I was nervous and scared and mad, all at the same time. Johnny was calm, almost eerily calm and he stood beside me at the edge of the platform while he waited for the Mayor to finish his speech. The Fire Chief was up next then finally they'd give Johnny the Kep and we'd be done with all of it. I hadn't seen anybody who looked like an assassin or a bodyguard.
But then, I doubt they'd be wearing a nametag.
Suddenly, a car blew up on the far side of the plaza and Johnny and I both flinched. The guys rushed over and soon had it out while the Mayor made a rather lame joke about psychic firemen being there before the fire had even started. The police presence doubled shortly after that and the Fire Chief kept his remarks short and to the point, something I hadn't realized he knew how to do. Then the Radislavs, Sergei and Sonia stood together to pin the small bright medal to Johnny's chest and Sonia brought his head down to give him a kiss.
The crowd cheered and clapped while Johnny blushed beet red and approached the microphone hesitantly. "Thank you all for coming. I expect that everyone who has ever received this award feels as unworthy as I do. Peter Keppie and John Howard were real heroes and it's a great privilege to be thought of in the same breath as them. This award reminds us that every day and in every part of the city, our firemen and police are doing their jobs sometimes in very difficult circumstances. But that's why we do them, not for awards but for the satisfaction of being able to help.
He paused to take a deep breath. "I'm not very good at public speaking but my partner, Roy DeSoto reminded me that there's a five thousand dollar bonus that comes with this award and I thought this would be a good time to talk about the hospital to which I'll be donating it. The Children's Hospital in Watts is a wonderful organization that treats young cancer victims from every part of the county. They have a dedicated team of doctors, nurses and technicians who do everything they can to help these kids through that terrible disease. And when it can't be cured, they help the families and the children right up to the end. Money is always short there but the love and caring isn't. So, I'm donating the money in the name of the Keppie-Howard Award and I'd like all of you to think about them when next you're feeling charitable."
Kelly was standing to the side and he looked so proud of Johnny that it looked like he would burst but then I was feeling the same way. I was a lucky man to have such a great partner. Hank was beaming from Kelly's side and the rest of the guys were cheering Johnny on, but he had blushingly left the microphone to stand beside the Radislavs while the cameras clicked.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ace return from wherever he'd been and his relaxed look made me feel a little better. Maybe he'd found the assassin and turned him over to the police already. The Radislavs had invited all of us to the nearby Kremlin restaurant for lunch as their personal thank you to Johnny and figuring that large parties were safer than small ones, Hank had agreed.
The Mayor and Fire Chief had already left when we started to walk over to the restaurant. I was still a little jumpy and when Kelly fell into step with me, I could see he felt the same way. His eyes kept scanning the rooftops and I wondered where or even if the killer had been here.
Ace fell in at my other side and Kelly looked his question at him. The big man smiled down at us and nodded. "Everything is taken care of, gentlemen. The killer discovered that there was someplace else he had to be so he left. The only accident befell my assistant who is nursing a sore head right now and vowing vengeance on him. He got away but I don't think he'll be bothering Johnny again."
I was relieved but Kelly was eyeing the big man like he would a patient who wouldn't tell him his symptoms. "There's something you're not saying."
"Have you ever heard of the old proverb 'that those who live by the sword shall die by the sword'? It's kind of the trademark saying of the assassins trade."
I was confused now but Kelly's face showed that he wasn't. Then his face relaxed so completely that I wondered if I'd really seen a look of dismay on it. His eyes went to Johnny who had bowed his head to listen to something the animated Sonia was telling him and he smiled at the tender sight.
"He's the only one that matters. If he's safe then ..." his eyes came back to Ace's, "I guess the rest will play out as it will."
"Oh, I always knew that Johnny was a smart one. He'll be safe with you." Ace relaxed. "He's been mighty short on love since his mama died, it might take a lifetime to make up that lack."
"Yes, it will." Kelly said and nodded to us both before moving up to Sonia's other side.
I was really confused now but something told me that we could all relax. Lunch was good and the entire Radislav clan was there. The grandchildren were all thoroughly Americanized but it was nice to see them defer to their grandparents and affectionately translate for one of their elders when their emotion took away their command of English. Our unit was all interspersed between the Russians and it felt good to relax and just enjoy the food without worrying about death or suffering.
The food was delicious too and I ate like it would be days before I could eat again. The release of tension, deserved or not, seemed to have freed my appetite. Kelly was across the table from me and I noticed that his attention seemed to be off and on. I figured it had something to do with Ace's odd proverb.
Lunch lasted for almost two hours and when it was done, the guys headed back to the station while I waited for Johnny. I wasn't sure what he was going to do now that he'd gotten the award. Kelly and he joined Ace and I by the squad truck.
"Ace, tell me again what happened?" Johnny's dark eyes looked directly at the bodyguard.
"Kid, all you need to know is that the assassin is long gone and won't be back." Ace tilted his cowboy hat to shade his eyes.
"But you won't say how you did it?" Johnny persisted.
Kelly put a hand on his shoulder and those dark eyes turned to him. "Johnny, there are several ways this can end and all of them involve somebody dying. Are you sure that you want to know now or can you wait for this to play out?"
I hadn't thought about that and suddenly I understood what Ace had meant. Johnny's grandmother had killed in the past and somehow, Ace had sent the assassin back to her. 'Those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword.' I shivered and hoped that nobody innocent got in the way.
"Kid, I take full responsibility for what happened. In no way do you have to worry that anything you did effected what happens next." Ace said quietly and I saw Johnny's eyes soften.
"Ace, you're still taking care of me, aren't you?" He reached out and hugged the tall man. "We'll let events play out the way they will. For now, is it safe for Kelly and I to head for the forest?"
Ace bit his lip and shook his head. "That place is known to be one of your haunts, I've got another place in mind. How about a beach house two hours from here?"
Kelly sighed. "That sounds wonderful, I love the water. Johnny?"
He smiled and nodded. "If Kelly approves then so do I, Ace. How do we get there and how long do we have to pack?"
"I'll drive you and you've got about two hours to pack. There's shopping near by so you can pick up some shorts and t-shirts, not to mention a bathing suit. There's no nude bathing there, gentlemen."
Kelly blushed and Johnny laughed at that. I chuckled and gave Johnny a hug before driving the unit back to the station. I needed to listen to the news for the next few hours to see what came of Ace's meddling. Part of my mind hoped that this could be resolved without another death but there was a small part that was rooting for the old biblical 'eye for an eye'.
No matter what happened, our partnership had changed forever. From being a loner, Johnny had become part of a couple. Even though they couldn't marry, Johnny and Kelly were now part of my extended family. And I was definitely looking forward to our next barbecue. Kelly's baked beans were the best.
I drove through the crowded streets and pulled into the station, parking the truck carefully. Wherever they were going, I hoped their honeymoon was a great one. And that soon we'd back to normal or whatever passed for that these days.
For now, I needed to call Joanna and fill her in on all the news.
Date: 7 January 2001
Revenge, part 18
The drug had passed through my system by the time I stepped off the plane in Berkley. I felt rather naked without my gun but I wasn't wasting a bullet on the bitch. I preferred to arrange an accident and snap her scrawny little neck. It wouldn't do to let the news get out that I'd been hoodwinked by an amateur.
Hiring a car, I drove to a nearby church and made my little incendiary device to hide the evidence. Checking my scheduler, I realized that the servants had the day off so I'd only be taking out the bitch and maybe her son. Everybody else would be gone although the way I was feeling at the moment, I wouldn't have minded a little collateral damage.
Still, I didn't want a reputation as a loose gun. Damn it that reminded me that I'd just lost my favorite weapon. To hell with it, I'd just take out the entire estate house. How appropriate that fire would destroy her when her late grandson was a fireman. Irony on top of irony to go with her double cross of me.
I hiked in through the back of the estate and quietly disconnected the burglar and fire alarm wiring. I made it look like a squirrel had been playing and accidentally tore them out. Then I quietly canvassed the house before setting the tiny charge in the gas stove. Walking down the long hall, I was in her study before she realized it and the look of fury in her eyes while she clawed at me was worth the extra trouble.
Putting her out, I carried her down to the kitchen and set a fire going so she'd have some smoke in her lungs when they did the autopsy. The kitchen towel smoked satisfactorily while I positioned her under the large beam in the kitchen. Then I snapped her neck and stepped outside to trigger the charge.
The room began to burn as the gas sprayed across the floor and walls and her clothes were set alight almost instantly. When the room above caught fire, I walked slowly back to the connections and reinstalled the burglar alarm. It would be too suspicious to have them both off. Getting in my car, I headed north to catch a flight out of Portland, Oregon.
Maybe it was time to retire. I must be slowing down to let an old lady catch me like this. Of course, she'd just paid for her own assassination with the two hundred grand she'd had in her desk. I patted my pocket. Yes, indeed, time to cut my losses and retire to the sunny south. I had a little place in southern Mexico where I'd already set up a reputation as an artist who came to live each winter. The locals believed that when I left, if was for an art-show in New York.
I did enjoy painting as a hobby and it was time to pursue my paints instead of my kills. Once I made up my mind, I put the botched attempt behind me along with the old lady I'd just killed. With my passport in my pocket, it was time to go south. Maybe I'd stop in Eugene and the University art store to pick up some paints to take with me. Reds were so hard to get in Mexico.
Maybe a blazing fire would be my first picture.
Something allegorical about the fires of Hell and the eternal flames of its demons.
A demon like the one I'd just exorcised from the Gage family.
Smiling, I headed north and the freedom of retirement. It was time.
Sequel: part 19 of 'In Dreams You Come'
Date: 28 January 2001
I couldn't believe I was sitting at the beach next to Kelly. The sun was setting over the water and I let myself lean against him just because I could. His hand reached to hold mine and I grasped it with fervor. I felt as if I'd stepped into a parallel universe where men loving men was normal and family didn't try to kill you.
"Beautiful." Kelly murmured and I looked up to find his eyes on me instead of the sunset. "I can't believe that we're here. Thank God for Ace."
And suddenly I made the connection. "He said something to you."
"Do you need to know right now?" His blue eyes were so intent on mine.
Did I? I bit my lip and thought about it. "I think I do, Kelly. I'll only think about it if I don't know."
"I'm not sure exactly but he told me that the assassin's code is 'those who live by the sword shall die from the sword'." Kelly watched me while I thought about that.
And I could see it happen as if I was there. The assassin boomeranging back to Grandmother for some reason and taking her out. Ace wouldn't kill her directly but I could see him setting up a situation for someone else to do so. Did I care? I didn't know if I did. And I was so tired of thinking about it.
Kelly's arm slipped around me and I gave in, resting my head on his shoulder. His cheek immediately nuzzled my hair while his sigh echoed mine. "I love you, Johnny. What ever happens, I'm going to be right here."
I nodded silently and watched the sun go down with a hiss of red and gold. The sand was warm beneath us and the waves glittered in the dusk. It was a moment of peace that warmed me almost as much as Kelly's hug. "I love you too, Kelly. I wish this was really a vacation."
"It is, Johnny. Every day we have together is such a miracle to me." That husky voice made me tingle.
"Me too." I looked up and caught his grin before he kissed me again. All his kisses were tasty but this one had such promise in it that I leaned in and kissed him back. We tasted good together. And more importantly, we kissed like we'd always been lovers. That meant so much to me, the promise of a future with him.
Breaking apart to breathe, our eyes met in the gathering dusk. "Bed, Johnny?"
"Bed, Kelly." I rose to my feet and tugged him up with me. Walking in through the french doors, the tiles beneath our feet radiated heat back to our bare toes. Kelly locked the doors behind us while I moved quietly into the room that held the wide bed draped in white mosquito netting.
It looked like a fairy tale bed and the big mirror that served as a headboard reflected the dim light back to me. The wall sconces held real candles instead of fake ones and a bowl on the dresser was filled with books of matches. I started around the room lighting the votive candles until all ten glowed.
"You look like a fantasy prince come to seduce me into your lovely bed." Kelly's husky voice made my skin ripple in reaction.
He stood in the doorway to the room, his t-shirt already off displaying the dark curls on his chest. Kelly was the very picture of strength and I needed that more than I could say. But he read my mind the way he did and crossing the room, he took me in his arms to hold me close.
"I love you, Kelly. Hold me and never let go." I slid my arms around him and hung on tight, shaking just a little.
"I love you, too. And I'll never let go, Johnny. But you can't let go either." He stroked my back, burning me with his hot touch.
"I won't, I promise." And I did, too. Going back in time wasn't an option, we had to go forward. "Could we take a bath and wash the salt and sand off?"
"Absolutely." He kept one arm around me but turned us towards the bathroom. "I've been wondering if those whirlpool jets feel as good as the ads say they do."
I stopped him from turning on the lights. And he laughed quietly while I lit some of the same candles that surrounded the huge tub. "Part of the fantasy should be the light and sound."
"You are so right." His hands were busy stripping me bare while I tugged down his shorts to free the heavy cock that had given me so much pleasure the night before. "Which one of the bottles do you want to try tonight?"
"You pick." I turned on the water and tried to read the panel display that controlled the whirlpool jets while he picked one of the colorful bottles displayed on the wide tub surround. The smell of spearmint filled the air when he poured some of the dark green oil under the gushing faucet. My sinuses cleared instantly and I heard him take his own deep breath.
"Oh, I like that. We'll have to see about getting some for our bathtub, even though it's much less palatial than this one." Kelly was back to stroking my back and I felt like arching up into his hand like the cat he compared me to.
When the water was over the portals, I hit the button that turned on the jets. A low hum filled the air and the green-tinted water began to churn. Sliding one leg in, I felt the heat and sighed just a little. This was going to be good, I thought before sliding all of me in. Kelly was right by my side and twin moans resounded against the mirrored walls.
The candles were reflected over and over until I could hardly tell which were real and which were a trick of the light. But Kelly was real and solid in my arms. While I held him close and breathed in his essence, all around us was the smell of the ocean permeating even the spearmint bath oil.
"This is heaven." Kelly said in that husky voice that always turns me to pudding. "You are a water sprite that is at home with surf and sand."
I chuckled and shook my head. "I'm usually more at home in desert and forest. But I could become a water worshiper if you stay wet."
"Ah, worshipping your body sounds good to me." Those blue eyes were so dark that he looked as if he had no pupils at all. His hands stroked over my skin and I shivered from head to toe. "Then again, you promised me that I was stretched enough to find out how you'll feel inside of me. Please?"
He didn't have to beg for that. I was more than willing to show him what it felt like. I kissed him gently, enjoying the way he opened for my tongue. I entwined mine around his and let my hands drift lower and lower until I could stroke his cock. He was already hard and I realized that I wasn't far behind.
So I opened my eyes and searched for the jar of cream that I'd seen earlier on the shelf near the tub. Kelly watched me with wide eyes while I opened it and got some on my fingers. Then he gulped and turned around to brace himself on the side. I turned off the water so we didn't overflow then took a long moment to stroke down his back to the shadowy crease which hid his entrance.
"Relax, Kelly. You have to know that I won't hurt you and tensing up like this will just make me go slower." I rubbed my finger over his perineum and felt him shiver.
"I know you won't hurt me but I'm a little scared." His eyes met mine in the mirror and I smiled tenderly at him, loving his honesty and falling in love all over again. "But not that scared. Your fingers felt good before."
"Good, then you won't mind if I just slip one in." I suited my action to my words and felt him grip me tightly before relaxing and letting my index finger sink further inside. His channel walls felt like hot velvet and I rotated to see if I could find his gland. A little shudder told me I'd found it and I came back out to get more cream and insert two fingers.
His back muscles rippled all the way down to his cheeks and when I sparked his gland this time, he flushed all the way up to his neck. A breathy little moan made me harden further just listening to him. This time I folded three fingers into him and he shook hard, tensing then slowly loosening up for me. I flexed them a little and made sure I spread the cream deep inside of him.
I'm not the thickest guy around but I did have some length that I wanted to make sure didn't hurt him. With my other hand, I slathered cream over my cock. "Kelly, I need you to relax all over and push out against me."
He nodded, his eyes closed while he paid attention to every little motion. Sliding my fingers out and my cock in took only a moment, then I waited while he shook around the crown that had stretched him so. I smoothed my hands over those tense back muscles and thought about the heat that was sucking me in. When he relaxed, I pushed in a little further and paused again.
Finally, I was all the way inside of him and I could feel the tremors that shook his whole body. "Too much?"
Kelly gave a little sob and I started backing out, afraid that I'd hurt him. But he reached back a hand to stop me and took a deep breath before answering. "Full. I feel like I have the Squad 51 unit inside of me."
I was back to stroking his back. "That's pretty kinky, Dr. Brackett."
He chuckled and opened his eyes to meet mine in the mirror. "I love you, Fireman Gage. I've only felt this connected once before in my life and that was with my wife, Rosa. I can feel your strength like another pulse inside my mind."
I moved just a little, brushing across the gland and watching his eyes widen. "That's how it felt when you were inside of me. And I've never felt that before. How does it feel now?"
"Warm ... very warm. I think I'm going to need something to put out the fire you just started." He flexed around me and I had to hang onto my self-control to keep from losing it prematurely.
"That's my specialty, Kelly, putting out fires." I tried another slow thrust and felt his reaction like it was my own. Maybe there was something in the water that made things feel like more.
Soon, we had a rhythm going that pleased both of us until I pressed in once too often and he froze around me and came hard. That was more than I could take and I flooded him with my own climax. The water bubbled around us while I lay over his back and panted through the pleasure. His arms were the only things keeping us both up while we rested.
Then his body began pushing me out and I made sure to check that there was no blood. It happened sometimes with virgins, no matter how careful you were but thankfully, I hadn't hurt him. He hissed just a little when I was all the way out and I immediately checked his entrance. The water could have hidden the evidence.
"I'm fine, Johnny." He said affectionately, our eyes meeting in the mirror again. "I just didn't realize how empty I'd feel when you left." He turned around and gathered me into his arms. "I see now why you passed out. The ache will be reminding me for some time how well I'm loved."
"There's a salve that I can apply to help lessen the ache." I told him while I floated in his arms.
He shook his head. "No need, love. I like it and firmly expect you to give me that ache again and again."
I kissed him gently and he responded with his tongue. Feasting on each other almost made me forget what I wanted to say but when we broke apart to breathe, I remembered. "I expect equal time, Kelly. That well-loved ache is addicting."
"Ah," he sighed and kissed the hollow of my throat "it's a good thing that we both have the same addiction. I'd like to have years and years of satisfying these new urges that I have."
He batted his eyelashes at me and I couldn't help but laugh. We took our time and leisurely bathed away the day before getting out to dry off. I applied the salve with a reminder that if he was too sore, I wouldn't come back inside of him. He pouted but agreed before carrying in the cream to put on the bedside table.
I liked the way he thought and I plotted on how to make him come back inside of me. But we were both tired and once we had extinguished the candles and crawled into the wide, soft bed under the cloud of netting, we fell asleep between one thought and the next.
When I awoke, he was still asleep with my head on his shoulder. The early morning rays of sun were beaming through the shutters on the windows, striping his face with light. I watched him breathe in and out, pondering love and other miracles. Flexing my fingers on his stomach, I discovered his morning erection and knew what I had to do. Very, very slowly, I slid down his side until I had my prize within my grasp.
He tasted of Kelly and salt and just slightly of spearmint. We really had to find out where to get some of that bath oil. I fluttered my tongue against him before straddling his legs and taking a good grip. I could feel him waking up and I needed to be sure he was completely with the program before his higher reasoning came back on-line.
"Johnny." Just my name but such a sexy voice that I hardened immediately.
His hand came down to stroke my cheek and I watched his sleepy gaze turn sultry while he arched up just a little. He was hard within my mouth and I judged him ready for me so I let go and slid up to kiss him. But reaching behind me, I got him positioned at my eager hole, his warm bulk nudging me.
Then I broke the kiss, sat up and slowly slid him inside of me. He pulsed inside of me and I bit my lip until I relaxed. Opening my eyes, I caught a worried look. "No fear, Kelly. You didn't hurt me."
"You didn't use any cream, Johnny. And saliva isn't good enough."
I smiled down at him and used my thigh muscles to raise up a little before sitting back down. "I put cream in yesterday, in case I could entice you inside of me then. If we go slow, the saliva will be enough and I'll be fine."
"You're sure?" He rubbed his hands along the inside of my thighs and I shivered at the warm caress.
"I'm sure, Kelly." Leaning down, I kissed him again before sitting back and hitting my gland with a flush that I knew he could see.
So when next I did that, he thrust up as I was coming down and our rhythm slowly sped up until I froze around him and came all over his stomach. One more thrust and he was coming too, warming me with his hot seed. I collapsed onto his chest and his arms came up around me in the hug that I loved.
I felt him kiss my hair while his hands stroked my spine and I purred for him. He chuckled and I could feel the vibration everywhere we touched. When he slipped from me, we both groaned. But I didn't move from my comfortable perch and he kept on petting me until I thought I'd fall asleep again.
"We need to clean up and find some breakfast, Johnny." He kissed the tip of my ear before biting it gently. "Man does not live on love alone."
Laughing, I rolled off of him and the bed with a little flex. "It's so early that we could probably hit the beach and swim ourselves clean."
Eyes gleaming, he followed me out of bed. "Good idea. I want to see you in that little scrap of red that you bought yesterday."
I wiggled in his grasp. "Only if I get to see you in the blue speedo that you bought."
"It's a deal, love." He reached over my shoulder and dangled the bikini suit in front of me that he had picked out the day before.
I could barely get it on since my eyes were too busy watching him try to tuck himself into the stretchy blue fabric that fit him like a second skin. If we hadn't both just come, we'd have never fit inside of them. It was the next best thing to being naked in public. His lecherous look warmed me all over.
"I'll have to stay close to make sure that no beachcombers try to scoop you up." He chased me from the bedroom and out onto the deck.
We took a quick look around but it looked like we were the only ones up so far. The sun was peeking over the low gray house that nestled in between the sand dunes and the water was cold when we splashed into the surf. But that just invigorated me and I ducked under the next wave before letting it carry me back towards Kelly.
He was laughing at my antics and I caught him by the legs and upended him into the water. Sputtering, he surged up and tried to catch me while we played tag in the foaming surf. We played for almost half an hour before our growling stomachs sent us back to the house. By then, the beach walkers and runners were out and we escaped into the house to make breakfast.
Once the salt began to dry, we began to itch. Sharing a shower was only a prelude to making love again. I loved his taste and sucking him off was almost as good as eating breakfast. But he pressed the nerve on my cock so I didn't come and told me that he preferred his meal on the dining room table.
And he proved his point when he picked me up and laid me on the table right next to the melon and yogurt before taking me into his hot, wet mouth and pleasuring me right into heaven. I jerked and came forever while he sucked me dry.
"There, I'd like that to be on our menu for many years to come." His blue eyes twinkled down at me where I quivered on the tabletop. I nodded, too overcome to speak and his gaze gentled. "Of course, I'm up for any little variations you'd care to introduce into our menu. The important thing is the proper place of ... protein in our diet."
I began to laugh helplessly and he gathered me up into his strong arms and slid us both into the sturdy chair at the head of the table, chuckling the whole time. It looked like laughter and love was going to be on our menu for the foreseeable future.
I was the luckiest man in the whole world.
3 March 2001, part 20
High above me an eagle called.
The wind blew gently against my face upturned to the sky.
The warmth at my back was Kelly, his arms holding me close.
Bright laughter rose from the playground where children frolicked.
The terra cotta walls of a two-story hospital rose from the desert near the two-lane blacktop road.
The tribal Elders sat in the shade and watched the children play.
Women hung laundry out to dry among the adobe homes scattered near the hospital.
A chuckle brought my eyes to Grandfather Flying Arrow, standing near me.
"You will build well, Johnny. The future is yours to make what ever you wish."
"I promise we'll use our resources to help our people, Grandfather."
He nodded. "Never forget the joy, Johnny. Everything is stronger when you open your heart and start with love."
"I won't forget, Grandfather. I love you."
"And I love you, too. Now, finish what must be done and turn your face to the future. The past has nothing left to frighten you. Face the dawn and remember the joy."
I awoke with a smile on my face and Kelly's head on my shoulder. Somehow, I knew that the hospital and playground were our future, one that we would build together over the rest of our lives. The sun was probably beginning to peek through the glass doors in the same suite that we'd had for Grandfather Gage's funeral.
This time I was home to bury my Grandmother.
But how very different the emotion was this time. Ace was in the next suite with one other to guard us. Kelly was my bulwark of calm, steady love. Roy and Captain Stanley were back home waiting for me to return. Marcus and Peter Ralston were taking care of the legal side of things. And this time, there'd be no going back to the Gage Estate.
Soot and cinders in a hole in the ground were all that was left of the place.
And that was completely all right with me.
Kelly and I were here to go to her funeral but then we'd be going straight home. I didn't have to worry about Ruchs either, since Ace had set a trap for him and he was in jail on a weapons charge. It felt good to have no more reason to fear my family. From what Marcus Ralston had told us, Uncle Geoffrey had fallen apart when his mother died. Wendell was trying to hold it all together but he was floundering in details.
If they took Marcus' advice, they'd let the acting CEO take charge and try to keep the company on a steady course. Global Economy had tried to press ahead but for once, Wendell had shown some guts and told them that now wasn't the time. Although I hated to admit it, he seemed to be starting to cope. Part of me wanted him to fail miserably but most of me remembered the people working for Gage Industries and their need to keep on working and supporting their families.
"You're thinking." Kelly's sleepy voice told me I'd been busted.
"Good morning, Kelly, I can't seem to stop." I grinned ruefully into his blue eyes.
"Good morning, Johnny, I love you. Are you worrying about them?" He leaned up and kissed me.
The first kiss of the day was always special to me. It reminded me that we were together and that the miracle still continued. Slowly and sensuously, Kelly mapped my mouth with dedicated fervor. His strong morning taste appealed to me and he swore that he found mine equally delicious.
But when we stopped, he was still looking down at me with a question in his eyes. So I tried to answer. "I feel like nothing too bad could ever happen to Geoffrey or Wendell but when I think about the people who depend on Gage Industries then I want the company to get through this with minimum damage. But if it means that the family wins then part of me feels like a dog in the manger."
"I have every confidence that you'll do all you can for the employees of Gage. And if that means that you help the family help them, then that's what you will do." Kelly smiled down at me and spoke confidently.
"You're sure about that?" I couldn't help asking.
"Very sure. The past is over, Johnny. It died with your grandmother. Geoffrey strikes me as being a weak reed who will break easily. Wendell, for all his nastiness, is stronger by far. This might be the making of him. It will be hard but you and I both need to forgive him for his horrible treatment of you when you were kids."
I sighed. "I know it, Kelly, but it will take time. Some of those memories are seared into my memories."
He kissed me again, gently and tenderly. "We have all the time that we need, Johnny. One day at a time we'll tackle it together."
Nodding, I held on tight to his strength.
The funeral wasn't so bad after all. With Kelly on one side and Mike on the other, I sat in the same place I'd set in at Grandfather's funeral but their presence made all the difference in the world. The minister seemed to be having a hard time finding adjectives for the woman he was burying. I could well believe that.
But the real eye-opener was Uncle Geoffrey. He seemed to have shrunk somehow. With bowed shoulders and red rimmed eyes, he shook with a continuous tremor that brought me to my senses. It was time to let go of the old pictures and emotions in my head. He looked like an old man and even his wife Priscilla looked lost. Grandmother had abused them just as surely as she had me but in the name of love.
How twisted was that? I really looked at Wendell on his father's other side. He looked like he'd lost twenty pounds since I'd last seen him and his jaw was clenched. Kelly was right. This might be the making of him. And for a brief moment, I pitied him sincerely. He would be doing this alone instead of with the support of friends and lovers.
That was the real test and maybe he'd surprise both of us by reaching out and asking for help. And that would be harder than anything that he'd ever done before, I knew that from experience. But looking past Kelly at the surviving members of my family, I could smile. There was no way they could ever hurt me again because of my stalwart protector.
I was the luckiest man in the world to be so loved. A great weight lifted from my mind and heart. The future was ours to build anew and I found myself wishing the others luck with their burdens. Perhaps, they'd find that love would see them through the trials and tribulations to come. Slipping my hand into Kelly's, I held on tight. Grandfather was right. It was a new dawn and it was time to let joy replace fear.
I let the past go and held onto my future with joy.
The end of In Dreams You Come