Jay & Miles

by ColumbusGuy

Chapter 23

Healing

POV: Denny

"Jay, I'm gonna need directions…" I'd helped him get Mikey to my car—he was pretty unsteady on his feet, being partially bent over to ease his pain. There was a debate on whether he would be more comfortable in the front or back—but since Jay insisted on sitting with him the only option was the back. Bucket seats were just not designed to hold two people. With some in-drawn hisses, we got him settled and buckled in, and Jay took the spot right next to him, fussing over him, touching him on the chest and abdomen, running one hand through his hair to push it back from his eyes…eventually even holding his hand. In all this, there was no sign that Jay felt his own injuries, or even remembered them. Jay interrupted his litany of soothing whispers to give me what I'd asked for.

"Turn left and go up to the second road on the right, turn and go over two hills—about three miles—then turn south on the gravel road…about a mile and a half down that on the left is my house—a big yellow Victorian farmhouse." My new friend and savior immediately went back to his ministrations…including murmurs into Mikey's ear and slipping a hand into his shirt to gently massage his chest.

Heading out onto the road, I caught a glimpse of Jay's sister talking to Bobby and the huge black-haired guy holding Zane immobile. When he'd come up behind me while I was trying to brain Timmy Zane, I thought he was going to kill me too, but he put a hand carefully on my shoulder and whispered "It's okay—I'll take care of him now—go look after Jay and his friend." Before letting go of Zane's neck, I'd taken one more jab at him and it landed on his ear, not apparently rattling anything inside the prick's skull. Out on the road and headed north as instructed, a glance in the mirror showed Mikey touching Jay's lip, causing the blond to wince. He whispered something that caused Jay to laugh.

It took about ten minutes to reach a big yellow house I thought would be Jay's, mainly because I hadn't been on these roads before and had to check with him to see if this was the right way. I pulled up in the graveled drive closest to the back of the house, and turned around in my seat. "Mikey—I'm sorry, I forgot earlier, but I can put the top down so it's easier to get out…" Jay was about to say 'yes', but his boyfriend shook his head. "I'm feeling a bit better, Dennis…just take it slow." I went around the front of the car and opened the long passenger door, pulling the back of the front seat forward so I could assist Mikey out. I held his hand to both guide and assist him to transfer his weight off the seat, and I saw Jay help by giving a little push to his boyfriend's hips. I was too occupied to be certain, but I would have bet a million bucks that Jay also gave him a few caresses. Once Mikey was upright, Jay popped out the passenger door and shut it behind him, then tried to steer Mikey to the back door.

Following Jay's example, I slipped off my loafers, and followed them into a large kitchen. Despite protests, Mikey sat at the formica table, and I took the seat across from him while Jay hovered, not sure if he should say anything more or let it rest. "Jay, kæreste…I'm fine! If you really want to help, I could use something to rinse out my mouth from where I tossed my cookies in the parking lot." Jay got out three glasses from above the sink and pulled two pitchers out of the fridge. "Tea or milk, Denny? Mikey?" I pointed to the tea, but stopped him from filling Mikey's glass. "I think he ought to have milk right now, Jay…it won't upset his stomach as much." I was rewarded with a broad smile of thanks, and some of my own tension eased off a bit…I'd been worried that Jay might think it was too much trouble to be my friend since Timmy Zane's attack, and that the only reason I was here was to bring them home—and wait to be questioned by his sister.

When Jay sipped his own tea, he was given a painful reminder of his own injured lip—and his hiss of pain started him coughing. "You better put some ice on that—it'll help with the pain and swelling, and you might want to change that shirt." I spotted a roll of paper towels on the counter, and tore a couple off, then raided the freezer for an ice cube. I wrapped it in the towels and handed it to him, while Mikey ran his fingers across Jay's chest to his torn shirt collar. "That was one of my favorite shirts to see you in…" Mikey pulled Jay's head down a bit so he could whisper into his ear—and whatever he said caused Jay's eyes to light up and he gave his crotch a little rub. "Really? No lie?" When the dark-haired boy nodded, Jay pulled the shirt over his head to reveal his finely-muscled torso and hairless chest. This was a hell of a lot more interesting than seeing him in the locker room at school—sexier maybe? I knew he and Mikey were a couple, but even so, I felt my dick harden when Mikey ran his hand from Jay's hair down his back for a quick hug. Jay slung his torn tee-shirt over his shoulder and started for the door next to the one we'd come through earlier—from the clomping, it obviously led upstairs.

Mikey jumped slightly when I cleared my throat…I think he'd forgotten I was there for a moment. If I had a boyfriend like Jay, I'd not even remember my own name! He looked scared; like he might have let someone else see his and Jay's secret…I reached across the table and grasped his hand before he could draw it away. "It's okay Mikey…this whole thing started when Zane joked about me in the locker room—he said I was a fag, and Jay jumped all over him for being a dick…" I watched his eyes widen a little behind his glasses, and shook my head sadly. "Mikey…once me and Jay were alone, I came out to him."

I had to laugh at the expression on his face, shock and disbelief warred with relief—then anxiety before he found his voice. "Really? You're gay?" I turned my head when the clomping returned on the stairs—how someone could make so much noise in his socks I had no idea. Jay came into the room and saw me holding Mikey's hand.

"Hey—no poaching on my boyfriend--you gotta get one of your own." He planted a kiss on his friend's forehead to let him know he was kidding, and then started rummaging through the cupboards for snacks. "I was just telling him that I came out to you…I had to laugh because he looked so shocked. He must think you guys invented it or something."

"I do not," Mikey retorted, and then had to smile at his own reaction. "Denny, who knows about you? Jay and me, well, the only people who know are his family—and Greg from lunch. We can't be out—not at school, and not in this town." The worry came to the fore at last judging from the tone of his voice. "If Zane knew…."

"Only you and Jay know…my mom probably does—you know how moms are—but I haven't said anything since I don't have a special friend….I hope to find one someday; you guys were so lucky to find each other. Not everybody is so fortunate…like me." I took a big gulp of my tea; I'd let Jay tell him what he wanted to hear, but I didn't want to think about it anymore than I had to. "Zane didn't know shit—he just made a joke about my underwear, said they were my sister's panties--"

Jay turned from the fridge, having pulled out some bread and a pack of luncheon meat. "Show him, Denny--!" I'd had enough of rotten moods for the day, and the relief from the stress I'd been under since Zane's comment made me take up Jay's joking suggestion; with a broad smile, I got up from my chair and walked around the table to stand next to Mikey. As he stared open-mouthed, I loosened my belt and unbuttoned my jeans. I turned sideways as I lowered my zipper just a little to pull my shirt-tail out…and pulled the side of my briefs up just enough so he could see the bright green stripes. I put myself back together and gave them both a wicked grin. "If you want to see more, you'll have to join gym class, or come to my house on laundry day!"

I sat down amid laughter from my two new friends, and we started putting together some sandwiches from what Jay had found—salami, swiss cheese and rye bread. Not my favorite mix, but he told us that today was grocery day after his mom got home from work, so we made do. When I saw him wince again, I got a knife I'd seen in the dish rack and handed it to him. "Cut it up, then chew on the opposite side."

"Yes, mom," he replied cheekily, and we snickered at his scowl. We'd gotten through half a sandwich each when the screen door slammed and I saw his sister come in. She stood for a second seeing us joking with one another, and put Mikey's book bag on the table. I wondered why she was staring at us with a frown, more at me than Jay and Mikey, and I shifted a bit in my chair. I looked at my friends to see if they had any clues, but Jay had just taken a piece of his sandwich from his boyfriend's fingers, and was chewing contentedly. Only then, it dawned on me that her eyes had tracked Jay eating from Mikey's fingers.

"Jay—what's going on?" She made a small gesture in my direction and her tone conveyed a bit of warning. Jay looked at her, then at me, and I realized he was in a tough spot about what to tell her about me, so I saved him the trouble. "It's okay…the three of us have a lot in common; I know about them, and they know about me…and I also know that none of us can be out at school." I pushed the platter of bread and salami toward her. "Sandwich?" She picked at the tray and chewed on her lip for a few minutes, then said "Humph…guess that covers most of what I wanted to talk to you about. I'm Linda, by the way…Jay tends to forget things like manners when there's food nearby."

Linda turned to her brother once she had her own sandwich built. "Did you put ice on that? Any teeth loose?" Jay swallowed his bite of salami and nodded, then he ran his tongue around inside his mouth. "All present and accounted for, ma'am!" The mock salute made the rest of us giggle, but she just frowned and shook her head. She fixed her attention on Mikey next. "How about you, Mikey? Stand up and let me see."

Mikey stood, and she raised his polo shirt up to his underarms, then peered intently at his abdomen, gently probing and touching as she had him do a complete turn to check for damage from hitting the gravel of the parking lot. His back was fine, but you could see the beginnings of a bruise forming almost dead center of his abdomen. She ran her fingers over that section, and he flinched just a little…more probing to either side seemed to be less sensitive since he didn't react. "Does it feel more or less painful than before?"

He tilted his head to the side for a second, then shrugged. "Less painful, but I think I'm going to get stiff once the bruising sets in…" She nodded and patted him on the butt as he lowered his shirt.

"Hey! You're coppin' a feel of my man!" Jay shot at her with a big toothy grin. Her snort was loud and full of derision. "He should be so lucky—I'll leave you to look after the 'feels'. I like my men with a bit more muscle." We all laughed to see Mikey blush nearly as dark as the red of his shirt, then we sobered up; I think the same thought came to us at the same time…

"What happened with Timmy Zane?" I asked, since I was the cause of the day's trouble.

Linda took a bite of her sandwich, and motioned for a glass. Jay got one down and poured a glass of tea for her, then sat back next to Mikey. Our eyes all focused on her, waiting to find out what happened after we left, but she took a second bite and chewed that, then took a sip of tea…then she wiped her lips with a paper towel. "In a minute…why don't you tell me what happened before I showed up?"

Two of us started to protest. We were more worried about what might be in store for us tomorrow morning, but after a couple seconds, we noticed Jay was staying silent. I couldn't figure out what was going on, and apparently, Mikey couldn't either, but when we got no response, we finally looked to Jay for direction—he knew his sister better than anybody else in the room right now. "I got to the truck first since my class was closer, and had put my stuff inside when I heard Zane shout 'Beckel!', so I turned to see him coming at me, demanding to know why I defended you, Denny—the word he used was less polite—so I told him again that it was the right thing to do, and that being a bully was just a sign of cowardice and meanness. For some reason, he didn't seem to like that…"

I hadn't seen or heard this part since I was coming out of Mrs. Wilson's English Lit class then, so I was glued to his tale, as were Mikey and Linda. He seemed disappointed when his little joke didn't get a laugh, so he went on: "He pushed me a couple times, saying he didn't like being talked down to, or made fun of—you know me—I said 'Now you know how others feel when you do it', and that's when he pushed me against the side of the truck and grabbed hold of my shirt to hold me still so he could punch me…"

Mikey put one arm around Jay's shoulders, and stroked his hair with his other hand as he took up the story. "That's when I got there—when I saw him grab Jay, I ran up and told him to let go of my friend—I may have called him a 'big ape', I'm not sure. He turned and sneered at me 'Keep out of this Four-Eyes,' then raised his fist again to hit Jay. I had to do something—and the only weapon I had was my pack—I'd taken it off to put in the truck, so I swung it and hit the big lummox in the back of the neck. I remember thinking that if the straps had been adjusted longer it would have had more momentum…and that's about the last thing I remember until you showed up to check my stomach." He turned to his boyfriend and hugged him. "I'm sorry I couldn't do more, elskede…."

I saw Linda eyeing Mikey with new appreciation, and she reached over and put her hand on his cheek, giving it a gentle pat. "Welcome to the family, bror," she whispered. I thought Jay's head would split in two with the breadth of his smile, and I saw a couple tears on his cheeks. When there was a pause no one filled, I took up my short part. "I guess it's me for this bit then; I was almost at my car when I heard Zane shout Jay's name, and I glanced over, half afraid what I'd see. I only knew what I'd heard of him, and none of it was good. I tossed my bag in the car, and started over to see what was going on—when he punched Mikey in the stomach, I took off—cross-country is good for building your leg muscles, so I was on him pretty quick—I couldn't do much to stop his arms, so I jumped on his back and wrapped my legs around him and had one arm around his throat trying to choke him; my other hand was trying to punch him in the face, but that's hard to do from behind.

"With my legs around his thighs, he had trouble moving forward, and with my weight pulling him off-balance, he couldn't connect properly with Jay's face—so I guess that's how he got the split lip. Then you guys showed up, and the big guy grabbed Zane's arms and told me to look after Jay and Mikey." I looked sideways at Jay, but Linda got our attention by laughing at us.

"Remind me not to get cornered by the three of you!" Her jibe got us to join her in the mirth, and when she continued her tone was closer to normal. "One thing, all of you—if you find yourselves in a position like Denny was in, don't try to choke him—that takes a lot of arm strength…it's easier and better to put one hand over the guy's mouth, and use the other to pinch his nostrils shut. He'll either have to let go of the person he's trying to hurt, or suffocate."

At our amazed stares, she told us that dating a wrestler had been educational in more ways than one, then gave in to our demands about Zane's fate after we left. She took another big drink from her glass before answering. "You don't have to worry about him for the rest of the semester. Me and Benny reasoned with him, and he promised to leave you guys alone…" Three boys regarded her with skepticism, and Jay snorted in disbelief—he'd known Timmy longer than the rest of us, or so I gathered from his expression. "You can believe me on this point, guys—if he even looks at you funny—I'll know about it. I have a lot of friends with the athletic crowd, and there isn't a single girl in school who wouldn't love to see him taken down…so he probably won't be able to take a piss without someone telling me."

"Yeah, but…" Jay started to say, but Linda cut him off. "It's settled, guys. Every jock in school is aching to find an excuse to maul him because he's been such a tool on all the teams he's played on. Benny's making calls tonight to get the word out that he's not supposed to talk to you, look at you funny, or anything…and I'll be calling a couple girls when I get upstairs to have them watch him too. So, tomorrow, you go to classes like all this never happened." She put her dishes in the sink, and turned to go upstairs, but stopped when Jay asked about Bobby.

Linda leaned against the door-frame for a second, then looked at us sadly. "We broke up…I told him I couldn't be friends with someone who hung out with bigots or bullies. He sided with Timmy Zane…"

"That son-of-a-bitch! Wait 'til I see him tomorrow!" Jay said a few more things in pretty acidic Danish which I didn't understand—I'd picked up bits and pieces when I used to tour Europe with my parents as a kid, but it was pretty basic and didn't include profanity, much to my chagrin. That's where I got my first clue about Jay and Mikey, when Jay used the word 'ven' to describe him instead of the English word friend.

I watched her walk back over to Jay, who'd risen in his anger, and take him into her arms. She ruffled his hair until he squirmed and started to laugh. "You don't do anything, Jay; he stuck by him because they've been friends since first grade, so I can admire his loyalty to his friends…even if this one is a dumbass. Zane was the reason I hadn't brought Bobby home yet to meet mor and far—so it was just a matter of time. I told him, if he did drop him in the future, I'd talk things over with him—if I wasn't dating someone else." She turned for the stairs again, and pointed to Mikey's book bag.

"I think it's all there, Mikey. I didn't see any other papers or books on the ground. I'll be back down in a minute to do your chores, Jay…you guys should start your homework." Then she was gone, a lot quieter than Jay had been on the same stairs. As if it were a royal command, Jay got his books out, and Mikey started sorting through his now-jumbled things to see if it was all there; my stuff was still in my car, so I went out the screen door and Jay hollered 'Don't forget your shoes!" Why the two of them started laughing hysterically, I had no idea.

As I pulled my pack from the front passenger seat, I heard a low whistle from behind me. I half jumped as I turned, and saw an older white-blond man walking up from the barn, well over six feet tall, broad and muscular. He walked with a firm, but determined grace. His smile broke out when he saw my startled surprise. His hand came out as he got closer and shook mine in a friendly way, gripping neither too tight nor too loose. He had some features similar to Jay's so I assumed this was his father.

"Nice car, son—you a friend of Jay's?" He patted my back. "I'm Dirck Beckel, Jay's father. You joining us for dinner?" I didn't know what to make of this man—he was a far cry from the parents of the kids at my old school. They were all from pretty rich families in New England…not the old, long-established ones, but the ones whose money was relatively new—say less than a century, and they felt they had to out-snob the elite they pretended to be by flashing their expensive toys and looking down on everyone else. I'd hated them all.

"Dennis Watson, sir. God eftermiddag, Mr. Beckel." His eyebrows shot up to hear me speak Danish. "Undskyld, men jeg kan kun lidt dansk." He beamed and looked over my car as I told him it was a '65 Corvair Corsa, with a 140 horsepower flat-six engine and three-speed transmission. When he said it was in great shape, I explained that my uncle gave it to me last summer—he'd bought a newer car for my cousin Henry. When he asked to see the engine, I walked him around the back, which caused those eyebrows to rise again. "She's a rear-mounted air-cooled motor, not the biggest, but she can hit 115 on an empty road."

"What about supper, Dennis? You're staying since I see you have your books?"

I shuffled my feet a bit and looked away. "You might not want me to—there was trouble at school, and Jay had a fight thanks to me…" So I told him about Jay standing up for me when I was bullied, and of the later fight in the school's parking lot, saying I'd done what I could to help Jay and Mikey. "Jay has a busted lip, and Mikey got hit in the stomach, but they're fine; Linda checked them over and we were just about to start homework." I met his dark brown gaze as I finished, and was all set to put my stuff in the car and leave until he shook his head and gave me a little push toward the back door of the porch.

"Two things you need to know Dennis: first, my family stands up for what's right even when it hurts…" he grinned when he said that, and I tried out a tentative chuckle. " Second, if one of us says you're a friend, then that's that, you did what was right, same as he did, so I consider it an honor to have you in our house."

When we entered the kitchen, Jay and Mikey looked up with a bit of alarm when they saw Jay's dad—I think they were a little afraid of what he'd say about their getting into a fight. Instead, Mr. Beckel gave a whistle when he saw Jay's lip. "That's going to be a beauty in the morning, søn….What about you Mikey? How's the stomach? Think you can keep down some of Rosalie's dinner?" I watched both of them nod eagerly and relax seeing he wasn't mad in the least. "You boys can do your lessons in the dining room, or up in Jay's room…Mother's going to be home in a bit…oh, pokkers…I forgot to thaw out the steaks!"

Jay laughed to see his dad run over to the freezer, pull out a half dozen white paper-wrapped parcels, and set them on the counter. He put the oven on low, unwrapped the T-bones and placed them on a metal sheet pan. He then went into the pantry and came back with two quart-jars of green beans. It was like watching some old film where the people moved faster than in real life. He came back from the pantry a second time carrying six large potatoes and tossed them in the sink, then scrubbed them and pulled out a big pot and filled it with water and some salt. As he peeled them, Jay came up next to him and began slicing them and tossing them in the pot. "I don't think these'll be enough, far—three growing boys tonight…" Dirck looked over his shoulder and grinned. "Three hungry boys, looks like. Better grab six more potatoes, Jay."

"I got it, far." Mikey went into the pantry, came back a couple minutes later with the extra spuds, and put them in the sink. "I'll clear our stuff off the table, and then I'll set it." I helped him gather up Jay's books as well as his own, then followed him up the stairs to what had to be Jay's room—the David Cassidy poster was a dead giveaway. So were the scattered clothes at the foot of the bed. At least that had been made, though it was obvious it was a fast job since there were wrinkles and the blanket hung unevenly. Mikey put his stuff on the bed, and said I could sit at the desk by the southern-facing window at the far end of the room. The other window was on the longer wall facing west to the gravel road we'd come in on.

"Sorry for the mess, Jay wasn't expecting anyone to come over but me…" he picked up the clothes and placed them into a laundry basket by the tall dresser, and opened the window closest to him to let in some fresh air. I did the same for the one by the desk, and turned back to him with a grin. "My stuff is in a basket too, and the only reason is because my cat will drag things everywhere if I don't do it. Mom had a cow one day when she dragged a pair of my underwear into the living room while she had friends over."

We both had a laugh at that, then Mikey got serious. He put his arm around me for a second before letting go. "I can't tell you how much it means to me that you came over to help us today, Denny. Jay could have been hurt a lot worse if it wasn't for you." There was a hitch in his voice as he finished, and he cleared his throat noisily to cover it. I put my hand on his shoulder and met his brownish-green eyes. "Mikey, all I want is for you guys to be my friends—I haven't had any of those for a few years now." Since the mood was getting a bit heavy, I gave him a grin and asked where a guy could 'drain the lizard'. He led me to the bathroom next to the back stairs, and said he'd go help in the kitchen.

"There is one other thing I could use…" I called out as he got to the top of the stairs. He turned and shot me a questioning look. "You could find me a boyfriend like Jay!" His answering laugh was loud enough that it could be heard downstairs.

"Trust me—there isn't another one like him, thank God—but we'll see what we can do." Hearing him say that reminded me that Jay had said there were some other gay guys at school, but he didn't know any names; no matter how I approached that statement, it didn't make any sense—because he knew there were others besides him and Mikey, that meant someone had to know their names…but not counting my two new friends, I didn't know who this mysterious source could be. That made my quest to find a boyfriend almost impossible on my own—I understood the need for secrecy, both from what happened today with Zane, and from my old school, but it was frustrating nonetheless.

I did my business, thinking that over, and washed my hands. Staring into the mirror, I tried to picture another boy standing next to me, looking at me the way those two looked at each other. Was it too much to ask for? Looking at my reflection, I knew I wouldn't win a prize in a handsomest guy contest, my ears saw to that, but I wasn't hideous. Light brown hair with just a hint of curliness, gray eyes which could be either cold as steel or bright as polished silver depending on my mood; just above average height at 5'11, and leanly muscled thanks to my running regimen—calisthenics kept my upper body toned if not bulging with brawn…but even I had to admit that I had damn nice legs. Could I be asking for too much wanting a boyfriend? He didn't have to be good looking, or come from a good family—hell, he could even be dumb as a post—so long as he liked me for myself.

I went back to Jay's room and sat at the desk to start my homework—too many people in the kitchen would just get in the way…and I could barely boil water without burning it. As I pulled out my English Lit notebook to go over today's assignment, I heard a commotion downstairs and a female voice telling everybody to grab a grocery bag from the car if they wanted to eat this week. Her voice sounded warm and loving like a mom's ought, and I tried picturing her in my mind's eye: probably on the tall side like Linda, maybe with blue eyes since Jay had to get them from somewhere, her hair could be brown or blonde, but the shade could be almost anything from light brown to near-white. I began hearing cabinet doors closing and the rustling of brown paper bags, and her mildly chiding tone directing Jay to put food in the cabinet and not in his stomach. At that point, there was a sudden silence, and I figured she'd noticed Jay's lip…despite what Mr. Beckel had said, I began to get nervous all over again.

"You all watch the beans and potatoes—Dirck, turn those steaks over so they don't thaw unevenly! I'll be back down after I change." Footsteps on the stairs grew louder as she ascended, and I heard her pause at the bathroom, then the closing of a cabinet. I couldn't help looking toward the door as the steps stopped for a minute, and I got my first glimpse of Jay's mother. She was nothing like I'd imagined, except for the warm smile. I got to my feet as she came into the room and held out my hand for her to take. Her eyes were the most arresting feature, intensely blue and flickering with humor and concern. Her hair was the same golden-blonde as Jay's also, and the same pert nose. Her features were certainly attractive, and she was just a hair shorter than Jay, but her body looked comfortable, if that makes any sense…a little extra flesh to show she liked cooking, but she was by no means stocky or even remotely fat. Rubenesque to a 't'. "You must be Dennis…it's nice to meet a new friend of Jay and Mikey. Everybody says you're staying for dinner, so why are you cooped up in Jay's pig-sty?"

"Well," I began, looking around the room—it wasn't really a mess, at least not to me. "I helped Mikey bring up our homework, and thought I'd get a start on it since there's already a lot of people down there." The way her eyes held mine made me think she saw through my excuse…and she would be right. Yes, everybody said it was fine that Jay stood up for me, but I still couldn't help feeling guilty about his and Mikey's injuries.

"Søde, don't blame yourself for today…this isn't the first time Jay's had trouble for doing the right thing, and it won't be the last." She placed her hand on my arm and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Did you stop to think that it could as easily have been someone else—and they might not have been there to help after school?" I just stared at her, unable to find any words; Jay had an amazing family who were being nice to a stranger just because it was their nature. These definitely weren't like the people I knew from my old school, always looking to see what was in it for themselves.

"You do know why the fight started, right?" She looked puzzled for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders. "Doesn't matter, Dennis…you needed a friend, and Jay was there to be one…anything else is only important because it brought you to a new group of friends."

I decided I'd done with hiding who I was to these people—the kids knew, so I saw no need to keep their parents in the dark. I took a deep breath and swallowed before I went on. "I know Jay and Mikey are gay…and they say you are fine with that—what if I said that I wanted a boyfriend of my own?" I thought I'd get a 'that's fine' or something like that, but once again, this woman defied my expectations.

She pulled me into her arms and stroked my hair! She completely blew my mind with that move…and I began to sniffle. I hadn't felt this warm and safe since I was 12 and my mom dropped me off at boarding school. She'd hugged me in the Headmaster's office and told me to call whenever I wanted, even if it was just to say 'hi'…and that I'd be home for holidays and all summer. Her words only confirmed what Jay had said. "Then I'd say, 'That's fine, bring him by to show him off to us whenever you want.' Dennis, I'll tell you what I told Jay and Miles: you have a place here where you can be yourself, no need to pretend to be someone else, no need to worry or fret. If your parents don't know, or can't understand, then we will. There is one condition though…" I gave her a look of pure happiness and asked what that was—I'd do anything she wanted.

"Go get those boys out of my kitchen! Get them to show you Gulliver, or even just sit on the porch—I can't make dinner with two younger, and one older boy underfoot." I laughed and she tousled my hair as I left the room to do what she'd asked.

For the next hour, Jay showed me his horse, Gulliver, and explained that he was training him for his 4-H project this year…getting him used to various bits of tack such as bridles and halters, teaching him to respond to commands both by voice and body movements, and getting him used to riders. I watched Mikey blush furiously as Jay told me that this past weekend was the first time Gulliver had carried two people. I'd ridden once or twice at school, but had no opportunities other than that since we didn't have room for a horse at home. I made all the right noises as I approached Gulliver, and he let me stroke his neck and scratch the spot between his ears, which caused him to blow out his lips in a horsey sigh. After that, we went around the apple orchard, the vegetable garden (mostly empty) and across the fields to a stand of woods near a pond.

"We can swim here during the summer, and maybe camp out once in a while—Mikey and I already have plans to do that—he's gonna help around here with haying and other stuff so he can build up those cute muscles of his—and work on his tan!" Mikey saw me blush when Jay kissed him, and he punched his boyfriend in the arm.

"Stop it, you little goof—you're embarrassing Denny." Right away, Jay let him go and began apologizing furiously. I waved that aside and sat on the greening grass to look out over the pond.

"Its fine, Mikey…don't you guys hold back because of me—I like seeing what I could have some day." When I said that, Mikey took Jay's hand and pulled him down to sit next to me. "I told Denny we'd help him find a boyfriend…we can do that can't we?"

I was getting anxious when Jay just looked at me for a few seconds without saying anything, then he gave my shoulder a little shove. "Of course we can elskede. It's gonna be hard only because we don't know who the other guys are, except one. I can ask him tomorrow to keep his eyes open, if you want?" Jay took my blushing as his answer and slapped me on the back. "That's it, then. Tomorrow Operation Boyfriend gets underway."

The distant peals of a bell caused Jay and Mikey to jump up, so I followed them and we took off at a run for the house. We left our shoes on the back porch and Rosalie waved us upstairs to wash up. I got finished first and was waiting in the hall when I caught part of a conversation from Linda's room…hearing only one person, I figured she was on the phone, so I started to walk away.

"…fine, Benny. I already talked to some of the girls, so that part's covered….No, just tell them to watch him, but they need to be ready to step in if he tries anything….Okay—I'll see you in school tomorrow—and say 'hi' to Cal for me...Bye!" I headed down the back stairs, followed by Mikey and Jay, feeling bad that I'd accidentally eavesdropped on Linda, but my mind kept asking one question: Who was Cal? Did Benny have a brother?

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