'Amy! That was so sweet of you to come,' said Brandon.

'I just had to make sure you were OK and to bring you something.'

'What's that?'

Handing him the keys to Ford's BMW, which she had driven up from New Orleans, she said, 'We want you to take are of Ford's car until he's well again.'

'Is he out of the coma?' Brandon asked excitedly.

'No. No. Not yet...but he will be,' she assured him, no doubt trying to reassure herself as well.

'Then, he'll need these,' he said, handing the keys back to her.

'Yes, when he's ready. But we can't just let the car sit. It's not good for it. Somebody needs to look after it, and we, the family, talked it over and decided that it should be you. Take it, Brandon. You'll be doing it for Ford.'

When she put it that way, how could he refuse?

As they started to leave, Amy headed toward the plane.

'Aren't you coming back to the house with us?' asked Brandon.

'No. I'm going to have Mike and Tony fly me back to New Orleans. I think you need some rest right now, but I'll see you again soon. Promise.'

She turned back and kissed him gently on the cheek. She wanted to hug him, but she could tell that he was probably sore all over, and she didn't want to hurt him. As she was walking back to the plane, Jeremy called out, 'Hold up, Amy. I'm coming with you.'

'Oh?'

'I've got to see Ford.'

'Jeremy. I don't know if that's....'

'I'm going to see him, Amy, and that's final!'

'All right, then. Let's not keep the pilots waiting.'

Jeremy assured Brandon that he would be back, and he got on the plane with Amy.

On the way back to New Orleans, Amy informed Jeremy that she had decided to marry Paul Broussard. Though the news did sting somewhat, it did not shock him. He wished her every happiness, and he genuinely meant it.

'Jeremy, I need to ask you something.'

'What's that?'

'Is Ford gay?'

'Why do you ask...and why would you ask ME?'

'Well, I guess I never paid any attention before, but now that I look back, I think the signs were there all along. So, is he?'

'What makes you think I would know?'

'Because you and Ford are more than just new acquaintances, aren't you? I'm not judging, Jeremy--either him or you--but it does seem to me that he showed more concern about you after I stopped the wedding than would normally be the case, and even though I know how kind you are, you have shown more concern about him since he was shot than I would expect from a casual acquaintance. You became more than friends, didn't you?'

After taking a deep breath, Jeremy explained, 'First, Ford is bisexual. He loves men and women both, and they love him too. He's a hard man not to love. Second, he taught me some things about myself that I had never realized before. I swear to you, Amy, up until we arrived in New Orleans, I had never been with a man in my entire life. In fact, the first night Ford and I were together, we didn't even know who the other one was. He had no idea I was the guy about to marry his sister, and I had no idea he was my future brother-in-law. Had we known, we certainly wouldn't have done it, and we didn't do anything again until after you called off the wedding. But, to answer your question, yes, Ford and I did have sex, and, frankly, I think I was starting to fall in love with him.'

'Well, just so there will be no misunderstanding,' stated Amy, 'when Ford recovers, and I know he will, I hope that the two of you get back together. I know more than anyone how terrific you both are. I want only the best for both of you, and if that would make you happy, you will have my blessing.'

Amy's statement stunned Jeremy a bit, but he thanked her and gave her a friendly, platonic kiss.

Amy instructed the driver who met them at the New Orleans International Airport to take them directly to Baptist Hospital, where Mr. and Mrs. Leveque were sitting with Ford. Mrs. Leveque balked at the idea of letting Jeremy see Ford, but Amy insisted, 'It can't do any harm, Mother, and it might do some good. Besides, he's earned the right.' Mrs. Leveque assumed that Amy was talking about Jeremy's successful efforts to bring Brandon back from Los Angeles, and Amy did not explain that that was only part of her reasoning.

While the Leveques went home to get some much-needed rest, Jeremy spent the next four hours at Ford's side. Holding his hand, he told Ford about how he had run into him at the leather bar and experienced things that he had never known before. He reminded him of how they had fought off the two muggers they had encountered on their way to Ford's apartment, and he laughed as he recounted how shocked they both were at discovering who they really were. He did not mention that the wedding to his sister had been called off--he did not want to upset him--but he did describe in graphic detail their night at Red's club and how they had made love that night. He told him about how he had flown back from his 'honeymoon' the minute he had heard about the shooting. He omitted the part about how Tommy Lee Moseby had suffocated him, sending him into a coma, but he did assure him that the man who had shot him in the convenience store had gotten his just reward. He also did not tell him about Brandon's hazing at A&M and his subsequent flight to Los Angeles, but he did tell him that the entire ordeal of the past few weeks had brought Brandon and him closer. He recited the chronology of all of these events, but mostly, he told him how much he loved him and how important it was for him to recover so that they could be together again.

Jeremy spent that night in New Orleans and got caught up with Kenny, Kyle, and Red. He even visited Red's club, but all he did was watch the action and soak in the hot tub to soothe his knotted muscles.

On Brandon's first night back home, the Miller family kept the conversation very light so as not to disturb him, but no one in the house rested comfortably that night.

The next morning, Jeremy, accompanied by two of the biggest stevedores from the city, flew back to Texas on Pete Leveque's company plane. At the same time, Kenny was on the phone to his friend at the FBI, explaining that since Brandon was no longer missing and would not be pressing any charges, the case could now be closed. Brandon met Jeremy at the airport in Ford's BMW, and as they left the airfield, the plane departed with the two stevedores still on board. Jeremy and Brandon were not aware that they were headed for College Station, Texas. Beginning the next day and continuing for the next month, the president, the pledge master, and four pledges from Delta Upsilon Mu fraternity missed nearly every one of their classes and had to drop out of school. The fraternity itself folded because it lost too many members and could no longer attract new pledges.

That night, Jeremy slept in the Millers' guest room, but in the middle of the night, he heard muffled screams coming from Brandon's room. He and Seth Miller stepped out into the hallway at the same time. Seeing Jeremy, Mr. Miller turned and went back into his room. Jeremy entered Brandon's room, curled up beside him, and cradled him all night. Jeremy lay torn between his desire for Ford and his need to take care of Brandon.

In the morning, Jeremy again cooked a big country breakfast for everyone, only this time, everyone--especially Brandon--ate heartily, and Jeremy had to scrambled up a second batch of eggs. After breakfast, Seth Miller pulled Jeremy outside to the porch. 'What happened to my boy, Jeremy?'

'We really don't know all the details, Mr. Miller, and right now it's probably better that we don't. If Brandon wants us to know, he'll tell us in his own due time. The important thing now is that he's home, and he's gonna be OK. I promise.'

They heard the phone ring as they were stepping back into the house. 'It's Amy,' said Brandon, handing the phone to Jeremy.

'Jeremy, it's over. He's gone.'

'What? No!'

'Yes, just a short time ago. I was with him. He woke up very briefly, squeezed my hand, said two words, and....'

'Two words?'

'A question really.'

'What did he ask, Amy? What did he ask?'

'Where's Jeremy?'

(To be continued)

 

Brock Archer

[email protected]

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