Jeddrick Curdy pulled his cruiser up in front of a by now familiar cabin. He hit his horn once, and after a moment a big man came out onto the porch and waved to him. Benjamin Hockness began to walk toward his car, with a romping German Sheppard puppy lolloping along behind him. Jed couldn’t decide which of them were cuter, the actual puppy or Benji. He grinned at his lover as he leaned on the roof of his cruiser. “Hey, baby.”
“Hi, Jed. Did you get everything?” Benji asked as he approached.
The deputy nodded. “The whole list. You ready to help me carry it all inside?”
“Yeah,” Benji came around as Jed opened the back door to reveal mounds go grocery bags inside.
The puppy barked and wagged his tail wildly as he threw himself on Jed’s legs. The blonde laughed and bent down to pick the animal up. “Hey, Rascal. Did you miss your daddy?”
Benji laughed. “He always acts like you’ve been gone for weeks,” he said as he began to pull bags out of the back of the cruiser.
“It has been weeks for him. He lives on doggy time,” Jed noted as he avoided a lapping pink tongue deftly. “Hey, buddy. These lips are only for Benji to kiss,” he crooned at the puppy, who wriggled and yapped at him.
“I appreciate that. Doggy drool wouldn’t taste that good,” Benji remarked as he stood up with bags draped over his arms.
Jed chuckled as he tucked the puppy under one arm and came over to retrieve some bags himself. They carried the stuff into the cabin together, taking it into the kitchen so that they could put it away. Jed dropped the puppy onto the floor, and he ran around under their ankles yipping as they began to put the groceries away. This didn’t help them in their endeavors, nor did the fact that they kept stopping to kiss each other or do some mild groping. But finally everything was put away where it belonged, and Benji sighed in pleasure as he closed a cupboard and turned to look at Jed.
“That’s it. And dinner will be done in about an hour.” he said. “I made a roast. Your favorite.”
Jed smiled. “Now that’s one of the many reasons that I love you, darlin’,” he told Benji. “You always know what I like,” he added with a naughty wink.
Benji turned faintly pink, which enchanted him like it always did. “I love you too, Jed,” he said earnestly, which made the deputy’s smile widen as he walked toward the artist.
“I know you do. I’m a very lucky man,” Jed remarked, then pulled his head down for a deep kiss that left the kitchen silent except for the sounds of vigorous osculation for long moments.
Benji was hazy-eyed when they finally pulled apart, which made Jed’s groin tighten treacherously. They were definitely retiring to bed early, he thought lasciviously. They’d lock Rascal out of the bedroom and party all night long. Or at least until they finally had to go to sleep because he had work in the morning…
Benji blinked, his brain obviously coming back from outer space. “Uhh…there was something that I wanted to tell you,” he said bemusedly.
Jed grinned. It amused him to reduce his lover to a muddled pile of mush just with a kiss. “What?”
The artist finally got himself together. “I got a call from Sergio,” he told Jed.
“Oh? About what?”
“Well, they got the paintings cleaned up and they’re going to put them on display in the next few weeks,” he told Jed. “There’s going to be a party to celebrate on the first day that the paintings go up on display, and we’re invited.”
Jed shook his head. “I’d love to go,” he said. “But I can’t really afford to take that much time off. Or pay to go to Italy, either.”
Benji nodded. “That’s what I told Sergio. He said that the invitation is open-ended; that we’re welcome anytime.”
“I’m sure we are. You returned three lost Caravaggios to them, after all. Paintings that were thought to have been destroyed by the Nazis all these years. And you didn’t ask for a dime. I’m sure that they love you.”
Benji shrugged sheepishly. “It was the right thing to do,” he said stoutly.
Jed nodded. “I know that. And that’s another reason that I love you. You’re an honest, honorable man.” he paused, studying his lover’s face intently. “But…do you ever regret it at all?” he asked. “Even a little bit? I mean, those paintings were worth a fortune.”
Benji sighed. “No, not really,” he said slowly. “I mean, that is a lot of money. But those Caravaggios…they belong to the world, Jed. To everybody. If they’d ended up hanging on the wall of a private collector who was the only one that could look at them, they would still have been lost. And that would have been tragic. They’re so beautiful. There’s not enough beauty in this world, Jed, and too much ugliness. We need more beauty to balance it out,” Benji said softly, somberly.
Jed just stared at him for a moment. Then he nodded. “You’re exactly right, Benji,” he replied seriously. “The world does need more beauty.”
“And there’s the fact…” Benji began. When his lover looked at him questioningly, he straightened up to his full height and smiled shyly. “I got something way better than money out of this,” he told Jed softly.
The deputy found that his throat was closing up a little. The expression in those sweet brown eyes was choking him up. “So did I,” he agreed somewhat hoarsely. “So did I, Benji.”