Matt and Tim II

by Small Town Guy

Prologue and Chapter 1

First, I would like to thank my readers for all their positive comments on my Matt and Tim story. It really feels great! I haven't received a single negative comment. I've been told, "Your characters are so real!" "Your characters are so believable." "I can so identify with Matt!" Many have said they were "sad" the story ended with chapter 15. "I'll miss Matt and Tim."

The responses to my story were truly priceless! I thank you! Not one was negative. Not even from the 'straight' readers. I was certain some "troll" out there was going to spew more hatred. I love you all. Here's a big virtual <hug> to all of you!

I'm sure many of you, if not all, have heard of the Jamey Rodemeyer suicide in Buffalo, NY. It was three days of the news breaking that I could actually read the articles for the tears in my eyes. I have no idea why this particular suicide bothered me so. Perhaps it was because I'm from NY and this happened nearly in my "back yard." It was the motivation I needed to finish this story and I believe I may have pushed it too fast. I was hoping I'd reach just one bigot out there and hope for some understanding. It pains me that a single bullycide happens. Some of these little angels as young as eleven are no longer with us because of the hatred out there for something they have no control over!

Well, now I'd like to continue the story a bit. I'd suggest you first read Matt and Tim if you haven't done so already. It has all the background to the sequel which I won't go into too much detail introducing the characters. Let's all work together to end hatred. I truly believe love knows no gender!

I regret I haven't been 'sooner' with this story but it has been a hectic year for me. We were about to move into a new home. Nearly everything was packed into totes and cardboard boxes. My wife had a stroke. It was discovered she had three brain aneurysms! She had four brain surgeries in 36 hours! (Few people survive one!) She required no physical therapy. She was a bit weak on her left side and still has some dizzy spells. I'm retired and trying my best to help her out. I'm also working on the "new" house. I'm fairly handy with carpentry, plumbing and electrical. Being retired, I can hardly hire contractors for all the work. Some days I believe I'm putting in more hours than when I was employed. I've also been diagnosed with a bad heart. (Aneurism) I may last several more years, months or I may not see tomorrow morning.

Another 'problem' of mine is that I can't just "sit down and write." I have difficulty with those dreaded "writer's blocks." I'm just hoping to give people more hope and have a little less hate in the world. I'm not ashamed to admit I cry real tears over many of these "coming out" stories I've read in the Net. I simply have no concept over all the hate out there.

Again, thank you all! And another big (over the World Wide Web) virtual <HUG> to all of you! I love you all!

Tim's father, Ken Webster sat at the tiny breakfast nook in his kitchen. His white hair was crew-cut and he wore stylish, yet comfortable slacks and shirt. Across from him sat Matt's father, Richard Meadows. His brown hair was thin and receding with slight touches of gray. He, too, wore stylish yet comfortable clothes. He rubbed his chin with his thumb an forefinger. It was the day after Christmas. On Christmas day, they were both snowed in at their places of employment due to a heavy blizzard which struck the area. They had just celebrated Christmas and finished a large dinner with the Webster's.

"Yeah, I've never seen anything like this," Richard was saying, "I've lived here all my life and never saw snow like this! I think it even caught the weather department by surprise."

"Well," Ken continued, "I've seen weather like this on the coast of Alaska and Greenland, but it was always from a ship."

"Well, I was Army and never overseas. Being in the Navy you must have seen a lot."

"Oh yeah! I was literally around the world four times! It was just we seldom got shore leave. I saw lots of places but I would have liked to visit them too! I was stuck below deck lots too. I wasn't exactly engine room, but I had to keep all the electric generators going. A ship without power might as well just have a wooden mast and sails on it!"

Richard seemed to stall for a few seconds before he continued.

"Well, hell, Ken!........I might as well just come out and say it! You and Ayumi have sure done a lots for me and Cynthia."

Ken rubbed his head as he nodded.

"...Well, it's like I told you......Ayumi and I....well, we were a....a kind of a radical pair. We didn't fit in with the young world, yet we didn't exactly fit in with the people our age either. We vowed we'd try to keep open minds. We were both raised in awful traditional homes. We've all heard the story about the kid who goes to college, thinking his parents are the dumbest people around. Then he graduates and returns four years later and he amazed at how much they learned in such a short time......HA! Well, Mom was a bit strict with us....It was Dad..."

He leaned forward over the table and lowered his voice.

"...Rich....I hated my ole man!...... Hate! ......When he died, I didn't shed a tear!...

"...Sound bad to you? Oh!....He just looked for a reason to beat on me! Oh, he was mean! I'm glad we left California! It was getting to be too much of a temptation to just go out to that cemetery and shit on his grave!"

He settled back on the bench seat of the nook. Richard nodded his head.

"Yeah, I'm one of your generation too. Well, I wasn't exactly beat on, but there was sure lots of anger management problems in my family. Yup, lots of hate. I can see that very clearly. Well, I always could see that. I couldn't wait to get out of there! My folks couldn't afford college for me. I decided on the army. Oh, my ole man was pissed! Kept telling me I'd never make it! Told me all my life I'd never amount to anything! I think that's why I hated my job so much. Well, I did and yet I didn't. It all depended how I was looking at it at the time. I really enjoy the....well, problem solving part of it. It's crawlin' through all the grease and oil and smashing my knuckles with wrenches slipping."

He rubbed his head in a rather frustrated manner.

"...This offer the company's making me. Shit, Ken! At my age? They want to send me overseas and learn about all these new computer assisted machines! Why don't they make that offer to some of the young kids down there? In another twenty....twenty-five years, I'll be retiring!"

Ken simply smiled at him.

"...Oh yeah. Oh yeah!....I've seen lots of companies do that. And the kids put in their apprenticeship and their off to some other company willing to pay more! And they didn't have the expense of training them! You're established here, Rich. You're married, you've got a home, you lived here all your life! Some companies are starting to see that today! Well, not all of them, but lots of them are wising up. These young kids....well, most of them just want to get an apartment, buy a fast car and go chase girls! You're established in town here. I'm sure the company understands that...

"Rich! They're paying for a whole year of training for you. You'd better jump on a offer like this!"

"Well, shit, Ken! Matt's been practically living here since last summer! I can't expect you two to look after him for a whole year! We feel bad enough with the expenses you've been through with him."

"Hey, you can't pull him out of school now! You'll be in Austria! Everything will be so foreign to him. He'll be lost! And being without Tim?.... And Tim without him? It'll crush those little guys! We'd love to have him here with us! They're so mature for their age. I know, I keep saying that but it's true. And Matt's never been a problem! Mom will love it! She'll be here with them while we're at work. I mean, I don't think they're going to party or burn the house down, but just in case of an emergency."

Richard sat in silence for a moment in thought.

"Rich," Ken began, "Remember Ayumi telling you the story about wishing she had kids she could clean up after? She isn't lying about that! Oh gee! We were seriously going to get Tim some psychological help! We were so worried about him. He just wouldn't talk to us. He was such a loner! We had no idea what was wrong with him! Matty's been ten psychologists! He hasn't cost us a dime! In fact, I think he's saved us thousands! We had no idea what Tim was going through.

"It's gotta be rough on the boys. Knowing they were gay?......And how society kinda frowns on that? And I'll say it again....NO! I don't like it myself, but not the gay part......It's their safety. There are lots of....of hate mongers out there. I've already told them both about that."

"Well, it's like Cynthia says," Rich continued, "he just about lives here! That's an awful expense at today's prices. And the extra cleaning, fixing meals, extra laundry. And then there's...

"Ayumi and Mom will LOVE every minute of it! And so will I!...

"It'll only be for a year. You aren't going to miss anything important like graduation or that. And you'll double your income! That's lots to think about. You can help Matt through college and still have plenty left over for a nice retirement nest egg! Rich!......If you don't jump at a chance like this, I'll call you a fuckin' idiot!"

Richard fell into a moment of deep thought, yet smiled.

It was here Ayumi entered the kitchen, followed by Cynthia. Ayumi wore a bright yellow shift. Her black hair shined in contrast to it. Cynthia wore a slack suit. She was smiling, yet wrung her hands in front of herself.

Ayumi threw her hands out with a large smile.

"That settles it! Matt's moving in with us! You and Cynthia don't have to worry about a thing!"

She approached Richard.

"I've never said this to anyone before in my life!......I agree with Kenny. Richard, if you don't take up an offer like this......You're an ass! An idiot!"

They all broke out in a relaxed laugh. The tension left the room.

Richard nodded his head.

"...Ken was getting ready to call me that anyhow. It's just I feel like we're dumping Matt here!"

Matt's grandmother Clara entered with a bright grin. She shook her curved finger in the air.

"All I hear is what an expense little Matt's going to be! Now this is silly! Oh my stars!......I'll pay you two to have that sweet little angel here! I'll go get my checkbook!......Now what do I owe you?"

They all laughed again.

"Oh my stars!......A whole year with my two favorite boys! Ohhhh! I've only got a few years left and I can spend the next year just spoilin' the shit outta both of 'em!"

They all laughed again.

"I'm quite serious here! How I'm going to enjoy fussing over the both of them! They're such sweet little angels and they've got so much love for each other. You can see it! They couldn't hide that from me! I was onto them all along! It's just such a good feeling I've got with being helpful! At times I feel such a burden around here. I feel useful again."

Cynthia wrung her hands again.

"Oh you people are just so wonderful. I just don't feel right about this though."

Clara turned toward the basement door. She waved her hand in the air, her curved finger out!

"Now that's the end of things! I'm calling the boys up here to tell them the news."


Minutes later, the two boys sat at the breakfast nook. Although nobody had yet spoken, Matt and Tim could sense a tension in the room. Both understood Matt's parents had a difficult time adjusting to his "coming out" to them. They had looked up information on the Net. They had accompanied other parents to a distant school which offered a PFLAG. In fact, they had allowed several handouts to be found about the house. One clearly had the bold print in its header, "Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays." It had listed their mission statement and outreach program of education. Although they were more accepting now, they still had reservations and questions. Both felt a fear creeping into themselves. They glanced at the adults and each other.

Mr. Meadows paced before the table for a moment, gathering his thoughts. He noticed the boy's tense body language. Both had pale faces.

"Ummm......Matt......I've got tell you something here...

"I've been offered a real good deal with the company. They want me to train in a new field. The company's machines are old....very old. In fact, if they don't upgrade in a few more years, they may have to shut the doors. These old-fashioned machines......Well, we just can't compete with the other companys any longer. Our machines....hell, they've gotta be some fifty years old! They're just too....well, too labor intensive to continue on with..."

He noticed both boys reach for the others hand on the table without even looking toward each other.

"Well, they want me to train in these new machines. These computer assisted things......I mean, even before they buy 'em! But the catch is......I've got to go to Austria to do it!"

Their fingers seemed to grasp tighter to each others hand.

"...I've got to go overseas for training......for a YEAR!"

"Oh shit!" they all heard Tim whisper.

"...Now, Mom's going to come along with me. In fact they already have an apartment set up for us. We'll be leaving in a couple weeks..."

Both boy's faces seemed to blanch again. Their eyes became large.

"Now the Webster's here said it's okay for you to live here, Matt."

Matt suddenly took his hand from Tim's and covered his face. He fell forward with a deep sob.

"Oh shit!....Oh shit! I thought I was going to have to go too! Oh shit! I just couldn't leave Timmy for a whole YEAR! I'd die! I'd DIE!"

He turned to Tim and threw his arms around his neck, pressing his face into his chest, still sobbing.

"Oh gee! I think I was about to have a....a heart attack!"

They all grinned, yet felt they had to hold back tears of their own.

Clara wiped tears from her own eyes as she waddled close to them. She grasped both their heads and hugged them tightly.

"...We'd never do that to you boys! Oh my stars! Anyone can see how close you two are to each other! Two peas in'a pod!"

Tim, now relieved, tried for a bit of levity.

"Oh ICK!....GRAM!....PEAS?!"

They all laughed again.

It was obvious to the others, Matt had truly been frightened. He continued to hug Tim's neck and roll his face into his chest. He suddenly pushed Tim from the bench seat and stood. Tears still rolled down his cheeks. He fell to his knees and crawled for Ayumi, kissing the toes of her shoes. She shuffled back away from him with a laugh.

"Matty!"

"Oh!....Let me kiss your feet!....Let me wax the kitchen floor! I'll do dishes everyday!....I'll clear snow!....I'll mow the lawn....I'll....I'll PAINT THE HOUSE! You can OWN me! I'll be your slave!"

Everyone laughed again, yet still aware of what this meant to the boys.

Matt sat on the floor, wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

"Oh gee!....Oh gee! DAD! I thought for sure you were leading up to me having to go too! Oh!....You'd have to put me on twenty-four hour suicide watch!"

His father drew him up by his arm.

"Now that's enough about suicide!......I saw your awful pictures. I heard about it at your meeting!......I read too much of it on the Net! No more talk about suicide!"

"That's right!" Tim sobbed, grabbing him around his neck.

"No more suicide stuff, Matty! You scare the shit outta me when you talk like that!"

He buried his face into Matt's shoulder, sobbing.

"Oh shit!......I love you too much! No more talk about suicide, huh Matty?"

Matt felt a bit apprehensive with his parents present, yet hugged Tim deeply. Both broke out into sobs again.

"Well, see what I told you all?!" Clara yelled out, waving her curved finger in the air, "My stars! The worst thing we could ever do is separate these two little ANGELS!"

She drew the boys back to the bench seat of the nook. Both reached for paper napkins from the plastic holder. Matt held his hand to his chest.

"Oh gee!....Oh gee!....I think that's as close as I'll ever get to a heart attack!"

Matt's father walked up to the both of them and squeezed each of their shoulders.

"...I'm adjusting, boys......It's been a rough time for me, but I understand how rough it was for you too. We'll come around. I'm sure of it..."

He stepped back, looking at Ken and Ayumi, yet it appeared as though he were in some way "presenting" them.

"Timmy!....You've got great parents here! They understand a lot. They helped us through all this too. I think Jack helped as well. Well, I mean with his boy being knifed by those bullies. He really had quite a turn-around there. And......and well....that's our only concern right now. There are lots of bullies out there, boys......And they aren't kids! They're adults! And the bullying gets more adult......It gets more violent."

He slipped his hands into his pockets.

"I'm not embarrassed over you two. I understand now it's what you are and you have no control over this. It's just......Well, I'll say it....I think Ken said the same thing. All I ask is you don't....flaunt it too much. I mean, for your own safety! I'm afraid the both of you have quite a rough life ahead of yourselves. Oh yeah, another twenty years will do wonders......I can see that now. But there will always be haters out there. Some people just thrive on it. I think they enjoy it! Yeah, it's really sick, but we'll always have 'em. And not just against the gay community. It'll always be something! People will always find something to hate."

Ayumi started for Tim's room and waved her hand.

"Okay, boys......Let's turn off the tears and come in here for a bit...

"We let you two go down into the family room so we could set up a little surprise for you."

They entered Tim's room to see the tiny corner desk had been replaced with a long, wide desk which nearly extended to Tim's walk-in closet. It was obvious there were two new computers and printers set up, as well as wide monitors.

"WOW!......MOM! DAD!......Hey! I sure like the big desk, but you didn't have to get me a new computer!"

Ayumi guided them both to separate, leather covered rotary chairs.

Both sat, wide-eyed, unable to speak. Matt looked down at a separate keyboard. It was here he noticed a second monitor before him.

"WOW!....Duel wide screen monitors!"

"Duel computers!" Ayumi quickly put in.

"Oh WOW!"

"Well, you'll both have schoolwork but it'll be slightly different I'm sure. You'll each have your own computer now......Your mom and dad got you yours. They're learning computers now and they want one of their own!

"And Timmy....don't panic....I saved all your favorites to a flash! I transferred everything to your new computer."

"OH WOW!....OH WOW!" they both yelled out in unison. Both started up their separate computers.

"Well," Tim began, "let's set up our computers to our own liking!"

Matt turned to his parents.

"Oh!....Mom! Dad!......Just staying here with Tim is all I need! You didn't have to get me a new computer too!"

"Well, now," his father put in quickly, "You can't be hogging Tim's computer. You'll both need them for schoolwork."

Tears began to run from his eyes again.

"Turn off the tears, Matty!" Ayumi said.

Tim turned in his chair.

"That's right, Matty......No more tears! If you don't quit, I'll kiss you with everyone watching!"

This caused everyone to laugh. Matt wiped his eyes with his sleeve again. He managed a weak smile as Tim held his head. He kissed his mouth quickly.

"Oh! Gee!....TIMMY!"

"Hee, hee......Then quit crying!"

It was two hours later when the boys came from Tim's room. Tim held his old computer tower and Matt followed with the monitor.

"Dad?....What are you going to do with the old computer?"

The four sat at the breakfast nook, Clara sat at the island on a stool. They all sipped Swiss mocha which Ayumi had just fixed.

"...Well, set it out to the curb for pickup, I guess..."

"Throw it out?! Dad, me and Matty were thinking. Joe is taking computer science and they can't even afford a computer for him. Why don't I give him this one?"

"Well, now....I never even thought of that. Go for it!"

"Wow!" Matt put in, "I'll bet he'll be real happy to have his own computer!"

They set the units on the dining room table.

"...Joe's going to be here sometime this evening. Chris too. We can have his dad put this into the car."


Later that evening, there was a knock at the door. Tim opened it to see Joe and Mr. West.

"Mr. West! Come in! You look half froze!"

"Oh! Bitter cold out there tonight. Just good we don't have any wind."

Ayumi entered the room.

"Mr. West! What brings you out on such a cold night?"

"Oh, just dropping off Joe here...

"I wanted to stop in and tell you if he gets to be too much, you just call me up!"

"Ohhhh, Joe's a wonderful boy!...

"Now come in here and take your jacket off!"

"Oh no!....Oh no! I just stopped in to tell you if this kid gets out of hand, you call me!"

Ayumi put her arms over Joe's shoulders.

"Joe is fine! Well, all the boys are!....They get a little mean when they're on those video games, but they're all just fine!...

"Now take that jacket off and join us in the kitchen. We've got nice hot Swiss mocha and chocolate chip cookies."

"Oh! I don't want to put you out, doctor. I just wanted..."

"Ayumi!......And you can be Frank! We aren't in the hospital...

"Now please....Into the kitchen."

"Well, at least let me get these boots off. I don't want to make a mess on your floor."

Joe drew close to the table looking at the computer there.

"Whoa!....A new computer, huh?"

"Well," Tim put in, "Not exactly. It's used......It was my old one."

Him and Matt grinned at each other.

"…But....it's sorta new....It's for you! I got a new one for Christmas."

"Oh no!" Mr. West put in quickly, "That's way too expensive a gift!"

"Mr. West! It's my old one. We were going to set it out at the curb! Why throw it out if Joe can use it?!"

"He's right," Ayumi put in, "It was going to be tossed out! And the monitor and keyboard go with it."

"And the old printer too!" Tim put in.

Joe placed his fingertips on the tower in an almost loving touch.

"Ohhhh! Wow!......I sure can use one!....Oh, wow! Thanks!"

"Joe!....It's not a Christmas gift! If you didn't want it, it would be junk!"

Minutes later, they all entered the kitchen. After introductions, everyone seemed to relax into a more festive mood.

Clara came from her room and entered the dining room.

"Well, I've got my radio set up by my rocker and my electric lap blanket all plugged in. And I just set up the picture frame by my bed with my two angels in it! Ohhhh! How sweet!"

She entered the kitchen, blinking in the bright light.

"Come on in Mom! This is Frank, Joe's father."

"Ohhhh!....Ohhh!" she began, with a quick pace toward him. He stood as she shook his hand.

"Ohhhh! I'm so pleased to meet you!"

"Oh thank you. Nice meeting you too. Joe talks about you a lot!"

"Oh yes!....Little Joe is such a nice boy! Well, they all are! He calls me Gramma, you know!"

She already moved about the kitchen gathering up more coffee and cookies.

"MOM!" Ayumi called out, "Sit down!"

"Ohhhhh! Never! You know how much I enjoy this so! Ohhhhh! Everybody's here enjoying coffee......And I've got my boys with me too!"

Frank sat again.

"Well, I really just stopped in to tell you....if Joe gets outta hand, you give me a call.......or....or just give him a good swift kick in the butt!"

Clara shuffled toward Joe sitting on a stool at the island. She held his head in her hands and kissed his temple. She shook her curved finger in the air.

"Nobody's going to be kicking one of my boys! They're all sooo sweet! Timmy and Matty are not ones to be making friends with hooligans! All their friends are just soooo sweet and mannerly! Ohhhh, how I simply love this!...

"Now grab some of those cookies, Joe! I'm getting some hot chocolate."

"No Gram." Tim put in, "I'll take care of that! Sit down!"

"Sit down?....And watch you all?!......I keep telling you, that makes me feel like and old lady!"

"You are an old lady, Gram!"

She playfully slapped his head.

"Ohhhh you....you little shit!"

The room roared with laughter.

"Gram, sit down. I can pour a couple cups of chocolate and nuke it!"

Within minutes the boys made their way down into the basement family room. Joe set a plate of cookies on the battered coffee table before the couch.

"Gee, Joe," Matt put in, "You're kinda quiet tonight. Nervous about Chris coming over?"

Joe blushed, yet shook his head.

"I....I just don't know what to say here! Oh wow! A computer! "

"Joe," Tim put in with a serious expression, "That computer was going out into the trash! It's just that Matty and I thought of you not having one! We didn't give you anything!......You're taking our junk away! We were seriously going to throw it out! Now lighten up!...

"Grab that controller now. I've still gotta beat you just once! "


Up in the kitchen, they listened in short spells to the boys downstairs. There was a loud explosion.

"Oh shit, Timmy!" Matt yelled out, "Joe's shootin' you to pieces!"

Frank gave a weak smile as he shook his head.

"Oh let me just say it!" he sighed, "I had a bit of a time with.....well, accepting Joe and, well......being like he is...

"It seemed like every few weeks, he was breaking up with another.... boyfriend! I seemed to think it was this....this lifestyle of his! I figured that was the whole problem. I kept thinking that it was never going to work out."

"You know," Ken interrupted, "Joe has no control over this. He didn't choose any of this. It's not exactly a chosen lifestyle. "

Frank nodded.

"Well, I know that now! It's just at the time....well shortly after his mother died....I thought that had something to do with it."

He leaned back on the bench seat, and glanced at Richard.

"Joe talked me into going to that....that GSA meeting. The one where they had the psychologist and the preacher....and Matt! Oh GEE! You sure can be proud of that little guy! And....and those pictures he showed....Oh! They scared the daylights out of me!

"I tried not to be too....well negative around Joe. I guess that meeting sorta got me thinking. I talked more about it to Joe. We didn't have a computer or the Net. I took him to the library and had him show me the computers. Well this little town can only afford ten computers in there. Lots of kids on 'em. They limit your time...

"Well, I found that Friday and Saturday nights the place is nearly empty! I did lots of reading..........And I'll admit it....lots of crying too!"

Richard and Ken nodded their heads.

Richard absentmindedly stirred his coffee, gazing at the table.

"...Same here......Only I was at home. Nobody was around. Oh my God! Some of those poor kids!..."

He straightened up against the backrest of the bench seat and looked at him.

"Oh, gee!......Yeah! I was angry too. I was very angry....yet....Oh gee! I could never do to Matt what was done to lots of those kids! Beating on them? Giving them electric shocks! Chaining them to a radiator! Starving them, kicking them......beating the....the gay out of them?! How do you do that?!"

He shook his head and took a deep breath.

"Yeah, I was at that meeting too. Wow. That sure was a lot for me to digest quickly. I think the fight was more with myself than it was with Matt! All my life I heard how wrong this all is. Then, all of a sudden, you're looking at the other side of the coin! It was rough. In fact, I think it was rougher on me than it was for Matt. I heard him say lots of....of WE ....and US in his talk. I started putting things together. Oh gee!....I....I asked him after the meeting if he was gay. Oh boy! He admitted it right out! I thought I was going to have a bit of a time getting him to admit it...

"Well, quite some time later I talked to him about it. Oh gee! I really felt bad about what I was thinking. He told me he didn't want to be that way! He kept saying he wished there was some kind of magic pill he could take."

Frank nodded with a slight smile. He looked at Ken.

"I guess we've all been through about the same thing, huh?"

"Oh yeah!" Ken put in quickly, "I think we all went through about much the same thing."

He held out his hand to Ayumi.

"Hon....Come on over here. Tell Frank about that.... talk you had with Tim."

Ayumi pulled up a stool.

"Ummm....one night Matt forgot his notebook on the island here. He'd just left for the garage to get his bike. I ran out with the notebook but didn't get to the door yet. I saw him and Tim in the outside mirror of the car. They were....kissing. And I'll tell you, it was far from.... innocent! Or should I say shy? It was....well, rather a bit too mature for them. I mean even if one of them were a girl! This was no....teenage experiment. It....it was romantic! That's the only word I can really come up with. I knew right there!......Oh, I had my guesses. They started getting all.... touchy, feely! I kept thinking I just had nothing to compare it too. I wasn't sure if what I was seeing was really....well, gay or just a real close friendship. Oh Timmy was such a loner! Soooo quiet. He'd never tell us anything....They were their first friends! Both of them! I thought it might be that....I thought it might just be they were having a bit of a time expressing it to each other."

She continued on for several minutes with her story.

"...I thought the furnace reset had tripped. It was getting so chilly in here. I forgot I'd dropped the thermostat. And when I went down into the basement to reset it. Well, the boys were having an overnighter. They had their sleeping bags down there. I....well, I saw them in a single bag. Tim....Tim was actually astride Matt. His mouth was to Matt's cheek......Matt was....well, he was hugging him in his sleep! You could see it! He was sound asleep, yet you could almost see some....some tension in his hug. And he had this....this smile, that was both a bit silly, yet sweet. I knew right there that was no buddy-buddy thing..."

After several more minutes, there was a knock at the door.

"Oh!" Ayumi said as she jumped up, "That's gotta be Chris!"

She went for the door to see little Chris standing there. He waved to the limousine driver who saluted, and drive off.

"Ohhhh," Chris nearly moaned, "Being dropped off at your friend's house by a chauffeur driven limo! How embarrassing!"

"Oh don't worry yourself about those things. Come in here and get that heavy coat off. The boys are down in the family room. Joe's already here. I think he's practicing video games to get ready for you."

Chris removed his hooded jacket and reached for a coat hanger beside the door.

"Oh my! Does my nose detect the wonderful aroma of Swiss mocha?"

"Exactly! Would you like a cup?"

"If it shouldn't be too much of a problem. I'm not at all a coffee drinker, but a hot Swiss mocha on a night such as this would be lovely!"

Ayumi introduced Chris to Mr. West. She stressed Joe's friend.

"Well, hello there, Chris! I understand you're quite the gamer!"

"Well, in all honesty sir, I've just recently begun. Father always thought video games are too much a waste of time. I truly believe he's changed his mind."

"Well, I'm happy to hear that. We hear the boys down there. Sounds like they're having one big battle!"

As Ayumi poured a cup for Chris, Frank gazed at him. His tiny, round head was supported by a thin neck. His metal framed round glasses were steamed. Through his heavy sweatshirt, he could see the tiny, thin body. He appeared harmless, nearly sweet.

Clara stood, reaching for another plate of cookies.

"Now you take these down there. My goodness! When Scooter and Toby get here, I'll send them down with a plate as well! We gotta get more meat on those bones! All of you! My stars! You're all so skinny!"

"Oh thank you ma'am."

She shook her curved finger at his face.

"And WHAT did I tell you about that ma'am stuff?!"

"Oh!....Sorry....Gramma!"

She ruffled his hair.

"Now that's so much better...

"Now get down there and start up that game. And you kick Joe's ass!"

"MOM!" both Ken and Ayumi yelled out.

"Hee, hee," he replied, reaching for the knob of the basement door, "I'll sure try!"

He suddenly sobered and looked toward Ken and Ayumi.

"Oh! Let me thank you in advance for a lovely evening. I'm sure it will be. It's just simply so smashing to be able to hangout! "

"Any time, Chris. You're always welcome here."

He disappeared down the steps to a chorus of "Hey Chris!"

Ayumi had to quickly explain Chris was in a private school and accelerated due to his genius I.Q. She felt poorly for him as the older students shunned him. He'd also told her "...Being a child prodigy really sucks!"


In the basement, Joe's entire face seemed to light up with a large smile.

"Come on, Chris!....I practiced with Tim for a bit. I'm gonna get you good tonight!"

With this, the door opened. Clara poked her head in.

"Kick his ass, Chris!"

"MOM!" Ken and Ayumi yelled out.


The boys started another game as Ayumi returned to her stool before the nook. She continued her story of Tim's coming out. She continued for another ten minutes.

"...and the boys had a camp-out in the back yard. Oh! They had that planned for weeks! It was the next morning I guess where Matty sort of well, came out to Tim. I guess he was a bit shy and scared. He couldn't exactly find the words so....well, he kissed Tim. And the way I understand it, it was no little peck! Oh! The way Tim explained it to me. They were just so happy! I guess they both broke down crying. Timmy said they held each other so tight and sort of fell asleep and passed out at the same time. Oh! Those poor little guys, going through all this alone!"

"...He said they cried?" Frank asked.

"Ohhhh yes! How I wish I could recall that conversation verbatim! Oh, it kinda choked me up as well. Even Tim said he didn't want to be.... that way. He was also hoping for some kind of medicine he could take to make him straight again. We put his mind to rest. Well, I'm sure he understood it by now, but it was just that we weren't going to reject him. Oh! The horror stories I've read on the Net with people kicking their kids out! Oh they make me cry so."

Frank nodded his head with a sober expression.

Again there was a knock at the door. Ayumi answered to Scooter and Toby. They were both younger boys by three years, yet they were befriended by Matt and Tim one day as they accidentally met, swimming at the river. The two were small for their age as well. They were taunted by bullies. One day Scooter was knifed by a local bully and left on the ground to die. Indeed, it had been close. He'd not been found until the next day. It was agreed the cold weather was the only thing which had slowed his bleeding and ended saving his life. Again, Ayumi introduced them as friends.

They squinted in the bright light of the kitchen. Frank looked at each of them somewhat strangely.

"...Have I met you two before?"

Scooter seemed to brighten.

"Ummm....yeah!....Hospital!....Room two twenty! Remember the nurses making me walk up and down the hall? Oh! That hurt so much I wanted to strangle them!"

They all laughed. Ayumi suddenly looked at him seriously.

"Scoot!....You were so weak from loss of blood. We didn't need you ending up with pneumonia!"

"Oh I know. It was just those first couple days. Oh gee! That just killed!"

Frank continued to nod his head.

"Yup! I remember the both of you. Oh gee! I saw that auburn hair of yours. I saw Toby helping you around."

He gave a warm smile.

"I'm Joe's father. I knew all about you two! Nobody had to tell me. You couldn't hide it from anybody!......All I could think of was how someone could do that to you! You sure don't look a threat to anyone."

Scooter smiled and drew Toby close by his shoulders.

"Well, there's some people out there that just don't like fags!"

"Oh, please don't use that term."

"Well, we've been called 'em all! We just want to be left alone. We don't want to bother anybody."

Frank simply nodded his head.

As they entered the stairway the others called out, "Scoot!....Tob!"

Both sat on the couch behind Joe and Chris who were sitting on the floor operating their controllers wildly.

"Oh gee, Chris!" Joe put in, "I just can't believe how good you are on these games! And after only a few hours! You're fantastic!"

Matt and Tim looked at Scooter and Toby. It had only been a few days since their last visit, yet it seemed Scooter had grown two inches. Toby looked at him with a large smile. He suddenly got to his knees and pushed Scooter down on the couch. He straddled him.

"Now we're wasting good make-out time here!"

"Tob!....Don't you think we could talk to people for a few minutes?!"

The others laughed. Toby had been a shy, quite boy until Scooter's stabbing. Scooter's father had kept them apart when he learned of their relationship. Nearly losing Scooter, had changed him into a different person. He felt much less hate in his life. He allowed the boys back together again. The ordeal had changed Toby's entire personality. He was more aggressive now. He talked more. He was much less shy.

Toby pointed toward Scooters mouth, then his own.

"These mouths were not designed for talking! They were designed for kissing! Now it's been too long!"

He pressed his mouth to Scooter's.

"Awwhhh!" Matt and Tim sighed.

Scooter pushed Toby's head back.

"Tob! This is awful rude to the others. We gotta at least visit a bit!"


A mile from Tim's house, Ethan sat before his new computer. His brown hair was over his ears and just above his eyes. His brown eyes scanned the flat screen monitor. He scratched at the side of his right thigh in his skinny jeans. He'd often do this when nervous or embarrassed. In fact, the nails of his right hand were often worn to his fingertips from the habit. Nearly all his jeans were worn thin on his right thigh.

Although fifteen, his birthday fell within the same school year as Matt and Tim's. Although weighing a solid one hundred and fifty pounds, his latest growth spurt had added four inches to his frame in only the last two years. Indeed, it had seemed to take place in his legs. His weight gain did little to offset his sudden gain in height.

Although he wasn't interested in porn, he'd developed quite a collection of female photos on his old computer. Many were nude or near nude, yet not in poor taste. He switched computers back and forth with a cable switch between them. He was loading data from his old computer to the new one he got for Christmas.

"I don't really understand this......Am I losing interest in girls?....I still enjoy going out with Heidi. It's still fun holdin' hands in the movies......Yet, I don't think it's all that exciting anymore. Well, not real lots. Not like it was a bit ago. Awh! I'm just going to delete all these photos! I'm not going to transfer them to the new computer. I mean, they aren't exactly raw , but if Dad's going to give this old one to cousin Billy, I'd better be careful what I've left on here."

He continued to delete or transfer information from his old computer to the new. He felt a sudden emptiness within himself. He continued on, nearly unconscious of his actions.

"Gee, Matt and Tim are....ummm....like boyfriends now? I'd never have guessed!....Nobody did! They sure don't....well, look it! And what are they supposed to look like? Why is it there seems to be that....that image of a gay person? Like they're supposed to be....well prancing around with....limp wrists?! Oh, that's just too typical of gay people. Okay, maybe a few are, but from the ones I know about, none of them are like that. In fact, I know of a couple that are really big and tough looking! I guess you just don't really know..."

He took his hand from the mouse and placed his elbows on his desk. He gazed at the monitor, yet not actually seeing the information there.

"I wonder if Ryan's gay..........Oh gee, why do I keep thinking about him lately?..........I remember that first week of school. We had to do some library research for history. Gee, I think that's the first time he ever really talked to me! It was one of those....umm.... All at once things. He just sort of dropped his pack next to mine at the table and started talking ! Well, nothing personal. It was all about class and our research. He was kinda making it sound like he didn't know his way around in the library. Shit! He practically lives in the library! The city library too!......Shit, he's in there during summer vacation too! He kinda like kept asking me all these questions. Questions I knew he already had an answer to! But he just kept it up! And I gotta admit, it was really friendly too. Well, considering it was just about the first time he talked to me!......Well, other than just here 'n there around the school."

He rested his chin on his hands and couldn't resist a slight smile.

"Oh gee, he went on one of the computers too. I was kinda around the corner of the table, yet I could almost see the monitor reflecting on his whole face! I think that's the first time I really noticed his eyes. Oh wow! Such a brilliant green! And his mouth! Oh! I remember that like it happened last week ! He's got such....such....full lips! Oh yeah, and I was thinking of just standing up and kissing him!....Why did I think that? I'm not gay!....Am I?....I like girls. In fact I'm not very shy around them. And the ones I know real well, shit!....We can actually get a bit raw with each other. Well, joking around...

"Yeah, I remember that......And now that I think about it, I've been looking at him quite a bit since then. Hey, I don't have to be gay to know if a boy is cute, right? Yet, why......why do I still think about what it would be like kissing him?"


Chris had insisted that Scooter and Toby have a turn at the video game.

"...Well, just allow me to finish my Swiss mocha while it's still warm!" he insisted, reaching for several cookies as well.

Scooter beat Toby three games in quick succession. Toby quickly dropped his control and dove for his neck. He pushed him to his back.

"Argh!...You're cheating! "

"How can I cheat?! Hey! You just don't wanna admit that I'm better at this than you!"

Toby gave him a sweet smile, only inches from his face.

"I know. It was just an excuse to hug you a bit."

Scooter put his arms around Toby.

"You never need an excuse to hug me!"

They kissed deeply for several seconds and ended with a sweet smile to each other.

"Awwhhh," Chris let out with a shy smile.


Ethan had put up his old computer after unplugging a number of cables. He attached his new computer to the Net after carefully installing his latest security program.

"I think I'll set this all up for my home page now...

"Oop's!......I've gotta register my new security!"

After several minutes of a few more adjustments, he connected to his mail.

"...RYAN!......Holy shit! I don't recall giving him my e-add!......Or did I?"

He opened the mail by clicking on, "What's up?"

Ethan:

Hey guy, how did you do on your history report? You never said. I finally got that 'A' I was always hoping for. Mr. Parker said it was my footnotes which did it for me. I told you he likes all kinds of documentation!

Hey, it was great working together on our papers. I was just wondering if you'd like to hangout sometime over Christmas vacation. We could do a movie or just go out for a burger. What do you say? Nothing special. We'll just celebrate our papers being done!

I was all happy we didn't get homework for over vacation, but now I'm not so sure. BORED!....Hard to believe I'd rather have schoolwork than sit around my room here. New computer too! Well, old one wasn't broke, just way too slow. New one's lots faster.

Hey, get back to me, huh?

Ryan

"Oh gee!....Get back to me?....Hangout? I think I'd feel kinda like, well uncomfortable about that. Well, maybe not so bad if we were in a small group. Alone? I'm not too sure I'd like that..........Why is that? Oh shit! I can just see those full lips of his again. And those piercing green eyes! And that hair! It's really cute with that little flip he has over his left eye. And the way it kinda sticks to his cheeks with that little forward curl. I don't know what color to call it. Dark blond?....Light brown?

"I really don't want him to think I'm....ignoring him or that. It's just that.... Oh I don't know what it is! I just wouldn't feel comfortable with us alone. If there's a small group of us, it's easier to talk. Oh gee, what should I do?!"

He began scratching his right thigh again.


Scooter and Toby cuddled into a corner of the couch. Matt and Tim were at the other. Chris and Joe sat on the floor and continued with the game.

"Umm....Chris. I don't want you to think I'm giving you these games! I'm really serious here! For someone who's never played before, I just can't believe your reflexes! You eye and hand coordination are just unbelievable!"

"Well, I'm going to admit something to you....These games make me a bit nervous....Well, edgy, okay? It's almost like I'm really in these ships!"

"Well, Tim's plasma screen does lots to help out with that. It's not just that it's huge....It just seems more realistic. And the sound is great too! If you haven't noticed, there are four speakers hanging up down here!"

Chris set up his control on the coffee table before them. He seemed to give a slight blush.

"Well, umm....I think I could do with a little break...

"Tim! Matt!....It's all yours!"

"Chris," Tim nearly moaned, "I told you me 'n Matty are almost bored with the games! We've played them hundreds of times!..."

He got to his feet and went for a movie. He placed it on the carousel.

"I don't know how interested you might be in this, but it's kind of a documentary of the First World War aircraft..."

"I'm interested already!"

After the introduction, Chris seemed to sit up a bit.

"Oh yes! The Sopwith Camel!...

"Did you know the Sopwith had a rotary engine?! Yes! The entire engine revolved with the prop. I believe it had to do with cooling!...

"Have you noticed the pilots always wore two scarves? One was silk, to protect their necks from the stiff wool coats they wore. The other was cotton. They used that to wipe their faces and goggles of oil from the engines. Oh! Nothing like a face full of castor oil! Lots of the pilots got sick from it. We still didn't understand carbon monoxide poisoning that well yet. The engines had..."

He slapped his knee with his hand.

"Oh shit!....I'm doing it again! Going off on facts and figures!"

Joe chuckled as he drew him close with one arm.

"Don't ever stop that entirely. I find it rather....interesting."

An hour later, Ayumi called them upstairs once again.

"We're just about to take apple pies from the oven!"

"Oh wow!" Matt put in quickly, "Gram's apple pies!"

"Well, not actually....They're frozen pies. Gram has done enough helping out with that big dinner we had today."

Matt tried to hide his disappointment, yet Clara had noticed.

"I'm so sorry, Matty!......I tried! Ayumi caught me getting things together and threw a fit!..."

She waved her hand in the air, her curved finger pointing sideways.

"Oh! I'll have all year to just spoil the shit outta you two!"

As the boys took seats at the nook, Tim explained what had happened that evening, with Matt moving in with him.

Ayumi had noticed a sudden sober expression on Chris' face.

"...Sooooo, Chris......How do you like video games so far."

"Oh dear! It's fantastic!....Indeed! And I do believe I'd totally forgotten to thank you for my last visit....I simply..."

"Forgot to thank me?! I recall you thanking all of us about ten times! I felt wonderful about it. You just seemed so happy over it all!"

Chris turned his head on his tiny neck. He looked at Scooter and Toby, Matt and Tim and smiled sweetly as he gazed at Joe for a moment.

"Well, the fact is....my parents nearly forced me over here. I'm....I'm just not used to being accepted by others...

"Mrs. Webster, I believe I've already told you that being a child prodigy isn't exactly the path I'd chosen in life....I'm having a bit of a problem with finding my....my niche! The older boys don't want me around......The boys my own age, well, they call me 'Richie'! Simply because my father is rich. Or they call me 'Brains,' because I was accelerated in school..."

"Don't take any mind to all that Chris. It's much the same everywhere. There will always be those who'll find something....different about others."

"Well, I find it most difficult at times. I know I'm shy enough..."

He glanced over the others again.

"...It's....Well it's a dream come true for me! I don't wish to be popular! Just normal! And the boys here have accepted me so well. They don't tease me. I sometimes wonder if I'm dreaming! If I am....I hope I never wake up!"

His face wrinkled as tears began to run from his eyes. Ayumi quickly dabbed at them with a paper napkin.

"...Oh now don't worry about this. You're in the company of some wonderful boys here...

"...Now it's going to be a bit for the pies to cool some. Come on Timmy, Matt......Go show the boys your new computers and your big desk!"

She understood Chris needed a bit of privacy and change of subject.

They all entered Tim's room.

Chris sat at the headboard of Tim's bed, next to the computer desk. The others could still see he felt a bit self-conscious. Joe sat beside him with a smile. He drew the sleeve of his sweatshirt over his palm and dabbed at his cheeks.

"It's okay, Chris! You're our friend. And I've gotta admit....a really cute one at that!"

Although he didn't reply at this, he blushed and smiled.

"That's right!" Matt put in quickly, "Scooter 'n Toby here are younger than us but we've become really close friends."

"Friends?!" Scooter shouted, "You two saved my life!..."

He quickly turned to Chris.

"I told you all about that! Bein' stabbed?....That knock on my head?.... Layin' in the snow all night?......Tim and Matty knew just where to look for me! The doctors all said if I hadn't been found when I was, I'd never have made it!"

Matt and Tim had pushed out their rotary chairs for the others to sit in. They shared a short wooden bench before the computers. Scooter placed his head between them, pulling their heads close to his.

"Oh you guys are the greatest! I just feel soooo bad I couldn't afford a little Christmas gift for the both of you."

"Knock it off!" Tim shouted, playfully slapping the top of his head, "We all agreed not to do that! Hey! Just being all together is a big enough gift!"

Joe slowly, soberly sat beside Chris.

"...So....umm....Chris....I know we've been e-mailing quite a bit. I....ummm ......Well, you never did really answer my question about how your parents feel about......us."

"Well, sure I did! They know allllll about me! And they understand. They don't have a problem with us!"

"Well, ummm....I don't mean with us exactly bein' gay. I was wondering more about....well, my dad being a janitor and all. I mean, I could understand that part."

"Well, the fact is......I don't exactly see my parents all that much. They're always off on trips! One week it's London....The next it's Berlin!....Then it's Paris!...

"Father's business trips take up all their time. I went with them a couple years ago for a whole year! I had my nanny along and a private tutor! Oh! It was all so boring! Believe me! Some people just dream of touring the world. I don't care for it in the least!...

"People in different countries have different languages. They have different cultures.......Yet, no matter where you go, people are much the same. Some are absolutely wonderful! Yet....there are always the....negative types. I mean the whiners! I'd rather just stay here and study in school. I need a schedule to follow!....Gee! When you're traveling....going from one time zone to the next, or even across the International Date Line....It really screws up my whole biological clock! Mother and Father don't seem to even notice it! They can adjust almost instantly!......Me?......Oh gee....Sometimes I don't know if I should shit or wind my watch!"

With this, the others broke out into laughter.

Joe repositioned himself and his facial expression somewhat more serious.

"...Umm....You aren't really answering my question...

"What's your dad think of me? How much does he know?"

"Well, I was getting to that!...

"...Father is doing more than sufficient in life......Yet he gives me the idea he wishes things had been different. He admits to being a workaholic. I seriously think he regrets lots of his decisions in life. It was the way he was brought up. Bottom line?....Money! His whole family was obsessed with it. Whenever we happen to drive past a group of kids playing baseball or seeing a father and son fishing....he....Well, he gets kind of....distant. Like he's thinking real deep about things. Then he tells me how poorly he feels about always being gone. It's like he's kind of saying he wants to make it up to me or something......Yet......he always throws it in there that so many people depend on him now...

"I'm sure he could have retired the day I was born! He says it's important he keeps working....for other people..."

He shrugged, a seemingly blank expression on his face.

"He's afraid if he hands his job over to someone else....the firm will just collapse!......That's not such at all!......It's Grandfather! His father! I may as well simply admit it......I hate that man! Polite to say about one's grandfather, huh?"

The room had grown quiet, nobody was looking directly at him, yet it was obvious they were listening to him. He reached out for Joe's hand.

"Yes, Joe......I told him all about you and your father. I told him about Matt and Tim. I told him about Scooter and Toby! I didn't realize it at the time, yet thinking back, I can see I was rather excited about it. I told him of our day tobogganing and watching scary movies. I told him about playing video games for the first time in my life. And I told him about just....just hanging out! And how happy I was and what a wonderful time I had."

He gazed across the room at the opposite wall.

"I've never seen Father cry before....yet....well, he had no tears, but I could see he was crying! I could understand exactly what was going through his mind. He was doing to me, exactly what Grandfather had done with him! Oh! He didn't exactly come out and say that....but it was sure implied.

"I guess in so many words, he told me he never got to be a little boy. Grandfather didn't want children, he wanted miniature adults!

"He mentioned to me where one night he'd been surfing the Net! Oh dear! He'd never used that term before! It was always called research! I guess he'd stumbled across one of those sites with the videos of young boys pranking each other. Or as he referred to it, 'One of those boys-will-be-boys sites.' I believe it truly got him to thinking. In so many words, he nearly admitted he'd never got to be a little boy. He said he'd been a bit frightened over....well, pushing me out the other day and having me go tobogganing. And he said how happy he was he'd finally did such!..."

He glanced over the others, returning his gaze to Joe.

"...And for the first time I can remember....he hugged me!......He actually picked me up in his arms and spun around hugging me! And he told me you'll always be welcome in the family! Well, not just you Joe!....All you boys! And he admitted I'd been missing out on too much in life. Well....my younger days here. He said I've got to get out and play more!......PLAY! That's exactly what he said! And he said he didn't want me ending up like him! That's a quote! He said we work all our life. And he sort of gave me the idea he wished he hadn't got himself into the business world so deeply. Yet he had to do it! Grandfather's idea. All his life, Father has been trying to get some sort of....of positive reinforcement from him! I even recall the day he was showing Grandfather one of the new company jets! I mean it was millions!......All Grandfather could do was point out the negative! It wasn't big enough! It didn't have the best wine at the bar! It lacked those ten dollar cigars! The couches had thin, cheap leather! Oh, bitch, bitch, bitch!...

"Oh yeah, I saw how hurt Father was over that......Yet, toward the end there, I could almost see him....well, sort of....smile. Well, it wasn't actually a smile as we'd refer to it....You just have to know him! He....well, he had this....this look on his face. It was almost like....well, a relief! It was as though he was just suddenly lightened in some way."

He gripped Joe's hand in both of his.

"Thinking back......I believe that was some kind of....well turnaround for him. I think he realized no matter what he ever did in life, it just wasn't going to be good enough for Grandfather.

"He never actually came out and said anything to me about it, but I think they had some falling out shortly after that. Everything seemed to change with him. He....well, he seemed much more happy for some reason. Even his....well his body language changed. He'd always walk so....so rigid!....Shoulders up! Back straight! It was almost as though he were....marching! He always seemed to be at attention! At first I thought it was from his military academy days! He doesn't exactly....well slouch! It's just he seems to have a much more casual bearing than in the past."

He rubbed his hands over Joe's.

"...Yeah, Joe......I told him about your father. And I told him I sort of felt poorly over it. Do you know what he said to me?......He said, 'That boy doesn't know how good he has it!' And that's exactly what he said!"

Chris paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts.

"...Umm......Right now he's spending a few months traveling again. I'm a bit too old for a nanny anymore, but our housekeeper sort of takes care of me. He said he was going to take some time off work after that, and we were going to do all sorts of things together!......Umm....I believe that when I see it!"

Joe managed a weak smile.

"...Did you tell him about....me?" he nearly whispered.

Chris nodded his head quickly with a large grin.

"...He knows about....me as well!"

"Oh wow!......Did he flip-out?"

Chris shook his head, still smiling.

"...Nope!......In fact, as I recall, that was the first time he actually sat down with me and talked. It seems he had a few....well gay friends back in school. Well, he couldn't say anything to Grandfather about it. In fact, he didn't even use the word gay! He sure didn't mince words! Oh the awful things they were called! Father never was one to exclude others. He didn't care for how Grandfather would always, 'look down his nose at others.' That's a quote too! Father was always one to be open-minded. He said it always made him feel a bit of a Rebel doing so..."

Chris looked around at the others and let out a sigh.

"Yes....I believe Father had a rather strict life...

"Well, anyhow......He told me Christmas Day where he was having well, second thoughts about nearly forcing me out on that tobogganing thing. When he found out how happy I was over it....He said that made this Christmas the best he's ever had! And he actually said he wouldn't mind of I slacked off on school a bit! He said, 'Chris!....There's no reason to knock yourself out so early in life! You need to get out there and have some fun!' Wow! I almost shit my pants!"

The others burst out laughing.

"No!....Really! As I say, you have to know him! That's just not Father!"

Tim turned on the wood bench and rubbed his knees.

"Maybe he's seeing something of himself in you. Maybe he sees he was doing the same things to you that were done to him!"

Chris nodded, smiling.

"I think that's exactly what's happening!"

=====

Ethan paced the floor of his room. His computer was still on and still displayed Ryan's e-mail to him. He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed.

"How do I answer him? Yeah, I'd love to hangout with him....but not....not alone. Not for the first time......First time? Hee, hee....that's kinda silly. We must have spent quite a few days together in the library through October and November. In fact, we even went over to Harvey's greasy spoon across from school. Well, it's kind of everyone's hangout during the school year. I have no idea why those overpriced mini-burgers always tasted so good! And the fries! Yeah, big potato chunks with the skins still on!......And....and grease just running off 'em! I have no idea why we don't get sick on those things!

"Yeah, I remember Sherry in there one day. She had her new camera from her birthday. She was just clowning around with it. She said she was just experimenting with it....Learning how to use it. Oh gee, she was taking pictures of anything and everything! She even took a picture of my burger on the wrapper! She was taking pictures of kids she didn't even know! Well, it was a real....icebreaker, that's for sure. We all started acting silly!..."

He paused in thought for a moment, glancing at the monitor of his computer. He scratched his head, then began scratching his thigh again.

"I recall Sherry sent me some of those photos. Well, I deleted most of 'em. Lots of 'em were blurry or just plain too dark. I think I saved a few to my photo folder..."

He closed out his mail and home page. He clicked onto his photo folder.

"Yeah....here's a few....Well, we're all just being silly and making faces. In fact I think a few of us were getting a little pissed with always having that camera pointed at us! Hee, hee, here's Larry sticking his tongue out at her and giving her the finger! Well, he made it look a little silly, but at the same time I think he was getting tired of her too...

"What's this?....I've seen this boy around school but I don't know his name. And that sure looks like Ryan beside him....Well, behind him from this angle. All I can see is part of his face......Yup, that's him! It's gotta be. He's wearing that.... that loud yellow shirt! We were joking with him that it could stop a train! Hee, hee. Every time Paul would look at him, he'd pretend to squint at the brightness! Awh, I know they were all joking, but I kinda felt bad for Rye...

"Here he is sitting right across from Sherry. Well, he was right across from me at the time. She just kinda dropped into my lap and took this. Oh gee! I wish he didn't have that burger in front of his mouth! It hides it! Oh wow! He just has such a....a hot mouth!"

He began scratching at his thigh again.

"Oh gee....Oh gee....There I go thinking about kissing those....those full lips again!..........Was I thinking that at the time? I don't think so. Well, things were kinda getting loud and crazy here. We were all acting silly. After Sherry's mom picked her up, things quieted down awful fast...

"...Yeah....I seem to think I was sorta looking at his mouth. Well, I don't think I was thinking of....of kissing him at the time......But I sure remember thinking he was cute!......And....and I even looked around at the other boys too! And I was thinking which one of them were cute!...

"Oh! Oh! I remember this one too! Well, he was scratching his nose at the time. Shit! His hand is in the way here. He's blocking his mouth! Why did I save this?....Oh yeah! The RED EYE! I thought he looked like a little devil here. I was going to print that out and break his balls some...

"Oh wow! Oh wow! I don't even remember saving this one! He's kinda looking over that one boy's shoulder! Oh! Look at those green eyes! And....and that....that hot mouth! Oh wow! I wonder if I can crop out all that other stuff and just get a picture of his face..."

=====

The adults gathered in the dining room. They thought it best to leave the boys to themselves. The boys sat at the breakfast nook. Matt and Tim sat across from Scooter and Toby. As there was only room for three at a bench seat, Chris and Joe sat across from each other on the outside.

Tim was the last to put a large spoonful of ice cream on his steaming hot pie. Chris was none too shy with talking. He turned to Matt and Tim.

"...So let me get this straight......You're each others first friends?"

"Oh yeah!" Matt put in quickly, "We were both kinda loners 'til we met each other. Well, I don't mean that I didn't hang with the kids at school. I got along with them well enough. We'd talk. I mean like in wood shop or that. I don't know how things are in a private school, but in ours, we all had to take like, wood shop, auto hobby, electric shop. It was required in seventh grade. In eighth, well we still had to take some kind of shop! At least we got a bit more of a choice. I took up photo shop. Well, hee, hee....It sure isn't what it was some years ago with real film cameras and the dark room and all!..."

He spread his melting ice cream over the top of his pie with his fork.

"Yeah! Photo shop! Shit! It was another computer class! Well, I mean it's to do with photo programs and that! I just wasn't all that interested when I found out what it was actually like! At least we got passes out of school for a couple hours each month. The bus would take us to the park and river and that, so we could actually take the pictures. Well, they were school cameras! And they were kinda old too!

"Well, what I'm gettin' at, was we could kinda group together and talk! I had well......friends in class. It's just I never did anything with them outside of school!"

"Didn't you....umm....feel bad about that?" Chris asked, "I mean not having friends? Oh, that's all I thought about! And after I was accelerated......shit! Nobody really wanted me around! As I say, my classes are all older boys. They don't want to hang with......with little kids! And the ones that are my age?....Well, they really don't want to be around a brainy nerd! Oh yes!......Private schools have their share of nerds and geeks too!"

Matt took a forkful of pie and chewed as he shrugged.

"Well, it didn't exactly....bother me. In fact, I really never even thought about it that much. Yeah, I'm shy. And I was going through those....those klutzy years! That's embarrassing! I just wanted to kinda be alone. It didn't bother me any! I kept busy by myself. I had my books and writing. And I did lots of thinking too!......I mean not about....you know....bein' gay or that. I guess it was just in my....my personality! I just liked bein' alone! What can I say?"

Chris shook his head.

"I'd hear about some of the boys planning....camping trips or going out boating and stuff. They'd come back to school that fall and tell all these funny stories. It just sounded like....they were having so much fun! I really felt poorly over such. I never got to do any of those things!"

Matt shrugged again.

"Well, what can I say? It just never entered my mind! I didn't care what they were doing! I was happy. I was just one to enjoy the....the solitude of being alone. I think it's more of a......a personal psychology thing! Timmy didn't actually hang with anyone either. Well, hee, hee....he'll tell you he was really shy!"

"Oh yeah! Oh yeah!" Tim said quickly, "I mean, in school....I like kinda talked to people. I tried to not look like a snob or that......It's just that I was kinda like Matty. We enjoyed being alone. And....Yeah!....I was really, really shy! And the accident prone years!....And....and being......gay. Oh! I don't think that was as bad for Matty as it was for me. It was the year before we came here. Oh shit, I was really fighting it! I didn't wanna admit it to myself much less anybody else! I had lots on my mind! I....Well, I didn't feel like having fun!"

He turned to Matt with a smile.

"...Well, 'til I met Matty in the hallway that first day!......Oh gee! I was nearly at a....a panic attack or something! I just....umm....well, really pushed myself that day. Neither one of us have that....that gaydar you hear about. We were dropping like....hints and that to each other. It's just I think we were both too shy to say or do anything about it! In fact, it was a couple months before we.... umm....came out to each other. Oh shit! I was just soooooo shy 'n scared!......It was Matty who kinda....well, came out first."

"Oh wow," Chris said, with a shy smile, "This might be awful personal, but can I ask what he said?"

"He didn't say a thing!....Oh! He tried! He tried sooooo hard! He umm.... just ended up kissing me!"

Chris let out a shy giggle which sounded more a squeak.

"Oh wow!"

Tim smiled as he reached out to hold Matt's shoulder.

"...And let me tell you," he continued, "it was no little peck!"

Matt's fork paused above his pie as he looked at Chris. He lowered his voice to a whisper.

"...Oh yeah!....Instant stiffy in ten seconds flat!"

Chris had to remove his glasses and cover his red face. Another squeaky giggle came out.

=====

Ethan had placed his elbows on his computer desk. He held his chin in his hands as he gazed at the cropped photo of Ryan.

"Oh wow! Oh wow!....Those....those piercing green eyes!..........Well, it was cropped down so much there isn't very good resolution, but it'll do!...

"I keep thinking if he ever....well, invited me out while we were working on our papers. I don't recall it. Well, he was awful friendly real sudden. Why is it he wants to do something with me now? And why is it he just looks so damn cute all of a sudden?..........Oh shit! That mouth! I'd really like to go out with him but I just feel so....so....uncomfortable about it. I wonder if I could get a small group of us together. It would be easier to talk. I mean it wouldn't be just him there."

He gazed at the face before him on the monitor.

"Oh....(sigh) I'm really wondering if I'm gay..........You don't have to be gay to tell if a boy is cute, do you? Well not....not in passing..........When you sit and stare at a boy....even a picture....umm....Oh gee!"

He began scratching his thigh again.

=====

"Yeah, Chris," Matt was saying, "Me and Tim were never....well, lonely. Oh gee! We sure would be now! I mean, now that we met! We live for each other!....We breathe for each other."

Matt studied Tim for a moment as he gradually began to smile.

"...When I met Tim that first day......Wow!......I....I though it should be illegal for any boy to be that drop-dead beautiful!"

Tim cast him a shy smile.

"You really thought that?!"

"I sure did!"

There was a pause in conversation here as they all ate their pie. Everyone could still see questions on Chris' face.

"...Yeah," Chris began at length, "There are a few loners in my school. About three or four come to mind. I always look at them!......I wonder what they're thinking! I never see them outside of school. Well, huh!....I don't see anybody outside of school. It's a small school, and from what I gather most students in the public schools....well, I guess they aren't interested in us....us rich bitches!......Yeah, I see it myself....lots of 'em......They have to have all the latest! And they brag about their cars and clothes and world trips....Stuck up!....Snooty!"

He set his fork down and held his hands out.

"I....umm....well kind of grew-up with all this....but I don't like to snub people. Why can't we all just get along?"

Scooter looked up at him.

"Well, we all agree....We'll always have the haters and the conformists who stick together. It's not just the gay community, Chris. That's why we sorta opened up the GSA to....to everyone!"

He reflected for a moment.

"We had this one boy, Richard, who was....was just destroyed that he didn't make the track team! He loves running! In fact, I don't think he walks anywhere! He always seems to be jogging...

"Well a few weeks ago he was like really depressed! He was actually crying in one of our meetings. Little Paulie sat down with him. Umm Paul has to use crutches. He wasn't in an accident or anything. I guess it's a kind of genetic thing. The muscles in his legs never really developed..."

He glanced at the opposite wall for a moment.

"...Umm....I didn't go over there to listen in. I kind of knew what he was saying to him. Well, after a few minutes, Rich just kinda broke down and hugged him. Gee, I'd really have liked to umm....eavesdropped on that. I'm sure Paul explained to him about needing crutches for the rest of your life. He's....he's so up about everything in life!"

Scooter wiped a tear from his eye.

"Lots of kids would tease Paul......Some even beat-up on him! Sick! How could anyone bully someone on crutches?! Paul is, well, just so positive about things in life. He's always trying to cheer others up..."

He managed a smile here.

"...I....I guess Rich and Paul are like really good friends now. Paulie can't do a lot that others can. He was kinda left out of a lot of things. Rich takes him to the library. They play video games. They study together. Paul is one heck-of-a great artist!......Well, he doesn't plan on becoming one. He's into drafting and design. I'll bet he'll make one heck of an engineer some day."

=====

Ethan had called a number of his friends in order to set up a get-together over vacation. All had declined. Most had received new computers, video games and even snowmobiles. Others had to attend family functions.

"Oh I can't blame them. Gee, if I had a snowmobile, I sure wouldn't want to hangout! I'd want to be out there!

"I wonder if I could ask Ryan to go to Harvey's. It's kinda dead there during school vacation. Micky D's is just too crowded! And noisy! We couldn't talk. Yet, Harvey's?......Well, we might be the only ones in there! Why am I having such a hard time with this?......I was fine with all this while we were doing our history papers. I don't know, maybe it's just because this isn't schoolwork. And....and it's kinda....well....sudden. In fact....everything about it was kinda sudden!...

"...Gee....Ryan just set his pack down that one day in the school library and started talking! Well, then again, the teacher kinda paired us together. I didn't think of it so much at the time. I mean we....well talked to each other before that, but it was just kinda routine things...

"We aren't exactly strangers but now that I think back......he....well just all of a sudden seemed to get awful friendly......I wonder if he's gay..........I wonder if I am! I'm starting to wonder if I'm......giving off vibes! Gee, I can look at boys and....and think about them. In fact, I believe I've been doing that quite a bit. Am I gay?......Do I have to think about that?......Don't you somehow know if you are?

"...Oh gee! I should just answer his 'e' and tell him to meet me at Harvey's. I'll just put myself there!....And worry about the rest of it later. I'll just have to wing it!"

(beep, beep)

He reached for his cell and opened it.

"Jenny! Hey, sup?...

"...Hee, hee......How'd I know it was you? Your number on my screen!

"...You have to go to 'Calls' to find out? I've never heard of a cell like that.

"...Ryan?!......Well, umm....he just 'e'd' me. I was about to answer him and suggest Harvey's..........Big D's?......Oh Jen! That place is a madhouse on a Saturday! Even during vacation! I was kinda thinking along the Harvey's line.

"You want to get together? And what's the special occasion?...

"Our history papers? What's so special about that?......Well I got a 'B' on mine. I'll admit it....I kinda rushed through it...

"...Tom's going along with you?......No I don't want him treating!......I know he has a good job......I know his parents are well-off......Well, I just feel funny about it, okay?......Jen! I'll order a house blend!....You know I'm not into coffee and energy drinks like the rest of you! Mochas and cappuccinos! Besides, I don't think Harvey's will even be serving coffee over vacation. That place will be dead until school starts up again.

"......Well why don't we meet at the library on Saturday? I've got three books that are already overdue! And if one of us gets there sooner, we can just browse and read until we all show up......Fine!"

After his call from Jennifer, Ethan gazed at the photo of Ryan which was still on his monitor.

Oh gee! Oh gee! What did I get myself into?......I'll have to find something to wear. I'm not worried about....style! I'm thinking about something....baggy! Oh I just know I'm gonna be pullin' a woody! How embarrassing will that be?!"

=====

Chris finished his pie as he glanced around at the others.

"Well, I guess I'll never understand that....that loner philosophy! I mean, I don't mind being alone some of the time, but not all the time! And for someone such as me......Well, I think that's all I've known! I should be used to it!"

He set his fork down and reached out for Joe's hand. He turned to Matt and Tim with a shy smile.

"...Tell me the truth......That toboggan outing......You kind of set me 'n Joe up, didn't you?..."

They both blushed, yet nodded their heads.

"Well," Tim began, "It was actually Toby's idea......Joe's great! He's....well he's been through some rough times. He'd never....use anyone, Chris. He's just had some awful bad luck in the past."

Chris nodded, looking at Joe.

"...We've umm.....kind of discussed it in e-mails to each other. In fact we've discussed quite a few things."

He drew a serious expression as he looked at Joe. He grasped for his hand in both of his.

"...Oh shit, Joe!......As I told you in that 'e' I sent you......That night with the video games and such. You were....well really sweet! And....and that sweet little kiss you gave me......Well, maybe it wasn't actually....little! It was just nice.... sweet! Oh wow! I think that was one of the happiest moments in my life!"

"Really?!....You really mean that?"

"I sure do!...

"Well, what made me think of it, was what Matt mentioned a few minutes ago. How he was telling Tim he wished their first kiss could have been in a more romantic setting! He kept mentioning about a cold, damp tent during a thunderstorm. No! That would have been too....too planned! It was kind of like ours....It was....well, spontaneous! I think that's the term I'm looking for."

"I already told you about that!" Joe said, "It just got to the point where I just couldn't resist any longer! You told me about how you're treated in school and kinda excluded....made fun of 'cause your little! I just couldn't understand how anyone could do that to you! You kinda leaned up against me that night and...... well, I'll say it!......You just looked so damn cute I couldn't resist any longer!"

Joe suddenly pulled his hand back and covered his face.

"...And I'm just sooooo embarrassed here all of a sudden!"

The others laughed.

Chris got to his feet and stepped up to Joe. He pulled his hands from his face and held his head. His kissed his lips lightly for several seconds.

"...Joe....I'm telling you......That was one of the most wonderful moments of my life!"

He stood at the end of the table, glancing at the others.

"Oh yeah! That was great!....And the rest of you were great as well! Oh! I just felt so happy that night! I thought for sure I was dreaming!"

"Well," Matt put in quickly, "we're all happy for you!"

=====

Hours later, after the others had left, Matt and Tim stood at the kitchen sink. Matt set saucers and forks into the rack. Tim was drying them. Clara entered.

"Now I told you boys I'd take care of the kitchen here!"

"GRAM!......You live here! You're not our maid!"

"And I keep telling you I don't feel I am! All I do is watch TV and read! I just soooo enjoy this! I....I feel useful again. Oh! How I enjoy this! And I keep saying how happy we all are you two met and made friends!"

Matt seemed to hesitate as he blushed slightly.

"...Gram....ummm....I really....really want you to know how happy we are! I'm so happy you....umm....understand!"

Clara waved her curved finger in the air as she made her way to the coffee maker with her mug.

"Oh my stars! You boys were made for each other! And I'll say it again, if it hadn't been for my brother, I'd probably be as....as backwards as everyone else!"

She poured a mug of coffee and went for the island, sitting on a stool. Her expression seemed to reflect painful memories.

"Oh dear, yes! Kenny and I talked a lot. Oh! I felt so poorly over him. He kept telling me he didn't want to be gay....but....there was nothing he could do about it! Oh....some nights he'd just cry so! It broke my heart...

"As I told you....he was a big farm boy! Not fat mind you. Big! Strong! And it just tore at my heart to see him cry so. I was only a teenager myself at the time. He....well he sort of explained everything to me. In our younger days, oh, we scrapped something awful! When he told me about......himself. Oh my stars! I believe we both did an awful lot of growing up very quickly! I just wish we could have visited a bit more before he died. He said I was the only one who helped him keep it together."

She sipped at her coffee. She set the mug on the island counter-top. Her eyes were wide.

"Oh my!......He never said such a thing....but....but I believe at one time he......he was actually considering suicide! He was so....confused....so depressed! And you boys have to remember, in our day......there was just no place to go for help."

Matt opened the drain in the sink. He turned, drying his hands on a towel.

"Oh gee, Gram! Me 'n Timmy really didn't want to hide any of this from you. It's like I told him....We weren't exactly saying the words! But it was still like we were lying to you."

Clara gave a casual flip of her hand.

"Oh you boys did what you only thought was right. I don't look at it as....well....lying. You were just trying to keep an old lady from finding out something she couldn't deal with. Oh yes! Timmy....your Mom told me she was sort of an....accessory to it all. Oh my stars! She actually believed I'd have a....a heart attack over it!"

She sipped at her mug thoughtfully for a moment.

"I thought about that......I mean if it hadn't been for Kenny. Yes! I'll be honest. It would have hurt me. I may have even been a bit angry with the both of you. But it wouldn't have lasted long. I have no idea how much time I have left but I certainly don't want to leave here with any hate in my heart."

She set her mug back on the island. She thought for a moment.

"I don't know if I should even say anything to you boys but I'm sure you're old enough to understand..."

She ran her hands over the counter as though wiping the surface.

"...(sigh)....My Daddy was okay most of he time....yet there were times he just had such....such a rage to him. I think it was one of those....generational things. What we learn when we're young. Oh! That man could become the devil himself at times..."

She looked down at the floor, placing her hands in her lap.

"Well, back then....There weren't too many opportunities for young ladies about. You....you got married and started a family of your own. And I believe I got married for all the wrong reasons. Oh (sigh) I....I just wanted to get out of there! I was just too frightened to try it on my own. Yet, I had to get away from all the hate! I believe I ran off with the first young man that had given me any attention. He turned out to be awful mean himself. Oh he had such an anger management problem!"

She looked up at the boys.

"Yes....I've seen so much hate in my life. You two boys....Oh my stars! You....you have such a sweet love for each other! You're just so concerned about each other. I haven't seen much of that in my life. And you're so concerned over your friends. You're in the GSA. You're teaching tolerance to your generation. You're teaching, love and acceptance. Oh my stars! I'm just soooo proud of you two."

She turned back to the island, placing her hands on it.

"Oh I've seen such vicious hate in my life!...

"Timmy, my husband Albert....your grandfather.......Oh dear. He'd beat on me and your father something awful. And your father said he was getting out of there! And he said as soon as he got established, he'd send for me...

"Well....don't you know, he couldn't find any real good job. He was only eighteen and had no experience at anything. He decided to join the navy and learn a trade...

"Oh my! He was put into that engine room! Now the navy was just then getting a bit more into the technological age. Yet, there were still some awful nasty, greasy jobs to be done. Oh your father was sharp! He was always interested in mechanical things. He went right up in rank! Why he could simply look at some engine....listen to it! And ninety percent of the time he could tell you what was wrong! They sent him to all sorts of schools. They had even suggested he train to become an officer. Well he had got me away from Albert. I was living with my younger sister at the time. He sent us money too. Now my sister found herself a wonderful man. Oh dear! (sigh) He died in an awful accident at the mill. Well, his insurance covered the house and such, yet it didn't cover the food or electric we needed.

"Oh dear, my sister died young as well. I think she just missed her husband so. I was left the little house. She had no children. And I was soooo scared Albert was going to find me!"

"One day I answered the door. The state police were there. Oh dear! I had no idea what had happened. They were just so serious looking! They told me the house had burned. They found Albert....Well, what was left of him anyhow. The coroner said it was a bullet wound to his head that had killed him.

"Well, I believe this was about the time your father met your mother, Timmy ......Oh it's rough trying to be married and be in the navy. Why you're gone sometimes six months out of the year. It was there he got into a civilian job. Wow! They sent him to school as well! It seemed he became an engineer overnight! Him and Ayumi had me move in with them right away. Oh I felt so poorly over that. Newlyweds don't need an old lady living with them! Well, it was sort of a little attached apartment he had on the place. It was tiny, but it was so pleasant! Very modern! He always said he was going to get me away from Albert and I'd never have to worry about a thing!"

She gazed at the boys. She held her arms out.

"...You boys keep loving each other! And keep spreading your message of tolerance and acceptance. There's soooo much hate and anger out there! I wish the world had millions more boys like you in it. Life would be so much better for everyone!"

Both Matt and Tim wiped their eyes. Tim tossed the dishtowel aside. He walked up to her and hugged her. Matt did likewise.

"Oh Gram!......I never knew about any of this! Oh shit! Let's not even go on with this! Let's forget all about it."

"Well, you see boys......Love is going to win in the end. You boys don't listen to all the hate out there! Life is going to no doubt be rough for you, but love is going to win! You'll see!"

It was here Ayumi entered. She was followed by Ken, Richard and Cynthia. They seemed to have strange, knowing smiles. It had literally shocked Matt as his father drew them both from Clara. He drew them close and hugged their shoulders.

"Oh boys! Clara and Ken here just finished their story with us. I'll never understand all the hate either. I'm so sorry for what I felt for you two."

"Well gee, Dad. At least you weren't like Scooter's dad. Oh he was mean!"

He shook their shoulders roughly as he continued to hug them both.

"Well......I......I didn't exactly say it......I didn't really do anything......But the hate I felt for the first forty eight hours there! Oh! That was enough hate to last me six lifetimes!...

"I didn't understand any of this......I'm adjusting. It's as Gram told you......We sort of learn things from one generation to the next. We sort of pass our prejudices on to the next generation. And today?!......Well, it's like Ken says, we're in such a....a technological age! We have to question things so much more today."

He looked down at the both of them with misty eyes.

"I believe I told you boys I may not accept this fully. Well, I think I will! I'm understanding more every day..."

He paused here as though in deep thought. He continued to hug the boys as he looked up at Ken and Ayumi.

"Ohhhh......I feel so bad about.......dumping Matt into your lives!"

Ayumi gave a smile as she sat on a high stool near the island.

"...Don't ever say dump! We're all family here!"

Richard dropped his arms from around the boys and sat at the nook.

"...I....I did some research on the Net last week......Do you have any idea what it costs to raise just one kid today to eighteen?!......And we're talking necessities here! No birthday gifts! No Christmas gifts."

Ayumi turned on her stool.

"Richard......Ken and I are very well-off! Well, even if we weren't! The way I see it......Yes! It'll be a few dollars extra every week to feed another mouth. And....Yes, there will be an extra load or two of laundry on Saturday morning. But that's about all I see."

"Well, I'm certainly going to be sending you people some money!"

Ayumi smiled.

"...Fine!......We'll put it into Matt's college fund!"

She sobered a bit and gazed at Tim.

"...We've already told Tim....no lavish gifts! He understands us! Ken and I have had a very rough time starting out. We knew the value of every cent we had!......or should I say....didn't have! We never asked our families for anything! We....we did it our way! Yes, it was rough, but we made it. And as Ken says, Timmy is going to know what it takes to put that shiny car out there in the driveway. Tim understands that as well."

She glanced at the boys.

"Well, what we plan on doing Matt....is setting up a....room for you. We'll set up your bed and a dresser in the family room......Oh! How I hate sending you down into that....that dungeon!"

"DUNGEON?!......Oh! Gee!......I'll have a plasma TV! I'll have video games!......Five thousand DVD's!....Cable TV!......Oh! I can see it all now! I'll go stir crazy! I'm sure I'll end up in a....a padded cell! I be weaving baskets!"

A loud chuckle passed through the room.

"...Well, now," Ayumi continued, "...We'll have to have some....rules here."

Tim slapped his hand over his face.

"Oh shit!....Here we go!"

"We don't believe it's all that bad, Timmy...

"Now you're both doing very well in school. Well, we want to keep it that way! We aren't going to wait for a poor report card! It's not going to happen...

"Now we really don't mind you two....umm....being....together. Yet we don't want you rushing through your homework just so you can do that! Oh! Boys! You have the rest of your lives to be together!..."

Clara was passing out mugs of coffee. Ayumi reached for hers.

"...So now, during the weeknights, you'll be alone! In your own beds! We won't mind Friday and Saturday nights, but during the weeknights it's going to be HOMEWORK!

"Kenny and I believe we're....well, progressive. But we aren't going to be totally permissive either..."

She covered her eyes with her hand for a moment.

"Oh! I just wish we had an extra room upstairs here."

"That's okay!" Matt said in mock enthusiasm, "I could sleep out in the garage!....Or I could clear a patch of lawn in the backyard with the snow thrower! I could sleep in the tent!"

Everyone laughed again.

Matt stepped behind Tim in a serious manner. He hugged his waist as he hooked his chin over his shoulder.

"...Scooter 'n Toby......Their families aren't well-off. They tell us they don't have the latest video games....designer clothes! They got old, used bikes. But.... but they admit they don't need those things! They got each other. They just want to be together...

"As long as I have Timmy....I think I could do without lots of things."

"Well, we certainly aren't going to pull you two apart to that extent. And you aren't going to be a slave around here Matty! Now we expect to have the drive and walks cleared around here in the winter. And in the summer, you'll have to care for the lawn....but that's it!"

Matt dropped his arms from around Tim. He continued on in a bit silly manner, yet one could almost hear his seriousness.

"Oh!....I already told you! I'll do dishes!....Mop the floors!....Do laundry! I'll PAINT THE HOUSE!....Just as long as Timmy 'n I are together."

Everyone laughed again. Ayumi leaned back toward the island and rested her elbows on it.

"...Oh, boys....I keep telling you of all those parents that come into the hospital. Oh! All they do is bitch about their kids! I still say I'd enjoy cleaning up after a party. I'd love it!..."

She reflected for a minute.

"Matty, your mom is soooo worried you're being extra work for me. Oh! I go down into that basement to clean up. I find a tray with your soda cans on it. The remains of some snack. Oh! The place is so spotless! "

She shook her fists.

"Oh!....Why can't you boys be a bit more messy?!"

Everyone laughed again.

Ayumi looked at Cynthia.

"I'm not lying, Cynthia. Things have been so much better around here now that Tim met Matt. They've helped each other so much. They're just so far ahead of where they were a year ago. Much less shy. More sure of themselves. They're in the science club, the GSA, tutoring whole classes! And Matt with his wonderful presentation at that one meeting...

"Rich....Cynthia......I sure hope you weren't too shocked at those photos Matt showed at the meeting. Oh! Rope burns on necks! Slashed wrists! Faces all beat up! Blood! Bandages!......He asked me about them......I told him he had to show those photos. I see too much of this as a doctor. Parents needed to see that. They had to see what....what intolerance does! And it's like little Matty says......If we can prevent just one of those awful suicides or bullyings....It was worth it all!"

She placed her hands in her lap with a thoughtful pause.

"Oh!......Today we've got preachers advocating GENOCIDE of the gay community! They advocate beating the gay out of kids! Oh! How did the church get sooooo far off the track?! How could they turn such a wonderful message of love into such....such hatred?!"

She reached for her mug in another thoughtful pause.

"...I was on the Net a bit ago. I have no idea where I found it, but they had a quote from Mark Twain......'If Jesus were to come back to the earth today.... there's one thing he wouldn't be....A Christian!' Oh my! He said that over a hundred years ago. What if he saw what was going on today?...

"Ken and I aren't Atheists!......Yet we aren't really affiliated with any church. Just too much hate and arguing. The church....Well, the church doesn't want sinners in it! Oh!....How did it come to this?"

Everyone considered her words.

Richard nodded.

"Well, Matt," he began, "I'm getting used to this......You've got to understand......this was all kind of dropped on me! I needed time."

Matt nodded.

"I know......I guess I just sort of knew about me all along. It's just when you're real young, you don't understand what's going on yet."

"Well, Matt!" Richard said, "I have to agree with Ken here......We....Well, we aren't embarrassed about you. When we tell you not to....well....flaunt it....It's your safety we're concerned with. If preachers are telling to murder....What are the murderers thinking?......It's okay?"

Matt nodded, looking at Tim. He rubbed his back.

"Well, me 'n Timmy don't do any of that around school......Well, gee! Not even at GSA meetings! In fact....we're too busy inviting new kids in! Umm.... they aren't all gay either. Lots of handicapped kids....skinny kids, fat kids, poor kids......Oh gee! I think we're up to fifty members now! That little room just isn't big enough for us all anymore. Principal Emerson said he's going to look into it. He's going to see if we can kind of set up the cafeteria for a new room."

There was a long pause here. Richard suddenly looked up.

"Well Hon....Let's not wear out our welcome!"

"Richard!" Ayumi put in quickly, "Don't be so silly!"

As they rose, Ken spoke.

"Well, we'll certainly help with your house and all."

"Oh, don't worry about that. The company's taking care of all of that. Moving things into storage for safety. They even have a security company that will be making rounds. We'll be turning off the water and heat but we'll be leaving the electric on. We'll have timers turning lights on and off at random times."

He glanced at Matt.

"We've got to make it look as though there's someone living there! And Matt's going to be clearing snow and taking care of the lawn.... AREN'T YOU?!"

"Dad!....I'LL PAINT THE HOUSE IF YOU WANT!"

They all roared with laughter.

=====

Later that evening the boys once again crawled into Tim's large sleeping bag in the family room. They wore their jeans, yet had pulled their t-shirts off. Matt had dimmed the track lighting once again and gazed at Tim's face.

"I noticed you didn't put the thermostat up again."

"No I didn't!......It's plenty warm enough."

He put his arms around Matt's neck and drew up tight against him.

"...We've got our love to keep us warm," he whispered forcefully.

"...Umm....Tim....I don't really feel like, umm....doing anything tonight."

Tim gave a shy grin as he seemed to cuddle closer to him.

"...Don't worry about it....Neither do I."

"Well, we've been in kinda agreement over this in the past. The night's coming where one of us is gonna want the opposite of the others....umm.... desires!"

Tim kissed his neck quickly.

"...Matty......If there's a night I......want you......and you're not in the mood. Just SAY so, huh?......I'm not gonna force myself on you!......I can wait! We'll.... sorta umm....get back into synchronization again."

"... Synchronization?....hee, hee!"

"Well, you know what I mean!"

"I'm being a little silly with you, Timmy..."

They held each other for a moment in silence. Matt's hands ran circles over Tim's back. Tim could already feel him in thought again.

"...Matty......If you got something to say don't just lay there and think about it."

"...Hee, hee....Oh, I was just thinking about something like this happening to me two years ago......Holy shit!......Oh Timmy!......I don't think Junior would ever go to sleep! I mean even if I wasn't umm....in the mood for it! Oh, gee! Layin' in bed with a....hot, shirtless boy like you?! I think I'd have only one thing on my mind!....Constantly!"

"...Hot, shirtless boy," Tim mumbled, his mouth on Matt's shoulder.

"Timmy!....I'm serious here. I don't think you believe me about that first day I saw you in school. I really, really thought it should be illegal for any boy to be as hot as you! Oh! I was just so shy at the time. Oh gee! I told you I had to get my notebook just to hide my stiffy from you! Ohhhh, that was just soooo embarrassing for me!"

"...Well, umm....hee, hee....I might have been in the same position if I hadn't been so scared. And right at the end of the school year! I really think it would have been different if I had been there at the start. I mean, everybody would kind of be registering and getting their schedules 'n stuff. At the end of the year, everyone was sort of umm....established! It just made me very uncomfortable, okay?"

He lifted his head and gazed at Matt. Matt saw his shy "silver grin."

"Oh gee, Matty! I....I saw that blond hair of yours......Those huge blue eyes! Oh!...

"...Umm....I don't want it to sound bad......I don't know how to word it. You, umm, well I wouldn't call it thinking you were....well....hot exactly......Just real cute! Oh wow! The cutest!"

Matt blushed.

"I'm being serious here, Matty."

He returned his head to Matt's chest, squeezing his ribs.

"...Umm do you remember me saying something about you being cute?"

Matt rubbed his head, pulling it tighter to his chest.

"Oh yeah. I remember that......And you said something about me being....or doing something cute in the cafeteria."

"Matty, I didn't even think of that at the time! That wasn't a....a signal or some kind of hint at the time. In fact I didn't really even think about it until I got home that night......Well, actually even a bit before that!

"Remember I told you that my mom texted me in seventh? She got out early and picked me up...

"Well, I told her about you and......Oh shit! I almost said you were cute! Then I started thinking.......Holy shit, I'd already told you that! Oh! I was already getting all shy and embarrassed about meeting you again the next day! I couldn't believe I actually had said that!...

"Well, I guess I was already getting all embarrassed right there in the car! My mom took it a different way. I already told you I heard her and Dad talking about getting me professional help! Well, I think she thought I was just trying to put her on. I don't think she even believed I'd....I'd met someone! I already told you I was shy at my own school out in California......She knows I don't make friends very quickly...

"...Well, remember we kinda ran into each other on the way to school the next morning? I told you about them wanting to find a psychologist for me 'cause I'm so shy 'n all. Remember I asked you to come over to like kinda show her you were real and I wasn't making you up just to make her feel better?"

"Oh! How could I forget that?! Gee, Timmy, you....you were really OUT of it! I could tell you were awful scared about that. And you were so shy about asking me over 'cause we'd just met the day before. You were really flippin'-out over that. I was really getting scared there for a bit. Oh! You were so shy about asking me over...

"Once you finally got it out....Do you remember I had to ask you a couple times about it?....I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Such a....a hot boy actually asking me to hangout with him! Oh shit! I think I was fighting another stiffy again!"

"Hee, hee....Well, I wasn't exactly thinking about that!...

"I was scared about....umm....some shrink finding out I was GAY! I already told you it had only been a year since I sorta came out to myself! Oh shit! I didn't want my mom and dad finding out about that! Psychologists are trained for that stuff, you know? I guess that was the....well, sorta motivation I had to ask you over. Oh! I was so scared!"

Matt continued to rub his back for a moment in thought.

"...Yeah, I remember all that. You even mentioned something along that line in the cafeteria. About a shrink asking you about having girlfriends and havin' sex 'n stuff. But what I really remember is when we were in the family room here. We were watching movies. I could see you kinda noddin' off there. I knew you were awful nervous 'n shy. I knew you hadn't been eating or sleeping very well. I felt bad I was just there and keeping you up! I was hoping you weren't doin' that just to umm, entertain me. I knew you were beat!..."

He paused here. Tim felt him rubbing his back, yet it felt nearly a deep hug.

"...Well, umm....you told me not to leave yet. And that you just wanted to take a little nap. Holy shit, Timmy! You laid right over my lap! I didn't know what to do with my hands! I....I was scared I was gonna spring another stiffy!"

"...Hee, hee, hee..."

"Not funny, Tim! Oh! I was really flippin'-out!"

"Hee, hee....Oh I'm sorry about that Matt. I....I was really tired that night! Yeah, I was worried about a new school....bein' so shy....bein' GAY! I was so tired it hurt! Really! It hurt! Real pain!...

"I didn't really think about it at the time. Then I thought of kinda sleeping at the other end of the couch. Yet....I thought I'd have to kinda put my feet on you! I didn't wanna do that! It was umm, kinda like....Well, I felt like it would kinda give you the idea I was like....kicking you out of the way!"

"Oh shit, Timmy I'd have never th..."

"Well I felt that way! It was umm....a little awkward for a bit there, but like I say, I was just soooo tired, it hurt! I don't think I'd have done that under any other conditions. I was just so tired it hurt! Real pain, Matty!"

"Oh yeah....I remember all that. Oh gee! I was in heaven there! I just couldn't resist kinda rubbin' your chest a bit....feelin' those skinny ribs of yours! Ohhhh geeee, I felt a little umm, guilty about it at first, but it just felt sooooo good!"

Tim placed his head on his shoulder and gazed at him for a moment.

"I remember that....well, kinda...

"I woke up and felt your hand on me. OH! I was still soooo tired! All I could think about was just reaching up and pulling your head down next to me and....and just kissing you!"

"Wow! Really?!"

"Oh shit....why is this so embarrassing for me?!"

"Don't be like that....I was sitting there, looking down at your mouth. Oh! That pouty mouth! I could kinda see your braces slightly. Timmy, if I could have bent over that far....I was really thinking of kissing you!"

"Oh gee. Oh gee....Why is this so embarrassing for me? We shouldn't be this shy with each other anymore. In a few months....it'll be our....first anniversary!"

"Wow!....YEAH!....A whole year! You've been keeping a record of it?!"

"Well, not really. I've been paying more attention to the seasons! I got here in March. Oh! I had no idea what winter was like. I can't take the cold!"

"Well, we still gotta get through January. That's the worst. Then we'll be back to the river again in no time!"

Tim's arms twisted around his neck.

"Ohhhhh, Matty!......This feels soooo good just holding you!...

"Awhile back......you were kinda mentioning that. You were afraid the....the excitement would kinda die down after a bit......I guess it's like you said to your dad up there. We don't....well, get all over each other at school! I think even if I was straight and with a girl....I wouldn't wanna be like that. I mean a hug or a quick kiss, fine. But I don't like it when a couple is....all over each other! That's for a more private time, huh?"

Tim felt Matt's head nod in the darkened room.

"Matt!......You're THINKING again!....I can just FEEL you thinking!"

"Oh yeah...

"Timmy......We're like out to just about everyone now. My parents scared me the most. Well, they're still kinda adjusting to it but I can tell they're trying. I don't think they'd ever pull us apart. Yet......Oh shit! I still keep thinking about Scooter's dad separating him and Toby. It....it just scares me, okay?..."

"Well, they're back together now!"

Tim felt a tight embrace, yet Matt couldn't hold back a slight tremble in his arms.

"...Oh shit!......I just keep thinking......Never being able to see you?! Never being able to just hold you like this?! Timmy! I'd go nuts!....I mean I really, really think I'd go crazy! I just love you soooo much!"

"Matty! I really think we don't have to worry about that anymore!"

"Well, it's weird....I'm not worried about it happening. I just umm kinda think about it every now and then. I don't know why!....

"...I already told you about this.....That LIKE-LOVE thing?! I sure knew I well....liked you......Yet I wasn't sure about the....love part. In fact, for a bit there, I was trying to find a word somewhere between the two. Umm....once we kinda came out to each other......I just knew it was love! In fact I'm still looking for a stronger word! Oh wow, Timmy!

"That first time out in the tent where we....umm....sorta did it the first time. Oh gee! I was just so embarrassed there for awhile. Then, well I can't call it actually being scared about it....but kinda...

"I was out to myself....I'd been out to myself for two years! It's just well, I was so confused over it all. Maybe everything did happen a bit too fast. And I was still thinking that well....I didn't want to be gay. Well, maybe not real seriously thinking that. Your kisses were so....hot! I was enjoying it! And you told me that was....umm....the biggest one you ever had! Well, me too! I just couldn't tell you that at the time. I was just still to shy 'n embarrassed. But one thing I was absolutely sure of......I really loved you! And I had to tell you that."

Matt felt Tim's arms twist around his neck as he hugged him tighter. He felt his head nod, chin on his shoulder.

"Oh yeaaahhh......I'll never forget that morning, Matty. Oh shit! I was kinda like half-asleep still. Oh, I could feel you right through your jeans! We were both kind of umm....hot 'n ready. Oh wow! If I had been fully awake at the time, I don't think I could have gone through with that. I was just so....so ready! That's the only way I can explain it. And you kept umm....like backing off from me. In fact, you pushed me onto my back. You told me to stop!"

"Oh yeah!....Oh yeah! Well, it's not that I didn't want to umm....go all the way with you......It was just I knew that umm....after I was satisfied....I'd get all shy 'n embarrassed again....And I did!....Ohhhhh geeee!"

Tim raised his head and looked at Matt's face in the dim light.

"Hee, hee......Oh shit, Matty! You're blushing again! Oh that's just so cute!"

"Ohhhhh, I don't know why I'm still like this! I shouldn't be this shy anymore. I was kinda layin' there with you....thinkin'. Well, before you woke up. And I was thinking of the day before....All our kisses. And about loving you! And, yeah, I was all embarrassed....but well, I guess kinda scared too. I don't know if that's the right word. I just knew I was gay....and had a boyfriend....and just loved him soooo much. I guess it was all just kinda....well, fast for me. Yet, I just had to accept it all. That's....well, I was still a little embarrassed, but that's when I just fully accepted everything! Oh Timmy! I just felt a hundred pounds was lifted from me. I just felt so....so lightened!"

"Oh gee, Matty, I couldn't have worded it better."

"Really? You felt like that too?"

"Sure did!...

"Remember we went into the house for breakfast. Well, I was kinda doing up the dishes at the sink. Oh gee! Yeah! I was still a bit embarrassed. Remember you came up behind me and put your arms around me? And you said you didn't want to go anywhere or do anything! You said you just wanted to go back out into the tent and hold me! Oh wow! That's when I knew."

Tim gently rubbed Matt's chest as his eyes seemed to go distant at the thought.

"I was doin' the dishes and my hands were all wet and full of suds. I didn't want to hold you with wet hands. I just kinda rested my arms on your shoulders. Remember I told you I'd like that?!"

"Oh yeah!"

"Well, you just looked so cute standin' there. We kissed. I mean it sure wasn't umm, hot or like that. It....well it was just so sweet 'n warm! Oh wow! I thought for sure my....my legs were just gonna give out!"

"Really?!"

"Oh yeah!......I....I think that's when I kinda started accepting things too. And we went back out into the tent and kinda took that little nap out there. Oh! I mean I was kinda tired 'n all......yet, I kept waking up! And I'd feel you there. And I had to keep reminding myself it wasn't a dream! It was really happening! And.....well, I just couldn't get close enough to you! I kept hugging your neck. I kept pressing up against your chest! I....umm, had to sneak a few kisses too."

"Thanks a lot!....You could have woke me up so I could enjoy it too!"

"Oh yeah, Matty....That was quite the umm, morning, huh?"

Matt smiled at him, he drew his hands from his back and squeezed his ribs.

"Oh yeah......That was our....first time! Umm, hee, hee, even though we weren't exactly bare-assed at the time."

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