"Here we go again!" Jay said as we walked out toward his truck for the second time. Maybe now we'd actually get to his parents' house. The sun was getting lower as the afternoon gave way to early evening, though sunset was still two hours away on this late-April day. My change of clothes, neatly folded, was behind the seat in a paper bag, though I still had no clue why I'd need them. With a cough and a roar, the truck came to life, and my hand automatically went to turn on the radio.

Jay grabbed my hand and placed it back in my lap, giving it a squeeze as he did so. "Nope—lessons first, then you can listen to some tunes." His eyes sparkled, so I thought I'd test his resolve.

"Radio and lessons," I said. Now that I knew we felt the same way toward each other, I was a bit more comfortable in teasing him, like he did so often with me. "...If you agree, you might get a kiss."

"Ha—if you don't learn some Danish for my parents, then you don't get a kiss! Sådan!" I was pretty sure that smile meant I'd get my kiss anyway, so I wasn't too worried—but I decided to play along; it had been established in this playful way that we'd have a pretty equal give-and-take in our brand new relationship.

"Your first word is 'Goddag'...use it to say 'hi' when you meet someone..." He repeated it—it was almost like the English words, so it wasn't too hard, yet. Jay gave me a huge smile, and turned the radio on, but set the volume to low. I snickered to hear Billy Swann's I Can Help playing during our language lesson. "Second word: 'Tak'...means 'thanks'...and the reply is 'selv tak'; 'Farvel' means 'good-bye'."

As we crossed Main Street to head out the east side of town, Jay had me practice the words he'd taught me so far...as it turned out, I seemed to have a pretty good ear for this sort of thing. I wasn't too surprised because I could imitate accents pretty well, but since our school only offered Spanish or French, I refused to take either language. I looked at my Dane with a grin: "If I learn Danish—what do I get?"

"Satisfaction?" I shook my head vigorously. This could be a long project, and I wasn't doing it for that—I'd do it for Jay, but I wasn't going to say that in case he got cocky. "Tempting," I replied, "but not enough incentive."

"Chocolate?" he tried again. That caused me to panic—I'd planned on bringing some of the candy he gave me last night as a gift for his mother. When I told him to turn around so I could get them, he smiled wider, and pointed behind the seat. "I knew you'd forget, so I put them in with your clothes...just so you know, mor loves that stuff nearly as much as you do!"

I relaxed back against the seat, but gave his shoulder a light punch to show I'd remember that remark. His mock wince was so cute, I leaned over and gently rubbed the spot where I'd hit him...then I gave it a quick kiss. "All better?" Taking his eyes from the road for just a moment, the idiot blew me a kiss!

"Speaking of parents—what do I call yours? Are there some Danish words to use?" I thought for a moment. "You called her mor—but I can't call her that!"

"How about Mister and Missus Beckel...before you hit me, there are words for it, but they're pretty formal, and mor and far aren't very strict people! And when you shake hands, do it first with mom."

I bit my lip before asking my next question...I didn't want Jay to think I was being sarcastic—I really did want to impress his parents. "Do I bow, or anything like that?"

Jay pulled the truck over to the side of the road, and pulled the emergency brake. He half-turned in his seat and took my hands in his before raising them to his lips. "You're doing it again Mikey—stop thinking about it so much! Smile, be polite, shake hands...they're not Dronning Margrethe and Prins Henrik! One final phrase for you: if they offer you something to drink or eat, say Tak for mad...it means `thanks for the food', and the answer is `Velbekomme'—that sort of means `you're welcome', but more foodish. Let's go over it one more time, okay kæreste?"

Before I repeated my little Danish lesson, I remembered he'd called me that earlier. "What's that mean—kæreste—can I call you that too?" I swear, I'd never seen Jay turn red like that until now! From the way his face nearly split in half with a huge smile, I assumed it was something good.

"I didn't even realize I was doing it—it means `dearest'..." he lowered his eyes, and whispered, "I'd love it if you called me that—just not in front of mom and dad." I would have frowned at that stipulation, but if anyone knew about hiding, it was me. I couldn't even imagine what my parents' reaction would be if they knew I was never going to give them grandchildren...six was plenty for my sisters to have popped out for them!

I leaned over and kissed his cheek before telling him to get going again. "Let's boogie, then! You still owe me dinner!"

* * * * * * * * * *

Ten minutes later, we'd crossed the road to the high school and went up a few hills further east until we came to a graveled road headed south. Jay turned onto it and we came to a big Victorian farmhouse on the left, set back from the road by some huge oaks. A red barn sat to the left of the house, separated by an open space where several cars could park, or big farm machinery could turn into the barn or continue on to the fields beyond.

Once we pulled up near the barn, I could see a corral next to it where a largish brown and white pinto horse grazed. I could see a few chickens closer to the barn in a wire-fenced area, and once the engine was turned off, I could hear the soft lowing of cattle coming from somewhere behind the white-trimmed structure.

The house itself was painted a buttery-yellow with brown trim, and was surrounded on three sides with a wide porch whose corners were clipped-off rather than square. The porch's small gables and those at each peak of the slate roof were painted a dark green. From the barn-yard I could see the back of the house: the main building was `x-shaped' with a one-storey addition in the back corner, and a screened porch to the left of that. Some tall bushes were scattered around the yard, a few forsythia already blooming, and some lilacs which would be full of flowers in another month or so. What looked to be large rhododendrons were planted around the main porch. A small grove of what appeared to be fruit trees stood toward the edge of the yard along with a large plot which would be perfect for vegetables in the summer.

Jay gestured toward the horse. "That's my Gulliver—you'll meet him in a few minutes! First, it's the family." He saw me lick my lips nervously and squeezed my fingers. "It'll be fine—let's go over the words one last time!"

I felt a little better having something to concentrate on besides meeting his parents—this just had to go well! Jay smiled broadly as I ran through the few words he'd taught me, and complimented me on my accent. He climbed out of the truck, came around to my side, and opened the door for me to get out—damn he was so sweet, but he also knew there was no way I could back out now—the bastard!

I started to pull the bag out with my clothes, but Jay put his hand on mine, and took out only the smaller white bag with the chocolate peanuts. "I'll come get your clothes for you later." It was weird how just the touch of his hand in this way seemed to settle my nerves a bit! "What do I say when I give them to your mom—`Here' doesn't quite seem right..."

"Det er til dig," he repeated it again so I could practice it a couple times, then we turned toward the screened porch. Neither I nor Jay could see his parents standing just inside, watching us.

"He looks so scared, Dirck!" Rosalie's voice was soft as she watched her youngest son bring home his first boyfriend. Her hand slipped into that of her much taller husband—it occurred to them both that the height difference between them was nearly the same as that between Jay and his friend. Dirck gave her hand a little shake and leaned down to kiss her cheek.

"Why should he be scared, søde? He's only meeting the parents of the boy he loves—even though you and I knew each other most of our lives, I still nearly wet myself when I had to meet your father to ask permission for our first date!"

Rosalie gave my hand a tug and me a stern look as we headed into the kitchen to sit at the table. "Don't you dare do that to him! Time's were a lot more formal back then, and he didn't want me to be ruined by my oafish boyfriend!"

"Hængehoved," I managed before she smacked my hand and two very nervous boys came into the room, the screen door banging behind them. We got to our feet as Jay gave us a shy smile, then turned to Miles and placed a hand lightly on the taller boy's shoulder before facing us again, "Mor, far, det er min ven Mikey...Mikey, my parents, Dirck and Rosalie Beckel."

Now everyone's attention was on me! Only the feel of Jay's hand on my shoulder, then on the middle of my back as he turned to face his parents again kept me from bolting out the door—for Jay, I could do this! I licked my lips to moisten them, faced these two blond-haired people who I longed to please, and hoped my voice wouldn't crack with strain. It had been known to do that on occasion even though puberty was four years in my past.

"Goddag, Mr. and Mrs. Beckel," I extended my hand to his mother after wiping it on my jeans, transferring the bag of chocolates to my left hand. Jay's mom was 5'7", the same as her son, and the hair color was a nearly identical golden blonde—her eyes—Jesus, they were exactly like Jay's! Her smile was genuinely kind...it took a nudge to my back for me to remember the candy. I held it out to her, "Det er til dig."

Her smile grew wider as she saw the contents, showing them to her husband. "Tusind tak, Mikey."

Jay's hand pat and the beginning of a whispered word reminded me of my manners. "Vel..." I hesitated for just a second as Jay nodded, "...bekomme, Mrs. Beckel." I then turned to the taller man, still an inch above my own 6'1", and extended my hand again...having wiped it once more on my jeans. His grip was strong, to go with the broad shoulders, and his face betrayed nothing as he appraised me from head to toe.

His brown eyes settled on me at last, and his deep baritone voice addressed me for the first time. "So, you are Miles Stevenson?"

His tone was neither warm nor cold, and I felt like I was going to barf at that moment; beside me, I saw Jay get a little paler, and his hand at my back gripped the soft folds of my sweater. Jay's mom spun to face her husband, face in an angry scowl as her voice came out in a sharp, resounding crack. "Dirck! Behave!"

It was like a magic act, the transformation that came over the large man...he lowered his eyes as he bowed his head, and his shoulders slumped like a whipped dog. "Dammit, skat—I was only having a little fun with the boy!"

Dirck Beckel looked up then, his eyes on my pale face held a merry twinkle and his face broke into a broad grin—so much like Jay's I just knew that's where my boyfriend got it from. I also knew I'd have to watch out for his tricks, just as I had to with my Jay. I liked him, and his wife, even before his next words rang out in the quiet room.

"Welcome, son—Jay's ven is always welcome in our home!" Then, he put an arm across my shoulders and led me off to the side to whisper something into my ear: "Jens Per is a charmer and a fast-talker, if you're not careful, he'll talk you right out of your skin!"

I was so bemused by this encounter that I couldn't help it: "Who?"

The older man shook his head sadly and sighed a loud, gusty sigh. He let me go, and turned to sit back down at the table. "Rosalie, these kids, give them nice family names, and they don't even use them!"

Jay's mom shook her head, began pulling pans from the cabinet, and turned to say something to her son: "I kan hygge jer på værelset," which caused him to turn beet red and drag me out the door to the corral. He called back inside, "We're gonna see Gulliver!"

We stopped at the barn door, and I put my hand on Jay's arm to get him to face me. "What did your mom say? Is it something bad?" I couldn't believe that because they'd been so friendly and her tone was anything but disapproving.

His blue eyes finally met mine, and he looked worried. "She said we could go get `cozy' in my room!" I didn't get it, nothing sounded odd about that, and then Jay clarified. "It can also mean...cozy...as in comfortable." When it was obvious I still didn't get it, he made it even plainer. "Friendly—real friendly—like we were on your couch friendly!"

Now the blushing was running up my face! This was so hard—but it would be so much easier for us since his parents already suspected. "Jay...I don't mind if your parents know about us—I trust them already. They'd never tell anyone, so it would give us a place to be ourselves safely outside of school."

"You're forgetting—someone at school already knows about us..." Kurt! I had forgotten, somehow, in the stress of meeting Jay's mom and dad. Since he had the same secret, I had no fear that Kurt would `out' me, as the saying went.

"It's okay, he won't tell anyone about me! He has as much to lose if it got out abou...Wait! What? What do you mean us?"

If Jay grinned at me like that again, I was going to kill him! "You think you were his first tryst?" At my open-mouthed expression, he actually laughed. "Close your mouth—a horse could walk in there sideways!

"Kurt called me last semester—what name did he use with you again? ` Dave'? With me it was `Tim' he was supposedly calling...I listened for a while—he does have a vivid imagination—but I recognized his voice from 4-H Club. I told him to cut the crap and get on with what he was really after..."

"AND?" Thank God the only ears to prick up at my half-shout were Gulliver's! My mind was reeling...of course I didn't think I was Kurt's first call—but—my Jay?

"It boiled down to this: since I knew who he was, he begged me not to tell anyone—and I said I wouldn't if he kept quiet about me. We talked for a while—just talked, this time—and he admitted he knew of two other people who were also gay, but wouldn't tell me who they were."

I looked at Jay in a whole new light—if Jay `got off' with Kurt...had it gone further...had they actually had sex? That thought made my stomach hurt really badly. Just then, Jay pulled me inside the barn and wrapped me in his arms, kissing my cheeks and reaching up to run his fingers through my hair.

"No Miles...it never went any further than talking on the phone! I told him I wasn't ready for real sex—you're gonna laugh at me for this, but I swear it's the absolute truth—I'm saving myself for the right person to come along."

Seeing the look in his eyes, even I, with my bad vision, could tell he was perfectly serious. As he went on, I gradually relaxed in his arms, leaning against one of the barn's interior timbers. "You've met my parents now...you can see how much they love each other, even after twenty years—you think I'd settle for anything less than what they've got?"

I bent my head down to kiss him, my stupid fears dispelled completely. "When I met you Mikey, I was pretty sure you were the one...after three months, I had to find out if you were interested, so I started making those stupid jokes until I felt it was worth the chance to write you that note!

"In a way, we both owe Kurt for bringing us together: it was talking with him that got me to start looking around, and I think his call made you want to take that one small step that led to our date on Friday."

I had to think about that one...he was right—I'd probably have chickened-out when we talked at lunch on Thursday if it hadn't been for Kurt's phone call—it had given me the briefest glimpse of what might lie outside my prison's high walls. Thanks to my raging teenage hormones after talking dirty with Kurt, I'd pushed myself to the limits of my bravery, and it got me Jay—for that alone I'd be eternally grateful to the auburn-haired lunchroom attendant.

"Okay, kæreste, you've stolen a few kisses, gotten your mor to cook me the dinner you promised...so far, I'm a pretty cheap date! What else is on for tonight—cards, watching television, playing Monopoly—watching the grass grow?"

When Jay gave me that look, along with the grin, I knew I was in for trouble. "We're gonna play horsey!"

I thought that was a pretty childish game, carrying him around on my back, until he came back a second later with a weird collection of leather straps...?!

"Hell no, Jay—I'm not wear—" He gave me that shit-eating grin again as he walked right past me, whispering, "Who's got a dirty mind then..." and started to put the assemblage onto Gulliver's head! I soon figured out that it was a bridle and bit.

"Oh hell no! I am not getting on your horse! I have no clue whatsoever about how to do that!" Jay ignored my protests, taking my hand to gently stroke it downward on the pinto's nose...and whispered softly to either the horse, or me I couldn't tell which.

"Who's a good boy, then...we're gonna have fun...we'll get you used to each other...yes we will."

Damn Jay Beckel's blue eyes—they worked their magic on me, and ten minutes later, with the aid of the middle rail of the corral's wooden fence, Jay had mounted Gulliver with no more equipment than the bridle, reins and a saddle blanket. He motioned for me to stand on the same rail he had used, then told me to do what he did—throw my right leg over Gulliver's back, holding on to his shoulder for support. When I hesitated, he smiled. "Come on, I'll help."

He extended his hand to guide me, and I dearly wanted to be somewhere else...but I also wanted to join in any activities Jay thought would be fun. I could see that being in a relationship with Jay was going to be a challenge—there was so much I hadn't been brave enough to try before meeting him.

"I won't let you fall, Mikey...remember, I'm your wings." I swallowed what seemed like a bowling-ball sized lump in my throat and, one foot on the rail, I swung the other over the horse's broad back. Jay both pulled and steadied me as I did so, until I was seated behind him, nearly touching him, trying to find a comfortable spot for my butt to rest. "Easy as falling off a horse, kæreste."

"Dick—your sense of humor often leaves something to be desired—like humor!" He turned his head and smiled up at me—seated, the distance was less than when we were standing—which he took advantage of by nipping the end of my nose.

"One thing you need to know...you're gonna have to sit right up next to me and grab on to my waist pretty tight...it makes for a more balanced weight for Gulli to carry." I did as he said, practically molding the front of my body to the back of his; the contact was amazingly sensual, much to my dismay. Even before the horse started to go anywhere, I could feel Jay's body adjusting its position to mine, causing some very interesting bits to rub against one another. Fuck, I was already getting hard!

Jay made a soft `clucking' noise and gave the reins a little flick, and Gulliver started moving around the large corral. My hands gripped tighter to his sides just above his waist, and I was desperately afraid I'd fall off; what the hell was I doing on a horse when I couldn't even roller-skate? My mind went back to the time when I was five in front of my grandparents' house in Bexley...my first pair of skates, strapped on and adjusted with the shiny new skate-key onto my tennis shoes. I managed to stand, after a few minutes, and my youngest sister, six years older than me at eleven, zoomed past on her own wheels. I gripped the metal rail of the chain-link fence with my right hand as I started to move down the sidewalk. Very soon, I was gripping that fence with both hands, like it was my life-preserver! After fifteen minutes of falling on my ass, I pulled the skates off and went into Mamaw's kitchen, where she gave me a fried apple pie and a glass of milk...

Me, on a horse...I must be crazy! "Not like that, Mikey...you need to be closer...and wrap your arms around my waist—it gives more security." He took my hands in his, letting the reins go for just a moment, and pulled them so that they met in front of him, resting on his abdomen, just above his belt buckle. The bottom hem of his tee-shirt was right there, and he made sure one of my hands was lying against his warm belly. He rubbed my hands for a second, willing me to relax. He turned to smile at me again, and I felt one of his hands give a slight downward pressure to mine—letting me know he'd be okay if they wandered a bit.

Despite all the time we'd spent on my couch kissing and touching, neither of us had ventured below the waist...we'd let our crotches touch, and even pressed them together some, but our fingers hadn't actually yet gone into that unknown territory. As we'd talked, we learned that neither of us had really had sex yet—not with anyone else at least.

"You can hold me tighter, I won't break...in fact, I recommend it!" With that, he gave another flick of the reins and Gulliver began moving a little faster than the slow walk he'd been doing. The up-and-down rocking of our bodies was driving me nuts...I let my hands latch onto his lower body, one on his abdomen, the other just at his belt. My little finger probed just slightly lower, and I could tell that Jay was as hard as I was.

I don't know for sure how long we rode around the corral, varying speeds so that I'd have to grab onto my boyfriend...I did catch on that he was purposely doing this so that I'd have to keep my body as close to his as possible—the heat, the pressure of his legs against mine...just the idea of Jay being part of me, had me more aroused than I'd ever been—and that included while talking with Kurt.

Jay guided us back to the front of the barn and stopped. Swinging his right leg easily over Gulliver's neck, he hopped off. He then took my hand and with one arm around my waist, he helped me to slide off. I was so glad to be back on solid ground...but I missed Jay's warmth already. We walked Gulliver into the barn and over to his stall, where I was handed a large bristled brush to match the one Jay held. "Now, we have to brush him—I'll show you how!" Moving up right next to me, his hand took mine and laid it against the pinto's neck and began making long strokes with the grain of the horse's hair. Gulliver snorted softly, enjoying the feel of the brush against his coat. Jay moved behind me, and practically laid himself on me standing up...I could feel his hardness pressed against my backside as he took my other hand and moved it along behind the brush. "You have to feel it—make sure it's all nice and soft..." I was pretty sure his whispers were not talking about the horse now.

As we worked on Gulliver, my Jay was also working on me...slowly breaking down more of the bricks from my wall of reserve, letting me get used to being touched...and gently encouraging me to touch him. I discovered pretty soon that even thinking about Jay touching me, anywhere, made my skin tingle and my hair stand on end. He'd whisper into my ear as he'd guide my movements—mostly on Gulliver, but also on his own body as he let my hands tentatively touch his jeans-covered butt or mold my fingers along his stiff cock. The first time he did that, he'd placed my hand there with an almost feathery touch, and immediately let go so I could move my hand away if I wanted—I did that almost right away, but he kissed my neck and said, "It's okay, kæreste—you don't have to do anything you're not ready for...but I'd love it if you could let yourself touch me wherever you wanted..." I was still pretty shaky, but I let my hand rest on his crotch again, and later, I'd felt him touch mine...and I knew what all the fuss was about now.

The clanging of a cast-iron bell by the back door brought us back to the present, and Jay's face had a happy smile as he put our brushes away...his pants were pretty full judging by the bulge in his briefs. Before I could comment on it, he ran a finger lightly down my chest and said, "It looks like I'm not the only one." His finger touched my own prominent bulge for a second, and I had to join him in his silly grin.

When we walked into the kitchen, the table was laid with five place settings, one at each end, two on one side, and another single opposite. I could smell chicken, and potatoes and green beans were on top of the big white porcelain stove. "Hurry up and wash, boys," Mr. Beckel said as we came in.

After we'd left our shoes by the back door, I followed Jay upstairs and into the bath, where he shut the door softly. He handed me a wash-rag he'd rinsed in warm water, soaped his hands, and motioned for me to take off my sweater. I tilted my head sideways, but did as he asked. He then began to rub his soapy hands over my chest, under my arms, and down to my fingers. He then took the rag from me, and wiped the soap off my torso, being very thorough to not miss any stray bubbles. My silly boyfriend then leaned in and gave a long sniff to my chest, letting his tongue `accidentally' brush my nipples. "Can't have you at dinner smelling like a horse, can we?"

My moan was soft, but he heard it, and gave my chest another lick before he backed up and removed his own tee-shirt. What was I to do? Like a good and helpful person—and I hoped an attentive boyfriend—I did the same for him as he'd done for me. We leaned against each other for a few minutes, reveling in the intimate contact, before a pounding on the door caused us to spring apart.

"Hurry up, dip-shits...I need to 'freshen up' too!" I knew that was Linda, but I'd not actually met her yet. We pulled our shirts back on, and Jay opened the door with a glare at his taller, year-older sister. When she saw me move into view behind him, drying my hands on a towel, she scowled. Jay pushed past her, pulling me along behind him with a firm grasp of my fore-arm.

We headed downstairs, where Jay's mom indicated we should take the two places side-by-side, and began placing dishes on the table. A covered china bowl held the mashed potatoes, creamy and buttery; another held the steaming green beans which smelled faintly of bacon, and an oval casserole dish held pieces of fried chicken in a thin glaze which smelled orangey. Rolls came out of the warming oven and joined the other items...making my stomach growl in anticipation. I looked around nervously, but everyone except Linda had a smile on their faces—she was watching my every move like I was some poisonous snake who couldn't be trusted.

As we sat down, I wondered if there would be some sort of blessing offered—my family were Lutherans, but we hadn't gone since I was twelve due to my father's two jobs. My sisters had been Confirmed and studied Catechism, but I'd gotten lucky and missed that whole deal. When I looked inside myself, and tried to imagine some greater power, I couldn't manage it. Until Jay, my life sucked—how could any sort of Supreme Being let the world be so screwed up? It seemed the Beckel clan weren't devout either, because all that happened was Mr. Beckel looked at us with a smile, and nodded to his wife.

Jay looked at all the dishes, and exclaimed "Det ser lækkert ud, mor," then he nudged me, taking a sniff of the aromas wafting around the room. I offered the phrase he'd taught me at the last minute: "Det dufter skønt, Mrs. Beckel." It really did smell wonderful, since I could barely boil water myself!

"Værs'go! Nyd nu maden, børn!" That was clearly the signal for everyone to dig in, because Jay reached for the potatoes and held the bowl for me to take some, then he did the same with the beans; he would have done the same with the casserole, but it was too heavy, so he just used the ladle to place some of it on my plate. I was fairly sure etiquette frowned on any gesture where I leaned over to kiss him at the dinner table, damn Emily Post and her manners!

Conversation at the table was strained at first, at least for me...I didn't want to say too much because I was afraid I'd look foolish, but some gentle questions from Jay's parents eased things for me. School was fine, I was fine, I liked art class, but I let out that I wasn't as talented as my oldest sister, who'd had the same teacher—most of them laughed—except for Linda—when I said the teacher's first words to me were to ask if I could paint as well as my sister.

As things went on, I was feeling more relaxed until I felt Jay's foot rub against mine, sending shivers straight to my spine. His foot was so warm against mine! He dropped his napkin by `accident', and when he leaned down to pick it up, he ran his hand up my calf, under my pant leg. He sat up quickly, shaking out his cloth napkin again and laying it across his lap. I was so going to kill him! Every few minutes, I'd feel his sock rubbing against mine, or stroking the top of my foot...and he'd carry on talking as if nothing was going on.

I told them, eventually, that my parents' both worked, mom for Scott's 5&10 in Reynoldsburg, and my father drove a large truck for Diamond Milk making deliveries to schools and grocery stores. Just before we finished, I felt Jay's hand rest on my thigh, and he gave me a truly evil smirk. He knew I was pretty aroused, and couldn't wait to see how I'd cover it when we left the table.

Mr. Beckel looked around, seeing that we were all finished, and Jay nudged me with his socked foot under the table. He mouthed 'tak' under his breath, and I glanced around, nodding to Mrs. Beckel, and said, "Tak for mad, Mrs. Beckel." I was relieved to see the radiant smile which spread over her face—I hadn't messed up, then!

"Velbekomme til jer alle børn." She nodded her head to all of us, and I felt Jay's hand under the table grasp mine and give it a gentle caress, which did nothing to reduce my raging hormones.

I was about to panic when Jay's mom asked me to help clear away, but she handed me a dish towel and motioned for me to stack the plates and carry them to the sink, then Mr. Beckel shooed Linda off to finish her brother's chores. Jay's face was eagerly awaiting `events' until his father told him to take out the trash.

"But...Linda—" he stopped when his dad laid a hand on his shoulder, giving it a pat. "You can join us when you're done, Jens Per Beckel."

I watched him gather up the scraps, peelings and other waste and place it in a large plastic pan, then he put his shoes on and went out the door. I'd seen a compost pile so I figured that was where he was headed.

"No need to get up just yet, Mikey," the older man said with a smile. "We want to ask you a few things before our little fjols gets back." I swear, the way his eyes lit up, I just knew that he'd figured out what my problem was, and what had caused it. I was pretty red when that realization hit me. His parents smiled at me and laughed quietly.

Jay's mom sat back at her place at the end of the table, and placed her hand on mine where it lay on the cream-colored tablecloth. "Miles, we both want you to know one thing: it's okay—more than okay—we want our son to be happy, and he obviously thinks that you are the one to do it for him. We were wondering when he'd tell us—it seems he's done that now..."

"Do you feel the same way?" Mr. Beckel's voice cut in. His eyes were warm, but I got the feeling that if I hurt Jay, there'd be hell to pay. There was nothing in the world that would make me hurt him, and I wanted his parents to know that.

"I'd do anything for Jay...give anything I had to protect him or make him happy! He calls me his kæreste...I don't know yet if there's a better word, but he's mine too.

"In the past couple days, we've talked more than we had all semester, but he knows I love him, and this morning, he told me he felt the same. I know we can't be too public about it...but that doesn't make my feelings any less for him..."

Just then, Jay came bounding in the back door, pulling off his sneakers and coming to sit next to me at the table, as we had during dinner. "What's going on?" he was instantly suspicious seeing that no dishes had been washed yet.

I reached under the table, grasped his hand firmly in mine, and brought them both up to rest on the table-top in full view of his parents. It was my turn to give him that evil grin, as I leaned in to kiss his cheek.

"They already knew, kæreste. They `outed' us!"

Mr. Beckel's smile was warm and indulgent. "Now I have three sønner instead of two! You can call us far and mor, or Dirck and Rosalie, søn. Welcome to the family!"


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