WORKING IT OUT--Book 2, Part 7

It was one of those crystalline end-of-Summer, brink-of-Fall days, hot, but with no humidity.  Martha lay comfortably on a chaise longue on the front lawn of the Broman cottage at Lake Marston, enjoying the bright sunshine.

She stared through dark glasses at the lake, where the Chris Craft made wide and gentle circles on the water with the sun glinting off her brightwork.  Despite Martha's misgivings, Matt and Mike had taken the three little boys out for their first water skiing adventure.  The red life preservers they all wore lent bright spots of color to the scene as Mike towed Matt on skis at what for them was a moderate pace. For his first ride on skis, Kyle stood just in front of Matt's feet, his body encircled by one of his uncle's tan, muscular arms.  Matthew and Michael, waiting their turn, sat in the back of the boat watching their dad and cousin as they crossed and re-crossed the wake of the boat.  Martha could hear the kids' happy, piping voices as they skimmed across the water without a care in the world.

Martha was glad she had finally given in to her brothers' entreaties to accompany them for a long weekend at the lake.  Their mom and dad had stayed home with Mary Bradford.  Matt and Mike had not pressed their parents to come, knowing that they needed some time together at home, and Mary had needed time for rest and reflection more than travel right now.  But Matt and Mike had wanted to relax with their sister and give the boys a treat, so going to the lake seemed a good choice.

Martha was almost finished with her Summer's work at a veterinarian hospital near home, and it had been a good experience for her.  It had solidified her desire to be a vet, and she was looking forward to getting back to the university to continue pursuing the academic side of her dream of working with animals.  She wondered sometimes whether her dedication to animals was somehow an attempt to fill the gap in her life that came from not having a steady boyfriend.  She was dating all the time, but nobody she'd met thus far "floats my boat," as she'd told Mike.

She'd had a long talk with Mike a few days ago and shared a lot of things with him that she'd never even told her mother.  She told him that she was beginning to wonder if there weren't something wrong with her because so many of her girlfriends from high school, most of them now in college, were already hooked up and well on their way to the altar.  Mike had reassured her on that score in no uncertain terms.

"You're a beautiful, strong, intelligent, competent young woman with good values, Mart," he'd told her.  "You hafta remember that most guys your age are a long way from having their shit together.  You're very feminine, don't get me wrong, but you don't suffer fools gladly, either.  I think you scare the crap out of these dudes 'cause you're so sure of yourself and where you're going.  Take it from one who's been there, guys mostly have one thing on their minds, you know that.  One of these days you're gonna cross paths with a young guy who's as together as you are, and he's not gonna be intimidated and he's not gonna run away.  Please, please don't get down on yourself, hon, and don't hide who and what you are so some dufus can feel good about himself by comparison.  If you settle for less than you should, I'll be forced to kill you both," Mike had said as he enveloped her in a hug and kissed her.  "In good time, you and Mr. Right will meet and the sparks will fly just like they did for me and Matt."

"Sometimes Mr. Right Now looks pretty good," she'd told him, and he laughed and hugged her again.  "But you know what my real problem is?" she'd asked.


"I compare all my dates to you and Matt and Jeff.  No wonder I can't find anyone who measures up."

Mike had laughed, and hugged and kissed her again.

She reflected on her three brothers, whom she loved without stint.  Each of them had qualities she deeply admired, and she knew her love and regard for them was returned fully.

Jeff was still a kid in many ways, a big, handsome boy, but still a boy.  But she had always envied and tried to emulate the joy and appetite with which Jeff embraced life.  His absolute honesty about everything in his life smoothed the wrinkles of his existence in a way that less candid, more careful, more complex men and women could never experience.  His temperament was so sunny that he was always fun to be around.  She could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that Jeff had not treated her with the greatest of respect, something which was a little out of the ordinary for brothers and sisters, at least in their younger years.  Martha had no doubt that he had the qualities that would make him a success in life and as a human being, despite his little episode with heroin.

Matt's loving heart and commitment to do good for everyone he met made him a very special person, she thought, and that far outweighed his sometimes quick anger at those who didn't follow high standards in their own lives.  Deep and tender feelings held sway under that hunky, jock exterior of his.  He was a person of strong religious faith, but he never bludgeoned anyone with it.  He was an extremely determined individual.  Once he had made up his mind to accomplish something, big or small, get out of the way or get trampled!  He never, ever gave up, no matter what the odds.  Martha was sure that, along with the support of the family, his tenacity is what had sustained him during his recent trial by fire in Hartford.  And his elfin sense of humor was captivating, even for Mike, although the latter would never admit it.  No one, certainly including herself, could want for a better, more fiercely loyal, more loving friend and brother than Matt.

When it came to sharing her innermost feelings, however, Mike had become Martha's unfailing confidant and guide.  Despite her closeness to her mother and father, she had shared some things with Mike as a peer that she would discuss with no one else.  Although they'd never spent protracted periods of time together, he seemed to know her as well as she knew herself.  That Mike did know her that well would have made some people nervous, but Martha was so convinced of Mike's affection for her that she saw him as her rock and guide in a mad and disordered world.  His head and his heart always seemed to be in perfect balance, no matter what the problem.  He never pulled his punches, whatever the subject under discussion might be, but he always left her feeling better about herself and with a better grasp of the problem they were talking about than when their conversations started.

Activity on the lake caught Martha's attention again.  Mike had brought the boat to a stop and Matt, arm still around Kyle, had skied up beside the boat and sunk down into the water, skis, boy and all.  Mike lifted Kyle into the boat, and then jumped into the water himself.  He took the skis from Matt, put them on, and waited until Matt climbed into the boat and handed him a twin boy--she couldn't tell which one at that distance.  Mike grasped the tow bar and held the child's head out of the water while Matt put the Chris Craft in gear and slowly moved away until the tow line was taut.  When Mike nodded his head, Matt applied power, and up Mike and his little boy cargo came out of the water.  The little guy riding the skis in front of his uncle was exhilarated, and threw his arms in the air.  Martha smiled to herself.  Were there two better parents than Matt and Mike?  She had never seen them if there were.  Like her own mom and dad, they didn't just talk about loving their kids, they demonstrated it and lived it every waking moment.  Matt and Mike were clearly and enthusiastically invested in the twins, and were started down the same path with Kyle.

After the second twin in turn had received his ride on the skis, Mike went solo and Matt tried every trick in the book to make him drink the lake, as usual to no avail.  Motor thundering, the Chris Craft repeatedly crossed it own wake and turned on its tail, but Mike nonchalantly cut through the water on one ski with a big smile on his face.  Finally Matt gave up trying to dump him, and headed for shore.  Mike cut around the boat as it slowed to dock, and skied right up on to the beach.  Martha rose from the chaise and walked down the dock to help Matt secure the boat in the boathouse and retrieve the kids.  Mike followed her, and they all went inside to dry and dress the kids and then themselves.

They cooked hamburgers outside on the grill that night, and then spent a pleasant evening playing with the boys, talking and listening to music.  When it was the kids' bedtime, they put them in their pajamas, read a story with them, heard their prayers, and put the three of them down together in one big bed.

Kyle was one happy boy to be with his cousins.  The change in his demeanor since leaving Hartford had been remarkable, going from a withdrawn silence to chattering like a magpie every waking minute.

Silence reigned at last in the cottage, and three sets of sleepy little eyes closed for the night.  Mike covered the kids with a sheet and a light blanket, and tiptoed out to the large screened-in front porch overlooking the lake.

Martha and her brothers watched the TV news, hearing that the wheels of justice were moving fast back in Connecticut.  Governor Bradford, Colonel Metzlaar and Lieutenant Wolf had all been indicted by the grand jury in short order for perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in their attempt to frame Matt.  Matt didn't experience as much of a rush about the upcoming retribution as he thought he would.

Tired out from all the sunshine and fresh air, Martha went to bed after the news was over, and Matt and Mike followed her example before long.

Skin glowing from a day in the sun and on the water, the two partners lay naked on their bed facing each other in the dim light of the bedside lamp.  There was a deep sense of contentment between them at being together.  Matt reached over and brushed Mike's hair back from his forehead.  Mike took his partner's hand, kissing his palm gently.  He put his nose to the skin of Matt's chest and inhaled the smell of his body.

"Don't get a big head," Mike said, "but you're so beautiful I can hardly stand it!  I love you so much!"

"Have you looked in the mirror lately, bro?  To me, you're perfect, Mike, and I love every inch of you.  It feels so good to be right here, right now with you."  Matt caressed Mike's chest and leaned over and licked a nipple.  "The psychologists say there are a lot of people that an individual can partner with successfully in life and be happy," Matt continued.  "But I seriously doubt it.  I don't think there's another human being on this earth like you.  I'm a lucky man, dude!  Lucky, lucky, lucky!  You mean everything to me."

Mike silently pulled his partner in, caressed his back, smelled his skin again, and gave him a long, deep kiss that curled Matt's toes.  Then he broke it off.

"I need to talk to ya for a minute," Mike said.

" 'K, 'bout what?"

"I've been thinking about our situation with the boys.  When we get back to Chicago, I think we need to find a housekeeper or a couple to live in the separate apartment at the condo.  And if it's a single housekeeper, it should prolly be a woman."

"Why a woman?" Matt asked.

"I think it would be good for the kids."

"Why, do you think we'll make 'em queer or something without a woman around?"

"Not really.  I just think they'll develop better with some feminine influence in their lives on a regular basis, especially at their age.  Their time with Mom and Martha has been great, but they need ongoing contact with a good, loving female.  Hey, bro, if the boys do turn out to be gay, so be it, but I don't think that's what either of us really hopes for them.  They just need to be happy with themselves, whatever orientation that may entail."

"You're prolly right about the housekeeper," Matt admitted.  "And you know what else?  We need to be thinking about school for them..  Are we gonna go the public school route or send them to private school?  That's a pretty heavy decision in itself."

"I know."

"So, yeah, I agree, we have some thinking to do.  These things can make a big difference in their lives," Matt said.  "But they're good kids, great kids, and I think we're gonna be very proud of 'em when they grow up."

"Yep.  Me, too."

"That reminds me of a story.  About a kid who could never please his dad," Matt said.

"A story?  I don't think so," Mike protested.

"But yes, my Mike."  Matt swung a leg across Mike's midsection to keep him in bed.

"A man and his son went into an ice cream parlor and
ordered a double-dip butter pecan cone.

"'And what do you want, Fathead?' the father asked,
slapping his kid on the back of the head.

"'That's a terrible way to treat your son,' the clerk said
indignantly.  'Why did you do that?'

"Listen, m'am, every man wants three things in his life,'
the man said.

"'First he wants a nice truck.  Look out at the curb.  That's
the nicest truck in town.

"'Second, he wants a nice house.  I have the finest house
in the county just down the road.

"'And third, he wants a tight woman.  And I had that until
Fathead here came along!!'"

"That was terrible!" Mike said.  "If you weren't my partner and I didn't love you, I'd, I'd..."

Matt climbed on top of Mike and stifled any further reaction to the joke with a soul kiss that curled both sets of toes this time.

They came up for air eventually, breath a little ragged.

"One more thing before you make me lose my mind completely--I've been saving something really, really good to tell you until our worries in Hartford were behind us, and we were feeling relaxed," Mike said.

"What! You've been holding out on me?"

"Yep.  Tell me you forgive me, and I'll spill."

"That's bogus!  But OK, I forgive you."

"Lemme see your fingers--no crossed fingers!"

Matt held out his hands, fingers straight.

"Uncross your legs," Mike instructed.  "I know you too well, slick!"

"I'm hurt you suspect me, but OK."  Matt straightened out his legs, and quickly crossed his eyes.

"Look me in the eye!" Mike demanded.  Beaten for the moment, Matt looked at him, eyes normal.

"Now, tell me you forgive me," Mike said again.

"I may forgive you."

"Nope, not good enough!  I guess I'll sleep now.  You can ask me the news in the morning, and I may tell you.  Or not, I don't know," Mike said, putting his head down on the pillow.

"Oh, all right!  You're no fun!  I forgive you, for crying out loud!"

"Are you sincere?"

"I'm gonna hurt cha!" Matt said threateningly.

"OK, then," Mike said with a big smile.  He paused as long as he could, just to get Matt's goat.  "I think I may have found a priest in Chicago to marry us."

"You're shittin' me!" Matt said, stunned.

"No, really.  I talked to Father Rohm at St. Stephen's.  He told me he couldn't do it, but he put me together with Father Howard, his new curate.  Father Howard said he wanted to talk to us together and maybe have some counseling sessions with us before he gave us a firm answer, but that if he was satisfied we are a bonafide couple, he would bless our partnership."

"Oh, Mike, you've made me so-o-o happy, man.  I'm so thankful, you don't know!"  Matt was bouncing around in excitement, still sitting on Mike's midsection.  "You prolly should have waited until morning to tell me.  Now I won't be able to sleep."

"Oh, I think I can find a way to calm you down."

The next thing Matt knew, he had been skillfully flipped on his back, and his big cock was all the way down Mike's throat.  Matt could feel Mike humming as he worked it, caressing the underside of his dick with his tongue until Matt had to stop him for a moment or risk ejaculation right then and there.  The fun then resumed and escalated.  No more talking.  It was time for action.

*  *  *

The vacationers drove home from the lake tanned and fit, and in a very happy mood.  Martha in particular was mellowed out, and grateful that she had had a chance to spend some time with the boys and with her brothers.  Not having been around the twins much since Matt had moved to Chicago, she could really notice how they were growing apace physically and mentally every day.

Matt and Mike had decided that as long as they were in the East, they would go up to Vermont right away to have their partnership registered.  They had also determined that it was better to go alone and not make it a big family thing, not even taking the boys.  They wanted to put the emphasis on the subsequent blessing of their partnership in Chicago, likely to be at St. Stephen's, and wanted to gather the the people they loved around them then.

They arrived at home from the cottage in time for supper, and enjoyed a nice meal with the family.  Matt and Mike broke the news that there was a good chance that their partnership would be blessed at St. Stephen's at some point after they conferred with the young curate there.  Justice and Mrs. Broman were very, very pleased.  Mary Bradford also seemed to be happy about it, and Martha was thrilled.  The partners explained further that because they wanted to emphasize the church ceremony rather than the civil registration, they were going to make a quick trip to Vermont alone right away before they had to go back to Chicago to start the school year.  With the prospect of a blessing in church in the offing, no one protested.

Mary Bradford had good news for them about Kyle.  She had talked with her son Jamie on several occasions during the time Matt, Mike, Martha and the boys had been up at the lake, and he had tentatively agreed to let Kyle be adopted.  He had been reluctant at first, until Mary had filled him in on what had transpired in Hartford, and told him that his father would very likely be doing some jail time for what he had tried to pull on Matt.  She had also told him that her cancer had returned with a poor prognosis, and that his father and she were divorcing.  Jamie had been dismayed by all the bad news, but felt he had little choice but to let the adoption proceed because he wasn't just about to inconvenience himself and his new wife by taking the boy to raise.  He had also agreed to smooth the way for the adoption with Kyle's mother.

Matt and Mike packed and left for Montreal the next morning by plane.  They rented a car there and enjoyed a beautiful drive down to Burlington, Vermont.  Regrettably, there had not yet been a frost to start the trees turning Fall colors.

They used the drive as an opportunity to discuss their plans for organizing the household when they got back to Chicago.  Mike proposed that they offer Stan Rosinski and Linda Kosco the separate apartment at the condo in exchange for helping them with the kids and with the housekeeping.  Matt agreed, with the proviso that they make it clear to the couple that they were part of the extended family, not the hired help.  If the proposal didn't fit in with Stan and Linda's plans, Matt and Mike were obviously going to have to look farther, and quickly.  The trial in Hartford had set back the planning process substantially.

Matt and Mike arrived in Burlington in the early afternoon, and drove to an inn with a nice view of Lake Champlain.  After a late lunch, they went out on the balcony of their room, facing the lake.  Enjoying one another's company, they sat watching the pleasure craft below and talking and then dozing in the sun.  Restored by their brief nap, they walked downtown to the courthouse in the late afternoon and were greeted pleasantly by a young woman at the window of the county clerk's office.  When they explained what they wanted, she gave them an information sheet which outlined what they needed to do to register their partnership.  They took the sheet with them to their room, deciding to return to the clerk's office the next morning to sign the necessary legal papers.

Back at the hotel, they swam laps in the pool and worked out and ran on treadmills in the adjoining small fitness room.  After eating an early dinner, they went back to their room, showered and curled up together in bed together to watch television.

After the news was over, Matt punched the remote to shut off the TV and took Mike's hand as they lay side by side.

"I know we usually just say our own prayers before bed, but would you mind if I offered something for both of us tonight?" Matt asked a little hesitantly.

"I'd like that," Mike said.

Matt collected his thoughts and centered his consciousness.

"Father," he began softly, "We want to offer our thanks and praise for the many blessings You have given to both of us, and especially for the gift of each other.  You brought us together out of billions of human beings on this earth to to be a mirror of Your love for humankind, and we are truly grateful.  Tomorrow we take another step in our lives by acknowledging our partnership in the eyes of the community.  Help us to build on that foundation as we move ahead, by teaching us new lessons in nurturing each other and the children you have put in our care, as well as our family and friends.  Strengthen us in teaching tolerance for others, and in standing always for what is right.  You are truly the giver of all good gifts, and we bless You for the food we eat, the clothes we wear, for shelter, for meaningful studies in preparation for our work, and for the companionship that lightens the burdens of life.  Inspire us to do the good You would have us do.  We especially ask You to heal and preserve your servant Mary, who is ill.  And please, Lord, keep us, our children, our family, and all we love safe in Your care.  We ask in Jesus' name."

"Amen," Mike said  He turned off the table lamp and gently pulled Matt into his arms.  They held each other wordlessly as sleep carried them off.

After a great night's sleep, Mike awakened first the next morning.  He lay perfectly still on his side, facing Matt.  His brother had kicked off the sheet in his sleep, and Mike's eyes caressed his partner's handsome face and chest.  He had seen his brother's body, all the parts of it, thousands of times, but in quiet moments like this he never failed to marvel at the man's beauty.  And the best thing, in his opinion, was that Matt deserved to look so good because he was beautiful inside where it counted most.

Mike continued watching Matt at rest for another ten minutes, when the latter's eyes finally opened and slowly focused on Mike's face.

"Hey," Matt said softly.  "Whatcha doin'?"

"Watching you sleep.  I like to do that.  When you're sleeping, I know you're not gonna afflict me with a story."

Matt snorted.  "Don't count on it.  Sometimes I talk in my sleep."

"You talked last night."

"Oh, yeah?  What did I say?"

"You asked forgiveness for telling me all the awful stories you have over the years."

"Mikey, it's not nice to tell a lie before we go to the clerk's office."

"'Lie' is such an ugly word, doncha think?  I would prefer to say that I translated your disjointed nocturnal stuttering and mutterings.  And accurately, too, I might add."

Matt had to laugh.

"And you tell me I'm an aggravator.  Oh, well, I'm strong.  I can take it!  Anyway, we hafta get ready.  Last one in the shower has to eat ass!!" Matt said, jumping out of bed and running into the bathroom.

Mike followed him slowly, shaking his head and telling his brother in a sing-song voice, "You make me crazeee, you make me crazeee!!"

They laughingly shared the toilet as they relieved themselves, both fighting early morning woodies, and then got in the shower.  Embracing in the warm spray, they kissed deeply as the water ran off their tan bodies.

Matt looked at his partner's backside.

"Your ass is pale," he said to Mike accusingly.

"So's yours."

"Never mind, I'll put some color in yours tonight when I spank ya."

"Promises, promises," Mike said, taking a bar of soap and beginning to lather Matt's body.

They continued to torment each other verbally until they were both clean.  They dried one another off, and went back to the bedroom to dress.

"Y'know, your nuts are gonna turn to dust from wearing those briefs all the time," Mike said as Matt pulled on his underwear of choice.  "That's in addition to causing you to tell bad jokes, of course.  Too much pressure on your balls.  We had a whole lecture on that in pathology class last year."

"Really?  I guess on those rare occasions when you bottom for me--I'm not complaining, you understand--then we'll have to vacuum the dust out of your butt after sex from now on," Matt shot back.  "As I vacuum, I'll tell funny stories."

"Rare occasions when I bottom?  Did I hear you right?  You're the one who keeps begging for my cock up your  you-know-where," Mike said.

"I only bottom for ya so I can feel your lowhangers bang on my butt while we're doin' it.  Since we met, your balls have dropped at least six inches, and it's from wearing those boxers.  No support, y'know."

"You've wounded me deeply, making fun of my balls!  The registration thing's off," Mike pronounced.  "Anyway, I promised Mommy I'd marry a virgin."

"I was a virgin to male sex 'til you made me gay!  No, my Mike!  It would be bad karma for ya to turn back from your destiny.  You're like the rock I hafta keep rolling uphill like Sisyphus.  I'm used to the burden by now.  This registration thing may be a curse, but we're gonna hafta go through with it."

The bickering stopped momentarily as they pulled their suits out of their garment bag and laid them on the bed.  White shirts, ties, dark suits, black shoes.  They were only going to register their partnership once, and had decided to look nice for the occasion.

They admired themselves in the big mirror on the closet doors when they were dressed.

"Well, boy, you look good enough to fool the clerk's office into thinking you're a decent human being," Mike said.

"Pshaw!  You look so good I may have rip your clothes off right now and have my way with ya," Matt responded.  "So don't be tempting me!"

"Faggotry!" Mike opined.  "I want no part of it!"

Matt laughed.  They picked up their wallets, handkerchiefs, loose change, and a large envelope with their birth certificates in it that their mom had given them before they left home the day before, and off they went to the clerk's office.  It was another beautiful day, and they retraced their steps from yesterday, enjoying the bright sun and gentle breeze off Lake Champlain.

When they arrived at their destination, there were only two other people in the clerk's waiting room, a kind of cute, mid-thirties lesbian couple who were already filling out papers.  The same friendly clerk was at the window as yesterday.  She greeted them, gave them their papers to complete, and soon they were seated and writing away.

They had just finished their work when the clerk asked them to witness the other couple's papers as they stood at the window.  Matt and Mike did so.  Then they presented their own papers and paid their fee, and the two ladies witnessed the young men's papers in return.  The clerk added the official seal to all the copies of the registration, gave a copy to each set of partners, congratulated them and wished them well.

The two newly registered couples chatted for a minute after the papers were filed.  The women were from New Hampshire, and like Matt and Mike, were taking advantage of the Vermont registration law for same-sex couples.  On the spur of the moment, Mike invited them to join Matt and him for an early lunch, and they accepted.

The women were both on staff at the University of New Hampshire.  One of them was a professor of fine arts and the other was the girl's varsity basketball coach, and they had been together since their college days.  The coach commented on the fact that although Vermont and New Hampshire were neighboring states, the latter was extremely conservative.  She thought it would be a long time before New Hampshire allowed gay partner registrations.  The women said they were out to friends and family, but like Matt and Mike, weren't poster people in advertising the gay lifestyle.  They said they had followed Matt's trial in Hartford closely, particularly after they found out that a gay person was apparently being victimized.  They congratulated him on prevailing in court.  After a very pleasant lunch together, they exchanged addresses and phone numbers before they parted in case they were ever in the other couple's neighborhood.

Matt and Mike walked around town some more and went back to their hotel for a short nap just to let their lunch digest.  Then they put on their running clothes and set off along the shore of Lake Champlain for a good, five mile run.

When they got back and started to strip for a shower, Matt sat on the side of the bed and pulled Mike, still in his jock, over to him.  He began to inhale the rich, male smell of his lover's crotch.  Mike started to get hard as Matt smelled, licked and nibbled his cock through the jock.  When Mike's dick was hard and pushing the jock away from his body, Matt turned him around and put his tongue to work in Mike's crack, finding his pucker and repeatedly inserting his tongue as far as it would go.  Mike bent over slightly and began to groan and leak precum into his jock.

Matt yanked the bedspread down, put Mike on the bed on his back, and continued his oral assault on his partner's basket.

"You're nice and gamy, just the way I like you, bud," Matt said, coming up for air before pushing Mike's legs in the air and going for his pucker again with his tongue.  Mike tried to take off his jock to free his hard dick from its confines, but Matt wouldn't let him.  Matt soon began to substitute one finger and then two in Mike's anus in place of his tongue, simultaneously pinching and messaging his brother's nipples with his left hand.

Pulling off his own shorts and jock with one motion, Matt put the head of his hard dick at the door to Mike's hole and pushed gently.  The head popped in.  Matt watched his brother's face for any sign of pain as he moved up his canal with short, easy  strokes.  When he was home, completely inserted, he lay down on Mike and claimed his mouth with his own, tongues dueling in a viscous, plentiful saliva bath.  Moving his head down slightly, Matt tongued Mike's nipples and then nibbled them gently.

Mike started his journey to ecstasy.

"Now I know why I put up with your jokes.  Damn, you're good!" he said appreciatively to Matt with ragged breath.

"I'm gonna make you cum in your jock," Matt said as he began pistoning slowly in and out of his brother.  "Then I'm gonna eat your spunk right out of it."

"You're a sex fiend!" Mike panted.

"Yeah.  All the techniques you've taught me work perfectly."

Matt pumped him for a good 15 minutes, changing the angle of his thrusting cock frequently, but then returning to the optimum angle to bang against Mike's prostate again and again.  Mike stayed hard the whole time with his jock soaking up his precum.

"What an amazing, tight, sweet ass you've got, Mike," Matt told him, breathing erratically.  "This is so-o-o good!"

When Matt was close to cumming, he reached down and stroked Mike's hard dick through his jock until the latter couldn't stand it and began to shoot into the damp cotton just as Matt flooded his ass with cum.

After collapsing momentarily on top of his partner, Matt snatched the jock off of Mike's body and put the pouch to his mouth, tonguing, sucking, nibbling at its rich load.  When he was finished, he folded it, wiped his mouth on it, threw the jock on the floor, and lay down on top of his brother again.

"You're delicious," was all Matt said to Mike after soul-kissing him.  Totally satisfied, they held each other and drifted off in post-coital bliss.

They awakened about 30 minutes later.  Knowing that they would be back in Chicago before many days and on a hectic schedule thereafter, they just lay in bed hugging, kissing, touching, reveling in the gentler side of their love for each other.  Eventually they made it into the shower.

They checked out of their hotel early the next morning and drove back to Montreal, where they caught a flight back to Pennsylvania.

*  *  *

Two days later, a Saturday, after saying protracted good-byes to their parents and Martha, they flew to Chicago with the three boys and Mary Bradford.

They took a limo from the airport in the late afternoon, and Jeff, Stan Rosinski and Linda Kosco, and Breakers were waiting for them in the penthouse foyer at the condo when the elevator doors opened.  They all showered congratulations on Matt and Mike for registering their partnership, and to mark the occasion, released several dozen brightly colored balloons trailing signs saying "Congratulations!" to bounce around on the ceiling.  All the kids loved it, big and little.

Matt introduced Mary Bradford to everyone, and said she would be staying with them permanently.  Mary greeted everybody.  She had met Jeff before, and he welcomed her warmly.

Breakers had jumped up into Mike's arms the minute he stepped off the elevator and wouldn't stop licking his face.  Mike danced around in circles, kissing him back, and finally lowered him gently to the floor.  The dog stuck close by his side, continuing to wag his tail furiously in excitement.

"You never greet me that enthusiastically when I've been gone, boy!" Mike said accusingly, looking at Matt.

"That's 'cause you treat Breakers better than you do me," Matt retorted with a grin.  Mike gave him his "you're full of shit" stare.

Matt was surprised when Jeff hugged him tight for a long moment and kissed his cheek as they all milled about.

"I was scared for ya, bro," Jeff said quietly.  "I'm glad everything turned out OK in Hartford."

"Thanks, man.  You're lookin' good.  Are you doin' all right?" Matt asked him.

"Yeah, things are great.  I've been dating, and...well, that'll keep for later."

"Hey, who's this young man?" Stan asked, looking at Kyle.  "Didja clone a triplet while you were away?"

"This is Kyle Bradford, Mary's grandson and my nephew," Matt said. "Kyle, this is Uncle Jeff, and Uncle Stan, and Aunt Linda, and this is Breakers.  Say hello.  You'll be seeing a lot more of these people."

"Hi," Kyle said with a shy smile, and unlike what he would have done a week or so previously, he didn't try to hide behind his grandmother.

"We're adopting Kyle, so this is home for him now," Matt explained.

"Mary, let's get you settled in," Mike said.  "Maybe you'd like a rest before dinner."

"Thank you, Mike.  That would be nice.  And I want to thank you and Matt again for your hospitality.  I don't know how I'm going to repay you."

"You're family.  We have a 'no-pay' contract for life," Mike said, picking up her suitcase and ushering her toward the new suite of bedrooms.

"What a beautiful room!" Mary commented as they entered her new bedroom.  "I love the colors."

The walls were a light blue with a cream and red frieze around the room next to the ceiling.  There was a blue and cream and red bedspread on the four poster bed.  The furniture was Victorian, including a nice writing desk, couch, and chairs.  The couch and chairs were upholstered in the same motif as the bedspread.

"You can thank Mom and Martha for the decorating," Mike admitted.  "I'm not color blind, but I might as well be.  You have your own bathroom through that door, and the other door is a walk-in closet.  Please let me know if you need anything.  We're here for you, I hope you know that."

"I know, Mike, and I appreciate it."

"Oh, let me show you how the phone works.  There are three lines.  Dial '9' for an outside line.  There's a list of extensions on the table.  Matt's and my bedroom is Ext. 1, and the den is Ext. 4.  You ring us, day or night, for any reason, 'K?"

"I will."

"On Monday I'm going to contact an oncologist who's getting tremendous results with some chemotherapy combinations she's using in breast cancer cases.  I think she'll be interested in your case.  Meanwhile, just keep taking your current medication until she changes it.  By the way, she'll probably want a list of what you're taking now."

"I'll make one.  Thank you, dear."  Mary enveloped Mike in a hug.  She felt very frail and delicate in his arms.

"We'll call you for dinner," Mike said.  "Would you like anything special?"

"Just some soup and bread.  Chicken soup if you have it.  I'm not too hungry these days."

"You got it!"

"You and Matt are a blessing, Mike."

Mike shook his head dismissively, kissed her and left her alone to unpack and take a nap.

Meanwhile, as soon as Mike and Mary had left the foyer headed for Mary's bedroom and were out of earshot, Jeff said to Matt, "I'm glad to hear Mike tell Mary about the family 'no-pay' contract for life.  I don't plan to work--ever."

"So what's new with that?  You're a baseball player!" Matt said as they all had laughed.  "But seriously, Jeff, would you do me a favor?"


"You know what Matthew's and Michael's beds and dressers look like?"


"There's an Ethan Allan store just over into Evanston.  Take a truck and go buy a matching bed and dresser for Kyle before they close.  And a mattress.  And a high chair--he'll outgrow it quick, but we need it for now.  Don't have 'em delivered, load 'em in the truck and bring 'em home.  Here's my credit card, 'K?"

"Oooh, a credit card!  See ya next week," Jeff said, grabbing his keys off a pegboard and moving toward the elevator.

Matt just shook his head.

"How's Jeff been doing?" he asked Stan and Linda after he was gone.

"Really well," Linda said.  "He's an awfully good guy, Matt, but then you know that.  Stan and I would house-sit with him anytime, wouldn't we, honey?"

"Yeah," Stan said.  "We've had a lot of fun with him and Andie."


"His girlfriend," Stan said. "She's a lifeguard with him at Oak Street Beach.  Nice girl.  You'll hear all about her from Jeff, I'm sure."

"You scared me for a minute.  I thought you meant 'Andy' as in 'Andrew,'" Matt said, laughing.

"I don't think an 'Andrew' would cut it for Jeff," Stan said with a grin.

"Me, either," Matt admitted.  "Listen, if you guys have a minute, I'd like to talk to you.  Let's go in the den."

The three kids followed them with Breakers, who had finally let Mike out of his sight, and the three boys proceeded to tussle with the dog, who held his own very well.

"Boys," Matt said, "don't be too rough with Breakers.  I don't want anybody getting hurt."  The little guys moderated their efforts to hold Breakers down, keeping one eye on Matt.

Stan and Linda sat on the big leather couch, and Matt pulled up a chair to the big coffee table.

"I want to thank you both so much for staying with Jeff and Breakers.  I'd have been worried the whole time I was gone if you hadn't been here.  And that's kind of what I want to talk to you about.

"I don't know how soon you're planning to be married, or where you were planning to live," Matt continued, "but Mike and I are gonna need help with Matthew and Michael and Kyle, at least until they start school full time and probably even after that.  Mike and I are in school and you two are in school, but if we can work out a schedule so you can give us a helping hand with the kids and the condo, and maybe some occasional help with Mary, I'd like to offer you guys the separate apartment across the hall along with a salary.  There's nobody I'd trust more than you with the boys, and I'd see this more like having family here than entering into an employer-employee relationship.  The one thing I don't ever want to do, though, is infringe on your new life together or interfere with your education and professional development."

Stan and Linda looked at Matt in surprise.

"It sounds a little like a commune," Linda said.

"You know, I hadn't thought about it that way," Matt said.  "I guess the difference would be that we're not making a political or economic or religious statement, or turning our backs on society.  I guess you could say we're collaborating closely with people we care about so all of us can get done what we need to do.  'Many hands make light work,' as the old proverb says.  Anyway, I know I just sprang this on you without any warning, and you certainly don't hafta give me an answer right now.  But think about it.  Mike and I would really love it if we can all work it out."

"We'll talk it over," Stan said, looking at Linda with eyes full of love.  "But I'll tell you, Matt, we've enjoyed being here while you and Mike were away.  Thank you for thinking of us when you needed someone."

"You're thanking me?  How about the other way around?  I need to be thanking you guys!" Matt said.

Mike came into the den at that juncture, and Matt told him that Stan and Linda had agreed to think about their proposal to move in.

"Hope you guys can do this," Mike said.  "We'd really like to have you here."

Matt and Mike turned their minds to dinner, and decided that ribs would be nice.  Mike called a place called Carson's and ordered rib dinners, with all the trimmings, to be delivered at 6 p.m.  At Linda's suggestion, he ordered one extra meal for Andie, just in case she should stop by to see Jeff.

No sooner was Mike off the phone from placing their order than it rang, and Andie, in the flesh, was phoning from the front desk.  Mike electronically opened the elevator on the first floor for her, and a few minutes later she popped into the den, coming to a quick halt when she saw Matt and Mike with Stan and Linda.

"Oh," she said hesitantly, "I thought Jeff was here."

"Hi," Matt said, shaking hands with the beautiful young woman, a real knockout dressed in denim shorts and a top, and sneakers with no socks.  "C'mon in.  You must be Andie.  I'm Jeff's brother Matt, and this is brother Mike.  You know Stan and Linda."

"Andie Parker.  I'm glad to meet you both," Andie said.  "I've heard a lot about you.  Hi guys," she said to Stan and Linda, giving them a little wave.

"Everything you've heard about us has been good, I'm sure," Matt grinned.  "Jeff'll be right back, by the way.  He just went up to Evanston to pick up some furniture at Ethan Allan.  Stick around.  Can I getcha something to drink?"

"No thanks, I'm fine."

"You just get off work?" Mike asked.

"Yes.  There won't be too many more days on the beach, and then it's back to school," Andie said.  "I'm ready, though."

"Where do you go, Andie?" Matt asked.

"Northwestern," she said.

"Excellent," Matt said.

"Jeff said you're a third-year law student, and will be finishing up at Northwestern, is that right?" Andie asked Matt.

"Yeah.  The boys and I moved here from Pennsylvania to be with Mike.  I'm looking forward to school here.  Mike and I lived here in Chicago one summer when we were undergrads, and I've always liked the city and the school," Matt said.

"And Mike, you're in your third year of med school, at Northwestern, too, right?" she asked.

"Yep.  They give you a great education, I'll say that.  I've enjoyed it, but they make you work.  Listen, Andie, we ordered ribs for dinner from Carson's just before you came in, and believe it or not, we ordered some for you in case you stopped by.  I hope you can stay."

"Sure.  I'd like to.  Thanks," Andie said with a beautiful smile that could melt a heart of stone.  Perfect teeth.  Blond hair.  Matt and Mike looked at each other, both understanding why Jeff was smitten.

"Hey, you bums," Jeff's voice came around the corner from the foyer, "how about some help here?"

"The prodigal boy returns," Mike said.  He and Matt and Stan went into the foyer, where Jeff was rolling a dresser that matched Matthew's and Michael's out of the elevator on a dolly.

"Good job, dude!" Matt said.  "Looks like a match to me."

"But of course.  You expected less than perfection?" Jeff asked.

"We already have perfection, Jeffy," Mike kidded him.  "Andie's here."

"Oh."  Jeff blushed, and abandoning the furniture, went into the den where he hugged Andie and gave her a kiss.  "Hey, babe."

"Hi.  You're cute when you blush," Andie told him, and he turned even redder.

"Well..." he said.

"You stay with Andie and Linda," Matt told Jeff.  "We can handle this.  Are the bed and mattress and high chair still downstairs?"

"Yeah," Jeff said.  "I'm parked in the garage right next to the elevator.  Park my truck for me after you load up, 'K?  The keys are in it."

"Yep," Matt said, and he and Mike and Stan rolled the dolly down the hall to the boys' room, unloaded the dresser, and then returned down the hall toward the elevator.

Looking into the den as they went by, Mike could see Jeff and Andie sitting on the couch, looking into one another's eyes.

"Hmmm," Mike said with a grin.  "I know that look.  Cow eyes.  Kinda how you look at Linda, Stan."

"Ha, ha, you're funny," Stan responded, laughing.  "Funny, but right.  I guess we should all plead guilty to cow eyes from time to time, including you two bozos."

"See," Mike said to Matt, "Stan's not around you two minutes, and already he hasta give me a smart-ass comeback."

"Genius.  It's catching," Matt told his brother as the three of them rolled the dolly into the elevator and started down to the garage.  "Better cow eyes than cow pies, I always say."

"You're a cow pie," Mike said, pretending to smell him and recoiling.

"Get off me," Matt said as the elevator stopped and the door opened to the garage.  "We have work to do!"

They loaded up the dolly with the bed frame, mattress and high chair, parked Jeff's truck in its proper spot, and headed back up to the penthouse.  As they rolled the dolly past the den, Linda was smiling and looking at Jeff and Andie, who were still staring into each other's eyes.  Matt, Mike and Stan broke into laughter about the cow eyes thing and ran the dolly down the hall to the bedroom, eliciting puzzled looks from those in the den.

"We don't wanna know, believe me," Jeff said of the laughter from the three guys.

The three young men assembled the bed and moved the furniture around until it looked right, watched closely by the boys.

"Good thing this bedroom is big," Matt said as he surveyed all the beds and dressers.  "'Course we could have gone the bunk bed route."

"This'll work, dude," Mike said.

"Yep.  How does this look, guys?" Matt asked the kids.

"Good," Michael said.  "Which bed and dresser are mine, Dad?"

"Well, Kyle's dresser is still empty and his bed isn't made.  So check one of the dressers with stuff in it and see whether it's yours or Matthew's," Matt suggested.  "I think your bed is still where it's always been."

"Kyle, does this look all right to you?" Mike asked.

"Yeah," Kyle said, "this is neat.  I think we'll have a lot of fun in here.  But where are all my clothes?"

"Don't worry about it," Matthew told Kyle before Matt could answer.  "My dad will buy you new stuff."

"Who are you?  Mr. Generosity?" Matt asked Matthew.

"YES!" Matthew shrieked, and all three boys jumped on Matt.  He pretended to be powered down to the floor.

Stan and Mike sat down on one of the beds and watched the three little guys work Matt over.  After Matt was thoroughly vanquished, Mike took the dolly downstairs and then rejoined the others back in the den.

"I'm getting hungry," Jeff said.  "Are we gonna eat in the dining room?"

"Yeah, that sounds good," Mike said.  "Where are those ribs?"

"Why don't I set the table?" Linda said.  "Andie, you wanna help me?"


"Set a place for Mary," Mike said.  "And if you'd heat up some chicken soup for her, I'd appreciate it."

" 'K."

The two women left the room, the kids went into the living room to look down at Lake Michigan, and the guys sat down around the coffee table.

"Hey," Jeff said, "did you hear about the big news from the NFL?   They said that for financial reasons, they've had to eliminate one team from the league. So they decided to combine the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and form one team, and that'll save some jobs.  The new team will be known as the TAMPACKS. Unfortunately, they're only good for one period and have no second string."

"Y-e-s!  That's my bro!" Matt said, laughing.

"Good one, Jeff!" Stan roared.

"Have mercy!" Mike said.  "I go outta town for a few weeks, and Jeff loses all the refinements I've taught him!"

"I doubt it.  I'm sure he still belches, farts and and scratches his balls like any well-brought-up young jock," Matt told Mike.  "You haven't failed completely."

The phone rang, and the delivery from Carson's had arrived downstairs.  Matt told the doorman to send the delivery man up, and he and Jeff headed for the elevator.  They helped the young delivery guy carry the load of boxes into the dining room and pile them in the middle of the dining room table.  Matt paid him and included a good tip, and he left.

"Jeff, would you go see if Mary wants to eat with us in the dining room or if she would like her soup in her room?" Mike asked.


Linda and Andie began to put piles of paper napkins, liters of various soft drinks and glasses on the table, and Jeff soon returned with Mary in tow.  They put the three boys in their high chairs, and held hands around the table as Matt said grace.  Mike seated Mary, and then they all sat down and tore into steaming mounds of ribs and a mountain of cole slaw, except for Mary, who began eating her soup.

"This has to be the best sauce I've ever tasted," Stan said, gnawing on the ribs with gusto.

"I can tell," Jeff responded.  "It's written all over your face, dude."

"I'm not alone," Stan laughed, looking around the table at well sauced visages.  "There's no delicate way to eat ribs.  'Just do it!' is my motto."

Mary Bradford sipped her soup slowly and enjoyed watching the young people eat.  Pausing occasionally to cut rib meat off the bones for the kids, Mike was supplying Kyle, Matt was feeding Matthew, and Jeff was feeding Michael.  The boys were packing it away.  Taking in the scene, she began to get a better sense of the depths of  love and care and commitment available to her three grandchildren in this household, and she felt good about that.  Whatever happened to her with respect to her own health, she felt very good about that.

"Let's slow down on the ribs for the kids," Mike suggested after a while.  "I don't want them to get sick."

"We won't get sick, Unk Mike," Michael said.  "These ribs are good!!!"

"I know.  But your stomachs aren't used to this much sauce," Mike said.

"That's why we should eat more," Matthew chimed in.  "So we can get used to it."

The adults all laughed, and Mike relented with a sigh.

"Oh, man," he said.  "All right, two more ribs each, and that's it!"

"Yaaah!" the kids yelled, and got back to eating.

After the ribs had been picked clean, Mike and Matt gave the three boys their bath.  The little guys weren't the only ones who got wet in the process.

After the bath, the five of them all sat on Michael's bed together and read their favorite story.  Matthew and Michael knew this particular story so well that it played out like a G-rated, juvenile edition of the Rocky Horror Show--the two kids anticipated all the dialogue by speaking it as Matt read.  It was audience participation at its best.  Kyle soaked all this up in amazement.

After the story, Matt and Mike knelt down with the boys in front of Michael's bed as they said their prayers, including a petition for Mary's healing, and then tucked them into bed with kisses and hugs.  All three of the kids were tired from the trip, and Matthew and Michael were obviously glad to be home.  Mike dimmed the lights, and the little guys began to drift off in short order.

When Matt and Mike rejoined the adults, they were gathered at the giant living room windows watching the late night boaters on Lake Michigan.  Mary was still with them, enjoying the company of the young people.

Matt and Mike pulled chairs up to the windows and joined in the general conversation.  After a few minutes, Stan took Mike aside.

"Uh, would you mind if Linda and I stayed here again tonight?  We haven't really had a chance to talk yet about Matt's and your offer for us to live here, but..."

"That's cool, man.  No problem."

"Well, we've been using two bedrooms, if that's OK," Stan continued, his face a little red.  "We're not sleeping together 'til we're married."

"That very OK, Stan.  We've got bedrooms out the ass.  So just help yourself," Mike said.  "And whatever your decision on living here may be, you guys stay as long as you want.  You're always welcome here."

"Thanks.  I appreciate it."


They rejoined the group just in time to hear Matt saying that everybody was invited to go with him and Mike and the kids to the 11 o'clock mass at St. Stephen's the next morning.  Andie said she was going home soon, but she would come back the next morning and go to church with Jeff.  Mary said she wanted to go with them.  Stan and Linda said they'd go just to see what the Episcopal mass was like.

They all went into the den to watch TV except for Mary, who decided to go to bed.  Mike walked her part of the way to her room.

"Mary, I want to say again that we're really glad to have you here.  This is your home now.  Please, please let us know if there is anything we can do to make you more comfortable.  I'm feeling really positive about the way things are going to go for you medically, and I hope you are, too."

"Mike, you and Matt and Jeff and your whole family and Stan and Linda--well, I've never experienced in my life anything like what you all feel for one another.  Money doesn't buy it, I suppose you know that.  Those three little boys don't know how lucky they are to be here.  However things may turn out for me, I will have known love here.  You're all a joy to me, and I thank you."

They wordlessly embraced and kissed one another, and Mary went on to her room.

The group watched a movie, then the news, and Andie left to go home with Jeff seeing her down to her car.  Breakers went with them so Jeff could walk him before bedtime.  Matt and Mike unobtrusively went over to the crucifix in the corner of the den and lit a votive candle, and then excused themselves to go to bed.  Stan and Linda stayed behind, holding hands and talking to one another on the couch.

Matt and Mike went into their bedroom at the end of the hall, leaving the door open a crack so Breakers could get in when Jeff brought him back.  They stripped all their clothes off, turned down the bed, and climbed in together.  They lay facing each other.

"It's just starting to sink in that we're back home together for good," Matt said.  "You're beautiful, Mike.  All of you is so beautiful."  He paused and swallowed.  "I'm feeling a little like the first time we ever slept together as lovers at the lake when we were in college.  My heart feels like it's gonna jump out of my chest.  I don't know how I could be any happier."

"Matt, I worship you, bro.  You're my heart and my being.  Somehow, we should be walking around in the same skin, that's how much I love you."  Mike pulled his partner into his arms, and gave him butterfly kisses on his eyes and face.

"Those three little dudes in the next room--they've just made our relationship even better, you know," Mike continued.  "It's such a privilege for me to share in raising them.  I'm digging this parent thing bigtime!"

"Yeah, well, where were you when I was changing diapers?" Matt laughed.  "Now you get all the good stuff."

"I deserve the good stuff.  Your character needed work, so you were given the dirty diaper detail.  It was good for ya."

"You could be right, you know," Matt admitted.

"I'm still waiting to see evidence of the 'terrible twos.'  When's that supposed to start?" Mike asked

"They're almost three.  I think the worst is behind us, and it hasn't been too bad.  You're the doctor, you tell me."

"It's supposed to be now.  But my good influence made it go away, I guess," Mike said with a smile.

"All kidding aside, it hasn't hurt that their dad is really, really happy being with the man he loves.  The 'little people' pick up on stuff like that, you know.  So don't sell yourself short."

They lay there caressing each other.  Matt smoothed Mike's hair back from his lover's forehead and kissed him gently on the lips.

"Do you think we'll get a chance to meet Father Howard tomorrow after mass?" Matt asked.  "I'd at least like to set up an appointment to get together to talk with him."

"If he's the celebrant at the late mass, he'll be at the front door after church.  If not, we'll hunt him down without mercy," Mike said.

"Well, OK," Matt said.  "I'm set on exchanging our vows in front of that altar, and I want everybody we love there to witness it.  Period.  This just has to work out at St. Stephen's.  But you know what?  If for some reason it doesn't, it won't take away from what we have together.  Nobody can ever take that away."

"Nope.  Nobody ever can."

They continued to bask in the warmth of their love for one another until they began drifting off.  The last thing they remembered before sleep claimed them completely was agreeing to run on the beach the next morning and feeling Breakers jump up on the bed and lie down at their feet.

*  *  *

Matt and Mike snuck out of the condo about 7:30 a.m. for their run on the beach, taking along a very happy Breakers and a sluggish and out of sorts Jeff, who had planned to sleep in until time for church.

"Payback, dude!" Mike had told Jeff when he rousted him out of bed.  Jeff had cracked a little smile, remembering the times he had done the same to Mike when Matt had been on trial in Connecticut.

The morning was cool, but blue skies and a strong south wind promised a beautiful day.

The three young men ran five miles at a good pace and returned to the condo in a great mood.  They put the coffee on, showered, woke the kids up and washed them, dressed them and fed them.  They even had time to check out the morning newspaper.  By 10:15, Andie had arrived, and the whole gang, including Mary, was ready to go to church.  They couldn't all fit into one vehicle, so they took the Blazer and Andie drove her car with Jeff and Mary.

They parked and walked into the front doors of St. Stephen's about 20 minutes before the late mass was to begin.  Matt and Mike took Matthew, Michael and Kyle to the nursery, and then returned to the huge nave of the church.  Banks of votive lights were blazing and the smell of incense from the last mass was still detectable.  The congregants steadily slipping into the building were quiet and respectful as they made their preparations for worship.

Matt and Mike knelt to say their prayers and then sat back in the pew.  The organist began playing something very subdued, by Poulenc, the bulletin said.  Trying not to be too obvious, Matt held Mike's hand as he studied the altar with the huge crucifix hanging high over it.  Matt felt settled, safe.

At precisely 11:00, the organ swelled into the first hymn, and the thurifer, crucifer and choir processed down the main aisle, followed by two priests.  Matt had never seen the celebrant, dressed in a chasuble, before, so he concluded he must be the new curate, Father Howard.  When he reached the sanctuary, the celebrant took the thurible and censed the altar and the crucifix hanging above.  Matt's heart lifted as the incense billowed upward to blanket the roof.

Mass began.  Mike glanced at Matt and at their extended family occupying the pew with them, and he felt a new sense of commitment to them, and gratitude for all they meant to him and his brother.

The familiar words of the mass were nourishing.  After the consecration of the elements and just before communion, the priest elevated the huge priest's host and the chalice, solemnly telling the congregation that the elements were "The Gifts of God for the People of God."

Mike and Matt looked into one another's eyes, mutely acknowledging the great gifts that their partnership had brought to them both.  Parishioners began moving forward in the main aisle to receive the consecrated bread and wine.  When it was their turn, Matt and Mike led the way to the altar rail for communion, followed by the rest of the family.  Surprisingly, Stan and Linda, both Roman Catholics, went forward for communion as well.

Mass concluded with the general thanksgiving and a blessing from the priest, followed by the recessional hymn.  The family sat again to listen to the organ postlude, a real rouser by someone named Léon Boëllmann, according to the bulletin.

Father Howard, a slim, ascetic looking young man with what was almost a shaved head, was at the door greeting parishioners when the family was leaving.  He was good looking, Matt thought.  Mike introduced Matt to him, and they quickly made an appointment for the three of them to meet in the priest's office after dinner hour the following Thursday.

"Yes!" Matt kept saying to himself as they left the church.  "Yes, yes, yes!!"

His next thought was, "Don't you think things are going too well to last?"

© 2001 Don Hanratty
Once again, this segment of Working It Out took longer to write than it should have.  Just as in real life, there are going to be some bumps in the road ahead for Matt and Mike as they try to get squared away to meet all their family responsibilities.  Matt begins to have an inkling about what he wants to do with his career when he passes the bar.  I do appreciate the many emails commenting on the story.