"So what's all this got to do with us?" Randy said brusquely to Steve. "OK, you were a poor Texan and now you're a rich Californian. Well bully for you."
Steve had been looking into the details of his own adoption as a newborn and had come up with some startling facts. Seems he was born to a poor, itinerant mother in hardscrabble rural Texas, but she already had a one-year-old boy so the new baby was adopted and whisked away to a life of comfort and privilege in Northern California.
"You have to admit, Randy," Steve persisted, "that the facts of my birth are very similar to your rural Texas origins that you once described to me. Remember? King of the gypsies? Plus you're a year older than me, and of course, we look remarkably alike."
"So ..... I want you and me to get a DNA test ....... just to eliminate any possibility that we're ...... well, just so we can eliminate that and I can get on with my search."
"No fucking way," said Randy pacing the room. He jabbed his finger at Steve. "Get this straight, asshole. There is no fucking way, no way on God's green earth that you and I are related. I would feel it inside me if we were and I don't feel anything for you ..... except pissed off right now that you come barging in here and demand my fucking blood."
"It's not a blood sample, Randy. It's a simple swab inside the mouth. I have a test kit right here. It's called a mitochondrial DNA test."
"I don't give a rat's ass what the fucking thing is called. Call it dog shit for all I care ..... I'm still not doing it."
Seeing Randy's rising anger Bob interceded. "Look, why not, Randy? I agree with you that any relationship is highly unlikely ..... it would be too much of a wild coincidence. So a DNA test will put the matter to rest. Come on, buddy, if you're so sure this is impossible, what have you got to lose?" The other men in the house agreed. The consensus was that the whole concept was too outlandish to contemplate. Stuff like that only happened in movies. There must be loads of itinerant, poor families in rural Texas. No, it was totally crazy.
And so, to settle the matter, they took the test and a few weeks later Randy and Steve sat silently on opposite ends of a couch in the doctor's office. Randy had sat down as far from Steve as possible, as if physical distance between them could induce the result he wanted and expected. The doctor came in, a genial older man with smiling eyes.
"Gentlemen. Sorry to keep you waiting. OK, let's see here." He opened a manila folder, perused the contents, then looked up at them. "Yes, well, the results of the DNA test appear quite conclusive. There seems to be no doubt about it, gentlemen ......"
Bob was sitting in his bedroom, barefoot in sweatpants and T-shirt, reading a book. Well, not really ...... the kind of reading where he read a paragraph twice without taking it in. He couldn't concentrate. He had one eye on the phone, waiting for it to ring with the news from Randy.
God, he wished he'd gone with him. He knew how volatile Randy could be and how edgy his relationship already was with Steve. It was a fact that Randy admired the handsome man, respected him, found him sexually very hot. Hell, he had told Bob that fucking Steve was like fucking himself, they looked so much alike. But overriding all that was Randy's insecurity at the contrast between him and Steve ...... the dirt-streaked, tough, man-of-the-earth construction worker, versus the smart, college-educated, successful doctor.
It was inconceivable that they were related, but if that's the way it turned out it would be impossible for Randy to look on this cultured professional as his kid brother.
The minutes dragged on until an hour had passed. He must have the news by now. Why the hell didn't he call? Suddenly he heard the screech of brakes outside, followed by the slamming of the garden gate. Bob braced himself in the certain knowledge that the next few minutes could be real uncomfortable. And he was right.
The bedroom door crashed open and Randy stood there, eyes blazing, chest heaving, like a bull pawing the ground before a charge. The target was Bob and it all happened fast. Without a word Randy grabbed Bob by the shoulder, pulled him out of the chair and threw him on his back on the bed. He grabbed the bottom of the sweatpants and yanked them off.
Bob stared up at him in alarm. He had seen Randy like this before. In the past when something had enraged him, fired him up, his instinct was to race home and unload all his frustrations and passions on the man he loved. Bob watched wide-eyed as Randy pulled off his T-shirt and towered over him, stripped to the waist. He was magnificent ..... terrifying ..... and Bob's dick was hard as a rock. He knew exactly what was about to happen.
Randy ripped open his cargo pants and his monster cock sprang out. What followed next was one continuous, fluid movement with no hesitation. Randy grabbed Bob's ankles, pushed his legs high in the air and plunged his huge shaft deep inside his lover's ass. The ferocity of the move made Bob scream involuntarily. He always loved rough sex with Randy, but this.....!
All the anger, frustration and raw sexual energy in the man erupted like a volcano, and the assault on Bob's ass was merciless. He had never felt Randy like this, never seen him so wildly out of control. All he could do was brace himself for the onslaught, the pain and ..... yes ..... the thrill of being so savagely fucked by this glorious man. The blue eyes blazed down at him as the magnificent body bucked over him, impaling his ass on the enormous rod that had taken on a life of its own.
Bob knew he was the recipient of all the rage Randy was feeling and he bore the pain willingly. No, more than that ..... he loved it! This was the man he had fallen in love with, the virile, savage construction worker whose passions always found release in reckless physical acts. It was this that captivated Bob, that he longed for, that no other man on earth could give him. He gazed up in awe at the dark, demon face, stubbled chin, wild blue eyes, black tousled hair.
Bob pushed his ass higher, inviting the muscle-god to pierce him deeper, offering his ass as a healing balm to absorb all of his lover's anguish. Randy turned into a wild animal, pounding the ass with a rhythmic savagery that sent Bob spinning into a world of sexual exhilaration. As Randy's shaft plunged deep inside him Bob squeezed his ass tight, holding the cock in a vise. He saw Randy's eyes open wide, heard his primitive howl and felt the cock erupt deep inside him, as Bob's own juice blasted upward and splashed on the chest heaving above him.
Then suddenly there was silence as Randy arched over him and stared wildly down into his eyes. And at last he spoke.
"He's my goddamned brother! That arrogant, superior, class-up-the-ass prick is my goddamned kid-brother!
A few minutes later Bob was pulling himself together while Randy paced the room. "Goddamn him .... my fucking brother! What the hell does he want from me?" He grimaced scathingly. "He'll want to do that 'bonding' bullshit ..... want to 'share our lives'. He'll probably want you, and then a share in the company." He stared at Bob on the bed. "Well at least he won't get you. At least I still own you."
Bob stood up quickly and confronted Randy. "Man, you're being totally irrational. You're not thinking straight. And by the way, just so we're clear on one thing ..... you don't own me. We settled all that, remember? I'm my own man, free to do what I want."
Randy's eyes blazed. "Yeah, free to go over to him ...... to give yourself to him. OK, go. He's my brother, looks just like me, but he's got college degrees up the ass just like you, dresses real sharp like you, and I'm just a sweaty construction worker ...... you'd be better off with him."
"Randy stop! Listen to yourself ....... That's crazy talk. Trouble is you're jealous of Steve, jealous of everything he had in life and you didn't ...... loving family, education, professional success ...... whereas you ....."
" ..... whereas I was left behind in the Texas dirt, quit school to raise my brothers singled-handed and ended up a dumb laborer."
"Randy please ...... go make you peace with Steve. I think it's terrific that he's your brother. He's really a great guy. I like him a whole lot ..... we've had some great times together ......" Bob trailed off sensing that he was wading into hot water.
"OK, asshole," Randy yelled. "If he's so fucking great then go and live with him."
Bob shook his head in disbelief. Despite his best efforts to stay calm he was losing his temper. "Man, you've lost your fucking mind. This news has finally pushed you over the edge. When I hear you talk garbage like that I think ...... I think maybe I would be better off with Steve. At least he's not crazy as a loon."
"You mother fucker!" Randy screamed and smashed the back of his hand across Bob's face sending him reeling across the room and crashing to the floor. "That's something to remember me by, asshole. I'm sure Steve will treat you a whole lot better. I'm outa here."
As Bob lay stunned on the floor Randy crashed out of the room and was striding across the garden when Pablo came through the gate, home from work. The boy didn't even have time to register what was happening before Randy grabbed his wrist, pulled him outside to the truck and said, "Get in. At least the son-of-a-bitch won't get you."
A minute later Pablo was sitting beside Randy, frozen with fear, as the trucked barreled down the winding hill. He had never seen his master so enraged. No ..... more than enraged ...... for the first time Pablo sensed fear in the powerful man. They drove in silence to the bottom of the hill, and then the truck screeched to a halt by the side of the road. Randy turned to Pablo, wild-eyed. He was still rambling, driven by fear rather than reason.
"OK, kid, here's the deal. Turns out Steve's my brother. It's been confirmed. Now he probably thinks we should be close ...... bonding, sharing ...... what's mine is his ..... that kind of crap. So you've gotta make a choice ..... me or him. Come to think of it he can give you a better life than I can .... fancy house, car, clothes. He'd see you get a college education. Stay with me and you'll end up a mechanic on a construction site like me." His chest heaving Randy ran out of breath and out of words.
Pablo was totally stunned. This was not the Randy he knew, the big boss, the man who adopted him. His words still rang in the boy's ears and tears began rolling down his cheeks. "Sir," he sniffed. "Are you ..... are you giving me away to Steve? Is that what you mean?"
Pablo's plaintive voice brought the first flush of reason back to Randy's seething mind. He looked at the boy's teary eyes gazing up at him. "Wouldn't you rather live with my brother?"
Pablo blinked at him. "Sir, how can you even ask that? You know I love you, sir. You're my life ..... I'd do anything for you. And being a mechanic is the coolest thing in the world ..... especially when the construction boss is my dad. I don't want it any other way. It's all perfect for me. See, I love you, sir. You're my hero."
The boy's words, simple and direct, had a dignity about them that pierced through the muddle of Randy's emotions and brought clarity to him for the first time since he had stormed out of the doctor's office. He gazed at his boy, then reached over and took him tightly in his arms. Pablo nuzzled hard against his master's naked chest, as if to give physical proof of the words he had just uttered.
As Randy looked into the oil-streaked face of the handsome young boy in the ragged dungarees, tears came to his eyes. "You're my rock kiddo, you know that? I need you and I'll never let you go. All that crap I just said ...... I didn't mean a word of it. It's just that when I heard that news I guess I lost it and ....."
"I know, sir. I get it. I know you better than you think. By the way, sir, how did Bob react to the news?"
Randy shook his head. "Oh, I dunno. We argued and I ended up slugging him."
With a sharp intake of breath Pablo said, "Sorry, sir. I gotta go." He opened the door, leapt from the truck and began running back up the hill.
"What the fuck .....?" Randy threw the truck in gear, did a screeching U-turn and followed Pablo up the hill. He pulled level and shouted, "What the fuck are you doing, boy?"
Pablo was striding ahead resolutely, with a determined look on his face. "I gotta check on Bob, sir .... help him ...... see if he's hurt. I love Bob, sir ..... all of us guys do. No one would ever hurt him ....... no one except you, sir."
The words pierced like a dagger. "Get in!" Randy threw open the passenger door and pulled Pablo in beside him. He floored the gas pedal and sped back up to the house.
They both rushed through the gate but their way was blocked ...... by Zack, his eyes blazing. Making an effort to control his anger he said, "I just got home .... went to see Bob. I came down for an ice-pack. Pablo, go to the freezer and take an ice-pack up to Bob. Hurry." Pablo rushed into the house and Zack turned to confront Randy. Chastened, Randy stood like a guilty adolescent waiting for his punishment. "Hit me, man," he said. "I deserve it."
Zack wheeled away from him in frustration. "Shit, man, is that all you ever fucking think about ...... fists? You really think that solves anything? You know what? ..... you're a fucking fraud .... and a coward. You claim to love that spectacular guy in there more than your life, but at the first signs of trouble he's the one who gets hit."
He paced round the garden, yelling. "Jesus Christ, we went through all this before and nothing's changed. It's a classic case of abuse, and you're the classic bully. You slug your partner, apologize like mad and get forgiven. Then it all happens again. Man, I don't think I can work with you anymore ..... I can't be your friend."
Randy touched him lightly on the arm. "Zack ...... everything you say is true ...... I'm a total shit-head. But ..... don't abandon me ...... I need you, man. What would I do without you and Mark to beat up on me when I behave like a prize idiot? The news I got today just ...... well it was like a fist in the gut. I got confused, scared and I didn't know ..... still don't know ..... what to do ....."
Zack softened when he saw the anguish on Randy's face and took him into a bearhug. "OK, OK, big guy. I won't forgive you in a hurry, but I won't walk out on you either. See, in spite of everything I love you, man. And when I say it I mean it." He grinned. "Even if you are a total asshole. Now go upstairs and take care of that guy of yours."
Seconds later Randy walked into the bedroom where Pablo was tenderly applying an ice-pack to Bob's cheek. He said quietly. "OK, Pablo, I'll take it from here. And thanks for everything kiddo. You're a hell of a boy. We'll talk later." Pablo left the room and Randy turned nervously to Bob, not knowing what to say. Bob bailed him out, grinning ruefully.
"Seems like we've acted out this little scene many times before, buddy. Guess this is the confession and reconciliation part."
Randy sat down on the bed with him. "Oh, man. I'm not gonna insult you by asking for your forgiveness. I ...... I don't know what to say. Like you said, we've been down this road so many times before. You have every right to walk out on me. Just ..... just, please ..... please, man ..... don't leave me."
"Randy, you know that's not an option for me, any more than it is for you." He grinned at the ice-pack stoically and shrugged. "In sickness and in health ...... in peace and war. But listen, buddy, here's the important stuff. I understand your shock and confusion but it's pointless to take it out on me, Pablo, Zack or anyone else. You've been acting irrationally. Hell, whatever happened to the tough boss man who can defeat anything .... the guy I fell in love with? Now go make you peace with Steve. He's your brother, after all. Get used to it."
Bob's words were still ringing in Randy's ears as he drove up the winding hill toward Mulholland Drive. He was dead right, of course ..... always was. Randy knew he'd been a damned fool, embarrassed himself with his petulant behavior. But the guys were used to his impulsive anger and he was sure they would still accept him as leader of the group. That's why he loved them all, why he would defend them with the last breath in his body.
So no more looking back. He had to face the future. But there he still had no answers. There was no way he could get his mind around Steve as his brother. Randy had spent most of his adolescent and adult life focused on his younger brothers, bringing them up, protecting them, wiping their noses when they got bloodied in a fight. Now they were grown, off on their own, and he was free ..... free and clear. He was the boss, making his own life, and he chose who he shared it with ...... Bob, of course and Pablo, and the other guys he had come to love.
No, he would not have another guy forced on him. He would not be obligated to anyone anymore by ties of blood. As these considerations whirled through his mind they reignited his animosity toward Steve. Damn him, if he hadn't nosed around into the past none of this would be happening. Why the fuck did he want to know about his adoption anyway? He had everything he wanted, a privileged life ..... why did he have to go and fuck everything up?
He was so immersed in his troubled thoughts that he hadn't realized he had pulled up at the gate to Steve's house, barely visible behind lush landscaping. He turned off the engine and heard the silence of luxury living ..... broken only by the breeze in the trees and the occasional car purring along Mulholland. Sitting there he resented it all. Fuck him!
He got out of the truck, leapt over the wrought iron gate and walked down the driveway. There was no sound or sign of life in the house. He stood at the front door but was reluctant to ring the bell ..... damn, he wasn't about to wait for admittance. So he decided to nose around a bit.
In fact Steve was on the other side of the house, the side with the magnificent view of the Hollywood Hills. He was lying face down on a chaise by the pool, naked, soaking up the sun. He had needed this total relaxation after the body-blow of Randy's reaction when he had stormed out of the doctor's office.
Steve had been hoping against hope that the DNA test would prove that Randy was his brother. Ever since he first saw him Steve had admired the man .... he had never seen anyone like him. His macho presence, his command, his powerful body, stunningly handsome face ...... he oozed raw masculinity. It was captivating for Steve, and he had willingly submitted to this muscle-god, humbled himself before him, given his body to him. And now ..... to think that this glorious specimen of a man was his brother!
But his exhilaration had been dashed by Randy's reaction ..... his total rejection of the idea. He would never forget the anger on Randy's face as he glared at him, then strode wordlessly from the doctor's office. And so now Steve lay on his stomach in the sun, miserable, hoping that something could be salvaged from the wreckage of the day.
He did not know that the man who occupied his thoughts was right now standing yards away behind him, staring at his back. Randy had come round the side of the house and stopped in his tracks as he saw the naked man, his broad suntanned back sloping down to the slim waist and pale globes of his spectacular ass. That ass!
The confusion of conflicting emotions suddenly dissolved as Randy's focus centered on a new phenomenon ...... the huge hard-on in his pants. He had fucked Steve before, of course, but now the man was his brother. Well, he had been his brother before, hadn't he? It didn't make any difference. And there, suddenly, he found a perverted solution, a way of rejecting Steve as his brother. Brother did not fuck brother ...... and that was that." Quickly Randy stripped off his clothes and stood naked. Now they were equal.
Steve gasped as he felt strong hands grasp the small of his back and press it down onto the cushion. In a panic he tried to look round. "What the .....! Who. Is that?"
"Don't worry Steve," Randy growled. "It's your brother. Except that I'm gonna prove I'm not. Brothers get real close to each other, don't they ..... do a lot of things together? But they don't damn-well do this.
Steve's scream echoed round the hills as Randy's rigid shaft buried itself in his ass. He almost stopped breathing as he felt the rod pull out, then plunge back inside. The pain was excruciating and yet, for a moment, he felt the exhilaration of having this glorious man inside him. But as he felt the cock piston into him he suddenly recoiled. No! This couldn't happen. This was his brother. They couldn't! "No!" he screamed and in desperation he bucked upward in an attempt to throw him off.
But Randy was deep inside him and the sudden movement made them both roll off the chaise and onto the warm wooden slats of the deck. Steve fell on his back and found himself staring up at his brother's handsome face as, once again, Randy speared his ass. "No, man," Steve whimpered. "It's not right ....." but his voice faded away as he fell under the hypnotic spell of the muscle-god invading his body.
"Not right, eh?" Randy said. "Feels to me that you like it just fine. Face it, man, you love being impaled on my cock. Feel like brotherly love to you, Steve? Nah, thought not. Just feels like a great fuck to me." He fell forward, pinned Steve's wrists to the deck above his head and kept hammering his ass. The demon face stared down at Steve, same dark hair, same chiseled features, identical blue eyes staring into each other. It was like looking into a mirror ..... "like fucking myself" as Randy had described it to Bob.
"Not what brothers do, is it Steve?" Randy taunted. "Now I'll show you something else a man doesn't do ...... make his brother shoot his load without touching himself. And you're gonna do that, Steve, brother or not. Here it comes, man."
Randy pulled his hips back, then pistoned into the ass. "Feel that, Steve? This time it's gonna make you cum. Shoot for me, Steve. Now!" One last time he plunged his huge cock deep inside the shattered man's ass and blasted his load into his gut. At the same moment Steve's eyes opened wide, he screamed, his body shuddered and his cock erupted in a stream of white juice that poured all over his naked body.
Randy pulled his cock out, then fell on top of Steve, wrapping his arms round him. The two naked bodies, pressed together, rolled around the deck, kissing passionately, ravenously ..... the lips, the face, the eyes, all inhibitions abandoned in a wild celebration of carnal desire. Finally they were exhausted and Randy broke free and stood up, his body gleaming, gazing down in triumph at the man sobbing at his feet.
"So much for brotherly love, eh, Steve? Didn't feel very fraternal to me either. So much for sharing our life together. The only thing we shared was bodily fluids when I fucked you up the ass. Think of it this way, though .....we just bonded. So let's call it a day and put all this 'brother' bullshit behind us. You go your way and I'll go mine. Maybe a great fuck now and then and that's it. See, I like my life the way it is, Steve, so stay out of it. I don't have a brother."
The shattered man lay sobbing on the ground, only dimly aware of Randy walking away. His mind was reeling. He was repelled by the fact that he had been fucked by his brother ..... repelled and exhilarated. It had been spectacular. The glorious man had given him a spontaneous orgasm, had made savage love to him ...... and then walked out of his life.
Steve pulled himself painfully to his feet and staggered blindly into the house. He needed a drink.
As he drove home Randy's emotions were as convoluted as Steve's. He had triumphed, shown Steve that he absolutely rejected the concept of brotherhood, that he had no fraternal feelings whatsoever. But then he pulled the truck over, stopped and stared straight ahead. He banged the wheel with his palms, again and again. "Shit! Shit! Shit!"
Again he told himself he had no brother, but then he saw again the eyes staring up at him, the same eyes as his ...... his brother's eyes. He wanted to reject what he saw in those eyes ...... fear maybe, but longing too ..... and love. No dammit, no He didn't want a brother. He had chosen his family for himself, his tribe, and that was that. "Fuck him," he said out loud and his eyes filled with tears.
He drove around for a long time and when he got home he went straight to Bob. "Don't ask me how it went, buddy," he said. "I don't even know. Look, man, I gotta get away for a day or so ..... be on my own to think. I'll take the boat up the coast, do some fishing. I gotta clear my mind."
Bob touched his arm. "I understand, Randy, and I think you're right. Time away by yourself might help you sort things out. I'll help you get ready."
They loaded the boat on the truck, and Pablo helped them stow food and drink in the cab. All three of them were in the kitchen saying their last goodbyes when the phone rang. Bob answered, his eyes opened wide and he mouthed silently "Lloyd!" He pressed the speaker button and they all heard Lloyd's frantic voice.
"He's gone, Bob. Steve's gone. I didn't know who else to call. Apparently something happened, but Steve was kind of incoherent. He mumbled something about Randy ..... seemed real upset ..... desperate. Trouble is he'd been drinking ...... and you know Steve never drinks much. He was rambling ..... something about being happy at the lake, I think it was, whatever that means. 'Gotta go back there,' he kept saying. But here's the thing ...... he was blind drunk and he took the car! I tried to stop him, then tried to follow, but by the time I got my car out he was gone. I'm scared to death, Bob. Driving in that state he could kill himself."
Before Bob could answer him Randy spun round and rushed out of the room. In seconds they heard the truck's engine spring to life and the screech of tires as it sped away.
"The lake," Bob said. "Randy knows what he meant."
Randy's face was ashen. He tried to control his panic as he sped up the freeway, breaking every speed limit. "You damned fool," he moaned, though he wasn't sure if he meant himself or Steve. "God, I was brutal to him. Why the fuck do I do that? No wonder he got drunk ..... I would have, too. But the fucking shit-brained idiot ..... getting behind the wheel of a car!"
He shook his head. "Typical of my brothers. Headstrong like me ..... I was always bailing them out. The number of times I raced after them one of them to save his hide."
Suddenly he realized that was exactly what he was doing now ..... speeding to the rescue of one of his brothers. And it all came back. It seemed that his whole life had been spent protecting his brothers. And when they grew up and left he transferred his protective instincts to the guys in his new family, his tribe. Always the defender, always the boss.
He was in full brother-protection mode now. Steve, the brother who looked exactly like him, just a year younger. Steve, the success story, the Beverly Hills doctor. Steve, the man who just a short time ago was looking up into his face with exhilaration, admiration and love. Steve, the man he had wounded, demolished, whose dream he had destroyed. "Why did I do that?" he asked himself again. "Because I'm a selfish prick, that's why. Jesus Christ ..... the man's my brother!"
His fear was at a pitch now as he sped along the winding Angeles Crest Highway, expecting at any minute to see a crumpled wreck of a car in the road. He found himself looking for skid marks disappearing over the edge of the highway. He took a deep breath and consciously lowered his speed, telling himself that he didn't need to be the one in a wreck. Steve needed him. His brother needed him.
And there, finally, was the turn-off to his secret place by the lake. He had once taken Steve there, got to know him, made love to him there, opened up a whole new world. Pablo had been there too, and Steve had loved him like a son. Hell, the three of them were like family. Randy never prayed, but he did now ..... that he would be in time.
Then as he bumped over the rough track Randy saw the car, Steve's BMW. It had spun off the trail and was hopelessly stuck in a ditch. No sign of Steve. Must have got out and stumbled drunkenly on toward the lake. Randy leapt out of his truck and ran forward. Better to search for him on foot. Frantically he ran along the path, through the trees, crashing through the undergrowth. Still no sign of the man.
At last he broke through the trees at the edge of the small beach ..... and there he was. "No! Randy howled and rushed forward. The body was a few yards out into the lake, face down in the water ...... completely still. He must have staggered out there and finally passed out. But how long had he been there?
Randy splashed through the water and fell on his knees beside the inert body. He turned him over and looked into the gaunt face, streaming with water, eyes closed, lifeless. Gently he dragged the body to the beach and knelt beside him. "Steve, it's me, Randy, your brother. Come on, man, wake up." He slapped his cheeks but the eyes remained closed. Frantically he searched his brain for what to do next.
He pressed his fingers to the neck and, thank God, there was a pulse. He tilted the head back, pinched the nose and locked his lips over Steve's. He breathed into his mouth ...... and felt the chest rise. He repeated the movement, again and again. During a pause he whispered, "Come on, Steve, you can make it. No brother of mine ever gives up." And suddenly Steve coughed, his head turned to the side and water poured from his mouth. He took deep rasping breaths, then looked up and saw Randy's face inches from his.
"You came," he whispered feebly. "You came after me."
"Of course I did, you dumb shit. You're my brother aren't you?"
As Steve lay half-conscious on the sand Randy ran back to the truck and drove it to the edge of the beach. He stripped off Steve's wet clothes, dried him off and covered him with a blanket from the truck. As Steve gazed up at him Randy saw water flowing down his cheeks ..... it was not lake water, but tears. And then Steve fell into a deep sleep, fueled by exhaustion and alcohol.
Randy flipped open his cell-phone and dialed Bob. "It's OK, buddy. He's safe. We're at the lake. We'll likely stay here a night or two. Listen, call Lloyd ..... he must be going bananas. Tell him not to worry."
"It's OK, Randy he's here. I told him to come right over. He's pretty much a mess so I said he could stay with me until Steve gets home."
Randy felt a stab of anger that Bob and Lloyd would spend the night together but immediately had the sense to dismiss it. Hell, hadn't everyone been through enough already not to have his irrational jealousy making things worse? He smiled and said, "Good call, buddy. Take care of Lloyd. And I mean that."
"I know you do. And Randy ... great work. You always did get your man. I'm proud of you. Take good care of that brother of yours."
Steve slept for an hour and, sitting beside him, Randy's eyes never left his face. He noticed Steve's lips were parched so he nudged him awake and said, "Here, better drink this. You're dehydrated." He put a water bottle to his lips and Steve gulped it down. "How do you feel?"
"Much better," Steve said weakly " ..... now you're here. Headache, though."
"Yeah, well that's called a hangover, asshole, and now you listen to me. No brother of mine ever gets behind the wheel of a car when he's drunk ..... do I make myself clear?"
Steve grinned. "Loud and clear, sir."
"Yeah, well you check with your big brother before you even think of doing some damn fool thing like that again."
Steve shrugged. "Seems to me I did speak to my big brother before I did it this time."
The comment struck home. "Yeah, well, as to that ....."
Suddenly Randy's bravado deflated. "Listen, man. Jeez ..... when we got that news I panicked. I mean, here you were, my younger brother. But you were the one with all the success, the grooming, the college degrees, the BMW for Chrissake. I was supposed to be head of the family, but here I was a greasy construction worker, no education, no polish, just good with my fists. And my BMW is that big, muddy truck you see parked up there. So don't let the macho arrogance fool you, bro. I was scared shitless that my kid brother would come into my life and take over."
Steve looked up at Randy in amazement. "You really have no vanity, do you Randy? Not a shred. You have no idea how you look to others. Man, you are one hell of a spectacular, son-of-a-bitch stud ..... one in a million. Listen, everything I have was handed to me on a silver plate, while everything you have you earned ..... the hard way. And you have a damned lot."
He propped himself up on his elbows and his eyes bored into Randy's. "Think about it. Your parents crap out and leave you to raise five brothers. You do a damn fine job, then come out here, work like a demon and end up the boss of your own construction company. But more than all that, Randy, much more important ..... it's the guys who love you. That tribe of yours ..... they all worship you. Even though I've no doubt you began by beating up each one of them and ploughing their asses. I guess that was the price of admission."
"Yeah," Randy grinned. "Guess I did that to all of them."
"And look at the result. They're all crazy in love with you, and you know why? They've never met a man like you. Shit, there isn't a man like you. You're a living, breathing icon of masculinity. Your looks, your body, they're magnificent. You're a flawless man ...... with flaws. OK, so your attitude sucks sometimes, but I'll take a flawed muscle-god any day of the week. Sure, your guys are all scared of you sometimes .... well, maybe not Mark and Zack so much ..... but they would walk over hot coals for you. That's what you call leadership, man."
His voice became softer. "Truth is, I've always worshipped you, Randy, ever since you first came into my office. Every time you walk into a room my heart misses a beat and my cock gets hard. And then, when it turned out you were my brother, I ..... I was over the moon. Until .... until you ......."
Randy pulled him into a tight hug, tears brimming in his eyes. He sniffed them away and said, "Thing is about me, Steve, I'm an asshole, and I always manage to hurt the ones I love most. Just ask Bob about that. He's probably still holding an ice-pack to his face."
"Yeah, but you and that gorgeous man! Shit, dynamite couldn't blow you two apart."
"Look, bro," Randy said. "Do you think we can rewind the movie, back to where we got the news in the doctor's office? We'll rewrite the script and take it from there. Whad'ya say?"
"Nothing I'd like better," said Steve smiling broadly."
"You do much fishing?" Randy asked suddenly.
"Almost never. There never seemed time for it."
"Shit, there's always time for fishing. OK, we'll stay here a couple of nights and take the boat out on the lake. We'll fish, and we'll talk, brother to brother. I'll tell you all about Texas, all the stuff you missed, and you tell me about California, the high life I never knew. We've got food, beer ..... and each other. How's that grab you?"
Steve was beaming. "Sounds like a plan. Besides ..... the BMW ..... don't forget I drove it into a ditch, so I'm not going anywhere. So lead on, brother. You're the boss."
"You better believe it."
And so the brothers bonded (what Randy had once called "bonding bullshit.") They talked endlessly, laughed, swam, cooked the fish they caught ...... and slept in each other's arms.
On the second day with the sun high in the sky, they were floating aimlessly in the boat. The fishing lines drifted unattended and they lay on their backs, shoulder to shoulder, gazing up at the sky. They were talked out, happy to drift in companionable silence. Their eyes were growing heavy with sleep when suddenly they heard a shout across the lake.
"Hey, it's me!"
They both raised their heads groggily and looked over the side of the boat. They squinted in the sun and saw a tanned figure in baggy shorts, shirtless, barefoot, jumping up and down on the beach, waving his arms with excitement. Beside him was a black dog, barking just as enthusiastically.
"Hey, boss, it's me, Pablo. Pablo and Billy."
Randy grinned broadly. "Well, so much for peace and quiet. It's that boy of mine. Must have come up here to see how we're doing. Do you mind?"
"Hell, no. I love that kid. You adopted him so what's not to love? And by the way, I'd say we're doing just fine, wouldn't you?"
"Happy as clams at high tide," Randy laughed.
"Besides, if he's your boy then I guess he must be my nephew. Better get re-acquainted."
"Yeah," Randy said thoughtfully. "Only I have a feeling that right now he's not thinking of you as an uncle. Definitely not what he has in mind."
As they rowed back their laughter rang across the lake.
TO BE CONTINUED in "A Trial of Strength ..... Part 113"