A Sanitaria Springs Story

Part 1: Passport to Adventure

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“Thanks again for coming in today, Kale,” said Jeff as they wrapped up their photo shoot.

“Anytime, Jeff,” said Kale as he slipped his t-shirt back on.

Kale first met Jeff Miller when Jeff shot him for a Ralph Lauren ad. Since then Jeff had become a mentor for the young photographer. He’d taken Kale under his wing and guided his work, brought him along on shoots when he was able, and recently shot Kale for a fine art piece he was working on. In fact, that’s what they were working on that day. Jeff had found a small scratch on the lens he’d used after the initial shoot; he couldn’t remove it in post-production and had asked Kale back to the studio for a reshoot.

“You must have finals coming up, I hope I didn’t drag you away from studying,” said Jeff as he broke down his camera.

“Nah, it’s gap week, no classes,” Kale explained. “Finals are next week and then Chase and I are taking Linc home to Sanitaria Springs for the summer.”

“That is one cute kid you’ve got there.” Jeff smiled. Not long ago he’d shot a portrait for Kale and his family, needless to say Linc stole the show.

“Yeah, he’s a handful but Chase and I are having a lot of fun with him.”

“What are you guys going to do this summer?”

“Probably working at the country club,” said Kale. “We’ve been lifeguards there the past few summers.”

“Do you think you might be ready for your first professional assignment?”

“I, well, I don’t know,” said Kale, taken aback. He was still doing general education work in school; he hadn’t taken a single class in his major coursework yet. “You tell me.”

“I’ve told you before, a degree is important and you’ll learn a lot but you either have an eye for photography or you don’t, no amount of education can change that. You’re a hell of an instinctual shooter, Kale. You have an eye and I think you’re ready,” said Jeff.

“What’s the piece?” asked Kale curiously.

“Do you ever read Sidetracked?”

“Can’t say I’ve heard of it, what is it?”

“It’s an adventure travel magazine,” said Jeff. “They’ve hired my company to shoot an event but frankly the trip involved, it’s a young man’s job.”

“So I’d be working for you?”

“That’s right, you’d be the one out in the field, you’d send your daily take back to the office via email and we’d handle all the post work,” said Jeff.

“Ok, you’ve piqued my interest, what’s the event?”

“Let’s go into my office and talk about it,” said Jeff.

Kale helped Jeff break down the rest of his equipment and then followed him back into his office. He loved Jeff’s office; the walls were covered in various prints he’d shot over the years and Jeff had done some truly spectacular work in his day. Jeff offered him a seat and as Kale made himself comfortable Jeff pulled up some information on his computer.

“So the event is called the Rickshaw Run,” Jeff began. “Basically it’s a 2,500 mile trip across India in a 7 horsepower, three wheeled kart, spread over three weeks.”

“Why would anyone want to do that?” asked Kale, he knew enough about India to know it was hotter than hell there not to mention the roads were terrible. Driving nearly 3,000 miles in those conditions in a kart without air conditioning sounded like suicide.

“It’s an adventure, man and machine against the elements,” said Jeff. “It’s become popular with adventurous college kids but really people from all walks of life participate. They put teams together and raise money for charity, that sort of thing.”

“So you want me to go to India and take pictures of people being miserable for three weeks?”

“All you have to do is shoot along the route, princess,” Jeff teased. “You’ll ride along in a support van, stay in hotels, you’ll have a much easier time than the participants.”

“Still, three weeks in India…”

“Ok, how about this, it probably pays more than you’d make working all summer at the country club.”

“Yeah, that’s something to consider,” Kale admitted. “Can I talk to Chase and get back to you? When would I have to go?”

“Sure, talk to the hubby and see what he thinks. I don’t need an answer until next week but I can’t give you much more time than that. You’d need to be ready to go in three weeks.”

“Alright, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can,” said Kale.

The two men shook hands and then Jeff drove Kale to the train station. He boarded the train at 3pm and would get back to Ithaca in time for dinner. As soon as the train pulled out of the station, Kale sent Chase a text letting him know he was on his way home. A few minutes later he got a return text that read, “Hurry up, Daddy, we miss you.” There was a picture attached of Chase and Linc snuggled up on the couch.

They are so beautiful, thought Kale. Chase was the love of his life, of that he’d never had any doubt. He’d dreamed of marrying Chase for years, he just never expected it would be during their freshman year of college. Linc had come along and changed all of their plans but both Kale and Chase agreed it was for the better. They were happy in their married life, happy in their family life but as Kale sped northwest he started to realize that his childhood was well and truly at an end.

He was 18 years old, in a few weeks he’d turn 19 but unlike his classmates who spent their nights and weekends drinking and partying, he had a family to take care off. While everyone else was out in search of the next good time, he was picking up toys or making peanut butter sandwiches with the crusts cut off for Linc. Kale wouldn’t change anything about his life, he thought that it was perfect, but at the same time he started to think the boy inside him was dying. It made sense, in order to grow up you had to change but there was no reason the boy couldn’t go out in style.

Sitting in Jeff’s comfortable office in New York City Kale had questioned what kind of idiot would undertake this Rickshaw Run. As the train barreled northwest he started to think that maybe he was that kind of idiot and that he might know three other idiots who would enjoy the ride. He started doing research on his phone and by the time he arrived in Ithaca a plan had begun to take shape.

“Daddy,” Linc squealed in delight when Kale walked in the door.

“Hey there little man,” said Kale as he scooped Linc up in his arms and hugged him. “Miss me?”

“Yeah, daddy,” said Linc. He grabbed Kale’s face in both of his little hands, as he’d seen Chase do, and planted a kiss on his daddy’s cheek.

“Good, cause I sure missed you,” said Kale.

“Hi Honey,” said Chase, coming out of the kitchen.

“Hey,” said Kale. He put Linc down and wrapped his arms around his husband. They shared a quick peck on the lips but Kale held tight and pulled Chase back for a deeper embrace.

“Hmpf,” Linc pouted and crossed his arms over his chest.

“What’s your problem?” Kale giggled.

“My daddy,” said Linc, authoritatively.

“My husband,” Chase retorted.

“Hmpf,” Linc reiterated.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said Chase, “Why don’t you go get washed up for dinner?”

“Ok, papa,” said Linc as he ran off towards the bathroom.

“He keeps being so possessive of you and I’m going to have to show him whose boss,” said Chase.

“He does the same thing when you’ve been away,” Kale reminded him.

“Yeah, but he needs to learn about sharing.”

“Yes, papa,” Kale teased.

Chase smiled and kissed him on the nose.

“So how was the trip?” asked Chase as he headed back to the kitchen. Kale followed a few steps behind.

“Oh, fine, you know Jeff. He got a scratch on his lens and couldn’t fix it in post so we had to reshoot.”

“Yeah, like you’re any less of a perfectionist.” Chase snorted.

“Hey, I…yeah, well, ok, you got me on that one,” Kale admitted. “Do we have any plans this weekend?”

“Just studying.”

“Are you ready for finals?”

“Yeah, did you have something in mind that you wanted to do?”

“I was thinking we could drive up to Albany and see Alec and Sasha.”

~RR~

It was hard for Kale to keep the Rickshaw Run to himself for the next couple of days, usually he told Chase everything. At the same time, he liked to surprise Chase and he thought this one would be fun to share with their best friends. Alec and Sasha would be married…eventually, they would graduate in a year and after Alec’s stabbing, they too had been forced to grow up pretty quickly. There was no one closer to Kale and Chase then Alec and Sasha and Kale wanted this to be his gift to all of them, one last great adventure before they got bogged down by the daily grind.

The guys got up early on Saturday morning, got dressed and had coffee while Linc watched his cartoons. Mrs. Goblicheck arrived after breakfast and after hugging and kissing Linc goodbye several times they finally hit the road. They usually took Linc everywhere they went but they were only driving up to Albany for the day and figured he’d be happier playing with Mrs. Goblicheck then being stuck in the car. Their parents had also advised them on the importance of taking time for themselves so Linc could learn a little independence. Kale’s mom assured him that would make things easier when Linc started school in the fall.

“Leafy, my man,” Alec greeted them exuberantly when he opened the door.

“Hey buddy,” said Kale, giving him a warm hug before moving on to Sasha.

They traded hugs all around and Sasha led them into the tiny living room section of their dorm. Before Alec could sit down, Kale grabbed the hem of Alec’s t-shirt and pulled it up, exposing his lean abdomen.

“Oh, someone’s feeling frisky,” Alec snorted.

“No, dumbass,” Kale rolled his eyes and gave his best friend a little kiss on the cheek. “Someone is feeling love for you and wants to check your scar to make sure it’s healing ok.”

“Awww, Leafy.” Alec blushed.

“Best to just let him have a look,” said Chase.

“He is the expert,” Sasha agreed.

“Fair enough,” said Alec as he took his t-shirt off. “Get a good look.”

“Thank you,” said Kale as he leaned in to examine the scar. He ran his fingers over the jagged line of pink flesh where the knife had torn Alec open, nearly killing him. “Been putting vitamin E on it like I told you?”

“Yes mom,” said Alec.

“Good, it’s working, keep it up,” said Kale, as he gave Alec another hug.

“Are you sure you’re not feeling frisky? You’re being awfully affectionate,” said Alec.

“Don’t be an ass, Love,” said Sasha. “We almost lost you, you know?”

“Yeah, ass,” Kale snickered.

“Hey, I get it, and I appreciate the love but I was just thinking; it’s been awhile since we last got together, you don’t have the kid with you…”

“Speaking of being frisky,” Sasha giggled. “Someone has been horny as a freshman in heat since he got out of the hospital.”

“I’ve got a new lease on life, Sash,” said Alec. “It comes with a renewed sense of vigor.”

“Whatever, you just want to get laid.” Sasha laughed.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” said Alec.

“What do you think, Kale,” asked Chase.

“I think you look as horny as he does,” Kale retorted as he nodded at Alec.

“Hey, I’m just agreeing with the man’s logic. It’s been awhile, Linc’s at home…”

“Sash, what are we going to do with these guys?” Kale grinned.

“Looks like we’re going to have to fuck them.” Sasha sighed and shot Kale a wink.

“Right on,” Alec exclaimed as he started untying the drawstring in his gym shorts and Chase took off his t-shirt just as excitedly.

“Maybe later,” said Kale. “I’ve got something I want to talk to all of you about.”

“Oh, ok,” said Chase. Kale noted he looked just as crestfallen as Alec.

“Ok, ok, we’ll fuck,” said Kale in exasperation. “God you two are spoiled.”

“Yay!” Chase clapped his hands excitedly.

“In a minute though, I really do have something to talk about,” said Kale.

“That’s ok, we can wait, right Chase?” said Alec, putting his arm around Chase’s shoulders.

“Yeap, sure can,” said Chase, giving Alec a playful peck on the cheek.

“What’s on your mind, Kale?” asked Sasha.

“Well, when I was in New York the other day Jeff, Jeff Miller, offered me a job, an assignment,” Kale began.

“Hey, you didn’t tell me,” Chase exclaimed.

“I know, I almost blurted it out a couple of times this week but well, I wanted to surprise the three of you with it.”

“Gee, thanks,” Alec teased.

“Have any of you heard of the Rickshaw Run?” asked Kale, refusing to take the bait Alec laid out for him.

“Isn’t that some kind of Chinese taxi?” asked Sasha.

“Well, originally yes,” said Kale. “Now days they’re these little motorized three wheel karts they use in India. The Rickshaw Run is kind of a race against the elements, as Jeff put it. It’s a three week trip across the wilds of northern India in one of these karts. It’s supposed to be popular with young people and Sidetracked Magazine hired Jeff’s company to shoot the run they’re doing in mid-June.”

“So you’d be in India for three weeks?” asked Chase.

“Not me, us, all of us,” said Kale, a grin spreading across his face.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, you want all of us to go to India and ride around in a kart for three weeks?” asked Alec. “Leafy, I’m impressed, that’s so un-Leafy.”

“What about Linc?” asked Chase.

“He could stay with our parents. We were planning to leave him with them on our honeymoon, this would just be a little earlier,” said Kale. He knew Linc might be a sticking point, he didn’t want to leave their son for that long either but he felt the call to adventure and knew he, they, had to do this.

“Yeah, I guess,” said Chase.

“Kale, that’s really a great idea but I don’t think Alec and I can afford it,” said Sasha.

“Yes you can, it’ll be my wedding gift to you guys,” said Kale.

“Kale, dude, I’m touched but…” Alec started, turning serious for once.

“Don’t say no,” said Kale. “This is a gift to me as much as it is to you. I love you guys, I think I need to do this and I think you guys have to come with me. This could be our last great adventure before we’re too old and responsible.”

“According to your mom you became old and responsible at age 6,” Alec teased. Sasha reached over and smacked his fiancé in the back of the head. “Ouch, hey…”

“Kale, why do you want to do this?” asked Sasha.

“Like I said, it’s our last chance for an adventure. You guys are going to get married soon, then graduate and get jobs. Chase and I are already married, we’ve got a family, if we don’t do this now then soon we’re all going to have careers, more children…”

“Honey, are you unhappy, feel like something’s missing from our lives?” asked Chase, concern on his face and perhaps a trace of fear at what the answer might be.

“No, God no! Chase, I love you, I love our son and I love our life but if we don’t do this now, we’ll never have the chance to do it again. Call it the last hurrah of our childhood.”

“Can you give us any more details?” asked Sasha.

“Sure, I’ve done a lot of research,” said Kale. He filled his friends in on everything he’d been able to read online over the last week. He even pulled out his tablet so he could show them pictures, itineraries and maps of the route. When he finished, his husband and their friends were all exchanging looks. “So, what do you guys think?”

“I’m in, I’d follow you anywhere,” said Chase, kissing him on the cheek.

“Guy’s?” asked Kale.

Alec and Sasha traded a look then Sasha took Alec’s hand and said, “Count us in too. We could use a little adventure.”

“Yes,” Kale exclaimed. “This is going to be great, I’ll email Jeff when we get home. I’ll arrange the whole thing.”

“Awesome, I can see it now, National Lampoon presents The Rickshaw Run, starring Kale Kirkwood as Clark Griswold, Chase Kirkwood as Ellen Griwwold and, hun, do you want to be Rusty or Audrey?” Alec grinned from ear to ear.

“Well, you look better in panties,” said Sasha.

“Sash, not in front of Kale and Chase,” said Alec, jumping out of his seat, scandalized.

“What, no way, you guys are messing with us,” said Kale.

“Duh,” Alec giggled. “I’d never wear panties.”

“Yeah,” said Chase, “His ass is too big.”

“Hey, I think we all know my ass it pretty sweet,” said Alec.

“He’s right babe,” Kale agreed. “His ass is pretty nice.”

“Thank you, now can we please have sex?” asked Alec in mock irritation.

“Fine,” said Kale as he surprised Alec by reaching out and yanking his gym shorts down. “Wow Alec, I’m impressed. You’re actually wearing your own underpants.”

The first time the four of them had become lovers, Alec had been wearing a pair of his little brother Lucien’s briefs because he’d forgotten to do laundry and didn’t have any underwear of his own. The guys had all commented on how good he looked in the much smaller underwear and the “problem” had happened a couple of other times leading Kale to believe Alec did it out of vanity.

“Yeah, I should never have given Lu his undies back. I looked good in them and he just burned them,” Alec grinned.

“Why did he do that?” asked Chase, taking off his shorts.

“Wait until you here this one.” Sasha shook his head as he and Kale stripped down to their underpants too.

“Ah, he was giving me shit about catching us in the basement that first time so I let it slip that I’d been wearing a pair of his Hanes that night. He thought I was joking and had a fit when I pulled them out of my drawer and tossed them in his face,” Alec snickered.

“Serves him right, Robin’s just as bad,” said Kale.

“Yeah, speaking of Robin,” Alec continued. “So an hour later I’m watching TV on the couch and I hear a horn honk. Lu comes running down the stairs and says to tell mom and dad he’s out with Robin. When I asked where they were going he said Robin was taking him to the mall, then he holds up a garbage bag and says “because I have to buy all new underwear after I burn these.”

“Why did he have to burn them all?” asked Chase when he stopped laughing.

“He said the thought of me in his underwear ruined briefs for him forever,” Alec chuckled.

“Awww, poor Robin,” said Chase. “I bet Lu looked cute in those.”

“Ewww,” Alec and Kale groaned collectively, the thought of their little brothers and what they did in their underpants making them squeamish.

Chase shot Sasha a wink and then the two of them selected their lovers for the afternoon. Kale and Sasha disappeared behind the couch while Chase ended up taking Alec on the coffee table.

~RR~

Jeff was ecstatic when Kale agreed to take the job and thrilled with his decision to forgo the comfort of the support van and enter a team himself. It’s how Jeff would have approached the shoot but felt it was a lot to ask of someone doing their first professional assignment. He was pleased to see Kale was willing to put his comfort aside for the good of the shoot, a real photographer always goes out of his way to get the money shot. More importantly Jeff’s client, Sidetracked Magazine, loved the idea and agreed to sponsor Kale’s team.

Kale’s excitement was palpable, he couldn’t believe he was about to embark on such an adventure. Alec called it correctly when he said the Rickshaw Run was such an un-Leafy thing to do and Kale was proud of himself for breaking out of his mold.

After taking their finals, Kale and Chase packed up everything they owned and moved their family back to Sanitaria Springs. They moved into the guest cottage over the Kirkwood’s garage and spent their time making it into a home for Linc before they set out on their trip. Linc would be staying in his daddy’s old bedroom while his parents were gone but the cottage would be the home they shared when daddy and papa got back and they wanted everything to be perfect.

The week before the trip was spent shopping, packing and repacking for the adventure that lay ahead. Kale and Chase examined their wardrobes and realized they didn’t really dress like adventure travelers. After a quick trip to the mall they were stocked up on cargo shorts and pants, t-shirts, hiking boots, jackets, the works. The tricky part was packing everything they would needed for three weeks keeping in mind the kart they’d be traveling in had such limited cargo space.

They ended up barrowing a suitcase from Kale’s parents and putting all of their clothes in it. They would check that bag in with the airline while filling Chase’s backpack with socks and underwear. Chase reasoned that if the airline lost their luggage they could get by wearing the same pants and shirts as long as they didn’t have to worry about “Crotch rot and swamp foot.” Kale bought a specialty backpack that held his prized Nikon d810, a back-up camera, an assortment of lenses and his laptop. Given the purpose of their trip Kale was reluctant to let the airline handle his equipment and opted to keep it close.

“Ok, camera’s, check, laptop, check, 50mm lens, check, 85 mm lens, check, 300mm lens, check, speed light, check, memory cards, check, external hard drive, check,” said Kale as he took inventory of his backpack the morning they were set to depart.

“…kitchen sink, check.” Chase smiled.

“I just don’t want to get there and realize I forgot something important.”

“Don’t worry, you won’t, just relax.”

“I’m relaxed but I’m excited too, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I admit, I thought you lost your mind when you first suggested this but now I’m psyched. It’s like you said, this is going to be a great adventure,” said Chase.

“Are you nervous?”

“A little,” Chase admitted. “This isn’t like anything we’ve ever done before but then I don’t think it would be as exciting if we weren’t a little nervous.”

“Yeah, you’re right about that,” Kale agreed as he zipped up his backpack, strapped his tripod to the side and slung it over his shoulders. “Ok, I think we’re ready.”

“You look so cute in your little adventure outfit.” Chase grinned.

“You know, the funny thing is I’d never be caught dead with this many pockets here at home.” Kale snickered.

“I don’t know, cargo pants make you look kind of rugged, it’s sexy.”

“Oh yeah, you like rugged? Should I grow a beard?”

“Ha, as if you could pretty boy,” Chase snorted.

“Oh no, no, you’re the pretty one, I’m the…mysterious one.”

“You wish! I solved your mystery in 9th grade.” Chase laughed.

Kale grabbed his husband’s hips and pulled him close. He wrapped his arms around Chase and kissed him passionately. “I love you, thank you for indulging me in this.”

“I love you too,” Chase kissed him back, “and thank you for sharing this experience with me.”

“Yeah,” Kale nodded. “We better get going.”

It was just after 6am and while Kale handled the luggage, Chase picked up the still sleeping Linc. The boys carried their bags and their son into the main house where they found Kale’s parents and his brother’s Robin, Jamie and Sean seated at the breakfast bar.

“What are you guys doing up so early?” asked Kale. His brothers were handsome guys but with so little sleep they looked like death warmed over. Their hair was sticking up at odd angles, they had dark bags under their eyes and if Kale didn’t know better he would have thought they were extra’s from the set of the Walking Dead.

“We wanted to see you off,” Robin yawned.

“Yeah, hurry up and leave so we can go back to sleep,” Jamie added.

“Love you too, bud.” Kale put his hand behind Jamie’s neck, pulled him close and kissed the top of his head.

“Gross,” Jamie snickered and pushed his brother away playfully.

“Do you boys have everything you need?” asked Mrs. Kirkwood.

“Oh God, don’t ask, Mom,” Chase snickered, Linc still sleeping in his arms. “He’ll run through his checklist again.”

“Hey, in case you forgot this is my job. I’m just being professional,” Kale defended.

“There’s a fine line between being professional and being anal, son,” said Judge Kirkwood.

“Yeah, save the anal for the bedroom, Kale,” Robin yawned then his eyes snapped open as he realized what he’d just said in front of his parents. “Er, I mean uh…”

“Oh please,” Mrs. Kirkwood rolled her eyes. “Like we don’t know what married people do.”

“You know Kale and Chase are…” Jamie started.

“Don’t go there,” Kale cut him off.

“I was just going to say, you know Kale and Chase are going to be late if they don’t get going,” said Jamie, winking at his almost twin. Sean coughed to cover his giggling.

“He’s right,” said Chase, checking his watch. “We better hit the road. We have to pick up Alec and Sasha in 15 minutes.”

“Let’s get going,” said Judge Kirkwood. “I parked the car out front this morning.”

Kale’s brothers helped with the luggage and his family followed them outside. Linc woke up when Uncle Robin slammed the trunk lid shit.

“Papa,” Linc yawned in Chase’s arms.

“Good morning kiddo.” Chase smiled.

“You going now?” asked Linc as he blinked the sleep from his eyes and realized he was outside. Kale and Chase had spent the last couple of weeks preparing Linc for this. He knew daddy and papa were going on a trip and he was going to be staying with grandma and grandpa.

“Yeah, we’ve gotta hit the road,” said Chase.

“No let Indians scalp you, papa,” said Linc.

“Uh, what?” asked Kale.

“No let Indians scalp you, daddy,” said Linc. “Indian’s scalp the cowboys.”

“Wrong Indians Linc, we’re talking dots, not feathers.” Robin giggled.

“Where did you pick that up, Linc?” asked Chase.

“I don’t know,” Linc shrugged his shoulders.

“Lone Ranger reruns,” Jamie yawned.

“Who let him watch that?” Kale scowled at his little brother.

“Don’t look at me man,” Jamie retorted.

“Um, I’ll just wait in the car,” said Judge Kirkwood.

“I should have known.” Kale rolled his eyes.

“Well, don’t worry, Linc,” Chase hugged his little boy tight. “No one’s going to get scalped.”

“Ok,” said Linc. He hugged back then held his arms out to Kale.

“Be a good boy for grandma and grandpa, ok?”

“I always good, daddy, always,” Linc yawned.

“I know, just be extra special good,” said Kale.

“Ok.”

“Bye buddy, we love you.” Kale hugged him one last time, kissed his cheek and then put Linc down.

Linc ambled over to Jamie and tugged on the hem of his gym shorts. “Up, Uncle Jamie.”

Jamie picked the little boy up while Mrs. Kirkwood admonished the boys to be safe on their trip and everyone exchanged hugs. After that Kale and Chase got in the car and Judge Kirkwood pulled out of the driveway.

“That disturbs me to no end,” said Kale, looking back at his family as they waved goodbye.

“What’s that, son?”

“My son’s hero is his Uncle Jamie.”

“Ha,” the Judge snorted. Chase just leaned forward and patted Kale on the back.

It was a short drive to the Kutsenko’s where the boys went through the same farewell ritual with Alec’s family. They loaded Alec and Sasha’s bags into the car and as they were about to take their seats, Chase took Lucien’s arm and pulled him close.

“What’s up?” asked Lucien.

“Kale and I got you something.” Chase winked and handed him a small gift bag.

“Correction, Chase got you something.” Kale shook his head and hopped in the shotgun seat.

“Do I want to know?” Lucien raised an eyebrow.

“Just open it,” said Chase, his eyes glittering with mischief.

Lucien pulled the tissue paper out of the bag and then removed the contents. “What the hell?” asked Lu as he held up a pair of black string bikini underwear with flames on them.

“I heard about your fire, thought you and Robin might have fun with those.” Chase laughed.

“Oh God.” Lu blushed.

“Hey, those are kind of hot,” Alec teased.

“Yeah, well, you can’t borrow them,” Lucien glared at his big brother.

“How do you know I didn’t help Chase pick them out? How do you know I didn’t model them?” Alec grinned wickedly.

“And on that note I’m going to go stab out my mind’s eye,” said Lucien. He hugged the guys one last time and then went into the house with his parents.

“What was that all about?” asked Judge Kirkwood.

“Trust me, you don’t want to know,” said Kale.

~RR~

“Leafy,” said Alec, poking Kale in the ribs. They were six hours into the first leg of their journey, New York to New Delhi, New Delhi to Mumbai, Mumbai to Kolkata and finally a three hour car ride to Shillong.

“Hmmm?” Kale groaned.

“Leafy.”

“Hmmmmmm?”

“Leafy.”

“What?” Kale exclaimed.

“Shhh, people are trying to sleep,” Alec whispered.

“No kidding,” Kale yawned. “What do you want?”

“I’m bored.”

“What do you want me to do about it?”

“Mile High Club?” Alec wiggled his eyebrows seductively.

“Jesus, Sasha’s right, you are horny as a freshman in heat.”

“I can’t help it, I’ve got needs.” Alec grinned.

“Well wake up your fiancé because me and you alone in the bathroom is against the rules,” Kale reminded him.

“What if me and you do it then Sasha and Chase then me and Chase and you and Sasha?” Alec reasoned.

“Gee Alec, I think some of the other passengers might want to use the bathroom, don’t you?” Kale rolled his eyes.

“It’s a long trip, we’ll space it out.”

“No.”

“Kale, come on,” Alec whined.

“No, I’m not waking up Chase and Sasha to ask them.”

“So if they were awake you’d consider it?” Kale made the mistake of pausing and not replying immediately. “Ah, I knew you’d think about it!”

“I didn’t say anything,” said Kale, struggling to keep the grin from his face. “But for the record, you’re incorrigible.”

“So, what are we going to do instead?”

“Sleep!”

“But I’m not tired.”

“Come here.” Kale sighed, put his arm around Alec’s shoulders and drew him close.

“What are you doing?” asked Alec when he found himself resting against Kale’s chest, Chase directly across from him, sleeping soundly with his cheek snuggled above Kale’s heart.

“You need to store sleep while you can, Alec. This trip is going to be exciting but exhausting. Rest now,” said Kale as he started to stroke Alec’s hair. It was the same thing he did with Linc when he was fussy.

“This is kind of nice,” said Alec.

“Mmhmm,” said Kale, closing his eyes and trying to rest himself.

~RR~

The boys arrived in Kolkata with their Mile High virginity still intact despite Alec’s whining. When they all woke for dinner somewhere over Eastern Europe Alec made the same suggestion he’d made to Kale; that they all take turns doing it until everyone had been with everyone else. Sasha was smart, rather than debate the issue with his fiancé he gave Alec a kiss then slapped him upside the head thus ending the discussion.

The airports in New Delhi and Mumbai were as modern as any other airport in the world; Kolkata, however, was somewhat more…rustic.

“Hey, check it out, they’ve got a Chili’s Express,” said Alec as the gang passed the restaurant on the way to baggage claim.

“Is that a goat?” asked Chase when he noticed an animal sitting at the feet of one of the restaurant’s patrons.

“We’re in a foreign country, sweetie, don’t be an Ugly American,” Kale teased his husband.

“I’m not judging. I was just looking for confirmation. It could be his seeing eye goat for all I know.” Chase grinned and Kale put his arm around his husband’s waist.

The baggage claim was a sea of people and the boys stood out in stark contrast to the locals. They spotted a couple other groups of young people dressed like themselves while they found their bags and figured they were adventurers too. While they waited for Sasha’s bag to make its way down the carrousel, Kale took off his backpack and whipped out his trusty Nikon. His eye immediately focused on three guys, who were obviously triplets, and he began shooting their interactions with the locals.

“Alright mate?” asked one of the boys when he noticed what Kale was doing.

“Yeah, sorry if I was bothering you,” Kale apologized. “Are you guys here for the Rickshaw Run?”

“That’s right,” said the boy.

“Great, so are we. I’m a photographer for Sidetracked Magazine. I’m supposed to be shooting western kids all along the route,” Kale explained. “I’m Kale; this is Chase, Alec and Sasha.”

“Oh, cheers mate,” the boy smiled. “I’m Jim; these are my brothers Liam and Marcus Brewer. We’re out of Surry, UK. What about you lot?”

“New York USA,” said Alec.

“Ah, that’s brilliant,” said Jim as he and his identical brothers shook hands with the American’s. “Where are you guys staying tonight?”

“The Marriot,” said Kale.

“Oh, we’re at the Regent,” said Jim. “Perhaps we’ll see you at the polo grounds tomorrow.”

“Yeah, that would be great,” said Kale. “I’d love to get some pictures of you guys with my friends, you know, the US and the UK working side by side to get ready for the Run. If you don’t mind of course.”

“Sounds brilliant, never been in a magazine before,” said Marcus.

The guys traded numbers as they walked out of the airport. All of them found it somewhat comforting to find friendly faces that spoke the same language as they negotiated their way through the crowds. They parted company when they reached the cab stand. The Brits had to arrange transport to Shillong but Kale had thought ahead. He just had to find the man he was looking for.

“Hey, check it out,” Alec giggled and pointed to a cabby holding up a placard with a name written on it. “The Griswold’s!”

“Ah,” said Kale as he led his friends over to the cabby. “We’re the Griswold’s.”

Continued...