"Jeremy, I told you when we were in the locker room that I knew and that I would stand by you. You had me scared shitless. Why didn't you come over like you said?"
Jeremy looked down. "Jess, I know you said you knew, but it's not the same as me saying it out loud. Hell, I didn't even want to whisper it to myself. I mean, I was going to come over. I even stood in front of your house. But then I realized that your family didn't know, and if my dad called, then, well, I figured your dad wouldn't let me be anywhere near you. I can take almost anything my dad could dish out but . . . that. That would just about finish me off."
Jess pulled him into his arms and hugged him as he broke into sobs. "Shush, cry it all out. My dad knows about you and he is fine with it. We've talked about it and the fact that your dad is an ass sometimes. My dad is the one who set me straight about it all. He's the one that told me that it doesn't matter. You're my best friend and best friends don't run because things get uncomfortable."
"But Jess, I . . . I've been in love with you since we were kids."
"Yeah, I know. And I love you too, just not romantically. You're more like a brother than my own blood brother. I'm sorry that I'm not the one for you that way. But Jess, I will always stand beside you, no matter what."
"Wow, Jeremy," Elliot said, placing his hand on his shoulder. "You are way lucky. Not many friends would do that. Jess is pretty spectacular. I can see why you would fall in love with him. He is pretty awesome, besides being pretty well . . . umm, gifted." Elliot giggled.
Jess blushed, "Hey! You've been checking me out?"
"Well, we do shower together in gym, you know."
"Yeah well, as long as you're just looking, I guess I'll live. But don't expect to see any of that redness around my butt like you have, 'cause that ain't happening."
"Oh, so you were looking too!'
Jess blushed and cracked a smile that said, 'busted!' "Well, uh, you leaned over to rinse your hair and um . . . well . . . it was pretty obvious. I mean, who couldn't, or wouldn't notice?"
They sat and let him squirm as he sautéed in his own juices for a few moments. He finally had to adjust himself.
"Are you sure you're not gay?" Jan asked, standing and obviously adjusting himself, his rigidity more than apparent.
"Um, yeah, I'm pretty sure."
"Pretty sure," Elliot asked?
"No, um yeah, I mean, girls make me hard."
"So do boys apparently," Elliot said, gazing down at his obvious discomfort. "I mean, I thought you . . . um, might be, you know. . ."
"But I've had girlfriends. I can't be gay."
"Okay. I mean, I was just asking, because your mouth says one thing and your eyes and your body are telling a whole different story. But it's okay. You can be whoever you want to be. I was just curious. I thought maybe you were bi."
"You thought I was what?"
"Bi. It means that you like both sexually, boys and girls."
"Does it work like that? I thought you had to be one or the other."
"Dude, there aren't any rules or absolutes about these things. I don't care what anyone says. Most guys who are bi are tops. I mean, not exclusively, but most often."
"What's that mean, 'tops'?"
Elliot blushed a little looking at Jess and then at Jeremy. "Well, it means that you like to um, give more than to receive."
Jess's eyes got large as he figured out what Elliot was saying. Elliot went on, seeing his blush full on and his hormonally driven staff was fighting to free itself from the confines of his corduroy shorts.
"So tell me, since you guys were best friends, you ever fool around any?"
Jeremy squirmed around and looked at Jess. "Look, I'm sorry, it's none of my business," Elliot cut in seeing that he was making them both uncomfortable.
"But let me ask you one thing. Jess, have you ever kissed Jeremy? I mean really kissed him like a girl kind of kiss I mean?"
Jess blushed furiously, "Uh, no!" He was on his feet and squirming.
"Whoa! Just relax. I wasn't suggesting anything, I just asked. Look, I'll go call the mom's. You guys wait here. Jan, why not get some fresh drinks."
Jan stared at the unlikely couple, "Nah, I'm good thanks."
Elliot pinched his arm hard, "Then come dial the phone for me!"
Jan winced from the pinch and got up rubbing his arm, finally getting the hint. "Dude," he whispered, "did you have to pinch me so hard?"
"Hey, you're lucky that I didn't use a nipple. Now get in there and let them have some time to sort all this out. Unless I miss my guess, Jess is about to find out something new about himself."
"What, you think he is just going to turn gay?"
"Duh! People don't turn gay. But he may be undecided. I mean, he obviously cares for one boy and is turned on by any boy."
Jan's hand slipped over one of Elliot's round mounds. "Well, maybe it isn't just any boy. I mean, you are pretty hot."
"Yeah, I know. It's my Dumbo ears, guys just can't resist them."
"Shut-up with that," Jan said, pulling Elliot to him so that their firmware nestled next to each others. "Weren't you going to make a call or something?"
"What are you talking about? There isn't anyone in the world I want to talk to at the moment but you," he said, wrapping his arms around him and kissing him.
Breaking from the kiss Jan whispered, "Weren't you going to call the mom's?" Elliot leaned around the corner to peek at them before looking back at Jan and whispering, "No, I don't think he can stay here. I think he needs to stay with that boy he is kissing."
Jan peeked around the corner to see them tightly embraced and squirming together as they tried to suck the tongue out of the others mouth. Pulling back he grinned, "How did you know?"
"I remembered him checking me out in the shower so I thought I would give him something to look at. Then I remembered hearing a gasp and watching him run out of the shower the morning after you and I had a marathon session. That and his concern for Jeremy was more than just best friends, so it all added up."
"You're pretty smart about this stuff. How'd you get that way?"
"Years of guessing, wrong mostly." He pulled Jan close and laid his head on his shoulder.
They were quiet for a moment or two. "I love you Elliot Glicksman. More than you'll ever know." He hugged him even tighter.
"Stan, I got his address over at the Palm Court. Can you get some of that dynamite your daddy uses for stumpin'?"
"Yeah, daddy got a mess of it up the holler at the shack. What you plan on doin?"
"I'm thinking that maybe if we turn that piece of shit trailer into toothpicks that it may scare all them damn queers."
"Yeah, but Wayne, you go ta jail for hurt a queer as soon as anyone else. I ain't lookin to do no time over killin' a queer."
"That's why we ain't gonna kill 'em. We make sure taint no one home first. That'll scare the liven' hell out of them. They'll carry the tale and soon every damn queer in six counties will be packin'."
"Yeah, but what happens when they come home too early or sumpin'? I got no worries scare 'em but I sure ain't into doin' no jail time. And you got no way to make sure they's away. No sir. You gotta give me sumpin' better than that."
"They's havin' a queer meeting in the school Tuesday. Virge brung home a letter. They'll be there for sure."
"Long as yer sure, cuz if I go down, yer swinging with me so you better be sure."
"Let me make a phone call. I got's me a connection. I can guarantee it."
"Now Elliot, this is your ATM card. You can use it "like" a credit card because it has this little Visa thing down here. But listen, you have to keep track of how much you have because if you spend a penny over, they sock you for 35 bucks for each time you use this thing. And you have to keep $50 in there or they charge you fees. As long as you keep 50 bucks in there, they don't charge you. So set a limit each week of what you can spend."
"How do I make this work at the arcade?"
"There is an ATM for your bank right in the center of the mall. You can use it to get cash out. But here, I had them keep $50 out so you can party and celebrate. Now, put that card in your wallet and don't lose it."
"Oh Mom, you are the best!"
"Well, let's go down and I'll sign for your phones and you can help me pick out a cool one. Then you guys can go and hang out and party a bit and I'll shop for a few things. Renae is meeting me at Applebee's, so I'll go meet her and we'll meet you at the phone center in . . ." She looked at her watch, "About thirty minutes. Oh, and don't make plans for tomorrow because we have to shop for clothes and get your hair cut."
"Why do I have to cut my hair?"
"Because it looks like a mop turned upside down and we have to meet with the parents at the school for that stupid person meeting and then we have to meet with the TV people the next night, so it has to be tomorrow."
"I hate getting my hair cut. It makes my ears stick out more."
"Hey, I happen to love those ears!" Jan whispered as he stuck his tongue in the one which caught his words.
"Hey, stop that or we'll never make it to the arcade."
"I've been to the arcade. It's like Vegas only you are sure to lose everything you feed those damn machines."
"You don't want to go to the arcade?"
"I love going to the arcade. I just hate the feeling that I pissed my allowance away and have nothing to show for it. That's why I got a gaming console."
"Yeah, but the games cost you a fortune. They're like fifty to a hundred bucks!"
"Yeah and you get to play them over and over for free. Let's go to the arcade tonight and see how fast you blow through that fifty bucks."
"Well, would you rather go to a movie?" Elliot was in a quandary now.
"Look, this is your celebration so celebrate! I'm right there with ya, but let's go get our phones first."
"Right! I want that cool one that you can turn sideways and the picture turns too and it slides open for texting."
"Yeah, but you know, I was thinking, like, one with MP3 downloads and a bitchin' camera."
"Did you just go retro on me?"
"Well, yeah, I guess I did. I just like the way it sounds, you know, 'Got these bitchin' tunes here, they're so rad, man."
"Who are you and what did you do with my boyfriend!?" Elliot said, grabbing Jan by the shirt and pulling him nose to nose.
Giggling, Jan smiled, "Stop dude or I'll snap my cap and you'll be sorry."
"Snap your cap? What the hell does that even mean? Where are you getting this shit?"
"There is this really cool writer on Gay Authors. He wrote this soap opera that starts in the sixties. It's cool to read it and see how the old people talked when they weren't, ya know?"
"What's his name so I can block him?"
"Over your rancid, decaying body!"
"Really? Tell me or else."
"Or else what? You going to sissy me to death?"
Elliot turned on him his mouth hanging open, his fists balled up as he backed Jan up against the window of the jewelry store. When he could move no more, Elliot nuzzled into his neck and started kissing and licking his neck and collar bone. Jan squirmed, squealing, but was trapped. He paused, "Tell me."
He kissed and sucked some more as Jan squealed out, "Mark Arbour! Mark Arbour! Now stop!" Elliot stood up smiling, wiggled his nose and delivered a satisfying smirk as he kissed the very tip of Jan's nose, just as the grumpy sales lady came out with the glass cleaner to wipe away the smudges of their interlude. She glared at Jan, "Hey, did it look like I was the one in control?" he snapped at her as he chased after Elliot. Catching up he said, "Slow down, I'm starting to hurt a bit. And that was a dirty trick."
"Yeah, but I got what I wanted, didn't I?"
"Yeah, but that wasn't a fair fight."
"All's fair in love and war?"
"Now who's quoting dust farts?"
"Yeah, but it's okay because I won!"
Jan stared for a moment before twitching a little. "I guess you did at that. But you aren't really going to try and block him. He has another series about pirate days on the open seas. And his stories are hot!"
"Hot?" Elliot asked with a raised eyebrow. "How hot?" They stopped and looked at each other in front of the phone store, then seeing where they were, they looked at each other and said, "One with internet!" and turned to walk in the store. Moments later, Karen and Renae appeared beside them.
"Hi mom." Jan leaned over and kissed his mom on the cheek.
"Hey, look at you! You are really getting around well on that thing aren't you?"
"Yeah and tomorrow I get my new one. I can't wait. This one is so heavy, especially after you walk a bunch. Man, when I get tired, it feels like a huge brick on the end of my leg. The new one is supposed to be real light so I'll probably kick it off the first few times I wear it. Elliot started to giggle which grew into a laughing fit.
"Hey, what's so funny?"
"I just had a mental picture of you by the side of the road in pile of arms and legs, 'Hey Bud, what happened to you?' 'I had a blow out in my Nike Airs at forty miles per hour.' Wahahaha"
Jan looked at Elliot with a raised eyebrow. "Dude, Nike Airs are like . . . ancient."
Elliot stopped laughing as his mom rolled her eyes and they sniggered quietly together while Jan started examining phones.
"So dad, the Holland's want to know if you would like to come over for a Bar-B-Q, like maybe, next Saturday. You know, to sorta meet each other since Gil and I are kinda, well uh, you know."
"You mean boyfriends?" Mr. Waverly said smiling. "Come here," he said, motioning to Mark to come to him. "Why do you have so much trouble saying that?"
"I don't know . . . It just feels weird. It doesn't sound right, like I'm cussing or something. I can't explain it."
"Let me see if I can help. You were always raised to believe that you would get married and have kids and a little house by the side of the road. That's sorta the picture that TV always puts on things. And you've always read or saw that anything that was different was wrong. It's conditioning, Mark. And in some ways, I guess I'm responsible for you feeling that way. We've never talked about different lifestyles and honestly, it's because I never really thought about it. You know, just everyday stuff comes to mind first rather than thinking about all the possibilities."
"I don't get it. What is there to say?"
"Lot's Mark. Being gay is only one aspect of diversity. There are many, many, others and they are just as awkward to someone who hasn't had to deal with it."
"You lost me. How many other conditions can compare to this?"
"First of all, it isn't a condition. I mean, that implies that it is something adverse to the normal state of being. But to answer your question, there are more than you would think. For instance, being left handed. It isn't the norm but it is normal. It was once considered a mental illness however. Did you know that they once considered left handed people to be possessed! African tribes would bury the child in dirt up to the neck except for the right arm.
"Another comparative lifestyle is nudity. Some people just don't like to wear clothes. There are communities where everyone is naked. How would you feel if we moved into a community like that and high school was naked!"
Mark blushed, "But dad, what happens when uh, you know, they get hard?"
"Then they get hard and everyone sees it and it doesn't make a difference. You see, for them, it is a natural occurrence. They take it as a compliment, meaning that the person who caused it found them exciting. Nobody points. Well okay, maybe they do. I don't really know, I've never been to one, but I know that after a while you get used to seeing it all so just seeing it doesn't make you bone up. Seeing someone you are attracted to I am sure would, though."
"Man, that would be too weird. I mean, I would be really self-conscious, wouldn't you?"
"Yeah, I imagine so, until I got used to it, anyways. But here is the thing, if you took off all your clothes and walked around the mall where everyone else was dressed you'd feel a bit self-conscious then too, wouldn't ya?"
"I wouldn't have time, I'd be too busy getting arrested or my butt kicked."
"Yeah well, perhaps that wasn't the best example, but if you didn't grow up with being naked in front of company then moving to a nudist colony might feel awkward for a bit until you get used to it, right?"
"Yeah, a long time I would think."
"It might even feel a little naughty at first too, wouldn't it?"
"But being naked isn't wrong, right? I mean, we all get there daily."
"So, don't be afraid to say gay or boyfriend or that you love him. It will just take a bit until you are used to it. The same goes for people around you. It will sound off at first but after a while it won't have the shock value it does today. "
Mr. Waverly took a breath, "Mark, your mom is a good woman and a great mom. She has settled into a faith that has gotten her through some tough times. It's hard to let go of that. But she is trying and I am sure she will find a way through it. Just know that it does not change the fact that she loves you the same today as she did last week. It is an internal struggle she has to sort out. So don't lose heart. She'll be fine."
"So should I tell them that she will come too?"
"Yes, I should think so. They are good people and maybe it will help your mom to sort it out. If it turns out that mom isn't comfortable going, then we can make the appropriate apologies to our hosts. But for now, let's assume she will go too. I'll talk to her this week."
Mark through his arms around his dad and hugged him tightly, "Dad, you are the greatest. I don't know how I got so lucky."
Mr. Waverly hugged his son back, kissing the top of his head."Mark, you are my son, I gave you life as your mother did. How can I not love what we've come together to create in love? You couldn't change your orientation any more than your eye color. And if you tried, it would be a life of misery and disappointment. How could any parent want that for their child?"
"Then how can some parents turn away from their kids?"
"Some parents aren't looking at it right. They see it as a flaw and then wonder who is going to catch the blame for it, the husband or the wife. They don't see the wonderful person trying to find happiness the only way they know how. It is sad really."
"I wish there was something I could do to make it better for them. I mean, I'm so lucky to have you."
Mr Waverly lifted his son's chin and looked at him with thoughtful eyes, "There is. Be proud of who you are and never ashamed of who you love. That openness will help others as it is viewed more commonplace."
"You telling me to kiss him more in the open?"
"No, I'm telling you that if you feel like kissing him, then kiss him. No matter where you are. Just remember that it will take a while for small minds to get passed it and you'll have to deal with them."
"I might get my butt kicked too."
"You might. And you might have to fight, but Greek lovers were the fiercest of warriors. They had to, the love of their life was standing right beside them. That part is the same for both gay and straight partners, you must do what you must to protect your mate."
"So then, don't go out of my way to say I'm . . . gay, but don't hide it either?"
"I think that you broke the code. And Mark, when it comes time to fight for your rights, your mother and I will be right beside you."
"Thanks dad, I think I can make it through anything as long as I have my family."
"Now, why don't you call that boyfriend of yours and tell him we would be glad to come and ask him what we can bring."
"I'll do that right away dad." Smiling, he headed for the door. Pausing to look at his father for a moment, he ran back for one more hug.
"Mrs. Mc Allister?"
"Yes, this is Ellen McAllister?"
"Yeah, I hear you wanna get rid of the queers as bad as the rest of the good people 'round here."
"Uh, yes, well, I think I can safely say that we have similar interests in that area. What can I help you with?"
"You have a meeting this Tuesday."
"We want to send a message to all the queers, but we don't want to risk our necks doin' it. Seems the law these days is on the un-natural side. We just need to know that the boy and his mom that started this whole mess are there safe and sound at the meeting. Do you get my drift?"
"Not quite. Um, are you planning to do something . . . here? I mean, there are a lot of God fearing people who will be here that night too!"
"No, that's why we want you to call us. We are planning a show of what 'could' happen. But we don't want anyone hurt cuz we ain't in ta doing no time over a queer. Understand? But we think those sissies will run lickidy split when things, you know, start goin' boom."
"Uh, yes, I think I understand. And . . . what number should I call?"
"I thought you might see it our way. I'll call ya Tuesday with the number. No sense risking things now."
"Yes, I understand, and believe me, there is nothing I would like more but tell me, would you be able to perhaps bring the show a little closer? There is a certain principal's car that would make a great example."
"Well, maybe we can make both happen. I hadn't thought you would be this willing to help."
"Yes, well, we both have a vested interest in making a good show of things. This would help show the sympathizers what they will get too!"
"Ms McAllister, I have misjudged you. You are a true American if ever I saw one. Tell me where it is and we'll see what we can do."
"It has its own space in the fenced in lot, so just look for the principal's space."
"I'll talk to the boys about it and call you on Tuesday."
"Alright Jan, how does that feel?"
"Cool, it's a lot lighter. But it almost feels like it is going to fall off because there isn't any cinch strap around my waist." He stood up carefully and put a little weight on it then took a step, watching the foot flex forward and then come back up. "Cool, look at that. It works just like a regular foot."
"Well not quite, but it is certainly getting better all the time."
"What do you mean by not quite?"
"Well, most people don't realize the amount of information you feet send to your brain. Things like balance, terrain and stuff like that. This one flexes forward and back and even a little left and right. That part is new and we're really excited about it. Think about running and playing soccer. Your feet need to flex left and right to control the ball and to change directions while running. A straight on flex is only good if you are running straight on. So give yourself a little time to get comfortable with it. Now stand up straight and let me look at your hip and shoulder alignment. Your back may hurt a bit because you will be working different muscle groups and you won't be lifting your hip so high to take a step. Try a bit of walking and see how you do. That's excellent. It looks like it is a natural movement for you."
"Yeah, it's awesome. You say it is waterproof and everything?"
"Yep and it is even weighted to be approximately the same weight and buoyancy as a real foot. You could even swim with it, but you can't point your toes to kick. But you could stand in a pool with no problems. There is no sock or anything to get waterlogged."
"Let me try the treadmill a bit okay?"
"Sure, have at it. It looks like you aren't going to have any trouble adapting to it at all, but we'll see you back in one week so we can tweak it and look it over to see if anything needs to be changed. This is a one-of-a-kind prosthetic, so we are breaking new ground. I'm really curious to see how the flex ankle works for you, so shoot me an e-mail with anything you notice, good or bad. It will help us to make the next generation flex joints."
Jan started walking and then went a little faster before breaking into a light jog. "Keep a hand on the rails in case you trip."
"No, I'm fine. I can't believe how it feels," he said as he slowed down and stepped off the treadmill to find Elliot standing in the doorway. "Look, it's awesome!"
"I can see that, walk over to me. Let me see it from the front."
Jan walked over to him watching the foot as he took each step. "I can't get over how the toe doesn't catch now when I pick the foot up."
The doctor was smiling. "That's new too. We hinged the foot right where the ball of the foot would be and when it breaks it stays curled until the ankle is extended forward again."
"Sweet! So, can you wear it during sex?" Elliot asked, grinning, as he wrapped his arms around Jan's waist and pulled him in for a kiss.
"Yeah, but I have to order the dildo attachment." Jan said in between laughs as he matched foreheads with Elliot.
"Nah, I don't think you'll need that attachment," his hands now finding the proof. The doctor cleared his throat, "That's it for today. Put it through its paces and we'll see you back here in a week."
"Thanks Doc!" Jan placed his arm around Elliot's waist as they headed for the elevator.
"Hello, Mr. Steiner, this is Karen Glicksman, how are you?"
"I'm a busy man Ms Glicksman, what can I do for you?"
"I understand that you and Jeremy had a bit of a misunderstanding and, I wanted to let you know he was alright. I spoke to him a little while ago and he is in a safe place for the evening. I thought you might like to talk a bit. Maybe I can answer some questions for you that might clear some things up. I know Jeremy loves you and I can see that you love him too. I'd like to help you to get through this rough spot in your relationship. Would you perhaps like to meet for coffee?"
"You've seen my Jeremy? Where is he?"
"Well, he asked me not to say for the moment, he's pretty scared. I think that if I am to help I can't violate that trust. But I know you worry, just like any parent would, so I wanted you to know he is alright."
"Can I talk to him?"
"I'm not with him at the moment. He's still pretty emotional. It might be better to let him calm down a bit. You know how teenagers are, hormones tend to blow things out of proportion when they are upset. So how about it? Coffee, maybe at Denny's on 5th and Talbert? That's just around the corner from your place. Say eight o'clock?"
"No, I don't think there is anything to talk about."
"Mr. Steiner, if you don't make an attempt to understand your son, you may just lose him altogether. I know that isn't what either of you want. Is it?"
"No, of course not."
"Great, then I'll see you around eight tonight. Goodbye." Karen hung up the phone and looked at Renae. "You're coming with me, right?"
"What? You are the gay guru around here."
"How about some moral support then?"
"So you want me to bring my gun?"
"You have one of those?"
"I guess we have some things yet to learn about each other. No, I don't think it will come to that. He loves his son. He is just whacked out by all this. He didn't see it coming."
Renae leaned in and kissed Karen.
"OH! I think I'll need therapy!" Elliot said, covering his mouth as he came down the hall.
"I'll give you therapy! Tickle therapy!" Karen said as she and Renae pounced on him and tickled him to the ground.
"Dang Stan, that Mrs. McAllister is a true-blue, 100% American. She wants us to blow up her own car just to prove a point. She's been made to go along with all this stuff, so she is willin' to sacrifice her own car just to make a point that homo sympathizers won't be given no quarter."
"Yepper. She told me with her own mouth jus' now on the telephone."
"Well, ain't that something."
"Yepper. So I don't think we should disappoint her. Let's give her fancy Crown Victoria about four sticks. That'll be a show they'll never forget."
"Well, what do you think?"
"I don't know, I think you look great in anything, or better yet, nothing!" Jan said, dodging another sissy slap and giggling.
"Come on, really. I mean, this is going to be on TV. Does it look too . . . gay? I mean, you know."
"Dude, it looks normal. It's fine."
"You're just tired of shopping."
"Okay, you got me. But it really looks fine!"
"AH! you're impossible sometimes." He turned again looking in the mirror, smoothing the denim over his perfectly round, boy-bubble butt.
"Elliot, they said to just wear school clothes, nothing special."
"Yeah, but that is like code for dress TV cool. You never see them on the Brady Bunch going to school like we do."
"No, thank God. And who watches the Brady Bunch? Did you stumble over like a dinosaur TV station or something? Look at Malcom in the Middle! Or that one with the two dudes that work in the movie theater. What's their names? Like Drake and something."
"Oh stop, these will do fine. Come on, let's pay for them and get out of here. I still have to get my hair cut."
Thanks to Mark for editing and to Tanner
For Beta reading and to Michael for keeping Mark smiling and to Ry for being Tanners favorite candy flavor.