Kyler sat at the kitchen table working his way through a bowl of cereal and inattentively listening to his partners as they discussed the plans for the day. He gazed dreamily out the kitchen window and smiled at the sight of a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning. He knew it would still be chilly out as it was only the beginning of April, but there were already signs of spring and that was enough for him.
Patrick was saying something about moving some of the smaller items today to ensure them not getting broken and Hugh was grumbling about the fact that they would have already been moved if Patrick had let the movers take them yesterday with the rest of the furniture. Only the bed remained due to the transition having taken place too late in the day to get everything set up in Patrick’s parents’ new place. Hugh was also insisting the company would have assumed responsibility for anything they handled. Kyler loved the sound of his lovers’ voices. It didn’t matter what they were talking about; he just liked listening to them. It gave him such a feeling of closeness to know he belonged to them.
Today was the last day Patrick’s parents would be spending in their house. Tonight they would be in their new home; a brand-new, semi-detached, two-bedroom bungalow in a gated-community for Seniors only. A small group of homes nestled among the trees off the highway on the outskirts of town. Kyler had seen the place and thought it was perfect, although Bette and Doug still had very mixed feelings about the move. Of course, the turn-off to the complex was just next to the Dairy Queen and that may have coloured Kyler’s perspective some.
Kyler’s mind wandered back to the early hours of yesterday morning. Friday night, he and Cameron had gone to Kelowna for a Pool Championship. They had planned to come right home after the games were done, but instead had accepted an invitation to a party. Kyler still didn’t know why they had bothered. After all, it wasn’t like they knew many of the people there; just a few guys they met at the pool hall.
When they realized how the time had slipped by, Cameron had texted his partner to let Chad know he was running late. Kyler had hesitated on his own course of action, but the vibrating of his cell-phone took the matter out of his hands and alerted him to a concerned Top checking up on his Brat. Hugh was far from happy with his younger partner missing his curfew.
Kyler squirmed when he thought of the homecoming that had entailed a lecture, a sentence of two-weeks grounding and going to bed with a sore backside. He glanced up at his partners and contemplated once again if he should tell them about the narrow escape he and Cameron had lucked out on, and about the speeding ticket. Hmm, maybe later would be best.
Getting to his feet, Kyler collected up the empty dishes and took them over to the sink. He returned with the coffee pot and topped off the older men’s mugs. Then he perched himself on Hugh’s knee and placed his elbows on the table with his chin in his hands to listen more closely to the on-going conversation.
“Are you coming with us today, Ky?” Patrick asked, and then turned to Hugh. “Or is he grounded?”
Hugh tapped Kyler on the head. “He IS grounded for two weeks, which means he goes to school or work and gets back home immediately after. No movies, no games, no friends. But I will allow him to accompany us when we go out.”
Patrick turned to Kyler and raised one eyebrow. “Well?”
“Yeah, I’m available to help.” Kyler had been accompanying his partners more often than in the past when they visited Patrick’s parents. “I’m really good at moving people. Remember, I moved all my belongings over here last summer and a couple of months ago, I helped the Barker family resettle in their home after the fire damage had been repaired.” He looked over his shoulder at Hugh. “And I agree with Patrick about moving some of the smaller stuff ourselves. It will be easy with all the other stuff out of the way.”
He paused momentarily when he saw Hugh’s eyebrow rise in amusement, but encouraged by the smile on Patrick’s face, he merrily went on to give his reasons. “Bette and Doug have a lot of knick-knacks, like those Thomas Kincaide plates and all those delicate crystal things that can break so easily. And don’t forget those beautiful artificial flower arrangements; they would have been badly crushed in the moving van.”
Hugh listened indulgently to Kyler’s prattle. He had given the young man a dozen hard smacks on his bared bottom last night, before sending him upstairs to bed. It hadn’t been a serious spanking; but it had been enough to subdue him. He knew Kyler would need to re-establish their closeness the morning after – he always did – and he was glad to give it. One hand caressed Kyler’s hip as he balanced himself on Hugh’s lap while the other held him tightly around the waist.
After a while, Hugh patted Kyler’s thigh. “Honey, much as I love you on my lap, I need to use the bathroom.”
Kyler stood up and when Hugh vacated his seat, immediately confiscated it.
Patrick waited till he heard the bathroom door close before he turned to Kyler and asked. “How sore are you this morning, babe?”
“Pretty good actually; even though Hugh was pissed off, he didn’t spank as hard as he has in the past.”
“Considering this is not your first time missing curfew, I’d say you got off easy. You’d best watch your step, Kyler. Hugh won’t stand to be disobeyed.”
“Yeah, I know. But time just kind of got away from us; we didn’t mean to be late and we left the party right after Hugh called.” Kyler sat back on his chair and sighed. “And thank God we did,” he muttered under his breath, a look of chagrin passing over his young face.
Patrick saw the look on Kyler’s face and automatically asked. “Um ... Anything else you should be telling us ...?”
Kyler glanced up and a light blush spread across his cheeks as he slowly nodded his head. “I wanna tell you even though Cameron doesn’t want me to. Ah, maybe we can wait until Hugh gets back.”
Patrick steeled himself. Oh no, he thought, but outwardly he was cool and calm. “Sure.”
Hugh came back to the kitchen to see his two lovers sitting silently across from one another. He laughed out loud. “What’s up? Something bit both your tongues off?”
Patrick saw Kyler swallowing hard and decided to help him out. “Kyler has something he wants to tell us. Right, Ky?”
“I guess.” Kyler knew a fundamental tenet in their relationship was not keeping things hidden. “First though, I want to let you know I’m really thankful for you ordering me home when you did, Hugh. Okay, so maybe not overly thankful for the homecoming itself though.” He smirked at his older Top.
“Go on,” Patrick encouraged him gently, while Hugh took a seat next to him.
“When I got up this morning there was a text message from Cameron. I don’t know how he found out so quickly; he must have been up awfully early….at least a lot earlier then me."
“Okay, what about last night?” Hugh raised an eyebrow.
“According to Cameron, there was a raid or drug-bust of some kind about fifteen minutes after we left the party.” Kyler shook his head and exhaled noisily. “Man, if you hadn’t called when you did, I’d have been caught up with the rest of those people.”
“Who are these people?” Patrick asked, plainly disturbed.
“Well, I’m not exactly sure. They were acquaintances of acquaintances, so to speak, and winners of the pool tournament. Cam and I were invited to go along to the celebration bash. I didn’t even notice anyone doing drugs; don’t think Cam did either. I just know sure as hell that neither of us was doing any.”
“What else?” Hugh had folded his arms across his chest and his tone was short and crisp. Kyler glanced nervously at him.
“Ah, Cameron would really prefer I not tell you and I really hope it doesn’t get back to Chad before Cameron tells him himself. You see, another reason we were held up was that the RCMP pulled us over ‘cause Cam was speeding.” Kyler took in the expressions on his partners’ faces and figured further explaining might help. “It wasn’t all his fault! The guy in front of us was going so slow and we were in a hurry to get home before getting in any deeper. Didn’t quite work out though,” he admitted in a subdued voice and squirmed as his partners stared at him.
“How fast was he going?” Patrick finally asked.
“About a hundred and forty …. forty over the speed limit.” Kyler played with the hem of his t-shirt and though of just how bad that could have turned out.
“Forty?” Patrick echoed, taken aback. “Is that how Cameron usually drives?”
Hugh cut in without waiting for Kyler to respond, which was probably just as well since Kyler was not really planning on saying any. “Was there any drinking at the party?”
“Of course! It was a celebration, remember?” Kyler looked at Hugh as if the man had grown a second head. “But neither of us had much. And, yeah, Cam does have a bit of a lead foot but he’s trying to curb that tendency. He finds it’s getting kinda costly….in more ways than one.”
“I don’t care what he did in the past or what he is planning to do in future. All I can tell you is that you are not going out with Cameron any time soon.” Hugh stated firmly.
Patrick bowed his head but kept his mouth shut. He didn’t think Kyler deserved such a harsh sentence, not without first giving him a chance to explain, but he would never contradict Hugh in front of Kyler; especially not for something like this.
Kyler looked up at Hugh in shock. “You can’t tell me who I can hang around with.”
“Excuse me?” Hugh raised an eyebrow.
“It’s true, Hugh. I should be able to pick my own friends. We were just having some fun…..and it’s not as if I was the one speeding.”
“It appears I didn’t say enough last night,” Hugh said and his tone was grim. “I have no objection to you having fun, but when you get yourselves into dangerous situations and flout the law, it stops being fun. Breaking curfew was bad enough. Throw in a party with drugs and a ticket for speeding in the middle of the night ... I don’t think I need to go any further, do I?”
“But, Hugh, I already told you we didn’t know anything about the drugs. Cam doesn’t do drugs and neither do I. Cam says he only drives over the limit when there is next to no traffic and he has to get some place fast.”
A frown was gathering on Patrick’s face. After hearing both sides, he was beginning to reverse his earlier opinion. “Babe, I am afraid I share the same opinion as Hugh that Cameron is not exactly exhibiting the right behaviour and attitude. Only drives over the limit when there is no traffic? Or when he has to go somewhere fast? Kyler, do you really think that is acceptable?”
“No, I guess not.” Kyler wanted to stand up for his friend but was quickly realizing how difficult it was becoming to do so.
Hugh tapped his long fingers on the table top. “I don’t really care what Cameron says. The point is he does not obey traffic laws, nor does he appear to obey his Top. Do not tell me Chad has not had this conversation with him.”
“Humph!” Kyler snorted. “You sure don’t know Chad very well. He comes down hard on Cam ‘cause he’s bound and determined to break him of his speeding habit. Cam just forgets sometimes and gets carried away.”
“Well, together you two seem to form a risky combination, one I am not comfortable with. So I am telling you now, Kyler, I do not want you going off somewhere in his company unless you have my or Patrick’s permission.”
“That’s not fair, Hugh. Aside from breaking curfew, we didn’t do anything really bad. I mean everyone speeds now and again. It’s not like we caused an accident or something.” Kyler was determined to argue his point.
“Count yourself lucky then!” Hugh snapped, his temper stretched thin. “I’m not about to let you break a traffic rule just because you think everyone speeds.”
Patrick sighed. “I have to agree with Hugh, Ky baby. Let it go.”
Kyler leaned forward, his eyes flashing as his temper got the better of him. “I’m not gonna to let it go. I’m learning to do the books at the lounge. My mom works there, my uncle is one of the owners and Chad has been a great friend for years. I see Cameron there because he is one of the bartenders. And you sure as hell aren’t going to stop me from hangin’ out there just because you think Cam and me are a bad mix.” He banged his hand on the table, got to his feet and stalked out of the kitchen, slamming the door behind him.
Patrick rolled his eyes at Hugh, who was clearly displeased. “Shall I go after him?” Patrick asked.
“No, let him cool off a bit. No point talking to him now – nothing will go in. He knows he is grounded. He didn’t leave the house, he just went upstairs. I don’t think he will dare risk defying me on that.”
“Okay then.” Patrick got to his feet and stretched. “I’ll go get ready – I must be at the old folks’ place by eleven. I promised to pick up some laundry for them.”
Hugh leaned over and kissed Patrick firmly on the mouth. “I know. I am sorry this got into such a mess. You go ahead, darling. Let me sort out Kyler. I will bring him over later."
Kyler walked into the master bedroom and closed the door; much quieter than he had the kitchen door. He lay down on the bed with his folded arm over his eyes, taking deep breaths and willing his heart to stop thumping in his chest. He though over the conversation he’d stormed out on moments ago, and wondered if his partners actually expected to choose his friends for him.
He suddenly sat up when he thought he heard a truck start up in the driveway. He got up and looked out the window, just in time to see Hugh’s truck pull away from the house.
‘Guess they must be kinda fed-up, to be taking off without me,’ he thought, sadly believing he had really blown it this time. He wiped a tear from his eye and stubbornly consoled himself. “Well, more work for them, less for me.”
Wondering back down stairs, he turned on the stereo full blast and headed for the kitchen. He stopped short when he saw Hugh standing at the sink, washing up the breakfast dishes.
“You’re still here,” he softly exclaimed. “I thought you and Patrick had left together.” Kyler was unsure it this was a good sign or a bad one.
Without turning around, Hugh replied, “No, Patrick went ahead. He had errands to run.” He quickly rinsed off the few remaining plates and cups, and stacked them neatly on the rack. Then he turned and stared at Kyler.
Kyler returned the stare, although his was somewhat more wide-eyed and uncertain. Deep down he felt a sense of relieve, knowing he hadn’t been abandoned.
Hugh wiped his hands on the tea towel, all the while keeping his eye on the young man in front of him.
It was becoming too much for Kyler. He shuffled from one foot to the other and dropped his eyes to a spot on the floor in front of him. He’d always found it impossible to out-stare his Top.
“So are you ready to talk in a civil tone now?”
“All right then, come with me.” Hugh took Kyler’s arm and led him into the living room, turning the stereo off along the way. The sudden silence was deafening. “Sit!” he ordered, pointing to the sofa.
Kyler did as he was told and lowered himself into the corner of the chesterfield. He grabbed the pillow that normally rested there and held it against his chest.
“First thing I am going to say, is this.” Hugh stood in front of Kyler, looming over him. “As my partner and my Brat, your behaviour and actions are my responsibility, and thus subject to my scrutiny and approval. I have every right to decide where you go, when you go and who you associate with, just as I have every right to punish you.” He waited a moment to see if Kyler would say anything.
As had been the case since coming upon his partner in the kitchen, Kyler remained silent but wary of the older man. He knew full-well he had broken the rules of communication earlier, and although he didn’t need his transgressions pointed out, he was aware of Hugh’s tendency to list them. He rolled himself into a ball by hugging the pillow tighter and drawing up his knees to put his sock-covered feet on the sofa.
“Your attitude this morning was deplorable and your language far from desirable. You know very well the rules about shouting, slamming doors and banging on tables, don’t you? Not to mention running off in the middle of a discussion.”
“It’s just so hard sometimes,” Kyler murmured, not glancing up as a blush of embarrassment spread across his cheeks. He released a sigh of exasperation, not at all sure if it was directed at himself or his partner. “I know you only have my safety and well-being at heart and even though I understand the need and appreciate the boundaries, it still gets overwhelming at times, especially when you come up with something new like putting conditions on when I can see my friends.”
Kyler unexpectedly felt the urge to get all his thoughts out in the open. Taking a deep breath, he looked up at the man in front of him and worked diligently to express himself in a deferential manner. “I really make an effort to keep you informed of where I’m going, who I’ll be with and when I’ll be home, Hugh. It’s just that things sometimes come up at the last minute. Take that party for instance; we accepted the invitation to go but didn’t plan to stay long. Time got away from us, and then we were in a rush to get home before getting in more hot water. You already punished me for that, Hugh. It was supposed to wipe the slate clean, but now you’re adding more sanctions.”
He watched for his partner’s reaction but was unable to determine if Hugh was accepting any of his explanation.
“I rarely speed, Hugh, and I’ve never received a ticket. The speeding ticket Cam got last night is between him and Chad, not us.”
Hugh had listened intently to Kyler, digesting everything his young Brat said to make sure he did not miss anything. When Kyler paused to look at him, he moved to sit on the sofa next to Kyler and then answered quietly. “I know you make the effort, and you try very hard. No one is saying you are not a good Brat. Both Patrick and I think the world of you, and we love you very much.”
Kyler relaxed ever so slightly and shyly smiled. “I love you and Patrick too. I don’t like to think of where I’d be now without you both.” He picked at the edging of the pillow in his arms.
“Just so we are clear, I am not blaming you for Cameron’s speeding ticket, but you are wrong to say that ticket is between him and Chad. That is not true, babe. You were in the car, which makes you a part of how he got that ticket. It is obvious he does not follow traffic rules when he is harried and equally obvious you are in no position to influence him. If he had overturned the car, or crashed, you would have been in there and I am not prepared for that to happen. So my decision stays – you will not go off with Cameron till such time I am convinced he will drive sensibly.”
“Okay,” Kyler murmured and nodded his acquiescence.
“And how many times have I explained that the best of intentions will not cut it if you still end up breaking a rule. Going to a party is fine, forgetting the time is not. Breaking the speed limit and rushing to get home to avoid getting into trouble is not. Refusing to obey me is not.” Hugh watched Kyler’s expression, and then asked gently. “Would you like to say something now?”
Shifting uncomfortably, Kyler wondered if he should continue and then figured ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’. He quietly made his final appeal. “You know, it’s not too balanced sometimes, Hugh. Every now and again, you seem to concentrate more on the negative stuff than the positive. You didn’t even acknowledge my gratitude for you rescuing me by calling and getting me out of what ended up being a very bad scene. I really appreciate you caring enough to do that; I’m sure you saved me a lot of grief.”
“I am sorry you think I only focus on the negative. I thought I have been pretty fair actually, but your point is noted.”
Hugh hid a smile; Kyler was proving to be tougher than he had expected and he was secretly pleased. He didn’t want a weak-willed partner. “By the way, last night I didn’t call you to ‘save you’. That was purely coincidental, so there is no reason for you to be grateful to me. You should just be thankful for being lucky!”
Kyler briefly closed his eyes. He was still coming to gripes with just how fortunate he and his friend had been. He chewed at his lower lip as he continued gazing up at the older man, trying to read Hugh’s expression. He hung his head to hide the tears forming in his eyes when he didn’t pick up a softening in his Top’s countenance. “I’m sorry for the way I acted earlier,” he quietly apologized. “I should have stayed and talked it over more.”
Hugh grunted. “Hmm. You should be sorry indeed but thank you for the apology.”
Although he was feeling guilty about having thrown yet another tantrum, he didn’t want to think of the possible consequences. Beside, it wasn’t his call to make; it was his Top’s. He trusted Hugh to do what he thought was best.
Hugh did a rapid mental analysis of the situation and made a quick decision. Kyler was obviously all still tied up in knots, probably filled with equal parts of guilt and frustration. He was fretful and teary and his fingers were nervous as they plucked at the cushion at his chest. Hugh noticed all the tell-tale signs of a Brat in distress and he was not about to let Kyler agonize over it.
Standing up, Hugh held out a hand to Kyler. “Come,” he said firmly. “We are going upstairs. The rules remain unchanged – slamming doors and banging tables will always earn you a spanking.”
He didn’t need to add running out of a conversation, they had covered that enough times.
Kyler slowly stood up and accompanied the older man upstairs. He wasn’t surprised at where this was heading. Tempers tantrums were a major no-no in their home; especially when they resulted in his bolting, instead of dealing with the situation.
He watched Hugh sit down on the bed in his punishment room and then reluctantly did what he had to do without being told to. He pulled down the zipper on his pants, slipped his thumbs into the waistband and pushed his jean and boxers down far enough to step out of them. Leaving them in a small pile on the floor, he moved to stand next to his Top.
Hugh nodded his approval and took hold of Kyler’s arm, pulling him down and over his lap. They were no longer new at this and there was a familiarity in their actions that was comforting in a strange sort of way. Neither looked forward to it, but it was the very basis of their relationship and formed an important part of the foundation of their respective needs and roles. If they had never embarked on it, they might never have needed it. But once they had agreed to this lifestyle, it had become an anchor for them, an integral part that complemented each of them. Without it now they would be lost, all three of them.
The spanking was swiftly administered and was soon over. Hugh used only his hand, as always. He had never spanked Kyler with anything else, and he hoped he would never have the need to. Kyler had expressed deep reluctance to be punished with an implement right from the outset, and an experienced Top like Hugh would never forget that. He would always take his Brat’s fears and reservations into consideration and would do anything to make sure he was kept safe.
As he cradled a sobbing Kyler in his arms, Hugh whispered soft words into his Brat’s ears. “It’s all right now, baby. Hush, it’s over. All done. Hush now.”
Kyler had a death grip on Hugh’s shirt. He slowly calmed as the sting receded. Even though it was only with his hand, Hugh had smacked hard as he always did. He didn’t believe in half measures and Kyler had felt the burn keenly.
“Hurts,” Kyler whimpered.
“I know it hurts.” Hugh was pretty sure the torrent of tears was not just due to the smart in Kyler’s bottom; Kyler had lost the tenseness around his shoulders and sounded much more relaxed now that they had addressed the issue. “That’s why it works. You will remember better next time, and I don’t expect to see you storming off again any time soon.” Hugh leaned down and kissed Kyler.
At that moment in time, Kyler was swearing off bolting for the rest of his life.
Kyler’s tears had more or less dried up by then, and Hugh’s arms tightened around the young man. “Did I tell you I love you?”
“Uh-huh,” Kyler hitched and burrowed even deeper into his partner’s Top’s embrace.
Hugh brushed a hand across Kyler’s cheek - a gentle gesture that spoke eloquently of his love. “Well, I do, very much so. And don’t you ever forget that!”
Kyler lifted his head to gaze at the older man for a minute or two before snuggling in once again. “I don’t know why it happens,” he mused, barely loud enough for Hugh to hear. “But it seems that at times like this I feel closer to you than at any other time; including after we’ve made love. Isn’t that a bit weird?”
Leaning his head against Kyler’s, Hugh felt his heart swell with tenderness. “It’s not unusual for a Top and his Brat to feel an intense level of intimacy right after a spanking. It takes a lot for you to trust me enough to do this. And whether you believe me or not, it always breaks my heart when you cry.”
“It does?” Kyler’s red-rimmed eyes widened in surprise.
“Yep – especially when I have to spank you.”
“Maybe you should reconsider doing that,” Kyler jokingly suggested around a loud yawn. Although he certainly didn’t like being spanked, he’d be the first to admit that it worked for them and the special relationship they worked hard to maintain.
“Do you want to take a nap?”
“It would be nice, I guess. But aren’t we expected at Bette and Doug’s soon?”
“We have time. I will call Patrick and tell them we’ll go over later."
“Whatever you think is best, Hugh.” Kyler stiffly got to his feet and was about to bend to pick up his boxer when he felt a sudden flutter in his stomach. He looked slyly at Hugh. “Did you say we’ve got time?”
Hugh bent a stern stare at Kyler, a little smile playing at the corner of his mouth. “Yes, I did.”
“In that case ...” Kyler smiled and stepped over his boxers and jeans, seductively swaying his still pinkish butt as he walked across the hall to the master bedroom.
Hugh followed from behind, admiring the view. “Get in Brat!” Hugh swatted Kyler lightly as he held the covers up.
“Come lie down with me, Hugh, after you call Patrick?” Kyler invited as he crawled into bed.
Hugh winked at his young lover. “You bet!"
Kyler was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. He was pleasantly surprised to discover how badly he wanted sex at the moment and even more so by his lover going alone with it, as is was not something that usually followed so close after a spanking. He was grinning broadly and anxiously waiting when Hugh came back to the room.
Hugh quickly stripped off his clothes and slid in next to Kyler. “I thought you wanted to sleep?” he teased.
“To dream of sex? No way, man; for real and in the flesh is just soooo much better.”
Hugh’s hands were already busy, unbuttoning Kyler’s shirt buttons. He leaned down and kissed Kyler on the mouth as he worked all the buttons off, then his mouth moved down to tease each nipple in turn. Kyler reacted immediately and reached up to lightly caress Hugh’s broad shoulders.
“Are you ready for me, baby?”
“As if you can’t tell,” Kyler answered in a voice thick with passion.
Hugh didn’t waste any more time talking. He reached for the lube which was ever ready at their bed-side and squeezed out a generous portion. He prepared Kyler first, and then himself. Kyler had already moved into position and was holding himself open for Hugh.
“I need you inside me, Hugh…….now!” Kyler called out, impatiently squirming.
Hugh felt his throat constrict as he entered Kyler. “Oh Kyler, you feel so damn good!”
“Aahh, God….” Kyler gasped as his body adjusted to the penetration.
Hugh slowed till he felt Kyler relax, and then he began to slowly thrust deeper and faster, hitting Kyler’s sweet spot every time. Kyler lifted his hips and easily matched his lover’s pace. Gripping Kyler tightly, Hugh took them both over the edge.
Several minutes later, Kyler was up and quickly getting dressed. More often than not, he found sex rejuvenating. Hugh, on the other hand, preferred to take a bit more time to enjoy his post-coital bliss.
“Come on, big guy. Folks are waiting for us!” Kyler laughed at his Top’s groan and merrily skipped out of the room.
Patrick was already at the front door when Hugh and Kyler drove up.
“Hey guys,” Patrick greeted them, then kissed each one in turn. “You sure took your time!”
“We’ve been busy.” Kyler smirked and wiggled his eyebrows, knowing Patrick would pick up on the not-so-subtle hint.
Patrick arched an eyebrow. “Did I miss anything?”
Hugh peered behind Patrick to make sure the coast was clear, and then he leaned in and kissed Patrick again, this time his tongue invading Patrick’s mouth. “Your turn tonight!” He whispered in Patrick’s ear.
Patrick rolled his eyes and he lightly swatted Hugh’s behind. “Get in, you two! We’ve had lunch. Mom made sandwiches. You want some?”
“You bet! Hugh and I have worked up quite an appetite,” Kyler declared as he squeezed past the two bigger men, walked into the kitchen and at down at the table. “Extra help is here, Bette. We just gotta refuel first.”
He beamed up at the older woman and eagerly accepted the plate of sandwiches with celery sticks on the side and the large glass of cold milk that she placed in front of him. Kyler considered this gracious, petit lady with the almost pure white hair to be one of the most beautiful people he knew.
Bette put her arm around Kyler’s shoulder and gave him a gentle peck on the cheek. She loved this boy, the latest addition to his son’s family. He had been shy at first, holding them at arms length for a while in the beginning, but now he was like a son to her. Just like Patrick and Hugh. Only much younger and much nicer to pamper.
“Eat up, honey.” Bette indicated the full plate. “There is more if you want it.”
She set an equally-filled plate on the other side of the table and indicated to Hugh to sit down.
Thanks mom,” Hugh said. Like Patrick, he addressed them both as mom and dad.
“Well, it’s about time you two boys got here.” The twinkle in Doug’s eye clearly showed he was teasing as he came in from the front room. He sounded cheerful and upbeat. “We were just about to start loading Hugh’s truck.” He stepped up to his wife, wrapped an arm about her waist and gave her a loving squeeze.
Patrick watched them silently, feeling a pang of sadness shoot through him. They were trying so hard to be strong.
It didn’t take long for Hugh and Kyler to scoff down the lunch that had been prepared for them. Doug kept up a light chit-chat, bringing Hugh and Kyler up-to-date on all that had been accomplished that morning. Patrick just sat and observed, noting his father’s forced cheeriness and his mom’s strained smile. He wished there was something he could do to make it easier, but there was not. This was one of the rites of passage old age handed out. He was just glad his folks still had one another. How much harder it would have been if one had passed on and left the other behind.
The minute Hugh and Kyler finished, they resumed the business of moving. There were so many knick-knacks, small insignificant pieces of possessions that were priceless only to the memories of their owners. After what seemed like endless trips in and out of the house with armfuls of boxes, Patrick announced they were ready to drive over to his parents’ new home and unload.
As the house slowly emptied, Kyler too picked up on Bette and Doug’s growing despondency. Kyler came from a strong family background and he understood that giving up the home they had lived in most their married life was a difficult and emotionally draining decision. He was deeply moved at how Doug managed to maintain a brave front. But try as she might to keep it hidden Bette’s sadness became more noticeable as her belongings were removed.
Making a sudden decision, Kyler pulled Hugh aside. “Hugh, I think these folks need a break and I have an idea. Hmm, I know I’m grounded.” Kyler self-consciously shuffled from one foot to the other. “But I was wondering if I could just take Doug and Bette for a drive while you guys finish up here. I think all this is getting to be a little too much for them and they don’t really need to see the house being shut up?”
Hugh leaned down and put his forehead against Kyler’s. “That is a wonderful idea, babe. No reason at all for them to witness that.”
“I figured maybe a drive to the lake or somewhere and maybe a treat at the DQ would help them regroup, so to speak. We wouldn't be gone more than an hour.”
“OK, that’s fine – that should give Patrick and me sufficient time to get everything taken care of here. And you can then just bring them to the new bungalow. We’ll have the place set up comfortably by then.”
“Thanks, big guy; love you!” Kyler enthusiastically exclaimed, throwing his arms around the older man and hugging him. “I’ll go tell the old folks while you let Patrick know, okay?”
“Hey!” Hugh pulled Kyler back into his arms. He gave Kyler a giant squeeze. “I love you!”
“So did you enjoy your evening in Kelowna last night, Kyler?” Doug inquired of the young man behind the steering wheel. They were driving down the main street on their way out of town.
Kyler glanced in the rear view mirror at the couple sitting in the back seat of his car. “Yes, I had a great time.” He smiled at the sight of Bette and Doug holding hands like a couple of teenagers. It was nice to see them still so much in love after almost fifty years of being together.
“Did your friends win the tournament, dear?” Bette sounded interested.
“No, although they did their best, they came in second. There was some pretty stiff competition and the home team won.” Kyler certainly didn’t intend to tell about the celebration party or of his late arrival home.
“I used to play pool at one time,” Doug mused, reflectively. “I was rather good at it too, if I do say so myself.”
“Yes, you were,” Bette agreed. “And although I didn’t play the game, I always enjoyed watching you. It’s been quite a while since you last played.”
“Hmm, I guess time has a way of getting away from us all. I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at it again.”
“Did you take part in anything, Bette?” Kyler piped up, wanting to know more about this couple who were gracefully making their way through their golden years.
“I did,” she responded with pride. “For years I was on the Jade Heights Women Bowling Team. In fact, I still miss it.”
“How come you stopped?” Kyler questioned out of curiosity.
“The Rec Centre burned down quite a few years back. It took a long time to rebuild it and by the time it was done, most of the ladies had other interests.”
“Kyler, when did the pool hall start staying open on Sundays?” Doug suddenly asked.
“It didn’t! Um ... there is a private ‘Staff Appreciation’ get-together going on. It’s just for family members and friends of those who work at the lounge. They have this all the time. That’s why the small parking lot is full.”
“Isn’t your uncle one of the owners? And if so, why are you not at the party?” Bette asked, plainly concerned. She was a quick-witted woman and picked up immediately that Kyler was not telling them everything.
“Well, Hugh, Patrick and I were invited to attend, but we declined due to us having other plans,” Kyler said diplomatically – no way he would tell the older couple that he and his partners had planned to spend as much of this weekend as possible helping with the move.
“It’s okay though,” Kyler continued in a hurry when he heard Bette’s sudden intake of breath. “‘cause they hold at least three of these parties a year and the next one will be a big bar-b-que at Uncle Kipper’s during the summer. We’ll go to that one.”
“I think we should go to this one,” Doug strongly voiced his opinion. Bette patted Doug’s hand and flashed him a wide smile. “That is, if you consider Bette and I as family.”
“Course you’re family!” Kyler emphatically declared.
“Then pull over and park the car so we can get out. We can go for a drive some other day. Right now, I would really like to meet your family and have a game of pool.” Doug’s tone soundly discouraged a rebuttal.
Kyler gleefully obeyed. He really liked this old gentleman. He reminded him so much of Patrick, with the same sense of humour and the same firm decisiveness that was never obtrusive. Besides, Kyler didn’t think he had a choice; Doug’s tone soundly discouraged a rebuttal.
“Hey, if that’s what you’d like to do, then so be it. After all, this is your time to relax and enjoy yourselves, right?”
Kyler wasn’t about to tell Patrick’s parents that he was grounded.
Just over an hour later, exactly like promised, Kyler drove up to the bungalow and parked behind Hugh’s now empty truck. Following Bette and Doug into their new home, Kyler called out. “We’re back with treats for everyone. We stopped off at the DQ. Come and get it before everything melts!”
Kyler headed straight for the kitchen, while Bette and Doug took their time looking about them. Of course they had been there before, and had planned where everything would go but it was something else to see all their familiar pieces of furniture more or less deposited and arranged as they wanted. In fact, there were a few additional touches, like the bowl of freshly cut flowers and a huge card above the fireplace that said ‘Welcome Home Mom & Dad”.
“Oh Doug,” Bette said in a trembling voice, pointing to the card. “How sweet!”
Doug held on tightly to Bette’s hand. “Look dear, that’s my reading chair and a new rug as well.”
“Yes, I see. They are trying so hard, aren’t they?”
“They certainly are,” Doug agreed. He turned to Bette and said, “Welcome home, darling.” Doug put his arm around his wife and together they gazed silently into the small living room.
After a while Bette said, “Come dear, let’s go eat ice-cream.”
Kyler was setting out dishes of ice cream when his partners came into the kitchen. “We’ve got a Sundae for each of you,” he announced. “I got a gooey mixture of caramel and chocolate with all the toppings for Hugh and me; a boring strawberry with chopped peanuts for you, Patrick. Just the way we like it.”
Hugh immediately kissed Kyler with loud smacking noises and reached for his sinful delight while Patrick shook his head at his partners.
It wasn’t long before they were all sitting around the table and talking over the day’s events. Patrick and Hugh had been busy bringing over the last of the items and had placed them in the rooms they belonged in, trying to make the house as much of the home Bette and Doug left behind as possible. Most the big furniture had been arranged, beds made up and the kitchen put to rights. Bette and Doug could finish up the rest as time and energy permitted.
“Mom, Dad, how do you like the place?” Patrick asked. “Is everything the way you want it?”
Bette beamed. “Thank you so much boys. You have been wonderful. Everything is just grand.”
Doug nodded his agreement. “Seems you two did a lot in the time we were away.”
“We just want you to be comfortable,” Hugh said, his eyes warm. He didn’t want them all to get into a sombre mood so he asked cheerily. “So how was the drive?”
“Oh, we didn’t go for a drive after all. Kyler took us to the staff appreciation party at the lounge,” Doug answered, digging into the banana split he was sharing with his wife.
‘Oh shit!’ Kyler thought, keeping his head down and continuing to eat his sundae. He’d really have preferred telling his partners about this change in plans later when the three of them were alone.
“Oh really?” Patrick raised his brows. “Is that today? I’d forgotten – what with the move and all.”
“Well, you missed a good time, son,” Doug teasingly enlightened him.
“Yes. We met his family and I had a lovely visit with Carissa. She invited me to join the ladies’ bowling team. Their present season is drawing to a close, so I won’t be joining until the fall. I am really looking forward to it,” Bette happily informed her son and his older partner.
“Gaetane, Kipper and I played a few games of pool. We plan to meet up regularly as both of us need to work on our game.” Doug seemed very pleased with the results of their short time away from the turmoil of moving.
Patrick smiled, delighted to see how animated his parents were. He had been so afraid they would slide into a depression. “Excellent idea, Dad. In fact, I think we should challenge you to a game soon. You three versus us three, eh guys?” Patrick looked over at Hugh and Kyler.
“I’d really enjoy that! Mother can come and watch us trounce you,” Doug joked with a twinkle in his eye.
Hugh grinned. “You’re on!” He noticed Kyler’s silence and asked. “And what were you about all this while?”
Kyler shrugged, apparently not too keen to respond. Doug stepped in and answered on his behalf. “He was the perfect gentleman. He introduced us to everyone there and made sure we were well taken care off.”
“That’s right,” Bette collaborated. “Who was that other young man you introduced us to, Kyler? The one you spoke with before you disappeared to the back. He seemed very nice and appeared to know everyone there.”
“You talking about that chap who came to tell us it was time to leave?” Doug clarified. “That must be Chad, I think? The part owner of the pub?”
Kyler shifted uncomfortably, silently praying that Doug and Bette would move on to another subject, that his partners would not ask any more questions. It wasn’t something he wanted to discuss in front of Patrick’s parents.
He blushed when he felt Bette’s hand gently patting his arm. “Thank you so much for this afternoon, honey. Doug and I really needed that break. You have a kind heart and a gentle spirit.” She stood up and leaned over to kiss his cheek. “Watching Doug play pool with your uncles and being invited to bowl with your mother, are like special gifts to me.”
Patrick hooked an arm around Kyler’s neck and kissed him. He had never been shy of being demonstrative in front of his folks and this kind of praise from his mom definitely called for a special salutation.
Bette discretely turned to her husband. “Why don’t you and I go see how much the boys accomplished while we were gone, love?”
“Oh, I imagine anything they’ve done will be satisfactory if the living room is anything to go by, my dear,” Doug got to his feet, winked at the other men and trailed after his wife.
“Well Kyler,” Hugh said, with mock sternness. “You have been very quiet the whole time. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“I didn’t forget I was grounded. I just didn’t know how to say no to them.” Kyler looked from one partner to the other. “I talked to Chad . He told me that Cameron was grounded too, but like you, he didn’t leave Cam home alone. He just confined him to the office. I figured if Cam was grounded there, I may as well be too.”
Both Hugh and Patrick stared at him in silence.
Kyler hung his head, chewed his lower lip and abstractly stirred the melting ice cream in the bowl in front of him. He didn’t think he could look his partners in the eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to break my grounding; I just wanted Mom and Dad to be happy again,” he softly murmured, hardly realizing he had used those words for Bette and Doug.
Patrick’s face lit up and Hugh broke into a grin.
“You big goofy!” Patrick grabbed Kyler and pulled him sideways onto his lap. “Did you think we are mad with you?”
“I thought you would be. Aren’t you?”
“Of course not, darling!” Patrick pressed his face into Kyler’s chest. “And to think you even thought to confine yourself in the office ... whatever made you think of that?”
“I didn’t think I should join in the activities. After all, if we’d have been at home today, you wouldn’t have allowed me to go to the party.”
“Come here, Kyler.” It was Hugh’s turn to hold his young partner on his lap. Hugh kissed him soundly. “You did well, babe. I am very proud of you.”
“It was really sweet of you, what you did today. Thank you. And you called them mom and dad.” Patrick smiled. “I loved hearing you do that.”
“So I’m not in trouble?” Kyler’s face lit up. He was so relieved he decided to go for broke, even knowing the chances of him get a positive response was slim at best. “Hey, the party was still going strong when we left; ya wanna go back to it?” He grinned innocently. “Ya know, you guys worked pretty hard today. I think you both deserve a bit of fun now,” he reasoned.
“In your dreams, Brat!” Hugh’s fingers dug into Kyler’s side, causing the younger man to push away and head down the hall yelling loudly.
“Okay! Okay! So we’re not going,” he laughed. “I got it!”
Out in the living room, Bette and Doug smiled at each other at the sounds of banter and laughter coming from the kitchen. Hugh and Patrick were mercilessly bullying their young lover and Kyler’s screams got louder as he ran into the living room, hotly pursued by the other two totally adult men.
“Mom, Dad!” Kyler yelled, running to stand behind their sofa, his eyes shining with mirth.
Hugh sobered and stopped at the living room entrance when he saw the two old folks but Patrick plunged in, still trying to grab Kyler.
“Boys!” Doug called out, slapping Patrick’s hand away. “Settle down!” he said, very much like talking to a bunch of six-year olds.
Bette patted the space in between her and her husband. “Come sit here, Kyler. They won’t dare touch you here.”
Kyler squeezed in between the old folks and smirked over at Patrick who had lowered himself into the armchair across the room.
Hugh walked over to Patrick and perched on the arm of Patrick’s chair. He looked appraisingly round the room and spoke to Bette and Doug. “There are still a few more things we are planning for this room, like put up those pictures and maybe get a new lamp for Doug’s reading chair.”
“You boys have done enough,” Doug said, his voice gruff.
“Dad, you need the extra light for your eyes,” Patrick chimed in. “And mom, we’ll install a ceiling fan in the kitchen for you. You’ll like that.”
Bette smiled. “Yes, I will Patrick. Thank you.” With her woman’s intuition, she knew her boys needed to do all that, and she wasn’t about to stop them. “I hate to break this up but it’s getting late and I think your dad is about ready for a little afternoon nap.”
Hugh picked it up at once. “We’ll get going then and give you a chance to settle in and relax. We’re only a phone call away should you require any help.”
Patrick leaned down to kiss his parents good-bye, followed by Hugh. Kyler hesitated a moment, and then threw his arms around Doug and then Bette. He felt closer to them than he ever had before.
Once the hugs, kisses and goodbyes were exchanged, the three men departed for their own home, leaving with the feeling of a job well-done.