Greeks Bearing Children

by Richard Natale

 

Idling at the back of a long checkout line, Gabriel perused several screaming tabloid headlines: divorce; adultery; baby bump; galloping cellulite. He never purchased any of these tawdry rags, though he occasionally flipped through a left-behind copy of the Enquirer or the Star at the gym while pedaling on the elliptical. He particularly enjoyed photos of the bold and the beautiful caught at their absolute worst, taking some comfort in noting that after a ten-hour flight even a goddess like Charlize Theron can appear pasty and haggard in the unforgiving light of the airline terminal.

The only article he ever read in its entirety was “Barbra in Feud with Gay Son.” Of course Barbra’s son was gay, he reasoned. He was listening to Barbra Streisand in utero. Biology is destiny. It didn’t take a doctor to arrive at that prognosis.

One headline caught his eye, “Diana Speaks to Kate Through Medium.” The poor girl! Now she had two mothers-in-law doling out advice, one living, one dead. Not to mention Queen Granny.

The man ahead of him tapped Gabriel’s arm and pointed to the head of the line. There stood Dimitri, stunning as ever, flashing a smile and offering up a toss of the chin as he swiped a credit card. Noticeably open-mouthed, Gabriel waved back reflexively. Then the word “Skippy” popped into his head and he raced back up the aisle. Skippy was the only brand Llewellyn would deign to spread on his toast. Once, Gabriel had mistakenly brought home a jar of Jif. When Llewellyn saw it on the top shelf of the fridge he fashioned his index fingers into a cross like Professor Van Helsing staring down the Count.

What is Dimitri doing in L.A.? Gabriel thought as he doubled back to the checkout counter. Maybe he’ll be gone and we won’t have to speak.

No such luck. Dimitri was waiting for him by the exit. “How are you? You’re looking good,” Dimitri said, running those damned come-hither eyes the length of Gabriel, though he had the good sense not to lean in for a kiss—not even an air kiss.

“Thanks,” Gabriel said in a clipped voice as he propelled the cart through the automatic doors and into the parking lot.

“In case you’re curious, I moved back two weeks ago,” Dimitri said, trailing behind. “Trying to scare up some acting work. I may have a pilot.”

Gabriel’s stomach did a back-over flip. Los Angeles was not big enough for the both of them. Hell, the entire state of California wasn’t big enough. “Good luck,” Gabriel replied tersely. He piled the groceries into the trunk as Dimitri looked on. “Well, nice seeing you. Gotta run.”

“Wait. Uh, can we have a cup of joe sometime?” Dimitri said.

“You mean sometime in the 1940s when people still called it joe?” Gabriel said. He meant it as a rebuff, but it came out playful, almost coy.

“Same old Gabriel,” Dimitri replied with that same delightful bad-boy laugh.

He was seized by the impulse to take Dimitri into his arms and squeeze. After taking a moment to sober up, he said, “Not the same. You took care of that.”

“Ouch,” Dimitri winced. “I suppose it’s too late to plead temporary insanity.”

“Cute is not your strong suit,” Gabriel spat back. “Now I’ve got to get home and cook dinner for my boyfriend.”  The emphasis on the last word was calculated, though when he heard it aloud, he felt like a snooty brat.

“Understood,” Dimitri said, chastened. “Just one cup of coffee. Please? You can yell at me, call me names—just like old times. C’mon, admit it, you’d enjoy that.”

Gabriel mulled it over a moment. “Okay. Your treat. But I want breakfast, too,” he said, the words spilling out uncensored. Who was he kidding? The outcome had been foreordained—like Barbra having a gay son.

“Deal. Tomorrow? Ten? Dupar’s?”

So Dimitri remembered his weakness for Dupar’s and their butter-soaked flapjacks. Side of bacon, crispy. Sourdough toast, more butter, strawberry jam. Since Gabriel and Llewellyn had started their permanent diet, Dupar’s was off-limits.

Gabriel nodded, but when Dimitri tried to deposit a chaste peck on his cheek, he bristled and backed away. Dimitri shook his head and walked off. “See you on the flip-flop.”

He would have to tell Llewellyn. It was only fair. He’d heard all the stories about Dimitri, even accused Gabriel of still being in love with him, which he denied. Llewellyn remained unconvinced.

Gabriel waited until after dinner to tell him, biding his time as he carefully gauged his boyfriend’s mood. He pounced just as Llewellyn was logging on to Facebook. He’d been raised in rural Mississippi where most of his family still lived and they posted inflammatory screeds that echoed all the salient Fox News talking points, which invariably threw Llewellyn into a tizzy. Gabriel could practically see the blood boiling under the surface of his skin.

“Then stop reading their posts,” Gabriel argued.

“It’s not that simple. I can’t very well unfriend them,” Llewellyn argued. “They’re family.”

“Family is supposed to support you, uplift you.”

“Name one family that does that,” Llewellyn snorted.

Llewellyn was every bit as extreme and unyielding as the rest of the kin—just on the other side of the political spectrum—so Gabriel gave up trying to reason with him. Let him indulge in what was in all likelihood some perverse exercise in Southern family bonding. They all clearly got off on all the political bickering, similar to the way Gabriel and Dimitri used to quarrel their way into the bedroom, though without the reward of bang-up sex.

“Guess who’s back in L.A.?” Gabriel ventured.

Llewellyn tossed a single shoulder and listened with only half an ear.

“My old beau Dimitri.”

“The straight one?”

“Yeah, and he wants to have breakfast tomorrow.”

“Asshole,” Llewellyn erupted. “Cousin Clint just called Obama an octoroon. Can you believe that? I bet he hasn’t the foggiest notion what the word means.”

“Did you just say ‘foggiest notion?’” Gabriel said. “Have we moved to Downton Abbey?”

But Llewellyn wasn’t listening. He was typing furiously, punishing the keys with his elongated fingers.

“So do you think it’s okay? To have breakfast with Dimitri? We’ll be out in the open—at Dupar’s—so we can’t very well cause a scene?

“Yeah, I guess so. But, honey,” Llewellyn swiveled around and faced him. “Watch the calories.”

“I’ll try,” Gabriel said. Later he regretted making even a half-hearted promise to eat light. He could have at least been honest about that.

***

Gabriel arrived at three minutes before ten and waited for Dimitri at the entrance, which abutted on the parking lot of the Farmer’s Market. Twenty minutes passed and by then he was seething. I can’t believe I let him do this me again. Nothing’s changed. Always late. Never an excuse. Gabriel Peña, will you ever learn? Before storming off, he went inside and informed the hostess, “If a man named Dimitri comes in, tell him Gabriel got tired of waiting and left.”

“Are you Gabriel?” the hostess said, her face rising into a smile. “He’s already here. He said to keep an eye out for you. Right this way.”

As he followed her, he saw the back of Dimitri’s head, the lush dark curls in which his fingers used to get hopelessly entangled. Rounding the corner, Gabriel came to a dead halt.

Dimitri had a papoose strapped to his chest. “Oh, hey. I got here early,” he beamed. “This one’s been up since six and we’ve just been wandering around the Farmer’s Market stalls for the past couple of hours.”

For the second time in two days, Gabriel’s chin hit the floor. “And yes, she’s mine,” Dimitri said.

Gabriel nodded dumbly. “What’s her name?”

“Gabriella.”

“That’s not even remotely funny,” Gabriel snapped.

“Wasn’t meant to be,” Dimitri said. “I thought you’d be touched.”

“I should go,” Gabriel said.

At that moment the infant’s eyes opened. She looked up and gurgled at him and Gabriel went soft. “She’s beautiful. She looks just like you.”

“No, she’s more delicate. She’s got her mother’s eyes.”

Her mother’s eyes? Gabriel sat down. Now he had to hear the whole story.

***

Dimitri had never slept with a man until he met Gabriel. Never even toyed with the idea, despite scads of offers, or so the Master of Denial claimed. After doing some catalogue modeling in Cleveland, he’d moved to New York and quickly snared several runway and print assignments. Male photographers, ad clients and fellow models hit on him regularly. “Thank you, but it’s just not my scene” was his usual easy-letdown reply.

Attracting women was even less trouble. He had footed the bill for two abortions.

After a couple of commercials, he booked a pilot that was being shot in Los Angeles. It went to series but was cancelled after only six weeks. His agent encouraged him to stay in town at least until the next pilot season. Carpentry work supplemented the occasional acting and modeling gig.

He’d been recommended to Gabriel by Bonnie Abel, the mother of one of his patients. A chronic oversleeper and professional dawdler, Dimitri was forty minutes late arriving at Gabriel’s house in the Hollywood Hills to give him an estimate for bookcases. “I figured you’d just blown me off like all the other handymen,” Gabriel said jokingly when he came to the front door in only a Speedo. “I was just about to take a swim. Come in.”

Within a half hour, they were naked in the swimming pool. A half hour after that, Dimitri was blowing him on a chaise longue—quite adeptly for a first-timer. They ate dinner on the floor of Gabriel’s bedroom where they took turns massaging butter into each other’s bottoms.

For as long as they were merely body slamming, Dimitri seemed unbothered by his sudden same-sex attraction. When they became emotionally ensnarled, however, the fights began.

Top twelve arguments:

  1. Dimitri insisting that his attraction for Gabriel was unique and specific; that he was otherwise totally straight.
  2. Gabriel being freaked out that he’d fallen for a straight man, the very definition of unavailability.
  3. Dimitri sexting women in his presence.
  4. Gabriel becoming obsessed with Dimitri’s cell phone every time it lit up or vibrated.
  5. Dimitri going on dates, then arriving drunk at Gabriel’s doorstep in the middle of the night with flowers and chocolates, pleading to be let in.
  6. Gabriel threatening to stop seeing Dimitri unless he admitted that he was, at the very least, bisexual.
  7. Dimitri’s discomfort at being seen in public with Gabriel or hanging out with Gabriel’s gay friends.
  8. Gabriel deliberately provoking Dimitri by flirting with other guys when they were out together.
  9. Dimitri’s jealous tantrums when Gabriel flirted.
  10. Gabriel using jealousy as a ploy to get Dimitri to commit.
  11. Dimitri standing him up or deliberately showing up late, and when he did insisting that Gabriel service him.
  12. Gabriel hooking up with guys through Grindr whenever Dimitri ditched him.

They didn’t fight all the time, at least not until the end, when they couldn’t be in the same room without going on the attack. In between, there were harmonious interludes. Gabriel may have been the more erudite of the two, but Dimitri was quick, inquisitive and sponge-like. They found common ground on many subjects.

Except religion. When Dimitri announced that he planned to convert from Greek Orthodox to Mormonism (he stopped drinking coffee, tea and alcohol), they had something new to quarrel about.

They decided to break it off, but it didn’t take the first time. Or the second. Or the third.  In an effort to wean himself off Dimitri, Gabriel started seeing a guy who introduced him to crystal meth. He might have become a full-fledged addict if Dimitri had not done him the enormous favor of moving back to New York.

Without so much as a goodbye.

***

“Do you want the long version or the short one?” Dimitri asked.

“Short, with the option to interrupt,” Gabriel said.

“The mother’s name is Ludmilla. Lithuanian. I met her outside the Mormon Visitors Center. Her student visa expired a while back and three months ago the INS finally caught up with her and she was deported. I really wanted the child this time, so I didn’t ask her to get an abortion. Not that she would have. She wants me to raise Gabriella by myself until she can get her bearings. And as you might suspect, being a single parent has been a learning experience.”

“Were you in love with her?”

“Probably not. It’s complicated.”

“Everything with you is complicated,” Gabriel said, wrenching his mouth and flicking an eyebrow.

Damn. On the way to breakfast, he’d vowed not to say anything that might be construed as bitter. What did he have to be bitter about anyway? Dimitri’s departure had marked the beginning of a new phase in his life, one that was relatively free of drama, in particular the self-inflicted variety. Llewellyn was a steadying influence, and funny and cordial and not timid about admitting how much he adored him. With Llewellyn he’d lucked out, and he wasn’t going to jeopardize it, no matter how much he wanted to carve up Dimitri and devour him one bite at a time.

Dimitri retrieved a bottle of formula from his satchel, laid Gabriella on her back and placed the nipple in her mouth. “Am I doing this right? After eight months I’m still not sure.”

“Yes, it’s fine. She has a little skin irritation on her left cheek. You should have that checked out,” Gabriel said.

“Thanks. I was going to ask you about that.”

The waitress was hovering. “Just coffee for me,” Gabriel said. He’d lost his appetite. Llewellyn would be so pleased, though not if he knew the reason. Sitting this close to Dimitri was nerve wracking. But he would not drink from that well again. Not now, not ever.

“Give me a few minutes to burp her,” Dimitri told the waitress, “then I’ll have some whole wheat toast and coffee as well.

“Coffee?” Gabriel said.

“Yeah. The Mormon church and I have gotten a divorce,” he said, looking at Gabriella and making soft cooing noises. She responded by flailing her hands and feet in delight. Gabriel wanted to kiss him now, more than ever.

            Stop it. Use your willpower like you did when you quit crystal meth. 

“Yeah, I’m back to being an old-fashioned Orthodox Christian, the kind who doesn’t buy that Jesus wandered around North America. The more I learned about the LDS the weirder I felt about being a member. I can’t decide who was more of a freak, Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. Oh, and the Church also frowned on me screwing the son of one of the elders.”

“Once again you’ve buried the lede. You had sex with another man? Before or after Ludmilla?

“During, actually. And after. You have my permission to say ‘I told you so.’”

Tempting, but no. “So do you still consider yourself straight or…”

Dimitri’s lips fluttered. “Bet you couldn’t wait to ask that. How about gay with a bisexual escape clause? That’s one of the things I wanted to tell you,” he said casually as he placed Gabriella on his shoulder and patted her gently on the back.

He couldn’t have come to this conclusion three years ago?

Gabriella emitted a huge burp that echoed throughout the restaurant. The room filled with laughter then, almost immediately, Dimitri started to cry. It had rarely taken much to set him off. And Gabriel could never resist trying to comfort him, which usually led to sex.

“Would you mind holding her for a minute?” Dimitri said daubing his stinging eyes with a napkin.

You’d think a pediatrician would be inured to the smells and sensations of infants. But Gabriel couldn’t resist cradling the child and tickling her belly. When she puckered her lips, he sighed with wonder. At least he’d chosen the right profession.

A loud sob escaped Dimitri and he held up an apologetic hand. When he’d partially recovered, he said—with great difficulty as if he was being strangled— “the other thing I wanted say is that I’m still in love with you… Have never stopped actually. It’s why I ran away. Why I named my child after you. Oh, which reminds me, will you be her pediatrician?”

Gabriel felt blindsided and disoriented. “I don’t know what to do with everything you just said.”

“You don’t have to do anything. I wasn’t trying to get back with you. I assume you’re happy with the man you’re seeing now.”

“Living with, actually. And yes, very happy.”

“Well, there you have it,” Dimitri shrugged. “Had my chance. My own fault. But I hope it won’t interfere with taking Gabriella on as a patient. I would trust you with her life.”

For his sake, and Llewellyn’s, he was going to refuse. Looking down at Gabriella, however, as she fought back sleep, he lost his will. “Call Gail and make an appointment,”

“Thanks. You’re a better man than I.”

“No doubt in my mind about that,” Gabriel snapped. “As for the other thing, it can never come up again. Llewellyn is good and kind and considerate…”

“Understood. Don’t worry. I’ve gotten very good at enduring humiliation.”

***

Shortly after Gabriella took her first steps, Gabriel realized that it was possible to be in love with two people at the same time. (What’s more, he adored the toddler as well.) The intensity level was different. His feelings for Llewellyn were consistent and unwavering. On their first date, they had immediately hit it off as though they’d been carrying on for years. He remembered thinking, if we get on this well, it means we’ll probably be just friends. But after they had sex—on the third date—he revised his opinion: I could easily spend the rest of my life with this guy.

Two months later Gabriel said, “How’d you like to move in?” and expected Llewellyn to say that it was too soon. Instead he’d said, “Should I pack my things or just burn everything I own and start fresh?”

Being with Llewellyn was like coursing down a river on a lazy Sunday afternoon filled with moments of laughter and affection. There was never any danger of going over the falls.

With Dimitri the emotions had come in two speeds: elation and despair. High highs, abysmal lows. He appealed to Gabriel’s impulsive side, the parts of him that got a rush from flirting with self-destruction. Through therapy, he’d learned to acknowledge these dark undercurrents and not let them gnaw at his soul.

Whenever Dimitri brought Gabriella in for a check-up, he wanted to lock him in the office and strip search him with his tongue. The only thing that stopped him was the child, who had her father’s dark intensity and (according to Dimitri) her mother’s limpid aquamarine eyes. She also had Dimitri’s little jug ears, which he always kept concealed under ringlets of black hair so naturally lustrous you almost hated him for it.

When she was two Gabriella greeted him with “Hi, Docca,” and Gabriel’s eyes welled up. What a fearless little creature she was, climbing onto the examining table all by herself and humming quietly, lost in that alternate universe in which children frolic until reality exerts its gravitational pull. She never so much as flinched when he poked and prodded, not even for the immunization shots. Unlike most of his bantam patients who were skittish and wriggly, Gabriella gazed up at him as if he could do no wrong. He recalled that on the rare occasions Dimitri had given himself permission, he had looked at Gabriel in much the same way.

Gabriella became the repository for all his repressed urges for Dimitri. He could lavish the child with attention and revel in her admiration. No matter how backed up he was with patients, he always found excuses for Dimitri to linger, as much to be near him as to hold Gabriella in his arms and stroke her hair while they chatted and discussed the child’s future.

Whereas Gabriel was resigned to being faithful in deed, his mind continued to entertain fantasies about his volcanic, Greek ex-lover, reliving past glories, while conveniently excising their typhoon-like arguments.

And he might have been content with mental infidelity had it not been for Llewellyn.

***

Gabriel was ankle-deep in paperwork (Paperwork, always paperwork; twenty minutes with a patient, an hour of paperwork) when his assistant Gail buzzed him. “Llewy on line one.”

“What’s up, babe?”

“I met your Dimitri today,” Llewellyn said.

“How did that happen?” Gabriel said, each word its own sentence. He was right. L.A. was not big enough for them both.

“Starbucks. Phil introduced us.” Phil Ryder was one of Gabriel’s oldest friends and had held his hand through the ups and downs of l’affaire Dimitri.

“And?” Gabriel inquired.

“We need to talk,” Llewellyn said. “Let’s meet at Ago for dinner.”

Talk? In a public place? That could only mean one thing. Dimitri had said something, maybe about still being in love with Gabriel—after he’d sworn never to utter those words again. If that was the case, he had no choice but to cut Dimitri—and, sadly, Gabriella—out of his life.

An extra-dry martini was waiting at the table when Gabriel arrived, a thoughtful gesture, he thought, not the behavior of a jealous lover. When he tried to kiss him, Llewellyn twitched and Gabriel’s lips landed on his cheek.

“Okay, what the hell is going on?”

“I had sex with him.” Llewellyn’s face was a mask of guilt.

“With who?” Gabriel asked as if he was suffering from temporary amnesia.

“Dimitri.”

Gabriel’s bottom hit the chair like it was weighted down with lead. “What?”

“Not today, a few months ago. I’m so sorry.”

“Whoa. Back up,” Gabriel said as he downed the martini in one gulp and held up the empty glass until the waiter noticed.

“I’ve never cheated on you. Before or since. Honest. I was jogging in Griffith Park and he was sitting on a bench as I ran past, and it was ‘pow!’ Like a jolt. Do you know what that feels like?

Only too well, Gabriel would have said if he wasn’t still in shock.

“Never knew his name. We did right it right there in the park. I don’t know what came over me. Afterwards I told him I had a lover and that I couldn’t see him again and he said that if I changed my mind… and slipped me his card, which I tossed without even looking at it. I didn’t tell you because we agreed that if either one of us ever had a ‘nutso moment,’ as long as we didn’t repeat it, we got a pass.”

They had indeed made such an arrangement, a proviso reserved strictly for one-time-only encounters because, well, sometimes a guy just can’t keep it in his pants, no matter how honorable his intentions. Fortunately, Gabriel had a full schedule, and Llewellyn, who produced a reality show, kept insane hours… except during hiatus when he had time to jog in Griffith Park.

Mixed emotions was a mild way to describe what Gabriel was experiencing. He was furious with Llewellyn. No, he was furious with Dimitri. Scratch that. He wasn’t angry with either of them, because they didn’t know. He was jealous, that much was undeniable. He wanted to be the one jogging past Dimitri, the one who got to sneak off behind a tree and get it on with him. But that would have been the opposite of a “nutso moment.” That would have been plain nutso.

“I talked it over with him,” Llewellyn said. “He was pretty shaken up but very sweet about it. He said that now he understood why you were so in love with me and that he was happy we’d found each other.”

“Mm hm,” Gabriel rumbled, tight-lipped, trying to keep himself from detonating in the middle of the restaurant.

“And I guess you’re aware that he’s still pretty gaga over you. He didn’t say anything, but I could tell. And then of course there’s the fact that he named his kid after you, which has never made me feel terribly secure. By the way Gabriella was with him. A living doll. I could easily kidnap that kid and raise her as my own.”

Gabriel’s brain was pure sludge. Shut up, Llewellyn, I beg of you.

“I’m going home,” he said. “You go out somewhere, take in a movie. I’ll see you later.”

“I’m headed back to the office,” Llewellyn said. “I still have tons of work to do. I did not have a very productive afternoon. Probably sleep there.”

“You’re going to wear the same clothes tomorrow?”

“I always have a change in case I’m called into a meeting. And there’s a shower at the studio gym. I’m so sorry, Gabriel. You know that I love you, and I hope this won’t change how you feel about me.”

“I just wish it hadn’t been Dimitri.”

“Yeah, very Casablanca.”

“Huh? Forget it. I can’t listen to another word or I’ll have a smash up on the way home.”

***

The neon blue Mercedes coupe zigzagged its way up Sunset Plaza Drive. Night blooming jasmine permeated the air. Gabriel punched numbers into the speaker phone. “Hu… hullo?” said the sleepy voice on the other end. “Oh, it’s you. I fell asleep next to Gabriella. I’ve been expecting your call.”

“Asshole,” Gabriel said and hung up.

A minute later the phone buzzed. Dimitri. Let it go through to voicemail. But on the fourth ring he relented. “You have to admit, when I fuck up, I really fuck up,” Dimitri said in his little boy voice. “It’s like some giant cosmic joke.”

“I don’t see the humor.”

“C’mon. You gotta admit it’s very Casablanca.”

“That’s exactly what Llewellyn said. What does it mean?”

“You know when Humphrey Bogart says about Ingrid Bergman: ‘of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine’.”

“I still don’t get it.”

“Not important.”

“It is important. Something else you and Llewellyn have on me. So what kind of sex did you have? Did you kiss? Was it just oral? Was there penetration?”

“I’m not going there.”

Gabriel pulled into the garage and sat there in the dark, the only light coming from the phone on which Dimitri’s name was inscribed in large block letters. “I have a right to know. He’s my partner.”

“I didn’t have sex with your partner. I had sex with some guy who turned out to be your partner. Big difference.”

If he’d been coherent, Gabriel would have granted him that, but he had placed rationality on hold while he indulged his base emotions. “And you gave him your number. You wanted to see him again.”

“You can hardly blame me for that. Who wouldn’t want a repeat performance? He’s sexy, funny, smart… Well, you know better than I.”

“You got all that just from sucking his cock, or whatever it is you did?”

“We talked afterwards, which only made him more attractive. No surprise that he was in a relationship. They always are. But I had no idea who he was… until today.”

“I liked you better when you were straight.”

“No you didn’t, and I didn’t like me better either.”

“Do you still want to jump his bones?”

“Not any more than I want to jump yours. But in either case: Ain’t gonna happen. That’s why I told him not to tell you. I knew you’d react this way.”

“Yeah, well, Llewellyn’s not like you. He’s a straight shooter.”

“I’ll say he is.”

“Fuck off.”

“Lighten up. It was a joke.” Then, after a pause: “Okay, a bad joke.”

“Well, guess what, funny man, I’m dropping your kid as a patient. I adore her, but her father’s a total butt munch and I don’t want him in my office.”

“Please don’t take this out on her,” Dimitri begged. Gabriel could hear the child stirring in the background, her drowsy voice asking, “What time is it, Daddy?” which made him feel like a cad. But he couldn’t face the prospect of being face to face with Dimitri, not even after he’d come back to his senses, however long that took.

Wandering from the garage into the kitchen, he rummaged through the fridge hoping for leftovers. He hadn’t eaten a thing and the two martinis had gone right to his head.

“Say something, Gabriel.”

“Okay. I’ll keep Gabriella as a patient but someone else has to bring her in.”

“I can arrange that.”

“And you are not to get within fifty feet of Llewellyn ever again.”

“Oh, what are you going to do? Get a restraining order? Okay. Fine. Whatever. All I care about now is my kid.”

Gabriel tried to conceal his disappointment. Dimitri hadn’t put up the slightest argument about not being able to see him again. After all he’d said about still having feelings for him… Stop it, Gabriel, for your own sake… and Llewellyn’s.

Besides, Dimitri was right. Gabriella was all that mattered. She was the only one who was totally blameless, who gave and was open to receiving affection unconditionally. With no complications.

***

The arrangement worked out well, for a time. Dimitri had charmed an elderly Greek woman named Panthea into babysitting his daughter part-time. They were introduced after services at St. Sophia’s. (It didn’t hurt that the cathedral was directly across the street from Papa Cristo’s, which boasted L.A.’s best lamb kebabs.) Dimitri drove them to the appointment and waited downstairs. If there were any follow-up questions, Gabriel relayed the answers through Gail.

Gabriella never stopped calling him Docca even when she could pronounce all her words. She grew into a pensive and perceptive little girl with a touch of her father’s alluring moroseness. Gabriel looked forward to her visits and got the sense that she understood that there had been a breach between him and Dimitri. His feelings for the girl were undiluted and guilt free. He also derived satisfaction from knowing that while he was examining Gabriella, her humbled father was cooling his heels several floors below.

Far from being a stumbling block, Llewellyn’s encounter with Dimitri, revived their sex life, enhanced it actually. They were a few years into the relationship and a zest of lemon didn’t hurt. The passion wore them out, so it didn’t much matter that one or both of them might be summoning up images of Dimitri while they made love.

***

The phone call woke Gabriel from a nightmare that immediately evanesced when he heard Dimitri screaming into the receiver: “A hundred and four! Her temperature’s a hundred and four!”

Gabriel broke into a cold sweat but his physician’s instincts quickly kicked in: “Go the emergency room at Cedars. I’ll meet you there.”

Emergencies, that’s when Gabriel was at his best. If it was a mere hiccup he became unhinged, but in an earthquake he was as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar.

“Llewy, gotta go to Cedars,” he said, poking his boyfriend awake. “Dimitri called. His kid’s spiking a hundred and four.”

“Oh my god,” he said, bolting up. “Anything I can do?”

“Tell me that you love me,” he said, kissing him as he jumped into his clothes.

“You know I do,” a groggy Llewellyn said.

“Just the same, say it. Don’t hold back.”

A severe strep was his guess, an instinct that proved accurate. Gabriella had been given a preliminary diagnosis by the time he arrived. Dimitri had sweet talked a female doctor into seeing his child immediately. It helped that she remembered the short-lived TV series where he was often shirtless for no good reason except that he looked fantastic without his shirt on.

When Gabriel arrived he was struck by Dimitri’s appearance and immediately cursed him. Unkempt—tossed-about hair, full day’s growth, bloodshot eyes—he was even sexier. So fucking unfair.

The story had a familiar ring. Gabriella had come home from kindergarten (that petri dish for bacteria and viruses) with a cold. She seemed to be getting better. Then boom! Her lungs filled with fluid and she became seriously dehydrated. The admitting doctor had ordered an antibiotic and saline IV.

“She’s going to be okay,” he told Dimitri. “Happens all the time. I’m putting her in a private room for a day or two, just to make sure. Then she’ll need a week or so of bed rest. Kids this age are resilient.”

Dimitri lowered his head. “Oh god.”

Gabriel took his hand. “Don’t worry. She’ll be fine.”

“It’s just… I’m due in Sonora on Saturday for a movie shoot.”

“You’re going to have to postpone that or drop out.”

“I can’t. I’m the lead. Six weeks. I’m in almost every scene. Gabby was going to come with.”

“Impossible. Even after she’s better, I’d strongly advise against taking her to Mexico.”

“What am I going to do? I’ve signed a contract.”

“I don’t know, buddy.”

Why is it when Dimitri got himself into a fix, Gabriel’s first instinct was to cradle him in his arms and shower him with affection?

“What about Panthea?” Gabriel inquired.

“Visiting relatives back East. Even so, she’s too frail to look after Gabriella day and night.”

“Is there no one else?” Gabriel said, already knowing the answer.

“If I wouldn’t trust my kid to Panthea, do you think I’d leave her with some babysitter?”  Dimitri whined, casting plaintive eyes up at Gabriel.

He was a goner.

***

“Of course we should take her,” Llewellyn argued. “That shouldn’t even be a topic for discussion.”

“You met her exactly once when she was what, like three?”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s the right thing to do.”

“How do we manage?”

“I’ll work from home. It’s only a week or two. When she’s better you’ll take her to kindergarten in the morning and I’ll pick her up in the afternoon and bring her back to my office.”

“I don’t understand why you would do that.”

“Of course you do.”

***

Dimitri’s full-on mouth kiss was unexpected and only served to remind Gabriel how much he missed those lips. “You are my savior,” he said. “I’ll fly back to see her on my first break.”

He scooped Gabriella into his arms and squeezed the life out of her. “Daddy loves you,” he said. She weakly shook her head. Gabriel melted from the feet up.

The novelty of having a child in residence did not wear off as Gabriel feared it might. He was charmed by Llewellyn’s attentiveness to Gabriella, his paternal/maternal outpourings toward someone who was for all intents and purposes a stranger.

“You are such a little trouper,” Llewellyn said as he finished pouring chicken soup down her gullet. Gabriel was listening at the doorway, having just returned from the office.

“What’s a trouper?” Gabriella asked.

“A brave little girl.”

“I’m not little,” she snorted.

“Did I say little? Silly me. I meant big girl, of course,” he said and stretched his arms five feet apart.

“Look! Docca’s home!” Gabriella exulted.

Extended exposure to the Gabriella only further endeared her to him. Gabriel was particularly fascinated at how she could go from behaving like a pint-sized adult to a helpless child in seconds, and then suddenly revert back to being rational and perceptive. Whenever she asked a delicate question, usually about her mother and father or about him and Llewellyn, he found himself mimicking the parents in his office, being honest but abbreviated: “Yes, your dad and I were friends for a while but then he moved away and I met Llewellyn” and (after reading her a letter from her mother with Dimitri’s permission) “Your mother says she loves you and misses you very much and will talk to you on Skype in the next few days.”

In most cases her reply was a simple “okay,” by which Gabriel recognized that, no sooner were the words out of his mouth than her mind had moved on to another subject.

Kids.

***

On his first thirty-six hour break Dimitri flew back to Los Angeles and stayed in one of the guest bedrooms in Gabriel and Llewellyn’s house high in the Hollywood Hills. After he had plied his daughter with gifts and playtime, they all enjoyed a pleasant dinner during which Gabriella recounted her adventures with Llewellyn and, to a lesser extent, Docca, with whom she played video games. Gabriel also read to her most nights. After she’d recovered, Llewellyn had taken her on day trips to Griffith Park Observatory, the San Diego Zoo, and the Aquarium of the Pacific.

After Dimitri put his daughter to bed, the three men shared a bottle of Prosecco on the wrap-around balcony overlooking the city. Then Dimitri excused himself to get ready for bed.

There was no denying that his presence in the house ignited a spark. Gabriel and Llewellyn retreated to the bedroom and pulled at each other’s clothes as if they hadn’t had sex in months. And they hadn’t, at least not that kind of irrationally exuberant sex: lights on, bedroom curtains undrawn, let the whole world watch.

While they were deep in the middle, they sensed a presence. Neither officially acknowledged it, but someone was watching from the balcony, which added to the excitement. The idea of performing for an audience, for this audience in particular, transformed them into gymnastic porn stars. The energy fed off itself and their roaring climaxes left them so spent, they immediately fell into a deep sleep.

If either needed proof that their antics had been being spied upon, the splatter on the glass door removed all doubt.

Llewellyn was inserting a DVD of “The Little Mermaid” for Gabriella when Dimitri came down for breakfast. “We’ll be in the next room having a grown-up talk,” he told his daughter as he shut the door to the den where Gabriella was reciting Ariel’s dialogue from memory.

There was no point in denying what had happened. “I should apologize,” Dimitri began. “But ever since I made the connection of you as a couple, well, let’s just say the thought of watching you get it on has crossed my mind a few times.”

Gabriel and Llewellyn sat stone-faced, but their respective hearts were going thump-a-thump.

“Congratulations. The real thing was better than I imagined. Twice as good as a matter of fact.”

“I thought there was a rather large deposit on that door,” Gabriel mused. “Good for you. I see creeping middle age hasn’t diminished your output.”

“So what now?” Llewellyn asked.

“It clearly can’t happen again. Not with a child in the house,” Gabriel said.

“Clearly,” Dimitri and Llewellyn echoed. Neither made an effort to conceal their disappointment.

***

On subsequent visits, Dimitri kept to his room after lights out and Gabriel and Llewellyn refrained from touchy-grabby until he returned to Mexico.

Two months later, Dimitri came home for good and they were sad to see Gabriella go. Play dates were arranged and they all vacationed in Palm Springs later in the fall. The sexual tension among the three men lingered in the air, an almost imperceptible hum just beneath the surface.

But that didn’t get in the way of what developed into an abiding friendship, sharing jokes and confidences. They brought out the best in one another, though the occasional argument surfaced between Gabriel and Dimitri—not surprising, given their history and volatile tempers. Llewellyn, ever the diplomat, would intervene, usually with some Solomon-like solution (no wonder he was such a terrific producer) and they’d end up shaking hands or exchanging man hugs.

Throughout, Gabriella was the glue, and if she didn’t exactly have three daddies, she certainly had a father and two honorary (and very committed) uncles. And she blossomed under their care. If Dimitri was her id, Gabriel was her ego and Llewellyn her super-ego.

***

“Does Gabriella need to be vaccinated to go to London?” Dimitri said into the phone.

“Not if she’s only going to England. Ludmilla?” Gabriel asked.

Ludmilla, with whom Dimitri and his friends had developed a Skype relationship was now living in London. She’d recently married a barrister and seven years after giving birth was finally ready to take on the duties of motherhood, if only for the summer.

“So when are you guys flying over?” Gabriel inquired. He was nervous about not seeing Gabriella for three months, so he could imagine how uneasy Dimitri must be.

“I can’t leave because we just started production on season two (he was playing a loveable blue-collar hunk in a series sitcom that had been renewed despite tepid ratings) and then I go right into a movie in Selma, Alabama.”

“You get all the great locations,” Gabriel joked.

“Don’t I though? Do you think it’s okay if she flies alone? I mean, she is seven.”

Gabriel didn’t think it was okay, but after several child-rearing disagreements with Dimitri, Llewellyn had erected a boundary. (“Don’t offer advice unless Dimitri asks,” he had counseled. )

But he did just ask. And Gabriel didn’t feel at all comfortable with the girl flying five thousand miles by herself and having to go through customs at a chaotic Heathrow. Yet Gabriel held his tongue, offering no more than a suggestion. “Why don’t you bring her in for a check-up before she leaves.”

Then he went right home and had a talk with Llewellyn. They both agreed that a week in London with a side trip to Paris, might be fun, not to mention romantic. They could fly over with Gabriella, so at least she wouldn’t have to make her first transatlantic flight alone. They were also dying to meet Ludmilla in person and perhaps catch a glimpse of her when she wasn’t on her best Skype behavior.

Dimitri was overjoyed when Gabriel told him about the plan. “I love you guys,” he said. “And I really mean that.” Then, after prolonged full-body-contact hugs and an uncomfortable pause, he added, “Boy, Gabby’s going to be so psyched.”

“We’re happy to do it,” they said, both feeling a stirring in their shorts.

“This is such a load off my mind. But promise me that if you have the slightest doubt about leaving her with Ludmilla, you’ll let me know immediately. I’ll take it from there.”

“You worry too much,” Gabriel said, and both Dimitri and Llewellyn looked at him and cracked up.

They flew business class and each of them had an individual bed. Gabriella oohed and aahed at the amenities, and she might have spent all night watching movies and playing video games if Gabriel and Llewellyn hadn’t put their foot down.

“I hope she’s not going to grow up to be an over-privileged brat,” Gabriel confessed to Llewellyn just before they kissed good night.

“Then maybe we should’ve flown coach?” Llewellyn said.

“And ruin the first few days of our vacation with jet lag?” Gabriel said, outraged. “Not to mention the very real danger of blood clots in the legs.”

“Yeah, that’s the reason you didn’t want to fly coach. Blood clots,” Llewellyn said with an eye roll.

When they met Ludmilla (and George “the barrister”) at Heathrow, it was easy to understand Dimitri’s attraction. She wasn’t at all Slavic and dour, but chipper and ingratiating. She kvelled at the sight of her daughter in the flesh and Gabriella tolerated sloppy kisses and hugs with the same untrammeled stoicism as her medical exams.

“So do you think you like her?” Llewellyn asked, as they were leaving the terminal.

“Uh huh,” Gabriella nodded. “She’s very nice. Will you come to see me before you go home?”

“You bet your boots we will,” Gabriel said. “And you have our cell numbers, so you know how to reach us.”

They had dinner twice at Ludmilla and George’s home in Hampstead, the second time on the night before their departure. Gabriella had quickly acclimated, making friends with the neighborhood children and George’s teenage son and daughter from his first marriage.

The conversation was light but Gabriel noticed a spark of inquisitiveness behind Ludmilla’s eyes. Though she was too polite to ask, she was trying to figure out the relationship between the three men. Lotsa luck, Gabriel thought.

In between the two dinners in Hampstead, Gabriel and Llewellyn enjoyed a romantic sojourn, which included their first three-way, a handsome, urbane young man named Gilles they met at a disco in the Marais. At home they’d refused more than one similar invitation, but they were in Paris, and Gilles had drowned them in compliments, so it would have been rude to refuse him. The sex was only passable. Gilles seemed to be having a better time than they.

Gabriel and Llewellyn laughed about it on the plane ride home, and for good measure decided to end the trip by joining the mile-high club. The lavatory was too cramped for much more than a smattering of fellatio and frottage. Still, they regarded it as proof that couplehood hadn’t diminished their ability to be unconventional and adventurous.

Unspoken was their lingering desire for Dimitri or their relief that he would be leaving for his film shoot very soon since, with Gabriella five thousand miles away, they could no longer use her as a buffer.

The following weekend, the day before he was due to leave for Alabama, Dimitri came over for breakfast so they could all have a Skype with Gabriella. He left soon after but asked if they might all have dinner “so we can catch up. I want to hear all about your vacation.”

Fair enough, they thought. It would probably be an early night since Dimitri had a six a.m. flight.

He arrived with three bottles of wine. The topic of conversation for the first bottle, a fruity California Pinot Noir, was, naturally, Gabriella. Llewellyn and Gabriel went into detail about the vacation and their impressions of Ludmilla and George. They assured Dimitri that mother and daughter had bonded. And while Gabriella had been happy to see them, they didn’t get the feeling she wanted to be rescued. “They say seven is the age of reason, but our little Gabby is way ahead of the other kids,” Llewellyn said with pride.

Gabriel and Dimitri agreed and they clinked glasses. That they held each others’ eyes a moment too long went unremarked.

The second bottle, a full-bodied Barolo, accompanied the barbecued steaks, during which the discussion turned to Dimitri’s career, which seemed to be shifting into a higher gear. While he had fretted that his days as sexy stud were behind him, Gabriel and Llewellyn assured him he was aging as wonderfully as the Barolo they were drinking. More glass clinking.

Then Llewellyn mentioned that his production company was developing its first cable drama series, and Dimitri might be interested in one of the leads. After listening to the spiel, he said he couldn’t wait to read the script.

“And you don’t even have to sleep with the producer,” Gabriel said.

“Already did,” Dimitri shot back.

“Hardly,” Llewellyn laughed, and they all consciously let the subject drop.

An arresting Cristal accompanied the marinated fruit salad, and halfway through the bottle, the trio’s inhibitions began to recede. It was Llewellyn who mentioned Gilles and their three-way foray in Paris. Gabriel felt obliged to disapprove of his boyfriend’s discussing such intimate details, but it was halfhearted at best. Dimitri used the opening to ply them for lurid details: Was Gilles uncut, endowed, talented in his execution?

“Yes, average, and only okay,” Llewellyn replied. “I think our expectations were too high.”

“Maybe if we’d known him better,” Gabriel offered.

“I thought the whole point of a three-way was the newness, the anonymity,” Dimitri said, though he confessed that he’d never been in such a situation. “Isn’t that what makes it exciting?”

“You’d think,” Llewellyn said.

“It could also be that we’d never done it before, so we didn’t know the etiquette,” Gabriel posited.

The word etiquette struck them as hilarious, and a series of bawdy Emily Post suggestions on the proper ménage-à-trois followed. And after they’d exhausted the topic, a pregnant hush fell over the room.

Then Dimitri broke the silence, “Well, if you ever need the practice, you know where to find a volunteer.”

It had been said and couldn’t be taken back. And the fact that neither Gabriel nor Llewellyn dismissed the comment spoke to their complicity.

More silence, not out of timidity, but out of the sense that each was waiting for the other to make the next move, hoping there would be a next move, yet frightened to be the one who initiated it.

“Are we really going to do this?” Gabriel said.

“I’m okay with whatever you guys decide,” Dimitri said. “I don’t want to be the one who…”

“I wouldn’t know where to begin,” Llewellyn said. “Anybody?”

“Why don’t you kiss Gabriel,” Dimitri suggested.

A simple request, almost innocent—they were lovers after all—and happily, he obliged. The kiss was deep, extended, and effectively ignited the kindling.

Dimitri watched and when they broke he shook his head. “No, continue,” he said. And they did. Then, almost in a stage whisper Dimitri instructed Gabriel to get on his knees in front of Llewellyn.

Gabriel did so and rolled down Llewellyn’s zipper. His lover threw back his head and closed his eyes. When he opened them again he was face to face with Dimitri and was soon exploring his mouth. Then, a shift of positions, until they’d all kissed and tasted one another.

“Should we take this to the bedroom?” Gabriel suggested, now that they were all naked.

Dimitri was huddled with Llewellyn, and they turned with matching conspiratorial looks.

“No, this will do just fine,” Llewellyn said as he hoisted Gabriel onto the kitchen counter and laid him back. “Is this what you meant?” he said, turning to Dimitri.

“Perfect,” Dimitri said as he and Llewellyn moved in for the kill.

***

Later, in bed, every time their energy flagged and they closed their eyes, one or the other would start kissing or caressing or stroking, and another variation on the theme would commence.

When Gabriel awoke just before dawn, Llewellyn was asleep beside him and Dimitri was pulling on his clothes.

“What time’s your flight?” Gabriel asked.

“An hour ago. Don’t worry. There’s another one at noon, but I have to go home and finish packing,” he said.

Llewellyn’s eyes opened and he stretched cat-like and emitted a kind of purr, flashing his morning wood without embarrassment.

“Before I go, I want to say that last night was mind-blowing,” Dimitri said.

“Amen to that,” Gabriel added with a yawn. .

“And not at all awkward?” Dimitri asked.

Llewellyn looked to Gabriel and they both shook their heads.

“Still, you have my word. It’ll never happen again unless you guys want it.”

“Fatherhood really has matured you,” Gabriel said. “And I’m not being flip.”

“Good, because I love you both too much to complicate your lives. And I don’t want to jeopardize your relationship with Gabby. She’d be devastated.”

“We appreciate that,” Llewellyn said. “Gabriel and I will discuss it later,” he said. “Now get your pretty ass to Alabama.”

Dimitri bent down to kiss Llewellyn goodbye, then stretched across the bed to kiss Gabriel. As he did, Llewellyn began to spank him gently as Gabriel playfully unbuttoned his shirt.

Dimitri missed the noon flight as well. The next one wasn’t until eleven p.m. with a four a.m. connection in Atlanta. He got to the set only an hour before his call.

***

While the concept of an ongoing threesome sounded daring and sophisticated, the potential for long-term damage could not be discounted. Even if Gabriel and Llewellyn could overcome the jealousy, sexual and emotional, that might arise from introducing Dimitri into the mix, the real danger was to Gabriella, who was at a tender age and would suffer in the aftermath of a rupture between her father and her surrogate uncles.

So an amicable compromise was reached. Any further sexual contact would be tabled until the following summer when Gabriella once again went to visit her mother. Then they would re-evaluate the situation. A lot could change in a year. Gabriel and Llewellyn could decide not to test the relationship further. And given his whimsical track record and still penetrating good looks Dimitri could easily find other willing bedmates or be seduced by some other alternative religion.

The three men settled back into bromance and discovered that the sexual intimacy had actually enhanced their friendship, opened them up, made them more candid with one another. Not that they had much time alone given their hectic schedules. And when they were together, Gabriella was often the focus. Day trips were planned, along with weekend getaways, holidays and birthday celebrations, all the trappings of an extended family with barely an allusion to their sublimated desire.

But it was always there, in every greeting and hug, in every off-handed caress. If anything, denial intensified the attraction. “I think about doing it with you guys all the time,” Dimitri confessed and they nodded in agreement. It also amped up the lust quotient between Gabriel and Llewellyn, who saw no harm in pretending that Dimitri was standing outside watching.

“You know what would be fun?” Gabriel said after one such encounter. “If Dimitri had sex with a really hot woman and made a video and loaned it to us.”

“I like it,” Llewellyn nodded.

“Or maybe even with another guy?”

“Not so much,” Llewellyn said.

“Jealous?” Gabriel asked, teasingly.

“Yes,” Llewellyn admitted.

“Yeah, me too. And greedy.”

Raising a daughter and advancing his a career, however, left Dimitri little time for an active social life. He had the occasional sex partner (all men) but none of them matched the intensity of what he’d experienced with Gabriel and Llewellyn.

When summer rolled around again, he wasted no time rolling back into bed with them. They developed a rhythm the way good lovers do, and if one of them wasn’t in the mood or too tired to join in, he was assigned the role of ringmaster, which almost never failed to inspire a strong performance.

One summer bled into the next, not always smoothly, though in the bedroom all was forgiven. They struggled with self-denial the rest of the year, since the yearning between them continued unabated. Dimitri would sometimes call in the middle of the night and ask, “Did you guys do it tonight?” If the answer was yes, he’d ask for details. And if they hadn’t, he would breathe heavily into the phone, “Well I’m doing it with you right now,” and after a relieved sigh hang up.

***

During the fall of her senior year at the Marlborough School in Los Angeles, her father, Docca and Uncle Llewy accompanied Gabriella back East to visit colleges: Amherst, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, etc. With her strong GPA she was accepted into a majority of the colleges she’d applied to and settled on Vassar.

Gabriella had benefited from having multiple parents. Her attractiveness and charm was a blending of both her father and mother. From Gabriel she developed an interest in medicine, which she intended to pursue at Vassar. Her wry sense of humor and good cheer, however, was strictly Llewellyn.

“So what kind of medicine do you see yourself getting into?” Gabriel asked, trying but failing to conceal his inordinate pride that she planned to follow his career path.

“Probably disease research,” Gabriella said.

“I’m curious, why?” Dimitri asked.

“Yeah, sweetie, that’s very rigorous work,” Llewellyn interjected.

“Look, I’m already ridiculously overprivileged,” she said with an intentionally haughty laugh. “If I continue this way, before long I’ll wind up on my own ugly reality show. I need to challenge myself.”

“But research?” Gabriel said, concerned. “Won’t give you much time for a social life. Be hard to have a husband, kids….”

“Sorry, it’s just not a priority,” Gabriella said.

“Yeah, you say that now,” Dimitri said.

“I should hope so. I’m eighteen, Dad,” Gabriella argued. “But if you’re in a rush to be a grandfather, that’s rather easily accomplished.”

Dimitri visibly shuddered at the idea.

“Besides, any guy who hopes to compete with the three men who raised me… That’s going to be quite a steep hill. Which is not to say I can’t have a squeeze or two on the side.”

“A squeeze or two?” Gabriel’s face betrayed a bit more shock than he’d intended.

“You guys are a riot,” Gabriella said, tossing back her hair in a casual way that had already made several young boys’ hearts flutter.

***

As they prepared to reverse their conjugal timetable (Gabriella would now be spending the summers at home and the winter holidays with her mother), Gabriel applauded their ability to transcend most of the perils of an ongoing threesome.

Perhaps it was because each of them derived something unique from the arrangement. Gabriel was able to satisfy his desire for Dimitri while still honoring his commitment to Llewellyn. He loved each man differently and more or less equally.

With the responsibilities of parenthood and a career, having two semi-permanent boyfriends was about as involved as Dimitri wanted to be in a relationship, and he didn’t have to worry that either was being neglected when he was away on a film shoot. He could love Gabriel openly without compromising his relationship with Llewellyn, of whom he became increasingly fond and sexually drawn to over time.

For Llewellyn, it was like hitting the jackpot. He had Gabriel, whom he adored, and a fantasy man he could share and sometimes experience one on one. It kept his primary relationship invigorated and gave him an outlet for sexual daring. (It was Llewellyn who came up with new libidinal suggestions for the trio.)

They also developed a friendship that evolved and deepened over the years. Together, the men reaped many of the benefits of fatherhood while sharing the burdens of raising Gabriella. One or the other was always there to pick up the slack when career obligations or plain, ordinary parenting fatigue got in the way.

And all the while, they congratulated one another for their self-control and discretion in the girl’s presence.

Dimitri, Gabriel and Llewellyn threw a private farewell dinner for Gabriella the night before she left for college at which the young woman proposed a toast (her first glass of champagne). “Here’s to Dad and my two uncles. I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done.”

She was met with a chorus of “We love you, honey,” and glasses were clinked as the three men struggled to contain the emotions attendant to separation anxiety.

“You know,” Gabriella reflected, “Mom’s always been a bit weird about the three of you, because well, you know… And since Dad and Docca already had a ‘history…’” She punctuated with air quotes.

Gabriel, Llewellyn and Dimitri stood there bug-eyed and seemed to collectively gulp.

“As for me,” she continued. “I’m glad you’re together. I was nervous about having to leave Dad alone. One less thing to worry about.”

“Honey, are you implying…?” Dimitri said, hesitantly. Gabriella merely raised her eyebrows and shook her head at his calculated coyness.

“Relax, Dad, no biggie,” Gabriella laughed. “Truth is, I think it’s kinda hot.”

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