Always and Forever

by David Lee

Chapter 3

Love, despair, and love

His remembrance of the past night made Alan shudder with both pleasure and worry. The dried cum in his pubic hair and the naked boy in bed with him were definite proof that last night hadn't merely been a wonderful dream. What would Brad's reaction be? Alan had to know immediately. His emotions couldn't survive much more of the ups and downs of the last few days. The moment Brad's eyes opened, Alan asked.

"Are we okay?"

"Okay? We are fuckin' awesome!"

Alan giggled at the intensity of Brad's response. Brad was pretty clean-spoken and only used such words to make a point. The point had been made and taken. It was going to be a great day!

Church was a different experience for Alan. His mother had avoided the institution like the plague unless a funeral or wedding made it impossible. Alan loved to sing and, being a trumpet player, read notes well. Very quickly, he was able join in with the rest as if he had sung the hymns all his life.

The sermon was not at all what he expected. TV had given him the impression that sermons were either filled with vague platitudes about being happy, or were punctuated by pulpit pounding and lots of "amens" from the congregation. Pastor Liz, as Brad called her, gave a quiet, organized talk that told about the man called Jesus who loved everyone so much that He died to give them eternal life. And how this Sunday commemorated the time when His disciples were given the power to be understood by people who spoke in different languages.

Wow, she sounded so convinced that Alan wondered if it might be true. Could this actually have been the Son of God? Could He really be alive again? Could miracles happen? he thought.

Then he wondered what the good reverend would think if she knew what he and Brad had done last night. He had heard someone quote something about two men lying together being an abomination. Was it wrong - what he and Brad had done? How could something that felt like an expression of love be considered evil? Someday, maybe, he might ask Pastor Liz if he ever get up the nerve.

Sunday dinner, like all the meals at the Jacobs' house, was excellent. It was simple, but tasty. Afterwards, the two older boys attempted to help clear the table, but Fran wouldn't hear of it.

"You two relax. You've worked hard enough this weekend boning up for the SATs. Garret and Lindsay will help me."

Both guys nearly strangled, stifling their snickers, at Fran's use of the word 'boning'.

Brad's siblings, Garret and Lindsay, who hadn't been paying much attention to their mother until their names were mentioned, didn't know what was so funny. They assumed that the hilarity might be at their expense, but they did as they were asked. Experience had taught Garret that it was easier to comply than to resist, and Lindsay was not about to make a fuss in front of her brother's studly friend. Brad figured out what was motivating her and grinned. When he whispered it to Alan, they both giggled some more. If she only knew!

Susan Jenkins saw her boy in a different light when Brad dropped him off that Sunday night. Her son wasn't a baby anymore. He was a young man. She would have to start thinking of him that way. He had always been polite and mature; so grown up for his age, but now something was different. She couldn't put her finger on it. It was just a feeling. He had a confidence about him that she hadn't seen the week before. It was as if he'd changed overnight.

During the next two weeks, Brad and Alan were inseparable. They spent a lot of time studying together and often ran on the school's track to help relieve the tension from cramming sessions. Courtney was obviously jealous and assured Brad that she was the one who could help him study for the SATs since she had already taken them a year ago. But despite her efforts, she couldn't drive a wedge between them. "Wait till prom night," she thought.

The night before the big test day, Brad invited Alan to stay over again. Since they had done so much studying the past two weeks, the guys decided to put away the books and relax. Brad's room was every teen's dream come true. He had a great sound system, a computer, video games, CDs - the works. He and his siblings were the only grandchildren on both sides of the family and so were indulged by doting grandparents.

Toward bedtime, the guys brushed their teeth, emptied their bladders, took quick showers, and generally got ready to sleep. Brad locked the door, turned most of the lights off, and put some soft music on the stereo. Then he spread two large beach towels over the bed sheets. Next, he brought out a bottle of scented oil. He had another tension reliever in mind.

"Okay, massage time," he announced. "Now we're going to do some serious boning up!"

Both guys giggled.

Brad pulled Alan into an embrace and gently kissed his lips. Hooking his thumbs in his buddy's waistband, he lowered his underwear to the floor. As he came up again, he kissed the tip of Alan's uncut cock. Alan thought he had died and gone to heaven.

They tumbled onto the bed and for the next half hour took turns massaging each other. They were both on the brink of explosion several times - actually almost continuously for the last 10 minutes. Finally, Brad said he had something he wanted to try, but that Alan didn't have to do it if he didn't want to. Brad turned Alan on his left side facing the middle of the bed. Brad moved himself so that his feet were toward the headboard and his face was level with Alan's crotch. Slowly, gently, Brad began to lick, kiss, and suck the seven inches of manhood that faced him.

Alan drew in his breath sharply. Two weeks ago, he thought he'd reached Nirvana, now he realized that he was far above looking down on Paradise as he unleashed a torrent of seed the likes of which he had never known.

When Alan settled back down to cloud nine, he realized that he was facing a throbbing organ nearly identical to his own, except for the absence of foreskin. He took it lovingly in his mouth and began to do for his friend the things that had been done to him. Almost immediately, Brad unloaded a volume of cum equal to Alan's. It tasted okay, maybe even good.

Brad pulled himself up and kissed Alan deeply. The stickiness in Brad's mouth gave Alan some idea of how his own sperm tasted.

Brad spoke first, "I know this is going to sound corny or something, but I love you, Alan. I really care. I would like to be with you always."

"It's not corny. It's the way I feel about you too. I want to be with you forever; 'Always and forever!' I like the sound of that. Oh God, I'm so glad you feel that way too. I was afraid that I was hoping for too much."

"I was hoping too. I've been afraid to say the 'L' word. I thought maybe I was just someone for you to get off with."

"No way, man! How could you think that?"

Using the towels to wipe off the excess oil, the lovers then pulled up the sheet and cuddled together exchanging soft kisses until they fell into a peaceful sleep. Neither was disturbed by the sound of a siren screaming across town just after midnight.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, a good omen for taking SATs. While several students came into the testing session dragging their butts from last-minute cramming, Brad and Alan were feeling fine. They were rested and were at the peak of their physical and intellectual forms - plus they knew what it meant to love and to be loved. They couldn't have been readier. The time went fast, and the tests were grueling. Everyone was pretty wiped out at the end, but there was a sense of accomplishment.

When the sessions were finished, Jeri and Dave invited Amy, Alan, and Brad to go to McDonald's for lunch with them. Dave had just got his car and was eager to drive his friends around. Dave had the car, but his girlfriend Jeri was the "social director" of the pair. Some of the boys teased Dave about being "whipped," but Dave took it all good-naturedly. He was laid back and nothing really bothered him.

Brad agreed to go along without any hesitation and pulled out his cell to let the 'rents know about the plans. Alan thought about the money but didn't want to be a wet blanket. He would order something cheap and eat again when he got home. As it turned out, Brad "super-sized" his meal and then was "too full" to eat all of it, so he shared with Alan. Alan knew what Brad was doing. It made his sad that he had to be so careful, but it warmed his heart that his boyfriend (yes!) had provided for him without drawing the attention of the other kids. Yeah, maybe they were boyfriends! If only Brad hadn't promised to take Courtney to the prom. Damn, I'm jealous of that twit, he thought.

The Reverend Elizabeth Anne Thornton sat at her computer wondering if anything came of her Sunday messages. Did anyone listen? A professor in seminary had told her that the words she would preach were like pebbles tossed into a pond. Circles moved out from them subtly going further than she would ever know. As she was doing the third rewrite of her sermon, Liz sincerely hoped that was true. It was down to the wire now and she hated to do things last minute.

Liz had written a perfectly fine sermon earlier in the week. It followed the Lectionary readings for that Sunday and had some excellent points, but the experience at the hospital in the middle of the night had made her feel she needed to address a more important topic. She had to talk about forgiveness and the repairing of families. In the near future, she would preach about abuse, but she needed to do some more research. She had studied a lot about forgiveness in seminary and was ready to hit the topic with both barrels. As she thought about the violence suggested in that analogy, she shuddered.

The jangling of the phone in the old manse jolted Liz back to reality. She had been so lost in thought that she actually jumped.

"Jerry, it's great to hear from you! How are you doing? Everything cool at Trinity?"

(Jerry Martin had been her buddy and confidant in seminary. She had once hoped that he would take a romantic interest in her, but such was not to be. They had dated a few times and he was always attentive and the perfect escort. One night after a chaste kiss at the door, he had asked if he could come in. Liz was hesitant but let him in when he said that he had something he needed to tell her in confidence. As it came out, he had discovered that he was gay. Despite the fact that he knew the Episcopal Church's inclusive nature, he was beginning to doubt his calling. She made coffee and they talked far into the night.)

"Everything is GREAT!" Fr. Jerry's winning smile was almost visible over the phone. "I'm in love and I want you to meet my guy. I have a short vacation coming in a little over a month and I was wondering if you could get together with us."

They talked for half an hour and it was decided that Jerry and Dennis would come to visit Liz since she could not get away at the same time. Her guests could participate in church on that Sunday. Jerry would be called upon to do one of the scripture readings and Dennis might be persuaded to sing for the service since he had an excellent voice and the choir would be off for the summer season by then.

Hmm, Liz mused, I wonder what my congregation will think if they figure out that relationship.

Brad and Alan practically begged as they asked permission to stay together the rest of the weekend. They needn't have wasted their breath because the parents all agreed that the boys' friendship brought out the best in their sons. No one thought of denying them. They were both responsible and would become adults in the summer anyway.

Saturday night Alan and Brad gave each other adult pleasures in the classic 69-position. This time Alan participated fully from the beginning bringing his lover to an unbelievable high at nearly the exact time he climaxed. Neither guilt nor anxiety plagued Alan now. This was shared. It was what they both wanted. In the post-orgasmic bliss, they again pledged their love to each other.

Alan came home Sunday afternoon bubbling about Pastor Liz and her sermon on forgiveness, of all things. Susan began to wonder where this church experience was taking her son. Oh well, he was almost an adult and had a right to make up his own mind about religion. She wasn't ready to buy into anything her mother had pushed.

After hearing a nearly verbatim recounting of the message, Susan began to feel her own heart touched. She wondered if she could forgive. She had felt anger and hurt for so many years that she wondered if it were possible. Would anyone want to repair old relationships? She decided to do a search using on the computer at work the next day. Maybe she should try to make peace with the past.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Don Hanson had sat holding the hand of a comatose figure in the ICU ward. The tough kid looked almost angelic lying there as if in sleep. The next 24 hours would dictate whether or not that sleep would be permanent. What a waste it would be if it were.

"God, why do you let things like this happen?"

"Because of free will," a voice answered.

Don hadn't realized he had talked out loud or that Pastor Liz had tiptoed into the room. She put a hand on his shoulder and continued.

"God doesn't will evil to happen. But he doesn't force people to be good either. Sometimes it's hard to understand."

"I know. I just need someone else to blame, I guess. I keep wondering if I could have done something to prevent this. His father's abuse evidently led up to it. I should have seen the signs."

"You aren't the only one! I had some suspicions that all was not well in that house, but they aren't in my congregation and weren't receptive when I tried to call on them when I first came to town. At least Mrs. Katz called me tonight.

"Anyway Don, you can't blame yourself; and hey, you're here watching over him like a father. What more could anyone ask?"

Don had also received a frantic call from Tom's mother sometime after midnight. She had told him about hearing the tub overflowing and using a small screwdriver to push into the center of the door knob to release the lock. She went on to tell about finding her son and the note and all the blood. Her husband was passed out, drunk, and she had surmised from the note that Don might be someone she could count on.

Don had met her in the emergency room as soon as he could get there. He hadn't really been asleep anyway, just dozing. Don hadn't slept very soundly in the past three years.

The doctor on call had come out of surgery looking grim. Tom's blood type was "A" negative and it was in short supply. His mother was not a match and his father wouldn't be in any condition to give blood assuming he was willing. If a donor could not be located, the odds were not good. Calls were going out, but so far without success.

Don asked to see the doctor privately. He was sure that his blood would be a match. The problem was that he had been with another man within the last 5 years.

"As far as I know, he was faithful. We were always careful; I've been tested for HIV twice since then and have come up negative. I'm not openly gay, so no one here knows. What do you want me to do?"

"I could probably lose my license and maybe my freedom if someone finds out that I did this, but we have a boy's life to save. I know you well enough to know that you're honest. Let's do it! By the way, we never had this conversation."

"What conversation?" Don smiled.

And so, some of Don's blood was now pumping weakly through Tom's pale body.

In a room down the hall, Tom's mother was sleeping erratically under heavy sedation. Don dozed a bit in the chair by Tom's bed.

How had it come to this? Tom had decided that Friday night was his big chance. His mother got paid that day and so there would be money for booze. His father would be roaring drunk, and Tom could get the key and put his plan into action on Monday. He just had to be especially careful and considerate so as not to tip anyone off.

As Tom crept into his old man's room that night, he could hear the familiar drunken snore. It was time. Quietly, he opened the drawer on the night table. Carefully, he felt around. Where the Hell was that key?

Suddenly Tom was hit from behind.

"What the Hell are you doing, sneaking around in my room, you little bastard?" Tom's father was in full rage. "Did you think all the pussy-footing around today didn't make me suspicious?"

Tom was struck repeatedly. When he was able to roll out of the path of the blows, he ran into the bathroom and locked the door. His old man was too lazy and too winded to break it down.

Tom had failed once again. Life was too hard. He couldn't face it anymore. He was very tired. Tom just needed some rest. Finding a pencil and a paper bag, he wrote a note to the one person who seemed to care. Maybe Mr. Hanson would remember him when he was gone.

Blackness, pain, and anguish filled the delirious mind. Cold and void followed. Was this Hell? Where was he? Who was he? Light, bright light! Were those angels? Why did their faces look familiar - like the art teacher and that Presbyterian minister lady from down the street?

Unconsciousness and dreamlessness. Rest! Rest! At last blessed rest!

In a foggy state, consciousness slowly returned. Tom was aware of the IV in his left arm, the straps that held both arms still, and the stitches that pricked in his wrists. Pain must be a sign that he was alive. He was also aware of a soft, snoring sound. Asleep in the chair by his bed was Mr. Hanson. Tears filled his eyes. Someone DID care! The positive emotion from this realization was almost more than he could bear.

A beeper on a monitor at the nurses' station went off as Tom stirred.

"Well, I'm guessing our young guest is awake at last," observed Nurse Prescott. "Becky, please call Dr. Larson and tell him it looks like his star patient is going to make it!"

Rumors were flying around school on Monday. Some said that Tom's father had beaten him to death. Others said that Tom had shot his father and killed himself. The news media were uncharacteristically quiet on the matter. Finally, word came that one person was hospitalized in serious condition, and another had been jailed in connection with an incident Saturday night, but no names were released. That just served to add fuel to the fire.

Travis Naughton had been awakened at 6:30 that morning by the incessant ringing of his phone. The secretary on the other end of the line had informed him that he had a job for that day and maybe another one or two if he didn't mind teaching art. Since he had recently moved to town and could use the extra money, Travis was awake in an instant.

Of course, he would be happy to come. He just needed directions to the high school. Although he wasn't really a morning person, Travis found himself singing in the shower. It would be good to be with kids again. Their energy and enthusiasm would help lift his spirit and take away some of the anguish that haunted his mind when he was alone. And he really did need the money!

God, I've messed up my life big time. Please let me find a way to be happy, he said aloud as he put a bit of gel in his hair and finished getting ready.

After school, Brad and Alan discussed the rumors. Alan mentioned that Tom hadn't been in art and that the sub didn't have any information or, at least, wouldn't give out any. Brad said he couldn't care too much about what happened to old "Tommy Cat."

"We were buds when we were little, but he turned into such an asshole. Whatever it is, he probably had it coming."

Alan wasn't so sure. He hadn't known Tom that well or that long, but he believed there was maybe some good in everyone. Tom certainly had more talent in art than most people in class. That must count for something.

Mr. Hanson seemed to believe in him. And what had Pastor Liz said about forgiving being more important psychologically for the person who forgave than the one forgiven? In some strange way, that almost made sense. But Brad insisted that Jesus wouldn't have said to forgive "70 times seven" if He had gone to school with Tom Katz.

Travis Naughton stood at the front door of the hospital in a quandary. Should he choose a more private place to let Don know he was here? Or, would a public setting be safer, more comfortable for both?" After all, Don had no idea where Travis was or even if he was still alive.

How shocked Travis had been that morning to find that he would be filling in for the man he had loved and who had left him three years before. Was his prayer being answered or was he being punished for his stupidity?

But the biggest shock of the day had been 6th period when he saw a younger version of himself walk into the room. Despite the changes in fashion, this kid could have been his brother, maybe even him 18 years ago. A couple of students had remarked that they could pass for siblings. Even before he looked at the seating chart on the computer, he knew in his heart the identity of that boy.

Finally, Travis worked up the courage to go to the information desk and then up to the ICU. With dragging feet, he managed to arrive at the bedside of a pale student whom he had never met. The man sitting by the bed turned around slowly as he heard the soft footsteps. With a look of disbelief, he arose and covered the distance between them in a split second. A nurse peeked in to see two sobbing men locked in a tight embrace. She assumed the stranger must be one of Tom's relatives.

"Don, I am so very sorry. I know I can't ask you to forget about the past, but I would like us at least to be friends."

"Trav, it was as much my fault as it was yours, maybe more. I had no right to nag you all the time about changing your life. I should have stayed and tried to help you."

"The ironic thing is that I HAVE changed. After I stopped being angry with you, I knew you were right. I was being self-destructive, but I just couldn't accept myself then. I don't do the stuff I used to do to escape reality. I haven't smoked anything, not even cigarettes, in the past two years. Honestly I am different."

"Are you so different that you couldn't care for me anymore?"

"I've never stopped loving you, Don! I wish I could take back the hurtful things I said. I wish I could heal the rift. When I screamed at you to leave me alone, I didn't know you would leave me alone for good. That was a real wake-up call."

"Trav, I've never gone a day without thinking of you. I love you more than life. Do you want to try to forgive each other and start over?"

"Oh, yes - more than anything!"

For the next half hour Travis and Don caught up on each other's lives. Don could not help but think that they were meant to meet again. It was like there was a path that each was following to get to this destination. Many unlikely things worked together to make it happen. Perhaps Fate or Divine Providence, but surely coincidence was not sufficient cause.

Tom faked sleep while eavesdropping on the conversation. He had heard somewhere that knowledge is power. What could he gain from what he now knew?

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