This story contains scenes of love and sexual interaction. Much of this involves males with other males. If the reading or possessing of such material as this is illegal in your country, state, province, county, municipality, etc., please leave this site immediately and do not proceed further. If you are under the legal age to read this, please do not do so.

It is not my intention to offend anyone or to get you in trouble.

The author retains all rights to this original story. Please do not publish without explicit authorization from me.

This story is completely fictional. Most of the places mentioned, and none of the characters exist in real life. Some may possess physical or personality characteristics of people I know or have known. But if you see yourself in this story, your imagination is better than mine!

All best, Jon

If you like my story, drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you: seperatepiece@hotmail.com

Matt and Jon
Chapter Eleven

"City of Brotherly Love"


The boys woke up in Matt’s bed and kissed each other quickly. That was as far as they were willing to go before brushing their teeth. When they’d dressed in their running clothes, they jumped on their bikes and headed for the trail. It was a fine morning, and the run was good. It was definitely getting easier for Jon, whose biggest problem was having to stop every so often to pull up his baggy shorts. Finally he just gave up and held them as he ran. They didn’t even need their customary break, and headed back to the head of the trail.

“You need some new shorts, you’ve gone down at least one size, maybe two!” Matt said, clapping Jon on the back.

“Yeah. It’s really happening. I can’t believe it, but it’s really happening.” Jon agreed.

As Jon bent over to unlock the bikes, Matt looked around the deserted area. He reached out and deftly pulled Jon’s shorts down around his ankles.

“Hey!” Jon shrieked as he scrambled to pull his shorts back up. He turned to see Matt doubled over, laughing.

“It’s not funny!” He declared, but he couldn’t keep a straight face and joined in the laughter in spite of himself.

Matt checked to make sure there was still no one around. He turned away from Jon, bent over and pulled down his shorts and underpants, flashing him a perfect moon.

“There, we’re even!” Matt said, as he stood up and re-adjusted himself.

“Now THAT was funny!” Jon laughed.

Ann was getting breakfast underway when the boys arrived. She slapped Matt’s hand away when he tried to swipe a piece of bacon as she arranged it on a platter.

“Aw, c’mon mom, we’re going to eat it anyway!” Matt whined.

“Yes, when we’re all seated at the table as a family, not like scavenging vultures, thank you very much.” Ann chastised.

Matt danced around the kitchen flapping his arms and making a noise that he imagined a vulture would make. They were all laughing when Bill joined them, and they all sat down to breakfast. They were just finishing up when the phone rang. Ann got up and answered it.

“Hello? Oh hi, Shelley…yes, he’s right here, hold on.”

Jon took the phone from her and said a cheerful “Hi mom!”

Matt became concerned when he saw the smile fade from Jon’s face. He got up and went next to him, a hand on his shoulder. His apprehension grew as he saw tears forming in his boyfriend’s eyes.

“Is he going to make it? Uh huh, okay mom, I’ll be home as soon as I can. Yeah…uh huh…I love you too.”

He hung up the phone and looked at Matt. “My grandfather had a heart attack last night.”

He crumpled against Matt’s chest and let out a wrenching sob.

Matt cradled him in his arms and rocked him back and forth, gently rubbing his back.

“Don’t worry Jonny, it’ll be okay, I just know it.” He cooed, hoping to God that he was right. He’d never called him “Jonny” before, but somehow he sensed that Jon would find his familiar family name comforting just then.

Ann and Bill came over to them and each put a hand on Jon’s shoulders. They let him cry for awhile.

Bill broke the silence. “Jon, why don’t you get your things and I’ll drive you home, okay?”

Jon sniffed and raised his head, giving a nod as Matt dried his tears with his t-shirt.

The boys went upstairs and got Jon’s bag. Bill and Ann met them at the door and they headed out to the car. All three of them went in with him, finding Shelley sitting at the kitchen table with her head in her hands. She got up and took Jon in her arms.

“The doctors say he’s got a good chance, Jonny. He’s a strong man. Let’s not give up hope just yet.” She said as she held him.

When she released her son, Ann gave her a hug.

“Shelley, if there’s anything we can do…”

“I can’t think of anything, we just have to wait and see. We’re going to Philadelphia to be with him.” She turned to Jon. “Go and pack a bag, honey, we’re leaving right after lunch. Sam’s upstairs.”

When the boys got to Sam’s room, he was just zipping up his suitcase. It was obvious that he’d been crying. The two brothers hugged each other wordlessly with Matt caressing them gently.

“I want to go with you.” Matt said quietly. Sam and Jon looked at him and nodded.

When they came back downstairs, Jon approached his mother.

“Mom, can Matt come with us?” He looked at her, pleading with his eyes.

Ann sensed Shelley’s hesitancy, and felt that she’d been put on the spot.

“Will you boys excuse us for a minute?” Ann asked, and the boys went outside, leaving them alone with Bill.

They sat around the picnic table on the patio. No one felt much like talking.

Eventually Jon spoke. “I don’t know what the big deal is. Grandma has plenty of room at her place. It’s not like an extra person would be in the way or anything.”

“Parents always worry about that kind of thing.” Matt groaned. “The world could be coming to an end and my mom would ask me if I was wearing clean underwear!”

Sam and Jon smiled weakly. Matt could see the strain in their eyes.

“Don’t worry guys. You heard what your mom said. He’s gonna be fine, I can feel it.”

Just then, Shelley appeared at the kitchen door. “Boys?” She called to them, and they headed back into the house.

“Matt,” Ann began, “I think it’s best if you stay home…”

“But mom!” Matt interrupted.

She held up her hand to silence him. “Matthew, please don’t argue, I’ve made up my mind. We’ll talk about it at home. We’d better get going so they can get ready to leave. It’s under three hours, but they still have to pack”

Matt knew better than to open his mouth again. The last thing he wanted to do was cause a scene right then.

Ann hugged Shelley. “If there’s anything at all that you need, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

As she turned to leave, Shelley did think of something.

“Ann, There is one thing. Dan can’t get time off of work right now. Depending on how long we’re out there, he’ll come see us on the weekend, but in the meantime, he’ll be here alone. If it’s not too much trouble, would you mind making an extra portion of whatever you fix for dinner? If left to his own devices, I swear that man would exist on pizza and potato chips.”

Ann smiled, rolling her eyes in Bill’s direction. “I know what you mean. Just leave it to me. I’ll be glad to bring it over, or if he’s lonely, he’s always welcome to eat with us anytime.”

“Thanks Ann. That’s a load off my mind…oh, and remind him to water my plants. You know how men are.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that.” Ann promised. “Just ask Bill and Matt. I’m great at nagging. Be strong, dear. We’ll all be praying for your family.”

She walked over to where Matt and Jon stood embracing. She touched Matt gently on the shoulder. “Come on Matt, it’s time to go.”

On the ride home, Matt sat slumped in the back seat staring out the window.

“Matt, honey,” Ann said soothingly, “I know you’re upset, but I really think it’s best. You’ve never met Jon’s relatives, and this is a hard time for them. Try not to worry about Jon, he’s stronger than you think, and he’ll have his family around him.”

“Oh sure, you go on about how we’re one big happy family. If it had happened to Grampa Charlie I know I’d want Jon with me, and I know he wants me with him now, but you know best! It’s such a load of…crap!” Matt shot back, re-thinking his original choice of words.

He went back to staring out the window. Ann knew better than to try and reason with him when he was in this mood. She thought it best to just give him some space.

As soon as the car stopped in the driveway, Matt jumped out and stalked off to his room and slammed the door. He fired up his computer to send Jon an email. He had no way of knowing if there was access at his grandparent’s house, but he had to write it anyway.

My Dearest Jon,

I love you so much, and I miss you already. I want so much to be with you that it hurts. I’ll pray for your grandfather every day. I feel so helpless that I can’t be there to hold your hand. I know now more than ever that I want to spend my life with you. The good times AND the bad. I hope you get this…
Love always, your Matt

He sent the email and flopped down on his bed. He cried himself to sleep and didn’t awake for a long time. He slept through lunch, which worried his parents. They hated seeing him like this. When he finally drifted awake, he glanced at the computer screen. His heart leapt. There was an email from Jon. He opened it greedily, craving any contact with his beloved boy.

Dear, dear Matt,
I love you too. More than I can tell you in an email. There wasn’t much traffic, so we made good time. I miss you very much. There’s no computer at my grandparent’s house, but there are a few here in the coffee shop at the hospital for relatives to use. I feel a little funny crying in public, but I guess it’s pretty common around here. Everyone is very nice. Grampa is stable, but he’s not out of the woods yet. The doctor says if he survives the next 48 hours, he’s going to need a by-pass. He said that grampa is strong, and that the operation is usually successful. Thanks for your prayers. It’s almost as good as holding your sweet hand. Don’t worry, you ARE with me, safely in my heart. I’d better get back to the I.C.U. I’ll call you when we get back to the house. Your loving Jon

Matt saved the letter. He knew he’d want to re-read it later before going to bed.

He flopped down on the couch in the living room and switched on the T.V. He sat there staring blankly at the screen for several minutes when his father came in the room.

“Oh, you’re up. Are you feeling any better?”

“No.” Came Matt’s monosyllabic answer. He felt a little better about Jon after the email, but he was still angry with his parents.

“Are you watching that? I kind of wanted to see the news. Do you mind if I put it on?” Bill asked, remote in hand.

“Why ask me? You just do what you want anyway.” Matt said, and lurched off the couch and headed for the kitchen.

He found his mother making her famous meatloaf, and home made mashed potatoes which she knew was Matt’s favorite dinner. He grabbed a coke out of the refrigerator and parked himself at the table with the sports section. He couldn’t seem to make his eyes focus on the scores.

“How are you feeling, honey?” Ann asked with concern.

“Like you care!” Matt snorted.

Ann flung the potato masher in the pot and wheeled around to face him.

“Cut the shit, Matt!” She yelled across the room.

Matt froze in shock. He’d never in his life heard his mother curse. Ever. He stared at her slack jawed as she went on with tears streaming down her cheeks.

“You want to be with Jon. We get it, okay? Don’t you EVER say I don’t care about you! I love you, damn it! I’m sick of being the villain here, so you can just drop the attitude.”

Matt’s lips were moving, but no words were coming out of his mouth.

“And another thing,” Ann continued, “do you think Jon would approve of your behavior? How about Sam? I hate to tell you this Matt, but you’re letting them down. Big time.”

At that, Matt hung his head. He knew she was right. Jon and Sam would be the first ones to bust him for the way he was acting, and he knew it. Bill heard the commotion and came to the kitchen.

“What’s going on here?” He asked, looking back and forth between the two of them.

“Just giving our son a dose of reality.” Ann said, softening.

She crossed the kitchen and gently began massaging Matt’s heaving shoulders as his tears splashed onto a picture of Alex Rodriquez.

“I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to be so hard on you, but I couldn’t go on like that.”

“I’m sorry too mom, dad. I never should have acted so…bitchy.”

Ann didn’t approve of vulgar language in general, but she could hardly say anything about it after her earlier outburst. She also couldn’t help thinking that the word Matt used was very appropriate, under the circumstances.

“Why don’t we all wash up. Dinner is almost ready.” Ann suggested, wiping her tears on her sleeve.

When they were seated at the table, Matt bowed his head.

“Dear God, we thank you for this food and for all of those we love, and who love us. We ask your blessings on those less fortunate than us, and we especially ask your healing love for Jon’s grandfather. Amen.”

“That was nice Matt.” Ann said.

“Yeah,” Bill agreed, “we should say grace more often.”

After the food was served, Matt asked the question that had been on his mind.

“Mom, dad, I know I should have just asked you this calmly in the first place, but why was it such a problem for me to go with them? I really wanted to be there for Jon and Sam. It meant a lot to me…to all of us.”

Ann sighed and exchanged a look with her husband. “Matt, when we were talking to Shelley in the kitchen, it came out that her brother is…well, conservative. We were all afraid that their family had enough going on, and that maybe it wasn’t the time to confront…certain issues.”

Matt rolled his eyes. “What did you think I was going to do? Prance around their house criticizing the décor? You know I’m not like that, but so what if I was? Their Jon’s family, they’d have to understand.”

“The truth is son, that not everyone understands.” Bill said to him. “It’s sad, but being gay has broken up a lot of families, and even though you don’t have “gay” branded on your forehead, when you and Jon are together…well…”

Matt smiled and felt himself blushing slightly.

Ann nodded her head sadly. “We were just trying to protect you. Jon has enough to worry about with his grandfather. He certainly doesn’t need to be rejected by his uncle right now, and I don’t know that I feel comfortable about you being in that kind of a situation.”

Matt had a sudden thought. Leaning back in his chair, he gave them a satisfied smile.

“Well, I love you for trying to protect me, and I guess I see why you wouldn’t let me go. I know you’re not prejudiced people, BUT, the fact remains that I was excluded from the trip based solely on my sexual orientation. You didn’t raise me to think that way.” He said triumphantly as he sliced a piece of meatloaf, scooped some mashed potatoes on to it and popped it in his mouth. He made a mental note to thank Miss Selwitz for raising his social consciousness.

Bill and Ann exchanged horrified looks, which Matt observed. “Hey guys, lighten up! I was only having some fun with you.”

“No Matt, you’re right. We never thought of it that way. I’ll call Shelley after dinner, and if she agrees, I’ll drive you to Philadelphia myself. First thing in the morning.” Ann promised.

“You’d really take me?”

“Absolutely! I hope I’m never too stubborn to learn from my son.”

After dinner, Ann placed the call. After a brief conversation, she came in to the living room and threw her arms around Matt.

“Pack your bag tonight before you go to bed. I have a sudden craving for a Philly cheese steak.”

Matt wept in her arms, all of the tension from earlier in the day dissolving with his tears. “Mom, you have no idea what this means to me.”

Ann hugged him to her breast. “Oh Matt. I think I do.”

When they broke the embrace, Matt looked sheepishly at his mother. “I’m glad you’re taking me…I already looked up the bus schedule.” He admitted.

“Matt, you really would have gone?”

Matt thought about it for a moment. “I don’t know, probably not without telling you.”

He kissed her goodnight and headed up the stairs to call Jon.

The following afternoon found them having lunch in a service area off of I 95, somewhere in New Jersey. Matt had phoned Jon before they left and made up to meet him in the I.C.U. waiting room at the hospital. Matt was a little nervous about seeing Jon’s grandfather hooked up to a bunch of machines.

“Mom, maybe they won’t let me in to see him. Jon said only family are allowed, and I never even met him.” Matt asked, almost hopefully.

“I’m sure Jon will want you to meet him if he’s up to it. They might make an exception, but if not, the important thing is that you’re there for Jon and Sam. They might need a distraction by the time you get there. When something like this happens in a family the mood is usually pretty somber. It’ll mean a lot to them to be able to just relax with someone.”

Matt smiled at her. “I think I can do that.”

“I know you can. And whatever we find when we get there, you and Jon will have each other. The way it should have been from the start.”

They ate their sandwiches in silence for awhile. Matt finished his fries and reached across the table to steal one of Ann’s. Ann sighed and slid the greasy cardboard holster with her remaining fries across the table to him.

“Help yourself, vulture.”

Matt chuckled, licking the grease from his fingers. Ann studied him as he ate, until Matt looked up and met her gaze with a questioning look.

“Sorry,” she said when she realized that she’d been staring at him, “sometimes I just can’t take my eyes off of you. You’re so…beautiful.”

Matt blushed. “Even when I’m bitchy?” He teased.

“Even then. The music is sweet, the words are true, the song is you.”

“Mom, I…that’s…you…” Matt was at a loss for words as a tear formed in the corner of his eye.

Ann patted his greasy hand. “I can’t take credit for it, it’s from an old song; but it’s the way I feel.”

“I love you mom.”

“I know dear. I know you do.”

There was little traffic and the rest of the trip flew by. When they found the hospital, Ann got directions from the front desk, and they followed the blue and red stripes on the floor to the elevator which would take them to the cardiac I.C.U.

When the door opened, Jon and Sam were sitting in the waiting room directly across from the elevator bank with two boys that Matt didn’t know. Jon crossed the room and flung himself at Matt and the two shared a loving embrace. Sam joined them, and the three of them clung to each other for a long moment before anything was said.

“I’m so glad you’re here.” Jon said with emotion. “Come on, I want you to meet my cousins. Matt, this is Ryan and this is LittleTom.”

“Jonny!” LittleTom protested. “I thought you weren’t going to call me that anymore!”

Jon chuckled. “Sorry Li…I mean Tom. Old habits die hard!” He turned to Matt to explain. “His father’s name is Tom also, so we always called him LittleTom.”

Matt shook hands with the two boys. “I don’t know, I think it sounds cool. I never had a nickname.”

“You really think so?” LittleTom asked.

“Yeah, Tom is just…well, Tom. But LittleTom is different. I like it!”

The 12 year old beamed up at the older boy. “Okay, you can call me LittleTom, but you need a nickname too. How ‘bout…Mattster?”

“Nah!” Ryan, who was 15 interjected. “That’s so five minutes ago! It’s got to be something cool, like…Matteo, you know, Spanish for Matthew.”

“That’s got a nice ring to it! Matteo it is.” Matt agreed, punching his new friend on the shoulder.

Jon was thrilled that Matt seemed to hit it off so easily with his cousins.

Ann cleared her throat. “Uh, Matteo, I’ll be over here reading a magazine if anyone wants me.”

“Oh, sorry!” Jon apologized. “This is Mrs. Barker, Matteo’s mom.” He put his arms around Ann and kissed her on the cheek.

“Hi Mrs. Matteo’s mom!” LittleTom said sticking out his hand.

Ann shook the proffered hand with a laugh. “I guess if everyone has to have a nickname, that’s a pretty good one. So how’s your grandfather doing?”

“He’s stable and the doctor thinks it looks really good. It turned out not to be as severe as they thought. He’s pretty much like his old self, only he’s still kind of weak. If nothing changes, they’re going to do the surgery the day after tomorrow.” Sam informed her. “Mom and Uncle Tom are in with him right now. Only two of us can go in at a time, except for nanna of course.”

Just then Shelley and her brother came in to the room. She and Ann exchanged a brief hug.

“Looks like Dan and Bill will be eating pizza tonight after all.” Ann said.

“For one night, they’ll survive.” Shelley said as she turned to her brother.

“Tom, I want you to meet Ann Barker, and this is her son Matt.”

They all shook hands and Shelley repeated the update on her father’s condition, adding that it seemed like the worst was over. She suggested that they go to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee.

“Jonny, why don’t you take Matt in and introduce him to grampa and nanna? Don’t stay too long. Ryan and LittleTom will want to see him before visiting hours are over. We’ll be back in a little while.”

The two boys walked down the hall and into the curtained off area of the cardiac care unit where Jon’s grandfather was propped up in bed with monitors and various tubes in an intricate array. The old man smiled at them as they came to his bedside.

“Jonny. Every time I see you I can’t get over how good you look.” His grampa told him. His grandmother smiled.

“He takes after MY side of the family.” She said with a mischievous twinkle.

“Grampa, Nanna, this is my friend Matt.”

“Ah, the famous Matt!” The old man extended a hand. Matt took it gently and was surprised to feel how cold it was. “Jonny told us about his friends and what a great time he’s having this summer. You must be a good friend to come all this way just so Jonny won’t get bored with the old folks.”

“I love seeing you and nanna, grampa. I just wish you could come home with us.”

“I’ll be home before you know it! Then we can have a real visit. It’s going to take a lot more than this to kill me off!” The old man said as he beamed up at them. Matt knew then where Jon had gotten his beautiful smile.

“We’d better go so Ryan and LittleTom can see you before the nurse kicks us out.” Jon said as he leaned over to kiss his grandfather. Matt noticed that the blips from the heart monitor sped up a little. He wondered if his heart rate increased when Jon kissed him too. Jon’s grandmother came around the bed and kissed Jon on the cheek and shook Matt’s hand.

“You boys run along and send in your cousins.” She said with the vestiges of a lilting Italian accent. “I’ll be out soon. I have the meatballs and sauce made already, so all I have to do when we get home is boil the pasta.”

“Food is her answer to everything.” The grandfather teased. “She’s been trying to kill me for 50 years, and it almost worked!” He said with a smile.

“You see what I put up with from the old goat?” She laughed and winked at the boys.

Jon and Matt were sitting in the waiting room with Sam.

“You’re cousins seem really nice.” Matt remarked.

“Yeah, Ryan and LittleTom are cool. They live in Maryland and we don’t get to see them that much.” Jon answered. “It’s not been much fun this trip because we were all worried about grampa, but now that he’s doing better I think we’re all feeling pretty relieved. Tonight should be fun…like a slumber party. We camp out in the basement when we’re all here.”

“I’m glad I brought some P.J.s.” Matt laughed.

“Nah, we sleep in our underwear. It’s just us guys and it’s more comfortable that way.”

Sam laughed. “Maybe I should sleep between you guys. We wouldn’t want anything embarrassing to ‘come up’ now would we?”

“Don’t worry, we’ll behave! We’re not animals you know.” Jon shot back at him.

Shelley and Tom came back from the cafeteria and explained that Ann had left for home in an effort to beat the rush hour traffic. Shelley went in to get her mother, and they all headed down to the parking lot and got into Tom’s van.

All the boys watched TV until it was time for dinner. Nanna insisted that Tom sit at the head of the table in his father’s usual place. Matt had never tasted anything like Nanna’s sauce. It was the best he’d ever had, and he made sure to tell her so.

“Such a nice boy!” She remarked, favoring him with an appreciative smile. “…but so skinny! What have they been feeding you?”

Matt was a little bewildered, but everyone else at the table laughed. They were long used to the fact that Nanna felt it was her personal mission to make everyone eat. Matt suddenly thought how obvious it was that Jon would equate food with love. He looked across the table at his smiling face and observed that he’d taken a modest serving of pasta, one meatball, and a large helping of salad.

After dinner, the boys were excused while the grown-ups lingered over their coffee. They trooped downstairs to the finished basement and set up camp with air mattresses and sleeping bags spread out on the floor. Matt followed suit as the other boys stripped to their underwear and flopped down on the mattresses.

Sam rummaged in his suitcase and brought out a deck of cards. “Okay, who’s feeling lucky?” He said with a grin.

The boys scrambled for the pile of clothes, and searched their pockets for change. They pooled a respectable amount of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters which Sam divided among them evenly. They joked and laughed as the money drifted around the circle. At one point Matt was way ahead. LittleTom was down to his last dime when he won a big pot. “YES!” He exclaimed as he raked the pile of coins in front of him.

It was Matt’s deal. As he tossed the cards around the circle, he asked, “So is your mom coming on the weekend, like Jon and Sam’s dad?”

There was an awkward silence as everyone looked at Matt. Jon spoke softly.

“Aunt Cindy died two years ago. She had cancer.”

Matt silently cursed himself as he saw tears forming in LittleTom’s eyes. The younger boy buried his head in his sleeping bag. Ryan put his arm around him as he cried.

“God, I’m sorry!” Matt said, reaching a hand for LittleTom’s shoulder.

Ryan looked at him sadly. “It’s okay, Matteo, you didn’t know. We both get this way sometimes, but it’s really okay. We like remembering her. He’ll be alright in a minute.”

Despite Ryan’s comforting words, Matt felt really awful about what had happened. Jon read his face and put his arm around him and gave him a reassuring squeeze. After a few minutes, LittleTom surfaced from the folds of his sleeping bag with a loud sniff.

“Matteo, you gonna deal or what?” He said with an uncertain smile. Ryan reached over and messed up his hair. LittleTom made no attempt to smooth it, and Matt couldn’t help but smile at the cute kid with his blond mop of hair going off in all directions as he casually scooped up his cards and studied his hand.

Before long, the game was back in full swing, and the boys resumed their banter. LittleTom was the first one to drop off to sleep, and it wasn’t long before they all drifted off. When Shelley came down to wake them in the morning, she quietly tip-toed back up the stairs for the camera she kept in the car. She had to get a picture of the five of them sprawled out in their underwear with various limbs intertangled. She almost didn’t take it when she noticed the morning bulges they all sported, but Sam would be going off to college in the fall, and this was probably the last time that she would have the opportunity to see them all together like this.

When she’d taken a few shots from different angles, she crept up the stairs and called down to the boys that breakfast would be in half an hour.

As Matt regained consciousness, he glanced around the circle, noticing that they all had woken up with erections. He instinctively tried to cover himself. LittleTom stood and stretched with his little penis peeking out of the fly of his boxers.

Matt chuckled. “Hey LittleTom, I think the horse is out of the barn.”

LittleTom looked down and giggled. “Happens every morning!” He said unconcernedly, making no attempt to hide it as he walked off toward the bathroom. Matt watched him leave, and thought that he was the cutest kid he’d ever seen. He wondered if he himself had been that childlike and innocent just two short years ago.

Visiting hours for the cardiac care unit were limited to 11:00 – 1:00, and 6:00 – 8:00, so after a leisurely breakfast, they made their way down to the hospital. Tom and Shelley went in with their mother first, and after a while, Tom came out and sent Sam in to see his grandfather. Ryan and LittleTom went off in search of a soda machine, leaving the boys in the waiting room with Jon’s uncle.

“Wait’ll you get a load of the nurse on duty today.” Uncle Tom said with a sneer. “You can’t tell me that any guy that’d be a nurse isn’t a little ‘light in the loafers.’” He snorted in disgust.

“Light in the loafers?” Jon asked, somewhat puzzled by the expression.

“Light in the loafers, you know…queer.”

Jon and Matt felt like they’d been slapped in the face. Jon knew his uncle wasn’t the most open minded person, but he didn’t know that he harbored such animosity toward people who were different from him. Ryan and LittleTom returned just in time to hear their father’s next remark.

“The guy is obviously a fag, I’m surprised he doesn’t wear a dress.”

LittleTom didn’t seem to notice, but Ryan froze in the doorway. Jon noticed the look on his face as he set his soda can down on one of the low tables and headed back down the hall. Jon looked at Matt and they had one of their silent conversations. Jon stood up and headed for the door. Over his shoulder, he heard LittleTom chattering excitedly.

“Hey Matteo, you wanna do a crossword with me?” Jon smiled to himself. He was very pleased that his younger cousin looked up to his boyfriend.

It didn’t take him long to find Ryan in the men’s room. He heard gentle sniffling coming from the farthest stall.

“Ryan, it’s Jonny, open up.” After a brief pause he heard the bolt slide, and the door opened a crack. Jon found his cousin sitting on the toilet seat, fully clothed with his head in his hands. Jon slipped in and closed the door. The cramped space was awkward, but he managed to hold his cousins head to his chest as he crouched next him.

“Hey Ry, it’s okay.” It sounded lame, but he didn’t know what else to say.

“It’s NOT okay,” Ryan wailed, “God, I miss my mom so much.”

Jon just let him cry for a minute as he wondered what it would be like knowing he could never hug his mom again.. He took a wad of toilet paper and dried his cousins face.

“Look, Ry, I know you heard what Uncle Tom said. I hate it when he says stuff like that and I’m guessing you do too.”

Ryan nodded his head. “I guess there’s no sense hiding it from you. I’ve known since I was 12. I told mom and she was great about it. She said she’d make dad understand, but then the cancer got really bad…”

Jon held him close and let him get it all out. “Ry, I understand. Matt and I are more than just friends. He came out here to be with me because we’re in love.”

Ryan smiled up at him through his tears. “God Jonny, you’re so lucky. He’s a great guy.”

“Yeah, he is, isn’t he?” Jon had a sudden thought. “Maybe if I told your father…about me and Matt…maybe he would see that we’re just normal people.”

“You’d tell him?” Ryan asked with alarm.

“Yeah, I think I kinda have to. I want to wait until Saturday, though, when my dad gets here. We can talk to Sam tonight if that’s cool with you. You can trust Sam. He’s been great about Matt and me, and I know he’ll be there for you too.”

Ryan nodded. “When dad says stuff like that it makes me think that if he knew about me he’d hate me. It’s so…humiliating.”

“I know what you mean. Matt and I are so lucky that our parents are all so great.”

"You mean they know?" Ryan was surprised.

"Yeah. Now that it's all out in the open, we're closer than ever. You can be sure that they'll support you too."

The two cousins washed up and headed back to the waiting room. Tom and LittleTom were oblivious, but Matt looked up at them with concern. He relaxed when they both gave him a reassuring smile.

After everyone had a chance to visit with Grampa, Shelley and Tom left their mother to sit with him and decided to take the boys to see the Liberty Bell. They wouldn’t be able to come back until 6:00, so they thought they’d take advantage of the situation and do some sight seeing. Matt, Jon and Ryan managed to slip away during lunch so the other two could fill Matt in on their conversation..

As they filed past the great bell, Jon read the inscription aloud.

“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

Matt snorted. “Huh, no wonder it’s cracked!” He walked off toward the door.

Jon caught up with him. “Hey baby, don’t be bitter. Everything will work out for Ryan, you'll see.”

Matt felt himself relax. He could never stay in a bad mood for very long when Jon smiled at him. They went back and joined the others, gazing at the historic icon of freedom, silently wondering when it’s toll would be heard for all.

Well, I promissed a little drama, so there you have it. Thanks again to all who wrote this time around:

Jerry, Brian, Dave, Zhue, Tim, Jeff, Joe, David, Neil, Tasha, Pete, Alan, Paul, Bill, and Steve! Your emails are very much appreciated.

If my mail is any indication, I made the right decision not to kill off Sam. I'm happy to say that he will be around to support and nurture his brothers for a long time to come. I hope you all like Ryan and LittleTom. I think they make a nice addition to the family. As always, let me know! Your feedback is always welcome and encouraged. All best, Jon