STANDARD WARNING: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to individuals, living or dead, is pure coincidence. Do not read this story if you are offended by man-to-man romance or sex. Do not read if you are underage according to the laws in the country, state/province, county, city/town/village or township where you live. There is sex between males. You have been warned!
Copyright 2001 by Nick Archer.
Permission is granted to Nifty Archives, ASSGM, and gaywritings,
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By Nick Archer
Matt returned to the living room that evening after he was sure Tim was resting comfortably. The issue about the boys wasn't settled but he felt better about it. He changed into the shorts he always wore to bed and a T-shirt.
From the linen closet, he brought down a flat sheet, blanket and pillow. Matt smiled to himself ruefully when he recalled that he had told Tim he was sleeping on the couch that night. Now, he was the one on the couch.
And Jake had said that he wanted to talk to him.
It was as if Jake was reading his mind. Just earlier in the day he had said to Marty that he needed to have a serious talk with him.
"I'm going to make some popcorn," he said to Jake, "then we can watch the first part of Tales of the City."
"Can't we watch the whole thing?"
Matt chuckled. "No, hon, it's six hours long. Besides, I'm sleeping on the couch tonight."
"Afraid you'll catch the measles?"
"No, I've already had them."
"Did you and Tim have a fight?"
Matt tweaked his nose. "We just had a discussion, Mr. Nosey. The reason I'm sleeping on the couch is that his coughing will keep me awake."
"Can I sleep here with you?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Cool." Jake ran downstairs to retrieve the bedclothes off his bed.
When the popcorn had popped, Matt ripped open the bag, and poured the contents into a bowl. Jake was on the couch again with his blanket draped over his shoulders. He was wearing only his underwear. Matt couldn't resist a glance at his smooth, finely muscled chest.
"Jake, sweetie, please go put on a T-shirt and shorts of some kind."
"Why? I always sleep like this."
"I know, but you usually sleep in the basement. Now, we're up here with all these windows. I'd appreciate it. Go on, while I find the tape."
Jake released a long sigh. "Oh, OK."
The sat side by side on the couch with the bowl of popcorn between them. Tales of the City started with Mary Anne calling her mother to tell her she wouldn't be returning from her vacation in San Francisco. Jake giggled when Mona took off her raincoat to reveal her bare breasts as she dressed for work. He also had questions about Mona's drug use when she was snorting cocaine.
At the end of the first half-hour segment, there was a station identification break. Channel Eleven also ran a commercial. Matt had been shocked beyond words when he saw the first commercial. WTTW called it enhanced underwriting, and defended it by disallowing any mention of prices or price comparisons. No matter, it still was disconcerting to see commercials on public TV.
Jake put the empty bowl with the kernels on the floor and snuggled next to Matt. His spontaneous affection pleased the man. Out of the three boys, Jake was the least affectionate, and his requests for hugs were rare indeed. Jake's affection was mostly under the guise of something else. To save face and maintain his image he got and gave affection in some other form of teasing or play, like poking, tickling or roughhousing.
During the part where Mary Anne goes to dinner at her landlady's apartment, Jake said, "I like this."
"Tales of the City?"
"That, and being here with you."
"Thanks, Jake, I do, too." Matt kissed the top of his bristly head.
The first part of the movie was over. "I think I'm going to go to sleep," Matt announced. He picked up the remote and rewound the tape.
"Do I have to live with my dad?"
"You don't have to do anything."
"Will the judge listen to me when I tell her I want to live with you?"
"I think so. She's very sharp. And you have to remember to stay out of trouble and do well in school."
"I will. I'll do anything I have to do. But what are you going to do about it?"
"What do you mean, Jake?"
"You're going to tell her you want me here, too, right?"
"Of course I will." Matt stood up and took the popcorn bowl into the kitchen. He poured the kernels into the garbage and placed the bowl in the dishwasher. He spoke to Jake from the kitchen. "There's more to it than that. He has legal rights over you. You are his son." He switched off the light in the kitchen.
Matt started to turn off the lamp in the living room when he heard Jake say clearly and plainly, "That's not what I meant." Matt glanced at Jake who was staring at the TV. The boy's face reflected his inner hesitation. His lips were tensed and his brow creased.
Jake spoke, his voice clear over the chatter of the TV, "What I meant was, would you fight for me?"
Matt was taken aback by the directness. He sat down on the couch suddenly breathless as if someone had punched him in the diaphragm, avoiding Jake's gaze for the moment. Would you fight for me? It wasn't a question of whether Matt loved him, but how much did he love him? Could he do it? Did he have the strength? Could he live with himself afterwards? Maybe Bill could help him find a reasonable attorney. When it came to custody cases, however, lawyers can smell money in the air.
Would you fight for me? Jake had never been as verbal as Brian or Tommy. He was a young man of action. He was the first to put an arm around someone's shoulders if they were upset, but talking about what was bothering him often had Jake stymied. But now, he had just asked the question that would define clearly what Matt felt for him. With one question, he had almost backed Matt into a corner.
Would you fight for me? The question didn't challenge Matt's love for him; Jake knew Matt loved him. The question challenged the depth of his commitment. It tested not only his commitment to Jake but also his commitment to his own values that all children should be loved and cherished. Hadn't Matt said several times that love, not biology, makes a family? Didn't he hold that as a core belief?
Matt started to spread the sheet over the couch. "It's late, Jake. I'm going to catch some sleep." Matt was not up to answering the question now. He had a lot to think about. And so, expert subject-changer that he was, he stretched out on the couch and arranged the blanket over himself.
"Can I sleep with you on the couch?" Jake asked.
"No, sorry. It's uncomfortable enough with just me. Besides, I move around a lot during the night."
As Matt switched off the light, he made a mental note to himself to step over Jake if he had to get up in the night.
Someone was pounding at the front door. Matt opened it to two burly men dressed in black. The street behind them was shrouded in fog. He heard marching soldiers and the echo of gunfire. They flashed their badges to Matt.
"We are from the Secret Police. We have come for Jacob."
"No! You can't have him!" Matt attempted to shut the door, but they were stronger than he was. Before he knew it, he was on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind his back. One of the hulks took the stairs two at a time. Matt heard a scuffle as one of them overpowered Jake. Matt stood up, a difficult task with handcuffs.
Jake was sobbing uncontrollably. "No! Please, Matt! Don't let them take me!" He also had his hands cuffed behind his back.
They were less than two feet away from each other. Matt wanted to touch him and hold him.
Without another word, one agent dragged the crying boy to an awaiting black car at the curb.
Just before they stuffed him in the back seat, he flashed an anguished face at Matt.
Matt woke up with a start! His pillowcase was damp with perspiration and his heart was beating rapidly.
His senses finally cleared and he realized it was a dream. He took several long breaths in through his nostrils to calm himself. Jake was lying on the floor parallel to the couch.
Then, Matt was aware of a rhythmic sound. There was a bobbing motion under Jake's blanket. He was masturbating.
Matt rolled over to face the back of the couch. He pulled the pillow over his ears. But the strange dream along with Jake's seemingly endless masturbating preventing Matt from returning to sleep.
Finally, irritated, he grumbled, "Jake, put it away and go to sleep."
Mortified that Matt had caught him, he did.
When Matt woke next, the sun was streaming in the windows. A glance at the VCR told him it was 6:30. Bleary-eyed and tired from a restless night, he gingerly stepped over Jake who was sleeping on the floor parallel to the couch. Matt relieved himself, then shuffled to the kitchen. He pulled the coffee can and peered in. There was only a ring of grounds on the bottom. Shit! He needed coffee! Tim usually did the grocery shopping on Saturdays while Matt worked.
Matt sighed, and settled back on the couch. He shut his eyes and dozed for another half-hour.
At quarter after seven, he got up for good, folded the sheet and blanket and placed them in a neat pile at one end of the couch. He would be using them again.
He took a quick shower, dressed and made a mental list of groceries they needed with coffee at the top of his list. He took the keys to the Jeep.
Matt passed by the Jewel/Osco which was the store where they usually shopped. Matt decided to shop at Dominick's in Matteson for a change. Dominick's had a reputation for better meat and fresher produce than Jewel, even if the selection was better at Jewel. Recently, American Stores had purchased the Jewel chain. It was a prized acquisition. Chicago shoppers were notoriously loyal to their two local groceries, and together they had obliterated all competition. Such powerhouse national grocery store chains as Kroger, A&P and National found the Chicago market too tough, so they pulled out. The only way to gain a foothold in the market was to buy out Jewel or Dominick's. Soon, Albertson's would own Jewel and Safeway Stores would purchase Dominick's.
Matt found the store pleasantly empty at this time in the morning, so he flew through the hated chore. In a display near the checkout lines, he spotted a display of kites. They were even on sale. Matt picked out three, one for each boy. He zipped through the checkout in record time and arrived back in Park Forest.
Jake was still sleeping, although he had moved up to the couch.
Matt crouched down by him and put a gentle hand on his back. "Jake, Jake."
"Throw on a pair of sweats and help me bring the groceries in, please."
He groaned and rolled over.
Matt was not above bribery. "If you help me, I'll take you out to breakfast. You can order whatever you want."
Matt found it comical when he sat up immediately, his eyes blinking at the sunlight. Food was always a good bribe.
Still sleepy but uncomplaining, Jake donned a pair of jeans and sneakers without socks. He helped Matt bring the bags in, and unload them into the cabinets, the refrigerator and the freezer. Matt left the kites in the Jeep.
"Can we go to Denny's?" he asked as he put the cereal away.
"If you want. Go take a quick shower first, OK?"
While Jake did, Matt brewed a pot of coffee. He was so anxious for a cup of caffeine; he pulled the carafe-mug switch trick. This involved a dexterous yank of the carafe which he replaced with a mug, all while the coffee still dripped through the basket. Ha! He still had the knack. He didn't spill a drop.
He had just a few sips, when Jake appeared, smelling fresh and clean from soap and shampoo.
Matt was all about fairness and equality when it came to dealing with the boys. It was important to treat the boys equally. The only difference is that Tommy had a slightly earlier bedtime than Jake and Brian. Tommy didn't argue much. He was quite aware of how difficult it was to get out of bed in the morning. Matt had more than once considered lighting firecrackers under his bed to get him up.
But when it came to individual attention, Matt liked to be as egalitarian as possible. The boys were acutely aware of when one got more attention than the other did, and it was often a point of contention. But on this flawless late spring Saturday morning; he recalled how special he felt when one of his parents had taken him alone for a meal or a movie or just to wander the mall. He hoped Jake felt the same.
Too, sometimes parents have to grab individual time with their children when they can get it. Matt knew this well. Their lives were so busy, especially with three sons.
Matt tuned the radio to WBEZ for Weekend Edition. Jake, who finally had awakened fully, glowered and twisted the tuner knob. Jake couldn't tolerate Matt's NPR listening. He landed on the right side of the dial, to WYEN, an all-70's station.
Disco Inferno was playing.
Matt, who instantly forgot to be angry, laughed a throaty laugh and turned up the volume. A smile of recognition spread across Jake's face as well.
"This song was in Tales of the City."
"Yes, it was."
Seated at Denny's in Matteson, just a stone's throw away from the Dominick's store where Matt had just competed the grocery shopping, Marge, their waitress, patiently waited for them to make up their minds. She was perhaps in her fifties, and it was obvious she had waited tables for a long time. She probably had enough seniority to work every Saturday morning when the restaurant was busy and the tips abundant.
"I'll have the Grand Slam," Jake told her.
"Very good, sir," she said to him, with a smile and a wink.
"I'll have the waffles." Marge took the menus and returned to fill Matt's coffee cup. Matt always liked the coffee at Denny's. It was strong and earthy.
"I'd like a cup of coffee, too, please," Jake requested as he turned the cup upright in front of him.
Marge glanced at Matt for guidance. Matt nodded.
"This stuff is bitter!"
"You might want to add some sugar. Maybe some cream."
"I don't know how you can drink it black."
"I started out drinking it like that." Matt was referring to the fact that he was adding his fourth packet of sugar to the cup. Matt wondered when Jake was going to bring up the other subject he wanted to talk about. It's best to let him do it. If I do, he'll close up.
Jake inhaled the contents on his plate before Matt was even halfway done.
"I'm still hungry," he complained.
Matt smiled, "Tell Marge what you want."
When the waitress filled the coffee for the customers in the neighboring booth, he caught her attention.
"What can I get you, hon?"
"Another order of pancakes, please?"
From her apron, she pulled out her ticket book. "Would you like sausage or bacon to go with that?"
Again, Marge glanced at Matt's face for confirmation.
"It's his reward for helping me out this morning," Matt commented. "And for being such a good...son."
Jake's eyes met Matt's across the table. They said nothing to each other, but their gaze spoke volumes. Jake's eyes held the questions for which he needed answers. Are you going to challenge my dad for custody? How can I become comfortable with my sexuality? Matt's eyes held a different set of questions. What if I fight for him in court and I lose? How can I help him become comfortable with bisexuality when I have my own prejudices against them?
Jake broke the connection first and shifted his gaze to the bright morning outside the window. Marge returned with his food, and he thanked her. He finished the pancakes and sausage in record time.
He leaned back in the booth, sighed with contentment and let out a loud belch.
"Jacob!" Matt admonished him.
He giggled and covered his mouth. "Ex-squeeze me!"
They paid the bill, and Matt left a too-large tip. He still hasn't brought up the subject.
Matt traveled east down Lincoln Highway. Traffic was starting to build as suburbanites rose to tackle their Saturday duties.
As Matt turned south on Western Avenue, Jake asked, "Matt? Do you think I'm a sinner?"
"What makes you think that?"
Jake stared uncomfortably out the window. "Sex."
"What about it, Jake?"
Matt heard him inhale a ragged, uneven breath. "I'm all confused about something Father Grimes said to me." He was on the verge of crying.
"What did he say?"
Jake's voice was low and he was mumbling. "Remember when we had Confession a few weeks ago? I told him -- and you can't tell anybody else this -- that I liked girls."
Matt turned down the radio volume. That was kind of anticlimactic, Matt thought.
"Ok," he encouraged.
Jake covered his face with both his hands. His voice caught in his throat. "And I like boys, too."
"What did Father Grimes say?"
"He said it could be just a phase that I was going through. He said something about a lot of boys experiment with it at my age." His voice was muffled by his hands, which still shielded his face.
"And he's right, Jake." Matt rummaged through the files in his brain for a question. "Let me ask you this. When you daydream, do you fantasize about girls or guys?"
He lowered his hands. "Both," he answered morosely.
"When you think about a long-term relationship, do you imagine one with a girl or a boy?"
"Both," he repeated.
It was time for the $64,000 Question. "Do you feel like you're different?"
"Yes! Yes, I do!" he shouted. "And I hate it! I fucking hate it!" By this time, they were in the left turn lane to enter 26th Street. Jake pounded the dashboard as he cried hysterically. "I don't want to be different. I just want to be normal. I don't want to be queer."
The driver of an Escort stopped next to them at the traffic light looked into the Jeep with some concern. Matt flashed him a look. Mind your own fucking business.
Matt couldn't take Jake into the house like this, and they would be home in moments. He made a split-second decision. He passed Ash Street, where the townhouse was located, and continued to drive east on 26th Street towards the Forest Preserves. The Jeep rolled down the hill past the dam that created Thorn Creek Lake and then up the hill again. At the next stop sign, he turned right. In a few hundred yards, he had reached the entrance to Sauk Woods #2. He backed into the parking lot about half way down the long, rectangular parking lot.
The trees were budding but still bare on this day in April. Most of the deciduous trees wouldn't have leaves until the first week in May. But, the grass and undergrowth in the forest was already showing signs of vigorous life.
Matt turned off the Jeep, ran around the front of the vehicle and opened the passenger door.
"Don't touch me! Get off me, Matt!'' he yelled.
"OK, Jake, settle down," Matt said quietly but firmly. Jake's outburst had unnerved Matt because Jake was usually in such control of his emotions. He had carefully constructed and maintained a facade of suave, cool detachment. He had an image to maintain at school and within the house. He didn't allow many to see the fact that he was a sensitive, sentimental boy in search of acceptance and approval.
"Jake," Matt said gently as he took Jake's left hand. "I love you. I will fight for you, if I need to."
There. He had said it. He had committed himself. There was no turning back now.
Jake raised his head. Since Jake was still sitting in the passenger seat, their eyes met on the same plane. Matt gazed into his red-rimmed eyes.
"You mean it?"
"Every word of it."
He flung his arms around Matt's shoulders and wept anew. Matt patted his back. "It's OK, Jake. You are a terrific kid. If you are bisexual, Jake, it's fine with me. I love you for what you are, and I'm sure Tim agrees with me. We just want you to be happy. You are young, yet. You are still searching for your identity. Don't rush into labeling yourself. Your feelings may still change. Just worry about being a kid, OK?"
"I don't know why I was worried about telling you."
"I don't know either." Matt patted his back before releasing him. "Let me see if I can find some Kleenex to wipe your face." He did find a box in the back of the Jeep along with the kites he had purchased.
"I have an idea."
"Let's fly kites."
"Are you crazy? Kites are for kids."
"Kids like us. Come on!"
They crossed the parking lot to the clearing in the forest. Near the softball backstop, they unwrapped and assembled the kites. A steady west wind lifted them off the ground with no need for running.
Against the azure of the sky, the kites were diamonds overhead.
"You know what a metaphor is, right?"
"Yeah," Jake said, and then paused to think. "It's a comparison that doesn't use the words 'like' or 'as.'
"Yes, it is." Matt agreed.
"Why did you ask? Is there going to be a quiz?"
"No, I was just thinking that the kite is a metaphor for you."
"What are you talking about?"
"The kite is you. The wind is your push to be independent. You want to grow up fast, and do the things adults do, like drive and drink and boink."
"Boink," Jake laughed. "Funny word."
"It's one of my favorites these days." Then, he continued his train of thought. "So when the wind pushes the kite, it pulls at the string. Sometimes the string breaks. What happens then?"
"It gets caught in a electrical line with 50,000 volts running through it?"
"No, smartass, it crashes."
"I still don't get it."
"The string represents me. I'm here on the ground, giving the kite direction. I give it just enough so it continues flying, and so it doesn't crash into any 50,000 volt electrical lines. There are times when I have to give the string more slack and let the kite sail higher. And there are times when I have to pull back to get the kite to stay in the air."
Jake smiled as the metaphor finally dawned on him. "I get it!"
"And when you love the kite, you want it to keep flying. I love the kite, Jake. You are the kite."
Another stray tear rolled down Jake's cheek. He wiped it away with his sleeve. "Damn! I never cry this much! I cried when my parents got divorced and then I promised myself I wouldn't cry any more."
"It's OK, Jake. See there's another guy inside you. I don't mean you have multiple personalities or anything, just that you have a sensitive side that you have learned to hide very, very well."
Jake could only nod.
"It's OK, son. You can let him out once in a while." He started to reel his kite in. "I guess we should go. I need to check on Tim. Besides, you have your Saturday chores."
"Awww! Do we have to?"
"Yup, that's part of growing up, too."
After they had reeled their kites in and wound the string onto sticks they found, they walked side by side to the Jeep."
"This was neat. I had fun this morning. Can we do it again, sometime?"
"Absolutely, Jake. I'd like that." Matt put an arm around his shoulders. On an impulse, he pulled Jake closer, and kissed his temple.
"Dad! I hate when you do that in public. It's so embarrassing!"
"Who's going to see? The trees? The grass?"
"That slob in the white Cadillac, for one."
The Cadillac had entered the parking lot.
Jake and Matt reached the Jeep. Matt took one of the rolls of string, and using his teeth, broke off a length of it. He put the kites in back of the Jeep. Jake had seated himself in the passenger seat, but had not yet closed the door.
"Give me your wrist."
"Hold out your wrist." After he did, Matt tied the string in a loose bracelet around his left wrist.
"What's that for?"
"String. Remember our metaphor? To show you we're always connected." Jake hugged him again.
By this time the Cadillac had made a slow, lazy U-turn and was heading back. The driver saw the man hugging the boy and flashed a filthy grin.
It was Barry.
Jake flipped him the bird.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. I read and respond to all email (even if it takes a few days) Just click on one of the links below. And don't forget to check out my website (Chapters are always posted there earlier than here) and my other story here on Nifty, Pocketful of Stars, in the Young Friends section.
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