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 32


Suspiciously, Mike watched Prez follow Keith into the house. As soon as the door closed, Mike turned to Derrick and asked, "Did you know that was gonna happen?"

"Not a clue," Derrick answered truthfully. Prez hadn't said a word to him about experimental kissing of any sort. With all the effort of pulling together two gigs, Prez and he spoke mostly of music during breaks at Black Angus. Occasionally, they might talk about their relationships with their boyfriends but he hadn't said anything about the four-way in a long while.

Mike grabbed a burger, put it on his plate then dowsed it with ketchup. He sighed, "It looks like we're in trouble again."

"Me more than you, from the looks of it," Derrick observed. He reached for a burger, took a bite and stewed over the ideas in his mind while he chewed. Swallowing, he then softly asked, "Are you mad at me?"

Quickly, with a mouth full of partially chewed hamburger, Mike shook his head and answered, "Bod ad awl." He swallowed, washing down the food with his Coke, then said, "Prez didn't seem to mind one way or the other. Keith's obviously fuming though. I could almost see the smoke billowing out of his ears."

"It was a little bumpy for a while after you kissed Keith last year," Derrick recalled. "I didn't like seeing that. Mostly I was mad with you though." That meant Keith was probably angry with Prez and it was his doing, he thought but didn't say it aloud.

Remembering his last birthday and the way he kissed his oldest, dearest friend, Mike said, "I'm sorry dude. I wasn't thinking." It was just a few months prior to his last birthday that Keith finally came out to his parents. Keith only told Mike that he was gay after Mike told Keith he was. From their encounter at thirteen onward to that moment, Mike had always treated Keith as if he were straight and their earlier encounter was just experimenting. The kiss was meant to show Keith that he always did care very much, even though he sometimes may have acted otherwise. Unfortunately for Mike, that kiss became the topic of a few high stress conversations with Derrick in the days that followed.

Derrick grinned, shook his head reassuringly and reached for Mike's hand. Derrick remembered those conversations with Mike vividly. It was important at the time for both to talk about what they're relationship meant and to reach agreements. Then he wondered aloud, "Do you think Keith's more angry with Prez or me?"

Mike sighed and said, "He's got no reason to be angry at all. It was their idea! Prez didn't try to take my breath away. If he did, it didn't work too well."

"Those were definitely friend kisses, a different feeling completely," Derrick agreed.

"There's only one way to deal with Keith when he's freaked like this," Mike said.

"Give him space?" Derrick asked. Mike sighed and nodded. "Damn, this sucks," Derrick retorted.

"We've got other things to worry about," Mike said, "My mom's definitely gonna say something about us missing dinner again."

"I know dude. All we can do is apologize and try to make up for it," Derrick said.

Mike shook his head and said, "Dude, you've helped paint the living room, dining room and bedrooms, you do several loads of laundry every week, you keep your room spotless…"

"I hardly ever sleep a whole night in there any more," Derrick giggled.

"Regardless, you do a lot for my mom already," Mike insisted. "We're not gonna spend any part of this holiday weekend doing work around the house. She's the one that's freaking out! It's all because of my sister too, I'll bet."

Derrick thought for a few moments then said, "We're already being careful. Our only alternative is celibacy."

"That ain't gonna happen," Mike giggled, "not in this life time anyway."

"There's got to be some way to make things better, at least for the summer," Derrick said.

Mike sighed and nodded, silently wishing he had a little brother and that his mom could be a little more understanding.

Noticing Mike's sad expression, Derrick leaned over and reassuringly kissed his partner. For a few seconds, Mike was stuck, eyes half shut, holding his puckered lips as if time stood still.

Pulling himself back together, Mike suggested, "Ya wanna stop by Doug and Brian's place tonight?"

Derrick nodded and said, "They'll probably be home around seven."

"And we'll give Keith some space for a few days to figure shit out."

Derrick sighed and said, "I wish he didn't think…"

"Don't stress it dude," Mike interrupted. Since Derrick got jealous of Keith last year he knew what it was like to have things misinterpreted. "I've known him since second grade. When he comes back out we'll try to make him understand everything's cool. Then we'll go hang with Doug and Brian for a while. Sunday or Monday we'll check back here."

"I'd kinda like to try and say something before we leave, ya know? Just to make sure he won't hate me."

"He won't hate you! I'm not even goin' there." Mike said loudly.

Derrick sighed then giggled and said, "Sorry, I'm starting to over analyze again."

Mike nodded, "You and Prez would drive each other crazy in a matter of days."

Staring deep into Mike's eyes, Derrick said, "As it is, we do that often enough. It's weird though." He paused for a second and Mike tilted his head, waiting for an explanation. "Ya know how some people stare at me?" Derrick asked. Mike nodded and Derrick tried to put his relationship with Preston into words. "Prez has never done that. We act so straight around each other almost all the time. Sometimes we talk about you and Keith but most often its school, work or the band. Last summer skinny-dipping in your pool, he never even looked at either of us. Not once in any men's room has he peeked over the divider. Whenever there is a momentary attraction, we both get pretty freaked out by it, like we're not even gay or something. When I asked him directly how he felt about me, he made sure I understood that Keith was all he ever wanted."

"And you said?"

"I told him I wanted to live with you. That was before I actually moved in though," Derrick remembered with a sly grin.

Mike laughed, "And now that you live with me it's different?"

"No!" Derrick laughed loudly. "If only we had a place of our own though."

"Soon enough dude," Mike affirmed. Looking forward to that day was sometimes the only thing that kept Mike from throwing fits when they were interrupted at home. "Oh and by the way," Mike started, "I take P.E. with Prez. Believe me, he's lookin' around. You'd have to watch him real close for a minute or more to notice. I think I know what you mean though. Prez is still way infatuated with Keith." Stating that, Mike stopped for a second and wondered if he and Derrick had grown past infatuation to something even better. Pushing the idea aside, he then said, "The rest of the world could explode in a blaze of glory but if Keith's near by, Prez wouldn't even notice," but he said it knowing that he was describing himself as much as Prez.

Derrick grinned at that idea and nodded his head because it was true. Thinking of how awesome it would be to live alone with Mike, Derrick asked, "Did you know that they get to shower together any time they want?"

Mike nodded and said, "Don't remind me. Its just another something my mom won't let us do."

Derrick reminded, "We've snuck a few unnecessary showers when no one else was home."

"I'm so tired of sneaking around though," Mike said sadly. The whole purpose of going to the prom was to have less slithering and hiding, he reasoned. At home, while his sister Lindsay was around, he and Derrick weren't allowed to do much more than hug or hold hands, definitely no kissing or making out. Showering together was definitely out of the question. It would be ironic if, after the prom, things were better at school than at home, he thought. Catching himself getting bummed out, he then turned around on a dime and said, "Its gonna get better after the prom, I know it. Then we'll have all summer to rock and roll."

Derrick smiled widely and said, "How come it always sounds so sexy when you say that?"

Knowing that he hadn't said anything seductively, Mike's eyebrows bounced playfully then he leaned over to kiss Derrick.

Seconds later, Prez and Keith came back outside. They weren't holding hands, Derrick sadly noticed. Keith's hands were in his pockets and Mike immediately recognized the false grin on his friend's face. Derrick and Mike got up and greeted them, made a little small talk then said goodbye.

Driving along in Derrick's car, the four-speaker stereo blasted a compilation tape of Mike's. The tape began with AC/DC, Back In Black, Dirty Deeds, For Those About to Rock and Highway to Hell. It was their "attitude adjustment" music. The previous summer, they used to play those tunes with Prez. But Keith wouldn't sing them, refusing to sing about death or drunken rowdiness. His voice didn't really fit it but Mike knew from once upon a time that it would sound pretty cool if Keith at least tried. He always had to bring out the devil in Keith, even when they were younger. Heads bobbing, the boys yelled out the lyrics driving along the 101 freeway. Screaming, "Hey momma, look at me, I'm on my way to the Promised Land!" On Kanan Road, Mike impressed a car full of old ladies with his air guitar playing antics!

They pulled in front of Doug and Brian's house, still giggling at the old ladies shocked reaction. Mike thought, those ladies probably think I'm possessed. And Derrick thought that the ol' biddies couldn't have been more surprised if Mike had mooned them!

Derrick and Mike had been making regular trips to Doug and Brian's ever since they first met. They weren't always jamming in the back studio either. Sometimes they went over just to hang out so they wouldn't have to go home. They'd watch TV, listen to tunes, play cards and talk with the two men. It was so cool because they weren't treated like children but at the same time, Doug and Brian had their own repertoire of childish craziness.

The van and Doug's Mazda were parked out front but Brian's Firebird was missing, they noticed. Expecting to find no one home, Derrick asked, "Maybe they had shit to do?" as they walked to the front door.

Reaching the porch, Mike pressed the doorbell and immediately the door swung open.

Startled, Doug jumped back and yelled, "Christ! You scared the piss out of me!"

"We rang the bell," Derrick giggled.

"It hasn't worked for the last few weeks," Doug explained, "not consistently anyway." Making a crooked, confused face, he said, "And it's been getting worse. I put a multi-meter on it and the thing checks out fine. I think it has something to do with the phases of the moon or maybe it was zapped by a static charge. But Brian says its all my imagination `cause the fuckin' thing always works for him!"

Mike and Derrick chuckled as Doug opened the screen door and stepped aside to let them in.

Taking a seat on the sofa, Derrick asked, "Where is Brian?"

"He went to the market to pick up a few things," Doug answered. "We're having a few friends over tomorrow night… hey! If you guys aren't busy, why don't you come over too?"

"Sounds good to me," Derrick said cheerfully.

Doug said, "Give Keith and Preston a jingle and invite them too."

Mike explained, "Prez and Keith have other plans. They're going out; with two of the girls we're going to the prom with."

Derrick reminded, "The prom's next week. We were all hoping to talk with you and Brian about it."

"Nervous, huh?" Doug asked. Both Derrick and Mike nodded. "All in the name of God," Doug said softly, sounding quite disgusted. Dismissing the thought of fundamentalists, Doug said, "We already told you to be prepared. There are a few things you can do to develop the right attitude. That way, if some self-righteous butthead starts spouting rhetoric, you won't take it to heart. You've all got to know, deep down to the core, that there's nothing wrong with you."

"That could be a little rough," Derrick said.

Recognizing the fear instilled by an intolerant parent, Doug said, "I know bud. Don't worry about it. I can teach you a few things. Its no quick fix but a method you can use for the rest of your life. And the good news is, since you've got a significant other, it proves you're not too far from the goal. This could be really easy."

The doorbell rang and Doug's head sagged. "I don't believe it," he mumbled.

Arms loaded with grocery bags, Brian yelled from the front door, "A little help please?"

Being the closest to the door, Mike jumped up and let Brian in, taking a bag and putting it on the kitchen counter.

Putting the remaining bags down, Brian said, "There's more in the backseat and in the trunk." Derrick and Doug both got up to help.

Together, Mike and Derrick went outside to unload the car. Brian had a gorgeous, fire engine red, 1996 Firebird. They spent a few minutes just checking out the car before bringing the remaining bags and box inside.

Back in the kitchen, Brian asked, "What were y'all talkin' about?"

Doug kissed his lover's cheek then answered, "I invited them to the party tomorrow night. They'll be here. And the prom's next week," and began putting items in the cupboards.

Referring to the way they generally talk with the boys, Brian asked, "Do we take off the gloves?"

"Gonna have to," Doug answered.

Brian opened the refrigerator and began stowing away the groceries. "We got pickles," he said reverently.

Emptying out a grocery bag, Doug excitedly said, "And peanut butter, and Slim Jims!" then faked a loud burp.

"How far have you gotten?" Brian asked.

Confused, Doug paused momentarily and looked at Brian. Does he mean with the pickles and peanut butter? He wondered and quickly answered himself. No, we just got those! Realizing that Brian meant the lads, Doug shouted, "Oh!" then he said, "Just laying the ground work."

"We'll tell them about the fundamentalists?" Brian asked.

Doug nodded and said, "And some of the philosophies. If anyone says a word to these kids, they're going to regret it."

Hearing the trunk close, Brian said softly, "I almost hate to do it."

"They're more in tune than we were at that age," Doug whispered.

"But it's a big step. They'll perceive things differently from now on. I like them just the way they are."

"So do I. We'll teach them how to face confrontations without being angry or overly aggressive; everything that we learned by trail and error."

Walking in with a box of liquor balanced on his shoulder, Derrick grinned and said, "I think you can consider the bar stocked."

"You don't know our friends," Doug quipped.

"It's the straight folks that usually drink the most," Brian said. "Now that I think of it, it is Matthew's twenty first birthday this year. Maybe the tables will turn."

Putting down the grocery bags, Mike said, "There'll be straight dudes here?"

"And their wives or girlfriends," Brian answered then asked, "That surprises you?"

"Sort of," Mike answered.

"Not all the straights are trouble," Doug answered and continued putting groceries away. "Just a select few. Ya see, some folks believe any sex that doesn't result in procreation is an abomination."

"That's dumb," Derrick commented. "What if they were to have the greatest sex ever, everything just perfect in every way, but the woman doesn't get pregnant? It doesn't happen automatically every time. That would be a sin then."

Brian nodded and said, "For some folks, talking birth control pills and Planned Parenthood is a sin. What if the man is a heavy drinker and he only has sex when he's three sheets to the wind? She hates it, she probably pities or hates him but she gets pregnant. Is that not a sin?"

"So even masturbation is a sin?" Mike asked. Doug nodded and Mike chuckled, "Guess I've been damned since I was ten!"

"That's how absurd their thinking is," Brian said. "How could a little boy be damned just because he plays with his pee-pee? That's learning, it's curiosity, it's normal. There are some people though, they seem to thrive on denying sexuality even exists." He then shrugged, "Male or female, gay or straight or undecided, it happens."

"Maybe as early as eight," Doug giggled. Brian turned and playfully punched Doug in the arm then both men chuckled softly.

Mike and Derrick grinned. Then Mike asked, "Which of you beat my record?"

They both yelled simultaneously, "He did!"

"But you got caught!" Doug yelled louder.

"I couldn't reach the lock on the bathroom door!" Brian laughed and covered his face. It wasn't easy to imagine Brian, who stood over six feet tall, ever being unable to reach a bathroom door lock. Mike and Derrick roared with laughter.

"Unbelievable," Derrick giggled. "At eight? I hadn't figured anything out back then."

"The point is, the difference in perception of what's right and wrong," Brian said. "At eight or even ten, what harm is it? My dad's an Episcopal minister; he about flipped out when he saw me, sitting on the bowl, playing with myself."

"I was raised Catholic," Doug said. "I could reach the locks on the doors but knew to keep it hidden from my parents. No doubt they would've had me in confession for a month of Sundays if they ever found out."

Thinking of his family, Derrick softly said, "We're Lutherans. We only went to church for Christmas, Easter and the occasional wedding." Since they couldn't be considered very religious, he wondered why his dad and brother were such extreme homophobes.

Mrs. Gibbon's always took her children to midnight mass on Christmas Eve but they weren't to be considered very religious either. As far as Mike was concerned, if there was a God, he really wanted to ask why it was necessary to take his father. But Mike revered all things natural. As a boy, he and Keith were catching lizards and a tail came off in Mike's hand. It wasn't so much the squirming remains that upset him but the idea that the creature was probably hurt and dying. The morning of the Northridge earthquake, Mike jumped up and stood on his bed, as if balancing precariously on a surfboard and loudly laughing, "Yes! Do it some more!"

Feeling better about his and Derrick's situation at home, Mike grinned and said; "Now I don't feel so bad."

Doug and Brian stopped what they were doing, as if frozen in time.

Doug silently wondered. Didn't Jim Hundser say that Mike's mom would be at Friday night's PFLAG meeting? But Mike's comment sounded like things were bad for them at home. It didn't add up.

"Is there a problem at home?" Brian asked.

Mike nodded but Derrick said, "It's not too bad. She's just being a mom."

"Lately we've been missing a lot of dinners, just zoning out and loosing track of time," Mike said. "She's really worried that we'll somehow effect my sister, Lindsay. We can't make out or have sex when she's around."

Doug said, "It's not that she doesn't understand, Mike."

"She sure don't understand enough because I ain't gettin' near as much as I'd like!" Mike said loudly. Derrick blushed and slid down in his seat giggling.

"At sixteen, enough is a very relative term," Doug commented.

"At nineteen we pretty much reached our limit at six times in a day," Brian commented.

"Six times!" Mike and Derrick yelled in disbelief.

"Even misters Sweet and Innocent only did it five times!" Derrick added loudly.

Thinking of Keith and Prez, Mike quipped, "They're disgusting." Then he turned to Derrick and said, "This summer we gotta make a new record."

"Omigod!" Derrick said softly. Doug and Brian chuckled in the kitchen.

Meandering over to the far side of the living room, a few steps from the glass doors and Doug's guitar, Mike breathed deeply and dreamed of the day when he could afford a Martin acoustic like Doug's. Then he thought better of it. I want them all; every make, every model, a huge room filled with guitars and amps! Some day, he promised himself. Turning around, Mike nearly bumped into Derrick but they both stepped back before colliding.

Doug came in the room with four bottles of cold spring water. He said, "Go ahead Mike, if you want to, play it," and sat down on the sofa, placing the bottles of water on the coffee table.

Mike smiled and took the guitar off its stand then sat Indian style on the living room rug. "Some day," he said out loud then began strumming chords.

Sitting down behind Mike on a recliner, Derrick listened for a few moments and noticed that Mike did indeed play differently while they were visiting Doug and Brian. It sounded more syncopated, almost jazzy but definitely blues based. "Why don't you play like that at home on your acoustic?" Derrick asked.

Mike looked over and answered, "It's the axe dude. It wants to be played like this."

"People are kind of the same way," Doug said. "They expect certain things under given conditions." Then he turned to Mike and said, "Tell me more about things at home. Maybe we can help"

"There not horrible," Derrick said. Compared to living with his father's perpetually bad attitude, Mike's house was considerably better.

"We've just got some restrictions that are real hard to deal with," Mike added.

"And we keep getting preoccupied with one thing or another. Before we know it, it's past dinner time." Derrick said.

"You never wear a watch, Mike?" Doug noticed.

Mike explained, "It always felt uncomfortable while I was learning to play, so I stopped wearing one. If I expect to play, I leave it home. Now that I think of it, I haven't worn a watch in a long time."

Brian came in the room and sat next to Doug then picked up a bottle of water.

Doug looked at Derrick and asked, "Does your watch have an alarm?"

Shaking his head, Derrick said, "Just a cheap Casio, nine ninety-five at Sav-On," and grinned.

"I don't think it's a secret so I'll just say it," Doug said. "Your mom's joined the local PFLAG group. She'll be at the Hundser's tomorrow night for a few hours." Surprised that his mom would participate, Mike immediately stopped playing.

"We were invited too," Brian said, "but the party was planned first so we took a rain check."

Thoroughly confused, Mike turned to Derrick and said, "Dude?"

Shrugging his shoulders, Derrick said, "It's gotta be to shelter Lindsay, dude."

"So her whole attitude lately is over missing dinners?" Mike yelled, then shook his head in disbelief.

Brian laughed, "That's an easy problem to fix."

"Well, we'll have to get you a watch with an alarm first," Doug said. Then he opened the drawer under the coffee table, reached back and pulled out a Timex box. Tossing the box to Derrick, he said, "That's one problem solved."

Mike chuckled, "What else have you got in that drawer?"

"Anything I need," Doug grinned. Wide eyed, Brian practically snapped his neck turning to look at his mate. Doug then pulled out his large rubber ears and put them on. Reaching back into the drawer, he pulled out a small dildo, put it on the table and mumbled, "That's not exactly what I had in mind." Mike and Derrick roared with laughter. Then Doug reached back in and pulled out a condom. Brian smiled as he watched Doug open the package then blow up the condom like a balloon. Doug tied a knot in the prophylactic balloon then tapped it towards Mike.

Derrick adjusted the watch and said, "Thanks. Now can you figure out a way for us to have a few extra private minutes, without breaking the `Not when Lindsay's home' rule?"

"We might be able to help with that too," Brian said. "After you make a few dinners on time, after school lets out, you might ask her if you could move out, just for the summer."

"Yeah, right." Mike chuckled, "Where would we move to?"

Doug chuckled, took off the rubber ears he was wearing then said, "This summer we're taking four weeks vacation. Two weeks up in Monterey and two weeks in Hawaii."

Mike and Derrick's faces lit up.

"You could watch the house for us while we're away. For the remainder of the summer, the guest bedroom is yours," Brian said. Then he turned to Doug and asked, "No room and board?"

Doug shook his head and said, "We'll see. There's a phone jack in there too, if you want. Just feed yourselves, pitch in with the housekeeping and keep the room semi presentable, okay?"

Too thrilled to say anything else, Mike asked, "You're kidding?"

Both men smiled and shook their heads. Brian said, "You've been here often enough. We've talked about it and thought it would be all right. It'll give you a taste of what it's really like to live alone and be independent. You've got to clear it with your mom first though."

"Omigod!" Derrick yelled.

Mike yelled twice as loud, "Finally! We can have real sex again!"

"Too cool!" Derrick added.

Brian and Doug cracked up and leaned back in the sofa, hysterical.

"Thanks dudes, this is so awesome!" Mike said. He returned the guitar to its stand then hugged both men. "I was really starting to believe that we'd spend the summer in the pool house again," he said as he walked back and sat in front of Derrick.

"You dudes have a little pink section of rock and roll heaven all carved out waiting for you," Derrick said with a wide smile.

"Now what about the prom?" Doug asked.

"We're just nervous about it," Derrick admitted softly. Placing his hands on Mike's shoulders and absentmindedly rubbing, he said, "We aren't looking for another fight but we don't want to hear any lame remarks either."

"I think it's gonna be all right," Mike said. "There's been only a small group of dudes calling us names. They haven't stirred up any other trouble, just that verbal kick in the stomach, ya know? Even though I shrug it off, it still hurts."

Doug nodded and said, "It's real easy to deal with name calling, and we've covered that anyway. But what if some one says, `Your kind doesn't belong here.' What if you were belittled by a group?"

Mike and Derrick thought for a long few moments but didn't say anything.

"At the prom there will be chaperones," Brian said. "A fight might get started but it won't last long. My bet is it'll be more harassment so they can get you to all to leave. Just remember where you are and that you'll be with a large group of gay friends."

Suddenly, without warning, Doug stared at Derrick and sternly said, "What are you doing touching him like that? Are you some kinda fag?"

Instinctively, Derrick's hands flinched back and his stomach got tight. But then he remembered where he was and caught on. Putting his hands back where they were on Mike's shoulder, Derrick emphatically stated, "He likes it, I like it and I don't really care if you like it or not."

"What business of yours is it anyhow?" Mike shot back.

Brian quickly said, "You're perverted! I bet you dudes do some serious fudge-packin' every chance you get!"

Mike laughed and said, "I wish!"

"Stay on track dude," Doug said with a devilish grin.

"What's perverted about it?" Derrick loudly asked. Then he said, "Why are you thinking about sex? We go everywhere and have fun together. Can you say that? Do you wish your girlfriend would just leave you alone sometimes or do you want her with you all the time?"

"That's good," Brian said, "but your tone of voice and posturing means a lot. Don't provoke anything with the sound of your voice or your actions. Say it like it's an everyday thing and you're bored to tears. Try kicking back in the chair; relax a little. Don't let it rattle you. Always remember that you choose who is allowed to emotionally upset you; they don't automatically have that ability unless you allow it. Keep your voice even, just like a normal conversation. If you can, try and smile. Then ask those kinds of questions to put them on the defensive. When you're chillin' they'll see no signs of aggression. Since the words don't match the actions, it confuses the daylights of `em. They won't know how to react. If they get aggressive then ask them why they can't hold a normal conversation on the topic."

After a few seconds, Doug said, "God's gonna punish you."

"Let me deal with God," Mike said quickly.

"Good," Doug said. "Maybe reword it a bit. You could say, `Let me deal with my God.' Or, even better, you could say, `I believe in a God of love, you believe in a God of wrath. Let me deal with my God and you're free to deal with yours.'"

"Sounds familiar," Brian commented.

"That's about what I said to my parents before we drove off," Doug reminded.

"You don't talk with your parents anymore?" Derrick asked.

Doug shook his head and said, "Very rarely. They couldn't accept it. I tried but they wouldn't listen. They all but threw us out of the house."

"That's so sad," Mike said softly.

"Every year, on their anniversary and Christmas I call them. My dad still hangs up on me when he answers," Doug said sorrowfully. "Conversation with my mom is all of two or three minutes. I'm okay, they're okay, goodbye."

Brian pulled Doug close for a reassuring hug. He then said, "Thousands of years ago, when the Bible was written, people didn't live as long as they do now. Childhood diseases were often deadly. If you made it to your teens you were lucky. Men our age were already old. Rarely did any one live past fifty. So the laws of Leviticus, the ones that involve sexual relations, were written to keep the tribe or community alive. The priests or rabbi's taught it as God's law. It was just preservation of the species! Things hadn't changed much by the time of Jesus. But Jesus had only one law that he passed to his disciples – love one another as he loved us. He didn't put any caveats on that either. He saved the life of a whore and ate with the tax collectors. To put it in perspective, that would be like a man from Watts being invited to dinner at someone's Malibu estate. It just doesn't happen in today's world. If we tried more often, maybe it would though."

For the remainder of the night they talked about history, philosophy and various spiritual beliefs. Doug covered Christianity, Hindu and ancient Polynesian while Brian talked about Buddhism, American Indian and ancient Aztec. In the past, many cultures regarded homosexuality as a right of passage into adulthood. Only since the late nineteenth century did it suddenly become less acceptable. At one point, the conversation turned to science and archaeology, comparing and contrasting science and spirituality.

Mike and Derrick thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and tried to absorb it all. Since Mike hadn't been exposed to any disapproval from his family, he never thought much about various perceptions of right and wrong. Derrick was the opposite extreme. He did wonder about himself often enough but didn't know where the ideas came from. After hearing what Doug and Brian said, Derrick became much more curious. He vowed to try and learn more about many things they had discussed. Around ten, they said their goodnights then left for home.

The same tape played on the trip home. One of Derrick's favorites, Sign Of The Gypsy Queen, by April Wine, the two had heard Keith humming and singing along with. They would introduce that song to the others at the next rehearsal. Then some Asia tunes started playing. Derrick loved Carl Palmer's drumming and Mike was equally impressed with Steve Howe's guitar licks. The tape was meant to be an "A to Z" compilation but some how they filled a ninety-minute tape and had only just begun the B's!

Pulling in front of the house, the two boys looked at each other, smirked and huffed, both knowing that it was time to face the music, as it's often said.

Mrs. Gibbon's sat on the sofa watching TV and the clock on the VCR. Hearing the car doors close, she thought, they are so lucky they made it home before the eleven o'clock school night curfew!

Being in such a good mood and feeling much more positive, both walked in the house apologizing to Mike's mom for missing dinner.

Derrick showed her the new watch and said, "The alarm's already set for five-thirty. We shouldn't have any problem at least calling."

Still a little upset but genuinely pleased that they had made some effort to correct the situation, Mrs. Gibbons said, "Thank you."

Sitting across from his mom, Mike asked, "Is it only missing dinners that's been bugging you?"

Slightly taken aback by her son's directness, she sighed and said, "That's a large part of it." Her son was changing and doing things differently more often and it surprised her. Deciding to be equally as direct, after a long pause, Mrs. Gibbons said, "Lindsay turns thirteen this summer. She's heard you, in your room and asked me if I thought the two of you were already having sex."

"Mom, she already knows we're gay. I told you both at the same time," Mike reminded.

"That's not the issue. What if she figures, if it's all right for her brother, then it's all right for me too? Reputation is very important to a girl. I just don't want her being exposed to it. Not yet anyway. She understands, but at a thirteen year olds level."

Mike nodded then looked over at Derrick. He definitely understood and didn't want people to consider his little sister promiscuous. So badly Mike wanted to tell her about the invitation to live at Doug and Brian's. But he understood why it would be better to wait.

Derrick smiled and said, "We promise to be more quiet and to make it home for dinner more often." Then he stood, said goodnight and nodded for Mike to follow him back to their rooms.

Before he let the cat out of the bag, Mike hopped up, kissed his mother's cheek and took off down the hallway after his boyfriend.

The next morning, before Prez picked them up for school, they decided to keep the party at Doug's a secret. Mike figured that the `date' they had to go on was bad enough; to mention the party would be like rubbing salt into the wound. During lunch, Derrick slipped, eluding to some good time on the horizon and almost spilled the beans. They fibbed there way past Prez's questions and Keith's relentless stares. Later that afternoon, during gym class, Prez tried to weasel information out of Mike. This amused Mike to no end and he made up lie after lie. By the end of class, Prez no longer cared about the great secret. He was having too much fun fueling Mike's fantasies and listening to the resulting tale.

After school, Mike and Derrick had about forty minutes to take care of business before Lindsay came home. This was how it had been since Derrick moved in. Depending on their moods, maybe they would have sex or maybe they would dance or maybe they would just cuddle up on the bed and talk. With the excitement of their first party looming, they could barely keep their hands off each other. Minutes before Lindsay came home from school, they were finished and the bedroom door was reopened. For the remaining few hours they listened to CD's and practiced some tunes, hoping they would have the chance to jam at the party.

When Mrs. Gibbon returned home from work she found them in the living room. "Where's Lindsay?" she asked.

"In her room with her friend Veronica," Mike answered.

Putting her briefcase down, Mrs. Gibbons asked, "Will you be home tonight?"

"We're planning to go over Doug and Brian's," Derrick answered.

With a sly grin, as if he didn't already know, Mike asked, "Did you have plans tonight?"

"I'll be going over the Hundser's for a few hours," she said and started to climb the stairs.

"Couldn't you take her with you?" Mike asked.

She stopped and answered, "I could but she'd probably be bored. It's all right though. I'll see about a baby sitter." Then she proceeded up the stairs.

After changing out of her work clothes, Mrs. Gibbons stopped briefly in Lindsay's room. "I have to go out for a short while tonight," she told her daughter.

"Where?" Lindsay queried.

"Just to the Hundser's. I expect to be back around ten."

Before her mother could say anything more, Lindsay excitedly asked, "Will Drew be home? Can I go too?"

"Who's Drew?" Veronica asked.

Breathlessly, Lindsay answered her friend saying, "Omigod! He's just about the cutest boy in the whole world!"

Mrs. Gibbons smiled widely. Ah, to be young again, when it was enough just to be in the same room with a cute boy, she thought. "Hold on a second," she giggled. "I don't know if Drew will be there or not but I'd expect not." Disappointed, both girls groaned and Mrs. Gibbons continued, "Your brother and Derrick are going out tonight too."

Before her mom could say another word, Lindsay pleaded, "No more babysitters, please."

"You'll stay home and out of trouble?"

Lindsay nodded.

"Veronica, would you like to stay too?"

Veronica nodded and said, "I'll call my mom and check."

"The door gets opened for no one!" Mrs. Gibbons ordered.

"Yes, mommy," the girls chanted.

Turning to leave, Mrs. Gibbons had another thought, turned back to the girls and said, "If there's a fire, you call me at the Hundser's before calling the fire department!"

Again, the girls chanted, "Yes, mommy."

"Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes," she said and left the room. Actually, she had no idea what was even in the refrigerator; never mind what she would prepare. Enthusiastically, she was waiting for her daughter's birthday to tell her more about the changes in her body and more about boys. It might be that there would be dating soon, she thought. Thankfully, Lindsay wasn't shyly accepting the information but actively seeking answers to questions. Downstairs, she saw her son's guitar on the sofa. She sighed and wondered why he kept putting it there since she's told him time and time again that the sofa is for people, not his guitar. Then she heard the two boys rummaging around in the kitchen and hurried back there before they attempted to cook something.

They had taken out a package of chicken nuggets and a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. Derrick was filling a large pot with water. The last time they tried to boil water she spent a week working on the bottom of the pot, slowly returning it to its original copper color. According to her son, the box said, "rapidly boiling," so that's exactly what he did! Stepping up to Derrick she said, "A smaller pot would be sufficient" then reached down into the cabinet and gave him one. Crossing the room to check on her son's progress, she wondered, "What are you doing with cooking oil?"

"That's what it says on the box," he answered.

"Read further," she advised. Mike looked at the package and read again. There were oven and microwave instructions on the other side of the box! He then looked up and giggled, "Oops!"

"Both of you, out of my kitchen," she demanded.

"We can help!" Mike playfully insisted.

Shooting arrows from her eyes, Mrs. Gibbon's placed her hand on her hip and asked, "Then you'll help clean up afterwards too?"

"One catastrophe at a time. Let's not get too carried away," Mike giggled, and then went back to the living room.

With Mrs. Gibbons only a few steps away, sternly watching what he was doing, Derrick finished over-filling the pot with water. He put it on the stove then followed Mike, carefully hiding the grin on his face as he walked past Mike's mom.

Mrs. Gibbons smiled to her self and began preparing dinner. If her son didn't have her late husband's sense of humor, she wondered if she would put up with half his shenanigans. And Derrick was a quiet boy, until her son got him cranked up. They were home when she got home though. Maybe, if they were all lucky, the next year would pass smoothly. Lately her son was bending and breaking many of the house rules, a sure sign of increased independence and the desire to be on his own, she recognized. The last thing she wanted was to have Mike graduate and leave home under bad conditions, like the way she had left her own parents home many years prior.

A few minutes later, Mike popped his head around the corner and asked, "Do we have time to shower before we eat?"

Without turning around, she answered, "Dinner should be ready in ten or fifteen minutes. I suppose one of you could finish in time."

Taking the opportunity to tease his mother, Mike sorrowfully said, "Aww, come on ma. I really wanted to cook tonight. If not in the kitchen then maybe…"

Spinning around she saw the shit-eating grin on her son's face and warned, "Michael?"

Smiling but saying nothing, Derrick walked past Mike and down the hall towards the bathroom.

Her son smiled and purposefully walked backwards, toying with the idea of running after his boyfriend. "Michael! NO!" she warned again.

Pouting like a five-year-old, he returned to the living room and started playing his guitar again.

While Mike was playing, his sister and her friend came downstairs and plopped down in front of him to listen. They said nothing but innocently watched his every move. Veronica grinned at him and he began sweating. Within a minute, he became too self conscious and stopped playing. He got up and went to his room.

Lindsay turned on the TV giggling, "It works every time."

"He's so cute!" Veronica said, "If I didn't know better…"

"Shhhh!" Lindsay interrupted. She then whispered, "You're not supposed to know anything!"

Veronica giggled, "Sor-rey!"

"You should see Drew!" Lindsay said and sighed.

"You said he's John Hundser's older brother?" Veronica asked and Lindsay nodded. Thinking of John Hundser, Veronica thought out loud, "He's really cute too."

"If you're nice for a change, maybe I'll introduce you to Drew sometime." Lindsay teased, "He sort of reminds me of David Gallager on that show Seventh Heaven, but even cuter!"

"No one's cuter than that!" Veronica argued.

Lindsay snickered, "Drew is!"

Back in his room, Mike put his guitar back in its case and powered up the PC. Earlier in the week, he had e-mailed all of the GSA pictures that he downloaded as well as two poster ideas to Keith. Once he had downloaded the gay pride flag and the various gay, lesbian and straight symbols, it took no time for him to put together the posters. He wondered if Prez had seen the posters yet. Finally Windows booted up and he went straight to the Internet. After several seconds of awful squeaking and squealing, he was connected. "Loading… loading… forever loading," he chanted wearily as the page slowly appeared on his screen.

Wearing only a towel around his waist, Derrick quietly came in the room.

Once his Yahoo page loaded and he saw no new e-mails waiting, Mike went to check out the guitar newsgroups. He had the entries listed by size, largest to smallest. If anyone bought or was selling a guitar and had uploaded a picture, he definitely wanted to see it.

Silently, Derrick crept closer to Mike and, seeing what he was doing, took off his towel, threw it over Mike's head and laughed, "Those dirty pics ain't nothin' like the real thing!"

Swinging around in the chair, Mike tossed the towel aside, saw his love God and leered. Mike noticed that water droplets seemed to sparkle on Derrick's trim, muscular body. Daily push-ups, sit-ups, leg raises and Yoga stretches were all that Derrick did, aside from drumming, to keep his body in shape. A small patch of blond hair was starting to appear between Derrick's pecs and that limp uncut dick hanging there, freshly showered – it made Mike's mouth water uncontrollably! He stood up and began slowly stalking his prey.

Backing away, Derrick giggled, "Be good," and closed the door.

"Sometime during or after the party, I intend to be real good," Mike seductively promised.

"During?" Derrick laughed.

Mike shrugged and said, "If it's cool, we could check out our new bedroom."

"It's a queen size bed," Derrick reminded, playfully bouncing his eyebrows.

Mike took his lover in his arms and held him tightly. Derrick sighed and whispered, "I want to, soon."

No sooner did Mike hum in the affirmative; the shrill yell of "Dinner!" filled the room.

Knowing that nothing would come of yet another encounter and still needing to get dressed, Derrick let go and pushed away from Mike.

Annoyed, Mike stomped to the door softly chanting, "Rasafrasagrrrrrrrr!" He forcefully swung open the door and sweetly yelled, "Be right there." Then, so he wouldn't rattle his mom's nerves, gently closed the door. When he turned around again, Derrick was in front of the dresser, hobbling around, half in a pair of boxers and half out, giggling his ass off. As agitated as he was at the disruption, Mike couldn't help but smile. Few things gave him more pleasure than making Derrick laugh. A wicked idea crossed his mind and he said, "When we move in with Doug and Brian, I wish we could force Mutt and Jeff to move in here. They think they've got disruptions? HA!"

Hearing Mike refer to Prez and Keith with those names and in that tone, Derrick gave up the battle, fell back onto Mike's bed and roared laughing.

Mike grinned evilly and watched Derrick roll around, gasping for breath for a while. He then said, "Come on dude, get dressed. We'll be accused of doing something when we didn't… when we couldn't… even though we wanted to."

Still laughing, Derrick struggled into the boxers and Mike went to fetch some clothes from Derrick's room. When he returned, Derrick was sitting upright, still smiling. Mike handed his lover the clothes.

Derrick stood, pulled on his shorts then stepped closer to Mike and said softly; "I really love you."

Smiling warmly, Mike remembered how, last year, Derrick rarely ever said, I love you. When he did, it was usually in response to Mike saying it first. Ever since New Years and the court case against his dad, Derrick had been more and more willing to say those words. It made Mike feel warm inside and all grins and giggles on the outside.

Sliding his shirt over his head, Derrick said, "Let's munch," then guided his soul mate to the dining room table.

Mrs. Gibbons had prepared not only the chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese but had also tossed a salad, toasted some French bread and heated a quiche in the microwave. Mike silently wondered, how did she do it all in less than twenty minutes?

Mike and Derrick sat next to each other on one side of the table then helped themselves. There would be food at the party so they only wanted a small snack before heading over there. Dinner passed uneventfully enough. Even the curious giggles from Lindsay and Veronica couldn't put a damper on the evening ahead. The clock on the dinning room wall above Mrs. Gibbons' head ticked loudly, constantly reminding Mike and Derrick of the party. It became all too obvious that they were hurrying through dinner. Mike's mom warned them to slow down but to no avail. At six-fifteen both boys stood up, still chewing, and put their plates in the sink. After a quick trip to the bedroom for wallets and keys, Mike returned to kiss his mother goodbye then said, "We'll be at Doug and Brian's, probably staying over night."

"Call by eleven and let me know," Mrs. Gibbons insisted.

Mike sighed but said nothing until he and Derrick stepped out side. "Heehee!" Mike giggled then said; "Set the watch for nine thirty dude."

Derrick smiled; "There's virtually no chance we'll be going to bed at home tonight," and set the second alarm on the watch.

"Gotta test the springs on that mattress," Mike teased. Just as they pulled away from the curb, Mike said, "We can't go empty handed. Let's stop by that bakery by the mall."

Derrick nodded and altered his course. At a small French bakery, they picked up a dozen eclairs, assuming that would be enough. A few minutes after seven they pulled in front of Doug and Brian's house. From the street they could hear the music.

Getting out of the car and practically gagging, Mike choked, "Disco?"

Walking around the car, Derrick smiled, nodded and said, "Good dance music."

Noticing Derrick's exaggerated tone of voice, Mike smirked, "That's about all that over sequenced seventies shit is good for."

Thinking of the history of electronic music and how the artists' back then did get carried away with their new toys, Derrick nodded and said, "You're right but try not to be a critic. Let's just take off the musician's hats and have fun."

Looking ahead, the boys saw the screen door off its hinges, leaning against the side of the house with a piece of paper tagged on to it. As they got closer they both read the sign aloud, "This goddammed door bell don't work! Come in and yell Ding-dong!"

Mike cracked up. Derrick chuckled, "It's gotta be Doug's writing."

Mike nodded and giggled, "I think he's rather annoyed about the bell, don't you?"

"And he took it out on the door!" Derrick laughed.

Actually, Doug and Brian have an open house policy during parties and always took the screen door down to prove that point. Only the hand printed sign was different because the doorbell was on the fritz.

They walked inside and yelled, "Ding-dong!" over the loud music. Doug and Brian were nowhere in sight. There was an older man, in his fifties judging by the speckled gray in his hair, dancing in the living room and a few unfamiliar faces out in the back yard. The old gentleman walked across the room to greet them.

"Hello, hello!" the man excitedly yelled. "Whom do we have here?" he flamboyantly asked, drinking in the young teen-age boys. The man strutted around and behind the boys, making Derrick edgy and putting Mike on the verge of hysterics.

Derrick nervously watched the geezer checking them out. He wore cut-off blue jean shorts and a ratty old T-shirt with more holes than cloth; as if to show off his more than pronounced belly and gray chest hair. On his feet were penny loafers with no socks. As the man made the trip around them, Derrick introduced himself and Mike.

The man leered at Derrick and said, "Ooo, honey please tell me you're queer."

Blushing, Derrick nodded but, for the first time in a long time, wanted to out right deny it and run from the house.

"But he's taken," Mike giggled, reaching for his lover's hand.

Derrick asked, "Who are you?"

The man put his hand out like a lady would and said, "I'm Edwina Trimble but you gorgeous hunks can call me Uncle Ed."

Derrick briefly shook Ed's hand. Then Mike shook the man's hand saying, "Pleased to meet ya Uncle Ed," and handed him the box of eclairs.

"A present?" Ed shouted excitedly. "Oh and we just met! You sweet thing!" Prancing over to the kitchen counter, Ed then opened the box and looked back at the boys saying, "They're not quite as long as I'd hoped but they'll do." He then picked up an éclair and put it into his mouth lengthwise, then dropped his hand and magically made the pastry disappear a bit at a time by using only his mouth. Amazed, Mike and Derrick watched.

Coming in from the backyard and witnessing Ed's actions, Doug yelled, "Ed! Jesus H. Christ! I let you out of your cage twice a year and you still can't behave!"

Ed shrugged playfully and grinned, making a dollop of vanilla pudding appear on the corner of his mouth.

Mike thought Ed was the absolute limit and, pointing to his own mouth, giggled, "Ya missed a bit."

Grabbing a paper towel, Ed wiped his mouth daintily.

"I told you to be good!" Doug said loudly as he crossed the room.

Ed swallowed then said, "I was good! They're still here, aren't they? God forbid they should leave!" Then Ed swished out of the kitchen, past Mike and Derrick, pausing only for a second to kiss Doug's cheek before dancing back to the living room.

Doug turned and smiled at the two boys, closed his eyes and shook his head slowly. Then he waved a hand and yelled, "Come outside and meet everyone." He waited for them to catch up then went back outside and walked over to the picnic table. As Mike and Derrick approached the table, Doug said, "These are Derrick and these are Mike." Then he turned to Mike and Derrick saying, "And these are the retched refuse."

"Bah!" one young man said loudly and tossed an empty plastic cup at Doug. Playfully, Doug batted it back towards the man who batted it right against the house and into a large garbage can.

"Yes! In fer two!" the young man yelled. Then he stood and said, "I'm Rob." He wore plaid shorts, a short sleeve sport shirt and appeared very young, not much older than Derrick or Mike. "Which of you is Derrick and which is Mike?" Rob asked.

Mike and Derrick each extended a hand and introduced themselves. Rob was no taller than Mike, about five feet eight inches, but at least twenty or more pounds lighter - around one hundred thirty pounds. His arms showed a deep tan and the skin was stretched tight against the muscles. He had an infectious smile, very much like Doug's.

"I'm Doug's cousin from Phoenix and this," Rob turned around saying, "is Jules."

A very pretty lady with blond hair smiled, extended her hand and meekly said hello. Sitting down next to the lady, Rob continued the introductions. Around the backyard were Anna, Chris and his wife Liz, Matt and his boyfriend Tom, Ben and Carlos, who was obviously putting some moves on a young lady named Tiffany.

Returning from the barbecue grill, Doug stood behind Carlos making lovey-dovey kissy faces. Only Mike, Derrick, Rob and Jules noticed but then Carlos turned around. Doug froze with an exceptionally goofy expression on his face. Then he swiftly grabbed Carlos, leaned over and kissed him right on the mouth.

"Bleh!" Carlos cried out. "Go away from me man, you're cramping my style."

Tiffany looked up at Doug and giggled, "Don't worry about it."

Shocked and only momentarily dejected, Carlos smiled then leaned close to Tiffany and started whispering again.

Having not seen Brian since they arrived, Derrick turned to Doug and asked, "Where's Brian?"

"Across the street playing basketball with my cousin Jay," Doug answered.

Rob playfully slapped his forehead and said, "Forgot Jamie!"

"If he wears out Brian, I'll do him harm, I swear," Doug warned his cousin.

"You know Jay," Jules grinned and blinked innocently.

"That's what scares me," Doug retorted.

Rob chuckled evilly then turned to Mike and Derrick explaining, "Jay's extremely adept at every sport. You name it - hockey, baseball, football, tennis, wrestling, soccer or volleyball. One year we both got our first set of roller blades for Christmas. By the end of the day he was bladin' backwards, dancin' around and shit. I went home bruised and scraped all to hell. It's ridiculous, I swear!"

Mike smiled and asked, "How old where you then?"

Rob turned to Jules then turned back and said, "It was about eight years ago, twenty one."

Mike and Derrick looked at each other amazed that this dude, who barely looked eighteen, was in fact almost thirty! "How old was Jay?" Derrick asked.

Rob answered, "He's three years younger so… eighteen then, twenty five, soon to be twenty six now."

"Ben's your age," Doug said. Hearing his name, Ben looked down to the ground and blushed. Noticing this, Doug turned and said, "Matt and Tom are only a little older."

"Twenty one yesterday," Matt slurred. Tom rolled his eyes, smiled and held on to his inebriated boyfriend.

Doug chuckled and boogied back into the house. Seconds later, the people outside heard Doug yell, "Not now you fuckin' kook!" Every one looked inside and saw Ed forcing Doug to dance with him! "I gotta finish cooking!" Doug yelled.

"Woooo! You're really cookin' now baby, woooooo!" Ed yelled back and continued to swing himself around by Doug's hand.

Flailing his arms around, Doug screamed, "You could at least let me lead!" then grabbed Ed and swung him around.

Everyone around the table laughed heartily and even Ben managed to smile.

Mike and Derrick were both silently wondering about Ben, catching `What's with that dude?" glances. Twice Ben's name was mentioned and twice he looked to the ground and blushed. He wasn't a bad looking dude, just a little bit chubby. Mike turned to Rob and said, "Thanks for the intros dude," then he and Derrick went to talk with Ben.

Seeing both boys approaching, Ben began to shake and sweat. Please let them talk with Matt and Tom, he silently prayed. No, they won't want to talk with me. Oh God…

"Hey dude," Mike said as he sat down beside Ben.

Ben gulped and froze.

Pulling up a chair, Derrick said, "How's it goin'?"

Getting no reply, Derrick and Mike glanced at each other.

"We met Doug and Brian last New Year's Eve," Mike offered.

Derrick added, "They teach us music and lots of other stuff."

Still getting no response, Mike asked, "How do you know them?"

Without lifting his face much, Ben made a croaking sound then, barely audibly said, "Doug teaches me too."

"Cool dude," Derrick said. "What instrument do you play?"

After a long pause, Ben softly answered, "Guitar."

"Me too dude!" Mike excitedly said. "What tunes do you know?"

Ben closed his eyes then, after a few long moments mumbled, "Err… umm… can't… `scuse me," and stood up then quickly walked into the house.

Wide-eyed and confused, Mike and Derrick wondered what the hell happened.

Matt and Tom looked over at them and shrugged.

"What's with that dude?" Mike asked out loud.

Tom answered, "He's just extremely shy, I guess."

"Rude little shit too," Matt said.

Mike and Derrick chuckled at that but Tom nudged his boyfriend saying, "He can't help it, he probably doesn't know how."

Matt sighed, "Doug or Brian need to wake that dude before his life flies by aimlessly."

"I'm surprised neither said anything about him," Derrick wondered out loud.

With that, the four began talking, first about Doug and Brian, then about music, then a little about them-selves. Matt was a guitar player and took lessons from Doug as a teenager. Now he worked for Carvin Manufacturing and lived down by San Diego. Tom worked at a Nordstrum's, Keith's favorite store, as the manager of the men's clothing department and lived with Matt. Being high school students still, Mike and Derrick told them a little about school, their band, Prez and Keith and then the prom.

Back inside, Doug saw Ben walking quickly to the bathroom. It was that half run, "I'm gonna make a big mess," kind of a walk. Doug hummed thoughtfully. The kid was offered beer but asked for water, he considered. Then Doug looked outside and saw that Mike and Derrick were now on the opposite side of the table near Matt and Tom – near where Ben was sitting.

Earlier, when Ben arrived and sat nearer to Matt and Tom, Doug had high hopes. Now it seemed they were rapidly diminishing. He stopped what he was doing in the kitchen, went down the hallway and heard the sound of urination from the bathroom. Breathing a sigh of relief, Doug returned to the kitchen and waited for Ben. He'd taken off the gloves with Mike and Derrick and it seemed to have a positive impact. He resolved to try something radical with Ben.

Doug and Brian first met Ben when he became a student of theirs more than two years earlier. Ben was so withdrawn when they first met. He simply did not speak at all - not even hello or goodbye. Teaching him how to play has always been a challenge because there was no verbal communication, only nods and shrugs for the longest time. It was months before Ben actually smiled and said, "okay," to something one day.

In the bathroom, Ben finished relieving himself. He went to the sink, ran the water and began talking to himself in the mirror while he washed up. Why did they have to come over and talk to me? Omigod! I can't believe they're gay too. And they're so… cute! I've got nothing to say that they'd ever want to hear. I can't play guitar worth a shit. Why did Doug even invite me here? I don't belong here. He always does this shit! They're all such nice people but I'm… I'm just not. I must be anti-social or a hermit or something. He finished drying his hands and, with the last look into his reflection, decided to tell Doug he was leaving.

Seeing Doug in the kitchen, Ben went over to him and softly said, "I'm just gonna go dude."

Doug sighed and nodded slowly then softly asked, "What were you saying to yourself in there?"

Surprised and ashamed, Ben looked down saying, "How'd ya know?"

Turning to face the boy, Doug smiled and said, "You're not the only one that talks to him self in there. We all do it." Then, totally without out warning, Doug took hold of Ben, hugged him tightly and said, "Everyone talks to themselves a little. They make plans for the day, or resolve to address some issue in their lives or any of a hundred different things, but not you. Tell me, what things did you say in there?"

Arms hanging limp at his side, Ben squeaked, "Just that I should go." Doug had never hugged him before. Ben couldn't recall the last time anyone hugged him, for that matter. It felt nice, a little weird, but nice, Ben thought. But again he reproved; it shouldn't feel nice and started to try to move away from Doug.

Holding Ben firmly in place, Doug whispered in his ear, "You should go? You should stay? I should let you go. But I won't. The word `should' shouldn't exist! It implies guilt every time you use it."

Trembling and holding back tears, Ben silently hoped to be released.

"Try using the word `could' or `would' from now on," Doug instructed. He then said, "You could leave now, if I would let you go. But I won't. You're guilty of being a human being Ben; a gentle, sensitive and caring human being - nothing more"

"But I have nothing to say," Ben whimpered.

"So your conversation skills need improving. Not everyone is the life of the party all night long. Try talking with people. These are kind hearted, good-natured folks. I wouldn't have them here or invited you otherwise. They get crazy and a little rough around the edges on occasion but they won't ever attack you. You're the only one attacking you. Why Ben? Why can't you give yourself a break? Please, tell me why."

Ben sniffled, gulped and inhaled deeply. He exhaled and inhaled deeply again. Doug noticed this immediately and on Ben's third quick breath, recognized the onset of a panic attack. The kid was going to hyperventilate so Doug let go, reached in a drawer and opened a small brown paper bag. Wrapping his arm around the boy, Doug pushed the bag over Ben's mouth and led him back to the studio.

Once Ben stopped crying and began breathing normally, all the negative things he had been holding in came rushing out. The suicide attempts were described in vivid detail. For Ben, life had to prove it was worth living every day. His doctor had prescribed a five-milligram dose of Prozac to take the edge off. Doug knew that to be a very small dosage and was glad it had a positive effect. The insurance companies were obviously pleased too. According to Ben's mother, they wouldn't cover continued trips to a psychologist. But Ben was stuck in that ever-diminishing circle where people constantly prove to themselves how horrible life is and how imperfect they are.

Doug promised Ben he would always be a friend. And, as a good friend does, pointed out the rut Ben was in then showed him how he could control his inner voice. "Whenever you catch yourself saying something negative," Doug instructed, "immediately shout back, `NO! Cancel that!' Then say the opposite, reword it to say something positive." For the next few minutes they tried a few sample phrases. Ben frailly went a long and repeated back every positive statement. Eventually, Ben smiled. He thought how silly it all seemed but hearing Doug shout, "STOP! Cancel that!" and reversing every thing he said really did make him feel better. Good enough to at least stay for dinner, like Doug asked. Ben stayed inside for a while to relax while Doug went back out to the grill.

From behind and heading for the grill, Doug overheard Matt talking about Ben and said, "Give him a break. Just being here is a huge step for him."

Matt nodded and Tom sighed then made a crooked, sad sort of face.

Derrick and Mike followed Doug. "What's the scoop?" Mike asked.

Softly, so he wouldn't be over heard, Doug said, "Ben's just way inside himself. He thinks he's got nothing to offer anyone." Doug stopped what he was doing at the grill, turned and said, "Ya know those little self-talk voices in your head? Ben's constantly reinforces that he's worthless. I was hoping that seeing you two and Matt and Tom would make an impression."

After a few moments, Derrick said, "That's a bad way to be. A dude could do serious damage to himself in lots of ways."

Doug glanced at Derrick then looked back towards the grill and sadly said, "He already has. But it's been a long time, at least a year since he's done anything."

"Wait a sec," Mike said, "are you telling me what I think you are?"

Grimly, Doug nodded.

"Is it because he's gay?" Derrick asked.

Shaking his head, Doug answered, "That's only a small part of it. He thinks maybe he's gay but doesn't really know. He hates that about himself amongst a lot of other hates. He hates his clothes, he hates his eyes, he hates his height and weight, he hates school… the list goes on and on."

"How does he play?" Mike asked.

Doug looked at Mike curiously then said, "I teach and he tries but the repetition of those voices…" He then said, "I've been trying to replace those thoughts with more positive ones. He's got to believe the new ideas though; at least a little but hasn't quite jumped that hurdle yet. Maybe later tonight we'll play Rock and Roll Trivial Pursuit. The kid knows a lot. Maybe it'll help reinforce that yes, he has knowledge and he can do well at anything he damn well pleases."

Both were stunned silent for a few moments. Then Derrick asked, "Is it like a medical situation?"

"Not really," Doug said, "it's a psychological one now. As a child he was hyperactive. Can you believe it? He's been off those pills since he was eleven though. His mom swears they were necessary but adolescence and all those rushing hormones? I don't know if they helped him in the long run. But what do I know."

"Judging by the result, I'd say no," Mike said very matter-of-factly.

Doug grinned and said, "You guys just rattled him. He'll be fine."

Mike and Derrick looked at Doug curiously then slowly a smirk swept across his face. "Put your self in his place," Doug said, "He's self conscious to the extreme and two very attractive dudes walk up to you."

Turning to Mike, Derrick sorrowfully said, "We intimidated him dude."

Mike sighed, "Shit. We didn't know." Then he said, "So what should we do now?"

Doug shrugged then said, "Let's see how he acts once he comes back outside. Maybe you could talk with him individually? Try reading his expressions." He then started to remove burgers and hot dogs from the grill, piling them on two plates. Just as Doug turned around to serve dinner, he saw Jamie swinging Ed around in the living room. Beyond them, in the kitchen, stood a very tired looking Brian.

Doug placed the plates of food on the table and everyone dug in. Mike and Derrick watched Doug go into the house and shove his cousin Jay. They couldn't hear what was being said but obviously Doug was bitching out Jay. Obviously Jay didn't care and thought the whole thing was amusing. Giving up, Doug went towards the kitchen and Brian when Ben stepped up to them.

Ed came outside, sat on the other side of Matt and Tom then helped himself to a hot dog. There were various condiments on the table. Ed drowned his hot dog in ketchup, mustard, relish and onions. For a moment, Ed and Mike's eyes met. Ed picked up the hot dog and Mike, expecting another erotic display, began giggling. Ed winked and said, "Gluttony is a virtue," then chomped down on his hot dog. Derrick smiled but shook his head in disbelief and Mike roared with laughter.

Minutes later, Jay came outside. Doug's cousin Jamie was very tall, at least as tall as Brian. After playing basketball and getting all sweaty, Jay obviously decided to take a quick shower. His light brown hair was slicked back and damp, making it appear darker. He was barefoot, had on a pair of loose fitting sport shorts but wore no shirt. Mike and Derrick couldn't help but watch as Jay wandered around the table, helping himself to a huge plate full of food. Jay had perfectly proportioned body. His chest wasn't overly developed and stomach was flat as a board. From the rear, he displayed a pronounced "V" shape. What no one at the table knew was that Jay purposefully left his shirt off. He liked when people watched him and almost everyone in the backyard was.

At one point, Jay thought he was bisexual. Not until he was in the Navy did he learn what homosexual sex was really like. Even though he went through with it all, he didn't enjoy it. Sucking and getting sucked was okay but anal sex did nothing for him at all. He didn't like getting fucked or doing the fucking either. But that didn't mean he couldn't tease both the men and women with his body. Jay knew where he was and that his cousin Doug was gay. He knew Matt and Tom were watching too. Since Mike and Derrick were watching him, Jay also figured that the two younger dudes he hadn't yet met were gay also. But there were two single and straight women at the party too. Once his plate was filled to overflowing, Jay sat next to Derrick and Mike.

Brian, Doug and Ben came outside again just as everyone (except Jay) was finished eating. Rob and Jules decided to clean up the table a bit. They went inside and moments later returned with various deserts, including the éclairs.

Crossing his legs and getting settled to eat, Jay said hello to the two boys and they introduced themselves.

Between forks full of potato salad, Jay asked, "You're friends of Doug's?"

Derrick nodded and said, "Yeah." He expected Mike to say something more but Mike seemed more than a little preoccupied. Following Mike's gaze to Jay's plate, Derrick then saw what was keeping Mike quiet. Underneath the plate, both boys could see that Jay's circumcised dick and one hairy testicle were hanging out of his shorts! Flustered and unsure how to say anything to someone he'd just met, Derrick nervously looked around, anywhere but at Jay.

"Are you gay?" Jay asked.

Still a bit preoccupied, Mike answered, "Yep, we are."

Jay looked at each of the two boys, got the intended message that they were a couple then smiled and said, "That's very cool. How long have you been together?"

"A little over a year," Derrick answered.

Grinning mischievously, Mike asked, "Are you gay too?"

Chewing a mouth full of food, Jay shook his head.

Mike's smile grew even wider and he fought hard to contain his laughter. "That's too bad," Mike said. Derrick almost cracked up but restrained himself to only a short chuckle and a nudge for Mike to stop.

Jay shrugged and said, "Sorry dudes."

"Have you got a girlfriend?" Derrick asked.

Jay answered, "Not a steady one but I'm looking," and glanced over at Tiffany.

Derrick and Mike glanced at each other just long enough to transmit the messages, "Tell him his wang is hangin' out dude! No! You do it!"

The rest of the people around the table had finished their deserts when Rob turned to Doug and loudly asked, "When's the jams cousin?"

Still eating, Doug pointed at Mike and Derrick answering, "Over there."

"Lets get on with it," Rob said to Mike and Derrick. Turning back to Doug, he queried, "Play a little Risk later?"

"Natch!" Doug answered.

Jay grinned widely, apparently liking the idea and loudly said, "Kumchatka! You will all be crushed by my powerful armies!"

 "In yer dreams," Doug replied. "Remember that time your powerful armies were obliterated and you spent the night hurling your guts up on the front lawn?"

Jay laughed hysterically and almost gagged on his food.

Since the sun was setting and he wanted to hear something other than disco, Rob went inside and turned off the stereo.

Mike and Derrick knew Risk was a board game with armies but didn't understand why Jay would wind up puking. Jay noticed their curious glances and explained, "We make it a drinking game. There just so happens to be a Kumchatka brand of vodka. The winner of every battle gives away shots to the looser. The player that owns Kumchatka territory at the end of every turn gives away shots too." Mike and Derrick grinned at the idea. Then Jay asked, "Would you dudes want to play?"

"Anyone playing Risk gives up their keys and stays the night," Brian loudly warned.

"We'll play," Matt said quickly. Tom rolled his eyes as if dreading the notion.

Derrick chuckled and Mike nodded at Doug, signaling they would play too.

Rob returned with Doug's Martin acoustic and tried to hand it to him. Shaking his head, Doug said, "You play it. I'm the host and have to do most of the entertaining. It's anyone else's turn till I'm done stuffing my face."

"Yeah but I suck," Rob said. Then he chuckled, "You suck slightly less… at guitar any how!"

Doug laughed, "Fuck off!"

Giggling, Rob walked over to Derrick and handed him the guitar.

Derrick didn't say anything to Rob but took the guitar and started playing very poorly. Rob and Jay frowned at him and Mike just exploded with laughter. Then Derrick turned the guitar over and started drumming on the back. "I thought you said they could play!" Jay yelled at Doug.

At that, Derrick leaned closer to Jay and whispered, "I thought you said you weren't gay?"

Confused, Jay repeated, "I'm not." Hearing that, Mike laughed even louder.

"So you're an exhibitionist then?" Derrick asked wryly then briefly looked down at Jay's crotch.

Moving his plate aside and seeing his dick hanging out, Jay shrugged, "It's always doing that." Without covering up his thing, he returned to his dinner.

Rob was still close by, heard all of what was said and saw his cousin's dick. "He's definitely an exhibitionist," Rob laughed. "Has been all his life."

Momentarily, Jay appeared worried but then smiled at his cousin and warned, "Don't go telling any stories!"

Rubbing his hands together, Rob chuckled evilly, "Muahahahaa! I'll start with baby Jamie stories."

Jay frowned. But off to his side, Tiffany was all ears and grins! Moving around and trying to cop a peek, Anna enthusiastically said, "I want to hear some of those!" and everyone laughed - except Carlos. Having created enough havoc at his cousin's expense, Rob returned to the table, smiling triumphantly.

It began to get dark and the party moved inside. Anna, Chris and his wife Liz, Carlos, Tiffany, Jules and Jay remained in the living room while everyone else went back to the studio to jam. They left the door open though and the sound filled the house. Mike was satisfied playing the Martin acoustic almost all night while Matt played lead guitar. Matt was deeply into The Smith's and played their music perfectly. Mike enjoyed the tunes and wondered if Keith would sing any of them. After playing The Smith's, they stripped gears and switched to The Beatles. With a bass guitar in his hands, Doug practically became Paul McCartney. After a longer jam rendition of Helter Skelter, they started playing Led Zeppelin. Ben sat back in the studio and watched what he always dreamed he might some day be able to do. Derrick's alarm went off and he did hear it but decided to wait a while. A few minutes before ten, Brian and Doug broke up the jam for their neighbors' sake. As they left the room, Ben decided to call it a night. But he did manage to say goodbye to everyone, much to Doug's obvious pleasant surprise.

Returning to the main rooms of the house, they found the rest of the party in full swing. Everyone except Chris and Liz was gathered around the coffee table, trying to bounce quarters into a small glass of beer. Two more people arrived while they were away jamming. Brandon and his girlfriend Em, short for Emily, had shown up. Judging by Brian's warmer greeting, they were his friends, Derrick guessed. Ed, Matt and Tom joined them playing quarters for a while. Mike asked Brian if he could use the phone and called home to leave a message for his mom. Then, around eleven, Chris and Liz left for home and their children. Carlos and Anna left soon after. By midnight, after one too many chugged glasses of beer, Uncle Ed had passed out on the couch!

The remaining partygoers gathered around the dining room table for Risk. Teamed up were Mike and Derrick, Matt and Tom, Doug and Brian, Brandon and Em, Rob and Jules and Jay and Tiffany. Brian gathered up everyone's keys. Then he and Jules went to inflate the air mattresses for all the guests while Doug explained the history and rules of the game.

The game of Risk was a sacred, almost revered party tradition for the three cousins, Doug, Jay and Rob. Many years ago Rob had learned it while in college. He brought the game home for Doug and Jay and their friends. For a while, it was played yearly on New Year's Eve until Rob's mom decided she couldn't take it any more! Back then, as many young people do, they drank with the intent of getting completely blitzed! Vomiting was expected, even encouraged but you had to return and finish the game! You could, of course, deploy your armies in ways that would ensure a quick, albeit deliberate death. Often, that would be the only way to finish the game! One year they had played from midnight till dawn on New Year's. Throughout the game, team alliances are built and the shots can really add up when you're made to drink for someone else's transgressions!

But, as everyone got older, the drinking rules had weakened. The intention was to have a good time and not to see how many bottles of vodka they could kill. For this occasion, the two minors were explicitly ordered by Doug and Brian to share the shots. As it turned out, every team shared their shots. Jay did a few shots for Tiffany and Rob did a few for Jules, making them a bit tipsier earlier in the game. By two in the morning, Brandon and Em were out of the game but they stayed and watched for a while. Shortly thereafter, Jay sacrificed his armies for Tiffany and they disappeared into a room. Matt and Tom were the next to go and took the bedroom that would hopefully soon be Mike and Derrick's! Rob and Jules tried to pull a double cross but Mike and Derrick had maintained their alliance with Doug and Brian all night.

After Jules helped Rob wobble off to bed, Doug said, "Let's call it a stalemate."

Mike and Derrick looked at each other briefly. It was almost four in the morning but they had only done two shots each! Mike turned, smiled mischievously and said, "Whimping out already?"

"Let the old folks go to bed dude," Derrick grinned.

Brian and Doug chuckled at the challenge but, although they were buzzed, they could easily keep count of how many drinks the boys had. "Would you still play without the booze?" Brian countered.

"Come on!" Mike laughed. "My dad died when I was thirteen. Do you think I never tried to do the quote adult thing and drown my sorrows?"

"He never drinks alone either," Derrick added.

"Hangovers suck, yeah we know," Mike said, "and hangovers after puking are worse! Been there, done that."

Derrick suggested, "One more each for all four of us, then we'll play."

Doug and Brian both made crooked faces. But they knew these boys and didn't need to be reminded of their histories. They might've wound up emotionally screwed up like Ben or worse, displayed that inner turmoil violently. After a few moments Brian nodded and Doug smiled. Over exaggerating his drunkenness, Doug squinted and slurred, "One more teensy-weensy one tarbender," and poured out a shot for each of them.

Then they all settled back and played the game in earnest. The battles were bloody. Boundaries shifted. Between turns, the four continued their conversation from Thursday night. Around six in the morning, as the sun rose, Mike and Derrick had only a slight military advantage. Seeing no end in sight, Doug made some coffee. Uncle Ed woke up, helped himself to a cup of coffee, kissed Doug and Brian goodbye then left for home. At seven, Brian realized he had been awake for 24 hours straight and started purposefully loosing battles. Mike and Derrick were yawning almost constantly but still having the best time. The master bedroom door opened just before eight in the morning and Jay sleepily wobbled into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Apparently he wasn't surprised to see the game still going and sat down at the table to watch. Derrick and Mike jokingly looked under the table to see if Jay was still showing off! Returning the joke, Jay played the shy straight boy and covered his privates! Minutes later, Rob came out of the master bedroom and walked across the hall to the bathroom. Soon, Brandon and Em woke up, thanked Doug and Brian then left for home. By nine in the morning, everyone had left except Matt and Tom but the game was still raging! Exhausted, Doug and Brian forfeited the game. Doug reminded the two boys that there was several air mattresses scattered around the house. Then the two men shuffled off to bed.

Mike nodded and said, "Thanks," then he and Derrick kicked back on the living room floor to watch cartoons.

Less than an hour later, the phone rang.

Brian groaned, "Let them leave a message."

But Doug thought it might be an emergency of some sort and got out of bed. Wearily answering the phone, Doug stumbled out of the bedroom so he wouldn't disturb Brian.

"Hey Doug, it's Keith."

Doug hoarsely whispered, "Hey dude."

"You sound horrible. Is everything alright?" Keith said.

As Doug wandered into the living room, he found Mike and Derrick on the floor. The TV was still on but they were sound asleep. He turned off the TV and said, "I'm fine, just way over tired from partying all night."

"Oh!" Keith giggled, "I won't keep you then. Prez and I were hoping to stop by sometime this weekend."

"Any time ya want," Doug replied.

Keith was half tempted to tell Doug they were on their way but decided against it and said, "How about tomorrow around noon?"

"Cool. We should all be awake by then."

Struggling to hold back his laughter, Keith chuckled, "Sounds like we missed a good one."

"Mike and Derrick seemed to enjoy it."

"They were there?" Keith asked.

"They still are, snoozin' on the living floor."

"Well I guess I won't bother calling them then!" Keith laughed.

With his eyes half closed, Doug wandered back to his bedroom saying, "See ya tomorrow?"

"You bet," Keith said, "see ya then."

"Buh-bye," Doug grunted.

"Bye," Keith laughed, and then hung up the phone.

Crawling back into bed, Doug closed his eyes and sighed contentedly.

Cuddling up next to Doug, Brian whispered, "Is everything ok?"

Doug hummed in the affirmative and sleepily mumbled, "Keith's dancing over with his dick hangin' out."

Surprised and confused, Brian's eyes popped open. Immediately he recognized that his lover was thoroughly exhausted and mixing things up in his vodka saturated brain. Smiling, he shuffled closer to Doug, closed his eyes and dozed off again.

Later that Saturday morning, Derrick heard sounds of people moving around. He peered over Mike to find Matt and Tom preparing to leave. Finally! Derrick thought. As soon as the two men closed the front door behind them, Derrick started licking and nibbling Mike's neck. It only took a few minutes for Mike to wake up, roll over and start making out with his lover. In between kisses, Derrick whispered, "Our bedroom's empty now."

Apparently disinterested, Mike hummed, "That's nice," and continued to snack on Derrick neck. Moments later he pulled back and grinned, "Let's go!"

Hours later, Derrick woke with a start. Nothing scared him, he simply went from totally unconscious to wide awake in a flash, which he thought odd. Looking at his new watch and checking the time, he whispered in disbelief,  "Fuck!" Then he shook Mike and said, "Dude, we gotta be at work in thirty minutes!"

Still half asleep, Mike groggily said, "I don't think so." Flinging back the sheet, Mike then stretched and sat up. "Bleh! My mouth tastes like a heard of buffalo stormed through while we slept!"

Derrick smiled then asked, "We're calling in sick then?"

"I can," Mike replied, "can you?"

Thinking carefully about his next insurance payment, he realized that he might be a little short in June if he did call off work. "If I'm short for my insurance can you help me out?" Derrick asked.

Mike smirked, "Do you still have to ask?"

They got out of bed, put on their boxers and went out to the kitchen. Doug and Brian were already awake, had cleaned up the party mess and were watching TV.

"Can we use the phone dudes?" Mike asked. Reaching for the base on the kitchen wall, he noticed the phone was missing.

Spinning around, he saw Brian was holding the phone out.

"Sure, over here Mike," Brian said.

"We gotta call work," Derrick said as he walked to the living room. "There's no way we can make it."

"How do you feel?" Doug asked.

Derrick wandered over towards the kitchen, rubbing his buns through his boxers in fond recollection and dialed the phone. It was gonna be great living here, he thought.

"Fine," Mike answered. Rolling his tongue around the cotton field in his mouth, he snarled, "Nasty morning breath though!"

The two men grinned and Brian said, "There's mouthwash in the hall bathroom."

Mike smiled and nodded then went towards the bathroom. Seeing Derrick in the kitchen rubbing his butt though, he was momentarily distracted. As far as Mike was concerned, Derrick was the best and only lover he would ever have. Sometimes he felt sad because he liked anal sex so much but Derrick gave more often then he received. But when he's ready, Derrick could do one thing that few other dudes could do. While in the missionary position, Derrick would slowly stretch his legs back, locking them behind his head! This allowed Mike to hover over his lover very closely and kiss him as often he liked. Noticing his dick swelling, Mike hurried off to the bathroom.

Derrick came in moments later with the phone while Mike was swishing mouthwash around his mouth. Putting the phone down on the counter, Derrick then closed the bathroom door.

Catching a playful glance in the mirror, Mike quickly spat out the mouthwash and spun around just as Derrick wrapped his arms around him.

"I'm so in love with you," Derrick whispered.

Mike smiled and squeezed tightly then relaxed and said, "You really seemed to like that this time."

"I always have," Derrick said. "Guess I didn't feel like staying perfectly quiet this time though," he giggled. "You lasted way longer too."

Mike chuckled, "It's weird. Cumming takes a lot of work any more without you inside me."

"That's exactly what I have to imagine when I'm doing you," Derrick admitted. Then he pulled back, let go of his lover and poured some mouthwash.

Leaning against the wall, Mike waited patiently for Derrick to finish. As soon as he did, they returned to their embrace and kissed passionately. Mike then called work, five minutes before he was due there! His boss was not pleased! But Mike insisted he had a high fever and shouldn't be around people or food. Since he had no other choice, the boss reluctantly gave in and pleaded for Mike to give him more notice next time. Hanging up, Mike sighed knowing that the dude would definitely find some shit job for him to do the next time he was at work.

When they finished in the bathroom, they put their shorts on then returned to Doug and Brian.

Noticing how quickly the boys returned, Doug said, "That was way quicker than expected."

Derrick blushed briefly then rubbed his backside saying; "Sore." Everyone, including Derrick cracked up laughing! It was one thing to hold his legs behind his head to stretch for thirty seconds but fifteen or so minutes was another thing entirely!

Out of the coffee table drawer, Doug pulled a wall calendar and said, "We thought this would be the best way to keep track of each other this summer. I've already marked when we'll be gone and written down the phone numbers where we'll be staying."

"And I listed our work hours and phone numbers there, including our pager numbers." Brian added.

Mike nodded and said, "Cool. We won't bug you unless there's an emergency."

Derrick quietly listened and wondered how long Doug and Brian were asleep? It had only been a little over six hours since they all four decided to sleep. How did they get so much done in so little time? When they went to bed, there were beer bottles and plastic cups all over the place.

"That's exactly how we expect it," Brian said happily. "And you two can jot down your work days and phone numbers. We'll all assume they'll never be used."

Doug then turned to Mike and said, "Your mom called here a little while ago." Mike slouched and sighed. "It's okay dude," Doug laughed. "She was only calling to remind you of work, which is a moot point now."

"And while we had her on the phone," Brian melodically sang, "We had the chance to poke around and learned a few things."

Both boys' heads drooped towards the floor.

"Tonight," Doug said loudly, "we shall learn how to cook for ourselves!"

Brian chuckled, "Let see, I want lamb chops, rice pilaf, steamed broccoli…"

"Blech!" Mike yelled.

Brian continued, "and for desert, fudge brownies I think."

Derrick giggled, "You're asking for trouble!"

"If left to your own devices, I'm sure that would be the case," Doug laughed.

Brian stood and said, "We need to go to the market."

Doug walked around the coffee table saying, "Let's get our shirts and shoes on."

Reluctantly Mike and Derrick got up, dressed and followed the men out of the house. From the back seat of Doug's car, Mike leaned forward and said, "Is this what you really want to be doing? Couldn't we just go out to eat?"

Brian answered, "If you really want to live in our house and learn what it's like to be independent, then this is where we'll start. We're not going to be like parents. Everything will be the same as always, we'll point the way, you dudes do whatever you decide."

At the stoplight, Doug turned around in his seat and said, "We just want to feel secure that the house won't be burnt down while trying to make boxed macaroni and cheese!" Facing forward again, he laughed, "Cripes!"

"There are fringe benefits to cooking," Brian said. "We've had lots of fun working around each other in the kitchen."

"And there's nothing like coming home to an unexpected candle lit dinner," Doug added.

They pulled into the Ralph's supermarket parking lot and went into the store. Like pros, the two men led they boys around the store, picking up required items. Brian gave up on the steamed broccoli and the four decided on fresh corn on the cob instead. At the checkout line, Doug noticed elastic-cloth gay flag bracelets and asked, "Have you dudes ever thought of wearing something like that?"

"I have," Mike said, "but I don't like anything on my wrists or fingers."

"You could wear it on your ankle," Brian suggested.

Mike nodded and smiled. During the summer he'd be barefoot or wearing sandals, he thought.

The three turned to look at Derrick for his opinion. Slowly, a grin spread across his face and Derrick answered, "Sure! Let's get two for Keith and Prez while we're at it."

"I like the way you think!" Doug said and tossed four bracelets down on the counter. Mike and Derrick both reached into their shorts for money but Doug said, "My treat. You dudes are doing things we only dreamed of at your age."

Mike said, "Thanks dude." Then he grinned and cackled, "Keith's gonna flip out!"

Derrick grinned and shook his head.

Returning to the house, Doug and Brian sat at the counter, instructing the boys what to cook first, how and why. Mike and Derrick really did prepare the entire dinner, including desert. It was delicious! When they finished eating and everything was cleaned up, they all relaxed in the living room to watch "The Empire Strikes Back". During a television commercial break, Brian said, "It's pretty wild how they move stuff with their minds. I wonder if we'd ever be able to do stuff like that?"

Derrick shrugged and said, "I'd like to think so but it would take shit-loads of concentration."

Giggling, Mike huddled low to the floor and, imitating Yoda said, "Do or do not! There is no maybe. As if that's all it takes!" then rolled over laughing.

Nodding and grinning at each other, Doug and Brian excused them selves then left the room.

Playfully, Mike scampered to where the men were sitting and slid open the coffee table drawer. "Omigod!" he whispered as a cold chill ran up his spine.

Smiling, Derrick asked, "What else is in there?"

"It's completely empty dude," Mike said. Then he pulled the drawer out, lifted it, flipped it over and showed Derrick.

"No fuckin' way!" Derrick said. "Where's the rubber ears? Where's the dildo and condoms?" Derrick asked.

Sliding the drawer back into the table, Mike shrugged and said, "If they pull one thing out of this drawer tonight, I'm gonna run for the hills!"

In the master bath, Brian brushed his teeth while Doug was taking a piss. They could feel a change in the air and glanced briefly at each other. Brian spat out the toothpaste and wiped his mouth with a towel. The two men looked at their reflections in the mirror then closed their eyes.

Back in the living room, Mike and Derrick sat side by side and wondered. "Maybe they emptied out the drawer before the party?" Derrick thought out loud.

Mike shrugged. That might be the case but those rubber ears have been in that drawer for months, he thought. They weren't incriminating in any way and were, after all, a party favor. Suddenly, the TV got louder then softer, and the channels started changing all at the same time!

Thinking it was Mike goofing on him, Derrick smiled, "Come on dude. Don't fuck around. You'll bust it."

"I didn't do it!" Mike insisted. Then he pointed over to the end table by the couch where the remote control lay. "There's got to be a rational explanation," Mike said, exaggerating his confidence. If there was an explanation, he couldn't think of one.

Moments later, Brian and Doug walked back into the living room.

"Dudes, your TV just had some sort of a fit," Mike excitedly said.

Wide-eyed and apparently concerned, Brian said, "Really? Like how?"

Derrick and Mike started to explain what had happened. Mike was just about to mention the empty coffee table drawer when everything electrical in the house unexpectedly turned off. The refrigerator compressor rattled then there was absolute silence. In the darkness, the two boys held hands and squeezed tightly, thrilled beyond words.

Reverberating from every side of the room, all around them, Doug gently spoke. "There's nothing to fear. Breathe deep and relax. Each of us chooses our reality, every moment of every day. Only you can choose whether to be glad or sad. No one has the power to take away your freedom to choose unless you give them that power."

Brian breathed, "Love life. Grab onto the opportunities it presents. We're all capable of so much. The possibilities are endless. Care for life and it will always care for you. We ask life for what we need with every thought. Life is always happy to oblige."

Doug said, "Care for the stone, the plant, the insect - leave no thing unappreciated. Visualize yourselves surrounded in pure white light. See it sparkle when it brushes against you. Feel it remove the worries and concerns of the moment. It tickles and fills you with gladness and love."

"See a door and open it," Brian suggested, "See a path and follow it. The fork up head is of your own creation. There's nothing to fear, no reason for confusion. It's familiar and you expected it. Now choose a direction."

Doug softly instructed, "Reflect and remember for a moment. You met because you needed to meet. You wanted to be together long before letting the other know. With thought and deed, you came together. A wider path formed. You walk it together. The road is clear and you can see your own desires far to the horizon."

"Trees form along the path. Entering a forest, the path becomes less clear. Walking slower in the darkness, you face your fears. Pay them no mind. Give them no power. You realize that there's nothing frightening here. Phantoms of your own creation flash by. One by one they disintegrate, as you will them away. The forest thins and you walk back into the light, exhilarated and stronger for the experience."

"See the clear blue sky. Feel the warm sun on your face. There's a cottage up ahead. It's your cottage. Step inside and get comfortable. You decide to play a game of fizzling phantoms. Share your fears. Expose your demons. See them hanging in the air as feeble words. Imagining the cleansing white light, you watch them explode in a flash."

"There's a knock at the door and you open it. It's your friends and family. You welcome them all in. Sharing your new knowledge and how you've faced your fears, they become elated. You hug each of them and tell them that you love them, forgiving all past transgressions. What's done is done. It was perfect - necessary in it's own way for the time. Now you all know better. The past can no longer haunt you."

"You walk your loved ones outside. They leave for home. Finally free of your burdens, fears and past, the pathway sparkles. You decide to take another walk. Along the path are your values. You take account of them, prioritizing each and giving them importance. They, in turn, give substance to your life and will always be there when you need them."

"This is the way it's been since the beginning of time. All you ever needed to do was want something desperately enough. It was the negative ideas about life's challenges that slowed you down. You now know better. There's another fork up ahead. Choose your pathway."

I hope you enjoyed the story.
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