Catcher and Pitcher Part Three: Fall


Daniel Bradford

copyright 2009 all rights reserved


Unlike many or maybe even most students, I was more excited than annoyed that school was back in session: I'd psyched myself up to get straight A's so I could get into a good school and land at least a couple scholarships, oh, and yeah, keeping busy would hopefully distract me from thinking about Chuck...too much. There were no surprises in my class schedule, except that I now had gym in lieu of football practice. A few of my best buds were in my homeroom and I continually bumped into casual friends with whom I had lost contact over the summer. On several occasions I ran into former football teammates. After the first encounter, I had my answer down pat: I wished them well and said I was going to let some deserving J.V. player take over warming my spot on the bench. Whether they were disappointed or relieved, it was nice to know that they were at least thinking about me. Seemingly most of the teachers were easing into the new school year, as there wasn't an insurmountable pile of homework at the end of that first day, however my AP English Lit instructor had a reading list five pages long!

Day two was more or less a repeat of the previous one until lunch, when I noticed the pizza delivery stud. I was headed for a vacant space at a table when he entered my line of sight. He was sitting beside Rene, the school's star soccer goalie, whom I had always assumed to be a pussy-hound; he was beyond hot and definitely a chick magnet, but even to my inexperienced eye, there was something more between them than just sharing available space in the cafeteria. As soon as I saw him/them, I changed course but before I was out of range, I heard Rene mutter, "I'd do him in a heartbeat!" My face flushed although I took some small delight in hearing that Rene thought that I was "do-able". Still, I was more than a bit panicked as obviously pizza guy had put two and two together and had already shared the score with Rene. If the news spread beyond that, my parents would eventually get wind of it. Without eating a bite, I dumped my tray and spent the remainder of lunch period in the library.

I was starting to freak out big time. I knew Nick and Aaron would keep my secret, but those two in the cafeteria where an unknown entity. With my anxiety rising, I thought of Brent and decided to call him when I got home. (See, I had originally planned to leave my job without telling him, fearing things might get messy, but almost 18 years of parental inculcation forced me at least say goodbye. He was totally cool and even treated me to dinner Saturday evening; it wasn't particularly expensive or fancy, but it allowed me to see that he was a friend and not just a fuck buddy. At some point I admitted that I wasn't out to my family and we talked about that particular subject for quite some time. He generously answered my questions as best he could and offered some suggestions.)

Obviously, I'd be calling Nick too! If my parents were about to hear that I'm gay, I at least wanted them to hear it from me first. The idea of telling them scared me shitless; it would be a thousand times worse than telling Nick! I am so screwed, was all I could think as I sat, totally distracted in my remaining classes. I bombarded Nick with so many calls and emails that weekend that he was probably as exhausted as I was on Monday morning; my parents still didn't know.

The next week I pushed the limits of friendship with Nick and Brent with calls and emails while I rehearsed my speech at every spare moment. Without even planning it, Saturday turned out to be the perfect (?) opportunity. Katie was at a Scout event and Germ was spending the night at a friend's house. Since it was just the three of us, we ate at the kitchen table. Perhaps it was a bit warm for a fall evening, but my pits, the small of my back and even my balls were damp with nervous perspiration. Dinner was nothing out of the ordinary but I felt like my parents were looking at me, like they were waiting for me to make some sort of announcement. In reality it was probably just a lull in banal dinner conversation and my paranoia.

After several aborted attempts, I finally blurted out, "Mom, dad, I don't know how else to say this...don't be mad, but...I'm gay. I've known it for a while now, but didn't want you"

"Is that why you're not going out for football this year?" my dad asked with a rather accusing tone.

"No!" I replied as emphatically as possible. "Like I told you, I need to ace this semester to get into a good school and get a scholarship!"

After what seemed like an eternity, though it couldn't have been more than minutes, if that, my father quietly said, "I'm going out." He left the table with his dinner half eaten.

My mother eased her chair back. "Please excuse me," she said with unusual formality.

"Let me clear the table," I anxiously offered while picking up my plate and the bowl of vegetables."

"No...I'll handle it," she said a bit too abruptly. "You just...go..."

I was about to bolt for the front door, when I remembered that dad had just left through that same opening and feared I might run into him out there. Feeling almost sick, I went upstairs to my room. I paced for a brief period (the room wasn't all that big) before I called Nick. He immediately volunteered to come over, but I replied that that wasn't a good idea given the current situation; so we talked, for a long time. I cried a bit, but managed to maintain at least a semblance of normalcy. (Thank god my brother wasn't hanging out on the other side of the room!)

Suddenly I felt very tired. "Thanks, Nick; you're the best, but I gotta crash."

"You sure you're okay?" he asked sounding almost parental.

"Not really," I admitted. "But talking to you helped me big time. I owe you..."

"Shut the fuck up! You don't owe me shit...but call me, anytime....okay?" I nodded but there was nothing verbal from my end. "Say something or I'm coming over!" he demanded.

"Yeah...right...sorry," I replied and stopped myself from asking the rhetorical question of why my parents weren't as understanding as he was. Like he was manning the phone at a suicide hotline, Nick kept me on the phone with an extended good bye. Without undressing, I slumped onto my bed and attempted to sleep. Apparently I succeeded, but my red, puffy eyes and the absence of morning wood, confirmed that I hadn't slept well. I'd been awake for a while but didn't make a move until I heard the garage door announce that the family had left for church.

After a dash to the bathroom to piss, I grabbed the phone and called Nick; he seemed unusually chipper, but maybe it was simply due to the fact that I felt seriously hung-over. Immediately he invited me over to his house or alternatively, he would come to my house; both options sounded soooo nice, but I told him I needed to be home, alone, when the family returned. Nick seemed to understand and we talked for nearly an hour. To conclude our conversation, I interjected, "I gotta go, but why can't my dad be as cool as you?" I asked rhetorically, but there was only silence on the line. "Nick? You still there?" I asked momentarily panicked.

"Dave you're one of my best friends; I'll do whatever to make things work out for you. Okay? But if you won't let me come over, at least cut your folks some slack; if they're anything like mine, it'll all work out."

"Promise?" I asked, wishing rather than thinking.

"Sorry. No way I can do that, `cause it's different for everybody. In my case, I'd been dropping hints since fifth grade, so maybe I just wore them down." I could almost feel him smiling on his end, when a tiny chuckle escaped from his lips. I smiled in spite of myself and thought, he's gotta be the best friend ever. "But dude, seriously, if push comes to shove, you can stay with me. I'm serious, and that's a promise!"

"Thanks," I said in return. It was nice to know that at the very least, Nick was on still my side. "I better go; talk to you later."

"Call me whenever, it doesn't matter!" Nick insisted before we ended the call.

Jeremy arrived home in time for breakfast but even with he and Angie at the breakfast table, the mood was chilly and conversation terse; I felt badly that the two of them were being drawn into my personal drama, though both would have to be told before long. After stuffing his face, Germ attached himself to the computer and my sister excused herself, leaving me alone with the `rents. They seemingly rushed to apologize for last night's performance; I considered the possibility that they were responding to some message about loving the sinner that had been part of the morning's preaching. Obviously, they were confused and possibly afraid, but I latched onto whatever straws they were wiling to extend: hell, senior year was just getting underway and I didn't want to be shunned or homeless!

"Dave, I'm sorry about the way I behaved last night." My dad glanced at my mom and continued. "We talked about this until late last night and we prayed at church this morning, and we, I... I don't want to speak for your mother...moms and dads are very different people, though you'll probably never experience that." I think I saw daggers fly between my parents before he continued. "Sorry, I didn't mean... fuck! This is so complicated!"

I was as shocked as my mother; we'd never heard dad say `fuck', but it also caused me to think, perhaps for the first time what it meant to be a parent. "It's okay," was my feeble reply.

"Ceil, I can't...I'm just going to speak for myself; you understand?" She reached across the table and squeezed his hand with an unspoken affirmation. "Dave, like I said...I...we...we talked and prayed and I know..." He looked toward my mom, but I didn't see any response from her. He took a deep breath before he continued. "Dave, I know damn well what I'm supposed to say. I've never lied to you, and I don't want to start now...but you surprised the..." he paused to edit his comment as I debated whether or not to speak. "Please don't say anything, right now. I understand that what you shared with us last night was a big deal for you. I...I haven't quite...put it into perspective...but I'm sure everything will work out. Okay?"

I'd never seen my dad cry, but I was afraid he might; he looked upset and sad and worried and he blinked his eyes several times. At least he didn't look angry. "Yeah, sure," I replied.

"Deal?" he said as we feebly bumped fists before he left the room.

After a long period of quiet my mom eventually spoke up. "Everything he said is true; we still love you. We just need some time to adjust." She gave me a smile before pulling me into a hug. "So can we make good on last night's offer to help with the dishes?" I gave her a wan smile and breathed a sigh of relief. As we were finishing our task, Germ passed through, announcing that he was going to a friend's house.

From my room, I called Nick, again. He stopped short of saying, I told you so while somehow making me feel almost normal. "See ya tomorrow," he said in farewell.

"Can I see you before then?" I asked feeling a bit needy.

"Anytime, but Aaron and I are getting together around two."

"Oh..." I replied, reminded yet again that I wasn't the center of anyone's universe.

"Don't get all emo on me, Dave; I'll call you when I figure out what Aaron's up to, maybe you can join us." Again I felt rather than saw his smile. I smiled back.

"Cool," I answered; glad not to be shut out. "Maybe I'm being redundant, but you're the best!"

"I get it Dave; I think you're pretty special too. Talk soon."

"Yeah... sure."

"Oh, and Dave, in case you haven't noticed; I love you too. Bye."

Hanging up the phone, I realized I had a huge smile plastered on my face; muscles I'd hardly used in weeks were being called upon just because of Nick.

*     *     *     *     *

Not much time had passed before I was actually introduced to Sean, the pizza stud and by no one other than my best friend Nick! They had a class together and apparently Nick thought he was cool because he kept suggesting we meet, insisting that the guy was not just totally hot, but smart, funny and way cool. Prejudice led me to drag my feet. I couldn't believe Nick could like someone like that, until Nick threw down the gauntlet. "Dude, if you're going to go through all the bother of coming out, you might as well meet the hottest gay guy at school, right?" Suddenly his logic seemed unassailable.

"Sure, bring it on," I chuckled half heartedly, though I didn't dare chuckle when Sean and I were face to face. I'd been avoiding him at school and now I could see why he got me all stirred up that night at Brent's apartment, if it was possible he looked even hotter. (When Sean smiled, or maybe it was a leer, I marveled at his perfect teeth. I wondered if he spent junior high wearing braces, like I had. I was speechless.) I stared at his face, arms and chest, completely unaware that he was doing the same. Finally Nick jumped in to break the awkward silence, explaining my situation as a newbie and Sean's demeanor visibly changed.

"Oh, that's different," he said. I gently bit my lower lip. "So you and that guy aren't...?" I just shook my head. "And people at school?" Again I shook my head. "Your parents?" he asked timidly. I turned to Nick.

"They know, but they're still trying to figure it out, so it's not like Dave's home free or anything like that."

"No wonder you're skittish; heck I was outed in sixth grade!" He smiled, there was no doubt this one was sincere. "Welcome to the club, Dave." His body felt good against mine as he hugged me, until a hand grabbed my ass; I panicked and pulled away. I knew my face was flushed "Sorry, didn't mean freak you out or anything..."

"Better get used to it Dave," Nick said with a tiny smile. "Sean can't keep his hands to himself.

"What the fuck?" I snarled at them, though I was mostly feeling angry with myself for behaving like a baby.

"My bad, Dave but you're seriously hot!" My face was way red. I couldn't look at either of them, so I stared at the ground, wishing I'd never gotten myself into this situation.

"Sean definitely has a way with words; you should see him in our writing class, he has Ms. Symmons wrapped around his pinkie." I saw Nick's feet step closer; his voice was just above a whisper. "But at least this time it's not just bullshit, you're beyond hot." I raised my head, mouth open, eyes wide and face full red. (I couldn't believe Nick had said that, and if front of another person!) Nick was smiling at me, though his face was flushed a bit as well.

"How cute is that?" Sean asked as he gently pulled me back into a hug. I started to struggle until I felt his warm breath on my neck. "Dude. We... you and I... our kind need to stick together," he whispered into my ear. "I get where you're coming from and won't do anything to mess with that, despite the fact that you are seriously sexy." His tongue entered my ear and my cock definitely twitched. He pulled away slightly so I could see his face and that beautiful smile. "If I ever do anything you are uncomfortable with you gotta tell me. Deal?" I sort of nodded, while Sean actually licked his lips.

"Pretty persuasive, that one," Nick said referring to Sean but looking at me.

"Does that mean you're picking sides?" Sean asked.

"Not at all," Nick replied with the tiniest of smiles. "It's just that I have Dave's back and he's had mine since wa-a-a-ay before you ever showed up, so don't even think about pulling any shit with either of us."

Sean looked from me to Nick and back again; his fa¨ade of invincibility wavered momentarily before he replied, "Cool." He then initiated a three-way hug that made me feel loved and accepted like I used to feel at home, and a bit horny.

So I guess the joke was on me! I rushed to come out to my parents, fearing the pizza guy, who I now knew to be Sean, yet upon meeting him, he promised to keep my secret until I told him otherwise. Of course, Sean realized the power he had over me and continually teased me by grabbing my ass, making kissy faces or grabbing his own crotch, when only I could see. At first I was mortified and my face grew red, (which at least made my cock behave) but as time passed I decided that Sean was the perfect adjunct to my coming out. He'd only been at my school a few weeks and already he was in with the "it" crowd. I also noticed that he hassled cute straight guys too. He'd grab or slap a studly ass and make some remark like, "No wonder Trish (he always inserted the appropriate girl's name) can't keep her hands off you," or something similar. Guys blushed, stammered or gave him a stern stare, but none of them ever took Sean to task, let alone raised an angry fist. Sean's favorite trick with me was to sneak up behind me, usually at my locker and press his crotch into my ass, while whispering something inane, like the time of day or what class he was off to, all the while making sure that his mouth and warm breath were close to my neck and ear. True to his word he somehow managed to catch me without an audience, or at least not one that might actually notice, like during the crush between classes when kids wouldn't even notice the sexual nature of Sean's closeness.

Regardless, I felt compelled to finish what I begun, at least with my immediate family. Life at home had been awkward to say the least. When I let the `rents know that I wanted to let Jeremy and Angie in on my little secret dad balked; mom was at least willing to entertain the idea. It was waaaay too weird, but I agreed to let mom chaperone, while dad sat within earshot, in the den. Dad gave us our cue when he pushed back from the breakfast table one morning after church. Mom started clearing the table as Germ and Angie pushed back their chairs. "Jeremy, Angela; Dave has something he wants to tell you, so please sit down."

(Awkward, totally awkward; like really bad reality TV! Maybe I was a masochist to put myself in that position again!) I took a breath and quickly explained that I had already had this conversation with our parents and as part of the family, felt they should be included.

"That's cool," Angie said as she jumped up from her chair and prepared to leave. "Erin's brother is in college and he has a really cute boyfriend. Do you have a boyfriend, Dave?" I wasn't sure if I should be embarrassed by her question or pleased by her rational response; I assumed my mother held her breath so as to hear my reply, while Germ just glared at me. "Guess not yet," she said with another smile after I offered no reply. "Me either, but I gotta go."

Angie left me sitting there with Germ and I felt exactly the way I felt sitting with my parents. Germ got himself excused and left. I sat silently for a while before I followed Germ's lead. He had already changed his clothes by the time I got to our room. (We'd almost always been friends, as much as brothers can be and shared a room since Katie was born; I'd never felt uncomfortable with my brother, but now I was hesitant to undress in front of him.)

"So does this mean I should change in the bathroom from now on?" I looked to see if he was joking but his face said that he was totally serious. "And do I have to sleep on the couch when your boyfriend stays over?" His voice was sarcastic enough, but he made "boyfriend" sound like something foul and disgusting. This was far worse than talking with dad. I took a deep breath and tried to compose a response while he put his shoes on. I was still speaking when he mumbled, "Yeah, whatever, faggot."

I grabbed him by the front of his shirt, pulled him up off his bed and slammed him against the wall, the impact was much harder than I had intended. He had a surprised look on his face as I held him pinned to the wall. "Don't let me ever hear you say that word to anyone... ever... got it?"

"Dude, lighten up. You're hurting me."

"No! I won't lighten up, but you better grow up!" I slammed him against the wall again. "And you better listen up," I half-growled, getting in his face. "Calling me or anyone else a fag is like me calling your friend Ronnie a nigger." Germ's eyes got huge, which lead me to believe he got my point. "It's mean, unfair and just plain ignorant! So if I ever hear you say that word, I'm gonna beat the crap out of you. Got it?!?" He looked a bit frightened but nodded his head in response. As soon as I released him, he ran out of the room. My whole body was shaking, sort of the way my legs do when I've run extra laps. I considered the fact that Germ might tell my dad about what had just happened, which certainly wouldn't improve my situation, but dad didn't appear or call my name. I changed and went out for a long run. Needless to say, my brother and I avoided each other after that.

I was starting to regret the whole coming out saga. My family wasn't one of those super-tight, touchy-feely, always hugging, always sharing type of family, if there even is such a thing, but I felt shut out, especially when Jeremy and I were in our room together and at the dining table where there had always been plenty of idle chatter. My parents were polite but they certainly weren't the parents I had up until a few weeks ago. Angie seemed to be the only one able to take it in stride, though she was too young to be much of a confidant.

*     *     *     *     *

Compared with life at home, the situation at school was pretty sweet. I liked my classes and most of my teachers. As I told my dad I would, I was actually using the hours that would previously been spent with football practice to study, though I did run several days a week to stay in shape and to burn off some of my frustration. I also attended a few soccer games. Sean was an incredible player, so I suppose he had something other than a hot body to explain his insouciance. Rene also lived up to his reputation and I smiled when I saw one or the other pat an ass with a bit more affection than typical jock camaraderie. Aaron was an okay player but nowhere near their league.

Knowing four fellow seniors that were gay and who knew about me, made me a bit more comfortable with the idea of being out at school. In particular I watched how Nick and Sean interacted with students and teachers, and with their encouragement I decided to tell a few friends. Emily was my first confidant. We had met in junior high and sort of bonded over our mutual love of reading. We also liked to write, though she was by far the more accomplished writer. In eighth grade she let me read a couple of short stories, telling me that no one other than her older sister had ever read her private prose. I was surprised by the offer and impressed with her writing. Two years later, I asked her to be my date for my first high school homecoming dance. I wasn't really into it all that much but one of my buddies from J.V. football was elected to the homecoming court and wanted me to double date with him. (I guess I'm something of a people pleaser and along with Nick, Ryan was one of my best friends. Of course no one knew his dad would be transferred, forcing Ryan to leave before the school year ended.) Despite the fact that I wasn't much of a dancer and was pretty nervous about the whole dating thing, I wanted to make Ryan happy, so I kept an eye on Ryan and his girl friend, Missy, to get me through things. Emily wasn't the best dancer either, but she was fun to be around. I guess you could say we had a good time but Emily and I never did anything as a couple after that night. We still shared the occasional class, worked together in study groups, occasionally critiqued each other's work and are members of the senior class board this year.

"I'm glad you told me," she said with sigh and a smile after I'd stumbled through my confession. "I thought I'd done something terrible that night; you just sort of...disappeared."

"I'm sorry...I didn't mean were...'

"Don't apologize, Dave. I get it!" She was smiling in earnest. "I really enjoyed myself, maybe `cause you can't dance either, but you're really sweet, pretty cute and unlike most of the guys around this place, I can actually have a conversation with you!" A small giggle slipped from her lips as I stared at her smiling face, she really was a pretty girl. "It would have been nice if we could have done more of that, but now I can see why that might not work."

"Well now that you know my story, and if you're serious, we could try dating on a strictly platonic level. `Cause seriously, I'd like to read some of your new stuff." I said with a sheepish grin. "But aren't you all tight with Michael?" As soon as I'd spoken his name, my nervousness started to grow; as part of the baseball team, he was someone else I'd have to tell before spring arrived.

"Dave, you're probably the only guy in school that could use the word platonic in a sentence, and I'd love for us to get together! Michael will just have to deal with it. I mean I can just tell him you're gay, right?" I guess my face betrayed my emotions as she quickly added, "Or maybe not."

I let out a nervous chuckle. "No, yeah, ahh.... it would be fine. It's just that this is still new to me. Except for my family, you're the first straight person I've told. And I'm...sort of... thanks for being so cool about it." I surprised the both of us by hugging her.

She reciprocated the hug and said, "You're welcome, but please, no apologies." After that we talked for another 20 minutes or so and made a plan for our date. "So now that you're gay, can you dance any better? Emily asked as we were preparing to part.

"I don't know. Probably not. I guess I never thought about it. Why?" I replied totally ignorant of so many gay myths.

"Oh, it probably doesn't matter, but my cousin is looking for a date for homecoming and I know he would be totally into you. And he would so owe me big time, if I could hook the two of you up," she said with a slightly sinister smile.

"You have a gay cousin you're trying to hook me up with, when I just told you, like half an hour ago that I'm gay?" It seemed a little absurd but I had to chuckle. "So who is he?"

"Oh, you don't know him; he goes to school at Grant."

"Grant? That's who we're playing for our homecoming!"

"Yeah, and your point would be?" she snickered. "It's not like you're on the team this year."

Without realizing it, Emily had sucked me into her improbable scenario. "So how do you know he'd even like me?" I asked

She giggled. "Ryan and I have similar taste in guys..."

"Ryan?" I interrupted.

"Not football Ryan, from our homecoming! My cousin isn't into contact sports though he's an excellent tennis player; his team went to semi-finals last year. I think you'd like him; he's pretty cute, and smart, and cute." She smiled another wicked smile. "And his school is way more progressive than ours: if you're a student and you have ticket, you can go to the dance. I think they have some kind of dress code but other than that you're good to go. So think about it. Their homecoming is two weeks after ours, so you have time." Then, in a complete about face she said, "Dave, I'm so glad we've had this chance to talk; I'd forgotten how much I enjoy your company." She placed a quick peck on my cheek, said goodbye.

I didn't move for several minutes. Wow! Was all I could think as I tried to process all that had just gone down. I was also in a bit of a quandary; something about that people pleaser thing wasn't sure if I should/could just ignore Emily's impromptu suggestion. (I also thought about Ryan, who started this whole thing when he suggested the double date. Back then I hadn't yet realized/admitted to myself that I might be gay. I wonder what he looks like now? I bet he's definitely hot!)

Although I couldn't see it, I'm sure my face was a veritable kaleidoscope of emotions as I walked home. I didn't know anything about tennis other than my mother always manages to watch the important matches or at least TiVo them for later viewing, but remembering the stiff competition at last year's baseball playoffs, I was impressed that Emily's cousin had made it to the semi-finals. She repeated herself in claiming that he was cute as I half- imagined a shirtless guy in white shorts with a deep tan and toned chest and abs. Still, I wasn't ready to go to any homecoming with a guy, not even Chuck!

Germ had football practice after school, so I took advantage of his absence to call Nick and fill him in on my first foray into coming out at school. Nick is an attentive listener; he was encouraging and funny tooso he didn't miss the opportunity to tease me about coming out just so I could date girls! We shared a laugh over that one and I wondered for the umpteenth time why my parents and brother weren't more like Nick.

As we were wrapping up our conversation Nick interjected, "Let me know if you're not going to Grant's homecoming with Ryan, I might be interested."

"But what about Aaron?"

There was a pause before Nick said, "Aaron hates Grant; our soccer team always looses when they play against Grant. He'd never go."

"But I meant..." I stopped myself, thinking that we had misunderstood each other, though Nick's words suggested something that I hadn't even imagined. "Yeah, sure," I agreed. Not unlike my conversation with Emily just hours earlier, I was a bit tentative at the end of our conversation when I finally said, for the very first time, "I love you, Nick." There was a substantial pause before Nick replied.

"Right back at you, buddy. Knowing you the way I do, it means a lot to me to hear you say that." I was glad we weren't on some video cam as I sensed that Nick might be crying. "I've said it before, but it's still true; I love you too. Gotta go. See ya tomorrow, `k?"

"Sure thing."

I'd barely hung up the phone when my mom's voice called my name. WTF? I thought before I replied; I had planned to go downstairs and check the computer for email before Germ returned home. "Would you please come down to the kitchen?"

"In a bit," I yelled in reply; already dreading another encounter with mom. "Wassup?" I asked, trying to sound casual as I sat at the counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room. As usual she had the cook top, oven and microwave all operating in preparation for dinner; she wasn't the world's best cook but at least she put her heart into it.

"Oh, I just wanted to know how you're doing?" (That was certainly vague enough.) I just grunted. "I mean, you've been awfully quiet and I think I owe you an apology. Are you and Jeremy getting along okay?"

"Yeah, we're cool," I mumbled, not wanting to get into it.

"Good," she replied though she wasn't necessarily convinced. "It's just that you never have friends around at the house; I know Chuck's at college, but what about Nick? The two of you used to flit from one house to the other all the time. Does he know...?"

"Yeah, mom, he's the first person I told."

"And he's okay with it?"

I unsuccessfully tried to stifle a chuckle. "Yeah mom, he's been out for a while now. He even told me I could stay with him if you and dad decided to throw me out of the house."

She hurried around the counter and wrapped an arm around me. "Dave, that isn't going to happen. Now maybe if you decide to go on some shooting spree that would be different, but not for being who you are!" She paused as if in thought. "So are you and Nick...?"

My face got a little red before I replied. "No mom, he's got a boyfriend," I said. "Though I don't think it's the right one." Immediately I felt bad about betraying Nick. "It's just..."

"Just that you care," she said rather than questioned.

"Yeah," I answered without looking up.

"Dave, it's not at all the same thing, but I want to share something with you. Your grandfather despised me from day one. You've met your aunts, they're all fine women but your dad was the last child and only son your grandfather ever had. He thought the sun rose and set on your dad...well so did I after we'd been together for a while. He's not perfect but he's a pretty great guy, but your grandfather thought he should marry Miss America or something! I wasn't even worthy of consideration as far as he was concerned, and I wasn't sure I wanted to get in the middle of all that, so didn't say `yes' when your father first proposed." That was certainly news to me! I gave her an astonished look. "But I couldn't say `no' when he asked the second time, knowing I was more important to him than his father's opinion. We don't always agree, but I've never regretted saying yes. When you came along, your grandpa did a complete 360. You'd have thought I was Miss America!" She had a satisfied smile on her face as she paused. "He already had grandsons but you were his son's first. If we didn't send pictures every couple weeks he'd be on the phone or he'd get in the car and come visit. He was so pleased, so proud."

"Probably `cause he didn't know I was gay." I muttered. I wasn't trying to be mean, just taking my cues from dad's behavior. And honestly, it was a moot point since my grandpa had died almost seven years ago; still, my mom was speechless for several moments.

"I don't... think that's true... though, I can't speak for him." She took a breath and continued. "But as your mother I want to apologize for dropping the ball. Those parenting classes didn't get much beyond breast feeding, toilet training and chicken pox and you passed them with flying colors!"

"Gee, thanks mom," I mumbled.

"Sorry Dave, that probably wasn't the best analogy." Obviously she was getting flustered. "What I meant was that you've never disappointed me. I just want you to be happy, the way I am with your dad. I don't mean marriage and family necessarily, if that's what you... ah... I...and I honestly don't know how I feel about the whole gay marriage thing, but from what I've seen on the news it gets pretty nasty whenever it appears on a ballot somewhere. And... it seems completely arbitrary when this state or that city votes for or against gay rights and such; makes me realize that you have so many obstacles that I never had to think about. So...I... just get concerned, I worry about you... and your future. I... love you so much."

I looked up to see she was losing her fight against tears. I pulled her into a hug and was surprised by how small she felt. "Mom, don't worry; please don't cry. I'll be okay." I'm not sure how convincing I might have sounded since being `okay' was sort of a day-to- day situation at that moment. It hurt to see her cry, but it was encouraging to know that she was paying attention; she knew more about gay rights stuff than I did.  

The hissing from a pot boiling over on the stove interrupted our hug. "Shit!" she exclaimed, only to be embarrassed for cursing in front of me.

"It's okay. Let me help."

Dad walked in as I was putting food on the table; mom had gone off to summon Germ and Angie. He didn't say anything other than something about washing his hands and left the room. Bummer. But after talking with mom, I felt I should take Nick's advice and cut the man some slack. Dinner was particularly sober, as it was my mom who generally tried to rally at least some dinner table conversation and she was unusually quiet. It was Germ's night to help with the dishes, but I told him I'd cover for him. "Cool," he said and practically ran from the room. Katie excused herself and dad sort of hung around and made an effort to help with the dishes, something he almost never did. Like a mime troupe, the only sound was the occasional clanking of dishes, and with three of us it took almost no time at all. They both thanked me for helping with the dishes, which I took as permission to exit. I didn't hesitate, as it seemed that either they were gearing up for a fight, or possibly going to make up for one that had already transpired.

Entering the den, I expected to see my brother glued to the television or the computer, but the room was empty and half dark. I glanced out the window and saw Germ talking on his cell phone. I couldn't help but smile, like most of the girls and some guys at school; he was seemingly addicted to his phone. I grabbed the opportunity to email Nick and fill him in on this evening's drama, including my mom's postulation that we were a couple. He must have been on line as he responded almost immediately.

"Is that a proposition?" Thankfully I was alone as I burst out laughing.

"What do you think?" I typed, assuming he could interpolate my sarcasm.

"I know what I think and certain parts of my anatomy fully concur. We're just not sure what you think."

I laughed again, while my face grew red and my whole body felt warm. Nick could always get a laugh out of me. It was just one of the reasons why I like him, but he had just tossed my joke back at me and I was embarrassed. We'd been friends like forever, but I never thought of him as boyfriend material. Maybe he really did want to go homecoming with Ryan...or me! I couldn't think, so I shut him down.

"Shut the fuck up! I'll see you tomorrow, best friend." Immediately I logged off, before Nick could further embarrass me.

Germ was still yammering away on his phone as I left the den. I half-listened at the kitchen as I passed but heard nothing out of the ordinary, so continued to my room. I read for over two hours before getting ready for bed; Germ still hadn't made an appearance. It wasn't all that late but I felt exhausted, so I stripped down and crawled into bed. I must have fallen asleep instantly as I never heard my brother enter our room. When I awoke before the alarm sounded the next morning, my damp and clammy boxer briefs declared the obvious, and still my cock was rock hard. Germ was doing his half-snore thing, which was actually kind of cute, but it let me know it was safe to toss back the covers. I made a beeline for the bathroom and performed my morning ritual, including rubbing one off in the shower. Our totally annoying alarm clock was blaring, when I returned to the room. I added a clean shirt to the briefs and jeans I was already wearing before waking Germ; I didn't want to get his `death to perverts' stare!

At school, I didn't see Nick until after 3rd period. He looked different and definitely not in a good way. I panicked, thinking that I had given him the wrong signal in last night's email exchange. "Can I come over after school? I really need to talk to you!"

I was thinking up every possible excuse to keep him away from my house, and Germ in particular, when I remembered last night's conversation with my mom. "Sure! You call it and I'll be there." I knew the two of us could kick Jeremy out of the room if push came to shove. I hadn't even noticed how desperate Nick was until he sighed, hugged me quickly and said thanks while promising to call later to confirm a time.

Nick sat on my bed while I sat in the desk chair, at least until Nick spilled his guts in a dozen words or less: he and Aaron had split up. I joined him on the bed and wrapped an arm around him. I felt like an accomplice or traitor after what I had told my mother last might. It was true that I never felt Aaron and Nick were a good match but I didn't want either of them to be miserable, not the way Nick seemed to be. At least he didn't cry! I wasn't sure if I could deal with that. By every conceivable measure, I was probably the least qualified person to advise Nick, but I was happy to hold him if that could help, my debt to him was huge.

I eased him down onto the bed and cuddled him. There was an occasional sniffle, but neither of us spoke. Spooned as we were, I noticed his scent possibly for the first time. He wasn't a jock but he loved to cycle and often ran: he had the legs and ass to prove it.

He was smaller than me so his trim body fit perfectly and felt awesome pressed against mine. He actually fell asleep and probably would have remained asleep, until without even thinking, I kissed his cheek. His movement brought me back to reality. "Thanks Dave."

My mom was home by the time Nick left and she saw us walk to the door. When I passed the other way, she smiled. I guess I was being paranoid, as I felt compelled to say that Nick and his boyfriend had just broken up. She gave me another smile but said nothing; perhaps she was reminded of similar girlfriend dramas back in school. That seemed a bit weird to consider, but at least mom could sort of get it, even if we were guys.

*     *     *     *     *

Emily and I had our first date at the public library. (I never said it would be romantic!) Though in our defense, the library had created a lounge with upholstered seating, vending machines and a glass partition to encourage conversation: a nerd's coffee house, as it were. Freed from any romantic expectations I had a great time. We talked about some of the same stuff Nick and I discuss but it was different hearing a feminine perspective, or sometimes not!   At some point I let her know that I wasn't available to be her cousin's date and she just brushed it off with a polite smile and quiet acknowledgement.

"I didn't really expect you to, but I had to ask; Ryan is almost as sweet as you." I felt myself blush before she placed a quick kiss on my cheek. I probably went full red at that point as she just watched me and smiled. Then without missing a beat, we went back to discussing one of her short stories. Emily was pretty spot on with her critique of the paper I was in the process of writing. Her own work was better than some of our assigned reading and I told her so. She asked me for a quick tutorial on baseball, commenting that she wanted to be able to support Michael come spring. I was impressed that she would even bother and gladly obliged.

Neither Nick nor I went to the homecoming dance that year, though I did join Emily for the game, where Nick performed with the marching band. It was kind of weird being in the bleachers rather than on the field but it was a good game. And we would have won except some tenth-grader from Grant made a picture-perfect kick from 35 yards out. With just seconds on the clock, the ball sailed through the uprights: final score 36-35 with Grant on top.  

Of course Emily and Michael attended the dance and weeks later she told me that her cousin opted to go with a girl rather than stay home. (I guess he really does like to dance.) Sean had an anti-homecoming party though I hadn't been invited. "I would totally have invited you if I had decided to go, but I wasn't up for it," Nick said when he told me about the party after the fact. I guess I was sort of ambivalent, it could have been fun, but...

Our second date was a bit more traditional in that we actually met at a cafˇ and talked over lunch. It was a quiet afternoon, so we were able to linger while waiting for Michael to arrive; he and Emily were going to catch a matinee. He slid into the booth next to Emily and downed a soda while we talked. "So I guess Emily told you... ah, my story."

There was a tiny pause as the two of them turned to the other and smiled. "Dave, if you handle a bat and balls the way you did last year, I couldn't give a shit what you do when you're not doing homework!" Then he actually winked at me. I think I blushed a bit as they both smiled. (But I swear straight guys talk about cocks and balls more than gay guys! But hey, I was now out to one of my teammates and he was cool with it.)           

There was still time before dinner, so I went to the den to check my email. I saw or talked to most of my friends daily, so email wasn't a big deal for me. Today the only item in my inbox was a memo about senior board stuff that I already knew about. BFD! I occupied myself with some Internet research for a school project before it was time for the evening meal. I was learning to dread this portion of my day: I didn't appreciate being treated like a leper. Angie at least attempted to include me in dinner table conversation. Germ and I had an unspoken agreement that he would study in the dining room or den, leaving me alone in our bedroom until it was time to sleep.

Several days, maybe a week later, my routine was interrupted by an email from Chuck. I'd almost given up on him as he hadn't responded in well over a month, and even then it was just a sentence or two at most.

    Dude, sorry for being such a lame ass with the email thing. i really liked hearing from u about school stuff. u said u r not on the football team this year. r u gonna play baseball? the team really needs u, no way they'll be state champions without u i'm rooting 4 u. school's hectic but I like it way more than I thought I would. my 2 favorite classes are either the hardest or easiest class I'm taking. geology is hard but I totally dig it---bad pun ha! u know I love movies, so of course film studies is my other favorite class. It would be perfect except they always want to talk about everything and then you have to write shit, they totally ruin everything!!! but I met this girl monique in class, well actually she met me, I mean, she approached me. she likes movies like me but also gets the discussion crap and she's hot! she's a sophomore but she talks to me, we're sort of dating, though I can't quite believe she'd be interested in a freshman. my roomie is pretty cool too, he reminds me of you--always has his face in a book. he doesn't play sports but he knows baseball and he's a big Mets fan, go figure! but what really cracked me up was that he told me the very first day we met was that he wouldn't do my assignments—not even for money! he isn't shy about telling me to pick up my shit either but he's willing to pitch in for pizza if he was better looking, u could be brothers!   if we're still getting along come thanksgiving, i'm gonna to ask him to bunk with me next year. baseball won't gear up until spring, but we're required to work out in the gym and take an approved phys ed class, i'm taking swimming. dude, it is so embarrassing to squeeze my junk into a speedo and then just stand there until the instructor tells us what to do. i bet u would like it, a lot cuz I'm not the only one with a bulge and some of the guys have cute butts. oh, did I say that? heh, heh. I hope we stay friends i'm sending some pics. your friend, chuck

I reread his email before I downloaded the images. Of course I laughed when I did, as the first three were pictures of the university baseball stadium! Subsequent images were labeled to let me know they were his teammates; damn! Chuck was just one of the many hunky guys on the school's roster. There were plenty of regular guys but my eyes kept returning to a blonde guy who was always bare-chested and seemed to always have an arm wrapped around Chuck. The final image appeared to be a casual party outside the dorms, with Chuck standing side by side with Ray, the aforementioned roommate. Ray couldn't hold a candle to Chuck but chuckled to myself thinking that I wouldn't complain about having his as a dorm partner. Mom's voice announced dinner, so I closed my account, being extra careful not to delete Chuck's mail. Dinner wasn't much different that night except that I was buoyed by Chuck's email.

*     *     *     *     *

Nick must be everyone's friend as he received invitations to the several Halloween parties. I got one but Nick assured me it would be the party and insisted that we attend. I resisted for maybe 12 seconds. I'd been busting my ass over schoolwork, dodging my family at home and Nick was no longer part of Aaron and Nick; it seemed like the perfect excuse to party. I did sort of drag my feet at the costume part, although Nick said it wasn't required. But I found a really cool, long-sleeve, black t-shirt with skeleton bones printed on front, back and sleeves; I thought I'd add black jeans and call it good. But mom got wind of this and offered to paint my face, something she hadn't done sine I was a kid. And that was for a birthday party, not Halloween! I rolled my eyes, but she was trying, you got to give her credit for that, and so I agreed.

She tucked my hair and ears into the foot of on old pair of white panty hose and proceeded to cover every square inch of exposed skin on my face and neck with make up. "I had a roommate in college; she was in theater and taught me. We made some serious cash doing this!" She laughed, something I hadn't heard in awhile, before she reminded me to sit still as she erased my features behind a layer of black and white.

"That's so cool mom," Angela said as she sat mesmerized while mom did her thing.

"Whoa! Excellent mom." I called out when she held up a mirror. I reached out to hug her.

"Don't touch me!" she practically screamed and jumped back.

"Oh yeah," I said and started to laugh.

"Don't move, there's more." She grabbed something from the counter. "Here put these on." It was a pair of black cotton gloves with bones painted on them. I put them on to discover the fingers had been cut off after the first knuckle. "That's so you can eat...and drive the car."

"Mom, how'd you even think of that? You didn't have to do all this!"

"I know, but I want you to have a good time. Will you do that for me?"

"Sure, as long as you don't start crying. Angie, will you give mom a hug for me?"

She jumped up, hugged our mom, then hugged me too before she was sent off to fetch the camera.   After a series of pictures, I was on my way. Originally I planned to pick up Nick, but he said he wanted to surprise me so he'd get a ride to the party. The street was already crowded with cars when I arrived so I parked a block away so no one would accidentally dent mom's car. Costumed kids seemed to be arriving from every direction and I imagined that perhaps this is what Mardi Gras might look like. I silently thanked mom for the make up; otherwise I could have looked like a total dork, especially when I saw Marilyn Monroe greeting people at the door. Seriously, this woman was like a clone, in the same white dress, the one you always see; I think the movie was The Seven Year Itch, but I'm not sure `cause I've never seen it. Then I noticed her face was too old to be a student and how I ever missed the bouncy antennas sticking out of her blond hair I don't know, but she introduced herself as Heather's mom and she would be one of party chaperones. "We want you to have fun but we need you to be safe. All the chaperones are wearing these things," she shook her head and the ends illuminated. "So you know who to ask if you have a problem." Then she gestured for us to enter. It was kind of weird, but also kind of cool that the adults chose to make themselves conspicuous. It was a little bit like those signs that say "you're being videotaped"; you can't say you weren't warned.

I didn't see Nick and began to wonder if anyone I knew was actually here. It was difficult to recognize people behind the wigs and make up and costumes and suddenly remembered that I didn't recognize myself in the mirror. What if I was at the wrong party? Panic turned to something like lust when I spotted Kevin Wilson. I guess he was supposed to be Paul Bunyan `cause he was carrying a huge fake axe and was wearing a totally fake-looking red beard and a stocking cap, but the rest of him looked like a wet dream! Wearing a plaid shirt, which was half unbuttoned and had no sleeves, his muscled arms and chest were clearly visible as was the small patch of brunette hair nestled between his pecs. A pair of suspenders held up a pair of seriously worn jeans that were probably two sizes too small, like something he wore in 9th grade. Only the two middle buttons on the fly were fastened and the bulge below unmistakable. Of course it was hard to get a good look because girls were always hanging around. Having seen Kevin, I was glad to have come even if Nick never showed.

Emily was the next person I recognized, wearing Michael's basketball jersey, which was practically a dress on her. Michael stood near dressed in an approximation of our school's cheerleader costume. The skirt and sweater weren't quite the right color or style, but the skirt was short and I was reminded what nice legs he has. A felt Vikings "V" was pinned to the sweater, which was filled out by what almost looked to be two volleyballs; I'll bet Emily had something to do with that! A wig that was worse than Kevin's beard covered his head but like his boobs, there was a lot of it; he sorta looked like a Dolly Parton cheerleader. I said hi but got no reaction until introduced myself.

"Dave, you look great!"

"Thanks, but I think I'm gonna switch back to girls now that I've seen her!" I said pointing to Michael. He was the first to laugh but I think Emily and I laughed louder.

We chatted a bit and they pointed out several people I knew but failed to recognize. Mostly they didn't recognize me either; it was fun surprising friends. I laughed to myself to see so many of the hardcore jock-types wearing some kind of drag. Of course they were mostly half-assed costumes, but still it seemed odd to me. (Now that I'm a professed homo, I'd never hear the end of it in the locker room, if I dressed in drag. Well at least that's what I believed.) I still hadn't spotted Nick and I also noticed that I almost never saw the glowing antennae: some kids must have way cool `rents.

Oh my god! Spiderman is on the other side of the room dancing, with an ass that was made for fucking! I made my way through the crowd to get a better look and when he turned I could see it was none other than Sean. Tobey Maguire never looked that good in spandex! Not to mention that Sean was probably wearing a kid's costume, so you'd probably see a pimple on his ass if he had one, which I feel certain Sean never had nor ever will have. Though his body was completely covered, he was more on display than Kevin. I'd hate to have to choose between the two! For me it would be like deciding if I want mint chip or rocky road ice cream. Yum either way! God I'm becoming such a perv! I still hadn't found Nick so I went foraging at one of the food tables.

Like everything else, the food was totally awesome. I grabbed a couple pizza wrap thingies and while licking cheese and sauce off my fingers I caught Corey Stoughton's gaze. (I thought Corey was hot way before I even knew I was gay. We've been in at least one class every year since freshman year. He's super smart, has dimples, hazel eyes and is a varsity wrestler in the 155# weight class. Back in 9th grade he wrestled at 133# but he's done some growing; need I say more?)

He flashed a huge smile. "Dave, how's it hanging?" Go figure, super stud is the first and only person to recognize me and it's while I'm sucking my fingers like I'm giving someone a blow job. I quickly wipe my hand on my jeans and extend my hand to meet his. Meanwhile I'm taking in his body, which is clad in his regulation singlet. Our handshake lasts long enough that my eyes wander to his crotch.

"Fuck Corey, what's that!?!" I ask and start to laugh.

"Just the dick I wish I had," he replies completely deadpan. We're both referring to what appears to be a tube sock stuffed with numerous other tube socks, stretching the front of his singlet.

"No you don't! Only some circus freak would get near that thing if it were real and hard! You'd go to your grave knowing only your hand as a friend."

"Dave you can be a real buzz kill, you know that? But I'm glad to see you here; you need to give those books a rest once in a while." Then he surprised the hell out of me by giving me a hug. And it wasn't just a wimpy gesture of a hug; he essentially emptied my lungs. "Dave I don't think we have a snowball's chance in hell of upsetting Quincy and Mallory (the presumptive valedictorian and salutatorian) but I expect to reach the podium before you. He winked and slapped my ass, hard! "I'm really glad you're here. If you're not too busy and if you can find me, check in before you call it a night."

This is so not fair, I thought, with my cock slightly plumped as I grabbed a napkin full of munchies. And where the hell is Nick? I retreated to the dance area where there seemed to be a lot of activity. No Lie! If Kevin was eye candy for all the girls and the few guys like me, then Heather, (Marilyn Monroe's daughter) was his female counterpart. She's easily the most beautiful girl in our class, so of course she's a cheerleader, but not a slutty one. She had obviously put time, money and a lot of effort into her costume, which was her interpretation of Cruella De Ville from 101 Dalmatians. Heather was wearing a white, fake-fur coat, and with a spiked black and white wig and stilettos she was taller than anyone in the room. She had tons of fake jewelry, long fingerless gloves, with a collapsible cigarette holder attached to her wrist and almost as much make up as I was wearing. Of course she has a hunky boyfriend who was dressed up in rags like one of her henchmen. The tattered clothes didn't hide Justin's build and the three-day beard made him even sexier. Apparently he wasn't much of a dancer, so he just sort of swayed and bounced close by while she danced.

I was looking for a trash can when I heard girls scream and guys hoot and whistle. Turning around I saw Gregg Ronson, one of the jocks who dressed in drag, stripping off his shirt, fake boobs and wig, which left him in a short plaid skirt, rolled down athletic socks and shoes painted to look like saddle shoes. He wasn't all buff like Kevin, but had an awesome, slender, swimmer's body and was one of our best basketball players. Who knew he could dance...dirty dance!?! Maybe it was because she was wearing 6-inch heels but he almost made Heather look clumsy by comparison and she was an accomplished gymnast! But she was not to be outdone and opened her coat to reveal a black bikini! The kids went nuts! It was hysterical to see these really ugly girls (guys in drag) practically drooling over Heather. Gregg thrust his crotch toward her and she did likewise, though they kept it sane. (You know what I was thinking!) At one point Heather unfurled her cigarette holder and lifted the front of Gregg's skirt. The female scream was deafening and I was sorry to be on the wrong side of the room; being a sport, he turned around and let her reveal his ass to equal acclaim. Then she gave him a kiss on the cheek as Justin brought them bottled water. Other kids replaced the trio as I went in search of Nick.         

"Nice ass," I heard a familiar voice announce.

I caught a glimpse of the Spiderman costume and replied. "I was going to say the same."

"Dave? What the fuck?" We looked at each other and smiled. "I recognized the voice, but I should know that ass by now. You look killer...d'ya do the make up?"

"Na, my mom did it."

"Dude, it's sweeeet," he said, pouring on the total Sean charm. "It's cool and totally hot," he said while running his hand down my chest. "But I really want to see your other bone," he whispered in my ear as his hand squeezed my crotch. Wanting to change the subject I asked if he had seen Nick. "He's around, but he made me promise not to tell you what he's wearing but I'll give you a hint. `Granny what big eyes you have! Granny what big teeth you have!' Granny you've got a fuckin' big dick!" he said with a grin and grabbed my crotch again. "And he ain't the wolf," Sean leered.

I picked up his clue, but I was still in Sean's clutches, literally. "So what about Kevin Wilson? Is he on our team?" His hand released my crotch as he scoured the area for senior class's other new, hot stud.

"Sorry to disappoint you," he said and passed me a beer. I quickly scoured the room for any glowing antennae before I accepted it. "I've tried pretty much everything and he hasn't responded. I think he's totally hetero. Can you believe it? What a waste!"

I was glad that Sean had released my crotch, but regretted hearing his expert opinion. (I never expected to have a chance at Kevin, but it's always nice to dream.) "Dude, if you can't provoke him he must be 120% straight!" I said, intentionally stroking Sean's ego.

"Damn straight!" he practically shouted before we both busted up laughing.

(I wasn't much of a beer drinker; truth be told, I'd never consumed alcohol before but I was trying to fit in, even if it was a bit late in the game.) I kind of liked having Spiderman lean into me while I nursed that first can of beer. More than once I turned from watching the crowd to see Sean staring at me...AT ME! I'm nobody! Where the hell is Nick anyway?

The crowd again shifted concealing Kevin, as I caught a flash of red. "Nick!" I cried out and headed in that direction. By the time I crossed the sea of bodies, the red cape was heading away from me. "Nick!" I yelled this time. He stopped long enough to locate the sound of his name, which was all it took for me to catch up to him.

"Nick, where have you been?" I asked while I wrapped an arm around slim form.

"All of my life?" he replied as he turned to face me.


"Where have you been all my life?" he replied before and gave me a quick kiss. I was about to complain about the PDA, but decided I liked how it felt.

"Dude, your lips are black," I said with a giggle.

"Crap!" he said. "Why are you always getting me in trouble?"

"Me? Getting you in trouble? When does that ever hap..."?

"Dave, lighten up, I'm kidding! But I'm really glad you found me. I don't think I'd have recognized you; your makeup looks awesome."

"Thanks, my mom did it. You're looking pretty cute yourself." I replied, noticing his costume of a red cape and hood, with blond curls attached; his bare legs met white athletic socks that were rolled down to his black dress shoes.

"Thanks, so are you having fun?"

"Yeah, I can't believe how many hot guys there are here!"

"You mean besides me?"

I stopped dead in my tracks. Just before Nick was probably gonna roll his eyes, I laughed and said "Yeah, besides you."

"You aren't kidding! But can I have a drink of what you've got there?"

I scanned the room again for antennae and handed him my can. "You know about the antennae?" I asked. He nodded and took a swig. "Did you see Gregg and Heather dancing?" Again he nodded and emptied the can.

"Let's get a refill and mingle." His hand pushed my ass in the direction he wanted me to go. As if by magic, he had a beer in his hand but kept it hidden under his cape. We made the rounds and occasionally Nick introduced me to classmates I didn't necessarily know and surprised others who didn't recognize me. It was a blast to see kids having fun, being themselves without the structure of school. It never even occurred to me that we never left the other's side after I spotted him and were sort of behaving like a couple, otherwise I might have realized that Nick was paving the way for me to be out at school. The crowd had thinned somewhat but lots more kids were dancing. And some of them danced no better than I. "Want to dance?" Nick asked squeezing the hand he held hidden in the folds of his cape. (I really didn't want to embarrass myself that way and was going to decline; I don't think I'd ever told him about that particular portion of my homecoming experience.) "It's okay, if you don't want to. I just thought..."

"Got any beer left?" I asked. He pulled out the near empty can and I swallowed it down, stashed the can and followed him into the frenetic crowd. I was so worried about my lack of dance skills that I didn't even think about the fact that I was dancing with a guy, with Nick. I couldn't see many of his moves with that cape but he definitely wasn't a spazz like me. His smile encouraged me and I managed to loosen up and enjoy myself a bit.   After three songs he said we needed some water and left me standing there. I felt a bit silly but also pleased that I'd done better than two years ago. There was a tap on my shoulder and Emily was standing next to me.

"Your dancing has definitely improved, Dave. You and Nick look cute together." I opened my mouth to object but she placed a finger on my lips. "Shhh, I didn't say a word. I'd kiss you but I couldn't see you blush so what's the point?" She said holding up her slightly blackened finger.

Then Michael got near and wrapped his arm around my shoulder. "Way to go dude; you looked good out there. But it's time for us to leave so we're going to say good night."

"Thanks guys...good night, ah see you next week." Even if Emily couldn't see it I was blushing as Nick returned with bottled water.

"I'm about ready to hit it. You ready?" I nodded and downed half the bottle. I didn't think I was the least bit drunk but after Emily made me aware that I had just danced with Nick in front of practically half my classmates, I wasn't so sure and suddenly the door seemed like it was miles away. Nick started making his goodbyes as I followed behind. Friends kept grabbing me to say good night and compliment my costume. Cool.

Outside, I smiled at a man with antenna dressed as a Viking, our school mascot. "Need help finding your car?" he asked, waving a huge flashlight.

"No we're good," I said and thanked him and said good night before pointing Nick in the proper direction. Of course Nick teased me about how far we had to walk to reach the car. Something changed when I realized that Nick and I were actually alone; I felt silly and giddy and didn't think I could blame it on the beer. "Are you naked underneath that cape?"

Nick grinned at me. "No but I could be. Why do you ask?"

"Don't know exactly, but I feel kinda strange...and I don't want to drive if I'm drunk."

"Well, let's see." Nick had me stand in the middle of the street and do a series of ridiculous things like patting my belly and trying to touch my nose with my tongue. I was in the middle of some stupid pose, standing on one leg when it dawned on me that he was making a complete fool of me. I started to laugh and then lunged to grab him.

"God you're a freak, but I love you, Nick Anderson!" We were laughing so hard we almost fell down.

Between fits of laughter, Nick managed to speak. "I don't know...Dave. never talk that when you're straight...I mean sober." His slip sent us into another fit of hysterical laughter. "But your grip is... strong as ever." He wiped his eyes. "I trust you with my life. Course whoever drives will be dead if we mess up your mom's car, so I guess I won't be driving."

I was hyper-alert and super careful as I drove to Nick's house. (I didn't think I was drunk but couldn't stop thinking about Nick; I wanted to grab him and just, I don't know...hug and kiss him to death.) When we got to his room the cape came off revealing a t-shirt and cargo shorts, still I jumped him as if he was naked. We made out on his bed and I didn't think about how much noise we made, just how good our mouths and bodies felt pushing against each other, until I creamed my jeans, literally. I collapsed on top of Nick breathing him in along with the air my lungs demanded.

Nick stroked my hair as my breathing calmed. "I guess that means you like me," he said with a silly smile.

"Oh, I do! But...but I sort of made a mess...and...what about you?" His face was smeared with my makeup and my briefs were sodden but I wasn't sure that he had gotten off yet.

"And I love you, D-a-a-a-v-v-v-e-e-e," he said as he rolled on top of me. "That's why I thought maybe we should be boyfriends." He delivered several delectably sweet kisses to make his point.

I turned my head away. "I...I can't Nick."

"Why not?" he asked as his hand tried to turn my head to face him.

"'Cause I need you as a friend more than anything else." I said still facing the wall. I eventually turned to face him. "Nick, I couldn't have made it through the last couple of months without you. What if something happened, like with you and Aaron?" I immediately regretted mentioning it, but it told him exactly what I was thinking. I lifted a hand to touch his face. "I don't know what I'd do if..." I blinked repeatedly trying not to cry. "Can we just stay friends...please?" I turned away as several tears escaped.

"Sure, but don't cry Dave," Nick whispered in my ear. (It tickled a bit but it was somehow so different than when Sean did almost the same thing. Could it be a matter of intent or was it the difference between how I felt about these two guys?)

I finally turned back to Nick, who looked calm but I couldn't tell what he was thinking or feeling. I blinked back more tears and asked. "Can I kiss you?" Nick's answer was the sweetest kiss ever.

When finally we got off the bed the lower portion of Nick's face was thoroughly covered with theatrical makeup. "Sorry Nick. You look like you were mauled by a greasy mechanic."

"It's okay, I liked it!" He said with a big smile.

"So I can call you tomorrow?"

"You better unless you want bruises to replace that makeup! But it's getting late; I'll walk you to your car."

"You don't need to."

"I know, but I'm going to because I want to. `K?"

"Yes sir!"

"Dave, for an honor student you can be awfully dense sometimes, but I'm glad you're catching on."

Before leaving the room I spun Nick around and pressed him against the door. More kisses, a bit of tongue and two wandering hands caused him to get off just as I had done.

"Sweet dreams," I said from the driver's seat, with the engine idling and the window rolled down.

"That was a good start," Nick replied. We shared a quick kiss before he told me to go home.

A single light in the kitchen illuminated a jar of cold cream, a box of tissues and a brief note. Thank god moms think of that kind of crap. I used half a box of tissue before I climbed into the shower. I was tired and sweaty and sticky, but felt good. I almost fell asleep under the warm water, but when my head hit the tile I revived enough to get myself to bed.

I was still tired but felt great when I awoke and scrambled out of bed to join the family at church. Mom grabbed a tissue to remove a bit of make up I'd missed as we were headed out the door. We both laughed at that. At breakfast mom asked about the party, so I shared some stuff, mentioning in particular Heather's costume (without mention of the bikini or dancing with Gregg) but also seeing Marilyn Monroe and the whole antenna patrol. My dad has this thing about Marilyn Monroe; thank god she's the only pin-up he has in the garage: that's how I even know about Ms. Monroe. (Personally I don't get it, she was dead before he was even born, but the car is older than he is too, so what do I know? Do you think he knows who Marilyn Manson is?) I also thought it was wise to let them know that the party had been properly chaperoned. Though I did have to take a nap, I mostly spent the day studying for midterms, which I eventually aced.

Checking my email before dinner I was surprised to have messages, some with photos attached, from several friends. Emily sent one of Michael hugging me, and one of Nick and I dancing; I was glad to see we were both smiling, and yeah, we did look kind of cute together. Someone sent a picture of Heather and her mom together so I printed that one for my dad. But who knew Nick was such a pervert? I recognized Kevin's denim-clad crotch and Spiderman's as well. The shot of Gregg's lifted skirt was too blurred to reveal anything, but I could imagine what Nick and the screaming girls had seen. There were other shots of hot guys and some that simply captured a clever costume or a classmate being silly. There was a shot of me smiling, my teeth bright white against my black lips; I have no idea when he even took that picture, but it reminded me that I had laughed and smiled a lot last night.

I showed the mother/daughter picture to dad at dinner and he actually smiled for a change. Of course Germ was all over it as well; I sort of forgot he wasn't a little kid anymore. It was the first time since my announcement that either seemed to be interested in anything I had to offer. Mom teasingly gave dad an odd smile, but concurred that both women looked quite spectacular.

*    *    *    *    *

Brent and I hadn't really kept in touch since I returned to school, though he occasionally emailed articles or cartoons, mostly about gay stuff; I thought it was pretty cool even if I hadn't actually told him so. In mid November Brent called to invite me to dinner; the occasion was his relocation to Chicago for a position in a well-respected brokerage firm. When I somewhat hesitantly accepted, he told me that a tie wasn't necessary, but I needed to dress up and that he would pick me up at my house. (It was sounding more like a date all the time!)

When Brent arrived, my dad got to the door first. Argh! Dad was totally pleasant as he welcomed Brent inside as my mother arrived from the kitchen. Brent looked great in black slacks and turtleneck with a grey sports coat. He looked handsome, professional and not at all like a sexual predator. I stepped forward and stumbled through some introductions. I'd never dated before so this was new for all of us; fortunately Brent was totally cool and totally charming and soon we were headed out the door. He even opened the door of his piece-of-shit car for me.

Dinner was at a moderately hip bistro, with table cloths and enough glasses and flatware for a dozen people even thought there were only eight of us. Fortunately Brent had given me a quick run down as we rode in the car, so I had some idea what to expect. "The main thing," he said. "Is that everyone knows that I'm gay and they won't have an issue with your being there with me. These are friends from work although one of then is also my boss." He reached across and rubbed my shoulder as we pulled into the parking lot. "I'm really glad you could be here tonight."

I was nervous as hell at first, but gradually eased into it. Brent made the introductions, mentioning that I had worked in the firm the previous summer, which gave us some small thing we all had in common. There were three men and three women, though they weren't all necessarily couples, the youngest was probably five years Brent's senior, but they were all pretty cool. They asked about my college plans and tried to include me in conversation. The food was amazing! There were bottles of wine and imported water and waiters coming and going. I was a bit in awe like the kids in Willy Wonka's Factory. I could only eat two bites of my dessert, though Brent assured me it was fine.

Once the good byes had been made, Brent walked me into the bar and ordered cafˇ au lait for the two of us. With the others gone, we fell into more familiar conversation, mostly it was Brent asking about my life after coming out, if I had a boyfriend, and what my college plans might be. He told me how excited he was about his new job and that he was looking into grad schools for next fall. We also just talked about dumb stuff that we liked, or did, like movies and music, like we did last summer. We must have talked for almost two hours but I didn't notice until I saw a clock on the wall as we walked to the car. Driving home he offered to sell me his car. "Cheap!" he said. "I don't think I can afford to pay for parking in Chicago, and the apartment I'll be sharing is close enough to the office that I can use the train or bus." I said I didn't have any money and didn't know where I was going to school yet, so I declined. "That's okay. A guy at work wants to buy for his kid, but I thought I'd ask you first."

"Thanks." I couldn't quite believe how nice Brent was being, not that he hadn't always been nice. "Brent, I don't think I've ever said how much I appreciate all the stuff you've done for me; not just tonight but all the stuff, like answering my million stupid questions and everything."

"Hey, you're entirely welcome, though I don't think I've done anything extraordinary."

"Well you have," I said as he pulled up in front of my house.

"Last chance to get a car real cheap," he said turning off the engine.

"Thanks but no thanks."

"Then can I at least get a kiss?"

"Sure," I said with a smile. His smile lasted until after our lips me.

We were at it for quite a while and the windows were completely steamed over. Brent was staring at me when he said. "Dave, there are so many great things about you, but I'll miss your kisses more than anything else." How could I not smile even though I was a little embarrassed? "How `bout one for the road and I'll walk you to the door." (His last kiss was tender and loving, we were no longer making out in the front seat of his car. It was almost like dinner and coffee and that single last kiss were a promise of what love and sex might be like when I finally grow up.) Brent opened my car door and walked me to the porch. We shared a brotherly hug in case any of the parental unit might be looking, then said good night and goodbye.

My life had gotten a bit more comfortable: school was going well even as a few more people were let in on my little secret; not everyone was crazy about my revelation, but no one was nasty or mean. Nick and I got even closer though we weren't boyfriends and Sean started acting more like a friend and not just a cock tease. My family seemed to be adjusting to having a gay member, though we never talked about it.

December 21 was the first day of winter and also the first day of the school break. Nick invited me over saying he wanted to give me my gift early, since his family was expecting relatives to visit, blah, blah, blah, whatever. So we sat in the kitchen and ate cookies and drank cocoa while wisps of snow teased us with the possibility of a white Christmas. Eventually we ended up in his room, where Nick announced that part of my gift was a backrub and that I needed to take my shirt off. It didn't take long to figure out what Nick was up to, but I played along and hardly objected when my jeans had to be removed as well. Suffice to say, Nick's massage technique had me thoroughly boned up before his hot, wet mouth ever got near my cock; when that happened, I discovered that my friend was an accomplished cocksucker. I didn't last long, but man was that sweet! Once I'd recovered, I quickly returned the favor. His cock was much smaller than Chuck's, seemingly a perfect match for my mouth. I brought him to the edge repeatedly before pulling away. His eyes were sort of glazed over as I smothered him in kisses, working my way down his neck and chest, where I teased his nibs or played with his balls, keeping his body aroused without release. Finally, he grabbed my head and forced me to suck his throbbing prick as he thrust his hips against my face; the little guy was surprisingly strong! He shot out enough for two guys before he collapsed back onto the bed. After he recovered we made out some more before maneuvering into a 69 and draining our balls simultaneously. Damn! We repeated this encounter twice before graduation: when Nick got accepted into college and again for my 18th birthday in early May.

To be continued