The Hunt is Over

Co-written By: Mel and LJ

Zack was eagerly waiting near the back door when Rene arrived home shortly after five PM. “You’ve got five minutes to do whatever you have to do to get ready to go out, love. We’re meeting with our realtor at five-thirty. Then we’re going out for supper. It just might be a celebration of sorts.” He steered his young husband towards the bedroom in order to encourage him to move faster.

“Celebration?” Rene asked. He dug into the closet looking for some clothes that would be suitable for dinner out. “What are we celebrating? We haven’t found a house we really like yet.” He pulled out a pair of clean jeans and a blue polo shirt, but sighed and changed the jeans for tan Dockers when he saw Zack’s raised eyebrows.

“I got a call from a rather enthused agent earlier this afternoon. Bob Kennedy was on his cell right outside the pharmacy and wanting me to go view a house that had just cleared probate and was put on the market this morning. He was sure it had everything we’re looking for. I told him I’d never give him an answer without you seeing it with me, but he was so insistent I couldn’t hold him off. Now I’m as eager for you to see it as he was to show it to me.” Zack’s eyes were shining with excitement and his grin was contagious.

“You must really like the place to be this anxious for me to see it.” Rene stripped down to his boxers and headed quickly to the bathroom as he spoke. “Tell me about it. Is it right in town or outside? How old is it? Does it have a big yard? What about the kitchen? Do you think we...” His non-stop questions were cut off by Zack’s laughter.

“I’m not answering your questions or giving you any info about the house. You’ll see it all for yourself in due time. But the faster you get ready, the faster your curiosity will be appeased,” Zack called after him from the other room. He knew had he followed the younger man into the bathroom, they’d be much longer getting on their way.

“You’re mean!” Rene called out. He finished washing up and put on a fake pout as he came out of the bathroom. “Not even a few hints?” he asked, batting his eyelashes at his grinning husband.

“Pick up the pace, Brat.” Zack chuckled and landed a playful swat on Rene’s boxer clad butt. “Bob’s waiting and it’ll take us at least twenty minutes to get to the house.”

Rene laughed as he quickly pulled on his pants and shirt. “You just gave me a hint for my first question. The house must be either outside of town or at least on the other side if it takes so long to get there.”

“Smart-aleck.” Zack grabbed Rene’s hand and without further delay, hauled him out of the apartment and down to the car.

They pulled into the driveway of an older Victorian house and parked next to a vehicle belonging to the man patiently leaning against the side of it.

“Another five minutes and I’d have been coming after you,” Bob joked, opening the passenger door of Zack’s car. “Good to see you again, Rene. Has Zack been telling you all about the house?”

“Hi Bob, good to see you too. No, Zack’s been keeping pretty tight-lipped. I think he wants it to be a surprise,” Rene replied. He looked up at the house. “Wow, this place looks nice.” He walked around the car to take Zack’s hand. “You gonna show me now?”

“Of course, it’s the reason I badgered you into hurrying along.” Zack squeezed the hand that had slipped into his as he and Rene followed Bob up the steps to the front door and waited for their agent to open it.

Bob stood aside once they were in the entrance. He had already given Zack the guided tour and knew the man had liked what he’d seen. Now it was up to his client to point out to his husband the many desirable aspects of the older home.

Zack towed Rene into the spacious living room just off to their left. After giving the young man a few minutes to look around, Zack turned towards the open space next to a large picture window. He held out his hands at arms’ length, fingers pointing straight up with thumbs positioned to touch each other and form a small frame.

“Guess what I am picturing in this area, love?” Zack immediately answered his own question. “A Baby Grand! And right here is where I’d put the lazy-boy so I can sit back and enjoy the beautiful music you’d play for us.” Rene took in the room from an artistic point of view and found himself overcome with a sense of peaceful tranquility.

The wide plank wood floors and high baseboards were the colour of aged honey. Though the finish was a bit dull from wear, a little tender loving care would bring back the natural beauty. There were beautiful crown moldings and a wonderful fireplace with a huge mantle. He could see Marie’s piano standing in front of this window. “It’s a beautiful room and you’re right, a perfect spot for the piano. I’d like to see more of the house.” Though Rene was curious he also knew that without seeing another square inch of the house, he was in love.

Zack stepped closer and wrapped an arm around Rene’s shoulders. “And so you shall,” he murmured around the lump in his throat. He could read his lover well and easily sensed that Rene was just as affected as he had been by the ambiance this charming country home provided.

“As you can see, the living and dining rooms share a two-sided fireplace. But first I want to take you across the hall to see the study which is harboured in a beautiful three-windowed bay.” Zack led the way into the well-lit room that he hoped to claim as his own.

When they entered the study, Rene was first taken by the tall built-in bookcases that lined two of the walls. Though the room wasn’t particularly large, it would easily hold the roll-top desk, a small sofa and a chair. “This is really nice. I can see you in here doing your paperwork from the pharmacy.” He ran his hand over the smooth wood of the bookcase. “Let’s go see the kitchen. Is it big?” he asked, getting more and more enthused by the house.

“More so than the one at the apartment, love. Of course that’s not saying much as the en suite to the master bedroom in this house is bigger than our present kitchen. You’ll see for yourself soon enough. Right now I want to show you the upper floor.” Zack took Rene’s hand and towed him upstairs.

“There’s three bedrooms, babe. Looks like there may have been four at one time but the second-level bay was converted into a master bath, complete with a double bowl vanity, a step-up whirl-pool tub and a dressing area. And wait until you see the size of the walk-in closet.”

After a quick glance in each of the other rooms, the potential new owners walked into the master bedroom. Zack stayed near the door and watched as Rene explored what might well become their personal space.

It was a good size room which could easily hold a king-size bed and dressers. There was another fireplace that during the winter would add extra warmth and a cosy ambience to the room. The floor was covered in taupe coloured, plush broadloom and the view of the front yard out the window was lovely. Zack was right; the walk-in closet was huge.

However, it was the en suite bath that Rene really took to. “Look at the size of the tub,” he exclaimed. “It’s so deep and roomy, and the separate shower is really nice. Even the toilet is in a separate enclosure. “

He ran back to Zack and hugged him. “I love this house! It’s so great.”

Zack enthusiastically return the hug. “There’s more to come, sweetheart. Let’s go check out the rest, huh?” He led the way back to the lower floor, down the hall and into an open roomy kitchen with a breakfast area.

“It is going to be a challenge to fill all these cupboards,” Zack chuckled. Walking across the room, he stood in front of the sliding glass doors leading to a fair-size deck. “Come see the view of the back yard, Rene.”

When the younger man had stepped closer, Zack wrapped an arm around his husband’s waist. “It is a huge pie-shaped lot that widens quite a bit back here. You can see where the woodland is beginning to encroach on the far side of the lawn. But what you can’t see from here are the stone steps that lead down the incline to a babbling brook. Rob thinks there may even be fish in it.”

Rene leaned into Zack’s warm embrace. He couldn’t help but be excited by the prospect of owning this home, if they could make it work. He turned to look up into his lover’s warm brown eyes. “It’s wonderful, Zack. It has everything we said we wanted and more. But, must be pretty expensive. Can we afford it?”

Kissing the side of Rene’s head, Zack smiled down into the sparkling blue eyes gazing up at him. “We’ll talk it all over at dinner, babe. Right now, there is just one more thing I want you to see; kind of the piece de résistance, as I do believe I’ve saved the best for last.”

Taking Rene’s hand, Zack once again led his husband to yet another area of the house. Next to a door that led to the two-car garage was a second flight of stairs, which Zack practically bounced up.

“Ta-da! Get a load of this, Rene!” He was barely able to contain his excitement as he swung out his arms. “Rob thought this sizable bonus room could be turned into a recreation area of sorts. But I think it would make a perfect studio for a very special young man and a talented artist who I know and love. What do you think, Rembrandt?”

Rene stood in the middle of the room, his mouth open in awe. The room was large and brightly lit from the expanse of south-facing windows; it truly was an artist’s dream. “Oh my God, Zack, it’s beautiful. It’s perfect. I don’t know what to say.” He looked around some more, envisioning shelves with his supplies and easels to hold his work. It was almost too good; he was afraid to hope it could really happen.

For several minutes, Zack contentedly watched the happy expressions playing across Rene’s face as the younger man pictured setting up shop in this very room.

“How about us leaving here and going somewhere quiet to have supper and discuss the house? We don’t want to make a hasty decision. We’ll just tell Rob we’d like some time to talk about it and will give him our answer later this evening.”

In less than thirty minutes, Zack and Rene were seated in a booth at the Maple Grille. Rene had talked almost non-stop since they’d left Rob with a promise to touch base with him in a couple of hours.

They were waiting for their order when Zack reached over and put his hand on Rene’s. “You’ve listed most the good points about the house, love, but there are some negative ones too. The house has not been lived in for over a year and shows some wear and tear that indicates it lacked attention from the last occupant, so it is in need of quite a bit of cosmetic work. Grant it, we can do the majority of it ourselves. Then there is the location of the laundry room that I don’t really care for, but I am sure it can easily be relocated to the main floor. The guest bathroom upstairs will also have to be enlarged. Can you think of anything else that needs to be done?”

Rene paused to think about the beautiful house that had captured his heart. Zack was right though; nothing was perfect and they needed to assess the faults as well as the good points. “Well the garden is quite over-grown, but it has a lot of great trees and shrubbery. We’ll just have to get in there and do some serious pruning and weeding, and the lawn will need over seeding. Did I ever tell you that I worked for a landscaping company for one and a half summers while I was in university? I would have worked there for the rest of the second summer, but I fell out of a tree I was pruning and broke my collar bone. So anyway, I know how to do that kind of work and I am a good tree-climber with that one exception.”

Zack glanced up as the waitress returned and placed their meals on the table. Once she’d left, he grinned over at his companion. “No, you never told me. I was unaware of your tree-climbing experience, but I am glad you warned me.” He put a forkful of coleslaw into his mouth and looked pointedly at Rene’s plate when he saw the young man reach for his re-filled mug of coffee.

Rene sighed, put down the coffee cup and picked up his fork. “I know, I know; food before more coffee.” He tucked into his meal, relishing the flavour of the jumbo shrimps he’d ordered. “You know, about enlarging the upstairs guest bathroom; I was thinking that if we took it out of where it is all together, we could expand the two bedrooms into that space and then put a new bathroom in where the current laundry room is. It would already have plumbing and it is right beside the en suite so we could tap into anything extra we’d need for the toilet there. That would make for larger bedrooms and a bigger bathroom as the laundry room is quite roomy. Though I guess we’d have to look at how much it would cost before we take on a project of that size.”

“Probably,” Zack replied around a mouthful of food. He swallowed and smiled. “So, do you think we should give Bob a call and make an offer?”

Rene’s face lit up with a wide grin. “Yes...yes, I really think we should. Zack, I love the house. I know we could be very happy there. Not that we wouldn’t be happy anywhere we’re together, but this house is special.”

“You’re right, it is special.” Zack pulled out his cell and made the call. “Bob will meet us in his office in forty-five minutes, which gives us enough time to enjoy our meal.” He sat back and wiped his mouth on his napkin. “I have a good feeling about this, love. It looks like our months of searching for a home may be over. Who’d have thought it would take so long? I mean, what with Jades Heights being a small town with so few homes on the market.”

“Yeah, I know. But I think it was worth the wait to find the right house. I’m glad you didn’t let me talk you into the third one we looked at. I thought it was nice but this one, this one just feels so right.”

“I agree; this one does feel right. Now, I don’t want you worrying about the finances, sweetheart. Our inheritance has enabled me to pay off my business debts and we will be making a substantial down-payment on the house; at least half the purchase price. I realize we have more than enough to pay for the house in full, but I’d like to keep a healthy bank balance to fall back on should something unforeseen happen. We have nothing outstanding to take care of, so we should be able to purchase the needed furnishings and appliances, as well as do the necessary renovations. Of course, it will take a bit of time with us doing as much of the work as possible ourselves. But it will all get done eventually. I bet my dads will help out wherever they can, especially with the yard work. Believe it or not, as fastidious as Papa is, he sure doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty when working in a garden.”

Rene grinned as he pictured Todd on his knees in the garden covered with dirt as he fussed over the placement of a single plant. Then his mind drifted back to when Hayden and Todd had first moved to Jade Heights and the ‘paint’ disaster in their new home. “Your dads are great, Zack. But you gotta promise me you won’t let your papa do any painting.”

Zack laughed out loud enough to attract the attention of the people in the next booth. “I doubt he’d want to get involved in anything other than offering advice about colour choices. Although there was a time when Papa was great at hanging wallpaper and could do a mean job of painting; only under careful supervision, of course. He has an eye for interior decorating; just not always the hand for it. I can hardly wait to tell them about the house and for them to see it.”

“Your papa did a great job of hanging wallpaper? This is a story I need to hear!” Rene was bursting with curiosity.

“Yes; as hard to fathom as that might be, Papa can do it remarkably well. I’ve long lost count of how many times my bedroom was redecorated as I was growing up. By the time I was four, Pooh and his friends had been changed to Sesame Street characters. Super heroes cover the walls when I was around six. At eight, Dad bought me a car bed. So of course, the wallpaper had to be changed to racing cars. I remember being rather insistent that I be allowed to help with the wallpapering; to the point of throwing a tantrum until I got my own way.” Zack chuckled at the questioning look on Rene’s face. “And yes, I also got my backside walloped. But my dads decided to turn it into a family activity. We spent a whole weekend creating the new theme together. We actually became rather adept at redoing the room in just over two days.”

Zack paused to take a drink of his coffee. “Friday evening, we completely emptied the room. The next day Papa matched, measured and cut the pre-pasted wallpaper. Dad hung it while Papa stood back to make sure it was perfect. Then they let me smooth out the parts I could reach. Sunday, we painted the woodwork. I was even allowed to do some of the baseboard. Both of them kindly overlooked the few bits of paint I got on the floor or new wallpaper. I loved that room and the décor wasn’t change until I was almost thirteen. You see, Papa does okay with a paint brush; it is a roller that has him turning a simple painting project into a three-ring circus.”

Rene was laughing happily as Zack told his tale. “I would have loved to have seen you as that little boy stubbornly insisting you be allowed to help with the decorating. I’ll bet you were very cute, temper tantrum and all.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s almost time to go and meet Bob, isn’t it?” Though it was a little early, Rene couldn’t help himself. He was very excited and wanted to go do what was needed to seal the deal on the house.

“Judging by your eagerness to get out of here, I guess it is safe to assume that dessert is out of the question.” Zack chuckled as he signalled for the waitress to bring him their bill.

It was going on ten in the evening when they arrived back at their apartment. Papers had been signed and their offer on its’ way to the present owners. Now for the difficult part of waiting to see if their offer would be accepted.

“We won’t mention the house to my dads just yet,” Zack said as he stripped off his clothing. He headed into the bathroom and turned on the shower. “I’d like the deal signed, sealed and delivered before telling them. Okay?”

“Yeah, that’s good with me. I can understand you wanting to wait to tell them after we’ve got the acceptance,” Rene replied as he followed Zack into the bathroom, leaving a trail of clothes in his wake. “Mind if I join you?” he asked with a grin as Zack was climbing into the shower.

“Get in here, Brat.” Zack feigned a growl. “As if I’d try to keep you out,” he teased as he pulled his lover closer to stand with Rene’s back against his chest. Wrapping his arms around lithe waist, Zack sucked on the nape of Rene’s neck.

Rene stood under the warm spray and rolled his head forward, allowing Zack better access to the spot he always kept marked. When he felt his lover release him from the love bite, he turned in his arms to face him and began his own series of kisses down the broad expanse of chest. Slowly lowering himself to his knees Rene kissed a trail downward until he reached Zack’s ridged member. He began by gently licking along the underside and then moved onto sucking on each egg-sized ball, drawing them into his mouth one at a time and laving them with his tongue. Finally he moved back to the prize he enjoyed most of all and drew the hard penis into his mouth. Swallowing as deeply as he could, he sucked and stimulated his lover until Zack moaned and pulled out of Rene’s willing mouth, denying the younger man his essence. Rene was slightly disappointed but knew that what he was about to get was just as good.

Zack helped Rene up and gazed into his beautiful face. His lover had the most expressive eyes and Zack loved being able to read all the emotions in them. He pulled him close for a warm, scented kiss and moaned softly as he explored the younger man’s mouth with his tongue and ran his hands up and down Rene’s smooth, wet back. Rene was unreserved in his reactions; it was as if everything was happening for the first time and he trembled and sighed at every caress.

Picking up and flipping open the lube, Zack let his hand wander lower and he took his time gently preparing his lover before turning him to face the wall. In moments, he was covering Rene’s body with his own, driving his hard shaft into Rene’s welcoming warmth. He imagined those beautiful blue eyes glazed over with need and eager with submission. As his body merged with his husband’s, the two began moving as one as Zack plunged harder, deeper and faster until they were both shuddering with the force of their climax.

Once Zack had regained his equilibrium, he slowly and tenderly washed his young lover from head to toe.

A short while later, the two men were in bed spooned together with Rene wrapped snugly in Zack’s arms. However, Rene was not sleeping. He was simply too excited and worked up about the house and all the details.

‘What if their offer wasn't accepted?’ He’d immediately fallen in love with this house and waiting to hear the news was killing him. He fantasized about what he’d do with that beautiful studio room above the garage, considering the types of shelving and racks he’d like to have, cabinets for his paints and brushes, papers and canvases. The more he thought, the more wide awake he became. After an hour had passed, Rene decided to give up trying to sleep.

He slowly maneuvered himself out the bed without disturbing his slumbering husband and made his way to the spare bedroom where he kept his art supplies and his laptop computer. He powered up the laptop and began surfing the various websites that sold artists supplies and storage cabinetry. He quickly lost himself in planning and dreaming, not even considering the passage of time. It was nearly three a.m. when he heard the sound of footsteps entering the room.

Zack didn’t appreciate it when he woke to find himself alone in the big bed. Stepping up behind his husband, he glanced over the computer screen and shook his head. Reaching passed Rene; he signed off and closed the lid. Slipping a hand under his Brat’s arm, Zack lifted the younger man to his feet and propelled him towards their bedroom.

“I know you’re excited about the house love, but you do have work in the morning, do you not? I think some sleep will go a long way in helping you get through the day.”

Rene turned and plastered himself against Zack in a tight hug, his head resting against his husband’s muscular chest. “I am excited, but I’m worried too. Zack, what if they don’t accept our offer? Should we have offered more? We could you know if we had to; offer more that is. I love this house. I just want it so much.”

“Bed!” Zack ordered after giving Rene a loving squeeze followed by a gentle swat to his hind quarters. He held up the sheet and waited for his husband to crawl under it; then settle in beside him. Wrapping his arms tightly around Rene, Zack kissed the top of his head. “If the amount isn’t to their likely, love, they will counter-offer and we’ll see where we go from there. Losing sleep isn’t going to help move things along any faster, nor will it change what is meant to be.”

Rene sighed and snuggled into his lover. “I’m sorry I woke you. I’ll try and sleep now. I just hope we hear soon.”


By supper time the next day Rene was beside himself with anxiety. He’d hardly been able to concentrate at work, hoping all day that his cell would beep with a text message from Zack. However, his work day ended with no word and he’d come home to find Zack still in the pharmacy having heard nothing from Bob. He’d paced around the store driving Zack, his customers and staff to distraction, until Zack finally sent him upstairs with orders to lie down and have a rest until he was free to join him.

Now Zack was cooking dinner while Rene was supposed to be setting the table. “I don’t understand why you won’t phone Bob and ask him what’s happening!” Rene practically yelled as he opened the cutlery drawer and began digging about. “Do you have the big serving spoon? I don’t see it here. You know, it’s his job to answer our questions!” He pulled the drawer out further. “Is it in the dishwasher? I can’t understand why it takes so long for them to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Never mind, it’s jammed in the back here!” He yanked the drawer out another inch and suddenly found himself jumping back as the drawer and its’ contents of cutlery went crashing to the floor with a loud clatter. “Shit!”

Zack jumped. He had been chuckling to himself while drowning out his Brat’s ranting and the unexpected racket caught him off guard.

He turned down the heat under the stew he was stirring, wrapped a large hand around the base of Rene’s neck and steered him into the corner. Rubbing reassuring circles on the younger man’s back, he softly ordered, “Stay here until you’ve calm down. When you’re ready, the drawer and its’ contents will be waiting for you.”

Zack walked back to the stove and the meal he was preparing. He kept up a light chitchat so Rene would not feel he’d been abandoned. “There is no need for so much fretting, love. I am sure Bob will contact us when he has news. After all, it’s been less than twenty-four hours since we made our offer. As arduous as it might be, you’re going to have to be more patient.”

Rene sighed and leaned his head into the corner and gently kicked at the baseboard. He hated this. He knew why Zack did it, but he still hated it. He tried drawing slow deep breaths to calm down and finally centered himself to the sound of Zack’s voice, allowing the rich tenor to sooth his edgy nerves. After about five minutes, he softly spoke. “I’m sorry, Zack. Can I come out now?”

“Of course, sweetheart,” Zack replied as he went to answer a knock at the door. He returned and ushered their agent into the kitchen. “Bob’s here. From the grin he has plastered across his face, I’d say he has some good news for us.” Zack couldn’t help but grin himself in anticipation.

“That I do,” Bob merrily announced. “That I do. Your offer has been accepted. Here are the papers; signed, sealed and delivered.” He teasingly waved them in the air for a couple of moments before handing them to Zack, who reached for Rene so they could read over the documents together.

Rene leaned against Zack’s side as he looked over the papers. “Zack, we did it! We bought a house! I can’t wait to tell everyone and show them all, our beautiful house.”

He looked up and noticed Bob staring at the dumped cutlery drawer. “Oh umm, excuse the mess. I was looking for a spoon just before you got here and pulled the drawer out too far.” Rene grinned broadly and added, “But hey, that won’t be a problem in the new house cuz it has so much more room, we won’t have to pull the drawers out that far.”

Zack and Bob both laughed at Rene’s observation. Then arrangements were made to meet first thing Monday morning and get the final paperwork out of the way. With the house being empty as it was, the guys could get away with taking occupancy whenever they wanted.

“Well here you go then. I better get going and let you guys get back to your supper. Show the house to whoever you want.” Bob was about to toss the keys to Zack, but a slight movement of the other man’s head, had him tossing them to Rene instead.

Rene deftly caught the keys and placed them carefully on the table with the papers while Zack saw Bob out. He then set about cleaning up the mess from the dumped drawer.

The evening passed quickly as the two men excitedly talked about their new home and their plans for it.


Saturday morning found them in the car on their way to Hayden and Todd’s home. “I can’t believe you just told your dads to be ready to go out at nine a.m. and didn’t give them any hint as to where or why. Your papa must be bursting with curiosity.” Rene laughed.

“It’s a surprise, love. But I bet you’re right on about Papa chomping at the bit.” Zack was still laughing along with his husband when his pulled into his parents’ driveway. Sure enough, his papa was waiting on the veranda; his pacing a clear indication of his impatience.

“The piglets are here, Hayden!” Todd shouted through the opened door before heading down the steps and over to his son’s car.

Hayden came out of the house with a smile and a wave to Zack and Rene. He stopped for a moment to lock up and then followed his husband to the driveway. “Good morning!” he called out as he approached the car, snagging his husband around the waist and pulled him against his side in a firm hug. “I’m glad to see you’re here at the appointed time. Your papa here has been watching for you for the last fifteen minutes. Had you been late, he might just have worn a hole in our porch from his pacing.” He placed an indulgent kiss on the side of Todd’s face.

“Good morning to both of you,” Zack returned the greeting and chuckled at his father’s comments. “We wouldn’t have dared been late, Dad. Rene and I are really anxious to show you something.”

Several minutes later, Zack turned into the wide driveway of an older home and turned off the motor. “This is it!” he announced and looked over his shoulder to see his parents’ reaction.

Todd squealed with delight. He got out and walked across the grass to the middle of the front lawn where he stood staring up at the house. “Do tell me this is the place you’ve finally settled on.”

Rene climbed out of the car and followed his father-in-law onto the lawn with Zack and Hayden coming up behind them. “Yep, and wait ‘til you see the inside; it’s beautiful!”

“It’s a nice looking house, boys,” Hayden added with a grin. “Have you put in an offer?”

Zack grinned broadly. “We’ve not only made an offer, it’s been accepted. And Rene has the keys to prove it. We’ve brought you here to show you the place inside and out.”

“Oh, that’s marvellous! I can’t wait to see it.” Taking Rene’s hand, Todd began pulling the younger man towards the steps leading up to a large veranda.

Rene was laughing as he reached the front door. He pulled the keys from his pocket and fumbled with the strange lock, taking a moment to get it to release. Once he got the door open, he stood back to allow the others to proceed him inside. “Welcome to our new home,” he said with pride.

Hayden was immediately impressed with the roomy foyer and natural light that shone through from the living room to the left of the entry. He followed Todd through to see a large double-sided stone fireplace that stood at the end of the living room, separating it from what he could see was a formal dining room. “This is a beautiful room. I love the fireplace.”

Todd walked through the empty rooms in search of the kitchen. “Oh my, come see this, Hayden. The kitchen is huge. And just look at how big the yard is.” He was standing by the French doors overlooking the deck. “Isn’t it lovely with all those flowering shrubs?” His eyes were sparkling as he envisioned what it would look like once the overgrowth had been cut back and the lawn properly mowed.

“It’s larger than our kitchen,” Hayden remarked as he walked through the room. “What a great deck; plenty of room for outdoor furnishings and a bar-b-que.” Hayden was suddenly inspired. He leaned over to whisper in Todd’s ear. “How about we get them a gas bar-b-que as a house warming gift?”

“Hmm, a very practical gift indeed. I also have one in mind; a ride-on lawn mower,” Todd whispered conspiratorially. He chuckled at his husband’s raised eyebrow. “I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. I don’t usually go for practical, do I? But the piglets presently live in an apartment and thus have had no use for any garden or lawn-care tools.”

“You’re right, my love, and I think a lawn mower is an excellent idea.” He quickly ended the conversation as Zack and Rene followed them into the kitchen. Looking to his son, he teased, “Zack, with a kitchen this nice, I expect you’ll become as good a cook as your Papa. Perhaps he’ll give you some lessons.”

“I’ll certainly take him up on it. I’ve always enjoyed cooking with Papa.” Zack stepped closer to Todd and teasingly commented. “I wonder if having a bigger kitchen to work in will mean us making a bigger mess than we have in the past.” He turned to Rene. “Some of my favourite memories growing up are baking with Papa. I’d get to sit back and eat still warm cookies while he tidied up. I’d never have been able to meet his cleaning expectations, so I just watched.”

Todd’s expression softened as he thought back to those times. “Kitchens definitely hold many fond memories for me too. However, right now I’m curious to get a look at the upstairs of your new home. Are you willing to play tour guide, Rene?” he inquired, wrapping an arm around the younger man’s shoulder.

“Sure, let’s go.” Rene led the group upstairs, showing off the bedrooms and bathrooms while explaining their ideas for changes they wanted to make. Zack’s dads were suitably impressed with all they saw.

It was as he was leading the way back down the main stairs that Rene got really excited. “Now we need to show you my favourite part.” He guided them through the kitchen and to the door next to the garage entrance. “Up these stairs over the garage is what they called the bonus room. But it was Zack’s idea that it becomes my art studio.” He opened the door to the spacious well-lit area.

Hayden looked around the room for a moment. However, he couldn’t take his eyes off of Rene. His son-in-law was beaming. The younger man was rapidly explaining his ideas for the set up of the space and how it would make his work so much easier when he had a place where he could spread out.

It was the look on Zack’s face as he listened to Rene that had Hayden smiling. While his son-in-law was ecstatic about the room, Zack’s expression was one of complete contentment. “You’ve made the boy very happy,” he whispered.

“I think you’re right, Dad. He fell in love with the house the moment he saw it; so did I for that matter. I don’t know what we would have done had everything not gone our way.” He waited a few minutes before calling for his husband. “Let’s go down and get a better look at the outside, Rene. I’d like to see if Dad or Papa has any suggestions for getting the small jungle in the back yard under control.”

It took several more minutes to finally cajole the other three men down the stairs and onto the back deck. “We have a great deal to do in order to restore this place back to its’ original condition, but I think we’re up to the challenge.” Zack wrapped an arm around Rene’s shoulders. “Don’t you agree, my love?” He received an avid nod by way of reply.

While Rene and Todd discussed possible landscaping designs, Hayden and Zack checked out the exterior of the large house.

“Hmm, those gutters are going to have to be replaced,” Zack commented, pointing out a few of the rusted-out areas to his father.

“Definitely, and I would highly recommend that you get the soffits replaced at the same time. It’s an added expense for sure, but well worth it.” Hayden continued walking around the house, studying its’ exterior carefully. “It looks like most of the original wood frame windows have been replaced with good quality vinyl ones, with the exception of the small ones in the bathrooms. You’d be wise to get those done as well. The savings in heat loss will have them pay for themselves in no time.”

Hayden wrapped an arm around Zack’s shoulders, giving him a fatherly squeeze. “You’ve picked a fine home here, son.”

“Thanks, Dad. I’m quite happy to go along with any advice you have to offer for fixing the place up. I’ve always found you to be a wealth in information and I can use all the help I can get. I’m also sure there are several areas where Rene and I will be able to put Papa’s expertise to good use. Speaking of whom, we should go see what they’ve been up to.” Zack and Hayden kept up a light conversation as they slowing made their way around to the rear of the house, arriving in time to catch part of what Rene was saying to Todd.

“I’d like to take this cedar out all together. It’s half dead anyway and encroaching on the deck. Then we would have space to put up a gazebo. I really like the feeling of the outdoor room you get with a gazebo. We can a put screening curtain around it so we could sit out in the evenings and not get eaten alive by mosquitoes. I’ll have to rent a chain saw though cuz the trunk on it is pretty thick.” Rene was getting more and more excited at the prospect of landscaping their new property.

Zack’s protective instincts jumped to the fore at overhearing the words ‘chain saw’. “The cedar removal will require further discussion, sweetheart. But in the meantime, please keep in mind when making plans for back here that I get dibs on that patch of ground next to the shed. I want to plant a vegetable garden,” he reminded his husband.

“Farmer Zack, huh?” Rene laughed. “We’ll have to get you some overalls and a straw hat for you to do your vegetable gardening in.”

Hayden also was cringing at the mention of a chain saw. He knew Todd would be intent on assisting Rene with the landscaping and he would have nothing to do with his husband or his son-in-law brandishing a chain saw. “You know if you do decide to remove the tree, I suggest you hire a professional to take it out. It’s awfully close to the house and you don’t want to take a chance on it falling in the wrong direction and damaging anything.”

“Now that is an excellent suggestion, Dad, and it is one we will definitely follow.” Zack caught his father’s eye and immediately understood the older man’s concern was for both their husbands. “Isn’t that right, Rene?” His tone clearly indicated he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Rene frowned. He knew he was being maneuvered away from his plan but also knew there was little he could do or say about it with two Tops doing the maneuvering. “Yeah, I guess,” he replied, putting enough tone into his own voice to make it clear he wasn’t happy with what he considered Toppy over-protectiveness.

Believing a change of subject was in order, Todd turned everyone’s attention back to the house. “It’s an awfully large home for just two people,” he mused thoughtfully. “Maybe you should consider increasing the size of your family. One of those extra bedrooms would make a lovely nursery.”

“Maybe someday, Papa, when the time’s right.” Zack chuckled softly at his father’s unveiled hints as he wrapped his arm around the older man’s shoulder and gave him an affection squeeze. “In the meantime, I promised my assistant I’d be at the pharmacy by noon and it is almost eleven-thirty now.”

Taking Rene’s hand in his and leaving his fathers to follow at their own pace, Zack led the way over to the back door. “By the way, Brat, just so you know; I look good in overalls and I like straw hats.” He winked at his husband and smiled. “Now let’s lock up here and get my parents back home, love. You’ve got a couple of cars to look at this afternoon, do you not? Remember our agreement; you purchase a new one by the end of the month or I choose one for you. And time’s running out, isn’t it.”

“Yes, Zack, I remember,” Rene said with a slight sigh. He had very mixed emotions about this new car business. Part of him was excited about getting a new car, but another part felt a bit like he was betraying his old car. He’d bought the now twenty-year-old Reliant K car in his senior year of college. It had cost him eight hundred dollars to purchase and make it road worthy; the last of the money he’d inherited from his grandfather, the rest having paid for his university education. It had also been his home for the year he’d spend on the road traveling the highways and byways of British Columbia. And the first time he’d met Zack was sitting in that car. Yet the thought of something shiny, new and reliable was hard to resist. “I’ll try to get out and see them today.”

Zack smiled and pulled Rene into his arms to lightly kiss his lips. He understood his husband’s emotional attachment to the old car, even though he still insisted the young man get another one. “I guess having to write out a hundred times ‘my husband loves me and wants to protect me; that is why he insists I have a newer, safer car’ made an impression after all,” he gently teased the man in his arms. “And remember, sweetheart, you can keep the K-car for as long as you want; you just can’t drive it as is. There is plenty of room in the garage to store it. You never know, over time we may even learn how to restore it; kind of a do-it-yourself project for the winter.”

Rene groaned at the reminder of the line writing he’d been made to do. He should have known better than to argue with Zack. Telling his husband that he didn’t need a new car and to spend his money elsewhere thank you very much, had not been one of his smarter moves. But in the end, the love and security he felt after writing those lines had made the whole process easier to deal with. That along with Zack’s promise that he could keep his old car, helped him accept what he had to do. “I’ll go and look at the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic this afternoon. Okay?”

“Sounds like a plan, babe. I love you, ya know.” Zack kissed his husband again before glancing look back to see what was holding up his fathers. “I wonder what’s keeping them?”

Hayden held Todd back enough to speak to him quietly as he could see Zack was talking with Rene. He planted a light swat on the other man’s butt as he spoke. “I thought I told you not to go pestering those boys about having a baby.” He wrapped his arm around Todd’s waist as they walked. “I’d love a grandchild as much as you would; but no more hints, subtle or otherwise. Am I understood?”

Todd peeked up at his husband. “Perfectly,” he dutifully responded while crossing his fingers behind his back. “We better get a move on. The piglets are waiting, Hayden, and we’re preventing them from getting on with their day.” He tightened his arm around the slightly bigger man in an attempt to hurry him along, but it proved futile and they both ended up laughing.


The following few weeks rushed by as paperwork was finalized and arrangements for contractors were made. Then there was the purchasing of a car thrown into the mix. It was an exciting time for all involved. Decorating ideas were discussed in minute detail, wallpaper designs and paint samples studied at length, until at least the colours had been chosen for the kitchen, master bedroom and en suite.

Work began with two carpenters, a plumber and an electrician relocating the laundry room to the main floor, repositioning the upstairs bathroom to where the older laundry room had been and enlarging the two extra bedrooms. Zack and Rene were spending as many hours as their evenings allowed, getting the kitchen and master suite ready for occupancy. Weekend more often then not, were filled with trips to Kelowna to hunt down the numerous new items needed for the house.

Rene was excited. He’d taken a week of vacation from his job at the Day Care Centre to work at the house. This allowed him to stay there during the day to accept delivery of the various appliances, furnishings and other things that were scheduled to arrive over the next couple of days. The official move-in date was only three days away, so there was plenty to keep him busy.

A few minutes after arriving on the first morning the door bell rang and Rene opened it to a large burly man dressed in work clothes.

“Mr. Pierce?”

“That’s me.”

“Drew Tompkins from Rocky Mountain Aluminum; we’re here to install your new soffits and eves-troughs. However, we’ve got a problem,” the big man stated with a shake of his head. “I just did a walk around the house and I don’t know who did the quote for ya, but he shoulda noticed that big old maple tree on the west side of the house next to the garage is too close for us to get our ladders in place to do the work. You need to get a couple of high up branches pruned back at least four feet. If you’d like to come outside, I’ll show you where I mean.”

Rene followed the man outside and was quickly agreeing with the man about the tree situation. “Since you have the ladders, could I pay you extra to prune the branches away for me?” he asked hopefully.

The large man shook his head. “Sorry, mister; my insurance provider won’t cover us doing work like that. You’ll have to get it done and we’ll come back later. Unfortunately though, we’re booked solid for the next month; so it’ll be about five or six weeks before we can do it for ya.”

“Five or six weeks! That’s no good.” Rene looked up at the tree. He’d done pruning work like this when he was in college. It was just a matter of climbing the tree with a saw and cutting off two branches. He could have it done in less than thirty minutes. “Listen, since you’re scheduled to be here all day, why don’t you and your guys take a break. While you’re gone, I’ll get those branches pruned off. There is a Tim Horton’s back on the main street five minutes from here; my treat,” he offered as he pulled a twenty from his pocket.

Tompkins looked concerned. “You sure you wanna do that? It’s a job for a pro, climbing up that high and sawing off limbs.”

“No worries,” Rene assured the man. “I worked in landscaping in the past and have done this sort of thing before.”

“Okay, you’re the boss.” Tompkins and his two workmen climbed back in their truck and headed off for their coffee break.

Rene went into the garage and collected the band new bow-saw they had purchased. He slung it over his arm and went to tackle the big maple. He studied the tree for several minutes before deciding on the best route up to where he wanted to be. The large trunk split nicely into two limbs, one of which was leaning out towards the house. He climbed easily up onto the limb and shimmied out several feet until he could reach the first of the two branches he needed to remove. Leaning forward carefully, he slid the bow saw off his shoulder and began the cut. Within five minutes, he was rewarded with the satisfying snap of the branch giving way and falling to the ground.

The second branch required him to shimmy out a bit more on the limb in order to reach it. He just managed to bring the saw into action when the he heard a frightening crack and felt the large limb he was on, drop about three feet. He hung on for dear life as it swayed vicariously. Rene was terrified to move for fear of the limb giving way completely and sending him crashing to the ground. He was at least twenty-five feet up, hanging onto a cracked tree limb and all alone. “Zack, I need you,” he murmured to himself.

After hanging there for about five minutes, he heard the sound of someone walking down the street. He looked out over the side of the second-story portion of the house and could see an elderly lady walking a small poodle. “Hello!” he called. “Excuse me, ma’am. I’m sorry to bother you, but I need some help!”

The lady looked around the yard hesitantly, not seeing a face to go with the voice she was hearing.

“I’m up in the tree in the back yard.”

She looked up and saw Rene clinging to the branch for all he was worth. “Young man, what are you doing up in that tree?”

“I was pruning it but the branch I’m on has cracked and I don’t dare move for fear it will break off. I need help.”

“Oh my goodness, stay still; I’m going to go and call for some help. I’ll be right back.” She hurried away as fast as she could move.

Rene wanted to call after her and ask that she call Zack but she was quickly out of sight.

A few minutes later, Mrs. Harriman was back without the dog in tow. She came into the back yard and looked up at Rene. “The fire department is on their way. Hang in there... I’m sorry; I don’t know your name.”

“I’m Rene Pierce. My husband Zack and I just bought this house.”

“You’re married to Zachary Pierce, the pharmacist?”

“Yes, ma’am; he’s at work right now,” Rene replied, thinking of how Zack was going to react when he heard about this debacle.

“Well I’m Mrs. Harriman and I live right next door. I didn’t know Mr. Pierce had bought this house. He’s a very nice man. I get all my medications from him.”

Rene’s reply was interrupted by the sound of the fire truck pulling up.

“Well dear it seems the fire brigade has arrived. I’m going to go show Mason and Craig how to find you,” Mrs. Harriman informed Rene as she made her way out of the back garden. She arrived at the side of the house in time to meet Mason and Craig as they were exiting the truck. “Good morning, Mason. How are you?”

“I’m good, Mrs. Harriman. You called and said there was a young man stuck in a tree?” Mason inquired.

“Oh yes, dear. It’s the young Mr. Pierce,” Mrs. Harriman answered.

“Zack?” Mason questioned.

“Mr. Pierce, the pharmacist, is stuck in a tree?” Craig asked.

“No, no, boys. Follow me. It is Mr. Pierce’s husband, Rene. It seems he climbed up the tree and the branch has cracked. He is worried if he moves, he’ll fall.”

Mason turned to Craig and quietly spoke so Mrs. Harriman wouldn’t be able to hear. “Go call and make sure there is an ambulance on standby, then make sure you have the rescue equipment out and ready to go.” Craig nodded and went back to the truck.

Mason went through though the back gate, and stood at the bottom of the tree looking up at Rene. “Mrs. Harriman, would you be so kind as to call Zack? I think he would want to know what is going on.”

“Oh, of course,” Mrs. Harriman responded and then called up to Rene. “Mr. Pierce, Captain Monroe is here. I’m going to go call your husband and have him come home.”

Rene watched nervously as the fire captain came closer to inspect the situation. He wondered just what he planned to do to help him out of this predicament. “Hi...ummm, sorry to bring you out here,” he half mumbled from his perch.

“It’s perfectly all right. This is what I get paid the big bucks for. I’m Mason Monroe. Please just call me Mason.” The fire captain was a bit concerned about the young man balancing on the weak branch and wanted to put him as much at ease as possible. Mason made sure his voice was calm and reassuring; trying to act like Rene’s predicament was a normal everyday way of meeting one another. “Mrs. Harriman said you are Mr. Pierce. Is that what you would like me to call you or have you got a first name?”

Rene realized suddenly that this man was Billy Monroe’s husband and Top. But as he listened to him speak, the immediate sense of intimidation began to fade and he ended up laughing at the question. “Yes, I have a first name. It’s Rene.”

“Well, Rene, nice to meet you. I want you stay where you are. I’m going to back out to the truck. Can you see it from where you are?”

Rene could see the back end of the fire truck parked in the driveway. “Yeah, I can see part of it.”

“Good. Now here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll take down two sections of fence at the side of the house and pull the truck into the back a bit so that the ladder can reach up above your position in the tree. Does that sound okay to you?”

“Yes, that’s okay with me. How will we get down though?” he asked nervously, not wanting to have to climb up onto the ladder. He didn’t want to move an inch for fear of crashing to the ground.

“I’m going to be in a harness attached to the ladder platform. I’ll send a harness down to you, so that you’ll be secured too. Then I’m going to come down into the tree myself and take out the branches above you that prevent us from lifting you out. It’s easy-peasy if you just follow my instructions.”

“Oh, that sounds okay, I guess.”

By the time Mason walked back to the side of the house, Craig was hard at work pulling down the two sections of fence that blocked the movement of the fire truck. They only had to take out one post in the centre with the chain saw and between them had the fence out of the way in minutes.

With the truck relocated, Mason grabbed two harnesses and swung them over his shoulder and slipped a small axe into his utility belt. When he was fully outfitted, he climbed onto the ladder platform. “Okay, Craig, raise the ladder.”

Zack arrived home in record time. He was frustrated at having to slow down when he turned into the street their house was on and encountered the crowd that had gathered. Of course he understood how impossible it was for people to resist the attraction that a fire truck and police car would present. Everyone wanted to be a part of the action, even if only as an observer.

He was grateful to see Officer Quincy keeping the spectators at bay, enabling him to carefully manoeuvre around the numerous children on bikes and pull into the curb in front of his new home. He raced around to the back of the house and stopped short when he saw his beloved husband clinging precariously to a limb that seem barely able to support the young man’s weight. With his heart in his throat, Zack paid close attention to the scene unfolding in front of him. Unable to help in anyway, he felt powerless and vulnerable as his concern for his Brat increased with every passing second.

Once the ladder platform was in position above Rene, Mason climbed into his harness and locked both his and Rene’s harnesses onto the platform.

“Rene, I’m going to slowly lower this harness down to you. Once you get a hold of it, I want you to wrap it around your waist and click it closed. Are you ready?”

Rene had watched as the ladder and platform swung out over his head. Mason looked so at ease doing this. The man was rather impressive. He nodded and swallowed nervously in response to Mason’s question. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

Mason lowered the harness to Rene, who caught it on the first try. “Okay, hook it around your waist,” Mason instructed. “Perfect, now you are harnessed to the truck, just like me. No need to worry about falling. I’m going swing down into the tree and remove a few branches so that I can reach you. When I get there, I’ll attach your harness to me; then Craig will raise us up and out of the way of the tree.”

Mason carefully checked his line and then gingerly stepped off the platform. He lowered himself slowly, removing the branches which blocked his path to Rene as he went. As soon as he was level with the young tree climber, he reached forward and snagged him by the harness.

“Okay; just a few more minutes,” Mason said as he secured Rene to himself, “and I’ll have you on the ground with your husband.” Mason smiled and pointed to Zack.

Rene looked down. He hadn’t even realized Zack had arrived and was watching the whole procedure from the ground. “Thank you.” he murmured as he clung to his rescuer.

“Of course,” Mason responded. “Okay, Craig, pull us up!” The two men were slowly raised above the tree. Then the ladder was turned and lowered until the two touched the ground in front of the fire truck.

Zack couldn’t get to Rene soon enough. He exhaled a deep breath of relief and all but lifted his young husband out of the harness to envelop him in a strong hug. Then he deftly ran his hands over his husband’s body to make certain no injuries had been incurred. Finding Rene unharmed but still somewhat shaken by his near-miss, Zack hugged him again.

Rene threw himself into the hug, not wanting to let go of Zack ever again. He’d been terrified when the limb had cracked and couldn’t stop thinking of Zack coming home from work to find his broken body lying on the back lawn. “I’m sorry,” he choked out.

“It’s going to be fine, sweetheart. I’ve got you,” Zack reassuringly whispered for his husband’s ears only.

Finally releasing his hold on Rene, Zack stepped forward to offer his heartfelt thanks to the two firemen. He made a mental note to also express his gratitude as soon as possible to both their neighbour, Mrs. Harriman, and to Officer Quincy for their assistance.

After Mason and Craig packed their equipment back in the engine and bade their goodbyes, and after the crowd of on-lookers had disbursed, Zack returned to the back yard with Rene in tow. He stood looking at the large opening in the fence and the branches scattered about on the ground.

“Guess we can always put up an extra wide gate where they removed the fence sections,” he commented with a shake of his head. “And you can take care of cleaning up the debris back here.”

Rene took a good look at the destruction his tree climbing had caused. His impulsive behaviour had led to a huge mess which was costly both in finance and in emotional upset. “I’m so sorry, Zack. I’ll work hard to get this mess cleaned up. This is all my fault and I know it.”

“Hello, gentlemen; we’ve returned to get on with the job we were hired for!”

Zack and Rene spun around to see Drew Tompkins and a couple of other men standing behind them. Zack stepped forward and offered his hand. “I’m Zachary Pierce. You were talking to my husband, Rene, earlier.”

“Ya, that’s right. I see you’ve had a bit of excitement around here.” Drew chuckled and winked at Rene. “I told the young fella that tree pruning should be left to the pros. He didn’t wanna listen though. Kinda pigheaded, isn’t he?”

Zack found this bit of information enlightening. He glanced at Rene with a raised eyebrow but found the young man looking anywhere but back at him.

“Well, me and the boys better get to work if we wanna get done today,” Drew announced before turning to bark out orders to his crew. He seemed totally unaware of the bomb shell he had just dropped.

“You’ve got a choice here, Rene. Would you rather we go back to the apartment and discuss your misadventure now, or would you rather wait until this evening?” Zack spoke quietly but sternly.

Rene glanced at Zack’s face but quickly diverted his eyes. He didn’t know what he wanted to do. He looked around the yard again and thought perhaps he’d better take on some of the mess first. Cleaning up after his disaster might assuage some of his guilty conscience and make the ‘discussion’ with Zack easier. Plus some good hard physical labour would help settle his nerves. He shoved his still shaking hands into his pockets and met Zack’s eyes. “I’d like to clear up this clutter now and I know you need to get back to the store. So I’d rather wait. Besides someone needs to be here when the kitchen appliances are delivered, right?”

“All right,” Zack nodded his agreement. “Try not to fret, love. We’re good. See you at five-thirty sharp.” A final kiss, and then Zack left his husband so they could both get on with their day.

Rene set to work at a furious pace clearing away all the fallen and broken branches he could reach. He used the bow-saw he had dropped from the tree, along with a small hatchet to cut the wood into easy to handle pieces and bundled them for disposal. After he was finished with that, he tackled the pieces of broken fencing, putting aside those parts which could be salvaged and place the ruined bits with the tree parts in the garage for the next garbage pick-up. He was forced to work in and around the men putting up the new eves-troughs, trying at all times to keep out of their path. He was highly embarrassed by this morning and could hardly look them in the face.

As he worked, his mind kept going to what was going to happen this evening. He knew he was in trouble with Zack and was certain he would be spanked for today’s little fiasco. He knew that he deserved the punishment; however, it didn’t make it easy to think about.

The deliverymen arrived with the appliances shortly after one PM. It took them over an hour to get them unloaded and brought into the house. The installer for the dishwasher, washing machine and gas stove were to come the next day but the other appliances were put into place and plugged in.

Since they had no food in the house yet, Zack had lovingly packed a lunch for Rene. The younger man sat on the back deck after the deliverymen had departed and opened the bag. He had long since polished off his thermos of coffee and was left with a bottle of water to have with his meal. He unwrapped the sandwich and attempted a few bites but had no appetite for it; nor did the apple hold any appeal. He ate a half slice of the banana bread, downed the water and tossed the rest of the lunch into the trash bin in the kitchen and set to work on some of the inside chores he’d assigned himself.

It was nearly five PM when Drew Tompkins knocked at the door, announcing the work complete. He insisted Rene come out to do an inspection and sign off that he found the job done to his satisfaction. Rene felt so embarrassed he could barely speak to the man and signed off after having the quickest of looks. Besides, he knew the work was guaranteed so if there was a problem later, his signing off wouldn’t change anything.

At five PM, Rene climbed into his beautiful shiny new red Toyota Corolla feeling filthy and exhausted. He did feel a little better for having accomplished the clean up, but was still plagued by the haunting memory of the look on Zack’s face as he was lowered to the ground from the fire truck’s ladder.

On his way back to the apartment, he spotted a sign for Bryce’s Nursery. On an impulse, he pulled into their lot and went to look at the flowers. He found himself standing in the rose section where he spotted a small pot with a few stems sparsely covered with spindly leaves and from the end of one stem, a single dark red rosebud was pushing forth. Though the bush wasn’t much to look at, the little bud was a thing of beauty. Rene bent over and looked at the tag. The name of the rose was ‘Forever Yours’. With a smile, he purchased the little bush and placed it lovingly on the seat beside him for the drive home.

At five-twenty eight, Rene walked through the door of the apartment, carrying his little rose bush and knowing that whatever this evening brought, he was forever Zack’s.

Zack basted the chicken one last time and shoved it back in the oven. He was going to miss the convenience of being able to run upstairs at any given time in order to get a meal started. The distance to the new house would certainly put pay to that. After adjusting the covers on the vegetables to prevent the water from boiling over, he began setting the table. Rene was due home any minute now, and Zack wonder how his husband’s afternoon had gone. He hoped Rene had kept busy enough to keep his mind off their pending discussion. But he knew his Brat well, so he wasn’t holding out hope that Rene had eaten all his lunch or that he’d be able to eat supper until things were settled between them.

He was admonishing himself for having worried an adequate amount for both of them, when he heard Rene’s footsteps on the stairs moments before the door opened. He chuckled when he saw the little rose bush and couldn’t resist teasing. “I see you’re bringing your gardening work home with you.”

Rene gave a half smile. “I stopped at Bryce’s on the way home. The beautiful little bud on this bush caught my eye, but it was the name of the rose that sold me. It’s called Forever Yours, and I bought it for you.” He had to swallow back the threatening tears as he spoke. “Zack, I really messed up today. I scared you, I scared me and I caused a lot of trouble because I didn’t take time to think things through properly. I’ll never forgive myself for putting you through what I did today. I’m so sorry.”

Zack accepted the gift with a warm smile and a softly spoken, “Very appropriate. Thank you, sweetheart.” He easily picked-up on the young man’s misery and knew things had to be resolved as soon as possible. They’d put it off long enough.

Setting the potted plant on the counter and reaching over to turn off the heat under the pots on the stove, Zack dragged a chair away from the table and sat down. Then he gently tugged on his husband’s arm until Rene was seated on his lap. Not a word was spoken as they spent the next several minutes cuddling and winding down together.

When Zack felt his Brat had calmed sufficiently, he quietly murmured into the hair resting on his shoulder. “I know you’re sorry, love, but that isn’t what this is about. It’s about you keeping yourself safe and taking the time to study a situation carefully before following through on your plan. You had several options available. Waiting a few extra weeks for the work to be done, was one of them. Getting new eaves troughs right away was not a major priority. Listening to the advice of someone older and with more experience would have been a plus. I’d have thought just the height of the tree would have been a deterrent; but barring that, having to climb out that far on a limb while carrying a sharp-toothed saw should have raised a number of red flags.” The older man made his points without scolding or raising his voice. “If you were still having a problem deciding what to do, you did have another alternative, Rene. Can you tell me what that would have been?”

Just barely deciphering the mumble words coming from under his chin, Zack smiled briefly and nodded. “That’s right. You could have called me.” He patted Rene’s hip. “Up you get, sweetheart.” He made short work of lowering his husband’s jeans and boxers before helping him to lie face down across his thighs. Tightly wrapping a strong arm around Rene’s waist and immobilizing him, Zack deliver the first of many extremely hard spanks to the vulnerable bottom. It was his love for this beautiful man that enable Zack to carry through. Love and the residual fear he was still feeling from seeing him in so much danger earlier today.

A couple of long minutes later, Zack took a deep breath and put the hand he’d been spanking with on his Brat’s back and started rubbing in small circles. He loosened the arm he’d been restraining Rene with and gently said, “Okay, sweetheart, all done." He rolled the sobbing young man over and picked up his upper half all in one move, so that his chastened lover was sitting in his lap. Then he pulled him into a strong hug and felt shaky arms wrapping about his shoulders. Whispering words of love, comfort and forgiveness, Zack let his own tears mingle with those of his beloved mate.

By the time he stopped crying and began to calm down, Rene felt the peace, love and security which Zack always provided, wash over him. He’d made a foolish mistake today and had been through an emotional wringer. Now he was exhausted but relieved it was over with and they could move on. “I love you, Zack,” he whispered.

They spent another few minutes pressed together, reaffirming their love until Rene could feel Zack shifting on the hard chair, getting uncomfortable with Rene’s weight pressing down on him. Rene slipped off the lap upon which he’d been both punished and loved, and bent to pick up his now discarded jeans and boxers.

“Do I have time for a shower before dinner? I’m feeling really grubby.” He glanced uncomfortably at the wooden chair as Zack stood up. “And do you think we could eat in the living room tonight?” he asked hopefully.

“Yes to both questions, babe. We’ll be doing it together and since we’ve been working so hard recently, I think we deserve an evening to just chill out. Maybe you can find something interesting on TV or a movie for later.”


All too soon the big day arrived. Zack and Rene were up at the crack of dawn, getting the last of the packing finished up and boxes taken down to their cars. The furniture that had been in storage since early spring was being delivered this morning. The same truck and crew would be moving the remaining items from the apartment to the new house. Everything was in order and on track.

“Dad and Papa plan to be at the house by nine to help with the unpacking. What time did you say Kadyn would be there, Rene?” Zack called out from the bedroom where he was stripping the bed, and stuffing linen and pillows into large plastic bags.

“He promised he’d be there by nine as well,” Rene replied as he came into the bedroom carrying an armload of jackets and coats. “This is the last of the things in the hall closet.” He looked around the bedroom which was now barren of everything but the furniture; all personal items having been packed. Rene suddenly felt a bit sentimental. The first time Zack had ever made love to him was in this room. He dropped the coats on the bed and leaned into Zack, wrapping his arms around his waist. “I love the new house,” he murmured. “But I’m going to miss this place.”

“I know, babe,” Zack whispered, tightening his arms around his husband and kissing his head. “At least we’ll still be sleeping in the bed we first made love in.” He smiled into the blue eyes turned up to him, realizing they had both been having similar thoughts. “I think we’re both finding it hard to completely give up this apartment, our first home together. It probably explains our not being able to decide whether to rent it out or use it for storage.”

One more kiss and he gently pushed Rene out of his arms before one thing lead to another. “We better get going, love. I hope you have room for those jackets in your car, because I’ll be lucky if I can squeeze all this bedding into mine.”

They carried out the last items and locked up the apartment together. Rene was right about the coats getting squished but he managed to fit them all in and then followed behind Zack as they drove to their new home.

Rene glanced at the clock in his car as they pulled in the driveway, thinking perhaps they were later than he’d thought. But no, it was only eight-forty and yet Hayden and Todd had already arrived and were standing on the front porch waving at them. Both men were prepared to work, dressed in jeans and flannel shirts, but somehow Todd still managed to appear polished even in his casual attire. His shirt was neatly tucked and pressed, his jeans fit to perfection and the loafers on his feet were gleaming.

Rene looked down at himself as he exited the car. His jeans were worn at the knees and had paint splotches on them, and his old Simon Fraser University sweatshirt was frayed at the cuffs and badly faded. He looked like a slob. Though he knew he would never look as good as Todd, he felt he really should put more effort into his appearance. He wanted Zack to be proud of him. Maybe he could change later, once he found his clothes in all the unpacking.

Vincent drove up to the front of their friends’ new home and whistled. “That is one beautiful looking house!” he exclaimed and turned to his young partner.

“I’ll say! Rene brought me by earlier in the week, but I haven’t had the grand tour yet. Guess I’ll get to see the rest of the inside today.” Kadyn unbuckled his seat belt and opened the passenger door before glancing back at Vincent. “You’re fine with me being here all day, right?”

“Of course; I think it’s very thoughtful of you to help out. Moving is a huge job. Wish I could help out, but I am alone at the store today. Give me a call when you want to be picked up, okay?” He smiled at the signs of restlessness. “Give me a kiss and then get going, sweetheart.” Vincent waved to Zack and Rene; then pulled away from the curb.

A quick kiss and Kadyn was out of the car and running up the driveway to assist in any way he could. “Hi, guys! Just tell me what you want me to do.” He looked back and forth between the two new home owners and bounced on the balls of his feel while he waited for instructions.

Rene had a large box in his hands and was heading into the house when Kadyn arrived. “Hey, Kadyn. Glad to see you!” He waggled a couple of his fingers that were gripping the box, at his friend. “Grab a carton from the trunk of Zack’s car and come on in. Once we get the cars unloaded, we’ll start unpacking. The movers are supposed to come with the big stuff and some other boxes later on.” He looked towards his husband. “Zack, I think your Papa wanted all the kitchen items. He said something about washing everything before it goes in the cupboards.”

Zack tossed the last of the big linen-filled bags onto the veranda and walked back to his vehicle. “I don’t think there are any others to go to the kitchen. I am pretty sure everything’s there already, but I’ll do a quick check in a few minutes.” Zack handed a box labelled ‘en suite’ to Kadyn, one marked ‘study’ to his dad and put two more on the ground to carry in himself. “Thanks, men. That’s it for my car,” he said, closing the trunk. “I’ll just park it on the street to make room for when the moving van gets here. Rene, you may have to show Kadyn where things go.”

“Okay, K, lets go and I’ll show you were your box goes and give you a quickie tour of the place before we start of the job of unloading the rest of these boxes.” Rene guided his friend into the house and up the stairs to the master bedroom. “You can put that in the bathroom through there,” he indicated the entry to the en suite and placed his box in front of the large walk-in closet.

Rene gave Kadyn a tour of the upper floor, explaining about the renovations they’d done. “Now wait ‘til I show you my space!” The two younger men headed down the stairs and out to climb a second stair case leading off the kitchen next to the garage. “This is my studio.” Rene explained excitedly. “Or at least it will be once I get it set up. I finally have a place of my own where I can spread out and work on my art without having to pack it all away at the end of each day.”

“Man, I can certainly see why you’ve not had time for our usual coffee breaks over the last month and a half, Rene. You guys sure have been busy. But it paid off big time; the old house is looking great! And this is a perfect spot for you, Rene.” During the entire walk around, Kadyn was generous and enthusiastic in praising his friends’ accomplishment.

As he spoke, Rene took a good look at his friend for the first time since he’d arrived. Kadyn was dressed in a black mesh t-shirt and around his neck Rene could clearly see a fine solid gold band. “Wow, that’s a beautiful band you’re wearing, K. Where’d you get it?”

Kadyn quieted and blushed slightly as he ran his fingertips over the thick gold band his friend had just asked about. So used to having it around his neck; he hadn’t paid attention to how he had dressed that morning for the warming weather. “Umm, it’s Vincent’s collar. I asked him for it. He ordered it on-line and it arrived a couple of weeks ago.” He suddenly wondered what his friend would make of it.

“Wow,” Rene remarked. Surprised and intrigued, he wasn’t sure how to go about asking more. “A collar; it’s kinda like a symbol of possession, huh?” The fingers of his right hand slid over the surface of the gold band he wore on his left ring finger, suddenly thinking that his wedding ring was a very similar symbol of possession. He belonged to Zack and the ring publicly showed it.

Kadyn smiled when he saw Rene touch the wedding band he wore. His friend did understand. “Yeah, Vincent says it is a physical reminder of our commitment to each other. I belong to him and he’ll always be there for me, no matter how outrageous my behaviour.” He took a final look around the big room. “Guess we better get back to work, huh? Maybe I can give Todd a hand. There seems to be a mountain of boxes in the kitchen.”

“Good idea. I’m gonna go check in with Zack to see what he wants done next and you’re probably right about giving Todd some help. He’s insisting on doing all the kitchen set up, but I’m sure the assistance would be appreciated.”

Kadyn skipped down the stairs and into the kitchen. “Anything I can help you with, Todd?” he enthusiastically inquired, startling the older man and causing him to bump his head on one of the cupboard shelves he was in the midst of lining with a spongy mac-tac.

Todd stepped down from the small ladder he was standing on and stood with hands on hips, glaring at Kadyn. “Not with having a heart attack, thank you very much!”

“Oops, sorry; I forgot how old you are,” Kadyn sincerely apologized; unaware he may have insulted the other man.

“I most certainly am not ‘old’!” Todd indignantly retorted. He huffed and turned his attention back to what he had been doing before being rudely interrupted.

Kadyn winced. He hadn’t meant to offend his friend’s father-in-law. “You’re right, you know. You’re not really old…just a little bit older than me.” He smiled when Todd turned and responded with a smile of his own.

“If you really plan to be of help to me, you can begin by transferring the items from that opened carton to the counter next to the sink. Then you can wash while I dry and place them in the cupboard.” Todd was impressed by the younger man’s willingness to please and they worked companionably for the next couple of hours.

It was well past noon when the movers brought in the last of the things from the apartment. Earlier Hayden had supervised the moving and placement of the piano, which had been in storage the past several months. In the meantime, Zack and Rene had managed the position of the few other items that had belonged to Marie, Zack’s late biological mother. Now they were busy getting boxes to their assigned rooms. Hayden was glad to see Zack bid the movers good-bye, giving the hard workers a generous tip as they departed.

“I don’t know about you boys, but I’m starved! I do believe Papa was planning a good lunch for us, so I suggest we take a break and head to the kitchen.”

“Sure works for me, Dad. I’m famished. Furniture shuffling is hard work, but the place is really starting to take shape. What do you say, love? Hungry?” Zack wrapped an arm around his husband’s neck and ruffled his hair.

“Oh yeah, let’s eat. Besides I wanna to see if Kadyn has driven Papa crazy yet.” Rene was laughing as he led the way into the kitchen.

Meanwhile, Todd and Kadyn had worked through a slight disagreement when Todd had asked the younger man to set the table for lunch.

“I hope you brought disposable stuff, Todd, ‘cause we’ve done a shit load of dishes this morning and just got the last of them put away.” Kadyn definitely didn’t want to wash anything else if it could be helped.

“I most certainly did not bring disposable!” Todd was scandalized by the very idea. He took a large platter out of the refrigerator and removed the plastic wrap and damp cloth covering a tasty array of sandwiches. “The table will be set properly with china, glass, and silverware. Anything else is out of the question.”

Not wanting to start an argument, Kadyn exhaled to show his exasperation and set about doing what the older man wanted. “Are you okay?” he asked a moment later when he heard a bit of a gasp and turned to see Todd looking unusually pale.

“Ah, yes….yes, I’ll be fine as soon as we sit down to eat,” Todd assured him as he wiped the beads of moisture off his forehead. He was placing a plate of fresh veggies and dip in the center of the table, along with a pitcher of ice-tea, when he heard the others coming towards the kitchen.

Todd’s back was to the doorway as Hayden entered the room. Hayden walked up behind his husband and wrapped his arms around the slender waist and kissed the back of his neck. “Lunch looks wonderful, sweetheart; as does the kitchen. You and Kadyn have been working hard.”

Rene, who was right behind Hayden, reached over and snagged a piece of red pepper from the veggie tray. “Wow, dishes and everything! I was expecting paper plates on moving day!”

“Ha! Guess you don’t know your father-in-law too well. I think he considers ‘disposable’ a bad word.” Kadyn teasingly smirked in Todd’s direction and took a seat at the table.

Todd ignored the light repartee as he leaned into his husband’s embrace for a moment before turning with a bright smile and gently pushing Hayden over to sit down. “Things are starting to come together. Hope you gentlemen are hungry, because there’s lot to eat.”

He poured himself a glass of OJ, stirred in a teaspoon of sugar and sat down next to Hayden. “I need this, my love,” he whispered when he saw the questioning expression on his husband’s face. “My blood sugar is a tad low.”

Zack stood back while the others got seated and rubbed his hands together. “Everything looks so good, Papa. You’ve gone to a lot of work to see that we are well fed. It sure is appreciated though. Thank you.” He pulled out the chair beside Rene’s and accepted a glass of ice-tea.

Hayden leaned over to speak quietly to Todd. “I want you to eat a good meal. Then after lunch, I’ll get your glucometer from the car. You will do a test and as long as everything is okay, we’ll stay here. But you will go and lie down upstairs for an hour before you do another thing. Zack has the bed assembled so you can be comfortable. I will not listen to any arguments either or we’ll be going home right after lunch. Understood?”

Todd turned to stare in disbelief at his husband. Not wanting to draw attention to their discussion, he began filling his plate while softly talking to the man beside him. “No, I don’t understand. I should have some say in this. I plan to eat well, Hayden, and I don’t mind doing the test. However, I really think a nap is uncalled for as I’m feeling fine. There is still a lot to do and after all, we are here to help our Piglets get settled.”

Hayden drew a calming breath, wondering again why Todd persisted on debating things upon which he had expressly said he would accept no arguments. On the topic of Todd’s health, Hayden knew he could be a bear but in this case, it was more than obvious Todd was worn out from his work cleaning and organizing the kitchen and in real need of a rest. If his blood sugar had dropped low enough to have him reaching for the extra glucose as he just had, then it was a clear signal Todd was feeling stressed. However, to assure himself that he wasn’t being overly protective, Hayden gently turned Todd’s face so he could look at him closely. His husband was slightly pale and a sheen of perspiration glistened across his forehead.

Reassure in the rightness of his decision, Hayden spoke in a low but firm voice. “You have two choices here, my love. You may do as I’ve asked or after lunch, I will make our excuses and we will go home.”

From long experience, Todd easily recognized the seriousness behind his husband’s promise. He slowly nodded his compliance; for the moment. He really had to concentrate on not making a scene; a feat made more difficult by him being tired, although he’d have been the last one to admit it.

Hoping to lighten the atmosphere before his temper got the best of him; Todd picked up the tray of sandwiches and passed it around the table. “Eat up, boys. I don’t want any leftovers.” He breathed a sigh of relief when everyone quickly took up his offer. Under the table, he reached for Hayden knee and gave it a squeeze. It was his way of silently apologizing for not wanting to follow his lover’s directive.

The conversation throughout lunch naturally centered on the day’s activity. All the heavy work was out of the way, with only the last of the unpacking and rearranging left to be done. Everyone was more than pleased with all that had been accomplished that morning.

Zack pushed himself back from the table and patted his stomach. “That carrot cake was delicious, Papa. Sorry we didn’t get everything eaten but I don’t think I’m the only one feeling stuffed. I know for sure that if I don’t get up now and get back to work, I’ll find sleeping off this lunch an easy temptation to follow.”

“I’ll tidy up and get these dishes taken care of, Todd. That is, in case there is something else you’d rather be doing. I know where things go in here now, but would probably just be in the way anywhere else,” Kadyn volunteered as he stood up and energetically began gathering up plates and cutlery.

“I’ll give you a hand, K. I need to know where things go here too,” Rene laughed. “Then when we’re done, we can work on picture hanging.”

Hayden slipped his car keys into Zack’s hand as the boys worked at clearing the table. “Papa is in need of a short rest. I’m going to take him upstairs. Would you please get his glucometer from the glove compartment of my car?”

Todd got to his feet fully intending to put away the leftovers. He looked up when he heard Hayden’s request and saw Zack leave the room to do his father’s bidding. He groaned when he realized his husband had every intention of making him lie down. Todd still believed it was unnecessary as he was feeling perfectly fine.

“Come on, sweetheart; upstairs.” Hayden took Todd’s hand and pulled him along behind him. He could feel Todd’s resistance though he did comply and follow Hayden up the stairs to the master bedroom. Zack and Rene had made up the bed and it was covered with a large plaid duvet. At the bottom of the bed lay a knitted throw. “Once we check your blood sugar, I want you to lie down for a full hour. I’ll come and get you when you can get up.”

Zack followed moments later. “Here’s Papa’s glucometer, Dad.” He glanced from one of his parents to the other and easily picked-up on a slight bit of tension in the air. Obviously, his Papa was not too pleased about being made to rest. Zack rolled his eyes, bit back a grin and decided a quick exit was in order.

Todd watched as Hayden pulled down the light blanket. His eyes flashed briefly as he felt his indignation rising. With hands on hips, he tried once again to get his thoughts across. “I do not want to waste time napping, Hayden. I want to be involved with whatever is taking place and do my share to help our Piglets set up house. That’s all there is to it!” He stamped his foot and glared at his husband.

“I see. Well since you’ve made your choice, I’ll let Zachary know that we have to leave now.” Hayden took Todd by the bicep and began to pull him towards the bedroom door.

“I am not going anywhere,” Todd declared, breaking free of his husband’s hold. He scooted over to the door, shut it and stood with his back against it. “I don’t know why you’re being so unreasonable, Hayden, when I’ve told you I am perfectly fine. Let me check my blood sugar and I’ll show you.”

Had he been asked, Todd would have found it impossible to explain his obstinacy and unwillingness to admit he was tired. It had been decided some time ago, Hayden would oversee matters pertaining to Todd’s health and at the moment, the older man was doing just that. For the most part, that agreement worked rather well for Todd and he wondered why it wasn’t working now. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he reluctantly chose to go along with his husband’s ruling.

“All right, have it your way,” Todd sullenly muttered as he leaned heavily against the closed door. “I just don’t want to go home while Zack may still need us.” He fought back a yawn and hung his head so Hayden wouldn’t see his eyes watering.

Hayden moved close to Todd and wrapped his arm around his waist, guiding him back to the bed. “All right, let’s check your blood sugar. If it’s okay and you have that rest you so adamantly declared you don’t need, I will let this little temper tantrum pass without reddening your backside. But I’m warning you now, Todd, I will not tolerate your defiance again. I am only asking you to rest because I love you and whether you want to admit it or not, you are tired and stressed. Besides, one hour isn’t going to make any significant difference to the happenings here today. You’ll still be able to contribute. Okay?”

Todd nodded and took a seat on the side of the bed. He oversaw Hayden doing the test which showed a count presently within the normal range. For a moment, Todd considered pointing out once again that all was fine and he didn’t need to lie down. One look at his husband’s raise eyebrow had him changing his mind.

Todd lay on his side and pulled his knees up as the light throw was draped over him. He fell asleep shortly after his head hit the pillow, still grumbling under his breath and protesting his lack of tiredness.

Hayden sat beside his husband as he fell asleep. His original intention had been to return downstairs. However, he realized he too was feeling a bit worn and if he expected Todd to rest when tired then he had to hold himself up to the same standard. So he climbed onto the bed behind Todd and quickly slid into a light doze. He woke forty-five minutes later, feeling refreshed and ready to return to the work. As he sat up, he saw a beautiful pair of blue eyes smiling up at him.

Todd grinned merrily at his husband and reached up to plant a kiss on the stubble beginning to show on Hayden’s chin. Then he stood up and held out a hand to help Hayden up. “I’d say we’re both rested enough to get back in the swing of things, so let’s get at it.” He laughed and headed out the door, with Hayden following at a more leisurely pace.


The afternoon quickly slipped away and soon the majority of the work involved in a major move came to an end.

Once Zack realized that both his parents were napping, he put the plans to hang pictures on hold. Instead, he had Rene and Kadyn set up the entertainment center in the living room. He figured connecting wires would be quieter than hammering in nails. In the meantime, Zack had busied himself laying a large area rug in his study and placing books on the shelves.

When Hayden and Todd re-appear refreshed from their nap, Zack quickly commandeered their help in getting drapes, curtains and blinds hung. That left the two younger men free to finally hang pictures throughout the house.

It was going on four o’clock by the time it was decided enough had been done for one day. With plans to get together the first of the week to plan a housewarming party, Hayden and Todd said their goodbyes and left for home. Their offer to drop Kadyn off was readily accepted.

Zack and Rene stood on the veranda, watching as the car disappeared around the corner. Then Zack picked up his husband and carried him through the front door; kicking it closed before setting Rene on his feet.

“Well, my love, we’ve got the house to ourselves. What would you like to do now?” Zack whispered as he wrapped his arms around his lover from behind and nibbled on Rene’s right ear.

Rene was laughing and a bit in awe of Zack swooping him up like that and carrying him across the threshold. But suddenly his thoughts of doing more work in the house headed south as his body responded to Zack’s advances. He let out a low moan and leaned back into his husband’s embrace. “I’d like...I’d like you to make love to me.”

“Hmmm, sounds like a plan,” Zack murmured as he continued to nibble on his husband’s neck. Suddenly, he spun the younger man around and tossed him over his shoulder. Both of them laughed all the way up the stairs to their room. Once there, Zack threw out a challenge as he let Rene slip down until his feet hit the floor. “Strip; I’ll race you!”

Clothing was rapidly removed, but no winner could be declared. It would have taken a timekeeper with a stop-watch to determine which man was naked first, so they considered it an equal finish. Seconds later, the quilt had been pulled off the bed and Rene was flat on his back with Zack stretched out beside him.

Zack looked hungrily through hooded eyes at his young lover before slowly levering himself almost on top of him and claiming his mouth. Then he moved down Rene’s body, leaving small bites and kisses. Next he sucked first one nipple into his mouth, then the other until Rene was lifting himself up to the sensation and begging for it to continue. But Zack deliberately took his time; licking, sucking and nibbling here and there. He soon had his husband shaking with need.

Zack pulled away to reach out and open the drawer in the night table beside the bed. He ignored the whimper Rene let out at his stopping the torment, and reached out to open the drawer in the bedside table. He rummaged around until he found the lube he’d left in the drawer earlier. Flipping the lid, he quickly coated his fingers and smiled when he noticed that Rene already had spread his legs wide and was eagerly waiting for him.

He put his lubed fingers between his lover’s butt cheeks, slowly circling the tight opening and then gently pushing inward. He closely studied Rene’s beautiful face and grinned when the younger man’s body jerked in ecstasy as his sweet spot was brushed over.

Another whimper of loss was heard when Zack withdrew his fingers for a couple of seconds before replacing them with his rock-hard erection. Zack felt Rene’s legs and arms surround him as he began to make love to his beloved. He got into a rhythm of deep hard thrusts, making sure to hit his lover’s prostate and send wave after wave of pleasure through him.

When Zack wrapped his hand around Rene’s pulsing shaft, he once more felt his husband shudder and almost rise off the bed. Within minutes, Rene was splattering hot cum over his and Zack’s chests. Zack followed shortly after and collapsed on top of his lover. Both of them so sated, they hardly had enough strength to move.

Rene lay under Zack’s weight, just reveling in the feel of his lover’s softening member still planted deep within him. His body felt somewhat crushed, but it was the most wonderful sensation in the world. He was totally possessed, loved and dominated by this incredible man. A man who could carry him up the stairs like he was weightless; a man who could make tender passionate love to him or take him hard and rough, using his body at his will and Rene loved it all. At moments like this, Rene almost felt like he could melt right into Zack’s body. However, reality began to speak as his legs started to ache from their position wrapped around Zack’s backside, and breathing was becoming more difficult. He slowly lowered his legs until his feet were flat on the bed on either side of his husband’s hips, with his knees bent.

At this movement Zack carefully pushed up and sadly, Rene felt the now soft penis slide out of his body. He straightened his legs and Zack rolled off. But he didn’t want to let his lover go, not even long enough to get up and get a cloth to clean them as Zack usually did. He rolled after him and wrapped his arms around the broad chest. “Hold me,” he murmured.

Zack was more than happy to fill his lover’s request. But not wanting to remain somewhat sticky, he quickly removed a pillowcase from the nearest pillow and used it to clean them up. Then gathering Rene closer, he held him tightly and whispered words of undying love.

The two men slept for almost an hour before they finally were able to drag themselves from the bed. They enjoyed a shower for two in their new bathroom and then headed to the kitchen to put together a meal. Rene pulled open the refrigerator door and standing on the shelf was a large casserole dish with a note attached.

“Zack, look at this,” Rene said as he took the dish from the fridge.

The note read:

Our Dear Piglets,

We knew you’d be tired from all the moving today. Here is homemade lasagna for the first night in your new home. Place in a 350 degree oven for thirty minutes. There is garlic bread in the foil package and a salad with a container of dressing in the Tupperware bowls. Enjoy!

Papa and Dad

Half an hour later, the two men were enjoying the fruits of their benefactors’ labour. Zack got as much enjoyment from watching his husband dig into the delicious meal as he did from eating it himself. His Brat’s appetite was always a trusty barometer for measuring the young man’s frame of mind and determining if something was troubling him.

“What do you think of having some family and friends over next weekend for a barbeque-come-housewarming party?” Zack asked between mouthfuls.

“That’s a great idea,” Rene responded enthusiastically. “If the weather is nice, we could set out some chairs in the back yard and put out a nice spread. But I think we have one small problem; we don’t have a barbeque.”

Zack chuckled. “Guess you have a good point there. The hibachi we use for picnics will just not cut it for a large crowd. I’ll ask Dad if we can borrow theirs. We’ll have to ask for the use of extra chairs while we’re at it.”

Rene was getting really excited about the idea of throwing a party. “Let’s make a list of what we’re going to serve and who we’re going to invite.” He pushed his half finished dinner aside and rose from the table. “I’ve got a note pad in the bag I take to the day care. It’s still in my car. I’ll go get it.”

“Oh no, you don’t! Finish eating first and then we’ll do up our list over a fresh pot of coffee and dessert.” Zack knew his husband got side-tracked, the meal would be forgotten. He also knew the coffee was a proven incentive.

For a half a second Rene considered arguing that he’d be right back, but the look on Zack’s face had him reclaiming his seat quickly and returning to his meal.

The two men soon had dinner finished and Rene got the note pad while the coffee was brewing. He headed up one list with the word ‘Menu’ printed across the top and the other with the word ‘Guests’. “I wish Mom, Dorothy, Rob and the girls could come but with the baby due in only a month, Dorothy can’t take the trip way up here. But I sure want to invite Kadyn and Vincent, who else would you like?”

“Well my dads are a given and I’d like to invite members of my staff.” Zack sat back to give it more thought. “Hmm, I would be surprised if we ended up with the same group of people who were at our wedding. As much as I’m looking forward to having another new niece or nephew, I too wish your family could join us. But you’re right of course; the distance is too much, especially in the heat of summer.”

They continued making plans and soon had both lists completed.

“I think we just finished the easy part, sweetheart. Now to carry it all out,” Zack commented, reading over what his husband had written. “But I bet we can commandeer some help if we need it.”


Sunday morning dawned bright and warm. Hayden was just finished dressing when the phone rang. He took the call in the bedroom. After a brief conversation, he headed to the kitchen chuckling to himself. Todd was busy fixing their breakfast. Hayden gave his husband a peck on the cheek and then began the job of setting the table.

“That was Zack on the phone. They’ve invited us to a party at the house next weekend and guess what they want to borrow?”

“Oh goody, a guessing game to start the day,” the younger man grinned merrily as he placed perfectly made sunny-side-up eggs on two warmed plates and carried them over to the table. “Let’s see; if the party is to be held indoors, then I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what they’d need. However, if it is held outside, I’d be inclined to go with our barbeque. I am close? Do I win a prize?” Todd’s mood was as sunny and bright as the day was.

Hayden shook his head at his husband’s mirth. Then deciding to further the game, he pulled Todd into his arms, squeezed his buttocks firmly, bit on his ear lobe and whispered huskily, “Oh, you’re close all right. And after breakfast, I'll take you upstairs and give you a big prize.”

Todd squealed and wiggled out of his husband’s grasp. He laughed as he scooted around to the other side of the table before turning to daringly goad. “That’s quite a promise. I trust ‘big’ is the operative word?”

With a move befitting a man half his age, Hayden was around the table and pulling Todd hard up against his body before the younger man could react. He thrust his hips forward and growled teasingly. “Are you questioning my ability to deliver?”

“Never!” Todd declared with a cheeky grin. “I’ve always been duly impressed by that specific talent of yours.” He provocatively murmured the words as he rubbed his pelvis against the front of his husband’s pants. “Maybe breakfast can wait while we go upstairs to prove once again just how great your ‘delivery’ is.”

It was a pretty rare occasion when Hayden found himself wishing he were thirty years younger, but right now a flash of that thought went through him. He had a gut desire to fling Todd over his shoulder and carry him up the stairs to lay claim to him. However, reality was he’d likely put out his back or worse, end up falling if he attempted such a maneuver. So accepting this, he put on his best Toppy voice and growled. “No ‘maybe’ about it. Get that butt of yours up those stairs now!”

An hour later, a happily whistling Hayden was scraping cold congealed eggs into the trash while Todd worked on making a hearty brunch to replace the lost breakfast and make up the energy they’d burnt up in the bedroom.

It didn’t take long before the two were seated across from each other, enjoying a hot meal and light conversation.

Todd had his fork half-way to his mouth when a thought struck him. “About the new barbeque; we’re going to keep it a secret until next Saturday, right? You know how I love surprising folks.” He slowly chewed on his food while chewing over an idea at the same time. “We should go to Kelowna tomorrow and look for one. If we find something suitable, we can request delivery to Zack and Rene’s in time for the party. I’d like to get one of those huge chrome affairs with all the extra storage space under it. What do you say, love?”

Hayden laughed. “I have already done some research and want to get them a Weber. It’s top of the line and will last for many years. I also like that is has a reliable ignition so there is no need for trying to light it with a match or lighter.” He gave Todd a pointed look; recalling an incident of a few years ago where the younger man had lost his eyebrows and lightly singed his face while attempting to light a temperamental barbeque he’d been told to leave alone until Hayden could get home and see to it.

Tddd scowled at having been reminded of one of his past misdeeds. “That’s mean, Hayden; bringing that up.” He squirmed a bit in his chair, his backside remembering the aftermath of that little episode. “You didn’t even answer me,” he huffed, a feign pout marring his handsome face. The unhappy expression soon became a wide grin when he extracted a promise from his husband that ‘yes, it will be a surprise until it is delivered shortly before the party’.


Zack stood next to Rene and watched in awe as a huge barbeque was set up on the patio. He turned to look over at his fathers. Hayden and Todd were looking highly pleased with themselves. In fact, Todd was practically bouncing.

“This is quite a surprise. I had no idea you had this in mind when you said we’d have the use of a barbeque for the party.” Zack shook his head in wonder as he examined the stainless steel and black grill. He lifted the heavy lid to find three shelves for cooking and warming. Next he opened the two doors hiding a fair size storage area, before finally checking out the extra burner at one side.

He stepped aside to let Todd show Rene all the bells and whistles while he talked to Hayden. “I see it comes with an automatic ignition. Were you concerned about our safety, Dad?”

Hayden gave a little smile but then spoke in earnest. “Seriously, yes. After that scare your Papa gave me a few years ago, I have real issues with gas barbeque safety. And though your Rene may be a lot quieter than Papa, from what I hear he’s just as impulsive and I want to ensure he remains unscathed.”

When Zack raised a questioning eyebrow, Hayden went on to explain. “It’s a small town, son. I heard about the young men streaking when I was at the barber. And your new neighbour, Mrs. Harriman, told me the story of him having to be rescued from your tree by the fire department.” He gave Zack’s shoulder a sympathetic squeeze. “You must have been out of your mind with worry while he was up there.”

“I was! But I’m confident it won’t happen again any time soon.” Zack shook his head at the memories his father’s words had conjured up. Turning to Hayden, he smiled and changed the subject. “Meanwhile, I’m sure both Rene and I are looking forward to breaking in this lovely housewarming gift you and Papa have given us. In fact, we should start it up now and get the steaks on. Our guests will be arriving soon.”

Raising his voice slightly to attract his husband’s attention, Zack asked, “What do you think, Rene? Do you want to be the one to use this beauty first?”

Rene shook his head. “Not on my own. I mean we want our guests to enjoy their meal and I don’t have much experience barbequing other than some hot dogs and scorched burgers.” He laughed and then looked pointedly to Zack and Hayden. “Maybe you and Dad could get it going and I could help out and learn.”

“That might work best,” Zack agreed. He turned to his father and offered him the new apron emblazoned with the words ‘The Grill Master’ that Papa had given him. “You want to do the honours, Dad? Rene and I will go get the steaks and burgers.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Hayden donned the apron and began the process of starting up the grill for the first time.

By the time Zack and Rene returned with the platters of meat, the guests were starting to arrive. The two hosts were busy greeting people when Hayden saw Todd glance at his watch. He spoke quietly to his husband. “Better go now while they’re busy. Just hurry back so I don’t have to explain your absence.”

Todd inconspicuously left the festivities and drove to the edge of town where he waited impatiently for the bus to arrive. He was meeting someone very special. How he had managed to keep it a secret this long amazed even him. His piglet was going to be so surprised, and pleasantly so.

He enthusiastically greeted the lady as she stepped onto the curb and wrapped her in a loving hug. Finally he had his passenger safety tucked in the front seat of his car and was driving back to the party.

Back at Zack and Rene’s new home, Todd parked as close as space would allow and helped the older lady out of the car. Together they walked around the side of the house and into the back yard. They quietly stood back with huge smiles on their faces, waiting to be noticed.

Rene had just come out to the deck carrying a large bowl of potato chips when he spotted Todd and a woman he did not recognize, standing by the edge of the crowd. Zack was following behind him with a tray of dips and other snacks. As they placed the things on the large picnic table, Rene leaned close to him to speak softly. “Zack, who is that lady with your Papa?”

Zack glanced over to the area his husband was indicating and his mouth dropped as his face lit up. “It’s Nessa. She’s been my nanny since I was three months old.” With that, he ran forward to embrace her. “What a wonderful surprise!” he exclaimed, finally letting her go and smiling at Todd who was wearing a self-satisfied express.

“Thank you, Papa,” Zack whispered around the lump in his throat. “You outdid yourself this time.”

“It was a joint effort on your Dad’s and my part, son. The plans have been in the works for a few weeks now. Nessa was so disappointed at having missed your wedding; the three of us thought this would be the perfect time for her visit.”

“I’ve been looking for to this for a long time, Zack,” Nessa stated. They still had an arm wrapped around each other. “I so want to meet this young husband of yours.” She looked around to see if she could spot him.

“Rene, love, come let me introduce you to another very special person in my life.” Zack waved the younger man over.

Hayden noticed Rene’s shy hesitation. He quietly handed his barbeque duties to Vincent with whom he’d been chatting, wrapped his arm around his son-in-law and took him over to join the little reunion. “Nessa, my dear, it’s wonderful to see you!” He bent to give her a kiss on the cheek.

“I’m so pleased to finally make up here to Jade Heights.” Nessa smiled up at the tall man. “And you’re as handsome as you ever were, Hayden.” She glanced over at the young man standing next to him. “You must be Rene.” She was immediately drawn to Rene’s beautiful blue eyes, but not wanting to embarrass the young man she kept her thoughts to herself.

“Yes; this is my one and only true love.” Zack pulled his husband to his side. “Rene love, this is Nessa.”

Rene smiled and extended his hand. “Ma’am, it’s very nice to meet you. Zack has spoken often and fondly of you.”

“Please, call me Nessa.” She stepped forward and embraced the blushing young man. “We’re family, you know.”

Zack was quite confident Nessa would put his husband at ease, so he left them alone to get better acquainted. His eyes often strayed to where they were sitting as he mingled with the other guests, making sure everyone had plenty to eat and drink. He chuckled when he saw Todd sitting with their neighbour; his eyes were lit up with interest as Mrs. Harriman filled him in on the latest gossip.

Rene was enjoying his talk with Nessa. He quickly felt comfortable with the special woman who had played an important role in his husband’s life. He noticed Zack keeping an eye on him but felt no resentment at being so carefully watched. Instead, it made him feel loved and safe. Before he met Zack, he didn’t do well at parties or in crowds. He really only felt comfortable with his art and with a small group of friends; even his own family often had him feeling at odds. Though recently his relationship with his mother and sister had improved a great deal, he felt that too was due to Zack’s influence.

He felt a great warmth in his heart at having been taken into this loving family and accepted as one of them. He knew from experience that families could be a nightmare. His only other lover had come from such a family. They had rejected poor Don over his sexual orientation, leaving him so depressed that he’d committed suicide. Zack’s family however were the most kind, warm, welcoming people he had ever known. Rene sometimes wondered what he’d done to deserve such a gift.

The party was a great success with the last of the guests saying their good-byes late into the evening. Only Todd, Hayden and Nessa remained; all insisting upon helping with the clean-up.

All too soon everything was set to rights and Nessa was hanging cup towels on the line to dry.

“You have a delightful young husband, Zack, and I can see how proud you are of him; rightfully so too.” Nessa sat down on the chair next to the swing Zack and Rene were sitting on. She smiled at their joined hands and watched them slowly gliding back and forth. “I am extremely happy to see you so well settled, and in such a lovely home. I can certainly see why the Pierce men fell in love with Jade Heights. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking.”

“Have you ever given any thought to leaving Vancouver, Nessa?” Zack quietly asked.

“Aye, I have,” she answered softly, a faraway look in her eyes. “I was unable to attend your wedding due to Milton being so ill. He was a loving companion for a good number of years and his passing this spring has left me completely on my own. It’s rather sad to think that before the age of seventy, I’ve already survived all my friends.” She gazed tenderly at the four men sitting around on the deck. “You are all I have left to consider my family.”

“Nessa, Todd and I moved to Jade Heights to be closer to Zack and Rene but we’ve fallen in love with this beautiful little town. It’s a wonderful place to retire. Right now, the only thing it’s missing is you. I know I speak for all of us when I say we’d love it if you’d move here. It would make our little family complete again.” Hayden offered with a smile.

Nessa beamed. She’d missed her boy and his wonderful fathers more than she could say. “Well it is a big decision, but there really isn’t anything tying me to Vancouver anymore and I’d love to be near to all of you. However, I’d have to find a little place here that is appropriate for a single woman. Do you think there are apartment buildings in town that might be suitable?”

Zack and Rene exchanged wide grins. “Well now that you mention it, Nessa,” Zack pretended to be giving it some thought. “We just happen to know of a nice two bedroom apartment that recently became vacant. It is on the second floor of a two-storey right over the pharmacy. There is even a small elevator, although it has seldom been used. It was originally installed because the top floor was used for inventory storage before I had it converted into an apartment.”

“And we can help you with the move from Vancouver,” Todd gleefully put out the offer. He was getting excited about the prospect of their long time friend moving closer. “What do you say, Nessa? Will you make our family complete again?”

Nessa glanced around at the smiling faces and felt her eyes tear up. She knew the love she felt for each of these men was fully returned. Nodded, she murmured her response passed the lump in her throat. “I’ll be thrilled to move up here; the sooner, the better.”

Todd jumped up and threw his arms around her. He gloated a bit at having beaten the others to the punch.

The End

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