I know. You dont like me that way.

Thats not it. Well, yes, partly, but I mean, youre . . .

A guy.

Like that matters.


No, I mean, no, thats not what I meant. I mean. . .

What? What do you mean, Justin? He was lying under the thin, tattered bedspread and an ancient blanket. It got cool in the evening in the desert, and if the wind blew the room might not as even had windows for all the good they did. The caulking had long since dried and cracked, and the frames had gaps in them. They let the chilly night air in like a screen door.

I mean . . . (sigh) yes. Yes, we can do that.


Now, if you want.

Will you get in bed with me?


I stood up and took off my shirt. He watched, gazing at me. Then I took off my socks. Then I lowered my blue jeans. Then I slid my underwear off and stood before him naked. He lifted the corner of his covers and slid over to give me room.

I climbed into bed next to him on my back. He moved over, put his arm around my chest and lay his head on my shoulder.

I wrapped him in my arms and let my hand slide down to his butt. It was soft and sweet. I kneaded it gently, and he quietly moaned. His breath teased my nipples, and I hardened against his leg. He moved his hand to my cock and wrapped his fingers around it, softly holding it as if it were fragile. I knew from experience it was not.

My mind flashed to Danny. He was the only other person ever to hold it. To hold it when it was aroused. And yet Jonathans hand felt so completely natural there. I was getting over Danny, I thought. Just as he had gotten over me. On the edge of my mind I considered that I was cheating my soul mate, but just as quickly I reasoned that I was not cheating, I was moving on, like he had.

I shifted, and as I hoped, Jonathan looked up at me. I leaned down and kissed him, just brushed his lips at first, then, as he got into it, held it longer. He broke it, took a breath and came right back. This time my lips were parted a little and I licked his. He opened up and our tongues found each other. With one hand I reached under the waistband of his pjs and lowed them over his soft butt. He kicked them off his feet.

He moved on top of me and squeezed me tightly. His cock rubbed against my belly, and mine rubbed his ball sac until he skootched a little higher on me, when it popped between his legs and slid up the crack of his sweet bottom. That put his nipples at my mouth, too, and I licked his left one until it was hard. Then I nibbled it and drove him out of his mind. My hands reached down to his butt and I found the little pink pucker that was his most intimate area. With precum leaking from my cock, the are was slick, and I teased around the hole, just working the tip of my middle finger in.

He groaned with pleasure from my tongue and finger, and ground his cock into me. He sat up so my cock went up his back and began to masturbate, but I wasnt done. I rolled him over, hunched between his legs and lifted his bottom up so I could bathe his hole. I slicked it up with my tongue, then dove for his cock. He almost squealed when I sucked him down the root of his four and a half inches. It fit neatly into my mouth, and I worked back and forth on it, sucking the length vigorously. Danny? Never even thought of him. I was overtaken with lust. I was ravenous for this young cock, this sweet body. I sat up, grabbed his ankles and brought both feet to my mouth. I could suck four toes in at once, and I did. They were clean, with just the scent of Jonathan. Unlike Kevin, his feet were soft and pink. I licked the soles, heel to toes, back and forth, left and right. I teased the base of each toe, then made love, pinkie to big toe, each one, on each foot. He was writhing on the bed, his hand working his virgin cock. I could feel him tense, but I wasnt ready. I went back to work on his nipples, greedily sucking each one in and gently biting it. His ass was grinding down into the bed. I pinched each nipple as I returned to his cock, sucking the length, sucking hard. Pinching and kneading with one hand, my other went to his hole, and I eased a finger in, then found the prostrate. I knew hed last only seconds now, and I pulled back to the crown of his penis, waiting for the blast. I came as his body convulsed and drew him almost to a sitting position. The cum fired at the back of my mouth, and I drank and drank and drank.

He was finally spent. He lay panting on the bed, drained of semen and color.

Oh, god, Justin, Ill never forget this. Never, never.

Neither will I, buddy. Neither will I.

Im just so tired. I want to do something for you.

Dont worry about it. Ill take care of it, if youll let me.


I scooted down to his feet, and began to jack my cock. I held it against the sole of his right foot and jacked slowly, letting it build, rubbing the underside against that silky skin. I breathed deep and hard, and he raised his left foot to my mouth. Sucking on the big toe as if it were a cock, I increased the pressure on my penis, but not the pace. I stayed like that, sucking and jacking, until I felt it in my balls. Just a little faster, I sucked hard, and spewed a load of cum against his foot in four strong, long spurts. Then he raised that foot to my mouth, and I cleaned it off, swallowing my own cum. Now I had the essence of both of us in me.

I lay down beside him. He was crying.

Whats the matter? Are you having second thoughts?

No. Never. I . . . this was the greatest thing. Justin, are you gay?

Does it matter?

No. Are you?

What do you think?

I dont know. You said you werent, so I guess I have to believe you.

Hold that thought, bud. And Ill hold you.

He drifted off to sleep, and I went to the bathroom to clean up.

Jonathan was asleep when I got back, and Kevin was still out on his date. It was about 10:30, and in case I had to open the restaurant tomorrow morning, I set the alarm and went to sleep in Kevins bed. I figure he owed me at least that.

At 3:30 the alarm went off. Kevin wasnt home. I got up, showered, and went to open the restaurant. I was learning my way around, but I was a little nervous about the soup. Kevin always started the soup first thing after lighting the griddle and starting coffee, and I didnt know much about making soup.

When I opened the refrigerator I saw cut up veggies and some chickens. Those were for the soup. Kevin had done that before leaving on his date. I threw them into a pot and filled it with water, then put it all on the stove. I was alone, and I knew what Kevin liked about it. It was peaceful and you could think.

Mama came in about 6:30, and Jonathan about 7:00. Saturday was a good day for breakfasts, and we were pretty busy. But then, it wasnt that big a place, so a small crowd seemed big to us. Jonathan had a rosy glow about him, and a smile that wouldnt quit. He kept looking at me with such loving eyes. I had trouble not watching him.

Wheres Kevin? Mama asked after checking in the back. Who made the soup?

Hes not home from his date, I said. He maybe had a beer or two and decided not to risk the drive home. Or maybe he just got tired and decided not to drive. I made the soup. The veggies were already cut up and he had a couple of chickens ready. I just put them in the pot, added water and put it on the stove. You might want to taste it.

It needs some seasoning. Ill show you. She put in a dizzying array of salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, basil, a touch of allspice, and a few other things I didnt catch.

Kevin drove up about 10:30, but he went into the house and didnt come back to the restaurant. It stayed busy through lunch so none of us got to go find him. Jonathan was whacked by the time we got done. He was gray and weak in the knees. I helped him to the house and up the stairs. Kevin was asleep on top of the bed, dressed only in a pair of holey briefs. I could see his crack through one of the larger holes, and I stared. Jonathan nudged me.

What are you . . . are you staring at his ass?


Yes you are.

Shhhh. Youll wake him.

Too late, Kevin said. You guys could wake a whole graveyard.

Why didnt you come home last night? Jonathan asked innocently.

Some of us went out after the party and had a few beers. I figured I better not drive. Just as I had thought.

He rolled onto his back and casually scratched his balls. Then he stretched.

I suppose I better go get ready for the dinner crowd. Thanks again for helping out, Justin. I really, really appreciate it, he said as he winked at me.

Uh-huh. Beer my ass. I think our boy got laid.

He washed up and dressed, then I followed him down the stairs while Jonathan rested.

You got laid, I said.

He just smiled.

You DID. You got some. Your date?

His smile faded a little. Yeah. Tonya. Im no longer a virgin. I got some. We did it three times.

Kewl, I said and held out my fist for a bump. He did.

Well, yeah, but shes sort of a slut. I mean, shes screwed half the senior class by now. Well, more than half if shes screwing me.

What do you mean by that?

Im not A-list material. If shes worked her way down to me shes fucked more than half the guys in it and probably a few juniors and sophomores, too. But she did ask me to the dance and I did want to go and I knew exactly what would happen and it did. I wanted to. Its about the last thing I need to accomplish.

Accomplish before what?

Before I go away, after graduation.

What? Go away? Where are you going?

Im not at all sure, Justin. I just know Im going away, and Ill never come back. I just didnt want to leave as a virgin.

What about Jonathan?

Oh, I probably wont go before he does.

That sounded macabre. I didnt even know what to say.

Over the next few weeks we settled into a routine, but it changed a little bit every day. I know, the words routine and change dont belong in the same sentence, but really there was an underlying routine of work, school, sleep that was pretty standard. The changes came with Jonathan. He had good days when hed go to school, and bad days when hed stay home. He was on medication, but continued to refuse chemotherapy. Some days he was so weak he needed help to get to the bathroom. Other mornings he was up and ready for school, although hed be dead whacked by the time he got home. I dont think he went to school two days in a row the whole time.

I didnt go to school at all. I was missing the last semester of my junior year. Mama had told me shed try to get me in because she was good friends with the high school principal. But she was so busy trying to keep things together at home that she really forgot. I didnt want to make any trouble. I was on my own, I figured, and somehow Id find a way to finish school, even if I was a semester late.

So Kevin and I ran the restaurant, with help from Mama and Helen.

Spring came, but you cant tell it in the desert. Nothing really gets green. You have to look at the calendar. I thought Kevin was the greatest. He was the brother I never had, and if I could choose, he would be exactly the brother I wanted. Well, at first it was like that. Then he began to change, too. As Jonathan got sicker, Kevin got moodier. He was sad so much, and it was so deep. It was very hard to watch the transformation. I tried to talk to him, and at first it worked. But about three weeks after the diagnosis, Jonathan was getting bad. He needed constant help, even with feeding. Mama finally called Hospice to come help, and they did a great job. But Mama felt a need to stay close to him, and that put the burden of the restaurant on Kevin and me. He was skipping a lot of school, and I think the classes he did attend he mostly slept through .

One day their sister Katherine came. She only stayed a day. She was a dealer in a casino in Vegas, hoping to become a pit boss. She was as cute as Kevin, and seemed pretty smart. But I never really got a chance to talk to her.

Four weeks after the diagnosis, Jonathan was dying. It came so fast. Kevin was almost constantly in tears. He wanted me in bed with him, and hed cling to me. There was absolutely nothing sexual in it, although believe me I would have been okay with that. I never did anything sexual with Jonathan after that one time, either. But he talked a lot when it was my turn to stay with him. He thanked me several times for making love to him. I told him Id do it all over if it would make him better, and I meant it.

So, are you gay? he asked.

Havent we been through that?

Yeah, but you never really gave me an answer.

What did I say?

You said Hold that thought, after I said you had a girlfriend so you cant be gay. So, are you?

What do you think.

You should never answer a question with a question. But since you asked, Id say yes, you are.

What would make you think that?

No one could do what you did to me without practice. Youve had practice.

I didnt say anything.

And Danny isnt a girlfriend. Hes a boyfriend, isnt he?

More silence.

I dont think you realize youve slipped a couple of times. When you and me or you and Kevin are chatting, now and then you say he when youre talking about Danny. I thought Id heard it wrong the first time, but youve done it four or five times since then.

I was beet red. Angry at myself. So, what do you . . . er . . .

No, I dont mind. Youre a great guy, and youve been wonderful to Kevin. I think you love him, too. I mean that way.

Do you think Kevin knows?

That you love him? No. That youre gay? I think he suspects.

Ah. I didnt want him to know.

Its okay, you know. He doesnt hate gays. I dont think he hates anyone. Anyway, youve become too good of a friend.

How can that be. I havent been here more than a couple of months.

I know. But youve been around him all the time. Hes been able to talk to you. Youve supported him. Youve tried to take care of him. Youve shown him respect and even love. And this time I dont mean that way. I mean friendship love. You see, he hasnt been able to make friends at school. Ever since he started grade school he has had to work here. He hasnt been able to hang out with anyone. All the other strays that have come through this place they stay a week, maybe two, and then move on. Youve stayed, for some reason, and youve given your friendship to him. That means so much to him.

I didnt know what to say. I squeezed his hand. Our conversation had worn him out.

May 5. The restaurant closed. We finished cleaning up. Walking to the house was hard. Kevin and I were exhausted again. It was dark, there were no clouds, and the temperature was dropping fast. We walked slowly side by side. I looked up at the window to our room and shivered.

Whats wrong? he asked.

Nothing. I had a shiver.

He put his arm around me and rubbed my shoulder. Lets get inside, he said.

The hospice nurse is still here, I said.

Yeah, I wonder why?

I could guess, I though.

We trudged up the steps, feeling low. Mama and the nurse were there. Jonathan was as pale as Id ever seen him.

Theyre here, sweetheart, Mama said, stroking his hand. Theyve come home.

Jonathans breathing was labored. He just lay there, his eyes closed. After a few minutes he opened them and looked at us.

Hey, bud, I said.

Hi, bro, Kevin said.

Jonathan blinked.

Kevin sat on the bed and took Jonathan into his arms. He cradled the thin body and stroked the younger boys hair. I took his hand and squeezed it.

Love you, bud, I said. He gave me a small grin and pulled me with what little strength he had left. I leaned down close to him and put my ear next to his mouth.

Please stay with him, he whispered, barely audible. Be his friend. I cant be any more. His hand dropped from mine.

None of us was crying. It took a monumental effort not to. But Kevin rallied in that dark moment. Still stroking Jonathans hair, he began to talk about better days. Ball games in the parking lot, a dog they had once had, a trip to Vegas they had all taken. He talked about swimming in a nearby creek that was usually dry but carried water after a storm. He talked about the two of them killing rattlesnakes by the shed behind the restaurant. (FUCK! I didnt know there were snakes back there! Id never had stayed there if Id known that.)

For 45 minutes Kevin carried on a conversation like that. Jonathans breathing became more labored and shallower.

Finally, Kevin said, Weve had a ton of fun together, Jonathan. Im so glad youre my brother. Its been a great life, you and me. I love you more than I can ever tell you, bro. Weve done so much, and youve made my life so fun. Its okay, Jonathan. You can let go now. You dont have to keep fighting for us. Its okay. Were all here and we all love you. You can go, Jonathan. You can let go.

In the silence that followed, Jonathan gave Kevins hand one tiny squeeze, took a last breath, and left this world for a place that is far, far better than he had ever known.

They say the most important thing is not the destination, but the journey. I look back on this journey and heres what I see: I have gone from a small town to no town, out here in the desert on a dusty parking lot that holds a house and a caf. From a group of friends to two, and one of them just died. From a lover to a loner. From middle-class to lower-class. From school to dropout. From having parents to having no net at all. From the Midwest to the West. From green fields to sand. Thats what I felt just then. I needed love and support, and I thought the only way I can find it was to give it. To show my loyalty and my own undying love.

Theyre home, Im still here, and its time for bed.

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