Jay & Miles

by ColumbusGuy

Chapter 30

Family Affair

POV: Greg, Denny

As I drove Denny's car out of the lot at school, I couldn't resist giving Jay the 'Bird'—did he think I was stupid or something? The way he had been acting at lunch, and then just a few minutes ago told me he suspected that me and Denny were a couple, so that meant that Mikey almost certainly did too…but I wanted to keep it between the two of us for a while longer, to savor and nurture it. We hadn't discussed when or even if we'd tell anyone because of the turmoil we'd had last night—sure Jeff already knew, but that was different since he was my brother. I wasn't sure if I should count Benny or not—he knew I wanted a boyfriend—and I'd told him last night that I'd screwed it up—but I hadn't told him any names. That was something I decided I needed to talk to Denny about right away, neither of us could afford secrets between us. I would have gone to 'our spot' near Jay's house, but I remembered I had to go home before anything else.

"Yank, I need to stop at home and put dinner in the oven—mom works today and she makes it early on those days so it just needs to be cooked; you don't mind do you?" I caught his grin as I glanced over to see what his reaction might be to staying at my house for a while, and I felt his hand reach over and grab mine near the gear-shift. "Reb, I already thought we'd be staying at your place, remember? It'll give us a chance to get to know each other better anyhow."

Oh yeah—how could I forget? I put it down to my lack of sleep, and his silver eyes. In just a few minutes I was pulling up to the curb in front of my house; mom and dad's cars, when they were home, took up the driveway and single detached garage set back about ten feet from the house, so I guess it was good that I didn't have my own wheels. Jeff was hankering after a motorcycle, but I didn't think he'd get one with the way mom felt about them—her cousin wrecked one last year and broke his leg. At least we were 'lucky' enough that we could borrow one of our parents' cars if they didn't have any plans for the evening. Whenever we could, we picked dad's '68 Caprice over mom's old Rambler station wagon—we tried to use that only on family vacations. With the gas crisis a few years back, we'd almost talked them into selling it, but she claimed it was too useful to get rid of since it could hold all seven of us on long trips. Now that I had a boyfriend, I could look forward to dreading the night I'd have to borrow it for a date—unless I wanted Denny to drive us every single time. The only advantage I could even remotely see to it was if we went to the drive-in; on those nights, we could fold the seats down and lay in the back with the tailgate down to watch the movies.

I dropped my book bag on the bench next to the phone in the foyer, and went on back to the kitchen. Mom's note said to take the casserole out of the fridge to warm on the table for an hour, then to put it in to cook for two hours, so it would be ready by 6p.m. I was drooling when I peeled the foil back and saw my favorite—lasagna—before putting the foil back in place. The note also said to peel and slice potatoes to roast at 5p.m., so I pulled eight out of the bag and Denny helped me wash them in the sink. I explained to him that we put oregano, olive oil and parmesan cheese on them as they cooked, and I could see his eyes light up in anticipation. "We have garlic bread in the freezer which will go in about 5:30, so we're set for an hour until it's time to put the lasagna in the oven." I handed him the towel to dry his hands, and he took it and rubbed mine after doing his, then he focused his gaze on me, which made me blush a bit. I think he wanted to kiss me—I know I wanted to kiss him, but it felt weird…I mean, we were boyfriends now, right? We leaned in at the same time, and I grinned a little when I saw him close his eyes. I hesitated for a second and he opened them again, which made me snicker. "Stop it," he whispered, and started to lean in again, but this time he paused, and I whispered, "Well?" and he started to laugh.

"Damn it, Reb, I can't kiss you if you grin like that…" He pulled back and waited for me to calm down a bit, but the awkwardness made me snicker again, and he glared at me with those grey eyes, which now looked like miniature storm clouds. I needed something to take my mind off the situation, so I offered him some Kool-Aid. I filled two glasses with ice, poured the Black Cherry goodness, and handed him one, then kissed him on the cheek softly as I did so. "Let's go upstairs and I'll show you my room before I come back down to start dinner."

As I started up the stairs, I took his hand to lead the way, then opened the door to the attic stairs, letting him go first. There was a lot of light in my room up there since it had dormers on three sides, one of them at the landing where my stairs doubled back on themselves half-way up, the other on the far side opposite, and the third with three smaller windows in the front. All were open with the portable screens in to keep it cool. The fourth side had a gas heater that vented into the chimney, and a door that led into my own small bathroom. It was just a toilet, small corner sink and a shower big enough for one person, but I didn't have to share it like my brothers and sisters did. A couple of banks of drawers were built into the knee-walls for my clothes, and the other door, shorter than the rest in the house, led into a closet along one side of the room under the rafters. My desk held my typewriter and some books, while my portable stereo was on the table next to my bed. A couple of upholstered chairs were in the opposite corner next to the front windows, with a little table between them.

I put my glass on the little table, and sank into the chair, and Denny sat in the other one with his legs stretched out to rest tangled up with mine. "Nice room, does it get hot in the summer?" I smiled at him and took his hand in mine to rest them next to our glasses. "I got a window fan, and the insulation we put in keeps it pretty decent most days." I pointed to a round grille in the flat part of the angled ceiling. "That goes to a roof vent with a turbine on top which turns from the rising air current…that draws out the excess heat, and I can close it off during the winter."

I heard a distant slam and knew it would be Jeff getting home on the bus. A few minutes later, there was a knock at the bottom of my stairs, and he came up and stared at Denny and me with a questioning look. His green eyes were a little subdued because his hair was more light brown than fiery red, but the begging for answers was unmistakable in them. He held out his hand, "I'm Jeff…so what's the deal? Did he do something crazy like I said?"

Denny's laugh was light as he shook my brother's hand. "Yeah, but I made up with him anyway. My name's Denny Watson, by the way. Nice to meet you." Jeff looked him over carefully, taking in the clothes and the slight New England accent Denny still held on to. I just knew he was going to say something to make us uncomfortable, so I headed him off. "Yes…we're gonna try being boyfriends; Denny isn't used to my joking around, and I said something dumb and he took it the wrong way—but that's all fixed now."

Jeff nodded his head and grinned at us. "He's a good guy Denny—he'd never do anything mean on purpose—just keep that in your head when he's stupid. So, you guys aren't studying tonight?" He ducked when I stood up and took a swipe at his head, then backed up toward the stairs. "I'll get dinner ready; you guys can stay up here and 'talk'." I called after him, "It's starting at 6p.m., the other guys had plans first," then listened as he shut the door and bounded down the stairs to the kitchen.

Now that I was vertical, I took a long drink of my Kool-Aid, and went into my little bathroom to take a leak. I washed my hands and came out to find my boyfriend standing by the door. "That's not a bad idea," he said, and went in to do his own business. I was sitting on the edge of my bed when he came back out, and he dropped down next to me. I had no idea what Jeff thought we'd do talking, but I couldn't help blushing as I turned to face my new boyfriend. I took his hand and we kissed for a minute, then I felt his lips part wider; I was about to stick my tongue in when I realized he was yawning…and that set me off too. He giggled at me, and I blushed further. "We'll get this right some time, but I think we need to just lie down for a while, okay?" When I nodded, he pushed me back against the pillows and pulled my sneakers off before moving my legs onto the bed, then he kicked off his loafers and lay down next to me. We stared at each other for a minute on our sides, faces only inches apart, before he pulled me into his chest and I cuddled up next to him, my right knee over his.

The last thing I remember was brushing my lips against his before resting my head back onto his shoulder and nuzzling into his neck. His arm pulled me in tighter as his hand stroked my back before coming to rest on my side; our free hands laced together on his chest as our eyes closed for some of the sleep we'd missed the previous night

I'm not sure why I woke; the angle of the light coming in through the three windows overlooking the street was reaching further into the room, so it had been only a short time since I'd fallen asleep in Denny's embrace. I lifted my head slightly from his shoulder to look around without disturbing my Yankee boyfriend, but nothing seemed different at first—until I looked at the two chairs to the right of the front windows. It was a little awkward because it meant I was looking down the length of our bodies and slightly left…though the view of Denny's increasingly well-packed jeans was a great incentive, and seeing his bulge grow, caused mine to do the same against his hip. A pair of bright hazel-green eyes peered back at me from behind wire-framed glasses perched below strawberry-blond hair.

My youngest brother was nearly dangling from the edge of the chair, elbows on his knees and a huge grin on his pale face as he took in where our hands lay—in our nap, mine had worked its way between the buttons of Denny's shirt, and his had moved under my tee-shirt to rest on my side, exposing several inches of my ribs. I was tempted to jump in surprise, but I stopped myself because I didn't want to wake Denny just yet—it felt too good being curled up with him this way…and Jeff had hinted that Lee might be into boys too, so that was one less reason to panic. From the way he was watching us, and the way he licked his lips just a little, I was pretty sure Jeff had been right. I watched as one of his hands went between his legs to rub at his crotch absently, then with more purpose. When I let out a soft snicker, his hand went back to resting on his knee and he swallowed with a deepening blush. His eyes were fixed on Denny's body for a good while before they shifted to me.

Lee was fourteen now, and I remembered that I'd been in the 'Club' for almost a year by that time, but I'd waited until Jeff was fourteen before bringing him to his first meeting, and it looked like he was doing the same with our 'baby' brother…but I could see he was burning up with the desire to ask me a lot of questions. I recalled some of our talks before falling asleep, so I knew that Lee was more than familiar with the concept of jacking off, but he and I hadn't really talked about it since that was when I finally got my own room. I was sure Jeff had been great with telling him the 'how-tos' and 'whys' of it…he wasn't embarrassed to talk about anything—but if Lee had specific questions about liking boys, then I'd have to be his source of information. The big mystery for me right now was whether Jeff had told Lee that I was queer.

Jackson 'Lee' Newton was different from me and Jeff, more into reading than either of us, but he was still full of boyish energy at fourteen, so he always seemed to be in motion to me—whether it was a bouncing knee as he sat, fidgeting motions with his hands or even pacing when he was really nervous. Despite all that, he was fairly quiet when he spoke, and it took people a while to figure out that he was spacing his words so they wouldn't come out in a tumbled mess. I was sure my little brother was the smartest of us all because he had often surprised us by pointing out things the two of us had missed. When Lee focused on something, it was like a drain for all his excess energy, which was why Jeff had been surprised that the prospect of taking him to the circle-jerk Club hadn't calmed him down like he thought it would. Seeing Lee's eager expression, I put a finger to my lips so my brother wouldn't make a lot of noise, and motioned him to come sit next to me on the edge of the double bed.

As Lee came to sit, I moved just enough so I could turn my head to face my brother; Denny stirred a bit as I moved more onto my back, so that his hand was now resting on my exposed abdomen. My boyfriend's breathing altered for just a second then settled back into a slow rhythm of sleepy contentment. Lee gave me one of his most infectious grins and leaned in so his lips were right next to my ear. "Pretty nice boyfriend."

Not 'Are you queer?' or 'Are you dating?' but the automatic assumption that this boy curled up by my side was the one I'd chosen to be my lover—no that wasn't right either—it was a statement that me and Denny were in a serious relationship. Damn, Lee was sharp! I was a little surprised by the complete lack of judgment or censure in his voice, even though our parents had never said anything against anybody, unless they were very stupid or really lazy—then that Southern word 'special' came into play. I could almost hear my Mamaw's words now, 'Life's too short and hard to hate anybody—if you can't say something nice about a person, be polite and try to avoid them in future.' My Papaw would always laugh when she said that, and add, 'If they keep sassin' you no matter what, that's why God created sticks—and big dogs!'

I smiled at him, and whispered back, "I think so." Lee nodded and let out a little sigh as he glanced across me at Denny's smiling face—he just seemed to be so happy that way, as I'd discovered this morning in our 'spot'—I'd fallen asleep a little after him, mainly because I wanted to look at him some more as my boyfriend rather than 'Denny Watson'. What he said next confirmed my suspicions.

"Do you think I'll find my boyfriend at the meetings?" There was no uncertainty in his tone about what he was hoping to find, only that he would. I was about to panic at his openness, but he put a finger to my lips to shush me. "I know, be careful…jeez, I'm not stupid. Jeff already told me to watch what I did, and not be too obvious when I look at the other guys, and I know the reason he gets away with being so bold is because he's not shy about anything and he's always looking for a girlfriend…" his pause was brief as he took a minute to figure out what to say next. "I want to learn how you knew it was okay to get together with Benny across the street."

Shit—didn't I have any secrets from my baby brother? Lee told me that once he heard about what the Club meetings were really for after a few questions to Jeff, it didn't take him long to put things together—that despite having been neighbors for years, we'd never hung out until we were in the Club, and even then it was always at Benny's house if it was just the two of us—if the other guys were around, we'd be here or at the Green. I was relieved that Jeff hadn't told him about me and Benny because it meant he hadn't broken our bond as brothers who looked out for each other like the Three Musketeers. I was quietly explaining how Ben and I had started out with quick glances, and he nodded his agreement that he thought that was the way he should do it too, since he wasn't as forward as Jeff. I then told him about the signs to look out for, as I'd explained them to Miles last week at lunch, and he snickered when I talked about sensing gay 'vibes''—he figured I must be joking until I told him it was a combination of reading body language and adding that to information from other sources, but I also said that he should trust his instincts too, as I did. He promised me he'd be careful, and I thought about going with him for his first few meetings, but I was damn near certain that my boyfriend would object, just as I would if he were to do something like that. I stopped worrying about that when I remembered that Jeff would be right there with him.

The faint noise of a door slamming downstairs and a look at my clock told me that Mom was home from work, and that it was about ten minutes until Dad got home too and we'd start dinner. Lee sat up, and reached a tentative hand toward Denny's face; I nodded and he lightly brushed his cheek then drew his hand back. What Lee said next told me why he'd done what he just did. "He looks so happy—I want to end up with a guy just like that….What color are his eyes?" He grinned when I gave him a silly smile. "Like silvery moonlight when he's excited, and like gathering storm clouds when he's upset. I plan on trying to keep him happy."

"Good. I brought your books up so you can study after dinner—Jeff had me set a place for him at the table, so mom already knows there's company…I don't think I'd say anything about the boyfriend thing in front of Alice and Penny—they're awful gossips." When he saw my look of alarm, he snickered again, and this time I caught how much it was like mine and Jeff's. "Don't worry about mom and dad…if they think they need to talk about it, you know it'll be in private."

That was hardly reassuring to me, but he just grinned again and started down the stairs to the room he now shared only with Jeff. "Hurry up, and get your ass downstairs so we can eat!"

I felt a hand move around under my tee-shirt and rub my chest as lips met my cheek. "Silvery moonlight, huh? I didn't know my Reb was a poet." He laughed at my shocked expression, but gave me another kiss to calm my fears. I wondered how much he'd heard me tell Lee, but he put me out of my misery right away. "Was Ben good to you? Did he treat you right?" I turned to face him, not sure if he wanted me to snuggle some more, but he pulled me into his arms and gave me a hug to end all hugs. When I nodded that he had, Denny smiled. "Good…and don't feel guilty, Reb—you already told me about what happened, and how it wasn't really love—the only difference now is that I have the name to go with the story. He's an okay guy in my book, so we can tell him about us if you want; that way he won't worry about you so much.

"By the way, I think your brother is right—we should study here tonight…I think Jay has something special planned, so lets give them some time alone." Denny rolled on top of me and his weight pressed me into my mattress, and there were a couple parts which felt really good as we molded ourselves together, but after a few minutes there was a knock from the bottom of my steps and Jeff's "Dad's home!" came floating up. With a sigh, I gave him a quick peck on the lips and we climbed to our feet. After checking ourselves in my four-foot bevelled closet door mirror, we washed our hands and headed down to the dining room. I really hoped things would work out tonight—there shouldn't be any problems, but there was only so much that us teenagers could control in our lives, whatever we might think.

The aromas of lasagna, garlic bread and roasted potatoes coming from the Newton's kitchen had me drooling before Greg and I came down the stairs into the foyer…but most of my attention was on him, the way his muscles moved under his shirt: smooth with just enough definition to stand out under his skin, giving him a balanced look of a guy who kept up with his exercises, but didn't overdo it like weight-lifters tended to do. I really regretted that he wasn't in my gym class because other than a few glimpses of skin around his abs, I hadn't seen anything else yet. His usual tee-shirt gave some hints, but he didn't wear them a size too small to show off like some guys did. He glanced back at me as we passed into the living room, and I was nearly certain that he caught my eyes lingering on his butt.

I greeted his dad, who was reading the paper, and he put it aside so he could devote his attention to Greg and me. "No studying tonight?" Greg explained that it was going to start late since the other guys had plans, then I added that we'd just do our homework here since we had our books. "We had a fairly light day, so I'm hoping you won't mind if Greg and I do our work in his room after dinner?"

Mrs. Newton popped her head around the entrance to the dining room and answered my question. "That will be fine Denny…Jeff told me that you helped prepare the potatoes when you brought Greg home, and that you've started your lessons already. James, come sit, we just have to bring it out." I watched as a small procession of 'help' came in with the dishes of food, and pitchers of drinks. The two girls were both coppery red-heads like their mother, and I think they had green eyes, but I wasn't paying much attention to them with the food to focus on. Jeff and Lee asked what everybody wanted to drink, and poured either milk or Kool-Aid as requested before taking the pitchers back to the refrigerator. Greg's parents sat at the ends of the table, Penny and Lee sat closest to their mom, while Alice and Jeff sat next to them, which left me and Greg in the seats closest to his dad.

Once we were all settled in, Mr. Newton bowed his head for a minute, then said 'Amen', followed by the rest of us. The potatoes were a golden color under their sprinkling of spice and parmesan cheese and smelled delicious as each of us put some onto our plates in turn. The lasagna was a little trickier with its mix of tomato sauce and lots of cheese, so Mrs. Newton cut and dished portions for us as we held our plates next to the casserole dish. A large platter held slices of garlic bread, and I loved how shredded cheese had been added to melt into each piece as it heated in the oven. Everyone began to talk about their days, starting with the two girls, and everybody asked questions as it seemed appropriate, and there was a bit of snickering and laughter at some of the things which each of us related. I wasn't quite sure what I should say when it came to me, because I wasn't much of a 'joiner' until I met Jay, and I didn't think it would be funny to tell these people about his tripping in the cafeteria, and I definitely wasn't going to mention the fight on Monday. I hadn't learned yet that leaving Greg with an opening was a dangerous thing, because he jumped in to inform his family that I was a great piano player…and that I could even play the harp. With all eyes on me, I knew my face was crimson with embarrassment, and I was just glad that I hadn't seen any musical instruments except for Greg's guitar and banjo cases in his room.

My hope of being safe from having to perform died when Lee spoke up in his soft tenor. "I don't know if it's the same, but maybe he could play something on Mamaw's psaltery…it's almost like a harp, isn't it?" The next few minutes were taken up by Mr. Newton explaining that it was more like a horizontal harp with the soundboard under the strings rather than at the very bottom of the instrument like in a traditional harp, and it sounded like a zither to me. I told him I had no idea if I could play it, but I'd look at it before deciding. When it came to music, it seemed that the entire family could do something, from Greg's skill with guitar and banjo down to Penny who could play the recorder. Greg explained that he'd gotten his grandfather's banjo and guitar when the man died two years ago since none of his children could play them, but the old man's fiddle had come to James, as he was the most skilled with it. My biggest shock had to be when Lee said he asked about the psaltery because that was his favorite instrument—and he'd received it from their grandmother at the same time as the other instruments were handed down.

Dessert was to be served in about half an hour, so I thought we'd go into the living room to watch television, but Greg dragged me through a pair of sliding doors opposite those which led to that room…and I found a room with some bookshelves, a desk, and a couple sofas where everyone took their places to let their food settle a bit. In one corner, I saw a piece of furniture with fat turned legs about the height of a low table, but it had a hinged top concealing something beneath. From the style, I figured it must be at least a hundred years old if any of my mom's antiques were a reliable guide, and the fact it was made of rosewood helped support that guess. I watched as Lee walked over to it and lifted the lid to reveal an open half-moon area with strings running across it, while the lid hung partially over the back of the rectangular instrument. The wood inside was slightly lighter and more polished than the exterior, which I realized had darkened and mellowed with age and much careful cleaning.

The strawberry-blond picked up two thin sticks, one in each hand, and showed them to me. "These are one of the ways to play—that's how Mamaw first taught me since my fingers were too small to do it right…you use them like little hammers on the strings, sorta like those in a piano. Once my hands got big enough, she showed me how to play by plucking the strings instead—that was her favorite way to do it." I watched closely as he ran through the scale to check the tuning, and though the sound was somewhat lighter than my harp at home, it was awfully close to being the same, just laying flat rather than sitting cradled in my lap. I was expecting some folk tune when he flexed his fingers, then Jeff came over to stand next to him as silvery notes began to come out of the old instrument. I didn't place the tune until Jeff's baritone voice joined Lee's tenor, and then I started to laugh. I never thought I'd hear The Beatles' Let It Be done on anything but its original rock instruments!

When Jeff finished singing, Lee looked at me to see if I wanted to give it a try. Greg nudged me, so I got up off the sofa next to him and took Lee's place on the stool. I plucked the strings for a bit to get the feel of them, and to place the notes' positions in my head before I turned to the people watching me. All of them were smiling encouragingly, so I gave them a little smile in return. "This isn't going to sound like it should because the tone is lighter than what I'm used to, but I'll give it my best shot…it's an old tune called Carolan's Dream—he was an Irish harper in the 17th century and played songs for the people he stayed with…I hope you like it." I looked at my fingers for the first few seconds, then closed my eyes as my hands found the notes on their own while the soft tinkling notes came out. It sounded pretty good to my ears, but it was different from my own harp, and once or twice, there was a slight hesitation as I played the song in my head.

As the last notes died away, I looked around sheepishly, wondering if they'd laugh at me, but I saw nothing but smiles and then, they began to clap. I stood up, and wasn't sure what to do until Greg stood too and said we should finish our homework. Mrs. Newton asked if we wanted cake or ice cream, but Greg asked if we could have it later, and Mr. Newton shooed us off upstairs. I wanted to run, but Greg was in front, so I had to content myself with the pace he set, but as we started up, he grabbed my hand with his and gave it a soft caress. "You did good, Yank." As we went up the stairs to the attic, with his door closed behind us, he stopped and gave me a big kiss, and I felt his tongue dart out for just a second to brush against my lips. Much as I hated it, I made him go on up the stairs and joined him at his desk…without Jay and Miles, I wasn't sure how long it would take us to finish, and there were now other things to look forward to when we were done. Yet another reason why homework sucked.

As it turned out, while we sat diagonally across from one another, there wasn't a single moment that we weren't touching; it was only seconds after we sat that I heard Greg's sneakers land on the floor when he kicked them over toward his bed, and his feet were prying at my loafers so our feet could rub directly together. I hesitated for just a second until I looked into his pale blue eyes and saw the love and concern shining out at me, and it was nothing like what I'd seen in the faces of those boys from my old school—Greg Newton cared for me, not for what he could get out of me by pretending to be my friend. It dawned on me then that I'd been afraid of getting too intimate, of sex itself, but the look Greg gave me eased that fear—it might still be hard to do when we finally got around to it—but I trusted him to make it right, as it should have been from the start.

I leaned over and kissed him, letting my own tongue venture out, and his eyes widened for just a moment before he raised his hand to my cheek and let me in. I went slow and gentle, testing each step of the way…but he let me set the pace until I had to break off to breathe. "Thank you," I whispered. I wondered if he knew I was thanking him for his patience and understanding rather than for the kiss. "I'm scared…"

Greg pressed his lips to mine to shut me up, then pulled back with a soft smile. "Den, you've already given me what I want, which is your love—the rest of it—I can wait for because you're worth it." He pulled out his American History book and his notes. "Now, how about we talk about the battles leading up to Appomattox, and how you Yankees got Lee to surrender?"

Under the desk, I wrapped my socked feet around his, and gripped as tightly as I could, and we shifted our chairs a little closer so our knees could touch too. "Sorry, Reb—I can't help with that part—as far as I'm concerned, this Yank surrendered to you…and I'll write that on any test they give us." It took some time, and quite a few exchanges of hostage kisses before we settled the outcome of the war, and went on to other subjects. Even though it was an easy day as far as homework was concerned, it still took us a couple hours to finish, due almost entirely to the fact that we could only work a few minutes before our eyes drifted from our notes to settle on each other. Our feet and calves had never separated under the desk that whole time, and I almost regretted it when we packed our things away. I smirked when Greg stood up and I saw the bulge in his jeans as he adjusted himself, then I turned red when he laughed at my own excited condition.

Only then did we notice that the light was almost gone outside, and his clock showed it was almost 9p.m. I was thinking I'd have to leave soon, but he reminded me his dad still had to check his work, and we both needed dessert, or his mom would feel insulted. I started to put my shoes on, but he waved for me to stop, and just told me to bring my book bag. "I don't have to be in bed until 11:30, remember?" So, I padded after him into the living room, noticing on the way that Jeff and Lee were doing their work in the dining room, and Penny and Alice were putting their books away to head up to bed. Mr. Newton took the homework, while I followed Mrs. Newton into the kitchen to help with our late treats.

"There's spice cake or lemon meringue pie…which would you like?" Seeing both on the counter, I couldn't decide since both looked wonderful. The cake's light brown layers were topped and separated by slightly darker caramel frosting…but the pie was like sunlight in its flaky crust and I could tell the topping was actual meringue made from beaten egg-whites and sugar, and not some whipped stuff from a spray can or plastic tub. She laughed as I stared at both in turn, then handed me a saucer with a slice of the pie. My first taste was like a lemon explosion in my mouth, and the extra sweetness of the lightly browned egg topping left nothing but bliss as the bite almost dissolved before sliding down my throat. It sounded weird, but that first bite was almost better than the last orgasm I'd had…and I felt my face blush at that thought—in front of Greg's mom, no less. She laughed and guided me to the small kitchen table and put a glass of milk in front of me. Before I knew it, I had finished half the piece of pie, and Greg was sitting across from me with a piece of the cake. I heard him snicker as he took another bite of his cake, and then his foot was nudging mine under the table, out of sight of his mom, who was waiting to see how I liked the pie.

"I—I'm sorry! I've never had anything that tasted so good—I just got lost in the flavors." She gave me a smile, and Greg laughed as he added that I'd just found out why his mom won ribbons at the local fair for her baking every year. "I bet the other ladies want to give up when they see her name on the entry forms, but they all vie for that First Place ribbon anyway…and mom doesn't always win…sometimes she just gets Second Place."

Greg ducked as his mom swatted at him, and she walked toward the living room. "You hush…those are my friends, and we help each other whenever we need to, as friends ought. You can each have one more small piece, while I help James look over your papers." When she was gone, Greg reached over the table and grabbed my hand, while his feet tangled with mine under the table. He fed me a bite of his cake, and I had to admit that it was almost as good as the pie, with its own light texture and hint of spices, almost like a Christmas party in April. Before I knew it, we'd finished our first pieces, and he poured us more milk and re-filled our saucers. They were the same again, mine with pie, his with cake, but when he sat back down, it was at the end of the table rather than opposite me, and he grinned at me as he held out his forkful of cake to me. So that's how it's going to be? I got some of my pie ready, and we traded bites with broad grins and not a few giggles. I don't remember much, if any, conversation while we fed each other….

There was only one time we stopped, and that was when Jeff and Lee came in together for some milk, and Jeff shook his head while Lee laughed at our red faces. They stood at the sink drinking quickly before they walked over to us—as if they'd planned it all along, they grabbed our forks and took a small piece from our plates before looking at each other and sighing, then feeding each other like we'd been doing moments before. "Oh, Denny," Jeff whispered, and Lee replied, "Oh, Greg…" in an equally dreamy tone. Greg was out of his chair in a flash, and I followed his lead as they darted into the dining room, then the family room beyond, laughing and giggling up a storm. I was last into the room, and saw the three of them wrestling and rolling on the floor, then hands reached up and pulled me down with them. I think it was probably Jeff and Lee whose hands had pulled me in, but that didn't matter because we were now one tangled ball of boy limbs and gasping giggles. I felt fingers at my ribs and flinched, being very ticklish…but my own hands found ribs to torment in return, and we were all giggling madly within seconds.

I think I surprised myself as much as the other boys when I suddenly stiffened and cried, "No!" as I tried backing away from the heap we were in. Right away, Greg whispered to his brothers to give him a little space, and they sat back against the sofa with looks of concern on their faces. I was backed against the other sofa, huddling on my knees and staring blankly in front of me when I heard a whisper. "It's okay…no one's gonna hurt you…no one will ever hurt you again, Yank. Remember? I promised you that last night." When I heard him say 'Yank', that brought me back from where I'd run, and I saw three sets of eyes on me, all of them full of concern, and Lee's were shining with tears. Greg moved over to kneel next to me and wrapped his arms around me, stroking my back and whispering into my ear in an effort to soothe my nerves. It wasn't long before I looked over at his brothers, and I scooted closer to them, holding my arms out to Lee, who looked terrified like he'd done something wrong.

I gave him an encouraging smile, and held my arms out again, and this time he came forward so I could give him a big hug. "It's not your fault, okay? I'm an only child, and I'm not used to playing like that…" I looked over at Jeff, and held out my arm to include him also, and he slowly came over to join our hug, but his eyes were on mine, and I saw that he knew there was more to the story than I let on. Nevertheless, he hugged me back and soon, all four of us were hugging there on the floor, sending out comforting vibes to each other. I was a little surprised when Lee was the first to loosen his grip just a little, but he didn't let go. "I'm not dumb, you know. Denny, we'll all look out for you, you don't ever have to ask—you're a Newton now, even if your name is Watson." With an extra hug, he kissed my cheek before Jeff broke in with his own quick cheek-kiss and the worst pun I'd ever heard:

"Yeah, you're a 'fag' Newton now—get used to it."

Damn, what's a guy to do when faced with a joke like that? Greg stared in disbelief as I jumped his taller brother and wrapped my arms around his head to give him the biggest noogie the world had ever seen. As I eased up amid the laughter, I felt his lips brush my cheek again, and his whisper tickled my ear. "Whenever you're ready, we'll listen, you're family now."

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