It was Tuesday before Thanksgiving, back at home for vacation, and an unaccustomed late morning in bed for Matt and Mike.  A narrow band of sunlight lasered through the window drapes where they weren't quite closed, and the light cut across the boys' chests as they lay together in bed in the otherwise dark room.

Matt lay without moving and studied Mike's form, gratified for the thousandth time by what he saw.  That handsome, fine featured face, now with a hint of morning stubble, full lips, small ears, smooth, muscular neck, unblemished and glowing skin stretched over the long, swimmer's muscles of his arms and torso.  Six pack abs.  From the waist up, not a hair to be seen except his blond, Marine style, high and tight haircut, a light treasure trail, and a blond tuft under each arm.

Below the waist, the sheet covered what Matt knew by heart.  Long muscular legs, covered with blond down, and a sandy colored bush.  And a cock and balls that were so perfect in their size, shape and texture that God could have sculpted them Himself, personally.  A God who loved generous portions, Matt smiled to himself.  Mike was hung.

They had awakened last night after an initial hour of sleep, wanting each other.  Their passion for one another had matured over the past months.  Their encounters now transcended physical release alone and testified to a consummate joining of heart, mind and soul which defined their relationship.  And so their lovemaking last night had been long, slow and intense.

Matt's breath momentarily caught in his throat as he contemplated his beloved beside him, breathing slowly and evenly in sleep.

Today was an important day for them.  Today was the day for sharing with parents and siblings the truth that they were gay, that there would be no grandchildren to dandle upon the knee, no nieces and nephews to indulge as they grew up.  At least not by the accustomed methods. A day for beginning the road to acceptance for all concerned, or else the first step into an angry and despised rejection by those closest to them.  A year ago, without Mike in his life, coming out to his family wouldn't even have occurred to Matt.  There would have been no need.

"The truth is its own reward," Matt said to himself.   Moralistic pap?  No, Matt knew deep down that it was right on the money.

Matt slipped out of bed and went into the bathroom for a shower.  He toweled off when he was finished, and went back into the bedroom where Mike was still sleeping peacefully.  Still naked, he went over to the bed and gently lay face down right on top of Mike, who kept his eyes closed and got a big smile on his face.  They kissed as Mike reached up and grabbed Matt's butt with both hands.

"Shawn?  Shawn, is that you?" Mike asked in a dream-like voice.  His blue eyes popped open.  "Oh, Matt, it's you. Well, nice butt, anyway!"

"I'll Shawn you!  You're all butt, but I love ya."  Matt nuzzled Mike's neck.  "Want a nice big hickey?"

"Wouldn't that look great for when we talk to the family, you spaz!" Mike protested.

"Yeah, you're right," Matt said, and licked Mike's left nipple.  "We'll have to think of something else."

"I thought I wore you out last night, you horndog!  You're like the energizer bunny with fresh batteries.  You must get inspired by all the crotches you grab in wrestling!"

"Bite your tongue!  You've been staring at those firmly packed speedos at the pool too long!"

Mike rolled them over, putting Matt on the bottom, caressed his face and smelled his skin.

"Hmmm.  You smell good," Mike said.

"Well, I'm not smelling you 'til you shower!  I bet you still smell like sex!  Hehehe."

"Probably.  You're so juicy when you're passionate!"

"I'm juicy!  When you came last night, I thought I was in the swimming pool!"

"Nectar of the gods!" Mike said.

"That makes you a nectarine!" Matt responded, giving Mike's chest a nip with his teeth.

"You're getting awfully personal, studly!"

"That's why I'm here, dude.  To get personal with you!  It's my goal in life, my life's work!  And I will be getting personal early and often, even if I have to whup your cute little butt once in awhile to get you to cooperate!"

"So you keep promising."


"Today's the day, bud," Mike said, looking into Matt's eyes.  "I'm a little nervous."

"You know what we talked about, Mike.  It's time for some trust in the people we care about.  They say they love us.  This is  the right thing to do, and the right time to do it.  So let's not dwell on the negative."

"You're right.  I know you're right.  Would you mind, though, if we lit another votive candle and asked for a little help?  For the family more than for us.  This won't be easy for them."

"Good idea."  Matt rolled Mike off of him, and they got out of bed and went over to the little icon of the Blessed Virgin on the far wall.  Matt put a candle in the blue candleholder, and lighted it.  After they prayed, Mike went to take a shower.

A few minutes later they ate a quick breakfast in the kitchen, and then, as the boys had planned, Mike went up alone to their mom's jewelry design studio to talk to her first.  He knocked and went in.

The studio was huge, with floor-to-ceiling windows with northern exposure, and a skylight as well.  It was organized chaos.  There were workbenches against the windows and the side walls, and all sorts of kilns and ovens and tools that Mike didn't recognize scattered about.  A drawing board was covered with sketches of rings and necklaces and pins, and the top of one table was a riot of color from precious gems of all colors, shapes and sizes.

Jane Broman shut off the acetylene torch she was using on a piece of jewelry that was stuck into a vise, and removed her mask.  She was slim, very pretty and petite in a white blouse and light brown slacks, and not a hair was out of place.  Classy.  She gave Mike a big smile.

"Mike, come in, dear.  I'm glad you came.  I've been wanting to show you where I work for a long time."

"Hi, Mom.  Are you sure I'm not disturbing you?"  Mike hugged and kissed her.

"No, I'm so pleased to see you.  I never get to spend enough time with you.  Let's sit down.  Would you like some coffee or tea?"

"Coffee sounds good if it's not too much trouble."

Mrs. Broman picked up the acetylene torch, fired it up, and held it under a beat up old pan full of coffee.  It was steaming in about ten seconds.

"As you can see," she said, "we have all the amenities here."

Mike chuckled.  "It smells good."

Mrs. Broman poured two cups and they sat down at a rickety old table.

"This was my first kitchen table after your dad and I were married.  It's seen better days, but I can't bear to throw it out."

"I wouldn't.  It's still serving a purpose, and it must hold a lot of memories," Mike said.

"Yes, it does.  We struggled financially at first, but they were good times.  The Bromans always had money, but you know your dad.  He always wanted to make it on his own.  My family had money, too, but he wouldn't let me take anything from them, either."

"Well, that idea took some getting used to for me, but now I think it's the best way to get a grip on real life, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," Mrs. Broman said.  "I hope you know, though, that if you ever really need anything, Mike, it's yours.  We're not trying to make life difficult for you kids by keeping you on an allowance."

"I know.  I don't even want to think about where I would be today without this family.  Alone, and miserable, I'm sure, and ruining my life with too much money and a lot of poor judgment.  A bad combination.  You're my anchor.  I love you all so much, and I'm so grateful for everything you've done for me.  But I need to--" Mike stopped and cleared his throat--"I need to tell you something that will probably upset you, I'm afraid, and I hate doing it."

"Nothing you tell me is going to change how we feel about you, Mike.  So let's have it!"

"Mom. . ."


"Mom, Matt and I love each other, and we are a couple."  The words flew out, quickly, under pressure.

Mrs. Broman lowered her gaze and traced lines in the dust on the table with her finger.  Then she looked back up into Mike's face.


Mike was nervous and talked fast.

"Matt told me how he felt about our relationship when we went up to the cottage at the lake, just before we went back to school this year.  We never had sex before that.  I had told him my feelings for him last year, and wanted to move out of our dorm room then because I thought he would be uncomfortable living with a gay person.  But he didn't want me to."


"Mom, the reason this is so hard for me to tell you is that I didn't want you to think I'm a sexual predator who set out from 'day one' to get Matt.  I've been afraid you'd think I corrupted him and made him gay.  I never thought there was the remotest possibility that he could respond to me in a physical relationship until we talked at the lake.  I knew that's what I wanted, but I didn't think there was a chance.  I know now he loves me deeply and completely, and I certainly feel that way about him."

"Mike, you didn't corrupt Matt.  Let me tell you some things about Matt that you may or may not know.  First of all, Matt is one of the strongest-willed people you will ever meet.  He is a wonderful young man, but he was far from being easy to raise.  You have no idea the number of clashes his father and I have had with him over the years over a variety of issues, including sex.  He's been sexually active since he was a freshman in high school.  That's when I began to find the occasional condom on his dresser after date-night.  He was bound and determined to marry a girl he was dating when he was a sophomore in high school.  Nothing we could say would dissuade him.  Finally, we packed him up that summer and sent him off to a Franciscan friary on Long Island.  Along with being sexually active, Matt's always been the most religious of my children, and he listened to the brothers with respect.  They gave him a sense of perspective on the marriage issue that we couldn't.  I thought he might even be a priest some day.  Anyway, he didn't get married."

"Wow!" Mike said.

"Matt is, for want of a better word, willful!  There is nothing you could have done to get him into a gay relationship with you if it weren't something he was comfortable with and wanted to do.  He knows his own mind, and for the most part, he does exactly as he wants to do.  He must really love you.  So let yourself off the hook on the 'undue influence' issue, please.

"Along with being very strong willed," she continued, "I'm sure you know by now that Matt has one of the biggest hearts on this planet.  Every stray dog and cat that came to the back door for a handout when he was growing up ended up with a place to live.  And as far as the human race is concerned, he has always stood up for the underdog and the outcast.  He would never let his friends, mostly the strong and the popular kids, abuse kids on the bottom of the social ladder when he was around.  I know that to be true because I've heard it from so many different people.  He just has a kindness and goodness about him that is very unusual at his age.  He is a very loving person, and I admire him so much, I can't tell you.  I wish his father and I could take credit for it all, but we can't.

"I'm not saying that I'm thrilled about you two," she said. "I know the kind of barriers our society is going to throw up against you because you're homosexuals, and how much harder it's going to be to meet your personal and professional goals.  I guess things are improving to some degree out there for gays, but chances are you're going to have to work a lot harder to do what you want to do than anybody else.  It's not right, but that's the way it is.

"Personally, I don't care what anybody else thinks about this situation," she said. "My pride isn't an issue.  I don't feel the need to apologize to anyone about your relationship.  When you have as much money as we have, and for that matter, as you have, you set your own standards and don't worry about other people's problems with it.  We have that luxury.  But even if we didn't have a dime, I'd just want you both to be happy, and respectful of one another, and enjoy the love you feel for each other, because the world can be an ugly and disheartening place for any couple, gay or straight.  It's always been the lovers against the haters, kid.  I'm your mother, not your judge, and I love you both.  I always will."

"You blow me away, Mom.  Aren't you even a little disappointed about not getting grandchildren?"

"What if Matt married the most beautiful girl in the world and she made him unhappy, or even if she made him happy, they couldn't have children?  Would I have to fix that?  Should I try to make you two do what I want?  I won't be able to pick Jeff's and Martha's spouses.  Should I have special rights when it comes to you and Matt?"

"You're just so rational about this.  It's such a gut issue for a lot of people, parents especially."

"Mike, I love you both, and you love each other.  Is there something else to be considered?"

"No, I guess not.  How did I luck out and get you for my mom?"

Mrs. Broman laughed.  "Oh, I have my moments, I guess."

"I wanted to talk to you before we discussed it with anyone else.  How do you think we should approach this with Dad and Martha?  Matt told Jeff last fall."

"What did Jeff say?"

"Matt told me Jeff was cool with it.  Jeff and I have never talked about it."

"I am a little concerned about Martha," Mrs. Broman said, "but not for the reasons you might think.  She's a very tolerant and easy-going person, so I doubt if she has any special animus toward gays.  But she has romantic ideas about you, Mike, if you didn't know, and I'm not sure how your news is going to affect her."

"I didn't know that.  Now I'm really worried."

"Would you like me to talk to her?"

"It might make things easier," Mike said, "but I feel as if we're asking you to do our dirty work for us.  It's asking a lot."

"Martha and I have a special rapport.  I think I can help her understand.  But I won't talk to her about it unless you want me to," Mrs. Broman said.

"Well, give it a shot, then.  I really appreciate this.  I hate hurting her.  It's gonna be a real downer for me if she can't accept Matt and me as partners."

"OK, I'll talk to her today."

"What about Dad?  Any advice?" Mike asked.

"Just tell him what you told me, no embellishments, no evasions.  I'd be lying, though, if I told you I know exactly what his reaction is going to be."

"Please don't be disappointed in us, Mom."

"Mike, if every mother had sons as fine and strong and good as you two are, this would be a happier world.  Nothing's going to change my mind about that!"

"Mom, I love you with all my heart.  And I'm so grateful to you.  Thank you for being the person you are."

They stood and held each other, in silence, and when they stepped back, they both had tears in their eyes.  Mike kissed her cheek, and left without another word.

Mike went back to his and Matt's bedroom, and found Matt lying on the couch, watching TV.  Matt sat up, looking worried.


"Mom is one fantastic woman," Mike said.  "She's awesome.  How could she have given birth to a skag like you?  There must have been a mix-up at birth."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah.  What did she say?"

"She's cool with it.  And she offered to talk to Martha about us, so I took her up on it."

The boys high-fived.

"That's just leaves Dad,"  Matt said.  "Tonight after dinner?"

" K."

"Ya wanna go for a swim?"

"Yeppers.  Sounds good," Mike said.  "You hafta swim naked, though."


"Hehehe.  I want instant access to your moving parts, that's why!  And I wanna watch your cute little butt as you struggle to stay afloat."

"You horndog," Matt said.  "You have such a one track mind!"

"Yeah.  Ain't cha glad?"

"Yeppers."  Matt grabbed him and gave him a kiss.

They changed into their suits, and went down to the pool.  Matt swam a few laps with Mike, and then sat on the edge of the pool and watched Mike do lap after lap, seemingly without effort.  Mike was truly in his element, his arms and legs moving rhythmically, his body cutting through the water with little resistance.  Poetry in motion, Matt thought to himself.

After awhile Matt slid into the water, and intercepted Mike in the middle of the pool.

"Hey, maybe you've done enough.  Your leg might swell if you overdo it," Matt said.

Mike grabbed him and pulled him underwater.  Matt struggled, and suddenly went limp.  Alarmed, Mike pulled him to the surface, where Matt came to life and took Mike down and held him under.  They both came up laughing and sputtering.

"You are so devious!" Mike said.  "I don't know why I take pity on you."

"I learned all my tricks from you, bud!  In the water and in bed!"

"If there's a liars' corner in hell, you'll be elected their leader."

They climbed out of the pool and went upstairs to their bedroom.  After showering together with lots of horseplay, they dressed, and lay down on the couch to watch TV, Mike spooning Matt to his chest.  They napped in that position off and on until it was time for dinner.

Everyone seemed to be in a good mood at the dinner table.  Mr. Broman told a couple of clean jokes, Jeff talked about school and sports, and Martha chatted, but was giving Matt and Mike curious looks.  The boys assumed Mrs. Broman had kept her word and filled Martha in on their relationship.

After supper, Matt said, "Dad, could Mike and I talk to you for a few minutes in private?"

"This won't give me indigestion, will it?" Mr. Broman smiled as they stood up from the table.

"We have the Tums ready," Mike said.

Mrs. Broman gave Mike a surreptitious "thumbs up" and a smile as they left the dining room and went into the library, sinking down in overstuffed chairs in front of the fire.

"Mike, are you pretty well healed up?" Mr. Broman asked.  "How're the leg and the ribs?"

"I'm good.  The ribs still give me a twinge every now and then, but nothing too bad.  The legs swells a little if I stand too long or exert myself too much in the pool, but other than that, I'm in good shape."

"Did they ever catch the guys who did it?"

"No.  They wore ski masks, and I was too busy covering up to get a good look at their clothes or anything."

"Matt, I understand you got some changes made in campus policing practices," Mr. Broman said.

"Yes.  The chancellor is a wonderful guy, and we actually got a new chief of campus security out of the deal.  And a lot of volunteers for a campus watch and escort system, so things really worked out well.  I think everybody feels a little safer, even the guys."

"I'm old fashioned, but that's the kind of responsibility we need to take for our community, wherever we are," Mr. Broman commented.  "That's leadership."

"Yes, sir." Matt agreed.

"Now, what's on your mind?"  Mr. Broman looked over his glasses at his two sons.

"Dad," Matt said, "this is very hard for us to tell you, and it's going to be hard for you to hear."

Matt paused.  "I've known for a long time that Mike told you he is gay when he first became a part of this family."

"Yes, he did.  And your mother and I appreciated his candor," Mr. Broman said.

"And you know that Mike and I have been best friends and like brothers for two years now, even before you adopted him.  But our relationship, since this fall, has deepened to the point that we are real partners now, including sexually.  I realized this fall, whatever classifications you use to describe my orientation, that I love Mike deeply and completely, and he loves me the same way.  I guess I'm gay, Dad.  We are a gay couple."

Mr. Broman put his hand to his forehead, and was silent.

"Give me a minute," he said.  His eyes looked damp behind his glasses.

"I'll have to say I'm surprised, Matt," he said finally.  "Given your track record with women, that's the last thing I expected to hear."

"I know.  But my relationship with Mike is the best and most fulfilling relationship I have ever been in with any human being.  It feels right to us."


"Yes, sir?"

"Are you sure about this?"

"Dad, I've always known I've loved everything about Matt, including that he is a man.  But I never thought there was a chance that he ever would or could reciprocate with the same feelings.  Last fall, at the cottage, he told me he felt the same way I do.  The only thought that's been nagging at me all during this new phase of our relationship is that you and Mom would feel I preyed on him and made him gay."

"From what little I know about orientation and gender, it doesn't happen like that.  Science says that orientation isn't shaped so easily or quickly that your two years together would do it," Mr. Broman said.  "So don't think I'm blaming you for this, Mike.  But it's going to take some getting used to."


"Do you know what grief is?" Mr. Broman asked Matt.  "I know Mike does."

"Sure," Matt said.  "The feeling you have when someone dies."

"Yes.  Or when our ideal mental image of someone dies.  But it isn't just loss of people or our ideas about them that we grieve.  We can grieve almost anything we perceive as negative.  We grieve sometimes when we fail to achieve an important  task, we grieve the failure to attain our dreams, we grieve loss of health, we grieve loss of wealth, we grieve the loss of relationships.  We can grieve a change in our sense of self.  We can grieve the loss of anything we prize when it's taken away.  And if we allow it to, grief can destroy us, inch by inch, until there is nothing left but a bitter shell.  Every joy in life can become ashes when grief defines us.  And most of mankind is deeply grieving one thing or another, and suffering because of it.  Unfortunately, people get stuck in the grief process, and never make it back on track to enjoy life.

"This partnership isn't what I would have chosen for you, but the fact that you are a gay couple is not the worst news I've ever heard in my life.  I admit I'm grieving the loss of my dream for you, Matt, that you would marry and have a family.  At the same time, I know that what is far more important for all of us is the relationship of love that this family has.  That's what has to be maintained.

"So, please be patient with me.  I'll work through my sense of loss, and I don't want you to think that I love either one of you any the less because of what you've told me.  I need to remember that this isn't about me, after all.  I'm proud of you for what you have each achieved so far in your lives, and I'll continue to be proud of you.  Coming to terms with this will be easier for me because I know that you truly love each other.  A lot of heterosexuals should be as lucky as you two are in that respect, as lucky as your mother and I have been."

Mike sat there stunned by the magnanimity of what he was hearing.  Matt reached over and took his father's hand.

"I've always known you were a great man," he said softly, "but never more than today.  I love you, Dad, and so does Mike."

"I know.  You have a hard road ahead, but I'm here for you when you need me."  He cleared his throat.  "Now, what I need is a good, stiff drink!"  He walked over to the drink table.  "Have you told your mother?"

"Yes, sir, I told her this morning," Mike said.

"Is she all right with it?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Good.  What about Jeff and Martha?  Do they know?"

"Yes, they both know," Matt said.  "Jeff is OK with it, I'm not sure about Martha."

"Well, we'll all work through it.  Thank you both for not trying to live a lie for us.  As hard as knowing the truth is, living a lie is always a prescription for disaster," Mr. Broman said.  "For everybody concerned."

There was a knock at the door, and Mrs. Broman poked her head in.

"Hi, may I join you?"

"Come in, dear," Mr. Broman said.  "We've had our talk."

She came in and put her arms around her husband, and kissed him.

"Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being such incredible people.  We're very grateful," Mike said.

The boys kissed them both, and went up to their room.  They shut the door, and just stood there holding each other without a word for a long time.  Their relief was palpable.

When they broke apart, Mike said, "I'm so keyed up.  I really need something to do.  Something useful, preferably."

He was lost in thought for a minute.  "Why don't you let me give you a haircut?  You're looking a little shaggy."

"Why do you want to do that?  You have a new fetish?" Matt asked.



"I want to do something nice for you, and I need to touch you.  So. . ."

"You wouldn't do anything crazy with the clippers, would you?" Matt asked.

"You mean other than carve my initials in your scalp?  Our initials, actually.  No."

"Well, OK, then, but there will be heavy retribution if you do something bad!" Matt promised.


Mike took a wooden chair into the bathroom while Matt took off his shirt and undershirt, and put on a white T.

"You sure you're not planning something, here?" Matt asked as he went into the bathroom and sat down.

"Rest easy, big fella.  Close your eyes, and  t-r-u-s-t  me!"  Mike said as he got the clippers, scissors and comb out of a drawer, and put a towel around Matt's neck.

"Trust is the last thing on my mind right now.  I know you too well.  I'm watching you every step of the way!" Matt said.

"Hmmm.  I love tools," Mike said, turning on the clippers.

"You are a tool," Matt responded.

"Insults won't affect the quality of my work," sniffed Mike, "as you'll see."  He added an adapter to the clippers so they wouldn't cut too close.  "This is such an easy job, I could do it with my eyes closed.  And maybe I will."

"If you so much as blink, I'm outta here!"

"Relax.  This is just a plain old burr haircut, not exactly a stylistic challenge like a high and tight, you know what I mean?  Satisfaction guaranteed!"

" K."

Mike ran the clippers smoothly across Matt's head as the brown hair began tumbling on to the towel and the floor.  Matt watched with approval as Mike gave him a good haircut, removing the hair low on his neck, and gave him a nice even hairline on the back of his head.

"Not bad for a swimmer," Matt allowed when Mike was finished.

There was a knock on the bedroom door, and someone came in.

"In here," Mike yelled.

Jeff came into the bathroom, and took in the scene.

"Kickass trim!" Jeff exclaimed, looking at Matt's head.  "Will you give me one?"

"See, Jeff recognizes quality when he sees it," Mike chortled.  "Unlike some others.  Jeff, let me brush your brother off, and you're the next victim, er, customer."

"Cool," Jeff said, and took off his shirt.  Mike looked appreciatively at Jeff's torso--not as beefy as Matt's, but somewhat more defined than his own.

"Looking good, bro!" Mike said to Jeff.

"Thanks," Jeff said. "I've been working out three times a week."

"It shows," Matt said.  "You can't take me yet, though."

"You wanna try me," Jeff said, giving Matt a light slap to the side of the head.

Matt sighed deeply.  "What is it with this younger generation?  They all seem to have a death wish."

Matt got up and went to get another chair, while Jeff took his place in the chair in front of the mirror.

"Now, Jeff, what's your pleasure?" Mike asked.

"Give me a twin of Matt's 'do."

"You got it.  Where do you want your initials?"

"Forget it!  I can probably take you if you mess up," Jeff said, looking at Mike's biceps.  "Maybe."

"Not to worry, my man.  I'll do my usual professional job."

Matt brought his chair into the bathroom, and plopped down in it.

"Jeff, have you decided where you're going to school next year?" Matt asked.

"Well, I've applied to several places, but I'd really like to come your direction if the university gives me a thumbs up."

"That would be great," Mike said.  "How are your grades?"

"Good," Jeff answered.

"Good!  They're outstanding!" Matt said.  "Don't be so modest.  You can have your pick of schools, and you know it."

Jeff blushed.  "Yeah, I guess."

"Listen, Jeff, if you do come to the university, why don't you live with Matt and me?  We have that extra bedroom," Mike said.  "Wouldn't that be OK with you, Matt?"

"Absolutely.  That would be cool."

"Wow!" Jeff said.  "That's a really nice offer.  I'd really like that."

"'Course, you gotta be our slave the first year," Matt said.

"That wouldn't be much of a change," Jeff smirked.

"Do you think you'll get a scholarship?" Mike asked.

"I concentrated on baseball this year," Jeff said, "so I applied for a baseball scholarship at all the schools.  But I also applied for an academic scholarship, so we'll see what happens."

"You know you're a shoo-in for one or the other at the university," Matt said.  "So start planning now to move in with us."

"Well," Jeff said with mock uncertainty, "is your personal hygiene good?"

"Mine's great," Matt said.  "Mike's?  Well, so-so.  Sometimes his armpits get a little ripe."

"Just reverse that, Jeff," Mike responded.  "Matt wins all his matches by smelling so bad his opponents forfeit."

They continued to bicker until Mike finished Jeff's hair.

"I gotta book, guys.  Big date," Jeff said.

"Who is she?" Matt demanded.

"Marlee Anderson," Jeff answered.

"Ooooo, cute!" Matt said.  "Do you have protection?"

Jeff's face reddened.  "Shut up, Matt!"

" K.  Have a good time," Matt said.

"Thanks for the haircut, Mike.  Nice job.  I appreciate it."

"'Welcome, bro.  Anytime.  And you remember our offer," Mike said.

"Yeppers," Jeff said, and he was gone.

"Man, is he a great kid!" Mike said of Jeff.  "If I didn't have you like an albatross around my neck, I could fall for him."

"Count your blessings, dufus!  And keep your horny paws off our little brother!"

After sweeping up the hair clippings in the bathroom, they went to watch TV, and snuggled together on the couch until bedtime.

                                                                                *  *  *

The next morning was bright and cool, but as the temperature rose, Matt and Mike decided to fire up Mike's bike and take a ride.

The country roads were quiet the day before Thanksgiving, and first Mike, and then Matt, got to open the CBR 900RR up on the straight-aways, and felt their tensions melt away.  Several hours flew by with the miles.

On the way back, they stopped at a mall with a movie complex, and as they were walking past the theaters, somebody stopped them to ask if they wanted to watch a pre-pre-showing of a film called Magnolia in return for answering a questionnaire about the movie afterward.  They agreed.  They hated it most of the way through until things began to come together at the end, and then they loved it.  The questionnaire got positive responses from them.  They borrowed one of Tom Cruise's lines from the movie, and kept telling each other, "Respect the cock!  Tame the cunt!" and laughing uproariously.

Closer to home, they stopped at a florist and bought their mother a bouquet of roses, wrapping it carefully and riding slowly the rest of the way back to keep it intact.

Once home, they got Jeff and Martha to toss a frisbee around with them on the back lawn for awhile, and then they all took a swim and worked out on the exercise machines at pool side.  Martha seemed friendly but reserved.  Mike resolved to spend some time alone with her before he and Matt left for school to find out how she was taking the news.

After a light supper in prospect of a huge Thanksgiving meal the next day, Matt and Jeff informally teamed up against Mike and Martha in a game of monopoly in the library while Mr. and Mrs. Broman read and enjoyed their children's company.
It was a see-saw battle all the way, but Mike and Martha definitely had the edge in money and property when they called it quits about 10 o'clock.

"We're going to mass at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning," Mrs. Broman announced as they folded up the monopoly board.

The kids all nodded, and kissed their parents good night.

Back in their room, Mike surprised Matt by putting his arms around him, and saying, "Matt, I want you to know how much I love you.  Tomorrow is a real Thanksgiving for me."

Matt looked into his eyes, brown into blue.

"You mean more to me than anything, Mike.  We're so blessed to share what we do with each other.  What a privilege to be able to say that to you with no hesitation or reservation!  And not to have to hide it from anyone else anymore, either.  I'm the luckiest human being in the world."

They undressed each another, and took to the bed to make sweet love.

                                                                                    *  *  *

The service at Old St. Paul's was a low mass with hymns.  Matt and Mike offered their special thanksgiving for each other and for the love and understanding of their family.

Mike also prayed for his blood family, and lit a votive candle for them after the service.  He was perfectly content now, but couldn't help wondering what his life would be like if his parents and brother and sister and grandmother had not perished.

On the way home in the car, Mike suggested that the whole family, along with Grandma Hagerty, Uncle Jack and Aunt Judy, spend the Christmas holidays in South Beach at Mike's condo.  He told them it would mean a lot to him if he could repay all their kindness to him in some small measure.  Mr. Broman said he and Mrs. Broman would talk it over, but that it sounded like a nice change of pace.  Mike figured that with a six bedroom condo, there would be plenty of room.

When they returned from church, Mrs. Broman went into the kitchen to see how dinner was progressing, and Mr. Broman and the kids went into the library, everyone's favorite room.  Dinner would be served at 2:00.

Mr. Broman offered Matt and Mike a glass of wine.  When Jeff asked if he could have one, too, Mr. Broman said he could.

"Boy, it sure pays not to be the firstborn," Matt laughed.  "You didn't let me have wine when I was in high school!"

"Well, Jeff is very mature and responsible," Mr. Broman said.  "Unlike others were at his age."

Jeff gave Matt the finger and a triumphant look when his dad wasn't looking.

"Martha, what can I get you, dear?" Mr. Broman asked.

"How about some cranberry juice, if you have some," she said.

"Coming right up."

Mike took the opportunity to sit next to Martha on one of the couches.

"Mart, I've been wanting to talk to you," Mike said.

"Yeah, we don't get to see too much of each other," Martha responded.

"Did Mom talk to you about Matt and me?"

"Yes.  I was surprised, but I wasn't," she said.  "You two have been through so much together and it's made you close."

"That's true.  Are you OK with our relationship?  It's a little unusual."

"I think so.  I don't completely understand it, but I care about both of you.  If this is right for you both, it's fine with me."

"That means so much to me."  Mike put his arms around her and kissed her.  "I love ya, Mart."

"Same here, Mike.  I wanted you for myself, but Matt got there first.  What a rat he is!"

"That's so true!"  They both laughed.

"Is there anyone special in your life?" Mike asked.

"No, not really.  I haven't done any serious dating yet."

"Well, there's time enough for that.  You're a beautiful girl, and you'll be a beautiful woman.  You look just like Mom.  And that's hot, believe me.  By the way, I get approval of the lucky guy when the time comes.  I'm gonna grill him 'til I'm sure he's fit to be in your company.  Many will undoubtedly fail!"

"Yeah, right!"  Martha laughed.

They went on to talk about their experiences in school, and the time flew by.  Matt and Jeff joined them, and before they knew it, it was time for dinner.

The table was beautifully decorated for the holiday, and was laden with a golden brown turkey and all the trimmings.  The candles flickered as they joined hands and Mr. Broman returned thanks for a loving family and for the food they were about to eat.  Mr. Broman seated his wife, Matt seated Martha, and they dug in after pouring more wine.  Everything was delicious, and the three boys ate like there were no tomorrow.

The remainder of Matt and Mike's vacation was relaxed and carefree now that their major worry of coming out was behind them.  The day to return to school inevitably rolled around.  They packed up the truck, and the family came out to say goodbye.  Mike made sure he expressed his and Matt's special thanks to each of them for their understanding and kindness as they prepared to go.  As they were pulling away, Mr. Broman stopped them, and told Mike that the family wanted to take him up on his offer to go to South Beach for Christmas, which pleased Mike immensely.

"If its too late to fly commercial, we'll get Uncle Jack's company plane," Mr. Broman told them as they drove out of the driveway.

Once on the interstate, with Matt driving, they sang along with the CD player and talked more about how good it felt to be out to everyone that counted in their lives.

"Hey, I have a story for ya!" Matt eventually said with enthusiasm.

"I think they passed that no-singing/no-joke law I prayed for, death penalty and all.  You don't want to be strapped to a gurney with that special sauce flowing into your arm, do ya?"

"No, you'll like this story, particularly since you mentioned the death penalty."

"Do I have a choice?"


"Three guys go to the Amazon on a vacation.  While there they
get lost, and are captured by a tribe of bad-ass natives.  They are
taken into the deepest, darkest part of the jungle and tied onto poles
in a clearing.

"After night falls and a huge bonfire is blazing, all the tribe members
assemble and began chanting and making merry in anticipation
of a great evening's fun at the expense of the three vacationers.

"Suddenly, a hush falls over the crowd - the Chief has arrived!  He
goes over to the first guy tied to a pole and asks, 'DEATH, or Uga Buga?'
The guy, not knowing what it is, answers that he'll take the Uga Buga.
The crowd breaks into an uproar!!  Eight of the biggest, strongest and
most virile savages step out of the crowd, free the guy from his pole,
bend him over a log and sodomize him for 30 minutes.  The crowd is

"The King walks over to the second guy, and asks 'DEATH or Uga Buga?'
The second guy looks at the first guy, still gasping for breath and
writhing on the ground, and swallows hard.  He thinks to himself, 'I
don't know if I can take that or not, but I'm too young to die.'  He
also chooses Uga Buga! Again, the crowd erupts in glee.  Eight more
savages emerge from the crowd, take the second guy off his pole, and
sodomize him for 45 minutes!!

"The third guy is in a real sweat!!  The king approaches him and asks
'DEATH or Uga Buga?'  The third guy looks over at the first two guys.
It's not a pretty sight.  He swallows hard and answers 'DEATH!'  The
Chief is astounded!  With a puzzled look he replies, 'OK, DEATH!

Mike coughed to stifle a laugh.

"You need some Uga Buga," he said.

"I thought you'd really appreciate that story 'cause you're a swimmer.  I hear all kinds of strange things go down in the pool locker room after practice," Matt said.

"Yeah, we swim, we shower, we get dressed, we leave.  Not like you oversexed apes in the wrestling locker room.  Anything can happen over there, and usually does.  At least that's the rumor."

"Now I'm feeling negative vibes in this truck!  And negative vibes make me want to SING!  How about a little Right Said Fred?  I know all the words, by the way."  And he started crooning, "I'm too sexy for my shirt. . ."

"Noooo!  I loved your story!  It was the best I ever heard!" Mike said pleadingly.  "Please stop!  It's against the Geneva Convention."

"I just don't understand why you don't like my singing," Matt said.  "I have a trained voice, you know."

"I've heard better singing in the dingo house at the zoo," Mike responded.  "Did they train you?"

"I'm too sexy for my hat, too sexy for my hat, whatcha think about that?" Matt resumed singing.

"Slow down, there's a semi coming," Mike said.  "I wanna hurl myself out on the highway.  If I'm lucky, it'll hit me."

"All right, I'll stop singing, but it will cost you another story."

"Anything, but no more singing!!"

"OK, then.  Two gay guys decide to have a baby.  They mix
their sperm, then have a surrogate mother artificially
inseminated. When the baby's born, they rush to the hospital.

"Two dozen babies are on the ward, 23 of whom are crying
and screaming.  One, over in the corner, is smiling serenely.
A nurse comes by, and to the gays' delight, she points out
the happy child as theirs.

"'Isn't it wonderful?' one of the guys exclaims.  'All these
unhappy children, and ours is so happy.'

"The nurse says, 'He's happy now ... but just wait until we
take the pacifier out of his ass.'"

Mike again stifled a laugh.

"I'm reporting you to the Gay-Straight Alliance the minute we get back to school," he said.

"Oh, oh, I'm feeling a negative vibe, here!  You know what that means!"

"Noooo!  It was a really cool story.  I'm laughing on the inside!"

"I sincerely hope so.  By the time I'm done with you, you'll be begging me to sing and tell you stories."

"Now that's hilarious!" Mike snorted.

"You're no fun!  Turn up the CD!"

They continued their verbal jousting all the way back to school, and loved it.

                                                                                    *  *  *

The next few weeks before Christmas passed at blinding speed, as the boys concentrated on studying for finals and each maintaining his competitive edge in his sport.  Relationships with their respective teammates continued to be good, and Matt and Mike felt that they had chosen the right path in coming out to everybody who mattered to them, especially their family.  They felt completely at peace with who they were now, with no secrets hanging over their heads.

Matt was really pumped when he heard that he had been selected to represent the university in an invitation-only Pan American wrestling meet in Mexico City during the second week in January.  Mike was really pleased to see Matt getting some recognition for his phenomenal record--one loss in two years.

Their dad called them to say that he wasn't able to get satisfactory plane reservations for everybody from home to Miami International before Christmas, so their Uncle Jack's company plane would take the rest of the family to Florida first, and then come back to University City to pick them up and bring them down after their finals were over.

"Bro," Mike said, "this is the first 'rich man' thing we've ever done.  This is kickass!"

"You don't know how surprised I am at Dad, laying out the cash for this.  We've never done anything like this in our lives," Matt said.  "I'm so jazzed I can't stand it!  I can't wait to get there and catch some rays!"

They started counting down the days and the hours before vacation.

A week before they were to leave for Florida, Mike called Jeff Miller, the lawyer Matt's dad had retained when Matt and Mike were under suspicion in Jason Stelling's murder, and went to his office to make a will.  Upon Mike's death, half his money would go to Matt.  The other half of his estate was to be divided equally among Mr. and Mrs. Broman and Jeff and Martha, less $100 thousand each to PFLAG and the Gay-Straight Alliance, and $100 thousand to Mrs. Brighton, the Berman's former housekeeper.  Should any of the named parties pre-decease Mike, the money would be divided equally among the other parties still living.  Mike felt at more at ease about the trip once the will was signed, witnessed, and filed, and a copy sent to Mr. Broman.

As always, the boys felt that they had acquitted themselves well on their finals.  After the last test, they packed quickly so they would be ready when their Uncle Jack's pilot called from the airport.  Mike arranged for one of his swimming buddies, Mark Epps, to drive them out to the airport the next day, and told Mark he could use the truck while he and Matt were gone.

A shiny, new 8 passenger Learjet 31A was sitting at off to one side when the boys arrived at the airport, and after Mark dropped them off, they walked their bags out to the plane and got on board.  A cute female attendant greeted them and stowed their luggage.  Every inch of the cabin bespoke luxurious good taste.  The pilot came and greeted them, and after they had conversed with him for a few minutes, they sat down in plush seats and strapped themselves in.  The pilot went back to the cockpit, and they heard the engines wind up and begin a gentle roar.  In a few minutes they taxied out on to the runway, and then were airborne.

They reached cruising altitude, and the seat belt sign went off.  They loosened their belts, and sat looking around.  The attendant asked if they would like soft drinks, and they asked for a couple of root beers.  When she brought them, Mike looked over at Matt.

"SoBe, here we come!  I can't wait to see some of the resident super studs struttin' around, showing their wares!" Mike said.

"Oh, didn't I tell you, you're not allowed to look at the merchandise down there.  I bought you a pair of opaque sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and the sight of all those beautiful men," Matt said. "I don't want you to rev your engine and bust something!"

Mike just snorted, and turned serious as he looked around the cabin.

"What's wrong with this picture?" he asked.

"Whaddaya mean?"

"I'm loving every minute of this trip," Mike said, "but what a waste of fuel just to haul our two sorry asses down to Florida.  If I'd talked to the family earlier about this vacation, we could have flown commercial."

"I know.  But flying private is something everybody should do once in his life, so let's just enjoy it!  We'll plan better next time," Matt said.

"Yeppers, you're right.  And speaking of a plan, now that I'm thinking about it, and I'm always thinking about it, ya wanna join the 'mile high club?'" Mike whispered with a leer.

"Can we both fit in the bathroom?" Matt asked.

"I don't think so.  Your butt is too big," Mike said.  "And if you cut one of your humongous farts in that confined space, we'd both die instantly!  It might even kill the crew!"

"You're the only fart on this plane anybody has to worry about."

The pilot joined them just then to say that their travel time would be a little over two hours, and to ask them if they wanted to see the cockpit.  They went forward, and saw a smaller version of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.  Lights, buttons, displays, gauges, pedals and levers surrounded the two seats.  And what a view, as the clouds scudded by!  The co-pilot got up to take a break, and the pilot let the boys take turns sitting second seat for a few minutes.

They went back to the cabin, and still sleep-deprived from finals week, were soon dozing in their seats.

The next thing they knew, the attendant was waking them and asking them to buckle up for landing.

                                                                                *  *  *

There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the temperature stood at 75°.  They stood on the ocean side of the wide terrace that ran completely around the penthouse--which occupied the entire 36th floor--and looked down on the ribbon of sand bordering the ocean.  The view was breathtaking.  There was a nice private swimming pool on their south terrace.  The condo was furnished beautifully, and Mike recognized some pieces of his deceased grandmother's antique furniture here and there.  He realized anew with a pang that she had never had a chance to enjoy her new place.

There were just enough bedrooms.  Grandma Hagerty, Jeff and Martha each had their own room, and the the Bromans, Jack and Judy Hagerty, and Matt and Mike took up the other three bedrooms.  Over their own protests, Matt and Mike got the master bedroom and a private bath.

Their dad and uncle left to buy a Christmas tree and some decorations to kindle the spirit of the upcoming holiday.

Matt and Mike unpacked their suitcases, and put on swimming trunks and sandals to walk down to the beach with Jeff and Martha.  On the way to the water they walked through Penrod's, a bar-restaurant, and on down to the ocean, reveling in the sun, water and sand.  The water was warm, and they all took a swim and then came back and collapsed on the sand to catch a few rays.  Matt, Mike and Martha watched the beautiful boys passing on the beach, and Jeff stared at the girls.

They hadn't brought any suntan lotion with them, so after 20 minutes of sun on their front and 20 minutes on their backs, they ran in and out of the water to cool off, and then headed back to the condo before they got burned.

When dinner time came, Grandma Hagerty, Jack and Judy, and the older Bromans trooped off to a restaurant they wanted to try, and the four kids stayed in and ordered pizza.  After they ate and dusk came, they all went out to the west terrace and watched the sun begin to set across Miami Beach, Miami Bay and Miami itself.  The expanse of it all blew them away.  They dragged patio chairs to the rail of the deck and watched the stars come out to compete with the emerging lights of the two cities.

The adults came back about 9 p.m. with a light buzz on, and they joined the young people on the terrace.  Matt and Mike thanked their Uncle Jack for the the plane ride, keeping to themselves their reservations about wasting resources for just the two of them.  About 10 p.m., still tired from finals, Matt and Mike excused themselves and went to bed.  Their bedroom was on the ocean side of the building, and they opened the sliding doors and let the gentle breeze off the water billow the curtains.

"Uga Buga," Mike whispered in Matt's ear after they had showered, and they proceeded to have wild and prolonged sex, in every conceivable format, to make up for several days of deprivation during finals week.  They fell asleep holding each other, covered with cum, and too exhausted to clean up.

The next morning, after breakfast, the four youngsters put up the Christmas tree, put the lights on it, and put other Christmas decorations around the condo in strategic spots.  After the Miami rush hour was over, Matt and Mike borrowed their dad's rental car and drove up to Palm Beach to do their Christmas shopping, something they had been too preoccupied with school to accomplish before vacation.  The amount of traffic on I-95, even at off hours, amazed them.  They split up at the shopping centers they visited so the presents they were buying would remain a mystery.

They arrived back at South Beach mid-afternoon, and took a quick nap out on the terrace after putting suntan lotion on each other.

"I have a surprise for you," Mike said when they went back to their room to shower before dinner.  He reached into his wallet, and pulled out two picture I.D.'s, one for Matt and one for himself, which stated that they were 21 years old.

"Where did you get these?" Matt asked in surprise.

"Mark Epps has a friend who makes them, and I figured we might need them on this trip," Mike said.  "They look pretty good, huh?"

"Like the real thing."

"I thought we might go up to Ft. Lauderdale to the Copa tonight," Mike said.

"What's the Copa?" Matt asked.

"According to the Damron gay guide, it's a big dance club.  I thought we should check it out.  Do you realized that you and I have never danced together publicly?"

"Awesome!" Matt said.  "I'm ready for some fun."

They borrowed the car again, and headed for Ft. Lauderdale about 10 p.m.  After paying a couple dollars to park at the Copa, they went inside.  It was cavernous, with separate bars scattered all over the place and a huge, central dance floor where huge speakers were pumping out music so loud you could feel it in your gut.  The crowd was sparse at 11 o'clock but by midnight the place was jumping, populated with beautiful men and boys, and a few women, who were set on having a good time.  Both boys paced themselves on alcohol consumption.

After a few drinks, Mike kissed Matt soundly on the lips and dragged him out into the midst of the perspiring crowd on the dance floor.  They began to dance, one song segueing into the next.  Soon they began to perspire themselves, and were really getting into it.  After about an hour, drenched with sweat despite the air conditioning, they went into a little side bar and sat down for another drink.  They were noticed and got cruised frequently by guys on the make.  There was a male porn flick on the monitor over the bar, and they watched a little of that.  They really hadn't seen much male porn before, but neither of them saw anything they hadn't already tried themselves.

Alternately dancing, stopping to drink, chatting it up with some of the guys around the various bars, and watching the flicks, the time passed quickly, and they finally left about 2:30 in the morning, feeling happy and relaxed.

"Are you OK to drive?" Mike asked.

"Yeah.  I haven't had anything for the last hour, so I should be."

Once back on I-95 toward Miami, Mike looked at Matt inquisitively.

"How did you like it?"

"Kickass, man!  I needed that!  I haven't felt so good in a long time." Matt said.

"Me, too.  It feels great to touch you in public without worrying how people are gonna react, you know?"

"Yeah, I admit I feel freer in a crowd of gays.  I've never cared to see people make fools of themselves in public with displays of affection, hetero or homo, but I think we should lose some of our aversion to never showing any at all, don't you?"

"Yeah, as long as we're focused on communicating something to each other, and not putting on a show for bystanders," Mike responded.  "We don't have anything to prove to anyone else, and certainly not to each other."

"You're wise beyond your years, and hardly dry behind the ears!" Matt said.

"Why, thank you, dude!  May I say the same of you?"

"Certainly, my man.  Feel free!"

A Florida Highway Patrol car flew by them, lights flashing, and stopped the car ahead of them for some unknown reason.  As they continued down the highway, motorists were pulled over by the Highway Patrol every few miles all the way to the MacArthur Causeway to Miami Beach.

Back at South Beach, they used their entry card to the garage and parked under their building.

They showered and went to bed, where fueled by alcohol and the erotic images they had seen on the monitor at the Copa, they 69'd, both climaxing after prolonging the act as long as they could.  Then they kissed hungrily, tongues battling, each tasting the cum from himself and the other before they swallowed.

"You're the most important thing in my life, Mike," Matt said, holding him tightly.

No response.  Mike was already out and beginning to snore softly.

The next day was Christmas Eve, and the family just lazed around, played board games and shuffleboard on the terrace, and swam.  Mrs. Broman looked up the parishes in Miami Beach and Miami in the phone book, and they all decided to go to midnight mass in Miami Beach that evening.  The church was packed, but the service was well done and satisfying.  The choir was excellent, and the priest could actually had a good singing voice for his part of the mass.

They arrived back at the condo, and opening their presents seemed to be the thing to do.  Mrs. Broman fixed drinks for the adults and gave the kids soft drinks.

Matt had bought Mike a Palm Pilot, something Mike had been admiring in the electronics store windows for awhile.  Mike gave Matt a necklace with the same medium heavy gold links as the I.D. bracelet he had given him last year.  They were each very pleased.  There were oh's and ah's around the living room as everyone opened their gifts.  Mr. Broman told Jeff that when they got home, they would go look at vehicles so they could place an order for a car or truck for Jeff's high school graduation present.  Jeff was ecstatic.

                                                                                *  *  *

The remainder of their vacation was pleasant and relaxing, and Matt and Mike were sorry to see it end.  The adults decided to stay a few days longer in Miami Beach after the kids had to leave.  Mike suggested that Uncle Jack's plane take the four kids home, and that Jeff could then drive Matt and him back to school rather than having the plane make an extra trip.  So it was agreed.

Once back at school, the boys settled into their familiar routine.  Mike's leg was almost back to normal from the hematoma, and he was again swimming full out.  Matt worked especially hard getting in shape for his Pan-Am wrestling appearance, and before he knew it, he was on his way to Mexico City for five days.  He loved the city and the people, but the air quality was terrible, and he could feel the effects in his lungs.

Matt won all his matches, and due to a last minute forfeit by his final opponent, he caught an early flight home, arriving back at the University City airport at dusk.  He tried to call Mike, but got no answer, so he took a cab back to their apartment.  It was dark by the time the cab dropped him in front of their landlady's house, and he began carrying his bag up the driveway to the coach house.  Mike's truck was sitting out, and Matt could see the outline of Mike's head in the back window.  He's probably listening to some tunes before going upstairs, Matt thought to himself.

He snuck up to the left hand door of the truck, and yanked it open.  The dome light came on.

Mike was sitting there with his fly open, Mark Epps' head in his lap, getting a blow job.

Mike looked into Matt's eyes, his face a mask of surprise and regret, before Matt slammed the door and ran up the stairs to their apartment.  Matt heard both doors of the truck slam shut as he went inside.

He dropped his bag and sat down on the couch in a state of shock.  Mike came in and sat on the couch beside him.


"Why didn't you just take a gun and kill me instead?" Matt asked, not looking at Mike.

"Matt, I'm sorry."

"How long has this been going on?"

"There hasn't been anything going on.  I didn't even know that Mark was gay until tonight.  He wanted to do it, and I was weak.  Please don't hate me," Mike pleaded.

Mike put his arm over Matt's shoulders.

"Don't, Mike."  Matt shrugged off Mike's arm.  He picked up his bag, took it into the spare bedroom, and shut the door.  Feeling terrible, he lay down on the bed in the fetal position, and eventually drifted into a troubled sleep, not waking until the next morning.

The next week was living hell.  Matt moved all his personal things into the second bedroom, and refused to speak to Mike or spend any time around him unless absolutely necessary.  The shock of losing a soul mate took its toll on both of them--neither was eating or sleeping properly.

After a week, Mike told Matt that he knew Matt couldn't forgive him, and that it would be better if Mike moved back into the jock dorm for the remainder of the year.  He said he would leave the truck for Matt, since the apartment was farther away from campus than the dorms.  He also said he would continue to pay half the apartment rent through the end of the year.  Matt didn't say anything, and the following Saturday, Mike moved out.

The apartment was like a tomb to Matt.  He was numb and depressed.  He was so low he didn't even jack-off despite the lack of sexual outlet.  He found one of Mike's flannel shirts in the laundry hamper, and began to sleep with it just for Mike's scent.  His life consisted of classes, wrestling and back to the apartment.  He cared about nothing, and was dead inside.

He saw Mike across campus a couple of times, and they nodded, but never approached each other.

Three weeks later, Matt got a call from Bob Dalton, a teammate of Mike's, and Mike's new roommate.

"I thought you'd want to know that Mike is in the hospital, Matt."

"What happened?" Matt asked, his stomach suddenly in knots.

"They think he has meningitis.  They took him in last night."

"Where would he get that?"

"It's all over the news.  There's quite a little epidemic here on campus.  For some reason, he hasn't been sleeping very well.  And of course, he's been working as well as swimming.  That's a heavy schedule.  I think his resistance was low."

"Working?  What for?"

"He said he needed the money to pay for the dorm room and for his half of the apartment rent.  He's been busing tables at Houlihan's."

Matt groaned.  "Do you know how he's doing?"

"Well, I'd get over to the hospital.  When I was there this afternoon, they said it didn't look good.  They gave me some shots, by the way, so they may want you to get them, too."

Matt thanked Bob, and hung up, awash in guilt.  Moving fast, he grabbed his cap and jacket, and ran down to the truck.  He was at the hospital in five minutes.

He went to the front desk, and asked where Mike's room was.  He was told he was in the ICU, and couldn't have visitors.

Matt went to the ICU, identified himself, and asked to speak with Mike's doctor, who came out to see him immediately.

"Mr. Broman, I'm Dr. Saxton.  I'm taking care of Mike."

"Thank you for seeing me so quickly.  Can you fill me in on what's going on?"

"Yes.  Mike has Pneumococcal Meningitis, one of the most serious varieties.  It's bacterial in origin, and occurs from an infection of the spinal fluid and the fluid surrounding the brain.  We confirmed the diagnosis with a spinal tap.  We got him in here later than we like--the earlier the antibiotics are administered, the better the results are in combating this disease.  Mike is in and out of a coma, and I have to tell you that the prognosis is not good at this point.  He's not fighting back to the degree I would expect from someone of his age and physical condition, and I'm very concerned.  I think you should notify your family right away."

"I'll call them.  Can I see him?"

"Well. . .we don't ordinarily allow that in cases like this.  He probably won't know you."

"I need to see him, Doctor, especially if he's in as much danger as you say.  I can help him fight this, I think, if I can see him for a few minutes."

The doctor regarded him thoughtfully.

"OK, you call your family, and come back here to the nurses' station for a gown and mask.  I'll give you some time with him.  I'm going to give you some preventive shots, too, just in case."

"You don't know how I appreciate this," Matt said.  "I'll call the family, and be right back."

Matt called home, and Mr. Broman said they would be on their way within the hour with Jeff and Martha.  Matt said they should stay at his apartment, and his dad said they would after they came to the hospital.

Matt went back to the nurses' station.  The nurse took him into a room adjoining the nurse's station, and gave him two shots.  Then she gave him a cap, gown and mask, and helped him to put them on.  Matt asked for gloves as well, saying that he wanted to touch his brother.  The nurse complied, and led him into quarantine in the ICU.

Mike was lying in bed, eyes closed, and looking as white as his sheets despite his Florida tan.  He was hooked up to two IV's, the contents dripping down into either arm.

"Mike, it's Matt, can you hear me?" Matt whispered through his mask.

Mike slowly opened his eyes, gave Matt a half-smile and shut his eyes.

"Mike, please listen to me.  I miss the hell out of you.  I want you to come back to the apartment when you get out of here.  We started this trip together, and I'm not gonna make it without you."

No response.

"I forgive you, Mike, for what happened, and I hope you can forgive me for taking so long to tell you.  I've been a prick, and I'm sorry.  We're human beings, we make mistakes.  I love you, Mike.  Please fight this thing and come home."

Again, no response.

Matt caressed Mike's forehead, and sat down in a chair next to the bed and held his hand.

He began to pray.

Send your comments to Don Hanratty  Hope you liked this part, despite the possible loss of one of our protagonists.  Part 7 is germinating.  Thank you for your many e-mails of support. Parts 1-6 of WORKING IT OUT © Don Hanratty.