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Hi guys, sorry it has taken so long to get back to the story, and thanks to all who have emailed encouragement. I was hopelessly blocked and finally had the breakthrough I was waiting for. There will be two more chapters in book one, it should take about a week to get out and then I hope to keep rolling along with book two. So again, may apologies and hope you enjoy this chapter.

A Single Soul

Chapter- 35

The Times That Try Men's Souls



The May sunshine was intense; the humidity was typical North Carolina oppressive that Friday afternoon, while Matt and Jim were making a final inspection of their new house, compiling a punch list of repairs for the builder, for Frank and for George. As the four men walked through the new house, Matt reflected over the events of the last year. The speed with which they occurred still amazed him. In two weeks it would be the one year anniversary of the day his life changed; the day he walked across the street and met Jim again after more than twenty years.

There were many more changes over that year. It occurred to Matt that mostly they were all good things. He thought it was awesome that he and Denise both finally got to be completely happy, and that their son did not suffer as a result. But most of all it was having the love of his life with him, filling a hole in his heart that he had endured all his adult life.

As happy as he was with the developments of the past year and where his life was going, he was astonished how quickly he switched from married straight guy to content and happy gay man, as he embracing that lifestyle. It's funny how things work out...a very long journey, but utterly worth it.

The main house and guest house were complete. It seemed like just yesterday they invited George to build a house on their property. Now the foundation was poured. Matt and Jim had already moved the family down to the beach to Frank's, and would move into their new home, after the boys left for their trip to be with Denise in San Diego. Finn was now practically living with Frank, and Dave had stayed at Finn's with George. Matt found a Marine officer and his wife to rent his house, leaving it furnished since they ordered everything new for their house.

School for the boys was almost over; they had made a surprisingly quick adjustment to their new school. It helped that they knew a few boys from scouts, and were actually happy their Dads moved them to the Catholic school. They would be leaving for California right after Kelly's first birthday party. They would be spending eight weeks with Denise, and four at the sleep-over camp. There they could keep up with their music lessons, also attending baseball clinics. Kelly was already twenty five pounds and thirty-five inches long!! He looked like he was going to be as big as his daddy. He was getting a bit heavy to be carried around in a back sling; it was really tough when he was excited and bouncing around!

Billy would arrive home from university in two weeks. His relationship with Wolf's sister Jasmine continued develop, such that he was invited to spend two weeks at her parents' home before heading home to North Carolina. Wolf, however, wasn't doing so well. He still hadn't adjusted to Travis being gone; the two men formed a very tight bond in the short time they were together. To add to his angst, his twin Udo decided at the end of their lease to move in with his girlfriend, devastating Wolf, since they had never been apart. Frank, bless his heart, was trying to help Wolf adjust, he even insisted that Wolf move into Billy's room so he wouldn't have to rent another apartment. This cheered him up, as he was also spending a lot of time with Frank and Finn. Matt was sure that they were taking care of the big guy's needs, both emotional and sexual.

After completing their tour, everybody headed back to the beach. The boys were dying to go swimming so they went ahead with their granddads and the puppies. Matt and Jim took Kelly, stopping at Food Lion and the shrimp guy, who sold his fresh caught local shrimp at the corner of the supermarket parking lot. Their shopping done, they drove across the parking lot to buy shrimp and noticed a guy with his head under the hood of a beat-up car. As they were passing, the young man stepped out from under the hood. Jim recognized him as a waiter from their sports bar. It was Barry Parsons. Jim stopped and rolled down his window.

"Hey soldier, need some help?" Jim asked.

"G'Day Gunner, Matt, yeah I can't get this "shit box" started and I need to get to Dick's for my shift," Barry said. Jim parked his car, and he and Matt got out and helped the dude push the car into a parking space. They all climbed back into Jim's car, headed over and picked up the shrimp, and then drove to Dick's to drop Barry off for his shift. They took the boys there each Sunday for lunch; they loved the burgers and multiple TV's with different teams playing, especially during football season.

Barry was their waiter early on and the boys loved him, especially his Aussie accent, so they requested his section whenever they came in. He was a handsome friendly young man, born in the US but raised in Australia. When his father's job moved them back to the States, he joined the Army.

He was wounded in Iraq, suffering multiple severe breaks of his left leg, as he now walked with a slight limp. He was badly burned down the left side of his body, but only showed on his neck, up to his ear. It appeared that his injures put his wife off, so she left him for someone else, after he returned from rehab. She moved from their home at Fort Bragg, back to Sneads Ferry, her birthplace. She took their two year old son with her. Barry was now working two jobs to support himself and pay support for his son.

As they were headed to Dick's, Jim asked, "Hey Barry is there someone to give you a ride home?"

"Yes sir, I can grab a ride with one of the bartenders."

"What about the morning, do you have a way to take care of your car?" Matt asked.

"Gonna have to work on that tonight Matt, but I'm pretty sure I can get a ride over in the morning."

"And do what?" Matt asked, "Where do you live?"

"At the Motor Lodge, just past the new Wal-Mart," Barry replied.

"Oh yeah, that's near our church. Anyway I'll be there at 900 to pick you up. We can deal with it then," Matt said.

"Ts' ok mate, you don't have to worry 'bout it," Barry said.

"I know soldier, but I want to, just be ready," Matt replied.

"Yes sir," was the only answer.

The following morning, Matt pulled into the Motor Lodge. It wasn't the worst place in town, but it was pretty run down. As he pulled into the lot, he spotted Barry waiting in front of a corner unit. As Matt pulled up, Barry gave him a big smile and a wave.

When they first met Barry, Jim teased Matt about getting hard every time he heard Barry speak. It was more than his accent that endeared Barry to him. Matt really liked this guy!! He'd always liked the Aussie accent. But more than that, Jim was 6'3" to Barry's 5'4" and the Aussie was built like a brick shithouse. He had a perfectly proportioned body under his tight tee-shirt and low cut jeans. From his blond buzz cut to his long neck, coat hanger shoulders and his thick thighs, he was one hot stud! But even better, he was funny and damn nice. He was pleasant and wonderful with the boys. Matt would never think about cheating, but he had to admit to himself that Barry was sexy.

There it was again! For all the years he and Jim were estranged, he never looked at another guy sexually. Since they were back together, he was checking out guys all the time.

"Mornin' Matt," Barry said, "Thanks for givin' me a hand with this."

"No problem," Matt said as he pulled out onto the highway and headed for the Food Lion parking lot, "Barry, do you have a mechanic to go to if we can't get it started?"

"Nah, but I'll sort somethin' out."

"Well let's see how it goes," Matt said.

After twenty minutes the men decided they had tried everything they knew to do, to no avail. "Okay, mate," Matt said, using colloquial Aussie slang, "let's go. Now we'll go to my mechanic and have it towed over to his garage."

"Thanks all the same Matt, but things are a bit tight right now," Barry said, looking just a bit embarrassed by his situation.

"Don't worry, we can work something out. Gunner and I are moving in a few weeks and could use some help around the new place," Matt said. "If you're interested you can work it off that way."

"That would be great Matt, thanks," he said with a big smile. "Between what I have to pay to the bitch of a wife for my son, and the rent at the dump I'm living in, there isn't much left over."

The wheels started to turn in Matt's head. He wanted to help the guy but was unsure of his sexuality. He always seemed friendly and Matt was sure he had them figured out. He figured he would invite him back to the beach and see how he handled the nudist colony first.

"Hey Barry, when is your next shift," Matt asked.

"Not until Sunday dinner, I was supposed to pick up my boy this morning and have him until tomorrow at 1400. I'll have to call and tell her I can't make it," Barry said with a frown.

"No problem, we can get him and you can spend the day with us at my dad's place over on the beach."

"Thanks Matt, but I didn't bring any clothes."

Matt just laughed, and then said, "Let me explain a few things, and then you can decide if you want to come."

Matt began his story about how he and Jim had been friends, drifted apart and now they were reunited. The story was heavily edited, revealing just enough about their relationship without `outing them'. Barry listened without comment, as Matt explained the "nudist" aspect of their compound. Barry made no comment, nor did he interrupt Matt as he explained the unique family and all the players. When Matt was through, he sat quiet for a moment, looking out the window, watching the pine trees click by.


"Matt, I think what I understand from your story is that it comes under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and we'll just leave it there. The most I'll say is; there have been many times in my life, before I was married and since that I have fallen under the same policy. So yeah, I'd love to spend some time with you guys!!" was Barry's reply. He then gave Matt directions to where his estranged wife lived and they headed there to pick up his son. Luckily Matt had removed Kelly's car seat and they had taken the one from Barry's car so they just needed to install it. The wife and her new beau lived in a rundown trailer park, the sight of which made Matt even more determined to help this young Dad get a lawyer, get his divorce and win custody of his son.

After picking up the two year old Ryan, they drove to the island and Frank's house. When they arrived, they found the boys, along with their granddads, Finn, Wolf and Dave swimming, naked, of course. Frank said that Jim and Derrick were inside practicing the songs they were performing at the Show Us Whatcha Got singing contest. Matt called Jim while Barry was in picking up the baby, so Jim and Frank got a room ready for him. Since they moved in and brought Kelly's crib, there was an extra one all made up and placed in the room that Barry would use.

After introductions, Matt told Barry he was free to do whatever; strip and swim, wear a suit or just sit and relax. It was all totally up to him. MJ & Jimmer were thrilled that their favourite waiter was visiting and begged him to join them in the pool. Frank showed Barry and baby Ryan to their room and left him to get settled in and then return to the pool.

Dave caught Matt in the alone in the kitchen, "That guy looks just like Colin Farrell!!!!" he said with a gleam in his eye.

"Down boy, I'm not even sure if he's gay, but I agree he is hot," Matt replied.

Ten minutes later Barry returned stripped, carrying the baby. He looked even better naked. The scars from his burns were somewhat distracting, but he had a well-toned body with just the right amount of muscle and great legs. He had a good amount of hair on him and a not long, but a thick cock with quite a set of low hanging balls.

"Well I'm glad you decided to join us and be comfortable," Matt said.

"Mate, this is something I've always wanted to do, my folks were big on modesty. They didn't even like me and my brothers having showers together," Barry said as he put a small life jacket on his son. "I don't know why they were so hung up on it, but this feels great."

While Barry was talking, Matt noticed the boys looking at his scars. He didn't want to make the young man feel uncomfortable with their staring, so he thought quickly of a way to satisfy their curiosity. He called the boys out of the pool and asked them to come over to where he was standing with Barry. He looked Barry in the eyes, gave him a nod and then started to explain to the boys about the burn scars which he received while serving.


Matt took Ryan from Barry, as he then continued to give the boys an edited version of how he was hurt and his long recovery. Barry even encouraged the boys to touch the scar tissue, feeling the difference between it and his undamaged skin. The boys listened intently and by the time Barry was done, they were looking at his eyes, not his scars. Then Barry hollered "let's go" and jumped into the pool with two delighted boys following right behind.

Matt took the toddler and walked down the steps into the shallow end. When the water hit his little feet, he began to laugh and kick his chubby little legs. Matt held him out from his body and proceeded to raise and lower him, as little Ryan kicked his legs and giggled with delight. Then it happened. Ryan shot a stream of piss and hit Matt squarely in the chest! Matt heard laughter behind him and turning, he saw Jim and Derrick standing there.

"Look at this!! The kid has a good aim, hit the highest rank on the first try," Jim said, as he laughed at Matt.

"Not the first time I've been pissed on, and I'm sure it won't be the last," Matt said with a wink to Jim.

"Man, I'm leaving that one alone," Derrick said, just as Barry swam over. Reaching over to take his son, he looked mortified.

"I'm sorry about that Matt; he does that sometimes in the bath. Guess we will have to keep a suit on him."

"No problem, Barry, Jimmy peed on me many times," Matt assured their guest.

The afternoon continued, everyone enjoying the pool and a great dinner cooked by Finn and Frank. Jim and Matt were in the kitchen loading the dishwasher when Jim said, "Seems like Dave is a bit interested in Barry."

"Yeah, I noticed the same thing. Dave thinks he looks like Colin Farrell" Matt replied and then he repeated the conversation he had with Barry in the car, "Well let's see where it goes, no need to embarrass either of them."

"Yeah," Jim said, getting real close to Matt and whispering in his ear, "but I would love to watch those two do the horizontal mambo."

Matt laughed and punched Jim in the shoulder, "You know Jimmy, you are getting to be a real perv," he said laughing.

"Hey, it's your fault buddy, you made me this way," Jim said.

"Me?" Matt asked incredulously, "Seems to be a bit of revisionist history going on here! But whoever's responsible, I'm glad it happened," Matt said as he grabbed Jim around the waist and started to tickle him. It turned into a wrestling match, with these two big guys rolling around on the kitchen floor, laughing like kids. They stopped and looking up, saw their boys standing above them, with Dave and Barry, behind them, looking down!!

"Having fun Dads?" Jimmer asked, as the four interlopers roared laughing at the looks on Jim and Matt's faces. Matt was glad they put on a pair of shorts for dinner since they hid his half hard cock.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, we are," Jim answered. Matt took advantage, when Jim spoke, to flip and pin him. Everyone had a good laugh, and then Frank came into the kitchen and told the "boys" to stop messing around. That got even a bigger laugh from everyone.

After the wrestling match, Jim and Derrick set up in the family room to preview their song for the contest the following day. They had rehearsed two but decided on one, entitled "A Letter from Home" by John Michael Montgomery.

Everyone sat in rapt attention as the two men performed the powerful song. When they finished, all the adults had tears, especially Wolf, still missing Travis in a big way. The tears really begin to flow when Jimmer got up and hugged the big man, "Don't worry Uncle Wolf," he said, "Uncle Tray will be home before you know it."

Wolf hugged him back, "Thanks little buddy, you're right! Now, how about we take a ride down to Surf City for some ice cream?"

The two boys shouted with delight and ran off to get proper clothing and shoes on. Wolf asked Barry if he would like to bring Ryan, immediately seeing the look of uncertainty on Barry's face, until Wolf invited Dave as well. At that point, Barry's face lit up like a Christmas tree and quickly accepted the invitation, right after Derrick said `yes'.

When everyone returned from the ice cream run, Barry carried his sleeping son up stairs to his room. Jim and Matt steered Dave off in a quiet corner.

"What's up, Davey, seems like you have a bit of interest in our new friend," Jim teased.

"Yes, eight hard inches of interest," he replied with a straight face. Jim and Matt broke out laughing.

"Rut-ro dog face, looks like we've created a monster," Matt said. Reaching down and grabbing Dave's crotch, and finding it half hard Jim said, "Yes sir Captain, and a horny one at that!"

The three men got a good laugh out of that. Then Dave went on wax eloquent about Barry, his looks, his sexy accent, he was so smart, so funny. Finally Matt interrupted him.

"You know Dave, we're really not completely sure he's gay."

"Yeah, I know, but I can dream can't I?" Dave said with a twinkle in his eye.

"Yeah, and have a good wank," Jim said with a laugh, which earned him a punch in the arm from Matt.

"Hey, what was that for?" He whined.

"Don't make fun of Dave, he's having his first crush," Matt replied.

"Very funny guys, when and if I get lucky, I'm not going to tell you," Dave said with a smile and headed off to bed.

Saturday morning Dave entered the kitchen with a big smile on his face. Frank, Finn, George were out on the deck drinking coffee and Matt and Jim were cooking breakfast. When they saw Dave they just started to laugh.

"Don't even ask," Dave said, "payback is a bitch isn't, boys?" he said with a laugh, as he poured his coffee.

The rest of the day was a blur of activity. Some of Jim's brothers and sisters were attending the music competition. His mother and oldest brother would not be joining them. Derrick and Jim paired off for a few hours before the competition was to start, to settle in. The first round of performances was scheduled for 1300, with the finals at 1900, if they made it. When Jim received his place in the lineup, he called Matt to let him know, so he could make dinner reservations for the group.

At 1250 everyone was seated in the auditorium. Derrick and Jim were the forth act to perform. The first three performers were good and received rousing applause. When Jim and Derrick finished their performance the audience went wild, clearly the most enthusiastic response yet. When the finalists were announced, Jim and Derrick's names were among them.

The family gathered at the restaurant and was busy congratulating Jim and Derrick. Suddenly, Frank's cellphone rang. He stepped away from the happy crowd and answered. Matt was watching his father and became concerned when Frank went pale. Walking through the crowd of excited family, he stood quietly beside his father, waiting to find out what was going on.

Frank just kept giving short answers like, "yes," "thank you," "of course," "when." Finally, he ended the phone call and turned to Matt. With a dazed expression said, "Your brother Travis has been wounded." He continued to fill Matt in on what little information he had.

Matt grabbed his father in a hug and held him. Jim noticed and walked over and gave Matt the "what's up" look.

"Dad just got a call, Travis was in a convoy hit by an IED, and he was burned pretty badly on his chest and down the front of his legs, also his right leg has a few serious breaks."

Suddenly, the rest of the family gathered round and the news spread from one to another. Wolf took the news surprisingly well. Jimmer and MJ seemed quiet and held onto Jim. They decided to have dinner as planned and then returned for round two of the competition. Frank called Billy and gave him the bad news; Frank told him to be at Dulles airport, very close to Wolf's parent's place, in the morning and to be prepared to fly to Germany, with him and Wolf.

After dinner, Frank got everyone's attention. "Okay, listen up," he said, "I want everyone to keep a positive attitude and no moping. Travis is stable and doing well, so let's just pray for him and go and enjoy Jim and Derrick's performance."

Everyone was seated in the auditorium, listening to the first few performers. When Jim and Derrick took the stage, Jim stepped up to the mic and spoke. "Ladies and Gentleman, this afternoon, while our family was out to dinner, we learned that my little brother, a Marine currently deployed in Afghanistan, was wounded, he is stable but pretty banged up." Jim's voice broke for a second. He got it together and continued, "So Derrick and I would like to change the song we will sing for you and dedicate this song to him, and to all of the brave men and women in harm's way."

They started and performed The Angels Came Down, Kevin Costner's song.


Jim and Derrick performed brilliantly. The emotion swelling from Jim was felt by every person in the audience. His beautiful tenor voice was full of compassion and love. Though they had not planned or even rehearsed the song often, they were perfect. When the last note was sounded, Jim turned his head so he could wipe the tears from his eyes and compose himself. The audience was silent, stunned... for a split second, then rose to their feet with a thunderous roar that lasted for a good four minutes!!!

Maybe the Angels did come down!


Of course Jim and Derrick won the competition, but there was little celebration. Jim's boss was there, and after offering his congratulations, told him to take the next few days off. After congratulations, everyone headed back to the beach. The ride home was subdued, more hopeful than somber. Jim and Matt knew that Travis was stable and would recover. It was the psychological wounds that would require the most time and patience to heal.

Derrick was riding with Wolf and Udo; they were just crossing the high bridge to the island when his cell phone rang. Wolf's ears perked up, thinking it might be Matt or Jim with more news about Travis.

"Hello, yes this is he," Derrick said, "that can't be; I just spoke to her an hour ago."

Wolf turned to look at Derrick, he had a confused, almost vacant look on his face, he just kept saying "yes" and "I understand", then "thank you" and closed his phone.

"That was the nurse at my Grandmother's assisted living home. She died of a massive heart attack twenty minutes ago," he said.

"Oh Derrick I'm so sorry for you," Wolf said, with Udo echoing his sentiment.

"The nurse had been in to give her evening medications, she even bragged to the nurse about Jim and me winning the contest, and left her happily watching TV. Ten minutes later her panic light went off at the nurses' station and when they got there, she was already gone," Derrick said. "You know, she always told me that's how she wanted to go, quick and painless," he added with a sad smile.

When everyone got back to Frank's, Derrick shared his news. Of course everyone offered their condolences. He thanked everyone and asked Matt and Jim if he could speak with them privately. They went up to his room; Matt was quite surprised at how well he was taking the news.

"Listen guys, I know this is a lot to ask right now, with Travis and all, but I was wondering if you two could come up to Philly for the funeral." After he said that, he choked back emotion, "you see you two are now the only family I have left." And with that sad comment, tears came to his eyes for the first time. Matt and Jim grabbed him in a three-way hug.

"Of course we will," Matt said, "George can look after the boys, and I'm sure Dave would surely want to come. Don't worry; we will take care of everything."

Derrick joined the rest of the family a bit later after he composed himself. The kitchen was a beehive of activity, with travel plans being made for all concerned. Dave indeed wanted to attend, so Matt arranged for four round trip tickets. His grandmother's funeral was all pre-arranged, so all Derrick needed to do was show up at the funeral home Monday night at 1800 for the viewing. The funeral Mass and burial would be the following morning.

Sunday morning Matt and Jim took Frank and Wolf to the airport. They would meet Billy at Dulles and fly to Germany where they would meet with a CACO officer. He is a Marine officer assigned to help the family of a Marine wounded in action. The young officer took them straight to the hospital, and explained what to expect. Then he suggested that Frank go in first and see Travis.

When Frank walked in, he saw Travis lying in the bed, tubes coming from his body, which was tented with a sheet to cover his burns. He looked up and saw Frank. Tears immediately filled his eyes, "Dad," he said, "I can't believe you're here!"

In Philadelphia on Monday evening, Derrick, Matt, and Jim in their dress blues, along with Dave, stood next to his Grandmother's casket. There was a surprisingly big turnout, mostly former neighbors and people from the parish. The parish priest arrived and, as requested in his Grandmother's plans, led the mourners in saying the Rosary.

Soon, everyone left. Derrick turned to Matt and said, "Well, I'm officially without family, an orphan."

Matt grabbed him into his arms and said, "Never Derrick, never! You always have Jim and me, you won't ever be alone."

To be continued...

Author's Note:  Thanks to all of you who have written to tell how much you're enjoying the story, I hope you stay tuned.  For all the readers enjoying the stories here at Nifty, remember that Nifty needs your donations to help them to provide these wonderful stories.  How about sending them $5 Bucks, just think of it as buying a hot magazine!


And a special thanks to Jim, he's the one to thank if you find the story readable.