Kaiser's Rodeo

by Bensiamin

Chapter 8

Nate woke first the next morning, happily spooned back into Michael who had his arm draped over his flank and resting on his stomach. His first thought was how warm and secure it felt. Then he opened his eyes part-way and realized it was still early, as the sunlight was just starting to come through the curtains into the room. He pleasantly settled down for more sleep, beginning to think that he'd now been here with Michael just over a week… and what a week it had been.

When he felt Michael stir it was almost 8:00 am and he rolled over to face him, and then watched first one eye, and then the other open… followed by a soft smile and then "Hello, sunshine!"

"Hi back to you! What are you smiling about?"

"The view. This is a great view to wake up to each morning."

Nate smiled back and then said, "I woke up a while ago and then fell back to sleep, but before I did, I was thinking about how I've been here a week, and what a week, and how much great stuff has happened in just seven days."

"I know. I feel the same way. I feel whole or complete in some new way with you here… especially in my arms in the morning, like this."

"Do we have to get up?"

"Welcome to life on the ranch. There's no days off. Just some days start a little later than others."

"I get it, and it's fine by me."

Over breakfast they all talked about the movie and Michael's parents seemed pleased that they were becoming friends with Stew and Todd, then the conversation shifted to the coming week's focus.

"I'll be starting to cut hay tomorrow, so I'll need you boys to feed the cattle after you water. Is that okay?

Michael nodded, "Sure. I'm pretty sure we can fit the bags of grain in the back of the Scout with the tail gate down. We'll just load four up before we head out, then do it after the water."

Michael's dad nodded his appreciation and added, "It'll be the hay rotation." He looked at Nate. "We do it in four sequences, cut it with the swather, then turn it into windrows, then bale it and pick it up and stack it in the barn. Cut one field, then the next, then the next…then the same with turning and with the baling."

Nate was listening closely and then said, "That sounds like a lot of hay bales to pick up."

Michael laughed and said, "It used to be, but dad upgraded and bought an automatic bale wagon that pulls behind the tractor. It picks the bales up and stacks them on the deck and then he just backs it into the barn and stands it up and drives away." He looked at his dad. "How many bales?"

"Fifty five bales per load in a nice tight stack. It makes life a lot easier, I'll tell you. I've spent many a year tossing bales onto a flat bale wagon, and then hand stacking them in the barn. That is back breaking work which you boys sadly have to miss out on! But it keeps you fit."

Michael's mom turned to Nate and said, "So, as of yesterday you've been with us for a week. Are you having a good time? Is it what you expected? Have you had enough of the ranch life yet?"

Nate grinned at her. "I've told you it's already the best summer ever. No, it's not what I expected, but I didn't know what to expect. A week later and you've got me dressed like a cowboy and working on a ranch watering cows and shoveling manure. Not many city kids would be doing that." He paused, then continued, "And no, I haven't had enough of the ranch life. I'm learning a lot and enjoying it, and I'm learning about mechanics and old Scouts… and it's like I've got a new extended family, so what's not to like?"

She smiled at him and then looked at both boys and said, "And it appears that you're getting along well, is that a fair assumption?"

They glanced at each other and then Michael said, "Mom, come on. Don't put us on the spot like that."

Nate jumped right in. "We're getting along just fine. I'll tell you again that I'm still amazed at how open and accepting you both are of me and of us. I mean, I feel like I'm part of the family and that's something I never even really thought about before I got here. Which kind of means it makes you think of how it could have been really different. You know what I mean? I've told you I'm still kind of sorting some stuff out about me, but I've never felt closer to anyone than I do with Michael."

"Well, Nate, I'm not trying to put you on the spot or embarrass you, understand that. I meant what I said when you got here about trying to create an environment in which Michael could flourish, and I want to make sure you understand that fully extends to you as well."

Nate smiled and nodded, softly saying, "I do, and thanks."

"That also means that if you need to talk, about anything, I'm here. I'm not trying to replace your mother, understand that, but just know that I'll do my best to be a summer stand in. Is that understood?"

He nodded again, and then she said, "What are you boys planning on today? Any by the way, Nate, you haven't called your mom for a couple of days, so you should do that this morning. She's probably still getting used to you not being there and worrying that everything's alright."

"I will." He looked at Michael who said, "This afternoon we're going to check out a couple of campgrounds in the Umatilla Forest." Then he added, "We're overdue for calling Jerrod and Roger too. It'll blow their minds to find out we start working at the rodeo grounds tomorrow."

Nate called home before they left to water the cows and also talked to Matt. He learned that Dieter had found a good vehicle for him, a 1995 Toyota Land Cruiser that was in mint condition and would be very dependable and inexpensive to operate.

Michael tossed Nate the keys to the Scout, and on the drive to the water tanks he asked, "What did you mean when we woke up about being here for a week and what's happened?"

"Just that it went by so fast and was so great. I meant everything I told your mom, you know."

"It sounded like part of what you were saying to her was about how much you've changed since you've been here. Is that part of it?"

"Well, maybe on the surface. You know, all the stuff you've gotten me into… including the Wranglers! But I don't think I've changed inside, do you?" He sounded concerned.

"No, not in the way you're worried about. I think, somehow, you've changed in becoming more… I don't know… serious is the wrong word. Maybe mature, but you probably don't want to hear that." He paused, then said, "I think mature is the right word. It's like you're more solid or something."

"Really? I keep telling you, like I told your folks, that I'm working on my stuff, and that doesn't make me feel very solid, more like changing… that can't be solid, can it?"

Michael got thoughtful, then said, "You want to tell me a little more about what you mean by that?"

"Well, I guess I'm realizing that it was one thing to realize and say I was bi back when we met and hit it off. Now I'm having to deal with what it means… I mean compared to what I always thought I was. And now I'm with you… spending the summer with you, and you're gay, and if we're together then what does saying I'm bi really mean then, anyway?"

Michael looked at him and smiled, then replied, "I think we've both changed a lot in the last couple of years. More than most people. You 'cause of your hip, me 'cause of my cancer. When I talked to grandpa about it, his point was something like the saying that the stuff that doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Anyway, kids our age aren't supposed to have to deal with maybe dying or surgery like you had that could mean you end up a cripple. That's serious shit! I know I'm more serious. I feel like I dodged a bullet and I know a lot more about who I am and what matters and what I want because of it. A lot of that is 'cause of Jerrod and Roger, they helped a lot talking to me about being gay and other stuff, too. I know they helped you, right?"

"Yeah, they did. They helped a lot. I know what you mean about what we went through that ended us up in the hospital. I've got my shit more together because of that." He fell silent for a minute, then went on. "Honestly, I don't care if I ever play baseball again. I don't even know why I was playing and why it was so important to me. Maybe it takes almost losing something to make you really think about if you want it or not."

"Good way to put it. I know I love living here and being on the ranch and all that, but I don't want to be here forever. I want to go to college and have a life somewhere that's more open and accepting."

"Like the city? Like Portland?"

"Yeah, versus here. Like last night with Stew and Todd. We had to be on the lookout, then avoided those jocks. I'm pretty sure I want to be a vet, and the only vet school in Oregon is at Oregon State in Corvallis. I guess that's a college town, so it's got to be more hip than Pendleton."

"It's also closer to Portland. I'm a year behind you in school, you know."

"Oh, trust me, I know! I know I'm also ahead of you on sorting out my sexuality, I mean knowing I'm gay and accepting it. Being happy with it, in fact. No pressure, right, I'm just saying I've been gay all along and accepted it before you did. Accept you're bi, I mean."

"I know what you mean. I think you're right. I have to keep telling myself you're a year older so you're further down the road than I am. You know, like older… way older!" He leaned over and poked Michael in the ribs as they turned off the highway onto the gravel road to the pastures.

"Whoa! Be nice, and keep your eyes on the road. You don't want us to have an accident, do you?"

Nate grinned and then Michael added, "I'm trying real hard not to pressure you, you know that, don't you? I keep worrying that you're feeling like this whole trip is being put on you to be gay. That's why I said what I did to mom this morning when she asked how we were getting along."

"I know, and you're not, so chill out, okay? What she said didn't put me off. I really like your mom, she loves you and I know she loves me, too, and she's trying hard and wants the best for you… and for me… and for us. Think about Stew and Todd. Do you know how rare that is, what your parents are trying to do for you, for us?"

"I do, and I don't take that for granted one bit. Grandpa keeps me straight on things like that. I'm talking about us. I love you so much that I want to give you all the space… all the space you need."

Nate stopped the Scout in front of the pasture gate and said, "You are. So, quit worrying so much about me, okay? Just be you. Be the way you want to be. I can handle it. I told you how I feel when you say you love me. I meant it. I'm just behind the curve working out my stuff, compared to you."

Michael opened the door and added, "I'll get the gate."

When they got back to the house, they called Jerrod and Roger and got the whole update on therapy at the different hospitals, how Chloe was doing, and that they'd gone to see Dr. Yanowitz's band play with David and Jackson the night before. They filled their friends in on the Scout project, the rodeo grounds job and the weekend highlight of a morning shoveling cow manure.

Before they ended, Jerrod said that they'd talked to David and Jackson about coming out Labor Day for the Round Up and then driving Nate home, and it looked do-able. David was going to call Michael's mom to work out some details.

With that high note they all said goodbye and then had lunch. Michael's mom was insistent that they call her from the campground. "We got you that cell phone, and I want to know you can reach us if you need to." Michael smiled and nodded. "Will do, Mom."

It was an hour drive, but the new radio sounded pretty good, and they found the campground without too much trouble. A ranger told them that if they arrived in the early afternoon, they'd find a window with people leaving and some openings even on Saturday. They took a short hike and confirmed there was a small creek just a short walk from the campground.

They were back in time to clean the Scout and spend a few minutes with grandpa on his porch and then they all walked up to the house for dinner. During that short walk when he found himself between his newly adopted grandpa and the boy he cared about so much, Nate realized that he not only was enjoying his life this summer, he was happy… really happy. His life now had a new form of love in it, a new set of caring adults, and that something else had happened that never would have happened if he'd stayed in Portland. There was a rhythm to his life. A daily rhythm and a weekly rhythm. The type of rhythm that the ranch dictated depending on the seasons. It was now high summer. He'd lived out his first week on the ranch. He was walking home for dinner with two of the most important people in his life, and he was supremely happy.

The second week, of course, was highlighted by starting work at the rodeo grounds and then rebuilding grandpa's loafing shed. After they'd filled out the employee paperwork on Monday morning, they discovered that just like the lady said, much of Monday was cleaning up from the rodeo event held over the weekend. That didn't just mean hauling garbage, though there was some of that, and sweeping down the grandstand, but the more basic maintenance like cleaning the bathrooms and repairing any damage caused by the rodeo animals.

Most often the repair was relatively minor, swapping out bent steel pipe gates or replacing fencing boards where a bull or bucking bronco had made contact. There was a crew of ten, five boys and five girls, and naturally the heavier duty grunt work and repairs went to the boys. They were all high school students, and were introduced before they were sent off to start their work for the day. They broke for lunch at 1:00 pm, and that was the first time to really meet the rest of the crew.

Nate had worried that Susan from the Dairy Queen would be there, and was relieved when she wasn't. He was not interested in dealing with the attitude she brought to bear. All the girls were sophomores or juniors at Michael's high school, and Nate wasn't surprised that he was the center of their attention being the city boy from Portland in town for the summer. He knew Michael was out at school, but found he wasn't ready to publicly say they were together… or dating… or to be more accurate 'living together and having sex with their parent's permission' and so was relieved when Michael explained that they'd met at the Children's Hospital in Portland and became good friends. The girls loved the fact that the thing that connected them was a therapy dog and the dog's handlers, and left it at that.

On the drive home Michael said, "Not much romance in the work today, eh?"

"Naw, more like glorified janitor work. Still, we're getting paid, and we'll have gas and working money for the Scout."

Michael grinned.


"I think it's cool. You're not just my wrangler, but you're my Scout partner."

"Well, wasn't that the deal we made? I think I'm lucky to be part of the program."

"No, no! I think I'm lucky you're part of my program!"

"God, you're a goof!" Nate paused, then added, "Feeding the cattle this morning was no big deal. What's the loafing shed thing going to be like?"

"It should be pretty straight forward. Grandpa keeps a couple of calves there, and some chickens. It's kind of old, but the main problem is that boards are really weathered and bowed and cracked. So, we'll just pry them off. They were nailed on, probably by dad when he was our age. Then after we get them off, we'll borrow dad's impact driver and put the new boards on with exterior screws. That part will go fast, and the screws should hold the boards better and make it more weather-proof."

The weather was in the '90s by mid-morning on Wednesday, and they ditched their T-shirts. The job went as Michael described, and by lunch time they had the old boards off and stacked in the farm truck to go to the dump. Grandpa made lunch and they talked about any number of things, including the upcoming camping trip. He told Michael to take his fishing rod and tackle box in case there were any trout in the stream.

They went back to work and about two o'clock grandpa came out to check on them. He was impressed with the scene as he approached from behind them. More than half of the boards were up and looked good. The boys were working side by side, shirts off in their Wranglers and proudly sporting their fancy wallets sticking out above the rear pocket. He paused to watch for a minute, taking in what he was seeing, and reacting to the memories and feelings it evoked from that time many years before when he'd worked side by side with Robbie, enjoying their easy comradeship and affection, seemingly anticipating each other's thoughts and needs. These boys were dressed western, including their cowboy hats, rather than in Army fatigues… but the vibe was the same. Finally, he smiled to himself and walked up to the boys, saying, "Fine looking job you two are doing!"

They paused, turned around and grinned at him, and accepted the bottles of water he handed them. "How long you boys been out here in the sun with your shirts off?"

"Well, we had them off this morning. It's a hot day."

"Yeah, it is, but you're both turning pink. You better put those shirts back on. You get a bad sunburn, and you may not be any good at work on Friday. You don't want it to screw up your camping trip, do you?"

They grinned somewhat sheepishly, put their shirts back on and then after drinking some water Michael said, "I think we'll be done in an hour, no more than two. Where do you want the extra boards if we've got any left?"

"Stack them in the back of the barn by my shop if you would, and then when you're done come over to the house. I made some fresh lemonade and cookies, so you can relax a bit." He grinned and walked away.

"Not much gets by him, does it?" Nate asked.

"No, he's still pretty sharp. Sharp and caring."

They finished up in an hour and a half and the cookies and lemonade in the shade of grandpa's porch were just the thing. When they finished and got up to head home to clean up, he stood up and hugged them both and said, "Thank you, boys, I'll sleep better now not worrying about that shed. More importantly I want you to know what a great job you did. You two work together pretty well, you know? It's kind of a natural extension of how you fit together, if you know what I mean."

They thanked him and said they'd see him for dinner and headed to the barn to return the tools and then home. David called that night and after talking to Michael's mom spent a few minutes on the phone with each of them. He sounded very pleased that their summer was going so well and confirmed the plan was on for Labor Day.

Friday at the rodeo grounds was very different than Monday. The next day was a local Future Farmers of America club rodeo, and that meant setting up for a small scale event. Over lunch one of the girls named Ashley got talking to Nate about his school and interests and then got quite involved when she learned he'd played Little League. They were the same age and she pitched for the girl's Softball Team. That meant she was a fastpitch pitcher, and they naturally talked about how to control that kind of pitch and what it must be like facing a fast softball pitched underhanded.

By the time they were finished Friday afternoon they had all the pens and stalls cleaned and fresh for the rodeo animals due to arrive as well as Michael and Nate showing their tractor skills dragging the arenas with a spring tooth harrow and then finishing it with a mat harrow to smooth the surface. They looked at their handiwork and smiled at each other.

On the drive home Michael said, "You and Ashley seemed to hit it off?"

Nate glanced at him and replied, "No biggie. She plays softball, I played baseball, so we've got a sport connection to talk about… you're not worried are you?"

"What? No. I just think it's cool that you're connecting with other people. Well other nice people, not like that Susan bitch at the Dairy Queen last weekend. What a contrast, huh?"

They packed most of their gear into the Scout before dinner, and as they got ready for bed later in the evening Nate said, "I know we've read those next chapters in the sex book this week, and the last one was on being a bottom. You know I said that's way out there for me, but if you get clean, I'm up for seeing if I can make you see stars tonight?"

"You want to do a little prostate prospecting?"

"Only if it's your prostate… and it seems only fair since you've shown me how amazing it can be. Turn around is fair play, right… even for getting your rocks off."

Nate had been an attentive reader and recipient during their reading and lab sessions, and that night Michael saw stars!

The Scout didn't have a lot of room behind the rear seat, and it seemed over half full when they headed over to get Stew and Todd. In addition to their tent and gear, Stew was carrying a guitar case. Todd had a camera on a strap around his neck. Michael wondered where it would all go, but they got it all in and strapped down, though Stew stood the guitar case upright next to him in the rear seat.

Michael pulled over and called his mom before they headed up into the forest, knowing the cell coverage would be spotty. Then they headed for the campground and arrived before one o'clock and just like the ranger said, there were a few empty camp sites. They chose the one closest to the stream and though it was technically a single campground with a decent fire pit, their two-man tents were small enough to fit comfortably. Within an hour they had camp set up and headed out for a hike. They were back in two hours and then Michael fished his rod out of the Scout, and they all headed down to the stream. Michael went upstream a bit to try his luck while the other three cooled off in the water downstream enough not to disturb the fishing… too much. Michael gave up after half an hour and joined them in the water.

"No luck?"

"You know the most important lesson you learn about fishing, don't you?" They all looked at him quizzically.

"There's fishing, and then there's catching. They're different. I don't know if the stream is overfished or there's too many people in it all the time, but either way, there's no fish."

Todd had been listening closely and then said, "So, no fish. Does that mean no dinner?"

"No dumb ass, you plan for things like this." He grinned at him and said, "I've got hamburger patties and potato salad my mom made in the cooler. We'll dine on campfire cooked burgers, and there's a watermelon for dessert."

"Wow! You're the man," Todd replied. "And, for breakfast… I had to ask, you know!"

"We're prepared with bread, eggs and sausage. Pretty high class, don't you think?"

"You are the man," Stew said. "I figured you'd have it together when you said you'd organize it, but this is impressive."

"I've gone fishing and camping with my dad and grandpa a lot, so that's where I learned how. Plus, it turns out it helps a lot to have a mom who makes sure you're well outfitted with food and drink."

They lounged around in the creek a while longer, and at one point Todd got his camera and started taking some pictures. "Gotta do it, boys. You know… for posterity."

They took the grate off the fire pit after they'd eaten and put on some more firewood since the temperature was dropping, and settled down couple by couple across from the tents.

"Good chow, Michael. Thanks for planning it and for inviting us."

Michael grinned in return and said, "Most of organizing the food was my mom, but who cares… it was great." He paused, then went on, "So, you guys… I've got to ask. How long have you guys been dating? You're looking pretty good together to me."

Stew smiled back and looked at Todd who grinned, too. "We'd only gone out two times before you two showed up, and now here we are three dates later. You guys are some kind of matchmakers," Stew said softly.

"Yeah," Todd added, "I guess we just needed something to make us get with the program."

Michael and Nate looked at each other and Nate leaned against him and said, "We had the same thing happen. Michael was in the hospital before me, and one day my dog therapy team shows up and they've got this guy with them who turns out to be him, and Jerrod and Roger kind of made it possible for us to connect, and here we are, too."

They heard the click of Todd's camera, and then heard him say, "Aw, that's so cute. I don't know why we were so slow… maybe intimidated or something. But seeing you guys together did something, and just all of us getting together helped a lot, too." He leaned against Stew, who smiled softly.

"Well, this isn't the kind of culture that encourages gay boys to get together, so don't sweat it. I'm just glad we helped." He turned to Stew, "So, you brought your guitar. I didn't know you played. Are you going to serenade us?"

He smiled but blushed. "I'm not that great. I've been taking lessons and playing for two or three years, but I thought it'd be nice since if there's no radio reception out here."

"Go for it."

He got his guitar out of the tent, settled back down and tuned it, and then played James Taylor's Fire and Rain , followed by The Rolling Stones Wild Horses .

"Those are pretty old tunes, aren't they?"

"Yeah, they're kind of standards that my guitar teacher wanted me to learn to get good at chords and picking. They're neat songs, though, don't you think?"

Michael had pulled Nate close and had his arm around his shoulder. "Oh yeah, they are. They're love songs, so I guess you're more of a romantic than I knew. Keep going. Got anything newer?"

Stew grinned and said, "Sure do. You're a Cranberries fan, right? I can do a reasonable version of Linger ."

Michael gave him a silent golf clap and Stew went to work on the song. When the last chords had faded, Michael said, "Wow! That was great. Where'd you learn that?"

"The solo acoustic arrangement my guitar teacher did. It's pretty cool, right. I play it pretty well, but I don't have the voice Dolores has, so some of it's a stretch. See what you think about this."

He launched into a version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah that had everyone silent. He looked up when he was finished and found himself receiving a round of applause from his friends. "That's a Jeff Buckley arrangement. It's more upbeat than the original and my voice is a better fit for it."

"There's a lot of religion in there, isn't there?"

Stew looked at Michael and said, "Yeah, there is, but I think of it more as Biblical history instead of religion. And it kind of compliments the love and sexual parts. I mean that part is pretty blatant."

"Yeah, all that about watched you bathe and love is not a victory march," Nate added.

"Well, yeah, and the song seems to be about David, right, and his affair with Bathsheba, but you heard how explicit it got, right, when he says

Well, there was a time when you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do ya?
But remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Think about that. He's talking about sex and religion in the same breath, like when he's inside her, the holy dove was, too. That's pretty wild."

Michael laughed and said, "My mom's pretty open minded, you guys know, but I don't think I'll be sharing that with her right away!"

"Well, you know," Stew went on, "David was probably bi, right? Besides having wives and children and that fling with Bathsheba, his closest friend in the world, a friend with benefits, was Jonathan."

"Really?" Michael said it softly, clearly dealing with new information.

"Yeah, it's one of the things they don't teach you in Sunday School. It's in the Bible and after Jonathan was killed David says he never loved anyone like he loved Jonathan. So, you can kind of read that into the song, too. Anyway, you want to hear one more song that I've been working on? It's more rock and roll, and I don't have it down yet, but it's a great one called When The Night Comes by Joe Cocker." He strummed a couple of times and then launched into the song.

Hold on
I'll be back for you
It won't be long
But for now there's something else
That's calling me
So take me down a lonesome road
Point me east and let me go
That suitcase weighs me down
With memories

I just want to be the one you run to
I just want to be the one you come to
I just want to be there for someone
When the night comes
Let's put all the cares behind us
And go where they'll never find us
I just want to be there beside you
When the night comes
When the night comes

Two spirits in the night
That can leave before the morning light
When there's nothing left to lose
And nothing left to fear
So meet me on the edge of town
Won't keep you waiting I'll be 'round
Then you and I
We'll just roll right out of here

I just want to be the one you run to
I just want to be the one you come to
I just want to be there for someone
When the night comes
Let's put all the cares behind us
And go where they'll never find us
I just want to be there beside you
When the night comes
When the night comes

I know there'll be a time for you and I
Just take my hand and run away
Think of all the pieces of the shattered dream
We're gonna make it out some day
We'll be coming back
Coming back to stay
When the night comes
I want to be the one you run to
When the night comes
To be the one you'd come to
I want to be the one you run to
I just want to be the one you run to
want to be the one you come to
I just want to be there for someone

When the night comes
Let's put all the cares behind us
And go where they'll never find us
I just want to be there beside you
When the night comes
When the night comes
Ah ah when the night comes
When the night rolls down
Ah ah when the night comes
I want to be with you
Ah ah when the night comes

Watch the YouTube video of a contemporary acoustic cover of When The Night Comes by Joe Heilman



Watch the YouTube video of Joe Cocker performing When The Night Comes


Stew's performance was a little rough, and the song wasn't written for solo acoustic guitar, but it was a good arrangement and he played it well enough. He sang with a lot of passion, just like Joe Cocker always did. As the music faded, they all sat silent, and they slowly started to whoop and clap.

"That was just great," Michael said. "You're way better than I ever knew about."

Nate and Todd were equally enthusiastic, and after Stew put down his guitar, Todd pulled him close for a hug, and then a kiss. "Pretty great love song, I'd say."

Michael and Nate sat back in each other's arms and agreed.

They didn't last long after that, and before long both couples were heading for their tents. "We don't have to get up early tomorrow," Michael said, "and I'm betting you guys aren't going straight to sleep either. Nothing like a little love making out in nature! But it'll get light early so we'll probably all wake up with that. Breakfast will be easy, so no rush in the morning, alright?"

When they'd settled down under their sleeping bag, Michael pulled Nate close to him and said, "Those songs got me thinking, and what you did last night was really special, I didn't know if you'd want to go there, you know it's kind of gay sex, it's not just a couple of guys giving each other blowjobs."

"I know. But it just seemed right, you know… the thing to do for you."

"That's what I'm getting at, you were doing it for me. I noticed, too, that you swallowed my cum."


"Yeah! I just mean that made me feel even better, even more connected to you."

"That's how I was feeling. I remember what you said about swallowing mine and having part of me inside you. That's what I wanted, too. That's how I feel about you."

"God, I love you. I just don't want you feeling pressured to be doing gay stuff if you're not ready."

"I know. That's part of what I'm dealing with. If I'm with you doing gay stuff does that make me gay? Or if it doesn't make me gay, if we're together and you're gay, then everyone will think we're both gay. Not that that's bad, but it's new to me."

"Don't you think you're overthinking this? Remember what David said about falling in love with a person not a gender? I'm in love with you. It doesn't matter to me if you're gay or bi or straight."

"I know where you're coming from. I'm just saying it's a whole new deal for me. Until a few weeks ago I thought I was one way, but now I'm not anymore… at least I guess I'm not."

"Well, whatever the deal is for you, and I know you're working through it, you had a magic finger on my prostate last night."

"And, let me guess… you'd like me to see if I can duplicate the experience for you tonight?"

"Well, I won't argue with you about it. And I'm pretty sure I can do the same thing for you too. And I brought the enema bulb and the lube."

"Mr. Plan Ahead, just like with all the other camping gear." They'd been holding and stroking each other, and both were half hard. Nate kissed him and said, "You go first, then I'll go, and we'll see how many stars we can create tonight!"

When they'd both cum and both seen stars, they lay in each other's arms again in the totally relaxed state that follows sex. Michael pulled Nate close to him and said softly, "I love you. All I know is that I just want to be the one you run to, the one you come to."

Sunrise was early, it still being July, and they were all up by seven o'clock and Michael and Nate got a fire going in the pit and shortly had a coffee pot brewing and were cooking breakfast on the griddle he'd brought.

Stew and Todd came out of their tent smiling, and were met with the expected expressions. "Good night, guys?"

"Oh yeah, we slept great," Stew said.

"That's not what I meant," Michael said, "and you know it."

Stew glanced at Todd and smiled, "Let's just say we had a great night, too!"

Stew and Todd helped where they could and before long were all enjoying breakfast below the forest canopy. They carried all the cooking and eating gear down to the creek when they were done to clean it up to stow, and then took a short hike followed by another leisurely dip in the creek. Todd took pictures on their hike and when they were back at the creek.

When they got back to camp, they started breaking down and stowing the tents and getting ready to leave and Stew said, "What about lunch?"

"My plan was to stop at a fast-food place on the drive back."

"Good plan, and I'm paying since you brought all the other food." He grinned at Michael and got an equally friendly grin back.

Stew's parents were home when they pulled into the driveway and came out to greet all the boys, happy they'd had a good time and that there were no injuries. Stew and Todd lavished Michael with praise about organizing it and the great cooking. The adults nodded, impressed, and his dad said, "I always thought you were responsible. Now you've proved it"

They said goodbye to Stew and Todd and headed home. Before they got to the city limits, Michael's cell phone rang. He nodded at Nate to answer it. It was Stew.

"We didn't get to say goodbye the right way with my parents right there and all, but you guys rock. Tell Michael it was the best time ever, okay. And thanks… thanks big time!"

When they got home Michael's mom greeted them and was pleased her food preparation had been such a hit. When they'd gotten the gear stowed, they decided to get the lawns mowed so it would be out of the way before work the next day.

They were hot and sweaty when they came in, and after a glass of iced tea Michael headed down for a shower. Nate stayed in the kitchen sipping his tea and chatting with Michael's mom.

Finally, she said, "It's quite apparent to me that you two have a wonderful relationship. You work so well together, care for each other so much, look out for each other. It's wonderful to observe."

Normally Nate would have been embarrassed, but one of the changes he was experiencing had to do with his feeling and being accepted. "Thanks for saying that," he replied. "We do get along really well, and like I told you I've never felt this way about someone before. I'm still amazed."

"Why amazed?"

"Well, it's a surprise compared to where I was, say, two months ago."

"You mean the sexuality part or the relationship part?"

"Yeah, well both, actually. I mean back then when we got to know each other me recognizing I was bi was kind of theoretical, you know what I mean. Now it's become real."

"And that's okay? I mean you're not having second thoughts or worried about it somehow?"

Nate paused. He loved and trusted this woman, and she was not only Michael's mom, but a teacher and a GSA sponsor. "Probably not second thoughts, 'cause that would mean I'm doubting our relationship, wouldn't it?" He looked at her with questioning eyes.

"Yes, darling, that's certainly one way to understand it. It's probably not the only way, though?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Well, I know you've talked to David and Jackson about identity. You're having to go through an identity reassessment."

"Meaning I've got a different identity now?"

"No, don't look at it that way. Identity is something most of us are given by our parents and family and community. As you grow up, the challenge is to assess and reassess that identity and decide if all of it is what and who you are… if it's right for you. It changes as we mature is all I mean. Sexuality is pretty fundamental to who you are, as I'm sure you understand." She smiled widely and raised her eyebrows.

Now he blushed, and then said, "Yeah, I do. I understand that part, but I hadn't thought about the identity thing."

"Don't fret about it, darling. You're going through a change in your life, that's all. It feels different, maybe even weird. It always does. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable, but just follow your heart."

"Michael asked me last night if I wasn't overthinking it."

"Overthinking what?"

"That now I'm bi not just in a theoretical way, but a real way and I'm in a relationship with a gay boy… and what does that say about me?"

"It says you're an amazing person, one with an open and accepting heart. One who can follow their heart even if it doesn't match up with what society considers normal. What do you mean when you say, 'what does that say about me?' Can you tell me about that?"

Michael came into the kitchen from the hall just then, and his mom looked up and said, "Nate and I are having an in-depth conversation."

Nate smiled at him and held out his hand and said, "Come on, you're part of it," and pulled him onto the seat next to him.

"So, I was asking you if you can tell me what you mean when you said, 'what does that say about me?' Meaning being in a relationship with a gay boy."

"I told Michael some of this last night. If I'm with a gay boy, does that mean I'm really gay, even if I say I'm bi? Is that what people are going to think? I don't know! Maybe I am overthinking all of this."

Michael squeezed his hand and wisely kept silent.

His mom looked at Nate and said, "I think you're worrying too much about that, about what other people think. I can speak for three people, namely me and my husband and grandpa. Do you want to know what we think of you?"

Nate looked at her with a smile and nodded, but he felt a flash of uncertainty somewhere in the back of his brain.

"It's as simple as what I said before. You're an amazing person, one with an open and accepting heart. That's so obvious, and it's equally obvious that you two care for each other tremendously, and we all think that's wonderful and that you deserve each other. Focus on your relationship and the changes you're going through instead of worrying about what other people think."

She paused, and then added, "Can I share something with you?"

Nate nodded.

"It's normal to feel uncomfortable when you're going through identity assessments and changes. I felt uncomfortable, too, and that was only a few months ago."

Nate looked at her wide-eyed and Michael said, "What?"

She smiled at her son and softly said, "It was about you, darling. When you told us you were gay while Jerrod and Roger were here for Spring Break, and then when they suggested I get involved in GSA, and after I started talking to David… and then especially after that session he did for the parents, I realized my identity had changed and I needed to get in touch with it and accept it."


"Yes, really. Up until then I had thought of my identity as 'Christian wife, mother and teacher.' However, by the time I had worked it through and gotten in touch with it, and much credit goes to David who spent many hours on the phone with me, I realized my new identity was 'mother of a wonderful gay boy, wife of a wonderful and open-minded man, and a person who also happens to be a teacher and a Christian.' You can imagine there was a bit of discomfort to work through the process to get to that assessment!"

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