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the silver fox


Three’s Company

Mike carried a pile of mail into the living room with him, commenting as he sorted through the collection of letters, advertisements and magazines.

“Junk, junk, bill, bill, junk, junk – hey, Rick there’s a letter for you – junk, junk . . .” He handed Rick a large manila envelope and continued on his way to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, throwing the majority of the mail into the garbage as he passed the bin.

Rick examined the envelope, not recognizing the return address, which was that of a law firm in San Francisco. Shrugging, he tore open the envelope and found a short, formal letter and two sealed envelopes inside. He read the covering letter and gasped softly. Alex looked up from the newspaper at the strange sound and saw Rick visibly pale.

“Rick?” he asked, getting up quickly. “Is something the matter?” He watched as the letter and the envelopes slipped from Rick’s fingers. Rick lurched to his feet and brushed past Alex without a word, heading out onto the deck. Alex picked up the letter and glanced at the envelopes. One was addressed to Rick in bold handwriting; the other declared formally that it was the Last Will and Testament of Jonas T. Blake. Mike wandered in from the kitchen and found Alex staring at the papers in his hands.

“What’s up?” he asked. “Where did Rick go?”

“He’s out on the deck, Mike,” Alex replied. “I think you should see this.” He handed the paperwork to Mike. Like Alex, Mike did not read the letter, feeling that to do so was an invasion of privacy, so he ignored it and examined the two envelopes. After a few moments, Alex asked quietly,

“Do you know who Jonas T. Blake is, Mike? Is he a relative?” Mike shook his head, just as mystified as Alex. As he repeated the name to himself, Mike’s eyes widened as he remembered one of his earliest conversations with Rick. ‘Jonas and I were together for almost ten years and then he got the chance of a really good promotion, but it meant him going abroad. We still exchange Christmas cards, but that’s about it. He left me six years ago’. Rick had never talked about his previous partner and Mike had not brought the subject up after that first conversation. Alex knew nothing about him and now, it appeared that Jonas had died.

Mike told Alex what he knew, which was not much, and together they gazed out at the lonely figure leaning on the railing gazing into the distance. Mike’s first instinct was to go to him but Alex laid a restraining hand on his arm.

“Give him time, Mike,” he said softly. “Why don’t you pour you and I a cup of coffee.” Mike returned to the kitchen, casting a long look back over his shoulder at Rick. Alex sat down again and picked up the newspaper but the words made no sense. He kept glancing through the French doors at Rick, anxiously watching his lover. As Mike returned with the coffee, Alex saw Rick’s head drop forward and his shoulders start to shake. Mike followed his line of sight and said,

“Alex, for God’s sake, he’s crying. He needs us!” With that he stepped out onto the deck and went over to Rick, who immediately scrubbed a hand over his face and straightened up. Alex shook his head and sighed. Mike meant well, but Rick would now clamp down on his feelings and put on a brave face for Mike. It was the worst thing possible that he could do. Alex went quickly to join them, staying silent, just standing close to Rick’s left side. Mike was on his right, his arm around Rick’s waist in a tender gesture of support. Alex carefully laid his hand on Rick’s shoulder and the three of them gazed into the distance, not speaking.

Although Rick would have preferred to be alone to deal with his feelings, the touch of his lovers warmed him and he was grateful for their silent presence. He had never talked to them about Jonas and now he didn’t feel that he could – at least not yet. He wondered if Mike had remembered his brief reference to his ex, and whether he had told Alex. Mike and Alex deserved an explanation, and he would tell them all about Jonas, but not right now. He needed to sort out his thoughts and feelings and he needed time to mourn.

Jonas . . . Rick’s mind skittered over a swarm of memories, quick snapshots forming as he struggled to come to terms with his loss. Rick had been a young lieutenant when he first met Captain Jonas Blake. Blake was his training officer and their relationship had not started well. Rick had always been a bit of a rebel and he already had a reputation for insubordination. He did, however, possess certain skills and the attitude that went with them. As long as he performed, the army gave him a certain amount of leeway, ignoring his flouting of minor regulations; that was until Captain Blake decided that Rick’s ‘talents’ needed a disciplined framework. They had clashed continuously, with Rick always coming off worst.

* * * * * * * *

Rick was off duty and had gone to work out in the gym. The only other person there was Jonas and they had spotted each other for weight training and done a little hand-to-hand practice. After they had finished, Jonas headed for the showers and Rick had finished up with some stretching exercises; then he, too, went for a shower. Jonas was at his locker, changing into civilian clothes before heading home as Rick walked in, already pulling his T-shirt over his head.

“You know, lieutenant,” Jonas commented, “you show a lot of promise. If you could just ease up on being such a wise ass, you could have a real future in the army.” Rick looked at the man with some surprise, his comments unexpected and strangely flattering.

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” he said as he continued to strip. Grabbing a towel, Rick was heading towards the shower when Jonas put a hand on his arm.

“I mean it, Rick,” he said softly, the use of his Christian name surprising Rick. “Learn to control your temper and that smart mouth, it can only get you into trouble.”

Rick had stopped at the other man’s touch, acutely aware that he was naked and surprised to find himself reacting to the feel of the man’s hand. He felt a twitch in his groin and quickly wrapped the towel around his waist. Jonas’ eyebrow rose and he removed his hand smoothly, refraining from any other comment. Rick moved away to take his shower, his mind confused by his physical reaction. He didn’t like Blake, so why had he responded to him?

Freshly showered, he had walked back to the locker room to find Jonas still there, obviously waiting for him. Rick stopped in his tracks.

“Is there a problem – sir?” he asked, the pause making the question more of a challenge. Jonas sighed and ran a hand through his close cropped hair.

“No, Rick,” he said, again using his Christian name, indicating they were both off duty. “No problem. Do you want to grab a beer?” Rick gave the question some thought and decided Jonas obviously wanted to talk, so he agreed.

“Give me a minute,” he said, indicating his state of undress.

“Sure,” Jonas said easily. “I’ll wait for you in the parking lot.” A low key start to their friendship and it had taken a while to develop . . .

A curious thump knocking him over, Jonas grabbing him by his webbing harness, dragging him away and down, the firefight raging around them. Fingers fumbling at him, a field dressing pushed against his thigh, Jonas’ voice in his ear,

saying, “Hold on, Rick, I’ve got you,” and then screaming for a medic. Then the pain, Jonas’ worried eyes floating in and out of his consciousness, a seemingly constant presence at his side. That was probably the first time Rick realised that Jonas thought of him as more than just a friend. Not that he wouldn’t have saved any of the men under his command, but his eyes betrayed him. The worry, the scared look when Rick went for surgery. The first thing he saw when he recovered consciousness was those eyes glistening with unshed tears.

Convalescence back at home in the States. He was a bad patient, rude to the nursing staff, grumpy with his colleagues, desperate to be back on duty. Then Jonas had come to see him. He had been sitting in a wheelchair gazing sullenly out of the window when Jonas walked up behind him. At his greeting, Rick had turned the chair, frowning until he saw Jonas, then he had to laugh. Jonas’ arms were full of ridiculous presents: a teddy bear wearing a Cubs baseball cap, a bag full of cheap dime store candy, a handful of comic books.

Jonas dumped the lot on his bed and came close, invading his personal space. There was no one around and Jonas leaned in, whispering,

“It’s good to see you laugh, Rick”, and he had brushed his lips with a light kiss. It had been brief, casual, and heart stopping all at the same time. Rick had flushed and looked away, then his hands seemed to move of their own volition, wrapping themselves around Jonas’ neck and pulling him close. Their first real kiss said everything necessary, filled in the blanks, completed the whole.

They took a short vacation together after he was released from hospital, just the two of them, the wide open spaces and time to be themselves. Seven days of fairly gentle hiking and long, passionate nights cementing their love over far too soon. Jonas had taught Rick a great deal in the short time they had together, not only about sex but about love and respect, strength and tenderness. A blissful time before they returned to reality, to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and hiding in plain sight. They had been part of a team, promoted together, kept together, managing to maintain their relationship intact and secret, (although their teammates suspected) and then Jonas had made Colonel and was posted to Germany.

* * * * * * * *

Rick pulled himself together, closing down on his thoughts. He slipped an arm around each of his lovers and hugged them gently before moving away.

“It’s getting cold,” he said softly, “let’s go inside.” Mike and Alex willingly followed him into the house and Mike busied himself making fresh coffee, emptying the neglected mugs he had poured earlier. Rick sat silently, lost in his thoughts until Alex interrupted him.

“Perhaps you should read this,” he said gently, handing Rick the letter addressed to him. Rick looked at the familiar handwriting, turning the envelope over and over in his hands before opening it. There were several sheets of paper inside; Jonas’ farewell to his lover.

‘My dearest Rick,

You are and always were my dearest, you should know that. If circumstances hadn’t parted us we would have still been together. I shall never forget your nobility, generosity and downright pig-headedness in persuading me to take the promotion while you resigned to make a different life. I never thanked you for that, although I cursed at the time if my memory serves me right! I did not want to part from you, my love, and I did not want us to drift apart, but it was inevitable given the distance between us. My successful career has been due to your self-sacrifice and I have never forgotten that.

Ten years together, Rick, ten years! And then seven years apart – almost as long as we were together, but it seems longer! I want you to miss me, of course I do, but I want you to be happy. I hope you find someone special with whom you can spend the rest of your life. I hope you find happiness. I hope someone is there with you while you are reading this because, if you are, it means that I am no longer around. I made the best of it, Rick, but I never found anyone to replace you in my heart and I know you kept that special place in your heart for me. That thought has consoled me these last few months. And, before you get mad at me all over again, I really didn’t want you to know about the cancer.

I know you will mourn for me Rick, as I would you if the circumstances had been reversed, but do not let my passing shadow your happiness. Think of how you would want me to act if you had gone before me and follow your own advice! That’s if you can, you stubborn man!

The other letter will be from my lawyer. I have no family left, as you know, so whatever I have in this world is yours, given with all my heart. Use it wisely and think of me with joy.

I love you.


Rick sat with the letter held loosely in his hands, oblivious of his lovers who sat silently with him. Jonas was gone and he’d never had the chance to tell him about Mike and Alex. He knew Jonas would be happy for him but he couldn’t bear the thought of Jonas dying alone, without anyone there to comfort him. He bent his head and clutched the letter to his chest, his heart seized with grief for his former lover.

Mike watched Rick anxiously, desperate to comfort him but unsure how to do so. As Rick folded in on himself, the letter pressed against his heart, Mike’s eyes filled with tears of sympathy. He bent his head towards Alex and whispered,

“What can I do? Oh, Alex, look at him, what can I do for him?”

Alex winced at Mike’s question, an odd pain twisting inside him.

“I don’t know,” he whispered back, his eyes never leaving Rick. “I knew nothing about Jonas, about how Rick felt about him. I feel like we’re intruding. Perhaps we should leave him alone, give him some space?” Mike frowned, not wanting to leave Rick, not sure Alex was right.

“Do you really think I should leave him?” he murmured. Alex glanced at Mike, at the depthless blue eyes awash with unshed tears and felt the pain grow more intense. He rose abruptly and left the room, leaving Mike gazing helplessly at Rick. Rick was oblivious to his going, his eyes closed, his thoughts turned inwards. Mike remained with him, hoping his silent presence would offer some comfort, ready to listen if Rick wanted to talk. He could not understand why Alex had left so suddenly or why he had seemed so upset.

After long moments had passed, Rick roused himself and glanced around. He saw Mike sitting silently across from him, his face a mask of concern. Rick sighed heavily and seemed to pull himself together. He sent a shaky smile to Mike who responded by moving to kneel beside him, laying a hand gently on his knee.

“Are you going to be okay?” he asked softly. Rick covered his hand with his own and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“Yes, I’ll be okay, Mike. Thanks for staying with me. What happened to Alex?”

“I don’t know,” Mike responded slowly. “He said he thought we should leave you alone and then he got this weird look on his face, said he knew nothing about Jonas, and left. I wasn’t sure what to do, Rick. I wanted to go after him but I needed to stay with you. I’ll go and see if I can find him, shall I? Will you be alright on your own?” Rick managed a slight smile.

“I’ll be fine, Mike. Go and find Alex and let’s talk.”

Mike moved quickly through the house searching for Alex without success. He tried the deck and the garden around the house and still could not locate him. As he was turning to go back inside a thought struck him and he walked quickly down a well-worn path towards the pond. Alex was sitting there gazing at the water, his face cold and still. He did not respond when Mike called his name and Mike sat down beside him.

“Aren’t you cold?” he asked. “You came out without your jacket and you’ve been gone for ages. I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” Alex remained silent and Mike did the only thing he could think of to gain a response. He wrapped his arms around Alex and pulled him close, his lips pressing lightly against the cold skin of Alex’s temple.

“God, Alex, you’re freezing!” he exclaimed, taking his lover’s hands between his and rubbing them briskly. Alex allowed him to do so but did not respond. Mike pulled him to his feet and wrapped an arm around his waist.

“Come on,” he cajoled. “Let’s go back to the house and get warm. You need a stiff drink and a hot shower.” Alex finally reacted, wrenching himself out of Mike’s arms and pushing him away.

“Leave me alone,” he almost shouted. “Go and look after Rick if you need someone to fuss over. That’s where you’d rather be anyway!” Mike was astounded and confused by Alex’s behaviour.

“Alex, what’s the matter? Why are you being like this? Come on, you need to get warm and I don’t want to leave Rick alone too long. He was asking for you; why did you run off?”

“That’s a lie!” Alex shouted. “Rick wouldn’t ask for me, he has you!”

“He sent me to look for you,” Mike said patiently, getting worried by Alex. “Come on, Alex, stop this! Rick needs us; he needs you! Whatever it is that’s bothering you, let’s talk about it back at the house. Rick wants to talk to us both, he just said so. Surely you’re not going to stay out here when Rick is upset and wants to see you. I think he wants to talk to us about Jonas. Please Alex, he wants us both, he needs us both.”

Alex heard Mike’s words but deliberately clamped down on the relief he felt. Rick didn’t need him and Mike only had thoughts for Rick. He was the spare man again and he hated it! Things had been going so well, but Mike’s casual comment had cut to the bone. ‘Do you really think I should leave him?’ Not ‘we’, not Mike and Alex, just Mike. He knew he was being irrational, that it probably meant nothing but it hurt.

Mike watched Alex’s face as varying emotions flickered through his expression. He wasn’t quite sure what he had said to upset him, but knew he was somehow responsible for the look of abject misery on his lover’s face. He wanted to smooth the frown away but Rick was far more important at the moment. He sighed and tugged again at Alex.

“Come on, Alex,” he said impatiently, “what the hell’s the matter with you? I don’t want Rick to be on his own.”

“Oh, you don’t,” snarled Alex. “You don’t want to leave him, you wonder if he needs you. What happened to ‘us’, Mike? What happened to Rick needing us?”

Mike’s mouth dropped open in shock and then he lost his temper.

“You selfish, self-centered son of a bitch!” he yelled. “Rick’s just found out the man he loved has died and you’re out here feeling sorry for yourself! How dare you? How dare you forget what Rick has done for you - for us? I don’t believe I heard that self-indulgent crap! Now stop this shit and come back to the house!”

“Or else what?” Alex was pugnacious in the face of Mike’s hard words, quashing his inner acknowledgement of their truth. He was searching for a way to vent his feelings, his insecurity making him cold, hoping a good argument with Mike would restore that inner warmth he had achieved since he had lived with Rick and Mike. Mike, however, didn’t co-operate. In the face of Alex’s aggression he became very quiet, his anger now white-hot. He turned away with a contemptuous shrug.

“Suit yourself,” he said and walked away, leaving Alex on his own. Alex was stunned. He had been so certain Mike would argue with him, make him feel really wanted, but instead he was now out in the cold, literally and meta-phorically. He sank back to the ground, his arms wrapped around his knees.

Mike stormed back along the path, his anger at Alex almost physically painful. He could not believe Alex would pull a stunt like that! Alex surely knew by now how much he was loved, that Rick and Mike cared deeply for him? Why would he doubt it after all these months together? Mike couldn’t find an answer, so he stopped thinking about it and hurried back to Rick.

Rick was still sitting with Jonas’ letter in his hand. Mike again knelt beside him and covered his hands with his long fingers, gently caressing.

“You’re cold,” Rick commented, giving the fingers a gentle squeeze. “Where’s Alex?”

“Sulking,” Mike said sourly. “He’s out by the pond freezing his ass off and feeling sorry for himself!” Rick was surprised by the bitterness in Mike’s tone.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “What do you mean Alex is sulking?”

“I told you, he’s feeling sorry for himself. Apparently, I said something about you needing me rather than ‘us’ and his lordship is in a snit!”

“Don’t be bitchy,” Rick reprimanded, although his tone was gentle. “Let me go and find him.”

“No!” Mike said sharply. “Why should you have to go after him at a time like this?” Rick shook his head.

“Because I love him, Mike, just as much as I love you. And I need to tell him that right now.”

Rick got to his feet and walked towards the door. Mike scrambled to follow him but Rick laid a restraining hand on his arm.

“I’m going to go alone, Mike,” he said gently. “Alex still does not believe he belongs here and has an equal part in our lives. I want you to wait here and let me talk to him and then you can say what you want to him when I bring him back. Is that okay with you?”

“I guess so. I’m mad at him Rick, I have to admit that.”

“Okay, you probably have reason to be, but I want to speak to him before you tell him how mad you are and why.” Rick pulled Mike into a warm embrace. “I love you,” he said, nuzzling Mike’s ear. “I love you both.” Mike twisted slightly so that he could kiss Rick.

“I love you, too,” he murmured. “And I love that little shit but I’m still going to give him hell!” Rick laughed and pulled away.

“I won’t be long,” he said. “Could you pour us all a drink while I go and fetch our little shit.” That made Mike laugh and he agreed with a smile.

Rick walked slowly down the pathway towards the pond, his mind torn between Jonas, Mike and Alex. He found himself chatting to Jonas in his mind.

‘Well, Jonas, I have my hands full as you can see. I miss you, love, but I did move on and I did find happiness. I just wish you could be here, too, although God knows what kind of a menage that would be! Mike was the absolute best thing to happen to me, I need him in my life as much as the air I breathe. But, you see Jonas, with Mike came Alex. Not intentionally, but Mike is so much happier with Alex here and that’s important to me. Then eventually, I fell in love with Alex, too. He just won’t believe me, despite everything I’ve said and done. I really, really thought I’d fixed this.’

Rick sighed heavily as he mulled over his relationship with Alex. Alex was sitting by the side of the pond, his shoulders hunched against the unseasonably cool air, his cotton T-shirt giving little protection against the chill. His head was bowed on his bent knees, his arms wrapped around them, exuding an air of abject misery. His head came up as he heard Rick’s feet crunching on the gravel and the heavy sigh. Agonized green eyes met warm brown ones and seconds passed without a word. Then Alex scrambled to his feet and threw himself at Rick. Instinctively, Rick wrapped his arms around Alex and held him close, one hand coming up to cradle the back of his head.

“I’m so sorry,” Alex moaned into Rick’s neck. “Mike’s right, I am a selfish bastard! I’m sorry about Jonas, Rick, truly I am. And I’m sorry I got upset and upset you. And now Mike’s upset – “

“Ssh! It’s okay, ” Rick murmured, stroking his hair. “I love you, Alex. Please come back to the house. I need you, Mike needs you; we want you to come back. Please, Alex, we’re both worried about you. Won’t you come and talk?” Alex nodded, his hair rubbing against Rick’s cheek. A tiny sob escaped his throat and he struggled to control himself.

“I really am sorry, Rick,” he said again. “I don’t know what got into me. Is Mike mad at me?”

“Oh yeah,” Rick said with a smile. “He’s really mad. You’re gonna have a hard time with him!” Alex heard the teasing tone and managed a slight smile of his own.

“I deserve it,” he said. “Are you mad at me, too?”

“Nope.” Alex’s eyebrows shot upwards

“Just ‘nope’?” Rick smiled.

“I’m not mad at you, Alex, but I don’t really understand why you keep thinking you’re some kind of second rate member of this relationship. Do I neglect you? Am I different with Mike? Does Mike treat you differently?” Alex swallowed and shook his head.

“No, Rick, it’s just me. I can’t really explain it. I guess I just still can’t believe my luck!” Rick pulled him close again, his hands clasping Alex’s ass, their groins meeting as Rick tightened his hold. Alex was instantly aware of Rick’s cock hardening against his thigh.

“Need more convincing, do you?” Rick asked huskily. Alex moaned softly, his spine melting at the sexy growl. Rick pulled away and grabbed Alex’s hand.

“Come on,” he ordered, “let’s take this indoors and find Mike!”

They returned to the house to find Mike sitting on the couch, three glasses in front of him on the coffee table. Alex hesitated as Mike glared at him, then pulled away from Rick and went over to him.

“I’m sorry, Mike, “ he said. “You are quite right and I was being selfish and self-centered. Will you forgive me? Please?” Mike’s expression softened slightly.

“It’s Rick who requires the apology,” he said stiffly, unwilling to forgive Alex just yet.

“He’s already apologized to me,” Rick commented, picking up a glass. “Is this my Scotch?” Mike nodded and handed Alex the glass of Jack Daniels he had poured and picked up his own brandy. Rick raised his glass slightly and said,

“A toast to my beloved friend, Jonas.” He watched as Alex and Mike also raised their glasses, clinking them together, murmuring ‘To Jonas’.

“That’s better,” Rick said. “Now sit down and drink up. It’s cold and we need something to warm us up, and I have a long story to tell you both. I owe you both an explanation.”

“No you don’t,” Mike interrupted. “If you want to talk about Jonas we’ll be happy to listen, won’t we Alex? But you do not need to explain anything. Jonas was before our time and we know you loved him.”

“I agree,” said Alex, surprised Mike had included him in his little speech. “We would like to hear about Jonas if you want to talk, Rick. If you loved him he must have been very special.” That brought a warm smile to Rick’s face.

“Thank you, Alex, that’s quite a compliment! Jonas was very special indeed.”

Rick talked for a long time to his lovers, sharing his memories of his previous partner, making them laugh a great deal at some of their exploits. There were poignant moments, too, and Rick’s eyes filled with tears more than once, but as he talked to the two younger men his pain eased and the grief he felt became more mellow, less sharp-edged. As he finished speaking, Alex looked at Mike briefly, then said,

“Do you have any photographs of Jonas, Rick? I would love to see them if you do. Wouldn’t you, Mike?”

“Yes, please, I’d love that.” Rick was surprised but went into the den and came back with a photo album. He sat between his lovers and flicked through the pages until he came to the photographs he sought.

In the first, Jonas and Rick were in dress uniform, posing formally, looking soberly into the camera, Jonas slightly taller than Rick. The second was obviously taken later that day. Still in uniform but with caps off, ties loosened, Jonas had his arm draped casually around Rick’s shoulders and was laughing at the camera. There were two other men in the photograph, but Rick was turned towards Jonas, a smile lighting his face, his eyes full of love and pride but with a hint of sadness.

“That was the day Jonas got promoted to Colonel,” Jack explained. “I was so proud of him but I knew he would be leaving me soon after. We had a celebration after the ceremony, just our team. It was one helluva party – I still wince at the hangover!”

Mike and Alex smiled and pored over the photos. Mike carefully traced Jonas’ features with gentle fingers, then looked up at Rick. Alex held his breath, hoping Mike would not say anything inappropriate. He couldn’t take his eyes off Jonas’ picture. Rick waited for their comments, still smiling slightly at warm memories of his lover.

“He’s – he’s gorgeous,” Mike finally stammered. Rick blinked in surprise and looked quizzically at Alex.

“I agree,” Alex said sincerely. “He really is tall, dark and handsome!” Jonas’ face looked up from the page as if weighing their words. The intelligent dark eyes were his most compelling feature but high cheekbones and a wide, generous mouth added to his attractiveness. His skin was a rich café-au-lait color and in the group photo it could be seen that his hair was straight and dark with a hint of silver.

“He was part Navajo,” Rick commented, “part Spanish, part black and part Irish. Made for an interesting mixture!”

“I may be out of line saying this,” Mike said tentatively, “but he must have been one helluva a man to make Colonel in the army almost twenty years ago. He must have been up against all kinds of prejudice.”

“Oh yes,” Rick agreed, smiling down at the photos, “he was one helluva man! There was so much prejudice then; race, color, religion, sexual orientation – he had nothing going for him and he beat all the odds. All of them! I was so lucky to have him in my life.”

“I think he was lucky to have you, too, Rick,“ Alex said with great feeling. “You were brave enough to see past all the prejudice and find the man.”

“Not brave,” Rick denied. “But, as you put it, I found the man and I loved him, that was all there was to it.”

“I wish I’d met him,” Mike said rather wistfully. “Although, if I had, I wouldn’t be with you now, would I? And neither would Alex.”

“True,” Rick commented. “So I hope the pair of you realise just how special you are to me. I was lucky enough to find not one but two men just as wonderful and unique as Jonas. I don’t know what I did to deserve such good fortune, but I’m thankful every day that I have the two of you in my life. I just want you to know that . . .” He was interrupted by Alex, who suddenly set down his glass and almost threw himself at Rick. Instinctively, Rick put his arms around him.

“What’s all this?” he asked, glancing at Mike.

“I love you, Rick,” Alex choked. “I love you so much!” Mike moved towards them and looked deep into Rick’s eyes.

“I love you, too,” he said softly. Rick reached out and gripped Mike’s hand, their eyes still locked.

“Bed,” he ordered and guided his lovers to their destination.