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Sunday, October 4, 2015

TLR Chapter 11

Brody and Harry and TLR


Brody drove to the 'old barn' and was pleased to see that it was in such good shape.  He went inside and smiled.  It looked to him more like a little mini mall contained in one building, or a flea market, with customers milling about, going from one 'store' to the other. He was amazed to see that even the loft had been converted to accommodate gift and souvenir shops.  He was amazed at how large the 'barn' was.  He tried to imagine how it had looked 100 years ago, filled with cows and horses during the winter months, strong men tossing hay down from the loft to feed them. 

He smelled fresh bread and followed his nose to the bakery where he bought two loaves of fresh bread, still warm from the oven.  He wandered into the grocery store and found the deli, trying to consider how much he would need to buy to feed two grown men.  He'd never really had to buy food for more than just himself and it felt good to be buying for two.  Then he realized that he never really asked what sorts of foods Harry liked, so he decided to get a little bit of the more popular things.

The man behind the deli counter asked, “How may I help you?”

"One pound of American white, a half-pound of provolone, a half-pound of Swiss, a pound of roast beef, a pound of turkey breast, a pound of ham, and a pound of salami, please.”

The man filled Brody’s order and smiling handed him the packages neatly wrapped. “Here you go Sir.”

Brody smiled back. “Thank you.” He put them in his cart and proceeded to pick up some mustard, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes, breathing in the scent of fresh grown produce. He idly wondered if they grew their own or if they got it from a local greenhouse.  He wasn't much of a snacker but he had no idea if Harry liked chips, so he bought a bag of tortilla chips and mild salsa, figuring that very few people that he knew didn't like chips and salsa.

Suddenly there was what sounded like a pop, and a cry of "Ouch!  Saallllll!"

Brody looked around to find the source of the disturbance.  He noticed a very stern looking man and another man, rubbing his backside and sheepishly looking around to see if anyone was looking.  Brody turned away but he kept his ears open.

"I've told you more than once, Khalid, do not try to take the vegetables out of the cart and put them back. We are going to eat healthy foods as well as the junk foods you like so much, and broccoli is not going to kill you."

"But I'm allergic to vegetables, they make me gag."  Khalid protested.

"You like them in stir fry, and you love diced tomatoes in Spanish rice when I make that, so you are not allergic."

"Can't you just buy the ones I like?"

"Which would be?"

"Carrots?  Celery?"

"Which you promptly drown in Ranch dressing or onion dip."  

"I like the way you make spinach."  Came the sulky reply.

"Then I'll buy spinach from now on.  Do you think that's a good compromise?"

"Yeah, just nothing that looks like a toxic atomic explosion... or brains."  Khalid shuddered, pointing to the cauliflower.

"Ok, no brains."  The older man said, kissing the younger one on the nose.

"Thanks, Sal."  Khalid smiled.

"Now remember, young man, if you have an issue with what I put in there tell me, don't try to sneak it out when my back is turned."  Sal frowned.  "Understood?"

"Yes sir."  Khalid replied, giving Sal a kiss on the cheek.  He blushed sweetly when Sal returned the kiss.

Brody continued on his way, thinking about what he'd seen and heard.  The firm resolve in the one man's voice, the calm acceptance in the other, despite the fact that the one named Khalid had apparently been swatted, and in a public place.  He thought perhaps he could bring the subject up with Harry over lunch.

He added bags of oranges, apples, nectarines, a couple of lemons, and grapes to his cart, and walked to the checkout, more alert to the presence of the men around him.  Some were alone, some in pairs holding hands or kissing as they shopped.  He tried to guess by looking which ones were the Tops and which would be considered the Brats.  What he especially liked was that no one looked twice at these displays of affection or thought them in any way out of the ordinary.

One young man, perhaps about Brody's own age, had a slightly older man in tow, promising, in low tones, dire consequences when they got back to their room at the lodge.  So far Brody had only seen and heard older Tops and younger Brats.  The idea that the age gap could and did work in the other direction surprised him, but when he looked at it logically it seemed to make as much sense as anything he'd heard or seen that day.  He filed that information away until he could talk to Harry about it.

When he arrived back home he put everything in the refrigerator, checked the time and decided he had enough time to make a pitcher of iced tea to go with their lunch. 


“Zay, my love, let's go and sit over on the bench.  We need to talk.'' Elijah said as he guided Zay toward the bench.  

“Ok,” Zay said. He still had a smile on him from their earlier hug.

“Zay, is there a reason why you left our bungalow without leaving a note or waking me up?” Elijah asked gently. 

“Ah, I wasn't tired so I thought I’d come out here by the lake to take in the fresh air.”

“Zay, I don't want to come down hard on you, but we both need to rest after the busy days we had yesterday and today,” Elijah explained.

“Sorry Elijah, I guess I wasn't thinking,” the younger man whispered. 

“No?  Well, it won't happen again,” Elijah said a little firmer. 

“Ah, Elijah, I've been thinking about all this, I mean us. You said that DP was a good choice for us.”  

“Yes I did say that, Zay, and I think being here at the resort is a good place to start,” Elijah confirmed, wondering what Zay was really saying.

“So what's the real reason why you’re out here and not up resting with me?” he asked.

“Nervous I guess.” 

“Look Zay I know this is a big step for you as well as me.  But I've noticed for the past month or so while we've been together your health and your attitude has been on the poor side and you've been rude. So I think being here is the right choice. It's ok to be nervous.” Elijah softly explained. “I am too. Zay please pull your head up and look at me,” he waited for Zay to respond then continued.  “There are classes to help us with all that we need to know and this will all fall in place once we've taken the classes and understand it more.”  Elijah saw the smallest hint of a smile.  “Does that make you feel better?” 

“Yes, thank you,” Zay answered his lover.

“Good, now let's walk back to our bungalow and get that rest we’ll need for later.”

Getting up Elijah leaned in and hugged Zay once more then took the younger man’s sweaty palm.  He turned and looked his young lover in the eyes and said, “No more leaving without a note or there will be consequences.  “Are we clear on this?”

“Yes sir,” Zay answered.

“Good. Let's go.” Elijah said, as they both walked hand in hand back to their bungalow.


Harry arrived just on the stroke of twelve noon and smiled, a genuine, pleased smile when he saw the, what was for him, lavish lunch array.  Brody had rewarmed the bread slightly so the scent of bread was in the air.

"I think that if someone could turn that into a scented candle it would be a best seller."  He grinned.

"I agree.  So come, my prince, and dine."  Brody said theatrically, pulling a seat out for Harry.

Harry smiled and blushed but sat quietly, taking in the bowl of fruit, the jug of iced tea and the sandwich meats all rolled neatly on a plate, the different cheeses artfully placed on another plate so that it looked like a sun burst, a small bowl of grapes sat as a centerpiece on the plate.

"This is wonderful,” Harry said, trying not to blush again.  "Thank you."

"Nothing is too good for you, Harry.  I'm glad you like it.  Let's dig in, eh?"

There was no conversation for a while as the men made a couple of sandwiches each and sat, chewing contentedly.  Afterward when they were both too full to eat another bite, Harry got up and started to clear away the lunch plates and to put away the food.

"No Harry, you don’t have to do that. I know you have to get back to work soon.  I'll take care of all this.  Oh, by the way, I was wondering, what do you want to do for dinner?  Jeff said we could eat in the dining room at the lodge, or if you'd rather have a nice, quiet, home cooked meal I picked up a roast and potatoes.  What do you think?"

Harry smiled shyly.  "I like the idea of us having a... dinner home, together."

"Then dinner at home it will be."  Brody announced gladly.

"Brody... there's a lot of time between now and dinner.  Would you like to go with me on my rounds?  You could see more of the resort and... We could talk a little."

"Don't you need to concentrate on what you're doing?"  Brody joked.

"Not much happens here, usually.  It's pretty quiet for the most part.  We do have an occasional scuffle between Brats now and again, but that's mostly at night when the bar is open, and usually their Tops are there to straighten them out before security is really needed.  I've only seen the Tops get involved in a fight once."

"Um, that reminds me.  I did see something... a couple of things today, and I wanted to talk to you about them, if you want to."

Harry's lids lowered and Brody could see that he was biting the inside of his cheek.  "I guess so,” he said, looking up at Brody.  "What did you want to talk about?"

Brody told Harry what he'd seen, leaving out names so that Harry's response wouldn't be influenced in any way.  Brody was sure that Harry would know all of the residents and most of the visitors.

"Sounds like Sal and Khalid."  Harry said with a slight smile.  He wasn't security for nothing, after all.  But he didn't say that to Brody.  "Yeah, Khalid hates vegetables so he's constantly trying to sneak them out of the cart before Sal can see him.  But do you want to know the funny thing about that?"

Brody smiled, “Sure, what's funny about it?"

"Sal gives Khal juice that's a mixture of vegetables and fruit.  Khal doesn't even notice.  Sal just puts it in a regular juice bottle and Khal drinks it like it's going out of style."

They both shared a good laugh.  "Sounds like a smart guy, that Sal."

"I'd say sneaky, but that's just me."  Harry laughed again.

"Do you like vegetables?"

"Ah, most of them, yeah, with a little butter and salt.  I like frozen veggies better than canned though.  The canned stuff is just mush once it's heated up."  Harry said with what Brody thought was an adorable little grimace.  

Harry looked at his watch.  "It's time for me to head out.  Do you want to come with?"

"I'd love to."

"We can take the golf cart.  We'll get around faster and we'll be able to cover more ground.  There are some places I'd love for you to see."  Harry said shyly.

"Lead the way, my friend."  They got into the cart and Harry started it up. They drove at a good pace but Harry was a good driver and only surpassed the recommended speed limit in an emergency situation.  Brody was pleased and proud to see how many people waved and called greetings to Harry as they passed.  Harry smiled and waved back, occasionally pulling over to chat with a coworker or a visitor.

After several minutes of driving in what seemed like an aimless pattern, Harry pulled over and gestured Brody to follow.  He had such a shy yet sly smile on his face that Brody couldn't help but to smile back and follow. "Where are we going, my prince?"

"Shhh, this is my favorite place on the whole resort.  It's beautiful.  Peacefu..."

His last word was cut off by a shrill scream that came from somewhere in the distance.  Harry ran toward the sound, all business.  Brody followed, concerned for Harry.  He had no idea what his man was running into and there was no way that he was going to allow him to run into potential danger without someone to back him.

They came out into a clearing, the sound of running water loud in their ears.  But not louder than the shriek that cut through the air.

Brody was surprised when Harry held out an arm to keep him back.  "Stay down, stay back."  Harry hissed as he crouched and pulled Brody down into a crouch with him.  Another shout, this one a weakening call for help.

Harry stood upright, a frown on his face.  Recognizing the voice crying out for help he called loudly, "Mike?!"

"Ha-Harry!  Help!  Please?"

"Mike!  Where..."

"Rocks!  Waterfall!  He-help!" Mike sputtered.

Without pausing to even take off his shoes he ran into the water and toward the falls where Brody finally saw the shape of the young man holding tight to a protruding root several feet above the slick rocks below. 

Brody held his breath as he watched Harry swim with strong strokes toward the young man hanging above the rocks, legs flailing.

"Stay calm, Mike!  Stop struggling; you're just going to make yourself fall.  Put your head down so that the water doesn't get in your mouth and just hold on.  I'm on my way."  Harry called his tone reassuring.

Brody was stunned.  Gone was the shy, reticent, quiet and somewhat uncertain man he'd come to know. He stood by and watched helplessly while Harry pulled himself up out of the water onto the green, moss covered rocks and carefully placed his feet on the largest of the rocks at the bottom.  He pulled off his wet jacket and slung it over his shoulder, then continued to climb, but instead of climbing toward the stranded young man, he climbed away and up until he was stable at the top. 

"Mike!  Grab onto the jacket sleeve.  It's right by your hand.  Grab it.  Now!" The security guard commanded.

Mike clung to the root until he felt the drenched fabric touch the back of his hand.  He finally snatched at the sleeve and grabbed a hold of it with cold, nearly nerveless hands.

"Wrap it around your hand and hold on, I'm going to pull you up."

Brody could hear the difference in his man's voice.  Calming, commanding, reassuring at the same time. Before he knew it Harry had drawn the younger man up against the flow of the water and onto the grass beside the top of the waterfall.  He put his arm around the gasping, crying man.  Giving Brody the thumbs up, he disappeared with Mike, only to reappear minutes later, still mostly supporting the young accountant who clung to Harry like a baby monkey.

Brody ran to help, taking off his own light jacket to throw around Mike's shoulders before lending an arm to help support the sopping and sobbing man to the golf cart.

Harry helped Mike into the cart and ran around the back, flipped open a small hatch and brought out a blanket which he used to wrap the young man in.

"What on earth were you thinking? I've never seen or heard of you doing anything so hare brained before!" Harry asked.

"I like to climb.  I like to be active.  I run and climb whenever I can get some time to myself.  I've climbed those rocks dozens of times, but this time something shifted and I fell... or nearly fell."

"What do Charles and Gary say about this?” The security guard demanded.

"They don't know, Harry, please don't tell them."

"I'll have to, Mike, you're all scraped up.  They're going to want to know why you're injured and you're all wet."

"Just tell them I fell in the lake."

Brody looked at the young man.  "You're asking a security guard to lie for you?"

"I'm asking a friend to cover for me.  Please, Harry.  We are friends, right?"

All of a sudden the quiet Harry was back.  He dropped his gaze and bit his lower lip.

"If Harry didn't tell, I'd have to."  Brody said quietly.  "What you did was thoughtless and dangerous.  I know that if Harry had ever done anything like that I'd want to know.  And I'd be very upset with anyone who tried to keep the truth from me."

Brody could see that Mike was trying hard not to cry. He put out a hand and gently tipped Mike's face up.  "Why would you do something like that?"

"I love Charles and Gary, with all my heart, but I don't like living the way I do.  I mean, I love living with them.  I love how they take care of me and care for me.  I'm lucky to have people who care so much for me."


"But I never wanted to be an accountant.  It's boring as he... heck."


"And I hate being behind a desk all day long.  I like to get out into the sunshine."

"What's stopping you?"  Brody asked his tone and expression caring and concerned.  Mike immediately responded to the tone.

"But I'm afraid that if I tell Charles and Gary how I feel... they won't love me anymore.  They'll leave me.  I want... I want to be... I want to have friends.  I want to go to the cook outs and have a beer and relax with my buddies... but I don't have any buddies."

"Would it help if we went with you to talk to them?"  Brody offered.

"I don't know."  Mike said, looking down at his cold, white hands.  "I'm afraid that if I'm not what they want me to be they'll..."

Brody noticed the red marks on Mike's hands.  "Come on; let's get to the doctor to get your hands checked out.  Then we'll call Gary and Charles.  You have to let them know how you feel.  You're obviously unhappy."

"But I'm not unhappy.  Not with them.  I love them!"  Mike protested.

"And I'm willing to bet they love you too and only want what's best for you.  But if you tell them you're unhappy I'm sure they'll listen.  If they really love you, they'll understand."

"I've never had anyone love me like they do.  I've never had someone to watch over me, and care for me like they do.  I'm so afraid of losing that."

"Do you not feel worthy of their love?"

"I don't understand how anyone could fall in love with me, let alone two wonderful guys like them."

"Then if they're wonderful they'll understand and still love you." Brody reassured.

"But what if they don't?"  Mike asked worriedly.  "Or what if they really do love me and they..."  He glanced at Brody uncertainly.

"I understand about the resort.  I understand what it's here for."  Brody assured him.  "And I know that your guys love you.  All you have to do is talk to them."

"I... I will.  I guess I should go see Heath. My hands hurt, he said, trying to flex his fingers.

"We'll take you right to him," Harry said, hugging Mike before he started the engine and drove back to the resort and the infirmary.


Harry radioed ahead to tell Heath to meet them at the infirmary.  Heath called Gary and Charles. Charles called James in a huff.

Once Harry had finished radioing the infirmary and Heath he turned to Brody. "Keep an arm around Mike and I'll get us to the infirmary as quickly as possible. The ride might get a bit bumpy." Harry warned.  He headed the golf cart as the crow flies in the direction of the infirmary once they had driven out of the woods bumping across the lawns and skirting flower beds.

"Harry, please slow down," Brody demanded, "It's not going to do any of us any good if we turn over."  He reached across Mike and tapped Harry's hand.

Harry glanced at Brody and frowned. "I know what I'm doin' Brody. We’re not goin’ to turn over." He pulled up shortly in front of the infirmary.

Brody set his jaw.  "Harry, relax.  I know you know what you're doing but Mike isn't going to die," he calmly told Harry. 

Harry snapped at Brody. "I know that... but he's cold and wet and may be in shock."

Brody bit his tongue and helped Mike out of the golf cart.  He knew Harry was concerned and wet and cold too but arguing with him now wasn't going to get Mike fixed up any faster.  The two men walked a shaken Mike into the infirmary.

Harry called out, "Heath? We have Mike here now."

"Bring him on back Harry.  I'm setting things up," Heath directed in full doctor mode.

Harry, his arm around Mike's blanket covered shoulders guided him back to where Heath was. "Here you are Heath."

The young doctor looked up at the three men entering the examination room.  “Mike, what happened,” he asked the cold, wet man but he was looking at Harry.

Harry said, "Mike was climbing the moss covered rocks up at the falls and slipped. I had to pull him back up the falls or he would have had a very nasty fall instead of a few scrapes."

Heath just looked at Mike confused for a minute not really believing that the young accountant would even want to go near the falls.  He shook his head and said, "Let's get him up on the table so I can check him out."

"Where're Charles and Gary?" Mike whined.

Harry in one fluid movement carefully picked up Mike and gently set him on the examination table.

"They are on their way, kiddo," Heath assured Mike.  "I called Charles as soon as Harry called me."

"First, let's get you out of those wet clothes," Heath instructed as he reached for the blanket.  Mike pulled back.  He looked at Harry and Brody and then at Heath.  Heath noticed that Harry had come in the room with a man he didn't know.  He held out his hand to the man and said, "You must be Brody."

Brody nodded and shook the hand extended to him.  "Nice to meet you Heath."

Harry blushed a little. "I invited Brody to come for the weekend."

"Yes, James told me.  I hope you like our little resort, Brody," Heath said.

"It’s beautiful, Heath," Brody answered.  "Harry was showing me around when he heard Mike's cries for help."

Harry nodded. "I invited him on my rounds."

“Well, it's a good thing you did then.”

Mike didn't look at Heath. Or Harry. Or Brody.

Just then Charles came in to the infirmary.  His cell phone on speaker so everyone could hear the conversation.

"Our boy is hurt and it's all your fault, James!"  Charles accused.  "If you would have cordoned off those falls like we'd suggested last month this never would have happened."

"What are you talking about?"  James asked, confused.

"Our boy was hurt at the falls and it's all your fault."

"What happened?"  James asked, concerned.

"Michael!  Oh honey you're all right!"  Charles said, his conversation with James forgotten.  His demeanor completely changed when he saw his young husband wet and shivering on the table.  He was followed shortly by another man who Brody assumed was Gary.  The next thing he knew, Michael was sandwiched between his two tops, who hugged and kissed him despite his bedraggled condition.

"We have to get him undressed and warmed up,” Heath said.  "Harry, go into the supply room in the back and get some towels and two sets of scrubs, one for Mike here, and one for yourself.  You're shivering."

Brody went with Harry and helped him get the items.  Harry picked up several blankets as well.  Brody tried to get Harry to dry off and change first but Harry shook his head.  

"Mike was in the water longer than I was, we need to take care of him first," he said through chattering teeth.  

Brody didn't like it but went with Harry to the exam room so that they could hand off the items.  

"Harry, you can use the room next door to dry off and change,” Heath said,  "Take one or two of these blankets and wrap up while you wait for me."

"I'm f-f-f-fine, H-Heath."

"I'm not arguing with you, Harry.  Go into the next room and wait for me.  Brody, please help him?"

"Will do."  Brody replied.  Just as they turned to do as Heath had bid them, James came in, frowning in consternation. 

"Will someone tell me what's going on?  Charles, you left me hanging on the phone.  What happened?" He demanded.

There was the sharp babble of voices as everyone tried to speak at once until Heath let out a shrill whistle. "Enough!"  He said in a tone that stopped the whole group.  "Charles, go outside to the waiting room with James and the two of you can work this out while I take care of these men.  Gary please stay with Mike, get him dried off and changed, then wrap him in blankets.  Brody, if you would please do the same in the next room with Harry, I'll tend to both of them as quickly as possible."

Everyone obeyed the tone, even the other Tops.  Heath suppressed a smile and got right down to business helping Gary with Mike, who was indeed worse off than Harry.  They got him out of his drenched clothing as quickly as they could and put the scrubs and two pairs of hospital socks on his feet.  Heath put two of the blankets into a warmer and while they heated up he examined the young man.  

He applied an ointment with pain reliever to the young man's hands and wrapped them loosely in bandages.  

"I'm going to give him an antibiotic in case he got more than a mouth full of water,” Heath explained to Gary.  Afterward, the doctor made Mike lie down and he put the two warmed blankets over the young man.  Mike began to drift off to sleep almost immediately.

Gary glanced at Heath, worriedly.  

"Don't worry, let him sleep.  He'll be fine in no time.  If it's all right I'll wait until we get Charles back into the room to give you the rundown on Mike's condition.  But I can tell you now; he's fine, just shaken up."

"Thanks Heath,” Gary said in a low voice, standing beside the bed and keeping his eyes on his Brat the whole time for any sign of change in his condition.


"I'll tell you once again, James, those falls need to be cordoned off.  They're dangerous."

"And I'll remind you once again, Charles that Mike is the first person in ten years to ignore the signs that are posted all around the falls warning people to stay off the rocks and not to climb.  There are some people who would be hurt worse if I fenced off the area.  If people are determined to get to those falls, they will, fence or no fence."

"Mike could have been seriously injured..."  Charles began to argue.

"Mike is a grown man who is old enough to read and old enough to make his own decisions, regardless of whether they're right or wrong."  James shot back.  "If I were in your position I'd be talking to Mike and not climbing down my throat trying to blame everyone except the one who is to blame." James said coolly. 

Charles sputtered, trying to find an argument or a point that would bolster his case, when Heath came out of the examination room.

"You can go in to them, Charles, if you two are done out here."  He said pointedly.

"Excuse me,” Charles said stiffly.  He seemed about to arm his way past James when he caught the look in the other man's eyes and stepped around him instead.

Once Charles was in the exam room, Heath assured James that Mike was and would be fine.  "Just a little shaken up.  I'm going to check on Harry now.  Did you get everything worked out with Charles?"

"No, and I will never have things straightened out with him until he finds out that he doesn't own the resort and doesn't have the final say."

"As Lodge manager, he could stir up trouble with other resort managers."

"If you recall, it was the other department heads who were against fencing off the falls the last five times Charles tried to make an issue of it.  Now that I think of it, I have the feeling he suspected that Mike was climbing the rocks there, and that's why he was so determined to have them fenced off."

"If he knew, wouldn't he have confronted Mike about it?"

"He may have.  I don't want to say that Mike lied about it outright but knowing his talent for finding loopholes, he may have had a story ready that would save his hide if anyone asked.  Did he say anything to you while you were examining him?"

"Not much, he just held onto Gary like he was afraid he'd disappear.  I'm headed in to see Harry and Brody now."

"I'll leave you to your business then.  Call me if something comes up.  I need to go check on Jax,” James said, nodding his head toward the room with Charles, Gary and Mike.

"Will do,” Heath smiled.  "I'll call you if there's anything major to worry about."

“Okay, I’d appreciate that.” James said as he left.


While Heath examined Mike, Brody helped a reticent Harry to undress.  Harry kept insisting that he could do it by himself but he was shivering too much to unbutton his shirt, so finally he accepted Brody's help. 

"I really could have done it myself."  He said a hint of petulance in his voice.

"Yes, eventually." Brody replied, trying to keep his annoyance out of his voice as he stripped the wet clothing off of the shivering man and replaced it with the dry scrubs and the hospital socks, doing a cursory examination of Harry's body before wrapping him in the blankets.  He sat down on the exam table and pulled the surprised Harry up next to him.  He put his arm around his man and pulled Harry's head down onto his shoulder.  Harry didn't think twice before he pulled his legs up and leaned tiredly against Brody.  He let loose a sigh of relief.

"You were very brave, Harry."  Brody said, rubbing his hands up and down Harry's arm to try to stimulate his circulation.

Back was the shy, humble Harry that Brody knew.  "Nah, I didn't do much, Brody.  It's only my job."

"You thought fast and kept your head.  That's admirable."

Harry frowned, pulled back from Brody a little to look at his face.  "I feel a 'but' coming on."

Brody sighed.  This was not the time to be criticizing Harry, when he had already been through so much. Making a decision, he said, “I'm just concerned about the way you were driving." He tried to say diplomatically. "You were going too fast for the terrain in the golf cart.  It was dangerous.  Every time we hit a bump I thought for sure the three of us were going to be pitched out."

"But we didn't, did we?"  Harry said, pulling back more from Brody.

Brody took Harry by the shoulders and sat him the rest of the way upright.  He looked into Harry's eyes with a solemn expression.  "It was a dangerous thing to do.  What would have been the point of saving Mike if we'd crashed or overturned on the way back?  What if we'd been knocked unconscious or severely injured and couldn't get help?"

"None of that happened, or would have happened. I’ve driven in that manner lots of times and I know every inch of the grounds.” Harry said, shrugging Brody's hands off and putting his feet back down.  He was angry and the anger was warming him up just fine.  He had to admit that he was a little concerned about their relationship.  Brody didn't look in the least angry, but he did look very serious.  What if what he'd done called a halt to the two of them before they'd even properly begun?

Brody sighed again in frustration.  "It could have.  It almost did at least three times that I counted."

"Almost doesn’t count.” Harry told Brody his anger showing a bit. Then he backed off a little and asked quietly, “Are you mad at me?"

"I'm not mad, hon.” Brody replied, unconsciously using the endearment, “I'm... at a loss.  Right now, if I'm honest, what I'd really like to do is take you in my arms and hold you, and yet at the same time I'd like to give you a smack right on your backside for driving so recklessly."

"You... want to... swat me?"  Harry asked uncertainly.

"Yes. I'm sorry Harry but yes, I do.  If you hadn't already been through a lot today that's exactly what I'd have been tempted to do."

"But I just wanted to get Mike back here as fast as possible.  He might have been in shock or hurt worse than..."  Harry stopped himself.  He only now realized that what Brody had said might have had some truth to it. He could have gotten them hurt worse during the drive back than Mike already was.  He leaned back toward Brody and looked down at his hands.  "If it'll make you feel better... I mean... if you'll stop being mad at me... then you can.  If you want."

Brody gathered Harry back into his arms and kissed his forehead.  "I'm not going to swat you just to make myself feel better, Harry.  If I did hit you out of anger that would be the worst thing I could do.  And if you let me hit you to make me like you again... I never stopped liking you.  I love you.  I really do.  All I want is what's best for you."

"I know what the resort stands for, Harry, and I understand it.  I didn't at first, not completely, but I do now and... What I want to know hon is, do you want this type of relationship?  Do you want me to swat you or even spank you if you've done something wrong?  I'm not going to leave you if you say no."  He reassured the other man, "But I do want to know what you want.  What you feel.  What you need.  You say you come here sometimes to unwind on your day off.  Jeff and James both said that this is a haven for men like us.  Men like us, not just gay but men who feel the need to protect and cherish, and men who need to be protected and cherished.  The more I've seen and the more I've heard and felt just in the past few hours I've been here have made me think that this is the lifestyle I'd like.  For myself.  For us.  But only if you agree."

"You don't have to make a decision right now, hon.  Think about it.  And remember, if you say that this is not the lifestyle for you, that doesn't mean I'm going to dump you.  Far from it. It's taken me a long time to find the man I've always dreamed of, the man I've always wanted... the man I've had a crush on for the past three years, and who I've loved from afar for the past two."

Harry smiled and blushed.  He didn't need to think about anything.  This is what he'd wanted for a long time. He leaned back against Brody, pulled his legs back up under the blanket and relaxed.  He realized then that he was no longer shivering, and that hot knot of anger and uncertainty were gone.  He'd found what he wanted and he wasn't letting it go.

Heath came in and did a quick examination, taking Harry's blood pressure and temperature as he'd done with Mike.  He checked to make sure there was no bruising or muscle damage, though he warned Harry that he'd have to take it easy the next day.  "Once the shock wears off you're going to feel achy, don't forget you just pulled a one hundred and forty pound man up a cliff in cold, slippery conditions.  That reminds me, I'm going to give you a shot of antibiotic to stave off anything you might have picked up in the water, and a vitamin C shot to boost your immune system.

He looked at Brody.  "I suggest that you take him home and get him dressed warmly.  Harry, you may want to stay in for dinner tonight."

"I have to finish my rounds."  Harry protested.  When he saw the other two men open their mouths to argue he said “I'm the only security guard here this weekend.  I have a job to do and I feel fine.  I promise I'll take it easy as long as no one else tries to climb the falls."  He joked.  "But I do have a job to do and I need to get it done.  It's only a few hours more until dinner and Coral can take over for me once he gets here.  I promise," He said a little more forcefully, "that if I feel sick or unable to do my job tomorrow I'll ask Coral to take my shift."

Heath began to protest but Harry cut him off.  "Who had the flu and still came to work to tend the residents who had come down with it?"

"That... well... I'm the only doctor on call, Harry, you know that."

"And right now I'm the only security officer on call.  Unless you're saying that security is unnecessary?"  Harry asked slyly.

"Now of course that's not what I mean."  Heath protested.

"Then let me get into one of my spare uniforms and continue my rounds."

"Watch out for this one, Brody.  He's a slippery one." Heath said, looking at the other man.

"I've noticed."  Brody laughed.

"So I can go back to work?"  Harry asked, looking not at Heath but at Brody.  Brody looked at Heath who smiled and nodded.

"You can go back to work, but I want you home at dinner time."  Brody demanded with a twinkle in his eye.

Harry grinned and saluted.  "Yes, sir!"

"Then let's get you home and dressed, Officer.  You can't do your rounds in scrubs."


After Heath declared Mike well enough to return home, Gary and Charles sat him down on the couch to have a long awaited talk.  “What were you thinking, young man?"  Charles demanded.
"I'd say you weren't thinking at all." Gary said.

"I was too thinking,” Mike defended himself in a low voice as he stared at his hands.

Both Charles and Gary waited for their boy to continue and when he didn’t Charles repeated his question, “Young man, I asked you what you were thinking?  Answer me.”

"I was thinking that I don't want to be an accountant and in an office all day long,” Mike snapped.  “I was thinking that I wanted to do something more for exercise than walk the treadmill.  I was thinking that I wanted to do all of the things that the other Brats do. To be... one of them.  I was thinking that I want to go to the barbecues and hang out with my friends, have a beer and a laugh."

"Don't be silly, Michael.  You have friends!  Everyone in administration is your friend.  Charles and I are your friends."

"There’s only two people in administration and Jeff’s my boss, not a friend.  Not a real friend.  We don't hang out after work; we don't invite each other home.  You two don't associate with him or the other tops.  It's not the same as having real friends." He mumbled.

"Look at me," Charles said, tipping Mike's chin up so that he could see his young husband's face.  "Are you really so unhappy with us?"

"No!  No, I'm not unhappy with you! See that’s why I didn’t say anything, I knew you would think it was because of you.  I love you two more than I can say.  It's my social life I'm not happy with. I don't have one. I see the other brats at the resort laughing together, sharing jokes, clapping each other on the shoulder or back, hanging out together."

"We keep ourselves apart and... well... I'm lonely.  And I know that our attitudes toward people who don't have our kind of relationship is kind of... off putting.  I heard something, about us, and it hurt.  The people who were talking didn't know I was there, and I left rather than confront them about it. What they said made me think."
"Who was talking about us?"  Charles wanted to know.
"It doesn't matter. The point is we're considered snobs. I'm considered a snob, and I don't like it.  I'm proud of us,” He said before the other two could speak, “I love our relationship, I think its special too, but I've been so..." He sighed as he fought to find words.
"Cut off from all of the singletons." Charles inserted.
"Don't say that word, Charles, please?"  Mike said with a pained look.  "It sounds like simpletons the way we say it.  I feel like there are more of them than there are of us..."

"Which is what makes us special."  Gary said.

"Our relationship may be special but we're not.  We're no better than anyone else and we've been looking down on the others for so long..."


"And I really do like to be called Mike."  He admitted.  "Whenever you call me Michael I feel like I'm in trouble."

"Why didn't you say anything before now?"  Charles asked.

"I was afraid.  I was afraid that if I wasn't what you wanted you''d tell me to leave."

"Honey,” Gary said quietly.  "You don’t seem to have much faith in us. You are what we want, whether we call you Mike or Michael, whether or not you want to be an accountant.  We love you.  You.  We want you to be happy.  Now tell us, what would make you happy, and what can we do to get you to understand that and believe it."

"Is that why you've been climbing the rocks for so long?"  Charles inquired softly.
"You... you knew?"
"We suspected.  For quite some time now." said Gary.
Mike was stunned for a moment.  "But then why..."

"We had no solid proof.  When we'd ask why you were wet, or why your clothes were damp, you would say you'd gone swimming and forgotten a towel, or that you'd just gotten out of the shower.  Or that you'd just gotten off of the treadmill and were going into the shower because you were all sweaty."

"We never thought that you'd lie outright to us, Michael... Mike.  That's what is bothering us so much right now."  Charles replied.

"Or that you'd be so sneaky.  It's not like you at all.  Or at least we didn't think it was." Gary added.

"I'm sorry."  Mike replied, near tears.  "I didn't mean to let you down.  It's just that, I like to do things that you don't want me to do.  Rock climbing, wall climbing."

"What else haven't you told us, hon?" asked Charles.

"I'd like to go parasailing."

"Parasailing?"  Gary asked, astounded.

"Yes.  I like to do things like that.  At least I did before I met you two.  And I’m content, for the most part. But we don't go anywhere.  We don't do anything, and when there are public gatherings here at the resort we keep to ourselves, and I'd like to... well, I'd like to be one of the guys.  I want to have friends, not just acquaintances."

"You mean you'd like to be friends with the likes of Matthew Tailor?"

"See, that's what I mean.  'The likes of'.  Did you know he's got a degree in engineering? He's not stupid.  And I've never seen anyone with talent like Adam for taking a bare plot of land and turning it into a dream land. He's like you in the kitchen, Gary.  Pure genius at creating something from nothing."

“Why would you want to hang around with someone who allows himself to be called Mutt?  The very name suggests someone who is unintelligent." Charles said airily.

"But he's not.  Even the few times I've spoken to him I could tell he wasn't.  As far as why he's called Mutt, that's one of the things I'd like to learn, if he'll tell me.  Maybe some night over ribs and beer, or while we're swimming in the lake or just hanging out watching television.  Don't you see?  I love you two, with all my heart. It's me I don't like.  What I've become.  I was never very popular to begin with, too much of a nerd, or a geek. Some of the people in college outright called me a freak.  I never let them know how it hurt. Then I started working here and I met you two, and all of a sudden I wasn't alone anymore."

"But you want more."  Gary said.

"And you were afraid that if you told us we'd leave you?" Charles asked.

"Mike, we understand now.  And I feel horrible that you've felt this way for so long and we didn't know it. I know that growing up in the foster care system wasn't the best life you could have had, but I thought we were doing a good job of making up for that."

"You have!  I just...I never quite got over being left at the bus stop by my mother and then shunted from home to home, none of them really loving me.  Most of them only worried about the money they would get for having me stay with them.  I never really made friends with any of the other kids.  It was too hard.  Most of them had been in the system longer and weren't accepting.  I was too weird.  I never knew real love until I met you, but... I still, sometimes, feel like that unlovable kid, and when I see the others having fun together... and I know I'm not a part of that... I want that. Jeez, I know that sounds childish."  Mike said, looking down at his hands again. "Does it even make sense?"

"If that's what you want, hon, that's what you'll have.  You'll have to go slowly of course.  You won't just be able to jump into a group of men and expect them to be your best friends.  But we'll try to be more sociable, for your sake, and we'll be behind you in whatever you'd like to do."  Charles said. Then he frowned thoughtfully.  "What would you like to be, if not an accountant?"

"I don't know, really.  We have enough maintenance..."

"You're not hauling trash."  Gary said severely.

"No, but maybe I could be a waiter at the lodge?  Or, I don't know.  I guess I can just be an accountant."  He finished lamely.

"Being a waiter is hard work, and you'd have to work with me.  I don't know if you've heard what people say about me, but I've been called a lot of different things because of the way I run the kitchen. Some of the others, when they think I can't hear, have said I'd scare Chef Ramsey."  Gary joked.

Mike nearly giggled.  He hadn't laughed in so long he'd almost forgotten what it felt like.  "With you to train me I could be a great waiter. I'd make you proud."

"You make me proud no matter what you do.  I'll talk to James about letting you work part time as a waiter. We'll see how that works, and if you decide you like it we can make it full time and James can look for another accountant.  All right?"

Mike smiled broadly.  "I like that.  Thank you, Gary, Charles!"  He hugged his husbands tightly.

“It’s probably not a bad idea, Gary,” Charles commented.  “With Micha…Mike working in the lodge he can keep an eye on us and help us remember not to be snobs.”

"But for now we still have to deal with your antics today, young man," Charles said, containing a smile when he saw the look of concern on his young husband's face.

"What... what are you going to do?"  Mike asked meekly.

"Well for one thing, you're grounded.  You will not be allowed to climb those rocks.  Ever again.  Is that clear?"

"Yes sir,” Mike replied, hoping that that was the worst that was going to happen.

"Once we're sure you're all right then we can discuss further punishment."  Gary said.

"Are you going to...I mean...are you going to spank me?"  Mike asked with some trepidation.

"I don't think so, honey."  Gary replied.  "You've been through a lot, and like Heath said, you're going to feel worse before you feel better.  Having the threat of a spanking hanging over your head isn't going to be good for your recovery."

"I can think of several chores that need to be done around the bungalow.  You can do those after work.  I think a week is sufficient," Charles added. 

"You guys are the best!  Thank you!"  Mike said, grinning from ear to ear and reveling in the hugs he received from his husbands.


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