I kissed him to make it all better. I don't know if it worked. Even if his body wasn't responding, those warm-brown eyes made love to me. We faced each other side-by-side on the bed, legs laced together with our clothes still on. 

"I love you," he said. His fingers played with a tattered edge of the old quilt, but his head was elsewhere. As he leaned into me more, the bed dipped, and we rolled together into one of my favorite full-bodied Heath-hugs. He rested his chin on my shoulder, and I kissed his hair. 

"Love you, too." I rubbed his back. Damn, he was as tense as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. "Look, I know you're feeling tired. I'm cool with whatever you want to do-- talk, hang out, hug, fuck-- whatever you want to do--"

Personally, I was rooting for fuck.

"I was thinking about that motel," he said. 

Well, no fuck. Yet.

"When Kate said she blamed herself, I was thinking that it was my fault somehow. Shit. It wasn't either of our faults. We were kids. What parents leave their kids all alone? They should have found us! I tell you Jake, I don't know what I'd say to them if I saw them."

"Sometimes there aren't any words." Not that I wanted him to stop talking: it was my attempt at sage advice.

"Heck, most likely nothing will come from this. Kate and Char will just get broken hearts all over again."

And Heath, I thought. I studied those sensitive eyes. The past few days left Heath worn thin. I suddenly felt like a jerk for wanting to get in his pants when all he wanted to do was share a few words with someone he loved. Drifting into those sad, brown eyes made me want to take him back to his childhood and right all the wrongs-- made me want to be his hero-- someone who could erase his painful past. But I couldn't. I just had today to make it all right, and I was damn well going to make sure I took care of him and let him know how much he meant to me.

"I love you, man," I said, and brushed his cheek with the back of my hand. "And I'm staying right here beside you, to have and to hold from this day forward."

"For better, for worse--" He kissed the tip of my nose.

"For richer, for poorer--" I chased a tear in the corner of his eyes with my finger. 

"In sickness and in health--" He brushed his thumb over my lips.

"To love and to cherish--" 

"From this day forward--" 

"For as long as we both shall live." I smiled. "You'll never be able to kick me out of this bed."

"I'd never want to kick you out." Heath laughed and rubbed up and down against me. "I think it's time to consummate the relationship. I like you this way fine, but I already told you about overdressing-- I like you better with less clothes." 

"I like you better with no clothes," I shot back.

"I like you better with no clothes and a big smile on your face."

"I like you better with no clothes, a big smile on your face and peanut butter lathered all over your ass." I'd brought my supplies up with me-- minus the bread. 

"But jam, too?" I added. "Everyone needs jam."

"What?" He raised his eyebrows at me and frowned.

I reached under the bed and pulled out a crumpled brown grocery bag, then shook it in front of his face.

"What the heck you talkin' about, Gyllenhaal? What's in that bag?"

I made a production out of it. Pulled out the Jif, raspberry jam and--

"What the hell?!" He sat up. "What the fuck do you plan to do with that binder twine?"

I laughed maniacally just like in that fantasy I had, then I went in for a long hot kiss just to butter him up so he'd be easier to spread. 

His hand cupped my dick, and it felt damn good. 

Heath jerked to attention. "You feel that?" he asked. 

"Yeah, I did." I snuggled in closer. I tongued his earlobe, when I felt this sudden chill slip over me like a damp veil. "Tickles, don't it?"

"Not your tongue," he said. "That!"

The music box began to play. 

"Henry?" Heath asked. "Is that you?"

We both sat up, then grudgingly moved apart. Heath threw his legs off the bed.

He sat up on the edge, hands clasped. I scrambled around him, got up and walked over to the music box. I picked it up, turned it over, then the unspeakable happened--

The thing is, I pride myself on being a coordinated person, and I'm certainly not careless. I mean, I don't go around dropping my keys or tripping over my own feet. Shit, I can even multitask-- that's why I stood there, staring down in shock at my feet. 

"I killed it!"

The music box slipped out of my hands and crashed to the floor. In a split second, Heath jumped off the bed and was next to me. 

I felt ill. The music box lay on the floor, lid open and silent. Heath knelt down next to it and tended it like it was a sick child. The bottom of the box was cracked, and he traced the break with his long fingers. As he gently turned it over, part of the broken base fell loose in his hand. The box was divided into two compartments: one held delicate wheels with prongs of gold, the other a tarnished brass container. 

Heath carefully reached inside and pulled out the canister. 

"The soil that is not mine--" Heath whispered. "Henry was buried. It was Johann who was cremated."

It was my turn to feel confused. 

"That poem," Heath explained. "It wasn't referring to Henry-- don't you see? It was about Johann. Henry wanted them to rest together, but they couldn't. These must be Johann's ashes!"

I recalled my conversation with Linden when he'd asked me if we'd found any canister or--  "The music box! All along Henry had tried to tell us. Johann was right here all the time. But if Henry had the ashes, why didn't he bury them with him?" I asked.

"He must not have known they were inside the box. Remember Linden told you Johann's wife, Emily, gave Henry the ashes? Well, she did, but for some reason he never knew." 

"How could he not know?"

"Only one reason," Heath said. "She must have died before she could tell him."

Heath set Johann's ashes on the nightstand, then gave me a long, hungry kiss. Later, I finished him off right in our bed-- showed him 101 uses for PB and J. 

But I only found one use for the binder twine.


Heath rolled over and yawned. "I need a bath," he said. "I'm sticky as hell."

"You didn't complain last night." I scooted in closer to him.. 

"Ah, think your tongue missed a few spots."

"Want me to lick you clean?" I purred.

Heath chuckled as he sat up in bed and swatted my ass. "I don't mind going to bed with PB and Jake," he said, "but I rather wake up with just you on me."

I rolled on top of him and smiled down into his surprised face. "Life is like that-- spanks you, ties you up with binder twine, then smears peanut butter all over your ass," I said. " Next thing you know, some bastard sneaks up behind you and calls himself Armando the *Cumquat King."

"Hey!' Heath said. "I'm the Cumquat King!"

I kissed him, then licked the tip of his nose. "We better get washed up and ready for breakfast-- after all, we've got guests coming today."


Breakfast: Omelettes. With buttered toast. 

I beat Heath downstairs. Linden and Jorge came in a moment later, followed directly by Heath who pulled his chair closer to mine to join us. Kate and Char were busy, getting breakfast for our other guests. Char took off with a tray filled to the brim.

"Mmm," Jorge said, "I smell peanut butter." 

Must be Heath didn't wash well enough behind the ears.

"You want peanut butter?" Kate asked. "I'll get some for your toast if you'd like." She began rummaging through the cupboards before Jorge could answer. "Now... where'd I put it?"

"Thank you, but it's no problem." 

"No, no, no," Kate said. "I'll get a jar out of the pantry."

"You should not go to such trouble," Jorge said.

Kate waved him off and disappeared to find some.

"No peanut butter for me," I whispered to Heath. "A half a jar of Jif is my limit."

Heath kicked me under the table.

Kate came out of the pantry waving the jar over her head. 

"We've got something to tell everyone," Heath said. I almost spat out the mouthful of orange juice. "We found Johann's ashes."

That was a relief-- I thought he was going to tell them why we were making so much noise last night.

"No kidding? Where?" asked Kate.

"Right there in my room all along-- in the bottom of the music box." Heath went on to explain how it happened. 

"I wouldn't have believed it if you had not recited that poem by Byron," Jorge said, rubbing his chin. He always had this great stubble even after shaving.  

"What?" Heath asked.

"Henry's hopes were realized. You've remembered him," Jorge said. "You've fulfilled Emily Liebowitz's promise to Henry."

"I guess so. 'My hopes being remembered in my line.' Now all that we need to do is reunite them," Heath said, stuffing a bit of omelette in his mouth. "We'll have to wait for the ground to thaw."

I nodded. Kate smiled. Jorge winked at Linden, and I gave Heath one of my hammy grins. 

I picked the jar of peanut butter off the table, read the label. Two tablespoons 190 calories-- that's... 

"Shit! Almost 2,000 calories!"

Just then, Char burst through the kitchen door, an empty tray in her hands.

"Did I miss anything?" 


Author's note

*In case you've never heard of CumquatNation, here's the link. It's been the source of humor at high schools and was brought to my attention by my own children. There's a King of Cumquats, Prime Minister and even a god. Members are gay and straight: http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=7921301390 

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