Rick lay with Mark afterward deeply relaxed, both slipping into state of twilight sleep. Two hours later both boys were awakened abruptly by someone banging on the door. Mark was disoriented but Rick quickly jumped up pulling on some clothes. Rick pointed his lover to the bathroom.

Rick swung open the door and answering "What the fuck..?"

Rick stopped abruptly. There was a school administrator standing at the door with a clipboard.

"I'm Sean from housing; I'd like to come in to see how your dorm room arrangement is working out." Sean was following up on Mark's request for a room change. Because of a student withdrawal, there was now an open spot in a building across campus.

Sean looked at Rick and surmised the boys were probably socially mismatched. Sean had been made aware of Rick's background.

Mark came out of the bathroom wearing his workout shorts from earlier. He recognized the man from the housing office. Mark sat down next to Rick on the bed.

"Hi Mark. I wanted to check in to see how the dorm room arrangement was working for both of you."

Before Mark could answer, Rick said, "Hombre, Mark is fine. He is in good hands. I'm showing him around campus and helping him out. We have classes together. "

Mark nodded vigorously. "Yeah Rick helps me. We have the same classes and we are sharing books. I don't want to move."

Sean observed the boys and tried to discern if there were any signs of discomfort and distress in Mark. Sean looked around the room and noticed only one bed had been slept in. Sean had a premonition there was more to the story here. Sean, as were most of the administrators, was aware of Rick's gang's affiliation. Because of the gang affiliation there was added security awareness around Rick. Sean was picking up a possessive vibe from Rick with regards to Mark. Sean decided to get them separated so he could talk to Mark alone.

"Mark, can you come by housing tomorrow after class around 3:00pm?"

Mark nodded. Rick sat stiffly beside Mark, his street sense on high alert. Rick would not allow Mark to be taken away from him. Rick fought the urge to snarl at Sean.

Sean stood to go. "Gentlemen if there are any issues with your room arrangement please do not hesitate to talk to me about it."

Sean left the dorm room. Rick got on his knees in front of Mark as he sat on the bed.

Rick looked up at Mark and asked, "Hey pup, are you unhappy?"

Mark answered honestly, "When I first met you I was afraid. That first day I asked for a room change but they told me the rooms were all full.

I want to stay with you now, Rick. Please don't be mad."

Rick got up higher on his knees and wrapped his arms around Mark. "Pup, I got you. I'm your man. I'll take care of you. Please don't leave."

Mark wrapped his arms around Rick's body and promised, "I won't leave you Rick, I promise."

Rick felt a pang at Mark's words. They pulled at Rick's remote cirrhotic heart strings. Rick was determined now to keep his boy close and not let him go.

Rick had no family except for the El Monte, South Side gang, and the women that serviced the gang members. The closest thing to family that Rick had was Eduardo, the 2nd in command at the gang. Eduardo was a 48 year old man that had sponsored Rick into the gang at a very young age and had been his surrogate padre and mentor. Eduardo had taken liberties were Rick as teenager but he had also protected him. Eduardo was also the only reason that Rick had been allowed to leave LA gang and attend college. Eduardo provided supplemental financial support for Rick and was very possessive of him. Eduardo had been happily married for over 20 years and had four daughters. Eduardo's position in the gang afforded him great power and wealth. Rick was Eduardo's boy.

Rick's heart was filled with a strong emotion that he could not identify or understand. Rick wanted Mark for himself. Rick did not want anything to take Mark away from him. He was willing to fight for Mark.

Rick asked again quietly, "Please stay with me pup. I'll be your man." Mark plastered himself onto Rick's torso and wrapped his arms around Rick body.

Mark promised again, "I'll stay with you Rick, I promise."

Rick calmed and comforted Mark. "Babe, you want a subway?"

Mark nodded yes. He was starved.

Rick got up and finished getting dressed, handing Mark a shirt.

"Come on Babe, let's get some food."

The boys left the dorm and went downstairs and hopped on Rick's motorcycle. They drove to the nearest subway to split a 12 inch long meatball sub. They wolfed the food down and chugged bottles of water.

Rick suggested, "Wanna go for a drive?" Mark nodded. He loved to drive on the back of Rick's motorcycle holding onto him with the wind in their faces. Rick drove around for over an hour. Mark's body pressed closely against Rick's back. Marks arms wrapped around Rick's torso. Mark's hands never stopped telling Rick how much he loved him. They were constantly moving around Rick's torso. If they stayed in one place for long, Mark would pulse his fingers in circles to re-affirm his connection to Rick.

Nothing would separate him from Rick. Mark would deal with the housing dweeb tomorrow.

The following day Rick drove Mark over to the housing office but stayed with his bike on the street. Rick did not trust himself to go inside with Mark. Mark headed into the office to talk to Sean the housing administrator. Mark waited in a chair for almost 10 minutes until Sean was free to see him. Mark walked into Sean's office and sat down.

Sean got straight to the point, "Mark how is the room assignment working out?"

Mark said, "Great. I thought at first Rick looked a little scary but he's been great. We share books and split the cost of food. I don't want to be moved."

Sean wanted to make sure Mark's answer was not the result of financial dependency. "Mark, how are you doing financially?"

Mark quickly answered, "Great. I have six hundred dollars in my checking account. I told my mom not to send me any money this month. I'll probably get a part time job next semester but right now I'm doing fine."

Sean asked, "Do you plan to get a car or are you okay using campus transportation?"

Mark answered vaguely, "I just play it by ear, no need for a car yet."

Sean nodded, and said, "Mark I'm going to check in with you again around midterm. If anything comes up, I want you to call me. Here is my card." Sean handed Mark his business card. Sean did not want to say too much because his honest desire was for both boys to be successful. Sean just felt that Mark's needed additional supervision because of Rick's background. If the boys found camaraderie and friendship during their semester, Sean was happy. Given Rick's history, Sean just wanted to make sure that there was nothing more sinister at play.

Mark made his way out of the building smiling. Rick watched Mark's face carefully as he approached Rick's bike. Mark grabbed his helmet and climbed on the bike behind Rick. Rick had no intention of going anywhere until Mark told him everything.

Mark sensed Rick wanted information.

Mark talked through his helmet into Rick's left ear, "I told him I wanted to stay with you and he said he'd check in again midterm."

Rick was distrustful by nature and snarled a little at no one in specific. Mark rubbed Rick's chest calming him and urging him to turn on the bike. Reluctantly Rick turned on the motorcycle and they headed out on a search for more food.

Sean was watching as the boys departed the parking lot through his office window.

When Rick and Mark returned to the dorm they tore into their food. They had gone through a Taco Bueno on the way home, four thousand calories for only $9.99! Rick finished his food first then he grabbed Mark and held him and kissed his face while Mark chewed his burrito. Mark playfully rubbed Rick's head and leisurely ate his food enjoying Rick's attention. Mark looked at Rick as he chewed with those sweet blue trusting eyes. Rick's heart filled with fierce emotion. Rick felt ready to fight the world to keep Mark close to him.

Mark playfully rubbed Rick's chest. Rick nibbled on Mark's neck and shoulder. After they ate, they got out their books to study.

Later that evening Mark's cell phone rang. He had been avoiding his mom for a few days. Mark sighed and answered her call.

"Mom, stop calling so much." Mark listened into the phone to his mother. Rick looked up and watched as a cross look flashed on Mark's face.

"Mom that is just a waste of money! I'm fine. No, I'm making straight A's. When is he getting here?"

At that exact moment there was a sharp knock on the door. Rick shoved his book aside and jumped up to answer the door, coming face to face with Mark's father.

Mark interrupted his mother to tell her that his dad had arrived and he would call her back later.

Mark greeted his father, "Hey Dad! Why did you come? You shouldn't have. I'm doing fine."

Mark's father was an older version of Mark. Blond hair, blue eyes, except his skin was dark and leathery from a lifetime of working outdoors in the elements.

Mark's father answered in his gravelly voice: "You need to check in with your mother every day, Mark. She has been worried sick and your avoiding her calls. " Mark's father looked around the room at the food wrappers strung out all over the floor.

"Mark this room smells like a gym locker. When is the last time you did laundry?" Mark had to admit he had not done laundry since arriving.

"Dad this is Rick, he's my dorm mate." The older man nodded to Rick in acknowledgment, but he was in father mode and continued to lecture Mark about the state of the room.

"I'm going to take you boys to Wal-Mart, get ready, I have a rental car. "For god's sake pack up all this dirty laundry and let's take it to a laundry mat. Mark strip both beds." Mark father went into the bathroom to inspect it.

Disgusted the old man barked, "Rick get in here and clean up this bathroom!"

Mark's father lectured the boys on proper hygiene and cleanliness all the way to Wal-Mart. He gave Mark a meaningful glare, "Mark you know better."

Mark answered, "Yes sir."

"Pick a day of the week Mark and spend a good hour scrubbing that room down. You're not barnyard animals." Rick laughed. He wished he had a dad like Mark's. They made a pit stop at the laundry mat to drop off the dirty clothes.

"I'm going to pay to have your laundry done this time but next time you go inside and do it yourself." Mark and Rick handed over their bundles to the laundry attendant while Mark's dad pre-paid the bill. They got back in the car and headed to Wal-Mart.

"I'm making A's so far." Mark offered.

Mark's dad sternly grumbled, "I expect nothing less of you son." But the corners of his eyes crinkled up in a smile. At Walmart Marks father set about filling the boy's baskets with basic household items, towels, washcloths, q-tips, toothpaste, toilet paper, household cleaner. He added a case of Gatorade, a case of bottled water, a case of nutrition bars.

Mark's father asked, "What are you boys eating?"

Mark answered, "Subway, Pizza, Taco Bueno." Mark's father made a mental note to try and locate a decent restaurant around the school. They finished shopping and loaded up the car. As they drove back to campus, Mark father pointed out restaurants that Mark should try. He pulled quickly into a Boston Market. They boys were already hungry again.

"This is a good place because all of the vegetables they offer. Try to keep a lid on the fast food Mark, its not good for you and your still growing. Your mother would stroke out if she knew what you've been eating." Mark missed his mother's cooking. The family rarely ate away from home. She had always had fresh bread and pie's cooking. They sat down as a family and ate every night together. Mark missed his brothers and sisters.

Rick was amazed that Mark had a dad that looked after him so carefully. Rick felt a pang of envy. They carried their trays to a table and sat down. Mark's father bowed his head silently and prayed. Mark followed suit. Rick did not know what to do so he waited and watched. After a few minutes they opened their eyes and started eating.

Mark's father continued his fatherly lecture,

"The most important thing is to establish and stay on a schedule. Mark, I can't mail your mother to you, so you're going to need to learn to fend for yourself."

Rick answered defensively, "I can take care of Mark."

Mark answered hotly, "I can take care of myself."

Mark was eighteen, not five years old.

The older man softened a bit, "Mark I know you'll be fine. Your mother and I just miss you and want the best for you."

Turning his attention to Rick he asked, "Do your parents live near campus?" There was a long pause before Rick answered, "I'm on my own."

The older man pressed Rick for more information, wanting to know more about his son's dorm mate, "That a lot of ink your sporting," referring to Rick's gang tattoos." As a father he was a little concerned over Rick's possible influence over Mark.

Rick decided to answer Mark's father honestly,

"Yes, I grew up in East LA. My education is being grant funded by an organization that helps young people get out of gangs." Rick left it at that.

Mark impulsively put his hand on Rick's hand.

Mark's father caught the intimacy before boys could pull their hands away from each other.

Mark's father stopped chewing and his eyes locked onto Mark's. Mark had never kept secrets from his parents and he did not know how to keep this one from his father.

Mark's father sat back in his chair and looked at both boys, but his eyes searched Mark's for answers.

Mark stammered, "Dad, we help each other. We are close."

Mark's father cut to the chase, "Are you sleeping together?"

Rick internally cringed. Mark just nodded and then waited for his father to say something.

The man was visibly shaken. His tanned leathery skin almost looked pale.

"Son, I have to admit. I did not see that one coming. Can you characterize your relationship for me?"

"We help each other study. We work out after school and play basketball. We hang out."

Mark's father asked, "Is this why you are avoiding your mother's calls?" Mark shrugged; he was still trying to figure things out himself. Mark certainly did not have answers for his hovering mother.

The older man's natural inclination was to grab his son and get him on the next plane back home to Idaho. He resisted the urge knowing that Mark needed to find his own way. The older man also understood that his response was going to be important to Mark. He needed time to think.

Rick was watching the older man carefully waiting for the full brunt of his reaction.

"Mark, if your mother calls you are to answer the phone unless you're in class."

Rick offered, "I'll make sure he answers it."

The older man nodded. "Let's go pick up the laundry."

It took several trips to get all of the laundry and supplies into the dorm room. They made up their beds with fresh sheets and put their clothes away. Mark's father got the bathroom organized with the new towels and bathroom items.

"Mark, I have to fly back tonight so I need to get to the airport." Mark wore a crushed expression at hearing his father was leaving so soon. His blue eyes watered up. The older man embraced his son in a long hug affectionately rubbing his blond head.

Mark's father looked directly at Rick and silently emanated a clear warning. Do my son no harm. Rick nodded his understanding.


Mara Copa

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