Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to real people or events is coincidental. It contains descriptions of sex between teenage boys and between adult men. If you are offended by this type of material, or if you are forbidden by law to read it, please exit the story now. E-mail comments are gratefully accepted.


Chapter 2


Rick and I wondered whether we should wear a tie to our legal meeting, but we both opted for something more casual. I half expected George to have on his uniform, but when we got to his house at the stroke of 1:30, we saw that he was dressed as we were. Tim came out from his bedroom to join us in their den.

Tim's grin when he saw us lit up his whole face. I tried to picture him in bed with another guy, but the image wouldn't come.

"Hi, guys," Tim said.

"Hey, buddy," Rick said.

"Hi, Tim," I chimed in. "We're really excited about you living with us. We know you'll miss your dad, but we'll try to fill in for him."

"Miss who," Tim asked coyly.

"Very funny, mister," George said. He hugged Tim around the shoulders, and Tim grabbed him around the waist.

"I will miss you, Dad. A lot." Tim's voice was close to breaking.

"I know, son, and I'll miss you, too. But we've always known this could happen, haven't we? And you couldn't be in a finer household than Kevin and Rick's, that's for sure."

"You and your dad can e-mail each other every day," Rick said.

"Hell, for that matter, we can set up a cam, and you guys can get on NetMeeting or something like that and see one another to chat," I piped in.

"The e-mail might work, but computer security is pretty tight in the military, especially in a combat situation, so I doubt if any of that other stuff would fly. But I'll check it out, just as soon as I can." George certainly knew more about that than we did. "Well, we better get going. We don't want to be late. They might not let me go, if we are."

We all chuckled.

"By the way, guys, feel free to smoke if you want to," George said. George winked at Tim, and Tim blushed a bit.

"I quit about eight months ago," Rick said.

"I still smoke a few every day, but I can wait," I said. "Do you smoke, Tim?" Yikes, I thought, as the words were coming out of my mouth. What a dumbass question to ask a kid in front of his father.

"No," Tim said.

"One of his friends smokes," George said. Tim cringed. I figured it had come up between them.

"This talk about smoking brings up the issue of rules for Tim. We can talk about this more later, if you like, but I want it fully understood by you and Tim that you guys make the rules. I have complete confidence in the two of you as a team and in each one of you individually, and what you guys say goes. And, Tim, there will be none of this `but my dad lets me do it' stuff, either, you hear?"

"Yes, sir," Tim said. He turned around to us in the back seat and grinned. What a cute kid, I thought.

"Oh, and I've put together a packet of stuff you might conceivably need at some point, guys. It's stuff like insurance cards, his birth certificate, phone numbers of my parents, how to get in touch with me in a real emergency. Stuff like that. I'll give it to you when we get back from the base. Oh, and you will have shopping privileges on base. You can save a lot of money there, and Tim can show you the ropes. Base security is much tighter now than it was, but we'll get you the right ID to get in. You can even use the recreation facilities."

"Wow, that seems awfully generous, George," I said.

"Not really. You guys are doing the Navy and our country a huge favor. The least Uncle Sam can do is try to help with the hardship," George said.

"This little...monkey will be a pleasure to have, George. Not a hardship," I said.

Rick immediately burst out laughing. I had trouble keeping from laughing, too, and I squeezed his thigh as hard as I could to make him shut up.

"What's so funny," George asked.

"I'll tell you later, George, but you really probably don't want to know," I said.


We spent close to two hours filling out forms, signing forms, getting our ID cards made, and the like. At one point George pulled us away from Tim for a private conversation.

"I should have brought this up earlier at your house, guys, so I apologize in advance for what I'm about to ask you," George said. "It's a formality, really, and it slipped my mine until just now."

"What is it," Rick asked.

"Well, it's kind of a tough one, and I'll understand if you say no. I've got to have a will before I go. Since Tim is totally dependent on me, I have to name a guardian for him, in case I don't make it home. Now, given what I'll be doing, the likelihood of that happening is practically zero, but it's in the regs, and I can't not do it. I'd like to ask the two of you to have joint custody of Tim as his legal guardians in the event of my death."

Rick and I were stunned. We looked at each other for the other's reaction, and I'm sure he saw the same confusion and disbelief on my face that I saw on his.

"Do you need some privacy to talk about this," George asked.

"Yeah, if you don't mind, George," I said.

"Sure, I'll be down there with Tim when you're ready," he said.

Tim was sitting in a chair about twenty feet away. He looked so alone and forlorn that my heart almost broke.

"What do you think," Rick asked me.

"Well, we've talked about having a kid. Plus, you heard what he said. This is going to be a formality. He'll be back. We'd be great parents, though, Babe."

"I wonder what's up with Tim's mom," Rick said. "We're not exactly lifelong friends of George. Of course, it's not like he's leaving an orphan on our doorstep, either."

We were both silent for a few minutes, each of us thinking about Tim and about us as a couple. It was all terribly sudden, but the thought of a gay kid cast into the world of foster homes at his age just about made me wretch. George looked up at us, and I waved him over.

"George, what's the story on Tim's mother," I asked.

"We're divorced," he said.

"I assumed as much, but isn't she the likely one to get Tim if you died," I asked.

He hesitated a few moments. "Okay, you guys have the right to know, but please don't think I'm looking for sympathy, okay?"

"No, not at all," I said.

"Right after Tim was born, she had a very bad and very long episode of post partum depression. She got good treatment for it, of course, and she was even hospitalized for it for a short time. Eventually, though, she got better. It was a close call, and I honestly thought I had lost her for a while. Together we decided there would be no more children. We were both only children, and we wanted at least two, but we made the sacrifice when it became clear that her health would be in jeopardy. Unfortunately, the inevitable happened, and she got pregnant again. We're Catholic, and, while I might have considered an abortion, she wouldn't even allow the word to be spoken in her presence."

"We're Catholic, too," Rick said. "We understand."

"Oh, really," George replied. "That's a plus I hadn't expected. Anyway, back to my wife. She carried our daughter to term, but the depression returned with a vengeance about halfway through the pregnancy. She had the baby, but she was in depression so deep at that point that she couldn't take care of her. Then, to make matters worse, Ann, our daughter, died of SIDS when she was four months old."

"SIDS," I asked, not really sure what that was.

"Sudden Infant Death Syndrome," George replied. "It doesn't happen as often now as it used to, but it's still there. Ann's death triggered a psychotic break in my wife, and she's been in a residential psychiatric facility ever since. There's really no hope that she'll ever be able to function outside of the place. I take the vow `in sickness or in health' very seriously, and the only reason I divorced her was so she could get Social Security disability and Medicaid. As a military dependent, she wasn't eligible for those. Her parents are both dead, and my parents can barely care for themselves. And now they have my grandmother, too. It's not a very rosy picture, I'm afraid."

When George finished talking, Rick put his hand on my forearm. I looked at him, and he gave one quick nod that was probably imperceptible to anyone but me.

"We'll do it, George," I said.

He grabbed both of us by the arm and closed his eyes. "Thank you, God, for these men." Then, opening his eyes, he looked into our faces and said, "This won't go unrewarded in heaven, boys. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

"Well, hell, we haven't done anything yet, and I hope to God we won't have to," Rick said.

"But you have done something, Rick. You've opened your hearts and your home to my son. Do you have any idea what that means to me? Can you even begin to imagine the debt of gratitude I owe you? I could never repay you."

"Yes, you can. I've got this loose filling back here, and..."

George laughed hard, the relief he was probably feeling at that moment making the comment a lot funnier than it really was.

"Get it taken care of soon, but that will be the last dental bill you'll ever pay, my friend," George said. "Let's go finish up so I can take you guys out to dinner."

That night, Rick and I stripped down to our briefs, as we often did. I got into my usual position on the sofa, and he joined me there, his back against my chest. I folded my legs over his, and I let my arms lie on his chest. Sitting that way was a kind of a pre-foreplay for us, and it was one of our most intimate encounters short of out-and-out sex. I stroked Rick's chest very gently, occasionally grazing one of his nipples. His nipples seemed to be a lot more sensitive than mine, and more than once I had brought him to orgasm just by stimulating them as I was doing then. I watched his erection grow in his underwear, and that caused my own to assert itself.

"We're not going to be able to do this after tonight, are we," he asked.

"Why the hell not," I asked in reply.

"Well, with Tim here, and all," he said.

"Ohhhh. I see what you mean. I hadn't thought of that."

"We can do it in bed, though, can't we," he asked.

"Yeah. I'm never giving this up, Babe. We can also do it right here when he's not around or already in bed."

"I want us to talk about Tim and sex and all, okay," Rick said.

"Like what," I asked.

"Well, just some guidelines, I guess. For him and for us. I don't want him to ever get embarrassed by what we do, but, at the same time, I want him to learn how two men who are in love express their feelings for one another. I think that's really important for a gay kid to learn."

"Where is this coming from. You're not smart enough to think this up on your own."

"Very funny, you little...monkey," he said.

He made me howl with laughter with that line.

"You almost called him a little sex monkey in the car today, didn't you," he asked.

"Yes, I did, and I could have strangled you when you started laughing your ass off. Thank God George didn't press the issue of what was so funny. Evidently, he forgot about it, too, because he never brought it back up."

"That's some of what I'm talking about. That would have embarrassed Tim to death, even if you had been talking to me instead of to him."

"I know," I said. "And can you believe I asked Tim if he smokes right there in front of George? I really need to start thinking about what I'm about to say before I just blurt out the first thing that comes into my head."

"Yes, you do, and Tim does smoke, at least occasionally. I saw him the other day with his friend, the smoker, out by their pool. I think the smoker's gay, too."

"How do you know? Have you seen them doing something," I asked.

"I've only seen the kid once, but it's just a hunch," he said.

"Well, unless you've had a sudden infusion of gaydar, the kid is probably totally straight."

"True," he said.

"I wonder if the smoker has a name," I asked facetiously. I was playing with his mind and his body at the same time, and I loved it.

"No, he doesn't. Everyone just calls him the smoker. Even his parents."

That made us both laugh hard.

"You are too cute for your own good, do you know that, boy," I asked him.

"So, what are we going to do about smoking," he asked.

"What are you talking about?"

"Tim. He smokes sometimes. Do we make a rule against smoking?"

"Did you sneak a smoke occasionally when you were fourteen-and-a-half? I did," I said.

"Well, yeah, but this is different. We're in charge, now."

"So how is it different," I asked. "If he lights up after dinner when I do, then we address it. Otherwise, I say it's his own business, just like you wanted it to be your own business and I wanted it to be my own business when we were his age. That's pretty much a no-brainer, Babe, as far as I'm concerned."

"Good. I feel the same way. What about nudity? That's going to come up, I think."

"Yeah, you're right. Let's think about it. What was it like at home when you were a kid?"

"Duh! It was just me and my mom, remember? There was no way I was going to parade around the house naked when she was home. Especially after I started pubing out. What was it like at your house?"

"Well, Craig and I had absolutely no modesty with just the two of us. We saw each other hard just about every morning in our bathroom, and we took a shower together whenever we were running late for school," I said.

"Did y'all ever go downstairs nude? Or be nude around your mom?"

"Not really. She had to come in a few times when we were nude to break up a fight or to settle down some horseplay, but I guess that was when we were younger than Tim is. Do you think Tim would feel comfortable nude around us?"

"He might, Kevin. It's just been him and George for as long as Tim can remember, and it wouldn't surprise me if they saw each other nude all the time," Rick said.

"Are you worried about him seeing you or you seeing him? I've seen you nude holding conversations with other nude guys in the locker room at the gym a whole bunch of times. Hell, you've even taken measurements of nude guys, and let other guys take your measurements when you were nude. And you have damn sure never been shy around me."

"I know," he said. "I'm not shy of Tim. I just don't want to embarrass him. I guess we could just let him call the shots on that one. Let him do whatever he's comfortable doing."

"That's probably the best idea."

"And what about masturbation," he asked.

"Jesus Christ, Rick, we can't make a rule that says no masturbation. Get serious, dude."

"I * know * that, Kevin. Sheesh, give me a little credit, please. I meant, what if he asks us if we masturbate. What do we tell him?"

"We tell him the truth. In fact, what is the truth? Do you jerk off?" We had never really discussed masturbation before.

"Sometimes, but not very often. I did when I was home at Christmas, but I haven't since then. Does it bother you that I do it sometimes?"

For some reason, I had never thought about Rick masturbating since we'd been together. I did it occasionally, especially when he was gone for a few days, but he basically met my sexual needs. If he was out training and I was reading erotic fiction, occasionally I would spank the monkey. Usually, though, I tried to wait for him to get home.

"Why would it bother me, Babe? What do you think about when you're doing it," I asked.

"I think about fucking my girlfriend." He said that without a trace of irony in his voice, and for a second it didn't quite register. When it did, I roared with laughter. "I think about you. What do you think about?"

"Who says I even do it," I asked in jest.

"You do, though, don't you?"

"I do now and then. Especially when you're gone. And I think about you, too, when I'm doing it."

"Before we got together, I used to do it at least once a day, sometimes twice or three times. But it's been so good with you, I would rather wait for stuff like what you're doing to me right now than do it by myself. It still feels good, though." He grinned when he said that.

Rick didn't say anything further. My erection had my briefs soaked through, and his were in the same, or worse, condition. I increased my attack on his chest, and he started moving rhythmically against me. He knew what I was going for, and he wanted me right there with him. After ten minutes of that, the job was done. Rick got up to get a warm, moist towel for us, and he came back with fresh underwear, too. We stayed up long enough for me to have a cigarette, and then we went to bed.

Sunday morning was one of the best times of the week for us. Rick didn't run on Sundays, and that was a time for slow, gentle lovemaking. We made love when he returned from his run three or four mornings a week, but time was always an issue on work days. Sundays were different, though, and we often lounged in bed for several hours, talking, drinking coffee, reading the paper, and dozing after we made love.

"I think you're getting better at it, Kevin," Rick said when we were finished. "Sunday morning won't change when Tim's here, will it," he asked.

"Not on your life. We'll just let the smoker spend every Saturday night over here, and they can have their own fun," I said.

"What about that? Any rules for the bedroom?"

"Yeah. Make your bed every day, just like we do; don't play music too loud; put your dirty clothes in the hamper in the bathroom, not on the floor in your room; and if you have company, close and lock the door. That should do it, don't you think? Oh, and if you don't want anybody to know what you and the company are doing, keep it quiet."

"I agree totally. Why don't we want him to leave his clothes on the floor? I thought every kid did that."

"You might have, but I didn't. Well, I guess I did, actually, but the maid picked them up every day. She also made the bed. But, we don't have a maid every day, and you and I don't leave our clothes all over the place. He can do that," I said. "That's not a major imposition, and it won't scar him for life. And, knowing George, I'll bet he makes him keep his room neat, anyway. He'll just think it's business as usual."

"You're right," he said. Then, "You know what? I've got a lot to do today. We've got company for dinner and the game tonight, remember?"

"Damn, I forgot all about that. I'm glad you remembered. What can I do to help?"

"Nothing, really. The house is clean. I just need to buy groceries and start the dinner. How are we fixed for liquor?"

"I think we're in good shape. I'll check, though. Will you buy some beer, please, at the grocery store?"

"Sure. What kind do you want?"

"Get two twelve-packs, Miller and Corona. That should be plenty. Oh, and Rick?"


"I love you."

"I love you, too. Now let's get busy," he said, and he gave me a quick kiss on the lips.

"Don't forget. We're supposed to take George out to the air base. He has to be there at one o'clock, and it'll take a good thirty to forty minutes to get there. Is that going to give you enough time," I asked.

"Oh, yeah, I think so. I'll need about an hour and a half to shop and another two hours or so to cook, but we'll have time. It's ten o'clock now. Let me haul ass. Bye."

With that, Rick was out the door. I heard his car pull out. I wished there was something I could do to help get ready for the party, but I guessed there wasn't. I decided to check out the bed Tim would be using to make sure it was made. I was glad I did check it, too, because it wasn't. I made the bed and straightened up the room a little, and it was quite presentable. It looked masculine enough. It was our guest bedroom, and any odd guests we had could either evict him temporarily or sleep in "Rick's Room," the bedroom where he kept his stuff. We had always slept together in the master bedroom, but there was his childhood bed in his room, his desk, a couple of loaded bookcases, and his sports equipment.

When I finished in the bedroom, I called my parents to wish them a good game and to tell them about Tim. They confirmed that my mother had, indeed, given her ticket to the game to my brother. They had a million questions about Tim, but they were really proud of Rick and me for taking him in. They offered any support we might need, which I already knew they'd give if we needed it.

We had a good time on the phone, as we usually did. When that conversation was over, Rick pulled into the garage from the store. I helped him unload the car, and he and I put the stuff away. He got started working on dinner right away.

"What are we having," I asked.

"Pork tenderloin, the macaroni and cheese dish that you like, roasted vegetables, and salad. For dessert we're having chocolate orange cake."

"Oh, man. What a meal! Do you want me to set the table," I asked. That was usually my job, and I actually enjoyed doing it.

"No. I thought we'd do this buffet style. That way we can eat while we watch the game. Does that suit you?"

"Whatever you want to do. You're in charge, but, yeah, that sounds real good," I said. I did set up the buffet line, though, setting out plates, napkins, silverware, and the like. We had a nice set of silver that had belonged to one of my grandmothers, so I got that out for us to use. It wasn't tarnished or anything, so I didn't even have to polish silver.

Rick's years as a restaurant chef in college paid off once again. In an hour, he had everything set up and ready to go into the oven. Our stove had two conventional ovens, one at the top and one under the burner space, so we tended to serve food at parties like that one that could all be cooked in the oven. He would have to make the sauce for the meat right before he served it, but he got all the ingredients ready and in the pot. He rinsed and dried the salad greens, made some dressing from scratch, and boiled a couple of eggs to chop up for the salad. He made the cake in no time and set it aside. It was a bowl cake, so to speak, and it had a liquid center. He'd serve it with a spoon, rather than in slices, and he'd put some canned whipping cream on top to dress it up. Orange and chocolate together are a taste combination that is hard to beat in my books, and I loved the cake he was making. The macaroni and cheese had cheddar cheese and blue cheese, cream of mushroom soup, sliced mushrooms, onions, green pepper, pimentos, mayonnaise, and it was topped with crushed saltine crackers. One serving had the daily fat allowance for three people, but it was incredibly good. We only had that on special occasions, like when he wanted to impress new friends.

Rick was sweating lightly by the time he finished. We both checked our watches, and it 11:45, almost time to leave for the air base. Rick dropped down in the leather club chair he had given me for Christmas, and I could tell he was tired.

"Do you want to stay here and let me and Tim take George," I asked. I wished I had thought of that earlier. He could have cooked at a more relaxed pace if I had.

"Hell, no. I want to go. I might lie down for a nap when we get back, if there's time."

"I figured that's what you'd say, but I wanted to offer. It's going to be an awesome meal, man. Thanks for cooking it for us," I said.

He looked at me and smiled. "I'm sorry I didn't buy more zucchini. I thought it would be enough, but it's lost among the carrots. Oh, well."

"Don't worry about it. It'll be great."

"I hope so," he said. Then, "Is Mike coming?"

"Yeah. It'll be Mont and Terry, Mike, and Mont's brother, Fred. And Tim, of course."

"So, do we know anything more about Fred?"

Mont and Terry were a gay couple that we had just gotten to know the previous weekend at the Mardi Gras parade Rick and I rode in. They were both twenty-eight, both engineers, and they had been together since they were nineteen. Like us, they wore wedding rings as a sign of their commitment to one another. We had clicked with them instantly. They had had us over the previous Sunday to watch the New England-Philadelphia playoff game, and that's when we had met Mont's younger brother, Fred. He was our age, single, and a hell of a nice guy, too. Mike was one of the guys I hung out with at lunch every day. He, too, was in his mid-twenties and single. He didn't date, but he had never indicated he was gay. My other two work friends, Bruce and James, couldn't come because of previous commitments. They were both married, although that wouldn't have stopped Bruce. The fact was that he was coming in that day from having spent a week surfing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico. I didn't know what James had going on.

"Nope," I said. "Nothing. If I have a chance, I'll pull Mont aside tonight and ask him if Fred is gay." Pause. "Do you think we ought to see if Tim wants to invite the smoker so he'll have a friend here, too? All of us older guys might be kind of overwhelming to the poor kid."

"Good idea," Rick said. "God, there's enough food to feed a small army."

I reached for the phone and dialed the Murphys' number. Tim answered. I explained to him what would be going on at our house that night and told him he could invite a friend if he liked. He sounded pretty enthusiastic about the idea.

"Tell him they'll all be getting here around 4:30. The game starts at five o'clock."

"Cool. Thanks a lot, Kevin. I'll call him right now," Tim said. "I'll see you guys in a few minutes. Bye."

"Bye, buddy," I said, and hung up.

"What did he say," Rick asked when I hung up the phone.

"He seemed to really like the idea. I'm glad we thought of that."

"I'm glad you thought of it," he said.

Rick flicked on the TV and channel surfed for a while. By the time he made it through all eighty or so channels, it was time for us to go. We took Rick's SUV because it had more leg room than my Mazda. George had relatively little luggage. I guessed there really wasn't a whole lot of room to store stuff on a ship, and it wasn't like he was going on vacation.

"George," I said, turning to the back seat from the passenger's side front seat to look at him, "how long do you think you'll be gone?"

"That's the first question I asked, Kevin, but all I got was `as long as it takes' out of anybody who might actually know something. I wish I could tell you that."

"It's not a problem, of course, but I was sort of curious," I said.

"Well, I don't blame you. Hey, listen, guys, I was serious yesterday when I said you guys are doing the Navy and the country a great service with this thing."

"It's our pleasure, George," Rick said, and George smiled.

"So, Tim, did you call your friend about tonight," I asked.

"Yeah, and he's coming over. His name is Kyle. He's my best friend," Tim said.

"He's the one who smokes," George said.

"Daaaaaddddddd," Tim said.

George ruffled Tim's hair and pulled back a handful of gel. He wiped his hand on a handkerchief.

Nobody said much for the rest of the trip. The air base was a good thirty miles from our house, but it was a straight shot down a four-lane federal highway, and the traffic was almost non-existent at that time on a Sunday afternoon. We got to the base at about quarter to one, and it took us the extra fifteen minutes to go through security and to find the plane on the flight line. We unloaded George's stuff from the car. Rick and I both hugged him hard, and he and Tim walked off together toward the plane. Rick and I hung back to give them the last few minutes together.

"So, the smoker does have a name," Rick said.

We both burst out laughing.

"I thought for sure you were going to say those exact words in the car back there," I said.

"I sure thought them," he said. "I guess George cleared up any issue we might have with Tim smoking."

"Yeah, but I don't want you encouraging him, okay?"

"Me?????!!!!! I'm the one who fucking quit, remember? I'm not the one who smokes anymore. You are!"

"Why are we arguing about this? Do you want me to quit smoking?"

"We're not arguing, and, no, I don't want you to quit smoking unless you want to. I quit because I was embarrassed about finishing a triathlon or a marathon and wanting a cigarette so bad I was just about crazy. Now, that's dumb. Besides, you don't smoke enough for it to matter."

"How do you know how much I smoke," I said. I knew I was being contentious, but I enjoyed teasing him like that.

"How do I know? I live with you, Kevin. I've lived with you for three years, remember? How many have you had today? Any?"

"Not yet," I said.

"Do you see what I mean? It's one o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, and you haven't yet had a cigarette. I refuse to continue this discussion. Shut up."

I started laughing, softly at first but it gradually built to a much louder and much stronger laugh. He looked at me with disgust, and he knew that, once again, I had gotten him. He was so cute when he looked at me that way I could have eaten him alive on the spot.

The time was up in a few minutes, and they made George board the plane. There were a lot of people there to see their men off, but none looked as forlorn and miserable as our little boy.

"Let's go get him," Rick said, and the two of us jogged toward Tim. Rick got there first and grabbed him up into a hug. He literally picked Tim up off the ground, and, when I saw Tim's face, it was wet with tears.

Rick was patting his back, softly saying, "It's okay to cry, buddy, but he'll be back soon. We've got you now. You're going to be safe with us and well loved by us. We can't replace your dad, man, but we're going to be the best big brothers you ever even dreamed of having. Kevin and I love you, man, and we're going to make it all right."

Tim didn't say anything, but his tears abated before we got to Rick's car. Rick told me to drive, and he got into the back seat with Tim. He held him in his arms until we got off the air base, petting him and nurturing him the whole way. Eventually, Tim sat up straight in his seat and put on his seatbelt.

"I'm okay now, Rick. Thanks," he said. "And thank you, too, Kevin, for letting me stay with you. I really don't have any place else to go."

God, when he said those words it was like someone had grabbed a long, pointed shard of glass and rammed it into my heart. I knew it had the same effect on Rick, but he recovered quickly.

"So, who do you like in the game today, Tim," Rick asked.

"Who's playing?"

"Rams and Patriots. Do you follow pro football?"

"Not really. Who's favored?"

"The Rams are, but the Patriots have been a Cinderella team all season. I believe they can take it, but it's going to be close. It should be a hell of a game."

"Cool," Tim said.

"Tell us about your friend Kyle," I said.

"He's so cool, Kevin. You guys are really going to like him, I think. He's really smart and really good looking, and he's really built, too, just like you, Rick."

"Sounds like he's a football player, Tim. Is he?"

"Well, he's built like one, but he's a hell of, er, heck of an actor."

"Hey, Tim, if he's a hell of an actor, then he's a hell of an actor. Not a heck of an actor. If somebody is a bastard or a bitch or a son of a bitch, then call him that around us. If he's a fucker, a shithead, an asshole, a dick, a prick, a cocksucker, whatever, then call him that. Just don't call us that, okay? At least not to our faces."

Tim was giggling at all the bad words Rick was saying, and it sounded delightful. His sad mood was definitely over.

"Do you guys mean that for real," he asked.

"Fuckin' aye, we mean that, Tim," I said. "We're guys, and guys tend to talk like guys, at least around other guys. Your dad can't let you talk like that around him because he's your dad, and that would be disrespectful. He also doesn't want you thinking that kind of language is okay in just any circumstances, because it isn't. We'd both get fired if we used that kind of language with a customer or a big boss. But we think you already know that. We're your big brothers, and brothers say stuff to one another that you and Rick wouldn't believe. Trust me. I have a brother."

Tim laughed some more, and I could tell he was feeling pretty at-home with us.

"But tell us some more about Kyle," Rick said.

"Okay. Kyle is totally awesome. He's very smart and funny, just like you guys, and everybody who knows him likes him. He's a sophomore, but he should be a junior. He got held back in kindergarten because his teacher thought he wasn't mature enough to go to first grade. He has his license and a car, and his parents give him a nice allowance so he can concentrate on his school work instead of having a job. He ran cross country last year and this year, and he likes to work out. What else do you guys want to know?"

"Is he gay," Rick asked.

It was as though I had slammed on brakes and come to a instant dead stop when Rick asked that question. I looked back at Tim through the rear view mirror, and his face suddenly turned bright red. He stared down at the floorboard of the car. In a few seconds he was ready to talk again.

"Did my dad tell you I'm gay? I asked him to tell you that."

"Yeah, he did. And what is this being embarrassed and turning red shit all about," Rick asked.

"This is really hard for me, you know," Tim said.

"Yeah, we do know, as a matter of fact. We've done it, Tim. We know. But it shouldn't be hard for you with us, man. We're just as gay as you are, buddy. We know what you're going through better than you do, man. And we know that one day it's going to be just fine for you, just like it is for us. If you can't trust us, Tim, you can't trust anybody. Ever. And that's a hell of a way to lead you life, man."

The tears were streaming down Tim's face again, and Rick pulled him to himself once again. God, I was proud of my boy at that moment! If any man was ever made for fatherhood, it had to be Rick. He seemed to know just what to do and say instinctively.

After a few minutes of crying, Rick said, "Er, Tim, this was a fresh shirt a little while ago. It might dry out and I'll be able to wear it tonight if you don't get every booger in your head on it, man. Can we, like, lighten this up a little bit?"

Tim started laughing, and it sounded so good that Rick and I started laughing, too. We drove down the highway through town laughing our asses off. Jesus, what an emotional roller coaster this day has been, I thought, and the Super Bowl hasn't even started yet.

When Tim calmed down, he said, "Yes. I'm gay. And Kyle doesn't know if he's gay or not. He thinks he is, but he's not really sure."

"Hell, I'm not really sure Kevin is gay, Tim."

I reached back and tried my best to slap Rick for comic effect, but he was too far away from me.

"Do you see what I mean," Rick asked. "He can't even bitch-slap somebody. What gay guy can't do that?"

I totally lost it at that point, and we would have all ended up in the hospital if we hadn't had to stop for a red light. I was laughing so hard I could hardly breathe, and Tim and Rick were laughing almost as hard as I was.

"Rick, shut the fuck up so I can drive," I said between gasps. He must have made a face or done something else to ridicule me because Tim was laughing hysterically once again.

We got home around 2:30. By that time, George's plane was well on its way to where ever it was going. Rick and I showed Tim his bedroom, which he seemed to like, and then we went next door and started moving his stuff over to our house. His desk and computer were his biggest concerns, and we got those moved over in no time. Then we started on his clothes. I was pleased to see that the floor of his room was devoid of dirty clothes, but I knew that might have been just because he was moving. He had quite a few things in his closet, and we moved those over in several trips. The books were next. He had two six-foot-high bookcases, and we decided that those could remain where they were. He culled two grocery bags full of books he wanted with him from the shelves, and we moved an empty bookshelf from their spare bedroom over to our house to accommodate them. I noted that the Harry Potter books were in that lot, and I was also interested to see that he took a Bible, several books about baseball, and some books about scouting with him. What a neat kid, I thought.

"Hey, Tim, you ain't selling the house, man. You can get your stuff any time you want to. I've got some major grub to get on the table tonight, and them boys is going to be here any time."

"So, when did you turn into a redneck," Tim asked.

"The day I was circumcised," Rick said. "How'd you know I have a red dick?" Once again, Tim and I laughed our asses off at his humor.

Rick got busy in the kitchen, and Tim and I settled in the den.

"Who's coming over tonight," he asked me. "Anybody I might know?"

"I sort of doubt it," I said, but I gave him a run-down of the names.

"The guy's name is Mount? What is he, a top or something," Tim asked with a straight face.

I laughed. "No. It's Mont. M-O-N-T. Short for Monte. And what do you know about being a top, anyway," I asked.

He just grinned.

"So, what's going to happen about school tomorrow," I asked.

We spent the next fifteen minutes or so talking about his morning schedule. He told me about when he got up, when he left to catch the bus for school, and everything else I needed to know about his morning routine.