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, to post one copy. No part may be copied, reproduced, republished, or reposted on another website without written permission from the author.
By Nick Archer
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
then moves on. -- Carl Sandburg
"I wish you could stay the night," Patrick said to him as he kissed Tony again.
"I wish I could, too."
"You could make an excuse to your mother." He gestured with his head toward the bedroom window. "The fog." He smirked mischievously, and his dimples appeared. "You had to stay overnight because the fog was so bad. Hell, even O'Hare and Midway are closed, and they never close the airports."
It was true. The still-cold waters chilled an east wind sweeping across the lake. When the wind reached the warmer land, the moisture-laden air condensed as fog. The lakefront was susceptible to occasional fogginess, but seldom did the fog extend as far inland as it did on this Friday night. Traffic was still snarled on the major expressways, and the airports had virtually shut down.
Tony's hesitation to answer Patrick bothered the older man.
Patrick sensed Tony's discomfort and changed the subject. "What did you do with Ryan tonight?"
Tony grinned. "We went bowling. I took him to Miami Lanes. He whipped my ass. I'm a lousy bowler."
"You didn't cut it short to see me, did you?"
"No, not at all. We bowled two full games."
"Good. I know how much he likes you and how much it means to him." Patrick ran his fingers through Tony's short, dark hair. "I love that boy. He's very sensitive."
"I like him, too," Tony said, almost defensively.
"It's not that I don't want to see you, it's just that I don't want you to cut his time short so you can see me."
"I know what you mean." Ryan had given Tony a convenient excuse. He could always tell his mom that he stayed later to talk to Marilyn or he had a beer with one of his fellow officers when their shift ended. He hated to lie to his mother, but he was drawn to Patrick. It went beyond physical attraction. When he was with Patrick, he felt safe and secure.
Patrick kissed him. "Maybe it's time you told your mom."
Sheer panic engulfed the younger mans gray matter. It wasnt time. As long as he had anything to say about it, it would never be time. The way that the younger man rolled out of bed indicated to Patrick that he was upset. Still naked, Tony stood by the bedroom window. He felt reasonably sure the neighbors wouldn't see him through the thick fog.
Coming out was the core issue. Patrick knew he had pushed the envelope too far with Tony. It was too early in the relationship to do that. They had time, yet, Patrick felt reasonably sure.
"The fog is so romantic," Tony stated, in a lame attempt to change the subject.
Patrick hopped out of bed with all the energy of a thirty-year-old in a 55-year-old body. He gathered the younger man in an embrace.
"Let's go sit on the balcony."
"Like this?" Tony grinned. He liked Patrick's spontaneity.
"Hell, no. Put some clothes on. I'll put on a pot of coffee."
They sat in the damp fog holding hands and licking the sugar off the rims of their coffee mugs.
The fog wrapped them, enveloped them like a blanket, shielding their secrets and hiding their faults.
Jake and Brian were at the church for Confirmation rehearsal. Parents were promised it would only take an hour of their time that Friday night. Matt had invited Bill and Marty and Father Grimes to an informal dinner afterward.
Matt ordered a meat and cheese tray from Jewel, and he had purchased bread and rolls and condiments. He arranged various varieties of crackers on a plate and set them out. He purchased mini-carrots, a head each of broccoli and cauliflower, and celery. Tommy was called into action to wash and cut the celery. While Tommy labored over the celery, Matt put the carrots into another bowl, and the broccoli and cauliflower, which he had already cut up and washed, into two more bowls. He poured ranch dressing into a bowl. Into another bowl, he spooned spinach dip, which was his great specialty. Everyone loved Matts spinach dip. It was such a simple recipe: one cup each of sour cream and mayonnaise, a package of frozen spinach which had been thawed and squeezed dry, and a package of dried vegetable soup mix. Matt usually added chopped water chestnuts and green onions for texture. Matts secret that set his dip apart was a tablespoon of lemon juice. The juice complimented the spinach, added a zing to the dip, and prevented it from turning brown. Even Jake, who practically had to be force-fed vegetables, loved Matts spinach dip. He would eat the whole bowl, which is why Matt made a double recipe.
When most of the food had been set out on the counter, Matt took the stairs two at a time to change into some khakis.
"How do you feel, sweetheart?"
Tim had just gotten out of the shower and was beginning the tedious task of reapplying calamine lotion over his body. "Pretty good. Im horny, though."
"Aww, poor baby," Matt teased.
"Come here and say that."
Matt approached his lover. Tim grabbed him and pulled him onto the bed. They laughed and wrestled for a few moments. Finally, Matt lay on top of Tim. They kissed.
"I miss you sleeping here."
"I miss it, too." Matt thought for a bit. "Think youll feel good enough to go to make an appearance tonight?"
"I dont know. What will people think when they see my face?" Tim referred to the fact that his face was still healing. Areas of pink calamine lotion served only to call attention to his measles. The lotion had to be re-applied every time Tim showered, and he required Matts help to apply it to his backside. In truth, Matt enjoyed it.
Tim stood while Matt sat on the edge of the bed. He shook the bottle of lotion twice while holding a cotton ball over the top.
Tim shivered as he applied it to his buttocks.
"Aww, poor baby! Let me kiss it and make it better."
"Stop that!" Tim grinned. "Youll get me going."
Grinning, Matt slipped his middle finger into his mouth to moisten it. He playfully tickled the younger mans sphincter with it.
Matt applied a little pressure and the finger slid in to the first joint. His left hand found its way around his thigh and wrapped around Tims cock, which was like iron.
Matts voice was low and sensual. "How does that feel?"
"Oh, Matt," he whispered. "I want to feel you in me."
For a microsecond, Matt considered it. Then, common sense regained control, and he stopped.
Tim turned around, and knelt at the bedside. "Why did you stop?"
"They should be back from the church any time now."
He wrapped his arms around Matt, and used his strength to pull him closer to the edge. "I know I havent been the best patient, and I know Ive been a grouch.."
"You can say that again," Matt interjected.
"But, I love you. I love you more than ever."
"Stand up and turn around."
"So I can finish putting on the lotion."
Tim did as he was told. "Arent you going to say it back to me?"
Matt shook the bottle again. "You know how I feel about you." Matt was still carrying a grudge about their argument over parenting.
"Thats cold!" Tim complained.
"No, your answer to my question."
Bill, Marty, Father Grimes, and Leah chatted easily with each other as they ate and relaxed at the dining room table. Brian had insisted they invited Leah and Mike, although they had little to do with Confirmation. The gathering had the feel of a party.
As soon as Mike arrived, the four boys disappeared to the basement. Matt made sure the food was replenished and everyone had a beverage.
Tommy came upstairs, then climbed the stairs to the second floor. He came back down leading Tim by the hand.
"Hey, Tim!" "How are you feeling?" "Good to see you!"
Tim sat in the lounger in the living room. Matt brought him a plate of his favorites roast beef with cheddar on an onion roll, some broccoli (Matt knew he hated carrots) and a dollop of spinach dip with crackers. Tim preferred to eat the dip on crackers instead of bread or vegetables.
The heads of all the adults swerved toward Tommy, who turned off the radio, which had been playing softly. Before anyone could protest, he put a tape in the tape deck.
"Ladieeeees and gentlemen!" Tommy announced. "Rosato Productions is proud to present.....The Supremes!"
Up from the basement, the adults heard the trampling of three sets of feet. When they appeared in the living room, they were dressed in Leahs cast-off housedresses and wigs on their heads.
Tommy pressed the Play button and the strains of Stop! In the Name of Love blared from the speakers. Brian seemed to be playing the part of Diana Ross. They stepped and swiveled in unison in a skit they had obviously practiced.
Stop! In the name of love
Before you break my heart
I'm aware of where you go
Each time you leave my door
I watch you walk down the street
Knowing your other love you'll meet
But this time before you run to her
Leaving me alone and hurt
(Think it over) After I've been good to you?
(Think it over) After I've been sweet to you?
The adults howled with laughter. Marty dabbed at tears as he laughed. Leahs laugh was from the diaphragm. Bill giggled. Father Grimes had a throaty, resonant laugh. Tims laugh was punctuated with coughing.
The three boys obviously enjoyed the attention and laughter their little lip-synch pantomime had caused, yet they didnt miss a step. At the midpoint in the song, Brian danced his way to Matt, and touched his face and ran his fingers through Matts hair. When the song was finished they blew kisses to their audience and took a deep bow. When they bowed, their wigs fell to the floor.
The adults clapped thunderously.
The boys retreated to the basement to remove their costumes.
"Oh, my God," Bill laughed.
"Before you know it, theyll be performing at Wigstock," Marty opined.
The boys reappeared shortly, perspiring lightly from their efforts. Mike carried a bag that contained the borrowed dresses and wigs.
"That was wonderful, boys," Leah complimented. "Diana herself would be proud."
"Very funny," Father Grimes agreed.
"A lot of fun," Bill interjected.
Matt shook his head. How had they managed to practice? He was still home on leave and Monday had ended Spring Break for the boys. He tousled Mikes hair, and rubbed Jakes back. When Brian approached, he engulfed him in a bear hug.
"Ill bet this was your idea."
"How did you guess?"
Tommy approached for a hug as well. "You did a great job as master of ceremonies," Matt complimented him.
"Ok, boys," Father Grimes addressed them, "We had some adult stuff we need to discuss."
"Why dont you go down the basement?" Tim suggested.
"Can we take the VCR downstairs?" Jake asked.
"How about a bowl of spinach dip?"
In the outskirts of his awareness, Matt knew the conversation was going to be about him. It was a border he was reluctant to cross.
"We wanted to talk about Jake," Bill began. "As his social worker, Im concerned about him. I think he belongs here, and that is the opinion Im going to give to the judge."
"Id have to hire an attorney."
"Well get one for you. Shes very reasonable. I may even be able to get grant money to help pay for her. This is important for his future."
Marty chimed in; "Even I can see how much he belongs here."
Matt sighed. "OK. Ill do it. But what if we go to all this effort and we still lose?"
"Thats the chance we take," Tim said.
"Ive never seen you have so many doubts before, Matt. Whats wrong?" Bill asked.
"Its like youre all closed off. Youre on autopilot," Marty agreed.
"What is this, Gang Up on Matt Night?" He was starting to get angry. He felt like they were all against him.
"Matt, darling, no one is ganging up on you," Leah said reasonably. "Were just concerned about you. You seem to have lost your spontaneity and your energy. You always look tense."
"I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders," Matt confessed.
"Why is that, Matt?"
"I dont feel any support." His eyes darted at Tim.
The muscles in Tims jaw flexed. He was grinding his teeth a sure sign he was angry.
"You have all of us," Leah responded. "Sometimes you have to ask for help."
"Are we going to open this issue again?" Tim asked Matt, ignoring Leahs comment.
"Yes!" Matt shouted as he slapped his hand on the table. The plates and silverware jumped in response.
"If this is about Brian going over to see Mike, or Tommy using your papers...."
"Theres a bigger issue, here, Tim. You have cast yourself as the fun parent, and Im the disciplinarian. You get to have fun with the boys, and I get to monitor their homework, send them to bed on time and check to see that theyve done their chores."
"How do you feel about what Matt said to you, Tim?" Leah asked, immediately and effortlessly shifting into counselor mode.
"Theyre kids. Were not running a boot camp." Tims face reflected a certain amount of defiance.
"But were also not running a college dormitory. They need structure and discipline and routine."
"I think I have to agree with Matt, Tim," Bill said in an even tone. "These kids come from chaotic backgrounds. They may fuss and resists controls and limits, but they really want them. Setting limits and creating routine gives kids a sense of security."
"I dont understand why youre all on Matts side," Tim replied.
"Theres no sides here, Tim," Bill replied.
"We want to help you and Matt become a better parents," Leah continued. "Its important that you both are on the same page, so to speak, when it comes to the boys. Its not only important to the boys, its vital to your relationship with each other."
Tears welled up in Matts eyes. "Theyre afraid of me, Tim. Do you have any idea how that feels?" He started to sob, but his words were still clear. "They walk on eggs around me. Theyre terrified that Im going to yell at them. When theyre playing, and I walk into the room, they all look suspicious, as if theyre trying to hide something from me. The other night they were playing Monopoly in the basement, and I went down to put a load of clothes in the washer. They looked at me like I had caught them robbing a bank."
Marty handed him a napkin.
"How do you feel about that, Tim?" Leah asked.
Tim looked chastened. "I had no idea."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Try to help Matt with some of the discipline. Make sure they brush their teeth and go to bed on time. Perhaps be a bit stricter. But, Matt, you have to help me too."
Matt sniffed. "How?"
"By talking with me. By telling me what needs to be done. You have to talk to me, Matt."
"Tim is right, Matt," Bill said. "You have to communicate. And remember that Tim doesnt have the experience with kids that you do."
Leah added, "All were saying is that you dont have to do it all alone. Were all here to help. All you need to do is ask."
"My crystal ball has been foggy lately," Marty quipped.
"Matthew, darling," Father Grimes took Matts hand across the table. "I know you have issues with the Catholic Church, but I also know you believe in God and you are spiritual. You need to listen to God. You cant just talk at him. He loves you so much, and I see it in how you relate to the boys. He has given you a great gift. It is a free gift, with no strings attached. He has given you the gift of being a truly great parent."
By this time, Matt was sobbing again.
Father Grimes continued. "God has whispered the names of these boys in your heart, Matthew. He has placed these precious children in your care because He knows you will do an excellent job. He doesnt want to see you fail. Thats why he gave you people who love you and want to help. There may be more boys who need the kind of parenting you have to offer."
"Theres a lot more," Bill mumbled.
"But how can I love a kid who is only going to be here for a short time? How can I love Jake if hes going to leave? I have to protect my own feelings."
"Ah, you have touched on the mystery of unconditional love," Father Grimes said. "Remember 1st Corinthians 13? Love is patient, love is kind....love endures all things, hopes all things. As God has loved you unconditionally, so you must love them, even if they are only here for a short time. Rest assured they will always carry that in their hearts. And even though they may not be living in the same house, know that you have touched their lives forever."
Matt covered his eyes with his hand. He wasnt sure he wanted to be called, or that he wanted this particular gift. Tim tenderly stroked his hair.
"Were here for you, Matt," Marty said softly.
"If you need time alone with Tim, Id be more than glad to take them for a weekend," Leah volunteered.
Matt started to protest, but Bill stopped him. "This is exactly what we mean. You have to take time for yourself and your...um...."
Tim shrugged, "Usually its husband." He took Matts hand and gave it a squeeze.
"Husband. Otherwise, you wont be any help to anyone."
Matt chuckled through his tears. He smiled at them through dewy eyes. "Thank you. All of you."
"No, thank you, Matt," Bill replied. "You are raising adolescent boys. You are a brave individual. Do you know how few people volunteer to do this? For every boy at St. Lukes there are a dozen excuses why people wont adopt or foster an older child. And for each boy there are probably a hundred older kids across the country waiting for a home."
The party-slash-therapy session started to break up soon afterward. Leah and Marty helped put the food away. Matt hugged Bill at the door.
"Be careful going home in the fog."
Father Grimes was next. "Matthew, sweetie, just have faith. It will all work out as it should."
"I will, Father. Thank you."
"My pleasure, Matthew. Youre doing a terrific job. You just need to..." he rolled his eyes as he searched his brain for the correct term, "chill out a bit, as the youngsters would say."
"Just out of curiosity, why is Bernardin going to be here on Sunday?"
"Politics," Grimes answered plainly and simply. "I think hes snooping a bit. Theres nothing he can do. The Academy is not part of the diocesan school system; its set up as a nonprofit corporation. The parish is leasing the school building to the corporation."
"Be careful in the fog, Father."
Matt, Tim, Leah and Marty stood on the back porch peering out into the foggy night.
Matt hugged Leah. "Im going to take you up on your offer. Are you sure you can handle this whole tribe?"
"You underestimate me!" she laughed. "Of course!"
"Good night, Mike, sweetheart. That was a fun skit." Matt gave his shoulder an affectionate squeeze.
"Good job," Tim agreed as he patted Mikes back.
"I should go to Confirmation tomorrow," Tim stated.
"Are you sure youre up to it?"
"Its only an hour. Besides, Im going back to work on Monday." He thoughtfully rubbed his jaw. "I only wish the spots on my face were healed a bit more."
"I have an idea..." Martys voice trailed off. "Ill be here early tomorrow with the solution."
From their pews halfway back in the church, Matt Tim and Tommy waited for the ritual to begin. The pews in the front third of the church were reserved for those receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation and their Sponsors.
The sanctuary looked beautiful. Two crimson floor-to-ceiling banners hung behind the altar. Each featured a stylized white dove that, along with the color red, represented the Holy Spirit. At regular intervals red banners hung from the ceiling of St. Irenaeus proclaiming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in gold letters. The altar was decorated with huge arrangements of white and red carnations.
Tommy sat between the two adults he loved most in the world unabashedly holding their hands.
Matt glanced at Tim. They exchanged smiles. Marty had applied makeup to his face to hide the remnants of his measles. Marty had done such an expert job that one had to look very close to know he was wearing makeup.
Tim had vehemently resisted Martys idea. Tim still had issues with his gayness and his masculinity. Wearing makeup definitely was not within his comfort zone. Marty finally persuaded him by applying the foundation and promising Tim to remove it all if he didnt like it. Martys results were better than a trained Avon consultants was.
The congregation rose as the music started:
Lift up your hearts to the Lord
In Praise of His mercy.....
They stood as the Processional entered the Church, led by two altar boys. One altar boy was carrying a censer. The censer was a vessel suspended by chains, for the use of burning incense. Wisps of smoke rose accompanied the strong odor. Matt snickered to himself as he remembered Martys comment, "Love your dress, darling, but your purse is on fire." Tim flashed him a questioning glance. What the hell is so funny?
Father Grimes and the Assistant Pastor, Father Mendez, followed the altar boys. Directly behind him were two assistant bishops. Following them was Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
Bernardin had earned the respect of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. From his very first news conference in Chicago in 1982, when he announced, "I am your brother Joseph," Bernardin had proven himself to be a cleric of honesty, integrity, humility and faith. He was unequalled in helping the Vatican understand American Catholicism. He instituted the Catholic Common Ground Project, reached out to the Black Catholic Caucus, opened dialog between Catholics and Jews, and championed Spanish-speaking parishioners. He listened to and prayed for his flock. When a gay man dying of AIDS accused him of sodomy when Bernardin was in Cincinnati, he denied the charges with grace and dignity and offered to pray for the young man. Later, when the man recanted his story, Bernardin embraced and forgave him publicly.
The Mass progressed at a rapid pace. American Catholic worship services seldom last more than an hour, no matter what the event. The eighth grade boys and girls did all the readings within the Mass. Brian and Jake did their part. Brian read the short New Testament reading. Both Matt and Tim became teary with pride as Brian read the Bible passage flawlessly. Most of the red dye had washed out, and his blond hair looked like a halo around his head. Their hearts swelled with pride again when Jake read one of the Petitions of the Congregation.
After the Liturgy of the Word, Father Grimes and the Director of Religious Education presented the class to Cardinal Bernardin. The boys and girls to be confirmed sat in alternating rows with their sponsors sitting right behind them. Two rows of students and sponsors stood in unison on each side of the church. They approached the Cardinal down the center aisle two at a time. The sponsor stood behind the Confirmand and placed his or her right hand on the right shoulder of the student. Two Auxiliary Bishops flanked Cardinal Bernardin. They wore wireless microphones and alternately read the names of each Confirmand as he or she approached. The names were written in calligraphy on common sticky nametags. In place of their first or Christian name was the name of the saint that the student had chosen and researched.
The Cardinal made the Sign of the Cross on her forehead with Chrism Holy Oil. Then, he placed his hands on her shoulders.
"Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit."
"Amen." And she and her sponsor returned to their pews but remained standing.
When the entire row had returned, they sat in unison as the next set of children and sponsors rose and approached the Cardinal.
Jake approached the Cardinal. Tommy stood on the kneeler so he could see. Bill placed his hand on Jakes shoulder.
"Augustine Wagner," one of the Auxiliary Bishops intoned.
"Augustine, receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit."
Standing unnoticed in the back of the church, another man beamed. He was dressed for work in jeans and a maroon shirt that bore the name of the auto parts store where he worked. His shirt also sported his nametag Al.
Brian approached. Marty placed his hand on his shoulder.
"Sergius, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
"Flummo maxolimus decko hortu babda cintas in mordu ectoli fornilicious eclipitium et sprillex tuubix!"
The Cardinals eyes flew open! A collective gasp rose from the congregation. Brians knees buckled but Marty caught him before he hit the floor. Mrs. Barringer and Father Grimes hurried to help. They guided him back to his pew, where they loosened his tie and fanned him with a hymnal.
Matts heart was beating like the wings of a hummingbird. Was Brian OK? Was he sick? He stood for a brief moment, and once he was reassured that his oldest son was fine, he resumed his seat.
At first, it had appeared he had fainted, but Brian regained his composure quickly. He smiled a dreamy and diffused smile at his rescuers. Later, he would have no memory of what had happened.
"What did Brian say?" Tommy whispered to Matt after he sat down.
"It was gibberish. No one understood it."
"Why did he do it?" Matt held an index finger to his lips and gestured toward the front of the church.
Father Grimes approached the Lectern. "Hes OK." The relief from the congregation was audible. "It would appear that Sergius I mean, Brian has indeed received one of the Gifts. He was speaking in tongues. Brian is truly blessed as are we to be able to witness this manifestation of the Holy Spirit."
One of the Auxiliary Bishops turned to Cardinal Bernardin. The wireless microphone he was wearing broadcast his dry comment to his superior. "Congratulations. You finally did it right."
The rest of the Mass went without further incident.
After Mass, there was a Reception in the gym of the school. It was a combination meet and greet and photo opportunity for the parents and the newly Confirmed. Matt, Tim, Brian, Jake and Tommy were near the end of the line. Cardinal Bernardin spotted Brian first, and took his right hand in both of his.
"Thank you," the Cardinal said simply. "Thank you for the sign of Gods love you have shown us today. You have blessed us. God loves you so much, he gave you a very special gift. May I have a hug?"
Brian grinned from ear to ear as he gently embraced the Cardinal.
When the Cardinal released him, Brian demonstrated a streak of maturity and composure by introducing Matt to the Cardinal.
"This is my father, Matt Rosato."
Matt shook hands with the Cardinal. When their palms met, Matt could have sworn he felt a jolt of electricity.
Across the gym, Al spotted the Rosato-McGraws chatting with the Cardinal. He pushed his way to the head of the line.
At that moment, Matt was introducing Tommy to the Cardinal.
"And this is my foster son, Jake Wagner."
Al loudly and rudely interrupted, "Hes my son."
Jake glared at Al.
Then, Jake opened his mouth to speak.
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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