Matt and Tim

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 15

Both boys could only stare down at the floor for a moment.

"...Awh, Gram!....You weren't supposed to see that!" Tim gasped.

Clara made her way to the breakfast nook and sat. It was just as though she were expecting to see the heaters and candles lit and supper on the table.

"...Umm....The electric's out, Gram."

"...I gathered as much...

"...Now you two get over here and sit down."

They shyly slid onto the bench seat beside each other.

"...Umm....Gram," Tim began shyly, "You can't tell Mom and Dad about this, okay?"

"...I'm sure they already know!"

"...Well, yeah, they do. They didn't want you to know about it. They didn't think you'd understand."

She picked up her fork and a piece of bread. She sampled the stew.

"This is delicious!"

"It's out of a can! We didn't make it....We warmed it! How can we cook on kerosene heaters?"

"Oh yes! The heaters!...

"Boys......I woke up and noticed them going....Along with the candles. It took me a few seconds to realize the lights must be out. I truly thought you'd gone back down to the basement. It was so quiet in here. I didn't mean to walk in on you and embarrass you. All I had in mind was a piping hot coffee....I still didn't have my wits about me yet to realize the electric was out."

"I can get you an instant coffee, Gram."

"Oh no! I really don't care for the stuff. Perhaps a strong cup of that black tea."

"I'll put a kettle of water on the heater. I'll use the hot. It'll only take five minutes!"

"That can wait! Now you two eat while everything's warm..."

"It'll take one minute to put water on the heater."

Tim returned to his place beside Matt, being careful to allow a bit extra distance between them. They ate with their heads down.

"...So Mom and Dad didn't want me knowing anything?...

"...I'll have you know that I've sorta known all along..."

"...Oh Gram......This is kinda embarrassing, you know?"

"...Now don't you worry about this. I've....well I've kinda caught you two a few other times. Well, I tried to make it appear I'd not noticed. This time....I was halfway into the kitchen before I saw you. I knew turning out was out of the question. I figured you'd notice.

"...I want you to know something......My brother was gay..."

She paused here, observing their reaction.

"...Well, back then it was called homosexual....queer, fairy and a few other terms I don't like to use...

"...He was three years younger than me. I'm the only one he'd ever confided in. Oh my stars! Back then, you didn't want anyone to know!...

"Well I kept his secret......I just hated it when he'd come home from school all bloody and beat up!......He was teased a lot. I have no idea why. He was big! He was huge. He was a very tough young man. I'm sure he could hold his own. I kept telling him to stand up for himself! He wouldn't!......He kept saying that it wouldn't change people's minds. He said he didn't like fighting. Oh dear....he was so sweet....so gentle. I kept picturing him as a vet. He was sooo gentle with animals. Oh my!....Our farm had a little shed on it. I believe it was a tool shed at one time. He kept injured animals in there and nursed them back to health."

She blinked her moist eyes rapidly.

"Oh, how I hated to see him let them loose when they got better. But he was right. They had to live in the wild, not a pen or cage. He'd always cry when he had to let them go. They were like pets to him...

"Yes, he was a gentle boy, kind, full of love...

"Well, don't you know he couldn't carry on an affair with his partner in town! They pooled their money and bought some land in Wyoming. They started a lumber company. Of course they told everyone they were brothers...

"My stars! They didn't even have electric out there. Their mill was run by an old steam engine they'd repaired. Oh, they were both very mechanical. They'd burn coal and wood scraps in it. After a bit they built a water wheel....Then bought a big diesel engine generator.

"...Now they weren't rich in the money sense. Oh, they did quite well, but don't you know, lots of that money had to go right back into the mill....repairs and upkeep...

"...I got letters from him. Father and him had some falling out in his senior year. Oh, I don't believe it had anything to do with his secret. It was the tradition of turning the farm over to the oldest son. He couldn't tell him his secret. He only said he wanted to live isolated from society. Well, there was some big argument one night. He left and I never saw him again! Oh, I heard from him, but it's not the same you know."

As she continued, Tim poured hot water from the heater into a cup and dropped in two bags of black tea. He knew she enjoyed it strong. He brought the cup to the table.

"Yes. He even sent me black and white photos of him and his partner. Oh my stars! They weren't feminine looking. Oh! Big strapping young men, with huge black beards down to their chests!......His letters were worded in a way only he and I understood. I think he was scared I may get careless with his letters..."

She glanced at the dark window beside them for a moment.

"Well, back then, we didn't have the medical knowledge we have today. Nutrition was just being better understood...

"They......well, they worked themselves to death!....Literally!...

"Kenny......Well that's the name I gave your father....He only made it to fifty-two! His partner had a bad time of things without him. Not just the mill......I think he died of a sad heart. It was only eight months later he passed on."

She sipped her tea with a thoughtful expression.

"...The mill was auctioned off. Kenny had me down as beneficiary. His partner had no real family of his own and went along with it......Oh! I got letters from him as well! He kept thanking me for my understanding of their.... relationship. He was like another brother to me and I'd never met him!...

"...Well....don't you know....the lawyers and government got half of everything! Yet I had quite a little nest egg left from it all...

"...I had no idea what I was going to do with that. I had everything I needed. Life was good to me......I've had that money invested for fifteen years! I decided it was going to you, Timmy!..."

"Gram!....Don't you think that should go to Mom and Dad?!"

"Oh nonsense! You know as well as I do, they'd have a fit if I did that! Your folks are very well off. Better than you may think. They just don't live that ostentatious lifestyle. Your father has a good head on his shoulders! He isn't into climbing that social ladder as he calls it. He's very happy with his life..."

She took a bite of bread and more stew.

"...Yes! I'll never forget the first day I saw you in the nursery..."

"Oh Gram!....Not baby stories again!"

"Oh, I have no intention of embarrassing you...

"Oh! You were a very healthy baby....very pink! But you were just so scrawny! I was frightened you may not have the strength for a rough life such as my brother had. Well, I was still thinking of things as they were back then. I never thought of office jobs or the like. It was a bit later that I visited my lawyer and we set everything up!...

"...Now I know you have a good head too. Yet the stipulation is....you can't touch the principal until you're twenty-five! I'd hate to think you'd squander it on flashy clothes and cars while in college. Not that you would. It's just that I think you'll be much more mature at that age. You'll know what you want out of life."

"Gram, I really don't like to talk about this stuff!"

"Well now, we aren't talking about my dying here!....That money is yours as soon as you turn eighteen......Well, the interest anyhow..."

They all ate in silence for a moment. Tim looked up.

"...Gram......When did you know about me....us?"

"Oh I wasn't too sure at first....but I knew the signs were there...

"Young boys hug and walk around with their arms over each others shoulders and the like. But with you two, it was so much more! I can see the concern....the love there. You are both so loving toward each other. And as I say, I....well, I wasn't spying on you two. I just happened to catch things here and there......I was reading the paper here while you two were outside roughhousing. I saw your hoods together. Now did one of you have something in your eye?..."

"Oh shit!....Oh shit! This is so embarrassing..."

"Now don't be that way Timmy!......You are what you are. I'm just so happy for the both of you. Now you two scoot closer together!"

Tim smiled at Matt. He knew their secret was out. He drew Matt closer with his arm and kissed his cheek.

"Timmy!" Matt gasped.

"Oh! You two are just soooo keeuuutt together!"

"Oh Gram!....You sound like a yaoi fan girl!"

"And exactly what is that?"

"I'll explain it to you some other time!"

"...Oh you two and your GSA!....Get Safe America?!....I may be old but I'm not retarded you know!"

"Well, Gram....Mom and Dad were scared to have you know."

"Yes. I understand all that. An old lady who's kinda stuck in her ways. Things may have turned out differently if Kenny hadn't been gay. I may be just as backwards as everyone else. I understood things that others didn't. He was such a loving, giving person."

"...Umm....Mom and Dad don't have to hear about this, huh?"

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, if they find out that we kinda gave ourselves away, they might be mad at us."

"Owf! You know they won't be like that!"

"Can I get you another cup of tea, Gram?"

"Oh, I'd love it!"

Tim poured hot water on two more tea bags.

"...I don't believe this! You're actually letting me wait on you for a change."

"...Well, I'll be honest with you......My legs are simply killing me today! That's the reason I couldn't turn out of here quickly after I saw you two."

"I think it was because of the cold! You should have yelled down to the basement to us. We could have lit the heaters sooner."

"Oh, I fell asleep way before I knew the lights were out. I do that often. I just figured you had started the heaters when your video game went out!"

Tim set the cup on the table.

"...Umm....Matt and I fell asleep too!"

She studied the cup.

"...You didn't put poison in here now, did you?"

"GRAM! Holy shit!....Don't even joke like that! That's not funny!"

She gave him a silly grin.

They continued eating in silence for a moment. Tim suddenly jumped up and went for the living room.

"...I forgot, Gram. Mom and Dad were calling you. I'll get your phone!"

Clara spent time on the phone convincing Ayumi they were in no danger.

"...Why these boys lit candles all through the house and started the heaters. They've been waiting on me hand and foot! Why they even made supper!...... Well, canned stew warmed over the heater...

"...And by the way...." she continued, flashing a silly grin at the boys.

Tim began waving his hands before himself.

"...No Gram! No!" he whispered forcefully.

"Hee, hee, I'm letting them wait on me for a change..."

Minutes later she called Cynthia and put her mind to ease as well.

"...Oh, now you don't worry about us. We're warm and eating supper! My boys made supper you know. They used the kerosene heaters! We've got candles lit and are having quite a time here together...........Oh stop that! Matty is a perfect little angel and you know that...

"Oh no we aren't! We don't care if it's a week before you get here! We'll all open gifts together. The boys understand waiting a couple extra days.

"Now you don't worry about us. We're quite warm and comfortable, and we certainly aren't going to starve! We've got plenty of food!"

The boys began gathering dishes and setting them into the sink. Tim gathered several candles and set them nearby.

"...How did people live like this years ago?! I can't see shit!"

Matt grinned at him.

"...Be happy you've got gas hot water. You'd be heating water over a coal stove!....After drawing it from the well outside! And probably having to chop through the ice on top!"

Tim shivered.

"Oh! How did people do it?! And laundry! Heating water, scrubbing clothes on a washboard with bar soap!....I'd have made a lousy pioneer!..."

"Hee, hee....Me too! Hey that sounds like a good research paper for history class! We've got to submit a paper on old time Christmas seasons. We could put in how people cooked and cleaned back then. I sure wouldn't call 'em the good ole days!"

Clara closed up her phone and struggled to her feet.

"...Well boys, as much as I love fussing over the both of you, I'm afraid I'll have to let you do the dishes."

Matt looked at her seriously.

"...Gram, we really don't mind...

"...And umm....thanks for being so understanding."

"That's right!" Tim put in, "Now I want you to put this apron on......Keep your phone in the pocket....and don't go anywhere without it! If you fell up here, we'd probably never hear you."

"Oh my stars! I'll be fine here. I'll be sleeping in my rocker. You know me with heaters and candles burning. If I were in bed, why I'd barely get to my feet before the house burned down. I can get out of the rocker very easy."

She settled into the rocker as Tim carried in the camping lantern.

"Here, Gram. You need this more than we do. You can at least read."

"Oh nonsense! I'll be on the phone with my friends from the center. I want to make sure they're all okay."

Matt entered with her aluminum walker and set it beside the chair.

"If you have any trouble, you call us. We aren't across town. We'll be fifteen seconds away!"

"Oh you boys!....You're both such little angels!"

The boys returned to the kitchen and began the dishes and general cleaning.

Tim suddenly dropped his head.

"...Oh shit! I was thinking about starting the heater in the basement before and forgot all about it! I'll bet it's freezing down there."

"No. It might be chilly, but it won't be that cold. Not in a basement. We don't even heat ours and I don't think it gets below fifty."

Tim shivered.

"...Fifty!....Ohhhh!"

Matt walked up to him with a silly grin and drew his arms around his waist.

"...It won't be fifty in that sleeping bag," he whispered, "...In fact....it's going to be a bit hot!"

"Wow, Matty....Are you getting into a romantic mood?"

Matt wiggled his eyebrows.

"...Yeah....I think it's the candlelight. It sorta sets the mood..."

"Oh wow. I love it when you get like this..."

They kissed deeply for several seconds, then rested their chins on each others shoulders.

"...Oh Timmy....It's like I said this afternoon....I just keep feeling closer to you. I've got everything I want or need right here in my arms."

"Oh Matty, I love you sooo much. Let's get these dishes done....I think I feel....Junior waking up!"

"Oh yeah!....And I think I feel....It waking up...

"It!....We gotta think of a name for yours!"

"How about Dinky or Shorty?"

"...Yeah?....How about Hercules?....or Titan?..."

"Yeah....In my dreams!"

They gave each other a quick kiss before breaking apart and continuing their work.

A half hour later, they put up the dish rack, cloth and towel. Matt gave the chrome a quick wipe with a fresh, dry towel.

"...Umm....Gram?....We're going down into the basement again......Are you sure you don't need anything?"

"...Oh just a minute, Betty...

"I'm just fine boys! You go ahead!"

"Okay. Keep that phone in your pocket. We'll have ours on in the basement."

They entered the basement, each with two candles in a glass globe. Tim set one at the top of the stairs and one near the foot. Matt placed the other two on the battered coffee table.

"This will do fine. It's actually brighter than the setting we use on the lights. And it's not all that chilly down here either."

"I'm glad you think so! Awh, rats! I forgot that long lighter to light the heater with!"

"I really don't think we'll need it, Timmy. Come on. Let's warm up this bag..."

Both crawled into the bag from the top again, avoiding the zipper. Tim instantly put his arms around Matt and drew him close. His body trembled.

"Timmy....Are you okay? Are you sick?....It's just not that cold down here!"

"You wanna make a bet?!......I'll never be a winter person."

"You were sweating outside there while we were goofing around!"

"...I don't have my parka on right now....Just these thin sweats."

Matt raised his head and wiggled his eyebrows.

"...You aren't going to have those on much longer. Hee, hee."

"Ohhh!" Tim gasped as he shivered.

Matt pushed Tim to his back and straddled his hips. He gently kissed his cheek and neck.

"...Oh shit, Matty....I love that!....Really!....That's so sweet....I love it! I think I'm warming up already."

"...Let's see," Matt said as he pressed his thigh against him.

"...Shit too! Your thermometer says it's still below freezing."

"Two more minutes!"

"That thermometer is going to register a very high temperature......It's gonna bust! And the mercury is going to squirt out!"

"Hee, hee......Are you trying to talk dirty to me?"

"...That's about as racy as I get. I don't like dirty and you know that!"

Tim ran his hands down into Matt's sweats and held his bottom.

"Even your ass is hot! How to you keep so warm?!"

"...You've gotta ask me a question like that?!......I'm layin' on top of the most beautiful boy in the world and I'm not supposed to get....HOT?!"

"...Shit, Matty....You're so sweet! I love you soooo much!"

Matt hugged his neck tightly and kissed his cheek. He paused for several seconds.

"...I think I need that skinny little tongue now."

"...And some silver braces?"

"Sure!"

They kissed deeply for a full minute. Both let out a gasp.

"...Holy shit, Matty! That did it! I'm warm now!"

"...Couple more minutes yet....Your thermometer isn't quite all the way up yet!"

"Hee, hee....Stop that. We're getting silly now."

Both suddenly tugged at their sweats, pulling them off. They struggled within the sleeping bag, fearing a chill if they opened it.

Matt placed his thumbs against Tim's lips and opened them, kissing his braces.

"Oh, I'm gonna miss those braces!"

"And I keep telling you....I can't wait to get these things off!"

"And I keep telling you....I'm going to have to go on-line and buy you some fake braces."

"You're kidding!"

"No! I'm serious! I just love those braces!....I need more!"

They continued to kiss and hug for several more minutes. Matt drew back and looked at Tim's face.

"Ahhh!....Those braces are just soooo....sexy....so hot! They give your lips that foxy little pout!"

"...Well, I really hate these things."

Matt slid down placed his head on Tim's chest.

"Oh I love this....I love to squeeze your ribs and kiss your chest. I love you so much."

"...Umm....Matty....We gotta slow down a bit here."

"...Yeah, your thermometer is at max!"

"Well, I don't know about that, but my blood is at two hundred and twelve!"

Clara was on her phone to Matt's mother, reassuring her.

"...Oh Cynthia, please!......Matt's a little angel! As I said before, the boys cooked supper tonight over the heater....Well, in all honesty, they heated supper! They've waited on me all evening. They even insisted I carry my phone with me everywhere. They're afraid I might fall. They're in the basement with their phones on. It does me good to know that help is only seconds away if I should need it. We've got heat and lots of those globe candles burning for light. I'm frightened of using those taper candles. They can tip over so easy, don't you know. It's just we've no TV or radio. That gets a bit boring. We don't even have a battery radio. They left the camping lantern up here with me. It has fluorescent tubes in it and it's excellent for reading! I believe I'll read a bit before I go to sleep tonight."

She put her mind to rest and then called Ayumi once again. She put her worries to ease as well.

Matt lie on his back with his head in the crook of Tim's right arm. Tim stroked his chest with his left hand as he kissed his cheek.

"...Mmm....This is nice, huh?"

"...Sure is......Are you warmed up now?"

"Holy shit! Yeah!....That was nice, huh? We, umm....took a bit longer."

"Yeah....I hate it when I let loose too fast! It comes on so quick, it's like a surprise. That's the only way I can describe it."

"Yeah....Same here...

"This is nice, huh?......Just kinda layin' here with each other now?..."

Matt grasped Tim's hand on his chest and squeezed it tightly.

"...Oh yeah! I love this. I love it when we cuddle up like this. It makes me feel so content. I like this weak, sleepy feeling."

"Sleepy?....That's all we've done today!....I hope I can get to sleep tonight!"

Matt turned his head to look at him.

"I won't have any problem with it. Just as long as we're holding each other. I'm telling you, Timmy....That's all I need! As long as I've got you to hold....I don't need anything else!"

Tim quickly kissed the tip of his nose.

"...You are just so sweet at times."

Matt rose up only to turn around. He put his hands on Tim's shoulders and placed his head on his chest. They simply lie in silence for several minutes. Tim felt Matt's body gradually grow limp.

"...Gee, I wonder if Matty fell asleep already......It's not just his regular deep breathing. He kinda holds me....yet he doesn't. His hands are just there. They're not squeezing me."

Tim opened his eyes. It took several seconds to focus on the candles on the coffee table. Gradually he became more aware of his surroundings. He recalled the power failure, yet the room seemed warm.

"It's not just the sleeping bag....I can tell. It's warm in here again. I wonder if Matty lit the heater."

He glanced at the tiny window of the kerosene heater and saw it dark. Turning his head the other way, he noticed the red-orange glow of the electric heaters.

"Oh! Good! The electric's back on."

It was here he became aware of Matt's arms around his neck. They were limp, indicating he was still asleep.

"I want to check my phone for the time but it's too far away. I don't want to wake Matty. Ohhh, this just feels so good. Oh shit! Now I know why I woke up. I gotta pee a lake! I'm in pain here! Oh! I don't want to wake Matty. Maybe I could just slide out of here gently without waking him."

As he started to turn, Matt's head slipped along his chest. His head jerked up.

"Oh shit, Matty....I didn't mean to wake you."

"I was sleeping?"

"We both were!"

"What time is it?"

"I'm trying to get to my phone."

He lie over Matt as he reached for his phone below the coffee table.

"Oh wow!....It's six, ten! We slept all night! I don't even remember falling asleep. I never woke up once!"

"You don't remember telling me you were cold?"

"..No. When I woke up, I noticed the electric was back on."

"You told me you were cold. I wasn't too much with it, but that's when I crawled on top of you. Ohhhh....You hugged me so tight. That just felt so good."

"I don't remember that."

Matt raised his hips.

"Ohhh....Do you have something in mind this morning?"

"Hee, hee....As cute as you are, and as much as I'd like to lay here....I gotta pee!"

"You just had to say that, didn't you?....Now I'll have to go!"

Tim crawled from the top of the bag, again avoiding the zipper. He reached in for his sweats.

"Oh!....This is your top. I gotta get mine....Here's my bottoms....Here's yours."

Tim turned his back as he bent over to step into his sweats. He suddenly felt Matt's hands on his hips and his lips on his bottom.

"Muawh!"

"Matty!"

Matt collapsed back onto the bag.

"...Oh! You have no idea how many months I've wanted to do that!"

"Well, it's the phrase, Matty! It just sounds....well, demeaning."

"Never!....I want to use your gorgeous little ass for a pillow some night!"

"Matty!"

"...Hey....I'm serious! Ohhhh....What a good night's sleep I could get with my head on that!"

"...No!....Besides, I couldn't hold you then. I'd hate that."

Matt remained lying down as he pulled his sweats on.

"Oh!....Oh!....I knew it! I knew it!....Now I've got to go!"

They quickly gathered the candles and dashed up the stairs. The light over the kitchen sink was still on. Tim thought of blowing out all the candles throughout the house, but the bathroom was a priority. He was closely followed by Matt.

Minutes later, they stood in the kitchen, looking around.

"I really think we should wait for Gram to get up. We can make something for her too."

"You're right Matty. This cold weather really bothers her legs."

He glanced into the living room and noticed the empty rocker. The comforter was draped over one arm.

"Gram must have went to bed...

"Let's umm," he began, wiggling his eyebrows, "take a shower!"

"Ohhhh, sounds good to me..."

Minutes later, they both stood before the bathroom mirror in clean sweats. Matt was using the top of his worn ones to wipe the moisture from the mirror. His blue plastic toothbrush stuck from his mouth. Tim opened the door.

"We're dressed now. We can open the door and let some of this humidity out."

"Ahh nebber thought o dat!"

Tim pulled the brush from his mouth.

"You sound silly talking with that brush in your mouth!"

He leaned forward and attempted a deep kiss. Matt quickly backed away spitting into the sink.

"Timmy! You talk about me kissing your ass!....Wait 'til I rinse, huh?"

"...Mmm....peppermint!"

"...Oh! Ick!..."

"Matty....your lips are as sweet as candy!....Peppermint candy!"

Matt drew a paper cup from the dispenser and began filling it while Tim still fought for a kiss.

"...Wait a second, huh?"

"...No! I need more peppermint candy."

"...Ick!....Wait 'til I rinse, huh?"

They entered Tim's room when they realized they'd forgotten their socks. Matt glanced at the computer.

"How about surfing for a bit?....Kill some time..."

"Sounds good."

Matt turned on the computer and clicked on Internet Explorer. Tim's home page came up with a cheery "Season's Greetings" in a banner above.

"...That's right!" Tim put in, "It's Christmas!....Merry Christmas, Matty!"

"Merry Christmas, Timmy."

They drew each other close with and arm around the neck and a deep open-mouthed kiss. Both suddenly noticed a slight flash against their eyelids.

"Tee, hee....That was easier than I thought it was going to be!"

They noticed Clare standing near the doorway, drawing a camera down from her eye.

"Oh GRAM!....That's embarrassing!"

"Oh! Never!....That was sweet!....Tee, hee."

She entered the room with Matt's camera, shaking her curved finger in the air.

"...I found the camera on your desk. I figured if you two thought I was sleeping, I could sneak-up on you!....Tee, hee! Oh! That was easier than I ever thought!"

"Oh gee, Gram....Now this is really embarrassing!"

"Oh, I won't hear of it!...

"Now I want you to put that on the computer and print me out an eight by ten!"

"Oh Gram!....Please?!"

"Now get going on the computer there! My stars!....I wouldn't know how to turn the damn thing on!"

"...You want a picture of us....kissing?"

Her face seemed to beam with a proud joy.

"..Yes I do!....And it'll be the best gift I've ever got in my life!...

"Now you two get busy there. I'll be in the kitchen, starting breakfast!"

"Gram!....We're making breakfast!....Your legs!"

"My legs are just fine this morning!....I drew up close to the heater....Look!"

She danced a silly jig toward the door.

"...Gram! You're gonna fall!"

"...Not a chance!....Tee, hee, hee. Oh! I just feel grand today!"

The boys looked at each other for a moment then turned to the computer.

"...Hey," Matt put in, after the camera had been plugged in, "I kinda like that!"

Tim blushed.

"...Umm....Yeah. Okay, I like it too."

The image was taken a bit off center but Matt cropped it perfectly. All that remained was a bit of brightening and color correction.

"Umm," Tim began, blushing again, "Yeah....I like it! That's a wrap! Print it!"

They boys entered the kitchen to see Clara at the counter. She whipped up a pancake mix with an electric whisk. Matt placed the print on the island.

"Oh! Do I see your pancakes and fried apples?!" he asked.

"You certainly do!....I know how much you two enjoy 'em!"

"Well let us do something to help out here."

"Well, Matty, you can set the table and Timmy can open this jar of sliced apples."

Minutes later the boys sat as Clara placed a large dish of pancakes in the center of the table. This was followed by a plate of crisp bacon. They loaded their plates.

"Okay, now back away from this skillet! It's hot!"

She poured the fried apples on both their pancakes.

"Oh Gram!" Matt nearly shouted, "The smell of cinnamon and cloves!......And....And I see a bottle of sorghum molasses! I'm goin' crazy here!"

"Now I want the both of you to go slow today! We've nowhere to go!"

She placed the frying pan back onto the range and went for the photo on the island. She took it to the bench with her and sat across from them with a pleased grin.

"Ohhhh!....My two boys!"

Tim blushed again.

"...Oh Matty....I don't believe we did that!"

"Timmy! Turn off that red face!" she said glancing at it again, "This is just sooo sweet!"

It was here where Clara's phone rang. She set the photo aside and reached into her apron.

"...Yes?....Oh! Ayumi!..........Now you don't go on with worrying about us. We're quite fine!....We're eating breakfast..........You don't say!..........Oh my stars!..........My gracious! Well, we'll certainly figure something out. Now the roads here are simply plugged up tight! You wait a bit for the plows to come through. Oh! The thought of you sitting in a cold stranded car!..........Oh, we're doing just fine. The electric is back on and everything."

Matt and Tim continued to eat as Clara eased Ayumi's mind.

"...Okay, fine..........Now I'm calling Matt's mother to tell her everything's okay here."

She glanced at the boys as she studied her contacts list.

"...Your mother says even the highways aren't clear yet. The DPW has got to let the men catch some sleep here and there. The other drivers are snowed in at home and can't even get to work. They're working on them first. Then the fire stations, then the hospitals. Oh dear, we'll be lucky if we're all together tomorrow!"

She entered a contact and put the phone to her ear.

"...Oh yes!....Cynthia!....Clare here..........Oh now that's why I called. We're just fine and the electric is back on. We're eating breakfast and everything is fine!...

"...Now there you go again! MY little Matty is fine! Oh, they're both as quiet as church mice!..........Oh my legs are just fine today! I actually believe it was the radiant heat from the kerosene heater, don't you know. I pulled my rocker up close to it last night..........Oh I don't think the boys minded not having their video games last night," she added with a silly grin toward them, "What I missed so much was a simple little battery powered radio. One doesn't consider those things until the lights are out, don't you know...

"....Oh the boys are fine. They're playing on the computer this morning."

She lifted the photo again and glanced at it with a smile.

"...Yes, they're printing out pictures..."

Tim suddenly got to his feet and pranced in place, waving his arms before himself.

"....No! Gram!....No!" he said in a forced whisper.

"....Okay, fine....You wait for Richard and the Jeep. Don't try to make it home in this! My stars! Ayumi said the highways aren't even done yet. Oh dear! The thought of you stranded in a cold car! It's not worth it Cynthia!....You just stay put until it's safe. We've got electric now. I can watch my news and weather and the boys can play on the computer or....whatever!"

She cast them a silly grin again.

With breakfast done, the boys began clearing the table.

"Now you two go back to your computer. I'll take care of this!"

"Oh no!......We're cleaning up while you watch your news."

"Shoo, shoo....Get out of here!"

Tim began to pull her by the arm into the dining room. She resisted. He began to push her. Her slippers slid along the floor.

"Ohhhh! Tee, hee!....I feel like a little girl again this morning."

"Seriously, Gram. Sit in your chair and watch the news and weather. We've got to know when the streets are clear."

Once back in the kitchen, Tim began filling the sink.

"Isn't the dishwasher working?" Matt asked.

"...That piece of shit?....It's brand new and the pump is a sorry piece of junk! I think we used it three times!......I can piss a stream with more pressure than that thing has!"

"Hee, hee, hee."

"I'm serious! It just doesn't work!"

Matt's phone rang here.

"...Umm....Hello?....Dad!......I thought Mom must have called you..........Oh, you're phone's dead!...

"Umm....We're okay here and the electric is back on and everything.......... You've got TV out in that camper too?!........And a shower?........And the stove?........And I'll bet you're playing poker with the guys!..........Oh, just a wild guess!...

"Umm....The roads are really bad still....Umm when things get cleared out, do you think you could go to the hospital and the firm to get Tim's parents? We worry about them out there in cars. If they were to get stuck and..........Oh great! Just don't try yet. The streets are bad here...

"Yeah, we're fine. We're going to play on the computer for a bit........Okay, tell 'em to switch their phones off to save the battery..........Oh! A car adapter. Okay...

"Don't worry about us. I'll bet it will be late tonight or even tomorrow before you can travel in this stuff..........Okay, bye..."

He slipped the phone into his pocket.

"...Gee, sounds like Dad and his friends are having a party out in that camper!"

After finishing up in the kitchen, they returned to Tim's room. They plugged Matt's camera into the printer. Tim sat and began to click through photos.

"...Gee, Matty....You've got hundreds of shots here!....Why haven't we ever printed them out?"

"I really don't know. I see lots of 'em there that I forgot I even took! Click back to photo ninety seven."

Tim saw a picture of himself in his swimsuit. He sat on the concrete work of the dam. In the background was the spillway with white water cascading down.

"What's so great about that?"

"...Umm....I think it's the way you're kinda chewing on that lock of your hair."

"...I wasn't chewing on it! I was pulling it out of my mouth!"

"...Well, it looks like you are....And I like your bare feet! Your toes are so cute!"

Tim wobbled his head.

"...Oh shit!"

He clicked through several more shots.

"Oh wow!....Here we are in the tent!....That was the first time you used your camera!"

"...Yeah. Looks it! I wasn't that used to it yet. They came out kinda dark, even with the flash. It hasn't got a very powerful flash."

"No!....I like these!....If they were too bright, it would look like daytime. It was night when you took these."

Several more clicks and they located a photo of them both. Matt had used the delay. Both knelt on the sleeping bag. They were both shirtless in their sweat pants. Matt held Tim's bottom in both hands while Tim's arms were around Matt's neck. They were giving each other a deep kiss.

Tim let out a snort as he blushed.

"...Oh shit Matty. I was really....umm....shy and embarrassed about these. I don't know how I really followed through with it. Well, the first time I didn't even know you were doing it. You had set your camera on the cooler with the delay on. I couldn't understand why you so suddenly kissed me....Then I saw the flash go off!"

"Hee, hee....I almost didn't follow through with that! I saw the light on the camera start to blink. I knew I only had five seconds!...

"...I, umm....kinda like that photo."

He noticed Tim bow his head with a blush.

"...I was really self-conscious at first. Then you showed me the review photos on the display....Ohhhh! That was kinda exciting to look at!"

"...Yeah....For me too....You know I'm not into porn or even nudes. But I thought of some shots......Well, not showing anything really. Just indicating we were nude."

"Matty!"

"Hey!....I'm not talking about our....plumbing hangin' out!"

"Hee, hee."

"Nah!....I was just too shy to suggest it......I'll tell you though, I sure tried hard to get a shot of your bare ass!"

Over the next few hours, they printed out several more photos as well as two collages which Tim had made up. Matt deleted many that were simply too dark or blurred. They made up several photos which they never printed, yet saved them to a separate flash. They were silly ones with the comic balloons over their heads. Many of them had light-hearted cussing.

"Why are these so funny?" Matt asked, "We never say this shit to each other!"

"I think that's exactly why it's so funny!......It's our expressions. We look like were actually saying these things....or at least thinking it!"

Tim drew close to the window and pushed the curtain aside.

"...Well, the wind finally quit......I don't even want to go out there and clear snow."

"Oh, I'll give you a hand. So long as there's no wind, it won't be all that cold. You work the driveway and main walk with the thrower. I'll get the stairs and smaller places with a shovel."

Two hours and two gas tanks later, Tim shut the machine off.

"Wow! This is the first time I've had to refuel halfway through! I don't know how much is left in that tank but that's it! I used up the whole gallon can in the garage...

"We should really go to your place now. You don't want you parents to not be able to get to your Christmas presents!"

Matt looked at him seriously.

"I keep tellin' you......I've got everything I want!"

It was four o'clock in the afternoon as they made their way back from Matt's house. Matt had used his machine as Tim cleared with a shovel. His drive was only single wide, yet went back a much greater distance. Matt also made a pass down the neighbor's drive. It appeared nobody was home. He cleared the drive and made a single pass to the back door. Both still felt warm from the exertion, but they both could feel the effort in their arms and shoulders.

"I was kinda putting this off this morning," Tim said, "thinking I was gonna freeze my ass. I'm actually warm!"

"Me too......but we gotta get inside now. As we cool down, we'll take a chill....Well I will anyhow."

"...All I wanna do is take a shower! I'm sweatin'! And I wanna get this parka into the wash! I think it smells like sweat and gasoline!"

An hour later found the boys in the kitchen once again. Tim was coming from the laundry room.

"Well, I got both our parkas and jeans into the washer."

Clara turned from the range.

"...You boys could have thrown those clothes out of the bathroom. How much effort would it take me to turn a dial on the washer?......You're both exhausted!"

"...Gram....You're living here as a guest......You're not a maid!"

"Well now, I don't feel as though I am! How I soooo enjoy taking care of my boys!"

"...Besides, Gram....if we ran the washer, we could run out of hot water for our showers!"

"...Oh dear....Now I never thought of that!...

"...Now you two go get some shirts on! I don't know how you keep those skinny little bodies warm. And get that comb out and dry your hair. The both of you. You'll both catch a chill and one death of a cold!"

Minutes later, they sat at the breakfast nook, both in thick sweatshirts. They took turns drying each others hair. Clara cast them sweet glances as she busied herself warming leftovers.

As Matt drew the comb through Tim's hair, he looked up.

"Gram!......Can't you sit still for five minutes?!......You make me nervous. That food isn't going to warm any faster with you pacing in front of the stove!"

She gave a silly grin.

"...My mother always said, 'A watched pot never boils.' I think there's a little truth in that. It's just I wanted to put on a supper quickly...

"...Oh the way you two came in here! I could tell you were tired."

"No more than usual, Gram. It's just we were clearing snow. Even though we had the throwers, it's just too much like work! It would have been different if we'd been tobogganing! That would have been fun! I didn't mind the first few storms. In fact it was kind of fun! ......Today?......The snow was just spilling over the auger! I had to back up two or three times to get it all. It's a bitch just steering that thing! If we get snow tonight, that's it! I don't think there's gas enough for one pass down the front sidewalk.

"Wow! We took the street to Matt's house, Gram......In some places we had to lift our feet up to our thighs! I don't know where the city is gonna put all this snow! I sure hope they get through! We'd have been back a bit sooner but Matt did Mr. Turley's drive too. He's a good man."

Clara stirred a kettle on the range.

"...Yes! My stars!......They've called in the National Guard! Oh! My! They've got machinery that's normally used for airport runways! I saw it on the news. It all seemed so exciting, yet I feel a bit ill at ease knowing we're so snowed in."

The boys set the table as Clara filled serving dishes.

"...I know this is just leftovers, boys....but you know how I hate to waste!"

"...Leftover or not," Matt put in, "I'll never get tired of roast beef!"

"Well, Ayumi is planning on a rather large ham dinner for all of us. Oh dear! We'll have enough left over from that to feed an army!"

The boys sat opposite Clara as they began to eat. Matt seemed to hesitate for a moment. He glanced at Clara as he reached out and held the back of Tim's hand.

"...Umm....Gram?....I'm sure glad you understand about me 'n' Tim. It really means a lot to me. I really didn't feel comfortable....umm....hiding this from you. I mean it's not exactly lying....but it wasn't exactly being truthful either."

She reached forward with a large, understanding smile and gripped both their hands for a moment.

"...I may be old, but I'm not that old! If it hadn't been for my brother, I may be as backwards as all the rest...

"...No boys....They say life is short. How do they get that? Life is the longest thing you'll ever do! It's just that as you age....time seems to go faster. Some people hate all their lives! It's not worth it, boys. I consider myself a happy person. I never needed a mansion! An in-ground pool!....tennis court!.... stables!....yacht!....private jet!...

"...Timmy....I think your father got lots of that from me. Well, I never said anything to him directly. I think he just sort of picked it up. He's very happy with life......Oh, he could have lots more! Material things. But he understands. He doesn't want to knock himself out. It's as he says, people are so obsessed with earning a living, they aren't living any longer! You know he's not being cruel when he tells you he wants you to work for things in life."

"I know, Gram..."

"...Well, if you don't understand that right now, you will someday."

"...No Gram....I understand....and so does Matty."

He gripped Matt's hand and looked at him.

"...Mom and Dad were so worried about us not opening gifts today. They wanted us to go ahead without them. Matty and I aren't little kids! We both talked about it. We both agreed we've got each other....We don't need things!...

"I told you we did Mr. Turley's drive for him......I don't know how much you know about Scooter and Toby, but Scooter was stabbed by a bully. He almost died! Mr. Turley gave blood..."

Clara held her hands up, palms outward.

"I know all about that! I put it together for myself...

"Oh!....Now there's another sweet little couple."

"...You....you know about them?"

"Oh my stars! Yes! Well, I was almost certain, until I saw them here one of those days for tobogganing. You can see it in their faces! They look at each other the same way you two do! A person just can't hide that, you know?"

Tim glanced back at Clara.

"...Oh wow....See what I mean, Gram?....We don't need things....We've already got everything!....What's a snowmobile, a motorbike, a car?! We don't need the latest video game system or all those expensive....toys! Me 'n' Matty can be happy just being together......We don't need expensive toys to entertain us."

"Oh! The both of you are just soooo mature for your ages. I'm just so proud of you both!"

After supper the boys helped with cleaning the kitchen.

"Why don't you two go play on the computer or whatever! I've got this all taken care of."

"...No Gram! You did all the cooking. We can clean!...

"Besides, there's no rush to get to the computer. We aren't going to miss anything."

An hour later, Tim had pulled a short bench up to the computer desk. It allowed for more freedom of movement. He straddled one end as he placed more photo papers into the printer. Matt straddled the bench behind him.

"...Why don't you let me print the rest of these out on my printer?" Matt said, "This is costing you in ink and photo paper!"

"Shit Matty! I'm not going to print out a hundred photos! Just two more that I really like."

He clicked several thumbnails along until he reached a photo of them in the tent again. Tim had his head on Matt's bare chest. They lie on top of the sleeping bag.

"...What's so great about that picture?"

Tim shrugged.

"...I don't know. I don't exactly remember what we'd been talking about here. I just remember you setting your camera up for a series of photos. It was daytime here. You didn't have the flash on and I guess I sorta forgot about the camera. There's two of 'em that I really like here....Well, three actually!"

He started the printer as he glanced over his shoulder at Matt with a smile.

"Normally, I'd have been a bit scared to print these out....but we're....well out now! I mean, everybody knows, right? Who cares if someone sees them?"

The next photo was one of Matt with his head on Tim's bare chest as he held his ribs in his hands.

"Ohhh," Matt gasped, "I like that one!"

He reached under Tim's bulky sweatshirt and squeezed his chest.

"...I just can't get enough of those skinny ribs! How I just love to hold you!"

Tim only smiled as he clicked on 'print.' The photo slowly made its way from the printer as the jet moved back and forth rapidly. Matt hung his chin over Tim's shoulder. The photo finally slid out into the tray. Tim quickly clicked onto another photo. In this one, Matt was still on top of Tim, holding his shoulders. Tim held Matt's waist. They were in a deep kiss.

"Remember this one, Matty?"

"Like I'm supposed to remember every one of our hundreds of kisses out there?!"

"...Awhhh! You don't remember this one?......It was the first time we talked about kids having all the latest!....New cars, motorbikes, video game consoles.... Remember?....And remember how we both agreed how....boring it would all be? We were just so happy to be with each other..."

"...Umm....Yeah! I think I do remember that!....It's just I think we've had a lot hotter kisses than that..."

"...Oh hell yeah!....But that's not what I'm talking about. It wasn't hot!....It was....well, warm. Okay? It was just real....warm! That's the only way I can explain it. I mean, I don't think either of us was even hard! It was just one of those....well, warm, close moments. I loved it! I just felt so close to you. It wasn't sexy....It was....well, loving, okay? I just felt like I was melting! It's a good thing we were laying down, 'cause I think my legs would have just gave out!"

"Really?!"

"Shit yeah, Matty! Our kisses don't always have to be sexy! In fact, I kinda like these warm ones just as good....sometimes, even better!...

"I'll never forget our first kiss out there!....or this one either!"

"Oh wow!....Our first kiss....Holy shit, I was just soooo scared at first. I was so shy, but things just got to the point where I couldn't resist anymore! All I could see were your moist lips and those silver braces kinda peeking out. How I wanted to kiss you....I really wanted to tell you first but....well, I just couldn't find the words!

"Yeah, I was scared, shy, nervous....I had to keep reminding myself not to mash! I didn't want to press your lips too tight into your braces and end up hurtin' you."

Tim felt Matt's hands rub his chest.

"...Oh Timmy!....When I first felt those lips against mine....I was in heaven! Then, when I felt your arms just snap around me....oh wow!"

Tim hung his head.

"...I don't know what it is about that, Matty....but I still feel kinda shy over it. It's hard for me to talk about."

"...Come on Tim....You must have known I was going to try to kiss you."

"...Oh yeah!....I told you that lots of times. Well, I was sure hoping you were going to! In fact, I was actually scared you weren't going to. That you'd chicken out. I didn't want that to happen. I keep tellin' you how shy 'n' quiet I was. I don't know how long it would have taken me..."

"...You seemed to....adjust rather quickly..."

"Well, yeah! Once we were out!....Once we kissed....Once we finally admitted we liked each other....It was a thousand times easier! In fact, I had to actually hold back from attacking you!...

"After a bit there....well, we kinda got a bit sleepy. Well, exhausted actually. We'd been through a lot. We kinda....well, cried ourselves to sleep. Just holding each other! Oh shit, Matty! I think that was the most wonderful moment in my life! I'd finally accepted myself. I'd accepted my attraction to you....and everything was just suddenly....all right..."

Matt hugged him tightly from behind and kissed his cheek.

"...See what I'm sayin', Matty?......Now that was....nice....That was.... sweet!"

Tim clicked on the print button and the printer started up.

"...Hit that button once again," Matt said, "I want a copy of that too!"

An hour later, they were checking some history sites. They downloaded information on on late nineteenth century Christmas seasons. Most were quaint, rural photos of wooden runner sleds and children ice skating on frozen ponds. Some were farms, with children playing in the snow in period costume. Many involved the family dog playing or chasing the children and their sleds. Matt insisted on the more mundane, difficult chores of the era. He saved stories of washing clothes in wooden tubs. Some machines had gas engines, others had simply levers or cranks which were hand operated. He included photos of kitchen wood stoves heating large tubs of water. Women cooked over coal or wood stoves or simply an open fireplace. Many had to butcher their own pigs or turkeys for the Christmas meal. Matt was sure to get in all the mindless, heavy physical labor he could find.

"...Holy shit, this is depressing, Matty."

"...No it isn't! This is the truth! This is how things were done back then....I have no idea why they were called The Good Ole Days."

"...Well boys," Clara began, standing in the doorway, "Your folks are still stranded 'til tomorrow. I believe I'm going to sleep now."

"Okay Gram......Me 'n' Matty are going to play in the computer for awhile..."

Tim decided to check the account on the GSA mail.

"Oh!....Wow!....Seventy-eight e-mails! Must be just about everyone answered us from a couple days ago!"

He quickly got to his feet and started to the door.

"My mom's laptop is back from the shop. I'll go get it. I'm gonna need help with all these!"

He set up the laptop beside his keyboard.

"We've got wireless for the laptop. I turned it on in Dad's office..."

They settled down before the monitors.

"...You take the first ten and I'll take the next ten. We'll keep going like that...

"Here's a printout of everyone's e-adds from the GSA. Don't open anything that looks suspicious..."

They worked mostly in silence for nearly the next two hours. They spoke only when it was necessary. Tim noticed Matt seemed a bit removed from the task.

Matt flipped through a pile of GSA articles.

"I'm trying to find that article on that boy who commit suicide in....Oh! I forget the state. The one that was bullied. The straight boy who everyone thought was gay."

"Oh yeah, I can't think of his name right now. Where did I see that?!...... Oh! I think it's in this pile here!"

"...Timmy, we gotta get our shit together. This place is a wreck!"

"I know. I've got a file cabinet I emptied a bunch of stuff out of. I just haven't organized anything yet."

Tim located the article. It was only two pages long.

"Brandon wants me to send it to him. I'll scan it and get it right out to him."

They continued on with crossing the room in search of other documents and photos. They took turns scanning and mailing. They answered the most simple requests first, followed by several others which required some research.

"...I don't believe some of this shit!" Matt shot out, "It sounds like they want us to do all their research for 'em. I'll send them the Web addresses, but I'm not going to send them the articles!"

"Yeah, I've had a few of them too. I told them we aren't doing their research for 'em. I want to type up an address sheet with all the major gay news sites 'n' stuff on it. I'll send it to them and tell them to look up their own information!"

As they finished up the last of the mail, Matt starred at the empty page.

"I know one thing for sure......I'll never want a desk job that has anything to do with answering e-mail!"

They both signed off and shut down their computers. Both starred at the dark screens for several seconds. Both still shared the wooden bench before the desk. Tim stood for a moment and turned on the bench, straddling it, facing Matt.

"...Umm....Matty?....I really didn't want to ask before....We were busy. But....I don't know what it was....You....you seemed a little....well, detached tonight..."

Matt stood to set a pile of papers on the top shelf of the desk. He approached Tim and seemed to be about to straddle the bench facing him. Instead, he sat on his lap, straddling his hips. His serious expression frightened Tim.

"...Timmy....I been thinkin'..."

"I knew it!"

"No....Seriously!....Umm....That night out in the tent....when I decided to come out to you....I was thinking about the words like and love. And I kept thinking the word like....just wasn't, umm, strong enough......Yet....the word love was way too strong! I was trying to find a word somewhere in between the two....

"...Timmy......I'm actually getting a little scared here......Well, maybe that's the wrong word......I think I'm more confused than anything. I'm sixteen!....Love? ....Can we really know what love is?"

Tim saw his serious expression. His brilliant blue eyes were large and shining. He felt his hands on his shoulders. He reached down and stroked Matt's hips.

"...Umm....Yeah, Matty! Why not? What's age got to do with it? What difference is it if you're sixteen or sixty?! Why do you have to be a special age to know that?......I love you Matty! I know it!"

Matt nodded his head.

"I love you too, Timmy!" he replied as he moved forward. He pressed his chest against Tim and put his arms around his neck. He hooked his chin over his shoulder.

"...Ohhhh......I kept thinking that love was too strong of a term......Now I don't think it's strong enough!...

"...Yeah, I know everything's worked out for the best but....I keep thinking about that.... that Scooter 'n' Toby thing! Oh shit! Oh shit!....Timmy....It still scares the fuckin' shit outta me!"

Tim threw his arms around him. He pressed his palms to his back and drew him tight.

"Oh Timmy!....Of all the horrors in this world!....Never being able to touch you, feel your chest, squeeze your ribs....Never feeling your arms around me. Never being able to smell your vanilla shampoo and orange shower gel......Never feeling that silky hair passing through my fingers. Never being able to kiss your neck, your cheek....those foxy lips! Never feeling your braces against the tip of my tongue. Never..."

"Matty!....Let's not talk about..."

"Sad stuff?"

"Right! I really don't think things will ever get that bad for us. I know your dad said he'd probably never accept us one hundred percent....but we're still together!.......That....that shock period is over. I think they're finally accepting us....even if it isn't all the way!"

Matt kissed his cheek, lingering for a moment.

"...Oh, Timmy! It's....it's more than love! I need a stronger word!...

"I told my dad there was about a sixty percent chance I'd never make it....I think it's more like ninety-nine!....Well, umm, I mean if we were like thirteen or fourteen."

"Matty! Please?!....We've got about eighteen more months to go. Even if we can't see each other anymore, we'll make that! I'll wait for you....I'd wait ten years!....Twenty! We'll be together for the rest of our lives!"

Matt held his shoulders as he leaned back, studying his face.

"...Well, umm....There's other things that scare me too!...

"Remember I told you when we first came out to each other, that it was so exciting! That I thought it was just because it was so new to us and everything?"

Tim nodded.

Matt reached up and held his face in his hands. His serious expression caused a sudden chill to pass down Tim's spine.

"...I thought....I thought it would....well, kinda taper off a bit. Whenever I kiss you, when we hold each other....It gets more exciting! It....It gets deeper! I breathe for you! My heart beats for you!......Timmy....I'm....I'm just obsessed with you! Love?!....I thought that was just a....a way too strong of a term at first....It wasn't!....In fact I'm looking for a stronger term! Ten times stronger! I'm so scared you're gonna get tired of my....my clinging!....my obsession with you. We're two separate individuals. I don't want you to feel like I'm smothering you, or taking away your individuality. We've got to be both Matt and Tim....and US together."

Matt paused here, rubbing Tim's cheeks with his fingers. Tim drew him close. He pushed his mouth into his shoulder.

"Holy shit, Matty," he began, his voice muffled, "You had me kinda scared there for a minute. I thought you were having second thoughts about us....You sure have a way with words."

His hands pressed tightly against Matt's back as he rubbed them in circles.

"...You can smother me with all the love you want!....You can smother me to death!....Oh wow! What a way to go!"

Matt chuckled at this.

"I feel it too Matty! That....that deepness that just goes all the way to the heart and soul! Matty! No matter what happens....we'll survive! We'll survive because our love is so strong!"

Tim felt a tear on his cheek, yet he knew it wasn't his own. It had been Matt's. His arms trembled around his neck. He heard a stifled sob.

"Oh, Timmy....I didn't think it was possible to love someone this much! Maybe that's what scares me so. This....this is no infatuation! This is LOVE! This is the real thing!"

Although there were still tears on his face, he pressed his lips to Tim's. They trembled in each others arms.

Minutes later, they walked about in the kitchen. Matt gathered bowls from the cabinet as Tim knelt on the counter, reaching for breakfast cereals.

"Shit!....All we've got left is corn flakes!"

"That's fine....Got any bananas?"

"Well, yeah. Right here, but they got kinda spots on 'em."

"Great! They're sweeter like that."

They sat at the nook and filled their bowls. A gallon plastic bottle of milk was in front of them, along with a plastic bag of brown sugar. Tim opened the wire twist from the bag.

"...I never thought of brown sugar on cereal," he said, reaching in with a long spoon.

Matt grinned as he sliced a banana over his bowl.

"I had to do a report on the sugar industry last year. Brown sugar still has lots of molasses in it. It's not just sweet like white sugar....It's got flavor to it."

Before Matt could reach for his spoon, Tim had grasped his hand. He interlocked their fingers as he began to eat. Matt picked up his spoon in his left hand. As he spooned cereal into his mouth. A slice of banana fell back into the bowl and splashed milk onto the table.

"...Umm, Tim....I'm right-handed..."

"Oh! Sorry. I didn't even know I was doing that."

"That's okay. You do all kinds of sweet stuff like that and I don't think you're really aware of it."

Tim dropped his spoon to the table with a clatter.

"Well, I'm aware of this!"

He grabbed Matt's head in his hands and kissed his mouth quickly.

"Tim....I think we're getting a little too....too girlie here."

"...Girlie?....or....campy?"

"What difference does it make?"

"Oh Matty, I don't care......You had me just soooo scared there for awhile."

"You're scared!....I was scared. Timmy......seriously! I never thought it was possible to love someone soooo much!"

He reached out and grabbed Tim's wrist.

"...I....I keep thinking this is all a big dream, and I'm gonna wake up!"

"Yeah. I feel like that too sometimes."

Matt had entered the basement an hour later. The coils of the electric heaters were bright red-orange. He lowered the thermostat to sixty degrees. Tim began down the stairs with the oversized sleeping bag in his arms.

"...Oh! A nice, clean, fluffy sleeping bag!......I just took it out of the drier! It's still warm! And I tossed in one of your favorite drier sheets too!"

"Tim! You had this thermostat set on eighty! I can't breathe at that temperature. It feels like the tropics down here!"

"Well, I wasn't going to leave it there all night! Just enough to preheat the place. This whole place is cold concrete! It'll cool off fast again."

They spread out the bag and drew off their bulky sweatshirts. Quickly crawling into the bag, they both instantly reached for each other.

"Oh Matty!....I love this!....I just love this!"

"Ohhhh yeah!....Me too...

"...Umm......You know....tomorrow I'm sure my parents are going to have me go home again."

"Yeah. I was just thinking that."

"...Well, umm....I actually think it's going to be more because I'm just here too much. I mean more than us....well, being a couple. My mom thinks I'm being too much extra work and expense for your family."

Tim drew his arms around Matt's neck and pulled him close. He kissed his neck.

"I almost don't wanna sleep tonight! I wanna feel you here. I wanna be aware of it!"

"Yeah....I feel like that too. Lots of times! I try to keep awake, but it just doesn't work. I just lay here and hold you. I mean it's sure nice and all, but at the same time it's just soooo contenting! I just get so sleepy. Some nights I'd just try to fight it! It doesn't work. I just feel you in my arms. I don't hear you breathe....I can feel you breathe. No matter how hard I try, I don't think I make it past ten or fifteen minutes."

Tim pushed Matt to his back and rested his head on his chest. He placed one hand on his shoulder and ran his other hand up and down his ribs. He felt Matt's hand on his head. He thought he was about to say something, but he remained silent.

"...Matty!....You say you can feel me breathe?....Well I can feel you thinking! I don't like it....It scares me."

"No Timmy....Don't be scared...

"It's just....well I don't know how to explain it......It's like there's this big hole in my chest. A big empty spot. And when I hug you....It's like I'm trying to pull you into it....Trying to fill it.

"...Tim? I'm really getting scared I'm getting too clingy! If you feel like I'm getting too suffocating, just say something!....I'll back off."

Tim squeezed his ribs with both hands as he kissed his chest.

"...I've never felt like that!" he replied in a forced whisper, "I like it when we're close like this. And I guess I kinda feel the same way......Like I just can't get close enough to you..."

Tim raised his head to look at Matt's face. Tears ran down his smiling face. He felt tears on his own. They both suddenly gasped as they reached into a deep embrace. They continued to cry tears of joy until they both fell into a deep sleep.

"...No!....No!" Matt cried out, "Lemme alone!....Let go!"

Tim's head raised from the pillow. Matt lie with his back to him, trashing around.

"...Let go of me!"

"...Matty!....Matty! Wake up!..."

"...NO!....Let go!"

Tim shook Matt by the shoulders.

"...Matty! Wake up!"

Matt's eyes instantly opened. They gazed around the room as he slowly turned to his back.

"...I think you were havin' a bad dream, Matty."

"...Oh shit!....Oh shit!....What a nightmare."

Tim drew up close to his side.

"...You okay now?"

"...Umm....Yeah. I think so."

Tim gently rubbed his chest.

"...Holy shit, Matty....You heart's going a hundred miles an hour!"

Matt rubbed his face in both hands.

"Oh shit! Oh shit!....I was trying to jump off the bridge. I don't even know why! I was trying to jump off the overpass....Someone was behind me, holdin' me back."

"...Matty! You gotta stop thinkin' about Scooter 'n' Toby. That's all behind now. They're together again! And don't even think about that stuff! You're really starting to freak me out here. Oh Matty! I just couldn't live without you!"

His fell face into Matt's shoulder.

"...No! No! Don't worry about that. I'd umm....never consider it, Timmy. Really! You're right....We've got a year and a half. I'll survive....We'll survive! It was just a silly dream! I have no idea why I was even on the bridge! I have no idea what drove me there....or even why I wanted to jump! It was just scary....And I have no idea who was behind me holding me back."

"...That was ME!" Tim put in with a weak chuckle.

Matt's arms encircled Tim into a tight embrace. Tim could still feel his heart pounding.

"...Oh Matty!....You little....angel! Let's just not think of any bad stuff."

They lie in silence for what seemed a half hour. Tim felt Matt's arms slowly lessen their grip around him. He knew he'd fallen back into a deep sleep.

"...Oh rats!......I gotta pee again! I knew I shouldn't have had that chocolate milk! Now how do I get out of here without waking Matt?......Wow, that dream really scared him."

He managed to crawl from the bag without waking him. Upon returning several minutes later, he turned up the dimmer control on the track lights.

"I don't want it real bright down here....Just a little more. I wanna see Matt better."

He crawled back into the bag and drew his chest and stomach up tight to Matt. He ran his hands over his chest.

"I think I know exactly what Matty was trying to tell me. I think I felt it myself. Yeah, we're really....umm....into each other. Deep!......Oh shit, he's right. We both breathe for each other.

"Mmm....I wonder if I should take what he said a different way......He kept saying HE. Could he have meant me?!....Could it be me he was actually talking about? Could I be the one smothering him? Oh gee, clingy? Yeah, I do....at times. It depends on what we're doing and my mood at the time. I sure don't walk down the sidewalk, holding his arm in both hands. I don't grab his ass in the cafeteria! Hee, hee. People would think that's funny anyhow. Everyone knows about us now. We're out. We're out to everyone! Everyone seems cool with it. I've never heard any nasty comments. Well, I don't think everyone has accepted us....They don't actually come up to us and say how great it is. Not everyone has said they're actually supporting us....Yet...

"...Well everyone's heard about his presentation. Everyone knows he's keeping up with all the suicide stats. In fact, they go to him to clear up some argument or question. Even his counselor wanted a copy of his presentation! Mr.......Whozzits? Oh I can't remember his name! I call him the professor. Those round Coke bottle glasses make him look more like a geeky science teacher than a counselor!...

"Yeah, and he's even got an advice column in the school paper! They should give him a full page! He has to limit himself to only one letter a week. Well, he does try to find one that will appeal to the most students. I thought for sure he'd get all kinds of flack over that! Well, he's got the knack for making it a sort of student problems column than gay advice. Wow! He sure can write! He's got a way with words."

At this, he fell to his back and stared up at the track lighting. The four small flood lamps were slightly brighter than the red-orange they'd usually set them for.

"Oh shit!......Now I'm really wondering if that little talk of his was....was for me! Matty would never say anything bad about anyone. I wonder......Am I stifling him?..."

He turned his head back to Matt. His face looked peaceful. He'd even kept up with trimming his hair to his eyebrows so as not to hide his "cartoon eyes" from Tim. Tim gazed down at his chest. Matt had thrown one arm over his stomach and the other lie out on the floor. He carefully drew it back to his side. He shivered with a sudden chill and drew the bag up to their necks.

"Oh shit it gets cold down here quickly. I'll bet Matt set the thermostat back to sixty!"

He turned to his side again as he rubbed Matt's chest. Leaning forward he kissed his cheek, pausing for several seconds.

"Oh! My little....Angel! I think we gotta have a talk in the morning. I'd never want to hold him so tight that he'd walk away. He's right. We gotta be US, yet we gotta be Matt and Tim as well. We've never had trouble talking......Well, as soon as that shyness was over in a couple weeks. We can talk about anything! In fact, I think we both get very philosophical at times......I joke about his thinking all the time. Actually I like it. He was never one to go over the edge in anything. He'd never get on drugs. He doesn't even drink. He sure isn't any party animal! Hee, hee. Matt? He'd rather just keep away from parties. I do too. I'd much rather be right here....cuddling on the couch and watching a movie.

"...Mmm....I really could see us at a party though. Well, not one of those alcohol and drug things. Just a normal teen pizza 'n' soda party. I'm sure we'd even dance with each other. There would be others there too....like us....boys....a few girls. I'm positive there wouldn't be any trouble...

"Wow! I was soooo scared of starting school here. I think I'm getting a little better. At least it doesn't feel like I'm gonna puke or shit my pants every time I meet someone. In fact I talk to lots of kids! Well, they aren't really close friends but....friends none the less. Matty was right, the tutoring was helpful. I think lots of those kids are shy too. They're afraid to ask questions. They're afraid they'll look stupid. Maybe those last few classes helped some of the students. I kind of gave 'em a pep talk about questioning. I kinda told 'em that not asking questions was stupid."

He gently held Matt's head in his hands and lightly kissed his lips. Matt's mouth broke into a grin, yet Tim could tell he was still in a deep sleep. He lie over his chest and buried his face into his neck.

It was six o'clock in the morning as Matt's parents dropped off Tim's parents at their house. I had been agreed on that the Meadows would return after picking up their gifts and showering off "a layer of dirt and grease." Cynthia Meadows had joked where she'd ended up sleeping on a cot behind the meat cooler. The refrigeration units there threw off a considerable amount of heat. They had planned on visiting relatives but each had called it off for a week due to the unsettled weather. They all decided to err on the side of caution.

Ayumi dashed from her shower and went straight for the kitchen.

"...Oh my! You're finally home!"

"Oh, hi Mom......Yes....we're home....and I'm staying here for the next four days to just sleep! I'm afraid New Year's Eve will start bringing in all the drunks and accident victims."

Clara was already headed for the refrigerator.

"Mom! Pour a coffee and sit at the island."

"Now, Ayumi....I've never wished to cause trouble here but I truly wish to help out."

"Well, Cynthia got us all kinds of stuff at the supermarket. I need to make up sauces, salads and all those side items for the table. Just sit there and I'll bring everything to you! That'll save me time to get the main items done here."

Ayumi placed lettuce, cucumbers, celery and the like on the island. Clara pulled up a stool with her coffee mug. Her eyes were shining as she reached for a knife. Ayumi kissed her temple quickly as she went for the range.

"...You're an angel, Mom..."

"...Oh! How I enjoy all this....Why the boys wouldn't let me do hardly a thing for them! They even washed their dishes! They didn't leave a thing for me to do! In fact....they waited on me! I told them they'd understand when they got older, how much if a treat this is!"

"It is, Mom....It really is! I really enjoy this myself. I'm having the boys bring over all their friends for New Year's Eve. Well, I'll be working but Ken has the night off. And I already told him not to touch a thing! We kinda agreed it would be a nice thing to entertain the kids. You know....try to avoid all the drinking parties the kids go to today. I want to come back and....and clean up the mess! I don't care how tired I'll be. I'll sing and dance through the whole thing! I'll be on top of the world!"

She suddenly glanced at Clara.

"...Are they still sleeping?"

"I believe so. They told me to call them when you get home. I told them nonsense! They're on vacation and it's time they just rest up. We can call them up when everything's ready."

Clara glanced toward Ayumi with a slight smile.

"...I umm....came out here after waking up during the power failure.......... I....umm....kinda accidentally caught them in a well......compromising position..."

It was here a can of whipped cream struck the floor. It's red cap popped off and spun before the refrigerator. Ayumi went for the sink, her back to Clara. She gripped her temples.

"Oh my stars, Ayumi! It's not like they were nude! They were just kissing!"

Ayumi gripped the edge of the sink and hung her head.

"...You weren't supposed to know about that..."

"Oh! Honestly, Ayumi! My stars!......I may be an old lady, but I'm not that old!"

She turned on the stool and faced Ayumi. She shook her curved finger in the air.

"I think I've sort of know all along! Why, those boys have such a....a love for each other! You can see it!......Oh yes! It goes waaay beyond just being friends...

"Now don't you dare yell at the boys over this! Timmy was sooo scared that you were going to be angry with him over this! It was an accident. I walked in on them."

Ayumi slowly turned and went for the island. She sat before her mug of coffee. She rubbed her face and took a deep breath.

"...I....I caught them in the garage one day......Well, I saw them in the mirror of the car actually. I had a talk with him, Mom."

"...Did you yell at my sweet little boys?!"

"No, Mom....I didn't yell at either one of them. We had a little talk. Yes, I kind of saw this coming myself....The hugs, the cuddling up on the couch downstairs..."

Ayumi continued on for twenty minutes.

"...Yup. It was that night in the tent. The time Ken and I went to Korea....Tim told me all about it. You know how shy they both are. Well, Matt sort of came out to Tim......Well, he kissed him, okay?! And by the look on his face, it was no little peck!..."

She dabbed at her eyes with a paper towel.

"Oh! Mom!....The way Tim explained it all to me. They were both so happy!....I had all I could do not to cry! Timmy said they just held each other that night and just cried themselves to sleep. They were exhausted! I'm sure that's quite a....a thing to go through...

"Timmy begged me not to tell Ken. He....didn't want to have him thinking he raised a sissy. I told him his father was even more understanding than me! He always said those two boys were made for each other..."

Clara dabbed her eyes as well. She put on a sudden smile and pointed her curved finger toward Ayumi.

"...That's because he's another one of my boys!"

Ayumi let out a gasp as she held Clara's hand.

"I'm just sooo glad you understand these things!"

It was here they heard the bathroom door open. Ken would do this after his shower to allow the humidity out as he shaved.

"...I have something to tell you both....It's about my brother!...

"Kenny!"

"Five minutes, Mom....Just a quick shave here..."

"...Get you ass in here!....Now!"

"Oh, oh..."

Matt felt a rather sloppy, wet kiss on his cheek as he woke.

"Oh! Matty! How do you stay so warm all the time?!"

He cuddled closer to Matt.

"I catch a chill and I gotta pee!"

"Don't say that!......Oh, we gotta start bringing a....a coffee can down here with us!"

"Hee, hee."

"Not funny, Tim. I really hate it when we get interrupted by these....these biological necessities!"

Tim settled down on his side as he rubbed Matt's chest.

"...Umm....I was laying here last night thinking about what you said upstairs....You know, about the smothering and clinging?"

"...I'm....I'm doin' too much of it, right?..."

"No! Not that!....In fact....Oh gee!....I umm....I started thinking that maybe you were talking about....me. I know I get awful clingy at times..."

"No! Timmy, never! I didn't mean you. I was talking about me! I....I just can't stop holding you!....touching you! I was soooo hoping you weren't getting sick of it!"

"SICK?! Matty you're sick!....In fact you're a retard to think of such a thing! That was ....umm really stupid!"

He threw himself over Matt and hugged his neck as he pressed his mouth into his shoulder.

"...Smother me!....Cling to me!....Hug me!....Kiss me!....Touch me all over! I'll never get sick of it! Never get tired of it!"

Matt chuckled as he threw his arms around Tim. He hugged him tight and kissed his shoulder.

"...Oh Timmy! It's....it's just I never thought I could get any closer to you! Like I said, this past summer....it was all so new to us....So exciting! We had all those....those firsts together. I didn't think the feeling would go away....I just never thought it would get....well, deeper! And it is! The more we touch 'n' hug 'n' kiss....the more I want to!"

His eyes began to tear.

"Oh Timmy!....I just love you so much! I just....I'm goin' crazy here!"

He burst into sobs as he held Tim in a nearly painful embrace.

The Meadows entered the house a half hour later. Ken immediately drew Richard into the den to show him some hydraulic blueprint he knew he'd be interested in. Cynthia insisted on helping in the kitchen. Ayumi turned to her.

"...Now just sit there with your coffee. You're a guest. I'm not about to put you to work."

Cynthia spread out her arms.

"Ayumi....we're friends....And I want to do something in this beautiful kitchen! I still say this looks like something out of a science fiction movie! Please, I've gotta do something! Just show me where things are! I'll love it!"

The boys still gripped at each other with a single arm. Both wiped at their eyes with their free hands. Tears stained their cheeks.

"Oh shit, Matty....It's gotta be getting late. Our parents are going to be here any minute. We gotta get into the bathroom. I gotta PEE! And we gotta wash up some."

Matt nodded his head.

"...I'm just happy you understand, Timmy. I thought it was just me that felt all this....this closeness! Oh my God!....Timmy! I just love you so much!"

Again he broke into sobs.

"...Yeah, Babe....Yeah. I love you too....Oh you....you little ANGEL!"

Tim gave him a wet, sloppy kiss on the lips.

"...Oh! You little....darling!'

Matt suddenly pushed his head away, yet he was smiling.

"...You just called me darling!....That was the first time you've said that since......the first time you said it!"

Tim blushed slightly.

"...Well, that's always kinda embarrassed me. You'd tease me about that."

"I wasn't teasing you!....I loved it! Oh Timmy! This is just like the first time you said that in the tent that morning."

"Well, that's umm....still a little embarrassing for me."

"You gotta say that more!" Matt said, getting to his knees.

"I'll try....but no promises..."

"Oh yeah! A promise! You gotta promise!"

"I said I'll try."

"That's not good enough....I'll French your belly button!"

"Don't ever!"

Matt tore back the sleeping bag and dove for Tim's stomach.

"Baaaahhhh! STOP!....Oh Matty! I'll PEE!....I'll wet my pants!....Okay, okay. I promise! I promise!....STOP!"

The boys stepped into the bright kitchen. They gasped as Ayumi and Cynthia turned to look at them. It was here they felt the warm, humid atmosphere, the scent of ham in the air.

"...Well, the cellar dwellers have come back to life!" Ayumi put in cheerfully.

"Umm....sorry," Tim said, "We didn't know anyone was here yet! We never heard you."

Ayumi stepped closer to them, concern on her face.

"...Have....have you boys been crying?..."

They both looked at each other and blushed.

"...Umm....Yeah, Mom....But it wasn't anything bad exactly."

"Well, what seems to be the problem?..."

They stood there, shirtless in their sweats. Tim threw his arm over Matt's shoulders and drew him close.

"...We....we're just....happy that's all....Soooo happy!"

Matt in turn gave Tim a quick hug.

"Umm....yeah," Matt put in, "We really didn't really mind postponing Christmas..."

He looked seriously into Tim's eyes.

"...We....we've already got....EVERYTHING!"

He suddenly threw his arms around Tim's neck and burst into sobs again.

Tim pulled him from the room.

"...Come on Matty....Let's wash up..."

Ayumi took a quick sideways glance toward Cynthia. She was at the island, dabbing her eyes with a paper towel.

She quickly made her way to the sink and began clattering several mixing bowls and measuring cups.

"...Yeah," she began in a casual tone, "Ken's right....Those two boys were made for each other. Matthew was the....well, should I call him the 'missing link'?....Oh! Tim was such a....a recluse......Such a loner. Matt was the best thing for him....Cynthia?....We were really going to get Tim professional help!...

"I just love having Matt around....He's no problem at all!....Why they've got awards ....Tim's tutoring whole classes! They both got ribbons for their science projects! I never thought I'd see the day. Oh!....Tim used to be sooo difficult at times. Well, not a problem kid, just too quiet. We never knew what he was thinking....I'm just sooo happy the way things turned out for them!"

From the corner of her eye she saw Cynthia beside her. She wiped her nose with the paper towel.

"...Oh....Ayumi......I think you and Ken were the best thing for me! I think you both kept me out of a padded room!"

She held her hand out toward the room, at nothing in particular.

"...This....this whole business....I was so confused over it. Yes! I was living in a state of denial. I kept thinking it was just a phase that would pass."

She held out her hand toward the basement door.

"...This....this little....display here......It answered a lot of my questions.... doubts. I think I can finally accept things now. And I've really got to agree with Ken....They indeed were made for each other...

"That time we talked on the phone....Remember I said I always was interested in....fate!.... Probabilities?......That I believed things happen for a reason?......Oh! The chances of Matt and Tim never meeting were....were astronomical!....Yet it happened!"

She had a serious expression as she seemed to absentmindedly reach for a dish towel. She began to dry the items Ayumi had placed in the rack.

"...Yeah. This whole business....I guess I was brought up to believe it was well....wrong!

"...I might as well tell you....I went to lots of those PFLAG meetings with other parents I'd met at that GSA meeting. It's quite a drive. This little town just doesn't have things like that. It was at a community college. People talked to me....answered my questions. I felt lots better."

"...Especially when they told you that it was nothing you did!" Ayumi put in with a smile.

"Yeah!....Oh why am I so surprised?....You're a doctor! You must see lots of this sort of thing!"

She closed her eyes tightly.

"Oh!....Those horrible....horrible photos that Matthew had at that meeting! Those poor kids! Oh! I think I had nightmares for a week after that."

Ayumi reached out and touched the back of Cynthia's hand.

"...Umm....I think I may be responsible for some of that...

"Matt asked me if I thought it was appropriate to show them. I told him to go for it!...

"Cynthia......You saw the photos......I saw the real kids! Back in California....I saw the purple rope marks on the necks....the slashed wrists.... beeping machines reporting the amount of poison in blood....I....I even saw parents who were actually happy their gay kid was dead!"

Cynthia again closed her eyes tightly.

Matt and Tim came from the bathroom, heading into Tim's room.

"...I'm not lying Matty! I feel a wet spot on my sweats! I think I did pee a little squirt! Don't ever tickle me like that again!"

"...Hee, hee....I quit as soon as I got a promise."

"...Well that shouldn't be legal......I promised under duress!"

They entered the room and shut the door.

"Richard and I even considered keeping them apart. I just knew that wasn't the answer. And all the others told me so as well...

"Jack....Jack Shelby....He works with Richard. He kept his boy away from his...... partner."

Ayumi nodded her head.

"...Scooter and Toby..."

"Yes, I believe that's them."

"Well, Cynthia......I caught Matt and Tim trying to help them out. Oh! When they told me how they thought he might try......something stupid....Oh! I nearly had a panic attack! We're trained in identifying any child abuse cases. I went to the school. To Principal Emerson. We heard all kinds of things about Jack and how poor little Jerry....Scooter, was having to account for every single minute of his time! Parents think they're doing the right thing....but I've seen too many times where it....well....backfires!"

Cynthia simply nodded her head.

"...Yes!....Yes!....I finally got Richard to go with me one night....to the PFLAG?....I seriously think he felt lots better knowing it wasn't something he....we did!"

She reached for a large measuring cup and began drying it.

"...Oh!....Ayumi!....All those horrible pictures of Mathew's! They all came back to mind! I think I was only a step away from getting professional help myself! All the nightmares started again. I just felt so....so lost!...

"Then you and Ken took us out that one night to celebrate the boys awards. You talked to me....Ken talked to Richard."

She managed a weak smile here.

"...I really think the both of you would have been better off in the psychology field. You really helped us. I never really did thank you for that!..."

"...Yes you have!....In lots of ways!"

She opened the drain in the sink and dried her hands. She poured two more cups of coffee.

"...Come over here to the breakfast nook. I want to tell you how I found out..."

They sat across from each other.

"...First of all......Ken and I consider ourselves....well, not too permissive but we think of ourselves as progressive.

"...Oh Cynthia....those photos scared me as well. I was sooo scared you might want the boys separated. I knew that would only complicate things...

"One night....just as Matt was about to leave..."

She pointed to the island.

"...Well, he'd forgot his notebook on the island here. I grabbed it and ran for the garage. Before I even got to the door, I saw the boys reflection in the car mirror...

"Now....as I said....I didn't confront Tim right away that night. I waited 'til morning. I don't think I slept a wink. I spent the whole night on the Internet...

"I told Tim the next morning that I wanted to talk to him. Well, I guess he got a bit scared. He said I was using my Mom voice and wanted to know what he did wrong! I told him right there that he didn't do anything wrong and that he wasn't in any trouble......I believe I told you most of this on the phone."

She continued on for several minutes.

"...Well now I guess I told you about Tim not wanting to be gay. He wanted sooo bad to take some kind of....of medicine to make him normal again..."

Cynthia nodded her head in agreement.

"Yeah....Yeah, Matthew said the same thing to me."

"Well, I told him he was normal....Just different..."

Ayumi sighed as she combed her fingers through her hair.

"...Well, I never really told you about our little talk......I mean it was only something like ten or fifteen minutes actually! And I soooo wish I could remember that verbatim...

"Remember that first week of vacation last summer where the boys sorta camped out in the tent in the back yard here?"

"How can I forget?!....That's all Matthew talked about!"

"...Yes....Well that's when it all happened...

"I guess that's where they sort of....well, came out to each other......You know how shy they both are. I guess Matt was awake most the night just thinking about things. Looking back, I can see he was under an awful lot of pressure...

"...Well, after all was....said and done....I guess they were both really exhausted. Oh Cynthia!......The way Tim explained it all to me. I guess they just held each other, sobbing! They literally cried themselves back to sleep! Oh dear!....I was so close to nearly breaking down myself. As I say, I so wish I could remember Tim's exact words....He just gave this big smile and said how happy he was! I've never seen him smile like that!

"Being the quiet kind of boys......they went through an awful lot....And they went through it all alone! I just felt so bad for that. But....I guess as hard as we try to be there for them, we don't consider something like....this!"

Cynthia gripped her mug in both hands as she nodded. She wiped a tear from her eye.

"...Yup!......I'd never have figured this....this would ever happen!"

"...Well....umm....We've been trying to keep this from Mom. We figured she was just too old and set in her ways...

"Oh dear!....She thinks the world of those boys! She thinks the sun rises and sets on them! She's just always fussing over them. I thought it would break her heart.

"...Well, she had a talk with me an Ken this morning......And I'll say it!......She shocked the shit out of both of us!...

"Her brother was gay!..."

"...She knows about the boys?!"

"Oh yes! And she figured it out all on her own."

After Ayumi's story had just completed, Ken and Richard came from the den.

"Come on boys!" Ken yelled out, "Gather around the Christmas tree! Time to open gifts!"

They came shyly out of the room. Both wore jeans and pullover shirts with simply socks on their feet. They gathered around the four foot tree in the living room. Presents were passed out. None were excessively expensive but were truly from the heart. Matt gushed over a photo program Tim had got him.

"...Oh Timmy! Where did you find this?! I've been looking all over for this!"

"...I know....I got it online. I was getting scared it wouldn't be here in time. It just came last week!"

"...We gotta put this on your computer! I just gotta try this out!"

Minutes later the boys sat on the floor and handed Clara a gift each.

"Ohhhh! My boys got me gifts!"

She opened Tim's gift to find a large transistor radio.

"...I almost gave you that during the power failure. I know how you like to listen to your news and weather...

"And look Gram....These headsets plug in right here if you want to listen late at night. You're always worried that the TV is too loud for everyone else. You can put these on and really crank it up!"

"...Oh! I'd feel silly wearing those things!"

"No Gram....Here. Try 'em. Now crank up the volume so you can hear good!"

"...Oh yes!....Excellent sound! Oh yes indeed!"

She opened a gift from Matt to find a small electric blanket.

"...Gram....I know this cold weather is bothering your legs. You can throw this over your legs and just plug it in here."

Within minutes she ran her hand over the blanket on her lap.

"...Oh yes indeed! This is so nice and warm!"

She seemed to be looking around for something and glanced down beside her rocker. She lifted up a flat, rectangular gift, wrapped in gold foil paper.

"...Oh!....Oh!....And here's another gift from my boys!"

Both Matt and Tim looked at each other. They sat on the floor before the couch. Both assumed it was something their parents had bought her, putting their names on it.

She studied the label.

"...From Matt and Tim....With all our love!......Well now, isn't that sweet?!"

She opened it up, revealing the back of a picture frame. She seemed to be studying the photo facing her.

"Oh my stars!....My little ANGELS!....Oh, you shouldn't have!....This is going right on my nightstand beside my bed!"

She turned it around, revealing the photo she took of Matt and Tim kissing.

"OH, GRAM!" they both shouted in unison, falling back with their heads against the front of the couch.

"...Gram!" Matt shouted, "...That is soooo embarrassing!"

"Yes it is Gram," Tim put in, "Will you put that up?!"

She simply smiled as the others blushed with shy grins.

Within minutes the adults made their way into the kitchen. Ken and Richard were there to help as well. Richard and Cynthia watched the boys as they waited on Clara with tea. They sat on the floor before her as she spoke. Ayumi and Ken knew it to be another one of her stories of "old fashioned" Christmastimes on the farm.

Minutes later Clara spoke up with a rather loud voice.

"...Now this is enough!....You boys help with setting the table or something. I keep telling you I feel like an old lady when you wait on me like this!"

"You are an old lady, Gram," Tim said with a smile.

"And I tell you I'm a young lady of seventy!"

The boys entered the kitchen. Ayumi turned to them.

"Well I guess you two could start with setting the dining room table. You both know where everything is...

"...And I just thought of something....This is the first time we've used the dining room for.... dining!"

After the table had been set, both boys stood before the island. They leaned over the counter top and played with the lazy Susan. Soon everyone seemed to be looking at them with strange smiles. They both realized a presence behind them. Turning, they saw Clara holding a sprig of mistletoe over their heads.

"Oh GRAM!" they both yelled.

"...Now come on! We've got to keep some traditions going!"

"Oh Gram, no!" Tim put in.

"I won't hear if it!....Now come on!"

Tim shyly kissed Matt's cheek quickly.

"Now I know you can do better than that!"

Matt gave a silly giggle as he held Tim's head and kissed his lips, holding it for a second.

"Matty!"

"Now that's better!" Clara put in, "And if anyone gives MY BOYS a hard time....They better call a doctor!....Because it'll take a doctor to get my foot outta their ass!"

Everyone broke out in stifled chuckles. Cynthia turned her back to the others, her face blushing. She covered her smile with her hand, yet her body shook with silent laughter.

"Oh my stars!....I feel like a little girl again!" Clara yelled.

Matt placed his hands on Tim's shoulders. He pressed his face beside Tim's. They both looked out at the others.

"...Oh wow!" Matt said, "...This is the best Christmas I've EVER HAD!"

THE END

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