Matt and Tim II

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 2


Although it was a Saturday morning, Ayumi and Ken had been both called into work. The boys sat at the breakfast nook eating bacon and eggs. Clara smiled and walked about the kitchen, sipping a coffee. Tim dropped his fork with a clatter.

"Gram! You're DOING IT AGAIN!......You're walking around waiting for me 'n Matty to finish eating so you can grab our plates and clean up after us!"

"Oh Timmy! Will you hush yer tatter trap! You know how much I enjoy all this! Oh my stars!......I'm going to have my boys for a whole year!"

"That's right!....A YEAR! And you aren't gonna be our maid! We can help."

"Oh years to'll understand all this. I....I was just kind of sitting around here....doing nothing! Oh, I felt such....such a burden on your father!"

"Oh gee, Gram......That story you told us last night....Wow! I never knew!"

"Well now, your father doesn't want to even talk about those days...

"Yes boys....He was constantly being yelled at! Oh my stars! Everything was always his fault! Albert just couldn't accept any responsibility in life! I felt so poorly about him. I shouldn't have married so young! Yet, well, back then, it was the only way for a young girl to get out of a bad family life. And I guess it just keeps going on generation after generation. Well, except for your father, Timmy! He was hell-bent on breaking that vicious cycle! He loves your mother with every fiber of his being!....And you too Timmy!...

"Oh Timmy......Your mom 'n dad weren't being cruel with wanting to get you into a counselor...."

"I know, Gram......It's like I told Matty....I was GAY! I knew they'd somehow figure that out and tell Mom 'n Dad. I was scared Gram!"

"Ohhhh yes! I understand all that!....Well now I do. And I can understand you wanting to hide that from me. An old lady set in her ways. And you were all right! And I keep saying it....If it hadn't been for my brother being gay....I still say I'd probably be as backwards as everyone else!"

She sat at a tall stool with her back to the island.

"Yes, Timmy......We were all so worried about you. You were just so quiet. Such a loner! We had no idea what the problem was!"

Tim played with a piece of egg on his plate.

"...Yeah, I know Gram..."

Ethan stood before the full-length mirror in the bathroom. He turned from side to side. He drew down a long shirt to nearly his thighs.

"Oh! I sure hope this shirt doesn't look too sloppy. I gotta wear it! This is the third pair of pants I put on!......Hee, hee....I wouldn't exactly call 'em skinny jeans, but they're the loosest pair I've got!..."

He nervously scratched at the right thigh of the jeans.

"Oh gee!....Oh gee! I just know I'm gonna be pullin' a woody! I'm gonna take one look at Rye's pouty mouth and....and....Boing! Oh gee! I'll....I'll wear my long coat too. It's cold enough for it! And I'll only unzip it halfway.

"Ohhhhh I'm so nervous! My stomach's just flippin'! "

Tim and Matt placed their dishes into the sink.

"Well, it's kinda cold out today. What do you say I finish up my science report? You said you'd help!"

"Sounds great! But, Timmy....That's not due for two more weeks yet!"

"I don't care! I love science! I'll get it out of the way and have more time to write on that boring history report!"

Several paces from the sink, Tim suddenly froze in place. He slapped his hand to his head.

"Oh shit!....I....I left my flash drive in my locker! Oh shit! Half my report is on it!"

"Don't get hyper Tim......Even on weekends and holidays there's always someone in the office. They'll let you in......Umm....They'll just have to find someone to escort you to your locker. No students can be in there alone."

Ethan placed his overdue books on the desk and paid the librarian his fine. He wondered off looking at a table of books which were for sale.

"Wow! These are cheap! I think I'll take a look."

He began to scratch at his right thigh again.

"Oh gee!....Oh gee! Who am I foolin'? Oh! Tom's going to be here with Jenny any minute now! They're picking up RYAN! We're going to go to Harvey's! We're going to umm.... socialize ! Oh shit! Why am I so scared now? I spent two months with him while we did our papers!......Why am I suddenly so scared to meet him?...

"MEET him?!......I already met him! We're in wood shop together! History!....Math!......Why does it feel like I'm....I'm meeting him? Oh shit! Why am I so scared to go hangout with Ryan? Oh gee! Oh gee! We're going to be sitting at a table er booth! I'm gonna look at those....those green eyes and that hot mouth of his and.......And I'm going to be all choked up! I'll probably blush ! I won't know what to say ! I'm gonna turn into a total retard !

"Well, at least Tom and Jenny will be there. That should make it a bit easier. Oh! I wasn't this nervous goin' out with Heidi on our first date! I'm gay! Am I gay?....Oh shit! Why am I so nervous about hanging with a boy ?! Why does this feel a....a date ?! Oh gee! I'm gonna start pullin' a woody right here in the library!...

"I'll grab one of these books!......Hey! Civil War! That's it! I'll buy this book and....and kind of use it as a.....a conversation piece ! Oh shit! All I see are....are lips 'n green eyes ! Ohhhhh, I'm so nervous!"

Matt sat in the office at school. A secretary had one of the maintenance men escort Tim to his locker, as there were no teachers available. He sat at a wooden bench along the windows to the hall. Without the usual student activity present, he heard sounds he seldom heard. A printer operated behind the counter. A radiator hissed and clanked. Down a hallway an electric floor polisher ran. He hadn't noticed Tim walk past the windows. He opened the door. Matt glanced up.

"Did you find it?"

Tim held up a black flash drive, it's plastic cap missing.

"Right on the top shelf. Right where I left it!"

An interconnecting door of the office opened and Principal Emerson walked in.

"I'll be on my way!" he called out to the secretary.

His eyes suddenly fell on the boys.

"Matthew!....Timothy! And can I ask what you two are doing in school, halfway through Christmas vacation?"

Tim blushed as he held up his flash.

"I umm....kinda forgot my homework in my locker."

Mr. Emerson reached inside his coat, blushing himself. He drew out a metallic silver drive.

"Ahem!....I believe I forgot mine as well."

They all laughed.

"Well," Tim continued, "I really didn't need it right now. It's just kind of cold out today and Matt and I decided to catch up on some of our reports."

"Cold?! Nonsense! Why, this afternoon I'm taking my boys out to the toboggan slide!......I plan on doing a bit of skiing myself! Lots of maintenance personnel will be out there. Even nurse Green is going with her girls!"

Tim wrapped his jacket around himself with his entire arms and shivered.

Mr. Emerson smiled.

"Timothy....I understand you're from a more.... temperate climate, but you should really do a bit more winter activity....Skiing! Sliding!"

"Well, today I plan to hike home and slide in front of my computer."

They all laughed again.

Minutes later the boys stood on the steps of the entry. The wind had increased. Tim slipped into puffy, nylon insulated gloves. He shivered again.

"Okay Matty!....Go ahead! Call me a little wuss again!"

Matt was already stomping his feet as he slipped into his gloves.

"Oh no! Oh no!....Oh gee! That wind has TEETH today!"

Matt gazed at the small hamburger shop across the street. The large front windows were half steamed over. Nobody could be seen inside, yet the lights were on.

"Let's umm, go over to Harvey's and grab something hot to drink before we head home."

"Matty! I'm not a coffee drinker! "

"Well, you don't have to order coffee! He's got all kinds of hot drinks! He's got hot chocolate!.....He's got hot fruit juices....He's got..."

" Hot, FRUIT juice?!"

"Hee, hee. Yeah! I know it sounds kinda weird but they're great! And he's got these....well....I don't know....They're like spices he put in 'em. Cinnamon, mint, ginger, nutmeg, clove!"

"Clove?!....Ick!....Reminds me too much of toothache medicine! "

They rushed across the street and entered the shop. Tim noticed it was a rather narrow building, yet it extended deep within. Instantly he felt a nearly friendly atmosphere surround him. It was warm and humid. Indeed he already could sniff the spicy aroma. There was the mixture of many coffees brewing, along with strange scents of teas. Steam rose from the grill. Beside this was a deep fryer. An older man in a boat-shaped paper hat, placed a wire basket into it. It contained thick potato wedges with the skins still on them.

Matt was surprised at the number of students present. It was obvious they were taking a break from winter activities. Many were dressed in ski slacks. Scarves, gloves, mittens and ice skates were draped over chairs. It wasn't excessively loud, yet there was the steady drone of voices.

They stepped along the serving line. Matt filled two plastic cups with what Tim understood to be hot chocolate. At the end of the serving line a young girl sat on a wooden stool before a tiny electronic register. He turned to look deeper into the room. One table held eight students who were obviously enjoying themselves and being silly. Six were girls who were being entertained by two older boys. Words were mumbled and the table broke out into laughter. Matt tugged at Tim's sleeve and nodded toward a two seat table at the window.

"Matty!....I could have paid for mine! " Tim said as they sat.

"Well, you can pay for the next ones!"

Tim gazed down into his cup. He could already sniff the scent of deep, dark, chocolate. On the surface was a dollop of whipped cream. Over this was several dashes of a brown spice. Tim pointed at it.

"What's this?....Cinnamon?"

"Yeah!....And nutmeg!"

Matt took his plastic spoon and pressed down on the whipped cream.

"Don't eat the cream," he said, "Mix it in."

Tim followed through. He took a careful sip. Indeed it was rich and thick. He felt it coat his tongue and throat.

"...OH!....Wow!....This is DELICIOUS! So creamy!"

"Exactly!....That's not just milk! There's cream in there too!"

After sampling another taste, he detected a distinct flavor of orange.

" I taste.... orange?! "

"Yup!......And it's imported from Switzerland! Really!......That's why it's kinda expensive! Well, everything here is kinda expensive. And the servings are sort of small. Harvey doesn't skimp on quality. "

Tim took another taste.

"Oh WOW!....This is GREAT!"

He studied the cup surrounded with a thin cardboard band to protect from heat. He noticed there was no print on it. It had a simple brown spiral as a logo.

"... Orange chocolate! "

"Well I wasn't going to tell you that in advance! You'd wrinkle your nose!"

Tim sat the cup back on the table. He gazed at it for a moment and looked up at Matt.

"...Matty?......You live life on the edge! "

They laughed, yet were soon interrupted by a roar of laughter from the table of eight students. The girls squealed. One of the boys dropped his blushing face onto the table.

"Oh GEE!....Oh GEE!"

"Oh come on!" one of the girls yelled, "We're only joking with you!"

Matt returned his glance to Tim.

"...Be honest with me......Are those boys hot?"

Tim nodded and smiled shyly.

"Oh yeah!....Oh yeah!......But my gaydar says straight! "

" an arrow! " Matt concluded.

He stirred his chocolate for a moment.

"Umm....Around here it's not the football players that are popular. The girls like the basketball players and the track boys. I think they're more into that...... tall, skinny look over the.... buff! "

"...And don't forget those hot silky SHORTS!" a female voice sounded.

Matt turned to see a girl with long blond hair. There was the distinct black stripe dyed into it along the left.

"Rachel!....Hey!....Umm....Can I ask you how things are going?"

"You mean about me blowing up at my parents at that last GSA meeting?"

Matt simply nodded shyly. She motioned them to the table behind them. It had bench seats on each side. Matt and Tim slid in on one side. Rachel reached for a crumpled straw wrapper on the table. She twisted it in her fingers, taking thought.

"...Oh shit!......For awhile there....I really thought the 'rents were going to take this to court! ...

"Yeah, I'm still living with my aunt right now. She's cool. She doesn't hate fags 'n dykes! I'm surprised my mother even talks to her....Her sister. "

She sighed as she combed her fingers through her hair.

"...You know......I could half understand this if I were gay! It''s just I don't understand why they hate me so because I can't hate!..."

She played with the wrapper in her fingers, her gaze distant.

"I guess they went to see Father Chase......I don't know what happened there. I guess he talked them out of.... disowning me."

She continued twisting the wrapper in her fingers. Her face was serious. They could nearly see tears that weren't actually there.

"...Oh SHIT!......How can the church get soooo far away from their message of love?! "

"...Umm," Tim hesitated, "My mom was just asking that last night..."

"...Oh, that....That Johnson guy! The one who robbed a bank ten years ago? Well, guess what?......He's back in the church! They never did find the money! I think he hid it!.....That Westley guy! The one that molested his daughters?! ......He's back too! Well, they say he got the help he needed, but I wouldn't trust him! And....and that asshole scout master?! The one who raped all those young boys?....Even HE'S back!"

She drew her coat off and draped it over the back of the seat.

"...I don't understand any of this! What have I done that's such....such an unpardonable sin?! I'm going to hell because I can't hate you boys?! I'm gonna burn in hell because I wanna stop all the bullying 'n suicides?! God's going to send me to hell because I can't HATE?! It just doesn't make any sense!"

It was here a tiny brunette with a pixie cut placed two coffees on the table and sat.

"Hey, you guys know Angel here right."

"Oh yeah!"

Angel held Tim's wrist for a moment.

"Hey, guys......I'm gonna apologize in advance for the both of us! We're.... well, we're both kinda pissed, okay? We just had to get out of that house for a bit!....Change of scenery!"

She took a seat beside Rachel.

"So," Matt hesitated, "Where's umm....Shelly?"

"Michelle had to go out of town yesterday. They're visiting relatives. She should be back tonight."

"Oh, phew!....I was kinda hoping you two didn't have a umm....falling out."

"Well, hee, hee....I don't think we're even at stage yet where you could call it a falling out..."

She stirred what Matt thought was a frothy cappuccino.

"Umm....Rach......Matt and Tim were the ones we went out with that night. I didn't know you even knew them!"

"Well, at the time....I didn't! I mean, I heard Matt's presentation at that big meeting....The one I blew up at my parents over. We've got to know each other a bit more since then....Well, hee, hee at a few GSA meetings. The 'rents don't know about that....Me joining the GSA.

"Oh Matty! Those awful, awful photos you had there! Oh! GAG! I think I almost lost my supper!......Oh!....Don't feel bad about that! I'm glad you showed them! People have to see this shit!....Oh! Slit wrists! Rope burns on necks! Kids breathing by machines through tubes in their throats! Oh my God! I'd make a lousy nurse!"

They all laughed at this as Rachel had tried to make light of it.

Rachel suddenly turned toward Angel.

"You umm....went out with boys ?......You didn't know about yourself yet?"

"Oh, ha, ha! No! It's not that at all. In fact it was kinda Matt's idea. Well, they weren't out to the 'rents yet. We thought it would kinda take the pressure off all of us."

Angel set her plastic spoon on a paper napkin.

"Oh! Like I was saying there. Me 'n Shelly? Well, we aren't really all that close yet to have any major, umm.... falling out. It's like we said at that meeting.... We're kinda testing the waters, hee, hee. Okay, a little umm, parkin' 'n sparkin' here 'n there.....We haven't been umm....all that intimate with each other yet."

Rachel ran her fingers through her long hair. She seemed to have a shy, questioning smile as she gazed at the boys.

"...So....umm....You're like OUT to your parents?!"

Matt and Tim both slapped their hands over their eyes.

"Oh shit!" they both said in unison.

"...Hee, hee....Oh come on! Tell me about it."

Matt settled back in the seat.

"Well, we kinda outed ourselves by accident. We sorta got caught in Tim's garage....umm....kissing."

"Oh wow!....Oh wow!....I'm straight but I just love to see boys kiss! Come on you two."

"Shit too!"

Matt turned to Rachel.

"Hey, we umm....don't do that in public. Kay?"

"Oh come on! P lease? I think that's just soooo.... HOT! "


He turned to Tim and held his palm out.

"Umm....About coming out......I think Timmy should tell you the first half of the story. He was there for it all..."

Ethan stood in the library with his Civil War book tucked under his arm. He continued to browse the used books for sale. He noticed a figure enter the tall glass doors of the entry.

"Oh shit! It's Jenny! They're here ! Oh my stomach! Ryan's probably out there with them!......Oh shit! I'm gay!....I'm gay!....Am I gay?"

He held his finger up as he made his way to the desk to pay for the book.

They started out the door.

"I must have called your cell five times!" she whispered.

"Jen!....You know cells aren't allowed in the library. I had it turned off!"

They entered the car. Jenny took her seat in the front, Ethan opened the back door. Ryan was already sitting behind Tom. He had a somewhat shy smile and a blush.

"Oh shit! Oh shit! Is HE ever dolled-up! That sweater! That scarf! Oh gee, he never goes out dressed that hot !"

He took his seat behind Jennifer. She looked back over the seat as she fastened her seat belt.

"Now Tom's treating today! And we aren't going to hear any arguing over it!"

Tom looked over his shoulder, glancing both at Ethan and Ryan as well as out the back window as he backed out of the parking spot.

He was tall, broad-shouldered and had a slight blue tint to his brown hair. Although he didn't follow with the emo crowd, he was often teased over his hair.

"That's right!....I got hundreds over Christmas this year! Relatives! Cards! And I even got a bonus from work!...

"Oh wow! I've been knockin' myself out at school this year! How I love this vacation without homework. And our mid-terms are over too! It's time to have a little party!"

They slowly made their way to the hamburger shop. Ethan and Ryan kept giving each other shy glances and smiles.

"Oh!....Ryan!....He's umm....kinda giving me shy smiles. He's never been shy! And he's making eyes at me. It's kinda like he's...... flirting with me."

He began to scratch his nails over his right thigh.

"I kinda like it really!......Oh shit!....I'm gay! I'm gay!....Am I gay?"

"Cool!" Ryan put in, pointing at Ethan's book, "Civil War, huh?"

"Oh yeah! Used! Cheap. I was kinda looking over the books to see if there was anything else I'd be interested in. Most of 'em were all those goofy paperback romance novels!"

Jenny looked over her shoulder.

"...Romance is not goofy!"

Ryan paged through the book.

"I'm more into the American Revolution myself. Oh gee!"

Ethan nodded.

"Well, I sort of like the Civil War. Oh gee, it tore entire families apart!"

Ethan glanced at Ryan's eyes as he paged through the book glancing at photos.

"Oh! Oh!....Those green eyes! Why am I so shy 'n embarrassed? Oh gee. I think I'm starting to pull a woody! Oh gee!....I'm gay!....Am I gay?"

"Wow! Some of these cannons are really neat!" Ryan put in.

"Umm....Yeah! I read a little article there. Some of those cannons cost thirty-five dollars a round!....In 1860's dollars! That was a lot of money back then!"

Tim had rested his elbows on the table and had his blushing face covered with his hands.

"...Oh, this is embarrassing!"

Rachel reached out and tugged at his arms.

"Now don't be like that! I think it's sweet that a boy can be shy 'n blush. You just don't see much of that!......Now come on! I'm serious here! That was such a sweet story! Really! And your mom! Oh shit! What I'd give for a mother like that. Like I say, I'm not even gay and they hate me! Just because I'm gay friendly! I....I just can't do it! It's just not in me! I really believe bein' gay isn't a choice!....but being hateful sure is!"

She stirred her coffee, gazing at the tiny bubbles remaining. She suddenly grinned. She leaned forward in a somewhat excited manner.

"...So....umm....How did you two umm....come out to each other? "

Angel slapped her shoulder.

"Ray!....Don't you think that's kinda private?! "

"Well, I'm just asking!..."

"...Are you a fag hag?!" Angel asked.

Matt and Tim giggled at this.

Rachel tossed her hair in a mock air of sophistication.

"...I'll have you know I'm too YOUNG to be a fag hag!......I'm called a fruit fly! "

Again they all laughed.

Rachel suddenly sobered.

"Oh boys, I'm not bein' mean here."

Matt nodded with a smile.

"I know that. We....we can take a little teasing. We just don't like that.... that really nasty stuff. We know you're joking."

Rachel leaned forward again. She became excited.

"...So umm....How did you come out to each other?"

"RAY!" Angel put in, slapping her shoulder again.

"...Well you don't have to get real.... detailed with it! I'm just wondering how two boys kinda....come out to each other."

Tim held his hand out toward Matt.

"Okay. Now you can do this part of the story!"

Matt smiled shyly, pushing his empty cup aside.

"It was last year......The first day of summer vacation. We had a backyard camp out in a tent. And we'd been kinda, well dropping signals to each other for like two months! We were both too shy 'n scared to do anything about 'em..."

Ryan closed the book. He studied the the cover of a Union and Confederate flag crossed over each other.

"Oh gee! He's got that pouty mouth again! He does that whenever he like, thinks real deeply."

He scratched his right thigh again.

"Oh shit! I gotta stop looking at him!...

"We worked on our papers together for two months ! Why didn't I feel this back then?......Well, I did kinda start looking at his eyes 'n mouth. Oh! I almost feel like I wanna kiss him!......I'm gay....I'm gay....Am I gay?"

Ryan ran his hand reverently over the cover of the book.

"Gee. I think I really should start studying this more. Oh! The Civil War. Yeah it tore entire families apart!"

"Well, umm....It was the same during the Revolution too! Did you know Ben Franklin's son was a Loyalist? "

"No!....I never knew that!"

Rachel had her head on the table. Her arms were out, palms down.

"Oh! GEE!....Does that sound....HOT!"

She quickly straightened up.

"Oh! Oh! Oh, gee! I'm not like, teasing you here! Honest! I just got this....this thing with watching two cute boys kissing each other!"

Matt pointed to Tim.

"HA!" he said simply.

"Yeah," he began shyly, "Matt told me about that......I mean about girls umm, liking to see that stuff."

"Well boys go on the lesbian sites! They think that's hot! Why does that make us girls so weird? I can't help it!......I just think it's so cute ....'n.... HOT! Oh gee, maybe I'm going to just end up bein' a dirty ole lady!"

Tim slipped the cardboard heat protector from his cup. He shyly studied it.

"Umm....Rachel......Do Matty 'n I look.... girly to you?"

"Never!......I already told you two that in the cafeteria. In fact, I was shocked when you told me!......Well, maybe shocked isn't the right word......How about awful surprised? I'd have never guessed in a million years! And I don't want it to sound like an insult to you......I don't think you'd make the best quarterbacks, but you're cute! If I ever saw either one of you at some party somewhere......Oh, gee! I'd be hittin' on you!"

Both boys blushed and grinned.

Rachel leaned forward again in another excited moment.

" long did this kiss last?! "

Matt looked at Tim as he reached for his hand on the table.

"...Umm....What would you say, Tim?....About a minute? "

"...Oh yeah!....At least that!"

Rachel squirmed in her seat.

"Ooooooo! How I'd have loved to see that!....Wow!"

Tim pulled his hand from under Matt's. He began folding the cardboard ring in his fingers.

"...Well, umm....I mean it was hot!......Yet......Oh it was just soooo nice too. It was so much more! We both just felt so.... relieved! We were like, out to each other! Oh! We felt so lightened! We were just soooo happy!"

Matt looked up.

"Oh yeah......And I'll admit something to you, Rach......I was just so happy! I....I think I was that happiest boy in the world! I couldn't help it....I just busted out crying!"

"Ohhhhh, how sweeeet!"

"Oh yeah, and then I kinda got Timmy crying......And......and we just laid there and sorta held each other. Oh gee!....I don't think we fell asleep....We passed out! "

"Ohhhh," Rachel sighed, wiping a tear from her eye.

She reached out and held their hands, slapping them against the table.

"Oh!....I'm just so happy for you two!"

She released their hands and lifted her cup. She took a long sip as her eyes gazed out. Setting the cup down, she played with the spoon in deep thought.

"...Yeah boys....You're right. I mean I like to think of it as....well, hot! Yet I think I forget too quickly about other things. There's so much more to consider....feelings, emotions.... love! "

She gazed at them both. She appeared to be in deep thought for a moment.

"...Umm....I never....well, knew about you two. And if I still didn't know, I don't think I'd even notice it!......It's just that now I....umm, know ......I can see it! I can distinctly see it!....The love there! You two don't have to be all over each other. In fact, I don't really know what it is with you two. It's something very subtle. Oh! I can see you were just made for each other!"

"Oh gee, Rach....That was kinda sweet..." Matt mumbled.

Tom pulled into a parking spot in the shop's parking lot. Indeed, the parking lot was twice the area of the shop itself.

"Well," Tom said loudly, "Let's get in there and chow down! And I don't want anyone looking at prices! "

They entered the shop and seated themselves only two tables from Matt and Tim. Tom took their orders and mentally doubled them.

"Okay! Come on Jen! I'll need a couple extra hands for this."

Ryan drew his jacket off and hung it over the back of his chair. Ethan hesitated yet did the same.

They both seemed lost and more shy than usual. They fidgeted with napkins, salt shakers and sugar packets.

"...Umm....Gee Rye....I feel umm....kinda sloppy here. You really look nice today."

"Oh, thanks," he replied looking down at himself, "Umm I'm kinda wearing lots of Christmas presents here......Mom and Dad got me the jeans......Sissy got me the shirt.... and Gram got me the scarf."

Ethan pointed to the scarf.

"Tell Gram the scarf's the best!......You look really, umm, hot in that. Know it?"

Ryan hung his head as he blushed.

"...Oh gee, thanks..."

Ethan glanced over at the serving line. Harvey was handing Tom platters from the grill which he placed on a tray.

"...Gee, umm....Tom's kinda nice, huh?....Buying all this?"

"Oh yeah! I mean, I don't know him all that well, but he's great. For having a rich family he sure isn't snobby, huh?"

Ethan seemed to gaze at Jenny.

"Gee. Jenny's nice too....I'm glad she kinda ended up with Tom. Jenny's just everybody's friend! She so easy to talk to....get along with. And she's always playin' matchmaker! Even when she doesn't have a boyfriend. She always seems to be pushing couples together..."

He glanced at Ryan. He was looking at Jenny as well.

"Oh shit! Why didn't I SEE this?!......I wonder if Jenny's playing Cupid with.... with me 'n Rye! Rye doesn't, what does GAY look like?!...

"Oh gee....Why are gays always portrayed as....kinda well....sissy? I think I know of about six gay boys....Well, they're all lots older than me. Not one of 'em looks....girly! Rye doesn't look umm....girly. And the girls....I can't think of one gay girl who looks boyish! They're cute! Can I know if a girl looks cute? I'm not gay! I can't be!......If I was gay, could I think girls look cute? Yet....well lots of straight girls think lots of gay boys look cute. Umm....Why am I looking at boys so much lately? Oh gee, I think it all started when Rye and I began all that research in the library for our history papers. Yeah, the day he started up that computer in there. I kept looking at his face. I think that's the first time I ever noticed his eyes. I never even knew they were green !"

There was another roar of laughter from the table in back. Ryan glanced their way. He didn't recognize any of the students as they were older. He turned to Ethan with a shy smile and blush.

"Gee, I wish they'd let us in on all the jokes, huh? Looks like they're havin' fun."


Ryan returned to a sugar packet he was toying with. Ethan scratched at his thigh again.

"Oh gee! Oh gee! That....that cute little smile of his! I'm gay!....I'm gay!....Am I gay?......I can't be! I heard it's something always knew! I don't recall that. In fact....I think it was just last year that I sorta discovered girls. Maybe I'm one of those, oh, what are they called.... late bloomers ? Yeah, I had girlfriends in grade school. Well, not exactly girlfriends . They were friends that happened to be girls . I never wanted to hug or kiss 'em....none of the boys either. I never felt any of dating stuff! I was more interested dinosaurs and....and Saturn! Oh gee, I'm still interested in Saturn. What a fascinating planet!..."

He squirmed uncomfortably in his chair. Ryan continued to press and knead on the sugar packet in his hands.

"Oh gee! Oh gee!....I wish Jenny and Tom would hurry up an' get back here. I just don't know what to say here. I really wonder if Jenny's playin' Cupid with us. I wonder if Ryan told her.... said anything about himself to her."

"Okay!" Tom's voice boomed, "Make way!"

He set a large tray on the edge of the table. He rapidly set out orders.

"Owh GEE!" Ryan nearly yelled, "You gotta let us pay for at least some of this!"

"Never!....What good is having money if you can't spend it?!...

"Now dig in!......And those burgers aren't Harvey's usual fare. I told him black Angus! And no substitutes!"

Ethan reached for his burger and looked at it.

"...Ryan's right, Tom....At least let us put in a little something toward this. This cost you a lot!"

Tom sat down pointing toward the burger.


Jenny set out a large cardboard basket of potato wedges.

"Oh those smell good!"

He reached for one, dropping it quickly.

"Oh SHIT!....Those are HOT!"

Jenny look at him.

"They just came out of the deep!"

Ryan laughed and choked on his hot chocolate. He quickly reached for a napkin and wiped his mouth.

"Oh GEE!....I just had chocolate shoot out NOSE!"

They all laughed.

They began to eat in silence. Ethan continued to take cautious glances toward Ryan.

"Oh gee!....Oh I just gotta admit it to myself. He's just soooo cute today! Oh that shirt! And that cute scarf kinda wrapped around his neck. Oh I love the way he sorta wipes his mouth with that napkin......It's not umm....girly......but it's kinda.... dainty !...

"Oh that mouth ! I remember seeing that too in the library. And he always seems to have the cutest outfits on. Well, they're not exactly designer clothes, but he could wear anything and look hot in it!....Oh shit! I'm gay!....Am I gay?"

Matt had just finished a quick description of how he'd be living at Tim's house.

"Ohhhh, gee," Rachel sighed, "It must be sooo nice having a family that's just so.... so understanding tolerant! "

She suddenly shook her finger at Tim.

"You better not ever let me catch you shitting on your mom! She's....she's wonderful! The best! Oh! Timmy! Do you have any idea how many kids would like to have it like you do?"

Tim nodded seriously.

"...Oh yeah..."

Rachel placed her elbows on the table. She rested her chin in her palms. She seemed to gaze out the window over the condensation on the lower part.

"...Two more years," she whispered, "Two more years and I'm out of here!"

She placed her hands onto the table.

"Yeah, I've put a lot of thought into it...

"No way am I gonna get married at eighteen or nineteen just to get out of the house! And jobs? Around here? Get real! I'm going to join the Navy or Air Force. Think about it! You don't get laid-off....You aren't gonna starve to death. You got good medical and dental. You can go to school and get paid for it! You can travel! You can learn!... "

She paused in thought for a moment.

"Two of my cousins are in the Navy! Girls! Oh! I just love to sit and listen to them talk. They tell me of all the places they've been. The training they got. Oh, one of them is on an aircraft carrier! Those are like.... floating cities! ...

"Oh yeah. I'm soooo out of here! I'm gonna grab that diploma on graduation day. I'm going to get on a bus outta here! And I'm never gonna look back! I'm going to find my own kinda of people!....Well-adjusted people! People who are happy! People who don't go around......HATING all their lives!"

She held her hands out, her face twisted in what seemed a moment of pain.

"How can people enjoy living like that?! Why do people want to even go on for another day like that?! I'm just so tired out of all the whining, the bitching, the complaining all the time!"

She glanced down at the table, running her palms over it.

"Yeah," she nearly whispered, "I just wanna be happy in life..."

Two tables over, Jenny was still talking. Both Ethan and Ryan were relieved. They had both found another awkward silence between them.

"...So did you boys have a nice Christmas?"

"Oh yeah!" Ryan put in quickly, "Well....except finding out my game controllers kinda, umm....shit the bed!"

"Both of 'em?!"

"Well, umm....hee, hee....I kinda put them up in my bookcase in my room. Mom doesn't want the cables all over the floor. Well, I kinda slammed the door on the wires. I don't think half the buttons work now."

"Don't tell me!......You got new games for Christmas and now you can't play 'em!"

"Well, yeah. That's exactly what I was going to tell you."

Ethan snickered at this.

"Well, umm I ordered new ones. It's just they won't be in for a couple weeks."

Jenny nodded her head in understanding.

"Oh yeah! We don't exactly live in Silicon Valley, huh? I hate that! Every place around here always has to order just the thing you need! "

"Oh yeah......That's for sure...

"Oh gee. I got this submarine game. HOW I want to try that out. The company lets you play it for an hour on their site, but then it shuts off. It's just awesome! It's just so real! You set the challenge difficulty on it. Other subs shoot at you! And ships drop depth charges on you! How I want to play that!"

"...So....Ethan....Good Christmas?"

"Oh yeah! Well not with lots of stuff! All I really wanted was a photo program. I got a digital last year for my birthday. Wow! This program has everything! In fact, I'm still kinda learning it yet. I had to eat dinner. Our family is real strict over Christmas dinner. Even if you're too excited to eat, you still have to SIT there for an hour!...

"I got on that program with like, five hundred photos I'd saved. It was like one o'clock in the afternoon. After a bit, my mom came in and said I must really like my program because I'd got up so early! It was seven in the morning! Oh shit! I sure didn't tell her I'd been up all night!"

Everyone laughed.

There was another roar at the back table. Only the girls could be heard. They squealed and giggled. They all got to their feet with cameras and cell phones.

Ethan and Ryan turned to look. Between the girls standing, they saw one of the boys in the others lap. They were in a deep embrace as they kissed. Both looked back at the table and their burgers. They both turned pale for an instant, then blushed deeply.

Jennifer got to her feet for a better view. She held her hands to her chest.

"Omigod!....Omigod!" she gasped.

She quickly scattered items over the surface of the table searching for her phone.

At the other table, Rachel got to her feet between the bench seat and table to look. Angel did the same. Laughter and squeals could still be heard from the group.

"...OH!....OH!" Rachel shouted.

She too reached for her phone.

"...Oh!....Oh!....Angel!....Zack 'n Josh are....are KISSING EACH OTHER!"

Angel seemed not to be interested, yet stepped from the seat to allow Rachel out.

She quickly ran for the group. Jenny was already there. Both were jockeying for a position within the group. They held their phones high, blindly clicking, hoping their aim was true.

"Sqqquuueee!" "OH!" "Wow!" "Yeah! HOT!" could be heard from the group.

Tim covered his face with his hands and dropped to the surface of the table.

"Ohhhhh SHIT!"

Matt shook his shoulder.

"...Tim....Timmy....I know those two."

Tim sat back up.

"Matty, I'm not embarrassed....I just think gaydar needs some MAJOR OVERHAUL!"

"Tim....Timmy!....Your gaydar isn't broke. They're straight I tell you!"

Tim shook his fists.

"You're shittin' me!"

"Timmy....I'm not exactly friends with them but that's Zack 'n Josh! They're seniors this year......They've been the class clowns from day one!"


Matt held his palm out in the direction of the table.

"Timmy, I told you the girls like this shit! They go crazy!......I'll bet two of those girls are their girlfriends!......Oh gee, I'll bet they get lucky tonight!"

The crowd of girls became larger as others continued to gather. There were more screams and squeals. Cameras and cell phones were held high. Some even had flash. Ethan and Ryan slowly glanced back at the group, faces red.

One boy was now on his back on the table. The other was on top of him, kissing him. The first ran his hands beneath his sweater, rubbing his back.

"SQQQUUUUEEEEE!" the girls screamed in unison.

The girls continued to jockey with each other, some actually became a bit rough.

Tom placed his elbows on the table, covering his face with his hands.

"...Ohhhhh this is sooooo embarrassing!" he moaned.

Ethan and Ryan turned back, their faces red. They picked up their burgers and began nibbling at them. They couldn't look at each other. Ethan scratched at his thigh.

Within the next minute the boys stood up, sobering themselves. They pulled down at their sweaters and combed their fingers through their hair.

"Awhhh, come on! Just a couple more!" a girl yelled out.

"No!....That's enough!...

"We just came in here for a hot coffee before I change oil in my car. My garage isn't heated!"

"Oh!" another girl yelled out, "You think more of that car than you do me!"

"...Hey Babe!....That car is our wheels!"

"So are we goin' out tonight?"

"Sure!....Pick you up at your place, seven sharp!"

The crowd began disbursing. Many girls were already checking their phones and cameras, comparing shots.

"Oh! Oh!....Is that hot!....You gotta e-mail that to me!"

The boys slipped into their heavy jackets and started for the door. They passed behind Tom. Tom looked up at them.

"You guys better be careful."

They both shrugged.

"...Hey, we're just bein' a little silly!"

"...A little silly? How much do you want to put on it, that by the time we get back to school, those pictures are going to be all over the INTERNET?!"

They both shrugged again, as though uninterested.

They went for the door. Josh slapped Zack on the back.

"...Hey....Maybe we'll become international celebrities!"

Several boys gazed out the window as the two crossed the street. Josh got behind the wheel of a rusted, primer-coated car. There was a loud roar as the engine started. A thick blue cloud of smoke rose up from underneath.

"Oh shit!" a boy yelled out, "What a bucket-of-bolts!"

"Yeah! Hee, hee....We keep telling him if he took his sound system out, it would depreciate ninety percent!"

Jennifer and Rachel suddenly noticed each other.



Rachel stepped to Jenny and held her arm momentarily.

"...Oh gee, Jen....I didn't even notice you here! I wasn't ignoring you or anything!"

"Well, I didn't catch you either!"

Matt and Tim noticed them go to Jenny's table. All four began to gather items and place them on a round table near a wall. A large, curved bench seat ran around half of it. Rachel motioned for them to join them.

Introductions were quick and first names only. Instantly the conversation centered on Rachel and her family problem. She simply mentioned she was living with her aunt and was planning to join the service. Tim had returned with chocolates for himself and Matt.

The conversation drifted around from person to person, subject to subject. The girls continued to review photos on their phones, make comparisons and comments.

Jenny held the display of her phone before Tom.

"Now isn't that just the HOTTEST THING you've ever seen?!"

Tom quickly covered his eyes with his hands.

"OH GEE!....I don't wanna SEE THAT!"

They all laughed.

"...Come on, Angel....Admit it!....That is hot!"

Angel studied the phone somewhat indifferently.

"...Well, I don't know!....I think that's more of a straight girl thingy!"

Matt and Tim were both casting glances toward Ethan and Ryan. They were both rather quiet and shy. Being the same in the past, they quickly picked up on it. Matt leaned closer to Tim to whisper.

"...Are you umm....getting like vibes from Ethan and Ryan?"

"Oh yeah!....Oh yeah!" Tim whispered back.


"....Umm, no....Cute though, hee, hee."

"Ryan?" Matt asked in a whisper.

Tim cast a casual glance at Ryan then back to his chocolate.


"And Ethan?"

He gave another glance up, holding it for a moment.

"...Umm....I think bi....leaning gay!"


"I thought you, hee, hee....didn't have gaydar!" Tim chuckled.

"Well....I think it's still....developing!"

It was here Jenny held her phone before Tom.

"...How about this photo?"

Tom quickly covered his eyes and dropped his head to the table.

"OH SHIT!....I SAW that!"

The girls squealed and giggled. They all joined together.

"What has been SEEN can not be UNSEEN!"

Tom straightened up, pointing to his eyes.

"Oh GEE!....I think that image has been permanently burned into my retinas!"

He pushed her phone away.

"Oh GEE! I'm gonna SEE that for the rest of my life!"

They all roared with laughter. Rachel quickly sobered as she eyed Matt and Tim.

"...Umm....Tom....Matt 'n Tim here are kinda like....out."

She thought substituting out for gay was a bit more polite.

"Oh gee!....Oh gee!....Hey! No offense, huh?"

Both Matt and Tim gave cast-off gestures.

"It's okay."

Tom threw his arm around Jenny.

"Oh gee!....Hey....umm....Jen's active in the GSA....when her schedule allows. I'm definitely an ally, okay?......It's just I can't get to meetings. I've got practice on Thursday nights."

He hesitated for a moment's thought.

"Umm....How can I put this?......I really have no problem with this....It's just umm, well. I mean I don't care if you come in here and sit close. I don't care if you hold hands or kinda cuddle-up a bit......Really! It doesn't bother me......It's just....umm....If your gonna.... umm....kiss......Just like....give me about fives seconds notice..."

He quickly covered his face with his hands.


Again the table roared with laughter.

Jenny set her phone aside and rested her chin in her palms.

"...Oh gee......How I'd love to go to a yaoicon! WOW! I'll bet that's HOT!"

Tom gave her a strange expression.

"...What the hell's a....a YAOICON?"

The girls giggled among themselves.

"Tommy....You wouldn't understand!"

"Oh yeah?....Try me!"

"...Well I think it all started in Japan. They have what's call anime....It's, well it's kinda like our....comic books, okay?......Only they have superheros in 'em that are kinda, And boys dress up as these superheros and go to yaoicons. Yaoi! It means boy-love or boy-on-boy."

"...And they're like....kinda gay?......Is that anything like....kinda virgin?"

The girls giggled again.

"...Well, I'm sure some of them aren't! I hear there are straight boys there. It's like Zack 'n Josh !....They just go out for a weekend and be a little silly."

"...Well, MY idea of bein' silly is wearing a pointy hat and having a red ball glued to my nose! Not kissin' BOYS! ....Oh cheezzz!"

"Ohhhh....Tommy!....You just wouldn't understand!"

She reflected for a moment, a smile growing on her face.

"I've seen some yaoicons on the Net. Oh wow! They had this one where these two boys play Sasuke and Naruto. Oh gee!......They were....rolling around on the floor 'n making out like crazy! Oh! The girls were screamin' and throwing dollars at 'em and taking pictures! Oh shit!....It was just soooo HOT! "

"Sasuke and Naruto," Rachel sighed, "If they get the right boys to play the parts they can be really HOT!"

"Oh yeah!"

"Well, you can forget it Jen......You gotta be eighteen to get in!"

"Yeah....I know....(sigh)....Like seeing some boys kissing is just gonna destroy us little sixteen-year-old's! I mean we're just gonna curl up 'n die!"

Tom gave her a blank stare.

"...I think I'd curl up 'n die!"

They all laughed again.

"Yup!....When I turn eighteen, I'm going to go to at least one! "

"Gee," Rachel began, teasing, "You'll have to take Tommy along. You can share a pocky!"

"Oh gee!....Oh gee!"

"Ha, ha, ha!"

"Okay....What's a....a pocky? ....and how do we share it?"

"Well it's like a long thin cookie. Kinda like our pretzels. Only it's dipped in chocolate. We each put an end in our mouth and chew until our lips meet in the middle."

Rachel slapped her hands to the table.

"Oh! I saw a vid from a yaoicon! Two boys were sharing a pocky!"

Tom seemed to curl his upper lip.

"Oh, geeeee!...

"What is with you girls with watchin' boys kiss?! "

"Oh shit! Tommy! There isn't anything hotter than watchin' two cute boys kissin!"

He nodded his head.

"Okay....Okay, Jen....I'll take you to a....a yaoicon! "

"You WILL?!"

"Uh huh!....Sure!....I'll drop you off at the door and....and take in a movie or something! "

Again they all laughed.

Angel seemed a bit detached and uninterested.

"Oh my cousin went to one in California at some hotel......She went with her friend. There's all kinds of rules 'n regulations to follow. Well, I can see some of them. I guess things can get a bit out of hand...

"You get this plastic I.D. bracelet and you can't take it off. Well, you can't get it off once it's snapped on! And you get a security badge that you have to wear to prove you're over eighteen. And if you lose it, and if some under-aged kid finds it....YOU can be held responsible for it! Not fair!"

"So did they like it?" Jenny asked.

Jenny shrugged.

"Well, I guess it's how you look at it. It has its ups 'n downs..."

She settled back on the seat, holding her coffee in both hands.

"They didn't go as....characters!....Just visitors. And then there's the Yaoi Room! or whatever it's called. Oh my cousin is just ape-shit over Yaoi! They've got magazines, key chains, books 'n souvenirs....All that Yaoi stuff. And the room is only allowed so many people in it....Fire regulations or something. There's this huge line you gotta wait in. You can't go in until someone comes out! And Debby said the prices are just outrageous! I don't remember what the pocky cost but it was expensive....And you get a bag and there's only like two sticks in it!"

Tom seemed to nod in agreement.

"Oh yeah!....I go to lots of car shows. Wow! What I've paid for a bottle of water!"

"Well sure!....They kinda got you by the ass!...

"Well, there's all these rooms in the convention center. They have movies, stage shows....Oh gee, I guess those can get a little raw! And then there's the gardens. Well, it's all indoors! They went out there to get more pictures. That's all they were there for of the characters...

"Well, now when the boys....umm....kind of kiss 'n cuddle with each other, it's called fan service! Most of the boys won't do that. Some will, if it's....discrete. If security catches it....they break it up. And if you get caught too many times, you're banned! I guess some of the girls go so crazy it just gets out of hand! They yell out KAWAII! That means cute in Japanese. They found a few boy couples who sorta hid behind plants 'n bushes for fan service photos. They always tipped them and thanked them for it. My cousin doesn't exactly scream 'n squeal over it. She's a bit more conservative."

Matt looked at her seriously.

"Yaoi fan girls don't squeal....They SQUEEEE!"

"Oh yeah....I heard about that!...

"Well, anyhow....I guess Saturday night the air conditioning went out. Debby said the place got kinda....rank! They all gathered in the coffee shop to talk way late into the night. Overall, I guess she had a good time though."

She reflected for a moment and suddenly held her hand up, palm out.

"Oh! Oh!....On their way back on the plane......They sat next to a couple who played characters at the con....Well, they were in their early twenties. They didn't recall seeing them there. They went as opposite sex! I mean the girl went as a boy elf and the boy was dressed as a girl. Oh gee, he wore those leather jeans with the padded hips 'n ass! She had those pointy, plastic elf ears, a bow and a quiver over her shoulder. Oh gee! Some girl thought she really was a boy! She ran up and grabbed her crotch!"

Jenny blushed and covered her face.

"Oh my God!....Girls actually do that?!......Ohhhh I'd be soooo embarrassed to try that!"

"Oh yeah! They really do that! Like I say, things get a bit out of hand at times.

"...Well, anyhow the girl ran back to her friends and she yelling, 'Oh God! That's a GIRL!.....There's no junk!' Ha, ha, ha.......Well she told my cousin she wasn't really offended by it......She was actually kinda flattered that she was so convincing!...

"Oh! Oh!....And her boyfriend....He was walking around in the convention hall on Saturday morning. He noticed this boy following him around with his camera. A bit later the boy ran up and grabbed his ass!"

The table broke out into laughter.

"...And the guy told her he turned around with the deepest voice and said, 'Hi there sexy!'"

Tom slapped his hands over his eyes.


Everyone laughed again.

"Oh gee!....He said he didn't see the kid for the rest of the convention!...

"And....oh!....oh!....You've got to use the right bathrooms too....obviously. You have to use the gender correct restrooms...

"Well anyhow this girl's dressed as a boy elf and went into the ladies room. Now people are there at the hotel who have nothing to do with the con......They don't even know about it!......Well some little ole lady in there started yelling for security! Oh gee! I guess it was a few minutes before they got that all straightened out."

Matt rested his chin on his hands with a deadpan expression.

"...So what did security do?....Grab her crotch?!"

Again everyone burst out laughing.

Matt suddenly felt poorly over his off-the-cuff remark.

"Oh gee, poor Ethan and Ryan! They're all hunched over their cups. They almost got their noses into the chocolate! And they're all shy 'n blushing. I wonder if me and Timmy did that. We were both awful shy. I think we did!....Only there was nobody around to see us!...

"Oh they look cute! I think they have a thing for each other. I can kinda tell....Oh! All those weeks with me and Tim....kinda feelin' each other out! Oh I was so shy 'n scared."

He signaled Tim to stand and got up. They went to the table they just left and began grabbing empty cups and wadded napkins. They seemed to be casually cleaning the table as they talked. Matt suggested they invite them over for video games.

"Oh Matty!....Not tonight! I want you all to myself tonight!"

"Oh wow!" Matt continued in a whisper, "That sounded hot!"

Tim lowered his head and blushed.

"Well, I mean I don't mind when Scooter 'n Toby are there....or Joe 'n Chris. They're gay Matty! I don't know about those two."

"Timmy! Haven't you seen them?!....They're making eyes at each other! Anyone can see that! Nobody has to be gay to see that!"

Jenny joined them, yet her expression seemed to communicate something to Matt and Tim.

"Here, let me give you two a hand."

"Jenny!....A couple of cups 'n napkins?"

"Shhhh," she replied as she wiped the surface of the table. She leaned close to them.

"Are umm....Ethan 'n Ryan gay?"

"Why are you asking us that?"

"Umm....Matt! You know me. I like playing....matchmaker okay? I'm just wondering....If they're straight, it could be very embarrassing for them."

"Well, me 'n Tim were just talking about that. Umm....our gaydar isn't the best but we're feelin' vibes. Our meters are indicating slightly....yes. Gay!"

"Oh gee, oh gee!"

"Umm we were thinking of inviting them over....ohhh Sunday afternoon."

Jenny suddenly drew a sly smile.

"Are you two playing matchmaker too?"

"Umm....I think we are......Umm I really feel bad for 'em, you know. They're sitting there all shy and embarrassed. We could get them alone for a bit. We could use Ryan's broken controllers as an excuse."

"Well, what's wrong with tonight?!"

Matt cast Tim a shy smile.

"...Well, tonight we....kinda wanna be alone!"

Jenny covered her mouth with her hand.

"Oh shit!....Can I watch?!"

"...Jenny....If you were watching....we wouldn't be alone!"

"Matty!....I'm joking!....Hey, let's get back to the table."

They dropped the cups and napkins into a nearby trash receptacle.

"Oh shit, Matty!" Jenny gasped, "What if they aren't gay?!"

"...Well then they just don't get together!....No harm done!"

They approached the larger table and sat.

"Say, Ryan......Me 'n Matty were just talking there. Umm....we'd sure know what it would be like to have new games for Christmas and not be able to play 'em. I got a nice system in the family room. Why don't you two come over tomorrow afternoon and bring your games over. We could all play! We'll get out chips 'n soda. Kinda make it a little party."

"...Well, umm....gee....Yeah! Sure!....Ethan?"

"Umm....Yeah! I guess so! this any kinda....special thing?"

"Hee, hee....No it isn't!"

Tim leaned forward in a direct manner.

"Look....I mean you like....know about me 'n Matty, right?"

"Umm....Yeah! I mean I got no....problem with that! You, Ethan?"

"No! Hey!" Ethan said quickly, "We felt really bad about Scooter! Him gettin' stabbed? We heard all about that! We umm, well kinda wanted to welcome him back to the school. And kinda let him and Toby know nothing's changed. I mean we aren't real close friends, but we kinda hangout at They're kinda cute together!"

He suddenly covered his face with his hands.

"Oh shit!....I don't believe I just SAID that!"

Ryan blushed as well, yet rubbed his back with a smile.

"Don't get all embarrassed. I....umm....think they're cute too!"

Matt and Tim gave Jenny a lingering glance. She slightly nodded with a grin.

"...Well," Tim began, "It's kind of a long story. I was a real loner. My mom was getting really worried about it. She was going to send me to a psychologist. And I was really worried they'd find out I was gay. Well, me 'n Matty here, are like out to everyone now! Me 'n Matty were real shy. Well, we still are a bit. And my mom is happy we're making more friends. We're getting a little more active in school too. Science club, GSA, tutoring! She always said she wished for more teen parties to clean up after..."

"You're shittin' me!" both Ethan and Ryan put in.

"Oh yeah! Really! I didn't have any friends!."

Ryan wrinkled his nose.

"...Are you the Tim that tutors math?"

"Oh yeah!"

"Well....umm....I think I've got an....appointment with you in a couple weeks."


"Oh yeah!......And I'm really bad at math. I'm kinda nervous."

"Awh! There's nothin' to worry about. We'll have fun."

"Well, I don't wanna get you in trouble!"

"How's that gonna happen?"

"Well, I'm so bad at math....I'm afraid they'll yell at you 'cause you aren't teaching me! I'm afraid you'll get in trouble because I'm so dumb!"

Matt placed his arms over the table.

"Rye....I was the dumb one!....If Timmy could teach me....He can teach anyone! I keep telling him he has to be a teacher. He's the greatest!"

Matt leaned forward and kissed Tim's cheek.

"Awhhhh! How sweet!" Rachel put in.

"Oh gee!....I don't believe I just DID that!"

"Lighten up Matt," Jenny said, "It's not like you're both all over each other. That was really sweet."

Tom looked up.

"Yeah! I think so too!" he added with a blush.

"Well," Ryan continued, "At least it's kinda nice we sorta met first. I think that'll make it a bit easier for me too. I don't think I'm real shy, but I just got this thing about meeting someone for the first time."

"You have a thing with it? I had panic attacks! Well, it's not quite so bad now.

"You sure don't have to be scared of anything. Well, I'll give you a test that first day. Don't worry about it. Me and Matty made it up. I know it sounds funny, but you can't pass or fail it!"


"Hee, hee....No! Really! It's just to see where you fall off. That's where we'll start with you. It starts out real easy but gets more 'n more difficult. Nothing to worry about."

It was late that night. Matt and Tim had fallen asleep on the old, leather couch in the family room. Both wore jeans and t-shirts. Tim was wedged into the corner. Matt had his legs up, his head on Tim's chest, gripping his ribs. Soon Tim began to move. Matt woke as well.

"Oh Matty, my neck's killin'! I gotta stand up for a bit."

Matt seemed to still be studying his surroundings.

"Oh gee! We fell asleep again. I HATE that! I just wanted to lay here and hold you. I really hate it when we fall asleep all the time!"

Tim got to his feet, rubbing the back of his neck.

"...Yeah. Me too Matty. Oh I was having another one of those times where I just couldn't get close enough to you!"

As Matt stood, Tim put his arms around his neck, drawing his head down to his shoulder. Matt put his arms around Tim's chest and smiled.

"Yeah. I was kinda having one of those times too," Matt sighed.

Matt squeezed his ribs and stroked his sides.

"...I umm....thought the....well, excitement would kinda wear off after a bit. Oh gee, I don't know if the word exciting is really right. It's just....I can't EXPLAIN it! I feel closer to you every day. Oh shit, Timmy! I'm holding everything right here in my arms! Oh Timmy! You're just my whole world to me. Oh gee! Oh gee!....I think I'm gonna start crying again."

"Noooo....Don't do that!"

"I can't help it Timmy!......It's like I told you a couple days ago......I feel like I'm getting too....too clingy with you....too suffocating!"

Tim released his hold on him. He quickly removed his t-shirt, casting it aside. He stretched out on the sleeping bag, his arms out. He gave a large smile.

"...Come here....CLING to me!....SUFFOCATE me!....Wow! What a way to go!"

Matt couldn't resist a chuckle as he knelt beside him.

"Timmy! Quit bein' silly here....I'm really serious about this. I'm so scared you're going to get tired of this."

"Never!" Tim nearly shouted, pulling him down onto himself.

"If it scares you that much, quit clinging and suffocating me......I'll cling and suffocate you!"

He held Matt in a deep hug as he kissed his cheek.

"Oh yeah, Matty, I love this as much as you do. I don't really know what it is. I think it's just that I'm not as shy around you now......I mean, even after we were out to each other....It still took a bit, until I sort of adjusted to it...

"I feel it myself....that closeness! Oh gee, I love this. Oh Matty!....I love you so much!"

They held each other close for several minutes in silence. Tim continued.

"...Matty?......You you feel like....umm doin' anything tonight?"

Matt gave him a shy smile and kissed the tip of his nose.

"...Mmm....Not really....But I sure think I could be umm....kick started awful quickly! Hee, hee."

"Nah!....I just don't want you thinking I don't....want you....I mean, you know.... like that."

"Timmy....Remember that night we were down here around Thanksgiving? In fact, I think it was the day before! We were just laying here, getting all sleepy. You kinda mentioned how sleepy you were getting and that you felt bad about it. I mean like you were bored with me. I never took it like that! And I know there are times I feel like that too."

He sighed, tightening his arms around Tim's neck.

"...Well, I was kinda thinking about that a couple weeks ago..."

"Matty, quit THINKING!"

"Hee, hee....No! Really!"

He drew his head down to Tim's chest and rubbed his ribs again.

"...I was thinking about that and realized umm....Well, shit! You brought it up last night! I mean about us not always being synchronized with each other. One of us is gonna be umm....yes and the other is gonna be no! You said you could wait. Well, I can too!...

"Well, umm....I was thinking about that a couple weeks ago...

"...Umm....we both sorta discovered sex a few years ago......And last year we met at school. I guess you could say we kinda....well, discovered each other!"

Matt raised his head up and looked seriously at Tim.

"And we kinda hung out together for quite awhile....umm feelin' each other out. And then we finally came out to each other. And you know what, Timmy?......We discovered LOVE! Oh wow, Timmy! That's....that's the most important thing! I really can wait. If you aren't in the mood....say so!......Just don't stop huggin' and kissing me. Oh wow! This is soooo nice."

"Gee, Matty....That was kinda....deep! I like that!..."

He drew Matt close in a deep hug. Matt kissed his lips lightly for several seconds.

He returned his head to his chest.

"Yeah Timmy....Just don't ever stop holdin' me like this. Oh wow! I like this too. It's so important for me. If you say yes 'n I say no......just don't ever stop holding me!"

"Ohhhh! I don't think I could ever stop holding you!"

They fell into another short silence. Matt's arms went around Tim, literally lifting him from the floor.

"Oh shit! I think I'm gonna start cryin' again."

"Noooo, please Matty. You'll get me going too. I hate that. It's just so embarrassing for me."

"I can't help it!......I just never thought it was possible to love someone so much! I almost hate these times I get these close feelings for you. I...I just can't get close enough to you!

"Hee, hee....This is gonna sound silly, but I was reading a science fiction book last year. I started to think about it again. This scientist built a machine that would kinda.... well....meld things together. He had two bricks meld....kinda fuse together. They ended up as one brick, but it was twice the size. I started wondering how that would....feel! What if two people could kinda like....meld together?....What would that feel like?..."

"Oh shit, Matty! I don't think I'd like that! I want us to be two people!"

"Well, yeah! But I was just wondering what that would feel like."

They remained silent for a moment. Matt suddenly seemed to tense.

"Oh shit!....I'm falling asleep again. Let's put a movie on or something."

Tim didn't reply right away. He had a silly grin on his mouth. He rubbed the side of Matt's head.

"...That's the quickest way for us to fall asleep! We're always doing that!...

"..Awh....Let's just quit fighting it. We walked to the school today. And this cold weather. I'm still adjusting to it. I think it takes lots out of me."

There was another period of silence.

"Umm," Tim began, "Over at Harvey's today......You said that Ethan was bi....leaning gay. I thought you didn't understand bi's!"

"Well, I really don't....entirely. I looked it up on the Net. There's this kinda scale where people are all straight on one end, and gay at the other......Then there's all these well like notches in between. I guess I sorta understand it up to a point. When I try to understand that stuff......I think I sort of try to put myself in that position...

"Then there's the trans! Oh gee! I mean I understand part of it....but....It's like you're kinda trapped in the wrong body. And I put myself in that place. Now if I felt I was a girl in a boy's body....and I got that operation....Would I still like boys? Or would I be a....well girl who likes girls? Would that make be straight? Or would I still be gay?"

"Oh gee, Matty....Stop thinking!"

Tim rolled them both to their sides. He gave Matt a tired, weak kiss on his cheek.

"Let's just go to sleep here....I just can't fight it any longer."

The following morning the boys came from the bathroom. They entered the humid kitchen. Clara was before the range, Ayumi stood before the sink. There was a large basket of fruit beside her on the counter.

"Wow, Mom! Where did that huge basket come from?"

She turned in their direction. Her eyes suddenly scanned over them both.

"Well if you two don't look all dolled-up 'n cute this morning. Who's coming over?......And don't tell me Scooter and Toby or Joe and Chris!"

Tim gave her a surprised expression.

"...How do you DO that?!"

Ayumi simply smiled and returned to the sink, slicing apples.

"...Mom....They're Ethan and Ryan. I'm going to be tutoring Ryan in a bit. Now we aren't exactly friends, but they're friends of Scooter and Toby's......Well, I mean around school, not so much outside...

"Ryan got new games for Christmas and his controllers are broke. I told them to come over here and play them! Gee, if I got new games for Christmas and couldn't even play 'em....I'd go nuts!"

They took seats across from each other at the breakfast nook. Clara made her way before them with a kettle.

"Now back away some. This pot is hot! Oh dear, it's ten above this morning and you boys need some hot oats!"

"Oh gee, Gram," Matt put in, "I can smell cinnamon and apples!"

She smiled at him.

"...And I put in a touch of brown sugar, honey and maple syrup!....REAL maple syrup!"

Tim slouched back holding his arms out.

"MOM!....Will you tell Gram to stop waiting on us?!"

"I can't!....She outranks me."

"Oh Timmy, hush! I sooooo enjoy this! Oh! How I love to take care of my boys!"

She made her way back to the range, waving her curved finger in the air.

"I keep telling you, you'll understand later in life! Ohhhh, this is such a treat for me!...

"And after your hot's time for a nice warm baked apple!"

Tim looked at her strangely.


"I thought I smelled apples baking," Matt replied, slightly sniffing the air.

"BAKED APPLES?!" Tim shot out again, "How do you bake apples?!"

"Oh my stars!....In the oven Timmy!"

"I've never heard of baking apples!"

Matt looked up at him.

"...Hee, hee, you never heard of baked apples?"

Ayumi turned from the sink.

"...Timmy, I'm surprised at you! With all the reading you do?"

She gave the basket a quick glance.

"This basket is from all the nurses at the hospital....It was a sort of Christmas and welcoming gift for all of us. The whole family! Oh my, when I first got here, it wasn't an hour before I was right into the operating room! It seemed everyone got either hurt or sick all at once. We haven't really had much time for socializing over there. I believe it was that blizzard that finally got people to slow down a bit."

She gazed at the basket again.

"Oh, I just wanted to cut these things up and start in on them right away. I was afraid half of this would spoil before we got to it."

She gazed at the boys.

"...And I'm cutting up some more healthy snacks for you wedges, orange slices, grapes, banana chips and trail mixes!"

Minutes later Clara set a baked apple before each of them in a small dish. Matt dug into his without hesitation. Tim stared at his.

"Come on Tim!" Matt said, "I can't believe you never heard of baked apple."

Ayumi turned from the sink again.

"Tim?......How is apple pie made?"

"Well I just never knew about apples bein' baked....all alone!"

"Hee, hee. On the first day of school Timmy had his first bread pudding!"

"Well I never heard of that either!....But it's good! Really!"

He suddenly slapped his hand over his mouth as Clara turned with a smile.

"No Gram!....NO!....Don't start makin' bread pudding now!"

"Oh Timmy I just sooooo enjoy this!"

"Gram!....I'm afraid you're going to work yourself right into a heart attack er something! Matty's going to be here for a year! You gotta slow down!"

She smiled at him as she took a stool at the island. She held a mug of coffee.

"Timmy....When I moved in with your father....I started....slowing down. I....I sat down in that damn rocker! Timmy that was the worst thing I ever did! That rocker is going to kill me faster than anything!..."

She gazed over her mug.

"...These past few months....My stars! I've never felt better in my life!...

"Oh yes....My legs bother me from time to time, but I believe it to be more the cold weather than anything. I may not be running marathons, but getting a bit more exercise around the house here has done wonders for me! Oh! I feel great!

"I can't do lots of heavy housework, but I can certainly take care of the wash and the cooking! Oh! It just pleases me so to see you two eat!"

She gave them a silly grin.

"And after supper tonight we'll be having bread pudding!"

Ayumi gave her a quick hug.

"Oh Mom! I'm just sooo pleased you.....understand all this. The boys felt as though they were lying to you. That was my idea....I really thought you'd be crushed!"

"Oh yes! And I keep saying it again and again. If it hadn't been for my brother....I'd be as backwards as all the rest!"

She held her mug in both hands as she looked at the boys.

"Oh you boys!....It hasn't been a year and....and you''re blossoming! More sure of yourselves!....Less shy....You're doing so well at school. And you're meeting more people and making friends. I think it's wonderful. And I agree with Kenny, you two were made for each other."

Several hours later found Matt and Tim with Scooter and Toby at the breakfast nook. Scooter and Toby still shivered from their walk. They sipped hot chocolate.

"...Well I'm sure Mom will give you a ride home! You two look half frozen!"

"...Well," Scooter began, "my dad had to work again today....Double shift! And I didn't want to....put anyone out."

"Put us out?!"

"Well, we don't really know your family that well yet."

"Scoot! My MOM was your doctor in the hospital! We're not exactly strangers! And my mom 'n dad like you coming over. They say me 'n Matt need more friends."

Scooter gripped his warm mug with both hands. His fingers were white.

"Oh gee....If it wasn't for you and your mom....I'd probably be dead now!"

"Hey! Let's not even talk about that anymore...

"So you do know Ethan and Ryan?"

"Well, umm....not real well. I mean just from around school. They kinda greeted me back......Wow, lots of kids greeted me back. We just started junior high. I had no idea so many people knew me!"

"Well, umm....You sure made quite an entry, huh?"

"That's for sure. Everyone wanted to see my knife wound. When they see how tiny it is, they wonder how I could have come so close to bleeding to death."

"Well you head was bleedin'....You're mouth!....And that cut over your eye! Shit! You were layin' there all night!"

There was a short pause here as Scooter and Toby sipped more hot chocolate.

Matt leaned forward in an interested manner.

"...So....umm....What does your....your gaydar say about Ethan 'n Ryan?"

The two looked at each other.

"So what do you think, Tob?"

"...Well, I was wondering about Ryan....I'm going to! I'm not so sure about Ethan. I think Ryan's....umm....interested! They worked on their history papers almost every day after school!....I mean until the library closed! It looks to me like, well, Ryan is the one interested. I mean, it's not like they were strangers or that. But they didn't actually hangout together all that much. And I guess Ethan had a girlfriend last year. It's kinda like....well, Ryan's working up a bit more courage lately."

Matt nodded with a smile.

"...Well, Jenny is trying to kinda get them together. I don't think you two even know her. She's kind of the high school....Cupid! She's got lots of couples together. And lots of 'em are still together."

Scooter turned to Tim.

"So how did you kinda get them to come over?"

"Ryan's controllers broke. He got new games for Christmas. I suggested they come over here. I told them they could use my system."

"Oh gee, what if they aren't gay?!"

Tim shrugged.

" harm done, right?"

Scooter looked back toward Toby.

"They might not be gay, Tob. So will you....control yourself?! It might embarrass them!"

Matt and Tim laughed.

Toby held Scooter's head and gave him a deep kiss on his mouth, yet lasting only two seconds. The threw himself over the table, resting his head on his arm. He looked at Scooter.

"Oh Scoot! I love you so much, I think I could just cry over it. You almost died, Scoot! Oh shit!....I don't know what I'd do!"

Tim spread his arms out.

"Okay....No more dying stuff! Now let's just forget about this."

He leaned forward slightly.

"Umm....We'll all kinda play video games for a bit. I'll make it look like I suddenly remembered something on the Net. Some schoolwork or that. We'll come up here and just kinda leave Ethan 'n Ryan alone for a bit."


The boys jumped in their seats.

"MOM!....You were out in the dining room eavesdrippin' again, huh?"

"No I wasn't eaves....dripping! I came in here to take this applesauce off the stove. I believe it's simmered enough."

It was here the doorbell sounded.

Tim ran.

"I'll bet that's Ethan and Ryan."

The others heard them from the dining room.

"Hey guys!....Come on in! Scooter 'n Toby are already here. I turned up the heat in the basement this morning so it won't be too cold for us...

"Well, you two don't look too cold."

"Nah!" Ethan put in, "My dad gave us a ride over. Mom sent him out to the supermarket with a shopping list!....While we were snowed in, we ran out of almost everything!"

The boys entered the kitchen.

"...So you're Ethan and Ryan?....Come in and sit down for a bit."

"Mom!....Ethan 'n Ryan are a bit shy....Don't give 'em the third degree, huh?!"

"Timmy! When guests come over it's polite to offer them something to eat or drink."

She turned to the boys.

"I'm not going to ask you two about your....your criminal records!...

"Now take your jackets off and just hang them over the backs of the stools here. I'm getting a round of hot chocolates here."

Ethan held his hand to his chest.

"Wow!....Mrs. Webster!....You sure are pretty!"

"Oh, now that's so sweet of you."

He suddenly covered his face with his hands.

"Oh gee!....I don't believe I just said that!"

"That's quite all right. Now just slide into the nook here...

"Little Matty here was a bit shy at first as well. He'll tell you we don't stand on lots of formalities around here..."

"Tim, sit!"

"Mom! I know how to nuke a couple cups of chocolate milk!"

"No!....I'm going to do that! I keep telling you it's just soooo pleasant around here now that you aren't such a....recluse! I just love this! And I'm sending you boys downstairs with some snacks. And don't worry about a mess. I'll clean it all up later and just love every minute of it!"

Ethan seemed to sit weakly, a strange expression on his face.

"...Umm....Mrs. Webster?....Can I trade my mom for you?!"

She laughed as she explained herself to the boys.

They began to eat cookies and sip their hot chocolate.

"...Yes, boys. I love this. It was just too quiet and orderly around here. I've got two more years of this and Timmy will be off to college. Oh! It's going to be so quite around here again...

"Well, I really don't have much extra cleaning to do. Timmy and Matt here are so neat and orderly."

Ryan looked up shyly.

"Well, hopefully you'll enjoy having me around....I'm not....neat 'n orderly!"

They all laughed.

Clara entered.

"Oh my stars! Ayumi! Why didn't you tell me we've got company?! You're fussing over my boys!....That's my job!....

"Oh! Oh!....And you two boys are?..."

"Ethan and Ryan," Ethan put in shyly, "I'm Ethan and that's Ryan."

"Oh my stars! Ryan, you've got such big, deep green eyes!"

"Oh....umm thank you, ma'am."

Clara waved her curved finger in the air.

"Now none of that ma'am stuff!....My name is Clara! But you boys call me Gramma!"

She made her way to the refrigerator.

"...Now we've got all kinds of snacks here for you to take down into the family room with you....Healthy snacks! Sliced apples. Orange sections! Grapes! Eat up!"

She returned to the island unwrapping plastic from bowls.

"Oh how I love this!"

Ethan placed his elbows on the table and held his chin in his hands.

"Matt....You have no idea how good you have it here!...

"Mrs. Webster....CAN I MOVE IN HERE TOO?!"

She laughed as she took a seat at the island.

"Oh, boys....If I had the room....You'd all be living here!......Oh HOW I'm going to miss all this! You boys are always welcome here! And don't worry about being quiet and all neat about things. Go down and play your games! Make noise! Make a mess! I just love this!"

"...Oh wow! Neat!....I sure hope you know how lucky you are, Matt!"

"Oh yeah!....And this summer I'm going to mow the lawn and take care of the garden. And....and I'm gonna PAINT THE HOUSE!"

Ayumi chuckled.

"Matt....You and Tim can care for the lawn. That will be quite sufficient. I want you out there....having fun! Now you'll have fun in college, I'm sure, but it's rough today. You can't neglect your studies. Oh! Today things are getting just soooo technical!"

She stood up and clapped her hands.

"Now down into the basement! Go blow something up!"

"Oh my stars!....Don't they have games without any guns and missiles in them?!"

"Gram!....That's why they're called action games!...

"And Ryan's game doesn't have guns 'n missiles!......It's a submarine game. It has torpedoes! We shoot 'em at ships an' blow them up! But we gotta be careful of the depth charges! They explode right next to us! We spring leaks! And we can get blown up too!"

Clara covered her eyes.

"Hee, hee....Gram! It's fantasy! We aren't gonna grow up to be gangsters!"

There was the thunder of feet on the steps. Ryan was the first heard.

"WOW!....Ethan!....Look at the SIZE of that screen! AWESOME! OH! OH! I'm gonna go nuts down here! Come on! Let's fire-up that game!"

Both Ayumi and Clara grinned. Clara washed the several kettles in the sink. She seemed to continue with a silly grin. Ayumi leaned against the island.

"So!....Mom!....What do you think about Ethan and Ryan?"

"Oh my stars! That little Ryan with those big green eyes and....and that cute little scarf! He's such a little ANGEL!"

Ayumi nodded.

"Well, I don't think we've gotta worry about their friends. Timmy....well, Matty too! They're still a bit shy yet, but they're both a bit conservative. I don't think we'll see the day where they're hanging with that rough crowd...

"But that's not exactly the question I was asking you..."

Clara heard Ayumi's statement 'hang' in the air. She placed the last kettle in the rack and turned. She was thoughtfully drying her hands. She made her way to the island and sat before her mug which was still there.

"Well now....What do the kids say today?....Getting vibes?....If my gaydar is on and operating correctly....I'd say those two are definitely....GAY!"

"You noticed it too!"

"Ohhh, Ayumi! I'm not one to....oh, what's that word....stereotype? The gay men are always portrayed as a bit feminine, the women as more masculine. The fact is, from my own experiences....I don't find that to be true at all!...

"Oh my brother Ken was no little wuss!...Oh! He was such a big, strong farm boy! He just wasn't one to be a bully. He was one to walk away from trouble. Even if he got teased over it..."

Ayumi reached out and rubbed her back.

"Oh Mom, you have no idea how happy I am at how well you've adjusted to this."

"Adjusted? Why I've adjusted to this years 'n years ago! My brother and I had such....such deep discussions over this. The fact is, I was going to take his secret to the grave with me. It's just when Timmy and Matt came out to us. Oh dear! That's not it either!......Coming out....It kind of implies everything was just suddenly dumped on us."

She waved her curved finger in the air.

"...Timmy and Matty didn't....come out! Oh! I saw it Auymi! Well, not right away. And, yes, when I did start thinking about it, I believed I was in a bit of denial as well."

She sipped at her coffee, gazing thoughtfully over her mug.

"The fact is....I was thinking it was going to be you and Kenny who weren't going adjust to this!"

"Mom! You're kidding!"

She waved her finger again.

"No I'm not!......Oh Ayumi, didn't you see it?!......I caught them many times. Well, I mean just sorta hugging or touching so sweetly. It seemed they were just looking for an excuse to touch each other....Care for each other! It was their eyes Ayumi! They love each other! When you're in love....Oh my stars!....You just can't hide it! Ohhhh yes! I could see it in their eyes! They're awful young yet, but I seriously think this....this is going to last!"

She adjusted her position on the stool.

"Oh, Ayumi......I keep telling you I don't want to be the MEDDLING MOTHER-IN-LAW! It's just if you hadn't accepted little Timmy and Matty......I was all set to rent an apartment!....And I was going to take those two sweet little boys along with me!"

"Awh, wow!"

"I'm quite serious about that! I was so frightened it was going to be you two who couldn't adjust to this!"

She paused in thought again, looking over her mug.

"Oh Ayumi, my brother and I had it rough. I don't mean just financially. It was just our father got in these....these moods! Oh he could get so angry and violent! I married young just to get away from it! And then Albert started. Oh, he'd go on these drinking binges! Oh he'd get mean and beat on me and Kenny."

She paused in thought again for a moment.

"Yes, Ayumi......I've seen enough hate and anger in this world to last me six lifetimes!...

"Do you recall that song....What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love?"

"Oh yeah!....I recall that......Of course I was just a child at the time."

"Oh you little shit!"

"Ha, ha, ha!"

"Ohhh yes!....Whenever I see Timmy 'n Matty just looking at each other, I sort of hear that song playing in my mind. They couldn't hide that from me!"

The boys set down bowls of apple wedges, orange slices, grapes and trail mixes. Each one dipped in immediately. Ethan took a bite of an apple wedge.

"Oh wow!....Rye!....Try an apple piece!....Mmmm....Cinnamon and brown sugar! These are fantastic!"

Over the next hour they took turns steering the sub while the other used the periscope to launch torpedoes. Ethan sat on the floor before the old coffee table with Ryan. Their backs were up against the couch. Ethan was nearly perspiring.

"Oh shit!....Oh shit!....Rye's kinda got his thigh up against mine. And it isn't just there! He's like kinda rubbing it against me. Oh gee! I shouldn't have worn this sweater! It's down here! Oh gee, it was the only thing I had that was long enough to cover me! Oh! Quit thinking about Rye! You're starting to pull a woody!...

"Oh those big green eyes! They just flash at the screen! That pouty mouth! Oh shit!....I'm gay!....I'm gay....Am I gay? Oh! Look at the screen! Play the game! Don't scratch your leg!"

Ethan tried to focus on the screen. He noticed Ryan operating the fire button.

"...Umm....Rye......I think you're launching your torpedoes a bit too late. The ship is steaming out of the way before they even get there!"

"...Well, yeah....I'm like daydreaming a bit here, hee, hee......Maybe we should switch controls. I think you're better at the torpedoes."

They switched controls. It had seemed subtle to Ethan, yet he distinctly felt Ryan seem to pause and hold his fingers for a moment.

"Okay. Bring me up to periscope depth......No! No! Use your diving planes for that......There you go....No! No! That's too fast! We'll have the whole conning tower out of the water!"

"Whoop's! Hee, hee....I'm kinda nervous here..."

Although the four others nearly sat on the edge of the couch, watching in interest, Tim had been casting them glances.

"Oh gee. Ryan just doesn't have his mind on this game. He keeps looking at Ethan. GAY!....Oh yeah....Oh yeah! Shit! Nobody would even need gaydar to see that! I wonder if we should just kinda slip out of here for a bit....Kinda give 'em time to themselves..."

"Oh no! Oh no! ASH CANS!"

"Run defensively Rye!......Watchit! Watchit! Full left rudder!......LEFT Rye! Not RIGHT! Use your diving planes at the same time!......They'll have to keep changing the the depth settings on the charges!"

The image switched to the inside of the sub. Although obviously in animation, the graphics were realistic. A pipe burst and water sprayed out.

"We've been hit!....Ohhhh shit! I'm soooo nervous here! Look at that damage indicator! We're taking on water fast! We're gonna have to surface....Maybe we can make it to the gun!"

"We're gonna use a fifty caliber gun against a destroyer?! Get real!"

"Oh!....I'm just gonna surface 'n surrender!"

Ryan dropped his controller into his lap. He slouched back against the couch.

"Awh gee. I think we'd better set the challenge level a bit lower until we get used to this."

"Well we're three win and two lost....We're kinda ahead. Hee, hee."

Tim suddenly stood and slapped his hand to his forehead.

"Oh!....I almost forgot! Scoot!....Tob! I just remembered I found that site you were looking for. Let me show it to you real quick...

"Hey guys, just keep playing! We'll be right back. I gotta show this to Scooter 'n Toby before we all forget about it again. It's kinda important. It's schoolwork not goofing-off!"

"...Umm sure! Take your time," Ethan put in.

"Oh shit!....Why did I tell 'em that?!....I'm gonna be down here all alone with Ryan!"

The others rushed up the stairs.

"Oh gee, Rye's just soooo cute with that little scarf around his neck! Oh! I'm gay, I'm gay......Am I gay?...."

They sat on the floor with their legs under the battered coffee table. Ryan reached for a piece of apple, taking small bites of it.

"Oh gee! Oh gee! The way he's got his lips to that apple piece! Oh, I'm getting sooooo hard here! I gotta pull this table closer. If this sweater pulls up, he's gonna seeee me!"

"Umm....Let me pull this table a bit closer. We can reach the snacks easier."

He picked up a grape. He gazed straight ahead at the paused game on the screen.

"Oh gee....He's looking at me! I can sort of see that without actually looking at him. Oh! Those green eyes! I can see him kinda scanning me up 'n down."

"...Umm....Yeah, Rye....I think that's a real good idea you have. We got the challenge set too high for just starting out. We can set it lower and as we get better, we can kinda tweak it up a notch here 'n there."

"...Umm....Yeah. Umm....I was just thinking here. I'd like to play this more. But I can't play it at my house without controllers! How could I kinda hint around with Timmy....umm....without it sounding like I'm kinda inviting myself over."

Ethan turned to him and shrugged.

"Well, I don't know Timmy real well, but I think he's kinda cool...

"...Umm why don't you just tell him that?! Tell him you're leaving the game here and he can play it. I'm sure he'll invite us back. And we'll kinda slip it in there that we're kinda friends with Scooter 'n Toby.

"...Umm....The only thing I'm thinking about is they're all gay, Rye!......I mean they're probably okay with that with each other....but US?! They might think we're feelin' a little uncomfortable about it. And they might feel uncomfortable with us around. I mean, if you were gay......would you want to have a little cuddling session with a couple straight boys watchin'?! Hee, hee."

Ryan remained serious.

"...Well gee! I....umm....don't have any problem with that! It doesn't bother me."

"Well, it might bother them!...

"Remember Tommy yesterday, over at Harvey's? I mean he was tryin' to be kinda silly about it. But I really think he has a problem with seeing boys kissin'! I'm not saying he's a bully or he'd get mean......There's just lots of boys out there that really don't want to see that!"

They sat in an uncomfortable atmosphere for a moment, both searching for words. Ryan reached for another apple slice and bit into it. He chewed thoughtfully.

"Oh gee....Umm....I don't think Ryan just moved or anything. But it just feels like he kinda slid up closer to me......Oh that hot thigh up against me."

Ryan reached for another apple slice and settled his back to the couch. Ethan could see him looking closely at him.

"...Ethan?......Have you ever....umm....kissed anyone?"

He nodded shyly.

"Oh yeah!....Heidi. I mean I've know her since grade school! She always had these cute braids. She got rid of 'em before junior high. She said they looked too childish! Well, not that she didn't still look great. And umm she was growing up. Hee, hee....She was kinda flat in grade school. When I saw her that first day of registration, I almost didn't recognize her! I mean she wasn't exactly a umm....hooter honey, but she had quite nice pokey ones stickin' out. Hee, hee."

"Was it like all hot with those skyrockets?"

"...Well, umm....hee, hee....Not exactly. It was more of a well....kinda sweet feeling....Kinda warm. It was just one of those weak in the knees feelings, know?"

"Nah!......I wouldn't know. I....I never kissed anyone."

Ethan reached for several more grapes, tossing them into his mouth one at a time.

"What's he getting at here?"

"...Umm....Ethan?......Would you mind....kinda like showing me how to kiss?"

"Oh shit!....Oh shit!"

"...And how do I you?"

"...By kissing me, of course."

"Well, hee, hee....Wouldn't that be kinda....umm....weird?"

"...Nah!....I mean I don't think so. It's not like anyone can see us, huh?"

"Oh shit!....Here's your chance!....Go for it!....Oh I'm so nervous!"

"Well....Hee, hee....How do we do this exactly?"

"...Why don't we just sit on the couch here. Lots more comfortable."

Ethan drew his sweater down tight, literally sitting on part of it. He began to scratch at his thigh again.

"Oh gee!....I can't let him see me!"

"Well, I'm kinda sore right now. My hip! I took the trash out this morning and kinda slipped on the ice on the porch. Oh, I'm so clumsy! I mean I can walk okay! It's just getting up. And the couch is kinda saggy. Believe it or not, I find the floor here lots more comfortable."


Ryan leaned close to his face.

"Oh gee!....Those green eyes! That mouth! I'm so nervous here!"

Ethan leaned in closer but suddenly backed away.

"Umm....You won't say anything about this to anyone, huh?"

"Are you kidding?....Nobody has to know!"


Again Ethan leaned closer, yet backed away again.

"Umm....Now this doesn't mean like I'm gay or anything!"

"Nah!....Course not!"


He leaned in and felt Ryan's tight, pursed lips against his own. He backed away quickly.

"...Umm Rye......You can't like....scrunch your mouth all up like that."

"Well, I thought that's what you do!"

"...No....No....You gotta kinda relax you lips some. When you tighten your lips up like that....It's like....kissing through a screen door!...

"Now....umm....Let's try that again. But you gotta relax your mouth."

"...Ahhh....Like this?..."

"Oh gee! Yeah!....Like that!"

"Sure!....That looks good. Just relax."

Ethan reached out and toyed with Ryan's scarf.

"Let's loosen you scarf a bit."

"I'll take it off!"

"No! No!....Awh gee. I'm really serious about this Rye. You umm....really look nice in this. I just thought I'd loosen it up some, kay?"

Ethan's hands ran down to his shoulders.

"Oh that mouth!....I can smell....sweet apples on his breath! Go for it!"

They touched their lips lightly for a bit and gradually pressed them tighter. Ryan seemed to let out a slight moan.

"Oh gee!....I'm gay!....I'm gay!....Am I gay?"

Ethan backed away slowly, still holding his shoulders. They gazed at each others faces for several seconds too long. Both blushed and bowed their heads. Ethan allowed his hands to run from his shoulders down to his chest. He hadn't wanted to draw away from Ryan "too quickly."

Both boys leaned back against the couch, their heads still bowed, blushing.

"...So, umm," Ryan put in at length, "...Was that umm....okay?"

Ethan looked up toward the paused game on the screen for a moment. He slowly turned his head toward Ryan. He still blushed, yet held a serious expression.

"...Okay?!....Wow! Rye!....That....that was HOT!"

"Really?!....Do you really mean that?!"

Ethan gazed back down at the snacks on the table. He nodded his head slowly as he reached for an apple slice.

"Oh! Apples!....Yeah, sweet, juicy apples! Whenever I smell apples, I'm gonna remember this! Ryan's lips even even tasted like apples! Oh! I should have licked 'em! Oh shit!....I'm gay....I'm gay....Am I gay?..."

Ayumi was about to enter the kitchen, she quickly stopped at the entryway. She leaned against it, gazing at the boys. Her finger pointed toward the table of the nook.

"...Let's see here....One....two....three....four!....Oh dear! It seems as though my arithmetic is off. Am I missing two of you?....I don't believe they went home and left their jackets hanging from the stools here."


She went for the sink with her empty coffee mug.

"Oh!" she began in a mock shock, "My only child Tim....being soooo rude with excluding two of his newest friends!"


She rinsed her mug under the water, adding a single drop of detergent to it.

Oh! Dear!....You left those two sweet little guys down in that cold....dark basement all alone!......I'm going to have to talk to your father about this, Timmy. We never brought you up to be such a rude host!"

She rinsed her mug and began drying it with a cloth. She turned and spread her arms out.

"...You've got to start including all your friends and not giving them the cold shoulder. I can just imagine what they're thinking!....'We brought that video game over here so we could all play....and they're not even interested!' I'll bet they feel soooo sad. Those two cute little guys must nearly have broken hearts!"

"Mom......We kinda had this sorta....planned."

She made her way to the coffee maker which had just finished brewing.

"Oh dear! Those poor little guys," she continued, filling her mug, "Their first time invited over here and and you exclude them so. I'll bet they're sitting on that couch nearly choking back tears! How could you be so cruel?!"

"Mom!....They are playing video games!"

"I hope not!" Toby mumbled.

He suddenly slapped his hands over his face.

"...Oh, I don't believe I just said that!"

Ayumi made her way to the basement door. She comically tilted her head near it as though "listening" for any activity.

"I don't seem to hear any planes roaring or machine guns. There aren't any explosions going off."

"It doesn't have planes!....It's a submarine game!"

"I don't seem to hear any torpedoes being launched....No ships blowing up! Oh! Oh!....What was that I just heard?....Oh dear!....Depth charges?!"

"Mom, knock off the drama queen stuff!......You know what we're doing here!"

She took a seat at the island with a slight grin.

"...Yes, I know what you boys are doing..."

She hesitated a moment, taking thought.

"...You boys have to realize," she began, pointing her finger toward the window, "There are people out there that are just soooo set in their ways. Mean! Angry! And.... very, very intolerant!..."

She gathered her thoughts again.

"In less than a year, I've seen so much happen here...

"Scooter....You were stabbed!....Jason's dead....Your father was awful mean to you. Oh! He's certainly come a loooong way since. He a new man today!...

"Kenny and I....We had our suspicions with Timmy and Matty here......And I'll be perfectly honest with you all....We didn't like it! Oh, not because we were embarrassed over it. It's your safety! We keep saying that over and over...

"...Now Timmy....Matt....I know you sorta pushed Joe and Chris together. And I simply have to admit they just look soooo sweet together. You've got to remember their families are very tolerant about these things. I'm just starting to worry a bit over this.

"Oh dear, how can I put this?...

"...If....if Ethan's and Ryan's parents aren't all that understanding and tolerant over this......It could cause problems. What if they found out a group boys.... arranged for them to get together?......And what if they found they had been spending time over here? Oh dear!......There are still people out there who believe being gay is.... learned....or you can somehow catch being gay....or they may even think Ethan and Ryan are doing this because it's cool or it's the latest fad! And what if they found Kenny and I are tolerant over this? Oh! We are!......And I wouldn't lie about it! It's just that we could all end up in trouble over this....Possibly even legal trouble...

"Oh dear!......I hate to sound cruel over it. We have no problem with this. Your friends are always welcome here. It's just I was thinking if you boys could sort of use a....a more neutral ground for this......Find some school functions you could go to. The GSA! Go to your burger shops!...

"Yes, it's difficult in the winter. I understand that. Maybe you could wait until summer. You could all hang at the park....or the lake....or go swimming at the river. It would be sort of a can I put it?....A more open, neutral, territory. If all this is okay with their families....fine! I just don't like this going on without parent's knowledge of it. Oh! How I love having all you boys over! I just don't want to make it seem as though....we're....recruiting kids into this. Oh yeah! People actually believe that!"

Tim ran his palm over the table as though "dusting" it. He bowed his head.

"...Yeah....I understand, Mom..."

He seemed to gaze off at nothing in particular.

"...Oh shit!......I wish I was a multimillionaire! I'd build a school! I'd build a boarding school! And I'd take in gay kids. Homeless kids off the street. And....and they could live without fear. They'd be loved! They'd be taught there's nothing wrong with them! A place where they could just be themselves without having to lie or cover-up. And everyone would just get along with each other!"

He glanced at Ayumi who seemed to have a knowing smile.

"...Well, boys....I'm going to tell you something here..."

She settled back on her stool. She wore a pair of old jeans. The color was nearly washed from them. On her feet, they understood she wore an old pair of hospital sneakers.

"...When......When Jason came in there....Well, he was already dead. Lots of us doctors were very bothered over this. We never expected to see this......something like this happen around here! This is a nice small town. Kenny and I are just so tired of that Big City life! We wanted to move here where the pace isn't quite so fast. It's so lovely around here, we've decided to retire here! Well, Ken will still have to do lots of traveling from time to time. And I'm sure there will still be those....sudden, busy spells I'll have to deal with...

" doctors are seriously thinking of doing just that!......Setting up a nice safe boarding school just for kids like you..."

All four boys snapped their heads in her direction with huge smiles.

"...Okay! Now don't get so excited here! We....we can't just wave some magic wand and have everything appear! Ohhhh, boys....there's so much to do here! Oh my, lawyers, laws, codes, hearings, rules 'n regulations! Sometimes I just want to scream! And you boys have to understand cash strapped this little town is. Oh dear, with the economy the way it is....even larger towns are feeling the pinch! Last summer, I heard the town just couldn't afford to have the fire hydrants painted! They're having trouble just keeping up with the park. The crosswalks downtown need painting. They need newer, more modern streetlights. The more energy efficient ones. The traffic signals are breaking down....Well, the timers in them. They're old mechanical ones. They want to up-date them to the more electronic ones. The city counsel understands if they up the taxes, lots of people will lose their homes! They'll leave! Things are right on the edge here, boys. We're working on all this! It's going to take time! Probably years!"

"Yeah," Tim said, "I think we all understand this....It just gets awful frustrating at times."

"Oh Timmy!....You don't know frustrating!"

Ethan operated the controls in his hands. They had switched controllers again.

"...Okay, Rye....Easy. Watch your range. Don't fire too late."

"Well, I don't wanna drop the periscope right away! I like to see the ship get blown up. It helps me judge when to fire better."

"The game will switch to the surface view."

"Yeah, but that's not as neat!"

"Rye....You gotta drop the 'scope. It creates a wake! Even when we're running slow. It's a dead giveaway! They'll see us! And then the depth charges start in again!"

The torpedo launched with a slight stream of bubbles trailing. Ethan was about to put the sub into a slight dive, yet the screen suddenly froze. He looked at Ryan's slightly blushing face.

"...Umm....hee, hee....I don't seem to have my mind on this game right now."

He paused, picking at several fibers on his shirt which had come from his new scarf. He hesitated for a moment.

"...Umm....that kiss......I thought that was kinda hot too, you know?"

"Really?....You liked it?!"

"Oh yeah!......Umm....Oh shit!....Ethan....I think I'm gay! And I really like you!"


It had been all Ethan could think of saying. His mind raced.

"...So....Ethan....If you really don't want me around, I'll understand..."

"No!....No!....I....umm....I don't know if I'm gay! Sometimes I think I am, then I think I'm not! I just can't seem to figure myself out, you know?...

"I've talked to some of the gay boys at school. Well, I should say they kinda talked to me! And they all say the sorta same thing!.....It's like they always knew! I hear that from all of them. I....I don't know. I....kinda noticed girls last year....Heidi?....Well, this year......I don't know if I'm just trying to fool myself or not. I think I'm kinda looking at boys more!"

He turned to Ryan with a serious expression.

"I don't understand any of this! I mean we went to different grade schools but we kinda met on that first day in junior high. I mean we weren't exactly real close at first. Well, hee, hee....We still don't hang together much outside of school. We have a couple classes! I'll be honest with you....Oh shit!....How can I word this?...

"When we were working on our history the school library. I....I kinda think that's when I started noticing you a bit more, know? I think that's what kinda got me thinking about all this!"

Ryan drew up his legs and crossed them. Dropping his control in his lap, he rubbed his knees with his palms.

"Oh gee! Yeah!....I....umm....noticed you that very first day of school. I was.... well AM really shy. I guess I was just giving myself this big push to get to know you better."

Ethan slowly set his control on the table, nodding.

"...Well I sure noticed! Hee, hee....I think that's the first time I saw your eyes were green!"

There was an uncomfortable pause here for a moment. Ryan nodded his head with a serious expression. He couldn't look at Ethan.

"I....I think it was that second week we were in school. We were in drafting class. didn't exactly have skinny jeans on but hee, hee....they were kinda tight. You were sitting on that stool with your feet up on that rung. Oh shit! I couldn't stop looking at your legs! Somehow they looked like they were six feet long!"

He slowly turned his gaze toward Ethan.

"...You....Well you don't exactly say the words, but you kinda like knock yourself. I always hated that! And I just kept staring at you and....and thinking how HOT you were!"

Ethan blushed, turning his head slowly. He managed a sweet smile.

"...You umm....think I'm hot?!"

Ryan took the controller from his lap and set it on the table. He seemed unaware he'd even done so. He seemed in a slight trance like state.

"...Ethan," he nearly whispered, "You're the hottest boy in the whole school!"

He literally tackled Ethan around his neck, pushing him to the floor. He pressed his mouth to Ethan's, recalling to "keep his lips relaxed." Ethan couldn't resist throwing his arms over his back. He drew their chests tighter together.

"Oh wow! Oh shit!....I....I like this! Oh gee, I kinda gotta get on my side here. I'm so hard! I don't want him feeling me!....Oh wow!....He's kinda pushing into me. My thigh! Oh, he's hard too! Oh wow!....This is! But I'm scared too! What if someone comes down here?! Oh! I'd be so embarrassed....I'd die!

"Oh gee!....This....this warm little body in my arms! I'm in heaven here! Oh! I'm gay....I'm gay!....Am I really gay?! Oh gee! I gotta lick his lips a bit. I wanna taste that sweet apple flavor! Mmmm....Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh gee! Am I glad I'm not standing up right now. Weak in the knees?! I'd drop! Oh! We gotta stop!"

"...Umm....umm....Rye....Rye....We gotta stop. They'll be back down here any minute. Oh gee! I'll be awful embarrassed if they were to walk in now."

Ryan's expression seemed to sober quickly.

"Oh yeah. You're right."

Both sat up, their backs against the couch again. Ethan glanced at Ryan. Both were still a bit breathless. He pointed at Ryan's hair.

"Hee, hee....Oh Rye! That's the first time I've seen you without every hair in place! You got those two kinda like tufts sticking straight out."

"Oh gee," he gasped, combing his fingers through his hair.

"Don't do that! Come on. I think that's cute."

Ryan nervously adjusted his shirt and scarf. He reached for his control on the table.

"...So, umm....Where did we leave off here?....Did we....did I launch that torpedo?"

"...Oh yeah! And it looked good too!....I think you're gonna score!"

He looked at Ethan.

"Oh, I think I already did!"

He dropped the control and covered his red face with his hands.

"Oh shit! I don't believe I said that!"

"Hee, hee....Come on, chill!"

"Oh gee! Oh gee! I'm so sorry about that. I....umm....kinda lost control there for a bit."

Ethan gripped his wrist and drew their hands down to his thigh.

"Don't worry about it....And that was really....HOT!" he whispered almost seductively.

"Yeah, Mom," Tim was saying, "I understand......We'll see what we can do about getting this on more neutral territory.

"Come on guys....We better get back down there before they suspect something."

He went for the door, rattling the knob loudly. He opened it.

"...Well, we're goin' BACK DOWNSTAIRS NOW!......We're gonna play A FEW MORE VIDEO GAMES!"

Ethan and Ryan had their backs to the couch, operating their controls. Ryan suddenly paused the game. He dropped the control in his lap as he reached out. He seemed to cover Ethan's mouth with one hand. His other hand held to the back of his head. For the few seconds they had, he pressed his lips to his cheek and backed away.

"Oh gee!....That was hot!......No! Not hot......That was sweet! Oh gee, it was almost like he was talking to me! Telling me something. Oh shit! I'm gay....I'm gay.... Am I really gay?!"

He scratched his nails over his right thigh.

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