Kaiser's Pack - Next Gen

by Bensiamin

Chapter 12

The rest of the week moved by at a rather quick pace. Nate was keeping up with his homework and staying on top of his assignments, but his focus was on building strength and improving his use of the walker… and getting in and out of the Cherokee!

Tennis practice on Wednesday's had limited Jerrod and Roger's ability to attend GSA, but Matt went on his own during their practice. For Roger and Jerrod, it seemed like the week went by and suddenly it was Friday's tennis tournament. It was held at their school and against another Portland school, but they prevailed overall with Jerrod winning his singles match and both Roger and his partner as well as Eric and Kim winning their doubles matches. It was starting to feel like a winning tennis season for the team.

On the drive home after the tournament Jerrod looked at Matt in the rearview mirror and said, "Thanks for staying and being our cheering section."

"Hey, it was fun, and you guys all played really well today."

"Yeah, we came through. So, Matt, are you seeing Jessica tonight?"

He nodded. "Yep, we're going to a movie. Why? Do you guys want to make it a double date?"

Jerrod grinned and glanced at Roger. "Nope, I'm staying at his house tonight and we have plans for wild sex. That's way better than any movie playing in town."

"Too much info, man!"

"Hey, you asked. Here's the question, though. David and Jackson are having a kind of casual dinner party tomorrow night, and asked us to ask you if you and Jessica would like to join us?"


"Yeah, really. It'll be them and us, and Will and Sam plus Eric and Kim. Susan, Eric's sister is doing a sleep over at some friend's place. So, will you ask Jessica? She said she wanted to meet David and Jackson, and here's the opportunity. Plus, she likes Sam and knows Eric and Kim, so there's a natural fit."

"And," added Roger, "she gets to finally meet Kaiser."

"That all makes sense. Yeah, I'll ask. But you've got to tell me what a dinner party means?"

Jerrod laughed. "It means you dress kind of nice and show up on time. We all have some drinks and talk, and then eat dinner together. David and Jackson are good cooks, so it will be good conversation and good food. It'll be fun. Trust me."

He reached into the back seat holding a business card. "We know you've only taken Jessica out once before, so David said to give this to her for her dad. It's David's business card from Lewis & Clark, with the house and his mobile phone numbers on the back. Maybe you could ask Jessica and him at the same time tonight, give her dad the card and suggest he call David so he's comfortable with all this. Make sense?"

"Wow. David's thorough, isn't he?"

"Yeah, he's done this stuff once or twice."

"How are you and Jessica getting to the movie tonight?" Roger asked.

"Mom's letting me drive her car, you know, the station wagon. Very romantic, right?

"It'll have to do, but you do know this is another point about getting your own car."

Jerrod added, "If your mom doesn't want to let you drive the wagon tomorrow night, let us know. We'll pick you guys up."

After they'd walked Kaiser, Jerrod fed him and packed some stuff in his pack. Jackson wasn't home yet, but when they said goodbye to David, Jerrod told him they'd probably do the reverse of last Saturday, do the yard work at Roger's together, then come back home and do it before taking Kaiser for his walk. "That means we'll have time to clean up after the walk and help you gents prepare dinner. What's on the menu."

David smiled and said, "Jackson and I talked about it this morning. We're thinking grilled spatchcocked chicken with roasted carrots and garlic mashed potatoes. What do you think?"

Jerrod wiggled his eyebrows. "Yum, yum. Figure out what you want us to do, okay?"

Roger's mom had planned a pleasant dinner and the conversation was upbeat. Much of it was about the tennis team, Roger's increasing proficiency and growing number of wins. "I told him he had the talent," Jerrod said, "he just had to focus and develop it." Roger's dad made it clear he was pleased and impressed.

They talked about Matt now almost certainly attending PSU on a football scholarship, and that he was out on his second date with a senior from another high school who would also be attending. The boys helped clean up and wash dishes, and Roger's mom planned on watching Casablanca on NBC's Friday Night At The Movies. It turned out neither had seen it, and she extolled the acting by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. They expected to watch some of the movie, then head down to Roger's room. It turned out, however, that they were captivated and watched the whole thing.

When they slipped into bed and each other's arms, they were talking about how As Time Goes By was the kind of song Dr. Yanowitz's band would play, then about unrequited love, and then about their love… and then they turned their attention to each other.

Roger was nuzzling Jerrod's ear, then pushed his tongue into it as he stroked the top of his boyfriend's cock. "I think I remember hearing something about how you were going to do wild sex with me tonight."

Saturday was warm and dry, so the mowing went fast at both houses, and they were back from walking Kaiser by four o'clock. They fed him and then showered and joined David in the kitchen. He grinned at them. "Are you ready to go to work?"

They both nodded back, and he said, "Jerrod, why don't you get out your knife set and hone them, then find that pair of kitchen shears and I'll show you how to spatchcock chickens. Roger, would you wash and tear lettuce and the baby spinach leaves and get them ready for the salad."

Jerrod had heard about spatchcocking, but this was his first time to do it. David showed him how to slit the breast on the two chickens down to the breastbone, and then cut the bone in half so the bird laid flat. He then discovered how effective good kitchen shears are as he cut the backbone out of each bird, leaving four chicken halves.

Roger had finished the salad greens and was watching and asked what the benefits were. "Whole birds take longer to roast, there's that air cavity in the middle, and the bigger the bird the more likely that you'll over cook the breast by the time the dark meat is done. This way, with the half pieces lying flat, they're pretty much a uniform thickness. Our guests are due about six thirty, and these birds will take about an hour and a half on the grill. The target will be to eat about seven fifteen, so about five thirty we'll rub them with olive oil, then sprinkle them with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Herbs de Provence. We'll have the grill really hot when they go on, then turn it down so the temperature slowly drops to around 300 degrees and let them go."

"How'd you learn to do that?"

"I read about it when Jackson and I moved in here twenty years ago and we got our first really good grill. I went on a search for tasty sounding and efficient grill recipes."

"Meaning," Roger said, "you don't have to do anything with them while they're in the grill and you can spend time sipping drinks with the guests."

"Correct! Now if you will cut those yellow potatoes into say, two-inch pieces, we'll get them boiled and prepped for mash, and I'll get Jerrod to peel those different colored carrots and we'll prepare them to roast in the oven with maple syrup and rosemary. So, as you can see, we'll have the major dinner dishes prepared and ready to slip in the oven at the right time, so as to make for a smooth dinner party."

Jackson came in a few minutes later carrying two brown paper bags from the liquor store. "A good single malt Scotch, a great locally distilled Gin made with wild juniper berries that will make killer gin and tonics, a Polish Vodka, and another bottle of great Oregon Pinot Gris," he announced. "We now have a restocked bar."

"You're our bartender tonight, and Roger has already prepped the salad greens. How about you two decide what else goes in it and you can show him how to make your Caesar Dressing, and Jerrod and I will put some hors d'oeuvres together?"

The Summers with Eric and Kim arrived about the same time as Matt and Jessica. Sam introduced them to her husband Will, and Jerrod and Roger greeted them at the front door and brought them inside. After the initial greetings, Will and Sam headed for the kitchen and Jessica said, "Can we see the house? There aren't many around here with a roof like this one that makes it look like a Hobbit house."

They were shown through, with Eric and Kim trailing along. When they got to Jerrod's room, which was neat and clean, Eric said, "This is where dad lived when he went to Lewis & Clark."

Jessica looked at him with surprise on her face. "Really? I knew they'd been friends since high school, but they're really close, aren't they?" Eric grinned and said, "Yeah, mom lived here, too for one summer before they got their own apartment. I'm still trying to figure out if I was conceived in this room or the apartment." He cracked up and they all laughed with him.

Kaiser had said hello to Will and Sam in the kitchen, and wandered in to greet the guests, and was introduced to Jessica. He had her read as a dog person right away, and she ended on her knees with him licking her chin as she stroked behind his ears. "I guess he sleeps in here with you, 'cause you've got a dog bed next to your desk."

"Yeah. There's a dog bed in the kitchen, too, so he can choose. He always sleeps in here through. It's pretty cool. Come on, we'll introduce you to David and Jackson."

When they walked into the kitchen, all four adults were sitting around the kitchen table chatting away and sipping drinks. Jerrod eyed them and said, "Apparently the bar is now open?" They all laughed and raised their glasses. David looked at them and said, "When I spoke to Jessica's dad earlier, I got permission for Jessica to have no more than two glasses of wine, but that's not being poured until Jackson and I are properly introduced." Matt did the honors and then at Jackson's suggestion they moved to the deck to catch the last half hour of warmth before the evening chill settled in.

The dinner itself went off as planned, Jerrod was able to demonstrate his carving skills with his chef's knives, and the conversation over dinner was animated and warm. Matt and Jessica were as much a part of the conversation as were the four boys, and it was apparent to all the adults that the new couple was getting on well together.

As they finished eating dinner, Sam tapped her wine glass with a knife to get everyone's attention, and then said, "I've got news!" Everyone quieted down and she looked at Matt. "I heard from the PSU coach late yesterday, but decided to hold it, knowing I'd see you tonight. You've got the half tuition scholarship and been accepted at PSU."

Matt momentarily acted like he couldn't believe it, but then broke out in a huge grin. Jessica leaned over and hugged him, kissing him on the cheek, while the boys broke out in a wild 'Hurrah.'

"Thanks, Coach Sam, you know how important this is to me. I still can't believe you pulled this off... that you did all this for me."

She smiled at him and then looked around at everyone gathered at the table. "There's a reason for it, and I want you all to be sure you understand this." She looked at the boys and added, "Some of this you know, some you don't, but this is important. It's what happens in this house, with these people. When Will and I met we were going through really hard times, but two people accepted us and did everything they could to heal us and make us whole. And when we got together, they then did everything they could to make the relationship healthy and prosperous. Will and I are only here tonight, and by extension that also means most of the rest of you, because of this place and those two people and the work they do. So, once one understands and appreciates something like that happening in your life, the rest is easy. We give back as we have received."

She stood up. "Now, I want to propose a toast to David and Jackson, about whom I can say with absolute certainty, they have not only made our lives better, and are making the lives of all of you better, too, because they are the best friends a person can have." She looked at Eric and Kim, and Jerrod and Roger, and then Matt and Jessica in turn and said to each couple, "Am I right?" Each affirmed the truth she'd stated, and then she said, "And now, the toast!"

Everyone stood up and made the toast, leaving David and Jackson sitting and looking a little embarrassed. Sam said softly, "Thank you both, for everything." Will had stepped behind them and wrapped an arm around their shoulders and pulled them into a hug and said, "it's hard to embarrass these two, but I'm purposefully going to. I just want to add something to what Sam said about making our lives better. We at this table are lucky that we have immediate families that are healthy and happy. We are extremely fortunate that we are part of an extended family that loves and supports and cares for one another. And these two are the center of gravity in that extended family." He hugged them again, and with a smile said, "Okay, embarrassment time is over," and sat back down next to Sam.

It took David a few seconds, but after looking at Jackson and smiling deeply, he said, "We thank you for the kind words. All I can say is that it's a two-way street. In a healthy family, everyone gives, and everyone benefits. Now, I believe it would be in order for those of you under the age of twenty-one to clear the table and give us old timers some space to digest our dinner."

Over dessert the conversation turned to the upcoming beach trip and planning what to take to Gearhart for the weekend. Both families had a large camping cooler, and they agreed to bring the main ingredients, eggs and bacon for breakfast, sliced meats and cheese for lunch, and the entrees and other courses for dinner. Jessica was following closely, impressed that so much planning was going into the weekend about which they all were so enthused.

Finally, David turned to her and said, "You'll have to excuse us tying up the conversation with plans for next weekend. With all our collective schedules, it's a miracle if we can all get together for one weekend a year any more. In the good old days, we'd go camping together or whatever, three or four weekends a year, but it's harder now."

Jessica smiled, and replied, "Don't worry about that. I'm impressed, not just that you're pulling it off, but that you're all so enthused about it. My mom and dad were both single children, so there's no uncles and aunts and cousins, so this is cool to hear about."

Jackson grinned, "And you haven't even met Matt's brother yet, or Jerrod and Roger's friend Michael who's coming down from Pendleton. It promises to be quite a crew."

Sam had been watching Matt, and as the conversation quieted, she looked at him and said, "So, Matt, now that you're dating Jessica, you're not getting second thoughts about going to the beach next weekend and leaving your lady here in town alone, are you?"

Matt gulped, and it was obvious what he'd been thinking. "Well, it's crossed my mind, but I promised Nate we'd go to the beach, and we're all on the team to make sure he doesn't do something dumb and hurt himself while he's recovering, so you know…"

Sam looked directly at Jessica, to get a read. Then she said, "What plans to you have for the long weekend, since Matt is already starting to act like he's going to be in withdrawal?"

Jessica grinned and Matt blushed, and then she said, "Nothing really. Dad's off from school too, but my parents don't have any plans. My mom has a big garden, and it sounds like she intends for dad to help her get the spring weeding and flower bed preparation done. There's certainly no plans like you have."

Sam smiled at her. "Then why don't you come along? The house Will and I have rented has three bedrooms, and it's about a hundred yards away from the one these guys will be staying in. I'm driving down on Friday night after the teacher certification classes, but you could drive down with Will and the kids on Thursday evening."

Jessica paused, then said, "You're serious? Really?"

"Certainly am. Will and I already talked about it, as a kind of hypothetical thing, and it would actually help us out so that Susan doesn't end up being the only girl and feeling like the odd one out. What do you think? Would your parents agree?"

Jessica looked around at everyone and received nothing but smiles and encouragement. When she looked at Matt the expression on his face was something akin to a puppy begging for a treat.

"I'd love it. I'll have to ask my parents, though."

Sam replied, "How about if I call them in the morning, and then David can do so afterwards, so they're convinced this isn't a plot to kidnap eight teenagers and sell them in Mexico!"

Sam and David did just that, and David invited Jessica's parents to drop by that evening to feel comfortable everything was on the up and up.

After the dog therapy session at Doernbecher the next day, the boys and Kaiser drove to Matt and Nate's house to check in. Nate had a new enthusiasm based on having the cast off, the positive support from his physical therapist and the goal of the weekend at the beach with Michael.

"You know we're all sworn to make sure you don't do anything dumb and hurt yourself, right?" Jerrod asked.

Nate grinned slyly and nodded. "Yeah, Matt keeps reminding me. But I can already feel myself getting stronger and it's so much easier using the walker without the cast. I can manage getting in and out of the bathroom by myself, but the big news of the week is that I don't need help wiping my butt anymore!" He giggled and Matt kind of grinned, and they all realized that humor aside it was a milestone. "I guess I can put up with it for a couple of weeks before I move to the crutches. I don't see how it'll work on the beach though."

Roger said, with a sly smile on his face, "So, Nate. Now that the cast is off, and the obstacle is off, we're guessing you're happily jacking off again?"

Nate grinned, just the slightest hint of a blush on his face. "You've got that right!"

Roger continued, "So that must mean the phone sex with Michael has gotten better, too, right?"

Nate was not going to be embarrassed by this line of questioning, and simply said, "I know you know I don't have to answer that question." Then he started giggling.

"That good, eh?" Jerrod said. "Good for you. Now, back to more serious matters like the crutches. I think you and Matt should work a little bit on the crutches, and double check on that when we go to PT on Wednesday. Not that it's replacing the walker right away, but just starting to transition, especially because the walker won't work in sand."

That evening, Jessica's parents came by after dinner, while Jerrod was doing his homework. He'd called home earlier and updated his parents on the past week, and how the long weekend at the beach was expanding into a real gathering. His mom thought it sounded like great fun and was pleased to hear that Matt had met a girl who might become his girlfriend. "I was worried there were too many boys, you know, Jerrod. Even if most of you are gay, having at least one girl your age in the mix is healthy, don't you think?"

Jerrod told her he agreed, realizing that he actually did, and his mom went on to describe their plans for high school graduation, namely, to take advantage of the event and spend two or three days in Portland with what had now become an extended family. She explained that Julius was out for the evening at a legal association meeting, but then said, "your dad is trying to do something special for you for your graduation. It involves some travel, so I hope you'll be open and try to make it happen. That's all I can say about it."

He was both struck by, and pleased with, the mystery in that statement, and assured his mom that he would. He was doing his homework a bit later when he heard company arrive that he assumed to be Jessica's parents. Jackson leaned in the door fifteen minutes later and confirmed it was them and invited him to join them at a convenient time. He walked down ten minutes later to be introduced and explained that he'd had to finish a chapter in his history reading assignment. Kaiser was right behind him.

Jessica's mom was charmed by Jerrod and Kaiser. She was quite elated to meet two of the members of Team Kaiser that she had already heard about from her daughter. She was also pleased to learn that they would be doing therapy work at multiple hospitals during the summer, because she was a member of the volunteer foundation at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital. Jessica's parents left feeling quite comfortable with her new friends and gave every impression of approving the plans for the weekend.

Wednesday's PT session was an extension of the prior week's, and Todd made sure they left with not just the name of two local physical therapists, but an updated print out of the therapy work Matt would be doing with Nate each day.

"Your new PT may change a few things, but almost all of this is pretty standard stuff, so I'm betting he or she will just build on it as you get stronger and develop more range of motion" Matt brought up the subject of beginning to use the crutches, and Todd agreed it was a good idea since they would be at the beach for three days. He looked at Nate and said, "You've got to promise me you'll use the walker all the time when you're not on the beach, though. Practice a little and use the crutches on the beach, okay? But you're so close to a full recovery, you can't afford to screw this up."

Jackson had taken Thursday afternoon and Friday off, and David was able to get home early on Thursday, to finish the packing and loading of the vehicles. After school, Jerrod dropped Roger and then Matt off at home and headed down to the railroad station to pick up Michael and his mom, who arrived on time at four thirty. They were waiting at the curb when Jerrod pulled in, and he hopped out and greeted them both with a warm hug, and then it was back to the house to introduce them to David and Jackson.

Michael's mom was quite taken with what she referred to as 'such a charming house,' and David gave her the tour and the history of their ownership. She called the schoolteacher friend with whom she was staying the weekend, and then David offered her a glass of wine and they all sat on the back porch and chatted till her ride arrived. Before they left, they worked out the details to reconnect on Sunday afternoon to catch the five o'clock train back to Pendleton. As soon as he was alone with them, Michael broke out into a huge grin. "It's so great to be back here with you guys. You have no idea how much I've been waiting for this."

Jackson grinned back, "Oh, I bet we can! It's good to have you back with us." He stepped forward and clasped Michael in a huge swinging bear hug, which David did also. "We've got to finish packing now, but you'll have all weekend to give us the details of your recent life, romantic and otherwise!" He wiggled his eyebrows and Michael did so back.

Jackson continued, "Okay, here's the deal. You, Roger and Nate, along with Kaiser, are riding down in the Cherokee with Jerrod. We're going to be a convoy. Matt will ride with David and me, and since we won't have Kaiser, we can carry more gear in the rear of the Durango. Will is picking up Jessica, and they're driving down with Eric, Kim and Susan. Sam will drive her car tomorrow when the teacher certification program is over." He grinned. "We'll end up with four vehicles, but it'll be a crowded ride down for them in Will's minivan tonight."

He pointed to some boxes, the large cooler and a couple of smaller ones and said, "Let's get this stuff loaded. Maybe a small cooler and a couple of boxes in the Cherokee, the rest in the Durango. That should leave plenty of room for Kaiser and enough space for your duffle bags or whatever your personal gear is in."

Twenty minutes later they were done, did a final check to confirm they had everything, and drove together to pick up Roger, and then to Matt and Nate's house. Jackson and Jerrod walked up to the front door, to discover that Matt and Nate were packed and ready to go. Their Mom was pretty cool, but excited. "I've been having to throw cold water on them for almost an hour now. You'd think it was the end of the world or something. Now, listen, you two. Good behavior from start to finish, agreed? And, Nathaniel, you go slow. I don't want to hear you injured yourself acting like a child, and that includes walking slowly down the sidewalk to Jerrod's car to say hello to Michael. Got it?"

He nodded, smiled, but also rolled his eyes, and the boys headed to the cars while Jerrod said goodbye to Laurie. "Thanks for letting them go with us."

"There was no choice, and you know it. It will be nice, though, to have a quiet long weekend for a change! Hopefully, everyone has a good time."

When Jackson got back to the curb, he could see Michael and Nate hugging in the back seat. He tapped on the curb-side passenger side window, and a few seconds later Nate rolled it down, looking surprised.

Jackson smiled at them and said, "Listen, you two, just keep it legal on the drive, okay?" He glanced at Jerrod, "We're doing a convoy, which means stay together, no speeding, no tickets. Got it?"

Jerrod nodded and grinned, and Jackson turned to Matt, putting his arm around his shoulders, and said, "Come with me. You can ride with the adults and leave all the silliness back here in the Cherokee." Matt grinned back in response and hopped in the back of the Durango. It was six thirty as they pulled away. Jackson said, 'It's usually an hour and a half straight out Highway 26 to Gearhart, but we'll have the end of rush hour traffic till we get past Hillsboro. We won't be the only ones with this idea for the weekend."

The traffic wasn't that bad, but they stopped at a fast food restaurant in Forest Grove, and it was approaching eight thirty when they pulled into Gearhart. The sun was just setting, so they had half an hour of light to find the house, unload the vehicles and get settled. The house had three bedrooms, and a double-wide sofa sleeper in the living room. The agreed-on plan was that Matt would use the sofa sleeper, and the three couples would take the bedrooms. As they settled in, David put his arm around Matt's shoulder and walked him out to the front porch where they could see the last of the sunset disappearing to the west. "So, you're good with the pull out couch? Dieter said it was very comfortable."

"Yeah, no worries. I can handle that. At least we'll get some sleep this way. From the looks of it, if Nate and Michael were on the couch, we'd be hearing it all over the house all night long and no one would get to sleep."

David laughed, and as Jackson joined them, he said, "I think you, or maybe you and Jerrod, should go have a talk with Nate and Michael. Specifically, to make sure Michael is painfully aware that Nate only had his cast removed two weeks ago. He's using the walker, which is good, but he looks like he's trying to impress Michael, like he's not still a patient or something. We're all on the team to make sure Nate doesn't do something dumb. We've also got to make sure Michael doesn't inadvertently do something dumb, too."

Matt nodded and stood up, and then Jackson handed him his mobile phone and said, "And when you're done with that, call Will. He's in my contacts and ask for Jessica. I know you're dying to connect."

Matt suddenly looked like it was Christmas as he took the phone and pulled Jackson in for a hug.

He was back in ten minutes, with Jerrod and Roger, and said, "We read them the riot act. They understand."

"Actually, it's kind of funny," Jerrod added, "it's like Michael understands more that Nate. Meaning he was a patient not that long ago, and has had to play vet with cattle, and he's got the picture. He was telling Nate what they could and couldn't do! It was too funny."

"Really? I guess I shouldn't be surprised," Jackson said.

"We also told them," Roger said with a sly look, "that they have to keep the sex soft and gentle. As in Nate's pelvis and hips can't take any pounding."

"What?" David said.

Matt was laughing. "It was too funny. They both turned white, but it was a good message to deliver. Who knows what those two horny toads will get up to."

"Have you called Jessica yet?"

"No, that's next," Matt said, as he sat down on the porch steps. Jerrod and Roger sat down on the chairs next to David and Jackson.

"Pretty amazing view, isn't it?"

"For sure," Jerrod replied. "The ocean, the beach, the sunset, wow!"

"As you visit more places on the Oregon coast, you'll find that Gearhart is one of the few places with a huge expanse of open beach. There's lots of places with little beaches in coves, quite a few with large beaches in bays, but when you walk down to the waterline here, and look north and south, you can see a long way in both directions."

Kaiser had wandered among all of them, then sat down on the step next to Matt, who put his arm around the dog's shoulders.

"I think Kaiser wants to walk on the beach," Jerrod observed.

"Maybe you should all walk up the beach to meet Jessica and Susan and Eric and Kim," Jackson said. "Somehow I think that's going to be the result of this phone call."

Sure enough, when Matt hung up and stood up on the step, he turned and said, "Who wants to go for a walk on the beach?"

"Don't tell me we're going to meet Jessica?

Matt grinned at Jerrod. "Well, yeah. What else would we be doing? Come on. Kaiser wants to walk on the beach. They're already heading down here, meaning Jessica and Susan with Eric and Kim. We can meet up halfway and watch it get dark."

"You guys all go enjoy. It's our first night here, though, and it's almost ten o'clock. Everyone home by eleven tonight, alright? We don't need anyone getting lost the first night. Yes, I know the other house is only a hundred yards up the beach, but it'll be dark soon. Make sure you have a flashlight with you, and Matt, you keep my mobile phone. Jackson's number is in the contacts. Jerrod, I assume you have yours. Jackson and I are going to have another glass of wine and watch the last of the evening light from right here, and we'll occupy Nate and Michael if they show their faces."

It was half an hour later, and almost dark. David and Jackson were on their second glass of wine, when Michael and Nate wandered out onto the front porch.

Jackson waved them into two chairs, and noticed that Michael made sure Nate sat down properly, then moved the walker off to the side of the chair.

"So, have you guys gotten fully reacquainted now?"

Nate just grinned. "Sure have. This is way better than phone sex!"

"Is it now?" Jackson grinned back. "I shouldn't be surprised. We're both just happy you get to spend some time together. Phone calls only go so far, don't they? And presumably the making out was as good as you'd both hoped."

Michael nodded and took Nate's hand, and said, "Yeah. It's been kind of lonely in Pendleton. I had a couple of dates… I guess you'd call them dates, with Stew, but it didn't go anywhere. So besides going to GSA, the only romance in my life has been Nate on the phone. And…" he glanced at Nate, and then back at the two adults, "the wait was totally worth every minute!"

"That's very cool," David said to him softly. "Our goal this weekend is simple: everyone gets some rest and rehab. For you two, it's getting reacquainted, for Matt and Jessica, it's the opportunity to get closer, if that's in the cards. For Jerrod and Roger, as for Eric and Kim, it's just time to chill and enjoy each other in a relaxed setting."

"And for you guys," Michael asked, "and for Will and Sam?"

David smiled in response to his sensibilities. "About the same thing. The opportunity to chill out in a beautiful setting away from the normal routine, surrounded by some of the best people we know. So, Michael, I'm pretty certain there's no place around Pendleton with a view like this."

"Oh, for sure. This is pretty amazing. I can't wait to see the beach tomorrow in the daylight. It looks so beautiful, even as it gets dark."

"You'll see something tomorrow you can call your dad and granddad about if you want to say Hi and blow their minds."

"Yeah? What's that?"

"Most of these beach houses are in front of the belt of pine forest between here and the highway. Did you notice that when we drove in?"

Michael nodded.

"Well, the forest continues across the highway and up into the Coast Range. And this is the home range for Roosevelt elk, so you can expect to see a bunch of elk cruising by sometime tomorrow. The golfers hate it. I mean, they're all teed up and ready to swing, and a few elk wander out on the fairway and mess with their shots."

"Wow! That's crazy. Where we live the elk are a long way away, and they don't let people get close." He paused. "I guess that's 'cause we hunt them, and it sounds like here they just live with the people, right?"

"Pretty much. They're like the city's pets. In some towns it's the geese. It'll be cool, and you can use my mobile phone to call your dad if you want to. Are you guys going for a walk?"

Michael looked at Nate, who answered. "No. I wanted to, but Michael said it was dumb since it's almost dark and it'd be the first time out using crutches on the beach. So, we decided to hang out with you guys."

"And a very astute decision that was," Jackson remarked. "I'm going to get us both another glass of wine. Can I get you two a soda or anything to drink?"

They both asked for Diet Cokes and Jackson was back in a few minutes and rejoined them watching the evening sky darken over the Pacific.

He took David's hand, a mirror image of the hands held between Nate and Michael, and heard Michael say, softly, "The ocean sounds so peaceful. This is just great!"

It wasn't an early start the next day, but the adults had worked out that breakfast and lunch would happen in the houses people were sleeping in, but dinner both nights would be at Dieter and Robert's house. It was larger overall and had a much larger kitchen and a large dining room.

By mid-morning they were all loaded up for the short drive to Astoria to visit the Astoria Column, walk the old wharf that looked out on the mouth of the Columbia River, and visit the recently expanded Columbia River Maritime Museum. Jessica and Matt were riding in the Durango with Jackson and David, much to the chagrin of Susan who though the other girl should be with her, rather than being stuck with her brothers and riding with her dad. Nate and Michael had taken over the back seat of the Cherokee, and Kaiser was happily along for the ride in the rear cargo area.

It had been foggy with low clouds till mid-morning, so everyone had on a sweatshirt or light jacket, but as they approached Astoria around eleven o'clock, the fog was gone, and the sun was breaking through. David and Jackson had told the story of their first church camp trip to Astoria twenty years earlier, and Jessica thought it was very cool to retrace their steps and pointed out to them how romantic it was to be visiting again. Jackson grinned at her in the rearview mirror and, with a sly smile asked, "So, Jessica, do I detect that you're in a romantic mood?"

She grinned right back at him, with no hesitation or embarrassment. "Yes, I am, I'm happy to say. Last night watching the sky go dark, we were huddled on the beach with two other couples very much in love. It was very cool to be part of it, and I told Matt that." She looked at him and added, "Right?"

"Yes, you did. And it was pretty neat. And like I said, there was another young couple back at the house trying their love on for size."

David and Jackson laughed, and David said, "They both came out on the porch after you guys left, and we talked for quite a while. They both seemed so happy and so serious, like their dreams were coming true or something. Nate told us it was way better than phone sex!"

Everyone chuckled, then David turned in his seat and said, "Did Matt tell you Nate is bi and this is his first relationship with a boy?"

She smiled softly, and said, "He did, before we left. I think it's cool. This is 1998, and our family is progressive, and this is Oregon, so I don't have a problem with it. You know what I think is also very cool?" She paused and David raised his eyebrows.

"That his football player big brother is not just so tolerant, but supports and encourages him. We've had LGB kids at my school who were given a hard time, so it's neat to watch."

Matt had glanced at David, and their eyes met. "I've already told her that I wasn't always the most tolerant person around, and that what's happened to me in the last six months has changed me. She also knows how important you two have been."

David smiled at him, and then looked at Jessica. "You have to give him high grades for honesty and transparency, don't you?"

She smiled back, squeezed his hands and said, "Sure do. He also gets pretty good grades in the kissing department." She leaned on Matt's shoulder and he blushed. He was saved from having to say anything by their arrival in Astoria, and they started winding their way through the small city making sure the other two vehicles were still behind them.

The Astoria Column was built in 1926 and is one hundred and twenty-five feet tall. It sits in large plaza on a hill at the edge of town, and even the plaza has good views of the mouth of the Columbia River. They all walked around the plaza, keeping pace with Nate in his walker. He was moving well, but it wasn't long before the other teenager's attention moved to the column. Jackson reminded them that climbing the column meant ascending the one hundred and sixty-four spiral stairs inside it. That meant no go for a walker… and dogs weren't allowed.

Nate smiled and said, "No worry. I'll sit here with Kaiser in the sun. We'll work on our tan."

Michael made it clear he was staying with Nate and Kaiser, and the group moved off to ascend Astoria's highest viewpoint. When they got to the observation deck at the top, they were the only people there, and the whole group walked around the circle taking in the view. They all settled on the west side looking out at the Pacific and up the coast a bit to the mouth of the river. It wasn't long before Roger realized Matt and Jessica were missing. He quietly tugged Jerrod's hand and they walked around the deck. As they approached the other side, they saw Matt and Jessica making out. Roger grinned at Jerrod and whispered, "Us, too… come on."

He tugged Jerrod's hand and led him right up next to the couple. As they slid into place beside them, he said, "Can we join the party?" Not waiting for an answer, he pulled Jerrod in for a deep kiss. After a few seconds he heard Matt mumble, "Geez, you guys. How about some privacy?"

"If you wanted privacy," Roger finally said, "you should have stayed back at the house." They all laughed and went back to work… till they heard footsteps coming up the spiral staircase, and broke off. They wandered back to join the rest hand-in-hand, acting like they had no cares in the world.

Nate and Michael were clearly starting to get bored when they all got back, but the drive to the wharf only took ten minutes, and Jackson knew the expanse was huge and Nate would have no trouble motoring around on his walker. They took in the views of the river, the long bridge over the river to Washington, and then walked to a fish and chips restaurant for lunch.

The museum was next, and the teenagers didn't expect much, Astoria being a small city. But they were surprised by the maritime history going back to Jacob Astor in the early 1800's, and the things that made the area notable. Like the mouth of the river being referred to as the Graveyard of the Pacific due to the over two thousand vessels that had sunk there in the past two hundred years. Most foundered trying to cross the bar, one of the most dangerous on earth, where not only did the huge flow from the Columbia join the Pacific, but in winter massive storms could generate forty-foot waves. They were also all wowed by the exhibit for the World War I destroyer, the USS Oregon, and the life-size model of its guns and shells, with photos of what a battleship firing looks like.

They headed back to Gearhart afterwards, with plans to hang out on the beach. It was now warm enough that everyone changed into swimsuits, and Eric and Kim set up a volleyball net, and Jerrod brought down a couple of frisbees. Kaiser, who had been patient all morning, now got more and more excited as all the opportunities to play and run in the surf became apparent. Matt and Jessica spent some time with Michael getting Nate used to using the crutches in sand, and he was the first to acknowledge he had to be careful given how far the crutches sank into the loose beach sand. When he got comfortable, Jessica said, "There's a way to get past this problem."

Nate looked at her quizzically, and she replied, "spend most of your time down by the surf line because the sand is wet and packed, and you'll hardly sink in."

Nate grinned in recognition and he and Michael headed down towards the water with Kaiser and a frisbee. They threw it for Kaiser till he started tiring, then walked back up the beach to watch the ad hoc volleyball game. Their eyes widened when they saw what was happening. Somehow the teams had been chosen with Eric, Kim, David, Will and Jessica playing against Jerrod, Roger, Matt, Susan and Jackson. The boys were okay, and it was apparent that Jackson and David didn't play much. However, what they'd all forgotten was that Jessica was an all-state girls volleyball player, and she adapted to beach volleyball very well. It wasn't long before the team she led was way ahead, and ultimately won. She not only served well, but could spike like a pro at the net.

When the first game was over, it didn't take long for a challenge match to try and save face, but the result was much the same, and the outcome was another foregone conclusion. Two games were enough, and they all spent some time in the ocean, then laying around on the towels they'd brought. Jackson and Jerrod had brought one of the small coolers with cold drinks and beer, and they talked and just chilled out till all the teenagers decided to walk down the beach.

The adults were left talking about the old days of youth, and what it felt like to be shown up in a sport by someone who played exceptionally well. They could see the group coming back up the beach, all the couples holding hands. Jackson looked at David and Will and said, "I think Matt and Jessica have a thing going on. What'a ya say?" They both grinned and then Will's mobile rang. It was Sam letting them know that she was on her way and should be there no later than seven o'clock.

Everyone collapsed back onto towels, and Matt said to David, "You're right about the beach. It seems to go on and on. It's really beautiful, and so open. And it's so cool that it's not summer with tons of tourists and stuff. It even looks like half the houses aren't occupied this weekend, like we've kind of got the place to ourselves."

Jackson asked if Nate had overdone it with the walk, and was assured that he and Michael had stopped about halfway along and waited for the group to come back. Nate grinned at him, "See, I'm not doing dumb stuff! It's a good thing I started practicing with the crutches last week though!"

Jackson nodded approval. Later as they split up to walk back to the houses, David said, "It's steaks on the grill tonight, and Sam called and said she'd be here by seven. So, let's everyone head home, get cleaned up, take a nap or whatever, and then you guys come down here when Sam arrives."

Planning for a group arrival, Jackson and Roger had salad made and ready to dress, David and Jerrod had baking potatoes in the oven, and had sauteed sliced mushrooms to finish the green beans.

"Pretty cool, eh?" David said. "The gas grill will be ready to go in ten minutes. When we're ready to eat, I'll do the steaks, you steam the green beans to go with the mushrooms, and put some sour cream and butter on the table for the potatoes, and we'll be under control."

"Got it. Easy peasy!"

The adults were on the porch, with the boys inside listening to Madonna's new album Ray of Light in the living room when the group from the second house arrived. Jackson settled Sam and Will on the porch and took their drink orders, while the teenagers joined the others inside listening to the new album. As he walked back to the porch, Jackson said, "Drinks are self-serve in the refrigerator. You older guys are welcome to a glass or two of wine tonight, but it's up you to keep it under control." He grinned, and as he went through the front door he said, "We'll probably eat in half an hour, so plan accordingly."

Ten minutes later, David and Jackson headed to the kitchen, lit the grill on the back porch, and set to work. Jerrod and Roger joined them to finish the salad and steam the beans. Before long Will and Sam had followed them in, and Jessica and Matt as well, and they all talked as the final food preparation came together. David leaned into the living room and said, "I'm cooking all the steaks medium rare unless one of you request that your steak be ruined."

That brought smiles but no special orders, and he went back to the grill. Ten minutes later Sam was pouring glasses of Pinot Noir to accompany the steaks, Jackson had dressed the salad with a creamy vinaigrette, and they all sat down to a welcome dinner.

Everyone helped with clean up and dish washing after dessert, and it was no surprise to anyone that when everything was put away, Nate and Michael were missing, as were Matt and Jessica. Jerrod said, "Michael and Nate are on the couch in the living room. Jessica and Matt are on that love seat on the back porch."

"Whoo hoo! It looks like the season of love," Sam exclaimed.

Eventually the adults were back on the front porch watching the skies darken over the Pacific, and slowly they were joined by one couple after another, until finally the whole group was sitting on the porch chairs or on the front steps.

David smiled to himself, and finally said, "This feels more and more like a clan gathering. Friends and family gathered together for food and time together." He raised his glass. "Here's to all of you."

Everyone responded in kind to the toast. Eventually Will and Sam led their entourage home, but Matt asked David in a firm way if it would be alright for him to walk home with them and say goodnight to Jessica there, and then come back.

David grinned. "Take a flashlight, and don't be more than an hour. There's all day tomorrow, too, you know."

Matt just flashed him a quick grin and was gone.

David and Jackson were still on the front porch talking when Matt returned. He sat down next to them, and Jackson asked if he'd like a glass of wine. He smiled and nodded, and Jackson was back with it in a couple of minutes. They sipped their wine silently, reveling in the stillness of the evening.

Finally, Matt asked, "So, the couples have gone to bed?"

Jackson laughed, "Yeah, and emphasis on 'to bed,' as opposed to 'to sleep.' I'm betting it's the ocean air."

Matt wistfully said, "Right!"

Jackson put his hand on Matt's shoulder and said, "It sure looks to me like there's another couple in the making."

"Yeah. I've never been in love before. Does it feel like this all the time?"

Jackson smiled. "If you mean the overwhelming intensity, the happy emotions that just seem to sweep over you like waves, then yeah. That's the way it feels and will for a while."

Matt was quiet, and David added, "Over time the intensity doesn't disappear, rather it mellows and manifests in different ways, in many different positive feelings. It's all good, though."

"It is good. I didn't expect it… like this. I mean this soon and stuff."

"When it happens, it happens. Remember when I told you about running into the teenager in the cutoffs and the too-tight green tank top?"

Matt grinned, and Jackson said, "I thought that was our secret because I was underage."

David stroked his arm and said, "We're all family, right." He paused and then said to Matt, "Did you read any of E.E. Cummings poems in English Lit?"

Matt said he couldn't remember. David smiled, and continued, "He wrote a wonderful love poem titled I Carry Your Heart With Me . Maybe you've heard this before, or if not, see if it describes what you're feeling."

I carry your heart with me
I carry it in my heart
I am never without it
anywhere I go you go, my dear;
and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling

"I don't remember hearing it, but that's kind of the way I feel. Thanks for sharing it."

He was quiet again, looking pensive. "Can I ask you something else? A favor, really?"

David nodded. "You said you didn't think we needed to keep meeting every week because you didn't want me to feel like I was in therapy, or something. I want to ask you if we can still meet?"

"Can I ask why you ask?"

"Well, it doesn't feel to me like I'm in therapy or anything like that. It feels more like I'm connected and you're helping me see stuff I wasn't seeing before. It may sound dumb, but it feels like what I should have had with my dad. I've been getting in touch with the loneliness and realizing what a big hole that left in my life."

"In that case, certainly. As long as you don't feel like you're in the position of a patient, I'm good with it. I meant what I said earlier about friends and family. Those are the circles we're all in now."

"I know. I almost cried when you said it. You guys, and Jerrod and Roger, I feel like I've got a whole family again. I mean, I've always had mom and Nate, but do you know what I mean?"

"We do. You're part of it, and you don't need to say anything else."

Saturday's morning routine was much the same as the day before, and by mid-morning they were all headed down to Cannon Beach to let those who hadn't been there see that beach and Haystack Rock, as well as the quaint town. They walked the beach and then back through town, and Sam with the girls did a little shopping. Then they decided they'd rather head back to Gearhart for lunch and spend the afternoon on their beach where it was quiet, and the views were long. On the way out of town they stopped at a fish market and David bought a quantity of ling cod fillets.

The afternoon was much like the day before, except now with Sam present they had another good volleyball player to balance the opposing team, and Jessica's team didn't win quite so pronouncedly. Kaiser had become quite adept at catching the frisbee in midair, and Michael and Nate kept him busy chasing it on the edge of the surf where he could run in the water and leap into the air to catch the flying disc.

They broke up from the beach early and headed to their respective houses to clean up. They'd decided to eat earlier than the night before and come back down to the beach to watch the sun set.

David had cut the ling cod fillets into individual portions, and while he cut cherry tomatoes into halves, he had Jerrod coarsely chop a bag of baby spinach. They then sauteed the tomatoes in olive oil with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, and added the spinach at the end to wilt and mix it all together. Roger was preparing the salad, and Jackson was doing garlic mashed potatoes. Matt and then Nate and Michael came into the kitchen still damp from their showers and sat to watch and talk. A minute later, David's mobile phone rang, and it was Matt's mom. After hellos, David handed him the phone and they all watched and listened.

His expression was open to begin with, then became wary and they heard him say, "You got a letter from the construction company in the mail?" He listened and then said, "Yeah, go ahead and open it." It was silent for a minute, then his eyebrows went up, and the concern on his face was replaced with happiness and he said, "For real? They're actually giving me a scholarship?"

He talked to his mom a couple of minutes longer and then as he hung up, looked exultantly around. "You heard that, right? I'm getting the other scholarship. With this one, I get to go to college, and get to play football."

Nate give him a high five and was grinning widely, and Roger and Jerrod gave him a quick hug. He looked at the older men, who were leaning against each other at the kitchen counter, and stood up. As he approached them, he said, "Thanks, you guys. You made it happen. Without you two working your magic I'd still be hanging out there." He boldly walked up to them and wrapped his arms around them and pulled them tight.

A few minutes later they heard Will and Sam arrive with their entourage, and as they poured into the kitchen, David announced that they had an event to celebrate that evening. Matt relayed the news about the second scholarship, and Jessica pulled him into an overjoyed hug. When the excitement had settled down, they all moved to the front porch to begin the evening. Jackson had cocktails ready and poured the older teenagers some white wine.

They discussed the day, and the sheer pleasure of being away from the routine of daily life, and the advantages of having a star on your volleyball team, and of course the new fact that Roger, Eric, Matt and Jessica would all be going to Portland State. Eventually David went to start the grill, and Jerrod and Roger, now part of the cook team, followed. When the grill was hot, David covered it with two layers of tin foil, sprayed that with oil and placed the ling cod fillets down. He applied salt and pepper and oiled their upper surface as well. He had Jerrod turn the heat under the potatoes to low, and likewise the tomato and spinach mix, and Roger put the salad together. When the fillets came off the grill and onto a tray, he had everyone called to the table, and proceeded to plate a fillet with a large spoonful of the tomato and spinach mixture as well as the garlic mashed potatoes. They all sat to delightful wafting aromas, and Jackson poured some fresh glasses of Oregon Pinot Gris.

They'd cleaned up by eight-fifteen, and agreed to a sunset walk before dessert. They all walked back down to the beach, turning and walking south as the sun set over the Pacific to their right. They ambled along just above the surf line, going slowly to accommodate Nate on his crutches. Something had gotten Kaiser's attention, and he trotted ahead of them, sniffing pieces of driftwood and shells on the sand. Ten minutes in, at one point where the beach curved a little to the west, Kaiser's attention was caught by something higher up the beach and he turned to the left and trotted in front of the group, allowing the sunlight from the setting sun to radiate along the beach toward them, outlining the dog's reddish-gold form against the brighter gold color of the evening light. It was a magical moment.

When they got back, Jackson made sure everyone's liquid refreshment order was taken care of, while David and Sam pulled two cheesecakes out of the refrigerator and served them. As they sat together enjoying the dessert and its accompanying wine, David looked with great affection at the group of people he was sharing the evening with, whom he had the day before referred to as the friends and family making up his clan. He felt a warmth, the warmth of love and affection that arises from the simple pleasure of being with those with whom you share so much.

He felt himself getting emotional and then heard Jerrod say to him softly, "What is it, David?"

He smiled back at him and said, "It's fine. It's love."

With that he stood and cleared his throat and said, 'Jerrod just caught me getting emotional, so I'd like to say something to all of you. You, who I referred to yesterday as the friends and family that make up this clan. I've said to Jerrod and Roger at least a few times in the past year that they're the next generation who are already taking up the mantle of helping other kids struggling with the challenges of being LGB, of kids coming to grips with their sexuality, or just the challenges of life. It's not something unique to them. It's something that in one way or another applies to everyone here. Over twenty years ago, Jackson helped me get through it, and reciprocally I suppose I helped him. We helped Will and Sam, and reciprocally, they helped us. Eric, Susan, Will and Sam helped Kim, and reciprocally, he helped them. Jerrod came along and he claims we helped him, but he doesn't understand yet how much he helped Jackson and me. He and Roger helped each other, and by extension they helped Michael and Matt and Nate. And now Jessica is in the mix because Sam reached out a hand of connection between Jessica and Matt. A connection that we all hope sticks."

He paused, appreciating the warmth and affection that was in the air before him. "What I'm talking about is love in action. That's what we're doing by caring for and helping each other. We make each other whole and complete ourselves by doing so."

"Most of you have had the experience of Jackson or me playing a song for you to convey a certain message or emotion. Recently, I was talking with someone about The Beatles album Abbey Road , and that got me to go back and listen to it a few times… for the first time in a lot of years. There's a lot of great music on that album, but this time something new jumped out of it for me. Something I know I've heard before many times, but this time resonated in a particularly strong way. It's the song at the end of the album called The End . It's a beautiful little song musically, and it essentially has one single line of lyrics, which is followed by a beautiful musical resolve that closes it. That one sentence says it all, and it summarizes what all of us have done, are doing, and will continue doing for each other and for others. The line is:

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Listen the YouTube video of the remastered The End by The Beatles


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