Team Kaiser

by Bensiamin

Chapter 4

Jerrod woke in the morning with a start and when he looked at the clock ,he realized it was going on 8:00 am. He was chagrined that he'd overslept but couldn't get back to sleep. Roger looked so peaceful, so he decided to let him sleep and went downstairs. Roger's Mom, who was sitting at the counter reading the newspaper said, "I was beginning to wonder if I needed to come wake you boys up."

Jerrod glanced at her and said, "I usually get up earlier than this, but Roger's still sleeping, and I didn't want to wake him, so I came downstairs."

Roger's Mom poured some orange juice and he sat down next to her.

"Thanks again for letting me sleep over. You guys have been great."

"We're happy you're able to be here. We're happy for both of you. Actually, for all three of you. We never had a dog when Roger was growing up, because we both worked, and Roger was in school. I'm between jobs right now because the company I worked for was sold and my position was eliminated. But it's wonderful to see Roger and you so happy, and the way he interacts with Kaiser."

Jerrod smiled at her, and she poured him some more orange juice. "I also want to say how wonderful what we observe the relationship you and Roger have to be. You can imagine that even though you accept that your son says he's gay, and you try to support him, as a parent you just don't know what will happen as relationships develop or perhaps come and go. Roger only had a few close friends and hardly ever dated, so watching your relationship blossom is wonderful. You two seem so good together. Is that how you feel about it?"

Jerrod was very appreciative of what Roger's mother was affirming and how supportive she was being, but he was still caught up in the emotion from the night before. He'd slowly worked on Roger's cock with his mouth and his prostate with his fingers, and when he finally came it was monumental. After they'd recovered, Roger did the same for him, and he now had a new measure of how mind blowing and overwhelming an orgasm could be. Everything that had happened in those few hours last night came flooding back to him, and he felt himself getting emotional again. He couldn't control it.

Roger's Mom put her hand on his and softly said, "Jerrod, it's alright. Love is a wonderful thing."

"I know," Jerrod replied, "it is, and I love Roger. It's not that so much, but I know you know that until I got here, I'd had a bad year. Then I got here, and David and Jackson pretty much got me straightened out and then I met Roger and fell in love with him. Last night he told me I was his soul mate."

"You are both very lucky boys," she replied, squeezing his hand and smiling widely.

"I know. I don't know why, but it's wonderful. I'm still trying to figure it out."

They both heard "Figure what out?" come from the doorway into the hall, as Roger walked in.

Jerrod looked up, momentarily caught off guard, but Roger was smiling at him, his eyes beaming in the sunlight, his blonde hair still wet from a shower.

"Figure out why you overslept."

"Right! It's Sunday. Seriously, are you okay? I just heard you saying something about what you had to figure out."

"Your Mom and I were just talking, and somehow… I don't know how… the conversation got around to us and our relationship, and I told her how much I love you and that you told me last night that I'm your soul mate. Is that okay? I didn't give anything away?"

Roger wrapped his arms around his boyfriend, kissed the side of his head and then looked at his Mom. "So, you think he's okay, too? Good enough to keep?"

"Roger, don't be so cavalier. What you have between you is precious. You must treat it so."

"I know Mom, and I do. I'm just trying to lighten things up a bit. You know what? You're right! He is precious. I think I will keep him, because he's just too valuable to lose."

"That's better."

Roger kissed the side of Jerrod's head again and said, "We're pretty open here. Not as open and candid as down at David and Jackson's, so no worries on telling Mom I said you're my soul mate. I would have told her eventually." He beamed at his Mother, who happily smiled back.

"Alright," she finally said, "I think we should be getting organized. "Roger, you've already had a shower. Jerrod, I think that means you're next. Why don't you go do that and I'll prepare breakfast for you both?"

As they ate, they were joined by Roger's Dad, who asked what the plan was for the day? Jerrod told them David and Jackson wanted him to join them for a ride up the Gorge to Multnomah Falls in the Challenger, while the weather was still good. "It's a 1970 Dodge Challenger that Jackson's Dad gave him, and he takes it out for drives a few times a year. Can Roger come along?" He glanced at Roger's Dad hopefully, and added, "Not to worry, the plan is to be home early. We both have homework to do for tomorrow."

Roger's parents exchanged glances and his Dad nodded, and then he said, "You should call home and let them know Roger's joining you. You likely won't be on the road before 10:30, so we'll agree to this as long as Roger's home by 5:00 pm."

Jerrod headed for the phone and came back smiling. "David says it's a deal, and that it's a short drive to the Falls, only a moderate hike, and a short drive back. No problem being home on time. They said they'd pick us up in half an hour."

"And you two," Roger's Mom said with a grin, "will almost certainly be sitting next to each other in the back seat doing your reading assignments for school tomorrow, won't you?"

Roger rolled his eyes and then said to Jerrod, "Let's go get ready."

Right on time the Challenger pulled up to the curb out front, and Roger's parents walked out to say hello and examine the classic old car. Jackson assured them it was well maintained, highway safe and insured. The drive in the muscle car was a hoot, and the hike to the most beautiful water fall in the Columbia Gorge was a delight, and Roger was delivered home before 5:00 pm, even if a little sunburned.

Jerrod had established a schedule of calling his parents in Philly on Sunday evening, and that way could keep them up to date on the week's activities and how he was doing. Over dinner that evening, and before he went to do his own homework, Jerrod told David that he'd have some reports for Russian History and English Lit coming up and asked if he could use the computer in the study. David smiled and nodded, and Jackson said, "It'll be way better than standing in line to use a computer in the library at school. Plus, you get to have Kaiser with you when you do your work here."

Jerrod grinned back and then told Jackson what he'd done using the Peter Gabriel song. "I heard what you said last summer about sometimes using songs and their lyrics to convey how you feel. My feelings are complicated right now, and it seemed like a good way to do it."

Jackson asked, "And the song was?"

"In Your Eyes. It's pretty much exactly how I feel"

"Wow! That one packs a punch. Good for you. Was Roger bowled over?"

Jerrod grinned and said softly, "He was kinda blown away. He told me afterwards that we're soul mates."

"You are one lucky man," David said. "And you know what else? Next time you call your parents you should think about something else, too. You're living out here and they're back there. Talking with them about being gay and your relationship is going to be uncomfortable to start with, but you need to do it. Don't cop out and avoid it because you can. You're in love with a wonderful guy. Be proud."

Jerrod took the advice to heart and Tuesday night he called his parents. His Mom answered the phone and after saying hello and telling him that his Dad wasn't home, Jerrod said, "There's some other stuff in my life I didn't talk to you guys about on Sunday night." He told her about the weekend, having a sleepover at Roger's house and the drive they all took in Jackson's Challenger.

"You boys are getting quite close, aren't you?"

"Mom, he's my boyfriend. I'm gay. I love him more than anything. I'm pretty sure you understand, but I don't know about Dad. I want to be honest with you guys, though. David reminded me that's important."

"You're right sweetheart, and part of the deal we made was honesty, and I appreciate your candor with me. Your Dad is coming around, but he's not there yet. Let me kind of break the news to him slowly, okay? You're certain now, that you're gay? No doubts. That Roger is your boyfriend, and this isn't just a phase?"

"It's for real, Mom. His parents know and we've talked with them about it, too. We're not out at school or anything. I mean, I just started here, but we want to be open and honest about it with family."

"That's commendable. Your Dad is at a yacht club meeting tonight, so I'll fill him in. How's that? And tell me how Kaiser is doing?"

Jerrod gave her a quick summary and told her about the therapy dog training they were looking into.

"Well, that's very interesting. He certainly seems to be a dog with the right aptitude for that kind of work. Just be sure it doesn't interfere with your schoolwork."

"I won't, Mom. No worry there. I love you. Tell Dad I love him, too, okay?"

The first week set the pace for the next few. Jerrod had filled out the therapy dog training application and sent it in and was anticipating a reply. It was approaching October when the first event happened. At the Wednesday afternoon ski team training, the Coach had asked everyone to explain what they were doing during the week to continue the fitness training they began at the weekly training session. Most of the team members described doing some of the stretching exercises and some running to build their fitness. Jerrod simply said he played tennis a couple of times a week, stretched daily and had added a few yoga moves, and went on weekly hikes in the Cascades. Two of the guys on the team were larger than the rest, and also played football. They were running backs, so big guys, but lithe and quick. The louder of the two, Matt Willis, probably weighed 185 pounds to Jerrod's 165, and he spent quite a bit of time describing daily weightlifting, running sprints in addition to all the football workouts. "Winning is about being bigger and stronger. That's all."

His friend said much the same thing, but in a quieter voice. Coach picked up after that and said, "Thanks all you guys. Good to know that you're all taking fitness seriously. When we get snow and actually start skiing, it's important to be as fit as you can be right out of the gate. Let me stress one thing, though. Don't forget that this is ski racing. Is strength and stamina important? It sure is. But equally important is agility and technique. Plowing your way through the gates works if the course is straight downhill, but they're not all that way, you need technique and agility to handle the transitions, the flatter sections and the aerial sections."

He looked around at everyone on the team. "Are you with me on this?" Most of them nodded. "One other thing, most of us grew up skiing here on Mount Hood, and we can get some bad weather, even icy at times. We also get some great snow, and even good powder. I just want you to know that Jerrod grew up on icy ski slopes back east. I coached him this summer, and some of you guys were in the camp, too. He knows something about agility, and that's a great asset to add to edge control. Don't ignore those stretching and flexibility exercises, because when you lose an edge you need that agility in addition to the strength if you're going to recover. Okay? Great. That'll do it for today. See you next week."

On the way out of the shower, Jerrod was thinking about getting home to take Kaiser for a walk when he walked into Matt Willis. "Watch where you're going, dumb fuck. What do ya mean walking into me?"

"Sorry, Matt. I didn't mean to walk into you. I was kind of like coming out of the shower room doorway and you were standing right there."

"Listen, you're the new kid here, so don't give me any shit. And I don't like being showed up."

"What do you mean showed up?"

"All that crap about you and skiing on ice and agility and shit. It's about strength and speed, just like scoring touchdowns. We don't need some new kid from back east in here trying to show us up."

"Hey, man. I'm not trying to show anybody up. I'm just getting ready for racing season, like you. You do it your way, I do it mine. That's all."

"Right. Just stay out of our way, and I don't want to hear any more shit about how you know best or any of that other crap. You just got here." He pushed Jerrod out of the way, and both of them walked into the showers leaving Jerrod wondering what had just happened.

The next week a letter came from the local American Kennel Club letting him know that his application had been accepted and that he was invited to attend a try out session on the next Saturday morning. He immediately called Roger and gave him the good news. Roger's first question was "What do we do to get ready?"

Jerrod hadn't thought of that, but finally said, "I don't think there's anything to do. This is like Dog Therapy 101. He's either got the ability or he doesn't. We're either a good working team or we're not. I think it's more like an assessment where they cut out the ones that won't make it. If we make the cut, then we'll start finding out what we need to learn."

"Makes sense to me. I'll be there. I know Jackson's letting you drive the Durango now. Will he let us go by ourselves?"

"Pretty sure. I'll confirm tonight at dinner."

"Great. It'll be fun…in a lot of ways."

"I'm bummed we can't have a sleepover this weekend, but are you thinking what I'm thinking? Now that you've read the whole book, I mean, and we've studied all those pictures and stuff?"

"Well, yeah. Sex with you is almost as natural as breathing now. No pressure, no stress. Just love and pleasure. It's pretty magical."

"Agreed. We'll plan it out for next time. In the meantime, how far have you gotten on reading Macbeth?"

"I'm ahead on the reading assignments," Roger said.

"Meaning that you're enjoying it?"

"Yeah, I'm enjoying it. It may sound weird, but I like iambic pentameter."

"It's an acquired taste, or so I'm told! I've gotta go help with dinner. I love you. See you in school tomorrow."

At dinner David told Jerrod that his Mom had called, and they'd had a positive conversation about how things were going. "She didn't sound concerned or uptight. More like after your recent conversation with her she just wanted to hear the take from the other side. You know, the adult side."

He wiggled his eyebrows and grinned, then said, "She also told me that your birthday is on October 8. You haven't said a word about it."

Jerrod blushed just a bit. "Well, you don't run around advertising it, you know like flashing a sign 'I want a birthday party!' I guess I didn't want to make a big deal out of it."

"We don't have to make a big deal out of it unless we want to," Jackson said. "But it's nice to know we have a reason to celebrate you turning eighteen. You'll be happy to learn that you'll be at the age of consent and able to legally have sex in Oregon."

"Yeah! Ha, ha! But thanks, you guys. I appreciate you caring enough to want to bring it up."

"More than that, my man! The 8th is a Thursday and that's a school night, so what we're proposing is a birthday dinner with Roger and his parents on Friday night. I'm guessing his parents will let him do a sleep over. You've had to go without for a while." He laughed out loud and Jerrod grinned back knowingly.

On Saturday, Jerrod pulled up in front of Roger's house driving the Durango with Kaiser in the rear, and they headed to the AKC building off Macadam Avenue down by the river in Portland. On the drive down, Roger said, "How are we going to handle this?"

Jerrod flashed him a grin. "I was thinking last night, 'cause I was sitting on a chair at the kitchen table talking to David while he cooked, and Kaiser walked over, you know, like he does, wanting some affection. So, I patted the tops of my thighs, and he walked right up between my legs and put his head down between my thighs, and then I scratched his ears. Then I pulled his ears out flat on my thighs and stroked them, and he looked up at me with those moony affectionate eyes. Then I grabbed the ends of his ears and flapped them and thought to myself, 'Wow! He looks kind of like Dumbo the Flying Elephant.' And then it hit me. He doesn't care if you flap his ears. He digs it. He doesn't care if you poke him, I mean as long as it doesn't hurt, he digs it. He's that laid back. So, that's kind of my idea for today. Angela said we'll have to demonstrate his temperament. What do ya think?"

Roger grinned conspiratorially. "I know what you're describing and think it's a pretty wicked idea. I can see it happening already!"

After they'd signed in, everyone introduced themselves and their dog, then the instructor spent quite a bit of time discussing what therapy dogs did, how they differed from service dogs, the qualities and temperament required, and then she got her own dog out of his crate to demonstrate. The dog was named Beau, and was a splendid looking yellow Labrador Retriever. He came out, looked around at all the new people and new dogs, his ears cocked and his eyebrows raised, but not overly excited. The instructor walked to the center of the group, stopped and lightly pulled on the leash and Beau stopped. Then she said "Sit," and he did.

"Did you all notice that Beau saw all of you new people and the new dogs and didn't get excited? He's curious, but he's got a mellow temperament, and he's learned that eventually he'll get to say hi to all of you and your dogs. Right now, he's good with waiting for that to happen. This is what we mean about not being excitable and pushy. Lots of dogs would be at the end of their leashes, pulling this way and that to get to the closest new dog. Now, let's watch what happens. I'm going to walk Beau around the circle and introduce him to your dogs, one by one. Let's see how they all do."

It was, in fact, fun to watch. Most of the dogs there for the session had moderate temperament, too, and just watched and waited for Beau to come to them. Some were whining and getting a little excited, but most were fine. A few couldn't handle the anticipation and were pulling on their leashes, a couple even barking.

Jerrod glanced at Roger and raised his eyebrows. Roger made the knife across the throat move, meaning those dogs were probably going to get cut on the first pass. When Beau came to Kaiser, Jerrod kept a little tension on his leash, and both dogs sniffed each other and that was that.

After the instructor had acclimated all the dogs to each other and to Beau, she began a very basic assessment, one by one, having each candidate and their dog come up next to her and Beau and sit. Then from that sit each owner and their dog would walk out next to the instructor and Beau, down along the long wall of the room, to a bed where a volunteer was laying. The instructor walked Beau down and then said, "Sit," and expected the new candidates to do the same. If and when they did, then she'd aske the volunteer patient is she'd like to pet the dogs. The patient said 'Yes,' and the instructor said "Release" and Beau stood up and put his chin on the bed next to the patient's hand. After a minute she pulled Beau back and encouraged the candidate to do the same.

Some of the dogs, including Kaiser, did quite well. Jerrod realized it was because he and Roger had been regularly working on the training drills that Angela had taught them. About a third of the dogs had the right intention, but still needed more training on voice commands and control. The other third of the dogs were pretty much out of control, some even jumping up on the bed. On the way back to their position, Jerrod smiled at Roger and wiggled his eyebrows. He got a very wide grin in return.

The last session was the instructor asking each candidate and their dog to come into the middle of the room with her, and show her what behavioral qualities they thought made their dog a good therapy dog candidate. Some people demonstrated show dog behaviors. Some showed basic voice command training. When Jerrod and Roger were called, he leaned over and whispered in Roger's ear, "We don't need to do that training stuff. We're doing the Dumbo the Flying Elephant stuff!"

Roger grinned, trusting his boyfriend.

The instructor greeted them and asked what they were going to show her. Jerrod handed Roger the leash and said, "The lady that taught us how to train Kaiser said he had the right temperament, and we want to demonstrate that."

He walked up to Kaiser and carefully grasped his ears and held them out horizontally and then softly pulled. Kaiser looked a little confused but did nothing else. Jerrod then flapped his ears, and Kaiser almost appeared to smile. Jerrod then dropped his ears and put the palm of one hand over Kaiser's eyes and shook his head. Kaiser wagged his tail, staying motionless. Then Jerrod moved to one side and softly poked Kaiser in the ribs, moving down to where he was poking him in the abdomen. He barely flinched. Then he walked behind Kaiser, and softly lifted and pulled his tail. Again, Kaiser didn't flinch or attempt to turn around. He released the tail, and then very carefully brought up one foot and slowly lifted it between Kaiser's legs. If Kaiser hadn't been neutered, this would have been like a poke in the balls. Kaiser flinched just a little, a natural protective reaction, but didn't growl or turn or jump away.

Jerrod walked back to the front of Kaiser, knelt down and petted his head and said softly, "Good boy, Kaiser." Then he turned to the instructor and said, "I know you'll think that's cool, but it's only because I'm his owner. But you need to know that we found Kaiser on the run this summer, just four months ago. You can do everything I just did, and you'll get the same reaction because he knows you now, and he trusts you. It's the same with our best friends. Do you want to try?"

It was obvious the instructor was a little incredulous, but also intrigued. She smiled at Jerrod and said, "Here, you hold Beau," handing him the leash. To Roger she said, "You'll continue holding Kaiser?"

Roger nodded, and she proceeded to do everything Jerrod had just done to Kaiser, except the foot touch between his rear legs. She walked back to Jerrod with a huge smile on her face, saying, "This dog has amazing temperament. He will certainly qualify for a therapy dog."

At the end of the session she informed the group that in the coming week they would be receiving notification in the mail about qualifying or not, and for those that did, the registration documents and training process details.

As Jerrod and Roger walked Kaiser out of the room, the instructor smiled widely at them and said, "Great job, boys. He's some dog. I look forward to working with you."

Jerrod's parents were equally pleased that the qualification session had gone so well when he called home Sunday evening. His Mom, as a nurse, was particularly enthused about the idea. Even his Dad, the high-powered attorney, seemed to appreciate that his son was focused on and engaging in an undertaking that was for the principal purpose of helping other people who were hospitalized and in need. "I'm proud of you, son. It's not something I ever would have thought of doing, but your Mom has described to me just how lonely and emotionally needy kids can be during long hospital stays, so this is a good thing you and Roger are doing with Kaiser."

"Thanks, Dad. I'm glad you approve."

"I do, and I note you're doing this with Roger. You two are becoming quite the team."

"We are, Dad. You know how I feel about him."

"I do. Your Mom is helping me to understand, and has given me plenty of material to read. I may be old school, but I'm not a stick in the mud. Your happiness is very important to me. Just be patient with me, okay?"

"Sure thing, Dad." Jerrod almost started giggling as the thought crossed his mind that among the reading materials his Mom had given his Dad was certainly not a copy of The Joy of Gay Sex!

The acceptance letter came the next week, and it required eight Sunday afternoon sessions of therapy dog training. The first four would be at the AKC facility, the last four at Doernbecher Children's Hospital. Jerrod and Roger were thrilled, even though it would consume all their Sunday afternoon's almost up to Christmas vacation.

That afternoon they related to Sean and his Mom that Kaiser had qualified, and Sean was excited and seemed to understand the honor. He had implicit faith in Kaiser, so that was no surprise. His Mom was thrilled for Kaiser, but even more for Jerrod and Roger

Jerrod's birthday approached with no fanfare, and though they were five weeks into the school year, things were going well. The boys were on top of their schoolwork. There had been no more confrontations with Matt Willis, though he made it clear he had no time for the new kid from back east that he thought showed him up. Jerrod ignored it and thought to himself, 'Let's see how it all works when we've got snow and are on the racecourse!' The English Lit class had experienced robust discussions of Macbeth, and a pending class project was a mock trial where Macbeth would be on trial, with class members to be drawn by lot to play various roles. Russian History was moving slowly through the first thousand years of the nation's history.

When the boys got home from school on Friday the 9th, they took Kaiser for a walk, and were back by 4:30. To their surprise, Jackson was already home.

"What's up?"

Jackson grinned, "I'm home early. This is a big evening. You guys have time for a shower and getting cleaned up. You know we're doing this in style tonight, right?"

Jerrod looked confused. "What do you mean?"

"I mean dressed up, no jeans, more than casual!"


"Well, yeah! I mean, a suit or a tux isn't required, but no jeans and T-shirts!"

Jerrod looked flummoxed. "Just ask your boyfriend. He'll help you out." Jackson laughed and turned to go back to the kitchen, then he paused. "So, Roger, when's your birthday?"

"December 6. Why?"

Jackson grinned and said, "Just wanting to know," and went back to work with David in the kitchen.

Jerrod and Roger fed Kaiser, then Roger pulled him down to their room.

"What's going on?"

"It's your birthday, dude! It may not be a big deal to you, but to all of us it's the first birthday since you came into our lives. So, we're making a deal out of it. Your job is to go along and enjoy it."

Jerrod immediately understood, and a look of resignation came across his face. "What's with the dress up stuff?"

"Jerrod! This is an event. Don't act like we're forcing you. This will be fun, and we've all agreed that we're going to dress up a bit. I brought an Oxford shirt and slacks and a bow tie in my bag. My folks are dressing up and David and Jackson will be dressed up too. So, will you! What have you got in that closet?"

"Nothing too fancy."

"Let's look. We've got to sort out what you're going to wear."

Jerrod had a nice pair of gray slacks, a light blue button-down shirt, and a regimental striped tie. Roger opined that they would suffice and informed him it was time to get moving. "Shower time."

Jerrod's eyes gleamed. "I like the sound of that. It brings back memories of the 'tight' shower at your house."

"If you get your ass in gear, we'll have time for that," Roger said, hurrying him along.

When the boys had dressed and walked to the front of the house, they found David and Jackson in the living room, both in dress shirts with ties and silk vests. Jackson had a serviette napkin draped over his left forearm, and David had a chef's apron around his waist.

"Wow! Look at you guys," Jerrod said.

Jackson grinned. "Just for you, baby, just for you!"

Jerrod blushed and said, "What's with the napkin?"

"I am your drinks waiter this evening, and since you are at home and turning eighteen, I'm here to take your drinks order because it's legal to drink at home with adult supervision when you're eighteen. You can have whatever you would like. One of whatever you would like in as much as you don't have much practice with alcohol. I'm prepared to handle most mixed drinks and cocktails, and if you choose to go on the lighter side, we have a couple of nice local beers as well as good quality red and white wine."

Jerrod looked at Roger to see if this was all for real, and the grin on his face was classic.

"Well, my good man," Jerrod said, "In as much as we've been reading The Bard lately, and are learning more about nobility and good manners, it would be important on an evening such as this not to be overcome with the vapors of alcohol. We have been dealing with the vapors of the witch's hell-brew on the moor, so I determine that simply a glass of white wine would constitute more than a sufficiency. At least for me. What say you?"

Roger had started giggling as he heard Jerrod fall into his banter and was barely containing himself as it ended. Jackson turned to him, saying, "And you, young man? What may I bring for you?"

Roger bit back the humor and answered, "A glass of white wine would be magnificent."

They heard the doorbell ring, and Jerrod was off to answer it, returning momentarily with Roger's parents. They'd barely settled in the living room when Jackson returned with a small silver tray holding two glasses of white wine, offering them to the boys. He then turned to Roger's parents, inquiring as to their order, and saying, "We have a full bar, so you're not limited to white wine."

The adults grinned and Jackson departed to shortly return with two Gin and Tonics, a single malt Scotch on the rocks for David and a Manhattan for himself. Kaiser had joined them, and shortly was curled up under the coffee table in front of the couch.

David announced that the rack of prime rib was coming out of the oven in ten minutes, would rest for another ten, during which he'd assemble dinner. Roger's Mom insisted on helping and it wasn't but shortly thereafter that David was carving, and a great dinner was under way.

The insistence that everyone leave room for dessert was appreciated when Jackson appeared with a quart of vanilla ice cream and a hazelnut cake with cream cheese frosting and eighteen candles.

The boys had been allowed one more glass of white wine with dinner, and that was enough for both of them. By the time dessert was served they had been flashing grins at each other and elected to join the adults in a cup of coffee with dessert, both knowing the last thing they wanted was flagging energy after dinner.

They gathered in the living room after the dishes were cleared. David and Jackson made the first move and handed Jerrod a package with the accompanying happy birthday greeting. Jerrod quietly accepted it and removed the wrapping to discover a chef's knife. He looked up at them to hear David say, "You're part of the cooking team, so it's time you started building your own set of tools."

Jerrod smiled deeply, appreciating the encouragement of his emerging food prep skills in addition to the gift itself. "Thanks, you guys, this is wonderful."

Roger's parents slipped him a gift as well, and it turned out to be a matched boning knife with a honing steel. "Wow! You guys must have coordinated. This is so cool. Thank you." He got up and dropped Roger's hand to give all the adults a hug.

Before he sat back down, David handed him an envelope and said, "This came for you from Philly." In addition to birthday cards from his parents and Aunt Jane and David's brother, Michael were two gift cards for $50 each.

As he sat back down next to Roger, his boyfriend reached down next to him and pulled a small, wrapped package out from the side of the cushion on the couch. It was suspiciously the size of a compact disc, and he handed it to Jerrod and leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"This is one of my favorites, and I don't think you know the band."

Jerrod unwrapped it to find himself holding a copy of Cracked Rear View by Hootie and the Blowfish.

"It's kind of country rock," Roger went on, "and I think you'll like it." He was looking all innocent, but his eyes were gleaming.

"I bet I will."

When the celebration broke up, Jerrod and Roger took Kaiser out as Roger's parents left. Jackson made sure the boys understood they weren't welcome in the kitchen. The men were cleaning up and they were expected to entertain themselves… however they chose!

They settled Kaiser on his bed, and Jerrod said, "Let's get comfortable." In minutes they were in their boxers. "Thanks for the CD. I can tell it's special somehow."

"It is. I've had the album for a long time. I mean, it came out in 1994, and I was just getting into music. You know how it goes, something catches your attention, then it wanes a little. Anyway, I haven't listened to it for a long time. But after what you did when you played me In Your Eyes, I realized you'd rung my bell, and something kept nagging me about how you played me a song that said so much about how you feel… about me. You know?"

"Yeah, I do. It's how I felt. How I feel. Always will."

"Well, that's why I'm going to play a song for you. I finally realized what was bugging me, and it was that there's a song on this album that says just how I feel about you and our relationship. So, liebling, sit on the bed, okay, and I'll play it for you."

With that he cued up the CD track on Jerrod's CD player, and turned up the volume so the two speakers filled the room with sound. He pushed play and the opening chords of Hold My Hand filled the room.

With a little love and some tenderness
We'll walk upon the water
We'll rise above the mess

With a little peace and some harmony
We'll take the world together
We'll take them by the hand

'Cause I've got a hand for you, oh
'Cause I wanna run with you

Yesterday, I saw you standing there
Your head was down, your eyes were red
No comb had touched your hair

I said, get up, and let me see you smile
We'll take a walk together
Walk the road awhile, 'cause

'Cause I've got a hand for you
I've got a hand for you
'Cause I wanna run with you
Won't you let me run with you, yeah

Want you to hold my hand
I'll take you to a place
Where you can be

Anything you wanna be because
I wanna love you the best that
The best that I can

See I was wasted, and I was wasting time
'Til I thought about your problems
I thought about your crimes

Then I stood up, and then I screamed aloud
I don't wanna be part of your problems
Don't wanna be part of your crowd, no

'Cause I've got a hand for you
I've got a hand for you
'Cause I wanna run with you

Won't you let me run with you
Want you to hold my hand
I'll take you to the promised land

Maybe we can't change the world but
I wanna love you the best that
The best that I can, yeah

Let me walk, oh won't you let me, let me
Want you to hold my hand
I'll take you to a place where you can be
Anything you wanna be because

I oh no, no, no, no, no
Want you to hold my hand
I'll take you to the promised land

Maybe we can't change the world but
I wanna love you the best that
The best that I can
Oh, best that I can

Listen to the YouTube video of Hold My Hand by Hootie and the Blowfish

Jerrod had expected some kind of romantic love song, and found himself speechless. Meaning that no quick comments came to mind, the lyrics had been so striking.

"Did you like it?"

"Of course, I did," Jerrod said, as he pulled Roger to him. "The idea that you want to hold my hand, and want to love me the best that you can is fabulous."

Roger pulled himself closer and wrapped his arms around Jerrod's back feeling their chests touch. "I'm glad," he said softly.

"Will you tell me more about what it means to you?"

"Well, it starts with love and tenderness to get above the mess. Isn't that what happened last summer when we got together? You were getting above your mess. And then the idea that with a little love and tenderness we can take the world, meaning we'll make a go of it. I love that idea."

"Me, too. You're a romantic, you know!" Jerrod kissed the top of Roger's head, feeling himself getting emotional.

"Then there's the part about wanting to hold your hand and run with you, like be with you. That's how I felt when I first met you, and your eyes weren't red, but they were down, and then I learned more about what you went through, your crime, but it didn't matter. When you smiled, that's all I wanted. To hold your hand and run with you. To love you the best that I can. We were both wasting time before, but we don't have to anymore."

"We don't, that's for sure, 'cause we've got each other. The night I played you In Your Eyes we promised we'd be here now for each other forever. Now we can add that we'll love each other the best that we can…forever. Is that the deal?"

"It is for me. I always thought the lyrics were cool, in a kind of abstract way. But that was before I'd fallen in love with someone. Now I know something I didn't before, and that's why what I want to do is love you the best that I can."

"Me, too. I'm totally committed to loving you the best that I can. You know what?"

"Tell me."

"Four months ago, when I came out here, I was miserable and figured I'd fucked things up so bad that no one would love me. Then I found out David and Jackson loved me. And Will and Sam, and Eric and Kim. Then I met you and found out you loved me. Then all of you guys helped me accept and love myself. It's pretty heavy, but I've never been happier."

He paused, then added, "I'm yours forever now. You have no idea how hard it will be to get rid of me if you ever change your mind."

"Liebling, I'm never changing my mind."

Jerrod sighed, then said softly, "I love it when you call me that."

They lay quietly for a minute or two, letting their spoken commitments sink in and then like usually happens with teen boys, their minds moved to other things.

Finally, Roger said, "A couple of weeks ago you said something about a striptease, but you never delivered. Are you up for one?"

"What? From you? From Mr. Timid?"

"No, boyfriend. From the former Mr. Timid!"

The album had now advanced to the third track and Only Wanna Be With You was playing.

"This is the other song on the album that makes me think of you."

Roger got up and stood at the foot of the bed, slowly undulating his hips, rubbing his hands over his stomach and up and then over his pecs, stroking back down where he pushed the fingers of both hands under the elastic of his boxers, tenting them out. He was swaying with the music, softly singing "I only wanna be with you" with his eyes closed, as he pulled his hands back up and swirled them around his stomach.

Jerrod noticed that his boxers were now tented without his hands in them and felt himself getting hard, too. Roger opened his eyes and caught Jerrod's, holding them fiercely.

He softly sang again, "I only wanna to be with you," as he slid his fingers into the elastic on his boxers, but this time on the outside of his hips, slowly beginning to push them down. Jerrod was mesmerized. He knew his boyfriend's body by now, but this was different. The moment was infused with so much emotion and love. As the boxers were pushed slowly down, more of Roger's dark blonde treasure trail was exposed, and the tenting in those boxers got more pronounced. Jerrod knew exactly what it would look like when the boxers dropped to the floor, but that did nothing to staunch his excitement. He watched the head of Roger's cock appear, totally captured by the beauty. It strained against the elastic, then popped free, standing proud and angled towards his belly. Jerrod was more excited than he could ever remember, and his cock felt so hard it almost hurt.

He held out his arms, and softly said, "I only wanna be with you."

Roger sexily climbed onto the foot of the bed and slowly moved up between Jerrod's legs, softly stroking his legs and thighs, then kissing the inside of those thighs as his nose rubbed against Jerrod's ball sack. He inhaled deeply, kissed and sucked a little as his hands moved up to rub softly across Jerrod's belly and into his pubes, finally coming to rest at the base of his cock. Then he leaned over and licked the head of Jerrod's cock.

He looked his lover in the eyes and said softly, "I only wanna be with you, too, but I want you inside me tonight. Are you ready?"

Jerrod was almost panting, his eyes wide and gleaming as he reached down and stroked Roger's face. "If you really are, so am I."

They'd been preparing each other over recent weeks, using two and three fingers when rubbing each other's prostate, purposefully stretching each other. Roger smiled as he raised his head to lick the precum off the glistening head of Jerrod's cock. He glanced at the nightstand and said, "Hand me the lube."

He lubed his fingers and hole, and then he licked his lover's cock-head again. Jerrod groaned and said, "Careful! Go slow or I'll cum too soon."

Roger smiled lasciviously, "No worry, liebling, just relax and enjoy." He crawled up over Jerrod's thighs, leaning over to kiss his lips as he settled his crack on Jerrod's cock and started moving his hips back and forth. Now Roger was moaning in unison with Jerrod and continued the sliding motion. He could hear Jerrod groan, see the expressions of pleasure on his face, and he could see the result of what he was doing to Jerrod excite him even more. Roger moved forward riding Jerrod's cock and feeling it slide to rub his. Then as he moved backwards, Jerrod's cock rubbed up against his own balls.

Roger could feel their mutual excitement building, and sat back on Jerrod's thighs so he could put lube on his cock, then rose up on his knees and guided it up against him. As he slowly sat back, he watched Jerrod's eyes widen, and felt the pressure as he willed himself to open.

He went slowly as they'd planned, and he worried that the slow pace would mean Jerrod would cum too soon, but their preparation had been worthwhile, and after just a minute of slowly easing himself down, Jerrod's cock was in him and past the second tightness. A deep, animal groan came from his lover's throat, and Roger simultaneously felt the joy of being filled and then the sensation of a fully engorged cock rubbing against his prostate. He whimpered softly from pure pleasure as he slowly began lifting from his knees to withdraw and then sliding back down.

As he withdrew the second time, he relaxed further and with a few more movements was able to take Jerrod completely into him, and then he felt Jerrod reach for his cock and simultaneously thrust up into him. He felt overwhelmed with the sensation of being fucked, and realized that they were both so excited they were now close. It wasn't long till Jerrod cried, "oh my god," and thrust up deep into him and began to cum. Roger, in turn, was over the edge and started to shoot onto Jerrod's chest and stomach. Their eyes were locked onto each other till the sensations overtook them both and they closed their eyes and collapsed together to enjoy the bliss.

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