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 2002 by Nick Archer. Permission is granted to Nifty Archives to post one copy. No part may be copied, reproduced, republished, or reposted on another website without written permission from the author.

Thicker Than Water

By Nick Archer

Chapter 8

Matt lifted the tailgate of the Jeep to allow Tommy out. Matt held a hand out to him and smiled. Ryan, Jake and Brian clambered out of the back seat.

Matt smiled at Tommy. A silent message passed between father and son.

They had parked in parking lot behind St. Irenaeus School. Other suburban families were piling out of their cars, too. Their destination was a set of double doors.

"I want a piggyback ride," he implored Matt.

"Sorry," Matt said. "I don’t want to be your beast of burden."

"Man!"

Jake crouched down so that Tommy could mount him. "C’mon, kiddo. "Tommy joyfully climbed onto Jake’s back.

"You’re heavy," Jake complained.

"No wonder," Tim commented. "He’s growing like a weed."

Tommy was wearing a pair of khakis that had formerly belonged to Brian. Matt had discovered the joys of hand-me-downs. They were a parent’s joy, but the bane of a kid’s existence. Matt had hemmed the legs hastily with iron-on hemming tape.

Brian beamed with pride at Matt and Tim. They both looked so handsome in their shirts and ties, although Brian was loathe to admit it to them. Compared to the other men in their ill-fitting sport coats and their frumpy wives, Matt and Tim were downright fashionable.

The boys, too, looked handsome, and their parents had heaped compliments upon them, much to their embarrassment. After Tim had styled Mike’s hair with gel, all their boys insisted he do the same to their hair. Tim applied gel to their hair, combed it all forward and pushed their bangs so that they stood straight up. He gave them each a spritz of his Drakkar Noir cologne. They were not wearing ties, but Tim and Matt insisted that they wear khakis and button-up shirts.

The double doors led to the main lobby of the former school. It was a spacious, light and airy lobby with a fifteen-foot ceiling and a curved reception desk. The lobby was in the corner of the L-shaped building. Behind them and to their left were halls lined with lockers and classrooms. A wide set of stairs led downstairs to the lunchroom and kitchen. The lower level was now mostly used for bingo and AA meetings, Matt knew.

The main doors faced west and opened onto Orchard Boulevard. Floor-to-ceiling glass surrounded the main entry. The school was built at a time when everyone apparently thought natural gas would be cheap and plentiful forever. Another set of double doors on the north wall led to the gym.

On one wall of the lobby were framed pictures of previous graduating classes. The halls and the lobby were rather dim because they were lit by recessed incandescent fixtures instead of fluorescent bulbs. Matt liked the lighting - he thought it was warm and inviting.

A girl at the door of the gym took their tickets and directed them to Table 3.

"This is so cool!" Tommy exclaimed.

The stage had been set up against one of the long walls of the gym on low risers. On the opposite wall, construction scaffolding served as a lighting and sound platform. Wires were taped to the metal supports with duct tape. Around the base of the construction scaffolding, the band had set up shop. A piano and an electronic keyboard patiently awaited the start of the show. An electric guitar and a bass were propped on stands. Two amplifiers, some folding chairs and music stands with lights completed the temporary orchestra pit.

Round tables had been set up throughout the gym. Each was covered with a snowy white tablecloth and eight place settings. Four lit candles surrounded a floral centerpiece. It seemed they were given some of the best seats in the house. Table 3 turned out to be right next to and somewhat to the left of the stage.

"I don’t see Leah or Mike yet," Jake commented.

"Or Marty and Vince," Brian added as he twisted his head to scan the incoming audience.

"Marty always likes to make a dramatic entrance. He’ll be fashionably late," Matt conjectured.

Just then, Leah and Mike appeared. Leah looked very pretty in navy khakis and a flowered vest over a pink blouse. She was also wearing cosmetics, something that the males in the townhouse next door rarely saw. Mike was wearing his brand new Tommy Hilfiger outfit. His khakis hugged his lower body perfectly, and his dazzling white button-up shirt with the Hilfiger logo on the breast pocket set off his hair and eyes. His clothes caught the attention of the other boys for several reasons. Tommy Hilfiger was the brand of the moment. Except for a few assorted pieces for special occasions, Matt refused to buy them Hilfiger gear - it simply wasn’t in the budget. They had to wear knockoffs from Target, although they made their discontent known loud and clear. Finally, Jake, Brian and Tommy never saw Mike in anything other than jeans or shorts and a T-shirt. Mike was not a clothes-horse nor was he very fashion conscious. He was just a jeans kind of boy.

But he certainly caught the eyes of the males seated at the table. "Mike, you look great, man!" Jake blurted. Then realizing adults were within earshot, he added hastily, "And you look pretty tonight, too, Leah."

Leah smiled at him. "Thank you, sweetie."

Stumbling slightly, Mike pulled the chair away from the table for his mother. "Thanks, Mike."

Matt and Tim exchanged amused looks. Mike was even carrying himself differently. There was an air of confidence that they hadn’t seen before.

"It’s been a long time since I’ve been in St. Irenaeus. It still looks good. The halls are immaculate. They’ve maintained this place well."

"When were you here last, Leah?" Matt asked.

"Oh, I guess it was about ten years ago. I had my younger son with me. We came to see the play then. The play here at St. Irenaeus is practically an institution."

"What other plays have they done here?" Brian asked, always interested in the dramatic aspects.

"Well, we came to see Man of LaMancha. I know they’ve done Fiddler on the Roof and Music Man."

Ryan, the walking encyclopedia of musicals, burst into song. "’I see the Wells Fargo wagon, it’s-a comin…."

The adults laughed.

Matt added more information to Brian’s question. "The entire event is produced by volunteers and donations. Every year, amateur actors try out for the play. A caterer who’s a member of the parish sells all the food at cost to the church for the dinner. The DJ also donates his services. It’s one of the big fundraisers for St. Irenaeus."

"You mean bingo isn’t enough?" Brian asked sarcastically.

The assistant pastor, Father Mendez, took the stage. "Welcome to St. Irenaeus’ 1994 dinner theater production of Godspell. I am Father Mendez, the associate pastor. This is the twenty-first year for the dinner theater, and the first year the pastor is playing the lead role." The audience chuckled. "The meal will be served shortly, followed by the play. After the play, DJ Busta will play for an hour or so and the cash bar will be open at the north end of the gym. Now, please join me in saying grace." He paused, and with the timing of a seasoned actor, intoned the standard prayer before meals:

  • Bless us Oh Lord and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
  • Servers began to bring in trays laden with salads. A very pretty girl, whose nametag read Lisa, was serving their table. She also brought a basket of warm rolls. The hungry boys attacked their food.

    Leah, Matt, and Tim dined at a more relaxed pace.

    Leah continued speaking as if there were no interruption. "Really, St. Irenaeus and Park Forest grew up together. This school was built in ’51, only three years after Park Forest was founded. Before they built it, they used a small church on Sauk Trail. St. Anne’s was the name, if I recall. They also used the Holiday Theater." She chuckled as she spooned ranch dressing onto her salad. "Of course, every religious congregation used the theater at one point or another."

    "But the church itself wasn’t built until later, right?" Tim asked.

    "Right. It wasn’t built until ’64. Until then, they used this gym for Mass."

    "When did the school close?" Brian wanted to know.

    "In ’69, I recall. It was not pretty, as I understand. Because the public schools in town were so good, parents didn’t see much need to send their children to Catholic school. Of course, I wasn’t there at the meeting when the bishop came to announce that the school was closing. I heard that there were people in the front row with checks in hand. But, the bishop’s mind was set, and there was no way the school could continue operating at such a loss. The nuns who ran the school were instructed to set up an extensive religious education program to compensate for the loss of the day school."

    "Kinda like Beth Shalom," Mike commented.

    "Yes, except the school at Beth Shalom was never full-time. And they never taught academic subjects other than Hebrew and the Torah."

    Lisa arrived to pick up their plates and began serving the main course, which was to be served family-style. There were bowls of mostaccioli, platters of Italian and Polish sausage, a bowl of sauerkraut and another of pierogies. Lisa also presented dishes laden with baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy.

    Just then, Marty and Vince appeared. "Vince, I think we’re in the wrong place. Judging from the food, I think this is a wedding reception."

    Matt and Tim shook both his and Vince’s hands. "You remember Leah?" Matt asked. Matt watched the interaction of Vince and his younger lover. They were striving to be good, and resisting the temptation to show affection toward each other. Matt observed their body language and knew that they were still in the honeymoon phase of their relationship and still very much infatuated with each other.

    "Of course. I never forget a bubbee." He rounded the table and leaned over and kissed her cheek.

    Leah beamed and patted his cheek affectionately. They seated themselves at Table 4, their assigned table, and were positioned back-to-back with Matt and Tim.

    As he delicately placed a napkin over his lap, Marty leaned back toward Tim and whispered loudly, "You’re looking good, too."

    "Thanks, I’ve been watching my weight and working out."

    Marty lowered his voice. "Oh, the things we girls do for our men."

    Matt widened his eyes and tugged on his ear. The gesture was their private signal not to drop too many hairpins in public. Leah noticed their interaction, although she hadn’t heard Marty’s comment, and grinned widely.

    Jake observed Mike across the table. Mike noticed he was being watched, and glanced up from the chicken breast he was consuming to smile back at Jake across the table. It’s so awkward when people watch you eat, he thought. In the dim, romantic candlelight, Mike’s eyes sparkled like emeralds with pleasure and mischief.

    Mike was ecstatic that Jake was showing so much interest, but it also made him a little nervous, too. He turned to Leah. "What’s this play about?"

    "Well, it’s based on the Gospel according to Matthew."

    Mike laughed. "You mean they made a musical out of your life, Matt?" He knew better, but his comment was meant to amuse them all, and he had succeeded.

    "No, sweetie," Leah chuckled as she corrected him. "Matthew was one of the disciples of Jesus. He wrote the gospel about the life of Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is the messiah."

    "The messiah that we’re still waiting for?"

    "That’s right," Leah confirmed. Although religious education classes were available at St. Luke’s, Mike didn’t attend them. Since he had been living with Leah, he had been studying at Beth Shalom with the goal of attaining his bar mitzvah. As a freshman in high school, he was a year behind the age when most Jewish boys confirmed their faith.

    Tommy stood behind Tim and placed his hands on his shoulders. He leaned forward as he whispered into Tim’s ear, "Dad, where’s the bathroom?"

    "Out the doors, turn left and it’s the first door on your left. Don’t forget to wash your hands."

    Meanwhile, at the neighboring table, Marty had made a new acquaintance. She was Mary Ellen Rafferty. Mary Ellen was short, pretty, slim and vivacious. Her brown hair was cut short and she looked younger than her thirty-seven years.

    "So your son is in the play tonight?" Marty asked.

    "Yes. He’s one of the apostles."

    "You must be very proud."

    "Most of the time. I have to work at keeping his ego in check, though. I can’t afford to widen the doors in our house so he can fit his swollen head through."

    Marty and Vince laughed.

    Mary Ellen continued. "I expect to be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade some year and hear Katie Couric say ‘Here comes Robb Rafferty’s Ego. This is the third year for the popular balloon. It’s one of the largest in the parade; fourteen people are needed to guide it.’"

    By this time Vince and Marty were snorting because they were laughing so hard. Marty was amused by her comments. He admired her for it as well. She seemed to thoroughly understand her son and his personality. It took a lot of intestinal fortitude to speak about him the way she did to virtual strangers.

    She introduced Marty and Vince to her three younger children who were also seated at the table. Marty and Vince were impressed with their manners.

    "You certainly don’t look old enough to be the mother of four," Marty complimented.

    "’I take care of myself,’" Mary Ellen quoted a commercial with a grin. "’I eat right, exercise and take Geritol.’"

    Vince and Marty again laughed with her. Marty already had the impression she had an open mind. If she were childless, Marty thought, she’d be a fag hag.

    Tommy arrived from the bathroom. "Lucas?" he said to a boy sitting near Mary Ellen.

    "Hi, Tommy." Lucas turned to Mary Ellen. "Mom, this is Tommy. He’s on my soccer team."

    Mary Ellen extended her hand. "Nice to meet you, Tommy."

    He shook her hand. "Nice to meet you, ma’am."

    Mary Ellen was pleased and amused. "Such manners!"

    Marty tapped Matt on the shoulder. To Mary Ellen he said, "This is Tommy’s father, Matt Rosato."

    Matt swiveled and shook Mary Ellen’s hand.

    "Nice to finally meet you. I’ve seen you at some soccer games. I have to congratulate you."

    Matt’s forehead wrinkled. "For what?"

    "For teaching a twelve-year-old boy manners."

    "We torture Tommy regularly," Matt said dryly. He didn’t think about his use of the pronoun ‘we.’

    Mary Ellen laughed. If she noticed the slip, she didn’t question it. "These are my daughters, Katie and Connie and my younger son Lucas." All three children had inherited their mother’s brown hair and round, big brown eyes. The tips of Lucas’ short hair had been frosted. It was the newest fad among boys.

    Since he was unable to reach across the table, Matt smiled a greeting at them. Lucas was twelve, Matt deduced, since he was on Tommy’s team. Katie appeared to be about ten, and Connie eight.

    "Tommy is my youngest. This is Brian," Matt casually touched his back. "And this is Jacob."

    "Hi, boys."

    Lucas piped up. "Who is the guy sitting next to you?" He directed the question to Matt. Lucas was obviously referring to Tim. Since his parents had divorced more than a year ago, Lucas had missed the influence of a man. Although he wasn’t gay, Tim’s bulging muscles had caught Lucas’ eye. He looked over at him with admiration.

    "This is Tim McGraw. He’s….." Matt stopped himself. In a panic, Matt realized he had backed himself into a corner. How was he going to explain Tim?

    Marty jumped in and rescued him. "He’s a good friend of the family," he completed the sentence for Matt.

    Had Mary Ellen’s eyes widened slightly when Tim was introduced? Matt wondered.

    Listening from the next table, Brian overheard the snippets of their conversation. Robb’s mom is sitting right behind me! If only I could talk to her. He pondered Mary Ellen’s comment about Robb’s ego. Is that why he was so unfriendly to me? He plotted a way to get himself into the conversation.

    The food was tasty if a bit dull. When the main course was cleared away, Lisa and the other servers brought out the dessert of apple pie.

    "What’s that?" Tommy pointed toward the door.

    When Matt and Tim glanced in the direction of his pointed finger, Tommy attempted to swipe Tim’s pie.

    "Thomas Clayton!" Matt was aghast. Tommy simply laughed.

    "It’s OK, Matt, I don’t need it.

    "Well, at least he could have asked."

    Father Mendez took the microphone again. "There will be a short intermission before the play begins."

    The servers cleared the tables completely shortly thereafter. They removed all plates and silverware and the tablecloths, but left the centerpieces, the candles and their drinks. The musicians took their places and began to warm up. A spotlight was turned onto the stage area. Those audience members who weren’t facing the stage turned their chairs around so that they had a better view. At Table 4, Marty, Vince and Mary Ellen had repositioned their chairs. At Table 3, Mike, Leah and Ryan turned around.

    Damn, Mike thought, now I can’t watch Jake anymore. And he can’t see me. Was that a flash of interest I saw a while ago, or was I just imagining it?

    The set for the play consisted of a stretch of chain link fence in front of flats painted to look like urban brick walls with graffiti. The spotlight swung to the far corner of the gym and the audience hushed.

    The young man playing Judas sounded the ram’s horn and started to sing Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord.

    "Mama," Mike whispered to Leah, "isn’t that a shofar?"

    "Yes," she smiled at him, pleased that he had recognized the instrument as the same one used in Yom Kippur services.

    The cast filed in from the hall, singing the song. Father Grimes appeared as Jesus even though he was two decades older that Jesus would have been. He was wearing a Superman T-shirt and suspenders.

    The talented young players were mostly college students. Two were high school students and two were older parishioners who had auditioned for the play.

    Told with humor and bright songs, including Day By Day, the story and teachings of Jesus unfolded. The boys sat in rapt attention despite the fact they were sitting on uncomfortable metal folding chairs. Brian made a resolution to himself to try out for next year’s production at St. Irenaeus.

    Brian, in particular, watched Robb on the stage. He seemed so natural and confident. Brian started to plot ways to get Robb to notice him. Robb’s mom was sitting right behind him; that was a plus. And there would be a dance after the play.

    In the paper program that was distributed as the tables were being cleared, Brian noted that Robb was singing All Good Gifts. He waited impatiently for the song.

    Everyone was impressed with the cast. They knew Father Grimes could sing; they had heard him weekly in Mass. But it excited the parishioners to hear him singing something other than the Mass. They were proud of him, too.

    Finally Robb, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and jeans, stood to sing his song. His voice was strong and true and the walls almost trembled with his musical gift.

    I wish I could sing like that, Brian thought. Maybe he has a reason to be so conceited. If I were that talented, I might be the same way.

    Shortly the cast began the song You Are the Light of the World. It signaled that the intermission was coming, almost two-thirds of the way through the play. The tune included the line Let’s have some wine! Traditionally, the cast serves the audience cups of wine during the intermission. As the cast sang they poured cups of wine.

    "There will be a fifteen-minute intermission," the orchestra leader announced.

    Jake, Brian and Ryan jumped out of their chairs for the wine.

    "One cup," Matt warned them.

    They smirked as they made a beeline for the wine.

    "You can go get a cup of wine," Matt said to Tommy gently.

    Tommy wrinkled his nose. "I don’t want any."

    While three cast members poured cheap red jug wine into Dixie cups, the rest handed the cups out to the audience. Brian made it a point to approach Robb.

    Their eyes met as Robb handed him the cup brimming with wine.

    "You did a great job," Brian managed to choke out. His mouth was suddenly dry. He gulped half the wine.

    "Thanks," Robb said as he smiled sincerely at Brian for the first time.

    "Are you going to be here for the dance?"

    "Wouldn’t miss it."

    Brian desperately wanted to ask him to dance, but didn’t dare.

    The end of the intermission was signaled by some piano chords and flickering of lights.

    As the play continued, it took a more serious turn, dealing with the Passion of Jesus. Father Grimes belted out Alas For You.

    "He really has a set of pipes," Marty commented.

    Tommy scooted his chair closer to Tim. Tim wrapped an arm around his shoulders. Matt regarded Brian’s face and noticed that his eyes were brimming. Matt recalled the same reaction to the play the first time he had seen it many years ago.

    Many in the audience were moved as Jesus, played by Father Grimes, was crucified on the chain link fence with red ribbons. After all the good-natured fun and laughs that had gone before in the play, the final scenes were a serious turn and made the end even more moving.

    Carrying Father Grimes aloft on their shoulders, the cast exited through the audience and out the double doors into the lobby while they sang a medley of Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord and Day by Day. Once in the lobby, the cast indulged in a self-congratulatory cheer and then they regrouped and trotted back to the stage for their bows.

    The appreciative audience stood and roared their approval. The applause was loudest as Father Grimes took his bow. They acknowledged the band, the sound and lighting technicians, the props manager and wardrobe mistress.

    Someone presented Father Grimes with a bouquet of carnations. He stepped to the microphone.

    "It is we who should be thanking you. Your support will contribute to the continued success of all the ministries supported by St. Irenaeus. In a few minutes, the cash bar will open and the DJ will begin playing. It’ll give us a few minutes to get this makeup off."

    About half the audience, especially those with young children, began packing up to leave. A line formed at the bar and a man and a woman in tuxedo shirts and black bow ties busily began serving the drinks.

    The rest rearranged their seats. Lucas moved his chair to Table 3 in order to sit next to Tommy. They laughed and spoke to each other in conspiratorial tones. They were planning that age-old adolescent tradition: filching drinks from the adults when no one was looking.

    The DJ began the music and began to manipulate a string of lights across the stage. Matt hadn’t noticed the array of lights until then.

    The DJ started with classic big band songs for the oldsters in the crowd. He played In The Mood, String of Pearls and Take The A Train. His playlist was constructed to please everyone, which was a task in itself because of the age range of the audience. He would start with big band and swing music and then move through the decades, touching on songs from the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and finally more current music. It was almost a retrospective of pop music.

    Three adventurous gray-haired couples got up to dance on the stage that now was going to be used as the dance floor.

    By this time, Matt, Tim, Vince, Marty, Leah and Mary Ellen had repositioned themselves in a group between the two adjoining tables.

    Mary Ellen gestured to one energetic couple dancing a modified Lindy. "That’s Bernie Callahan and his wife, Elaine. He was village president through the sixties."

    Ryan stood behind a chair swinging his hips. He was anxious to dance.

    After a few more songs, Busta began his fifties set. It was then that some of the cast members, now dressed in street clothes and without makeup, began to appear.

    "You did a fantastic job, honey," Mary Ellen said as her eldest son appeared. She knew better than to show any physical affection in public.

    Brian sat straight up when Robb appeared. As Mary Ellen introduced her son to the other adults, Brian worked his chair next to Matt’s.

    "This is Matt Rosato," Mary Ellen introduced. Robb offered him a limp hand. "And this is his son, Brian."

    "You did make it," Robb commented lamely.

    "I told you I was going to be here." Brian gestured an empty chair next to his. When the introductions were done, Robb sat in it and studied Brian.

    Tim returned from the bar burdened with drinks. Get A Job was playing.

    "Who wants to dance?" Ryan asked anyone within earshot. The adults laughed indulgently.

    "I know you think we’re old, sweetie," Marty answered, "but this music predates even us."

    The DJ noted the meager response to the fifties music and, like a good DJ, quickly moved on to his sixties playlist. The Loco-Motion started his sixties set. A few dancers, emboldened with alcohol, got up to shake with the music. Others nodded or tapped their feet to the catchy tune.

    Busta continued with some Beatles and Beach Boys tunes. Then, he slowed the pace down with Unchained Melody. The song had enjoyed a revival thanks to it’s inclusion in the soundtrack of the movie Ghost. The stage-turned-dance floor was suddenly covered with couples.

    "Would you like to dance?" Mary Ellen asked Matt.

    Matt smiled. "I’d love to." Matt caught the smirk on Marty’s face. Matt returned the expression with one that said: Say anything and I’ll kill you.

    "It’s nice to meet you," Mary Ellen said over the music once they were on the floor.

    "You, too."

    "I noticed that your sons don’t look like you at all. Brian didn’t get his blond hair from your side of the family."

    "He’s adopted. All my sons are. Well, technically, Jake isn’t adopted, but we consider him our son." Matt had again used the plural pronouns. It was habit and besides, his tongue was loosened just a bit by the alcohol.

    "Who’s we?"

    Matt looked into her face and grinned.

    She returned the smile. "It’s Tim, isn’t it?"

    Matt continued to smile at her.

    "Oh, well, it doesn’t matter to me," she said in an offhand manner, "Except for the fact that two more very handsome men are unavailable." She laughed at her own comment. "I can tell they love you very much," she added in a more serious tone as she made eye contact. "I’ve been watching the interaction between you and your boys. It’s refreshing to see a father - I mean fathers - so affectionate with their sons. Robb is at that age when he forbids any contact in public. In fact, he cringes when I approach him."

    Matt chuckled. "Mine are getting to that point rapidly."

    Mary Ellen gestured to Table 3, were Brian and Robb were sitting together rather cozily and talking to each other. Matt was able to catch glimpses of the pair as they danced. Their body language suggested that there was a mutual attraction and quite a bit of interest toward each other.

    "If that keeps up," Mary Ellen said sarcastically, "we’ll be in-laws."

    Matt threw back his head and laughed. "Wonder where they’ll register the china pattern?"

    They were both laughing as Matt escorted her off the dance floor at the end of the song.

    Meanwhile, Jake, Tommy, Lucas and Mike were working the gym, looking for unattended drinks. When they found one whose owner had left it unattended, they took a gulp. Before long, the four of them were giggly.

    Busta moved on to his seventies collection which was heavy on disco tunes. He included such hits as Heaven Must Have Sent You, I Will Survive and Disco Inferno. Most of the adults had had a couple drinks and were feeling no pain. So no one commented when Ryan grabbed Tim’s hand and dragged him to the dance floor. Robb and Brian enlisted Katie and Connie to dance as a foursome, although it was simply a pretext to dance with each other. Marty invited Leah to dance and she proved to be a remarkable good dancer.

    "One thing I’ll say for Catholics," Leah said over the music to Marty, "they sure as hell know how to party."

    Matt grinned at Mary Ellen. "Let’s show these rank amateurs how it’s done." Once on the dance floor, they executed a perfect hustle. In a very short time, they had the attention of Matt’s boys and Mary Ellen’s children. Their inhibitions lowered by alcohol, they shook and writhed in rhythm to the music. The kids started watching them and before long watching became staring and staring turned into clapping and cheering their parents on.

    "Do you think Mom’s OK?" Connie asked Robb.

    "She’s fine," Robb said with a huge grin on his face.

    "I didn’t know mom could dance like that," Lucas said with a touch of pride in his voice. He turned to Tommy. "Did you know your dad could dance like that?"

    "Hell, yeah. Who do you think taught me to dance?"

    Almost everyone was on the dance floor. With so many unattended drinks, Mike and Jake were flitting like bees from one table to the next, gulping drinks that didn’t belong to them. Beer, wine, mixed drinks - it didn’t matter to them. If it had alcohol in it and it was unattended, it was fair game.

    Since the disco tunes seemed to be so popular with this crowd, the DJ extended his seventies set with YMCA. The crowd voiced it’s approval and continued to dance.

    One of the few people who didn’t dance was Vince. He spotted Jake trying to take a sip of Matt’s vodka gimlet.

    "Jake!" He admonished.

    Jake just grinned and shrugged as he sheepishly set the drink back on the table.

    Vince smiled to himself. It was exactly the kind of thing he’d done when he was Jake’s age.

    While the DJ played an extended mix of Born To Be Alive, Mike followed Jake into the bathroom. His heart pounding, he prayed no one else was there. He wanted to be alone with Jake.

    Mike glanced furtively around the restroom. No one was washing his hands. He rounded the second wall. The stalls were all empty and Jake was standing alone at the urinals.

    Mike chose a urinal next to Jake.

    "Hey, Mikey," Jake greeted him. Mike could smell the alcohol on his breath. "You’re really looking studly tonight."

    Mike yanked his hardening penis out of his trousers. He had noticed! Jake had finished urinating but was still standing at the urinal. Mike reached a trembling hand to his penis.

    "Not here, Mikey." Jake whispered. He swiveled his head around. "Let’s go somewhere else."

    The two boys zipped up and exited the bathroom. Jake turned left down the hall of classrooms. The bass from the DJ’s speakers throbbed from the gym. The first two classrooms were being used as dressing rooms for the cast of the play. The last classroom on the left was unlocked. Giggling nervously, Jake and Mike entered and closed the door silently behind them.

    They dared not turn the lights on. There was plenty of light streaming in the floor-to-ceiling windows on the north side of the room. Bright sodium-vapor fixtures in the parking lot and the street beyond provided an eerie, otherworldly feel. The vinyl curtains hung haphazardly because some of the hooks had come free. The former classroom had a sad, abandoned atmosphere. The bulletin boards were barren and the chalkboard pristine without a chalky film. The only school-like furniture left was the teacher’s desk. It was devoid of books, papers and pens. The student desks were gone, replaced by four folding tables that were currently arranged in a U-shape. There wasn’t even a clock or pencil sharpener.

    The adolescents backed themselves in a corner, as far away from the windows as they could get. Jake pulled out his hard penis.

    "You want this?" he whispered in the twilight. "Suck me."

    But Mike had other ideas. He wanted more; he wanted romance. He leaned forward and puckered his lips.

    Jake backed away. "No, Mike. I just want a blowjob."

    "Please."

    As Mike stood before him, Jake could read the hurt and vulnerability in his eyes. Mike had always been there but in the periphery. When Jake had lived with Matt and Tim last winter and spring, there had been some sex play between them, but always Brian was involved. In fact, Brian had had been the main focus of Jake’s attention. Mike had been secondary.

    Two things had changed. When Jake returned, he and Brian resumed their relationship on a different level. They were brothers, nothing else. They cared about each other but their fickle adolescent brains cancelled out the possibility of a sexual relationship. So both Jake and Brian were looking for potential partners.

    The other thing was Mike’s outfit. It was more than just the clothes; Mike had shaved and changed his hair. Jake could smell, but not identify, the woodsy cologne Mike was wearing. And Mike was carrying himself differently, with confidence and self-assurance. Mike had gone to some effort to look nice that night. What if, Jake thought to himself, what if Mike did all this for me?

    Mike’s eyes were pleading. Please Jake, hold me; touch me; love me.

    Jake’s heart swelled with gratitude for the bookish boy. Mike had peeled back one of the many layers of aluminum foil around Jake’s heart. Jake had wrapped his heart to protect it from freezer burn.

    Jake wrapped his arms around Mike’s waist and the resulting smile from Mike almost lit the darkened classroom.

    "C’mere, homie," Jake whispered affectionately.

    As their lips met, an involuntary moan sounded in Mike’s throat. Jake’s tongue probed into Mike’s mouth causing more moans.

    Mike’s hands trembled while he unbuttoned Jake’s shirt as they kissed. When Mike had all the buttons unfastened, he hands went wild over the taut skin of Jake’s chest and abdomen. The fingertips of Mike’s hands communicated the affection and attraction he felt.

    Finally, Mike’s right hand found Jake’s erect cock. Their lips parted, and Mike sank to his knees. He took Jake into his mouth, allowing his tongue and lips to convey his love.

    Jake drew in breath through his clenched teeth. "Oh, yeah, Mike. Yeah, that’s so good. Suck me."

    Mike willingly followed directions with an air of urgency. Between the two young men there were pressing but unspoken questions. What if we get caught? What if someone notices we’re missing? The furtive nature of their tryst and the threat of discovery added another level of excitement. He increased the speed and suction on Jake’s dick. Mike’s left hand explored his chest while his left cupped his still-hairless balls.

    "Mike, oh yes, baby. You’re so good." Jake thrust his hips into Mike’s face. Mike almost gagged as the head of Jake’s penis grazed the back of his throat, but Mike fought the reflex and continued sucking.

    "Mike, I’m cumming!" Before he could remove his penis, Jake shot his load into Mike’s throat. It was the hottest sensation. Jake’s knees trembled with his orgasm.

    Mike swallowed the salty, viscous liquid. It had the texture of raw eggs. He stood and wrapped his arms around Jake again.

    "OK, your turn."

    "No, Jake, you don’t have to.’

    "But I want to. Let’s get you out of those pretty clothes."

    Mike grinned, released Jake, and backed away.

    "Come on, Mikey." He made a grab for Mike, but Mike had turned and started to walk away. Jake comically struggled to pull his pants up as he chased Mike.

    Finally, Jake grabbed his collar.

    "Don’t rip the shirt!"

    "C’mere, then." Jake started tickling him.

    "Don’t, Jake!" As he backed away from Jake, his buttocks met the edge of the teacher’s desk. Jake gave him a gentle push so that Mike sat on the edge of the desk.

    Jake stood and embraced him. "Now, I’ve got you." His fingers started working on the button and fly of his pants.

    "Don’t," Mike attempted a protest.

    "Why? You’re not shy all of a sudden, are you? I’ve seen you naked a hundred times."

    But not recently, Mike thought. He held his breath while Jake unfastened his pants.

    Jake’s hands were slightly cool and clammy from nerves as they finally found Mike’s stiff pole.

    "Well, well, well! What do we have here? Looks like you’ve grown, buddy," Jake said in a teasing voice.

    Mike felt his cheeks burn and was grateful for the dim light in the room.

    "You’re a very big boy, Mikey." When he wrapped his hand around his penis, his thumb and middle finger barely met around the circumference. "Whoa! Dude!" Jake smiled his trademark impish, lopsided grin. He glanced at Mike’s face. Mike’s lips were parted slightly and he was breathing heavily. Jake licked his lips lasciviously.

    Jake helped Mike onto the teacher’s desk and pulled his pants and underwear down to his ankles. Without missing a beat, he took Mike’s meaty cock into his moist, hot mouth. Mike reclined on the desk and moaned his appreciation.

    It had been months since Jake administered his last blowjob, but he had not forgotten how to do it. The techniques came back naturally, like riding a bike.

    He worked Mike’s cock as much as he could. Soon, Mike’s balls were no longer dangling. They contracted close to his body, a sign he was soon to release his load.

    "Why did you stop?" Mike panted.

    Jake hovered above Mike and planted a brief kiss on his lips. He was still holding Mike’s penis that was slick and glistening with his own saliva. He kissed Mike again, and felt Mike’s dick pulsate as he released his load.

    "Oh, Jake!" Mike moaned.

    Jake glanced around the room desperately. "Shit, how are we going to get you cleaned up?" The classroom offered nothing to wipe up Mike’s sperm. Then, an idea struck him. Jake shimmied out of his pants again, then out of his boxers. He handed the thin cotton shorts to Mike and pulled his pants up again, this time without underwear.

    "I can’t do this," Mike whispered. Jake’s underwear dangled from his right index finger.

    "What else are you going to do? You can’t get cum all over your new clothes. Besides, I like to freeball it once in a while. You just have to be careful of the zipper."

    Mike chuckled as he wiped himself up. As they rearranged their clothes, Mike felt his heart grow heavy. He knew Jake was highly sexual and tended to use sex to get what he wanted. Have I just been used?

    Mike’s eyes began to tear and before long he was sniffling.

    "What’s wrong? Are you OK?" Jake asked him.

    His voice raspy with emotion, Mike choked out, "Don’t play me, Jake."

    "What?"

    "I love you, Jake. Don’t play me. Please."

    Both youngsters were now fully dressed. "Mikey," Jake said as he hooked his elbow around his neck. "You know I love ya." The casual way Jake said it left lots of questions in Mike’s mind. Jake probably meant his words but not in the way Mike wanted. Jake had many issues with relationships and the probability that he was going to settle down with one person - either female or male - was slim and Mike knew it. That’s why Mike was upset.

    "Come on. We’d better get back. Leave those here," Jake said, referring to his own boxers.

    Mike left the boxers in a corner and intended on picking them up later. They were going to be his trophy; a lasting reminder of this night and the sex they had shared.

    They stopped by the bathroom on the way back to the gym to splash their faces.

    "Everybody have fun tonight; Everybody Wang Chung tonight," Jake sang along with the song that was playing as they re-entered the gym.

    Busta had started his eighties set. This was his specialty and he loved eighties New Wave music. He continued the long set with the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of (You Were) Always On My Mind.

    "Why won’t you dance?" Marty asked Vince.

    "Here?"

    "Nobody cares, they’re all crocked anyway."

    "I don’t like the music," Vince complained.

    "Well, what would you dance to?"

    Vince grinned. "Well, maybe some New Order."

    Marty pulled out his wallet and headed for the DJ.

    Matt was taking a breather and chatting with Leah. After Tell It To My Heart, Tim decided to take a break as well.

    "This song brings back memories," Matt said to Marty, who had just returned from tipping the DJ.

    Marty laughed. "Sure does."

    "How much did you bribe - I mean tip - the DJ? And what did you request?"

    Marty grinned, "Twenty bucks. The answer to your second question is you’ll see."

    The four men and Leah allowed themselves to the bathed in the music and the memories. After each of the next three songs, Saved By Zero, Papa Don’t Preach, and Burning Down The House, Matt asked Marty if he had requested it. Marty shook his head.

    "You are such a bitch," Matt said with a grin.

    Mike and Jake arrived at the table.

    "What have you two been up to?" Matt asked in a friendly way.

    "Nothing," they answered in unison.

    "Uh-huh," Matt voiced sarcastically. "And I’m the Queen of England."

    Brian bowed. "Your Majesty."

    Then the unmistakable guitar riffs of Johnny Are You Queer? echoed through the gym. Matt turned a shocked face to Marty. A grin on Marty’s face confirmed that he had requested the song. And, perhaps more incredibly, the DJ played it. In the song the singer, Josie Cotton, laments she can’t land the boy of her dreams so she speculates about his sexuality

    "It sounds like a fifties teen-angst tune," laughed Leah.

    "Yeah, but I’m sure it’s a problem Annette Funicello never had to contend with," Marty said.

    Vince had a thoughtful look on his face as if he were listening to the song for the first time. And, given his age, he probably was. "It kind of straddles the line between cutsiness and homophobia, doesn’t it?"

    Jake and Mike were soon slapping the table and roaring with laughter.

    "I don’t believe you requested this," Tim commented.

    "I don’t believe he played it," Matt added.

    "There isn’t much money won’t buy," Marty replied. "Besides, I thought the kids would like it."

    As the short song faded into She Blinded Me With Science, Mike stood to join Brian and Tommy and some of the Rafferty kids on the dance floor. "Let’s go," he suggested to Jake.

    "In a minute. I’m going to take a break."

    Mike hesitated about leaving Jake but then realized Matt and Leah were nearby. Jake was safe. He joined the other kids on the dance floor.

    "My drink is almost gone," Matt said in a perplexed tone. "I’m going to the bar. Do you want anything, Leah?"

    "I’ve had enough, thanks." Then she changed her mind. "Maybe a Sprite."

    "You got it." Then Matt left the table.

    Leah turned to Jake then and said, "Can I ask you a favor, Jake?"

    "Sure." Jake looked a Leah as a mother figure. She loved all of the boys next door and treated them as if they were her sons. She could indulge them shamelessly and correct them when needed.

    "It’s about Mike."

    Suddenly Jake became defensive. "What about him?"

    "Be gentle with him, Jake. He’s very sensitive. He has such a big heart."

    That’s not all that’s big, Jake thought.

    "Promise me you’ll be kind to him. Don’t pretend you have feelings for him if you really don’t. Be honest with him, but please do it gently."

    She knew! But how could she know? Was she psychic?

    "Can you promise me that, Jacob?"

    "Yeah," he mumbled. But how do I feel about Mike? I’m not even sure.

    "Thanks," she smiled and patted his hand. "I appreciate it."

    The DJ spun Rock Lobster and Brian and Tommy both let out a high-pitched squeal. The hopped down from the stage and approached the table.

    Brian pulled on Matt’s arm. "Come on, dad."

    Matt tried to wave him away. "No…."

    "Yes! Come on, Dad. You were the one who got me hooked into this music."

    Tommy tried to persuade Leah and Jake. Leah declined. "Honey, I’m tired."

    Matt, Tim, Jake, Mike, Tommy, Brian, Robb and Mary Ellen were dancing in a circle to the song. The DJ seemed to have turned the volume up and their ears began ringing. Busta didn’t play the whole song; instead after the second verse, he mixed into Bizarre Love Triangle.

    Brian, Jake and Mike all let out a screech that was higher-pitched and gayer than probably should have been heard at a church dance. Matt and Tim laughed at the sound.

    Marty took hold of Vince’s arm. "Let’s go. You said you would dance to New Order. Besides, I paid good money for it."

    Vince smirked as he allowed himself to be led to the circle where Matt and Tim were dancing with the kids.

    As they danced, Matt’s eyes met Tim’s and they both laughed. Who would have thought that they would be dancing with each other and their sons in a church gym? Tim and Matt had danced with them at home, la the Huxtables in The Cosby Show. But until now they hadn’t done it in public. Nobody seemed to care, and not a disparaging word was spoken.

    When the song ended, Matt, Tim, and Mary Ellen resumed their seats. Vince and Marty continued to dance with the kids as the DJ spun Brand New Lover.

    Tim mopped his brow with a paper napkin. "We done well." He gestured toward the remaining circle that included their sons.

    Matt smiled and nodded in agreement as he watched them dance for a long moment. Then he turned his head and then faced Tim. His heart swelled with pride and affection. He mouthed I love you to Tim.

    Under the table, Tim took Matt’s hand. I love you, too.

    Busta had had several requests for slow songs and he obliged them with Total Eclipse of the Heart. The dance floor cleared momentarily while most searched for partners.

    This time, Matt asked Leah to dance while Tim danced with Mary Ellen. As much as they liked their women partners, the two men would have much preferred to dance with each other. They were realistic, however. This party might accept a fast dance between two males but never a slow dance. They could push the envelope only so far.

    Jake and Mike were sitting so close, they were for all intents and purposes in each other’s laps.

    "I love this song," Mike whispered, wished he could hold Jake in his arms to the maudlin tune.

    Jake had an idea. "Follow me," he said with a mischievous smile. He started to lead Mike to the stage but veered off to the left and then behind the flats. There was a four-foot corridor between the flats and the wall of the gym. Jake turned, faced Mike, and held out his arms.

    "Dance with me." They embraced each other tightly, turning very slowly on an axis. The area was their own little world, protected from the eyes of the disapproving. There were risks involved in dancing behind the stage, but they were willing to take those risks for the sake of the dance.

    Mike was feeling sheer bliss. The boy of his dreams was holding him close. He could feel his muscles and heat. His shirt was slightly damp from perspiration. He could smell his masculine scent on his neck. Mike could hardly believe it was actually happening.

    Jake was also awash in excitement and romance. He felt something for Mike, and while he wasn’t sure it was love, he was pretty sure it was close to it. Mike cared about him so much, he had changed his appearance. Mike wanted him so badly he followed Jake’s request to have sex in a risky place. Jake decided to test just how far he could push Mike.

    The song was ending and Busta started Private Dancer.

    At Table 3, Brian asked, "Where’s Jake?"

    "I don’t know," Tommy answered.

    "I think I saw Jake and Mike heading for those doors," Tim indicated a set of double doors that opened outside. They had been propped open to let cool air into the warm space. "They’re probably getting some air." Tim fervently hoped that that was all they were doing.

    Brian stood and gestured for Robb to follow him.

    Behind the stage, Jake whispered to Mike, "Kiss me."

    "What?"

    Jake smiled at him. "You heard me. I said kiss me."

    Just as their lips met, Brian and Robb appeared behind the stage.

    Robb started laughing uncontrollably and then covered his mouth.

    Brian ran up to them. "Jesus!" he hissed at the pair. "You want to get us all in trouble?"

    "Oh, bite me, brother dear," Jake whispered back. He had no intention of ending the dance before the song was over.

    Brian was aghast, but Robb, who had gotten his laughter under control, had other ideas.

    "Well, if you can’t beat them…" Robb’s voice trailed off.

    One of Brian’s eyebrows shot up as he glanced at Robb’s face.

    "Care to dance?" Robb asked in a very small voice to Brian. He wasn’t at all sure Brian would accept, given his negative reaction to Jake and Mike.

    "Um, sure."

    Jake smirked in triumph at Brian as they danced.

    Just as the song ended, another face peered behind the stage. And he was not at all pleased with the sight he saw.


    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 stories here on Nifty, Pocketful of Stars in the Young Friends section and The Cooksville Chronicles in Historical.

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