Stranger to Love
By:
Jess Mercer
( 2007 by the author)
 

  The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...

It was only years after I finished college that I came to understand the secrecy surrounding my father's job. As a kid, all I knew was he had some kind of government job and was gone most of the time, leaving me with my nanny and the cook. I don't remember my mother and she's never mentioned, so I never gave a thought to not having one unless the guys at school mentioned theirs. My nanny was a guy in his 40's. He was okay and he took good care of me but lacked emotion, especially love. He got a sudden transfer when I was almost 14 and I got called into the old man's study. He was home for a change.

"Aleric, Walters will not be returning, so we need to find a new companion for you."

"Yes, sir."

He points to a chair in front of his desk. "Sit."

After I have, he pushes a few photographs across the desk to me. "Most unusual, but these men are available for reassignment to light duty, one in particular. Their personal information is on the back of their photograph, or at least as much as you need to know. I have no idea why you're being given a choice but see if any one of them " he raises an eyebrow, "meets with your approval."

I flip through the pics. Three of the four are older men, but the last photo intrigues me. I flip it over to see the guy's name is Alex Wolf. He's 6 foot 4, 24 years old, and not married. He'd be a great looking stud if he didn't look so mean. He has a great suntan, black hair with a little curl to it, and dark eyes.

It's Alex's picture I hand the old man. "This one, father."

"I rather thought you might choose him because of his age, but I'm not certain he's completely suitable. He's recovering from major injury and is due for disability retirement. However, he insists that he can continue to be of use." He sighs. "While I might prefer an older more experienced man, I suppose we could give him a try."

"Thank you, sir."   

"I'll be out the rest of the day, but Wolf will likely be by this afternoon. Let cook answer the door and check his identity, then you can get acquainted."

"Yes, sir."

"Remember one thing. No matter what you want, Wolf is in charge."

"Yes, sir."

I'm surfing the web when cook knocks on my door. "Mr. Wolf is here, Ric. He's in the den."

"Thanks, Annie." I like Annie. She takes time to talk to me and she calls me Ric instead of my stupid name. I don't care if dad insists it's from classic literature.

I always like to look over the scene before I make an appearance so I ease into the dining nook off the kitchen and crack the door to the den just enough to see Wolf. What a sight! He's like tall and, while his face is expressionless, so beautiful my heart skips a beat. I've known for a couple of years now that I like guys way more than girls, but this guy is unbelievable.

I ease out into the hall and open the main door. He turns and stares at me, asking "Who are you?" when I start toward him.

"Ric. Are you Wolf?"

He scowls enough I back away when I see a vicious looking scar in front of his left ear. It really screws up his great looks, but I still like what I see.

May I use your phone?" He asks.

I nod and point to one on the side table by the chair my old man always uses. He grabs it up and punches the buttons. "Let me speak to the chief," he growls when it's answered.

A moment later he's saying, "Sir, the only one home is a kid."

His scowl deepens. "With all due respect, sir, I won't be comfortable playing nursemaid to a kid this young."

After a pause, he says, "He's 13, sir." He listens then says, "Yes, sir." and hangs up. He mumbles, "Why me?" under his breath.

I've been looking at him all this time and wondering why he's never taken his left hand out of his pocket.

"I need to talk with your father, kid; what time will he be home?"

I shrug. "I don't know. He's out most of the time." I stifle an urge to blast him for calling me kid cause I'm hoping to get to know him real well, and maybe more.

I go over and plop down on the sofa. "I hope you get to stay, cause the old man says Walt's not coming back."

He looks at me. "The chief said you were the one picked me, not your father. Why?"

I've learned a lot by watching my old man the few times he's taken me with him to the receptions other kids have been dragged to as well, so I decide from the way Wolf's acting only a direct approach will work. I pat the sofa cushion. "Sit down and I'll tell you."

He does but not next to me like I'd hoped. "My father showed me several photographs, but you were the only one wasn't an old fart."

His head jerks up and he stares at me for a moment before snorting to stifle a laugh. "I was told you usually say what you think," he says.

"Yeah. Most guys work for the government can sling a lot of shit and that's all it is, cause they wouldn't tell the truth if it was bitin' 'em in the ass."

Wolf's laughing now. "If you think the truth is so rare, why don't you tell me the truth about why you picked me."

"I did. You looked young enough to know how I feel about things. Besides " I pause wondering if I should really tell the truth, then decide to go for broke, "you're the hottest stud I've ever seen."

He stops laughing and stares at me. "Say what?"

Maybe I've gone too far. I look at the carpet and mumble "You're beautiful. I wish I looked great as you."

"I asked for the truth and I sure got it," he finally says. "I'm not all that great looking, especially now, but it's nice to know somebody thinks so." He looks at me without saying anything else for so long I'm a little uncomfortable.

To break the silence I ask "You want a cup of coffee or somethin'?"

He nods and says "Coffee straight up."

I get us each a mug and come back. I hand him his and sit down. I don't know what kind of soap or after-shave he uses, but it smells great, kind of mossy fresh with a little fern thrown in, like a woods after a rain.

"Okay, fair is fair, kid. You laid your cards on the table, so I'm going to do the same. You got sense enough to know what I tell you goes no further, right?"

"Yeah."

"I've never been around kids before, so I'm not comfortable with the idea of being your nursemaid. But what it boils down to is I take this job or get kicked out of the agency."

"I don't need a damn nursemaid and for sure I wouldn't have anybody around if my old man didn't make me. What I need is a buddy, since I don't have any friends."

"What about friends from school?"

"Ha, ha. What friends? My old man won't let me go anywhere or hang with them, and I can't bring 'em here. It's a crock."

I'm to see his thin lips curl up like he's trying to smile. He nods. "Yeah."

He takes a drink of coffee, then sets the mug down and looks at me. "I guess you know I'm on medical leave."

I nod.

"This is why." He pulls his left hand out of his pocket and holds it up, only there isn't a left hand. Just inside the sleeve I can see the end of his arm. I almost flip out cause an amp turns me on like nothing else and I'm dying to see his stump up close and touch it. I can feel I'm responding even faster than I do looking at pictures.

He leans back and stares at me again. "Look, this won't keep me from doing my job and doing it right, despite what the boss thinks. I use my arm for a lot of things and I've got a hook I'm learning to use so don't freak out on me."

"I won't. I've never seen a hook before, so I want to see yours."

"Not much chance you can avoid it if I stay around. I'm having something special done to it." I wonder if he can read my mind cause he says, "Don't even think of touching it because anybody tries is going to get a nasty surprise if they don't know what they're doing."

Now I'm intrigued. "Like what?"

"That would be telling. Now, you got anything else I should know?"

How can I say it with the beautiful one-armed stud of my dreams sitting across from me, but I think 'Why not? Go for it and hope'. "I like guys."

I don't know what I expected, but he only looks at me. "How old are you?"

"Almost fourteen."

He nods. "Figures. Look, kid, most guys your age usually like guys better than girls for a while."

"You aren't gonna go stompin' out?"

"I got any choice? I'll talk to your father when he comes in, but unless he has some objections, I'll stick around and see how things go."

I'm so happy I slip over next to him and hug him. "I'm glad. Maybe we can have some fun."

I feel him stiffen up and back off. "Sorry."

"My job here is protect you and keep this place as secure as I can. I am not, nor will I ever be, the object of your affections no matter how you might feel. Understood?"

"I guess." Guess I let my dreams take over. He sits looking at me with no expression for so long I break the silence. "Wanna see your room?"

"Yes."

I take him upstairs and point out my room then his, which is next door. There's a bath between opening into both our rooms.

"I see we have to share a bath. I hope you aren't messy, " he says.

"Not half so much as Walt was. He was a slob."

Wolf looks startled then smiles. "How the mighty have fallen. Thanks for telling me, kid."

"Do me a favor?"

"What?"

"Stop calling me kid. I'm Ric."

"I'll try to remember if that's what you want. I'm going down to get my bag so I can freshen up before dinner."

"Need some help?"

"Nope."

Later, Wolf knocks on my door. "Dinner, Ric."

I wash up and go down to find Wolf and my old man having a drink and talking. Dad looks up at me.

"Ah, Aleric, Wolf was telling me you have become acquainted."

"Yes, sir." I hope the old man catches that I'm disappointed in this guy.

My old man turns to Wolf. "I trust you and Aleric will reach an understanding."

Wolf smiles. "He's only seen the good side of me so far, sir. I expect I'm more demanding than Mr. Walters."

My father smiles. "Very good, Walters kept Aleric out of trouble, that's no mean feat in itself."

"I think Aleric and I have begun working toward a mutual agreement, sir."

"Excellent. I must tell you that I had doubts about your suitability, but after being given further information, I feel Aleric made a good choice."

"Thank you, sir. I'll do my best."

Cook has done a super good roast, one of my favorite foods, and it's really tender, but I see Wolf struggle with his one hand to cut it with his fork. Though he deserves to struggle as far as I'm concerned, I reach across for his plate. He looks up and frowns, then hands me his knife and fork. After I've cut the meat into pieces, I slid it all back to him. He nods and resumes eating. As usual, my father's paid no attention.

After dinner, father and Wolf go back into the study, so I go up to my room and see a friend from my favorite devotee site is on-line. Most of the time we check to see if the other is on-line then go to private chat. Rob is 14 and has a great little digital camera he takes with him everywhere. His pictures are always of amps, but he sends me lots of pics of one guy he says is from his high school. The guy looks like a surfer, built, blond, and his left leg is gone just below the knee. With some kind of peg thing, he rides a board almost as good as ever, so Rob says. I gotta admit I get a high from looking at the pics and wishing I could see the guy for real. Rob's always moanin' cause the guy's straight and Rob's all hot to get him in bed.

"What's up?" Rob asks.

"Got a new nanny today."

"Your old man finally get a woman?"

"Naa. You ain't gonna believe it, but he's only 24, beautiful, and only got one hand."

"No shit?"

"For real. I even told him I liked guys and he didn't leave."

"Wow! He must be somethin'. Send me his pic."

"When I can get one. He ain't very friendly, but he's not like Walt." I hear someone in the hall. "Somebody's coming. Gotta go."

I start playing a game when there's a knock on my door. "It's open."

Wolf comes in. "I'm glad you're on spring break, it'll give us a chance to work things out before you go back to school." He pulls up a chair and sits down beside me. "You spend a lot of time on your computer, Ric. Are you friends with anyone on-line?"

"No. What I do here is nobody's business but mine."

"Ric, you've been honest with me so far, don't spoil it by lying to me now. I know you want privacy and friends, but I need to know who you talk to because of your father's work."

"Aw, please, Wolf. I only got one friend and he's in California. It ain't like he even knows who my old man is. He don't ever ask nothing about him anyway." I look into Wolf's eyes. "Don't screw us up, Wolf. Please?"

"I'm sure it's been hard on you, Ric, now please let me check your mail."

I know it won't do me any good to argue so I slip my chair over so he's in front of my computer. I can't believe how fast he opens my chat room and checks out the history file I forgot to erase. "Who's this RobFitz?" he asks.

"That's my friend."

"Do you know his real name?"

"Robert Fitzpatrick."

"Where does he live?"

"He said Huntington Beach. He surfs a lot."

"Humm." Wolf opens my cache. I never knew how to do that. He points to the address of the dev site Rob and I like most. "Is this what I think it is, Ric?"

"Yeah. Rob and I both like to look at amps. He's lucky cause a guy from his high school has only got one leg. He's really hot and Rob gets to see him all the time."

"Go back to your game. I'm sorry if I interrupted anything."

Soon as Wolf's gone, I go to bed, lying there with my eyes closed so I can see Wolf. I want to mess around with his arm and have him hold me next to his awesome bod. When I wake up the next morning I remember dreaming we slept together and he had his arms around me and was whispering he loved me. That's when I realize I'm all sticky down there. I can't figure why and it scares me, so I get up and take a shower.

I've just finished my shower and close my bathroom door so Wolf can have it. I've got on a pair of shorts when Wolf knocks and comes in my room from the bathroom. "You're up early, sunshine. Have trouble sleeping?"

"Something like that. Can I ask you something and you won't tell my old man?"

"If it doesn't concern him. Look, Ric, you chose me and, like it or not, we're stuck with each other. It's going to take some time for me to be comfortable around you so if I'm not what you hoped I would be, I'm sorry. I'm just doing my job. You should know that by now. I want to be your friend but there are some things I have to report to your father or my boss. Use your common sense and I'll listen to anything you want to tell me."

"It's kind of personal."

Wolf sits down on my bed beside me. "What's bothering you?"

"When you were a kid, did you ever wake up all sticky in the morning?"

He starts to laugh, but his expression immediately changes and he gives me a serious look. "That why you were in the shower so early?"

"Yeah. What happened, Wolf?"

"You're 13 aren't you?"

"Almost 14."

He smiles. "It happens to every boy about your age. Most younger, but some like you are older when it happens the first time. Did you have a good dream last night?"

I have to smile. "Super good."

"Want to tell me about it?"

"No way!"

"I won't pry, then. You just had your first wet dream, Ric."

"I didn't piss the bed?"

He shakes his head. "No, it's entirely different. Do you and your friend Rob ever talk about girls?"

I shake my head. "I told ya I like guys."

"That's right. You especially like amps, too, don't you?" He's grinning, so I grin back. Maybe this ain't so bad as I thought.

"Yeah."

"When you're looking at the pictures is there one you really like to look at?"

"Yeah. Want to see 'im?"

Wolf shakes his head. "No. But when you're looking at him do you like to play with yourself?"

"You mean like jerkin' off?"

"Exactly."

"Rob told me how, 'cept ..." I'm not sure I should go on.

"Rob's old enough to ejaculate from self-stimulation. That's what you call jerking off. Last night was the first time for you and it was with a dream. Don't let it upset you because it's perfectly normal for guys. I won't feel right about giving you the birds and bees talk, so I'll get some information for you to read so you'll be fully informed. Any time you have questions ask me. If I don't know, I'll find out for you. I'm proud you felt confident enough in me to ask me such a personal question."

It dawns on me Wolf has only a pair of bikini briefs on. For the first time I get to see what an awesome bod he's got. He doesn't have any hair but he's got muscles everywhere. He's not like a pic Rob showed me of a body builder whose muscles were so large he looked like a freak, Wolf's just slender with muscles and a nice tan. "You're beautiful, Wolf." I start to drag my fingers down his chest, but he gently pushes my hand away.

"You spend a lot of time at the beach?" I ask.

"No. Why?"

"You've got such a great tan."

"I'm brown because I'm half Cherokee Indian. That's why I don't have much hair on my body." He looks at me closely. "You've got more hair on your chest than I have, but being light it doesn't show much."

"I'm glad, cause you look so great." I gently touch the scar in front of his left ear. "I wish you didn't have this. It don't bother me none, though."

"Good." He holds up his arm. "This bother you?"

"It's what I dreamed about last night." I say softly, reaching for it.

Wolf jumps up and backs away so fast it scares me for a moment. "You dreamed of me and it was wet?"

"Yeah."

"Don't try to touch me like that again, Ric. I've got enough ego to be glad you think I'm that hot, but it isn't right. I'm an adult and you're a kid." He shakes his head. "I don't think I can stay here. I need to talk with your father."

If I have to settle for just looking at this stud and dreaming, I will. "Don't go, Wolf. I won't touch you any more."

He puts his hand on my shoulder. "I know Walters didn't give you any affection and you're probably confused about your sexuality, but I can't touch you, even if I wanted to. It's going to be hard for me to be around you all the time."

"When you get to know me, you think maybe you could put your arm around me and give me a hug?"

He nods. "We'll see."

I feel my eyes getting wet. "I love you, Wolf."

He gives me a little smile. "Get ready for breakfast."

After we eat, Wolf and my old man disappear into his study again. It's only a few minutes before I hear Wolf coming up the stairs. He taps on my door and opens it.

"Ric, I had another talk with your father. Despite my misgivings about staying on because of your sudden crush on me, he's convinced me to stay and told me to be your friend instead of your nursemaid."

"Hey! That's great!" I jump up and run to hug him.

"No." Wolf holds me at arm's length. "I'll try to be a good friend to you, Ric, but there are times when I'll be telling you what you can and can't do like now. You'll have to accept that I'm right and not question my decisions. Okay?"

"Yeah. I'm gonna make you love me, man, just like I love you."

"We'll see. I've got some calls to make and your father has given me permission to use his study. Think you can amuse yourself for about an hour?"

"Sure."

I search for some of the people I know, but none are on-line. Then I remember Rob's 3 hours behind us. Heck, I wouldn't be out of bed at 6 in the morning on a school break either. I pull up my pics and look to see if any are as hot as Wolf. None come close, so I gotta find a way to get his pic. I've got a little digital camera works great. Maybe he'll take me somewhere like to the beach for a day when it's warmer and I can get a shot of him in just his swimsuit. I gotta find a way to see all of him, though.

I hear a tap at my door. "It's open."

Wolf comes in with a smile. "Got some good news for you. Long as you don't tell your friend Rob any more than you already have, it's fine for you guys to chat as long as it's in private."

Great! Now I won't have to sneak chats with him. "Thanks, Wolf."

"I've got to go to the office, Ric. If I take you along, will you stay in the car and read or something until I'm finished? May take an hour or so."

"Sure."

"Here's your mail. You can take this along to read." He holds out the new issue of my computer magazine.

Walt drove a dark blue Ford, so I expected Wolf to have the same, but when he opens the garage door next to the one my old man uses you could knock me down with a feather. I'm looking at a super cool Mercedes SL sports car just like the one I saw on e-Bay and printed a picture of. It's white with a black leather interior and black hard top. I look at Wolf and go "Wow! Sure ain't like that clunker Walt drove."

Wolf grins. "Glad you approve. Quit drooling and help me drop the top."

Soon as he has the hard top off, he gets in and backs out of the drive. I love it when he shifts cause he puts his arm on the cross bar of the steering wheel and uses his hand to shift. In a part of town I've never been in before, he turns off the street into a drive and stops to use a card to open the gate into a ground level parking garage. He parks and gets out.

He points to a guard booth by the elevator door. "I'll go ask Earl if you can sit in the booth and read while I'm inside. Don't get out unless I call you."

"Okay."

A few seconds later I'm sitting in a chair in the guard booth. I'm glad I have the magazine, cause the guard don't talk and there's nothing else to do. I've about finished reading when Wolf taps on the window to the booth and the guard unlocks the door and lets me out. He only nods when Wolf thanks him.

"Sorry, I didn't think it would be quite so long. But I don't have to come back."

"What's in the box?" He's carrying a box about three feet long but not very big.

"Nothing, now. You don't see anything different?"

I look at him and shake my head.

Wolf smiles. "Thought you were more observant." He holds up his arm and there's a hook on the end.

"Hey, you got it."

"Finally. Glad to have it. Now I can cut my own meat at dinner."

"Goin' to let me see it?"

He holds it in front of my face. "Hook. See?"

I pretend to pout. "You know what I mean."

We get in his car. "I'll show it to you tonight, but you've got to promise never to mess with it."

"It's just some plastic and a hook and stuff, how can I hurt it?"

Wolf looks at me serious. "You can't hurt it, but it can hurt you bad and I don't want that. Promise?"

"I guess."

"No guess. What do you want to do now?"

"Go to a book store?"

Wolf grins. "Yeah. I like to read too. There's one I've been meaning to get. Just keep your mouth shut about the store, okay?"

"Sure."

Wolf finds a parking place and we put the ragtop up then walk down the street. I try to hold his hook, but he makes me walk on his right side. The store looks like any other from the outside then I see the name: Lambda Rising. Hot damn! I've always wanted to go in a gay bookstore but I didn't dare ask Walt.

A guy behind the counter says something to Wolf, but Wolf cuts him down quick, and asks about a book. The guy points to a display.

"Look around if you want," Wolf tells me. "I think you'll like what's on that rack." He points to a small rack near the middle of the store.

I find two hardbacks and three paperback books I want, then go over to look at the magazines. I see one looks good but like most of them, it's in a sealed plastic wrap. I try to see if I can open it, but a tattooed arm grabs it and slaps it back on the rack.

"Leave 'em alone," the big guy that was behind the counter growls, "you're too young."

He might have said more, but Wolf grabs his arm and twists it behind his back. "Keep your hands off the kid," he snaps. "He's my responsibility. Where's Jack?"

The big guy squirms a little, but Wolf puts more pressure on. "He don't come in 'til noon."

"You'd better learn to treat customers right or you'll be looking for another job." Wolf lifts the guy's arm until he yells, "Ouch!" then lets him go.

"I oughta kick your ass," the guy growls.

Wolf suddenly looks so grim he scares me. "Try it!"

The guy looks at Wolf and goes back to the cash register. Wolf puts his hand on my shoulder. "Got what you wanted?"

"Everything but that magazine, but I wanted to see inside first."

Wolf shakes his head. "You're under age. I'd get it for you, but you'd be disappointed. Get this one instead." He hands me one I didn't see, a copy of Devotee Quarterly. On the cover is printed: Special Male Amputee Issue.

"Thanks, Wolf."

He shakes his head. "The shrink at the hospital told me about you damn devs. Just my luck to have to babysit one. Let's get out of here before you get me in trouble."

Wolf actually starts to pay for my books, but I stop him. I have plenty of money. The old man gives me a fat allowance, but I don't get to go anywhere to spend it.

"Where to, buddy?" He asks when we're back in the car.

"You're asking me?" This sure ain't like with Walt, we'd have been headed home before now.

"Yeah. Why spend a nice day cooped up at home? Spending a day together should give me some idea of what you're like."

"Burger King?" I ask hopefully.

Wolf grins. "Why not?"

I can't believe it. Every time I asked Walt, he said I shouldn't eat junk food and we ate at home. I mean Annie cooks great, but a change once in a while is nice.

Wolf parks by a window so we can watch his car and we go in to eat. I giggle when he tries to pick up a fry in his hook and squishes it flat. "Shit," he says under his breath and puts his burger down so he can pick up the fries with his fingers. I like the way the plastic ends at his shirtsleeve cuff and the hook shines. I can see how he opens it with a cable that goes up his sleeve.

After we've eaten, I police up the trash and we go out. "What next?" Wolf asks me.

"I dunno."

"Let's cruise a little and maybe you'll think of something."

We're passing a mall near where I live when I see the sign for the multiplex. Last of the Mohicans is showing. I know it's old, but I never got to see it. I point to it. "Look."

"Which one?"

"Last of the Mohicans."

"You haven't seen it?"

"No."

"We can rent the video if you want and watch it at home."

"I wanna see it on a big screen. Please, Wolf."

He turns into the mall and parks close to the theatre entrance. I help him with the top, and we lock all our stuff in the boot. Sitting in the movie with him beside me, eating popcorn and sipping on a drink is like having a date. There's a cup holder on the arm of the seat, so I put my drink in it and reach for his hook.

"You like it that much?" He whispers.

"I wanna hold your hand, but you need it for your popcorn."

Several times he points to the screen and whispers to me that his home is near where the movie was made and it looks just like that. If it does, it's gotta be a beautiful place. I hope Wolf takes me to see it sometime.

We go home after the flick and I lay on my bed and look at the great pics in the magazine. I find Rob's on line and tell him all about my day. He tells me they don't say anything in the gay bookstore he goes to and he'll look for the magazine. He says he wishes we could spend a day together with Wolf cause he sounds so great.

When I'm ready to go to bed, I tap on Wolf's door and go in. He's got his briefs and a T-shirt on with the straps of the hook across his shoulders. He lets me touch it and shows me how it works. Again he tells me never to mess with it cause I could get hurt. I don't see how less I got my finger pinched in the prongs of the hook, but he's been so good to me today I promise.

"I love you, Wolf. This is the best day I ever had."

"I'm glad you had a good time. I enjoyed seeing the movie again and you're right, it looked lots better in the theater. Now get your scrawny butt in bed."

I start toward his, but he grabs my arm and spins me around. "Your own bed, guy," he says and swats me on the butt.

Wolf's turning out a lot nicer than I thought and every day for the rest of my break he finds something great for us to do. In six days I've been to more places I wanted to see and done more things I've wanted to do than ever in my life. I just wish old Walt had left long ago.

Monday Wolf drags my butt out of bed before my alarm even goes off and sticks me in the shower. "No fair," I complain.

"School," he says grinning. "Get going."

When we get to my school, some of the kids look Wolf and his car over and start asking questions the minute he drives off. I mean they're used to seeing me get out of Walt's old Ford. After I tell him about my spring break, the one guy who's sort of in the same fix I am says, "Damn, Ric, you get all the luck. Wish I could trade my nanny for your guy. She's a pure bitch."

I punch him on the arm. "Hey, after Walt I deserve a good guy."

"My old man would croak if he saw that hook though. He says cripples can't do their job good enough."

"Man, don't let Wolf hear you say that. He'll reach up your ass and turn you inside out. A guy in a book store grabbed a book out of my hands and Wolf damn near broke his arm."

"No shit! He looks tough."

Wolfs sets a routine for me so I know what to expect. I like not having to worry about getting up in the morning because he always drags me out of bed and into the shower. I wouldn't think he was being mean if he'd let me sleep then shower with him. It isn't because I don't try, but once Wolf's set a limit he won't let me go further so I give up to keep from pissing him off.

Has to be because of Wolf, but time goes by so fast I wonder if I've lost a few weeks of my life. We run some afternoons and blade on others, so I'm getting in shape. A few days after school's out Wolf tells me my old man wants me in his study and follows me down. Makes me wonder what's wrong, but I'll find out soon enough.

I look at him and can't believe he's actually smiling. It's his real smile, too, not the one I always see him paste on for parties. He really fakes me out when he opens a small bottle of sparkling wine and pours a glass for me, Wolf, and himself.

"Congratulations, son. You've made me very proud." 

Wolf grins. "I'm proud of you, also."

"How, sir?" I can't think of anything I've done.

"This," the old man says, holding out a form.

It's my grades for the year and I've made all A's and the dean's list. "Wow!"

"Wow, indeed!" My old man says, and he and Wolf touch their glasses to mine and we drink. After he sets his glass down, the old man actually puts his arm around my shoulders. "I couldn't be more pleased over the things Wolf has to say about you." He winks at me. "Perhaps we should have gotten rid of Walters earlier."

"I wish." I hug my dad. "Thank you, sir. Wolf is great."

"I think so, too. I'm glad he's decided to stay with us."

I back off, scared to death, and look at Wolf. "You were gonna leave?"

"Remember I told you I wouldn't have come here if I'd had any choice because I didn't like kids? My boss called yesterday and offered me another position, it was  a desk job. He said I could take it, stay here, or take retirement." Wolf puts his hand on my shoulder and squeezes. "I told him there was no way I could leave you, Ric."

"I'm glad. I want you here forever."

"So do I, son," my old man says. "What would you like to do this summer?"

"Could we go to the beach for a week or two?"

"I have to be away for much of the summer, but whatever you and Wolf work out is fine as long as I'm informed of your plans. I have no worries with him around."

"Thank you, sir." My dad pats me on the back and Wolf and I leave.

In my room Wolf sits down and looks at me. "Let's make a summer of it, buddy. What would you think of two weeks at a beach in North Carolina and then two more weeks or so at my cabin in the mountains. I'll show you where Last of the Mohicans was filmed."

"Sounds great."

Wolf stands up. "Then I'd better get busy. Most of the good places at the beach are already rented."

About time for me to go to bed, Wolf comes back. "What do you say to a month at the beach, kid?"

"A month? Super!"

Wolf grins. "You're in luck. You won't have to eat my cooking because a cook and cleaning woman comes with the place. It belongs to a friend of your father's. Tomorrow we pack because the place is ours starting Sunday, so get to bed."

I hug him and get don't get pushed away.

Wolf says we need some books for rainy days, so he takes me back to Lambda Rising. This time there's a younger guy behind the counter.

"Hi, Alex," he says to Wolf then cocks an eye at me.

"It's okay, Jack. He's my responsibility."

"If you say so. You're looking great, man."

"Thanks. How's Billy?"

"Got promoted, so we moved to a larger apartment. Sure miss seeing you around."

Wolf winks at him and nods toward me. "They put me to babysitting."

I punch him on the arm as hard as I can.

"Ow!" Wolf bends nearly double and pretends to be hurt. He's rubbing his arm with the hook. "This juvenile delinquent keeps beating up on a poor one-armed guy. See, what a cripple has to put up with just so's he can eat regular?"

The guy behind the counter is rolling in laughter. "Kid's gonna be a juvenile delinquent for sure with you tending him," he gasps out.

"Go find a book, kid," Wolf tells me and slaps me on the butt.

---0---

The house Wolf has found at the beach is right on the ocean front. Soon as we're there, he changes into sandals and a Speedo. Now I can get some awesome pics of him.

He grabs a towel and grins at me. "Ocean's waitin', kid. Let's go."

The water seems cold at first, but it gets warmer once you're in. Now I'm glad old Walt taught me to swim, cause Wolf swims like a fish. We play around some then lay on the beach blanket. With the sun setting, the wind gets cool, so we head back to the house.

Wolf puts his arm around me like I dream he does. "Having a good time, buddy?"

I put my arm around his waist and we walk along. "The best."

Wolf says the cook is excellent, but the food tastes twice as good as it does at home so I pig out. Wolf laughs and tells me to stoke up cause I won't be eating so good at his place.

The next week some people with a couple of guys about my age rent the cottage next door. We start tossing a basketball around until Wolf sets up a tennis net in the yard. I get a lot of exercise with the guys, but they leave at the end of the week. Wolf doesn't let me get bored, cause he takes me to pIaces I read about in history like the hill the first airplane flew off. We see The Lost Colony and climb a couple of lighthouses. That was really fun and you could see forever from the top. I even get to see how the men at the old lifesaving station took people off wrecks.

It goes so fast Wolf blows me away when he says we gotta pack and leave tomorrow morning. I hate to go, but I can tell he wants to see his home again.

We get our stuff in his car, tip the cook, and hit the road. Wolf says it's about an eight hour drive, but once he's on the freeway he lets the Mercedes out. We float along until he pulls off the freeway and drives into a small town to a shacky looking place.

"Best Bar-B-Que anywhere, kid. Get the sandwich, cause it's fantastic."

I don't know what to expect and for a minute I think the waitress has set a hamburger down in front of me with iced tea then I see it's a lot bigger bun. There's a thick layer of shredded meat and another of yellow slaw. Poor Wolf is having a tough time trying to pick his up with one hand. I see why when I pick mine up. It's a lot thicker than I thought.

"Uuum, good," I say after a bite.

Wolf's got the top off his sandwich and is shaking something from a little bottle on it. "Want some of this?" He asks.

"What is it?"

"Hot pepper sauce. Makes it good."

"No way. I don't like pepper."

"Wish I had a beer," Wolf says after a swig of tea.

"Get one."

"Not when I'm driving and they don't serve beer here."

I thought Wolf was nuts when he told me I couldn't eat but one sandwich, but I'm full by the time I finish.

"I hope we can eat here again," I tell Wolf as we're getting up.

"We won't be coming anywhere near here again unless it's next summer."

"Aaaw. Any way we can take a sandwich with us?"

"Great idea." He points to a store across the street. "I saw some styrofoam coolers in their window. Go get a small one and a bag of ice."

I do, and Wolf packs in four containers and ices them down. "Good thinking, kid."

I'm tired of riding when Wolf stops in a small town and buys some groceries. We have to cram the bags behind the seats cause the boot is full. The sun is setting when Wolf turns off the highway onto a dirt road that's almost hidden in the trees. A minute or two later he stops in front of a log cabin with a broad porch.

"This is it, Ric. Help me get the shutters open to air the place out and we'll get the stuff out of the car later." He shows me how to raise the window and screen then unlatch the shutters and swing them back against the house until the latch catches to hold them open. While I'm doing that, he's turning on the electricity and starting the water pump.

It's after we've gotten our stuff from the car I have a chance to look around. There's a long leather sofa and a couple of chairs facing the stone fireplace. On the floor is a big rug with some kind of design in it. On one wall is a desk, and at the far end of the room is a dining table and chairs. I saw the kitchen, two bedrooms, and bath when I was opening the shutters. 

Now that it's dark, it feels kind of spooky. I mean in town there's always lots of noise, and there was plenty at the beach with boom boxes and partying, but I can't see a single light anywhere and it's so quiet you can almost hear your heart beating.

Wolf comes up beside me. "Like it?"

I get close to him as I can. "It's too quiet."

He smiles. "That's what I like. This is the only place I can be myself, think my thoughts, and not get interrupted by anything outside. It's not always this quiet, though. Pretty soon the crickets and frogs will start up."

When I finally crawl out of bed the next morning and wobble to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, I'm instantly awake. Wolf hasn't got on anything but a pair of moccasins and some kind of flap of cloth hanging down in front and back.

He grins. "So sleeping beauty finally got up."

"Yeah. What's that?" I point to the cloth.

"Breechclout. It's what young Indians wear in summer."

I shake my head. "You mean you don't wear jeans at home?"

Wolf laughs. "We all do, but I wanted you to see real Indian clothes and I like to wear this in hot weather." He holds out his arms and spins around. "Ta da! What'cha see is what'cha get, kid."

He's sexier than ever. "I wish."

He grins. "Tough. Sit and I'll rustle us up something to eat. Oh, yeah, buddy, don't go wandering around outside unless I'm with you. There're rattlesnakes around."

"No way." I hate snakes with a passion.

I wash the dishes from lunch. By the time I finish, Wolf is stretched out in his chair asleep. I get my camera and take a picture of him cause I'm bettin' Rob's never seen a guy wearing a breechclout before. Now he can really see how beautiful Wolf is. I wish I dared flip his breechclout back, but I know the second anyone gets near Wolf when he's sleeping, he wakes up ready to fight.

I thought I might get bored out of my tiny mind, but even with no people around Wolf keeps me busy. We run in the early morning, he teaches me to fish in a  stream near his cabin, and takes me to interesting places. We make a trip to the reservation where he shows me the Indian museum and that night we see the outdoor play Unto These Hills. It's so late we spend the night in a motel.

Another day he takes me to Biltmore House. That place is so big I can't begin to imagine people really living there and calling it home. It takes us all day to see the most interesting parts of it. In the dining room there's a player organ in the balcony. Wolf tells me that was so people could have music before radio and record players.

After we've eaten breakfast one morning, Wolf tells me to put on jeans instead of my shorts, cause we're going to see a very old man he says is a medicine man. Wolf has on jeans, too.

"Let him do all the talking, Ric. You can answer if he asks you a question. If you want to be real polite, you will greet him as grandfather."

I thought Wolf's cabin was off the road, but this has got to be a mile or more away from everything. When we get there, I see the little house is kind of rundown. I follow Wolf to the open door. He stops there and waits. Finally a quavery old voice says "Come, Little Wolf. Bring other person."

The room is dark and junky, but I see an old man sitting in a chair by the fire. He's all wrinkled and dark, his hair is white, and his eyes are milky so I know he's blind. Makes me wonder how he knew it was Wolf.

"O'siyo grandfather," Wolf says quietly. "You have not forgotten. My heart is glad."

The old man nods. "My eyes no longer see, but your aura is strong, Little Wolf." He turns his head in my direction. "He who comes with you has aura of young white man."

"That is so, grandfather. I seek your wisdom."

The old man slowly nods again. "The young one's heart cries out for you, Little Wolf. In your heart is the same longing. Why do you not show your love?"

"It is not lawful, grandfather."

"Young one is old enough to be a man. The law is wrong, my son. Your needs are great and you had no contentment until you came to the young one."

Wolf shakes his head. "To break the law will mean prison and likely death for me, and a ruined life for him. I cannot do that, grandfather."

The old man seems to look into the little fire for a few minutes. Wolf stands quietly and motions for me to be still when I shuffle my feet. At last the old man speaks.

"The spirits say your love will not be known to others if you use care. I see you protecting young one. It will come when the winds blow cold. You will need special thing that is now your hand."

Wolf motions for me to leave and he follows without saying anything else to the old man.

"Why didn't you tell him goodbye?" I ask when we're in the car.

"Because that would mean we would not see each other again."

I've got ten thousand questions, but I can tell from his expression Wolf won't talk about it now. In fact, he doesn't say much at all for the rest of the day, so I read one of the books we got.

It's the next afternoon when Wolf calls me to sit next to him on the sofa and puts his arm around my shoulders.

"I have to tell you something, Ric. Grandfather has great wisdom, but he's handed me a problem without a solution."

"How?"

"You heard him say my heart cries for you. I could not hide it from him, but I've kept it from you as best I can. I love you very much, Ric. I had no family until you. Seeing all the ways you've tried to love me turned a job I thought I would hate into one that's almost worth what it took to get it. Old grandfather knew your feelings for me and mine for you and said it was wrong to deny our feelings because of the law."

"I told you."

Wolf shakes his head. "Ric, you don't fully realize the problem. You saw the papers and TV news last week about the pedophile priests and the penalty the teacher got for molesting a boy. I can tell you that a child molester won't have a chance in prison."

"Why?"

Wolf shakes his head. "Even murderers have some scruples. Any one who molests a young child will be killed by other prisoners as soon as the word gets out."

"Oh."

"The law doesn't see any distinction between a child molested against his will, or the child who wants to freely love an adult. It's all the same crime and the adult is always guilty."

"That's what grandfather meant when he said the law is wrong."

"Yes, but it's still the law." Wolf hugs me closer and kisses me on the forehead. "I do love you, Ric. I want make love to you so much it hurts, but the risk is too great and I can't share grandfather's belief that we won't get caught." Wolf sits up and wipes his eyes. "Go with me on this, love. When you're of age, if you still feel the same, we can be together in every way."

Now I'm crying, too. "I love you, Wolf. I'll try to be good. I just wish I could sleep with you at night."

"I'll go that far while we're up here, Ric, but no funny stuff."

"Can I do this?" I pull his arm up and rub it against my cheek then kiss it on the end.

"Why?"

"It's so beautiful."

He shakes his head.

"Honest, Wolf." I kiss him, but his kiss is on my forehead as usual. I finally see him naked one morning. He's fantastic looking and it makes me jealous to see he's not cut. His skin is long and I'd love to play with it, but I know it's not in the cards.

I can't describe how wonderful it feels to feel Wolf's arms around me as I go to sleep feeling safe and loved, so I won't try, but it makes our last few days fly by.

"I see why you love it up here so much," I say to Wolf as we drive away, beginning our trip home.

"I'm glad you understand, Ric. There's more beauty in silence than in noise. I hope you've enjoyed your summer."

"Man, you won't ever know. It's been the best time of my life."

He puts his hand on my knee. "I'm glad. Having you with me has made it special for me, too. You're the greatest, Ric."

---0---

I have about two weeks before school starts again. I wake in the middle of the night needing to take a leak. When I finish I push open the door to Wolf's room. We leave our doors open so whichever of us needs the bath knows it's free. There's a bright moon and I can see him stretched out on top of the sheet. I knew

from the cabin he sleeps raw in the summer.

In the moonlight he looks so peaceful and gorgeous I slip into his room and lay down beside him. He rolls over without waking, his stump lands on my chest. I lift it enough to kiss and stroke gently. When he doesn't wake I reach down and carefully lift his meat so I can see.

His eyes pop open. "What the hell!" He grabs my arm so tight it hurts. When he turns the light on and sees it's me, he shakes his head. "Why, Ric?"

"I miss sleeping beside you like I did at your cabin and having you holding me. I I just wanted to touch you."

"Get in your own bed. We'll talk about this tomorrow," he says harshly. He gets up and pushes me toward my room then I hear him taking a leak.

He isn't smiling at breakfast and Annie doesn't talk cause she can tell from his face he's not happy about something. After breakfast he follows me up to my room and shuts the door.

"Damn it, Ric, I thought we talked this out after what the old grandfather said and agreed you wouldn't try anything until you're eighteen."

I can't help the tears that start down my face. "I I love you so much, Wolf. I just wanted to see it up close."

He comes over and sits on my bed beside me, putting his stump around my shoulders. I lift it around so I can kiss it.

"Ric, I love you, too, but I can't do what you want or let you. Look at your pictures and jerk off if you want to. I'll see if I can find someone near your age for you to enjoy."

"You're the only one I want, Wolf." I know he won't let me kiss him on the mouth so I kiss his stump again.

He looks sad. "I know, but no way."

Wolf can always surprise me. Friday night after school starts, he tells me we're going to visit a youth group. I don't much want to go, but Wolf says he'll be with me and I don't have to stay if I don't want to. My mouth drops open when a guy not much older than me welcomes me and Wolf to the gay and lesbian students group. I look up at Wolf and he nods.

There's maybe twenty kids there, some older than me, some younger. Two guys seem to run the meeting and program, then it breaks up for soda and cookies. The guys that talk to me are real nice. The only other adult there is a guy about Wolf's age. He and Wolf are sitting at the back of the room talking together and don't bother us.

During the meeting the guys talk about one of their friends who's gotten hurt, a discussion about a dance over Thanksgiving, and a Christmas party. One of the guys asks me if I have a boyfriend to bring to the dance. When I tell him yes and point to Wolf, his eyes get big.

"I mean a guy your age. We have adults as chaperones because it's required, that's all. No adult/kid stuff," he says.

"One in California, but no way we can get together. I really love Wolf though. I " I have to stop to wipe a tear, "I wish he'd let us make love."

The guy I'm talking to shakes his head. "That's heavy, man. What if you got caught?"

"That's what Wolf says."

"I wish Mickey wasn't in the hospital. He's your age and hasn't got a steady. He'd love to go to the dance with you. I bet you'd like him."

"I don't know how to dance."

"That's okay. Now he can't dance either, poor bastard. Maybe he'll be back before then and you can meet him."

"Okay." I can't tell him Wolf's got to approve of everything before I can do it cause he'll want to know why and I can't tell him. I don't really know myself, it's just the way it always has been.

"Well?" Wolf asks me on the way home.

"Not bad. The guys were nice enough. John was trying to fix me up."

Wolf grins. "Be good for you. Who's the victim?"

"Some kid named Mickey. He's in the hospital."

"John didn't tell you anything else?"

"Don't think he knew. Nobody uses their last name."

"Gary, the guy I was talking to, is the adult sponsor and a teacher. He seems like a good guy and runs a tight ship. If you want to go back, I'll check 'em out more thoroughly."

"Good enough. At least it's guys my own age and they're gay."

A few nights later Wolf comes in my room and hands me an envelope. "Take a look."

It's a photo of a guy makes my head spin he's so beautiful. He's got black curly hair, thin face, and as best I can tell, a great bod. If I wasn't in love with Wolf I'd bed him fast as possible, cause he looks like what I'd bet Wolf looked like when he was a kid.

When I look up at Wolf, he's grinning. "You're going to like him even better when you see him in person."

"Why?"

Wolf laughs. "Don't you want to be surprised?"

I jump up and try to grab him. "No!"

Wolf lets me pretend I'm winning for a minute then easily slips out of my hold. "They didn't tell you why he's in the hospital?"

"No. Tell me!"

"He's out of the hospital, but going every day for therapy and treatment for depression. They took his foot off."

I fall flat on my bed. I can't believe what Wolf said. "For real?"

He nods.

"I wish I could meet him."

"I'll arrange it if you want. I know his parents are desperate because Mickey believes nobody will want him around with his foot gone."

"Man, I gotta see 'im. Please, Wolf."

When Wolf picks me up at school on Friday, he heads away from our house. I start to ask, but he looks at me. "Hope you're ready to go visiting."

"Who?"

"Mickey. His mother seemed real pleased when I told her you wanted to meet him. She knows he's gay and talked to Gary. He put in a good word for you. She did say that Mickey may yell if you go in his room cause he doesn't want to see anybody."

"I can yell louder than him, I'll bet."

"You would, too."

"Only if he's good looking as you."

"God, I get to baby-sit a perverted kid tries to put the make on every amp he sees."

"Only when they look like you. I wouldn't even have to go through this if you'd let me love you."

"Save it for Mickey, kid. He's your age, but a few months older."

The house Wolf stops in front of is a nice brick in a good subdivision. We get out and go to the door. It's opened by nice looking woman. "Yes?"

"I'm Alex Wolf and this is my ward Ric Nordwall."

She opens the door. "Do come in. I'm delighted to meet you. It's so kind of you to come see Michael. I'll show you up."

"Just Ric, ma'am."

She nods. "Of course. We'll have coffee while they visit."

Wolf smiles. "Ric may get a little loud."

She smiles. "Louder than Michael, I hope."

She leads me upstairs and knock on a door. "Michael, there's a young man from the group to see you."

"Go away!" He yells.

She smiles at me. "Just go ahead in and I'll go down. Call if you need anything."

I wait 'til she's started down the stairs then push the door open. This is one time a picture wasn't near as good as the real thing. Mickey is drop dead gorgeous. He's sitting in a wheelchair with a robe around his legs.

"What the hell you want?" He snarls.

I walk over to him and hold out my hand. "I'm Ric and I wanted to meet you, cause I'm making you my date for the Thanksgiving dance."

He ignores my hand and glares at me. "Fuck your date. If I could dance I wouldn't be in this fucking chair, would I?"

My grin seems to piss him off even more. "I can't dance either but, damn it, we could have fun. The guys seem real nice."

"They draft your ass to come lure the cripple out so they can feel sorry for him?"

"Hell, no. I don't see no cripple."

"Damn you're stupid!" He flips the robe off so I can see his right foot is gone. "Happy now?"

I give him my best smile. "I sure am. You're the sexiest looking stud I've ever seen, 'cept for Wolf."

"Sexy? You're sick. Who wants a guy like me?"

"You want to find out?"

"You man enough to make me?"

"I don't want to hurt you."

"Ha! Scared I'll whip your ass even with one leg? Come on, cause you won't hurt my leg if that's what's worrying you."

I pull off my sweater and flex my arms. "You asked for it."

I walk over and grab his hands pulling him up. He stumbles trying to get his foot on the floor, then tries to push me away. I swing him around and push him back onto his bed, then hold his hands down and lay my best kiss on him. Suddenly he stops struggling and starts kissing me back. We sit up still in a clinch and I slip his robe and pyjama top off. We fall back and my hands stroke his awesome body. When he starts to gasp for breath I sit back up and look at him while running my finger through the black hair on his chest. He pulls up and I slip the pillows behind his back.

"I didn't hurt you did I?" I ask.

He shakes his head looking awed. "Who the hell are you, dude?"

I hold my hand out again. "Ric. John told me I'd like you and you don't have a steady, so I'm staking my claim. We're going to the Thanksgiving dance together if I have to drag your ass there. Got it?"

"Come 'ere." He grabs me and gives me a fantastic kiss, then turns me loose. "I gotta show you something." He pulls up his pyjama leg so I can see the bandage on his stump. Looks like they cut his foot off just above the ankle.

He jumps when I reach down and rub it on the end. "Man, I can't wait to see it without that bandage. You'll look awesome on crutches." I look at my watch. "Shit, Wolf's gonna be yelling for me any time." I lean over and kiss him again. "Next time it ain't just gonna be kissing, stud."

"You don't care?" He asks in a shaky voice.

"Hell, no! I hope Wolf comes back up so you can see how awesome he looks with only one hand. You're the only other stud near hot as he is."

"Why"

"Why what?"

"Why do you think my my " he can't say it, "makes me hot?"

I shrug. "Dunno know, but Wolf can tell us." I walk over to the door and call him.

He comes in with a big smile. "Hi, Mickey. Boy, you're a hot stud. I'm surprised Ric hasn't raped you yet, hard up as he stays."

This time Mickey blushes.

"So what you want, guys?" Wolf asks.

"How come I get hard every time I see a guy's stump?"

"Whoa! That's a tough one." Wolf runs his fingers through his hair. "I told you I'd find out if I didn't know the answer and I don't. I'll do my best to find out and let you know. Anything else?"

When I shake my head, he says, "Then we'd better get going. You using crutches yet, Mickey?"

"Some, but not real good."

"That's okay. Ric and I are gonna come by and take you to dinner some night soon."

Mickey shakes his head. "Don't wanna go out on crutches."

"Bullshit!" I howl. "You'll look so sexy on 'em and Wolf with his hook, I'll have to fight every bitch in the place."

Mickey giggles and looks at Wolf's hook. "Damn! I thought Ric was joking."

"I wish he were, but he's not. I feel sorry for you, because you'll be fighting him off every time you're together."

Mickey giggles again. "Long as it's like the fight we just had."

"Yeah." I kiss him again then look at Wolf. "We better go or you'll be going home alone."

"Not a chance." He grabs my arm and pretends to drag me out. Mickey's still laughing.

His mother is at the bottom of the stairs. She hugs me soon as I'm down. "Thank you so much, Ric. That's the first time Michael has laughed since the accident. Please come back soon."

"I'm afraid you're going to find you have a pest on your hands if you invite him back," Wolf tells her.

"It'll be worth it just to hear Michael laugh. Come back any time, Ric."

"I'm going to try, but Wolf has to bring me."

"I'll call you next week," Wolf tells her. "Ric and I will be taking Mickey out to dinner. He said he could use crutches well enough."

She staggers back and sits down. "He wants to do what?" She gasps.

"Go to dinner with Wolf and me. Please let him go, cause I think he's awesome."

"Yes, yes, yes." She stands back up. "If you can get him out of this house, please do."

"We will. After dinner we may go to the group meeting as well, or back to our house. Whatever he and Ric want to do."

"How'd it go?" Wolf asks me when we're in the car.

"He's sure hot. I snatched his ass up and threw him on the bed and kissed hell out of 'im." I remember and giggle. "He sure surrendered fast. Wish we'd had more time, kissing ain't all we'd done."

Wolf's fantastic as always. "If you bring him home I'll see that you have some privacy."

"Great."

The next Friday evening about six-thirty we pull up at Mickey's and I go to the door. Mickey opens it looking like a model. He's got on black slacks and a gray sweater. I give him a quick kiss before he yells, "I'm gone."

"Have a good time." I hear his mother call back.

I help him down the three steps and he makes it to the car easily. I take his crutches when he's seated.

"Where're you sitting?" He asks. Wolf's car has two bucket seats.

"Behind you. I'll hold your crutches so you can't get away." I vault over the low side of the car and sit on an old cushion from home. It's chilly, but the heater's good, so we're comfortable with the top down.

The restaurant Wolf picked is nice enough that he has to argue with the maitre d' because we don't have on ties and coats. We finally get a table near the back. "They've gotten picky," Wolf says.

Wolf orders a drink and something that's super good but non-alcoholic for Mickey and me. While we're waiting, I use my foot to play footsie with Mickey's stump. He draws it away at first, then grins at me and plays the game. We start to giggle and Wolf frowns at us.

"I hope you're not doing what I think you are."

"Depends on your dirty mind," I say.

"Oh, my God!" He says. "We'll not only get thrown out of here, but thrown in jail. Cool it until you get to the house."

"Foreplay's fun any time," Mickey retorts.

Wolf shakes his head. "I thought I was doing myself a favor when I took Ric to see you. I didn't know you were just as bad or worse."

"Man, you gotta be young to enjoy sex." Mickey surprises me with this one.

"Young man," Wolf says to Mickey, "Ric has been begging to get his butt beat. Keep it up and you'll be joining him."

Mickey shakes his head. "Not a chance. I'm not into kinky stuff like that."

Wolf looks blasted. I have to laugh at how neatly Mickey has turned the teasing on him. I don't know what might have been said next if the waiter hadn't come with our dinners just then.

We all ordered lobster and I figured I'd have to help Wolf, but he has less trouble than me getting the tail meat out of the shell. Mickey winks at me, makes sure Wolf sees him fork a piece of tail meat, dunk it in the melted butter, and eat it. then smacks his lips. "Mmmm, that was great piece of tail."

Wolf almost chokes on his tea, then looks sternly at Mickey. "You've had your fun, kid, now behave or I won't ever let you near Ric again until you learn to behave in public. Understood?"

"Yes, sir." Mickey sounds contrite, but I know he's not. Anyway, he behaves the rest of the time. It's a great meal; I'm stuffed when it's over.

"Where to, guys?" Wolf asks when we're back in the car.

"Home, James." I say.

"Home, James, your ass. You guys don't want to go to the meeting?"

"We want time together," I say nicely.

"I wonder why I guessed that." Wolf says as he drives off.

"You have to be home by 11, so I'll let you know when it's time to leave, Mickey. You guys behave or have fun, whichever comes first," Wolf says and shuts the door to my room.

Seems like we've just gotten in my bed when Wolf's banging on my door and telling Mickey to get ready to go home. Neither one of us wanted to try the real heavy stuff in back, but we sure made lots of love facing each other. I'm almost exhausted. I help Mickey get dressed, but he's sure doesn't look like he did when we picked him up. I don't either. If Wolf would let Mickey sit on my lap we could smooch, but he makes me get in back. I just get a quick kiss when I help Mickey to the door.

When I get back in the car, I let out a big sigh and say, "Thanks, Wolf. It was a great evening I won't forget."

"I hope you guys were careful."

"We didn't do anything like that. Mickey don't like it and I don't either."

Wolf pats my shoulder. "I'm glad. You guys are a little young for some things. It's better to be safe than sorry when your life's on the line. Mickey's sure a wise-ass. His mother would be shocked."

I shake my head. "She'd be glad. Mickey said he had more fun than before. You know."

"I'm proud of you for that, too. No one but you could have gotten away with what you did. In fact, you're the only one I know with enough balls to have done it."

I punch him on the arm. "You're just hoping I'll be so happy having sex with Mickey I won't be buggin' you."

"Something like that. Even if you fall in love with him, remember I still love you, Ric."

"I love you, too. I always will."

Next morning Mickey calls me before I've even had breakfast. "Hey, baby, I sure had fun last night. I got the grand inquisition when I got home, but it was worth it. That Wolf is sure one cool dude, you're lucky to have him around. Bet you my mom's gonna call him before the day's over. Gotta go, breakfast." He hangs up and I haven't gotten a single word out. Wolf won't believe it.

Like Mickey figured. It's not long before Wolf comes up to my room. "Mickey's mother is certainly pleased about last night. She says it's all due to your being a good influence on him and his seeing I don't care who sees my stump or hook."

"You gonna take me over there sometime this week?"

"Not until Friday. He goes back to school Monday and has a lot of work to catch up. Won't hurt you to do a little studying either." He hugs me. "You piss me off sometimes, Ric, but you're a damn good kid. I love you."

I hug him back. "Love you, too."

That night I lay awake for a while thinking how lucky I've been this past year. I get a great looking and loving guy with one hand for a nanny and a cute one-footed guy my age for a lover. The only thing could be better would be to have Mickey going to the same school as me. But if he did, I know my grades would fall if we had classes together.

Though the dance is informal, Wolf drives my old man's BMW sedan so Mickey and I will have plenty of room and I won't mess up my clothes before we get there. I must look silly as hell when Mickey opens the door and I see him, cause he starts to laugh, then calls to his mother that if he doesn't come home, he'll be staying with me. He hands me his crutches and says he's taking them just in case. I walk beside him as he walks to our car with a slight limp. I open the back door and he gets in, me beside him.

"You're doing great with the leg," Wolf says.

"Gotta get used to it, but it's nice not to have to use crutches all the time." He looks at my expression. "Don't cha like it?"

"No." I say flatly.

"Why?"

"Cause you and Wolf ain't half as sexy when your stumps don't show."

Mickey looks surprised until Wolf says "I forgot to give you that information on devotees, Mickey. Remind me to do it after the dance."

"I sure will. I wanna find out what makes this guy tick."

Wolf laughs. "If you find out, let me know."

A sudden thought hits me. "I can tell you."

"What?" They both ask at the same time.

"Being trapped in a car with two wild predators."

"Huh?" Mickey says. Wolf's just looking puzzled.

"Yeah. A Wolf and a Fox both after my fantastic bod."

Mickey growls and pretends to launch himself at me. Wolf's chuckling. "In your dreams! If I weren't driving, I'd get you for that," he says.

Mickey gets a big welcome from the guys at the center. John looks at me and grins when I put my arm around Mickey to stake my claim. We have a great time and Mickey even drags me on the floor for a slow dance. He shows me the simple steps and it's not hard following him, though he steps on my feet a few times. What feels best is having our arms around each other dancing cheek to cheek.

Mickey says he's tired and his stump's beginning to hurt a little, so I find Wolf and he takes us home. I get the overnight bag and Mickey's crutches from the car to make sure he stays.

He takes his leg off. "That feels better," he says. He props up on pillow in my bed, so I fix a place for me. Wolf brings us some popcorn and soda, and we settle in to watch The Edge of Seventeen. It's a gay flick Wolf bought from e-Bay for me. Next thing I know the sun is shining and Wolf is standing beside my bed looking at us.

He smiles when he sees my eyes are open. "You guys are sure handsome together. Have a good night?"

"I don't know. I went to sleep before the movie was over."

Wolf nods. "I know. I had to undress both you turkeys and turn the TV off. No rush to get up. I won't fix breakfast until you do."

We take it easy all day. Mickey's mother finally calls to see when he's coming home. Wolf takes the phone and says he'll bring him immediately, but she says she has to go into town and will pick him up in about an half hour. It's a little less when we hear her car horn out front. I kiss Mickey goodbye, but it surprises Wolf when Mickey hugs him and gives him a kiss on the cheek.

"What was that for?" Wolf asks him.

"Just for being a great guy." He goes out carrying his bag and crutches. Wolf's smiling.

---0---

A few days later Wolf suggests that we go Christmas shopping after I get out of school. I hadn't given it much thought since it was no big thing to Walt and my old man wasn't home a lot of times, but I figure I gotta get Wolf something and Mickey, too. Maybe something for my old man, that's all.

It's warm enough so a sweater is all I need. Wolf questions me about Mickey. We look at jewelry, but what I see doesn't say love, or screams it so loud you'd have to be the village idiot not to know if a guy's wearing it he's gay. Wolf spots some heavy silver ID bracelets. They're really masculine, but Wolf suggests I can have the back engraved with 'I love you' and my initials. That way nobody will catch on. While I'm waiting for the engraving, I see Wolf staring at something and go to see. It's a beautiful fountain pen. I didn't think anyone used them any more, but Wolf says a few important men like my father still do and suggests I get him one when I tell him dad was swearing because his pen leaked in his pocket the last time he was home.

The clerk takes it from the case and hands it to Wolf. He's practically drooling as he looks at it. Wolf writes beautifully, unlike my hen scratch. I figure this is a problem solved, but the $350 price tag makes me choke.

"Why's it cost so much?" I ask Wolf while the clerk is wrapping it.

"Montblancs are the world's best pens. They have a lifetime warranty, and some are limited editions. Those can cost as much as five thousand dollars. This is a Meisterstuck pen. It's excellent quality and may gain a little in value, but it's not a collector's item or rare."  

"But it isn't even gold or silver."

Wolf smiles at me. "It's not always what you can see that makes value. Sometimes it's the workmanship you can't see. That's why my hook is so valuable to me."

"Oh."

Wolf says he needs to run to another store and will be right back. Soon as he's gone, I call the clerk over and buy another pen for Wolf. The clerk looks surprised, but happy. I know I can afford it and the rest of the stuff I need. I ask him to wrap it and put it in the bag with the pen I got for dad and the ID I got for Mickey, so Wolf won't see three packages and ask questions.

When we go out to get the car, it's dark. Wolf tells me to stick close because we're parked behind the mall. It's really dark because some of the security lights are out. Suddenly I'm grabbed from behind and a hand goes over my mouth. I drop my bag. Wolf hears my grunt and turns then drops his.

A gruff voice says, "Gimmie your money." I feel something sharp poke me in the back. I try to move, but the man says, "Not you, kid. Your old man."

Guess it's so dark he can't tell how old Wolf is or he don't care.

I see Wolf motion for me to get to one side if I can, then he points his hook at the guy. "I got an artificial arm, so I gotta reach with my right hand."

"Don't play no games or the kid gets it."

Wolf nods slightly and I go limp, instantly dropping to the pavement. I hear a little puffing sound and the man's lying half on top of me and not moving. Wolf helps me up and I see him bend over the man and pull something from his coat. Wolf picks up our bags and we run for his car. Once we're inside, Wolf turns on a little light and asks me to help him take his hook off.

"We got time? I mean that guy might come after us."

Wolf laughs. "He'll probably be there tomorrow morning if security doesn't find him. He's gonna hurt like hell for a few days anyway."

I hold his coat and shirt and take the hook when he shrugs out of the harness. I see tiny wires coming out of the two little holes in the plastic part where the hook screws in.

"Careful," Wolf says, reaching for the hook.

I watch him open a little hatch in the side of the plastic part just below where his stump ends. He takes out a little black plastic thing and pulls the two tiny wires back through the two tiny holes in the plastic part of his arm.

"What's that?"

He smiles. "Secret weapon. It's a taser gun, but I had it adapted to fit my hook. That's why I didn't want you messing with it. When I fired it, these two little darts came out and the needles stuck into his chest. He got hit with fifty thousand volts of electricity."

"It didn't kill him?"

"Not unless he has heart problems. It shorts out the nerves for a while so he loses consciousness and can't move. When he recovers, his muscles will be so sore from the contractions, he won't feel like moving even when he can." He starts the motor.

"You just gonna leave 'im?"

"Yeah. Somebody'll find him. If he dies there's no way anybody can trace my taser even if they figure out what it was. Police tasers have an identity marker, but I had that removed." He leans over and kisses me on the forehead. "You're important, not him. I'm just doing my job even though I would because I love you."

It's the first time I realize Wolf's real job is to protect me so nobody can kidnap me and find out something from the old man. Makes me a little sorry I didn't appreciate Walt more, but like Wolf said, he's doing it because he loves me. That sure makes a difference.

I'm still shook when we get home. I hug Wolf and say, "Thanks, man."

"All part of the day's work." He slaps me on the butt. "Take your stuff upstairs and get ready for dinner."

Before I can move the phone rings. I answer, then say "Hi, Mickey. What's up?" I hold up a finger for Wolf to wait. "His mom wants to talk to you." I pass him the phone.

Wolf listens, then hands the phone back to me, and nods. "See ya Friday evening, then." I make a kissing sound. "Love you."

Wolf's grinning. "I didn't think it was necessary to ask if you wanted to go."

"You going, too?"

"Annie needs a day off this close to Christmas and Mrs. Fox was kind enough to invite me."

"But " I start to object.

Wolf grins. "Don't sweat it, I'm not into threesomes. I'll talk to Mickey's parents while you guys have fun."

"If you were into a twosome, I wouldn't even go."

"Oh, I could be. Just not with someone young as you."

"I know, damn it." I pick up my bags and give him my disappointed look. 

Dinner at Mickey's is great. We are each served a half a small baked chicken and there's lots of veggies. I love cauliflower with cheese sauce and this sauce has a real bite to it. Wish Annie could find cheese this good. Mickey turns up his nose at it, but eats plenty of peas. They're good, too, with mushrooms in them. But everyone looks at me when I carefully skin my chicken. I'd love to pick up the leg with my fingers.

I feel a little self-conscious. "Sorry, Mrs. Fox, but I don't eat the skin on any meat."

"Only kid I know who skins Kentucky Fried," Wolf says with a chuckle.

She's kind enough to say "Michael won't touch cauliflower and, " she looks at her husband, "Warren simply won't touch anything containing a mushroom. That's why the variety tonight."

"This is the best cheese sauce I've ever tasted, " I tell her.

"Thank you, Ric. It took forever, but I found a little country store about five miles out of town that carries old-fashioned rat cheese." She smiles. "A terrible name for properly made and aged cheddar."

"Mom makes great pimento cheese from it. Fantastic for sandwiches," Mickey says.

She looks at him fondly. "That's why I can never seem to keep any on hand. He likes it for grilled cheese sandwiches, too."

I look at Wolf. "Get some for Annie, please?"

"If Mrs. Fox will give me her secret source. I agree, Ric, this is superb."

Soon as dinner is over, Mickey and I excuse ourselves and go to his room. We strip and he gets his leg off then we make our own fun. When Wolf comes up to tell me it's time to go, Mickey and I are talking about getting together Christmas Day. We rush to dress and go down.

"We've got to get a tree and put it up," Wolf says on the way home. "You have lights and all that stuff?"

"I think it's all somewhere in the attic. Walt wouldn't ever have one, so we didn't unless my old man was home."

"Damn, kid, that sucks." He messes with my hair. "We're gonna do it right this year. Soon as we get home we're going hunting in the attic."

Next day I guess we looked at a couple a hundred trees before Wolf finds one he likes. It takes us most of the day with driving from lot to lot. I'd settle for any of them, just to have a tree. I'm wondering how he's gonna get it home, when he uses his cell phone to call the man does our yard and tells him to come get it with his truck, we'll wait for him. Wolf sends me to the McDonalds across the street for coffee.

Putting it up is fun, 'specially with Wolf. He really gets into it. We stop for dinner, then get back with it. I get a kick out of watching Wolf put the balls on. He's taken off his hook, he says to keep from breaking the glass balls, and uses his arm freely to hold the branch while he hangs the ball with his fingers. It really does look great when we're done. He puts his stump around me while we're looking at it so I reach up and hold the end of it in my hand. It feels so great.

"What you want Santa to bring you, kid?" Wolf asks.

This is too good to miss. I reach down and clutch his crotch. "This with a red ribbon on it."

He swats me on the back of my head with his stump. "Damn, but you've got a one-track mind. I thought we had that settled."

I hug him. "I figure my chances of getting it are as good as seeing Santa come down the chimney, but I can always hope."

He hugs me back. "Love you, Ric, you're a good kid. Be glad you found a stud like Mickey."

Next morning I ease down with the things I got for Wolf, Mickey, and my old man, but it looks like Wolf beat me to it because there's several packages under the tree.

My biggest surprise comes the morning of Christmas Eve when I hear a car stop out front and look out the window to see my old man get out of the car, pull his suitcase out, and start toward the house. I get to the bottom of the stairs just in time to hear the lock release and he walks in. He sets his suitcase down, takes off his overcoat, and holds out his arms.

"It's so good to be home to have Christmas with you, Aleric. Did you and Wolf put up the tree? It's looks lovely. So does the wreath on the door."

I hug him tightly. "Wolf's great, father, he makes things fun to do. I'm glad you're here. Now it seems like Christmas."

"Yes, it does, son. Forgive me, but I'm very tired. I'm going to take a nap until lunch time. Tell Annie I'm here."

"Yes, sir." I pick up his suitcase and carry it to his room.

Annie meets me in the hall. "Who came in, Ric? You know I'm supposed to answer the door if Wolf's not here."

"I was coming to tell you. Dad's home. He's sleeping until lunch."

"Oh, my goodness! I better get busy. I was going to give you and Wolf hamburgers."

Dad sticks his head out the door. "A big hamburger will be fine, Annie. I haven't had one in a long time."

"Yes, sir. I didn't mean to disturb you, sir."

"You didn't, I just got out of the shower. Let me sleep until lunch."

I'm reading and almost jump out of my skin when I feel something very cold and hard against the back of my neck. It's a hook. Wolf's standing behind me laughing. "Got ya."

I punch him on the arm. "Dad's home."

"No kidding! I'm glad for you, buddy. Now it'll really be Christmas."

Over lunch Wolf tells my father that I've invited Mickey and his parents for dinner that evening. Dad looks pleased when Wolf nods his approval.

"I'm glad you're enjoying a friendship, Aleric. I know it has been difficult for you."

"No, sir. I mean Wolf helps a lot. I just wish he didn't have to take me everywhere. I've got my driver's license now."

"I'm sorry, but it's still necessary." He smiles. "Next year should be much better for you, son. I'm retiring. All this travel has gotten to me."

"I wish you would retire now, cause next year I'll be going to college."

I glance at Wolf and he looks sick. "What's wrong, Wolf?"

"Don't you remember, Ric? When your father retires I'll have retire also."

"Why?"

"Because Wolf is disabled, son, and you won't need his protection any more."

"But, father, I " I see Wolf telling me with his eyes to shut up.

"I'm well aware that you and Wolf have become very close, Aleric. Don't let this spoil your Christmas. You have until next fall and any number of things can change by then."

I'm surprised when he follows me to my room and shuts the door. "Aleric, I'm ashamed that I didn't think to get Wolf a gift. May I ask what you got for him?"

I tell him and he nods in approval. "Excellent, son. Would you mind adding my name to the card? I'll pay you for it."

"I'll be glad to, sir. But maybe half? It was a little more than I planned."

"Thank you, son. Would you remind me after Christmas to buy a good fountain pen for myself."

"Yes, sir." I can't believe how great this is working out. 

Mickey and his parents show up at 6. I introduce them to my father then Mickey and I go to my room leaving them to talk. By the time Wolf comes to call us to dinner we've worked up an appetite. He grins and tells us to straighten our clothing and comb our hair.

Since father never talks about his work, he's good at drawing other people out. Mr. Fox is soon talking about his holding company. I'm lost, but Wolf winks at me, meaning he'll tell me later. When he speaks to Mickey's mom, she embarrasses me by telling dad all the good stuff she thinks I've done. Mickey's dad agrees with her, and I see my dad glancing at me with a smile.

After dinner Mickey and I would have gone back to my room for some real fun, but dad says he would like us to join them in the living room. As soon as Annie serves us coffee, Mickey's mom says, "I hate to disappoint you, Ric, because I know you and Michael had planned on spending tomorrow together, but I think you should enjoy the time with your father. He has agreed that Michael can come over tomorrow evening and spend the night if you wish. For that reason I told Michael he should bring his present to you to open tonight."

Mickey grins at me and hands me a big box from under the tree. He whispers, "You'll get you real present tomorrow night." and giggles.

I get his and whisper back, "You're a pervert, but I can't resist your stump."

"It's not polite to whisper in front of others, Aleric," my father says.

"Private joke with them, sir," Wolf says.

"We're quite used to it," Mickey's mother says.

Mickey starts to unwrap his, so I wait. When he opens the box I take the bracelet and put it around his right wrist and turn it so he can see 'I love you. R'

"It's beautiful." He says aloud then whispers, "Wish I had gotten a kiss with it."

"Later." I open mine and find ten CD's I've been wanting. "Wow, how did you know?"

Mickey grins. "I listen real good."

I don't care if my old man sees me or not, I hug him.

I'm surprised when Wolf gets up and takes a package from under the tree and hands it to Mickey. " Enjoy, buddy, but open it later." He looks at Mickey's parents and winks.

They leave soon after and I go up to bed. It's after ten when I get up and go down. Wolf's got on old sweats and hands me a glass of juice, saying he'll fix breakfast soon as my dad's up. Annie has today and tomorrow off. I hug Wolf and give him a kiss on the lips which he returns.

"Merry Christmas, Ric," he says.

Dad comes in, in his robe and hugs me then, to my surprise, Wolf. "Merry Christmas. I slept like a log last night. It's wonderful to be home."

"Merry Christmas to you, sir. Have a seat and I'll start the waffles."

I love it when Wolf cooks sausage and makes waffles from scratch. He says those frozen waffles are frisbees some idiot thought would be edible. He gets real maple syrup to go on them, too. My dad must like them because he eats one and a half waffles and six of the little breakfast sausages.

"Delicious, Wolf. It's a treat to have plain American food once more. I'm afraid I don't tell you often enough what an asset you are to this family."

"Thank you, sir. I try."

"Nonsense! You do far more than try. What you have done for Aleric alone is priceless. He has not enjoyed a normal childhood, but you've made it the best it has been. He's quite happy and his grades show your influence also."

Wolf holds up his hook. "I thought I was done when this happened, sir, and I wasn't happy about being told I could baby-sit or leave my job, but being with Ric has been the best thing in my life. I thank you for accepting me and giving me the opportunity."

Father nods. "Fate occasionally resolves situations to the happiness of everyone. I'll say again how delighted I am at the relationship that you and my son share, Wolf."

"Thank you, sir."

"As for you, son, don't you think it's time you opened your gifts."

My desktop computer is only two years old, but dad's given me a top of the line laptop. He smiles when I open it. "You'll need it in school, son, and this is much easier to carry about than a large one."

Wolf gives me a fantastic black leather fleece-lined bomber jacket. The guys at school are going to flip when they see this. I give him a hug, and when dad looks away, a quick kiss.

Dad opens his pen and smiles. "You anticipated me, Aleric. I couldn't be more delighted and grateful." He holds out his arms and gives me a tight hug. It kinds of gets to me because I'm realizing now that my old man has really cared about me all along.

There are a few other little things, but I save Wolf's for last. "I love you," I whisper when I give it to him.

Wolf opens the case and just stares at it.

My father smiles at him. "A man who has the exquisite penmanship you have, Wolf, deserves a good writing instrument."

Wolf wipes his eyes on his sleeve then hugs me and gives me a kiss on the forehead. "I don't know what to say, sir," he says to my father. "Thank you seems inadequate for a gift like this."

"I hope it will always remind you of a happy time, Wolf."

"It will, sir."

Dad gets a cup of coffee and starts to read the paper. I begin a book Wolf gave me, and Wolf goes to the kitchen. Annie left dinner mostly fixed, so Wolf will finish it up. We'll eat about six.

Mickey comes over about five and we go up to my room. After some heavy kissing, he hands me a little box. I open it and take out a neck chain with a pair of little silver crutches on it.

Mickey's grinning. "Those are for you when I'm not around. I know you like me on crutches best, so hold these in your hand and close your eyes and think of me swinging along."

I do, and damn if the response isn't instantaneous. Mickey starts to laugh and grabs me. "Work better than I thought they would."

"Wish you had yours here."

He grins and goes to my closet, bringing out a pair. "How?" I ask.

"Brought 'em when we came for dinner last night. They're an extra pair."

"Get that leg and your clothes off. Christmas is waiting."

Sure makes a great end to the best Christmas I've ever had. Wolf has a big smirk on his face when he comes to get us for dinner. The minute we enter the dining room I can tell my dad didn't know about Mickey's foot. He raises an eyebrow but doesn't say anything.

When Mickey and I are in bed he punches me and giggles. "You know what Wolf gave me?"

"No. What?"

"A book called The Joy of Gay Sex, some lube, and a box of rubbers."

"He gave me the same thing after you left last night."

"The best thing was he gave me a membership in the Amputee Coalition. They have a great chatroom for guys my age. You're gonna love some of the pics in the magazine."

Mickey and I make the best of the two days we get together. His parents have invited us to a new year's party, an invitation which dad accepts to my surprise. Mickey and I get a little tipsy so I spend the night with him. Trouble is we're tipsy enough nothing happens. I have to go home the next day because his school starts a day earlier than mine.

---0---

I was hoping Wolf and I could go somewhere over spring break, but dad is home and wants me to stay. Mickey's school break came the week before ours so we can't be together. The second day of break, dad calls me into his study.

"Have you given any further thought to college?" He asks me. 

"Yes, sir. I want to go to AU for a computer science degree."

"That field is becoming overcrowded, Aleric. I had hoped you would be inclined toward scientific research or medicine."

"I like computers and Wolf has taught me a lot."

"Your choice of a school is excellent. You may begin in computer science, but make a switch if you find some other area of equal interest. You won't lose more than a few credits if you change in the first two years as those are basic courses you'd be taking irregardless of major."

"Thank you, sir."

"Do you wish to live on campus or here at home?"

"I hadn't thought about living on campus because housing is so short."

"Considerate of you. There will be students from places too far away for them to commute. You do realize that you'll be largely responsible for your own welfare. I'll be here and so will Annie, but Wolf will retire and go to his home in Carolina I should think."

"Yes, sir." After dad first told me Wolf would retire when I went to college I forgot about him leaving because I don't want him to. Mickey is my love, but Wolf is everything to me. I go up to my room to think.

Dinner is quiet. Immediately after, dad goes into his study, Wolf goes to his room to read or watch TV, and I go to mine to think some more. About eleven I go to Wolf's room and tap on the door then open it. Wolf's in bed watching the late news. He turns it off and asks, "What's wrong, Ric?"

I go across and prop up on pillows beside him. "Dad was talking to me about college."

"And?"

"I want to go to AU and take computer science. I'll be living here and commuting."

"Makes sense to me."

"Dad says you'll be leaving."

Wolf nods slowly. "Yeah. My boss made it clear he has no more use for a one-armed guy, so he's forcing me to take medical retirement. He'd have made me retire five years ago if it hadn't been for you and your father. Damn it, Ric, I'm too young to retire, and my income will suck but what can I do? I couldn't afford to go to college and there's no demand for the skills I've learned. I guess maybe I could get a job with a security firm, but with one hand they'd probably have me punching a time clock as a night watchman somewhere." I see tears rise in his eyes. "I'm worth more than that, buddy."

"Damn right you are! Don't your job carry some kind of education benefits?"

"I don't know. I never looked."

"Find out. If there is, stay here and go to school with me."

He shakes his head. "I'm too old now. I'm almost twenty-nine and you're still a kid. I'll be a drag."

Now I'm pissed. "Bullshit!" I yell. "My birthday's in two weeks and you know what you're giving me?"

He shakes his head which makes me madder.

"What you told me you'd give me four years ago. I'm gonna get it, too."

Wolf looks lost. "I've forgotten."

I grin. "I don't know how when I remind you every so often." I reach down and grope him.

Wolf's face turns bright red. "You still love me after all this time?"

"A dev like me don't give up. I fell in love with you that first day and I'm more in love with you than ever, Alex." It's the first time I remember ever using his given name. "You remember what 'grandfather' told you. He was the wisest man I ever knew."

"But what about Mickey?"

"He's a great guy and my best friend. We've had fun, but he's going away to school. We've agreed to stay friends, but that's all." I lean down and kiss Wolf the best I know how. "It's you I really love and nobody else."

Wolf hugs me to him and starts to cry. "Ric, I couldn't take advantage of you, but I tried to show you how much I loved you in every way I could. Taking care of you wasn't a job for me, it was love. I was glad when you found Mickey, and it made me happy that you could do so much for him, but it hurt when I could guess what you and he were doing and knowing I couldn't do the same with you. I thought maybe you loved him more than me. I could understand that because he's the same age as you and I'm ten years older. That's a lot of difference."

"It gets less important as we get older, but I love you, Alex. Say you'll show me how much you love me on my birthday. I've waited this long so I can wait for two weeks, cause I want to be with you for the rest of my life."

"How can we tell your father? He'll know."

"Let's see how he goes with your going to school with me and living here."

"For a while, but I can't lie to him. He's been too good to me."  

For the first time in quite a while I sleep with Wolf's arms around me. It's just as wonderful and comforting as it has always been, maybe even more.

The next morning Wolf disappears early without saying anything. My old man is out, too, so I eat lunch in the dining nook that's part of the kitchen. I'm glad Annie eats with me so I have a chance to ask her something.

"Annie, are you going to retire when my father does?"

"Goodness no. Why did you think that?"

I shrug. "Maybe because Wolf's got to when I leave for school. I mean I don't even know who he and dad work for, but I figured you did too."

Annie smiles. "Don't worry your pretty head about it. Some men interviewed me and told me I had to do certain things before I came to work here, but I work for your father. 'Less he fires me, I plan on being around for a long time yet."

I get up and hug her. "I'm glad, Annie. I'll be going to college in the fall, but I'm going to keep living here." I smile. "Glad to know I'm gonna get to eat well, cause I can't cook worth a damn."

"Don't you worry, baby, Annie's gonna keep looking out for you. Maybe I shouldn't ask, but do you know where Wolf is going?"

"He was going back home to North Carolina, but I told him to find out if he gets some kind of education benefit where he works. If he does, he's going to school with me and live here, too."

Annie's smile would light up the town. "Lord be praised! That Wolf is a mighty fine young man and he sure does think the world of you, Ric. Your father approve?"

"I don't know. If Alex can get in school then we'll talk to him." I can feel my eyes getting wet. "If he goes home, Annie, I'm going with him and try to get in a little school near by. Maybe he can, too."

She shakes her head. "Don't be leaving your father now, Ric. I know he ain't been home with you very much, but he loves you and he's some proud of you. It would kill him for sure if you was to leave just when he's come home to stay."

"He's nice and all that, but he doesn't spend much time with me. He still wants me to make an appointment when I need to talk to him."

"He's still working, baby, an' you gotta remember he's got to learn you like you gotta learn him. It ain't like with Wolf cause he's here all the time."

"I'll try. Thanks, Annie."

She pats my cheek when she gets up to clear the table. "You're a good boy, Ric."

I run down the minute I hear Wolf come in. He sure doesn't look happy when he goes into the den and mixes a stiff drink.

"What's wrong?" I ask.

"Sons of bitches," he mumbles and takes another slug of his drink.

"Who? The people at the college?"

He shakes his head. "My lousy fuckin' boss."

"What did he say?" I'm living dangerously pushing Wolf when he's in a bad mood, but this is important to me, too.

"He couldn't wait to be rid of my sorry cripple ass." Wolf tosses down the rest of his drink and fixes another just as big. He's never done this before.

"But "

"Let it be, can't ya? Leave me alone."

I hightail it for my room cause I've never seen Wolf like this. It's not long before I hear my old man come in. The rule is I never bother him when he's in his study but I go down and knock on the door.

I hear "Come." and enter.

Dad looks up. "Aleric! I didn't expect you."

"Sorry to disturb you, father, but I need to talk to you like now. It's really important."

He drops some papers on his desk and looks at me. "What's the problem?"

"Wolf. He told me he might go see if he has any education benefits as part of his job. He went out this morning and came back about an hour ago and started tossing down stiff drinks and cussing. I asked what was wrong and he told me to leave him alone." I look squarely at dad. "I'm scared."

My old man frowns. "That's not like Wolf at all. Where is he?"

"In the den."

He puts the papers he was looking at in his desk drawer and locks it. "Go back to your room, son, and let me find out what's going on."

"Yes, sir.' When he starts by me, I hug him. "Thanks for being here when I need you, father."

He hugs me back and walks toward the den while I go back upstairs. I'd get killed if I got caught, but I sit on the top step where I can't be seen from downstairs and hope I can hear. I have never eavesdropped before, but I love Wolf.

"Wolf! Wake up." I hear dad say loudly.

"Huh?"

"Are you drunk? You reek."

"Go way."

I hear a hard slap and "Ow! What you do that for?"

"Get upstairs and take a cold shower to sober up, then I want you in my study immediately." Dad sounds pissed but good. "Aleric?" He yells.

"Sir." I run down the stairs. Wolf's cheek is red and dad is holding him up.

"Help Wolf upstairs and get him in a cold shower then get him a cup of coffee. When he's sober I want him in my study."

"Yes, sir." I grab Wolf's arm and drag him along.

"Ffffucked up good. Ssssorry, Ric."

I get him to his room and undress him with no problem. I just don't know how to get his hook off. He finally understands and slips out of the harness. I pull his T-shirt over his head and push him into the shower, turning the cold water on full.

"Oh, shit!" he yells and starts to get out, but I push him back. Now I know he's awake, I turn the hot water on and, taking off my clothes, get in with him. He just stands there while I wash him all over. It's the first time I've been able to touch his beautiful uncut meat. I'm disappointed when nothing happens while I'm washing it. He doesn't move or say anything until I have him out of the shower and drying him with a big towel.

I see tears in his eyes. "I screwed the pooch for sure this time." He reaches up and rubs my cheek with the back of his hand. "I'm sorry, cause I love you so much, Ric."

I grab his hand and kiss it. "Get dressed, cause the old man's waiting. No matter what, I love you and I'll find a way to be with you, Alex."

Soon as he's dressed and going down the stairs slowly, I go to my room. Dad's study is soundproof so I wouldn't hear anything, even if I dared try.

I'm messing around with my computer when Annie knocks on my open door. "Your father wants you in his study, Ric." She looks upset, so I run down.

I knock on the door and open it. Dad looks upset and Wolf's sitting in a chair facing the desk with his face in his hand.

"Come in and shut the door, Aleric."

I do and he beckons for me to stand in front of his desk.

"Aleric, I want you to understand that I am not upset at you or Wolf, but I am going to ask you a question and I want the absolute truth. Are you gay and in love with Wolf?"

I wish I had a chair because I feel too weak to keep standing.

"I'm waiting," he says.

"Yes, sir."

"Is that yes, sir, because you know I'm waiting or is that the answer to my question?"

I gulp. "Both, sir."

He looks at me for what seems eternity before he points to the chair beside Wolf. I sit down gratefully.

"I had begun to suspect, Aleric, then Wolf told me he was very much in love with you. I'm happy you confirmed that you love him because I am going to be stomping on some sensitive toes in order to help him and, by extension, you. I would rather not, but your happiness means too much to me."

"What happened, sir?"

"Wolf was guaranteed funds for a year in any college he chose to attend for each year he worked at his job. When he inquired this morning, he was told he would receive only six months funding because that was all he was officially employed. That is a lie and pure bias because I was assured he was officially employed when he came to be with you. I received this assurance not once, but several times.

"I am delighted that Wolf wishes to attend school with you, Aleric, and he will do so. I can easily afford to send him, but this is a matter of principle. He was promised this benefit as a part of his employment, he has been continually  employed for well over five years, and, by God, he will receive what is due him. I will take it to the Supreme Court if necessary. They have lied and tried to intimidate him, but they cannot lie to me with impunity and I do not intimidate."

Man is the old man pissed. I'm glad it's not at me.

"Aleric, while I didn't get much time with you while you were growing up, so I had dreams of playing with my grandchildren. But it seems that is not to be." He comes round his desk and takes Wolf's hand and mine in his. "I love you deeply, son, and now I have "he pauses and looks thoughtful "a son-in-law to love as well. Wolf, I ask only that you be good to Aleric and love him."

Wolf raises his eyes to meet dad's. "I will, sir, and thank you. Your understanding and support mean more to me than you will ever know."

Dad pulls us up and hugs us both at the same time. "Go get ready for dinner. Wolf, get your application to AU in tomorrow morning. I'll make a few calls to speed things along so you and Aleric can register for classes and have the same classes and professors if possible."

"Thank you, sir."

I don't know what kind of pull my old man has, but at the university the next morning Wolf and I just look at each other when we report to the Registrar's office and get told we're already admitted. He sits down with us and lays out identical schedules for us. I write a check for Wolf's and my tuition and see our schedules entered into the computer. We decided to wait on texts until we see our professors in August.

When we get home, my old man's waiting. He takes the receipt for Wolf's tuition payment and tells me he's faxing a copy to the appropriate place and he'll hold it and mine so they won't get lost. Guess he's seen my desk.

After exams, I find out I missed being valedictorian by a couple of points, but I'll still graduate with honors. Dad's definitely pleased and says if Wolf hadn't made me study I'd probably not be graduating. I would, but it sure wouldn't be with honors if Walt was still around cause he didn't much care.

The hot topic is the Junior-Senior. I know Wolf's gotta go with me, but he says there's no way he's putting on a tux and going as my date. I call Mickey and ask him.

"Damn, man, you comin' out now?"

"Why not? Hell, there's no way they can keep me from graduating; they wouldn't dare. And school's out so I ain't gonna get hassled."

"Takes more guts than I got."

"Go with me. I mean we've been lovers for two years now and you won't be around much longer. 'Sides, I know how to dance with you. I'll wear my steel-toed shoes so you won't hurt me when you step on my foot with your fake one."

Mickey giggles. "That's why I ain't goin' to mine. The pussies know about my foot so I couldn't get a date if I tried. I'd ask you to mine, but I wanna live to graduate, man."

"You gonna come with me?"

"Why not? It's your funeral." He raises the pitch of his voice. "Shall I wear my blue strapless, or my white hoop skirt, sir? I do want to look my best for such a distinguished gentleman as you."

I drop mine to a bass growl. "Best you wear your tux like a good dyke, cause you ain't got enough tits to hold up a strapless and you can't wear white in public cause you ain't been a virgin for years."

"Asshole," he says and hangs up laughing.

I'm not worried because we both own tuxes. I will have to remember to send him a boutonniere.

The night of the prom, I go to the door like I would for any date. His mom opens the door.

"Oh, Ric, how handsome you look. Let me get my camera cause you and Michael will look precious together."

Man, I wonder if a girl's mother would be as bad. Mickey does look great. Our tuxes are standard black, which my father said was the only acceptable color. He flings a fit whenever he sees one of those pastel jobs.

Mom Fox takes several pics before we can get out the door. Wolf's driving my old man's Beamer so we won't get rumpled. He looks awfully good in his black suit.

"Hi, Mickey. You're looking very nice. I'm glad you're Ric's date because I couldn't take all the hitting on you he's gonna do. I'm gonna be watching him close so he won't disgrace us."

"But if he hits on me you'll have to take us somewhere secluded to park after the dance."

"Son, the only place you're gonna park after the dance is in a bed, yours or Ric's. I suspect it's gonna be Ric's cause I'm told you're staying the night. Annie's fixed you some stuff to eat, too."

"Great!" Mickey loves Annie's cooking much as I do.

I ask Wolf to let us out at the door of the country club where it's being held, but he shakes his head and doesn't stop the car until he's parked. It really blows my mind when he puts a chauffeur's cap on when he gets out.

"What's with the cap?" Mickey asks him.

"Fancy school. Gotta make 'em think Ric and you are so important your chauffeur has to escort you in." He grins. "I gotta have some excuse to crash the party and stay inside."

"Oh, yeah. You did that at the club dance too."

Wolf nods. "Where Ric goes, I go, if it's not at home or someplace I know like your house, Mickey."

Just inside the door I hand my tickets to Mr. Smythe, the teacher on duty at the door. He looks surprised and jerks his head toward Mickey. "He's not one of our students, Nordwall."

"No, sir, he's my date."

Mr. Smyth almost drops his clipboard. "But but "

"You have a problem with that?" Wolf asks harshly.

"It's most irregular. I'll have to consult the headmaster." He looks at Wolf again. "Who are you?"

"Nordwall's chauffeur and bodyguard. I'll be watching the guys every minute."

"I I "

It's getting funny cause poor old Smythe don't know whether to shit or go blind. He finally just shakes his head and waves us on in.

We find a table and sit down. Wolf's grinning. "You guys may make school history tonight."

"Hey, there's a first time for everything," I say.

The band starts a slow number so I drag Mickey out on the floor and we dance. I hear a few comments, but most don't pay any attention to us. When it's over, we walk back to our table hand in hand.

I'm about to go get us cups of punch, but my way is blocked by Brock. Every school has its physically big and mentally tiny bully and Brock's ours. I see Wolf pull his sleeve up and push something on the side of his plastic arm.

"Always figured you for a fag, Nordwall." He nods toward Mickey. "Sweet of ya to bring your favorite piece of pussy to the dance. Why don't you be good little girls and run on home before you get hurt?"

Brock may be bigger than me and Wolf put together, but I start to draw back my fist. Wolf pulls me aside and faces Brock. "You having some sort of problem, dude?"

"What's it to ya? I don't like queers."

"You're half drunk and the evening has just gotten started. If anybody goes home why don't you and sleep it off, sonny boy."

"Fuck, ya. I'm gonna whip Nordwall's pansy ass."

"I hardly think so." Wolf holds out his hook and it isn't the hook he uses around the house.

"You think that hook makes you tough?" Brock sneers. "After I stomp pansy ass here, you're next." He reaches out and grabs Wolf's hook. I see Wolf's arm flex then Brock screams so loud everybody hears him over the band.

He's doubled over holding his right hand with his left and sobbing "Shit, shit."

Wolf motions for Mickey and me to sit down. It's only a minute before the headmaster has his hand on Brock's arm.

"What's wrong, son?"

Brock just mumbles "Hurts like hell."

"Let me see." Dr. Breakstone lifts Brock's arm and looks at it. "I don't see anything." When he turns it loose, it falls to Brock's side, hanging limply. Brock holds it up with his other hand again.

Breakstone looks at us. "Did you see what happened?"

"Nordwall was about to go get some refreshments for his date when this young man accosted him and began making threats."

"And you are?" Breakstone looks Wolf over and frowns. "I don't believe you are connected with the academy in any way, in which case you don't belong here."

I stand. "This is my bodyguard, sir. He accompanies me everywhere."

"I was unaware you needed such protection, Nordwall."

"Only away from home or school, sir."

"I see." He looks back at Wolf. "Did you attack Brock or not? If so I shall report you to Mr. Nordwall."

"I did not. I detected the odor of alcohol on his breath so I merely asked him to go home and sleep it off. When he tried to strike Nordwall, I simply deflected his hand with my prosthesis. Any pain would have been minor and momentary."

"Ah, yes. I'll have the proctors assist Brock. Has your date gone to the ladies room, Nordwall?"

"No, sir." I smile at Breakstone then point to Mickey. "May I present Michael Fox. My date, sir."  

Mickey stands and holds out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Dr. Breakstone."

Breakstone stands there with his eyes getting bigger and bigger and his mouth opening and closing like a goldfish's.  Finally he staggers off without saying anything.

"Frightfully rude man," Mickey says in a prissy tone.

Wolf tries to stifle a snicker.

I go to get us punch and plates of finger sandwiches and hardly get back before I see another big guy headed our way. I look at Wolf, then recognize the guy as one of those who belongs to the gay group. He comes up and slaps me on the back.

"Damn. You've got guts, Ric. Old Breakstone got back to the teacher's table babbling so bad nobody could figure out what he was tryin' to say. When I looked over here I knew. Anyway, he was so bad the coach figured he was sick and took him home." He touches two fingers to his forehead and swings them forward in a salute. "Good luck, guys. Wish I'd brought my guy instead of my cousin."

Though his eyes remain watchful, Wolf settles back and watches us all have fun. Most of the other students give Mickey and me plenty of space like maybe being gay is catching, but the space comes in handy when you can't dance any better than the two of us. Mickey finally plants his fake foot on top of mine as I knew was bound to happen, so I bend him back in an exaggerated dip and sneak a kiss hoping nobody noticed.

"Hey, that's ballroom stuff," one of the guys says to me. "Where'd you learn that?"

I look at him smugly. "By attending adult gatherings, not obscure tribal rites or indulging in the praise of Saint Vitus as you appear to have been doing."

"Huh?"

I know I should be ashamed of mocking people unfortunate enough to suffer from Sydenham's chorea, aka St. Vitus Dance, but how can I miss a golden opportunity to intellectually snow a jock who's always bad-mouthing gays? Mickey and I don't attempt the kinds of dance kids our age try, I'd not call it dancing.

Mickey's chuckling as we walk back to our table leaving the jock staring at his girl with a blank expression. She obviously has no clue as to what I meant either.

---0---

Graduation is anti-climactic. My father and Wolf, of course, are there as are Mickey and mom and pop Fox. I feel incredibly stupid in the blue cap and gown wishing it were the traditional black and this was my college graduation ceremony. Worse is enduring the picture taking after suffering through dull speeches that seemed endless. Mom Fox is determined to take all she can. If she's this bad at my graduation, I dread to think what Mickey's will be like a week from now. I'd kill to kick my shoes off and toss down a beer.

I finally get home and get my wish, so I'm kind of pissed when my old man tells me to put some shoes on and come out to the garage with him. There's no reason I can see since his car is always serviced at the dealers and Wolf's is on the other side. When I get up reluctantly, he hands me a graduation card with a note saying how proud he is of me. I can't figure this, cause he already gave me a set of luggage for graduation. He said I'd need one piece of it when I go with Wolf to his cabin for a couple of weeks right after Mickey graduates. If he weren't going to school with me, Wolf would be packing to move back home because I'm no longer his responsibility.

I noticed dad left his Beamer in the drive when we got home so I figure he's going out. When he opens the door to the garage I see Wolf's Mercedes. "What am I supposed to see, sir? That's Wolf's car." 

He shakes his head slowly. "A high school graduate and he's not learned to observe."

"Huh?" Then I correct myself. "Sir?" Huh doesn't get it with dad.

"Go look at it more closely."

Good thing he's retiring, the old man must be losing his grip. I walk over to it and then it hits me, the taillights don't look right and the deck is more rounded. Shit! This is a brand new one! I look at dad questioningly. Wolf's standing behind him.

"You're kidding?"

Dad smiles. "Not at all. You have admired Wolf's so much that I thought you might like one now that you're free to drive alone."

When I can move I run to him and hug him. "Oh, thank you, sir. Thank you. This is it's oh, wow!"

He hugs me back. "I'm proud of you, son, and I love you." He messes my hair. "I even approve of your choice of a long term companion, though I hope you can work past the age differential."

Damn! He knows it's Wolf and not Mickey I'm really in love with. I look at Wolf and see him nodding.

"I told you I'd not keep secrets from your father, Ric. With the change in my status and yours now that he has retired, your father and I have had a long discussion I felt was due."

"Wolf is correct, son. He feels as deeply for you as I, though in a different way, obviously. You are now an adult in the eyes of the law so you are free to make your own decisions and bear responsibility for your acts. You will still need advice and guidance from time to time and I will be glad to help you, but the greater responsibility is now Wolf's by the virtue of being the older partner in your relationship. I have all confidence in his ability to continue the superb job he's done since he came to be with us."

Dad's words make me feel like Alex and I have had a wedding ceremony. I hug dad again then kiss Wolf, one he returns this time.

I was right. By the time Mickey's graduation is over I'm tempted to grab the film from mom Fox's purse and expose it to light so she won't have any more to shoot. The big thing in their house is getting Mickey off to college in two days. He wants to make the summer semester so he can get used to the place when there aren't so many students running around.

The next night we all go out for a farewell dinner for him and I stay over. It's not 'sad it's gonna be over until holidays' sex, but loving. Then we talk about remaining best friends but not exclusive sex partners. Mickey knew from the first I'd never love him like I do Wolf, though he runs a close second. The next morning we kiss and I take off to get some gas before going home. Wolf and I are leaving for his cabin tomorrow and driving my car.

I let Wolf drive until we're well out of the miserable urban traffic. When we change I find what a joy it is to lock in the cruise control at 75 and roll along. Wolf looks no older than the first day I saw him and he's one guy can wear a baseball cap and look totally cool. I think I look stupid in one, but he made me put one on to keep my face from getting sunburned. Only the village idiot would have a sports car and keep the top up on a day like this.

We break the trip by spending the night in a motel. I wanted to push on, but Wolf said we'd need time to open the place, shop for food and all that sort of stuff. I can't argue when I'm snuggled against him in bed.

Though it's been a year since I was here with Wolf, I can see why he always wants to come back. The quiet and the freshness of the air is unbelievable after

the city. I would be happy to live here forever, but there's no place near that needs guys with computer science degrees. After we get all the little things done, we crack a beer and relax.

I don't push Wolf, but I'm beginning to get hard up and wonder if we're going to ever make love as we haven't so far. That night, to my disappointment, we only cuddle again. When I mention it the next morning he kisses me and tells me to be patient, he's waiting until the signs are auspicious. Sounds screwy to me, like something grandfather would say.

And that's what he had in mind because we're in my car headed up the trail to his house. He looked so old before I'm wondering if he's still alive. Wolf stands in the door, me beside him.

There are a few moments then the quavery voice says, "Little Wolf, you seek wisdom."

"O'siypo, grandfather. That is true."

"This time the young one is beside you, not behind you."

"It is so."

"Come, sit, and let us speak." 

Wolf punches me with his stump and I say what he told me. "I greet you, grandfather." Then we walk over and take chairs near him.

As last time, there is a small fire on the hearth though it's hot outside. When we are seated and quiet, the old man takes a pinch of something from a bowl on the table by his chair and tosses it directly into the fire. The flames blaze up for a second then die down. There's a pungent smell left.

The old man's blind eyes look intently into the fire then he finally speaks. "The young one has been patient many moons waiting for you to declare your love, Little Wolf. Such patience is good for our people, but difficult for a white man. This proves his love for you. You have kept the law, but driven the young one to make love with another. Now he waits once more. It is time, Little Wolf. His heart is pure. He is worthy. Delay no longer."

"I heed your words with joy, grandfather."

The old man nods and Wolf and I leave as quietly as possible. In the car, Wolf  leans over and kisses me before starting the engine and driving away. When he stops the car at the cabin, he hugs me.

"I don't know what I did to deserve you, Ric, but I love you more than life itself."

"I know what you did, Wolf."

"What?"

"You befriended a lonely boy who was younger than his years, protected and nurtured him, and are now willing to commit your life to him. I'm not much of a reward for all you did, but it's got you all the love I can ever have for anyone."

That night Wolf holds out his arms to me when we're ready for bed. I didn't know what to expect from Wolf, but he's so gentle and loving that when it's over and we're lying with our arms around each other, I'm crying from joy. Then I feel Wolf's tears as he hugs me closer.

Now that I'm no stranger to real love, I can think of our future together with joy.

It was worth the wait.

 

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Posted: 01/04/08