The days following Matt's admission to Mike that he was in love with him were ecstasy for both of them.  Days of golden sun, blue water and vigorous exercise water skiing and swimming were a perfect prelude to nights of tentative exploration in their new sexual relationship.

Mike was keenly aware of his promise to let Matt escalate the sexual side of things at his own pace, and so he followed Matt's lead.  The boys had immediately dispensed with sleeping in their undershorts, their nakedness making inevitable the uninhibited contact they both wanted.  The night after their talk, when Matt ran his hand down over Mike's abdomen and gently cupped his package while he kissed Mike's face, fantasy and reality had met at last.  Almost twelve months of sexual frustration escaped in Mike's sigh of anticipation as for some inexplicable reason he remembered the old axiom that the ultimate sex organ is the human mind.

The first sex act for each, after slowly exploring one another's body in bed and while showering together during those first days, was to masturbate in bed, side by side.  It wasn't long, however, before each passed that pleasant duty on to his partner, resulting in copious orgasms for each of them.  When he first tasted Matt's cum on his own hand, it was as Mike had expected:  pungent and sweet as the man himself.

For Matt's part, as slowly as he had arrived at admitting his desire for a physical relationship with Mike, there were no uncertainties now as they became more and more intimate.  His sexual relationships with the many girls he had been with in his life could not compare with the explosion of love and longing he felt for Mike.  He wanted to touch him all the time, and they were spending a lot of time in bed.

Mike had been planning to invite their brother Jeff to come down to the cottage midway in the week in partial repayment for all the nice things he had done for both of them, but as his and Matt's passion unfolded, he put that idea on hold for another time.

By the end of their week at the cottage, they had each found out what the other liked and responded to, and were well on the way to enjoying the full repertory of non-violent gay sex.  The first time they had 69'd to orgasm and then shared a deep kiss, each thought he had died and gone to heaven.  They also found out that they were both tops, but that the other was willing to be versatile for his partner's sake.  Mike loved to rim Matt, and it was so pleasurable for Matt that he would almost cum in the process without other stimulation.

The world had narrowed for the moment to each other, time had stopped, and they positively glowed in one another's company.  Sometimes, passion temporarily spent, they just lay quietly side by side, held hands, and said nothing.  Nothing needed to be said.

The last night they were at the cottage, as they lay relaxed and intertwined after great sex, Mike asked, "What are we going to tell the family?"

"I've been giving that some thought myself," Matt said.  "I think what we should do is to say nothing for the time being and go back to school.  Then we can think about it some more and talk to them between semesters.  I know they won't like it, but on the other hand, we're not going to live a lie for anybody.  I think they'll eventually come around and accept the situation."

"I hope you're right.  I'm sure they wanted grandchildren from you."

"Well, then, Jeff and Martha better turn out straight.  'Cause I'm sure not, thank goodness!"  He laughed and kissed Mike for the thousandth time.

Mike sighed with contentment, nestled his head into Matt's shoulder, and they fell asleep.

They stayed in bed with each other as long as they could the following morning, and after showering together and then eating breakfast, packed their bags.  Mike stood on the front lawn taking a permanent picture in his mind of the lake while Matt turned off the propane and the water pump.  The two of them put slings under the Chris Craft and using the pulleys, raised it out of the water inside the boathouse.  They checked the inside of the cottage one more time, locked up, and threw their bags on the bikes.  With a last look at the place in which their lives had changed so dramatically in a very short time, they jumped on the bikes and hit the road.

They dawdled on the way home, stopping at several parks and sitting around, enjoying each other's company.  They arrived home just as dusk was falling, garaged the bikes, grabbed their bags, and went inside.  The family was glad to see them, and they were precisely on time for dinner.

Mr. Broman talked with Mike briefly after they had eaten, and said that the state had officially taken over the Berman house and property.  The new public park would be called the "Andrew and Emily Berman Recreation Area," as Mike had wanted.  He also said that the tax write-off  from the gift to the state would be of considerable help in lowering Mike's tax liability for the year.  Mike thanked his dad warmly for all the work he had done, and hugged him.

The next week was busy.  Their Mom took all four kids shopping so she could make sure they got a few dressy clothes, and then turned them loose to buy their own casual things.  Matt and Mike and Jeff were of the school of thought that you can never have too many T-shirts and Levi's, so that's what they bought.  Martha was another matter, though, and she worked her mother's credit card over pretty well buying some nice things.

Once home, the three boys went downstairs to the big laundry room and threw their new Levi's in the washing machine with the water set on "hot."  They washed them five times in a row to get the new look out of them and give them a better fit.  Out of Jeff's earshot, Mike told Matt that the first time he had seen him in 501's, he had nearly shot his load.  Matt pinched Mike's butt in response, and they had a little scuffle right there in the laundry room while Jeff watched from a careful distance.

Matt got Mike down on the floor and put him in a wrestling hold called the double leg grapevine.  Just when Mike thought he was going to escape, Matt rolled over on his back and held Mike suspended in the air, still stretching his legs apart.

"Ow, Matt, that hurts," Mike complained.

"Ow, Mike, it's supposed to hurt."

"Well, let me go, you spaz!"

"First you have to say, 'Matt and Jeff are the best brothers in the world!'"


"Yes!"  Matt put on the pressure.

"Ow, oh, all right!  Jeff is the best brother in the world!"

"You must love pain!" Matt said.

"Jeff, help!"

"No way, bro!" Jeff said.  "I don't love pain!"

Mike finally conceded that Matt and Jeff were the best brothers in the world, and Matt let him go.  Mike edged away.

"The next time we're in the pool, I'm gonna drown your raggedy ass!" Mike said.  "Bring my jeans when you come up,"  and he ran out of the room and upstairs.

Later that evening, Matt was in their room surfing the net to check out some song lyrics, and came across some words that moved him deeply.  He printed them out.

All of my life I've fought hard for
the things I have wanted,
Caught up in blindly believing
the strongest survive,
But here in your eyes
I see everything I ever dreamed of
and I am afraid.
If I rush in, if I move too fast,
I just might frighten my one chance away.

It's easy to be strong,
I've done it for so long
but this time I have to remember,
this time to get what I want,
I have to surrender.

Here I stand helplessly willing
and waiting for your love,
When want became need,
I had no choice at all.
What will you do now,
it's up to you now,
it's so hard to wait but I will.
God give me wisdom,
God give me strength,
And the courage to simply stand still.

Here I am, take me;
Somehow you've saved me
from a lifetime of not being
all that love could make me.
It's easy to be strong,
I've done it for so long
But this time I have to remember,
this time to get what I want,
This time I have to be tender,
This time to get what I want
I have to surrender.

["I Have To Surrender," written by Pat Bunch and Doug
 Johnson.  Recorded by Ty Herndon on the CD Living
 In A Moment. © 1996, Pat Price Music.]

Mike was in the shower.  Matt put the lyrics on Mike's pillow and went down to the kitchen for a snack before bed.  When he came back, Mike was already in bed.  Matt stripped and slid under the covers.

Mike said simply, "Thanks for the beautiful poetry, Matt," and moved over to hold him.

The next day was one of those typically hot, humid, late August days, but the boys decided to wash and wax their trucks and their bikes.  Although they were working in shorts and nothing else, the sweat poured off of Matt and Mike in rivers.  When they finished three hours later, the vehicles all looked almost better than new, and the boys were pleased with their efforts.  They went upstairs to shower, and Matt stripped to his briefs before he went into the bathroom.

"Commere, Matt."  Matt walked over in his jockeys to where Mike was sitting on the couch.  Mike got on his knees, and put an arm around Matt's butt.  "Gimme a couple minutes," Mike said.  "I've been wanting to do this for almost a year."  And Mike put his face into crotch of Matt's briefs, redolent of his sweat and manhood, and breathed deeply.  Just breathed in and out, nothing more.  Matt smiled and just shook his head.

                                                                                *  *  *

Sunday, departure day, came all too soon.  As sophomores, Matt and Mike could have vehicles at school, and they decided to take Mike's truck and Matt's motorcycle back with them to the university.  That way they could ride the bike during the good fall weather, and then have the truck available when the weather turned nasty.

When Jeff said he was disappointed he couldn't come down with them and check out the university before his high school classes started, Mike suggested that he drive the Matt's truck down and stay over as long as he could.  So it was agreed.

Matt and Mike traded places driving the truck and riding the CBR to stay alert during the trip.  They arrived in the late afternoon with all of the other jocks reporting early, and went to the sophomore dorms.  Their room wasn't quite as big or nice as they had last year, and they would be sharing the connecting bathroom with their neighbors.

The boys stayed busy that evening getting everything put away where they wanted it, and then made up the two single beds.  After several teammates from last year had dropped by and gone, Matt gave his bed to Jeff, and climbed in with Mike.

"This single bed shit is gonna get old real fast," Matt whispered to Mike as he spooned him.

"You ain't kidding!" Mike said, and they slept.

The next morning they got up, showered, and went down to breakfast.

"My, what a delicious repast," Jeff opined as they ate greasy scrambled eggs, cold toast, and drank warm orange juice.

"Get used to it, boy, you have years of enjoyment ahead of you," Matt said with a smirk.  "This stuff is guaranteed to give you big, ripe, juicy, runny zits."

"Eeeewwww, that's appetizing, Matt!" Mike said accusingly.  "Spare us the graphics, will ya?"

Jeff laughed.

They went back to their room, and Matt called the administrative offices and asked if there were anyone available to provide a tour for a high school senior who might matriculate next year at the university.  The answer was "yes," and Matt gave Jeff directions to the admin building and said they would meet back at the room at noon.

Matt and Mike went off to their respective team meetings.

When Mike got back from his swimming meeting, Matt was already there and was packing.

"Was it something I said?" Mike asked.

"No, man, stupendous news!  I heard at the wrestling team meeting that Jack Whittaker's dad had a heart attack--no, I don't mean that's the good news.  Anyway, Jack won't be coming back to school this year at all, probably.  He and his roommate had this kickass apartment off campus last year, and the roommate graduated last spring.  I called the lady who owns it, and she said she wants to meet us, and if she likes us, it's ours!  Think double bed, bro!"

"How do you know she'll like us?"

Matt swung Mike around to look at the two of them in the big mirror on the closet door.  Pasting a big Tom Cruise smile on his face and showing his teeth, he asked, "Who could possibly resist two clean cut, all-American boys like us, dude?  Are we white bread, or what?"

"To the core!" Mike agreed, and began to pack his stuff.  "Can we get out of our dorm contract?"

"No prob.  I already checked.  We'll lose our piddly deposit, but we can stand it."


Jeff came in, and they put him to work as well while they heard about his tour of the campus.  They loaded up the truck in short order and drove to the apartment address, which was a large Victorian house within walking distance of the campus.  They rang the bell.  An elderly lady with white hair and patrician features, the widow of a longtime professor at the university, answered the door.

"Mrs.Wilson?  I'm Matt Broman, and this is my brother, Mike.  I talked to you on the phone, and we're here to look at the apartment.  And this is my other brother Jeff, but he won't be staying with us normally."

"Come in, boys.  I was afraid the apartment would have to stand empty when I heard at this late date that Jack wouldn't be in school this year."

They chatted for a few minutes, and Mrs.Wilson was apparently pleased with them.  She sent them to look at the apartment, which was a separate two bedroom coach house over a three-bay garage toward the back of a large lot.  There were two bathrooms, one with a shower and one with a tub/jacuzzi, a utility closet with washer and dryer, a nice kitchen adjoining a small dining alcove, a large living room, and a nice balcony off the back.  The furnishings all looked new.

"Perfect!" Matt enthused.

"Yeppers!  How much?" Mike inquired.

"I don't know.  Let's go negotiate."

The rent turned out to be a little more expensive than the dorm, but doable.  They closed the deal, which included two of the three bays of the garage for their use.  They could eventually bring down the other pickup and CBR if they wanted because the space was so deep they could park the bikes in front of the trucks and still close the garage doors.

Matt and Mike each wrote a check for half the rent and half the deposit, and they were in.

Jeff stayed that night with Matt and Mike in their new place, and was due to head for home the next morning.  Matt came back from class and caught up with him before he left.

"Jeff, I need to tell you something before you go.  I hope you won't be bummed."


Matt cleared his throat.  "Well, Mike and I are. . .together."


"No, I mean we're a couple."

"Oh."  Jeff didn't look too surprised.  "Well, it's pretty hard to miss how you two look at each other.  And you seem to sleep in the same bed all the time.  So I admit I've been wondering."

"Are you OK with it?"

"I guess so," Jeff shrugged.  "I love you both no matter what.  You have to make your own decisions."

Matt let out a sigh of relief.

"I love you, Jeff, and I mean that.  Do me a favor and don't say anything to Martha or Mom and Dad, though, OK?  Mike and I are going to tell them when we come home between semesters."

"Cool.  That's one job I don't envy you.  Say 'bye to Mike."

Jeff grabbed his bag, and Matt walked him down to the truck.  They hugged, and Jeff was on his way.

                                                                            *  *  *

The jocks, having reported early, got to register before anyone else.  Matt and Mike got each of the classes they wanted, and because they were easing more into their respective majors, found that they would have fewer classes together than last year.

Within the next week the campus filled up with students, and it was like old times.  Matt and Mike didn't miss the dorms at all, although they still had their food contracts if they wanted to eat there.  It wasn't long before their wrestling and swimming buddies were dropping by fairly frequently, but the two boys were agreed that they didn't want their apartment to become "party central."

About two weeks after classes started, Mike heard somebody yell his name one afternoon as he was on the way to swimming practice.  He looked around, and was astounded to see Jason Stelling, his old high school boyfriend, bearing down on him.  He was still handsome as hell, but didn't look very healthy, Mike thought.

"Jase, what are you doing here."

"I transferred in this fall.  I was wondering when I was going to see you around."

"Matt and I came down a week early to start practice, and we lucked into an apartment off campus this year."

"Really?  Lucky you.  I'm stuck in the sophomore dorms.  I'd like to get together with you sometime and talk about old times."

"Well, I guess we could do that," Mike said slowly.  "Maybe in a week or so when I'm more in the groove."

"Sounds good!  Are you in the book?"

"You'll have to call information."

"Will do.  Catch you laters!"

They went off in opposite directions.

Mike told Matt about the encounter that evening, and Matt was not happy.

"Mike, I just don't like that guy.  I don't know what's going on with him, whether he's doing drugs or what his story is, but I don't like him and I don't trust him.  Do you have to see him?"

"Well. . .he is from my old home town.  I s'pose I don't have any reason not to."

"It's your decision, but I wish you wouldn't.  I admit I'm not long on trust after what happened last summer," Matt said.

"Oh, come on!  Jase is no Rick Scott.  Nothing can happen."

Matt shrugged, but had an uneasy feeling in his gut.

A couple of weeks later, the phone rang about 9:30 p.m. as Matt and Mike were studying.  Mike answered.

"Hello. . .Oh, hi, Jase.  What up?"

Matt scowled.

"Yeah, I could do that," Mike said.  "Why don't we meet over at Houlihan's about 6:30?  I should be out of swim practice by then."

Mike listened, and then said, "OK, see ya there tomorrow night."

He hung up the phone and looked at Matt, who made a face and continued reading.

The next night Jason was waiting for him at Houlihan's, an off-campus pub, in an out-of-the-way booth.  They shook hands and Mike sat down.

"So, Jase, how are ya?  It's good to see you."

"Thanks.  Same here."

"So what's been going on?  How did you happen to transfer here?" Mike asked.

"Oh, I was kinda bored at home.  I needed a change."

A waitress came and took their order.

"Yeah, I was bored," Jason continued.  "And I got to thinking about you, and couldn't get you outta my mind."

"You were thinking about me after all this time?" Mike asked, amused.

"Well, yeah, actually, I was.  We had some pretty good times, you know."


"I thought maybe we could have some good times again," Jason said with a serious look on his face.  He pulled up the sleeves on his sweater, and then pulled them back down right away, but not before Mike saw tracks on his arms.

"I'm partnered up with Matt Broman now, Jason.  In fact, you probably don't know it, but his family adopted me after my family was killed.  We're brothers."

"How nice for you, Mike," Jason said sarcastically.  "When you do it, doesn't that make it incest?"

The waitress brought their order.  After checking for anything additional they might need, she left, and they started to eat.

"Jason, if you're talking about you and me having sex again when you talk about having more good times, that's out of the question!"

"Is it now?"

"That's right," Mike said grimly.

"Well, I could see things becoming a little difficult for you, then, as far as your reputation on campus is concerned."

"How so?"

"Because I'll out you without a second thought!"

Mike was stunned.  "Well, you asshole!!  I guess you'll just have to do what you have to do!  Once an prick, always an prick!"

"Mikey, Mikey, that's harsh!"

Mike threw down his hamburger and started to get up.  Jason grabbed his arm.

"I don't want your decision now.  You think about it for a couple of days.  Think about how your swimming buddies are going to react when they find out you're a fag.  I'll call you and let you know when and where to meet me to talk about it some more."

Mike left, saying nothing, and sticking Jason with the check.

Matt was more angry than Mike had ever seen him when he told him about the track marks on Jason's arms and what Jason had said.

"That drugged-up motherfucker, I'll kill that asshole!"

"Matt, don't worry about it.  I'll find a way to handle it," Mike said.

Matt continued to fume, and neither of them slept very well that night after they went to bed.

Two days later, Matt happened to come in from class just as the telephone stopped ringing and the call went to voicemail.  He waited a minute, then dialed into their box number.

"Mikey, it's your ol' buddy Jason," the recording said.  "Meet me again at Houlihan's tonight at 6:30.  And don't stand me up if you know what's good for you!"

Matt hit "7" to erase the message, and didn't pass it on to Mike when he came home.

About 6:15 he told Mike he had to go the library to look something up, and walked over to Houlihan's and went in.  He walked around until he found Jason, who started to get up when he saw Matt.  Matt blocked him and slid into the booth beside him.

"So the fag boy sent you over to negotiate, huh?" Jason said.

"Negotiate?  No, Mike doesn't even know you called or that I'm here.  And this is no negotiation."

"I don't have anything to talk to you about, Broman.  Lemme outta here."

"I don't think so.  I want you to listen to me very carefully.  Don't miss a word, you little pissant," Matt said quietly.  "You're a college man.  You probably learned at some point that there are 204 or 206 bones in the human body, depending on how many bones you think are in the inner ear.  What you may not be aware of is that I am in my sixth year of learning how to break most of the bones in the human body and make joints bend the way they don't wanna go."

Jason said nothing.

"What I want you to know is that if you damage Mike or his reputation in even the slightest way, I am going to take you to a lonely place and break as many of your 204 or 206 bones as I can, slowly, one at a time.  Am I connecting with your smacked-out brain cells at all?"

"You wouldn't dare!"  Jason looked pale.

"You don't want to find out," Matt hissed.  "You'll wish you were dead!"

Matt picked up a pitcher full of ice water off the table and dumped it in Jason's lap.  Then he rapped him on the scull with the pitcher, and left.  Jason looked exasperated and intimidated at the same time as he stood up with cold water streaming off his pants.

"That didn't take long," Mike said when Matt got back to the apartment.

"Nope, not long at all."

Two days later Matt was just home from wrestling practice when Mike came in with fire in his eye.

"What the fuck did you think you were doing?" Mike asked.

"Whaddaya mean?"

"I ran into Jason Steller a few minutes ago, and he mentioned the little encounter you two had at Houlihan's."

Matt looked at the floor.

"You deliberately withheld Jason's message from me, and then lied to me about where you went."

"Mike, I did it because I love you and I don't want you to get hurt.  Wouldn't you do the same for me?"

"No, I have more respect for you than that.  Do you think I'm so weak that I can't take care of myself?"

"No," Matt said sheepishly.


"Look, Mike, I was wrong, and I apologize.  I promise I will never do anything like this again.  I know I'm overprotective, and I'll work on it.  Please don't be mad."

Mike allowed himself to be held, and his anger ebbed.

"Let me ask you one thing, though," Matt said as they embraced.  "Did that asshole mention anything about outing you?"


"Well, then, maybe he listened to reason," Matt said, and then added hastily, "Not that I went about this the right way."

Matt kissed Mike on the lips, and they headed for the bedroom to put the argument behind them.

                                                                                *  *  *

The danger of Mike's being outed seemed to be in abeyance for the moment.  Mike knew the issue was far from resolved, however, when he began to see Jason here and there on campus watching him, always watching.  Jason never approached him, though.  Mike didn't tell Matt he was being stalked because he was afraid of what Matt might do.

The constant reminder that he could be outed at any time made Mike reflect on taking the initiative and coming out of the closet on his own.  He obviously couldn't do that without considering Matt, of course.  But he did resolve to talk to him about it.

One night after a long study session, he broached the subject in a round about way.

"Matt, are you still thinking we should tell the family that we're a couple when we go home between semesters?"

"I did tell Jeff before he left for home, and he was OK with it.  And not too surprised.  I did ask him not to say anything to anybody else yet."

"I didn't know you told him.  But I'm not surprised he already knew.  He's a smart kid."

"Well, I think we probably should tell Mom and Dad, too, don't you?"  Matt asked.

"Yes and no.  I want to tell them, but I don't know whether Christmas is the right time.  I don't want to spoil the holiday for them."

"Hmmm.  You may be right about that.  I sure hate to drag it out, though," Matt said.

"Yeah, I know.  I've also been thinking a little bit about how much we want to say about it on campus."

Matt looked at him sharply.

"On campus?"

"Yeah,"  Mike said.  "This may not be the right time to get into an extended discussion on this, but we need to think about whether or not we want to stay in the closet."

"Jeez, why wouldn't we?  We're jocks.  Do we really want to face the issue with our teammates if we don't have to?"

"I don't want to face it at all, but there's a price to be paid if we don't come out," Mike said.

"What price?"

"Take it from somebody who's been under cover for a long time--it takes a lot of energy to hide who and what you are, and do a convincing job of it."

"What do you mean?"

"Our secrets kill us," Mike said. "Psychologically, I mean.  They sap your strength after awhile.   I'd almost rather take every mean thing the world could throw at us than pretend to be something I'm not," Mike said.  "I'm tired of the game.  But it's a decision we have to make together."

"Are you bringing this up because of Jason?"  Matt asked.

"Well, he kind of started me thinking about it, but the whole thing goes beyond whether he outs me or not.  We've earned some respect on campus, and if you and I were to come out, we'd not only be standing up for who and what we are, we might also be some help to other gays who are really down on themselves."

"Jeez, Mike, I hate the idea of becoming a 'professional' gay.  I don't want to go on any crusade.  I just want to get an education, enjoy my sport, be with you, and be left alone."

"I understand that.  But I don't think we're gonna enjoy the best of both worlds and end up feeling good about it down the road.  We're going to suffer one way or another, either from lying to others that we're straight or from taking some heat from others for being truthful that we're gay.  Let me ask you this:  if you want to stay in the closet here on campus, why do you want to be upfront with the family?"

"Because,"  Matt said, "they're our real support group.  I do think we have to be truthful with those who love us the most.  The rest, I'm not so sure about."

"Do you remember when you first confronted me about being gay?" Mike asked.


"I would have lied to you if you hadn't already known the truth.  But I learned something from that experience, Matt.  First, you taught me that difficult things should almost always be faced head-on if you want good outcomes.  And secondly, I've come to realize that you and I wouldn't be together today if I had continued lying to you about being straight.  I would have lost the person I love the most in this world for a lie.

"I don't think we're going to solve this in one conversation, bro," Mike continued. "But it's a decision we have to make together, and it's going to be status quo until we agree.  All I'm asking is that you think about it."

"I will.  I respect what you're saying, Mike.  And I hope you know I love you with all my heart."

                                                                                *  *  *

For good or ill, nature abhors a vacuum, and inertia seldom prevails very long in human events.  Mike noticed it first.  Some of his swimming buddies began to shy away from him when he was showering after practice and when he was at his locker getting dressed.  He didn't think too much about it at first.  When some of them also began to avoid sitting near him in class, he began to wonder whether or not Jason was busy making good on his threat to out him.

One night, at dusk, Mike was walking home from practice when out of the blue a couple of second string football players fell into step with him and began to harass him, asking him whether he was gay and how he liked getting it up the ass.  They ended up putting him against a building they were passing and knocking him around a little.

"Hey, dickheads!" a voice came out of the darkness.  "Is there a problem?"  Mike's swimming teammate, Dan Smith, a big guy himself, came down the walk and started toward them.

"Fuck off!" one of the football hulks said. "Mind your own business!"

"Definitely my business," Dan said.  "Move on, or there will be a problem!"

Mumbling and grumbling, the two disingaged from Mike and walked off.

"You OK, Mike?" Dan asked.

"Yeah.  Thanks, Dan."

"Is it true what they're saying?"

"They who, and what are they saying?"

"The guys. Word around is that you're gay."

Mike looked down at the ground and then looked Dan right in the eye.

"Yes, I am gay."

"Well, OK.  I'm glad you told me.  I have a brother who's gay.  You're still one hell of an athlete as far as I'm concerned, and a nice guy.  You're gonna run into a lot of assholes like those two, though, you can count on it."

"I know.  It's human nature, I guess.  But I'm gonna hafta watch myself."

"Yeah.  Well, I'll see ya later, Mike."

"Thanks, Dan."

Mike walked on home and waited for Matt.  He was more shaken than he wanted to admit.

Matt came in, took one look at Mike, and knew something was very wrong.

"It's started," Mike said.  And he told Matt the whole story, including his admission to Dan Smith that he was gay..

"I didn't want to say anything before," Matt finally responded, "but I've kinda been getting some strange looks, too, at wrestling practice.  I just didn't think anything about it.  It looks like that pissant Jason has been busy."

"Matt, I know you didn't want to come out on campus, and I understand why.  I think if I move out of here right away and get my own place, you can say you didn't know I was gay, and your reputation will still be in good shape."

To Mike's surprise, Matt's eyes got tears in them.

"I should kick your ass for saying that, Mike!  Do you think for one second that I'd let you go through this alone?  Whatever we do, we're doing together.  And it looks like the decision has been made for us."

They made dinner, and spent the rest of the evening alternately studying and talking about what lay ahead for them on campus.

Two weeks later they were lying in bed early one morning listening to the campus radio station on their clock radio when a news bulletin interrupted the music.  Jason Stelling had been found dead, apparently murdered, in a gravel pit about 10 miles from school.  Other details were being withheld by the police pending an investigation.

Despite their dislike for Jason and what he had done to them, Matt and Mike were stunned.  They went about their morning routine getting ready for classes in shocked silence.

Later that afternoon, as Matt emerged from one of his pre-law courses, a young guy in a sports coat and slacks approached him and flashed a badge.

"Are you Matthew Broman?"


"I'm Detective Ray Stans of the University City police.  We'd like you to come down to the station and answer some questions, if you wouldn't mind."

"Questions about. . .?"

"The murder of Jason Stelling."

"Am I under arrest?"

"No, we just want to ask you some questions."

"OK, but I need to make a call first."

"Go ahead."

Matt pulled out his cell phone and left a message for Mike on voicemail that he was going to the police station to answer some questions, supposedly about Jason's murder.  He asked him to call his coach to tell him he might not make wrestling practice, and then to call their dad and tell him what was happening.

Matt felt butterflies in his stomach as he accompanied the detective to an unmarked car, was put in the back seat, and driven off to the station.  It occurred to him during the ride downtown that the date was October 7, 1999--one year after Matthew Shepard had been left to die on a fence in Wyoming.

I once again want to thank those who have e-mailed me about this story, and shared their comments and support.  They spurred me on to finished Part 4 before Christmas.  Part 5 is percolating.  E-mail me at Don Hanratty