DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account of young teenage boys who are in love. There are references and occasional graphic descriptions of gay sex involving minors, and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. With a few notable exceptions, all characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. The opinions expressed in this story by known individuals are not necessarily intended to be representative of those of their real-life counterparts. Although the story takes place in actual locations and establishments, the author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities of real individuals or institutions. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.
Please note that this is the twenty-eighth and final story in a series known collectively as Naptown Tales. The entire series can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude. Please see the Introduction for important background information.

'Til Death Do Us Part

A Naptown Tale in Seven Parts
by Altimexis

Part Six
Beginnings and Endings - Brad

I was in my room, lying on my bed and listening to A Hundred Million Suns on my iPhone, when the music faded away, to be replaced by a familiar ringtone. I recognized my brother's ringtone instantly. Clicking on the control button on my ear buds, I answered the call by saying, "Hey David! Are you excited about starting classes at Harvard?"

"Excited, but nervous at the same time. I'll say one thing . . . it'll be way different than high school."

"Whadaya mean, different?" I asked.

"Well, there's gonna be a lot more freedom and flexibility. I get the impression they treat us like adults and don't spoon feed us so much as they guide us in our studies. The real difference is that we're gonna be expected to keep up with the course material on our own. No one's gonna tell us what to do and when to do it. There are reading assignments for the whole semester, and it's gonna be up to us to read them. We won't even go over them in class. Class time is gonna be for lectures by the profs and the TAs, and for open discussion."

"Wow, that is different . . . different, but better," I responded.

"It's gonna be much more of a pressure cooker, however," my brother continued. "Imagine being in a lecture hall with a couple hundred students, all of them from the top percentile of their graduating classes and most of them trying to compete for a handful of slots in the Law program."

"Yikes, I see your point," I acknowledged.

"Half of us are gonna be in the lower half of our class . . . that's a given . . . and most of these are students who've hardly ever gotten anything less than an 'A' in their lives."

"I don't think you or Jeremy have to worry about being in the lower half," I said with a laugh.

"I can only hope you're right," David replied with a more serious tone.

"So they got you running the place, yet, bro?" I asked.

Laughing, David responded, "Not quite, but the LGBT Alliance has already recruited me to be the treasurer."

"No shit!"

"No shit is right. I already have a pretty full plate with soccer practice," he added, "and Jer and I are gonna try out for the debate team."

"You'll both make the debating team," I said with encouragement, "especially you."

"That's what Jeremy says about me, too, but we'll wait and see. There's a lot of talented debaters at Harvard."

"Yeah, but how many of them have gone head-to-head with the President?" I asked.

"I'll grant you that," David acknowledged, and I could almost hear the smile in his voice.

"Is soccer going good?" I asked.

"Well, we're still in the midst of tryouts and we're not even here on athletic scholarships, but lets face it, Harvard isn't known for their sports program. From what I've seen, there's a good chance Jer and I will make first string, maybe even in our old positions."

"That'd be sweet," I agreed.

"So how's football practice?" David asked me. "I hear you made the freshman team."

"Yeah, I'm happy about that!"

"Was there ever any doubt?" David asked.

"Actually, there was some pretty good competition from the other two middle schools, but I did OK."

"OK? Brad, you're one of the best wide receivers in the district, if not the state."

"Maybe," I acknowledged with embarrassment. "Oh by the way, Billy Mathews made quarterback of the varsity team."

"Varsity!" David exclaimed. "As a sophomore? That is impressive. I just hope the other players on varsity are ready for a gay quarterback."

"Billy can take care of himself," I pointed out, "and everyone knows he's the best."

"No doubt," David agreed. "So are you ready to be the BMOC?" he asked.

"BMOC? What's BMOC?" I asked.

"Big man on campus."

"Why would I be the big man on campus?" I asked innocently enough.

"Are you kidding?" Dave practically shouted. "Brad, you're the kid everyone's gonna want to know. Just watch what happens at freshman orientation. Total strangers are gonna come up to you and act like they're your best friend.

"Think about it . . . not only were you President of the Eighth Grade at your middle school last year, but you're known city wide. You're in charge of the Gay Youth Council, you organized the bus caravan to Washington, and you've been on the front page of the paper and on the national news.

"No one else has that kind of recognition. At best, everyone else is known to a third of the freshman class, but everyone knows you or knows of you. You don't even have to campaign for Student Council, and your election as Freshman Class President is a lock."

"But what if I screw up?" I nervously asked.

"Brad, you're prolly the least likely person to screw up," my brother said with obvious pride in his voice. "You're gonna do great. Just take it from someone who's been there, be cautious of people who cling to you and try to force their friendship on you. More than likely, those are the ones who are trying to hitch their wagon to your star. You'll know who your true friends really are. All you have to do is be loyal to them."

"Sounds like good advice from a true expert," I said with a grin.

"Well, I'll let you get back to listening to Keane, or is it Lifehouse, or Snow Patrol or maybe OneRepublic?"

"Snow Patrol," I acknowledged with a laugh.

"Stay in touch, bro. Love ya."

"Love you too, bro," I replied, and then the music picked back up where it had left off.

David sure gave me a lot to think about!

It turned out he was right about freshman orientation when I attended a few days later. Kids I barely knew, and even some I didn't recognize at all, came up to me and acted as if they were my best friends. It was sooo funny. I was glad David gave me a heads up on what to expect.

I didn't give anyone the brush-off or anything, and did my best to make everyone feel I was giving them my full attention, but I drew a clear distinction between my true friends and the wanabes. I was respectful to the wanabes, but I made it clear if they wanted to become my friend, they had to earn it, and that meant getting involved. There were no shortcuts to my friendship.

It was blatantly obvious that some were just hoping to ride the coattails of my popularity, but I still gave them my full attention. I guess that's part of the job of being a politician.

One thing was for sure; I stood out among the freshmen. At 6'2" in height, I was easily one of the tallest kids in my class. I'd grown nearly a foot in the last year and a half. David was right - it seemed that everyone recognized me.

As I was standing in line to have my class picture taken, I felt a pair of arms snake around my waist from behind me. I turned around to find myself face-to-face, or more correctly, chin to forehead with my girlfriend, Kayla. In that instant I felt a little guilty, as I'd gone the whole summer with seeing her only a handful of times. I think we'd gone on only three or four actual dates, and had hung out maybe a half-dozen times at most.

The trouble was that between my brother's wedding, the trip to Europe, running the citywide Gay Youth Council, and attending football practice, there hadn't been a whole lotta time. Sadly, Kayla had gotten the short end of the stick.

Leaning down, I gave her a quick peck on the lips. It might have been only a brief kiss and without any tongue, but it made me instantly hard.

"Mmm, I'd almost forgotten what that felt like," she said, rubbing it in.

"Oh I know, honey," I replied. "My summer has been sooo busy and then there's football practice. There's hardly been time to sleep, let alone to call my girlfriend but, still, that's no excuse and I promise to do much better from now on."

"You'd better," she admonished me. "I'm counting on it."

Giving her another, slightly longer peck on the lips, I said, "You know I love you."

"I love you too, Brad. Just don't be a stranger."

"How about dinner and a movie this Friday night?" I suggested.

Kayla initiated the kiss this time and said, "I'd like that, sweetheart. I'd like it a lot."

"I'll give you a call tonight," I told her, "and we'll make plans."

"I can't wait," she replied as she kissed me one last time.

I honestly had been neglecting her lately. Kayla was special. I really did love her, but we were taking things slowly, not wanting to rush into sex before we got to know each other well enough to both feel this was a long-term thing. I was beginning to think that maybe we were at that point, however - we'd been going together for more than a year - but becoming intimate was a decision we would need to make together.

"Man, Reynolds, has she ever got you wrapped around her finger," I heard someone say from behind me. I'd been so lost in thought, thinking about my relationship with Kayla, I'd forgotten there were others in line with me. It was Simon Henry who'd made the comment. He was more of an acquaintance from middle school than a friend.

"You're just jealous 'cause you don't have a hot girlfriend like mine," came my retort.

"I don't need a girlfriend," he claimed as he interlaced his fingers with those of a boy I didn't know.

"You never said anything about your being gay, Simon," I said in mild surprise. "Why didn't you join in and help us get the GSA off the ground last year?"

"Shhh," he admonished me, "I'm not exactly out, yet, and I sure wasn't ready to come out last year."

The boy I didn't know rolled his eyes and said, "He's still working up the courage to tell his parents."

"Frankly, last year I was in denial," said Simon. "I was desperately trying to convince myself I was straight."

"By the way, I'm Scott," the other boy said.

"Oh, sorry I forgot to introduce you," Simon said to his boyfriend. Turning back to me, he said, "We met over the summer at Casselton Square Mall. Scott went to middle school at Eastwood."

"I was hanging out with friends," Scott explained, "and I was in the food court when I noticed that there was this boy who seemed to be with his own group of friends, but he kept staring at me. The other thing I noticed was that he was very cute."

Simon blushed deeply when his boyfriend said that, and then he added, "I couldn't help staring. Scott was beyond a doubt the best-looking boy I'd ever seen." Now it was Scott that was blushing. "My life came into focus on that day. All thoughts of being straight disappeared when I saw Scott. I knew in that instant I had to get to know him."

"I already knew I was gay," Scott added, "and I've been out to my family and my best friends since seventh grade, and I came out to the rest of my friends over the summer. So when I noticed a cute boy staring at me, I made an excuse to leave the food court, and next thing I knew, the boy was following me. Oh, he was trying to do it surreptitiously, but I knew."

"I thought I was being sneaky about it," said Simon with a laugh, "but I practically had to run to keep up with him, and when I turned the corner, BAM, I ran right into him. And then he shocked the hell outta me and he kissed me on the lips, right in the open! I kissed him back.

"That was five weeks, three days, 22 hours and . . ." looking at his watch, he continued, "six minutes ago."

"But who's counting, right?" Scott joked.

"Anyway, now I just need to break the news to the 'rents," said Simon with a sigh.

"How do you think they'll take it?" I asked.

"I dunno. I've never heard them say anything about gays, one way or the other. They've never been racist, or prejudiced, or anything like that but, well, you know how scary it is. Well, maybe you don't, but you have a gay brother who went through coming out."

"Actually, I was the one who outed my brother to our parents, but I think they already knew," I admitted with a laugh. "I was a bit of a brat when I was eleven."

"Weren't we all?" Scott chimed in. Then placing a hand on his boyfriend's shoulder, he added, "At least you know you have a place to stay if your parents don't take it well."

"Yeah, your parents are awesome," Simon acknowledged.

"You guys got your cell phones with you?" I asked.

When Simon and Scott both whipped out iPhones, I said, "Great minds think alike," as I pulled out mine. "You guys have Bump installed?"

Simon had it, but we had to install it on Scott's phone. We all bumped phones together and transferred our contact info from phone to phone. Sending a quick e-mail to both of them, I said, "I just sent you the North Central GSA's website address. There's some excellent resource material there on coming out. My good friend Trevor Austin designed the website, and he has a lot of experience with counseling gay teens."

Laughing, I added, "I've been getting a fair bit of experience in it myself during the past year, and I'm not even gay. Anyway, feel free to e-mail me or call me anytime, day or night."

"We know about Trevor and your brother, and their husbands," Scott noted. "Their wedding was the event of the summer. They've only been on the front page of The Star like about a dozen times. I was on one of the buses to Washington, by the way."

"And I visit the GSA website all the time . . ." Simon chimed in. "it's been a real lifesaver. But thanks for sending the info, anyway."

"Seriously, if there's anything I can do to help," I reiterated.

"Reynolds, you're OK for a hetero," Scott chided me.

I really liked Scott and Simon, and it wasn't because they were gay. They just seemed like nice guys - they were real, and not trying to latch onto my popularity. They also made a cute couple. I could tell by the way they interacted that they were already deeply in love, even if they didn't realize it yet. I had a feeling I'd end up being friends with them.

After we had our pictures taken and were about to go our separate ways, I told them, "By the way, the GSA has a table here at Orientation. You guys should check it out. And I hope I'll see you guys at GSA meetings."

"You can count on it," Scott replied at the same time his boyfriend said, "You bet you will."

Deciding to check out the GSA table myself, I headed over to the area where the student clubs had their tables set up, and quickly spotted the one for the GSA. It was manned by Barry Smith, the president and a senior who was a good friend of my brother, and Bret Andrews, the new vice-president, who was a sophomore and was on the junior varsity football squad.

Looking at the two of them, one could have easily thought that Barry might be gay, as he was on the short side and skinny, but he wasn't. No one, however, would have ever thought that Bret might be gay - he was a large, beefy African American kid who looked like the jock that he was. Yet he had a boyfriend, Larry Peters, who was also on Junior Varsity.

"How's it going, guys?" I asked.

"Fantastic," Barry answered with enthusiasm. "So far, we've signed up thirteen new members, and a lot of people are stopping by. I was kind of worried that with your brother leaving, as well as Trevor and both their husbands, we might not attract as many freshmen this year."

"A lot of them mentioned you, Brad," Bret added. "Some of them were even GSA members in middle school, and we all know who got the ball rolling on that. We even signed up three brothers and a sister today."

"Wow!" I said. "That just about doubles the African American membership, doesn't it?"

"Actually, we'd already picked up a few others after Bret came out," Barry related. "I suspect we'll get even more showing up at the meetings . . . they just don't want to be seen at this table."

"That's prolly true for a lot of kids," I agreed.

After saying my goodbyes to my friends from the GSA, I went in search of my locker, just to check it out. Even with the handy map the school provided, it took me a while to find it. While I was at it, I checked out the locations of all of my classes. Our high school was huge.

All in all, it took me nearly twice as long to get through freshman orientation as I'd expected it would. Everyone wanted to stop and talk to me.

That Friday, Kayla and I went on our date. We ended up killing two birds with one stone and went to the Greenbrier Cinema Grill, which is a really cool place. You sit at tables and they serve you dinner while you watch a movie. It's like a dinner theater, but with a movie instead of a play.

The movies they show are usually second run, at first run ticket prices, but who cares about the movie anyway? I didn't expect we'd be paying much attention to the movie in any case.

Kayla's older brother, Gill, was kind enough to give us a ride. He and his boyfriend, Clark, were going out on their own date to a place called Amalfi's, which was one of the better Italian restaurants in town, and it was located in the same shopping center as the movie theater.

Before the movie began, we placed our food order so we wouldn't have to interrupt the movie, or anything else we might want to do. It's funny, but after living with a brother who's been a vegetarian for the past five years, I've kind of lost the taste for meat myself. Out of necessity, I do eat some meat at school, 'cause I'm too lazy to pack my own lunch the way David did, but I don't even like the taste of it anymore.

To start with, we ordered the 'Raiders of the lost Artichoke and Spinach Dip to share, followed by a large 'Vincent Vega Veggie Pizza'. We also ordered a serving of the 'Big Momma Mozzarella Sticks' to eat with the pizza. For desert, Kayla ordered the 'Apple Cinnamon Blossom', which was an apple dumpling, and I ordered the 'Veruca's Fudge Brownie Sundae'. It was a junk food feast for a couple of starving teenagers.

The appetizer arrived just as the previews were starting, and it came with a basket of toasted garlic bread. I immediately spread some of the dip on a slice of garlic bread, and held it up to Kayla's mouth before she should get her own piece. I'd never realized how erotic it could be to feed your girlfriend like that. Who knew that sticking a piece of bread into someone's mouth could make me hard. 'Course just being around Kayla made me hard, anyway.

Kayla reciprocated in feeding me a slice of garlic bread with dip, and we went back and forth, prolly taking three times longer to eat the bread than we might have feeding ourselves. 'Course the kissing between bites slowed us down, too. It was kinda hard to watch the movie when feeding each other, but we weren't really there to watch the movie anyway.

The pizza and mozzarella sticks arrived before we finished the dip, and so we started on feeding our own faces so the pizza wouldn't get cold. When the desserts arrived, we each fed a small portion or our own dessert to the other, so we could enjoy both tastes. I'm pretty much a chocoholic, but even I had to admit that Kayla's dessert was incredible.

When we finished eating and the server came over to take away our plates and ask if we wanted anything else, we ended up ordering the 'Monsters Popcorn'. No we weren't in the least bit hungry - in fact, I wasn't even sure where I was going to put the popcorn, but there's just something comfortable about snuggling up with the one you love, watching a movie and munching on popcorn.

After the movie let out, Kayla called Gill on her cell phone and found out that he and Clark were almost done with their dinner. So we walked over to the restaurant and waited by Gill's car. We didn't have very long to wait.

"We were planning to go back to our house," Gill announced. I don't know if Kayla mentioned it, but our 'rents are out for the evening. They won't be back until tomorrow afternoon. Would you guys like to come along with us?"

Whoa! I'd assumed we'd go to the mall or something like that after the movie. I wasn't expecting this. I wanted nothing more than to take our relationship to the next level, but the thought of doing so made me nervous as hell.

"What do you think, K?" I asked.

"Brad, all of a sudden, you look nervous. Listen, I know we said we'd wait, but to be honest with you, lately it's taken all my effort to keep from . . ."

"Ripping my clothes off?" I asked.

"Exactly," she said with her own nervous laugh. "But we don't have to do anything. Just spending some more snuggle time with you would be wonderful, but if you wanna get closer, we could see what happens."

Lowering my voice so only Kayla could hear, I replied, "I'm so horny and in love with you, I could jump your bones right here in the parking lot, but we'd probably enjoy it a whole lot more at your house."

Giggling, Kayla said, "I feel the same way."

"I'm going to talk to my parents about it," I cautioned. "It wont be easy, but I wouldn't feel right keeping it a secret from them."

"That's one of the things that makes you so special, Brad. You respect your parents, and because of that, they respect you. You respect me, too . . . not many boys respect their girlfriends the way you do . . . and I appreciate it.

"I've already spoken to my 'rents," she said with a laugh, surprising me to no end, "and although they told me they aren't about to give me a green light to have sex, they know we love each other, and they think you're one of the nicest boys they've ever met.

"If they only knew the truth!" She joked. "Anyway, I got the whole safer sex lecture, which I guess was to be expected."

"I got that lecture a while ago," I responded. "My brother's been sexually active since he was my age, so he kind of paved the way for me."

Turning back to face Gill and Clark, I told them, "OK, we're in."

"Just don't do anything Clark and I wouldn't," Gill admonished me. "After all, that's my sister we're talking about."

"You can't imagine how much I love her, Gill. Believe me, I'll never deliberately hurt her."

"I know that, Brad, which is one of the reasons we offered," Gill replied.

The drive to Gill and Kayla's house seemed to take forever, but in reality it was only ten minutes. When we got there, Gill asked, "Would you guys like some beer? Clark and I are having some, and you're welcome to it, too, if you'd like."

Remembering how we got plastered on a couple glasses of wine when we were in Italy, I replied, "Thanks for the offer, but I think I'll pass on the beer. I may be nervous, but I'd like to remember this evening."

"I'll get us some Sprite," Kayla suggested.

"That'd be fine," I agreed.

As Gill and Clark started retreating to Gill's bedroom, I cleared my voice and asked, "Ah, do you have any . . ."

"Rubbers?" Gill asked.

"Yeah," I responded.

Clark reached into his pocket - his pocket? - and pulled out a packet of condoms, tore off a couple and tossed them to me.

"Thanks," I replied.

Once Gill's bedroom door was closed, Kayla and I retreated to her bedroom and started making out in earnest. We were both nervous as shit, but we wanted this. We wanted it more than anything.

To say it wasn't awkward would have been a lie, but our passion more than made up for it. I loved Kayla completely, and she loved me. Before midnight had passed, we were no longer virgins - and we'd made use of both condoms.

"You need to get home, Brad," Kayla reminded me.

Hearing sounds coming from the bedroom next door, I Replied, "But it sounds like your brother and Clark are still at it, and the last thing I want to do is interrupt that." With a sigh, I grabbed my cell phone off Kayla's dresser and pushed and held the 'home' button until it chirped at me.

"Call Dad," I said into the microphone, causing Kayla to get a concerned look on her face."

"Brad, where are you," Dad asked as soon as he answered.

"I'm sorry, Dad," I replied, "but I lost track of the time. I'm at Kayla's house. After the movie, Gill and Clark asked if we'd like to go home with them. I assumed they'd give me a ride home, but they're, um, busy."

Dad laughed hysterically at my euphemism for having sex, and then he asked me, "Were you and Kayla 'busy', too?"

"Dad!" I practically shouted into the phone.

"Did you at least use protection?" he asked, causing my face to feel like it was on fire.

"Dad, this was both of our first times, but we aren't exactly ready to be parents, so of course we used protection." The look on Kayla's face was priceless when I said that. I then added, "But how did you know?"

"Son, you've forgotten something very important . . . I was once a teenager, too, and I remember all too well what it's like to be fourteen. Not that I think you should be having sex at that age, but you've been in a stable, loving relationship for more than a year. And, after all, your brother was active with his boyfriend at your age, and we all know how well that turned out."

"Yeah, it did," I said with a smile. I was hoping for a similar outcome with Kayla.

"Brad, I'll be happy to come pick you up, but if you'd like to, you can stay the night. The only condition is that you have to talk to the Gardners if you do."

"Shouldn't we get their permission or something, first?" I asked.

"Ordinarily I'd agree with you," Dad said, "but your mother and I have already spoken with Kayla's parents on the issue of sleepovers once you became sexually active."

"You've been discussing our sex lives behind our backs?" I exclaimed.

"Of course we have," Dad laughed. "We're parents, and we've already been through this with both our older children. The Gardners and us agree that we'd rather you sleep over than be out on the road late at night. I'd rather not be out on the road late at night, too."

"Wow! How many sons have their parents' blessing to spend the night with their girlfriend?" I asked.

"I didn't say we're giving you our blessing. In fact, we'd just as soon you went back to abstinence for another, say, twenty years or so," he said with a laugh. "Seriously, we trust you, Brad. We trust Kayla, too. The fact that you felt comfortable calling me says a world about how much you trust us."

"And love, Dad." I added. "I love you and Mom very much. You're terrific.

"I'll give you a call in the morning,"

"I'll be counting on it," Dad concluded before ending the call.

"What'd he say? What'd he say?" Kayla asked

"Well," I explained, "it seems our parents have been discussing our potential love life behind our backs, and they'd rather we spend the night together than be on the road late at night. So if it's OK with you, I'd like to spend the night on a sleepover with my girlfriend."

"Oh?" Kayla exclaimed, "And here I thought you were gonna spend the night with me."

"Very funny," I said, just before I pounced on her. We wrestled around on her bed, and pretty soon we were making out with each other yet again. We were going at it hot and heavy, but because we didn't have any more condoms, there was a limit to what we could do until we got some more from Gill in the morning. As we drifted off to sleep in each other's arms and with a smile on my face, I thought to myself that we would definitely need to get more condoms in the morning.

The following week, my high school life began its first chapter. I walked into my first class, AP Biology, which was also my homeroom. It was called third period, 'cause juniors and seniors who drive have the option of starting and ending the day earlier. Indeed, those willing to start school at seven with first period can finish before lunch, which is sweet, but what normal teenager wants to get up that early?

A number of friends from middle school were in my homeroom, including Sam and my best friend, Cliff. Sam's best friend, Paul, was in regular Biology, but even that was a bit of a miracle, considering that he used to be in Special Ed. It was thanks to Sam tutoring him that he was doing so well academically.

The teacher in Biology was an old woman with silver hair. She looked like a bit of a battle-axe, and as leathery as her skin was, I wouldn't have been surprised to find out that she grew up on a farm.

After the bell went off, she began by introducing herself and telling us a little about herself and the class. I was right! She did grow up on a farm.

"Now because this class is also your homeroom, it's ten minutes longer than your other classes. We'll start promptly at 8:50 and we will have a full hour, of which the first ten minutes will be devoted to school announcements, which should begin any minute now, and for other school business.

"We have a lot to take care of this week, not the least of which is electing your representatives to the Freshman Student Council. Each homeroom has one member on the council, plus an alternate who attends meetings when your representative cannot. Meetings are held once a week throughout the school year and occasionally more often when something's going on . . ."

At that moment, the principal's image appeared on the large flat panel TV in the front of the room. He kept his remarks short, thankfully, and welcomed all of us to the start of a new school year. He then introduced the Senior Class President, Rachel Weinstein, who would be making morning announcements from then on.

'That would have been David,' I thought to myself, 'if he hadn't taken early graduation.'

"Getting back to student council elections," our teacher resumed after the screen went blank, "the alternates are expected to attend meetings once a month to keep abreast of things, but they can't vote unless your regular representative can't make it.

"In addition to the representatives and alternates from the thirty-five freshman homerooms, there are five at-large members whom you will vote for in an election to be held in two weeks. The reason we have at-large members is we want to give everyone a chance, even in homerooms that have more than one highly motivated student.

"A good case in point was three years ago, when David Reynolds was chosen as the alternate representative from this very homeroom. He chose to run for election as an at-large member and won that election, then went on to become the Freshman Class Treasurer, and later the Sophomore Class and Junior Class President. He wouldn't have been eligible to run for office as an alternate.

"Since the election of your homeroom representative and alternate will be on Monday next week, I thought we'd take most of this morning's class to get to know each other, so you'll have an idea whom you're voting for. We'll catch up on our class work later on.

"What I'd like to do is to go around the room and have you briefly tell us a little about yourselves. We'll continue this tomorrow with the ones we don't get to today."

Because they were near the beginning of the alphabet, Sam and Cliff were among the first to speak.

"My name is Sam Austin," Sam began, "but some of you may remember me as Sammy Franklin. My foster parents adopted me last year and I took their name. Trevor Austin's my brother. He's awesome. He won the Outstanding Senior award last year. He got married over the summer to Kurt DeWitt in a double ceremony with David Reynolds and Jeremy Kimball."

I noticed that the teacher frowned at that, and I hoped my involvement with the GSA wouldn't taint her feelings toward me.

Continuing, Sam said, "Some of you may remember the camp scandal of two years ago, and you may have even watched the DVD of the presentation Kurt and I made on it here. I'm not ashamed to say I was raped. I've gone through a lot of counseling since then and I'm doing great! Unfortunately, I'm HIV-positive, but thanks to the meds, my cell counts are normal and my viral load's undetectable.

"I'm not much of an athlete, and I guess some might consider me to be a bit of a geek. I read a lot . . . usually two or three books a week. I'm also passionate about gourmet cooking. My plan for the future is to become a teacher, preferably in an inner-city school. I'd like to be able to give back to the community what was given to me when I came to live with the Austins."

After Sam sat down, the teacher said, "Thanks, Sam. That was quite a story."

When it was Cliff's turn, he said, "My name is Cliff Daniels, but I hope it will soon be Cliff Kimball, as my foster parents are in the process of adopting me. Jeremy Kimball's my brother. He won three back-to-back state swimming championships, and was offensive midfielder on our championship varsity soccer team last year.

"Like Sam Austin, I was involved in that camp scandal two years ago, but I'm not just HIV-positive . . . I have AIDS. It's not because I was raped that I have full-blown AIDS, but because I did something stupid. If there's one thing you get outta knowing me, it's that no matter what, always use protection."

Wow! Everyone just sat in stunned silence when Cliff sat down. The teacher had to intervene to get the ball rolling again. She didn't get to me until the next day.

"My name's Brad Reynolds," I began. "Many of you know me because of my brother, David Reynolds, who was the Junior Class President last year, but took early graduation and is now attending pre-Law at Harvard along with his husband, Jeremy Kimball. You may also know me because of the publicity I got when I led a caravan of fifteen buses of kids in a show of support for my brother and his friends during the alleged prostitution scandal. Some of you may have even gone with me to Washington on one of the buses.

"Having grown up with a gay brother, I've seen first-hand what often happens to gay kids, particularly here in the Midwest. My own brother-in-law was outed and ostracized in middle school, and so I decided to do something about it. Thanks to my efforts and those of many others, including my girlfriend, Kayla Gardner, we now have functioning gay-straight alliances in all three middle schools in the district. I am also the president of the Gay Youth Council, a citywide organization intended to help the gay teens of our community and to put an end to discrimination.

"I do have hobbies that don't revolve around the gay community," I added with an afterthought, and everyone laughed. "I've been playing football since the pee-wee league, and I'm a wide receiver on the freshman team."

When I sat down, everyone in the room clapped. I couldn't believe it.

It was no surprise to me, come Friday, when I was nominated to be our representative to the Freshman Student Council. The only other nomination was for Sam, which was a surprise to him. He protested that most of his classes were at the sophomore level, but the person making the nomination, who was someone I didn't know, refused to withdraw it. He said that just showed why Sam was the most qualified kid in our homeroom.

On Monday, I was elected the student council representative and Sam was elected as the alternate. The election of at-large members was to take place the following week, but none of my friends were running, so I didn't pay that much attention.

In the meantime, Homecoming was nearly upon us and we were crazy busy in football practice, getting ready for the big game. Of course I was taking Kayla to the Homecoming dance. I was definitely going to make up for neglecting her over the summer.

I was really psyched by the time the Homecoming weekend arrived. We kicked it off with a huge rally in the gym for the whole school. Then it was time for the freshman football team to open the games. Yeah! This was our time to shine.

We won the coin toss and so we were the receivers of the opening kickoff. My heart was racing as I saw the ball sailing right toward me! "And Reynolds catches the opening kick," I heard the announcer say over the PA system, but I had my full attention focused on the playing field and the onrushing defensive players of the opposing team.

I was kinda in deep shit with no place to run, but I was determined to make my best effort. I headed right for the biggest, meanest looking SOB. Others were running in from the sides to assist him, but then I quickly darted to the side and slipped between a couple of them who obviously weren't expecting it.

I continued running, but suddenly felt someone slam into me from the side. In spite of my efforts, I lost my footing and went down. I attempted to get back up, but then another player landed on my back, and before I knew it, several players were on top of me. Oooh, how I hated getting tackled, but it's all part of the game, right?

"First down, Panthers, at the Blue Devil forty yard line," the referee said and the message was then relayed by the announcer over the PA.

After a quick huddle, we lined up in formation at the scrimmage line. The plan was for the quarterback, Derrick White, to fake a pass and then run with the ball, but the opposition broke through our offensive line and sacked Derrick before he even had a chance to fake a pass. We lost a dozen yards on that play, and it was our second down.

With the need to regain yardage, the logical move was to pass, but the trouble was, the opposition would be expecting it. When the ball went into play, I darted around the line of scrimmage and took off running deep into Blue Devil territory. When I got to around the twenty-yard line, I turned around and saw Derrick struggling to break free. When he saw me in position, he stepped back and made a wild pass, more out of desperation than anything.

The pass was going to be long, so I ran in a crazy attempt to catch it, but this was what I do well. I leapt into the air, grabbed it with my fingertips, tucked it into my torso and took off running toward the end zone. Since there were no opposition players anywhere near me, and because I'm very fast on my feet, I knew we had a touchdown. We got the extra point and the score was seven-zip, our favor.

Although we played excellent defense and only grudgingly gave up yardage, by the end of the first quarter, the Blue Devils had evened the score.

Unfortunately, once we had the ball in our possession, the opposition managed to sack our quarterback repeatedly. Derrick did complete a pass to me for a first down inside the Blue Devil's thirty-yard line. We made little yardage after that, however faced with a fourth down, Coach brought in our kicker for a field goal. We were now ahead by three.

Once again, our defensive line did a great job of holding the Blue Devils back, but shortly before the end of the first half, they scored another touchdown. They missed the extra point, though, making the half time score 10-13, their favor.

During half time, boy did Coach give us a reaming out. It felt like he ripped a new asshole in each and every one of us. He actually told us we needed to play like a bunch of queers - those were his words. "After all," he said, "Some of our school's best players, Billy Mathews, Bret Andrews and Larry Peters, are gay and out. Compared to them, you guys are pathetic."

We received the kick-off in the start of the second half, and this time it was Ronnie Douglas who caught the ball and ran with it. He made it all the way to the Blue Devils' thirty-yard line! On the next play, I made my move and ran downfield to the end zone. When I looked back, our offensive line was still holding, and Derrick threw the ball my way as soon as he saw me. With the extra point, the score was 17-13, our favor.

Our defensive line took to the field and did a much better job of pinning the Blue Devils down. Jake Langston intercepted their wild attempt at a pass, and the offensive line took back to the field on our forty-yard line.

Unfortunately, Derrick tried passing to me when I was nowhere near in the clear. My height gave me an advantage, but there were too many Blue Devils around me and the pass was short, well out of my reach. It was intercepted and the opposition ran with it, scoring another touchdown. With the extra point, the score was 17-20, in their favor. Damn!

Although our offensive line stayed on the field, Coach pulled me, fearing he'd need me more in the final quarter. I hated sitting it out, but Coach was always right. Over the course of the next several plays, Derrick made a series of short passes to Jeff with modest gains in yardage. Just when it looked like we might get a touchdown, Derrick's pass was intercepted at the Blue Devil's 10-yard line. That really hurt.

With our defensive line in place, the Blue Devils made a major assault, but we weren't yielding an inch and their progress down the field was excruciatingly slow. Finally, we caught the Blue Devils in a fourth down situation at our thirty-yard line and they opted for the field goal, making the score 17-23. Fuck!

It was now well into the fourth quarter, and Coach put me back in the game, but sent in our backup quarterback, Sam Bates, in place of Derrick. Sam didn't have near the throwing arm as Derrick did, but he tended to have a cooler head under pressure, which is what we needed now.

Three plays later, Sam faked a pass to Carl Tate, but then ran right into the end zone himself for the touchdown. We would have had a tie score had we failed to get the extra point, but the kick was good and the score was 24-23, in our favor, with just forty seconds on the clock. Yesss!

The Blue Devils attempted a 'Hail Mary' pass in the final seconds of the game, but it fell short and the final score was 24-23, Panthers. I was thrilled when I learned I was named the MVP! Also that night was the freshman soccer game, which we won by a large margin.

On Saturday, our junior varsity football team suffered an embarrassing loss, in spite of playing pretty well. Larry Peters and Bret Andrews were in excellent form, as were many of the other players. We were simply outplayed. The JV soccer team played a much closer game than did the freshman team the previous evening, but they still pulled off a win for us. The varsity soccer team suffered a tough loss by one goal, which had to hurt after having had such a successful season the year before. Losing David and Jeremy undoubtedly left them with a major hole - one that would be tough to fill.

The varsity football game wasn't even close. Watching Billy Mathews in action was truly an experience. It was no wonder he made it to varsity as a sophomore. The Blue Devils tried, but they couldn't touch him. When he ran, he was like Teflon - they just couldn't bring him down, and when he passed, his passes were complete, no matter how far he threw the ball. The final score was 38-10, Panthers.

When I went to pick up Kayla for dinner, followed by the Homecoming dance, I almost didn't recognize her when I went to the door. God, she was absolutely stunning, and I told her so.

I took her to McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant downtown. I could have taken her to someplace much closer at Keystone at the Crossing, or in Casselton, or even in College Park, but I wanted to take her someplace really nice. I wanted to do something special for her, and it only takes about twenty minutes to get downtown. In less than two years, we'd be able to drive ourselves, but Gill and Clark drove us, so it was no big deal. The food was outstanding, but even more outstanding was the company.

It was really nice to see all our friends at the dance. Sam was there with a sophomore girl he'd apparently met in his English Lit class, and Paul was there with a girl with Down's syndrome that he apparently knew from the days when he was in Special Ed. They made a sweet couple and weren't too shy about joining in our conversations. Simon and Scott were also there, and they were one of several same-sex couples that danced that evening. I thought back with pride on the fact that it was my brother and Jeremy who'd paved the way for them just three years before.

"So . . . have you talked to your parents, yet?" I asked Simon when I caught up with him and Scott between dances.

"It prolly wouldn't be a good idea to be seen dancing here if he hadn't," his boyfriend replied. "Actually, truth be told, he chickened out."

Blushing, Simon explained, "It was my parents who approached me about my sexuality. We'd just brought Scott home with us after going out on a sort of date."

"If you can consider meeting up at Casselton Square Mall and eating in the food court a date," Scott interrupted.

"Anyway, my parents picked us up at the mall, and I asked if Scott could come home with us for a while. No sooner had we walked in the door than my mom asked if they could talk to us before we headed up to my room.

"Dad then told us, right then and there, 'Before you say anything, I just wanted you boys to know that we are totally accepting of our gay friends.' He then asked, 'With that in mind, is there anything you'd like to tell us?'"

"You should have seen how Simon's jaw dropped open," Scott interjected.

"Yeah, I was pretty shocked, but with my parents standing there, smiling, it was pretty obvious they knew the score, and so I asked, 'Is it that obvious?' and Mom replied, 'The way you boys look at each other . . . there's no mistaking the look of love.' Then Dad added, 'Just be sure to keep your door open,' with a laugh."

Scott literally rolled his eyes as he added, "Parents. Anyway, I pointed out that we hadn't even said the 'L' word aloud to each other, yet, but I assured them that I loved their son with all my heart."

"At which point I said, 'Really? I feel the same way!'" Simon added.

"And then we kissed, right in front of Simon's parents," Scott said in conclusion.

When we took back to the dance floor, Kayla said, "It's so cute the way Simon and Scott complete each other's thoughts. I don't doubt that they'll be together for a very long time."

"Kind of like the way we complete each other's sentences," I replied, "and I think we'll be together for a long, long time. At least I hope we'll be."

Before I knew what was happening, we had our tongues down each other's throats - at least it seemed that way. I knew it violated school policy, but I couldn't help myself - I was so in love with Kayla, and this was a school dance, after all. We kissed again, but then the music changed to a fast song. It was a good thing, too, as the exertion helped me to get the physical evidence of our love under control.

It was already October by the time the Freshman Student Council held its first meeting. I was pleased to see that both Simon and Scott were on the council, as were a fair number of friends and acquaintances. Including the at-large members, there were forty of us on the council, plus 35 alternates, minus a few who were absent, at the first meeting.

The Sophomore Class President presided over that first meeting along with the faculty advisor, just to get us started. She gave us a rundown of all the things the Council did, and then she explained how we were going to elect our officers.

Nominations would be accepted from the floor, and they needed to be seconded to count. Each of us (yeah, I kinda knew I'd be nominated) would then give a five-minute speech explaining why we wanted the office, why we were qualified for it and what we hoped to accomplish. Yikes, I wasn't prepared for that!

While we were speaking, ballots would be printed up for us to cast our votes. Alternates couldn't be officers. They could make nominations, but they couldn't vote.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that I was the first person nominated, and it was none other than Sam who nominated me, but there were so many people who wanted to second the nomination that it was embarrassing. Unfortunately, no one else nominated anyone for president - maybe they were all intimidated by me running - I would have felt better about it if I'd actually won the office in a face-off with someone else, rather than by acclamation.

Because I was unopposed, I didn't have to speak, but the Sophomore Class President asked me to make some remarks at the end of the meeting, anyway.

Scott was one of the nominees for treasurer, and I was really impressed with what he had to say:

"My name's Scott Clemmons, and I'd like to be your class treasurer. I went to Eastwood, and for those of you who don't know me, I'm gay. I've been out since the seventh grade, and if you have a problem with that, then you should think twice about whether or not you want to be on the Freshman Student Council. This school has a tradition of acceptance, and you need to be prepared to represent all of the students in your homeroom, including the two or three who are gay, just as I represent the 26 or so who aren't.

"I'd like to be your class treasurer. I was the treasurer of the Eastwood GSA last year, and I've been the top fundraiser in the annual coupon-book fundraiser for our church, three years in a row. I know how to raise and manage money, and I can do it for our class.

"Three years ago, David Reynolds set a new record for fundraising in any class when he initiated a very successful software sale. Unfortunately, the restrictions that have since been placed on the school by the supplier have precluded us from using that approach again, but there are other, similar strategies that I think could work.

"For example, the Metropolitan School District has a contract with one of the major cell providers for discounted cell phone service for its employees. I took the initiative of checking into this, and found that the contract can be extended to include students and their families, and we can get a commission for signing people up.

"Now I know a lot of you have contracts with early termination fees, and some of you aren't going to be willing to part with your iPhones, but if we could sign up just twenty percent of our class and ten percent of the students in the other classes, and their families, we could make some serious dough. That's just one example of a new approach to raising money.

"I'm a pretty good salesman, and I'm not in the least bit shy when it comes to approaching the owners of local businesses and stores. I've done it before for my church group.

"As you know, all the classes go after sponsorship as a way to raise funds. They sell sponsorship for the yearbook, for various sporting events and even for individual functions such as school dances.

"I'm willing to commit right here and right now to quadrupling sponsorship revenues over those of last year's freshman class. I can make that commitment because I know I will succeed.

"I cannot stress enough how important it is to elect the best treasurer for the job. In many ways, the treasurer is the most important officer of the class. We rely on the money we raise to fund future activities, such as our senior prom, and we want to ensure that we can keep ticket prices low enough so that everyone who wants to, can attend.

"It's also traditional for each class to make a donation to the school at the time of graduation. Past gifts have included such things as benches to sit on outside, or funds for renovating classrooms. I'd like our gift to be unique . . . to be special. It will be our legacy, and I want the Class of 2014 to be remembered as the most generous in the history of the school. Elect me, and I'll make it happen."

I was impressed. He was intelligent, he was articulate and he was politically savvy. He'd go far in life, and he was definitely someone I wanted to know better. Needless to say, he won the election, so I'd have plenty of opportunity to get to know him as I worked with him as a class officer.

Once the election results had been announced, it was time for me to give a brief speech. This was completely off-the-cuff. The Sophomore Class President introduced me to the Council and handed me the gavel.

"Wow! When my brother asked me how it felt to be the BMOC . . . the 'big man on campus', I thought it was a joke. He wasn't joking, however. He knew what it's like, having been his class president for two years, and he saw something in my character to know I would follow in his footsteps.

"When I organized the caravan to Washington last summer, it wasn't because I wanted to become the BMOC. When I organized a series of GSAs in all the middle schools, it wasn't because I wanted to be the BMOC. When I helped to get the citywide Gay Youth Alliance off the ground, it wasn't because I wanted to be the BMOC. I did these things because they needed to be done.

"Last year, the eighth grade class at Northview rewarded me by choosing me to be their class president. You have chosen to honor me as the class president for our entire freshman class. I know many of you chose me because, for some reason that totally escapes me, I'm popular. Over the course of the coming year, I hope to show you that you made a good choice . . . that I'm the best qualified person for the job, not because I've had my mug in The Star a few times, but because I can make things happen.

"Above all else, I am your humble servant. Make no mistake, I will lead, but ultimately I work for you. It is your decisions I will implement, and it is your dreams that I will honor. Together we will make things happen.

"Now a word about friendship. Simply being nice to me, and trying to be seen with me, will not make you my friend. I am going to work hard as an officer, and I expect the same of all of you. If you volunteer, if you carry your share of the load, and make a positive contribution to the efforts of the Freshman Student Council, then I will be your friend for life.

"Please join me in making the Class of 2014 one that will long be remembered in the halls of North Central.

"Thank you."

Whoa, I got a standing ovation for my remarks. Thinking that I'd better arrange to meet with the other officers, I called out, "Janet, Scott and Tyrone, could I see you for a minute after the meeting?" and then I said, "If there is no other business today, is there a motion to adjourn?"

Seconds later, I brought the gavel down, ending the meeting.

As everyone else was filing out of the room, my fellow officers made their way to the front to meet with me. They included Janet Richards, the vice-president, and Tyrone Tate, the secretary, as well as of course Scott Clemmons, our treasurer. All three of them went to different middle schools than I did so, except for Scott, I didn't really know them at all.

After exchanging cell phone, e-mail and chat information and loading it into our phones, I began a conversation with my fellow class officers. "We don't really know each other," I said, "and we have a lot of work to do before next week's Freshman Student Council meeting. We need to establish a meeting agenda, not to mention we need to get up to speed on what the important issues are for the Freshman Class, and what deadlines are approaching for class-specific events.

"Do all of you share first lunch with me?" I asked, and they all indicated that they did. This wasn't surprising, as most of the freshman class had first lunch. In fact, Sam was the only one I knew who didn't, and that was because it conflicted with a junior level class he was taking.

"What I'd like to propose, then," I suggested, "is that we have lunch together every day for the next two or three weeks so we can get to know each other, and work on the agendas for upcoming meetings. I know you prolly have friends you like to eat with, but I have football practice after school, so meeting after school is out, and if you're like me, you don't want to come in before school," I said with a laugh, and they laughed too.

"Once we get things down, then we can prolly get away with having lunch together only once or twice a week, but for now I think we need to eat together every day. What do you think?" I asked.

"I think it's a great idea, Brad," Scott replied, and the other two told me it was 'cool' as well. Yup, things were off to a great start in high school!

Just a week later, Cliff and I were in AP Geometry, sitting side-by-side while the teacher was going on and on about isosceles triangles. I was practically asleep. Then my whole world suddenly came crashing down.

Cliff made a loud gasping noise and his whole body went rigid. Before I knew what was happening, he was jerking in his seat like crazy. His desk toppled over, and he continued jerking on the floor, all tangled up in his desk.

I was next to my best friend in a flash, but was kinda scared. I didn't know what to do. I was afraid to even touch him, and the way he was thrashing around, I was worried he was going to injure himself or someone else with his desk.

Scott and Simon appeared from out of nowhere - they were in my class, too - and Scott said, "We've got to get the desk away from him, and secure his airway."

I held onto Cliff while Scott and Simon carefully lifted the desk away from him and set it down in the front of the classroom. In the meantime, Cliff rolled over, so he was lying on his back as he continued to thrash around.

When Scott and Simon came back to my side, Scott said, "We need to turn him back on his side, so he doesn't swallow his tongue." In the meantime, everyone, including the teacher, was out of their seats and had formed a circle around us.

When Scott grabbed hold of Cliff's head to steady it while we turned him, someone shouted out, "Wait! He has AIDS!" I guess Cliff had bitten his tongue, 'cause there was blood in his mouth, dribbling down his cheek.

My brain kicked back into gear and I grabbed Cliff's backpack and pulled out a bag of latex gloves that he kept in there, just for this purpose. I handed a pair of gloves to Scott and to Simon, and then donned a pair myself before we all turned Cliff on his side.

A minute later, the principal, vice-principal and school nurse all walked in. I guess the teacher must have sent someone to the office to get help. After what seemed like an hour, but was probably no more than five minutes, paramedics arrived with a stretcher in tow. We had a city fire station on campus, so they didn't have to come from far.

I walked with the paramedics to the ambulance that was waiting in front of the school, but they wouldn't let me ride with them to the hospital, even though I was the closest thing Cliff had to family at the high school.

I was in tears as I called my dad to tell him what was happening. Mom was a teacher and it would have taken her time to get away during the day. Dad was a fundraiser for non-profit organizations and, as such, his schedule was flexible. It turned out he actually was with a client at the time, but when he heard Cliff had been rushed to St. Vincent's, he wasted no time in telling the client he had a family emergency and had to leave.

In the meantime, I went to the office and asked to be excused from school. The principal actually came out and talked to me, and thanked me for my quick action in helping to stabilize Cliff. While I was there, I called my brother and left a voice mail message on his phone to let him know what was happening. About ten minutes later, Dad arrived and signed me out.

The wait in St. Vincent's Emergency Department was interminable. They couldn't let us back to see Cliff, 'cause they were having trouble controlling his seizures, but they kept us informed of his progress until his parents arrived. Dad had a healthcare proxy that allowed him to act on Cliff's behalf in his parents' absence, and gave us access to his healthcare information.

It wasn't long, however, before both of Cliff's foster parents showed up. The first to arrive was Tom Kimball, who entered the ER about twenty minutes after we did. Dr. Cynthia Roth arrived a few minutes after that with Carlotta, Cliff's nanny. I knew how difficult it was for them to get away from work, but this was the boy they were in the process of adopting as their son!

It was nearly two hours before a doctor came back out to let us know how Cliff was doing. "We finally got the seizures under control, but we had to put him on a lorazepam drip to do so. We're loading him with phenytoin and Keppra. We've intubated him more as a precaution than anything, just in case he goes back into status.

"Now that he's stable, we're taking him for an emergency CT scan of his brain. If there's a hemorrhage, he'll need emergency surgery to evacuate the hematoma. With AIDS, however, it could just as easily be cerebral toxoplasmosis, lymphoma or PML."

With tears in her eyes, Mom took out a piece of paper and handed it to the physician. "This is Cliff's living will . . . his out-of-hospital DNR. He doesn't want extraordinary measures if the outcome is futile."

"He likely has already sustained brain damage as a result of his prolonged seizures," the doctor related. "But only time will tell. Let's hold off on making any final decisions until we see the results of his CAT scan. We'll know a lot more in about an hour."

That was one of the longest hours of my life. Man, the term 'brain damage' kept echoing inside my head. The Cliff I knew and loved might already be gone forever. I sure did a lot of praying, even though I wasn't all that religious. Carlotta wept quietly by herself, running her fingers over her rosary beads. Although only Cliff's nanny, she'd loved Cliff from the minute she set eyes on him.

Finally, the doctor came back out to see us, and ushered us into a separate room, where another doctor was waiting in front of a large computer display. What I presumed to be Cliff's CAT scan was on the display. Cliff's mom went right up to it and looked at it intently.

"As you can see," the other doctor said, "there are a number of enhancing, white matter lesions throughout his brain. Although we can't know for sure without a biopsy, this is most consistent with PML. There is a remote possibility of cerebral toxo, or lymphoma, or possibly of metastatic disease, but the lesions are much less consistent with these things.

"We're going to empirically start him on pyrimethamine, sulfadiazine and folinic acid for toxo, since that's the only thing he might have that's curable. We're also going to add cidofovir to his HIV regimen, although if he does have PML it's more than likely too late, as the JC virus only responds to antiviral medications in the very earliest stages of infection.

"Should he regain consciousness, we'll need to discuss the possibility of doing a brain biopsy, as brain irradiation can be palliative as well as prolong life in CNS lymphoma.

"We'll leave him intubated for now. We'll also need you to sign an in-hospital DNR form . . . otherwise, he'll be a full code."

"You're admitting him, then?" Dr. Roth asked.

"You won't be able to manage the seizure medications at home until he's off his drip, and should he have another seizure, he could injure himself, and he could injure you. His strain of HIV is highly drug-resistant . . . I don't need to tell you that . . . and you don't need to put yourselves in danger of contracting it."

I shuddered at the thought of what was happening to Cliff. He was a friend to many people - my dearest friend, and he would probably never wake up again. He was dying and he was going to take a piece of each of us with him, leaving a hole in our hearts that could never be filled.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing and Alastair in proofreading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting them.


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