Matt and Tim

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 8

Matt and Tim stood on the pedals of their bikes. Climbing the grassy knoll at the river was difficult in the intense July heat. It was their first time here for actual swimming. They wore their swimming trunks in place of shorts. Heavy towels were wrapped around the handlebars of their bikes. Although the water was warm in late June, the unseasonably chilly month didn't allow for swimming. Both were excited to get out to the river and simply lounge in the small whirlpool. Sweat poured from their faces, down their chests and back. Matt suddenly jumped from his bike.

"That's it Tim!......I can't do it! I'll push my bike the rest of the way."

Tim also jumped off his bike.

"Yeah, you're right. My legs are killin'! We only have a short ways to go."

They pushed at the handlebars of their bikes, too winded to even speak to each other. They reached the top of the knoll and began unwinding their towels from the handlebars. Matt looked over toward the area of the whirlpool.

"...Holy shit!"

Tim looked up. Both saw two boys already in the water, not far from the whirlpool. It was obvious they were nude. They stood to their thighs in the rapidly running water. One had bright auburn hair just over his ears. The other boy had light brown hair over his ears as well but not quite as long. The auburn-haired boy had his arms around the others neck. The other had his hands on the first boy's bottom. They were oblivious to their surroundings, engaged in a deep kiss.

"Wow!" Matt continued, "That looks almost like the painting that girl drew for the GSA."

Tim grinned but couldn't hide a blush as he talked.

"...Awhhh, how cute!" he nearly whispered.

Matt suddenly dropped his head.

"Oh shit! Ummm....Maybe we should just leave."

As he glanced up to Tim's face, he noticed he was still blushing, yet still staring at the boys with a large smile. He drew at his towel, tightening it around the handlebars.

"...Umm....I think your right......This could be awful embarrassing for all of us."

It was here Tim's towel caught in the handbrake of his bike. It tilted over into Matt's and both crashed to the ground. Their attention was drawn instead to the boys in the water. They had broke apart and stared in their direction.

"Oh shit!" Matt said in a forced whisper, "Let's get out of here!"

As they tried to upright the bikes, they discovered the handbrake and grip of Tim's bike had caught in the spokes of Matt's front wheel. They struggled with them.

"HEY!..." they heard one of the boys yell, "HEY!....COME HERE!.... PLEASE?!"

The voice sounded young and still a bit high-pitched.

Matt put his hands around his mouth and shouted.

"WE'RE REALLY SORRY! WE DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE HERE!....WE'RE LEAVIN' NOW!"

"NO!......PLEASE COME HERE!....PLEASE?!"

They couldn't resist the nearly sad appeal in the tone of voice. They made their way down to the shoreline. Piled there were the clothes of the boys. As they drew closer, it was no longer necessary to shout. Matt held out his arms, palms up.

"Umm....Hey guys......We really didn't know you were here, kay?!"

"...DON'T TELL ON US!" The auburn-haired boy shouted out, pleading, as he began making his way to the shore. He appeared less embarrassed than frightened. The brown-haired boy had turned his back and was sitting in the water.

"Hey! We'd never do that! Don't worry about it!"

"Oh, I'm so scared!......We'd be in an awful lot of trouble! Don't say anything!..."

"We aren't gonna say anything!......And why would you get in trouble for a little bare-assed swimmin'?"

The boy stood at the shoreline. He made no attempt to run for his clothes. He held his arms out.

"...Hey......I know you saw us kissin'!......Oh, oh!....I knew this was gonna happen sooner or later!......I just knew we'd get caught!"

He went for his clothes and began stepping into his underwear.

"...Look!....We aren't gonna say anything to anyone. You gotta believe that."

Matt glanced out toward the other boy. He still sat in the water, his head looking back.

"Tell your friend to come in here. We'll turn our backs."

He slapped Tim on his shoulder, coaxing him around.

"Ohhhh gee!" the boy said, frustrated, "...TOBY!....TOBY! COME ON! THEY WON'T LOOK!"

Soon they heard the unmistakable splashing of feet.

Matt held out his hand in the direction of the clothes.

"Just get dressed. We won't look......We really didn't know you guys were going to be out here. We came out here to do some swimming ourselves. I'm really sorry. We were going to just leave when you called to us. And don't worry about us saying anything to anyone!"

As the boys pulled on their jeans over their wet legs, they stepped before Matt and Tim. Both appeared frightened and pale. The auburn-haired boy spoke first.

"...Umm....I'm Scooter and this is Toby......And were gay!......So you can start beating us up now!"

"Will you two chill?!......We don't beat up on anyone!......Do we even look like bullies?!"

"...Did Jason 'n' Billy send you out here?"

"...Who are they?..."

"...Bullies! From our grade school! We're going into junior high this fall. And those two are just going to keep following us around, causing trouble! I think our parents are on to us!"

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

"...You know......We'll be in big trouble if anyone finds out about us. Our families really hate fags!"

"...Hey!......I'm Matt and this is Tim........And we're gay..."

"Yeah!......Sure! You really look it too!"

"What are we supposed to look like?"

"...Oh, I don't know......I guess like me and Toby..."

"...Look gay?......I'd never have know if you didn't tell me!"

"...Well, I don't believe you. Now....I'm really scared......And we want to leave."

"You don't have to do that! Hey! Just leave your underwear on. Come on out and join us!"

"No!......You'll hold us under! You'll beat us up!"

"Will you knock off the bully stuff?! Me 'n' Timmy are gay!"

"Oh no you aren't!....I can tell!"

"What were you expecting? Me and Timmy tiptoeing through the mud here, wearing pink nail polish?!....We aren't exactly as campy as a row of tents!"

The two boys let out a chuckle, slightly relieved.

He took Tim's towel from his hand and placed it over his own, placing them both on a flat rock.

He placed his arms around Tim's neck and gave him a three second kiss. Tim knew what he was doing and held him as well. Matt turned back.

"See?......Now if we tell on you....then you can tell on us!"

Both boys seemed to instantly take on some color. They seemed to relax some.

"Now come on. You can join us for a bit."

"...Umm....No. We just want to go now..."

It was here they truly seemed more embarrassed than scared. They slowly walked away.

Matt and Tim walked out to the whirlpool gingerly feeling the rocks below. Soon Tim felt his feet slightly sink into the silty area. They sat down. The water rose halfway up their chests. With their backs toward the dam's current, they also felt the slight action if the whirlpool. The water was a deep red-orange from the iron and minerals it contained.

"Oh wow!" Tim said, "This water's warm!"

"Yup. It's nice out here..."

Tim glanced back to where the other two boys had passed through a wooded area.

"...Those poor kids......I think they were really scared. It was nice of you to sort of invite them to come out with us."

"I felt like we were intruding on them...

"...And thanks for allowing me that little kiss. I was hoping you would follow through on that with me. I was hoping it would relax them some."

Tim suddenly seemed to drop into a moment of deep thought.

"...I did do that, didn't I?......I honestly never even thought of it!......I mean I knew what you were doing and all."

He thought for several more seconds. His large black eyes seemed distant, unfocused.

"...You know something?......Well, I didn't exactly talk to them......but I know I could have! Maybe I was more relaxed around them because they were so scared! I mean I didn't feel the least bit shy or anything like that."

He seemed to consider his words again. His eyes flicked back and fourth along the horizon, questioning. Again he looked back toward the wooded area where they had left.

"I don't know what it was about them......I think they make a really cute couple!...

"Did you ever look at couples and wonder how they can be together? They're just so mismatched! Or it seems so......I know it has lots more to do than with just that. Then you'll see another couple......and it just looks so right that they're together!..."

Matt smiled at him.

"...You mean like us?"

Tim drew up close to him with a shy smile and placed his arm around his back. He kissed his cheek.

"...That's right......We aren't just so right to be together......Were perfect together!"

As it happened, several days later, they met Scooter and Toby again. This time, they all sat within the whirlpool. They made shy small talk about any topic which seemed to come up. They learned Scooter's name was Jerry Shelby. Matt found this father's name was Jack and worked at the same local mill as his father, Richard. This seemed a bit unsettling to Scooter for a moment. Scooter pointed toward Toby.

"...That's Zachariah......but don't even call him Zack!......He hates it!"

Matt noticed as Scooter changed the position of his head, the sun reflected differently from his auburn hair. Some areas seemed much redder than others.

Tim seemed relaxed. He talked, yet not excessively. Matt often glanced at him. He smiled, openly showing his braces without embarrassment.

"...So how did you two end up as Scooter and Toby?" Tim asked.

"...Awh, gee," Scooter replied, "That goes way back when I was little. Another little kid in the neighborhood saw me on my scooter. He'd point at me and say 'scooter.' He couldn't say Jerry......I think he had trouble with his 'J's' or something. He tried to say it but it came out more like Rareey or something. The other kids picked up on the Scooter. They weren't bein' mean or anything. Just one of those things..."

Tim glanced at Toby.

"...And Toby?..." he asked.

Toby hadn't spoken much and simply shrugged his shoulders.

Tim seemed hesitant to continue yet tried his best with a blush.

"...Ummm......I just wanna say....umm....You two look really cute together!"

Both boys blushed. Scooter clearly reached for Toby's hand underwater.

"...We gotta..." Scooter began nervously, "...we gotta be lots more careful around each other. My dad said we're gettin' too old to be....umm....'huggin' 'n' cuddlin' like we do."

He tapped his temple with the finger of his other hand.

"...I think they're putting things together...

"When were were younger, nobody said anything. Now they don't like too much hugging and touching. My dad said if we don't stop....we're gonna be spending time apart!"

"...Awh!" Tim put in, "...So have you been together long?"

"...Since like kindergarten!......We were both shy. I think we saw that in each other. We sorta made friends......Been together ever since."

Matt could sense an uneasiness in Scooter's demeanor. He thought it best to change the subject. He got to his feet.

"So guys!......What do you say we take a slide down the spillway?!"

"Cool!" Scooter replied.

"I'll give it a try," Tim put in.

The three of them glanced at Toby. He shook his head vigorously.

"...Oh no!....Oh no!"

Scooter turned to Matt and Tim.

"...He's terrified of his head goin' under! He feels like he's drowning."

"Oh shucks, Toby," Matt scoffed, "The water at the bottom is only up to your neck when you're sitting down!"

They made their way up the spillway along a crude stairway of blocks. They all noticed Toby becoming pale. Matt was the first to slide over. Indeed, he struck the bottom with a splash without his head submerging.

"It's easy, Toby!......There's like a moss all over the cement. It's not rough. It's real slick!"

Tim followed behind Matt.

"Eeeee!" he slipped, surprised at his speed.

"...Whoa! That was fun! You really move!"

Scooter was obviously trying to talk Toby into a slide.

"Come on Toby!" Matt yelled out, "Just hold your arms out! Me 'n' Tim will grab you. You won't go under!"

At the top, Scooter held Toby around his chest at the crest of the spillway. He was whispering into his ear. Toby nodded. Scooter gave him a quick kiss on his cheek and pushed him against his back. He shot down with an expression of terror on his face. As soon as he cleared the concrete, both Matt and Tim grabbed for an arm. They quickly pulled him to his feet.

Toby looked back up the spillway with the water rushing over. He was still pale and trembling, yet smiled.

"...Ummm....I guess that wasn't too bad!"

They continued playing through the afternoon. Their initial shyness had passed and they joked and laughed. Although Matt enjoyed himself with the fun, he enjoyed Tim's character. He appeared totally relaxed as he continued to smile and talk. He seemed to make a point of including Scooter and Toby in their fun and not pairing with Matt too much.

"Oh I love this!......Maybe Tim's just getting used to a new town. And I think he's kinda trying to make up for us embarrassing them the other day. He's right. They do look cute together! How can anyone bully those two? They're just so sweet and harmless....and in love! You can see it! They don't have to be all over each other. You can just see it! It's all the little things they do with each other."

Through the next couple weeks, Matt continued on with Tim. They convinced Ayumi and Ken to keep the tent up for the summer. They'd still spend nights together over the weekends. Cynthia visited whenever Ayumi had free time. She'd kept insisting Matt was becoming "too much trouble" for her. Ayumi pointed out the sudden change in the boys. They both had overcome much of their shyness and talked more frequently. She pointed out they'd made friends with Scooter and Toby on one of their trips out swimming.

"...Ken and I keep saying it......Those boys are the best thing for each other. Timmy has really come out of his shell these past few months. Now that they've become more comfortable with each other, they're making even more friends. I still say it's great!..."

"Oh, I just feel so bad about all this extra work you've been doing. You're a doctor! You don't have all this extra time for cooking and laundry and cleaning up after kids."

"...Do I hear someone talking nasty about MY BOYS?!" Clara said, entering the kitchen.

They had all grown familiar and friendly with each other over the summer. Clara poured a coffee and sat at the table with Ayumi and Cynthia. She continued to gesture, waving her hand in the air and pointing her curved finger.

"Those two little guys are absolute saints!......Okay....they horseplay out in that tent 'til the sun comes up! Then they sleep 'til noon!....But they're both little angels! They help each other out with their schoolwork! And during summer vacation no less!......And they're always hugging each other and helping each other!"

"Ohhh yes," Cynthia sighed, "Little Timmy has been a godsend with Matthew and his math. Now that he's doing better, I think he's even trying harder! All he talks about is that science club at school. I never!.....in my wildest dreams thought Matthew would want to socialize like that!"

Ayumi seemed a bit cautious with her next subject.

"...Oh that Mrs. Jenkins called again last week. She was asking about Tim! She wants so desperately to get him to tutor next year. I've never seen a teacher take such interest in her students as her. She's hoping Matt could convince him to give it a try. I really think the other students could be more of a help to Tim. He needs to get out there and socialize!"

"Well, there's no doubt they seem to be working miracles for each other, yet......He practically lives here. With all the extra cooking and cleaning and laundry!"

"...First of all we don't have extra cooking. We make what we usually make. And as far as laundry....what's an extra pair of jeans, shorts or a t-shirt? And there sure isn't any extra cleaning! They're never here! They're always at the river or the lake or the park. In fact, they even bring in their blankets and sleeping bags. They do that sort of wash themselves! I don't say anything to 'em......And I know I'm a doctor.....But I have such a phobia over bugs 'n' spiders! I'm soooo scared of what I call their tent stuff! I could just see a big hairy spider crawling out of one of those sleeping bags. I'd have a fit!"

They all laughed.

"...No, seriously, Cynthia......It's just as I told you on the phone that first time we talked. I really miss all the teen parties. It's just way too quiet around here. It's wonderful having Matt over here. And with him hopefully joining that science club, I'm kind of hoping perhaps Tim would follow through as well. Science is so important with today's technology. And again, it's the social part as well...

"...We've never had any worries over Tim with academics. He has his difficult areas. He's always studying something. Even during the summer! He reads a lot. Oh dear, I'd like to get rid of just half of his books!..."

Before the boys knew, they were once again walking the halls of the school. It was simply a day of registration. There were no classes yet. Both looked around and felt a strange sensation. It seemed as though the building were different somehow. It felt to the both of them, they were in a new school.

As they started walking toward their lockers which were permanently assigned, a door opened. Mrs. Jenkins stepped out just as they were passing.

"Boys!"

Instantly, Tim's body chilled, he began to feel nauseous. His body trembled.

"...Please boys......Would you just step inside the classroom for just a moment."

They entered, standing near her desk. It seemed strange seeing her in casual slacks and blouse. She took a seat at her desk and slid several papers around.

"I spoke to Principal Emerson about you two and arranged for your math class to be together. I'll be teaching the both of you this year. And Mr. Emerson also arranged for you to both have the same science class. That was about the best we could do."

She settled back, adjusting her glasses on her nose.

"...I think you boys know why I asked you in here..."

Matt nodded. Tim stood motionless, pale, his mouth open.

"...Timothy......I know you're new around here. And I know the few months you spent here last year just wasn't hardly enough to get to know many of the students. And I know you're a bit shy....but I have a student here who's shy as well. In fact, she's so shy, she won't question anything she doesn't understand. That's the biggest problem I'm having now. We had to hold her back in math last year.

"Now you don't have to help her out, or tutor her if you think you'd rather not. All I'm asking is that you two come in here a couple times a week after school. And when I say you two that includes Matt. Matt will be able to understand where her knowledge leaves off. He's already been through this. I'm absolutely positive you both can help a great deal. If you find you can't deal with it in any way....just tell me. I'll just have to make different arrangements."

The boys simply stood there without comment.

"...Now we're very informal here. I'll have three or four students here all being tutored on a one-on-one basis. You'll just have to keep it down a bit so each of you aren't distracting the others. Each student will be learning something a bit different than the others. I'm sure you boys will do wonders working together. Now what do you think?..."

Matt glanced at Tim. He didn't appear quite as pale. Is expression was one of consideration.

"...What do you say, Timmy?!......I say let's go for it! We'll be together! We'll have fun!"

Tim nodded his head slightly.

"...I......I think I'll give it a try. I just hope I can do this! I'm really scared!"

"...Timothy......If it doesn't work, it's not your fault! As us teachers are told....you can only teach....you can't learn for a student. I'm sure you'll be excellent!"

Minutes later, they walked in the direction of their lockers again.

"...I'm really glad you went along with that Timmy! I really think that will be neat! I can write up some little quiz to see just where this girl falls off. I'll start it out real simple and gradually make it harder and harder. We'll see right where you have to start with her."

Tim only nodded his head, a bit of doubt on his face.

They restocked their lockers with paper, notebooks and pens. Textbooks wouldn't be given out until classes began.

They passed the GSA room only to notice the lights were on.

"Hey! I wonder who's here," Matt said, going for the door. He looked in through the window. Three boys and two girls walked around. They were removing outdated news items from the bulletin boards, sweeping the floor and organizing papers.

"Let's go in!" Matt said, opening the door before Tim could reply.

Although the others glanced their way, nobody seemed to stare. This helped them both.

"Hi guys!" Matt put in quickly, "I didn't think anybody would be here on registration day!"

One boy looked his way with a shy smile.

"...Routine maintenance......Out with the old....In with the new!"

Matt drew his pack off and opened it.

"...I....umm....printed out a few things this summer off the Net. We've really got to try to get some adults in here! I've got....like websites that are more for parents and adults. It's like John said last year, the problem isn't so much with the students....It's the parents we gotta reach now!"

Tim saw the others gather near the large desk at the front of the room. Matt seemed relaxed and confident as he tossed items onto it.

"What is this?!" Tim thought, "'We've got to get adults in here?' 'We gotta reach parents now?' I guess he does plan on joining up! I wonder if I should join him..."

Matt pointed out his ideas he'd brainstormed on over the summer months. His voice didn't carry the same strength that John's had, yet it was flowing. He didn't halt or stammer. He did seem to give the others the idea he was an ally. Several of the students asked him questions. He casually walked to the chalkboard and wrote his ideas down, explaining them clearly. He was clearly focusing on something which interested him.

"...Wow!.....Neat!" one of the boys replied, "We'll have to tell Jimmy about this."

He suddenly turned to Matt.

"Oh!......Jimmy is sorta our new president until we vote. He kind of volunteered. He's might look a little geeky, but he sure knows how to talk......debate team! He sure knows how to keep facts and figures in his head. He can read something over once and it's all in his head!"

He seemed to bow his head a bit shyly.

"...We're....umm....we're all a little bit nervous about speaking. Jimmy sure isn't scared! He'll stand there and just barrage you with facts and figures! He can really unnerve someone! I'm not too bad with the kids here. We all know each other. But not when it comes to the parents! If we're going to have this....this outreach program, I think he'll be the best!"

They showed Matt and Tim around. An extra bulletin board had been added. It was mounted on casters to be wheeled about as needed. The north wall was all brick. Someone was already mounting plywood to it. They hoped to get the art students to paint a mural on it.

They continued to mill about in friendly conversation as introductions were given. They were restricted to first names. They again thanked Matt for his input and invited him to their first meeting which was to take place in two weeks.

Back in the hall, both were confronted by Principal Emerson. Both boys fell shoulder to shoulder, nearly at attention.

"Good morning Mr. Emerson," Tim put in quickly.

"Well now Timothy!......I understand from your parents that you and Matthew here have been quite active through the summer."

"...Yes sir. We had quite a fun summer......Camping in the back yard, bike rides, swimming. Matty even had me help him more with his math."

"Well, I see you survived an entire summer with Matthew. I trust you took my word of caution concerning him..."

This seemed to have given Matt a sudden expression of realization. He turned to Tim.

"...Hey, I just thought about that!......I can't even remember the last time I tripped or dropped something....or broke something."

Tim turned to him with wide eyes.

"...Yeah!......Me too!......Maybe we won't be such geeks this year?"

Mr. Emerson only gave a wry, knowing smile.

"...Matthew......I'd just like to mention your rather....umm....profound improvement in math. Indeed I had a word with Mr. Sorenson concerning the science club. We agree, indeed you should become a member......providing..." he added with a dramatic pause.

Matt nodded his head with a slight smile.

"...Yeah......That I don't blow up the school or cause an evacuation!"

"...Not at all Matthew......Providing you simply keep your math score up!"

"...Well, right now, I think that would be easier than promising no accidents. I sure appreciate that Mr. Emerson. I'll do good! You'll see!"

"...You boys are growing into young men now. I understand you both had you sixteenth birthdays last month..."

"...Yeah, I'm two weeks older than Tim. I sure hope that doesn't make me more mature or responsible!"

"...Well I'm sure the both of you will find your......manual dexterity will have much improved this year...

"...And Timothy......I just heard from Mrs. Jenkins, in passing, you've agreed to attempt some tutoring this year?"

"...Well, I'm really scared about that......I'll try my best. I just don't think I'll be any good at it."

Mr. Emerson placed his hands deep into his pockets as he took thought.

"...Timothy....I don't recall where I heard it, but there's a saying....'I can tell you my thoughts....but I can't make you understand my thoughts.' That's something to think about...

"...Now if you'll both excuse me....I've a meeting to go to..."

After saying goodbye to him, Tim watched him passing down the hall. He slapped his hand over his red face.

"...Oh shit!......Of all people to catch us coming out of the GSA!"

Matt thought for several seconds.

"...Umm....Yeah. I never even thought about that..."

"...You never even thought about it?!......That's all I was thinking about! Oh shit! I'm soooo embarrassed!"

"...Chill out Timmy! It's an alliance! Remember what they said last year....'You don't have to be gay to be in GSA.' How does he know? We could just be doing our parts for more tolerance. Who knows, we may make a difference in a suicide attempt!"

He started down the hall. Tim quickly caught up with him.

"What's this WE shit?......You got a mouse in your pocket?"

"...WE!....The group! Us kids! Things have to start changing."

They walked in silence for a moment, headed for the exit.

"...I don't know Matty......I'm gettin' a strange feeling here!.....He knew we had our birthdays last month?......He knew we spent summer vacation together! He heard from our parents?!"

"...Small town....small school Tim......Mr. Emerson knows all the students here......And probably all the adults in town! Parents talk with him in the supermarket! You've gotta learn around here....everyone knows everyone!"

"...Well, sometimes I think that's good....but sometimes I think that can be very bad too!"

Later that afternoon, Tim joined Matt at his house. They sat on a short wooden bench seat before the computer. Cynthia passed the room from time to time as she did a small load of laundry and cooked supper. It was agreed Tim would stay for supper. She listened to their comments.

"...I don't think so Matty......Why even touch on that? I think we should just keep it a bit simple. We don't wanna give her a quiz that's so tough she only gets a few right. That'll depress her! It'll make her feel stupid. We gotta encourage her."

"...You're right again, Timmy......Keep it simple!......I get too carried away!"

Cynthia smiled as she went about her work. The tutoring and science club the boys had told her about had her thrilled. Matt had improved his math and now she was hoping for a more open, sociable person in him.

"...It's got to work! Once they get out there and sort of 'test the water,' I'm sure they'll both become less shy. It's so important for both of them!"

Again she passed the room. Both were quiet as the monitor switched several websites. She noticed Tim's arm over Matt's shoulders. It didn't concern her much. What had concerned her was Matt's arm around Tim's waist. It was more than a friendly gesture. To her it appeared a bit too intimate.

"We'll have fun at this!" Matt said, "If you have too much trouble, let me do the talking. You can kind of help me along."

Cynthia suddenly remembered several laundry items in the bathroom and returned.

Tim stared at Matt's face as he clicked through several more sites. He quickly leaned over and kissed his cheek. His lips lingered for a moment.

Cynthia passed the room again and glanced in while passing.

"...Did I just see what I thought I just saw?!"

She took several paces back. Both boys were clearly on some math site. Their attention was on the monitor.

"...Well maybe he was just whispering something to him......I certainly hope so!"

Later that evening, Tim got to meet Matt's father for the first time. He appeared much as he expected. The was tall, but had a rather paunchy stomach. His brown hair was thin and receding. There were streaks of gray through it. Although his hands were scrubbed clean, his coveralls were greasy and soaked with hydraulic oil.

The boys ran on about the tutoring, science club and the GSA. Matt made it a point not to mention the exact letters. He referred to it as a tolerance group or school safety group. He pointed out it was mostly for bullied students and those who were different in some way.

Mr. Meadows seemed pleased. He encouraged the boys to study and emphasized the science club and modern technology. He held his arms out as though presenting himself.

"...I'd never want you two to have to grow up and do this for the rest of your lives! I wouldn't wish this on anyone! Get good jobs and you won't have to roll around in the grease and oil repairing machines for the rest of your lives. I've got a high school education. That's about it. Never went to collage. That's an absolute necessity today...

"And it's the social interaction as well. You'll have to work with people all your lives. Get out there and make friends. Learn to work with people......And help those other kids too! The skinny ones who get picked on. The ones who dress differently....The ones who's folks can't afford the latest styles......Just don't be bringing home any of those fags!"

Both boys thought in exactly the same words.

"Am I glad I'm done eating....because I'm not the least bit hungry anymore!"

The boys entered their math room after classes. It was now two weeks into the school year. Textbooks had been passed out and classes were underway. Mrs. Jenkins met them at the door and led them to a small table at the back of the room. Three other students sat scattered throughout the room, obviously with their tutors.

At the table sat a pale, shy brunette. Her mouth was closed tight, nearly pursed. Her medium-length hair was held in place with a metallic silver barrette. She appeared not only shy, but frightened. Neither of the boys recalled seeing her around the school.

"...Okay, boys....This is Shawanah......Shawanah this is Timothy and Matthew."

"Matt!" he replied, smiling, setting his pack down.

"...Tim!" he replied, setting a workbook down on the table. He gave a medium sized smile, his silver braces clearly visible.

"Hi!" Shawanah said with somewhat more enthusiasm. A smile broke out over her face exposing braces as well. The pads against each tooth appeared plastic and were in assorted colors.

"Wow!" Matt said, taking a seat and pointing at her, "You got braces!"

She closed her mouth quickly and covered it with her hand.

Matt reached over and tugged at her wrist.

"No! No!......Don't cover those pretty braces!....Please?"

Tim took a seat and grinned first at Matt then Shawanah.

"Don't worry about him!......He's got this thing about braces. He really likes 'em!"

This seemed to already cause her to relax considerably.

They settled down as Matt drew out his homemade quiz. Tim appeared a bit pale.

"...Ummm......I'm a little nervous here. I've never done this before..."

"...Yes you have!" Matt put in quickly, "He tutored me last year. He's great! You'll see!"

They explained Matt's quiz and how it would pinpoint where they would have to begin with her. As she worked at it, both boys quietly studied their own homework. The students at the other desks whispered quietly. Mrs. Jenkins sat at her desk, grading papers. She frequently glanced in the direction of Matt and Tim. She admitted to herself she wanted to eavesdrop.

After an hour, Tim assigned a chapter in the workbook.

"Okay......Now this might seem a bit simple to you but it's important. It's not the problems you have to remember......It's the method of solving them. The only way you're going to remember lots of this stuff is through repetition. You just have to keep doing these over and over again. Yeah, it gets boring....but it'll help you to remember the methods you're using.

"The answers are in the back of the book. Now be honest when you check 'em. I don't mean to me. I mean to yourself! We aren't going to throw stones at you! If you made a mistake, just leave it! We can go over it together the next time we meet. It might sound silly to you, but knowing how you did something right is just as important as doing something wrong! In fact, I'd say it's more important..."

The following day, Matt and Tim had been called to Mr. Sorenson's office.

"...I'm not exactly scared Matty....but I'm sure a bit nervous."

They entered the office. The large desk was literally covered with papers, electronic components, tubing, pressure gauges, electric meters and the sort. Mr. Sorenson sat before it, writing on a piece of paper. There was barely room for this. His suit coat was draped over the back of his chair. He wore slacks nearly to the ribs of his thin frame. Suspenders were over the shoulders of his white shirt. His collar was unbuttoned, tie hanging loose. His thick, white hair nearly stood on end. He wore round frame wire glasses on the tip of his nose. Matt stepped forward.

"...Umm....Mr. Sorenson?......You wanted to see us?" he asked shyly.

He looked up, blinking. He seemed to need several seconds to shift his attention.

"Oh!......Indeed!......Matthew and Timothy! Please come in! I've talked with Principal Emerson about you two!....or should I say he talked with me?....Indeed!..."

He grabbed several sheets of paper within the mound of equipment on the desk. Both boys were amazed he could find anything much less immediately.

"Yes! Yes!....Indeed!" he continued in an excited manner, "I've been looking at your math scores here......and you past performance in science. I seriously want the both of you in the science lab as quickly as possible..."

He stood, adjusting his glasses and leaned against the desk.

"...Umm....As you know next week we'll be having our usual teacher's conference. Ahh, a four-day weekend for you students. I'll be opening the lab a week after that. I'd like you boys to do some research on the Net or in the library...

"...Tell me....Have you any ideas what you may want to do as a science project?"

"Well, not really," Matt put in, "We weren't exactly sure if we were allowed into the lab right away. We can sure come up with something real quick."

"Oh no!......Not quickly, boys!......Put some thought into it. Indeed! Thought! Be careful what you decide on!"

He seemed excited for them, yet cautious.

He made his way to the window and looked out. Both could see his thoughts were far removed from whatever he was looking at. His motions were sudden, almost with nervous energy. He quickly looked back at them.

"Yes!....Yes indeed!......Take your time. Perhaps you may even want to visit the lab and see what we have available before you make a decision. I'd just like you to consider......well, everything!......The whole world of science! Brainstorm! Think! Consider! Take notes! I'm absolutely certain you boys will do excellent, but don't rush!"

He suddenly seemed to become distracted for a moment. He gazed up at a corner of the room. His eyes indicated deep thought for several seconds. Again they seemed to know it to be something totally unrelated he was considering.

"Oh dear!....Oh my! I seem to be a bit distracted at the moment...

"...Now please......Do some research over the next week or so. Take your time and be careful in your thoughts. We'll meet in the lab the Monday after the conference and I shall do everything I might, to help you."

"We'll do that Mr. Sorenson. We'll have dozens of ideas! Maybe you can even help us out with a decision. You'll know best what we can handle."

"Oh!....Oh! Yes! The both of you will be good at almost anything! I shall see you then!"

He returned to the paper on the edge of the desk. It seemed he hadn't missed a beat in his train of thought.

Once out in the hallway, Tim rolled his eyes.

"You're right Matty!......He is way out there!"

"Hee, hee......He's a bit strange at times but he's real smart. He knows how to get ideas into you head....thoughts! And he's really funny at times. He makes science fun!"

The following week, the boys spent nearly the entire Friday on Tim's computer. Both were looking for ideas on science projects. It was their four-day weekend. Tim had canceled Thursday, as he had another appointment with his orthodontist. His braces were to be tightened again, and he felt a painful and miserable day ahead. Although Thursday night had been very painful, he found Friday to be only mildly uncomfortable.

Ayumi had refused setting any appointments for herself over the weekend. She wanted to be home with Tim in the event he required it. She also needed the time to rest. It had been a harried summer for her and she had found herself over scheduled. There had been a sudden rash of minor accidents among the children and teens in the area. It had been traced to some daredevil Website involving bikes, skateboards, trampolines and the like, where each was trying to compete with a more risky challenge. Even many of the surrounding towns had to have their doctors refer their regular patients to her and others.

"...Okay boys," she shouted out, "...I'm running a mop over the dining room floor! If you need the bathroom, you'd better go now!"

"...We're okay Mom!" Tim called back.

As she worked along, she listened to them.

"Oh! Oh!" Matt called out with an excited voice, "Would it be great to build something like that!......And....and look at this!......And that would be great! I've got twenty five ideas on my sheet here!"

"Yeah", Tim put in, "...but I'm just going to go along with my solar cell project. I don't want to get too complicated for my first time. I'll screw something up for sure!"

As she mopped along, she glanced into the room. The monitor was obviously switching sites with slightly complicated science projects others had built. Her eyes fell to Matt's arm over Tim's shoulders as they shared a large wooden chair. Tim had his arm around Matt's back. His hand was beneath his t-shirt and seemed to be rubbing and squeezing his ribs.

After the floor had dried, she began laying down several throw rugs near the entry. Passing the room again, Tim seemed to have his lips to Matt's cheek. After a quick, second glance, both had their attention to the monitor again. It had been an almost identical situation with Cynthia.

"Could he have been just whispering something to Matt?......Did I see what I thought I just saw?......That didn't seem like some....well....chummy gesture..."

She decided to enter the room.

"...So," she began, watching their reaction.

Both continued to gaze at the monitor. They hadn't seemed startled, nor did they remove their arms from each other.

"...What would kids like for supper....Name it!"

Tim squinted at a small diagram, studying it.

"...Anything, Mom......Anything that ain't green!"

Matt looked up at her beside him.

"...Oh....just....well....anything, I guess. I can't really think of anything right now."

Tim continued to look closely at the monitor again.

"Anything!" he said again, "...Long's it ain't green!"

"...Well, how about stir fried broccoli, beans and peppers?" she joked.

Tim slowly turned his head in her direction.

"...Mom?....Do you really want me to barf all over the table?!......I will you know! And you can clean up the mess! And I wouldn't even have to eat any!....Just the smell!"

"...Well, how about sushi with seaweed and rice?"

Matt looked up with a slightly pale face.

"...Well....umm....as long as it's very well done!"

"...That's Japanese!" Tim put in quickly, "...Mom's just bustin' our agates!"

"...Well, let me go see what we have first..."

She left the room and headed for the kitchen.

"Well, I didn't seem to frighten them any. They didn't look guilty of anything. Maybe I'm just reading too much into this......Yet......I've noticed lately how they're hugging and sort of touching quite a bit. And it sure isn't what I'd call buddy-buddy!"

"Oh Mom!......What are you up to now?"

The island and counter tops were covered with items from the refrigerator.

"...Ayumi......My stars!......I went for a glass of cranberry juice and had to empty half the top shelf to get to it. Why we didn't have room enough in there for a pint of cream!"

"Oh dear......You're right......I keep putting off the leftovers."

"...Now you just grab a coffee and sit!" Clara said, "You've been knocking yourself out all summer. I can take care of My Boys!..."

"...No Mom......Just let me see what we've got here. You know how I hate to waste. I think I'll just throw all this into a pot and make a boiled dinner......I'll use a smaller pot for Tim and be sure no beans or peas get into it!"

She thought she'd first use this as an excuse to check on the boys again.

Entering the room, she saw Tim was now standing behind Matt, bending over. His arms were around his neck from behind. They were almost cheek-to-cheek as they continued to gaze at the monitor, displaying some mechanical project.

"...How about a boiled dinner?" she asked.

Neither seemed startled, nor did they draw apart.

"...Sounds good, Mom......Just keep out the green stuff!"

"Yeah," Matt put in quickly, "...Sounds good......Just keep out the sushi......or any other kind of fish......I think fish is about the only thing I don't like."

Tim suddenly stood up.

"...Mom?......Can we use the kitchen table 'til supper? My desk here is just too small!"

"...Well sure!......Dad's going to be late again....What else is new?....We can set up the nook for the four of us."

The boys seemed to follow out right behind her. They carried pencils, markers a long plastic straightedge and a large tablet of blank paper. They talked enthusiastically as they began sketching rough drafts of their projects. Their short, shrunken t-shirts rose up as they bent over the table, exposing their tiny waistlines.

"...Oh! You boys look like walking skeletons!"

"...Gram......We don't have anorexia!......Didn't you read that article I printed out?"

"...Well, yes I did. Now I'm not saying you have that annawrecksa, whatever! I just thought all the eating and exercise you got this summer would tone the both of you up some. This winter we're gonna put some meat on those bones! That's not healthy! Why you'll come down with every little bug that goes by this winter."

Ayumi turned from the island cabinet with a large pot in her hands.

"...You kids just have fun now!......Eat all you want! When you get to be my age....Oh! I just look at a fudge sundae and gain two pounds!"

She began to organize things for the meal, slicing meat, carrots and potatoes. She frequently glanced in the direction of the boys. Although they remained excited over their projects, she noticed subtle gestures and touches between them. Matt drew a line with the straightedge and slid it aside. He absentmindedly continued to hold it. Tim seemed to place his hand over the back of Matt's and simply hold it there. It hadn't been an indication he wanted to use it next. As Matt would move around from one side of Tim to the other, he'd gently hold his waist or hips for several seconds. As they leaned forward, one would frequently rub the back of the other.

"I have no idea if this really goes on....out there! I've really got nothing to compare it to. It just seems a bit too......intimate to me. I know boys wrestle about and give a quick hug to each other but......this?......I don't know...

"After they go to sleep tonight, I think it's time I do a bit of research on the Net!"

An hour later, they sat at the nook and began eating. The boys continued on with talking about their projects and the science club. Tim shook his head.

"Oh Mom......You just wouldn't believe Mr. Sorenson! He is just waaay out there! We don't have him for science this year....Well, not the science class....Just the lab. Matty had him last year. I can't wait to hear him teach or lecture. He's fun just to watch!"

"...So......I've been hesitating to even ask......How's the tutoring going?"

"Oh wow!......That first day....That was the worst! I was sure I was gonna do something stupid. I'm sure glad Matty's there with me."

"...So is he in your same grade?....classes?"

"...She Mom......Her name's Shawanah. She failed last year."

"...Ohhh....she?"

"...Yeah. She's kinda shy like me and Matty, but we're working on it. We've only been with her for like three times. She seems more relaxed now. She's asking more questions. It'll still be a couple weeks to see right where she'll need the most help."

"Well, I think that's wonderful!......I keep saying it....and your father does too....The social settings in school are just as important as the academics!...

"...And now the science club! You'll meet other kids there with the same interests! It's important Tim. I keep telling you that."

"...Yeah an' Matty's going to join the GSA too," he slipped.

"Oh! Yeah!" he put in quickly, "I'm gonna be doing reports for them! The president can't be doing all those things. That stuff takes lots of time and he has more important things to do."

"...So what is this GSA anyhow?" Clara asked.

Ayumi deliberately dropped her fork with a clatter. She gave both boys a wide-eyed stare and flicked her eyes toward Clara beside her. Both caught her message quickly.

Matt shifted around nervously for a moment.

"...Well......It's like a....a safety club......They try to help the....little kids that are bullied. And the kids who dress different....or are poor....or......different in some ways. We're trying to get more tolerance into the school......You know....Get everyone to kinda get along with each other."

"...Well now....I think that's wonderful!"

Matt was going to change the subject quickly, but his curiosity got the better of him.

"....Yeah....umm....We're going to try to get more adults in this year. We're going to try to get adult speakers in too. I already heard there's some professor from the college who's willing to come in. And I guess a reverend from nearby. We really have to get the parents into the meetings. It's the parents that are allowing all the bullying to begin with! I don't know what they're learning at home, but a few of them are really nasty!"

"...Well I never had that problem with Kenny. He was just too shy to get involved with something like that. But let me tell you! If that boy was ever sent home for bullying, why he'd have to call a doctor! Because it would have taken a doctor to get my foot outta his ass!"

The boys snickered as they continued to eat.

Matt waited for several minutes to pass. He was hoping to get some kind of reaction from Ayumi. She continued on with a rather neutral position. Now Tim had become curious.

"...Yeah Mom......I was thinking of kinda helping Matt out there too. I mean he's helping me with tutoring! It's only fair I kinda back him up too..."

"...Well......Whatever you decide....It's up to you..."

Neither of the boys had expected that. They were both hoping for some encouraging remark. Neither she nor Ken had ever passed up an opportunity to encourage them.

Oh dear!....I know what they're doing here......I simply can't comment on any of this until I do my homework on it first!......I can't wait to get to that computer!"

"...Well," Tim continued, "I don't know if I'm going to exactly become a member, but I should at least be there with him!"

He looked at Matt.

"...Umm....They're going to probably have you get up in front with your reports."

Matt nodded his head slowly.

"Ohhhh yeah!......Mr. Heath, my English teacher will be there this year. I'm sure it'll be his idea too!......I'm no good at stuff like that. I hate talking in front of people!......Oh I just know I'm gonna end up shittin' my pants!"

He suddenly dropped his fork.

"Oh!....I'm so sorry!..."

Ayumi and Clara burst out laughing for a moment. Clara set her fork down and shook her hand in the air, her curved finger out.

"...Now don't you know!......Why I was a little girl in grammar school. I had to give some report on a news item in the local paper. Why I was standin' up there and don't you know I had to pee soooo bad!"

The boys laughed.

"...Oh! It wasn't so funny at the time!.....I'll tell you....hee,hee....A little squirt came out!"

The boys laughed again.

"...And back then, all us girls wore cotton panties, don't you know. And I was damp for the rest of the day!"

She reached for her fork again, yet her eyes seemed distant at the memory.

"...Yes, boys......I believe everyone is a bit scared at something like that!"

After supper, the boys put a few more lines and notes to their projects.

"Okay boys," Ayumi said, "Enough schoolwork for tonight. It's Friday night. Go down into the basement and play. Roll out your sleeping bags and turn up that thermostat to seventy two! I want it warm for you."

"...Seventy two?!" Tim cried out, "We'll roast in the....our sleeping bags!.....Believe me! Sixty is quite fine!"

"Oh dear! Sixty?......On that damp floor?"

"Mom, it's really, really warm in the....those sleeping bags. We had some pretty cool nights out in that tent this summer. It sure didn't bother us any!......Okay, well, in the morning when we had to get up. That was the only really chilly time there was."

They put up their sketches in Tim's room and made their way downstairs. It was nearly habit for Tim to put on a movie. He seldom even looked at the title. It was some WWII submarine movie.

They rolled out their sleeping bags on the floor before the couch.

"Oh shit!....I'm sorry Matty about that slip with the GSA."

"Nah!....Don't worry about it. I was kinda going to change the subject real quick, but I got thinking. I wanted to see if your mom was going to say anything."

"...Yeah. I noticed that. See?......She really doesn't say anything one way or the other. That's why I kinda put that thing in there about sorta helpin' you out in there....'Oh whatever you decide....It's up to you.' That stuff sure isn't helping me any!......If she'd just say a little something one way or the other!"

Matt lowered the zipper on his sleeping bag.

"...Umm......I don't think we'd better....umm....share a bag tonight..."

"...Well, maybe not for all night......We gotta get a little cuddling in, huh?...

"We'll keep both bags unzipped. We'll fold yours open. If anyone comes down here, all you have to do is roll over into your bag!"

"Yeah. That sounds good..."

Matt stood and went for the dimmer control on the track lighting. He turned it down until the lights were barely a red-orange.

"I'll leave these on just enough to see by in case we gotta get up during the night."

Tim sat on his open bag and drew his shirt over his head.

"Shirts off, Matty!......I keep tellin' you....I wanna feel you not your shirt!"

Matt tossed his shirt aside as crawled into the bag with Tim.

"Shit, it's been a couple weeks since we've been together like this......I miss this!"

"...Me too Matty. I miss you something awful between these long spells. I mean, we see each other every day! It's just not the same!"

Matt placed his arms around Tim's neck.

"...I know!......I don't get to taste those silver braces!......Now gimme a good taste!"

They lie in silence as they kissed deeply and hugged each other. They continued rolling around, cuddling each other for several minutes. Tim hugged Matt deeply as he felt his lips against his neck.

"...Oh shit, Matty......I don't know what's wrong here."

"Wrong?..."

"Yeah......nothing's....umm....happening!"

"...If you're talking about stiffys, Junior ain't doin' anything either!...

"I already told you about that, Timmy! For me, the important thing is, you just being here! I keep tellin' you about that story I read! I want us to love each other, not sex......I love to feel your shiny hair between my fingers. Your bare chest in my hands, your ribs, your hips! I like to feel you breathing on my neck and in my ear! I love our hugs 'n' kisses. I love just bein' close like this..."

"Wouldn't it be nice to have our own place?"

"Wow!......Yeah!......We could just be together and not have to worry about anyone walking in on us or anything."

Tim lie still as he seemed to stare up at the floor joists above.

"...Thinkin' 'bout something, Timmy?"

"...Yeah......Oh shit! I caught that from you! I caught your....thinkin' germ!"

Matt placed his head on his chest as he rubbed up and down his ribs.

"...Wanna tell me about it?..."

Tim held his head tightly against his chest. His fingers ran over his cheek. Matt could feel a slight tension in his touch. He could nearly feel him thinking.

"...Umm....I was kinda thinkin'......Well, after that slip with my mom, upstairs. Remember when we went to that meeting? Remember them saying we had to get parents into there? Someone mentioned about those adult blogs. Where the parents go on line. The ones who have gay kids......or they think they're gay. I think I want to put some of that stuff on my computer."

"...You wanna talk to parents online?"

"...Well, it wouldn't hurt. I sure wouldn't be embarrassed. It's not like I'm talking to them in person!......But that's not really it either...

"Dad uses his computer constantly when he's home. He doesn't mind us using it. Mom and I are just kinda scared we're gonna fuck up something. There's important stuff on his computer. We could end up doin' thousands of dollars worth of damage. Mom mostly uses her laptop in the living room while she watches television. She's online with other doctors about medical stuff. Well, her laptop is in the shop right now. She's been using mine...

"Now if I could get some of those blogs on my computer somehow. Maybe she'd run into them and go online with them! I'm sure she's smart enough to use the history to see what I'm surfing, but she's not really like that. She knows I'm not on dirty sites or any of those radical, hate groups.

"I'd like to maybe put a shortcut right on the desktop! There's no way she'd miss that! I'm sure she'd click on it! Maybe if she just read some of those things. Yeah, some are negative, but most all of them are more positive. Maybe she'd get thinking. Maybe she'd start hinting around or just plain say something to me."

"Well, remember when we were talking this summer out in the tent?....About getting outed? Well, I already have lots of those sites on my computer. I don't exactly remember the addresses, but I could e-mail them to you! I even got lots of those suicide prevention sites on too."

"...Oh! I don't think I'd want to get into that! Not yet anyhow. Let's just keep doing little hints for now."

"I don't have to! I know where my parents stand on that! If worse comes to worse, then I start with the suicide sites 'n' stuff. I've got all kinds of stuff on there. If they give us any kind of a hard time over it......I'll scare the shit outta 'em!"

"Hee,hee..."

"...I'm not jokin' here Timmy!......Oh shit!......Not being able to see you anymore?! When I lay in bed at night and think about that real hard......I almost think I'd be better off dead!"

Matt felt a sudden wrench of Tim's arm's around him.

"Oh Matty!....Babe!....Don't even think about that!....Huh?....That really scares me! It really does! We'll make it through this! We've got all kinds of help today."

"Well, I'll tell you......I'll make their lives hell!......The shy, quiet Matty will be gone! I'll cause trouble!....And lots of it! And I don't care if they send me to a psychologist! I'll tell the doctor just how pissed I really am!....And why!"

They lie there quietly for several minutes, simply touching each other. They felt a stroke to a cheek, back or chest. Matt kissed Tim's neck as his arms twisted about it. They were both absorbed in their own thoughts.

Upstairs, Ayumi and Clara finished cleaning the kitchen. Clara walked into the living room for the news. Ayumi paused at the door of Tim's room.

"...Mom....I'm going on the computer for a bit here..."

She entered the room and started up the computer. She gazed at the screen as it booted.

"Yeah......Now that I think about it......they've been doing lots of....well, hugging and touching. I wonder if it's because Ken and I haven't been home much......I wonder if we've neglected him a bit too much. He's always been so shy and quiet. I never know what he's thinking. Maybe he was starved for love......No! Never! He knows better than that. And besides, he could just as easily found a girl!...

"Oh dear......I'll go online here with the hospital. I'll keep the hospital homepage on. If the boys come up here, I'll just say it's for some consultation or something...

"Now a search......GSA? Why not? It's a place to start..."

For an hour she searched various groups and read their mission statements and goals. It was nothing she didn't already know. Part of her most recent child abuse identification training dealt with gay children and unaccepting parents. She kept randomly clicking links until one caught her eye. "Is My Child Gay?" She scrolled through. "What did I do wrong?" "Is there a cure?" "Could this just be an experimental stage?" "Can my child be recruited?" "Is there such a thing as a gay virus?" Some of the questions caused her to nearly chuckle.

Within ten more minutes, she found herself connected to an adult blog. She eagerly began to read.

In the basement, Matt and Tim still clung to each other tightly. They'd said little to each other. Both seemed lost in their own thoughts, afraid to tell the other.

"...Timmy....umm....I really don't want to....but I think I'd better be getting into my sleeping bag."

"No!....Please?....Just a few more minutes. I'm ahh....feeling a little scared here again."

"Well, remember this summer when you said you didn't care? Remember you said, what happens, happens?"

"Yeah....Sure. And I really meant it at the time. But for some reason, these past few weeks, I'm getting scared again."

He suddenly rolled over, placing Matt under him. He held his head in his hands. In the faint glow of the dimmed track lighting, Matt's face didn't seem to hold an expression of fear. He had his familiar expression of deep thought.

"I just hate the idea of you going into your own sleeping bag......You're right next to me here, but you might as well be home! It just feels like you're a mile away from me. We don't get many times like this and....and I just wanna hold you! I wanna be so close to you!"

He kissed his cheek quickly and buried his face into his neck.

"...Matty......I'm joining the GSA!" he nearly whispered, his voice muffled.

"Really?!"

"...Yeah!....I mean it!......I'll be awful scared but......it'll be nothing compared to being without you!......I keep thinking of little Scooter......He said their parents were thinking of pulling them apart! Like that's gonna solve anything?!"

"...Yeah, I know......We're young, but we're gay, Timmy......We at least understand some of this. People out there just don't understand what it's like. And I just keep thinkin' about Jerry saying we gotta get parents into the meetings."

Tim drew his face from Matt's neck. He placed his head on his chest.

"...Do you know anything about this....Jimmy? The one who's kind of substituting for president?..."

"...Not much, really. I've seen him around. I've never talked to him. I've never talked to much of anyone! He's lots like Jerry in some ways. He's a bit smaller and skinnier. And he doesn't really have that strength to his voice that grabs your attention. Not like Jerry could. But he knows how to talk! I kinda wished I could be like him a bit. And he has this way with...

"Well, I was in the cafeteria last year. Eating alone, as usual. I think it was just before Christmas vacation....well, a week before. There was some kind of argument going on at the....well, what we call the 'Geek Table.' I mean it wasn't nasty or anything. And someone asked him a question. I don't even remember what the whole thing was about. He just calmly started asking questions. He has a way to question someone to get them thinking! Wow! The whole table quieted down. It was kinda close to the bell here so they didn't really get to discuss anything more. It's just you could tell everyone was leaving the table kinda thinking about his questions. Mr. Sorenson does that a lot. He doesn't really answer your question out directly. He kinda makes you think about it. He guides your thoughts, but he doesn't come right out and give you an answer. He helps you figure it out!

"Jimmy doesn't argue with people. That only makes things worse! He's just got this way of questioning what's going on. He makes you think! I don't have trouble with thinking. I have trouble with memorizing! I hate it! That's why your silly stories helped me so much with math. It helped me to remember stuff.

"...And like I say....I like to write! I like putting ideas down on paper. It really helps me organize my thoughts. And......yeah, I draw lots of diagrams. I like to see stuff on paper. When you drew those triangles for trig......I could just see it in my mind! It just became soooo simple for me. I sure need more practice, but I can just feel it getting easier every time!"

They fell into a moment of silence once again.

Upstairs, Ayumi had entered an adult chat room. She gazed at the comments flashing on the monitor. She found it frustrating not to be able to reply.

"That does it!......I'm registering for this site! I can't keep quiet any longer. Some of these people!....Stupid!......I'll never understand how people can even think like this! If one could even call it thinking!"

"...Timmy......we're falling asleep. I've got to get into my sleeping bag."

Tim rose up to place his chin on Matt's shoulder. He spread his legs and straddled his hips, lying back down. He continued to rub his head.

"...No!......I don't care. I don't care if someone catches us. It's going to happen sooner or later, Matty. We'll just have to do the best we can."

"...So now it's 'what happens, happens' again?..."

"Well I might feel different if I was more awake. Right now I really don't care. This just feels so......so right! I miss our cuddling....being close like this. Oh I feel just so....so complete right now! You're so much a part of me......You're a part of my life! Let's just hold each other and not even think of bad stuff......If we fall asleep....we do!"

Ayumi yawned and rubbed her eyes. She glanced at the digital clock on Tim's dresser.

"Oh dear! Three eleven!......I knew I shouldn't have got on this chat room!...

"I felt a bit silly at first. I always thought this was something more for boy crazy girls to do. I never knew there were adult chat rooms. Well, not like this!...

"Oh dear, that poor woman......Her son was only thirteen!......Jumped from an overpass right in front of a truck! Gay bullying......How does she even go on?! How does she even want to live?......If Timmy ever......Oh my God!...

"I've got to talk to him! I've got to sort of open the door. And I've got to start tomorrow! No more putting it off."

She placed her elbow on the desk and covered her eyes with her hand, pinching her temples.

"I've......I've got more homework to do on this. Tomorrow, I'll kind of drop a few hints. I'll at least make sure he knows the door is open...

"Oh dear......What if all this is simply a friendship? They're each others first friend ever! Maybe they're just a bit......confused right now. Maybe they're just having a bit of a time sort of expressing it to each other. What I may be seeing as......intimate might not be what it actually is.

"Oh dear, what if I hint around that I think he's gay......and he isn't?! Now that could cause a problem where no problem previously existed! That could embarrass him something awful! And as shy as he is.......I'd better do this sloooow and careful...

"It's chilly in here!......I'll bet that reset on the furnace tripped again. Oh! We've got to get that serviced for this winter!......I'm certainly glad Ken showed me how to reset it. I'd better get down into the basement. Those boys are probably freezing down there!"

She opened the door to the stairs and called out to them.

"...Boys?....Boys?..."

She knew her voice was loud enough to be heard, yet not loud enough to wake them.

At the bottom of the stairs she found she had to pause for a moment. The bright kitchen lights had been a contrast to the dim room. She noticed the track lighting had been set dim. The TV had been turned off. She could see the outline of the couch and the two sleeping bags.

"Oh, I've got to be careful not to step on one of them. I should have brought a flashlight down with me."

She quickly passed the sleeping bags and opened the door to the small furnace room. She was about to reach out for the reset button at the same time she heard the burner ignite. The yellow flames quickly became blue as gas hissed.

"Oh good! There was nothing wrong with it. Maybe I just don't have the thermostat set high enough."

She turned back into the larger room. Her eyes were adjusting to the dark. She noticed one sleeping bag rolled out and flat. The other bag had a considerable mound to it. She made her way to the dimmer control and raised the lighting slightly. She glanced at the bag.

The bag's zipper was half down and the top was folded back diagonally. Tim was still straddling Matt's hips. Matt's arms were around Tim's back. Although he was obviously sleeping, there seemed a slight tension to his arms. Tim's arms were wrapped around Matt's neck. His lips were tightly pressed to his cheek.

"Whooah!......Now that's no friendly hug!......Now I know what I'm seeing here!......And Timmy's actually astride Matt!......I wonder if they......Oh dear!"

She glanced around to see only two t-shirts cast aside.

She quickly squatted beside the bag and drew it up to their necks. Glancing around again, her eyes fell to the blanket on the back of the couch. She carefully shook it out and drew it over them. As her eyes grew yet more accustomed to the dark room she saw Matt's face. His mouth seemed to have a tiny, shy smile on it.

Back up in the kitchen, she closed the door silently by twisting the knob first, then releasing it. She made her way to a bench seat of the nook.

"Oh dear!......I know what I saw there! There's just no denying it any longer..."

She went for the coffee maker and dumped the remainder of the carafe into her chipped, green mug. She stood before the microwave.

"Now......Do I go to Ken with this?......Sloooow and careful! He's very open-minded about this generally....but this is Timmy we're dealing with...

"I'm going back on that chat room!"

She looked at the microwave.

"Oh, hurry!..."

Minutes later she was on a British site. She had no idea how it had happened, yet wanted to deal with other parents.

"Oh!......Now I've got to register with this site!......I don't care. There's got to be someone out there I can talk to! So what if it's the UK!......gay is gay!"

She entered a room and simply read what other parents were dealing with. She didn't actively engage in chat until she was sure of the topic. She was astonished at the number of people present.

"...Wait, it's seven or eight thirty their time!..."

She watched the conversation go back and forth. It was obvious there were two very negative parents present, plus one who seemed to trivialize all the others questions and comments......"They're too young!" "How can they be sure?" "It's only a stage!" "They'll grow out of it!"

Most were obviously women. Many had a most outdated idea of the subject. Most were very poorly educated in the gay society or any of their organizations. Some warned of "recruiting." Others warned of "brainwashing." Others yet were simply being vicious. Ayumi clenched her fingers into fists to keep them from the keyboard. She soon switched it off.

"Oh!....Oh!......These....these, witch hunters!...

"I'm supposed to be a doctor! Funny how all that training goes right out your head when it's your own child!...

"Sloooow and careful......I've got more studying to do on this. I've just got to get a bit of sleep in here."

She slept fitfully until eight. She opened her eyes. Instantly the computer came to mind.

She started the coffee maker brewing and took a quick shower. She had dozens of questions flash through her mind. Before she could even consider one, another took its place.

Matt slid his hands into Tim's sweats and squeezed his bottom.

"...Ohhhh, Matty....That feels sooo good..."

"Oh shit! I thought you were still sleeping. I thought I could grab a free feel."

"You can grab anything you want......Just no tickling!"

"...Oh shit! Junior's awake."

"....Yeah, same here," Tim replied, kissing Matt's neck, "I guess we'll have to....umm.... take care of the situation."

"Ohhh, I'm kinda scared......What if someone comes down here?"

"We'll hear the door open. We won't take our sweats all the way off. Just roll over into your bag right away."

Ayumi studied at the computer as Clara walked by the door.

"...Are the boys up yet?"

"...Oh!......Mom! You scared me...

"I haven't heard any activity down there......I was just about to mix up some pancake batter and have it ready."

"...Well now, you just leave that to me. I'll take care of everything. With school again, I don't get to fuss over MY BOYS like I did all summer......Oh! How I love this!"

"These sites aren't really telling me anything I don't already know! I want to understand my part in all this. What do I do? Sloooow and careful. I don't want to make matters worse. And I sure don't want to start a problem where there isn't any...

"What's this?......Coming out stories?......That could be interesting..."

Within ten minutes, Ayumi had to grab a box of tissues from Tim's dresser. She wiped her eyes.

"Oh!......Oh!....How can people be so cruel?!......And with their own kids!"

Tim was giving Matt a deep kiss on his mouth. Both were sweated up and still breathing heavy.

"Oh wow! Matty!......That was great!"

"...Yeah......We....umm....kinda came at exactly the same time!"

"Yeah......And I had all I could do to keep from yelling darling again!"

Matt rubbed his back with a chuckle.

"...You don't have to yell it......Just whisper it!"

"I don't think I could whisper it!"

They lie still for a moment, simply holding each other. Tim soon rolled to his side.

"...Umm......Wanna toss that roll of paper towels here?......We gotta dry off!"

A minute later, Tim again threw his arms around Matt's neck. He pressed his mouth to his shoulder.

"...Oh wow! You're right, Matty......We don't have to do it all the time. This was great."

"...Sure.....And I think we're gettin' better at it. We're kinda learning what each other likes. You just gotta....umm....take it kinda slow with me. Just don't rub too fast!"

It was here that Matt glanced up at the track lights. They weren't on full bright, but considerably higher than his setting of a deep red-orange.

He pulled at the cover of the bag to draw it up to their shoulders. He felt the blanket.

"Timmy?......Did you get up last night?"

"Are you kidding?!....I slept like a rock!"

"...Well, I didn't get up either......So what's this blanket doing on us?"

Tim suddenly pushed himself up a bit and glanced over his shoulder. He gazed down at the blanket as his face paled.

"Holy shit!......I sure didn't put that on us!....Oh shit!....Fuck!....Oh shit!"

Matt suddenly grabbed Tim's chest and gripped his ribs tightly.

"...Your MOM came down here!......SHE covered us up! It had to be!"

Tim quickly sat up on crossed legs.

"...Holy shit, Matty!......I think I was like......on top of you all night!"

Matt sat up as well, looking around.

"...How are we gonna explain this?!......It's a good thing we weren't bare-assed!"

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