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 2000 by 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.


Family Instincts

By Nick Archer

Chapter 2: February/The Wrath of Matt

Jake had chickened out. He was going to talk to Matt about Brian the evening after they had gone tobogganing at the end of January. But, at the last moment, he changed his mind. Matt left the door open to him to talk about whatever was troubling him at any time.

But that didn’t end the raging debate in his own head. He had a loyalty to Brian. He liked the blond and cared about him. He cared so much that at times his feelings for Brian scared him. Could I become gay if I lived here long enough? Are the feelings I have for him gay?

On the other hand, he owed Matt the same loyalty if not more. Matt was providing food, clothing, comfort, attention and a roof over his head. He loved Matt for taking him in, supporting him, nurturing him and loving him at a time when he was particularly vulnerable and needy.

Jake had to concede to himself that part of the reason he wanted to talk to Matt was revenge. Brian had not held up his part of the bargain and their room was constantly a mess. Matt and Tim were forever nagging them to clean it up. Brian was supposed to keep the room clean in return for his silence.

Besides, there was an issue of fairness. If Matt had caught him doing to Pam what Brian and Mike were doing, there would be hell to pay.

But Jake held his feelings inside and decided not to decide.


As far as room cleaning went, the gold star went to Tommy. Tommy considered his first weekend visitations to Matt’s a vacation away from the regimentation of St. Luke’s. So his room was a mess, complete with clothes on the floor and unmade bed. Matt knew that at St. Luke’s the boys had to make their beds and straighten their rooms before breakfast every day, including weekends. So he laid down the law, and Tommy came around. True, the bedspread might be slightly askew and there might be a stray sock on the floor, but overall he was much improved. All his progress might be undone, Matt knew, if he insisted on following Brian and Jake’s example.

Matt slept late the first Sunday in February. He had gone to bed with a headache and runny nose and suspected he was coming down with a cold.

Matt made up his mind that he was going to tackle the problem of the messy bedroom today. To his dismay he found that Jake and Brian were still asleep when he waltzed downstairs. Tommy was lying on the couch watching the Olympics and the very top of his red head was visible on the arm of the couch. Matt bent over, gently pushed the hair off Tommy’s forehead and kissed him.

He smiled at the man. "Hi, Matt."

"Hi, sweetie. Did you have breakfast?"

"Yeah, Tim made me some waffles."

"Did he? How were they?"

"Pretty good."

"It’s our turn to spend time together this afternoon. What do you want to do?"

"I want to go to the flea market."

"The flea market?"

"Yeah. The big indoor one near the water tower."

"Oh, you mean the one in Alsip?"

"Yeah, can we?"

Matt raised his eyebrows. "If that’s what you really want to do." It was an interesting place, although not exactly Matt’s taste. Matt hadn’t been there in years, but remembered it as selling lots of tube socks and cheesy T-shirts. There were no antiques, or old magazines or postcards to browse through. Just lots of tools, sometimes some military surplus and cheap furniture.

"Where’s Tim?"

"I think he’s on the computer." Tommy turned his attention back to the TV.

The placement of the computer had been the topic of some discussion. There was no room for it on the main level, the boy’s bedrooms were too small. It almost went into the master bedroom, but the two men correctly deduced that their privacy would be even more limited. So it ended up in the basement.

From that point on, it seemed they were constantly buying something for the computer. First, came a computer desk and chair. Then, a space heater was needed to chase off the chill. They purchased a lamp because Tim read a story about how gazing at the monitor in dim light could harm eyesight. And on it went.

Matt enjoyed a cup of coffee and glanced over the Sunday Chicago Tribune. There was quite a bit of analysis of the Serbian bombing of Sarajevo, more news of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan the previous month and, of course, the opening of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. The Olympics were special because the International Olympic Committee had decided to stagger the Winter and Summer Olympics. It had only been two years since the previous Olympics in Albertville, France. The Games would mainly be remembered for two names: Nancy and Tonya.

Jake finally wandered down. His hair was disheveled and there was a line in his face that obviously came from a crease in the pillowcase.

"Hey, kiddo," Matt greeted him.

Jake sat at the table and picked up the comics section.

"You two have to clean that room before you do anything else today."

"That’s Brian’s job," Jake blurted unthinkingly.

For the first time, Matt looked up from his newspaper. His eyebrows shot up. "What do you mean?"

"There’s something that’s bothering me."

"You lost me, Jake."

"Cleaning up the room. There’s something I need to tell you."


Matt paced the dining room floor like a caged animal. He had stormed upstairs after Jake’s confession, and almost dragged Brian out of bed. He was now seated at the table with Jake.

"I can’t think of any explanation for your behavior, can you? We’ve been through this before, Brian."

"No," Brian mumbled as he fiddled with the newspaper.

"Jake is absolutely right. If he would have done the same thing with Pam, I would have ripped him a new asshole." Brian snickered, but nervously. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t do that to you."

"Neither of us can get pregnant."

"That’s enough, young man!" Matt roared. Brian’s eyes widened. Matt had never, ever yelled at him. Even Prints, who was sitting on the couch, looked at Matt. "You are not amusing. We’re talking about bigger issues here, Brian. Big issues. Self-control is first." He pointed at Prints who was currently licking a paw. "Even animals have more self-control. Barnyard animals have more self-control. You are putting yourself at great risk for sexually transmitted diseases. You have to get control over your impulses, Brian. You cannot go around fucking everyone you want to. You will lose your self-respect and the respect of everyone else.

"Next, there’s the issue of trust. I told you pretty clearly what I expected of you and Mike the last time we had this talk."

"Mike is as much to blame. He pushed me."

"Yeah, but you still have something on your side. The word No. You remember the word no? Can you say it for me?"

Brian’s eyes narrowed in anger. He hated to be spoken to like a child.

"Good," Matt shouted. "I hope you’re pissed off. I hope you’re as angry as I am. Because, kiddo, I’m having a hard time reconciling your behavior. I can’t trust you anymore, Brian. I told you what I expected from you and Mike and you chose to ignore it." Matt lowered his voice a bit. The next sentence he pronounced with a pause between each word to emphasize the meaning. " Period. And since I can no longer trust you with Mike, you are not going to be alone with him. Ever. Either Tim or Leah or me will be with you when you are together until further notice. Every minute in every room. You two are not going to be left alone. At least until I can trust you again. Not to mention you’re grounded for a month. That means no play practice and no speech team. You get your ass right home from school and you do not leave the house. And stay off the phone."

"That’s not fair." He cast another dirty look at Jake.

"Jake has the same restrictions about Pam, or whatever girl is the Girlfriend of the Week. He cannot be alone with her, although she is welcome here. The difference is that we trusted you with Mike. Obviously, we were wrong to trust you. So, don’t blame Jake for your problems. You can only blame yourself."

Brian glowered. "You said yourself that kids my age experiment with sex."

"Experiment, Brian. Experiment means once or twice. The number of times you and Mike had sex, it’s more like a God damned research project than an experiment." Matt’s throat was starting to feel raw from all the yelling. "What do you thing would happen if this got out at school?"

Brian’s eyes widened. He hadn’t thought of that.

"A fine reputation to have -- the kid who’ll suck anyone’s cock."

"I don’t have a reputation."

"Not yet you don’t. But you could. What do they call girls who have promiscuous sex?"

Jake answered for him, "Slut."

"Exactly. Thank you, Jake." Matt pointed at Brian again. "That’s exactly what I would call you, Brian. A slut. Except there’s no male equivalent in the English language."

Brian started crying. "I hate you."

Matt took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "You can call me anything you want. Just do what I tell you, Brian. Do what I tell you. And think of some way to gain my trust back. And think fast. Because the way I’m feeling about you right now, I have a good mind to march your ass back to St. Luke’s when I take Tommy back tonight."

The last image of Brian was that of the boy sobbing into his crossed arms which were on the Perspective section of the newspaper. He turned his back and marched upstairs.


Tommy was sitting on his bed petting Prints.

"Are you ready to go, buddy?"

"You’re not going to yell at me, are you?"

Matt was suddenly remorseful. "No, have you done anything wrong?"


"Ok, then. I’m going to put on a pair of jeans." Tim intercepted him in the bedroom and closed the door quietly behind him.

"Matthew, what is wrong with you?"

"You heard that?"

"Every word." He approached and wrapped his arms around Matt, although Matt’s arms remained at their sides. "For the record, I agree with what you said. But you really ripped into the poor kid."

"He deserved it." Matt glanced at Tim’s face. "Ok, I guess I did go overboard a bit."

Tim kissed his cheek. "It’s not the message, babe, it’s how you delivered it. I think you should mend fences with him."

"I will, but later. Right now, I’m going to take Tommy to Alsip."

"Don’t wait too long, sweetie. The longer you wait, the harder it will be."

Matt grabbed his checkbook on an impulse on the way out.

The ride north was rather quiet for Tommy and Matt. Each was lost in their own thoughts.

The streets were slushy and messy as the temperature hovered just above freezing. Matt was constantly flipping the windshield wipers off and on. Matt knew the flea market people were an early-rising lot and Sunday was their High Holy Day. It was just past noon when they pulled into the parking lot. Matt figured that most of the vendors would be gone.

Tommy took his hand as they strolled down the aisles of merchandise. It was like one huge garage sale. Some merchandise was new. There were, of course, vendors who sold tube socks, but also new bikes, toys, live plants and supplies like pet food and detergents. There were several booths with military surplus, including boots, fatigues, helmets, ammo boxes and the like. One booth featured the contents of a high school science lab. There were microscopes, beakers, flasks, specimens in formaldehyde, even a seismograph. The operator of the booth explained that the school had merged with another district. Tommy spotted a complete 30-gallon aquarium complete with filter, heater and lighted cover.

"Oh Dad! Could I have it? I always wanted an aquarium!" Tommy had unthinkingly called him Dad. There had been no discussion of the topic before, but it certainly felt correct.

Matt smiled at him. "It’s a lot of work. Who’s going to take care of it during the week while you’re at St. Luke’s?"

"Brian can help. He was a nature assistant." That comment stung Matt a bit. Matt was starting to regret his comments to Brian more and more. Matt thought he was also Camper of the Year at Camp Homewood. He has been such a good kid. I think I was too hard on him.

"Aquariums are a good hobby," the proprietor of the booth smiled at the boy. "I was asking thirty dollars, but I’ll give it to you for fifteen." Matt paid for the aquarium but they left it at the booth since they had more shopping to do. Matt’s head started pounding so hard, he bought a bottle of acetaminophen at a booth peddling over-the-counter drugs, weight loss pills and herbal remedies. At the food concession he bought a hot dog and Pepsi for Tommy, but just a drink for himself. He gulped down three capsules with a Pepsi.

Many of the vendors had indeed left for the day, and the display area was beginning to look like a gap-toothed smile. Some more vendors were still packing up their displays and loading the contents into pickups and minivans. At a booth at the end of one of the garages, they spotted a booth that sported signs that said 50% Off Everything.

Tommy pulled him by the hand. "Look at all the camping stuff, Dad!" It was the second time Tommy called him dad that day. Matt wondered if he was doing it on purpose or unconsciously. The portly, bearded vendor indeed had an assortment of camping gear for sale. There was a 6-person tent in its original box. There were six sleeping bags and air mattresses. There was a pup tent, a huge green Coleman cooler, a propane lamp and a propane stove. There were pots and pans, a metal grate for an open fire, a wood saw and even clothesline. Most everything was in its original boxes.

"And I’ll let you have it all for $200," the man said to Matt.

Matt just smiled. As someone who dealt with the public during his workday, Matt had learned to smile when he didn’t want to say anything to offend.

"The big tent alone cost me $250. All of it was used once. We took the kids camping once and then we got divorced. But I’m not saying you will divorce your wife," he added hastily.

"I’m a single father. I have two more boys at home."

"And Tim," Tommy added.

The seller assumed Tim was a pet.

"Camping is great for boys. This will get you started."

Matt was tempted. Two hundred dollars would be just one night in a hotel if they took a vacation. But their finances were still recovering from Christmas.

"Pleeeeese," Tommy looked up with him with puppy eyes. The boy was good at doing that, Matt noticed, when he wanted something. And it was hard to resist. But, still he hesitated.

"Oh, hell," the man said. "I may be crazy. But I’m getting out of the flea market business. I’m tired of lugging this stuff around." He sighed. "I’ll give it to you for $150. That’s my final offer."

"Will you take a check?"

"Is it local?"

"Park Forest."

"You got a deal."

The aquarium and all the camping gear wouldn’t fit in the trunk of the Saturn, so the sleeping bags rode home on the back seat. At Tommy’s request, they stopped at White Castle in Oak Forest for lunch. Tommy was chattering away happily, and Matt was feeling his spirits lift, although physically he felt terrible. He started to feel queasy as they entered the town house.

"Tim, Brian, Jake! Guess what we bought! You’ll never believe it!" Tommy shouted as he ran into the living room. They were watching the Olympics.

They followed Matt and Tommy out to the car and exclaimed as he opened the trunk. They peppered Matt and Tim with questions. "Why don’t you guys start hauling this stuff to the basement?" Tim suggested.

He took Matt aside. "You don’t look good. Are you feeling OK?"

"I feel like shit," Matt admitted as he pulled a sleeping bag from the back seat. His nostrils caught just a whiff of mildew and it was enough to send him over the edge. He doubled over and vomited up his White Castle lunch. The vomit merged with the slushy remnants of the snow in the parking lot.

"Ewww!" Brian exclaimed while Jake laughed.

"All right, boys," Tim reprimanded them. "It’s not funny. Please help haul the rest of this gear into the house."

"And you," Tim turned his attention toward Matt, "Get yourself in bed." Matt started to protest, but Tim stopped him. "Go!"

Matt did as he was told. As he slipped between the cool sheets, Tim came in with a cup of tea, and more Tylenol. He turned the small TV on so that Matt could watch the Olympics. Soon, he was asleep.

Hours later, the ringing phone interrupted a dream of himself hiking down a road paved with White Castle hamburgers. There was a campground with camping gear for sale beside a Pepsi waterfall and hot dogs floating in the sky like clouds.

Tim was sitting on the edge of the bed, and shook Matt gently. "The phone’s for you. Do you want me to take a message?"

"Who is it?"

"I don’t know."

"I’ll answer it."

"Matt? It’s Al Wagner."

"Al! Where are you? Where have you been? Are you OK?"

"Yeah, I’m OK. I’m in Blue Island."

"Are you back at that apartment building on Vincennes? Your son will be so thrilled to see you."

"Don’t tell him, yet. Please. I’m trying to sort out my life."

"What do you mean? I don’t understand." Matt was confused. Maybe it’s the cold, or the Tylenol.

"I’m not back at the apartment on Vincennes. Here. I’ll let you talk to someone who can explain."

During the pause, Matt sat up and rubbed his forehead as if it would stimulate brain activity.



"Al is staying with me."

"How? What the hell is going on?"

Marty explained briefly how he had encountered Al at the adult bookstore in Indiana. They discovered a mutual attraction to each other, and Al moved in. All in the space of two-and-a-half weeks.

"Jake wants to see Al."

"Can it wait? Al is sorting through some things."

"Care to elaborate on that term?" Matt asked testily. "I can’t imagine what could be more important than his own son."

"Well, he’s getting some counseling, and he’s questioning his sexuality..."


"And what?"

"Like there are no other parents in this world who are getting counseling or questioning their sexuality?"

"Matthew, please. I love him. I’ve been single for a long time. We need some time together before we bring Jake into the picture. He likes it there. He can stay for a bit longer."

Anger rumbled through Matt’s head like a "L" train. "Do you hear yourself? I don’t believe this is coming from the person that used to be my best friend. I thought I knew you better. You have done some stupid things in your life, Martin, but frankly this takes the cake." Matt started screaming. "This is the most cowardly, selfish thing I have ever heard of. This is bullshit! That boy needs his father, and just because you and Al want to work out your relationship doesn’t mean..."

"Matt, we just want...."

For the second time in a twenty-four hour period, Matt was going into a tirade. "You just want what? You want to be free to fuck around with his father? He brought that boy into this world, and Jake is his responsibility. When you are a parent what you want doesn’t matter. What matters most is what’s best for your child."

"Hey, calm down," Tim said, rubbing his leg.

"Martin, this is it. You and Al both owe us, including Jake, an apology. Until you do that, I don’t want to talk to you again."

"You can’t be serious."

"Dead serious. Where are your values? Remember last summer when I had a fight with Tim and I didn’t want to pick Brian up? You talked me into it. Back then, you understood the importance of family. Where is that man now?"

"And where is the kind, compassionate friend I used to know?"

"He’s busy taking care of everyone else’s kids," Matt yelled and slammed down the phone.

Jake, who had heard the conversation, cried while Brian held him.


Through the night, Matt slept on and off. His fever mounted and his lungs began to fill with fluid. He could hardly take a breath without coughing. Tim slept in the basement.

Monday morning, he struggled to get out of bed and took a shower.

"You are not going to work, Matt," Tim commanded.

"I have to."

"You look like shit. You should be in bed."

"Anna closes tonight and Tracy can’t come in until three. She has class all day."

Matt barely made it to work that day. As soon as a part-timer arrived, he put his head down on his desk and prayed for one o’clock to arrive when Anna would start her shift and he could leave.

The house was quiet and cold when he arrived home. He turned on the TV and tried to watch the Olympics, but kept dozing off.

Tim tried to feed him some soup when he returned home. "If you’re not better by tomorrow, you’re going to the doctor."

Matt coughed all through the night, and found himself at the doctor’s office the next morning.

"Could you please wait in the waiting room?" the older, gray-haired nurse asked Tim once they both were in the examining room. Matt sat on the examining table wheezing and gasping for breath. His skin was a pale shade of gray and he had dark circles under his dull and lifeless eyes.

"No," Tim answered. Then he said clearly, calmly and courageously, "Matt is my lover. I have Power of Attorney in medical matters." From his back pocket, he produced a vinyl envelope that sealed with a little Velcro tab. He handed the document to the nurse who frowned and inspected it. She had heard about arrangements like this, but hadn’t yet encountered it.

"I’ll make a copy for his file," she mumbled.

While they waited for the doctor, Tim affectionately stroked Matt’s hair.

An hour later, Matt was in bed again, full of prescription drugs. The diagnosis was bronchitis. He wouldn’t get out of bed again for four days.

That afternoon, Tim held the man he loved while he slept, wishing he could repair the damage that a virus had done to his body and the arguments had done to his soul.

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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