Matt and Tim

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 14

It was the evening before Christmas vacation. Matt, Tim, Scooter and Toby sat at the nook at Tim's house. They'd just finished ice cream and were relaxing with a hot chocolate. They all talked about how happy they were that first semester exams were over. The school had changed the schedule this year. Rather than have exams during January, they advanced them to to December. This gave the students a break over the two week vacation.

Ayumi entered and sat at the island on a stool. Her expression was sober.

"Umm....boys......I just dropped Gram off at the senior citizen's center. They're making handcrafted gifts for the underprivileged. I didn't want her around to hear this..."

She took a gasp and gazed up at the ceiling for a moment.

"...That Jason boy?......He asked to go to the hospital yesterday. Claimed stomach cramps. When they got to the bridge....the overpass, not the river. Umm you know how busy that overpass is during the Christmas rush. Well, as the van stopped......he ran out......He....he jumped off the bridge!"

"Oh shit!" Tim gasped.

"...Well, there was a news blackout on all of this. It's been lifted tonight. I knew about it as soon as they brought him into the hospital yesterday. After he jumped, three cars ran over him before traffic stopped!"

The boys only looked at each other in silence.

She reached for a large brown envelope behind her.

"I printed up some fliers for you kids to take to school with you. I want them posted everywhere they will allow!.......Principal Emerson said it was okay. I talked to him...

"Now you know this town is much too small for a suicide hotline. Get the message out there. The kids can call the hospital!"

She stood up and walked to the table, placing her palms on it. She leaned forward with a serious expression.

"BOYS!......PLEASE!......If you or anyone are having any kind of trouble....it's just not worth DYING OVER! Nothing is that bad!......Now if any of you or your friends are having any kind of trouble......Will you promise me you'll come to me first?..."

They remained silent but nodded their heads.

"...If you have any friends who were kicked out of the house for...whatever! Have them come to me or Ken. If I'm not home, I'll be at the hospital."

She returned to the stool at the island.

"...You boys are sooo mature, so loving! You don't tease or bully anybody! I just want you to get the word out there, kids will have a place to go......Here if necessary!

"...Poor Jason......His parents didn't even have him listed in the obituaries! The bastards!"

She regained herself slightly.

"I'm sorry Scooter......I know he stabbed you. You've got to remember the screwy home life he's had......Nothing but hate!"

Scooter nodded.

"...For awhile there......I thought we were all gonna be friends..."

Tim gazed up.

"...He told us he didn't wanna be gay, Mom. He admitted it! And he said he wanted to change!"

Ayumi weakly nodded her head.

"...Boys......No matter how bad you think things are....it's just not worth it!...

"...Scooter......I'm sooo sorry for what happened to you. But maybe it was just meant to be!......All the guys down at the mill have seen quite a change in your father. Matt's father told us about it. He seems so much more happier than he was in the past.

"This town....our little school. I really don't think we have the resources for a PFLAG. Now, what I have in mind....I'd like to find parents who'd be willing to take kids in on a temporary basis. It's gotta be awful scary for a kid to just be wondering around out there. I wouldn't doubt that's part of all these suicides...... Well, besides the bullying...

"...Jason......He didn't want to be gay....He didn't have any family....He made an awful mistake....He was living in a detention center....To think he died so unloved and so unwanted. I think that's what bothered me the most!"

She saw tears on Scooter's face.

"...Umm......I really thought we were going to end up bein' friends. He told me he felt bad about it....What he did to me."

Ayumi went for the table again and kissed the top of his head.

"See how caring you boys are? Oh! I'm so proud of all of you!...

"I just want you to think about this over vacation. You boys know your way around the Net. You know all the members in the GSA. Let's see if we can't get more parents involved in this. We've got to show people there's nothing wrong here!"

The boys entered the family room in the basement. Scooter and Toby wanted to play video games. Matt and Tim sat on the floor before a heater. Matt held out his hand in a sort of questioning manner.

"...I never thought I'd see the day that I feel bad for Jason......Well, not that I knew his name at the time. I just kind of thought of him as Scooter's and Toby's tormentor! And how I hated him!"

Tim nodded.

"Same here Matty. I never knew who he even was and I hated him. Scoot 'n' Tob are just sooo sweet together. I just don't think I'll ever, ever understand all the hate in the world."

"Umm......Wanna get on the Net tomorrow? We've got all the GSA members e-adds. Well, all except for two! They haven't got computers. We can kinda address the kids first. See what they think about their parents. Wouldn't it be great if we could build up a sort of umm.... well, safety net? Have places where kids could go. Even if it was only temporary! They wouldn't have to worry about food, shelter, clothes...

"Maybe we could even e-mail city hall!"

"...As cash strapped as I've heard this town is?"

"...No....No!....I don't mean some city shelter! I mean getting people to volunteer! We could get the kids at school to write 'em too. We should just barrage city hall with letters! I don't think all the parents will go along with this....but what if we can find just ten?....just five? Shit, Timmy! If we could find just five families will to take in kids. Think about what a difference that could make!"

Tim sat in deep thought for a moment. Matt stared at the glowing red-orange coils of the heater behind him. He began to move away.

"...Tim this is just too hot! Let's back away from this heater some."

Tim only straightened his back up, directing it to the radiant heat and smiled.

"We're going tobogganing again tomorrow, Timmy!"

Tim nodded.

"Sure!......Okay, after a bit my feet and fingers got a bit numb, but I enjoyed it."

"We gotta have Scoot 'n' Tob along too!"

"Oh yeah!......But you know who else should be there?..."

"Who?"

"We should ask Joe."

Matt nodded his head.

"Yeah. Poor guy......No computer. No cell......I don't think he's even got a bike!"

"We should call him right now!"

"...Umm....wait!......He might feel like kind of a fifth wheel!......Know what I'm sayin'?..."

"...Yeah. I thought about that too. Shit I wish we could find him a friend..."

Scooter and Toby had tossed their game controllers and began playfully wrestling.

"You cheated!......I ran outta fuel!"

"That's not cheatin'!"

"Well when you ran low on fuel, I let you stop at your outpost!"

They tumbled to the floor, giggling.

"Hey you two!" Matt shouted out, "You know emo Joe, right?"

They paused in their playful wrestling.

"...Yeah, sure!"

"...Umm....would either of you know of someone we could kinda set him up with?"

Scooter shook his head. Toby looked up, seeing Matt upside down.

"...I gotta gay cousin....But I think you can forget about him!......He's like a class A geek!"

"Why do you say that?"

"...Look....He's a genius!....I don't mean that as a figure of speech. He's really 'n' truly a genius!......I don't know what his IQ is, but he tested genius! He's like fourteen and he's in tenth grade!......Well, private school....His folks are loaded! Well, his father. They accelerated him. If he does good in tenth, they're goin' to put him in twelfth!......He'll graduate when he's sixteen! He's going into mathematics! He's already studying college calculus!"

"Wow!" Matt could only say.

Scooter released his hold on Toby allowing him to sit up, his back against the couch.

"...Umm....It's not that I don't like him. We just don't have that much in common. I mean I think he's well....kinda cute 'n' all, but just waaaayyy too nerdy!"

"Would he be interested in Joe?"

Toby shrugged.

"...I can't see it. He's kinda all preppie. I don't think he'd be the type to hang with emos."

"...Shit."

"...Umm....I could call him up and ask."

"Would you? We can at least try."

"I think his family is really open to the gay community. They into theater and the arts a lot......Not to be so umm....la-dee-dah about it."

"...Do you know anyone else....umm....you know..."

"Only Scooter! And he's hands off! If jealousy is the green-eyed monster....Then I'm a real monster!"

He quickly reached for Scooter's neck and pushed him down. They began wrestling again.

"...No boys are messin' with my babe!"

"...Tob!....What's got into you?!......You used to be so quiet 'n' shy. You're like a different person!......What did you do with Toby?! You're an alien look-alike, aren't you? What planet did you come from?!"

Toby straddled Scooter's hips as he held his face in his hands. He rubbed his cheeks and ears, running his thumbs over his lips.

"I'm from a galaxy far, far away....called Horny!......And in that galaxy is a solar system called....called....Genitals!......And I'm from the biggest planet there!......A planet called Penis!"

Matt and Tim began giggling.

"That's right!" Toby continued, "...And....And it's our mission to seek out the most beautiful boys in the entire cosmos!......And take them back to our planet!"

"Okay!....Okay!" Scooter began, "...And your going to turn us into sex slaves, right?"

Toby suddenly turned serious as he ran his hands under Scooter's shirt.

"...Ohhh nooo!......We did away with that shit waaayy long ago! No slavery. We can only have one boy each! But they have to be perfect!"

"So," Tim began, "On a scale of one to ten, where do Matty and I stand?"

Toby rubbed his chin with his thumb and finger, pretending to be in thought.

"...Oh....A good strong....Two!....or maybe even three!"

Tim tossed a sofa pillow at his head.

"Thanks a lot, doofuss!"

"...And where would I be?" Scooter asked, "A ten?!"

"You'd be a...umm....ten trillion!"

He threw himself down on Scooter and kissed him deeply.

"Awwhh, geeee!" Matt and Tim said in unison.

Toby placed his head on Scooter's chest.

"...Umm....Really guys. I'm tryin' to be a little silly here. When I found out about Scoot? Oh shit! I thought if he didn't make it......I didn't wanna either!"

"Hey! Let's not..."

"No! Seriously guys!..."

He sat up, yet continued to rub Scooter's chest under his shirt.

"...Your mom was talking about that bridge....that overpass? Jason?...... That's just what I was thinkin' about!"

"You can't be serious!" Tim said, almost a whine.

"...Oh yeah!"

"Toby, please?!" Scooter begged.

"...Scoot......I can wait years!....if you're still alive!......But what happens if you aren't even there any more?!"

"You'll find someone else Toby!" Scooter said.

Toby placed his head on his chest again, squeezing his ribs.

"...I wouldn't bother trying!" he nearly whispered.

The following morning was a Saturday. Matt and Tim were in his room. Papers were scattered over his bed, the bookcase counter, the computer desk and the floor. They were busy sending e-mails.

Both had got up early and had a quick breakfast. Neither bothered with showers or as much as combing their hair. Tim keyed the computer as Matt ran about, sorting papers for him.

"Holy shit, Matt! We've got like a hundred and thirty five people to 'e' before lunch! We gotta get organized here!"

"...I know!....I know!...

"Here's that article for John! Am I glad he's helpin' us out. Wow! He heard about Jason way out there at college!......Here fax this to 'em!"

"He's got a fax?"

"He's got everything! And what he doesn't have, he's got the computer lab!"

"Okay, okay!"

"...And here's that suicide article that Julie wanted! Now she doesn't have a fax! We'll have to type it in!"

"Shit too!....The way I hunt 'n' peck?!......You can type! Sit down here!"

Matt glanced through the four page article.

"I got it! We'll scan it! I'll send it to her as JPEG photos! All four pages!"

They continued to rush around. They crumpled sheets as they grabbed for them. Tim slipped several times on papers on the floor. He closed the lid on the printer and began a scan. His leather headband was off and his hair hung over his right eye and half his mouth. Matt gazed over at him. His mouth was in its triangle shape again, showing more of his upper braces than the lower. Matt stood from the chair and pushed his long black hair aside, trying to tuck it behind his ear. He kissed his lips lightly.

"Mmm....Mmm....Umm, Matty! We got work to do here!"

"...Yeah! Just as soon as I give my battery a quick boost charge!"

He kissed him again. Tim reached out with his handful of papers and held Matt's hip as best as he could.

"Okay. Enough! Let's get going on this stuff."

"Timmy," Matt whispered, "One or two of your kisses are never enough!"

He drew his arms tightly around his neck and kissed him deeply. Tim dropped the papers he was holding to the floor. They kissed for nearly a full minute.

"Okay....Now that's enough, Matt. Let's get going here."

"Ahhwww......Just one more?"

Tim placed his head on Matt's shoulder as he whispered.

"...No!......You keep lickin' my braces and I wanna suck that skinny tongue. I already got a stiffy starting! The door's open! My parents are walking around out there!"

"Well your braces taste like gram's blueberry pancakes from this morning! I need more!"

"Oh ick!....Matty!"

"Never! You taste soooo good!......Just don't kiss me after sour cream! I'll puke!"

Ayumi entered the room in faded jeans.

"You boys will get more done without all the hugging!"

They both turned away from each other, faces pink.

"Wow!......Mrs. Webster! You sure look good in jeans!"

"Well, thank you Matt. I don't feel all that attractive. I'm scrubbing the kitchen floor this afternoon after you boys leave for sledding....On my hands and knees!"

"Mom! The kitchen floor shines!"

"Matthew......You talking to a doctor here!....Germs!....Infections!"

She gazed at the bed and found a narrow spot between several piles of paper to sit.

"Okay. Now I've got chili simmering on the range. As soon as your friends show up, you're all gonna eat! You aren't going out there without heat energy...

"...And who's this umm....emo Joe? I picture him with a safety pin through his lip!"

"Ugh! Mom! He's kinda emo the way he dresses and wears his hair. He's a good kid! Okay, he's gay Mom. And he's been through some rough times. He's been used! He's really great! You've seen him at the hospital! With his dad!"

"Oh!....That Joe?! I wouldn't call him emo. I think he's rather umm.... sweet!"

"He is Mom! And he's got so little......No cell, no video game system, no bike. He doesn't even have a computer! And he's studying computer science! We feel bad for him."

"...And......this....this Chris?......Umm....Toby's cousin? Are you two trying to play matchmaker?"

Both boys blushed.

"Okay! Okay!....Yeah Mom!......We wanted them to meet. It's just that we hear Chris is a real GEEK! I don't think there's a chance in hell! He's a genius, Mom. I mean a real one! On IQ tests! He's in a private school and already in tenth grade! He's only fourteen! And he's studying calculus! College level!"

He slowly sat on a chair near the printer. He shook his head.

"I really don't know why we're even doing this! It just can't work out!"

"...Well....You never know!"

"Okay, Matt," Tim said, "I scanned these into the Documents section....not the photos! Get those out as attachments to Julie before we forget."

Matt typed furiously, seldom even looking at the keyboard.

Ayumi glanced around at the strewn papers. There were news articles, GSA articles, PFLAG articles......And suicide articles.

"Well, I'll leave you two alone now. Get done what you can. You've got all vacation. When the others get here, it's chili and outside! Next month it'll be bitter cold here and I want you to acclimate yourself."

It was noon as the boys entered the kitchen. Tim had answered a knock on the door and greeted Scooter, Toby and his cousin Chris. They sat about the nook. The three on one side, Matt and Tim on the other. Both Matt and Tim studied little Chris. He wore a tiny, insulated snowmobile suit which he quickly unzipped and drew to his waist. His face was delicate, round and cherub looking with red cheeks. His brown eyes were magnified with round lens, wire framed glasses. His brown hair was just to his ears. He had a tiny nose and rosebud mouth with brilliant pink color. He seemed to have delicate, rounded shoulders. Through his bulky sweatshirt, one could see the thin arms. His hands were tiny, delicate, yet somehow one could see they were dexterous. Matt and Tim could both see them skillfully adjusting a microscope, preparing a slide or mounting a delicate butterfly for a science project.

Ayumi answered the door to greet Joe and lead him into the kitchen. His face seemed to brighten as his eyes fell to Chris. He sat next to Tim, across from Chris. Tim introduced Chris! Both he and Joe gave large smiles.

"Hi Chris!......umm....I like your insulated suit! Bet it's quite warm, huh?"

Chris rolled his eyes.

"...Oh my!......Would you believe my mother had take me into the children's department for this?......Oh! I've never been sooo embarrassed in my life!"

They made small talk as Ayumi dished up large bowls of chili. In the center of the table she placed a warm loaf of seasoned Italian bread, already sliced.

Chris tasted a small sample of the chilli.

"...Ma'am....This is simply superb!......The blend of spices is....is impeccable! Do I detect an aroma of Asian chilies?......I recall such from LA......Perhaps Chinese?"

"Precisely! I grew up in California. I order my spices online. And, yes! It's Chinese!"

"...Excellent flavor!......I see you don't allow your spices to lie about for too long.... losing their flavorful aromatic oils..."

He took another dainty taste.

"...Excellent!....Not too mild....not too pungent....Most people think of Central and South America when chilies come to mind. Few people are aware of the chilies from South Asia. They were introduced to South Asia in the 16th century by Portuguese and Spanish explorers via the trade routes from South America..."

Matt and Tim looked at each other and rolled their eyes.

"In the 16th century the celebrated musician Purandarasa mentions them...

"There's also a considerable amount of folklore surrounding chillies, particularly in the south of India. They'd place a few chiles with a lemon over the threshold of a residence to deter evil from entering...

"I believe Smithsonian researchers report that across the Americas, chili peppers....That is the Capsicum species....Were cultivated and traded as early as 6,000 years ago! Predating the invention of pottery in some areas of the Americas! I find that truly amazing!"

Matt and Tim held the same thoughts.

"Oh shit!....We really fucked up!"

Chris reached for a slice of bread. He sniffed at the melted butter and spices.

"...Ahhh....Yes! Fresh garlic clove! Did you know garlic was cultivated..."

Tim leaned toward Matt.

"...We're gonna have to really apologize to Joe for this!" he whispered forcefully.

Soon they gathered at the door. Ken was going to give them a ride to the city park. Although it was technically closed during the winter, many went out to the steep hills behind the recreation area. It was a smooth slope without trees or other obstacles.

Matt and Tim remained behind as they pulled on their boots.

"...Shit! Shit!" Tim muttered.

"What is it, Hon?..." Ayumi asked.

"Ohhh! Chris!......He's a walking encyclopedia! He's gonna make Joe feel like a retard!"

"Now you just don't pay it any mind!......I saw Joe looking at him. Personally I think he's a bit flattered!"

Minutes later, Ken untied the toboggans from the top of the SUV.

"I'm picking you guys up at five o'clock sharp! Hell! It'll be dark by then! If you should really take a chill or get injured....you've got your cells!"

Matt and Tim pulled their toboggan up the hill beside Joe and Chris. Scooter and Toby had already taken the lead.

"...Did you know the toboggan dates back to..."

"Oh shit, oh shit," Matt mumbled to Tim.

At the top of the hill, Joe sat on his old wooden toboggan.

"...Come on Chris!....Sit right here in front of me....Hey Scoot. Give us a push!"

They were the only ones there, although the packed slope and runner markings indicated many had been there before them.

As they shot down the hill, they were all surprised at Chris' high pitched scream. He truly sounded frightened. At the base, was a dirt service road into the park. It had to be plowed in the event of fires. The bank served as an excellent braking area. The toboggan struck it at an angle and tipped over. They heard Joe and Chris laughing.

Scooter gave Toby a push on his back and jumped on behind him. Matt and Tim did likewise. As Joe and Chris had veered right, Scooter and Toby aimed straight. Matt and Tim aimed a bit left.

"...Whoahhh!" Matt yelled as they headed directly toward a large chunk of frozen snow which the plow had pushed aside. The toboggan stopped as they spilled forward into the snow.

Tim ended up on his back.

"I....I think Dad put a bit too much wax on this thing!" he said with a laugh.

"Holy shit!" Matt gasped, "Now that really scared me!"

The six began pulling their toboggans up the hill again. Matt and Tim could hear parts of Chris' conversation.

"...Yes! I believe it was the nomadic tradition of the Laplanders who......The ancient Norsemen would always......Oh yes! Scandinavian history is quite interesting!..."

"Oh shit....Oh shit" Matt kept muttering.

Tim giggled.

"...I think after this....we're both gonna owe Joe a....a big blow-job!"

"Hee, hee, hee!......Well, I don't know about that, but we really gotta make it up to him!"

As the afternoon progressed, Matt and Tim noticed subtle changes in Chris' personality. He began to talk of more general things as well as the simple fact of tobogganing.

As they all sat at the top of the hill, two to a toboggan. Chris sat before Joe again. He held his hand up.

"...Hey guys, wait..."

He turned on the toboggan as he spoke.

"...Look......I've really been kind of a pain in the ass, huh?"

"Why do you say that?" Toby questioned.

"Hey!......Joe......Matt, Tim......Scooter and you too Toby. I......I was awful shy to come out here with you guys. In fact my folks made me come out here! And....and, well......I'll say it!......I was scared to come out here!...

"I've been kind of a loner all my life. Okay, I'm ahead of others my age, but the older kids really don't want me around. You guys are great! I'm awful shy about talking too. That's why I'm always spouting off facts 'n' figures! It's all I know! Let me start all over again, huh? Let's just have fun!"

"That's what we're all here for, Chris!" Tim said as he pushed his foot against his toboggan. Chris was totally unprepared for the sudden launch and screamed again. Joe seemed to enjoy throwing his arms around Chris, holding him on.

Before their next climb of the hill, Chris stuck a branch into the snow. He paced off a distance up the hill and pushed another branch into the snow.

"Targets?" Tim asked, "We gotta hit 'em?"

"Oh no. I want to go beside these. Would it be okay to use your toboggan, Tim? It's obviously well waxed and rather fast. I'd like to try an experiment."

"Sure!....Fine!"

"I mean, it's long too! We all get on!"

"Sure....Okay!'

At the top of the hill, Tim being the last on, pushed off. They shot past the two branches in the snow and slowed to a stop. Chris stood and glanced down at his cell.

"I put this on timer," he began, "Now this is quite crude but those branches are about forty four feet apart. We passed 'em in under a second....Point nine, six, six to be exact. That's equivalent to over thirty miles per hour!......Hey! I don't want to be on a snowmobile doing over fifteen!"

They all laughed.

He placed his cell back into its zippered pocket.

"...No, guys....Really! I'm scared......I'm scared about everything! It looks like I'm going to graduate when I'm sixteen! I don't want to! If I had my way, I'd stay in school forever! I don't know what I want out of life! I'm only fourteen! Oh yeah, the child prodigy! Let me tell you......It really sucks!"

Tim and Matt especially felt poorly for him.

Tim hugged him.

"...Hey, you admitted your only fourteen. How many kids know they're going to be a nuclear physicist at that age?......Matt and I don't even know what we want! Shit! We'll probably change jobs six times before we find what we really like. Chill out! You still got four years of college ahead of you....Maybe even eight! Don't worry about this shit now!"

Chris looked up at him, snow melting from his glasses. He gave a large, sweet smile.

"Awwhh!....You guys are the greatest!....You know that?!"

It was five thirty as the boys entered the utility room from the back door. They stomped their numb feet and rubbed their hands together. After removing their wet, outer clothing, they entered the kitchen. A warm spicy aroma surrounded them.

Chris looked up at Ayumi. His round face was rosy and eyes large.

"Mrs. Webster......I was about to ask permission to nuke a bit more of that delicious chilli of yours, but my nose tells me you're waaayyy ahead of me!"

"Yes!....And I didn't nuke it! I simmered it a bit more....And I added a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper! I'm not only going to fill you up, I'm warming you up as well."

As they ate, Ayumi and Ken sat at the island joining them. Ken's brow was beaded with sweat.

"...Wow! What did you put in here?!....It hot, but it's good!"

"Excellent, Mrs. Webster!" Chris put in, "My mother couldn't boil water! We have a lady cook from Germany and a French chef! I think it would be good if you could teach them both how to cook!"

"Well, my!" Ayumi gasped.

Chris continued on as he had with the boys earlier that day. Telling her of his fears and that being a child prodigy, "really sucks!" She felt sorry for him.

Joe had brought in his textbook on computer science. He said, "I heard you were a math wizz kid!"

Chris eagerly pointed out things in the book.

"Yes, Boolean algebra can be quite confusing the way they teach it in school. I can give you a few pointers. Boolean algebra is an absolute necessity when designing logic circuits!"

After they all had eaten, Chris was still discussing math with Joe.

Ayumi picked up the textbook and snapped it shut.

"You're just like Tim and Matt there!....We're so proud you're happy with school but you all need a break! It's Christmas vacation! Go down into the family room and start up that video game!......I want to hear lots of explosions, ray guns and lots of laughing!"

Chris looked over at Tim.

"You've got a....a video system?!"

"Whole system!......And a plasma screen!"

"WOW!......I'm not allowed video games. Father calls them a waste of time..."

Matt shook his hands before Chris' face.

"Wait until you see this system! You're gonna go nuts!"

Ayumi gave a sad smile as the boys entered the stairway to the basement. Feet thundered down the stairs.

As Matt before him had done, Chris stomped his feet as he pranced around.

"WOW!....Oh shit!......If I had this in my room....I'd never leave it!......Cover your ears guys....I'm gonna say it!......FUCKING AWESOME!"

They all burst out laughing as Tim started up the system.

Joe handed him a controller.

"Ever use one of these?"

"No!......I understand it's a joystick, but I've no idea how to work it!"

"Here. Timmy put on a single game. You play it alone. I've played this quite a few times at a friend's house. It's great for getting the feel of the controls."

He placed the control on the coffee table.

"Kneel down here. I'll be behind you to kinda get you started. Put your hand on here. Okay. Now your thumb on top. That's the fire button. When you get the sight on the ship, push the fire button."

It was obvious to the others what Joe was doing.

"Okay. Now I'll put my hand on yours until you get the feel of it a bit..."

Joe looked down at Chris' face and smiled.

Within a minute, Chris was learning. Joe slowly let go. He watched the tiny hand maneuver the control with nearly instant skill.

"WOW!......Is this FUN!"

"Okay! Okay!" Joe said, "You've got that down good. Now the more complex controller!"

Within a half hour, they were competing with each other.

"Wow!....You're killin' me, Chris! I've only got three ships left!"

Soon there was a huge explosion and the screen went brilliant white.

"You got me!" Joe said, "You blew up my outpost! I didn't give you that! Honest! Your hand and eye coordination is unbelievable! Totally awesome!"

"Umm....I think we'd better let Matt and Tim have a turn..."

"Shit too!" Tim said, "We've played these games until we were bored!....Really!...

"We're going through this stack of CD's looking for a vampire movie. You like vampires?"

He shrugged his shoulders. His head turned on his tiny neck.

"I'm not allowed to watch....monster movies as my parents call 'em."

"Whoa, ho, ho!......Wait until you see this one! You'll shit yer pants!"

Chris gave his largest smile ever as his tiny body wiggled with excitement.

"Well, maybe, Scoot 'n' Tob would like to give it a try!" Chris continued.

"Really?!" Tim asked, pointing behind Chris and Joe toward the couch.

Chris and Joe turned to see the both of them lying in their sides in a deep embrace, obviously kissing. They turned back with brilliant red faces.

"Chris....You're blushing!" Tim teased.

"Am not!" he squeaked cutely.

"Hey!....Go on and play a few more games. We'll find that movie. Wait 'til you see the makeup on this movie! And those fangs on the vampire! I hope you got your Depends on!"

Chris giggled sweetly again.

The next game had been loaded by Matt. It required single players who alternated. Joe continued to kneel behind Chris and study his hands on the controls. He'd frequently look at his face and stare at his neck.

"Youuuu....youuu, little matchmaker!" Tim whispered to Matt.

When it became Joe's turn, he braced his back against the couch. Chris looked at him shyly. He gradually placed his head against Joe's shoulder.

Matt and Tim located the CD but pretended to keep looking for another twenty minutes. It had been easy to do with the hundreds of movies there.

"Okay!" Tim said, "Here it is!....Get ready to shit, Chris!"

They could see Chris was overwhelmed with joy at simply being accepted.

As the movie began, Tim lowered the brightness of the track lighting. He and Matt leaned up against the couch as well. They were more interested in watching Chris and Joe than they were with the movie. Matt no longer feared it, as he now knew just when the vampire was going to jump out.

"BAH!" Chris shouted as he jumped. He leaned in closer to Joe. Joe slowly placed his arm over his shoulders and drew him close.

"BAHHH!" Chris yelled again, "I hate that spooky music! You just know the vampire is going to jump out into the camera!"

"BAHHH!....Oh shit, that scared me!"

"Did I hear a fart?" Tim asked, giggling.

"Umm....Yeah. I think that was me. I don't think that was a wet one....YET!"

They all burst out laughing. Even Scooter and Toby still lying on the couch, had to break their embrace to laugh.

Although it was obvious that Joe was enjoying the closeness he had with Chris, Tim could see real fear on Chris' face. He stopped the player with the remote.

"I think he's really scared......He probably doesn't want to admit it."

"...Ummm......How about some other movie? Would you like to see some dog fighting jets? I've got some awesome air battles here."

Chris looked up from Joe's shoulder.

"...If it should be all right....I'd like some World War Two aircraft. I never cared for the jets. Would you have anything on the Corsair or perhaps the P-51 Mustang? It makes little difference to me whether it's European or Pacific theaters."

"Got all kinds of 'em!......Well war movies!......You'll have to tell me about the aircraft."

Tim quickly replaced the vampire movie with one of Guadalcanal.

"...Ahh yes!....Indeed! The Corsair! Did you know that aircraft developed twenty one hundred horsepower on takeoff? The Japanese called it the 'Whispering Death.' Indeed it had a kill ratio of nearly thirteen to one!......It had an armored cockpit and self-sealing fuel tanks!...

"...Umm......I'm doing it again, aren't I?....Sorry..."

The others chuckled as he settled his head down on Joe's shoulder. Although Joe was in no way a large or strong boy, his arm over Chris' tiny shoulders appeared huge. Joe leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek. Chris blushed, yet squirmed closer into Joe's arms. Joe kissed his thin neck.

Tim drew the blanket from over the back of the couch and tossed it over them.

"Here!....You look chilly, Chris..."

"...Well, I believe that to be from the frightening vampire movie. I believe it'll be a bit before those such things aren't quite so scary for me."

Matt and Tim were more interested in watching Joe and Chris than in the movie. They gave frequent glances in their direction. Soon, Chris' glasses were off. They saw Joe kiss the tip of his nose. Chris pulled himself deeper into his arms.

Tim gazed at Matt as they sat with their backs against the couch. He reached out for his hand and interlaced his fingers with Matt's. Again they glanced toward Joe and Chris. From the light of the screen, they could see they were into a rather deep kiss. Tim glanced quickly at Matt.

"...Matty!....You're blushing!" he whispered forcefully.

"...I can't help it!....They look so sweet together!..."

They glanced back at Joe and Chris, then to Scooter and Toby on the couch. Matt suddenly tackled Tim around his neck and pushed him to his back. He kissed him deeply.

"...Wow, Matty....You hardly ever do that!"

"I can't help it! We're the only ones here that aren't doing anything!"

A half hour later, Ayumi called down to them.

"Boys! Gram made two more apple pies!......Scooter's father is coming for the boys in an hour. You can have a snack before you leave!"

All six boys entered the kitchen, squinting in the bright lights. They all had wrinkled clothes, messed hair and slight blushes.

At the table, Chris delighted Clara with his comments on the delicious pie.

"...Truly delectable, ma'am......And I do believe I detect vanilla bean pieces in the ice cream! This obviously isn't super market ice cream....Did you know the vanilla bean is an orchid?"

"That's right, Chris," Ayumi put in, "I bought this at the dairy. I detest what stores call ice cream today! Nothing but thickeners and chemicals....with lots of air whipped into it!"

Chris took another dainty taste and wiped his mouth with a paper napkin.

"...Ahhhh yes! Truly a treat for the palate."

Ayumi smiled at the tiny boy.

"...Chris, you're the most sophisticated, intelligent, polite boy I've ever met!......Please! I keep telling you all......We're very informal around here. We want you all to come around as much as you can over vacation...

"...Did you have fun tobogganing?..."

"...Oh yes indeed!......Well, after the first couple trips down. Being honest, I was awful frightened at first!"

His round head turned on his tiny neck as he looked at the other boys.

"...This....this has been one of the happiest days of my life!....Hey, you guys are great! You really, umm....accepted me. This is all so new to me! I've never done this before. I've never had so much fun ever!......This has been so much fun....just hanging out!"

It was the morning of the 24th as Matt and Tim enjoyed another breakfast of pancakes and fried apples. It had been planned that the boys would spend Christmas day with their separate families. As Matt's parents were planning to visit relatives later in the day, he'd return to Tim's house.

Both boys looked out the window. Another blizzard was forecasted and was already moving in.

"Wow!....Look at that, Matty! I'd better get out there with the snow thrower and clear the driveway for mom and dad..."

"That won't be necessary," Clara said, sitting at the island, "You're dad's stuck at the firm and your mom at the hospital!......Oh dear!....My stars!....All the accidents coming in! One would think people wouldn't drive in weather like this!....or at the least slow down some!"

She gazed at the boys eating their third plate sized pancake.

"...You two must slow down! Goodness! Nobody's going to steal your food from you!"

"I can't help it, Gram! This just tastes soooo good!" Matt put in.

"Well, I fail to see how you can even taste it! Why it's going down way too fast! I think that's the reason you're both so skinny! You body can't digest properly. Please boys, slow down. We certainly aren't going anywhere!"

"Hey Matty! Let's go out and have a snowball fight! I've never done that before!"

"Sounds like fun."

"Oh, I really don't think you two should go out in this!"

"Oh, just in the back yard, Gram......I think I'm finally getting used to this weather. Well, I still get cold but it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be."

A half hour later the boys waded through waist deep snow.

"Wow!" Tim shot out, "Can you imagine being lost in the forest in weather like this?!"

"I really think I'd panic! It would be impossible to travel a mile in this!"

Tim looked around, turning his head, as his oversized parka hood restricted his vision.

"...Awesome!....I've never seen anything like this!"

"...Look out Tim! Right in front of you! Dog shit!"

"...Where?....I don't see any..."

It was here he felt Matt tackle him to the snow. He knew instantly it had been a distraction. They wrestled in the snow for a minute before Matt pinned him to his back. Tim's shiny black hair stuck out from his fur trimmed hood. His smile was large.

"Oh! I just love it when you flash those silver braces at me!....You just look sooo keeuuutt!"

"Oh, please!"

Matt drew his face down and kissed Tim deeply. Their hoods touching together seemed to block out all light. Both held each other in a clumsy hug, through their bulky clothing.

They found the snow was too fresh and too cold to properly pack into snowballs so they returned to wrestling again. This time Tim had instantly pinned Matt down. He straddled his hips and gazed down at him.

"...Oh shit, Matty!......This is so much fun! I'm so glad we met......Are umm....are you really happy with me?"

Matt's smile continued but had changed serious.

"...Timmy....I....I really keep thinkin' about Scooter 'n' Toby being split up......Oh, I don't think I could handle that! I'd go nuts! Seriously, Timmy......I really think I'd go crazy if I couldn't see you any more."

He stroked Tim's thighs with his heavy mitts.

"...You're just so special to me. I keep tellin' you about that first time I saw you coming into school......Wow!....I just can't explain it! I just kinda like....knew you were special. Like there was already something there!......I'm the first person you met! Sometimes I wonder if you kinda get thinkin' if you should have played the field a bit first."

"Never, Matty!......I think I felt the same way. There isn't another boy in the school that could turn my head......And I don't care if everyone of 'em was gay!...

"I'm....I'm just so glad you came out to me. I'm not lyin'......I just don't ever think I could have done it. And I think about that a lot! I don't know if I was scared or too shy or what it was!..."

He leaned forward with a hand on each side of Matt's head.

"...Matty......That night you kissed me in the tent....Oh wow!....I don't know how to explain it! Yeah, it sure was coming out! What a way to come out!....but it....Well it was just so much of a relief to me. I really, really thought I was dreaming! I just thought it was way too good to be true!"

"...Yeah?..."

"Yup!....And I saw your face coming closer and closer to me....Just like this....And I could see you staring at my mouth! And I was sooo hoping you were going to kiss me just like this."

He pressed his lips to Matt's. Again they tried another clumsy hug in their bulky clothes.

"...So now don't you ever think I'm entertaining the thought of....of playing the field!"

He scooped up a mitt full of snow and pushed it into Matt's face as he spoke.

"...You dork!....Don't ever, ever think that again!"

"Ohhh, am I gonna get you for that!"

They continued to wrestle and roughhouse for another half hour before the wind driven snow became unbearably cold. Tim looked around.

"Is it me, or is the snow and wind getting worse?"

Matt looked around.

"Wow! I can't even see the neighbor's house!"

"I think it's time for a hot shower. I was sweatin' there for awhile, but now I'm getting cold!"

"Yeah. Me too. I really think it's the wind. I think it's twice as bad as when we first came out here. It's getting hard to breathe in this!"

Matt was the first from the shower as he entered the kitchen with the styling comb. He sat at the breakfast nook and plugged it into a raised outlet there. He wore a gray sweatsuit. Clara entered and went for the refrigerator.

"...Oh my stars!......Matt! At least put some socks on. You'll catch a chill walking over these floors barefoot."

"Oh, I'm used to it Gram......Compared to out there, this kitchen feels like the tropics!"

She began to heat milk in the microwave and reached for the chocolate.

"Gram! We can heat our own milk for hot chocolate."

"Nonsense! I so enjoy fussing over you boys!......Why in a couple more years you'll both be off to college or jobs or whatever! You have no idea what a treat this is for me!"

She soon set a mug before him.

"...My oh my! Just look at it out there! Why you can't see halfway to the back fence!"

Matt gazed into his mug, still passing the comb through his hair.

"...Wow!....Marshmallow fluff!"

"...And a dash if heavy cream!" Clara replied, sitting at the island, "I've gotta get some fat on those bones!....The both of you!......Well, I guess you might as well enjoy it. As you get older....just looking at sweets will put the weight on..."

Matt removed the teaspoon and tasted it. The warm, creamy drink coated his throat.

"...Mmmm....Perfect!...

"...It's not really that cold out today, Gram......It's the wind that's bad. Toward the end there, I could hardly breathe."

Minutes later, Tim entered the kitchen in light blue sweats. He too was barefoot. He held out his hand for the comb. Matt patted the bench seat beside him.

"No!......Give me the comb!"

It was here that Clara set a mug on the table before Tim.

"...Yes!....I can dry your hair while you drink your chocolate. Gram put heavy cream in it! It's delicious!"

"...You make me feel like a baby. I can dry my own hair!"

Matt only patted the seat again. Tim sat on the outside edge of the seat with his back to Matt as he reached for his mug.

Matt slowly drew the comb through his hair as he guided it through his fingers.

"Mmmm....I smell strawberrys!"

Tim grabbed a handful of hair and drew it to his nose.

"...Oh shit!....I must have grabbed Mom's shampoo by mistake!"

"...No!....Strawberrys and orange!....Mmmm, you smell sooo cute!" Matt whispered.

Tim suddenly turned on the seat and flicked his eyes toward the island where Clara was sitting.

She too sipped a hot chocolate with a pleased smile.

"...Oh it does my heart good to see you two fuss over each other as you do. One doesn't see much of that...

"...Oh! And that day that Matt slipped on the patio and cut up his arm......Tim, you were right there to wash it and put on a bandage on it. You were just so concerned! I'm so glad you two boys met. And isn't it nice that you've got other friends too?..."

Matt no sooner shut off the styling comb and heard his phone beeping from the utility room where they had left their wet clothes.

"That's my phone!"

Tim quickly slid from the seat to allow him out. He returned as he answered.

"...Hello?....Mom! What's up?...

"...You're stuck at work?......And Dad at the mill?......No! I'd never try walking home in this! You can't see the neighbor's house from here!........We were outside for awhile. We just finished with showers and Gram fixed us hot chocolate..."

He rolled his eyes as he looked at Clara. He held out the phone to her.

"...She thinks I'm bein' a pain!..."

"...Hello?....Cynthia?......This is Clara....Matt is no trouble at all!........No Matt is not being a pain in the ass!........Oh never! I'd never have him attempt walking home in this......Oh yes, it's nasty here too........Well, at least you won't have to worry about starving to death stuck in a supermarket."

After several minutes of reassuring, Clara returned the phone to Matt.

"...Yeah......Well, whenever this quits, have Dad get you in the Jeep. Don't drive the car in this! You probably won't make it out of the parking lot!"

A minute later he hung up.

"...They're setting cots up in the break room!......Dad's in a friend's camper out in the parking lot at the mill! He's stuck too!......I guess we'll just have to wait it out!"

"...Well, we'll be fine so long as we don't lose the lights," Clara put in, "Don't you know they dimmed a few times while you two were out there. The weatherman....er....lady said we've got gusts to sixty miles an hour! Oh! My stars!....I'm just so happy I'm inside during this, and not stuck in a car somewhere...

"...Now you two go downstairs and play some games. That's enough of being outside in this. I'm going to put on a late lunch today......Well....leftovers! Roast beef. I'm heating it in the regular oven in one of those turkey bags so it doesn't dry out....Along with potatoes, onions and an assortment of vegetables!"

"...Please Gram," Tim begged, "no peas or beans!"

"Well, Matt likes them as well as I do, however you can be sure there'll be plenty of carrots and corn!"

The boys entered the family room once again and both glanced around. Matt's eyes fell to the game controllers.

"...Shit! I never thought in a hundred years that I'd ever get bored of video games!"

"How about a movie?"

"A comedy!....One of those old movies! The slapstick! Their classics!"

They sat on the couch after Tim placed five disks in the carousel. He reached for the remote and started the first movie. Matt placed his arm over Tim's shoulders and gazed closely at his face. He poked his nose into his hair and sniffed, then his neck.

"...Ohhh, strawberrys 'n' orange!....'N' drier sheet fabric softener! You smell good enough to eat!"

Tim grabbed his crotch.

"...Eat this!" he said with a chuckle.

Matt couldn't help but laugh himself. He shook his finger in his face.

"...Don't tempt me, Timmy....Don't tempt me!"

They both giggled as they cuddled together. Tim drew the blanket from the back of the couch and draped it over them.

"...Ohhhh," Matt sighed, "This just feels sooo good! I love to just hold you!"

"I like this too. Especially on a day like this......Let it snow, let it snow..."

"Yeah, just so long as we don't lose the electric."

"Well after that last storm, Dad bought three of those kerosene heaters. We won't freeze but we'll have to do with cold meals and no lights."

"...I could do that!" Matt replied, kissing Tim's cheek.

Matt happened to look up at the narrow casement windows. They were entirely covered with snow.

"Wow! Look at those windows! They're entirely covered with snowdrifts. I thought it was kinda dark down here."

Tim fell to his back on the couch, pulling Matt on top of himself. He ran his hands up under his sweatshirt and rubbed his back.

"...Oh shit!....I just love this soooo much!" he sighed.

Matt raised his head from his shoulder and looked seriously at his face.

"...Timmy....I seriously like this more than anything!......Are we really umm....weird or what?"

"What do you mean by that?..."

"...Timmy, most boys our age would be screwin' each others brains out! Look at all the opportunities we've had!..."

Tim's expression was serious.

"...You wanna umm....do it more?"

"NO!....I'm not saying that! In fact, it's just the opposite. I really like this just as much!...

"...Umm....Remember that site you showed me?....Well a couple of 'em. The sites with the gay romance stories?......Well, I just finished another one. I can't even remember the name of it but I bookmarked it for you. This one gay boy was just looking for love. It didn't seem to matter where he looked or where he went, all he found was sex! He didn't want that anymore! Well....not without the love that goes along with it. It was kind of a sad story, but I liked it! There's just so much trash out there!....Suckin' 'n' boinkin' and sex! You know I hate that shit!"

"...Yeah, I don't like the porn either."

"...Well, I think the reason I liked it was that I wasn't in his position! And I understood exactly what he was looking for! We've got it right here!..."

He hugged Tim's neck tightly.

"...Oh Timmy!....Just holding you!....It....it's just wonderful! I'd go nuts if I couldn't do this with you every now and then. I think that's why what happened to Scooter scared me so much!......Oh shit!......Never being able to touch or hold you again? The hell with the sex part! I'd just long to hold you....feel your bare chest against my face....you ribs in my hands. Feel your hands on my back....our hugs....our kisses! Oh shit, I'd go crazy, Timmy! Really! I mean fongoo nuts! They'd have to lock me up!......Just the thought of it is terrifying!"

"...Umm....Can we not talk about this stuff? I really don't like thinking about this shit!"

Tim felt Matt's arms twist around his neck. He felt his warm, moist lips press to his cheek. A tremble passed through both their bodies. It hadn't been a passion but a fear. Both had recognized it. Tim's arms nearly encircled Matt's chest as he held him tightly. Both suddenly felt tears on their cheeks.

"...Oh Timmy!....I just love you sooo much!"

"...Yes! I love you too!...

"Remember that one day we were wondering if we should even be using the term love? I think there should be a stronger term! The more time we spend together, the more I love you! It gets stronger Matty! It really does! I just don't like to think of us never being together!...

"...Yeah....yeah, Matty....I'd go nutso too! Oh shit!....Oh shit!......Hey, let's think of something else, huh?....Something more happy..."

For a few minutes, neither could find words. They continued to hug each other and sniffle back tears. Both felt for the moment, the touches were expressing more communication than any words could. Soon they noticed the few minutes of tension they had felt begin to ebb. It had been replaced with a contentment. They both felt a sudden exhaustion. Their time outside in the snow and fresh air had taken much of their energy. Tim was still acclimating to this bitter, dry cold. Before they knew it, both fell into a sudden deep sleep.

It had been Tim who woke first. He instantly felt Matt's head on his shoulder. He tilted his head up to see his face and gently kissed the tip of his nose. It was here that he became aware of the movie playing. He recalled it was the third which he'd placed in the carousel.

"Well, it can't be too late. I might as well turn this movie off....like we ever even watch anything!......Well, sometimes we do....hee, hee."

He reached for the remote and turned off the player. He then reached for the cable remote and switched to the local news station.

"A damned commercial! Why can't they at least run a banner along the bottom of the screen? I just want to know the temperature and wind speed."

The commercial ended and the cameras were now on in the newsroom. Both the newscaster and weather girl were talking to each other. Suddenly the woman looked toward the camera.

"...Oh!....Ha, ha!....We missed our cue. We're back on!"

"...Well, we have been here for nearly sixteen hours!" the newscaster put in.

"...Oh dear, yes......This has been quite some weather today. Even our camera crew hasn't been replaced. Nobody can get in to the studio today!"

Her attention seemed to be suddenly distracted from the camera.

"...Oh! We've got a report from our van downtown. It seems as though they're still stuck at the DPW garage!...

"...Kathy?....Are you there?"

There was a moment before the remote camera activated. It was the picture of the local garage with the news van totally snowed in. The female reporter stood before the camera. She suddenly held her hands to her mouth and let out a yell. The camera which obviously was attached to a tripod, began to tilt and fall over. The picture was lost. The newsroom camera was switched back on.

"...I believe Kathy's had a bit of a problem with our camera in that awful wind...

"...Oh....umm....Yes! Kathy? We have a picture back now. It doesn't seem as though the camera was damaged in any way."

Tim muted the volume.

"Wow! It must be really bad out there. I'm sure glad I'm inside. I think we'd better get up and recharge our phones....and flashlights....and anything else that needs it. That wind sure looks nasty."

He gave Matt a deep hug before he spoke.

"...Matty. Hey Matt! Wake up!"

"...Umm....I was sleeping?"

"Hee, hee. Yeah, we both were."

Matt raised his head. He forced his eyes open and looked around.

"...Oh shit! I never even felt that coming on. I don't think I've ever feel asleep so fast before. What time is it?"

"Gotta be around noon. I switched the news on. Look at that!"

He raised the volume control again. They watched several local clips. There was footage of cars buried in snow. Traffic signals angled into the wind, their lights covered with wind driven snow. Aluminum signs on posts were literally oscillating in the turbulent weather.

"Wow!" Matt gaped, "I've never seen anything like this..."

It was here they heard the upstairs door open.

"...Boys?....I've got lunch on!"

"Okay Gram! We'll be right up!"

They entered the kitchen. Their faces were still tired. Matt's hair was messed. He squinted in the bright lights of the kitchen.

"...My goodness! You two look like you just got out of bed!"

"...Umm....I think we did, Gram. We were watching movies and fell asleep on the couch. I never even felt tired..."

Tim was going through drawers and cabinets. He pulled out flashlights and the camping lamp. He plugged everything into outlets along the counter and at the table of the nook. It was here the lights went out.

"Oh, oh," Matt said.

The lights flickered back on.

"Gram," Tim said, "Give me your cell. We'll put a boost charge on it."

"...It's in the living room, already in its charger stand. I'm not taking any chances!"

Tim went for the garage.

"...Come on Matty. Give me a hand. We'd better set up the heaters."

Clara watched the boys set a heater in the dining room, kitchen and one downstairs. Matt held a funnel as Tim filled them with kerosene.

"...Oh my stars! I don't think I trust these things one bit!"

"...They're safe, Gram. I've used these camping lots of times. I just want 'em ready. You have to let 'em sit for about an hour so the wicks can soak up some kerosene."

They sat at the small table with plates full of roast beef, mashed potatoes and vegetables. Matt noticed Tim gaze at him spearing several green beans. He held them out on his fork.

"...Try some of these!" he said in a teasing voice.

"...Ahhh! Get those away from me!"

Tim glanced out the window.

"...Awh! It doesn't look that bad out there. The news is hyping it up again."

"Well," Clara began, "I don't believe the wind is quite so bad, but that snow certainly is still coming down hard. The newsman said if we're to lose electric, to just stay put. We're much safer in the house, even if the heat should fail....As though I'd go anywhere!"

The boys helped themselves to another serving of everything. As they were near finished, Clara got to her feet from the island. She was a second too late in hiding the pain on her face.

"...Okay, Gram," Tim said, "Go into the living room and me and Matt will clean up."

"Ohhhh no!....You know how much I like doing this!"

"...Gram....I can see your legs are hurtin' again. You never sit at the nook when that happens. You sit on one of those high stools at the island."

"Now I'm just going to pop everything into the dishwasher and..."

"...Gram! There's hardly enough here for a whole cycle!....And what if the power goes out? The water will get cold and we'll probably end up tasting detergent on the dishes."

Matt quickly got to his feet.

"Tim's right, Gram. This will take twenty minutes!..."

He drew her slightly aside and whispered to her.

"...I'm pulling a prank on Tim......Watch this...," in a normal volume he added, "We've got everything under control here."

Tim began placing dishes into the sink. Clara looked on a bit confused but noticed Matt's grin. She'd never seen his 'impish' grin before. Matt made a trip to the sink and added tableware. Tim was about to rinse a kettle and pushed the knob forward for the water. The spray struck him directly in the face and chest. He quickly shut it off.

"Bahhh, ha, ha, ha!....Gotcha good!" Matt yelled.

Tim dropped his head as he reached for a towel.

"...That's one of the oldest tricks in the book and I fell for it!"

"Oh you BOYS!......Now how did you do that?"

"I taped the trigger on the spray!......Hee, hee, gotcha good!"

She shook her head as she started out the room.

"Well you two go ahead then. Just don't destroy the kitchen..."

The boys began to work seriously. Matt had dried a serving dish.

"Where does this go?"

"Right above your head."

"...Ohhh, I'll be right back. I gotta pee a lake!"

With this, Tim allowed himself an evil smile. He quickly made his way into what family called the "junk drawer" under the counter. He quickly rummaged through, battery chargers, nails, tacks, screws and assorted screwdrivers. He came upon a rubber spider with a length of fishing line still attached. He placed it into the cabinet directly over the dish drain, taping the line to the inside of the door. He quickly sobered himself as he heard the bathroom door open.

"...So....Matty?....What do you feel like doing this afternoon? And don't say go outside!"

Matt picked up a dishtowel with an expression of thought.

"...Ahh, I really don't know. Like I said before, never in a hundred years did I think I'd get tired of video games. I can't really think of anything to do......We should probably get the rest of those GSA notes and e's out! Something tells me we're going to be in the dark soon."

He remained in thought for a bit as he walked around, placing dried dishes into their proper places. He had learned where the most common items went. He passed Tim again and gave him a silly grin as he ran his hand up the back of his sweatshirt.

"...We can always sit on the couch again....and....well....let nature take its course."

"...What?!....No movies?! No games?!....Just sit there with nothing to do?!" he joked.

Matt continued with his silly smile as he tossed the dishtowel over the dishes in the rack. He ran his hand around to Tim's chest and rubbed it as he kissed his neck from behind.

"...Oh Matty!" Tim put in quickly with a forced whisper, "Don't do that!....I'll end up with a stiffy in two seconds! We gotta be careful here!"

They continued with the dishes again. Tim selected a stainless steel serving dish over a glass or ceramic one. He grinned as Matt dried it.

"...Okay, where does this go?"

"Right over your head again. That's where all the serving dishes go."

Matt pulled the door open and saw the spider swing out toward his face.

"Bahhhh!"

He took several steps backward before falling. The metal dish clanged against the floor. Matt held his hand to his chest.

"...Oh shit! That really scared me! I hate spiders!"

"Hee, hee, hee....Gotcha back!"

"...Oh my stars!....What's going on in here? Are you okay Matt?"

Matt continued to rub his chest as he pointed at the spider hanging from the cabinet door.

"...I'm okay! Tim's trying to give me a heart attack. He knows I hate spiders!"

"Oh now Timmy! That's a lot more scary than getting sprayed with water. Poor little Matt could have hurt himself falling."

"Well, I didn't know he'd flip-out that bad!....Hee, hee, hee!"

Tim glanced at Clara reaching into one of the cabinets.

"Gram, why don't you just tell us what you need here?!"

"My medicine!......I've got a dozen bottles in here and you wouldn't know which one to grab!"

She tipped out two capsules into her hand and returned to the living room.

After several more minutes of giggling, Tim returned to the dishes.

"...Umm....I'm being serious here now Matty...

"...Umm your dad seems a bit better about us......I don't wanna snoop around if it's private but how's your mom doing?"

"...Well....She didn't say anything about it but I'm positive she's been going to some PFLAG somewhere. In fact, I think it's with Scooter's mom......I think she's getting better about it. I think she's finally accepting it, but....well, she just doesn't want to talk about it yet."

"...Awh, bummer...

"Well, it can't be too bad, huh? You wouldn't be here now, right?"

"...Well, probably not......It's just I wish she'd let me know what she's thinking. It kinda feels like she's letting me go, but at the same time....not liking it!"

"I still think it was your presentation at that meeting. The suicide stuff? I think she knew you were doing lots of suicide research. I think she was really scared!"

"...Well, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt to let me go along with her to some of those PFLAG meetings. I'm sure there's other kids there. I'd like to know what the other parents are saying!"

"...Well, I guess it's just going to take time."

As the sink emptied of dishes, Tim drew out the dishcloth and proceeded to wipe the table. Both boys heard Clara on her phone.

"...Now you don't worry about us! We've still got the lights, and the boys set up the heaters just in case. We've got candles all through the house for light as well..."

"Gram! Whoever that is, tell 'em to stop worrying! We're inside for cryin' out loud!"

"It's Matt's mom!......She's trying call you on your phone."

"I turn it off while I'm recharging it!"

He went for the counter and switched it back on. Within seconds of connecting, it rang.

"...Yeah Mom......I had my phone charging! It charges faster if you turn it off........We're fine!......Well, the lights are still on over here......Mom! We've got kerosene heaters here! Three of 'em! We won't freeze!......No we aren't going out in this. Not even in the back yard...

"...Look......I don't know when we'll get dug-out of all this but I'll stay right here...

"...No!......We're not going to open gifts tomorrow! We're waiting until we're all together! So what if it's a day late? We can wait. It's not like we're five years old you know! We can have Christmas at home then we can all come over here. The Webster's are looking forward to it. They're putting on a big ham dinner!

"...No we're not causing extra work for Gram. She made lunch and we're cleaning up the kitchen here."

Clara appeared in the doorway, shaking her curved finger in the air. She drew close to Matt's phone.

"...These boys are little ANGELS!....Now don't be yellin' at 'em!"

"Gram," Tim began, "If you need something....say so! Don't be walking around."

She opened a cabinet.

"...I forgot my stomach medicine!......My stars! I've got a pharmacy in here! You wouldn't know which bottle to reach for!"

"...Okay," Matt continued, "just don't worry about us. We're staying inside. We're going to play more video games this afternoon......Well, for as long as the electric lasts..."

A minute later he set his phone back on the counter, still connected to a charger. He boosted himself up and sat on the counter as he examined the chargers.

"I'm sure glad you found a charger that fits my phone."

"...Matty....We must have fifty chargers around here for almost anything! I'm not foolin'! I have a hard time remembering which one is for what!.... Flashlights....lawn trimmers....hand drills!"

Tim suddenly got a serious look on his face which turned into a sly grin. He stepped between Matt's legs and drew his head close for a quick kiss.

"...I think we'd better finish up here, go downstairs and....and play some more video games!"

"Oh yeah!....Video games!....With lots of action!"

Matt jumped from the counter and threw his arms around Tim's neck. He moved in for a deep kiss. They heard a noise at the doorway and sprang apart.

"Gram!....Now you're using your cane! Will you go sit down?!"

"I came in for a cup of tea. I seem to be getting the chills a bit."

"...Gram! We're perfectly capable of making you a cup of tea!"

"...I won't hear of it!......I told your father I wouldn't be a burden to the family."

"You made lunch! We can get you a cup of tea!"

"No! I feel like an old lady when people wait on me."

"...You are an old lady, Gram..."

"...Why you little shit!....Out of my way!"

The boys laughed.

"Now the two of you....Down into the family room! Go play your games!"

"Okay...

"Hey Matty....go fire up the games....I gotta head to the bathroom for a bit."

Within a minute, Tim entered the basement. Matt lie back on the couch with a sly grin.

"After that spider prank, I don't think I'm gonna kiss you!"

"...Ohhh I think you will. You just can't resist this gorgeous Greek god here!"

Tim smiled as he sat down.

"...You're right....I can't!"

He threw himself on top of Matt and they kissed deeply.

Tim looked seriously at Matt's face.

"...Wow! To think a few months ago I was scared to admit anything to you. I was, you know. Just too scared and shy to say anything. I'm sooo glad you kissed me in the tent that one morning!"

"I always like asking you about that......Did you really think I was going to?"

"...Well, I wasn't quite so sure......All I know is I was really hoping you were going to! I keep tellin' you....When you said you had something you had to tell me....and said I might not like it....Well, all kinds of things went through my mind...

"...I just keep thinking about that and how I thought I just had to be dreaming! I was certain I was going to wake up! I thought for sure I was dreaming! I thought I was going to wake up and really be depressed......I thought if I was dreaming....I'd better make the best of it! I couldn't stop touching you!....Hugging you! I could feel that bare chest of yours against me. You were so hot!......I mean temperature! I always thought in dreams that you can't feel pain or hot and cold or any of that stuff. Then I felt your tongue on my braces. Holy shit! Instant stiffy!"

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

"I'm serious Matty!"

"...Oh yeah....Me too!....I think I was hard in two seconds! That had to beat all records!"

Tim placed his head on Matt's shoulder for a moment.

"...Awh shit," Matt sighed, "I still wish that could have been a more romantic time and place....A damp, cold tent!....In the middle of a thunderstorm!"

"No Matty. It was prefect in every way! We were alone where nobody could see us. I wanted that to go on forever!....It's just I had to breathe again!......I'll never forget that, ever!.... Oh gee! My first kiss!....our first kiss! I don't think a day goes by that I don't think of that..."

"Really!"

"...Matty! I keep tellin' you! You had to be the first to come out. I was just way too scared and shy to make the first move."

"...Well, I did a lot of thinkin' that morning. I think that's why I was so tired and beat. It took me a long time to fall asleep there at first. I mean, while I was thinking about stuff. I knew if I didn't tell you the next day....I don't know how long it would have taken......Well, I really didn't want to fall asleep too soon anyhow. I didn't want to be unconscious! I wanted to keep awake and feel you....touch you."

"...You touched me?!"

"Not down there asshole!....Your chest, your neck, your face!"

"Hee, hee....Just joking, Matty."

"I did umm....kiss your cheek. I told you about that..."

"Yeah. I was dreaming you did that. And I remember telling you I thought it was sweet."

"Oh shit! I thought I'd woke you up! Just before that......I was looking at your mouth. Holy shit! I wanted to kiss you soooo bad right there! I was scared you'd wake up and be pissed at me. I was thinking of a way to come out to you....yet....all I could think of was ways I could kiss you. Ohhh....I was soooo sure I was gonna fuck that up royally."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I was just so damn klutzy at the time!......I hope that's past now..."

"...Uhh, yeah! Now that you mention it, I don't think I've done anything graceful in months."

"Graceful?....Hee, hee..."

"Well, that's what Mom called it....The Change....The Graceful Years!"

"Oh I think I started at twelve! I couldn't do anything without tripping or knocking something over."

Tim seemed in a moment's thought as he drew his arms around Matt's neck.

"...Umm....Yeah. Me too I think. That was bad enough in itself. Add to that being so shy and all....Then gay on top of that! I think I'm getting a bit better now. I'm still kinda shy though yet..."

"You could have fooled me!"

"I'm not talking about around you!......It's just first meeting someone. After a bit, I'm okay then. I'm still awful shy and nervous when I tutor. Well, when I get new kids in. After we all kinda get to know each other, it's not quite so bad. I'm kinda glad you pushed me into that a bit. I've gotta get out of this shy, nervous condition I've got."

"...You sure weren't shy out in the tent that second night! Remember? You ripped my shorts right off!....You said we're sleeping bare-assed!"

Tim looked down at Matt's face with a grin.

"...I still don't believe I did that!......Really, Matty!......I don't know what came over me. I just suddenly wanted to feel all of you up against me...

"...Hey, admit it Matty....Didn't it feel kinda....well, natural after a bit?"

"...Well, I guess so....after a bit. I think I was a bit embarrassed and shy for awhile. I really wanted to get my shorts back on, but you wouldn't let me. After a bit, I think I just fell asleep."

Tim quickly got to his feet. He pulled Matt up by the wrist.

"...That's it!......Shirts off, Matty!......We've got that nice sleeping bag there just begging us to get into it!"

They crawled into the bag from the top without unzipping it. Both lie on their sides. They automatically reached for each other, an arm around the neck, the other around the back. They shivered for a moment, pulling closer to each other.

"...Oh shit! Oh shit!" Tim mumbled as he shivered again.

"We should have left our sweatshirts on until we got this bag warmed up," Matt put in.

"...No!....Never! You don't scrunch up tight to me like this unless it's cold!"

"I thought for sure the first thing you'd do down here is crank that thermostat up to eighty!"

"I was going to before we went up to eat but I forgot. I hate this electric heat down here. It takes too long to warm the place up."

Matt looked deeply at Tim's face.

"...You are just such a little angel!......Oh, I'm gonna miss those braces when you get them off!"

"I can't wait to get these damn things off!....I hate 'em!"

"I'll have to get you fake braces....I'll miss that silver smile of yours."

Tim tried to hold back a grin.

"You're trying to get me to smile!....Cut it out!"

"Oh....How I love that silver smile!"

Matt drew Tim's face close and licked his braces.

"...Oh! Ick!....Matty! We got just got done eating!"

"...No!....I love it! I can't taste that chocolate pudding you had."

"...Knock it off!"

Tim settled back and Matt began to rub his chest.

"...I'm glad we agreed to keep our Christmas gifts small," he began, "...I really can't afford to get you something big."

"...You didn't have to get me anything! I'm just happy we're together right now. This is all I need."

Matt lowered his head to his chest and kissed his breastbone. His fingers passed over his navel.

"...I know the best gift you can give me tomorrow!..."

"What's that?"

"...You can lay here and let me squirt whipped cream into your belly button....and then lick it out!"

Tim's reflex kicked in instantly. His legs jerked up and his thighs covered his belly.

"Ahhhhh!....Oh shit! Matty! Just thinking about that kills me! I'm tellin' you, I'll piss the bed!"

"Hee, hee."

"...Not funny Matty!"

Matt suddenly drew serious again. He looked at Tim.

"...I don't need a thing for Christmas. I've got everything I need just being here with you. And I'm really serious about that."

Tim placed his hand on the back of Matt's head and drew him close into a deep kiss.

"...You sure got that right.......Oh Babe......I love you soooo much!"

"...Timmy......I seriously don't know what to do without you...

"...How I just dreamed of this!......I'd see those pictures of boys on the Net with those cute silver braces....and I'd dream!"

"...Really?"

"Yeah!......Well I deleted those months ago..."

"Why did you do that? I thought some of 'em were really hot!"

"...I did too!......But not after meeting you!....They just didn't do it for me anymore."

"...Really?!"

"Oh yeah!...

"Timmy....Those firsts for us....Our first kiss....our first time doin' it! It was really exciting! I thought it was just because it was so new to us!......I thought the excitement would kinda fade out after a bit......It hasn't! I feel closer to you every day! There just isn't words for it!...

"...Just layin' here holdin' you....Wow!....The heck with video games, TV, movies! This just feels soooo good! I just feel so content....so complete."

Tim rubbed his back thoughtfully.

"...Yeah....Same here, Matty. I love this too...

"...I was just thinking about when you told me about bein' alone all the time. You said it didn't really bother you....You showed me all your....thinkin' places....The park, river, lake....I think it was about the same for me........It's just that now we're together....I don't ever want to think of being alone again!"

"...I think you've got it right there!....I'd never be happy doing those things again. Especially now that you've been to all those places with me....They're no longer my places.... They're our places! If I ever went back to like the park or whatever....I'd keep thinking of all the things we did there..."

"We didn't do all that much at the park, Matty..."

"...Well, no....But I'd still think of us holdin' hands or kissing. About us feedin' the squirrels or just sitting together in that little pavilion....Oh shit! That would just kill me!"

"Why do we always end up talking about this shit anyhow?!"

"...I think it's me and my....my defeatist thoughts....I always seem to think the worst!"

"...Come on, Matty! It's Christmas! Happy!....Cheerful!....Ho, ho, ho!"

"...Christmas!....Bah!....Humbug!....Hee, hee....Just joking Timmy."

Matt raised his head to look at Tim again. Tim wiggled his eyebrows.

"...You wanna....do it?"

"...Umm....Tonight!....For sure!....We'll sleep like rocks!"

Tim hugged him tightly.

"...Yeah!......And you're right, Matty....We are a strange couple of teen boys. We got hormones....but they sure aren't ragin'!"

"...I never was like that, Tim......I told you that quite a few times. I hear about these boys jerkin' off five, six times a day!....Shit too!....I was never like that!"

"...I don't think I could do that if my life depended on it!......Once every twenty four hours, but hardly more than that! It takes me awhile to....to reload!"

"Hee, hee, hee....I like the way you word that...

"...Nah! I think we've got it about right......And when we're done....I just soooo love the way we can just lay there and hold each other! Oh shit, Timmy! I just love it! I feel so close to you. I think I can just feel our love!"

"...Very well put!"

They continued to hold each other in silence for a few more minutes. Soon both fell into a deep sleep.

It was five hours later as Matt opened his eyes.

"...Tim....Timmy!"

"...Huh! What?"

"Does it feel colder in here or what?"

Tim raised his head as he drew his arms out from the sleeping bag.

"...Yeah!....It is!....And dark!....Did you turn the lights off?"

"No! I left 'em on low like we always do."

Tim turned over and got to his hands and knees.

"...Oh shit!....Oh shit!....The electric is out! Gram's probably freezin' up there!"

They fumbled around in the dark for their shirts on the couch. They carefully made their way to the stairs. Tim opened the door into the kitchen.

"...Gram?....Gram?..."

They entered the dark kitchen.

"...Oh shit! I can't see two feet!"

He quickly retrieved the camping lantern from the counter were they had everything recharging. They squinted as the tubes lit. Both their phones were intermittently beeping.

"Mom's been trying to call me," Tim said.

"Mine too!....And Dad!"

As they both redialed, they had to separate from each other in order to hear. Tim went for the dining room and Matt into the laundry room. Both tried to calm their mothers. Both their conversations were nearly the same.

"...We had the phones recharging....We fell asleep downstairs!....Gram probably didn't hear her phone....She's sleeping in her rocker with a comforter over her. Yes, we lost power....Yes we're okay, but it's a little chilly in here. Look Mom....I gotta get these heaters lit and light some candles so we can see!....We're fine!..."

Matt held the lamp as Tim gathered up scented candles in their globes. He knew they would be good for several nights. He lit them and placed them around the house, including one in the bathroom. Soon he had the heaters in the dining room and kitchen lit. Both boys leaned over the kitchen heater and warmed their numb fingers.

"...Matty?....I think I'm getting a little scared."

"How much kerosene have you got?"

"...Well, enough for a couple days at least."

"Well then what's to be scared of?"

"...I don't like the sound of that wind! It's like....howling out there...... You've gotta remember....The only time I ever saw snow was on the mountains!"

"...Hey....As long as we got heat....no problem!"

Tim glanced at the kitchen clock. Most all the clocks in the house were battery operated except this one. He glanced at his phone.

"Holy shit! It's past six already. I never thought we'd sleep that long."

"...Yeah. I never knew I fell asleep until I woke up."

Matt made his way around the heater and grabbed Tim's waist, pulling him close.

"...You just had to cuddle up to me like that, didn't you! You know that knocks me out every time!"

They kissed deeply for several seconds. Tim felt more relaxed at Matt's humor.

They sat at the breakfast nook, a candle between them. Matt continued to act silly. He reached out for Tim's hands.

"...Oh you look soooo cute in the candlelight!"

"...Cut it out Matty!"

"...Hey, Timmy....Seriously. We're okay here. We got heat. That's all I worried about."

"...Yeah. Well, what are we going to eat? How are we going to cook?"

Matt eyed the heater.

"...We can't exactly cook but we can warm!"

They began searching around the kitchen for food.

"...I don't believe this, Matty......All we did is sleep today and I'm starved!....Maybe it's just the idea we can't cook!"

"...No. I'm hungry too. Let's look for soup and stuff. We can make sandwiches."

They checked the cupboards with the fluorescent lamp and discovered two large cans of beef stew. They emptied them into a large pan and placed it on the kitchen heater.

"We'd better stir this a lot to keep it from burning," Matt put in.

"As soon as this is hot, I'll wake Gram to eat with us."

Tim tended to the stew as Matt gathered up dishes, bread and cold cuts from the refrigerator. He placed the lamp in the island and switched it off.

"...Matty! I can't see shit without that lamp!"

"Well, I was hoping to save the battery some."

"...Well, yeah, we'd better...

"Go into the dining room and get the candelabras."

Matt sat the candelabras on the island. After lighting the first one, he was amazed at the light of the five candles.

"We don't need more light than this, do we?"

"...No. That's fine. I just don't want to stir this pot and have it end up on the floor!"

Within twenty minutes, Matt had made sandwiches and the stew was steaming. Tim went for the sink with the hot stew.

"Bring the plates over here by the sink. If I try to pour it over there, I'll have it all over the table!"

Matt set out the plates at the breakfast nook. He returned to Tim. He glanced over the kitchen, bathed in yellow candlelight.

"...This is umm....kinda romantic..."

"...Yeah. It is," Tim replied.

They drew each other close in a tight embrace and kissed deeply.

"How cute!"

Both sprang apart.

"Gram!"

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