His eyes locked to the pilot's, Mike kept his hand over John Davis' hand on the helicopter's collective.  Mike pushed it down yet again as a reminder he meant business, and the big bird bobbed in the air.

"John, I'm not fucking around here.  You get down there and pick Matt up, or I swear to God, you won't like what happens."

"Mike, I told you, I can't land down there!"

"You get down there and hover, then!  You don't have to land!  I can at least get Matt on the skid."

Cursing under his breath, Davis knocked Mike's hand away and pushed the collective down to descend, turning on the landing light in the nose and training it on the man running with the gun as he did so.  The light was so bright, even in daylight, that the man was somewhat blinded and stopped running after Matt.

Other men, squeezing out from under the skylight and on to the roof, saw the approaching helicopter and quickly went back the way they had come.  The man with the gun immediately followed them inside the building, leaving the roof to Matt and his rescuers.

As the copter hovered a foot or so above the surface of the factory roof, Mike opened his door and stepped out on to the skid.  Matt limped over and Mike hauled him up on the skid and into the passenger compartment, remaining outside on the skid himself and hanging on to the door frame.  The machine began to lift rapidly.

Mike stuck his head in the door.  "John, can you radio the airport and have them send the police over here?  Tell them we have Matt Broman and that the kidnappers are still here."  He squeezed Matt's neck.  "Matt, are you OK?"

"That guy shot me in the leg, Mike.  I think it's just grazed, though."

"You don't know how glad I am to see you, bro!" Mike said.

Mike heard John on the radio to the airport controller.

When John finished, Mike asked him to head for the hospital landing pad so that Matt could be looked at, and suggested that the airport controller also let Detective Stans know that Matt was on the way to the emergency room.

From their vantage point in the helicopter high above, they could see squad cars all over the city turning on their Mars lights and heading for the abandoned broom factory.  There were soon about 20 police cars gathered there, and none of the kidnappers had escaped from the building that they could see.

The helicopter arrived at University Hospital's landing pad within several minutes, and ER personnel with a gurney met them on the pad as they landed and powered down.  Mike and John assisted Matt in climbing down from the cockpit, and he lay down on the gurney.

"This gurney is like an old friend, I'm sorry to say," Matt quipped.

"I know," Mike said.  "I'll be right behind you, Matt."

Mike turned to John Davis, who was standing beside the helicopter, ready to go.

"I'm sorry I was so hard-nosed about picking up Matt, John," Mike said.  "But I honestly believe they would have killed him rather than let him identify them."

"Kid, I would have done the same for my brother.  All's well that ends well.  No hard feelings.  You got guts!" Davis said.

"Thanks, you too, not that you had anything to prove!  Now, how much do I owe you?"

Davis looked at his watch.  "Well, it's a little over two hours, but let's call it an even $500, and we're square."

"Fair enough."  Mike counted out five $100 bills and gave them to Davis.  They shook hands, and Davis climbed back into the copter, fired up the motor and took off as Mike gave him a wave.

Mike headed for the emergency room on a dead run, and encountered Detective Stans just going in.  Stans took his badge out of his pocket and handed it to Mike.

"Here, buddy, you should probably be wearing this!"

"I don't think so.  I just got lucky, that's all!" Mike said, handing it back.

"Sometimes we make our own luck.  Is Matt hurt bad?"

"No, just a bullet graze on the right leg, I think."

"Well, while they're working on him, why don't we sit down and let me get a report started?"

" 'K," Mike said, and they headed for some free chairs to talk.

Mike filled Stans in on all the details, and within an hour, Matt was wheeled out of a treatment room and was ready to go.  Mike went to him, and hugged him and kissed him, spectators be damned.

Since Mike had no transportation, Stans offered them a ride back to the apartment.  An orderly wheeled Matt out to the unmarked police car, Mike helped him into the back seat, and then climbed in front with Stans.

"Matt, Mike saved your bacon, in all probability," Stans said.  "The department should have been as on top of things as he was.  You can be proud of him."

"Well, it's not the first time he's come through for me!  And I'm always proud of him!" Matt responded.

"Do you feel up to answering some questions when we get you home?  I've already started a report with the information Mike gave me."

"You bet!  I want you to catch these guys, and I know who you should start with!" Matt said, thinking about the Weasel.

They arrived back at the apartment and saw a rental car in the driveway.  They got out of Stans' car, and went upstairs.  The policemen who had been assigned to the phones had admitted Mr. and Mrs. Broman to the apartment, and the surprised and happy parents were all over Matt as soon as he came in the door.

"You ought to be hugging and kissing Mike!" Matt said.  "I didn't do anything but get kidnapped.  It took Mike to get me out of it!"

Mike shrugged, but his mom and dad enfolded him, too.  Then the elder Bromans sat down on the couch and cried with relief, both of them.  The boys pushed them apart and sat down between them with their arms around them.

The remaining policemen uninstalled the extra phone line and the tracing equipment, and were soon on their way.

By then it was supper time, so Mike borrowed the rental car and went to Houlihan's for some good take out, including a meal for Detective Stans so he could talk to Matt for his report.  They all ate around the kitchen table, and then Mike brought the Bromans' luggage upstairs, and got them set up in the spare bedroom.  Their mom and dad wanted to leave the next morning, and they phoned the airline to arrange for their flight home at 9 a.m.

Detective Stans left about 8 p.m. after completing his report and talking to the police station.  He was informed that 5 kidnappers had been captured by the police at the broom factory.  All were in custody, in fact, except Neil Anderson.  Stans put out an all points bulletin on him, and also ordered a squad car to be stationed at the boys' apartment all night and every night until he was caught.

Matt was thrilled to be home.  He was also jubilant knowing that he wouldn't have to face the Weasel twice a week in pre-law anymore.

By 10 p.m., everyone was in bed.

Matt and Mike lay on their sides in their bed, looking into one another's face.

"I couldn't have gotten through this without you, Mike," Matt said.  "I don't mean your part in the rescue, I mean just being a prisoner of those people.  I had a hood over my head most of the time, but every minute I was tied to that chair I could see your face in my mind as clearly as I see it right now.  That's what kept my spirits up.  That's what gave me the courage to try to get away."

Mike put out his hand and rubbed Matt's crew cut.  "I've been thinking about you and praying non-stop since they grabbed you.  I was scared for you, but I knew in my heart God wouldn't take you away from me."  Silence.  "You mean more to me than my own life, Matt," he whispered.  "I don't have the words I need right now to tell you how much I love you."

"You don't need to tell me, Mikey.  I know."

They just held each other.  Matt was exhausted.  His eyelids soon drooped, and he fell asleep almost immediately.  Mike lay wide awake for several hours looking at Matt's face and savoring their love before he eased out of bed, put on a robe, and went into the kitchen.  He warmed some milk, and sat down at the kitchen table with a pad of paper and a pencil, and began to write, making new starts and many corrections as he went.


"We met in the early morning of our lives,
And the sparkle in your eye penetrated deep
Into my soul, as yet almost unknown to me,
While my own eye caressed the muscular curves and hard planes of your body.

"Still a child, I could not have known what lay beneath
Your perfect configuration:
A soul and spirit so quietly luminous that the power of them
Went unnoticed, until without warning, I was captured, enraptured by their beauty.

"That rapture, that joy I now encounter every day,
Converts my nervous and wandering inner self,
Capable only of sporadic glimpses of certitude,
Into a student who eagerly learns all that you can teach me from your very nature.

"There is nobility in that nature, without doubt,
Because lessons of love, lessons of forgiveness
Are hard to come by
Without the vessel of flesh that bears them to me, never counting the cost.

"And so, from that first tiny spark of love and lust for you
Has grown a great conflagration
Which consumes my dross, and can never be quenched."       ©2000 Don Hanratty

Finishing at last, Mike laid down his pencil.  For the first time since Matt had been kidnapped, he let go of the tight hold he had on his emotions, and put his head down and cried.

Soon he stood up.  Still not completely satisfied with what he had written, he folded up the poem into a small square and tucked it into the pocket of his robe.

Making his way back to bed beside Matt was sweet culmination, indeed, to a very troubling few days.

*  *  *

Life at school settled down again into its familiar routine.  Mr. Broman was calling all too frequently, however, and making noises about "security."  The boys tried to assure him and Mrs. Broman that their teammates were re-energized and watching out for them, sometimes even staying overnight at the apartment in the spare bedroom and on the couch, but parental worry was very much in play.  Matt finally took the heat off to some degree by making it clear, very firmly, that they were going to tough it out with the current arrangements until the school year ended, and revisit the issue before school started again next fall.  The calls from home moderated, but didn't stop altogether.

The bullet graze on Matt's leg really had been superficial, and there was nothing but a red mark on his leg within two weeks.

Neil Anderson had been picked up by the Georgia state police when his car ran out of gas on one of their expressways around Atlanta, and his name had turned up on their "wanted" list.  He was in the process of being extradited from Georgia.  The other five kidnappers already in custody were trying to outdo one another as to how fast they could confess to their part in the kidnapping, each trying to cut a deal with the prosecutors for lesser charges.

One morning after Mike had already gone to class, Matt was having breakfast at the kitchen table in his robe and spilled coffee all over himself.  Not yet finished eating, he put his own robe in the clothes hamper and borrowed Mike's.  When by chance he put his hand into the pocket, he found a small square of paper and unfolded it.

The poem that Mike had written about him two weeks before jumped off the page, and took his breath away.  He sat there stunned at the power of Mike's words, and amazed that they could have been used to describe him.  He began to realize more fully than he ever had before that the relationship of love between Mike and him went far beyond what most human beings are privileged to experience in their lives.

On impulse, Matt showered right away rather than waiting until the last minute before class, and leaving the apartment, stopped by the chapel at Canterbury.  He sat there in that silent space, deserted except for the Presence reserved in the tabernacle behind the altar, and communed without words as he watched the flickering Sanctus light.  He sat there too long, and was late to class.

Arriving home that night from one of the last wrestling practices for the year, he found Mike sitting on the couch, reading.

" 'Sup?" Mike asked.

Saying nothing, Matt put his books down and went over to sit beside him.  He silently took Mike's hand.

"Don't be mad," Matt finally said.  "But I borrowed your robe this morning and found the poem you wrote in the pocket.  Awesome, Mike.  I don't know what to say to you.  I'm really jazzed, it's so beautiful!"

Mike looked embarrassed.  "It still needs some work.  But it's my crude way of saying what I feel," he said.

"There's nothing crude about it!  It's perfect, and I love it so much.  Please don't change a word!"

"Well. . ."

"Well, nothing!" Matt said.  "I'm not giving it back, anyway, dufus!  It has my name on it, remember?  I'm going to print it out on my computer, and have it and the original framed, and hang them in our room."

Mike just nodded, pleased.

"Listen, we need to talk a little more about our summer trip after we study, 'K?  I had a few ideas today I was thinking about," Matt said.

" 'K, sounds good.  Hey, whaddaya want to do for supper tonight?  I'll treat at Houlihan's if ya wanna go over there."

"You got a deal, bud.  Just let me change my shirt, and we'll go early and beat the supper crowd."

"Yeah," Mike said as they stood up and gave each other a hug.

They drove over to Houlihan's and stuffed themselves, and came back and studied for several hours.  Then they got soft drinks out of the fridge, and sat down cross legged and facing each other on the couch to talk.

"I stopped by Canterbury today for a few minutes before I went to class," Matt started out.  "We've been so busy, I didn't feel I'd said a proper thank-you for getting out of my latest mess.  I got to thinking about us.  I want to ask you, first of all, how you feel about 'us' at this point.  We've been through an awful lot of shit in a short time."

Mike regarded him solemnly.  "Matt, I've never felt better about myself or about us as a couple.  I am so full of love for you and for the whole world right now, even knowing that there are assholes out there who try to hurt us sometimes, that I think I'm gonna burst.  Like this minute!  Rose-colored glasses all the way, as stupid as that sounds!  And it all starts with you, I hope you know that!"

"I feel exactly the same way about you!" Matt said.  "I don't think most people feel this way about the people they're closest to.  Mom and Dad certainly do.  But there aren't too many examples of what we have together.  We're generating a lot of  love in this relationship, and I'm not only talking about sex.  There's so much love, it's overflowing.  We hardly know what to do with it all.  It's energizing!  Anyway, I got to thinking about our trip this summer.  This may sound strange 'cuz I don't know exactly how to say it, but I've been wondering if we shouldn't put our love to some good use rather than just kickin' back, traveling."

"What do you have in mind?" Mike asked with a sly grin.  "Becoming subjects at the Kinsey Institute?"

"No, you spaz!  I was thinking that maybe we could volunteer in a hospice or something like that for at least part of the summer.  Maybe we don't have what it takes to do that kind of work, I don't know.  It's tough duty.  But I keep thinking, 'Give something back, give something back!'"

Mike sat there quietly, thinking, his chin cupped in his hand.

"It's just a thought, Mike, we don't need to make a decision now," Matt said.  "I'll go along with anything you decide.  I don't want to disappoint you--we do have some awesome travel plans!"

"Awesome travel plans?  No, you're awesome, bro!" Mike responded.  "Everything you've said is right on!  Payback at a hospice sounds excellent to me.  I wish I'd thought of it.  That's what really pisses me off.  You're so damn good hearted!  Sometimes I'd like to get you down and beat some of that goodness out of you so you'd be more of a selfish prick like the rest of us.  I'm j-u-s-t kidding, you know that.  Really, hospice is a great idea.  Doing this together will be the best gift we ever gave each other, let alone what we do for anybody else."

"Well, give it some more thought.  I'm serious about doing whatever you want.  Part of me is hoping you'll say we're just gonna travel.  You know, the selfish prick part." Matt said, smiling.

"Two months volunteering, one month traveling," Mike said.  "How does that sound?"

"Done, dude!"  They bumped fists.  Then Matt pushed Mike back on the couch and climbed on top of him, grinding his pelvis into Mike's.  They were hard almost instantly.  They both jumped up and ran for the bedroom.

"Last one undressed is a love-slave," Matt said, stripping off his 501's and jockeys in one motion.  He kicked off his Nikes and socks, and his T floated to the floor as he jumped into bed ahead of Mike, who still had his T-shirt and boxers on.

"You cheated!" Mike simulated a whine.

"I'm going to be a very benevolent Master," Matt said.  "Now get those boxers and that shirt off, and get your cute little butt over here, Boy!  Hehehe!"

Mike did as he was told, and lay down on top of Matt.  Matt cupped Mike's ass and squeezed his cheeks with his big hands. "Your butt is one in a million," he said.

They kissed at length, tongues dueling, exploring.  Finally breaking their kiss, Matt propped his head up on his folded pillow.

"Mike, I'm feeling really oral tonight.  Hehehe.  Sit on my chest.  I want you to feed me your beautiful dick an inch at a time."

Mike straddled his partner, his 8 inch cock standing straight up, almost against his abdomen.  He reached down and put the head of his dick in Matt's mouth, and leaned more toward Matt, resting on his hands and arms.  Matt began to run his tongue around the corona, and inserting his tongue repeatedly in the slit.  Mike made approving sounds, and Matt tasted a sweet drop of pre-cum.

Matt cupped Mike's balls in one hand, and with the other, reached around, parted his cheeks, and began to caress Mike's rosebud with a moistened middle finger.  Soon Matt put his finger up Mike's ass to the first knuckle.  Mike began to groan with pleasure as Matt continued to circle the end of his dick with his tongue.  Matt pulled Mike toward his face and took another inch or so of his penis into his mouth, at the same time sticking his finger as far he could up Mike's chute.  He began to massage Mike's prostate.  Mike began to thrust gently into Matt's mouth.  Their eyes locked as they really got into pleasuring one another.

Matt eventually took all of Mike's 8 inches as Mike thrust slowly in and out.  Matt squeezed Mike's dick with his mouth and throat every time he took him all in, and after about 10 minutes of escalating pleasure, Mike gasped and filled Matt's mouth with semen.  Matt counted at least 8 full shots of cum, which he swallowed as rapidly as he could.  Only a few drops ran down his chin.  Mike crumpled down on top of him with a deep sigh, spent and resting.  They kissed, and Mike tasted himself in Matt's mouth.

"Hmmmm," Mike mumbled.  "That was fantastic!  Now, how do you want me to get you off, bud?"

"Let's 69.  I want some more of your juice.  You've made me into a cum slut, you stud!  And do I love it!" Matt said.

They rearranged themselves on the bed, head to foot, and Mike gazed at Matt's already hard cock, engorged to its full 8½ inches.  Matt gasped as Mike suddenly swallowed the whole thing, right down to the pubes.

They began working each other up to a climax.  Mike could hear Matt groaning with pleasure as he sucked Mike's dick.  Mike teased Matt, repeatedly bringing him to the edge of ejaculation and then slacking off.  Mike was hard and horny again himself, and just as he blew, Matt flooded Mike's mouth with at least 10 shots of hot cum.  The boys lay dormant, still holding one another's cock in their mouths, tongue washing them gently and letting them drain completely.  Eventually they let go, and crawled up, face to face at the head of the bed, and kissed tenderly.  They held each other and napped for about 15 minutes.

Then they got up and showered together.

"Ya know, I still bone up every time I see your body.  After two years, you're still a total turn-on for me.  Along with everything else, you've probably got the most beautiful dick in the world," Mike said as he washed Matt's penis.  "I thought it looked perfect the first time I saw it-- I spied on you stripping for your shower the first night we roomed together.  You gave me wood, and I jacked off in a sock.  If there were a contest for the world's most beautiful dick, I'd enter yours!"

"You devious little perv!  I knew I liked your style the first time we met!" Matt said.  "But I feel the same way about your bod.  A swimmer's build like yours makes me hard--it's those long muscles, I guess.  That long muscle between your legs should be in the art books, and your butt is wet dream material."

They were aroused when they went back to bed, but too tired to do anything.  They fell asleep in seconds, pressed close to each another.

*  *  *

Beginning the next night, after they had studied, Matt and Mike began to search the internet for hospices where they might want to work during the coming summer.  They were surprised to learn on the web that most of the AIDS hospices had closed down due to low occupancy rates, thanks to the new anti-viral drugs.  The few terminal AIDS patients who were in need of hospice services were now housed in general hospices.

They focused their search mostly on the midwest, figuring that if they worked there, they would be exposed to a little different culture.  They would also be in the center of the country when it came time to choose their destination for their month of travel.  They finally settled on Mother of Mercy, a general hospice on Chicago's near-north side, run by the Sisters of Mercy.  They composed a letter introducing themselves to the Sister in charge, explaining their desire to volunteer without pay for two months, and some of their reasons for doing so.  Ten days later they received an enthusiastic acceptance of their offer from Sister Angeline Martin of the Sisters of Mercy.

The boys called their mom and dad to tell them that their plans for the summer had changed.  Mr. and Mrs. Broman seemed taken aback, but pleased.

"You know," their dad said on the phone, "just when your mom and I think we have you two guys all figured out, you surprise us.  We're proud of you!"

"We love you," Mike said.  "We wouldn't have done much without you two behind us!"

"What you and Matt have accomplished, you've done on your own, Mike," Mrs. Broman said.

"I don't know about that," Mike responded.  "Listen, we want to ask you something.  We'd like to continue to pay rent on our apartment here at school while we're gone for the summer, if that's OK.  We don't want to take any chances on losing it, particularly if Jeff is gonna live with us starting next fall.  Would that be all right?"

"Sure," Mr. Broman said.  "And I'll deposit travel money, and rent money for Chicago, in your accounts, too.  We've got you covered."

"Thanks, Dad," Matt said.  "We appreciate it.  Do you think there's any chance that you and Mom and Jeff and Martha could come down to Chicago for a few days once we get settled in?  It's gonna be a long summer if we don't see you."

"Well, we'll try to do that.  Jeff and Martha will be working, but I'm sure we could get them a few days off.  Your mom and I haven't been in Chicago in years, so it would be fun," Mr. Broman said.

They finished their conversation and hung up.  Matt grabbed Mike and swung him around the room exuberantly.

"YES!" Matt said.  "This is gonna be a great summer, even if I'm stuck with a skanky guy like you.  You are gonna wash your crotch and under your arms once the hot weather hits Chicago, aren't you?"

"What about my butt, pilgrim?  Can that stay raunchy?"

"You mean, 'Why change now?!'  Because you're moving more toward the medical profession.  You have to be clean and spiff to be a healer! And speaking of healers, that reminds me of a story."

"No-o-o-o!  I'm not fully recovered from the meningitis yet.  This could send me back into a coma!"

"Au contraire, mon ami!  This will promote good health, I promise!  The hero is your kind of healer!"  Matt held him so he couldn't get away.

"A homosexual was fearful of AIDS and fed up with his gay lifestyle,
so he went to a psychiatrist for treatment.  The psychiatrist said
his problems were so deep rooted, it would require extensive
analysis and many months of treatment before he would be cured.

"After almost two years of treatment, the psychiatrist said,
'You've made remarkable progress. As a matter of fact it's my
opinion that you are now ready to take your rightful place as
a functioning member of straight society.'

"'Oh, doctor,' cried the patient, 'your good news has made me
so happy I could kiss you!'

"'No, no,' said the psychiatrist, 'don't do that... in fact,
I really shouldn't be lying here on the couch with you.'"

"That's the worst joke you've ever told!" Mike wailed.  "You should be disbarred by the Bar Association before you're ever 'barred,' if you know what I mean!"

"Mikey, Mikey, Mikey, I'm just warming you up for our trip.  Hehehe!  There will be no escape once we're in the truck, you know!"

"I've had it!  The summer plans are off, as of now!" Mike said.  Using one of Matt's wrestling tricks, he kicked Matt unexpectedly behind his legs and powered him backwards to the living room floor, where he began to tickle him nonstop.  They dissolved into laughter and kissing.

Three days later, Mike was leaving a late class, and looked for the truck where he had parked it.  It was nowhere to be seen.  Mike called Matt on his cell phone to find out if he had come and taken it for some reason, but he hadn't.  Matt rode his motorcyle over, and they went up and down the rows of cars, looking.  No truck.  They called 911 and reported it, and a squad car pulled up about 10 minutes later.  The officers filled out their report, and put the information out on the radio.  They told the boys that the truck was most likely stolen for parts, and that they should probably not plan to get it back intact.  Matt and Mike rode home on the motorcyle feeling depressed.

The county sheriff's police did find the truck two days later--about 30 miles from campus at the bottom of a pond left over from some strip mining.  The engine and everything remotely usuable had been removed before the truck body was dumped.  Mike was sad at first because it was one of the last gifts he had received from his blood parents, but then brightened.

"Ya know, Matt, this might be a blessing in disguise."

"Whaddaya mean?"

"Well, both our bikes wouldn't fit in the Nissan.  If I get a new truck out of this, I'll get one with a long bed, and we can take both motorcyles to Chicago and wherever else we go," Mike said.

"You're right, dude!  Lemons to lemonade, yo!"

The insurance company was notified that the truck had been found "totaled," and within a week, they paid off.  Mike talked to Mr. Broman, who had received the check, and he told Mike to get some prices on a new truck.

Mike and Matt priced some long bed trucks, and finally decided on a new Chevy Silverado, 4WD, extended cab, dark metallic red, as the truck of choice.  When they called their dad to give him the price, he told Mike he was nuts for paying that much for a truck, but to go ahead if he wanted it.  They immediately added a cassette and CD player to Mike's order, and finalized the deal after the salesman confirmed all the details with Mr. Broman.  They made sure they ordered RV license plates so they wouldn't be restricted from traveling certain local roads.

The truck was delivered 2 weeks later, and it was so beautiful that Mike almost wanted to sleep in it the first night.  Their first purchase after they got it was a ramp for loading and unloading their bikes.  Then they dropped the truck off at a welding shop, and had nested metal rings installed in the truck bed so they could tie the bikes down for travel, and had grooves cut in the floor just inside the tailgate so the ramp would seat securely when in use.  March had come in like a lamb, so during that first weekend they had the truck, the boys washed and waxed their new toy and cleaned up their bikes as well.

They began studying maps of Chicago on the net, and pinpointed the location of the Mother of Mercy hospice.  They were torn between trying to find a place to live in Boystown, the heart of Chicago's gay community, or further north toward Evanston where Northwestern University was located.  They finally decided to look north for an apartment because of the easy access to the Lake Michigan beaches so they could run for exercise.

The boys contacted a realtor on the net, and after looking at the floor plans and costs he e-mailed to them, chose an apartment close to Howard and Sheridan Road, within a block of the lake.  They sent the realtor their security deposit and first and last month's rent, and could take occupancy anytime after June 1.

They were getting more and more excited about summer.  The night they closed on the Chicago apartment, after they made an attempt to study and were too pumped to remember anything they were reading, they showered, went to bed and made passionate love, exploring one another's body enthusiastically yet again.  They stretched their lovemaking out as long as they could, each captivated by the other.  Then they watched TV and just enjoyed each other's company.

"I can't get enough of you," Matt said after they turned out the light.  "I mean more than sex.  I mean the total package.  I love the way you look, the way you talk, the way you walk, the way you think.  I suppose this is a cliché, but you make me a whole person.  I'm not the same guy when we're not together.  Knowing I'm going to see you when classes are over makes me happy all day."

"Hey, quit stealing my lines, dude!  Without a doubt, I'm the luckiest guy in the world to be your partner.  I ask myself sometimes what I could possibly have done to be blessed with you in my life, and I don't have an answer to that.  I don't deserve you, but I'm happy as a pig in shit makin' you happy.  It's just that elemental."

"How come you didn't put the 'pig' part in the poem you wrote me?"

"I'll make sure it gets in the next one."

They snuggled together under the blanket and were soon asleep.

Now that Matt was finished wrestling for the year, he was starting to get antsy without the exercise.  He started making Mike go to the gym with him in the late afternoons and work out, just so they could burn up some energy.

"By the time I get finished with you, bro, you're gonna be so buff the swim team won't recognize you," Matt told him at the gym.  "Besides, I don't want Jeff terrorizing you when he comes to live with us.  It would be embarrassing for ya.  He's pretty buff already."

"Listen, dufus, Jeff and I may just team up and make you our slave," Mike responded.  "You're already my love slave, so that should cover all the bases."

"Dream on, my man, dream on!  You two wimps aren't used to hand to hand combat like I am.  You'll both be cowering and quivering by the time I'm done with ya!"

Mike looked around the gym to see if anyone was watching, and then gave Matt's butt a good pinch and ran off with Matt in hot pursuit.  It was no contest--Mike was too fast for him and got away.

They had both done well on their midterms, and knew they were down to the final stretch.  They intensified their studying so they didn't have to panic as they came down to the final weeks.  With the warm spring weather upon them, they also got the bikes out on weekends and rode the country roads around University City, feeling the exhilaration of wind and speed.  Life was so good.

When finals week did arrive they studied hard, but they didn't have to pull any all nighters.  They felt satisfied about how well they had done on their papers and on their exams, even with all the challenges they had faced during the semester.

They threw a party at their apartment after the last final, and most of the swim team and wrestling team were there stag or with their girlfriends.  There was plenty of beer, and some BYO hard stuff.  Matt and Mike adroitly rode herd on the festivities, though, so no one got out of hand.  They made sure that there were designated drivers for every vehicle.  By 4 a.m., all was quiet.  The apartment was in chaos, of course, with pizza boxes and aluminum cans and dirty dishes everywhere.  The bodies of those who elected not to try to get home occupied the second bedroom, the couch, and the floor here and there.  One body, snoring robustly, was even in bed with Matt and Mike for awhile, but whoever it was, was gone by the time they woke up the next morning.  A good time had obviously been had by all.

There were a half dozen guys and two girls still around when Matt and Mike got up.  Matt made coffee and cleaned the refrigerator out of eggs and bacon fixing breakfast for everybody.  Eventually their guests all left, and the boys gave the apartment a good cleaning before they started to pack for Chicago.

They decided they would pack and load the truck, piling their luggage in the back seat of the extended cab.  They drove their bikes up the new ramp and secured them.  Then they took an early afternoon nap.  By leaving early that night and staying in a motel, they would only have one fairly easy day of driving to Chicago left the following day.  They went and paid their landlady three months rent in advance for the summer, and at dusk, headed north to hit I-80 West.  They stopped at a motel about 10 p.m. after grabbing a snack.

The next day was one of those beautiful, early summer days that people dream about.  Blue skies, not a cloud to be seen, and about 75°.  The boys grabbed breakfast at a handy Mickey D's, and were on their way in high spirits, Matt at the wheel.

Matt glanced over at Mike out of the corner of his eye once they were back on the interstate.

"You know, Mikey, I don't want to raise a sore subject, but since you stopped swimming every day, I can't help notice you've put on a few pounds.  You're getting a gut, even though Lord knows I've tried to keep you motivated at the gym!"

Mike looked down at his perfectly flat stomach, and back over at Matt.

"I haven't gained an ounce, you dufus!" Mike said.  "But look how the fat rolls over your belt.  Keep it up, and you can wrestle Sumo class next year!  If you gain enough weight, you'll never see your penis again."

"Yeah, but I'll see yours!  And it'll be getting fatter, and fatter, and fatter. . ."

"Shoot!  You won't even be able to find a pair of 501's to fit ya.  And jockeys will be a thing of the past for you--it'll be boxers--big boxers the size of a barn--from now on," Mike said.  "I don't even want to think about it!  You'll be so big, you'll have to ride in the back of the truck!  People will think I'm being cruel to ya, but it'll just be the best way to cart your big lard butt around, that's all.  I'm glad we got the big bed truck!"

"You mentioned penises, and that reminds me of a story, Mikey!"

"No-o-o!  You promised you wouldn't do this!"

"I most certainly did not promise any such thing!  I would never deprive you of the pleasure of one of my stories!"

Mike subsided into incoherent grumbling.

"There is a sign in the drugstore window:  'CONDOMS, CUSTOM FIT.'

"So a man walks up to the counter and asks for a condom, like
the sign says. The man at the counter tells him to see Edna
in aisle 4.  So the man finds Edna.  Edna grabs the man by the
crotch, then gets on the PA system and says, 'Medium Condom.
Medium Condom.'  Well, the man is embarrassed, but goes to the
counter to get his condom.

"Later, a second man sees the sign in the window, and goes up
to the counter to get his condom.  The druggist tells him to
see Edna in aisle 4.  Same thing happens, Edna grabs his
crotch, gets on the PA and says, 'Large Condom, this man needs
a Large Condom.'  The man is pleased, at least, to be a 'large.'

"Next a teenager, a swimmer just your age, goes into the drugstore
to get a fitted condom, and is told to see Edna in aisle 4. Edna grabs his
crotch, gets on the PA and says, 'Clean-up in aisle 4, clean-up in aisle 4.'"

Mike suppressed a laugh.

"You know, they just keep getting worse!  But you know what I heard?" Mike asked.


"I heard that Edna's retiring, and you put in for her job.  You'd be perfect for it, considering your extensive experience at crotch-grabbing!  I can attest to that!"

"If I weren't driving, I'd make you suffer for saying that!" Matt said.

"I'm already suffering!  You're a sadist, and I'm telling Mom and Dad again!  They won't like it, either.  They still think you're perfect!"

Satisfied he'd gotten Mike all revved up, Matt smiled to himself and turned the radio way up to listen to some Jonny Lang before they resumed bickering again.

*  *  *

The rolling hills of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio gave way to the plains of west Ohio and Indiana, with farm crops just beginning to poke up out of the rich earth.  The boys traded off at the wheel every two hours, and stopped for a late lunch at an oasis on the Indiana toll road.  They filled up the truck with gasoline.

They hit the Indiana-Illinois state line at dusk, and daylight faded quickly.  The Dan Ryan expressway from the south suburbs was bumper to bumper all the way into Chicago's Loop.  They left the Ryan when they got downtown, and drove toward the lake so they could take Lake Shore Drive north to where they would be living.

They were traveling north on Lake Shore behind a Chicago police car, when the the second car ahead of them lurched suddenly, hit a retaining wall next to Lake Michigan, flipped over the wall, and plunged into the lake.

"HOLY SHIT!!" Matt shouted as the cop car turned on his emergency lights and stopped suddenly.  Mike, who was driving at that point, braked to a stop behind it and put on his flashers.

The boys got out of the truck and joined a rather corpulent police officer, who was standing on the road looking helplessly down at the water.  The submerged car's headlights were still on, and the vehicle looked to be in about 15 feet of water.

Matt and Mike looked at each other, and then sprinted back to the truck. They dumped their wallets, watches and shoes in the truck, grabbed a small, waterproof flashlight and a small hammer out of the glove compartment, and locked the vehicle.  They raced back to the cop, who was talking on his shoulder radio.

"Hey, you can't. . ." the cop said, as the boys climbed on the wall and jumped feet first into the black water.  The water was so cold that they almost went into shock, but they doggedly swam down and peered into the car with the aid of the flashlight.  They could see an African-American man and woman in the front, and two kids, about 8 and 10, in the back.  The water was up to steering wheel already, and rapidly filling the passenger compartment.

Mike tried to open the driver's side door, but it was jammed.  They went up for air.

"Smash the back window, Matt, and I'll pull the kids out first, OK?" Mike said.  "We gotta work fast!  You see if you can get the woman, and I'll come back for the guy."  He put the flashlight into his mouth to free his hands.

" 'K," Matt said.  They both grabbed a huge breath, and dived down again.

Matt smashed the back window of the car, and then swam around to the passenger side and broke that side of the windshield out.  He had to go up for breath.  Mike came up with one of the kids, and handed him to the policeman, who had trained the squad car's right spotlight into the water to provide more light.

The boys jumped in again, and Matt swam to the front of the vehicle and pulled the woman out through the windshield, battling back to the surface.  Mike soon emerged with the other child.  They handed them up to the bystanders.

They hyperventilated, and dived for the depths again, going for the driver.  The man was belted in, and they couldn't get his seat belt off.  Matt reached in his pants pocket for his knife, and sawed away at the seat belt until they could break it.  They hauled the man to the surface just as they ran out of breath.

By this time the paramedics had made it to the scene in the opposing lanes, and many hands reached down and hauled the three of them to safety.  Matt and Mike were going into hypothermia.

A police sergeant had arrived on the scene, and he insisted they go over to the ambulance and wrap up in blankets until the paramedics had time to look at them.  They were sitting on the back bumper of the ambulance when they were suddenly bathed in light and a female television reporter began asking them questions, and strobes began to flash.  Still shivering violently, they didn't talk much.  Another paramedic unit showed up, and they were taken over to it and were finally behind closed doors.  The medics checked them out, and pronounced them all right.

Suddenly the doors opened, and they were bathed in light again.  A handsome TV reporter was asking them questions yet again.  Matt and Mike identified themselves and answered his questions as best they could.  What could they say?  Yes, the water was cold and dark.  No, they didn't know the family that went over into the water.  Were they afraid when they jumped into the lake?  Hell, yes.  Did they live in Chicago or were they visiting?  Living here just for the summer.

An older policeman joined them.  He shut the doors again and and took their report.

The first paramedic unit left for a hospital with siren wailing and lights flashing.

"Are those folks gonna make it?" Mike asked the policeman.

"Looks like it.  They're all breathing and talking," the officer said as he filled out his forms.  "By the way, I'm Tony Angelo."  They shook hands.

"What made the car go over the wall?" Matt asked the cop when he was finished writing.

"We're won't be sure until we pull it out of the water," the cop said.  "I think a tire might have blown out."

"That's all it takes," Mike said.

"You did a good thing here!" the grizzled old cop said.  "You guys are special in my book, and there aren't too many names on that list!  Are you just passing through Chicago?"

"No, we're going to be here a couple of months, working," Matt said.

"Really?  Where?" the cop asked.

"We're volunteering at Mother of Mercy Hospice."

"I'm impressed!  Just when I'm at my most cynical," Angelo said, "you guys come along and prove how wrong I can be."

The boys just looked at each other, and didn't say anything.

"Where are you staying tonight?" Tony asked.

"Well, we were going to pick up the keys to our new apartment and stay there, but it's too late for that now," Mike said.

"I'll tell you what, when we wrap things up here, why don't you follow me back to the station and change clothes there.  Then we'll find a good motel for you, and drop you off.  You can leave your truck at the station--we have lights and a camera watching our lot.  If you park in the city with the bikes on your truck, I can practically guarantee you they'll be gone by morning."

"That's really nice of you, Tony," Matt said.  "We'll take you up on that."

Angelo went over to talk to his sergeant, and when he came back, he told them to follow him to the precinct.  He pulled out into traffic with his lights flashing, and Mike pulled in after him.  Ten minutes later they were at the station.  Matt and Mike each took a piece of luggage out of the back seat of the truck, and followed Angelo inside.  He took them to the locker room, where they gratefully toweled off and changed into dry clothes.

As good as his word, Angelo put them into the squad, and took them to a nearby motel, where they got a very nice room on the second floor.  They no sooner walked in the door of their room than Mike's cell phone rang.

"Mike, what's going on?" he heard his mother say.

"Mom!  Whaddaya mean?"

"We just saw you and Matt on national news," Mr. Broman said.  "Are you both all right?"

"Yes, we're fine!  A little tired, that's all!"

"Now I'm going to worry about you two all summer!" Mrs. Broman said.

"We're OK, Mom.  We were just in the right place at the right time, that's all.  Here's Matt."  Mike quickly handed the phone to his brother before he could protest.

Matt gave them a rundown of what had happened, and got them calmed down.  He promised they would call and give them their new telephone number as soon as they got moved into their apartment and had the phone hooked up.  When he finally hung up, he smiled wanly.

"Are we wearing a sign that says, 'Give us a challenge!'  I feel like a lightning rod.  Can anything else happen to us?"

"Well, yeah," Mike said.  "How about all-night sex?"

"Don't tempt me, you dildo.  I'll wear your young ass out!  First, though, a shower to get rid of that Lake Michigan smell."

"Yeppers!  May I join you?"

"I'd be disappointed if you didn't," Matt said, stripping off his clothes.  Mike followed suit, and they were soon holding each other gratefully under the hot spray.

When they went to bed, Matt kissed almost every inch of Mike's body, and then made love to him slowly and passionately until they both came.

They fell asleep so fast that they left the overhead light on.

*  *  *

They awakened late the next morning, and after eating breakfast at the motel restaurant, caught a cab back to the police precinct and picked up their truck.  They dropped off a short note at the front desk for Tony Angelo, thanking him for his thoughtfulness.

Mike bought a newspaper from the row of vending machines chained together in front of the police station, and nearly fell over.  There he and Matt were, huddled in blankets and sitting on the back step of the ambulance, in a huge picture on the front page.  Only later did they learn that their picture was in almost every major paper around the country.  Matt bought a paper, too, just for a souvenir.

They picked up their keys from the realtor, and the apartment was everything that they had hoped for--light, airy, near the lake.  There was a big living room, one bedroom, a nice kitchen with plenty of room for a table, and lots of closet space.  There was a dish washer and a big refigerator.  When they plugged in the refigerator, they heard a reassuring hum.

Their apartment was at the back of their building, so the heavy traffic from Sheridan Road could scarcely be heard, and it was bordered by an alley in the back.  Matt looked out the back window, and inexplicably grabbing Mike's phone, ran out the door.  Mystified, Mike went over and looked out the back window.  There was Matt, looking at a "For Rent" sign on a garage door right across the alley from their apartment, and dialing the phone.  After talking for a minute, Matt raised his arms indicating a touchdown, and ran back to the apartment.

"Got us a garage, bud!" Matt said to Mike with satisfaction as he walked back in.  "The owner said he'll pull up in the alley and honk his horn in a few minutes."

Fifteen minutes later they closed the deal for two months rent on the garage, which was large enough for the truck and both the bikes.  One bike would fit against the back wall, and one on the side.  It was a little snug, but their vehicles would be safe and out of the rain.

Next they went to a furniture rental place.  The price was steep, but for staying only two months, renting furniture was worth avoiding the trouble of buying it and then having to turn around and sell it.  In addition to the necessities, they got a 40" television and a fairly good stereo while they were at it.  Their selections were to be delivered that afternoon.

On the way "home," they stopped at a department store and bought a blanket, sheets and towels, and a few dishes and some silverware.  Two more stops, at a grocery store and at a hardware store for a second set of keys to the apartment and garage, and they were set.

The furniture came in mid-afternoon, and the crew moved it in quickly and were on their way.

"Good bed," Mike said, sitting down on it.  "I'm gonna have a lot of fun bouncing your cute little butt around when we initiate this mattress!"

"I admire your one-track mind," Matt said, as he threw a sheet over Mike and started to make up the bed.  Mike grabbed him and pulled him down on the bed with him.  He caressed Matt's face and hair, and looked into his eyes, saying nothing for a long time.

"I love being here with you," Mike whispered.

Matt put his fingers across Mike's lips, stilling him, and hugged him tightly.  They lay there quietly for ten minutes before they got up and finished making the bed.

"You up for a run on the beach before we eat?" Matt asked.  "I need some exercise."

"Uh huh."

They changed into jocks and running shorts, and headed out, feeling great.

Thank you for all of the e-mails of support you have sent me concerning WORKING IT OUT.  You've really stimulated me to stay creative and keep writing.  I will appreciate it if you will let me know whether you want to see this series continue.  E-mail me at  Thanks in advance.  ©2000 Don Hanratty