This story is a work of erotic fiction involving teenage boys. All the usual rules apply. If you shouldn't be reading this now then don't continue on.

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A New Life Chapter 22


On New Years morning, before Keith woke, I asked myself how I was managing to get along with so few tears through the holidays. I felt guilty about that too for a short while. There was no doubt that I missed my mom very much. Maybe those occasional dreams I'd had of her were a good thing. They had always been somewhat comforting, just a little spooky to try and remember in detail. Rush woke up in his crate and I got down on the floor, opened the door and got my face licked clean. Pulling on some sweatpants I got up and took Rush out. It was looking dreary out that morning, like it might rain again, which didn't help my attitude. I put on my jacket and went out back with him barefoot. After Rush finished his business he came bounding over to me and wanted to play. He's so cool! That really helped pick me up and put a smile on my face. How can anyone turn down a playful puppy? There's so much devotion there, it's almost a given. I guess we were like the pack to him. Your puppy will love you even ifÖ even ifÖ Holy Shit! I shouted to myself as my other main worry entered into my mind. Your puppy will love you even if you mistreat it!

I asked myself, what did Mr. Hundser say the other night about training Rush? "Tell him firmly no, stop him from what he's doing then ignore him. If he follows then push him away or put him in his crate, just don't over do it. Most of the time a pup will respond immediately after being shouted at."

What the fuck has my father been doing to me all my life? Ignoring me, shouting at me, the very same God damned things; only he was over doing it. Come to think of it, ignoring or shouting made up ninety-nine percent of his time awake. And I wasn't doing anything to be shouted at or ignored for! How much trouble could I have been staying mostly to myself for such a long period of time? Itís not like I had ten friends coming over every day after school. I was alone in my room every afternoon from the time I got home from school until my mom came home from work. Every night after dinner I locked myself away too. If I saw my dad an hour every weekday it was a lot. The existence of others in his domain just seemed to irritate him. Thank God he didn't call yesterday. On top of everything else, with Keith hurt, missing my mom, my aunt calling, Derrick's getting beat by his dadÖ

Right then I needed to call Derrick. I looked in the house at the clock in the kitchen and saw it was still very early. Derrick wouldn't likely be awake. I wondered what the hell I doing awake since I only got about five and-a-half hours sleep. Figuring I would wait before calling I started to play with Rush. Laughing at his exaggerated motions I thought, just give him some attention for a while, that's all a puppy wants. Some fathers just don't know how to give any attention, or show affection for that matter. That's my dad to a tee. Derrick's dad is an extreme case most likely. Pushing his son away violently to (fend) for himself. Neither of us may like our dad's or have anything in common with them but they're still our dads. They were perfect examples of how not to act. Suddenly I felt really good as a shiver went down my spine.

Watching the happiest hound dog in the world roll over the ball I had thrown I started laughing out loud as he turned, stared at it for a moment then pounced on it. Light misty drizzle started to fall. I looked up at the sky, thanking my mom for being smart enough to realize she needed a change from my dad, that we needed the change, that we deserved some measure of happiness in our lives at home. Smiles were a rare occurrence in our home in Texas. They became much more frequent in the apartment the day we moved in. I wondered was that the lesson she was put on this Earth to teach? It seems as soon as I started to learn contentment and began living happily she was taken away.

Just then, as I stood there crying a few happy tears with the rain washing them away, Keith came to the back door and said, "Mostly," as if answering my question.

Giggling I asked, "Who were you talking to?"

"My dad. Who else besides him and you would be awake at this hour on a holiday?" Keith answered from the doorway. "Why don't you come inside?" he asked.

I was still feeling pretty happy with myself and laughed, "Why don't you come outside and play with me and the puppy?"

A wide grin slowly crept across his face then he looked down at the brace on his leg.

I said, "I don't care about that man, we won't play too rough."

Keith shrugged and nodded then disappeared to go get his coat. By the time he returned I was slightly less giddy about my new understanding but still plenty pleased with myself. Rush and I met him as he stepped out of the house. Wrapping my arm around his waist we walked out to the grass with Rush bouncing around us, his hard rubber ball locked firmly in his mouth.

"Morning baby," he said as we walked, "you seem to be in a really good mood today."

"The puppy taught me a new trick," I laughed. Keith looked at me with curious eyes as I started to tell him about what I had learned. "Somehow, it relieves some of the guilt. I used to think that maybe some of the reason my dad was that way was because of me." I said, "Now I know it wasn't me or my mom; it was him, his choice to be left all to his lonesome like that."

"I don't know why anyone would be like that. I never knew the sad and lonely Preston from Texas, only what you've told me of him." Keith said, "I like the California Prez much more. You have this ability to change moods real easy. I've seen you talk serious, act silly, get determined, be seductive, or quiet and thoughtful all in a few hours at the beach or in the garage or anywhere else for that matter."

"How can you wear a smile on your face all day?" I asked reciting my mom's words. Not waiting for an answer I smiled saying, "Then why be glum?"

Keith smiled and said, "I want to make love with you so bad right now."

Squeezing him tight I said, "Aww, I know babe. Don't worry, I'll be ready whenever you are."

Grinning but shaking his head as if it were a pity he said, "We'll have to spend a whole day alone again just to get caught up."

"We'll send the rents and little brothers off shopping or something." I giggled.

"Yeah, like to San Francisco!"

"Maybe New York?" I asked, leaving Rush to amuse him self and turning to face Keith.

"Or London." He said, sliding his arms around me.

"Or Moscow." I whispered before I kissed him.

We held each other out there in the rain for I donít know how long. Time stood still for me right there in his arms under the drizzle when he hugged me tighter and whispered, "Always and forever Prez."

"Always and forever babe. Some things are just right as rain." I whispered back.

Completely drenched we went back inside. Rush trotted to the pantry door and pulled his towel off the doorknob! After being toweled off so many times I suppose he just expected and enjoyed it. I took the towel from him as I picked him up laughing. "He's such a good boy," I said while toweling him dry. Just let the puppy do what he likes to do, I considered joyfully. Praise him for the good stuff and scold him for the bad. An easy process, I thought. Too bad some folks never get to the praise part. They seem to want to go through life never showing anything but bad emotions.

Unable to contain my good mood I started giggling now and again during breakfast. Looking around the table I saw a whole new family. Not just my boyfriend's family, but my in-laws! I thought better of telling them that but instead told them about fathers and sons, puppies and masters and rainy holiday revelations. Man I felt so good!

Once we finished breakfast I called Mike's house, telling him and D to get their buns in gear. When they got to our house we disappeared into our room, put on some tunes and started talking about fathers. Initially, Derrick didn't understand how I could compare things like I had. But Rush demonstrated the point when I asked everyone to just ignore him for a few minutes. After having the four of us playing with him and then not getting any attention at all he whined then barked then started chasing his tail in frustration!

Mike giggled, "There comes a point in time when you can't do a damned thing but chase your tail, spinning round and round."

Derrick's bruised face immediately brightened up. In fact, he smiled so widely that the stitches on his jaw pulled a bit making him wince.

Taking my hand Keith said, "We're gonna get you fixed up D. As soon as you heal this will all be a distant memory."

Standing up, Derrick called me over to him and hugged the breath out of me. Then D hugged and kissed Mike while Keith and I hugged and kissed. Both Mike and D hugged Keith and finally we had shown each other sufficient appreciation, love and support. The only remaining concern Derrick had was future living arrangements should Mrs. Gibbons decide to keep things temporary. That was in the future though and Derrick definitely looked satisfied.

"What did you dudes think of Doug and Brian last night?" Derrick asked.

"Theyíre nice enough guys. I enjoyed it. Every song was cool and pretty easy." I said

"I was amazed. I didn't know you guys would be able to keep up so easily with songs you don't know." Keith said, "I did notice something different though."

"The beginnings and endings, right?" Mike asked.

Keith said, "Yeah. When they started and ended each song it was like, right on the money."

"That's from years of rehearsal. We'll get that way more and more." Derrick offered.

"Their vocals were much were better sounding than ours too." I said.

"Guess we'll have to work on that then." Mike said, then I giggled knowing Keith would not easily spend the time to get harmonies down.

"We could work on just that today." Derrick suggested.

"What does that mean?" Keith asked suspiciously.

"It means practice! Taking our vocal chords out for a stroll." Mike said and Keith rolled his eyes.

"Where should we start?" Derrick asked and got up to browse the CD collection.

Mike got up and joined him saying, "I think the tunes we know are easy enough, we should probably try those CSN tunes or maybe the Beach buds."

"Hey! I don't see either here dude." Derrick said.

"If it's not on CD then it's on vinyl record." I said getting up to look on the bottom shelves of the entertainment center. "Dagnabit! Nothings organized at all down here." I complained. Vaguely I remember putting the entertainment center together and just filling up the shelves without paying attention to what went where. In a few minutes I found The Beach Boys Endless Summer and got up to put the disk on the turntable. It only took two plays to get the lyrics written down for Don't Worry Baby. It took a lot more tries than that to get the opening four-part harmony sounding good. After about the fifth play Mike went to get his acoustic guitar from the garage. Then we sang to his acoustic guitar accompaniment and Derrick's desk drumming. Keith handled the lead vocals too well. With every attempt he sounded better while Derrick, Mike and I struggled as our voices strayed all over the place! Eventually we settled down as we started getting bored singing the same song umpteen times. Giving up at a small amount of progress we searched for something a little bit easier.

"I have an idea." Keith said and hobbled over to put a CD in the player. Seconds later Its Only Natural by Crowded House started playing. Keith and I have sung that song together while we were just fooling around dancing. Immediately I got up, started dancing and singing the low vocal part while Keith sang the higher part and wobbled. Mike started zeroing in on the chords and had the progression down by the end of the first run through. The second time was even better than the first.

"That's a keeper." Derrick said chuckling.

Keith then stopped the disk and said, "We gotta find a good one for you guys."

"I got one," Mike said putting his guitar down and standing up. He dug through his little CD carrying case, pulled out a disk and played it. The Road by The Alarm started playing, Mike started singing then picked up his guitar and played along.

When they finished Keith stopped the player saying, "Yeah, that's cool. We should keep it. I was thinking something more like a duet you would both sing though."

"They could both sing it," I suggested, "and we could back them up."

"My voice won't hang with that." Derrick said.

Keith laughed, "Sure it will. I'm hearing you and Mike in about the same range." Prez has the deepest voice." Pressing the remote starting the tune again they sang it together with Keith and I backing them up.

Mr. Hundser came to the bedroom door saying, "Pardon, Doug's on the phone for Keith or Preston."

"I'll take it." Keith said leaving the room.

"I wanna try that CSN song again before I forget how to finger-pick it." Mike said.

"Helplessly Hoping?" I asked.

"Yeah, that's the one." Mike answered and started playing, trying to remember the song.

I couldn't find that disk on CD either but found the vinyl record. The first time through Mike started playing while Derrick and I sang. It was goof! Mike missed a few guitar parts and our singing was definitely not even close! Before the song ended we were really making a mess of things on purpose!

Keith laughed as he returned, "Hahahaaa! What the hell is that?"

"Lameness!" Mike answered laughing.

"What did Doug have to say?" I asked.

"We've been invited out." Keith said.

"Cool. Where?" Derrick said.

"They're playing a small pub down in Orange County. They'll get us in as roadies." Keith answered. "Of course we'll have to play the part and move some stuff."

"When and where exactly?" Mike asked excitedly.

"A place called The Royal Crown off of State College in Anaheim. My dad talked to him and it's a cool place from the sounds of it."

"Your dadís gonna let us go to a bar?" I asked in disbelief.

"Yep. You shouldíve heard him talking to Doug." Keith giggled and imitated his fatherís voice; "Itís mellow right? No late night bar room brawls, right?" Returning to his normal voice he said, "Then he made me promise to be home by one."

"When?" Mike and Derrick impatiently asked at the same time.

"Any time we want before six. Weíll meet him at his place in Agoura Hills and drive down together."

"Letís go now." Mike said anxiously.

"Itís only a little after four dude." Keith said sitting down on the bed next to me. He had that look in his eyes again.

Bubbling with enthusiasm Mike whined and turned to Derrick who started giggling. Looking over at me for a moment I shrugged my shoulders indifferently. Lastly he looked at Keith, who wasnít even paying attention to anything besides playing with Rush. "Wah!" Mike cried, "Come on dudes, donít ya want to go?"

"Sure dude," Derrick answered, "whenever Prez and Keith are ready is cool with me."

"Prez? Come on buddy, you want to go, I know youíre ready."

I was ready all right; ready to crackup hysterically and piss myself! Clearing my throat for a moment I then tapped Keith on the shoulder asking, "You ready babe?"

"Ready? For what?" Keith said wearing the very best poker face. Thatís when I knew for certain that things were not quite as he had said.

Whining softly, Mike fell to his knees in front of Keith saying, "Can we please go?"

"Oh dude," Keith said, "I completely forgot to mentionÖ"

"Mention what?" Mike interrupted.

"I completely forgot to mention to Doug that you guys were here. Heís only expecting me and Prez. Did you want to come with?" Keith said with a straight face and innocence in his voice.

Mike started to stand saying very slowly and softly, "Ha ha ha, good joke, really. Now can we please just go?" Keith maintained his poker face.

I thought for a minute that Mike was going to stomp his feet and pout as he swung around to Derrick instead he practically begged, "Please D, can we go? Iíll drive."

"Yeah right," Derrick giggled, "Iím gonna really consider letting your spastic ass drive my 442. You must be trippiní dude. Anyway, Keith knows the directions, not me."

Falling back in the chair again Mike looked totally defeated. Hanging his head he started mumbling to him self, "It might be years before we can get into a bar. For ten frigginí years weíve been best friends and this is how he treats me. Why do I put up with this shit?" Thatís when I couldnít control myself another second and started laughing. Derrick lost it too, chuckling and massaging Mikeís shoulders. Mike and Keith just stared at each other for a few moments. Smiles slowly swept across their faces.

"Youíre so easy." Keith said.

"But never cheap." Mike countered.

Keith started to wiggle his buns onto the bed behind me then said; "Itís tomorrow night bud."

"Argh! You teasing bastard!" Mike screamed while D and I laughed our asses off. "You are so lucky youíre already hurt."

After dinner that night Keith and I went to watch TV in our room. Since his leg was sore I got to be his backrest the last few days. Having your boyfriend relax against you is one of the very best feelings on Earth. Wrapping your arms around him; his weight and body heat keeping you secure and warm; being able to speak softly about anything or choosing to sit there quietly; nothing is finer.

Were we excited? Of course we were; find one sixteen year old that doesnít get an erection sitting alone in bed with his boyfriend. Did we do anything about our erections? Nope. If we made love every time we got hard then weíd need intravenous fluid replacements! We just talked and watched TV until it was time to crash. I helped Keith with his brace; we got undressed and snuggled in the middle of the bed.

Keith sighed then said, "Five days Prez. Itís been two days since we even tried."

"I know babe. Itís gonna be okay, honest."

"Itís not okay for me. Our whole vacation is slipping away. I wanted us to go back to school with smiles that would last until spring break."

"I donít want you to hurt yourself more by trying when youíre obviously not healed enough yet."

"I feel like Iím getting moody though. Have I been?"

I thought to myself, Keith moody? Nah! Now if you want to talk about moody just look at what I was like from October 17th until sometime in November. "Not with me, not with anyone else either." I answered. "Maybe you lost it a bit after my aunt called yesterday but thatís understandable."

Holding me closer and squeezing me tight Keith said, "I just wanted you to make it through the holidays happy."

"I am happy, very happy." I said squeezing him back. For a few moments I thought of other things I might say to him. Things like, how much I enjoy living with him and if my mom hadnít died we wouldnít have shared the last two months together. Not wanting him to feel like I was comparing my life with him verses life with my mom I held back my comments. It was a bittersweet thought though and I wiped a few tears from my eyes.

He saw me wiping the tears away and I saw the question "if youíre so happy then why are you crying?" in his eyes. A giant knot started to form in my throat.

I pulled Keith on top of me and sobbed, "I love you Keith. Oh God, I love you so much. I love you but I miss her. If she were alive Iíd probably be sleeping alone in my own room. Can you imagine how that makes me feel? Like shit, thatís how. My life with you wouldnít be the same if she were alive. I want to be here with you, all the time, but I want her here too. What I want is to have it all, both you and her, like some spoiled brat. I want your friendship, to be partners with you for the rest of our lives but I want her back. God damn it I want her back."

Keith held me tight and, throughout his own sobs, kept telling me that what I was feeling was okay, that Mike had felt very much the same way when his father died. Every word he spoke I heard as we wept into each otherís neck. I understood it all but still I cried and made him cry too. All the tears I didn't cry during the holidays were made up for that night.

Sniffling as my water works dried up I said, "I'm sorry Keith."

"Come on Prez, you've been doing so great. Sooner or later more had to come bursting out. You loved your mom too much to just forget her."

"We're both a mess again though."

"So what?" he giggled, "how many messes have we made before?" I giggled at that remark then he said, "I want you to be with me Prez, all the time, happy or sad."

"I want that too. Don't you wish it could be like the summer though? It seems like ever since school started it's been one test after another."

"We're passing them baby, one day at a time. I had to learn that last year. Shit happens. You can deal with it or kill yourself over it."

"Without you I don't know if I could deal with all that's happened."

"Until June 24th last year I wasn't coping too well myself."

"You know the date we met?" I asked surprised.

"Tuesday the 24th of June 1997. I'll never forget it."

What can you say to a guy that remembers the day and date you met? There was nothing I could think of. I held on to him and kissed him over and over, long and short kisses until finally, we fell asleep in each other arms. Later I noticed him rolling off me. Feeling that I needed to hold him still I rolled towards him and our heads banged together.

"Ow." Keith groaned in his sleep.

"Sorry, wanna hold you." I said sleepily reaching for him. My hand met his reaching for me under the blankets. Eventually we got situated without knocking each other unconscious and fell back to sleep.

I mustíve been totally exhausted because I didnít recall a single dream when Keith began waking me up. The moment my eyes opened to see him a single thought crossed my mind - itís day six and there must not be a seventh day of abstinence. Pulling him down sideways across me I asked, "Have you got any plans for us today?"

He giggled, "No."

"Your parents at work?" I asked snaking my hands into his pants, cupping and massaging those tight buns.

"Yep." He answered shifting himself into a more comfortable position.

"Little brothers?"

"Gone out."

Within a minute I had him stripped naked and in bed with me. I asked him to show me where his groin had been hurting. Taking my hand in his and sliding them way up he pointed the sore spot out. No wonder he was having problems! For the first thirty or so minutes I delicately massaged his bad leg from his toes on up while watching his face for any signs of discomfort. There were no signs of pain moving his toes and ankle. He cringed a little while I was by his knee once but whenever my hand traveled high to that tender area he giggled!

"Youíve been faking it all week, havenít you?" I teased as I continued rubbing and massaging.

"No way!" he giggled, "I swear, when my butt tightens up it hurts." I looked at him suspiciously and he laughed then said, "Honest, just as Iím on the brink of cumming the damn ligament burns like hell and I have to stop myself or scream."

If it were any one else Iíd be less inclined to believe them. Keith would tease and goof around but this was not a game to him. Getting the lube from the night table drawer I suggested, "Why donít you try tightening up your upper body muscles instead?" I slid my arm under his neck and he wrapped one arm around my back as I poured some lube on his twitching boner.

Keith shrugged saying, "Never tried that. Donít know if it would work."

"Gotta try something different." I said while spreading the lube around. As I started to slowly stroke his meat he sighed and nodded. After only a minute or two his grip tightened around me then he groaned in frustration again. I stopped stroking and asked what was wrong.

"I donít want to hurt you." He said.

"Donít worry about that, you wonít hurt me. Hold on as hard as you need to." I said then he nodded and we tried again.

Keithís hand roamed up and down my back. Occasionally heíd kiss and nibble my arm while my hand searched for the best ways to please him. When my hand got tired I kneaded his balls and gently massaged the tender area high on his thigh before taking his shaft in hand again. The phone rang twice and we ignored it. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent lovingly playing with his cock and balls. In all the months weíve been together thereís been only a few times we settled for a hand job. Most often it would lead much further. I looked over at the clock and noticed almost two hours had passed since we began. Not that I was in any hurry to stop, I was just amazed that he could last so long.

Giggling Keith exclaimed, "It tingles, like my dick has fallen asleep!"

I laughed and squeezed the base of his cock, shaking it around some then said, "Well it sure donít look like itís napping! Maybe if I tried something else?" Moving around and laying between his spread legs I concentrated on massaging his sore leg for a little while. I love his legs; they're toned and strong but not too large. Before long I was concentrating my efforts higher up his thigh. Keith lifted his good leg into a bent position to give me better access as my thumb slid around his back door. We only glanced at each other for a second then Keith read my mind and reached for the lube on the night table. It took only moments for my thumb to find its target. For a few minutes I watched his expressions change from surprise to contentment to absolute pleasure then back again while he writhed around, moaning and giggling softly. Leaning down I greedily lapped up the precum flowing from his cock then licked my way down to his balls all the while letting my thumb push his magic button. Keith suddenly pulled the pillows out from under his head and, covering his mouth, shouted loudly into them. All I could do is watch wide-eyed and grinning.

Pulling the pillows away he glared down at me saying, "Oh shit, Prez!" and we both cracked up for a few seconds. With no further warning Keith half moaned, "Oh hell yeah, this is gonna work!" as if he were ten years old and had never had a real orgasm before. Clutching the pillows high on his chest he began to shake and so did the bed. Quickly I dove for his cock and engulfed just the head. My tongue twirled for only a few seconds before sucking hard and getting my first reward. It tasted sweeter than ever, I noted as I sucked and swallowed as fast as I could. He came a lot and a little dribbled from my mouth. The bed stopped shaking and he still came. Not until I removed my thumb did he finally slow to a trickle and still it was the sweetest load ever.

My heart flew in my chest as he began to breathe normally and call my name. I let his half-hard tool slip from my mouth and he called me again. He looked at me with dreamy, lust filled eyes and patted the pillows still hanging from his chest, beckoning me to feed him my twitching six inches. Mounting his chest, Keith only nursed on me for maybe a minute before I leaned forward, grabbed the headboard and warned the neighborhood of the impending flood. His eyes smiled up at me. One of his fingers slid just far enough into my bunghole to push me over the edge. Thank God for solid oak headboards! With every ounce of my strength I held on to it through an intense, dizzying climax.

The entire morning and the first half of the afternoon we spent making love, trying crack-slides and a few other things we'd read about but didn't try previously. It was such a release for both of us. So much had happened the previous few days we desperately needed it, as if we were affirming we had made it through another set of crisis's and, once we finished tearing the bedroom apart, we could face the next series with no worries. If we didn't have plans to go out that evening I'm sure we would've stopped only for dinner then returned to the bedroom for more that night. The phone started ringing again though and soon it seemed to be ringing about every ten minutes.

We dragged our spent but still horny asses out of bed and checked the answering machine. While I let Rush out Keith played the six messages. The first was from mom. She would be home a little late and reminded us to go car shopping today.

Keith said, "Oops! We did sorta forget about that."

The second message was from Drew asking to stay the night at Corey's. The last four were all from Mike. Each gave us reminders of our plans and time checks except the last one a little after three PM. It was only the sound of Mike screaming, "AHHHHHHHH", into the phone. We cracked up.

"He's probably gonna knock the damn door down any second." Keith said and I nodded still unable to catch my breath. We went back to the bathroom and while in the shower heard the knocks at the front door. We weren't quite finished actually cleaning ourselves so I shouted out the front window that we'd answer the door in five minutes.

"That took them far longer than expected." I commented

"Derrick was probably sitting on him!" Keith chuckled then his face went blank and he reached for my shoulders. "Oh shit, did I do that?" he asked.

I couldn't see what he was pointing at and asked, "what?"

"You're bruised Prez. Oh dude, I'm sorry. Shit, shit, shit!" He said running his fingers over the top and front of shoulders. "Does that hurt?"

Honestly I didn't feel a thing and said, "Nope, it doesn't hurt at all." Still, he looked sad and somewhat disgusted with himself. I finished rinsing and stepped forward wrapping my arms around him. "I don't care about that." I said softly. "Did you have a good time?" He nodded and I said, "Good, so did I. Do you feel better? I sure feel great."

He smiled and nodded then said, "You're gonna have to keep that covered for a few days."

"I dunno," I said turning my head to try and see the bruises he was so worried about, "maybe Iíll leave my shirt off around the house."

With wide eyes Keith laughed, "Donít you dare! My mom will kill me if she sees those marks!" I couldn't help but kiss him.

Turning off the water Mike and Derrick were standing out in front of the bathroom window full of comments while we dried off. Wearing only towels around our waists we let them in and, seeing the marks on me, Derrick started chuckling. Mike glared at Keith and told him, "look ashamed!" while shaking his head.

Keith blushed and almost did look a little ashamed. But since I was giggling as we walked back to our bedroom he never did manage to wipe the smile completely off his face. Mike practically timed us as we got dressed, constantly looking at his watch and telling us to get our buns in gear.

It only takes about ten minutes to drive from Woodland Hills to Agoura Hills. Exiting the 101 on Kanan Road we usually turned left towards the beach but this time we turned right. Doug and Brian live in a middle class neighborhood of homes close to the Agoura high football field and a big park. We had passed the road we needed to turn on to by mistake and made a big circle up around Conejo View Drive and back to Parkheath Drive.

"Conejo View," Mike said as we got out of the car, "doesn't conejo mean rabbit?"

"Its pronounced 'wabbit'." Doug corrected as he walked out the front door. "Pronounce your pronunciations properly."

"He does not have to shoot you now." Brian said stepping out behind Doug.

Doug swung around with his arm bent and his finger pointing up at Brian screaming, "Ah ha! Pronoun trouble." Quickly he swung around facing us and lisped, "thome people are jutht dithpicable."

The four of us looked at them, then at each other probably thinking the same thought; never let the old people toke out, they just cannot handle it.

Grinning at each other silently for a few moments Doug then whispered to Brian, "Why do people always look at me that way?"

"What way is that baby?" Brian said.

"Like I'm trippin or somethin'. I'm not though, am I?"

"Nope, been watching you all day, not a single controlled substance has been put into your system. They started it by saying the magic word."

"HmmÖ oddÖ perhaps it is them. Too stiff and immobile." Doug whispered again. "Let's go inside before the neighbors say other unkind things about us. Walk this way." He said. As he walked his arms were flying around, his head rolling from side to side and his legs were all wobbly. Derrick limped forward and Brian reminded him to "walk that way" as he pointed to Doug. Derrick wobbled forward, all rubbery, followed by Mike then me then Keith into the house.

Doug walked into the living room normally, puttered around by the stereo and said; "Don't you feel much looser now? I feel like a twenty-dollar whore. Come on in guys, the coast is clear." Unidentifiable music filled the room at a comfortable volume.

"Please, sit." Brian said from behind us.

Their home is a typical Spanish style southern California house. To the right of the entryway was a galley style kitchen. The room was completely open from the kitchen counter to the back of the house where the living room was. Mike and I sat on two stools at the kitchen counter. Keith and Derrick took two seats at the dinette table in front of us. Brian offered us something to drink and we each took a can of coke.

Glancing around I noticed their home was decorated with Looney Toones and Beatles pictures and similar assorted knick-knacks. No wonder these guys act a little weird, I mused, they live somewhere between Toontown and Pepperland. Even the sofa had Tweety Bird pillows and a Sylvester blanket. There were also two guitars out, a few CD's and sheet music scattered about on the coffee table and dinette table. Even the dinette chandelier had a Yellow Submarine mobile swinging off of it.

Brian picked up a Guild twelve string acoustic guitar, sat at the table and asked, "Howíve you dudes been? Having a good vacation from school?"

We all nodded and mumbled that we were having a pretty good vacation. Brian grinned at Doug and started strumming chords to the music in the background.

"What's on the stereo? I've never heard it before." I said.

Brian answered, "Just a little something we cooked up a few years ago."

Derrick asked, "Originals?"

Brian nodded and said, "We tried to get it released but no label would go for it."

"Thereís really not a lot for you guys to move tonight, just a few guitars." Doug said as he joined us at the table. "Most of our stuff is there already. We just thought youíd like to get out and about for a while. See what it's like to put on a show for a small audience."

Again we nodded and thanked them.

The grins Doug and Brian were wearing got wider and Brian said, "You dudes are a bit quiet, not sure if we can be trusted huh?"

"We know how to behave," Doug said proudly, "weíve had lessons."

"I trust you dude." Mike said.

Doug laughed loudly and patted Mike on the back saying, "Sure ya do liíl bud. You say that with your mouth watering while looking at my Les Paul."

Mike turned red making Doug and Brian laugh louder. "Is that what I think it is?" Mike asked.

Answering one question with another Doug asked, "What do you think it is?"

"Itís a gold top. Is it a re-issue?" Mike said.

"Nope, it's an original 1959 Les Paul Standard gold top." Brian said and Mike whimpered loud enough to make me think he messed his pants! I couldnít help but laugh at Mike.

"I need to ask a question." Keith said.

"What's on your mind?" Doug asked him.

"Well, it's kinda weird, ya know, that my dad invited you to meet us. I'd kind of like to know why."

Doug said, "Your dad and I have worked together for about seven years or so. Weíve become very good friends over that period and talked about lots of things. Brian and I have gone out to dinner with your folks often the past few years. I feel like I know you all. Bluntly, your dad realizes he wonít have some of the answers you guys might need. He asked if Brian and I might be a surrogate big brothers for you all."

"And in the mean time we share the music. Thatís much more important than sexual preference any how." Brian said.

"Now for Peteís sake please stop sitting around all prim and proper. We are not your parents! If you confide in us we're not going to tell your folks, unless it's a life or death situation. When you come to our house itís party time!" Doug said looking at his watch much like the Mad Hatter. "We have a few minutes before we need to leave. Bry, would you take everyone to our playroom, thatís where we keep our toys and do some recording." As we started to stand Doug asked Derrick to wait with him.

The rest of us followed Brian down the hallway to what was probably the master bedroom at one time. Now it was converted to a rehearsal room, filled with assorted musical instruments and electronics. It was any musician's dream come true. Mike asked, "How many guitars do you dudes own?"

Brian counted on his fingers for a while then replied, "between us, about thirty. Weíre gonna bring these five with us," he said pointing at a group of cases on the floor, "and the twelve string I was playing too." I noticed lots of bass guitars and showed some to Keith while Mike scurried around frantically checking out as much as he could. There were electronic things in that room that we had no clues what they were. No sooner would Brian explain something to Keith and I than Mike would call him and ask about something else. We mustíve driven the guy crazy but he was patient and seemed to be enjoying himself.

Doug returned to the room and said, "Itís time to boogie gents."

"Whereís Derrick?" Mike asked.

"Bathroom. Heíll be along shortly." Doug answered.

Mike and I each took two guitar cases from the room and Keith picked up one. Brian walked us outside, opened their van and we loaded the guitars. Derrick and Doug soon came outside, each with a guitar case.

Before getting into the van Doug said, "There will be no traffic. Karma is on our side, right Derrick?"

"Absolutely!" Derrick said with enthusiasm. Then he got into the driver's seat of the 442.

As we pulled away from the street following the van Mike asked Derrick, "Dude, what's up? You seem way different, lots happier."

"I am bud, so much more so I hardly know where to begin." Derrick said then chuckled a little. "Doug's dad did the same shit to him. You guys were barely out of sight when he asked me how my dad was. I asked him how he knew and he said he didn't know, he just felt it and figured that was how I got beat up."

"What did he say to cheer you up?" I asked.

"It's just as much what he did as what he said really. It was so friggin' weird dude. It was like he was reading my mind! I'd start a sentence and he'd finish it and ya know what? I was doing the same thing to him!"

"No way dude," Mike said unconvinced, "that stuff's like nine hundred number crap."

"Really Mike, swear to God." Derrick said turning back onto Kanan Road. "He asked me why I didn't fight back. I started to tell him how I couldn't and before and I could finish saying why he finished the sentence for me and then! Man it was unbelievable, he started telling me about children and adults and even used cats as a metaphor! I flipped dudes. I'm looking away from him most of this time then I look up and his face is drenched with tears. There was no sobbing, no change in his voice. I asked him why he was crying. He said he was crying for me and for himself and for every other man's son that has gone through the same thing. It was so rad! He talked to me like a brother, showing me that I was building a wall around myself and then giving me ideas on how to tear it down. It was so easy talking with him, as easy as with any of you dudes. I barely know this guy and he barely knows me but that one connection, and seeing that he made it, just made something click inside me."

As we pulled on to the 101 south I saw Derrick's hand fall from the gearshift and reach for Mike's hand. Never once in all the time I've known them have can I recall them holding hands in the car! Keith and I looked at each other in amazement. Even Mike seemed pleasantly surprised asking softly, "UmmÖ what're ya doin' dude?"

Smiling at Mike then looking back at the road Derrick answered, "Another little something I'm learning. I don't have to have a reason to touch you, do I?"

Mike stammered for a moment, "errÖ ummÖ noÖ never did."

For the first time the car stereo never got powered on, we had that much to talk about during the drive.

Derrick sighed and looked over at Mike briefly saying, "Sorry I've been pushing you away dude."

"I know bud, I understand. It's cool." Mike replied.

"It's been rough for you dudes the last few days I'll bet." Keith said.

"Not too bad." Mike said.

"Umm. Yeah it has." Derrick insisted.

"Don't go there dude." Mike pleaded.

"I want to," Derrick said. "It's been impossible. How could I sit close to you?" he said glancing at Mike quickly. "I wanted to but couldn't make myself. There were lots of times I might've touched you and couldn't bring myself to. After what happened it's just been a major mind fuck." He sighed then said cheerfully, "I'm feeling much better now though!"

Almost in unison Keith and I said, "I know, me too," and looked at each other smiling.

"What do you mean, you too?" Keith asked me.

"You know, after the accident I wasn't the most affectionate person to be around."

"That was a while ago though. And I always wanted to be with you. I just left it up to you is all."

"And that's what I've been doing for you the last few days," I said then remembered I wasn't exactly in the waiting mood this morning. "Until today that is!" I laughed and everybody cracked up.

Keith shifted a bit then settled back against me saying, "I love living with you baby. If there's one thing I could learn from Brain or Doug it would be how to make it last like they have."

"They are a unique couple." Mike said. "There house is like Cartoon Network!"

Derrick laughed, "You should've seen the bathroom. Road Runner and Coyote wallpaper!"

"Do you think they're toasted?" Mike giggled.

"No way bro," Keith said, "If my dad had any second thoughts he wouldn't have invited them over and most definitely we would not be making this trip."

"Let's just call them eccentric." I said.

"I am so psyched about watching these dudes tonight!" Mike half shouted.

Derrick said, "I was thinking we could save some cash up and see a concert every once in a while."

"That would be very kewl." Mike said enthusiastically. "We need to check the papers and see who's around." Keith shifted around again and Mike asked "Dude, is your leg still hurting you that much?" and without waiting for an answer said, "You should see the doc, bro."

"You can't move your leg much yet babe, maybe you should make an appointment." I suggested knowing how much he hated that doctor.

Keith sighed and said; "My dad said the same thing yesterday morning."

We got to Anaheim a little after seven with absolutely no traffic as Doug had predicted; even the ninety-one freeway wasn't a hassle for the first time ever! We unloaded and followed Brian and Doug inside. There wasn't a bouncer at the door. It was just a small neighborhood watering hole with maybe ten people sitting at the bar. The sign over the door said the maximum occupancy was three hundred. Tables and booths were scattered around the bar. There was a small area with two pool tables and a few dart boards. On the opposite side of the room were more tables and chairs and the stage. Doug greeted the bartender and Brian called for us to follow him towards the stage.

Keyboards were in the front on both sides of the stage. A huge drum set with three gongs was in the standard center stage position with a few small amplifiers on each side. The mixer we passed on the way had so many channels it was huge! Mike was giggling hysterically by the time we put the guitar cases down. "We can do this dudes." He kept chanting.

"Sure ya can," Brian said, "anything at all you want enough is within your reach. Didn't you know that Michael?" he asked with mock annoyance.

"Be careful what you ask for man," Doug said as he returned, "you might just get it."

"You really want the fame?" Brain asked as he puttered about powering things on. "Paparazzi and living in the boonies to escape the camera's eye? What good is all that money and fame if you can't show your face without a mob scene?"

Doug snapped his fingers snootily saying, "UmmÖ James. I would think a trip to the city today. Is our armored limousine ready?"

Brian played along bowing towards him saying, "A thousand pardons master. The reinforced steel plating and bullet proof glass are not yet installed."

"What good is fame if you wind up having to separate yourself from the rest of the world, confined to patrolled quarters?" Doug asked sitting behind the electric piano then said, "not for me. I like having a house, friends and neighbors, kids playing or lovers sneaking kisses in the park across the street. That's fortune. Keep the fame, thanks."

Brian tossed me a cassette tape then said, "That's our demo tape, fourteen songs most of which are originals. The one offer we got included a fifteen month tour of North America to promote it."

"That's not what we wanted. We want to come home at the end of the day. A hotel suite is nice but it's not home. Not for a year, no way." Doug said.

Brian explained, "We were almost thirty by that time. Have you ever tried working a day job then playing until two in the morning a few nights a week for a few years? Both jobs suffer."

"And we never wanted performing to be a chore. It got to that point and we stopped completely for about two years. I love performing! It's what I've always wanted to do."

"We're doing it." Brian said. "We put on a pretty decent show. Doug is Mr. Audience Participation." He said chuckling.

Doug put on a headset then a hat and walked over to us saying through the PA, "Wireless is cool!"

A very tall African American man, about the same age as Doug and Brian came over saying, "At it again Doug? Tsk, tsk a boy and his toys."

Doug laughed evilly through the PA. Removing the headset he introduced us to Alfred, pointing out to Derrick that Al was the drummer. They walked back to the drum set carrying on their own conversation with Mike tagging along when Jim came in. As soon as I learned he was the bass player I started asking him questions, favorite artist, favorite instrument, favorite amp, stuff like that. While we were talking a man and woman, appearing to be in there mid twenties joined us. Taking their drinks they sat behind the mixing board.

Derrick rejoined us and we pushed a few tables together. Doug told us that dinner and soft drinks were on the house, then he went up on stage. One by one the remaining band members joined Al on stage. They had fun up there goofing around while the prepared to play. A waitress came over with a pitcher of iced tea then handed us some menus. Looking around I noticed a few more tables and booths occupied that weren't previously. We ordered our dinners and at eight o'clock the lights dimmed and the show started. They opened with YYZ and Limelight by Rush. Every song was like listening to a classic rock radio station. Each of them sang lead vocals for different songs; they moved around and swapped instruments every now and then. Only Al stayed behind his drums. I was amazed to see Doug put down his guitar and pick up a bass for one song. All of the songs were remarkably well done. As Brian had predicted, Doug moved away from the front of the stage and started roaming around the room while he performed. Brian, Doug and Jim all played bass, guitar or keyboards at various points. The last song of the set I loved but had heard very rarely. Brian picked up an electric guitar and started roaming around while performing too.

Keith and I watched Doug and Brian, as if they were a model couple that we could emulate. When the first set ended they rejoined us at the table. Mike stood up still clapping and shouted out, "You dudes rock! Very cool."

"Later we'll play more ballads to wind down." Brian said taking off his headset.

I asked, "What was that last song?"

Brian answered, "Go All The Way by The Raspberries."

Keith smiled at Doug, shaking his head and asked, "How do you do that?"

Doug laughed then said, "It wasn't always easy but it gets easier in time. They're just people Keith; we all have our good and bad sides." Waving his hand around the room he said, "They all came out for entertainment. Some are happy with their drinks, some are playing games, some want to see a show. There's nothing to be afraid of."

"I don't know if I could ever." Keith said.

Brian said, "Maybe not this year or next but if you keep trying you'll see for yourself how easy it is."

"Would you like to try?" Doug asked.

"What? Me? Now? Tonight?" Keith shouted and Derrick, Mike and I shouted "YES!"

"Do you dudes know any Journey?" Derrick asked.

Keith shook his head saying, "Nope, ain't gonna do it." His whole body was shaking; I could feel his outstretched leg against my own leg.

Just as I was about to say, "forget it," getting Keith off the hook, Doug sighed and shook his head in disappointment for a few seconds. Then he leaned over the table towards Keith saying, "Look at me."

I watched as Keith's smile faded while he looked at Doug's completely blank expression. Something passed unspoken between them for at least a minute; I could feel it. It was a soothing, warming, powerful feeling. The sort you might get when you know that you've just accomplished something that's always been beyond your reach, when people you know and care for pat you on the back. Keith's leg stopped shaking.

Doug said softly, "Morrison used to turn his back from the audience for awhile. We're gonna go another step. You'll stay right here and wear a headset. What's your favorite Journey song?"

"Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'" Keith answered.

"Another?" Doug asked.

"Open Arms" Keith answered.

"Close your eyes." He said and Keith's eyes closed. "Where's your favorite place to sing?" he asked picking up the headset off the table and adjusting it on Keith's head.

"My bedroom."

Doug said, "See it? You're there, sitting on your bed. Feel the carpet beneath your feet, all your stuff is all around you and it's familiar. This is what you like to do. You're at home."

Doug and Brian got up and went to the stage. Al and Jim quickly followed. Keith's eyes were open and he wasn't shaking! Mike was poking and nudging me. I turned to him and shook my head, a little afraid to speak. If Keith wanted to stop this he could at any time. The band started playing Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'. Keith started slapping his leg in time to the music and came in on queue singing like I've never heard before, taking really full breaths and belting it out. Mike and Derrick were both flipping out on the other side of me while I sat there dumbfounded. The whole song sounded so excellent! By the end of the song Doug was standing a few feet in front of the table singing the back up na-na's and wailing away on his guitar then only the five of them singing then silence. The whole friggin' bar went nuts applauding, shouting and whistling. The first few bars of Open Arms started as the applause was dying down. Again Keith came in singing with a voice that reverberated off the walls of the small club. It was so amazing, so heart felt that it sent shivers down my spine. There was no sweat on his forehead, he was kicked back in the chair singing so sweetly and then so powerfully as if it were the easiest, most natural thing in the world. Once the song ended the bar broke loose with applause. Brian came back to the table to retrieve his headset and said, "See, it's easy," then went back to the stage.

Keith looked over at me grinning from ear to ear. Who was this guy sitting next to me? I wondered. He had given me so much the whole time I've known him but still there was so much more he could give with just a bit more effort. Is it that way for all of us? I resolved right then and there to do my best to give him more of what ever he needed from me. It was as if a well of enthusiasm had been tapped. More than anything I wanted to give more of myself to Keith, my friends and family. If Keith could dig deep then I would too. I wasn't thinking of it as a competition, more like giving credit where it was due. All my friends and certainly my foster family deserved it but Keith deserved it most.

Doug and Brian weren't done with us by any means. It seemed that for the rest of the night they played songs with lyrics that spoke directly to each one of us. Maybe we just hadn't paid as much attention to the lyrics before. Doug got right in front of Mike while singing Juke Box Hero. When they sang Good Vibrations it seemed that they were speaking to me. The third set was all John Lennon and Beatles tunes. Doug was so intense singing Instant Karma! sitting behind an electric piano. I swear it was like Lennon came back from the dead! And he seemed to be looking right at Derrick most of the time while singing it! The last song of the set Doug sat on a stool playing a guitar and singing a song I hadn't heard before. A few minutes later I learned it was titled Oh My Love. I had to find that CD and soon!

Before we knew it the clock read midnight. Doug and Brian were finishing a break and guiding us out towards the door. The whole way home all of us were so psyched up the car must've been on auto pilot and hovering six feet off the ground. We had so much new ground to cover musically and it felt like we needed to immediately work on tightening up our sound.

I played the tape Brian gave me before bed. Keith had definitely changed his attitude about singing. It wasn't for me, or for us; it was for him, because he enjoyed it. He stopped worrying so much about what other people thought of his voice. Keith told me "There's always going to be someone that doesn't like something about my voice or the tunes we'll choose to play or any other thing. Guess ya can't please all of the people all of the time." I was laying up against him while he told me those things and I never felt him trembleÖ okay only once, but that was later when I was tickling him.

I hope you enjoyed the story. Please come visit me at The Glass Onion. There's a brand new message board, mailing list, the complete Audio/Video Gallery and soon IRC chat.
Comments and constructive critisisms are always welcome.