Snowflake

12. Stanford

Act II : Sodom and Gomorrah
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Stanford


Brian
~~~~~~

A week has passed since we left the Tahoe area.

Snowflake and I have been holed up in a nice hotel thanks to Mr. Hutchence. Not that either one of us has noticed any amenities other than the bar and our rather spacious suite. Our days have consisted of driving up to the university's hospital and going to the top floor where Sabrina's been kept and then driving back to the hotel. We mostly drink when we get back there. I don't think we've really eaten solid food since we were back at the Ski Camp. Maybe we'll have some peanuts at the bar, but, really, neither of us has had much of an appetite.

It seems like our timely intervention pretty much saved our girl from death and permanent neural damage. She's been awake since day three here. The neurologists, toxicologists, and her cardio/pulmonologist, Dr. Wadi, formed her 'Dream Team' and pulled her through the crisis. Hutchence delivered on his promise to take care of Sabrina. I wish I had friends in high places like that!

Snowflake has taken this awfully hard. It worries me. He's been too quiet, and he won't let me touch him very much. He sleeps on the couch in the living room of the suite. He left me the big empty king sized bed to sleep in all by myself.

That hurts.

I guess this Sabrina thing was like someone breaking a glass bottle over Snowflake's head, and it knocked out that part of him that could feel anything but miserable. I didn't count on the strength of the bond between them. I even thought about their time together and the fact that this 'instant crush' of ours probably was only a lust induced hormone cascade. I figured that he'd go back to her because she was his 'girl'.

But, in the heat of this love, I easily discounted it because I didn't want to have to care about it. What Snowflake and I have, or had, was torrid in every sense of the word! I've never experienced anything like that, and it felt so real, feels so real! It felt so good! I never wanted it to end.

I wanted to believe it to be real, but how could it be? Everything happened so quickly and so uncontrollably. Such things can't last. They are like a shooting star, hot and bright, and then...gone.

It's gonna fade away like an old summer memory or, worse, it will never die and sit in my heart like a rock in my shoe. It will slowly drive me mad.

Love is a doubled-edged sword, I guess. The pleasure and the pain, you can't have one without the other. I was better off fucking around and not giving a ripe royal shit. Someone to fill my hole and someone's hole for me to fill. A hot body to dance with in a hotter club after a long day. That's all I ever needed. I didn't need this fucking shit! I was having fun! What more can a gay boy hope for anyway? Relationships are stupid dreams for those guys deluded into thinking they can ever be considered 'normal' in the eyes of the world. What's in a real relationship for anyone anyway?

I don't need it! What was I thinking?

What freaking mind control voodoo bullshit did Snowflake work on me with those...crystal eyes of his. Oh my...

How I'll miss those eyes!

There I go again, making my pillow wet. I've devolved into a pussy. If I'd been smart, I'd have let Sabrina just die. Snowflake would grieve, but he'd not have the pull to go back to her because she'd be gone. Plus, I'd be there to comfort him in his time of need!

Oh yeah, this is great. Now I'm Dr. Death. No more Wild Turkey before bed. That stuff just hits all my wrong buttons, man.

If Sabrina had died, Snowflake probably would have run back to Finland to disappear forever. He'd be done with this place and would go back to people he could understand. Hell, he'd probably be convinced to marry some Finnish girl and have all these little snow-white kids who would go running around on skis all day.

Somehow, I think that he misses a bet that he doesn't do just that. It sounds like a better life than this one. Being gay can be...so empty. It can seem so futureless and hopeless.

Ah, but he's not straight, and he is what he is, just like I am what I am. This is how we live and wives and children in that sense of a family just doesn't compute with people like us. Sure I grew up in a family like that, and I presume Snowflake did as well, but I knew I'd never have one of my own. It just didn't make sense. It obviously didn't make sense to Snowflake either. He married a sport and got as far away as fucking possible from his family. Standard operating procedure for most gay guys from my experience.

Who am I kidding? Are we or aren't we in this relationship for some kind of reason?

I've just thrown the covers over my head. I feel goofy doing that, like I've just regressed to being four years old again. Four years old and afraid of losing everything with mom and dad yelling at each other all night long. I can't take much more of this. This isn't right, just like the fights mom and dad had weren't right. They should have fucking stayed together and so should Snowflake and I, dammit!

Snowflake is mine!

I will not give him up, and I will not let him go without a fight! I can feel that if he leaves then something in me will die forever. Something precious will be lost. A little bit of what makes me alive will go dead inside and life will become a series of mindless nerve impulses not unlike an earthworm squirming on the pavement in the sun.

So here I am, throwing my covers the hell off my head and into the far corner of the room. Something knocks over and thumps hard on the floor. Probably the bottle of Wild Turkey I brought up with me from the bar.

I've only got a week left before I have to go back to the city. Without Snowflake with me, I probably won't go back. Neurology will be meaningless if I don't have the heart in me anymore to study and practice. That wouldn't be fair to the sick kids I hope to help.

Fuck! Snowflake has fucking stolen my god damned heart from me! Now he's out there on that couch SITTING on it! Fuck him! I'm done with this moping bullshit. I swear to almighty God!

Boy, I feel the old dynamo in there starting to sizzle. If I was a dragon, I'd think I was ready to spout fire. The Irish parts of me are starting to pump big time. I have to try to control this temper, or I could make this worse. It's hard though. Time is short, and the need is great.

It's decision making time, Snowplow. I don't have a lot of time, and I don't want to leave here without you! I can't.

I open the door to the living room. The lights are all out. The only light filtering through the room comes from the window blinds. A pale blue light that is coming from the parking lights nearby. It barely defines the motionless lump that rests on the sofa.

Or....what I at first think is motionless. As I quietly move closer to the couch, I see the covers there shudder and then I hear it...snuffles. Weeping.

My heart simultaneously drops into my stomach and goes into my throat. I feel a cold chill spread through my veins as I hear the choke of a stifled cry.

Snowflake is crying...and I can't stand it.

Before he can jump up and move away, I've quietly sat down by his feet and have covered myself over him like warm melted cheese. He freezes.

"Wha-what are you doing?" I hear the creak of Snowflake's hoarse voice.

"What do you think, Snowballs?" My words are mocking, but my tone is unconsciously tender and strained with my own tears.

"...I don't know what I am doing anymore." It's more of a moan than a voice that comes from Snowflake's throat. The absolute distillation of his own private hell.

"Who cares?" I say, and my hands find the covers and pull them off from his head. He's sort of a cross between being on his stomach and on his right side. His head is buried in the couch cushions.

"I do not think we should do this anymore. Sabrina will die." Snowflake groans in an emotionless tone that is far from emotionless.

"If we don't do this we will die, Jösse," I state plainly. I feel him tense beneath me, but he makes no attempt to throw me off, though he could easily do so.

"You...are mine. I am yours. This is law." I surprise myself at how deep and penetrating my voice gets as I say these words. They are like words that form realities. God-Words.

The effect is complete quiet and though I am strangely assured that my words are absolute truth, I still fear that the glacier will form again over my Snowflake's heart, and he will once again become frozen. Frozen so deep that my passion can never thaw him again.

Instead he pivots beneath me and the rays of his grey eyes pierce mine. I lay frozen on top of my ice prince, hypnotized once again by his rapturous gaze. I can barely breathe as the rising flood from my loving heart overtakes my body. Within seconds his heart and mine are one again, beating with the same rhythm.

"You belong to me...and only me," I say into Snowflake's mouth, and my lips close on his. He accepts me passively at first, but then his tongue forces itself into my mouth and our positions are reversed.

"And you belong to me, minun kaunis Brian." I taste the tears of his pain on my tongue as we kiss. With him on top, gravity has its way with those tears. But they are already tears from the past.

Things slide and things move and in night's good time our couch is christened. Snowflake and I resolve after days of dissolution. Simple touch is all that is needed to restore us.

Later, I find myself in the king sized bed with Snowflake spooned up naked behind me. His arms embrace me lightly, and I find I have little interest in moving away. His sweet breath blows gently against the back of my neck and into my ear. I can't help but shudder with absolute delight.

I cannot figure that Snowflake and Sabrina ever experienced this level of contentment. Perhaps I presume too much, but I have a feeling I'm right. He was crying and sad before, unable to sleep, and so was I. Now, in each other's arms, we sleep like children after a long day at Disneyland.

Only love can bring such peace in the midst of such distress.

After our sleeping together this way, I awaken to the smell of pancakes and to the clinking and clanking of pots and pans in the kitchenette of our suite.

I sit up and rub the sleep from my eyes and allow things to come back into focus. The drapes are still closed and the cool pale morning stays outside for now. My tummy growls as the sweet pancake smell permeates the room. It doesn't occur to me to ask where Snowflake got ingredients for our breakfast or, even, how he ever learned to cook! It's funny, despite the intimacy of our relationship, I never figured to ask him if he knew how to cook or not.

I chuckle inwardly at the thought that I am glad one of us knows how to cook. I haven't a clue, personally. I'd starve if it wasn't for Carl's Jr. With Snowflake it looks like we'll always have something decent to eat if nothing else...for as long as we both shall live.

It's then that I realize that this simple little act of domesticity on Snowflake's part is what 'home' is all about. The simple loving act of making someone breakfast and waking them up with the smell of it. It's home. It's mom in the kitchen and dad in front of the TV on Sunday morning. It's us kids playing with the PlayStation in the game room or outside when mom has had it with our lazy lounging. It's graham crackers and milk. It's pancakes and coffee.

Snowflake...is 'home' to me. I was home! After all this time and all this wandering...I'd finally found my home again!

One thing that never happened at home, mom never cooked pancakes in the kitchen stark raving naked. Holy fuck, I hope he doesn't burn himself! I'm glad he's not attempting bacon like that!

Suddenly I have two appetites vying for dominance. My growling tummy and my suddenly throbbing hard-on. Snowflake's satin, pale, pink-white skin is touched with just a small blush all over from the warmth in the kitchen. His bare feet pad softly back and forth on the fine tile floor as he moves from one mysterious chore to the next in his culinary alchemy. He moves with such grace and dignity. It's almost a shame that society wants to clothe something so awesome.

It's almost like having Michelangelo's David walking to and fro in your kitchen making spaghetti. It's such a mix of the absurdly divine and the absolutely mundane. But of course, Michelangelo probably never considered painting living colors onto his masterpiece. Only the gods would have such ingenuity.

"Hey..." I croak, running my hand through the bush growing on the top of my head.

Snowflake turns and faces me with a surprised look and then a smile. I am fixing to melt all of a sudden.

"A-ha! So the sleeper has awakened!" Snowflake pronounces portentously. Someone has been reading Dune I see.

"Er...as has someone else!" Snowflake giggles as he looks down at my stiffened rod. Men are not built for subtlety, I'm afraid. I blush a little, despite myself.

"He must have seen something he liked," I reply rather bashfully. It is so weird that I have this nervous feeling as he stands there appreciating me with his eyes. I feel butterflies in my stomach, and I feel the prickle of my capillaries dilate all over my horny self.

Snowflake gently puts his bowl down and the pale pink blush on him from before brightens to a rosier color, and his big beautiful pupils expand slightly in desire. His own sex rises as we cross the space between us with the speed of polarized magnets. Before either of us know it...the kitchen counter has been christened along with the couch in the living room and the pancakes need a little reheating.

After a bit of cleaning up, we both put on robes and sit down to a very interesting and delicious breakfast the likes of which I've never had. Not authentically, anyway. IHOP doesn't hold a candle to the International House of Snowflake.

He has made crepes so thin that they virtually disappear in my mouth. They are flavored with an assortment of flavors I've never had in pancakes and yet, I may never be able to eat another pancake again unless it's this kind. A spice is used but it's not cinnamon and I can't place it. It's delicious though!

Along with the crepes, he's made 'lingonberry dressing' as he calls it. With the shameful amount of butter he's doused everything in, the lingonberries just cut through the richness with a delightful tart 'berriness'. Growing up with Aunt Jemima's fake maple syrup on everything 'pancakey', this was a pleasant change!

The dollop of sour cream was a bit much for me, though. Snowflake said he didn't know if it was 'traditional' or not, but it was the only Russian thing he liked, sour cream on pancakes.

I was pleased that this was the first real meal he and I have shared in days. A meal he made for me...at 'home'.

Snowflake
~~~~~~~~

"You...are mine. I am yours. This is law."

With these words, we are now wed, Brian and I.

Though he and I may never have the ceremony or the rings or the Wedding Waltz, we are now one.

Somehow these words make me dispel the power Sabrina has had over me these past few days. I love her dearly, but now, even her death cannot determine my destiny with Brian. Perhaps she did not mean to manipulate the situation by her overdose, but it was a powerful setback for me in the extreme.

These past few days have been like lying upon a bed of knives. If I go with Brian, will Sabrina try again to kill herself? If I do not go with Brian, will he lose all patience with me and run off back to his carefree life in San Francisco, leaving me behind? Neither prospect sounds good. Both sound like in the end, Snowflake loses everything. Better that I return to Finland and try to pretend like this phase in my life was just a raw experiment in foolishness. Something my father can gloat over as justification for his anger and disappointment in his fair son.

But with the words spoken: "You belong to me...and only me…", I almost feel like I don't have to make a decision between such evils. I can let go and let Brian's greater wisdom prevail. He sees clearly what he wants and can even see clearer than I can what I want also.

I want Brian to be my family! I am done with those that would use me for their own betterment. Brian doesn't seem to want that despite the fact that he came to me originally to learn championship cross-country skiing. When we fell in love...all he seemed to want was me.

I am amazed that such a feeling could exist in the world. Why would anyone just want to have one person because they loved them? Where is the personal gain in wealth? Where is the prestige of having relations with an Olympic athlete?

Yet, this talk still does not settle with Sabrina's feelings. She didn't know or care what I was a champion of. She also loved me for me just as Brian does. I suppose I will never be able to settle the ache in my heart for her. I love her too, in a way, but not in the same way I love Brian.

How unfair love is that it should cause you to love two people, but only be able to choose one with whom to share the rest of your days. How unfair to Sabrina that I should find my heart placed in another's hands after she had treated it with such tenderness. Ah, she taught me how to be human! She taught me it was all right to have feelings. She taught me how to love. I was her student, and she was my trainer in this most important skill.

So, much like the trainer, she must now leave me to go my own way, using my skills to win the race and better my life.

Alas, will she find love again? I pray so. I pray so hard she does. She is more than deserving of the greatest lover ever born. There must be someone else waiting in the wings. Someone for whom she was born and who was born for her. Perhaps the most unlikely of people or perhaps the most obvious choice.

But...this choice cannot be me. I am spoken for. I am Brian's. This is law. I obey.

We made such beautiful love last night, but I felt the need to do something a little extra special and different this morning. I was fortunate enough to bring along my pancake mix. It is my grandmama's recipe. In the Finnish we call griddled pancakes lattyja.

Anyone who would look in my gear would think me quite eccentric for the things I find important to bring with me. This plastic bag of my favourite pancake mix flour mixture is a hidden treasure above all my other strange assortment of things. It's even weirder than my horse hoof cleaning tool that I use to scrape slush out of my snowshoes with.

One time I was stopped with the pancake mix at an airport. They were sure it was cocaine or methamphetamine. When the guard tasted it he got this pleasant expression that then melted into this very queer look, wondering what a 22 year old man was doing with a bag full of pancake mix among his personal effects.

There are many stories attributed to this stuff. It is only fitting I take some of my precious ration and prepare it for Brian. He probably will never have tasted anything like them.

These pancakes are a taste from my home. They are my family flavour. To make them is to bring back grandmama from the spirit world to join me in the kitchen once again. I even hear her little voice in my head gently telling me what to do. It brings such peace.

Yes, it is only fitting that I make these for Brian...because he is my family now.

The secret is cardamom. A funny spice. It smells and tastes almost like medicine, but it imparts an essence to things that just brings out all the other sweet flavours. If ever you want a nice flavouring for cookies, you should mix cardamom with cinnamon. This was the smell of Christmas in my home! Almost everything sweet was flavoured with these two sweet spices. No one knows why my grandmama used this spice so much. She said it was an 'old time way' from another place. This was always very mysterious to me, which made it taste even better! It was like a magic secret! Something made only by elves and passed on especially to the Hallas.

I never mix the cardamom in until just before I pour the pancake batter into the pan. That way it makes swirls in the pancakes sort of like cinnamon does. I sometimes add nuts too, if I have them. That is a good protein boost for something that is essentially empty carbs that serve as vehicles for sugar and butter. Hehehehe!

The lingonberry dressing that I put with it was actually something I picked up in America at IKEA of all places. They serve it as a relish with all manner of things. Even meatballs! I bought a pot of it and put it with my pancakes. As I suspected, a match made in Heaven! My grandmama would put cloudberry preserves on them, but only she could make that correctly. I have never been able to buy cloudberry preserves that taste like hers. This is a magic she took with her to Heaven so the angels could eat better. But, the lingonberry dressing does serve as an adequate substitute. It is perfect for rich buttery pancakes with sour cream...a shamefully Russian thing that is a guilty pleasure of mine!

Oddly enough, I did have a Russian friend once. He and I actually 'experimented' a bit when we were teens training together for a cross-country ski meet. His name was Ivo. He had beautiful gold blonde hair and the brightest blue eyes that looked like blue ice. They were rimmed with natural eyeliner enhanced by naturally dark, long eyelashes. He also had amazingly high cheekbones touched with blush and red lips that made you think he was wearing lipstick even though he was not. Just like me, he was often accused of being a girl because he was so pretty. I think that is what drew us together. Our mutual experience at being outcasts because of our looks and, also, in truth, because of our sexuality.

He was gay and not very good at hiding it. This was a problem for him, because Russians are virulently homophobic in sports. Outside of sports, in some places, Russians are as progressive as Amsterdam, but mostly Russian culture abhors homosexuality. Even under communism, it was considered counter-revolutionary to be homosexual and gay men were made to disappear suddenly in the night never to be heard from again.

Despite this, Ivo and I shared our bodies with each other and taught each other lovemaking between two boys. Ivo hazarded much to go and do things with me. I did not have near the problems awaiting me as he did should the word have ever gotten out as to what we were up to in the back sauna. For all either of us knew, someone might have tried to kill Ivo for his 'transgressions'.

Interestingly, one of the things he taught me about was 'blintzes'. I recognised them as the lattyja we would have before church on Sunday mornings. We never put sour cream with them though. That was just weird to us. But, Ivo's grandmama would make them with sweetened sour cream and fruit. Ivo made them for me this way, and it was so good I got hooked. So I eat them this way to this day. I do it not only because it is delicious, but because it is a memory of Ivo. I never saw Ivo again after that time we spent at those meets. I always hoped that he was able to leave Russia and move to Amsterdam or Copenhagen where gays are treated respectfully, but it may not have been the case.

Being that I've never competed with Ivo in any races means that he did not make the cut in any championship Russian winter sports team. This would be strange, because he was the fastest cross-country skier I've ever met other than myself and now, interestingly, Brian. He could have won his motherland many medals. They may have found out about Ivo. I pray that he survived that.

Such sadness to know that something as simple as someone's sexuality can make others make such savage determinations. Just because he was gay, Ivo was in danger of not only losing his dreams, but losing his life as well. If we are as evil as the Bible suggests, then why do we receive more hurt than we give? It is an interesting question.

Know them by their fruits, eh?

Me, I am rather young to have so many tales to tell over just a simple plate of pancakes. It adds something savoury to them, I suppose. In any case, I am happy that I can add some extra sweetness to them again by introducing my sweet Brian to lattyja.

I was interrupted in my preparations, however, when Brian awakened and came before me in the kitchen bare and fully 'extended' as it were. We are so much in love that the mere sight of my beautiful god of a boyfriend ready to go switches my sex drive on like a light switch.

We had a bit of a wild time of it in the kitchen. I kept having to steer my passionate lover away from burning hot things or razor sharp other things. I had to pick him up as he wrapped his legs around me. The countertop was the safest place for him, so I set him down there.

After our passionate session, I had to clean up a bit for sanitation's sake. Brian helped as he could, but he was quite breathless from our efforts. He likes to put on this macho air at times. It is cute to me because of the irony of it. Brian reminds me of a peacock strutting his stuff, while at the same time looking like the most beautiful and gayest thing imaginable. He thinks he is being so macho, while his sweet nature belies that very machoness. Brian cannot hide the tender soul that lives within. I find that is what I have come to love most about my American beauty. He is far more fragile than he lets show, and his fragility shows itself when he is pushing himself 110% to give someone the best sexual experience they have ever had. Satisfying that hunger has its costs at times...particularly with an insatiable appetite such as mine. I will have to be more gentle with my Brian. He will work himself to death if I let him.

He seemed to like his breakfast well enough. He devoured it faster than an Arctic bear does honey cakes. I could not help but chuckle at his esteem of my cooking. It was so heartfelt and honest. It also warmed me inside to the point where any ice that may have lingered there was now gone. It seems as if spring has finally sprung in my little heart. Maybe winter is over for a while.

Thereafter we dressed and went to the car and took our short morning drive to the hospital. The Stanford University Medical Center is a very nice one as hospitals go. Despite its appointments, the whole idea of the place weighed on me. It was so antiseptic and lonely. Hospitals are cold places. Even with the nicest nurses and most attentive doctors on earth, a hospital is not a place to stay for long. I pity the poor ones that must frequent them or actually reside in them.

I fought the distaste I had at the smell of antiseptic cleansers mixed with the smells of illness and fear. I need to block such things out. I am too wedded to wild places with fresh air and green growing things. Hospitals are the opposite of green growing places. You don't want things growing in a hospital. More often than not, that which grows is deadly. I try not to breathe too much. I suppose I am something of a germaphobe, as Brian calls me.

After a brief trip in an overly large elevator, Brian and I arrived at the more 'advanced' suites of the top floor of the hospital. This was a place for those with the money or the prestige to be accommodated there. Almost every American hospital has them, even though most patients and families know little of them. At least this is what Brian tells me. I know very little about American medical practices, and I’d rather keep it that way.

Sabrina rested in one of these grand rooms carpeted with germ resistant carpeting and panelled with fake sterile wood emulating panels. She lay upon a large self-heating bed made of hospital grade memory foam. It had a wireless remote control device to change the bed's shape and temperature for her comfort and to control the 50" LCD TV that played silently on mute across from her on the wall.

She was in the middle of a quiet and soft discussion with another guest in the room who sat next to her holding her hand in a most comforting way. It was Albert, the bartender. He looked as if he'd been there with Sabrina all night. He sat on a nicely upholstered wing chair next to Sabrina's bed. Behind him was the unmade remnants of a sleeping nest built upon an expandable couch of some kind. Indeed, Albert had spent the night up here with her...never leaving her side.

Sabrina saw us enter and smiled wanly, but sweetly. She didn't have her makeup on and yet she did not look in any way masculine. She looked like a lovely woman with no makeup on. She wasn't even masculine enough to pass for a young twink as Brian calls the younger adult members of the gay community.

Her hand never left Albert's, and Albert only spared us a glance and a grin and then returned to his gazing at Sabrina. I felt awkward, like I was intruding on something. I also felt...somewhat jealous for some reason I could not place.

"Hello, Blanco. Hello, Brian!" Sabrina said with quiet enthusiasm, somewhat more for Brian than for me. Again, a slight pang of jealousy...even at Brian's expense!

"Hey Sabrina! Got some fresh ones," Brian said and then turned to the task of taking some old flowers from yesterday away and refreshing them with new ones for today. Irises: Sabrina's favourite flower.

"Thank you, Brian. You are way too good to me...especially after all the stupid trouble I put you through." Sabrina looked down at Albert's hand sadly. Albert squeezed her hand softly and encouragingly.

"Oh fuck that horseshit! You needed savin'. I'm just glad I could oblige!" Brian blustered with a blast of Texas bravado. I fell in love with him all over again!

Sabrina giggled...something I was so glad to see. It lifted many curses.

"Well, you saved my life, Cowboy. You are a rootin' tootin' bonafide hero to me!" Sabrina had regained her humour and her charm. By the grin on Albert's face, I could well guess the author of this change in fair Sabrina.

Out of curiosity I had to ask: "Albert. You returned so quickly from Tahoe. Were you able to find any evidence of who sold Sabrina the bad drugs?" I suppose I am insensitive to things. My blurting of this question caused Sabrina's rising spirits to wilt a bit. I am such a fool. How I hate myself at times.

But Albert took it in stride and did not seem to notice the pall that I had caused to descend upon the room.

"Oh yeah. Didn't take but half a day's sleuthing to find out the culprit. He walked right into my bar not too long after Sabrina was taken to Barton. He had the audacity to ask if I wanted to be part of a find," Albert recounted.

"I, of course, played dumb and asked 'what find?' The stupid kid spilled his guts right there about his connection to an Oakland based heroin ring that was out to take up the slack of some Mexican drug runners who had been caught and put in jail. They had worked the Tahoe area and had for a long time," Albert continued.

"He wanted to know if I wanted in on the deal, seeing as many of the bartenders in and around Reno and Tahoe also supplied drugs during private parties. Naturally I said 'sure', and he led me to his connection back in Oakland. Before long, I'd gotten the state troopers involved, and the DEA, and they arrested those two and their handlers in Oakland. Not bad for a half-day's work." Albert beamed with justifiable pride. I had no idea how good he had been at his previous job.

"I don't imagine the Mexican cartel bankrolling the Tahoe heroin operation will take kindly to these thugs horning in on their territory. I hope they keep those guys out of gen pop, or they are not going to last long in one piece." Albert looked more concerned than gloating as he said this. A true cop's attitude. He didn't figure anyone should die for drugs...not even the dealers.

"It's bad luck for Sabrina that they didn't know how to handle their stash. They were passing it pure and uncut. A big no-no in the drug pusher business. Mostly because you want the white gold to stretch and get as much money out of it per kilo as you can. You also don't want your customers dying on you...it's very bad for business and causes the police to take an added interest they don't normally have for drug offences. Sabrina was an unwitting victim in this general stupidity," Albert explained.

"This thing told me how stupid I was, too. It also told me something else...it told me that I don't want to die. I want to live, and live I will," Sabrina said with a bit of a tear in her eye.

"That you will, Buttercup. That you will!" Albert said and planted a kiss on her hand. Sabrina smiled and got starry eyed for a moment and then blushed.

Then I saw it. That look. Who would have thought it? It was so plain, and yet my own prejudice against older men was such that I never even thought it possible. More shame upon me then.

Albert and Sabrina...had fallen in love.

What I'd hoped for was happening right before my eyes. Sabrina had found her home too...in the most unlikely of places.

I looked at them both and felt my smile nearly crack my face. I could not be jealous. It is sin to be jealous of true love.

Together they looked back at me with such happiness and joy at my realisation.

"I'm glad you're not mad, Blanco. It just kind of...clicked. He was here when I woke up, and I saw it for the first time. I've been so blind." Sabrina looked back at Albert, and he looked back at her with adoration. They leaned in and kissed each other delicately on the lips.

I felt a hand grasp mine and felt the warmth of my own home standing next to me. His sapphire eyes looked deep into mine, and he smiled a knowing smile. He knew? Somehow Brian had known.

He quieted my oncoming questions with a tender kiss of his own and then no more words needed to be said. Things had fallen into symmetry. The four of us had found what we had needed and all the guilt and fear and sadness were suddenly erased.

Stanford had healed us. Life could start anew.