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It! The Terror From Beyond Space

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Title: Home for the Holidays  

Author/pseudonym: Tinnean  

Fandom: It! The Terror from Beyond Space  

Pairing: Lieutenant Tinker (Andy) Anderson/Colonel Edward Carruthers  

Rating: NC-17  

Disclaimer: They belong to Vogue Pictures, United Artists, and Jerome Bixby, who wrote the screenplay.  

Status: new/complete  

Date: 12/18/04  

Series/Sequel: This follows the events of The One Who Got the Bullet Was Lucky.  

Summary: No one should be alone at Christmas. Andy brings Carr home for an old-fashioned holiday.  

Warnings: Spoilers for the movie.  

Notes: This story was part of the Slash Advent Calendar -2004, which can be found at: I changed 'Ann' into *Andy*. (It's what they really should have done.) I also took the liberty of changing the names of the spaceships from Challenger 141 and 142 to Defiance and Defender. Keep in mind that while the events of this movie are supposed to take place in 1970, it was filmed in 1958 and that's the time that is reflected. Hence, Andy driving an Edsel. As an aside, It! is the basis of Ridley Scott's Alien. Van Leuen appeared in the second movie, Aliens. Frost's assignment in the Alps was The Crawling Eye (1958), and the next one in the Himalayas is The Abominable Snowman (1957). Okay, I fudged the timeline in my story. The hoax of Martians landing in Princeton , NY is an obvious reference to Orson Welles' War of the Worlds. George and Mary and their family belong to Frank Capra. The Air Force Base Andy and Carr transfer to is named for Eddie Rickenbacker, WWI flying ace. The stuffing is cranberry-pecan, but hazelnuts can be substituted. Thanks to Tim for a man's POV. Beta'd by Gail, for which I give her many thanks  


Home For the Holidays

By Tinnean


The Defender, sister ship of the destroyed Defiance, had just returned from her mission to Mars, and none of her crew had been debriefed as yet, so I was surprised when I was called into Colonel Vickers' office. He was the liaison between the US Space Command and the Science Advisory Committee, but everyone knew that he was nothing more than a pencil-pushing brown-noser.  

Unlike *my* colonel, who had eagles on his shoulders, Vickers had silver oak leaves. However, he was still a colonel.  

"You sent for me, sir?"  

"Ah, yes. Anderson . Here."  

I took the paper he handed me. "What is this, sir?"  

"Leave. I understand your actions aboard the Defender were above and beyond. This is your reward."  

I scanned it quickly. "A week?"  

"Yes. Use it to go home and touch base with your family."  

"Uh… thank you, sir, but I thought I needed to be available for Colonel Carruthers' court martial?"  

"It's been postponed for a couple of weeks. There's a plane ready to take off. I suggest you be on it immediately."  

"Yes, sir. I'll stop at the BOQ and pack…"  

"No need, Lieutenant. I've had that done for you. Murphy!"  

The corporal whose desk was in the outer office appeared in the doorway with a duffel in his hand. "Here you are, sir."  

"Thanks." I wasn't happy that someone had been in my things, but there wasn't much I could do about it at that point.  

"Now that that's all settled, Lieutenant, you'd better be on your way. Dismissed."  

I saluted and did an about face, and left his office. A jeep was waiting outside the building, and I was driven to the airfield.  

I should have realized it was an offer that was too good to be true, but I needed to see my Pop, to tell her I was safe and that I'd fallen in love.  


There was an Air Force Base about twenty miles from my home town, but I learned as I was about to board that my plane was a civilian one, and its destination was the Blanchardville Municipal Airport, which was only a couple of miles out of town. The airport was too small to need a taxi stand, and once it landed, I headed for a phone booth  to call for a cab.  

"Hullo?" The voice was a young boy's.  

"Is Ernie there?" Ernie Allen and I had graduated Blanchardville High together, and while I had gone on to the Air Force Academy, he had taken over Robinson's Cab Company from Mr. Robinson, who said he was moving to Arizona because the dry air was better for his lungs, but everyone in town knew why he really was leaving. He liked to drink a bit, and no one felt safe with him behind the wheel. Ernie had worked for Mr. Robinson part time after school, so he was the logical one to take over for him, and his dad went with him to the Blanchardville S&L and helped him take out the loan to buy the business.  

Ernie had married his high school sweetheart as soon as she'd graduated, they'd had three children, and it looked like they were living happily ever after.  

"Nope." This had to be Ernie's oldest child, his lone son.  

Someone in the background called, "Who's on the phone, Junior?"  

"Some man, mama."  

"How many times have I told you to answer the phone, 'Allen residence'? Now go outside and play with your sisters."  

"Aw, ma…"  

"*Now*, young man!" There was some grumbling, and then, "Hello, may I help you?"  

"Sylvie? It's Tinker Anderson ."  

"Tinker! How wonderful to hear from you! We're all so proud, you know!"  

"Oh, thank you."  

"Yes, when we heard you were selected to join the crew of the Defender… well, Miz Anderson wasn't the only one fit to burst a button!"  

"Thanks, Sylvie."

"Where are you? This call must be costing you a fortune!"  

"Actually, no. I'm at the airport. I just wanted to know if Ernie could come pick me up, but I guess he's not available."  

"He's at the airport. Or at least he should be. There's some kind of seminar at Capital City , and the mayor has to go by plane, so Ernie drove him."  

"Son of a gun, yes, I can see him from the terminal! Listen, Sylvie, I'd better go. I'll be in town for a week, so I'll be sure to see you."  

"Sounds great, Tinker. Take care. Bye."  

I hung up the phone, grabbed up my duffel bag, and bolted for the Chevy Suburban that was parked just outside the terminal. Ernie had found the station wagon to be perfect to use as a taxi cab.  

"Hey, Ernie!"  

"Tinker! Buddy! Long time no see!"  

"Yeah." Not since my last leave, which was almost a year ago.  

"How are you?"  

"Good, Ernie. And you?"  

"Never better. You're lucky you caught me. I was just heading home."  

"I know. I called your house, hoping you could drive me back into town, and Sylvie told me you were dropping the mayor off so he could catch a plane to Capital City ."  

"Yeah. He says it's for a seminar. Never mind about him. Throw your bag in the back seat and sit beside me."  

Just like old times.  

"Did Sylvie tell you how proud we all were when you got that berth to Mars?  

"Yes. That means a lot to me, Ernie, but I was just doing my job, y'know."  

He gave me a sideways grin. "Yeah, sure. Listen, how long are you here for?"  

"I've got a week's leave."  

"That's great! Maybe we can get together for a couple of drinks while you're home."  

"That will be great."  

On the ride to town, Ernie brought me up to date on what was happening with the people we'd gone to school with.  

"George has taken over his father's business."  

"The S&L? Pop told me something about that, but I thought he couldn't wait to shake the dust of this one-horse town from his feet?"  

"His father had a heart attack, and his mother needed him. And George's uncle never had a head for business."  

"That's too bad. George always had wanderlust."  

"For someone who swore he'd never settle down, he's got an odd way of showing it. He and Mary are expecting. Again."  

"What does this make? Four?"  

"Five!" There was a grin in his voice. "There's not much else to do here on a winter night."  

"Well, she always said she'd love him all her life."  

"How do you know that?"  

"You know girls have always seen me as the boy-next-door type. I just happen to have shoulders broad enough to cry on."  

"Did Sylvie cry on your shoulder too?" he asked suspiciously.  

"Don't be an ass, Ernie. You never wanted to get out of Blanchardville." I thought of how George resented being tied down by his family – Mary, their kids, his mother and Uncle Billy – and how some people who wanted children would never be able to have them, and I sighed. "I hope it works out for them."  

"Me, too. George does love Mary, but he hates small town life. And the way he feels about his job ... I think he may need a guardian angel."  

"I think we could all use one. What else is going on?"  

He was silent for a moment, then said, "Gaye and Steve are splitting up."  

"I'm sorry to hear that."  

"Mmm hmmm." Ernie gave another of his sideways glances.  

"I am." I'd dated Gaye when we were sophomores, but she'd preferred a senior who was captain of the football team, and the mayor's son to boot, to the shortstop of the baseball team, and dumped me for Steve. I'd been relieved, although I hadn't told anyone. That was something a gentleman didn't do.  

"Sure. Anyway, Gaye is back working at the Five and Dime. She's gonna be tickled when she learns you're in town for a few days. I bet if you ask her, she'd love to go out to dinner with you."  

"Ernie, I really don't think…"  

"No, you didn't see her face the first time she saw you in your uniform. She always had a sweet spot for you… " not that I'd noticed, "… but that was the icing on the cake. Steve had asked her to marry him, and she'd been putting him off. I think she was really waiting for you, but when she heard you'd got married, she announced they'd be tying the knot as soon as it could be arranged. That was one of the town's biggest weddings. It was too bad you couldn't make it."  

I'd been trying desperately to keep my own marriage together.  

"Say, maybe the two of you can even get back together on a permanent basis."  

Not if my life depended on it. "Ernie, that isn't a good idea."  

"How come? Oh! You mean you're seeing someone!"  

"Yes." I hoped he'd let it go.  

"If it isn't serious… "  

"It's serious as a heart attack."  

"Shoot. Well, why didn't you bring her along? You know the whole town would be thrilled to meet her."  

I didn't think they'd be too thrilled if the town learned 'she' was a 'he'.  

"Hey, we're home!" I got out of the cab and took my duffel bag from the back seat. I propped it against my leg and reached for my wallet. "How much do I owe you, Ernie?"  

"It's on the house, pal. It's the least I can do for a hero!"  

"No, listen, Ernie…"  

"I'm not kidding. Now shut up, or I'll mop up the sidewalk with you."  

"Yeah? You and what army?" But I laughed. If he was going to be stubborn about it, I'd just take him and his wife out to dinner, and I'd see that the check came to me.  

"Tinker!" Pop was on the front steps. She was dressed in casual slacks, one of the few women in Blanchardville who was able to carry off that look. "Oh, sweetie!" She hurried down the steps and ran toward me.  

"I'll see you, Tinker." Ernie grinned, waved, "Hi, Miz Anderson!" and drove off.  

"Pop! It's so good to see you again!"  

"Tinker! You're home!" She flung open the gate of the white picket fence, and I caught her in my embrace and hugged her tight.  

Pop and my mother had been friends for a long time. They'd gone to school together, and when my biological father disappeared before I was born, Pop had come to stay with her. They told me it was only supposed to be for a little while, but somehow Pop had never left; even after Mom passed away Pop was there, a solid presence who told me the facts of life, who came to all my baseball games, who wept with pride when I'd been accepted into the Air Force Academy.  

This was something the young woman I'd married had been unable to accept. It was the final nail in the coffin of our marriage. She went home to her mother and annulment proceedings were initiated.  

"You're home!" Pop kissed my cheek and stepped back. We were the same height, and our eyes were level; hers were bright with tears, but she smiled. "Why didn't you call to let me know you were coming?"  

"I would have, but there was barely enough time to catch my plane." I slung my duffel bag over my shoulder, slid my arm around her waist, and we walked toward the house. "Besides, I wanted to surprise you."  

"Well, you certainly did."  

"You mean to tell me Sylvie didn't call?"  

"Scamp." She swatted my backside. "Are you hungry? What am I saying? You're always hungry. Let's go in the kitchen, and I'll make you something to eat."  

"Thanks, Pop. I've missed your home cooking. Meals on a spaceship just can't compare." Even the food prepared on Base left much to be desired.  

We walked up the steps to the porch and into the house. I left my bag by the stairs that led to the second floor and followed Pop through the dining room to the kitchen.  

"Can I help?" She'd taught me early on how to put together a good meal. I was looking forward to dazzling my lover with my culinary expertise.  

"No, you sit there and talk to me." She took a package of bacon and a carton of eggs from the refrigerator.  

This was it. I swallowed and picked nervously at the crease in my uniform trousers.  

"You know I was on that flight to Mars?"  

She gave me a look of amused exasperation. "Tinker, we do have radio and television and newspapers here in Blanchardville."  

"Sorry. Well, we were going to bring Colonel Carruthers back…"  

"I'm aware of that. Tinker, there's been a blackout on any news regarding the Defender." She stood before me and tipped my chin up, forcing me to meet her eyes. "Is something wrong, sweetie? What's going on?"  

I took a deep breath. "Pop, you know how you always wanted me to fall in love?"  


I never thought I would meet Colonel Edward Carruthers face to face. After all, I was just a rock hunter who happened to be a lieutenant in the Air Force, while he was a hero, the first man to go solo into space.  

I'd been drawn to him from the time I'd seen him in a newsreel at the local movie house. After that I looked for anything I could find about him, the newspaper pieces that lauded his accomplishments, accompanied by grainy pictures, the magazine articles about him, with their glossy photographs. The one that struck me the most was of him on his return, standing proudly beside his rocketship, his helmet tucked under his arm; that was the one I'd tacked up onto my wall.  

I hadn't understood what those feelings were; I took them to be hero worship. In the town I grew up in, guys thought of those girls in the centerfold of Playboy when they jerked off. I steadfastly refused to acknowledge that my most intense orgasms were when I found myself staring at that photograph of Captain Carruthers, as he'd been at the time.  

He'd received one promotion after another and had gone on to lead the first expedition to Mars.  

The expedition to the red planet ended badly, with his entire crew brutally slain by… something. He alone made it back to his broken-backed ship to radio a frantic message reporting the deaths.  

Of course, no one believed him. All the great scientific minds insisted Mars was uninhabited, which was why they wanted to claim it for the Earth. Circumstantial evidence decreed that, as the sole survivor, the Colonel was the culprit.  

A task force of biologists, physicists, medical doctors, and engineers had been put together. A geologist was also needed, and I'd been selected.  

Under the command of Colonel Van Heusen, we would lift off in the Defender from Cape Canaveral , our mission to finish what the ill-fated crew of the Defiance had been unable to, and incidentally to bring Colonel Carruthers back to Earth where he would face a court martial and almost certainly a firing squad.  

In the photograph, he'd been attractive, but in person, his dark hair and blue eyes took my breath away. How could this man be responsible for the deaths of nine men?  

As it turned out, he wasn't.  

We did what we'd come to do and then lifted off, leaving behind the shattered hull of the Defiance , unaware that we carried death in our hold. Of the nine crewmembers of the Defender, only four of us had survived to step out onto the soil of Earth once more. The first of the threats to mankind had been sucked out the airlock, while the second, *its* offspring, had met *its* demise in the nuclear reactor that powered our spaceship, along with our commander, Colonel Van Heusen, who sacrificed himself in the attempt to save the remainder of his crew.  

But *it* had reached sexual maturity before *it* had been destroyed, and had impregnated Dr. Eric Royce.  

However, more happened on that trip than our battle with the creature who absorbed the fluid *it* needed by osmosis, who survived on carbon dioxide, who planted embryos in our hapless crew members.  

Colonel Carruthers and I became lovers.  

He was my first lover. He was not the first person I'd had sex with, that would have been my wife. I'd married right out of the Academy, but that youthful union didn't last. I wasn't what she wanted, being too wrapped up in rocks, and she… Well, my Pop had taught me that a gentleman didn't kiss and tell.  

Nor was Carr the first man I'd had sex with. That dubious distinction went to Colonel Van Heusen and had been such a disaster that I'd been on the verge of swearing off sex for the rest of my life.  

But Carr… he not only made love to me, he loved me.  


Of course, I couldn't tell all that to the woman I'd called 'Pop' since I'd learned how to talk. Some of it was classified, and the rest of it… True, she had told me about nocturnal emissions and that it was all right to masturbate, that I wouldn't go blind or wake up one morning to find my palms covered in hair, but how could I explain to her that I liked having Carr's cock up my ass?  

Pop was quiet for a long time after I finished talking. I watched her face intently, but this time she was the one toying with the crease in the slacks she wore. Finally she raised her eyes to mine.  

"This won't be easy, you know, Tinker." She wasn't going to order me out of her sight. I released the breath I'd been holding. "If you're found out, it could result in both of you being dishonorably discharged."  

"I know,  Pop." I'd worried about that. I hadn't told Carr, but there had been nights when I'd lain awake, my lover's warm, solid form curled at my back, and wondered if he would be better off without me. "We'd have to be really careful, but… but Carr has a house off-base, and maybe I could stay with him on the weekend?"  

She said nothing.  

"Maybe… maybe once in a while?"  

The expression on her face was so sad.  

"Pop, please, I don't want to give him up."  

She sighed but still said nothing.  

My shoulders slumped, and I scrubbed my hands over my face. My cheeks were damp. "You're right. I could live without going back into space, but I don't think Carr could. The Air Force has been his life forever. When… when I get back to Base I'll tell him we're through." My throat felt as if it was closing up. "I'll tell him that… that once we got back to Earth I realized it was just… just prox… " My voice cracked. I cleared my throat and finished. "… proximity."  



"You gave up Angelica very easily."  

"I'm sorry, I'm not following you." Why was Pop bringing up my former wife?  

"When she told you she wanted the marriage annulled, you shrugged and didn't challenge her. But with Colonel Carruthers… Tinker, you've been Air Force mad since you were in kindergarten. If you're willing to give it up for him, perhaps… perhaps the two of you just might be able to find a way to make it work. Talk to him about this, and see what he thinks. But, oh, sweetie, please don't lie to him. I know… " She looked away. "Never mind. Just promise me you'll tell him what's troubling you."  

"Okay, Pop." Something was troubling her, but I knew from experience that she'd tell me when she was ready, and not a moment before. "I wish… I wish you could meet him."  

"Well, why on earth couldn't I? Bring him home with you the next time you have leave."  

"You wouldn't mind?" She rolled her eyes at me, and I grinned. "Thanks, Pop. I will."  

Abruptly, we both realized the kitchen was becoming foggy with smoke. We'd lost track of the meal she'd been preparing, and it had burnt.  

She muttered a mild swear word and scraped the mess into the trash.  

"Let me help." I took out a clean frying pan and started frying the bacon while she sliced the bread. "Tell me what needs to be fixed around the house."  

Pop was handy, but there were some things it was easier for two people to do, and she began enumerating the chores.  

It had been almost a year since I'd been home, and I was a little surprised that there weren't more.  


After three days, Pop could see how jittery I was getting.  

"Tinker, I think you need to see your colonel. Go back to the Base, get Colonel Carruthers, and bring him home to meet me."  

I hugged her, called the airport to make sure there was a flight out, then called Ernie to drive me there.  

Once I returned to the East Coast, I learned that Carr's court martial was underway; it had never been pushed back. I reached the courtroom with barely enough time.  

It all came out, courtesy of the Defiance 's log book, which I had found and which had remained in my possession. The Company's plan was to use *it* in their bio-weapons division. The fact that there was no way to control *it* had been blithely disregarded; they'd been assured by their pet scientists that they would come up with something long before the threat to humanity became a possibility.  

So they said.  

Those of us who had managed to survive the journey back to Earth, Mary Royce, Major Perdue, Lieutenant Calder, myself and Colonel Carruthers, boggled at their idiocy. Who were they intending to act as living incubators for *its* lethal offspring? The only answer we could come up with made us sick to our stomachs.  

The Defender was launched back into space with *it* still aboard; I flew my little fighter beside it and fired the missiles that blew it to smithereens, and Earth was once more safe.  

General Cameron, our commanding officer, gave surreptitious approval to my relationship with Carr, and I brought him home to meet my Pop.  

Up until that point, Carr thought Pop was a man. I should have told him the truth before I took him to Blanchardville, but I'd done that the first time around and had been stunned by the hostility exhibited by my bride.  

I was relieved when Carr just raised an eyebrow at me, smiled at Pop, and shook her hand. He chatted with her in the kitchen while I brought Sunday dinner to the table, startled to find it had been set with the good china.  

"Only the best for your 'fella', sweetie," Pop told me, and they sat down on either side of me and proceeded to get to know each other.  

And then General Cameron contacted us. We were to catch the first flight out and report to an Air Force Base in New Jersey immediately.  

The Earth was under threat of an alien invasion.  

However, the threat of Martians landing in Princeton , NJ proved to be a fabrication. We tore a strip off the radio people who had broadcasted the hoax, sending millions, panic-stricken, into the streets.  

On the flight back from New Jersey , Carr and I discussed our situation sotto voce.  

"Even though General Cameron will look the other way, we still need to be discreet. We could get together on the weekends, if that's okay with you?"    

"I've got a better idea. I can use the high cost of off-base housing as the reason for you to move into my spare bedroom."  

"You want me to live with you?"  

"Andy…" He couldn't kiss me – although the plane wasn't crowded there were still too many people on board – but the heated look in his eyes told me he wanted to.  

"I'll explain to General Cameron that it's easier with the two of us sharing the expenses. Only you won't be sleeping in that spare bedroom. If that's all right with you?"  

I could hardly catch my breath. I hadn't dreamed of actually living with him, sleeping with him in the same bed, every night.  

"That's more than all right with me!"  



"Yeah?" I straightened from the microscope I'd been bent over and rubbed the strain out of my eyes. "Frosty. What's up?"  

"Time for you to get home, buddy." James Frost, a fellow officer who was also my friend, had shared bachelor quarters with me until I'd left for that trip to Mars.  

I dug my fists into the small of my back and arched to get the kinks out. The last mission to the Moon had brought back some nice specimens of rock, and I'd spent the last twelve hours examining them under a microscope. I looked at the time and bolted upright off my chair.  

"Holy Hannah! Carr's gonna have my ass for not calling. He'll think something's happened!"  

"Nah, he called to see what was keeping you, and I promised to send that ass of yours on its way." Frosty looked at the clock on the wall. "When does your leave start?"  

"About half an hour ago." I groaned. This was going to be our first Christmas together. "Damn, I hope we won't be late to the airfield."  

"You're going home to see your Pop? Well, give her my best." There seemed to be a touch of sadness in his eyes. I'd known that he had feelings for me, but as much as I'd liked him, I hadn't loved him. No one can dictate where their heart will lead them; mine had lead me to Colonel Carruthers.  

"Frosty, come with us. You know Pop loves seeing you."  

His own family had refused to have anything to do with him once they'd learned about his liking for men.  

"No can do, Andy. The General has plans for me." He saw my dubious look and grinned, his smile a slash of white across his dark face. "Something's cooking in the Himalayas , and he wants me to take my squad to check it out. I've got experience with stuff that goes on in mountain ranges."  

His last assignment had seen him in the Alps , where mountain climbers had been losing their heads.  

"What is it this time? Not more bloodshot eyeballs crawling around in the clouds, I hope."  

"No, something called Yeti."  

"Yeti?" He just shrugged. I put away the microscope, rock hammer, and Moon rocks. "Well, make sure you watch your ass."  

"Always do, buddy boy."  

"Listen, we'll be in Blanchardville until the New Year. If you're done before then, I'll expect you."  

"Thanks, Andy. Maybe. If we get things wrapped up early…" Again that sadness in his eyes.  

I hoped that maybe on this mission he would find someone who'd take one look at his deep brown eyes and chase the sadness from them. He handed me my anorak.  

"Look, get out of here, will you? The Colonel said he'd hold dinner, but he's going to think I've kidnapped you if you don't get a move on."  

"Frosty," I lightly punched my friend on the shoulder, "take care, buddy, and don't let the Abominable Snowman get you."  

"Right." His smile was wistful. "Merry Christmas, Andy."  

"Merry Christmas."  

I paid a quick trip to the men's room, then went out to the lot where I'd parked my Edsel Pacer convertible. The crew of the Defender had been given a performance bonus, and Carr had suggested I spend mine on a new car.  

She was a beauty, the sweetest thing on four wheels, with self-adjusting brakes, a miles-per-hour dial that would light up in red if I exceeded the speed limit Carr had programmed into it, and a switch on the instrument panel that would let me unlock the trunk without leaving the car.  

Unfortunately, that evening, no amount of cranking the ignition key would persuade her to start. I raised the hood and studied the engine. It took me a minute to realize that the problem was with the battery: it was dead. I was swearing at it – I'd need to call the motor pool to have it towed – when I heard my name called.  

"Yo, Anderson ! Need a lift?" It was Johannsen, an airman who hadn't qualified to be an astronaut. I was surprised he offered me a ride; he'd resented that I'd made the cut.  

I would have said no, but Frosty said Carr was holding dinner for me, and there was still packing that needed to be done. If I called Carr to come and pick me up, we'd wind up so late it would be touch-and-go getting to the airfield on time for our flight.  

"Thanks, Johannsen. Dunno what's wrong with the battery. It was fine when I drove her in this morning."  

He just shrugged and waited while I walked to the passenger side of his beat-up Desoto and got in. The conversation on the drive into town was less than riveting. We had nothing in common. He didn't care about the moon rocks I'd been analyzing, and I didn't care that his girlfriend was pressuring him to get married.  

I was not going to talk to him about the man with whom I lived, although he tried a couple of times to steer the conversation that way.  

"Say, listen, Anderson . Why don't we get together for a drink on New Year's Eve? That is, if that Colonel of yours will let you off his leash. Betty can even find a date for you if you don't have one."  

"I appreciate the offer, but I'm going home for the holidays. And no one has me on a leash."  

"Sorry, I must have heard wrong."  

"I guess you must have." I stared out the side window and made an idle remark about the decorations on the houses we passed.  

"You're a lucky devil." There was envy in Johannsen's voice. "If I could get that transfer out to the West Coast, to San Diego , I'd be lucky too. As it is, it'll be forever before I can even come up with the down payment for a place off base."  

"At least you don't have to snap to attention if you run into a senior officer when you're coming out of the bathroom in your skivvies," I said mildly.  

"Yeah, there is that." He laughed, a sour sound, and muttered, "Maybe you aren't so lucky."  

I pretended I hadn't heard him and pointed out the left turn he needed to make, and finally he pulled up in front of the house I shared with Carr.

"Thanks for the ride." I didn't bother wishing him a merry Christmas. I shut the car door and strode up the front walk. It wasn't until I had my hand on the doorknob that I heard Johannsen gun his engine and take off into the December evening.  

I let myself into the house and stood in the foyer, thinking furiously. It wouldn't be good if Johannsen's envy caused him to look too closely into my relationship with the Colonel; he could very well discover that I never slept in that spare bedroom.  

General Cameron liked me – I'd gone to the Academy with his son – and he liked Carr. Maybe he'd find a way to expedite Johannsen's transfer.  

"I'm home, Carr." I hung my anorak up on the coat-tree in the corner. I didn't like the idea of paying Danegeld, but I liked even less the thought of my lover being discharged dishonorably. I'd find a way to take Johannsen out of the picture permanently first.  

I took a deep breath, and the tantalizing aroma of tomato sauce made my stomach rumble. I followed my nose into the kitchen.  

"It's about time, Lieutenant." Was it my imagination, or did Carr sound tense? A rectangular blue box was on the counter. He took the spaghetti out of the box, broke it in two, and dropped it into the pot of boiling water.  

The table hadn't been set yet, so I went to the cabinet that contained the dishes. I couldn't help myself. I sang, "'R-o-n-z-o-n-i is how you spell Ronzoni , America 's best spaghetti and the finest macaroni.'" I hoped it would make him laugh.  

He turned to face me, and he was smiling. "That's not going to get you off."  

"Sorry, sir." I must have been mistaken about what I thought I'd heard in his voice. "Are you going to put me on KP in order to make up for it?"  

"No. It's going to take more than washing some dishes or peeling a few potatoes to get you off the hook."  

My mouth went dry, and I licked my lips and set the dishes down carefully on the counter.  

"What will it take, Colonel?" I clicked my heels together and threw him a salute. "I'm at your command."  

He walked toward me, tipped my chin up, and kissed me. It was a leisurely kiss, licks, nibbles, and sucks, but it quickly changed to wanting and needy. When he finally released my mouth, he was breathing heavily, and I was shaking.  

"That's just a starter." His voice was hoarse. He ran his lips over my cheek and jaw, and his free hand petted my flank, traced the crevice of my buttocks, and I moaned and offered my mouth for another kiss. "Your lips are cold."  

"It's the middle of winter." I peered down at his hands. "Carr?" My tie was hanging loosely; he had unknotted it..  

"I'm sorry, baby." His navy eyes were hot and filled with passion. "I thought I could wait until we got to Blanchardville, but I can't."  

"You don't have to wait, Carr." I threaded my fingers through his hair, letting the soft, thick strands sift through. "You never have to wait… "  

The heel of his hand pressed against the front of my trousers, and he made a sound of approval as he found my cock swollen to full arousal. He unbuckled my belt, undid my fly, and my trousers slid to the floor.  

Carr sank to his knees and yanked my boxers down my legs.  

I was so hard I ached. He leaned into me and licked the tip. "Yes."  

My cock quivered and then was engulfed in the wet heat of his mouth. His tongue curled around the head of my cock and tugged.  

One hand reached up and cupped my balls, while a finger pressed firmly against the sensitive skin behind them. The other hand caressed the curve of my ass. His palm was warm and calloused.  

He let my cock slip from his lips and nuzzled the hair that covered my groin, giving a huff of laughter as another finger slid into my lubricated hole. I'd prepared myself in the men's room on Base before I left for the evening, the same as I'd done every evening.  

My knees went weak, and I collapsed over his shoulder. The warmth of his skin radiated through the shirt he wore. The shirt kept me from his skin, but it didn't keep me from digging my fingers into the long muscles of his back, kneading them through the material.  

"Oh, baby."  

I smiled against his back and wriggled under his touch, then straightened. "Do me, Carr."  

He nipped my hip and surged to his feet, his hands working his belt buckle and fly. "The table, Lieutenant. I want you braced and your legs spread."  



My lover's cock slid out of me. He'd shoved my shirt up out of the way, and now he licked a patch of skin over my shoulder blade and nipped it, then backed away. I could hear the rustle of his clothing as he righted his uniform.  

I eased off the table, leaving a smear of come across the top. I couldn't prevent a groan as I bent to draw my shorts and trousers back up my legs.  

"Did I hurt you, baby?"  

"You never hurt me, Carr." He always left me feeling well-loved. He pulled me back against him. "I like being in your arms."  

"I like having you in them." He planted a brief kiss on the hinge of my jaw. A hissing from the stove caught our attention, and he let me go to check on dinner. "Damn. This spaghetti is… Talk about limp noodles. Sorry, Andy." He emptied the pot's contents into the sink, put fresh water into the pot, and put it back on the gas burner of the stove.  

"I don't have any objections." I tucked my shirt into my trousers and zipped up my fly.  

"Lieutenant Frost called to tell me you were leaving, and I was sure I'd have this ready for you."  

"Well, you did have it ready." I took a rag from the sink and wiped off the table.  

"And then you come strolling in, and I *know* you've taken the time to get yourself ready for me, and I lose track of whatever I'm doing."  

"Are you saying I'm a distraction?" I paused and grinned at him.  

"How can you be anything but? Not that I have a quarrel with that."  

"That's why I always hurry home to you."  

"You know something, Andy? I really like you thinking of my house as your home."  

"Oh." My thoughts disintegrated; I felt my cheeks heat up. "Oh..." And I couldn't think of anything to say.  

His brows furrowed. "Andy, how come I didn't hear your car?"  

"The battery was dead." It was my turn to frown. "I'll need to take it back to the dealership and have it checked out."  

"That battery is as new as your car. You shouldn't be having any problems with it." The water was boiling again, and he dropped the spaghetti into it and turned the flame down so it wouldn't boil over.  

"I know. I had to catch a ride with Johannsen."  

Carr became still. "You should have called me, Andy. I don't trust him."  

"I don't trust him either. He mentioned something about wanting a transfer to that Air Force Base out in southern California ."  

"Why southern California ?" He was honestly puzzled, and I shrugged.  

"Maybe because it never rains there? I'll talk to General Cameron about it when we get home."  

"Yes. So will I." His index finger traced a line from the point of my chin, down over my adam's apple, to the hollow at the base of my throat. "You need a shave."  

"I'll take care of it before we leave. I'm sorry I lost track of time."  

"I had a feeling you were going to get carried away by those rocks. It's your one weakness."  

"Except for you."  

Carr smiled and kissed me again. "Get washed up. I'll have the dishes ready by the time you're done."  

"Yes, sir!" I saluted smartly and started to leave the kitchen, when the phone rang.  

"Carruthers. Well, hello. How nice to hear from you." His voice was much too friendly, and I turned around to listen unashamedly. "I'm well, thanks, and you? That's great. No, you're not interrupting anything." I raised an eyebrow, but he just grinned. "We were just going to sit down to dinner. Oh, we have time, our plane doesn't leave for another hour. Yes, I'm looking forward to it too." He listened for a moment, then said, "He's right here. I'll put him on. Yes, I'm looking forward to seeing you again, too. Good-bye."  

He handed me the receiver, not giving me a clue as to who was on the other end. I scowled and took it from him. " Anderson ."  

"Hi, sweetie!"  

"Pop? What's wrong?"  

"Why would anything be wrong?"  

"You're calling now, and we'll be seeing you around 10 your time."  

"Actually, no."  

"Excuse me?"  

"Tinker, I didn't want you to come home and not find me and worry. I'm going to spend a couple of days away."  

"But Pop… it's Christmas."  

"Not for a few days, and I'll be home in time to make dinner on Christmas Eve." She knew me well enough to know I was about to get stubborn. "Besides… Sweetie, wouldn't you like some time alone with Edward?"  


He raised an eyebrow, his expression amused, and my face grew heated. I never called my lover by his given name, and it always took me a few seconds to recognize it.  

I cleared my throat. "Yes. Right. Edward."  

"Now, there's a steak in the refrigerator. You can have it for your dinner tomorrow night. Just don't forget the vegetables."  

"Yes, Pop."  

"The Christmas tree is on the back porch; I thought you and Edward would enjoy setting it up. You know where the decorations are in the attic. I've left  Benjamin's phone number on the cork board by the telephone in the kitchen. I think that's everything."  

"Benjamin?" Please don't let it be…  

"Benjamin Hamilton. You remember him, don't you?"  

"Yes." The scion of the town's wealthiest family. He had been a few years ahead of me in Blanchardville High, but seniors and freshman didn't mingle. "What will his family say?"  

"He's an adult, Tinker. He has his own place now, on Mulberry Street ." That still didn't tell me how they'd react. "I have to hurry. We'll all have plenty of time together after Christmas. I want you to become better acquainted with Benjamin."  

He was spending Christmas with us? Even if Pop told him about me and Carr, how was he going to deal with the fact that the man I was bringing home with me was my lover?  

I hoped Pop didn't notice my hesitation. "Okay, Pop. But if you need to come home for any reason, come home!"  

"You worry too much, Tinker." She blew a kiss into the phone. "I'll see you and Edward in a couple of days."  

"Okay. But be…"  

"… careful. I will." There was laughter in her voice, and a hint of excitement. "Bye, sweetie."  

"Bye, Pop." I hung up the phone. "I'm going to wash my hands; I'll be right back."  

"Something wrong, baby?"  

"No. Yes. I don't know." I left the kitchen before he could question me. I spent as long as I could in the bathroom, even taking the time to shave, but if I thought he'd let it go, I thought wrong.  

As soon as I came back into the kitchen, Carr remarked, "I gather Geraldine won't be home when we get there?"  

"No. She'll be at Benjamin Hamilton's."  

"I don't seem to recall you mentioning him."  

"Why would I? I barely know him. Damn." I ran my hand through my hair. "I should have told her to call me when she got to his house. It's only about five minutes away by car; we'd still be here."  

"She's a grown woman, baby."  

"I know, but…"  

He stroked my cheek, "You shaved," then placed his arm over my shoulders. "Come on. If we don't eat soon and leave, we're going to miss our flight."  

We sat down at the table and spread our napkins.  

"Why don't you tell me about it, Andy?"  

I stabbed at the spaghetti with my fork. "Ben Hamilton graduated from Blanchardville High a few years before I did. What's Pop thinking?"  

"Did it ever occur to you that she might be lonely?"  

I opened my mouth to hotly refute that, then shut it as realization struck me. "No. It's been just the two of us since my mother died. I never thought… "  

"Don't you think she deserves to have someone who loves her?" He raised his hand, stopping my words. "I know you love her, baby, but it isn't the same thing."  

"No, it isn't. But damn, Carr, Benjamin Hamilton isn't even thirty yet! Pop's fifteen years older than he is."  

"Andy, I'm almost fifteen years older than you are."  

"Yeah, but I'm not gonna leave you because you can't have my babies."  

"Ah. That's what you're worried about?" He twirled his spaghetti on his fork. "You may have a point."  

"Yes." I was miserable. "I remember him from school. The girls fell all over themselves to get his attention. He could have his pick of any of them, and he went through them like Kleenex."  

"That was what? Ten years ago? Don't you think he might have matured?"  

"How the hell would I know? The last time I saw him was just before I left for the Academy." I suddenly remembered that day. Pop had been seeing me off at the bus station, and Hamilton pulled up in his expensive little roadster.  

'Can I give you a ride, Miz Anderson?' He'd flashed those perfectly even, perfectly white teeth of his, and his blue eyes seemed to rival the sky.

'Thank you, Benjamin, but I'll be waiting until Tinker gets on the bus.'  

'I don't have anywhere in particular to be. I can wait if you want, and drive you home.'  

'That's sweet of you, but I have my car.'  

'Well, if you ever need a lift...'  

'Thank you, but I always drive.' She'd tilted her head. 'I'm surprised to see you here in Blanchardville. I thought classes at the university had already started.'  

'Had to come home for Homecoming.' He shook back his curly black hair. 'I'll drive back Sunday night.'  

'Your mother must be disappointed that it's such a short visit.'  

'Yeah.' It didn't sound like he thought she'd be disappointed. "I'll be home again for Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll see you then?'  

The bus had pulled in before Pop could turn him down. I'd kissed her goodbye, given Hamilton a hard glare, and got on, then made my way to the seat at the back of the bus and looked out the rear window. I watched as he walked her  to the driver's side of her car and opened the door. She waved to me and let him help her get in.  

And he'd leaned down; I'd caught my breath, certain he was going to kiss her, but it had simply been to say something that made her laugh.  

It couldn't have been going on since then.  

Pop had never said anything about him, he was never around when I came home, and he'd been nowhere in sight when I'd brought my bride home.  

My face felt frozen. "I'm telling you, Carr. If he hurts my Pop, I'll kill him."  

"All right, Andy." Carr looked into my eyes, his own eyes steady. "Just give me some time to come up with a plan to hide the body."  

I reached across the table and rested my hand on his. There was no wonder why I loved this man.  


Carr had packed for the two of us while he'd been waiting for me to get home, and we'd sent the gifts on ahead, so once dinner was finished and the pots and dishes washed and put away, we locked up the house.  

We were in Carr's Chevy, which was parked to the side of the house, when I thought I heard the phone ringing. I looked to Carr, but he was putting the key in the ignition and didn't seem to hear anything. I shrugged – it must have been someone else's phone – and forgot all about it. I slapped my palm down on the door lock, and he drove to the airfield.  

We made our flight with minutes to spare, and our plane picked up time not only because we crossed a couple of time zones, but because a tail wind practically pushed us all the way there.  

It was starting to snow as we disembarked and trotted across the tarmac to the terminal. We were going to have a white Christmas.  

In Blanchardville, the first snowfall was generally around Thanksgiving. Carr looked at the snow that was piled all along the runway. "I don't think we'll be able to walk this time, Andy." 

When I'd brought him to Blanchardville in the spring to meet my Pop, it had been a beautiful May day. No one had answered the phone at Ernie's house, so we'd walked the two miles from the airport to town.  

"No. The snowplows will be out by morning, though." The Chevy Suburban was sitting outside the terminal, and I tapped on the window. "Ernie!"  

"Hey, Tinker!" He bounced out of his taxi, and we shook hands. "It's good to see you again."  

"Same here. Colonel, this is Ernie Allen, a friend of mine, and the best damned cab driver in Blanchardville. Ernie, this is my colonel, Edward Carruthers."  

"I'm the only cab driver in Blanchardville." Ernie grabbed my lover's hand and pumped it vigorously. "It's a pleasure to meet the first man in space, Colonel. I heard about your visit last spring, and I've been hoping Tinker would bring you back sometime when I was around."  

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Allen."  

"Call me 'Ernie'. Mr. Allen is my dad."  

"Nice to meet you, Ernie."  

"What are you doing hanging around the airport?" I'd been positive I'd have to call his house.  

"Miz Anderson asked me to come pick you up. And she's already paid the fare, so you just keep your wallet in your pocket." He hurried on before I could ask him if he'd known about Pop seeing Benjamin Hamilton. "I was sorry I missed your return trip last spring."  

"Pop said something about a family gathering?"  

"You know Sylvie's family. They were having a reunion that weekend, and I had to drive up to Capital City . Too bad you were already gone by the time we got back." That hoax in Princeton , NJ . "Miz Anderson told us you'd had to leave."  

"'Miz Anderson?'" Carr had been following the conversation with interest. "Is that Geraldine?"  

I nodded.  

"That's unusual, isn't it? What are the odds that the woman who was your mother's best friend would have the same last name?"  

Why did the man remember everything I told him? "Uh… I'll explain later, okay?" And I prayed he would forget about it. He had accepted that my Pop was a woman. How would he react if…  

Fortunately, Ernie was rattling on. "So, Tinker, how long are you here for?"  

"We fly back to the Base on the 2nd."  

"That's great! Maybe we can get together for New Year's Eve." He went to the back of his station wagon, unlatched the tailgate, and let it drop open. "Stow your bags inside, hop in the back seat, and I'll get you home before this storm really hits us."  

On the ride to town, Ernie remarked casually, "I see you didn't bring your girl with you."  

"Excuse me?"  

"You told me last spring you'd bring her the next time you came back to town."  

"No, I didn't." If he told me, 'Yes, you did,' I was going to haul off and sock him. We were too old for that grade school nonsense.  

Instead, he floored me by saying, "Hah; I get it! You broke up! Gaye's gonna be thrilled to hear that. Y'know, it's not too late for you to ask her to be your date for New Year's Eve. I bet she'd accept in a shot."  

Why was everyone trying to set me up with a date? "Ernie, I really don't think…"  

"Oh, you're worried the Colonel will be lonely? I'm sure Sylvie can find someone to keep him company."  

"Uh… " I offered my lover a half-hearted smile, afraid he'd be upset. But Carr was looking amused.  

"I'd suggest Miz Anderson, but she's seeing…" Ernie suddenly started choking, hunching over the steering wheel.  

I leaned forward and whacked his back. Did he really have something in his throat, or did he know more about who Pop was seeing than he wanted to let on?  

"I'm okay, I'm okay." He finally caught his breath, and he said, "Hey, you remember Dave and Mitch?"  

"What were you going to say about my Pop?"  

"Huh? Uh… Dunno. Can't remember. Slipped my mind. So, Dave and Mitch?"  

I decided not to press the issue. "How could I forget them?" I turned to tell Carr, "They were on the staff of the senior yearbook and badgered every store-owner in town to take out an ad. They sold more advertisements than the entire graduating class combined."  

"Yeah," Ernie agreed. "Well, you knew they went to New York to work on Madison Avenue, right? They're doing pretty good, only the housing is so expensive it winds up they're sharing an apartment on the East Side ."  

"How about that?" If I recalled correctly, Dave and Mitch had been best friends since they'd met across their backyard fence. I wondered if they were sharing an apartment for the same reason my lover and I were.  

Carr's grin broadened at my innocent tone. His hand was on the seat between us, and his fingernail surreptitiously scraped against my thigh.  

Ernie leaned forward and rubbed the glass to see better out of the windshield. The snow was coming down harder, and the wipers were struggling to do even a marginal job.  

I used the motion of the cab as it swung wide on a turn as an excuse to rest my hand on my lover's.  

Carr turned his hand over, and our hands were palm to palm. Ernie's words faded to nothingness.  

It wouldn't be long before we'd be home, in the house I'd grown up in, just the two of us. I lost myself in the fantasy of him bending me over the nearest available surface as soon as the front door was shut behind us…  

A squeeze of his hand brought me back to the present.  

"… and we're all meeting on Hobbes' Hill Christmas Eve afternoon to go sledding."  

I remembered the lot of us dragging our sleds up Hobbes' Hill, singing, 'Lightly flying o'er the snow with a hey-ha-ha, with a hey-ho-ho, with sleigh bells ringing, gaily singing, merrily we go,' the words coming faster and faster until we collapsed in laughter at the top of the hill.  

"You're still doing that? Aren't you all a little too old to go sledding?"  

"Nah. Most of the gang is bringing their kids. Why don't you join us?"  

"I don't have any kids."  

"Don't be an ass, Tinker. Colonel Carruthers, you outrank him. Order him to go. You're invited too, if you'd like to come." Ernie's tone clearly stated that he thought Carr was too old to handle a sled.  

"I think it will be fun, Lieutenant." The look in his eyes told me that wasn't the only thing that would be fun, and it wasn't because the old Suburban wasn't cranking out much heat that I shivered.  

"Very well, sir. If you're sure."  

"I'm sure. We'll be there, Ernie."  

"Neat-o!" He pulled up in front of the house, we all got out, and he unlatched the tailgate.  

Carr and I took our duffel bags, and I turned to my friend.  

"Be careful driving, Ernie. The road looks like it's getting slick. I know you've been driving these roads all your life, but… "  

"Damn straight. No need to worry about me." He looked up at the sky. "Good thing I'll be heading for home, though. It is getting nasty. I'll see you day after tomorrow, yes?"  

"Yes, Ernie. The usual time?"  

"You betcha."  

I grinned at him. "All right. See you at two."  

Carr and I watched as his taillights disappeared in the heavily falling snow, then turned to face the house.  

Carr caught his breath. "This is so beautiful, so peaceful," he murmured.  

"Yes." I sighed in contentment.  

Snow covered the front lawn and drifted in mounds to the porch that wrapped around the house. The oaks in the yard were bare of their leaves. Their branches were raised to the sky, like skeletal limbs, shrouded in the snow that clung to them.  

Strings of lights outlined the peaks of the gabled roof and framed the porch.  

Pop had a thing about heights; she'd never been too happy about stringing the lights up on the roof, and usually got one of the neighbors to give her a hand with them. I wondered if Benjamin Hamilton had helped her this year.  

The light above the door was on, and more light spilled onto the porch through the glass panels on the front door.  

"It was thoughtful of Geraldine to leave the lights on for us."  

We hefted our duffel bags onto our shoulders and made our way up the snowy walk.  

"We should have brought our boots. I'm sorry, I forgot," I said.  

"I didn't."  

I'd had so much on my mind, and Johannsen's subtle blackmail was the least of it. Pop was bringing someone else in to share Christmas with us. Had she even told him…  

It fell on me like a ton of bricks. I'd have to tell Carr. How was he going to react to Pop being…  

"They're in our duffels, Andy."  

"Excuse me? Oh, yes. The boots. I guess that's why you wear the eagles."  

"I didn't think we'd need them already."  

"This is the mid-west." We climbed the porch steps.  

The door was locked, and I pulled out the chain I wore around my neck. It held not only my dog tags, but the key Pop had given  to me when I'd graduated from the Academy. It was engraved, 'Always remember I love you. And the road leading home.'  

We entered and stamped the snow off our shoes. "We really should have gone around to the mudroom."  

"We can wipe up the mess in the morning. Andy, do I have the same bedroom?"  

"Yes." Last spring we'd come home to an empty house. I'd taken him upstairs and shown him the front bedroom, then led him through the adjoining bath into my room. I'd told him I wouldn't be locking the door that night, and we'd wound up making love on my bed.  

"Am I going to sleep in it this time?"  

"Without a doubt." I winked at him. "And so am I. The double bed will be more comfortable for the two of us than my single."  

I took off my heavy jacket and hung it on the coat tree, and Carr followed suit. The homey warmth of the house enveloped us.  

"I just need to go down to the cellar and check the furnace. It'll only take me a couple of minutes. Pop taught me that no matter what, I should always do that before I went to bed."  

"She's a smart woman. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her to not only take care of a small boy but a house this size as well."  

I opened my mouth to say something, then shut it.  

He didn't notice. "Mind if I keep you company?"  

"Not at all." I led him through the dining room to the kitchen and across to the door that opened on the stairs that went down to the cellar.  

"What's this?"  

"Hmmm?" I looked over my shoulder. "Oh, that's the pantry." I hit the switch at the top of the stairs and the light went on.  

"A pantry? That's a room in itself!"  

I shrugged. This house had belonged to Pop's family. To say they were wealthy was an understatement. They'd wanted neither the house nor Pop, and had been only too pleased to give it to her. I'd never met them, and the one time I'd asked Pop about them, about why all my friends had grandparents and I didn't, she'd turned white and left the room. I never brought it up again.  

"Y'know something?" There were thirteen steps to the bottom, and I counted each one. "When I was little, I used to be scared stiff to come down here."  

"You, scared?"  

"Yeah. It's dark down here."  

"And now? It's still dark."  

"True, but I've got an Air Force colonel with me!"  

He laughed and patted my ass, and followed me. The cellar was a labyrinth that went the length and width of the house and had numerous walled-off spaces, each with its own illumination.  

Fortunately, we didn't have to go that far into it. The furnace was just beneath the kitchen, in what had always been called the boiler room. Beyond that was a small room where the coal that fueled the furnace was stored.  

I made sure there was enough coal in the furnace to keep the house warm for the night, then dusted off my hands. "All done."  

"Good. It's been a long day, baby." Carr slung an arm over my shoulder, and we went up the cellar stairs and walked to the front of the house. "What do you say we go to bed?"  

"That sounds like a good idea. I'll just shut the lights." I pressed switches, and the Christmas lights and the light above the front door went out. The moonlight reflected off the snow, and it was almost as bright as daylight. "I love nights like this, Carr." I drew in a deep breath. "Can you smell the scent of Christmas in the air, even though we're indoors?" I gave a sheepish laugh. "Sorry, I'm being fanciful."  

Carr rubbed his knuckles under my chin. "What better time than Christmas, baby?"  

"Yes, I guess so."  

We went up the stairs, dragging our duffel bags behind us.  

There were two light switches at the top of the stairs, and I flipped them both. The lower floor was engulfed in darkness at the same time the upper hallway was illuminated by the warm glow of the overhead light. We went into the front bedroom.  

"I never did get around to showing you the house. There are three other bedrooms on this floor alone, aside from this one and my old room, and a playroom as well. Remind me tomorrow." I dropped my duffel, then folded the blankets back. The sheets were cool, but I knew they wouldn't be that way for long. I unbuckled my belt and pulled my shirt out of my trousers.  

"I'd like to see it." He dropped his duffel beside mine, and I watched over my shoulder as he loosened his tie and began unbuttoning his shirt. "Andy, are you going to tell me how it comes about that Geraldine's last name is the same as yours?"  

For a split second I froze. Then I turned to him, smiling and running one hand over my hair and the other over the front of my trousers.  

"Later. You can have first shot at the shower." I licked my lips, a blatant attempt at seduction.  

"No." He wrapped his fingers around my arm and dragged me after him into the bathroom.  

I stripped off my clothes and left them in a heap on the floor, then reached in to turn on the water. When I turned to him, Carr was watching me, his eyes leisurely tracing every line of my body – the hair that dusted my chest, wandered down over my flat belly and flared over my groin, the nipples whose erection matched the one below my waist.  

In a relaxed, unhurried manner he removed shirt, trousers, underwear that wasn't Air Force issue. His cock was hard, the head dusky and glistening with precome. My mouth went dry, and I couldn't catch my breath.  

I forgot all about distracting him from questions about my Pop, and reached for him, needing the feel of his mouth on mine. We were plastered together from chest to groin, our cocks aligned. I licked his lips, and when he parted them for me, I licked at his tongue.  

He pulled back slightly and ran his hand up my arm to my shoulder. "Andy. Baby."  

His eyes were like blue fire, and I couldn't look away. Blindly, I stuck my hand under the water. It wasn't hot, but it was warm enough, and I took his hand and pulled him into the tub with me.  

Carr turned me and pushed me up against the tiles. He spread my ass cheeks and slid a soapy finger into me, testing my readiness.  

My body had grown used to the presence of his cock inside me every night, and it didn't take much to prepare me. The broad head of his cock pushed against my hole in a steady, persistent motion until the ring of muscle yielded to its firm demand. I groaned and shook as every hot inch of him entered me.  

His cock was thick, and it burned and stretched me. I squeezed my eyes shut and concentrated on the heat of his possession.  

I tried to grip the tiles, but they were too slippery for me to gain purchase, and the only thing that kept me upright were his hands on my hips. The easy rocking quickly changed to a hard, fast pounding that drove against my prostate.  

I braced my legs apart, and angled my hips, and every time he hit that spot inside me, fireworks went off. He made me whimper and moan, sounds no one had ever wrung from me.  

His voice was hoarse as he growled in my ear, hot, dark sex words that told me how much he wanted me, how much he enjoyed what he was doing to me, what I was doing to him, the feel of my inner muscles clenching around the bulk of him. He nipped my ear, then ran his teeth along the side of my neck, and my cock quivered and oozed a steady stream of precome. He reached around my hip to gather the drops, and then stroked my cock.  

It was a combination of the touch of his fingers on me and the feel of his cock in me that made me explode. I came hard, spraying the tiles with my semen.  

Carr held me against him. He shuddered, breathing heavily, and I sagged bonelessly in his embrace.  

The shower beat down upon us, and he turned so the still-warm water rinsed us off.  

"But… but you haven't come yet!"  

"I did. I just didn't ejaculate. One of the bonuses that comes with experience."  

"Holding out on me, Colonel?"  

"You learn to control ejaculation. It's simple. You just have to exercise the right muscles."  

"Might I ask when the Colonel was going to let me in on which muscles needed to be exercised?"  

"You're young. Your recovery time is phenomenal, Andy. But next time you have to pee, try stopping in the middle and holding it for a few seconds. Do that often enough and you'll be able to have multiple orgasms. Now, c'mon, baby."  He shut off the water. "Let's get out and dry off. I'm not done with you yet."  

It was difficult; I had to let him go, and I didn't want to, but eventually we got out of the tub. We stood chest to chest again, licking the drops that ran along cheekbone and jaw, using the thick towels Pop liked to keep in the linen closets to wipe the moisture from our backs.  

Carr paid special attention to my cock, and by the time we were dry, I was hard once again.  

"Y'know something, Carr?" I murmured, petting the erection that nudged my hip. "You're the sexiest, most vital man I've ever met." I let him lead me into the front bedroom, and he tumbled us both onto the cool sheets. As I suspected, it didn't take us long to heat them up.  

Carr let himself come this time, and afterwards, he took a corner of the sheet and dried the semen from my torso. He reached down to pull the blankets over us and whispered words in my ear that I was too exhausted to make out.  

I fell asleep sprawled on my stomach, with his cock still buried inside me.  

It was some hours later when I woke with a start. It took a second before I realized that I was in my childhood home. 

I lay on my side, shivering, as the nightmare of that time in the Defender before *it* had been destroyed gradually faded. A heavy, familiar arm draped over my hip, and warm fingers curved loosely around my cock.  

Carr snored softly, his breath warm on the back of my neck. He mumbled something and tightened his hold on me, and I sighed in relief and stroked the arm that pillowed my head.  

All was right with my world. I fell back to sleep.  


When we came down late the next morning, the old house had grown a little chilly, so while Carr poked around the kitchen, I went down to the cellar and threw a few shovelfuls of coal into the furnace.  

We had a leisurely brunch, and then he followed me out to the back porch. I noticed that snow had drifted in front of the double doors of the garage; I'd need to shovel that as well as the driveway before Pop came home.  

"It's still snowing." Carr leaned against one of the posts that supported the roof of the porch and looked out over the backyard.  

"Yes. It will probably continue on and off for the next few days."  

To the left of the garage was a pear tree. One summer when we were about twelve, Ernie and I and the rest of our gang had raided it; the pears were too green, and we'd wound up with the world's worst belly aches.  

Beyond the pear tree was the vegetable garden. It was fallow now, and hidden by the snow. Pop told me that it had been there forever,  but she had refurbished it for my mother before I was born. The path that normally wound around it to a bird feeder was buried by the falling snow. I'd put my boots on after we finished with the tree and clear the snow off the feeder and make sure it was filled with fresh seed.  

I approached the six-foot tall Blue Spruce that was waiting to be brought in and took hold of its trunk, about to shake it to remove the snow that had drifted under the porch roof and settled onto its branches.  

"What the…? Well, shoot!"  


"Look at this!" The tree sat in a large wooden container that was filled with soil and topped with reindeer moss. "The root ball is still attached."  

"Maybe Geraldine intends to plant it after the holidays?"  

"Well, yeah, but why? The last time we did this… See that Blue Spruce on the other side of the garden?" Toward the edge of the property, it must have been about eighteen feet high by now. Its branches drooped under the weight of the snow. "That's my mother's tree! Pop let me help her plant it the first Christmas after Mom died. Why would Pop want to plant this year's…" A thought occurred to me. "Oh, damn."  

"You've got an idea?"  

"Yeah. And it doesn't fill me with Yuletide cheer."  

"What, Andy?"  

"I think… Fuck." I could see I'd startled my lover. I seldom used profanity. Pop had walloped my backside the first time I'd used a naughty word in her presence. "Suppose she's planting it for Hamilton ? Dammit, Carr! I'm too old for a stepfather, especially one who isn't much older than I am."  

"Andy." He came to where I stood and held me, stroking my back. "Don't turn yourself inside out over this. We can call her, if you'd like."  

"No, I don't want her to know… Damn, I hate feeling like this, Carr. I want Pop to be happy, I really do."  

He kissed my temple. "Then we'll just have to bring it up casually in conversation when she comes back tomorrow. Now what do you say we bring this tree indoors? I'm not used to this cold any more."  

"Yes, sir, Colonel." I nipped his ear and stepped out of his embrace. "You take that side, and I'll take this one. And watch the top of the doorway. I don't want the top of the tree to hit it and snap off."  

"How about we tip it toward me? Then we'll just need to make sure the lower branches don't get snagged."  

We maneuvered the tree successfully into the kitchen. "Hold on a second, Carr." I kicked the door closed with my heel, and then nodded. "Lead on, Mac--Carruthers."  

He gave a snort of laughter. "Where, Andy?"  

"Sorry. I forgot you haven't been doing this with me forever. The parlor, please."  

We got it through the dining room and across the hallway into the parlor. Pop had already cleared the area, moving the occasional table that held a vase of fresh flowers no matter what the season.  

"In front of the bay window, okay, Carr?"  

"Oh, this is going to look wonderful."  

"Just wait until we get all the decorations on it." The tree was set down in the spot where trees had held pride of place every year, and I pulled back the curtains so it could be seen from the street. Once the lights and ornaments were on, it would be breathtaking. "Now, let's go up to the attic."  

The door to the attic was on the second floor. It opened to a narrow stairway, and we climbed up single file. Carr took the opportunity to make sure I was steady by propping his palm against my backside. I grinned and didn't object.  

I didn't bother with the light; floor to ceiling windows in the gables on each side of the roof let the wintry sunlight spill into the vast expanse of space.  

There were trunks that contained not only my mother's clothing, but the mementoes of her courtship by my father, the dried corsage he had given her when they'd gone to their prom, the dress she'd worn the night he had proposed, ticket stubs from movies they'd gone to, a spray of mistletoe.  

Pop told me that the first time my father had ever kissed my mother was under that mistletoe. They had been fifteen.  

Beneath the eve toward the rear of the house was a trunk that held all that my father had left behind. Pop had opened it for me once. I'd examined the pocket knife, the baseball that had been autographed by Murderer's Row, the 1927 Yankee line-up that boasted Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, a mitt, other things of his. It wasn't until years later that I realized my father had been very young when he'd married my mother.  

He'd been even younger than I was at the time I got married when he'd left to…  

I pushed the thought out of my mind and pointed out a steamer trunk. "We keep the decorations in there."  

"Interesting trunk. It looks antique."  

"That belonged to Pop's grandparents. They came over from Norway , and when they were in Ellis Island the spelling of their last name was changed from Andersen, s-e-n, to Anderson , s-o-n."  

"A lot of names were changed in Ellis Island . Andy, you never did tell me why you and Geraldine have the same last name."  

"Uh… " Damn. And there was no shower to lure him into. "Wait until you see my trains. I have some fantastic sets of Lionels. There's a village of shops and houses, a little forest and a lake. Pop would give me a new car or a part of the village every Christmas. The tracks run behind the Christmas tree and through the entire parlor..."  

"Andy, is Geraldine related to your real father in some way?"  

I breathed out a sigh. "Yeah, that's it."  

"Why were you so reluctant to tell me?"  

"Uh… Pop was born on the wrong side of the blanket?" All I could think of on the spur of the moment, but *damn*! I shouldn't have let the end of that sentence sound like a question. I cleared my throat. "That is to say, Pop was born on the wrong side of the blanket."  


"You know what small towns can be like, Carr. You were raised in one."  

"Yes, that's true. But…  

"Look. It's something I'm not comfortable discussing."  

"I understand, Andy, but Geraldine is a good woman, and the circumstances of her birth certainly weren't her fault."  

"No." I opened the trunk. "What do you say we get the decorations out of the trunk? It's going to take a few trips to get them all downstairs."  

"All right, baby."  

And so the afternoon passed, in putting up the lights on the tree, the silver tinsel, the decorations, until finally all that was left was to place the star on the top and the manger and Holy Family under the lowest branches.  

We knelt on the floor and put together the tracks, skirting the tree and winding around the room and weaving through the legs of the couch. Then we set up the village with its trees, street lamps, and people, shops and houses, the bridge over a mirror lake, the trees that formed the forest, and placed the sleek, silver cars on one set of tracks, and a freight train on the other.  

The snow continued to fall even as the sunlight dimmed. I plugged in the tree lights, turned on the Lionel transformer, and we stepped back to admire our work.  

Carr's arm was around my shoulder, and he pulled me close to him. "I've missed this, Andy. Having Christmas with family."  

I knew he'd been alone for a long time. He was an only child. His father had died in the war, and his mother had died of grief. I leaned against him. "You have family now, Carr."  

"Yes, I do, don't I?" His grip tightened. "I don't know about you, but I'm starved."  

"I'll get dinner started."  

It turned out that the steak Pop had left in the refrigerator for us wasn't all he was starved for. While I stood at the sink scrubbing a couple of baking potatoes and getting them ready to be bearded with salt, Carr lounged against the kitchen table.  

He unzipped his fly and freed his cock.  

I forgot about the potatoes. "Carr?" My voice was hoarse, and I swallowed.  

"Want an appetizer, baby?"  

It was a good thing I was only cooking for the two of us. Dinner was late that night. 


The phone downstairs rang and rang, disturbing the early morning silence. I rolled out of bed, barely taking time to grab my robe. I shrugged into it as I bolted down the stairs and into the parlor.  

"An – Anderson residence," I panted into the phone.  

"I'm sorry, sweetie. I woke you, didn't I?"  

"That's okay, Pop." The adrenalin rush faded, and I yawned. "What's wrong?"  

"Have you noticed that every time I call you lately, you ask me what's wrong?" She sighed. "Everything is fine, sweetie. I'm happy, and I want you to be happy for me."  

"All right, Pop. But if everything is hunky dory, why are you calling at 6:30 on Christmas Eve morning?"  

She laughed softly. "I forgot to take the roast out of the freezer." We always had a pork loin for dinner on Christmas Eve.  

"I already took it out. I was surprised to still find it in the freezer when I went looking for some… uh… ice cream." I wasn't going to tell her I'd gone into the freezer for an ice cube that I'd sucked on it for a few seconds before I'd kissed Carr.  

"Thank you, Tinker. I've been a little distracted lately, and it completely slipped my mind."  

"That's one big roast, Pop, even taking into account leftovers."  

"I'll have three hungry men to feed."  


"I told you I wanted you to get better acquainted with Benjamin. He'll be spending the next few days with us. Now, he and I will be going to the grocery store to get a few last minute items, and then we'll stop at Mr. Armstrong's butcher shop to pick up the turkey he's been holding for us. I'll be home in plenty of time to cook dinner."  

"Pop, how serious is this -- this whatever-it-is you have with Ben Hamilton."  

"What I have with Benjamin is a relationship, and it's very serious, son. I've told him."  

"Ohhh, Pop," I groaned, "was that a good idea?" I remembered how my bride…  

"Something wrong, Andy?"  

*Damn* it! Carr had come down and I hadn't even been aware of it. How much had he overheard?  

"No!" I covered the receiver. "Uh… Pop's bringing someone for dinner, that's all. I wasn't sure if we had enough for an extra guest, but Pop's going to stop at the grocery store. Uh… do you need anything? I can ask her to pick it up while she and Hamilton are there."  

"No, I'm good." He gave me a thoughtful look. "I'll get the coffee started."  

"Thanks, Carr." I waited until he left the room. "I'm sorry, Pop…"  

"No, Tinker, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have sprung this on you; I should have told you before."  

"How long have you been seeing him?"  

"We got to know each other after you left for the Academy. I missed having you around the house, Tinker, and when he was home from the university, he'd come visit. He helped me with chores. For a long time it was strictly platonic, but then after what happened with Angelica… "  

"That was my fault, Pop." I knew my former wife had hurt Pop, even though Pop had insisted she was fine. I gritted my teeth. If Angelica was in range, I'd willingly wring her neck. Her reaction had set Pop up to fall into Hamilton 's hand like a ripe plum.  

"He began asking me out; I always turned him down. Then, just after you left on your mission to Mars... I had such a bad feeling about that mission, Tinker."  

"When… when did you tell him?"  

"As soon as I realized how serious he was about me. I knew nothing short of the truth would be fair to either of us. Tinker, he doesn't care, it doesn't matter to him."  

"What about babies, Pop?"  

"You mean because I can't give him any? I'm 45; I wouldn't be able to give him children anyway. He says it isn't important. This is our worry, Tinker. We'll work it out."  

"Pop, if he hurts you ..."  

"He won't hurt me, sweetie. Benjamin cares for me very deeply, even though … Well, you know. Now, is there anything you need from the store?"  

"I haven't looked in the pantry. Do we have enough honey and colored sprinkles?"  

"Of course we do. And oil also to fry the dough. And I've got flour and eggs on my list."  

"Then we're good."  

"Tinker… you'll give Benjamin a chance?"  

I took a deep breath. Pop had never asked for anything of me that was so important to her. "I'll try, Pop."  

"Thank you, sweetie. We'll be there sometime in the afternoon. I know you're taking Edward sledding with your friends; I ran into Ernie, and he told me. You don't need to change your plans for us."  

"Are you sure?"  

"I'm sure. And Tinker, perhaps you should tell Edward?"  

I felt goosebumps run up my spine. "You saw what happened with Angelica."  

She sighed. "You're right, but don't you think Edward will take it better? After all, he's more mature than Angelica. And he's… "  


"I was going to say he's in love with you, but his sexual orientation might make him more sympathetic. However, it will be your decision, Tinker. I have no objection to his knowing. Give it some thought."  

"Okay, Pop." But it felt as if I'd done nothing but think about this situation since Pop had told me she'd be spending a few days with Ben Hamilton. "Oh, before I forget, Frosty sends his best."  

"James? How thoughtful. Will he be paying a visit this year?"  

"He said if he could, but I… I don't think he will, Pop."  

"I'm sorry. I liked him; he was always a good friend to you."  

"Yes. Listen, I'd better go."  

"All right, Tinker." She sounded sad. I was never the one to terminate our phone calls.  

I made my voice cheerful. "Carr and I need to get a move on if we're going to have the driveway shoveled out for you."  

"You don't have to do that, sweetie."  

"It's okay. I don't know how you managed to get the car out. The driveway has to be under at least two and a half feet of snow."  

"You don't need to shovel the whole drive."  

"You won't be able to get the car back into the garage."  

There was a slight hesitation, and then she said, "Tinker, the car is in the garage. Benjamin drove me to his house."  

Pop never let anyone drive her, not even me. That told me more than anything how deeply she felt about Benjamin Hamilton.  

"O… okay, Pop. I'll shovel enough so his car can get in."  

"You're a good son, Tinker. You've always been a good son. I love you very much. I'll… we'll see you later."  

My throat was clogged. "I love you too, Pop. Bye." I hung up the phone and went into the hallway. The hardwood floor was cold, and my toes curled.  

Carr came out of the kitchen. Under his bathrobe he wore pajamas, and he'd taken the time to put slippers on his feet.  

"Carr, I'm going to put my pajamas on. I'm getting a draft."  

"Good idea. I've already put some coal in the furnace, so the house should warm up soon."  


"I'm making bacon and eggs for breakfast. If we're going to shovel the drive, we'll need something substantial in our stomachs."  

"Yeah. Uh… we won't need to shovel the entire drive."  


"Pop didn't take the car out."  

"Well, we'll still need…"  

"Excuse me, I'm freezing." I turned and ran up the stairs before he could say anything else.  

The bed had been made and my pajamas folded on the pillow, but I left them there. I sat on the edge of the bed and buried my head in my hands. I pictured how Carr would react if I didn't tell him about Pop, if he thought I was keeping something else from him.  


'Penny for them,' he'd say.  

'Excuse me?'  

'Your thoughts. You're a million miles away, baby.'  

'Sorry. I was… I was just wondering if it was a good idea to go sledding.'  

'Are you ashamed of me, Tinker?'  

'What? What are you talking about?'  

'It seems to me you're less than enthusiastic about me meeting your friends.'  

'*No*! Carr… I'm not… It's just…'  

'I've been expecting it, you know.' And I'd remember the tension I'd heard in his voice when I'd come home late from the Base.  

'Expecting what?'  

'Don't play me for a fool, Lieutenant. When were you going to tell me?'  

'Carr, you're not making any sense. Tell you what?' I'd ask uneasily.  

'I really expected better from you.' He'd look at the clock on the wall. 'No flights will be going out of the airport at this time on Christmas Eve. You'll have to put up with me for another thirty-six hours at least.'  

'Carr, what are you talking about?' His eyes would be so distant; I'd never have seen him look at me like that, and my chest would start to hurt. Would he have called the airlines, to know none of them would be flying? I'd grab his arm and shake it. 'Please. Tell me.'  

'It's obvious, isn't it? I'm a good deal older than you, I did have that slur on my record. What was last night? Goodbye sex?'  

'Carr, you have to know I'd never leave you!'  

"Why would I *have* to know this? Your actions for the last few days have been odd, to say the least. It was like pulling teeth to get you to tell me why Geraldine's last name is the same as yours. And then there was the fact that you mentioned children, for the first time since we've been together, and you made it very obvious that you didn't see us raising a child." He'd be breathing heavily.  

'Look. Carr. I love you, and I don't want you to leave, but…'  

But he wouldn't let me finish. He would give me a look that would break my heart and walk out of the room. For the rest of his stay, for however long that would be, he would avoid me, and I'd know I had ruined a relationship that meant more to me than my life.  


I pictured how Carr would react if I told him about Pop.  

'She was *what*?'  

I'd repeat my words, and his eyes would widen, as Angelica's had. And then, much as Angelica's had, they'd grow cold. His back would stiffen, his lip would curl in a sneer of distaste, and he'd say …  


"Andy?" Carr stood in the bedroom doorway.  

I jumped, but didn't look up. I couldn't meet his eyes.  


He sat down beside me on the bed and turned my face toward him. He ran the heels of his hands over my cheeks, wiping away the moisture. "Tinker, nothing can be that bad. Please, tell me what's bothering you."  

"Pop… "  

"Is something the matter with her?"  

"No. She's fine. I think she's happy with Hamilton ."  

"Then why are you sitting here with tears on your face?"  

"I… I have to tell you something, and I'm so scared that you'll leave me when I do."  

"Oh, baby, why would I ever leave you?"  

"Angelica did."  

"I'm not Angelica."  

I was too unhappy to pay any attention to the firmness in his voice, and I went on as if he hadn't interrupted. "We stood before a minister, and she promised to be beside me in good times and in bad. But when I brought her to meet Pop, she broke that promise."  

"Tinker, I can't stand with you before a minister, but I'll promise you, right here and now," he took my left hand and held it tightly, "that I will be beside you always, and I'll love you for as long as we both live."  

I freed my hand and rose, and went to stand before the windows, moving the curtains aside. Frost edged the glass like a picture frame.  

It had stopped snowing, but the sky was still gray and overcast, and there was no doubt that we would have more snow before the day was out. There was a thin layer of packed snow in the street. A battered Ford, a remnant from the war years, chugged slowly past.  

The sounds of the plows coming by through the night had roused me from a light doze. I'd rolled my lover's body onto his back, nuzzled my way down to his cock, and suckled it gently. He'd given a soft moan, but hadn't wakened and didn't come, and I fell back to sleep with his cock in my mouth.  


I realized I couldn't put off this discussion any longer, and I turned to face him.  

"I've lived in this town all my life, and Pop and my mother had for some time before I was born. It was their choice that I call Pop 'pop'. If anyone in town thinks of it at all, they simply think it's like a pet name – I really couldn't call two women 'mom'. It would be confusing to say the least."  

"That's what they *think*?" The emphasis on the last word was so mild I nearly didn't hear it. Carr rose and came to me, and pulled me against him. He slid a hand inside my robe and stroked my back. His palm was warm.  

"Yes. Maybe you had to be born here to accept it unquestioningly, but Carr, you weren't born here, and yet, when you realized that my Pop was a woman, you just smiled and went along with it. Why?"  

"Andy, considering how close she and your mother were…" He tightened his hold, rocking me gently. "Actually, I thought the truth of the matter was that Geraldine preferred women."  


"Well, obviously I was wrong, since she seems to be very involved with this young man. So tell me, baby. Why *do* you call her 'Pop'?"  

I drew in a deep breath, then released it. "Because she's my father, Carr."  

"*What*?" He became very still, and I started to shake. I eased out of his embrace and stepped back from him. I knew I had to explain before I lost my nerve. And him.  

"Pop was born Gerald Anderson, the youngest of three children." I wanted to turn away so I didn't have to see my lover's face, but I forced myself to meet his eyes. "Gerald grew up knowing that he was different, that something was 'wrong' with him. As a child he would sneak into his sister's room and try on her clothes and play with her dolls. She caught him one day and tattled to their mother, and he'd tried to explain that he felt more comfortable in girl's clothing and doing girl-type things. His mother was horrified and told his father, and he'd been beaten so severely he'd missed a week of school."  

My lover made a soft sound, but I continued as if he hadn't.  

"Gerald realized that if he wanted his parents to love him, he'd have to deny his real self, so he did. He dressed in suits and ties, played baseball, and went hunting with his father and brother, his uncles and his cousins." My chest tightened and my hand clenched in a fist. "And he tried to commit suicide when he was thirteen."  

"Andy!" Carr tried to embrace me, but I held him off. I wasn't sure I'd be able to keep talking if he touched me.  

"A young girl found him, found the empty bottle of aspirin next to him, and she stuck her finger down his throat to make him vomit. He was terrified that she would tell his parents. The bottle hadn't been full, Gerald wasn't in danger of much more than exacerbating the ulcer he already had, but he knew if they found out, they'd have no qualms in having him institutionalized and telling all their friends that he was in Norway for an extended visit with relatives.  

"The girl promised she wouldn't say anything, and that was the start of their friendship. Her family wasn't high on the social ladder, in fact they were barely on the ladder at all, but Gerald's parents were so relieved that he appeared to be taking an interest in girls at last that they allowed it."  


"Carr, my grandparents are very wealthy. Oh, yes, they're still alive." I had never met them and had no desire to do so. "This house was just one of many properties they owned. If they had wanted to, they could have made life unbearable for the girl's family. Instead, they barely waited for Gerald and her to graduate high school before they pushed them into marriage. And then the pressure to produce a grandchild, to prove their son had the balls to do it… They didn't need another grandchild. Their oldest son, Roger, had a houseful. But they pushed and pushed and… "  

I caught myself and drew in a steadying breath. When I had myself under control, I continued.  

"Finally, Gerald couldn't take it any longer. He told his parents what he was going to do, have the sex reassignment surgery. The girl, my mother, stood by him. Her people didn't understand, but she was a married woman and had to live her own life. But his parents… When they realized there was nothing they could do, nothing they could say to stop him, they gave him this house and turned their backs on him."  

"They disowned their own child?"  

"More than that. They told everyone he'd been in an accident and died." I used the sleeve of my robe to dry my cheeks. "Anyway, Gerald went to Denmark , and Geraldine came back. Pop told me the whole story. Everyone in Blanchardville just thinks it's an idiosyncrasy, that I call her 'Pop,' but y'see, Carr, she really is."  

"I understand, baby." He put his arms around me,  ran a soothing hand up and down my back while his other hand held me, and kissed my ear. "It's all right."  

"I… I told Angelica that Pop was a woman. When she met her, she said something about Pop being tall for a woman. I told her the truth."  

"And she walked out on you."  

"Yes. She was shocked and disgusted."  

"I'm not, Tinker. Geraldine is a good person. Whether male or female, she loves you, and that's the most important thing." His grip on me tightened, as if he was trying to absorb me into his body. "Baby, you could have told me that Geraldine was Jack the Ripper, and I'd still love her and be grateful to her. Because she's your Pop, Tinker, and because she raised you to be the man you are."


End Part A  

To Part B