The Apartment

Chapter 19

Ray roused from a fitful sleep. The distant noises of the city at night, barely audible in the room he shared with Andy, had not disturbed him the past few nights; they were the always present sounds he had quickly come to associate with 'home' – and the apartment was home for him in a way his family home had not been since his mother's remarriage to the stepfather he had called 'Pa' and whose stern attitudes had made Ray feel out of place in what was but did not feel like his own home.

But now there was another sound, quiet but unlike the susurrus of city sounds he'd grown used to – something that sounded like repressed, covered-up sobbing. He came fully awake with a start, and began to rouse Andy (from sleep, not that way, you pervs!). As Andy came to, he whispered, "Listen."

As one, their eyes went across the room to the other bed, the one that had been Ray's when he first arrived, where they had bedded down Randy. His shoulders were gently quaking in the gloom.

Quickly the two boys stood up and took the few steps over to the other bed., bending over Randy as they got there. "What's wrong?" Andy asked.

"Nothin'" came the muffled answer from the pillow. "'M sorry I disturbed you guys."

Ray thought fast. What's the right thing to do? ran through his mind. "Dude, if it's making you cry, we want to help," he said. "We're brothers now, and that's what brothers do."

"You can't do anything. Please go back to sleep. I didn't mean to wake you."

"In a pig's eye," Andy said. "If you're hurting, we're hurting. Ray said it right." And Ray felt yet another wave of love wash over him at hearing Andy back him like that.

Randy rolled over. His eyes were wet and swollen, his face flushed. "They're gone," he said bleakly. "It finally hit me – I loved them and I'll never see them again."

Andy took Randy in his arms, holding his head and shoulders up. One of Randy's arms dangled across Andy's thigh, grazing his dick. Randy quickly lifted it. "Sorry!" he said hurriedly.

"It's okay, Randy. Nothin' to worry about. We don't play that 'pretend you're something you're not' game here. If I had any problems with our bodies touching, I wouldn't have reached out to hold you." Andy paused. "I can't even imagine how it must hurt, to have nice parents and lose them. My father was a S.O.B."

"My mother loved me," Ray said. "She backed Pa but she found little ways to show me she cared." A realization struck him. "And when it came down to it, and Pa was going to send me away, she sent me here to find Andy, 'cause that was the last thing she could do to make me happy." He sniffed. "I miss her. So I know how you feel, kind of."

"Let it out, dude," Andy said. "We're here for you. We want to do what little we can to make you feel better. And you need to get it out of your system." He too was struck by a realization. "Ray? We need to call Gil in the morning."

Ray looked a question at his boyfriend.

"There'll be a funeral for Randy's folks. We all need to go to it."

Ray was struck by the rightness of this. "Yeah, we do. And Gil can find out where and when, right?"


"You'd do that for me?" Randy was surprised.

Andy made a production number out of placing his lips next to Randy's left ear, poking a finger into his right ear, deepening his voice, and saying, "Dude. We're. Brothers." Dropping back to his normal voice: "There. Did it sink in that time?"

Randy gave him a wan smile. "You really mean it, huh?"


"You guys don't have ta..."

Ray interrupted him. "Yeah, but we want to. When nobody else cared about us, the guys here did. Now it's our turn." A pause. "And someday, it'll be yours, when somebody else is hurting and you're the one who can help."

Andy's voice was gentle. "Pay it forward, dude."

Ray: "Tell us about them. It may sound like cutting into a wound, but it'll help. When friends share a hurt, it shrinks."

And Randy began to tell them what his parents had been like, a bit at a time, as one thing about their lives together reminded him of something else. Andy continued to hold him, their nudity seeming somehow irrelevant, or perhaps symbolic of honesty and openness.

Chay bounced jauntily back into his and Donny's room, followed by an embarrassed-looking but grinning Billy. Donny was squatting beside the bed Jack was lying in, naked, his dick at half mast after his and Chay's aborted lovemaking, holding a Dixie cup of water, which he had just given Jack to wash down a painkiller. His face was full of compassion and concern for Jack.

"Hey, Jack!" Chay said. "This's Billy; you remember him from earlier. He's. um, agreed to help you with your … problem." Billy's eyes were alight as he focused in on the 'problem,' angling off across the bruise on Jack's right hipbone. His pain had caused it to diminish a bit from the full erection of earlier, but it was still fairly turgid, and its healthy color contrasted with the inflamed bruise. Billy was blushing but obviously enthusiastic at the prospect.

"Dammit, Chay, why'd you go and do that?" Jack exclaimed. Billy shriveled. But it wasn't anger talking, as Jack went on. "I don't deserve you guys. I brought this on myself. Don't make that poor kid demean himself for me!"

"That's silly, Jack!" Donny said vehemently.

Chay added, "Billy likes going down on other guys; that's why I asked him to help you out." Billy's blush renewed but he nodded agreement. "He likes it, just like you like what you do."

"That's just why it's wrong," Jack said, with a hint of despair. "All my life I haven't been good enough. My parents made sure I knew that. I could never measure up to my big sister Rachel. I couldn't be a man in my father's eyes, no matter what I did. Liking boys was just the icing on the cake. I don't deserve to be here, with you guys taking care of me. The other day, I got what I deserved!"

Chay and Donny were thunderstruck. As long as they'd known Jack, he'd been reticent about his past, and they'd honored the 'no prying' rule with him, as with everybody. They'd known it was parent problems, as with most guys, of course, but much of what they were hearing was new.

Billy, however, didn't notice their reactions. "Dude, that's stupid! If anybody deserves to feel guilty here, it's me. I was sucking guys off so I could pick their pockets – and I did it to one of the guys here. I was looking at Juvy. and the reformatory, and by the laws I would've deserve it; I knew the risks when I kept doing it. Instead they reached out and helped me, and brought me here. If anybody deserves sh- crap in their life, it's me, not you." He grinned. "Besides, that looks pretty appetizing!"

"You mean you've been seeking out those guys who will rough you up because you feel you didn't deserve any better?" Donny was shocked but also his normal self, seeking to understand how someone else felt.

"Well, that and it made me cum hard," Jack said matter-of-factly.

"You deserve better, dude!" Billy was adamant. "You're a nice guy."

"Ask my parents; they'll tell you different. Or my sister."

"I don't need to do that, and I wouldn't believe them anyway," Chay said. "I know what kind of guy you are; I see it every day in how you interact with your brothers."

"What br- oh!"

"You know, you're right about one thing you are doing that's mean." Billy had a quirky grin on his face. "Just lying around talking about how unworthy you are, tantalizing a starving boy with a beautiful piece of meat that's out of reach."

"Huh? What? I'd never do something like that!"

"Good! I'm glad to hear it." And Billy reached out a hand, then bent over Jack, looking like a little boy who's just been given a humongous hot fudge sundae.

Chay and Donny chuckled. Chay motioned Donny over to his bed, and climbed in with him.

Donny went to whisper in Chay's ear, "We need to talk about this."

"Tomorrow." Chay's tone was firm.

"But we need to do something about Jack's atti- … Oh my god!"

"At last I have you where I want you," Chay said in a mock cartoon villain's voice. "And I don't plan to let you up until you're completely drained. And," he went on, "you're going to love every minute of it!"

Donny's response may have meant something in humpback whale speech, but was not in English sounds; rather, it was a deep moan of pleasure.

As they entered the pale blue room they shared, Mikey turned to Pauly. "I don't have a problem with lovemaking if you want, but if you don't mind, I'd just like to be held a while and drift off to sleep that way tonight. It's been a hectic day, and I'm sore."

Pauly looked relieved. "I feel the same way. I was ready to do what you wanted, but...." He let the remark trail off as Keith came to the door.

"Um... okay if I come in?"

"Well, considering this is where you're supposed to sleep tonight," Mikey answered quirkily, "I think it might be okay. Seriously, dude, relax! You're part of us now – at least as much as you're willing to be. No need for formal manners. If we need privacy, we'll make sure you know it. And considering we've had a one-boy cheering section watching practically every time we've made love, there's not a whole lot we're going to want privacy for."

Keith looked startled at the last sentence Mikey said, then glanced around the room. "Um, three guys, two beds. I'm not...?"

Pauly cut him off. "We've slept in the same bed every night for the last few months, except a couple days when I had a bug and Mikey took the couch to let me rest. That's your bed over there; it's usually Peewee's, and he's 'camping out' tonight." He chuckled.

"Um, Lucas is going to be okay, isn't he?"

Mikey fielded this one. "No worries, Keith. He's sleeping on the living room floor with Peewee; they were all worked up over the idea of camping out in the living room. And while Peewee is something of a showoff and nutty as a pecan grove at harvest time, he would never let anything happen to anybody else if he could do something about it or find somebody who could." He paused and smiled. "Besides, you two have given him something he's wanted for a long time."


"A friend his own age to hang out with. The last year or so, he's been the little kid with a bunch of teenagers. We've always included him in everything, but now he's got a chance to do the sorts of stuff we did back then when we were his age, with someone else who is the same age too."

"Yep," Pauly confirmed. "I noticed they hit it off. It'll be good for both of them, I think."

"Maybe." Keith was skeptical. "I need to look out for my little brother, you know."

Mikey grinned at him. "You got it wrong, dude," he said.

A cocked head and eyebrow quirk evidenced Keith's confusion.

"We gotta look out for our little brothers," he explained. "You got help, dude."

Noises from across the hall penetrated the bedroom they were sharing. Their gazes turned to the door. Mikey stood up, shaking his head as his face throbbed a little, and walked over to listen. After a few seconds, he turned back to the other two. "It's Randy," he said. "The reality of losing his parents, the finality of it, just hit him, and it hit him hard. The guys are trying to help him deal with it."

Keith was up and started tentatively for the door. "Maybe I'd better go see if I can help?"

Mikey remembered what he'd noticed earlier, and put two and two together. "Keith," he said gently, "that just goes to show how much you belong here. That's just what any of us would do in a situation like this. But you want a little advice?"


"For right now, let Andy and Ray handle it. He broke down in front of them. Based on what I heard and my read of Randy's personality, it would embarrass him a lot if any of us went over there." He paused, assessing Keith's reaction. He clearly still wanted to go. "But," he went on, "based on how badly he's hurting, he's going to need a lot of one-on-one support from one of us over the next few days. And I have a hunch that you're the one of us that has what it takes to give him that support best."

Keith lit up like he was a Christmas tree someone had just plugged in. "You really think so."

"I'm sure of it. Come on, this has been the craziest day in a long time for all of us; let's get some rest."

Pauly yawned. "Sounds good to me." He dropped back on the bed and pulled Mikey to him. Grinning, Mikey gestured to the other bed. "Night, Keith."

"Good night."

The next morning...

Chay, Donny, and Mikey were huddled over coffee at the far end of the living room. "We've got our hands full," Donny observed. "Trying to make this place work like we set it up as, when everybody knows the full story now; four new guys, all at once, and each with their own issues; and what we found out about Jack. After everything, I hate to be a pessimist, but it seems like it's almost too much for the three of us to handle.

"It is too much for the three of us to tackle," Chay said with a touch of vehemence. "Fortunately, we don't have to." The other two looked at him, shocked. "Secondary point first," he went on. "We've got Gil, Jonah, Van, Dorothy, even Mr. and Mrs. T. They don't have to stay in the background any more, to keep up the fiction that we're a hangout that exists outside the law. They'll all be glad to help as much as we want them to, and they'll all let us call the shots. Most of them have said as much in the last few days – in fact, three of 'em pushed the issue, that we weren't relying on them enough, and having problems because we were too stubborn to ask for help when we need it." Mikey nodded; he'd been thinking along the same lines.

"But it's the other part that's even more important," Chay said. "It's not the three of us that have to make it work. It's what I've been telling you all along, Donny – you made a place that Peewee and Andy and Pauly and Ray can be happy in, and they'll dig in and help out, with the same goals that we have, now they know what we're doing. You saw that happen yesterday: in the morning Andy was pissed and ready to run, because you'd been conning him, but by the time we went with Gil, he was doing just what you would have – and doing it pretty darn well, too."

He paused. "You want to carry everybody, Donny. We both know that, and we love you for it. But you can't. And you don't have to. None of us can walk forever by ourselves – but we lean on each other, and hold each other up. Let us help, bro."

Donny's eyes were wet but he was smiling. "It's a deal, Chay. But for now, the three of us need to take the lead, and share what we've got to tackle." He too paused, to organize his thoughts. "Chay, you know what we came up with about Jack. Take the lead on that?" Chay smiled and nodded. "Mikey, you've always been good at helping guys fit in. You want to work with the four new guys, make 'em feel at home and part of us?" A grin was his answer. "I'll sit down with what Gil and I work with when I go up there, and figure out how to deal with there being twelve of us now. And all three of us cope with any repercussions from, uh, glasnost." He grinned.

"That works," Mikey said. "But plan on pulling everyone into problem solving. I know I'm going to use Pauly with the new guys; everybody always sees him as strong, trustable, and no threat. Now he knows the whole story, he'll be a huge asset to keeping the dream alive." He smirked. "And I think over half my problem is in the process of solving itself."

"What do you mean by that?" Chay asked.

"You'll see," Mikey said with a grin.

Chay slipped out the door, walked down the corridor in the direction they never went until he was out of earshot, and pulled out his cellphone. He punched in a number.

"Van? Some very interesting stuff came out last night, about Jack. Got a minute? … Okay, let me fill you in, and then tell you what I would like you to do. … Yeah, I was sure you would. But thanks anyway." In a quiet voice, he outlined Jack's revelation of his feelings of inferiority and worthlessness, and the plan he'd come up with.

"Andy? Can I talk to you?" The usually effervescent Peewee was acting very reserved and shy, almost embarrassed – as out of character for him as seeing a killer rabbit in hot pursuit of a terrified hound dog would be.

"Sure, little bro." Andy gave Peewee a kindly smile and wrapped an arm around the 11-year-old's shoulders, intensely curious to know what was going on in his mind that had brought about his odd mood.

"Well … when you found Ray, how'd you know?" After a pause, it came gushing out of Peewee, a rushed spurt of words.

"Know what, kiddo?"

"That he was, you know, the right one, your boyfriend?" Peewee was blushing!

"I don't know; it was a lot of things. How cute he is, how shy he acted, how he was trying to take care of himself and not bug anybody else … a whole bunch of stuff that all went together. Really, I just knew, when I first saw him: he's the guy I want."

A momentary flick of Peewee's eyes, and Andy suddenly realized why the questions. "Lucas, huh?" he asked.

"Uh huh," Peewee said, dropping his head to his chest and blushing even harder.

"You talked to him about how he feels yet?"

"Well, sorta."

"Sorta? What's that mean?"

Peewee pressed his face against Andy's chest, and said into it, "We stayed up late and fooled around, and by the time we fell asleep, it was kinda understood, we wanna stay together and keep doin' that stuff. And cuddlin' and stuff."

Andy lifted Peewee's face and turned it up towards his own. "You may find it hard to believe, bro, but I know just how you feel. I was there less than a week ago."

He thought for a moment. "I think the best move is to –" he grinned – "take it slow." Peewee giggled at hearing what everyone had been telling Andy when Ray was invited home told to him. "Have fun with him, and see how it works out. Sounds to me like you lucked out, same as I did with Ray. But if it doesn't work out, well, it'll hurt. But that's what you've got brothers for." He grinned at Peewee. "No go collect him and go have some fun together."

Peewee took off. Andy turned to Ray and said, deadpan, "Kids! They grow up so fast nowadays!" Ray burst out laughing, joined by Andy.

The slam of the outer door was followed by enthusiastic and warm greetings heard through the door. Then Chay came back in, and was followed in by Gil.

To the surprised expressions of the boys, he said, "No, I'm not going to be a constant visitor now. But I did need to stop by for two things. Is Randy around?"

Pauly called back toward the bedrooms, and Randy came down to see Gil, with an expression of worry about why Gil wanted him.

"Two things, Randy," Gil said to him. "First, here's a set of keys to your house. I got the locks switched and had them make up two sets, one for you and one for me." He paused, searching Randy's eyes for something. "I know it's way too early to ask this yet, but I'd like to make sure Child Services didn't walk off with anything, and I have a couple of hours this morning free. Do you feel up to riding over and checking the place out to see if you can spot anything missing?" He paused. "We'll talk later about what to do with the house and with your parents' belongings. But I'd really like to get this out of the way as soon as possible. Besides, it'll give you a chance to pick up some of your things that you may want over here."

"Um, okay," Randy said hesitantly. "Can I have somebody come along?" His nervousness was evident.

Keith met Mikey's eyes, received an encouraging nod and smile, and turned to face Randy and Gil. "I'd like to come along and help, if you don't mind," he said.

Randy smiled, with an attitude that was a combination of having a burden unexpectedly shared and getting a surprise gift. "I'd like that," he said simply.

"Donny, why don't you come too?" Gil suggested. "You've been through it; you'll have a handle on how Randy's feeling, and maybe can help him cope."

"Sure," Donny agreed.

"Then let's get going," Gil said.

To be continued

Editor's Notes: Once again, D and B have brought us a truly inspiring chapter of this wonderful story. Things seem to be falling into place on any number of fronts.

It is really nice to see how the guys are each taking on some of the responsibilities, so that Donny and the other older guys don't have to carry it all by themselves. It is even nicer to see that the originals are willing to allow everyone else to take on some of those responsibilities.

It seems that each person has one or more skills or traits that makes them more suitable to handle one or more situations.

They are all coming around to thinking of themselves as a family, brothers, as well as friends. Together they can handle a lot more than any of them could have handled alone.

I can hardly wait for the next chapter.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher