After Ford's funeral, Brandon learned, much to his surprise, that Ford had left him not only the BMW in his will, but also his substantial trust fund. Back at the Miller farm, Mrs. Miller finally asked the big question, 'Shouldn't you be getting ready to go back to school, Son?'

'I can't go back there, Mama. I know you and Dad have worked hard to send me to school, and I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I just can't go back there.'

'You haven't disappointed us, Son, but what do you plan to do?' asked Mr. Miller.

'I don't know, Dad,' Brandon responded with growing trepidation. 'I just don't know.'

'Well, I do!' asserted Jeremy. 'You're coming back to Cheyenne with me.'

Carol Miller was just as stunned as Brandon was. Seth Miller was also surprised, but not quite as much.

'Jeremy, thanks, but I'll be fine, and I can't take your charity.'

'Who said anything about charity. You think you had chores here, you just wait 'til I put you to work on my ranch. You'll be begging to come back to your folks, but they won't let you.'

'And why wouldn't we take our son back?' asked Mrs. Miller indignantly.

'Because he'll also be in school.'

'Jeremy, I....'

'I know you're not ready to go back to school right now, but come January, you're going to enroll at the University of Wyoming. Laramie is just about the same distance from my ranch as Cheyenne, and you'll have no problem driving back and forth in that slick BMW out there. What's more, they have an animal science program that's just as good as, if not better than, A&M's.'

'But won't it be too late?'

'I've got friends there. You just let me take care of that.'

Cathy Miller started to express reservations, but her husband, having somewhat more insight into Jeremy's relationship with his son, interrupted: 'I think that's an excellent idea. I'll help you pack in the morning.'

'Seth!' she gasped, but seeing the excitement on Brandon's face, something she had not seen since he went away to A&M, she had to relent. 'Oh, all right. But on one condition, young man. I expect to see you back here for Thanksgiving and Christmas.'

'We'll be back for Thanksgiving,' replied Jeremy, but I'd like you to think about coming up to my place for Christmas if you would. Wyoming can be beautiful that time of the year.'

'Oh, well, I....'

'We'll think about it, Jeremy,' replied Seth. 'Won't we, dear?'

'Well, I...I don't...yes, yes, I don't know why not! Yes, we'll think about it!'

Brandon grabbed his mother to give her a big hug but then winced at the sore spots that remained on his body. Then, he ran off to his room to begin packing for the trip. They left early the next morning with Brandon driving the BMW.

'Who's the second most popular guy at a nudist camp?' asked the affable truck driver sitting across from them in the truck stop cafe.

'I don't know,' answered Jeremy. 'Who's the second most popular guy at a nudist camp?'

'The guy who can bring you two cups of coffee and a dozen donuts!' the man howled at his own joke. Jeremy and Brandon laughed along politely.

'Who's the MOST popular guy at a nudist camp?' the trucker followed up.

'I don't know,' Jeremy humored him. 'Who's the MOST popular guy at a nudist camp?'

'The guy who can eat the last donut!' The man bellowed at his cleverness.

After a few brief moments of chit-chat, the trucker's partner asked, 'So, what do you do up in Cheyenne?'

'I deliver donuts,' quipped Jeremy, which caused the truckers to laugh so hard that one of them nearly spit up his coffee through his nose. Once the laughter had subsided, Jeremy added, 'Baker's dozen.'

And after the next round of belly laughs died down, Brandon added, 'And I'm the guy who eats the last one!'

The men all laughed raucously once more. 'Damn, when I finish this meatloaf plate, I think I'm gonna be ready for some dessert myself. How 'bout you, Bo? You got room for dessert?'

'You know me, Tex. I've always got room for dessert.'

'Thanks, guys,' said Brandon, holding Jeremy's hand, 'but I've got all the sweets I can handle right here.'

Once they arrived at Jeremy's Wyoming ranch, Jeremy thanked his foreman, Wade Dawkins, and his ranch hands for all of their work during his extended absence, and he made a mental note to reward them with generous Christmas bonuses. He also introduced them to Brandon and explained that the young man would be working the ranch with them as soon as he was all healed from the wounds he had suffered 'in an automobile accident.'

All of the guys fell in love with Brandon immediately and took him under their wings. Some of them wanted to take him to the hayloft or the bunkhouse as well, but they knew better than to mess with him. Jeremy had said nothing, but they were not stupid: they could see it written all over their faces. Riding with the cowboys, Brandon got to know them pretty well and learned things about them that even Jeremy did not know--things like how they 'took care of each other' from time to time. When Brandon told Jeremy, he was actually quite relieved because it confirmed in his mind that Brandon was in a safe environment surrounded by friends who would watch out for him.

The second week of November, Jeremy said to Brandon, 'Let's go for a ride.'

'OK, where are we going?'

'You'll see.'

They drove north on I-80 to 15th Street and then east on Willett Drive to the University of Wyoming Sports Complex, where they watched the football team practice for that weekend's game with BYU.

'This is great!' said Brandon. 'How did you know I was a big football fan?'

'I didn't, but I was hoping you were. Let's go say hello to the guys.'

'Huh?' Brandon was amazed that they could get into the locker room with the players. As they were sashaying down the ramp into the locker room area, Brandon spotted several plaques bearing Jeremy's name and a couple of pictures of him in a University of Wyoming football uniform on the walls. 'You played here?'

'I told you I had connections.'

'Yeah, but....'

'Oh, my god!' exclaimed one of the players. 'Isn't that Bullet Travis?'

Brandon could not decide which excited him more: the sight of all those gorgeous jocks, many of whom were now naked or close to it, or the fact that all of them seemed to know who Jeremy was.

'Listen up, guys,' announced the coach. 'I'm sure you all know Bullet Travis. Hell, you probably watched every game he played when you were kids. Well, he's asked to say a few words, and I didn't think anybody would mind. Hell, I sure don't. Bullet....'

'Hi, guys. Who's gonna win the game this weekend?'

'Cowboys! Cowboys! Cowboys!' shouted the entire team.

'Good. That's what I wanna hear. I know you guys are gonna cream their asses, and I'm gonna have a little reward for you. I'm inviting all you guys to a little barbecue at my ranch with some of the best Angus beef you ever tasted. We'll have all he fixin's, plenty of liquid refreshments, and maybe a little entertainment. You can bring your dates too.'

Cheers went up among the players, and Brandon smiled broadly at his buddy's generosity.

'There's one thing I want you guys to do for me, though...besides win the game, that is.'

'Sure, Bullet,' said the team captain. 'Just name it. You know we'd do anything for you even without the cookout.'

'Thanks, Steve.'

The captain beamed over the fact that Jeremy knew his name.

'I want you guys to meet someone,' said Jeremy, pulling Brandon close to his body. 'This is my boyfriend Brandon.'

Jeremy was at least as shocked as the players, if not more so. Jeremy had never called him his boyfriend before, not even in private and certainly not in public.

'You heard right. Brandon is my boyfriend. And come January he's gonna be a student at UW. Now, as you can see,' he said, rubbing his hand over the young man's well-defined chest and arms, 'Brandon's quite capable of taking care of himself, but you'll forgive me if I'm a little over-protective. So, I'm asking you men to look out for him. You'll also find that Brandon is very smart, and I'm sure he won't mind providing a little tutoring from time to time. Then again, probably none of you guys needs any tutoring, huh?'

That little tease nearly brought down the house as one player after another started poking the guy next to him and trading fraternal insults.

Steve, the team captain, stepped forward and shook Brandon's hand. 'Whaddya say, sport? Wanna be an honorary UW Cowboy?' Brandon beamed.

'Jenkins!' barked the coach. 'Go get your new teammate here a jersey--number 7.'

'Right away, Coach.'

'Number 7?' Brandon asked. 'Isn't that the number Jeremy wore when he played here? I saw the photos on the wall.'

'That's right, kid.'

'One thing, Coach. Why do all you guys call him Bullet?'

Putting his hand on Brandon's shoulder, the coach answered, 'Because when he played quarterback here, nobody could run faster or throw the ball farther than Jeremy Travis. He still holds several school records. That's what those plaques are for. Bullet Travis is a legend on this campus. Trust me, son, these guys would do anything for him, and ain't nobody gonna mess with Bullet Travis' boyfriend.'

All the players crowded around Jeremy to ask for his autograph and hear stories about his days as the star quarterback and around Brandon to welcome him to the team. For the second time in his life, Brandon Miller had been adopted.

On their way out of the locker room, they were pulled aside by Steve, the team captain. 'Bullet...uh, Mr. Travis....'

'You can call me Bullet or Jeremy,' interrupted Number 7. 'Whatever makes you more comfortable.'

'Thanks, Jeremy. Uh, you said we could bring a date to the party at your place.'

'Of course!'

'Well, considering the circumstances, you won't mind if I bring my boyfriend, will you?'

Jeremy smiled. 'Of course not, I'm looking forward to meeting him.'

'You already have, sir...uh, just didn't know it.' He nodded in the direction of Jenkins, the team manager who had brought Brandon his jersey. Looking more closely now, Jeremy could see it in the way they looked at each other. 'We haven't told the guys, but I think now maybe it's time.' Jeremy shook his hand, and Steve held onto it. 'Could I...? Oh, to hell with it!' And with that, he pulled Jeremy close and kissed him on the lips and then kissed Brandon. 'Whoo-hoo,' hollered the players, cheering and taunting the young lovers amicably. Jenkins ran toward the three of them and got kisses as well, including a very deep, prolonged one from Steve. 'Whoo! You go, girl!' Brandon and Jeremy laughed and exited hand in hand.

As they had promised the Millers, Jeremy and Brandon spent Thanksgiving at their farm in Texas. Though it had been a trying year, all of them felt that they had much to be thankful for. Brandon practically gushed over his new friendships with the cowboys on the ranch and the Cowboys at the university, who had even promised to take him with them if--no, WHEN--they made it to a bowl game. 'Cowboys! Cowboys! Cowboys!' Seth Miller glowed in the opportunity to talk football with his son and Jeremy. Carol Miller couldn't care less about football, but she delighted in seeing her family so happy.

After the Thanksgiving feast that Mrs. Miller had so lovingly prepared, Jeremy and Brandon cleared the table and washed the dishes before joining Seth and Carol Miller in the living room. Much to his father's surprise, Brandon turned off the TV that his parents were watching.

'Mama. Daddy. Jeremy and I have something to tell you.'

'Must be serious to come between your ol' man and his football game,' said Seth Miller. 'What is it, Son?'

'Jeremy...Jeremy has asked me to marry him. Of course, we can't legally get married in Wyoming,' he added hastily, 'but there's a campus minister from the university who has agreed to perform a commitment ceremony, and we'd like you to be there.' The sudden silence concerned both Jeremy and Brandon. 'Mama? Daddy?'

'I'm sorry, Brandon,' Carol Miller finally responded. 'This is just not the future I had always envisioned for my son, but if this is what you want, of course we'll be there. Wild horses couldn't keep us away!'

'Oh, Mama. Thank you. Thank you. I love you so much.' Tears formed in Brandon's eyes as he hugged his mother tightly.

'Welcome to the family, Son,' said Seth Miller to Jeremy. Son. No one had called him that since his parents died. He liked the sound of it.

Carol Miller broke Brandon's embrace and hugged Jeremy. Then, she kissed him on both cheeks and then lightly on the lips. 'Oooh! Nice kisser!' she teased Brandon. 'I can see why you're so fond of him.'


(End of story)


Brock Archer

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